Part 10. After Leaving COBU. The First Days Out.

I have rewritten and expanded the entire contents of these pages as a book called Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available in paperback and as an eBook. You can also read the rough outline and first draft of Captive Congregation right here on these pages.

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When I walked out of COBU at the end of August 1993, it was like entering a new world. I was now living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with Chris, Dave and Denny, all of whom were older brothers who left the church several years before. Once I decided to leave COBU, it had only been a taxi ride from the church’s office on West 46th Street to get there, but the journey to get to that point had taken many years. And it had not been a straight line, because I often thought of leaving, but did not.

It was like a buffer zone to live with or be around dozens of ex-members of COBU. I also started going to Times Square Church in Manhattan, where there were about 50 ex-members of COBU. All of them said the same things I had thought about the church and Stewart Traill while I was still in. Denny explained why he believed there was no marriage in COBU. He said it was for economic reasons and the ability to have a small army of single and unattached people to work day and night in the church’s businesses. I couldn’t believe that someone else had arrived at the same conclusions I had. Until then, I had only my own observations and often it could be hard to believe my own thoughts. There also were the many books I read, but even so, there were no books written specifically about the Church of Bible Understanding in which someone put it all together in a systematic way, so it had been up to me, my observations and any help or aid in understanding that I got from books about cults and institutions to figure out the world I had been living in. There was nothing written in any book that said, “Stewart Traill is doing this or that, because…”  or, “the brothers and sisters in COBU act this way, because…”

In fact any of the very few mentions of the Church of Bible Understanding and the Forever Family (which was COBU’s original name) were in books published before 1979. There was often only one page or only one paragraph about the COBU in some general encyclopedia of cults and COBU was only briefly mentioned in some other books. This was all written before Stewart Traill claimed that he repented and said that he had been teaching wrong. There was no information in print on COBU published after this time period. It would be easy for me to think then that what was written about our chuch was true, but that it had been written before Stewart repented and that things were much better now here in COBU.

Toward the end of my stay, a more current description of COBU was published in the book Churches that Abuse, but I thought an angry ex-member’s story, and of course, after years of conditioning to think that ex-members were “backsliders” who told malicious lies about the church as an away to make excuses fir what they were really doing, which was rejecting the truth and looking for an easier way than the hard way that Jesus talked about. But even thought I was now beginning to believe something different about those who left (such as how thousands of people can’t all be wrong), these deeply implanted fears and beliefs had the nasty habit of kicking in and keeping their hold on my mind at the worst of times, like when I was seriously thinking about the church, my place in it and considering leaving it. It could be very hard to think objectively about things.

I often spent entire Sundays in Times Square Church, going to the morning, afternoon and evening services and going out to eat with ex-members and getting to know people who had not been in COBU. After being in long meetings in COBU for years, being in church all day on a Sunday (and going to evening services on Tuesdays and Thursdays) was nothing compared to that. Eventually I began to cut down the all day Sunday routine because I realized that I wasn’t being less spiritual if I only went to one service. Also, it was information overload to go to three services on Sunday, all of which were  scripted and crafted to lead to the altar call at the end of the sermon. I became annoyed as I sensed the cues about mid-sermon that were leading up to the altar call, when half the church came running forward to the front of the stage to receive whatever it was that had been preached about in the sermon. I sensed that manipulation going on, although it was nothing compared to what I had been subjected to for years. But still, I sensed it and didn’t like it.

But I don’t want to say anything bad about Times Square Church for this time period (There was more to come later when they had a church split and there was serious manipulation of information taking place and long-time members of that church were being abused and hurt spiritually.) I liked the church because there was a committee of pastors who were accountable to one another and who were not lone rangers like Stewart Traill was. There were men of integrity whose sermons I found uplifting, men like Bob Phillips and others. And it was good to see and hear David Wilkerson preach. I trusted him and pastoral trust, post-COBU, was a major issue. I read his book, The Cross and the Switchblade many years before and I had tremendous respect for him because of what he had done. And here I was, actually seeing him. (Yet, it was not like celebrity worship.)

