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Our Stories - Render Unto The Pastor

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Our Stories - Render Unto The Pastor:

The next story submitted brings back many unpleasant memories. It is from a former "Message" member of a church that my family attended for several months. Even before realizing the many issues with the "Message" itself, my wife and I noticed the improper balance of authority and misguided focus. At that time, we considered the church "cultish", but years later realized that the church was truly a "cult within a cult". Sadly, as more and more stories started pouring in from other escapees in all parts of the world, we realized that this is a very common problem.

We were excited to visit this church at first, around 2010. Years before, after several members the Branham Tabernacle in Jeffersonville began causing divisions in the church over my grandfather's preaching, he stopped. For the last several years of his life, Rev. Collins role as pastor was limited to choosing which cassette tape to place into the audio system, and sermons William Branham recorded from 1947 to 1965 were repeated every Wednesday and two times on Sunday. Many of us were starving to hear something new, and the thought of attending a church with actual preaching excited me. So much, in fact, that I overlooked some horrific things spoken from behind the pulpit of this new church.

My wife was the one who noticed the anti-Christian, unethical, and destructive statements before I did. The pastor was actually asking people to sever contact with their families. Even after she pointed out the horrific statements out to me, I was in disbelief. "My family asks me why I never come visit them," he'd say (paraphrased). "I tell them, if they believed our prophet, I'd be willing to come see them! Until then, I'll keep my distance!"

"Surely he did not mean to say it that way!" I thought. In error, I told her as much. It seemed foreign to me for a person to sever contact with family, no matter what they believed. I considered the pastor a long-time friend of the family, as well as a personal friend that I had respected long before attending his church. Mistakenly, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless, I knew this church was not a fit for our family. Whether his intentions were as my wife understood or not, continuing to subject her to his sermons would be unhealthy for my family, and I chose to leave. Out of respect, I met with the pastor over lunch, and explained why we were leaving. His response made my heart sink. For the first time, I also began to notice the arrogance and self-centered focus. This was not a shepherd of a flock. This was a man seeking to become the central figure of a cult.

Our next story come from an escapee of this group. Not only was he willing to share his story, Tim Hoover is working very hard to help others who were impacted by the "Message". His blog, for any who are interested, can be found here:

Here is Tim's story:


"Bro. Tim I need to speak to you after service"

With that one sentence my pastor could ruin my entire week. He was not the casual conversation type. So when he wanted to speak to you it was never something like how you and your family were doing. It was to ask you about a situation he already had enough evidence to know you were wrong about. It had the effect of instantly making you feel like a child trying to see how much your parents had found out about your activities before you admitted to anything.

I knew why he wanted to talk to me, it was the issue we'd discussed last time he and I met. Money. In our church the pastor's brother and later son was the accountant. Which meant that he had full access to the church accounts to see who was paying what. As I entered his study and saw the big black ledger on his desk I knew this would be an unusually bad meeting.

I had been questioned about my tithes months ago and that's when I first heard rumors about the ledger and how they kept accounts. In my mind the money was collected and just added to the accounts. It never occurred to me to record who gave what. When he first questioned me about there had been an issue where it looked like I had missed paying my tithes for several months. As someone holding an office in the church this was a serious issue. Every aspect in our life was to be an example, even more so as I was the youth minister for the 11-17 yr olds.

I had laughed it off then as a goofy error since I had paid in cash at those times, but I agreed to start paying in a marked tither envelope again at his urging. And I did. For a very short time until it dawned on me that they were more concerned about the Tithe as a bill to the church than anything to do with God. So I started an experiment. I began writing checks for the amount of one dollar written out to the pastor himself. Being sure to place it in a tither envelope with my name in sharpie. I would then pay my actual tithes in cash, without envelope or name. God knew and that's what mattered to me. That and having some fun.

Sitting there in his office I had no idea how many of these private discussions we would have. Nor did I have a clue how much he and I would begin to fight over everything he tried to control my family and myself. Looking back, however, I know that something inside was waking up, and every push he gave to make me into a more model "Message" believer was actually rattling chains I had never noticed, and I certainly did not want it binding me.

There were many strange things I would later begin to notice about the "Message" church we attended, but of all of them, the handling of money would be the one that pushed me over the edge. Why was the pastor so concerned about collecting money? Why was the tithing system so unscriptural? Was the money used to help the people of the church, or simply to make one man and his family wealthy?

Timothy Hoover
The Incomplete Message