The Thread



For six years, I was a part of “the Lord’s Recovery” or “the Local Church” movement, a group of Christians who seem to truly love Jesus. But they teach heretical doctrines and are a cult movement. Here’s why I finally decided to leave (a thread):

View the Editor’s Notes, Updated 11/23/2019

What is the Lord’s Recovery/Local Church Movement?

A Chinese Christian minister named Witness Lee claimed to follow another Chinese Christian minister, Watchman Nee, absolutely. Eventually, Witness Lee moved to America to head up and spread the Lord’s Recovery, where he gained a following.

Lee died in 1997, but not before leaving behind a slew of books, including a study on every book of the Bible, called the “Life Studies” series. After Lee’s death, the Lord’s Recovery leadership lived on in a group of Christians who refer to themselves as the “blended brothers” and other Recovery elders.

Who Published This Site?

That’d be me, Jacob Howard. In college, I met with what started as a simple church in Conway, Arkansas, seemingly a non-Recovery church gathering.

Its name did not change. But in deed, practice, and reality, it’s my opinion that it eventually became the Recovery church in Conway.

What’s the Purpose of This Site?

There are a lot of positive things about the Recovery that I could discuss. But that’s not the point of this site. I’m not here making things up to hurt someone. I’m here attempting to truthfully call out the heretical system of the Recovery, providing biblical evidence to support each problem.

Even though the Recovery is a relatively small cult, you might find your kids (especially college-aged), relatives, friends, or even yourself interacting with them and wondering what they’re all about.

Some churches in the sect are cunning; they avoid discussing Witness Lee and his special writings and come off as everyday Christians (minus the strange cultural oddities); they wait until you’re already deeply involved before breaking the news that they follow a specific man’s leadership, a man who is no longer alive yet lives on through his writings.

This site is here to expose what the Recovery is in every way possible. It took me six years before I was able to walk away. Prayerfully, this site can help redeem the time for others.

What is Heresy in Christianity?

To be heretical is to go against what is orthodox (what is accepted as proper teaching) and to do so persistently and willfully.

Christians will, at one point or another, probably get things biblically wrong. I make mistakes or just don’t know what I’m talking about all the time. But I’m learning all the time. If I find I’m wrong (i.e., the Bible disagrees with me), I should recant and repent, as I’m sure I’ll do on this site more than once. Maintaining what’s biblically wrong on very essential items of Christian doctrine (i.e., what the Bible clearly says) is heresy in Christianity.

Heresies, both big and small, are everywhere in Christianity. All Christians need to be corrected and perfected by God’s Word.

We’re all just learning how to follow Jesus in His Word. But teachers will be held accountable more so than others in the church (James 3:1). I have experienced the Recovery only caring about what Lee said in his lifetime and even teaching his content alone. Maintaining Lee’s unorthodoxy is heretical. The Recovery teaches Lee’s doctrines as indisputable fact, infallible. That’s idolatrous, which is obviously in itself heretical. However, the Lord’s Recovery/Local Church movement maintains its position of Lee, maintaining its heresy rather than learning from it.

What is a Christian Cult?

A cult in Christianity persistently and willfully deviates from the Bible, the Christian’s true creed; a cult is heretical. Several dictionaries and Christian apologists are clear that cults stem from misplaced loyalty to one person. Jesus should be the Christian’s only person of reverence and worship.

How do you spot a cult? I appreciate Billy Graham’s thoughts:

“Although cults differ, they share several characteristics. For example, cults often do not accept the Bible alone as God’s Word, and may even say that other books (usually written by the group’s founder) are also God’s Word and of more value. Cults also commonly claim that they alone correctly interpret the truth and that Christian denominations and churches are wrong in their teaching.”


I can appreciate that Billy Graham was just a brother in Christ, and he is not the source of Christian truth; I’m not here to idolize him as my cult leader. However, I agree with the red flags he brings up, and I believe his red flags pointed out above are biblical warning flags, given that the Christian’s devotion should be to Christ alone.

Throughout the site, each criticism of the Recovery will have a Biblical Defense, available when I have the time. I’m praying that God will give me the strength to be diligent in seeking Him in His Word before I post anything. But as I make mistakes (because I’m actually fallible), I’ll make those known as audibly on this site as I can.

This site is not set in stone; as I have more to say or get feedback from other Christians who have encountered the Recovery, I’ll update this site accordingly with that information. Feel free to email me at with your feedback.

Handling Disagreements About Proper Teachings (Orthodoxy)

1 Now some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

2 When Paul and Barnabas had a major argument and debate with them, the church appointed Paul and Barnabas and some others from among them to go up to meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this point of disagreement.

ACTS 15:1-2 (NET)

Paul and Barnabas were appointed by the church to deal with this heresy after an argument was made by them. They had a major argument and debate to resolve the problem.

I have a point of disagreement with the Recovery. I’m purposefully here to have a major argument and debate against it.

I can appreciate that Paul and Barnabas were two people arguing together; this is a great pattern that aligns with the New Testament, which is full of twos. This thread currently (as of August 2018) comes from just me and my wife with no other endorsements, but I’m certainly not the only one who’s made a number of these arguments. Eventually, I’ll post links to other arguments on this site.

Why Discuss Church Problems?

E.g., 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Revelation, etc…

The Bible is full of letters to the churches on things that were wrong. Some examples:

  1. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, addressing division, chaotic meetings, and even sexual immorality.
  2. Paul also wrote to the Galatians, who were leaving grace and going back to the law.
  3. John wrote to several churches in Asia about all kinds of problems, including leaving their first love and following teachings the Lord hates.

In all of these cases, the church (which in Greek, the language of the New Testament, means “the assembly of the called-out people”) was still the church, and some problems were of more concern than others. I’m not trying to say someone is or isn’t a part of the church. If you’re a saved person, in reality, you’re a part of God’s church. If you’re born into God’s family, you’re my brother in Christ. I’m questioning no one’s salvation. You can be saved and in a cult movement at the same time, a point at which some might disagree with me. You can have a relationship with or an understanding of Jesus and be in a system of error that He frowns upon.

In any case, we need to be the church; we don’t need to be in cult movements, full of clear deviations from the Bible and estranged devotion to anyone other than Christ. Christ is our Head. No one else can be the church’s king, the head of Christ’s body. The Lord’s Recovery/Local Church/Witness Lee movement is a cult that, in word, claims Christ is the Head; but in practice, heretical doctrines, publications, and certain people assume the headship.

These things need to be argued. These things need to be exposed and dealt with.

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2 years ago

Dear Brother Jacob,
I met with the Lord’s Recovery in the Bay Area (Northern California) starting September 2018. I was preached the “high gospel” as they call it and was saved and baptized. The question I have is, “Was I preached the true gospel or the gospel of Witness Lee?” Am I saved? Do I need someone to re-preach the gospel to me and get baptized again? Any insights you can provide would be much appreciated.
May our Lord’s Spirit be with your spirit,

Jacob Howard (Site Owner)
Reply to  Mary

Hi there, Mary!

Thanks for the question! The problem with the high gospel is that it overlooks redemption, God bringing mankind back to Himself by forgiving them of their sins by means of Him being the perfect sacrifice, the spotless Lamb who took away our sin on the cross! There are versions of Recovery gospel I would agree align with Scripture and are good; the Recovery preaching the true gospel does not surprise me. Sadly, because of rampant heresy and misplaced loyalty for the man Witness Lee and his teachings, the Recovery preaching a false gospel does not surprise me either.

But are you saved or not saved? Not that you’re asking me to do this, but I believe it’s not up to me to attempt to separate who is or isn’t saved before the Day. Matthew 13:24-30 proves that weeds (tares, weeds that when young look like wheat) will exist amongst the wheat but that we shouldn’t try to gather the weeds before the Day of the Lord. 2 Thessalonians 3:15 commands us to treat as family those we’ve been required to shun, to treat them as brothers. Basically, I can’t know if you’re saved and I shouldn’t try to weed you out. My judgment is a joke. I might’ve considered the dying thief on the cross next to Jesus a tare, yet Jesus saved him!

But I can tell you what salvation in Jesus is! John 3:16 is clear, that believing in Jesus causes you to not perish but to have eternal life! John 3:18 says condemnation is unbelief, but belief means no condemnation!

What is it to believe? What do you believe? Belief requires repenting. That word in the original Greek in Acts 2:38 means to change your mind. Do you realize that all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory as in Romans 3:23? That there is no one good, not even one, like in Romans 3:10? To repent of sin is to change your mind about your sin, to realize your need for Jesus and to believe in Him. How can we change our mind about our sin if we don’t realize what it does to our relationship with God?

Repentance is a major aspect of belief. What do we believe if we don’t see our need for our Savior? Why give our life to Him if we aren’t changing our mind about our sin and turning away from it?

Ephesians 2:8 proves that we were saved by grace through faith; it cannot be of us (it can only be of Him). It is the gift of God! Salvation is not of works; we cannot boast; we didn’t do anything to earn it! We can only receive the gift by believing, by faith.

Romans 10:9 says that, in order for us to be saved, we confess Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. That’s marvelous! We just believe in Him inside and out.

The thief dying next to the Lord Jesus confessed in Luke 23:40 his belief in Jesus by asking Jesus to remember him. He even proclaimed he was justly being punished! Yet in those last moments, Jesus assured the thief he would not perish but would be in Paradise!

