Robin was one of our earliest contributors, and in March 2000 wrote us to ask if he could update his 1998 testimony.  We are happy to oblige.

A Testimony from Robin Phillips    June 2000

When I attended Fairwood Bible Institute in fall 1995, I was entering an unknown world. I did not grow up in 'the Kingdom' and I had only been to Fairwood once in my life, and that was to attend a summer youth convention earlier that year. I heard about Fairwood from friends and thought I'd like to spend a year there before going to university.

I had not been a student at Fairwood for long before I became aware of certain factors in the origins of the movement which made it unique from other denominations: specifically that this church was begun a hundred years ago by a man named Frank Sandford who believed he was Elijah (in fulfillment of Mal. 4:5-6, Mt. 17:10-11, Acts 3:22) and Divinely authorized to restore God's Kingdom. I refer to 'the Kingdom' in quotation marks in order to distinguish it from God's true Kingdom, which is not limited to any particular movement but made up of believers from every tribe and nation.

While most evangelicals in my shoes would probably have been immediately turned off to hear such 'sensational' things, l not only had an antipathy for dismissing anything without a thorough investigation, but possessed an obsessional curiosity - not to mention attraction - with anything fantastic or not quite ordinary. However, as the joys and duties of class life enveloped me, I invariably shelved the Issue of Frank Sandford. Though there was no direct pressure put on students to make a decision about Frank Sandford, I always told myself that some time before I left at the end of the school year I would sit down and study all the evidence and come to a rational decision about it. But I never got around to doing that, at least not for a long time.

At Fairwood I simultaneously felt at home and not at home. It was refreshing to be among others that longed to follow the Lord as wholeheartedly as I did. The teachers and staff felt a great responsibility for the students and would assume a sense of responsibility, not only for our Biblical instruction, but also for our spiritual growth and personal walks with the Lord. Despite the problems in the outworkings of this, I do not question the motive, which always arose from a sincere desire to be righteous and follow the Lord's will.

Anyone who has ever been to Fairwood will know that a big issue is, of course, the rules. One of the teachers said that when he first came to teach at Fairwood he began making a list of all the unwritten rules (which was in addition to a myriad of written rules), but stopped when he got to a hundred! But the rules did not bother me as much as they did some students, because I had had a very restricted upbringing and was used to living by do's and don'ts. I quickly learned how a 'mature' person was expected to act in 'the Kingdom', and conformed my actions to that criterion. I believed that I was mature and growing in the Lord because I did things like taking days of fasting and prayer, obeying the music rules when other students didn't, never disobeying my parents, fasting on Thursday when other people snacked, and generally being exceedingly conscientious about my every action. As I remember telling a friend, my life felt like I was continually walking on ice, always afraid of accidentally doing something that would displease the Lord. I was intolerably introspective, constantly analyzing my motives, even analyzing my motives for analyzing my motives! (This was in spite of the fact that the administrator once told me that I shouldn't analyze my motives for more than two minutes.) Before coming to Bible school I already had a propensity in this direction, but whilst at Fairwood the environment only perpetuated this natural weakness to an extremity. By being obsessed with never doing anything that would make me feel guilty or incur the displeasure of God (and man), my eyes were not on the Lord but on myself. Inwardly, I became self-righteous and proud.

I know that other students were just as bad in this self-absorbed introspection. There was always a steady flow of so called 'testimonies' (especially from the young ladies) about the fluctuating state of their relationship with the Lord - statements like, "yesterday I was having reality with God, but today I'm not! and I'm worried about it and would like prayer." It was as if the students had nothing better to do with their time than to analyze their spiritual state and then worry about it. Having been around and known Christians from all kinds of churches, I can say that no where have I ever encountered a group who expended so much energy worrying about their spiritual condition and subjecting themselves to self-improvement programs of their own devising.

When I prayed or testified more than usual sometimes the older people would come up to me afterwards and compliment me on my prayer, saying something like "I appreciated you getting right there in the battle Robin," whereas when my classmates and I were especially silent in meeting we would sometimes be spoken to later in a manner which resulted in guilt, which, in turn, resulted in better performance in the next meeting. Once when a group of visitors came to a prayer meeting, there was an acutely emotive reprimand afterward on the students who hadn't publicly prayed enough, as the administrator was concerned about the impression that would be given to the visitors. I learned certain clichés to say to make my prayers longer, and in particular I was glad to find one phrase that I discovered could be used at the end of any prayer to lengthen its duration (having somehow felt that the more spiritual you were the longer your prayers would be).

Though the teachers would speak against things like 'over-conscientiousness' and 'checklist-Christianity', the very way of life at Fairwood seemed to accentuate these tendencies in nearly all who attended. Comparatively, I was a mild case, though one of the teachers said he thought I was balanced in this regard.

During my first year I longed for an intimacy with Christ that alluded me. Though I found most of the meetings boring - to the extent that I seriously contemplated leaving after a few months - it was my desire to know God that sustained me.  I hoped that my life of obedience and self-denial would result in intimacy with the Lord.

I often found myself questioning some of the teachings at Fairwood about God, the Bible, prayer, hermeneutics, eschatology, the nature of faith - teachings which are simply taken for granted in 'the Kingdom' but which I (not having grown up in that church) wanted to have reasons for. The teachers were usually very good at taking the time to answer my questions and never appeared put off by my desire to debate points. Yet I usually found the explanations unsatisfactory, as if they were motivated more from a desire to defend what had been taught to them than to search for truth afresh.

There seemed also to be an ever present mentality which tended to make one subconsciously feel that this was the central hub of the universe - that we were the nucleus for all God's workings. In every activity, in every impulse, in every inclination which was unique to this movement, there seemed to be an underlying something which contained the import of divine ordination. In the air, so to speak, you caught the feeling that their particular way of doing and viewing things was self-evidently superior to any other way. I consequently felt an irrational guilt attached to believing things contrary to the status quo, like something in the atmosphere was condemning me for not abdicating my reason (at times even my conscience) to the spirit of the whole. I know from talking with others that they too experienced an hypnotic type numbing of impulses contrary to the norm, resulting in mental complacency and intellectual laziness. Indeed, the whole structure of beliefs seemed to be self-sustaining, as if belief was given a higher priority than truth while doubt was an unspoken taboo.

Certain books helped me during my first year at Fairwood. I read an unpublished manuscript written and sent to me by a friend. In his book my friend spoke about the Lord in a way that was so expansive and filled with life that I fell in love with Jesus in a way I had never experienced before. At the same time, however, I was wondering whether the Lord was leading me to join 'the Kingdom' movement, and I feared lest my own desire not to join prohibited me from being ruthlessly honest in listening to the Lord's leading. One of the reasons I did not want to join was because I felt that such a decision would necessarily involve limiting the scope of my reality in a way that could not account for the expansiveness of the spiritual vision presented in this book. This came about not so much as a result of there being tenets of 'Kingdom' theology that directly clashed with the content of this book (though there was that as well), as it was a result of a dichotomy between an exclusive orientation which narrowed reality down to a manageable and workable size, and an inclusive reality which was unmanageable, exciting and open-ended. There was just something about 'the Kingdom' that was too small to contain the kind of reality I instinctively knew existed.

Yet, at the same time, in my moments of being what I called 'intellectually honest', ignoring these subjective feelings in favor of purely objective facts, I seemed increasingly cornered into accepting Frank Sandford's ministry and claims. This was largely do to the fact that from all the accounts I was shown about the man, and from my conversations with elderly people who had known him, he seemed more to fit the image of a man of God than a false prophet, and it seemed logical to assume that he must either be one or the other. The main problem I faced was that if Frank Sandford was a false prophet, how could one explain all the miracles he reportedly performed, and the supernatural manifestations connected with his ministry? There were accounts of Frank Sandford raising someone from the dead, instantly healing nine dying woman of tuberculosis, commanding someone's broken finger to heal itself, and a myriad of other amazing stories that I was taught to look on as God's authentication of his ministry. There was no rational basis to question the validity of such accounts, some of which were witnessed by many while it seemed inconceivable to me that a false prophet could produce such fruit.

I also considered whether the way this movement seemed to draw me was the fruit of Frank Sandford's ministry. Looking back I can see that the reason I was drawn was because I easily adapted into the social structure of 'the Kingdom', finding a warmth and coziness produced by the close genealogical and relational connections which everyone shared in common. To find a sort of subculture in the midst if the modern world where people were maintaining a high standard and giving the support of numbers to each other, was appealing to me. I saw why people stayed part of the movement even if they did not support or care about it's heritage, for this becomes a person's whole frame of reference. For a person who grew up in the Kingdom to leave it, would feel like committing treason to all their relatives and ancestors. Looking back I can see that I and others went wrong in drawing theological inferences from these psychological feelings. We must ask when people speak about 'fruit' or 'love for the Kingdom,' whether they really mean nothing more than simply a love for the friends and relatives that comprise the movement and give it the magic of feeling home.

I mentioned that some books helped me in my first year at Fairwood. One such book was Christ the Tiger, by Tom Howard. Though I enjoyed reading this testimony, afterwards I concluded that it had had a negative spiritual effect on me. In reality all it did was make me uncomfortable by shattering some of my illusions of what constituted sanctification. The following quotation from Howard's book I found very apt description of some tendencies prevalent in the Kingdom.

      I felt myself a part of an almost invisible minority which had the saving truth for the world. I felt that there was divine sanction for every item and procedure in our tradition...

