- One-Over-One Discipling
- Leadership and Authority in the Church
- Congregational Autonomy
- Monopoly on Salvation
- Salvation by Grace
- Conditional Salvation based on a Works Doctrine
- Salvation and Sin
- Making Disciples
- Coercive Persuasive Techniques
I wish that I didn’t have to send this letter to you, but I cannot simply walk away from a group of people who have meant so much to me since I became a Christian. I’ve got to know some of you better than the others. You know who you are and I truely love and care for you, in Christ. I sincerely wish that we could continue our friendship.
We are all God loving people who want to be ‘Christ like’. All of us seek the truth, and look for a place where people are truely committed to God, have a loving environment, and a place that provides us with a sense of belonging. But, at the same time one cannot also compromise ones conscience when it comes to certain doctrinal issues, and behavior/practices.
Leaving was a very difficult, and a very painful decision to make. I mulled over it for many days, with a lot of anguish and hurt in my heart. I felt disappointed for being let down by people that I loved and trusted. I also know that you would be led to believe untruely that I am now a non-believer in Christ, and use a scripture to justify cutting me off from you. Thus making the hugging, the love and care, brotherly and sisterly love, and the friendship, all of which conditional on remaining as a member. This is totally wrong, and contrary to what the bible says. I haven’t “fallen away” from Christ. My issues are not with God’s Words, but with what is being taught to believe. My love for God has not changed one iota. I am still a Christian.
But, as hard as it is, I cannot violate my God given conscience (Romans 14:23), free Will, and desire to build a relationship with God on his true words, for the rest of my life, and continue to be part of something with questionable doctrines & practices, that are at times unbiblical and has man made rules (2 Peter 2:1-3, Matthew 15:9).
But, this is my last e-mail to you as a group. I will also not participate on any threads that discuss some of the issues I have raised. I also wish that people would refrain from resorting to verbal attacks or name calling. I am merely sharing my findings, and I just want to bring this matter to a closure. People can disagree on issues and still be friends. I sincerely wish that we could continue to be friends.
If you are interested, we can discuss it off-line. Please do not take my e-mail personally, but study it carefully yourself, and pray to God to guide you to the truth. I prayed a lot, and asked God for guidence. I am merely trying to share what I have discovered during my research and study. Also, I need to explain to you the reasons why I left, because I heard that some were spreading rumors about my character and integrity. I know that the holy spirit in us will lead us to the truth (I Corinthians 3:16, John 14:16-17, John 10:27-28). In fact, for the last three weeks, I have read the bible as I have never ever read before.
I decided to leave because of some of the beliefs and practices. Leaving, neither makes me an unbeliever in Christ, nor diminishes my faith in God. I have already started looking around for a new church, and I am continuing to study the bible. I will try to lead a righteous life as a true christian. I will also share my faith with others, and bring them to God’s kingdom. My goal in life is to help the downtrodden, help the needy, and to do missionary work. If that is God’s Will for me, then he will bestow his blessings on me.
Contrary to what I heard some are saying, I left on my own, and NOT because anybody else ASKED me to leave. I spoke to the former singles leader for two and a half hours in the first week of March week, and raised almost all the issues I discuss in this e-mail, right to the last topic. He listened and admitted to past mistakes, and talked about correcting current ones. I was asked to stay and help address/fix these issues.
But, I told him that these issues were documented to have been raised in the early ’80s, and also as recently as ’92. These issues have been raised until recently, by numerous other Christians who had left. I honestly do not foresee being able to successfully address/fix these issues, because none of it is anything new. The issues involve both doctrinal beliefs and practices. I spoke to him again in the following week, and told him that I am not coming back, due to these very important unresolved issues. My continuing to stay will not be conducive to my spiritual and personal growth, both as a Christian, and as a free human being, with God given rights, freedom and priviledges. I will not be able to live as a free Christian as intended by God.