My personal advice: if the Recovery taught you something beyond the blissful confines of the Bible, throw that thing away. If they taught you something true about Jesus, appreciate the truth; don’t misplace your appreciation of the truth for anything other than the truth. If you learned the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Recovery, the Baptists, the Calvinists, the Mormons, Atheists, or anyone, be not so impressed with the messenger. Be impressed with God and the truth found in Him!

2 years ago

Dear Brother Jacob,
Thank you so much for your response and clarification! Although I had covered the topic of the “Assurance of Salvation” while I was in the Lord’s Recovery, I had doubts because when I went to another church/assembly briefly, they believed that I wasn’t saved because I wasn’t manifesting the fruits of the Spirit. To that, I would say that they misdiagnosed my condition. I was suffering from PTSD because of what I had experienced in the Lord’s Recovery. I was bullied multiple times by four sisters. Each time, nothing was done. The last time, I brought it to the Elders and I was told that it was my fault. I was in the flesh. I needed to exercise my spirit more and be in my spirit so that I wouldn’t be offended by anything. I had to transcend all of my problems. They demanded that I repent and say “sorry” to my bully. The entire situation was bizarre.
When I first joined the Lord’s Recovery, I bore fruit immediately. People were getting saved and my prayers were answered, but after being there for a few months, they tried to mold me into a mini-Witness Lee and it killed my spirit. I became barren. I began doubting whether I was truly saved. I didn’t realize at the time that what was happening was abuse and brainwashing. Every time I tried to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, they told me to stop trying to be “individualistic” and “ambitious.” My talents and gifts were a threat to them because we are not allowed to have a separate ministry from Witness Lee.
I am saved. I have repented from my sins. Of course, I continue to have moral failure; anger and patience are not my strong points and I could be more careful with my speech, but I get triggered sometimes.
I think I just need a period of time to reset. Although some of the Living Stream Ministry publications are helpful, it has a lot of leaven. Since I am still a baby, it’s difficult for me to have spiritual discernment. I am packing all of the ministry and the Holy Bible Recovery Version away. I want to get back to the basics and read the Bible without any footnotes and commentary. I wasn’t being conformed to Christ, but rather to Witness Lee. I grew prideful and intolerant of other viewpoints because of how much Witness Lee belittled other denominations, not realizing that the Lord’s Recovery had become sectarian, also.
Thank you for your help and for creating a platform for others to be informed about what has been happening in the Lord’s Recovery. This is much needed to prevent further deception. I was deeply saddened to hear that Brother Greg Casteel committed suicide in August 2019 after leaving the Lord’s Recovery because he was bullied. Of course, the Blended Brothers denied this. I pray that more people find your blog so that they don’t lose hope and ultimately go to Christ, our Great Physician.

Max Springer
Max Springer
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Hi Mary,

First of all, I’m so sorry and saddened to hear of what you experienced in the local church, and I hope you’ve been able to get some help in healing and recovering from your very real PTSD.

I’m also not surprised at all to hear what you experienced. You said the situation was bizarre, and in any normal environment it IS bizarre, but in the local church it is absolutely par for the course. It is how the ministry in the local churches has trained the leaders to respond to sin and unrighteousness. It’s terrible.

Secondly, what you experienced – being mistreated, bullied, abused….in other words sinned against – and then encountering the bewildering response from the elders that YOU are the problem, is a story that has been repeated by many current and former members. This type of treatment is one of the red flags of what are called “abusive churches”. If there is a problem in the church, then YOU are the problem for talking about it or wanting it resolved……and the actual problem is discounted or ignored!! This is a classic warning sign of an unhealthy church, an abusive church. (And guess who Jesus got angry at? Abusive leaders! This is serious!)

The reason I can say that confidently is because of what Jesus says in scripture about sin in the church. He is not light on it, does not cover it, and does not blame the person who is hurt. In Matthew 18, He tells us directly that if someone sins against you, you go talk to them about it. He doesn’t say to “take the cross” or “gain more life”. He says to actively do something about it and talk to the party who offended you. And if they don’t hear you, you bring in someone else to go with you. And if they still don’t hear you, you tell the church. (notice…..the elders are nowhere mentioned in any of that)! And if they still refuse to hear, you treat them as a pagan or tax collector! Jesus actually tells us to keep turning up the heat on people in the church who sin against us and don’t care even when we bring it to their attention, because unrepentant sin, a believer with a hardened heart about their sin, has no place in the church. The church is not a place to harbor darkness or cover sin, or allow sinful behavior to continue. Notice there is nowhere where Jesus says “you have to forgive them anyway” or “you are the problem for speaking up” or “it’s your fault that you didn’t live Christ enough” if the sinning party refuses to hear. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the sinning party to hear and respond in repentance (and once they genuinely repent, then yes, we are to forgive). The leadership in the local churches does nothing of this sort. They dance around, excuse the abuse, blame the victim, delay stepping in, do nothing, drag you out, and then use scripture to condemn someone who is already suffering. This is an abusive church.

