WHAT DO I DO NOW THAT I'VE LEFT?
When people leave The Way International, they often feel wounded, abused, confused, upset, unsure, relieved, free, and a range of other (mostly uncomfortable) emotions. There are usually more questions than answers... "what do I do now?" "Where can I go?" "Who else will understand?" and so forth.
Here are a few tips on things you may do to get your feet on solid ground.
1. Find Out Things About The Way International that Craig Martindale Doesn't Want You To Know.
TWI has always pretended to be a group of independent free-thinkers. In reality, the leaders try to shut out every outside influence, while hiding things about TWI they don't want you to know. This is one reason Martindale was so upset when the Wapakoneta/St. Mary's newspapers printed a series of articles exposing TWI in 1997. Here was some "dangerous" information, right on Wayers' own doorsteps (and on friends' doorsteps).
Martindale is afraid of outside sources because there is too much truth in them, and because they expose errors and deceptions in TWI.
What is more, TWI tries to program followers to be afraid of outside information. "Positive believing" is used as a tool to prevent Wayers from even considering if there may be some truth in what critics of TWI say.
Although some material on TWI is shallow or faulty, there is a lot of material which is accurate
and thorough. You may already of seen the two best sources on the web,
(trancenet.com/nowayout and empirenet.com/~messiah7). Read the material thoroughly, think it
through, and order some books and information not on the web.
2. Learn About the Cult Experience and Relate it to Yourself
TWI is very much like other cults. The structure of the groups, its leaders, beliefs, and the experiences of its followers are all very much alike. Cult groups typically: have a single leader who claims to speak for God, keep followers from outside influences, drive a wedge between followers and their families, exert strong control over followers, use and misuse the Bible to advance its own agenda, etc.
Read some of the helpful books on the cult experience, such as those by Margaret Singer (on the
web see csj.com). It is also valuable to read testimonies of other followers of TWI and other cults.
3. Remold the Defective Character and Attitudes TWI Built in You
Like many cults, TWI develops a certain kind of character and personality in its followers. Many aspects of this character are deeply ingrained, but are harmful to the individual. It is important to identify these and correct them in order to recover and grow.
Arrogance is a central attitude in most Wayers. It says, in essence, "we (I) know what the Word says. Anyone outside TWI is an ignorant, powerless hypocrite." In fact, the "research" of TWI is very shallow and slanted, and "doesn't even know what it doesn't know." You need to develop humility (a very Christian character trait: Philippians 2:3-4, James 4:6) in order to learn and grow.
Another trait is complete, almost mindless, willingness to be controlled by leadership, and to control those under you, which the New Testament repeatedly condemns (Luke 22:24-27, 1 Thessalonians 2:6-7, 1 Peter 5:2-3). This manipulation is used to control followers, and they often feel captive as a result.
Another common Way attribute is harsh confrontation. While confrontation has its place in the
Christian life, Way leaders commonly do it in a harsh, judgmental way using abusive language and
actions. This kind of harshness is a work of the flesh, while gentleness is the fruit of the Spirit
(Galatians 5:19-24). All these common Way traits lead to conflict and problems in families and
4. Reestablish Relationships with Family and Friends
TWI typically drives wedges between Wayers and their families and friends. These relationships become strained, and Wayers lose the support and guidance that God intended families to provide for each other. Develop relationships with these people again, being careful to avoid showing the typical Way traits (mentioned above) like arrogance and critical attitudes which hinder these healthy relationships.
Above all, prioritize your marriage again. The Way commonly divides marriages by making
obedience to the Way leaders more important that showing care and love for one's spouse.
Marriage has been the central institution by which God blesses human beings ever since creation--
open yourself to its riches!
5. Avoid Way Clones
Ex-Wayers commonly leave TWI after they see its problems. But then they make the error of trying to "get back to the way we were" in TWI before the trouble started. So they often end up in a Way clone group which appears to be different in many ways.
The clones are indeed different in many ways. However, they typically retain the core errors of TWI. (See my article on Christian Educational Services for an example.) The problems in TWI are not in a few external areas which are easily shed when a person leaves TWI, but are so deeply ingrained in one's heart, mind and beliefs that they repeat themselves in the clone groups.
Ex-Wayers always want to find old Way friends and fellowship with them again. While this can
be helpful to a degree, this often hinders people from rebuilding their lives, attitudes and faith,
since they don't have new, close friends without Way roots who can help them see their blind
spots and develop new, godly ways.
