September 7, 2002, by a former 27 year member of Christian Fellowship Churches
I was a member of The Door for 27 years, but have now taken off the blinders. There are problems there that for so many years I chose to ignore. I hoped that things would change.
Churches like “The Potter’s House” and “Desert Fire” in Yuma that began back in the 1970’s. But what remains today is really little like the old days.
I was in “The Door” from 1976-2002. When I joined I was young and naïve, I didn’t know much about organized religion, or God. I gave my heart and life to Jesus at The Door. At that time I had no idea how warped a church organization could become.
Things seemed fine in the early years. I was happy to serve God and He changed my life. But somewhere along the way The Door began to turn, and not for the good.
I got married and my husband also attended the church and became a member. We started a family and went to church like most families do. My husband hoped to one day become a minister. The Door didn’t require Bible College like most churches. All you had to do was come under the headship of a pastor and one day you would be sent out to pioneer a church somewhere. That is what my husband and I wanted to do. We felt God had called us.
However, problems began when they seemed to use the hope of becoming a pastor, like a carrot in front of your nose, to get you to work harder for the church. We gave more time and money and put our family’s needs aside. They pushed us hard and we were involved with just about everything at church. That’s how they kept us there, we were always so busy for “The Kingdom.” But it wasn’t God’s Kingdom it was theirs.
Our marriage became strained because my husband was draining our family’s resources for the church. We were taught that God would take care of our family, as we did the ministry. My husband’s mindset didn’t include questioning the pastor. So we simply did what the pastor said. If someone didn’t behave obediently they were labeled a “rebel” or “witch,” just for asking questions. This might later lead to being blacklisted from the ministry. So we kept silent.
Our pastor was very controlling! He came out of Prescott, Arizona, from Wayman Mitchell’s church. He was very much like Wayman Mitchell. We had other pastors before him, but our last pastor really helped me to see what was going on. He told us from the pulpit that if someone didn’t like what he said, they could “hit the road and find another church.” This pastor produced a lot of fear and was often angry. I could see the veins pop out of his neck when people disagreed with him. He could make you feel like you were a second class citizen in the Kingdom of God, especially if he didn’t like you.
My husband still hoped to be a pastor. So he said, “Yes pastor” to everything.
Once there was a visiting pastor preaching at our church. My pastor sat in the back during his sermon. Near the end he actually gave him two thumbs down. The visiting pastor seemed to fall apart. It was head games like this, which took place often within many of the Christian Fellowship Churches.
They fellowship churches didn’t like questions about doctrinal issues. They don’t want you to think for yourself. It seems like they believe that they speak for God. And very often the pastors end up preaching their agenda and personal opinions, with little regard for the bible.
My husband and family became casualties of a church split that took place during 2000. Some say 160 churches left through this split from Wayman Mitchell’s main organization. But we still had problems with our pastor anyway. He lied about many things inside the ministry. He isolated us, not only from the fellowship, but the world.
There were many warning signs that prompted us to consider leaving, but we were afraid. Afraid that the wrath of our pastor would come upon us. We acted like our pastor was God. We placed this man so high, as everyone else did. There was so much hero worship of him. In our church you became a servant of man, not God. God seemed to be nowhere in the equation. We lived in fear and the spiritual abuse that took place inside the church was ignored.
We had blinders on and hoped somehow things would change. Some changes did come in 2000. A mutiny finally began. Over 200 members concluded that the dictatorship had to end.
Our pastor had a very large fund set aside, which we thought was for missionaries in Africa. But it seemed to me that it was his personal slush fund instead.
People began signing statements about the cruelty of our pastor.
Then our pastor began to lose support from ministers he had sent out. And there was quite a battle between our pastor and Wayman Mitchell. But from a layman’s view it looked like two big dogs fighting over territory.
Finally the exodus began and we found ourselves joining that movement.
Over the past couple of years not much has changed inside these churches. There may be some good men preaching from the pulpits, but they still teach much that is wrong. Of course they will debate this point and continue to label those who question them “rebels” and “witches.” One pastor even said that those who sent curses would receive them. This really meant that if anyone was critical they would be sorry.
People left peacefully, but leaders said they were being “purged.” God was supposedly “getting the bad out.” Those who left felt fear, condemnation and great sadness.
Many who chose to stay seem to have taken their blinders off now.
I chose to leave because I no longer wanted to be a part of something that produced such control, idolatry and fear. Our fellowship may have started out good, but it became something that seems very cult-like.
Of course my old pastor would say I am not a Christian for writing this, an “uncovered woman,” “rebellious” or even “Satanic.” But I feel free. Free of a religious mindset, which seems to me like the righteousness of the Pharisees and the control of legalism. After 27 years of often serving man I prefer to serve God. And I don’t care what my old pastor thinks. What’s important to me is knowing God and His word.