Christians on Campus – Hiding Who They Are

Christians on Campus – Hiding Who They Are

The Deception of the “Christian on Campus” College Recruitment Process

The Lord’s Recovery Christian cult of Witness Lee mainly recruits new members through college campuses, or at least that was their main avenue of recruitment when I left them in 2019. The college campus clubs usually go by the name “Christians on Campus,” but they also go by a bevy of other vaguely deceptive names that, on their face, disconnect the clubs from the Recovery and Witness Lee.

Christians on Campus is hiding who they are. These Recovery members are putting on a show. They’re pretending to be just another group of Christians who are as normal as any other Christian group or club.

Christians on Campus – A Deceptive Name

Christians on Campus. Christian Students. Christians/Christian Students at <Insert University Name Here>. Mine was called Christian Student Fellowship, at UCA in Conway, Arkansas.

The vagueness and generality of the college club names are intentional. The disconnect from the Lord’s Recovery churches is on purpose.

At least initially, Recovery members who run the club are hiding that they are the recruiting arm of the Lord’s Recovery (although I doubt they would use the word “recruiting”). They’re also hiding that they believe in the doctrines, practices, and speciality of Witness Lee. Neither the name “Christians on Campus” nor any of the other generic Christian names they come up with reveals their true identity.

With these hidden beliefs as the pretext, the Recovery’s club names themselves are deceptive. I believe these club names are meant to draw in seeking, genuine, and even vulnerable Christians who are none the wiser. Witness Lee taught that recruiting freshmen students was a good idea given that the Recovery could exploit the students’ vulnerabilities:

On the one hand, the freshmen in college are eager to leave home; on the other hand, as they live in the dormitories at school, they are often lonely and homesick. This provides an excellent opportunity to invite them into our homes.

Witness Lee, The Spirit and the Body, Chapter 11, Section 5 (Emboldened Emphasis My Own)

Granted, people inviting homesick freshman students into their homes is not inherently evil by itself. If people invite homesick freshman students into their homes to share the gospel of Jesus Christ or to just be generally kind, I posit that generally sounds like a decent, kind act. But what’s the Recovery’s intent behind this methodology? Is it basic human decency? Or is it a means to an end?

Recovery members involved with the clubs are not being kind just to be kind. Christian students are a mark, a potential new recruit, so inviting those students into their homes is not for kindness’ sake. Recovery members are opening their homes for a purpose: they hope students will buy into their beliefs and practices, and they hope they’ll stick around.

The club names hide Christians on Campus’s true identity — the club is the recruiting arm of Lord’s Recovery cult of Witness Lee. Based on the Recovery’s clear exploitation of a Christian freshman’s loneliness and desire to grow in his or her Christian faith in a community, the disconnected club names are just the bait to their trap. The club names and the clubs’ hidden beliefs and practices help the recruiters to avoid the heretical stigmas that come with the Recovery and Witness Lee.

When I was in the club and helping to recruit new members, we were told that the club had nothing to do with the Recovery church, that we were in a completely separate Christian group. That counterfeit separation, I believe, is the purpose for the vague and disconnected naming convention of these clubs.

If you’re a part of the Lord’s Recovery of Witness Lee (which is not “just another Christian group”), why are you hiding it? If it’s so great, why pretend to have nothing different from non-Recovery Christians? I believe, when you pair the club names with the other hidden beliefs and practices of Christians on Campus, it’s self-evident that the name is mainly, if hopefully not purely, a means of deception.

Christians on Campus – Hiding Their Practices

Christians on Campus purposefully hides its “Christian” practices. This varies from club to club, but when I was in the Recovery, it was becoming more and more common to find that Christians on Campus clubs were gradually introducing their practices over time rather than dealing with the possibility of scaring off incoming recruits. The practices themselves are arguably not inherently evil (I won’t make my in-depth case for the problems with them here). The Recovery’s practices are meaninglessly strange, odd, and group-think-based (and for me and plenty of others, mind-numbing) rituals. It’s no wonder that the Recovery’s campus clubs feel the need to hide them.

If you just joined Christians on Campus via “freshman connect” or “welcome week,” here’s a list of practices you might not have seen yet as a new recruit. Again, the gradual introduction of these practices varies, so you may have heard some of these right away or not at all as a new recruit, based on how your club’s leaders have directed their current members to behave:

  1. Members will say “Amen!” in a specific tone and manner at every pause in a prayer.
  2. Saying or shouting “Oh, Lord Jesus!” in a specific tone and manner, often done together, or even unexpectedly at any given moment.
  3. Praying in short sentences or phrases, all in a specific tone that starts monotoned and builds as time passes, allowing pauses for “Amens” to occur.
  4. Shouting song lyrics over the top of people singing them and after people sing them, again, in a specific tone and manner.
  5. What they call “pray-reading,” which is a mixture of their form of praying while reading minute portions of Scripture in chunks with different emphases on different words. For example, if they’re “pray-reading” John 3:16, some might say, “Oh, for God! Oh, oh for God! For God! For God! Oh, for God gave! Oh!” And this practice also uses the same aforementioned Recovery-specific tone and manner.

Are any of these practices wrong? Possibly and arguably not. I personally believe them to be wrong, but I won’t get into my case against them here.

Some food for thought on these practices: Is anyone who uses these Recovery practices able to name the purpose of the robotized demeanor outside of “that’s just how we do it”? When you pull the thread of “why,” it certainly doesn’t end with Scripture. I’d be shocked for anyone who seekingly pulls that thread to find it ending with spiritual liberty.

Regardless of whether these Recovery practices are right or wrong, they are likely at least shockingly odd to the outsider, which obviously poses a problem for recruiting outsiders. So what’s the Recovery’s solution? Mostly, hiding it at first.

When I was in the Recovery and a part of the club, families would host meetings called “home meetings” or “truth meetings,” which were specifically used to recruit the new students. These families, all Recovery members, often lived in homes intentionally purchased close to the college campus for the sake of the club. Recovery members would cook food for the potential recruits and for the returning students. Some non-college Recovery members were asked not to attend these meetings at all. Those who did attend were briefed on omitting their “Amens” and changing how they acted, how they practiced their beliefs.

Notice all of the Recovery members volunteering their time to make this club work. Yet at the same time, club leadership claims the club is completely disconnected and separate from the church.

Why hide how you practice your beliefs? The intention here is purely deception, although I’m sure they would never call it that because I’m willing to guess that most of them haven’t considered that’s what they’re doing. I’d like to think that if they ever considered it, Recovery members (who I think are probably well-intentioned; I know I was) would see how clearly this is deception in reality and practice.

To current members, some food for thought: are you hiding your practices from outsiders for fear of scaring them off? Have you rationalized that it is good to pretend to live your Christian life a certain way that you don’t actually do in order to draw people in? Why?

Witness Lee taught on executing this gradual deception about the Lord’s Day meeting, the most intense and most honest kind of Recovery meeting, in which members will really let go and dive into their practices without much care for who’s there:

We should not bring a [high school/junior high school] student to the Lord’s Day meeting immediately after he is saved; rather, we should labor on him gradually until he becomes solid.

Witness Lee; Crucial Words of Leading in the Lord’s Recovery, Book 5: Concerning Various Aspects of Church Service; Chapter 2, Section 2

There was even a Recovery conference called “College Reunion,” in which members discussed successful recruiting methodologies for the clubs, at least that was the case when I attended one. Outside of basic marketing strategies, that conference taught members how to be much more gradual in their introduction of Recovery doctrines and practices, justifying deception (without saying the word “deception”) as a means to recruit (if I recall, without saying the word “recruit”; I don’t recall that being Recovery jargon).

One methodology for recruitment included praying like the outsiders at first. Again, this is just Recovery members hiding what they practice, making you think they practice their faith one way when they really do it another. It’s all agenda-based, with misguided rationalizations of “oneness” being the ultimate goal. They aren’t praying like outsiders for oneness’ sake. They’re praying like outsiders because the reason they pray in the manner they do is meaningless, inexplicable, and undoubtedly strange. They don’t want to scare people off. The members have no intention of changing how they pray long-term.

One of the more telling memories I have of the College Reunion Recovery conference was a how-to around one-on-one meetings with freshmen. We were encouraged to start getting into just the Bible with freshmen, to pray like them, and to eventually attempt to read Witness Lee’s writings with them. If any of the students didn’t show interest in Witness Lee’s writings, we were told to move on!

If Recovery members believe in practicing their Christian faith in a specific way and love doing that, why hide it? Why are they hiding from new recruits what they’re signing up for? Why are they pretending to live their lives a certain way when it’s not how they actually live out their Christianity? What’s there to hide if it’s so good?

