Teenagers pitted against each other during “fight nights” staged by a youth pastor running a Christian leadership training program.
“Boot camps” where the trainees learn the Way of the Cross by exercising until they vomit or soil themselves — and by hefting heavy logs on their shoulders through the sweltering summer heat.
Participants who are Black or suspected of being gay being taunted with racist and homophobic slurs, and female interns being fat-shamed.
Those are just some of the alleged abuses that were described for this article by more than a half-dozen people who took part in the “220i” leadership program that Bethany Church, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ran from 2005 to 2013. The program promised to turn participants — referred to as interns — into minister material while providing them with marketable skills like media production.
Among those interviewed was a woman who felt the program was a cult from which she had to “rescue” her daughter.
NBC News reached out to them after the church’s current lead pastor, Jonathan Stockstill, posted an apology on his Facebook page on April 28 for the “painful experiences” many of the 500 or so young Christians endured in the program, the stated goal of which was to “train young leaders.”
“While there was some positive fruit that came from that ministry, there were also leadership and cultural flaws that led to painful experiences for many,” he wrote. “It’s obvious to me now and to the current leadership at Bethany Church that we significantly missed the mark in that program in many ways.”
The former interns — some of whom spoke on the record, while others used pseudonyms out of fear of retaliation from the powerful megachurch, which has thousands of members — said he was aware of what was going on and did nothing to stop it.
They said the ringleader was his older brother, Joel, who tormented the interns with the help of aides known as “second years,” as well as Joel’s late wife, Amy, and his current wife, Amie.
Founded by the Stockstill brothers’ grandfather Roy in 1963, the nondenominational Bethany Church grew from having Sunday services in the living room of the family home into one of the biggest megachurches in the country. It has more than 8,000 members spread across five campuses in Louisiana and is opening another in New Orleans, runs a television ministry and supports missions at home and abroad.
his is one of the most harmful doctrines preached in evangelical Christendom. It’s a reflection of our impatient, intolerant, self-willed “instant society,” another expression of sinful flesh preserving itself, finding a face-saving way to placate God, survive, and appear righteous before men. It is grossly harmful because it gives a false sense of security. It is a doctrine of devils.
This doctrine has people deluded into thinking they’re saved. And it’s a concoction of devils to draw more people into religious circles. Because many people believe this lie, others are persuaded it must be true. The notion goes, “Many are invariably right and few are most certainly wrong because they are few.” But God never worked, doesn’t work, and never will work that way. (Read Counterfeit Christianity.)
If all these formal churches in the world depended on truth and the cross to add to their numbers, they wouldn’t be around. To draw the crowds, they must make what they offer palatable, even delicious. “Swallow this sweet-flavored pill, follow it with water (baptism), and all your problems will be solved instantly.” It’s an easy gospel for the carnal man to accept; after all, he doesn’t have to repent, as God defines repentance.
Nowhere do the Scriptures even hint that we simply “accept” Jesus Christ as Savior and we’re automatically saved. That notion leaves the carnal man in the driver’s seat, which is exactly his nature and unregenerate desire. How presumptuous and arrogant the thought that we, not God, call the shots! True conversion isn’t acceptance, it’s death.
When Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus, He was stopped in his tracks by whom…the Savior? No, it was the Lord. Saul immediately said, “Who are You, Lord? And when he realized Who was speaking to him, his next words (note them) were, “Lord, what will You have me to do?” Salvation is of the Jews and they know whereof they speak. They understood that the primary aspect of man’s relationship with God was one of submission and obedience to Him as Lord.
Is Jesus Savior? Of course He is, and He’s the only Savior there is. There is no other. But there is only one way He can ever save us, and that is not if we “accept Him as Savior” (He is Savior whether we accept Him or not); it’s only if we believe Him, that is, put our entire trust in Him. And that faith in Christ will always be manifest in obedience – submission to His Lordship, the sign of the cross at work.
Faith isn’t the mere verbalization of a few pious words, as many interpret in passages like Romans 10:8-10. It isn’t the mere intellectual and verbal assent that Jesus is Savior or Lord that changes one’s status with God. If a vain profession changes anything, it’s for the worse, because people take on themselves His Name in vain, bringing more damnation to themselves than they had before professing Him.