I think I’m preaching to the choir because your second post shows you see clearly about what’s going on in the local church, but I just wanted to jump in and confirm what you’ve said. As you said, there is lots of leaven in the ministry. And a little leaven leavens the whole lump. As far as I’m concerned, anything good in Lee’s ministry (and there is some good) can be found elsewhere outside the local church without having to take in the poison found in the ministry alongside it.

All the best!

Max Springer
Max Springer
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary

One more quick thing too – you mentioned that when you first joined the LR, you “bore fruit immediately” and say that you got people saved, etc. I’d just like to note that believers are not “fruit” in the Bible. This is another doctrine that Witness Lee got wrong that continues to be propagated in the LR. Jesus is very clear that believers are branches, not fruit. The fruits borne in a believers life are things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, grace, mercy, self-control, righteousness, etc….. That is what scripture is referring to when it speaks of fruit, not gaining new converts. Another twisting of scripture from the ministry of Witness Lee!

And the thing is, when believers bully us, and when the leaders double-bully us to “take Christ”…..we can see that the fruits I listed above are not evident in the local church where they should be.

I, too, pray that more current members and former members find this site so they can be released from so many chains of oppression they’ve been under for so long!

2 years ago
Reply to  Max Springer

Dear Brother Max,
Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful response! Believe it or not, today, during Bible reading, I lifted up a prayer to the Lord to send me ex-Local Church members to help me with my healing process. Brother Jacob’s and your response are the beginning of my healing from the PTSD. What I have been doing is research to help me understand what happened to me. I felt like I was going crazy. I am watching videos from Brother Cal’s YouTube channel titled, “Examining the Lord’s Recovery.” I finished reading Brother John C. Myer’s book, “A Future and a Hope: Church Life Beyond the Local Church Movement.” I am also watching videos by Christian psychologist Diane Langberg who specializes in understanding authority abuse in the church. She also has videos on YouTube with FOCL Online (Forum of Christian Leaders).

Regarding the bullying incident, I approached that sister multiple times about her mean and abrasive behavior towards me, but she wouldn’t stop. She was supposed to be my spiritual companion so I had no one to go to. I brought it up to my small group members. My small group happened to have two elders in it and their wives. (This church has six elders total.) I didn’t want to get any elders involved, but I had no choice because I don’t have any connections beyond my small group, especially not during this COVID-19 pandemic and shelter in place.

I struggled with forgiveness for many months because of what happened and how two of the Elders dealt with it. Finally, I was able to forgive her when I started doing research and found out that the Lord’s Recovery is abusive. She is a church kid so she has been trapped in this system for nearly 40 years. She doesn’t realize how toxic it is because she has been immersed in it her entire life and isn’t allowed to explore the rest of the Christian world because it’s considered fallen Christendom. I can honestly forgive her from my heart now and I am praying that the Lord will make a way to release His children from this oppressive system. I am grateful that I wasn’t raised in the Lord’s Recovery and that I wasn’t fully immersed in the group. I am still struggling with forgiveness towards the Elders and the entire system, though. They are supposed to be under shepherds. They are supposed to protect the lambs and sheep. Instead, they are covering up gross abuses.

Thank you so much for clarifying “bearing fruit.” The Elders kept telling me that it is easy and natural to bear fruit when I abide in the vine. They made me believe that the fruit was saving sinners. I have no idea how many false concepts I have picked up from the Lord’s Recovery because I am an avid reader and I read many of the Life Studies, New Believer’s series, and tons of pamphlets, articles, and books.

I have a question. When you say that the fruit refers to the fruits of the Spirit, is that something that we spontaneously receive the moment we are saved or does it come gradually with the sanctification process? I have chronic depression and so I am prone to depressive modes. I do feel relief when I pray and read the Bible or listen to solid Christian sermons, but I wouldn’t say that I feel joy, peace, patience, etc…all the time.

Thank you kindly for your time, care, and attention.
Much gratitude,

Max Springer
Max Springer
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Dear Mary,

I’m encouraged you are doing research – learning and gathering information is a critical part of understanding what on earth happened! Cal’s videos are great, John Myer’s book is great, and Diane Langberg is also excellent. I haven’t listened to her much yet (will check out FOCL) but what I have heard from her clearly has noticeable depth of quality. I have her book “Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores” on my list of books to get when I am able. I have come across some other highly recommended suggestions on another ex-member site, so I’ll pass them along to you: Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue, and The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnsen and Jeff VanVonderen. They are both fantastic books about spiritual abuse (which includes authority abuse) and have shed light on so many things in the LR that confused me for so long but thought was my fault.

