Agape Mission Church

6615 Santa Barbara Road
Elkridge
Maryland
21075
Denomination: 
Other Charismatic
Inwardly focused, charismatic, heavy on authority of leadership
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Agape Mission Church has many college-campus-ministries in the area, which it uses as its prime form of recruiting. Sundays feature a charismatic worship style. Intentionally strong community is formed in small groups, where I found trained leaders to exercise a great amount of authority over participants.

Both myself and my friends had painful experiences with this church: some found it nearly impossible to leave, others believed themselves to be intentionally excluded from the community after awhile.

Comments

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This church is very contemporary and based in community fellowship. The messages provide an understanding of Scripture in a modern-day context. God's love is emphasized very much, and the church provides a wonderful environment for worship and prayer. The friendships that you make here are lasting and profound-  the staff are genuine and caring, and attendees are not pressured in any manner. There is an open, welcoming atmosphere, and the strong leadership of the church is meant to establish a sense of community, direction, and purpose in God's will. It is not meant to coerce or ostracize anyone. Likewise, the small groups exist because students come from different campuses and therefore have more established relationships with their fellow peers.

 

How can two apparently polite, respectful people have such incredibly different takes on one church? IMO, this is why this site exists: to share diverse experiences within one faith and oftentimes one church. I hope you would reach out to each other and discuss... and I thank you for coming by regardless, Estelle...
Matt

This is, generally speaking, the difference between someone who attends the church currently (I'm guessing that's estelle) and someone who used to (pretty much the majority of the comments below).

Agape Mission Church is like the Jehovah Witnesses in that when you leave for any reason you are subject to being disfellowshipped and a shunning.  They need to explain this sooner rather than later.  Fellowship is obligatory therefore when you are there especially within your group there is a welcoming that is resembles something probably similar to what churches experienced as the early churches were being formed in the New Testament (family like).  I think it has a very comfortable feel overall.  The worship is great, I love Hillsong United and if you love that kind of worship music then you will love Agape Mission Church. 

I left and moved 3 hours away (for work), found it unusual that no one contacted me (a little guilty) but when I moved back into the area, I came back into the fold. People were friendly and I was placed with a new group closer to my home location.  There was no real issues accept that before I came back into the fold, I started going to another church and I found that it felt more like home to me.  So I had a tug of war with my heart and I am settling in well with the new church.  I wanted to let people know that nothing can separate us from God and that God knows what we need.  Mend peacefully and love cheerfully. 

Estelle,

My experience with Agape also started very bright back in teh college days.  I thought the people were very genuine, and that everyting was great.  But just want to extend a friendly warning from someone who has seen the inner workings - if you stay long enough and want to become member (potg) - there is a great deal of behavior controll, isolation from others outside agape, manipulations, etc (see more in posts below)  What happened with me and many others is that the leaders have absolute controll over everything in your life without question, but this may not be the case for everyone.  If you try to leave, they will slander you behind your back, along with completely ignoring you.  There will be no more friendship at all, much less "lasting and profound"  This is my personal experience after years at agape.  Hope this helps ... i really hate to just bring out negatives, but countless people have been hurt by this church.  No church is perfect, but certain aspects of agape are unnecesary, frustratign, and difficult to comprehend. 

Agreed! The environment is conducive to meeting God! Think about it, we live day in and day out with the pressures of the world, luring us away from what's holy and pleasing to God. This is a place of refuge, God's house where his people are restored and all who are weary and burdened can come and find rest and healing. The world needs more of this kind of community.

Dear Estelle,

I totally agree :).  I've been ministered to by this church for over 13 years.  I came as a young adult in my early twenties with many broken relationships and hurts, but was welcomed with the love and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Throughout the years, as I "tested the waters" in the church, all I received was continued healing and encouragement to receive all that the Lord had for me.  It was very different from what I had experienced before.  There was a genuine love and desire in the people who were part of the church to love the Lord with all the "heart, soul, mind and strength". 

As I continued to grow as part of the church, I experienced miracles where people were healed through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.   It was then that I was convinced that God was truly working in this church.  I experienced an overwhelming desire to know what God really teaches in his Word and with the encouragement of the pastors here and through seminary courses offered at the church by leading Christian biblical scholars including Dr. Grant Osborne, Dr. Willem VanGemeren and Dr. Robert Gagnon, I began to understand how the church was set apart to do God's work; to love and lead others to Christ. 

By God's grace, over the years, I was given the opportunity to minister to others.  At each point, it was always voluntary and a privilege.  And even through my mistakes, I learned how it's God's incredible love and grace that carries us and our ministry. 

This continues to be the process that God takes me and my family through as we set our hearts to love God's church and others.  It's by God's grace that I was led to this incredible church and ministered to by his love and I pray that God will continue to include us in the wonderful work that he has entrusted to his church to love and lead others to Christ.

Would be great to have some disclosure on how you served and the process of serving.

 

Chris.

Estelle, my experience in the church has been similar to yours.  I am not a college student, but first came to the church as a young professional several years ago.  It has been a wonderful place for me to experience and grow in God's love.  I have found here what church is meant to be - a place to worship and truly meet God, to have real fellowship with others, and to learn to serve my generation and this world with the love of Christ.  Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us - this mixed up and beautiful people He calls His church (universal).  May we love like Him!  I hope that all those looking on a website like churchrater.com will find, as I have, a church where they are meant to be - to love and serve the Lord until we see Him face to face.

I agree, Estelle. I love this church!

My experience started in college as well and I have grown so much in knowing who God is and how much He loves me through small group and continuing to come and grow with community. Through the preaching on Sundays, I have come to understand how important God's Word is in my life in knowing God and receiving all that He has for me.

These are very happy responses for estelle.  I was wondering if anyone would be able to comment on some of the negative reviews below.  Would really appreciate it. 

 I was a part of this church for several years. For someone attending the first few times, everything seems great. The worship, leaders, accountability, prayer...everything seems perfect for someone looking to really grow. But after some time the leaders do become more authoritative over you, especially if you become a leader, which, everything is geared so that you become one. I do not agree that the friendships/relationships you build are strong or real, because after leaving the church, even on good terms, everyone cuts off any relationship with you, regardless of how many years you've been their "brother" or "sister" in Christ. I, along with many other friends, have left and still feel the repercussions of being so controlled in a church like this. 

