Sunday, June 7, 2009

No, Really, It's a Great Church: WOF Social Blunders and Church Culture

Anytime friends or family came to visit our WOF church it was always a disaster. It bordered on comical the way it ALWAYS worked out to be a negative experience for the visitor. For example, my sister-in-law came to church with us and lo and behold, there was a mean former co-worker of hers. This person didn’t just go to church with us but she had a coveted ‘servant’ position in the church caste system. This would be awkward enough as it is, but the mean former co-worker could only work up a brisk “Hi” as they passed by. Nice church P.R. move.

Then my wife’s parents came to visit. My father-in-law got a friendly reception from the man who tried to shaft him in business deals. The shifty businessman was far up in our church’s caste system, which explains why he never spoke a word to my wife or me the whole time we attended church together. I guess he saw potential dollar signs over my father-in-law’s head. But the fact that this man was looked up to at our church didn’t exactly leave a good impression on my father-in-law. He was already suspicious of the whole Word of faith movement as it was.

My parents had politely made it known that they did not agree with Word of Faith doctrine, as my dad was a pastor himself. Once my mother came to church with us (to see us, by the way, not to enjoy the “good teaching” that was supposedly taking place). She arrived shortly before the start of the service and was able to find a parking space right next to our church complex. However a parking attendant was going to have her move because the spot had been reserved for paid staff members. After he noticed she had a Tennesse license plate on her car, he told her it would be okay since she had driven a long way. My mother told me she thought it was a bit odd that they asked her to move since churches typically try to accommodate visitors as much as they can in order to make them feel welcome.

A friend of my wife’s visited one Sunday. She made the mistake of entering the domain of the always-crabby church bookstore lady. Our friend was promptly chewed out for entering through the exit of the tiny bookstore. A couple of other friends that visited with us were spared the worst of the typical gaffes that the others experienced. They were able to get through the entire visit without being spoken to. Then there were the times that friends or relatives got zinged by highly abrasive comments from the pulpit about particular doctrines or opinions.

If you add a few experiences like this to what I have already mentioned in the post called “It flows from the head” it gives you an idea of what kind of church culture the Word of Faith creates. I recall one of our upper caste member’s one and only conversations with my wife was “How long have you been going to church here?” The answer was “Two years.” Yeah, we went 3 times a week during those 2 years in a congregation of about 700 or so. And worked in "Helps Ministry."

I have made the point that the WOF creates an unhealthy church culture and brings out a lot of bad in people. But as I have has some contact with some former church people, I am wondering about some of the people the faith and prosperity message attracts in the first place. Some of the ones I’ve bumped into are just as unfriendly as they were in our old church. I think there is truth in what some have pointed out, that a “life enhancement” message will populate churches with people who are not actually saved. Also, a “life enhancement” gospel message can create “Christians” who are not actually saved because we are not putting emphasis on people’s need for a savior because of sin.

It’s all so weird…to quote Someone I Once Looked Up To “It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.”


  1. I could write entire chapters on my experience with that church and staff. How they ever grew beyond a few people has always been a mystery to me. The place gave me the creeps even when I was wof. I have had many, many of these same experiences at other WOF churches.

  2. John, I think it would be worthwhile for you to share those experiences with people, particularly how you encountered this same type of behavior in WOF churches all over. As we've both said before, it's important that people understand what church culture develops in the WOF.
    With that being said, our former pastor is an especially narcissistic man in a religious movement that seems to have many narcissists (and liars) for leaders. I think this made it worse as the staff and congregants were expected to model his behavior since he was 'their man of God." That gives some insight into the snide treatment you got from them. It also shows, as I have tried to describe on this blog, what a freakin' insane church I went to!!
    LOL...sort of.

  3. I am ashamed to say that I ever attended that church. It baffles me how I could have been so blind and deceived for so long. Thank God the blinders fell off my eyes and I saw it all for what it truly was, a WEBB of sin and deception.

  4. Although, there were exceptions, Searching being one, so many people either were the most socially inept people I've ever had the misfortune of knowing or were very unfriendly and unloving. As a matter of fact, my children and I saw someone last week that I know fairly well who also left our former church. Did he stop to speak after not seeing us for 2 years to find out how we were doing? Nope. He passed by quickly and said, "Hi, guys" very quietly and kept on walking. With not so much as a smile. It was a real good reality check for me to remember that there are still many people who were my former "church family" who wouldn't spit on me if I were on fire. I'm just glad my kids didn't notice. I'd rather them not associate CHURCH with REJECTION...

  5. What about when you bring visitors and people start acting foolish? Like running around the building, laughing like a crazy person, or jerkin/dancing around like a chicken. It's all just a put on. I don't think the Holy Spirit would want someone to act like a fool.

  6. Not that I am in any way endorsing that behavior but I can handle the jerking "phenomenon" better than I can handle people acting like jerks. It greatly angers me that at our former church my family was made to feel inferior if we did not drive a car that costs as much as my current house does. And yet over the past nearly 2 years I have found there were a disturbing number of congregants having affairs and involved in all kinds of immoral behavior. I guess if you made enough money you bought yourself out of any moral restrictions.

    There were also people who were paraded around (or paraded themselves) as great examples of Christian families, with the pastor's family naturally being #1 offenders. In reality most of these families were totally screwed up. They were screwed up but they had no problem acting spiritual and superior. This was, and continues to be, extremely upsetting for me to think about. What's the bottom line? Everything that was held up as an example of exemplary behavior at that church was a least an exaggeration, if not an outright lie. It might have been good theory but it was not practiced. And lets not forget that being paraded around as great examples of Christian families meant you were helping the pastor work his gift for manipulation. I'm just glad I got out of the nuthouse before my kids became teenagers. This one of the problems I have with church right now. If Christians have ceased to be moral, why should I go and put money into their awesome churches? And it ain't just the WOF, it's everybody. Let's all go look in the mirror and make this one-word confession: hypocrisy. -GW

  7. My personal favorite was when first-time visitors would would get reprimanded at the door for their attire. "God loves a 'cheerful' giver and a 3-piece suit," would be MFC's motto.

  8. OK...did we all go to the same WOF church??? I doubt it since I live in Arizona. HOW SAD this is!! Everything that everyone has described here was my WOF church and experience. I cannot BELIEVE that I was there for 8 years. Praise GOD that the LORD sent me my husband who had never heard of Word of Faith. He went there twice, googled WoF then never went back. The LORD used him to reveal the truth and bring me out! We go to a Messianic Congregation now which is AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL! Praise the Lord that the scales have fallen off of our eyes!

  9. I thought I should explain what a Messianic Congregation is. It's a group of both Jewish and Gentile believers who attend church together. My husband is a Messianic Jew meaning he accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as his promised Messiah when he was 18. I would recommend these type of congregations to people who are still searching for a church home after leaving the WoF movement. Messianic churches (I have visited 2)are charismatic but clear thinking, not crazy and abusive taking the Word out of context like in WoF. The hebraic roots of Messianic Synagogues is quite wonderful. I have found that the Jewish people truly understand the word of God in it's fullness.