BACKGROUND AND BEGINNING - A BRIEF HISTORY
Various contemporary religious movements, cults, extreme Christian fringe groups, and false doctrines have been around for years, and are still continuing to cause confusion around the world.
In 1959 Adrian van Leen, as a teenager, made a deliberate choice to become a follower of Jesus Christ. He expressed this choice publicly at the Billy Graham Crusade, held in Perth, Western Australia, in May that year.
He became involved with Churches of Christ and determined to find out all he could about the Christian Faith. In the process he began to learn about religious groups, both historical and contemporary, which claimed that they alone had salvation truth.
The ensuing years included continuous research into cultic and other contemporary religious movements, theological training for pastoral ministry, training and post-graduate studies as a school teacher, further theological and religious studies.
The shocking deaths of 913 cult members in Jonestown, Guyana, in November 1978, led to a growing number of people making inquiries of Adrian van Leen about various religious groups. As requests for help and information grew, the small inner-city congregation of which he was pastor, encouraged and initially gave some limited financial support, to the establishment of CCG Ministries in October 1979.
Since a bank account was first opened for Concerned Christians Growth Ministries in North Perth, Western Australia, in October 1979, the organisation grew into a well known and respected group.
A Board of Management was formed, and the organisation was formally and legally incorporated as an association in 1982.
As a legally incorporated association, CCG Ministries was under the control of a Board of Management made up of people from differing professions, backgrounds, and Christian denominations. The Director, other staff and volunteers, were accountable to the Board. A belief in accountability - including in the area of finance - ensured financial records were audited annually and copies submitted to the Australian Securities Commission.
After years of using various rented premises, CCG Ministries was able to purchase, at auction, on the 29th April, 1998, a former Aboriginal hostel in Nollamara, Western Australia, to be the organisation’s permanent Ministry home.
A HISTORY: NATURE AND SCOPE
CCG Ministries, through its Training Institute provided services to the community in relation to Contemporary Religious Movements (CRM’s) - ranging from cultic groups to occult groups to extreme Christian fringe groups.
There were two main approaches to their work. Involvement in both crisis intervention and preventative education.
When someone in the family, or an employee (or employer) became involved in a CRM it usually caused a crisis for those close to that person. From misunderstanding to extreme behaviour, a dramatic change in personality to sudden departure from home or non-return from a long-distance holiday - these and other possible changes brought about by involvement in a CRM often precipitated a family or business crisis.
In these crises CCGM was called on by many people to counsel family members, friends, those assisting the family, the person involved in the CRM, in order to provide accurate and helpful information and documentation about the groups concerned. They were approached for understanding, guidance, moral support, confirmation of appropriate action, help in seeking reconciliation, as well as information.
While most of their crisis intervention involvement was with relatives of the CRM member or new convert, CCGM also provided counselling for CRM converts and members when they were willing - recognising that their willingness may have been tinged with suspicion and apprehension because of cultic propaganda against CCGM. Counselling involved sharing information about the group they may not have been aware of and to assure them of their right to examine all relevant evidence, think independently for themselves, and have a different opinion to the CRM group (or to CCGM), and give them the opportunity to rethink their CRM commitment without pressure of any kind.
The ministry was a legally incorporated association and their constitution stated clearly that they sought to provide Christian educational help, counselling, support and relevant available material assistance, without distinction of colour, race or creed to those disenchanted and dissatisfied with the cultic group to which they may have belonged; to those who faced the trauma of leaving or having left such a group; to the families and relatives of cultic group members - especially to those who, because of cultic involvement were suffering distress, disorientation, family disintegration, loss of employment or destitution; and to those who through poverty or other social misfortune lacked the support systems to help them which may have been more readily available to others.
