the Spirit Watch
Miller’s View of the Western Church:
Discerning Immanuel Ministries
by Steven J. Hogel, Spiritwatch Ministries
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (NIV) Ephesians 5:25-27
This proclamation by Paul is a beautiful demonstration of love by Christ for the universal church. Through Christ the church is “without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless.” Every believer clings to this promise since we are unable to be any of the above on our own. Even in Paul’s day the church had problems including false teachings as evidenced in Galatians and organizational difficulties such as how to distribute food as shown in Acts. Before the letter to the Ephesians was written, the early church exhibited sin, yet the Apostle Paul confidently wrote that the “church will be without stain or wrinkle” because the work has been done by our High Priest, Christ Jesus.
In contrast to Paul, Miller’s view of the church is dark and highly critical. Miller believes the Western Church is apostate and has gone so far as to try to start his own denomination. He does not attend a local church but instead hosts a service on the premises of IM. He will not work with any other denomination except to take money or to provide IM speakers to promote his views.
Miller claims that only Immanuel Ministries is doing God’s will by feeding the poor. To support his claim, Miller refers to the example of the first century church to demonstrate how the church should be today. In his book, “In Defense of the Poor”, he writes,
Acts 4:32-35 “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”
No needy among them - what a powerful accounting of the grace of giving! I’m sure we can all admire and appreciate what the early church did for those who were in need. Certainly when it comes to Acts, we are all hesitant to formulate sound doctrine by pulling a verse out of context and mandating it for all believers. Yet these key questions face every true follower of Christ today: Is the model of the First Century Church a description of how the Holy Spirit was moving in their midst or was it a prescription for how the church should always function? Should today we see this same manifestation? Should we as the body of Christ today not claim that our possessions are our own? Should there be needy people among us? Should we from time to time sell lands and houses and lay them at church leadership’s feet for distribution to those in need? (Emphasis mine)
Miller continues by answering that the early church described in Acts is the prescription for the church today. Christians should not claim their own possessions. There should be no needy among them and they should lay their lands and houses at the church leadership’s feet.
Miller quotes several passages from the New Testament describing how the believers made sacrifices for other churches and one another such as II Corinthians 8:13-15. Here Paul urges the Corinthians to share their surplus with needy churches,
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15 as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." 
The question still remains: if in the days of the Early Church there were no needy among them, should we go to such lengths as the selling of our lands and houses to accomplish such a task? If so, we could not even justify that the meeting of needs in our own communities would be enough. Those in the western world cannot just be concerned about the needy in our own communities, when the third world continues to suffer greatly. Since it has already been Biblically illustrated that they cared for regions other than their own, God’s standard for His church is that all believers should labor for economic equality. The believers in the third world must be raised to a higher standard of living, while those in the western world must be lowered to a lesser standard. (Emphasis mine)
Miller is advocating “Christian Socialism”. The below quote accurately describes Miller’s view on equality and unity within the Body of the Church.
Totalistic, authoritarian groups mistake uniformity for unity. Uniformity, however is external and overtly apparent, where as true Christian unity is an internal bond, powerful but invisible. In Jesus’ prayer for believers in John 17:21, He asks that “they may all be one,” just as He and the Father are one. How are we one? Is it just in the sense of unity of purpose, appearance, and allegiance, or are we in some sense truly one? First Corinthians 12:13 teaches us that by the indwelling Holy Spirit we, as believers, are actually one entity. Legalism substitutes the invisible spiritual unity of believers with the visible physical appearance of uniformity and conformity to rules and regulations.
Miller’s rules and regulations are to feed the poor, sell your land and your homes and claim no possessions for your own. The members of IM live under these strict legalistic guidelines. The members of IM own next to nothing. Most of them sold all of their possessions to join IM and do not work outside the ministry. They take their clothing from donations and owning items such as cars, health insurance, homes and retirement accounts are all scorned.
The irony is Miller’s lifestyle does not match what he preaches. Miller’s family owns a house and two vehicles. They also possess credit cards and health insurance. While the IM members live in poverty, Miller has attended cookouts at the home of a friend where he would enjoy steak and a movie. All the while, he berates the members at IM if they dare eat a cheeseburger from McDonald’s since the children in India consume just beans and rice. Miller fails to meet his own standards. As their prophet, he instructs the members that God would have them live in poverty and be totally dependent upon God. Yet Miller’s followers are completely dependent on him rather than God, because God communicates directly to him and only Miller understands how to get to heaven and live a life pleasing to God. Miller’s status as a prophet allows him to instruct the members to live in poverty while dismissing his own glaring disobedience. He explains his wife’s rebellion causes them to have credit cards, health insurance, a house, cars, and other things denied to IM members. His followers believe his lies and ignore the obvious double standard.
