15 February, 2009

Cooking on 4 Burners With Gas

Gene Edwards' books and tapes are visionary. And beyond having a vision, Gene is able to help people tap into their own vision of living in deeper relationship with the Lord and other believers. On the strength of Gene's leadership, an awful lot of people have bled heart and soul out to realize their dreams. In fact, when people give up on Gene, no matter the reason, they seldom give up on his vision.

I have given up on Gene's vision.

I'd obviously refer you to Gene's writings and tapes to understand his vision, but let me summarize it enough to explain on what I've given up. This will be no attempt to downplay or insult it. I'm sure to do it injustice, but only because it's so immense.

I characterize Gene's vision as vastly-encompassing. There is nothing in Christianity Gene omits from his dream. Starting at the relationships within the Trinity before time began, Gene reinterprets everything about heaven and Earth and the boundary between the two that we call "the church." He frames the Christian life as God's Life come to Earth. Seeing church experience from his perspective changes everything.

When a church comes together, Gene portrays the meeting happening in the heavens as much as on Earth. The church loves God with the same love they receive from Him, and it's through that love that God's purpose is realized. The church, meeting at the boundary between heaven and Earth, loves God in Spirit and in Truth as much as in body and voice.

Practically, this foundation results in a uniquely unique church. That church is both more creatively expressive and more mystically quiet than others. Gene teaches the church to be led by the Spirit through its members. As such, its members plan and execute every meeting. Those meetings might be mapped out for spontaneous praise or spontaneous silence, shared meals or shared fasts, unscripted prayers or a whole scripted liturgy. Anything is possible.

And the church is more than the meetings. A lot of the above might happen as easily over dinner as at any set gathering. The members of Gene's churches live near enough to each other to help each other in physical and spiritual ways. The members pray together, too. And that prayer is as uniquely unique as the church itself. It's a church-wide implementation of the lectio divina or contemplative prayer. It's silence as a way of touching God on a church-wide scale.

And Gene presents all this beautifully.

A conference attendee first hearing and seeing Gene deliver this message, then talking face-to-face with brothers and sisters living the vision, quickly falls in love. The testimony of hundreds of conference attendees over the years absolutely confirms that experience. Very nearly everyone who attends one of Gene's conferences is overwhelmed at the beauty of his spoken vision, and of the physical vision the churches live out.

Very few people who make it as far as a conference leave disappointed.

Some want home church. Gene brings a church that meets at the boundary of heaven and Earth ... in a living room. Some want the end of the clergy and hierarchy. Gene makes every member a conduit of divine Life ... and gives them all a degree of authority. Some want a church based on relationship. Gene makes every relationship an outflow of the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son ... and everyone lives near enough to each other to foster practical love.

Gene's vision answers every particular. It's a living piece of art. Like all art, it has its imperfections and flaws, but for the person who appreciates the picture the flaws only enhance its beauty. For the star-struck church-lover, an overly large personality or an occasional fuzzy doctrine only brings the core beauty of Gene's vision into more perfect focus.

I was that deeply in love 20 years ago today, and I still think that vision is beautiful. I've found a lesser one vastly more satisfying, but it's surely beautiful.

I have no bone to pick with anyone still committed to that vision, theoretically even including Gene. I can't say with certainty I'm right about the parts of that vision I've rejected, and I admire anyone still pursuing their relationship with the Lord down that path. We're all in this Christian life together, and I'm the first to point out I've been wrong before - in big ways. These are my thoughts and insights on the 20th anniversary of joining myself to Gene Edwards' vision.

Cooking on One Burner
There's an old saying, "Now we're cooking on both burners with gas!" For those of you who've not heard it, it means things are moving very quickly indeed. All the obstacles have been removed, and everyone's putting their heart and soul into getting to where they're going. Excitement is running high, and the job is being finished lickety-split. I think the saying might match up to the more modern, "He's on FIRE!"

My beef with Gene's vision is simple. Even cooking on both burners with gas can't keep up with it. His vision only cooks with all 4 burners cranked to high.

It's too much.

