By a former member of "The Door", 1998
I am writing this so that I might bring attention to a few things that I have encountered in an organization known as “The Christian Fellowship Churches”, “The Door”, or “The Potter’s House”. I pray that this information will help others. I would also like to say that I hold no grudges with people that I fellowshipped with while I was part of “The Door”.
I had been a member of the Door in California for eleven years. I gave my life to Jesus at the church when I was seventeen. I came from a background of drugs and sin. I was radically saved and set free overnight. This was the day that my life changed forever. At first it seemed to be the best thing I had ever experienced. I wanted to live for Jesus as best I could and lay aside all compromises. And this was exactly what they taught.
It was great we preached in the streets, had live rock-and-roll–all our favorite groups with the words changed. I thought–“wow this is great” I had been playing guitar for awhile and thought I was going to have to give it up–it was a dream come true serving Jesus and still playing. I got really involved, first as an usher then in a band. Soon I even began to preach in the church and operate as a leader. I believed God was really beginning to develop me into the man He wanted.
But then after a few years I started noticing things. Our church never got involved in what other churches were doing and when the subject came up the pastor would say–“that’s just a religious meeting for people to go to and get puffed up”. They would call other churches “religious” and if someone from another church came to visit our people would ask them if they were saved–if they answered yes they would be given the “third degree” [intense interrogation]. The reason behind it was not merrily concern, but the thought that if you didn’t get saved with us you were probably just “religious” [and not saved]. I know this because I was one of those who used to give people the “third degree”. But I didn’t just learn this on my own–I was indoctrinated to do this by my pastor.
The pastor was the law in everything that we did. His opinion was considered truth. Even though many might deny this–if you thought you had heard from God–he decided if it was really God. At first it seemed to be OK, after all what would a bunch of former drug addicts know. He was our spiritual leader.
There were certain rules that the fellowship held, the purpose of these rules were supposedly mere guidelines at first, but then later developed into main issues.
- For example dating in the church–if you’ were a regular member of the church it was your responsibility to get the pastor’s OK if you wanted to date. And he would then say yes or no. If you went ahead without his approval that would be considered rebellion.
- Television was a general fellowship rule. No member that wanted to be in a leadership role could own a TV or go to the movies. If someone in leadership was found to have a TV in his home he either got rid of it or lost his ministry. Yet the church had one in the nursery that allowed both Christian and non-Christian movies. Some members would also gather at someone’s house that was not in leadership to watch a game. Or if you where at a relatives house it was all right. I had a TV and a VCR in my house just for my babysitter, but was told to either get rid of it or lose my ministry. So I got rid of it. Even though it was not my own conviction.
- Tithing was required. I believe in paying tithe always and that is my personal revelation. But many a times it was said over the pulpit–“if you do not pay your tithe then I doubt if you’re saved”.
- The Church–it is their belief that where God saved you–that’s where you need to stay. If you leave for any reason, except getting sent out or military duty, that would be out of the will of God. And members who did leave were ostracized and treated as if they had committed the unpardonable sin. If you were seen hanging out with someone who had left the church then you where also a “rebel”.
There are so many stories I could tell about problems or situations in “The Door”–here are a couple.
One time my wife and I went on a vacation–the first one in three years. It was great when we got back and shared with people how awesome it was and what a nice place it would be to raise kids–we were just dreaming. The next day our pastor preached on “running from God” and talked about people moving away. And he specifically offered up examples, like you guessed it, the place that we had gone on vacation and dreamt about. If we moved it would be “out of the will of God”. It was so embarrassing.
He would use the pulpit to vent his personal conflicts with members of the congregation that may have disagreed with him. There were times that he would fly of the handle for little things. One time he came into a skit practice and began to rant and rave about people not being behind him and raising his fist saying if you have a beef with me and you want to take me on then come on!
One time he ripped me for not putting my sick child in the nursery stating that I didn’t trust them. I told my wife it’s okay he’s probably just unhappy about something else, but my wife was really upset. The problem was really getting bad when other people in the church began talking to each other about theses situations so I new it wasn’t just me.
There were times when during an alter calls one brother didn’t go up to pray with someone and the pastor jumped off the stage and grabbed him by the arm and yelled at him.
One time the church was having a woman’s tea and dinner party. My wife went, but a sister in the church couldn’t afford to go and was really struggling in her walk with Christ. The price was like $30.00 or something–so my wife paid her way because she thought it was something this person needed. Later she was told that this was a sign of a “religious spirit” and that she wife should have asked the pastor’s wife who really needed to go. And of course she mentioned there were people more stable in the church then that sister that my wife might have helped.
One day I went to the pastor and said–“you know I’ve been praying on this for over a year and I really feel that God is calling me to go somewhere else to serve.” I knew it had to be God because there was no reason to leave–I was just needed somewhere else. He brought in two other brothers sat me down. He gave me the “third degree”–I thought I had committed a sin. He said it was the devil influencing me and it was a sign of “rebellion”. I tried to explain that I was in a leadership position, but felt no relationship with him–after eleven years of devotion to the fellowship. He said–“I’ve been to busy with the church”. But the church was only a hundred in attendance and he had a full staff.
I couldn’t figure it out. His sheep were dying and he didn’t even know it. I was calling out for help in my dry Christian life and he labeled it “rebellion”. That statement was so outrageous I could hardly believe my ears. He finally said, “well if you feel this way, then just as Jesus told Judas–whatever you have to do, do it quickly.
I don’t want to blame anyone for my eleven-year experience at the Door. Some might say I had my bible–I saw certain things that were wrong, but I choose to stay.
But other Christians should know about this organization and its ways.