Christ puts responsibility on each of us to watch out for being led away from the truth, and to examine the fruit of anyone claiming to be speaking of God’s will (Matthew 7:15-23). The Bereans were commended for verifying what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). The bible also warns us about drifting away from the truth (2 Timothy 4:2-4, Galatians 1:6-9). We are not suppossed to implicitly trust any human being (I am not talking about Christ, the apostles, etc.) to tell us God’s Will, because this could lead to destructive heresy, and scripture twisting (2 Peter 2:1-3, 2 Peter 3:16).
Having disagreements is not divisive. In Acts 15:36, Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement. Their disagreement did not lead to the division in the kingdom of God. Paul and Barnabas went in their separate direction. God is in control of His Kingdom. Yes, we all get nervous and uncomfortable when people disagree with us on issues that are very sacred to us. But, when is light afraid of the darkness? Criticism, in itself, is not divisive. In Acts 11, when Peter went to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him. In verse 18, “when they heard this [Peter’s explanation], they had no further objections and praised God..”.
Having reservations about things are not divisive, either. In Galatians 2:11, we read about a situation where Paul was having serious reservations about how Peter was conducting himself. But, there is nothing in the scripture that talks about these reservations leading to any kind of split or chasm between Peter and Paul.
In 1 Corinthians 16:12, Paul was writing to the Corinthians saying, “Now, about your brother, Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.” Here, you don’t have a system where people are being controlled, and there is freedom for diversity. Apollos was free to say “no, I am not willing to go right now”. There is a freedom of choice, to disagree and do what you think is right. Paul didn’t condemn Apollos, for “being selfish”, “prideful”, and for having a “bad heart”.
I have addressed below, some issues I have concerns with. I hope and pray that you will read it with an open heart and mind (Matthew 7:15-23, Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Take care.
Dutch Dasanaike, M.S.
ONE-OVER-ONE discipling which as believed and practiced, giving disciplers the authority on every aspect of the lives of the members including marriage, dating, sex (for marrieds), finances, school, career, future, friends, family, etc. Discipling goes beyond spiritual guidence, into personal and private lives.
All decisions have to be okeyed (get advise) by the disicipler. Although “advice” is suggested, it is highly encouraged to be followed. Otherwise, you are told that you don’t have a trusting heart, you are prideful, etc.
||Discipleship as Practiced|
|Disciple of Christ only, not of any man; idea of following people specifically brought up and rebuked (1 Corinthians 1:10-12)||Commands discipleship by another person as a requirement for membership; regularly emphasized that God himself has put this person over you to direct you and hold you accountable.|
|Biblical discipleship is not assigned or appointed by the church, but always a matter of mutual consent and approval (Matthew 4:18-22, John 1:35-37) and guidence.||Discipleship relationships are “ordered” by the leadership; every Christian is assigned a discipler and expected to submit themselves to their direction and guidence.|
|Trains a person to make judgments about all things.(1 Corinthians 2:15)||Trains a person not to make decisions but to always get advice.|
|Trains a person to be self sufficient and not to be subject to any man’s judgement (1 Corinthians 2:15, Hebrews 5:11-14, Romans 14:1-13)||Trains a person to be dependent on others and emphasizes needing permission and submitting to leadership, even in matters of opinion.|
|Trains a person to be dependent on God and not to be dependent on anybody (Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Thess 4:12)||Trains a person to be dependent on those over them in the Lord and preaches that independence is a sin.|
|Emphasizes the importance of getting advice (Proverbs 11:14)||Emphasizes the importance of needing permission.|
|Trains a person to be “100% obedient” and submissive to Christ and to the Word of God; preaches against unconditional loyalty to people or to blind acceptance of what is taught. (Acts 17:11)||Demands “100% obedience” to the leadership as a condition of being a disciple; labels as “critical” and “divisive” Christians who regularly question practices with Scriptual examples.|
All too often things disclosed to a discipler one day are known all the way up the discipling hierarchy the next day. The sins you confessed, and when you “open your life”, thoughts, etc., to your discipler, is not kept confidential. Sometimes controlling occurs because they know everything about you, and give “advice” on everything.
Some find the pattern for the new order of discipleship in the relationship of Jesus with His disciples, forgetting that this was done within Judaism before Jesus began to build His Church.
