Reflecting Upon The Sowders/GAC Movement

By Dave Linder - Aug 24, 2001

Along with some responses from others on the GAC message board.

I must admit that I have NOT lost my love for the Sowders/GAC Movements. Because of the many years of being in and/or around the group/s there has been a great deal of fondness that has developed. Especially because of some of the many precious saints who are (and have been) a part of the group/s, it is difficult to cut myself away from them entirely...even though, I am sure, I have been cutoff by the majority of them.

My departure from the movement, as an active participant, was of my own doings. I could no longer accept the manner in which many of the ministers actually control the minds and the lives of the followers. The sad part of it all is,...the greatest majority of the followers either encourage or condone such control. I cannot.

Reflecting back over the years, I see 3 major plateaus on which the movement has dwelled...leaving some folks on each of the plateaus along the way. The FIRST PLATEAU that I view is that of REFORMATIONISTS. I truly believe that in itís beginning, the movement was genuine in its intent to carry the reformation forward. Then; as time went by, the movement became overwhelmed in becoming obsessed by the numerous doctrinal teachings, which they were being blessed with. The obsession became so great that the movement moved on to the SECOND PLATEAU of being a NON-DESTRUCTIVE CULT. However; because the followers were so gullible...desiring to have visible "head-ships" to wholly rely on; AND because the ministers themselves became so power-hungry desiring to control every aspect of a person's life, the movement moved on to the THIRD PLATEAU of being a DESTRUCTIVE CULT.

With "eyes to see", one can observe that the greatest majority of the now existent assemblies dwell on the THIRD PLATEAU. There is an appreciable few assemblies that now still dwell on the SECOND PLATEAU. However; there are a very sparse few, and hard to find, assemblies that still dwell on the FIRST PLATEAU possessing the spirit of reformationists. But; it is of extreme importance to be able to observe the many hundreds of "drop-outs" at every plateau...MOST from those assemblies dwelling on the THIRD PLATEAU.

I personally still prescribe to a great many of the Biblical Doctrines of the movement while confessing that I do not accept several. The constant hammering of being "THE Body" is pure folly. The "life and mind control" of the followers is absolutely deplorable. So; as can be detected...I have "mixed emotions" and major concerns in regards to the present day movement. I truly hurt within to observe the general overall hideous condition.

On the most part, those assemblies now remaining on the FIRST and SECOND PLATEAUS seemingly are "spiritual weaklings" feeling they have no where else to go...consequently continuing to align themselves with the vast majority of the assemblies dwelling on the THIRD PLATEAU.

It would be great for the movement to once again be REFORMATIONISTS...but; alas, it doesn't appear that will ever happen.

So; here I am,...along with many hundreds of "drop-outs", wondering just what it is that God would have me do. Don't take me wrong...I know that God loves and is working with the many hundreds of thousands that are a part of His Body. However; it is my feeling (just my own personal feeling), that we "drop-outs" are different for a purpose. And; is for that purpose I am in search of.

I refuse to "back-slide". I refuse to turn from trusting completely in the Lord. I refuse to stop studying His word. I am in fervent prayer to find that for which a "so-called misfit" is to do.

Forgive me...if I have offended anyone. It certainly would not be my intention to offend in any way whatever. Just felt to reflect a little.

Love in Christ, Dave Linder.

By Michael Travis - Aug 24, 2001

Bro. Dave, Your analysis is very interesting and reminds me of a message I heard a few years ago at a Promise Keepers rally, only the speaker (Wellington Boone, I think) used the metaphor of "3 Chairs" for the 3 generations of Israelites:

1.      Those that witnessed God's deliverance personally;

2.      Those who heard about God's deliverance from their parents;

3.      Those who had no knowledge of God for themselves and were following after the gods of the Canaanites.

He related it to Christians and even denominations/movements and how they tend to move from an initial state of zealous "Pioneers" to complacent Settlers to "knowing not God."

I don't know what kind of descriptor best fits my church (Detroit/ Warren, MI) because its 58-year history would seem to preclude a "pioneer" label, yet your 2nd and 3rd Plateaus don't seem to fit, either. My view is that we are in a state of being re-formed, much like a butterfly that is emerging from its chrysalis. The caterpillar stage is very important and, when compared to the chrysalis/pupa stage, it seems much more alive. But when it emerges from the chrysalis, it is much more beautiful and mature than before. We're going through that chrysalis stage and most people are optimistic that, "We're not what we oughta be. We're not what we're gonna be. But, thank God, we're not what we wuz!"

Bob Mason - Aug 24, 2001

Bro Dave,

I read your review of how the old GAC movement went thru it's levels of growth and death. It is so sad to see how the work of the Lord can, time after time, become so diseased that it has lost it original focus and goals.

I remember when I first came to a GAC church. I had never heard of the term "Body of Christ." I was raised in a Baptist church, in a Godly home, but was so weak in knowledge that I wasn't sure just what a church was supposed to do and what we as "Christians" were suppose to be like. When I first met the group of people in this little church, I found a group of true and open Bible believing people. They didn't treat me like some outsider or someone less than they were because I didn't know anything about the "rapture", "Godhead", speaking in tongues, "Holy Ghost." Boy I really didn't know anything, except that something was missing from my life. God led me to these honest people just in time, several months later I was drafted and spent six months in training in the states and then a year in Viet Nam. All this before I was twenty. I say all that to get to the fact that I found a group of people who didn't stand around and pat themselves on the back for who they thought they were but were willing to do what God asked of them when asked. They prayed for me to get the gift of the "Holy Ghost" before they knew me all that well.

When I came back from overseas I was in CO. for 18 months. I was with my wife and son, who I had not been with for 18 months. Now I was faced with renewing a marriage and to start being a father but with no church to help. I had to rely on the Lord to lead me and He did, not to a "Body" church but to a Baptist church that was on fire for the Lord. I found life not a name, real God loving people, not self-centered "Holier than thou" people.

I guess I'm trying to say that it isn't the name on the door or who started a church that is important. Who do we look for as the leader or founder, God or man? Are we back sliders for leaving a group who get stuck on a level of growth? I think we have all looked in the mirror and had to ask who are we and who are we trying to be?

Bro Dave, we can find the Holy Spirit in a lot of places and in a lot of people. I just want to leave my spirit out of the way of finding the right place at the right time and let the Lord to do His work that is needed. We are all called to do a work. It isn't easy to know just what it is because so many people we love and respect want to help us find our place in God. But are "we" finding the Lord for ourselves by ourselves? He is there for us if we want to find Him.

I know a lot of us who attended church in so many places, found it hard leave those safe places and people, to go follow the voice of the "Lord". To those who have felt led to move on, go for it, for those who have not, please try to pray for us on our journey. And if we are wrong, that we will find our way home and if right that you will have the strength to follow us as we follow the Lord. I don't want to see any one or any group destroyed but that is up to the Lord not me. I ask that all of you who are on your journey, keep your eyes on the Lord and not man, listen for His voice not a group's approval. I don't know how many times Wanda and I have felt alone and rejected as we have gone our way but when someone writes about how they were helped by a note or message written on these web sites, then we get our second wind and can go on easier. So you go Brother and remember you are never alone.

Love in Christ, Bob Mason

Wayne Hamburger - Aug 25, 2001

Dave, I think you have identified pretty well what has happened to the movement over the years. When I received the Holy Ghost in 1945, the group had already gone beyond the first plateau. I believe there has been a continuous thread from the time Jesus was here on earth. The minute any person or any group starts believing they are the only ones God is dealing with is the time they start moving away from God and into the limelight of their own carnal spirit. I can now see this is what happened to William Sowders when he chose to start conducting the school of the prophets. He became the final word on the interpretation of the bible and God left him. I believe he eventually recognized it and that is why he was willing to compromise and settle for a successor like T. M. Jolly. All of the branches of Sowders' work talk about going back to the roots, but that root is dead. When they decide to go back to the living vine, Jesus Christ, and prune out the dead wood from the past they will become revived.

Wanda M - Aug 27, 2001


I've been thinking about your post and especially this part where you said:

The sad part of it all is,...the greatest majority of the followers either encourage or condone such control. I cannot.

You are so right concerning this. It brought to mind this scripture:

Jeremiah 5:30-31 - "A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: [31] The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?

These men who control and manipulate the people would have no power whatsoever if it were not for the people giving it to them. Robert and I go fishing at a small lake close to our home and we take a bucket with minnows. We have a small fish net to scoop the minnows up so we don't have to stick out hands in the water. One thing I noticed is that when you go to get the minnows, they are all huddled together in the net. They think that net is a safe place but in reality, it is the most dangerous place in that bucket because whoever comes up in that net is the one that is going to have the hook stuck through them and used as bait. :-)

Robert raises rabbits and it's the same with an animal like a rabbit that is born in a cage and is raised in a cage. If you open the door to that cage, even if the rabbit goes out, it wants to go back in because it doesn't know what to do outside that cage. It feels safe in that cage. It doesn't matter how monotonous or humdrum it's life may be, it will go back to the cage because it is just too scary without those walls of the cage around it.

People feel safe in their cages as well. Many people won't leave a cult because it feels safe there. They don't realize that there is abundant life outside their cage and they are just not courageous enough to step out and trust God with their lives. So they settle for the humdrum life inside the cage where they feel safe and they have someone to dictate every area of their life for them.

So you are right. The people love to have it so.

Thanks again for your essay here.

Love in Christ, Wanda

Betty Edmondson - Aug 27, 2001

Greetings to the group in Jesus' new name,

This is the first time I have meandered my way into this gathering, and I have been blessed to the max this afternoon.

One thing I have noticed among spirit-led minds: when they come together, it seems the Spirit has been dealing with them in similar thoughts, dreams and visions.

For the past couple of days, I have been thinking of "rattling cages." I was talking with Wanda on the phone this morning about that, and she directed me to this board. I was astounded when I just read her post above, and the others before that.

While I was thinking of "rattling cages," I remembered a young fellow I met in 1980 when I worked in a correctional center. This was a medium security prison, with razor wire all around, but the population moved freely within the confines, and had jobs around the facility. A great many of these men were youngsters who still had many years of living ahead of them.

One of these young men (I'm not sure I ever knew his name) was working around close to my desk one day and I spoke to him and asked him when he expected to be released. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, "Ma'am, I hope it's never." I could not believe my ears, but just sat there stupefied. He said, "This is the only home I have. I get free rent, three meals a day, free medical care, free dental care, I feel safe, and I don't have to worry about holding down a job. All my friends are in here. I wouldn't even know where to start on the 'outside.' If they let me out, I'll find some way to get back in the system."

The other inmates call a person like this "institutionalized." They feel safe where they are and are averse to any disruption of their life. They know the routine by heart and it is too much effort to change. Their life is completely controlled and coordinated by the status quo. They like being a NUMBER where nothing is required by them except to do the drill. Their whole life is recorded in a manila jacket in a metal file drawer.

There are men in prison who are utter failures on the 'outside,' but they can BE somebody on the inside. They can earn respect from other inmates in various ways. There are hierarchies, even in prison. Their total social life in contained behind a razor wire fence. I'm not saying everybody in prison is like this, but a great many ARE.

The thing that really sunk in while I was working there is that when a person pulls away from taking personal responsibility for his own life, he stops developing. We know that personal growth can measured by 'milestones' of learning to crawl, learning to pull up, learning to toddle, learning to speak, etc. All these milestones are stepping-stones from one plateau to another. If a child is isolated during its normal years of learning to speak, and is not allowed to converse with others, that child will have great difficulty learning to speak. Being caged sets limits in a person that inhibit their DESIRE to learn and grow. They grow up very secure and satisfied with being victims of society, where they feel they deserve to be taken care of and where others make all their decisions for them.

The other side of this coin is the "keepers of the cage." I got to know some of the guards who worked there. They might be a meek little mouse at home, but when they put on that uniform and strapped on that gun, they took on a new identity. They became SOMEBODY because they had control over somebody else.

Then over them are the big shots that run things, and have both the guards AND the inmates under their control. I have seen some really cruel and sadistic attitudes in some of these politickers (and I wondered whether THEY should be the ones in the cage).

This goes on with human nature everywhere. I think the whole world tends to be a cult. I always felt, "Where there is one willing slave, there are a hundred willing masters." The warden told me about the balance of power in that prison. He said, "We have 400 men in here. We have 24 guards. There has to be some form of consent from the inmates for this to work. If all these men decided to leave, most of them would be out of here within an hour. But, it is their GUILT that keeps them obedient. They feel they deserve to be punished, and so they consent to that without even realizing it."

That was one place I worked where I was never afraid. Somehow, this system seemed to fill some kind of sick need. If one person decided he didn't want to be in there and he started raising all kinds of cane, they transferred him a.s.a.p. so he wouldn't rile up the population and make waves. Nobody wanted the cages rattled.

Jesus rattled cages. If you think our subjects are controversial now, just think of how it must have been in his day. Talk about a NEW WORLD ORDER, Jesus set it up.

How I would love for one day to get into the mind of Paul and think like he did. What was it that gave him so much strength and power in prison? How did he ignore his victimization and unfair treatment and rise up to overcome his cage? It was LOVE.

Paul made a statement that has made a very deep impression on me over the years. He was talking about his love for his brother Jews, and he said, (approximate quote) "My love for Israel is so great, that if it were possible, I would give up my place if Christ.. if they could attain it." I have never seen that kind of love in this lifetime, where anyone would give up their place in Christ if someone else could have it." Boy! talk about the LOVE of God.

Wanda had a dream (or vision) about being in a prison cell, and she wrote a beautiful poem about it that she has shared with us. I think it's on her home page. My dear sister, the love of God has bound us together in a life that is beyond human ties.

Any group, or body, can become a cage if it deters our growth in God, if it denies us the responsibility to work out our own salvation. In Christ, victims become victors -not over other people, but over their own fears and obstacles.

Receive the blessings of today, and be stronger tomorrow. Love in Christ, Betty

Wayne Hamburger - Aug 27, 2001

Betty, I am a regular volunteer at a prison for juvenile offenders. The ages are from 13 to 20. Most of the kids have had little or no opportunity in life to end up any place else other than prison. Every time I leave that institution I look up to God and say, "Thank you Lord, if not for your mercy I could have been one of those kids". Everything that Betty has written in her post about the prison life including both inmates and staff, I can vouch for from my own personal experience working there. I don't really call it work because it is a joy to serve the Lord in that capacity. Every time I teach a kid to read better or to work mathematical problems, my cup runneth over. I am in my fifth year volunteering and I urge any of you reading this message to get involved in similar activity. I assure you that a rich blessing is in store for you. Not only can you enlighten others about the real world, but you can also preach the living Christ. Praise the Lord.