In their efforts to provide such crisis intervention, counselling and help the Ministry:
a) Worked in cooperation with all Christian Churches, as a servant of the churches providing a specialised ministry.
b) Were NOT involved in efforts to extract or hold any member of any CRM group by coercion, force, kidnapping, or other such means. Whilst they understood the desperation of parents and families, they believed such action was not the most helpful or appropriate, nor was it legal, nor was it moral or Christian. They have never been an Association of ’deprogrammers’ involved in any form of ’brain washing’ in reverse.
c) Would encourage, and provide supportive prayer, for persons concerned for CRM members, and that members of cultic groups may seek and find the truth in Jesus Christ.
d) Would encourage every effort to be made to have, and continue, positive loving and accepting communication between members of CRM’s and their relatives.
e) Would provide supportive counselling and assistance for families and CRM members, when they were open to it, regardless of colour, race, or creed, and endeavoured to bring reconciliation and healing - and to prevent family disintegration that could've lead to possible divorce and/or delinquency
Advocacy was also one of their roles. In their counselling and support they were often consulted by lawyers - usually in Family Court situations - for help and information. At times the Director, Adrian van Leen, had been asked to appear in court as an expert witness in Australia and Singapore.
In the preventative education aspect of their work they sought to provide Christian educational courses, seminars, in-service training programmes, extension programmes, tutoring, counselling, and information sharing with:
i) The general public
ii) Teachers of religious education
iii) Teachers in Sunday Schools, and similar church-based teaching programmes.
iv) Secondary and tertiary level students.
v) Youth workers and young adult leaders and counsellors.
vi) Clergy and similar professional groups.
We believed that by publicly sharing information - often information that goes well beyond the initial public propaganda put out by groups - people would be better informed and equipped to make decisions about involvement in CRM groups. Such decisions should not be based solely on emotional needs, loneliness, spiritual and social naivete or other forms of vulnerability. Religious commitment is vitally important and needs to be thought through carefully. Because genuine commitment involves the whole person - emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, commitment decisions should always be balanced between emotional response, prayerful seeking, and a thoughtful evaluation of claims/teachings and what is known about the Church or group.
In other words, they believed, from an educational point of view, that people have the right to know what they’re getting into before they get so involved they find it hard to leave if they want to do that.
In trying to carry out its role in crisis intervention and preventative education CCG Ministries set up an extensive reference library used by college and University students, community workers, and a wide range of other people. They also sought to provide resources for sale in books, tapes and videos.
The Ministry dealt with telephone, e-mail, and correspondence inquiries from around the world and had received thousands of requests for help and information. Requests for assistance came from former Soviet/Eastern Bloc countries, as well as from North and South America, Africa, and Asia, Oceania and the Pacific regions, but with resource limitations the teaching ministry was basically confined to Australia and Asia.
In providing services in relation to cultic, occult and extreme Christian fringe groups they were constantly involved in research and investigation. New groups appear constantly, and old groups change tactics and public propaganda - but underneath the spots usually remain unchanged. They examined CRM’s from psychological and sociological perspective’s, and also theologically. Beliefs are important to CRM groups - and also to Christians and members of other major world religions - and therefore, they believed, need to be considered (and presented) carefully and fairly.
The approach was unashamedly Christian. They openly acknowledged Christian bias - everyone has a bias, to say otherwise is either ignorance or deception - theirs was a Christian one. They believed they could be fairer and more objective by knowing and acknowledging this bias, and exercising the disciplines of critical thought and research, than denying bias. They believed, and let people know, that Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (rather than any one Christian denomination) was, and still is, the best alternative to cultic, occult, or extreme Christian fringe group involvement. However, people must be free to consider that alternative without pressure, and in their own time.
The small staff consisted of two full time, and one part time, members, and several volunteers, who were often stretched to (and beyond) the limit. The organisation did not receive grants from the government or any foundation. Finances came from individual donations and support, speaking engagements and a few church congregations. The recession had hit many of their supporters and in turn hit them hard. They didn't have sufficient finances to adequately pay staff or restock depleted numbers of sale books, for quite some time. Financial support and encouragement were needed to keep the services going.
