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AN OPEN LETTER TO
THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS
FROM JIM GUERRA
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Yeshua,
I know that before writing to you I already have three strikes against me. Why should you listen to me? I no longer travel from city to city with a backpack, nor do I submit myself to brother Evangelist's ministry. In your minds I have fallen away, lost my understanding, and have become a fowl wanting to turn you away from following Yeshua and his teachings. (Matt. 13:4) Nevertheless, even Balaam's ass had something to say which was useful. (Num. 22:28) I pray you consider the scriptures and the observations I am setting before you.
What has happened to the church since it started out in 1971 as just a traveling Christian ministry? How has it gotten to its current state, where members are distrustful of one another, secretive, deceitful, self-righteous, hateful toward their families, unwilling to be corrected? Very simply. Your leader is not accountable to anyone.
Let me explain. We all believe that correction is necessary for every follower of Christ. (Prov. 15:10) That correction may come from various sources: the Holy Spirit convicting us through the Word,(John 16:8) a brother or sister convicting our hearts with truth or a testimony, or even an unbeliever who sees through us and speaks truth (the Balaam's ass syndrome). Without correction we err.
What happens when the elder errs? He does err, you know. (Even the Apostle Peter had to be rebuked.) (Gal. 2:13, 14) Brother Evangelist is a sheep just like the rest of us. (I Pet. 2:25) If he gets proud, the Holy Spirit cannot convict him. There goes one source of correction. Brothers and sisters cannot correct him; that would be "rebuking an elder." (I Tim. 5:1) Another source down the drain! What's left is a Balaam's ass like me. A few dismissing words about me and that source is gone, too.
Is it true that everyone who speaks against the church that brother Evangelist has set up is motivated by pride or a desire to justify themselves? What if the church really has fallen into a pit of deception?
Organizations are like people. We often cannot see what is wrong with our own behavior. (Psalm 19:12) So it is with groups in general. (Luke 6:41) Insiders, particularly the leaders of a company, often cannot see their organization clearly. To improve they often hire outside consultants. You may have employees that have been overworked and under appreciated by their superiors, but who are afraid to say anything for fear of losing their jobs. Or perhaps the leadership is blocked into looking at a problem in only one way, and needs an outside perspective to find solutions. (Matt. 15:14)
The church is no different . As a former member, I see much that needs correcting. Precisely because brother Evangelist does not receive reproof I am no longer with the brethren. The church is erring greatly and desperately needs correction, (Prov. 10:17) but unfortunately has become an old and foolish king who will no more be admonished. (Ecc. 4:18)
I realize that the brethren inside the church humbly receive correction from their older brothers. You are receptive to that kind of correction. But what you cannot hear are the global reproofs you so desperately need to improve as a church. You need to hear reproof that illuminates your organizational and doctrinal errors.
Yeshua did this to the churches in Asia in the book of Revelations. (Rev. ch. 2 and 3) Each church was displeasing the Lord in some way but did not realize it. He lovingly rebuked them, albeit sharply in some cases. They needed a voice from outside the church to illuminate the errors of the entire church. From whom on the outside do you receive rebuke and correction? If the whole church is led astray, how do you get corrected?
Below is a list of errors that crept into the church and you self-corrected. I give it to you as an example of how the entire church can err. However, there are many other things that have not been corrected that are causing unnecessary trials and tribulation to group members and families, and which you are too proud to correct.
Errors in the Past Which You Acknowledge
1. "Wearing glasses is not of faith." Perhaps that was never said, but was strongly implied by the group. Why else would so many of us struggle with our vision for years when a simple pair of glasses solve the problem?
2. "Brothers don't go into libraries." This was a typical overreaction to a brother reading a heretical book and getting deceived. That made as much sense as forbidding brothers to eat because someone ate a bad hamburger. You now go into libraries and do research, whereas for years this was considered a forbidden and carnal practice. (Commandments of men) (Matt. 15:9)
3. "Lord willing, we will not be buying laundry soap, salt, or toilet paper." Although perhaps some good practice to get ready for the mark of the beast, faith does not come by not buying, but by hearing the word of God. (Rom. 10:17) This is man's attempt to exercise faith, and not God's commandment. (Col. 2:20-23)
4. "Sisters shouldn't ride bikes. It's not modest." (An opinion expressed to me by some older brothers, including Daniel.)
5. "Having a bank account is laying up treasures on earth." Jonathan Schmidt, why is your money in the bank? (I Tim. 6:17)
6. Changing opinions of dressing modestly. You went from plaid shirts, to robes, to shirts around the crotch, to shirts below the knee. What is modest? (Rom. 14:23)
Some Errors that Have Not Yet Been Corrected
1. "Forsaking all means leaving your family and traveling." The Book of Acts and the Epistles all reveal that the early church was a series of local churches, with some people sent out to establish other local churches.
2. "Single sisters should submit to the brothers." Women should submit to their husbands", (Eph. 5:22) or stay in their parents' house and submit to their parents, until they are of age and can take care of themselves.
