Tuesday, April 23, 2019

History of Gracepoint Ministries, Berkland Baptist Church, Antioch Baptist Church, and affiliated churches and ministries like Koinonia, ABSK, A2F, Kairos, etc. (Part 3)

See Part 1 and Part 2 in the blog archives.

The period of 1995-2005 was one of growth and multiplication for Berkland Baptist Church (BBC). It was also a period of growing dissatisfaction and division among the leaders in their feelings toward Rebekah Kim and her leadership of BBC.

Becky Kim was intimately involved in many details of running all the BBC churches. She appointed the leaders of the new churches and made reassignments. The top leaders during this time included:
  • Ed Kang and Kelly Kang at BBC Berkeley, the largest.
  • YB Im and Sue Im led the San Jose/Silicon Valley branch and then started BBC LA in 2003, which is now called Life Baptist Church in West LA. I believe his name is Daniel now. See side note below.
  • Chris Pak and Sally Pak served at BBC Boston. Stared one of the churches. Anyone know which one? Currently pastors Bridgeway Church in Palo Alto.
  • Andy Pak started/served at BBC Irvine. Not sure where he is now.
  • Peter Lee and Eunice Lee started BBC New York and BBC LA (?), started missions/churches in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Moscow. Also started BBC Washington DC in 20002, renamed Worthy Life Baptist Church and is affiliated with Antioch Baptist Church ("West Coast Retreat" held together with Philadelphia Mission Baptist Church. Philadelphia Mission Baptist Church self proclaims as a church plant of Antioch Baptist Church.)
(Interesting side note: Many Berklanders (yes, that's what they were called) were encouraged to change their names from Korean names to more Americanized/Biblical names around the late 1990's. There are at least seven persons currently on staff at Gracepoint who have changed their names. This shows the type of control that the culture and leaders had over the congregation. I am not saying that they were coerced but it's worth noting.)

There were BBC wide gatherings of the pastors not infrequently. Leadership retreats/meetings were days long.

I just re-read "The Letter" that Ed Kang wrote to Becky Kim. It is dated August 22, 2005. I am not going to post the letter (do not ask me for it) but some excerpts can be found in the blog archives. According to the letter, there were pastors' meetings at Boston, Daegu (Korea) and Irvine. There was growing concern about Rebekah Kim's behavior, harsh rebuking and shaming of her disciples in a public manner, and overall lack of humility and accountability. Andy Lee's affair is mentioned, along with many other incidents. Ed Kang says he tried his best to give her feedback but that she rationalized her behaviors and never repented.

It's clear that Ed Kang had had enough. In The Letter, he states his intention to vacate the Alcatraz building as soon as possible but to stay in the area and "minister to those who will follow my leadership apart from BBC." Most readers will know that Berkland Baptist Church split after this. This article for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary Alumni published in the Fall of 2009 identifies all 15 as Berkland churches but according to this blog, the split was effective as of January 1, 2006. Some churches decided to stay affiliated with each other but many went their own way. BBC Boston changed it's name to Antioch Baptist Church in 2011 according their website. Many other churches changed their names too.

Thus, Gracepoint was born. And the organization's tentacles are spreading like wildfire to college towns all over the United States. Is this a sign that the church is being used by God to expand God's Kingdom? Or is it a sign of the military like control and power that the leaders have over their sheep? Is it OK to hurt and discard people when they don't serve your purpose as long as you believe that the purpose aligns with the Great Commission? What does it say about a church when all the staff are home grown (quite incestuous actually) and no one from the "outside" ever obtains a position of influence?

As flawed as my current church is, I am grateful that I get to experience a growing freedom in my understanding of God and in my relationship with the God of the universe. I don't spend most of my days at church events. My church doesn't tell me where to live or who to live with or who to marry. I am encouraged to love God and love others as myself without feeling like I have to be tired all the time to prove how much I love them.

There can be no love without freedom. Jesus never forced anyone to do anything they didn't want to do. He is standing at the door and knocking. He asks to be invited in. It's always been an invitation. Guilt and shame may work for a while, but they can never free us from ourselves.

