Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Facebook Private Messaging

You may have noticed the Facebook widget to the right of the posts.  You also may have noticed that we have only about 5 likes, at the time of this post.  But did you know we actually get a lot of activity on our Facebook page?

It all came about that people decided they actually wanted to talk privately about some things they read here or heard from other people outside of the blog.  So they thought "Ah ha!  I'll send them a message through Facebook!"  Now isn't that smart?  I never would have thought of that.

So our sleepy little page may not appear to have much going on, but there is certainly a good bit happening behind the scenes.  And we invite you to be a part of it. 

Perhaps it can help you to see a more personal and "real" side to us.  Just be patient, we're not always the best about responding promptly.  But I suppose now that I've made the invitation, I should be better about that!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Response to Jeff Wallace and Randall Tarrant

Well, Jeff, I know we only met that one time when you visited and I ran into you that one time in Wal-Mart.  If you add both times up, we maybe talked a total of 20 minutes.  So I can't really say I know you.  I can't really judge from our meetings, personally, what I feel about you.  But the way you responded to Noelle just reassures me that that church endorses members that seem like they don't have love or caring towards other human beings.  To me, the way you come across is very angry and you just seem like a very unhappy, mean person.  And the only thing I can say for you is I'll pray for you as best I can, which I have been doing for over a year since I knew you were coming to the church.

You wasn't there and I'm sorry that you feel I'm making up things, but I'm just telling my feelings and my experience from my time at the church.  Much of the rest of this will have to do with something you'd know of from hear-say only.

But I do want to respond to a man I feel I got to know, Randall Tarrant.  I feel I moved my family to join a church I felt was going to be a brotherhood.  A church I thought was gonna have more loving and caring towards people.  That we'd all be studying and striving to walk the narrow way.  If we were all studying I thought we'd all have a bit more love and understanding toward people that didn't understand the narrow way.  But in the short time I was there, most of the experience with the members I had was talking down to the rest of the world and building ourselves up.  I realized one day that I was doing the same thing, and that was not what I was looking for.

In my last couple weeks there I was accused of trying to cause division in the church.  That was far from my thoughts at the time.  I was really trying just to understand certain things that was happening in the church.

For instance, I was called by Angela and told that the Wednesday night services was gonna be held at the Mennonite tent meeting.  That Brother Mark and Brother Jesse decided that would be best.  So I started thinking, I already know that those Locust Creek Mennonite group felt that I and 2 other families, that are members of the church, that we're going to hell unless we leave our wives because we're "living in sin."  And Randall, you know, you was very upset about it, you talked to me about it was confusing to you because those same groups of people told you and your wife the same thing.  And Jeremy and his wife Pauline was told the same stuff.  So it was a little confusing to me that the church that we all moved, Randall as he says a 1000 miles, it was a 1000 miles for my wife and I too, and Jeremy was I don't know how far for him to move, we was gonna be meeting with the Mennonites.

So I called Mark and asked if I could speak to him, he said yes, but couldn't do it then, maybe could get together the next day.  So I drove over to the next authority that there was which was Jesse Herr, the second minister of the church, since I was told he also gave his blessing.  And I asked him why he gave his blessing, he explained that Mark would like to have the meeting at the Mennonite church because Mark's children only hears Mark's teachings and he would like his children to hear other godly men speaking.  But when Jesse saw how upsetting it seemed like it would be to half the members in the church that have the divorce & remarriage issue, he said that after considering what I was saying he was gonna take his blessing back and he was not gonna go to the meeting hisself.

Now, I did not go to Jesse to complain to him about Mark, as I was accused by Mark of doing.  It's just that I wasn't gonna get to talk to Mark before that night's meeting was gonna be held, it was gonna be the next day.  So, what is wrong with me asking the second man in charge of the church his reasons? 

So my doing this was one of the reasons I was accused by Mark of causing division in the church.  Definitely was not my intent.  The next day Mark and I met and he told me the reason he felt we should meet with the Mennonites at the revival tent meeting is that we need to go as a church and show the Mennonite how ungodly they're being and how wrong they are on their teachings on divorce and remarriage issues.  So as a man that's trying to walk the narrow way, that is striving to obey God, I started thinking, which one is it, because it can't be both?

So I realized Mark was telling the families that doesn't have divorce & remarriage issues in their lives they were going to have their children hear godly teaching, but to the divorced & remarries families he was saying it was to show Mennonites they're in the wrong of their teachings.  So a man that is in his authority that plays both sides is absolutely wrong.  And  the members know that they heard both sides and if they choose to accept it that's up to them, but, for myself, that's when I felt I lost my respect for Mark.

The other thing I was accused of trying to cause division on is when I was talking to two other members and they was also upset and complaining about the Mennonites.  Randall was complaining about why are we meeting once a month at the singing at the community center in Purdin and the Mennonite come.  Randall Tarrant felt that it was very disturbing to him because he know that they feel that he and his wife, me and my wife, and others are going to hell because of our previous marriages.  He was angry and said he would not be going back to the singings as long as they are going.  The only comment I really had to that was, it doesn't bother me that they come to the singings because they're coming to our gathering.  But I told him that being asked to go to their gathering where they have signs "where will you be in a million years" and they know our church would be bringing people with divorce and remarriage issues and they are going to be sure to have sermons about it, I didn't think it would be smart of me to bring my children.

Now being accused of causing division for asking questions on why there was two answers for why we're going to the Mennonite meeting.  When, Randall, you know several times on the front porch you sat and complained to me about the same things.  Jeremy also had a few issues with it.  And I told you that the whole issue made me lose respect for Mark, you know you were just as guilty, if I was causing division, so were you and other men.  You know the times you called me on the phone and told me how upsetting it all was to you.  And you was there in the church services, after the church, he used the pulpit to basically attack me for questioning his decision.  And he made the comment, that you, Randall said, "I trust your judgement."  But was you trusting his judgement when you come and complained to me about the situation, plus the girls and boys not playing with each other anymore?