And besides, I had written to David Wilkerson when I was still in COBU. When he read my letter, he told Chris and Dave to reach out to me and to “do anything you can to help that brother.” If Wilkerson hadn’t asked those brothers to help, they might not have offered me a place to stay and my journey toward leaving COBU would have taken longer and it’s possible that I might still be there. (I say that because in my earlier years in COBU whenever I was considering leaving, Stewart often came up with some program that would make me hope again and re-apply myself to cult life and to put all thought of leaving aside. Stewart was notorious for sensing unspoken discontent among us and when necessary, holding out some carrot on a stick, some motivational program, combined with being a little kinder toward us (that is, laying off his usual abuse for a while and telling us hopeful things about ourselves, such as that we just needed to hope in God’s love for us).

And the leading pastors of the church knew about Stewart Traill. They had even tried to contact him. A year or two before I left, Pastor Bob Phillips found out that a lot of ex-COBU members were going to Times Square Church. He had a series of meetings with them to hear their thoughts and to offer advice. (Later, I listened to the tapes of these meetings.) Bob Phillips said that we had lived under a system that didn’t include the grace of God. He also said that there had been good things in COBU but that it was mixed with deadly poison, like good food laced with rat poison. When I listened to the tapes of these meetings, it was good to hear a well-balanced explanation of what our lives had been like without the real love and grace of God and what we could do now to stay close to God.

I soon discovered there was another reason to go to so many church services: women. After a decade and a half of being under COBU’s relationship and marriage ban, I was ready to start a relationship. The sisters in the Church of Bible Understanding were women of good character and faith, but it was impossible for us to have relationships with them. Now, with all these single and available women in Times Square Church, and me, a new face on the singles’ scene, I thought I would soon have someone and someone really nice too! I was sure to be noticed as someone new and single there, and there had to be at least a dozen out of all those hundreds of women who might be interested in me.

I was soon to learn my place in the pecking order. It was at the bottom, the very bottom. I was not even like the reformed and reconditioned homeless men that the church brought in off the streets and in some cases, into the choir and even the ministry. These men were like the poster children (or poster men, in this case) for what Times Square Church was able to do, and rightly so. And some of these men had even started relationships and gotten married there. However, there was no recovery program or even recognition for those poor slobs who had been in a cult and who were economically disadvantaged and out of touch regarding fashion or how to socialize. (I had to learn to make what I considered to be silly and frivolous small talk in order to participate in conversations. I learned not to talk seriously about anything or about any serious issues such as current events, not even talking about what we learned in the sermon we had just heard. You didn’t say to someone, especially not to a woman, “So, what do you think about the grace of God?”)

But it wasn’t only women who were like that. I remember being in a party with Times Square Church people. There was a young man there who had been on a missions trip to Cuba and who also had cancer – both of which he had spoken about from the pulpit to the entire congregation. When I talked to him at this party according to what he had spoken about and according to my habit of being serious about things, I saw him back away from me and excuse himself to get another Coke. All I said to him was that the economic and social conditions in Cuba were still pretty bad and were likely to remain that way as long as Castro was still in power. But this gives an idea of how it was only by the use of inane and silly talk that I could get into conversations with people. I noticed that everyone there was clowning around and the guys were especially groveling for contact with the women. Dave, who was interested in a certain woman there, was sitting on his knees on the floor in front of her as she sat on the sofa and was trying to get tidbits of attention from her as she chatted with her girlfriends. But, who am I to say anything? I was just out of COBU, a world I would not want to go back to, even if sometimes I had serious conversations with my friends Paul and Steve there about current events, communism, politics and the Bible.

