In The Beginning…
I was "born and raised" in a Catholic church. When I was three-and-a-half, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Two years earlier, my mother had begun taking my older brother of two years and I to a Baptist church where a friend of hers also attended. Until I graduated from high school, I went with my family to mass at the Catholic church and to Sunday School at the Baptist church.
When I was 10, I went to summer camp with the kids from the Baptist church. At the end of the week, I remember all of the boys and girls in my age group gathered around a campfire for our last night. When our counselor talked about having Jesus in our hearts and asked if anyone wanted to ask Him into their heart, I stood up and cried. I gave my life to Christ that night, and I was sealed for eternity as a saved child of God; I had a place in Heaven waiting for me when I died. I admit that at that age I didn’t completely understand what it meant to be a Christian, but I did know that God had sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins, and there was no other way to heaven except through Jesus.
I enjoyed my childhood for the most part (despite being sick from Cancer), and I have to admit that my parents did a very good job raising me with the knowledge God gave them and the resources they had available at the time - especially when it came to God. The problems began when I started seeing contradictions in the way my parents taught me to behave and the way my peers treated me. For instance, my parents taught me to love my enemies and treat others as I wanted to be treated, yet I saw my Christian peers being mean not only to myself but also to others in order to gain approval from their friends. They would act one way around their friends but another around their parents and other adults. I did my best to say and do the right thing as God would want me to, but I wasn’t being treated the way I was treating others. As a result, I began to wonder what was wrong with me.
Although I had given my life to Christ, I struggled with what I actually believed based on the actions of other Christians around me and my own personal experiences with life in general:
I believe that I was saved at age 10 even though I danced around with my beliefs about God. I was predestined by God to choose Him, and once I made that choice, I cannot go back. I may disobey God, which will disappoint Him, but He will not take away my salvation. I believe that God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins and that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. You receive God’s gift of grace at the moment you accept Jesus into your heart. God’s Word says it very clearly in Romans 8:28-39 that nothing can separate God’s love from me once I am a child of His.
- Childhood Years – I believed in God with all my heart
- Adolescent Years – I was angry with God for creating me and blamed Him for my Cancer
- College Years – I ignored God and tried to control my life
- Career Years - I love God, God loves me, and we have a deep relationship with each other
I disliked going to church as it had become something I had to do. When I went to college, I became rebellious towards God. After I graduated in 1999, I held onto the control that I thought I had over my life and continued to be obstinate about not going to church. When I got a full-time job teaching high school business classes, I thought that I was finally doing what I always wanted to do and would be happy. But it was quite the opposite. I endured the school year despite the extremely poor behavior of my students and the stress from my co-workers and job. Throughout my first year of teaching, it never occurred to me to turn to God for support, even when I almost had a nervous breakdown. I thank God for getting me through the year even though I hadn’t reached out to Him. That year was definitely a "Footprints" time in my life.
At my mother’s persistence, she helped me find a church while I was teaching, but I soon began to have doubts about the sincerity of the Christian lives of my new friends. I remembered how cruel my peers, especially the Christian ones, in junior and senior high school had treated me. When my contract wasn’t renewed at the end of the school year due to a cutback in teachers, I had mixed emotions about leaving my new church and friends. I moved back in with my parents for a month while I searched for a new job and did not attend church. In July of 2001, I signed a contract job with State Farm Corporate offices and moved out of town. My mother visited me regularly and was again persistent that I find a church. I finally settled on a small Church of Christ and joined their only Small Group. By late fall, I had become bored and felt like I just didn’t fit in. I was back to square one and had a decision to make: stay in church and be bored, or quit going to church altogether again. I began to analyze my walk with God. What I came up with was that I didn't have one! My walk with God was my same approach to exercise: I wanted to lose weight, but I didn't want to exercise. I wanted to have a relationship with God, but I didn't want to get up every Sunday morning and go to church. I also didn’t want to be hurt by new friends, and felt that if I just avoided church altogether I could avoid future hurt feelings.
On the weekend of Veterans Day in 2001, my mother informed me that she was in a Bible study called Weigh Down Advanced. It was founded by Gwen Shamblin and based out of Franklin, Tennessee, near Nashville. My mother had just gotten back from a trip to South Bend, Indiana, with a group of local women who had gone to one of Mrs. Shamblin’s seminars. My mother was excited about hearing Mrs. Shamblin’s answers to the problems in the church. She was planning to return to Indiana the next day with the same group of women in order to attend a worship service where she was considering getting baptized. I shrugged it off and didn’t think much more about the Bible study until Christmas.
