A baby’s tragic death. “Strange” behavior by church members. Townsfolk concerned. The Media flummoxed.
In the East Texas town of Wells, a recent event highlights the danger of elevating one biblical teaching out of proportion to the rest of scripture. It shows why a church can be biblical and yet unorthodox.
The Death of Faith
On Saturday, May 26, three-day-old Faith Shalom Pursley died in the town of Wells after suffering respiratory complications.
According to local news reports, investigators with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s department discovered that Faith’s parents had followed the advice of elders in their church to pray over the baby rather than taking her to the
hospital for treatment. After Faith’s death, members of the church continued to pray over her for fifteen hours before notifying authorities, hoping that God would raise her from the dead. Few outsiders would disagree that the church acted unwisely by disallowing medical intervention and instead focusing solely on prayer to heal the child.
Media coverage focused on the “bizarre” and “strange” practices of church members, though one reporter from local station KTRE noted that “On the surface, the church’s website doesn’t appear to be too radical compared to other Christian denominations.”
Townsfolk consider the church cultic and say it is unwelcome in their town.
A look at the church of Wells’s own website and an audio sermon from Faith Pursely’s memorial service provide a clearer picture of what the church believes and how they went astray. It also provides a warning to other churches that an imbalanced view of the Bible can promote unorthodox practices.
Adding Sorrow to Sorrow
On June 1, Sean Morris, one of three elders in the church of Wells, conducted Faith Pursely’s memorial service. The church posted Morris’s sermon on their website, “You Must Be Born Again,” [Update, 12/6/12: The Church’s website has now changed to “The Church of Wells”] along with the accompanying note:
To whom it may concern,
We are not ignorant of the slander of many, nor are we desirous to answer all of the accusations which have been cast in our teeth, adding sorrow to sorrow…. We have nothing to hide, and yet we did not (neither do we plan to) make a statement to our earnest inquirers (the news reporters)… We find it inconsistent with holiness to thus join hands with backbiters and talebearers in their fabulous tales. Thus have we refrained our feet from this way, and have declined open communication with such reporters.
We desire the sermon preached at the memorial service of Faith Shalom Pursley to suffice as a response to the many reports given (public and private). This sermon was preached to the purpose to answer the questions surrounding the the [sic] death of Faith, and various beliefs of the church which have been deemed (by the general public) everything but moderate. This is our humble stance upon these matters.
In his message, Morris addressed concerns from church members who fear that they might be part of a cult and that they should have sought medical treatment for the sick child. “As to the charge that we sinned as elders or as a church,” he said, “when that child died, we believed that it was God’s will to raise her. We don’t think that was a presumptuous thing. We’ve seen many miracles as a church and as individuals: demons cast out, healings. We weren’t just being foolish; we wanted God to be glorified.”
Indeed, explained Morris, church elders feared God and responded to scripture when they made their decision.
“In 2 Chronicles 16:12,” Morris said, “King Asa sought not the Lord but the physicians, which means he put the physicians in a preeminent place. We are not against hospitals or the medical field. What we’re against is putting any of those things supremely over Christ, not giving him his place as God to heal, or to submit to the leadership of the Holy Ghost. In James 5 and Mark 16, Christ says that it is his will for his people to heal to his glory. Those scriptures have inspired us in the past, and they inspired us in the life of Faith. Sadly, we did not have [enough] faith to see the child healed.”
By Their Fruits You Will Know Them
Most of the rest of Morris’s 50-minute sermon provided a summary of the doctrinal beliefs of the church of Wells. His message—packed with over thirty biblical citations—focused prominently on discerning the fruits of genuine salvation and determining by words and deeds whether someone is truly saved. Though unorthodox for a memorial service, Morris’s sermon highlights the focus of the church of Wells: zealous spiritual fruit-bearing and separation from lackluster professing Christians (Pharisees) through clear discernment.
Such discernment, Morris said, is commanded by Jesus Christ and is the reason why the church of Wells has separated itself from the world and the large mass of hypocritical professing Christians. It is also the reason why most church members have ceased to be in relationship with family members who are outside of the church. Members don’t want to be polluted by the leaven of the Pharisees, said Morris.
“Pharisees” in Morris’s terms are hypocritical Christians who don’t evidence the fruits of salvation, namely good works. Instead, said Morris, “The grace of God works because it takes work, because God has ordained work for us to do (Eph 2:10), and we want to be pure since only the holy will see God. We judge between those who are saved and those who are not by their fruits, since their words and deeds manifest what is in their heart. By their fruits you will know them.”
When the Cost of Fruit is Faith
Morris’s sermon helps explain why church members could sit and pray over a deathly sick—and then dead—child when medical services were readily available: they believed it was an act of faith which honored God and followed his word. Such fruit, they believed, is part of genuine Christianity.
While the church of Wells subscribes to faith in Jesus Christ and studies the Bible with zealous devotion, their extreme focus on “fruitfulness” and separation from the world has actually caused the church to become off-balance, and therefore unorthodox, in its practice. Sadly, this off-balanced approach to Christianity led—unintentionally—to the death of Faith Pursely.
At the risk of over-simplification, let me explain the three unorthodox steps as I see them:
- Excessive fear of contamination by culture. Morris’s sermon reflects an extreme fear of being polluted by culture and thereby not measuring up to God’s standards and not evidencing the fruit of true salvation. One reason the church moved to Wells from Arlington, Texas, was to find a remote place to live holy lives. While the Bible does warn against friendship with the world (James 4:4) and being polluted by the world (James 1:27), it also reminds us that God loves the world (John 3:16) and sent his Son incarnationally (in the flesh) into the world to live amongst sinners in the humdrum areas of life. “To the pure, all things are pure,” (Titus 1:15) and so believers do not need to live in paranoid fear of contamination from the world.
- Separation from other churches. The tight-knit church of Wells has severed ties with other churches, believing those churches to be full of hypocrites who do not evidence the fruit of salvation. The result of this separation is—inevitably—an environment of information-control, group-think, and fear of outsiders. Biblical passages are interpreted by the elders without outside input, and church members live in a world where information is filtered through the grid of the leaders’ interpretation. Not incidentally, the elders also place great stake in revelations from God, which in the case of Faith Pursely led to the decision to pray over the child rather than to take her to the hospital.
- Unbalanced biblical belief, uncorrected by external input. Since the church of Wells is led by several elders and promotes community life, the focus on fruitfulness (that is, works) and extreme commitment becomes a mantra unmoderated by other biblical commands.
Consider a horse and rider. If the rider holds both reins in his hands, the horse runs straight, or we might say, the horse is “orthodox.” “Ortho” is Greek for straight, like orthodontia makes your teeth straight. However, if the
rider pulls more heavily on one side of the reins, the horse turns in that one direction.
I believe that the church of Wells has probably veered off to one side by its single-minded devotion to “fruitfulness” and separation from the world. In the case of Faith Pursely, the elders believed that to avail themselves of medical treatment was a lack of faith, i.e. a lack of spiritual fruitfulness, and that if they believed hard enough the baby would be saved. Their “faith” in God was actually a misplaced sense of duty to believe, i.e., a work they had to perform. This is shown by the fifteen hours of corporate prayer devoted to the child after her death in hopes that God would respond to their great faith and raise the child. As Morris tellingly related in his memorial sermon, “Sadly, we did not have [enough] faith to see the child healed.”
Whether the church of Wells is a cult—as townspeople claim—or not, is beyond the scope of this post. But what seems clear is that an exaggerated preoccupation with one biblical truth to the exclusion of others has led to off-balance, unorthodox practices. A church can be biblical but still not orthodox. The small church of Wells seems to have lost hold of a healthy faith by focusing almost exclusively on fruit.
And in this case, the price of such fruit was the death of Faith.
Update, 10/16/12: The Church of Wells recently posted a series of articles on their website defending their beliefs and rebutting their critics. In the interest of full-disclosure and to promote critical thinking, I am including a copy of Sean Morris’s “Open Response to Steve Smith and Liberty for Captives” here. I still believe that the post above is fair-minded. Any errors have already been pointed out in the comments section below.
I do not claim to be anything other than what I am: a seminary student, cult survivor, and follower of Christ who desires to see other people set free from legalistic and controlling religious groups.
I encourage readers to compare the contents of Morris’s letter with the contents of this website and to draw your own conclusions. I also encourage readers to recall that at the end of the day, this group’s prophecies and predictions proved false and a baby was allowed to die. Saying there is a problem does not make me the problem.
Update, 2/20/14: In a similar case, a Pennsylvania couple was just convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to prison time and probation after they withheld medical help from their children: “Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner told the couple that it was not their son’s time to die. ‘You killed two of your children … not God, not your church, not your religious devotion — you,’ the AP reported.” Here’s the link to the HuffPost article.
