Firstly, you couldn’t find a more committed congregation than MCF (Melbourne Christian Fellowship). Lovely people. At every event. Every Bible Study. Every working bee.
Great camaraderie. Great culture.
Except we were all hideously constrained.
We are a couple that loved the Lord and His word, and the restorationist word of early MCF and its source, Bethel Temple and others. ‘The priesthood of all believers’. The joining of clergy and the congregation. The Body of Christ. The hope of unity.
As the cultish control came in via Vic Hall’s new theology, in 1992-ish, the first thing to go was ‘priesthood of all believers’. Vic Hall and his minions couldn’t have the messiness of individuals ministering to each other!
It was really sad.
The homegroups and communion service became either hugely scripted or handed only to ultra-trusted Yes Men (some of whom were very good and entertaining preachers and teachers mind you).
All long us men were being psychologically abused by the elders and, in some cases,, undoubtedly, the women by their husbands. After all, Vic’s messenger word gave license for an expectation of unrealistic obedience by the one you were ‘head of’. Undoubtedly.
But all along, we could see how arbitrary it was. It just depended on how your elder saw it in those early days. And he couldn’t change his mind on it. Once he’d made his decision that you were a ‘farmer, not a prophet‘, or ‘a slave = employee not a master = business owner‘, that was it.
It was so literal. And felt like forever.
And in my case, it was forever.
Although they relaxed somewhat after 2010-ish and let us try out our ideas, they never apologized and my doable entrances into business were gone a long time ago. The internet was now a tough place. And the elders still saw me as unsettled. So we were black-listed. But you could never actually talk about it.
It felt very lonely and I thought of myself as very evil for wanting to do things that the elders had ‘named‘ me not to do. Even after they relaxed control.
It took another decade for me to feel unconstrained and free.
And, back at church, there was zero room for the sort of scholarship I could contribute or for non-experts at the new lingo.
Careful study of the foundations of Vic’s stuff? None of that. Was what Vic was saying really Scriptural? Really ready for putting into practice? It wasn’t. But anyone who dared question it got sidelined like Jeff Hammond, Phil Baird and to a lesser extent my father Charles and I.
But as we watched the Yes Men use the MCF lingo so effortlessly, we knew there was no room for us. I just couldn’t have sold my soul to that unchecked word while up on the pulpit (or been able to keep up with it, it hardly made sense). But neither was I ready to give up on the dream.
So, only the smooth talkers could do it. It’s true. Only those who could keep up with those Vic Hall books AND talk touchy feely stuff could contribute.
A lot of it sounded so true.
Rick Jackson and Jona Wills and Helen Holland and Richie Kaa could just out-gun us every time so we just had to accept that we’d been superseded by these preachers kids before we ever got our mouths open. And they lived it too. BUt somehow always scored every opportunity to shine it must be said.
We actually just wanted to help and be part of it. But there simply was no venue for stuttering scholars at MCF.
It just felt so sad that there was no room for people like us to contribute. Slow to speak, a little less entertaining, less fluffy and more scholarship.
And it takes all types surely?
We need the Tyndales and Whitcliffs and Kevin Connors today, just as much as the Billy Grahams and the Brian Houstons.
But who’s going to listen to them?
Of course, in the end, the MCF stuff was fluffy garbage and worse. Endlessly attacking any form of independent ministry or living from one angle to another for 25 years.
And when I finally got time to carefully study it, I did indeed find it to have essentially no Scriptural basis, either theologically or narratively.
The early church just didn’t live that way.
Vic’s gospel is a false and dangerous gospel. But we whipped ourselves about it for 25 years.
I can feel the marks.