While visiting my parents one weekend in December of 2001, my mother asked for my opinion on purchasing a speakerphone. Out of fear that I would think she was silly, she refused to tell me why. Several days later, she finally admitted that she had been attending church in the home of an old friend and that they needed the speakerphone for a conference-call worship service. I also learned that Gwen Shamblin was the founder of this new church called Remnant Fellowship, which she had started in 1999. The main “church,” located in Franklin, Tennessee, is also known as Remnant Nashville. Members of the smaller “churches,” known as Local Remnants, met in homes throughout the world each Sunday to worship. The names of the Local Remnants were based on the name of the town where they gathered such as Remnant New York, Remnant Oklahoma, and Remnant Houston. Usually one Local Remnant would call another Local Remnant and have worship together over the speakerphone.
Although my mother had claimed that she had lost weight with Weigh Down and she seemed much happier than she had before attending the Remnant Fellowship worship services, I was hesitant to even consider the Bible study or the home church. I believed that Weigh Down was just another fad diet program, and that eventually, my mother would see it for just that and move on. By the end of December, I was starting to get worried about her as the church and Bible study were all she talked about. I wondered if this new church was a cult. However, I did not believe that the woman whose home my mother was going to for church would be involved in a cult, much less the leader of one locally, so I decided to attend a worship service at her house on December 30, 2001, just to see what my mother was involved in.
I was blown away by the warmth in which I was received, although there were only three of us in attendance: my mother, my mother’s friend (considered Leadership of the Local Remnant), and myself. Worship service started with an opening prayer where we were all to pray aloud when it was our turn, followed by singing worship songs from CDs and sharing Scripture that God had shown us. We had communion of grape juice and a cracker, and then the service ended with another public prayer before we were "dismissed." I felt very accepted and enjoyed church for once, even though it lasted a good two hours and it was unlike any church I had ever attended. I started driving the hour to my hometown every weekend so I could attend the home church on Sunday morning. This became a routine, and for once, I looked forward to the weekends so I could go to church. I must admit that even though I enjoyed this new time with my parents and in church, there were several times that I had wished I had had a weekend to myself.
In January 2002, our Local Remnant received five new members, including three children, bringing our membership to eight. In 1999, Gwen Shamblin, David Martin, and their families (also eight members) had left their church in order to form Remnant Fellowship. They chose Noah’s Ark as a symbol to remind them of the eight righteous people saved from the Flood as God’s remnant. On numerous occasions, Gwen repeatedly compared the original eight members of Remnant Fellowship to those eight righteous people on the Ark. As we continued to worship with other Local Remnants through conference-calls, I was excited to hear from others who were worshipping God with all their hearts and only wanted to obey and serve Him. An interesting note was the lack of male representation in our local group; neither my father, nor any of the other women’s husbands wanted anything to do with Remnant Fellowship - they were content with their own churches, or lack-there-of in some cases.
I also began attending a Weigh Down Advanced class in my town. After some frustration with the women in my group, I finished the last three weeks on my own. Since I hadn’t gotten used to listening to the corresponding cassettes and I was missing the weekly exposure to the videos, I began to get depressed. I began to doubt that I was worthy of God’s love, especially since I wasn’t losing any more weight and my work situation seemed to go from bad to worse. What was I doing wrong? My situation was obviously very serious to the others in the Local Remnant as they convinced me to leave work on May 3, 2002, and drive to my hometown to have a private conference call with a member of authority in Remnant Nashville. We sat in our Leader’s living room for several hours, and although I didn’t say much, my feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness began to dissipate. I felt there was hope and that maybe God hadn’t given up on me yet.
On May 20th, I started attending a new series of Weigh Down Advanced classes at our Leader’s home, along with all of the other members of our Local Remnant and two non-Remnant members. After the class, our local Remnant discussed how we were going to commemorate the Passover feast. Remnant Nashville had celebrated it in March during the actual time of Passover, but we had kept postponing our feast due to the entire Local Remnant not being available at the same time until then. This was also the first of several times that I was confronted about my continual sinning, lack of weight loss, and rebellion to authority, all of which was obvious to only our Leader and one other adult female member. I was asked if I thought some people placed Gwen too high on a pedestal and gave her too much praise. When I answered, "Yes," I was accused of being uncertain of Gwen’s message, which was essentially God’s message. Therefore I was committing the ultimate sin – rejecting God.
Over the next several months, my mother and I were often confronted about our consistent sinning that was only visible to our Leader and the only other adult female in our Local Remnant at that time (the fourth adult female left on her own accord during this time period). The two women tried to convince my mother and I that we were deliberately not seeing our sin and were hiding the truth from our hearts. As a result, we were going to ruin the Remnant church and would cause the rest of the members of Remnant Fellowship to go to Hell if we didn’t confess, repent, and start obeying God 100% right away. When we apologized for any sins that we had committed, we were told we weren’t being sincere; if we were sincere, we wouldn’t continue to sin. The "evidence" of my sins was my failure to lose more weight and the strong relationship I still had with my mother.
