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).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Scary Faith

One of the things I've been reflecting on over the last several days is how wonderful it is to not only be free in Christ, but to trust Him enough to exercise that freedom. I wrote this to someone this morning, and thought I'd share it here:

And you know, if there was never anything there [in Every Nation] that appealed to me, and not just in the flesh either, I wouldn't have gotten involved in the first place. I mean, in a society full of sin, corruption, and uncertainty, it can be really comforting to have the security of committed, accountability/discipleship relationships, to have authority and structure, to even have someone lay hands on you once in a while and tell you about your great destiny, to think that maybe you can be a leader and change the world for the better. It's a whole lot scarier to put your faith in God and God alone, even though He never fails us.

I don't know if scary is the right word, because I know that Scripturally fear is the antithesis of faith. However, it's really easy to get driven by fear into finding security wherever one can find it, rather than holding fast to faith in the Lord - and that security can sometimes be found in churches that believe that the way to faith in Christ is by putting faith in men who claim to act in Christ's stead as his "delegated authority" on earth, whether it's intentionally or not.

I was absolutely terrified when I left Morning Star/Every Nation. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was the right thing, as led by the Lord Himself. Though leaving that security is terrifying. I mean, most people don't think they'll ever be faced with a decision to choose following Jesus on the one hand, and the institutional church on the other. Most people think that they're one and the same. I thought they were one and the same. And through this process the Lord has given me a much larger view of His body the Church, of His will, of the workings of the Holy Spirit, than I imagined possible. I still see through a glass darkly and will until He calls me home and I see Him face to face, but at least I'm learning how not to confuse the glass with Jesus Himself. I also found that the Holy Spirit does a wonderful job of leading us into truth, and keeping me "accountable." (That's His job, by the way.) By the power of the Holy Spirit, I don't want to sin, and when I do, He sure lets me know. I don't need a discipler, a small group, even weekly church services to keep following Christ. In fact, I learned that if you do, then perhaps there is something wrong. I don't need those things, instead I need Him, and He lives in me in the Person of the Holy Spirit Who indwells all believers. Now I am active in a church (and that was scary too - a lot of people coming out of discipling/shepherding movements have a difficult time with finding new churches), do attend a small fellowship, all those things. But I no longer feel obligated to someone else - it's because I want to learn more about the Lord, walk a closer walk with the Lord, and want to fellowship with others who want the same. I don't think, hmm, what if so-in-so calls me today and asks me accountability questions? Oh, no, I need to call so-and-so and ask accountability questions! Did I read my Bible, did I memorize verses, did I do my homework, did I spend x amount of time in prayer?

We're getting ready to do our taxes. I remember not so long ago when I would go into Microsoft Money and analyze our tithing and giving to make sure that our tithe was at least 10%, and giving was in excess of that, and would wonder in the very back of my mind if this really was in line with "cheerful giving" as we recited every week before the offering, or was closer to, "if you try to keep any part of the law, you are doomed to keep all of it." It became more and more obligatory, even though we started out as cheerful givers wanting to be obedient to the Lord.

Well, I need to say that this past year, we did not "tithe" to our church as in the brick and mortar institution. It was a healthy amount, I certainly don't want my pastor living in poverty, but we weren't continually keeping track of whether it was a "tithe" throughout the year either. BUT, I also have no clue how much we gave in general to those in need. Family members, non-family members, ministries, etc. Not just money either, but also things like the guitar we just gave to our current church's worship leader in part because he didn't have a decent guitar, and at 19 doesn't have a whole lot of income coming in to buy a decent guitar, but more importantly because God led us to. The Lord put that on my heart and, I thought, "no way, my husband will kill me, it was a gift!!!" and without our otherwise talking about it, an hour or so later my husband asked, "What do you think about giving xxxx your guitar?"

And maybe I should also count all "this" stuff, my research and "ministry" if you want to call what I've been called to do a "ministry." I don't raise a dime, don't ask for anything, it's all out of my own pocket. If someone wants an article or a CD or whatever, I just send it. I have no clue how much I've spent in ordering materials, books, CDs, documents, postage, subscriptions. So not all of our "giving" is documented, and so not all of it can be written off on our taxes, but based on what I do know we gave and spent it has to be at least what we used to give percentage-wise if not more. I don't say this at all to toot my own horn, in fact I feel kind of funny saying all this because our giving should be in secret (Matthew 6:3-5), but I say this merely to show how the Lord can lead believers through the Holy Spirit's leading to simply give where it is needed.

