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Leaving the Cult. Brother F. Irwin’s Testimony

This is Brother Irwin and here is the story of me leaving HOPCC back on December 31, 2006.  It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life up to that moment and yet remains the hardest decision now 10 years later.  Needless to say it was also one of the best decisions I’ve made…second only to giving my life to Christ.  The purpose of me breaking my silence now is to finally set the record straight and let everyone know you can survive, serve God in righteousness & truth outside of HOPCC & Rony Denis.

 

I’ve been afraid until this past year to speak about these things being in fear and having reverence to God.  I’ll admit I was often in doubt of my decision to leave, being alone on the issue with only my personal witness of what I saw happening to strengthen my resolve.   Through a misguided teaching on 1 Chronicles 16:22 “…Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”  I was terrified to ever speak out regarding all of the crimes against me.  These included mortgage fraud, identity theft & the endless lies told to me by Denis.  I had unknowingly melded Rony & God together and was frozen in fear as a result.  To hurt Rony was to hurt God by not doing everything Rony wanted. This due to the cultic programming Denis has employed since the beginning.  Looking back now I should’ve spoke out earlier concerning how Denis trashed my credit in the years following me leaving.

 

For the record, I was honorable to Denis when I left to the point of even forwarding checks inadvertently mailed to me from the banks regarding the homes I let him put in my name for the church to benefit from.  Having originally done this for God willingly, and not wanting to frustrate my gift to God (to use my credit to generate revenue for the church) I didn’t insist they sell the homes when I left, but rather gave them a few years to get them out of my name.  I was beyond cooperative to this end. What happened instead was they stopped paying the mortgages on the 5 properties still in my name which ultimately trashed my credit.  Thanks Rony! Way to reward my kind cooperation. This led me to inevitably have to file bankruptcy…something I’m still feeling the effects of now 10 years after leaving.  He hands-down took great advantage of me, because he’s evil and he knew he could. Rev. Bowers had gotten in touch with me after he and Sis. Bowers left after being done wrong by him and I still wasn’t ready to tell my story.  Even though I believed Rev. Bowers was right I still didn’t have the strength to stand up publicly while still in the throes of bankruptcy and games Denis was still playing.  My apology to Rev. & Sis. Bowers for not being more supportive to them during that time.  I could’ve came forward with this testimony then. He and his wife were beyond brave in taking their stand.  Looking back it’s so obvious, but my programming ran far too deep.  People have said Denis has publicly prided himself that “Irwin will always tell the truth” using it as a device to make people feel like he’s still right because I haven’t yet spoken out. He was right I do tell the truth, but I just hadn’t gone public with my story yet.  I imagine he’ll now attempt to demonize me (a classic Denis move) in many ways to discredit my testimony, but there are plenty of witnesses who know these things are true and irrefutable.  Time has now shown everything I felt, feared and believed was true.

 

It all started somewhere back in 2004 when we were first departing NTCC and early glimpses of Rony Denis’ deceitfulness were starting to be seen.  It was a small thing, but suspect nonetheless.  Rony, knowing he really wanted me to move to Hinesville to help form the Bible College, head the office, teach classes and other administrative urgencies, initially fed me a pitch that God wanted me to remain in Clarksville, TN to continue pastoring for the long term.   When the man you believe is the man of God talks to you about what God wants, it’s no small thing.  You accept that it is God will.  Well, it was ultimately a bait and switch.  This was the first blatant lie.  He never intended on following through with it and slipped up.  It was a sloppy mistake.  He insisted I move to Hinesville side-stepping everything he recently said was God’s will.  I was able to forgive that deception after a rough couple of months and move on, but now my eyes were slightly suspicious and my radar on.  He knew I believed God’s will was for me to Pastor and used it against me as a weapon to manipulate me. Regardless of what God’s will was, lying along with bait & switch tactics are in no way Christ-like.  In the end this is minute and insignificant concerning why I decided to leave HOPCC.  This just served to help open my eyes to a developing pattern of foul play.

