(Originally printed in the Spring 2010 Issue of the MCOI Journal)
Many years ago, in a town far, far away, or so it seems, two youthful believers-Joy and I (Don)-were part of a small church. I had grown up with an Atheist world view but had been a Christian for a few years. Joy had the blessing of being raised in a Christian home and had recently rededicated her life to Christ. We were both passionate about reaching non-believers wherever we found them, which we soon noticed most¬ly were NOT within the church. Along her merry way while in a bowling league, of all places, Joy met some Jehovah’s Witness (JW 1Jehovah’s Witness (JW)=Members of the WTBTS are called Jehovah’s Witnesses.) women about whom she cared. She had heard while growing up that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (WTBTS 2Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS)=The government or clergy of the Jehovah’s Witness) taught their followers (JWs) some weird things, but she wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with their belief system. When they spoke of their beliefs, it sounded pretty normal on the surface. They said they believed in Jesus and the Bible, but Mama had always told her JWs were not real Christians, and Mama had proved to be nearly always right.
Joy asked her pastor about JWs. He did not know much about them, but he gave her a tract. It was not a helpful tract, however, and it was very confusing. She found a book at the local Christian bookstore, but it was old and, again, just not very helpful. There simply was not very much out there at the time. She came close to giving up on this mission, but her heart would not let her-God would not let her.
She then stumbled across a TV interview on the John Ankerberg Show, which featured four women who were ex-JWs, and she finally found a wonderful source of knowledge and helpful materials. Wow, what a shock it was to learn the WTBTS was not just a “bit off,” but was actually a dangerous, life-threatening ban on blood transfusions. Not only that, their Jesus was an angel, their god “Jehovah” was a limited being who did not know the future, and their Bible was flagrantly “doctored” to reflect the WTBTS pet doctrines. If Joy was on a mission before, she was doubly so now, as she learned her dear friends were lost in this cult, and they and their children were in mortal as well as eternal peril.
To us, this became Lesson 1 in evangelism: People invest their time, talent, and treasure to evangelize people they LOVE. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34, NIV) But it also is true in reverse-where your heart is, your treasure will gladly follow. This is what happened to Joy and, in turn, infected me.
I think of these early days of our ministry as I talk with pastors who are trying to figure out how to get their people excited about evangelism. They come up with lots of possible roadblocks, some of which may be part of the problem and some of which may not be. But whatever the contributing factors may be, we believe love for the lost is the key. So we suggest pastors and elders pray that God will bring someone into their peoples’ lives whom they will come to love enough to do what it takes to try to rescue them from Hell. Pastors have another powerful role to play in all this. Especially today, the average Christian in the pew needs to have their eyes opened to see through our gauzy American relativism, the “I’m okay, everyone’s okay” propaganda, and really see their friends and loved ones as utterly lost and careening toward a cliff! This is where good preaching comes in.
Lesson 2: Lost People Need Answers
As time went on, we had opportunities to help others learn about the false teachings of the WTBTS. Many of these were family members of JWs who often were unbelievers, but some were people like Joy-Christians who had become interested in this ministry because God had brought a JW into their life and they were compelled to try to help them find their way to the true God. At that time, we were running pre-recorded, 24-hour, help lines-a simple ministry which involved running the help-line ads in local papers, writing and recording a telephone scripts each week about the WTBTS teachings which would allow people to call and listen without us picking up the phone. JWs need to be able to get information anonymously, because they are terrified for anyone to know they have doubts about their religion. After a time, others stepped up to run the help lines, while we switched over to a live line for people who were not afraid to call and needed information right away. The prerecorded lines referred people to our live line at the end of the message. The phone calls we received were very different. Sometimes, they were JW elders or family members of elders who were calling to argue with us or to tell us how mean we were to pick on the WTBTS this way.
I (Joy) once got a call at 4:00AM from a woman who angrily railed at me and defended the WTBTS particular beliefs for more than 45 minutes. When she would take a breath, I would respond to her charges and try to get her to think. Finally, she let me know she went door to door every week and demanded to know what I ever did in God’s service. I said, “Well, I am sitting here talking to YOU at 4:30 in the morning…” You can only hope that something you say will come back to influence their thinking one day.