Update, 5/15/14: There’s a helpful new website about the Church of Wells which questions its doctrine and exposes some of its harmful practices. You can find it here: http://www.thechurchofwells.org/
Does the Church of Wells Teach a False Gospel?
Faith Healing? Trust in God, but See a Doctor
Why People in Cults Don’t Think They’re in Cults
Wisconsin Faith-Healing Case May Set Precedent
Ten Ways to Reach the Unreachable
Fixing a Frankenstein Faith: Ten Distortions of Scripture and How to Correct Them
Frankenstein Faith: Love Thy Neighbor But Hate Thy Parent
10 Questions A Church Should Ask When it Receives Bad Press
To Train Up A Child… Abuser (Part 1)
To Train Up A Child… Abuser (Part 2)
Eight Ways to Identify Religious Brain-Washing (Part 1 of 8)
15 Signs of False Humility
Ten Major Symptoms of Spiritual Abuse
You have pegged the group. We know the young men personally (and a number of others who have been drawn in by their teaching) and are aware of these shortcomings among them. Pray that they will awakened by this event. Thank you for making a clear exposure of this group!
I agree will Don, we also know them personally and they are WAYYY off track with thier beliefs. Infact, they are down right crazy. They should be held acountable for the death of this child.
They ALLOWED this baby to die.
Well said Steve, though I think you were very gracious. I would add, despite their claim to hate word-faithers, that’s exactly what they believe evidenced by his statement “We didn’t have enough faith.” They do pervert scripture from it’s clear meaning to support their misunderstandings for biblical doctrine. I hope every person who held Faith, praying for healing/resurrection is charged. They let her die.
Gina, I agree with your assessment. I also intentionally side-stepped the issues surrounding accountability for the death of the baby, as I imagine the District Attorney and Cherokee County Sheriff’s office will capably handle the matter. I wanted to focus more on the destructive theology of the group in this particular post. They were wrong to let the baby die: I wanted to show why they believed they were right. Thanks for your helpful comment!
Well written Steve! You have done your homework well.
Thank you so much for writing on this topic. It is beyond my comprehension that they let this baby die. It’s so very, very sad. I have a relative who was sucked into this group and you can’t imagine the pain it has brought to our family. I know there are others out there who are hurting, too.
I have a daughter, son-in-law and grandson in this “church” and your assessment of them seems right on. We barely get to talk to them anymore and haven’t seen a picture of our grandson in months, because they have decided we are not saved, even though we are professing Christians who love the Lord! It has torn our family apart and we pray for them constantly! Please keep these young people in your prayers!
I lost my best friend to this group – and like many of the replies, I too am a Christ follower. This has been going on for around 2 years now, and has devastated his family and his closest friends.
I’m also willing to hedge my bet that the poster above (Jan) is the mother-in-law of said best friend. To not reveal names, Jo&Ni Fr?
As heinous as this is, please be faithful in prayer for this group. I’ve tried relentlessly to argue the logical and theological issues here with him – he cannot operate in that framework (nor is he allowed to). Only a movement of God can change things at this point.
You are correct, I am. And you are right, prayer is the only thing that can change things! We have tried everything possible to get through to them, with no results. God is bigger than us, and he can bring them back to us. I am so sorry you have lost your best friend, it’s so sad!
Keep the prayer going!
Drew, Karen, Jan & Others,
I too have lost a dear friend to this group, as well as two other friends that I wasn’t as close to. I moved out of state, and wasn’t aware of how bad things have gotten until now. It’s been hard dealing with this, and I could use a friendly ear from people who understand.
Feel free to email me anytime firstname.lastname@example.org
Haley, I tried to email you, but it came back as a wrong address. Let me know if you have a different email.
I know the couple involved in this mess. They have been drawn into something that God never intended. We don ‘t have to buy your salvation. It is through grace and faith…not works. Works are a outcome of the faith and trust we put in God. This is extremely sad since I believe the couple feel that they are doing God’s will. They too are alienated from a fine Christian family and church family. this baby’s Mother is RH negative and the baby and mother required injections to counteract the medical issue which causes anemia by the mother’s blood literally depleting the red blood cells of the baby. It was not SIDS. It was a neglectful choice made by so-called elders. God is still in control, has baby Faith with Him but the couple and their three other children need continued prayers to get out of this situation.
The writer seems to do well in keeping a limited scope, not rushing into calling down legal action on the people involved without knowing all of the details, and has wisely left this to the appropriate authorities. He also seems to be kind and respectful in attempting to understand the emphasis and teachings of the leadership of the group.
There are, however, at least two notable misquotations of Sean’s sermon in the text of the article…
Sean said “The grace of God works because it’s His work…” in his sermon…
The writer quoted him as saying “The grace of God works because it takes work…”
That is a very meaningful misquotation. I have never heard the YMBBA group preach salvation by works. They seem to always describe good works as fruit and not as the root, just as in the scriptures, which require good works as evidence of true faith (James 2, Titus 2, etc…). Whatever problems they may have, this does not seem to be one of them.
Sean also said “Sadly, we did not have faith to see the child healed…” in his sermon…
The writer twice inserted the word “enough” in brackets to posit his interpretation into the quote as…
“Sadly, we did not have [enough] faith to see the child healed…”
Sean could have used the word “enough” if he had wanted to, as he is normally a carful speaker in my experience, but he did not, and it seems dishonest to push it into the mind of the reader in this way.
It may be good to approach such a tragic matter in fear and trembling, and in humbleness before God. They have wagered a lot of things on the scriptures and on their understanding of and obedience to the scriptures – so it is very costly when there is any error. May the Lord Jesus Christ give us understanding and humility, so as not to “add sorrow to sorrow”…
Bless you Jeff for your observations and being the first in this blog to actually cite Scripture, amoung the emotional heresay and stone throwers. Hope the writer will respond to your concerns. (Romans 3:3,4)
Steve, I don’ t see any stone throwers. I only see concerned friends and parents who cannot have contact with their loved ones and are being judged by them. How about Romans 15:7 or the ten commandments – honor your mother and father. Or 1 Corinthians 4:5
Steve from WI: Thanks for your comment. I am happy to respond to Jeff’s concerns.
1.) In terms of the first quotation, Jeff is correct. When I re-listened to the sermon today, I realized that I had misheard Sean. I am sorry for misquoting him in this instance; I always strive to quote accurately. Thanks for catching this, Jeff!
I think the reason I misheard Sean was because his sermon focused so heavily on fruit and works. In my own experience, a church can claim to believe in salvation by grace through faith and yet in practice can be works-based. I know mine was. We strictly adhered to Ephesians 2:8-10 in principle, but in practice the bar of salvation moved further and further away as we learned more and more of God’s commands for holiness and total abandonment. We shunned “worldy” family members and cut ourselves off from culture. My former pastor decided who was saved and who was not based on the “fruit” of our lives. This effectively made him the mediator between God and us—because he said that if we obeyed him then we were obeying God—and gave him total control over our souls. But Jesus is the only mediator (1 Tim 2:5). I’m concerned because Sean’s sermon sounds very similar to those preached by my former pastor.
Do you think YMBBA Ministries veers in this direction? Should they reconsider their practices as the result of the death of Faith?
2.) In terms of the second quotation, I have to disagree with Jeff. I believe that my inclusion in brackets of the word “enough” is a helpful interpretation of what I perceive to be the understanding of YMBBA Ministries in this matter, based on the rest of Sean’s sermon. In the New Testament, most healing miracles occurred immediately. Notice how often the words “immediately” or “at once” occur in the Gospels and Acts when Jesus or the Apostles healed. That the church of Wells continued to pray for Faith for fifteen hours after her death seems to show that they were trying to work up enough faith to raise her. Would you be willing to share what you think Sean meant by saying “we did not have faith”?
In these matters of clarifying words, let us not forget the reason for this discussion in the first place: the death of a little girl who could have been saved through medical intervention.
I’m afraid the burden of proof and the need for humble explanation lie first with the elders of the church of Wells and not with the media because there is reason for outsiders to have concern. God is true and every man may be a liar (Rom 3:3-4), but all truth is God’s truth.
Thanks for your comment, Jeff. I noticed that you approved of some things I refrained from saying, and you noticed a quotation I misheard. I’m curious if you agree with anything that I said in this post? You can contact me privately at email@example.com if you prefer. I’d love to talk more! Blessings to you, brother.
May I say that not only do these brethren focus so heavily on works and fruits, but also the Lord Jesus focuses on these things. Go to the Word of God! Jesus Himself said that “by thier fruits” you shall know them, NOT by thier profession of mouth of following Christ, but by thier feet following Christ will you know them.
We are not saved by works, but the evident fruit/works IS the evidence that we are saved. Please, go to the scripture and seek what God has said on these things, not what well meaning, often selfish friends, family and church members say.
Yes we are called to honor father and mother……but Jesus also said “if any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his OWN life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple…….count the cost…” Luke 14
We are not of this church, but may I say that perhaps much of where they are at is a result of the sickening lukewarmness in the Am. churches today. There is little denial of self, and yet Jesus Himself calls us to a separated life, calling us to regard HIM above all others in our life—even family and well meaning church folks. If one of our children become involved with such as these God seekers, and cut us off—shouldn’t that cause us to reflect on our own lives, and seek God to show us if we are in fact “in the way?” ….rather than just make the assumption that we are in the right? Perhaps there really is something to the fact that one of our children would not want to deal with us….we should be on our knees before God, not throwing stones! and yes, there is stone throwing going on here.
These things ought to cause us to cry out to God….not stand in our supposed rightness with God, but seeking Him earnestly, as He gives the example in His servant David. If we are truly concerned about Jesus, and not our own life and how things are affecting US, but with Christ and HIS kingdom, we will not so eassily be offended, and take up offences (Ps 119:165). Please, folks, this is not some theological discussion to be expounded upon, or won, but these are peoples lives, for whom Christ died. HE calls us to a separated life…HE calls us to bear fruit. Our families are not about the joy we can gain through our children or grandchildren. They are about CHRIST. Don’t you see, evertything is about Christ—-it’s not about us. When we make it about us, then we get hurt or offended.
These young people are not a cult. They do not deny anything about the Christ revealed in the scriptures. Are they right about everything? Are they sinless and perfect? No, and they do not claim to be. But so many responding sound as though they themselves are…..as though they have it all figured out. And as such, they feel they are in a position to condemn them. I see so little of the devotion to Christ and His Word as found in these young people. I do agree that it is not good for them to cut themselves off from other christians, but I wonder……if they saw more true christianity, christlikeness, genuine living for Christ and not for self, if perhaps then maybe they would have been more inclined to accept or seek counsel from others. Who, if they have set thier life to follow Christ, would even want counsel from the worldly “christian”? These sorts of things happening should drive us to our knees, in petition to God for where WE need to get right with Him—-not in talking back and forth, in placing blame, in casting stones.
If I may also ask. Do we really believe that little Faith is better off with Christ? If we do, then why the lamenting of the life she could have lived? If we really believe that she is better off, then why the stone throwing about how she should have gotten medical attention. Some of you don’t really believe she is better off….and you don’t believe in Gods perfect will, either. The way of looking at this is fleshly. God determined to take her, otherwise she would still be with her parents. We are not against Dr’s or medicine, but either we believe that it is God who holds life and death, or we don’t.
I so appreciate the comments of those who seem to be made in the spirit of love, and not contention. I am also wearied of the comments made by those selfishly and seemingly vengeful—-this is not the Spirit of Christ. His Spirit draws us to Him, to see our sins, His glory and gives a desire to change—fot HIS sake…..not for the sake of contention.
I appreciate the authors admitting to the misquotes, which were pointed out in a spirit of humility. I do wonder though, sir, if you were not aware of the “enough” that you put in brackets. This was an assumption on your part, assuming that I myself am correctly interpreting your intentions. This, I believe, has been, at leasdt in part, the reluctance on the part of the young people involved—-they did not want to be misquoted or purposefully misunderstood. So much can be misunderstood through miscommunication. Adding that “(enough)” quite changes the intent of what was being said.
I hope that, for Christs sake, I have spoken respectfully and in humility.
I can see that you value the scriptures and that you seem concerned to avoid casting aspersions on fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Your calls for self-reflection and soul-searching before God are a good reminder–few would disagree with your assessment of a generally lukewarm American Christianity. Thank you for your comment and for expressing the concerns of your heart–your comments are welcome here.
May I offer a word or two of explanation? The purpose of this blog is for education and healthy dialogue, not stone-throwing. Most of those who have commented on this particular post have experienced a loss of family members to this group. One family has lost a grandchild. These matters are serious and warrant the discernment and critical thinking which Jesus commanded his followers to exercise. Not every group which professes the name of Christ is Christ-like, and Jesus warned that many false teachers would come in the end times (Matt 7:15-23). While Christians may disagree about who is a true and who is a false teacher, the discussion generated by concerned Christians such as yourself can help many believers to more firmly understand biblical Christianity and to avoid unhealthy groups.
A common misconception is to avoid confrontation or conflict in the name of humility. Yet Jesus himself often clashed with the religious leaders of his day who were leading people astray. Jesus strongly confronted them and let them know that there was a problem (cf. Matt 23). Based on the model of Jesus, the people who commented in this post are not the problem for saying that there is a problem.
You may find several other posts on this site helpful to understand the purpose of this blog and my own particular background in a Bible-based cult. I would feel honored if you would take the time to read some of the other posts, and I invite your feedback on them. Or, you can contact me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer.
Grace to you!
Yes, I have read all of the posts (unless there is another pg I didn’t see). I am not condoning those in the Wells church. Some dear to us are there and we know in a persoanl way several involved. I was seeking to have some, as you said, reflect and search their own souls on this matter. I guess I disagree that some who have commented are not the problem, at least in part. Certainly, they are not the problem in saying there is a problem. Yes, there is a problem. But when we don’t respond as Jesus would have us to, we only add to the problem. The example given in Matt 23 is Jesus, with reighteous anger—that He acted on. I just think that we need to be very careful when we ACT on what we veiw as righteous anger. Jesus was acting based on what He, as God knew. We cannot read mens hearts, but often their actions reveal their hearts.
As I reflect on some of what has been said…..”they are down right crazy”…….”I hope every person who held Faith, praying for her healing/resurrection is charged”…….”a baby was sacrificed to feed the delusions of these elders”………”it is beyond my comprehension that they let this baby die”…………..Maybe, let me put it this way…It is beyond my comprehension that anyone calling themselves after the name of Christ would bring their child to daycare to be raised by others…..that they would send their children to public school………..let them watch godless movies, play violent video games……………have someone else teach their own childrn in the ways of God and His Word in sunday school, and not take the responsibility themselves…………and other things. The way that I look at it, many who call themselves christians sacrifice their own children in these and many other ways on a regular basis, and yet feel justified and that they are doing nothing wrong. In the same way, those involved did not think that they were doing anything wrong. You see, I wonder if we have such high regard for life in general, and so little regard for life in Christ in particular, that one can sacrifice his own child in many of the ways I mentioned and feel OK condemning someone else who does believe they are following God’s will. I personally believe the sacrifices I mentioned are in many ways worse than what happened with little Faith. But that is not my point. I don’t think those involved handled things rightly with Faith. What I’m trying to get at here is the RESPONSES that others have had. I read little of what would seem to me to be a way in which Jesus would have responded. This Jesus, who harshly dealt with the religious leaders in Matt 23, also tells us to not resist evil and to love our enemies, and to do good to those that behave themselves wickedly. “Ye have heard that it hath it been said an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil………….Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you……that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven….”Matt 5.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that one should not be held resposible: as you mentioned, you have left that to the authorities, and they are in place as God’s servants, as the scripture teaches. But where my concern is, is in the unChristlike responses of those that sound vengeaful. God says that vengeance is His. Even Christ left the unfair treatment of others in His Father’s hands to deal with, and would have us to do the same. That’s not to say that men don’t deal with false teachings and teachers. I just think we need to be very careful. Even David would not act out against Saul, even knowing that God had already given him the kingdom. He trusted God to work things out. It is good to bring these things out and make others aware, but truly, I just have to say that I have seen some stone throwing in some of these posts. He who is without sin, let HIM cast the first stone. None of us are right on everything and without any sin that God is working on in sanctifying us—we have not arrived….not if we’re completely honest. Retaliation is not a witness for Christ—it is of the world, and what comes naturally to the flesh. We need God’s Spirit working in us, as we surrender to Him, to find the strengh to respond rightly in these things, as Jesus would have us to. If we choose not to take up offences, for ourselves and loved ones, God will step in and give us strengh to respond as He would have us to, and in so doing, bring glory to His Name. Ps 119:165
I appreciated the brother who exorted us to “approach such a matter in fear and trembling, and in humbleness beore God.” I also appreciated several who admonished us to pray. Let’s not underestimate seeking the Lord in prayer. God would have us to exercise charity toward those involved. I just can’t see Jesus responding in such a manner as some here have felt at liberty to do. I think if we take an honest look at the scriptures, with a heart to seek out what Christ taught, we would see that in such a matter He really would have us to approach it in much fear and trembling, and with much charity. Would not Christ have us to respond to those involved in the same manner that we would desire them to treat us? Isn’t that second to the greatest commandment, that Jesus spoke of, that is like unto the first? Isn’t that what would give God the most glory?
Grace also to you!
I wish that those in the Wells group agreed with your perspective of Matt. 5 and loving enemies, blessing others, doing good to all, etc. Sadly, once I told my best friend that I disagreed with some of his perspectives, he decided that he was justified in proclaiming me as “unsaved” and cutting me off from his life.
***Mind you, these perspectives were *in my mind* minor. I consider myself to be conservative and orthodox. (One example of a disagreement: music and art are good things as long as they do not go against what is close to God’s heart or commands. For example, I believe that listening to U2’s “A Beautiful Day” is okay! The Wells group would disagree.)***
The theme of being cut off and ignored by the Wells group seems to be consistent throughout this thread. However, this does not seem like a behavior that would be consistent with scripture, the teachings and character of Christ, and Matt. 5.
***A quick rebuttal out of anticipation: I would like to say that if my best friend uses the fact that I (or anyone else he deems an unbeliever) “rejected” his Christ as grounds for cutting us off – let us not forget an important biblical and historical figure that also “rejected” Christ. You may know him: Peter.***
As a Christ-follower who works for a public university in California, I encounter non-believers every day. I try and mirror Christ as best as I can by loving them to my utmost ability; preaching the gospel with loving actions and character rather than boisterous condemnation and bible thumping. Again, I find this to be consistent with the teachings in Matt. 5. The teachings of the Wells group (again, according to my best friend) say that my actions make me “a friend of the world” and “an enemy of God.” I’m sorry, but I’m going to go out of my way to love the same group of worldly sinners that Christ died for – for I was once one of them. How does that make me an enemy of God? I don’t get it.
Could you please explain to me, and the rest of the concerned and loving family and friends on this board why the Wells group proclaims that they are a bible believing group and follow the teachings of Christ yet ignore (or justify) this basic principle? I am not asking these questions rhetorically or in a spirit of hostility; I am asking because it has been almost 9 months since he and I have talked. I’ve posed this question to him multiple times – yet never got an answer. I am earnestly curious.
I have to agree with everything Drew said. Where is the love of Christ in this group? How do they justify cutting off their family and friends that are believers, but not a part of this group?
There is no doubt that Faith is better off with God, we all will be! But, I think you are missing what is God’s will and what God allows. I don’t believe this was God’s will, but I think he allowed it, the same way he allows people to do bad things, and break the commandments of God, and the way he allowed Adam and Eve to fall. I don’t think it was his will, but he allowed it.
A sister, June 25, 2012, said: “I read little of what would seem to me to be a way in which Jesus would have responded.”
I have a different mindset and trying hard to be patient and understanding.
1. This issue isn’t about how Jesus would have responded.
2. This issue IS about balancing religion and real life; good clear wholesome decision-making. In THIS century.
3. I believe Jesus would have advised common sense and using resources of the day. I believe Jesus would have advocated for the baby and would not have wanted it to suffer.
4. We have the right to refuse medical treatment at any time, even when it’s life-saving. Pregnant women have the right to not seek prenatal care at their own discretion. Parents have the right to make custodial decisions for children. But they are accountable for every outcome in in the eyes of society and in the eyes of the law.
5. The laws of the land assume balance. The laws of the land are clear – parents MUST take responsibility for decisions made about children. They cannot default to someone else’s decision for their child.
While they might feel moral authority over its members, the sect has no legal authority to cause a baby’s death.
In this this country, in this century, we are individually responsible for what happens to our children.
Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.
(Thus, silence gives consent; he ought to have spoken when he was able to)
What the “minister” of this church fails to mention is that one of the elders claimed that God spoke to him and told him that baby Faith was going to die and they would resurrect her with prayer. My niece and her husband and baby are members of this cult and that is what he tells his mother. He also said if a member of the church said the same thing he would do it again, even if it was his own child. Those that wereinvolved need to be arrested before more children die. I believe it is a cult. They are preparing a compound and the elders hold all of the car keys and cell phones. No one could leave if they wanted you to.
Hi Monica! Could you contact me at email@example.com?
Monica, not sure about the car keys and cell phones being held by the elders is a true statement. They can leave if they want, because we know a girl that did leave. The point you are trying to make, I think, is that they are being secluded from family, friends and the outside world.
I can say for sure that the elders and members evaluate the fruit of your life and testimony to judge if you’re saved.
After my best friend joined the group, he asked me how I knew I am saved by the fruit in my life. He already knew what the Lord did in my life in a relationship with Christ and the Spirit, as my friend, but for some reason wanted to hear it again. Without going into detail for the readers here, I have an amazing story of redemption.
Upon telling this to my friend, he simply said, “that’s not enough.” He then told me I needed to plead before the throne for salvation or something like that. From what he told me before I was shunned for rejecting his version of the gospel, new members must go through this process as well.
Hope that helps.
PS: Lets not let misquotes and the like become a red herring to the overall validity of this article representing this group and what it has done, and still continues to do.
I believe ” the fruit” of works in these church members lives are also income making for the owners of the church’s businesses. They have members labor without pay. Which is illegal.
I had a similar experience, about saying I was saved, but they needed to see the fruit and the fruit I have was not enough. Only the Lord knows a persons heart! They are not my judge, even though they think they are.
I appreciate everyone’s input on this site, it really does help to see all the perspectives.
I still don’t understand YMBBA not taking this baby to the hospital when the mother knew this baby needed her shot, and when their prayers didn’t seem to be working. Very puzzling to me.
I will continue to pray for everyone involved.
I have found out the news cast I watched was incorrect about the shot issue, so that was not correct information. I still do not understand why they did not call 911 when this baby got sick. But, I do withdraw my comment about the shot.
Jan, Faith did need a rHogam shot as the mother is rh negative. However, the medical examiner is saying this was not the primary cause of death. She needed medical attention, bottom line.
Does YMBBA only read the parts of the bible they want? What about Luke 5:31? Jesus answered them, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”. Jesus must have thought sick people (or babies) should go to the doctor or he would have never said this!
Jan, you are correct. We need to remember that a baby was sacrificed to feed the delusions of these elders. Jeff and Steve, I wonder if you would change your tune if it was your child?
Drew, your comments struck me…”Upon telling this to my friend, he simply said, “that’s not enough.” He then told me I needed to plead before the throne for salvation…”
A college aged friend of mine and his fiancee were traumatized for several hours by this group claiming the same thing as a part of their “recruitment” process. Fortunately my young friend had the wisdom to leave and seek wise counsel afterwards. Isolation, shaming, shouting and intimidation are classic cult recruiting techniques.
One more thing, to some extent I don’t doubt the sincerity of this bunch of wanting to draw closer to God, but because of the enemy’s deception they can’t realize that there is nothing we can do to push ourselves onto God. He draws us to Him! The faith to believe comes from Him, salvation comes from Him. The gift of salvation is free! There is NOTHING we can do to earn it.
Jeff, interesting that we’re talking about a baby who died at 3 days old- a baby whom God formed and loved and had a plan for, who wasn’t given the chance to live- and all you can talk about is the exact wording of some quotations. I encourage you to re-evaluate your moral compass.
Steve, very well-written. I know members of this group and you nailed it. You balanced truth with kindness well. Bravo.
Before we both moved on, I used to work with Faith’s father at a very large (mainstream evangelical) church in Houston, TX. This whole thing has completely floored me. I don’t understand how the man I knew two years ago could have done this… how he let himself be taken in like this. I know the “elders” (none of which are nearly old enough to bear that name) were friends of his from a years ago, but had no idea they had garnered so much power over him and his wife.
From his experience and that of other friends who became less extremist instead of more as time went on, it goes to show that isolationism and forming/joining a body of believers made up of all people who agree with you may be the most dangerous thing that a Christian can do. Nearly everyone has a period of time in their faith where they have a particular interpretation of Scripture that they are convinced must be true and must be shared with everyone. I call it the “arrogant young man” phase. Some people become teachable and grow out of that phase, some people end up going deeper and deeper. My friend and the “elders” of YMBBA went deeper into it, and continue to reject the opinion and advice of anyone who disagrees with them.
This is not to say that Biblical truth should not be contended for – on the contrary, it MUST be contended for. But it must be contended for in a spirit of love, and a spirit of teachability (teachableness? idk).
Galen, I must know you as I am the Nana of Faith. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good to see you online! You too, Karen.
I have been physically ill over baby Faith. This whole ordeal has me so stumped…
I remember a time that Kristin and I both struggled to conceive. I remember lots of prayers over our wombs. I remember so much joy when she finally conceived. I remember the glow of knowing what a blessing she had been given that Kristin wore while I photographed her maternity pictures… And Savannah’s newborn pictures. She truly knew what a miracle savannah was! Then, she received 2 more… After all that trouble to get pregnant in the first place… So to hear that this happened…
It has truly made me ill. How does one profess to be all that this group expects from their members… Yet lose sight of the precious gift of life???
For the last 2.5 weeks… I stay awake at night thinking about this… How they have gotten so lost? Worrying for the other 3 babies… Wondering how she was able to take those risks…. Knowing ALL of the other complications in past pregnancies….