If you've been hurt by Berkland or Gracepoint, I pray for a growing tenderness and a complete spiritual and emotional healing. God never wastes pain.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

History of Gracepoint Ministries, Berkland Baptist Church, Antioch Baptist Church, and affiliated churches and ministries like Koinonia, ABSK, A2F, Kairos, etc. (Part 2)

See part 1 here.

BBC Berkeley's daily operations were directed by Ed Kang and Kelly Kang once Becky and Paul Kim started BBC Boston. Both churches referred to themselves as Berkland during this time. Somewhere around 1995 or 1996, Berkland bought a big warehouse in San Leandro and the Berkeley church started having Sunday service and other activities at this location. They still used the Alcatraz building too, since it was closer to campus and useful for smaller gatherings like prayer meetings and such.

The ministries that got started or were present during this time at Berkeley include:
  • Joyland children/youth ministry
  • College ministry (biggest by far)
  • ImpACT which started out as an outreach summer camp and mentoring program for youth in Oakland schools
  • Young Adult ministry
  • International Student Ministry
The college ministry was getting quite large by this time (1995). My estimate would be around 200-250 students all together. It was getting increasingly hard to find a venue on campus that could fit everyone. Thus, it was decided to split the group into three separate "zones." They were arbitrarily named Zone A, B, and C and these zones started meeting separately on Friday nights at the Berkeley Campus. The main event that college students were invited to regularly were Friday night gatherings and to make it more manageable and to increase potential for future growth, three separate groups were created. I believe this was the precursor to what is now Koinonia, Praxis, A2F, etc.

Side note that is important: ABSK was the original name of the college ministry at the Berkeley Campus in the 1980's. It stands for Asian Baptist Student Koinonia. When BBC Boston was planted, they also called their college ministry ABSK. I did a quick google search just now and it looks they kept this ministry name and it's now at 18 different campuses.

An important event happened around this time. At one of the college ministry outings by Zones to the Northern California mountains, a college ministry "staff" member named William Lee died in a tragic accident. He was swimming in a cold lake after a hike and passed away due to cramps that inhibited him to swim. Some of the college students were also swimming and tried to save him. Everyone came back from the outing abruptly and met at the San Leandro building where they were told of this tragic news. This event catalyzed the focus in missions in Tashkent Uzbekistan and they named something in William Lee's honor. William Lee was held up as an example of sacrificial love and the college students were all commissioned to live up to his example and stand in his space that was now left vacant.

The Korean speaking Berkland church also used the San Leandro building and sometime after the William Lee tragedy, there was a scandal in the Korean speaking church. This church was pastored by Becky's brother, Pastor Andy Lee. An affair occurred between Pastor Andy Lee and one of the Korean congregation members. Not much detail was shared but this event was important as the Korean speaking ministry ended up taking ownership/usership of the San Leandro building. Berkland Berkeley resumed meeting at Willard Middle School. (There was also a short stint of Sunday service held at Thousand Oaks Baptist Church in Berkeley.) I believe Becky's brother, Pastor Andy Lee ended up moving to Boston shortly after. Here is a useful article about what happened and a seemingly reliable account of what happened to the church in the San Leandro location on Merced Street.

After BBC Boston started, more churches got started in various places, typically near a major college campus. Here are the ones that got started when Berkland was still under one umbrella. This was the general order with the year if known.
  • San Jose/Silicon Valley (1993?)
  • Los Angeles (1994)
  • Tashkent, Uzbekistan
  • Seoul, Korea
  • Seattle
  • Davis
  • New York
The pattern was that a church got started almost every year. A team of people would be chosen, I'm not sure how, to go and start these churches. Sometimes, the team members would make sense, like someone got a post doc position somewhere or a job or something but other times, it would not make any sense. The congregation was just told that this is the church we are planting and these are the people who are going. I felt that many did not like their new "assignment." Also, church leaders were switched around from time to time for no transparent reason. Folks would serve at a church plant for 1-3 years and then abruptly be moved back to Berkeley or moved to another BBC location.

The church also started sending missionaries to Seoul and Tashkent Uzbekistan, more so to the latter. Short term and some longer term.

