by Bob Ladwig
A breif history of the Twelve Tribes cultic movement:
Elbert Eugene Spriggs aka Yoneq--one-time carnival barker now "super apostle" of Messianic Communities (Rick Ross institute)
Of all the groups I have come accross I have unique disgust for the Twelve Tribes cult. I by no means will make a whole hearted attempt at giving a fair and objective report on this group. The group is teeming with an obnoxious pride that is unsurpassed by any exclusivist groups or non christian groups I have come accross. These guys areby all means and definitionare a mind controlling cult and they are getting huge. I suppose this is my disclaimer to the reader regarding my objectivity on this report.
Elbert Eugene Spriggs was born into a religious family in East Ridge, Tennessee. His early adult life was marred with difficult times including divorce, the loss of his father and an uncertain spiritual quest. In many ways he experienced the same sense of cultural upheaval that many young adults were feeling in the 1960s -- the Civil Rights Movement, the assasination of a young president and the Vietnam War were all interpreted as part of a world in turmoil and change. It was in this context that a youth counterculture developed, and many young people turned to religion. "The disappointments of this period encouraged many...to question many of the values and mores of the larger culture...."It was against this backdrop that Spriggs found his way to California and encountered a thriving Jesus Movement, known also as the Jesus People Revival. It was on a beach in Carpenteria, CA in 1970 that Elbert Eugene Spriggs realized and reaffirmed his need for Christ.
After this monumental life transforming experience, Spriggs worked briefly with the homeless and witnessed to people around the country, including Marsha Ann Duvall, who would become his wife in 1972. They moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee and Elbert Eugene immediately began his mission work with local teens, drawing many to Christ. "Since that beginning Spriggs has never made any money for preaching or teaching thegospel"
For a while Spriggs attended various churches, and then settled on regular attendance at First Presbyterian Church. In 1972 Spriggs started the "Light Brigade" for teens, "a loose fellowship of disaffected youth trying to obey the Jesus of the Bible."7 Eventually many young people began living communally in a house on Vine Street, which also served as a coffee house. In 1976 Spriggs worked with the leaders of the New Covenant Apostolic Order, which was short-lived.
Participants in the Light Brigade were from many different cultural, social class and racial groups. Because of this diversity, Spriggs experienced conflict with the established churches. This was no doubt partially responsible for his growing disillusionment with what he perceived to be a low level of regard for the Gospel in local churches.
A final blow of disillusionment came when he went to a church service to find that it had been postponed for the Superbowl. After that, Spriggs began fellowshipping with his followers at his home and they soon established the Vine Community Church. They also began a number of business enterprises designed for evangelical purposes, as well as to raise funds for the group. They started the first of many cottage industries and and initiated a network of restaurants around Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia that they called "Yellow Deli."
Their vigorous activities and the controversial life style of the group drew attention and criticism. Some local preachers began questioning Spriggs' authority to baptize. By this time, also, the anti-cult movement was gaining momentum in the U.S. and the Vine Community Church became a target of their attacks. Several Christian groups and colleges such as Bryan College and Tennessee Temple University "advised their studens not to patronize the Yellow Delis, fearing they would be deceived by 'bad doctrine.'
During this period the Community tended to withdraw from mainstream religious groups in favor of its own fellowship (which included "teaching and speaking the Word, singing and dancing"). They did continue to witness and to reach out in the secular society via their small businesses. From this experience emerges a strategy that will define their future. Notes Jean Swantko, member and legal counselor for the group, they
"aim for a peaceful co-existence with society by following the guidelines laid out by American patriot Roger Williams, on the separation of church and state. On the other hand, they regard society as dominated by sin..."
Spriggs was invited by a group of disaffected Christians to become their pastor in northern Vermont. He declined that offer, but as a result of that contact, concluded that it was appropriate that the Vine Community should move to the small town of Island Pond, Vermont. So, in 1977 they began moving the group in stages. Upon arrival they adopted the new name "Northeast Kingdom Community Church." Here they came to see themselves as the "literal restoration of God's people on earth, the restoration of the Messianic Jewish New Testament Community of the first century AD."
Upon arrival in Island Point, the church started anew several industries, including Strictly Vermont Candle, Futon Vermont, and the very successful Common Sense Wholesome Food Store and Restaurant. In addition to providing sustenance for the group, these businesses served also evangelical purposes.
If there was any sense that the move to this isolated rural district of Northern Vermont would provide shelter against the kind of conflict they had faced in Tennessee, they were mistaken. Opposition to the church came early. Part of the opposition is understandable as townspeople were confronted with the arrival of a few hundred persons who had the potential, at least, of disrupting the status quo of this beautiful and serene community. A second source of opposition came from attacks by religious and secular critics -- most who were also outsiders -- who took it upon themselves to monitor doctrines and practices of unconventional religious communities.
