Tag Archives: CT culture

Guest Post By Ken Marino: Jesus is Waiting Outside

We are pleased to have a guest writer sharing his heart from God’s Word today. Ken Marino and his family were a part of Calvary Temple for 19 years. The Lord brought them out of Calvary Temple and into freedom in 2007. Ken has authored a devotional on the book of James entitled “The Physician & the Pharmacy,” which we enjoyed. We are grateful for his thoughtful and encouraging words to the former members of CT.


Leaving a church can be an emotionally charged life altering event.  Letting go of the familiarity of long time relationships and church culture increases our angst about the uncertainty of what lies ahead.  When it comes to Calvary Temple, leaving the group is exponentially more stressful and traumatic.  Departure here means burned bridges and  scorched earth behind.  Despite all that, rock-solid hope awaits you in John chapter 9.  Let the blind man at the pool of Siloam encourage your trembling heart in the inexpressible priceless exchange in store for you.

“When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam'” (John 9:6-7 NASB)

Jesus does something very unusual–spitting on the ground to make a clay eye salve.  Why did Jesus do this?  John lets us know that Jesus’ miracles were signs (see John 1:11).  Signs direct us beyond the miracle to the spiritual reality about God behind it.

Clay as it’s used in Scripture has two main ideas.  One is the soft, pliable material for the potter (usually God).  The other is its brittleness and weakness (Dan 2:41-42; Job 13:12).  This clay was composed of spit, an act of contempt to bring shame (Num 12:14, Deut 25:9, Job 17:6).  Our Lord’s prophecy, “They will mock Him and spit on Him,” was fulfilled by the mockery of the Roman soldiers: “They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him” (Mark 10:34, 15:19).

The blind man was about to discover that eyesight comes at a heavy personal cost.  He was going to learn that through weakness, shame and humiliation that the works of God would be displayed in him (John 9:3).  All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  It’s a persecution that, as the Book of Acts attests to, is more often than not at the hands of religious leaders.

Be encouraged that through weakness (clay) and shame (spit) we gain increasing revelation of Jesus Christ.  Watch how this man’s comprehension of Christ grows as the opposition mounts.  “So they were saying to him, ‘How then were your eyes opened?’  He answered, ‘The man who is called Jesus made clay…'” (verses 10-11).  At the beginning, all this man knows is His name–Jesus.  After the first grilling of the Pharisees, his answer progresses in understanding: “He is a prophet” (verse 17).  By the end, this fellow’s spiritual eyes are wide open: “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him…. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (verses 31-33).  Even though we keenly feel our weakness (clay) amidst the verbal contempt (spit) of the religious leaders, Jesus is sending us on to our pool of Siloam where He opens our eyes to see who He is!

What treatment can you expect from Pharisee type leaders if Jesus has opened your spiritual eyes?   Pharisees are quick to judge you as a sinner for breaking their rules.  They are self-proclaimed champions of Sabbath keeping.  But they blindly accused  the Creator and Lord of the Sabbath  as being a law breaker of it!  “Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, ‘This man [Jesus] is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath…we know that this man is a sinner.'” (verses 16, 24).  As they judged Jesus, so they wrongly judged His disciple:  “You were born entirely in sins” (verse 34).

The Pharisees love to rule by fear.  In addition to their police-like attentiveness to rule breaking, they motivate compliance by severe penalties.  “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue” (verse 22).  “You’d better obey us or we’ll kick you out!”  Don’t fear excommunication; the best is yet to come!  Watch what the blind man loses compared to what he gains in the end.

“They reviled him” (verse 28).  Pharisaical leaders are trained experts in public vilification.  Be prepared for this heaping abuse on you from Calvary Temple.  And the more influence you have there, the greater the reviling to discredit you to the group.  All this railing is achieved by adorning it with spiritually high-sounding words.  “Give glory to God” (verse 24).  “We are disciples of Moses” (verse 28).

While presenting their biblically based arguments to the congregation, they boldly assert themselves as expert sin identifiers. “You were born entirely in sins.”  Pharisaical leaders will brand you a sinner, even though Jesus says the opposite.  “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (verse 3).

What really rankles a Pharisee, though, is a nobody teaching them.  “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us! (verse 34, NIV)”  Here a blind beggar , a bottom rung untouchable, speaks the truth of God’s word.  Pride in their religious training, degrees, experience, and elevation in the people’s eyes deafened them to listen to anyone they deemed beneath them.

Now for the good news!  Was all that maligning of reputation and being expelled from the community worth it all?

“Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’  Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.’  And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Him” (verses 35-38).  The religious authorities may expel you, but that’s when Jesus seeks you out and finds you.  How tender.  How comforting.  Christ gives further revelation of Himself to the outcast.  This ex-synagogue member receives greater Christ-centered faith and enters into a new realm of worship.  Don’t fear Pharisaical leadership.  The fear of man brings a snare.  Jesus is waiting outside the “synagogue” to welcome you to Himself.   You may lose your reputation and your community, but you have Him.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8 ESV).