      "Another thing that worried me about the shape of popular religion was the array of devout exercises that was seen by each group as having a unique and a divine validity. That is, people who are loyalists of any form of religious orthodoxy assumed that their set of gestures, and their set alone, represented true love for God... The great thing is to discover some activity that signals good intentions before God. The trouble with human imagination is that it would like very much to transform whatever the activity is into merit, so that some automatic efficacy attaches to it...

      "One was committed to a rapid succession of meetings. This was the principal exercise of the faithful. Your devotion was measured in direct ratio to the number of times you appeared at gatherings in the course of one week. There was a thousand types of gathering, and each one had an unexceptional urgency and an unanswerable rationale behind it.

      "...the iteration from the pulpit of things that everyone was fully aware of was the thing that aroused the gasps of admiration and nods of accord. People seemed to enjoy hearing affirmed what they already vigorously believed, and to find in this activity what they called 'a real blessing'. It reminded me of those small wheel shaped cages in which a squirrel can run madly for as long as he likes without covering any territory... love for God became visible in worn-out Bibles and familiar argot and frequent gathering. The focus did not seem to have anything particular to do with the things Christ insisted on. You busied yourself with the appointed exercises, and the further you were able to banish other areas of human experience from your attention, the better. The great thing was to feel pure before God. This purity was reached not by pedestrian choices but by devotional activities.

When I read those words as a student at Fairwood, it seemed as if Tom's words were a very description of 'the Kingdom', and it made me stop and think.

I was as surprised as all my class mates when the Lord led me to return for a second year. Little was I aware that my entire life would be changed as a result. This second year contained many surprises, one of which was John. John was a young man I had met in England two years earlier, and whom I had begged to come join me at Fairwood, which he did part way through my second year.

Earlier I described myself as fitting into the mold of how a mature person in 'the Kingdom' was expected to act. I would have to say just the opposite to describe John. From the very beginning John caused disruption to the comfortable status quo. Despite his resolutions, John seemed never strong enough to keep the rules for social interaction (being quite a favorite among the young ladies). To make matters worse, John had hardly arrived before he took upon himself the responsibility of changing the student's theology (he was sometimes even found lecturing on exegesis in the forbidden kitchen or after curfew!) In short, John was everything that an evaluation by Kingdom standards would deem in need of much reform.

Despite his faults, John and I quickly became friends, and more than that, John was instrumental in leading me into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Often John had to talk straight with me about problems that I didn't want to face, or tell me the truth that hurt. Together we both fell in love with the Lord in a way that was exciting and new for the two of us. John helped me to learn to listen to the Lord's voice, and the two of us met for prayer every evening.

John, along with his sister whom I began corresponding with, helped me stop trying to maintain an image of artificial righteousness but face how I really was inside. My new found relationship with the Lord caused me to stop being so frightened about making mistakes. My walk with the Lord stopped being drudgery and started being filled with life! I realized that all along I had been trying to do everything in my own strength straining my will to conform to a standard of holiness, which had resulted in my mind being always on myself. Because my 'righteousness' was attained through the exercise of my willpower, who got the credit for it? Myself, which inevitably results in pride. I also realized that my motives for doing good works had been selfish, in that I wanted to make myself into a better person and was afraid (for myself) of displeasing the Lord.

But God does not want a bunch of righteous robots who, after years of practice, have developed strong enough wills so as not to make any mistakes. Instead the Lord wants our hearts to be His. As Peter Kreeft puts it,

      To this day millions of Christians simply can't believe it. They persist in thinking of God as a stern judge and of their road to heaven as the onerous piling up of good deeds for the day. They've read the New Testament a dozen times and missed the whole point. If they hadn't missed it, how could they go around with long faces and worried consciences all the time? It wasn't worry warts who won the world. Nor was it iron wills. It was doubting Thomases and foot-in-mouth-disease Peters and persecuting Pauls who became little Christs by believing the good news of the big Christ... (Heaven, The Heart's Deepest Longing)

When the good that I do is only motivated out of the love-relationship with the Lover of my soul, then, like the apostle, and done through the power of "Christ in Me" (Gal. 2:20) rather than my own strength, then "boasting is excluded." (Rom. 3:27) Only the Lord gets the credit since my good works spring from my love for Him, which springs from His love for me. We demonstrate how grateful we are to Jesus not by trying to achieve a sin-free life but by abandoning our entire being to Him unreservedly. When we do this we simply relax by trusting the Lord to reveal whatever truth we need to know when we need to know it, rather than spending time analyzing what's right and wrong and scrutinizing our motives.

After the Holy Spirit began to reveal these truths to me through my communication with John's sister, Esther, I stopped feeling guilty for things like keeping my eyes open during prayer meeting or choosing to miss my morning Bible reading in order to talk about the Lord with a friend. No longer did I want to do all the right things for the wrong reasons. Once I dispensed with this exterior of false piety the Lord was able to reach my interior. Yet from the point of view of the Fairwood staff, it seemed that I was digressing rather than growing in the Lord. One staff member wrote that before these months I had acted very honorably in all my dealings with others but that after John came there was something that he couldn't quite put his finger on but which left him feeling very uneasy about me. Because this assessment was exactly the reverse of how I really was, I began to realize that a wrong criterion was being employed by which people's integrity was evaluated. Because people were assessed on the basis of their outward appearance, which is compartmentalized from who they are inside, it was thought that during my first year I was good and then became corrupted, when in reality it was the other way around. Likewise with John, it became evident from subsequent correspondence with the Fairwood staff that they looked only at his actions but not at him as a person, taking the fact that John did such and jumping to conclude that John is this and that.

We shouldn't judge people because we often don't know what is going on inside a person and we only evaluate external actions clinically. Yet, at Fairwood the student's spiritual maturity was assessed by outward behavior which does not necessarily reflect inward change, and can even be a sign of spiritual retrogression and pharisaism. In this way there tended to be a subconscious assumption which said that if a person is doing alright with their filthy inside sufficiently under cover, then they are fine. Thus, a person will crave to appease and satisfy their own 'righteousness' simply because they will not allow themselves to comprehend what they are inside, and in pretending to be a good person they actually start to believe that they are. The trouble is that when we submerge the fruit of our fallen nature it is not removed - it remains and we become proud if we are successful in combating it's reappearance, deceiving ourselves that we have in fact removed the problem. However, the unfortunate thing is (but it is our ultimate salvation) that we are weak and in time the problem reemerges. Now for the more weak willed among us this happens rather a lot and we find that we are not very successful in combating the reemergence of our sinful inside. We are therefore labeled worse people than those with stronger wills who are quite successful at combating the reemergence of their sinful inside. They think that if we deal with what we do then we have solved the problem rather than understanding that the things we do are only fruits from the tree of who we are, that in fact we are powerless to effect any real change to our fundamentally corrupt nature.

When we thus face that our fallen-ness is a perpetual state of being which we can do nothing to rectify, however hard we try, and when we give up trying to achieve our sanctification through self-effort, it then becomes safe for us to do good works, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do." (Gal. 2:13 4:13)

"Therefore if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations...according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col. 2:20-23) No value against the indulgences of the flesh precisely because we are trying to conquer the flesh through the striving of the flesh. But since we did not receive this Spirit through the striving of human will power, why, having begun in the Spirit, would we want to try to perfect ourselves in the flesh? If such is what we do, then the sufferings we endure for the gospel of grace are in vain, for we do not need the grace of God's Spirit to sanctify us, but simply stronger wills. (Gal. 3:3-5). Only when we live by God's power rather than our own do we walk by faith. In this way it is possible to have everything we do done in an attitude of faith, for "without faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb. 11:5).

When a child of grace is being recreated by God, there is no longer the agonizing dichotomy which confuses the child of works by the lack of performance. The child of works measures his progress by his sin-free life, and so when he does sin the guilt is crippling. He is compartmentalizing the sin from himself. The child of grace, however, is so aware of his sinfulness and his gracious Father's forgiveness minute by minute that he is not deluded by his sin as the shocked child of works is. He does not excuse it but instead of it crippling him it serves as a reminder of what he is and just how much we owe to Jesus for dying on the cross for our sins.

The sinful nature of man wants to believe otherwise in order that we may boast in the flesh. But may we never boast except in Jesus Christ! (Gal. 6:13-14) Why should we, who are "complete in Him" (Col. 2:10) need anything else? Is the indwelling of God's Spirit nor sufficient to meet our spiritual needs, so that we must add to it a little of our own power to help God! But if we are led by the Spirit, we cannot, at the same time, be in bondage to human effort. Are we born of the flesh or are we born of God? (See Gal. 2:19-21, Rom. 6:14)

If we are born of God, and depend on the righteousness that is through faith in Christ Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17) than no longer must we worry about anything, or try to stay in control of our circumstances through ingenious planning and foresight. Being able to 'let go and let God' is by no means easy, but even in the difficulties and suffering that come our way, there is security, excitement, freedom, and liberation that results from the life of faith. We will look back and wonder how we could ever have lived a life of bondage to human effort. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (Gal. 5:1)

Before the Lord started showing me all these things in my second year at Fairwood, I had found the ministry at Fairwood spiritually uplifting. But now that I was going further with the Lord, I began to find that same ministry shallow and boring. It was as if the Kingdom could only take me so far in my spiritual growth, and when I wanted to go further, it actually held me back. I realized that if I had told anyone at Fairwood this they would have looked at me as if I was either out of my mind or in a cloud-cuckoo land of self-righteous egocentricity. When once I mentioned that a certain young woman I knew might be too advanced in the Lord to be helped at Fairwood, and might actually find it too shallow spiritually, I received a look and remark as if to say, "What are you talking about? For a young person to grow beyond their need for Fairwood is a spiritual contradiction!"

