Shepherding/Discipleship Movement Survivor's Blog

The present-day impact of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement from the perspective of a former member of Morning Star International (now Every Nation Churches and Ministries).

Friday, January 27, 2006

New Blog... "Voice of Reform"

Voice of Reform includes a series of articles from a former leader in a prominent South African charismatic church fellowship crying out for reform in the church. These days we hear that we are on the cusp of a supposed "new reformation" or "new apostolic reformation" in the church. However, all is not as it seems behind the curtain, where the primary sin is considered disobedience if one does not silently and unquestioningly submit to leaders' supposed "apostolic authority." Reversing what Martin Luther started in 1517 with the nailing of his 95 Theses on the Wittenburg door is no reformation.

Note that the author of these articles has been personally threatened for some of his views. While I may not necessarily agree with everything posted here, it is unconscionable that he would be threatened merely for speaking out against corruption and sin in the church, particularly among church leadership, and I believe that his voice must be heard.

I apologize for the formatting… I will take time over the next several weeks to clean this up. However, I wanted to get the content on Voice of Reform posted as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Course in Cults

I'm all excited because I just attended the first class meeting for the "Cults" course I'm taking this semester. It's a bonafide college level, for credit class. I won't try to come off as a cult "expert" when I'm done just because I've taken a silly class, but at least I'll be able to say I'm a little more formally educated in cult issues than someone who reads a bunch of stuff posted on the 'Net.

I was a little concerned when I got the book for the class, since it takes the viewpoint that many of what are commonly called "cults" are merely misunderstood "new religious movements." However, it seems the professor takes a harder line on some of these groups, acknowledging that they can be quite dangerous and harmful, and that we'll be using the book mostly as reference while the primary text will be his lecture notes. Also, while the class won't be exclusive to Christian/Bible-based cults, about 70% of the class will focus on those since those comprise the majority of what are commonly known as cults here in the US.

The professor was also a pastor for many years, and he briefly mentioned things like, "excesses in the church," the impact of televangelists, disillusioned Christians no longer going to church, so while one of the ground rules is no soapboxing for one's personal theological agenda (including his), I have a feeling I'm going to agree with him on a few more issues than I was concerned I might going in.

I'm easily 20 years older than anyone else in the class, except the professor of course who makes me feel pretty darned young. You know you're getting old when everyone else thinks, "Essays have to be THREE PAGES???" and I think, "ONLY three pages?" Oh, and there's the little issue about it being on the fifth floor of a building with an elevator restricted only to those who are truly disabled. Either I'm going to be in decent shape at the end of the semester, or I'll completely blow out my already semi-arthritic knees and become officially qualified to take the elevator.

One thing he said in passing that has me very intrigued... that there are three Bible-based cults that have recently established a presence in our area. Makes me wonder which three he's referring to. Or if my former group is on that short list. I suppose I'll find out soon enough.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Another "Kingdom Rebel"

I invite you to check out this new blog, Next to the Cat [now Supernatural Kingdom - see below], which looks like will address many of the same issues I am here but from a different national and theological perspective. We're in 100% agreement when it comes to cats. :-) I don't have any virtual or real apostle cats like Apostle Muggins, but one of our five cats is named Lord Nelson because despite his small stature he is our proud alpha kitty, who happily thinks he is lord of everything and no amount of systematic theology will make him change his mind. Sound familiar?

Anyway, my cats follow me around like puppy dogs, and am very grateful that during my time in Morning Star/Every Nation I was never "delivered" of a supposed spirit of "inordinate affection to animals" by the former dean of the School of Campus Ministry (see - "soul ties"), who proudly told us during a visit to my former church about how he and his (Maranatha) pastor delivered his roommate of one of these because he was disturbed when Mr. Roommate displayed what sounded to me like typical affection for a loved pet. The dog licked Mr. Roommate's face! Mr. Roommate called his dog goofy names! Eww! Must be a demon! Demon was "cast out," and the face licking and goofy name calling ceased. It sounded more like coerced behavior modification to me but heck, my husband calls me Kitty Lady so what do I know?

