"Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God." – John Wesley link
TWW has been watching the ARC in the last 6 months or so. We were approached by a group of people who discovered, in fairly short order, that their church, affiliated with the ARC, had modalistic view of God.. This is their story, told in their words. I have highlighted some phrases I found interesting. For those of you who have not read our various posts on the ARC here are some links to get you going: link, link, link, link. You can put the word ARC into our search button and call them all up.
My name is Doug Shea. I have been a music director, worship leader and worship pastor since October 2003 for two non-denominational churches. I (along with my wife Monica) have been involved in an ARC church plant from July 2014 through its launch in September 2014. The church was planted by Andrew and Shyla McLean. I was the music director, main worship leader and the closest person to Andrew in leadership (aside from Shyla). May 10th 2015 was my last service.
If you were to ask me on Friday May 8th what I would be doing on the morning of Sunday May 17th, I would have said happily," I'm leading worship and praising God at my Church, The LifeWay, would you like to join me?" If you would have asked me that same question the afternoon of Saturday May 9th…I would have been fighting back tears and quietly stating, "I don't know."
The LifeWay hasn't been perfect. In fact, sometimes it was a little awkward. Sometimes strange statements (to me and others) where made by Andrew and a few of the people. Later I realized these people all originated from Parkway which was a church Andrew and his family (as well as many of the Life Way congregation) grew up in. That church wa a member of the UPCI (United Pentecostal Church International.)
Don't get me wrong, most of the people were very friendly and loving which was a huge reason why I took the position. Unfortunately that also made leaving Life Way a heart wrenching choice to make. Most of these friends will be deeply, deeply missed.
Huge concerns were starting to boil in my mind but Andrew is a very fast and distracting talker. Sometimes this made it very hard to “track” what he was actually saying. He speaks in ways that ask questions that purposefully lead you to the answer he is looking for, especially when someone calls him out on a statement. If that doesn't work he will change the topic.
Here are personal examples that caused me to begin to ask questions.
- First, I was concerned about baptizing in Jesus' name only. Andrew replied, “Nowhere in the Bible does it say to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” My reply was a long drawn out, slow and confused, “whhaaaat?” Before I could even finish my breath Andrew quickly responded,“Well Jesus is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” then changed topic and drew me immediately into another conversation.
- Second, during baptisms I couldn't hear what Andrew was saying to the one being baptized just before he baptized members? He seemed nice and loud as he addressed the congregation, then whispered to the one being baptized “I baptize you in the name of Jesus.” I thought to myself, “Isn't this an outward expression of an inward change? Not very outward if the key words are uttered in secret.”
- Third, he said to me over the phone. “That's why I will never use the word Trinity, because it's not in the Bible.” For some reason this statement kept replaying in my mind. Ultimately, if you know nothing about the “oneness” doctrine you would have never put it together. If you're a Trinitarian like me, you would say “well yeah, that's not a literal word used in the Bible but that doesn't mean denial of One God: Three Persons.” But now knowing what Andrew believes, his background, the father he was trained and grew up with…it's a dark seed that sets up the “oneness” foundation in a church. (ED. Note: Here is a good resources to understand Oneness Pentacostalism.)
- Fourth, in a leadership meeting he stated “I don't even want to get into doctrine until we are a year in.” That statement didn't sit well because that defines who Life Way is. Andrew's answers would be a fast brilliant mix of truth and deception. Andrew's reason came under the guise of love, as to not “overwhelm people with such heavy topics” and steering the conversation into his stance on homosexuality. Heavy topic yes, but that's not what we were really discussing.
- Fifth, about a few weeks before this began to unfold Andrew gave a lengthy sermon about The Holy Spirit. It was all the Holy Spirit's attributes and work…then it ended. What about the person? I remember feeling a bit sick to my stomach and looking over to Monica saying “Something really doesn't feel right here.”
One of the concerned people who was continually sensing something “off” was Mary Martinez. Along with her husband Darrell and daughter Lucia they were people I personally asked to be a part of the LifeWay. They were seeking a church, they knew me, my recommendation meant something and I believed LifeWay to be safe. Mary is biblical, empathetic and rock solid in her walk. She was the Life Group Coordinator (only volunteer to have an @lifeway.org email address), a Life Group Host for Wed night Bible study and a Point person for Fellowship One church software who was in charge of learning the entire program so she could then train others in its use. She was also the Children’s Ministry Teacher, Nursery Volunteer and Development Team Member for the first official session after launch. She was knee deep in the LifeWay and just like me, in a position to see things the average person attending would not.
As I continue I would like you to read her story, from her lips as it leads right up to the week of May 6th –May 11th and my last conversation with Andrew.(Ed Note-Mary gave permission for this story to be shared.)
Mary Martinez recounts her observations
In the late summer of 2014, Doug Shea (my closest Christian brother and long-time friend) and his wife Monica, asked if my family would come help out the LifeWay church where they had committed to be volunteer Worship Leaders. He said that pastor Andrew McLean and his wife Shyla were in need of a lot of help to get their church off the ground. I put it in prayer and felt a call to go and help however I could. As I looked into the Life Way website(prior to its Launch on 9-21-14), I couldn’t find anything wrong with the explanation of beliefs since everything was pointed toward Jesus Christ.
In researching the ARC- Association of Related Churches planting organization (not the Reformation based Alliance of Renewal Churches) I saw lots of useful resources but didn’t find any doctrinal statement or statement of beliefs. I let it slide thinking that it was just a funding and support org that didn’t necessarily have its own official statement. With the initial surge of faith development and spiritual growth I had seen in my husband after his 2nd visit Ithought this was confirmation that we were in the right place.
On my 2nd or 3rd visit to The LifeWay Jim Marquez asked me if I had “gotten the Holy Ghost?” I replied “yes” and he said “Oh, so you speak in tongues then,” with a hopeful and somewhat excited tone in his voice. I replied “no, not in a language I don’t understand. The Bible tells me that not everyone will speak in tongues. If I ever had it, it has come out in words spoken to a friend that had deep spiritual meaning to them and there was no way of knowing that what I had said was so important to that person.” With that explanation he said “oh, ok” in a very casual way. A yellow flag was raised because I had worked with several people from an apostolic-pentecostal background in years past.
The following week we discovered that Jim and Darrell are actually cousins. We were elated that we had found family here in WI when everyone else was so far away. I thought to myself “what are the odds that we’d meet family members at this random church in West Allis, WI when they drive 40 miles from the south and we come from 5 miles to the north?” I was so grateful to God for bringing us together!
On 12-7-14 (Growth Track 101 class) the only thing remotely close to doctrine, other than mentioning Jesus Christ, was that Andrew said “You will never hear me use the word ‘Trinity’ because it is a made up word that is not used in the Bible.” There was no further discussion on the topic as we quickly rushed on to the next point. I remember having a little twinge of unsure-ness but then dismissed it as just another way to look at it. And since everything was about “Jesus” I felt that it was ultimately safe.