 

In the early days (2003) of forming House of Prayer Christian Church and the first year after the split (2004) Rony inspired us all around a central goal and mission.  We were going to sacrifice, pray, be humble, sincerely love the people and, of course, preach the Gospel to reach the world. Things that we had lost sight of in NTCC.  We indeed began on this course and it was wonderful. Those who witnessed this time would remember and agree.  Somewhere in mid to late 2004 Denis began to spin a storyline that we needed to have “nicer things” so we wouldn’t repel all of the ministers God was going to send us from NTCC, this army of preachers who were going to escape from there and join forces with us (an army who never came.)  I’ve always believed blessings come from righteousness and come from God and never begrudged them when He bestowed them on His people.  However, it just seemed obvious that if we were pioneering an organization from the ground up that sacrifice for the purpose of reaching the lost was a primary need, that an excessive focus on material things wasn’t important and probably not important for a long time, if truly ever. Not that we should’ve taken a vow of poverty, but c’mon we were starting a global scale outreach from the ground in year #1.  Remember this part, because this strange drumbeat Denis began was probably the root of his present madness.  It was from this point that things went south.  This need for “nicer things” to comfort the fleeing NTCC ministers when they came started him on a path of greed and pride which, from the recent testimonies of others, even led him so far astray that he’s preached & taught the doctrines of devils.  I’ll insert this here….I was astonished but not surprised to hear of what HOPCC has become since I left in late 2006.  My jaw still hangs open when I think of the teachings from Denis lips regarding the 2/9 spirit and such like.  I can honestly say this is not the Rony Denis I first knew.  Rony, you’ve fallen far lower than I ever have.   And I do feel bad to hear how low you’ve sunk, because I remember the old days and the old you.

 

I moved to Hinesville in 2004 just after the split and lived with Rony & Marjorie at 428 Willow Oak Lane for over 2 years until he pushed me out (which I’ll discuss later.)  My purpose and role was to get the Bible College started, keep the school financial records, teach Bible College, and work the many functions of the office. I was a close confidant and trusted helper to Denis in many areas. He refinanced his house on 428 Willow Oak in either late 2004 or early 2005 after some eye-wash upgrades and an inflated appraisal from an appraiser they were able to manipulate.  He added onto his house by expanding his bedroom and giving Marjorie a bigger and far grander master bathroom with a large hot tub.   Probably not the best optics I thought given our first year, but he came in with his own money having earned it long prior to the split, so who was I to judge.  Not a big deal is what I convinced myself afterward.

 

The ease of this process mentioned above…..creating quick cash through a refinance & taking out a 2nd mortgage….gave birth to an idea in his mind….If I get brothers & sisters who trust me to use their credit and buy houses in their name we can use the same manipulation process for inflated appraisals, refinance the loans, take out home equity lines of credit and create lots of quick cash “for the church.”  Right.  His plan was then to create a mortgage department, a building crew and a property rental department (The People Helping People Group.)   The name alone is the epitome of spin.  It was really the People Helping Denis’ Bank Account Group.  I know this is all old news now and I won’t spend unnecessary time on this.  This chapter, from 2005-2006 was the beginning of the real estate money factory.  In the beginning of 2004 after the split he preached and taught that God would bless us for righteousness and serving Him with humility.  We prayed often and worked hard soul winning, but according to Denis’ we weren’t growing financially at a fast enough pace to his liking.  God wasn’t giving it for a reason, not sure what that was, so Denis went and did it his way.  Denis was consumed with getting money through this real estate venture.

 

