The "Disciples of The Way Outreach Groups" have become the heart of The Way International's (TWI) recruitment and leader development programs. President Martindale calls the Disciples the "elite," "salted and committed" people of his ministry.
Disciples commit themselves to serve TWI for a six month term. Disciples are directed to relocate to a city assigned by TWI, establish a new home fellowship there, and recruit new students for Martindale's "The Way of Abundance and Power" foundational class while working part time jobs. When their term is over TWI wants them to stay in that city or join full time TWI staff or the Way Corps leader training program.
The Disciples began in 1995 as a replacement for the WOW Ambassadors program which Martindale abruptly terminated in 1994. Since the Disciples send out only about 140 adults in two groups each year, it is only a fraction (about 5%) of the size of the Ambassadors, which sent out a maximum of 3,100 for a one year term in 1982.
Since the Way Disciples have become an important facet of TWI, it is important to understand something about their training, goals and life.
The handbook of the Way Disciples titled "The Way Disciples Outreach Group V 1998-1999 - Sounding Out with the Word of the Lord," which is quoted throughout this article as "Handbook", provides a good look into their training and life style. The Handbook includes a definition, objectives, life-style and strategy, outlines of training lectures and teachings, finances, sample schedule and team assignments.
Training is normally spread over a three day period and is held concurrently at New Knoxville headquarters and Camp Gunnison (Colorado). (In the past it was held just at New Knoxville.) Training at Gunnison includes telephone hook ups and videos from leaders at Headquarters.
The Handbook begins with this description: "WHO ARE THE WAY DISCIPLES" Way Disciples are an elite group of men and women full instructed in the manifestations of holy spirit. Way Disciples are sent forth to boldly confront the country with the accuracy and logic of God's prevailing Word. These committed, mature believers aggressively reach out to find people who hunger and thirst after righteousness and have a burning desire to know the way of abundance and power." (p. 1)
The five Way Disciple Objectives say that Disciples will become skillful in "delighting in God's Word," "speaking the Word," "living with others of like commitment," "accelerating one's spiritual growth by obeying" and "being an example of a disciplined believer" (excerpted from p. 1).
These five themes stand out in Way Disciple training and life style:
- fear of harm coming to them
- all aspects of their lives being regimented and closely watched
- Jesus Christ being largely ignored, while their lives revolve around TWI
- obedience to leadership
First, Disciple training de-emphasizes Jesus Christ and substitutes TWI as the center of Disciples' lives. Note that "Who are Way Disciples" and the Objectives quoted above never once mention Jesus Christ, even in passing. However, Jesus Christ is always front and center in the New Testament. Jesus told the Disciples, "you will be my witnesses," (Acts 1:8). Saul (Paul) once persecuted "the Lord's disciples" (Acts 9"1), but after seeing Jesus Christ, he was told "you will be his witnesses to all men" (Acts 22:14). Then he promptly went out "proving that Jesus is the Christ," and made Jesus Christ the center topic of all his witnessing. Yet TWI's main statements of what Disciples should be and do never once mention Jesus Christ.
The Handbook contains outlines of six training teachings by Martindale and others, which include quotes from the Word of God and commentary. Jesus Christ is referred to a dozen times in the quoted passages, but leaders' teachings mention him only twice, in passing. For example, although 1 Thessalonians 1 twice refers to the "Lord Jesus Christ," one Way teaching rephrases "the Word of the Lord" as "the Word of God" (p. 23). It takes careful training to mention Jesus Christ so little, since the New Testament mentions Him so much!
Instead of being committed to Jesus Christ, Way Disciples are told to be committed to The Way International, as their title "Disciples of The Way" implies. Being "salted" (a sign of commitment to Way leadership which is constantly used in TWI ceremonies, especially in ordinations of clergy) and "committed" is mentioned often in the Handbook, even though the Bible passages TWI leaders are teaching from never mention those words.
TWI tells Disciples to study the Word of God daily, but it actually means that Disciples should study Way publications, not the Bible itself. The Handbook's "Life-Style and Strategy" section reads, "1. As a Way Disciple, you study the Word of God (collaterals, Sunday Teaching Service tapes, The Way Magazine, The Way of Abundance and Power series syllabuses, Advanced Studies, retemories, reading for enjoyment) for at least an hour daily, binding the Word in your heart." The phrase in the parentheses defines "Word of God" by listing six categories of TWI publications, totaling some 4,600 pages, in addition to time-consuming audio teaching tapes. But the Disciples were told verbally in training sessions that they should not just be reading, but should be "working something," that is, studying TWI material. This means they aren't likely to have any time left to read any of the aforementioned Way publications "for enjoyment." Although the "retemories" include Bible verses, they also include quotations from TWI classes which they should memorize. TWI doesn't want Disciples to read and study the Bible for themselves, but want them to be dependent on what TWI leadership teaches.
