“Silence is a lie that screams at the light.” ― Shannon L. Alder
No name, no account Network
This has been one of the most challenging posts I’ve ever written because The Network churches are called, by their founder, Steve Morgan, ‘no-name’ churches. And he meant it. Trying to find their version of the story, I made my way to Christland Church, a member of this group of churches. They have a list of the member churches with an explanation. You will find an exact copy of this descriptor on each listed church. Isn’t it “cute” to have a church group with no name?
We are part of a network of church-planting churches that strive to obey Jesus’ mission to make disciples in each of our cities. Many of the churches in our network have been planted by Vine Church in Carbondale, IL and now others are being planted by Vine’s church-plants. While some are located in larger cities, most are in university towns where we believe Jesus has called us.
Together, we are a close-knit family, like-minded in doctrine and values, and we strive to stay on the mission Jesus has called us to in unity. We support and encourage each other, provide accountability and training, start new churches, and follow Jesus together.
Underneath this explanation is a list of churches which one can click on to see that church’s website. One of those churches is Hosea Church which is in Raleigh. I may need to visit it shortly. There is an entry on Reddit which says STAY AWAY from Hosea Church. This entry directs one to Leaving the Network. I have developed a rule of thumb in the past 13 years of dealing with this nonsense. The moment a decent website appears with titles involving “Leaving,” Survivors,” or “Victims,” I know we have a problematic church that needs to be exposed to help others.
Allegations of possible cult-like tendencies.
I was grateful that Andrew called to ask if TWW would do a story on this group of churches. This group of “no name’ churches has a series of problems well documented by this website (It now rates as my #1 website due to its excellent documentation and resources for groups that have experienced abuse .)
- lack of accountability of the lead pastor
- authoritarian leadership
- complete control by founder Steve Morgan
- stories of spiritual abuse of the members
- tells members, “You will never again find another church like this”
- intolerance of any disagreement
- heavy demands placed on the members
- disparaging remarks made about those who leave
TWW readers are well aware of these tactics and get the drift. It reminds me of Sovereign Grace Ministries (now Sovereign Grace Churches) before their rejection by some leaders. (Although some of the “gospel” boys still hang on.)
Leaving the Network and red flags surrounding the formation of these churches.
And just like Sovereign Grace Ministries, they have a sex abuse scandal involving Steve Morgan, the founder and leader of theses church. From this point on, I will be quoting extensively from Leaving the Network. Here is a partial history.
Steve Morgan planted Vineyard Community Church in Carbondale, IL, in 1995. In the early 2000’s, due to “theological shifts which were difficult” for Steve , the Carbondale church changed its name to Vine Church and left the Vineyard denomination, taking several midwest Vineyard churches with it and forming a new church planting network.
In contrast to the Vineyard, and other large church planting groups, Steve and the pastors who left with him boasted that they did not need to name their church planting network. In self-deprecating humor, they called themselves a “no-name, no-account Network” of churches, until “The Network” stuck. These churches do not hire pastors from the outside but promote only men (no women) who are “home grown and thoroughly trained… so that they can easily replicate” The Network’s values. The list of churches on this page were planted without outside denominational influence and under Steve’s direct control.
For a thorough history of The Network from it’s founding until today visit our Network History page.
Here are a few takeaway points which would give pause to those considering joining such churches. These churches exist to plant new churches that are “just like them.”
- no name, no account churches
- promote only from within
- all churches under Steve’ direct control
Pastors are drawn from other Network churches keeping the churches isolated and insulated, in my opinion.
One might find it helpful to look at the qualifications of the pastors of these listed churches to see how insulated they are. For example, I looked at the staff of Hosea church, and this is what it said about the lead pastor.
David is the lead pastor at Hosea. He is responsible for preaching, teaching, and vision, and oversees all the operations at the church. Prior to planting Hosea Church, David was the lead pastor at Blue Sky Church in Bellevue, WA.
I reviewed the bios in a number of these churches, and they all pointed to the previous “network” churches they served—nothing about any training, which is a red flag to me.
Steve Morgan allegedly hid his sexual abuse of a teenage boy 36 years ago.
Gosh, this sounds like a Sovereign Grace redux. The Roys Report posted Whistleblowers Say Leader of ‘Network’ of Churches Hid Sexual Crime for 36 Years.
