Victor Paul Wierwille, founder of The Way International (TWI) wasn't satisfied finding a respectable occupation or goal in life, as most people do. Instead, Wierwille wanted to be the greatest initiator and leader of God's people to live in the last 2,000 years. From promoting himself as "the Man of God" to singlehandedly surviving a communist takeover of the USA, VP thought he was "the best" and could make his followers the same.
But instead of providing "one-stop" shopping for every spiritual and personal need, VP failed at every effort and left thousands of disillusioned followers soured on spiritual leaders to the degree that many still reject legitimate Christian endeavors.
Wierwille's central goal was to take "the Word Over The World (WOW)" and signed up thousands of idealistic, young "WOW Ambassadors" to do the job for him. Some people may think that taking "the Word" meant distributing the Bible to people and cultures absorbed in paganism or telling people about Jesus Christ. But no, "the Word" they sold was a fee-based (costing students from $40-$200), taped class by Wierwille called "Power for Abundant Living." They recruited mainly people who already had Christian background, but who hadn't heard the Word according to Wierwille.
Many students were disillusioned when they found out that Wierwille's teachings weren't original and unique as they thought, but were plagiarized, copied and repackaged from others. Wierwille copied parts of others' books and syllabuses, and virtually reads appendices from the Companion Bible during PFAL, yet never cites his sources during the class or footnotes the quotations in books.
TWI itself lost confidence in the class and replaced it about 25 years after it was taped. Barely .0002% of the American population bought PFAL.
Wierwille also promoted himself as "The Man of God" for our day, and he loved to be called "Doctor" and "The Teacher" (not just "a," but "The"). He encouraged his followers to think of him as the greatest spiritual leader since the Apostle Paul 2,000 years ago. Wierwille claimed God spoke audibly to him and promised to teach him the Word "as it has not been know since the first century."
Wierwille saw himself as the One Man who could bring the deluded, tradition-bound Christian church around the world back to the truth. He thought he was a reformer greater than Martin Luther who launched the world-wide Reformation in the 1500s. He portrayed himself as Luther by staging a stunt in which he rode in his custom tour bus to a nearby church and nailed a proclamation reading "Jesus Christ is not God" to its door. Followers wore matching straw hats emblazoned with the same words, and bus horns blared as the great "Reformer" drove off after he posed for the appropriate photos.
TWI has now replaced VP with a new "Man of God," and forbids followers to cite Wierwille anymore.
Wierwille founded TWI to carry out his world-changing plan. VP made himself the President and Founder and declared its anniversary to be not the day of its founding, but the personal experience he claimed he had with God. As one of only three trustees, VP essentially made all the policy, financial and theological decisions in TWI (he bragged that TWI didn't have the tradition-laden practice of membership, thereby making his autocratic control seem beneficent rather than overbearing). Though he flaunted the term "international," TWI's comparative influence around the world has been negligible. By the time he died, he apparently was upset that his successors were ignoring his input.
TWI has lost about 95% of all its followers (those who took the PFAL class) and numbers only about 5,000 today-- barely a shadow of its former self, and hardly a blip of the radar screen of American religion.
Since Wierwille condemned seminaries and colleges that didn't accept his teaching and class, he wanted to start his own college and seminary and ordain his own clergy. In fact, he wanted to ordain his own clergy even while he was the pastor of a very small church, and didn't understand why his denomination considered this to be impertinent and egotistical. Wierwille soon began to ordain his own clergy (under the auspices of "The Way, Incorporated").
Wierwille long wanted to start his own seminary. Since he came to spurn "tradition," he changed the name from "The Way Seminary" to "the Way Corps." Wierwille oversaw all the Corps training, teaching, administration and placement, and required all graduates to appear at his annual "Corps Week" meeting before the "Rock of Ages" gathering. About 95% of the Corps graduates have severed ties with TWI, and it trains just a handful of people now (even though TWI counts children, making its numbers seem higher).
Wierwille also founded "The Way College of Emporia" (Kansas) which he promised would offer bachelors' degrees in liberal arts and theology. Of course, VP was the first president. VP's college never was accredited, never conferred recognized degrees, closed within 15 years and never was replaced by anything better.
