The following is a commentary, adapted from an article I was originally preparing to DEFEND Maranatha against it’s harsher critics (regarding it’s doctrine and practices). Times have changed, but I still strive to be fair and balanced here, and have adjusted the article accordingly:
* One practice people joining the group should be aware of is “consulting the word“. By this I mean, opening the bible and reading the first verse your eyes fall upon – as a kind of modern day “casting of lots”. In Maranatha we are taught that God can speak through a “positive” or “negative” verse to give a yes or no answer to a question. We are also given some helpful guidelines to avoid abuses, and even acknowledge that God is not obligated to speak. The casting of lots was something practiced in the early church, and therefore I cannot condemn this practice as “unbiblical”, “bibliomancy” or “diviniation” as some of Maranatha’s harsher critics have. God can speak through the scriptures, and opening to a verse gives Him an opportunity to put his “yes” or “no” into context, where the verse illustrates a similar that mirrors our own. I will not limit God by denying this practice as hersey or completely wrong. Where Maranatha falters in this, is the frequency of this practice, which in EFFECT obligates God to speak. God is NOT obligated to speak. Personally, I believe, that myself, and even other Christians in the past (Wesley, and others) have had some interesting experiences where we understood God was speaking through the scriptures this way. Despite the best intentions of the group, this practice can still be problematic, and not always reliable. It is a noble goal to give God an opportunity to speak and include Him in our decision.
* Another practice is “Pleading the Blood of Jesus“. In Maranatha we’re taught that the “Blood” is the “Holy Spirit” who circulates like blood in the “Body of Christ” (the Church, and it’s members) bringing pardon, life, peace, security, communion, joy, etc. This practice of using this vocabulary “Lord, I/we plead the blood of Jesus…” however has been weilded in a legalistic manner, in which we are led to believe that our prayers might not reach God. This for me is similar to catholics making gestures of the sign of the cross. Isn’t this superstition? Does every activity must begin with this prayer (the beginning of a service; before we drive in a vehicle; consult the word; etc)? Forgetting or ignoring this sentence is frowned upon in the organization. I believe this leads people to carry out this prayer legalisticly – I know it did for me. The bible however has no such practice in the New Testament. What is clear is that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive and to CLEANSE us, when we CONFESS our sins. He CLEANSES us with the BLOOD when we WALK IN THE LIGHT, having fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7-9). The only thing that should be obligatory in our prayers is that it is directed to the FATHER, and IN JESUS NAME. The sprinkling/application of Jesus, once and for all, shed blood – is AUTOMATIC for those IN CHRIST. Many in Maranatha seem to want to cling to this practice, citing “experiences” on account of “pleading the blood” (while not considering that God has answered their prayers out of His mercy and grace, and because they prayed to the FATHER in JESUS NAME – no more, no less).
I will continue to post more commentary on this thread in the future, as there is more people should be aware of.
* “Prophetic Services (Handling Of Spiritual Gifts)“ – Before services and other church activities, there is a “prophetic service” (pre service meeting) that happens. There any mature baptised member can participate. There they continue to seek and share what the Lord’s REVEALED will is, as manifested through the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit (as per 1 Cor 12). For example, someone might have a revelation/vision/dream about something God wants to direct the local group in. The purpose of this meeting is to bring all this revealed knowledge to the table. There it is to be discerned (e.g. – Does this gift come from God or not?); and handled with wisdom (e.g. How do we apply what God has revealed for today?). For example, the message (sermon) preached for a service (and song selection) should fit with what the Lord has shown. So if the Lord shown an item/issue/need/direction – then whatever is communicated to the church (message, songs, etc) should address that theme. Spiritual Gifts are discerned to be from the Lord, also by having 2 or 3 members have consult the word (see previous description). This is problematic however in a prophetic service where there is more than 2 or 3 people. What if only those who had “positive” (yes) verses from the Lord read? There will in theory always be the risk of false positives. All this said, I still believe Spiritual Gifts are something still for today, and that God has specific things to say every day for everything in our walk as Christians. This however should NEVER go against what God has revealed in the scriptures (which contain His general will). I also believe this system in Maranatha of handling the gifts corporately, has some safeguards, that other Pentecostal and Charismatic groups lack. Even so, there is a lack of realism among the members and leadership about the positive results of this. There is still plenty of room for abuses and error. It’s this system by which members look to when they claim that we do everything “by revelation”.