Our cats don't lick my face, but Nelson bites my leg in the morning when I have the audacity to use the bathroom before they get fed. My affection for animals isn't so inordinate that I don't kick him away in response to his razor sharp teeth nipping at my calf. Being that he thinks he's in authority over me, and vice versa, we go through this biting and kicking routine pretty much daily.

Speakword, happy blogging, and to everyone else, happy reading!

blessings, ulyankee

1/19/06 note: Next to the Cat has been named Supernatural Kingdom, and I am happy to report that Apostle Muggins has humbly repented of her controlling ways in order to avoid being sent on sabbatical to a "backwater" for reeducation and counselling. Here in the States we don't consider Florida a backwater. Here we call it "vacation," or what others around the world call a "holiday." But whatever works for Apostle Muggins! In all seriousness, I invite you to check out this blog, because it makes it abundantly clear that human dominionism is NOT synonymous with postmillennial eschatology.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Eschatological Schizophrenia?

For the last couple days I've been pondering how well-known neo-conservative evangelicals, like Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson, et al, are able to reconcile their seemingly premillennial eschatology with that of Christian Reconstructionists and other Dominion Theology/Kingdom Now advocates with whom they often cooperate in the common goal of taking over the nation and world quite literally for Christ. I'm not so sure about where Robertson stands now, but as far as I know LaHaye and Falwell are still premillennial at least publicly, though one might say as Gary North does that they are "operational" postmillennialists. Well, leave it to the Chalcedon Foundation to have thought about this as well and provide their analysis of the situation:

Jerry [Falwell]'s Liberty University, and the Chalcedon Foundation, of which I am executive vice president, are on an eschatological collision course. Let me explain. We both agree that Christ will return one day visibly to earth ("The Second Coming"). We disagree radically on what will precede that great event. While Liberty and LaHaye are dispensational, we at Chalcedon are postmillennial. We believe that Christ is already reigning from the heavens (Acts 2:29-36). He extends His kingdom in the earth by His Spirit, using redeemed humans, Christians (Acts 2:14-21). The Bible teaches that Christ will return after all human enemies are placed under His feet (1 Cor. 15:24-27). Jesus indicates that it will be a good, long time between His First Coming and His Second Coming (Mk. 13:32-37; Lk. 12:37-48). Between these two Comings, the kingdom of God will grow slowly, almost imperceptibly (Mt. 13:31-33). But it will one day overwhelm the earth. Then will be fulfilled the great Old Testament prophecy that "[T]he earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14). There will be a fully Christian culture on earth – not only after Christ's Second Coming, but also before.

I'm no big fan of Falwell and Lahaye, mainly because they are consistently in league with Christian Reconstructionists and other Dominionists to establish a theocracy... oops, theonomy... on Earth before Christ's return, but there are several problems with this paragraph.

First, those who are premillennial are not all "dispensationalists," and are not all "pessimists" as the Christian Reconstruction movement would have one believe. There is also something called historic premillennialism which some say is the oldest eschatological position in Christiandom. Also, ANY position that has Jesus Christ bodily returning to earth is not "pessimistic," which means ALL Christians who await His return, not just the Christian Reconstructionists, believe in an "eschatology of victory."

The next two points I agree with. However, one Scripture passage here is totally taken out of context and twisted oh-so-slightly to say something the Bible absolutely doesn't say...

Chalcedon version: The Bible teaches that Christ will return after all human enemies are placed under His feet (1 Cor. 15:24-27).

But, hmm, does it really?

The Bible says this, in context (1 Corinthians 15: 23-27 NIV; from Biblegateway):

But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet."

There are two very serious problems with Chalcedon's interpretation of this passage. While it doesn't exclude postmillennialism in general, it doesn't support this particular flavor of postmillennialism wishing to take literal dominion of the earth for Christ before his return, either. First, this passage does not at all refer to human enemies. The last I knew, death wasn't a human enemy, except maybe on Halloween. This doesn't refer to secular governmental authorities, or those pesky, sinful non-Christians. Whether one is pre-, post-, a-, or I-have-no-friggin'-clue-millennial, our enemies are not human. This is blatantly anti-Gospel since Jesus exhorts us time and again to love our brothers, neighbors, and yes, even (human) enemies. In contrast, Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." The real rulers and authorities we must resist are spiritual, not human.