According to Miller’s book, the western church and Christian ministries have done next to nothing for widows or the poor. Miller said the following in relation to the work the western church is doing,
I Timothy 5:3 “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” Not with the tactics of the Pharisees who were only after their money, or modern day ministries and churches who are only after them for their estates and wills…
He seems to imply that modern day churches and ministries who help widows are only after their estates and wills. This is a broad-brush claim for which Miller does not provide support. Miller includes a song he wrote entitled “Oh How Long Lord” in which he criticizes the church for not feeding people overseas.
There’s a church so afraid to give, so consumed in their own lives to live. Saying let somebody else care, oh church why won’t you care. And I cry how long oh Lord 
The western church, with all her warts, demonstrates her love for the poor in the numerous ministries in the United States that provide food and other benevolent acts for our overseas brothers and sisters in Christ. Ministries such as Arms of Love, Bright Hope International, Children of Promise International, Denver Rescue Mission, ECHO, Food for the Hungry, Global Ministries, World Hope International, World Missions Ministries all faithfully serve the poor everyday in ways very similar to Immanuel Ministries. However, the members at IM are either unaware of these ministries or Miller’s teachings have convinced them that they are corrupted.
In addition to considering the western church disobedient, Miller believes the church has blood stained hands for not feeding the poor. Miller writes,
Listen to Jesus – Luke 14:12-14 “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Oh church, when will we realize that our potlucks and special dinners have done more damage than good and have only heaped a greater condemnation upon our heads. While the hungry remain hungry. 
Again, Miller takes verses out of context and gives them a new meaning. After reading this passage in context, one sees it has very little to do with feeding hungry people. The point Jesus was trying to make to the dinner host was to expect nothing in return for their service to those who cannot repay.
In I Corinthians 11:22, Miller condemns the western church for ‘sending away the hungry brother’,
“Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? CERTAINLY NOT!” I Corinthians 11:22 Understand this, we have sent the hungry brother away. Not only by the exclusivity of our services and activities, but have neglected the cry of our persecuted and suffering brothers and sisters all over the world. I say this to our shame - their blood stains our hands! 
People were being sent away hungry, but not the way Miller explains. In context this passage speaks about the ‘love feast’ before the Lord’s Supper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary has this to say about verses 21 and 22:
The Christian common meal or agape feast apparently followed the pattern of public sacred feasting among the Jews and Greeks. Following Greek custom, the food was brought together for all to share (cf. the modern church's "potluck" or "bring-and-share" supper), with the rich bringing more and the poor less. As Paul described it, however, cliques were established and the food was divided inequitably. The rich took their "lion's" share and became gluttons and the poor remained empty. So they were despising or bringing contempt on the church of God and humiliating the poor. 
Miller has more critical warnings regarding the western church. He writes,
Paul expressed this prophetic word in Acts 13:47,48 “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord, and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” We cannot believe that He saved us only to spend the next forty years of our lives doing nothing to reach this world for Christ. For the Lord has commanded us! Body of Christ, I call the sufferings of Jesus as a witness against you that you must not spend your days living for yourselves any longer, but must be convinced that you should live for the one who died for them. Not died only for you – died for them. Church leadership, I charge by the command of Christ to stop trying to build large congregations of pew sitters, but you must empower the bride for works of service. Stop telling them that serving Jesus is singing in the choir or changing a dirty diaper in the nursery while the world is dying and going to hell. (Emphasis original)
We are not without hope. Praise God we have been clothed with power from on high to do this job. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to empower us for global evangelization. Acts 1:8 clearly defines this purpose, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Lord has given us all we need to reach the ends of the earth and a beautiful promise to be with us to the very end of the age. The implication is evident: the ends of the earth have not been reached and the majority of the body of Christ is sitting idle. Even for those that God can convince to go – they end up telling the same people over and over again. I say this to our shame. (Emphasis original)
Of course, there are people in every church who do not have a relationship with Christ. The parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) makes it clear that unbelievers will dwell amongst believers in the church. There will also be believers who do not take their calling to Christ seriously. But to heap condemnation onto the western church and its’ ministries is unbalanced and problematic. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV) and II Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (NIV) Singing in the choir and changing diapers are noble tasks and good works that honor God. He prepared us in advance to shovel snow, preach the gospel, feed the homeless and guard the flock. I Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (NIV)
On the topic of spiritual gifts, Miller has these comments,
Scripture makes a distinguishing mark between what God calls one man to do and universal commands that are for all believers. If listed in the spiritual gifts passages we see that certain men were empowered by the Lord for ministry to the poor and others were not we would be able to justify our lack of action. But if we see that caring for the orphan or widow, the hungry or naked, the sick or imprisoned has nothing to do with gifting but is commanded it becomes universal and therefore mandatory for you as a child of God.
