testimonies

Emotional Manipulation: AIM’s connection to IHOP

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” John 4:1-3a

In judging a true work of the Holy Spirit based on this verse, Jonathan Edwards who saw a great work of the (true) Spirit in New England in the 1700’s said, “A work [of the Spirit] is not to be judged by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body or the failing of bodily strength….Scripture nowhere gives us any such rule…”

He goes on to say, “(if the esteem is raised) of Jesus who was born of the virgin, and was crucified…establishing and confirming in their minds the the truth of what the Gospel declares to us of His being the Son of God and the Saviour of men; it is a sure sign of the Spirit of God…”, and “the spirit that operates in such a manner as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity is certainly the Spirit of God” (Jonathan Edwards on Revival)

Emotional Manipulation at AIM

As evidenced by this testimony we recently shared, young adults at Adventures in Missions are having spiritual experiences while in heightened emotional states often achieved through long worship sessions.   We are concerned that there is an element of emotional manipulation in order to achieve these experiences and further, that the experiences can have an addictive quality.  The lack of biblical theology and sound doctrine at AIM causes us to doubt that these experiences are of God.

The supposed “manifestations of the spirit” witnessed by former racers are powerful signs and might lead one to believe that God’s Spirit was moving in a mighty way.  However, scripture informs us that the Holy Spirit “bears witness of {Christ}” (John 15:26).  The Spirit ALWAYS points to our Savior.  Since there is a both a lack of, and misrepresentation of, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ at AIM we must conclude that these “manifestations” are not representative of the Spirit at all but rather of serious deception.

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.  But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Jude 17-23

We are sure that these spiritual experiences are quite compelling and we wonder how many Racers have felt a “withdrawal” of sorts from them upon their return home?  How many are struggling to process what they have experienced and what they have been taught?  Our prayer is that the Lord Jesus would deliver His true children from this type of harmful teaching and practice, and they in turn would desire to help rescue others, “snatching them from the fire”. The Gospel and the written Word have the power to overcome the evil one and his deception.

What is IHOP and how is it connected to Adventures in Missions and the World Race?

IHOP stands for International House of Prayer.  Founded by Mike Bickle in 1999 with active “prayer” taking place 24/7.   A good review of IHOP is as follows:

 “The rapid expansion, the unusual practices, the fierce loyalty of many IHOP members, and the relative newness of the ministry have led many to question whether the International House of Prayer is a biblically solid ministry or a cult….So, while 24/7 prayer is commendable, if the prayers being uttered are not biblical, there is no true value in them…Many have been led astray by those claiming to be apostles and prophets with a “word from the Lord.” There have been many reports of spiritual abuse and prophetic manipulation within the International House of Prayer movement…With all of that said, clearly, IHOP should not be considered a biblically sound ministry/organization. The above concerns are only the “tip of the iceberg” in comparison to some of the things that have been reported by former IHOP members/participants.” 

The common thread of emotional manipulation is seen at both IHOP and AIM, thus their connection makes sense.  The following insights are noted on racer’s blogs:

From a Racer in Prague, “So we have been working with IHOP (international House of Prayer), there are a few located throughout the world and what it is, in a glimpse I say, is a place where God and heaven loves to invade…this room is where God tells us what to pray for and we speak it into existence.”

Note that we have no power to speak anything into existence.  This is reminiscent of the heretical Word of Faith belief that we are “little gods”.  We have questioned this before.

Another Racer, “We partnered with … IHOP Prague. We had the pleasure of attending their church twice, but our main focus for being there was to take part of IHOP. IHOP stands for International House of Prayer. The main one is located in Kansas City, MO, but there are many locations throughout the world. It is a place where God’s children come to stand in the gap on His behalf. Our focus, in those 10 days, was worship and intercession.”

This Racer shares, “At IHOPP (International House of Prayer: Prague), our team led two night watches. These were all night worship/prayer/intercession times…”

A Racer joins the IHOP intern program, “And with a heart-so-filled-with-joy-it-could-burst, I’m THRILLED to announce that I will be applying to the 3 Month IHOP Atlanta Internship in Georgia”

AIM leader, Gary Black, co-founder of The World Race and G42 Academy promotes IHOP. He also began The Call, with Lou Engle, a NAR false prophet, friend of Bill Johnson of Bethel church and leader at IHOP Pasadena.

Gary writes, We are now, of course, asking the Lord how we can partner together and establish what Lou and the Call are doing, what Mike Bickle and IHOP are doing, and what AIM is doing with the World Race. Imagine a bunch of radical Nazarites planting houses of prayer around the globe through the World Race–come on Church!”

Gary is a man that is in leadership at AIM and G42 currently.  He has hopeful plans to join these organizations together. This is happening already on the World Race.

A testimony is shared here from a young girl, part of IHOP’s intern program coming to realize what she was actually a part of, here is an excerpt.  (We have added links to our similar concerns about AIM.)

A cult? Strong word you might say…and you are correct. It is not a word I use lightly or carelessly to label anything. But much prayer, time and years of research and personal experience have brought me to the conclusion that I can say confidently that the root system–or foundation–that IHOP is built on follows the basic premises and signs of a cult religious group. When I first left IHOP, I went through a severe culture shock that is hard to put into words. When I began studying the signs of cult fallout and the things that cult members go through after leaving a cult, my eyes began to open to what I had been a part of and recently come out of…After 6 years of being out of IHOP I still hold to my position that it is a dangerous place for people’s hearts and I have seen much destruction of families, relationships and marriages of those who have been involved with this movement.

