A reader and fellow alumnus wrote this essay and sent it to me. I thought he made some great points and it was worth sharing here. Please keep the discussion civil. 🙂
1. Embrace actual doctrine:
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3
For too long, Teen Mania has had free reign to state their own philosophies and ideals as actual Biblical truth, to the point that to question any of them (even the ones that fly in the face of Scripture, or that the leadership is obviously not following) is tantamount to questioning God. Teen Mania has long had a “cookie cutter” attitude to theology, taking what they want and cutting away anything they don’t like. This can’t stand. Instead of “the aura of a statesmen”, start teaching doctrine classes such as Systematic Theology, Soteriology, New Testament Greek, and Eschatology. Encourage interns to think, reason and creatively serve, not blindly follow orders only to be judged and brushed aside when questioning the orders that go against conscience. Which brings me to my next point:
2. Allow leadership to be questioned:
“But Jesus summoned them, and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” Matthew 20:25-28
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15
The biggest failing of TM is the fact that the leadership is allowed to act with complete lack of accountability. A leader in the body of Christ is supposed to be above reproach. It doesn’t count when any correction or rebuke is quickly shut down in the interest of maintaining the status quo. Jesus didn’t shy away from questioning the religious leaders of his day, and was quick to point out their sin and hypocrisy. The true mark of a great Christian leader in this day and age is their response to correction.
In my experience, and obviously in the experience of many of the frequenters of this blog, leadership has responded to correction or even just questioning with incredulity and arrogance. If Christ is to be glorified within this ministry, then the leaders need to live out Phillipians 2:5-8
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
This attitude of humble servant leadership is Biblical and Godly, and all of us, not just those in authority are called to it. This brings up my next point:
3. Value humility:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:3-4
How many of you know someone from the Honor Academy who would consistently fast from talking/eating/drinking/etc., just to get attention lavished on how holy they were? The leaders should be squashing such actions in favor of humble service done in secret. The reality is that the louder you are about how spiritual you are, the more TM’s leadership rewards you. The real humble, meek and quiet interns are labeled as “loners”, “weirdos”, “backslidden” or “rebels”. According to some of the stories put forth on this blog, they are actually monitored with suspicion by leaders.
Teen Mania needs to start teaching interns to live out their faith with Humility. Stop indoctrinating impressionable minds with the damaging idea that their faith somehow makes them “superior” to non-believers or believers who don’t fit the mold. Christ, who we are called to emulate, didn’t come as a statesman. He condescended to our lowly human form to be reviled, spat upon and unjustly murdered for the sake of the chosen. He was humble. Interns with Teen Mania’s current “cream of the crop” mentality are either crippled by their sin, or puffed up with arrogance at their own holiness. We need to hold fast to word of Jesus:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men; robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
4. Allow for biblical courtship:
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity. 1 Timothy 5:1-2
This one is more of a suggestion than an actual necessity. After all, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to put aside the desire for a romantic relationship for a year or two while you focus on pursuing God. That is to be applauded!
What I’m specifically attempting to get at is the attitude towards any kind of close friendship between two people of the opposite sex as something to be stamped out. People have emotions. God made us to fall in love! It’s astonishing to me that you can take a group of young people at the tail end of puberty, place them all together in a secluded, multiple acre compound where romantic attraction is only ever whispered cautiously about, and then get recriminatory and accusing when they form emotional bonds! Do you honestly think interns are being helped when you violently pounce on them for having a longer than average conversation with a member of the opposite sex? All you’re doing is encouraging these young people to sin behind closed doors rather than openly exploring relationships that for all you know, are God-ordained. Look at the number of interns who marry as soon as they’re out of the program or look at the pregnancies that happen to interns that are still in the program.
Walking in purity doesn’t have to entail keeping brothers and sisters at a safe arms length. To pursue purity does not mean avoiding the opposite sex. It is to treat them correctly. If two people find themselves more attracted to each other than they bargained for, rather than forbidding them from talking, let them approach leadership and let them seek a Godly avenue of chaperoned courtship. If they have that option, to pursue each other within the context of a Godly relationship, then perhaps they won’t end up being dismissed for sin that could have been avoided if romantic feelings weren’t regarded as strictly taboo.
5. Offer real medical care:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:31-40
Interns come to Garden Valley, many of them being away from their parents for the first time, and they expect that their basic needs will be met, especially considering the exorbitant amount they paid to be there. When an intern comes to leadership saying they are hurt or ill, they should not be shrugged off, or worse, told that they are merely being weak and not “beating their body and making it their slave.” When I twisted my ankle and couldn’t put weight on it for a month, it had nothing to do with disobedience, and it needed more than an ace bandage and an ice pack. It’s inappropriate and poor stewardship to tell someone who is in pain that their pain is the result of their disobedience. Even just encouragement through prayer for someone when they are hurt is better than making them to feel like they’re hurt because they’re not good enough. Faith does not exist as some kind of magical talisman that takes away all physical needs. Even Jesus, whose faith was perfect, got hungry and desired food or got tired and desired rest. Hire some real medical professionals, maybe even a full time doctor and actually take care of the young people in your charge.