Wondering how CPS can trust the same people who came in and held a dead baby… Rather than calling the police with her other 3 children… When they have family removed from this group that would be far more logical as a stable home.
I just pray that they are able to see past the false preachings of this group… And find their way back to a healthy relationship with the Lord!
I also know this famlly, they have a godly family that are suffering from the loss of Faith but also the other 3 they can’t visit. The parents knew Faith would need a shot, just a tiny little shot to save her life. May God have mercy and law inforcement protect the other 3 children.
Thanks, Tasha. I have thought about contacting you several times in the last few months…since Journey when it started to get crazier! That what I thought then…now it’s just BIZARRE. keep praying. God is the only one who can break this stronghold.
What is going on in this case? As far as I know, there has been nothing in the news since about June 4.
There is a new post from June 18 from “a sister” I was wondering if Steve or anyone plans to respond to her post. It is not in order of date, but under Steve’s last post so you have to scroll up or down to get to it. I agree with some of what she says there, but when referring to baby Faith being better off and being in the arms of the Lord, (and thus justifying the neglect that led to her death) it is exactly what abortion bound mommies say outside abortion clinics, that the baby will be better off going straight to heaven, so they are actually doing the best thing for the child. So when “a sister” said that about baby Faith, I cringed because that sounds exactly the same as the mommies going in to have their babies killed. They even say it must be God’s will, because they go through with it. When they come out of the clinic they even say “See it was God’s will for this baby to die”. Well, God says Ye shall not murder. Murder can be premeditated like abortion, or it can be through neglect as well. Child abuse can happen through neglect, but that most definitely is not God’s will. I’m also wondering who the writer meant when she said “we believe in medical doctors”. Who is “we”? Just wondering because earlier she said she wasn’t with the Wells, TX church. Maybe “we” meant her and her husband or family? Or was she speaking for the Wells church?
Yes, the “we” to which I refer is my husband and myself. We do not support abortion, or any kind of neglect. I think though that we need to be careful about wanting authorities to step in and legislate what decisions we as parents can and cannot make regarding our own and our children’s medical care. My point in what I said that Faith is better off with Christ is simply that—that she IS indeed better off with Christ than here. The Bible teaches that those who belong to God (and we believe that would include all children) are better off with Christ than here. Paul himself professed that he knew he would be better off with Christ, but that it was needful for him to remain—not to mention that it was God’s will for him to remain. I was trying to express that indeed we long to have our children with us, and even our grandchildren, but if we really BELIEVE that they are better off with Christ, that will show in our acceptance when one is taken from us, by what ever means they are taken. You see, I do believe that it is ultimately God who holds the life of each person in His hands. If He had not wanted Faith, she would have lived. There are plenty of children who live through unbelievable abuse and neglect, whom God does not take, all according to His will. And I understand what you are saying about a woman aborting her baby. Yes, that is murder, and she will answer to God some day for it, if she is not found in Christ. I can speak from a personal perspective a little in this. My younger sister had an abortion yrs ago, and I do believe that her baby is better off with Christ, but if she had come to me for counsel, I would have told her that she has no excuse to to take her baby’s life. A woman getting an abortion claiming that her baby is better off is no different than a woman who would choose to kill her children at any age in the name of them being better off with Christ.
I will say this, though. I remember as a young child being very heavy in heart when I learned that children were dying of starvation. I was not raised in a christian home, and so knew nothing of their fate. When I became yet older, abortions gave my heart the same grief. When I surrendered myself to the lordship of Christ as an adult, one of the things that gave me great joy was the realization that all those starving and aborted children were with Christ. What satan had meant for evil, God was using for good—and this is why…..How many of those children would have grown up and surrendered to serving the Lord and living with Him through eternity? According to the Bible, FEW. Thats what Jesus says….few there be that find it(eternal life). Children when taken in their innocence WILL spend eternity with Christ. Our life here is a vapor, and trying to have a more eternal perspective makes the road here what it should be—we are only pilgrims, and when we lose a loved one that we know is with Christ, while we mourn for ourself and what the loss means to us, the joy of the reality of where that person is should outweigh any greif—–if we keep that etenal perspective, AND our eyes are where they should be, ON CHRIST.
Some dear to us lost their grandchild—their first loss of this kind—when he was just born. The grandfather, in his greif, said that his dear grandson never got to see the light of day. (he was stillborn) That’s true, but he actually got to see a light far greater….the light of Christ, the maker of all true light. If I had to chose, I would choose the light of Christ in His countenance, for myself or any of our children…..but I don’t believe it is my choice—-it is God who holds our life in His hands. He has a plan for our life. He had a plan for Faith’s life….He knew before He even formed the universe what Faiths parents would choose to do, and yet He still gave her to them. His plan for her life was fulfilled, and then He took her. I don’t believe this negates the parents responsibility, I just think that it demonstrates the wonder of God’s wisdom….that His ways truly are higher than our ways. We are called to trust Him in all things—–we truly can trust Him in all things. Some early christians chose to trust Him in all things, when some of them had their own children ripped from their arms rather than choose to deny Christ. If we really understand who God is, we will find that truly, we can trust Him in all things, even difficult things like what this forum is addressing. Our God is good and just and mighty, and His will will not be thwarted….not by sincere, well meaning but misdirected believers, nor by the wicked and unbelieving. He will accomplish His will. We need to love God MORE than our children, and when we do that, we will be free to love them in a way that we could not otherwise. He loves our children more than we do anyway, and nothing can happen that He does not allow.
God bless you as you seek Him! Isaiah 26:1-13
sister, a birth of a baby has nothing to do with abortion. No comparison. Doesn’t merit being in the same conversation. You are linking it due to the subsequent death of the baby. Minimization and deflection, in my opinion.
That baby died because of lack of medical care – essentially, Third World conditions – by the decision of the adults to whom she was born. To justify it by saying that Heaven is a better place is refusal to take responsibility for the fact of our existence. That God saw fit to place us on this earth and expects us to do something with that; not to sit around waiting for Heaven.
It’s shameful and pretentious to allow a baby to die from deliberate lack of medical attention when there is a planet full of human beings who REALLY have no access to medical resources at all – no medicine, no hospital, a doctor or even a nurse, and would choose it in a heartbeat for the children in their care. I view this as tantamount to thumbing one’s nose at God. This wasn’t God’s decision. God provided the resources.
This was about resurrection of the dead, not faith healing. These people were looking for a miracle. A sign. Proof that God is on their side. A physical manifestation of their own power.
And the Pharisees and Sad′ducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.’
3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:
16:1-4 The Pharisees and Sadducees were opposed to each other in principles and in conduct; yet they joined against Christ. But they desired a sign of their own choosing: they despised those signs which relieved the necessity of the sick and sorrowful, and called for something else which would gratify the curiosity of the proud. It is great hypocrisy, when we slight the signs of God’s ordaining, to seek for signs of our own devising.
Matthew 12:39 King James Version
But he answered and said unto them, An
evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall
no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
Mark 8:12 (KJV) And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith,
Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you,
There shall no sign be given unto this generation.
Very good article, Steve, thank you for opening this conversation. I think many of us, who have some connection to the group can benefit from this. I think you nailed things on the head. I would like to add that the evangelists’ (as these young men are known in our area) view of salvation is what first threw up red flags – and I believe it does equate to a works salvation. Let me explain.
What the evangelists do is cause young people to doubt their salvation experience. One young woman, who is now in Wells, had had a very real salvation experience, but infatuation with the men and their seeming closeness to God over time lead her to ‘cast away her confidence’.
She and her sisters went to Arlington, spent days in a house fasting, listening to recorded sermons, reading scripture, and being preached to by the evangelists. Pretty soon two of the girls had their evangelist approved testimonies.
I really liked the last sentence of your article, because faith is the missing element in the evangelists’ doctrine. What replaces faith is ‘experience’. Instead of emphasizing the importance of man’s response to God through faith, they emphasize the overpowering work of God in the heart which results in an assurance (experience). “Orthodox” or biblical Christianity would probably contend that the Apostle Paul was speaking more of an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, and that an ‘assurance’ if not immediately felt will come as the Christian learns to rely on the completed work of Christ. The assurance is not necessarily the litmus test of salvation (salvation is promised and is a free gift that God longs to bestow! and that is meant to strengthen our faith; this is contained in myriads of verses and biblical accounts which the evangelists seem to miss). Their imbalanced view of salvation caused their group to be schismatic and, I believe, has lead to the later excesses. Their preoccupation with judgment ties in because it verifies in their minds that almost no one has experienced true salvation as they have rediscovered it in the Bible. Several prominent or experienced Christians have attempted to talk with the evangelists and they won’t listen. Many of the scriptures Sean quoted in his sermon – I wish he would have at least entertained the possibility that they apply to him and his friends and not to their detractors.
