Journey out of Church-Centered Christianity
and into a Love Relationship with Jesus Christ
PrefaceThanks to -
Chapter 1 - A Genuine Believer
Chapter 2 - Bewitched!
Chapter 3 - The Quest For Pure Gold: The Church
Chapter 4 - The Quest For Pure Gold: Individually and as a Family
Chapter 5 - The Siren's Song
Chapter 6 - Fame and Fortune
Chapter 7 - A Heavy Weight of Treasure?
Chapter 8 - A Man Behind The Curtain
Chapter 9 - Charybdis
Chapter 10 - The Man Who is Above All
Above all, thanks and praise to the Father of Lights, who opened our eyes, washed us, cleansed us and restored to us the joy of His salvation.
I endeavored to write this book from an orthodox, Biblical, Christian perspective. In no way am I suggesting some bold new "key" to the Christian life, or some new truth on what the church should really be like.
To the contrary, it is my goal to help those who have been thrown off course by over emphasis on personal holiness, the "way of the cross," discipleship or church truth, to find their way back to the simplicity that is in Christ.
The stories and examples that follow are all from personal experience, mainly my own, but also that of close friends and their families. This book may be considered by some to be lacking in profound insight, but it is a true story and as such reflects God’s patience and love toward one of His little ones.
Among those who are born into the family of God—that is real Christians-- there are many different views on many subjects. I refer specifically to those differing views that amount to preference, not those that are doctrinally heretical or ambiguous regarding the basic tenets of the Christian faith. In this book, by contrast, I have chosen to target the genre of teaching known as "Deeper Life" theology as taught by Watchman Nee, T. Austin-Sparks, Andrew Murray, Keswick writers such as Jesse Penn-Lewis and Hannah Whitehall-Smith, and others. What has been called Christian Mysticism could be included under the Deeper Life umbrella, if only for the purposes of this short book. The mystics that influenced me were Fenelon, Madam Guyon and Thomas a Kempis.
These authors are in no way teaching anything that is patently false or heretical. In fact, many of the things they have to say are blessed truths with regard to Christ’s finished work and the nature of the Church, which is His Body. There is much to be gleaned from these authors. However, it has been both my experience and that of many others, that with little prompting these Deeper Life ideas lend themselves to a subtle shifting of the focus of one’s faith, away from the person of Christ and all that He is, downward to ourselves and our churches, with all of their shortcomings. Then, after seeing our great lack, they prompt us to climb up to glory by some process, or by getting into a more correct church. I have come to refer to this as Church-centered Christianity. I submit that Christianity should be Christ-centered, with Him having the preeminent place in everything. Furthermore, when this is the case, all other problems will work themselves out under the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit and our churches will be vibrant and empowered, even if they are not quite patterned just the way some author insists.
Deeper Life proponents all have one thing in common. At the most basic level, they subscribe to the idea that most Christians are shallow and are only, "scratching the surface" of all that God has in store for them. Given this, from the beginning of a believer’s voyage into the Deeper Life, there is a danger of being overcome with pride and the blindness it brings. As for myself, this subtle pride caused me to do some very strange things, while not understanding just how extreme and incorrect my behavior had become. All the while, I thought that it was just another level in the Deeper Life.
While not to be utterly rejected, Deeper Life ideas can at times be likened to Infant Formula. During infancy, there may be instances where supplementing with formula is necessary, but nothing is as good as mother’s milk. In the same way, babes in Christ must be nourished on the sincere milk of the Word and only supplemented on rare occasions with the formula of men’s ideas about the Word. One might ask the question, "How is preaching any different from ‘men’s ideas about the Word?" I would answer that question by stating simply that the Bible is all about Christ, first and foremost. Any preaching or writing that discounts, confuses, neglects or forgets Jesus Christ and His finished work is at best in need of clarification. All to often, preaching that focuses on a specific experience in the Christian life, or a particular aspect of the Church, is part and parcel of the stuff from which cults are born. For examples, I cite the Local Church of Witness Lee and the Oneness Pentecostal movement.