When Disciples witness, the main thrust is to get people to pay to take Martindale's class, not to lead them to the Good Shepherd.
It is ironic that Way Disciples see themselves as helping people confront the illogic of their fears, because TWI leaders impose so much fear on the Disciples. Instead of emphasizing freedom and safety in Jesus Christ, leaders constantly talk about the "adversary" (Satan and devil spirits) and how the adversary could at any moment strike them severely.
The Handbook warns Disciples that "If you are in a car with a small child by yourself, you are
'cruisin' for a bruisin'.' There should be two adults with the child." Disciples are repeatedly told
that any kind of misstep, ignorance or disobedience will result in accident, sickness, injury, even
death. When these troubles happen, leaders blame the disciples for letting them happen by letting
up on their believing or obedience and make them describe in detail where they failed and how
they will fix the problem so troubles won't return. (Leaders do the same with all believers, though
aren't as hard on new recruits.)
This leads to the "two by two" principle. Disciples are told to always be with another Way believer, whether at work, home, witnessing, or traveling-- saying that "two by two" will protect them from harm. Fear of harm from the adversary which comes when they relax their vigilance dominates a lot of the Disciples' thinking.
Way Disciples are constantly with, and are watched by, other Disciples. The third of the five objectives states that Disciples must be "living with others of like commitment." Martindale's Sept. 19, 1998 training lecture commanded them:
"One habit you will want to strengthen is two by two. Drive this deeper than in the past.... Do things in pairs. Don't get isolated. Don't go alone to someone else's apartment; go with someone else..... As much as possible, work together. Exercise together. Drive this thinking even deeper than ever before. You have to submit to the Word and do it together.... This is something you have to push: two by two in everything. For mothers at home with children: If you are in a car with a small child by yourself, you are 'cruisin' for a bruisin'.' There should be two adults with the child. Mothers at home with children-- check in with each other.... We don't underestimate the adversary. Schedule shopping, days off, exercising, any outreach-- all two by two at minimum. Three or four is better." (Pp. 7-8)
Number seven of the ten "Life-Style and Strategy" points reads, "As a Way Disciple, you take one day off from witnessing and work, scheduled with other members of the Way Disciple household." It formerly read "preferably scheduled," but Disciples were told to cross out the word "preferably" (p. 3). The teaching "Striving Together to Sound Out" told Disciples they should "exercise (but take a buddy)" (p. 15).
The "Sample Schedule for Field Way Disciples" (p. 30) outlines a detailed, hour-by-hour schedule which Disciples should follow from 6:30 AM to 11:30 PM for every day of the week. The schedule includes no personal or family time. (Except possibly for their Saturday off, although that would be filled mainly with shopping and errands-- all with other Disciples.)
Disciples fill out detailed reports describing their schedules for the coming week, and their schedules for the past week (comparing them to their original proposed schedules). Leadership examines the schedules in detail and forces disciples to make changes until leadership is satisfied.
In other words, leadership tells disciples what to do (in the form of their schedules), and tells them to always have another committed believer with them, everywhere they go and whatever they do. Even worse- they lead Disciples to be afraid of doing anything alone.
Martindale mainly uses "two by two" as a means to control his followers, because they are aware that someone is always watching what they are doing, hearing and seeing. The peer pressure of other Wayers watching them keeps them from reading, hearing or seeing anything that TWI doesn't produce. "Two by two" keeps them obeying leadership and maintaining "acceptable" Way behavior. It even indirectly controls what they think.
This practice may be rooted partly in Martindale's own fear of losing more people. About 90% of all Way followers, Corps and clergy left TWI during Martindale's presidency, including nearly all of the long-time leaders who grew up in TWI with him. Even Way Disciples have been known to leave during their terms. He reportedly is very angry and afraid at the amount of information critical of TWI which is available on the Internet. No doubt Martindale hopes that the "two by two" practice will help keep Disciples from drifting away from his way.
Although "two by two" is promoted as a way to avoid isolation, it actually forces even more isolation of Way Disciples. They are prevented from having private family time and contacts with extended family. They are forbidden to have any friends who are not "committed" Wayers, and certainly never to date them, since they are bound to be possessed by devil spirits.
