οὐδὲν ὑμᾶς οὐ μὴ ἀδικήσῃ
I want to share a personal story that may reveal to you something of my understanding of what it means to wield spiritual authority.
Back in the 90’s a guy in my Attic Greek class at the University of Pittsburgh invited me to attend his church. So I went with him to a Sunday morning service at a downtown hotel. The music was curiously militaristic. And during the sermon I questioned to myself some of the things the preacher—a Mr Jack Armstrong—was teaching.
After the message the preacher and his wife went out into the empty foyer as everyone sang a closing song. I decided to follow them to where they had just sat down in some cozy chairs.
Being so long ago I don’t remember exactly what I said (I’d have to check my notes on this), but I do know I was humble and respectful as I approached and challenged the preacher on something he had said in his sermon. The Mrs, however, became indignant with me. “Who do you think you’re talking to?” she wanted to know.
The man stood up, buttoned his jacket and engaged me in such a way that by the end of the song he had outed himself as a wolf.
Here’s a few captioned snapshots of what transpired: toward the end of our exchange I touched Jack’s shoulder with my hand and called him “brother.” He reacted by bristling back into a fighting stance (I had studied Tang Soo Do, so I recognized the martial posture this Korean man had taken with me). As I took my hand away I felt armored and protected and I think even a bit elated and entertained that this preacher was threatening me with violence. Then out of his mouth came these utterly cold words: “Don’t Touch Me! And I’m Not Your Brother!”
One thing I should mention: I’m by nature a fearless man, especially when the Spirit of God compels me to act. Yep, the righteous are as bold as lions! Are we not?
I walked straight past Jack and back into the room where the service had just ended; pulled out a chair and stood on it; waved my hands and said, “Excuse me! Excuse me for a moment!” When I got their attention I said, “I confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and this man, Jack Armstrong, who preaches before you today said that I am not his brother.”
People just looked at me. I heard a voice answer back. I didn’t see who it was, but it was the voice of a young black man. “You’re my brother,” I heard him say. There was love and life in his voice.
His response comforted me a bit, but that’s all I got. Maybe the kid didn’t know any better. Maybe this was his first time there too. Meanwhile, some concerned elders switched into security mode and began walking towards me. As I got down from the chair I made a gesture indicating—Truly, that’s all I have to say. I was escorted out without further incident.
I found out later this group was a veritable mind control cult—one of The International Churches of Christ, aka, The Boston Movement. They prey on college students, subjecting their recruits to extreme spiritual abuses via crushing discipling and shepherding methods. They isolate and systematically cut these children off from their friends and families, attempting to take control over every aspect of their young vulnerable lives. I believe they’re an—Obey Your Leader—cult, as most if not all cults are.