Second, verse 23, which was conveniently omitted from Chalcedon's argument, makes it even more clear that Jesus Christ is the one who is going to hand the kingdom over to God the Father, "then when he comes," not us. And it doesn't state or even remotely imply that we will hand it over to Jesus first, either. Jesus is the one who is going to destroy all dominion, authority and power, and He's the one who will reign until He places all enemies under His feet; again, not us. This doesn't necessarily rule out postmillennialism (especially when viewed in light of Hebrews 10:13), but it DOES rule out human dominionism, which is really what Christian Reconstruction and Dominion Theology are about, in the guise of eschatology. Pretty scary when you think about it - because this passage states that ALL dominion will be destroyed. It doesn't say "except that dominion taken in His name" or anything like that. An awful lot of work buiding a theocracy just to have Jesus destroy it when you proudly hand it over, huh?

If there is to be a fully Christian culture on earth before the Second Coming as Chalcedon claims (and I believe there will be, just not the type that Dominionists do), then perhaps this is how we are to build it:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV, from BibleGateway)

This is pretty radical. No guns, no stealth government coups, no trying to reimpose Mosaic law, no stonings... Let's meet and encourage one another, spurring each other on toward love and good deads, and all the more as the end approaches. Sounds so like Jesus to me. And not the General Jesus, card-carrying member of the GOP some would have us believe He is, but the Jesus Christ who commanded us to love one another and in a final act of ultimate love, laid down His life as sacrifice for our sins.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Take Dominion 2

I thought I had read pretty much everything on the 'Net dealing with Christian Reconstruction and Dominion Theology, but here's another article I stumbled upon today. Here are some key quotes:

Rushdoony claimed to have 20 million followers -- but Reconstructionists say many of their followers don't know they've enlisted.

Reconstruction isn't shy about its motives and beliefs. But its tactics for growth are stealthy -- aligning with and then recruiting people and groups who share concerns over, say, abortion or evolution.

(Both Katherine Yurica and Frederick Clarkson say essentially the same thing, arguing that this is intentional. Reconstructionist Gary North expreses admiration for stealth tactics here, as does former MCMer and Forerunner editor Jay Rogers.)


Recruits to Reconstruction's adopted causes soon find the movement has a blunt distaste for pluralism and democracy. North wrote in 1982 -- in an effort to reach Baptists -- "We must use the doctrine of religious liberty ... until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."


The University of Georgia's Larson says it has gone unnoticed by many, perhaps the majority, of Americans for a simple reason. "A hundred years ago," he says, "newspapers published the sermons preachers preached on Sunday. Everyone knew what the Baptists believed, or the Lutherans or the Presbyterians. That's no longer the case. And it has worked to the benefit of [Christian Reconstructionists] as they doggedly pursued their goal."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kingdom Lost

For Christmas, a friend of mine graciously sent me a copy of Kingdom Lost, a new novel by Cultwatch's Mark Vrankovich. (Thanks again!!!) Cultwatch is a New Zealand counter-cult apologetics ministry providing information on a wide variety of cults, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc., which also has done quite a bit of investigation into the New Apostolic Reformation movement. Some might say the NAR is not technically a "cult" because its churches and leaders by and large publicly affirm essential Christian beliefs (barely - see my last post), but as Cultwatch and others have observed, tends to use coersion tactics more commonly used by full-blown cults, as I witnessed first hand in my former church.

Kingdom Lost is, in literary terms, a "dystopian" novel in the same vein as George Orwell's 1984 or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Or, one might argue, like the first gazillion volumes of the Left Behind series, though millennialism of any sort is markedly absent from Vrankovich's version of the future. While Kingdom Lost won't join the ranks of great literature like 1984 or Brave New World (in a purely literary sense-I don't totally agree with either Orwell's or Huxley's base philosophies) and I would argue is not meant to, Vrankovich does an excellent job using fiction to teach about the dangers of the NAR in an entertaining, compelling fashion.