Somewhere in early 2005 there was a significant moment where I began to realize things were getting weird and his focus began to shift.  It was a church night and I had been doing some work in the afternoon at the office.  I came home to 428 Willow Oak to change and get dressed for church however I was running late.  I was walking out of Denis’ house at the time church was about to start, so surely I was going to be about 15 minutes late.  At the moment I walked out the front door he, his wife & a few brethren pulled up.  He had just come back from Sam’s Club with a new bathroom vanity for the ½ bath in the hallway.  He was going to have the brothers install his new purchase instead of go to church.  It was beyond hypocritical. We would get blasted for missing church to improve our home if we dare do that, yet he found it ok to keep a bunch of people out of church for his own self-serving reasons.  He acted super odd when our eyes met…convicted and guilty.  It was that look a kid gives his mom when his hand is in the cookie jar and she walks up on him.  The tension was super thick.  While this may be small on the surface or seemingly insignificant, make no mistake it was my first realization of a major difference in his attitude and focus.  Things would be very different in his priorities from this point on. I started to pay more attention to his choices and priorities.  At this point I started to lose faith in him and began truly believing he was a self-serving manipulator and a phony.  This was the beginning of my numbness towards him and spiritual coldness.  I allowed this and the things to follow to affect me.  They bothered me quite a bit.  I harbored quite a bit of anger and doubt towards Denis.  I questioned his motives in everything and began seeing how he manipulates people emotionally for a desired outcome and strengthened my mind against such tactics.  I thought back on the many times he manipulated me emotionally and used cult like guilt. I thought of the many times he divulged people’s personal lives and mistakes to me in the privacy of his home at night.  I wondered how many times he spoke to others of things I told him in confidence about my life.

 

Greed had crept in.  He wasn’t hiding it anymore.  In early 2005 I remember when the new car came, his 2005 Chrysler 300c.  He and some of the brothers gloated about it while sitting in the church and then shortly after that his new Infinity QX56.  Of course, at this point the money was flowing from several properties being purchased in other people’s names and them refinancing the mortgages and/or taking out home equity lines of credit.  The church office felt like a mortgage office.  The loss of God’s work in this office began to eat at me like a cancer.  The man doing the leg work for Denis would brag about his unlimited cell phone plan racking up 20,000 minutes a month for only $50 or so a month cost. I did the math on the minutes and it’s approximately 13 hours a day on the phone running mortgage scams & directing traffic with the brothers in the building crew / property crew.  So much for praying & soul winning to reach the lost.  The level of carnality and lack of spirituality was beyond disgusting.  I hid it well, but internally was dying a little each day.

 

One may wonder…why didn’t you say something?  In a world where people act normal you’d be able to speak up, but not in Rony Denis’ world.  Any instance of accusation against him without fail leads to you being crushed from the pulpit, behind your back, and blackballed into submission.  I was wise enough to know how that plays out and was weak already.  Not sure I would’ve kept my sanity if I had dove into that torture chamber.

 

Working in the office during this time I witnessed some egregious sins.  In order to accomplish all of the property buying, refinancing & general admin there was an ever-flowing fountain of lies, signature practicing and document fraud.  This was largely done by the poor brother who has been misused and misled the most (albeit willingly?)  Sadly this man has given Denis absolute devotion and Denis has verbally defecated on him more times than I can count.  It happened almost nightly when I still served there until the end of 2006 and apparently still continues.  As recently as 2 years ago still trashing this man by telling me during a phone call (me, a man who had long left HOPCC) that I had more faith than this brother in question who has remained loyal to Denis all these years.  I recognized the approach…it was classic Denis trying to cover his sin by blaming someone else. You can’t tell me Denis did not know those mortgage payments on the homes still in my name were not being paid.  The office people don’t do anything he doesn’t order for fear of his wrath.

 

I personally witnessed the same brother in question on the phone at the desk next to mine in the office, pretending to be a sister, saying he was her with his voice disguised to sound like a woman, telling lies to a bank officer about this sister’s income in order to secure a refinance on a property in her name.  I thought at this moment, “Would the Apostle Paul do this himself in his duty of reaching the lost?  Would he or Peter instruct one of the brethren to do this?  Jesus definitely wouldn’t do this. So then why is Denis ok with this and why is he ordering this to be done?”  Now, he’ll lie all day long about not ordering this and anything to be done, but the reality we now know is….he DID….and more importantly, he allows it to happen.  And has, for years.

 

Witnessing Denis’ focus on money and material things during this time instead of following the Biblical pattern of living right, praying, and preaching the Gospel began to open my eyes that Denis had chosen a course of greed, back office lies, and worldly business endeavors.  Denis was ordering and directing all of the actions taken for this real estate boondoggle. This wasn’t our founding creed & mission statement and, in under 2 years, he had started on a road the devil himself paved.   “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith…”   I Timothy 6:10.

