In 1999, my family moved to the Netherlands. In South Africa we had attended a Pentecostal church, the Assemblies of God. In the Netherlands we searched for a new church. It took a year for me to find the Door, part of the Christian Fellowship Ministries (CFM).
I was really impressed with the strict rules of the church, especially on areas that the Bible was not clear on. I am by nature a very black and white, right and wrong thinker. And a place with clear rules and structure was what I wanted. Things like no TV allowed, no visiting cinemas, always attending all activities. And so, I joined.
However, as I spent time in the system, I started to notice some problems. At first, I just put it down to the fact that no church is perfect. In hindsight, I can now see that CFM should not be regarded as a Christian church, but rather a cult, in the order of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), the Jehovah Witnesses, and the Catholic church.
At first, I wanted to try and fix the issues, but as time went by, I could not remain in the system. So, in the end I left. And back then I took time to note all the reasons I left. Here is a short rundown of the issues that have brought me to the conclusion the CFM churches fit in the realm of the cults (or at best a very bad church):
- The worship of the leader
The founder of this movement was Wayman Mitchell. There are conflicting stories as to why he left Four Squares Ministry, but he always brought it out as God giving him a revelation and he followed it. Everything that CFM does, the music evenings, the film festivals, the bi-annual conferences, healing crusades, everything, came from special revelations from God. One of the signs of a cult is a leader that is seen as God, or as God’s spokesman with special revelation. Wayman is seen as the latter, as with the watchtower, Joseph Smith, or the pope. There are sermons preached in CFM, were the authority of the sermon all rests on Wayman’s words. When you talk to other members, there is a reverence for him, as if he is holy, and never wrong. And yet he is a foul mouthed, rude little man, who shows no love and compassion. I remember a young man going forward for healing in one healing crusade, and there was only condemnation, as Wayman asked if he was a faggot (gay), because he had an earring in one ear. And of course, the whole assembly laughed, because Wayman is so brilliant, what a nice joke. It was rude and demeaning.
This total reverence to one man drips down into every church in CFM, where total compliance to everything the pastor of a local church says is expected. It is very awkward when there is a sermon on obeying leadership, and you realize the preacher is basically saying “do everything I tell you to do”. It has even been preached that if a pastor gives bad advice, the person should still follow it, and God will still bless it. This is also wrong. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has given us a sound mind. That means we can think for ourselves, and not blindly follow someone who is wrong. It is good to have advisors, and we should have more than one, and in prayer make our decisions.
- Do not research
The Door usually has a ‘bible study’ on Sunday mornings. Usually the pastor has a ‘study’ (read sermon) which he teaches. There is some interaction allowed. He lets the congregation read the Bible verses. This is not usually done in the service. He also allows questions. One such Sunday we received a study on the end times. The Door believes in a pre-tribulation rapture (that is that Jesus will come and take the church away before the last seven years of rule under the antichrist). During the study one young man asked why the church believes in a pre-tribulation rapture. The answer: We believe in pre-trib because the mother church in Prescott says so, and we do not have time to investigate it ourselves, we have too much work to do in evangelism.
The church discourages personal research. Always vet everything via the pastor. He can then correct your errors. Also, do not look to other teaches, especially if they differ from CFM. Which books may be read are determined by the pastor. People are then taught what to think, and not how to think.
This ‘let us not look into it’ goes further than just this. Members are discouraged into looking up CFM online. They are discouraged to investigate negative reports on the movement, and there are a lot. Only visit the church website. Do not use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or any other Social Media. No TV in the house. Do not investigate anything, just believe what you are taught from the pulpit. Is there any doubt, just ask the pastor and follow what he says. But ask the right questions. Do not question what is being done, only ask how you can help. Ask the wrong question, and you are labelled as critical, perhaps even rebellious. It can cost you your ministry, and perhaps even a place in the church.
This is contrary to what the Bible says. Acts 17 describes the Bereans, who are complimented for testing everything Paul said with the scripture. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 says “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
- Text out of context
While visiting the conference in Prescott (the mother church) there was a sermon on calling your pastor with anything, and everything. The text used for this was James 5:14 “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” All that was read was “Let him call”. This was used to justify requiring the members to call the pastor with everything they did. This is a gross misuse of a bible text out of context.
This little anecdote is an extreme example of a practice from a lot of preachers do but is rife in CFM. As long as the point is made, no one cares about the text used. I used to translate the sermons into English for English speakers in the church, so I saw many a sermon with this misuse of the Bible. A typical CFM sermon is usually on a topic and random articles and bible texts to make the point of the sermon. Even when the point is not Biblical.
- Saved by grace or works
When we as Christians say we are saved by grace we mean that only thanks to the forgiveness in Jesus are we called children of God. Not by our own works. We can do nothing to erase our sin.
When a CFM pastor says saved by grace, he means you must do the right works to show you are saved. If you do not evangelize, do not attend all church services, do not tithe, are not involved in ministry, etc., then there is something wrong with your salvation. In other words, do the works, then you are saved. By they will never say it like that. It very often is phrased as, if you are not doing the works, you probably lost your salvation. And CFM cultivates a fear of backsliding, or falling away.
