The Return of the Yellow Deli

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:

  1. They demand selling all worldly goods and living in their commune as the defining condition to be a member of their group.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


4 responses to “The Return of the Yellow Deli”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    I recently visited and talked with some people there. One of the gentlemen there asked me a question:

    “If you can’t really face the selfishness within yourself, then what business do you have trying to address the selfishness in others?”

    I wasn’t sure exactly what he was suggesting to me, but he proceeded further, stating to me the following:

    “You don’t need to be concerned with figuring out what things God’s people are supposed to be doing. What you need to be concerned with is the call of the gospel that’s being presented to you. Apart from receiving that call, you’ll never be anything more than a hypocrite, doing nothing more than putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. The only hope for the Evil One being bound for a thousand years, and for Yahshua (Jesus) to come back for His Bride, is that he would have a People (every member of His Body — the Bride) address the selfishness within themselves. And you can’t do that on your own. That’s why you need to be here. You need to go through the process of Salvation. You need to be saved from the power that selfishness has over you. You cannot overcome this apart from being saved from it. We are saved out of a situation where we are helpless to take a stand against selfishness, and thus brought into a place where we can take a stand. Then we go through a process of Salvation, where day after day we have responsibility. You start to see things about yourself that you didn’t realize was there. That is what you are being called to do. The call of the Gospel is to give up your whole life — your time, your energy, your opinions, and of course, all your possessions, and yes, even your relationships, and whatever hinders you from being fully devoted to Yahshua (Jesus). That is what it means to be a disciple. You have to forsake all in order to obey Him, just to trust His leadership, His authority, as delegated in the Body of disciples, and not merely what you think you should be doing, but trusting in His judgment. Those who have received the Gospel have given up their lives for a whole new life of loving one another and having faith. This is what we are calling you to do, and to be where God’s Will is actually being done. But don’t get so focused on or caught up in doctrine, because it will just lead you astray. It has to be from your heart.

    He continued:

    “Every single day we do what we do in faith because we hear faith, we hear direction, what God wants us to do for each day. We don’t try top reason or figure out on our own what God wants us to do, saying what we think we should be doing. If you desire in your heart to serve God and to do His Will, you won’t find it being fulfilled anywhere except for where His Will is actually being done. But keep things simple. Listen to your heart. Don’t let my message be dissolved by a tangent of thoughts for a whole different subject. You need to be saved from that, too. You put too much trust in your mind, and in your understanding.”

    I then asked him to provide me his definition of a disciple. I also asked him is it just his interpretation of what a disciple is, or what a disciple truly is.

    He got defensive and said, “Do you believe you are a member of Messiah? Who has more authority to tell you who the Body of Messiah is — the Body of Messiah or some people that are not part of the Body of Messiah? You seem to be completely in an intellectual realm. That’s all it is with you. And it’s not going to do any good for me to keep talking to you if what I’m saying is not going to reach your heart.”
    I asked him if what God’s Will is for us cannot be found in Scripture.

    He retorted:

    “The Scriptures were written for the Body, and does not apply to those who are not part of the Body. You haven’t responded to the Gospel. It’s a call, not just what you read in a book or understand in your mind. It reaches your heart. It then produces fruit.”

    I explained to another member of this organization that we are told to occupy until the Lord returns. This other member responded:

    “Yeah, but are the things we are to occupy with what seem right to you or are you directable? Are you leadable? Can you follow?”

    I replied to him saying that we are to be responsible stewards as we were told to do in the Great Commission. That means we are to get involved, and to be salt and light, if anyone claims to be a disciple.

    I then asked him a hypothetical. I said to him:

    “What if someone were to raid your home? What would you do?”

    They gave a predictable answer: to turn the other cheek. So he continued to make excuses for his pacifism, apathy, and continued to justify this, calling the issue I raised to his attention a “distraction” or an “obsession”. Obviously, these folks do not hesitate to neglect what it says for us to do in I Timothy 5:8.

    This member also accused me of “not obeying what their Master is asking me to do”.

    So I asked, well, what about them? Are they protecting the unborn from abortion? Are they exposing homosexuality as an abomination, witnessing to homosexuals and lesbians, and pulling them out of their sinful lifestyle?

    He avoided my question, calling me a “coward”, saying that I’m “stepping around” the “call of the gospel”.(Ha! Just like this person STEPS AROUND MY CHALLENGE TO HIS COMFORT ZONE! He totally went over my question!)

    He then said to me:

    “Do you realize that the only answer to what we seeing going on all around us is that our Master comes back? And the longer you delay from obeying the Gospel, the longer it perpetuates it. There is only one ultimate solution, and not to be distracted by anything else. Our Master didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. And we are here to end the reign of the Evil One.”


    So I said to him:

    “Sir, don’t you think it is our responsibility to not ignore the opportunity to defend the defenseless, or “be a voice for the voiceless (as it says in the book of Proverbs), and to Cry aloud and Spare not (as it says in the book of Isaiah)? Or are we to keep turning a blind eye?”

    He replied: If you turn your back on the call of the Gospel, you are not worthy to call yourself a disciple. Period.”

    (“What??? YOU turn YOUR back on the UNBORN, sir!” That’s what I felt like telling this fellow.)

    I then said to him:

    “What about all this you keep saying in your literature about “laying down your lives” for others? Remember?”

    He said:

    “We are not following YOUR wisdom. Our Master has a plan. Our Master has the wisdom.”

    (Really? The “plan” and “wisdom” to IGNORE MURDER???)

    My head was feeling like it was going to explode. I couldn’t believe the foolishness I kept hearing from this guy.

    He went on to say:

    “You have an idea of what you think we should be doing, but you’re not doing what our Master is asking you to do.”

    (HA! Talk about being a “hypocrite”!)

    I said to him, “But what about you? Are YOU doing it, EITHER??? Are YOU protecting the unborn children being slaughtered in the womb every day?

    You say you “lay down your lives” for each other. What about the unborn baby? Don’t they matter as well?”

    He said:

    “Don’t be a coward. The Gospel is calling you. If you try stepping around” –

    “You’re NOT ANSWERING MY QUESTION!” I interrupted.


    Who are the cowards??? Those who constantly sidestep what I address them with. Those who claim to be “disciples”, yet neglect the responsibility to defend those whom they “lay down their lives for”!

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Is it not ALSO selfish to ignore the murder of billions of unborn babies?

    How does this group called the Twelve Tribes expect to escape God’s judgment upon this nation any more than anyone else?

    If they think they will — THEY ARE TERRIBLY DELUDED.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    By the way, Scripture also says that the effeminate will NOT inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Perhaps the Twelve Tribes should start displaying REAL manhood, as it is stated in 1 Timothy 5:8. The “provisions” stated in that passage of Scripture is referring to things like SUPPLIES and…yes…SELF-DEFENSE…and DEFENSE OF PHYSICAL ATTACK TOWARD ANYONE IN ONE’S OWN HOUSEHOLD.

    The Twelve Tribes are people who actually literally live together.

    So my question to them is:

    Would they REALLY defend those of their household, or would they neglect to do this, saying, in the words of Cain in Genesis, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

    Their misguided ideas of turning the other cheek are quite dangerous, and I do not feel safe WHATSOEVER being with these people if they were ever attacked by our enemies in the U.S. government.

  4. Yellow Deli just open up in our town of Pulaski, TN. I never heard of them till stumble upon this on the internet. Wow, I have learnd alot form this essay. Needless to say I will not be eating there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *