How Growing Up Apostolic Almost Made Me Turn From Christianity.

Before I go into this article I want to clarify a few things.  First of all, I am a Christian and believe in the sanctity of Jesus Christ.  Secondly, I do go to church on a regular basis, just not the type of church I grew up in nor the type of church that plague African American communities all over the country.

My article tells how growing up in a church plagued with greed, manipulation, and corruption almost made me turn completely from Christianity.  I now realize that the true gospel in itself is pure and perfect. Nevertheless, the messengers, those that call themselves Reverends, Bishops, Doctors, Apostles, and Prophets, are the ones that have twisted that which is perfect into something that is vile and corrupted.

These “Churches” are more cults and businesses, run by greedy charlatans posing as Holy men and women of God and getting rich by manipulating those that either doesn’t know better or are all too willing to be controlled and led like sheep to the slaughter.  I have seen too many of my family and a few friends remain slaves to this completely abominable twisting of something that was made to save, not destroy.  So, I figured writing about the things I have seen growing up in this environment.

Growing Up In The Apostolic Church.


There are so many things I wish I would have learned growing up.  So many things I wish would have been different. I’m not wishing I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth or anything like that. And I can say my upbringing was a lot better than most of the people I grew up with.  I just wished my parents weren’t so, well, ignorant of the way things work in the real world.  A world outside the apostolic church.

I grew up in a lower-middle-class household. My mother worked in a factory and my step-father managed a gas station.  My parents were very old school. The concepts of higher education and financial independence was never really a point of discussion in my home.  They were from the rural South and like many African Americans back then the goal was to find a “good job”, stay at that job until retirement, and collect a pension and gold watch.

My family was also very dedicated to an Inner-City Apostolic church ran by a man who called himself a “Prophet” and then “Bishop”.  Everything my parents did, everything they taught us, came from the church and its biblical interpretation.  An interpretation that was horribly flawed. The cult-like worship of this man and his family still continues to this day with many of my extended family still slavishly devoted to the church. I, however, decided to leave that plantation years ago.


The Complete Overreaching Into The Lives Of The Congregation.


One Sunday there was a young woman named Diane who was brought in front of the congregation.  I don’t recall why she was brought in front of the church, but while being cross-examined as if she was on trial for treason she stated that she wanted to “Live and have fun while she was young”. Many in the congregation scoffed at her, saying that the world offered nothing but misery. They were so wrong.

I started here because this is one of the major things I found wrong with an apostolic upbringing.  I am a Christian and I do believe in holding a high sense of ethics.  However, far too many churches use the bible to manipulate and control their congregation in ways that are not biblical.  They teach obedience out of fear, not love.

Women were given ridiculous rules such as they couldn’t cut their hair or wear makeup. They weren’t even allowed to wear pants. Instead, they wore those long blue denim skirts or straight up Little House on the Prairie Dresses.

Drinking anything stronger than a coke was forbidden as well as eating pork or shellfish.  Having a relationship, particularly a “girlfriend” was frowned upon and was open to the “Prophet/Bishop’s” approval.  Even then, your girlfriend was simply called your “Friend”. To this day my mother won’t say the word “girlfriend”.  People were often rushed into marriage in order to avoid “fornication”.  I can personally tell you that there were many miserable couples in the church and years later, many of those pseudo-arranged marriages ended in divorce. Young people rushed into marriage before they were ready for such a commitment.

I tell my boys not to rush into getting married and starting a family. They should enjoy life while they are young.  I see nothing wrong with enjoying life and it is ok to do so without living in perpetual fear of eternal damnation.  I love going to wine tastings, museums, the symphony, and ethnic festivals. I also like to travel and experience different cultures.  I study my bible, but also practice mindfulness and meditation, which many other Christians claim is wrong and worshipping false gods.  I made a choice to not live a narrow-minded and sheltered life while still holding onto my sense of spirituality and faith.

I believe that so many people have their eyes gazing so far into the heavens that they cannot enjoy the life around them. They are so overly “sin conscience” that they can’t do anything without wondering if it will send their soul to hell.  They are taught that the life we have here is only a blip in time compared to eternity and that we are to suffer for the sake of that eternity.  Why is it wrong to want to enjoy life?   So, I decided that enough was enough and began to educate myself and experience life without having a mindset that has kept so many people captive.

