Counter Thought is a forum for biblical, non-traditional discussion as an alternative to religious rhetoric.
The world is an abusive system, in which people survive by developing coping mechanisms for survival. Every dysfunctional behavior in society is an attempt to adapt to the world system, either to be accepted or at least tolerated with as little pain as possible.
The Kingdom of God is the exact opposite of the world system. When God is king, there is freedom from the oppression of abusive control.
Unfortunately, the church has generally tried to adapt and fit in by using the same principles as the world system—shame instead of joy, fear of exclusion instead of confidence from acceptance, performance instead of growth, marketing instead of impartation. Most of what is portrayed as ministry is, by design, manipulation and control, making most churches abusive systems in their own right.
The mission of Counter Thought is to discover and to teach the operating principles of the Kingdom of God, in order to provide an alternative to the survival thinking of the world system.
More than half a century of living has given me extensive experience as a pastor and a writer. As both a ghostwriter and an author, I have created more than thirty books, two documentaries, and co-written an award winning play, as well as numerous church and educational productions. As a pastor, I have served in a variety of positions, including more than ten years on the staff of one of the largest churches in Arizona.
At this point in my career, however, I consider none of these accomplishments worth elaborating beyond the education they afforded. My writing experience has given me a wide range of accumulated background information on which to draw. The books worthy of recommendation will find their way onto this site. The others are better left unidentified.
My experience as a staff pastor provided an opportunity to witness the most egregious abuses of spiritual authority. I have seen much of what works and what does not work. Whatever of those experiences has value will also find its way into the discussion when appropriate.
Which leaves little to boast of, with one exception. In 2005, Christina thought highly enough of me to agree to marriage. No other accomplishment compares to that. She has been and continues to be a significant part of the expression of truth in Counter Thought.
4 thoughts on “About”
My son and his wife joined the Living Word Bible Church in Mesa. These past few years he and his wife have become totally estranged from her family, his family, and all their old friends. I know that cults try to separate their members from outside relationships. Is that happening In this church?
As I understand the strict definition of a cult, I would not call Living Word a cult. And I should say that I derived a lot of good from my time there, especially in terms of things like learning how to pray effectively. Having said that, during the time I was there, I saw a focus on money take over every other priority and it set in motion a great fear of losing what they had. The new building they moved into (which is no longer new) became an icon and the pride in wealth became a hallmark of supposed spirituality. In order to protect that, the leadership steadily began to apply cult like tactics to maintain control. That involved isolation, certainly. I recall many times that staff were fired for asking questions or people who seemed to not be quite in line anymore were asked to leave, and invariably, stories were offered about the bad behavior of those people to justify getting rid of them, along with a warning that no one who left ever did well and a kind of warning to avoid them or the same would happen to us. Unfortunately, the stories about their behavior were often complete fiction, or at best they were greatly exaggerated or twisted versions of something innocuous. People who left rarely did badly after that; they usually prospered after leaving. (I know this to be the case because I was close enough to the events in many cases to know firsthand what had transpired and the stories given to the congregation were not true.) But the warnings and the pressure tended to work. Most people turned away from those who were exiled. So I wouldn’t say they were a cult, but they used the methods of a cult to maintain control. I’ve recently released a couple of books which talk about some of those things. The first is called Friends, Family & Other Enemies, and another is a pocket size book derived from the first. It is called The Hazards of Forgiveness I Never Learned in Church. Neither is written as an attack on Living Word, but in both, I illustrate my points with stories of personal experience, so there is necessarily quite a bit about things I saw there.
This sounds an awful lot like my church in Arizona, which Don knows quite a bit about since he was my first pastor after I left the Tucson. Isolation from family was a big one, and was usually the big flag that prompted families to wonder aloud and eventually take up matters with the media and university administration. I personally didn’t experience much of the cult-like behavior because a lot of it revolved around staff and those that staff deemed pliable enough to mold in their image. But, like Don, I too still took away a lot of good from my former church.