I need to back up for a moment to explain a crucial factor that partially determined my membership in Remnant Fellowship. In March 2002 my brother’s upcoming wedding in September 2002 became a concern of our Local Remnant. Finally, in June, we were advised to call Nashville Leadership for permission to attend the wedding. Since I was to be a bridesmaid, it was questionable if I should even be in the wedding as the ceremony was being performed in a "counterfeit" church (any church in which its members did not lay down all of their sins and obey God 100%). In addition, there were several events leading up to the wedding that were controversial: a local tradition of a Stag/Stagette fundraiser party for the newlywed’s honeymoon, the Bridal Shower, the Bachelorette Party, and the wedding reception. Despite Gwen’s prior approval in December of 2001 that my mother could attend the wedding as an invited guest, our Local Remnant argued that my mother and I should no longer assume that we could attend. When we countered that some of the Local Remnant members had recently gone to their own family weddings in "counterfeit" churches, we were told, "That was before and things have changed."
No mention was ever made about the fact that my brother and his fiancée were not members of Remnant Fellowship, although they were Christians. What only seemed to matter was the church they were being married in and the fact that the events leading up to the wedding occurred on the same weekends as Remnant Fellowship events. The failure to discuss the non-membership of my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law was surprising due to the pressure from Remnant Leadership that Remnant members break off relationships with family and friends who rejected Gwen’s message of "truth." Therefore, Leadership determined what was and was not okay for themselves and for everyone else. Since the wedding events were on the same weekends of Remnant Fellowship events, my mother and I had to choose which were more important to us. We were being tested to see what we would do. Which would we attend, and why? It was made clear to us that if my mother and I were to attend my brother’s wedding, we might be sinning. This news devestated both my mother and I, as well as caused heated discussions and feelings of anger and hurt in my family.
In June 2002, I became a Coordinator for the Weigh Down: Exodus Out of Egypt series – the original series that Gwen Shamblin had started back in the mid-1990s. Not only was I now driving to my hometown for worship services on Sundays and Weigh Down Advanced classes on Mondays, I was also hosting a two-hour class in my apartment once a week. I was becoming a dedicated member of Remnant Fellowship, and I walked on egg shells to make sure I was doing everything just right to please God. Remnant Nashville had also changed the set up of the conference calls for worship service: we were all now required to call in to Remnant Nashville and their band would play songs (which we could only listen to, not sing along with), Gwen would preach, and then the phone lines would be opened up to anyone who needed to repent of their sins and ask for forgiveness. Church had definitely changed since I had started attending almost six months earlier.
The Great Escape…
On July 8th, 2002, I drove to my hometown after work as I had done for the previous eight weeks to attend Weigh Down Advanced class. The evening turned into a courtroom trial with my mother and I as the defendants and our Leader and the other adult female member as the judges. Over the course of the next six hours, we were accused of things we had not done, sins we had not committed, and lies we had not told. When we denied the accusations, we were told we were lying to ourselves. We were then accused of rejecting authority because we were questioning our Leader’s honesty. Previous sins that both my mother and I had repented of were brought up again and again. It was obvious to me that our judges were grasping at straws, trying to find something to accuse us of to make us look like the evil sinners, the godless people who "just didn’t get it" and needed to be publicly corrected. I’m not claiming that my mother and I were or are sinless, but there just wasn’t anything that our judges could find that we had done recently that needed correction. They themselves claimed to be sinless at the moment, so using their theory that you could be completely without sin, why wasn’t it possible that my mother and I could be, too? The Remnant Fellowship answer for me? Because I was still overweight, and since your weight reflects your obedience to God (according to Gwen), I must obviously still be sinning.
As the judgment continued, I could feel the anger rising up inside me. At one time, I was accused of being too quiet. I tried to explain that when I said something I was criticized because I didn’t say the right thing, and when I said nothing I was criticized for being too quiet. No matter what I did, it wasn’t right and it didn’t please our judges. Their response was that I didn’t need to please man but God, and that I was hiding my sins from my heart by saying I was confused, just like my mother when she had claimed to be confused. Therefore, I was rejecting God. I was then read several verses of Scripture (which I don’t remember which ones they were) that "proved" I was godless and resisting authority. When the group decided to pray for guidance, I refused to pray aloud. I was so filled with anger and felt like I was on the verge of throwing up that I kept my mouth shut and prayed silently for God to deliver me from this evil. Eventually, our Leader continued praying and apologized to God for my being so rude to Him by not praying aloud.