According to documents published at Leaving the Network, Morgan was arrested for allegedly committing aggravated criminal sodomy against a minor in November 1986. The case was diverted, with Morgan agreeing to penalties, including attending mandatory counseling and paying for any therapy the victim required.
At the time of the alleged crime, Morgan was a 22-year-old youth leader at a Kansas church associated with the Reorganized Latter-Day Saints, an offshoot of the larger Church of Latter-Day Saints. Nine years later, in 1995, Morgan founded Vine Church, the Network’s flagship church in Carbondale, Illinois. Morgan now serves as lead pastor of Joshua Church in Austin, Texas, a Network affiliate.
Andrew Lumpe contacted me and summarized his concern as stated in TRR.
“The criminal complaint is of the most horrific nature,” said Andrew Lumpe, a former pastor and one of 19 former Network-affiliated staff who helped organize Leaving the Network. “This was forcible rape of a 15-year-old child. . . . For someone with this background to be a pastor who’s in a position of authority—over thousands of people in dozens of churches—it gives me and many people cause for great concern.”
The Network’s response demonstrates naivete regarding sexual abuse, which would raise another red flag.
I expressed my concerns to Andrew, who agreed this was a serious situation. Too bad the “no name” churches don’t see it that way. Here is a link to their letter. Here are the problems with the letter.
- They misuse Matthew 18, which was to be used for interpersonal conflicts, not crimes as defined by laws. The misuse of these verses is often found in abusive churches, in my experience.
- They seem upset that an anonymous blog revealed this…wait a minute, aren’t they the “no-name” church, so what’s the problem? Sadly, when churches conceal abuse in the church, they don’t see God using the “no-name” blogs to shine a light on the truth.
- They deny claims of spiritual abuse and control problems.
- They believe those who claim such abuse merely “misunderstand’ and should seek to reconcile. Notice that the onus falls on the victims.
- They claim to have sought “outside counsel” who merely advised them to be kind and loving to all. That’s “helpful.”
- They bless all who leave the church…
- They love Steve Morgan. This is probably put in here to let the good folks “Leaving the Network” know they will not get rid of Morgan.
- This problem happened over 30 years ago before Steve was a Christian, and he confessed it and dealt with it, so all is well with the world, right?
- He continues to walk in purity, etc. So these dudes know what goes on behind closed doors?
- He’s been married for 27 years and has raised four kids, so he can’t be a pervert.
- They claim that a former overseer weaponized this to shame him. (I’m repeating “no, no, no,” as I read this.)
Stop right here and look at the red flags waving…
A guy doesn’t decide to molest a 15-year-old male unless he has serious psychiatric problems. These actions are rarely a one-and-done and to think so is naive. Many molesters are married with children. It is probable that Morgan has not dealt with his issue, an issue that is much more than just a sin that can be confessed, forgiven, etc. I saw nothing saying he received serious counseling, but maybe he has.
- The supposed overseers do not appear to understand sexual abuse is a crime, not merely a sin.
- They do not appear to understand that someone who molests an underage boy may have a severe problem that could last a lifetime. The NIH has published reams of material on this.
- Has anyone checked the church computers to see if there has been any use of pornography by anyone on the staff?
- The fact that this was hidden from the members is dangerous. Other things could be hidden from the members to “save face.”
- The fact that Steve never told his church members about this is deeply concerning.
- I didn’t see one expression of concern about Morgan’s teenage male victim. If they were concerned, I would have expected to see a prayer or a word of prayer for a young teen who was abused by Steve and may have lifelong issues from that abuse. Did anyone think to contact him to see if the church could help in any way?
- What does this church believe about counseling?
- Do any of these church leaders have university-level counseling training?
This Network of churches needs to support a third-party, independent investigation.
I immediately thought about GRACE, but it looks like the good folks at Leaving the Network were way ahead of me. I signed their petition because I have been reading all that I can about these churches. I am seriously concerned that criminal sexual abuse of an underage male teen is being treated as a simple sin instead of a potential for far more profound problems. And that is naive and even dangerous.
Consider joining me in signing this petition.
Nineteen former pastors and staff have signed a Call to Action asking for an independent investigation, and 545 people have signed an accompanying Change.org petition. Here is what it says on the Change.org petition.
Resources for those interested or concerned about these churches.
- LeavingTheNetwork.org – A site sharing victim stories of spiritual abuse, historical background about the Network, and primary source documents and teachings from The Network. In addition, details about Steve Morgan’s arrest for aggravated criminal sodomy are documented here.
- www.reddit.com/r/LeavingTheNetwork/ – A social media site where people who left the Network are sharing their experiences and discussing related topics.
- NotOvercome.org – A blog maintained by Jeff Irwin, a former church plant team member and small group leader, detailing abuses he experienced and documenting abusive church systems.
- Unorthoprax.net – A site from an anonymous writer focusing on theological issues related to the network.
- TheologyandMe.com – A theology blog written by Blake Hadley, an MA student at Westminster Theological Seminary, and a former small group leader at a Network church.
Dee, this is incredibly scary. Thank you for bringing this “No Name Network” into to the light. You have identified so many red flags. Why, oh why, are Christians so naive, so clueless?
Because they blindly trust church leaders. Folks, you just can’t afford to do that. The devil goes to church, too … even as a wolf in shepherd’s clothing. John warned the church to test and try the spirits (of church leaders) to see if they are from God … first century Christianity was already dealing with false prophets (1 John 4).
I swear there must be some playbook out there about how to deceive a church. Too many similarities with other TWW posts.
Great song (A Horse With No Name)!
First heard it in the Long Beach VA Hospital back during the wind-down of Vietnam.
The devil’s playbook.
Dr. Ruth Ben-ghiat, NYU, wanted to know how a free society elects an autocrat that destroys their free society. With research from Mussolini to now, she discovered their playbook, and published it: “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.”
Here’s what her publisher says:
“What modern authoritarian leaders have in common (and how they can be stopped).”
“Ruth Ben-Ghiat is the expert on the ‘strongman’ playbook employed by authoritarian demagogues from Mussolini to Putin — enabling her to predict with uncanny accuracy the recent experience in America and Europe. In Strongmen, she lays bare the blueprint these leaders have followed over the past 100 years, and empowers us to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future.
“For ours is the age of authoritarian rulers: self-proclaimed saviors of the nation who evade accountability while robbing their people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy. They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking by financial, sexual, and other predators.
“They use masculinity as a symbol of strength and a political weapon. Taking what you want, and getting away with it, becomes proof of male authority. They use propaganda, corruption, and violence to stay in power.
“Putin’s and Mobutu’s kleptocracies, Pinochet’s torture sites, Mussolini’s and Gaddafi’s systems of sexual exploitation, and Berlusconi’s [and USA’s recent leader’s] relentless misinformation: all show how authoritarian rule, far from ensuring stability, is marked by destructive chaos.
“No other type of leader is so transparent about prioritizing self-interest over the public good. As one country after another has discovered, the strongman is at his worst when true guidance is most needed by his country.
“Recounting the acts of solidarity and dignity that have undone strongmen over the past 100 years, Ben-Ghiat makes vividly clear that only by seeing the strongman for what he is — and by valuing one another as he is unable to do — can we stop him, now and in the future.”
Thinking that these playbooks are similar.
It shouldn’t surprise us since in Jesus’ day, the religious elite and political elite were allies against Jesus and his followers, including John the Baptist and the disciples.
Ben-ghiat is right that we need to value each other, which the strongman leader clearly does not do.
Off topic…were you a patient? Recovering from Vietnam?
Hi, Stephen Wagner here. I was a college small group leader at Vine church for a short time before my eyes were opened to the issues with the Network. I got sucked in because I was a young college student. I never really had close friends growing up, because I was extremely introverted and shy. When I went to Vine I heard good, orthodox preaching, with the pastor even preaching on election at the time. As a Reformed guy, this confirmed that they taught hard truths to me. As I was receiving seemingly sound preaching from the pulpit, I was quickly getting involved with my new small group, a group that began to feel like family immediately. There were many genuine people there who loved the Lord and were really, really good at loving people. This is something I had never really had in my life, community. Because of these things, I became loyal to Vine and began to unknowingly believe everything my leaders said. Their word was good, even if it trumped what others in my life said (namely my father, who is a great pastor). Without knowing it, I was happily stuck and blissfully unaware of the issues surrounding leadership within this church. My love for Vine had collided with my God-given desire to be a pastor and Shepard and all I wanted to do with my life was become a staff pastor and maybe lead a church plant some day. I became a small group leader, fulfilling part of this desire. I loved it, the ability to lead others through the Word of God (but don’t get me started on the “discussions” (not Bible Studies) that we were taught to create). However, it got to a point where I plateaued spiritually. I had learned a lot about the Holy Spirit and how he affects our emotions, leading to a lot of emotionalism in my heart. I left when a close friend spoke with me about some of the issues and we needed up leaving together. I am now in a solid local church with a pastor who boldly practices what he preaches, standing in the streets to lovingly tell others about our Lord regularly. It’s such a refreshing thing to be encouraged in evangelism that is more than just inviting someone to church. All in all, I’m grateful for what the Lord did through my time at Vine. I still have many close friends that I met there and the Lord taught me a lot, but I was dragged into this place by this sense of community. That’s how a young Christian, even one with solid stances on orthodox, theological issues can get sucked into a place like this. It appears right and good, but the deeper you get in, the more issues you find.
