Potter's House Christian Fellowship
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|Wayman O Mitchell|
The Potter's House Christian Fellowship is a Christian Pentecostal church founded by Pastor Wayman Mitchell in Prescott, Arizona in 1970. The name of the church is a reference to chapter 18 of the Book of Jeremiah, from the Bible, verses 1-3. However, the official name of the organization is Christian Fellowship Ministries or CFM.
It is a fellowship of over 2,600 churches in 125 nations throughout the world, with dozens of active evangelists.
The Potter's House has a strong presence in Australia. The first church there was established in Perth in 1978. The Perth congregation has since sent dozens of ministry couples to establish numerous daughter churches in many countries around the world.
The Potters House Christian Fellowship, or The Door Christian Fellowship, consists of members who identify themselves as being born-again Christians. The fellowship has an evangelistic focus involving open-air preaching, personal witnessing, door-to-door promotion, rock/rap concerts, Christian movies, skits and dramas. These events are used to evangelize to non-Christians or unchurched people. While the Potter's House welcomes those from other churches, it does not actively participate in proselytizing Christians from other evangelical groups (sometimes called transfer growth).
The Potter's House has its roots in the Jesus People Movement, a Christian revival that occurred in America in the early 1970s. Wayman Mitchell originally began his churches under the affiliation of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and continued this affiliation until a disagreement with church leaders on ordination requirements for new ministers. Mitchell believed that a new pastor should be trained through "discipleship" (religious apprenticeship) in their local church rather than external Bible colleges. By the mid-1980s, Mitchell had a following of over a hundred newly established churches, pastored by men who had been trained under him and sent out to minister after a period of discipleship. In 1985, Mitchell gave up his official affiliation with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and took up a practice under Christian Fellowship Ministries (C.F.M.), the church he had established in Prescott. As of November 2013 there are over 2000 churches affiliated to the CFM fellowship.
Doctrine and practice
Potter's House Christian Fellowship is a Pentecostal church. Followers believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. There are specific standards of personal conduct for those serving in the ministry. The Potter's House has never released an official denomination-wide statement of doctrine, but the de facto doctrine largely adheres to the book The Foundations of Pentecostal Theology written by two Foursquare ministers, and published by L.I.F.E. Bible College.
The church promotes belief in the historicity of the Gospel narratives, an orthodox Christian understanding of Jesus and The Trinity, Original sin, a pro-life stance to abortion, and an Evangelical belief in the Great Commission. The church advocates creationism, and rejects evolution, and claims that speaking in tongues is evidence of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The fellowship also advocates loyalty and obedience to positions of authority in the church, originating with Wayman Mitchell (Senior Pastor of the fellowship) and the Board of Directors, and on an advisory level. The Prescott church council was also formed to ensure similar practice and doctrine were advocated in all churches within the fellowship. However some fellowship churches state the belief in "The Sovereign Autonomous Government of The Local Church", which both fit together as part of the overall authority structure. The church also teaches that salvation can be lost because of sin. Potter's House also hold strongly to members paying their tithe and that tithing proves the faith of the Christian, provides finances for the operation of the local church and enables the believer to receive God's blessing. One of the Potter's House distinctions in their doctrine and practice is their discipleship program where they exercise a method of shepherding which would resemble elements of the Shepherding Movement: doctrinally evangelical, pretribulationist, and sola scriptura. They also believe in premillennial eschatology. Drinking, tobacco, television and movies are prohibited amongst its ministers. The church also believes in divine healing, and some of the lead pastors have frequently done a healing crusade, as well as praying for the sick in their services.
Some official statements of faith the church follows are:
- That Jesus Christ is the son of the living God, and the only saviour from sin. (John 3:16, John 14:6, Romans 6:23, Acts 4:12)
- That Jesus Christ is the great physician and the healer of the body through the atonement. (Philippians 4:19)
- That Jesus Christ is the baptiser with the Holy Spirit, today just as he was on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:38)
- That Jesus Christ is the soon-coming king, coming back to earth again as the only hope for a dying world.
- That Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
The church is classified as Pentecostal; however, the church does not participate in what they call "counterfeit themes", such as the Toronto Blessing or the Pensacola Outpouring. It also doesn't participate in "interdenominational services" (this is where several different denominations periodically have a joint church service together), though individual members are free to do so. The fellowship also is opposed to certain aspects of the Ecumenical Movement, such as the attempts to reconcile Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, as it believes that the teachings of the latter are contrary to the Bible.
The Potters House Fellowship does reject some Bible schools and theological university or college worldwide, as a vehicle for church planting, and gives several reasons for this in its publication, We Can Take the Land (A Study in Church Planting). Reasons include a belief that not all Christian theological teachings are accurate (in that they are not seen in the context of church planting in the Book of Acts), a belief that Bible schools might hinder global evangelism, that some Bible schools isolate students from practical experience, that the requirements of attendance at Bible schools are too strict, and that Bible schools violate the indigenous principle.
Origins of the church name
The name comes from an Old Testament verse of the Bible:
- Jeremiah 18:2: Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. (King James Version)
Because of its biblical origin, the name "The Potter's House" is often used by other independent church groups besides those affiliated with Christian Fellowship Ministries. Particularly well known is The Potter's House, Dallas, Texas, a largely African-American megachurch founded and led by T. D. Jakes.
Local churches of the Potters House also use other names, including: The Door, Victory Chapel, de deur, Christian Center, Crossroads Chapel, and La Puerta. In non-English speaking countries, versions of these names in local languages will also be used.
Criticism and controversy
In the past there have been criticisms of the Potter's House. Concerns have been raised by some media, a few Christian commentators and authors who have focused on previous church activity which they have labelled as having cultic characteristics.