Most Christians are nervous of religious ‘experiences’. Though they are wonderful and real, we understand intuitively that they can be a very deceptive thing, and no religious experience is good enough to overcome doubt. Our human bodies are susceptible to emotions; we need food to think properly as well. God has to take salvation to a different level and that level is Himself – grasped by faith. We are never encouraged to struggle, fast, or punish ourselves for salvation in the Bible, so the evangelists view of salvation cannot be said to be biblical.
I believe the most serious error of the evangelists is to elevate religious experience, which they evidently have also come to understand as ‘leadership of the Holy Ghost’. Evidently they believed that the Holy Spirit wanted the baby to be raised from the dead. It appears that either the evangelists are listening to a spirit that is not the Holy Spirit or perhaps they are simply following their own whims. What the evangelists have overlooked is their own gross spiritual pride. A very real temptation for all earnest-hearted, evangelism oriented Christians. Instead of admitting their mistake, which I initially thought Sean was doing, they postulate that their lack of faith was the problem (not mistaking God’s voice in the first place!!) You are right to call this works because if God promised the raising of the child only if their faith met a certain standard, it is clearly dependent on man and not God.
It certainly is a sad state of affairs and my thoughts and prayers are with those whose loved ones are affected by this.
Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall.
I concur, Mose. Well stated.
Mose, You really put their beliefs down in words well! They are very convincing in what they preach, and you really shed some biblical light on there errors. Thank you!
Thanks. I’m sure my assessment isn’t perfect, but I hope it helps.
My son was in Arlington for a week before inevitable and serious “red flags” began to go up. Actually, I saw the writing on the wall after our first or second phone call from our son. It took me a week to rescue him (with the vigilant help of local Christians) from the grips of these deceived young men. They are deceived and they are a cult. Thank God my son followed the counsel and will of his earthly dad and Heavenly Father. We have been following the misdeeds and excess of these Texas Boys for a long time. We believe in miracles, evangelism, faith, fruit and street ministry. We just have no confidence in the flesh. After he left, I was the recipient of numerous spiteful and accusatory emails (copied to our body of believers) from one of their “point men” in which I was labeled a pharisee and worse. They need to disband, get under the teaching and care of some older brothers somewhere and re-tune their ears (if they were ever tuned to begin with) to the voice of Him who still speaks.
Dale, God has truly blessed you, that you were able to rescue your son! We were not so fortunate. We still pray daily (sometimes hourly) for our daughter’s return. I know God will bring her out of this in His time!
My son [name removed] is in this group and appears on their website. Although his parents and 8 siblings love him and have been kind to him, he has worked hard to insult all of us and build enmity to justify his group standards. None of us will forsake him despite the lies written about us on the website. I just found out he’s marrying someone in a few days but hasn’t told his parents. Sure wish I could locate the girl’s parents to talk to them. We constantly are believing God’s promises for (imperfect) parents and how He will save our children. I’m at email@example.com
It’s been a few months; does anyone have any updates? What had the group been up to? How have authorities responded?
I’ve been Googling for weeks – but nothing.
this group uses the misinterpretation of scripture to break down and rebuild those out of fear and judgement. first they use 1st Corinthians 5 as a means of condemning the “orthodox church”, saying that if there is an unrepentant heart in the midst of a congregation that everyone’s salvation is in danger of being lost. One of them asked me if nmy congregation ever got sick during communion because of one person with unrepentant sin. He told me that all of his congregation had and that the spirit revealed to them whom it was. an issue with this is that the scripture says that the one who takes communion in an unworthy manner drinks judgement upon himself, not the entire congregation, also notice paul didnt say all of those in the Corinthian church became sick, just many. they use that tactic as a means of scaring college students into going to there compound. there are sveral other misinterpretations of scriptures and hypocracys with this group. i have had first hand experience with there tactics and have come to the conclusion that they are wolves in sheeps clothing, suffering from Groupthink and no true biblical eldership or spiritual authority. they preach a doctrine of fear, wich scripturally, is not the same Gospel of Jesus Christ. they expect everyones repentence to be the same, and no room for the process of sanctification. They use scare tactics and pharisitacal means of looking holy. Having the appearance of Godliness.
Deut. 18:20But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, orf who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
What they have is a false prophet and they need to recognize this and remove him from among them. He is leading them astray. Whoever spoke that God said Faith would be raised to life, he is the one.
The baby died of pulmonary valve stenosis, a condition that could have been detected had there been prenatal care or had the baby been checked out after birth.
My son, his wife and infant daughter left in the middle of the night after months of conversations with them. We have received one e mail and I am sure that will be all. Anyone out there who knows more about the church please e mail me…firstname.lastname@example.org. We are all devastated about not only not seeing them but the fact that they think we are not saved so they wont see us. Please e mail me with some information. Thank you
I’m so thankful for this site and grateful to those who have been in touch with me by email. I posted last August noting that my son was in this group and was soon to marry a gal in the group. It’s great to know that others are wounded and hurting and that we can all pray together. Since the Wells group’s greatest weapon is fear, never give in to it for fear is the opposite of faith.
Also, my email address has changed to email@example.com. Thanks.
[…] But that’s simply just a complete misunderstanding of the exhaustive nature of His Grace! It’s placing an over emphasis on these passages and ignoring countless others such as Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Perhaps that is what is going on with this group? God loving people who have a misunderstanding of Scripture. The sad thing is that they appear to have so many things right, but they are so intently focused on those errors, (as well as reports of false prophecy) that one has to question whether they are inside orthodoxy any more. (Here is an excellent post about this particular group.) […]
My sister is in the “church”, as a Christian, I can only say I am very concerned and pray fervently for her. The Christmas post I saw from them gave me fearful chills.
Which post are you referring to, Big Sister? Continue to pray as it is the only and most effective weapon we have
This couple are family. This website was pointed out to me tonight and I am nothing short of heartbroken to learn of the death of their child as well as the direction their “faith” had taken them. In my eyes, this child was a blessing having been conceived following a devastating miscarriage. I almost have no words. I’m trying to understand all of this, knowing full well the spiritual and faith filled upbringing of the father. May God bless these people and help them all find their way back to truth and family.
It is heartbreaking, AEA, and I am so sorry for the situation and that your loved ones are involved. Amen to your words! May God bless these dear folks and lead them back to the truth. There are many who are praying for this church and these people.
My cousin was part of that cult…. They locked her in a shed for several months with minimal food and water. They did not allow phone calls or mail unless it was monitored. Unbelievably difficult to watch.
They also continue to call our local police stations now that she is home stating that she is being held against her will. Cops have questioned the family several times now. They are harassing my family.
Keep track of the police contact. For every contact/interview/welfare check, there’s a report filed. You have the right to see the reports.
Some of these guys are being obnoxious at the university where I am at. They sign up for one class which gives them access to the campus and then proceed to go around with their over the top preaching. It has gotten so bad they might be banned from campus.
I’m not a religious guy, so I’ve got no idea if they are orthodox Christians, but I do know that these folks seem kinda nuts.
It’s unfortunate they use deceptive methods and are making a nuisance of themselves. I know that they have great zeal, but I believe their zeal is not combined with knowledge of what the Bible actually says. As a seminary graduate trained in theology, I find them off-balance in their approach to Christianity. The message sounds biblical, but it is twisted to an extent that it becomes false. Allow me to apologize for their behavior, on behalf of evangelical Christians at large. Christ would not use their methods or proclaim their message. Thanks for your comment.
Heh – I won’t blame you guys for their behavior if you won’t blame me for Richard Dawkins’s!
Honestly, no matter what we all believe, or hold lack of belief about the afterlife, maybe it would be better if everyone made it a point to try to make this life a more pleasant place and not be obnoxious about what, if anything, we think happens afterwards.
It’s a deal! Well said.
A phrase that’s new to me: “orthodox Christian.” What is that? I know what ‘Russian Orthodox’ and ‘orthodox Jew’ means.
There is no true religion or spirituality without kindness and love.
— Swami Brahmananda
Rabbi David Wolpe: Spirituality is an emotion. Religion is an obligation. Spirituality soothes. Religion mobilizes. Spirituality is satisfied with itself. Religion is dissatisfied with the world.
Religion is belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience.
— Deepak Chopra
Charles Péguy: “Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.”
Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist, Jesus wasn’t a Christian. The great ones didn’t create a religion, they just said to look within.
Lower-case orthodox is a polite way of saying non-cultic, more or less.
Holding to the Apostle’s Creed, Council of Nicea, Doctrine of the Trinity etc.
So the Southern Baptists are orthodox Christians, while the Mormons are not.