Thanks Stephen for sharing your experience at Vine. You have painted a picture of how so many good folks are drawn into aberrant belief and practice. The problem with deception is that you don’t know you are deceived because you are deceived. What appears “right and good” can result in a subtle draw away from the Way, the Truth and the Life … the enemy of the Cross knows what he is doing.
In our Christian journey, we sometimes go through valleys so we can know how to help others out. There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s hell in the hallway! Such experiences sharpen our discernment to be able to separate the genuine from the counterfeit. Praise God that you are on the other side of the valley.
Thank you for your introspective and honest look at your experience at Network. I am grateful that you walked out with your faith intact and that you found a good pastor.
As someone who was an awkward teenager, I can truthfully say that being intospective is eventually good for your soul. Now, I’m out here running a blog in which I share all sorts of things. My guess you will one day lead a church plant or even write a blog. 🙂
I never heard of a “no name. no account ” church. It sounds weird and it ended up being a disaster. Morgan and the leaders should be ashamed of themselves.
Were you there post VietNam as a patient or other? Sorry to be nosy.
I note he was arrested in 1987 and by 1989 had renounced his old denomination. I wonder whether they decided not to reinstate him as a youth pastor or other position of power?
His old denomination, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) now the Community of Christ, split from the LDS after Joseph Smith’s death and eventually established with Joseph Smith’s son as head. It is closer to mainstream Christianity than the LDS and more progressive (it never supported polygamy).
That statement can be taken two ways.
If Network is what it sounds like, that would actually be a GOOD thing for those Disloyal Traitors who leave.
How can you be “ashamed” when You Can Do No Wrong? (And GAWD Himself says so!)
Like Murder or 2/3 of Blackmail, “shame” requires at least two parties – the one who did it and at least one who’d be horrified/repulsed at what they did.
And there is a loophole:
“IF NOBODY FINDS OUT ABOUT MY SIN, I AM NOT SHAMED.”
With the honor killing corollary of “And Dead Jezebels Tell No Tales.”
Though that line “The heat was hot” is a real groaner.
(Tip: Heat is usually Hot.)
One that still earworms me is “Son of My Father” by Chicory Tip.
This is Andrew Lumpe who Dee mentioned in the story. I’m sorry I sat on the secret of Steve Morgan’s sexual assault for so long and helped perpetuate the abusive systems of this “no-name” Network as a leader. Many of us former leaders live with lots of regret for this.
There does seem to some sort of playbook to maintain control in authoritarian systems. I’m reminded of Brad Sargent’s (https://futuristguy.wordpress.com/) pyramid of abuse where the top leaders surround themselves with enforcers, commenders, benefitters, promoters, drill instructors, and validators all the while pawns are being used.
Apropos to this post, for all those thinking about leaving a church, here is a previous post (permanent TWW page) that may prove insightful for your situation:
Dee, thank you for your reporting on this.
I would love to read a follow-up in the event you decide to visit Hosea (the Raleigh branch of the Network). Thus far, the reporting from Ministry Watch, Julie Roys, and now yourself has consisted of analyzing the existing documents and accounts published.
It would be amazing to have a voice like yours, which cannot be shouted down as “biased” (an accusation often leveled at victims who have left and are now speaking out) to offer a direct primary reporting on what you see.
While I would not ever recommend anyone step into one of these churches without being fully forewarned, I look forward to seeing what you think, should you choose to venture in.
I was a patient in a ward for drug and alcohol abuse.
Very common for vets back then.
I think America meant it as an aphorism.