Mike’s primary target and focus is on the young people. His appeals from the pulpit and his well-polished speeches aim at capturing the hearts of America’s youth. Children and youth are not told or encouraged to respect or honor the parents G-d gave them. Instead, wedges are driven between families and a seed of pride, rebellion and elitism gets planted into the hearts of youth when they are told things like the following…

This is a very close paraphrase of what I’ve heard many, many times at One Thing, IHOP conferences and in teachings by leaders:

YOU are called to be on the cutting edge. Come here and join a community of other people who are like you, called to what you’re called to. We understand you. You’ve been mis-understood in the church. You’ve had your wings clipped, your gifts misunderstood. Here you can fulfill your forerunner calling that your family just hasn’t understood about you. You might feel like you don’t fit back home, you’re on the outside, no one understands the fire in you. Well we get it. You are the leaders that G-d is raising up in these end times and you will be kings and queens on the earth—reigning with Him. You were made for this place. IHOP is an incubator for people like you.”

Narcissistic speeches like this instill a sense of pride, arrogance and elitism in the hearts of youth who hear it and it feeds their need for validation and identity. They run to IHOP, leave their families, join internships…hoping that what they’ve heard is true. They go to IHOP looking for identity…instead of finding it in Jesus.

This sounds frighteningly similar to our concerns about AIM.

The emotional manipulation at IHOP is further evidenced by these testimonies, this is provided as examples of similar ministries using and abusing worship to create emotion that is then called the Holy Spirit “moving”. 

This testimony is enlightening and very sad,

“The more leadership responsibility I was given as an intern, the more I got peeks into the “inside”. I saw the outer fringes of the internal operations of how IHOP functioned. I was on an IHOP dance team and sang as a chorus leader on a few worship teams. To dance, I had to follow a specific model that IHOP required. To sing, I had to attend the briefing/de-briefing meetings before and after each worship set where I saw first-hand how carefully controlled that the seemingly “spontaneous” aspects of worship were carefully calculated and often planned ahead of time.”

An article showing some concerns says,

“The major draw of IHOP is experience.  People often come to me citing their experience and go back again and again to experience “God” and the “Spirit” – no different than an emotional high.”

Another tells us,

“The IHOP conferences and events are stage-managed to produce the maximum amount of visual, aural, psychological, sensual and spiritual stimuli—all of which can superficially appear to be revival. But is it biblical revival? …What is perceived as spiritual is in reality soulish, contributing to a euphoric state of altered consciousness from repetitious choruses that follow one upon the other. The mesmerizing effect of the music creates a frame of mind open to suggestion by the subsequent preaching of dominionist teachers who build on the fervor of the moment with messages of future power and glory.

The orchestrated commotion at youth events serves as fertile ground for inculcating a strange and different doctrine—a doctrine that has been taught by IHOP leaders for decades.

“…there is another practice of “presence” that is taking the evangelical world by storm. In the IHOP/NAR the passionate invocation of the “presence” (which they call the “Spirit”) isn’t just done via contemplative meditation. They believe that the “presence” is achieved via the elaborate staging of flashy lighting, noisy music and hypnotic manipulations in the context of what they call “worship.” The clear intent is to create an altered state of consciousness – a spiritual/emotive state in which the participant is susceptible to heretical suggestions, “feels” closer to God, and learns that he/she may even become a god. Thus their “passion” is believed to invoke the “presence” of God… This passion-filled worship involves more than simple singing of hymns or humble prayers and petitions. It incorporates various psychological and sociological techniques to affect the emotions. Key variables are stage-managed in order to create an “atmosphere” of heightened experiences, all said to be of God. Thereby this engineered “passion” claims that it can invoke the “presence” of God.   Source

The testimonies of young people on The World Race have similar elements.  Here are a few comments about worship from Racers, specifically “soaking” worship.  There is NO Biblical model to be found, this has more similarities to Hinduism and New Age practices. We do not need to manufacture experiences of God’s presence, if we are redeemed we always have His presence. (Psalm 139:7, 1 Cor 6:19, 2 Tim 1:14)

Racer “ A few nights ago, we were having a night of soaking worship with the YWAM team that we’re partnering with this month. Soaking worship is pretty much what it sounds like; you listen to worship music and just soak in God’s presence and just be still with Him. Now normally I tend to mentally check out when we do soaking worship…”

Racer, “I had heard some stories about soaking and expected a dozen or so people in a room listening to Hillsong for a couple of hours….This soaking service… is called “The Soaking.” It’s a time of worship and praise and “soaking” in the presence of our Lord and King. But, from my experience it was more like “The Drowning.” … It is such a dramatic experience that remembering it forever is typical and expected. Unlike physical drowning, when I have asked Jesus to drown me in His presence, I long to be back in that place from the second I step out of it. “

Racer, “The middle of the room was left open for those who worshiped through dancing, the sides of room for those to soak, pray, or write, and the front stage had paper and markers for those who felt led to art (prophetic art).”

We do not believe that it is coincidence that these young Racers speak nothing of the Gospel in their testimonies and that these experiences are happening in pagan countries surrounded by Eastern religions whose practices sound eerily similar to what is happening is these “worship” services.

There is also an addictive element to the manipulation.  Here is a bit of information to begin the discussion. “Instead of actually drawing a person closer to God, these occultic practices generate a “counterfeit Holy Spirit experience” which “feels” very real, very profound, and very spiritual.  Actually, when people engage in these practices, what they’re experiencing is spiritual…only, it is not from God.”

We will continue with Part 2. Here is a commentary on the wackiness of IHOP in more detail if anyone is interested, videos included toward the bottom related to what is discussed on the program.

 

Racer Testimony-Part 2-Redefining Grace

A Biblical definition of GRACE needs to be clarified before we look at what Seth and AIM teach.

“The word ‘grace’ thus comes to express the thought of God acting in spontaneous goodness to save sinners: God loving the unlovely, making covenant with them, pardoning their sins, accepting their persons, revealing Himself to them, moving them to response, leading them ultimately into full knowledge and enjoyment of Himself, and overcoming all obstacles to the fulfillment of this purpose that at each stage arise. Grace is election-love plus covenant-love, a free choice issuing in a sovereign work. Grace saves from sin and all evil; grace brings ungodly men to true happiness in the knowledge of their Maker. This is the concept of grace with which the New Testament writers work.” J.I. Packer

Romans 5 is all about God’s grace toward repentant sinners, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God….”

The Racer’s testimony from Training Camp continues… grace is part of the culture at AIM, however, based on other faulty theology taught we must ask is it a Biblical definition? and what are the repercussions of an unbiblical teaching?
“Beginning at training camp, World Race participants are repeatedly told that AIM is grounded in a culture of grace and honor, and that in order to succeed in the WR environment, one must pursue these things at all costs. In the context of the World Race, one is to “show grace” by recognizing differences in the perspectives, personalities and beliefs of other team members and then accepting and validating these differences in a number of ways, such as:
 
       Offering positive and constructive feedback to other team members
 
       Seeking “words of knowledge” from God and then sharing those impressions with other team members
 
       Addressing and resolving conflicts between team members to prevent greater division within the team
 
       Giving up individual rights and desires for the good of the team
 
       Agreeing to disagree on theological or doxological matters for the purpose of maintaining unity among team members
 
       Overlooking petty issues and dissimilarities among team members
 
       Minimizing the real dangers of sin by accepting the fact that “life is messy”
 
       Affirming other team members by “speaking life” over one another
 
Not wanting to cause division or be labeled as someone who is unwilling to show grace to others, the overwhelming majority of Racers will begin adopting and practicing this “culture of grace.” However, if a Racer does chose to vocalize certain concerns about the beliefs and practices of other participants or the leadership of AIM, their team members and superiors will likely view him or her as one who lacks grace. Even if there is not a direct reprimand for raising questions or concerns, the individual will likely be shamed in subtle ways for not completely “buying into” the World Race culture.
 
For World Racers, the concept of grace is widely viewed and understood within the bounds of community. Essentially, grace is something that Racers ought to extend to those around them and to themselves, for the purposes of maintaining harmony and dissolving personal feelings of guilt or shame.
Unfortunately, what is not emphasized on the World Race is God’s saving grace that leads to faith in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, grace that is received and experienced only through God’s direct intervention in one’s life.”

A few comments, it is notable that it doesn’t seem that anyone pulls out a Bible to test concerns instead, supposed impressions and “words from God” are used.  They are expected to affirm and validate, even when their God given conscience may be warning them to test. Scripture is the only valid and objective means we are to use, it is why God gave us His “external Word”. This is not encouraged.

Let’s see what AIM’s leader, Seth Barnes, has to say about grace, in Searching for a place of grace, he says,

“God himself gave us ten rules upon which to organize our lives and multiple books of the Bible to show us the specific ways in which we should live. But Jesus, knowing we’re terrible rule-keepers, has a better idea. He wants to help us make a paradigm shift away from the old covenant and toward a new way of living…”

10 rules to organize our lives by??  Scripture says,

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) 

The law condemns us, it doesn’t organize our life.  Grace is the only way we are justified (Eph 2:8-9), however, we are proven genuinely saved by our obedience.

I John 2:5-6 says, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Rom 6:16

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22

Seth continues,

“As I reflect on my upbringing in the church and in missions and I think about all the complicated situations I was in that needed grace, it’s amazing how graceless many of the communities I was in were. When people messed up, they were kicked out.”

Seth’s idea of grace is overlooking sin. This is reiterated in the Racer’s testimony above… “Minimizing the real dangers of sin by accepting the fact that “life is messy”.

A church is mandated by Christ in Matt 18 to punish unrepentant sinners, Matt 18:17, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Christ wants His church pure, “…so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Phil 1:10-11

“You have to appreciate the role of rules and then you have to be willing to break them when grace is more right than the rules…I want to live in a place where rules are respected, but grace is normal. For 25 years I’ve been fighting to create a place like that at Adventures…It’s the glistening white surface on the pearl of great price that Jesus described. “

Grace has been defined here as love and acceptance with no holy standards.  Sin is minimized and the “pearl of great price” is undefined.  Here is what Jesus actually said about His laws and the pearl in Matthew 13:41-46,

“…The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. …Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

The pearl is a picture of salvation, hidden, but once revealed by God’s grace, it is worth giving up everything for. Law breakers, unjustified by Christ’s atoning death through faith and repentance, will be thrown into hell.  Seth says the opposite, his definition of the priceless pearl is a life free from rules.  Seth is not sowing good seed…in the preceding verses 37-39 we read,

“He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.”

In this world of Adventures that Seth is “fighting to create”, “grace” trumps obedience, sin with no repentance is just fine and it is more loving and gracious to overlook sin.  Contrast this with King David who was very aware of the  unmerited favor given to him, an unworthy sinner.

“Be gracious to me, O God,
according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:1-4)

Note how sins are marginalized and called “flaws”,

“So, it’s about identity and insecurity. I see so many insecure people living under the weight of their all-too obvious flaws and I know that there is an answer. People make peace with their flaws all the time – why not be one?…When the spotlight is on your flaws, you can’t. So to get to where you can breathe again, you have to somehow escape that place of condemnation.

Unfortunately, no Biblical answer to how to escape the condemnation of sin is given by Seth.  Rom 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” 

He goes on…“To be able to breathe again, you need to find a community where you can be affirmed and even celebrated.”
Sin, the Cross, the sacrifice, the mercy, and the grace of a Holy God are all missing.  The Gospel that speaks of our ultimate forgiveness and the reason why Christians can  overlook personal offenses and forgive each other 70 times 7 is missing. 
Seth’s idea of grace is not grounded in any Biblical definition and so proves worthless and eternally fatal.

 

World Race Training Camp-Testimony

This testimony was given to us by a former Adventures in Missions World Racer.  This young person has been struggling to process the things experienced during their time with Adventures in Missions, which causes us to wonder how many others are  struggling in the same way.

If you are struggling, please share your story with us.   You can help each other by exposing the errors of this organization.  Be assured that there is much comfort to be found in the TRUTH of God’s word.

This racer’s story begins at Training Camp…

“Recalling specific teachings from AIM leaders is one of the most difficult things for me, likely because there wasn’t much emphasis on biblical theology and sound doctrine. I vaguely remember a couple of teaching sessions from our training camp but I couldn’t tell you what was taught. I do remember one leader sharing a testimony about her WR experience, which had a tremendous emotional effect on everyone listening. Also, we were introduced to the basics of listening prayer at training camp and we were taught how to “prophecy” over other people. 

 At training camp, most of the indoctrination occurred in more subtle ways during our times of corporate worship, which would take place every evening for several hours. Worship was led by the now-popular Christian artist, Jonathan David Helser. (At the time, Helser had close ties with Rick Joyner and MorningStar Ministries and he is now affiliated with Bethel Church in Redding, CA.)  During these meetings I saw a number of “manifestations of the Spirit” including, speaking in tongues, bodily spasms, uncontrollable laughter, and people being slain in the spirit. This was all new to me, and quite overwhelming, but I didn’t want to simply dismiss it on the grounds that I had never experienced it before.”

We must note that this is manifestation of a different spirit.  These are not evidences of the Holy Spirit found in the Bible. It is also necessary to mention that Scripture NEVER speaks of anyone being TAUGHT any gift of the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual gifts are a gracious gift from our Heavenly Father at the time of our salvation. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Cor 12:7

How easily WE ALL can be led astray.  This is why Paul wrote these verses as a warning to all believers.  “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” 2 Cor 11:3-4

We have written about Bethel here, and this is another good source of information about them (and even organizations such as AIM). “If a church proclaims a message not substantiated by Scripture, then what is the source of that message? Right. Bethel is not of God, but, as Christ admonished the Pharisees, “you are of your father, the devil.” (John 8:44)  This is the seriousness of false teaching. If it is not Scriptural, it is not of God. If it is not of God, it can only be one thing … evil .  Thus a false message, enamoring and embraceable though it may be, is yet damning to adherents. The job of the believer in spiritual warfare is to expose the error and contend for the truth.” (Ephesians 5:11, Jude 3)

The testimony continues with evidence proving this organization is not of God, but rather what we would call demonic manipulation…

“One of the most vivid memories I have from training camp was a simple visualization exercise that we did. This also happened during one of our extended worship times, so there was continuous music going on in the background and most of us were already in an emotionally heightened state.

For this exercise, we were told to imagine that we were holding a box. Inside this box were all of our ideas and beliefs about God; everything that we had been taught growing up or had learned on our own. We were then commanded to throw this imaginary box on the ground and stomp on it, showing that we were not going to be constrained by our theological upbringings and that we were no longer going to put God in a box.

At this point the music picked up and everyone began jumping up and down, stomping and smashing these “boxes” to pieces. I remember this being one of the first moments where I decided to overlook the unusual, and unbiblical, nature of what was being taught and practiced, and I simply joined in without question.

To be completely honest, it was a liberating experience in a sense. I fully believed that I was overcoming my skeptical and critical nature, and that I was experiencing true freedom.

In reality, I was simply opening up my mind to the lies of the enemy, lies that I began entertaining and eventually believing.”

Praise God, this story doesn’t end here.  This Racer has been graciously freed from the deception promoted at AIM. The story will continue when it is the right time…

Isn’t it ironic that they want the kids to “stomp” on any doctrine they ever learned, and then taught them none??

After reading this, we were reminded of the many similarities here with the New Apostolic Reformation.

Regarding the use of music, there are many studies, easily found with a quick Google search, related to emotional manipulation using music, here is one,

“Skilled composers manipulate the emotion within a song by knowing what their audience’s expectations are, and controlling when those expectations will (and will not) be met. This successful manipulation is what elicits the chills that are part of any moving song.”

This is why the Bible exhorts us to use our MIND.  There are many Scriptures that say this, here are a few.

 Rom 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Mark 12:30 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”

Emotions can deceive.

Col 2:8, 18 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ…Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind.”

(This is a similar testimony to the one we shared here taken from the forum discussion)

 

Cult Criticism-Conformity and Control

(Note the original title to Seth’s article in the hyperlink, he changed the post title from “a Ridiculous Criticism”)

In his blog post Seth Barnes writes,  “Have you ever been unfairly criticized? Once, because one of our mission teams went on a one-month media fast, the rumor circulated among some parents that AIM is a cult… Our objective at AIM is to thrust over-protected young people out into the world to formulate their own world view and collide with their destiny. It’s actually the opposite of what cults do as they seek conformity and control.”