 

During this time our relationship was strained.  I was keeping my distance from him as much as possible to avoid playing into his emotional manipulation and also wanting him to feel that he didn’t have the lap dog control over me any longer.  He wanted me to move out of his house and made this happen by creating a reason to get rid of me.  He made me live in one of the houses purchased in some other brother’s name.  He didn’t put me in one that was in my name for control purposes. This forced push-out made me have to incur great debts to furnish this house as an example of having “nice things.”  A regular pressure placed on ministers.  Denis wanted to use this house as a show-room for me to entertain new people in church and to fellowship with the brothers & sisters.  Not to mention, a way to keep me broke to have me at his mercy.  This is the reason I resisted this ploy for as long as I could.  I knew he did this to others and was now trying to put me at a disadvantage and get the upper hand.  A classic maneuver of Denis was to either pressure you to take nice things from him (money, house to live in, car, etc.) and then enslave you to obligation by holding them over your head.  In my case he put me in the house, but I had to go in debt for everything to fill it.

 

This had another effect on me in addition to begin doubting Denis.  I began to grow even colder, much more numb spiritually.  More than this I began to lose faith in God and desire to serve Him.  This was my responsibility and one I own fully.  At the same time however, the “anointed one” I was supposed to be following was not setting a proper example.

 

My eyes were now open and I could see clearly how deceitful, how wrong & how greedy he had become.  He was beginning to be swept away with greed and taking the church full speed down an evil and dangerous road.  Fortunately a voice, often doubted and feared, prevailed to lead me out of HOPCC and make one of the best decisions of my life.   It wasn’t easy by any means and I was alone for a long time in complex fear. There is no excuse for what I’ve done and it’s right that I share the truth.  I went into sin and did my best to drown out the voice of conviction and guilt.  I believed it was possible to serve God outside of HOPCC, but wasn’t sure how it would all work out being alone and it was easier to be numb.   I was cold and dying on the vine if I stayed and the threat of living in sin on the outside if I left.  I felt I would go crazy if I stayed so I found a way to leave and planned it carefully.  I’m just thankful I got out with my right mind before the doctrine was compromised and before he went off the deep end completely.  God was really looking out for me and I had no idea at the time.  So I did what I had to do to just survive with a sound mind and escape.  And, all of this without the realization I was escaping a genuine cult.

 

The pain of leaving was overwhelming.  They tracked me me down on the next morning while I was at a hotel in Savannah.  Denis had blocked my car with his car in the parking lot.  A couple other ministers came to my room. I told him I needed time.  One minister was saying he wanted to punch me in the face and throw me in their car.  I told them all I needed time and wasn’t going to go with them.  It was nerve-wracking to say the least and definitely not normal behavior for a church to pull out all the stops and chase you down when you leave.  Yet, this was what happened.  They left the hotel parking lot scene and I left shortly after.  In the weeks to come they stalked me incessantly.  This included private investigators, cops being sent to my house, pulling my credit to track my whereabouts, pizza guys being sent to my house to see if I would answer the door, trying to hack my passwords with my credit card company, calling my UPS store pretending to be me to “verify my forwarding address” and much more.  I started going by a different name to keep a lower profile.  Luckily I had the forethought to triple protect my credit card passwords.  I constantly thought about what they might be plotting next and spent a lot of money trying to keep hidden.  It was challenging because they had all of my personal information and had perfected my signature.

 

I left my wife behind since Denis had a greater hold on her.  We had also agreed in NTCC that if ever one of us was to leave the church that we wouldn’t attempt to take the other away from God.  I knew she would never leave and was a loyalist to Denis.  There is no way she would’ve chose loyalty to me over Denis had I even shared everything with her that was going on behind the scenes.  The cult teaching there was leaving Denis = leaving God.  Sad to say, instead of a healthy, bonded marriage where a husband can talk to his wife about important matters we were instead married to Denis first and each other only in form.  It’s distressing to read that he still doesn’t respect the sanctity of marriage.  I only had enough strength to save myself.

