The Super Apostle Series
Read this article first to get yourself up to speed regarding Super Apostles. This introductory series consists of sixteen mini-articles from the Cultwatch Director’s weekly newspaper column. When they first appeared in early 2003 they caused a massive stir. Many positive reactions. Also some abusive emails and phone calls from certain upset Pastors. Read them for yourself and find out what the fuss was about.
1st Article “Attack of the super Apostles.”
2nd week “What is the Local Church?”
3rd week “Super Apostles and Church Government”
4th week “Super Apostles Authority Claims”
5th week “Don’t Touch the Lord’s Anointed!”
6th week “Umbrellas of Divine Protection”
7th Week “Thus Said The Lord”
8th week “Are They Really Apostles?”
9th Week “Exclusivism”
10th Week “Money Money Money”
11th week “Wasting God’s Money”
12th Week “Favoritism”
13th Week “Lazy Preaching”
14th Week “Power Plays”
15th Week “Eject! Eject!”
16th Week “Advice For Pastors”
Attack of the Super Apostles
Mind Control is a series of psychological practices that allow unscrupulous leaders to manipulate the people under them (read the Cultwatch site www.HowCultsWork.com if you do not understand how Mind Control works). The cults are where you find Mind Control since those practices allow money, effort, and obedience to be easily extracted from cult followers. However, in our recent past, Mind Control practices made inroads into the Christian Church, and tremendous damage resulted. It all started three decades ago with six men – Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Don Basham, Ern Baxter, and John Poole – who in the 1970s propagated a church government of delegated authority and covenant loyalty under their organization “Christian Growth Ministries”, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Their teaching was known as the Shepherding or Discipling Movement and effectively acted as a Christian “wrapper” for Mind Control, giving these practices a veneer of biblical respectability. They taught a covenant love that evidenced devotion to God by submission to a man; shepherds ruling over sheep in a pyramid structure. Down through the pyramid went the orders, and up through the pyramid went the tithes. Some shepherds even started placing personal revelations (rhëma) on a par with Scripture. However the excesses of the movement soon became evident even to those who had started it. Derek Prince was the first to break away, repenting publicly in 1981, saying, “I feel as though I have offended the Lord Himself”, and “these particular emphases very easily lent themselves to an unhealthy submission resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders”. Over time we understand all of the other five men rejected the unbiblical monster they had created, and so the teaching disappeared from the Christian Church, doomed to be exiled forever to pseudo Christian cults like the International Church of Christ. Or so it seemed. Not many Christian leaders are students of recent church history and so some things that should not have been forgotten, were lost.
Morphing its wrapper by using different phrases in place of old, and being championed by different leaders, the Mind Control monster is re-emerging in the Christian Church. Once again it is being touted as the next wave, the way forward for the Church, and a great deal of Christian Leaders are embracing it. The ordinary Christian may have heard rumblings of it’s advance as new wrapper phrases for these Mind Control concepts are bandied about. Phrases that are familiar to Christians, but unbeknown to them have new meanings; phrases like “Apostolic”, “The Local Church”, “Apostolic Mandate”, “Submission”, “Tithing”, “Church Government”, “Authority”, “Umbrella of Divine Protection”, “Set Man”, “Anointing”, “Fivefold Ministry”, and others. Instead of being called Shepherds, power seeking leaders are now calling themselves “Apostles” and demanding that all Christendom come to heel. God, they say, has anointed them as the new leaders. Only they can hear from God, and unless you obey and submit to them you cannot do God’s will.
The prime mover for this second wave of Mind Control is Charles Peter Wagner, born in New York City in 1930. Wagner calls the movement the “New Apostolic Reformation” and has started several organizations to promote it including the “New Apostolic Roundtable” and the “International Coalition of Apostles”. Wagner is said to have been designated the “pre-eminent Apostle”, although it is hard to be sure since much of their manoeuvring is done in secret. But assuming this to be the case, then Wagner would be at the top of the new pyramid, with “Translocal” apostles below him, “Apostles to the City” below them, pastors below them, and so on. In his book “Apostles Of The City: How To Mobilize The Territorial Apostles For City Transformation” Wagner’s writing on the subject of Apostles to the City defines them as those, “whom the Holy Spirit gives an anointing for extraordinary authority in spiritual matters over the other Christian leaders in the same city”.
Already this “Attack of the Super Apostles” has infiltrated the Christian Church. Cultwatch has been contacted by an increasing amount of people who have read our www.HowCultsWork.com article and are saying that they have seen these Mind Control practices at work in their Churches, under the guise of the Super Apostles’ teaching. City Pastors have even been called to meetings where another Pastor in their city has informed them that God has given him the “Apostolic Mandate” to rule their city, and so their submission is required. Christians are being damaged while the Super Apostles themselves are growing rich.
Therefore, since this is such a serious issue, we are starting a series of Cultwatch Comments that will look at this movement in depth.
What is the Local Church?
In this our second instalment of our series regarding Super Apostles we explore one of their most cherished phrases – “Local Church”, what exactly do they mean when by this?