To make a long story short, before my second year was complete, the Lord dramatically led me to leave Fairwood and marry John's sister, Esther, whom I have already had occasion to refer. Esther and I had fallen in love two years earlier but had been apart from each other until now when our love was reawakened. I moved to England during Fairwood's Spring break to marry Esther, to the sudden shock of everyone at Fairwood.

Once I settled down to a family life in England, I finally had the time to investigate more thoroughly into Frank Sandford's life and teachings. Having taken a 'Kingdom history class' in my second year, I had an image of Frank Sandford that was very rosy. After that class, as I had grown more and more uncomfortable with the way of life at Fairwood, I also had grown less interested in Frank Sandford and had given the matter little further thought. In coming to England, however, I had time for further research. I had a book on Shiloh and 'the Kingdom' written by Bill Hiss, but which I had never taken the time to read whilst at Fairwood. My new mother-in-law started reading this book, and as she shared quotations with me I became increasingly alarmed at what I was hearing. Over the next year I tried to get my hands on as much of Frank Sandford's original writings as I could, though with some difficulty since much of his writing are carefully hidden away under lock and key and shown only to selected individuals. Though I wrote to the administrator of Fairwood requesting access to all of Frank Sandford's writings, in the interest of coming to a well informed conclusion about him, I was denied this request and told that I could only view those writings which had been published.

Fortunately I made contact with a man who possessed a lot of the censored material that the Fairwood staff tries to hide. I must say that my reading began to uncover information that painted a very different picture than what I had been taught in 'Kingdom' History Class! In this regard I must say something about what goes on at Fairwood. In one's first year at Fairwood, Frank Sandford isn't focused on, although impressive quotations from him are occasionally scattered through the meetings. Also, his ideas are taught, lived and breathed, but not as his ideas (for he isn't mentioned) but just as biblical truth. Those who decide to stay for a second year take 'Kingdom History Class'. What is taught in that class is not so much false in detail as it is false in the over-all impression created. Material central to certain things being studied is systematically omitted or else told in such a way that is totally misleading, while other bits of information about Frank Sandford, taken completely out of context so as to seem positive, were dwelt on in much detail. Most of the students come out of that class utterly convinced in Frank Sandford, ready to pass it on to the next generation. It isn't until the third year that students study Frank Sandford's 'difficult' sayings from the hidden archives, and by that time they are too deep within the system to be alarmed by them.

The first quotation that alarmed me, from Bill Hiss's book, was the following, in which I found the origin of the tendency mentioned earlier to evaluate people according to external and legalistic criteria. Frank Sandford wrote,

      I never wanted a man around who failed me once, and when I get out I expect to have nothing more but what we had in the first place - the same quality that stood the tests then. I will be glad to help the others outside if I can, but I can have nothing on that hilltop that is not the hundred-fold life - the very highest quality that here is. You can never bless me, until you can measure up.

This is completely contrary to how the Lord deals with us! God does not love us any less when we make mistakes or are immature and lacking in positive character traits. In fact, the message of the Gospels is that you do not have to measure up to a certain standard before the Lord will accept you. This is because when a person is in Christ they become righteous on the basis of what He has done, not on the basis of their own performance and character. If that were so then it would cause self-righteousness in those who have stronger willpower. Since this is how the Lord treats us, it is also how we, who are called to be imitators of Christ, should act towards one another, not judging our fellow brothers and sisters according to the flesh but loving with a pure, true love that does not ignore areas of character weakness yet sees beyond them to the intrinsic person. Being a Christian means coming to terms with the fact that I am no better than any other sinner saved by the grace of Jesus.

It is Satan's way (and Frank Sandford's) to despise any form of weakness and to deceive Christians into thinking that qualities like strength of character, drive, determination and willpower will enable us to better serve the Lord. But the Lord says to us, "Your strengths are no use to me. Though you believe yourself to be strong, or wise, or talented, these things do not matter, for I see your weaknesses as strengths and your strengths as weaknesses. I can use you only when you die to all that is yourself. Your usefulness comes only from My Strength, for you will soon see the strong and the mighty ones fade, for their strength is of themselves, and they have nothing given to them by Me."

This is the Lord's way since He delights to use the small and the weak to confound the mighty. The power of God in us is found in weakness. It is death and resurrection that is the ministry of Christ, and this involves the complete death of all our strength, which thus enables a resurrection of God's power in our lives. The members of Christ's body must be those willing to partake of His character and participate in His death. Only in this way will the rivers of living water flow outward from us to a world lost in darkness.