Christians on Campus – Hiding Their Leader

Although they claim otherwise Recovery members don’t just believe the Bible; they believe in the Bible in the context of one man (and it’s not Jesus). They believe in the Bible and Jesus in the context of Witness Lee’s interpretation and definition of both. A good summary of the Recovery in my opinion is this: The Recovery is Witness Lee’s authoritative version of Christianity as declared by himself, yet done so in the name of God.

When I was recruited, this was a major deception of the campus club. My local club had not yet fully started on my campus when I found them, so when I met with the family that was running things initially, we would meet in their home and pray in the odd Recovery way (which was weird, but I let it go, and later conformed). Why did I stay? I stayed because it seemed like we would only get into the Bible. In at least one instance, we did happen to read some material that was printed out, but it included no author name. It could’ve been material by Witness Lee, but I truly don’t remember. Regardless, we were mainly in the Bible. Nothing was apparently about or from Witness Lee.

Eventually, when I went to my first Recovery conference, I was introduced to Witness Lee. Little did I know that everything was going to become about him. Initially, this was all hidden. But from the community of the Recovery to what appeared to be a care for the Bible, I was actually (and regrettably) drawn to Witness Lee and his writings.

Depending on the club, the facts around Witness Lee’s central and indispensable role in the Recovery can be omitted from new recruits for some time. I knew people who never crossed the barrier from the club into the fuller experience of the Recovery church. Lots of these people knew very little of Witness Lee, some nothing about him at all, for multiple semesters.

Here’s a few key things Christians on Campus has been known to often initially hide about Witness Lee:

1. Witness Lee is the Minister of the Age/Wise Master Builder

Take a look here for more information on this doctrine of the Recovery. Yes, they actually believe every generation has a special man called the “Minister of the Age,” MOTA. This generation’s MOTA happened to be Witness Lee. Who’s next? Not clear.

2. Witness Lee is indispensable to the oneness of the Recovery

In 1986, hundreds of elders signed a letter addressed to Witness Lee, saying:

We also agree to follow your leading as the one who has brought us God’s New Testament economy and has led us into its practice. We agree that this leading is indispensable to our oneness and acknowledge the one trumpet in the Lord’s ministry and the one wise master builder among us.


Witness Lee’s response to this pledge of allegiance was confusing: he published it. In the same publication, he wrote some deceptive, manipulative doublespeak around any negative discourse that could come about as a result of this pledge. You can read more on that here for more information on this devotion to Witness Lee.

Regardless of whether or not Recovery members would overtly agree with the signed letter, the reality of the Recovery is that its “oneness” completely hangs upon Witness Lee. If you disagree with Witness Lee’s doctrines or practices, you are incapable of being one with the Recovery; you won’t last, and you won’t want to be there. It is not Christ who keeps these people one, though they will claim that’s the case. The Recovery’s unity is solely due to their devotion to Witness Lee, not solely in what they believe to be their commonality in Christ. Take Witness Lee away, and the Recovery’s unity doesn’t exist.

3. The Bible is Locked apart from Witness Lee

During my time in the Recovery, I heard this mantra time and time again: “Witness Lee’s Life-studies don’t replace the Bible. They unlock the Bible.” They believe that for a reason — Witness Lee said so. According to Witness Lee, for many the Scriptures are insufficient — these many need Witness Lee’s writings to get to the secret, rich, and locked parts of the Bible:

How can we make the small group meetings rich, strong, fresh, and living? After much investigation, I found out that, for many, to use the Bible alone is not sufficient to unlock its riches; there is the need for the Life-study messages to serve as an aid. We treasure the Bible, but the words of the Bible must be opened up before we can receive light from the Bible.

WITNESS LEE; The Living Needed for Building Up the Small Group Meetings; Chapter 6, Section 4 (EMBOLDENED EMPHASIS MY OWN)

If Recovery members really believe what they claim to believe about Witness Lee, why hide that during recruitment for their club? Why not say something like, “Have you heard of Witness Lee? He unlocked the Bible, which for many is insufficient without him! It’s closed, but we can help you open it!” If they truly have the key to the locked, secret words of God, why not gleefully open with that? If they really believe that the Bible must be “opened up” and that they have the way to open it, isn’t that exciting news? Why hide the good news of Witness Lee?