A romance goes through a number of stages. There's courtship, engagement, new marriage, new kids, kids moving out, etc. During the run-up from courtship to marriage the relationship advances from low to very high heat, and that's good. But then it ramps down again. It has to. Even those people who've got marriage down pat, and who continue to report passion daily in their marriages, have ramped down from those first burning months.

Life functions best for most people the same way most cooking works best, on one burner and medium heat. Everyone likes a little "four burner" time in their lives, but most of us need things to be normal more often than not.

I'd like to compare some four-burner ways of doing church with single-burner alternatives. I'm experimenting with all these, and am happy with things as they are. I'm still learning, though, and finding new things every day. The single-burner way is not as exciting, but I've found my life isn't scorched on the bottom and raw in the middle these days.

Relocating
Gene describes church life as so amazingly rare as to make it unthinkable that it could possibly exist for long wherever you live. To be sure, he teaches church life springs up spontaneously everywhere, but he warns that it doesn't last. If you want church life, you'll need to relocate somewhere a real church planter has established a church that will live.

If Gene is right, then there's no alternative to relocation. And relocation is a serious four-burner life event. It's stressful and exhausting, and leaves a person unrooted from family and networks they've spent a lifetime establishing. Americans relocate an awful lot, so it's not an unthinkable burden, but it is a major stress.

If Gene is wrong, then it's an unnecessary burden. If church life can be living and edifying on a single burner, then this call to relocation is a sacrifice without cause. It's been my experience that churches are full of Christians, and we share the same life of Christ. Sharing my worship and my life with them has been a beautiful and rewarding thing.

Living Close to One Another
Living close to believers whom you trust and with whom you can share everything is a joy. We need it and everything about the idea is commendable.

Gene ups the ante by asking anyone who would experience church life to intentionally live as closely together as possible. It was educational to watch the experience of living close to believers unfold in Atlanta. We all needed time with each other, but we gave varying amounts of our time to actually doing it. Single saints spent more time with others than married saints who spent more time than couples with babies who spent more time than couples with older children. Similarly, the younger a person was, the more likely he or she was to spend a lot of time in the homes of others.

We need that closeness, but there's a slower, quieter way. You can get out and meet the neighbors you have now. There's a pretty good chance you can find two or three Christian families within a block or two, and I've seen the benefits of Christian community work well with just three families.

Being With Christians of Like Mind
One of the most attractive things about joining a group as focused as Gene's is being on a long, hard, meaningful journey together with people of like priorities to your own.

Your closest Christian neighbors, though, are also on a long, hard journey, and if you take the time to get to know them you'll find it's meaningful. They may not be of like mind on how the church should look, but it's Jesus they're wanting to serve. You can feel pretty sure they're struggling with real issues, and the Spirit is speaking in their hearts exactly like He is in yours. Everyone's fighting for their lives in this place, and everyone's searching for connection to eternity.

You will find that other people trust their pastors and distrust some author they've never heard of. And you will find that their pastors are Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and Vineyard folk. You may find it takes time to get to know them, but you'll find in them the mind of Christ. You won't find in them any burning commitment to your expression of the church, but you'll find the Holy Spirit. Share a couple meals, move a little furniture, watch a movie and trade your testimonies and you will probably find you can lean on them a little bit when things are rough. I have.

Ending the Clergy/Hierarchy/Leadership
Jesus commanded his disciples not to allow themselves to be called rabbi, father, or teacher because they already had brothers, a Father and a Teacher. And yet we call men pastor, elder, or reverend and give them authority over others. This is a big one to an awful lot of saints. It was huge to me when I started down the path that brought me to Gene's church, and I still rankle to call a man by anything but his name.

The organized church's hierarchy, based as it is upon college degrees, is disappointingly pragmatic. I'm sorry it's come to that. But leadership is a fact of human existence. Jesus clearly intended there to be leaders in His kingdom, and He clearly was happy for there to be servants leading servants in His household. Being in Gene's leaderless churches was a four-burner adventure, and I loved it, but Jesus, Paul, Luke and others make it clear some kind of leadership is a part of being a worshipping body of believers.

