T.A.C.O.s Anyone? By Roger E. Olson
This article provides a sober warning by Dr. Olson that increasingly applies, unfortunately, to certain segments of the so-called “organic” or “simple” church community here in the West – which have come under the influence of so-called “apostolic workers” and their books, blogs and magazines.
Often, when you find an evangelical cult, you don’t have scratch very deep to find some self-professed “apostle” just below the surface.
Unfortunately, the “apostolic workers” now peddling their influence, books and conferences in the organic/simple church community – like we’ve seen with other so-called and often dead-end “new apostolic reformation” movements – are self-appointed, self-proclaimed and unaccountable (except to other “apostolic workers” who are part of their own mutual promotion network).
They also have been aggressively seeking to silence – through threats and slander – all who dare mention the history of sexual predation, abuse and coverup among them.
Dr. Olson’s article addresses the general problem of cult-like practices rather than specific problems within the organic/simple church community. We would do well, however, to heed his warnings.
In it, he says:
“So here are my suggestions for behaviors that should cause people to RUN from a congregation EVEN IF it is perfectly orthodox doctrinally and even though its reputation is evangelical:
1) Condoning (including covering up) sexual abuse or sexual immorality of leaders within itself.
2) Silencing honest and constructive dissent.
3) Treating leaders as above normal ethical standards, above questioning.
4) Implying that “true Christianity” belongs to it alone or churches in its network.
5) Using intense methods of “discipleship training” that involve abuse of persons – including, but not limited to, teaching them they must absolutely lose their own individuality and sense of personal identity in order to become part of an “army” (or whatever) of Christ and using methods of sensory deprivation, brainwashing and/or abject obedience to human authority.
6) Teaching (often by strong implication) that without the church, especially without the leaders, members lose their spiritual connection to God. (This happens in many, often subtle, ways. For example a church may claim that its “vision” of the kingdom of God is unique and to depart from it is to depart from God’s kingdom, etc.)”
Unfortunately, these warning signs are becoming all too true within the “apostolic worker” wing of the organic/simple church community. (Although our fellowships here in Virginia are “organic”, “simple” churches, we reject the craziness associated with the so-called “apostolic worker” wing of the movement.)
The “apostolic worker” wing of the organic/simple church community (with their resurrected House2House Magazine) has become characterized by sexual abuse, coverup and silencing honest dissent – as most of its main leaders (i.e, the so-called “apostolic workers”) remain unaccountable to local churches while professing to believe in the local church.
In fact, they routinely try to impose their self-interested judgements over all attempts by local churches to address the sin and arrogance among them.
In their drive to subject others to the “deeper life” revelation and conformist practices of their “apostolic workers”, they don’t seek to make you lose your identity as part of some “army” of Christ, as Dr. Olson mentions.
Rather, they seek conformity to their extreme, mystical idea of the “bride” of Christ, while being dismissive of healthy diversity (like unique and differing gifts and callings) and even the emergence of distinct, functional local church elders.
They’ve also said that unless your church has been planted and is relating to an “apostolic worker” – like them! – it lacks validity.
Not all of Dr. Olson’s article applies to cult like practices that increasingly are emerging among the “apostolic worker” wing of the organic/simple church community, but much of it does.
~ Jim Wright
Scary! We have decided items 1-4 applied to at least one church in our long journey even though they didn’t use “apostolic” as a term. Churches that aren’t “organic” can still have leaders who are open and accountable and are treating members well…it is startling to find that more grassroots organic groups can still be hijacked by passing predators called “apostles.”
Here’s a two-part “insider” series on what goes on behind the scenes with these “apostles” and their churches, from someone who was with them but then left:
It makes for interesting reading. No wonder they try to hide their past!
In a truly organic expression of the body of Christ there are no “leaders”, self-professed or otherwise. Each member bears the responsibility of sharing the Christ in them to edify the entire body. There are within the body those gifted as teachers, evangelist and multiple other expressions of the Spirit, but none carrying any more weight or value than any other. Even the apostles hold no power over the body after planting has occurred. They share their wisdom, but make no decisions for the body. At least this is my understanding and experience of the local body I am involved with.
I think that not all local churches actually reflect the heart of the apostles who start them. We were once a part of an apostle-sanctioned local church a few decades ago that was run by a sincere, but immature, unwise and controlling man. When the actual apostles came to town and met with all of us to discuss what was going on locally, they were shocked and appalled. I am not familiar with the groups you are referring to, but I just want to note that these kinds of problems can go either way. As long as we have people in churches and leading churches, we will have problems of some kind. It is one of life’s sureties. I disagree with Mark, every church needs leaders. A group of people without a clearly defined leader, church or otherwise, is going nowhere.
*fish: You have the right to be wrong if you want to. I am part of a local body with NO individual leader (we are ALL leaders) and your statement that we are “going nowhere” could not be further from the Truth. In my opinion, if you have an individual leader you are NOT organic, but rather institutional. In organic church there is no hierarchy of authority, no laity or clergy distinction.
That’s what I mean: going nowhere.
I think I can speak for our entire group when I say we have gone farther in the past year meeting together organically (our understanding of it – with no hierarchy of authority, no laity or clergy distinction) than in the previous 46 years (for me) under your definition of organic with hierarchy of authority and a laity/clergy distinction. We have all grown in relationship with each other as the body of Christ and in our relationship with our Bridegroom. To us, that is monumental. If that means nothing to you, then I would rather be “going nowhere” with Christ than going somewhere without. We are under the authority of Christ and the leadership of His Spirit. If you are following a “person” other than Christ, you are on the wrong path and obviously deceived.