 

The sleepless nights and anxiety from all of this was a pain anyone should ever have to deal with.  All because I left a cult.  It took years to regain a sense of mental & emotional balance concerning this topic.  I had no one to turn to as many of you are fortunate to have now.

 

Happy to cooperate, I left the properties alone after departing and found time to gather strength before I demanded he get my name off of them so I could go on with my life. In 2010 I let Denis know I wanted him to get the properties out of my name and was kind enough to wait year for them to do right thing.  Prior to this (and definitely after this point) they missed payments. Then the lies on phone about it came, such as “The market is down and it’s hard right now” and then there was “Things are different now… we don’t even hardly do that real estate stuff anymore.” Then fake divorce papers came.  Then I filed for bankruptcy in 2012 because of the damage done by them.  They influenced my ex-wife to file a motion to have the properties transferred to her. The fact that they were using her for their benefit disgusted me. Fortunately, it wasn’t allowed by the judge.  If all of this wasn’t enough they used identify theft and forgery to renegotiate one of the mortgages I just filed bankruptcy on!  Which is still something affecting my credit.  These are God’s people?…..I don’t think so.

 

Yes, when I left I did fall into sin because I had no proper spiritual guidance and being alone it got the better of me.  When you’re taught for so long that without their church you’re lost.  Sadly, I believed this teaching and eventually gave in, having lost the sight of God’s grace.  Yes, the facebook pictures you may have been shown of me in sin are true.  I drank, I smoked and I did all manner of things, but any real christian man would’ve shown those pictures and asked you to pray for this man, not use them as a prop to leverage fear.

 

Rest assured my life has been restored in all ways. Time moves on and God, in His mercy, heals wounds.  Now 10 years later I’ve been able to pray and find the way back to Him.  It was through His grace & mercy. I’m thankful to Him that I still have my right mind, haven’t lost my holy Biblical compass, and still have faith in Jesus Christ, who first saved my soul in September of 1992.  God is still God!  Yes, you can survive leaving House of Prayer Christian Church and Rony Denis.  By the grace of God He will help you rise above this cult.  Do I regret leaving? Not for a second.

 

Take advantage of this supporting group of brothers and sisters.  They are a refuge and a well of hope that I didn’t have.  This blog and their stories have helped me find my way back to the grace of God.

 

F. Irwin

18 thoughts on “Leaving the Cult. Brother F. Irwin’s Testimony

  1. Brother Irwin!!! Oh my goodness I’ve never forgotten how kind you and Jenny were to my mom and I Sister Merritt. You never know how much it meant to us that you guys loved us and you offered us guidance when we were new Christians. We will always remember that. I hope that Jenny will eventually see how damaging that church is. It breaks my heart that this came between you. Lord please please open her eyes. I am deeply saddened about what happened to you both. I never went to The IHOP church and after reading all about how damaging they are to folks I am so glad that I didn’t! It is very important that you all continue to spread the word. Let everyone know about this cult. Let’s hope that people will read about it and STAY AWAY. Brother I just want to add don’t feel guilty about your past and when you fell back into a life of sin for a season. So many of us have strayed at one point or another but you know what? God still loves you. He has already forgotten it and He is just waiting for YOU to forget it. 😉 My God is truly an awesome God because He makes everything new again. 🙂 You and Jenny are in my thoughts and my prayers. So glad that you are doing well. Bless you brother!

    Sis. Monique Navarro

  2. Wow, praise God that you were set free! This is an amazing testimony of the treachery of satan, and the ultimate mercy of God. Being caught up myself from the initial group of the split, I wondered why I did not see warning signs earlier. The only thing I can conclude is God allows us to go through things for a reason. We become stronger through the things we have suffered and can tell others there is hope!! Most of all, Jesus is faithful and his spirit will lead us into all truth. So good to hear from you brother! You know you were instrumental in getting me back to God and to this day I appreciate you! God bless you Brother Fred “Queso” Irwin!