The scriptures teach that all brothers are equal (not hierarchical) as slaves and the best of these slaves should be appointed leaders (Matthew 20:20-26, 28:8, 1 Peter 5:1-5, Acts 20:28-32).
There is certainly nothing wrong in getting advice (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 12:15), however, it cannot be translated into a Scriptural necessity for “needing permission.”
“The spiritual man takes judgements about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement.” (1 Corinthians 2:15)
1 Corinthians 2:15, makes it clear that no one should be made to feel as though they are required to get the “approval” of the people over them in the Lord when it comes to making all kinds of normal, day-to-day decisions that all of us need to make.
There is nothing wrong with One-On-One discipling (not hierarchical, One Over One) between good friends, where confidentiality is maintained. In fact, this is what we do in real life, with our best friends.
[The ICC teaches and practices] UNQUESTIONED obedience and loyalty to human leaders. There is no room for disagreements, criticisms nor differences in opinions. To disagree or to differ with a leader or a discipler is considered “prideful, arrogant, insubmissive, stubborn, independent, rebellious, disloyal and having a bad heart.”
What does the bible say about “authority” and submission to church leadership?
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles [civil/legal authority] lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. NOT SO WITH YOU. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. – Christ says in Matthew 20:25-28
“Authoritarian” leadership, Jesus points out, argues from position. One must submit to this authority because the leader possesses civil or legal authority (Also Titus 3:1).
“Everyone must submit himself to the GOVERNING authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.” – Romans 13:1
The above scriptures talk about rulers and officials of the state. This kind of authority, however, is never given to the apostles or to any other “leader” of a church. Jesus outrightly rejects this concept ‘not so with you’ (Matthew 20:26). Leadership in the kingdom, Jesus argues, simply is not about “exercising authority” over the flock, or lording it over them. Rather leadership in the church is about being a servant.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: “Now we ask you brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are “”over you”” in the Lord…
The words “over you” in this verse is ‘prohistemi’, in greek which is also used in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 & 1 Timothy 5:17. This word was not meant to imply a “position of authority” in the original Greek text. The word translated “over you” by NIV actually is a verb, meaning, “to assist, protect, care for or give aid to”. A more literal translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 would be “Now we ask you brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are assisting, protecting and taking care of you, giving you aid and who adminishes you.
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority…” – Hebrews 13:17
The word “authority” employed in the NIV version of this text simply does not exist in the original Greek text from which the NIV was translated. Also, this word is not found in KJV, New American standard, etc, versions. The New American standard version “Obey your leaders, and submit to them;…” The verse still talks about “submission” to church leadership; however, this is authorized not on the basis of any position they might occupy, but rather as a function of their example and their service to the church.
The proper context for the above verse also comes from Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Authority here comes from the proper handling of God’s word. We are reminded of the leaders “who spoke the word of God”. Submission authorized here is to the Word that was preached, NOT to leaders’ opinions and ideas.
“If there is ever a conflict with what a leader says and what is in the word of God, we must go with the word of God. (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29
No one has the right to judge his brother (Romans 14:4 and 13) or to pass judgement about disputable matters (Romans 14:1).
No one has the right to suggest that refusing to follow advice (again, for something that is a matter of opinion), means that someone is prideful, rebellious or in sin (1 Corinthians 7:25-28). Here Paul makes it clear that it is not a sin to reject a “judgement call” of another Christian, because God did not give a command on the issue, “I have no command from the lord..” (1 Corinthians 7:25).
“Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possessions of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. DO NOT ADD TO what I command you and DO NOT SUBTRACT from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2)
Those that add to God’s commands are liars. (Proverbs 30:5-6)
“Now, brothers I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying “DO NOT GO BEYOND WHAT IS WRITTEN.”” (1 Corinthians 4:6).
No authority [is granted] to go beyond what is written. Also, Paul applies it to himself and to Apollos for a reason: not even apostles or evangelists have the “authority” to “go beyond what is written” in the bible.
In fact, to put any pressure, either overt or subtle, on someone which influences them to not act from faith, is condemned (Romans 14&15, Matthew 18:6-7). Even Paul, who did have authority because he was an apostle (2 Corinthians 10:8, Matthew 16:19, Philemon 8), never used it to demand submission. He was exemplary in following Jesus’ example of teaching, explaining, suggesting, and showing, aimed at persuading and not pressuring.