Christians on Campus – Hiding Their Beliefs

Go to a Christians on Campus website. What are some of the first things you see? I have yet to see otherwise, but in every Christians on Campus website, there’s almost nothing to indicate it’s tied to the Recovery. In fact, go to many of their social media sites, and you’ll struggle to find anything indicating they’re pro-Witness Lee/pro-Recovery. You can check our list of Christians on Campus clubs and scour these websites for yourself.

One of the more cunning deceptions the Recovery’s Christians on Campus clubs is “What We Believe.” Christians on Campus clubs will often publish a “What We Believe” or “About Us” page in their websites or in fliers they hand out on college campuses. Our club used to read it off during the first few meetings with the potential recruits. Instead of Recovery members using these publications to demonstrate honestly that their faith and how they practice it is quite different from most Christians, Christians on Campus hides what they believe under the guise of the “common faith.” The “What We Believe” the Recovery shares appears to be biblically sound.

Here are a few key beliefs they have that, if they were honest about how important these things were to their faith, they would share with new recruits, especially given its not lost upon Recovery members that there are mountains of controversy around these teachings:

1. They have the keys to the Bible.

As I discussed earlier, Recovery members believe that the Bible is insufficient on its own and that they have the keys to unlocking its light and riches through Witness Lee’s writings. Why would they not share that information? If for many the Bible was truly closed and insufficient on its own merit, how could anyone in good conscience hide this important news? Why wouldn’t this be a selling point for joining the club now rather than waiting until later?

2. There are two classes of believers, overcomers and non-overcomers. Non-overcomers are condemned with a sentence that includes 1,000 years of punishment in what they call “Outer Darkness.”

The Recovery believes that Christians who do not have a certain amount of the Spirit in them (i.e., if Christians don’t meet an unknowable standard outside of their belief in Christ), those Christians will be punished in a place called the “Outer Darkness” for 1,000 years, while the overcomers will be celebrating with God for those 1,000 years. The Recovery believes in a two-tiered salvation: 1) salvation from eternal perdition (faith-based) and 2) salvation from 1,000-year perdition (mysticism-based, which is actually work-based).

I call this doctrine the thousand-year discipline (TYD) doctrine. TYD means it’s not enough to believe in Jesus Christ in order to avoid 1,000 years of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus’ accomplishment on the cross is not enough to save you from 1,000 years of agony. You need to do more.

While I personally believe this is one of the most heretical and controlling doctrines the Recovery teaches, for the sake of the argument, let’s pretend this doctrine is true.

How could they dare to hide this one? How cold-hearted do they have to be to hide this from people?

Let’s say a Recovery member chats with a new recruit who’s a seeking Christian, but that new recruit isn’t interested in reading Witness Lee. Based on advice I covered earlier, some Recovery members will just ditch the new recruit! But if that’s the case, what if that Recovery member did not tell another Christian about his or her impending 1,000-year doom and how to be saved from it? Although I find this doctrine to be heretical, controlling, and disturbing (to say the very least), how anyone could do this to someone they claim to consider their “brother” is beyond me. If the Recovery teaching of TYD is true, hiding it is purely evil.

I hope that Recovery members don’t actually believe this doctrine and that’s the explanation for hiding it. But if they believe it and hide it from whom they claim are fellow Christians, what does that say about them?

3. One city, one church

The Recovery believes that there is only one church in every city, and they believe it to be the only right way, the only way to be one in God, at least that’s what Witness Lee taught. As discussed here, Witness Lee discussed his doctrine of there only being one church in one city:

The church, composed of all the genuine believers in Christ, as the Body of Christ (1:22-23; Col. 1:24), is universally one (Eph. 4:4), and a local church as the expression of the Body of Christ is locally one—one city, one church (Rev. 1:11).

Witness Lee; The Speciality, Generality, and Practicality of the Church Life; Chapter 1, Section 2

The quote above is actually more telling than it reads by itself. In this book, Witness Lee made a case for the unique items of the Christian faith. He then claims that there are things about the church that are unique to the Christian faith, including one church being in one city. He claims that ignoring this doctrine does not affect salvation yet that the doctrine itself is integral to the Christian faith. That’s just confusing, self-contradictory doublespeak.