And we've been blessed. Our income went up quite a bit this year too, for the first time in several years... we didn't realize how much at first because we gave a lot of it away. We did notice that paying bills was overall a lot less stressful this year, and we've paid a bunch of stuff off, but our lifestyle otherwise isn't any different. The biggest thing we did for ourselves is buy a new-to-us car because the other cars are ancient and we felt uncomfortable driving either one further than around town. (Even though it didn't cost a huge amount, it's kind of a mid-life crisis type car, so it's not like we're total ascetics here. It's not quite a toy, but imho it's the most fun one can have on 30-35 MPG.) The most wonderful thing about all this is because it was so free, so led by God, so... cheerful. And we didn't sit through a single sermon on giving, on robbing God, anything like that. I think the pastor mentioned giving in passing once or twice.

Galatians 5:1 reads, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. I can't tell you how many "freedom" songs I used to sing in my old church. But now my heart sings, it rejoices, in freedom in Christ. The apostle Paul continues (Ephesians 5:2-6; emphases mine),

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Wiki Tug 'o War

Well, since I brought up Wikipedia some time back, there have been some significant changes made to Every Nation's Wiki entry. For starters, it now warrants its own entry rather than just being redirected from Maranatha's entry. Also, over the last several days it seems that the pro- and con- Every Nation camps have been having at it. The History section has been back and forth between the official and non-official versions of EN's history. Several days ago, someone added a section on Links to Maranatha, discussing corporate and leadership continuity between what was Maranatha Campus Ministries and what is today Every Nation, and included the Boston Every Nation church (now called Beacon City Church) as one example.

Some time ago I had discovered that this church, which was characterized as a "church plant" to its membership, was actually a former Maranatha church operating under its old corporate charter. As of today, EN's Wiki entry explains:

In 2001, KPIC [Kings Park International Church] sent a church planting team to Boston. This team joined with a few leaders remaining from the Tree of Life City Church, a church already a part of Morning Star, to form Morning Star International Church of Boston, which has since changed its name to Beacon City Church. Tree of Life was a former Maranatha church with roots in Maranatha's outreaches in Boston. Beacon City Church operates under Tree of Life's corporate charter, which was adopted while it was part of Maranatha. Its original associate pastor, Brian Diver, had been pastor of Tree of Life from at least the waning days of Maranatha.

Ok, I can appreciate this additional information, which does help to flesh out the corporate history - it can get a bit dry at times. Tree of Life had been listed in MSI's directory for approximately a year prior to the church planting team going to help out what looked to be a struggling church (aside from the fact that the rest of the MSI/EN world, including KPIC, was told it was a church plant). What is really interesting though is what happened when someone discovered that the VCM chapter at MIT claimed that it was the former Maranatha ministry on its website and then posted about it on his blog. This is what the MIT VCM website stated about its history before November 20, 2004:

History: Victory Campus Ministries was founded at MIT in 1983. Originally called "Maranatha Campus Fellowship", the name changed in 1996 to "Impact Campus Fellowship" and once more in 2002 to "Victory Campus Ministry". Although our numbers have varied over the years, the vision has stayed the same since our inception: to love God and one another, and share the good news with others!

Two days later this was gone from their website. I know because that's when I made sure to save a Google cache of the old site before it too disappeared.

And the Wiki explanation continues:

However, the new church has a far different vision, and there is almost no membership overlap.

[Hmm, what happened to "the vision has stayed the same since our inception?"]

Arguments can be made either way whether this is a new church plant or simply a revival of a dormant Maranatha church. Instances like this illustrate the difficulty of using corporate records to identify spiritual continuity.

Point taken. Keeping a record of what is said before it is cleaned up also helps a great deal.

P.S. - To date, the only things I've contributed to the Wiki entry is a link to the timeline as well as links to Christian Reconstructionism and the Latter Rain movement. (I couldn't help it. I have documented evidence showing those are two major streams contributing to what I call Every Nation's "working theology.") Otherwise, I plan on remaining a spectator.

3/29/2006 update: The relevant section of EN's Wiki entry now reads:

In 2001, KPIC sent a church planting team to Boston. This team joined with a few leaders remaining from the Tree of Life City Church, a church already a part of Morning Star, to form Morning Star International Church of Boston, which has since changed its name to Beacon City Church. Tree of Life was a former Maranatha church with roots in Maranatha's outreaches in Boston. Beacon City Church operates under Tree of Life's corporate charter, which was adopted in 1986 while it was part of Maranatha. Its original associate pastor, Brian Diver, had been pastor of Tree of Life from at least the waning days of Maranatha. While Beacon City is indisputably the legal successor to Maranatha Christian Church of Boston, proving spiritual continuity is somewhat murkier. None of the current ministry team members date directly back to Maranatha, and the vision is different in some ways on paper. However, the church planting team came from a former Maranatha church whose founding pastor was part of Maranatha. Also, Every Nation Campus Ministries' chapter at MIT has been in continuous existence since 1983, when it was a Maranatha chapter. [7] Nonetheless, this illustrates the difficulty of using corporate records to prove spiritual continuity.

