Stephanie's Journey

Stephanie Bennet

Some people laugh about the post-hippie generation that came to be known as Jesus people. They think we were just a bunch of crazy kids who weren't serious about our faith, or who just wanted to rebel against our parent's religion. That wasn't the case for me. I didn't even dabble in drugs, and the closest I ever got to being a hippie was my crushed blue velvet bell-bottoms and a day-glow purple peace sign, and to tell you the truth, I could have cared less about my parent's religion. It wasn't even a blip on my mind's busy screen.

That all changed when I hit the campus of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The year was 1974 and it was there that I met a very intelligent classmate in a class called Philosophy 101. The young woman had something that I had never seen before, and it was evident before she even opened her mouth. There was a peace, and a light, that although invisible, seemed to surround her. I soon found out that the reason for her effervescence was Jesus Christ. It caused me to investigate the scriptures, and I soon found Him for myself.

In the next few weeks a bunch of other new Christians on both Cedar Crest campus and at Muhlenberg College found one another, and we began to get together on a regular basis. Our gathering times were spontaneous, but consistent. We'd be in each other's rooms, on the quad, or at the cafeteria, and just begin chatting, --sharing what the Lord was doing in our lives. Sometimes one would share a song the Lord had just inspired, another might share a point of scripture that was new and interesting, yet another would ask for prayer for a neighbor or a personal need. Through this 'shared life' God's presence became a living reality rather quickly.

The New Testament that was given to me was rapidly being embedded in my heart and my mind. The most interesting aspect of this new life though, was the fact that the scriptures seemed to be a reality in day-to-day life. I couldn't get enough of reading about how the brothers and sisters in the first century met and lived for the Lord and practiced the presence of the Lord, and I was amazed that we seemed to be living in just the same way! In particular, I loved how Paul talked to the believers in the different cities and encouraged them to seek God. I couldn't get over the love they had for one another, the investment they made in each other's lives, and their dedication to simply being together in His Name! This New Testament was actual history. I read about the way the early believers' lives were changed, and marveled at this same God who was moving so dramatically in our lives. God was showing Himself to be real in the supernatural love we expressed for each other, in the genuine caring and sharing we experienced together. We were all learning so much sitting at the Lord's feet!

Occasionally someone would visit campus that would ask us who our pastor was, and how come we knew so much about the Lord. They could not understand how we seemed so 'mature' yet we didn't have any teaching. We would innocently reply that in fact we did have GREAT teaching, from the Holy Spirit Himself! When we were questioned about not being under the authority of a pastor, we'd reply "The Lord is my Shepherd . . ." We were innocents. We didn't realize that they didn't like that answer, however, it was the only one we knew. As far as we could tell pastors and church buildings weren't the main point of the New Testament, plus, we didn't have cars to "get to a service" somewhere, and the Lord was providing no pastor but Himself. He was a great teacher and awesome Lord, so why would should we feel a lack? We sure didn't.

When someone needed food, we pooled together and found a way to help. If it was prayer, we prayed. If it was evangelism, we evangelized, but only as the Holy Spirit led. Without someone telling us what to do or how to do it, we had to depend upon the Lord to lead us. This is how we grew. It was the only thing we knew.

Upon graduation we just anticipated that "Body Life" would emerge in our own cities, but it did not. I went home to New Jersey, got married, and started a family, and could not find a natural, informal, organic gathering of believers anywhere. I began to feverishly seek the fellowship of the saints that had become so habitually wonderful during the past four years. Where were they? New Jersey was a desert. There were plenty of churches, but the people in them seemed content to sit in pews, listen to lots of sermons, and live very separate lives.

The scriptures mandated that we be in fellowship. The Holy Spirit prodded us toward fellowship. I felt there was no recourse but to 'get with the program' and go to the only Bible-preaching church in town. Then came 17 years of service and leadership in two non-denominational charismatic church experiences, over a decade of leading worship, and a tangle with the discipleship movement. It was then, in 1994 that the Lord called both my husband Earl and I back to a more organic experience of New Testament style church life. It was scary, but exciting. We opened our home to believers of every make, model and style of worship, stepped back and made room for the Lord to once again Shepherd us without the trappings of the traditions of man. For nearly 7 years we experienced the same beauty and simplicity that I did in college. We met house-to-house throughout central Jersey, and enjoyed the honest and uplifting experience of koinonia in the midst of our very busy 20th century lives.

Then, in January 2001 the Lord led us to South Florida, where we presently reside. As is become our mode of operation, we seek the Spirit of God, asking Him for direction and following His lead, instead of our own brainstorms or bright ideas. Thus far, He has not shown us to plant a new work, however, we are enjoying informal and uplifting fellowship with a wide variety of believers, and looking forward to His continued direction.


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