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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Ordinarily I might agree that a site such as churchrater is not an appropriate place to make accusations against churches or try to settle any disputes. But this is way beyond picking on the flaws of a church or trying to resolve anything. This is about warning others of the dangers of this church-dangers which are not obvious unless one has lived for years in the Agape environment. Stay away from this church. It will leave bitter markings on your soul-whether you leave after a few months, years, or decades. The longer you stay in, the harder it is to leave. You have been warned.



I mean who are we kidding if we think the Agape leaders would even be willing to discuss some of these issues as real and true? Of course not. They will persist on completely ignoring ANY criticisms or negative responses to Agape. In their eyes, they are essentially perfect and are being attacked by evil forces. They would never dare admit a mistake, let alone apologize for any wrongdoing. These postings are not for them, they are to sound a warning to any who will listen, to prevent other people from falling for the same trap that so many did. 



People who have a problem with an ordinary church's theology or style are not angry to the degree seen in these posts. They are not hurt and wounded. They do not not view themselves as victims of abuse. But that's what's happened with those who escape from Agape. Judge for yourself if any church should have this type of effect on significant numbers of people unless there's something seriously wrong with it.

Matt and Jim,

I cannot imagine that you didn't anticipate this happening when you created a site called churchrater.com. 

However, please do not dismiss them (the hurt posters) as their greviances are legitimate. Make an effort to understand that you're not just asking them to rate their local Y or book club, or even their school. You're asking them to rate the equivalent of a parent/family. If you create a site called familyrater.com, all hell will break loose.

Agape is not the sort of church where you can myob and attend once a week. I would say that 95% of the attendees are deeply involved in the church -- it is a VERY close-knit community that essentially replaces your biological family very efficiently and seamlessly. As a result, quite a few folks sever ties with their relatives. I have personally witnessed this, and was asked to do the same (in a loving way of course). Imagine now, taking that plunge and then being forsaken by the very same people who promised to be your family, and to love you with the Love of Christ. It's like stepping from a warm and cozy home into subzero cold.

Also, note that I can guarantee that all of the posters are HIGHLY educated folks because the church primarily recruits from the campuses of some of the best universities in the nation. The posters are also very socialized, so they are not hyper-sensitive doorknobs. They are not just disgruntled employees. Would you call children who were abused by their parents and other family members disgruntled employees?

So Matt and Jim: by creating a site like this you certainly opened up a can. And trust me, you've only scratched the surface.

To the hurt ones: Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

To the current attendees of Agape: Please ask your leaders about the allegations raised on this page, and never lose sight of who actually died for you (Jesus) and who raised you from a wee baby stage (your biological parents).

5

As I mentioned above in response to Estelle's post above, my life was completely changed at this church through the ministry of God's Word and love.  I've been here for over 13 years and the reason I love this church and my family is growing here is because God's Spirit really moves here.  People are continually being saved into the wonderful truth and reality of Jesus' life, death and resurrection that draws us into real relationship with Him.  In reading through some of the most negative posts above, I'm thankful they've commented that people are NOT "leaving because of disputes with individuals or doctrine..." and that there is a "commitment level of 120%."

I was drawn to this church because the true Gospel of Jesus Christ was not only being preached, but lived out.  Normal people really loved Jesus and were living for Him because they were so deeply touched by God's love.  My salvation was a result of others' ministry who responded to God's love in this way.  I have never been "forced" to stay or serve, but I recognize that there is an incredible calling that God has given to this church and I just want to be a part of it.  Who really gets saved by our efforts or someone's coercion?  Salvation is only by God's grace and the work of His Spirit.  My parents, who aren't even Christian, can testify to how God has changed my life, as our relationship has never been better. 

No one likes getting hurt, but even Peter was hurt by Jesus' remarks when Jesus asked him over and over again if he loved Him.  I don't think Jesus' intention was to leave Peter at the place of being hurt but to help him understand that there were more who needed to hear and receive the message of Christ's love.  Peter had an option at that point to take offense at Jesus and walk away like so many others who were offended by his ministry and by what he taught.  Or he could respond to the Lord's love by sharing and spreading the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.  By Peter's response to the Lord, multitudes came to know Christ and he became the rock on which the church was built.  I just want to be able to stand before the Lord one day, and be able to say that I loved one person to Christ.

I can't say I can fully understand the hurts or pains of those who are posting here because those feelings are real, but Jesus teaches that we are to forgive because we have been forgiven and to love and feed his sheep.  For those of us who are part of a Christian church, Jesus teaches us that we are to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, running fully in the calling of His church, to go and make disciples of all nations.  By God's grace, that's what I hope to do. 

5

Almost 10 years ago I met Christ powerfully at Agape Mission Church and continuously since that day and because of God saving me and God’s love my life has never been the same….God is so faithful.  I have been healed much, forgiven much and have been extended much love, grace and mercy throughout the years.  I can really say I do not know where I would be if God had not rescued me and I had not been taken care of, prayed for, ministered to, loved in power and truth by the leaders and the brothers and sisters in Agape Mission Church.  My life, my relationships, my marriage have been transformed drastically at AMC in times of prayer, worship, and receiving the word of God, and not only my life but many have been saved, healed, changed by the Lord at AMC.  Because God has rescued me and given me a brand new life in Christ, I can say I love the Lord and I love His church. 

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I log onto this website and find AMC as the highest grossing church in the country. I feel accomplished for attending this church (not being sarcastic...but joking). It is pretty simple i think. If you like being told what to do and being surrounded by people that are being told what to do. This is the church for you, but if you think of yourself as an individual in a community growing in christ, and like having your own thoughts and freely expressing them, RUN!

Really it is that simple, determine what you want and decide.

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The past four years in College Park campus ministry is the most memoriable and significant time in my life. As a 18-year-old who didn't know anything about Christianity, I joined Agape with a reason of curiosity+friend influence+a lot of free time in my freshman year. I thought it's just for fun or about hanging out with people. What I didn't know was that, God opened the door for me. Even when I had no idea who he is, he guided me. And what I encountered from then is the most precious experience in my life. 

Of course it was difficult at first. Actually it was difficult for me for a long time. It was until my senior year that I finally, really, made my mind to follow God for the rest of my life. During those years, there was confusion, tears, rebellion, doubts, worry, fear, pressure, etc. And what Agape gave me was 100% support, care, love, and prayer. 

I always asked my pastor:How can you devote that much time for the church? Why would you sacrifice your time to be with me? Don't you want more fun in your life? Don't you want more freedom? Don't you....

And her answer was: Because God loves me and I love God. Because God provided everything to me and now I'm called to do all of these for him. Because this is the foundation of my life. Because I have the greatest freedom here, the best freedom given by God. 

To me Agape is like a home, where parents teach you the right things to do, and brothers and sisters take care of each other. And we stand together, with God's love and protection. 

And for those who are so bitter and grumpy, just go read your bible. And I'll pray for you.

Arguing, being bitter or what not i agree does not help anyone. Clearly this is a case of perspectives. Those that need to move on should do so. And those that are adults that have made their choices should be left to their choices. Comments should be left based on reason not emotions like someone mentioned above. To those that can reason, let them reason and those that don't want to should be left alone.

 

 

As the years go by the pastor will reveal themselves as god's appointees on earth. Their will be done, if it is not honored then you will have to leave. 

I have found Yelp very helpful in consistent delivery of service restaurants. Church Rater is bringing you the same when it comes to Agape. 

I am a 10 year veteran and my warning to you and your family is stay away from AMC. They will control you, your life and your money. 

 

Psalm 119:36

 

 

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!

We are Christians. We follow the Bible. We follow our pastors who serve God and not themselves. And yes, we HONOR them, just like how we honor our parents. We HONOR their will because it's not only their will, but God's.

 

 

1 Corithians 6:19

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.

 

We are not our own. We are different parts of the Church and servants of God. We serve HIM. That requires humbleness and obedience. 

 

2 Corinthians 9:11

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

 

We provide what we have for the church, so that we can serve God the best we can. Everything we have come from HIM. No one in Agape ever forces us to take our money out of our pockets. No one in Agape ever asks us to leave because we are poor. Those who's stuck in his/her selfish mind and not willing to provide, will be poor. 

 

 

Philippians 2:5-7

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness 

 

Be humble and thankful. Be a sheep. Stay in his kingdom. Don't lose your heart.

 

 

               DO NOT LOSE YOUR HEART. 

           FIND ANSWERS THROUGH PRAYER.

 

God blesses us all.

 

 

 

 

 

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agape missions church has damaged many people's lives and families.  They are very aggressive on college campuses in recruiting.  People need to be informed and alerted to the damage this church has caused to this generation of college student and young adults. 

"but Jesus teaches that we are to forgive because we have been forgiven and to love and feed his sheep."

this is n example of the kind of thing that makes Non Christians crazy

It's called cherry picking the bible, a practice that essentially provides "cover" for any point of view a Christian wants to advance. 

This verse is being used by one Christian to argue why spiritual abuse is acceptable at least that's how his former brothers and sisters at Agape will read it and they in turn will quote other scriptures that will "prove" their point.

Here's what we are failing to see in this Agape Argument - dialog. No one is admitting error or vulnerability. No one is "giving ground" No one is "honoring others above themselves" 

The Agape clan has been taught to fight to the last man/woman. Someone has taught them to "take no prisoners" 

I tend to agree that this church is probably at the very least cult like but having spent a number of formative years in a church just like that experience taught me that arguing is like spitting in the wind

Ill bet no ones going to take this bait :-)

"And for those who are so bitter and grumpy, just go read your bible. And I'll pray for you."

Even in a seemingly sound church there seems to be confusion. 

Agape should use this opportunity to make a notch on their bedpost. Now they can label themselves as a persecuted church. (even if it's online)

They should also do some recon, since recruiting among the college campuses are their main form of indoctrination. I hope in the world of social media they are able to curtail the damage of the claims that are made here. Wait till the parents get hold of the site. 

To reinforce some points in people's previous post. I have never seen a financial disclosure for church expenditures for any fiscal year that I was there.

The pastors should really take a long look and act on changes to change the way they do church. For the control freak who label themselves as pastors. It's obvious you cannot intimidate or pressure these individuals to change their opinion of you. 

The middle ground is that religion stinks. 

You've never seen the annual church budget? You've never had a meeting where people discussed the budget openly? Wow - Apparently I've gone to incredibly financially-open churches almost my entire life.

I was POTG 1&2 and I have never seen a disclosure, just an annual report and that never specified how the money was being allocated. Just how much was given and a persons contribution. Did you while you were at Agape? 

No, but I was barely at Agape for a semester, and only as a student, so I have nothing to contribute to that side of the discussion. Instead, I'm thinking about other churches I've attended, in which how the funds are allocated is well stated every year, and open to discussion and changes by members. Additionally, although of course how much money was contributed by congregation in total is always stated, how much each person contributed or even who contributed at all is never stated. I assume that whoever runs the budget has that information for the purposes of tax refunds from contributions to a nonproift, but that information is never made available - It's private.

The cynic in me says that making sure all the members can see how much the other members are giving is half of what you need to set up your members to try to out-do each other in giving, as a sort of competition. Obviously they'd need motivation, which would either come through regular peer-pressure, or through implying that giving more is linked to holiness, God's love, something like that. I want to be clear, however, that I am only speculating.

I wouldn't consider the reviews on this website persecution at all towards agape.  When xtians are persecuted around the world or in history, they face opposition because they are preaching Christ.  Contrary to preaching Christ's love, what agape has done is cause spiritual damage and broken relationships to many, who are now in some ways exposing what has happened.  I think this is more reaping what you sow.  If you sow hurts and pains in to so many out there that have left, what is there to reap?