BTW, there are more than five Every Nation churches currently operating under their old Maranatha corporate charters. Here's another.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Every Nation and Azusa Street Centennial Youth Convocation

Several days ago I read this on

Thousands of people from around the world will come to Los Angeles, April 25-29th to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Asuza St. revival. I have been privileged to be apart of the steering committee for the youth convocation on the final night, April 29th. We hope that many of you can attend and experience this historic event.

I filed this in my mental "follow up later" file. Yesterday I was on the phone with a friend of mine who is a former Maranatha member, and he brought up the Azusa Street Centennial.

"Oh, oh, oh!!! That's right!!! I forgot to tell you, Rice Broocks is on the youth convocation steering committee!"

Now, I've seen the Azusa Street Centennial
main site, plus as a subscriber to Charisma I've read the ads and such. The January issue of Charisma lists all the keynote and workshop speakers... it's a mix of people from the Word-Faith, classical Pentecostal, New Apostolic Reformation, and charismatic movements. Some, like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price, etc. I personally consider aberrant teachers, and some would say I'm being overly kind here. But there are also representatives from mainline Pentecostal denominations including the Church of God (Cleveland) and the Pentecostal Holiness church, which ironically don't really trace their history just to Azusa but further back to Appalachian revivals arising from both the Wesleyan and Baptist traditions. Either way, there's quite a bit of information out there on who is involved with the main program.

But my interest here isn't in the workshops geared to middle age stodgies like me, but in the youth convocation.

This on the
youth website (emphases mine):

Join with thousands of spiritually hungry young men and women from across the world as they converge on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena to seek God for a fresh Pentecost for themselves and their generation. From 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday April 29, the entire energy of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement will be focused on the emerging generation. The highpoint of the Convocation will be a call for those willing to commit themselves as living sacrifices to the cause of the Gospel. As young men and women respond to this call, the Centennial Ministry Team, 300 key Pentecostal/ charismatic leaders from around the world, will lay hands on them for a once - in - a - lifetime impartation that will transfer the flame of Pentecost to the next generation and will launch a radical army of young warriors into the next century of Spirit-filled witness.

Ok, other than Rice Broocks, who else is involved with the Centennial Ministry Team? Who exactly are these "300 key Pentecostal/charismatic leaders?" For as the apostle Paul warned Timothy:

Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. (1 Tim 5:22; NASB from Biblegateway)

Biblegateway also crossreferences this verse to Ephesians 5:11 - Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them [. . .]

(Which by the way, is one of the verses guiding my blog as well as my FACTNet posts.)

Now, I would assume that by inviting as many youth as can fit into the LA Memorial Auditorium and then laying hands upon them, that these 300 key Pentecostal/charismatic leaders are personally responsible for whether or not they are working in accordance with 1 Tim 5:22. I would say that it would be pretty tough to do, but that's really their call, not mine. BUT what about the youth? Who is going to be laying hands upon them? What are they going to be sharing in themselves? What exactly is this "
activation" (see button) and "once-in-a-lifetime impartation" going to entail, which sounds more like something that Bill Hamon would say (or even the New Age?) than the general overseer of the CoG? One would hope that it really will be the Holy Spirit flame of Pentecost. But without knowing who these 300 leaders are going to be (one can guess, but we don't really know since the Centennial Cabinet hasn't been publicly announced), one won't really know who is going to be sharing what with whom, huh? Certainly those who attend the Centennial Assembly, a similar event scheduled immediately before the Youth Convocation, won't know:

In all the events of the Centennial, a conscious effort will be made to glorify God rather than to lift up personalities. Consequently, emphasis on individuals will be kept to a minimum in advertising materials and, in the Centennial Assembly at the Coliseum, no speakers will be announced ahead of time.

