Grace & Reality

Is the Lord’s Recovery a Cult? A personal experience with the Local Churches

I have been praying and musing about this post for a couple of weeks now. I am here to testify about my positive experience in the local churches. 

In 1994, my parents, along with many other families, were captivated by the speaking in the ministry to the point that they “abandoned their nets” to follow the ministry. I was 3 years old. My parents were forcibly removed from a Pentecostal denomination because my dad could not contain himself anymore: he had found out about his human spirit.

He had read a book by a Christian brother, Watchman Nee, called The Normal Christian Life, and he was captured by the Lord. Four months later all the ones who had walked out of organized religion found the brothers and sisters of a local church in their city.

That’s where I grew up. I grew up being completely loved, cherished, nourished, and protected by all the brothers and sisters from my locality.

I never grew up hearing anyone talk about “one man only” or “one organization.”

I grew up hearing Bible stories, singing Christian songs, and having a joyous childhood.

That’s my experience.

My parents instilled in me a love for the Bible, a reverence for God, and respect for the older ones. They never exalted one man and never said we were part of any organization. On the contrary, my father would tell me during our car rides that we follow God, His economy, and nothing else.

Man will fail. Man will disappoint us. God will never change. His purpose and will on this earth will never change.  So Witness Lee and Living Stream Ministry were never an “exclusive” thing that I was taught. Again, that’s my experience.

At the age of 9, I had asked my mom: how can I be saved from burning in hell for all eternity? She led me to the Lord Jesus Christ and I received Him as my Lord and Savior. From that day on, I knew that I had Jesus in my heart and that He was never going to leave.  

Throughout the years, I became the young person who caused everyone to have some sort of headache. I always needed to know the answers to everything. I needed to know the why’s and why not’s? I needed the answers to how could that happen? and I challenged people to give me the facts and then you’re right.

I never took anything “just because.” How I thank the Lord for that.

During my first semester in college, I took a religion class that specifically emphasized cults and other religions. I came to a conclusion during one of my classes that I was going to find every fault I could in the Bible and get answers. I needed answers. I went to my father and told him that I needed to know why there was such negative speaking out there about the local churches and why the word cult had been thrown around. He never discouraged me.

On the contrary, my father encouraged me to challenge and struggle with the Lord to find the truth. That began the journey between the Lord and me. I took philosophy classes and religious literature classes and watched numerous documentaries. I read books upon books, and nothing seemed to give me the answer.

Then, during one of my philosophy courses, my professor said that Friedrich Nietzche’s conclusion is the best one we will ever get: human beings have a black hole in their being that will never be satisfied. I was left in utter confusion.

I share this experience with you because as this was all going on, the ones that I had known growing up, the ones who had cared for me in my locality, the ones that I got to know through the Christian Students club on my campus, never “blacklisted” or “marked me out” as a bad person. They loved me. The serving ones were there for me whenever I had questions or just felt like complaining.

Never was I discouraged to not read other materials.

I knew they were praying for me. In the sweet words of a brother, “you are where you are until you are somewhere else.” This has been my experience.

After I moved away and attended another university, I met a few saints in that locality. Once again I was met by the full-timers there who would open the doors of their homes, their fridges, and their hearts to me. I did not make it to all the meetings, and sometimes I would be rolling in late wearing whatever I wanted to, and I was never met with a look of condemnation or of disappointment. On the contrary, my elders, the full-timers, and the students shepherded me.

They had no ulterior motive. I could sense the genuineness in their care for me. That opened the way for the Lord to become so real to me.

Up to that point in my life, no one (including my parents) had ever told me that I was supposed to go to the Full-time Training in Anaheim (FTTA), CA.

No one had given me a “recipe” of needing to go to college, get through Bible school, get a husband, go serve, and have children. Never.

The Lord on the throne sovereignly arranged every situation in my life to get me to turn back to Him and restore my fellowship with the fellow members. I followed the Lord to the FTTA, and my life has not been the same ever since.

In the FTTA the Lord gave me all the answers that I had been looking for.

It was not Witness Lee. It was not this teacher or that teacher.

Yes, the Lord spoke through them and flowed out of them words of life, but I saw the Lord Himself. Day after day, as I read the pages of my Bible, I saw more and more of this Person, Jesus Christ. Each time a question or a doubt came up, I would grab a post-it note, mark it in my Bible or in one of my ministry books, and ask one of the trainers. I never left without an answer.

Their transparency changed my life.

The brothers serving in FTTA and LSM are not hiding anything. Our trainers, the ones who have poured out their lives for us, are not hiding anything. The co-workers are not hiding anything. I witnessed that. I experienced it. I asked the uncomfortable questions. I wanted the why’s and the how’s.

I was not going to take the word mingling just because it was in a ministry book. I had to research it. I had to find it in theological books.

The more I knew about church history, the more I became reassured in the faith. When I interned for Defense and Confirmation Project (DCP) for 7 weeks, I asked the questions and respectfully let them know my doubts. The brothers serving there cared for me, loved me, and took me under their umbrella. They answered my questions, and all I received from them was life. DCP is not hiding anything.

Now, I am a serving one. Never did I ever think my life would turn out the way that it has, but the Lord has me exactly where He wants me. No one – not LSM, not the FTTA, not the brothers from DCP, not one brother or sister – has ever told me that my sole purpose in life is to drop all of my hopes and dreams, take care of children, and just serve the brothers.

That accusation against the local churches has caused me much trouble in my being. According to my experience and observation, this accusation is simply not true.

I serve because I have a burden to give all of my time to the Lord and to the brothers and sisters in the local churches. I serve because the One whom I have seen, the glorious vision, will not have me anywhere else. When He calls me to this or that, I will pick up and go. That’s it. We follow the Lamb. Here is a quote from brother Witness Lee in the book The Glorious Vision and the Way of the Cross:

“Everyone who serves the Lord must have a glorious vision. It is not the seeing that is glorious; rather, it is the object which we see that is glorious. This in turn makes the seeing itself glorious. This is what we mean by a glorious vision.”

My dear brothers and sisters, we can be either joining a movement or following the glorious vision, which is Christ Himself.

If anyone is outwardly following a set of regulations or feel that they have to “check off a box” by serving, then their vision is not clear.

In a class named “Life and Service” a brother shared something that will never leave me:

“God saved us not only so that we will be saved from eternal perdition. We have been saved to serve the living and eternal God.”

That has never left me.

It was not because I was being controlled by an organization or because I was brainwashed by one man that I decided to serve the Lord.

It is not that I am any better than the person next to me. The ones who serve are not an elite group, and we are not better or higher than anyone else.  The dealings are there. The shining is there, but so is the love. I have received support emotionally, mentally, and spiritually from so many of the co-workers and elders and their wives. I have been welcomed with listening ears.

I do not live in a utopia, nor am I an idealist to think that there is never anything wrong in the local churches.

The purpose of this post is not to speak of anything other than my positive experience being in the local churches and to stand with my fathers who are being attacked.

There are many more of us who have received the boundless support, life, care, and supply from the co-workers, from the brothers serving in FTTA, from the serving ones, and from the ministry produced by our brothers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.

We hold the Bible as the sole authority and the breath of God.

But we can also not deny the riches of the ministry of our brothers. In the words of one of the co-workers in the July 2019 semiannual training, “Do not steal my food away from me.”

Watchman Nee, Witness Lee, the ministering brothers, and the leading ones and serving ones in the local churches are my fathers who have fed me the spiritual food.

Some may not agree, but this is where I have found the riches.

I finish this testimonial by thanking all of my fathers. Thank you for your labor in the Lord.

 I stand with you, my fathers.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

– 1 Cor. 15:55-58

Is Christians on Campus a Cult? The Bible Answer Man Answers

Hank Hanegraaff, the “Bible Answer Man” and President of the Christian Research Institute, was invited to speak to a group of college students in southern California. Hank describes the Christians on Campus and Christian Students groups as “an expression of authentic New Testament Christianity” and affirms that the club embraces “the essentials of the historic Christian faith”.