    Bro Andrew Wint

  3. Brother Irwin – My heart breaks. I always appreciated our fellowship. Thankful for God’s grace on your life and your bravery to share your experiences with us. Gary Freeman

  4. Thank you again for sharing your Testimony Rev. Irwin. I was just reading over it and find it astonishingly amazing of how wicked Rony Denis is. Your testimony is an amazing eye opener and an encouraging word of truth that you can serve God after Hopcc especially after all you went through. May God bless you sir.

  5. Fred, so thrilled the Lord has set you free! I was told you were out of this cult left wounded and scarred, but thank God for his Grace and Mercy! We truly serve a loving God! To God be the Glory for all He’s done to restore you. The Lord is just and will help you regain all that was lost.
    Sis. Shunk aka Sis B.

  6. I am so glad to finally here from you. I had wondered, even in the cult, what had happened to you. They even told me to get rid of all of your “Bible Seminary” teachings, and just told me that you left. I am so glad to finally see that you are doing well and that God is blessing.

  7. Praise God Bro. Irwin. I’ve always wondered why certain members there acted defensive after asking them what had happened. I remember before I attended HOPCC, you used to bring my brother & sister there sometimes so I was concerned. Glad to know you’re doing good today.

  8. Thank you Brother Irwin for that Testimony! We are s glad you are free.. and know you made the right decision..God is so faithful and he is ever merciful and kind..You are so right about the support that the people have who are leaving, I don’t think they quite understand what it is like to have no support doubting yourself, God, the stand you made and all of the emotional turmoil and suffering on top of having everything and everyone you knew taken away from you in a blink of an eye..then they chase you down and try to kill you by running you off the road…words can’t describe it..but he is faithful and will restore all that the locust, the cankerworm, the caterpillar and the palmerworm have eaten..we are living testimonies of this..we just purchased our first home built from the ground up in our name and purchased a new truck in our name..we did not have to lie or commit any type of fraud, God blessed us with it and no one will be able to take it from us!…There is a law of sowing and reaping and when Denis does reap all that he has done Woe Is He! Woe Is He! Woe Is He!

  9. ” come unto me ,all ye that labor and are heavy laden ,and I will give you rest.” Thank you brother for your testimony after reading it this scripture came to me ,both gave me hope.
    Sister Diana carrasquillo (Briana Isales)mom. Matthew 11:28

  10. Wow it’s so good to know the truth! I always wondered what really happened to you. I’m so glad you’re doing well!

  11. Hello Rev Irwin,

    It’s good to finally know the truth. Mr. Diotrephes has got to be the master of telling half truths aka total lies. I remember you preached a message “And Peter” many years ago. That message still blesses my soul today. I still love you sir. I pray God can restore what the locusts have devoured in your life. Even with all the deceptions, I grateful to have met real Christian people in hopcc so I can be saved. Thank you God for answering my prayer and saving my soul!

  12. Wow, that is so amazing such a heart wrenching story, Rony Denis is going to pay for all the sins and atrocities he has put on the people.
    I’m thankful that you still have a mind to serve the Lord.
    When we left he told my dad, (Rev. King) that he paid all of your bills, and he would do the same for him in paying his loans. I knew that was a joke.

  13. What a very deep and chilling testimony and account of Rony Denis’ wickedness from the very beginning! Thank God for His spiritual renewal after such a wicked experience under such a wicked man as Rony Denis. And thank God that the other side of the story can be told other than Rony’s side.

  14. I thank God for this testimony. One more soul that Satan thought to destroy at the hands of a cult, but God had other plans. This was the man who lead me to Christ, and gave me a spiritual foundation. I remember when I heard he was gone, I thought it was for the worst, and I Shedd many tears. Who knew what Providence had in store, that I would speak to my first spiritual mentor on the other side of the Cult years later. Though he had ups and downs after the cult, God has brought him back to a safe place in his saving Grace. I understand today what I never understood yesterday. Who knows what we will understand tomorrow. As the old song goes, we’ll understand it all bye and bye. Thank you Sir. You were never forgotten, and many prayers were made for you. It’s good to see the fruits of those prayers though it was not known what method God would use to bring it to pass. We love you Sir.

    Bro. J. M. Rodriguez

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