Most Christians would understand the term Local Church to mean the church closest to them; the church down the road, or a church in their suburb. Simply because the word “local” means local, and “church” means church. When thinking about a local church most people would imagine a place that supports their members in ministry (including those in ministries not owned by that church), promotes unity in the Christian body by working with other churches, and has no problem with people leaving to go to another church (if God has called them to do so). A local church’s primary activities would be: gathering together to worship God, corporately performing good works, building each other up in Christ, and reaching out to the lost. And in addition, the local church is an organization with an administrative system that hires the buildings, owns the music gear, supplies the youth group van, files yearly accounts, pays the Pastors, and does numerous other tedious but necessary tasks. Finally, if we asked the Christian in a local church where their loyalty lies, they would say they are loyal to God, not to the church organization, but they would point out that they show their loyalty to God by being part of the church fellowship (Hebrews 10:25).
In contrast, the Super Apostles’ definition of Local Church means all Christians within one city being under one hierarchical administrative system.
Their definition rests on their assumption that Christians in the early church were all members of a single church in each city; the church in Cenchrea, the church in Ephesus, and so on. And while the church met in different places within the city, the whole church was supposedly run by a single overall city-wide administration.
Now the Bible undoubtedly refers to all Christians in a certain city by using the name of the city, in the same way we could use the phrase “the Church in New Zealand” to mean all the Christians in the country of New Zealand. But from Scripture we cannot tell that there was one administrative system over all the believers in each city (see section 6.5 of the article “Authoritarian Church Leadership and the Individual Freedom of Church Members” at www.cultwatch.com/AuthoritarianLeadership.html for a discussion regarding this point).
It is important that we understand the implications of the Super Apostle’s definition of Local Church. We can best do this by viewing the world through the eyes of a Super Apostle. Our Super Apostle knows that God has given him the “Apostolic Mandate” for the city. Therefore his church’s administrative system has been anointed by God to rule all believers in the city. Any believer who will not submit is rebellious and outside of God’s will. In fact, since they refuse to yield that implies that they are not really Christians; after all, real Christians would want to do God’s will, wouldn’t they?
It is easy to see where this thinking leads. The Super Apostles “Local Church” definition lays the foundation for exclusivism (exclusivism will be discussed later in this series) found in the Super Apostle churches. Exclusivism, of course, is a primary component of Mind Control (read the Cultwatch site www.HowCultsWork.com if you do not know what Mind Control is). What is more, their Local Church definition leads to extreme disunity in the body of Christ, since no church will have anything to do with “outsiders”. This is also the reason that Super Apostles rail against other churches and Para-church organizations, since these organizations are not under their control. For a Super Apostle, nothing is legitimate unless it is within their domain.
If asked, members of a Super Apostle church would say their loyalty is to God, but in practice their loyalty is to their church organization. The “Local Church” becomes the focus of their lives; it is all-consuming. They think that being absolutely loyal to their church and it’s leaders is how they show their loyalty to God.
Now that we understand what the Super Apostles mean by “Local Church”, we are ready to examine another of their favorite phrases.
Super Apostles and Church Government
In this third instalment of our series exposing the Super Apostles we focus on one of their most cherished concepts, that of “Church Government”.
The Super Apostles claim the New Testament Church was run by a governmental system, and that system was a Theocracy. The Super Apostles desire to “restore” Theocracy to the modern Church, with themselves, of course, at the head.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Theocracy as “A form of government by God or god directly through a priestly order”.
An actual Super Apostle applies this Theocracy idea by building his church’s one over one structure thus: “God the ultimate source of all authority”, over “Jesus Christ the head of the Church”, over “Pastor [Name Removed] – Apostolic ministry under the headship of Jesus Christ”, over “Local Pastor – Under delegated authority of Pastor [Name Removed]“, over “Local Eldership – Plurality, co equality of eldership as far as persons but not as far as divine ability and gifting and experience are concerned”, over “Ministry overseers, department leaders – i.e. youth, children, cell groups, worship team, ushers, security etc.”, over “Cell leaders”.
As keen as the Super Apostles are on their beloved Theocracy they face formidable opposition from Scripture, Matthew 20:25-28 “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” See also Mark 10:42-43 and Luke 22:25-26.
The Book “Damaged Disciples” by Ron & Vicki Burks was a by-product of the first wave of Mind Control that swept the Church in the Seventies. It has this to say regarding Matthew 20:25-28, “The word translated ‘to lord it over’ appears in Matthew 20:25-26, Mark 10:42-43, Luke 22:25-26, and in Peter 5:2-3. Actually the word does not suggest oppression or abuse of power. It simply means ‘to rule over’ or ‘to be lord over.’ Coercion or the abuse of authority is not the issue here. What is being said is that there is among the Gentiles a hierarchical system of authority that is not to be imitated in the Christian community.” (Also the book “Studies in New Testament Language and Text” edited by J. K. Elliot backs up this explanation)
Further discussion regarding the Super Apostles’ postulated Theocratic Church Government can be found in the Cultwatch article “Church Leadership Authority” at www.cultwatch.com/ChurchLeadershipAuthority.html. Our online article concludes, in part, that there is not enough evidence from Scripture to support or exclude any particular type of Church governmental structure. It is as if this issue, so important to men, is of little consequence to God, except that a one over one Theocratic structure is specifically banned.
So, in summary, our Super Apostle friends need Theocracy to be the only option for running the Church, but not only do they fail to prove that Theocracy is essential, their Theocratic aspirations also come to grief on the teeth of Scripture. The fact that the Bible forbids one over one authority structures should be enough for us to discount the Super Apostles completely.
