Annual Report 2006

2006pic.jpgThe end of 2006 marks the end of three years of ministry for Apologetic Response Ministries (A.R.M.) and The Apologetic Response web site (theapologeticresponse.org). It has been a year full of new ministry opportunities, joys, sorrows and challenges. Where some doors closed new ones were opened and our loving and gracious Lord was with us through it all.

Web Ministry

2006 saw a significant change in our web ministry. We had experienced a sudden and unexpected need to create a new web site with a new domain name. Due to lack of time and experience we were unable to make a smooth transition from the old domain to the new one. As a result we lost many regular readers and correspondence since we had no way of notifying them of the change. Fortunately our mailing list remained the same so those readers were informed of the change. Also our mailing list has grown this past year as well as a result of our monthly seminars. So with the closing of the former domain we were able to secure a new domain which better reflected the ministry of The Apologetic Response which opened new doors of opportunity. The new site does not reflect the number of hits from the old site but we have added a new map counter which allows us and readers to see how many times we are being visited and also where in the world our readers are. So for now our readers are few but we are trusting they will grow in number as we continue to ‘ARM’ the churches in Toronto and beyond .

Ministry Opportunities

westmountpic.jpgWe continue to be blessed with Westmount Park Church giving us the space and time on a monthly basis to invite church leaders and the general public to our seminars. As a result we have been able meet with the leadership of a number of other churches for the purpose of discussing how Apologetic Response Ministries (ARM) can help them to arm and equip their members to meet and respond to the competing viewpoints our city that would lead the hearts and minds of people away from true freedom in Christ.

ARM.jpgWe followed the same ministry plan as we did in 2005 which was to present one seminar a month showing a video and/or powerpoint presentation, free materials and materials for purchase relating to the topic of the seminar. The following is a list of teaching topics covered this past year:

CFAR.jpgJanuary – ‘The Challenge of Cults on World Mission Fields’ – This was a video presentation with Paul Carden, the Director of The Centers For Apologetics Research. Paul shared with us the great need for discernment ministry on our world mission fields as many new church plants get infiltrated by cults once our mission organizations leave. ARM’s Mission Project for 2006 was to find capable and willing translators to translate tracts into languages other than English to assist in this task.

DRG.jpgFebruary – ‘How To Identify A Dangerous Religious Group’ – This is a four part video series produced by RBC Ministries. This series was last aired in 1999 and never made available to the public. With the permission of RBC Ministries we were able to assemble this series onto one DVD and make it available to the public. In addition to this we were also given permission by Zondervan to reproduce the audio book ‘Churches That Abuse’ by Ron Enroth which is no longer available through Zondervan.

DVCpic.jpgMarch‘The Da Vinci Code – Separating Fact From Fiction’ – This is another four part video series produced by RBC Ministries. With the DVD release of The Da Vinci Code movie coming up soon after March, we felt it worthwhile to revisit our Christian response to it again. Dr. James Beverley also made his book ‘Counterfeit Code’ available to us.

CFCpic.jpgApril – ‘The Case For Christ’ – This DVD produced by CCN with Lee Strobel and Mike Mittleberg compliments Lee Strobel’s book of the same title as he uses his journalist skills to examine the evidence for Jesus Christ by playing the skeptic and firing hard-hitting questions at scholars to determine whether or not the gospel accounts are reliable or not. This book and video should be shared with any atheist or agnostic friends and family you may have.

FMpic.jpgMay – ‘Freemasonry – From Darkness to Light?’ – This DVD offers a Christian response to Freemasonry. We chose it due to the popularity of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code book considering also that his follow-up book release called ‘The Solomon Key’ was expected to follow the same sales success as The Da Vinci Code. The Solomon Key involves mystery and intrigue surrounding Freemasonry. In researching and preparing for this seminar we also discovered that Freemasons have set up a new web site with recruitment videos online also in anticipation of the growing popular interest in Freemasonry. Also check out ‘The Masonic Lodge – To Be or Not To Be a Freemason?’, a free downloadable PDF book at ldslearning.org researched and written by our very own Vincent Poldrugovac.

WOJpic.jpgJune – ‘Witnesses Of Jehovah’ – This 1988 production by Good News Defenders may be vintage but it is not out of date. This video traces the history of the organization from it’s first days, penetrating the deceptive methods and false prophecies of this pseudo-Christian cult to extend it’s manipulative empire across the world. This is the third year we have reviewed the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in June as we also host and support Lawrence Hughes from Calgary in his continuing efforts to bring about public awareness of this group and the thousands of lives lost through their policy of refusing life-saving blood transfusions. Lawrence is only one of thousands of former Jehovah’s Witnesses who have lost loved ones because of this murderous policy based on a twisted interpretation of scripture.

July – no meeting

August – no meeting

BOM.jpgSeptember – ‘The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon’ – This video produced by Living Hope Ministries examines the evidence, or rather lack of evidence for the Book of Mormon as compared to the overwhelming evidence for the Bible. Interviewing both practicing Mormons and former Mormons, this video is suitable for sharing with Mormon friends and neighbors. Our meeting was hosted by Vincent Poldrugovac who also authored ‘ENSIGN – Raising The Banner of Truth’ also available as a free download PDF book on his web site ldslearning.org.

IslamDVD.jpgOctober – ‘Understanding Islam’ – This DVD production is another one from CCN which features a stirring testimony from former Muslim Dr. Ergun Caner who is now a Christian Professor and author of Unveiling Islam. Our meeting was hosted by Neil Bulloch volunteering for Fellowship of Faith for Muslims here in Toronto. We were also given an emotional personal testimony from one of the many former Muslims who joined us for that meeting.

CFC2pic.jpgNovember – ‘The Case For Christmas’ – This was our final meeting of 2006 closing our year with the latest of The Case For … series by Lee Strobel.

Maier.JPGDecember – Although we did not host any meetings during December, we did however alert our mailing list to an outreach event hosted by St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Mississauga which showcased the new film ‘The Nativity Story’ as well as St. Mark’s evening with Dr. Paul Maier called ‘The Very First Christmas – A Historian’s Perspective.’

More Ministry Opportunities

smallgroup3.JPGBesides hosting monthly seminars this past year, we also hosted a small Bible Study Group in our home. Those of us involved in counter-cult ministry felt a need to balance our studies of poor leadership with studies of good leadership. Some of our participants were also recovering from experiences with abusive leadership so we used a study in 2 Corinthians called ‘A Ministry Anyone Could Trust’ from the Bible-Teaching Ministry of Charles Swindoll published by Insight For Living. This sixteen week study helped us keep our view of ministry in balance when it can so easily become unbalanced when we only examine the heresies of others or let our negative experiences turn us away from the truth of the Scriptures.

Also, as a result of monthly seminars this past year, we are looking forward to some expansion of this ministry into other churches in the coming months ahead. You’ll have to wait for our next annual report to hear about that.

Ministry Challenges

Davidpic.jpgBesides the setback in our web ministry this year I got hit hard with the passing of my good friend of 20 years David Field in May of this year. David was 39 years old and died of heart failure as a direct result of living with muscular dystrophy. Although his death was expected eventually because of his disease, it was still hard hitting as we were just working on his will. Thankfully he is with our Lord now and not only walking but probably running and flying around.

Mumpic.jpgI was just beginning to get over this loss (to me!) when my mother also went to be with our Lord in June of this year at the age of 65. This was, and still is, especially hard as I was unable to say goodbye and thank her for her faithful prayers for me when I was younger and rebellious and also to thank her for introducing me to the living Lord of the universe in the first place. I don’t know if our loved ones ever watch over us as continuing servants of the Lord or not but if they do, Mum, I love you and thank you and look forward to seeing you again. Also, I don’t know if my Jehovah’s Witness sister is reading this or not but if you are Pam, despite our differences, I love you and thank you for caring for Mum in her last days when I was not able to be there for her.

Ministry Miracles

On a much more positive and uplifting note, we have been truly blessed abundantly this past year as the Lord has seen fit to sustain us and enable us through this past year even without a predictable support base. I began this report with the set back of setting up a new web site but how was this to happen when these things cost money? At the same time this happened we were also gifted with a very generous donation from a donor totally unconnected to our ministry! This gift not only paid for our new domain name and web hosting for the year, it also paid for a new post office box address (The Apologetic Response, P.O. Box 282, Stn. D, Etobicoke, ON., M9A 4X2) and a new CD/DVD duplicating tower enabling us to more easily and economically produce our own CDs and DVDs! In addition to this, we were also gifted with a new G4 Mac mini with a DVD burning drive and software. This came from my friend David before he went to be with the Lord. Two other large financial gifts were offered this year which were designated to purchase our own color laser printer among other office supplies we needed!

With all of these gifts combined to save us production costs of going outside for printing and duplicating services, we have been so blessed and encouraged believing that the Lord will continue to provide for this ministry even though we never know when or by what means His provision will come despite Satan’s attempts to discourage us. Praise God!

More Encouragement

For those readers who have supported this ministry with your prayers and generous gifts of support and also for the benefit of those who may only have just heard of this ministry, I’d like to share some encouraging words from some folks who have been served and encouraged by The Apologetic Response:

“Thank you David for inviting me out to the ministry. The meetings are well organized with lots of resources, some of it offered free which you don’t see very often, this shows the concern and need for the church to engage other religions and cults on the truth of the Gospel. I highly recommend everyone to come out to these studies.”

Mark Shaw
Bramalea Baptist Church
Brampton, ON.

Werner.jpg“A.R.M is a specialized type of ministry that is necessary to the Body of Christ. As a pastor, I am encouraged at the amount and quality of resources that Dave Upton presents. As the city of Toronto grows, it will increasingly be challenged by cults and aberrant faiths. A.R.M is uniquely positioned to ‘arm’ the church with the necessary teaching to resist these challenges.”

Werner Peters
Senior Pastor, Westmount Park Church
Etobicoke, ON.

michael2.jpg“I’ve known David Upton for a number of years and he has such a passion for the lost.The Apologetic Response Ministry was formed out of that passion.This is a ministry which is needed not only in the Toronto area but across Canada.The ministrys’ website and resources are such a blessing to the Christian community and I know this for the website and the materials have been a blessing to me.
David may the Lord continue to bless the work your doing.”

Michael Symons
Tenth Avenue Alliance Church
Vancouver, BC

paul.jpg“I trust that the Lord will continue to sustain, and steadily expand, the ministry of The Apologetic Response in helping the church in Toronto and beyond to grow in discernment.”

Paul Carden
Executive Director,
The Centers For Apologetics Research
San Jaun Capistrano, California

cover_Enroth.jpg“Thank you for the important ministry you have to the Body of Christ. I especially appreciate your concern for those believers who have been impacted by spiritual abuse. They often feel confused and alone. You provide resources for them to sort out their experiences and begin the process of healing that is so vital.”

Ronald Enroth, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology, Westmont College,
Santa Barbara, California
author of Churches That Abuse

Lawrencepic.jpg“David,
I have appreciated your hardwork and the dilligent efforts of others in your group in helping me expose the Watchtower Society. Over the last few years you have supported my Protest Rallies twice a year, provided brochures of this cause to hand out to the public, chaufeured myself and my wife Jane to and from the Protest sites, hotels and airport. As well, you have spread the word far and near about these Protests and about the important issues that surround these Protests and my lawsuit. As a result of our efforts many lives have been saved, figuratively and literally. These Protest Rallies, as you know have attracted National media coverage. For example: When You, my wife Jane and myself had a protest at the Ontario Legislature Building, it was the top news story on CITY TV, and I was interviewed live on CANADA AM, which was broadcasted Nationally. That happened when there was only three of us to protest. There was also other media coverage that day in the papers and radio. There has been an unbelievable amount of media coverage over the years because the issues are of National………..Global importance. I think your ministry in helping victims of cults and educating the public about cults is of the utmost importance and will save many lives. It is obvious to me that we have both found our destiny and the road that the almighty wishes for us to take. We have both been chosen and have been given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many. I cannot thank you and your fellow believers enough for your help and your friendship. I look forward to seeing you this spring. I have chosen a tenative date for the next Protest at Osgoode Hall to be held Friday, June 22, and at the Watchtower Society Headquarters on Saturday, June 23, both starting at 12:00 noon. I hope to see you then.”

Lawrence Hughes
Grace Presbyterian Church
Calgary, Alberta

Financial Report

Again this year, there is not much to report other than what has already been said. Our Lord has seen fit to meet the monthly needs of this ministry leaving no surplus or debt. More details will be available to those who have supported this ministry upon request.

Goals

It is hoped that the Lord will help us bring together a strong team of experience Board members who can work together to oversee this ministry and acquire registered charitable status. We are also looking for multi-lingual Christians in the Toronto area who are skilled in translation work to partner with us along with CFAR and IRR to produce multi-lingual materials to be used here at home and abroad.

Please Pray:

- For wisdom, guidance and direction as we offer apologetic responses to the world around us.
- For those who are angry and/or confused, that the Holy Spirit would use this ministry to speak to their hearts and minds to receive the free gift of salvation that He has to offer.
- For protection from the Evil one who would seek to discourage this ministry.

Thanks

First and foremost to our Lord Jesus Christ for sustaining this ministry this year. Thanks also go to my friends and brothers in Christ who have helped so much this past year, Vincent Poldrugovac, Werner Peters, Neil Bulloch, Ben Brasz, Tony Costa and Renzo Mueller. I’d also like to thank Peter Cavanaugh and Bobby Greer for their technical support. Special thanks to all the individuals and ministries who contributed resources to share with churches in Toronto; MacGregor Ministries, CCN, Living Hope Ministries, RBC Ministries, BiblePlaces.com, RZIM Canada, Zondervan Corporation, Good News Defenders, Jeremiah Films, IRR.org, CFAR, James Beverley, Ron Enroth and Ruth Tucker. I also would like to thank all those who have contributed to this ministry with your financial contributions and your prayers. Thank you also to those who have written kind and encouraging comments both on the web site and privately. Encouraging words are as valuable and needed as money and prayers. Last but not least, I thank my wonderful wife Heather whom I affectionately refer to as ‘Holy Heather full of Grace’ simply because she is and my faith filled son Caleb who never ceases to amaze me in so many ways.