The formulation of the young people’s worldview, however, is intentionally shaped in part by Seth’s own writings that are required or “highly suggested” reading. (We have shared concerns about other books recommended here)

Concerned Missionaries write, “one of the girls in the group (a World Race team) gave me a book written by Seth Barnes, the founder of AIM, called Kingdom Journeys, and I can see how it would appeal to young people, because it’s written in a very personal way, that meets their felt needs; I can see how they can relate to it and trust a guy that is so personable. But even though it talks about his own personal journey—there is no reference to his conversion. And when he uses Scripture—it’s like how Rick Warren does in his books, there is no Scripture reference, but a vague alluding to a Scripture verse—so someone can say, “I remember something about that in the Bible” but he seems to use it to validate his own position about something that he’s talking about, not explaining the meaning of the verse from a biblical perspective. The girls also had a book he wrote on listening prayer* they were supposed to go through daily…

Seth continues,

“Thinking about the criticism, I wanted to blog about it. But a staff member had a more prudent perspective, “It’s not worth your time,” he said. He was right; it’s a lesson I’ve been learning for a while now. In life if you’re going to ever do anything significant, then you’re going to have critics. The right thing to do is to honor them.”

Seth chose to dishonor parents, criticizing them for “ridiculous” rumors and ultimately deciding they were “not worth his time”.

He diffused the charge of leading a cult by deflecting the issue.

He goes on,”If you aspire to change the status quo, you’re going to have a target painted on your back; it’s the price of leadership. If you grow in your influence as a leader, the target just gets bigger.”

However, the ability to defend yourself against such a serious charge is also expected.

This is an interesting comment posted to this exact article…
“I know this is old news, but I was in the group that was subjected to the media fast. From within, the biggest problem was that it was forced upon us with no choice, it was during December, and it was only enforced because a smaller % of people on the trip were spending too much time connected to home that they were neglecting their duties/ job at hand.
My biggest issue with TWR and AIM overall is that questions regarding doctrine, practices, and overall “command structure” were mostly stifled and led to a “dismantling” of previous beliefs only to leave me trying to put the pieces back together after returning home.
In other words, many people involved didn’t practice what they preached, and I now have a sour taste for the organization. Sorry, but true.” (Seth responded to this comment with another deflection)
A media fast forced on them, with no choice?  That contradicts this statement in the FAQ’s responding the the question, “What if my parents have concerns?”, they respond, “This is your Race. You are an adult and we treat you that way.”
 

Note this testimonial from a former racer titled “I recently got out of what was basically a cult”.  Please be warned that the writer uses coarse language throughout.  However, her concerns are worth taking note.

“It starts before you even apply. The main form of communication about this trip is a site where participants post blogs from the field. It’s actually required to do so once per week. The people writing these have already bought into the romanticized ideas and skewed theology, but the organization really censors the blogs, and the ones that get promoted are the cool adventure stories. Training- A couple months before leaving, all participants go through ten days of training camp. I gained no practical knowledge here for life in the field. It was mostly just indoctrination. We lived in tents, used bucket showers, and sat through 8+ hours a day of them preaching a weird combination of bad theology and pop psychology at us. Not harmless stuff either. They preyed on the fact that most of the people there had partied their brain cells away in college. They convinced fairly normal, healthy people that they were in codependent relationships, had “soul ties” to ex-lovers, and needed to go through the organization’s prescribed method of cutting any ties that remotely resembled these things. They manipulated the faith of many participants to get them to end healthy relationships. … after hearing it day after day, it began to sink in, and made me doubt the healthiest relationship I had or have ever had in my life. They also made us participate in ridiculous physical challenges that would only be useful if Rambo was a missionary. These challenges served only to make everyone feel like “part of the club”. Despite all this and more, I still thought I could ignore their attempts at brainwashing and still do humanitarian work without drinking the Kool aid. I was wrong.”
“Cutting ties” with healthy relationships, indoctrination, manipulating faith.  Other testimonies we have shared sound much the same. 
This site has a list of some characteristics of a cult we thought were interesting.  Though they are not all true of AIM, many seem to line up with other testimonies we have shared.

How are they kept in the cult?

  1. Dependence
    1. People often want to stay because the cult meets their psychological, intellectual, and spiritual needs.
  2. Isolation
    1. Outside contacts are reduced and more and more of the life of the member is built around the cult.
    2. It then becomes very easy to control and shape the member.
  3. Cognitive Reconstruction (Brainwashing):
    1. Once the person is indoctrinated, their thinking processes are reconstructed to be consistent with the cult and to be submissive to its leaders.
    2. This facilitates control by the cult leader(s).
  4. Substitution

    1. The Cult and cult leaders often take the place of mother, father, priest, teacher, and healer.
    2. Often the member takes on the characteristics of a dependent child seeking to win the approval of the leader and or group.
  5. Indebtedness
    1. The member becomes indebted to the group emotionally, financially, etc.

More World Race testimonies

These testimonies were in the comments section in response to the article on this site We thought they were important to reiterate.

“I’m also a former World Racer and until I went on “mission” with AIM, I had never been exposed to Dominion or Kingdom Now theology. I’m a young believer, and yet I praise God for what sufficient bible literacy I had to discern as to when to apply the litmus test to some of the teachings: in other words, I would go read the bible in context. Practicing exegesis (reading the Scriptures in context) was a huge factor in me not compromising sound doctrine and seriously not losing faith.

Since everyone else so vehemently lauded AIM with great examples, so will I.

It lines up with exactly AIM claims and I quote from their website regarding their ministry distinctives: “We emphasize interdenominationalism.
The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing. We are tolerant of a variety of beliefs and practices within the mainstream of Christian practice. Where there is excess, we seek to be a force for moderation.”