Super Apostles Authority Claims
In the fourth part of this series exposing the Super Apostles we will examine their extraordinary authority claims.
Most Christians are Biblically comfortable with the limited amount of authority their Church Leaders have. Typically Church leaderships’ areas of authority include the running of the Church organization, the planning of activities, the ordering of services, and also includes some doctrinal “policing” matters such as exposing false teaching, keeping order in services, and helping to decide matters between Christians. But the limited authority of Church Leaders rarely touches a Christian’s personal life, instead the Christian’s personal life is guided by the counsel of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and by spiritually mature Christians (including their leaders of course). In fact, few Church Leaders desire to dominate their flock since they know that is not God’s way, and so even those leaders with Machiavellian tendencies tend to keep a careful watch on themselves, to ensure they do not overstep the mark.
However the Super Apostles desire a greater degree of power. Members are expected to submit their lives to the Super Apostles. Obedience to the Super Apostles, and their one over one Theocratic hierarchy, is demanded in almost all areas of members’ lives. They use verses like Matthew 8:5-13, the record of Jesus’s healing of the Centurion’s servant, as a pattern of the authority they expect. Here are some of the notes from one Super Apostle’s Bible study regarding these verses: “Authority flows down, so in order to have authority, first you must be under authority yourself. To have authority in the military, you first must be under military authority. To have spiritual authority you first must be under spiritual authority.”, and”Faith and authority are inseparably connected. God’s gift of faith isn’t given to us to act independently with, but to use under the directions of our leaders authority.”, and finally “Jesus did not rebuke him [the Centurion] and call him a little Hitler, a control freak, worldly, or Jezebel for using authority words like, ‘Go, Come and Do’”. The study ends by quoting Colossians 3:22-24 which reads in part, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything;…”
In practice, the domination and control in Super Apostle Churches is approaching, and in some cases equaling, that found in internationally recognized mind control cults. For example members are refused permission to move cities, they may not question leadership, they must attend all services, they must give certain monetary amounts and are in trouble if they do not cough up. Involvement with ministries not under the Super Apostle’s control is banned, and so on. Once in a Super Apostle Church, the member finds the leadership’s tentacles penetrating deep into their personal lives. Out of fear, they find themselves worrying more about what their Church Leadership thinks than what the Holy Spirit thinks.
Since the Super Apostles are the ones proposing these extraordinary authority levels for Church Leaders, the burden of proof falls upon them. If they fail to prove their position then we can happily continue on with the status quo. And upon examination the Super Apostles do fail to substantiate these increased authority levels. Take, for example, the two verses quoted, Matthew 8 and Colossians 3. Both are taken monstrously out of context. The authority the Centurion is referring to in Matthew is in reference to Jesus’ authority as God; it in no way can be applied to Church Leaders. The instructions in Colossians for slaves to obey their masters is clearly not discussing Church Leadership, rather it is best applied today to employer/employee relationships. The fact that the Super Apostles have to resort to such scriptural skullduggery demonstrates the weakness of their position. For further insight into how the Super Apostles fail to prove their case, read the Cultwatch articles regarding Leadership Authority at www.cultwatch.com/superapostles.html.
The Super Apostles claim that God is restoring the correct level of leadership authority to the Church, but they fail to Biblically prove it. From our experiences with pseudo-Christian mind control cults the fruit of these extraordinary levels of authority is numerous shipwrecked Christians. There is no doubt in our mind that this teaching is not from the Lord.
Don’t Touch the Lord’s Anointed!
In our fifth part of this series exposing the Super Apostles we look at their banning of questions and criticism.
Does the Bible really forbid Christians questioning their leaders? Can a Christian criticize a Christian leader, in love, if the leader is teaching something false? The Super Apostles would have us believe that Christians cannot “touch” them with questions or criticism because they are “the Lord’s Anointed”. Only God Himself is allowed to correct a Super Apostle.
Consider these words from a Super Apostle’s study, “It is important to realize that should your authority figures be in the wrong it is not your job to correct them. That job is reserved for the person to whom they are accountable for the responsibility they have been given. If that happens to be the Lord then we are to take our hands off the situation. Pray with an uncritical heart and trust Him to do His job.”
So is this scriptural? If the whole “Don’t Touch the Lord’s Anointed” catch cry is being used out of context, or if we can find New Testament examples of “lesser” Christians questioning “greater” Christians, then we can discount this teaching as false. So what does the Bible say?
The phrase “Don’t Touch the Lord’s anointed” comes from 1 Samuel chapter 24 and 26 where David refuses to kill Saul. The Super Apostles have taken this to mean that no one can question them, but they are taking the text out of context, the verse refers to killing Saul, not questioning him. In fact immediately afterwards David goes on to publicly question Saul’s motives both in 1 Samuel 24:8-15 and 26:18-20.
Now in the New Testamnt Paul said he was the least of all the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15:9 “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Yet in Galatians 2:11 Paul the lesser publicly corrects Peter the greater “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” This one example from Scripture of the lesser correcting the greater is enough to nullify the Super Apostles’ assertion.