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”
Questions sur les miracles (1765)
This was a very insightful and well-put article, and though I realize this happened almost a year ago reading about it still shocks me! I’m a Christian who also happens to be a pediatric critical care nurse. Sadly I deal with death and dying more days of the week than I care to admit. Moreover, I can also admit that in my career I have experienced circumstances where an ill child was brought to the hospital and no matter the interventions we performed, or how aggressively we performed them, God had other plans. And I believe that that is the key, not only to my sanity and sense of being in my profession, but to this situation in particular. We are never the ones who get to decide what God’s will is, He is. We are mere humans, and it is my belief, not only as a follower of Christ but also as a nurse, that I should always do everything in my power to help others, especially children for they are so often helpless in danger and illness. It therefore sickens me that these people, who claim all that they do, made the choice to not only medically neglect this child but aid in her unnecessary death. I do hope and pray that they are being brought to justice and held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof.
Thanks for a very helpful comment, RN. I agree with your perspective completely. Folks like this are trying to play God, and they don’t even realize it.
Thanks for this post. Glad someone is putting out the truth without harsh accusations and extreme judgement. My husband lost a close friend to this group. If you just look at the main page of their website they seem like a pretty normal church with a lot of young families… but it’s so not true. Keep praying for their eyes to be opened to the truth.
Isn’t it odd that if Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their “born again experience” is the true and ONLY means of salvation, the term “born again” is only mentioned three times in the King James Bible? If “making a decision for Christ” is the only means of salvation, why doesn’t God mention it more often in his Word? Why only THREE times? Isn’t that REALLY, REALLY odd?
Why is it that the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, NEVER uses this term? Why is this term never used in the Book of Acts to describe the many mentioned Christian conversions? Why is this term only used by Jesus in a late night conversation with Nicodemus, and by Peter once in just one letter to Christians in Asia Minor?
If you attend a Baptist/evangelical worship service what will you hear? You will hear this: “You must be born again: you must make a decision for Christ. You must ask Jesus into your heart. You must pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner’s Prayer). You must be an older child or adult who has the mental capacity to make a decision to believe, to make a decision to repent, and to make a decision to ask Jesus into your heart.”
It is very strange, however, that other than “you must be born again” none of this terminology is anywhere to be found in the Bible! Why do Baptists and evangelicals use this non-biblical terminology when discussing salvation?
Maybe “accepting Christ into your heart” is NOT what being born again really means. Maybe…making a “decision” for Christ is NOT how God saves sinners!
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
Welcome to the blog, Gary! Thanks for taking the time to engage with this post. Do you have a suggestion for what “being born again” means? And would you be willing to share what your perception is of how God saves sinners? I imagine a number of readers would like to know your thoughts, since the evangelical interpretation you mention above is quite common. Thanks!
“…if Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their “born again experience” is the true and ONLY means of salvation…”
Logically, this view cannot be correct, if individual groups (Church X, Church Y, Church Z) all believe that they are the exclusive “_true and ONLY_” means to salvation. In the simplest and most basic terms – they can’t be collectively right, if _each_ is:
a.) based on the Bible, the “inerrant Word of God.”
b.) the ONLY true path of salvation.
Nor can any single organization be unilaterally right, if it’s at the exclusion of all else. Not possible.
Funny how they don’t see that their own doctrine renders it false and unbelievable. Unless you have magical thinking and able to rationalize anything, convinced of your own righteousness.
The only way this doctrine and premise is true and correct, is if it’s collateral and inclusive – not limited to just one man-made sect and applies to all who believe in that salvation based on the Bible, irrespective of any one group.
Please write more. I am a hurting scared parent and need more information.
Wow, thanks for sharing your story, J Pearce. Yes, there are always reasons that people get involved with a cult, stay in a cult, or lead a cult. Thanks for these insights.
Some people misunderstand the word ‘cult.’ A cult may have ‘orthodox’ doctrine, at least in the beginning. The distinguishing mark of a cult is control, not doctrine. Normally, a cult controls people by using various means to produce fear. The people who are being controlled do not consciously feel this fear but it still works in them as a motivation to stay in the cult and not question it. Outsiders who contact the cult are first showered with love. Then members dish out fearful condemnation to produce the controlling fear. Fear is then used to keep the sheep confined. But cults usually make at least one big doctrinal error: They set themselves up as the only true church.
I was in such a cult for 7 years. I didn’t know that I was being controlled by fear until I left. Then my mind allowed me to feel the fear and it was overwhelming. The cult I was in started out fairly orthodox and friendly. Things slowly changed. When my wife and I finally realized that I had to get out, we faced another problem: all of our children were totally under their control. We managed to get out, but it left many scars on our children. One of those children is a young man who now is a leader in the Wells church. Please pray for him.
Thanks for your insight.
Yes, there’s kind of a reflex response when it comes to the word “cult.” We associate that word with extreme deviance and aberrant bizarre rites and practices, outside of social familiarity and standards. We don’t apply it to something that looks and sounds “normal” and appropriate, in our perception.
Prohibiting women from wearing pants, Puritan costumes, homeschooling, communal living, proselytizing/preaching, etc., are all on our scale of familiar religious practice, even if at the margin. So it’s not alarming and we don’t characterize those things as cult.
The term “New Religious Movement” (NRM) has been universally adopted by scholars as an alternative. Another phrase: “radicalized expressions of religious commitment.”
In the end, the thing to remember is what you said – it’s not about doctrine and theology; it’s about control. Behaviors to dominate and stop people from thinking. In the case of this NRM, they’ve even managed to rationalize a scriptural basis for not thinking. According to Church of Wells materiel, the Bible says not to think and to just obey. Something along the lines that the devil undermines you by causing you to think.
our young adult child is in this cult group whatever you want to call it ……. we have not had any contact with them for quite some time. there is no communication. we are very fearful, and praying daily non-stop for all the young people in this group. how do we even know they are still alive ………. why are they so paranoid …….
So sorry for you, anonymous. A lot of us parents know how you feel. If you go to this forum http://forum.culteducation.com/read.php?12,104016,page=1, you will find lots of parents that you can private message for support. You can also read much more about this group. Praying for you!
The forum definitely serves as a good starting point and place to meet others. Unfortunately, discourse is not allowed to follow a natural path. Comments have to be tailored to meet an arbitrary elusive set of rules and a heavy-handed censor.
[…] wrote all of this because I had published a post questioning his group’s beliefs and practices after the leaders let a baby die instead of seeking […]
it is very sad the way they are trying to take over our community and everything here. I live very very close to these people. They walk down our road, daily. Our young ones around here, cant even ride their bikes to their friends or anything with out being stopped or provoked by these individuals.. When they first came, people would say things, but nothing ever of proof. Now more and more stuff is going on and it is definately becoming overwhelming. Learning now they hold “their” beliefs based from the book of Deuteronomy, it proves why they do what they do..
Four of the adults now at Wells were mainstays in our weekly prayer meetings for several years in the Houston area. In fact, all were at my home many times for prayer, cookouts, family birthdays, get-togethers and Sunday dinners. We supported one another through ups and downs. Now, I am called a heretic and my daughter has been called vile. Recently, I exchanged messages with one of our former friends, and his response was very sarcastic, biting, rude, and disrespectful. I told him so and this once loving man and dear friend wrote back:
“It was expressly sarcastic Carmela, which makes it an emphasis in order to make a point that you and others with you rail at the continued use of scripture to uphold what we believe, it is not a lie because it is true that you and others have reviled me and others for using the Word of God… It is condemning because it is true, I meant it to be condemning, that’s judgment according to the bible and it’s meant to condemn… I’m sorry I wasted so much breath and time writing you… I figured that would be the result, making me an offender for a word just like in Isaiah 29:21…”
How frightening it must be for families of the young people now snared by this group. I am so sorry for them. Praise Jesus for Stephen’s insight, experience, and educated viewpoints. Through his writings, we can gain insight of cult life and have a forum where we can contact one another.
I am so sorry this happened to you, Carmela =( But I am encouraged to hear you standing for the truth, unswayed by these manipulative and controlling people. Citing scripture as justification for rudeness, hate, and judgment puts these leaders in the same school as Satan, who misquoted scriptures to Jesus. Just because someone uses Bible verses doesn’t mean they have the truth–it just means they know how to quote the Bible. The heart of God is most wonderfully kind. Let’s continue to pray that God will open the eyes of these folks to his marvelous grace.
It is only frightening if you forget that God is in control, and if you do not trust Him implicitly. Sad, yes. We have dealt with a great deal of sadness, and yet, God is our joy giver. Not our misguided loved ones.
The situation in Wells is become dire for a special family that I have known for many years. Their daughter (a friend of mine) suddenly disappeared from her apartment in July to join this cult in Wells. Her parents have been there for weeks trying to make contact with her apart from the so-called elders of this cult. Please pray for this family and for the community in Wells. The Lufkin news did a story on this family.