3. "No one is to rebuke an elder. If I am erring, God will correct me." (Misinterpretation of I Tim 5:1) In the verse which brother Evangelist quotes to keep himself from being questioned, "elder" means someone older in the flesh than you; it does not mean an elder (presbuteros) of a church or an overseer. Nowhere in the Bible is there a record of a church with only one elder. The Bible supports the ideal that every member of the church be accountable, including the elders. (I Peter 5:3)
Why, after 27 years, is there no one equal to Brother Evangelist? Why has he structured the church so that everyone is accountable to him, but that he is accountable to no one? Who corrects brother Evangelist when errs, or do you so idolize him that you think he is above erring? Has no brother under his discipleship grown enough to be trusted to be an equal? What will happen to the church when he dies? (I Tim. 5:19)
Presbuteros are not to be falsely accused, but may be accused of wrongdoing before two or three true witnesses. This was written to protect the flock from the abuses of leadership.
You will note also in the following verses that elders are exclusively spoken of in plurality in the New Testament, never as one man running the entire show. You will also notice that there were councils of elders in the early church government, and individual elders that served with other elders in the church were to be given honor. God's plan is not for one elder to rule over a flock, however lovingly, without accountability to other elders and pastors in the church. (See Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2,4,6,22,23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; 22:5; I Tim. 5:17,19 (an elder, not "the" elder!); Titus 1:5 (Elders in every city); Hebrews 11:2; Jas. 5:14; I Pet. 5:1; Rev. 4:4, 10, etc.)
4. "Marriage is not for everybody." That's true. Neither is celibacy. Forcing a majority of brothers and sisters to remain single contrary to their calling to marriage quenches the Spirit of God and creates unnecessary and burdensome trials for the brothers and sisters. (Matt. 19:12; I Cor. 7:2; Heb. 13:4; Gen. 2:18; I Cor. 7:9; I Tim. 4:1-3)
Concerning the response that the church does not forbid marriage, one only has to ask around to see how many people have been discouraged from it, denied permission, or told that it was not God's will. When the devil wishes to bring discord and confusion into a church, he meddles with its view on sexuality. Some groups err by being sexually promiscuous, others err by making it impossible for a person to express their sexuality in a lawful (marriage) way. Although the church has no doctrine against marriage, you do have a practice of forbidding it. Which is worse: what you believe or what you do? (I Tim. 4:1-3)
A. It is not good for men and women to be alone. God acknowledged this in the Garden when Adam was still in perfect fellowship with God. "We are complete in Him," (Col. 2:10) true, but Paul was not referring to marriage in this passage, otherwise why would Paul want the younger women to marry, bear children, and guide the house? (I Tim. 5:12-14) Paul was pro-marriage and motherhood and saw it as a way for women to avoid idleness, gossip, and spiritual deterioration.
B. Marriage is the rule, celibacy the exception, in the Bible. Celibacy is voluntary, and marriage is not to be forbidden in the church. Those who would discourage and forbid marriage are submitting themselves to the doctrine of devils Paul warned about. (I Tim. 4:1-3) Although the church has no doctrine against marriage, the elder has a practice of forbidding it and an attitude against it. If you don't believe me, ask yourself if you would marry if you were free to marry any brother or sister you wanted. Chances are, if you are honest you would marry in a heartbeat.
C. Even now there are brothers and sisters in the church who wish to marry but are waiting for permission from brother Evangelist. Some, no doubt, have waited for years. Did you know that this is none of his business? Where does the Bible give him that kind of power over your personal lives? (I Peter 5:3) What are the limits to his power? Does he truly have total say in all matters personal and private? Why do you have to give account to the Lord for your actions, if most your actions are dictated by him? (Rom. 14:10-12)
5. "Your flesh relations are your foes." This false doctrine is the root of your "persecution." Search your own hearts. Do you feel good about disappearing from your family and not contacting them for years? Have you for one moment considered the unnecessary pain you have inflicted on them? Although you have gone with the group willingly, the effect on your parents is the same as if you were kidnapped. You left suddenly, many times, without an explanation. You are out of contact for years, leaving them to wonder if you are alive or dead. You selfishly focus on your own salvation and leave them in a cruel and unloving manner.
Which of you willingly forsook your families? You were given the non-choice
of loving God or loving your families. Rejecting your families is not loving
them. Those verses about a man's foes make more sense in Muslim countries
where a convert to Christianity is rejected by his or her family and treated
as being dead. You have reversed it. A family is assumed to be the enemy
and the believer rejects the unbeliever! This is not God's love.
There are many ways you can respond to this letter. You may dismiss it all by saying that I fell away and that I am trying to destroy the church. Perhaps you may call it all a bunch of deceit and not even consider what I have written. Your older brothers may read this on the Internet and tell you not to read it because it is "sowing discord." (Since when is reproof considered "sowing discord."? The next time brother Daniel or brother Leonard corrects you, look him in the eye and tell him that he is sowing discord!)
Perhaps you won't consider this because you don't want to receive an accusation against the elder. But read the rest of the verse. . . "except it be before two or three witnesses." You must receive an accusation if it is true! Remember what John the Apostle said about Diotrophes in 3 John? (John must have received many accusations against Diotrophes to lead him to warn others about that elder gone astray.)
Undoubtedly you could find sin in my life, too. But that has no bearing
on the truth of what I have written. I am willing to be called a Balaam's
ass, if you will only have the humility to consider what I have written
and not dismiss it in your pride. Your souls are at stake.
Jim Guerra (Brother Ariel)
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