It's ironic that the pastors at this church use to say,"it will eventually come to the surface."  This website and all the posts are a reaping of what they have sown.  It is all coming to the surface now.  They can't hide it anymore. 

Just wanted to clarify that agape has sown good seeds as well over the years, and that this has led to people knowing Jesus.  Praise God for that.  So its not entirely one sided, and no one is perfect.  In my life, I have sown to the wrong places in the past as well, and I have tasted the consequences of my sin.  Certainly, there's no fun in that.  But at the same time, agape has just caused so much damage, and I have difficulty understanding that.  Only God knows people's hearts. 

Balls busting reviews. After I left agape, I questioned everything about God, scripture and doctrine. 

How are you dealing with things now laurent?  I had and am having a hard time dealing with church, leaders and family since leaving Agape.  Struggling with how to trust and commit to another church.

We tried to go to church, but it was so difficult to worship or to even get close to other believers. In the end we left the faith altogether. I was pretty committed to Agape and for a short time you and I led worship (smile). For my wife and I having part of our life ripped out of us, the healing process was took a long time. My wife is vehemently opposed to anything christian. I on the other hand pray when I can.

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My wife and I had a bad experience here. The ex-members posting here are not vengeful adolescents. We're doctors, engineers, technicians, college grads, PHd's, Masters, fathers, mothers, community leaders etc. We're trying to warn you from harming yourself, putting your family, friends and parents through grief. 

Yes, what they don't understand is that people are looking for healing. Yes i can pray for healing, but like in all cases you also have to walk through the healing process. People leave or are connivingly kicked out and leave all they have known behind in this church, and they expect people to just move on . I wish it could be done that easily and i pray many can as i did, but the fact is these are hearts that feel stomped on. I can't even imagine the pain of spending years in this church, forming a family, pretty much your whole life and understanding of who "God" is here and all that is taken away pretty much in one day and you have already denounced everyone that should be left to help you carry on. Perhaps people should live out this experience to understand it, before claiming this is an unwarranted attack. I don't think people want to waste their time talking about Agape, NO

they are just trying to walk through their healing. 

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My wedding was canceled 1 month from its date. Agape and it's leaders were taking care of all the preparation, coordination, counseling, etc . Our guest list apparently was not streamed lined with christians (other outside church leaders were not allowed)that fit their bill. So we were thrown out in the cold. We were told we could not have a church wedding and was removed from membership.

With 1 month to go we found a church, a pastor to marry us and over 5k in catered food went to waste.  Over 15 tables were empty at our wedding, simply because an email was sent informing members not to attend our wedding because we were not members. How many other couples have had to endure such humiliation and loss of finance because of THE AGAPE WAY. 

We tried going to church after but left the faith completely. 

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I "became" a Christian through AMC during college. I was at a very vulnerable stage in my life and going through a lot of emotional stress for various reasons. AMC evangelized to me, took care of me and eventually I "became" a Christian. I believe my "conversion" was a result of my vulnerability at that time, my need to believe in something greater than myself to save me from my problems.

Eventually, I got asked to be a student leader, so I agreed. I served as a student/college leader at AMC. It was the worst 2-3 years of my life. I was spiritually abused, misled, and pressured into putting God over my studies or else I'd be looked downed upon as spiritually deficient. Or, I'd be demoted from my leadership duties because I didn't love God enough.

My grades suffered. I lost my non-Christian friends. 

All the while, I attended two church services on Sundays (4 hours), meetings throughout the weekday (15+ hours) including morning prayers everyday at 8am, and lead a Bible Study.

I didn't have sex or drink or party. I lived the most excruciatingly isolated and prudent life.

It wasn't enough for them.

If I didn't understand a church teaching, I wasn't "spiritually mature" enough. One teaching that really scared me was "hating our enemies." Pastors told us we had to hate our enemies, not hate their sin, actually hate the person. I got really confused and the pastors told me not to think about it because I couldn't understand at this point in my oh-so-immature Christian walk.

The church made me feel deficient when I couldn't pray for four hours straight or keep awake during their all-night prayer meetings. They essentially believed I wasn't part of "the elect."

The pastors wouldn't baptize me and wouldn't tell me why. One time, during a communion service, the head pastor separated all the baptized from the non-baptized, saying it was like God separating the sheep from the goats. They made all the non-baptized sit in the back of the church, like we were bad, sinful people even though all of us were attending church regularly and professed to believe in Christ.

Pastors imply that you are going to hell if you miss a few of their meetings. I was told to my face by a pastor they weren't really sure if I was a "friend of Jesus" even when I was going to church every week but decided not to be a part of a small group due to stress/lack of time. They told me for sure I was no longer a "friend of the church," but a guest, even after all I had done as a student leader. 

One time when I got into a car accident on my way to church (from sheer exhaustion - the church was 40 miles away, an hour in traffic), they told me "God's trying to get your attention" because I wasn't involved enough in the church. I remember crying because I was so exhausted and felt so pressured to get more involved though I physically could not.

To top it off, I was experiencing abuse outside of the church. I sought help for it and the church told me the abuse was a result of me "giving myself to the world."

I cried my eyes out at least 2-3 times a week while being a part of AMC. No one cared.

The church says they will be your family but when you can't handle the intensity of their church, they treat you like the family dog so that eventually you'll leave on your own accord. 

When I left, I had no friends. I had to start my life over again.

Now, I am living a much more fulfilling life NOT being a Christian. I have friends again and am enjoying life.

Again, I repeat: I believe my conversion was a result of my vulnerability at that time, my need to believe in something greater than myself to save me from my problems.

Now I know better. I am dealing with my problems head on. I feel empowered, fulfilled. I have non-Christian friends who are open-minded and always there for me even when I do not share their same beliefs.

Wow that sounds about right what happens at agape.  The teaching at agape about hating your enemies is bad theology.  My own brother who is at agape church is hating me and considers me his enemy for leaving the church.

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If there was any doubt in my mind that Agape has issues. I think your story just sealed it for me. Clearly issues at the top spreading down. I think a lot of it is they have gone this far, because i  refuse to believe at least one of their leaders is not conscious as to what is going on.

5

I have been coming to this church for a long time now and have experienced God’s love, grace and forgiveness I have personally made a lot of mistakes and have hurt others in the community because of my own immaturity and pride. But the community has shown me and demonstrated through their lives, God’s unceasing love and forgiveness as we work these things out with one another, trying to live out together what we read in the bible and through prayer.  I have experienced and seen people live out Jesus' love and compassion towards me and others around me in this church. My marriage has also been saved through the love and prayers of the church. As we received true forgiveness and healing from God, we were able to live in this love and forgiveness towards one another. We love each other so much more now than ever before, able to spur one another on in truth, love. Thankful for the community here, I invite you to come and see for yourself

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It's ironic that the pastors at agape missions church use to say,"it will eventually come to the surface."  This website and all the posts are a reaping of what they have sown.  It is all coming to the surface now.

 

Is this church so out of touch with reality? Why would these people want to come and have "service" with you?

 

Chris

Lol i know i would be thinking the same thing too if i did not have a foundation on what is going on. Perhaps cluing them in would help: the nice and positive reviews people are giving are the same reviews the people that have been hurt so bad would have given before they were left cold. Perhaps it would help to address issues accordingly. After all it is church rater and if i want to come to Agape to worship how do i know i won't expreince all these "wonderful things" and somewhere down the line would be manipulated and then left out in the cold. Someone alluded to it happening in every church....have you been to other churches? No this does not happen everywhere.

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I have been going to this church for about 10 yrs.  I had wonderful encounters with God and experienced real love in the community here at Agape.  I did have some difficult times along the way, but it way mainly because of my pride, my wrong thinking and my past mistakes.  During these times, my heart was not fully with the church.  But the church did not pressure me or try to force me to change.  Yes, they did speak the truth in love. (and sometimes truth hurts) They showed Christ's love and compassion. They were patient with me.  It took me a long time to really embrace the church.  Slowly but surely, I received healing, forgiveness, renewed passion to love God and love others and learned what it means to live out God's calling together with the church. In this church, I am experiencing God's love and healing.  In this church, we are changing and growing by His grace.  With this church, I am called to love God and love others in response to what God has done in our lives. 

5

I have been attending Agape Mission Church for several years now, and I am truly thankful that God has brought me to this church family.  It was through the prayers and love of the people in the church that I first came to know and experience God’s love for me. Through the church’s ministry and prayers, I have experienced so much of God’s healing in my life from the hurts and difficult things that I have experienced growing up.  I am really thankful for the pastors and leaders in the church because even in the most difficult situations and periods in my life, they have continually walked through them with me step by step and encouraged me to put my trust in God who is loving and faithful.  The people here genuinely want to love God and to love others.

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I have to agree with everything KangPhil said. Let me share my individual experience. I have nothing against them. They are a good church to go to if you’ve never experienced God before. If you are a new Christian--by all means go as a guest and experience worshipping God for the first time. It's quite thrilling actually. :) But, I have preface with I was there for 10 years of my life, sadly not much was accomplished. I was demoted from friend to guest because I lived 45 min away and I literally couldn't do more--I already had spent countless drives, and money.

I went through their program to become a member twice and was not allowed to be a member for reasons unknown to me (might have been my anxiety too) that the head pastors decide you are not "ready" to be baptized. Which is strange because other churches allow new Christians to be baptized, why can't I who has been one for 10 years? It made me feel like I was unfit to be a Christian and unfit to use any of my gifts as a Christian to benefit the church. When I cried out for help from others it was always, "talk to the leader, they will know how to best assist you". When a friend who tried to pray for me during the service was stopped by the leader because they didn't want her to interfere with an appointed leader who could rightfully pray for me instead, the girl was shocked and I was embarrassed, trying to explain, that's just how they do it here. The last time I checked, praying is free for all Christians to do and no one is above anyone else. Again, if you check with other Christian churches, they allow praying from others, so it's just an Agape thing not a Christian thing. So, after being insulted for years because they didn't see me as a valuable part of their church, I realized I am not even using my gifts to benefit God's kingdom and this is not Godly or biblical teaching at all. Look at even contemporary Christian leaders--their paths didn't follow a church teaching, God just called them and they obeyed, not a church, they obeyed God. I kept doubting that I could functionally live as a Christian at this church, but they make you cut off your outside friends and family so that your whole social circle consists of Agape people so if you leave you will have nothing.

I am still a Christian and I realize that it is very freeing to know that the bible states that we are "saved by God's grace, not by works, so no man should boast"*. It took courage to leave but I am glad I did. I can now experience God's freedom in Christ and stop feeling guilty all the time.

Ultimately, I felt God's plans for my life were bigger than this. I hope this review helps people and I hope you make the right decision based on biblical principles. God bless.

*"For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works so that no one can boast" -Eph. 2:8-9

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Can those posting positive reviews about agape address these alarming red flags that people have mentioned?

If someone in leadership at Agape could explain if in fact this event taken from an earlier post did happen and if so the context in which it happened.  ChurchRater would love to give you the opportunity to respond.

"the head pastor separated all the baptized from the non-baptized, saying it was like God separating the sheep from the goats. They made all the non-baptized sit in the back of the church, like we were bad, sinful people even though all of us were attending church regularly and professed to believe in Christ."

Simply ignoring claims/accusations like these by posting "happy" testimonies will not make it go away - these people are energized. 

Give us some context or just come out and say that you think all the people who are claiming such things are deceived, deluded and/or demonized.

 

I have been going to this church for more than 10 years (rarely missed any meetings), am a member, and have never seen, heard, or experienced what is described in italics here.  It is difficult to respond beyond that, because I simply don't know what he/she is referring to.

Yes, these people are energized.  But having energy and writing something on a website are not the criteria which make something true, or right, or loving.

And yes, as commented elsewhere, those of us who have been attending for a while think we know who many of the negative commenters might be.  That is fine.  Our goal is not to tear them down or speak poorly of them or to post on a public website what we also have known about and experienced with them.  We wish them well and hope that they are loving and serving the Lord in the church they feel called to be.

(Jim, why would you even ask us to say that they are deceived, deluded, or demonized?  If you yourself want to say unkind things about others, OK, I guess, but I don't think it is a good way for a website to be run - unless what it really thrives on is controversy.  But I, personally, would not say something like that.  My experience is that I loved those who were with us for a time; they were and are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and that love does not go away, it just takes a different context as they now live there lives where they are and I still serve here.)

Personally, I have only heard loving things spoken about those who have chosen to worship God elsewhere after they leave.  As a community, we really move on, we reach out, we seek to love, and to do the things that we believe God has called us together to do.

We do hope that they will do the same.  There is much to do, much loving, building up, serving, to be done.  Not sure how much of that is being accomplished by posting on a website - and I speak of myself first and foremost....

I'd rather be doing, loving, building, serving the people of God and those who do not yet or are just getting to know Him.

If you don't find us responding quickly, or immediately, or at all to some of the things said on this website, understand that these are some of the reasons why - for myself at least.  I do not want to malign others or speak of their personal issues.  (And a lot of the things said here make no sense to me personally outside of considering their personal issues.)  And, I have other (wonderful) things to do.  :-)  

 

 

 

Thanks for taking the time...

Yes, its possible that you have never seen or heard of a lot what people are bringing out here on this site.  I know that many xtians genuinely like being there at agape, and go about their lives oblivious to alot.  Agape has in subtle ways implemented unspoken rules that prevent this type of dialog to occur in their church environment.  Like I did for many years, you may never asked or ventured there for fear of being anti-church, unsubmissive, or shamed in public. 

I think most of us have the greatest difficulty with what you say here:  "My experience is that I loved those who were with us for a time; they were and are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and that love does not go away, it just takes a different context as they now live there lives where they are and I still serve here."  Micah, if it was anything close to "love" even in different contexts (or any context for that matter), would all this hurt and anger exist?  Please, when you speak of what is true, right, and loving, know that it is not when you decline to acknowledge any problems at agape at all, and instead deferring the problems brought up here to the "personal issues" of people that you have damaged.  It takes 2 to tango, so no one is entirely right, only God is.  Do you think we post on this site because we got nothing better to do and we love defaming churches so much?  No, most of us here are still walking through healing process from spiritual abuse.  Seems like by all the "wonderful" things you have to do, you cannot help your "brothers and sisters in Christ" that have left agape.  Sad, but doesn't have to be like that...    Hope I am not being unreasonably harsh or critical, and sorry if it seems like that, but I have never heard of anyone who leaves agape call it "love".  Any hint of it or even the basic respect for another human being seems gone.  Again, it doesn' t have to be like that.  Hope agape is doing well, and continues to serve God.  Just realize that this world is not that small. 

I can't contend with that particular context but by the time I left, once a month on Tuesday night, they have communion. You are only allowed to participate if you have been baptized. This may have led some Christians to believe their faith was not authentic if not baptized. They used to allow everyone who was Christian participate (I was allowed only once then the rule changed) & they had Alpha courses for membership which allowed people to be members freely. I don't know why this changed.

5

I have been attending this church for over 10 years now, and consider it my home. I have grown and changed here. I have been challenged and encouraged. I have been well taught and loved. And I have been comforted and cared for. God has moved powerfully in my life here, and I cannot deny that. It is the best place for me and my family, because we know that no matter what happens in our lives we will always have some place to go and people who will do their best to help us. I can honestly say this because the people and pastors of this church have stood with us through some of the hardest times of our lives, and continue to do so. God is at work here, and wonderful things do happen. I am thankful for that and know that God will continue to lead us into what He is doing.

GRJ

 

Since you have been attending Agape for ten years you must personally know some of the people who have been posting negative things and you must care about your church.

Could you ask one of the pastors to please respond to the story about separating people who were baptized and those who weren't. Im sure there's some explanation and Im also sure who strange this story sounds to people who weren't there.

I doubt there will be any responses.  The pastor/s at agape are accountable to no one, they answer to know one. 

Side note: the reason i left several years ago was because i felt so over burdened with serving that i asked to take a break from serving from a couple of activities.  When the pastor at agape responded to my request by saying, "no you can't stop serving. If you do you are no longer a member."  I had been a member for over 8 years!
That is when i couldn't take it anymore. In that moment i knew this was no longer the church for me.   I met with the pastor one last time and he tried to convince me to stay but i had made up my mind.  He blessed me and said you can come back anytime.  I thought i had left on good terms. 

After i had left i was told that the pastor i had met with had said aweful things about me to the church saying, "he didn't love God." He loved the world too much" etc...

All this is confirmed by many people.  Also this is not a unique occurance, this has happened to all my friends and people who have left.

Be warned that this happens to everyone who leaves Agape missions church.

1. Having your reputation damaged by the pastor.

2. Cut off from all your friends including family members who are a part of agape.  This means they no longer talk to you and consider you a friend or a christian.

Possible result of leaving agape missions church

1. Damaged view of what a church is supposed to be.

2. Distrust of leadership in the church due to mental and spiritual abuses that have accured at agape missions church.

There is hope. We are called to live free.  There are humble pastors out there who love christ and love the Gospel, just not at agape.  I believe the pastor at agape think they love God and others but have skewed the gospel.  If you are on the fence about leaving don't wait any longer, there is a community of believers out there who will care for you.  It is very tough to leave because all of your connections and friends outside of the church has been cut off. Take courage, Do not be afraid to leave, there are believers out there who will care for you. Everyone i know who has left has not regreted it.

1

Looks like a dead end but damaged reputations are never repaired till something is done about them. One can only hope they take the things that have been said to heart and change their ways even if they don't want to reply. There are no perfect churches but there is no church i know like Agape that has done such damages to people's faith, and succeed in getting the whole church to ostrasize people when their only "fault" is they do not want to do things the Agape way (evidently). Those that need to question should question, and think  INDEPENDENTLY, cause there is nothing in the bible that says you cannot think.

I agree no church is perfect. I feel legalism has taken over.

1

Setting the record straight. I have posted many times about agape for the past several weeks.  I do not hate agape nor do i hate the members at this church.  I have brothers and Friends at this church that i dearly love and it grieves me how my relationship is strained with them because of this church. My offense is against the Leadership of this church, and not the members.  The members are only doing what they are being told by the Leadership.  I will continue to pray that God would expose and gently bring the leadership to repentence for the damage they have caused in the name of Christ.

Very understandable. I hope and pray for open eyes too. I do not see any Agape leader responding to any of these (at least openly) even though they are major but very similar stories. I would think people would wonder why, but what can one do.

2

I will just pray for healing over us because whether any of these wrongs are righted, we all serve the same God and he promises to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. Psalm 147

5

This Church is Great.

Matt

I have been attending this church for 17 years now. From the first actual church plant meeting, in fact. Probably. I don't actually know. 

Over the years, as both I, and the church have matured, I can only attest to the love and blessings that have been poured out over my life, and many wonderful spiritual encounters and even miracles have taken place here. 

I cannot speak for all of the hurt, but I do pray that whatever true wrongs that were done on our part are not done again. I do not know what they are, however. 

God bless. 

Hello We are Afraid

As you can see from the many many post that the wrongs have happened again and again and again. 

.

5

 

I'm personally not big on all of these emotional 5 star reviews that don't address the concerns of the negative reviews. It's not that I deny their validity, but it completely ignores the problem at hand, so I figured that I might as well throw out what I know.

To start, I have been a member of this church for quite some time, so it should be noted that my next comments will be tinted with all the bias and predisposition that comes with association. I think highly of Agape because it is my church.

Agape does not joke around. We seek to follow Jesus above all else, and we try to make this pursuit the absolute center and goal of our lives. Christianity isn't a game played on sundays, but rather a life that is lived to 120% as one put it. The next part, the authority of the Church, is where it gets hairy. We believe that this life lived for Jesus is best lived out in the fellowship of the Church, and under the spiritual guidance of the leaders placed above us, by authority given by God. Through this, we obey, even when we don't like what we hear, trusting that what they say is God breathed and true.

At this point, we can ask whether or not the church's guidance is God breathed and true. Take it as you will, but I have to personally say that it is as far as I've seen, considering all of the life, radical changes, and even miracles that have taken place here. The Holy Spirit's presence would not grace itself here unless there was true faith. Or then perhaps it is only at God's incredible mercy. No one truly knows, but I believe what I believe.

One of the most blatantly obvious things about Agape is its very strong and offensive aroma. We hold very strong positions, and pick up flak for it quite alot. We aren't wishy washy, per se. Neither do we take too much offense at being called a cult. As one pastor Preached, "Unless you have been called a cult, you have not preached the gospel of Jesus Christ." That is not to say that we consider ourselves one, but rather that we interpret the meaning of 2 corinthians 2:16 in a way that shows the accusation in a different understanding. "To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?"

If I'm going to cherry pick, I'm obligated to present the other side, which says, "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." (1 corinthians 9:22) If we do things our way so adamantly, and offend so many people, how could we possibly outreach? I'm not entirely sure, but we still have tons of people worshipping and living incredible lives, so it must be God's grace. Of course, everything is God's grace anyways.

Nonetheless, we understand that we cannot take our positions and expect everyone to be all nice and happy. We will offend people, and quite obviously, we have. Faith is serious business and to those who don't agree, they are welcome to leave.

Another thing about us is that we say that our relationships with each other are based in God's love and salvation. Opposed to a work based relationship, or even a family based relationship, a faith based relationship, according to our belief, is stronger. So of course we expect the bond between a brother in Christ to be stronger than a bond between a brother by blood. And as that is so, it is a wonder that anyone is surprised that the consequences for disowning a brother in Christ are no laughing matter. When one disagrees with the church and decides to leave, he is disowning the church, denying that the fellowship was not the strongest. That rift provides basis for why we no longer have any more reason to associate.

However, it is not a personal attack on the one who left. It is only the natural consequence of disownment. You wouldn't speak to your disowned blood brother. How much more so to your disowned brother in christ? It is expected that those who leave do so because they believe it is the best and more importantly, the right thing to do. If one truly believed that they were right in leaving, they would have no qualms dealing with the disassociation that comes after, and wouldn't feel like it was a personal attack on them.

We are not dealing with actual case by case scenarios, but with general concepts and reasoning, so the above may not apply to the cases of those who have posted here. To compensate, I will address several specific points.

However, one little point of clarification. Keep in mind that I will only address the concepts, and not the actual human mistakes that have been made by individual people. We are talking about the church, not the individuals. I will differentiate between the two for the sake of this post. While it may true be that the church is made up of people, it is in fact also true that the church is made up of, well, people. People with their own agendas, opinions, and feelings and especially mistakes, all of which we are obligated to repent from. But as several points of the church doctrine have already been established, we will deal with the doctrine and human side separately. Additionally, I cannot properly speak for the leadership, as I am not a leader myself.

The first concerns I would like to address are the ones brought up by truth-xp. The manipulation stems from trusting that their guidance is spirit led, and the isolation comes from the idea that your Church relationships are stronger. Same for lasting and profound, when you disown us, it means that much. That's how lasting and profound they are supposed to be.