All this time, Becky was revered and spoke at many retreats at Berkland Berkeley as a special guest. She directed large mission trips during the summer, with over 100 students from the various Berkland churches (mostly Berkeley and Boston since those were the two biggest). She would lead Bible studies and give sermons that were 2-3 hours in length. She would openly rebuke some leaders during her Bible studies and they seemed honored to be "loved" by her in this way. Ed and Kelly Kang and most of the leaders spoke of her highly and looked up to her, almost as one who could do no wrong. She lived in Boston with Paul Kim and their two children but she would fly to the Bay Area quite often and also flew to Korea and Tashkent to help plant churches and direct the ministries starting there.

To be continued in Part 3. (Corrections and additions are welcome. Please comment.)
April 23, 2019: Andy Lee is Becky's brother and his full name has been added.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

History of Gracepoint Ministries, Berkland Baptist Church, Antioch Baptist Church, and affiliated churches and ministries like Koinonia, ABSK, A2F, Kairos, etc. (Part 1)

Here is a brief history of how Gracepoint Ministries got started.

In 1981, Rebekah Kim (Becky) and Paul Kim moved from Southern California to Berkeley to start Berkland Baptist Church (BBC). The church started with five members (all family) and I heard that it was slow going at first. Paul would print 50 bulletins faithfully every Sunday, with Becky scolding him at the waste of paper. During one of the earlier years, Ed Kang and Kelly Kang started attending the church as regular members. I am not sure if they were still students or recent graduates when they first started attending but Ed Kang received his law degree from Boalt and practiced for a couple or few years before quitting to attend seminary and become a pastor at the church. Kelly Kang worked as an engineer. My understanding is that they started attending together, as a couple. During the early years, many others (who would later go on to start other churches) also started coming to the church. The church grew in number steadily. Main attendees were Korean American students at UC Berkeley as Becky and Paul intentionally sought out this group. There was a Korean speaking church that got started sometime later, with Becky's brother as the main pastor. (This becomes important later.)

They met in a building on Alcatraz Ave on the border of Berkeley and Oakland, hence the name Berkland. I faintly recall that the building was either donated/on loan/on lease at a below the market rate from either the Southern Baptist Church denomination or some other church network. The building was used for Sunday service, bible studies, prayer meetings, and many other church activities until the congregation became too large to fit into the sanctuary for Sunday service. The building has since been demolished (within the past 5 years I think?) and there are now apartments/condos there instead. The church started using Willard Middle School's auditorium/cafeteria for Sunday gatherings.

Becky Kim and Paul Kim attended Berendo Street Baptist Church before starting BBC, although it is unclear if Berendo approved/sponsored the BBC plant or not. I have also been told that Becky Kim has roots in UBF (University Bible Fellowship) which seems to be widely recognized as having cult like tendencies, or even an actual cult. (Fun fact: Berendo's founding member is Esther Kim (Ahn Yi Sook) author of "If I Perish" in English and numerous other Korean books.)

Berkland Baptist Church East (later referred to as BBC Boston, and currently under the name Antioch Baptist Church) was planted in 1991 by Becky and Paul Kim. The story I was told was that she was planning to send a planting team to Boston, but as she was walking around Harvard on a scoping trip, she felt convicted to start the church herself, instead of sending her disciples. According to the Antioch Baptist Church website, BBC Boston was renamed Antioch Baptist Church in March, 2011.

BBC Boston and BBC Berkeley continued to have very strong ties, and indeed functioned almost like one church. I am almost certain that they were financially tied. They would do mission trips and retreats together and traded staff and members. Becky regularly came to Berkeley as a guest speaker at retreats. She led missions trips and directed future planning for the church.

After BBC Boston was planted and established, more churches got planted in other college towns including LA, New York, and San Jose. A church got started in Seoul, Korea as well as in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

To be continued.

(Corrections and additions welcome. Please comment.)
(typo West to East corrected on 2/6/2019)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

More Hidden Yelp Reviews of Gracepoint Berkeley

A few commenters have pointed out that Gracepoint has changed and are not like this anymore. This being the stuff that are described on this blog.

Here is a Yelp Review (that is hidden and not tallied into their final score) that is from October 2018 from  "Christain" that sounds exactly like the Berkland I attended decades ago.

