Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: December 19, 2012 11:08PM

This is not the same "Maranatha" as others have wondered about. This group began in Vila Vehla, ES, Brazil a bit over 40 years ago. Most members speak Portuguese and not much information is available in English. I will begin by posting why I left. In future follow-ups I will comment on some of the doctrines and practices:

* The group has not lived up to the continual reminders of us doing everything by God's revelation. While this hasn't been always stated clearly, it is something understood by many members based on criticism from their puplits (especially in seminars) about other groups, leading one to conclude, that this group is the exception. Most groups do not lead their members to believe this, and are more realistic and humble (which is why I'm not picking on them). Striving to do everything by "revelation" is a noble, goal, and I do believe many in Maranatha are committed to this goal, but are not realistic or open enough about the human factor, given their unwillingness or inability to hold their leaders accountable. Until this changes I cannot recommend this group any more.

* I recognize the Body of Christ, and faithful Christians, are not only to be found in Maranatha. Again, while this is not always stated directly, it is something understood by many members. When backed into a corner, most members and pastors will freely admit that this can be found in other groups, although this admission rings hollow for me. I wanted to be free to gather with other Christians and groups without feeling judged or punished for it. This is something frowned upon, and has been reported to have limited people in what they could do in Maranatha (because they are "in religion" and have "not understood the Work"). Until this changes, in a meaningful way, I cannot recommend this group any more.

* Former pastors, members have been treated as apostates and spiritually dead. While not all people leave denominations for noble reasons - this certainly is not true of all of them. While it is wise to exercise caution, I believe there is again an unwritten and unofficial code in place in Maranatha to shun former members regardless of what led to their departure. Until this changes, I cannot recommend this group any more.

* In the media in Brazil, Maranatha is currently the subject of a major church scandal involving money laundering, and related crimes. The investigation into has touched the highest levels of leadership in the organization. Administratively, the organization has taken some positive steps to prevent future misuse of church resources. Spiritually, myself and many others have detected a lot of whitewashing in the preaching and seminars. There seems to be a lack of humility and realism among the leadership and members regarding this. When King David was caught in sin, he repented. Up until now I have seen no repentance from the leaders who have preached in the past that Maranatha is "The Work of David". If there is even one sin to be repented of, it should be been long repented of by now. Unless they are 100% sinless in this matter, then they should repent. This scandal in my mind cannot be much different from all the other scandals in the Christian world. This plus other inconsistencies others have personally witnessed in the leadership do not give me any confidence to believe they have no reason to repent. Until this changes, I cannot recommend this group any more.

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Re: Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: December 20, 2012 12:46AM

First, I would like to say that, up until my departure, I believe the following description of the group by one former pastor still holds true: "We hold to the classic truths of the Christian faith (including a belief in the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, Inerrancy of Scriptures, and the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ). Our focus is on fostering individual spiritual growth, learning to have God direct our lives, and working together as the Body of Christ.". I pray this remains the case for the group.

I plan to post information here about the group later on here on this thread. In the meantime here are some links to websites about the group:

* Wikipedia: [pt.wikipedia.org] (you can translate this link to English using [translate.google.com] ). This wiki page has been heavily edited, and there might be some unedifying comments here, as the group has gained many critics, so keep that in mind as well.

* Official website: [www.igrejacristamaranata.org.br]

* International Website in English: This one goes a bit more into the doctrine and practices: [www.maranathachurches.com]
( I will comment on various selections).

Future postings of mine will comment on doctrine, practices, and things both positive and negative about these. I would like to begin by saying that there is OFFICIAL teaching and practices - but there is also UNOFFICIAL and unwritten things widespread among the membership that numerous interviews, and internet research has turned up. I admit up front that most of the negative and troubling things I will raise is UNOFFICIAL - but that the honest reader will take these into serious consideration.

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Re: Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: December 20, 2012 01:07AM

The following is a commentary, adapted from an article I was originally preparing to DEFEND Maranatha against it's harsher critics (regarding it's doctrine and practices). Times have changed, but I still strive to be fair and balanced here, and have adjusted the article accordingly:

* One practice people joining the group should be aware of is "consulting the word". By this I mean, opening the bible and reading the first verse your eyes fall upon - as a kind of modern day "casting of lots". In Maranatha we are taught that God can speak through a "positive" or "negative" verse to give a yes or no answer to a question. We are also given some helpful guidelines to avoid abuses, and even acknowledge that God is not obligated to speak. The casting of lots was something practiced in the early church, and therefore I cannot condemn this practice as "unbiblical", "bibliomancy" or "diviniation" as some of Maranatha's harsher critics have. God can speak through the scriptures, and opening to a verse gives Him an opportunity to put his "yes" or "no" into context, where the verse illustrates a similar that mirrors our own. I will not limit God by denying this practice as hersey or completely wrong. Where Maranatha falters in this, is the frequency of this practice, which in EFFECT obligates God to speak. God is NOT obligated to speak. Personally, I believe, that myself, and even other Christians in the past (Wesley, and others) have had some interesting experiences where we understood God was speaking through the scriptures this way. Despite the best intentions of the group, this practice can still be problematic, and not always reliable. It is a noble goal to give God an opportunity to speak and include Him in our decision.

