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He Whom The Son Sets Free Is Free Indeed

Of all the negative experiences I had at Community Chapel and Bible Training Center, dealing with the “counseling center” during the connection move of the Spirit was perhaps the worst.  Firmly in control of the pastor’s wife, Barbara Barnett, these people sought to control and manipulate those whom they believed behaved inappropriately.  The person I dealt with most is a person named John Burgen.

At that time, people did not know what connections were.  All we knew is that God was leading us by His Spirit.  Connections, usual male female relationships, felt right in God.  Suddenly, alive in God, John chapter 17 made sense.  Don Barnett, the pastor of CCBTC, tried to guide and “balance” the connection move through a sermon series entitled “Spiritual and Solical Relationships”, but in effect he touched the ark of God.

The counseling center

As the church split into two parts, the counseling center morphed into a control center used to reign in people the fractured leadership disapproved of.  In this spiritual Auschwitz the biggest threat was disfellowship.  Disfellowshipment is a form of “shunning” that community Chapel leadership employed to ensure that people within the church followed their dictates.  If you did or said anything the pastor or leadership felt unacceptable, they warned you to change your ways or risk being “put out of the church”.  Disfellowshipping meant you would no longer be allowed to attend church, expelled from Bible College, and barred from interacting with other church members.  If they cast you out, close friends and even family shunned you.

People who go to mainline churches often do not understand the diabolical power of shunning.  To people who believe your teaching is “special” and that you’re destined to become the Bride of Christ, shunning is frightening.  What no doubt began as a way to protect the church from actual harm, ultimately degenerated into the method of controlling every aspect of people’s lives.

Loosing control

When the move of the Spirit, through connections, began to threaten the power base of the Pastor and the Leadership, disfellowshipment or shunning, became the weapon of choice to keep people in line.  As Don Barnett began to lose control, the “counseling center” became his whip.  Lead by Barbara Barnett, her connection, and some elders, they brought tremendous pressure to bear on those who they deemed went too far in spiritual love.  During one counseling session, I remarked to John Burgin, “you know, the only real influence over me you have is the threat of disfellowshipment”.  John replied “And I intend to use it to my full advantage”.

During the months that followed I came to truly hate John Burgen.  I experienced a lot of trauma in my marriage.  My then wife was not a bad person just, as it turned out, the wrong person.  However, the counseling center and John Burgen did not see it that way at all.  Essentially, they tried to  force me, on pain of disfellowshipment, to stay with my wife while God, on the other hand, led me to divorce.

Roots of legalism

Community Chapel and Bible Training center started as an offshoot, through the origins of pastor Barnett, from the holiness Pentecostal movement.  This part of the Pentecostal movement, who believed God is one, is extremely legalistic.  Unfortunately, this type of attitude and belief system shaped Don Barnett and informed many of his decisions when creating the Church and Bible College.  Don Barnett believed he knew best and demanded others believe as he did too.  If you wished to attend his church, and especially his Bible College, that meant believing as He believed.

In essence, I faced the loss of all that I invested in Community Chapel and Bible Training center.  furthermore, I had to decide whether to follow the theology I was taught, or the Holy Spirit I now knew personally.  It is a very odd feeling when you realize that Bible College and God are diametrically opposed.  I wanted to do what God said, yet I feared disobeying my church.

Deciding to follow God

In the end, I decided to follow God.  Frankly, nothing John Burgen or any other “counselor” said made any difference to me.  Chris Matthews telling me he disfellowshipped me from church felt anticlimactic at best.  In my heart I left Community Chapel a long time ago before the kicked me out.  I made my decision to follow the Holy Spirit and that was that.

Leaving church was not that difficult, but not seeing my connections was.  Dutiful as ever, my main “mega” connection cut me off as ordered.  In fact, Margaret, the secretary of Don Barnett at the time, typed the letter disfellowshiping me.  Admittedly, when Margaret called to say she did that, it cut me to my core.  Margaret eventually fell out of favor too, and suffered the same fate as I.  Though I still am connected to her in my spirit, I know that her compromise lead to our separation.

Forgiving John Burgen

A few yeas later, during a reunion of members of the church, I met John Bergen again.  The man, now bearded, sat looking absolutely miserable in a corner of the sanctuary.  Like the most hated man in the world, I will never forget his eyes, hollow and sad.  From what I heard later, people were not that kind to him at the reunion for he had “counseled” many.  Yet, when I saw him, I no longer hated him.  In fact, I felt compassion for John.  Sitting next to him I said,

“John, even though I don’t agree with what you did, you did what you thought best at the time.  I forgive you.”

I know he did not expect those words to come out of my mouth and frankly, I didn’t either.  However, they did, and that day I put all those negative feelings away forever. 

Forgiving Don Barnett

Now days, as God teaches me more about what happened back then, I realize that no one acted perfectly.  Unfortunately, as Barbara and Don Barnett broke up the church became a proxy war between them.  At that time, and in retrospect, hearing the voice of God meant everything.  Moreover,  only those who trusted God more than man survived that great shaking in our small corner of christiandom.

In conclusion, my time at Community Chapel and Bible Training Center taught me many things.  I received a firm foundation in the scriptures even though many of the doctrines they taught were incomplete.  God taught me to listen, hear, and obey on time what His Holy Spirit told me.  I also saw, up close and personal, a foretaste of the birth of the man-child and the great apostasy in microcosm.  Overall, I would not be where I am today had I not attended CC&BTC.

Those who are led of the Spirit

Finally, Community Chapel and Bible Training Center does not define me, only God does.  I have moved on from that experience.  Keeping the good, I put away much that wasn’t.  I believe differently these days as God reveals more and more of His Rhema to me.  Though people at CC&BTC possessed a very limited and flawed view of God, they honestly desired to serve Him.  Everything I am today, I credit to the Holy Spirit for He has and is leading me into all truth.

God bless,


You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban