Saturday, January 7, 2012

Push, Then Pull

If one of the Apostles from the First Century was to walk into a modern-day church, he would probably demand to know why in heaven’s name there was an altar displayed prominently before the podium. His alarm would be understandable since an altar serves as a place for blood sacrifice either in pagan worship or according to the Jewish legal means of atonement. All such things ought to be done away with now that Christ has come, and we are no longer in need of them. Though it is common in contemporary circles for people to have a “place to pray” and a location where the focus of attention is directed for the time of prayer, the Apostles would not have understood this in the context of “the Church” as opposed to The Temple or Synagogue, and someone would have to explain it to them.

The Roman Church of the Medieval period used the altar as a place to perform the priestly hocus pocus (a term corrupted from the Latin hoc est corpus Cristi —”this is the body of Christ”) of magically transforming the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of the Lord. The act was viewed as a sacrifice and therefore an altar was used. The evangelicals of later years would alternate between the use of altars as a focus of prayer and the complete absence of all outward reminders of sacrifice.
  Charles Finney popularized the practice of calling his hearers to make a decision for Christ prior to leaving the building, and placed a chair at the head of the congregation for all inquirers who wished to settle the matter of their salvation. This became known as the “anxious seat”. In the latter half of that same Nineteenth Century, Dwight Moody famously vowed, after the terrible Sunday fire that gutted the city of Chicago, never to release his listeners without drawing their attention to the need for an immediate decision. This practice became a rigorously applied requirement that many denominations imposed upon themselves. This was certainly in aggreement with the Biblical incidents in which the proclamation of the gospel was followed by conversions of those asking “what must we do?” as well as with the tradition of the Awakening of the 1700’s. But in 19th Century America this time of decision became a habit, a time of focused “seeking” always included in the program. It later became fashionable to think of this period as a time to “lay one’s life upon the altar”, and so the language of sacrifice returned to the scene. In this way, the altar and the altar call have taken their place as an American Ecclesiastical matter of course. Some who promote the born-again experience have nevertheless done away with the altar as a piece of furniture based on the fact that it is superfluous to the question at hand, and many “old-time” preachers today relish the opportunity to skewer the occasional practice of “taking the altar out of the church!”
  NTCC is heavily populated with men who style themselves after these old-timers. They have no clue as to the implications involved in what they are saying, yet are quite comfortable railing against “people who want to take the altar out of the Church!” You will find that these men place a high degree of emphasis upon what takes place “at the altar”. R.W. Davis teaches all candidates for the ministry that everything that takes place during the church service is geared toward getting results at the altar. Once the preacher has pushed you into a corner, his desire is to pull you to the front of the church in order to “get what you need from God.”
  You will be exhorted to go to the altar to pray, after having been subjected to preaching concerning a range of behaviors with which New Testament Christian Church takes issue. Behavior will be stressed much more than Christ. You will be challenged about your dedication to God, but strangely this dedication will always be measured by some external practice that relates directly to NTCC’s pet doctrines of outward dress and appearance, or to the activities of that local assembly. If you are not in attendance whenever the doors are open, there will be a constant, gentle but persistent push toward further participation in church activities. If you do not bring others to church, your soul-winning efforts, and by extension your love for God, will be brought into question. The technique they frequently use is that of equating (or linking) your participation in NTCC activities and approved behaviors with your dedication to Jesus. That way, when the altar call is given, you have already been programmed to see that you are not good enough and need to do more, MUCH more–you need to give more, MUCH more, than you already do. The music will begin as the pastor is suggesting “Let’s all find a place to pray”. The stirring song that accompanies the time of prayer lends emotional weight to the words that have been said, and you probably are beginning to feel the sadness of not measuring up to the standards of God, when it is in fact the standard of This Church that is being held aloft as a goal for which every Christian ought to strive.
  He Seemeth To Be A Pillar (of stone)
  R.W. Davis displays a domineering personality that has not changed appreciably in many years of “pastoring”. Those who knew him in the sixties knew that he would one day rule a kingdom of his own making and wield power through intimidation. Their words have come to pass. He claims to have a special line of communication with God that is not enjoyed by others. He claims to be constantly in touch with the Holy Spirit. He claims to be equal with the Apostles who saw the Lord after he was risen from the dead. He claims to be First Up Before The Throne, meaning that no person on earth has priority over him in God’s dealings with mankind. He claims that his organization is the only one in the world preaching the truth, that those who oppose him “have never done anything for God” and that he “cannot remember the last time I sinned.” There are many who would be happy to remind him.