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Panel Discussions: Clarity or Control?

by Naomi

After any cataclysmic event, Calvary Temple has something they refer to as “panel discussions.” It’s the cult version of a Q&A session. Congregants/church members submit questions, either written down if the topic is particularly sensitive or verbally if they’re feeling courageous. The panel of pastoral staff answer the questions. These panel discussions often follow the exodus of a prominent church member or a particularly inflammatory teaching series (usually regarding how you should never leave Calvary Temple. Listen to the sermons yourself. Every sermon circles back to the same thing).

One of the specific marks of a cultic environment is that they control information. The members of a cult believe only what their leaders tell them and are immediately suspicious of outsiders/outsider’s information.

Panel discussions are Calvary Temple’s chosen method of controlling information believed by their members. The leaderships (I do so dislike calling CT pastors & deacons “leadership” since they are such a bad example of what God has called leaders to be) has this down to a science. They have weekly pastors’ and deacons’ meetings to discuss ‘issues’ and ‘situations’ that arise. The pastors tell the deacons what to think and then the deacons tell the people what to think. If their initial form of information-twisting doesn’t work or the situation is serious enough to warrant whole-congregation information feeding, they must resort to a panel discussion. Or several.

Characteristics of Panel Discussions:

Mud-Slinging, or more Biblical term: Slander

Defined as: Defamation or Evil-Speaking. 1 Peter 2:1-3

Pastors say, “if you only knew what we knew” about the departing member. They cast as much doubt as humanly possible onto the character, integrity and motives of the departing member. They bring up past sins and disciplinary issues. They may even tell stories, most often exaggerated and even some outright lies to bolster their message that there is absolutely no way on earth this person was right in leaving! They’re rebellious! They’re proud! They hate authority! Their ‘much learning hath made them mad!’ You know it’s getting serious when they bring out the King James English. And again, I feel like I’m repeating myself, that’s not what that verse means!

Every single Calvary Temple member is conditioned to accept this information as truth. These members can hardly imagine the possibility that their leaders are often lying. Yes, lying. Speaking falsehood, deception and untruths. The members think, surely not! I trust them! Run away, these leaders are not worthy of your trust. If/when you leave the church, they will slaughter your reputation from the pulpit, too. Once lauded and applauded, you will be maligned and maliciously destroyed. They will try to eat you for lunch (a word to those who left/leaving, just walk away. Don’t live in bondage to the opinions of Calvary Temple members & leadership. You only need the good opinion of God. He is the One who judges you and that is enough.).

When people leave normal churches, normal Christians don’t usually treat them like lepers. They shake hands, have them over for dinner one last time and wish them well on their journey. If they moved on to a different church in the same area, they’ll see them around town and greet each other with genuine warmth and care. Normal Christians don’t burn bridges and sling mud at other believers.

 

Placing Blame 

Blame is placed on members that are doubting, by inferring that to doubt, question or search the Scriptures themselves is sin. This particular aspect screams of spiritual abuse. It also reminds me of the corruption in the early Catholic church. The Bible was in Latin and the common man was forbidden to read it, because supposedly, he couldn’t interpret it right. Panel discussions often include encouraging members to listen to more teachings and discover the hidden sin within themselves that would cause them to doubt the validity of CT teaching. Because obviously, you *must* be in sin if you’re questioning (sarcasm).

You know who questioned the apostles’ doctrine?? The Bereans. You know who applauded them for doing so? The Apostle Paul. And yet the self-professed Pastor-Teacher-Apostle-Prophet Star Scott thinks that you should read the Bible less, because  you can’t interpret the inspired Word of God responsibly for yourself and you need him to do it for you. (definitely sarcasm).

Re-Establishing Authority

Star Scott loves to bring out obscure Old Testament passages to liken himself to Moses. That’s unBiblical: see Pastoral Authority is Not Mosaic. He also likes to ridicule the scholarship of anyone who would interpret Scripture differently than him, which is hilarious, considering he has very little training in how to interpret Scripture. Bible training also doesn’t validate interpretation. If we’re comparing dollars-to-donuts here, I probably have more Bible training than Star Scott. That alone doesn’t make me right. It is honesty and integrity with the Word that makes me right. I welcome any discussion, questions, criticism and comments about how I interpret the Word of God. I welcome polite, respectful, cordial discussion about the points that I bring up. I absolutely welcome face-to-face conversation about Calvary Temple’s doctrine — but so far, none of the CT members I know have cared enough to do that. They’d rather believe the gossip that comes from the deacon’s meeting than ask me themselves.

Star Scott also enlists others to re-establish pastoral (and mostly HIS) authority. He has surrounded himself with “yes men” and puppets-on-a-string that more than willingly flatter him before the congregation. They say, “We are so blessed to have a man of God like this, who preaches sound doctrine even when it’s unpopular. It is such a privilege to sit under this man who has laid down everything for us.” Syrupy-sweet flattery that sounds spiritual and is used to further convince members of their ultimate fear — that to leave CT is the equivalent of leaving God.  Oh, and consider this: he says that his accountability is in the “plurality of elders,” but in just the past 5 years both of his chief pastors (who were designated by him to take over the ministry in his place should the need arise), 4 or 5 deacons, and 3 or 4 young adult captains have left the church over Scott’s anti-Biblical doctrines.  Does he change?  No, he just replaces them with lesser men and preaches on Korah and Dathan and Aaron and Miriam one more time.  So when we call his pastoral staff a rubber stamp club of yes men, that’s what we are referring to.