So what would that look like?
A great example happened when a squad leader came out to “correct” and settle a dispute regarding the gift of prophesy. Blatantly, the person used 1 Corinthians 14:31 emphasizing that “ALL CAN PROPHESY.” We had become at odds concerning this because as part of the exploration process of activating our gifts where we were encouraged to write out everyone’s name on a piece of paper, fold it, put it in a container, pass it around blindly — upon each person selecting a piece of paper, without opening to reveal the name, we were to practice “listening prayer” and then formulate a response based on what we heard from the spirit.

After all, God knows everyone and can see the name on the piece of paper. Many eagerly, with full laughter, glee and excitement treated this as a game. Others, had a bit more reverence and strong convictions about how this resembled divination and sorcery. This “prophesy game” was now botched by lack of participation and those who did not want to partake were seen as bible-thumpers and judgmental. So correction had to come down on us. Force of moderation, I guess, is what took place. It felt more like bullying, and it was not theologically sound.

Subsequently, scripture was twisted to justify that we “all can prophesy” so not to be afraid of this sort of method of activating our gifts and to be more open-minded in how God wants to speak.

While it was stressed over and over and over again that we “needed to choose in to the process” or that we needed to “make this a safe place” and that there is “freedom here,” clearly there was not freedom to abstain or walk away without strife. It was a teaching being forced on us which contradicted God’s word.

Now we can look at this situation, which really did happen, in various ways:

1) we can absolve all of AIM and blame the one leader and chalk it up to them not knowing what they were teaching
2) we can recognize that this leader was also formerly a World Racer, a requirement to come back and lead a squad, and who was not alone but partnered up with another leader who was also a former World Racer — but there was no checks & balance evident that would indicate that any leadership disagreed with what was being taught
3) we can take into consideration that this is evident fruit of a ministry (AIM) being produced by the fact that this was not a one-time-incident but occurred repeatedly in this manner and tactic for over 5 months
4) if all of this was an honest misunderstanding, it makes no sense why leadership was always so bent on keeping these teaching-bloopers isolated and we were harshly warned not to infect the other squad members who were not present (this ended up creating factions and a huge dispute on Spirit vs Word based faith)

Needless to say, only those who continuously absorbed such teachings kept rising in rank and continued to enforce such teachings and practices.

So, by the 7th month, damage control and PR came into the picture at one of our debriefs where we were issued as a group an apology for how we had been treated by aforementioned leadership; the faith card was pulled with many tears being shed by these people from headquarters asking for our grace and forgiveness — and offering a free copy of “Kingdom Journeys” to everyone, as a gift.

Openly, we were invited to ask questions and this was said to be a “safe place” to share how we really felt, so I did. And I even referenced Luke 17:2. You can bet there was not much grace or any tears nor the feeling of being safe after I expressed severe concern regarding the teachings and theology. Instead, I was openly condemned as judgmental and told I was casting judgments which like a boomerang were going to come back and get me. How loving is that? This is from people up in HQ. Great diversion to not address the theology behind the process.

(However, when asked again in more private group conversation, there was absolutely no apology issued for the teachings or methods that were being promoted — we were simply told that our “process” had been disrupted.)

There was absolutely nothing biblical about their discipleship methods or “spiritual formation,” as they like to call it. I felt like I was stuck in an infomercial for Seth Barne’s book “Kingdom Journeys.” When I did go up the ladder to express my concerns for various other issues, and when I questioned certain aspects of the “process” or “spiritual formation,” I was told I made everything too theological and that this was unhealthy. I was then chastised for being unforgiving, bitter and judgmental. All I wanted to do was reasonably examine the Scriptures and get some answers I could understand that didn’t involve me being made to feel guilty for asking.

You can clearly read my blogs and see that I also had “great experiences” but I’m going to link the very last one and let you conclude for yourself whether or not that sounds like it was written by someone in an environment for healthy spiritual growth.

When all else failed, I made my situation known from a month-to-month perspective to my elders at my home church. Having an actual lifeline home and accountability proved to be wise! They quickly connected the dots, and fasted — they unanimously heard from the Lord to bring me home. Shortly after I left, so did many others. The funny thing is, of those that left, the majority of us are/have been/will continue to be missionaries.

I’m sure this post could open me up to some rotten tomatoes, for sure. I am very thankful for the sacred gift God gave me of preserving my faith for the duration of that mission, opening my eyes to a very clear and present danger of false prophets and teachers, the importance of not having wimpy theology and the need to bolster biblical literacy in this generation and for allowing me to witness salvation. To the praise of God, 4 of my World Race co-missionaries were saved (not re-dedicated), but born again, then baptized and you cannot put a price on that. Heaven rejoices. Those that most needed to hear the truth of the Gospel were amongst our own.

Here is another,

“As a former participant of the World Race, I happen to agree with what you have said and believe that AIM has some major flaws. During my time on the race, I had a lot of differences with AIM’s teachings. One of my squad mates sent me a copy of Claris’ article on AIM and it brought up almost every issue that I had with the organization. When I returned home I got in contact with Claris and we compared notes on the research she had done and the experience I had. One of the most troubling things was AIM’s connection to the New Apostolic Reformation and Kingdom Now theology. They also tend to treat the race as more of a spiritual journey than a real mission trip (or at least what most Christians would consider a mission trip). I would not recommend AIM or the World Race until they take a closer look at how their teachings line up with the Bible.

It is our responsibility as followers of Christ to offer correction to our brothers and sisters when we believe they are out of step with God.”

 

Testimony of Former Racer

This testimony was written, to the author of The Watchman’s Bagpipes, in response to our guest post on Oct 11, 2016.

“I read your blog about AIM and The World Race. I went on TWR [The World Race] back around 2010 and I couldn’t agree with you more. 
 