What about when you REALLY had a problem when the decision was made that boys and girls of school age are not to play games with each other.  The swing sets, outdoor games, or anything together.  You know it was very upsetting that if your boy was swinging and the girls wanted it he had to leave or if he wanted it your girl would have to leave.  I was willing to submit and say that's fine.  I asked Mark what was the reason for it, his answer was that they were trying to teach the girls shame facedness.  If they get familiar with the boys then they don't learn shame facedness.  So my thought on the matter was, so the rule is made that the boys and girls cannot play outside together at all, school aged.  But it was ok for them to sit together in Sunday school, sit inside at the tables and play board games with each other.  It was just very confusing after just dealing with the two reasons for the Mennonite situation, now there's another thing that didn't make sense to me. 

And in the four months that I was there, I heard that it's the most biblical, most godly church that they know of.  We all, including myself, tooted our own whistles.  How godly and how we understood the Bible better than anyone else.  And I finally realized  that I was just going back to the ways I grew up in a cult church, The Worldwide Church of God, that we was royalty, the chosen ones.  And I realized that isn't where I wanna be.  I wanna be in a place that I obey God, my savior, love other people, don't judge them for their sins, let Jesus judge them.  I don't feel there's anything wrong with saying accept Jesus as your savior, telling them to change, but when we went out my first and only time to give tracts out in the neighborhood.  We went door to door handing out tracts asking people, "Are they ready for when Jesus returns?"  I was very excited to do that.  And when people come to the door obviously dressed like they might have just come from church and they embraced me with open arms and said that they're ready, they accept their savior 100%.  I am not gonna judge that man and that lady because they wasn't wearing a head covering, or suspenders, or the man might not have been wearing a beard.  That is between them and their savior.

But as we continued, Mark Bullen's son, that I was with, knocked on a door.  An older woman probably in her 80's invited us in and we talked to her and asked her if she was ready for our savior's return.  And she told me and Nathan that she was ready, she can't wait, he can come right now.  She actually missed church services that day because she was a little under the weather, but I can see she had her Bible next to her chair, open like she was studying it, I could hear her radio on in the back ground, and I could tell the songs was some Christian radio station.  After talking a while, she told me and Nathan, that she had 2 children, 1 is a saved Christian and she has 1 that is lost.  And she asked us if she would pray for her and her lost daughter, that God would open her daughter's eyes.  So Nathan said he would pray and he prayed.  And we said we had to go, and she said we're welcome to come back any time.  As we was leaving down the road Nathan made a comment to me that that lady was going to hell.  It was so disturbing to me that he judged her, because I personally don't know where her relationship with our savior is, seemed like she had a lot of faith in our savior.  Just because she didn't have a head covering and she had music on, but for whatever reason he said that.  The lady where she is with her walk, to get to the narrow path, only Jesus knows.  I accepted the lady telling me she was a Christian.  Maybe she's a babe in Christ, but I can think of one man that was a babe in Christ, where our savior said, "I'll see you in Paradise."

So we returned to the van.  Mark asked me if I'd sit up front, and I did.  The van holds 15 and it was full of members.  I wasn't in the van 5 minutes and I listened and I heard the members going on about all these ungodly people.  And I just said, "Hey, we gotta watch judgin' these people, because we don't know where they are in their walk with God."  And Mark did agree, but it didn't stop.

I guess what I did is start judging Mark's church as I feel they judge everyone that isn't a member.  If we are the most godly church, that we know of, then we should be very godly and do everything perfect, as they seem to expect of everyone else.  So, steppin' back and lookin' at  Mark's children bullying the other teenagers and some adults, bragging on their abilities of wrastling, full contact and arm wrastling, how great they are on buying cars and turnin' it around and makin' a lot of profit.  Which I'm not sayin' it's wrong to buy and resell vehicles and stuff for a profit, but the way they go on and brag about it, it just seemed very ungodly to me.  It just seemed the arrogance in the young men was getting out of hand.

Now realize these teenagers were baptized members in the church.  So one evenin' I was sittin' on the sofa and Nathan sat next to me.  And we started talkin' about different things and he started tellin' me how he is such a great wrastler and how none of them can beat him and he can just go crazy.  And I listened for a little bit, but after hearing it so many times over the months I was there, I asked him, did you not listen Wednesday night when the discussion was about the young men and their arrogance?  I guess he did not hear me because that night later at the singing he came over to me and started talking about his basketball abilities and then he told me how he could whip all the boys, even his big brother.  He told me how he arm wrastled one of the older men in the church and beat him.  I listened.

All the things going through my head of the Mennonite situation, girls and boys playin' with each other, all the different things just kind of not addin' up to me, kind of all going through me.  I guess it all was getting to me.

So then he started telling me about how he beat another young man in wrastlin', which was about the 4th time he told me that, in different times.  Then that person came up and said, "Hey, what you all talkin' about?"  And then I said, "He's just sittin' here telling me about how he beat you in wrastlin'."  And Nathan looked at me and said, "You are a liar, I never said that."  And I said, "No, actually, you are a liar, you did say it."  And he said, "No, I didn't, you are a liar."  And I said, "You are a snot nosed punk kid, you're a bully, and if you actually tangled with somebody like me that's a hundred pounds bigger than you are, we actually went out back and wrastled, you would think you'd have a chance.  But you would be bloodied up."  I know for sure I said at least that, but it would be hard to put what I said down word for word beyond that, but basically I told him he's a punk who thinks too much of himself.

The way I handled that situation was not a loving, caring, graceful way, it was not right.  It was not the person I was striving to become.  It was the person that I was, that I didn't like, that I wanted to be rid of.  And that's why I was changing to try to get closer to God, that's why I went looking for a more godly lifestyle.  I did repent and ask God to forgive me.

Randall Tarrant and Jeremy both came over to me agreeing and saying the exact same thing.  Then Randall brought up the Mennonites being at the singing and stuff like that.  That's when I said, "That's why I lost respect for Mark."  During that time Nathan repeatedly came up asking if we were talking about him and finally I patted him on the shoulder and said not to worry about it.

The next Wednesday night Malachi, came up to me and asked me if everything was ok and if I needed to talk to Nathan.  And I said, no I'm ok.  Then Malachi said that Nathan said I had pushed him and I know I did not push him.  I suggested we have someone else talk with us that was neutral, Malachi said that wasn't necessary, but my wife said that if Nathan was saying stuff like that, something would have to be done.

