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How I moved towards closure (Part 1)

When Christine and I visited relatives in Western Mass. last year (Pre-FACTnet) we visited the campus for the first time since 1987. It was odd to walk around our old stomping grounds. We walked around the grounds where we used to spend time with each other and our friends. I walked around the annex (a dorm I stayed in that was a stable), we went into Schermerhorn Hall and we talked to a few people there. So many pleasant memories came to my mind. Old emotions bubbled up. Later I became angry, upset and disgusted as I thought about what I saw.

I considered well what I saw. I realized we were seduced into enabling a person whose desire for self aggrandizement caused great problems. I realized we embarrassed the cause of Christ. I realized for the first time that I was like the “silly, sin-burdened women” that Paul talked about to Timothy. I was so ashamed of myself.

I asked myself, “How could a reasonable, well-educated and self assured young man have been so foolish?” I now realize that because I did not listen to my critical thinking filters and study diligently that I was seduced. I saw souls being saved. I saw the new students coming to Bible School. I saw and participated in the inner city being reached for Jesus through the Bus Ministry. I saw and prayed for and supported the missionaries going out. I listened to the radio program and I was glad we were on the television. I loved the VISION. I knew we needed to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth (which, by the way, I still believe)...this was a church that was doing it!! I was thankful to be a small part in this endeavor.

When I questioned (inwardly) some of his interpretations of scripture, all the subtle manipulations of Stevens’s self preservation doctrines of delegated authority, the Bema Seat presentation, potential conspiracy, loyalty to God’s man, the anointing, coming in and coming under the authority, etc. that I was bombarded with every day in BCD and raps would suppress my thoughts of “this does not ring true". This would lead to the inner turmoil of I better not question the man that I am to obey, submit, give double honor, and the one who will give a report at the Bema Seat of Christ…he is amazing and sooo anointed."  And, working fulltime at Avalon/Hillcrest, a full course load and bus-ministry three times a week limited my ability to slow down and think! I was busy and happy…everything seemed fine.

Unfortunately, I did not read the papers, watch the news or read the Martin Report because he said I would be infected with evil. What a dummy I was!!! I was seduced by a spiritual bully! I see clearly now the subtle manipulation that is woven into the fabric of an evangelistic organization. I want you to read these verses and see how we enabled a man to seduce us with his “new doctrines’.

2 Timothy 3:1-9
You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad.
3 They will be hardheaded and never give in to others; they will be constant liars and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and cruel, and sneer at those who try to be good.
4 They will betray their friends; they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to worshiping God.
5 They will go to church, yes, but they won't really believe anything they hear. Don't be taken in by people like that.
6 They are the kind who craftily sneak into other people's homes and make friendships with silly, sin-burdened women and teach them their new doctrines.
7 Women of that kind are forever following new teachers, but they never understand the truth.
8 And these teachers fight truth just as Jannes and Jambres fought against Moses. They have dirty minds, warped and twisted, and have turned against the Christian faith.
9 But they won't get away with all this forever. Someday their deceit will be well known to everyone, as was the sin of Jannes and Jambres. -TLB


Yup, that was me!!  Fool me once shame on you…fool me twice shame on me!  I now see that his deceit is being made known to everybody.


How I moved towards closure (Part 2)

I considered what I saw.  I realized we were spiritually dull.  I realized we were sleeping. Yes, I realized I was a sluggard in my spiritual life.  We as individuals and a congregation were like the sluggard in the Proverbs.


Proverbs 24:30-34

30 I passed by the field of the sluggard

And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,

31 And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;

Its surface was covered with nettles,

And its stone wall was broken down.

32 When I saw, I reflected upon it;

I looked, and received instruction.

33 " A little sleep, a little slumber,

A little folding of the hands to rest,"

34 Then your poverty will come as a robber

And your want like an armed man. -NASB


Our misplaced trust and support caused us to lack the sense to see what was really happening in the life of our congregation. Our pastor fell asleep when he refused to change and confess his faults.  We fell asleep when we said, “AWESOOOME, YOU ARE AMAZING, YOU ARE SO ANOINTED.”  After the trial our poverty came quickly. However, it was really the result of years of spiritual slumber.  The slumber that ignored the Martin Report, the Lake Elsinore letter and the Mass. Court’s ruling of undue influence. I now realize we bilked Betsy D.  We? Yes, we did because we let a man operate as the chief elder with NO ACCOUNTABILITY.  We really believed in his extra-extra-extra-extra –extra special anointing (even though it is COMPLETELY unbiblical). The only anointing for the New Testament believer is common to all, and it is found in 1 John 2:20 and 1 John2:27:


1 John 2:20: But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. NASU

1 John 2:27: As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing  teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. NASU


I also like how The Living Bible paraphrases this anointing:

“But you are not like that, for the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you know the truth. 21 So I am not writing to you as to those who need to know the truth, but I warn you as those who can discern the difference between true and false.”


