The Way International was founded in 1942 by Victor Paul Wierwille as a radio program, then was renamed the Chimes Hour Youth Caravan in 1947. The name became “The Way” in 1955, no doubt a reference to Jesus’ statement that He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In spite of its name, however, The Way International is not a Christian denomination. By all rational tests, it fits the definition of a cult.
The Way International promotes the two beliefs that are consistent with every Christian cult—they deny the deity of Jesus Christ and they believe in works righteousness, the idea that we can get to heaven by our own effort. These two dangerous heresies are present in every cult and false religion, and both are in direct contradiction to the Bible.
Wierwille, a pastor and student of theology, turned to promoting false doctrines when biblical Christianity failed to give him the answers, experience, and “abundant life” he was looking for. He claimed to have heard from God, who supposedly told him, “I will teach you the Word as it has not been known since the first century if you will teach it to others.” This implies that, up until Wierwille’s revelation from God, believers throughout the centuries have not known the true meaning of God’s Word. This is another sign of a cult—only the founder and his followers have the truth and everyone else is wrong. Such a statement denies Jesus’ words in John 16:13, when He told His followers that the Holy Spirit would come and lead them into all the truth.
Wierwille, however, believed what was almost certainly the voice of a demon, and struggled to learn this alternate understanding of God’s Word that he believed would give him “the key to abundant life.” An Assemblies of God minister named Rev. John (Jack) Edwin Stiles, Sr., showed Wierwille how to get converts: teaching people how to receive the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of speaking in tongues. Wierwille used this charismatic approach to gather followers. He was denounced as a heretic by various reputable evangelicals, but he did not repent. More and more people began to follow Wierwille, who required tithing and charged a fee for “Power of Abundant Living” classes, until The Way’s assets were $9.7 million.
Wierwille wrote a book called Jesus Is Not God (now out of print) and continued to promote that heresy. Jesus, according to The Way, was a perfect man, but not God. He had no pre-existence before He was born. With all their emphasis on Bible “research,” they apparently missed Jesus’ own statements “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) and “before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58) and numerous other biblical texts that refer to the incarnation.
Among the other unscriptural beliefs of The Way are the teaching that all believers receive the ability to speak in tongues and perform miracles including healing; therefore, those who do not speak in tongues are not saved; the teaching that baptism by immersion or sprinkling is not necessary; the teaching that the Holy Spirit is not God but an impersonal force; the teaching of soul sleep; and the teaching that the Gospels are useful for background material only and the Pauline Epistles and the book of Acts are the true Scriptures.
Various chilling accounts written by former members of The Way describe brainwashing, manipulation and control of followers, and sexual perversion and adultery that become increasingly more drastic toward the upper echelons of the organization. Like many cults, The Way marks those who appear not to agree with the cult or who fail to obey unquestioningly and purges them. Those who are purged are avoided and escorted off The Way campuses and utterly ignored, even by longtime friends.
Also as in many cults, the followers of The Way are lured into the group by the friendliness and acceptance they experience upon meeting The Way members. This is simply a marketing technique used by The Way International to gather followers, not genuine friendship. Although many of the followers of The Way are well-meaning people, they are deceived and they are deceiving others. Its members may describe their meetings, at first, as “home-churches” or “discussion groups.” It is always best to check to see what, if any, church or organization a home church is affiliated with and examine their statement of faith or mission statement before becoming involved.