Read Galatians 6:1a “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Notice it does not read “you who are MORE spiritual” or “you who are GREATER”. Also consider Acts 17:11, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The Bible says it is more noble for us to verify a leader’s teaching. I bet Paul would not have minded questions at all.
So why have the Super Apostles invented this rule? Could it be that they are unable to answer questions, and so as a defense have outlawed the very act of questioning itself?
Christian leaders should always be open to questions. If a leader’s teaching does not match up with Scripture, then surely they would want to know, since nothing should scare a leader more than teaching error. The ability for laity to ask questions, and publicly criticize if need be, is a healthy mechanism to protect the Body of Christ from error.
Finally, leaders need to remember that their claimed “anointing” or authority level does not make what they say automatically true; the correct measure of Christian truth is Scripture. If it disagrees with Scripture your teaching is wrong, period.
Umbrellas of Divine Protection
This week, as we continue our look at Super Apostles, we uncover their fixation with magical umbrellas.
What is an “Umbrella of Divine Protection”, also known as the “Umbrella of Authority”? The Super Apostles teach that if you obey them you come under a God-supplied metaphorical umbrella that will protect you from all sorts of misfortune. However if you disobey them then you lose this protective covering and horrid things will happen to you. Obey and you will be blessed, disobey and you are cursed. Consider this excerpt from a Super Apostle’s Bible study, “Think of God’s authority as an umbrella of divine protection from the evil in the world that would otherwise rain down on us and destroy our life. Under God authority – Protection, safety, covered. Not under Gods authority – Exposed, naked, uncovered.”
There are a number of points that can be made about this bizarre concept, but I shall only mention a few. First, this is a common fear tactic used by the cults; submit to us or terrible things will happen to you. If you ever leave us the blessings will stop and your life will fall apart! For more information on the psychological aspects of cult control view the Cultwatch article www.HowCultsWork.com.
Second, “Umbrellas of Divine Protection” are rarely mentioned in Scripture. Well OK, they are never mentioned. Also there are no “Raincoats of Godly Defense” or “Mackintoshes of Holy Security” either. Pull out your Bible and try and find this protective shield concept in relation to obeying Church Leaders. You will not find it. It saddens us at Cultwatch how few Christians verify from Scripture what their leaders tell them (Acts 17:11).
Third, it can be argued that an “umbrella of divine protection” is a type of virtual lucky charm. While not physical like a horseshoe or cloverleaf, it still supposedly provides protection from evil for those who trust in it. Instead of trusting in God, the follower of a Super Apostle trusts that their obedience to thier Super Apostle will keep them under this mythical umbrella. But trusting in obedience rituals to provide spiritual protection is the same as trusting in a lucky charm. Instead, Cultwatch recommends that people place all their trust in God alone.
Fourth, the really strange thing is that those Cultwatch have spoken to who have left a Super Apostle church have found life much better on the outside. They are able to follow God more easily and profitably. And no more evil drops on them from the sky than usual, since as Christians they are safely under God’s wing; now there is a metaphor you can find in Scripture.
Finally John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”, and Romans 8:38-39 says “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Thus Said The Lord
Does God speak to ordinary Christians, or does he only speak to Christians through his appointed intermediates the Super Apostles?
The wife of a Super Apostle recently informed her woman’s group that her husband hears from the Lord, and they hear from the Lord only through her husband. Another Super Apostle teaches that only the leadership can prophesy, since God does not speak through ordinary Christians.
So which is it? Do Christians have a personal relationship with Jesus, or is it impersonal? Can ordinary Christians hear directly from God, or does God only speak to them through a middle man?
Jesus said in John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” We must ask, what is the point of a counselor who can not counsel?
In 1 John 2:18-27 we discover that we all “have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” Christians all have the Holy Spirit who teaches us the truth. Yet the text warns us “about those who are trying to lead you astray” and explains that “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you”. John is referring to those who are trying to take the Holy Spirit’s place in the Christians life by overriding His teaching. “But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.” Clearly Christians hear directly from the Holy Spirit.
Further, 1 Corinthian 2:12-13 says, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
Also, John 16:13 says, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth; which is perhaps why members of Super Apostle churches often feel uneasy about Super Apostle teachings; could it be the Holy Spirit warning them? Communication from the Holy Spirit is evidenced from this passage.
John 10:3 says, “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” How, we must ask, could Christians know Jesus’ voice if they had never heard it before?
These and other scriptures clearly demonstrate that God speaks to Christians directly, and not through middle men like the Super Apostle.
Are They Really Apostles?
Regarding the Super Apostles we must ask the obvious question, are they really apostles at all?
God’s Word makes it clear that there will be false apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness.”
Also Paul warns about “Super Apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11:5, and in Revelation 2:2 we learn that Jesus approves of those who test for false apostles, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.”
So how would a Christian test a person claiming to be an Apostle?
One test is the test of right doctrine; 2 Corinthians 11:4-5 says “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least bit inferior to those ‘super apostles’.” Clearly a true apostle cares deeply about teaching correct doctrine and not being flippant with the Word of God. A Super Apostle may hold the Bible while he preaches, but does he know what it says, or is it just a supplementary source used to back up his own ideas?
Another test for a false apostle is to examine their motivations. They would fail the test if power, money, and glory were their prime motivations. A motivation of power can be evidenced from demands for obedience, and the use of mind control. A monetary motivation can be evidenced from constant references to money, along with a tendency to take the money given to God and spend it on improving their own life-style. A motivation of glory can be evidenced from insisting that they be honored and held up as special.