* Another practice is "Pleading the Blood of Jesus". In Maranatha we're taught that the "Blood" is the "Holy Spirit" who circulates like blood in the "Body of Christ" (the Church, and it's members) bringing pardon, life, peace, security, communion, joy, etc. This practice of using this vocabulary "Lord, I/we plead the blood of Jesus..." however has been weilded in a legalistic manner, in which we are led to believe that our prayers might not reach God. This for me is similar to catholics making gestures of the sign of the cross. Isn't this superstition? Does every activity must begin with this prayer (the beginning of a service; before we drive in a vehicle; consult the word; etc)? Forgetting or ignoring this sentence is frowned upon in the organization. I believe this leads people to carry out this prayer legalisticly - I know it did for me. The bible however has no such practice in the New Testament. What is clear is that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive and to CLEANSE us, when we CONFESS our sins. He CLEANSES us with the BLOOD when we WALK IN THE LIGHT, having fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7-9). The only thing that should be obligatory in our prayers is that it is directed to the FATHER, and IN JESUS NAME. The sprinkling/application of Jesus, once and for all, shed blood - is AUTOMATIC for those IN CHRIST. Many in Maranatha seem to want to cling to this practice, citing "experiences" on account of "pleading the blood" (while not considering that God has answered their prayers out of His mercy and grace, and because they prayed to the FATHER in JESUS NAME - no more, no less).

I will continue to post more commentary on this thread in the future, as there is more people should be aware of.

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Re: Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: December 20, 2012 01:39AM

* "Prophetic Services (Handling Of Spiritual Gifts)" - Before services and other church activities, there is a "prophetic service" (pre service meeting) that happens. There any mature baptised member can participate. There they continue to seek and share what the Lord's REVEALED will is, as manifested through the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit (as per 1 Cor 12). For example, someone might have a revelation/vision/dream about something God wants to direct the local group in. The purpose of this meeting is to bring all this revealed knowledge to the table. There it is to be discerned (e.g. - Does this gift come from God or not?); and handled with wisdom (e.g. How do we apply what God has revealed for today?). For example, the message (sermon) preached for a service (and song selection) should fit with what the Lord has shown. So if the Lord shown an item/issue/need/direction - then whatever is communicated to the church (message, songs, etc) should address that theme. Spiritual Gifts are discerned to be from the Lord, also by having 2 or 3 members have consult the word (see previous description). This is problematic however in a prophetic service where there is more than 2 or 3 people. What if only those who had "positive" (yes) verses from the Lord read? There will in theory always be the risk of false positives. All this said, I still believe Spiritual Gifts are something still for today, and that God has specific things to say every day for everything in our walk as Christians. This however should NEVER go against what God has revealed in the scriptures (which contain His general will). I also believe this system in Maranatha of handling the gifts corporately, has some safeguards, that other Pentecostal and Charismatic groups lack. Even so, there is a lack of realism among the members and leadership about the positive results of this. There is still plenty of room for abuses and error. It's this system by which members look to when they claim that we do everything "by revelation".

* Permission For "Water Baptism" - New members and converts are NOT to be baptised in the waters immediately. There is a waiting period where the leadership seeks the Lord as to whether or not so-and-so is ready. This goes against the pattern of the New Testament, which had no obligatory probationary period. When seeking the Lord, they implement the previously mentioned practice of "consulting the word" (e.g. using positive/negative verses in the bible to give a yes/no answer - similar to casting of lots).

* Confirming The "Baptism Of The Holy Spirit" - Baptism of the Holy Spirit, is likewise confirmed via "consulting the word" at the end of a beginners seminar class (on the subject of "Baptism of the Holy Spirit"). If the Lord gives a positive verse in the bible, then "yes" you have been baptised with the Holy Spirit, if negative/"no" then not, etc. That said, the group does not deny that the Holy Spirit can baptise before or after that class. This class and consultation however lends itself to false positives, and comes across as rather mechanical in nature. No such practice in the NT, of confirming the Baptism of the Holy Spirit can be found.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/20/2012 02:07AM by moosewhynot.

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Re: Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: December 20, 2012 02:36AM

* "Orientations" which are "Revealed" by "God" through a centralized global "Presbytery"/"Hierarchy" - In Maranatha, there is a top-down chain of command, from God through a centralized hierarchy situated in Vila Vehla, ES, Brazil. From there come "orientations" (instructions that God revealed) on just about anything under the sun (messages to preach, announcements, flower arrangements details, prayer chains, dress code, final say on who gets "raised" to the "ministry", etc). These are typically required for ALL of the LOCAL groups in the world to follow. There is no true autonomy for local groups - and to do so will very likely land the local pastor in a trouble. This in general is potentially very dangerous, as it lends itself to legalism and Spiritual abuse (e.g. it did not prevent the major scandal, nor the reported mistreatment of former members and pastors, etc). Many online in Orkut communities, blogs and others have reported discouraging reports about this. As for a centralized leadership, there was no such heirarchy in the New Testament. Meetings like in Acts 15, were the exception and not the rule, since no such setup of micro-managing was practically possible (nor needed) back then. Authoritarianism has been widely reported as well, and evidenced by the lack of freedom in expressing doubts, questions and concerns. Again, this lends itself to legalism, errors and abuses going unquestioned (e.g. - because the members are led to believe that EVERYTHING is done by revelation). I speak from experience here and have talked to numerous former pastors about this here and abroad.

* Here are some things to search on Orkut, blogs and internet to get a flavour of what many are reporting. The Orkut communities contain the least edifying discussion, while one website by a former pastor contains many correspondences of former members, which are handled in a more fair and balanced matter. Ultimately, you should have your own experience with God about these things, and not rely on other people for this. This is however useful to know in general as a smoke test (because where there is smoke, quite often there is also fire). The Orkut groups and blogs contain links to articles in the media and are updated frequently. Again, I am not a harsh critic of the organization, and do not necessarily endorse everything written there. Solon's letters is probably more edifying to read:

** Orkut Group: Igreja Cristã Maranata (Maranatha Christian Church): [www.orkut.com]

** Orkut Group: Já fui um Maranata (I Was In Maranatha): [www.orkut.com]

** Cavalerio Veloz (Swift Knight) Blog: [cavaleiroveloz.com.br]

** Solon (Website - Safer and more edifying): [www.celeiros.com.br] (Letters) and [www.celeiros.com.br] (Testimonies - including excerpts from a book that give a less romantic version of the organizations origins)

You can also research controversy and scandals about the group in the media in Brazil (Vitoria, ES, Brazil) by searching for "Maranata" on:
[gazetaonline.globo.com]

Please note: The above mentioned links are in Portuguese - but you can use [translate.google.com] to paste in the link (or text) to see it in English.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/20/2012 02:58AM by moosewhynot.

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Re: Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: December 20, 2012 03:18AM

* "The Work" or "The Body of Christ" == Maranatha alone? - These terms are UNofficially synomomous and exclusively with Maranatha among the members. In the seminars in particular this comes across very strongly, when criticising other groups as "religion" and "mixture" in general. When pressed and backed into a corner, most members will deny this, and admit God operates elsewhere. Most however will maintain that this group is probably the best and most faithful, because they do everything by "revelation".

* Preaching From The Bible In Maranatha - In my experience the preaching in Maranatha is very limited and at times shallow. Many preachers are limited in what they know, or are permitted to preach from the bible (parotting what they've heard others preach, probably not to appear different or out of line). You will not hear very much from the NT letters of Paul (unless it was preached at a seminar). You will hear mostly well known gospel accounts (Jesus miracles, etc), and well known OT bible stories (Noah's ark, etc). It's not uncommon to hear the same verse preached more than 2 or 3 times in a year!

The scriptures in general (including a lot of the NT) is handled allegorically, making use of typologies/symbols. One notable example is the contrast between King David's faithfulness (e.g. Maranatha - a.k.a "The Work of David") and King Saul's unfaithfulness (e.g. - Religious Christianity). While allegorical preaching in the Old Testament is how the New Testament writers also handled the preaching (e.g. Jesus is the Lamb, etc) - in Maranatha, this has been, at times, taken too far. Basically in a message, the faithful in the bible are likened to Maranatha, while the unfaithful to everyone "outside" in, the "mixture", of Christian "religion". This is the approach, often neglects the historical and background information (plain reading) of scripture (seen as "the letter" which "kills").

I believe that the final authority on interpreting of the OT , MUST be the NT, and the focus on JESUS, and not on making a denomination (e.g. Maranatha) look better than others. This emphasis, I believe, has led to some bad practices and distortions. For example church discipline should be handle with love and mercy, like Jesus and His followers did - and not harshly like David, Solomon (or those who stoned Achen in the book of Joshua). Those are Old Testament examples! I believe this error had led to the reported authoritarianism and heavy-handed leadership and church discipline (shunning, etc). Finally, Maranatha would do well to preach entirely through the bible on somewhat of a regular basis (e.g - like Calvary Chapel does), so that the entire council of God would not be held back from it's members.