Other times a JW or unbeliever called who really wanted information. Craig was just such a call.
With the live line in place, one evening the phone rang, and Craig was on the line. He let me know he was a JW as were his wife and children, but he admitted he had some real questions. His wife was not happy about the fact he doubted what the WTBTS calls “the truth.” (Doubts concerning the doctrine and/or the leadership of the WTBTS is a major no-no for a JW-the kind of no-no that can get one disfellowshiped and shunned.) He said he thought he could perhaps get his wife to come and meet with us, but it would only be a one-time shot. It would be the January 2-the day after New Year’s Day.
Now Christmas is our favorite holiday-but JWs are very offended by Christmas celebration, so rather than offend Craig’s wife right off the bat, we spent all of New Year’s Day taking down Christmas decorations-inside and out! They arrived, and we spent the next four hours going through the Scriptures using their New World Translation (NWT) Bibles and Kingdom Interlinears (KIT) published by the WTBTS. We explained the Trinity, Deity of Christ, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and looked at the history of the WTBTS. It was a real humdinger of a discussion we had on that New Year’s Day. Whew! One of our kitchen chairs got broken in the excitement-it all sounds so funny now.
As they left, Craig was excited and felt the things we had said to them made sense. Darlene, however, was not yet convinced. On the way home, they came to an agreement. They would call and find out if we would talk to the elders by phone and go over these issues with them. Darlene felt that if we wouldn’t talk to their elders, it somehow would prove we were lying. When they arrived home they called. Craig listened while Darlene asked if I would talk to the elders by phone. My response was no. I later learned that at that point, she smiled feeling vindicated-while Craig was a bit downcast. That is until I uttered my next words, “We would rather meet them face to face.”
Well, what an adventure we enjoyed for the next several months! Craig soon accepted the Lord, and we helped him find a good church in their area. Darlene kept trying to get the JW elders to meet with us, but also decided she would accompany Craig and the kids to church. The elders kept refusing, the family kept going to church and meeting with us to work out the doctrinal issues, and it wasn’t long before Darlene let go of the WTBTS and became a Christian as well, along with the children. Because of the one phone call, an entire family came to the Lord! They were unbelievers who had questions.
There are so many people like Craig and Darlene-people who desperately need answers. Before he called us, Craig had called a Catholic Priest, since he had been raised Catholic, but the man had no answers for him-had no clue how to help him. Most people caught up in a cult would not call a church of any kind, but even if they did, how many churches are equipped to handle these types of questions? As important as it is to pastor a church or serve as a missionary, there are other important areas of ministry as well. There is a huge mission field right here at home! This is the mission field Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. has been designed to reach.
Lesson 3: You May Be the Answer to Someone’s Prayer
One day Joy received a call on the live line from a JW woman who said she was severely depressed and considering suicide. She was overwhelmed by all the WTBTS dictates. She said she would leave the organization, but she could not bear the fact that if she left, she then would be responsible for her children being destroyed at Armageddon. There are many severely depressed JWs out there in just such a condition-suffering in silence, since to voice doubt or weakness is to invite censure within the WTBTS organization. She was afraid to talk to me, and indeed, she would not give me her name, but she was desperate enough to dare to see what I might have to say. I talked to her at some length, answered her questions as well as informed her of many of the problems with the WTBTS history and doctrine. She had gotten the number from a recorded help line, but she finally asked me WHY I would run such a help line and why was I so interested in JWs. So I told her about meeting JW women on a bowling league and coming to care about them, etc. I was shocked when she told me she knew who I was and proceeded to tell me she had bowled with me for years on this same league! She did at last give me her name so I could send cassette tapes and documents to her. It was a pleasant shock to realize I had been able to help a friend. She told me later-after she and her family were all born-again Christians-she had been the one who had suggested to the group of JW friends to join this bowling league years earlier. This woman had been a JW for 24 years and her husband for 35. As it turns out, he had been wracked by doubts as well, but could not admit it to her for fear of … you guessed it … being responsible for the family being destroyed at Armageddon. They both became believers and joined a Christian Church. We continued meeting with them for a time to answer their questions and “unwind their minds” from cult doctrine and practice. At one point, we were told the husband’s elderly aunt, who was a Christian, had been praying for this couple for 35 years! We were the answer to this faithful woman’s prayer! The more we have met with people in false religious movements, the more we have come across this phenomenon-a friend or family member who is faithfully praying for their deliverance and salvation. Being the answer to someone else’s prayer is a great responsibility and one we take seriously.
Lesson 4: Rescuers Sometimes Need Rescue
In the Jan./Feb. 1996 MCOI Journal, we carried the story of Tina.3Tina’s Story (http://www.midwestoutreach.org/Pdf%20Journals/1996/96janfeb.pdf) starting on page 8 Tina, who lived in Indiana (we are headquartered in Illinois), was a very devoted Roman Catholic whose son-in-law, Terry, had been a JW for some years. Her daughter Deanna (Terry’s wife) had just informed her that she would no longer be celebrating holidays, because she was becoming a JW. To say Tina was concerned was an understatement. She was stricken! How could her daughter leave the one true (Roman Catholic) church? And if her daughter left the faith, who would pray for Tina when she was (someday) in purgatory? Tina went to her priest … to no avail! The priest told her not to worry-everything would be alright! Tina was not comforted. Others to whom she spoke did not seem to have any solutions either. At one point, she spoke with her son in Nebraska who had just come across an ad in his local paper for our JW live line. He gave her the number. Tina called. We mailed her audio tapes, books about the WTBTS, and photo documentation showing the extreme problems in the history and doctrine of the WTBTS. Don regularly talked to her by phone, teaching her what she should say to her daughter, and how she might handle the situation. She would visit often as we taught her what to say, how to respond, and essential doctrine. We continually suggested she ask thought-provoking questions, without pressure for answers, and see what would happen.
One day, Tina called very upset to say that Terry had called and said he had heard she was reading “apostate material” (any material which questions WTBTS teaching is considered “apostate”-and anyone possessing “apostate material” could be considered an “enemy”), and he wanted her to bring it over so he could see it. She was frightened and didn’t know what to do. We reminded her to keep it “low key” and to keep the focus on the WTBTS organization. In fact, we told her to take the books and materials over there but leave them in her car. Then, when Terry and Deanna asked to see the materials, tell him the truth-she had been told that if she gave them the materials, and their elders found out, the elders would forbid them to see her. We prayed with her. Tina loaded up the materials and drove over. When she went in and was asked for the materials, she told Terry and Deanna she would rather have a relationship with them in the WTBTS than to give them the materials and have no relationship with them anymore at all. Terry and Deanna both stated unequivocally that the elders would never do such a thing, and Terry marched himself out to the car to get the materials. He and Deanna sat up until the wee hours of the morning examining the books and materials and called the next day to tell Tina they were leaving the WTBTS. Tina was thrilled.
We began meeting with Terry and Deanna on a regular basis to answer their lingering questions. As we met, they came to understand and accept the Gospel, and they became born-again believers. We helped them find a good church in their area. But, along the way, daughter Deanna became concerned about her mother’s spiritual welfare. They began asking questions about the Roman Catholic Church and their beliefs and came to realize Tina was not born-again. So, we began teaching them how to ask questions and not make accusations.
The WTBTS and the Catholic Church are quite different, but they have some glaring similarities that can make Catholics very uncomfortable when these issues are gently brought to their attention. Both offer “organizational salvation”-the person is saved by their relationship with the organization, rather than their relationship to Jesus Christ. In both systems, works are needed for salvation, and the “salvation” they offer is never secure. Grace is a word both organizations use, but neither understands the concept. Both offer another mediator besides Jesus-Catholicism offers Mary, while the WTBTS offers the elite 144,000 class as their mediator. And there are many other prickly parallels. The issue of Mary came up between them, and when it did, Tina called and said we needed to meet.