(I completed the other 2 classes of the growth track on 12-14-14 and 12-21-14. I now know that I was one of only 3 team members who was able to complete the growth track because everyone else was too busy with set-up/tear-down to even be able to participate).
After completing the signing the “membership covenant” we were invited to dinner with Andrew and Shyla at the Cheesecake Factory. The covenant was explained as a way to “protect the unity of the church, serve the ministry of it and support the testimony of it.” I now recant it entirely.
While at dinner I started asking if they knew some of the people I had worked with to see if there was a connection- they knew every single one. This began to raise a red flag for me but Andrew assured me that he was trying to break from the Parkway Pentecostal church.
Later, Andrew expanded on that thought at a Dream Team Development Meeting (Leadership Team).He became emphatic when the topic of life-giving vs. life-draining church life came up. He explained what he hated about his upbringing at Parkway. How he felt always condemned even though he was “one of the good kids” and how concerned he was about providing a welcoming place for his homosexual friends. He did not explain any further but he was clearly emotional to the point of almost crying and was adamant that his church would be life giving. I recall feeling like his rant came out of nowhere but something obviously struck a nerve. He was not disrespectful and didn’t say anything unbiblical so I took it as him just beginning to trust us as a group and share his heart. I also remember feeling very sad for him that night and put him up in prayer. After that night I began regularly asking him by text how I could pray for him.
This is an interesting point because Andrew actually called me and complained about Mary asking daily how she could pray for him. Andrew made the comments “I'm a big boy” or “stop feeling sorry for me” as if Mary was patronizing him. I found it strange that our pastor would respond to this in that way…to prayer? But I pastored him though it and it was never spoken of again.
Mary Martinez continues
In the Development Team meetings I became increasingly unsettled by Andrew’s use of marketing books such as The Dip, Purple Cow and Up The Middle Church to develop the church’s brand.Everything seemed to be about developing a marketing strategy which made me feel more like I was part of launching a business than a church. On that same idea it bothered me week after week that Andrew would bait people into returning each week in the hopes of winning a drawing for a $25 gift card to area restaurants. I thought to myself that it felt like the money changers in the temple but then dismissed it because Andrew was giving something away and not selling anything.
Life Group Coordination: on several occasions Andrew made it clear to me that he did NOT want doctrine to be a topic of discussion at the small groups or Bible studies. He volunteered that the reason why was to avoid getting too deep for newer Christians. I didn’t disagree because of an experience I’d had in the past with 2 men who started an “I know more than you about theology” match at a seeker’sBible study I had coordinated at a previous church.
To this point nothing was bothersome enough to make me want to leave. Remember, it all seemed okay on the surface though I had wondered what he would preach if it were his own sermon since all of the sermons he gave were available at a free website. God gave me a heart to reach the lost, unchurched, poorly churched and those hurt by churches and I felt good about the LW’s focus on the lost and unchurched.
One Sunday in February 2015 my friend Paul asked if we could talk for a bit. He told me that he wasn’t sure if he should be re-baptized and he wasn’t sure if he had the Holy Spirit in his heart. He told me that Andrew and Jim had recommended he be re-baptized in the NAME OF JESUS to stop the spiritual battle he had been experiencing. And he was worried that since he hadn’t SPOKEN IN TONGUES he might not have the Holy Spirit.
This is when all warnings went off in my soul. I remember telling Paul very firmly that he should not doubt the legitimacy of his baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit or be afraid for his salvation as long as he had faith in Jesus Christ. I also told him I knew he had the Holy Spirit because I had gotten to know his heart, I had heard him pray and saw his Christ like love for others and deep desire to know Christ more and more. I think I repeated all of it to him several times to make sure he understood.
Personal example Six, I didn't hear about this from Paul till much later. I assured him of his salvation and I knew for a fact Holy Spirit was living in him! This conversation with Paul was very long and ingreat detail. At this point is when my list of concerns started to boil in my mind.
Back to Mary Martinez
In other areas I was beginning to see that Andrew was not a very genuine man in many ways. I had heard of him speaking to the worship team members in very hurtful and even degrading ways and began to see a less caring side about him each time I had meetings or personal interaction with him. He was clearly frustrated when people showed emotions and was irritated at having to deal with people’s emotions. It got to a point where I didn’t sense any peace, patience, joy or gentleness coming from him but I shrugged it off as stress and offered to help him with administrative duties to relieve some of that stress.
In reply to my offer for help he gave me the huge project of learning the entire church management software program within the 60 day window that the training would be available. I felt honored that he would let me help in such an important way and gladly worked through the online instruction, which was a major dedication of time. During my training time I would immediately set up the program for the church. Many times I tried by phone, text and email to ask vital questions about how he wanted to run things and I wouldn’t get any response which was another yellow flag.
Then came the meeting where I stated that I could no longer teach Children’s Ministry because my emotional special-needs daughter was not handling it well. I had taken the ministry over 7 weeks prior from a couple who had served for 5 months non-stop and were burned out and feeling isolated from the life of the church. Each Sunday my daughter, Lucia age 7, would get angry with other kids or cry in the classroom, hide in the corner and disrupt the lessons. There was no way I could handle it all by myself.
Andrew's reaction was the equivalent of a grown man’s temper tantrum in a reclining chair. He was more concerned about what he was going to do next than what my family was going through. He knew that we were taking our daughter to therapy twice a week and that we had gotten confirmation of brain developmental delay caused by her birth mother’s drug use during pregnancy. (Ed. Note- Thank you Mary for adopting this special needs child. You are a hero!) He knew we had been in a particularly rough spot since the unexpected death of our friend and neighbor- we had told him how loss of any kind was an immediate trigger for Lucia’s anxieties.
There was no genuine love shown in how he handled my resignation or my concerns about the meetings becoming more frustrating than good. I was quite disappointed and saddened by the way he spoke to me but I put it all in prayer.
Doug called me right after the meeting to ask if I was okay. He didn’t think I was shown any love or compassion in that situation and he knew I’d be hurt by it. I remember saying to him “I know God has us at this church for a reason. I just never guessed it would be to teach my pastor how to be a pastor and love people.”
Doug Shea comments
This was one of those moments for me that helped me to understand why I felt so awkward or detached in my relationship with Andrew. I began to understand why, when every time he made his daily rounds to tell everyone his tag line “we love and appreciate you," it felt so off. In my mind, he just didn't know how to love and maybe he never was loved? So again I pastored him through it and let him know he really dropped the ball. I said, “There was someone hurting, crying and exhausted and you chose worrying about the position instead of her pain and heart.” Andrew agreed. This conversation was quite long and one of the only conversations I was a part of where he did not do 90% of the talking.
Mary Martinez continues
Time came for the Bible Life Group that I had been hosting at my house to start its 2nd session. The Lord led me to ask Jim Marquez to lead us into the book of Acts. That is where it all really began to unravel. In the first official study of the session (5-6-15) we started right away hearing about spiritual gifts and how the disciples spoke in tongues at Pentecost. We learned that there was a difference between speaking foreign languages and “tongues”. This is where my spirit in me knew the truth of these beliefs would all come out.
We read verses about who God is and about the redeeming blood of Jesus. Jim then took us to Matthew 16:17-19 Jesus was speaking:
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!… I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you looseon earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Jim said, “Jesus gave him the keys. If the bible says it I can say it. If it doesn’t, I can’t.” Then after making it very clear that the book of Acts was very important to him because it was “where the church started”.
We then went to Matthew 26:28 which is about Jesus’ blood being shed for the remission of sins at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. He asked how do we apply that blood to our lives and how do we secure remission of sins? Jim got right to Acts 2: 38- And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And again he said “If the bible says it, I can say it.”
But this time it was in a cop-out kind of way that I can’t really describe. I read between the lines to see that what he was saying without saying it is that baptism in Jesus’ name was the only way to be saved. Immediately after that, lively discussions began about Jesus’ own words in the great commission and being baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I asked if there was something different about my baptism vs. baptism in the name of Jesus.
Tension seemed to fill everyone as Jim had us each searching for a different verse, some in the Old Testament and some in the New. Everything started to move so quickly and we were jumping all around the Bible. I immediately felt just like I did in Andrew’s Growth Track classes; the fast talking and numerous references to scripture. It started to become very confusing. I remember saying very firmly that “our God is not a God of confusion.”
Then my friend Paul said “But what about being saved by faith in Jesus?” Jim pointed us back to Peter’s words in Acts 2 and reminded us that Jesus gave him the keys. Then another participant said “Ok, Jim. Say Joe Schmo walks into the street and gets hit by a car. I run over to him and ask him if Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior. He says “no” so I witness to him and tell him about the love of Jesus and how faith in Him will forgive everything you’ve done wrong in your life.” He then asked Jim what he would do and Jim replied that he would tell the man that God is a just judge and he’d take care of him when he died. HUGE RED FLAG!!
Paul then began to recite many of the verses pertaining to being saved through faith in Jesus. Jim then hurried us along to the next point in the study from Acts 10:44-48 where Peter knew the people he was had they Holy Spirit because they were speaking in tongues. I again went back to the words “faith in Jesus” when Paul said “yup” and Jim immediately said “nope”. He hurried us back to the speaking in tongues topic where I brought up that scripture clearly states that not all will speak in tongues. More rushing and confusion was the answer. At some point in this heated and confusing mess Jim said something to the effect of “well I’m not saying anything is wrong with not speaking in tongues.” I recall at least 4 times when someone had a question come up and Jim would point this authoritarian finger at them with a brief stare while saying “we’ll get into that another time.”
It felt to me like I was a little kid in school that had just interrupted the teacher and caused some sort of disrespect. That little stare was just enough to say “don’t take this off track”. It came to the end of our time and Jim asked us to use anointing oil and pray over a baby blanket that they would send to Colorado. We all agreed that we would do that and I closed with a prayer calling for truth to be known because Jesus is Truth. Before we all left Jim’s wife pulled me and another woman aside and told us that she was so worried about him not feeling well lately and that he just hadn’t been himself completely. I felt like the baby blanket and worries for health were both attempts to distract and elicit empathy and concern to get our minds off what had all just happened.
Right away the next morning (5-7-15) I called Doug Shea and told him that I was finally beginning to uncover the unspoken and well-avoided doctrine of this church. At this point it could have just been Jim’s views but I urged him to talk with Andrew to get to the root of this. I knew Andrew wouldn’t talk to me since he had been so out of touch with me after I shared my concerns at the leadership meeting. I knew I was on the outs, if you will. At this point I was still of the school of thought that Andrew needed to address doctrine for those of us who come from backgrounds other than Pentecostal. I didn’t even know what "oneness" meant yet.
I urged him to get an official answer from Andrew about the sufficiency/insufficiency of baptism in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit and if he believed that speaking in tongues was a necessary sign of salvation. And if everything seemed alright with his doctrinal viewsthat we had to come up with a formal agreement so we could clear up all of this confusion.
Doug Shea joins the discussion
I was immediately concerned, it was finally a clear cut case of addressing Andrew. So that day, all day, and the next morning, I prayed for truth to reveal itself. God is so awesome. I had not talked with my former mentor and pastor Rev. Dr. Mike Kleven in sometime. Early Friday morning Mike called and I ask him for his toughts. I started by bringing up my concerns, the uncertainty of salvation, the superiority of Acts vs other books of the Bible, the superiority of Peter to the other Apostles, and Baptism is Jesus' name only.
This is the only time of over a decade of talking with Mike he has ever interrupted me and said “Whoa, whoa, whoa, what about the baptism?” I said it again and Mike told me he was seriously concerned. He told me about a Jesus movement and Oneness Pentecostalism. He gave me some sites to check out as well assome questions to ask Andrew.
So I went home, checked websites and looked into Parkway church where Andrew, Jim and others came from. My heart sank, Oneness Pentecostal. Parkway's belief statement about God. “There is only one God, who loves us without measure, and He reveals Himself to us as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Holy Spirit in regeneration.” Now, to anyone who reads that and believes in the Trinity would obviously say “Well, yeah, that's the Trinity.”
Nope. This is a very well crafted statement.
The Oneness Pentecostals do not believe in the Trinity. They believe in one god who has revealed himself to us in many “masks” or “hats.” Jesus and the Holy Spirit being the final two revealed in the New Testament. One god many faces, modes, manifestations or offices. The “Jesus Only” movement. So I looked at Life Way's statement about God.
“There is one God, who has revealed Himself as our Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and as the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is God manifested in flesh. He is both God and man (Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16).” Look similar? Later I will get into the slight of hand use of these Bible verses. (She has a screen shot in case it gets changed online.)
I decided to text Andrew to set up a face to face. We both agreed to meet at 9 am Saturday May 9th. That morning I prayed as I drove and I arrived early. I sat in the car and begged God to reveal truth. Over and over praying for truth, I sent a few texts out for prayer.
The conversation was long about two hours and twenty minutes. I told the entire story Mary and Paul relayed to me. I stared with addressing the superiority of Peter, the book of Acts, and gifts of the spirit. And instead of getting what Andrew believed in, I got a long drawn out talk about Jim and where his heart is at. By the end of this topic, I was led to believe that everyone at the meeting just misunderstood what Jim way saying. It was all just a break down in communication according to Andrew. I felt Andrew did agree with me, in a round about way. But I never heard him say he agreed and that started to trouble me.
The next topic was salvation. Andrew told me “I come from a three step background, accept Jesus, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Andrew then went on to say one of the most baffling explanations ever. “Who I am to say when you're saved? Who am I to say just because you received the gift of the Holy Spirit you are saved? How do I know you are really saved at any of the three points?” I thought to myself “well, you're the pastor of my church, who else is going to give people assurance?”