I am reminded that Judgment begins in the House of the LORD.  In Lenox, WE were judged for bilking a rich person.  We were judged for enabling an unhealthy leadership structure (which had been addressed by the Martin Report) and it cost the church (the people) dearly.  We were not suffering for our righteousness.  We were not persecuted.  We were judged for our foolishness.


1 Peter 4:15-18 “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED,WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?”-NASB


I realized that the Hand of God does discipline and judge.  I realized that the wheels of Divine justice grind-they just grind slowly.  He is patient and does not desire His children to perish.

ALL these years later what was done in the dark is being disclosed. Today, FACTnet is the judgment of God on the man and the movement that refuses to see the light and have a penitent heart.  God is Sovereign over the affairs of men.  He is slow to move.  But, mark His words HE will move.  Why?  Because, He cares about HIS people and those who abuse, take advantage and use their position for personal gain.  He does not find it amusing when adultery, lies, manipulations, cover ups and secretive financial dealings are all done in HIS NAME.  He does not find it amusing when scripture is twisted and manipulated to prop up a system and a leader that marks, slanders and labels those who leave or question doctrines or behavior they realize are wrong as evil, deceived, carnal, etc.   The Bible says not to use the LORD's NAME in vain.  To use Scripture for personal gain and manipulation is tantamount to using His NAME in vain. 


Exodus 20:7" You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain , for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” -NASB


2 Timothy 3:6-9

6 They are the kind who craftily sneak into other people's homes and make friendships with silly, sin-burdened women and teach them their new doctrines.
7 Women of that kind are forever following new teachers, but they never understand the truth.
8 And these teachers fight truth just as Jannes and Jambres fought against Moses. They have dirty minds, warped and twisted, and have turned against the Christian faith.
9 But they won't get away with all this forever. Someday their deceit will be well known to everyone, as was the sin of Jannes and Jambres.

I also realized that God will disclose and make the truth known, even if it is painful.  Yes, I may have been asleep.  Yes, I was spiritually dull.  Yes, I was seduced.  But, I have woken up to the reality of the situation. 


Romans 13:11-14 “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep ; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  -NASB


Jesus loves it when we arise from our spiritual slumber and begin to realize that discerning is not condemning.  There is a difference. 


How I moved towards closure (Part 3)
I remembered how I first came to the knowledge that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I think I should pause here and give some background that will help you better understand where I came from and how I arrived at TBS in Lenox. I grew up in a nice town called Avon, Ct. Every Sunday (more or less) I attended West Avon Congregational Church. In High School I taught Sunday school to the 6th grade boys. I was our Pilgrim Fellowship President (Youth Group) my Junior and Senior year. Church was a very integral part of my life. However, I was never presented with a clear Gospel. Jesus was someone to admire and emulate. He was not The Only One to look to and be forgiven. He was not lifted up as the God-Man who left heaven and was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin to rescue me from my sins. He was not revealed as the crucified, risen and ascended LORD Who will return one day to judge both the living and the dead. Suffice it to say, my whole life was based upon my heritage and my self-portrait as a basically good person. I was trying to earn my salvation. But, the harder I tried the more frustrated I became. I had no peace. Religion was like being a mouse on a wheel.

Then, I graduated High School (1983) and departed for Gettysburg College on a full scholarship for academic and wrestling achievements. At the age of 19 I had a life changing experience. I began to attend InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) Bible studies and I was challenged by two distinct things:
My lack of scriptural knowledge and the peace and joy that the college kids who claimed Jesus as LORD clearly demonstrated. I was given several Josh McDowell books that explained the bible and faith in clear and academic fashion. I also read: “The God Who Is There”, “The Christian Manifesto”, “Mere Christianity”, and “The Universe Next Door”. In May of 1984, at an end of year IVCF retreat I met my Savior. His grace for me was irresistible. I saw for the first time that although I was basically a “good person” I had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. I saw for the first time that I could not work my way into heaven. I saw that on Calvary Jesus bore the penalty of my sins and incurred that wrath of God- all for me! I turned from my self and my sins and I turned to Him in faith. I trusted His work alone of saving grace for my salvation. It has been 20 years now! I turned from dead religion and began a relationship with Jesus. I can tell you that I am not perfect. I am on a journey. But, I have the full assurance that if I died tonight I would be with Jesus in heaven. I have peace. I have seen Him faithfully lead and guide me to where I am tonight.

In 1984 (after the end of year IVCF retreat) I went home for the summer. I called my wrestling coach and told him I would not be returning to Gettysburg in the fall. I felt a strong pull to enroll in a Christian College and receive a biblical foundation. I was going to enroll in Liberty. However, my dad knew Pastor Phil Mawaka and I attended the church plant in Hartford, Ct. My dad also brought me up to Lenox to check out the campus. I then enrolled in Stevens School of the Bible because it was close to home. I was concerned about the lack of accreditation. However, I was assured that the school was working hard to achieve this status.


How I moved towards closure (Part 4)

I had three years of Bible School at Lenox, Mass from 1984-1987. I never graduated because the school closed. For many reasons God saw fit to allow me to attend the Bible Speaks/GGWO.  I learned to love the Bible, share my faith and I met and married my beautiful wife and lifelong best friend Christine. For me to try to sum up my Bible School experience in a few paragraphs is most difficult.  I realize now that the age of 19-22 are very formative years in any young adult’s life.  Those years impacted my life profoundly.  I hold many fond memories of spiritual growth, friendship, evangelism, and love.  I also hold unpleasant memories of confusion, denial, hurt and betrayal.  No matter what CHS says even when we forgive we do not forget.  We are not wired that way…just another ridiculous doctrine of bondage.  When I forgive and the memory returns, I say, “LORD, you know I have forgiven, please help me to love and see the offender through your eyes.”  He takes me back to Calvary and He removes the bitterness…this is a process.  And, even though I forgive I learn caution.  Jesus knew the hearts of men and He didn’t trust them.  I cannot look into a person’s heart, so I have learned to be cautious. 


I will try to share a few ‘snapshots’ from my experience to give you a basic feel of what these years meant to me. However, I need to remind you that through the entire experience The Almighty was working in the events my life to fulfill His plan for me- God was not asleep at the wheel. I know that He sees and cares for me. I am thankful for the experience- the good, the bad and the ugly!!  Three verses have always encouraged me in good times and in bad times.


Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” -NLT


Romans 8:28 “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” -TLB


Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” -NLT

During Bible School Paul Swaider and I became best friends.  I still miss him. If anyone knows how to contact him please let me know.  We hung out. We prayed together.  We laughed together.  We encouraged one another.   We Co-captained the Wednesday Evening Albany Fellowship Supper Bus.  I remember when Pastor John Lloyd pulled us aside because many young women were coming with us – we knew how to have fun and it was contagious! Also, it helped that Paul was a good looking guy!! He cautioned us to stay pure and watch ourselves. (We did).  Ministry was not bondage to us…we really enjoyed working together and helping others.  I think people came with us because the joy of the LORD is contagious and it is strength.  We never had this “delegated authority’ baloney between us.  We just lifted up Jesus.  We had formed the “Bachelor to the Rapture Club”; but I resigned as Vice President of Operations and Accountability (LOL) when I asked Christine to marry me.


Another friend of mine was Barry Quirk.  Man, I love that guy!  What a tribute to his mom and dad he is.  If my sons turn out like Barry did I will be thankful.  I never met a more sincere and down to earth person.  WE called him “Bubba”. Our second year in school he became the Student Council President and I was the Treasurer.  Paul drew campaign signs “only a boy named David”…and we had elections.  Some thought we were too worldly, but most knew we were trying to engender school spirit.  Anyway, we had about $5.00 in checking when we started the school year…Barry and I had a little joke between us that went something like this:

Barry: Dave do we have checks available?

Dave: Barry, did you say checks?…yes, checks, we have lots of checks…money , that is another story!!  Then we would both laugh like idiots!  Anyway, we raised a lot of money and gave the incoming freshman a big welcome barbecue.  The great event became tragic when a little boy stuck his hands in the coals and got a pretty good burn.  We put out the fire and covered it but we did not pour enough water on it.  (He did recover)


How I moved towards closure (Part 5)

Another person I came to know was Mike Plunkett.  I was placed on his Bus Ministry route in Albany.  Mike was a tireless worker that my wife affectionately called a slave driver…because he worked so hard.  He would have made a great postman because no matter the Albany weather we visited all our kids!  Mike and Avaril are wonderful servants of the LORD who sacrificially minister to others.  I want to use this friendship to give you a glimpse into the unhealthy side of SSB.  I was his co-captain on the bus route.  When Chris and I started to date he told us we needed to break up because it was not healthy for the bus route.  He then went on to say that he was my captain and that I should ‘honor’ his authority and do as he asked!  Sadly, he was just parroting what he learned from Steven’s doctrines.  Chris and I both bust out laughing!  We were very amused but also a little hurt.  This did not sit well with him. Anyway, we agreed to disagree. And, like Barnabas set sail for Crete with John-Mark, I set sail with my wife to be for Holyoke, Mass., and I started a route there.  I think I got a better partner than Barnabas.  Boy, do I love that woman!


