Re: Praise chapel...a cult?
Date: April 25, 2015 10:09AM
I came to Christ just before my sophmore year in high school. For the next three years I took a Bible to school with me everyday. Not for looks, I read it. Actually read thru the Old Testament once, and the New Testament 3 or 4 times. So I had a solid relationship with Christ and a strong foundation.
After high school I joined the Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor, HI. I arrived Saturday afternoon, and the next morning, within five minutes of each other, two members of Praise Chapel asked me to church. So it seemed GOD wanted me in Praise Chapel. And I would be there for nearly a decade.
I felt this is the place that I belonged my first time there. The people were diverse, they were excited about the things of GOD. They were not quite like any other churhc group I had seen before. I soon found opportunities to get involved with outreaches, street preaching, (of which I was a natural,) Bible studies with other believers, skits and dramas. I made friendships and relationships that would last the entire time I was a part fo Praise Chapel. And being the "Ilsand Church", through out the year people and preachers and evangelists would come over from the Mainland. I would say that my experience there was positive; though, it raises the question of why I am here.
The problems that I had were not necessarily with the leadership, but with people who attended there. I was a non-conformist, dissident, skeptic, and iconoclast. This did not go over well with some and there was almost immediate pressure brought to bear to "fit in". Failing that I was ostracized, isolated, insulted (not infrequently to my face and in front of others), kept from participating in various activities, or just flat out ignored . This while proclaiming how much they loved GOD and HIS people. Some of these people were rude, obnoxious, abrasive, insulting, ill-tempered, patronizing and insulting; all the while considering themselves, and being considered by some others, to be upstanding and godly Christians. Interestingly, some of those same people came upon some personally trying times and abandoned their faith. Meanwhile, I still stayed true.
One night, a large group of the men got together for an outreach and to do some witnessing and passing out tracts. Somehow, while getting the tracts ready and figuring out where we would be going and how to get there, what started out as just "kidding around" took an ugly turn into being personal and offensive insults and attacks about myself. I let the group know that it was getting really, really, really offensive and hurtful, which only fueled them further, and so it went for the rest of the night. When I pointed out the Biblical admonishon to stop offensive behaviour when it caused problems for fellow Christians, they just doubled down on the insults. When the next morning I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a part of that church, these same men told me that my being hurt and insulted was the problem, not how they treated me. A friend's wife at church got wind of what happened and laid into them for several minutes, and shamed them into giving a meaningless apology.
My last several years at Praise Chapel I was going through what was then, and probably still is, one of the single most trying times in my life. I spent the better part of a year, at one point, mired in depression, questioning why I went on. It was at that time the problems I was having with the church and the people came into sharper focus. Still, I was there to serve Jesus, not to satisfy them.
Eventually, I left the Island and returned to where I grew up. Being away from Praise Chapel helped me to see a little more clearly some of the things that had happened, and a root of bitterness sprung up. Soon I started attending the church that I had attended while in high school. And after awhile the same crap started to happen again. I did not meet up to someones expectations. A kid who just graduated high school and was in his first semester of Bible college kept trying to counsel me on how to act and what to say/not say. Some guy just knew GOD was bothered with something about me, because the guy was bothered by me, and he had the mind of GOD. And so he pulled me out of church services several times, or jumped on me every time I passsed him so he could tell me what little thing bothered him, and by extension GOD.
I had enough, and said screw it all, and walked away from GOD. And stayed away for almost 12 years. Eventually, Jesus got a hold of my heart again. I am now with another church fellowship. However, it has not been all easy going. I am still a non-conformist, dissident, skeptic, and iconoclast. There has been some pressure put on me to be more in line with others, but I've dealt with that.
So, as to the question of whether Praise Chapel is a cult. I may not be the one to ask. Some of my experience with them was good. Equal parts were bad. I sat under both Pastor Mike Stephens and Pastor Jack Neville, developing quite the relationship with both Pastor Jack and Clarice. I met and heard the preaching of many good pastors and preachers. I met the occasional preacher, evangelist or pastor that left me wondering. I found encouragement and opportunities and growth. I found disillusionment and despair at times. There were brothers and sisters whose memories and friendship I cherish. There were people who made things difficult for me. Interestingly, being in a totally other, older, more mainstream church ogranization-- I HAVE HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCES!!
Pastor Jack Neville once said that you can take 10 people from anywhere in the world, put them in a bag, shake them up, pour them out, and they will still be poeple.
Over many years I have come to realize that unless an intentional effort is made to maintain orthodoxy, people can fall into cult like practices. And while they may engage in some otherwise cult like actions, or just fail to serve Christ the best way possible, does not mean they are a cult. So, find a differnt church, get fed and follow Jessus.