"A lot of water under the bridge," is an old expression that represents a lot of things happening over time. The image is of a river flowing below a bridge, and water, and things in the water, passing by.
In terms of the fellowship, since the time I came into it in late 1975, this is certainly true. One of the aspects of this is that an enormous number of people have passed through that fellowship since that time. People who were totally sold out to "the vision" that they were sold by Wayman and his leaders.
I can say, having come into the fellowship almost 35 years ago, when it was just forming as a part of Foursquare Gospel, that the original predictions of what we were going to do never came to pass. The people in the Tucson church back then could not have even comprehended that the fellowship would have become what it is today. We were going to be the largest Christian movement in the world, ushering in the last day revival. It certainly wasn't going to take us 35 years, as none of us believed that Jesus would tarry that long. Jesus is coming back fever was in full swing.
The plan was for almost all of us, amongst the young men and women who comprised the congregation, to be sent out and build large churches that would in turn become church planting centers. There were all these mathematical projections, as we approached 1980, that some of the brethren did of our coming geometric multiplication, that would ensure that we would have churches all over the Earth within 7 to 10 years. You could feel the electric excitement as we began planting churches in places like Australia and Europe.
As I mentioned, massive numbers of people passed through fellowship churches in the last 35 years. As people left and were replaced, there were always new crops of people who bought into the same "vision" as we had in the beginning. The faces of not only the congregation, but the leadership changed. Even at the beginning of the 80s there were those key preachers who left, or were driven out, and we began to hear more sermons on "rebellion."
With the breaking away from Foursquare, we saw a surge of church planting, but it was becoming more and more apparent that the majority of churches in the fellowship were very small, some having numbers of a dozen people or so. Also, we saw more and more of the rotating pastors, as couples would burn out, building a small church, and then come home for "redirection." Men in the "ministry" began jockeying for position, and men who could never build a decent sized church were being given the larger churches based on their undying loyalty to Wayman and his leadership.
More control was sought over the local churches, and more resources were being demanded. Pastors of medium sized churches, running between 60 and 200 people, were told of their obligation to "partner together" and support the leadership churches' overseas works. This was on top of the "church tithe" that was mercilessly demanded from all the churches as a priority over all other expenses. Wayman set up his tithe and offering pyramid so that he controlled millions of dollars every year.
The 1990 exodus of Ron Jones and Jack Harris, who were icons in the fellowship, along with about a hundred pastors and churches, was a real wake up call. We should have realized, at that point, that the dream was over. Instead, Wayman used the opportunity to depict the "rebels" as a new and improved enemy to rant about. This caused a sick rallying around hating "the dearly departed brethren." Sermon after sermon at Prescott conferences, which took place shortly after the exodus of these men, were nothing more than messages of pure hatred. Those who were once speakers at the Prescott conference itself were now depicted as the most vile of men.
I finally left in April of 1994 and experienced the hatred for myself. My church was split and destroyed, and I was left wondering what I had done with 20 years of my life. I couldn't help but think back to what we were told that "this fellowship is all about," and feel totally ripped off.
About 6 and a half years after I left, another exodus of key leaders took place. The very men who had preached hate filled sermons about the "dearly departed brethren" became those who also rebelled and left "the greatest move of God in the Earth today." Yet still the fellowship went on and those leaders were simply replaced, just like the ones who left before them. In fact, these newly departed leaders began to hang out with the leaders and pastors who had left in 1990, the very men and women that they had called devils. Yet, still not enough of a wake up call for the majority of the people to bail out of the insanity of it all.
The "vision" that was sold to me almost 35 years ago was a lie, plain and simple. We weren't going to build the kingdom of God and see the last day worldwide revival. Instead we were going to build a religious organization for a greedy, power hungry, little man. I call him The Little Big Man, sometimes, and that is what he is. He has created his own religious world where he is bigger than life. He has put himself in an impregnable position where no one can challenge his power, and he can remove any pastor in the fellowship at will, even though the churches are independently incorporated. He has given himself control of a massive amount of money that comes into his money pyramid every year, which he says that he and his church council "rule over," when really, it is Wayman who controls it all. He gives account to no one.
If Jehovah and Jesus are real, then I have to wonder about why God would let this guy do what he does, all in the names of God, Jesus, and the Bible. I know, I know, there were people in history just like him, who were wicked, who named Jesus as Lord, and who got away with it, so to speak. But still, I have to wonder as this guy is 81 years old, and is still doing his wicked little religious trip.
I suppose it makes him happy to know that he has been able to destroy men like me, and make us suffer for defying him. I suppose his followers think it "vindicates" him. But if there is any justice in this Universe, then I wouldn't want to be him when the axe falls. I have my own beliefs about "where we go" when we die, and I don't think The Little Big Man is going to have a good time of it.
With the perspective of almost 35 years, it trips me out to look at this religious organization that has hurt so many people. It's hard to comprehend, really, how such a tiny group could do so much damage, but then again, 35 years is a bit of time. There's been "a lot of water under the bridge" in those 35 years, yet the destructive quality of this religious organization has remained fairly constant. If anything, it has become even more insidious.
Those are my thoughts on this November day.