I was raised in a fundamentally nondenominational Christian home and numerous times when interacting with AIM leadership I would feel uncomfortable, the hairs on my neck would stand up, and I’d get a desire to flee because of some of your aforementioned concerns.
 
Emphasis was placed on works, miracles, and “having the same power as Christ because he resides inside us.” The Holy Spirit was treated as an entity that gave us the “feel goods,” and “free-thinking” prayer was utilized – think: autowriting, signs and wonders, coincidences being God’s signals that only we can decipher, etc.
 
The other thing that bothered me is that we are exposed to a lot in the World and they didn’t offer any post-trip counseling. I had issues from TWR that I had to decompress from and seek counseling in years later.
 
Leadership never discouraged wilder approaches to Racers’ beliefs and it quickly turned into a “blind leading the blind” scenario. 
 
I had people in my group that only wanted to go to a funeral [because] they believed they could raise them from the dead. Another group claimed they DID raise a boy from the dead after he was hit by a car (reality: the boy passed out due to shock and reawakened quickly due to his body naturally rebooting).   Another guy would get drunk on the Holy Spirit and look for gold dust and feathers because those were signs of God’s Presence. Another girl claimed she was raped by her boyfriend because he wanted to have sex and she felt pressured to do so and eventually gave in. That’s NOT rape! She wanted justification for giving in to Sin and wanted to take the blame off herself. 
 
Leadership encouraged this false mindset and it was actually one of the first times when I really noticed something was off theologically about this group. After all my expenses were paid for by donors, AIM tried to retroactively charge me more because of a new credit card and auto-withdrawal policy, ie a vendor charge for each card transaction that [went] into place after I had signed the paperwork. I refused to pay out of principle.
 
The only “possessed people” we encountered were from within our own group and I was always raised to believe that I was protected from possession by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the acceptance of Christ and atonement for Sin. Two different girls, who admittedly were the most dramatic and attention seeking in our group, got “possessed” on more than one occasion.
 
There were times I would ask leadership where I could find some of what they were teaching in the Bible and they scoffed at me. I never could find Biblical support.
 
We did visualization exercises.
 
I got chills when you mentioned the difference between bringing Christ’s Kingdom to Earth and the return of Christ. Because they want the former.
 
Seth Barnes was not an approachable person and once ridiculed me in front of a large group because he asked me what my “kingdom dream” was and I told him it’s between two different ones, but he cut me short and said I can only have one. He did this mostly because he didn’t care what my dreams were, he was trying to make a point and move on to the next point he wanted to make.
 
So, context… I currently do shift work at nights and was thinking about AIM and TWR recently … While I made the choice, I definitely believe this group had a huge impact on me walking away from Christianity.  I found that interesting, but what better way for Evil to triumph than to pose as something good and do more long-lasting, subtle damage, with attacks that come in unforeseen forms? Maybe AIM leadership and Barnes have good intentions, but they are definitely paving the path to Hell.
 
I was taught that in warfare a corrupt opponent will fight dirty. They won’t come at you directly, but they will attack at the chink in your armor. I think that Barnes’ chink is his desire to leave a lasting impact on Earth for the greater good. He believes he is destined for great things and he found a way to market an antithesis to traditional Church upbringings, youth’s desire to be different and change the world, and a fun trip you can sucker other people into paying for.
 
I was on the trip when leadership had a meeting with us, livid that rumors were spreading that they were a cult and we were advised that it comes from controlling parents that were upset because we were put on a mandatory “technology fast.”  We were then told we need to tell our parents we are adults and that this was the best thing for us. Reality? There were a few people 5 months in that were still spending hours every day Skyping or communicating with family/friends back home. It became an issue but we got lumped into a “let’s punish them all so as to not single anyone out and we’ll tell them it will make them spiritually stronger.”
 
However, as much as I don’t like AIM, what they stand for, or what they are doing, I experienced it firsthand and I didn’t drink the Kool-aid.”
We are sure there are many more testimonies to be heard that confirm our concerns.  We would be grateful to hear from you, these stories need to be shared (anonymously if you prefer), the enemy loves the darkness. For the Glory of Christ our Savior and in gratefulness to His sacrifice on our behalf.

 

Of Prophecy and Healing at Project Searchlight

Please read this in light of all the other concerns we have written about. While there are always going to be differing views on the continuation of the miraculous spiritual gifts that is not the intent of this post.  Adventures in Missions admits to being charismatic. However, the fact that there is not a clear Gospel message (see our post Missing the Gospel) as the focus of this organization, this leads us to believe that the professed miracles, healings, and prophecies cannot be works of God. 

There are many published stories and testimonies from Racers who attend Project Searchlight (PSL), a debrief AIM hosts for them one month after they finish the World Race. The majority of these testimonies are self-centered accounts that lack a focus on our Savior.  Often, the Racers write of the romantic Jesus.

The preoccupation on signs and wonders is exactly the warning we are given by Christ and His appointed apostles. No matter what you believe about the miraculous gifts, this warning is a reality.

Matt 7:22  ‘On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matt 24:24 “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”

2 Thess 2:9 “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,  and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

The following quotes are taken from the blog posts of Racers after attending Project Searchlight.  It is eyeopening and curiously missing from any description you will find on the websiteAn innocuous, “we will help you debrief” does not accurately describe what transpires at this conference.