Then it hit me, that's the dodge, he uses a Biblical statement in the response, (a we shouldn't judge position), just so he doesn't have to give you a solid answer. With that one statement God revealed truth. My eyes where finally seeing who I was talking to. Andrew then proceeded to tell me how he has no seminary degree. However, he explained because of his church experiences and tutelage from his father, Gerald McLean, he felt he was qualified to lead this church.
My next question was worded quite differently and as it turn out, it was the key to this whole facade. “Do you Andrew, believe in one god who reveals himself in many faces over the Old Testament and reveals himself as the final three faces or titles Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the New Testament? (The Oneness Pentecostal doctrine)
Or do you believe in one God Father, Son and Holy Spirit…Three persons in One God? (The Trinitarian doctrine)
Andrew looked away from me and down, and said very reluctantly,
“I believe in one god who reveals himself in many faces over the Old Testament and reveals himself as the final three faces or titles Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the New Testament.”
He repeated it exactly. There it was. Finally truth. Andrew began to elaborate on it even, explaining all the different faces God has revealed to us. Upon shock and a loss for words I said “Well, we are going to have to agree to disagree.”
Almost immediately Andrew goes into a funny story about his father Gerald. Apparently back at Parkway they changed the Lyric to the Chris Tomlin song How Great is Our God. According to Andrew, Gerald took great offense to the lyric, “The God-head Three in One, Father, Spirit, Son.” So they changed the lyric at his old church to say “Jesus is the one, Father, Spirit, Son.” The funny part of the story to Andrew was on the week his father came to visit LifeWay, I picked that song to play. He thought that was funny, I felt more like a divine hand was at work dropping a lightning bolt of truth in my mind. He also said he contemplated asking me not to play the song.
He then started to lay the seeds for our next conversation by saying “I don't know what the big deal is? God is the Father, Spirit and Son.” Leaving out the key “Three in One” part followed by an intense mouth dropped and palm wide open look of “duhhh of course!?” (Setting me up for his next conversation that “we are saying the same thing.”)
After the Chris Tomlin story he began telling me, “he would never strong-arm me into his belief and asked if I would be interested in a book his father Gerald wrote that would explain his belief deeper.” Very subtle seed again.
On my drive home the ride got heavier and heavier. I kept replaying what Andrew said over and over again. When I got home I fell face on the ground crying asking God “tell me if I'm wrong, tell me if I'm wrong.” After a considerable amount of time and asking to be shown more truth, I felt it, a wash of release…I knew I had been released from LifeWay.
I wanted to handle this Biblically, so I made three calls. Dan & Lissy Taormina who were on the LifeWay leadership board, Rev. Dr. Mike Kleven and Mary Martinez. This was the “pastor” of LifeWay and I just realized how deceitful he has been to me and many others. I needed to make sure I handled this Biblically and had witnesses to every action I make. I was now seeing the true character ofAndrew.
First, I called Dan and Lissy Taormina. Dan and Lissy were both were on the core leadership team. They were in charge of youth outings, offering sometimes, weekly announcements, set up and teardown and they were both asked to reach out to young couples. Lissy was a floater when someone was missing with hospitality, ran children's check in and she sang on the worship team. Dan also did all the light operations.
Dan, Lissy, Monica and myself had become quite close so I knew Dan and Lissy's character (they wouldn't lie to me), I was confident if I was wrong they would tell me. I was not wrong. We agreed not to share this with anyone and to just pray together about it.
Lissy Taormina now tells her story
About one month before Dan (my husband) and I decided to leave the LifeWay, I was a part of the worship team. I noticed a few things that I didn’t like and notified the worship leader (Doug) that I had decided to step down as a singer. The reasons I stepped down had been because there were members of the worship team living questionable lifestyles and the pastor was okay with ignoring and not confronting the issues. He also seemed to value the worship more as a performance rather than an offering to God.
After he heard about my decision, Andrew immediately called me saying that I should have asked him before I made that decision and accused me of thinking I was “holier” then the rest of the team because of the concerns I had. He did not honor my decision and instead became very aggressive and manipulative. We talked for about one hour, which he spent trying to convince me that it was a bad decision because I was abandoning the team, and my motives were wrong. He consistently was accusing me of being judgmental and would always state he wanted to “err on the side of grace," rather than confront an issue.
At the end of that conversation I felt beat up emotionally. He literally spent one hour twisting my words and accusing me just because the team lost one of three singers. That was the first time I realized Andrew had manipulative tendencies and I did not want to be under a leader like that.
I also called Rev. Dr. Mike Kleven (for council outside Life Way) who was in complete agreement with my concerns and my wish to leave LifeWay I decided to tell Andrew after Sunday's service that I was leaving Life Way. I also decided I was going to tell him I needed to inform all the people I shepherded into LifeWay why I have decided to leave. Once they had the information the choice would be theirs.
Late Saturday afternoon after even more prayer, I felt moved to call Mary Martinez and explain what happened. Not only do I trust her not to share this with anyone but she's the best researcher I know. I needed to if there was more of a connection to Andrew and the Oneness Pentecostal.
Doug and I spoke after he had met with Andrew and talked it all over with Pastor Kleven. That was the first I had ever heard of Oneness Pentecostalism and anti-Trinitarianism. I immediately began researching and it all fell into place. I came across Gregory Boyd’s articles on “Sharing Your Faith with a Oneness Pentecostal”. Everything that had been said about baptism, tongues, allusions to salvation and even an odd reference about Jesus having to leave so the Holy Spirit could come lined up with the religion profiles found on 4truth.net and gospeloutreach.com)
I thanked Doug for being the voice for many of us trying to come down to the truth. His heart was heavy as he felt it was his responsibility tolet our friends know what “he had asked us to be a part of.” I assured him that there was no way hecould have known until now and that I would stand with him in whatever consequences came down because I also stand for Truth…which is God’s Word…which is Jesus.
The Lord urged me to get in the Word and spend time in prayer and research. He poured scripture intome that brought it all closer and closer into focus. He sent me to my Luther’s Small Catechism to review the creeds after reading a mention of the 1st Council of Nicaea. Ithen found the reason Nicaea 1 even took place was because of the anti-Trinitarian teachings of Arius.In 1916, more then 160 pastors were removed from the Assembly of God because they fell for the craftiest use of scripture against scripture. This is a 1700 year old lie recycled into this 102 yr old Oneness movement.
As I learned about their twisted and limiting views of who God really is it became apparent to me that this was serious. By Saturday evening May 9th I knew that I had been completely deceived by this pastor and church elder for months. I had unknowingly been a part of Satan’s work. I’m still disgusted and devastated when I think of the depth of the lies and intentional omissions and avoidance’s.
Sunday morning May 10th the heaviness of this truth hit me. Worship was hard, talking to Andrew was harder because up to this moment I believed Andrew to be an honest and transparent friend. All I focused on was my God during worship leading and humbly asking for forgiveness for helping build this lie. I couldn't hold back my tears of remorse and knowing what I had to do for my King.
