The Way has had a "decline" in number of followers, The Way Magazine reported in the Nov.-Dec. 1997 issue. The magazine attributed the decline to Martindale's actions:
"(Martindale)... has initiated changes to build a spiritually pure and sweet household that have led to a decline in the number of followers in the ministry...." ("The Prevailing Word Report," p. 22).
The steep decline, which has gone on for the last 12 years, has been obvious to any careful observer. However, The Way has seldom openly admitted its decline and Martindale's part in it, perhaps fearing that this would show negative believing on the part of its leadership.
The decline has been dramatic and began at the very start of Martindale's tenure as president. The decline is particularly obvious when one compares the number of Corps and Disciples today with the number of Corps and Ambassadors in 1982, which was apparently the peak year.
TWI claimed that 3,100 W.O.W. Ambassadors were sent out to recruit followers in 1982. Martindale terminated the Ambassadors and replaced them with his "Way Disciples Outreach Group." The third group of disciples finished its six month term in March 1997. It included only about 43 adults who worked in six cities. This number is only 1.4% of the number of WOWs in 1982, a shocking decline. (Even if two groups are sent out per year, it would still amount to only about 3%.)
TWI also claimed that it graduated 415 Corps and Family Corps in 1983, the first year of Martindale's tenure as president. However, the Corps graduating class of 1997 included only about 43 adults (TWI usually inflates its number of Corps by counting children, who are officially Junior and Mini Corps). Since many of these are married (or will be married) to other Corps, this may represent only 25 or so households . This is only about 10% of the 1983 number of Corps.
The Way Magazine is very charitable to call this a "decline,"since "catastrophic loss" would be more accurate. If any company lost 90-97% of its production and sales force, it would definitely be considered a catastrophe, and its CEO would be fired.
Martindale wrote a book, The Rise and Expansion of the Christian Church in the First Century. He wrote about the importance of expansion,
"...the Book of Acts vividly illustrates God's passionate will and concern for the 'expansion' of His Word by way of those who speak it in love. Expansion occurs numerically and geographically and in impact throughout the whole inhabited world.... In the principles and techniques found in its records, the Book of Acts presents the godly blueprint for success in outreach to the end of the expansion of the Word over the world." (pp.6, 7)
The severe decline throughout Martindale's term of office suggests that he has not learned or followed "the godly blueprint for success" in the book of Acts. The early church faced opposition and persecution hundreds of times greater than any opposition Martindale has faced, yet it prospered while TWI has hemorrhaged.
It is ironic that TWI says that the changes are intended to build a "sweet" household. The hundreds who have been reproved, purged, marked, avoided, or who left in disappointment (that is, the 90-97%) describe their experiences with TWI as being very sour instead. A large proportion of these don't reject Way teaching, but all reject Way leadership.
(Sources: The Way Magazine, May-June 1997, p. 21, September-October 1997, p. 25, Juedes & Morton, From Vesper Chimes to The Way International, pp. 24, 28)
Dr. John Juedes, Copyright 1998
The Way's Rome City, Indiana, campus is for sale. The Way continues to scale down its property as its membership continues to fall. "The Way College of Biblical Research, Indiana Campus" was purchased in about 1976 for around $345,000, and The Way claimed to have spent another $1 million to renovate it. About 150 of the 197 acres was farm and pasture land. It remains to be seen whether The Way loses a large amount of money on its investment as it did when it sold its Emporia, Kansas, campus.
The Rome City campus had been used as a home for the Family Corps, while Emporia housed the regular Corps (singles). When the Corps and Family Corps were both large in the early 1980s, both campuses were needed. However, since the Corps is now very small (it graduated only about 43 adults in 1997), neither campus is needed anymore.
The Way Magazine (Jan-Feb 1998, p. 22) article went on to say that the regular Corps and Family Corps will be combined and housed at Gunnison, CO and at New Knoxville.
The Way tried to put a positive spin on the loss of the property by saying that Gunnison will "handle the increasing numbers as enrollment in The Way Corps training continues to rise in the foreseeable future."
However, the number of Corps are so small now that even if they doubled, they would still be less than 20% of the number of Corps in the early 1980s.
The "increasing numbers...in the foreseeable future" may be like the projections The Way made in the 1970s and 1980s, when leaders believed for large numbers which never came close to being met.
TWI has not set a price for the campus. Instead, interested parties are provided with a video and printed material, are shown the campus and invited to have their own appraisals made and to make offers on the property. While the surrounding lake and resort area may help the sale, much of the campus is old and requires a lot of maintenance. Suggestions on how to use the land range from golf course to juvenile detention center.
The Magazine also reported that a 100 page pictorial book of the headquarters was just released. It is titled The Way International: Where God's Word Prevails, in keeping with L. C. Martindale's mission of replacing V. P. Wierwille's classic slogan "Word over the World" with Martindale's new "Prevailing Word" slogan.
A new Way Corps structure will go into effect in the summer of 1998, according to the May-June 1998 issue of The Way Magazine. Due to a decrease in numbers and the close of the Rome City campus, The Way Corps (singles and couples with no children) and The Way Family Corps (which includes and counts children) will combine into one Corps.
A new four-year training format will be implemented, since the two Corps formerly had different formats. The new sequence begins with a candidacy year, in which trainees will work with Corps overseers in their locations. During that year, candidates are expected to recognize areas in their lives which leaders think they need to improve-- especially planning, overseeing families, personal scheduling, abundant sharing (giving more than 10% of one's income to TWI) and elimination of debt. TWI calls this "proven discipleship."
An apprentice year follows, when they will be assigned to participate in the Disciples of The Way Outreach program. Two years in residence at Camp Gunnison -- The Way Family Ranch in Gunnison, Colorado may then be followed by graduation. Graduates are then placed by the Trustees as overseers and laborers in various positions with TWI.
A December 1, 1997 press release by The Way International blamed the declining enrollment on the two years of preparatory service and study required by the new format.
Actually, the steep decline in enrollment (about 90% from its peak in the early 1980s) is due mainly to two factors. First, over three-quarters of TWI's adherents left the group, citing problems in its leadership. In addition, TWI itself has forced thousands out of its fellowship, accusing them of weakness and error. Many followers fear this practice, which is called "mark and avoid." The steep decline in followers then led to the steep decline in candidates for the Corps.
John Juedes, C. 1998, www.empirenet.com/~messiah7
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