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Has the Word become rare in Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship?

stuartpuraminvitation

God rescued the people of Israel from slavery with mighty wonders and brought them into the Promised Land. But after Joshua and the elders died, “they abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Judges 2:12) and Israel plunged into a dark period of 350 years. The book of Judges contains some of the worst accounts of the degradation in Israel and ends with the sad note that “each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion”. “The LORD would speak unto Moses face to face, as anyone would speak unto their friend” (Exodus 33:11) but by the time of Samuel was born, the people were gone so far away from God that “the word of the LORD was rare in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1).

The Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship (LEF) started with revival in many churches in South India during the days of N. Daniel. After his death, it expanded under the leadership of his son Joshua Daniel. Instead of encouraging independent leaders and a formal structure for the expanding church, Joshua Daniel concentrated more and more power on himself and turned it into an exclusive cultish organisation. He maintained its exclusivity by many practices including publicly cursing defection, forcing people to marry inside LEF, stripping authority from those who did not toe the line, portraying himself as a special man of God (or prophet), etc. After Joshua Daniel’s death, his son John Daniel and his widow Lily Daniel have taken authority but seem to have no interest to leave the USA and come and minister in India. The few weeks that they minister in India, a lot of gossip and garbage gets preached. Just as “the word of the LORD was rare” in the dark ages of Israel, there seems to be nobody anointed to preach and lead the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship in India. So they have resorted to playing recorded videos of Joshua Daniel in public meetings, in the LEF centres and in their TV programs. They even seem to be deceiving people by making it appear as if Joshua Daniel is still alive. An invitation to their recent meetings in Stuartpuram, as posted in the LEF Whistleblower website and reproduced in the top of this article, shows as if Joshua Daniel is still alive and speaking! The people of Stuartpuram are “simple rustic people” (Christ is Victor, Feb 2017) and LEF seems to be openly deceiving them. Another big issue with the lack of leadership is that if there is a problem, there is no authority who can address it locally. If you refer it to those in the US, they will shrewdly pass the buck back to India. So it appears as if “each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion” (Judges 21:25).

When Jesus ascended up above the heavens, “he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11,12). Has God stopped blessing LEF with these gifts that they have to recycle the old messages and refuse to appoint new leaders? Has LEF reached the sad state of Israel when “the word of the LORD was rare in those days” and “each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion”?

As a disciple of Jesus, we need to ask God to “keep giving us every day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). Just as the mercies of God are “new every morning” (Lamentation 3:23), our bread should be new every day. We should not be like the people of Israel who tried to retain the manna for the next day and “it produced maggots and smelled bad” (Exodus 16:20). Since “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God”, let us make sure that our food is fresh and balanced and is served by people that have received the gift from Jesus. Let us stop going to places where old food is served. If a specific person’s teaching edifies you, read or listen to it in private. Let it not be forced on the church.

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Gossip and garbage from the pulpit

garbagedumpThe late Joshua Daniel use to warn people not to gossip in the retreats of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and likened such people to garbage trucks dumping their garbage. But the reality is that people like me got more garbage from the pulpit than from those “garbage trucks”! Joshua Daniel regularly talked about LEF members from the stage. Since he didn’t reveal names he probably though it was fine, but it was often possible to guess. He called people satan, demon possessed, etc.  His messages were often negative and therefore made the listener negative. Often as I would return home, I would start viewing others including family members in a negative light. His messages were also designed to make people feel sinful and worthless and provoked the crowd to cry after the message.

His son John Daniel, trying to entertain and retain the crowds, seems to be going down the same path imitating his father and copying mannerisms of the disgraced John Branch. John Daniel seems to relish sharing gossip from the pulpit. I wonder if they know the Bible’s declaration on such people: “A worthless person concocts evil gossip” (Proverbs 16:27 ISV). Strangely both father and son speak negatively about Indians forgetting that they are Indians! It is also a pity that they are unable to get better translators. The Tamil and Telugu speaking people sometimes hear bizzare messages!