The novel is mostly written from the perspective of Max Churchill, a "level four" CitInt (intelligence) agent for GKing, who at the beginning of the story we find leading one of the most successful cell groups in his church cluster in a race for KPoints, in order to gain a promotion to cluster leader and keep his nemesis, the universally hated, vengeful and controlling Viktor, from doing the same. Churchill seems destined to become an "hundred folder," someone who lives in relative luxury rather than in the communal dorm-style "palaces," and eats real food every day (instead of synthetic meat); already, at 24, he has a restored Jaguar, has just been allowed to date one of the most eligible single women in his cluster (who happens to be an elders' daughter) and is well on his way toward fulfilling his "destiny" of "blessing," prestige and power in God's Kingdom. However, with the accidental discovery of an illegal artifact - a "Lie Card" - one of the forbidden electronic apologetics tracts dropped on GKing by a former "apostle" revealing the "why and how" of GKing, Max's life is turned upside down. Driven first by mere curiosity, then by the growing realization that the Lie Card may actually be telling the truth, Max reads it and slowly realizes that his race with Viktor is a distraction, he's not really in love with the desirable Candy but is instead falling in love with the "loser" Kimmy, GKing isn't God's Kingdom at all but rather a pyramid scheme, and most importantly, that he wasn't really a Christian as he had been led to believe his entire life. In at first reluctantly assisting the "rebellious" Kimmy to plan her escape, he concludes that he has no choice himself but to leave GKing, never knowing that time is running out for him to make this decision since he is already being secretly investigated by a bounty-hunting Level Six CitInt agent intent on getting him sent to the mysterious Building 65 merely for looking at Kimmy ten seconds too long at their first meeting on the palace lunch line.

Vrankovich wisely avoids the extreme pro- and con- positions regarding the NAR. The NAR believes itself to be the government underpinning the Second Apostolic Age that will usher in the greatest revival in history, completing the Apostolic Mandate and bringing Christ back. Many NAR opponents believe that the NAR may be the movement that will usher in the anti-Christ. Vrankovich steers a middle course... in his fictional world set in 2046, the NAR leadership once based in the US are ruling GKing as a small theocracy (really oligarchy) on the northern tip of New Zealand. Thanks to a Soviet-style state press, its inhabitants, the "Cits" innocently believe that the rest of the world is in ruins, but that they are blessed to be in God's Kingdom on this small beachhead as led by God's "set man," The Apostle. In reality, the rest of the world, including the US, have long ago discredited the NAR movement and life has gone on, much like today. In the larger world picture, GKing is presented as similar to countries like North Korea, Cuba, or Saddam Hussein's Iraq - vilified and isolated, under limited embargo, monitored by the UN but allowed to exist despite the fact that it is on invaded territory taken over from a still-sovereign New Zealand. GKing "cits" are regaled by thrilling news reports of the Second US Civil War pitting the "bad" Democrats against the "good" Republicans, but Churchill soon realizes that these news reports are being acted out by GKing actors and life in the US has continued, in relative prosperity under constitutional law and the same two-party structure as today. This smaller-scale dystopia set in an otherwise "normal" world - similar to The Truman Show - allows Vrankovich to paint a chilling picture of what might happen if the NAR continues its present course without inviting charges of (millennial) extremism. In short, Vrankovich sticks with Biblical essentials so there is much here that Christians of all theological backgrounds can agree with.

One of the most difficult literary tasks Vrankovich deals with here is incorporating the contents of the Lie Card's apologetics into the story. In many ways, this is similar to Ayn Rand's decision to lay out her philosophy through John Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged (which itself is a similar communtarian dystopia, even though Rand's cultish objectivist medicine is philosophically as bad if not worse than the disease), though Vrankovich does a much better job incorporating the Lie Card's contents in small chunks throughout the story. We find first Max, and then Max and Kimmy, escaping to his workshop/garage to read the Lie Card over a several week period, helping to further incorporate the contents of the Lie Card into the plot which more and more centers on how it changes Max's perspective of his life in GKing. One can totally skip Galt's speech without losing track of Atlas Shrugged's plot, while it's less possible to do so in Kingdom Lost. However, Vrankovich also includes an index to the Lie Card's contents in the back of the book, for those readers who don't have the patience to read a few pages of apologetics at a time, or for those who later want to go back and use it as a reference.