A woman there who I liked told Dave one day, “Your friend is smart. But tell him to get some new clothes.” That was Maria, who I had taken a liking to, in part because she was somewhat attractive and because she had shown some interest in me and my story. She grew up in communist Romania, had been subject to propaganda and had escaped across the border to the free world, “just like you ex-COBU people,” she said. And after the complete lack of feminine company in COBU, personal attention from a female felt wonderful. I was soon in love. It was very one-sided. And I was going to remain in this miserable condition for half a year.

I thought perhaps because I was “smart” and studied languages and did artwork that women would like me because of those abilities. I was also a “good listener.” I loved what I called the “art of conversation.” I liked to pay close attention to what others were saying instead of interjecting my opinions and sparring with others to show how much I knew. I liked to wait and listen. When there were silent spaces in a conversation, I waited for the other person to continue their dialog, knowing that during that pause, they were often thinking about what they had been talking about and that if I waited, their next comment would be deeper and more revealing. That was all well and good, but I soon learned that being the patient listener was not a service I should freely offer to women I was not already in a relationship with and that it wouldn’t get me a girlfriend. I learned that this habit made me seem like a nice guy friend and that if I wasn’t careful, she would use me as her go-to guy when she wanted someone vent to about how badly the guy she really liked (who wasn’t me) was treating her. I endured quite a few conversations like this, but over time, I learned to stop giving out a free listening ear, but with some regret now, because I liked doing this. A pastor there once said to me, “You listen on a deep level.”

But all of this goes under the category of “culture shock” for an ex-cult member entering the real world. Leaving COBU was like walking out into the heat of day. (When I was a kid, I remember walking out of an air-conditioned store on a hot day and feeling the contrast of the intense summer heat. It was like that for me when I left COBU. I’m not saying that I was in a comfortable and cool environment in COBU, but I was shielded from certain realities about social life and about life in general. You might say I was in a deep freeze and living in an artificial world.)

At least the homeless people in Times Square Church had a pragmatic understanding about their place at the bottom of society’s pecking order, but what about someone who had recently left an artificially constructed life in the society of a cult?  I had not had any meaningful relationships with women in my entire life and I was extremely naive about how things worked in the real world. I had been forbidden marriage for so long and now I had left COBU and was free from Stewart Traill’s control over that part of my life. And now, I fully expected to get on with this important area of my life. I soon found out that the gears didn’t quite go into drive and that was devastating to say the least. I expected that I could easily start a relationship and move on to marriage as part of becoming a real person, something I had been unable to do for so long. I thought it was going to be easy and that it as only the ban on marriage that had been the problem and that now that I wasn’t in COBU anymore, I could finally take care of this. But it turned out to be a major roadblock in my life and I began to hyperfocus on it. I was going to need money. I was going to need a good job. Nothing that I shouldn’t have over time, but at 35, I wasn’t able to provide a woman with a house and to furnish it – and she would expect nothing less than that. Any woman I met was likely to be making more money than I did. No, I couldn’t get married now, I couldn’t even start a relationship now, I still had to wait! It was just like being COBU, but for different reasons.

Maybe I could have thought about it differently but this is how it seemed to me at the time. Maria was a fashion designer and she made a lot of money, or at least had at some time in the past, and I was making eight dollars an hour to install floor tiles. It was going to be a long, long journey to marriage. This is the first brick wall I hit after leaving COBU and I wasn’t prepared for its effects on me. Until then, it had been all about my (somewhat valiant, I thought) struggle. I had a meaningful story. I had been through a great battle. I had come to know the truth. And now, out here, all of that was utterly worthless. I remember when I used to go to a Romanian church that was associated with Times Square Church, that one day, two Romanian men came to the service. They told us about how they escaped from Romania by hiding in the casing that surrounded the smoke stack of a cargo ship until the ship reached a port in the free world. It was a dramatic escape story. Now they were here in the free world, but were financially destitute, and what woman was going to be interested in them, no matter how brave and daring they had been? There were several single women in this church service and I noticed that they seemed to regard these guys with a certain coolness and that they really didn’t want to talk to them. I was beginning to see that it was really about the assets you have right now that makes a woman interested in you. This was a kind of school of hard knocks lesson for me. Rather than being a new source of interest on the singles scene at the church, I was invisible at best.