I had the opportunity three times during the evening to leave, but for some reason I was unable to do it. Maybe it was the fear that I would go to Hell if I left because I would be rejecting the "truth" that Gwen said was from God, the "truth" that Remnant Fellowship represented. Or maybe I was afraid to leave my mother all alone with the lions in the lions’ den, even though God was in control. Quite possibly I remained only because of the Holy Spirit’s leading; if I had left, I would not have seen how horrible it could be in our Local Remnant (and Remnant Fellowship as a whole). I would have continued my weekly trips for worship services and Bible studies, allowing myself to be humliated over and over again even though I was innocent. In any case, I remained and subjected myself to more accusations of lies and condemnation. Before my mother and I were finally allowed to leave, our Leader reiterated her main point of our "discussion" for the night: my mother and I were still purposefully sinning and we’d be lucky if we got another chance to "get it right" with God; we were not being asked to leave the "church" yet, but eventually we would be if we didn’t "straighten up."
After a short prayer, my mother and I were informed that we were to have a 30-day fast from each other: we were not to speak to each other in person or on the phone, not send each other E-mails, and could only be together at worship service on Sundays, Weigh Down Advanced classes on Mondays, and any other Remnant Fellowship-related events. This "people-fast" was an attempt to break the "stronghold" between my mother and I: our Local Remnant believed that the relationship my mother and I shared was causing each of us to sin; if we did not have contact with each other, we would stop sinning. As I was leaving, I was told to read the book of Jude and put my name in there because I was the "godless" person in the Local Remnant church. When I left, my mother was still talking to the rest of the Local Remnant. I wanted to drive back home, but I had to spend the night at my parents’ home because I needed gas. Before I went to bed, I quickly read the book of Jude, inserting my name. I was scared of what I read; I was a horrible person and I was ruining the church. Local Remnant Leadership was right, I was wrong, and I was probably going to Hell. My mother was in the kitchen when I woke up the next morning, but I left without speaking to her.
I made it back home in one piece despite the little sleep I had gotten and all of the questions that were running through my mind. I lasted thirty minutes at work before I went home sick. After several hours of sleep, I made a phone call to the second woman who had judged me the night before; she encouraged me to keep doing God’s will because I "could do this. " I then sent two apologetic E-mails to her and another member asking for forgiveness and trying to explain what was going on in my head. I carbon-copied my mother on both E-mails because I wanted to include all of the Local Remnant in my public confession. I then called our Local Remnant Leader. I did not know what to say to her, but felt that I needed to call her and felt that she expected me to, as she had in the past. She instructed me to call her back when I did know what I wanted to say; there was no loving encouragement. We did talk for a few minutes about the Weigh Down class I was coordinating, and it was decided that I should cancel my Weigh Down class, at least until I could figure out where I stood with God. If my heart wasn’t right with Him, how could I be a good representative for Him to the people attending the class, who were also not part of Remnant Fellowship? Our call ended shortly thereafter and I was a mess for the rest of the evening. I still felt sick and exhausted, and I hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours. My stomach constantly rumbled, which didn’t help my nausea, and I could hear it as well as feel it when I tried to sleep. This was definitely not the "hunger growl" that Gwen talked about in the Weigh Down series.
I was not looking forward to being at work on Wednesday for eight hours with unresolved issues and a very upset stomach. Shortly after 7:00 AM, one of my co-workers showed up at my desk to ask me a question and I broke down crying. It took several minutes, but I was able to explain what was wrong. She had no prior knowledge of Remnant Fellowship other than what I had told her on previous occasions and from what I told her that morning. Based on only what I had told her, she drew her own conclusions that I was involved in a cult and that the only answer for me was to get out - now. I swallowed my pride and made the decision that I had wanted to make for the past seven months, specifically during the six hours of judgment and condemnation on Monday: I was leaving Remnant Fellowship. My initial reason for leaving was to escape the emotional and spiritual torture I endured from our Leader and the other woman who had judged my mother and I. Later, after doing much praying, soul-searching, and information gathering, I realized that the problems did not just exist in our little Local Remnant. They started at the top with Gwen Shamblin and trickled their way down the line of authority – the supposed "plumb line" – to those in power at lower levels. We were so secluded from the rest of the other Local Remnants and especially Remnant Nashville that I just didn’t see that there were bigger problems all around us.