The next thing I know on Saturday I was being called by Mark and being told we were going to have a member's meeting to "make sure everyone was in communion."  Every man, including Mark's teenage sons, was already assembled when I showed up 10 minutes before it was supposed to start.  And at any other meeting in the past if I showed up 10 minutes early, generally I was the first one there.  So maybe I'm assuming things, it seemed like they had a meeting about it all before I got there.  Because there was members there that had nothing to do about these things that surely knew all about it and attacked me more, I feel, than those that was actually involved.

So I sat down with basically all the men sitting in a circle around me.  And Mark asked me to tell my side of the story, and I said I didn't know what he meant, asked him what we were here for.  And that's when it basically just confirmed to me, and I listened to what was being said.  I am wanting God in my life, I want to obey my savior Jesus.  I'm a man that is not wanting to live in a sinful life anymore, like I've been the majority of my life.  I'm sitting there being accused of trying to cause divisions, of being accused of being a liar, and making false accusations.  Knowing there were two men in the room, Jeremy and Randall, that knew actually what was said, and that I was not trying to cause division.  If I was guilty of causing division, then they are just as guilty as I am.  But since I was the one that actually didn't mind going to Mark and asking him to help me understand why he was making these decisions, unfortunately I know now, they're yes men.  To me they say one thing, to Mark they say another.  They know what they said.  They should have, in that meeting, stepped up, and said, "Well Jason, really wasn't trying to cause division."  Or, "If Jason was trying to cause division, I was too, maybe even more." 

Before I made the final decision to leave, that night I asked to have a couple days to fast and pray about if I was going to stay or leave the church.  And Mark told me I could not have it, I had to make up my mind then.  He told me my pride is gonna send me to hell, and I put my hand to his shoulder, as I did his son, "Your pride is gonna send you and me to hell if me being excommunicated out of this church is gonna send me to hell."  Then I stopped and I asked if anyone was gonna talk to my wife.  Paul said, yes, they'd send one of the ladies.  And Mark right away said no, if she wants to be part of this church, she needs to come to us.  So Mark's telling me that I'm gonna excommunicate myself because I'm not submitting to him and I am going to go to hell, so I'm thinking, I've just gone through 3 hours or more of Mark and his sons lying about and attacking me.  I apologized to them for letting my anger say things, even though I feel he was a bully, how I handled it was wrong and I had repented to God already for it. 

I felt at that time Mark was handling it in a very ungodly way.  That he should have allowed Jesse, as the other minister, to handle it.  But instead Jesse sat in his seat, with his head down and his hand over his face, looking down.  I didn't understand why Jesse did not speak up because he knew the truth, where my heart and my mind was with the Mennonite thing, I really opened up to him, and he knows that I was.

Me and Jesse did talk the next day and Jesse did show love and concern and really wanted me to stay.  And hopefully we could work things out.  So I did look for counsel in other ministers in the area to see if I am thinkin' straight.  And I did talk to Mennonite ministers and another denominational minister, to make sure I wasn't just letting my pride get involved.  I was told by the Mennonite minister where Mark used to attend that he thought any responsible bishop or minister that had been involved in a similar situation would have recused himself, since it would be hard to be impartial because it involved himself and his child.  Later in the conversation the minister told me about how Mark had been set to join and even willing to live with the doctrine on divorce and remarriage.  But when Mark was told that he wouldn't be a minister right off the bat, he'd have to wait and draw lots like everyone else, within a week Mark was gone and distributing literature to their members.  So they did have a burning of Mark's literature.  Looking at it, I agree, he should have recused himself.

So I did after thinking about it, praying about it, and talking to other ministers, I did ask Jesse if the next Wednesday night I could come apologize to the church.  So I stood in front of the church apologize to Nathan, to the members of the church because if they felt I was causing division it must have been, even though that was not my intent, and I was very sincere.  After I apologized Jesse did say there were a couple other men that owe Jason an apology.  I thought for sure Jeremy and Randall would stand up and say they were sorry for letting me be accused when they was doing the same thing.  But they didn't. 

So I sat and listened and that night the blue book was teaching on non-resistance.  The blue book was describing the supposedly non-resistant teachings.  Mark made a statement, "Sometimes you have to kill them before they kill you."  Then I realized that is what Mark was doing in that members meeting to me.  He was going as hard as he could to get me to want to leave so he wouldn't have anyone who was gonna question anything anymore.  So that was my final straw.

The men of the church did tell me they did not like the way the mens meeting was handled.  They felt it was wrong.  I told them to tell Mark, not me, but no one is gonna tell Mark.

Randall, if you really care about my salvation, and my family's, you would have stepped up and said the things you said to me, to Mark, instead of just telling Mark you trust his judgement.  You not one time during the mens meeting said anything.  But I will say Greg Molner said in the meeting that he didn't sense I was trying to cause division.  Me and Greg had a lot of problems (that's another story), but in the meeting he did what was right. 

You two posting just reminded me of all the reasons I'm not there.  Jeff attacking and Randall being a yes man.  Plus, the only condition I had for returning, was to have Mark explain to me which reason it really was for going to the Mennonite meeting, and that hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it will.  That's what I told Jesse, and he agreed.

I assure anyone reading this, that I, Jason Ragas, accept Jesus as my savior, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as my God.  And I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill me to understand what God wants me to do in my life, I will submit to God in any way he tells me to.  I was told by Greg Molner as I left, he gave me a letter, and said that either I wasn't a Christian or I'm a babe in Christ.  And the only response I have to that long 6 page letter, Greg, is I am a Christian, and if I am a babe in Christ, I'd much rather be a babe than a pharisee.

Sincerely I do pray for the members of the church, I do not have hard feelings towards them, Noelle and I just wanted other people to see another side of the story of what they teach.  If I didn't agree with most of the website, Mark's teachings, I'd have never gone to the church to begin with.  I feel you should just live it in your own life and by example, maybe people will come?  But to be there and hear over and over how we was so godly and everybody was so lost, statements like "All Brookfield is going to hell" just made me realize how many people live in Brookfield.  I personally don't know everybody's relationship with God and I'm not gonna judge them because they're not wearing a beard or suspenders.  A sinner that is striving to stay on the narrow path and only through my savior's grace and love for me do I even have a chance.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Veil

Ok, so this is a very heated issue for anyone thinking of going to the Bullen church or anyone that has been.  To Mark it IS a heaven and hell issue and an indicator of whether a woman is a Christian or not.  His thinking is, if you're a Christian, you should obey everything God says, God's word is the Bible, it says to wear a head-covering, therefore all Christian women should be veiled.