I have one of the few businesses in Wells, TX and I never thought that I would see this in our town. It scares me not only for my two young children but those parents who have already lost and continue to loose their children to this cult. God bless the family who are working so hard to try to save their daughter Amanda. What can we do to help? How do we stop them? There has to be an Achilles heel somewhere. I will stand up for my town! I believe in our people here! Danny W. Carter Insurance Agency, proud father and a member of First Baptist Church of Wells!
This cult is at it again can read the new here https://www.facebook.com/prayforcatherinegrove
more on this cult Church of Wells , from the research I have gathered they use sever different handles Charity Enterprises Incorporated, WELLS, TEXAS, The Church of Wells . The YMBA, And I believe they are connected to the Church of Arlington (Have not found actual proof on this one yet. but it is mentioned in some of their writing’s ).
But on this latest ordeal with them and it is far over All the established churches in Wells, Texas and the city officials , county, and school are all working togather to get this straighten out ,
Judy, they aren’t “connected” to “the” Church of Arlington. There is no church of that name. It’s very simple. They called themselves “Church of Arlington” when they were IN Arlington. Now they are Church of Wells because they are in Wells.
These “elders” really seem to be weavers of words. I’m an English teacher, and I can’t follow any of their writings for very long. They use an archaic style, which I understand obviously but feel they just use it to sound more elevated, and most of their writings end up being a rambling mess after just a couple of sentences into a paragraph. What bothers me most is that they just drop quotations from the Bible without any explanation, elaboration, or connection. Many times, they just make a statement of their own and then leave a chapter and verse number after it without providing the actual quotation or a connection. Just out of curiosity, I looked up one of the verses, and didn’t even see how it related to the statement the writer had just made. I don’t understand how anyone could fall for their act, but I guess they prey on those who are vulnerable. I hope that one day their followers can see through the facade.
Great points, Jason. They use the Bible almost as a magical talisman, as if simply referring to it or quoting a verse makes their assertion true. But they misunderstand how to correctly interpret the Bible, how to use context, and how the death of Jesus fulfills the Old Testament so that we are no longer under the Law. By misusing scripture they are spiritually abusing the people who follow them. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a hard time following the distorted logic and rambling diatribes these young men produce. The emperor has no clothes.
Good comment! I have an excellent command of the English language and don’t understand most of it. It doesn’t line up as genuine verbal communication. In English.
I think of it as Emperor’s New Clothes. None of the young men and women recruits understand it either, but they go along with it in order to be accepted by the group. Seriously, how could they?
@ jason…could you post a specific example of their scripture not lining up to their text? My son always asks for an example and I don’t have one ready….I am sure there are many! Thanks
I don’t think it’s possible to prepare. They are skilled in responding. It’s a practiced art. Pretty close to scripted, even. No matter what you say, there will be a rebuttal. It’s not real talking; it’s sword play.
there has been no update since October. I just recently stumbled across the article in this month’s Texas Monthly, and it chilled me to the bone for a number of reasons. Firstly because this group attacked members of my church back in 2011 in Grand Prairie for having an Easter egg hunt. A few days later my wife and I were approached at Chili’s by one of them. Even though we have them our profession of faith, it wasn’t enough. They still maintained we were not saved.
What scares me the most is that I have recently been awakened to the reality that the modern American-ized church is a far cry from the church that Jesus created, we as a whole are not disciples. What they preach is truth however lopsided, misguided, and extreme. To be the ambassadors of Christ in this lost world, we must not only preach the gospel.. but become servants as well. People will not believe the rhetoric that we love them and care for their souls if we don’t show them. That is what Christ did. Witnessing is about building relationships as much as preaching the gospel.
I have an atheistic brother. I will never cast him away and will continue to love him and serve him until the Lord removes the scales from his eyes. To think that groups like Westboro and Church of Wells are the very kinds of people that have driven my brother away… breaks me to my core. This… adds sorrow to sorrow.
but my God is big isn’t He? After all, he can part seas, make the sun to stand still, raise men from the dead, cover my sins…I think he can handle a few hearts.
Take heart, those of you grieving over lost loved ones.
“A rider guides his horse with two reins.”
A good rider can also guide the horse with the heels of his boot and not even need the reins. The horse feels the pressure of the boot and responds. going forward, right or left. Some riders also shift their weight slightly in the saddle and the horse responds. I lower the reins on my horse and she stops. Some riders can ride without using reins at all. Horses are amazing and you can see many similarities between a horse/rider relationship and God/believer relationship.
Also, didn’t Paul travel with Luke, who was a doctor?
Nice! Thanks for lending your expertise to help illuminate this metaphor. My wife and I watched “Buck” recently and were mesmerized. As you said, so many similarities with how God leads us. Thanks for your comment.
Just finished the TM article, and I have a recollection of one of these guys “preaching” on the corner outside my office at Baylor. I was horrified at what he was saying, because it in no way reflected the good news of Christ’s love for the world and his substitutionary atonement for our sin. The key to determining whether this group is genuine or heretical is found in whether they are preaching accurately the gospel of Jesus Christ. If not, Paul anathematizes them in Galatians 1 – twice! To distort the gospel is a serious offense and one not to be taken lightly.
I learned about the Church of Wells within the last couple weeks and have been reading about it online. I spent 28 years (1977-2005) with The Way International, a group many have considered a cult from a doctrinal and secular standpoint.
Like other totalistic groups, there are parallels between The Way and the Church of Wells. I hope it’s okay to (below) link a blog piece I wrote sharing a bit about a couple aspects of these parallels. Though not really raised Christian, I was a Christian when I joined The Way. Unfortunately, part of the reason I joined The Way was because of some experiences in the Christian circles I was involved with at the time.
I hope more of the young adults involved with CoW wake up and avoid some of the long-term (not to mention short term) effects and harms groups like this end up exacting.
Here is a link to the blog piece I mention above:
Below is an excerpt from the linked blog piece:
“…Instead, at 18 years old, I quit college to study and serve with The Way. I thought I had found the living Book of Acts; the love of God was real, tangible, life giving.
Immediately upon quitting college, I moved into a Way Home to live with like-minded believers. Some five months later I volunteered for Word Over North Carolina, a two-month summer outreach program. On the heels of Summer Outreach, I volunteered as a Word Over the World (WOW) Ambassador which was a one-year commitment. At the end of my WOW year, I entered the in-residence Way Corps leadership training program – a lifetime commitment which involved four years of training with at least two of those years on Way properties.
The Way Corps training was the modern-day “School of the Prophets.” I would get to live with leaders and be trained like Timothy was with Paul; iron sharpeneth iron. I would be immersed in the Word 24/7, away from the world. I would learn to believe God bigger. I would learn to better operate the nine “manifestations.” I would learn how to do things right, from setting at table to shooting a rifle. I would learn how to lead God’s people.
We, the Way Corps, were the Levites of our day and time. We were elite, God’s crack troops. As Wierwille would say, something along the lines of, “As goes the Corps, so goes the world.” We, the Way Corps, were spiritually responsible for the believers of whom we were charged oversight; we were responsible to know the spiritual atmosphere of the cities to which we were assigned.
The Way Ministry was the “true Household of God,” the “functioning Body of Christ.” Every other person on earth was either an “unbelieving believer,” [unsaved] natural man, or born of the seed of the serpent. Way believers alone were “the remnant.” As believers, we were responsible for keeping the integrity and accuracy of God’s Word alive for the next generation. The “whore houses” (churches) on the corners couldn’t do it; they were steeped in spiritual adultery and idolatry; they taught the false Jesus where the adversary posed as an angel of light….”
I must say that I watched a show about them on ABC last night. I am heart broken. I can’t imagine my two daughters joining a church and never speaking to me again. I am a Christian. I am praying for these people. I do not see How it is Christ like to blow your family off. Also, these People at the Church of the Wells claim to preach the Word of God to all, but will not answer reporters Questions? What are they hiding? Does anyone remember the Branch Divideans In Waco? How Many innocent people were told NOT to contact their families, friends , and the outside world? How many of them Died? I pray these People are reunited with their families. Again, Charles Spurgeon seems to be a favorite of these People at the Church of the Wells. He never isolated, preached to all, and welcomed all. I believe these people have good intentions, but have been mislead. The elders have conned these people and have a weird and ungodly control over them. I am praying for them. I also pray for those of you who have lost loved ones to this Church.
My first post to Liberty for Captives … July 23, 2013 at 10:33 am
“Please write more. I am a hurting scared parent and need more information.”
Catherine had disappeared July 2nd 2013 … we had no idea where she was then she called us July 7th but we could not reach her again on her phone we went to Wells to look for her July 15th could not find her. We went back July 18th … and that story is somewhere on the Prayer for Catherine Page. and then I found this website and I then posted July 23, 2013 at 10:33 am
“Please write more. I am a hurting scared parent and need more information.”
May 20th 2014
Going on ten months later I am still a hurting and scared parent and need more information … will I ever see my daughter again … if anyone has any ideas or information please contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org