LTRP Note: The following letter to the editor is in response to an article Lighthouse Trails posted in June of this year titled “A Look at Shiny Happy People and What the Church Can Learn.” It also comes on the heels of the release of a new edition of a book published by Midwest Christian Outreach that was first released twenty years ago. The new edition is called A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and His Cultish Teachings. The book, written by Don and Joy Veinot and Ron Henzel, unfolds the various layers of the teachings of Bill Gothard and IBLP (Institute of Basic Life Principles) that hurt so many well-meaning people. Those unbiblical teachings were not only promoting legalism and cruel authority practices (e.g., “umbrella of protection”), but were misrepresenting the God of the Bible.
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
The Bill Gothard article hits close. That “ministry” has done so much damage. But I have a bittersweet taste for the ministry. God used the seminars as a tool in our family in the ’80s. My parents were under counsel with a local Bible-believing pastor and attending that local church. They were presented with the Gospel by the pastor and other believers, but it was during a seminar that my parents were saved. That is the sweet part of the ministry. I was a young girl at this time.
When I was in high school our family joined [Gothard’s] ATI program. I will forever be grateful that my parents never went down the controlling path. They allowed me to be a free-thinker by reading and thinking through things on my own. When I was around 19 years old, I had finished reading the IBLP [Institute of Basic Life Principles] booklet series on Biblical Counseling. I had some serious red-flags in my spirit. I started questioning everything that was taught by Gothard. The man who was our interim pastor, at the time, met with me and my parents quite frequently to discuss these concerns. It took about three years to sort through the issues, but I could not be part of this “ministry” any longer.
My parents allowed me to write the letter to Gothard and ATI for why we were leaving the program. I thank the Lord frequently that He protected me and my family from what could have even been worse. The theological and doctrinal side of things was bad enough. I still struggle with some of the “stinkin-thinkin” from 20 years ago. Those doctrinal issues sink deep and were ingrained in my thought process. Don Veinot’s book [A Matter of Basic Principles] came out a couple years after leaving ATI, and I appreciated his book then, and now the article in this fall issue of the Lighthouse Trails Research Journal.
Thank you for your and everyone’s work at Lighthouse Trails.
(photo from istockphoto.com; used with permission)