Here's my two cents, for whatever it is worth.  Let's look at the context.  Much of 1st Corinthians is about unity.  There were big, big problems in the church (what do you know?, immorality and disunity are not anything new to the church), and Paul was writing to straighten them out.  This is where we get the famous "love" chapter from.  That's right, it wasn't just written to be read at weddings, it is actually sandwiched between two chapters discussing spritual gifts and tongues.  Just a bit before the love chapter comes the exhortation for a woman to be veiled.

I will not get into detail on why it is a fabric veil and not a cap or the woman's hair.  It is my opinion that if you honestly research you will find Paul is indeed talking about a woman wearing a cloth covering over her head and hair.  If you have a different opinion, that's fine, but what I'm really wanting to get into is, why the obsession with the covering?  At the end of the whole thing Paul clearly states that if anyone is "contentious", then don't push the issue, "we have no such custom."

The covering has clearly become a bone of contention in many of the plain groups. They use it to separate themselves from the world, and what's worse, to separate themselves from each other.  The veiled people can look down on the capped people, and the capped people with the folds in the back look down on the ones without folds, and the floppy capped people can look down on the starched capped people.  It goes on and on.  Everyone thinks their covering is the most godly or right.  What a sad testimony of the plain world.

In the first place, obviously not everyone was wearing a covering at Paul's time or even later on with Tertullian.  If every woman had been veiled, what would the reason be for writing to encourage or, in Tertullian's case, condemn uncovered women.  So it cannot be said that all Christian women in the early church wore a head covering.  Even Paul calls it a custom, not a commandment, so why does Mark bullen and other preachers promoting the covering turn it into anything more?

Where did the custom originate?  It originated with the Jews.  Just like today, there were different kinds of Jews at the time of Christ's coming.  Ultra-conservative or Orthodox Jews did not just follow the Law of the Hebrew scriptures, but also the rabbinical law or oral law.   The head or hair covering was instituted by the rabbis as a requirement for women and is a part of these extra laws.  The head covering is not once commanded in the Law of Moses. In fact, Jesus was continuously criticized for breaking parts of the rabbinical law, such as handwashing.  Jesus referred to the rabbinical law as the commandments of men and rejected them.

Paul also goes to great lengths in other letters to encourage believers not to follow  the rabbinical laws or even the Law of Moses.  Why on this issue would he still encourage adherence to the laws of men?  I believe it is much like being raised with the idea of a certain thing being proper.  I have a friend that struggles with going out in public without earrings because her mother pounded it into head growing up that a woman is not properly dressed without earrings.  Old habits and customs die hard.

There were also a lot of superstitious stories that surrounded the head covering, just as there are today in Amish and Mennonite circles.  Women were said to have received many blessings for keeping their hair covered, one mother's explanation for why 5 of her sons had been high priest was that not even her walls had ever seen her hair.  Some believed angels flew away from a woman praying with her head uncovered.  Modern day stories include girls being saved from kidnapping because of their black bonnets and people receiving visions of relatives recently passed burning in hell because they donned a different kind of covering.

I believe Paul meant it when he said basically that he liked the tradition, but if people don't want to do it, don't worry about it.  What is more important:  Believers serving God and loving one another in unity or duking it out over women having a piece of fabric on their heads?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Finding the New Testament Church

Still looking for that perfect New Testament Church?  I learned the folly of that by joining Living Faith Christian Fellowship.  Not because the Bullens are sooooo much worse than everyone else, but because even the early church had it's share of problems. 

A reader recently posted an article written to reach the Holdeman Mennonites, which had some interesting points in it.  The BEST was a piece written to portray a person in the early church trying to find that elusive, most godly church.  Read it here.  It's very entertaining, yet very true and thought provoking. 

If the church was having so much trouble back then, no wonder it's in the shape it is now!  Is it really any worse than before?  Perhaps it's just more institutionalized.  Only God knows for sure.  Enjoy the article, I did.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Obey the Bishop

Today I was reading through some of the very early Christian writings.  These are writings not included in the Bible that can give us a look at some of the practices and beliefs of the church not too far removed from Jesus.  How much weight you want to give them is up to you, but I enjoy reading them here and there. 

Mark Bullen makes frequent references to the early church writings, so if you are considering attending his church, I'd recommend reading through them to see what you're getting into, especially Tertullian.  You don't have to buy them, many websites have the complete texts, click here for a good one

One thing that stands out to me in much of these letters, is the constant reference to disunity and the need for obedience to the bishop.  This must also stand out to Mark Bullen, because his answer to church disunity is to simply obey the bishop.  That actually would have worked really well if everybody would do it.  My husband's problem came about when 2 particular men in the church constantly came complaining to him, so my husband would then go straight to the source, Mark.  Well, since the other two people just preferred to complain behind Mark's back, my husband was labeled the rebellious complainer.

We were actually very willing to comply and submit, looking back, we were WAY too willing to comply and submit.  But when I read the Bible and the early writings something about it drew me into this idea that if you practiced "biblical authority" everything would play out just as it should.  Imagine a church where people were getting sanctified?  Where everyone practiced modesty?  Where nobody lied or had sexual addictions?  Surely if the church was set up biblically, it would solve all the problems we had experienced in the "world's" churches.

It was a rude awakening to see that how Living Faith Christian Fellowship was structured it actually ENFLAMED these problems.  The idea seemed to be if the rest of the world would get cleaned up enough, then I wouldn't struggle with lust, or anger, or jealousy, etc.  The "being in the world, but not of the world" didn't extend much further than the clothes we wore and the way we did church.   Men in the church struggled with pornography addictions to the point where even though all us women were dressed so conservatively, they still were not able to control themselves (hmmm, maybe the women aren't the problem?)  The pride of hunting gear and greed for money and a good deal was actually worse than I had experienced in the world.  I think this is because going to auctions and hunting are one of the few things they're allowed to do, and if a person is inclined to be prideful, they'll find something to brag about. 