Paul Rowlett was a guest guitar player, someone who played with me at my previous churches. He was on the hiring committee with Mike Kleven when I interviewed in 2003. He was also (alongside of Mike Kleven) my other spiritual mentor and close friend. After the worship I pulled Paul Rowlett aside and told him my concerns. He was very cut and dry, “you are doing the right thing.” This was Paul’s second time ever playing here, we haven't jammed together in two years. How awesome is God for bringing him here at this exact moment for encouragement!
During the sermon while Andrew was preaching, I started to cry uncontrollably. Life Way was my home, my friends, I helped build this and it was false. Thank goodness for Monica, she put her arms around me and pulled me tight. God certainly knew what he was doing when he brought her to me because she calmed my heart ever so gently. Then it was custom for Monica to go up for the last few minutes of the sermon and play piano during Andrew's closing thoughts. I didn't even look up, I clasped my hands together and just prayed to my Father that whole period while tears began streaming down my face.
The worship team was called up to do one last song. We played Bethel Worship's “No Longer Slaves.” All week the song has been planned, long before I even had an inkling about this being one of my last services. But every lyric started to speak to me, right to my heart and right from my God. I am sothankful that my last lyric I ever sang at Life Way was “I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”
After the service I was wrapping up chords and Andrew asked if he could pull me aside. As I walked backstage I kept praying “Dear Father this is it, please help me!” Andrew asked “Are you okay?” I said, “Actually Andrew I'm not.” Andrew replied, “Are you mad at me?” My eyes filling with tears, “No Andrew, I wouldn't call it mad, I just simply can't get beyond the fact that you do not believe in the Trinity. I can't be a part of LifeWay.” Andrew immediately grabbed me and hugged me and said, “Okay this is heavier then I thought, it's all going to be okay.” Then he let go and said "Let's talk later” then rushed off. It felt so weird, I thought to myself if I was a pastor of a church and someone came up to me obviously so broken, I know nothing could have torn me away.
I went back on the stage and thirty seconds later Andrew rushes up and says “Don't tell anyone until we talk first.” I said okay and he rushed off again.
Mary Martinez and I met for a few seconds. I asked her to get a list of all the emails of everyone I shepherded into Life Way together. “Do not tell anyone anything yet, I need to give Andrew one more opportunity. But if I give you the go ahead, schedule an emergency meeting as soon as you can. I want Mike Kleven and Paul Rowlett there as well.”
Andrew didn't call till early evening that Sunday. On my way to meet Andrew I text the few people who know what is happening to pray for the conversation. Paul Rowlett gave me some great advice, “He's going to want to get you into a theological debate. Don't engage with it. God has already told you what needs to be done. You know what is right, he has already admitted to his belief. Show him love.”
We meet at 7pm at Starbucks. After a little small talk, I then said “Andrew you don't believe what I believe, I have to go.” Andrew starts the theological debate. I'll admit my rebuttals were not strong or convicting, I just didn't want to have a debate. He'd ask hypothetical questions to draw me back in like “what do you believe you are going to see in heaven, one god or three?” I just kept praying “Holy Spirit give me your words,” over and over.
Then the conversation changed. It moved into “we are saying the same thing, we believe the same thing” argument. With me reiterating “No we are not, Andrew I don't even think we are praying to the same god.” Andrew said “How can you say that, I see you clearly have the Spirit in you, I have the Spirit in me. What's the problem?” I politely said “We don't believe in the same god, I have to leave and I have to tell at least all the people I shepherded into LifeWay the reason why.”
Andrew did not like that. He wanted me to just leave quietly. I said to him “What if the tables were turned? What if you were under me and you brought in a dozen people claiming this was a safe place and you found out I believed something completely false? Would you not at least want to inform them? Would you actually take off and not tell them your reasons for leaving an unhealthy environment? Just leave them to figure it out for themselves?” Andrew could give no argument.
Andrew then accused me that I would slant people to my own perspective. I said, “Man, you know me. You know who I am. I have never done that here and I would never do that to you, you're my friend. I am going to give them the reasons why I am leaving and leave the choice up to them. It's the right thing to do.”
“I'd rather you would just tell them you had a vision problem.” Andrew suggested. That got me a bit upset, “Andrew, I don't have a vision problem! I don't disagree with the color of your bulletins. I don't have a problem with using a click track during worship, the service structure or the lighting. I have aproblem with your doctrine!”
At this point I was so utterly exhausted on the sidesteps and half truths and now he was asking me to tell one. Andrew paused for a few seconds and said, “Look at all the good happening, why would God do that? You told me God brought you here, why would he do that?” That's when I laid my hand down on the table right in front of him and in a very gentle tone replied “For you. Andrew, God brought me here specifically for you. For this exact moment. Truth is on the table, right here, right now. I was brought here for you.”
Andrew was silent. He said nothing and just stared intensely in my eyes for 45-60 seconds. I couldn't even continue to look his direction it was so uncomfortable and strange. Trying to break a truly disturbing moment I just busted out “Ummm so what's on your mind?” Andrew snapped out of it and quickly said “So what does the future look like?” “
I replied I will help you for two weeks, enough time to get things together with a worship team. I love you man, we just don't believe the same thing.” He told me he would call me the next day, we shook hands and said goodbye.
I sent Mary Martinez a text. “Please set up the meeting.” I decided to call Dan and Lissy Taormina. I informed them exactly the way the conversation took place and told him I felt like I just got out of a spiritual war. I felt so spiritually beat up. So Dan and Lissy prayed for me, that was amazing because it all went away. I love our God.
Our close friend Doug called us to ask for prayer because he confronted Andrew about some theological issues that had come up. He had found that Andrew/The LifeWay did not believe in the Trinitarian doctrine. Rather, Andrew/The LifeWay believed in what is called the oneness doctrine. We gave him advice and prayed for him over the phone. But hearing Doug’s theological concerns raised some questions/concerns of our own.
Andrew sent a text on Monday (5-11-15) morning telling me he’d need to get bible study materials back. I replied that I did want to get them back to him and that I had all of my Fellowship One training notes for him too. I told him I wanted to meet to discuss the differences in our beliefs and that I know this must be confusing.
I know it doesn’t make sense that he felt the Holy Spirit in me when I prayed with him even though I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit and had never spoken in tongues. I promised that if he didn’t want to meet I would send him a short explanation and some resources I found. I made good on that promise by way of a very loving email and have still not gotten any response.
I (with Doug's consent) put together a meeting with all the people he had asked to help the church, Paul Rowlett and Pastor Kleven which I hosted at my home on May 11th. The purpose was to inform our brothers and sisters in Christ that we had uncovered a deception, to let them know that we were leaving the church and why, to share the research I had done and to pray together.
