"World fame is but a breath of wind that blows now this way, and now that and changes name as it changes direction."  -Dante

As a little girl in the '30s and '40s in Dallas, I lived in a very religious community.  Everybody knew I was a Christian.

As I grew older, I discovered there were a lot of denominations that differed from mine.  With me, it was OK, we all served the same God.

There was one group whose women wore long white dresses similar to choir robes; white covers on their heads that looked like short, flat, white  sheets; white shoes; and no make-up.

The men dressed very much the same. Some wore long white robes; others wore white suits, shirts, ties, and shoes. And, all of the men wore turbans on their heads.

One of the men was obviously their leader. He not only wore white ornate suits and turbans decorated with colorful jewels and heavy gold braid, but his manicured fingers were clad with diamond rings. Around his neck were gold chains and on his wrist were gold bracelets. His followers called him Father Brown.

"Father Brown" was the pastor, divine potentate, counselor, prophet, preacher, leader, and overseer of what he called The Lighthouse Gospel Temple. According to Father Brown and his followers, they were the only folks going to heaven. They called themselves "saints" and claimed they lived completely free from sin. He taught that everyone who did not follow him was going to hell.

He further taught this gullible group that He was a form of Jesus Christ and that he would never die.

Over the radio, he would say, "Come to me and I will show you miracles."  They thought it was safe to give him their money and let him manage it for them. He told them to sell their goods and give the money to him so he could give it to the poor.

His lifestyle was flamboyant and ostentatious. He was a womanizer, drug user, gambler, and God only knew what else. Throughout his life, he had loyal limousine drivers who protected his interests, but they spilled the beans on him after he died.

People were frightened by him, because he would predict that they would die. And, most of the time the prediction held true. That's how he was proving that he was Christ reincarnated.

In fact, however, he was a religious pimp who prostituted the gospel, took advantage of the ignorant, held hostage the indigent, bamboozled the seeking, and blasphemed the name of God.

All of the things he did were an abomination before God. But, I think the worst and the best thing he did was to use the Bible to validate what he was doing. Best?  Yes, there were hundreds of people that God drew to Himself in spite of this misguided (and misguiding) messenger. Worst? Yes, because hundreds of people bought into the lies he preached and fell into his religious traps.

They were not heathens outside the church; they were heathens and perpetrators of false teaching and worship within the church.

This group associated with faith, but were not a part of the faithful. They did not have the Holy Spirit of God manifesting Himself in them. They were in eternal darkness. They had itching ears and listened to the perverted teachings of a dysfunctional man.

What Happened?

People who knew Father Brown from early in his life report that when he first started preaching, he was an anointed man of God who taught and preached an uncompromising gospel with pureness of heart and a compassion for the people.

As time progressed and he became more popular and powerful in the community, his priorities changed and his goals became distorted, which resulted in devious behavior and hundreds of misled people.

Occasionally, he would lie in a casket and fast for three days, pretending to be dead. His followers would rally around the casket 24 hours a day waiting until his "resurrection."  After three days, he would "rise" from the dead and the people would rejoice with song and jubilation.

Because he had such notoriety in Dallas, his name became a "household word" in the Dallas press.

Father Brown's schemes caught up with him and he landed in a Dallas jail. One Sunday, radio and television late-breaking news announced that "Father J. Von Brown is dead."  He died in jail.

His followers crowded outside the Dallas County Jail, waiting for him to rise. He didn't rise. His body laid in state in the Lighthouse Church of God on Forest Avenue as the "saints" and other onlookers waited for his resurrection. They had seen him rise before and just knew he would do so again at any moment.

One day, two days, three days, seven days passed and Father J. Von Brown never got up. A group of people followed his body to the cemetery to begin a three-month wait for him to rise again. Not this time; he was really dead.

His followers were disillusioned, frustrated, angry, fooled by the teachings of this false prophet.

 

Rightly Dividing the Word

You may wonder how people could be so stupid. Remember, people less flamboyant and brazen teach false or ignorant doctrine from the pulpit every week. And, we must be careful or we can buy into falsehoods just like the followers of Father J. Von Brown.

Many of these teachers/preachers are not deliberately delivering wrong information.  Sometimes their interpretation of scripture is passed down from their family members or mentors. Generation after generation, then, perpetrate incorrect teaching without critically studying the Bible on their own. That's just one of many reasons each of us need to spend time studying the word and asking God to help us correctly understand His teaching.

Father J. Von Brown and others like him take advantage of the goodness, grace, mercy, and word of God. This behavior grieves the Holy Spirit of God and abuses the people of God.

When we find ourselves hearing and reading about God and we get the inkling that "this doesn't sound right", STOP, go to your Bible for yourself, pray that God would give you the knowledge to understand what it's saying and the wisdom to apply it.

Talk to someone you know is rooted and grounded in the unadulterated word of God and ask them to help you understand the truth of the Bible. The truth will "set you free" from the vulnerability of distorted, false teachings that can lead you in the path of sin.
God's grace is so sufficient that even Father Brown can enjoy the exoneration and reprieve of God at the end of the ages, IF he sincerely and truthfully received Jesus as his personal Savior during his lifetime.  That's the depth of God's incomprehensible grace.

Jude 4:  "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ."


Thelma Wells is President of A Woman of God Ministries, Dallas, Texas; a Woman of Faith conference speaker; a professor at the Master's School of Divinity and Author, Girl, Have I Got Good News For You! and other encouraging resources.

Sponsored by Master's Divinity School & Master's Graduate School of Divinity