"The Discipleship Game" – Rules taught by men

(Related: 1, 2, 3, 4)


The following excerpt is a continuation of chapter 1 of the book “Twisted Scripture” by Mary Alice Chrnalogar. The author reveals one of the first twists of Scripture by abusive disciplers (“shepherds” in UBF): the expansion of the biblical definition of sin. We’ve seen this plenty in UBF. For example, UBF sermons have proclaimed that students missing meetings or Bible study appointments for any reason is a grave sin. Missing the UBF Sunday meeting for any reason is equated with “breaking the Sabbath”. They invent their own sinner categories such as “the slippery sheep.” (Hint for UBF recruiters: They’re not “slippery;” they’re just avoiding you and your constant pressuring.)

I continue to be contacted by students from major and minor UBF chapters, who describe the distress caused by UBF’s imposition of their man-made rules on them. Here’s the excerpt:

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul warns of the foolishness of man-made rules: “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom…but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” The Apostle also admonishes us, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon or a Sabbath day” (Col. 2:8-23).

Leaders in most discipleship groups will admit that their rules are different than those in most churches. The truth is they feel they are closer to what an authentic Christian experience should be. I have heard many people compare the discipleship groups they were in to monastic orders or even the army. Some disciplers even draw the comparison: “We are God’s Green Berets!” But when people are inducted into such orders or join the military, they know what they are getting into and know what the rules will be. Ask yourself: When did you agree to the rules? When did you find out what the rules were?

The rules of abusive discipleship are not evident in the beginning. What is initially obvious is a great display of personal attention, love, and caring. This is what people usually (and understandably) find so attractive about such groups. They will call you even when no one else does, they will invite you out to dinner, they will tell you that they care. They will also tell you that you can grow much faster spiritually by having a discipler who is wiser (than you) in the Lord. They will impress upon you all the wonderful benefits of being a part of such a program. And they will teach you that Jesus did this exact same thing with his disciples. You will be assigned a “buddy” to stand alongside and be your constant friend. It is often true that, with spiritual guidance, we can grow much faster. The problem is that, in some discipleships, spiritual growth accelerates for a short yet seductive period before being restricted by controlling techniques.

As your relationship with the abusive discipler develops, you find out there are rules–actually more rules than you might have expected. By contrast, there won’t be hidden rules as you learn in healthy discipleship.

You may be led to believe that any violation of the disciplers rules can be a sin. This is part of the deceptive and hidden agenda built into the program. You begin to believe that it is actually sinful to not follow the rules once you have accepted the discipler as your buddy.

Once you become involved in a domineering program, you frequently discover that its considered sinful (or at least backsliding in your spiritual development) to break your commitment and end the relationship.

In a controlling discipleship, there are other ideas that are hidden from you. Aberrant discipleship teaches new meanings for such words as obey, submit, die to self, and brokenness. Their meaning is altered from the true Biblical understanding of these concepts. Abusive disciplers expand the meanings far beyond what the Bible teaches, to imply that, anytime you do not want to accept the advice of a leader, you are likely not broken, obedient, submissive, or dying to self. These non-Biblical definitions are usually concealed until the abusive disciplers feel you are trusted enough to accept their teachings.

In abusive discipleships, sin is expanded to mean almost anything that the leaders do not like (e.g., challenging leaders actions, not obeying leaders advice, disagreeing with leaders, questioning leaders, or openly criticizing leaders).

The most common non-Biblical idea that is planted in members minds by abusive groups is that they are rebellious, hardhearted, or prideful when they decide not to follow the group’s rules. Breaking a rule is usually taken to mean sinning against God. This is coercion because these dedicated Christians will force themselves to follow agendas they would otherwise refuse to accept.

An important, yet subtle, rule is:

You should wait until both you and your discipler
agree before you actually make an important decision.

You are led to believe that you should get this confirmation so you will “know” that whatever you want to do is God’s will. Actually, it simply means getting permission from the discipler.

Abusive disciplers expect you to:

  • make considerable time in your schedule for them
  • call them frequently to get advise
  • meet with them often
  • share with or confess your sins to them, and to be “transparent” to them in every area of your life (UBF: sogam sharing)
  • trust them with all your most intimate secrets–even though they may have nothing to do with sin (UBF: write a many-page “life testimony” containing intimate details which then gets “edited” down to 2 pages)
  • discuss even your non-moral decisions with them
  • trust the advice your discipler gives you, and obey this discipler in every area of your life.

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