On the way to the 6:30 meeting Monday May 11th Andrew calls me. I was actually happy he called because all through the day in prayer I felt God tell me make sure Andrew knows why you are leaving and has one more opportunity. Andrew starts by telling me how instrumental I have been to Life Way and how it's success was greatly because of my dedication. Not really what I wanted to hear, that made my stomach upset. As always Andrew went on saying how “we love and appreciate you” and they would be happy to give a letter of recommendation.
Then he moved off that and said, “But we feel we need to make a clean break. You coming in and leading worship the next two weeks is only going to cause confusion.” I asked him if I could at least get my musical equipment at 7:30am during Life Way set up. Andrew said, “No I'd rather you not be there at all. (quickly shifting) But I know you have to do what you have to do, so when you talk with your people please at least challenge them to talk to me first.”
I thought to myself, so you want me to ask the group I shepherded in to challenge you, but you wouldn't even let me be around others at LifeWay in case they wanted to challenge me? Crazy. He did go on to tell me he was going to call the members of the worship team to ask them to stay. I said no problem.
So I just went for it, “Andrew just to be clear, according to you, we are saying the same thing. So if we are, change the website to say One God: Three Persons…and I'll stay.” Andrew said "No." That was the last conversation with Andrew McLean.
Immediately I called Dan and Lissy Taormina to inform and keep a record of that conversation. In the middle of our conversation Andrew was already calling them. Here is the character of Lissy and Dan. Lissy said “Doug I know you have had your conversations with Andrew and you have made up you mind. Would you mind if we just called Andrew and asked him some questions of our own? Would that be okay or would that be hurtful?” I was so touched by how considerate that was, “Absolutely, I wouldn't want it any other way” I said.
(Now on a funny note, on my side of the phone Mary Martinez was calling like crazy. I was saying to myself “Hold your horses lady I'm five minutes away and I'm not even late ha ha.")
When I got to the meeting Mary was calling because when Paul Rowlett pulled up he was driving the same car as Jim Marquez, she thought Jim was making a surprise appearance to the meeting. At the meeting everyone I shepherded in was there, along with two people from Life Way I didn't invite, someone else did. I was at first a bit disappointed, but then I realized they were perfect witnesses to the whole meeting. We opened in prayer and I started talking first. This was a meeting to only inform. That's all it was. I told them why I was leaving, laid out all the details of the entire storyand told them it was ultimately their choice. Mary gave the details of the research she did and the parts of her story. Rev. Dr. Mike Kleven answered questions.
One part of the evening was very eye-opening it was a moment when we all realized what we were dealing with here. When Mary thought Jim Marquez was dropping a surprise visit, she called Mike too. Mike Kleven said he didn't have a lot of time to think about what he would say if Jim Marquez was at the meeting. Mike stated, “I would have said, Jim I'm going to give you the opportunity to confess your sins right now because what you are teaching is a Heresy.” In over ten years, hundreds of sermons, countless meeting and talks, I have never heard Mike ever use that word. This was not a church division, we didn't disagree on pews vs seats, hymns vs rock songs or the color of the carpet.
This was the church extracting itself and making a stand for the church. That was it. I laid out all the facts…and I did tell them about Andrew's challenge to call him.
Mid meeting I did get a text from Lissy Taormina to both myself and Monica. “We have left Life Way.” After the meeting I did call them to see how things went and how they were doing.
Before we could schedule a meeting with Andrew, he called us. He called us to say that Doug was leaving because of a “semantics” issue and Andrew was so upset with Doug because he wanted to tell the people he brought into the church. When in reality Doug was leaving because of a deep theological issue that was unbiblical and anything but a “semantics issue.”
We informed him that we were aware of the issue and that we had concerns as well. We wanted to make sure that we heard it from Andrew, rather than anyone else. Andrew became upset that Doug had told us but welcomed the questions. So we literally googled “Oneness Doctrine” and asked questions off of the information website. We asked these questions,
- “Do you believe salvation is attained through he process of sinner’s prayer, baptism, and speaking in tongues?"
- "Do you believe a triune God, Three in One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?”
He twisted the question which could have been confusing but luckily my husband and I are familiar with bible verses that back up our beliefs. Many times when we posed direct questions to him, he would give an elaborate explanation that would side on the oneness beliefs but then would finish with “But who am I to say how and when someone is saved, I’m not Jesus.” After we continued posing the questions and continued searching for a direct answer to our questions, he answered directly. He did not believe in the same thing we believed, which is the Trinitarian doctrine and Salvation by Grace through faith and not of works. (Ephesians 5)
As leaders in this church we realized that we could not represent something that we believe could lead people astray. On that same call we informed him that we completely disagreed and we would have to leave the church. He became very upset and aggressive. He even made the comment that this issue came up because a small group decided to study the book of Acts and he did not want or approve that. He then began accusing us of gossiping with Doug because first we asked the same questions Doug asked and second because he felt Doug coming to us (his close friends) asking for prayer on this subject is wrong. His reaction alone proved to us that we had to leave.
We had been honest about our beliefs and expectations before we committed to this church but he was very gray and vague often choosing to be a passive church than offend people. We felt deceived that it took us being there for seven months to stumble upon the truth. We informed him that we would stay for one more week to fulfill our duties of hosting a youth night and my husband working the lights on Sunday service.
He asked us not to come back and not to talk to anyone. Which made us very sad considering we made a lot of friends there. He said we could stay friends with people but “if we loved him at all” we wouldn’t tell anyone why we left. To which my husband responded that we will continue our friendships with the people of the church we had grown close to.
When it came time to cancel the Acts Bible Study and let group members know that we were leaving the church I learned the depth of training people from the Parkway background have. I called my “friend” with whom I had shared many conversations, tears and hugs with. We had both experienced many of the same hurts in our families and immediately bonded in support for one another. For that fact I was thrilled to welcome her into my home and have her in the Bible study so she was naturally the first person I called. I knew she had come from Parkway and that I had to listen carefully to what she said next.
My words were… “Hi (Jill) its Mary. I wanted to let you know that we are canceling the bible study tomorrow. We won’t be able to host it any longer and we were very sad to be leaving LW.” She said that she had heard something was going on and asked why we were leaving. I replied that “We found out that we have ultimately very different beliefs about who God is and what God’s plan for salvation was. I assured her that I do not believe in 3 gods but One Triune God that humans can’t fully understand.”
Again I heard that we really just believe the same thing and it’s just a misunderstanding. I maintained that it was not the same thing and that this had all happened once before mentioning Arius and the Council of Nicaea. She immediately became defensive and said that the Catholic Church and Constantine perverted the scripture and tried to control what people believed. I knew that the Roman Catholic church did not have it’s true beginning until several centuries later and because of that I told her I was not going to argue theology with her.