To Jclove, the above.

To Burnedbutnotbeat, the above, though your scenario may carry a little more weight. I wouldn't know.

To Beverly, I would actually agree with some of the sermon's scriptedness, but I don't doubt its intention and spiritual backing. Along with the emotionalism, but yes, it is a very personal and case by case matter whether or not it is genuine. I can't say anything for the selectiveness about the colleges. Maybe no one got there yet? Maybe we have plans? Or maybe it actually is a problem? Can't say. I'm not in charge of that. As to the caste system, that seems to be an invention of the people, not the church.

To Christian7210, that is quite alot. Very comprehensive. Yes Agape has changed much over the years. I disagree with the "only agape churches statement" In fact, I was recently rebuked for criticizing another church. It is understood that we believe in the "Holy Christian Church" as consituting all of the believers. However, along with the hierarchy is the understanding that those who are in places of authority are  not higher at all. In fact, the hierarchy, if that is even the right word, is upside down. Those who are higher are in fact lower. It is expected that this should be the case, at least conceptually.

As to our isolation, that is by the guidance of the pastors, who feel that it is best for the church to be that way. I think alot of what you are bringing up are just fundamental disagreements with the church's decisions, at which point all you can do is either change or leave, and you left. Its a perfectly fine and viable option, as long as you understand what must happen as a result. You did the best thing that you knew.

To cp7210, About the works theology. The works theology is against our doctrine technically, but how else would you be able to see the fruit that one bears without seeing what good God has done in their lives? With the more fruit that is borne, we can entrust further responsibility. We would not allow people newer to the faith, or those who aren't as committed to oversee and guide the condition of the human soul. That is not to say that the only way faith can be seen is by works, but we trust that God will show the fruit that has grown in one's life. There is indeed potential for corruption, but that's up to the individual.

We don't call ourselves, or think of ourselves as the "best" church, but it is understood that the way that the Agape church is called is what it is. And when talking about other churches, we understand that their calling is different. If you don't believe you are called to be here, then go to the church that you are called to be a part of. No one's really stopping you. Just know what will naturally happen afterwards.

To LXG, Correction was there because the Pastors thought that something was wrong. Since Pastors aren't dealing with trifling things, but rather the soul, which we do consider quite significant, it is of utmost importance that you would be willing to change, and they will do all they humanly and spiritually can to make you feel that you need to change. Disagree with whether it was right or not? Thats fine, do what is best, and understand the consequences.

The intentions of the members are a matter of the members, not doctrine.

To Christian31, I can't speak on the doctrine on this one since you did not present a detailed rationale for the church, but it does seem rather unfair and unlike us. Can't tell you what it was.

To Wattchagonnado, I will admit, I'm not too hot on this massively frequent 5 star rating torrent. Perhaps that was a little bit misguided. We cannot control people's opinion of us, but we know that the stances we take are offensive. It's nothing new. No one has stepped forward because there is not really a dispute. We're not arguing who's right or wrong. People left, we let them go, and that's that. I don't understand why so many people are taking it personally. It wasn't because we don't like you. We're not that shallow.

To MandalaDA, I actually can't say anything about alot of that, since its human side. But if it did happen, then there would be an actual problem on our part. If it did happen, it surely was not the teaching of the church.

To Freernow, it may be that in a normal church those who leave from dispute in doctrine may not be as riled up, but by the very nature of our doctrine, as described above, a disagreement can be easily taken personally, and painfully so. So I wouldn't call us a cult, though we're quite obviously not a normal church.


Is money really an issue? I don't suppose we force people to pay, do we? If we do, it is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed. But this one seems a little bit trivial.

To Kangphil, More of this seems like human error, misunderstanding, or any number of possible faults. What is wrong is wrong, but read the above, and see what could possibly apply.

It seems alot of the concerns are recurring so there is no point in addressing other people. If you feel I must speak for something not said, however, reply, and I'll probably respond.

---

So, to conclude, there is indeed potential for corruption and fault on the individual level. That I cannot speak for, and hope that what wrongs were done may be made right. The same goes for the leadership. But what much of the complaint seems to be is that those who left took it personally, and did not prepare for the consequences of disowning the church.

On the other hand, I'm having a hard time believing some of the things said about the church, or rather, the people within it. Those are a bit messier, and I hope that whatever issues that exist may be resolved if there is indeed any fault on our part.


In the end, all things will come to the surface, both on the accountability of Agape, and the accountability of those who left.

God save us all.

It is refreshing to hear someone reply and sound like they are actually reading the posts. I am probably not the best to answer this since i left on my own volition, and did not feel pressured to do so. Maybe i was/am cognizant of the fact that the friendships i left there were not deep enough; but you mention disowning your brothers/sisters/church. On what grounds does one disown? Perhaps for doing something that defiles you, what you stand for etc, it has to be pretty terrible like they killed/raped another family member...even some families that understand the depths of love would not disown on such basis (i actually know a real life story). It is fine if this is the "Agape way", but i do not believe this is Agape (love).

PS: We all have one calling; Matt 28:19. The specifics may be different and that should be it, so why can't i remain friends with people at Agape?

PSS:- People don't normally use the word cult lightly, in fact that water is rarely treaded unless it is blatant, they usually base their conclusions on trends that raise questions........http://neirr.org/profile_icc.htm

I feel compelled to...and thought twice abou it but this is research done by people that do not know Agape......http://neirr.org/s7-aber2.html

Hello Me,

Just finished reading the link http://neirr.org/s7-aber2.html I was at agape for over a decade.  Every point in this article i can think back to very specific examples where agape displayed these characteristics.  I will have to take sometime and post all my examples later.

Yea what went through my mind while reading it was "Spot on!" A synthetic and analytical mind just needs to read the prior comments to see the link, but your bullet pointing would shed some light.

Note: Agape, no one is saying you are not a bible believing church, we are saying somethings are obviously too wrong and affecting lives.

1

Watchmaker - thank you so much for your thoughtful and honest response. It's a breath of fresh air from the other fluffy positive reviews. This feels like a real conversation where one is much needed.

You constantly refer to people leaving the Agape churches as "disowning" the community. And that they should have known the "consequences" for leaving or disagreeing.

This is really the heart of the disconnect between those inside vs. those that have exited. I would venture to say that the vast majority of those that have left Agape did not leave with the desire to lose friendships, community, belonging. In fact, it is those who have left that feel abandoned and abused. Do you accuse the physically beaten wife of "abandoning" the marriage by deciding to escape the husband? Absolutely not - the only sane, healthy, Christ-like thing to do is get the woman to a place of safety. For those on the inside, it's tempting to roll your eyes at a seemingly exaggerated analogy. But read the negative reviews again. And then again. These are truly hurting people who feel they had no choice but to leave. For many, it was the hardest decision of their lives. This is abuse.

For those in the church, consider this thought experiment: If a very close friend or sibling or even spouse that has left Agape wanted to spend time with you - get dinner, a drink, watch a movie - would you hesistate? If you have been indoctrinated in Agape culture for any significant period of time, the answer is a resounding "Yes, I would hesitate." Please think about it. This is not normal behavior, it is learned. Where is the pressure coming from? It can't be because you have nothing in common. Could it be for fear of breaking unspoken rules or getting rebuked?

Why do you feel it is your responsibility to bring down the "consequences"? There is an active and intentional practice of shunning in Agape without regard to the emotional and spiritual toil it brings on its victims. Since when has it become OK for religious rules, culture and traditions to overshadow the simple gestures that express friendship and love. Is it ok to have an "Oh well, they left" attitude while knowing that there is such a sense of loss and violence?

Watchmaker, I commend your honesty and thoroughness. And I plead with you to chat with the pastors because you seem to have a handle on knowing how to communicate. Would you be willing to do that and report back to us?

5

To Me, it is all a matter of interpretation of the nature of our understanding of the Church, and our understanding of the consequences of disownment. I am not sure if the consequences are made very clear when people enter the church, and perhaps that is something that could be a little more emphasized so that when people leave, they are less prone to take it personally.

While Matthew 28:19 is the calling of the universal church, the little details are what separate the branches, sects, denominations, and then cults, if you will. Wars have been fought between denominations, so its not the first time that an interpretational rift has caused pain. It is simply a fact of what we believe, and at the core of things, its not something we will change for other people, as painful as it may be. 

And to restate, in unglossy terms, it is not us who disowns you, it is you who disowns us. We only follow suit, not in retaliation, but in natural consequence. We are fine if people really really disagree with the way we do things, because they are free to leave at any time. But they need to know that we will not associate with them anymore. Perhaps it is unfair sounding, But it is what we believe. 

When the word cult is used, it is used in hatred and condescension, I know. We do not "like" being called a cult, but we expect it, because it is at our heart that we purposely do not want to conform to social norms. And at times, social norms may include the majority of other churches and the way they fellowship. 

But here's a breakdown of the eight points, keeping in mind, the dealing with concepts, not the human side:

1. Scripture Twisting: I wouldn't say that we're the only people that do this, if we do, since it seems to be a rather easy and commonplace mistake to make. I don't believe we do this, if we did, then it was wrong to do so, or maybe it wasn't wrong, depending on how much we twisted the scripture. 

2. Controlling leadership: If leadership didn't control... would it be leadership? Or do you mean that leaders guide instead of controlling? We don't say that our pastors "Are anointed" or "Have the mind of Christ" The reason they expect "total obedience" is that they believe and expect you to believe that they are guided by the spirit, and will guide you correctly. Atleast conceptually, we do not believe in any mystical special pipeline nonsense. And of course, if you do not agree with the leadership, you are, as so frequently stated, welcome to leave. 

3. Isolation from the real world: I'd disagree with this one, as all of the members have real lives apart from the church. Agape may be their lives, but they still have to shop, make money, go to concerts. They're still human beings, not mind controlled robots. And in their life where they are outside of church, they will obviously encounter things that could harm them. Or, what we believe that will harm them. And we'll only guide them through prayer. Now as to the leaving of family etc. If we truly think that it is harmful, we will act on it. If they disagree, then they can leave. 

4. Chosen few: Has been addressed, concerning the way we view the calling of different churches. There is no conceptual superiority. Only human error in this one, I believe. Additionally, I am discouraged by my leaders to proselytize other Christians. We only bring them in if they are looking for a church on their own. 

5. Uniformity of Lifestyle: It's the person's choice how they want to live. We correct what is bad, but we have a diverse group of people with diverse tendencies. 

6. No Dissent: Well this one comes with the statement: You can leave any time if you dissent. We're not forcing you to stay.  

7. Traumatic departure: We do not tell you that something bad will happen to you. And salvation does exist outside of our walls. You can go anywhere, just understand what happens. The traumatic departures described have already been accounted for as one taking the natural consequences personally. 

8. In transition: the Church matures and changes obviously in doctrine and practice. Whether you like where we're going or not is your concern. 

To Burnedbutnotbeat, You may post examples, but the chances are high that I will only respond citing previous responses, or dismiss a large majority of it to human error. 

To Lindell

Again, perhaps we could make it clearer, the consequences and doctrine behind leaving the church. But that concerns present and future change. We are dealing with people hurt in the past. 

I would encourage to decrease the emotionalism of the analogy, and all further posts, so as not to appeal to pathos or subjective ethos, but rather logos within the Christian framework. We are not concerned with what "feels right" or "is right" but what was laid down as doctrine within the church, and how people have responded as a result. Ecclesiastical logos, if you will.