6. Find a Christian Mentor and Fellowship
Recovery from cult involvement is not done easily (or at all) alone. Find a Christian mentor who can give you new perspective on the Christian life. This may be a Bible study leader, pastor, or teacher. It is useful if they know the Word of God well, and even more useful if they have Bible training (especially in Greek), which makes them better able to see deceptive Way interpretations of the Bible.
Here is a point at which you need to leave your Way arrogance behind and realize that there is a lot of quality Bible learning, and people with strong faith and character, outside TWI.
Pastors especially are a lot better than TWI gives them credit for.
Some denominations don't fully respect the Bible. However, many others (Calvary Chapel,
Southern Baptist Convention, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, etc) believe in the truth and
accuracy of the Word of God. While this is a hard transition, you will find blessing there.
7. Accept God's Grace.
TWI mouths the importance of God's grace and forgiveness to salvation. This is good to a point.
However, TWI as a system is extremely legalistic, and grace and acceptance is hard to find in TWI. Regimentation, not Christian freedom, is the rule. Everyone is expected to fall, lock-step, into line behind leadership. "Do it now-- or else!" Fear, orders, confrontation, and punishment are the rule. Leaders are strong on confrontation, but weak on understanding, acceptance, and patience.
God isn't like this.
God accepts us as we are, even when we are weak on believing and when we fail. "God won't spit in our direction," that much is true-- God comes with arms of love and hands full of gifts even when we don't "earn" it by our believing and obedience. He is merciful-- treating us far better than we can deserve, hope or imagine.
God isn't a Way taskmaster, but a Shepherd who takes us up in His arms (Isaiah 40:9-11) and
who is so gentle who wouldn't even snuff out a smoldering wick or break off a battered reed
(Matthew 12:15-21). Grace and refreshing freedom await you outside TWI.
John Juedes, C. 1998
AN OPEN LETTER
To You Who Are Disillusioned with The Way Ministry.
You feel hurt, sad, confused, betrayed, ripped off. You once believed The Way Ministry had integrity, was God's ministry and was led by the Man of God. It feels overwhelming to have
something that once was your whole life suddenly ripped from you. Sadly, the events of the last two years have even driven some believers to mental institutions and suicide. This need not happen to you, though. There is life outside The Way International.
Many people who have become disillusioned with The Way Ministry find themselves going through stages. Most feel the need to hear the exposes against the trustees, then experience a period of emotional turmoil as the full implications of the facts hit them. Then there is a time of new discovery of what the Bible says, independent of what The Way says about the Bible. This is accompanied by a reconstruction of spiritual life and fellowship.
You have had hundreds of questions come up in your mind. There are answers.
First, there is no real doubt that most Way trustees, both past and present, have approved and practiced ungodly actions and beliefs. Top former ministry leaders such as John and Pat Lynn,
Sue Pierce, Ralph Dubofsky and others have documented that most trustees have approved and practiced adultery and in the process have hurt hundreds of women. Lynn, Steve Sann and others have revealed the authoritarianism of the trustees, their resistance to correction and misuse of finances.
It is also clear that Dr. Wierwille himself both practiced all these as well as taught and defended them to others. There is also overwhelming evidence that he plagiarized scores of pages of material from J.E. Stiles, E.W. Bullinger, E.W. Kenyon and others over a 35-year period. He lied about the origin of the writings by placing his own name on the material and not crediting his sources.
What Does The Word Say About Such Men?
"Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers...nor the covetous...shall inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10) Outside (the city are)...everyone who loves and practices lying. (Revelation 22:15) (They are)... ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness." (Jude 4)
This is a hard teaching for you who knew Dr. Wierwille as Father, friend and teacher, but for this reason it is all the more important to take it to heart. What about everything you have been taught over the years? Is it all true? All false? It is good to question even the embedded teachings, such as believing, abundant sharing, four crucified, one God, three days and three nights, and the rest. But you should not throw out everything just because Doctor taught it any more than you should accept everything he taught.
Ralph Dubofsky offered a good caution at the May 1988 American Fellowship Services meeting.
He recognized the tendency to latch on to all E.W. Bullinger wrote just because most of what
Doctor has taught you over the years has been Bullinger's (though Doctor seldom gave him
credit). So you need to resurrect critical thinking based on The Word.