Miller is correct about mandates God has prescribed for the church. The church should look after the poor and the widow. The ministries listed above show that the western church does indeed serve them, although imperfectly. The Bible does not give details about how to feed the poor, such as what hours to work, what food to offer and so on. Conversely, Miller has made feeding the poor the primary task for the members of IM and in essence making it their existence. Every task at IM emanates from feeding the poor without any consideration given to the individuality of the members.
Miller’s exclusive focus is feeding the poor. A characteristic of an abusive ministry is to take a good thing to an extreme. One can do the same with other social issues addressed in God’s word. For example, a leader may be passionate about stopping abortion, a truly heinous act. The following scenario is to show how a biblical concept can be manipulated so that it sounds convincing.
The Bible tells us to not murder (Ex 20:13) and to value human life since we have been made in His image (Gen 1:26-27). As Christians, we should be appalled and protest the carnage that occurs because of abortion. We should stand in front of these places of “business” and share the gospel with the lost that are ready to take their unborn child to the butcher. To share the gospel, value human life and do to others as we would want them to do to us is mandatory, no exceptions. If we ignore the clear teachings in God’s Word by not helping these unborn children, their blood will be on our hands. Their blood cries out since we just sat in the pews and did nothing to rescue them from the cleaver of the butcher. I ask you church, are your hands innocent of the blood of the unborn? The answer is to protect, educate and protest at these abortion clinics.
An abusive leader exploits the legitimate disgust his followers feel towards the sin and he uses it to manipulate them. Including scriptural support, even taken out of context, makes his argument that much more convincing. In Miller’s case, he has convinced his followers that their salvation is dependent upon their obedience in performing what he tells them the Bible requires of them. This type of manipulation lays an extremely heavy burden on the conscience. The only way to be free is to do what one is told. For the members of Immanuel Ministries, their freedom comes from feeding the poor and widows while carrying the gospel to the unreached.
Miller does not see the church as Christ does demonstrated in Ephesians 5:25-27. Instead Miller’s unhealthy balance and view of the western church has clouded his judgment as he has this to say,
The Jesus we see reflected in the Scriptures goes far beyond what becomes the typical method of the western church. And when discussing the needs of the diseased in the body of Christ globally, we will realize that far more must be done than a committee formed to send flowers.
Where are the elders who would be mindful of the sick? Where is the body of Christ for those who are diseased and dying? So maybe Jesus is willing – it’s just that we are not!
There has been much discussion in our day and age concerning reaching the lost for Christ. The body of Christ has used many schemes and plans, many programs and systems, clever tracts and gimmicks. But what does the Bible say concerning how to make an impact upon the darkness? Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Our modern methodology must be reformed if we have any hope of accomplishing the Great Commission in our generation. For us to be prosperous and successful, spiritually effective and productive we need to follow the methodology of Scripture and not some 21st century invention.
Miller views the western church as an apostate institution that is busy with mundane, safe tasks, and does not lift a finger to help the poor, yet he is still willing to accept their money to fuel his ministry. As of this writing, some churches have pulled their support. But in usual fashion, the double standard rears its head again in the form of Miller taking money from the apostate institutions he disdains.
In his discourse, Miller also scorns the western church for its building programs:
It is not too hard to believe that God's heart would beat more for people than buildings and programs, the lost more than Sunday school and committees, and the needy more than potlucks and holiday celebrations. The Father also loves when His children are cheerful givers. Not givers to building programs or exorbitant pastor salaries.
Since Immanuel Ministries is a sizeable operation with a significant budget, one would expect a board or group of overseers to guarantee the responsible use of the donated funds. Who is holding IM accountable for all the money and supplies that are donated? More importantly, who holds Miller and Peters accountable spiritually? The answer may surprise you.
 Miller, In Defense of the Poor, p. 3
 What this translates to is sell everything and give the proceeds to Immanuel Ministries. As will be demonstrated, Miller has little to no interaction with any churches except to take their money for his causes. For Miller to use the phrase “church leadership’s feet” is misleading.
 Miller, p. 6
 Miller, p. 7
 Don Veinot, Joy Veinot, Ron Henzel, “A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life” (21st Century Press, 2002) p. 198.
 Let the reader know that this author has no problem with Christ’s followers eating steak or watching movies, but Miller’s double standard is glaring and needs to be exposed.
 Miller, p. 30-31
 Miller, p 17
 Miller, p 46
 Miller, p 46-47
 Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament, Electronic version
 Miller, p. 88-89
 Miller, p 94
 Miller, p 59
 Miller, p 63
Comments and Questions may be e-mailed directly to
Steve Hogel at firstname.lastname@example.org