Because of this, to have an iron will like Frank Sandford is not the source of good works that bring glory and praise to God. It only brings glory and praise to the man achieving them. That is why Frank Sandford directed glory to himself, rather than to the Lord, as can be seen in such statements as the following

      If you want to know how He looks, look at me, for I look just like Him. Gaze right at me. Oh, how it blesses me to say that! Oh, doesn't God laugh in heaven to have one man dare to believe Him! Go ahead and do some thinking if you want to. Look right at me if you want to do any thinking. And can't you see I look more beautiful than I did before I said it?...

      I propose to open people's eyes to the fact that God considers me of some consequence in His Kingdom... I ought to be the most popular man in the country...I am going to be popular after this. I am a gentleman...Some day you will wake up and want to kiss my feet. I am fighting to get your family saved. I will get your family saved for you, if you will let me... I am a good subject to talk about. I wish you had as much right to talk about yourself as I have about myself.

I was very saddened by the content of that quotation when I first saw it, and also by the fact that very few people in 'the Kingdom' today even know that their founder believed such things. Could it be that the reason these documents have been so carefully guarded for so long is because the powers that be know that if the truth were known then many people in 'the Kingdom' would reject Frank Sandford and the movement he founded?

I was further alarmed to discover that in 1904 Frank Sandford had five hundred fifteen people sign a pledge above which was written, "What it is now essential to believe in order to be loyal to the Kingdom and acceptable to Almighty God." These "essentials" were belief in the Trinity, belief in the Bible, and belief that Frank Sandford as Elijah, and "David a Prince" (Ezek. 34:24), and "the Branch", and belief that Frank Sandford as Elijah and Mr. Holland were the "two sons of oil" (Zech. 4:14), and the "two candlesticks" (Rev. 11:4) and the "two olive trees" (Rev. 11:4) and the "two witnesses" (Rev. 11:3) and the "two anointed ones." (Zech. 4:14, Rev. 4:4). Frank Sandford also believed that he and his movement were the rider on the white horse depicted in Rev. 6:2. Regarding his role as David, in fulfillment of Hosea 3:5, Frank Sandford said,

      I say these words refer...to a man of God so spiritual as to warrant the inspired statement that seeking David their king is equivalent to seeking Jehovah. I would not lose that if I were you. It may be your damnation or salvation. (Emphasis Added)

There are many other quotations in which Frank Sandford argues that it is through him that people can reach God, and that seeking him is equivalent to seeking the Lord. He even taught that Christ's salvation came to people through him, and that were it not for his faith and righteous living, the entire world would have been consumed by God's anger. Elsewhere Frank Sandford states this equivalency between himself and God, using language which sounds like he had a Divinity complex.

      He (God) said to me this morning, 'Testify of your oneness with me.' And I do it. And I declare before men and angels in this 20th century that Jesus Christ and I are joint heirs, and that God loves me with the same burning intensity with which He loves Him, without the slightest difference between us... When He comes all the saints shall go with Him, and I am a part of Him. I am His body - identified with Him. I and my Father are one - absolutely one, with no qualification whatever.

The context of the second part of this citation makes it unclear whether Frank Sandford is simply referring to himself in the sense that we are all members of Christ's body, though his words about his equality with Christ suggest that he may mean this in an exclusive sense.

To make matters worse, I came across a body of quotations from Frank Sandford's teachings which undermine the scriptural doctrine of justification by faith. We are told in the Bible that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man boast." (Eph. 2:8-9) "Nor is there salvation in any other {than Jesus}, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'" (Acts 4:12) Frank Sandford's teaching, on the other hand, declares that God's acceptance of us depends on our own works and that in fact the salvation of Christ is not sufficient to cover certain 'big' sins. For example, he taught that the sin of marrying a divorced person would result in everlasting damnation, as can be seen from the following quotation.

      Any person married to one who has been divorced, for any reason excepting adultery, is as certain of damnation as God's Word is true.

The administrator of Fairwood wrote to me that the above words "indicates that Mr. Sandford believed that the Word of God reveals what sin is." Actually, however, the above words dishonor the sacrifice of Christ by making Jesus blood insufficient to save anyone who marries a divorced person. If the above quotation were true, then it follows that Jesus came only to die for the righteous but not for sinners, or at least not those guilty of certain sins. The sin of rejecting Frank Sandford's movement is another unforgivable sin which Frank Sandford introduced, as can be seen in the following quotations.

      They will find out that the words spoken by this man of God cannot be trifled with, and that insults will be atoned for - I was going to say they will be atoned for in hell; they will suffer for them in hell, but they can never be atoned for...

      ...every man and woman and child that has rejected this man, this movement, this church, and this baptism will be consigned to a lake composed of fire which feeds upon brimstone, where the 'smoke of their torment' will ascend up before God for ever and ever, and will never be shown the slightest mercy... I (God) warned you through My messenger that if you rejected that light I would damn you without mercy, endlessly, to show My wrath against such hellish ingratitude.