May God Richly Bless You All,

signature.jpg

David Upton

The Apologetic Response
January 2007

The Case for Christ – Again?

CaseForChrist.jpgI did post a review of The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel once before last year around Easter as this is the time that the secular media decides that Jesus is worth looking at. We see Him talked about as being just a man, a guru, a prophet, or even just a myth, a nice bed time story. With the introduction of The Da Vinci Code book and soon to be released movie, we’ll be hearing a lot more about who people think Jesus really is. So in this brief posting, I’d like to introduce to you, once again, The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel as a great antidote to the ideas presented in The Da Vinci Code and other popular works based on gnostic teachings. Lee Strobel has also provided us with a lot of other great materials and resources to not only learn from, but to share with others as well. Visit LeeStrobel.com for plenty of on demand videos and other resources.

The Da Vinci Code – Again?

DVC.jpgYes I know that I’ve already written on this before but now with the movie soon to be released it would seem appropriate to revisit this topic. Now that this book is soon to be released as a film, it seems that refuting it has become something of an industry unto itself. So why is there such an outcry about this book and movie? After all, it’s only fiction and probably just a fad that will die out soon enough and be forgotten. Aren’t we just selling more books and movie tickets by raising such a fuss over it? I mean really, how much damage can this thing do anyway?

These were thoughts going through my head recently as my email box continued to fill with notices of new articles, new books, new DVDs, MP3s, study guides, web sites, etc.. I thought to myself, ‘This is really a little over-kill isn’t it?’ Now don’t misunderstand me, I agree that the basic premise of the story is an affront to Christianity and that many people are being misled and misinformed by it, but I do think that most people can tell the difference between fact and fiction. After a few months, the Da Vinci Code will fade away until it gets released on DVD in about a year or so when we can look forward to all this stuff coming up again.

At least these were my thoughts until I recently heard the Da Vinci Code described and compared to a Tsunami storm. You see a Tsunami hits very fast and very quickly and causes massive damage and loss of life but the storm itself is very short lived. The problem now is that even though the storm may be short lived, the damage is done and can take years, maybe even decades to repair. So in the case of The Da Vinci Code, the church and Christians are the ones who have been damaged and hurt and in need of repair. Well just as a Tsunami never totally obliterates a country, neither will the Da Vinci Code totally obliterate the church. It has however, served as a wake up call to many.

walter.jpgWalter Martin once describe the church as ‘a sleeping giant’. Well, the ‘sleeping giant’ just got a rude awaking from Dan Brown. For most Christians, apologetics has been seen as something better left to the apologists themselves and left out of the church and the mainstream. I remember being told once by a leader in a church, “We’d rather be known for what we are ‘for’ than what we are ‘against.’ ” The idea being that teaching about false teaching would ‘turn people off’ when we should be teaching people the love and forgiveness of Christ and ‘all that good stuff.’

I agree that ‘all that good stuff’ is necessary but now unfortunately by ignoring the importance of apologetics, the church has left it’s members defenseless against attacks like The Da Vinci Code. Now when Christians try to share their faith, they are met with the claims of The Da Vinci Code, all of which have been thoroughly refuted for centuries and available to all, especially now with the ease of access to information on the internet, but because we only want to hear ‘all that good stuff’ we have no answers to these claims and our testimony is suspect.

Not only has the Da Vinci Code been compared to a Tsunami, it has also been compared to an earthquake which also causes massive damage in a short amount of time. Earthquakes are also followed by aftershocks which is What The Da Vinci Code is sure to produce. It already has sparked an increased interest in the gnostic gospels as evidenced by The Jesus Papers and The Gospel of Judas The aftershocks will continue for some time as the popular culture has now accepted Christian bashing as legitimate entertainment.

So what about The Da Vinci Code being just a fad? Well, when we talk about fads, let’s talk about pet rocks and mood rings. These things are fads that we really don’t need to worry about because they have no eternal significance. The Da Vinci Code is a sunami and an earthquake on the church and the world really as many who may have considered the claims of Christ and the gospel message will not anymore after reading this book. So let’s stop worrying about turning people off with apologetics because ‘all that good stuff’ won’t mean much if we can’t reasonably defend it. All of our evangelistic efforts must now be girded with solid reasons for our faith, reasons that can act as an antidote to the poison being fed to us by the mainstream media.

So I was wrong in thinking that all ‘this stuff’ refuting the claims of The Da Vinci Code was over-kill. We need ‘this stuff’ more than ever.

