CHRISTIAN RESEARCH AND FELLOWSHIP, JOHN HENDRICKS
John Hendricks was one of many leaders in The Way International (TWI) who bolted from the group in the late 1980s after the death of its founder, V. P. Wierwille. Like other ex-leaders, Hendricks began Christian Research and Fellowship as a ministry to serve the thousands of ex-Wayers who left along with them. The name itself, “Christian Research and Fellowship” is based on TWI’s description of itself as a “Biblical Research, Teaching and Fellowship” ministry. Like other splinter groups, Christian Research and Fellowship (CRF) embodies TWI teaching and practice.
John Hendricks was involved in TWI over 15 years, serving as a Word Over the World Ambassador (WOW) in Indiana in 1972. He became an upper-echelon leader of TWI, serving in many positions from Limb (State) Coordinator for North Carolina to Coordinator of Family Corps (the four year training program for TWI leaders) at the time of Wierwille’s death in 1985.
Hendricks dominated CRF until his death in 2005 with the same authority Wierwille had in TWI. He would declare his interpretation to be the indisputable or irrefutable truth. He seemed to struggle with writing and grammar and often looked to Craig Cushingham for specific Biblical help during his teachings. Hendricks continued to use the title “Reverend” after leaving TWI though this reflected only a TWI ordination.
CRF closely mimicked TWI in its doctrine, organization and methods. Hendricks offered Foundational and Advanced classes called To Know God which were remakes of Wierwille’s Foundational, Intermediate and Advanced Power for Abundant Living classes. He published four books which repeated material from Wierwille’s books. These served as substitutes for Wierwille’s books, which TWI refused to sell to nonmembers. CRF also had its version of TWI’s WOW Ambassadors (who recruit people to take the classes) called “Lights” as well as its version of The Way Corps leadership training. CRF mailed weekly sermons just as TWI did, and sent out old sermons even after Hendricks’ death. No other splinter group has followed TWI’s pattern as completely.
Some followers say that Hendricks claimed to have stopped hurricanes from damaging a region in which an Advanced class, controlled the weather and personally met angels including the guardian of the east coast. This is a product of his (and TWI’s) belief in the “law of believing” which says that anyone, whether Christian or atheist, has power to do miraculous things if they believe things will happen strongly enough. Of course, no one can prove that a hurricane did not make land fall because he prevented it by his positive believing, but no one can disprove it, either. But arrogance is a better explanation for the claim than that he actually had such power.
Hendricks’ daughter Rochelle took control of CRF after her father’s death in 2005. She became president while living in Destin, Florida. Lin Michaelsen operated CRF in Marietta, Georgia. CRF was organized as a for-profit business rather than a not-for-profit corporation, which gave the Hendricks’ more complete control, secrecy and the ability to profit from it. Like other splinters, it has never been interested in fellowship with Christians or use of materials not produced by TWI splinter groups.
CRF has a listing of approved home fellowships from coast to coast. Around 1,000 to 1,500 attend these fellowships regularly. Fellowship coordinators are ex-Way Corps or people endorsed by existing leadership. CRF does not have direct control over what the fellowships and their coordinators do. Many of these were TWI “twigs,” or home fellowships, before leaving TWI when their leaders did.
CRF discourages internet use and does not have a web presence. It does have a “prayer power line,” regular email notices which list peoples’ names, their needs and times that surgeries or other needs will arise.
Christian Research and Fellowship, Inc was incorporated as a for-profit business in 1993, listing business offices in Roswell, GA, Geneva, FL and Winter Springs, FL with John D. Hendricks and Rochelle L. Hendricks as officers.
FOR ABUNDANT LIVING TO KNOW GOD
Like other splinter groups, Hendricks offered his version of TWI’s Power for Abundant Living (PFAL) class, which he called To Know God (TKG). TKG was essentially a remake of PFAL, a class Hendricks had sat through scores of times, as all committed ex-Wayers had. It was recorded around 1997. Like PFAL, the purpose of TKG was to tear down students’ belief in evangelical Christianity (which they derisively label as “tradition”), inculcate listeners with Wierwillite doctrine and teach them to speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues (SIT) seems even more important to CRF than it was to TWI.
TKG presents unique TWI teachings such as four crucified, heteros and allos, to whom written, no private interpretation, principles of rightly dividing the Word, Paul’s thorn in the flesh, etc, almost exactly as in Wierwille’ class. It uses the same Bible passages in the same order and manner. Hendricks uses Wierwille’s affectations such as “thaaaats riiiight” and “I didn’t write the book” several times, though he never mentions Wierwille by name. Hendricks even tells some of the same stories Wierwille told in PFAL as though they were his own experiences, such as when he belittles Christian seminaries and teachings. Some of his arguments are the same, almost word for word, as those made by Wierwille.