After a year of being at Times Square Church, I finally did get into a relationship with a woman – a manipulative and abusive woman. I won’t go into much detail about this relationship, other to say that maybe because I had been subject to so much manipulation in COBU that it was easy to be manipulated again. And that even though there were many higher quality women at the church, their interest was not mutual. These women were just not going to get interested in the somewhat shabbily dressed guy (I did start wearing clothes from The Gap and threw out the worn out dirty clothes and sneakers I had worn in COBU and also shaved off my scraggly beard) who was too serious and who had stiff and unreal mannerisms. (Some people there said I looked “bound,” which was a kind of Christianese term meaning that I was bound by demonic forces or that I was into deeply sinful behavior in my private time – but really it was the cult-induced devastation in my life that was still visible in my person.) But there were some women who were damaged goods living on the edges of church society who might be interested in a relationship with me. And after a year of continuing to live under a no-relationship ban (albeit for different reasons than in COBU) I was more open for such things. There were no alternatives, it seemed, other than continuing to stay single.

Well, I did learn something from this. I learned to recognize abusive relationships and abusive people (in this case, abusive women) more clearly and to understand my part in these relationships, namely my susceptibility to entering into them in the first place. Once in a relationship like this, I had a tendency to remain in it and to try to talk to the woman about the way she was treating me in order to get her to stop being that way, instead of just getting out. I thought that if I explained how I felt, she would understand and would work together on our relationship to make it better. But now I understood the patterns in these relationships and how they worked from firsthand experience. I understood that talking to an abusive woman just opened me up to more abuse, because as I explained my situation to her, she was just collecting information about me to use to manipulate me even more. She was playing by a different rulebook, in which there was no fairness or give and take. The upside is that the next relationships I got into with abusive women, or with women who were dismissive and disdainful toward men, I got out quicker. The last such woman I met, I recognized all the signs, the red flags and the dismissive behavior toward me and I just didn’t call her back after the first date. I understood to not join a cult again, but I hadn’t known about this kind of abusive relationship. (A cult can be considered an abusive relationship.)

I would like to talk a little now about encounters at the time with people who were still in COBU.  When I left, no one came looking for me. This was rather unique, because when someone left, there was an effort to go and get them and to convince them to come back COBU. This was also a form of belief reinforcement for us, because we put on a hard sell to discontented members that our was the best way of life. I even used to keep a list of home addresses and family addresses I copied from the covers of letters written to brothers and sisters in COBU, so if they left, I would have the names and addresses of parents and family members to trace them with. Part of this convincing discontented church members was to get them to renounce their doubts and complaints about life in COBU or about Stewart Traill.

Bernie came and went a few times just after I left COBU. He came to stay with us at Chris and Dave’s apartment, then he went back to the cult. (This is called a revolving door exit by cult counselors. It can take some people several attempts at leaving to finally leave, and Bernie was one such case.) Kevin and Chuck sometimes called for Bernie there. Dave asked Kevin, “So how come you never call for Jim LaRue to try to get him to go back to the church?” Dave didn’t really think I should go back, but the reason they never called to talk to me about coming back to the cult was obvious. I was vocal (at least in COBU standards, where such talk was forbidden) about what was wrong with the church and what was wrong with the leader of the church. Because of that, no one wanted me back. If I had said I was a worthless sinner who had fallen into sin, they would have put out effort to get me to return to COBU. And if along with that, I said I had a few misgivings and complaints about life in the church, they would have said that this wasn’t the real issue and that the real issue was my sin and rebellion. People who admitted to these things were always welcomed back into the cult. The only way anyone could come back was on their knees and repenting – and laying aside all their complaints.