My experience at Gracepoint has been spiritually abusive. Please, please avoid this church as much as you can. Their teaching is unbiblical; the extreme emphasis and focus on sin is unhealthy. 
Their practice of rebuke seems to me out of the context of Scripture, as leaders assert their power, authority and dominance on younger members.
Let's be clear, rebuking sessions at Gracepoint are not fun. In fact they are down-right humiliating and induce a lot of guilt-driven repentance. And, to be fair, if you're being rebuked, there is a fair chance that you did do something wrong... or not (e.g. - this post). But does this type of rebuking do more harm than good? I say it is extremely damaging! It is the reason why many people who leave feel so traumatized.
I'm not going to get into the correct, or Biblical way to rebuke, for that material is abundant. But let's talk about the culture of "getting rocked"  Gracepoint. I'm not sure who started calling getting rebuked, "rocked," but it really turns something negative into something of a badge of honor. Again, it is often a horrible, humiliating ordeal. You sit there, being yelled at, belittled, guilt being heaved upon you, sometimes getting tag-teamed by two or three leaders. The "leaders" force you to confess to the point where you better start crying and feeling contrite. I have no doubt that leaders often agonize over what to do or say when contemplating a rebuke. But simply put, the ends do not justify the means.
Looking back, it is very disturbing to realize that I have seen many, soon after getting rebuked, smugly proclaim that they "got rocked". Why? After all, there was a lot of yelling, most likely some crying, and maybe some forced fervent and desperate prayer. To put it very simply, in the spiritual economy of the Gracepoint ecosystem, getting rocked is like getting audited and passing. Yes, finally, what you did caught up to you, it got addressed by the leaders, and if you repent, you have a small stamp of approval. Enough stamps and certifications and you will be qualified to move on up the ranks. To be fair though, some people just need to get corrected more often, because frankly, they just screw up a lot. However, my opinion is that there is too much guilt-driven manipulation and fearmongering, and not enough careful correction. Also, I've even seen leaders refer to how they got rocked by Pastor Ed or Kelly with a smug smile. Not always, but I've seen it.
You see, this behavior is modeled for other church members and it starts to become apparent that unless you get rebuked, the leaders must not care about you, or think of you much. Very silly, I know, but I know this is true because people have confided in me that they feel this way. I'm not making this up. Of course, they are not trying to get rebuked on purpose (who wants that?), but there is a really unhealthy element of the culture that I believe is one of the root causes of the spiritual abuse at Gracepoint. Just like a victim of domestic abuse, you tolerate more and more emotional damage, and begin to rationalize, because in the end they supposedly "love you." In reality, the abuser needs to control and manipulate you. If the abuser fails to do that, they rationalize by saying, "they don't love me and I guess I never loved them." At this church, it is the same, because if you do not respond to rebuke, you are spiritually desolate and they cannot shepherd or love you. For fledgling believers, it is very hard to know the right thing to do or how to respond, especially if you are a young impressionable college kid.
This is how you move hundreds of young people to mobilize quickly, efficiently, and without much complaint or deviance. Believe me, I would love to say everything is done out of a passion for Christ, but it is often not, not by most. The irony is, that on numerous occasions, I've heard a rebuke about not doing things out of a love for God and others, but the result is that people act because they do not want to get rebuked again. It's a vicious cycle.
Please, do not get sucked into this cult. They are excellent at outreaching to newcomers--it is insane. The experience I have had at this church has led me further away from God, and I really hope no one will experience what I underwent.

I remember all too clearly the day that my entire class got rebuked because one class member was found to be secretly dating another member of the church. I had no idea that this person was dating until the rebuking session over and I asked someone what was that all about. Kelly Kang/Ed Kang accused all of us of using the church for personal gain (marriage). Everyone was crying. I remember being very sleepy because this happened very late at night. Traumatizing and the message was clear. We control your dating life, you need to tell your leaders everything, you will be shamed in front of your class if you don't obey what we say. Needless to say, they were forced to break up. They both ended up leaving the church, one a few years after that and one many many years later.