I agree with jclove's comments.  I left on good terms, where they welcomed me to come back if i decided to.  I spent 12 years building life long relationships with friends and with my own family at this church.  After leaving on good terms my own family at this church disowned me.  My own brother refused to talk to me going on for almost 3 years today. He refused to come to my wedding.  How is that biblical?  How can a member of agape church continue to worship at this church having been unreconciled with his brother. To note my brother has been a member for over 13 years.

I am stating facts here.  I would really like people who have been replying positively on this site to respond to my facts and not with feelings.

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 Pros:  Agape has a strong focus on missions, young adult outreach and building cohesive spiritual communities. Their model of fellowship and discipleship is slightly radical because, in their definition, church is not limited to one hour a week on Sunday. Fellowship is a 24 hours, 7 days a week lifestyle fueled by the Word and Love of God. Unlike so many youth campaigns out there, they do not sacrifice the biblical truth for "cultural relevance". However, they are willing to some biased degree (will explain later), to become "...all things to all men so that by all means I might save some." They understand the power of small groups in tightening the church community and facilitating personal spiritual growth. The scriptures are preached with care and the sermons are well prepared. A Jam session with them takes worshiping God to a whole new level.There is a wonderful emphasis on prayer and fasting.

Middle: The sermons are painfully simple however, and doesn't have much theological depth. This is ok if you are a new Christian, or during your first few months attending the church. However, after awhile you can predict the course and content of sermons with about 85% precision. Many of the "leaders", not so much the pastors, are not that knowledgeable in scripture. They tend to regurgitate interpretations they have been taught, rather than what they read in the bible. I do remember quoting some scripture to leaders and they just sat there with blank looks. This is somewhat dangerous, but having a doctorate in scripture is not a biblical requirement for leadership. So I will let that slide. Emotionalism is rampant, but that's an issue in many churches. And I don't have the capacity to judge whether it's a genuine response to the Holy Spirit or just the flesh. Who knows.

Cons: The hallmark of the church is intensive college outreach. However, there is a disturbing pattern. They dared to penetrate Georgetown and GWU, but not Howard, American University or UDC. In Baltimore, it's UMBC, Johns Hopkins, but not Morgan or Loyola, Notre Dame or Towson which are minutes from Hopkins. They are extremely selective, and I have my theories which will remain unmentioned here. Their community outreach is also very selective as well. The church is situated on the precipice of Baltimore City, a city which is replete with churches that are disconnected from it and in dire need of a spiritual revival. However, Baltimore is the dog that people prefer to poke with a stick. I would not expect much more from Agape, except that a MAJOR tenet of theirs is MISSIONS and OUTREACH. They would prefer to do community service in Georgetown (cove of the DC rich) and Paris, rather than Baltimore, a city that is essentially dying spiritually. It's analogous to people from town A in the US going all the way to Europe to adopt children, when there are thousands of orphans in their own town.

More Cons: The first rater mentioned that they cut you off once you leave the church. This is absolutely true even if you leave for entirely benign reasons, like moving to another town, etc. Cut-off meaning, that the supposed "lasting" friends you make there completely ostracize you the minute you are gone. It makes no difference how long or deeply you have known them. I have friends who were devastated by this, and it wreaks havoc on the young adult psyche. Because of this effect, many who want to leave peaceably will not for fear of being "alone" and losing all their Agape friends who've replaced their biological families. It has a lasting negative effect, and I really think the leaders of the church need to address this astronomical gapping abyss between their preaching and their actions as a body of Christ. 

Huge Con: Agape has a very salient and curious caste system. As a result, there is perceived elitism, and ambitions among the students to climb the ranks for reasons less than those guided by God. I know I shouldn't, but I find this very entertaining. Humans...

Inference: I was there for 2 years while in college and my relationship with God grew tremendously. This happened through morning prayer everyday at 7am with some other students and a pastor or leader. I wouldn't give them all the credit, but they do create a very fertile spiritual environment where one can grow. However, like any human social club it has major flaws. These flaws would be tolerable, however Agape likes to set itself apart as being "special" and not like a social club or "organization". So their very denial makes these flaws more salient. This strange dichotomy is confusing, but is attributable to the human element.

What this means for you: If you're an only child, or don't have much of a relationship with your parents and family, or are a newly married couple, or are new to Maryland, or an out of state college student,  then Agape is definitely the place for you.You will find a very strong Christian community there, with flaws like all other churches. If you come from a close-knit , strong family, which is very involved and communal, then Agape is not for you, because they have a record of fostering strong internal communities at the detriment of the pre-Agape relationships (regardless of type, so that means parents etc.). Bottom line: it's not for everyone.

 

What they need to work on: Theology, and clarifying the truth of the Gospel. The gospel is about sin, justice , atonement, grace and imputed righteousness. Their preaching is a little lacking on the first two elements, and even the atonement part. They emphasize love and grace, but it's God's wrath and justice which makes his grace/mercy relevant. 

 

If you're thinking of checking it out -- I would still do so. It's still better than SO many churches out there.

 

 

 

 

The "WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU"  that you have stated above --- is one of the biggest Red Flags I see in your remarks.   It tells A LOT about these people.

Hello- Hope everyone is doing well! I was part of Agape Mission Church for 10 years, back when we were still meeting at UMBC, transitioned to the Interfaith Center, and then to the Ministry Center in Elk ridge. I served as a cell group leader, small group leader, dive in leader, worship leader, worship team, sunday school teacher, sound and light, college campus ministry, church plant, usher, several best man, several groomsman, usher etc. So as you can see Agape was my life. After all you are asked to love the church, but not just any church, The Agape Churches. Let me forewarn you before you proceed to read what I am about to reveal to you.

Structure (when I left)

Strict Hierarchy (from top to bottom)

Inside this you had Members aka POTG, Friends of the Church (no real liability for you, but they possess the control over you if you'd like to move on to POTG) Guest of the Church (no real obligation to you, but if you are willing to climb the ladder then they will give you the light of day) College Leaders (same as missional group leaders) College Students (no liability/but if willing and dedicated to submit you "life" to "their" guidance, they some care will be exhibited to you.