There might be an ideal single burner alternative to church leadership, but I'm not going to spend a lot of energy looking for it. I've treated the pastors under whom I've lived since leaving Gene as human beings, and found they warmed to the idea quite quickly. It turns out that people who give several years to qualifying for the ministry are often really neat people with a sincere heart for the Lord. It's been a privilege to know them as brothers. I know this barely holds a candle to the four burners Gene offers, but I'm OK with that.

The Church Planter Must Leave
Ah yes. I wonder what this would look like if it ever happened?

This was a key foundational point in Gene's teachings, but a confusingly implemented one. He never was an integral part of his early churches, so he could not properly have "left." And then when he was a real part of his later churches, he didn't really leave. Either way, the concept was key to the upbringing of the churches and shaped our character very directly.

The single burner alternative to this is understated. If a man has work to do, he should go do it. Full stop. I like work, and I'm in favor of men standing up and getting it done. But turning every day spent with a church into a melodramatic, extended goodbye is gratuitous. Paul left Antioch-Pisidia to work in Iconium, Iconium to work in Lystra, and Lystra to work in Derbe, but we have no reason to believe he made his impending departure the emotional centerpiece of his ministry.

I recently lost a pastor when he left to start a home church. It was a refreshingly touching time, and was constructive for everyone. It just wasn't hard. He was with us while was with us and he left when he had to leave.

Home Meetings
Again, home meetings are great. Participation by every member of the body is great. Everyone planning together, preparing in private, and delivering their best is a wonderful thing.

Making the home meeting the only meeting is not wrong; it's just cooking on four burners.

The single burner alternative is not really better so much as doable. Of my church of 80, about 10 of us meet weekly in a living room. It's a lot smaller than Gene's vision, and it's very happy. We don't try to do everything with the pregnant power of eternity, and somehow we touch each other and the Lord anyway. It's satisfying.

Learning from Old Christians
Not everyone is ever going to read books on being Christian. That's tragic to me, but it's a reality I can accept. The question is not whether everyone will read, but will the people who do read do so from books outside of Gene's genre? 2000 years of Christianity have brought an awful lot of glory and insight to the church. Limiting a church's input to Gene's books plus his highly edited reading list, was a weak thing. Reading wider and wider outside of Gene's publishing house has been a settling thing for me over this past decade, and I recommend it.

Why Cook on Four Burners?
10 years ago I'd have asked, "Why settle for one burner?"

My how things change.

Why would a man build an entire ministry on intensifying Christianity? Gene did not haphazardly stumble into this habit of choosing the fieriest expression of the church. He reminded us frequently how lucky we were to be blessed with a leader who knew how to keep the fire on high.

10 years ago I'd have said it was because Gene had "The Vision," and it drove him both to the fire and by it. I'd have said Christianity was meant to be that way. Today, those words ring false. Gene's promises consistently hurt people in the long run, and there's always a reason for things that happen consistently. His churches burn through people like a steam engine burns coal, and he keeps shoveling people into the fire. He relies on his book, tape, and conference ministry to keep a steady flow of people pouring into those churches. And when they're used up, the ashes don't even have to be shoveled out. We go away on our own. Gene just teaches the new wave of devoted souls how precious the vision of the church must be.

When a man courts a woman too insistently, with too many flowers, with too many words of flattery, with too many gifts, her friends say, "It's too good to be true." The subject of his ardor always objects, saying, "You just don't want me to be happy!" When it turns out it really was too good to be true, though, the outcome is tragic.

So here we are, believers who have experienced Gene's vision of the church and now need to decide what to do with it. Should we discard the whole thing? Should we keep it, but look for a better man to tend it? Or is there some middle path?

I've answered for myself. I decided 4 years ago the organized church was where the Christians are, and I was going to where the Christians are. I've wondered about my decision from time to time, but I'm so happy there I'm going to stay for the forseeable future. The brothers and sisters in my little church are as dear to me as brothers and sisters can be. They carry the Life of Jesus within them, and they share it with me. There are very few four burner moments, but an awful lot of good happens on a single burner.

You'll answer for yourself, and may the Lord bless your decision.

17 comments:

DugALug said...