I immediately felt an immense burden lift off of my shoulders. I felt peace despite the tears streaming down my face. I could finally talk to people about the emotional torture I had been going through! I had wanted to talk to someone, anyone, outside of Remnant Fellowship about what I had experienced for the past seven months. Although I had never been ordered not to talk to anyone outside of Remnant Fellowship, I had been told that outsiders "would not understand" us because "the veil was still down over their eyes" and they’d see Remnant Fellowship as a cult. The manipulation had worked. I was scared into not talking to anyone about Remnant except in the positive (e.g., how wonderful it was to have found the perfect church, to lose weight, etc.). I made several phone calls that day to family members, including leaving a voice mail message to my mother, to apologize for how I had acted and treated them and to inform them that I had left the cult known as Remnant Fellowship.
Although I never got a return phone call from my mother, I did receive a two-part E-mail from her apologizing for her sins, addressed to our Local Remnant and several members of authority in Remnant Nashville. I also got a harsh E-mail from the second woman who had judged us – she was now condemning my mother and I for having sent each other copies of our E-mails as we were supposed to be having a people-fast for 30 days and there was to be no contact whatsoever between us. Neither my mother or I knew that we could not include each other on Remnant E-mails! I was then given 17 words I needed to look up definitions for (this was for a "pop quiz" God would "most certainly" give me on Judgment Day) and rebuked for being such a terrible sinner. The next morning, I received an almost identical E-mail from the Local Remnant Leader, although she denied knowing that the other woman was going to send an E-mail and what she was going to say. It is my belief that the two women had discussed their E-mails in detail with each other as they had both admitted on Monday, the final "night of judgment," that they would call each other after every Monday night meeting to discuss the continuous sins my mother and I were making and hiding at that time. I also received another E-mail from the second woman, this time filled with encouragement and loving correction – quite the opposite of her attacking E-mail she had sent the night before.
I had a sudden fear that I had made a horrible mistake in leaving Remnant Fellowship, so I immediately went to my knees in my bedroom and started praying. I cried as I asked God to show me that I had done the right thing by leaving and that my doing so was not turning my back on Him. I soon remembered that He has always been with me, He is still with me, and He will never leave me. My eternity with God has been secure since I was 10 when I accepted Him into my heart, even if I had just left Gwen’s "one, true church" (Remnant Fellowship). I also realized that I had been trying to please the people of the church and not God in my words and deeds. I knew that I could not be perfect, and although they refuse to admit it, the members of Remnant Fellowship cannot be either. I can strive for perfection, but I would never get there until I die and go to Heaven because only God is perfect.
On that Thursday I met with a guy at work who helped reinforce my decision to leave Remnant Fellowship. He isn’t a pastor, but he has had a lot of biblical background and was a great help in confirming that Remnant Fellowship sounded very much like a cult. He also encouraged me to find a new church home where I could continue to worship God. Finding a church is always hard, even more so in a large city. This task was especially hard for me with my history of church-jumping. One of my first worries after deciding to leave Remnant Fellowship had been just that – where do I go to church now if all of the other churches teach a "false grace" message? Was there a "good enough" church out there where I would feel accepted and not condemned for my humanness?
That coming weekend was my brother’s fundraiser party for his wedding. I went to my hometown on Friday and ended up talking with my father for over two hours about my involvement in what I now considered a cult. We discussed my mother’s involvement, too, as she had just left that evening for one of Gwen Shamblin’s Rebuilding The Wall Tours in Milwaukee. I had not eaten all week due to developing a severe case of acid indigestion from all of the stress, and the constant growling of my stomach had kept me up every night. It was so bad that I almost called the doctor because of the extreme discomfort I was feeling and the lack of sleep and food I was getting. I was worried that I was really sick. However, just talking with my father made me feel better. That Saturday, I spent the day helping my brother set up for the party and was able to attend that night with a clear conscience. I enjoyed all of the wonderful food and fellowship, finally able to live life again without fear.
I drove back home on Sunday morning, intent on trying out a new church. My biggest fear was that I wasn’t going to be able to find a place where I felt comfortable. I had arranged to meet the guy from work at the Baptist church he attended, and was immediately welcomed with open arms. I was extremely nervous about the different perspective on God’s Word, but I had an open mind and an open heart, willing to accept whatever God was telling me. During worship service, it was so wonderful to be able to sing Christian songs again, and not ones that were played over a speakerphone where we couldn’t sing along to them. I could believe how much I enjoyed the ability to just praise God and worship Him in my own way without having to be criticized for everything I say and do.
