Red Flags (just a few)
One of the first red flags occurred the night the Sentinel met Pastor Jim. After the prayer meeting, they were introduced. The very first thing that the pastor's wife said to the Sentinel went something like this, "Now brother, a lot of people in town hate Jim, and you may hear stories about how he's molested young girls." Whoa! The Sentinel's defenses went right up. What had he gotten himself into? He gave Jim the benefit of the doubt, and after getting to know him, did not believe that Jim had ever molested anyone. But, as the pastor teaches that a false accusation is the accuser's confession, Jim has abused most everyone under his care. The Sentinel thought this experience was set up by God for his protection, which didn't make any sense until years after he was kicked out.
Another red flag occurred shortly after moving closer to Pastor Jim's home so that the Sentinel could be more of a member of his following. He was happy to pay his tithes and an occasional offering. And frequently, his offerings amounted to much more than his tithe. But more than once, the pastor called to ask if the Sentinel had forgotten to write a check for his offering. Then the Sentinel's best friend questioned him about it, which let him know that the two of them were in cahoots (remember that his best friend was also his employer and knew how much the Sentinel was earning). They suggested that his offering be a percentage of his tithe. That took away the Sentinel's ability to give from his heart, and it felt terrible.
Working for his former best friend, it was the Sentinel's responsibility to prepare their clients' claims for reimbursement from the State's trust fund for the work his company did. There were several job sites on adjacent properties, for which they did the same task. He had prepared the claims such that only half the allowed cost ($1500 was the maximum allowed amount) was claimed for each job. But the pastor's brother-in-law, the Sentinel's boss and best friend, told him to charge the maximum amount on each claim. That was double-billing to the Sentinel. But his boss explained that he and Pastor Jim had decided that "it's just the way the game is played." That was a major red flag!
Years after the Sentinel joined the "cult", Pastor Jim built a huge house, where the basement could seat fifty or more people for prayer meetings and Bible studies. By then, he had quite a following, with several members making good enough money that the tithes and offerings were making Jim quite wealthy. He called a meeting for a few of us one day. In his office, he had brought in two tax consultants and/or financial advisers to discuss an alternate way of paying the tithes and offerings. The pretense was that since Jim wasn't a registered non-profit or religious entity (to avoid any similarity with Christian organizations), and to minimize how much tax money he had to pay on his income, everyone was to begin writing separate checks for tithes and for offerings. But the offering check was to be only in the amount of $5.00 with the rest included in the check for tithes. The Sentinel remembers the two tax consultants looking at each other in some confusion, while Pastor Jim explained to the small group how this would work. The Sentinel thought, Why are they looking so confused? And he also noticed that they did not speak unless they were spoken to. The group was also told that they could no longer claim their tithes and offerings as deductions at tax time. The Sentinel later learned from his CPA that that was not true. As they were basically paying their pastor's salary, they could claim what they gave as a deduction, and should have been doing so. Years after getting kicked out, the Sentinel realized that Pastor Jim had probably hired those two consultants to be present, probably with instructions to only answer his questions, which the Sentinel was sure were loaded. And it was probably Jim's way of getting rid of the paper trail in order to avoid paying a lot of tax money to the government.
Pastor Jim warned his followers about the dangers of too much entertainment. Yet he let his youngest son watch the Lord of the Ring movies, which the critics said were "oozing with evil". And he bought his eldest son a sports car, which he proceeded to take apart, a motorcycle, a go-cart, home gym equipment, and other stuff. Then, the Sentinel's wife and he watched the movie "Elf". He had never heard her laugh so hard. Two other mothers in the "cult" took their kids to see the movie and were horrified! It was such a filthy movie. How could a righteous child of God subject themselves and their children to such sinfulness?! The Sentinel's wife became a complete wreck. Pastor Jim preached hell and brimstone against the movie and such entertainment. The Sentinel did not agree with Jim the least bit. The only thing wrong he saw was that the two horrified mothers blew out of proportion the innocent mistake of Elf entering the ladies bathroom. That scene went right over the head of his wife and her little girl, but horrified the two mothers' young boys. And then the Sentinel was criticized for watching the family-oriented movie "Hoodwinked" more than a few times. Those experiences led to his attitude going south, and deep down, he really wanted to escape his pastor's work.
Pastor Jim approved of a marriage between an ex-convict and a sweet, innocent young lady who had worked hard to get through school and buy a house. The Sentinel remembers being in shock. About a year after they got married, everyone found out that the young lady's husband had been physically and emotionally abusing her since their honeymoon. It was reported that he even held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her. The Sentinel later learned that her family members weren't too thrilled about her starting a relationship with this guy, much less about her getting married.