A controversial organization called “Champions for Christ” is recruiting prominent pro athletes like quarterback Mark Brunell of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The organization now boasts it has 100 NFL, 20 NBA and 10 NHL members. It is also targeting college athletes for recruitment as well.

But what articles about Champions for Christ seem to neglect is its links to “Maranatha Ministries” founded by Bob Weiner. Maranatha was often called a “cult” during the 1980s

Greg Ball and Rice Brooks who co-founded Champions for Christ in 1991, were once both leaders within Maranatha Ministries, which folded in 1989 amidst serious allegations. Former members and families said Maranatha was excessively authoritarian, abusive and controlling.

Maranatha promoted something called “shepherding.” That is, the concept of putting members under the authority of a “spiritual shepherd.” This practice is often discussed in close association with authoritarian forms of “discipleship ”

Bob Weiner and Maranatha are mentioned within the book “The Discipling Dilemma” by Flavil Yeakley, which is a critical analysis of such practices.

An ad hoc committee of Christian scholars produced a report about Maranatha in 1984, which acknowledged that it had “an authoritarian orientation with potential negative consequences.” Five years later the ministry folded. Weiner admitted mistakes, but insisted that “Ninety-nine percent of what we did was right.”

Is any part of Weiner’s admitted 1% of wrongdoing now part of the game plan put together by his former subordinates Ball and Brooks at Champions for Christ? According to Charisma Magazine they have brought their “passion” from Maranatha to their new work. Does that “passion” include any portion of the “shepherding” that sank Maranatha?

Greg Enis running back for the Chicago Bears caused some concern when he chose Greg Feste of Champions for Christ as both his minister and agent. Feste also negotiated endorsement deals for Mark Brunell.

Later Enis fired Feste and said “I think I was taken advantage of.”

According to tax records Feste gave Ball $34,015 in 1995. Was that Ball’s cut from Enis or a tithe?

What is Champions for Christ? A ministry or multi-level marketing scheme that uses the Gospel for profit as well as prayer? Is it simply a spin-off of a former “cult” using “shepherding” tactics to fleece a new flock?

As the group expands its turf amongst professional athletes in America it seems that such critical questions might be answered more fully and in-depth.

It certainly appears that some athletes that have become involved with Champions for Christ are intensely devoted to the organization. Mark Burnell says he plans to be “working full-time” for the group after his football career ends. Houston Texans lineman Tony Boselli said, “I believe God has called me to the full-time ministry when I retire.”

But who would Boselli be serving, God or Mr. Ball and his cohorts at Champions for Christ?


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