Hopefully, we as a nation have realized that it’s not in our best interest to be sticking our nose in all over the globe where it doesn’t belong.
“He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.”
— Proverbs 26:17 —
“Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things … The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.” (C.S. Lewis, The Inner Ring)
That comment speaks volumes! Certainly not a benchmark of Christianity!
I agreee. Thanks, Dee.
We the people may realize that, but our leaders never will. As President Eisenhower said in his farewell address in 1961, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
I think the Vineyards started in my area (SoCal). I first heard of “The Vineyard” in the early-to-mid Eighties on local Christianese AM radio. Can’t remember the Pastor/Superapostle’s name, but either the Vineyard branched out of Calvary Chapel or was very closely allied with it. When I was working at a now-defunct shop circa 1982-86, there was this HUGE big-bos on the next block (formerly a Federated big-box stereo store) that was a Vineyard church; probably the Mother Church/Vatican of that Not-a-Denomination. I think the building’ended up as an indoor Hispanic swap meet.
Headless Unicorn Guy,
Your comment on the Vineyard brings up more questions for me.
Has the Vineyard organization issued an official response to all this? Although The Network has long since separated from the Vineyard organization, it is Vineyard which ordained this man as a pastor way back when.
If Vineyard was misled in the process of ordaining him, it would behoove them to make that clear by issuing an official statement today, at the organization level. They should clear the air and make it well-known that they, as an organization, would not ordain someone with this record (if that is indeed their position).
One wonders what to read from the lack of an organization-level public response from Vineyard. Has anyone tried contacting the Vineyard HQ to confirm their position on these matters?
I am glad you recovered. Grateful to you for your service.
As a former Vineyardite from the late 80’s: John Wimber has been dead for quite a long time now. The flagship church in Anaheim is now controlled by weird narcissists. They recently took the original mega out of the association, with plenty of controversy. It always was a loose association of churches as all of the new movements are. There is no accountability in any of these. No one wants the legal responsibility for one that goes off the rails and gets sued. This is probably the greatest weakness of all of them including The Vineyard, Calvary Chapel and Acts 29, just to name a few.
These are money making franchises without central control. Each thinks they are superior to the rest and none think they are horribly screwed up in the eyes of God. They reflect the condition of the Western Church. A bunch of smoke and mirrors with loud worship. Clanging gongs and brash cymbals. Churches either tend to have no accountability inside or out, or the leaders only apply it to the sheep and exclude themselves. It is a model of church without Jesus Christ. Just look at the chaos…
I knew a so called “church association” that split (by policy) into five so it has had six names.
Andrew, you’re a big man breaking cover like this. I was seen as “not a prospect for promotion” but I helped provide plausible cover. Every one of the kinds of people Brad lists, in a number of institutions, I can name and (still in position) are rising in the world’s eyes.
Vineyards almost completely devastated the Church of England (which since Stott has bad boundaries) and led nearly all the catholic charismatics right off the rails (not as to gifts but what to do with the gifts). I watched both these things happen.
I always knew you were an awesome person. Thank you for sharing what you have endured, survived and overcome. Thank you for hanging out here. You are one of the originals.
The national Vineyard office has not issued a formal statement but the regional leaders involved at the time of ordination all deny knowing about Morgan’s arrest. https://leavingthenetwork.org/network-churches/sexual-abuse-allegations/vineyard-officials/
You will find one or more in every community across America.
“God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthian 14:33)
Where chaos reigns, God is not working. If peace is not there, it’s not a church of the saints.
The institutional “church” in America has done an outstanding job modeling “ministries” without Jesus. The authority and influence of Jesus are waning in the American church. Another gospel, which is not ‘the’ Gospel, is being preached across the land. Jesus who?
The Vineyards I knew of in the Eighties was a Mega version of a Calvary Chapel Clone (i.e. “Non-Denominational”). I don’t think they had the range to cross the Atlantic. Could this be a different Movement(TM) using the same name?
And as for Crazy Charismatics, I live in the Weird Relgion Capital of North America. As in Provate Revelations from GAWD every thirty seconds. To the point they remind me of “Masters of Mighty Magick” (over-the-top occult fanboys). Move over Tatted Todd, Greg Locke, Kat Kerr, and Firefighter Prophet…
Stephen, thank you for your honesty–that takes courage. Back in the day I got sucked into a (non-Christian) group headed by a man that wanted people to obey him without question. He had incredible charisma. I refused, and there were painful consequences. By the grace of God, I got out, and later learned he had tried to come after me, according to several friends whom he somehow tracked down.