* Books and other Christians Materials Highly Discouraged - These are highly discouraged, because these are contaminated and don't contain pure "revelation" (at best "mixture" - implying you never get any in Maranatha).



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/20/2012 03:21AM by moosewhynot.

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Re: Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: December 20, 2012 11:04PM

* Doom & Gloom For Those Who Leave Or Speak Against "The Work" (Maranatha) - In posting all of this, it will no doubt only be seen as an attack on "the Work of the Holy Spirit" (by which many members understand to mean "Maranatha" itself). In leaving "the Work" (Maranatha), I am probably seen in the eyes of many as "fallen" or spiritually "sick" or even "dead". Real questions and discussion and exposure of the group is something that is not looked kindly upon - so most members dare not do so. There is indeed an unwritten code of silence. In the seminars in Brazil in abroad there have been regular mention about bad things that have happened to people like myself, who have left, or spoken against Maranatha. This is done indirectly - but is pretty obvious to anyone listening to the message. One story is about a man who left, and spoke against the church. Later on, he got very sick (cancer or something terminal), and came back humbly to go to one last Maranatha seminar in the Maaniam (conference center/camp in the mountains in Brazil), before he died. After the pastors there "consulted the word" (see previous description), there was a very very negative verse apparently given about this person, which many here understood to mean this person was cursed by the Lord (e.g. - I can't recall the verse, but something I think about the "horse gate" - something similar to this verse: 2 Chronicles 23:15 "So they laid hands on her, and she went into the entrance of the horse gate of the king’s house, and they put her to death there."). So any how, this man was not allowed to attend the seminar, and died. Having asked around about this, I learned this person was not even 50 years old yet (he was in his 40's), when he died. He died fairly young. What they don't mention to you, is that another man, one seen as very faithful (Jonas) also died around the same age too. So there was one seen as very unfaithful, and another seen as VERY faithful. Both of their lives were cut short. What can we conclude from this? Nothing! Matthew 5:45 says how God "....gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." It is therefore very irresponsible to even suggest that God will curse someone who leaves or speaks against denomination A, B or C. Why? Because God's "Work" is not limited to one organization. This kind of scary tale also undermines God's love and mercy and grace. Stories like these seemed designed to keep the members in line, and scare them into silence. I know this story had that same effect for me. I remember finding a skin tag under my arm, when I really began doubting and questioning things. I was so scared that something like this was going to happen to me too! Another pastor I talked to also admitted to being terrified when he first heard the story. This for me borders of Spiritual abuse and psychological terror. I know of at least one former member who had to seek professional counciling after leaving. Thankfully he is doing very well today.

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Re: Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: December 20, 2012 11:17PM

Having posted all this, my prayer is for the members of Maranatha to question their leadership about this, and watch their reactions. I hope they will feel ashamed and embarrassed about all of this. I pray this will weigh heavily on their consciences, so they will repudiate the negative things listed above. I pray that the relatives of friends of those of this denomination will question the members about these things, so these people will no longer bury their heads in the sand. Bringing these things to light and exposing problems in a denomination will hopefully improve the conditions there. This has already begun to happen, since the scandal has hit the media. Many have left from the organization. There are still those who are still on the fence. There are also those who are blindly zealous towards the group and it's leadership. I fear that most good people will leave, and what will remain will be yes-men and enablers, and that the denomination MIGHT become a cult. I believe right now this denomination is VERY sectarian in nature. I would not presently call it a "cult". I think that would be too harsh. Again, much of what I've written above is UNOFFICIAL and things spoken of and understood among the members. In any event, I have personally noticed a more humble attitude among the members of this group in the last couple years as things have become exposed in the media. I hope this exposure will continue. The façade of a religious utopia is crumbling, and more and more are becoming open again to the idea that there is indeed abundant spiritual life outside the walls of Maranatha. I believe most members there are very faithful to the Lord. The problem is many of them are blurring the line between the Lord and the organization itself. Their zeal and loyalties are split I feel. My hope and prayer is that these postings will help them wake up, and bring them closer to Jesus, and further from fallible man and groups of men.

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Re: Igreja Crista Maranatha (Maranatha Christian Church)
Posted by: moosewhynot ()
Date: June 02, 2013 10:00PM

For the latest comments about Maranatha Christian Church (Igreja Crista Maranata) there is now a blog with some revised and expanded articles: [whoseworkisitanyway.blogspot.ca]

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