All I know about is one. And I do know about a previous, similar event that this leader presided over at the Every Nation World Conference in July, 2004 - I've posted a transcript on FACTNet some time back on the "What does Every Nation Mean" thread - the talk by Jim Laffoon was titled, "To Reach and to Rule." I won't post an extended quote here but I invite my readers to PLEASE take ten minutes or so to read the transcript and prayerfully consider it. It is not a call to Biblical discipleship imho but a call to literally take over the world, and using our youth as the army to do it. Rice Broocks then helped close out the talk by inviting Jim Laffoon to lead the audience of youth in a prayer "sealing" them as if in Revelation:

[Rice Broocks] We’re about to close. But I want Pastor Jim to pray a prayer. It says in Revelation that there’s this conflict that the church is called into. Here in this struggle that many theologians and… again, we’re not wanting to get sidetracked into end-time debates and scenarios and speculations, but… it seems when you look at the popular theology it’s all about leaving this planet and somehow that there are nations that will be reached after the church is gone, and there’s these elaborate speculations and themes and charts, yet that’s probably the greatest gamble in history. To gamble away the fate and the souls of men and women, for many times, a preoccupation with Western convenience and comfort. But in this battle of Revelation, in this struggle where the revelation is of Christ, and His rule and His authority, there was a moment when he said, “Seal my bondservants on the forehead, seal them.” [. . .] I just want you Pastor Jim, just where you know where that passage is specifically, but just to pray, and let’s ask God to do a miracle, even as Jesus said I prayed, guarded them that I did not lose one. I’m just praying that this ceiling, this… just in the minds and in the hearts, so many images, so many thoughts, that it’s going to be a miracle for us to do what he’s talking about. So Pastor Jim, go ahead.

[Jim Laffoon] There in the book of Revelation, where it talks about the mark of the beast, whatever that is, it talks about those that had the name of their Father written on their foreheads. They were sealed with that. The Lamb stood on Mount Zion, “Father come now, write your name upon our foreheads, as we meditate on your word, as we confess your word, as you transform us, let your name GLOW on our foreheads!” God I pray that you would SEAL this generation! You would SEAL us with discipleship! SEAL us with accountability! SEAL us with family! SEAL us with your word! Filling us with your LOVE and your GRACE and your POWER. And as you seal us, keep us, give us the wisdom to be inserted into every area that affects culture, that we’re trusting your sealing, your blessing, and your help.

The talk in general, including the part about the current generation being birthed to rule with an iron scepter, comes right out of Latter Rain and Manifest Sons of God theology. These theological roots of Maranatha, Every Nation, and various other streams in present-day churches made me recall some excellent and well-researched articles by Tricia Trillin about the "overshadowing" and "sealing." She writes,

A more recent, but associated nightmare is the possibility of a visible sign, a mark, appearing on the bodies (foreheads?) of those who believe they are the "anointed overcomers" of the New Order. Alternatively there may be strong pressure to join an elect number of believers who have received a spiritual sealing or mark of God in the forehead. All this will be explained later in the article, but for now I just want to say that this most dangerous and blasphemous sign must be avoided at all costs!

I am unable to go to the Azusa Street Centennial. However, I will be praying that the Lord's will be done, and that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth prevails. I pray that those born-again children of God in Christ Jesus, particularly our precious youth, who are already sealed* by the power of the Holy Spirit Who indwells all believers, do not accept any other "seal." Even if my concerns turn out to be unwarranted, I don't believe that's a bad prayer to pray.

*Ephesians 1:13-14 & 4: 30; 2 Corinthians 1:22

Monday, March 20, 2006

Every Nation Exposed

There's now a new blog devoted to a former member’s experience in Maranatha - it's extremely detailed and well-written from a first person perspective. One of the things that has me completely intrigued is that this person who was in the original Maranatha Campus Ministries is convinced that Every Nation, which is descended from Maranatha, is another strain of the same virus… a mutated, more virulent strain. Interesting that the blog's URL doesn't refer to Maranatha but "Every Nation exposed." I'm eagerly awaiting more...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"He taught us how to live... then he taught us how to die."

One of the primary reasons why I haven't been consistently blogging over the last several weeks is because my father-in-law recently passed away. He knew, loved and served the Lord faithfully, and our family is comforted knowing that he now sees Jesus face to face. Even though we rejoice in that, it's still been a bittersweet time. I personally will miss him a great deal.

My father-in-law was a (classical) Pentecostal pastor who spent most of his adult life serving his flock as to the Lord. In this day and age when it seems many religious leaders are found to be involved in one scandal or another, it's easy to forget that there are many like my father-in-law, ones you may otherwise never hear of, who really do live out what they profess.

He didn't get rich off his pulpit, he didn't demand that his flock serve him as if he Jesus by proxy, and until the last months of his life when he was physically unable to, would drive the hour or more to local hospitals in East Tennessee on pretty much a daily basis to visit sick members of his congregation or even sick family members who had never set foot in his church or dropped an offering in the basket.