The Concept of “disciple” (Matthew 28:19) [as taught in the ICC] has resulted in numerous ‘rebaptisms’ in the “true” church, and created many man-made prerequisites for those who want to be baptized.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Sprit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..” – Matthew 28:19
This is mis-interpreted as saying “no one should be baptized who is not already a disciple. And if you were baptized before you became a disciple, then your baptism was not valid”. So, the result of this [mis]interpretation is: All baptisms outside the body is automatically assumed to be invalid, because the people in the body are the ONLY ones who have a correct understanding on baptism.
So, everyone joining has to be “rebaptised”. Also, even if someone who isn’t a member, shows all the characteristics of a Christian, he/she is not considered a Christian, until they go through a “valid baptism (rebaptism)” in the one “true” body. This apparently is the final measurement for determining who is and is not a fellow Christian.
Congregational autonomy has been rejected and replaced with a hierarchical authoritarian structure led by one person at the top, and the World Sector Leaders. The scriptures teach that no congregation or evangelist has the right to direct or control another congregation.
The biggest problem with this is that rules, and doctrine tend to come from outside one congregation. A good example is special contributions. An amount randomly (18-20 x weekly contribution), and firmly set by people higher up the ladder in “authority”.
Instead of having a system of unity through relationships and cooperation, there is a system of unity through uniformity. The body in Indianapolis, in 1994, challenged against putting up with rules set outside the congregation, and won.
[The ICC believes it holds a] monopoly on salvation, ie. that only the group of [ICC] churches and their members are “true disciples/Christians”. The church [ICC] as a whole is only about 30 years old, with 70 thousand members, and with 190 thousand former members. As of now, for every 100 who join, ~40 leave (~60% retention rate). Where does it say that the particular churches is the kingdom of God, and all the non-members (considered non-believers) are going to hell? It’s a ridiculous and a very arrogant stance.
“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation. nor will people say, ‘HERE IT IS,’ or ‘THERE IT IS,’ because the KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU.” – Luke 17:20-21
There is something very wrong with a group when its members walk out by the hundreds and thousands with total disillusionment in God, Christianity and the Bible, with their faith in God destroyed, and with similar stories of widespread authoritarian abuses and manipulation.
Its not just “ordinary” members who leave. This also includes bible talk leaders, sector leaders, evengelists, high echelon leaders, and even elders!
The Bible is very clear in its teachings regarding Salvation. Personal faith, belief, or trust in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior is both necessary (if one does not have this, one is not saved (John 3:18; 8:24; Heb. 4:2; 11:6), and sufficient (if one has this, one is saved (John 3:14-15; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 20:30-31; Acts 10:43; 16:31; Rom. 1:16-17; 1 John 5:1, 13).
Paul’s response to the Philippian jailer’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” was to the point: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”
“Then he said [the criminal on the cross], “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”. – Luke 23:42.
How did the criminal get saved? Because the criminal BELIEVED (had faith) in Christ.
Why is understanding Salvation by Grace so important? Because it sets you free, from self condemnation and from being captive to trying to take by works what we already have by grace. Performing Works is good. But, it does not PRECEDE Salvation. Salvation does not depend on Works. It is not faith plus works that saves us. But, true faith makes us do Works. The problem with making Salvation faith + Works is that there is an element of commitment as a condition for salvation. (Please look at Romans 11:6, Romans 10:9, Galatians 3:2-3, Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 8:38-39, I Peter 1:23, I John 1:7-10, Titus 3:5). Some of the things to do after you are saved: look at Colossians 3:8-14, Romans 12:1-2, II Timothy 2:15, I Thessalonians 5:17)
This is not my opinion, this is established theology.
The problem with a Works doctrine towards Salvation is that Christians begin to have doubts about their Salvation. Feel guilty about not doing enough- Made to feel guilty about “Not sharing your faith enough”. Pressured to do more- bring more people to church. End up having to follow man made rules, to “earn/keep” your Salvation.