The only reason I share this because this story has played itself out over and over again in GGWO. I wonder how many friendships, ministries and churches have been hurt by this doctrine.  And, what sickens me about this doctrine is the bizarre twist of scripture behind it.  This used to be called “baptized unto a man”.  This overemphasis of authority is very unhealthy and unbiblical.   When I was in Lenox the term was “come in and come under…delegated authority because this is how God blesses.”  Let me pause to quote Stevens from the CRI report, so you can see that I am not making this up:

“In his explanation of exactly what it means to be baptized unto a man, Stevens reveals the extent off unreserved devotion he expected to receive from those who sat under his ministry: "...obey his teachings, submit to his love, protect and honor his ministry, co-labor with his purpose without question, without pretense, without hesitation, without giving him a hard time, [his voice rises] without putting him off again and again in procrastination and disobedience, and subtle rebellion... [the Christian should say to 'God's man'] 'I'm going to be with you until you drop, I'm going to be baptized unto your life, unto your heart, unto your soul, unto your prayers.'" Later in the tape Stevens affirms again that the believer ..must be baptized unto a man of God, be true to him, honor him with double honor, submit to him, never criticize him, being willing to die with him."


This quote reveals the twist.  The basis for the doctrine is found in three places, 1Timothy 5:17-18, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and Hebrews 13:17.  I want to develop this thought over several paragraphs because the false doctrine is very destructive and manipulative.  I encourage you to read this and form your own conclusions and do your own study.


I want to say up front that God does have an order for His church.  There are leaders and followers.  However, we are to submit to Christ first and then submit to one another in love. James 4:7 “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”-NASU


Ephesians 5:21: Honor Christ by submitting to each other.-TLB


What I mean by this is that we first line up under Christ’s authority and then we line up under one another all in love.  This is critical to understanding God’s order in the church.  There are no superstars.  We prefer one another in love.  We are humble before the Living God realizing our equality as citizens of heaven.   This establishes our believer-priesthood as equals in the Kingdom of God.  We are equals in Christ.  This keeps humility and accountability to one another.  This keeps those in the office of elder humble and approachable. The office of elder/pastor/bishop is not to be used for self-promotion, or personal gain.  The principle is a servant/leader model.  Sadly, this side of leadership is not taught in GGWO.  We heard over and over again, “I am God’s man, follow me, submit to me or you are off, carnal and in danger of God’s wrath…do not question me or my authority I am God’s man.  I know what is best for you.  I am your spiritual shepherd.  You can only have one shepherd.”  That is diabolically opposed to the biblical model of the servant-leader.  To summarize the elders are to lead with love, integrity and humility.  The congregation is to follow in love, humility and integrity.


Let me deal with 1 Timothy 5:17-18 passage first.  This speaks of financial compensation for the elder who serves the church and excels at what he does.  To add anything else is absurd.  This passage has nothing to do with submission, blind loyalty, etc.


1 Timothy 5:17-18 “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and " The laborer is worthy of his wages." -NASU


The New Living Translation paraphrases this thought very accurately:


“Elders who do their work well should be paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain." And in another place, "Those who work deserve their pay!"”


Now, let me deal with the 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 passage.


“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” -NASU


“Dear brothers, honor the officers of your church who work hard among you and warn you against all that is wrong. 13 Think highly of them and give them your wholehearted love because they are straining to help you. And remember, no quarreling among yourselves.”



All this is saying is to be appreciative of leaders of the church.  This is not a call to blind loyalty.  We cannot throw out the accountability to the congregation and to the scriptures as a whole.  Also, the leaders are to warn us about bad behavior.  They are not to use their position to excuse theirs’!  God never desires us to follow a leader who is not following God or accountable to the church and the scriptures.


Now, let me deal with the Hebrews 13:17 passage.


“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”  -NASU


 “Obey your leaders and follow their orders. They watch over your souls without resting, since they must give to God an account of their service. If you obey them, they will do their work gladly; if not, they will do it with sadness, and that would be of no help to you.” -TEV


I want to share a few words here.  Nothing in this passage implies the pastor presenting you to Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  That is purely ridiculous.  We are to follow and obey if they are following Christ, but again, blind submission is not taught here.  Also, they are accountable to the church and to God for their actions. And, you are free to disagree without being disagreeable; this is a two-way street whereby we can prefer one another in love.  Also, when the pastor does sin the members of the church have a process of accountability found in 1 Timothy 5:19-22.