 

Reminding Members of Their Absolute Dependence on the Community

“If you leave, you are serving your flesh.”
“If you leave, you are going to be spiritually shipwrecked.”
“If you leave, you will fall into sin.”
“There’s nothing wrong with leaving… but if you want to leave, there’s something wrong with you.”

 This characteristic of Calvary Temple particularly infuriates me (don’t go crazy and call me bitter and angry, because (a) I’m not bitter and (b) there is a holy anger). I am angry by the arrogance that Calvary Temple leadership and members constantly show in assuming not only that they are the best church, but that they are the only church that is really teaching truth. Is God so limited that He can only speak through one church in the entire world? Is the power of God so weak that He cannot empower a believer to live holy without the support of the almighty Calvary Temple?

 

Fearmongering

This is the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. Panel discussions are the perfect venue for inspiring fear in Calvary Temple members because they are particularly vulnerable to drastic decisions (like leaving the church) after a trusted member has left. The pastors know this so they use every opportunity to say their favorite line: “if so-and-so left (because they were considered spiritual), then you could be next.” They imply that because so-and-so left, and obviously they had to be deceived to leave the only church in the world that preaches truth (extreme sarcasm), then you could be deceived, too!… and leave… and go to hell!

Outsiders are reading this and thinking, “this is insane! Pastors actually do this?!” Oh yes. You have no idea.

 

Re-Directing 

“Don’t spend a lot of time studying the Bible on authority.  You should spend more time studying what the Bible says about self, then you’ll realize who you are, and all of these other things will be easier to accept.” Star Scott, January 13th, 2013 Panel Discussion

When honest questions are asked at Calvary Temple, often they are not answered — they are redirected. When inconsistencies are noted by the members, pastors turn attention to the person asking the question. That their motives must be wrong, their heart must be impure, they must be somehow in sin.  I don’t know about you, but when I ask an honest question, I expect an honest answer. Honesty, integrity, truth. Not deception by avoiding the question.  In a healthy church, there is a way to ask tough questions without fear of retaliation through labeling and discipline for “deception.”

 

Manipulation

Panel discussions are framed for the purpose of producing a specific action. The leadership would say that they just want their people to obey the Word, but really, they want the people to take very specific actions… to obey leadership. We are not talking about specific commands of Scripture. We are talking about ideas that they have, non-Scriptural commands that they give and expect unquestioning obedience, weddings that they want to take place, more money to be given to the church, correct information to be spread across a three hundred member congregation so they can all lie and sound like they’re telling the truth (i.e. “it’s not a school!” even though everybody calls it a school, it’s not a school).

CT leadership manipulates people into doing what they want. If you’re a member there, I pity you. I am sorry that you cannot make your own decisions (except for stupid things like what you are eating that day), but that they are made for you. I am sorry that you are held to the standards of others, instead of walking with Christ and finding the standards that the Holy Spirit presses on your heart. I’m sorry that you will probably stay because you are afraid of losing your family/marriage/friends/etc. I’m sorry that your spiritual life will be dictated to you and that you will lose the joy of being led by the Spirit, because you are only being led by a man. I’m sorry that you now believe this manipulation is actually spiritual leadership.

 

Conclusion 

To sum up, panel discussions are not preaching. Not teaching. Not edifying. Not enriching. Not enlightening the believer. Not giving aid. They do not expound on Scripture, except to use it in error. They do not point CT members to Christ, but to a man and a religious system.

Panel discussion are slander-centric. They are comprised of pastors oiling the hinges of their controlling machine with spiritual sounding words that go against the very essence of Scripture. Panel discussions aid in destroying relationships and reputations. Panel discussions are venues for publicizing bad reports, guiding willfully ignorant souls into more ignorance and engaging much spiritual dialogue with nothing but a sprinkle of real sound doctrine. Like honey added to poison, members swallow these lies because they “taste” good. Lies always go down easily. Then you are murdered while you remain unaware.

One last reminder: Panel discussions are often edited before being posted Calvary Temple’s website to remove information that pastors say “confuse people.” In rare circumstances, panel discussions will never be available to the public. When churches hide information that is spoken from the pulpit, it is yet another sign of a cultic and controlling environment. For a place that lauds personal transparency (Calvary Temple-ism alert: “walking in the light”), there is much darkness and cover-ups happening in the backrooms and offices of Calvary Temple in Sterling, VA.

Panel discussions are another way for the pastors to use the Bible as a battering ram on the hearts of CT’s members. It forces loyalty to Star Scott, rather than loyalty to Christ. I pray that one day, those panel discussions will not be enough to stop the exodus.

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