Charisma: Why are there so many divorces among Christian leaders?
Lea: I don't know what's going on in the whole body of Christ, so let's just talk about the charismatic movement.
It was birthed in the middle of the Vietnam-hippie era. Some of that attitude against authority bled over into the government of our churches. For the most part we were independent churches with little accountability.
Also, there were not many "fathers"--and when there are no fathers, sons and daughters will do pretty much whatever they want to do. The few fathers we did have we put on such pedestals that they couldn't be fathers.
Charisma: How has your experience given you compassion toward others?
Lea: I have a deeper empathy. In every home, in every person's life, sooner or later there's going to be trouble on this planet. "Stuff" happens. But Jesus said: "Cheer up! I've overcome! Stick close to Me, and I'll show you the way through." He's the only one who can touch that place deep inside that hurts so badly. I want everyone to know how tender and kind and personal Jesus is.
Charisma: How have you changed?
Lea: Hopefully I understand more fully that in my flesh dwells no good thing--and that apart from the grace of God working in my heart I am a wretched individual who is capable of all sorts of evil if put in the wrong circumstances. I need mercy, and so does the next guy. God alone is righteous in judgment.
Charisma: Do you believe that if Larry had been prescribed the appropriate medication earlier it would have saved your marriage?
Charisma: Does the church, as a whole, understand depression and mental illness?
Lea: No, for the most part there has been much ignorance concerning it. We've often counted it as sin or demon possession, and it doesn't have to be either one. Unless it touches a believer or someone close to them, most Christians don't want to deal with it.
Charisma: How should Christians treat mental illness?
Lea: I think it should be treated compassionately. Nobody understands that level of pain unless they have experienced it. A person suffering in this way should be encouraged to seek compassionate, professional help.
Charisma: You seem to be excited about planting another church in Rockwall, Texas. Isn't it difficult to start over there, and what has God specifically called you to do?
Lea: For the last six years the Lord has been speaking to me about Rockwall. And for about the last year and a half He has been speaking to me more distinctly out of Isaiah to rebuild and restore.
I understand that what God did in the 1980s is over. I don't live in the past. This is a brand-new day, and the Holy Spirit is doing something right now. But this area is sacred to God.
In 1950, the year I was born, Kenneth Hagin prophesied over this region. There are so many churches out here now, and many of them came out of Church on the Rock. There is such [an] aroma of worship arising to [God] from this place.
For the past year God has been speaking to me about gathering those who have been called to pray, and I will begin doing that here in Rockwall. Instead of praying our own agenda we will wait to hear our assignments from God.
Charisma: What emotions do you feel when you drive past the former Church on the Rock building [now home to Lake Pointe Baptist]?
Lea: Several years ago we went back through the building. I absolutely cried my eyes out. The sense of loss was overwhelming. At the same time I had a sense of awe of what happened within the walls of that building. Now, there is no pain, only gratitude.
And speaking of gratitude, most days that's what I feel toward Larry. Outside of my parents, he has had the most impact on my life for God. He introduced me to the Holy Spirit.
Larry never quits. Even in the midst of the most terrifying nervous breakdown he didn't quit praying. He's a courageous man, and I pray and believe that he'll have yet another opportunity to positively impact the kingdom of God.
Charisma: Does your son, John, ever feel pressured to be like his father?
Lea: Anybody who serves under John's leadership understands that he is not called because of his daddy. He isn't trying to resurrect something. He has a divine commission from God that he takes very seriously.
Charisma: Would you ever remarry?
Lea: I would enjoy loving somebody--I just give it to my children and congregation now. If I could serve the Lord with somebody...and we could be better together than separate, then, yes, I would love to be married.
Carol Chapman Stertzer is a Dallas-based writer. She served as assistant editor when Charisma reported on the PrimeTime Live exposé in February 1992.
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