Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Circumnavigators: a Series

Matt 23:15 — Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.


The following is an outline of the articles, and the points within them.
Introduction: The Wreckers
I. First Things
A. Part One: How Did I Get Here?
1. The Invitation
2. The Mind Behind
3. For Concerned Loved Ones
4. The Red Carpet
5. The Keep
6. The Village
7. The Villagers
B. Part Two: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
1. The Usual
2. Warm and Fuzzy
3. The Mane Issue
4. Warpaint
5. Britches
6. Dinglebobs
7. Sign Here, Please
8. Holy Hands
9. Hymning It Up
10. One Cent Too Heavy
11. Please Do Not Turn With Me
12. The Foolishness of Preaching
13.  The Wiz
14. Push, Then Pull
15. He Seemeth to be a Pillar (of Stone)
16. 2 or 3 Witnesses
17. Friends and Family
18. Getting “In”
19. Getting Out
20. The Institute of Higher Learning
21. Watch Your Back
C. Part Three: Doctrines Old and New
1. Christian Perfection
2. Tongues
3. Authority
4. Holiness
a. Hair
b. Pants
c. Make-up
d. Jewelry
e. Explicit, Implicit or Non-existent
II. Strong Meat
A. Part Four: Anatomy of Power
1. Them That Have the Rule
2. …And Such Like
3. The Power Spiral
4. Where Does the Money Go?
a. The Law of the Tithe
b. “Money Is Your God!”
c. Keep ‘em Poor and Busy
B. Part Five: Jargon
III. Last Things
A. Part Six: Escape


The Wreckers

The Wreckers

  My daughter once introduced me to an interesting book entitled The Wreckers, about a genteel folk who lived along a rocky coastline. Their tranquil ways and civilized customs masked the fact that they tended a lighthouse positioned to decieve unwary vessels. Practically the entire village was built, and thrived parasitically, upon the loot culled from the flotsam of years and years of battered ships, and the coins drawn from the pockets of the stunned and subsequently murdered seamen.

  New Testament Christian Churches of America has been a defining, life-changing experience in the lives of thousands of people since the organization’s inception in the late 1960’s. The majority of those who have attended the church over the course of more than three decades have found the experience to be something of a false lighthouse, promising spiritual safety and salvation while casting them upon a rocky shore of darkness and pain. Their hopes dashed, their goods spoiled, they stand amid the splintered timbers and roaring foam asking “how?” and “why?” and, perhaps most difficult of all, “Which way is home from here?”

  Perhaps you have attended New Testament Christian Church. Maybe you are a military serviceman or woman, and have been invited to a local Armed Services outreach, of which the organization has many. Perhaps you have already observed their activities and behaviors first hand, been invited to dinner, or to a fellowship of young military personnel, and found that the zeal and esprit de corps exhibited among the attendees is starkly surprising in the context of a church. New Testament Christian Churches of America Inc. also maintains a network of churches not connected to any U.S. Military installation. These are simply conventional local bodies that the organization refers to interestingly as “civilian” churches, which says something about the group’s military origins.

  Maybe you come from a spiritual tradition that is Pentecostal or Charismatic and you find nothing especially alarming about your surroundings. Or perhaps your religious background is more sedate and dignified and you find this change of pace to be…frightening? exciting? refreshing? confusing? Perhaps there are those who would answer: all of the above. You are not alone.

  At some point in our life, each of us desires to find peace, and hopefully this search will lead us into a correct and fulfilling relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, everyone comes into Christianity as a child in one way or another, and the innocence of the neophyte believer in Christ often leads him or her down a path fraught with danger and marked by confusing signals. The search for help, if undertaken with great care, can lead us into a life that is full to overflowing with the blessings of walking with the Savior. But this search for help, for guidance, for brethren of like mind with which to share our burdens, can also lead us into dangerous deceptions and authoritarian abuse.

  Many who attend NTCC were Christians before they encountered the group for the first time. Some were new to the church environment altogether. But those who remain have something in common. They have come to a point in their lives when “O.K.” just isn’t good enough. Religion does not get the job done, hypocrisy cannot satisfy, and in this church they find a special breed of extreme, almost heroic modern-day saints. Their “no compromise” message appeals to those whose delight is in doing things right, who believe that if Jesus is not Lord Of All, then he is not Lord At All. The willingness of these pliable, tender souls to perform every task, give their last dime, and spend their every productive moment laboring for the advancement of their church and the message that it carries is in many ways commendable. And yet…there seems to be something that just isn’t quite right.

  You may walk into one of these church services and ask yourself questions such as: Why does everybody look the same? Why is that man screaming like that? What does clothing have to do with anything? Is he talking directly to me? He must be, since nobody else here is dressed like me. Why is everybody doing that? NOW what are they doing? Is that in the Bible? Excuse me, but where is the restroom? Near the door, I hope.”

  If you are thinking of attending an NTCC in your area, if a friend or family member has become involved in such a church, if you have been attending for some time and are having trouble getting direct and convincing answers to the questions you’ve been asking, if you have been afraid to ask those questions but they still will not go away, if you desire to leave NTCC and are feeling trapped for any reason, we want to help you. We want you to realize that the things you both see and feel are not in your imagination. We want you to know that you are not wrong to ask questions of yourself and others. We want to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you that a little perspective won’t cure.

  In this inaugural article, allow me to explain our mission. Our desire and our hope is to provide you with that perspective, and help you navigate the waters that imperil your Christian experience, burden your mind, and bring disharmony to your home. With God’s help, perhaps you can avoid being cast by the stormy seas of deception onto the rocky shores of bitter experience. Perhaps you can avoid becoming another in a long line of wrecks.

  Former minister

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