I too, was lonely, awkward and didn’t fit in. Still don’t fit in the majority of evangelical churches. Consequently, I’m mistrustful of religious and political leaders, especially those who seem to easily sway people. And unfortunately, I agree, the Devil goes to church along with the rest of us.
Oh yeah, you can find him in most pews and some pulpits!
How’s about an Independent Investigation of the pew that keeps funding the pulpit predators? The pulpit predators don’t work, don’t have jobs, don’t earn a living. People with real jobs bankroll their evil. That should required an Independent Investigation.
Agreed. It’s an unholy alliance when the pew keeps bad-boys in the pulpit. Defund the police? Heck no, defund the pulpit in some places!
Max, Ava, totally agree. Defund the pulpits. Unfortunately, I know many pastors in small churches who struggle to make ends meet as they go to the hospital to visit the sick, feed the homeless, do the janitorial work in their church, and more. They will be truly “the first” when we meet them in heaven.
And for heaven’s sake, how can we get the people in the pews to understand about predatory church leaders? To (unfortunately) be less trusting? Whatever happened to be[ing] as cunning as serpents and harmless as doves?
Headless Unicorn Guy,
No, it was exactly them and they said so. Wimber was very famous here, like Falwell Senior (who apparently pretended to be the antidote to Wimber or vice versa).
Not all of them! It may be tough to separate the genuine from the counterfeit these days … but, Praise God for the genuine!
“PLease allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste…”
— The Rolling Stones 1968 —
With the spiritual IQ of the average Christian in America stuck at “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so”, anything is possible. They trust the pulpit to interpret the Bible for them, resulting in an immature ability to discern truth from error themselves; thus, the devil can walk in undetected and set up shop. The average Christian doesn’t read Scripture and pray as they ought … the perfect set up for charlatans and false prophets.
“PLEASED TO MEET YOU!
HOPE YOU GUESSED MY NAME!
(doo da doo doo – doo da doo doo)
BECAUSE HUSTLING YOU
IS THE NATURE OF MY GAME!
(doo da doo doo – doo da doo doo)”
THAT’S THE GUY!
“PastorJohnWimberOfVINEYWARD” – buying airtime on Eighties KBRT right up there with “PastorChuckSmithCalvaryChapelCostaMesa”, “PastorRaulReesCalvaryChapelWestCoving”, “PastorGergLaurieHarvestChristianFellowship”, and all the others.
All of them together The One True Church, all Moses Model Pastor/Dictators with More Fundy Than Thou Theology and/or Gifts/Signs/Wonders/Visions like Tatted Todd of Lakeland fame.
Just like Big Name Celebrity Fanboys in every fandom I’ve bee involved with – most common in Proto-Anime and Furry Fandoms. There it’s called “Floating with No Visible Means of Support” – no job, no life, but always able to jet across the country to a con and spend lotsa cash in the Dealer’s Room. Without any job or life to get in the way, they could Build Their Brand in the fandom 24/7/365 and Get Famous for Being Famous. And the rise of Social Media just made it worse – Loud Crazies have a way of dominating a fandom or movement because of their 24/7/365 dedication to their obesssion.
The new version is:
“Jesus hates me this I know,
for my doctrine tells me so,
Little ones does he despise,
They are vipers in his eyes.”
Sums it up.
Max, I gather you’ve been around the block a few times. I’m not dismissing that you seem to have a lot of life experience. But I want to push back on the assumption here that people who follow abusive leaders or join high-control groups are stupid, or spiritually ignorant. I’d suggest reading some of the “leaving the network” stories at the site Dee linked. The people sharing their stories there were reading their Bibles and praying. They were highly committed to following God, actually. They were deceived not because they lacked “spiritual IQ,” whatever that is, but because they were exploited by an organization that strategically attacked their vulnerabilities. Yes, we all need to be wise about who we allow to influence us. But the people who deserve your derision are the deceivers who exploit people’s trust, not those whose trust has been abused.
It is also important to remember that some were born into it, with parents who put a huge amount of effort into teaching not only the errant theology, but also giving the kids reasons to dismiss outside/contradictory information. It takes years to sift through all these preventative “reasons” and really find the truth. Some people never do, and reasons why can be very complex.
