Students warned about ‘cult’ church

Students warned about ‘cult’ church

Lincoln Christian Church leader calls group’s advertisement “persecution”

Lincoln Star, September 16, 1992
By Todd Cooper

When Mark Larson attended a support group meeting for parents and friends of former and current Lincoln Christian Church members last week, he quickly grew tired of hearing the sob stories.

He knew those stories. He had lived through them and he didn’t want to hear about them anymore.

“I felt we could do more than whine about what happened to us.” said Larson, a former member of the church, which is linked to a cult. “I decided that if we pushed (the Lincoln Christian Church) out then there wouldn’t be any victims like us to whine anymore.”

So Larson. a 20-year-*Id University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore majoring in political science, encouraged the group to take out a full-page ad warning UNL students about the church’s tactics. The $725 ad, which ran in Monday’s Daily Nebraskan, gave 10 reasons not to attend the church’s activities.

“It’s a complete miarepresentation,” said Jay Kelly, Lincoln Christian Church’s evangelist. “We’re just getting the response of a few people with bad attitudes who have left the church.”

With the help of the support group, Larson wrote the ad, which was paid for by 10 of the approximately 35 group members, to counter the church’s heavy campus recruiting, he said. Church members have been recruiting in residence hails and at University Program Council concerts, said Peg Blake, associate chancellor for student affairs.

The advertisement has resulted in more than 28 calls from former, prospective and current members and from members’ families Blake said. At least five of the people who have called are current members who want out, she said.

Nevertheless Kelly said the advertisement will have minimal effects on the church.

“It’ll give skeptics something to talk about,” he said “It’s a form of persecution … it’s slanderous. No one is forced to be a part of the church. It’s all voluntary.”

However, Blake said, vulnerable students are taken advantage of by overly friendly members.

“The new students are targeted because they’re alone, and they might have a need to be a part of a group,” she said “At least the advertisement will make students stop and think about what this group represents.”

The church was founded in Lincoln last year and is part of the Boston Church of Christ – a fundamentalist movement defined by the Chicago Cult Awareness Network as a cult. Campus Advance, which is not an official UNL organization is the college-age section of the Lincoln Christian Church, Blake said.

    [Webmaster’s Note: WARNING! The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was bankrupted and bought up by Scientology since this article was written. We strongly recommend you do not contact them for assistance.]

The church has no connection to the two Lincoln Churches of Christ or local Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ).

Kelly denied the church is a cult. A cult, as defined by the Cult Awareness Network, includes mind control charismatic leadership, deception, exclusivity, alienation, exploitation and totalitarian world view.

Larson said he experienced those characteristics first-hand. He quit in May after nine months in the church.

A church “discipler” – the spiritual adviser assigned to each member dictated his every move, he said.

Disciplers discourage members from independent thinking, dating anyone outside the church and dressing differently, Larson said. Most of those tactics were outlined in the advertisement, he said.

The church’s overload of activities slowly separated Larson from his friends and family and from thinking independently, he said. And because of the church’s time demands, his grades plummeted.

Larson eventually separated from the group when he wasn’t allowed to date a non-member, he said.

Church members continually tried to get him back, and his first discipler offered to fly in from Cincinnati to get him “right with God,” Larson said.

Kelly said those former rnernbers are simply trying to get back at the church.

“I think their perspective of what goes on in the church gets skewed after they leave.” be said. “Any exmember of any group is not going to have good things to say about that group.”

Larry Doerr, a campus pastor for United Ministries in Higher Education, said he has heard negative comments from several former rnembers.

“The Lincoln Christian Church has a right to be here – it’s freedom of religion.” he said.

“We just want the public to ask questions before they grab onto anything that looks appealing, because eventually this group will control and dictate your life.”

Back to other media reports about the International Churches of Christ.