WAY ARROGANCE LIVES ON
JOHN LYNN'S DEFENSE OF THE WAY INTERNATIONAL
John Lynn, who once served as a high level leader in The Way International (TWI) and now serves as a high level leader in a TWI splinter group, Christian Educational Services (CES) / Spirit and Truth fellowship (STF) wrote a letter defending TWI in June 2008 titled The Way, It Was. TWI's primary error, Lynn says, was that "we became too arrogant toward other Christians." Ironically, the main premise of the letter repeats and defends the most arrogant of TWI's assertions and balderdash- that TWI was the most significant group in the last 2,000 years of church history and that it alone had true teaching and biblically knowledgeable followers. Lynn repeats several aspects of TWI's arrogant claim:
"(TWI was)... one of the most significant movements in the history of the Christian Church (p. 1) .....
"a golden opportunity to make known the word of God, as it had not been known since the first century" (p. 2)
"When else in the history of the Christian Church has there ever been such a cadre of thousands of young, energetic, enthused, biblically knowledgeable, logistically equipped, organizationally backed, diverse, multi-lingual, mobile, available, and committed-to-'It-is-written' men and women with leadership qualities who were willing to go anywhere and spread the Word? Certainly not often in the last 2,000 years." (P.2)
"...it was, from about 1955-1987, the only place I know of where anyone could hear the amount of truth of the Word of God..... to put the Word together like it had not been known since the first century Church." (P.2)
"(TWI) stands out on the spectrum of Church history as an amazingly significant Christian movement." (P.4)
Lynn does not seem to understand the ramifications of the valid criticisms of TWI that he himself raises, nor know what a "significant Christian movement" looks like.
By Their Fruits You Will Know Them
Jesus Christ warns us,
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:15-21)
Lynn himself lists many kinds of bad fruit in TWI,
"Yes, there was more doctrinal error than I ever realized while I was in TWI, and there was corresponding practical error that became more evil than most of us involved ever imagined, Yes, many people were terribly abused. Yes, there was dishonesty about Scripture, there was plagiarism, and there was rampant sexual sin, all of which contributed to many people choosing to turn away from God and His Word." (P.1)
"egregious evil" (p. 4)
"TWI failed to teach us that we can have an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus" (p.3)
"abuses they themselves committed" (p. 4)
(Link to) "a detailed list of biblical subjects I think TWI mishandled" (p.5)
This is probably a longer and more severe list of bad fruit than that ascribed to the chief priests of Jesus' day. As Jesus notes, the bad fruit does not mean that a basically good tree produced a few bad apples, but that the tree itself is bad and must be "cut down and thrown into the fire." But here John Lynn is admiring, honoring and defending the bad tree instead. Lynn treats grotesquely deadly errors as though they are trivial. "Egregious evil" that fails to lead people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and prompts people "to turn away from God and His Word" is the work of Satan, not a work of God.
Furthermore, Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 2 detail the essential qualifications of church leaders. The apostle emphasizes that men who do not meet the qualifications should not be honored or followed. Yet Lynn implicitly honors TWI leaders who fail these biblical tests.
What Does a "Significant Christian Movement" Look Like?
When Lynn says that TWI was "an amazingly significant Christian movement," (P.4) it appears that he does not have a real picture of what such a Christian movement really is. A genuinely significant movement reaches large numbers of people over a long period of time, makes lasting changes in their spiritual lives, and centers on Jesus Christ.
To understand the difference between TWI and genuinely significant Christian movements, it would be helpful to compare TWI to some movements which began during the same time period as TWI and continue today, namely the Billy Graham Organization and Calvary Chapel.
Billy Graham was born only two years after TWI's founder V. P. Wierwille (though Wierwille died much younger, which according to his theology shows that he was guilty of negative believing). Graham vaulted into the public eye at his eight week Los Angeles Crusade in 1949, two years after Wierwille started Chimes Hour Youth Caravan on radio (www.billygraham.org). In 1957, when Wierwille resigned from his pastorate under pressure, Graham's nightly Crusade in New York was extended to 16 weeks. Over the years Graham has preached to live audiences of 215 million people in 185 countries. Today about 150 TV stations broadcast old Graham Crusades five to seven times a year. His "Hour of Decision" radio program ran nightly for over 50 years. Decision magazine has a circulation of 600,000 and World Wide Pictures has produced 150 movies in 38 languages which have been viewed by 250 million people. Graham wrote 27 books, most selling over 1 million copies each.
Graham's ongoing impact was not just in leading people to Christ, but also in training thousands of Christians to do evangelism. Another long term impact was in facilitating interdenominational cooperation and unity. Every Crusade is led by a steering committee composed of local leaders from many denominations and backgrounds. The Graham organization has done much to unite the Church not by formal organization, but through informal relationships and cooperation.
Money and sex were never downfalls for Graham as they were for Wierwille. He never appointed his own family to control the board of directors as Wierwille did. While Wierwille had a constant procession of young women visiting him in his bedroom at all hours of the day and night, Graham carefully followed his rule to never be alone with any woman except for his wife, whether in public or in private.