* Permission For “Water Baptism“ – New members and converts are NOT to be baptised in the waters immediately. There is a waiting period where the leadership seeks the Lord as to whether or not so-and-so is ready. This goes against the pattern of the New Testament, which had no obligatory probationary period. When seeking the Lord, they implement the previously mentioned practice of “consulting the word” (e.g. using positive/negative verses in the bible to give a yes/no answer – similar to casting of lots).
* Confirming The “Baptism Of The Holy Spirit” – Baptism of the Holy Spirit, is likewise confirmed via “consulting the word” at the end of a beginners seminar class (on the subject of “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”). If the Lord gives a positive verse in the bible, then “yes” you have been baptised with the Holy Spirit, if negative/”no” then not, etc. That said, the group does not deny that the Holy Spirit can baptise before or after that class. This class and consultation however lends itself to false positives, and comes across as rather mechanical in nature. No such practice in the NT, of confirming the Baptism of the Holy Spirit can be found.
* “Orientations” which are “Revealed” by “God” through a centralized global “Presbytery”/”Hierarchy” – In Maranatha, there is a top-down chain of command, from God through a centralized hierarchy situated in Vila Vehla, ES, Brazil. From there come “orientations” (instructions that God revealed) on just about anything under the sun (messages to preach, announcements, flower arrangements details, prayer chains, dress code, final say on who gets “raised” to the “ministry”, etc). These are typically required for ALL of the LOCAL groups in the world to follow. There is no true autonomy for local groups – and to do so will very likely land the local pastor in a trouble. This in general is potentially very dangerous, as it lends itself to legalism and Spiritual abuse (e.g. it did not prevent the major scandal, nor the reported mistreatment of former members and pastors, etc). Many online in Orkut communities, blogs and others have reported discouraging reports about this. As for a centralized leadership, there was no such heirarchy in the New Testament. Meetings like in Acts 15, were the exception and not the rule, since no such setup of micro-managing was practically possible (nor needed) back then. Authoritarianism has been widely reported as well, and evidenced by the lack of freedom in expressing doubts, questions and concerns. Again, this lends itself to legalism, errors and abuses going unquestioned (e.g. – because the members are led to believe that EVERYTHING is done by revelation). I speak from experience here and have talked to numerous former pastors about this here and abroad.
* Here are some things to search on Orkut, blogs and internet to get a flavour of what many are reporting. The Orkut communities contain the least edifying discussion, while one website by a former pastor contains many correspondences of former members, which are handled in a more fair and balanced matter. Ultimately, you should have your own experience with God about these things, and not rely on other people for this. This is however useful to know in general as a smoke test (because where there is smoke, quite often there is also fire). The Orkut groups and blogs contain links to articles in the media and are updated frequently. Again, I am not a harsh critic of the organization, and do not necessarily endorse everything written there. Solon’s letters is probably more edifying to read:
** Orkut Group: Igreja Cristã Maranata (Maranatha Christian Church): [www.orkut.com]
** Orkut Group: Já fui um Maranata (I Was In Maranatha): [www.orkut.com]
** Cavalerio Veloz (Swift Knight) Blog: [cavaleiroveloz.com.br]
** Solon (Website – Safer and more edifying): [www.celeiros.com.br] (Letters) and [www.celeiros.com.br] (Testimonies – including excerpts from a book that give a less romantic version of the organizations origins)
You can also research controversy and scandals about the group in the media in Brazil (Vitoria, ES, Brazil) by searching for “Maranata” on:
Please note: The above mentioned links are in Portuguese – but you can use [translate.google.com] to paste in the link (or text) to see it in English.