Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. - John 4:1-6 ESV
Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right. - C.H. Spurgeon
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Reading through this survey should cause every alarm in you to clang loudly, because whether you are a Sunday member, a Sunday/Wednesday member involved in some ministries, a staff member or leader on some level, or part of the "inner circle" at MSC, we can respond to enough of these questions with the wrong answer to cause serious pause. MSC and its leaders are not guilty of every single question on the list, but for those of us who were/are closer and closer to the top, the number is shockingly close to 100%.
This is likely stunning to those of you who are members of MSC but aren't overly involved. Everything and everyone may appear to be wonderful, loving and kind. You may be staring at this screen in shock, even anger. Everything in you may be responding with all the reasons this could not be true. But take a step back. Test the spirits. Start asking questions, thoughtfully, prayerfully. Ask the Holy Spirit to be with you. Invite the questions you have pushed aside in fear back into the room. It's time for those questions to take the floor in your heart, with Him. It's time to start having that dialogue with the Lord. You cannot deal with what you cannot face. A wall in you about asking questions is the first sign of a problem. Take courage. He will not let you fall in this. He is with you. He is always with you.
Questioning with the Holy Spirit is not a sin, and it is not being critical. It is wisdom to examine the things we are a part of, the people that we have trusted, most certainly when things begin to veer off course (or in this case have for many years).
Foundational Red Flags
The following list of red flags hardly scratches the surface on the problematic leadership at Morning Star Church, but they are the foundational issues that have existed uncorrected for decades, and the issues that have led to systematic failure in nearly every way.
- Does your church or group revolve around one main charismatic personality who is the final arbiter of “truth”?
- Does the main leader, or the leaders in your church or group always insist that they are right?
- Does the pastor/leader of your group refuse to be accountable to other leadership for words, actions, behavior and choices because of a self declared “accountability to God”?
- Is you group, church or movement set up like a pyramid, with a hierarchy - with one single man at the top?
- Are your leaders above reproach (without blame) in morals, ethics, teaching and financial issues?
- When issues are brought up about abusive situations, do your leaders say, “You just need to have more faith!”, or “You are being disloyal to leadership!”?
- Are leaders in your group very, very hard to contact or meet with?
- Have your leaders ever told you or taught you that they are the only ones that can “rightly interpret” the Scriptures (Holy Bible)?
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as ransom for all... - 1 Timothy 2:5-6a ESV
One of the most important things to keep in mind when reading the above questions is this: JESUS is our mediator. Biblically, no leader is a go-between in our relationship with God. Only Jesus. When a man's opinion, informed Biblically or not, becomes the standard of truth we look to instead of going to the Lord and the Word ourselves... things get really messed up real fast.
On the part of the leader, they are violating the personal boundaries of church members by playing Holy Spirit. And for those of us who go along with it, and put those leaders on pedestals allowing them to play Holy Spirit, we practice idolatry. No one can take the place of God in our hearts and lives.
It is more important to obey the Word of God
than the "Word of the Lord" a leader has for us.
We cannot get that mixed up. When it does, God gets involved real fast. He is jealous God.
We of course need wise, healthy leaders, parents, siblings, friends and mentors in our lives, but nothing and no one should take precedence over the Word of God and what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us.
Personally, I had many red flags for many years at MSC. I didn't need child pornography allegations to know that many of the things I was observing and personally experiencing weren't quite right, or flat out weren't right at all. I was confused though. I saw so many people going along with it, never saying anything or agreeing, and for a period I thought perhaps I was wrong. Maybe I wasn't spiritually mature enough, maybe it was just me. I learned to to shove my red flags waaaaaaaay down deep. I locked them up and threw away the key.
This only caused more problems though, major ones. I became more confused. I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong, but the more I tried to go along with everything, tow the party line, be affirming of my church and leaders at every turn, silence every "critical" thought and question in me (not to mention never say one out loud), and show more and more allegiance and "submission", the louder the clanging in me got. I felt like I was going crazy.
But I wasn't going crazy. The Holy Spirit was warning me.
This was a problem. Warnings from the Holy Spirit about church leaders and practices are not allowed at MSC. Those warnings are deemed "critical", the most egregious of sins because it is evidence that you are not completely submitted to your leaders, and therefore to God.
But because I was more concerned about being right in the eyes of my leaders than God, I forced myself to agree with their counsel. I converted the voice of the Holy Spirit into the voice of the flesh, or the "enemy." I condemned the healthy, warning voice of the Holy Spirit in my life.
And then I started having panic attacks. This went on for 3-4 years. I would manage it to the point where I felt functional again, and then I would witness or experience another situation I didn't understand or couldn't explain, things I knew I could never tell anyone outside the church about (like my family), and the panic attacks and depression would swallow me all over again.
It turns out that we are not designed to treat the voice of our dearest Friend like that of our worst enemy. For me personally it caused an identity crisis. I didn't know who He was and I didn't know who I was. For others it may manifest differently.
When I left I thought I was going to fall apart, but I actually got really, really free. I haven't had a single panic attack since leaving Morning Star Church. I now know more and more who He is, and I know who I am.
This year has taught me to listen to the Holy Spirit like I never have before. He loves us so much, and when He warns us it is for our good. That wisdom is given to us in hard situations, like MSC, and in good ones too. Leaving MSC brings a lot of freedom and even that can be scary. But He is with us in that too. Learning to navigate freedom in a healthy way has been the one of the most important experiences of my life, and continues to be. When our leaders get between us and God, not only is it extremely controlling and un-Biblical, but it also stunts our growth. We become malnourished. It keeps us from Him.
The months immediately following my departure were a grief I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Yet, when God is your only option, it is a gift. You really learn who He is and who you are when you have no one but Him. What was meant for harm, He has used for good in my life and now the lives of many others. I am watching His redemption unfold. He is a good, good Father. Listening to red flags and acting on what the Holy Spirit is telling you to do may be one of the hardest things you have ever done. There is a cost. But the cost of ignoring Him is far greater.