MacDoctor as usual says things succinctly.
He may not be quite Jonestown material yet, but the excessive reliance on a single man who claims a direct connection with God is highly dangerous. The reality is that the covenant sworn this weekend by 700 of his male followers makes criticism of Tamaki by his followers virtually impossible. And a man who cannot be questioned and who is not accountable to his followers is a dangerous man indeed.
There is no way that any church should have a single member who has sworn never to criticise the pastor. In fact, it should be quite the opposite, each senior member should be vigorously checking each and ever word, testing it against scripture.
In some churches an elder comes up and shakes the hand of the pastor after the sermon. The then sit down and discuss what’s said. It’s the job of that elder to watch the sermon and check for errors throughout. The handshake indicates that he is happy that the sermon to be scriptural and sound.
But even that’s not the end. When the elders sit down for the session meeting, one of the first items of business is to discuss and criticise (if necessary) recent sermons – so everyone in the leadership is expected to check the messages being presented and discuss the biblical accuracy and/or value thereof. Even ordinary members sometimes take the pastor to task after the service if there’s a point they think questionable.
Heck, even in theological college (I’ve done couple of classes) they tell you – “check this for yourself”, “don’t just believe it because I’m saying it”.
In short, if your pastor cannot take criticism, leave that church. Brian has set up a system where none of the above will ever happen, because the deputies will not criticise lest they lose their position and authority, and the members cannot because the deputies will step in.
Tamaki usually addresses criticism of his ways by pointing to the excellent results his church has had in turning people’s lives around. He claims that a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. While this is true, the biblical context for such a saying is the production of individual spiritual fruit, not the corporate production of a church. It is manifestly obvious that a bad organisation can still produce good work, at least temporarily. Otherwise nothing good would ever come of government.
Up till now, the big problems with the Destiny organisation have been it’s sole reliance on Tamaki, and their completely obsession with money, particularly giving it to Tamaki.
The good has been the way they have turned around the lives of many young Maori – something even New Zealand First had noted a few years back.
Unfortunately, the good they’ve done there is quickly turning into evil. With a large army of unquestioning lieutenants, recruitment of the disaffected is simply another element of a cult.
It’s not like Tamaki doesn’t know all this. He knows the criticisms that people have leveled, and he has chosen to ignore them. He knows what characterises a cult. He could at any stage pulled back from the “Brian Knows Best” attitude that pervades his church, but instead has chosen to ramp it up.
That’s why he’s now a cult. He’s no longer creeping towards it, he’s stepped over the line. The only good point is that people can still get out now.
One expects that to be a lot harder a few months down the track.