“The words of a gossip are like delicate morsels” (Proverbs 26:22 ISV) but as Christians it is our responsibility to feed ourselves with “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy” (Phillipians 4:8 ISV). So I encourage my esteemed readers to stop feeding on gossip and garbage and switch to solid food since “solid food is for mature people, whose minds are trained by practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14 ISV).

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Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship a year after Joshua Daniel

It’s a year since Mr. Joshua Daniel, president of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship passed away. The leadership has passed on to his son John Daniel. Most leaders when they take over an organisation bring in new ideas, organisational structures and steer the organisation forwards. With John spending most of his time in the US, there is little indication that he plans to directly manage the oraganisation from India just as his father failed to do or atleast go around preaching the gospel which his father did. Instead LEF seems to be looking backwards with their never ending admiration of the Daniel family and seems to continue as a personality cult.

LEF TV programs are still featuring Mr. Joshua Daniel. If LEF is the greatest and the best as we were made to believe why isn’t there anybody else in LEF who can preach on TV? Transcripts of Mr. N. Daniel’s messages were read in many centres for decades. Now they are playing back recordings of Joshua Daniel. The head quarters where live preaching happened in the Wednesday prayer meetings has switched to recorded messages of the dead man.

Their magazine Christ is Victor (Indian version) hardly had any articles by living people except for Joshua Daniel’s articles. Other articles were generally by people already dead or about people who were already dead. (There is nothing wrong with such articles but the problem is the imbalance) Now even though Mrs. Lily Daniel has taken over as the editor, editorials are being penned by the deceased Joshua Daniel! Articles by Lily Daniel, John Daniel and Lydia Daniel appear sporadically. It is sad that the magazine is unwilling to open itself to non-Daniel living Christians but continues to prop up N. Daniel and Joshua Daniel. In the September issue, Mrs Lily Daniel writes about an incident where an immigration officer mentioned to her that he knew and appreciated Joshua Daniel and then she correlates that incident with Hebrews 11:4 “he being dead yet speaketh”. Abel had sacrificed a more excellent sacrifice than his brother Cain and though he was murdered, God Himself approved it and this speaks to all humanity. I am unable to see how recognition in an airport can be compared to the glorious recognition of Abel by God Himself. This reminds me of Liz Van Camp who wrote on Facebook saying that her father was interceding in heaven. This shows either a total lack of understanding of Christianity or a blatant way to deceive gullible people and perpetuate the personality cult of the Daniels. John Daniel quotes “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. “ (Prov 22:28) in the October issue while describing his father achievements.

It is interesting to note that “JD” in the editorial of the September issue of Christ is Victor has called LEF “as a place which gives a little dose of opium to people” and that “some people are beginning to use the fellowship as a place where they get a dose of religious opium.” This is apparently a reference to a quote by Karl Marx which is often condensed to “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Marx’s contention was that religion gives people artificial, illusory happiness; like opium does to a drug addict. LEF with Daniels as leaders seems to be giving an artificial, illusory confidence to many people. And as usual the leaders are not culpable but it’s the people who are to be blamed. It is sad that people are unable to open their eyes even after such disparagement.

As always, I encourage my readers not to be deceived. Paul warns us in 1Timothy 4:7 (ISV) “Do not have anything to do with godless myths and fables of old women. Instead, train yourself to be godly.” Just as sportsmen train themselves for the competitions train yourselves in godliness. Seek Biblical preachers, teachers and churches.

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Christian Gurus – Part 3 – Joshua Daniel

The book “Christian Gurus: A Study of the Life and Work of Christian Charismatic Leaders in South India written by Dr. Werner Hoerschelmann was introduced in part 1. The empirical enquiry of the author into the phenomenon of the “Christian guru” was highlighted in part 2. In this 3rd part I have reproduced the section on the author’s enquiry of Joshua Daniel.

This is a very long post, probably the longest that I will ever post. The reproduction of this complete section un-edited on my site does not mean that I agree with every sentence but it is amazing how the author has made such excellent enquiries into the phenomenon of the “Christian guru” while many of us were blinded. I hope that blind eyes may be opened. Later I hope to give my formal comment on some important issues regarding the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and Mr. Joshua Daniel highlighted by the author.

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Christian Gurus – Part 2 – An Empirical Enquiry

We continue with the book “Christian Gurus: A Study of the Life and Work of Christian Charismatic Leaders in South India written by Dr. Werner Hoerschelmann which I introduced in part 1. To study the phenomenon of “Christian Gurus” the author undertook an empirical study on such leaders. As the author often spent time in Tamil Nadu, it became the most convenient area to carry out the necessary field studies. The author felt that the greatest number of “self sufficient Christian groups” were found in Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Tanjore, Madurai, Coimbatore and the metropolitan area of Madras (Chennai). To keep it  manageable, the author concentrated on one urban area (Madras) and one rural area (Tirunelveli & Kanyakumari). He selected “Christian groups outside and independent of the Church, led by individuals who claimed exclusive authority in matters of doctrine and community life.” Discussions and observations took place via visits to group meetings, interviews with group leaders, interviews with members of the groups and interviews with outside informants (if available). 4 “Christian Gurus” from earlier years, 8 from the urban area and 8 from the rural area were selected. The list of 20 potential “Christian Gurus” researched is given below. Details will not being provided except for the section on Joshua Daniel which will appear in part 3 of this series. Although many of us have been influenced by Joshua Daniel of Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship, there are other Christians who have been influenced by leaders of other groups. This list is published with the hope that it may be of use to people from other Christian groups. Just because a leader or church appears in this list, please do not assume anything. Buy the book and check them out for yourself. I am interested in studying other Christian groups if possible and if there is a need. So do respond with your comments.

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Christian Gurus – Part 1 – Introducing the book

Although I went to the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship from childhood, I gradually began to realise there were spiritual problems in the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and with Joshua Daniel himself. It was almost impossible to find critical information on LEF but later I came across references to a book which I then purchased and have been reading. I want to introduce to our readers the book “Christian Gurus”: A Study of the Life and Work of Christian Charismatic Leaders in South India by Dr. Werner Hoerschelmann. I have already quoted from it and some readers are earnestly waiting for more from this book! The author was a pastor for the German speaking congregations in South India and Sri Lanka and a part time lecturer at the United Theological College in Bangalore from 1969 to 1974. During his stay in South India, he came across 40 German speaking followers of a “Christian Guru” (Lawrie) which included a German who had deserted her husband and child and refused to return. Realising that this was not an isolated case, he researched the phenomenon and wrote this book. Indians seem to be so used to Gurus that Westerners seem to be more alert to such deviations. I believe that we can learn a lot from this book and so I wish to share thoughts and excerpts from this book. It was published in German in 1977 and an abridged English version was published in 1998 by Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute. If you find this useful please purchase the book from the publisher.

The author has coined the term “Christian Guru” in order to define the phenomenon of charismatic leaders of independent, indigenous Christian groups in South India. He explains the environment from which this phenomenon has evolved comparing and contrasting India’s social and religious context, analysing Church history in the sub-continent especially the Pentecostals and using examples of Indian (non-Christian) charismatic personalities. Then 20 Christian leaders including Joshua Daniel are described with reference to a predefined outline. After that the author tries to systematise this phenomenon, compares the “Christian guru” with Hindu charismatic personalities and evaluates this phenomenon. The actual and possible impact of this phenomenon on the Church and society is described. Finally a conclusion is given along with some open questions.

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Christians don’t need gurus

Indians have a tendency to idolize leaders.  We idolize our film stars, politicians and even people who have authority over us like our bosses. Maybe it is because of the culture that worships countless gods which make people revere anybody with power or authority. Or maybe it is because we do not value the individual adequately and so we tend to place undue respect on leaders. It is therefore not surprising that we have innumerable gurus. Unfortunately Christians in India often venerate their leaders and some even treat them as gurus, although this was explicitly forbidden by our master Jesus Christ who said “None of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader.” Matthew 23:8 & 10 (CEV).

The Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship seems to be guilty of venerating their leader, Joshua Daniel who passed away recently. Whatever he taught was blindly accepted by them even if it was contrary to the Bible or he himself did not practise it. Contrary to Biblical principles, he had total control of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship. People gave up their independence and made him their master. People wanted him to choose brides and grooms, suggest courses to study and even where to go on a honeymoon! Sadly he was also very happy to oblige. Members not paying adequate respect to him were not respected and even slandered publicly. It is quite possible that he wanted the members to obey him in all aspects of life and thus the vicious cycle of people relinquishing their authority and his usurping of authority started. His control over the church was so great that nobody was able to get him to displace his trusted but errant leaders. Even his own daughter, unable to influence her parents, repeatedly writes stinging comments on Facebook against these leaders. Mr. Joshua Daniel often preached contrary to what he lived. He preached regularly against going abroad but strangely he and his family has lived for decades overseas. He preached against owing a car but he owned multiple luxury cars that were rarely used. Somehow people were blind to the fact that he also was a mortal and he had flaws. Maybe the flaws were skillfully covered up and the gullible members did not care to look deeper! After a prolonged sickness, he recently passed away. This has come as a shock to many as some never expected him to die and wanted him to live till Jesus returned! It is true that he has worked tirelessly and preached all over the world and lives were touched and changed. But in the kingdom of God, we are all servants to one master. Some do their task better than others but the glory goes to God alone.

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Is Extra-Biblical knowledge needed?

New is often exciting but in matters of faith, it should be carefully tested as warned in 1 John 4:1 (HSBC) “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”. The foundations of the Christian faith have already been fully laid after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes to Timothy: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3: 15 – 17). This clearly shows us that the scriptures are enough for all generation. It is true that we need pastors, teachers, books, seminars, etc but these have to be based 100% on the scriptures. Unfortunately over the centuries many extra-Biblical teachings and false doctrines have tried to creep into the church.

The term ‘extra-Biblical’ refers to: (1) Any form of information, knowledge or experience concerning God, His Work or His Will, which is not directly quoted in scripture. (2) Teachings, concepts and practices claimed to be supported by or taught in the Bible, but are based on incorrect interpretation.

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Demons or sin?

Respectable members and senior elders in the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship claim that Christians expressing anger, pride and other common sinful behaviour are demon possessed. Attributing sinful behaviour to demon possession seems to be quite prevalent in South Indian Churches but is this really correct?

When Cain was angry with his brother, God himself warned Cain saying “If you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:7 (AMP).  Again Ephesians 4:26 says “Be ye angry, and sin not”. Proverbs 21:4 says “a proud heart … is sin”. I John 1:17 says “All unrighteousness is sin“. The problem behind anger, pride and other similar issues is sin.

The Bible does not attribute wrong behaviour to demons. Jesus cast out unclean spirits but never told anyone a specific behaviour that resulted in possession. The epistles teaches us a lot about sin and Christ’s solution to sin but evil spirits seem to be ignored. Sadly some Christians, including members of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship, attribute sinful behaviour to demon possession. So their solution to a sin problem is getting the demons cast out and for that you need their services! Although any Christian can cast out a demon in the name of Jesus Christ, people generally go to somebody experienced in this area. So you have to travel long distances searching for your deliverer. Some will be classified as hard cases and that only gifted individuals can handle them. Sometimes this gifted individual would have already gone to heaven and you will have to go round to a bunch of less gifted people hoping that one day your relief will come!

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Preaching

An important issue affecting the Church is it’s preaching. Romans 10:17 (HCSB) says “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” The message about God is crucial to the germination and growth of faith. Since the days of Paul, there has been a lot of incorrect preaching and teaching. Sadly many churches in Tamil Nadu, South India where I live are lacking in sound preaching. The gospel of Christ is a rich and glorious gospel encompassing issues that affect our entire lives, but often there is undue emphasis on few topics accompanied with erroneous preaching.

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