Angels of Light
The following account of the Central London Church of Christ, written by an ex-member, comes from ‘Angels of Light?’, a Christian publication about the teaching and practice of the C.L.C.O.C.:-
I was doing well in my studies and having a great time socially at University, but, like many people, I was searching for some sort of spiritual reality in my life.
Towards the end of my first year, a friend-a bright, attractive and friendly person- invited me to his church for a Sunday service. I thought I would go, as I fancied myself as being open and experimental. After the service, he suggested we study the Bible together, and I then met with him regularly, as well as going to the Church on Sundays and to other mid-week meetings. The people impressed me with their strict sense of morality, conviction about the Bible and their commitment. It was challenging to my own habits and ideas.
Although other people had warned me about the strict `fundamentalism’ of this group, and that it was rumoured to be a cult, my friend was urgent and insistent about our meeting together to study, and so I continued to meet with him. He showed me such care and love that it was hard to say no.
Eventually, because I became convinced that the teachings were true, I was baptised and became a member. For months I kept the baptism a secret from my family.
Soon after I was baptised, I discovered that many of the Church meetings were compulsory. On one Saturday evening, the church was having a concert. I opted not to go because I needed to study for an exam. I was challenged about this by a fellow student who was a leader, and discovered that not only the special events mandatory, but so were the retreats, evangelism, morning quiet times, Bible discussions, conferences, seminars, sector meetings and, of course, financial contributions. In London, members must pledge the amount they are to give, and are held accountable for it. They are followed up regularly by their disciplers for `special Mission Contributions.’ I was encouraged to move into a flat with another member.
Whenever I questioned these things, the following responses were most commonly given: `That’s not the issue-the issue is that you’re not broken,’ `It’s in the Bible,’ `I’m disappointed in you; how could you be questioning now?’ or `Brother, you just need to change.’
My friend became my discipler, and we met one to three times a week. I was told to imitate him, and be submissive to him. Using the example of King David’s Mighty Men, an Evangelist once told us that we were to display `Weird Loyalty’ to our disciplers.
After being baptised a second time (because I did not repent properly the first time) I became a discipler myself. We had ti invite between one and five people a day, and get as many phone numbers as possible. I was encouraged to reach out to sharp or open people who could become future leaders.
As my intensity and involvement grew, my grades at University fell sharply. I had no time for non-Christian friends. My sense of humour vanished. When challenged on these things by my friends and family, I viewed their remarks as Satanic.
I was not happy in the Church. My discipler would constantly re-assure me that if I would evangelise more it would all become clear to me. At that time I believed that the only alternative to being a part of the group was going to Hell.
My parents called in cult specialists who knew about the group and who challenged me on its teachings. After 5 minutes talking with them, I knew that something was seriously wrong-but it took me three days of argument to admit that the Church was seriously wrong in its teaching and practice. I left soon afterwards.
Had I not been `exit counselled’ by these cult specialists, I would have spent more years in the Church-perhaps the rest of my life.
Although, in many ways, I owe my faith in Christ to the Church, membership was a bad experience and I would encourage anyone involved to leave.
[ Although I never became a member myself, I can identify with a lot of this man’s experiences. The Church, as far as I myself am concerned, has just got past the stage of,as it were, being nice in order to appeal to me, and they are almost resorting to emotional blackmail to try to keep me interested. If you want more details of my own experiences with the Church, just let me know. ]