Don't want to spend the money for a "thought reform specialist", but can't get your loved one to visit - much less believe - websites revealing the truth about their church? Send a copy of Kingdom Lost to your friends and family who you suspect may be caught in a controlling NAR church. Order an anonymous copy for your pastor, or even former pastor. It may well be the best $17 (US; $24.95 NZD) you've ever spent.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Changing Church & the "Religious Spirit"

It was a banner day at the post office yesterday... received a couple of new books I've been eagerly waiting for, both by C. Peter Wagner.

I was going to write a full-on review, but this one on Changing Church (2005) is pretty decent and is probably a lot better than I'd be able to do myself. Much of what is in Changing Church can be found in Wagner's other books, including Churchquake! (2001) and Spheres of Authority (2002). However, compared to these earlier books, Changing Church further marginalizes anyone who disagrees with his position that apostles have been rightfully restored to the government of the global church as having a "religious spirit" keeping them from accepting anything other than the status quo. That's where his other recent book, Freedom from the Religious Spirit (2005) comes in. It's a primer on how to identify and cast out this religious spirit, which instead sounds an awful lot to me like just plain (and warranted!) resistance to takeover by the New Apostolic Reformation.

I was personally identified at one point as as having this "religious spirit," for daring to stand up for Christian essentials like the Trinity and the full humanity and full deity of Jesus Christ. I can't speak for others, but in my case I am 100% sure that it was the HOLY SPIRIT convicting me of the truth in Christ, not a "religious spirit" keeping me from accepting a new teaching as was implied.

So this is why this quote from Joseph L. Castleberry's Changing Church review really jumped out at me (emphasis mine)...

Wagner’s argument improves to some degree as he discusses a trend “from heavy doctrinal load to a lighter doctrinal load.” It is true that such a trend is evident in the church, and though his embrace of Open Theology and his suggestion that the doctrine of the Trinity is not an essential Christian belief will dismay some readers, Wagner makes an effective case for greater tolerance of ambiguity in terms of doctrine.

Wagner's hypothesis is that New Apostolic Reformation churches are less exclusive doctrinally than traditional denominations. I actually don't have a huge problem with this in theory AS LONG AS HISTORIC CHRISTIAN ESSENTIALS ARE ADHERED TO. However, Wagner has apparently determined that Open Theism - the belief that God is changeable and is not omniscient or omnipresent, but allows mankind to determine history - as well as modalism, are quite ok to include as acceptable Christian beliefs. First, he states that he agrees with prominent Open Theism apologist Greg Boyd that "God does change His mind" and then states that "most intercessors and prophets assume open theology" (Changing Church 154-55). Next, he argues that adhering to the doctrine of the Trinity as set forth by the 325 AD Nicene Council is too exclusive in that it bars Oneness believers from Christian inclusion, and that the Trinity instead "might not be regarded as an absolute on which we would gauge our ability to support each other and work together in advancing God's kingdom" (159).

What next? Fellowship with Mormonism? Jehovah's Witnesses? I mean, they say they're Christians, right? However, consider what John, a true and foundational Biblical apostle, had to say regarding perservering in the teaching of Christ:

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (2 John 1:9-11; NIV)

Wagner additionally posits that present-day apostles "have little or no desire to traverse many of the traditional pathways laid down by professional academic theologians. [. . .] I have never offered a course in systematic theology [in Wagner Leadership Institute] simply because there would be virtually no demand for it among our in-service, apostolically oriented student body" (145).