One of the most discouraging times for me was listening to a woman pray for a sick person in the church and going on about how wonderful they were and what a contribution they made to the church, when I knew that behind her back she always said the OPPOSITE.  At that moment I realized the Bullens had always had a way of establishing a pecking order in the church and throwing out their criticisms of different families behind their backs, I'm ashamed to say that I joined in on one or two occasions.

I'm not meaning to nit-pick, my point is that the clothes don't fix the heart, nor are they any indication of the heart.  I had more love for God, my fellow man, my husband, my children, and life before I went to Living Faith Christian Fellowship.  When I first became a Christian, my life was transformed by God's love for me and forgiveness of my sins and Christ's work on the cross inspired me to daily follow him and it changed my life.  First my thinking changed, then my behavior, and eventually my clothes.  Nobody had to harp on it to me.  It just kind of happened.

Something about never being able to live up to a person's (changing) expectations kind of sucks the life out of you.  Oh, and also being considered property, like a car.  Being demeaned for sincere questions you have, having scripture twisted, a leader that you're supposed to obey flipping back and forth, it nearly destroyed my faith. 

Simple obedience to a bishop is never mentioned by Christ, he said not to call another master and that leaders like to lord themselves over people.  His desire was that all would be brothers. 

My focus is now to live out the words of Jesus and return to my first love.  I'm hitting some bumps in the process and some days are better than others.  But I'm striving and asking God to help me.  If I cannot from my heart forgive others, bless and pray for others, and be cheerful at home, a headcovering and a plain dress won't help me.  I ask your prayers as I reach for God.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It is I, and not my husband

A reader made an interesting comment the other day, and I quote:
It is not your place to share about their church, rather it is your husband's place to do so. Where is he? Why isn't he the spokesperson on this matter? If he were led by the Lord to speak on such a matter publicly, then it would carry so much more weight.
After some thought I'm left with some questions.  Why is it not my place to share about their church?  To my knowledge the only prohibition against a woman speaking, as far as the Bible is concerned, is in church.  Beyond that, I am free to speak, or write wherever I want, provided my husband approves (If the Bible is your standard.)

Also, why is the assumption made that my husband is not involved in this blog?  Sure I am posting under my name, and these are my words; however, the thoughts, feelings, and opinions are very much shared by my husband as well.  Don't most spouses share the details about their day and keep up with one another, including their blogging activities?  I would hope so.  He would be posting himself, but he's computerly challenged. :)

As far as it carrying more weight if my husband were to be the one posting, I very much disagree.  If you get to know the members of Living Faith Christian Fellowship, an interesting theme develops.  It is typically women that try to get their husbands to join Mark Bullen's church, rarely is it the other way around.  My husband and I have the uncommon circumstance of being a couple where the husband lead the wife to the church.  (I know that's shocking since I seem to be such a rebellious young woman, so independent from my husband as to air my opinions publicly.)  It would only carry more weight if it were men searching for plain churches, but the majority are women, so it is important to get the female perspective.

The question could also be asked, since the person commenting was a woman, why wasn't her husband the one asking? Heeheehee.  How does it go, when you point one finger at me, there are three pointing back at you?  Is the problem with women speaking publicly, being opinionated, or talking about churchy things?  I suppose a specification would help me understand why my husband should have been the one writing.

It is of great value for me to express my personal feelings and experiences while at Living Faith Christian Fellowship so that others may make an informed decision about joining the church.  While reading this blog, they will also be getting the church's viewpoint of myself and my husband, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, though I do try to be true to the facts and fair to the Bullens.  Experiences, especially ones as emotionally charged as leaving a cult, and also having your church called a cult over the years as your church repeatedly falls apart, are very subjective and very much open to the interpretation of the experiencer.

But it is my firm conviction, that there is nothing prohibiting me, providing I have my husband's consent, from telling the entire world exactly how I felt joining, being a part of, leaving, and healing after my cult experience at Living Faith Christian Fellowship.  In fact, I feel strongly that it is my obligation to share my story so that others do not suffer the financial decimation, emotional breakdown, family breakdown, and spiritual destruction that occurs in such an abusive church.  I will continue to encourage others to do the same as well.  And thank you for such an interesting and thought provoking comment.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bullenites vs. Holdemans

Recently I recommended to a reader that she possibly explore the Holdeman Mennonites.  She did her research and she came back with a very valid observation about The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.  It is true that many people that have left the Holdemans have the same complaints as those who have left Mark Bullen's church.

However there are some very big differences in the practices, attitudes, and even some beliefs of the two churches.  I will now compare and contrast Living Faith Christian Fellowship (Bullenites) and The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite (Holdemans).

       Bullenites                                               Holdemans
  • Weekly Communion                                       Yearly Communion
  • Foot Washing Yearly, Member to Member      Foot Washing Yearly, Elder to Member
  • True Church (Most Biblical/Godly Church)      True Church (True Belief)
  • Ex-Communication Damns You                       Ex-Communication Damns You
  • Women do not speak or lead in church           Women do not speak or lead in service
  • Women silent in Sunday school                       Wmen speak in their own Sunday school facilitated by a man
  • Talk a lot about how awful everyone is            Talk about their own need for grace and forgiveness
  • Focus on how angry God is with world           Focus on how much God loves the world
  • Do not believe Eternal Security                         Do not believe Eternal Security
  • Claim to be apostolic                                        Claim to be apostolic
  • Teach women are property                               Teach submission, but women are respected
  • Come across as arrogant                                 Come across as humble
  • Lead by 1 man                                                 Brotherhood with elders
  • Believe coming millenial reign of Christ              Believe we are in the millenial reign of Christ
  • HUGE emphasis on clothing                             Have standards, but not mentioned often
  • Homeschool                                                     Church private school
  • Meet in Bishop's home                                     Meet in churches around the world
  • Allow Divorce & Remarriage                           Allow remarried couples to join
  • Smooch on cheek                                            Smooch on lips

The biggest difference I see is the attitude of the churches themselves.  Though they both hold themselves as true churches, how they go about it is very different.  Mark Bullen has made it clear that if you are not practicing your faith the way he teaches, you are in danger of hell.  He makes it clear that his church is the right way and you should do everything within your power to get there or risk losing yourself and your family to the devil or world.  He specifically has said that the Mennonites are the enemy.  His call to conversion is, and I quote, "Get in line."  Meaning obey God (and me) or you will be punished for your rebellion.  This attitude bleeds over into their relationships with one another, to their wives, and to their children.

