Young people are impressionable, emotionally vulnerable, have an innate desire for community and fellowship, and often have internal questioning about purpose and existence. ARISE exploits these traits of young people to rather lucrative effect. They deliberately target youth because they know that is the best opportunity they will have to reach people, when their minds aren’t sufficiently developed to guard against deceptive teachings. To this end they recruit mainly through schools and universities.
ARISE Church has a particular message which they have crafted to be appealing to young people. It could best be described as positive self-help through Jesus. They focus on positive thinking and deliberately emphasize certain ideas meant to take advantage of one’s own perceived flaws, deficiencies, and failures. Some of these ideas are:
- All humans including oneself have been deliberately made by God. You are special and unique because God made you that way.
- There exists a God-given purpose inherent within everyone which is discoverable through a relationship with Jesus.
- God doesn’t see your flaws but sees your potential.
- Faith in Jesus will prosper you in every facet of ones life. This includes health, finances, employment, marriage, relationships, and personal goals.
- If one has faith in Jesus, then one will triumph over any adversity, which will provide a demonstration to others of the “truth” of Jesus and the benefits being a Christian.
ARISE Church endeavours to provide an upbeat, vibrant atmosphere at it’s services. They want to be viewed as a place that is fun and exciting because this appeals more to young people. Everyone is happy and smiling; everyone is pleased to see you, and to an impartial observer this behaviour is uncanny as it feels like a superficial veneer put on for purely appearance purposes.
The ARISE church services follow a particular recipe that has been refined and employed to great effect by other churches (I’m talking about mega-Churches like Hillsong in Australia). Services are manufactured to give the illusion of a legitimate divine encounter. That’s the hook. What you are required to believe regarding the beliefs and doctrines of Christianity and various events in the Bible is only partially revealed this point. It’s all about a personal relationship with Jesus.
The service begins with a “praise and worship” session which is crafted to invoke feelings of euphoria and transcendence. This prepares the emotional ground and puts one in a receptive mood. Then there is the sermon where the congregation is given a rhetorical masterclass expounding the ideas and themes mentioned in the bullet points above. At the end of the service, the congregation is subjected to an emotional appeal to non-Christians to receive Christ as the greatest gift they will ever get. This combination has a powerful and profound effect on people, especially young people. They are helplessly tethered to their emotions and any cognitive barriers which are in place are effectively overcome. This leads to surrender of the self to allow Jesus into ones heart. This is the ultimate goal for ARISE Church: to get as many people to make a decision to follow Jesus.
For new converts, ones perception of Christianity is based on the initial emotional experience. This experience is what gives the belief in Christianity validation and reinforces the truth of its claims. After that, ARISE progressively introduce you to the Bible. You are told about sin being the reason Jesus died so that he could redeem mankind; about heaven, hell, prayer, miracles, and God’s will. Gradually you are introduced to weirder parts like baptism, Adam and Eve, talking snakes, talking donkeys, angels, demons, and Noah Ark.
ARISE Church runs a youth service on a Friday night called “Elevate” and they have tailored it so that it is more appealing to young people. The music is more upbeat and the atmosphere is cultivated so that it feels like a “party”. The design and format of the service is similar to the one as described above including at the end, an appeal being made to a captive audience of young people to give their hearts to Jesus.
ARISE Church makes no secret of their intentions to infiltrate schools and universities. John Cameron has explicitly stated his desire for ARISE Church to win entire high-schools and universities to Jesus Christ. Whatever that means in practice however is not stated.
I think the methods that ARISE Church uses are very dishonest and deceptive. They employ emotional manipulation as a way to accomplish the recruitment of new members. They deliberately exploit young peoples innocence and credulity, take advantage of their other cognitive traits already mentioned, with the goal to foist upon their impressionable minds a biblical worldview of sin and salvation by Jesus as well as give them a spiritual self-help toolkit that ultimately delivers false hope and false promises.