Finally, by examining their fruit we can determine if they are really an apostle, or not. There are two areas of fruit to consider. Firstly, what is the fruit of their ministry? If that fruit is Christians who have their relationships controlled, their finances preyed upon, their trust betrayed, who live in fear of disobeying their leaders, who are captivated by spurious doctrine, who do not know the voice of the Holy Spirit, and who eventually leave saying, “If that was Christianity, I never want to have anything to do with it again!” then that is not the fruit of a Godly ministry. Secondly, another test is found in the fruit in the Super Apostle’s personal life. Over the years at Cultwatch we have noticed a strange phenomenon; the longer a person is a cult leader the more they seem to take on “anti-fruits of the spirit”, if we can call them that; they become more arrogant, unpleasant, controlling, elitist, proud, and unstable, instead of gaining the true fruits of the Spirit like love, self-control, gentleness, and a sound mind.
In summary, the Bible warns us that their will be false apostles, and so we must test those who claim to be apostles. Valid tests for apostleship are the test of sound doctrine, sound motives, and sound fruit. For more information read section 9.2 of our article www.cultwatch.com/discernment.html
In the “Local Church” article earlier in this series about the Super Apostles I promised to spend some time discussing the mind control technique called “Exclusivism”.
What is Exclusivism? Exclusivism is the part of mind control that is designed to isolate the victim from the outside world, and to reenforce the idea that the cult is the only place where truth can be found. It creates an “Us verses Them” environment that places cult members into a fictitious battle with outsiders. Outside the cult is error, worldliness, sin, misery, perversion, curses, lawless rebellion, and damnation. Inside the cult is truth, Godliness, joy, purity, blessings, correct submission to leadership, and salvation. Cult members are taught to fear leaving the cult, since that is the same as leaving God. Leave, and you will go to hell.
So how do the Super Apostles employ Exclusivism? Well, they are a bit more subtle in their use of Exclusivism than the more well established cults, often using allusion rather than stating it plainly. Lets examine four of their primary methods.
Firstly, the Super Apostles will create the impression that their church is the “most happening” church. Their church is the one God is using the most to reach the people of a certain city or country. God might be with some other churches, but his hand is especially on the Super Apostle’s church. They are the “new wine skins”, “the house of David”; leave us and you are leaving God’s perfect will.
Secondly, the Super Apostles will indirectly, or directly, put down other churches. Other churches are “old wine skins”, “the house of Saul”. Their time has past since they are “traditional” churches; no one who wants to follow God would continue in one of those “worldly” or “dead” churches. It is important to understand the idea hidden behind this teaching; the cultic concept that your salvation is somehow based on what organization you belong too. Nowhere in Scripture are we taught that our salvation is linked to fellowshipping with the correct group of Christians. This false linkage is the subject of the next Exclusivism technique.
Thirdly, the Super Apostles trick converts into a “Dual Conversion”. When a person becomes a Christian in a Super Apostle church they convert to Christ, but at the same time they also convert to the church. From the very beginning the Super Apostles start linking the person’s salvation with their membership of the church and their obedience to it’s leadership. Dual conversions are why people who leave cultic groups find it so hard not to throw the baby out with the bath water, since, to them, the bath water and the baby are the same.
Finally, the Super Apostles enforce a ban on visiting other churches and having anything to do with para-church organizations. They see any association with entities outside of their control as treachery and disobedience.
In conclusion, it is ironic that the Super Apostles who so often preach about unity, actually promote disunity in the Body of Christ. Imagine it this way. If the Body of Christ is an army, then the group of people who make up a church would be the equivalent to a platoon. Now if a platoon decided that it was going to have nothing to do with the army, and it was going to do everything on it’s own, then that platoon becomes weaker for it, as does the army. In the same way the Super Apostles, by deliberately isolating their churches from the rest of the Body of Christ, weaken both their church and the Body of Christ.
Money Money Money
Lets talk about money. Money is an emotive subject for most people, and especially the Super Apostles. In fact money seems to matter a great deal to them.
The Super Apostles are experts at extracting cash from Christians. There are Biblical rules that constrain how Christian Leaders may solicit money, but often the Super Apostles ignore these rules. (Now I want to make it clear at the outset that Cultwatch is not anti-wealth, nor are we against Christians giving to Churches and other ministries.)
The primary Biblically illegal technique the Super Apostles use comes straight from the cults. It is called “enforced giving”.
Enforced giving involves monitoring what individual Christians give, and then punishing them if they do not meet their set target levels. The threat of punishment compels the Christian to keep giving the “correct” amount. For enforced giving to occur, there needs to be three components working together: first, the mechanism by which the Church Leaders can discover what the Christian earns, so they can calculate what the Christian “ought” to be giving; second, a rigorous monitoring process that records a Christian’s giving week by week; third, a set punishment regime that is threatening enough to induce the compulsion desired.