4. Like Jesus was a God-man, Christians are God-men

The Christian faith requires believing Jesus (in past, present, and future) is God Himself, that He is completely God and man, what some call the God-man. The Recovery’s version of the Christian faith includes believing that Christians are God-men:

Now in the heavens He is doing one thing, that is, working on all His redeemed and regenerated people to make them God.

Witness Lee; The High Peak of the Vision and the Reality of the Body of Christ; Chapter 4, Section 1 (Emboldened Emphasis My Own)

This is obviously quite the heretical viewpoint, which is discussed in much more depth here. Fully-believing Recovery members truly believe they are becoming God and are god-men. This idea of becoming God is articulated by Recovery members in a massive word salad of qualifiers. The doctrine is exhausting, unhelpful, and unbiblical, but Recovery members won’t tell new recruits about it unless they stick around.

Christians on Campus is Hiding Who They Are

Christians on Campus is the recruitment arm of the Recovery. They happily follow a special prophet named Witness Lee, who they believe unlocked the insufficient, locked, closed Scriptures. They practice their Christian faith in a mind-numbingly odd way. They believe in heretical, extra-biblical doctrines that are not Christian at all.

There’s room to debate what’s heresy and not heresy, what’s evil and what’s just preference, what’s spiritual freedom and what’s downright unbiblical. I attempt to make cases for a lot of that throughout That debate is one thing, but hiding what you believe in order to draw in Christians, that’s another. Don’t be fooled by Christians on Campus. They’re hiding who they are.

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Johnathan Timothy
Johnathan Timothy
2 years ago

Thumbs up brother, I just finished reading.

Former Recovery Member
Former Recovery Member
2 years ago

I was raised in the Recovery and attended one of its university clubs on the opposite side of the United States from you, yet I experienced everything you describe here. For people who are unfamiliar with how it works, I’ll explain a bit. If a Recovery local church has enough college age members who are perceived as committed-enough to the church and are willing to volunteer to help grow their campus club, these students form what Recovery members refer to as “the core”. I was one of them. These students get together weekly for coordination meetings with “full timers” (who are just people the church supports financially to serve as “campus ministers”). Every plan or idea we came up with for outreach or events had to be approved by the elders of the church, who are basically a group of men who lead each local church. Before the start of each school year the church would send people on campus to collect names and email addresses of incoming freshmen. We would host “Freshmen Connect” events and invite all of the freshmen on the list. These were usually dinners in a Recovery church couple’s home or bbq’s at local parks. Attendees were mostly “church kids” (college students who grew up in the Recovery, mostly the core students), full-timers, and a few “community saints” (usually adult church members who worked and didn’t attend the university but were there to support the club). In our coordination meetings we would discuss how we needed to tone-down our usual loudness in front of the Freshmen or “new ones”. Repetition of “amens”, shouting, “Oh, Lord Jesus!”and using “church-life terminology” was strongly discouraged. At the time I didn’t see this practice as sneaky and I felt we were well-intentioned. After all, I believed we had all these riches that other Christians lacked and desperately needed. Yes, our ways were odd but once people saw what we really had, they wouldn’t care! One semester another “core” college aged church member complained to me that she thought it was dishonest for us to change the way we acted for the new ones, and I thought she was crazy! Didn’t she know no one would want to come to our club meetings if they saw how we really acted?! Thinking about it now, I realize I was so deluded. Another time a full timer I was close to explained to me that the whole goal of shepherding new ones in the college club was to bring them into “the church life” (the term Recovery members use for the way they specifically practice church). She bemoaned how church members had wasted years shepherding one young woman (who happened to be catholic), because she never joined the church life. I asked her, wasn’t the point to shepherd people and minister Christ to them? She answered, yes, but that we needed to be careful with how we used our time and not waste it. Her words seemed so cold and that conversation made me really sad.

2 years ago

Jacob, I’m so appreciative of you writing this, and articulating each point so clearly.
As someone who was raised in ‘the lords recovery’ and forced to spend a couple college years in Christians on Campus, it’s far too of an emotional topic for me to articulate rationally, I have too much anger, sadness and frustration wrapped into it.
My family all serves ‘full time’ or has an open home near a campus for these purposes. And the way they trick to vulnerable students (freshmen or foreign exchange students), makes my blood boil.

My desire in hoping this gets read, isn’t to undermine the ‘local churches’ or Christians on campus, but rather to make sure everyone has all resources to make informed decisions for themselves.
Thank you.