Ronald Enroth's book from 1992, Churches That Abuse, contains an account of alleged abuse within a Potter's House church. His follow-up book in 1994, Recovering From Churches That Abuse, also contained an alleged account of abuse.
In 1989, a father who accused the group of being a "mind-controlling cult" convinced social workers to prevent his 16-year-old daughter (who was in the custody of the state) from attending a Potter's House church. After several months, however, a Juvenile Court commissioner ruled that she was free to attend the church unless her father or the county could show she was being harmed by the church. The girl's mother disagreed with the father, saying she had no objection to her daughter going to the church.
In January 2002, Charisma News, a Christian news magazine dealing mainly with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity, reported a major exodus of some 160 churches from the Potter's House Movement in the United States. The reason for the split, according to Charisma News, was "because of unhealthy control, and after (members) leave they are afraid to talk about their experiences." A former pastor interviewed in the Charisma News article when asked about allegations of abuse said, "There are families who have not spoken for years, brothers who are pastors all the way to the Philippines who were separated by this group and had years of not even speaking, churches that have been deliberately split, children who don't talk to their parents."
In November 2010, Australia's Nine Network reported that the Potter's House in Tasmania was performing a theater stage-show involving "scenes of suicide and drug use, and ended with a pastor telling the audience that 'the devil's children' needed to give their lives to God to be saved from Hell." Ads for the show stated that the performance was MA-rated; however, it was not said that it was run by Potter's House or had religious content. A pastor of the Potter's House, according to the report, stated that a press release warned audiences of "violence, mayhem, suicide, the occult and, of course, death."
Response to criticism
In his biography, founder Wayman Mitchell responded to criticism of the group by the journalists, and by researcher Ronald Enroth:
They (the media) are not interested in giving honest accounts. By and large they are pea-brained, illiterate and lazy. They come with pre-conceived ideas and a pre-arranged agenda and look only for a sound bite that will help nail down what they want to say. This is not honest, investigative journalism; it is interpretive reporting, where they interpret everything you say to support their own wicked bias. I have no time for them. They are deceptive as well. They do not identify themselves when they arrive. They come into the Church, as one lady did from the Boston TV station, with hidden cameras and microphones. They hope to pick up one sentence or phrase, and use it entirely out of context to cast you in the worst possible light. If we know who they are, we stop them at the doors. ... It's the same with the book writers. William Enroth, who featured me in 'Churches That Abuse', never even spoke to me. He interviewed somebody out in the Mid-west and put an uncorroborated testimony in his book.
Even the Christian press is riddled with bias. We've had people contact us from Charisma Magazine and Christian Research Institute, but neither outfit would come and sit in our services and talk with our people. We invited them to. I gave Lee Grady from the Charisma Magazine the names and numbers of five of our leaders and said if you don't believe me, talk with any of them . ... . but he didn't. He phoned Pastor Warner, but was only interested in a sound bite. That's the sort of dishonesty we have lived with for years.
- "Jeremiah 18, The Holy Bible, New King James Version". Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- "WorldCFM | World Christian Fellowship Ministries". Retrieved 2019-09-13.
- "History - The Potters House". Retrieved 2011-07-30.
- "The Door Netherlands". Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 11 July 2006.
- "CFM Worldwide - Creedal Statements". Retrieved 27 December 2012.
- Perth CFM statement of faith
- A brief bio on the Potter's House – See "Organization/Ministry" section
- CFM official statement of faith
- World CFM page on tithes and offerings
- Small newspaper article on Potter's House healing crusade
- Yale newspaper story Potter's House healing crusade. Archived 2007-12-28 at the Wayback Machine
- Simpkins, Ron (1984). We Can Take the Land (A Study in Church Planting). Prescott: Potters Press. pp. 275–276. ISBN 0-918389-00-3.
- "King James Version: Jeremiah 18:2". Godrules.net. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
- "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America", Time Magazine, Time (07 February 2005), 7 February 2005
- "History - The Potters House Christian Fellowship". Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "Christian Fellowship Ministries (CFM) (aka: Potter's House, The Door, Victory Chapel)". Retrieved 2007-04-25.
- "Potter House (aka Victory Chapel, leader Paul Campo)". Retrieved 2007-04-25.
- Ryan Crehan (1998-12-08). "A CULT in PRESCOTT?". The Word.
- Enroth, Ronald (1992). Churches That Abuse. Zondervan Publishing House. ISBN 0-310-53290-6.
- Enroth, Ronald (1994). Recovering From Churches That Abuse. Zondervan Publishing House. ISBN 0-310-39870-3.
- Carol Lachnit (1989-12-18). "Religious belief, court divide father, daughter: Ruling allows teen-ager under county custody to go to Orange church". The Orange County Register.
- Charisma News, January 2002
- Nick Pearson; Shaun Davies (5 November 2010). "Rape, abortion in church 'Haunted House'". Nine News / NineMSN. Archived from the original on 8 November 2010.
- Ian Wilson (1996). In Pursuit of Destiny - Biography of Wayman Mitchell. p. 53. ISBN 0-9699777-1-9.
- The Door Church - Tucson, AZ The Door Church of Tucson, Arizona Website
- The Door Christian Center in Highland, CA Highland, CA Website
- The Door Christian Church in Redlands, CA The Door of Redlands Website
- CFM official site Australia Potters House official site in Perth, Australia.
- Potters House Christian Church, Parramatta New South Wales, Australia
- Potters House Christian Church, Fairfield New South Wales, Australia
- CFM Canada Potters House Christian Centre Canada.
- Potters House Walthamstow, London Potters House UK
- Potters House City Centre, Dublin Potters House Ireland
- Potters House Russia Potters House Russia
- The Door Church - Magna, UT The Door Church of Magna, Utah Website