Originally printed several years ago in the Lookout Valley Informer
By Donnie Bryson
The Yellow Deli folks, who call themselves the Twelve Tribes, were back to Chattanooga for a reunion event at Warner Park this Easter Sunday. Their handbill gave me the impression that they might have the intention of setting up another outpost in Chattanooga. All I knew of them from the 70s was only hearsay. However, as a minister of the Gospel, it caused me to pause and reflect on the spiritual welfare of our community when I saw their handbill.
I had heard a wide range of accusations in my fundamentalist home church thirty years ago. While the group started here and was active for several years, I had never talked with them myself. Truth and fairness matter, so I went to their event to investigate. I had only two questions on my mind. Are they coming back to Chattanooga? And, do they constitute a cult?
Both suspicions proved true. It appears they want to setup shop in Chattanooga again. They have a small commune on North Seminole. They intend to use it as a beachhead. They were also talking about opening a restaurant in town. It looks like they are coming back.
So, there I stood at the edge of their meeting on Easter Sunday. One of their members, an articulate former Evangelical pastor, introduced himself and started a conversation. I honestly told him my purpose. I wanted to know the truth about their group. He introduced me to two other members of the group; one young man who had graduated from an Evangelical seminary and a gentlemen, about my age, who had been with the group since its beginning.
After several hours of discussion with those three, I left completely convinced this group is a cult. Based on firsthand statements from them, here are my three main reasons:
- They demand selling all worldly goods and living in their commune as the defining condition to be a member of their group.
- They believe everyone outside their group are ‘Gentiles’ (I am sure that would come as a tremendous shock to a Hasidic Jew). They believe they are raising the 144,000 discussed in Revelations (Rev 7:4-8). They also believe they are THE church.
- They distinguish between their ‘true’ gospel and what ALL other churches preach. An essential component of their gospel is the necessity of entering one of their communes. I was specifically told that it was required to sell all we had and join their specific group.
Reasons one and two do not definitively classify a group as a cult although the extreme they take it does not bode well for the ‘twelve tribes’. Monks live in a commune. Many churches believe their group has some special standing with God. I would not call a monk, or a Baptist who believes Baptists were started by John the Baptist a cult. Monks do not believe they are the only Christians and my Baptist brothers do not believe the rest of us are ‘Gentiles’.
However, reason number three, according to the Apostle Paul, is damning. Paul told the Galatians, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8-9)
The credibility of their timeline is the crux of the question. If you are confronted by one the ‘twelve tribes’ over the next few months, ask yourself this one simple question. Would God send His son into the world to die on a cross in Jerusalem in 33 AD and then idly wait over 1900 years to give the ‘true’ gospel to a small group of kids living in a commune in Chattanooga Tennessee while folks were deceiving the lost world with a false gospel for 1900 years? I’ll leave that for you to answer.