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. 21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. (NASB)

Regardless of the GGWO’s bizarre twisting of this passage to say this deals with a member this is all about the leaders and how to handle complaints against them. The Message paraphrases this passage well:

Don't listen to a complaint against a leader that isn't backed up by two or three responsible witnesses. 20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can't get by with it. 21 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. 22 Don't appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don't want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself.


The process is similar to Matthew 18, two or more witnesses. These verses protect the leaders and the members.  And, because of the office, the leader when guilty is brought before the church for correction.  This also harmonizes with James 3:1-2.

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (NASB)

“Don't be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.” (The Message)


I am now quoting from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (c) Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2002) to give a proper explanation of the Hebrews verse in particular.  I think this is important because it deals with one of the major flaws of GGWO doctrine. 


“The leaders of the church are called elders (presbyters) or overseers (bishops), the titles being interchangeable. These mature men are ordered by the Spirit of God to rule over His church on earth until Christ returns…In many churches today, the congregation rules the leaders. This sort of government is foreign to the New Testament. Church leaders are not to be tyrants, because they do not rule for themselves but for God. But the command is unqualified: Obey your leaders, and submit to them. It is the right of such men, under God and in meekness and humility, to determine the direction of the church, to preside over it, to teach the word in it, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort (Tit 2:15). They are to "shepherd the flock of God... exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to [their] charge, but proving to be examples to the flock" (1 Pe 5:2-3). Pastors and elders are undershepherds, who serve under the "Chief Shepherd" (v. 4)…Just as church leaders are to rule in love and humility, those under their leadership are to submit in love and humility. "But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work" (1 Th 5:12-13)…When you do not have Spirit-filled leaders who rule well or submissive people who follow well, you have chaos and disunity in the church and open the doors to all sorts of spiritual problems…The priority of every pastor, every elder, every church leader, is to care for the spiritual welfare of the congregation, for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. It is a sobering responsibility to be a leader in Christ's church…Spiritual leaders, of course, are not infallible or perfect. There are times when a church member is justified in disagreeing with a pastor or elder, even in accusing such a leader of sin. But Scripture gives clear direction as to when and how this is to be done. "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning" (1 Ti 5:19-20)…


I have purposely belabored this point.  Until you see that biblical teaching of leadership you cannot move towards closure. 


How I moved towards closure (Part 6)
Christine and I married on Saturday, June 6th, 1987 in The Barbara Stevens Memorial Chapel. Joe Detremont, drove us in his Mercedes to out honeymoon suite…thank you, Joe!!!
That very day in the new worship center the leadership announced we were closing our doors. We did not know this because we were enjoying our honeymoon at the Birchwood Inn, (imagine the two years of dating and no touch love! Seventeen years later I still look at her the same way. She is my beautiful bride.). When we returned to the campus that Monday it was empty. We went to Shermerhorn Hall (the Admin. Building) and I ran into Dan Lewis. I asked him what was going on and where everyone was. He said he could not speak because there was a gag order on the leadership. I was confused. I called Pastor Mawaka in Hartford, CT. and we decided to move there. Thank you Pastor Mawaka for being a friend. There was nothing left in the Berkshires for us but good memories and many unanswered questions. I adopted a wait and see attitude.

Hartford was a very unusual year in my life. Chris and I lived in a little apartment in the South End of Hartford (30 Redding Street). This street intersects with Franklin Ave. with all the great Italian Cuisine. We enjoyed the great food. I worked in the church visiting our older members, visiting the sick in the hospital and soul winning. I also started a bible study in East Hartford at Connie D.’s house. This bible study was the highlight of our stay in Hartford. Connie is one of the sweetest people I know. We also became great friends with Vic and Mary Acca, and we still are today. Joe Vecchiola, Dave Stambovsky, Frank Ventrella, and Paul Paradis were all there.

Now, I love Pastor Mawaka. However, he could be very encouraging but also very harsh. I had much growing to do and I needed a little nurturing. He took with an illness during this time and I was in the office by myself on many days. I took a fulltime job at an Auto Rental Company and stuck with the Bible Study but dropped the other areas. The bible study was growing and I remember P. Mawaka came one week to check it out…things were a little awkward between us after that. My wife was also not too comfortable. She felt like we were put under a microscope by him. I know P. Mawaka was disappointed in me…I got over it. Our relationship became a little strained during this time. I was learning how to adjust to being hurt and misunderstood and have those you care about disagree with and be disappointed in you. I was learning that God is my sufficiency. I wondered about what God was calling me to do in my life. I look back now and I see too much interference (even though it was sincerely to help) in our lives. The unsolicited advice brought confusion, hurt and also made decisions a little harder for us.