The Holdemans believe they have the historic true belief held by Christians throughout the ages.  That being said, they do not believe all other professing Christians are damned or that you have to practice your faith like them to be saved.  There is much hope and grace in their fellowship and a genuine love for one another, and the world too.  They reach out to the unsaved with the love of God, then work on changing their lives to conform to the Bible.  They lead their households and businesses with care and respect for others.

It is true that the modesty standards of the Holdemans are not even close to that of the Bullens.  But if a person has a conviction about wearing subdued colors, no heels, and solid stockings, there would be nothing preventing them from doing so.  I have also noticed that some congregations are more conservative than others, but the actual standards are decided at convention and there is wiggle room within them.

Both churches believe that if you are a baptized member and you stop attending you will be damned because you are breaking a vow you made to God.  I have never officially been notified by Living Faith Christian Fellowship that I am excommunicated and there are two reasons for this:  One, I am a woman.  Two, they say my husband excommunicated himself.  Hmm. . . somebody find that in the Bible!  With the Holdemans, I knew a man who began attending another church on Sundays, just because the preacher was having some interesting sermons.  He received a letter, and I saw it, from his church stating they were the true church and he should stop attending other services.  The man originally had no intention of leaving the Holdemans, but after the letter he seriously considered doing so.  Funny how human nature works?

It may seem strange that I recommended a church that has some of the characteristics for which I fault Living Faith Christian Fellowship, but it basically comes down to that there just aren't many apostolic/anabaptist churches for couples that are remarried.  It is a decision of choosing the lesser of evils, sorry for the expression, if you are wanting an actual church fellowship to be a part of.  As for me, I'm quite content with my little growing home fellowship where everyone is treated with respect and we encourage one another to grow in our walk and dedication to the Lord.  But I would also be tempted to be a part of the Holdemans if they were anywhere near us, their quiltings are amazing!




Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why People Join

The other day at Walmart I ran into a local pastor, Ron Adrian of Freedom Baptist Church.  He is a very sweet man.  Every Wednesday and Saturday he sits at McDonald's for a bit and studies or reads and makes himself available to anyone in spiritual need, that is how I originally met him.

So it was his first time seeing me outside of my Bullenite habit, even when we had visited his church I had the big dress still.  While we were there a member of Living Faith Christian Fellowship, Greg Molner, was walking out and they shook hands and I gave a polite wave.  At that point I let him know I had started this blog.

I explained that I thought it was important that before other people join, they hear what other members had experienced considering they would be hearing so much of why Mark Bullen thinks we and the others have left.  There are two sides to every story, and it would provide balance and cause people to think twice before spending considerable amounts of money on relocation.

He then asked me why people do join.  Many locals are confused why people would move from so far to attend Living Faith Christian Fellowship.  The arrogance and disdain which they treat the surrounding community puts off the locals.  Looking back, we should have wondered why they have never succeeded in having a single local person join their church.

I can't speak for everyone, but I say what I told Pastor Ron.  In our case, it was that we had experienced a great tragedy.  We had just been on the rebound of losing our son.  At the time we were living in Kentucky, but then moved to be close to my husband's family in Florida.  After a short period of time we became concerned about the future of the children still with us and the world just seemed so ugly.  Family members just kept spouting that "the God of love won't send anybody to hell," and criticized us for our conservative lifestyle.

Due to being remarried, we were not welcome with the Mennonites and eventually somebody referred us to Mark Bullen.  They told us he was a dictator, but another person acted like that was crazy, oh we should have listened!  Anyway, we got to know the church and everything just seemed so perfect and safe.  Being accepted after being rejected by others for our marriage meant so much to us, but mostly we just loved the idea of having something for our children.

The acceptance was short-lived, you're only accepted if you conform to the T.  Having something for our children didn't work out as planned either because the rules were oppressive to them as well.

We are very thankful to be where we are, Missouri is great.  The neighbors and community we now get to be a part of far outweigh anything offered in the Bullen church.  After much tragedy, we are finally at home.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Modesty and Diaper Changing

Modesty or "covering your nakedness" throughout the Bible is a commandment of God.  But exactly what is and is not modest is reinterpreted by every generation.  Mark Bullen believes he takes the modesty principles of the first century church and applies them to today, these guidelines all being part of "the faith once delivered to the saints."  If there is a question that arises as to the extremity of a certain rule or guideline, it is given an answer and whether you or agree or not, you must obey or be in rebellion against God.

His basis for this is found where Jesus tells his followers that the Pharisees sit in Moses' place as lawgivers.  So even though the laws they were making were difficult and excessive, the Jews were required to follow them as they would have followed Moses.  Basically, Mark is now sitting in Moses place as lawgiver. 

Here is a small sampling of the rules regarding clothing at Living Faith Christian Fellowship:
  •  Women are required to wear a double covering over their torso.  This means a loose fitting dress and a not form fitting vest or smock over the top, no matter how hot the weather.  It is to give a boxy appearance, no drawn in waistline.
  • Both men and women are to wear long sleeves at church.  Short sleeves for men are permitted for work.  Women may wear sleeves that gather below the elbows.  It must be gathered so nobody could get a peak up the sleeves to the chest.
  • Girls must wear bloomers that go below the knee and have some sort of gathering or taper so nobody can peak.
I had always thought girls also had to wear a double covering, but then one day Angela Bullen, Mark's wife was telling me about  some "flow" dresses she was going to make for her girls to be like a new person that was joining the church.  They have a gather in the middle of the chest and that apparently made them modest enough for 5 and 7 year olds to wear.  The rules were often reinterpreted to fit the Bullen's tastes.

I felt bad for a couple young ladies that had recently joined the church at the requirement of their father.  They had to remake their vests 3 times because they did not meet the approval of the Bullens.  They were very pretty and had womanly figures, I do not believe they were trying to draw attention to themselves.  I think they were not prepared for how strict the standards would be or how insecure the other women are.  I definitely felt insecure around a couple pretty young things when I was required to wear such shapeless clothing.