Calvary Chapel began during the Jesus movement in the 1970s, the time TWI gained steam (www.calvarychapel.org). But Calvary helped power the movement, while TWI just leached followers from it. Chuck Smith began the mother church in Costa Mesa, California in 1965. During a two-year period in the mid 70s, it performed over 8,000 baptisms and was instrumental in over 20,000 conversions to the Christian faith. The church now numbers 20,000, and perhaps 140,000 have counted it as their home church in the last 40 years -- more than the 100,000 people who apparently have taken TWI's foundational course (the average church adds 30% of its membership every five to seven years, though Calvary Chapel has probably well exceeded this given its prominence in Southern California). There are now 1,346 affiliate Calvary Chapels around the world, many of them local mega-churches such as Greg Laurie's Harvest Fellowship in Riverside, California which has a membership of 15,000 and does several Billy Graham-like crusades a year. Millions of Christians hear radio and television programs by Calvary Chapel pastors every year across the nation
Calvary Chapel founded Maranatha Music in 1971, which is the dominant force in worship music in the world today. Over 120,000 church leaders have attended their worship workshops and hundreds of millions of Christians around the world use Maranatha music in weekly worship.
Calvary Chapel has had a major, ongoing impact by facilitating a new worship style in the Church around the world. It also had a major impact in promoting "nondenominational" Christianity. Calvary amounts to a denomination (it has an association of approved churches, trains clergy, holds pastor and church conferences, facilitates missions and does other things denominations are designed to do). But it helped promote the "nondenominational" emphasis on the central tenets of the Christian faith with a de-emphasis of secondary doctrines that often distinguish denominations. It also helped popularize the idea of a pre-trib rapture, although this is held by only a small percentage of world wide Christianity.
Lynn can't think of any group of thousands of young people who go to spread the Word as TWI's WOW Ambassadors and Way Corps did. (Perhaps Lynn doesn't remember many WOWs, many of whom were immature, untrained refugees from college and no where near the gold standard he claims. TWI also set them up for sexual sin by placing groups of two single men and two single women in the same house. Apparently he isn't aware of Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI), InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVF) and similar organizations.
CCCI was founded by Bill Bright on the UCLA campus to reach students (www.ccci.org). There are now 25,000 self-supported staff members (mainly full time) in 191 countries. In the last 50 years, hundreds of thousands of staff have spread the Word in campuses and communities in many settings.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship serves 31,000 students and faculty on 580 campuses (www.intervarsity.org). They are served by 864 undergraduate chapters and 163 graduate or professional chapters led by 871 field staff. They reported 1,986 first time professions of faith in Jesus Christ in 2007 alone and worked on scores of mission projects around the world. InterVarsity Press publishes about 90 new books a year. Most major college campuses today have a CCCI or IVF group.
Books on the history of Christian such as Roland Bainton's Christianity describe many significant movements of God over the centuries. These are often called "revivals" and typically include a resurgence of worship, a feature distinctly lacking in TWI. TWI in its prime couldn't hold a candle to the sunlight of these true movements of God.
Most of these groups were part of the Jesus movement which spread across North America and Europe in the late 1960s and 1970s. The broad "counter-culture" of that era was the anti-establishment hippie movement which emphasized sex, drugs, rock and roll, New Age spirituality, rebellion and situational ethics in which there is no absolute moral code. This has become today's American culture as the hippies aged and become politicians and leaders in society. The Jesus movement was counter-cultural in that it pointed people to pure love (rather than sexual promiscuity) and ultimate moral authority and truth in the Bible. CCCI organized a Jesus movement event called Explo '72 in Dallas which attracted 80,000 young people, including this author. The Jesus movement dramatically impacted American Christianity by providing contemporary worship music (like Maranatha music), providing leaders for church and parachurch groups (like this author) and centering Christianity on the Bible as infallible authority, a belief many main line denominations gave away in the last half of the century.
All these organizations are members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, requiring ethical accounting procedures and public disclosure of finances which TWI would never make. For most of TWI's existence, Wierwille and his brother Harry controlled all aspects of TWI, including all its money, because they made themselves the majority on the three-person Board of Trustees.
Compared to the impact these (and other organizations, such as Focus on the Family, World Vision and the charismatic movement, of which Wierwille's mentor J. E. Stiles was a part) groups have made on Christianity around the world, TWI is not just a drop in the bucket, but a drop in the seven oceans of the world. They are movements of God in ways that TWI never was. They have impacted hundreds of millions of Christians, led millions to profession of faith in Jesus Christ, been led by leaders with integrity and godliness, provided sound Biblical teaching, and had wide spread impact for over 50 years- and counting.
By contrast, TWI had only 13 prosperous years before it imploded, its "research" is unaccepted and unknown today, it affected a very, very tiny number of people (compared to total population), it distracted people from repentance and a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the majority of people who were involved in it are still struggling with the negative consequences today. When TWI spoke of "witnessing" they did not mean introducing people to Jesus Christ, but recruiting people to pay to take TWI's class.