Some are hesitant to reevaluate belief in the Trinity, mostly because of the stereotype The Way has promoted. In a nutshell, belief in the Trinity amounts to understanding that the Bible teaches four things: 1) there is one God; 2) the Father is God and is separate from the Son and the Holy Spirit; 3) Jesus Christ is God and is separate from the Father and the Holy Spirit; 4) the Holy Spirit is God and is separate from the Father and the Son. You already believe two of these things and the Bible has a lot to say about the other two as well.
There are answers. There is life outside The Way International.
Get It Off Your Chest!
When you see many of the answers, you will probably feel an emotional upheaval. You first may try to deny that Dr. Wierwille did anything wrong, or try to rationalize how he could have done these things without guilt (for instance, "Yes, Doctor plagiarized a lot, but it was OK because ..."). When this passes, find someone who will listen as you vent your hurt and anger for being deceived by leaders you trusted. This will get you much farther than retreating into drugs, alcohol, or some other escape. You will probably not want anything to do with any Christian organization, fearing you will be betrayed again. You will probably often feel lonely, even with other people around.
God can heal these hurts, though, for Jesus Christ said:
"The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor ... to comfort all who mourn, and provide ... the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:1-3; see Luke 4:16-19)
Get it off your chest. Pray alone and with others for freedom, comfort, gladness and praise. There is abundant life outside The Way International.
Read the Word!
The Bible is an exciting book. Many people have been thrilled to read the Bible again ... by itself, without checking the commentary found in publications by The Way International. Pick up an accurate, easy-reading translation such as the New International Version. You will be delighted to read the Word again without the cloudiness of the King James wording and the notes, deletions and additions the Teacher had you scratch in its columns. Do your best to read the Word without "Way brain." It is refreshing -- all of it -- from Genesis to Revelation. You will meet Jesus Christ anew.
Read the Word. Work it for yourself without the coloring Doctor added. There is more than abundant life outside The Way Ministry.
Where Do I Go From Here?
As you see the facts about the true nature of the leadership of The Way, vent your emotions and read the Word, you will constantly ask yourself:
"Where do I go from here?"
"I want to do God's will, but I don't know where or how."
"I feel relieved to leave The Way International behind, but where do I go now?"
Some people have retreated into whatever religion or lifestyle they had before taking Power For Abundant Living. Others are producing near-clones of The Way Ministry that seem like a sequel to a "B" movie. Two attempts are Pacific West Fellowship (Steve Sann) and American Fellowship Services (John Lynn). Of course, they claim they will not be like The Way or national churches.
But they do intend to publish books, periodicals and articles, provide a network of fellowships and traveling teachers and be ecumenical and educational. AFS assures us it will be different from The Way -- it will produce "Christian study," not "biblical research," such as John Lynn's 12-session class "Keys to Victorious Living." Does that sound a lot different to you? (Stay tuned, we may yet see the organizations appoint trustees, ordain clergy, open a leadership training program, etc.)
Is there an option to buying a ticket to a Way sequel? Actually, Christians are not only those people who took the class and wear green name tags. There is a large and sincere Christian world out there where believers do believe that the Word of God is the will of God and do accurate biblical research based on study of a wide range of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts. Perhaps you are one of the many who bought the class while still in (or near) your teen-age years and mistook your little corner of the religious world for the whole Christian Church on Earth and accepted the Teacher's condemnations of the rest of it as a bunch of Maggie Muggins. True, there are some who doubt or wrongly divide the Word of truth, but many more who rightly divide and believe it.
The great diversity of Christ's Church does not mean it is divided. Christian movements and organizations supplement each other by serving different types of people with different needs and in varying areas. Christian leaders were wise enough a decade ago to criticize aspects of The Way Ministry that ex-Way leaders are criticizing now.
Only the Adversary wants you separated from the fellowship and teaching of the Church at large. Jesus Christ is head of His worldwide Body -- the longer you remain amputated, the longer you hinder your own healing and growth. Pray, and actively look for and fellowship with Christians who believe that the Word of God is the will of God. You may want to begin with a home group rather than a large church service. As you do, your distrust of organizations will decrease, your growth will increase, and you will be preserving the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-17).
Discover the fellowship, teaching and unity you desire. There is more than abundant life outside The Way International. How can we help you? If you need some answers, direction, or someone to listen to you, give us a call.
I know you want to serve God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Step outside Dr. Wierwille's legacy, rely on the Holy Spirit and God's Word, and you will find a more than abundant life.
In Jesus Christ,
John Juedes (c) 1988 - by Personal Freedom Outreach.
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