Hendricks writes that the book God’s Healing Word was written to “coincide” with the To Know God class. It reads like it is a transcription of part of the class instead, just as Wierwille’s book Power for Abundant Living was a transcription of part of his PFAL class. Hendricks simplifies and condenses PFAL, and it is obvious that he had much less theological education that Wierwille. Wierwille both abused and used his theological education, while Hendricks lacks any real theological education, opting for the skewed type TWI offered instead.
The ultimate purpose of TKG (like PFAL) is to teach people to speak in tongues, because they believe it is the only way to know and worship God. TKG subtlety pressures people to speak in tongues by implying it is God’s command to all Christians. It uses passages PFAL uses, such as “I would that ye all spake with tongues… I speak in tongues more than ye all (1 Cor. 14:5,8) and “Be ye followers of me” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul’s practice is turned into a commandment of the Lord that cannot be ignored without sinning.
Hendricks advocated using “warrior tongues” even in public. He told some of his classes to walk along a public beach as a group yelling aloud in their warrior tongues.
CRF also promotes the practice of “all nine all the time,” the belief that all Christians should learn to operate all manifestations of the spirit named in 1 Corinthians 12 (speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, miracles, etc).
CRF offers Live Advanced Classes on the Nine Manifestations in the To Know God series (but not Intermediate classes as TWI does). They are usually held in Destin, FL in December in luxury condos. Few other splinter groups offer Advanced classes.
THE LAWS OF BELIEVING, GIVING AND PROSPERITY
TKG also presents “The Law of Believing” as an immutable spiritual law that is more reliable than gravity, just as TWI did. As an example of negative believing, Wierwille stated that a mother’s fear for her boy’s safety caused him to be killed by a car. Hendricks’ example was a pimply faced kid who had no trouble getting women (positive believing) while a handsome guy had fear (negative believing) which hindered his relationships.
CRF also teaches the “law of giving and receiving.” This and other spiritual “laws,” work for anyone who practices them, regardless of their religion (or atheism), morality (or immorality). The law of giving asserts that anyone who gives will receive back. Immutable “laws” that work for any human being are rooted in the New Thought movement of a century ago.
This is related to teachings on prosperity. CRF uses 3 John 2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (Hendricks uses the King James Version as Wierwille and TWI did). This is transformed into an immutable promise that all Christians should be financially wealthy and perfectly healthy.
CRF also obtained their belief that Jesus Christ does not have a divine as well as a human nature from Wierwille’s “Jesus Christ is Not God” teaching. They teach that the Christian teaching on the Trinity was not Biblical, but was manufactured through political machinations at the council of Nicaea in 325 AD.
John Hendricks authored four books, all based on Wierwille’s books. CRF published Easy to Believe in 1997 (131 pp). which was based on Wierwille’s The Bible Tells Me So. He published God’s Healing Word in 1997 (241 pp), which was based on Power for Abundant Living (Wierwille’s book is the first four segments verbatim of the class by the same name) and E. W. Bullinger’s How to Enjoy the Bible, from which much of PFAL was taken.
God’s Healing Word devotes a few chapters to its version of TWI’s belief that “Jesus Christ is not God,” criticizing (but not really understanding) Trinitarian belief in evangelical Christianity. Hendricks lifts material from Wierwille’s book Jesus Christ is Not God, “proving” that Jesus is the Son of God because the New Testament uses the title 116 times—as though no evangelical Christian ever noticed that before and his belief that “in Christ the fullness of the Godhead lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9) would be devastated to hear this. Hendricks shows the same shallowness of thinking that plagued Wierwille on this point, because he never stops to think what it means that Christ is the Son of God (does it mean the Father had sexual intercourse with Mary, giving Jesus Christ half of the Father’s physical genes, as Moslems think?). Bullinger says- in a book Hendricks treats as an authority- that in Greek the article “the” is used twice in this phrase, indicating Deity, not humanity.
Hendricks published Power from on High in 1999, based on Wierwille’s Receiving the Holy Spirit Today (which was largely plagiarized without citation from E. W. Bullinger’s The Giver and His Gifts). CRF also published God’s Way to Prosperity, based on TWI’s Christians Should Be Prosperous.
CRF offers seminars including Prosperity God’s Way, Renewed Unto Love, Sonship and The Living Hope. These also are based on teachings promoted by TWI.
Since CRF’s teachings and practice are nearly identical to their “Father in the Word” V. P. Wierwille, evaluations of their teachings can be found in books and articles addressed to Wierwille and TWI, which can be found at websites such as www.abouttheway.org .
Dr. John Juedes