John Lynn also lauds the "biblical research" of TWI. Ironically, he states that it taught the Word as it had not been known since the first century, while also admitting that most of it was plagiarized from others, primarily from E. W. Bullinger. You can't have it both ways- as unknown for 2,000 years, and as the result of stealing others' writings.
The most outstanding characteristic of TWI's biblical research is that is it unknown. If you ask 10,000 people on the street who V. P. Wierwille is, what TWI is and what books they published, you'll get 10,000 blank stares. Regardless of what field of research, quality researchers are known. Wierwille's "research" is unknown because it is extremely poor.
Lynn claims that TWI had much more impact than the Reformation. Yet Luther and the Reformation impacts every Christian today. Christians sing hymns and songs that have verses because the Reformation popularized this kind of congregational signing which was essentially unknown before then (called "bar" tunes not because they were sung in saloons, but because they have short bars, or verses, that are repeated). More non-Lutherans than Lutherans read Martin Luther today. His biblical teachings on the Word of God being the sole rule for faith and practice and on grace and faith dominate the Christian church today, 500 years later. We continue to translate the Bible into native languages because Luther launched this practice with his German Bible, which is still in use today. By contrast, Wierwille is unknown. True movements of God are not cloistered in just a few acres of northwestern Ohio.
CES and TWI single out Wierwille's teaching that Jesus Christ is Not God and his book by that title as the flagship achievement. But apparently Lynn does not actually consider TWI research to be worthy of any notice whatsoever. Lynn co-wrote an anti-Trinitarian book called One God and One Lord (OGAOL). But Lynn never once quotes or even mentions JCING. There are 122 books in the bibliography, but it lists not even one by Wierwille or TWI. If Wierwille and TWI were such powerhouses of biblical research they would have to be quoted repeatedly.
It is easy to see why Lynn is ashamed of JCING. This "research" book on the most important topic in the Christian faith- who Jesus Christ is- is less than 33,000 words long. This is several thousand words less than there are in a single issue of a magazine like Newsweek. The "book" doesn't even qualify as a magazine. Lynn even contradicts or rejects many arguments used in JCING.
JCING shows no signs of serious research at all. Its only footnotes are in chapter one, a very brief history that was not even written by Wierwille. Another chapter was originally a short magazine article, and a third was a transcription of a brief sermon (recorded by TWI as tape 295) with only shallow two or three sentence comments on important Biblical passages.
Jesus Christ is not God did not convince anyone by sound logic or use of Scripture. Wayers accepted JCING in totality because they totally accepted everything Wierwille said because they believed he was "The Man of God for our day and time" who taught and spoke by revelation. It was not important what JCING said- only that Wierwille said it. They accepted what Wierwille said with blind devotion much as early Mormons accepted polygamy and six-foot tall residents on the moon because their "Prophet" Joseph Smith said so. Cult leaders like Wierwille expect their followers to obey all they say no matter what it is. By contrast, if Billy Graham or Chuck Smith would have published JCING, their readers would have roundly rejected it, rather than unquestioningly accepting it as Wierwille's followers did. Cult followers like TWI dutifully obey their leaders while deceiving themselves into thinking that they are thinking for themselves.
Lynn and other Wayers accepted Wierwille's writings as sound research (even revelation) because he was "The Man of God," not because it was quality research. Lynn even today parrots Wierwille's lines including "the Word as it had not been known since the first century," which were words of Wierwille quoted in Elena Whiteside's book The Way- Living in Love, p. 178. Many ex-Wayers continue to live by "The Man of God" myth even while superficially denying it.
Lynn's letter repeats two key errors of TWI.
Lynn says that V. P. Wierwille put together a combination of teachings which were "the Word as it had not been known since the first century." He admits that Wierwille was a plagiarist (who stole other's ideas), serial adulterer (who stole others' wives and fiances), megalomaniac (who promoted himself as "The Man of God") and greedy man who used his teachings on the Law of Tithing and Law of Prosperity to induce people to pay for his luxuries. Wierwille undoubtedly does not qualify as a godly leader according to the traits required by Titus and Timothy but does qualify as a false prophet by Jesus' definition. Yet, Lynn honors his teachings and thoughts.
Lynn proudly repeats TWI's phrase, "The Word of God is the will of God." But at the same time he declares that the Gospels, half of Acts and much of Revelation are not authoritative today. In reality, he counts only a small part of the New Testament as the will of God, just as TWI does.
The Gospels are the foundation of the "intimate relationship with Jesus Christ" that Lynn admits TWI never taught. A major reason TWI lacked this is because it declared that the words of Jesus Christ were not written to them (or any Christians since Pentecost). This is like telling a bride to have an intimate relationship with her husband, but adding that his love letters were written to another woman. CES wants to restore intimate relationships with Jesus Christ while continuing to hold a major cause of the problem, its extreme view of "administrations" (called "ultradispensationalism").
John Lynn claims that he and CES are keeping the Word alive and moving all over the world (p.5). But whose word are they keeping alive? Wierwille's word.
Dr. John Juedes /answrLynnLtr www.abouttheway.org
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