6. Stop equating athletic/physical performance with spiritual growth.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
There isn’t a measure for how discouraging it is to arrive in Garden Valley on the first day and to be told that you aren’t a strong enough Christian if you can’t run a mile straight. Pike’s Peak, Gauntlet Week, LTE’s, morning exercise, ESOAL, it becomes very readily apparent that the HA is very big on physical performance, but what if you’re overweight? Skinny and unathletic? Asthmatic? Epileptic? No one wants to hear it. You, (say it with me now, kids): “beat your body and make it your slave.” I did Pike’s Peak. It was fun being with friends and being outdoors, but I found nothing particularly spiritual about hiking for eight hours, and it in no way brought me closer to God. The same for gauntlet week, morning exercises, you name it. Young people who came here thinking that the Honor Academy is the fun, college dorm type environment shown in the promos at ATF are in for a unpleasant surprise when they find themselves in boot camp.
I know that Dave Hasz is very quick to trot out James 2:20 whenever anyone asks what exactly doing crunches at six in the morning has to do with pursuing holiness, but let’s take a closer look at that passage, in context:
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?”
Firstly we notice that the “works” being spoken of here, is the work born of compassion for the suffering. “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” So if a person is hyperventilating, or fainting, or throwing up during morning exercise, and Dave’s only interest is encouraging them to keep “beating their body” without seeing to their need, isn’t it his works that are in question, not the suffering intern’s?
More important here is the usage of this passage to excuse a blatant legalism. “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” what this means essentially is that faith and works are inextricably bound, and you can’t experience spiritual growth without both these aspects. But while faith without works is dead, works without faith is crippling and deadly. Most TM leaders will tell you of course it’s faith that saves you, but their focus is always placed on the works. No intern is ever asked about their faith, only about what they did. Did you get to the top? Did you get through without ringing the bell? Did you call 50 different youth leaders and procure 50 commits to ATF? Did you not fall asleep during class? Then you’re doing fine! You’re a world changer! You’re the cream of the crop! Meanwhile your heart is empty, and you go home wondering why you feel this way when you’ve done everything that was asked of you. Because the works, and not the faith were cultivated. It’s the heart, and not the body that makes or breaks your Christian walk.
7. Fire Dave Hasz:
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” 1 Timothy 3:1-3 (emphasis mine)
I know this will never happen because TM has long labored under the inexplicable delusion that Hasz is the best thing to happen to TM since they procured their own compound in a secluded Texas town, but the fact of the matter is that almost everything that is wrong with TM’s cookie cutter doctrine, arrogant attitudes and shady practices, is a result of the leadership of this man. He has belittled young ladies for “causing guys to lust” or downright insulted them when they failed to live up to his (re: not God’s) standards. He has acted without humility, without grace, without compassion. He has created an intern event in which he delights in essentially torturing young people under the auspices of bringing them closer to God. He has lied, regularly and casually, without regard to the people whose lives are ruined because of his actions, to say nothing of the staggering number of people who walk away from Garden Valley wanting nothing to do with Teen Mania, Christ or His Church. He has been casually dismissive of any voices that dare to question his misogynistic and arrogant philosophies. The Christ of scripture does not resemble Mr. Hasz in the slightest. Although there is a biblical figure who he does seem reminiscent of: A religious leader very much concerned with the ‘appearance of evil’, who brushed off anyone who questioned him (re: threatened his power base), and who, ultimately, at every stage, thought he was serving God. Dave, meet Caiaphas. I think you two will have a lot to talk about.
8. STOP LYING!
“Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.” Psalm 12:1-2
For all the judging, recrimination and condemnation directed towards interns by leadership, for all the vitriol aimed at “virtue terrorists” at Battlecry events, Teen Mania is one of the most dishonest ministries I’ve ever witnessed, and this is according to my own experience, to say nothing of all the dirty laundry TM has had aired out on this blog. Every story read on this blog has an example where they were either lied to by leadership, or encouraged to lie to someone else by leadership.
Seriously, please stop telling interns to say anything it takes to get kids to go to ATF, Global Expeditions or the Honor Academy. Stop telling teens to say anything it takes to fundraise for trips or the internship. Stop making teenagers believe that their faith somehow makes them superior to everyone around them. Stop insinuating that you’re not a Christian unless you plan on going on a missions trip. Stop telling your expulsion victims that money will be refunded or that they’ll have a chance to come back. Stop telling impressionable children that their walk with God is contingent upon what they do as opposed to what Christ has done. You want me to spell it out? Stop allowing the truth to be misrepresented.