I will not discount it, however. When a wife leaves an abusive marriage, she has to go through all the court settlements, and then actually leave her husband. If it is done properly, she would never see or talk to her husband again. The wonder is then, why would the people who left (Abused Wife) feel so hurt when the people of the church (Husband, as the church is made of people for this analogy) will not communicate with them. It is only natural that both sides break off. Though for the wife to leave, she has to break off first. Whether or not it sounds good, yes. The woman abandons the marriage. We don't say it in that way, because it sounds very harsh and judgmental, but at the logical heart, yes. She is the one who sought to abandon it. Its not an accusation, but a mere statement of fact. 

The matter of whether or not Agape is truly abusive is a matter of belief in the authority and validity of Agape's doctrine. But yes, it is best for the Wives to leave their Abusive husbands, if they know they are abusive. But the leaving process will not be easy, and they understand that. 

To the thought experiment, while it may be that some people fear rebuke, and do it out of fear, those who know the doctrine do it out of the doctrine, which has already been stated. And we are indoctrinated that the pressure comes from belief and understanding of the nature of the church, as understood by Agape. 

With your next statement, be careful, as it hints at a possibility that Religion comes second place to society. Unless this is what you believe of course. But the general Christian belief, or Agape's belief if anyone disputes this, is that God and the related, which is eternal, comes before pleasantries and formalities of society, which will rot away anyways. 

As to contacting our leadership, (I highly recommend that you remove the name for the sake of privacy and discretion. I have not named the ones who have commented bad reviews, even though I believe I know who they are. Please follow suit.) I will contact them when I feel that there is something that I am not qualified to answer. However, the errors that I may feel the need to talk about may be human errors, which I will not discuss here. But as it has been mentioned before, I would not expect much from the pastors, as their primary concern is most likely not with what people think about us.

I understand where you are coming from, and i see no reason to say i agree or disagree with you as it is obviously pointless, but the article did mention some issues are more or less emphasized in the various churches in different way. I will address only four that i have something to say something about.

1) Isolation: No man can ever live in isolation, but what they are talking about is relational isolation. Understandably if the family relationship is questionable there may be grounds to advice keeping a distance, but clearly reading a lot of the comments above it is not always the case. And what about church groups, are they also potential bad influences? Even countries/people that live in isolation still have some contact with the outside world. I think your logic is very faulty.

2) Traumatic departure: Trauma can only be fully understood by the ones that have been traumantized, neither of us can really comment on this, but again the comments point to this.

3)Uniformity of lifestyle: i politely say you are ....wrong! Agape does expect you to look up to your brothers and sisters in Christ and pretty much aspire to be like them. If that is not grounds for breeding a uniform lifestyle, then i don't know what is.

4) Controlling leadership: leadership is control? Wow, lol. I really do not even know what to say. What is the difference between a dictator (e.g. Kim Jong) and a leader (e.g. Obama)? 

I rest my case.

Btw it is a human issue, we are not talking concepts here. Agape does not deal with concepts, so we can't talk concepts. Unless you mean calling specific names or people. I understand that.

I actually love your suggestion here:

"I am not sure if the consequences are made very clear when people enter the church, and perhaps that is something that could be a little more emphasized so that when people leave, they are less prone to take it personally."

Is this something that the pastors would be willing to acknowledge and publicize? That upon leaving the Agape churches, you will be cut off from the community? I have a feeling that this practice is intentionally kept in whispers and secrecy because it would prevent more people from wanting to get involved in the first place.

People don't choose to get into abusive relationships. Your simplistic response of "just leave if you don't like it" sounds reasonable, but if your entire identity and emotions are wrapped up in a relationship, it's not such a trite decision. Sit down and speak to any victim of abuse and you might get a sense of how offensive that sounds.

It saddens me to hear you say that the "doctine" of the church is to consider those it has hurt as, essentially, collateral damage. And that there isn't really any desire to reflect on and change the underlying abusive behaviors. We simply disagree on what is appropriate treatment of people inside and outside the Agape churches. Should you really treat people differently based on their commitment level to Agape?

I'm curious, have you let the pastors know that you are basically speaking on behalf of the views and opinions of Agape? If not, would you consider letting them know and see how they respond? From my experience in such an authoritarian culture, you are treading on thin ice.

To the watchmaker,

Honestly i think you post from the cheap seats. 

If i had known when i joined agape that my friends and biological brothers would disown me for leaving agape on "good terms" i would have never joined. 

I guess what goes around comes around.  When i was brain washed into the system of "agape" i disowned so many so called "friends" of mine when they left agape.   I felt so justified back then saying it is ultimately loving them.  Such a twisted way of thinking.  Now i know it was very very wrong.

Dear Matt and Jim,

I hope you have now read the contributions of Watchman, and have realized that the pains of the negative contributors are indeed reasonable and justified.

Watchman repeatedly uses the word "disown" to  describe Agape's treatment of people who have chosen to stop attending AMC. According to that principle, Jesus should have "disowned" the once zealous ("on fire") Peter when he abandoned Him and denied Him thrice publicly. Further, the logical extension of this principle would mean in the famed parable about the Prodigal Son, the father should have disowned the son.

Fine, you join an organization, get involved, then leave - then you nor the organization have no obligation to each other. But, say for instance that you met your bestfriend(s) there, and as soon as you leave your bestfriends uniformly drop you like a hot potato. Is this natural? Mind you, no crime or greviances have been committed against the best friends or the organization. 

But then, we are not merely talking about ANY organization. We are talking about the CHURCH. 

Notice that none of the negative contributors are offended by the Gospel, in fact it was the Gospel that drew them in. Nay, it was the overpowering, very human, and abiblical organizational elements of this particular church which offended them.

Matt and Jim, I do not expect you to execute some amazing intervention, but at least you will think twice about shooing away these wounded souls.

 

5

So much of this appeals to ethos and pathos, both very transient and ungrounded bases of reasoning. No need to get fired up. I have already established that for my argument, im not concerned with what "feels" right or "seems" right. We will deal with what things are, without bringing the human side into things. Aside from the parameters that I have established, I cannot and will not respond. Simple as that. 

To Me, a little less biting please. I'm not attacking you. 

1) Well, was it actually the case or not? As has been established, our decisions made are a matter of our decisions made. Whether or not it seems to you that we have grounds for our decisions for isolation, they uphold their own decisions for whatever reason they may have. And then you can disagree. My logic may or may not be faulty, but you certainly don't like what you're hearing, because it just seems so inhuman and harsh. 

2) And thus we are waiting for those who were actually traumatized to describe the core, unbiased reasoning for their pain. But if their pain was because they were not aware of the natural consequences, then that is less of a reason 

3) I politely say you are... entitled to believe whatever you may desire. 

4) Obama is a president, not a leader. Obama himself is severely limited in the extent of his control, that is the form of Government he is provided with. Instead, I would use the example of "good leader" as King David, who as king, had power, and the ability to control. Kim Jong-Il also has power and the ability to control. Its a much clearer and appropriate similarity, but a world of a difference. The authority invested into a pastor is not that of a mere figurehead, not that Obama is a mere figurehead, but authority and responsibility that at the cruelest heart of things, is the possibility of control. What does one do with that control? Sounds scary, and it is. 

Agape is a Church with a doctrine. A doctrine is made up of concepts. Agape deals with concepts. I am not the people that were in the places of authority to make the mistakes, so I cannot speak for them. If you won't talk about doctrine, then there is nothing to talk about.

To Lindell, I think we do try to make it clear without actually saying it outright. At our baptisms, we do ask many questions that challenge their commitment to the church. It is more of a matter if the people leaving understand the weight of their decisions, which comes from the root of our understanding of what a church is. By now, it can be seen that our understanding of church is in fact radically different than what most people would think, so perhaps they are being caught off guard. 

The decision itself is logical, cold and harsh. The mess comes from the human side, the emotions, the hurt feelings, etc. But at the core, no matter how much is invested, how much of a sword hangs over one's head, it is still up to them to get away from it. But of course, it is one thing to say it, and another thing to actually do it. Argument of Pathos. 

It may be sad, and it is a harsher way of saying it, but for a large majority of the hurt cases, we consider ourselves doctrinally sound. Some cases more than others may be messier, but thats the rationale behind it. 

To burnedbutnotbeat, I already said that your situation may in fact carry more weight. And I do post from the cheap seats. That's already been said.

Beverly, And I also repeatedly use the word "disown" to describe the action done by people who leave AMC. If you would like it in even clearer terms, the departee disowns, and AMC doesn't even play the game. I was only saying disown in a reciprocal sense, hoping that you wouldn't attempt to twist the wording to fit your own agenda. I had assumed people would be a little more open to discussion, since that's what you wanted. This one feels a little bit low handed. 

No, it is entirely unnatural and offensive. And we know that. 

But understand that the friendships made here are made in the basis of God's love and fellowship within the church. Within the church is a huge part of this. So thus, a deep crime/ grievance is made when one disowns the church. It is the same as them disowning the basis of their friendship, and thus disowning their friend. We are indeed dealing with the CHURCH. 

We never called them not Christian. And for the ones that still believe, we still expect to see them in heaven... or I do... But it was our interpretation of the gospel which offended them. Seems like a valid enough cause for offense. 

---

Now what I'm trying to do here is not make Agape sound good. I'm merely trying to explain some of the misunderstandings that have arisen. You may not like what you hear, and that's perfectly fine, but that's how it is. 

I think it's worth pointing out that God intended for his people to have no King but himself, only giving them a King after they specifically asked for it, warning them it was a bad idea.

As for doctrine and concepts, I wonder how much the idea that you'll know a tree by its fruit applies. You can use logic to create a vast system of doctrine that all fits together nicely and appears a good interpretation of Scripture, but that doesn't make it good. Without love, even Paul becomes a gong and even the best doctrinal structures become prisons.

As for disowning, to quote a non-scriptural, pithy saying: It takes two to tango. You can say that the person leaving enacts the formal disowning, although this seems ridiculous as accounts suggest they don't even know they're doing disowning, but the practical act of disowning, the shunning, isn't carried out by the person leaving. If it were, what would they have to be upset about? Instead, they find their friends suddenly cold and distant, if present at all. Who's the active party there?

All that being said, Watchmaker, thank you for being so frank. This is loads better than no discussion. The Church goes far beyond AMC (and ALC and AHC and that one in France...), and we're called to love one another - I had a really hard time figuring out what that looked like when I was a student in a non-Agape fellowship; I had a hard time figuring out how our fellowship could actively love Agape (and vice versa). This discussion may not be much, but families don't love each other by not talking.

timdiggern and Watchmaker

Casper and I are very impressed with your willingness to "stay in the room" with each other and your attempt to "stop comparing your best with the others worst"

Timdggern comment summed it up nicely 

"This discussion may not be much, but families don't love each other by not talking."

Casper and I disagree about some stuff also but several years ago we decided that it was more important to "defend the space" that we held together relationally than to "defend the faith" we could argue over at any time.

Since Jesus told us to love each other rather than agree with each other - as a follower of Jesus - Im comfortable with this common ground that Casper and I have carved out.

We hope that you two keep talking - maybe you could start a blog together where you teach people how to dialog instead of debate. That might make Jesus happy and provide people a model of what it looks like when we practice being unusually interested in each other and spend more time listening and asking interesting questions than we do declaring our positions and expressing our rights to hold them.

Let us know if you guys think thats a good idea

Perphaps my hint of cynicism came off as biting. I apologize for that. For what it's worth at least you are willing to talk.

Greetings-

 

I can no longer sit on the sidelines: 

Looking back at my Agape experience, I was outrightly say, I was angry and pissed when I learned how my name was dragged through the mud. I left because of a dispute, I did not leave in anger but because of Agape's diplomacy and their fundamental disrespect for one's life. Just around the time I left I was having a background search done on me through DHS. I had to resubmit the forms because no one whom I placed down as  references refused to help me. Leaving their flock was seen as betrayal.