My father-in-law was pretty much the only person for a while who supported my decision to leave Morning Star International/Every Nation, and up until nearly the very end of his life kept reminding me of how proud he was that I took such a strong stand for the truth in Christ. I had confided in him soon after even my own husband started saying things like perhaps I was hearing from Satan, or that I was "driving" the decision to leave our church (comments that didn't initially come from him but from our church btw). He assured me that we were doing the right thing in leaving, and that he and my mother-in-law had been praying for months that we leave, which was a big surprise because I had initially been told (not by him) that he really liked our church. While I unequivocably knew that I was hearing from the Holy Spirit and certainly not Satan, my father-in-law's unwavering support and commitment to Scriptural truth helped keep me going in those very trying times as we were leaving MSI/EN.

The most amazing thing about my father-in-law and his faith was how it was tested in his illness, and how he continued to be such an example to those around him even when he was taking his last breaths. He continued to praise God to the very end, even when he was in such excruciating pain and discomfort.

Ten years ago, I lost my mother to cancer - this was before I became a Christian. My mother was also considered a pillar of her community; she had been active in 12 Step programs for nearly twenty years and was kind of considered an icon in local 12 Step circles. However, as she deteriorated, so did her faith - what 12 steppers used to call her "spirituality." One of my last coherent conversations with my mother centered on how angry she was at my biological father and pretty much everyone else who had wronged her in her life. What a contrast to my father-in-law. While I don't want to pass judgment on the state of anyone's soul, I can say that I don't have the same assurance that I will meet my mother again in heaven as I do my father-in-law.

Four weeks ago, my husband, my father-in-law's associate pastor, and I were with him in Houston, where the cancer experts at MD Anderson (a world-class cancer center) gave him 3-6 months to live and basically said there was nothing else they could do for them. Day and night he praised God anyway. He continued to have faith that God would and could heal him; his faith was in Him, not the doctors. I started having misgivings, hoping that any Word-Faith stuff that might have crept into their church wouldn't derail anyone's faith in a sovereign Lord. I wisely said nothing when I saw a Charles Capps book among the associate pastor's things. I didn't say this to anyone except to my husband, afraid it would be interpreted as lack of faith on my part, but in my heart I knew that God wouldn't heal my father-in-law this time.

He's been miraculously healed before. When he was eight years old, he had a fever/virus that attacked his optic nerve and he lost his sight. His doctor said it was permanent. His Baptist grandfather showed up at his house one day and told his mother that he had come to pray that his sight be restored, and would not leave until it happened; seven days later his sight came back as my father-in-law was groping around the house toward the bathroom. When they took him back to the doctor, the doctor broke down in tears saying that it had to have been a miracle of God because there was medically no other explanation. A few years ago, my father-in-law had a heart attack that caused some heart muscle damage, but several weeks later follow up tests confirmed there was no discernible damage to his heart (and pre-op exams in Houston a few months ago confirmed again that his heart was healthy).

But I knew in my spirit that there would be no miraculous physical healing this time, other than the ultimate healing that awaits believers in the Lord Jesus. I continued to pray for that if it were God's will, but I also prayed that God give us all the strength and faith to accept whatever His sovereign will was in the situation.

Last week, when his assistant pastor spoke at what we called a celebration of his homegoing, he commented on how my father-in-law continued to praise God and call out to Him no matter what; "He taught us how to live... and then he taught us how to die."

The lesson that God made clear through him is that yes, He is a God who heals, but He is also a God who has sovereign plans for us, for those who fight the good fight and run the race of faith to the end. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger and greater and better than anything we can fully conceive in our earthly existence... we can see Him through a glass darkly, but then we will see Him face to face. That was my father-in-law's blessed hope, one that was realized at 12:30 AM, February 24, 2006 when he went home to be with the Lord.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Test II

I found this linked from the Supernatural Kingdom blog, and just had to take it for myself.

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

Hooray, I'm not a heretic!!! And I promise I didn't cheat by looking at "Speakword's" answers first.

Actually, I had a much easier time answering these questions than the ones on another related test, "What's your theological worldview?"

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Reformed Evangelical


Neo orthodox








Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Hmm, hmm, hmm... well, I guess that settles it, I'm not really Pentecostal/charismatic. Theologically confused is probably more like it. I was surprised I scored as high on the postmodern/emergent scale as well, given how I have some serious problems with postmodernism. But I guess I can live with being predominantly Wesleyan. At least I'm sure about Christian essentials, including the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ, the Trinity being eternally one God in three Persons, salvation by grace alone through faith alone, etc. But I often feel like the apostle Paul seeing through a glass darkly. Outside of the essentials, I try not to be overly pedantic. However, when it comes to the essentials I am admittedly dogmatic.

Also, I got a 93 on my first "Cults" exam, which was the highest score in the class. Average score was in the 60s. Scarrry...