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Damaged Disciples
by Ron and Vicki Burks

Book Review by Pat Knapp

(Another "9+" on a "10" scale)

Previously I reviewed a Zondervan jewel, Churches that Abuse by Ron Enroth, which was given high ratings and has quickly advanced to being an extremely popular book. Zondervan and Ron and Vicki Burks have come out with an equally outstanding work written specifically "To everyone to whom the words of a pastor have become wounds of the soul."

The intent of Damaged Disciples is to:

1. Examine specific practices and teachings of the shepherding movement.

2. Provide a resource for the reader to meaningfully evaluate what is healthy Christian disdpleship.

3. Provide a means of healing for those who have been injured by this, and other similar forms of shepherding-discipleship.

4. Provide a resource for those who minister to those hurt by this and other similar movements.

How does it accomplish this?

Ron and Vicki Burks share a personal, up front look at: the experience in, coming out of and recovering from, a highly abusive religious system that promoted a heavy handed authoritarian/shepherding perspective. They begin with a brief, clear history of the leaders of this movement, (historically known as the "Ft. Lauderdale five") Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, Charles Simpson and Em Baxter.

The Burks then share with the reader what it was like being in and eventually coming out of this movement. They share not only on the "feeling level" but also many of their thoughts/doubts, and struggles. They speak of the theological foundations of the aberrance, in what they term "The Pillars of Heaven."

These pillars include: "the covering" - "delegated authority" - "kingdom taxes" - "covenant loyalty’ - "productivity equals spirituality" - "dichotomy of the ‘natural’ and the ‘spiritual’" and "headship as a hierarchical concept."

A connection between dysfunctional family issues and questions of how the shepherding movement functions are given. In the last chapter titled "The First Love" issues of healing from such involvement are discussed.

How good of job is done?

Without a doubt this is the best book currently out from a "survivor's" perspective on the subject of religious abuse and recovery. Along with having a clear and compassionate perspective from one who has gone "through the fire" there is a solid understanding concerning the theological issues (written in laymen lingo).

A healthy level of forgiveness and "fairness" to those in leadership positions who contributed to the abuse they experienced gives evidence that the forgiveness and healing talked about in the last chapter is more than theoretically possible.

The length is 176 pages; narrative, yet instructional: paperback, and retailing at about $8.99, this makes for easy access, and readability. Much area is covered in a clear, concise form giving the reader both depth and breadth to the topic.

Short falls? Thoughts on improvements?

From my perspective, there was not much that can improve this excellent work. A short appendix would have been useful to locate particular areas of interest. A summary list of organizations/ resources that could help in the healing process of those abused would have been beneficial.

This is another "must read" not only for the one damaged in such dysfunctional systems but for those to whom it is important to understand what they went through and those in leadership who want to improve the "health" of their influence. An excellent, well written book with both "feeling" and "content!"

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above book review originally appeared in The Shield newsletter in 1992.
It was posted on this Web site February 1998.

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