Transcript:

Well thank you very much for that warm welcome. I am delighted to be here this afternoon, I didn’t know I would be here three days ago. And I am particularly grateful to the USC Christian Students club for making this arrangement and I find it highly ironic that I am speaking here by their invitation, because it wasn’t all that long ago that we started a primary research project on the Local Churches. And many of those who were involved with USC Christian Students worship with the Local Churches around the world. We thought this group was an aberrant group at best. I met with the leaders back on August 4th, 2003. And they confronted me with their doctrine, suggesting that they did not believe what we had as a primary research organization, said they believed. Which is, that they were the only church. And they said, “No we don’t believe that. We believe that we are only the church.” We thought that they believe that they could become like God is in the Godhead. And they said, “No, we don’t believe that. We believe in deification very much in that sense that Peter taught about deification: becoming partakers of the divine nature through sanctification.” And then, we thought that they were Modalists; that they believed that God revealed Himself in different modes or manifestations. They said “No, we don’t believe that. We are thoroughly Trinitarian. We believe in one God, revealed in three Persons Who are eternally distinct.” Now I was faced with a delimma as President of the Christian Research Institute. What happens when someone looks you in the eye involved in a ministry and tells you point blank, “No, what you say we believe is not really what we believe.”

So we started, 6 years ago, a primary research project and out of that we ended up doing an article in the Christian Research Journal, which ended up encompassing the entirety of the journal. And the words on the cover of the journal were “We Were Wrong.” And the reason that we overtly communicated “We Were Wrong” is because Truth Matters. That’s our monachre, that’s the statement by which we abide, and live and guide our organization: Truth Matters. We are followers of the One Who said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Him. So again I find it highly ironic that I am here on behalf of USC Christian Students on campus. Many of them have become my dear friends and they are an expression of authentic New Testament Christianity. I have learned to love them and grow with them, have fellowship with them, and sense a oneness with them as we seek to do what we have been commissioned to do. That is, to be salt and light in a lost and searching world.

You are called an ambassador of Christ and most of us are secret agents that have never blown our cover before the unregenerate world. You are called an ambassador. Not just an ambassador for a country, but for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You have the opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to move through you in the process of giving a lost son or daughter of Adam the bread of life, the water of life.

Let’s pray: “Father we thank You so much for USC Christian Students on campus for sponsoring this event, for their commitment to You and Your kingdom principles. Father thank You that as Christians we stand shoulder to shoulder with those who have embraced the essentials of the historic Christian faith and in unice, we can say in essentials unity, nonessentials liberty, all things charity. Father I pray that You will bless the Christian groups at USC. Father, may they recognize the potency and they dynamism within them to change the world. Not by might, nor by power, but by Your Spirit.”

Hank Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina based Christian Research Institute. He is also host of the Bible Answer Man radio program, which is broadcast daily across the United States and Canada – as well as around the world through the Internet at http://www.equip.org

Christians on Campus is not a cult

“The word “cult” is a powerful, emotionally-charged buzzword. It evokes suspicion, fear, and distrust. How could a Christian group which rendered me so much help be casually referred to by others as a cult? How could a Christian group which has been on a major university campus for over 30 years come to be called a cult?”
In the following blog post, a fellow brother in Christ recounts his experience with Christians on Campus at the University of Texas at Austin, a group which he had heard was supposedly a “cult.”

One Word Changes Everything

Christians on Campus cult rumor

When I began my graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, I encountered a wonderful Christian group called Christians on Campus (I’ve mentioned this in my very first blog post entitled “Christians on Campus”). I learned so much about the Bible every time I met with them, and my experience of Christ grew. However, I was advised by an acquaintance to beware of this group. She said she had heard from someone else that Christians on Campus was a cult. That one word “cult” evoked in me all kinds of negative feelings and thoughts. I even stopped meeting with the group for a period of time in order to sort through this matter. I compared what I heard from this “concerned” person with what I had experienced of Christ and learned from the Bible during the previous six months…

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