The men have guidelines, I suppose.  But I could never figure out why so many rules and preaching about the appearance of women when all the women appeared to be doing their best to follow the rules, yet the men wore disgustingly tight pants.  Hello!  I wasn't checking anybody out, but some of those guys needed to go the next size up, or 4.

The last straw about modesty came one day when I was changing my baby girl's diaper at church.  There was a changing table by the office we all used and on that day a 2 year old girl was watching me take care of my little one.  The mother walked up and said for her daughter to get down then said nevermind because it was a girl she had been watching.  I asked for her to clarify and she explained that only girls changed or witnessed other girls, and only the mothers took care of the boys.

At first I shrugged it off as just another strange custom of this one particular ultra-conservative family.  But just to be sure, I decided to ask Angela Bullen about the diaper changing customs.  She affirmed that yes, only mothers change the diapers of boys, for modesty reasons.   What!  I was at the time pregnant with a baby boy and counting on my 10 year old daughter's help after a c-section.

I am very glad I did NOT follow her advice.  After our son was born, his older sister was an incredible help.  It was also a wonderfully innocent way for her to learn that human males are not the same as the horses and cows she was used to seeing.

At what point does modesty go too far?  Yes, God wants us not to tempt one another.  But are women always tempting men just by being shaped like a woman?  Are 7 year olds being immodest for not concealing the breasts they don't even have yet?  Is a baby defrauding a person of the opposite sex by having their diaper changed?  It comes down to that men have to take responsibility for their thought life and not expect women to wear burqa's to spare them the temptation.  Besides, couldn't men just imagine what's underneath the burqa?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Living Faith Christian Fellowship Brookfield, MO

There are many, many Living Faith Christian Fellowships.  The purpose of this post is to make clear which Living Faith Christian Fellowship we are discussing.  The bishop, Mark Bullen, lives in the county outside of Brookfield, MO and the church meets in his home.

The side of Mark Bullen's van reads "Living Faith Christian Fellowship."  The rear doors display "Living Faith = Repentance and Obedience."  You will see the large passenger van in and about Brookfield.  Most people probably assume it is for the church youth group, but it's really his family's van.

A good number of the townspeople in Brookfield actually refer to the members of Living Faith Christian Fellowship as "Bullenites", since they follow Mark Bullen and are considered wannabe Mennonites.  They are known for sending letters to townspeople that have pools in their yard where people can be seen swimming and accusing local employees of attempting to lure men by their clothing.  They may or may not be trying to "lure" men, but Mark Bullen and his followers have made a name for themselves by making such accusations when most people avert their eyes to avoid being lured.

Sorry if your Living Faith Christian Fellowship has been confused with this one.  The details listed above should make it clear that not all Living Faith Christian Fellowships are lead by a man named Mark Bullen in Brookfield, Missouri.  Living Faith Christian Fellowship in Brookfield, Missouri has no ties whatsoever to any other church bearing the same name, or any other name for that matter.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

This Church Could Be for You

Living Faith Christian Fellowship could be the church for you if you agree with Mark Bullen that:
  • All schooling besides home-schooling is sinful
  • Women should always wear a head-covering (veil not a cap)
  • Belief in eternal security damns you
  • Living Faith Christian Fellowship is the most godly and biblical church in the world
  • Women are the property and possessions of men, first the father, then the husband
  • Boys and girls after age 6 should not play together outside so the girls can learn to be shamefaced
  • You spend a lot of time talking about how ungodly and mislead everyone else is
These are several of the cardinal beliefs promoted by Mark Bullen.  A couple are apparent by listening to the sermons on his website and reading the literature.  But to really get the full run down on the beliefs and practices of Living Faith Christian Fellowship you need to be present for Sunday School, Wednesday nights, and hear what is said before and after his sermons.  Bear in mind also that they don't completely let their hair down around non-members so it can be tough to REALLY get a feel of how things operate until it is too late.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    Mark Bullen is a Cult Leader

    There are many men doing the work of God and leading a church.  Sadly, some cross over from pastor to cult leader.  I don't believe that Mark Bullen ever intended to be a cult leader.  My personal opinion is that he has an interpretation of the Bible that he believes is right and then imposes his EXACT belief on Living Faith Christian Fellowship, not intending to be abusive or intimidating, just believing himself to be more right than anybody else.

    The following warning signs are from the Ross Institute, experts on cults and how to identify them.  I will give examples of how Mark Bullen fits each and every one.
    1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability. - The keyword here is meaningful.  Living Faith Christian Fellowship presents itself as a brotherhood.  But in reality Mark Bullen is not just another brother.  He is the bishop and final say in EVERYTHING.  Any attempt to disagree with him is met with intimidation and excommunication.  He calls the "brothers" meetings and keeps everyone accountable.
    2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.  As stated in sign number one, disagreement is not tolerated.  If you question a new rule you are called rebellious and divisive.  My husband dared to question why boys and girls can play together inside and not outside and he was labeled a rebel.
    3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.  Budget, audit, financial statement?  What are those?  Records are not disclosed even though church members tithe and give offerings.
    4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.  Mark Bullen uses fear of the world to get families to move to Brookfield and he uses that same fear to get them to stay.  He teaches the end is coming soon and the families must be prepared for the persecution that will arise.  There is also the general everyday fear of your children being "lost to the world" if they do not have a church such as his to attend.
    5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.  We were told we were deceived and rebellious for leaving.  During every church service former members were mentioned, always as having really wanted the world.  They are certainly labeled as evil and worldly.  Mark Bullen mentioned them so often, that we knew the names of most of the families that had come and gone before us, even though we had never met them!  He says the only valid reason to leave is if he is shown that something in the church is not biblical.  How can you do that when HIS interpretation is always right and you're always wrong!?!  That goes back to sign #2. . .
    6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.  Once we left the church we, we ran into former members almost daily, and we all shared the same experience.  The little details were different, but we all left due to Mark Bullen attempting to control the beliefs, clothing, behavior, and lives of his members.
    7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the leader. Not until now!!!  Before moving we had diligently searched for first-hand accounts of former members, finding nothing.  After we left Living Faith Christian Fellowship we understood why.  The emphasis during my husband's final conversation with Mark Bullen was how we were responsible for the opinion of God's church and not making it look bad.  His final speech was so well said, it made us think of how many times he's said it before.
    8. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".   I know I felt like my behavior and that of my entire family was being constantly watched and evaluated.  One member once told me that my 14 month old daughter needed more "discipline" because she was fussing during service.  (Church was in the middle of her morning nap, of course she was fussy!!!!)  Another told me how unhappy my 3 year old always looked.  (She was very shy around all those new people.)  My husband was said to be angry looking.  (I agree, that beard made him look awful!)  I can't imagine all the stuff they said behind our backs, I know they certainly had a lot to say about everyone else in the church!
    9. The leader is always right.  Mark Bullen is ALWAYS RIGHT!  On the Living Faith Christian Fellowship it says he is looking for "teachable" people.  This means "only come if you will do everything MY WAY because I'M RIGHT."
    10. The leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.  I got very scared when I was talking about a great series I had found on creationism vs. evolution and another member put an end to the conversation simply by saying, "Well I'm not sure what Brother Mark would think about that?"
    Cult leader sign #10 is probably my best reason for leaving Living Faith Christian Fellowship.  Does a person need to run every single program they watch, every thought they think, every decision they make, past their pastor?  Should I have to worry about every word that crosses my lips when in the presence of another church member in case it doesn't meet the approval of the leader?  I'm very sad to say, that is how Mark Bullen operates Living Faith Christian Fellowship.