“Desiring knowledge and revelation is the driving factor for many racers to attend PSL. Project Searchlight offers prophetic rooms, amazing speakers and many avenues that the Lord works in and through. I am no different when it comes to this. I prayed for The Lord to reveal a calling or a passion that He has yet to reveal to me. But The Lord didn’t do that. He did better. God revealed more of himself to me. During my 10 minute prophetic session, I got the words “romance” and “pursuit” in three visions straight. All visions about Jesus wanting to romanticize me and show me the depths of his relentless pursuit and love for me. This came as a shock to me…When coming to PSL, I suspected to be spiritually refilled, but not spiritually swept off my feet. I knew I was married to The Lord but I have never felt romanticized and desired.” Racer

“Now fast forward to Project Searchlight, where, sitting in the exact same seat I frequented at Training Camp, I had another facet of God to get to know: Jesus as the bridegroom…I read Song of Songs with one eye…  “Come away” we say he says.  We sing, we dance, some guy named Phil called it a “divine romance,” Racer

“That night, we saw the deaf hear, the blind see, and many people with back pains, headaches, stomach pains, and all sorts of afflictions healed right in front of us!  That sort of thing because regular, or as regular as miracles can become.  Racer

“Project Searchlight, a re-entry conference of sorts for returning World Racers...Clint (Bokelman), the guy running the session, invited anyone who needed -you guessed it – physical healing to raise their hand. The rest of us in the room were to then go and pray over those people… “I’m done being cynical. Let’s roll.”…I will admit, I was a little disappointed to have not received complete and total healing in that moment. After all, for the first time in my life, I had believed that God not only could, but would heal.” Racer

“I spent the last five days at Project Searchlight, a re-entry conference type of thing for Racers who recently returned from the field. A hundred or so of us showed up to see just what God had planned for us through worship, sessions, conversations, prophecy and very silly talents…Guitars began strumming and I turned my attention to the stage. Logan began sharing a testimony of healing as the smell of incense filled the room…Ten minutes into it, Clint called up anyone who had just been healed. Two shared about the healing they received in their backs, one shared about being set free of shame, another shared about healing of her past wounds…If you’re not planning to go to Project Searchlight, change your mind. Stop making up excuses, go and see what Papa wants to show you.” Racer

“Project Searchlight offered everything from practical re-entry advice, to deep life-altering words straight from the ThroneroomRacer

“Our second night (of PSL) was the most powerful many people. It was a night of healing and worship. People were getting prayed over and being physically healed!! Arms mended, back and foot injuries with no more pain. The Holy spirit was moving. As the night progressed, it moved from physical into deep soul.” Racer

“I showed up the first day feeling a little weird but excited to see my squad mates. I started listening to the speakers with my guard up, thinking they were just going to shove a bunch of AIM propaganda in my face and try to create an atmosphere of emotions without any long term effect. First slowly, and then all at once, my walls began to crumble. All I have experienced this week are encounters with the Lord, encouragement about following His will for my life, prophecies about my future, physical healing in my lower back, freedom in worship.” Racer

“(At PSL) One of the guys in the room prophesied that I was hearing lies of the enemy. (I hadn’t said a word about what I had been struggling through today.) And he said The Lord was wanting me to close my ears to all the lies the enemy was trying to speak over me to tear me down. So I needed to close my ears but then I also needed to open my ears to His Voice. I needed to listen closely for His Voice to keep speaking trust deep down into my heart about WHO I AM.” Racer

“I didn’t want to come to PSL and go to prophetic rooms and do all of this other weird stuff around 300 people that literally don’t care anything at all about me. I sat in the back with my arms folded, quite typical for me. But then I felt a familiar prod at my heavily burdened heart, and I panicked. God, whatever you’re doing, stop it right now, I don’t want it. I don’t want you right now. I know you always want me, but right now I am angry at you for taking me back home into a space I didn’t want to step back into and now what? I’m surrounded by a bunch of hollering, spiritual psychos….I met SANTA, heard Gods voice in a new way, went to a prophetic room, laughed my face off at a comedy show, and has wisdom poured over me from start to finish.” Racer

“I anticipate that I’ll only have incredible, supernatural things to write home about over the next few months, as I move to Gainesville and partner with AIM to develop me spiritually and professionally. Y’all, I can tell you right now that outside of the context of PSL, I probably would not have seen my way clear to arrive at the conclusion I did. I believe that God would have blessed my decision either way, but I also believe that He is more glorified by this one—something He’s confirmed through my Prophetic Room session, through my own quiet moments with Him.” Racer

“(At PSL) We’ve had worship twice a day. And that has entailed sweating, jumping, screaming, and praying… As well as people getting healed! Prophecy being spoken! And lives being changed! And of course… CHAINS BEING BROKEN!” Racer

“It started with a prophetic room. Two wonderful women prophesied over me about EVERYTHING I have been praying about since the World Race. They confirmed things that were prophesied over me by others months before. That’s when it started. The Holy Spirit started showing up everywhere…And then Clint and Logan start telling us healings were gonna break out in the room…Sarah needs healing for TMJ. Great. God used me to heal a back, why not a jaw. God sent me over here so he’s gonna move. And He did. Another girl Susan and I prayed for Sarah for probably an hour and a half. Each moment seemed to bring a small amount of improvement. God’s kept saying, “I’m not done yet. Don’t you dare give up. And why do you doubt me.” All that was scattered between visions, and words, and prayers. God was moving.” Racer

The general theme in these blogs seems to be the big let down after the World Race. Real life of faithful walking with the Lord this side of heaven is often more ordinary than extraordinary.  The Racers head to Project Searchlight and  get whipped up into a frenzy of undocumented healings, as well as random prophecies and visions that feed their emotions and egos.  The focus of signs, wonders, false prophecies, etc. is clearly a ploy of the enemy to leave these young people discontented with seeking God through His Word and longing for “more”.  We have yet to see a Racer’s blog that pointed to a love of Scripture, fear or reverence for God, or awe and amazement that Christ would suffer and die for us.  How very sad.

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