I was pissed because I upheld their ideals, I clothe brothers and sisters, I have generously in time, money and skills. Yet these people with their rhetoric and decent, did not have the courtesy to bring themselves to help a former church member out. It was simple to them, "I left the flock, I could not be trusted." 

With that said I'm glad that watchmaker made reference to President Obama, you see I submitted the contents of this blog to a few social work groups at Universities her in Maryland, Pastors in this area and to a few Human Rights groups for independent opinions. You see even though we are Christians, we are Americans  and we have been afforded rights. People are protected from Force, intimidation, manipulation and deception. Your doctrine does not give you the right to abuse. This is America! 

The Social Workers, who council refugees, victims of abuse and religious persecution all unanimously agreed that these postings resound with abuse. The pastors whom I spoke to agreed that this group need to move out of their comfort zone and seek accountability to larger churches or more experienced leaders. Being labeled a cult is not a badge of honor. I have a hard time believing because of the hierarchal system that Watchmaker is a back seat rider. 

If watchmaker can discern who the negative posters are, then he acknowledge that premises for peoples arguments and therefore should recognize the conclusion. Your doctrine stinks! Obviously you inadvertently admitted that you all are hurting people. By willfully twisting scripture and manipulating your doctrine to fit your purpose. You cannot pull these posters aside or usher then behind closed doors. Here everything is in the open. You don't have the upper hand, kinda feels crappy eh... yeah!  

I hope that parents reading this blog is aware of what their children are getting into. People shop around for other churches, the level of abuse based on scripture is high which is simply not right. You cannot justify willful hurt, using God's word.

 

I'm open to coming to your church with some of my friends. I'm willing to step forward to help you amend the way you do Church. I know you may feel you don't need help, but some Members, Friends and Guest will differ. Don't go on a witch hunt in weeding them out. Take it for what it is. 

Watchmaker and Agape Peeps

Here is our recommendation..

Whoever is perceived to be the most powerful (that would be you guys) needs to make the first move toward dialog.

Having achieved (or taken, depending on ones view) the position of greater influence you now retain the opportunity to give some of that power away.

Several years ago I bought an atheists soul on Ebay which put me in the upper position. Apart from that I was a Christian and he wasn't which in the US automatically put me in the upper position.

Together we launched an experiment to host a blog where we learned from each other rather than attacked each other. This of course required much transparency and discipline on each of our parts.  

it also required that we "have each others backs" meaning when his side came in and attacked me he defended me (as much as possible) and visa versa. 

We actually set the rules so that people who really really wanted to fight could "go in the other room" and duke it out.

We wanted to see if people from very different and heated viewpoints could dialog. It was very successful resulting in many long term friendships since that time.

Almost no one "converted" or "switched sides" but all of our hearts changed shape - they become bigger and more generous 

Jim, thanks so much for getting involved in our lives this way. You may not have intended Churchrater to turn into this sort of venue, but it's truly giving a voice to so many that have been silenced and crushed in the past 17 or so years Agape has been around. It is liberating to the soul to know that our hurts are being validated and brought out in the open to be heard. And I believe there are scores of people inside the church walls reading this page that are starting to feel the same sort of freedom to boldy reject abuse and legalism.

There really are wonderful, committed and Jesus-loving people inside Agape. But I personally don't think it will be effective to try to convince individuals or even the church as a whole for cultural change or dialog. It's really a systemic issue coming straight from the head honcho. Agape's structure is extremely hierarchical and members are the most committed you'll ever see - they're just trying their hardest to be a Christian by following their leaders. I really think any sort of change can only come from the very top. Even pastors are subject to verbal abuse and overwhelming pressure from the head pastor. They've even grown to appreciate the abuse and wear it as a badge of honor. It's just part of the culture.

I'm sure the leadership is reading all this. I really hope the head pastor is taking all this to heart. I think most of us that have left want reconciliation and healing. We want to talk with you, we want to hangout and laugh and pray together. We've gotten nothing but closed doors. The door won't be opened by the members, the pastors need to make a choice. Will you invite us in?

5

To Timdiggerm. That is a good point, but it doesn't necessarily negate the good that David did with his power. Now whether or not one believes a pastor rightfully has power is the subjective part. 

We trust that everything is done in love. Again, whether or not it happens is a different story. I think it does a good majority of the time. Not to say we're perfect either. 

I'd assume by the accounts that they didn't know that we considered their actions disowning. This one is something that we could change in my opinion. Letting people know what it is before they get involved, so that it is less personal. It seems to have caught everyone off guard.

Thank you as well for not getting fired up. I do appreciate responding to a non inflammatory, well reasoned argument. 

To Jimhender, Thank you. As to a blog, my response is the same as the one given to Lindell below. 

To Me. No problem. I appreciate your cool headedness.

To TheDevil'sReject, I can't properly discern your tone, but it sounds to me like you're very angry. 

To Lindell, It would most likely be in both of our best interests to do so, but from what vibes I've gotten from the small suggestions I've put forth over the years, I'm not sure how much will actually happen. I have gotten several good things out of this dialogue, and I do not claim that Agape is perfect, but major sweeping changes will have to happen gradually. I will do my best to become the change that I wish to see, and hope that others will change as well. 

Lindell and Watchmaker

Watchmaker I don't know if that's a yes or no but I think you're saying yes to the offer of co hosting a blog with Lindell where the people/groups you both represent can practice dialoging, listening and hearing each other.

Here is what I suggest in order to keep the this conversation from getting further inflamed.

Set up blog (Wordpress makes this easy) and provide each of you admin rights. You really need to take this conversation off ChurchRater if you want to make relational progress. We aren't set up to referee, guide or teach people how to do this stuff. We simply lack the admin help and frankly the right to advise people in delicate situations such as you find yourselves in right now.

One of you needs to exchange a private email with the other and get this going right away. Believe me all the people you represent will show up. 

It will take big hearts on both of your parts and lots of wisdom and if I may suggest, keep your expectations low. Human beings (even those of us who claim to have been transformed) are very slow to admit error and "give ground" but that is what will happen if you lead this process.

It will make you both better human beings, leaders and followers of the way of Jesus.

Good Luck

to the watch maker

You had mentioned twice that "I do not claim that Agape is perfect."  I feel that comments like that is a cop out. Who ever says that they are perfect? Instead of saying agape is not perfect admit that we have made mistakes because we are human and sinful.

Much more can be said but i just wanted to address phrases like this that frustrate me.

WatchMaker 

Comment like this one from "burned..." will continue to pile up unless you and Lindell lead this process and open a separate conversation. 

give it a try - it cant hurt anything anymore than has already gone on

to jim

that comment was not meant to be inflammatory.  Which is harder to say, "i am not perfect," or "i am a sinner and i sin."
I personally don't like being anonymous b/c i don't want to be careless with my words and i take responsibility for what i say. 
 

Lord, bring revival...start with me

Revival?  Sure revival is great.  How about reconciliation first?

Burned- you dont have to be anonymous- feel free to identify yourself. There is no rule on ChurchRater about being anonymous. In fact we prefer that people use their actual identities. It seems that almost no one on this Agape conversation feels safe enough to do that. That is not only unfortunate - its actually a little strange not to mention possibly unbiblical 

1

Good to know.  If anyone has been at agape for any significant time they would have already known who i am by my posts.  I made it clear by what i had written. 

Joel

1

Hi friends,

 

The posts have been helpful and I have tried to follow them. It is nice that many have shared their pain and find validation in their hurts. I am glad others have share their joys. However, I feel it is bringing back too many memories and I think it is spiritually healthy for me not to think about Agape too much. To those who left Agape like me, I hope you cling to Jesus in all your pains and joys and rescue the things you learned in Agape that were from the Bible and treasure what God did. If your faith was shaken like mine have been, I know that Jesus will cling to you and help you. It takes time but He always comes through. I hope we heal from the negative/human inflicted things. May we all rescue the baby and not the baby-water :)

For those in Agape, may God guide you to love Him and love others in a Healthy and Beautiful Way. He is good.

 

To the leaders in Agape, I wanted to thank you for the many positive things that God did in my life through you. I also want to forgive any hurt that I have felt from anything that you have said and done that have caused me pain. I would like to ask for your forgiveness for anything I have said and done that have hurt you.

Good bye Churchrater, one of my emails is provided if anyone want to contact me :)

Jim, I love your ideas and the cool and refreshing ways He uses you, may you continue to be a Light.

May the Lord bless you and guide you,

LXG

 

1

I have not posted in awhile.  I am encouraged that many more are leaving agape and are being freed from the grip of this abusive and manipulative church. I know there are many more to come.  Let's continue to pray for those who are still being manipulated and controlled. 

Joel

1

So much has already been said in the comment thread above.  My name is Allen Lu, I was in Agape Life Church for 13 years.  Agape Life Church is a church plant in Pittsburgh from Agape Mission Church.  I served and committed my life to this church for those 13 years and was leading a campus ministry, lead worship on Sunday and was a Pastoral Intern (the leadership level under the Pastoral Team).  

I left suddenly last year after I asked to take a break from serving in some of my responsibilities and was told "that's not biblical".  I was excommunicated from the community and have been slowly trying to recover from the hurt this church has caused me.  

My conclusion after being gone for a year is that this church is a cult.  They lead you to have a deep dependency on their pastors and not leading you to figure things out for yourself in regards to faith, but also finances, family relationships, friend relationships, interpreting the bible, how to behave/act/live.  They will pour out all their resources to recruit you, but beware.  If you ever act too independently the pastors will decide that they are "no longer called to reach out to you" and they will stop all association with you.  The rest of the church members will follow suit in an instant.

If you are looking for a community to prescribe to you how to live your christian life and are willing to cut all ties w/ your existing friends and family, then this MIGHT be the place for you.

I started a blog after I left Agape to process my experience there.  This was my own personal therapy to help me move on, but I have realized it has benefited others as well.  So I wanted to share my blog here.

I'm still open to having a genuine friend relationship with anyone in Agape.  It still hurts that everyone has stopped associating with me b/c I decided to leave the church.  I'm still hopeful b/c there are many good people that I care deeply for.  But they are just following a twisted, Korean, leadership and following and carrying on their behavior modification to take advantage of young college students.

http://www.yumyumthis.com/

I have been going here for over 1 year. I love it because here I feel as if I belong and I am not an outsider. It is only on a PERSONAL basis that people stop talking to those who have decided to leave. In fact, I still remain friends with quite a few who have left. I agree, slightly, that some of the staff seem controlling, but if you'd just stop and listen to what they are saying, 9 times out of 9.5 they are trying to HELP you. I have gotten advice that I didnt want to hear at first, but when I calmed down, I agreed and listened to it. The college campus ministries ARE growing. There are ones at Hopkins, College Park, HCC, Towson, MICA, and we are continuing to branch outwards. Sometimes, it is the SCHOOL that doesn't want US to be on their campus. Keep that in mind. Also, many of the leaders and pastoral team members were/are still getting used to how things run here. If you people think that we are a cult, then think of this: the true meaning of a cult practically defines ALL religions. A group or sect of people bound together by their beliefs, sacred symbols, leader, etc. I've found that most of the people who have left are too opinionated on what a church "really" should be. Some of them even questioned if God and Jesus were real, or if they were ancient ways of the political leaders back then to dominate over the commoners

1

So glad to have left this group. Shoulda never joined really. The time I was part of them were the most miserable and stressful in my life- I cried often, gained tons of weight (also because of their eating habits but thats another story). They really have a way of making you feel bad about yourself.  I hate to be racist but I totally avoid anything remotely Korean now. Probably not related but I'm not taking any chances. 