They all made the trip together from Indiana, and we carefully explained the Gospel and answered Tina’s questions this time. Poor Tina-she didn’t think she could give up her Catholicism and especially her Marian devotion. In fact, according to Terry, Deanna and Tina, she had so many Roman Catholic statues, it was like a mini St. Peter’s Basilica at her house. We called, and put her on the phone with one of our Board of Directors and his wife, Bill and Joanne Kalin, who are former Roman Catholics, and they spent time listening and sharing their experience of leaving the Catholic Church. About two weeks later, Deanna called to say Tina had accepted Christ, and they had all of the statues in the driveway and wanted to know what to do with them. This was a first for us — what do you do with unwanted used statuary anyway? Joy thought it would be fun to take the statues over to Bill and Joanne’s house in the middle of the night and set them up in their front yard-but we thought better of it.
Several years later, Tina, Deanna and Terry gave their testimonies at the Witnesses Now For Jesus Convention in New Ringgold, PA.4The audio can be purchased from Blue Mountain Christian Retreat (http://www.bmcr.org/media.aspx) under the title, “3 for the price of 1” and is very encouraging. Tina’s husband, Jim, came to the convention to hear them speak. (Tina, Deanna, and Terry had been praying for his salvation for years.) While they were giving their testimonies, Jim began weeping, and before the night was over, he was a child of God.
One phone call from one lost Roman Catholic woman looking to rescue her family from a cult-but God took us all on an adventure which brought the entire family (including Terry and Deanna’s children) to “…the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). And their story is out there to help others.
Lesson 5: God Reaches Non-believers in Unexpected Ways
Mike called the help line, concerned that his wife, Lynn, was in a cult. She had gotten ensnared into the WTBTS when they came to her door and offered her a “free Bible Study.” We met Mike for lunch, and one of my first questions was, “What do you have to offer her if she leaves the group?” He was puzzled. He was a non-practicing Roman Catholic and wasn’t particularly interested in God. He simply wanted his wife out of this group-right away-or he would divorce her. Obviously, Mike did not understand the spiritual deception of false religion. I thanked him for the lunch, but I pointed out that getting her to come out of the WTBTS organization could take a very long time-and in fact, she may never change her mind. If he wasn’t committed to the marriage and had nothing to offer her in place of her new-found beliefs, there did not seem to be much point in pursuing this any further. We parted ways. Mike called about six months later, said he loved his wife, and wanted to pursue it, since this religion was coming between them and causing them severe marital problems. We began meeting once a week.
Joy, as was her habit, gave him six to ten audio tapes at every meeting. (Like Mrs. Nelson being the neighborhood coffee pusher in the old time Folgers commercials, Joy was the neighborhood audio-tape pusher.) These tapes were about the WT¬BTS and their peculiar doctrines and practices, but they were also about the true faith, about salvation, and peace with God. Each week Mike would return with his stack of tapes and leave with more. We answered his questions and prayed for them.
One day, we came home a few minutes late for our meeting with Mike and found him sitting in his car listening to audio tapes. As we approached, he looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “I don’t know what is happening to me. I used to be normal, and now all I do is listen to these tapes.” Mike accepted the Lord, and soon, so did his children. He began attending a good Bible-teaching church with his children. This caused great consternation for Lynn, of course.
It was finally arranged for us to meet with Mike and Lynn and her elders in a setting where Mike and his wife could sit and observe without pressure while we and her leaders had to defend each of our respective positions. Lynn was rattled by that meeting, but she never left the group; she eventually divorced him. It was painful for Mike, but God used his loving attempt as a non-believer to rescue his wife to bring him and his children into a saving relationship with God.