So, in July of 1988 we moved to Baltimore. My intent was to finish my Bible School at MBCS . At some point after that (I cannot recall when) I spoke with Pete Stevens about enrolling in MBCS. He said perhaps, “some of my credits would transfer”. That was not a good answer. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Suffice it to say I never enrolled. I remember when I came home my wife asked me, “Did you enroll today?” I answered ‘no’. When she asked why I remember sharing with her the transfer comments and then saying, “God has a better plan for us…I do not know what or why or how, but I know it is true.” Three verses have always encouraged me in good times and in bad times. I leaned into these verses a little harder:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” -NLT

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” -TLB

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” -NLT

Then, several years later after dealing with my disappointment and anger, I swallowed my pride and enrolled in Liberty University. I had to start from scratch. I worked tirelessly to graduate, while being a fulltime husband, father, church member and Infantry paratrooper. I graduated from Liberty University with a Bachelor of Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude. When I walked the aisle to graduate and Jerry Falwell shook my hand what a sense of accomplishment! I waved at my wife and she took my picture. The Bible says “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” God’s plan was slowly unfolding in my life.


How I moved towards closure (Part 7)

Christine and I stayed in Baltimore from the summer of 88 until the fall of 90.  I said earlier I worked for an Auto Rental Company.  We were in the insurance replacement industry.  If your car was involved in an accident you came to us to rent a car.  They are out of business now. Enterprise was our big competition.  They did it better.  I moved from Manager Trainee to Branch Manger to District Manager in a short time.  I worked many, many, many hours six plus days a week to keep the cars rented, the offices staffed and the company marketed.  I shall always remember Action Auto Rental as my Uncle Laban in Haran!  To keep your integrity and sanity in that business was an endeavor! 


During our Baltimore stay we became very restless.  We would attend church but sporadically. Everyone around me seemed excited about the ministry but me.  I felt as dry as a desert.  This vexed me and perplexed me. I really wanted to find another church; however, the feelings of guilt and anxiety over leaving my “geographical will, my pastor-teacher, the body and the calling” really bothered me.  I felt like I was letting my wife down because she grew up in the ministry. But, I would not discuss this with my wife…I was afraid that she would not understand.  And, we married in TBS and she was a lifer…I could not lead her away from her church!  Then, one Sunday (after missing church again) I shared with her my thoughts.  She wept because she was thinking the same thing.  She had wanted to leave since Lenox, but, she was afraid to tell me because I had a call in my life and she knew I loved the church!  We laughed, we hugged, we cried, we went out and ate at Denny’s (Grand slam breakfast!!!) and we began to attend another church.


I share this with you for a VERY IMPORTANT REASON; these abusive doctrines placed a wedge of silence in our marriage.  We were both afraid to communicate.  NO CHURCH should ever place a wedge between a husband and a wife.  Faith in Christ will; but, the husband or the wife can win their spouse over by love when this is the case.  But, to place loyalty to a church and a pastor over loyalty to a marriage is asinine.  This is another damaging aspect of loyalty to TBS/GG – it can be a marriage destroyer.  I know many marriages that are hurt or ruined because of this misguided loyalty.  When we left some of our friends did not understand.  Some said we were forsaking our call.   We just said God was leading us.  This was true.  We did not have any beef with the church.  We sensed God leading us. 


I then enlisted in the Army in January of 1990 and I spent the next ten years discovering the church and a REAL GREATER GRACE and a REAL FINISHED WORK…not the lesser grace and unfinished work that were portrayed as “the real Christian message.” I learned that the two twists were really a license to sin and a shame based works program to prove my spirituality.  Boy, did I have much re-learning to do!  Friends, the evangelical church in America is in deep trouble.  We have cheapened grace, winked at sin and view spirituality as a works program.  God has so much more for us.  He chose me in eternity past, for adoption as a child in the family of God. He sent His Son Jesus to accomplish my salvation.  He stood before Almighty God on Calvary in my place.  He said, “I am Dave Drago and here are my sins.”  He took my place.  He chose my sufferings and pain.  He bore Calvary and the grave to accomplish my forgiveness.  God turned HIS back on His Son for me!  He was bruised and forsaken for my pardon.  His grace saved me and His Spirit called me into faith.  He breathed on my dead spirit and caused me to live…This is true grace!  Salvation is not a possibility on Calvary if I will say a special prayer.  God forbid!  True Greater Grace is that salvation is completely accomplished on Calvary.  The work is finished on Calvary.  It is not grace plus something.  Jesus paid it all.  