Lets discuss each of these components in turn. First, a Super Apostle will ask their member to reveal what they earn, and in some cases show one of their pay slips; this is recorded and the member told what percentage of their pay they must give each week. Often the member is made to sign a document that promises they will meet the giving level set for them. Second, the members weekly giving is recorded; automatic bank payments are a Super Apostle favorite for this purpose, since they allow this process to be automated. Otherwise money is collected from each member by hand, or a marked envelope system is employed (this is different from the effectively anonymous numbered envelope system many Churches use for tax refund purposes). Understand that the process of recording itself adds a degree of compulsion since the members know they are being watched. Third, an array of punishments is threatened if the member fails to meet their giving targets. These include being held back from leadership, being rebuked in public or private, being told that God is holding back His blessings from them, having their salvation questioned, being shunned, and so on.
However, enforced giving is not biblical. Nowhere in the New Testament can you find these techniques being used. In fact enforced giving is forbidden. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Therefore it is wrong for a Christian Leader to compel his flock to give. Also, according to Matthew 6:2-4 your giving is best done in secret. Finally, even the Apostle Paul did not command people to give, 1 Corinthians 8:7-8 says “…see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you,…” If the Apostle Paul did not command people to give then who are the Super Apostles to command? Are they greater than Paul?
Christians must be wary of enforced giving; it is not a Christian practice. For more information see the Cultwatch article “A Study Of enforced giving And Tithing Within The Church” at www.cultwatch.com/tithing.html
Wasting God’s Money
What do the Super Apostles do with the money they get from the Body of Christ via Enforced Giving and other means?
Here is a non-exhaustive list compiled from information received by Cultwatch from people both inside and outside certain Super Apostle Churches. Understand that some these items are based on statements from a single person, while others are confirmed by multiple independent people, and some by documentation we have obtained. Also realize that no Super Apostle has done all of these things, and it is even possible that certain Super Apostles have never erred in these ways.
So, Super Apostles have used God’s money to buy luxury cars, luxury homes, holiday homes, furniture, luxury holidays like ocean cruises around the Alaskan glaciers or trips to Queenstown or Hawaii, expensive clothes, expensive jewelry, motorbikes, boats, investment properties, cash gifts for their wives, fast cars for their children, expensive schooling for their children, gym equipment, and other purchases. The Super Apostles have also misused God’s money in other ways too, like working on their own businesses while being paid for church work, charging for “intellectual property rights” on their sermon tapes (produced at their church where they are paid to preach), staying in five-star hotels and entertaining friends on the church credit card, and the list goes on.
When we Christians give money to a ministry, we are giving to God, not to the ministry organization per se. So even though we physically give our money to a church, or other type of ministry, we have an expectation that the leadership of that organization will be good stewards of God’s money. Christians expect God’s money to be used for legitimate Christian activities like reaching the lost, helping the poor, running the ministry (but not extravagantly), supporting missionaries, and for paying Christian workers. However, Christians do not expect the Lord’s money to be used to support a lavish lifestyle for ministry leaders, or for it to be abused in the other ways mentioned.
Understand that most Christians would not object to a Christian leader being wealthy if that leader has made their money through legitimate business enterprise, or gained it in any other valid way. The issue is not that a leader is wealthy; rather the issue is about whose money made them wealthy? Was it their money, or was it God’s? If the money was God’s then that is a serious problem, some would call it embezzlement.
Now regarding the wages paid to Christian workers, some Super Apostles have awarded themselves extravagant wages, along with various bonuses and benefits, and even payments for their family members. “Do not muzzle the Ox” these leaders may retort, but they are forgetting the other side of this biblical-word picture, that the ox is a slave tethered to a pole. Christian leaders are slaves to the gospel, they deserve their due, but it is wrong for them to be gluttonous. The Apostle Paul clearly disapproved of those who profited from the Gospel, he says in 2 Corinthians 2:17 “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” Since those profiteering ministers were about in Paul’s day, should we be surprised if they are about in our time?
The misuse of God’s money is a serious issue that the Super Apostles must address. Checks and balances need to be put in place. Regular external audits are required, and Super Apostle ministry accounts need to be open, not closed. This squandering of God’s money must stop.
Most cultic groups have an inner and outer circle. The inner circle will contain the privileged, while the cults’ much larger outer circle will contain the ordinary members. Of course everyone in the cult wants to be part of the inner circle, and so much effort is expended in currying favor with those who hold the keys to inner circle membership.
The cults, however, do not have a monopoly on this institutionalized favoritism; Cultwatch has received many reports of favoritism being rife in the Super Apostles’ churches. The six predominantly reported Super Apostle practices of this type include: forming an exclusive inner group that includes both the rich and the Super Apostles favorite lieutenants, Super Apostles surrounding themselves with “bodyguards” who work as a barrier that only the privileged can penetrate, organizing prohibitively expensive “getta ways” with the Super Apostle that only the rich can afford to go on, reserving privileged seating positions near the front of the church for those who are deemed worthy, marking off special car parking spots for the privileged, and promoting the wealthy into leadership positions ahead of the meritorious. There are other methods employed, but these six are ones we hear about most often.
But the Bibles says in James 2:1-11 “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
Clearly this passage shows us that the Body of Christ ought to be a zone of equality, in contrast to the “wealth equals status” ways of the world. However, in this area the Super Apostle churches have copied the practices of the world, rather than duplicating the ways of the Kingdom of God; they
would do much better to heed Scripture and not show favoritism.