Recommended Resources

Separating Fact From Fiction

Breaking The Da Vinci Code

Jim Garlow Ministries

The Truth About Da Vinci

The Christian CADRE

Da Vinci Code Breaker

DaVinci_Know_Ad.jpg

Dysfunctional Churches?

churchdoors.jpgDysfunctional churches? That sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it. Churches are supposed to be a place for the hurting, broken and searching to go to for rest and healing aren’t they? I mean if you can’t find comfort in a church where can you find it? This is a question asked by those who have been emotionally, spiritually and sometimes even physically abused by those in church leadership. For most victims of abuse, church becomes nothing more than a hurtful memory. Many even reject God altogether believing that the abusers are true representatives of the god they claim to serve so they want nothing to do with a god whose servants hurt people.

When does a church cross over the line from a conventional church to a “fringe-church” status? What is the nature of the process by which any given group shifts into a fringe church or movement? What are the signs or indicators that a given group is becoming abusive of its members and is headed for the edge? When should a member consider bailing out? These are many of the questions that I sought answers for when I discovered that spiritual abuse doesn’t only happen in dangerous religious groups and that mainstream evangelical Christian churches are not immune to the abuses that plague groups we would consider to be cults. I have been amazed at how many Christians I have met in recent years who claim that they have been abused by those who are in leadership positions in evangelical churches.

But what exactly constitutes abuse anyway? What I mean is, I’ve also met Christians who claim that they were abused by churches just because the church would not allow them to ‘speak in tongues’ during the service or publicly question and rebuke the pastor during his sermon. Is this abuse? What about a member who wants to host a small group Bible study in their home on a weeknight using a study guide published by a well known and respected evangelical ministry but is told by the church leadership that they can’t do that because it’s not ‘approved’ by the leadership and they are not ‘qualified’ to lead a small group Bible study in their home? Is this abuse?

To answer these questions and many more related to this topic I went back to a book on my bookshelf that I had read when it was first published in 1992 called Churches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth. On the back cover of this book we read, ” “Fringe” churches and religious groups often manifest sociological and psychological traits that can only be called “abusive”: control-oriented leadership, spiritual elitism, manipulation of members, suppression of dissent, harsh discipline, perceived persecution, to name a few.” I also reread Twisted Scriptures by Mary Alice Chrnalogar and Toxic Faith by Stephen Arturburn and Jack Felton. I had thought that these were the only books on this subject since evangelicals don’t want to admit that it is possible for good churches to go bad. I soon discovered however that there is much more help for the hurting available then I had previously thought. I wrote to Ron Enroth asking him if there was any other material available other than the three books I already had. He directed me to his follow-up book called Recovering From Churches That Abuse as well as The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen and Healing Spiritual Abuse: How To Break Free From Bad Church Experiences by Ken Blue. After a search on the internet, I was encouraged to find many more resources for hurting Christians.

The following is called Dysfunctional Churches and was written by Ronald Enroth and originally published in the 1992, Volume 9, No. 4 issue of Cult Observer:

Dysfunctional Churches

It is common practice for churchgoers in American society to refer to their own congregation as their “church family.”  Students away at college make reference to their “home church.”  Church people sing hymns about being part of “the family of God.” Parents often employ family imagery to convey spiritual content to their children. 

As behavioral scientists remind us all too often, that most basic of social institutions—the family—is increasingly subject to frailty and failure.  The label that is currently popular for unhealthy families is “dysfunctional.”  Unfortunately, sociologists of religion (as well as many ex?members) know that some churches are also dysfunctional, even to the point of being spiritually abusive.  If truth in advertising standards could be applied to religion, some churches would be required to display a sign reading: “Warning: this church could be harmful to your spiritual and psychological health.”

Farfetched?  Not if my own research of the past few years has any validity at all. Sadly, spiritual and pastoral abuse is more prevalent than most people believe.  Like child abuse, it often goes undetected, or else it is strongly denied.  Spiritual abuse is inflicted by persons who are accorded respect and honor in society by virtue of their positions of religious authority and leadership.  When such leaders violate the sacred trust they have been given, when they abuse their authority, and when they misuse their ecclesiastical office to control their congregations, the results can be catastrophic. 

What are the hallmarks of unhealthy, aberrant churches?  The key indicator is control?oriented leadership, ministers who have a need to “lord it over the flock.” Abusive leaders demand submission and unquestioning loyalty.  The person who raises uncomfortable questions or does not “get with the program” is cast aside.  Guilt, fear, and intimidation are used to manipulate and control vulnerable members, especially those who have been taught to believe that questioning their pastor is comparable to questioning God.

