A Piece of the Religious Pie
Watching how things have turned out in the long run with the fellowship of Waymanchrist has been a real education for me. Circa 1986, no one would have predicted that things would have gone they way they have gone. If you had said that you foresaw all of the major leaders exiting the fellowship you would have been laughed at. The fellowship at large wouldn't have even bothered to say you were of the Devil or any of that, but that you were an idiot.
But here we are in 2007 and the fellowship has had major fragmentations. Many have left along with the foundational leaders. Many have stopped being Christians or having any interest in religion. Some have found their way into Baptist churches and the like, others have gone to Pentecostal groups. Then there is that group of men who had made their life preaching the gospel of Waymanchrist in the fellowship. Some of them have vanished, after trying to go it alone, and either attempting to keep their church that pulled out with them, or after trying to pioneer on their own. The confusion that men who gave their lives to what they thought was the call of God to preach in Waymanland is very intense. There have been scores of couples, who were announced at conferences as the new pastors that were being sent out, who have been totally forgotten in the mists of time.
However, I am noticing a group emerging. These are men who were successful in the fellowship, who now have left, and who are moving according to a motivation that I can easily observe. No longer is the motivation "winning the world for Jesus," but getting a piece of the religious pie. The motivation is now a professional one.
I remember talking to a pastor who left the fellowship. He noted that the fellowship was rotten to the core, had been wicked from the roots up, and was essentially a cult. After working at a secular job, he, having hooked up with a church group, began to press the church to hire him as a minister. He presented his resume as an experienced Christian minister, and one who had pioneered several churches, two of them outside the United States. As he was telling me about this, I had to wonder. At one point he is calling the fellowship a wicked cult, and at another point he is citing his experience in that wicked cult as legitimate experience as a Christian minister. He eventually did get a position with that Christian group. He found his piece of the religious pie. It was better than being out in the job market as a middle aged man, I would suppose.
Again, what I see is a departure from the drive to get out there and see souls saved. Not that this was ever what Wayman's World was about, anyway. In the Wonderful World of Wayman the real motivation was to become one of the stars of the fellowship. Young disciples would look at the stars of the fellowship strutting on stage in their own church and conferences and they would say, "That's what I want to do." The so called burden for souls was a smoke screen. Granted, as young disciples, many of us were unaware of our true motivation. But we were cheering the successful pastors and leaders who had all the "blessings" of this life. We really didn't cheer the struggling, working pastor of 20, now did we?
While in the fellowship, successful leaders and pastors were mindful of their piece of the fellowship pie. As conflicts arouse, and men left or were forced out by Lord Wayman, these men found themselves out in the larger world, and the larger sphere of the religious world. As I mentioned, many who tried to go it alone fizzled out. Others, like the man I mentioned who got a church to hire him as an "experienced Christian minister," found their piece of the larger religious pie.
In the United States, and other parts of the Western World, there is a tremedous cash flow in religion. There is a religious market, so to speak. There is what is called in business, a wallet share. What that means is that there are people who are going to give a certain amount of money to religions. There is a large group out there who can be attracted to one church or another, just like someone can be attracted to one business or another that supplies the same product, or similar products. If you play your cards right in the religious sphere, some of that wallet share can be yours.
What I am seeing in some ex fellowship leaders is an awakening. No, not an awakening in the spirtual sense. It is a market awareness. I see these guys approaching other church organizations, like my friend did, as expereinced Christian ministers who can man a church, maintain a crowd, and maintain a cash flow. Someone mentioned that Mike Mastin's venture into the independent church world back here in the United States was not producing overwhelming results. So what to do? Now we are finding him offering his services to the Assemblies of God in Australia. It is a mutually profitable deal. It is, in essence, a business deal.
In these kinds of deals I just don't get the burden to see people spared eternity in Hades, aka, hell. When someone starts talking about Mastin possibly picking up some ex fellowship pastors and people to join up with his new found organization, I get the sense of someone going after an established religious market. Sure, some new converts would be nice, but the bottom line is the religious market that is already out there.
The reality of the situation is that there are a certain number of people out there who are willing to, and even like giving money to a church they are part of. They may or may not embrace a tithing law for Christians, but they represent a significant source of wealth. They represent an alternative to being a strugging pioneer pastor who no longer has a Mecca to point people to. They represent an alternative to having to do anything else for a living. So why not go for a piece of the religious pie?
I can't condemn every minister on the planet who feels it is his calling to teach people who gather at his church, i.e., to feed the flock of God. I can't condemn them for feeling that this is a legitimate profession for them to have and to be paid decently for it. However, when I look at these fellowship leaders who were exploitive cult leaders, touting their experience as Christian ministers, and finding positions in church organizations that they used to rail on, I am in some ways disgusted. Some of them never missed a lick. They never went out and worked another job for even a day. They never took any time out of the "ministry" to even re-evaluate themselves as Christians and especially as pastors. It became all about making a living, a good living.
My impression is that these guys, like Mastin, are leading the way, so to speak. I expect a lot more ex fellowship pastors to go down the same road. Maybe as part of their qualifications they could play some sermon recordings of them calling the organizations they are applying to "lukewarm havens for backsliders," or something like that. Nah. That might ruin their chances of getting a piece of the religious pie.