And even secular authorities (publishers, politicians) deferent to some half-baked religious institutions, that do likewise.
CMT: “spiritual IQ,”
CMT, very good point. I had the “spiritual IQ” but it still took me a lifetime to throw off fideism and angelism and see why “so big a salvation” is provident and rational (pooping the church party thereby).
How is it humanly possible to believe in such a god?
They are predestined. They cannot help it.
I have been to VA at Long Beach several times. My brother was a patient there(Mental Ward). Our family was in Norwalk just north. What’s left of us is now in Denver.
I am so glad you are doing well. I am amazed how many people the Lord has delivered at of tough spots including myself.
Dee, my psoriasis has given me uveitis in both eyes. Am getting treatment, don’t know ultimate outcome yet.
Good point. Thx.
Agreed. And perhaps one of the greatest vulnerabilities that a churchgoer has is blind trust of church leaders. Couple that with a sincere desire to know God and be a part of a community of believers, someone can be easily exploited. Developing an ability – through disciplined prayer and Bible study – to “test and try the spirits to see if they be from God” can certainly help detect deceivers in the pulpit. It’s been my experience (70+ years of doing church in America) that the average Christian simply does not develop that sort of discipline.
In the Eighties and Nineties, we has a local “Moonies with Rosaries” cult called “St Joseph’s Hill of Hope” or “The Hill-o-Hopers”. Started by a woman who claimed near-continuous visions of Sts Mary and/or Joseph, ended up with strict uniforms, a Five-Person Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Mary, & Joseph), and Tridentine Latin Mass (natch) valid only when performed by priests vetted by the Visionary.
They got shut down HARD in the mid-Eighties by the new Bishop of Orange (the previous bishop died after a long illness); the “divinely vetted” priests disappeared into monasteries or dead-end positions. That’s why they founded their Cult Compound where it was in the Chino Hills where Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties/Dioceses come together (just enter “St joseph hill of hope” in Bing Maps) – they could “skip town” from one bishop’s jurisdiction to another by just walking across the road. And they Did NOT like visitors to their own little Vatican in the hills.
Incidentally, “Mary Channelling” is the most common kickoff for these “Cults with Rosaries”, and Tridentine Latin Mass their Number-One rallying point.
Again, not discounting your perspective. I don’t have 70 years behind me, but in situations that I have encountered and learned of, people develop wisdom about spiritual abuse through bitter experience. That, and help processing said experience. Having someone come alongside you-whether IRL in the form of a trusted friend or a therapist, or in a book or a blog-is critical. Since spiritual abuse can warp the way people experience prayer and Bible reading, that alone is an inadequate prescription.
I’m not saying people don’t need to be wise. I just don’t like the mocking, infantilizing language towards people who haven’t gotten there yet. I also think that attributing spiritual abuse to lack of discipline or insufficient “quiet time” is a form of victim blaming, and not helpful.
Love that quote! C.S. Lewis understood the human heart so well!
So wise. And we “come alongside of” ourselves by our degrees of inference (trust in our personal soul competency) enlightened by Holy Spirit (Jesus’ twin). The glaring facts we’ve survived ARE the interpretation of so many Scriptures.
I’ve analysed discipline as:
– awareness on the practical plane
– sense of exactness within that
– degree of attention one is able to give at any time
– initiative taking (to defy shame)
Thus one ought to make one’s problems work for one and not against one. In my case, muttering Glory Be’s as I multi task, meditating the while on a wide batch of startling Scripture insights from recent months or years.
Sensing and not rejecting my own personality: so this is who I am and where I am and my breathtaking survival and appreciation for my appreciation (things “churches” or parachurches told us not to have).
I don’t think “discipline” comes from flicking a “remote”, or from telling boys they mustn’t be friendly towards other boys (just to pick two commonplace tropes). You can piece together your own version of discipline, by thoughtfulness and inventiveness and reminding yourself without shame to renew your initiative, and relax in gratefulness.
Three things christians need more of:
As someone involved in Imaginative things since around 10 years old, the most important of those three to me is Imagination. There’s already too much Repetition there – chapter, verse, Christianese buzzword bingo.
And an important fourth thing: A SENSE OF HUMOR. ESPECIALLY ABOUT THEMSELVES.
Sounds a lot like how Runaway Immediate Success can be a Curse.
In order to test a system, you have to put it under load.