In a sermon Frank Sandford preached on December 1, 1901, he said,

      On that great day when you stand before the bar of God to be judged you will be amazed to have me step up and say, "I am against that person. I have no fellowship with him, Lord.

      "I promise you one thing the Lord will not fellowship him. I promise you another thing He will dis-fellowship every Methodist and every Baptist and every Presbyterian and every denominationalist on the face of God's earth and every person that does not heed my call which I have given in the name of the apostle of God.

Who then will go to heaven? According to Frank Sandford only those who were baptized into his movement, as stated categorically in the following quotations.

      Every person not thus baptized (by Mr. S.) will never pass into the kingdom of God... 'I (Jesus when He returns) will come to punish with everlasting destruction them that did not obey the gospel preached by My messenger.'

In these passages we see that salvation is equated not simply with faith in Christ but also with an identification with Frank Sandford. A similar qualification of justification by faith can be seen in a quotation by Frank Sandford's stenographer, Jean Stevens, who described an event that took place at Shiloh (the original Bible School in Durham, Maine). Frank Sandford had felt that his little son John had been polluted by contact with other workers and ministers at the Bible School. He believed God told him that he should whip his son for the "carnality and sin in the people he associated with, and he was bearing their iniquity for them."

      God told him to whip John, and the battle was for him of his own accord to go up to the turret and be willing for his father to whip him all that God wanted him whipped. It was an awful battle for him. For three days that little child fasted and prayed to get to the place where he really loved the will of God.... John went up to the turret two or three times; but his father felt he had not gotten absolute victory, and so sent him back to his room....

      "We all felt and knew that if little John did not get through by midnight, we would none of us get through. The salvation of the movement, and through the movement, of the world, hung on the Blood making that little child perfect to go to the turret and take his whipping gladly and willingly.

      "Mr. Sandford did not make it easy for him. He had shown him the rod he would use; told him it made no difference whether God wanted him whipped once or twice, or all day, he must be willing to have it done. ... At last, about half-past eleven, little John got his victory and went to the turret. His father questioned him as to whether he really loved God's will, whether he really wanted to be whipped then, etc., and the little fellow was firm in his answer that he did...

      "Then his father told him that because Jesus had been whipped, and Jesus had suffered and died for him, he would not have to be whipped at all.... "Dear Mr. Sandford came down and told us all about it, and also told us that after they got through praying John asked for a drink. He had suffered intensely from thirst. His father told him that Jesus was three days in the grave, and that his three days would not be up until nine o'clock the next morning; and while he could have the water that night if he wanted it, yet he felt it would be better for him to go clear through. The little fellow said that he wanted to do that, and so he was put to bed...

      "Mr. Sandford told us of the intense suffering of the child during the night, so intense that he called Dr. Miller to see if he could get through the night in safety. He only slept an hour or so during the night, and he asked his father seventy five times for water, but every time, when his father would question him as to whether he really wanted it, he would say no, he would go clear through. And he did, and all Shiloh knows that we owe our souls' salvation to that little child's sufferings.

We owe our soul's salvation to no person's suffering save the suffering of Jesus Christ and the blood He shed on Calvary! For Frank Sandford to believe that the salvation of the world hung on whether or not his son would want to be whipped before midnight, means that if little John had done differently than the entire world would be damned. Logically this would include not only everyone living at the time, but also everyone who had already died, like Abraham, Isaac Jacob, David, etc., seeing that if the Blood of Jesus would not be sufficient to save those living at the time, if little John had acted differently, then why would it have been sufficient to save anyone who had lived before? In that case, we are not simply saved through Christ's sufferings, but through John Sandford as well! The fact that in the end Frank Sandford didn't whip John, and used that as an example of Christ's mercy, doesn't justify what led up to that point even as an illustration, or the statement that the eternal destiny of the world hung on the shoulders of this poor little boy.

Having examined Frank Sandford's teaching, I became very concerned for my dearly loved friends in the Kingdom whom I wanted to help. Even though things have got a lot better than they were in those days, there nevertheless seems to be a spiritual link with Frank Sandford to present members of the Kingdom, which involves precognitive spiritual impulses and instinctive responses that correspond with Frank Sandford's basic outlook and way of thinking. I believe this link creates a bondage that, to whatever limited degree, prohibits the Holy Spirit from working fresh in people's lives. I therefore have made it a matter of prayer to ask the Lord that this bondage would be broken and that the members of the Kingdom would be released from the shackles of a tradition contrary to God's Word.