Over the next month after my departure from Remnant Fellowship, my mother and I rarely talked and only swapped E-mails once or twice. She did invite me to dinner one Sunday with her and my father. To say the least, the tension was thick and I couldn’t wait to go back home. The conversations we did have seemed to revolve around the happenings in our Local Remnant. I had started researching Gwen Shamblin, Weigh Down Workshop, and Remnant Fellowship the Sunday after I had left. I was surprised at how much information there was out on the Internet against the Bible study program and the church. The proof that it was indeed a cult, despite Gwen’s constant denial, was indisputable. I mentioned a few of my findings to my mother after dinner, which got her questioning me about my sources. I kept telling her it was all on the Internet, she just had to look for it - and she had to be willing to look for it with an open mind. I told her that Gwen was paranoid about the negative information on the Internet against her, and that she feared her followers would leave her church if they read any of it. There was no slander, as Gwen had claimed, only pages and pages of truth – many in noteworthy newspapers and magazines, as well as personal testimonies of those who had been involved in Weigh Down and Remnant Fellowship but had "seen the light."
Eventually, my insistence that my mother should research the information on her own and search her heart and soul with the help of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word (without Gwen’s twisted interpretations) paid off. A week before Labor Day 2002, my mother informed me that God had shown her that Gwen’s message was not His Truth, and that she had made the decision to leave Remnant Fellowship. And just in time as Labor Day weekend was the next Remnant Fellowship gathering in Nashville. I was so relieved that my mother was not going and happy that we were both able to attend my now sister-in-law’s Bridal Shower with pure hearts instead of Remnant-influenced ones. I was also glad that I was no longer a member of Remnant Fellowship as I was able to attend my future sister-in-law’s Bachelorette Party that night – one of the main topics of controversy in our Local Remnant during the previous months. The wedding the following month was beautiful, and I was so happy that both my mother and I could be a part of it without any hard feelings about the "counterfeit" church we were in. In fact, nothing about Remnant Fellowship crossed my mind that night.
A Clearer Understanding…
Since leaving Remnant Fellowship, God has convicted me to forgive not only those who have hurt me in Remnant Fellowship, but also those who have hurt me in my past (specifically my peers), those who hurt me today, and those who will hurt me in my future. When Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus replied, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Until I forgive those who hurt me, I cannot be forgiven myself: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15) I also realized after Remnant Fellowship that I was emotionally abused by the Leader of our Local Remnant, as well as by the other adult female who had also judged my mother and I, both of whom were under the authority of Gwen Shamblin at "headquarters" in Franklin, Tennessee. After my mother and I left Remnant Fellowship, we found out that there were increasing problems with our Local Remnant as well as other Local Remnants across the world. I do know that the Local Remnant my mother and I were involved in is still intact and only three of the original members (my mother, myself, and another woman) have left.
Unfortunately, I only met Gwen Shamblin once, in February 2002, during the weekend our Local Remnant spent there. The majority of my exposure to Remnant Fellowship was through our Local Remnant. I do not know if Gwen or anyone else in Remnant Nashville knew what had happened in our group over the months that my mother and I were involved, and if so, if they were told the truth. I also joined a large number of Remnant members in Kokomo, Indiana, in May 2002, for a weekend of fellowship and a conference-call worship service with Remnant Nashville.
I will admit that I wasn’t perfect and probably did deserve some correction during my seven-month stint in Remnant Fellowship. As I’ve said before, I’m human, and I will continue to make mistakes until the day I die a physical death. But when I mess up, I try very quickly to stop, repent, and learn from my mistakes. However, no matter how horrible my mistakes may be, they do not justify any of the actions the Local Remnant took to correct my mother and I, especially when we were innocent of their specific accusations.
As I look back now on the seven months of my involvement in Remnant Fellowship, I cannot say why and how I fell for the lies. No one ever sets out to join a cult. Anyone is susceptible to mind control if it is applied in a sugar-coated way, as it was and continues to be in Remnant Fellowship. Even strong Christians who are in the Word can be enticed if they are approached in just the right way. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit was I able to see the Truth of God and leave the cult. By the time I made this decision, I was exhausted - physically, emotionally, and spiritually – and I was ready to just give up. Then I realized that’s all I ever had to do – to cast all my cares on my Lord (Psalms 55:22). And when I finally did, He rescued me. The time I was involved in Remnant Fellowship was definitely another period where there was only one pair of footprints in the sand!
I am glad that God allowed me to experience Remnant Fellowship so that I could find and develop a relationship with Him. Even though I was in a constant emotional battle for my seven months in membership, I thank the Lord that He brought me through it, as He always does. Although I was tempted by evil to stay in Remnant Fellowship and remain under the control of Local Remnant Leadership and Gwen Shamblin, God never allowed me to be tempted by more than He knew I could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even though my mother and I are out, there are hundreds of others in Local Remnants all around the world who are still involved in Remnant Fellowship. Although some have left over the past year, more continue to join this cult as they are deceived by Gwen Shamblin and others of "authority" in Remnant Nashville with promises of perfection and blessings from God.