Quotes like these should be enough to put the book down and go home. Even though Wagner continues to insist that the New Apostolic Reformation entails a change in how we "do" church without affecting doctrine (despite plenty of evidence to the contrary), it is apparent that this so-called new apostolic government isn't really as concerned with upholding sound doctrine as was the apostle Paul, another true and foundational Biblical apostle, and certainly isn't being equipped by Wagner and Co. to not only hold to Christian essentials themselves, but to additionally bring the Body of Christ into the maturity of the faith. This makes me recall a related quote by a not so little known author Wagner mentored at Fuller, Rick Warren... "the last thing many believers need is to go to another Bible study." So, no Bible, misidentifying the Holy Spirit as a "religious spirit," deconstructing Christian essentials, it doesn't really matter as long as we're in unity to fulfill the Apostolic Mandate (deconstruct-ese for the Great Commission), right? While I'm not advocating that everyone be a professional theologian, basic knowledge of Christian beliefs and WHY they are Christian beliefs is essential, especially of someone claiming to be an "apostle," since one of the main roles, responsibilities and qualifications of a church leader is not just holding to any old doctrine, but holding fast to SOUND DOCTRINE:

Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:8-9; NIV)

If the New Apostolic Reformation follows the direction of its leader as put forth in Changing Church, it instead risks fulfilling Paul's words to Timothy:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4; NIV)

Wagner tells how he almost flunked his Fuller Theological Seminary tenure examination due to beliefs like these - in the second go-around, he didn't mention the Trinity, and passed (159-60). Someone into Open Theism could certainly argue that Fuller theologians changed history by letting him slide.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Spiritual Family, Dominion & Babel

A former Maranatha member posting this morning on the FACTNet discussion threads I also participate in had this to say about the notion of "spiritual family" and its relationship to dominion theology:

If God takes dominion through the family and EN [Every Nation] is your spiritual family then the leaders must be your Father and Mother and like the good book says 5.) Honor your father and mother.

This was in response to these Every Nation Leadership Institute teaching notes:

5. Honor Your father and mother: The fifth commandment (w/7th/8th/10th) establishes the family as the fundamental authority in the earth. God's original commission to man was take dominion. (Gen. 1;26:28). This is to be primarily carried out through the family. The state has taken away much of the authority of the family today, including taking dominion or ruling over the earth.

This is classic Christian Reconstructionist, theonomic thought, which is based on Calvinistic "covenant theology." Basically, in this mindset there are three spheres of authority - family, church, civil.

Every Nation's Purple Book of Biblical Foundations (2004) has this to say about "spiritual family:"

Just as God sovereignly determines our parents and other family members, he also sovereignly chooses which spiritual family we are born into. The church is God's instrument for advancing his kingdom. He has no "plan B." The church is the only legitimate setting for walking out the Christian faith. No long-term "lone ranger" can be a true disciple of Christ. All who truly desire to follow Christ must find their place in a church family. (51)

From Maranatha's old magazine, the Forerunner:

The family is one of God's governmental units. Rebellion against the government is commensurate to treason. Today, we have no problem with seeing treason against the civil government as a capital crime. The problem is that we have a low view of the family today. The family is actually a higher form of government than the state and deserves greater protection. Rebellion against the family is an expression of rebellion against God's first established form of government and therefore against God himself.

Wow, so is rebellion against family a capital crime (otherwise known as something requiring the death penalty)? What about rebellion against "spiritual family?"

Rice Broocks expands on the notion of "spiritual family" in Every Nation in Our Generation: Recovering the Apostolic Mandate:

There are two primary ways God joins people to a spiritual family: He births you into one or He grafts you in or joins you after you’ve been saved. Obviously, we are “baptized into one Body” when we become Christians. So, we are a part of the universal family of God when we are born again. However, the concept of spiritual family is a matter of discerning what part of that body you are specifically joined to. It’s not enough to say, “I am a part of the universal Body of Christ” without a connection to a specific local church, which God has designed as a practical commitment for every member of the larger Body.

Many face the emotional challenge of having been separated from their natural family before they were old enough to remember anything about them. They may spend a good part of their lives searching, trying to find out where they belong and, in a sense, who they are. That is even more common among Christians who go from one church to another, searching for their spiritual family. [. . .]

