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On the Messianic Communities
An Open Letter to a Prospective Member – by Robert T. Pardon
Robert T. Pardon is director of the New England Institute of Religious Research (NEIRR), which he founded in 1991. Rev. Pardon is also an AIIA Resource Associate. He holds a B.A. in Eastern Religions from the University of Michigan, an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has pastored churches in Middleboro and Watertown, Massachusetts. NEIRR provides up-to-date research on a wide variety of cultic structures, as well as training in how to assist those caught in such groups. A service to ex-members is also available. You may contact NEIRR directly at PO Box 878, Lakeville MA 02347, or by phone at 508-947-9571. NEIRR’s impressive and particularly informative web site is offered at http://people.ne.mediaone.net/neirr/index.html
I commend you for your desire to serve the Lord more fully. I have always admired your devotion to Christ. But I have real reservations about your decision to join the Twelve Tribes (a.k.a Messianic Communities) to further that devotion. I have had opportunity to spend literally thousands of hours researching this group and would like to share with you some of my concerns.
The group started in Tennessee in the early 1970s, moved to Vermont a few years later, and now has communities worldwide. In the beginning they were very Biblical and adhered to the historic Christian faith. Street people, drug addicts, and run-a-ways were led to Christ, given a purpose and place to live. However, the group quickly changed in doctrine and practice due to their “apostle,” Elbert Eugene Spriggs. He claims to have a direct pipeline to God and is accountable to no one – a very dangerous mix.
The group now teaches three eternal destinies for all humanity. There are those who go to the Holy City (Twelve Tribes and other Old and New Testament worthies), those who go to the Lake of Fire, and those who go to the “Nations.” This last group is a vast segment of humanity who make it to the “suburbs” of heaven by living according to their conscience. Christ’s death is thus bypassed. This is rank heresy – see Acts 4:12.
The group also teaches that according to Acts 2 and 4 the true disciple will give all his possessions to the group and live in community with them. This is problematic in two respects. First, the sole justification for this comes from the book of Acts, an historical book. It is always very precarious to draw theology solely from a historical book because it describes what was, not necessarily what ought to be. Secondly, the Twelve Tribes designate themselves as the recipients of all your possessions, claiming to be the true and only restoration of the first century Church – another non-Biblical teaching that all elitist groups proclaim.
This leads to the last theological problem. They teach that Yashua (Christ) cannot return until they replant the Twelve Tribes of Israel geographically on the earth. The first Church fell away and Yashua has been waiting for His bride to prepare herself, and cannot return until she does. Nowhere in Scripture, Kevin, does it teach that Christ is held captive in heaven until His bride (the Church) replants herself on the earth as Twelve Tribes.
The practices of the group have also become nonBiblical. The true disciple must live in their community and wear a beard and ponytail (male), or balloon pants or long skirt (female). Radio, television, newspapers and books not approved by the group are forbidden. Not only must there be absolute unity in doctrine (the teachings of “apostle” Spriggs) – no differences of opinion are tolerated. Children are not allowed to fantasize or play any fantasy games. Adults must obey the elders completely, as the elders speak for God. Even oppressive leadership should not be resisted. To question the group’s doctrine or authority is “Satan tempting you.” If you were to decide to leave the group you are literally “leaving the Kingdom of God”, and where can one go when they leave God’s Kingdom? You are an apostate and are only worthy of God’s fearful judgment in this life and the Lake of Fire in eternity.
Kevin, I urge you to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who were “more noble than the Thessalonians because they searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were true.” This group does not follow the Jesus of Scripture, but rather the man Elbert Spriggs, who has essentially transformed the group into a Galatian heresy where salvation depends upon works.