Intentional or not, mind control is a big issue in Remnant Fellowship. It is used to scare people into joining and staying in the group. According to Gwen, if you don't leave your own church - the "counterfeit" church - and join Remnant Fellowship, you'll go to Hell because you're being disobedient since Remnant Fellowship is the only "true" church; if you leave Remnant Fellowship you'll go to Hell because you're being disobedient to God by going back to the "counterfeit" church. In other words, only those who are in Remnant Fellowship and have laid down all of their idols and are being 100% obedient to God will go to Heaven. Members are convinced to cut off relationships with non-Remnant family and friends, to look to Gwen for approval and guidance, to lose all of their excessive weight in order to prove to God that they are obedient to Him, to not look at anything negative against Remnant Fellowship, to not question anything anyone in authority says, and to confess their own sins as well as rebuke their brother or sister in Christ in front of the entire congregation so that they will learn to "love correction" (this was done numerous times to my mother and me in our local Remnant; self-confession was always included in the Sunday worship services, at least until the time I left). If you cannot follow Gwen's rules (which she claims are God's rules), you are "removed" from Remnant Fellowship, either by force or by being convinced you cannot "get it" after a lengthy period of time and you leave on your own accord. Gwen continues to deny that they have forced anyone out, although there is growing evidence of this fact.
I hope this testimony has given you a glimpse of not only how religion has played so far in my life, but also how I was affected by a cult called Remnant Fellowship. I urge you to search the web if you or anyone you know, especially family and friends, are involved in Remnant Fellowship, any of the Weigh Down Workshop classes, or are looking into joining any of these programs. In 1 John 4:1-3, the Apostle John encourages us, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
I am not saying that Gwen Shamblin is evil, but she is being used as a tool by evil to spread lies about God (He is not the big CEO who is afraid that His "employees" will take over Heaven because He’s constantly out of the office, which is who Gwen tells everyone God is in her Weigh Down Advanced videos). If you have questions, you should be able to ask them, and you should be able to try to understand what you don’t know. Any person or group that refuses to answer questions or explain their doctrines is mostly likely hiding something. Always be aware of what you hear. Test the spirits, as the Bible instructs us to do. And don’t forget to pray!
I will leave you with a few observations of my experience in Remnant Fellowship.
At the Remnant Fellowship Gathering of Saints in Nashville, Tennessee in February 2002:
At the Remnant Fellowship Gathering of Saints in Kokomo, Indiana in May 2002:
- Submission to authority (children to parents, wives to their husbands, the younger Remnant Fellowship members to the older Remnant Fellowship members, and all Remnant Fellowship members to Remnant Fellowship Leadership) was an unbreakable rule as this represented our submission to God’s authority. The line was plumb (Isaiah 28:16-18) when all obeyed those above them, and ultimately Gwen. If you did not submit to your higher authority, you were committing one of the greatest sins – disobeying God – and rejecting authority which ultimately meant you were rejecting God.
- The submissive-role of the wife was strongly emphasized in Remnant Fellowship. In the beginning, the women were to always obey their husbands, even if they were not members of Remnant Fellowship. Later the rule would be changed that women were to obey their husbands until their husbands refused them permission to attend Remnant events - then the wife could say that the husband was standing in the way of God's will, which gave her the "right" to disobey her husband.
- I was astonished to see the size of Gwen’s home, as well as the size of the homes of most of the employees of the Weigh Down Workshop (who were also all members of Remnant Fellowship). Remnant Fellowship, the main church, is funded by the income of the Weigh Down Workshop. As a result, money is as free-flowing in Remnant Nashville as milk and honey are in the Promised Land (e.g., the young newlywed couple who were the chaperones/hostesses for our group of 20 at lunch on Saturday picked up the entire bill - a minimum of $200).
- Gwen commanded us to get down on our faces – or as close to it as possible – when praying to show our submission to God, as if God would not think our prayers were sincere if we weren’t prostrate before Him.
- Gwen focused on the Scripture that showed us how full of self (sin) we were, what our purpose on Earth really was (to obey God), and how we could fix the mess we had gotten ourselves into (die to ourselves completely – if we gave up all of our idols, we would become sinless). I cannot remember her sharing any Scripture on Jesus or on God’s love – it was all about how horrible we were and if we didn’t get rid of our sin immediately we were going to go to Hell.