When I first started Agape was a fun mixture of Predominantly Asian Kids and Families, then we started Mission 7210, and they face of Agape changed somewhat, but this is still a heavily asian influenced church. When we started we sung other churches, artist worship songs, had fellowships with other churches (Kindred Spirit) went to missions with other churches (Micronesia, Mexico) We had guest pastors speak at our church, Guest Worship Leaders, but this changed. We soon became exclusive, our own songs, our pastors, our messages etc. No other christian artist, church or general interpretation of the word was acceptable, unless prescribed by the Leaders. Soon we exclusively only had agape friends, we cut off our acquaintances or families influence or friends. If they did not accept the Agape Style of Gospel, then they inevitably had rejected us. If some one left the church they were inevitable excommunicated. Agape's regiment of morning prayer, bible studies, group meetings, tuesday night encounters, W1, W2 and all church activities became your life. Forget about a secular or christian world that existed beyond the walls of Agape. Agape is your Life. (Period)

(on a side note, there are a few selected speakers that are allowed to speak at agape, outside of the agape churches, but they have an established relationship with the pastors and are not exposed to the everyday abuses of the agape life. Their eventual goal is for members to become as knowledgeable as these speakers, so they can be replaced by Agape Born and Bred speakers) 

Pastors and Leaders have full control of your life. If you step out of bounds or question their judgements. You can face as a POTG member, the possibility of demotion to "friends" or "guest" in a heart beat. All your group interactions have to be updated to the leaders and approved by the leaders. If not then, follow above. The Pastors approve your relationships, even the ones you date, the ones you become engaged to and eventually your marriage. Marriages are only between members and your marriage can be canceled at any point before the marriage. Even if you have been there for 6-13 years, your marriage can be cancelled as late as the day of... I have seen it happen 1 week prior. The couple had their wedding minus their bridal party and Agape members. You have to update your personal assessments of your life to them at least once a week and these updates are mandatory.

In my opinion, you are always at the pastors' mercy. You are taught how to manipulate the ones that are placed in your care, because they teach you to become a replication of themselves. They have though out every scenario possible and have implemented changes and a structure with examples in the church that they are diverse and tolerant, but this is a ruse. You will sing songs that the pastors write, you will begin to wear the clothes they wear etc. 

Their messages will revolve form year to year, changing to suit their interpretation or control. I have over 7 years of messages and I can tell you, after being an ardent listener of them, the leaders themselves tend to forget what they taught. So the only standard they have are the ones they set for the present time and phases of their operation. Your mission filed will be the ones they determine for you. 

The lasting relationships someone spoke about, you can forget it. I gave my life, money, career and my family amongst other things. So after spending a Decade their, when I see these individuals outside of agape, some pretend as though I never existed or they never knew me. 

Why I left? I felt I was controlled for 10 years, I controlled individuals, I no longer exhibited any characteristics that God gave me. I was a duplicate of my my leaders, I spoke like them, dressed like then and had their godlike visions for myself. It was as though I was a walking zombie, I led morning prayers, small groups and worship like a scripted regiment. I could inject none of my ideas or thoughts unless it was approved. In a sense I ceased to exist. I saw it amongst my older peers (the unmarried ones, who are not all owed to find spouses outside of the church) (despite what they say, this is what it boils down to). I know Agape tethered on the edge of being a cult, and deep inside, I knew that they people that were leaving were hurt, and  our interpretation of christianity was hurting them. I disliked manipulating people, but here I was week in week out doing this. Agape rules and regulations became so dominating that I had to leave in order to have any form of sanity.

What I found out when I left. I was slandered, cut off, I cannot even ask any leaders or friends for references, etc. Many of the individuals who left went to churches and regrouped, hurt and angered by Agape. Many who left have left the faith entirely, and many are intimidated or hate church in general. 

So the long and short of my Experience. If you want to live a life of orchestrated regimented christianity. Agape is the place for you. If you want to be involved in ministry, missions and music without being fully controlled by your leaders and you want to serve Jesus with all your heart and soul amongst other believers. Stay Far Away from Agape. Agape is like the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia. She may look appealing on the outside but once you are sucked in there may be no coming back. 

Such a great posting, Christian 7210!! So thankful that you shared this with us. Please read my posting all the way in the bottom (from Christian31:-)

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I would stay away from this church. I went there for 3 years when I lived in Maryland and now see it was an unhealthy church experience that left some damage to my spirituality. At first it appears to be a good church with good music, relevant topics and strong community especially if you are part college ministry. 

However the more involved you get the more clear it is that they believe in a works theology. No one would ever admit to this but its true. You get graded based on how often you come to their meetings and they have a lot of these.   They also grade you on whether or not you are a potg (pastor of the generation) which is a leader or if are leading a small group or worship team and how many converts you get to their church. If your not doing these it pretty much means your not a very good christian or not very comited to God.

In there hearts they also believe they are the best church in the area and they think they are too good to be around other believers or other christian groups. The only time they say something about other churches especially in the US it tends to be a put down. They wont say this outwright but they think their brand of christianity is the best and that other campus ministries or churches just arent as spiritual or as good.  

They believe all the decisions should be made by the pastors only- at least that's how they practice it. The pastors get to decide what the students or members are going to do or where they are going to be. they have a lot of control, even in things where churches should not have control like when to date or where people are going to live. one of my friends was told if he wanted to be a student leader he had to take a break from dating this girl. And if they dont say these things outwrite theres a lot of pressure to do things there way.  Theres close surveilance of what goes on in each persons life- suposedly so they can help you grow but people start looking to the leaders to make decisions for them.

I dont want to say just bad things about this church. the times of worship are good. I also know one person who got saved there. But the bottom line is that overal a lot of people become legalistic without realizing because they start living there works theology.

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Christian7210 has a real insider's story. I was not in Agape as long as she/he was but felt and experienced the pains he/she shared when you are cut off when you leave. I also experienced extreme psychological pressure when I was inside and the pastors try to correct me (this is done depending on the level of your commitment or your personality and under the rationale that it is done because a “father disciplines those he loves and that they are training you to have the heart of a pastor or to love others and be fit for the special Agape calling”).