 

Just Pay Your Tithes And Wait For A Blessing.


The only financial education I received growing up was to pay my tithes and wait for God to Increase it.  That’s it. The church taught that getting involved in things like the stock market was gambling and thus a sin. That saving money was storing treasures on earth instead of “sowing a seed” to further the Kingdom of Heaven.  We were kept financially stupid and the only person getting wealthy was the “Prophet/Bishop” and his family.  I’ve literally seen men hand over their entire paycheck to this man under the guise of “God told him to do it”.  By the way, two of the biggest lies told in the church are “God told me to tell you” and “God said”.

Nowhere in the Bible is the transfer of money included in tithing.

Too many churches are run by men who are nothing more than a con artist.  They manipulate their congregation into giving as much as possible by telling them that they are either “Sowing a Heavenly seed”, or that they will be “Cursed with a curse” if they don’t pay a minimum 10% of their gross income. Malachi 3:10 is the scripture most often used to manipulate the masses.  Instead of educating themselves financially, money is handed over in hopes of a financial blessing or avoidance of a curse.

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." Malachi 3:10

This scripture has been used to swindle billions! The last time I heard someone quote this in the church I walked out.

I am just now educating myself financially. The church I currently attend (Not an Apostolic Church, never drinking that Kool-Aid again) had a financial education class which taught about things like investing your money and making it work for you.  I took this class and am now beginning to take the necessary steps to grow financially so that I won’t have to be a Wal-Mart greeter when I’m 65.  I’m just now learning how to play the stock market, to grow my money instead of, as one Preacher put it, “Pray for unexpected checks to show up in the mail” or “pray for a financial breakthrough”. I decided to make my own breakthroughs by educating myself instead of playing some holy lottery.

 

The Belief That Educating Yourself Is Prideful and Wrong.


I once read an article on how many dictators were so successful when it came to controlling the masses.  One thing they all did was control what their people were taught.  We were told by the “Prophet/Bishop” that the Bible was the only book you ever need to read. That it alone had all the answers. While I do believe that the bible is the inspired word of God and is the cornerstone of my faith, it doesn’t have all the answers. I know for many this may be heresy, but as Galileo Galilei said “The Bible shows how to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go”.

We were always taught a human who desires to educate himself is prideful and not looking to God for direction.  A man who gains too much “worldly” knowledge eventually turns away from God. What they are really afraid of is that a man who educates himself will see through their lies and manipulation.

Educating yourself doesn’t make you prideful. However, I do believe choosing not educate yourself and to remain willfully ignorant, dependent on the word of a false Holy Man, is pathetic and extremely lazy.  You’d preferably have someone else think for you instead of thinking for yourself.  I knew there was more to life beyond the narrow-mindedness of the apostolic church, so I decided to experience that world they were so afraid to venture into.

"The bible teaches us how to go to heavennot how the heavens go."

Galileo Galilei

But this sense of narrow-mindedness goes beyond the church. This is also rooted in African American culture.  I cannot tell you how many times I was told certain activities were things that “Black people didn’t do” or “Black people didn’t eat”, or “Black people don’t listen to”.  All of this was being perpetuated by fear. Fear of what other people will think about you. Why is it that as a culture we care so much about what other people think of us? So afraid to look different and act different, to think different, to be…. different. All because we don’t want to be ridiculed by those with no imagination and also frightened to be outside their mental prison.

 

Control Through Fear and Manipulation.


Many of the people I knew, family and the congregation, were simply living a life of fear, ignorance, and complacency.  My family, as with most I knew, chose to live with a fear of trying anything new or stepping out of their comfort zone.  That taking risk and trying new things was to be avoided at all cost. That anything not aligning with the flawed biblical teaching of the “Bishop/Prophet” could have dire consequences.