- Gwen impressed upon us that is was possible to become sinless – perfect – if only we would give up all of our idols (e.g., money, food, our families, our jobs, etc., - basically anything that got in the way of giving our entire devotion to God). Gwen, as well as several of the authority figures (Leadership) in Nashville, considered themselves to be perfect and without sin. The evidence of this sinlessness was "permanent" weight loss, "cured" diseases (e.g., eating disorders, alcoholism, drug use, and pornography), saved marriages, 100% obedient children, and financial blessings.
- Gwen uses the scripture Mark 7:14-23 to reason why we can eat anything we want - that all foods are 'clean': "'Are you so dull?' [Jesus] asked. 'Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.' (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean.')." She ignores the context of the scripture and that this verse is actually referring to the fact that the Jews could eat foods that their customs claimed that they could not for religious reasons...not that we can eat Twinkies and Dingdongs to our delight, as long as we've got "stomach hunger."
- Gwen uses Titus 1:15 – "To the pure, all things are pure…" to explain why it is okay to listen to secular music, read secular books, and watch secular movies - even if they were offensive in any way.
- Some members called Gwen a prophetess. Whatever Gwen said went because she backed everything up with Scripture; her interpretation of the Scripture was "revealed to her" by God. Gwen did not deny this title, as she proclaimed that she was chosen by God to deliver the real "truth" and to gather God’s faithful remnant (hence the name of the church).
- Children 4 years old and up were required to sit silently during all worship services (which lasted anywhere from 2-4 hours).
- Originally, Gwen had said she thought there probably were other churches, besides Remnant Fellowship, which were "true" churches. Over the next few months, her opinion changed: Remnant Fellowship was the only "true" church and all other churches were "counterfeit."
- The concept of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – did not exist because the word "trinity" was not in the Bible and it was invented by men in the Third or Fourth Century.
- Others of "leadership" standing used Gwen’s logic of Titus 1:15 – "To the pure, all things are pure…" to condone violence in children's playing. As long as they have "pure hearts," it's okay because they know the difference between real and pretend (e.g., a brother knows he’s not really hurting his sister when he shoots her with a toy gun). This type of playing will not influence their minds in the future (e.g., the young brother will not use a real gun when he becomes a man) because the children are being brought up in Remnant homes.
- On the drive home, our Local Remnant leader informed my mother and I of some Christian songs that we were not to listen to anymore, specifically Above All, Amazing Love, and Come, Now Is The Time To Worship. These were prime examples of the "false grace message" that "counterfeit" churches preached, according to Gwen. The list grew over the next month and eventually only those Christian songs which the Remnant Fellowship band in Nashville played or the Christian songs on the Remnant Fellowship CDs were authorized as "okay" to listen to.
- I found out I was always responsible for correcting others, especially people younger than me, even if they were complete strangers, because that was my job as a true Christian in Remnant Fellowship (although this rule was used against me at a later date when a younger member was encouraged to correct me for a sin I had not committed).
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- I later realized that Gwen believed that Jesus and the Holy Spirit did exist, but they were not also God. According to Gwen, Jesus was the firstborn of those who totally obeyed God, and the Holy Spirit is actually "God’s will." I highly disagree with this concept and truly believe that Jesus is God, as is the Holy Spirit; they are three persons/entities within one God-head.
- Your weight reflected your obedience to God – if you had 40 pounds to lose and you weren’t losing it, you were greedy and being disobedient to God by idolizing food; if you lost all of your excess weight, this was proof that you were obeying God and He would reward you in turn for your obedience. Therefore, if you weren’t being rewarded, you weren’t obeying God. Gwen, and other members of Remnant Fellowship, describe the "fruits of the Spirit" as weight loss and financial blessings, among other material possessions and accomplishments despite what Galatians 5:22-23 says – "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
- More women are drawn to Remnant Fellowship than men because they use the Weigh Down products to lose weight and are then pulled into the promise of the "perfect church." As a result, marriages are stressed because the wives and children are members of Remnant Fellowship and husbands are not.
- Many families have recently been dropping their entire lives and moving to live near Gwen Shamblin in Franklin, Tennessee. As a result, families have been split apart in these cases. The rule has been strongly impressed upon the minds of the members of Remnant Fellowship that anyone, particularly family, that is not a member of Remnant Fellowship is "disowned." Adults have stopped talking to their parents and refuse to let them see the grandkids because of Remnant’s rules. College students and young adults have also stopped talking to their parents.
For more specific information on Remnant Fellowship, Weigh Down Workshop, and cults in general, please visit the following websites. In addition to very detailed explanations of the detriment of these groups, there are other references listed on these sites for further information on the programs used to lure members into Remnant and other cults.
Do you need help getting a loved out of Remnant Fellowship or Weigh Down, or just want to talk to someone about more information on these cultic associations? Drop us an E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God bless you, and thank you for taking the time to read my spiritual life-story thus far!