Over the years since CCG Ministries had been functioning they have built a reputation of balance, fairness, and accountability. This ensured people seeking their services. With social, economic, and religious trends around the world this was not likely to decrease - if anything, their work load continued to increase - but resources and support struggled to keep up with the demands in these difficult times. Time would tell whether people believed that the services they provided were worth continuing for a growing number of seeking, hurting, confused and deceived people - particularly in Australia and Asia.
A HISTORY: THE FOUNDER/DIRECTOR
While the small staff sometimes shared in the speaking/teaching workload, this was supervised, and most of it done, by the Director, Adrian van Leen. Adrian is a qualified and accredited minister with Churches of Christ in Western Australia. He has had 17 years in pastoral ministry in one country church and two metropolitan churches. While pastoring metropolitan churches he also trained to be a school teacher and then taught school classes for several years. He has earned qualifications including a Diploma in Ministry, Diploma in Religious Education, Diploma in Teaching, Diploma in Theology, a Graduate Diploma in Educational Technology, Post Graduate Diploma of Arts (Religious Studies).
He assisted in designing and setting up a unit in Contemporary Religious Movements for the Religious Studies department of what is now Edith Cowan University. He has designed and conducted a variety of accredited semester units on CRM’s and World Religions at Perth Bible College, WA Bible College, Kenmore Christian College (Queensland) and the Churches of Christ Theological College in New South Wales [these two colleges are now combined as the Australian College of Ministries], Bethany School of Missions (Singapore), and shorter courses or units at Biblical Graduate School of Theology (Singapore) and Haggai Institute (Singapore). He has been a regular and sometime visiting lecturer/speaker at Edith Cowan University, the above named Colleges, Luther Seminary (South Australia) and the Lutheran Seminary in Hong Kong.
He has spoken to student and staff Christian fellowships, and other groups on university, college, and high school campuses around Australia and in Singapore. He is a regular guest speaker with Overseas Christian Fellowship student groups. He has conducted seminars and spoken to a wide range of groups - church groups, para-church groups, camps, conferences, youth groups, men’s and women’s groups, Rotary groups, Armed Services wives’ support groups, and other community groups.
Adrian is a most able communicator, effective cross-culturally, as well as with different age groups. He has worked through translators in numerous alternative language situation, and had effective presentations around Australia, in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, and Thailand. He is helping and guiding other staff in their participation in our preventative education outreach.
The preventative education work also involved them in the media and they were regularly consulted by print, radio and TV media around Australia and overseas. They have been quoted in state and regional newspapers across Australia - from the Adelaide Advertiser the Brisbane Courier and the Canberra Times, through to the West Australian, as well as the New Paper and Straits Times from Singapore; and the Oregonian in the USA. Articles have appeared about the Ministry in the New Idea, Cosmopolitan, Australian Women’s Weekly (twice), as well as in Christian publications such as New Life, New Day, On Being, Impact, and numerous denominational and para-church publications in Australia and overseas. They have had series of articles in several Anglican and Roman Catholic publications, as well as reports in a number of Protestant denominational papers. The Director had regular columns in several Christian publications.
A HISTORY - THE MEANING OF THE LOGOS
The original logo for CCGM reflected that we, as Christians, believe God takes the initiative, and in love, lifts man up out of the darkness and sin that alienates him from God, and leads to difficult and damaged relations with others, to bring us all into the light of reconciliation and restoration.
As Christians, concerned about people’s right and need to grow, especially in their understanding of God, and having the right to make informed religious choices, we seek to reach out a helping hand to lift others out of the darkness and confusion that can occur with cultic involvement. We seek to bring the light of Truth and understanding in an endeavour to help others find freedom and reconciliation.
The cross of Jesus Christ is central and over all, as we seek to reach out a helping hand to people, regardless of race, colour, creed, or status.
LOOKOUT represents the ministry of Adrian van Leen and Lookout Ministries Inc. and therefore remains the intellectual property/copyright of Adrian van Leen and Lookout Ministries Inc.