  R.W. Davis is able to sustain these absurd claims because he has gathered around him a group of men whose entire lives are defined by their absolute loyalty to him. There is nothing that these individuals would not do or say to defend their precious organization and its leader. These men have adopted the practice of promoting Davis as “God’s man” for our time on this earth. This allows Davis himself to remain fairly quiet on the subject until great necessity is upon him to assert his self-bestowed authority. In this manner, all of the propaganda that concerns him and his godly powers is spread thickly throughout the group, while those who are deceived by it lavish praise on R. W. Davis for his supposed humility, telling one another that Davis “ God’s man, but I’ve never actually HEARD HIM say it.”
  With this authority comes great power over the lives of people. From the top down there exists within this organization a mortal fear of R.W. Davis, who creates this fear through his apostolic claims and methods of intimidation. Everything he says is justified because “I didn’t say it; God said it” and everything he does is justified because “God told me to.” He accepts no opposing views, has no patience for disagreement, and has no real fear that anyone will step forward to question him seriously. When he is displeased, he shouts at the offender. When someone runs afoul of him, they are marked. If an individual makes the mistake of appearing to have disobeyed him, they are subjected to embarrassment without the opportunity to explain. None dare defend themselves against his mistaken accusations because Davis knows the mind of God, and therefore the accused is always wrong, though he or she may not have the “humility” to see it. To be in the presence of R.W. Davis is to be a child in the presence of a disciplinarian parent who may choose to publicly humiliate and embarrass you at any time. Your “humility” is always subject to spur-of-the-moment testing. The stress of such a situation is obvious. Having created his own rules of righteousness, and having a bank of information on everyone who has ever failed to meet his standards, he has the upper hand in any confrontation, and with this comes the ability to hold an entire room full of otherwise perfectly normal adults in complete silent suspense.
  The dread of Davis that pervades the Church at every level ensures the continuation of his authority. Each person who has been a minister or who has attended the church for any length of time has been subjected to the mental programming that promotes the primacy of “Pastor”. To speak against him is to “touch the Lord’s annointed”. To question the doctrines and practices of the group is to be guilty of “doubt and unbelief” in light cases, “rebellion” in more serious matters. To give one’s devotion to Davis is to be a follower of Christ, and to leave his association is to leave God and secure one’s place in the Lake of Fire. The fear is so effectively sown that peer pressure alone is enough to quench the mildest dissent. People live in fear of this man for years before they gradually wrap their heads around the absurdity and reconcile themselves entirely to his primacy and his position before God, making these things a part of their own intellectual foundation. This
acceptance comes at the price of one’s intellectual integrity, but is rarely noticed by the subject. The natural desire to rationalize causes the subject to think that Davis really is not the tyrant he once feared, but is in fact a loving and kind soul. The subject decides “I was wrong to think those things–now I see.” He does not realize that his mind and personality have been warped to conform to that of his leader, so that R.W.Davis need fear no opposition or disagreement from this person. Thinking he has attained to a higher level of understanding, the victim thinks back on all the years of fear, thinking “How silly of me to have been that way”, and then continues to cower in the presence of The Man.
  All of this has a tragic result in the lives and ministries of those who emulate him. Davis borrows a line from Paul and says, “Follow me as I follow Christ”, which in the hands of such a person always means “Just do what I say.” This touches on the very government of the Church itself and speaks of a highly patrician, top-down authority structure. Every local pastor is in effect a miniature clone of R.W. Davis. These ministers do not have a ministry of their own. Davis makes this explicitly clear. They are merely a part of HIS ministry, and would be nothing without him. Their mission is to bring growth to the local bodies in which they serve as pastors, always promoting the organization, its purpose, its seminary, its goals, and most of all, its leaders. Pastors involved with New Testament Christian Churches are given complete authority (under R.W. Davis) to dictate all matters that pertain to the local church. They oversee all church-related activities, all financial
operations, and have no accountability whatsoever to the local congregation. They are accountable only to their overseers, and ultimately to Davis.