 As you get more committed, sometimes you feel really loved and sometimes you feel really hated/unliked...the pattern is very similar to that in abusive relationships. Sometimes I think they do love God and are just sidetracked, sometimes I have no idea what is going on in there. In one hand, there are so many people who have found Jesus in a beautiful and fresh way and I hope that endures. The people are awesome and very committed to God and most of the pastors have their good/friendly side, and I think they are following the leaders only because they are afraid or because they believe they love God by doing that. The people are so nice that you feel like family right away and this is extremely hard to give up. Especially if you know that if you leave you will loose that (and for many of us there is a void for good and caring relationships; for others, who have been there too long, it is hard to leave because all their eggs are on the Agape basket and they have no real relationships outside of the group anymore and many others genuinly believe all is good).

 In some cases the members follow orders and genuinely change their personalities to move up the ladder since they are rewarded when they obey (and since they reach out to colleagues/ambitious-like-people, this is strong motivation to people like me). There is a very high view of the Church, but usually this really means the "Agape Church," I do not remember them having a high view of any other local churches. Agape comes before anything else, so eventually it was really easy for me to justify the way I was treating others as doing it for God because I was doing it for Agape. This actually felt for me like a jail-free card to not feel bad when I mistreated my parents or cut off my friends. However, some of the people in Agape are problaby more genuine than I was so they might not feel this way.

  There is a strong sense of spirituality that I think helps justify any wrong behavior (e.g., how can someone who loves God so much/prays in tongues/fast/gives up his money be doing something wrong? there must be a “better reason that I just don’t get yet”). Rational thinking is looked down as disobedience, arrogance and un-brokenness against God. Therefore, when you are questioning things, they make you feel guilty/unworthy-of-the-Agape-calling and you think there is something wrong with you. If you remain “unbroken” they just give up on you and “shake the dust of their feet.” If you are new they are easy on you, unless they think you are not agape-material.

Some of the leaders are really good at guiding you to pursue certain new people and not to focus on others, e.g., strong headed Christians who voice their theological opinions. The successful leaders are really good at pinpointing any weakness you may have and this can make you more dependent on them (e.g., a pass guilt: they offer you so much grace at first that you don’t feel the guilt anymore, and even though you might believe it was God, you still feel you own the leader something; therefore, if you become more committed, this might be used as an example of why they are “correcting” you). Sometimes it is hard to understand because many of the leaders have wonderful spiritual gift…but there are many biblical examples of anointing that was not backed-up by good theology or behavior.

Sometimes there are exceptions so that you don't know what the criteria really is...and you can't pinpoint for sure what is wrong. (e.g., I must be misunderstanding this “rule” since someone else did that and it seemed okay to the leaders).  Agape teaches that there are no rules or regulations, they might preach sola-gratia, but the pudding is in the details of how they behave. I think their theology adapts as the main leader reads and points the way for what the church should believe (so at different times you see different things been emphasized).

So I might just be wrong and maybe I left without never "getting it," and there might still be a transcendetal explanation for these hard-to-understand behaviors. Either way, many of us have left shaken, broken and the good news is that Jesus still loves us enough to restore us :) If you are in Agape, please know that I admire your steadfastness and respect that decision, since I do not know the path God is taking you. I know that if you remain close to Jesus you will be okay to face anything that comes your way, plus there is a probability that Agape is all good and I just did not get it :)

  I do hope if you have been hurt by this or any other church, that you do not give up on Jesus, but that you find his grace and sweetness that heals all wounds. Satan might want to use these painful events to drag you down away from the Lord, but what has brought me deep healing is to get close to Jesus in a new way, to reconnect with family and friends and to live…yes to live in the freedom and love of a Savior who love us as broken, messed up and unworthy as we are...and who thinks that we are really-really good looking :)

Hello LXG I understand how you can respect agape's passion but having left 5 years ago i can not longer respect what they do.  I initially doubted my thoughts about that church but after seeing the damage and continue hurt it has caused my friends i can no longer repect what they do their.  I have been at that church for over a decade.  I have 2 brothers and a cousin who still go there. I have to say that you shouldn't have any doubts that they are a currupt church.  There is so much i could say but it continues to be very difficult moving on b/c i have family who continue to believe what is going on there.

Sorry to hear that burnedbutnotneat. I might understand how you feel because I have a brother and a sister there who, I think, would prefer if I did not exist and it is very painful. I hope that God will mend the familial relationship as we continue to love and respect them even though we might not agree with them. I totally understand trying to move on because of the pain. I hope God will do a miracle to fix all the broken relationships.

How long did you attend Agape LXG?  Did you sibblings stop talking to you. 

1 of my brothers has totally cut off communication with my family and I.  I haven't spoken to him in 3 years.  Even worse He didn't come to my wedding!  His own brother! He doesn't pick up his phone nor respond to emails. 

My other brother i only see on holidays and i feel he only comes out of obligation.

Hi LXG, Thakns for posting, i have to agree with you on what you're saying here.  I've been there for many years too, and after everything, here is what it means to "get it" at agape:  You throw away the sense of personal thinking and common sense and just go with whatever your leader tells you.  So I wouldn't hold your breath for any transcendental explanation.  Yeah, i agree their behavior is very hard to understand.  Anyways, I love your last paragraph, and so thankful for this new freedom!

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Christian 7210 and CP 7210: You really nailed this. I couldn’t agree more with you.

I see that many of us have the same stories and are living with the repercussions of this manipulative church. They violated civil rights, human rights and most of all took advantage of people's spirituality. We let them get away with it. Every person that passed by and came into our contact, we allowed the leaders to manipulate people through us and we did nothing. Let's stop feeling sorry for ourselves and do something to prevent this church from the continued abuse of people and their spiritual life. From some of the post, I know some of you personally. Let's band together and take action now. I am alerting the Howard County ACLU as we speak. 

I am not sure the ACLU would want to butt into this or we want them to. The members do have the freedom to leave when they choose. There are enough people that can't fight for themselves.....trying to create an awareness like we are now would do i think.

you have my support Christian7210.  That is a great idea.  We need to stop all the Sheep abuse that is going on at Agape.