Some erroneously believe that you have to do the “works of a disciple” in order to be a disciple. They deny preaching “saved by works.” Yet, they clearly teach that a “disciple’s life is full of works,”. They teach that Gentiles have to obey God’s commands, spread their faith, and be baptized in order to be saved–above and beyond merely believing in Jesus.
Some have a very legalistic understanding of the Christian life which is opposed to a correct understanding of gospel and grace. They also take verses about Christian living and use them as entrance requirements for salvation. They’ll bring up a verse about discipleship and suggest you must be that way, work up to it, or continue that way without faltering in order to be saved. If they were talking about ‘living out’ a Christian life or about spiritual growth it would be okay, as opposed to ‘entering or remaining’ in a Christian status.
True faith will always be accompanied by works. James 2:14 makes clear that there is a kind of believing that is not true faith at all. This ‘faith’ is dead and barren. It is not real faith at all but merely holding a correct theological opinion which, according to James, even the demons do (James 2:19).
We must be careful that we understand correctly what James is saying. It is NOT that FAITH plus WORKS SAVES us, but that true faith will always be accompanied by works. James is attacking the false notion that being saved by faith means being saved by right opinion, rather than life- changing heartfelt belief. Performing works of obedience doesn’t help to make our faith sure, it reflects whether our faith is the real thing. It indicates saving faith, not makes it saving faith…. I agree that ‘mere’ faith without any effect in a person’s life is not real saving faith in Christ at all.
The problem arises when they teach that anything less than a life of incessant and fruitful evangelism, Bible study and ‘correct’ baptism, means that faith is dead and the person not a Christian.
Luke 17 passage serves to destroy the idea of making oneself worthy. According to Luke 17, after you’ve done everything, consider yourselves unworthy servants. After all, you were only doing your duty. When you were doing good works, you were only carrying out your faith. Faith is what saved you. Faith is what made you worthy. (Christ shed blood on the Cross made you worthy, you received it by faith.)
Lets look at Matthew 25:37-46 where it supposedly says you have fed the hungry and give clothes to the needy and etc. to be saved. Proof this isn’t necessary for salvation is in the reply of the righteous when they ask the same question as the unrighteous. The righteous weren’t expecting those works to get them into Heaven. Those works were natural results of faith, and they received salvation when they had the faith.
I have run into situations with bible talk and other leaders, who were using Salvation as a carrot stick, for spiritual intimidation, and manipulation. In fact this is what led me to take it upon myself to diligently study the Word of God.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
Repentance leads to salvation from Hell. You must repent, which means you no longer commit ANY sins, in order to get saved. This is one of the steps toward salvation.
The ‘salvation’ spoken of is salvation from the power of sin. That is, not committing the sin over again. Just because the word “salvation” occurs, it doesn’t always refer to salvation from Hell. Death spoken of here is not Hell, but is the bondage of sin experienced on earth, which prevents you from experiencing God’s true life while on earth.
Some study a list of sins in Galations 5:19-21 and then repeat the last sentence of verse 21 : “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Meaning that even though you believe in Jesus (already past the believing stage) and commit a sin, you won’t go to heaven. In other words, if you don’t successfully stop sinning altogether, you won’t enter heaven. This is an erroneous theology of repentance. It looks like salvation by works because it includes sins of omission. Some also believe that you have to confess your sins to leaders/discipler to receive forgiveness, which is wrong.
So, the erroneous concept of repentance is to live completely without sin. It’s also believed that if you sin, you weren’t serious about God and thus not saved in the first place. This includes not obeying every commandment. Some say, “How can you be serious and not obey God? ” In another form: “How can you be serious and commit sin?”
A certain ruler asked him [Christ], “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me GOOD?” Jesus answered. “NO ONE IS GOOD- except God alone.”- Luke 18:18-19
I consider the following scripture to be very very important, in trying to correctly understand:
“God’s Law” or the “Law of the Spirit of life”, VS “Law of sin and death”. (Romans 7:25 & Romans 8:2)
Paul was an apostle, yet he talks about his own sinful nature in Romans 7:21-25 and Romans 8:1-11, and explains how he himself is going to be saved. In the same way, this is how we are, brothers and sisters in Christ, are going to be saved, after becoming believers in Christ.
