TORRANCE, Calif., Aug. 4 /Christian Newswire/ — When Lynn’s son Bryce went to the annual Harvest Crusade, a Christian music and evangelism event, she had no way of knowing he would be lured into a cultic group known as the Twelve Tribes.
Before she knew it, Bryce abandoned his studies at Christian college and disowned his family.
The Twelve Tribes regularly field teams of proselytizers to intercept new converts and their friends as they leave the Crusade. Dancing and distributing literature around their brightly painted “hippie bus” in the Angel Stadium parking lot, Twelve Tribes members invite passerby’s to commit themselves to a more authentic Christian lifestyle in their “messianic communities.”
But as Lynn discovered to her dismay, behind the quaint “freepapers” and homespun clothing is a religious system marked by exclusivism, racism, manipulation, and the spiritual domination of a man who calls himself “Yoneq.”
Seventh-day Adventists are among the other groups that chase down Crusade attendees. These followers of the prophetess Ellen G. White emphasize end-time themes, especially the observance of Saturday as the true day of worship, in order to avoid the coming wrath of God.
“Churches need to inoculate their members against ‘love bombing’ by predatory groups at crusades and concerts,” says Gretchen Goldsmith, CEO of Rose Publishing. “Christians need help in discerning truth from error so they can recognize and resist counterfeits–and this is especially true of new believers who have just responded to an invitation to trust in Jesus.”
Goldsmith recommends that churches educate their attendees on a regular basis on key beliefs and doctrines, and be familiar with the way these are twisted or denied by groups claiming to be Christian but actually rejecting the 2000-year-old message.
To help bridge the gap for Christians, Rose Publishing has just released a new 6-session DVD-based course called Christianity, Cults & Religions. It covers the key Christian beliefs and why Christians hold them. It also goes into detail on the beliefs of six groups that aggressively proselytize today and how to answer them.
A new pamphlet, 10 Questions and Answers on Seventh-Day Adventism will release in October. It directly evaluates the Seventh-Day Adventist cultic background and beliefs, while comparing them to Christianity. (ISBN: 9781596364226 Rose Publishing)
Lynn grieves for her son, who now refuses even to receive visits from her at the sect’s rural compound in Vista, California. Alienation from family and friends is common for converts to the Twelve Tribes, who support themselves through their “Yellow Deli” cafes and other businesses.
She prays that God will rescue Bryce and reconcile him to his parents and to the Body of Christ. “I don’t know if I’ll ever know why God is allowing this to happen to my family, but I’ll still praise His holy name and believe that He will make all thing work together for good,” said Lynn.
Vista residents have watched curiously as newcomers, dressed in what some describe as “prairie clothes,” spent the past year building a deli in downtown Vista.
The men with their beards, sometimes accompanied by women in shapeless dresses, arrived each day to hammer nails and install fixtures in the two-story building that resembles a funky treehouse, with its hand-carved wood detailing and a 1970s-style logo for their Yellow Deli.
The workers are part of the local community of a worldwide group called the Twelve Tribes, whose members attempt to live like the early Christians as described in the Book of Acts.
Twelve Tribes members share their income and eschew self-interest in favor of a communal lifestyle, and the group is guided by a reclusive leader known as Yoneq.
Some have called the group a cult, although its members cringe at that word. In Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and Vermont, critics have drawn attention to the group’s recruitment practices, its strict rules and the lack of wages paid to members.
Others dismiss those concerns, saying members are adults who made the choice to become part of an alternative world.
The Twelve Tribes has a 66-acre farm with avocado groves in Valley Center and a house in Vista. It plans to open the deli on East Broadway in Vista on Feb. 14.
The deli will be staffed by unpaid group members who will brew coffee and its signature yerba mate tea. They will fix salads with chard and avocados from their farm — and they hope people will want to chat about God or learn about the Twelve Tribes.
David Pike, 53, who was a member for seven years, said he believes the group is deeply flawed. Pike, who joined soon after leaving a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation program, said the structured life prevented him from drinking, but he became concerned over the use of a rod to discipline children and the “slave labor” lifestyle.
“A major factor was finding out there were similar groups that claimed to be the only ones and the only way,” Pike said. “I was seeing the possibility of it being a cult.”
Cult awareness activist Steven Hassan of Somerville, Mass., said the group used to set up first-aid tents at Grateful Dead concerts to lure drugged-out youths.
“I think any group that says its leader is the sole prophet of God on Earth and he understands the Bible better than anyone else … is a problem,” Hassan said.
“They want total commitment. They want you to turn over your money and your property and your free will.”
Winmalee resident Matthew Klein, is sounding another warning to Mountains residents to recognise the Twelve Tribes as a potentially destructive cult. [Read more...]