Interesting former Thiemite testimony about experience at Berachah:
I was a 'Berachah baby', there in diapers in the mid-1960s; and attended without fail until I entered the Army in 1980. My last visit to Berachah Church was in May 1984. My parents began attending when Thieme was preaching in the "quonset hut", somewhere downtown, before the current facility was constructed.
I am pleased to say that by the grace of Almighty God, my family escaped from Berachah Church. My intention here is to offer my personal views and experiences. I know of quite a number of people who were friends of mine in the 1970s-80s, and still attend.
My parents made their last visit to Berachah in 1981. I was home on leave and so thrilled to be a part of the 'military communion' at Christmas - a ceremony I now regard as blasphemous. The focus of communion should be on Jesus Christ, not all the pretty uniforms. It is completely out of place. But I digress.
The weirdness began in the early 1970s. R.B. Thieme, Jr. (I will do all I can to refrain from referring to him as The Colonel) began wearing his old staff officer WWII uniform for the various 'conferences'; this was, I believe, about the same time that his son was commissioned as an Army officer. The Viet Nam War was ending, and Thieme began pushing a strong pro-military stance, incorporating this stance, as we all well know, into his ministry. A massive RANGER tab appeared on the balcony of the church where the children's classes (formerly known as Junior Church) were held. (Sidebar: As a child, I attended Junior Church under the guidance of Sam Hankins, an amazing man and a true teacher of the Bible. He was fired by Thieme, and Thieme announced one night that he had "taken control" of what would now be known as "Prep School". It was, in my opinion and conversations with those younger than I, an unparalleled disaster and warped many young lives.) The hallway behind the pulpit became "Ranger Hall", with huge photos of any man who was qualified as a Ranger. How pleased God must have been by all of this. I remember the summer of 1974, the 4th of July "Conference" - Ranger demonstrations, hand-to-hand combat in the grass "quad", Gary Horton rappelling out of the (completely abandoned) baptistry, and people sitting on the floor. In those days, tapers took their holiday vacations to come to Berachah - one had to arrive a couple of hours before services began just to get a seat. All kinds of men carrying concealed weapons, ready to take a bullet if the doors ever crashed in and Soviet agents came to get Thieme, who was (by his own admission) on several death lists as their chief protagonist. (Ahem, pardon me while I clear my throat.) Police patrolling the parking lot, making sure no indigent/homeless/hippie types got in. (Please, try to justify this exclusion using your Bible. I dare you.) And as a young man, living in perpetual terror that at any moment now, the Communists were coming to get me.
They were heady times.
I was speaking on the telephone to a good friend of mine just last night. He still lives in Houston, and his family left in the same timeframe as ours. (Note: There was a considerable exodus from Berachah from 1980-85; you will find many of these folks at First Baptist, Second Baptist, and Spring Branch.) He made the point that his family has been in disarray ever since, and this was 20 years ago. Four siblings, all with children now, and none of them ever see each other. He stated that he credits Berachah with this dysfunction, as there was never time for family. Dad came home, gobbled some dinner, packed up the family, off to church - five nights a week, twice on Sunday, with "Berach Night at the Movies" available for Saturday night entertainment, and to keep the congregation from having to mingle with anyone beyond the doors of Fort Berachah. I am relieved and blessed to say that my parents were saved BEFORE joining Berachah, and we're all fine, and all members of various Baptist and non-denom Christian churches. I have three older sisters, and the eldest suffered the worst fate. She graduated high school in 1973, having found her 'right man' who was in Marine ROTC. He was commissioned in 1975, and she spent the next several years under the iron-fisted neglect of one of Thieme's star minions. He would get off duty, come home, bark a few orders and tell her how horrible the house looked (it was always immaculate), then lock himself in the study for the duration of the night and suck down his nightly load o'doctrine. This was their routine, and it never changed. There was no physical abuse, but neither was there a marriage - nothing with even a passing resemblance to the love and sacrifice that husbands are called to. They divorced, and she eventually found her mate. She is one of the premier examples of the ludicrous right man/right woman doctrine that sent all single Berachans into a frenzy of dating and social events, a mad race to find their RM/RW.
On a positive note -
1. Thieme's presentation of the gospel of salvation was entirely accurate, and I am confident he was an instrument in leading many, many thousands to the Lord.
2. In any church I attend, I always compare their handling of the offering and other funding to how it was done at Berachah. Thieme was right on this issue 100%. And even though I think his teachings are mostly ludicrous, I respect him immeasurably for making sure anyone could get them for free.
And now, I'll attempt to itemize a few of the thousand things where I am confident he is/was wrong, and why. I will try to limit this to 10 points.
1. Privacy of the Priesthood - This doctrine was pounded home over and over. It is heretical, and invented by Thieme to keep him from having to perform his true duties as a pastor - counseling, visiting, tending the flock. This so-called "doctrine" was structured to insulate him, aided by his little band of goons, bodyguards, flunkies, and wanna-be Rangers. This doctrine also kept anyone at the church from contacting my parents when they slipped quietly away, after having been members for 30 years. To this day, never a phone call or any contact. For all the church knows, they drove off a cliff.
2. Gates of Arrogance - My goodness, it makes me want to vomit. This doctrine got so convoluted with its countless 'gates' that I came to realize he was just making it all up. If anyone on this planet stands as a shining example of arrogance and megalomania, it's Thieme. Fired the choir, fired the board, fired the deacons, fired the assistant/associate pastors, wrote the lyrics to the hymns (and yes, I can still recite "Christian Soldier" and "Bread of Heaven" verbatim), and set himself up as a complete and total dictator, daring anyone to question his authority. This singular position cannot be justified anywhere in the ministry of Jesus Christ - which is exactly why we are given strict guidance on the role of deacons and elders, and ESPECIALLY the pastor. This all came with the swarming crowds attending the conferences - it's all timed together (firing everyone and taking complete control). Quite frankly, I just think it simply went to his head. He forgot he was supposed to be teaching God's Word, and the ministry evolved into truly bizarre stuff.
3. Right Pastor - Completely erroneous. If you accept this notion, then you must accept that everyone else is wrong, and that only your Right Pastor is, well, right. You must then discard all the books and teachings of the truly great minds of Christian theology. Right Pastor is a complete and total lie. See 4 (next).
4. It is the joy of the believer to study the Word of God. This study should not be a chore. It requires no acronyms, formulas, and invented so-called 'doctrines' for you to hear from God through His Holy Scriptures. The Bible was recorded so that even the most simple-minded believer could understand it clearly. This is made possible by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us (believers). Thieme was able to rewrite the Bible by telling the congregation that they couldn't understand it. I clearly remember having this very argument with classmates in my high school, and sneering at them for thinking they could read God's Word themselves. If any of you are reading this, know that I have actually lost sleep over that argument in my adult years.
5. "Go ye therefore and teach all nations..." According to Thieme and the insane doctrine of privacy, you shouldn't even go next door. Never witness. Never visit. Never tend to the sick, the elderly, the dying, the infirm, the weak, the needy. Besides, they're probably suffering the sin unto death or in the 196th level of reversionism. If you can begin to grasp point 4 above, you will begin to see that Thieme's exclusive ministry all tied together to protect him on his personal Mount. Right pastor. No deacons. Privacy. Etc., ad nauseum.
6. I have heard from more than a few students of Greek and Hebrew, and read the comments by greater scholars than they, that Thieme's grasp of the original languages was a sham. One such student, a grad student whom I knew personally, went into Thieme's office after "class" (always "class", never "church" or "worship") because he couldn't get Thieme's interpretation to jive with the Greek. He even had his textbooks with him. He was hoping for a bit of enlightenment from his pastor, and instead was laughed at by Thieme and escorted from the church by two of the goons. I was there the night this happened.
7. It is the privilege of the believer to make a public declaration of his/her faith through water baptism. This baptism is not necessary for salvation; it is, rather, a testament. You can easily find ample verses in the true Bible (I stand by the KJV) attesting to this. Thieme denounced water baptism simply because he didn't want to have to touch the masses. All that interaction, all that shepherd and flock stuff, yuk....
8. "Rebound", at its core, is a completely false notion. "Rebound and keep moving" gave thousands of Berachans free reign to have affairs, take the Lord's name in vain, and sin with wild abandon. Confess it in the morning, get back in the club, and move on, right? WRONG. It is a privilege for the believer to confess his/her sins to the Lord. In so doing, we seek to draw closer to God, in that while we can never be sinless, we can strive to sin less. Confession of sin heightens our awareness of how our sinfulness grieves the Holy Spirit within us. It is not a free token to go out and sin some more. A repentant soul strives to avoid sin, and seeks to walk more closely with God; to do, as overused as the phrase has become, what Jesus would do.
9. The foundation of Christ's ministry was love and giving. He constantly taught the importance of these, and how they are intertwined - and by His grace, I have come to understand that we are here to serve one another, to love one another, to minister to one another. We are here to spread the ministry of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, not stand in defiant defense of a lunatic who makes up his own Bible. How often I have heard and read hardcore Berachans'/Thiemeites' defend "THE COLONEL". Dear Friends, I have something alarming to share with you. HE IS A MAN. Question: WHY DON'T YOU STAND AND DECLARE YOUR DEVOTION TO THE LORD AS VEHEMENTLY AS YOU DO FOR THIEME? Answer: Because as a cult leader, he has saturated your mind with the law that he is the one true leader, the one with all the answers, the one you should exemplify. (My goodness, in the late 70s, there were more white Cadillacs at Berachah than there were at the Cadillac dealership. I'm surprised Cadillac didn't try to run an ad in the bulletin. And Lafitte Rothschild '64 is swill, which you probably discovered if you were there, and making minimum wage, and were told over and over by your Colonel that it was the only thing worth drinking, and you spent your hard-earned money to procure some.)
10. Super Grace and Ultra Super Grace are made up. They are not in the true Word of God. They were extrapolated by Thieme so he could set himself above the crowd. It's a shocker, I know. Get over it and get with the Lord. When believers reach the Judgment Seat of Christ, there are five crowns that will be given. But these crowns don't go to us; they go back to the Lord, to His Glory. HEAVEN AIN'T ABOUT US, FOLKS, IT'S ABOUT GOD. No "plantations and mint juleps" - just a perfect eternity, worshipping and adoring the Creator of the Universe. He, who alone is holy. And here on earth, we are blessed by God when we strive to do His Will, when we strive to be Christlike. This entails witnessing, counseling, prayer, giving, and a host of other post-salvation works, all of which involve interacting with others. "Faith, without works, is dead, being alone." So, if you truly DID reach 'Super Grace' or 'Super Duper Grace', it would be incumbent upon you to be a servant of the Lord - not to insulate yourself from unbelievers and condemn anyone who is missing their daily intake o'doctrine.
11. (Okay, I went one over.) Be aware of any "pastor" who does not teach the Word of God. By this, I mean anyone who routinely steps outside of the Bible, either by new interpretations from the 'original languages', or whose ministry is nothing but the same homespun aw-shucks feel-good story every Sunday, or who spends an entire service discussing the Battle of Waterloo. Or telling you what you should drink. He is there to present the Word of God to you - not entertain you, belittle you, demean you, or embarrass you. And by golly, if you can't approach your pastor after the service, and have a chat, or ask a question, or get counseling - THEN HE IS NOT A PASTOR.
12. (Just one more.) While I am certain Thieme helped thousands to find Christ as their Savior, I am just as certain he destroyed many thousands of lives through his false teachings. Re-interpreting God's Word is not something that goes unnoticed by the Almighty, and Bob Thieme certainly had no proprietary domain on the truth.
"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." So much so that He gave His life for mine. The end for me came when Thieme stepped to the side of his pulpit, put one hand on his hip, leaned forward, and sneered to the congregation, "Jesus doesn't love you - he TOLERATES you." I never went back after that night. Dozens of notebooks full of scribbled doctrines went in the dumpster. It took me several years to clear my head of all the nonsense, but I turned my life over to the Lord and He has blessed me abundantly. I am in a fundamental Baptist church (independent), have taught a number of Sunday School and men's classes, and was even asked by the pastor to give a sermon last Thanksgiving regarding Christ's ministry of giving.
I have been deliriously, happily, joyfully married for just over 20 years. I have one son, who is a senior at the top of his class at a Christian school.
I follow the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, not any one man. I read and clearly understand my Bible. I know where I will spend eternity.
To those of you still under the ministry of R.B. Thieme, Jr. - I know there is nothing I can say that you will convince you of any of this. Hopefully someday you will come to realize that his teachings are a grain of truth wrapped up in an ocean of falsehoods and self-serving lies. There are doctrines in the Bible, but it is perfectly proper to say, "I am studying God's Word" - not performing your daily intake of Bible doctrine.