A few days after I left, I had to go to COBU’s church office. I went there with Denny and Dave. I was utterly ignored, but the COBU brothers went head to head with Denny and Dave in a very violent attack (but without swear words, because COBU members didn’t swear or fight physically). It was like a gunfight in an old western movie. The brothers were merciless in their attacks on Dave and Denny, but they completely ignored me. The brothers main contention with Dave and Denny (and with anyone who leaves COBU) was that they could not be faithful to Jesus unless they were in COBU. Dave and Denny insisted that they could be, and were faithful to Jesus. The COBU brothers asked them, “So if you’re faithful to Christ, why aren’t you here, uniting with your brothers and sisters?” This may not sound like something to fight about, but it was a bitter and angry fight and it was wearying for Dave and Denny to have to deal with. And perhaps, because of their many years of conditioning and training in the COBU way of thinking, somewhere deep down inside, they may have feared this was true, and it was annoying to have to deal with. The COBU brothers knew exactly what buttons to press and where to apply pressure. Dave and Denny knew that it was objectively true that a person doesn’t have to be in COBU to be faithful to Jesus, but that doesn’t mean that the brothers were not able to trigger an emotional response from them. And it was not an open, two-sided dialog, because the COBU brothers weren’t going to admit to their own doubts or that there could be anything wrong with COBU or its leader. Instead, they were in total attack mode. This lack of civility was also extremely annoying. I stood by as this was happening and interjected a comment now and then, such as, “Actually, I left COBU to be able to serve Jesus.” But I was utterly ignored and no one responded to anything I said. It felt good to be able to freely speak my mind now that I had left. I was certainly convinced that I made the right decision, and that I could serve Jesus outside of COBU. But no one wanted to talk to me or hear what I had to say, because no one wanted me back in COBU.

Much the same thing was repeated in April of the next year when I needed information to file taxes (from working at the church’s business) and I had to almost beg on the phone for it. I threatened legal action if they didn’t give it to me. It is a COBU custom to give a nasty workover to anyone calling or trying to come over to retrieve such information or to get their belongings after they’ve left. Church members think they’re taking part in the sin of those who have left if they just let them get their things without putting up a fight. When I finally went to get my tax information from the Christian Brothers cleaning company, as well as a document that said I had “donated” all my income to the church in return for room and board (the room and board was valued at around 250 dollars for the year), Joe summarily handed me my envelope at the door. (Dave gave me a ride to COBU’s office, but this time, he decided to stay in the car.)

I want to talk a little bit about the Times Square Church split here. There was a falling out between David Wilkerson and his brother Don and Pastor Bob Phillips. I attended some of the meetings in a different part of the city where Wilkerson’s brother and Pastor Phillips explained to the people who had left Times Square Church (David Wilkerson had excommunicated some of them) that they weren’t going to hell because they were no longer in Times Square Church. They said that David Wilkerson went to extremes at times and that when he did, no one could talk to him about it. I saw that a lot of these people were worried about their eternal state. Not unlike those who left COBU, I thought. Of course, I realized that they weren’t going to hell for disagreeing with David Wilkerson or for being tossed out of his church. (The choir director, Gwen W., was badly affected by this. When I met Gwen many years later at a worship music seminar, she denied ever having been in Times Square Church – even though she was a well-known worship leader there. I walked away from her when I saw that she didn’t want to talk about it, or talk to me after I brought up the subject. All I had wanted to do was to tell her how much I appreciated how she led worship when I used to go there. She had a ghostly look on her face as she shook her head in denial, saying, “No, no, I’ve never been to Times Square Church.”) Although the former members of Times Square Church at this meeting were distressed and shaken up, I had a “been there, done that” feeling. Compared to what I had been through in COBU, what these people were going through was nothing. But I understood that, though by comparison, this was an extremely watered-down version of my own experience in COBU, it was extremely devastating to many of them.