The former was spawned from Watchman Nee’s Little Flock movement in China, which emphasized Deeper Life spirituality and more correct Church pattern and practice. Witness Lee went a few steps further in expounding on the Body of Christ and crossed the line into rank heresy, essentially claiming that the true Church, Lee’s church to be specific, is the fourth person of the Trinity! The Oneness Pentecostals, due to their over emphasis on the Holy Spirit, subjective experience and holy living, left themselves so weak in sound doctrine that they readily adopted the heresy of modalism, denying the Trinity and thus qualifying as a Christian cult. Both groups mentioned, and many others like them, prey on young, zealous, immature believers. They begin by assuming that certain Deeper Life ideas are correct, and then go a few steps further, using simplistic logic and faulty exegesis, to arrive at what seem to be reasonable conclusions. Unfortunately, these "doctrinal truths" are often heretical, and only seem logical to those who buy into a few false precepts and build upon their unstable foundation. Perhaps many of these victims could be spared if they were exposed to sound, Christ centered teaching early on in their Christian lives. If at all possible, that is my goal with this book.
I am quite aware that many of these Deeper Life ideas are touted as "meat" for the mature believer. To counter this claim, I submit that they are more like high-protein powders that are used by weightlifters. While they may play a significant role as supplements to a healthy diet, they are definitely unhealthy as a permanent substitute to real food, and as such need to be used sparingly. For example, if a young believer was to suffer crippling fear when sharing his faith with others, he might benefit from reading, Catching Men, a short booklet written by Watchman Nee, one of the fathers of the Deeper Life movement. While this little pamphlet has a few ideas about salvation that some might disagree with, it just might encourage our fearful young believer to be bolder in sharing his faith with others. However, our example would not benefit, in my opinion, by studying this book in detail, and concluding that, "This is the only way to preach the Gospel." Unfortunately, that is exactly what many Deeper Life proponents do, although they may not use Nee’s method, but some other.
In the pages that follow, I am in no way promoting the idea that ignorance is bliss with regard to Church truth, The Cross, Overcoming Life, Death to Self, or any other Deeper Life ideas. I am reminding people to focus on Jesus and His Character, Love, Work, Mercy, Grace, and forgiveness. If you have The Son, you have The Life. He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. On the other hand, even if I were to have all knowledge and insight into all mysteries, but have not Love, I am nothing.
Many churches that are suffering as a result of over emphasis of one or more of these ideas defend themselves by claiming that, "Every church has problems and ours is no exception." This is nothing more than self-justification. Yes, everywhere people go, including church meetings, problems are sure to follow. Yet, I submit that there are different categories of problems. Galatia’s trouble was different than Corinth’s, with a different solution to each. Most of the Deeper Life ideas, if taken to the extreme, result in what has been called The Galatian Heresy, which is nothing more than teaching that we need Christ, and something else. This "something else" is often following rules or needing to yield or appropriate some blessing or other. Sooner or later, our thoughts will become increasingly fixated on the "something else" and how we are progressing and less upon Jesus. This essentially becomes a doctrine that teaches a beginning in the Spirit, but being made perfect only after making the right choices and really meaning it.
Let no one say that I advocate the idea that believers do not need to be involved in corporate fellowship. Indeed, the more I fall in love with Jesus, the more I love being around His people. The desire for fellowship is proof of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work, not a pre-requisite to it. Again, let no one accuse me of promoting the idea that there is no depth or growth in the Christian life past initial salvation. We will be growing in Christ for all eternity! This will be only because we see Him as He is, not because we have dissected some aspect of our salvation and emphasized it until, thinking we understand it we set out to really live it. What this book is about is keeping the focus on Him, The Alpha and Omega, The Creator of all things, The God of Holiness, Mercy and Love. In the following pages, I shall relate to you some of the significant events in my own voyage into the Deeper Life. The emphasis I wish to make is on the need for correct navigation, not on debunking the proponents of Deeper Life.
This book is for all those voyagers who set sail into the Deeper Life, hoping to find more power and holiness, more correct churches and more joy and peace than they could get in a "normal" church amongst normal Christians. It is also for those who, some years into the voyage, find that their provisions are running low and their crew is discouraged. May my story help lead you to find rest for your souls.
Brent T., December 4, 2001
Comments from readers....
January 4, 2004, Becky W.: To quote Brent, "We felt like fools. Instantly we saw what many outsiders has seen all along. We were part of an elitist, arrogant church built around a very proud and controlling man's ideas." That's what we began to see a year ago Jan. 19th. Except when I said it then I used the word 'idiot'. As in, I feel like an idiot. Cheers, everyone. And if you haven't read the above, I do recommend it. Especially if you have loved ones still 'in'.
November 5, 2008, Ed.: Just ran across a cartoon that perfectly sums up Brent's conclusion to this article.