Me again brother,

I see where you are going here with this, and as one who was a part of a congregation of 6, and being a part of a multi-thousand person congregation (4000+ in its glory-days), I can see the '4-burner' mentality in both. At my current church, (a ~1500 person Assembly of God group that I've been attending for over 25 years). We are able to feed/clothe/help approximately 1500-2000 people every month. For my congregation of 6 (when I was in college), we could feed 15-20 on a good month.

The personal experience is much 'hotter' in the smaller group. But the ability to effectively evangelize is much curtailed.

In small groups, the workload is harder and greater, but being able to respond to the movement of the Holy Spirit is much easier. Still, falling into major doctinal error is also easier in the smaller group. Ironically, leadership is more distributed in smaller groups and this is one of the prime problems with them as they grow and mature: the communal vision become convoluted.

For the bigger group, relocation is virtually out of the question, but for the smaller one relocation is inevitable.

I don't believe you are right with saying thar you are accepting a 1-burner life. This comes back to a fundamental gospel principal: where I am attending doesn't define my walk: it is what I do and where I am called.

I don't feel as I am running on 4-burners as I used to: that is not my church's fault... it is mine. I long for the passion that I had in my youth and pray that it will return to me. Still, God uses me and I am obedient to His calling. In my less that 4-burner state, I am not sinning, I am just unable to do the things I could without negatively affecting my family.

Without sounding too political, leadership is necessary. There are too many references by Jesus to a shepherd and the flock, as will as Paul's instruction to the proper conduct of leaders to ignore. What I believe God despises is politics and pragmatism.

Throughout scripture God picked good leaders who turned to Him first and relied on their own understanding second. He was known to 'punish' those who put the latter ahead of the former (even David did this at times).

It comes down to a interpretation of what is the point and purpose of 'church':

> Is it where a body of believers 'collects' to worship?

>Is it a triage for repairing the wounded?

> Is it a place where we should take care of the needy, less-fortunate, widows, etc...?

> Is it a school for teaching disciples?

> Is it an operation for a massive rescue center?

> Is it a place where like-minded individuals go to sharpen their understanding of the things of God?

> Is it where we go to assure our children are raised with our values?

> It a place where accountability between peers is expected?

> Is it a community in a community?

I believe you know that the answer to all of these is 'yes'. For a body to be effective for congregation, and for the cause of Christ, all of these things must be going on.

God Bless
Doug

Bill said...

Thank you, Kevin. This is very constructive, and is like many of the postings I enjoyed most on this blog in the past three years.

Doug, you also had some seriously great thoughts and ideas.

It goes without saying that I might not shake out to the same conclusion you have, Kev, but this post is worth sharing. These are worthy thoughts for our brothers and sisters 'burned out' by the "four burners" approach. A few years ago, I heard that one brother still in Georgia said, to much amen-ing, "Pioneering is hard." I agree with that. (Granted that burn-out happens in many other places, of course.)

Also the ideals you commend should provide challenging considerations for any saints who may be too comfortable with the one-burner approach. I won't quibble with one or two implicit points along your post, because overall I really like what you're getting at.

George F. Will recently said those who wail against "politcs as usual" seldom seem to stop and ask why such politics are, in fact, usual. I wrote an essay recently (on my FB, hint, hint) that bore the opening line - "The problem with idealism is thermodynamics." In truth, you and I are not so very far apart as some in the theater around us might believe.

I won't bring up the last post, except to say you've been exceedingly gracious to keep my input there. Obviously, I like this one better. ;)

Thank you again.

Kevin Knox said...

Doug,

Great comment. Thank you.

> I long for the passion that I had in my youth and pray that it will return to me.

I speak from experience here. Passion looks different at 40+ than it did at 20+, even when there's more of it. Just like passion looked different at 20+ than it did at 10+.

If a man grows in wisdom, he acts differently in the various decades of his life. A puppy says, "Wow! I have extra energy. Where can I spend it?" A mature dog says, "Wow! I have extra energy. How can I save it?"

As a 20+ year old in Gene's church, I did a lot of chasing my tail. I'd have chased my tail at First Presbyterian, too, but it would have been a lot harder to find enough things to consume all the energy I had.