Thank you to all the brave souls who left reviews on Yelp using their genuine profiles. I encourage you to continue to do so as it seems like profiles with one reviews often get "hidden." Thank you "Christain" and I'm sorry your review is hidden.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Are there any former Gracepoint members currently living in or around Riverside?

Looks like lots of people and families are still hurting from their experiences with Gracepoint. A commenter is looking for ex Gracepoint Riverside attendees. Please comment below if you are open to helping them out.

edited to add: Especially if you still live in the area.
title edited to ask for those living in the area.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hidden Yelp Reviews of Gracepoint

As pointed out by a commenter, the hidden Yelp reviews of Gracepoint Fellowship Church at Berkeley are rather telling. Here is a review posted by "Grace" on 8/19/2016.

As new students arrive to Berkeley, I must review Gracepoint rather than stand by. I don't deny that the outward actions of Gracepoint members seem nice. I myself experienced the positive aspects many describe: a sense of community, people bringing me food or helping me move, etc. But there are deeper issues at stake:

At Gracepoint, thinking for yourself is discouraged. In a bible study, I heard one member respond to "How can you believe in something you cannot see?" with, "By listening to authority, by trusting people who are wiser and know more than you." Yet Christianity is deep and complex and requires thought and understanding, not blind following.

Obeying authority is a constant theme. Leaders often quote Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority..." The verse doesn't bother me, but rather the proportion of times this is quoted at Gracepoint compared to other passages, such as those that describe the role of a spiritual leader. For instance, they never quoted 2 Timothy 2:24-26: "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." The congregation is constantly reminded to obey leaders, but the role of leaders as gently correcting and patiently enduring while erring Christians repent of their own volition is unmentioned. This imbalance conveys the sense of being controlled rather than repenting on one's own.

Bible studies are structured rigidly so that multiple interpretations are discouraged. In addition, sin is emphasized while God's love is de-emphasized. Once, in prayer and devotion group, I shared that Hosea 11:1-4 showed me the magnitude of God's love. My leader replied that I should instead think specifically about how to repent. In another bible study, one girl said she thought the passage showed God's love. The leader instead emphasized the sinfulness of the characters in the passage. Later, when I was having dinner one-on-one with the bible study leader, she recalled the discussion and said she thought the girl was wrong in emphasizing God's love, and that we should focus on our sin. This focus on sin and reluctance to allow the congregation to recognize God's love results in a legalistic, Old Testament church experience that centers one's actions entirely on guilt, and creates dependence upon Gracepoint leaders for guidance in all areas of one's life. It breaks my heart that some Gracepoint attendees will only ever experience Old Testament guilt, but none of the New Testament love that comes from Jesus' death for us.

Moreover, hanging out with non-Christians, or even non-Gracepoint Christians, is discouraged, though indirectly and subtly. A Gracepoint member told me she had no non-Christian friends, because "What would [she] talk to them about?" Members occasionally remarked on how "other bible studies" drink alcohol, or how "other churches" were unfriendly and didn't have as many activities. This institutes an us-versus-them mindset, transforming Gracepoint into an exclusive group. Whereas Christianity is about loving other people and not judging them, and emulating Jesus, who actively chose to spend time with prostitutes and tax collectors. This Gracepoint exclusivity is judgmental, and results in members forming an identity that is completely dependent on Gracepoint group identity. E.g., members who sometimes doubted Gracepoint behavior told me they would never consider leaving because "all their friends were at Gracepoint" and they lived with other members so even their housing depended on Gracepoint. Two other members said they would rather spend Christmas with Gracepoint than with family. The subtle discouragement against spending time with non-Gracepoint people results in isolation and total dependence on the church.

I left Gracepoint because as a Christian, it was difficult in such an environment to distinguish between what Gracepoint wanted for me and what God wanted, and my focus should have been on the latter. Leaders would tell me, "My vision for you is that you become a leader in this church." I find that problematic, since I'm concerned with God's vision for me, not another human's vision for me.

So while on the surface, Gracepoint seems like a biblical church, I strongly advise anyone checking it out to 1) think for yourself; 2) attend other churches too and gain experience on the various manifestations of a biblical Christian church, especially if you are new to  Christianity; 3) read the Bible on your own, as verses can be taken out of context or interpreted narrowly. 4) Reconsider whether you are worshipping God or a church. Some church cultures lend themselves too easily to worshipping the church itself rather than God, due to subtly legalistic behavior.