  The question of accountability and authority is an important one, since it touches upon many of the truly unchristian practices of this worldwide organization. The local pastor encourages dependence upon him and his “advice” in all matters, both spiritual and personal. Those who do not follow his unsolicited advice are considered rebellious against God. All who attend the church for the first time are encouraged to believe that God sent them there because He wants them to be there, period. Those who attend more than once are taught that they are “here because God sent you here, and if God sent you here, then how can you go anywhere else and be acting within the will of God?” Thus the mental programming begins very early. Unsure as to whether they can be saved anywhere else, ultimately people are afraid to depart from this very unhealthy fellowship. The pastor’s unceasing goal is to get you more and more invested in the church, to acquire greater attendance, larger sums of money, and the full participation of everyone involved. The pressure is not only relentless, but it is based upon the authority of the pastor, bestowed by God himself, to get completely involved in your life and tell you what to do, what not to do, whom you should marry, whom you should divorce, whether it’s alright to take a college class (not if it interferes with a church service–and besides, what do you need a class for? God’s coming back for people who are in church every night, not people who are educated!!) and on and on.
  All of us, at every level of Christian experience, have opportunities to bless and help, to counsel and to teach, not just the pulpiteers. Paul counsels those who find themselves in a position of influence not to be lords over those that God has entrusted to their care. The use of constraint (coercion, obligation, or pressure) is something further that the Apostle Paul bans from Christian relationships. But within the ranks of NTCC, coercion, obligation and pressure have been subtly elevated to an art form. Jesus made it plain that the greatest among his disciples ought to be servant to all. But these pulpit aristocrats who have patterned themselves after their earthly leader have great difficulty in thinking of themselves as the servants of Christ and of His church, and find it much more to their liking when people see them as a leader, without whose leadership they would be utterly lost. They like to be called reverend, do not like to be addressed by their first name, and take it as a sign of true submission to the plan of God when the lowly church members call them “sir”. Church members are not as important as ministers, and are looked at simply as foot soldiers whose job it is to pay their tithes and bring people to church so the pastor has more people to scream at. Commandments go down and money goes up, and everyone is happy.
  2 or 3 Witnesses
  The need for rigid, top-down control of every aspect of the organization necessitates some mechanism by which those in leadership positions, including ministers in local churches, are insulated entirely from the effects of a compromised reputation. Davis has taken the biblical exhortation not to receive an accusation against an elder except by two or three witnesses, and turned it into a tool of pastoral abuse. While there is a certain utility in protecting innocent men from unwarranted accusations, the NTCC dogma on this issue protects all ministers from accusations by church members in the absence of two or three witnesses to the same offense, which means the same identical occurence. Therefore it is truly impossible in most cases to prove a case of pastoral misbehavior or abuse, and almost always impossible to establish a pattern of misbehavior and abuse. The result of all this authority and insular structure is a veritable train wreck of human debris, disillusionment, and despair.
  For Friends and Family
  If a loved one has entered into this web of deception and abuse, you can do several things to help. Always avoid direct confrontation, as those initiated into the organization are prepared for this and will only avoid you in the future, seeing you as a distraction from God’s purpose in their life. Do not be surprised if the church schedule conflicts often with normal family activities and bonds of friendship. Normal family entertainments that are not sinful will be viewed as a compromise of organizational standards. They may even be under the influence of a pastor who has them convinced that they are “called to preach”. They may be under pressure to marry someone who is “called to preach” and pursue a life in the ministry with someone they would not wish to marry under normal circumstances. These and other behaviors will come about as a result of Pastoral Authority. They think they are obeying God as long as they are turning their life over to the use of the pastor. They should be encouraged to understand that a relationship with God does not mean a relationship with a pastor who acts as an intermediary to God. The priesthood is no longer valid, yet this group behaves as if it is. Certainly this is dangerous in the lives of families, because NTCC pastors routinely come between husbands and their wives.
  Ask questions, rather than argue. Aptly phrased questions brought up in a conversational tone and a right spirit will make an impression. Allow that person you care about to be the one to defend contradictions and absurdities. Let them see and hear for themselves what they are defending. It will not work miraculously at first, but the weight of the questions will take effect in good time. They think they occupy an unassailable place of defense, but there are cracks in the stone. Do not engineer a frontal assault or they will defend the walls vigorously against you, and you will become their sworn enemy. Merely ask questions (we will provide some) and let the questions be like warm water that you pour into the cracks. Then wait for nightfall, and when the temperature reaches the freezing point, the ice will force the cracks to become an avalanche.
  Remember to have hope; not many people grow old in NTCC. Only a small percentage of ministers remain a part of the organization throughout their lives. Those who leave, though they are in the majority, are accused of adultery, fornication, rebellion, being a coward and a loser and selfish–but they are happy to be alive, and all the more if their family has remained intact.

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