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:1-2
Good preaching takes intense effort and hours of preparation, all guided by the Holy Spirit. A preachers’ duty is to convey God’s instruction carefully and as clearly as possible to those listening. The electrical engineering term of “low signal to noise ratio” applies; the signal is God’s Word, the noise is the preacher himself. In a good sermon the signal of God’s word will be strong and clear, while the noise from the preacher, his pet ideas, tendencies, biases, emotions, and foibles will hardly make an appearance. Preaching is about God’s Word; it is not about the preacher. Also what is preached is of paramount importance; it must be “Hi Fi Doctrine” (High Fidelity) reproducing God’s meanings and applications with clarity. Nothing should scare a preacher more than conveying error to those God has entrusted to his care.
And so, a good preacher will spend many hours, if not days, in preparation for his weekend sermon. A good preacher will not take his job lightly. A good preacher cares passionately about conveying God’s Word without distortion. However, the Super Apostles do not seem to measure up to this mark.
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:3
The Super Apostle sermons we have examined at Cultwatch have several common denominators, including flippancy with doctrine. On average ten percent of what they say seems good doctrine, ten percent is suspect, and the rest is basically “fluff” (of no consequence). Personally, I don’t think the Super Apostles deliberately go out of their way to speak so much suspect doctrine, rather I think it is a result of the mode of preaching they employ, known as “Stream of Consciousness” preaching. This type of preaching is “off the cuff”, with little preparation and minimal notes. The Super Apostle makes it up as he goes along, supposedly being guided by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately the resulting sermon is usually a mishmash of second hand anecdotes, dodgy doctrines borrowed from other Super Apostles, mindless repetition, half quoted Bible verses, pointless divergences, shameless self promotion, cunning putdowns of those outside, desperate claims that “The Holy Spirit revealed to me that it means…” when they have worked themselves into a corner regarding a verse, and finally adroit audience manipulation. And to top it all off, these sermons are usually not so much delivered, as yelled (after all, the louder you say something the more true it becomes, right?)
Entertainment rather than education seems to be the order of the day. The Super Apostles know how to tickle their audiences’ ears, and their audiences love them for it. However this diet of candy floss preaching ultimately damages those who hear it. The Super Apostles need to give up their lazy preaching techniques and put effort into delivering sermons that are backed up by Scripture. Bible based sermons take time and effort to produce, but ultimately they promote, rather than destroy, the spiritual health of their listeners.
Part of what we do at Cultwatch is analyze dangerous movements to project what damage we think they will do in the future. From our analysis we set Cultwatch’s priorities for the present. The more damage we predict a
movement will cause to the Body of Christ, then the more resources we will allocate to countering that threat.
Now, as you may have guessed, Cultwatch considers the Super Apostle movement a significant threat; a threat that has already damaged the Body of Christ not only here in New Zealand, but in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and other countries; a threat that will, if we are right, cause significant damage to Christianity in the next few years.
The Super Apostle movement is dangerous due to four factors: their false doctrines, their use of the potent techniques of mind control, their uncritical acceptance by many Christian Leaders, and their effective recruitment and financial power plays. Here are some of Cultwatch’s predictions regarding the future if the Super Apostle movement remains unchecked.
First, the takeover of many good churches. The usual type of cult we deal with recruits “ordinary” Christians one by one, but the Super Apostles have added an extra recruitment tactic – they woo Pastors. By focusing intense effort on the Pastor the Super Apostles can win a large congregation in one foul swoop. Already in New Zealand, and around the world, numerous Christians have been captured this way. They lure the Pastor with promises of success, power, leadership, and with money. They also prey on Pastors who are frustrated with the growth of their own church; joining with a Super Apostle seems like the answer.
Second, we see a major increase in the number of hurt and non-church-attending Christians. Already the outflow of people from Super Apostle churches is significant, and we predict this will increase. Many of the people leaving find it hard to go to normal church, and so they end up nowhere. Worst are those who reject Christianity; convinced that the Super Apostle’s counterfeit Christianity was the real thing, these people reject Jesus outright. They are the Super Apostle’s hidden rotten fruit.
Third, we predict scandals that will embarrass the Body of Christ. We are seeing patterns that suggest more “Jimmy Swaggart” style falls on the horizon. The secular media will not differentiate between the ways of the charlatans and those of true Christianity, in which case, the Body of Christ will suffer more undeserved bad publicity.
Finally, the loss of assets dedicated to the Lord by financial power plays. The Super Apostles are pragmatic businessmen who recognize the power of assets. They love taking over a congregation and so gaining a new income stream, but oh how succulently delightful for them when that new congregation comes with a nice bit of juicy real estate. Real estate delivers stable long-term power. If the Super Apostles remain unchecked, then Cultwatch predicts millions of dollars worth of property will be lost from the Body of Christ, forever.
We all must oppose the Super Apostle movement. If their power plays remain unchecked, then Cultwatch predicts the damage to the Body of Christ will be unprecedented.
After reading this series about the Super Apostles, you might be thinking that you are involved with a Super Apostle Church. What should you do?
Well, you should be a cat, not an ostrich; cats are curious, they sniff things out, whereas an ostrich sticks its head in the sand at the slightest discomfort. Just like the cat in the TV series “Red Dwarf” you need to put on your “Investigating Feet”. Resolutely confront this issue right now, since your walk with Christ is at stake. You need to discover if you are actually serving God, or if you are involved in a man-made organization whose methods and goals do not match the Lord’s. Proverbs 14:15 says “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” Be a prudent man, or woman; give some thought to your steps.