“So I find this law at work: When I [us] want to do good, evil is right there with me [us]. For in my [our] inner being I [we] delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my [our] body, waging war against the law of my [our] mind and making me [us] a prisoner of the law of sin [sinning] at work within my [our] members.” – Romans 7:21-23
“What a wretched man I am [we are]! Who will rescue me [us] from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:24-25
“So then, I myself [we ourselves] in my [our] mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” – Romans 7:25
Life through the Spirit:
“Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE, SET ME FREE from the LAW OF SIN AND DEATH.” – Romans 8:1-2
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind CONTROLLED by the Spirit [a Christian man, but who is still going to sin] is life and peace.” – Romans 8:6
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, IF THE SPIRIT OF GOD LIVES IN YOU. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ [a non Christian, because when you received Christ into your life, God, gave you His Holy Spirit, to be your Counselor, to be in control of your mind].” – Romans 8:9
“But if Christ is in you, your BODY is DEAD because of SIN, YET your spirit is alive because of righteousness. – Romans 8:10
This is considered important in response to Jesus’ Great Commission as found in Matthew 28:19,20 to “make disciples of all nations.
All the doctrine stems from one concept — that if someone is a true Christian, they will “bear fruit” as stated in John 15:5.
Once it was perceived that members should “bear fruit,” an explanation for why strong psychological pressures are used becomes apparent. Since members’ salvation becomes dependent upon how many people they convert, naturally they would try as hard as they possibly can to win as many “disciples” as they can — even if they have to pressure people into it.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. (John 15:16)
From the erroneous idea that all true Christians have to be discipled, it next followed that those who weren’t (meaning those Christians who weren’t in the group) must not be genuine Christians. Thus finally claiming Christian exclusivity.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Sprit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..” – Matthew 28:19
Matthew 28:19 says “Go make disciples.” What is a disciple? The word “disciple” means a learner. So, “Go and make people, leaners about Jesus. Then what? You baptize them. So, according to Matthew 28:19, AFTER you baptize, then you teach everthing that God has commanded.
But, what happens is the doctrine of the group, which tend to consist of selected scriptures that are considered important, is put into a series of studies. People are taught these study series (Word study, Discipleship study, etc.), BEFORE they are baptized. In fact, the people that are trying to be saved, have to agree on all of the group’s doctrine, before they are even allowed to be baptized.
If they disagree on anything, say during a Cost study the person disagrees on something. Then, that person is not allowed to be baptized. A soul is rejected from being saved (say, a truely non-christian), not because the person rejected the Gospel, but could be because of some man made rules.
For example, the person doesn’t agree on the dating rules (“Do not be yoked together with UNBELIEVERS” – 2 Corinthians 6:14, since NON-MEMBERS are considered UNBELIEVERS/NON-CHRISTIANS, irrespective of their faith in Christ – which is TOTALLY WRONG, this scripture is twisted to say you cannot date anybody outside the Church). But, he/she is denied baptism, because of not agreeing to follow a command from GOD, but a MAN MADE COMMAND. This is wrong, and contrary to what the bible commands us to do “make learners (disciples) of Jesus” (Matthew 28:19)
Tithing is a practice that most Christians do to give thanks to the Lord. In the OT, Moses mandated that everyone should give one-tenth of their belongings holy. But, when Jesus was brought on earth, he never enforced nor said anything about tithing. The leadership enforces tithing and a person’s membership depends on it. During the first century, neither Jesus nor his apostles enforced tithing.
[In the ICC] tithing used to [mean] (a few years ago), 10% of net (after taxes), but now 10% of Gross (before taxes) is considered an acceptable amount. People are asked how much they make in a year, to ensure whether they are paying their 10%. If not, then the 10% is the goal to be pushed towards.
I have no problem with people making financial contributions, in fact Christians should contribute, but according to their means. The biggest problem is being asked to give (even preset- special contributions), under compulsion, by using pressure tactics like guilt, condemnation, having a “bad heart”, etc.