Those who were still going to Times Square Church thought that these people were now lost souls. I remember hearing one person say that we should pray for them, that God would bring them back to the path of life and not be lost and on their way to hell. David Wilkerson summarily declared that everyone who was not in agreement with him about certain decisions were in rebellion, including summarily firing Gwen, who was well-liked and even beloved by church members. There was to be no dialog. When Jayne, a woman Dave, Chris and I knew pretty well, went to talk to Wilkerson about the matters at hand, he interrupted her and told her, “You’re in rebellion.” Well, such is the downside of leaders who think that God talks to them – and in Wilkerson’s case, God did talk to him and guide him many times. Yet, I suppose a leader can become overconfident and get into the prophet of God mindset and consider themselves above question. But what Wilkerson did was minor compared to the way Stewart Traill acted. I still believe Wilkerson lived an exemplary life and that he was a good pastor, but also that he made some bad decisions in some areas. What I did like about Wilkerson was that, at least until this happened, he was honest about his mistakes and even apologized to his congregation sometimes. For some reason, this was different.

Wilkerson used manipulation and information control about the church split that was going on by preaching sermons about gossip and about what God does to people who gossip and what God did to those who murmured against Moses. He said that God would destroy his enemies too. It slowly became clear to me that a church split was going on and that Wilkerson was using the pulpit to attack this other faction in the church. He didn’t name any names, but those present probably realized that if the shoe fit, that they were wearing it. After about three weeks of this and the slowly emerging story about the ongoing church split, I realized, although I had not been directly involved, that I had been subject to an angry pastor and manipulation based on biblical themes, just like in COBU, but on a far lower level than in COBU. But it all helps to emphasize the point, not to trust in man, but to trust in God, and that all leaders are fallible. About this time, I had an offer to move to New Jersey to a house where three other ex-COBU brothers were living, and I began to go to a church in New Jersey and I didn’t go to Times Square Church anymore.

14 Responses to “Part 10. After Leaving COBU. The First Days Out.”

  1. angela crocker Says:

    Very informative I wondered about David Wilkerson He seemed to have some issues towards end and I question his visions His sermons almost seemed like rantings Angela

  2. A friend Says:

    All I can say is, if it had not been for faithful, but imperfect people like Dave Wilkerson, there would be no lasting legacy. While no church is perfect, I will forever be thankful for all the wonderful God filled messages that God used to shape my life at Town Hall & lastly at the Mark Hellinger Theater. We as God’s people should always remember that 1. God is greater than all man’s mistakes, and uses them all for our benefit….. 2. things are not always the way we think they are, or appear in our own eyes.

  3. James Says:

    To me, David Wilkerson is like David of the Bible. He was a man after God’s heart. And, for a time, David was sinning pretty badly. It was written about in the Bible and is known and has been talked about for centuries after, until this day. We can talk about that.

    In your comments you seem to want David Wilkerson spoken of only in a favorable light, and you can tell me if I’m misreading your intentions. However, David Wilkerson was a man after God’s heart, and for a time, he was sinning rather badly toward some people. You seem to say we can’t talk about that.

    At the time, David Wilkerson was not extending the privilege to others that you say should be given to him. He wasn’t looking at the people he was mistreating as “faithful but imperfect people.”

    You seem to be saying that we ought to overlook (and not talk about) the faults of Christian leaders – although it might be OK to talk about the faults of Christian followers. (By that, I mean you didn’t defend the people who were abused by Wilkerson at the time. You didn’t say they were imperfect people and that God was using them anyway.)

    About your numbered comments, it seems as if you are saying to me:
    1) When Christian leaders screw up, God is using them anyway, so it was all for the good. (But Christian followers probably can’t get away with saying that about their own actions.)
    2) That what I wrote about David Wilkerson is wrong and that since God uses leaders like him, I don’t realize what was happening behind the scenes. You seem to say that there was probably a perfectly legitimate reason for what Wilkerson did, and that I just don’t understand.

