1992 Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A division of Harper Collins Publishers; pages 197-200, by Ronald M. Enroth
Bruce Hogan says the he has been “recovering nicely” after six terrible years in the very militant Potters House, also variously known as La Puerta (or, The Door), Victory Chapel, or Christian Fellowship Church, based in Prescott Arizona. His involvement came about as the result of a spiritual quest he undertook after dropping out of high school. Having been brought up in what he terms a “traditional multidivorce family,” with a father who left when he was three, Bruce says that he was searching for a real father. He has finally found his heavenly Father, but not before experiencing a great deal of pain and suffering at the hands of an abusive church. “I had no prior Christian experience or training and I didn’t know how to spot a counterfeit. My home life was typical of the divorce and MTV generation, and I suppose I was looking for something like an artificial, ready made family. Ignorance coupled with desire always results in trouble.”
Bruce, now “twenty eight and looking like forty,” had just left his job as a nightclub entertainer when he first encountered the Potters House. He had found God on his eighteenth birthday while using “recreational chemical substances,” and was “supernaturally saved” after years of delving into the occult, like his father before him. He believes that God did a real miracle to save him because the occult influence of his father had been passed generationally.
Bruce, with no grounding in the Bible, had decided that he had better quit his wild life-style and go to college. He had passed the GED, and was just beginning Southwest Missouri University when members of the Potters House first arrived in town. Impressed by their zealousness, and influenced by their concern, he joined their ranks in 1984.
Being a very intelligent and discerning person, Bruce was concerned, even at the beginning of his involvement, about the emphasis on authority, submission, and spiritual headship. But he also thought that they might help him overcome his terribly rebellious nature.
Bruce was self-supporting while at Southeast Missouri State. Not only did he work full-time and take a full course load, he also became involved in all the fellowship activities, outreaches, revival meetings, and regular services of the church. After a few months of little sleep and failing, he landed in the hospital from sheer exhaustion. The attending physician told him to stop the whirlwind of activity or he would be dead in weeks.
However, with his salvation at stake, Bruce continued, and, as he puts it, “sacrificed my higher critical thinking faculties” to the leadership of the Potters House. Week after week of meetings and revivals that lasted late into the night had done their job and caused him to “just stop thinking.” “I had surrendered the lordship over my life to a reprobate mind” [that of the Potters House leadership], and came to recognize that “even the elect can be deceived.”
Bruce believes that at its peak the Potters House had a network of hundreds of congregations. Committing very little to paper, the leadership limits access to information to a select few. Run by Wayland (sic, Wayman) Mitchell out of Prescott, Arizona, local congregations have no say as to who will lead them. Bruce’s local fellowship had three different pastors during his stay, all of whom we sent from Prescott. He describes the Potters House movement as very aggressive, strong on church planting, militantly committed, and very anti-intellectual. He was called on “educated idiot with a high IQ,” and was told, “You obviously have a call on your life, son. You should be pursuing ministry and submitting yourself to our discipleship.”
Bruce’s inquisitive nature and analytical mind were always considered a manifestation of rebellion. When he attempted to show one of the elders that his teaching was not in line with the Scriptures, he was violently rebuked and told, “I am the shepherd. You are the sheep. God is my head and covering, and I am answerable only to Him. And don’t you forget it.” Bruce says, “I wished John the Apostle were there. He’d be kicking some butt…. Pardon me. He would be setting things in theologically correct order.”
It is Bruce’s opinion that the Potters House attracts those with altruistic natures who know little or nothing about God and the Scriptures but who are on a spiritual quest. It reaches “those strata and segments of society that no one else can touch.” The problem is, Bruce says, that when people join, “they kill them,” and if they ever leave the Potters House, it is unlikely that they will ever serve the Lord again. The majority of the membership come to know God while in the fellowship— there is no Christian foundation outside of their Potters House experience.
Bruce believes that his involvement in the Potters House is his own fault. He has no excuse. “I had the Bible. I had the witness of the Holy Spirit. I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was just my own rebelliousness…. I fired the little lawyer inside me that tried to save me.”
After six years of pastoral and psychological abuse, Bruce and his new wife left the Potters House. He was “rescued” by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a book about totalitarianism that Bruce also feels accurately describes the Prescott-based fellowship. He admits that this was a unique aid to his exit, but reading the book sparked his abilities to think critically and independently.
The Potters House, “first to condemn, first to judge, and last to show any mercy,” shunned the Hogans. * They were told that they were going to hell and that they had never been saved. They were also slandered by the leadership. “I was sacrificing babies in my basement or was a homosexual, or whatever.” Eventually they left everything and moved away.
Having no church to go to that he felt he could trust, Bruce said, “The heck with it. I’m going to stay at home and read my Bible. ‘Every man to his tent.'” Over six month’s time, primarily because of being laid up from a severe, work related back injury, Bruce came to know the truth in Scripture. Feeling very old now, he says, “God’s people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. I would have become a heretic if God had not put me on my back for six months. All I did was read the Bible.”
Bruce, understandable, had difficulty with forgiveness. “In order to survive the ordeal of withdrawing from an authoritarian church, you have to admit that you have been taken and forgive from the heart. Otherwise, in the word of our Lord, you will be ‘delivered to the tormentors.’ When I finally forgave from my heart, I began to recover.” His wit, though not a acerbic as a year ago, is still sharp. Paraphrasing Luther, he says, “If there be a hell, Prescott is built over it.”