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I’m not sure it is appropriate to report them to a civil rights organization. People are free to choose what organization to belong to, even destructive ones that will harm them in the long run. That said, there are precedents to ban cultic or controlling organizations from college campuses. Freshmen are at a vulnerable stage in life, looking for acceptance and a place to belong yet not necessarily being able to see the full consequences of their choices. Many of the students who join are idealistic or relatively naïve. It would be appropriate for colleges to consider banning controlling groups such as Agape from campuses to protect their students. 

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Hi friends,

Although I understand the pain of what we went through and have questioned whether such actions should be implemented, I do not think they are the best use of our lives. God has given us freedom and He takes the risk to use imperfect people to transmit his perfect gospel and his love. Just as we sometimes fail, the brothers and sisters in Agape might have been mislead and hurt. However, as the good they do does not cancel out the bad things, the bad does not cancel out the good and precious things they do. Lets remember that although there might be abusive behaviors, we do not know if that is God's will to grow and makes us stronger and to help us love and be part of healthier churches. I believe that exposing our stories have merit because it might allow people to freely think and see that God is good even when churches misbehave. However, I do not recommend fighting against a church as God may have plans with them that we do not know about. Who knows if he will open our brothers and sisters eyes? I believe that we should let poeple know in the case they want to know, but I would be cautious about spending our precious time and lives fighting against Agape. I think our best weapons are prayer and a free relationship with God who still loves us and mends the broken pieces in our hearts.  These are my two cents.

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I have attended Agape Mission Church for several years, and I have had a wonderful experience being part of the community. Throughout my life, I have been to several different churches, and have been raised in a family involved in servant-leadership at various levels, and have myself served at various levels. A while back, while I was searching for a place to serve the Lord, I faced a dry time in my walk with the Lord, and I pleaded with God for a community to be involved in, in tears and agony. The next week I met some folks from Agape who really cared for me, and I knew that God had heard my prayer. I am so thankful for how the church ministered to me in those difficult times, providing prayer support, community and a place to worship. I remember being surrounded by people who cared about my welfare and that I really encounter God to deal with my problems and issues. Since then, I have genuinely grown deeply in my relationship with God and with others as I've been with the church. Everyone needs to find that place where they can grow and change, and I found that at Agape.

Interesting how this and the next several positive-reviews all appeared in one night.

What do you think of all the previous reviews, which paint a much different view of Agape?

5

I experienced God’s healing through Agape Mission Church. I had pain from my hip to my knee and I just thought it was not a big deal and had learned to simply deal with it. There was a time to receive prayer for healing during one of the meetings. I did not even think to go up for prayer but I sensed God prompting my heart. As I received prayer, God’s love flooded my heart. I experienced not only God’s healing but also God’s amazing love. Even something I thought was so small, God cared about it and wanted to heal me and make me well. I am so thankful for the prayers of the church and how God has used this church to help me to know Him more.

5

This is a great church.

I have been attending for more than 10 years and have received much - good biblical teaching, loving accountability relationships, and the opportunity to serve and to share my faith with others.  One of the most wonderful things is how I can feel God's presence when we are together.

So many people have experienced God's love for them, in a tangible way, in this church.  In God's love and power here, people are saved, people grow in their salvation, and people want to live lives that share this love with others.  So many have received God's touch in their lives, including His healing and provision in humanly "impossible" situations.

I am truly thankful that God has brought me here to experience and to be a part of what He is doing in this local body of Christ.

5

When I was a college student, I was having a lot of questions about God, if God was real and if I called myself a Christian, then why was my life the way it was. When I came to Agape Mission Church, I was embraced and loved by the community as if I was family even though I had never met them before. I felt like God was answering my prayers and that there was a genuine community that lived believing that God is real and they loved me because they had been so loved by God. Through the church’s prayers and love, I have experienced powerfully God’s transforming love and what it means to follow Jesus. You should definitely come visit!

5

This is a great church that I recommend for anyone seeking to find a genuine community where the focus is our Lord Jesus and The message of the gospel preached and lived out. I have been in this church for many years and have been through thick and thin, and the church has been there for me and my family. When God saved as a young teenager, I remember asking God to help me live this out and God is so awesome that he answered me by leading me to the Agape Campus Ministry. I couldn't believe there were people who were hungering to know God and live for Him only. The leaders in their caring way nurtured me to grow as a person but most importantly as a Christian in total freedom. What's more freeing than God's truth in love?Can't say enough about the countless blessings I received through this church.
Brothers and sisters in the Lord, as you are seeking God, I trust that He will lead you, because the way God lead me through this church is just a reflection of God's amazing grace and patience for all humanity.
Be blessed!

I'd really like to hear your thoughts/opinions concerning all the negative reviews on this site.

1

 

I was attracted to Agape because of their passion and seeming desire to live all out for God. I wanted to live for something greater than myself. In the end, however, being associated with this church almost destroyed my faith.  Even now, years later, I still feel this deep pain.  There is sorrow in parts of my soul that I did not know existed. It is as though my ‘spiritual’ youth and innocence died at Agape.

I never struggled spiritually until I came to Agape. People say this is the best life, but they sure don’t seem to be enjoying it. Agape promises if you do things their way, sooner or later you will fulfill your purpose in life. But one day you wake up and realize you’re not serving God, you’re serving Agape. Ask yourself if theirs is the life you had dreamed about five to ten years ago.

Being a leader is the highest goal at Agape. You haven’t arrived until you have that distinction. And if their ministry is not successful, then there is something clearly wrong with them or their heart. They preach this from the pulpit. The measure of your spirituality is directly related to how your ministry is going.

I would venture to say that most people leave this church more hurt than they went in. True, some are saved at Agape, but that is a testament only to how mysteriously God works through fallen men. I hate to think of all the people they have turned away from the faith.

To leave Agape is almost synonymous to leaving the faith and rebelling against God. When people left (or were kicked out) there was always a dark cloud that surrounded their leaving, as though they were the ones who sinned or just weren’t willing to obey God anymore. Most churches are glad to know that former members are following God wherever He takes them rather than look down on these brothers and sisters in Christ for their inferior spirituality.

I would encourage anyone reading to do a google search on characteristics of cults and see how many can be identified with this group. They don’t display all of them but enough to be alarming. I don’t say this glibly, but I’ve found the most dangerous and destructive lies are the ones couched in truth. 