I'm not sure if this forum is still active, and i don't really care who reads this.  I know many people know about this forum and would guess they still follow it, both those in AMC and those who have left AMC.  I have read these posts with mixed feelings of curiosity, amusement, anger, sarcasm, but overall a great deal of sadness, as I know many of the people who have posted their experiences with the church and their traumatic experiences leaving.

   Let me start off with saying I don't have a set agenda for this post, except to share my thoughts which is somewhat cathatric to me, and to possibly help those who still deal with the feelings of shock, betrayal, guilt, etc.  If you are a member of AMC reading this and you disagree with anything I say or any inaccurracies in my statements, please correct me, but understand this is my perspective of things years later, and they are my own.  I am not going to argue theology, doctrine, church structure, and I am going to refrain as much as possible from talking in "Christianese," not because I don't believe in grace, God's love, calling, Holy Spirit, etc, but because I find the terms are so misused and tend to muddle things in conversation, and often become crutches.  I also will not be quoting any Scripture because let's face it, there have been church splits, wars fought, even murder by people far more knowledgable than I, due to differing interpretations of Scripture, and Scripture can be distorted and taken completely out of context to  justify any action.  There are a few absolutes in Scripture that no believer should debate, and they are to love the Lord with all your heart, and to love one another, which are themes repeated over and over.  The interpretation of these is where it gets hairy.

   I am also not here to tell anyone not to attend Agape, and not here to condemn AMC.  That has been done ad nauseam.  I hope for those thinking about attending or committing, they go in with a sober mind, and realize what they are comitting to.  I actually still have much fondness for many people still there, and I have the utmost respect and still even love for the pastors.  They are not malicious people out to hurt people and destroy lives.  They have devoted their lives as completely as they know how, to what they believe, all in the intentions of serving God.  They are not hypocrites, and they have good hearts.  I knew the pastors fairly well during my time there and was close to a few of them. I can confidently say they're not out for money, if some are wondering.  Two of the pastors are physicians and as far as I'm aware don't pay themselves.  Many members are doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer people, so they're not hurting for money.  Their primary outreach used to be college students, who have no money.

   To be fair, I left many years ago and know nothing any more about the inner workings, but I follow up from time to time, mostly out of some kind of morbid curiosity, and still hear many things, ironically most from friends who used to shun me when I left, but left later on themselves.  All the fancy names, programs, Friends of Jesus, POTG, they're still based on the same, age-old principles of living out your faith radically,  discipleship, accountability, and evangelism.  As evidenced by the many people here who left more recently, I guess not much has changed in how they do things.

   I was in AMC from near the beginning in the mid 90's, back when they were just starting the church at UMBC.  The membership and servant group (their version of deacons) were much smaller.  They were radical, exciting, living out as passionately as possible their faith, and I absolutely gave my all and followed them.  The motto was "revival for this generation."  Back then, AMC still had connections to other churches, and weren't isolated.  In fact, one of their key members married someone outside AMC, and the pastors and many people flew to California to attend, even with the knowledge that the member would leave AMC to join a church in California.  That would never happen again, and I remember hearing one of the pastors say that this can't happen anymore.  The head pastor used to have accountablity with 5 other churches, in NY and in California.  Somewhere along the line, that accountability vanished, and I am not sure why.  I rose up in the leadership in my ministry and was one of the main leaders.  Like many of the people who posted, AMC was my life and I was a  prominent leader.  It unintentionally completely replaced school, friends, even my own family.  There simply wasn't time for anything else.  I became an official member after college, though I really didn't know what I was getting into.  I just really loved my ministry and to continue further to serve, the rule explained to me was you had to be a member.  Not a biggie at the time, but I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

   As I rose up more publically, I began to constantly get rebuked, for doing little things wrong, poor communication (even though we had meetings every single day), but my heart and committment were never questioned, and naturally I grew tired of it.  I realized also that I was starting to have doubts about their authority, where I fit in, and where they were headed.  When I finally left over a decade ago, the worldly explanation was my job took me somewhere else.  I received a blessing to leave from my leader and left the church.  In reality, I really lost my faith and trust that the pastoral team wanted what was best for me.  Here's the thing and tough for me to swallow to this day... they never wanted what was best for me.  They wanted what was best for the church.  They have ALWAYS wanted what is best for AMC. 

   Of course I left bitter and extremely angry, like everyone does.  You can't not leave like this when you have given your life to a cause.  You lose all of your friends, people who were closer than family, surrogate fathers and mothers... I returned one time after that, and let me tell you, it was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life.  I felt like I had some disease or I had entered some enemy camp and would infect everyone.  I never returned again.  For many years, I can't count the number of times I would be alone in my thoughts and imagine what I would say or how I would react to the pastors if I met them again. I often had dreams / nightmares about different scenarios that played out in my mind about meeting up with them again.  Sounds sick huh?  That's the level of psychological /spiritual scarring that I and others have.  I used to pray for healing and forgiveness, and the more I did this, the worse it got.  Believe it or not, I consider myself mostly healed and have moved on as much as possible from this experience, though scars apparently last forever.  Ironically, what it took for me, was obviously much time, but especially to realize that the whole thing was never a personal vendetta against me.  That's how I used to feel.  It took hearing horror story after horror story about other AMC friends leaving and their terrible stories, to realize that how AMC treated Christians who left their church was always the same.

   To those considering joining AMC or considering membership, this is my perception of AMC: Joining the church and especially membership there is essentially marriage.  It's meant to be for the rest of your life, and you MUST give up your previous friends and YOUR OWN FAMILY.  Once committed, anything less than total, utter complete obedience and all of your time, is considered adultery.  Breaking membership is divorce, forbidden by God...  Maybe that's why they treat the people who have left the way they do.  In their minds, we divorced or comitted adultery on them, regardless of the circumstances, so they treat us as enemies.  Whether they're right or not or even Biblical, is irrelevant to us "outsiders."  No matter how twisted it sounds to us and unChrist-like, that is simply what they believe, and who are we to change their mind? 

   I said previously I would not argue or discuss doctrine or talk in "Christianese," so I'm sorry if the next part sounds preachy, but I have to say it.  I think it's been mentioned by others that Agape does acknowledge the universal church and fellowship of all believers, they just believe their church is the best way to live for God.  They will officially teach this from the pulpit, and say, not everyone is called to their church.  Fine and dandy.  But to shun and even "disown," former brothers and sisters in Christ, spiritual children, is tantamount to saying that the bond of the AMC church is more important than the blood of Christ!  It's fine to lose touch with people when you leave because it's natural.  I would have accepted that.  Everyone has different lives and you move on and drift apart.  But for AMC to actually make it a decisive, cold, calculated point to actively cut their ties with the people who left, and treat them as strangers, even enemies, the perception is that we fell away, gave ourselves to sin, and spat in God's face!  I assure those of you who are a bit newer, many who have left were some of the most devoted Christians I ever met.  The poster who mentioned being a best man at several weddings, was one of the most humble, servant-like, believers I have known, even to this day.  A good friend of mine was told by his own brother when he finally made the painful decision to leave, that their blood bond was dead, and he was closer to his "spiritual brothers in the church," than he was to his own brother, my friend.  The irony being that my friend's brother left years later, and hopefully they have reconciled. 

   One of my very real worries is this:  AMC shut itself off completely from other churches it used to associate with, with no accountability from anyone.  Outside guest speakers with a few exceptions were no longer used.  They stopped singing outside Christian songs, and started only singing songs written by themselves, all in the name of providing "fresh bread from God for Agape," to their church.  If I'm wrong then please correct me, as this was the trend when I left.  If you're singing Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman and Hillsong publically now, I would be very surprised.  Their ideations of authority are a bit strange, and to this day I can't fully understand, and if I do somewhat, I can't accept it.  Under their teaching, the church and leaders are all guided by the Holy Spirit, and to question any decisions they make, is the same as questioning God's soverigneity.  If you felt God calling you to do something different than what you were told to do, you were just listening to your sinful heart and emotions, as the Holy Spirit was guiding your leader's authority.  Here's the kicker:  I was a leader, as were countless others who left.  Everyone who was there for over 4 years was a leader in some capacity!  Does that mean that everything I did was guided by the Spirit?  Of course not!  Looking back, I realize that everything I gave, everything I sacrificed, everyone I led, everyone I had manipulated, had been for the glory of the church, for my pastors, and not really for God.  Sure "God" was the stated reason, but I know who I really loved and feared: it was my leaders and meeting their strict expectations.  Maybe that's my own fault.  How can you believe in a living God and a personal relationship with Christ, that the Holy Spirit lives in you, if your leaders, your pastors, who are sinners just like me, are dictating what you should be doing, how you should feel, what you should sacrifice, how you should live to the minutiae!?!  When questioning your leader, they ALWAYS make it a point you are being rebellious and you need to submit to the leadership of the church, because this authority was given to them by God.  What's the point of prayer and talking with God?  Your leader becomes your God, and that's why so many including myself struggled with AMC's oppressive authority.  When I painfully left, there was only one thing I really wanted.  I wanted my pastors to tell me that they still loved me, that while I must have done many things wrong, so did they, and were sorry for how things turned out.  As has been mentioned by "burned," they will never apologize for their actions, and they answer to noone.  Maybe in their minds it would be essentially saying God made mistakes in their authority, and would undermine the whole church.

   To "Watchmaker,"  I gotta tell you, I smiled and almost laughed when I read your posts, because that's probably something I would have said back in the day.  I'm not blaming you, as I know what it's like when your entire being is in sync with AMC.  You reminded me of one of the pastors who is also a physician although I'm pretty sure you're not him, and to be blunt, your comments really just pissed me off.  You talk of "disownment," and what you should expect when you make the decision to leave the church thereby disowning the AMC fellowship, and that AMC is not retaliating by severing all ties; it's just a natural process of disownment, maybe like my divorce analogy?  I hope those are your own thoughts, and not what is being taught.  Don't you know many people were asked to leave, and they didn't have a choice?  They did not "disown" the church, the church disowned them!!  Don't you know these were people who gave up their lives for the church, and maybe to make this a little personal, paved the way for you and others, who died on a daily basis in the "front lines," in the "trenches," just like you do now?  Another friend of mine who stayed long after I left, was essentially asked to leave by his leader, because he dared schedule a family vacation at the same time there was a church retreat.  Keep in my mind my friend was not some "newbie church scrub," but had been there for years, was much loved, and a real servant.  Knowing how busy people are with work, and with all the church functions, you know there is not much, if any free time, so he really must not have had a choice.  The irony again being years later, that same leader who asked my friend to leave, left AMC himself and called him to apologize and ask forgiveness.  In my mind, I can only attempt to explain AMC's actions with my marriage analogy, that my friend had committed adultery on his marriage with AMC, by choosing to spend time with his own earthly family, whom he barely sees anyways.  But that is the decision that's supposed to be understood when you decide to commit to AMC:  You cut all ties with your friends, Christians from other churches, your own blood.  Any less is considered betrayal...

   One fundamental tenant of AMC is that the only way to know God is really working, is evidenced by the fruit you bear.  For those still in AMC, please understand my intention is not to condemn the church, as of course no church is perfect and every church has problems.  The AMC members are beautiful, passionate people who want to serve God, and feel their lives have been transformed forever.  But reread some of these posts.  The next time you are in emotional bliss, arms raised, worshipping God as fervently as you can, being transformed, praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ in AMC, think about us, who are still your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Is this bitterness, depression, feelings of betrayal, guilt, anger, spiritual fruit?  In your utopia of the Agape bubble, realize this, and I'm sorry it sounds so dramatic, but there was alot of blood which was shed willingly and knowingly by the leaders to get the church to where it is now.  It's hard for me to write this, because like I said earlier, I still have much love and respect for them.  But when they felt that God had moved away from many of us who eventually would leave the church, because of mistakes we made, struggles we had, many of us who were leaders, it was done to purify the church and raise their standard even higher than it already was.  Maybe they thought we just couldn't hack it and were staining the church?  Again, their intention has always been to do what's best for AMC. The end justifies the means. 

I hope AMC eventually reconciles with those who have left.  I hope they become partners and friends of other churches who can benefit from Agape's outward passion.  I hope someday to reconcile with the few people I would still consider friends there.  I wonder, when we're all in heaven and worshipping God someday, will AMC members turn away from me and the others who left?  My friend and I used to have a stupid, but funny analogy of heaven.  It was like a big stadium and concert where Christ was in the center of the stadium, and because we were AMC people, we were the best Christians, the best church, and we would have the best seats, the front row seats in the whole place, to worship and actually see Christ.  The "lesser" Christians, those outside Agape would have the nosebleed seats, maybe next to the bathroom, behind a big pillar, and only get to see the action from the large screen above the stadium.  Is that how you view us now, if you even view us as believers anymore?

   To those who left and are still bitter and angry, I would guess not much of this has helped.  It took me years and alot of distance to get to the point where I could say I was somewhat healed, and the points I mentioned above, that none of what we felt the leaders had done after we left had been a personal attack, it just had been for what they thought was best for AMC.  I can't argue against their beliefs or how they do things, it is simply who they are.  For those in the situation who feel like you lost blood family members to AMC and feel like you lost a brother or a sister, maybe someday even a parent or a child, I wish I could offer more than hollow words.  You are still and always will be in the situation you are currently in, until either that family member leaves, or AMC changes some of their ways.  It's so easy to "harden" your heart and say screw it.  I"m actually glad I still have some sadness and even anger, it reminds me that I don't have that "stonecold" heart, and I'm not dead inside.  If it were me and I'm selfishly glad it's not, I don't know what I would do...  Just do my best to move on I guess.
 

 

  

  

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To the previous blogger, "Pabegit":

Just want to express that I understand what you are writing and that I was there as well.  After all these years, hope things have changed, but one can only hope...  One of the saddest and amusing things is that agape does make a cold, calculated decision to cut people off the way they do.  They are very purposeful with everything; and this is no exception.  Like your marriage analogy, I've tried to reason and figure out why they do this as well.  You know what I think it is?  Nothing biblical, nothing profound, nothing complicated.  My guess is that hard feelings were developed b/w pastor and flock.  Everything in agape flows from the top down; i.e. one person with huge power and control up top.  Perhaps when people in his fold leave, the pastor felt so bitter and angry that he wasted all that time and energy invested, etc..  So he punches back passively via disfellowshipping and shunning tactics.  These sentiments trickle down to other pastors, and then to all the people inside agape, and there you have it - the agape signature way of "sending people off."  Since everyone is treated this way, its not personal against 1 person, and they probably justify it saying that this is protecting AMC and what is best for AMC. 

Pabegit, I agree with you that the pastors are not bad people and are not out to destroy people's lives and hurt people.  But every person is only human and prone to sin.  I just really hope they end up reconciling with people they have hurt.  I think they've hurt more than they've helped, but doesn't have to be like that. 

The heaven analogy with the stadium seating is funny.  Front row seats!  haha  Sometimes i cringe a bit thinking that we're goin to share eternity with some agape folks.  But I trust when we get there by His grace, it wont be ugly like this.  All the broken relationships, damage, scars will be all gone. 

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To Truth-xp,

I agree, in my 10 years of experience at Agape, everything is done in a very intentional way, including the practice of shunning. I don't think it happens because the pastors are mean people, my take is that it comes from a culture of control that comes from the head pastor and trickles all the way down. Try to do anything without consent or permission from your small group leader or pastor and you will be quickly quashed. Rebukes, one-on-ones, life micro-management are a part of life in Agape. Everyone and everything is scrutinzed. Part of it comes from a drive for excellence and wanting to do good things for God, but I also think there's a huge amount of insecurity from the leaders. When you're in a position of power, it's much easier to rebuke and browbeat people to exert behavior control, especially if you feel personally slighted by them. There are no real conversations when there are disagreements.

When I was there, I was genuinely trying to please God, but looking back, I think a lot of my behavior was driven by the motivation to not step out of line, to not get yelled at by my pastor or get a scary email telling me all the ways I'd been screwing up (this happened alot). It's this culture of control and fear that is really destructive to spiritual well-being. I saw this happening all the time, even amongst the highest ranking leaders. They just couldn't act normal around their leaders, there was always an underlying pressure to perform, perform, perform. I'm deeply saddened that many people in agape feel that this is the best way to live. I hope that people will be free from legalism.

Does anyone know if they've been expanding to other campuses or cities? They've got passion, but there's just too many people being hurt in the wake of their practices.

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Jim I wanted to bring up a quote I posted a while back that garnered your attention:

 

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

 

You couldn’t believe that was the case. I just wanted to clarify that this did in fact happen. A few of us in Agape would spend time with this atheist student. After a few weeks we stopped planning events to hang out with him. I would tell my campus leader that I continued to pray for him. The campus leader didn’t comment much on the situation other than telling me not to just focus on him. He said that there’s a whole campus to reach out to. Then a month or two later when I was removed from leadership they said that one of the reasons I was being removed was because I did not obey my campus leader and continued praying fervently for this atheist.

 

As mentioned in my previous post the reasoning for their decision is now clear to me. The atheist is too difficult to recruit into their organization. They wanted vulnerable freshmen with no friends on campus who grew up in the church that would fall right in line with everything that is told to them. And I’ll be honest I fit that model quite perfectly when I was brought in.

 

Also I can second the whole situation with the non-baptized being separated form the baptized for communion. I was there when it happened. It was for special meetings called TNE (Tuesday Night Encounter). Only members of the church and extremely dedicated college students who were on the leadership team were invited to attend these meetings. Which would make sense because they wouldn’t want this separation of the non-baptized going on during the Sunday worship that new people attended. It would just scare them away. These TNE meetings were where a lot of the more heavy burdensome messages took place in the church. Kangphil posted on here being confused about a message of hating your enemies. Not hating the things that they do, but actually hating those people. That was at one of these TNE meetings. And I was as confused about that message as you were Kangphil. But I understand that they set it up that way on purpose. They want you to be confused so that you feel you need to reach a higher spiritual level in order truly understand what they are talking about.

 

I post here not to stir an argument. I would just like to put out in the open what happened while I was in Agape and the spiritual abuse that followed. I would love nothing more than to sit down and discuss these issues and try working things out. The beautiful idea was brought up of The Watchmaker and Lindell starting a blog in order to continue this discussion in an intelligent manner. I do not see any posts on here suggesting that anything has happened with that. Watchmaker and Lindell are you still interested in doing that? I think that would be an incredible direction to take this in.

 

Watchmaker I appreciate your taking the time to actually discuss these issues rather than giving a typical five star review of the Agape Mission Church. Your suggestion of letting people know from the outset the level of dedication required to be a part of this group is wonderful. You mentioned that at Agape’s baptisms they ask people about their dedication to the church and make sure they know what they’re getting into. But someone else posted on here that they were refused baptism after being a part of Agape for 10 years! That person is already head over heels into the church at that point, it’s a little late for letting someone know the level of commitment required. It certainly is not clear when you are first invited to join them for Bible study how deep they expect you to go. I would have much more respect for them if they were to make this known from the beginning.

 

My stomach is churning over just reading the posts on this website. It brings back all the memories of myself leaving and it’s heart breaking to see how many others went through similar and in some cases much worse situations than mine. My experiences in Agape have lead me to question my faith in the Christian church and in God. I am always weary of attending church because I want to second guess everything the pastor says. I find it difficult to trust anyone in the church.

 

One current agape member posted here saying they do not want to further comment on the situation because they have other (wonderful) things to be doing. How is that following Jesus? Many many people comment about being spiritual abused by the church you are a part of, but you cannot stop and comment on it because you are doing busy doing that church’s good work. Really? This encapsulates one of agape’s biggest problems, and that is snaking around real issues and real questions by diverting everyone’s attention to these always talked about vague and amazing plans that God has for everyone in the church.

 

They use bubbly spiritual language. It’s the same as politics, they fluff up their speech so nobody knows what they’re talking about so nobody knows how to oppose or question what they say because it’s impossible to know what they’re really talking about.

 

Years ago I would have posted the same as many of the fluffy five star reviews on here. That God met me powerfully at Agape and that he transformed me and made me new. But that’s a lie. My Christian walk while being a part of Agape was very forced. It wasn’t until leaving that I realized the spiritual worth of having gone through that experience. I have grown a lot as a Christian having come out of that group. I am broken, but have a much better idea of what it means to live the Christian walk. Was it and is it still a rough journey? Yes. Would I recommend someone go to Agape and go through a similar experience as myself and many others who have left? Absolutely not.

 

I appreciate people still in Agape addressing the issues of spiritual abuse on these forums, I really do. But for the most part these responses seem to claim the problems are personal. That one isolated incident happened here or there. But I would like to disagree with that. Because the leadership in Agape is constructed on a pyramid hierarchy most of the Agape members do not have the freedom to act upon decisions involving the church unless they receive guidance from the Pastoral Team. I know from being on the leadership teams that every decision you made had to have approval from your higher up before you can act on it. And it was not uncommon for your higher up to disagree with your decision and suggest to you that their way is better until you actually change your mind. So for all these incidents where people were asked to leave and were ostracized by Agape Mission Church it wasn’t just a few church members who were acting incorrectly. Any decision, especially something that big, would have to be made by the head of the organization. So these decisions were all made in unison by the head pastor.

 

These issues are not isolated incidents. They are church wide.  It is the way that the organization runs and is intended to run. That’s why this forum has grown so extensively.

 

If anything included in my post is out of line I apologize. I am simply trying to address these issues in a civilized manner. It is my belief from speaking with others who have left that most of the people in Agape have the best of intentions behind what they do. So I just wish that those good intentions can be pointed in the right direction. And I hope this discussion can continue. Please let me know Lindell and Watchmaker if any progress has been made on creating a blog for these issues to be further expressed.

 

I’ll be praying for all those still in Agape and those of us who have left broken and spiritually wounded. Hoping that we can bridge the disconnect here and remember Christ’s greatest commandment to us all: To love your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. We all profess to be living that walk. Let’s not be two warring factions, but rather try to get on the same page.

 

Thank you,

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Thanks mandalaDA, I'm still open to the idea. I think it would be great to start a bigger discussion elsewhere, hopefully with people inside Agape as well. I think an important cornerstone for this sort of forum would be confidentiality. When I was inside Agape, there was so much fear that my disagreements and confusion would be found out that it caused severe isolation and depression - I thought I couldn't talk to anyone about it. Anonymity would allow agape-insiders to feel more freedom to express their feelings in a public forum.

I think it would be great to get honest thoughts from all sides. My ultimate hope is for healing and reconciliation. Who knows, maybe the pastors will chime in.

Dear pastors of the agape churches - please do not ignore the pain, suffering, heavy burdens and shame inflicted on your sheep. I implore you to take steps towards reconciliation. We are not simply isolated incidents.