All that said, I want to be clear.

Youth spends energy, and that's natural. Gene's methods cost tremendous energy, not because his vision is a variation of youthful, but because he personally prizes people for their ability to pour energy into his church. And when a leader prizes people more than he loves them, his followers are at risk for everything I listed in my previous post.

This post was entirely about people who've left Gene's church and are trying to put their thoughts back together. I'm cheerleading for a single-burner approach, and for fellowshipping fully with people in the organized church, and for walking away from the impossible standards Gene laid on the youth in his churches. Many who followed Gene will see those things as compromise and failure, and I'll be happy for those brothers and sisters. And I hope some will let themselves shift their relationships with God and saints to a more sustainable level.

May the Lord bless the time you're investing in your family. It's absolutely the best place a man your age can invest.

Kevin Knox said...

Bill, please understand I framed these two posts as a pair over 2 weeks ago. You're unhappy with the first and cheerleading for the second, but neither stands alone. Gene's destructive methods and his expensive vision come as a package deal, but they cannot be rejected in a single breath.

God does not require of His children what Gene required.

Bill said...

Sorry, Kevin. Your last post was vindictive, judgmental and very often inaccurate. I don't see how these two possibly work as a "pair", except in your mind. At any rate...

I took this current post as the start of a positive, forward-looking conversation about practical variables. There was barely a hint of personal attack, that I could find, and you wrote with a gracious understanding of why people in our world 'burned out' so much. I find such terms far more agreeable than words like "Gene caused destruction" which sound as if cruel and despicable actions were deliberately taken against people. You know that was never the case. Aside from the occasional cold shoulder for people Gene didn't want to engage with directly (which in and of itself is indefensible, I admit) I don't know what anyone is complaining about.

Church discipline is tough enough *anywhere* without trying to be idealists about it, and with people who've already been given near-total freedom plus a degree of authority, who've given so much of themselves for so long, and all of that in a small, intimate setting no less. (All of this, just as you said.) Given those paramaters, I really don't think Gene personally deserves the brunt of criticism for anything that was ever imperfect in such an area. But now having said that, if you blame the ideals instead, then I believe we're at the start of something worth talking about.

Come to think of it, that last sentence probably comes as close as I can get to explaining my divergent position on the two posts.

More that I liked about this post itself: The "four burners" isn't a perfect metaphor, but it makes a good point very fairly. Gene always said his way wasn't for everyone, and historically you remember how we often tried to talk people out of coming. Again, at least fair is fair. Gene admitted it was all an experiment, which is why a post like this seems appropriate. At some point, we need to write up [our constructive critiques of] the results and suggest possible further experiments. Your 'familyhood church' model is certainly one such alternative.

The point by point analysis also offers a lot we could dialogue more about that would be highly worthwhile - for example, your thoughts about 'expense' and 'sustainability'. Obviously, christians each only have so much to give to any church experience, and families shouldn't suffer inordinately because of it. But I would also suggest sustainability itself might not deserve to be the biggest factor in
your new calculus. A lot of unspiritual things are sustainable, such as death, law, and ritual. Where, then, is the balance?

Clergy/laity is another point on which a million conversations could begin. Btw, I don't think that one necessarily has to be such an all-or-nothing decision. (I have historically thought that you, Kevin, often sound as if you like viewing things in an absolute, black-and-white fashion.) But here's two good questions, for starters - who said the watchmen have to be the directors as well? Or that directors shouln't at least facilitate and support more than merely direct and delegate?

I didn't think this post was perfect, but I still do think it has an awful lot worth 'cheerleading for'. I also still don't have any desire to defend Gene personally. (His friends don't need to hear it and his enemies... etc.) But I love the man for what he attempted, forgive him for what he's failed at, and believe we should give each other the same grace as we move on with our various attempts to do "better".

Can I get an Amen, at least on that last point?

Milly said...

Bill,
vindictive, judgmental

It seems to me that Kevin took that on himself a lot. Gene is something to fear and so are the men that he leads down his path. Kevin was able to see how wrong he had been while under Gene's rule.