I emphasized how much I hated this all having to happen and that I felt deceived. She said “Well I know that Andrew was trying really hard to not offend any Trinitarians.” I was tearful when I told her that this was not a decision I was taking lightly and that my husband (Darrell) had said it best that we have to have faith like a little child. I told her how much I loved and cared for her and that no matter what anyone might say about me that Ifelt she knew my heart. I urged her to pray and ask God that if there was any truth to what I was saying that He would make it known to her and stated that I was praying for truth, too.
She said that she knew I had Jesus in my life to which I replied that I know it didn’t make sense because I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son,& Holy Spirit and I assured her I had never spoken in tongues yet I know I have the Holy Spirit in me. At the point I had asked her to pray she stopped trying to defend and finally just listened. She then said that she would miss me, too and was very sad to see us leave. We agreed that we had a deep love for each other as sisters and I suggested we keep one another in prayer and ended the conversation.
I learned that she was thoroughly prepared to meet even historical facts with the OP version of the truth and that there was something in the words “we believe the same thing.” She was ready for debate andthe only thing that shut it down was the urge to pray and ask God for Truth. I didn’t try to convert her… I was honest in my emotional expression and just tried to get her to see why I had to leave. I sobbed and repented of being a part of this lie as the reality of her beliefs came rushing into my heart and mind. It was horrible.
About three days later I called a friend from church to make sure she knew that the youth event was canceled and she informed me that Andrew had called her. He told her that we left because we believed the rumors that were being spread about him. An obvious lie. I know that I haven’t done anything wrong, that is why I have been completely honest with people.
Why would he lie and tell people that things are happening behind his back when those people have told him to his face what they would do? It concerns me greatly what has happened to us, because of the impact it could have on some of the newer believers out there. There are many churches that are being deceitful to their members under the guise of non-denominationalism and sadly, this was one.
Thankfully the Lord made us aware of this and we were able to get away from it. But our heart breaks for people who are in these types of churches and do not know the truth.
Since the meeting I have heard many unbelievable things being said about my actions and character as well as about others who made the choice to leave. I was so disappointed. Very hurtful. After I heard all the horrible things Andrew was saying about me, I was bothered. But in prayer, I was nudged to send him a text.
It said, “I feel very hurt by the way you have painted me to people. I clearly remember our conversations and I was very Biblical on how I handled it. Honest and up front on everything. Regardless, I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, I forgive you. I will make this very easy for you because I genuinely love you. Give my equipment to anyone who can get it to me, no rush.” No reply. (The cool thing about us both having IPhones, you know it was delivered.)
Agree with me or not, here are the facts that link the LifeWay to the Oneness Pentecostals.
- 1 ) Andrew does not believe in and has rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. He believes in one god who reveals himself in many faces over the old testament and reveals himself as the final three faces or titles Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the New Testament
- 2) Andrew and Life Way baptizes in the name of Jesus only.
- 3) Andrew and Gerald McLean, as well as Jim Marquez all come from Parkway church in Oak Creek, WI. This is a oneness Pentecostal church.
- 4) Parkway belongs to a hierarchy oneness Pentecostal group, United Pentecostal Church International(UPCI) 500,000 (1.5 Million World Wide)
- 5) Andrew placed Jim Marquez in a “teaching” position under a Bible study small group.(refusing others)
- 6) Gerald McLean was on the platform at Life Way giving a mini-sermon with communion.
- 7) Gerald McLean in his book “The Others” chapter 22 is entitled “Oneness Seminars.” Gerald explains the oneness seminars' success; how he is re-baptizing ministers in Jesus' name only. Page 162 “Over two thousand Trinitarian pastors and church leaders have been baptized in Jesus' name over the last twelve years. In this way, we began to not only win pastors, but entire congregations.”
- 8) Appendix 1 Page 184 of “The Others” gives a Twelve Step Oneness Seminar Protocol. Step 4 Promotions. (Bullet Point One) Give a free book: David Bernard's Oneness of God, David Huston's The Light of the Pentecost, and Gerald McLean's, judgment against the gods. (Bullet Point Two) The seminar should be billed as a non-denominational seminar for ministers and church leaders. The theme of the seminar will vary by personal preference, but to avoid resistance to the seminar, no reference should be made to the oneness doctrine in the promotional materials.
- 9) Appendix 1 Page 185 of “The Others” gives a Twelve Step Oneness Seminar Protocol. Step 7 Teaching. An introduction to the Godhead Q & A: Inform the participants that you will allow one question per person and not allow them to express opinions about the Godhead or any other topic.
- 10) Appendix 2 Page 189 of “The Others” God is absolutely and indivisibly one according to the Bible. (42 scripture passages are listed)
- 11) The Life Way web site statement “what we believe – about God” passages used Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16. Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 4:4-6 are listed in Appendix 2 Page 189 & 193 (The Others). However, all four are found in the first two chapters of David Bernard's book Oneness of God.
- 12) Andrew has no seminary school. Andrew feels he is qualified to lead this church because of Gerald (his father) teaching him and Andrew's church life experience.
One final story
Before I wrap this up I wanted to give you another story. Brad Browne was a volunteer from the very beginning. One day Brad was just…gone? Andrew told us Brad left for family reasons and he wasn't getting fed from the messages, plus “for other reasons he (Andrew) wasn't going to get into.” Of course, I just took his word on it. God recently moved on my heart to Brad's side of the story. I never had real huge interaction with Brad and he wasn't apart of our “end-story” so I placed his story at the end of the report.
Brad Browne/the ARC
I reached out to the new pastor (Andrew) at this LifeWay plant and we scheduled time to meet at a local Starbucks. I also spent some time researching the ARC and had some concerns, but kept an open mind since I felt God was calling me to meet with this group. We met, I didn't get a hard pitch for money and felt that I could help here where they needed me and then perhaps move in to a role where I could help teach some classes. He talked about him and his wife's past serving in prior churches in some denominations and churches with some major theological differences from my own, but the point was made to me they were breaking with that and moving forward in a mainline fashion.
I met wonderful people who had a heart for serving and helping, and the more I talked with the pastor, the more I heard about this break with old school tradition, a break with what his family had taught him. What did create a question mark was even as I was hearing this, I was seeing that the church plant was "already sponsoring mission work in Africa", the pastor's parent's mission group and a group that was anti-trinitarian and held some views that probably were past the line towards heresy.
I had some concerns in how the ARC church plant system works. The MBA in me saw this as a well organized machine to build businesses, a "Business in a Box" approach. It seemed that ARC had all the materials, sermon notes, etc. all ready for folks. It looked like an organization that was not trying to plant thousands of churches, but plant 1000s of money-making businesses like Surratt and Hodges have built. Anyone who has any sort of theology that remotely resembles some form of Christianity may apply, and if you jump thought enough hoops you can have a mega church and roll in the dough likeRobert Morris, and theology and background doesn't matter. Scripture seemed to be a tool rather than the center. I felt the model really focused on business model concepts vs. scriptural ones.
The more I read (and some of it on the WW), the more I realized it was time to go. I felt God had called me to see and experience a seedier side of Christianity but I needed to disengage to ensure my kids were not sent down the wrong theological path. I also saw the pastor's parents were returning, the same parents I was told he was trying to disengage from theologically (but the church was supporting).