It sounds like you did the right thing with the steps you took related to the bullying sister. Just to clarify – I’m not saying elders can’t or shouldn’t be involved in a situation like that (they could easily be another witness if you wanted to….no prohibition against it) – I just included that note because in the LR their teaching literally changes “tell it to the church” to “tell it to the elders as representatives of the church”, which is not what the Bible says, and I wanted to make sure that if the elders had tried to wield improper authority in the situation, you had the Biblical footing to see that they were overstepping their role/bounds, based on what Matthew 18 says. Of course as I said, there’s no prohibition to including them, but the elders repeatedly discard Biblical protocol and take the authority that belongs to the church away from church so they can have it instead.

I’m humbled by your ability to forgive, have compassion, and even pray for the release of the sister who hurt you. It is true that hurt people hurt people, and people in abusive churches who have been abused themselves can perpetuate the abuse. I hope that you still focus on your own healing and “turning your ship upright” at the same time as you work through understanding what on earth happened, and understanding that you are not the crazy one!

Many people are praying for the “release of the captives” from the LR! The lawsuit-happy leaders make it difficult. *wry smile*

Regarding forgiving the elders and the abusive system, I’m not sure I see much precedent in scripture that requires us to forgive willfully abusive leaders. As I said, they were who Jesus publicly condemned, they were who He called “snakes, brood of vipers, blind men, whitewashed tombs with dead men’s bones inside”, etc. He even challenged them, “How will you escape being condemned to hell?”! Paul told the Corinthians not to put up with the false apostles who were abusing them. Believers are told to discern false teachers, false apostles, and be on guard for wolves who creep in. The more I look into it, the more I see that repentance should be present for us to be required to forgive someone. God doesn’t forgive willful unrepentance, and we aren’t told to either. Frankly, when I felt released from the requirement to forgive an unrepented-for offense was when it made it easier for me to come to a place where I could face forgiving. There is much more I could say on this, but if what I’ve said so far makes you say, “wait, but what about xyz?” I’m happy to respond. One former elder I spoke to a few years ago told me, “We aren’t told we must forgive immediately, so give yourself a break. Forgive when you can forgive.” Don’t beat yourself up for having trouble simply being fine immediately with everything that has happened. Bullying is abuse, and humans aren’t made to withstand abuse – that’s why it’s called abuse. Having the weight and the burden to forgive on my shoulders even while I was still hurting removed gave me the chance to breathe and recover. (not sure how to write that last sentence better, but I think you’ll get it). There simply is no place in scripture where we are told we have to forgive no matter what. With abusive leaders, or anyone, it is true that we are not to take vengeance, we can pray for those who persecute us, but if they continue on in their sin and refuse to hear, as far as I can tell, we are not on the hook to forgive because the necessary pre-steps of repentance aren’t present. We can take our hurt and pain to God, we can make sure we are not swimming in bitterness past what is normal given the situation, we can be WILLING to forgive if the other party shows genuine repentance, but if they don’t repent, I’ve yet to see scripture that says we have to forgive. We can let go of the offense and grieve the situation of the other party, but the weight and burden of reconciliation isn’t on your shoulders if they don’t repent. Scripture just tells us “if possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As far as it depends on you. There is another portion of scripture that tells us there will be people who are unholy, slanderers, abusive, etc…. and tells us “from these turn away”, or “have nothing to do with such people”. When it comes to unrepented abuse, believers are to protect themselves. Be at rest.

This is getting long so I’ll do a follow up comment on your fruit question.

2 years ago
Reply to  Max Springer

Dear Brother Max,
Thank you so much for the resources. I will definitely look into them.
Yes, I agree. Forcing myself to forgive before I am ready to do so adds further burden to the hurt I am already feeling.
I need to be careful what I reveal here because the saints from the Lord’s Recovery have set tracking cookies on my computer. I have tried to erase them before I log off, but somehow, I sense there are still hidden bugs.
Today’s Bible reading was on Matthew 23 and it really hit me hard. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt. 23: 13-15, ESV). I must admit that spending just a bit of time with the saints in the Lord’s Recovery caused me to become Witness Lee-like. Initially, after I was saved, I felt like I was on cloud nine, but only nine days later, when they put me through strict spiritual training, I lost my joy and became irritable and discontent.
I hear you on the whole “lawsuit-happy leaders” who are trying to silence former members from speaking up against their abusive practices. I have faith that the LORD will deliver His people. “For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever” (Psalm 37: 28-29).
I also read Psalm 49 today. “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit” (Psalm 49: 5-9, ESV).

Max Springer
Max Springer
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Hi Mary,

Sorry, my weekend and the beginning of the week got away from me, and sorry my last post was a little repetitive towards the end there…I couldn’t edit it to make it less wordy after I posted it!

Matthew 23 is particularly relevant to the local church co-workers and elders, I totally agree. One of the translations renders the verse something like “…you travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you do, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Does that sound like the local church campus work to you or what!? They expend all their effort, pouring themselves out, “traveling over land and sea” to gain freshmen college students, and when they do……those college students become parrots of Witness Lee’s abusive, elitist, and condemnatory ministry……children of hell…..instead. Wow!!

So about your question. I’ll say first of all that I don’t have all the answers, and I hope that no matter what I say you’ll hold it up to the truth as much as you are able to make sure it’s in line with the Word. And this is a public comment section, so others can certainly correct me if I’m wrong, and I hope they would. But a few things came to mind as I read your question, so I’ll present them and see what you think.

Let’s use Galatians 5:22-23 as we talk about what fruits are:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Okay, so it’s pretty obvious what the fruit of the Spirit is.

1. In Galatians 2, Peter errs pretty badly in separating himself from the Gentile believers, and Paul publicly rebukes him to his face. Peter was saved and yet made a bad mistake. Do his actions of not associating himself with Gentile believers sound like the fruits of truth, light, kindness, or goodness? Not at all. But when shown his error he heard Paul (rather than refusing to hear), and later on in scripture he commends Paul’s writings to the believers, including the very book in which his own error was recorded for all to read! So are we going to mess up and not have the fruit of the Spirit spontaneously all the time after we are saved? Well, that was Peter’s case, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was ours too.

2. If we are expected spontaneously have the fruits of the Spirit when we are saved, then the steps in Matthew 18 of what to do with sins between believers are pointless. If everyone spontaneously had love, joy, forbearance, kindness, gentleness, etc, then there would be no need for steps detailing how to handle someone sinning against you in the church…..because, what sins are left if we all have all the fruits of the Spirit spontaneously after salvation? I’ve tripped over Witness Lee’s “spontaneously we will have/do/be XYZ” type proclamations to the point where I’m wary of most “spontaneous” expectations he gives us. It’s too much like a magic wand that ultimately leads us to disappointment. We spend our lives being conformed to His image.

The verses speak of fruit remaining. So if someone gets saved, and yet over time we still see them hating, angry, contentious, impatient, unkind, evil, lacking faith, acting harshly or without self-control…..well, the fruits aren’t there. If someone gets saved and at first they seem to have the fruits, but then they fall back into their former behavior…..then that is fruit not remaining. If someone gets saved, and they are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and having self-control…….but fail sometimes and some days struggle and yet genuinely apologize when they fail and strive for peace and love, well, that’s normal. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never thought about the effects of depression on the fruits of the Spirit, but I can see right away that an overspiritualization of it wouldn’t help anyone. I googled “fruit of the spirit and depression” and, first of all, you are not alone. Secondly, here are links to a couple articles that have the message and tone I agree with. I’d be curious myself to hear what a mature Christian counselor would have to say about the topic.

2 years ago
Reply to  Max Springer

Dear Brother Max,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response! I am sorry that it takes a while for me to reply. My mother had a stroke last year and I am her caregiver. She has a lot of home care visits and she keeps me busy because she can’t walk right now.

Firstly, I must confess that I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit while reading your post. Spending a short period of time with the saints in the Lord’s Recovery had a way of inciting my own spiritual pride, snobbery, and judgmental attitude. I have a lot to repent for.

Secondly, thank you for your clarification regarding the fruits of the Spirit and the two articles. Your biblical examples were apropos and I found both articles helpful and encouraging. Now that I am reading the Bible without Witness Lee’s footnotes and commentaries, I am receiving a completely different message and the Holy Spirit’s voice is not filtered through Witness Lee.

I have to admit that I still feel down on myself because I came to the Lord’s Recovery older than the typical freshman college. I continue to ask myself how I could have been tricked. The Bible says that His sheep hear His voice and He knows them and that they (the sheep) don’t follow a strange voice. Yet, I followed Witness Lee’s voice instead of the Holy Spirit. I feel duped and violated and naive and gullible.

The strong message I have been getting is to pray. Yesterday, my mom’s nurse came for a home visit. She is Catholic and she told me, “No one can do anything for us. Now is the time for us to pray. Just pray. It’s the only solution.”

I sensed the same from reading one of the articles you shared with me. I just have to pray and trust that God hears me and will answer my prayers. He is the Shepherd of my soul and He wants all of His children to thrive (even through the suffering and persecution).

Brother Max, what did you do after you left the Lord’s Recovery? Have you found a new home church? I feel led to Richard Jacobson’s “Unchurching: The Exodus from Institutional Forms of Church.”

Have you heard about this? What is your opinion?

Max Springer
Max Springer
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Dear Mary,

I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s stroke; please, take as much time as you need to respond.

On one hand, it is true that some people who join groups like the Lord’s Recovery do so because of their own pre-existing desires to be special, better than others, part of an elite uniquely chosen group. For any of those shortcomings, where we harbored a desire to be elevated above others, yes, I agree we would need to repent. And our God is rich in mercy when we are honest with Him in acknowledging our sins and failures.