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Living Faith Christian Fellowship is a Cult

    Looking across the board at the different ministries and organizations that have outlined the characteristics of a cult, they all agree on the following points.  As we go down the list I will explain how they do or do not apply to Living Faith Christian Fellowship. 

    1. Not allowed to question.  Yes - Members are expected to be "teachable", which we quickly learned meant not questioning.  Notice how their literature and website clearly states they welcome all "teachable" people to join them?  Be prepared to sit back and listen, and should you question, just smile and nod because Mark Bullen is ALWAYS right.
    2. According to leadership, all members that have left were not truly wanting to be disciples.  Yes - There is clearly no acceptable reason to leave this fellowship unless you "want the world" or were not truly wanting to follow Christ.  Every ex-member is a rebel that could not submit to authority.  Any sign of not wearing a head-covering or wearing a cowboy hat only confirms to them that the person that left was ungodly to begin with.
    3. Being told you must attend their church to be savedYes - You must be identical in belief and practice to be a true believer.  This means wearing a veil, not a cap; wearing a vest or smock, not a cape; homeschooling, not private schooling; etc.  Living Faith Christian Fellowship will not offer communion to or take communion with any other group because they are the most biblical, and godly, church that they've found, another confirmation that they are a cult.  Therefore, you can only be saved if you attend Living Faith Christian Fellowship.  There was even a family that lived out of the area that had been offered communion at one time, but when they were taking to long to move to Brookfield, they were then denied communion.  They were not in any known sin, yet still denied communion.  (Despite this warning sign, the family still continued with their moving plans.)
    4. If you want to leave, you are told you will go to hell.  Yes - Not only will you go to hell, but you will take your family with you.  Once you are a communion taking member, you can never leave.  There are no churches to move to because they have no sister congregations and don't accept anyone elses practices.  Forget moving anywhere, if your elderly mother in New York needs you, forget it.  The cult of Living Faith Christian Fellowship IS your family, friends, everything.
    5. Being rebuked for the way you greet one another or how you respond to leadership.  Yes - There is a certain proper way to do the Holy Kiss.  If you do not greet another member as "brother" or "sister" it is seen as a personal offense.  My 3 year old daughter was labeled an unhappy child because she was shy around all the people at church and stayed pretty quiet and subdued.  My husband was labeled angry because he didn't plaster a smile on his face all the time. 
    6. Putting down other churches and building themselves upYes - Wednesday night Bible study is devoted to how they are more biblical than other churches.  The Mennonites are considered the enemy, as well as the baptists.  Their "Blue Book" is all about how their belief is better than other churches.
    7. Financial records not open to viewing.  Yes - The church is not an established non-profit or religious groups.  The church does collect tithes and offerings, but the records are not made public and are all managed by the bishop, Mark Bullen.
    8. Constantly asking for your money.  No - This is the one characteristic of a cult that I honestly can say they are not guilty of.  However, Mark Bullen is constantly reminding the members of how he takes on the extra heating and cooling costs and the costs for adding onto his house so the church can meet there.  It was always a curiosity to me that he made it sound as if he was footing the bill for everything, even though people were paying tithes and offerings.
    There are many other points I could have made, but for the sake of brevity, I shall end here.  The conclusion is pretty clear that Living Faith Christian Fellowship is a cult.  If you're ok with this, go ahead and join.  But handing over your decision making power and faith to another person can have a devastating impact on your family.  Many people, sadly, can say this was their experience.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Why this blog?

    After months of putting it off, I have finally gotten around to publishing something related to our time, though it was short, with Living Faith Christian Fellowship.  I've avoided doing this because I would rather focus on the positive things in life and move forward.

    But then I think of all the other families that, like us, moved from hundreds of miles away to find fellowship, only to be sorely disillusioned, and I realize that something must be done.  Before we moved we tried to find some first hand experiences online that we could consider, but came up empty handed.  It wasn't until we had already made the decision to leave the church that it seemed almost daily we'd run into someone around town that had at one time been a member.

    All of our experiences are basically the same.  The specifics vary here and there, but for the most part the testimonies become pretty predictable.  The area of Brookfield, Missouri is a veritable bone-yard of ex-followers of Mark Bullen.  Some of the stories are tragic, but many are testimonies of the beauty that comes from families seeking the Lord without depending on an intermediary to determine their dress, beliefs, and practices.

    So if you are thinking of moving your family to Missouri in the hopes of finding  like-minded, head covering wearing,  believers, it may be worth it to take a look at some of the posts here.  My intention is not to argue with anyone about anything contained, because I do have a right to my own opinion and thoughts concerning my experience.  Comments are welcome, but my belief is more that if you find what I or anybody else writes offensive, the solution is simple, just don't read it.

    May God be with you in your search for a closer walk with Him.