Start by getting fully informed. Read all of the free articles about the Super Apostles at www.cultwatch.com, and also read the Cultwatch web site www.HowCultsWork.com. Then search the Internet for further comment. Resist getting upset by anything said; instead seek to understand the position presented. Make notes regarding any areas that seem to match your present church. It is important that you do your research independently of your church, since in Super Apostle churches this sort of research can get you in trouble. Read, digest, pray and think.
Next, seek out any people who have left your church and find out why they left. Be especially keen to talk to anyone your leadership have told you not to talk to; they will be the ones the leadership feel most threatened by. Remember, past members can be bitter (forgiveness is required), and upset (often justifiably so), but you are after the facts. What Biblical and moral reasons caused these people to leave?
Next, consider getting out of the environment for a while. Take a holiday. A month or two holiday from your church will give you perspective; something impossible to gain when inside a mind control environment. If the leadership tries to stop you, then that is a strong indicator something is wrong, because mind control groups know that people removed from their manufactured environment are often lost to them. Remember that you are still a Christian if you miss church; your salvation is not based on your church attendance.
So what should you do if you discover that your church is a Super Apostle church? Simple. Eject! Eject! Leaving is the only option. Why? Because by attending, working with, and by donating to a Super Apostle church you are helping damage the cause of Christ. You are supporting something I believe God would not have you support. You are part of a corrupt system. Find a church where the Gospel is preached, the Word of God is honored, and where they focus on reaching the lost. Do not compromise.
Also, avoid the typical rationalization of cult members who have just realized what they are involved in; they think that by staying they will be able to change things. However in all our years of counter-cult ministry we have never seen that work. In our experience the people who leave quickly are better off sooner, both spiritually and financially, than when in their Super Apostle church. Get free. Do it now.
Advice For Pastors
This is it, for now – our last installment regarding the attack of the Super Apostles.
We are finishing this series by offering advice for Pastors. We hope you, our readers, will draw your Pastor’s attention to this series, since by doing so you will be helping protect them.
Pastors, you should not think that you are invulnerable; the temptations of money, power, and sex have corrupted many Christian leaders. The Super Apostles know how to use the promise of carnal desires to lure you, and you would have to be some sort of mindless robot not to feel their pull. So gird yourself with the full armor and be aware of the enemies’ plans; learn as much as you can about the Super Apostles’ methods. Remember, being forewarned is forearmed. At the very least every Pastor should read all the Super Apostle articles at www.cultwatch.com, and also Cultwatch’s other web site www.HowCultsWork.com
Pastors, be critical of every book you read; ask, is it Biblical? Is it true? Often a Pastor’s first steps towards the “Dark Side” are taken by uncritically reading one of the Super Apostles’ books. Remember it is noble to verify what people teach, Acts 17:11.
Do not buy into the Super Apostles’ definition of Local Church. “Local Church” does not mean all Christians within one city being under one hierarchical administrative system.
Do not get hung up on “Church Government”; there is no evidence in Scripture that the Church is a Theocracy. In fact, Theocracy is specifically banned by the New Testament, see Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-43, and Luke 22:25-26.
Do not develop a lust for power. Remember, as a Christian Leader you are the servant, not the master.
Remember that you can be wrong. If someone challenges you on something, then humbly verify your position against Scripture. Whether right or wrong, thank them for being loving enough to point it out. Remember to remain open and teachable yourself, or you risk having pride slither into your soul.
Do not claim that obedience to you keeps people under an “Umbrella of Divine Protection”; do not use fear to control people.
Every Christian has the Holy Spirit, and can be directed by God individually. Do not fool yourself into thinking that God speaks only through you.
Do not teach that your church is the only true church, or superior to the rest. If people want to go to another church then let them go; remember the idea that Christians are owned by their “Local Church” is bunkum.
Do not record peoples’ giving for the purposes of ensuring that they give the correct amount. All compulsion is banned in the area of Christian giving, 2 Corinthians 9:7. Remember, even the Apostle Paul did not command people to give, 1 Corinthians 8:7-8.
Money given to the Lord should be used for the Lord’s purposes, not for your own pleasure. Do not waste the Lord’s money.
Do not treat the poor differently from the rich; the worldly temptation to do this is huge, but the Bible demands better of us, James 2:1-11.
Resist filling your sermons with fluff, like prosperity teachings and motivational anecdotes. Rather, focus on Scripture, good doctrine, building up the Body of Christ, and reaching the lost. When you say something, make sure you can back it up from Scripture. Remember to put effort into preparing your sermons; remember most “Stream of Consciousness” preaching is lazy preaching.
Protect your church’s property and other assets from take-over. Rest assured that while the Super Apostle is buttering you up, he has his eye on the main course, your church’s juicy holdings.
Finally, it is our hope and prayer that the Body of Christ can be protected against the attacking Super Apostles, even though they are wearing extremely well-made sheep skins.
We would like to thank the many who have been so supportive with this series. Next week’s column will feature a different subject, but be assured that there is more coming regarding the Super Apostles. Keep an eye on this column and the Cultwatch.com web site.