- Disease caused by sin
Disease is related to sin. In a way, sin has left a curse on the Earth, and we now have disease and death. But CFM preaches that specific sins lead to specific diseases. Wayman wrote a whole book on this.
Diabetes is causes by having a victim mentality (not an unhealthy lifestyle with too much sugar). Cancer is caused by self-hate (not cells out of control, or random mutations). It is even suggested that leukemia is related to a person having a bad relationship with their dad. And as anyone who knows me can tell, my dad and I get along very well.
We can read in John 9 where the disciples ask Jesus who sinned: the blind man or his parents? Jesus answers: It was not that the man or his parents sinned, “but that the works of God might be displayed in him”. In other words, sickness is not caused by specific sins. There are exceptions, liver disease caused by alcohol abuse is an example. But not every sin and disease are related in that way.
- Put under discipline
When someone in CFM sins, he is “put under discipline”. What this means, is that such a person may lose their ministry. OK, makes sense, you should not reward bad behaviour. But some cases, such people are prohibited from attending church for a period of time. This makes no sense. If someone is struggling with sin, is there no better place than the church to get help.
It is as if a doctor gets cancer and is told he may not come back to the hospital until he is in remission.
The church is the place where sinners are delivered from their sins. I have friends in CFM, struggling with sin, and are not getting delivered, because no one is helping them. All they can do is go from one discipline period to the next, and hope that they can suppress their sin long enough to do something in church for a while before they are put under discipline again. There is no deliverance in this system.
Tithing. Is it biblical? This is a discussion that rages on in Christianity. In essence, the New Testament does say we should give. But the idea of it being exactly 10% is only in the Old testament, more specifically, in the Law, God’s covenant with Israel. As Gentiles we are not under the Law, and do not need to give 10% exactly. But we must give from that which we have. That is New Testament giving.
But CFM preaches tithing, exactly 10%. Or else you go to hell. Seriously, this is in their sermons. By Wayman. If you do not tithe you are cursed. Tithing is breaking even. If you want blessings, then you must give more than the tithe.
It is often preached that if you give, God will give jobs, cars, more money. The worst case of this I came across was by Joe Campbell. He literally preached that couples with no children had to give the church all the money, including savings, and then God would give them a baby. And not once, but multiple times. This is disgusting. Preying on peoples needs to get money. It makes me sick.
The church has a very, very, very low look on woman. Their place is to be beside their husband, submit to him, and bare children. The only real ministries they can do are Sunday school, Nursery, and church cleaning. When there is dispute, the man is always right. Women are also discouraged from studying or chasing a career. During fellowship, men discuss news, sports, politics, work, church matters, bible knowledge (as limited as it is in the CFM). Women discuss children and house cleaning. This is because their world only goes as far as the school the kids attend. When there is talk of sexual indiscretion, it is generally the woman’s fault. There have been cases of rape in CFM, where the girl is worked out of the church, and the guy keeps his ministry. Even pastors, who lost their ministry because of sexual indiscretions, being placed back in charge of churches, while the woman are made out as whores.
The only religion I know that treats women worse than CFM is Islam.
- No contact outside church
Contact outside of church is discouraged. Friendship with the world in enmity with God. In fact, if someone leaves the church, all contact is usually broken with them. Some members have even broken of contact with family who do not attend the church.
- Always busy
The members are always kept very busy. I have counted the amount of time spent in church, just for the basics:
3 services of 1.5 hours each 4.5 hours
prayer before every service 3 hours
music night 1,5 hours
evangelism 2 hour
Total 12 hours
Then add the music practice for bands, practice for skit/drama groups, extra men’s discipleship, extra revival meetings, the bi-annual conferences (17 sermons in 5 days), all the preparation for activities and the conferences, and all the fellowshipping with other members (which is compulsory, there are sermons dedicated to the idea that Christians are always fellowshipping, no alone time).
This is, by the way, a brainwashing tactic. Always keeping people busy so that they do not get time to think for themselves.
- General manipulation
The church is very manipulative. They work on keeping people in line with promises of do this and then God will bless, do that and God will not curse you, e.g. tithing and giving. There are always sermons on old sins, and condemnation, making sure people always feel guilty. If you do not respond to an alter call, then you are probably backsliding. Telling people, they can backslide at any moment.
Even the members are manipulative. I helped you, so now you must help me. If you are not helping someone, you are not a good Christian. The church is filled with emotional manipulation. Especially from the pastors.
These are the original reasons I left CFM. Back then I did not look at them as a cult, but after using a scientific analyses method, the BITE model, I concluded that CFM is a cult. I will publish my findings using BITE in the future.
If you have also left CFM, and are struggling to find closure, there is a Facebook group called ‘Escaping the Potter’s House’. Do look it up, there are many people there sharing their experiences.
If you would like more information on this cult, visit www.mitchellism.com.
If you can read Dutch, go to www.rd.nl, and read their series into CFM.