On the other hand, (and this is also related to your paragraph about feeling down on yourself, tricked, duped, violated, naïve, gullible), the Lord’s Recovery has a system of recruitment and a system of ministry that – and I’m not exaggerating here – uses deceptive recruiting practices and known mind control techniques. And I strongly suspect that some of the top leading brothers (some of whom probably monitor this very site) are fully aware of it.

In other words, Mary, it’s a common misconception that only gullible dummies get duped into groups like this (and the Lord’s Recovery can arguably be called a cult or a cultic group), but it’s not true. The truth is even cult experts readily agree that all kinds of accomplished, or intelligent, or high-achieving, or influential people can get tricked, and it has nothing to do with their intelligence or gullibility at all. One of those experts is Steve Hassan, and in his book “Combatting Cult Mind Control”, he writes, “…there are many different ways people can be ensnared into a relationship or group that uses mind control. Many cults deliberately seek out people who are intelligent, talented, and successful. As a result, its members are often powerfully persuasive and seductive to newcomers. Indeed, the sheer number of sincere, committed members whom a newcomer meets is probably far more convincing than any doctrine or structure…Members are taught to suppress any negative feelings they have about the group, and to always show a continually smiling, happy face.” He also says, “The average person doesn’t understand mind control; doesn’t know how cults operate, doesn’t know what questions to ask and what behaviors to watch out for, and doesn’t believe they could ever be sucked in. That’s why so many ordinary people are prime candidates for cult recruiters.”

I’ll keep quoting a little more: “Like it or not, everyone is vulnerable to mind control. Everyone wants to be happy. Everyone needs affection and attention. Everyone is looking for something better in life: more wisdom, more knowledge, more money, more status, more meaning, better relationships, or better health. These basic human qualities and needs are exactly what cult recruiters prey upon. It is important to remember that, for the most part, people don’t join cults. Cults recruit people.….Surveys of present and former cult members indicate that the majority of people recruited into destructive cults were approached at a vulnerable time of stress in their lives. The stress is often due to some kind of major transition: moving to a new town, starting a new job, breaking off a relationship, experiencing financial instability, or losing a loved one. People in such situations tend to have defense mechanisms that are overloaded or weakened. If they don’t know how to spot and avoid destructive cults, they are easy prey.”

First of all, can you see the LR reflected in those quotes? They go after the “intelligent, talented, and successful” – the college students. But those college students are also in a particular time in their life – vulnerable, lonely, in a new situation, looking for belonging. So the LR pounces. And we all have periods of vulnerability or fragility in our lives at many other times besides our freshman year of college. And the LR capitalizes on that. But the blame isn’t on the people who were lied to….the blame is on the people who did the lying!! I mean, seriously, no one teaches us about cults or deception or covert manipulation tactics….so how would the average person know what red flags to look for?

Secondly, the Lord’s Recovery’s biggest tool is fear. Fear of “touching death”, fear of leaving, fear of not being an overcomer, fear of being “negative”, fear of being “too much in our mind”, fear of questioning, fear of challenging, fear of speaking up about sin, fear of disagreeing, fear of reading anything in line with the Bible but contrary to the ministry, fear of not being absolute for “the ministry”, fear of being an individual made in the image of God and using our own unique and needed gifts, fear of natural relationships, fear of having friends, fear of being an active participant in the life God gave you because it isn’t “spiritual” or “Christ”. But fear, Mary, is a tool of the devil. And fear also tends to have a very loud voice. That’s why it’s effective, and that’s why cults and cult-like groups use it. And when fallen man weaves “unhealthy fear” and “God” together, it’s a crushing thing that many people often can’t get out from under. But the only One we ARE to fear (God…in a healthy way recognizing His power and might and goodness and majesty) has a perfect love that casts out all fear. And there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, and Jesus died to save us from the fear of death and the fear of condemnation, as well as from oppression (and all those fears are oppressions, believe me). So if Christ died to set us free, and the Lord’s Recovery weighs you down with all those fears…….they are a group shining forth the anti-gospel. They as a group, their teachings, and their practices undo the very things Jesus laid His life down for. It’s serious.

So, yes, if you feel before the Lord that you need to confess any elitist attitudes, He knows already and is just waiting for you to bring it to Him in honesty and repentance. But also recognize that you stepped into a highly sophisticated fear-based web of deception using Christian sounding words and thoughts that the majority of humans on the earth are fully unequipped to see through. Give yourself a break. Their deceiving you is not a value judgment on you, but is a sin judgment on the leaders and ministry in the Lord’s Recovery.


2 years ago
Reply to  Max Springer

Dear Brother Max,

I feel truly blessed by your fellowship. On top of this COVID-19 pandemic and shelter in place, I am caring for my mother, so it makes it impossible for me to seek fellowship when I currently don’t have a home church.