    We did go to several meetings where David Wilkerson’s brother and other senior pastors of Times Square Church explained what was going on behind the scenes. They said that David Wilkerson was wrong. They said that Wilkerson was headstrong and would not listen to the council of the other pastors about the matters going on at the church. They reassured the people who were no longer going to Times Square Church that they were not going to hell now that they were no longer attending Times Square Church and that Wilkerson’s condemnation of them had been wrong. That it was wrong for Wilkerson to do and that what Wilkerson said to them was wrong.

    Some of the issues had to do with a woman that Wilkerson called in to lead the Hannah House program for abused and homeless women. When more than just a few people came to talk to Wilkerson about their legitimate complaints about this woman (let’s just say it was about her poor leadership style), Wilkerson would hear none of it, but accused every questioner of being “in rebellion,” saying that God had told him personally to hire this woman, and therefore all who disagreed with this woman were rebels and fighting against God. Gwen, the worship leader of the church was especially abused during this incident. I met her years after and she would not even acknowledge having been at Times Square Church.

    Since this is a blog about the Church of Bible Understanding, I want to put this reply in the context of COBU. What I wrote about Times Square Church here (and I said many favorable things about it) is in the context of COBU and leaving COBU. A major issue about COBU is about Christian leaders (most people will not say Stewart Traill is a Christian leader, but those still in COBU will defend him just as this last commenter defended Wilkerson at all costs) and about the infallibility of Christian leaders and to what extent our responsibility is to follow and obey these leaders. Can we be aware of their faults? Or are we not allowed to talk about this?

  4. Lighting a Candle Says:

    Great blog. I can relate to many aspects, having also left an abusive bible based cult…esp the culture shock in the real world. Clothing…social…check- check-check! I am having difficulty finding a church that I feel comfortable in. The one I’ve been visiting is feeling unsafe because the pastor is starting to leave more traditional Bible doctrine and the church feels cliquey. I’ve heard it said that ex-cult members can sense “BS” very easily…I think we have a radar for manipulation.

    How are things now?

    • James Says:

      What was the bible based cult you left? What was it like there and what are you doing now. It’s true, what you say about the radar for manipulation.

  5. Avrohom Ben Chaim Says:

    I used to go to TSC about 20 yrs ago and for some reason I never felt at home in that church,although I had many friends in the church.My wife at that time was always very impressed but I was’nt. Sister Gwen was (is) such a talented and sweet lady. She could preach to btw., and I enjoyed listening to her when she did.So sad to hear that those things have happened to her.

    To make a long story short…..I have been in a few churches in my life time and what I noticed in most Evangelical or Pentecostal churches is the manipulation of people , money and power. So un Christian in my humble opinion,I could tell you a few stories,but I won’t.I never got involved in anything or said anything, but I could’nt help noticing and see some things. Not always very pretty to tell you the truth.

    People very often put preachers on a pedestal instead of giving God the glory. And those preachers let them. Out of all the pastors I’ve met, only 2 really impressed me, Pastor Ted Williams from teen challenge (Tri County Worship center ) in Pennsylvania and Kurt Erickson who is in London and who started several orphanages.They never got paid big salaries and are so humble.

    Now a days I am not even going to church no more and if I do , it is to a more traditional church.

    I enjoyed your blog, I was looking for Bob Philips to see how and what he was doing . That’s how I stumbled on your blog.
    God bless you:
    Avrohom.

    • James Says:

      Thanks Avrohom. Yes, that was so long ago now. 20 years ago. You are right about not putting leadership on a pedestal. That is / was the lesson for me. I’ve had to learn it several times, but I learn quicker now then I used to. Did you ever find out about how Bob Philips is doing?