There are many benefits we gain when we find our place in spiritual family. One is protection from spiritual enemies. Not only are the forces of darkness less likely to have an opportunity to attack when Christians are in real unity, but negative emotions like discouragement, loneliness and fear – among many others – are held back as well. Perhaps even more important than these defensive benefits, however, is the manner in which being joined together helps us to advance the Apostolic Mandate
[note: this is Broocks' deconstructed/reconstructed term for the "Great Commission," but with additional meanings since it is "Apostolic"]. [. . .]

Secular management books use the term “synergy” to describe what happens when every part and every joint supplies according to it proper function. Synergy suggests that the effect of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Apostolic Mandate is never going to be accomplished by a church or group of churches unless there is a synergistic coordination of the gifts and talents that the Holy Spirit has placed in the Body of Christ. Without this unity and proper placement, your gifts will never function according to their proper working order. In that case, everyone loses: the Kingdom of God, the world and you.

So, does this mean that if I don't submit to a "spiritual family," I will hold back the "Apostolic Mandate?" God depends on me rather than the other way around? I will lose out on my destiny? I won't be protected by God (see my entries on the covering doctrine)? Even though the Body of Christ is in unity through the Holy Spirit, we're not REALLY in unity unless we enter into some kind of synergistic relationship in a "spiritual family" and get imparted with its "spiritual DNA?"

Later in the chapter, Broocks identifies a weakness with this position, comparing it to Babel... however, he doesn't seem to see how it might apply to his own church:

The greater the mandate a spiritual family attempts, the greater the unity that is required. That was true in the ancient city of Babel. Their vision was to make a name for themselves and to keep their people from being scattered across the earth. God commented on them and their purpose: “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

Two things are evident from this story. First, just because you’re really committed to something doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing. These “Babelites” had a purpose and a plan: to build a tower and keep their people unified. The problem was that they were seeking their own glory and not God’s.

There are all kinds of organizations, including some churches, which require a high level of commitment. It’s not right to demand commitment only for the sake of maintaining your own organization – i.e., to keep people from scattering. If self-perpetuation turns out to be the primary goal, the leaders need to rethink what they’re doing and measure it against the purposes of God. Whenever we talk about commitment to a local church and the vision of Every Nation, it is always in the context of fulfilling God’s purposes. For us, that means fulfilling the Apostolic Mandate by planting churches and making disciples of nations.

The second thing that is evident from the Tower of Babel story is that great things can be accomplished if people are united and committed to a common purpose. A house divided cannot stand, but when a people are united “nothing will be impossible for them.”

Hmm, if in this mindset the fulfillment of the "Apostolic Mandate" is dependent upon me and my submission and commitment to spiritual family, rather than upon God, yet God is sovereign, then isn't this type of unity - one dependent upon man rather than upon God - like rebuilding Babel? God confused the common language of Babel so they could not communicate and scattered its people so that they would stop building the city (Genesis 11:1-9). He had nothing good to say about Babel. I would be very cautious about using Babel as an exemplar of true Christian unity poised to take dominion.

Interestingly, a Google search for "spiritual family" comes up with some startling New Age parallels. "Synergy" is a term used by Dutch Sheets which apparently includes agreeing in prayer with and "redigging the wells" of the dead, otherwise known as NECROMANCY:

God said to me, ‘I need you to agree in prayer with Gordon Lindsay.’ I knew we weren’t supposed to communicate with the dead, and he’s been dead for 30 years. He said, ‘He’s dead, but his prayers are not. I can’t do what he asked me to do until this generation comes into agreement with him. I need the synergy of the ages.’ When I re-dug that well at the Wesleys’ I laid hold of something. I said, Where is the Lord God of John and Charles Wesley? I stretched out on the grave of David Brainerd, and I said, where is the Lord God of David Brainerd? If the dead bones of Elisha could raise the dead, there’s still anointing in those wells of the past. (from

What some spirit is apparently telling both Rice Broocks and Dutch Sheets is that God is blocked from doing something unless they/we do something to make it happen. And in both cases, this "something" they are to do is that which God has condemned elsewhere in Scripture, whether it's rebuilding Babel under the premise of "spiritual family" or engaging in necromancy. This does not sound like the Holy Spirit to me but another spirit entirely, since God is not limited by what we do or do not do. However, as the Apostle Paul warned, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4:1, NIV).