Why does a pastor or priest sometimes turn into a spiritual tyrant?  I believe it is because of the human desire to control others and to exercise power over people.  Each of us has been exposed to the temptation of power, whether in the role of spouse, teacher, or parent.  An excessive will to power, coupled with sincere religious motives, can lead to the misuse of spiritual authority. 

More than any other age group, young adults are attracted to abusive churches, their seemingly dynamic programs, and their “take charge” leaders.  Such churches often target young couples during the crucial child?bearing years.  As a result, the energy needed by these young couples for legitimate family interaction is siphoned off into a high intensity cause.  Family obligations are sacrificed, and children’s developmental needs are neglected. 

How can we recognize a healthy church?  In addition to matters of appropriate doctrine, a healthy church is reconciling and restorative, not adversarial and elitist. Members of healthy churches seek to deepen and strengthen their family commitments. Legitimate leaders will welcome dissent and hard questions from members without threat of reprisal.  Trustworthy leaders will encourage accountability, and they will establish checks and balances.

Choose a church carefully and prayerfully.  Remember, not all religion is benign, and not all church experience is beneficial. 

Ronald M. Enroth, Ph.D.

RonEnroth.jpgRonald M. Enroth is a leading scholar and national resource on cults and cultism. His perspectives are heartily welcomed by both the secular and religious society. He is professor of sociology at Westmont College and the author of many books on the cults and the new religions, including The Lure of The Cults & New Religions and Evangelizing the Cults.

Recommended Reading:

ChurchesThatAbuse.jpgChurches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth. Ronald Enroth’s research and writings on cults, sects, and religious aberrations over many years have gained him a national reputation as an authority on unconventional religion. Here he describes hoe the troublesome traits are expressed, not hesitating to name names. Here also is help for victime who have found their way out and for people who work with them to put their lives back together.

RecoveringFromCTA2.jpgRecovering From Churches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth. This book will help the victims of spiritual abuse and their families cope with reentry into the Christian mainstream, and it will prove invaluable to counselors and pastors who are helping these people to find their way. Specific topics, presented through the narrative style of the book, include dispelling emotional confusion, restoring relationships, regaining independence and making other life adjustments, coping with disorientation, returning to reality, and renewing a wholesome personal relationship with God.

ToxicFaith.jpgToxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton. Toxic Faith distinguishes between a healthy faith and a misguided religiosity that traps believers in an addictive practice of religion. It shows how unbalanced ministries, misguided churches, and unscrupulous leaders can lead their followers away from God and into a desolate experience of religion that drives many to despair. Toxic Faith shows readers how to find hope for a return to genuine, healthy faith that can add meaning to life.

TwistedScriptures.jpgTwisted Scriptures by Mary Alice Chrnalogar. Twisted Scriptures: A Path To Freedom From Abusive Churches shows readers how to tell when churches are suppressing freedom of speech, intimidating followers, and distorting the Bible. Twisted Scriptures is invaluable as a self-help guide and as a tool for families and friends to free loved ones from destructive groups. 

subtlepowerSA.jpgThe Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen. Churches are meant to be safe places where spiritual leaders help and equip the members for the work of service. There are some churches, however, where leaders use their spiritual authority to control and dominate others, attempting to meet their own needs for importance, power, intimacy or spiritual gratification. Through the subtle use of the right “spiritual” words, church members are manipulated or shamed into certain behaviors or performance that ensnares in legalism, guilt and begrudging service.

HealingSA.jpgHealing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free From Bad Church Experiences by Ken Blue. Even though church leaders are supposed to be servants to the body of Christ, some use their positions to dominate. They refuse to allow any questions concerning their teachings and demand total surrender to their authority. This book helps victims of such spiritual abuse to heal, and shows Christian leaders how to avoid abusive patterns.

Online Resources:

Spirtual Abuse

Cult or Cultic?

Elements of Spiritual Abuse

Recovery From Spiritual Abuse

SpiritualAbuse.com

Abusive Churches

Spiritual Abuse

World Missions

Earth.jpgSeeing and meeting the need for counter-cult resources in non-English speaking countries has been the mission focus for The Centers for Apologetics Research (CFAR) and the Institute for Religious Research (IRR) for many years now. We don’t really think of cults when we think about missions. Foreign missions are about church planting, building schools and hospitals and delivering food, medicine and clothing to the needy. All of these are much needed and worthwhile efforts and deserve our prayer support and financial backing. So what exactly do cults have to do with Christian missions anyway? Well many would be surprised to know that groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons have been and continue to be very grateful to us for paving the way for them into these mission fields by providing new converts with Bibles and priming them for their own version of the gospel. While they do produce their multi-language materials they have relied heavily on the decades of hard work already done by Christian translators. Paul Carden of CFAR is much more qualified to speak on this issue as he has been on the front lines in foreign missions himself and experienced first hand the Challenge of the cults on world mission fields. The following article written by Paul appeared in the April 2000 issue of Evangelical Missions Quarterly.