Milly said...

I love home church . . . once in a while. I even love having it in my home . . . on occasion. Not all the time.

Gene and many others do something very simple and very clever. They give you ownership. I did it in management and I did it the ministries that I was involved in. When people have invested time and money they are owners and they want to see it succeed. I can’t imagine how many whispers of fear happened at night in those neighborhoods. I wonder how many panic attacks happened when the dreams died and the realization of it all set in. I’d hate to leave my church. I love the people and the ministry that I’m involved in but I don’t have a job and a home to walk from also. I’d need not move my children to a new school or city if I left.

Gene separated you from your comfort zone and gave you no alternative but to hold on to a new one, the one he built.

Just reading these accounts makes my stomach turn. I can’t imagine how frightful marriages were. I have so many questions. So many what ifs.
Kevin you have helped and will help others as you tell your story.

Lynne said...

As I was reading this I kept asking myself, "What's the flaw here?" Leaning towards an idealistic temperament myself, i can certainly feel the tug of the attraction, but the real question is, as it always must be, is this particular "vision" of church what God demands, or has someone added extra hoops to jump through?

And that is the problem. Now I may be unfair to Gene here, because this is just my impression of what you were saying, but it seems to me that gene is demanding that flawed broken human beings worship like the angels (or something) Would that we could! And may we all have some transcendent moments in our lives. But we do not live there. It is sometimes a very short step from idealism to overwheening pride, to believing that, if we just push ourselves hard enough, the wondrous and impossible will happen. But who are we to MAKE it happen? transcendent worship and community is a gift from the Spirit, not a work we can accomplish (though we kill ourselves in the trying)

God's requirement is that we walk humbly with Him, and leave the glory of it up to Him. I no longer believe that I can make glory happen by being a super-saint in a super-church, my job is to live where I am, learning love, faith and obedience, seeing God where He already is, dwelling in His flawed broken children. And that is enough.

chrispridham said...

My wife and I are kind of 4 or at least 3 burner people. Its just the way we live our life (8 kids what do you expect). Not everybody is that way - and I don't think that they are supposed to be (I had to learn that the hard way). I believe the church and even the vision Gene writes about is big enough and versatile enough to handle how ever many burners you are on. A person's ego is another matter. If we live our life trying to keep up with the Jones's or comparing ourselves one to another then a one burner person will not like being around four burner people. The one burner person's ego convinces them they are inferior and need to get away from the four burner. Four burner people if operating in their ego will feel superior and discussed with one burner person – and will want the same thing, division. A vision of the church for all kinds of people 1, 2, 3 or 4 burners is a vision we can all be a part of and not have to exclude anybody. If we can just get over the “someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong” mentality we might all be able to LIVE together as the ONE we are and accept the reality that being ONE does not mean being the same.
Christopher Pridham

Anonymous said...

Hey all,
Kevin, I love the way you have gone through this issue. I think that you have described it quite well. I also think, for the record, that you had a lot of good input in your blog about the hurts and silence.
Bill, if you happen to read this post, please go to Kevin's other blog, and read the comments that I left there. I would take issue with you, Bill, for attacking Kevin in the very same ways that you berate him for "attacking" Gene. Some of what you have said is very pertinent, but remember that there are two or even three sides to every story. Usually, God's side of the story is the only really accurate one. As far as you perceiving Kevin to be too much of a black and white person, I can relate to that. A dear brother in England, whom I was with in Albania once said to me,
"Tim, you're a rather categorical guy aren't you?" When I asked what he meant, he explained that when he thought of me, he saw a person who sees things mainly as black and white, and very few shades of gray.
From personal experience, I believe that Kevin is right when he describes the groups as cooking on all four burners. In Philadelphia, we were consumed with events, meetings, prayer, trips to other countries, and many of our relationships fell by the wayside. Ironically, Gene was very instrumental in getting us back on track. He came to spend a week with us, during which time we met together, and we met individually with him. While Joyce and I were with him, we spoke of several things that had taken place in our group that had taken an unwelcome turn. He listened and gave advice very much as a father would to his adult children.
Probably the most significant thing that came out of this time that he was with us, was during a corporate meeting when he went through a list of fourteen things which are all components of our lives.
I cannot remember them all, but the list included the following:
Health
Marriage
The Lord
The Church
Family
Vacation
Work
And about seven others I cannot remember now.