Having reached these conclusions, it remained for me to find an adequate explanation for the miracles Frank Sandford reportedly performed. My wife pointed out to me the fallacy of inferring too much about a person from the fact that they work miracles. After all, God answers prayer from all sorts of people, and it is a reflection, not of their own righteousness but of His power. When the Lord raised someone from the dead in answer to Frank Sandford's prayer, his followers should no more have concluded from that that Frank Sandford was someone special or trustworthy than we can infer that about ourselves every time the Lord answers one of our prayers.

That sounded pretty logical, but I still wasn't completely satisfied until I read a book by Watchman Nee titled, The Latent Power of the Soul. This book convinced me that the miracles Frank Sandford performed were not answers to prayer but arose form the latent power within his soul. Watchman Nee proves convincingly, both from scripture and from science, that within the human soul is a storehouse of power which man was restricted from using after the time of the fall, but which may be tapped into through spiritually illegal means.

"As soon as man fell", writes Watchman Nee, "God imprisoned man's psychic powers in his flesh. His many powers became confined and hidden in the flesh as a latent force - present but inactive." When Eastern mystics, Buddhists, Taoists, Hypnotists and parapsychologists tap into this power, they have supernatural ability that is real and remarkable. Watchman Nee argues that this spiritually illegal use of psychic energy not only enables people in India to be able to project their consciousness into America through a trance, or turn water into gasoline, but is used by those who profess the Christian faith as well. Whenever we rely on energy from our own soul rather than from God's spirit, we are drawing on this latent power within us. The use of such power is seen, not simply in miracles, but in an energy and power to accomplish acts for God through strength of will rather than through the Spirit of the Lord. I will quote some sections from Watchman Nee's book.

      "I do not know how people are informed of the marvelous energy dormant in man's soul, the release of which, presently bound by flesh, will result in the display of miraculous power... What all do is nothing more than bring man's external confused thought, wavy emotion, and weak will to a place of tranquility, with his flesh completely subdued, hence making possible the release of the soul's latent power... They all follow one common rule; to break through the bonds of the flesh and release the power of the soul... God, though, never works with man's soul power, for it is unusable to him... Satan is now engaging this soul power to serve as a substitute for God's gospel and its power. He tries to blind people's hearts, through the marvel of soul force, into accepting a bloodless religion... The Holy Spirit works in man through the human spirit, but now Satan forges in man's soul many phenomena similar to the workings of the Holy Spirit, causing man to experience false repentance, false salvation, false regeneration, false revival, false joy, and other counterfeits of Holy Spirit experiences....

      "Instead of directing your prayer towards God, you concentrate on your thought, your expectation, and your wish and send them out to your friend as a force. Your prayer is like a bow which shoots your thought, desire and wish as arrows towards your friend. He will be so oppressed by this force that he will do exactly what you have asked for. You may think your prayer is answered. But let me tell you, it is not God who answers your prayer, for you have not prayed to Him.... Even though you do not know hypnosis, what you have secretly done has fulfilled the law of hypnotism. You have released your psychic force to perform this act...

      "The peril of the pulpit lies in the fact that many preachers do not know they are using their own psychic force. They think they have power; but they are only employing psychological power to win people.... We all know that some individuals have a magnetic attraction about them...

      "Very often in meetings Christians can sense a sort of power pressing in on them, or even at times of prayer and Bible reading they may feel oppressed without any reason... If the power has come from God - which is that of God's Spirit - you would have felt light and clear. But psychic force as used by the enemy is aroused by the presence of a big crowd. May we be able to discern the difference lest we too be deceived...

      "God only works with His own strength; consequently we must ask Him to bind our soul life. Each time we work for God, we need to first deal with ourselves, setting ourselves aside. We should lay down our talents and our strong points. We should ask God to bind these things. We should say to Him 'O God, I want You to work, I do not want to depend on my talent and my power. I ask You Yourself to do the work, for by myself I can do nothing.'

Though this testimony has focused on the negative aspects of 'the Kingdom', there were many positive experiences I had at Fairwood. I will always appreciate those in 'the Kingdom' who accepted me as one of themselves and reached out to love me. I have no doubt that it was the Lord who led me to go to Fairwood because of what he wanted to teach me through the experience. My time was blessed with good relationships and life experiences that were new to me, and which the Lord used to help me grow into an independent dependence on Him, particularly during my second year.

Looking back on the experiences I have relayed, I see the hand of God working marvelously in my life to bring me to the point whereby He could teach me how to live by faith and rely on His strength rather than my own righteousness. I think the Lord for all He has done for me. I have written what I have because I find it difficult to restrain myself in the enthusiasm I feel for what the Lord has done in my life. I desire greatly for others to experience this same joy and freedom. Like the apostle, I can say that "God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Phil. 1:8-11)

If this testimony has blessed you, or if you have any comments, please e-mail me at largerhope@robinphillips.screaming.net

Philipsfam2.jpg (44519 bytes) Robin Philips & family