Religious leaders further helped arouse uneasiness about the new group by calling attention to several of the Churches' beliefs that were regarded as unconventional. In addition to very traditional views regarding women, the "lightning rod" that would trigger strong opposition to the group was its belief and practice regarding the Biblical injunction to "spare the rod and spoil the child." They believe that spanking children is God's remedy for dealing with disobedience and they make no effort to hide this practice. We shall discuss this opposition in below in the section on Controversies. For now we simply note that this opposition has been fierce, unrelenting and, further, the charges leveled against the Northeast Kingdom Community Church remain largely unsubstantiated.
In spite of ongoing harrassment, the group found a home in this idyllic environment and created a life-style that matched their identity as simple people obeying God's call. Among other things, the group gravitated towards more defined life-styles. For clothing styles, "modest, comfortable and loose-fitting. Men have beards and tie their hair back. Women remain modest, wearing loose fitting and cuffed pants or long skirts and headcoverings at times of gathered worship." They also developed more wholesome and nutritious diets consisting of "whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and herbal remedies."
In the early 1990's the Church expanded beyond Island Pond and formed several communities in New England, each composed of several households. They also became known as The Twelve Tribes, in keeping with the aim of imitating the tribal life of Abraham and the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Currently there are upwards of 25 communities worldwide. Most of the communities are in the Northeastern United States, Missouri, and Colorado, but there are also locations in France, Spain, Germany, England, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and Canada.
The Twelve Tribes group takes anenormous pride in their"superior" doctrine. I really don't think that Eugene Spriggs left the church merely because of it's luke warmness, the Superbowl incidentwas at best a copout, and an excuse to create an autonomous group without accountability.
However his expereince at this particular church is now his base to say that the entire Christian church as a whole isapostate. And this being so healso has a base to set uphis self proclaimed Apostleship, againthis goes back to the "What makes a group a cult?" report.
Basically theTwelve Tribes "major on a minor", and that minor for them happens to be living in community, specifically their communities. They won't say it, because it is so unbiblical, but you are basically not saved unless you live in a community (their's). This emphasis upon community comes from Acts ch 4 "They had all things in common...", hence their roving Cafe named "Common ground". Now honestly I am all for living in community, I was discipled while living in a Christian community and it by all means is an excellent environment tolearn to dailywalk with Christ. However when you aresaying that we can not "truly love one another" or"follow Christ" without living in a communityyou are speaking exclusivist superiority doctrine.
Another minor the group major's upon is the name of Jesus. They will state that by calling Him Jesus we are not truly following Him, but rather worshipping Zeus, where the group statesthe name Jesus originated (JeZeus). Rather they emphasise the name Yahshua, a combination of Yeshua and Yahweh.This isyet another ridiculous emphasis,I could call Jesus by any name and I would still be alright, I could start to call Him Carl and that is just fine. I am saved by the blood of Carl who died for the sins of the world upon the cross nearly 2000 years ago, the point should be clear. Iwould like to look into where the name Jesus did originate, though it really has little relevance.
The biggest sore thumb in the Yahshua's doctrine is the "Three eternal destinies". This is their beleif that there is not merely a Heaven and a Hell, but rather three different places where the souls of men go upon the judgement. This is based upon Revelation 21:11 (Though even in this passage there are clearly two end results)
The Holy place:
Thisis the highest of the three destinies and it is of course reserved for members of the Twelve Tribes alone. By belief in Yahshua and good works (living in one of their communities) you will go to this place, and enjoy the greatest intimacy with God. These were convicted of their sinful nature and received faith and believed in the Son of God.
The place of the Righteous:
This is second best in theTwelve tribes doctrine, and this is reserved for those who never had the opportunity to hear the true gospel and yet consistantly lived according to their concience. These will endure no punishment but rather will live under the rulership of the Most High and His faithful servants (12 tribes). So long as you are a "good" person you will be just fine.
The place of the unjust and filthy:
This is of course the hell of the three destinies and this is reserved for those in Rev 22:11 and consists of murderers, liars, thieves, sexually immoral, idolators etc. Their definition of who will end up here goes as follows "Those who reject the true gospel after hearing it from a true disciple, and those who lived in such a way as to ruin other people's lives to satisfy their own cravings, will be judged worty of the second death, the Bible calls the lake of fire."
("Why She didn't Fly" page 48)
Christians fall into this catagory as well. So basically only the people with really gross sin are to be puished for there sins.