He had us write them all down, and over the next weeks to think about them. He explained that we can balance maybe five or six of them at a time, but not the whole list. As we concentrate and focus on certain things, the others get neglected. Our lives get out of balance, and we feel fatigue, exhaustion, or the like. This causes us to have issues crop up in our lives that we must address. For instance, several of the marriages in our group were neglected in favor of the "four burner church." As we withdrew from the hamster wheel that we had been on, these things began to come into focus. A couple of these marriages really hit the skids, one of them failed, and two of them very nearly did. A couple of others would have failed if we had not stopped meeting for a while, and individually gone back to basics, and tried to regain some balance in our lives.
We as a group came to the conclusion that we needed to ask our "worker" to withdraw. We agonized over this for several weeks, and finally drafted a letter which we sent. We then basically did not meet for over a year. Then, by unspoken consensus,we began to meet again, just to hang out and have dinner together. Gradually, we began to meet for worship, or to read a book and discuss it. We now meet most weekends, but there is a grace there, not the frenetic pace that we used to maintain.
We still do not have named leaders, but rather, we each fill the role that God has given us. There has grown a much stronger sense of each one tending an individual relationship with the Lord, and out of the overflow,when we meet together, there is Life.
Doug, your question about what is Church, and the list of things that you have there, includes many of the things that it is. I submit that, as in a body, there are different members which perform different tasks, all of them vital to life of the whole, even so, in the Body of Christ, are members, as it were, groups that He has tasked to perform the various things in your list. Sometimes, He may have a group that performs many of these tasks, other times, just a few of them.
Kevin, I first read your blog about the hurts. Later that weekend, I came across this one. I do see the correlation of the two, and together, they do paint a picture that has a whole lot of truth in it.
So, Bill, without knowing that Kevin had framed them together, I could see that they needed each other for full impact and appreciation. I did not read Kevin's first blog as a terrible lambasting of Gene and the others out of blind hurt or vindictiveness. True, Kevin's view is colored by what he suffered, but I can relate to much of what he said. I, however see it some what differently. While I can see what Kevin said, these same things impacted me differently, as I refused to allow Gene or any man to have control over me, my thoughts, or my beliefs. (Kev, I'm not saying tha you did, but rather that I think that during that time, you bought into the mix more than I did.) I would venture to say that both of these blogs mean a lot more to those who have been involved in this movement, than they would to someone who did not have much dealings with these groups.
Again, Brothers and Sisters, It is all about Him. We need to search diligently for Him where ever we can find Him, and bring only Him to one another. Learn from the mistakes, and move on deeper and higher in Him.
Tim Keeler

Fred said...

It has been three years ago I and my family left a Gene Edwards church in Holland. Although we never had Gene visit us, we were helped by one or two of his workers. I do recognize a lot of the control by silence. We also moved to a chosen neighborhood, it had quite an impact on our family. We left everything behind and go for an alternative and what we thought the only way the church was ment to be, like in the beginning. I will not go into details right now, but I can say the whole adventure damaged us a lot. A takes quite a while before we find healing. I just want to thank you for the things you shared at your Blog.

Fred Vonk

Anonymous said...

Bill Heroman is pushing the party line. The truth is Gene is not what he presents. Instead he uses all the techniques of a cult leader to build up and tear down the morale of his people. Gene has a story that he himself has never been able to flesh out. Is he the only problem in the churches? No. Is he the main one. He's at best mentally ill (faking illness constantly) at worst a false prophet.

Jason said...

http://www.refleks-publishing.com/Files/The%20ecclesiology%20of%20Gene%20Edwards.pdf

This about sums it up for me.

Steve said...

Just know that there are other groups that are very similar and a lot of things that those who started the groups put in place that were the same that kept us under their control. Did they do this all on purpose and knowingly? I think that if we are honest we must say for the most part, yes. We need to also remember that there is an enemy that was behind this as well, but no one can effectively say, "The Devil made me do it". These men are responsible and are wolves in sheeps clothing. Think about it, who is the more evil of the two, the one who says, here's a cup of poison, go ahead and drink it, or the one who hides the poison in cleverly disguised dish? We hate to admit it, because of the humility that it takes to say that were deceived for so many years. It's easier to make excuses. But the truth is, these men meet the criteria of false prophets. The ministry of a true prophet or apostle was never without sacrifice. Yet, the testimony of such a ministry was never one of ruined lives. On the contrary.

Anonymous said...

In 1982 I was able to lead about 6 people to the Lord in Portland Maine right before during, and after a Billy Graham Crusade in Portland. It made me wonder if the Lord wanted me to do this full time.After much prayer I quit my job. I was met that night by two brothers from the group that wasn't even a church at the time but spent all their time waiting for Gene to come.They gave me an ultimatum, either return to my job, or go to school or they were instructing my wife to leave me and move out of our apartment. They also were going to call the mental health athorities ,the men in white
coats to come and pick me up.I was in shock. No dialogue , no kindness that was it . I spent that night and the next morning in a prayer more intense than ever before.The Lord spoke to me and told me to call an older brother I knew in Canada. I took a trip up to Montreal to visit him and long story short I have never been as blessed as I was on that trip everyone I met on that trip spoke God's love and committment to me.The lord spoke to my wife while I was gone and told her not to move out,that he was protecting me and taking care of me.I came home and did some more evangelism and then got a job, But that was the begining of the end of my 8 years with Gene's ministry. I called those one of those brothers a year later and asked if Gene had been behind it all and he said no. 5 years later he confessed that he had lied to protect Gene. That Gene had beeen behind it all. By coincedence I saw Gene that same year a few weeks before I talked to that brother. And talked to him about it and he acted like it was all their fault and that he knew nothing about it.That's when I realized that Gene is just a wild Texan who doesn't care about people or the truth The way normal people do.It set me free. I no longer had this high opinion of him.He's just a screwball.I don't hate him. He's more like that crazy relative whom you love to death but wish they were different.He gave me so much of Christ, A love for Church history, A love for and a heart for native missionaries way before it was popular.He was different in Isla Vista the tendancies were there but he denied himself more and had more people surrounding him,holding him accountable. Isla vista wasn't an experiment it was a church.I wouldn't trade my experience there for any thing.There was some weirdness but for me the good far outweiged the bad.That is why there is sorta a code of silence its because of love for Gene and his family and each other. Somthing snapped in Gene after it ended . It seems he quit denying himself.Sorry so many have had to suffer through it.But many things Gene teaches have validity. He's just not the one to carry them out. The saints in Memphis have been going on for 35 years now, with very little contact with Gene and are a beautiful church.Thanks for the opportunity to share, love to all . Danny O'Daniels

Brian said...

Thanks, Kevin, for putting up this blog for everyone to share.

Danny! I'm so glad I saw your post here, and I have often wondered what happened to you, and all the others from IV. I agree, there was weirdness back then but yes, the good outweighed the bad for the most part. It sounds like Gene got stranger later on, but the church was pretty healthy overall (for being a "religious cult") in the mid 70's. They say the definition of a religious cult is that it's easy to join, but very hard to leave, or they won't let you leave. That's one area the local Isla Vista/Santa Barbara church was not like Scientology, Unification Church (Moonies), Children of God, etc. No one was forced to stay, and could leave if they wished.
Brian

Kevin Knox said...

Good comments, Brian. Thank you. Do try to connect with Danny on Facebook. He's out there and been through some stuff lately.

I like your statement about cults, but I would say it's only a trait of some cults to be hard to leave, not a definition. I'd say a cult is any group that's more defined by its uniqueness than by its reason for being; by its "groupness", rather than its business. Gene laid the whole persecuted minority thing on in a way that made group protection central to everything. By the end of my time with him, the only measure that meant anything was loyalty to Gene, and he actively hurt people he feared might be disloyal.

May the Lord continue to bless your path.