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, NOT RELUCTANTLY or UNDER COMPULSION, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
Also, an arbitrary amount (usually ranges from 15%-20% of Gross income), has to be given atleast once a year as “special contributions”. This is rigidly enforced on congregations, and the amount is set by somebody up the hierarchy. The member has no say on this. A tremendous amount of pressure and guilt is used to obtain the money from the members. To cover short falls, a lot of fund raising activities are organized, and members are “adviced” to participate.
Some religious movements (like the Jehovar’s Witnesses, Children of God, Unification Church-moonies, and others) are criticized, for not what they believe in but on their behavior/practices on their congregations, which are at times controlling and abusive. The abuse can be Theological, Spiritual, Social & Psychological.
Researchers have identified the following coercive persuasive techniques, and characteristics in such organizations:
- Authoritarian pyramid structure with authority at the top
- Charismatic or messianic leader(s) (Messianic meaning they either say they are God, or Prophet, or God’s anointed, OR that they alone can interpret the scriptures the way God intended. The leaders are self-appointed.
- Deception in recruitment and/or fund raising.
- Isolation: Members are isolated from society and from contact with opposing points of view to prevent critical judgement. Not necessarily physical isolation like on some compound in Waco, but this can be psychological isolation — the rest of the world is not saved, not Christian, not transformed (whatever) — the only valid source of feedback and information is the group.
- Use of mind control techniques (Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s criteria from chapter 22 of his book “Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism” to compare whether the eight psychological and social methods he lists are present in the group at question)
- Mileu Control: Control of the environment and communication within the environment.
- Mystical Manipulation: Seeks to promote specific patterns of behavior and emotion. Totalist leaders claim to be agents chosen by God. “Principles” (God-centered or otherwise) can be put forcibly and claimed exclusively, so that the group and its beliefs become the only true path to salvation (or enlightenment).
- Demand for Purity: The world becomes sharply divided into the pure and the impure, the absolutely good (the group/ideology) and the absolutely evil (everything outside the group) one must continually change or conform to the group “norm”; tendencies towards guilt and shame are used as emotional levers for the group’s controlling and manipulative influences.
- Confession: Unhealthy confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a destructive group in itself. Sessions in which one confesses to one’s sin are accompanied by patterns of criticism and self-criticism, generally transpiring within small groups with an active and dynamic thrust toward personal change.
- Sacred Science: The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic doctrine or ideology, holding it as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence questioning or criticizing those basic assumptions is prohibited. A reverence is demanded for the ideology/doctrine.
- Loading the Language: Words are given new meanings — the outside world does not use the words or phrases in the same way — it becomes a “group” word or phrase.
- Doctrine Over Person: If one questions the beliefs of the group or the leaders of the group, one is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to even question — it is always “turned around” on them and the questioner/criticizer is questioned rather than the questions answered directly. The underlying assumption is that doctrine/ideology is ultimately more valid, true and real than any aspect of actual human character or human experience and one must subject one’s experience to that “truth”. The experience of contradiction can be immediately associated with guilt and one is made to feel that doubts are reflections of one’s own evil, and when doubt arises, conflicts become intense.
- Dispensing of Existence: Since the group has an absolute or totalist vision of truth, those who are not in the group are bound up in evil, are not enlightened, are not saved, and do not have the right to exist; impediments to the legitimate being must be pushed away or destroyed. One outside the group may always receive their right of existence by joining the group; fear manipulation — if one leaves this group, one leaves God or loses their salvation/transformation, or something bad will happen to them; the group is the “elite”, outsiders are “of the world”, “evil”, “unenlightened”, etc.
- Peer Group Pressure: Members doubt their own convictions when everyone around them acts totally convinced of their beliefs. Pressured to conform.
- Love Bombing: A beguiling sense of belonging is contrived through flattery, touching, hugging, etc.
- Removal of Privacy: One is never left alone to think through and sort out confusing experiences. This is enforced specially on a new recruit.
- Indoctrination: Members are conditioned to stop thinking and to accept without question the “revealed truths”. Love and trust your leaders, submit and obey to them. They are put in your life by God, so disobeying them is equaled to disobeying God.