Their sense of servanthood was paramount and was almost Amish-like how they would band together to help someone in need or even the efficient set-up and tear-down of church at a nearby high school. But, fueling that intense dedication was an underlying method of pressure enacted in a slight-of-hand way that inspired church members to spend most of their free time with the church and away from anywhere else. The more time you dedicate to the church, the more responsibility you are given and the greater your chances of match-making for a spouse. Yes, they do some serious match-making and steering of relationships. Women on staff who are single tend to live in the attached suites of pastor’s homes in order to save them on rent, but it also serves as a grooming process to produce obedient wives (oh, I could write a novel on that alone). As a result, a friend of mine on staff became exasperated and feigned getting a “word” from God to marry another guy on staff. They stayed on staff for a few more years but it was still too much for them and after moving to the midwest, they divorced. The church in Tucson likes to myopically use such examples as what happens when you “rebel” and leave their church.
Evangelism was focused on the college campus with very little emphasis on the working world away from the University of Arizona. This caught my attention and eventually made sense. They would reel in those who needed a place to belong (as I did when I was in my early 20s when I joined them) and those who used too much critical thought were slowly cast aside or outright told they were in rebellion. Rebellion; one of their favorite words to use. Woe to those who manifested the spirit of Korah and his rebellion against Moses, God’s anointed one. Not a single pastor or minister on staff has a formal education in theology, that I currently know of. It is all in-house theology cherry-picked from sources cleared only by the senior pastor, and the church structure is very vertical. The senior pastor effectively answers to no one and has hand-picked his elder board to support him. This allows them to know the Word fairly well, but wield it in a way that suits their purposes.
So, like Don said, not a cult per se, but definitely cult-like. For members, it is, for the most part, a very gregarious and fun-loving congregation with a lot of social events, meet-ups, missional opportunities and keeps members grounded in the Word. Where thing go awry is their bunker mentality of “us against them” to the point where they never team up with other ministries in Tucson (of which there are many). This too always made me wonder. They also become your new family and encourage converts to avoid anyone outside the Kingdom in order to prevent being persuaded by the world’s trappings or spiritual corruption from lesser ministries/churches who are tainted. This includes family and old friends. They remold your entire life under the guise of sanctification. It has gotten to a point that there are now websites dedicated to exposing the truth behind what goes on in this church.
Here’s a link: https://formerfccmembers.com/
I’ve posted this not out of spite, but in the hopes this will help someone who is going through the same thing with their child. I miss my friends at this church very much, but the overwhelming evidence of manipulation is too great to ignore.
Thank you so much for your bravery to share the truth. Often I have seen too many Christians afraid to be honest (truly honest) with one another in a way to build community. Yet if we are to live as Christ instructed us we have to be honest. Truly honest. Without shame and fear of reprisal.
In 2016 my wife and I attended Living Word Bible Church in Mesa for about eight months. It was close to the house and it seemed in line with God’s teaching. My one concern came on the eighth month of being there when Pastor Jason Anderson made a comment from the pulpit about “journalists attacking his father.” It did not sit well with me, mainly because I knew nothing of it, and it seemed petty. Moreover I was a journalist for a CBS affiliate four years earlier in another city. We continued attending, but I would notice that this diatribe about journalists would come up every so often, and it bothered me more. God’s divine providence has a way of working things out where we do not have to dirty our hands by saying something. In 2017 we purchased a new house in Chandler, and found a church we love and we are active in.
My point in my response is this. We need honesty in Christ’s ministry, not our ministry, or the family ministry. In my 45 years on this planet I have many churches suffer from entitlement, corruption, and even split from a pastor kicking out those that did not agree with him after being caught in a house of prostitution. The pastor I speak of irrelevant and has gone to be with the Lord. I say that because although we sin, God our Father forgives us our sins through the blood of His son Jesus. (The rationale for kicking people out, was because “they did not tithe and sinned against God”). That church still exists today and looks like a ghost town despite this happening in the late 80s. Most of my experiences were with the Spanish Assemblies of God in Arizona despite never learning Spanish until I went to college. Yet hubris effects all denominations and colors.
I just wanted to say ‘thank you,’ for being honest and brave enough to open a dialogue on these matters. Pastors, deacons, and those involved with the church must be willing to honestly open themselves to one another, to be heard, sometimes corrected so that we do not hurt others. As Paul said in Ephesians, “be kind and tenderhearted to one another.
Kind regards and God Bless you,