Remnant Fellowship is an organization that began in 1986 in Memphis, Tennessee, as a weight-loss program founded by Gwen Shamblin, a dietician. The program, called Weigh Down Workshop, used biblical principles to help overweight people regain control of their diets and their bodies. The program was so successful that it is credited with helping people overcome other addictive behaviors as well. Weigh Down Workshops were widely used by many evangelical churches across the country. By 1999, Shamblin and others who believed in these principles began a church, Remnant Fellowship Church, in Nashville, Tennessee.
The name Remnant Fellowship reflects their conviction that most modern churches are “counterfeit churches” filled with idols. They see themselves as the fulfillment of Ezra 8:8–9, which speaks of God leaving a remnant who will serve Him. The Remnant Fellowship strongly proselytizes attendees of their Weigh Down Workshops, urging them to leave their false churches and join the only “remnant” that is pleasing to God. Their focus is upon strict and complete obedience to God in every area; however, that obedience is often defined as obedience to Gwen Shamblin’s opinion of what God wants. To criticize or disagree with Shamblin in any area is to be out of the will of God. Under oath, Shamblin stated, “To accuse me of being deceptive is very strong language because I’ve been led by God to do this.
The website of the Remnant Fellowship refers often to the Truth (with a capital letter) that closely mirrors Jesus’ truth—with a twist. For example, Shamblin quotes Scripture often, yet she denies the Trinity. She agrees that Jesus is the only way to God (John 1:6), yet she stresses such strict obedience to the Law that her doctrine constitutes salvation by works (see Ephesians 2:8–9). In many areas, the church’s insistence upon a healthy diet and their disdain for medications crosses over into manmade legalism (Matthew 15:9). Their website quotes members as saying, “We had no direction before the Truths—the sermons—that God has sent down from the Heavens that we have been able to participate in and hear and see at the Remnant.” Gwen Shamblin has set herself up as a prophet of God, and her opinions are said to be direct revelations of Truth.
The Remnant Fellowship has been identified as a cult by many cult experts, due to its use of coercion and mind-control to attract and keep members. Shamblin claims, “You will NOT find hypocritical church members, judgmental families, or church leaders who are only interested in adding numbers to the membership!” Yet employees of the Weigh Down Workshops are required to attend Remnant Fellowship Church or be fired. Many of them were fired. The teachings that Gwen alone holds truth, that other churches are wrong, that all personal decisions must be approved by Shamblin, and that leaving the church is a direct ticket to hell identify this group as cult-like.
While there appears to be some good in Remnant Fellowship, it is a gathering to be avoided. Many former members have spoken out about the total control Gwen Shamblin maintains over the lives of church members. They were not allowed to read any material that was not written by her. They were not to listen to any music except that of her son, Michael. Every decision of the membership was to be approved or rejected by Gwen Shamblin. This type of control is dangerous. When anyone sets herself up as a final authority on God’s will and refuses to be taught or countered by anyone else, that person should be avoided. Pride easily overtakes humility. Self-exaltation easily replaces true spirituality. Power is powerful, and those who seek it often find themselves victims of their own weaknesses. Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship may be a perfect example of these truths.