You definitely hit the nail on it's head, thank you for articulating this. I have seen no leader step up to the plate to admit that while helping some they hurt some.

hahahaha... 

 

 All these reviews came within a 12hr period. Amazing, either it's the naive friends/college students who are posting these replies or the Pastors (as they have done in responding to the facts on other sites) responding. Anyone who has been a part of this church as a POTG member will attest that you are there to serve your Pastors and Agape. It is the reason that "Agape" is referred to as a singe authoritative/biblical entity. The Agape Way, Agape Life, Agape Teaching, Agape Calling, Agape Worship, Agape Lifestyle etc. I wish the vast number of individuals who left christianity because of the hurt inflicted on them after their, "Agape Experience" would step forward. I wish the pastors would step forward and tell you the inner workings. One pastor preached about love for god and church and left the day after. I guess he was jilted.

1

I just want to communicate that i am not trying to hate or rant.  I am very concerned for many friends and family of mine who are still at agape.  I grieve for them and pray that God would reveal what is going on there. 

I know who you are and I know it must be though for you and your parents. I sympathize for you.

5

As I shared above in response to Estelle, my experience at this church has been wonderful.

This has been the church for me to experience and grow in God's love.  I have found here what I believe church is meant to be - a place to worship and truly meet God, to have real fellowship with others, and to learn to serve my generation and this world with the love of Christ.  Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us - this mixed up and beautiful people He calls His church (universal).  May we love like Him!  I hope that all those looking on a website like churchrater.com will find, as I have, a church where they are meant to be - to love and serve the Lord until we see Him face to face.

Micah,

I'd really like to hear what you think about all the things said in the negative reviews.

I guess universal means, AHC, AMC, ALC and Ecclesia...?

I recommend we cut down on the cynicism/sarcasm a little bit? Clanging gongs and all, if you know what I mean.

cool

Positive 

So many different views on a single entity...? 

I know people who despise this church and their leadership, but the mere fact that people are going out of their way to post the 'hidden facts' behind this church, is a clear indication that there are elements of this church that is not geared towards the well being of individuals, unless they are indoctrinated. The common ground is that individuals who has been at this church for a while, leaves with disgust and resentment. It's not like you are leaving because of disputes with individuals or doctrine. People who left, are people who left with a dispute of the entity or institution that is AGAPE. 

Wow, so many view points. People generally like them or hate them. I was there for a long time, loved it, disliked it, moved on. Such is life. Will never return. This church is geared to the 120% committed individual. You will be tested and tested on this diehard dedication through various processes. It's going to be hard when you leave Agape, so prepare yourself mentally. If you are looking at this place for as a home church. Read the reviews and assess for yourself. Whatever you do, choose wisely and live life to the fullest. Agape's people believe in their commission, I did not so I moved on. I'm very happy with the freedom I have, and was able to do a lot of things, that I was unable to do while I was at Agape. It's a church, it's led by humans and definitely not perfect. What ever you do love God and be free!

 

Chris. 

ENOUGH. ChurchRater is a NOT a place to work out the insider stuff that happens at a church. I want everyone who named names to edit their posts, and anyone who was on staff at Agape to delete their posts. It's far easier to simply remove this page entirely, but I am giving you all a chance to use this website properly. This website should be a house of grace, but you have made it a den of spite.

It is said that hurt men: hurt men. I guess the people who are posting negative reviews are still hurt. 

Chris 

To be fair, I don't think I'm still hurt... but I don't want other people to get hurt. I've seen a lot of people get hurt by this church, and it worries me.

Understood, I have heard both sides of the story. I have also met people who left and they resounded some of the sentiments posted here. 

Chris.

I thought it might be timely to remind all of you Christians who are "working out your stuff" here that Matt Casper is an Atheist which I thought  you might find mildly amusing or possibly even "convicting" given that he's the one who reminding you to treat each other with respect and love. 

 

Just sayin...

hahahaha, I'm an atheist also, but seems that individuals should make a PSA about this church lol. 

Matt-

Thank you for the chance to share. Yes, I'm upset but I want people to know the structure of this church. This church does not need a rating, but needs to come clean on their brand of christianity. Knowing the church structure, I know the new positive post are the pastors who are posing (deceiving us by pretending to be just regular folk) and posting. The leaders must know that there are a a lot of individuals whose spirituality they have shattered, and trust in religion broken. Again I thank you for the opportunity to post.

We aren't trying to discourage honesty just mean spiritedness. Hard line to find sometimes

5

I love Agape Mission Church. Having been to many churches, I am thankful to have finally found a place I can call home. I came as a college student and was so hungry for a community that wanted to genuinely live out what I was reading in the bible. I was welcomed and embraced and encouraged to grow in my walk with God through His Word, prayer and community. I have been healed from many past hurts and broken relationships through the prayers and love of this church. Through experiencing God's forgiveness and peace, I am now able to forgive others and pray for others to experience this amazing peace I have in my heart. I am so thankful for what God has done and continues to do in my life and in the lives of others around me. I hope many will come and see and taste how good God is with us!

I came to Agape when I was in college. Everyone I met just welcomed me with open arms and I received so much love that I never experienced before. Growing up, I had a lot of trust issues with people and was just insecure about myself. On the outside I looked okay but inside I was falling apart. At one of the college conferences, I responded to a message about experiencing the abundant life in Christ. My heart was crying out to know this abundance and freedom in God and I wanted to receive prayer for this. As I was being prayed for, God met me where I was and I heard Him say that I was His precious child and beautiful in His sight. In that moment, I started to cry and the tears just kept coming because I never thought that God saw me like that. I started to understand how much God loved me – that He saw all of me and He loved me still. I have been continuing to grow at Agape and am constantly being amazed by God's grace. My life has been transformed, where I once lived for myself and what I desired but now I am living for the Lord. I've experienced God's enduring patience and kindness through this church and so thankful that others can get to experience this too!

I'm really curious what you think, having had such a good experience, of all the negative reviews on here.

5

Although I grew up in church, it was here that I first experienced God is a real and life-changing way. It was at a college conference when there was an invitiation for those who wanted to respond to come forward and receive prayer. Although I was skeptical, at that moment I felt the urge to go forward and so I did. While I was being prayed for, it was as if everyone else faded into the background, and it was just me and God there. Growing up I had always felt guilty about various things, but at that moment even those feelings faded away, and for the first time in my life I felt truly at peace.

Since that time I have continued to experience God in many new and exciting ways, and I am looking forward to the things that God will continue to do in my life and in this community.

5

I was always told you should belong to a church community where you will grow the most in Christ. I was never pressured to stay at Agape, but I chose to stay because this is where I was and still am growing. It's about a calling and if you're not called to stay at this church, then so be it. Obviously for some, Agape was not a place where they were growing so they chose to move on and that will happen at ANY church you go to. With that being said, it's interesting how the same people are trying to reel in negative comments from others posting on this site.  Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if the positive comments are starting to outnumber the negative comments and you're trying to force out more negativity, you're wasting your time.  Bottom line, people have been saved and changed at Agape and you can't negate that fact. Yes, some people have left Agape with a bad taste in their mouth, but in all honesty, this can happen at any church. No matter where you go, there will always be some disgruntled employees, you know, but we're not seeking utopia, just God's Kingdom for this generation. I find it amazing how passionate some people can get tearing down a church when you should really turn that passion towards finding a church where you will grow in. Folks, this is churchrater, not churchhater.com!

1

A few months ago The Economist wrote an article about South Korea regarding civil liberties, the Internet, control and social justices. I think anyone who wants insight into the inner operations of this church should read this article. Agape Churches exhibits many of these same characteristics and types of methods.

 

http://www.economist.com/node/18561127

 

I was a member of this church and for a while was totally devoted. I guess they had a meeding to deal with the posting (typical defensive behavior) Look at the POP's of these posting, the IP's generally should show that they are from the same area. A quick and cheap cover up. I have to laugh.

why are you guys so mad at each other

Jim and Casper,

Year after year I would see sites popping up, with negative reviews of this church. Year after year it's the same thing, one is on the offense, the other then plays defense and vice-versa.

 wattchagonnado

So whats your take on whats behind all the fighting?

My great aunt would always say, “The proof is in the puddin” when wanting to defend any point she wanted to make. Agape’s Laws and interpretation of the Bible helped me to see how destructive or manipulative religion can be. So I will try to answer your question outside the realm of appealing to emotion arguments. Here are some facts & statics: 1) There is no middle ground on both sides, each has drawn its line in the sand and each is standing its ground. This definitely gives a clear indication that people leave this church very hurt and very angry. Things that you would notice in victims of abuse. 2) Each positive argument seems scripted the language is almost identical. It’s as though the same person was writing it. Did someone provide a metric (lol) for all the touched lives? 3) People leave this church very hurt. Some feel betrayed and manipulated. Look at the negative posting. It’s seems like these people are sounding an alarm. 4) This church has a reputation here in Maryland. I’m sure if you were to contact any random number of churches in the MD/VA/DC area, you will find at least all will unanimously draw a negative connotation when describing Agape. The last time this church had any joint fellowship with a church outside of their “agape fellowship” was in 2002. 5) In the 90’s this church was labeled as a cult on my campus. Seems much has not changed. 6) I was a member of this church for a long time and I rose to prominence by being a “yes man” I obeyed my leader with blind obedience. 7) Why would this church have meetings for this? What do the have to protect? Should their God’s Light dispel the “evil” in these postings? If their reputation was squeaky clean, why are they so vehemently defending it? Makes you wonder! 8) These church members and leaders seeming take no responsibility for the damage they have done to others. No one has stepped forward to apologize to any of these people. No party has reconciled their differences. Is this Christianity? 9) Examine the behavioral traits of cults and examine the similarities with Cults and Agape. Is it a fine line or mirror image? Google Agape Mission Church and Cult see what the results bring. (lol) 10) It’s time for both groups to erase the line in the sand. The fighting seems to stem from hurt and manipulation. Agape is holding steadfast to their position on being a beacon of hope for wary souls. The hurt ones want to prevent further abuse.

When will these groups reconcile? 

I've been with AMC for about 10 years now. I'm not on staff; just a member.

Through the church, I have been blessed beyond what I could ask or imagine. God's love has been made more real and I have found much healing from heartaches of the past. I have a long way to go but I have learned more about how to love my parents, my spouse, my children, and my co-workers and friends.

I encounter difficulties sometimes but they are primarily about my own sinfulness and the challenges of life in general. Life is hard sometimes and it can also be hard to take when God reveals the truth about my own sinfulness. But even this is a mercy, and I trust that He is continuing to work in my life during the hard times.

I can't comment on anyone else's post because it's not my place to. But I feel so blessed to be in a community with other people who want to love the Lord.

Dear transformed,

I am happy for you that you feel you are doing so great spiritually in your community, and as you pointed out a relationship with Jesus is the most amazing thing and how He cares for us and as a father smiles at the silly mistakes of His kids. I would respectfully like to suggest that you read a book called 'Exposing Spiritual Abuse" by Mike Fehlauer. It may not apply to Agape, but it does explain some of the patters of spiritual abuse and "warning signs" that will be heplful for any christian to know. I appreciate your respect for the feelings of those who have left and have been hurt.

1

I was a part of Agape Mission Church for two years. I was invited in during my time in college and became a part of several leadership groups during this time. I do not speak as an outsider who only scratched the surface of what was going on there. I know what I’m talking about. I was in the depths of the group and saw a lot of things going on that one could not see at first glance. Luckily my eyes became opened and I was able to leave the group behind.

 

I find it extremely ironic that the group is called “agape mission church” because the word “agape” means “God’s unconditional love”. The love in this group is anything but unconditional. At the beginning you are welcomed into this group by a bunch of smiling happy people who can’t stop hugging you and doing all sorts of nice things for you. As you spend more time with them they begin to ask more of you. They invite you to more and more meetings that eventually become mandatory. And they stress that you must follow the leaders at all times. I went to a leadership retreat with agape and before going there was a quiz we had to take. The very first question was “What do you do if one of the leaders asks you to do something?” The correct response was “Follow them without question.” That sums up the mindset of the group extremely well. Let me make one thing clear: I follow my God without question and no one else. I don’t care how much spiritual authority you think you have. We all sin, nobody is perfect. Nobody should ever follow another person without question. But the agape group makes itself synonymous with God. They have become the same thing here. It’s like you’re doing things for agape rather than God. Agape is what saved you and made your life incredible, not God. And the second you don’t obey their every command they become different people. The plastic smiles fade away. They’ll ignore you. And eventually they will push you away.