  6. Avrohom Ben Chaim Says:

    The information about Bob Philips I found on the internet is a little confusing. A couple of sites are saying that he is a senior Pastor in Houston but when I go to the church’s website his name is’t even mentioned.But he is still around and preaching. As for me , I retired 7 years ago, moved to Las Vegas and enjoy retired life. No , I did’nt move here because of the casino’s but because of the low rents.

  7. J Says:

    Fyi, I heard from reliable sources that Bob Phillips is not physically well and so stepped down as Senior Pastor at Encourager Church in TX. Unfortunately I heard that Gwen W the worship leader passed away in 2014. She never was the same after the fallout again from what I heard. Many left traumatized from that experience but the problem in part, is that we rely too much on the arm of flesh to lead us in the way that only Christ can. When they inevitably show their own “human ways” we freak out.

    I love DW but saw a bit of what you’re all talking about. I go to TSC and have for many years but God help me to never look for a human savior. We all so miserably fail in that category.

    Not to prolong this, but I read the 10 parts and found it exceptional. I know a few ex members from cobu and my sympathy goes to all who were destroyed to some degree by Traill.

  8. inchrist Says:

    I was on staff at Hannah House. Everything you state in this is true. David did manipulate the pulpit and others and could also be very rude and condescending. I could go on forever regarding everything I experienced and saw first hand; however, it would not edify anyone. I appreciate your sharing. I also read Churches that Abuse and Recovering from Churches that Abuse both books were very eye opening and helped me to understand why I was drawn to TSC in the first place. Albeit painful (what I went thru while on staff at Hannah House), God used it, because I had man in God’s place. I mainly learned as Job “My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”
    I also can freely say now that it is okay to speak up about our experiences when negative gotta call things as they are. Before David Wilkerson’s death, I had made up my mind that I would not step another foot in that church (TSC) until David issued an apology. Never heard if he did or not but now that he has passed, I still will not enter TSC as Carter is just as bad as David was.

    • James Says:

      inchrist, It’s good to hear from someone who was there to confirm it. And yes, if it’s negative, it’s good to call it out. I think that if there was never an apology or acknowledgement from David Wilkerson, or those that were there, then things are likely to continue as they are. It is not like David Wilkerson and others were just unaware that these things happened, also David’s own brother and other pastors talked to him about it, so it’s just not a lack of knowledge on their part and if someome brought it to their attention now, even after so many years, that they would consider it. The best lesson is, of course, not to trust in man or to put anyone in the place of God. It’s the lesson in the Bible too, considering the many leaders who acted wrongly, at least at some time in their lives. It’s also the lesson I learned in COBU. These things can, and do, happen anywhere, and to different degrees.

  9. Avrohom Ben Chaim Says:

    To InChrist

    I really hope that you find what you are looking for. If you are looking for the “perfect church” , you probably won’t find it, But most of the Pentecoastal or non demoninational(?) churches are following the same patterns. Pastor is in charge and what he says goes , if you disagree you are rebellious ,Very often they put family in well paid church positions etc., etc,.Just take a look at Jimmy Swaggart….his family and how they run things and their lifestyles..David Wilkerson was different because he was a little smarter and not so obvious.But Gary, his son ,is in charge of World Challenge and World Challenge owns TSC. And so on , and so on .I have seen fist fights in churches over who should be the next Pastor .I wish I would not have seen all those things , but it did open my eyes. Just keep your faith in God ,and God only.

  10. Ingrid Howard Says:

    I was there from the beginning and loved pastor Dave and left during that time. But he always taught us to keep our eyes on . But came back after 2 yrs and more than survived what happened and I praise God. Eyes on Jesus. Sorry for type. I knew Gwen and I know there were casualties. It’s hard to be a perfect leader and a perfect sheep. But I wouldn’t exchange those 24 yrs for all the world. I got preached a sure foundation being Christ. But it was good to hear input .

  11. Timothy Gill Says:

    David wilkerson church mixes law with grace. That is a dangerous combination. You can not have assurance that way.

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