A few days ago, I was contacted by a Falls Baptist Church affiliated evangelist… who speaks often at Falls Baptist Church special meetings and conferences. I receive 1-2 contacts like this per month, stating how angry/bitter or deceived I am, how good Falls is & how I should not write or say what I am writing and saying, particularly in reference to My Story.
I am astonished how these individuals answer matters without hearing them, which the Bible clearly states is to practice foolishness (Proverbs 18:13). Moreover they charge me with unethical behavior, both when I blow the proverbial whistle at the crimes of Falls Baptist Church… or when I post their accusatory emails anonymously. This evangelist did not wish to be cited by name, like all the others. In the instance of the below message, I had not heard from the person in several years.
_BEGIN MESSAGE FROM EVANGELIST_
How are you doing, Sam? I am in Wisconsin again, right now in a revival campaign where God is responding to our prayers in _________. I am taking a minute to send you this message about a couple of things, but would be glad to talk with you on the phone if you wish.
Recently I came across some things you wrote on your blog (you’ll have to forgive me for my technical ignorance–I use the internet mainly for e-mail messages like this one; I have a Facebook account but mainly neglect it, and hardly understand what “blogging” is) about the IFB cult and particularly your experience at Falls. I am not angry with you or upset, but I thought I should pass on a few impressions:
Speaking positively, let me tell you that I was at the Falls Mens’ Retreat last week, and found the men in remarkable spiritual shape. This last year, there has been a noticeable lift in the atmosphere in the church, that can be related to the new emphasis on personal time with God. I mean you can feel the difference when you are with men from the church. No kidding. Also any given Sunday, the church is loaded with new converts learning to walk with Jesus, as well as seekers who are being drawn to Him. Again, no kidding.
I should also say that the leadership of the church has given attention to improving and correcting the way things have been handled in the past. You can see the difference in the College.
Sam, for some time some of what you write would give any attentive reader the impression that you have some ax to grind, some grudge against certain people, that influences the spirit and sometimes the rationale of your words. In the past I have thought I would point this out, but was unsure how you would take it. I had contemplated asking if you had a personal issue with me. Maybe I should have spoken sooner.
The truth is, there is no IFB cult. Independent Baptist churches are by definition independent and varied in their teachings and practices. Fundamentalism is a principle and not a denomination.
When you change your views, you should probably move on and leave your former associates alone. Pray for them. Maybe state your case to them privately, but don’t try to hurt them. Some day, we regret such activities. Venting anger over the past doesn’t really heal people. It keeps them stuck in a miserable pit of confusion and resentment. Having grace to move on can and does heal people.
Sam, you are an intelligent man, and you serve the Lord Jesus. I risk our friendship by writing you this note, but I hope we can stay friends. Take these thoughts for what they are worth. I have prayed for you today, and would be glad to discuss any of this if you wish.
__END MESSAGE FROM EVANGELIST_
Here is my response:
“Thank you for writing.
If there is any voice from “my past” (as you say) that I am inclined to listen to, it would be yours.
However, what you write reveals how little you know of what has gone on behind the scenes… and continues at Falls Baptist Church. If you will consider for a moment the fact you are always a revered guest in their presence, then you should also quickly come to understand that you may never see the Falls that members and students are faced with.
As for your advice to speak directly with the pastors and staff at FBC: I have done on multiple occasions and by many means. Never once did anyone still on staff at FBC/BCM offer anything close to a humble apology. A few others (who have since left FBC/BCM associations) have apologized. At the culmination of my appeals to them, I sent back my diplomas with a call for their repentance, hoping this would jar them into some seriousness. I never received so much as an acknowledgment. I lay that to their conscience before God.
As opposed to you, I do use technology as a tool. It is the “street preaching” of my generation and those after me. As a result of utilizing the venues with which you have little acquaintance, I shared My Story, being sure there were others who had suffered similarly to me, if not worse. My certainty became concretely affirmed when (after sharing my story), I began to receive no less than 2-3 contacts a day from people whose stories either match or rival mine in serious biblical offense, not to mention criminality, under the hands of FBC/BCM administration and staff. The weight of these contacts was so grievous, I started an online support group. Within 3 days, more than 125 people had joined the group. A high-ranking member of the Menomonee Falls police force is sympathetic to our group. The group now has 132 members—some of which are former deacons, staff & administration of FBC/BCM. It can be stated from evidence that the most dedicated and committed individuals at FBC/BCM are abused the most.
Again, the stories that these individuals write are not just about biblically serious offenses; they touch (in some cases) on the criminal, repeated and covered up. Like his father before him, Wayne Van Gelderen, Jr. seems to like sweeping serious matters under the proverbial rug. I will list the genre of criminality to you, as reported by the members of the group:
A. Failure to report sexual abuse of minors
B. Failure to report physical abuse of minors
C. Failure to report adult domestic battery and/or domestic rape. [Among these claims, it is alleged that staff appeared in court and lied about this kind of matter under oath, to the detriment of a mother and children, all in order to keep one of their evangelists (also accused of adultery) out of trouble]
D. Destruction of property
E. Failure to pay wages / minimum wage
F. Detainment of an adult against his will (under lock & key)
G. Child neglect / mistreatment by nursery staff
I. Blackmail and Coercion
J. Destruction of evidence
Civil matters reported include:
A. Non-performance of academic contract
B. False advertising of academic product
D. Defamation of Character to the point of personal/professional injury by breaking professional clergy / laity confidentiality.
When I wrote my story, did I set out to gain a following? No. But, many have come to me; they know I want no following, but they also find healing by reading the same truths that God used to dispel untruth from my heart… particularly the bad interpretation, half-truths and outright lies, under which they were held by Falls/BCM and “sister” churches. It was God who laid these poor, abused, conflicted and discarded souls at my feet after His first having taken me through some of their plight.
THEREFORE, I obey the Bible, when in Proverbs 31:8-9. it reads: (NLT: check the Hebrew. It is correctly translated).
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. and see that they get justice.”
So, in that regard, I will not follow your baseless advice to “move on and leave my former associates alone” after having changed my views.
As to your charge that I “have an axe to grind” (i.e. am angry or bitter or filled with other vengeful motives), I’d say that you can hardly ascertain that by reading My Story, especially when I directly state my purpose in the text itself. Do you claim to know my motivations by some divine revelation, sir? If so, you are in company with Falls in that. As stated above, my aim now is to provide solace and spiritual direction to all those God sees fit to send to me or who care to hear me out. Others have read my accounts and have concluded (upon reading all of the linked articles within the text) that I wish only to serve and warn others of the pitfalls of the Independent Fundamental Baptists’ common “philosophies of ministry” and their erroneous interpretations on which those philosophies are ill-based. Falls is but my case-in-point example.
Do I believe Falls is a cult? Yes. Do I believe the IFB movement is largely cultish? Yes… not for its holding the essentials of historic, biblicist Christianity BUT for touting non-essential philosophies and “standards” as equal to the essential doctrines & by creating a subculture within their “churches”—since the late 1930’s & early 1940’s—that put men in the place of God and nearly altogether has erased the believer’s mandate to follow only the Holy Spirit (in accordance with the scriptures). In essence, they have removed priesthood of the believer in favor of following “emperor style” leadership, as John Van Gelderen has so aptly put it. [By the way, do consider why John would distance himself from his own brother]. They have become lords over God’s heritage, and this is strictly forbidden; by this they disqualify themselves from the one office they claim to keep! They have little to no true accountability [no, nepotism does not count] and their cavalier attitudes and policies regarding crimes are atrocious. In these ways, the IFB is more than a little cultish; and Indiana [my home State] has been PLAGUED, sir, by the cancer of such churches, from Chuck Phelps to Hepzibah House to Jack Schapp to Jack Hyles and to David Zempel (who is deep in the Van Gelderen web). Yes, in these things, the IFB has become every bit a cult movement with many varied associations and schools under which it is loosely organized but tightly held.
As to your observation that they are improved at Falls. A man or even an organization of men may improve their behavior, all the while never “getting right” with those they grievously offended, biblically and/or lawfully. I am not impressed, until they observe the same humility they preach and ask for forgiveness publicly, and in showing true fruits of repentance, seek to make amends/restitutions for their wrongs!
_________, you were once a bright spot in my training years. I do not have and never have had a personal grievance with you. If I had, I would have told you directly, because that is (perhaps opposed to your opinion of me) the way I biblically operate; it is the way I operated with Falls, until they proved brazenly unrepentant and to be devouring God’s Sheep in the name of their “cause.” We had a friendship once; and I believe we are still brothers in Jesus. But, I do not pretend that still we have a fellowship together… even before you wrote the email to which I now reply. We certainly may stay acquaintances.
I welcome the prayers. Our God sifts them. I bless you in Jesus’ name and pray every good thing He has to be on your life.