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

1Peter 3:15

Remember the story of Diane I told above. Well, the Apostolic church believes in something called “Open Rebuke”. This means that at any time the leader of the church can bring you in front of the congregation and accuse you of not following the teachings of the church.  I have seen many people embarrassed and put on blast by these men that were nothing more than bullies. They use fear to manipulate and control their followers, many of which who were uneducated and lost, not knowing or caring that they were being manipulated.

Back when I was a teenager, I had a close friend at the church named Tonya. She was quiet and kept to herself, never really involved with the other teens in the church and not very popular. Looking back, I believe she suffered from low self-esteem. One Sunday as the service was about to end she was called in front of the congregation. Apparently, it is was “discovered” that Tonya was sexually active. The open rebuke and chastising was painful to watch. What was more atrocious, however, was seeing her grandparents, who were her legal guardians, sit there and do nothing to stop it.

Later that same year, word spread that the “Bishop/Prophets” Grandson, the heir to the throne as it were, had gotten a young woman in the church pregnant. This time, however, there was no open rebuke. When I asked my parents why they told me “It was between him and God”. Why wasn’t between Tonya and God? What made him so special that he was excused from the shame of open rebuke? I quickly recognized the nepotism for what it was.

I had a friend who recently left her “Bishop’s” church after she told him something, which she believed was in total confidence, only to have the “Bishop” point her out in front of the congregation.  Recognizing she was upset he tried to call her. She ignored his calls. But instead of calling to apologize, he demanded that she talk to him because not doing so was in violation of “apostolic mandate”. These con artists mask themselves as people who are looking out for your best interest, yet will stab you in the back if it makes for a good sermon. Even after she left the church the bishop told her that she can still send him her tithes. Which brings me to my next point.

Arrogance And Greed.


Prosperity Gospel is alive and well in most African American churches.  I described above how the only financial plan that anyone in these churches had was to pay 10% of your “Gross pay” and literally pray for the best.  Many people couldn’t even pay their bills, but they can pay that tithe.  And who do you think reaps the reward from this cash flow?

Bishop Eddie Long’s coronation. How pompous can these guys get?

I’ve seen Bishops/Reverends/Apostles/Prophets live a completely lavish lifestyle. I’ve seen them drive Bentleys, wear expensive jewelry, and hold events in their own honor instead of God’s. This is nothing but pride which is the complete opposite of the religion they claim to represent.

 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries a wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

Matthew 23: 5-7

Even when not wearing so much gold that it looked like a Mr.T starter kit, you can easily spot the vain and arrogant church leader. All you need to do is simply introduce yourself.

My brother recently had a family move in next door to him, so he decided to introduce himself. The wife was nice and cordial enough, then proceeded to tell my brother that her husband likes to be called “Apostle”.  Self-important much?  I mean, seriously, the African American community has more Bishops than a chess store. It seems everyone is trying to become one. Bishop this, First Lady that, they are more concerned with titles, and being addressed by these titles, (and collecting that tithe money) than they are the well-being of the people they claim to shepherd. Not that it is all that surprising.  They give themselves these titles in an attempt to appear important and holier than thou. When I meet a person, and they start out with “I’m Bishop/Prophet/Reverend/Doctor/Apostle”, I know I’m dealing with a con artist.

Conclusion


As I said earlier, not all churches are like this. I’ve been at my current church 7 years now and I can tell you that I learned more in 18 months there than I did 18 years under the “Bishop/Prophet”.  My church is really diverse and my pastor is a humble man. He has been a friend when I needed one, never too busy to listen and our conversations remain confidential. The church has yearly member meetings showing in detail how every penny is spent. They are open, honest, and transparent.

Look, I could go on and on about what’s wrong with not only the Apostolic church but others in the African American community.  This is why it is so important to study the bible for yourself so that you aren’t easily manipulated by these wolves in shepherd’s clothing. If they try to manipulate how you live with a ton of ridiculous rules, tell you to pay 10% of your gross pay (or more), tell you that they are the ultimate authority and not to be questioned, and live a lavish lifestyle, run away, far away.



Terrell Cotton is a motivational blogger and a full-time single father of two boys who are his heart and soul.  His blog, Terrellcotton.com, is dedicated to helping men become better versions of themselves by building on biblical principles of authentic manhood and fatherhood.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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