It's too bad that so many one star reviews are hidden. And while I understand reviewers' desire to post anonymously (only having 1 review in that profile), it seems Yelp hides those reviewers more easily. It's actually quite telling that so many are afraid to come out publically with their past experiences of Gracepoint. Don't you think?

If you feel comfortable with it, I encourage you to post a review using your regular Yelp profile so that your review doesn't get hidden and does get factored into the star rating.

You can find all reviews here: https://www.yelp.com/not_recommended_reviews/gracepoint-berkeley-berkeley

Friday, October 7, 2016

What if we asked for our offerings back?

I had a thought the other day. I was wondering what would happen if all of us who were spiritually and/or emotional hurt/damaged/abused by Gracepoint/Berkland asked for our tithes and offerings back.

I did some cursory research and it doesn't seem like churches are legally bound to give offerings back to the giver but it sure would send a loud and clear message if a lot of us did this. Not sure about you but I gave thousands and thousands of dollars to Gracepoint/Berkland. And this was when I was a student.

Of course, I was giving to God, not to Gracepoint/Berkland but it does make me kick myself to know that I was financially supporting the legalistic hierarchy.

Your thoughts?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Love Bombing

Got a comment recently:

Hey John,

Read these articles:

I think it would be useful if you could relate them to your experience and share your conclusion on this blog.

Just Left

From the first article:

Love bombing is an attempt to influence a person by lavish demonstrations of attention and affection. The phrase can be used in different ways. Members of the Unification Church of the United States (who reportedly coined the expression) use or have used it to convey a genuine expression of friendship, fellowship, interest, or concern. Critics of cults use the phrase with the implication that the "love" is feigned and that the practice is psychological manipulation in order to create a feeling of unity within the group against a society perceived as hostile."

While I don't completely agree with the above definition, I can say that from my experience Berkland/Gracepoint definitely encourages the staff to lavish "love" on newcomers and new students. Whether it is genuine or not, is a question for each person. I personally experienced a lot of pressure to "love" freshmen, even if there was no genuine connection between me and the newcomer. When I used to go, each new person was "assigned" to a small group and it was the small group's responsibility to ensure that this new person felt welcomed and loved.

For example, I was told to give a ride to someone who lived in San Francisco during the summer so that this person could come to church. Had I been a stronger person, I probably would have said no. But at the time, I thought that I had to obey everything my leader asked me to do.

As an older student, I felt pressured to get a car, so I could "do ministry." I gave countless rides to the airport, Costco, Target, etc. and to Southern California. Most passengers did not have to decency to offer help to pay for gas.

I helped countless persons move. I've cooked countless meals.

Was this genuine love? Maybe some of it. But not all. We were taught that our feelings didn't matter. What mattered was obedience and sacrifice. If love didn't hurt or cost me something, it wasn't real. This is how we prove our love for Christ, by pouring out our lives for another.

Sounds wonderful.

But when there is so much pressure, it takes away a person's ability to choose to do this on their own. For the Holy Spirit to do the work inside a person's heart. It also takes away gratitude from the receiver. It was almost expected that whatever someone "needed," the person trying to reach out to the newcomer had to fill that need.

I was a recipient of "love bombing" as well. I needed to get a small table but didn't have a car. An older person in my small group had a car but this person didn't really want to give me a ride. The leader told this person to give me a ride. This person was rebuked in front of me for being selfish. Totally shamed. Looking back on it, I feel very bad for this person.

Even though this person and I went together to get the table, the whole experience left a bitter taste in my mouth. To receive from someone who did not want to give. This is not "love."

Monday, June 20, 2016

Have you left Gracepoint recently?

An editor at the Daily Cal is looking to do a story on Gracepoint and is looking for people to interview. If you have left the church recently (Berkeley only, I believe) and are willing to be interviewed (and potentially be cited as a source, not anonymously) please contact Jenny Cain at jcain@dailycal.org.

Please do not leave a comment or ask questions here. Please contact her directly.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gracepoint at UC Davis

This is from a UC Davis Wiki page and is written by "jonwoo"


Since it was on the internet, I hope it is OK that I share it here. The content is good, even though it was from three years ago.

2013-04-10 17:49:39  
I am a former member. I knew most of the reviewers who have posted here personally during my time there. I wholeheartedly agree with what Kevin Yu stated. There are many people that have been hurt by the practices of this church. I’m writing this because I was hurt for many years, both while I was a member and after I left. That part of my story is not unique to myself, many former members have similar experiences. I genuinely hope what I write can help anyone who is currently attending or is a former member or even thinking about going. Please note, that the other reviewers after Kevin’s post talk about how great the church is without directly addressing the many problems he brought up. They may be trying to act Christian and take the high road on a public internet forum. Rest assured, they will likely not discuss or try to address these issue in private either.

They may do some good things, especially to outsiders looking in. So maybe I shouldn’t just make a blanket statement like, don’t go to this church. Rather, I think this is the church for you if:
  • You don’t believe in confidentiality. All the information you write on your reflection sheets are circulated and systematically shared in staff meetings. Keep in mind there is a lot of soft pressure to be as honest and forthcoming as you can on these. Anything you tell your leader gets reported back up the chain so the upper staff knows what you are “struggling with.” Former staff members have confirmed that they had “quotas” to meet in terms of how much they share about their ‘sheep.’ - You have too much time on your hands. Or if you’ve ever sat down and thought, you know, I should be spending every waking free moment of every day doing some kind of church activity. And I’d really like someone to be looking over my shoulder and get on my case if I don’t. - If you truly believe God wants you to be subservient to a church leadership structure, even at the cost of your own mental health. I’m not exaggerating, there are people who left this church that had to seek psychiatric care and medications. - If you’ve ever thought, “Choosing a spouse is hard. Wouldn’t it be easier if there was a committee of church leaders to pick my spouse for me? I’d like it to be a surprise as to who, when and where they decide, without regard to my opinion on who it is. I don’t care if we have any shared interests, personality traits, mutual attraction or compatability, what our families think of each other, etc. After I meet him/her, I’d like to go through an expedited dating process of about a month, and let the leadership make most of the major decisions in regards to when and how our wedding will go.”

Unless of course, the leadership overlooks or forgets about you and/or decide you are not “spiritually ready” to be married. Be ready to be single a long time. Cause you should never make a decision like when or who to date on your own. I can’t make this stuff up, I seriously believe this church on it’s way to starting a monastery.

  • You are ready to sacrifice your career, education, grades and interests if they are perceived to come into conflict with serving the church’s’ interests. I quite literally almost failed out of school due to this church's practices and pressure to attend church activities. - If you think sleeping is for wussies. I got rebuked several times for sleeping too much. I didn’t even know that was possible- I thought when you are hungry, your body is saying you need food. When you are thirsty, your body is telling you to drink something. When you desire love, something like love must exist. But if you feel tired and sleepy, it’s cause you’re a selfish lazy bum that needs rebuking. These rebukes weren’t very consistent either. Later I was rebuked for not being enthusiastic enough at church activities, probably because I wasn’t sleeping enough. - You firmly believe that leaving a church or changing your opinion over time as you grow up is a Cardinal sin. Pay attention to how they talk about former members- most if not all of them were too prideful, too angry, too selfish, too *****. They don’t make it easy to leave, and once you do, it’s a full on character assassination blitz.

When I was a freshman, one of the staff told me, and I'm paraphrasing, "**** is a religion based on fear. Christianity is a religion based on love." Looking back, this seems ironic. When I was there, I remember being afraid a lot. Afraid of being rebuked, of being reported on to the leaders about something, about when or if I would be 'ready to date' in their eyes, if I would have to drop out of school to keep up with all the church activities. In conclusion, I’ve come to terms that in their minds, I will always be in the wrong, because I have challenged the infallible wisdom of the leadership of this church.


There are some other good descriptions of practices that go on at UC Davis Gracepoint Fellowship on the webpage. Seems like a good resource for anyone who is considering going there, is currently going there and am feeling unease, or who is considering leaving, or has left.

Grace to you all.