Lesson 6: Ex-cultists Need Help Too
Leading someone to faith in Jesus Christ out of a cult or false religion, discipling them, and trying to help them find a good church is a calling-a mission right here in our own back yard. Often, churches do not know how to help a person who is lost in a cult, and they often fail to understand the particular issues with which an ex-cultist is dealing. Since they had been deceived and dragged into a religious organization by those who claimed to be “Bible teachers,” they now tend to be more skeptical of true and faithful Bible teachers. They just don’t know how to tell the difference! And church leaders do not understand the struggle the ex-cultists are facing with this. The ex-cultist has also had their heads filled with all manner of false teachings, and even after rejecting and leaving the group, they still are steeped in false teaching until they come across someone who knows the peculiar doctrines of the group very well, can untangle them, and help the ex-cultist distinguish truth from falsehood. We have received calls from more than one pastor asking how to best minister to the new ex-cultist who has walked into his church. We tell them to be very patient with such a person, let them ask ques¬tions, and hopefully, find someone who is trained in apologetics to take them under their wing and help them make the transition.
The work of the pastor and the work of a missionary are different, but they do overlap in some ways. The pastor’s work is primarily inside the church and the missionary’s work is primarily outside the church. Missionaries learn about the culture, language, and customs of the groups to whom they minister. This is true whether it is overseas or here in America. Even though we live in the same neighborhoods, work at the same jobs, shop at the same stores, etc., each cult and/or new religious group has a unique world view, language (definitions for terms), and practices. They may be using the same words heard in any church on any given Sunday, but the group has assigned different meanings to those terms. Here’s just one very important example: Jesus is the Son of God (Mt. 14;32), the Creator (Jn. 1:3) and sustainer of all things (Heb. 1:3) and is in fact, God (Jn. 20:28)! To all false religious groups though, Jesus may be called the “son of God,” but they allege he, himself, is not God Almighty. To every false group, Jesus is always some lesser being-an angel, or a prophet, or a great teacher-but not God come in the flesh!
The work of the missionary is to learn, understand, and figure out how to cross the cultural and language barriers in order to communicate the saving Gospel, make a case for the Christian faith, and expose the teachings of the group as false. You can imagine how “popular” such work is in our relativistic culture. Even within the Body of Christ, there is a certain coolness toward any ministry involved in pointing out where someone or some group is wrong, but such is our calling. As missionaries, our task is to help the ex-cultist make the transition and get them into a solid, Bible-teaching church.
Lesson 7: Informing and Warning the Church
One of the main tasks of pastors is boundary maintenance-they are the shepherds, the watchmen. According to Acts 20:28-31, the Apostle Paul’s charge to the Ephesian elders was not only to guard the flock from false teachers (“savage wolves”) who were outside trying to sneak in, but also from false teachers who would arise from within. A large part of the Pastoral Epistles concentrate on these issues as well. Another of Paul’s focal points is the “…equipping of the saints for the work of ministry …” (Eph. 4:11-13, NKJ).5We develop these issues in more depth in the Summer/Fall MCOI Journal article “An Indistinct Sound” (http://www.midwestoutreach.org/ Pdf%20Journals/2005/05sumfall.pdf) Sometimes pastors and missionaries to New Religious Movements and cults come into conflict as false teachings and false teachers infiltrate or even promoted within the church. While there still are many wonderful pastors and elders who take their responsibilities very seriously, this charge to protect the flock has been neglected by a substantial percentage of Christian churches today. As a sad result, outright apostasy is on the rise. A large part of apologetics’ ministry is helping pastors to fulfill their mission to guard the flock from wolves without and within, as well as educate the average Christian so they are able to recognize false teachers who come to their door or come into their church. In these spiritually tumultuous days, days of encroaching spiritual darkness and apostasy, it behooves every Christian “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
It is not pleasant to address problems within the church. Not at all. But it is our conviction that if we do not have the courage or integrity to expose false teachers or address major false teachings within the church, how can we, in good conscience, criticize false teachers and false teachings outside the church?
