Community Chapel and Bible Training Center

Community Chapel was a Pentecostal church that I was a member of from 1978 to 1988. When I joined, I thought it was one of the best churches in the world, but to my bewilderment it split in 1988 while embroiled in several horrible scandals. In just a few years it saw most of its members scattered to the winds, becoming a mere shell of its former self. In 2006 the church that had once been Community Chapel, but was by then operating under a different name, dissolved completely and is no more.

During the course of its collapse it became obvious to me that the teaching of the Chapel had been defective from the start, and that its founder and pastor, a man named Don Barnett, not only taught a doctrinally and historically twisted version of Christianity but was emotionally disturbed before he'd ever founded the Chapel. I came to see that what he created at Community Chapel had nothing at all to do with real Christian faith but was a bizarre, dysfunctional caricature of it, more rooted in the desires and fears of his strange personality than in anything else.

Eventually, having resolved the issues that had led me into the Chapel, I found my way back into a good church. That was more than ten years ago. So why do I have a Website devoted to Community Chapel issues today? Why does all of this matter now?

It matters because people through their neediness are always being led by false promises—claims of experiencing intimacy and power with God—into forms of Christian faith which aren't as extreme as the Chapel but which nevertheless in a similar way lead to confusion, uncertainty, and instability. Then the choice is between quietly hiding it for a lifetime or succumbing to burn-out and despair, if not to abandonment of outright abandonment of the faith. The truth needs to be told about such movements so that those caught up in them can find their way out of them into real faith in the real gospel of God's grace in Christ instead.

So here I present the most important lessons I learned from Community Chapel and Bible Training Center. Each article had its genesis in postings I made on one of several different online forums for ex-Chapel members in the years 1999-2009, and are edited, expanded, or condensed versions of articles on my older Chapel site to which the link is given below in the box at the bottom of the page.

Grace and Peace
After the Chapel ran itself into the ground I spent another ten years in Pentecostalism before I fully admitted to myself that things were seriously wrong with it and I needed to find out what was true instead. I had become deathly tired of the confusion, strangeness, instability, and just plain wackiness of what was supposed to be a deeper and more powerful spiritual life than what "non-Spirit-filled" churches offered. This is an article I wrote when after maybe five more years I had figured out the reasons for that frustration.
A Perversion of History
One of the most distinctive things about Community Chapel was its rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. In contrast to Trinitarians, who teach that Jesus has existed eternally in inseparable union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Chapel taught that Jesus' existence began only at his human conception. The Chapel claimed this was the apostolic teaching of Christ's nature, a teaching driven out by those who taught the doctrine of the Trinity. But the only way they could get history to support that claim was to butcher the historical record, as this article shows.
When Jesus Became God
This is a review of a book that has become popular among former members of the Chapel who still hold to its "Unitarian" teaching (most of them having come to believe, significantly enough, that Jesus is not in fact God).
Was Community Chapel a Cult?
Though I wrote this about ten years ago, it pretty much remains my final word on the Chapel.
Related Links

My old Chapel site: Chapel Reflections

Where I write about the things I really like to write about nowadays: