New Spring Church has scheduled their new teaching series All In to start on January 8, 2012. The slick Hollywood-grade promotional trailer is gambling themed, with a card player set amidst high stacks of poker chips on an alluring green table felt. The voiceover informs “the game is a big deal, and it will cost you everything,” and the narrator goes on to explain the “risk is great” in the upcoming game to be played at church, but that “the payoff is even greater.”1 We should note that in gambling, bets are made on uncertain outcomes with the goal of obtaining property or money.
While there are some card games where player skill influences the outcome, casinos structure the play so that the odds favor the House. There are few successful, professional gamblers compared to those who play, lose, and build more casinos.
So, what are the odds that this churchHouse will be dispensing sound Christian doctrine in the upcoming All In series?
New Spring is pastored by Perry Noble who has an established track record of devising various ways for enlisting volunteers and crafting celebrity-styled programs to amass free labor pools and tons of cash. Noble even went into the personal coaching business; selling his secrets on human resource management and building large lucrative organizations, where getting close to Noble started at $1,500 per person.
To understand what the purpose of the All In series really is, we need to reveal a secret strategy. Some of the covert details were actually released to the public back in 2007 by Rick Warren in an article published by the Christian Post, though some interpreting was still required. The sneaky secret is New Spring is one of many celebrity-making mills that are disguised as churches. The state of the art lighting, sound system, and set designs are employed to create for the pastor the persona of a celebrity in the minds of the attendees.
The mills employ, when they can’t get them for free, skilled technicians who use the art of stagecraft to produce hyper sensory-stimulation in audience members for the purpose of manipulating their emotions. They sway how they feel about issues, or how they feel towards people. Anyone who stands on their stage long enough, showcased as a star, can eventually be equated with stardom. A celebrity is created, and celebrities attract large followings.
The practice of sensory manipulation is a time honored, and very effective, means of producing both servants, and wealth. The same tactics employed today by a growing number of churchHouses were used by ancient Babylonian priests to impress initiates into their mystery religion. One extensively researched work by Alexander Hislop titled The Two Babylons gave this insight into the process:
Now the secret system of the Mysteries gave vast facilities for imposing on the senses of the initiated by means of the various tricks and artifices of magic. Notwithstanding all the care and precautions of those who conducted these initiations [to keep the mechanisms a secret], enough has transpired to give us a very clear insight into their real character. Everything was so contrived as to wind up the minds of the novices to the highest pitch of excitement, that, after having surrendered themselves implicitly to the priests, they might be prepared to receive anything. After the candidates for initiation had passed through the confessional [‘share’ time in small groups], and sworn the required oaths [covenants in churches], “strange and amazing objects,” says Wilkinson, “presented themselves. Sometimes the place they were in seemed to shake around them; sometimes it appeared bright and resplendent with light and radiant fire, and then again covered with black darkness, sometimes thunder and lightning, sometimes frightful noises and bellowings, sometimes terrible apparitions astonished the trembling spectators” Then, at last, the great god, the central object of their worship, Osiris, Tammuz, Nimrod or Adonis [or leader], was revealed to them in the way most fitted to soothe their feelings and engage their blind affections.2
The use of lights, sounds, smoke machines, and even vibrating platforms has existed and was artfully used at least from the time of Nimrod. What is striking is that the description is remarkably similar to the theatrics which take place in contemporary stadium churches.
Our sneak preview began with the odds already heavily stacked against the church attendees, and in favor of the churchHouse. While these facts don’t necessarily admit us to the secret production room where New Spring’s gaming schemes are calculated, it just so happens that another chruchHouse ran a teaching series that used exactly the same gambling theme, and exactly the same title.
North Point Church in Springfield, Missouri recently ran their All In series accompanied by professional movie trailers that featured a card player seated at the gambling table amidst high stacks of poker chips. The videos from the series may be viewed on their website. The speaker for the series was pastor Tommy Sparger, who proved by his speaking skills to require all the stagecraft North Point could provide.
The stage was themed in gambling, and it looked like the props were imported directly from a Las Vegas casino. The message put forth was largely a financial one, with admonishments not to waste money on worldly pursuits (admirable), and encouragements to get out of debt. The sincerity of the advice, however, was severely compromised by the usual accomplices to apostasy: ignorance and religious gimmickry.
The ignorance will in large part be on the part of the attendees, and that is what makes this latest church scam very effective. The All In series pounds home the false teaching that the book of Malachi is written to the Church, and the laws and cruses therein pertain to it today.
The gimmick is something called the Three Month Tithe Challenge. Odds are high that New Spring will center their All In series on this heresy, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Every imaginable stretch is made to convince attendees that God commands the Christian to give ten percent of their gross income to the organization. They claim that not only does the law stipulate this requirement (and conversely God curses the Christian for non-complaisance), but the requirement even predates the law.
The focus of the All In series is to get attendees to commit all their time and resources to the organization in return for great rewards, or prosperity. They are selling an investment, or product, and as with most products this one comes with a guarantee.
No doubt whoever thought up the idea is now either licensing or selling the package, or kicking themselves for never copyrighting it because it’s spreading like a small wildfire. But they were not so smart as they believed. What they saw as their master stroke for selling their argument not only turned out to refute it completely, but also proved that the organization itself did not believe it. It only takes one examination of their argument and guarantee to see why this is so.
1. New Spring Church, All In, 2012. http://newspring.cc/series/allin/ (accessed December 20, 20110).
2. Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, Third Edition (Loizeaux Brothers: 1916; 1943; 1959), 67.