Confronting Cults on
World Mission Fields:
Will We Rise to the Challenge?

From Central Asia, an evangelical missionary asks a western parachurch agency for help. His problem: Whenever a Muslim converts to Christ, he or she is immediately set upon by Jehovah’s Witnesses bent on indoctrinating the new believer.

A Christian in Cuba writes: “I have seen a great number of friends and people in search of truth absorbed into religious institutions like the Jehovah’s Witnesses …who claim to hold the truth and that no other church outside of their doctrines practices it and therefore will not be saved. These groups are very much in style in these times, mainly the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are gaining ground like a horrible plague, deceiving sincere people.”

From Moscow another believer writes: “We have lots of sects with cultic tendencies in our region. Could you please help us with materials about those destructive cults? How to fight them, what to do?…Help us, for Christ’s sake!”

When most people think about missions, they usually don’t think about cults.

That may soon change.

Today, the Church of Scientology recruits foreign missionaries in glossy, full-color magazines and boasts that its fastest growth is taking place in Hungary and Russia. A convention of “Bible Students” (Watchtower splinter groups) draws nearly a thousand delegates from across eastern Europe. Latin Americans dabble with the teachings of increasingly popular Japanese sects like Seicho-no-Ie and Mahikari. Disciples of the deceased prophet William Branham produce millions of tracts, pamphlets, and cassettes in languages ranging from Lithuanian to Swahili.

Around the world, cults and controversial new religions are multiplying as they gain cross-cultural sophistication, increase their missionary forces, and step up their translation capabilities. They appear at disaster sites to distribute relief supplies and counsel refugees, and they’re going toe-to-toe with evangelical missionaries in the most unexpected places. Their proliferation points to the need for greater awareness among missions strategists and a wider, more effective response on the field.

Characteristics of cultic groups.

RMB1.jpgToday, while secular scholars define cultic groups largely on the basis of behavioral factors (authoritarianism, unethical manipulation and exploitation of followers), evangelicals focus primarily on a group’s beliefs. Robert M. Bowman, Jr. of Watchman Fellowship defines a cult as “a religious group originating as a heretical sect and maintaining fervent commitment to heresy.” (Bowman further explains that heresy is “Doctrine which is erroneous in such a way that Christians must divide themselves as a church from all who teach or accept it.”)

Of course, Christians regard cultic movements as a danger to the life and outreach of the church because the New Testament says they are. In apostolic times the Body of Christ was faced with cultists and divisive teachers, and the epistles give repeated warnings about deadly spiritual impostors. In Jude 3–4 we are exhorted to “contend earnestly” for “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” because that faith has sworn enemies. In Acts 20:28–31, the apostle Paul warns the elders of Ephesus that such enemies of the gospel appear from both outside the church (“savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock”) and from within (“from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them”). In 2 Corinthians Paul makes it painfully clear how very vulnerable the church was to error (11:3–4, 13–15), and in his second epistle Peter spares no words in warning his readers about the threat of false teachers in their midst, calling them to “be on your guard” (2:1–22, 3:15–17).

Growth patterns.

JW-Increase.jpgCults lost no time in entering the former Soviet Union, where Jehovah’s Witnesses grew at the amazing rate of about 30% per year between 1991 and 1997, tripling in size. If they continue at this pace for the next six years, there will be half a million active Witnesses there, spending 150 million hours per year spreading the Watchtower message. The Witnesses already boast of being the “fifth-largest Christian group in Russia,” and the damage from the cult’s efforts extends well beyond its own membership: Jehovah’s Witnesses distribute nearly 5,000 tons of literature per year in Russia alone — material which undermines trust in the Trinity, the biblical Jesus, and a host of core Christian doctrines, thus inoculating untold numbers of people against the Gospel message, even if they don’t fully commit to joining the sect.

Mormon-Missionaries.jpgThe Mormon Church has found especially fertile soil in Latin America. After English, the languages spoken most widely among Mormons are Spanish and Portuguese, with over 3.5 million combined. Half of the cult’s 18 Missionary Training Centers are in the region. And in Africa — largely off-limits to Mormon missionaries until 1978 because of their church’s racist policies — the “Latter-day Saints” are actively proselytizing in 26 nations, and some half a million Mormons worldwide are of African descent.

In some countries, cults are coming close to achieving a sort of dominance. For example, in the island nation of Tonga, one third of the population is Mormon (as are a quarter of the population of both American and Western Samoa). In Spain there are nearly as many active Jehovah’s Witnesses as Protestant church members, and in Poland the Witnesses outnumber evangelicals outright. Long-term trends are not promising: realistic projections by secular sociologists like the University of Washington’s Rodney Stark estimate that there will be more than 260 million Mormons and 195 million active Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide before the end of the century.