Part of Wierwille's teaching on "abundant living" was his claim that he could teach people to "believe" so that they could always be healthy, illness-free and prosperous. This could even drive off the evil devil spirits that he said caused cancer. He and his followers thought he excelled at believing since he was the "Master Teacher."
But his followers were disillusioned again when Wierwille had a series of strokes and eye cancer (which necessitated the removal of one eye) before dying of liver cancer at only age 68. TWI tried to keep his demise as secret as possible (even though he had a stroke while teaching on stage at "the Rock") because of the embarrassment of "The Man of God" being so desperately ill. Many followers were shocked when he "suddenly" died without explanation and were never told the cause. The Corps he left behind today live in nearly pallid conditions, typically sharing a trailer and phones and receiving room, board and a pittance each month.
Wierwille also sought to be a great author. Followers brag that he published a dozen ground-breaking books in his lifetime. Then he truth came out-- Wierwille had plagiarized large sections of his books.
He promoted his book Receiving the Holy Spirit Today as "the most thorough and original" book on the topic. However, more than half of it was copied from EW Bullinger's The Giver and His Gifts and JE Stiles' The Gift of the Holy Spirit. Wierwille not only copied the ideas and general content-- he also copied sections word-for-word. His book Power for Abundant Living (which actually is a transcription of the first third of his class) is drawn largely from Bullinger's Companion Bible. Parts of his other books, magazine articles and classes are copied from Bullinger, Stiles, B.G. Leonard, EW Kenyon, Ernest Martin and others.
Some of VP's longest books weren't even written by him-- they were written by committee, and he put his name on them. While those books allude to his research team, Wierwille's name alone appears on the cover.
While VP promoted himself as a researcher who discovered new truths in the Bible as a result of personal, innovative study of the Bible alone (In PFAL he claimed to have dumped all his books in the city dump and studied the Bible alone), he actually largely let others study the Word for him and copied their work. The wasn't primarily a word craftsman, but a word thief.
Wierwille also sought to defend the free world from communism (Wierwille politically was a conservative capitalist). He told his followers to be prepared to survive a communist takeover of the USA. They were to have supplies on hand, be armed, and have at least a half tank of gas at all times. He started the LEAD outdoor academy to train them in survival skills. There even was one aborted attempt by a Wayer (who was an ex-Marine) to train Corps to survive prison camps. As history shows, the USSR fell, not America, and TWI's survival training is now defunct.
Along the way, Wierwille also started his own police force, "The Way International Police Department," with its own officers, cruisers and insignia. The state of Ohio saw this abuse of power and used legislation to shut down TWI's police within 18 months.
Wierwille also wanted to make TWI grounds (which had been his parents' farm) into a successful agriculture and fur-raising business. He also had an idea of designing a snow-climbing machine.
VP Wierwille had grand visions of changing the world forever through the force of his own will, intelligence, anointing from God, revelation and knowledge of the Word of God.
Instead, Wierwille was just a "wanna be." All of his grand ideas were impotent and fell to ruin within about 20 years. As hard as his devoted, well-meaning followers worked, VP's designs were shown to be "the worst," not "the best."
Above all, VP Wierwille lacked humility and apparently didn't apply Romans 12:3 to himself, "do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement." He also lacked respect for the work of Christian leaders, teachings and the Church at large, and became one of these who "will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).
Sadly, his followers have paid a greater price than he. While he saw many of his feeble endeavors begin to fail, he died before they turned completely to ruin. But his followers were greatly disillusioned, felt their efforts were mostly in vain, and still find it hard to be involved in Christian ministries because of how he drummed into them the idea that they were all deluded by "tradition."
Wierwille's successor, Martindale, on the other hand, has given up on Wierwille's grandiose ideas. He has sold property, forced honest critics out of TWI, closed the college, and so forth. In part, he seems to delude himself into thinking that the grand decline of TWI is somehow an advance. Although PFAL never reached more than an infintisimal fraction of North America's population (to say nothing of the world), Martindale declared that the goal of getting the "word over the world" had already been accomplished. He teaches that the 95% of TWI's followers who left were all spiritually corrupt and had to go in order to have a "clean" Way household.
Martindale (and The Way International) isn't a wannabe-- he's a "has-been" who thinks he "is."
Dr. John Juedes, 1999, www.empirenet.com/-messiah7
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