Jeff Harshbarger spent his high school and college years headed in the wrong direction. Now, more than 25 years later, he has written a book and founded a ministry to help others faced with the same decisions.
Harshbarger and his wife Liz co-authored “From Darkness To Light: How to Rescue Someone You Love From the Occult,” published in 2005 by Bridge-Logos of Gainesville, Fla. The couple has founded Refuge Ministries and hopes to have Bible study groups formed by this fall.
The book is partly an account of Harshbarger’s own commitment to Satanism as an older teen, the collapse of his anti-faith and his journey back to God. It also offers a primer on forms of spiritualism and practical advice on presenting a Christian alternative for young people attracted to those and similar sects.
Harshbarger’s tale begins at home in Indiana, where a lack of religious guidance combined with his parents’ divorce led him to become a bitter, disaffected teen with an appetite for the sensational, including tales of supernatural phenomena. While in college, he befriended a co-worker at his day job who was already a Satanist. The two made plans to form their own cult and set about recruiting members.
The group had about 10 members at its height, and Harshbarger found it difficult to remain self-centered as called for in the group’s philosophy.
“I found myself very much caring about these kids that were in our group. They would come to me with their problems, their life issues, and I came to be almost a Satanic pastoral counselor to them,” he said. “I found myself caring and helping these kids along, and the philosophy wasn’t taking root. I wasn’t turning into this uncaring, cold-hearted human being. That caused quite a wave in the group, because they saw Jeff is like this when they’re teaching us that; there was a level of hypocrisy that caused internal conflict.”
Harshbarger’s conflict resulted in a suicide attempt about five years after becoming a Satanist. When that failed, he broke with the group and began looking for answers elsewhere. He drifted from church to church with questions and found guidance with a couple who took him into their home in 1981.
Harshbarger abandoned his original college plans when he broke with his group and chose instead to attend Bible college, seeking a grounding in Christian doctrine. He went into the ministry with the idea of creating a counterforce to media popularization of the occult.
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