Growth factors.

Two keys to cult expansion are a commitment to mobilization and translation.

The Mormon Church spends an estimated $770 million per year on its missions program and currently fields some 60,000 full-time missionaries in 160 nations who proselytize almost exclusively. At its current rate of expansion, this workforce will increase to 110,000 by the year 2015. (In comparison, the MARC 1998–2000 Mission Handbook reports that 825 U.S. and Canadian Protestant agencies combined are fielding only about 40,000 career and short-term [1 to 4 years] missionaries of all kinds.)

The Jehovah’s Witnesses go a step further, mobilizing virtually all 5.9 million active members for proselytizing; of these, over 700,000 commit 50 hours or more per month to spreading their message. Mormon missionaries receive systematic training in over 50 languages — impressive, until one realizes that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are disseminating their message in over 300 languages, adding as many as 18–25 per year. (The cult’s deceptive version of the Bible, the New World Translation, is now available in 34 languages, from Norwegian and Croatian to Tsonga and Yoruba.)

But today’s cult problem is not limited to U.S.-based multinationals. Some cultic movements, like the Philippines-based “Iglesia ni Cristo” and Mexico’s “Luz del Mundo,” draw their adherents mainly from distinct ethnic and national groups scattered around the world. Others, like the Bahá’í faith, actively seek to erase cultural boundaries, while loose-knit spiritist movements like Umbanda adapt to local cultures.

Beyond the consequences of the sheer numerical growth of cultic movements is, of course, the damage done in human lives as cultic groups split congregations and divide families, sowing confusion and heartache while replacing hope in Christ with empty substitutes for salvation.

Answering the call.

For a variety of reasons, the response of missionaries and nationals in the developing world has not been proportional to the challenge. Evangelicals need to see cult proselytizers not merely as unwanted “competition,” but as a growing mission field in their own right, and some are seizing opportunities for practical outreach:

Roger DeLozier was a successful computer programmer in Maryland when he answered the call of God to help pastors in the former Soviet Union deal with the burgeoning problem of cults. In May of 1998 he joined the team of the Center for Apologetics Research in St. Petersburg, Russia, putting his seminary degrees and twenty years’ experience in cult evangelism to work training pastors and seminary students.

JoelGroat.jpgJoel Groat, research associate at Gospel Truths Ministries in Grand Rapids, realized that his Spanish-language skills could be used to help Christians in Latin America to evangelize Mormons and warn potential converts. Now he is leading nationals and short-term missionaries in evangelistic outreaches to Mormon temple dedication events in Ecuador, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic.

Former Jehovah’s Witness Cindy Marty and her husband, Paul, moved from Minnesota to southern Ukraine to begin AWANA club and help nationals develop small businesses. When local Christians learned of her past they began asking her to share her testimony in churches. As a result, Cindy was able to lead a number of Witnesses to the Lord and warn thousands of Christians about the cult, encouraging some to pursue such ministry full time.

Strategies and solutions.

What strategies can help evangelicals to counter the advance of cults on a broad scale? Missions agencies should seriously consider the following:

Pastoral training should include practical instruction about how to protect congregations from the methods and message of cultic groups and impart biblical discernment skills to lay Christians.

Organizations which emphasize evangelism and discipleship should take special care to specifically inoculate new converts and young believers against cult recruitment, since they are especially vulnerable.

Western missionaries with experience in cult-related research and outreach are especially needed in developing nations and in cultures newly exposed to cult influences — as are specialized organizations to monitor and respond to such groups locally.

One promising development is a gradual increase in the variety and availability of non-English language resources for both evangelism and warning potential cult converts.

Using his computer skills, Roger DeLozier has set up an extensive Russian-language web site of camera-ready tracts and pamphlets on cults and apologetics (http://www.apolresearch.org/eng/cfar_eng.php3) and is developing a Ukrainian-language counterpart. Vestnik, a special bulletin on cults and discernment for pastors, is also online at the site.

Joel Groat and Gospel Truths Ministries produce high-quality literature on Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism in Albanian, Chinese, Estonian, French, Greek, Hungarian, Korean, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Tagalog, much of which is available online at their web site (http://www.irr.org).

Finally, because the battle is a spiritual one, intercessors need to make cult prevention and evangelism part of their global prayer priorities (Eph. 6:12, 18). By God’s grace, followers of counterfeit gospels can be set free to walk with Christ!

paul1.jpgPaul Carden is the executive director of the Centers for Apologetics Research (CFAR), an international network of cult research and education agencies serving eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Latin America. He is seeking firsthand accounts of how cultic movements are impacting evangelical missionary work on the field. To contact him, write to TheCenters@aol.com.