I prayed for them, but they were on a path that was seriously off any theologically correct path. I've heard before that "God will supply the breadth of your ministry if you focus on the depth of yours". I felt that the ministry here at LifeWay was shallow and thus was going to struggle to grow. I didn't want to make a big deal of it, but also felt it was time to engage more as a family somewhere and it was not going to be at LifeWay, so I met with the pastor at Starbucks to "check out". He understood, and we did have a discussion about his Unitarian views and felt Jim Marquez on the launch team that had pastored in the past and would teach more in line with the pastor's views would be the teacher. We parted amicably. I was surprised when there was a gathering of the launch team and I wasn't notified even with my past work, but after putting things together I realized he probably didn’t want me to have any discussion with folks around my difference of views.
I kept in touch with some folks through social media until I got contacted by Doug and heard some very non-scriptural things the pastor had been doing. It's plainly clear that the pastor is following his father's "book" in building churches and indoctrinating folks in to a heretical belief system using somepretty shady means. Why not be honest with your staff and church about your beliefs and trust God to provide? If one truly believes I don't see how there is any other choice. Choosing any other option here really is an indication in a false faith, a partial faith, or a lack of faith or trust in the Lord. Scripture doesn't team subversive behavior as a means of discipling others.
Although, I run some risk here of sounding judgmental around some areas of theology where I've done my share of study and believe that scripture and scholarly study has proven one path true over another. There are many areas where I believe that we can hyper-focus on details that don’t impact one's need to commit themselves to Christ. But, there are some theological areas (trinity, etc) where I think there is pretty firm scriptural proof one way or another if one doesn't warp the intent of the Word.
When I met with Andrew for the first time, I had told him my story. For the sake of time and space, the summary is that over the prior two years and through real mentorship with a pastor who I sat under as well as prayer, I knew that God was calling me to lead. Whether that be to teach or preach, God had not made it clear to me yet, but I knew he wanted me to earn and was chiseling me. If you haven't seen the Skit Guy's Chisel skit, here's the link. It describes what God was doing in my family and me.
I let Andrew know that my talents and gifts were around teaching and mentoring and communication, but I wanted to help wherever that God led me and where he needed me. That meant really just setting up every Sunday and meeting and talking with folks out in the lobby area of the school before services.
When I met with Andrew the last time around me leaving, we talked about my want for teaching, and he said very explicitly that he felt more comfortable with Jim Marquez teaching since he knew Jim's theology matched his own. That led us more in to a discussion around areas of difference, one being the trinity and the other around how I lean towards cessationism vs. continuationism when it comes to thegifts like tongues and healing that occurred in scripture. It was amicable.
I knew what sort of environment the ARC was, I compared it to the unhealthy and greed-driven environments like Mars Hill. I'll digress since this plays at bit in to my thoughts on ARC. Personally it seems that when you look at scripture or society in the past or now, our sins in many cases center around greed. Greed for money, for stuff, for attention, for power, for affiliation with a group, for sex or lust, for many things. If we are put in positions where the greed pull is strong I'm not sure anyone can really not succumb to it unless they totally have Christ centered in their life.
Seeing and reading around Mars Hill, the prosperity Gospel churches, any mega church, one can see where perhaps Greed is creeping in (or has crept in) and really supplanted itself as an idol over Christ our Lord. The ARC seems to have let Greed in and allowed it to supplant itself. These large churches come out with shallow sermons that may not be fuller seeker-oriented in terms of trying to pull folks in at the expense of the message, but they are borderline.
They also are built from a business perspective like any good business would, that wants to build money over the long term. Loaning out to church plants who then pay in to loaning out to other plants–Seems a bit like a pyramid scheme and not a true Church Group that pools together resources to spread the Gospel. I've listened to Hodges and Robert Morris at Gateway Church and heard the heretical Prosperity message clearly.
Morris is the man who is now mentoring Mark Driscoll and indoctrinating him in the prosperity message. Mark wasn’t' kicked out of Mars Hill, he quit when he was being set up for discipline and restoration. He created a terrible environment for people (a misogynistic and untenable one for many) and has yet to take responsibility for it. We should always be forgiving of others but there is something unhealthy going on there, I haven't had time or honestly interest to dig too deep but I know TWW and others are on it.
The ARC obviously isn't looking at theology as a precursor in terms of who they are sending out to plant. Modalism and Oneness are heretical Unitarian theologies but that hasn’t' stopped them from allowing someone who believes that to plant here in Milwaukee. Nothing about that is on the website but verbally we hear how the church is sponsoring the pastor's parents, who do believe that and who are actively teaching it in Africa.
I had experienced some spiritual bullying, and was taking time let God guide me. He guided me to a church plant that was going to kick off right in my back yard. I've had a real heart for the area since I live here and there are a lot of buildings in the area calling themselves "churches" but feel that there were so many that had not heard the Gospel.
I pray that somehow this story will help tear down this heresy and any church that preaches it; that it can somehow help the weak of faith and vulnerable among us. I’m quite sure that I didn’t leave any majorly important details out but, if anything else comes to me I’ll make sure to write it down. And, as I stated at the beginning, I will always make myself available to answer any questions about my experience. It is the least I can do in faithful service to the Kingdom of the One True God, the God in 3 Persons-Yet One, Blessed Trinity!!
The Life Way is a oneness false religion trying to masquerade itself as a non-denominational Christian church. Just because it has stripped itself of the highly legalistic approach doesn't change the core values and doctrines. Which quite frankly are far more damaging then anything else. The world needs to know about this oneness Jesus movement. It is designed to cloak itself in Jesus then brings you totheir false Jesus. This is not a denomination of the Christian faith. It's not like a Catholic or Lutheran saying to one another “well they are the black sheep of the family.” The oneness movement is a wolf in sheep's clothing, they are not apart of the family. In fact, they aim to destroy it. Trinitarians are their mission field. My truth after stumbling on this false teaching is…if we don't stand up and make people aware, we then are just as guilty. This is the only reason for this report the only reason we left LifeWay.
As far as ARC. They either know about this and don't care. Know about this and do not understand the core teachings of the oneness doctrine. Or (even scarier) ARC is purposefully a part of the oneness agenda. There is no in-between. This is dangerous, ARC has many oneness doctrine churches. ARC needs to have accountability for it's actions. Oneness churches need to be identified and removed. They are a contagious cancer in the body of Christ.
Doug Shea-A muscian whois looking for a worship pastor position
On a side note, if anyone reading this knows of a Trinitarian church looking for a strong worship pastor. My wife and I would be willing to relocate. We want to do nothing with our life but lead people into the presence of the Father. Please feel free to contact me for a resume. Doug@DougShea.com
Here is a link to an original song I wrote and performed on a Christian TV Show in Dallas TX. The album will be out August/September 2015.