Let me explain.  My sister Karen and her husband Rich could not have children.  They elected to adopt a little boy in Guatemala.  His name is Nicholas.  Of all the children to bear their name, they chose Nick!  They flew to Guatemala and PAID in FULL for his adoption as their son.  They chose him from among all the other children.  Not because he was better, but because they wanted to share their love.  Nick did not choose them.  They chose him.  This was a gracious act on their part.  Rich, Karen and Nick have all benefited.  Just like they planned, paid for and implemented his adoption, God planned, implanted and paid for my adoption. I did not choose God.  He chose me!  This is a gracious act on HIS part. I know that God looks at me in love, in a much deeper way then Karen and Rich look at Nick.  I find the doctrines of grace, adoption and election to be the most comforting and peaceful of all the Christian doctrines.  I know He has a plan for my life and He is working in and through me until I see Him face to face…I hope you share this blessed hope too! 


How I moved to closure Part 8 (My ten years in the Army and growth and challenge).


I enlisted in the Army in January of 1990.  I enlisted for the Infantry Airborne Ranger Option.  I left for Fort Benning, Georgia on May 16, 1990. I was a twenty-five year old man enlisting as a private!  I transitioned from being a District Manager with over 20 employees, six offices in two states to “Roger that Drill Sergeant”.  My older brother (former army enlistee and now Air Force Lt. Colonel) used to tell me, “You know Dave, you do not have to be stupid to be successful in the Army…but it sure helps!”  To which, I would later respond, “You know Steve, you do not have to be a wimp to be successful in the Air Force, but it sure helps!”  (Since I am an Army guy, it took me awhile to put that one together!)  Regardless, I have found a comforting truth in both those anecdotes.  (I won’t even share what it takes to do well in the Marines).  Alas, I digress…


I took to the army life like my foot takes to my sock or peanut butter to bread.  I was a natural; I loved the discipline, the camaraderie, and the sense of mission.  And, they even paid me to stay in shape! I enjoyed the Infantry life, jumping out of airplanes and tough, realistic battle focused training.  I can still think back to our bayonet drills:

Instructor: “What makes the grass grow green?”

Our response: “Blood, blood, blood makes the grass grow green.”


I prayed for peace but trained for war.  A soldier, more than all men should pray for peace and prepare for war. He knows the risk and the price. I am so grateful for all the soldiers (and their families) who train so hard and sacrifice so much to protect our nation. I still miss my brothers in arms.  Some have not returned home.


I loved the ten years I served.  God truly blessed the work of my hands and I was satisfied!  Suffice it to say, I received great training to include Ranger School, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Religion at Liberty University through tuition assistance, I earned the rank of Staff Sergeant, I was selected to Officer Candidate School (OCS) and branched in the Military Intelligence Corps. I went in as a private and left as a captain…and, I never lost my sense of humor.  I could spend pages and pages writing about all my experiences in the ten years I served my nation.  But, this would detract from my purpose of this article.  What’s that?  Share a story?  No, no, really I cannot…if I told you I would have to kill you. Oh, you are killing me!  Ok, I will share two funny stories. 


My brother’s favorite story is when we (my platoon) were doing hard physical conditioning as punishment ummm, errrr, I meant to say, reinforcement.  The Drill Sergeant loved to ask me this question: “Drago, are you smoked? (This means beat, ready to quit).  My reply: “Drill Sergeant, thank you for asking.  Physically I am at muscle failure.  However, emotionally, psychologically and mentally I have never been better. You can’t smoke a rock; you can only heat it up and strengthen it.  Thank you for making us stronger!”  Drill Sergeant: “That’s what I like to hear.”


Also, I shall never forget being asked by the Post Commander during the OCS Graduation Ceremony at Fort Benning (the home of the infantry) why an Airborne Ranger with the Expert Infantry Badge was branched intelligence.  General: Lt. Drago, just what in the HELL is an airborne ranger with an EIB, doing with two squashed bugs (intelligence corps branch insignia) on his lapels?  My reply: “Sir, that is a fine question, but you would have to ask the professionals down at Dept. of the Army, I am not qualified to question their wisdom…I am just doing my best to be all I can be!”  My commander almost died!  The general shook my hand and with a big smile told me to “get the hell off the stage and do great things for my country!”  Good times, good memories…I really grew up in the service.


When we left GGWO, we did not quit the church. We began a journey of learning what worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism is all about.  Our paradigms and assumptions were challenged, rebuked, questioned and we began to grow outside of the bubble we lived and moved and had our being in. 

How I moved to closure Part 9 (My ten years in the Army and growth and challenge, con’t).

Christine and I were stationed in North Georgia at the Fifth Ranger training Battalion. We began to attend a Southern Baptist Church that was new in the area and meeting in a converted double-wide trailer while they were building a permanent facility. The pastor was around my age and we hit it off! I insisted on calling him, “Pastor Jeff.” He said, “Dave, please call me Jeff, I know I am a pastor.” I told him I thought it was a kingdom issue (sound familiar?) and he just chuckled and said, ‘ok’! I began to realize that we were little overzealous in our affirmations of pastors! I graduated form Ranger School in 1992 (June) and We packed all our earthly possessions and headed up the Alaska-Canada Highway to report to my new assignment in Anchorage, Alaska to be part of the 501st Airborne Infantry- the only arctic airborne battalion. We loved Alaska! We arrived in 1992 with no children and two dogs and a cat. We departed in 1996 with three children and no pets! We grew up in Alaska and came into our own.

We attended Muldoon Road Baptist Church. Dr. Keith Miles was the pastor and he was such an encouragement to me. He took time to know me and our family. He is a friend to this day. I watched how he led and saw how accessible he was to our congregation. He was a healthy pastor who did not think too highly of himself. I taught Young Adult Sunday School and on Wednesday evenings I had the 7-12 grade boys – The Challengers. We backpacked all over the mountains of Alaska. We did real wilderness training. The Gospel was preached and the boys were ministered to. There were some wonderful believers at that church. However, there were also some inveterate trouble makers. The church had underlying conflicts and disappointments.

Dr. Miles left for the lower forty-eight and we attended a Mega-church, Anchorage Baptist Temple. Overall, that church was the most balanced and well run church we ever attended. Again, the pastor was completely accessible and did not put himself on a pedestal. He is a fiery servant of the LORD whose church is salt and light in the community. If you are ever in Anchorage, you will be blessed by a visit.

In July of 1996 we hit the road for @ 14 months of Military Schools- Officer Candidate School and Officer Basic Course. We arrived in Fayetteville, NC at Fort Bragg in September of 1997 and I assigned to the 2/325 Infantry Bn. We attended Village Baptist Church. Again, we saw how accessible and down to earth the pastor was. The church was growing in exponential proportions. The sermons were not around these loaded messages of loyalty to a man, but obedience to Christ! I realized that GGWO had the emphasis on a man. There are many churches that do a fantastic job of revealing Christ without performing a complicated Japanese Kabuki dance around precepts of men spun as doctrines of God!

In August of 2000, Village Baptist Church called me to a fulltime ministry position as the Minister of Pastoral and Family Care. Village had over 2300 members-not attendees, but members whom we answered to. The church is a vibrant evangelical church that reaches the community it serves.

We truly had moved on and were thankful for the experiences we had in the military. Looking back, I can see how God changed our paradigms and assumptions and we grew outside of the bubble we lived and moved and had our being in. We had not forsaken our call, headed to Egypt, backslid, or settled for a lesser form of Christianity. Far from it, we were obedient to grow and discover that life is rich and fulfilling! And, many churches are doing a great job without a lot of self-congratulating!


How I moved to closure part 10 -My life is in YOU LORD.

As I conclude this story I realize some think I should not post on FACTnet.  Do I have closure?  You bet I do!  I have spent time to share from scriptures and my life experiences how the organization needs to repent and change.  Will they?  As I write this final installment the verdict is out.  Only time will tell.  Only time will tell.  I know some people view my position as disloyal and judgmental.   I say show me in Scripture.   I am not judging or condemning I am discerning.  There is a MAJOR difference.  I say again: GGWO does not suffer from persecution because of their righteousness; they suffer from the folly and foolishness of their stubborn ways.

1 Peter 2:19-20
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

Yes, we moved on.  And, you know what we found out? God had a great plan for us.  Life went on. Our loyalties, though admirable were very UNWISE, UNFOUNDED AND UNHEALTHY. We learned loyalty to Jesus and His words.


The past four years of my life have been wonderfully challenging, rewarding and at times very frustrating.  I have pastored churches in North Carolina and Missouri.  This summer I am starting my seminary training at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.  Our children are growing up so fast!  I will be forty years old this February 8th!  I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in myself, others and the churches we have been apart of.  However, I have NEVER seen God fail me or forsake me!  He is so good to me…ALL THE TIME!  And, I can face today and tomorrow with the calm assurance that I am in His hand and He is working in and through me until HE calls me home.  Yes, I can say with conviction, “my life is in YOU LORD!”  I want to run the race with patience and keep my eyes on the finish line!  I hope these verses will encourage and strengthen you to follow HIM! 

Philippians 2:13 “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”


Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” -NLT


Romans 8:28 “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” -TLB


Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” –NLT


For Him,







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