- Confession: Members are maneuvered into sharing innermost secrets. This helps destroy personal egos, induces them to buy the new “truths”. The secrets could be used against them, later if they try to leave. Public or private confessions could induce a surrendering of self.
- Guilt: Guilt is used endlessly to force members to work harder and without relief. Guilt about mankind’s sorry state and the member’s personal “sins” are used as a lever to force acceptance of “holier” beliefs.
- Fear: Spiritual fear is constantly injected to maintain group loyalty. The slightest negative thought is held to be soul threatening. Tragic consequences for self and family are prophesied for anyone leaving the group- If you leave us then you are going to hell!
- Childlike Dependence: Is promoted by denying opportunities for normal decision making. No Quetions are allowed. Total acceptance is mandatory.
- Elitism: Only the group is righteous; everyone else is satanic, or at best, misguided. e.g. Jehovars’ Witnesses believe that they are the one true church, and the kingdom of god. Everyone outside the group are going to hell! We are the only people who are saved! They are the only ones doing God’s will- everyone else is in apostasy.
- Rejection of Old Values: Old life values are constantly denounced to make them seem worse than they were– even things may be spiritually neutral – Rebaptism.
- Financial Commitment: A member may burn his bridges to the “real world” by donating earnings, savings, and possessions to the group. Financial contributions are strictly enforced.
- Loyalty: Great emphasis on loyalty to the group and its teachings. The lives of members will be totally absorbed into the group’s activities. No time to think for themselves.
- Control: Total control over almost all aspects of the private lives of members. This control could be through communal living, or constant and repetitious teachings on “How to be a true Christian” or “being obedient to leadership”. Members are required to seek guidance from their leaders.
- Dissent: Any dissent or questioning of the group’s teachings is discouraged. Criticism in any form is seen as rebellious. There will be an emphasis on authority, unquestioning obedience and submission. This is vigilantly maintained.
- “Dobbing”: Members are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the group in some way. This could be in the form of “dobbing” on fellow members under the guise of looking out for their “spiritual welfare”.
- Abuse of Individuality – “Groupness” mentality. No independent thinking.
- Abuse of Intimacy – Relationships outside the group are serously hampered, and controlled. Biblical groups abuse intimacy by making rules of conduct on relationships. e.g. who to date, marry, friends, etc.
- Abuse of Finances – Pressure for all soughts of financial contributions. Forced to contribute financially whether capable or not.
- “US” vs “THEM” Mentality – Isolation from the community in general. Anyone and everything outside the group is seen as “of the devil” or “unenlightended” and include former friends, family, other churches, the media – the world in general.
- Abuse of Free Will – Unquestioning submission to the groups teachings and directions and your own free will is broken. Your Will is groups’ Will. Coercive methods are used for that end including heavy use of “Guilt”.
- Personality changes – Among other things, person is “righteous” and everybody outside the group is not. Change of perceiving the world. Trying to be someone you are not.
- Loss of Identity – Cannot see themselves apart from the group.
- Paranoia – We are being persecuted. Not saved, going to hell, etc.
- Social Disorientation – Persons view of the world alters to the groups view.
- Severe Guilt Complexes – Made to feel guilty of everything the person did before entering the group and are to strive to be “good” and “worthy” for “eternal life”. Person made to be in a constant state of guilt. Made to feel guilty for not doing enough.
Also additionally, Dr. John Clark has noted some of the following characteristics in those who have been affected by destructive groups:
- Loss of free will, personal control, and decision making skills;
- Reduced use of irony, abstractions and metaphors;
- Diminished intellectual ability, vocabulary and sense of humor;
- Reduced capacity to form flexible and intimate relationships;
- Paranoia and de facto slavery;
- Poor judgement;
- Physical deterioration;
- Hallucinations, panic, guilt, identity, diffusion, floating;
- Neurotic, psychotic or suicidal tendencies.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have rejected the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God”. – Hebrews 10:26
©1997 by Dutch Dasanaike <[email protected]>. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: These are my personal comments, and Nortel has absolutely nothing to do with it, and is not responsible for any of it.
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