Basically they are trying to answer the popular question of "What about the people who never heard about Jesus, are thedamned because of ignorance?" And by twisting scripture,they have made a'Feelgood' God, a God with afairly loosejudgment. As long as you do "good works" you are fine, it really doesn't matter if you beleive in Jesus but rather if you were a "good guy".
The major problem and I have argued with quite a few of their members on this issue is that my Bible says that "There is no righteous, nonot one." Rom 22222 and "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Theseare passages Paul wrote basically refuting a salvation by works (following the law) "Ifrighteousness could be acheived through following the law than Christ died in vain" Basically Paul is saying that if I can pick myself up by my bootstraps andearn my salvation than Jesus died for no reason at all. However that is precisely what this group is advocating. They coddle the sinner and say it is all right as long as your a "good" person you are alright.
NO! That is the whole point we need Jesus' blood to cover our sins that little list in Rev 20:11-15 which they use to define who will go to the "Wicked place" (hell) all men are guilty of. Who in their life has not lied, who has not stolen, who has not become angry (murder), who has not committed sexual sin, who is not guilty of idolatry!?Even by their own standard all are worthy of death. Basically before I came toknow Jesus as my Lord and Saviour my "conscience" said that it was fine for me to smoke pot and live hedonistically. The Spiritof God began to convict me of my depraved state however, apart from Him I would have been quite content smoking pot all day. It was only by Him intervening into my life did I become dissatisfied and yearn for true purpose.
The difference between the title's "The Book of Life" and "The Lamb's Book of Life" is used to support the justification of "good guys" who don't love God. The difference they say is that the "Lamb's book" is to judge the "holy nation" and the "Book of Life" is to judge the nations. (non-beleivers) And to further this the passage in Genesis 18:25 "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You!" With this passage as well as others similar to it they accuse Christian's of ignoring the entire answer in scripture.
However it is the autonomous Twelve Tribes leaders who need to double check their doctrine. Yes there are passages that clearly state "...judged by their works."However in light of the blatant faith not works salvation statements by Paul (8888) we need to define what "good works" we shall be judged by.Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 in the context of spiritual gifts basically says, I can do all sorts of 'good works' yet if I have not love it means absolutely nothing. So it seems that Paul is emphasizing the heart of man rather than the deeds of man. The inside of the cup needs to be clean before the outside is what Jesus said.
How do we get our heart ina placewhere our works are worthy to be laid before the Most High God? We by all means need an inner cleansing, which can be nothing short of a work from God.
Jesus states"and this is the good work, that you beleive in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (88888)As fallen man this is all I can do to be righteous, to trust in the mercy and grace offered by Jesus Christ. For if I could be made righteous by being a "good guy" than Christ died for absolutely nothing (Rom 434)
My encounters with the Twelve Tribes:
The ministry I am a part of is focused on getting the gospel to hippy-travelers, this is also where the Yahshua's focus. We will basically go to Grateful Dead shows and hang out in the parking lot (where a lot of partying goes on) and give out food tracts and talk to people about the Lord. At a few shows we will run into the Twelve Tribes group and enevtiably end up talking to their members. This is a capsulation of a few of my encounters with the group's members.
It seems every time I talk with T.T members it really goes absolutely nowhere, there is such a prideful arogance that they are right and the Church is dead. They are very well trained to throw out answers when you point out their heresies, quoting scripture out of context. But in each meeting I had with them the core of their message comes back to living in Community, their community. I have stated to them "Well I do live in community and we do share our food and vehicles, so what makes me any different from you?" The response has unanamously been "Well you don't have a true apostleship or elders, that authority can only be handed down." Which only raises the question of "Well who handed it down to Yoneq?". This is where they have no answer.
The group hands our these little booklet/magazines promoting their group, you can read them on their web page which is listed at the bottom of this page, these booklets are nothing short of raw slander directed at the Christian Church. And the thing that gets me is that all the member reffer to various articles as a base in conversations with Christians, these booklets of bitter propaganda might as well be scripture in their member's eye's. And this only feuls the "We are so right on, and they are so wrong" fire ofpride.
I personally collect the booklets so I can reffer to specific articles when talking with members.
In every single meeting I have had with group members I did not feel in any way shape or form that they were concerned with the salvation of my soul but rather they knew I was a Christian and wanted to be right. They wanted to merely prove their superiority over me, and to basically bash my beleifs. There is no love only bitter condescending attitudes toward Christians. These guys are straight up brainwashed, into nothing short of a masked hatred. Their message is extremely seductive to people who have been burnt by the Church, or even just those who don't want to have their sin exposed. "It is all right to bitter, because they are wrong and hurt you, come live the true Christian life the way it was supposed to be with us." This is their gospel message.