There are many examples of false teachers and false teachings finding their way into the church. Undoubtedly, it is also far more difficult today for pastors fully to carry out Acts 20:28-31 than in past generations, because there are so many sources of alternate spiritual truth-radio, television, bookstores, and internet-that compete with the local church for our attention and spiritual instruction. Flock members are “feeding” on a lot of junk food out there. There are televangelists promising greater spirituality in a much shorter time if we follow their lead. Many books and programs offer financial prosperity, deeper truths, dramatic “revivals,” spectacular “miracles,” physical healings, supposed healing of memories, deliverance from demons and addictions, and on and on and on. There is Osteen and Oprah and Benny and Deepak, and who knows who is new this week, or has the latest gimmick. There is also the so-called Evangelical left with their “emerging” spirituality-highlighting feelings and relationships while unceremoniously dumping essential doctrine, which they view as divisive. How many Christians have read or are currently reading The Shack without having a clue of its egregiously heretical nature. This stuff is walking right into the church on the shoes of some of our parishioners. And some of it is just slipping by the “watchman.” Just keeping up with all of the false teaching in order to keep it out of the local church is a full-time job, especially since some of it unfortunately comes from well-known and/or trusted Christian sources.
One example is Gwen Shamblin and her Weigh Down Workshop. Her first book, Weigh Down Workshop was published by Double Day, sold over a million copies, and launched her into the national spotlight as a Bible-based diet program. Her second book, Rise Above, was published by none other than Thomas Nelson Publishers. Gwen and her video program were already making good headway into local churches, and with Thomas Nelson’s imprimatur, she was solidly ensconced in church-sponsored small groups.
No one really questioned her doctrine for two primary reasons. First, it was viewed as a weight-loss program for women’s ministry and not a Bible-teaching program. Second, Thomas Nelson Publishers is regarded as a Christian publishing house, and it was assumed (as is often the case) they had someone theologically astute vetting the work. So, by the time we at MCOI were first called, over a million Christians had participated in her program, at a cost of $105.00 each, in addition to her conferences, and sales of other items. Christians had already sent her in excess of 100-million dollars. Gwen was and continues to be anti-Trinitarian, teaches a works-based salvation, claims the entire church is “apostate,” asserts she is God’s prophet for today, and workshop participants need to leave the “apostate” church (which was hosting her workshops) and join her “one true church”-Remnant Fellowship. She was teaching that in over 60,000 churches across 30 denominations when we received our first request for information! 6We have written 4 articles on Gwen Shamblin and her organization. Weighted Down with False Doctrine, Weigh Down Workshop — A Cult?, Camping With Gwen, and The Pied Piper is Shamblin
One of the calls we received a few years ago was from Pam Prescott. She asked if she could tell her own story and so, carry on Pam!
When my daughter Aimee mentioned that she joined a group called Weigh Down Workshop, I was not con¬cerned. After all, Gwen Shamblin and Weigh Down had been around for years! I knew many people who had been involved. Several years ago, there was even a group at my church.
But soon I noticed some changes in Aimee’s behavior and new jargon that she would slip into conversation when we talked. She frequently spoke of “obedience” and talked negatively about “praise of man.” On Christmas Day, 2007, she told me there was more to having eternal life than just accepting Jesus as your Savior. She said that it depended on obedience. If you were struggling with sin, and had idols you could not lay down, there was NO assurance you were going to heaven. My heart broke, as I knew Aimee and her family were in serious spiritual trouble.
My concern escalated when Aimee and her daughter MacKenzee (11) became involved in Gwen Shamblin’s church-Remnant Fellowship. Husband Steve and son David (18) soon followed. I watched my grandchildren’s lives change because of their new involvement in Remnant. David did not attend his Senior Prom because their family would be traveling to Tennessee (1200-miles round trip) to attend one of Remnant’s festivals.7Part
of Gwen Shamblin’s teaching includes the necessity of keeping the Jewish Festivals and Holy Days with the exception of Sabbath Keeping. MacKenzee cried as she and I decorated gravesites that Memorial Day. She said “Grandma, I don’t think I am going to Heaven. I am just not good enough!” At 11 years old, MacKenzee was being indoctrinated to Remnant’s teaching of earning your way to Heaven.
I looked at the Remnant Fellowship web site and saw that the group-which called themselves a “New Religious Movement”-did not believe in the Trinity. I knew this was BIG TROUBLE. I had always believed when a group denied the Trinity, it was not Christian.