Way Disciple "households" are small- normally only four adults, which usually include one or two married couples. Therefore, Disciples often have no one available who is of their age and interests (and certainly no one to date). This keeps them from developing true heart to heart friendships and from having contact with people who aren't already programed with "Way-brain" type thinking.
Children are even more isolated, because school-age "disciples" are not allowed to have friendships with non-Way children. They are to witness to them, intending to bring them to fellowship and get them in the class. If not, they are to go without friendships and spend time with children in the household, when possible. However, since there are so few children in the households, play mates are few and far between. For instance, there was only one child in the four households in Pueblo, CO. There were only two children (brother and sister) in the three households in Tuscaloosa, AL. Only three children (from two families) were in the four households in Grand Junction, CO.
This promotes total isolationism in the minds of these children, and their social development is severely impaired. When they grow up, they find it almost impossible to form long-lasting relationships, and the relationships they have are limited and unfulfilling.
Way leadership progressively shrinks the Disciples' world until it is but a micro-managed, mini-Way world of restrictions and fear.
The training lecture "The Macedonian Mind-set" listed "Three Keys to Prevailing," the first of which is "1. Swift Response (obedience) (p. 12)." Way leaders often find obedience in Bible passages in which the words doesn't actually appear. For instance, Martindale defined "submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:21) as "loving obedienceby proper arrangement and deliberate decision.... you will have to submit yourselves to the overall will of the household (p. 5)." He doesn't have democracy in mind, but clearly defined hierarchy.
Martindale emphasized his demand for obedience in his teaching "The Fundamentals of Prevailing: Obey!" He said that leadership could be a little patient with new people who "deserve the opportunity to blow it a few times.... But I expect out of our long standing people immediate, absolute, full bore, balls to the wall OBEDIENCE" (he literally yelled the last word; tape #1899, Oct. 26, 1997).
To help insure obedience, Disciples must fill out the "Way Disciple Household Weekly Report and Outreach Plan" and give copies to their State coordinator and team coordinator by Monday of each week. This includes a plan "Proposal" for the coming week, which must be approved. It also includes the plan "Actual" for the previous week. The report asks if the Disciples worked at least 20 hours, made their household fund payment, had planning meetings and handled situations within 24 hours.
But the all-important questions on the report are,
"4. Is each Way Disciple submitting to the Way Disciple program life-style and their leadership?"
"5. Is every Way Disciple at least tithing?"
Note that obedience to leadership and the ten rules of the Disciple "Life-Style" are emphasized, while nothing is said about whether Disciples show godly character, love God and love people-- even though Jesus taught that these were the core of discipleship.
The Way Corps serve as team coordinators. The number of Disciples drops dramatically when you adjust for Corps who have no choice but to go. The Corps are used to submitting every detail of their lives to their leadership for approval, and so expect the same obedience from the Disciples (see our article "The Way Robot Corps.") The teams which work at the New Knoxville and Gunnison campuses (considered to be plum assignments) to shore up the staff there are under even greater scrutiny.
Outreach Group V included 106 adults (and 30 children) in nine "teams" (locations). They were divided up into 28 households (each normally includes four adults and sometimes a couple of children). Although their main goal was to recruit people to pay $100 for Martindale's "The Way of Abundance and Power" foundational class, they managed to hold only eight classes (The Way Magazine, Nov/Dec 1998, p. 23). This means that at least 20 households sponsored no class at all. A class can be held with as few as three new people, so this may indicate as few as 24 new recruits-- and likely little more than that actually finished the class, much less stayed with TWI afterward.
Group V in Colorado, which included nine households, witnessed to about 2600 people in six months. Only 18 came to a fellowship at least once, eleven came more than once, and two took the class. Neither of them are now standing with TWI.
TWI has had more success with recruiting Disciples to join staff or Corps. Of Outreach Group IV, "Eighty percent are remaining in the areas to which they had been assigned, 20 percent have relocated, and 30 percent are entering the in-residence Way Corps training in the fall" (The Way Magazine, July/Aug 1998, p. 25). Group V included 33 Apprentice and Candidate Corps. Many Disciple go on staff, partly because they are already uprooted and can move easily. One staff thought it was wonderful to "sit at Martindale's feet... at the heart of the present truth" (The Way Magazine, Nov/Dec 1999, p. 23). Of course, under Martindale, the "present truth" is bound to become the past, forsaken truth sooner or later.
Dr. John P. Juedes, C. 2000
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