The first thing Saul of Tarsus had to do when the Lord appeared to him (Acts 9) was to obey. He didn’t simply get down on his knees (not that many get on their knees before Him anymore, either), “receive Jesus as Savior,” and proceed to confess Him to others. Nor was Saul required to demonstrate his sincerity by going forward at an “altar call.” No, the Lord gave him a command, which he obeyed, thereby not only confessing Jesus as Lord with his lips, but with his life. Suddenly gone was his religious mission of obedience to his superiors. And note that Romans 10:8-10 also speaks of confessing Jesus as Lord, not as Savior:
“Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10 MKJV).
When by faith with the mouth of our lives we confess Jesus Christ is Lord, following through by obedience to His will (otherwise it isn’t genuine faith), Jesus then continues the process of saving us. Salvation comes by submission to the authority of God, by the whole-hearted acknowledgment of His sovereignty in all things through His gift of faith. In obedience we are saved, even as Paul, Peter, John, James, and others consistently declare.
As it is written, “He gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him.” Three days after his conversion, Saul was given the Holy Spirit. Didn’t Jesus say, “He that has My commandments and keeps them, he is the one who loves Me… and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him”?
“And we are His witnesses of these things. And so also is the Holy Spirit, Whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32 MKJV).
What of Cornelius, who was a pious man (Acts 10)? Was it enough to believe in the simple way taught today in the name of “simplicity in Christ”? No, when he received instruction from Heaven, he was given a command: “Send men to Joppa and get Peter.”
And what of Naaman, the Syrian (2 Kings 5)? Did Elisha tell him to simply believe, or was he commanded to go wash in the Jordan seven times? What faith would it take to simply “believe”? But it took faith for him to obey, and he had difficulty doing so. The work of the cross was “crucial” to salvation, the cross being a requirement in a point of obedience.
What of the widow who had to share her last meal with one who asked it of her, though there was no hope of another meal thereafter (1 Kings 17)?
Even those to whom Jesus said, “Go your way, your faith has made you whole,” acted in some matter of obedience by faith.
“Take up your bed and walk!” Jesus commanded the lame man, even though Jesus and the man knew there would be trouble with the religious authorities, seeing as how they forbade such activity on the Sabbath.
What of Abraham and his son, Isaac (Hebrews 11:17-19)? Didn’t he believe God would raise Isaac from the dead? Was it enough to “believe” and leave it at that? No, God gave him a trying command, and Abraham had to offer Isaac up in obedience to God. I know of no harder a task than that a father should offer up his only beloved son.
James rebukes all those who think they can merely “accept Jesus as Savior” and walk away wiping their mouths as though they had eaten to the full. Martin Luther preached sola fide (faith alone saves), and it’s no wonder Luther, in all his knowledge and “wisdom,” wouldn’t include the Book of James in his Bible. (He also had a problem with Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation.)
Luther went from Catholic works of sacrifice, self-abuse, and acts of penance for salvation, and swung in the opposite direction, believing in mere lip service, calling it faith. Out of one delusion and into another. And the false church accepted his teachings and called in “reformation.”
Foolish children, looking for the easy way, I tell you that nothing but the cross will do. Nothing but the death sentence suffices. False preachers water down the requirements of God in order to seduce souls into their organizations. And people love them for it. These preachers say to the simple, “I’ll prey for you,” and the simple are predated. The conscience is salved, the flesh is spared, and the sin is permitted to remain.
“Why do you call Me ‘Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” asks Jesus Christ (Luke 6:46), though emphasis on His Lordship is also in question with these people. But to put it another way, He asks, “Why do you accept Me as your Savior and don’t acknowledge Me as Lord?”
He is the Lord Jesus Christ and not only the Savior Jesus Christ. But the rebel man doesn’t want to hear about lordship over him, about submission and obedience. Many are ignorant of needing to obey Christ in personal matters. They think they do His will by telling others about Him, going to church, and reading some Scripture.
The Scripture declares, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is LORD,” not Savior (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11). Lord of all, especially of himself, the one bowing.
A true conversion is marked by a point of obedience. The rich young ruler wasn’t simply permitted to “accept Jesus as Savior” (Matthew 19:16). Something very applicable and practical was required of him. Only when he obeyed could one know the man trusted God.
Is water immersion a sufficient sign of obedience? Many hold the mistaken belief water baptism is sufficient proof of faith, obedience, and salvation. Some believe something mystical and saving occurs at this ritual. But was water baptism enough for Judas, for the 70, for Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), or for Simon (Acts 10)? Is it enough for Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, followers of Armstrong, and Jehovah’s Witnesses? No, physical elements avail nothing. (Read from our section on Water Baptism.)
When people came to him to be baptized, John the Immerser called for fruits of repentance. He was asking for evidence to back up people’s lip service and willingness to be immersed in water:
“But seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance; and do not think to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:7-9 MKJV).
Are confessions under duress of Christ as Savior or even Lord of any value to God? The deathbed and crisis conversions one witnesses or hears of are almost all, if not all, spurious. Was the thief on the cross saved at the last moment? Read The Book of Luke Corrupted – A Deathbed Conversion Tale.
Do you believe your aging mother or wayward son, who lived resisting the will of God all their life, was saved because they confessed Jesus at the point of death? Don’t count on it – the Lord doesn’t save under duress, and he doesn’t honor one who is merely hedging his bets. He also doesn’t persuade by fear of Hell. Nowhere do we find such devilish doctrine in Scripture.
God doesn’t save one who seeks to save his carnal life, one who cries, “God, get me out of this mess, and I’ll do anything You say!” But if in troublous circumstances, one cries, “Thy will be done!” in all earnestness and sobriety, there may be an indication of something good happening; the Lord may have been working in that person for some time prior to the crisis. But they won’t die externally; they will die internally, called to obedience and living in, and for, Christ.
Furthermore, the notion that one must be saved only in this life is another doctrine of devils.
Those of you who think to be saved, better you seek to be Lorded by the Lord of Lords and Him alone. Your fruits and, more accurately, His fruits in you, or lack of them, will tell your true status with God.
Consider the alternative to believing this doctrine: What harm can there be in your seeking to submit to the complete Lordship of Jesus Christ? Is this not far better?
|Comparing Islam and Christianity|
|Stoned women for adultery.|
|“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”|
|“I have been commanded to fight|
against people till they testify that there
is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad
is the messenger of Allah”
|“He who lives by the sword|
will die by the sword.”
|Permitted stealing from unbelievers.|
(Bukhari 44:668, Ibn Ishaq 764)
|“Thou shalt not steal.”|
(Sahih Muslim 6303, Bukhari 49:857)
|“Thou shalt not bear false witness.”|
|Owned and traded slaves.|
(Sahih Muslim 3901)
|Neither owned nor traded slaves.|
|Beheaded 800 Jewish men and boys.|
(Abu Dawud 4390)
|Beheaded no one.|
|Murdered those who insulted him.|
(Bukhari 56:369, 4:241)
(Matthew 18:21-22, 5:38)
|“If then anyone transgresses|
the prohibition against you,
Transgress ye likewise against him”
|“If someone strikes you on the right|
cheek, turn to him the other also.”
|Jihad in the way of Allah elevates one’s position in Paradise by a hundred fold.|
|“Blessed are the peacemakers, for|
they will be called Sons of God”
|Married 13 wives and kept sex slaves.|
(Bukhari 5:268, Quran 33:50)
|Slept with a 9-year-old child.|
(Sahih Muslim 3309, Bukhari 58:236)
|Did not have sex with children.|
|Ordered the murder of women.|
(Ibn Ishaq 819, 995)
|Never harmed a woman.|
|“O you who believe! Fight those of the|
unbelievers who are near to you
and let them find in you hardness.”
|“Blessed are the meek, for|
they shall inherit the earth.”
|Ordered 65 military campaigns|
and raids in his last 10 years.
(Ibn Ishaq )
|Ordered no military campaigns, nor|
offered any approval of war or violence.
|Killed captives taken in battle.|
(Ibn Ishaq 451)
|Never took captives.|
Never killed anyone.
|Encouraged his men to rape enslaved women.|
(Abu Dawood 2150, Quran 4:24)
|Never encouraged rape.|
Never enslaved women.
|Demanded captured slaves and|
a fifth of all other loot taken in war.
|“The Son of Man came not|
to be served, but to serve.“
|Was never tortured, but tortured others.|
(Muslim 4131, Ibn Ishaq 436, 595, 734, 764)
|Suffered torture, but never tortured anyone.|
|“And fight them until there is no more persecution and religion is only for Allah”|
|“Love your enemies and pray|
for those who persecute you“
|Blessed the brutal murder of a half-blind man|
|Healed a blind man(Mark 8:28)|
|Ordered a slave to build the very pulpit|
from which he preached Islam.
|Washed his disciples feet.|
|What are the Greatest Commandments?|
“Belief in Allah and Jihad in His cause”
|What are the Greatest Commandments?|
“Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself.”
|Demanded the protection of armed bodyguards, even in a house of worship|
|Chastised anyone attempting|
to defend him with force.
|Died fat and wealthy from what was|
taken from others in war or
demanded from others in tribute.
|Demanded nothing for himself. |
Died without possessions.
|Advocated crucifying others.|
(Quran 5:33, Muslim 16:4131)
|Was crucified himself.|
|According to his followers:|
Had others give their lives for him.
(Sahih Muslim 4413)
|According to his followers:|
Gave his life for others.
(John 18:11 and elsewhere)
Early Muslims and Christians
|Lived as warriors.||Lived like harmless hippies.|
|Slew and persecuted religious minorities.|
(In the early days of Islam you
could be killed for not being Muslim)
|Were slain and persecuted|
as a religious minority.
(In the early days of Christianity you
could be killed for being Christian)
|Emphasis on Jihad (the way of Muhammad)|
“He who fights that Allah’s word should
be superior fights in Allah’s cause”
|Emphasis on Evangelism (the way of Jesus)|
“Go ye into all the world and preach
the gospel to every creature”
|Attacked and conquered the populations in|
parts of 28 modern countries in just the first
three decades following Muhammad’s death.
|Did not resort to violence of any sort,|
despite tremendous persecution.
|Declared holy war on the people of five|
major world religions in just the first
100 years following Muhammad’s death.
|Went centuries without declaring ‘holy war’.|
|Plundered and lived off the wealth of others.||Gave away their possessions to those in need.|
|Captured and enslaved non-Muslim people.||Considered themselves to be slaves of others.|
|Waged war to keep members from leaving|
the religion. Put apostates to death.
|No record of aggression toward apostates.|
|Muhammad’s own family members quickly|
fell into armed warfare against each other.
|Jesus’ disciples never resorted to violence|
against one another (or anyone else).
|First 240 Years:|
11 of the first 32 caliphs were
murdered by fellow Muslims.
|First 240 Years:|
14 of the first 25 popes were martyred by
pagans (none by fellow Christians).
|Caliphs were polygamous and maintained harems of hundreds of captured sex slaves.||Popes were expected to be celibate.|
|Islamic mosques sustained by taxes forced from subjugated non-Muslims (the jizya).||Christian churches sustained|
by voluntary tithes from Christians.
Islamic Teaching and Christianity
|The Quran||The Bible|
|External sources (the Hadith and Sira) necessary for translating the Quran||Historical context contained|
within the text of the Bible
|Must know Arabic in order to “fully understand” the Quran (according to Muslim apologists)||Universal. Can be translated into other languages without excessive commentary.|
|Chronological progression of the|
Quran is from peace to violence.
|Chronological progression of the|
Bible is from violence to peace.
|The words ‘torture’ and ‘punishment’ appear six times more often in the Quran than in the New Testament.||The word ‘love’ appears five times more often in the New Testament than in the Quran.|
|Contains not a single original moral value.||The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and others.|
|Suffering is an excuse for violent revenge|
and establishment of Islam by force“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]…and fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.”
|Suffering builds character“We also rejoice in our sufferings,|
because we know that suffering
produces perseverance; perseverance,
character; and character, hope”
|Emphasis on this World“And Allah has made you heirs to their land|
and their dwellings and their property”
|Emphasis on the Next“Mine is not a kingdom of this world”|
(John 18:36, see also Luke 14:33)
|Kill, convert or subjugate Christians and Jews.|
|Share one’s faith with gentleness and respect.|
(1 Peter 3:15)
|Martyrs as Killers|
“Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain”
|Martyrs as Martyrs|
“As it is written, For thy sake we are
killed all the day long; we are
counted as sheep for the slaughter”
“They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them”
(Quran 4:89, also Bukhari 52:260, 83:37…)
|Letting God Judge Apostates|
“For we know Him that has said,
‘Vengeance belongs unto me, I will
recompense,’ says the Lord. And again,
‘The Lord shall judge his people'”
|Punishment“Let not compassion move you|
from carrying out God’s law…”
|Mercy“Love is patient. Love is kind…|
It keeps no record of wrongs”
(1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
|Charity and Non-BelieversMercy toward fellow Muslims – ruthlessness toward unbelievers. Muslims are warned not to befriend those outside the faith. They must even ensure that their charity tithe (zakat)|
stays within their own identity group.
(Quran 48:29, 3:28, Sharia)
|Charity and Non-BelieversChristians are specifically told that even|
those who hate them are entitled to
kindness and charity. They should be loved
and cared for as surely as any fellow believer.
|The Qur’an explicitly instructs men to|
beat disobedient wives – as a last resort.
(Quran 4:34, Sahih Muslim 2127)
|“Husbands, love your wives and|
do not be harsh with them.”(No permission to beat women)
|Explicitly allows Muslim men to rape their female slaves, even those already married.|
(Quran 4:24, 70:29-30, 23:5-6…)
|Tells masters and slaves to serve|
each other as if serving God.
|Muhammad is the messenger|
of Allah. And those who are with him
are ruthless to the unbelievers”
|“Do good to them that hate you”|
|Allah wills unbelievers to stray and be lost|
|God wants all people saved|
(1 Timothy 2:4)
|Warns Against Questioning Faith. |
|Welcomes Intellectual Challenge. |
(1 Peter 3:15)
|Violence as Virtue“Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye|
dislike it. But it is possible that ye
dislike a thing which is good for you, and
that ye love a thing which is bad for you.
But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”
|Violence as Sin“Do not take revenge, my friends, but|
leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:
‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy
is hungry, feed him… ‘”
|Hell for unbelief. |
Good deeds count for naught
|Hell for bad deeds and the|
failure to do what is right(Romans 2:6-8, Matthew 16:27, Matthew 25:41-45)
|Judging“Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them…”|
|Judge Not“For when you pass judgment on another person, you condemn yourself…”|
|Taking wealth from others“Allah promiseth you much|
booty that ye will capture…”
|Working for and giving wealth to others“The thief must no longer steal but must|
work hard and do what is good with his
own hands, so that he might have
something to give to the needy.”
|Calls down Allah’s curse on Christians|
and those of other religions.(Quran 9:30)
|Calls down God’s blessing on|
those who curse Christians.
|Arrogance & Privilege“Ye are the best of peoples,|
evolved for mankind”
|Humility & Servitude“If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.”|
|“O you who believe! do not take My|
enemy and your enemy for friends:
Would you offer them love while they deny what has come to you of the truth?
|“Love your enemies…”|
|Contrast Between the Islamic|
and Christian-Based Worlds
|Muslim Legacy||Christian Legacy|
|Countries that Muslims want to escape from.||Countries that Muslims want to escape to.|
|Madrassahs that indoctrinate Muslim|
children with bigotry and terror.
|Mission schools that teach reading and|
writing to Christians and Muslims alike.
|Suicide bombings for Allah||No suicide bombings for Jesus|
|International terror organizations.||International charities.|
|No formal charities for non-Muslims.||Leading provider of disaster relief to Muslims.|
|Murder of aid workers.||Supply of aid workers.|
|Christians in jail for apostasy or blasphemy.||Religious freedom.|
|Modern-day slavery in the name of Islam.||Abolition in the name of Christianity.|
|Muslim clerics who engage|
in or condone terrorism.
|Christian clerics murdered each year by|
terror groups rife with Muslim clerics.
|Some converts who become terrorists||No converts who become terrorists|
|Daily religious violence against Hindus.||None.|
|Daily religious violence against Jews.||None.|
|Daily religious violence against Buddhists.||None.|
|Daily religious violence against Muslims.||None.|
|Ritual slitting of animals’ throats||Ending of animal sacrifice|
|Religion||Technology & Medicine|
|Censorship||Freedom of speech|
|Intolerance for criticism of Islam.||Tolerance for religious dissent.|
|Restricting other religions from preaching faith.||Allowing all religions the|
same right to evangelize.
|Conversions allowed to Islam only.||Freedom of conscience.|
|Converts to Christianity beheaded.||No dead converts to Islam.|
|Most famous Muslim: Osama bin Laden.||Most famous Christian: The Pope.|