I had been a Christian for over 30 years. I had been teaching Bible studies to adults for 20 years, and was Sunday school superintendent for 10 years. I was on the church board. I spoke to various Christian groups. But after 30 years of being a committed, growing Christian and very involved in my church, I knew I did not have a solid foundation and could not address this issue. While I believed in the Trinity, I could not define it. Did it really matter if we worship Jesus as either a.) God or b.) the Son of God (but not one with God)-as long as we worship Him? I did not know!
Surely, I thought, my church, with about 4,000 in attendance each week, would be equipped to handle this situation. But, one pastor said the church was not experienced in dealing with cults, since we did not have many in our area. (I thought about the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall I passed on the way to church every week…) I called another of our pastors, who upon looking online, confirmed that Remnant Fellowship was, indeed, a cult and referred me on to someone in another state who might be of assistance. After three more referrals, I was put in touch with Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. and Don and Joy Veinot.
Praise God! Don and Joy knew all about cults and New Religious Movements, and they were well acquainted with Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship. As I spoke with Don on the phone, he assessed Aimee’s family’s situation and taught me some basic foundational truths. He calmed me down and coached me on how to interact with Aimee, what to expect from Remnant Fellowship and literally walked me through countless conversations and encounters with Aimee and Steve. Best of all, he and Joy prayed.
All the while, the clock was ticking as Aimee and Steve became more involved with Remnant Fellowship and planned to move to Tennessee in the summer so David could begin college there in August. Obviously, Aimee and Steve were being coached from Remnant on how to deal with me. They were absolutely militant.
But finally one night, Aimee came to my house filled with anxiety and confessed she was extremely confused and was desperate to know truth. I suggested we contact someone who was an expert on these things, and Aimee agreed to meet with Don Veinot. I called to set up the appointment for later in the week. Don agreed to travel five hours to Aimee and Steve’s home to meet with them.
However, within a couple of days, Aimee had a change of heart and was back to her militant self again. She no longer wanted to talk with Don. She assured me that Remnant teaching was “truth,” and she was on the right track.
When Aimee called Don to cancel, he engaged her in conversation for over an hour … both of them with Bibles open. He piqued enough interest that Aimee and Steve decided they should keep the appointment and listen to what Don had to say.
By time Don arrived at their home, Aimee and Steve had found Don’s MCOI Journal articles online and the Holy Spirit had opened their eyes to truth. Don went through the key verses and explained them in their true context, talked about world views, and the importance of understanding basic doctrine in order to be able to guard against false teachers. He cautioned them to check out what the pastor may be teaching. Aimee and Steve clearly saw they were involved in a cult and made the decision to leave Remnant Fellowship immediately.
Today, Aimee and her husband are attending a Bible-based church and weekly classes to increase their knowledge of sound doctrine. They take advantage of opportunities to reach their friends in Remnant Fellowship as the Lord opens doors. My grandson David is involved in a campus ministry at college and planning a career in some type of ministry. MacKenzee is secure in her relationship with Christ and active in her youth group. I have continued to read and increase my knowledge of foundational doctrines. After all of the study and preparation through this ordeal, the Lord recently opened a door for me to share the Gospel with my 79-year-old parents. They eagerly prayed to receive Christ after years of being uninterested and even somewhat hostile toward the Gospel. I have other children who are not following the Lord yet; but I am trusting that in the Lord’s time, they also will give their lives to Christ.
