Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cell Churches Are a Pyramid Scheme?

See this blog entry article for context:

"Beware of Cell Groups and Life Groups"

This is a secular website that comes from left side of things, but I think they are on to something here.

Cell Churches 101: Setting up your own religious pyramid scheme

How cell-churches work is actually rather simple--the best model to look at, in fact, is probably the plethora of "affinity schemes" and similar pyramid schemes promoted throughout the dominionist community.

At top, you have the pastor. Below him, he is "shepherd" over the assistant pastors; these are in turn "shepherds" over the deacons; the deacons are in turn "shepherds" over the small-group managers, these in turn are "shepherds" over smaller groups, and so on until you get down to "home churches" or "cell churches" of around six people, including a "shepherd".

Those of you who are familiar with pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing have seen this before. Namely, everyone reports to or gives money to the "upstream", and they report to the "upstream", and so on and so on till you hit the very head of the organisation.

AmWay (which I've reported on before in regards to their own dominionist connections and in particular the promotion of frank Assemblies theology in the Yaeger downline) also tends to operate a lot like this; to this day I have to wonder which came first--the MLM, or the remarkably MLM-like setup used in cell churches.

At any rate, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that this form of setup is inherently abusive--a surprising number of MLMs (not just AmWay IBOs, but things like Herbalife and such) are considered potentially abusive because of the pressure given to members by the "leaders" of that particular level.

However, this is relatively small potatoes in comparison to the level of coercion in a typical neopente cell-church.

At any rate, I do mention this setup because it's important to know how they work--as it is, these are incredibly effective tools both for very rapid growth and for ensuring control. (If you have multiple "big brothers" reporting back and "herding" a group, it becomes very difficult indeed to have any dissent in practice.)

In the case of Yoido Full Gospel, the level of layering is very apparent in the first three layers--Cho at top, and 171 associate pastors and 356 lay pastors (who are themselves supervised by associate pastors). The number of potential "big brothers" only gets more numerous from there.

And, as it turns out, the primary problem IS with these "big brothers"--just as it is with other kinds of pyramids. An article from a rare premillenial dispensationalist church opposed to dominionist tactics lays out how these groups operate in practice:


Kayfabe said...

Good Morning Bible Believer,

Before I became a believer I attended the PSI seminar back in 95, it was a multi level marketing LGAT (Large Goup Awareness Training). My moms work paid for me to go as she was/is into all that physcology stuff so I went and it is easy to get caught up in the emotion of it. After a day or so they break you up into cell groups where the leader who has already taken the course asks everyone to list their goals in life. Once you discuss your goals they ask how do you plan to accomplish those, well they are nice enough to direct you to their mens/womens leadership course for 700 dollars plus or their PSI 7 advanced course held at a ranch in No Cal for 1200 dollars. I started to exspose the cell leader for manipulating everyone right to his face and told the others in the group not to feel pressured to purchase the advanced seminars. It was sad seeing the other members of the cell group struggling with the decision to part with money they didn't have especially with the cell group leader badgering them. If you dared say that you couldn't afford the advanced seminars they told you that your "programs" were at work. They used the word "programs" to indicate destructive thought patterns you had grown up with.

Despite the above I still felt good on graduation day when they showed a video of the advance seminars but then a rude awakeing took place, after the video ended they broke out the cash registers and credit card machines. They really beat people up during this time as they tried to manipulate everyone to sign up. Any reason for not signing up for these seminars and you were told that your "programs" were comong into play. After all this I attended one of the cell groups that formed in the wake of the seminar and it was the same deal. Upon my arrival they asked me how my day was and I said that it was a tough day for me and immediatley I was shunned and told that my "programs" were at work. I stopped going after this but I still kept in contact with members of my cell group and everyone that signed up for the advanced seminars regretted it. There are those that really get into PSI and there horror stories about losing their families, going into serious debt etc. These wolves in the cell church movement will answer one day to our Lord.

I was attending a home fellowship recently where the original plan was to send out a couple to start their own home fellowship once the original house became too full. After a year the couple that broke off would be left on their own by the original home church, so it would be one year of overseeing by the original home church pastor. I was okay with that as I was overjoyed to be out of the institution and in a home church. Little by little the home church pastor was doing things that I thought weren't needed with finances, however the kicker was when he told us that his vision had changed and that any home fellowships that broke off from his home fellowship would be under his oversight permanenetly as opposed to just one year. I left shortly after, who knows this may be the start of a cell home church movement.

Bible Believer said...

Yeah there is a mega overlap with this church cell stuff, and the business world and other pyramid schemes. Makes you wonder if Peter Drucker and pals helped with that. I had a friend do "The Forum" which was another name for EST, and they directed you upwards to more and more expensive courses, as you went through with a lot of mind control and persuasion ones thrown in. I asked her if they were allowed to use the bathroom and she said "No, you could not leave unless it was an assigned break". Yeah they told her she was holding herself back, using different language not moving up to the more expensive thousands of dollars tiers instead of the hundreds of dollars tier. Yeah all about the heavy sale, and submitting to 'higher' human "authorities. What is loathsome about the church cell groups, is they teach people LEADERSHIP over church members they should not even hold a leadership role over and sell the retreats and more which often do cost money, though certainly not at the level of the EST and PSI types, but 100 bucks or so. Normal working class or lower folks, aren't going to have that type of money, so it seems, class differences would even determine who gets to be the leader down at the local mega-church.

Any place where you are manipulated it's a bad deal, church or otherwise. Their use of the word "programs" actually sounds like Scientology talk, where you are supposed to get deprogrammed in their case rid of all your "thetas".

All of this is about oversight, yeah remember how cell groups and councils watched even the littlest village in Maoist China...

I can see why you got away from that pastor, who demanded pernament oversight over your home fellowship. Did the other members come out? I hope so.

Kayfabe said...

My friend and another brother left as well. After my friend left I was torn because I desperatley wanted to be a part of a home fellowship. The Pastor called me and started railing against my friend and the other gentleman that left. He used things that they shared with him against them and the thing that woke me up is when he told me that my friend wasn't a brother in the Lord. I decided to leave after that and he still tried to persuade me by telling me that he bought me a bible as I lost mine but I didn't accept it. He started off good but was quickly turning it into a mini institution.

Bible Believer said...

Can see why your friends and church members left, did they form a home fellowship of their own? Perhaps that would be an option. It sounds like that pastor almost wanted to break your group up, which is alarming. I am glad you parted ways. The control they want over all these groups is not good.