Saturday, June 6, 2009
What? I Can't Live Where?
Hehe, I like that title. As most of the readers know, my wife and I recently left a UPCI assembly in Medicine Hat, AB. We left due to extra-Biblical teachings, standards, and spiritual abuse by the leadership of the congregation. One event that occurred in the latter part of 2008 led to the title of this post, and was the main catalyst that led to my study of the UPCI as a cult.
The term "cult" is generally accepted to define any organization or group of persons that consider themselves the judge of all the other churches on the planet. In such a circumstance, the UPCI fits in every way: They state that if you do not believe precisely what they teach as far as Baptism, Repentance, Salvation, and the Godhead, you are going to Hell. I defy them to state otherwise, at which point I will provide them with the literature from their own Pentecostal Publishing House that proves they teach it. Thus, they are a cult. Oftentimes, they will proudly state "If you define a cult that way, then yep, we're a cult. We're God's church so your definition doesn't bother us." That's fine for the gullible lemmings that feel a need to follow that kind of arrogance, but for the rest of humanity, that should be a major sign that something is wrong within their ranks.
I began this post by mentioning an event that happened in late 2008. My wife and I were considering the purchase of a home in Irvine, Alberta, which is less than 20 minutes from Medicine Hat by paved, divided, well maintained highway. After looking at the price of the home, the price of fuel, vehicle maintenance, the utility cost, and property taxes, the home would have been $6,000/year less than a quite similar home that we looked at in Redcliff, Alberta. That's 500 dollars a month less in bills that we would have had with the minor inconvenience (sarcasm) of living in a quiet small town with a short 20 minute commute to the major shopping area at the East end of Medicine Hat. Where we currently live it is a 17 minute drive to the same area of Medicine Hat. The home had a beautiful lot, a heated attached garage, 2 1/2 baths, 3 bedrooms, and a very spacious kitchen with nice dining room. In spite of all this, I was told by the Pastor's wife (I quote) "That's too far away. Pastor would never let you move out there." That is a direct quote. Word for Word.
At the time, I was a little confused by this, but I said OK, and didn't push the matter. My wife and I were absolutely faithful with our time and substance to this cult and I wasn't ready to cut the ties at that point. As well, I wasn't sure where my wife stood on the issues that were beginning to crop up in the group, so I didn't want to freak her out and cause more stress at home. I did, however, begin studying what the Bible taught about authority in God's Church, and, by extension, the standards that we were expected to uphold. I began to find some very serious differences between what the Bible taught and what we were being force fed. For instance, there is a false doctrine that has taken hold in some UPCI licensed congregations that had come into play in the assembly here in Medicine Hat. I had been taught this false teaching when I was a child in another UPCI congregation and so it was an issue that had to be dealt with. The pastor decided that it would be dealt with among the men only (except HIS wife of course...) and the women would not be informed that this doctrine existed in an attempt to "shelter" them. He told us men we were not to discuss it under any circumstances with anyone other than him (cause the Bible so gives him that authority...yeah right). One of the men in the assembly discussed it with a non-active previous member, and was STOOD UP AND YELLED AT IN A MEN'S MEETING FOR DOING SO!!! He wasn't talked to in private, wasn't questioned about it, was simply blasted with a hand grenade (figuratively) and expected to take it. The obvious assumption here is that the women were too stupid or too spiritually retarded to understand a false doctrine. Except the Pastor's wife of course. Oh, and children. Talk about double standards.
So basically we were expected to accept without question every single thing the pastor or his wife said in any circumstance. We would be told that if we believed false doctrine was being taught then we should bring it to the pastor's attention. But then, when someone did question the teachings or actions of the leadership or, God forbid, simply disobey, they were slandered as rebellious and disobedient to God's authority, when in reality, they were simply ignoring the crap spewed out by self appointed authorities. Then, when these people would leave, the pastor would state OVER THE PULPIT that the "devil" just left the church, and compare them to Judas Iscariot.
None of this is at all Biblical. In fact, it goes directly against the Biblical model of the NT church.
Every group on the planet that lives with these levels of false doctrine and authority are labelled by society as cults. Eg: Moonies, Hale Bopp comet nuts, remember Waco Texas?, etc. The UPCI condemns them for the level of control they exert, then does precisely the same. They tell you where you can and can't live, who you can and can't talk to, where you can and can't work, what you can and can't do for leisure, who you can and can't marry and when, and what you can or can't eat or drink and when (weekly mandated fasting on a specific day...like that's in the Bible or something). They do all this in the name of God, without a single scripture granting any man that authority over God's people. They label the rest of society as lost, confused, deluded, and hell bound. Again without any authority to do so.
God's Church in the NT never had a single, human appointed leader over a group. We read in fact where the Apostles directed churches to appoint elders, in the PLURAL, to guide and direct the faithful. The only time in the NT where there was a single entity over the Church was when Jesus Christ still walked the earth. Even then, we see Him always in the role of a servant, never as a domineering authoritarian, even though He, as God, had the absolute right to do precisely whatever He felt like. Instead, He washed feet, He fed crowds, He built up, He healed people. We do see Him rebuking Peter, but even then He was doing it out of love FOR PETER, not feigned love for the rest of the people or anger. Jesus didn't get angry with a disciple even when Judas Iscariot was going to betray Him. He was sad, but not angry. The only times He got angry was when He blasted the hypocritical Jewish leaders in Matthew 23, and when He kicked the moneychangers out of the Temple. So when a human wannabe leader puts himself in a position of authority over people trying to serve God, he had better not show anger with the people of God or he is not Christ-like. Therefore he is not Christian.
God does not ask for, need, or authorize any human to single handedly govern any group of the People of God. To do so is to put ones self in the precarious position of usurping the authority of God. Too often, men mistake the call of God to preach the gospel to the world as being a call to rule God's people in a city. Thus we have people frustrated with the leadership, and leadership frustrated with the people. Man was not created to serve man, but to serve and worship God.
If you are in a church or organization that has a single entity that makes all doctrinal decisions that affect you, then you are NOT in God's Church. The only authority of standard, doctrine, and guidance is the Word of God. Not a man claiming to be the mouth of God. I scoff at any man that stands up and uses Moses as the basis for a statement that God talks to him face to face. You are not Moses. God hasn't called you to write the Ten Commandments or lead the People of God to the Promised Land. Don't be foolish. Get off your high horse and allow God to govern His people...He is far more qualified than you can even pretend to be.
God Bless all His people