The Financial Lesson
It is a sad reality that pointing out heresy, false teachings, and false teachers within the church can be quite unpopular, and it does affect our financial support. For about five years in the 1990s, we had a weekly radio program that focused on apologetics issues. When our program was about JWs or Mormons or other recognized cults, our callers were overwhelmingly supportive of what we were saying; but when we talked about Benny Hinn or some other false teacher who had fans within the churches, we got some angry calls from Christians as well. How could Hinn be a false teacher? Did he not broadcast on a Christian radio station? There seems to be a sort of “white hat” vs. “black hat” mentality in a large part of the church. All teachers viewed as being within the church “community” wear white hats and should not be questioned; only those demonstrably outside the church community are fair game for exposure. Many Christians were supportive of our MCOI Journal exposure of Gwen Shamblin; however, some (even some pastors) were angry we would question their decision to allow her to teach in churches. Some people were angry when we reasoned that Y2K was not likely to bring about the end of civilization as we know it. After all, lots of Christians on TV said it probably would. There are many more examples we could give. People sometimes accuse us of being “divisive,” or sometimes we are called “doctrinaire.” This can be a difficult ministry for those reasons. The stands we must take hurt us financially as well. People will not support this type of ministry if they feel it is being divisive; or they will drop their support if they are a fan of someone we expose as a false teacher. Hence, we always have been bi-vocational. Although we would be thankful to be fully supported, we have maintained other employment to provide our personal support and make up for any short falls in the ministry finances.
Another dilemma MCOI and other missions to cults and New Religious Movements face is that most churches either don’t know of our existence; or if they do, they do not view it as a mission to support. Although they may be glad we are a resource when needed, they do not participate in financial and prayer support. If there is an advantage to this, it would be that no one honestly can say we are in it for the money. The lessons for us are simple:
1. People invest their time, talents and treasures where their heart is
2. Lost People Need Answers
3. You May Be the Answer to Someone’s Prayer
4. Rescuers Sometimes Need Rescue
5. God Reaches Non-believers in Unexpected Ways
6. Ex-Cultists Need Help Too
7. The Church Needs Help and Information
8. All missions, including this one, need financial support.
This is not exhaustive, but rather it is merely a “tip of the iceberg.” This is not a ministry Joy and I would have chosen had we even known of its existence 30 years ago. It is a ministry for which I thank God every day that He called and entrusted to us in spite of ourselves. The havoc which false teaching brings is difficult to watch, but the rewards are compounded when we have the opportunity to witness someone’s eyes light up as they come to understand Who Jesus Christ is, or how to understand the Doctrine of the Trinity, or explain the physical Resurrection. As they, in turn, get passionate about their faith and reaching those about whom they really care, the kingdom is expanded. None of us will know the full extent of our efforts on this side of Heaven. Like the apostles, we persevere to help the church and reach the lost-“I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12).
Don and Joy Veinot are co-founders of Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc., which is a national apologetics ministry and mission to new religious movements based in Wonder Lake, IL. He and Joy, his wife of 37 years, have been involved in discernment ministry as missionaries to New Religious Movements since 1987. Don is on the Board of Directors for Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR), a consortium of discernment ministries. In addition to being staff researchers and writers for the Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. Journal and co-authors of A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, they have been published in the CRI Journal, PFO Quarterly Journal, Campus Life Magazine and other periodicals. Don was ordained to the ministry by West Suburban Community Church of Lombard, IL at the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, Israel in March of 1997. They have two adult children and three grandchildren.
|↑1||Jehovah’s Witness (JW)=Members of the WTBTS are called Jehovah’s Witnesses.|
|↑2||Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS)=The government or clergy of the Jehovah’s Witness|
|↑3||Tina’s Story (http://www.midwestoutreach.org/Pdf%20Journals/1996/96janfeb.pdf) starting on page 8|
|↑4||The audio can be purchased from Blue Mountain Christian Retreat (http://www.bmcr.org/media.aspx) under the title, “3 for the price of 1” and is very encouraging.|
|↑5||We develop these issues in more depth in the Summer/Fall MCOI Journal article “An Indistinct Sound” (http://www.midwestoutreach.org/ Pdf%20Journals/2005/05sumfall.pdf|
|↑6||We have written 4 articles on Gwen Shamblin and her organization. Weighted Down with False Doctrine, Weigh Down Workshop — A Cult?, Camping With Gwen, and The Pied Piper is Shamblin|
of Gwen Shamblin’s teaching includes the necessity of keeping the Jewish Festivals and Holy Days with the exception of Sabbath Keeping.