 

I was removed from a leadership team at one point, one of the primary reasons I was removed was because I was told I was wasting time praying for an atheist. I can see their twisted reasoning behind that now. It would have been too difficult to bring him into agape. They want to go after the easy people. On the leadership teams I was always told to “go for the freshman”. They wanted the people who were new to campus, had no friends. People who were vulnerable. And people who already grew up in church who would fall right in line with everything that is going on there without a whole lot of questions.

 

Communication within the group is another huge negative aspect. I would have private conversations with the campus staff who were members of the church. They would tell me that the things said would be kept in secret. I later found out from someone else who had left that information from these very personal conversations was actually forwarded by e-mail to the entire church of over 100 people. If that’s not an invasion of privacy I don’t know what is. And to top it off a friend of mine asked a campus staff member at one point if this sort of information was forwarded throughout the church. He said plain as day “No.” Lied right to our faces….

 

My intentions in all of this is not to fuel a pointless spiritual debate. I just see very serious flaws with the way this organization is run. If you are someone from agape reading this, I just ask that you open your eyes and see all the people who were hurt and who are currently being hurt from this organization. In your glorification of the group how do you account for all these people who were thrown to the wayside deeply hurt? I’ve been a part of various different churches throughout my life, and I have to disagree that this sort of thing will happen at any church. The amount of people I have seen come out of this group spiritually wounded far exceeds anything else I’ve ever seen elsewhere. I know of people who were at agape for a short time who received a bad vibe about Christianity from the group and people who were there for a long time with serious spiritual wounds. I would expect any group who causes that much damage to reevaluate and see if that is really the best way to do things, and see if these problems can be remedied. Because I would be willing to bet that agape mission church has hurt more people than it has helped. And it doesn’t have to be that way. 

"one of the primary reasons I was removed was because I was told I was wasting time praying for an atheist."

Surely someone from Agape will dispute this.

Jesus told us to pray for our enemies for crying out loud

mandalaDA must be blowing smoke. He sounds like he got his feelings hurt and wants to let everybody know.

somebody from Agape tell me mandalaDA is making this part up.

I dont believe it 

Christians wouldn't remove someone from leadership because they're praying for an atheist

Casper can you believe the way these people are going after each other?

What does it tell you about Christians?

This will make you want to join our movement won't it?

It tells me Christians--even within one church, let alone one denomination--are hardly ever on the same page. Speaking for myself, I prefer to avoid unorganized institutions and groups. And I def prefer to avoid "spider" organizations (refering to a book called "the spider and the starfish") driven by and fully dependent on one person.

if it's any consolation a by product of Agape is Agnostics and Atheist.

Not sure on the story behind this posting but I can tell you that it is absolutely possible that the leaders would discourage someone from praying for an atheist. The people being 'trained up' by Agape 'go after' those they are instructed to go after. And they stop pursuing those they are told to stop pursuing. The leaders at Agape would absolutely tell someone to stop 'going after' an atheist because they view it as a waste of time. Never mind what God said or that God loves them. It's just not the Agape way to try and evangelize to someone who is not fully open to the world they have created.

3

I would like this all to cease. ChurchRater is not the place for this. No one did what I asked them to, which was remove names, etc.

To the pastors and staff of Agape: it looks like a lot of people are struggling with how you do church. I would heed their words and do some outreach.

To the former attendees of Agape: it's time to move on, or it's time to address these things with people who can affect them. Posts on a website are a good start, but posts on a website are often where good starts go to die.

I wish you all the best.

1

Jim and Casper are there any recommendations (books, groups, etc) to help the former members? 

'Exposing Spiritual Abuse" by Mike Fehlauer is short and to the point. I found it helpful :)

Its always really hard at first, but what I found to be really helpful is to know that God is so not like what we've been taught before, and to find a gospel centered church.  You will see and sense a huge difference.  There are many great churches out there.  I've talked to many many Christians who have left agape, and for sure so many of them live wonderfully blessed lives.  All this is an incredibly freeing experience, knowing God in a completely new way.  Hope this helps.  Here are some links that may help as well:

http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/BibleStudyAndTheology/Discipleship/vonB...

http://www.batteredsheep.com/abusive.html

wattchagonnado  Im sure if you do a google search you'll find anything you like. Please take your issues to another site

gotcha.

Again WOW!

 

To my friends who left Agape,

It's time to move on. Seek professional help, I did and I am not ashamed. Don't let the weight of this experience keep you down, or let this experience define your outlook on all of life. It's never too late to start over. Clearly churches are led by men and women and you should take that into regards. Live Life and Love Life.

 

Chris.

5

My life has been radically changed as I have been coming to Agape Mission Church. I came when I was in college and the church has walked with me through all stages of my life from being a young adult/working professional, getting married, and all the difficulties that come just from living life. I have received healing from past hurts with my family and other broken relationships and am now able to have beautiful, loving relationships with my parents and friends that I never thought I could have before. I love this church, hope you will come visit!

One thing I've learned about Agape - they really love to fight with each other 

 

I thought we were done with this religious pissing match

As long as this is the top hit on Google for "Agape Mission Church", that doesn't seem likely.

good point - it all helps ChurchRater -bring it 

5

 

On the subject of this churchrater.com site, check out this article – http://www.outofur.com/archives/2009/09/church_rater_or.html

Churchrater or Church hater?

5

 

It is indeed very sad that these are the things that Christians are doing/saying to one another.  It should not be so.

But one should not say that both those who like this church and those who do not are doing these things, as “the way these people are going after each other” and “They really love to fight with each other“ implies.

It is only those who are against this church that are “going after” and “fighting” anyone.

Those giving this church good ratings have not done so, have not slandered or shown spite, have not named names, etc.  Rather, we have simply been seeking to express our opinion about a church that we love, as this site purports to be about (at least in part).

Micah68,

I respectually ask, do you have any idea how many people agape has hurt?  And how much pain and broken relationships agape has caused?  All this damage, it does not have to be like this.  I hope we all know that none of us have halo's over our heads.