The other day, I was reading in Exodus where Jethro, Moses’ father in law gives him sound advice on how to be a judge and organizing the people in groups and setting up authority figures over them so that Moses wouldn’t have to overwork as a judge. I thought to myself, “Everyone needs a “Jethro” in their lives, someone who can give wise counsel. Thank you for being my version of “Jethro.”

Your quotes from Steve Hassan are very apropos. Since I live in the Silicon Valley, about 85% to 90% of the saints at this local church are highly successful (Chinese/Korean) engineers at big companies. Whenever I sensed something was off and would ask questions, I was made to feel foolish. I was also spoken to with a very condescending tone like I didn’t know anything and that I just needed to get up to their level. Many of my questions would not be answered by one of the elders, possibly as a form of control or because he didn’t know how to answer me.

Yes, I came to the Lord’s Recovery during a very vulnerable time, during illness. They definitely capitalized on my vulnerable state.

I have a lot of issues I need to take to the Lord in fellowship. I’ve been preoccupied and exhausted from caring for my mother and myself. She’s in a lot of physical pain and needs constant attention.

Stay safe and healthy during this time, Brother Max.

Jo Parzygnat
Jo Parzygnat
2 years ago

Hi Jacob,
Im a believer & Christ Jesus is my Lord & Savior .
My brother has been in The Recovery for a long time . I know he is saved though the Blood of Christ from years ago when he was young then older started going to a good baptist church . Every time i talk with him he is constantly making me feel like I’m not saved because I don’t expressed Christ the way he does and I can’t get fully saved until I do he also said something that question is salvation thinking that he didn’t know he was going to go to heaven when he died because he wasn’t completely living for God & expressing Christ . Ive tried sharing scriptures & what i believe it teaches But its always the same responses. I dont even like talking with him anymore cuz he’s seem to continually preaching at me . I did send him this article
Thank you for sharing & trying to help others understand

Max Springer
Max Springer
2 years ago
Reply to  Jo Parzygnat

Hi Joann,

Pardon me for butting in, but I just wanted to say something about one part you wrote, where you said: “Every time I talk with [my brother] he is constantly making me feel like I’m not saved because I don’t express Christ the way he does and I can’t get fully saved until I do.”

1 Corinthians 12 comes to mind here.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.
5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,
10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

There are different kinds of gifts, service, and working…..some are given a gift of wisdom, some knowledge, some faith, some healing, some miraculous powers, prophecy, etc, etc. In other words, all these things are going to look very different and be expressed very differently one from the other. But it’s the same Spirit, and the same Lord that gives them, and He’s the source and the origin of all of them.

And just after these verses, Paul starts talking about the variety in the Body of Christ, and the many members, the many parts, of the body. He gives hands, and eyes, and ears, and noses as examples. Okay….so….do our hands, eyes, ears, and noses LOOK the same? Nope. Do our hands, eyes, ears, and noses FUNCTION the same? Nope. Do they work together with other parts of the body in the same way? Nope. But that’s how God designed the human body, and that’s how He designed and composed the Body of Christ. We should actually be concerned (!) if all the members of the body looked, acted, functioned, (i.e. “expressed Christ”) etc… the same way. That’s actually a VERY unhealthy body, and really would actually be a dead body if all the members had identical expressions.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?
20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

When your brother says those kinds of things to you again, you can stand on the Word of God as your firm foundation, and be unbothered, unaffected, and totally calm, knowing what the Word says about the variety in the Body of Christ, and knowing that the condemnation your brother is making you feel is totally unsupported by the Bible, and it can roll right off your back.

We are saved because of Jesus’ sacrifice. We are saved because of what HE did. We put our trust in Him that we are no longer condemned by God, and have eternal life. There is NO place in Scripture where we have to “express Christ” in the identical way Witness Lee taught as a requirement of salvation.

Of course there are fruits of salvation (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). But their presence in the life of a believer is an indicator, is evidence, OF salvation, not a requirement FOR salvation. It’s a critical distinction. It’s not your behavior that saves you. What your brother is doing is saying “if you don’t act the way I do, then Jesus’ death and resurrection is of no effect, you’re not really or fully saved”. He’s putting an extra layer of requirement on your shoulders over and above the blood of Christ. He’s denying the gospel. And he’s really in a prison himself. I pray that he and so many others in the local churches will be freed soon from the heavy burdens and requirements that the ministry puts on them.


2 years ago
Reply to  Max Springer

Dear Brother Max,

I’ve been saved for over two years and I still don’t know what my gifts and talents are. When I was in the Lord’s Recovery, I thought I had the gift of prophesying, but now I realize that I wasn’t really prophesying. I was just being a parrot and repeating Witness Lee’s ministry.

How can I find out what my gift is? I’ve been praying and I am still completely clueless.

May our Lord’s Spirit be with your spirit,
Your sister in Christ