1991, 11/23-25. My “Need For Jesus” Papers

Stewart Traill told us to write our “My Need for Jesus” papers. We were supposed to show our My Need for Jesus Papers to anyone who asked to see them. Most brothers and sisters wrote self-incriminating things about their helplessness, sinfulness and weaknesses, and as a result, most these papers sounded alike. I wrote the usual version, but I also wrote an uncensored version for myself, which I did not show anyone. (I have included a couple versions of My Need for Jesus Paper in this section.)

These journal pages form the background of my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback.

November 23, 1991

I called the office from a carpet cleaning job today. I used a phone that looked like a toy piano and was fooling around with it. Paul S. asked what it was, then when I told him what it was, he said, “No getting into your interests.” I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. I thought about how if this is becoming the official party line, I will just go underground.

I am keeping “espionage” files on everybody. Family addresses, letters they get (and dates) will be good if anybody disappears for tracking them down.

[I used to write down the return addresses from brothers’ and sisters’ mail they received from family members (their letters were in the mail room), so if any of them left, I’d have names and addresses in order to find them and help them “return to Jesus.”]

I got a convicting tract today entitled “Your Destiny” about how people put up with Jesus for three years. They resisted him secretly at first, then openly and boldly. Isn’t that me? Even if I don’t want to think so, doesn’t the evidence prove it, especially lately?  I felt some panic over this, but strangely, I had a strange safe feeling. (I am going to be aokay? Or, that it will not happen to me?)

[Someone handing me a Christian literature (a tract) on the street, which was about people who rebelled against Jesus. Stewart was always telling us that we were rebeling against Jesus. A former COBU member once said that Stewart Traill was a former atheist who set out to disprove the existence of God, who ended up accepting the existence of God and who then spent all of his time trying to prove that there was no God in us.]

I just heard a tape of Stewart talking about how we must be into the fear of God. And that we are about to be thrown into the lake of fire. If that is true, what the hell am I doing all this carpet cleaning day and night for? What does it matter?

Someone might say, it’s so you can eat. Well, it’s for a lot more than that. It’s a whole life and religion!  And not one bit of it will save you. Yet there is so much a drive to do it night and day (we are supposed to “scream closing!”) as if it were our very salvation.

[The concept of “screaming closing” meant that we should be driving all the time about “closing” jobs for Christian Brothers, the church’s carpet cleaning business. We should be looking for new customers all the time.]

November 25

Talking with Giovanni [a new disciple from Italy] makes the day go easier. (Talk about anything!) I got the idea to have Giovanni read parts of the Bible in Italian on tape for me. (I was thinking about how to get things I want for free, if possible. I don’t have enough money to buy all these Bibles in foreign languages on tape.)


This is a “My Need for Jesus” paper which I wrote in code. These were my actual thoughts and not the correct lines and views I was expected to present about myself:

My Need for Jesus.

I believe that I need Jesus. Even when I am in my worse condition. (Like now, I’m back to the usual thinking about Brother Stewart, etc.) I had a dream that I left the church and I was saying, “I guess this is it. What can I do now?” Then I heard a voice say, “Your need for Jesus.” When I was gone and that was it, this is what I was told.

To digress a minute, I am reading Luther and I figure if Stewart was here, he would say, read your notes [1]. And I think, I can’t read Luther, but I must read Traill. In Traill’s notes, there are so many things he says we must be doing. Even if we are doing several of them, we will be told, “Yes, but, you are not doing this other thing, so how real is it then?” How can we be doing all of these things, and in the right order at that?

[1] I was supposed to read the notes from meetings, which were the things Stewart Traill said to us about the Christian religion and about what was wrong with us. I should be reading Stewart’s words and not the works of the great religious authors which had stood the test of time. In any Bible school or preparation for ministry, whatever the denomination, you would be reading the works of the forerunners of that faith system, whether Martin Luther, St. Augustine or St. Thomas of Aquinas. Here, we only read notes from Stewart’s talks.

In Stewart’s notes there were lists of precepts that we were supposed to be doing. But even if we were doing them, if we left something out (as he was always pointing out to us), then none of it was good enough. And nobody could have been doing all of these things, all the time. It was an impossible task. We always got called out for being unfaithful to something. And if we were unfaithful to part of it, then we were unfaithful to all of it and according to Stewart, this meant what we were doing was really “games and cheating, trying to have it both ways, and thumbing our noses at Jesus,” because it had been a conscious and willful rebellion on our part. Then the whole confession cycle started again, where everyone admitted to cheating, repented and committed to working at it again, until next week’s meeting, where this scenario and screenplay happened again.

This was some sort of conditioning, where Stewart wanted to train us into never having stability in our faith, to doubt ourselves and one another, to see ourselves as rebels and cheats and to be utterly dependent on him for guidance, because if left to ourselves, we would think we were okay and that we didn’t really need Jesus.]

So, with this dream and the idea of “what is the basic necessity?” I am standing in Jesus’s presence right now. It is me and him. Do I need him to save me? Only he can. It won’t be notes and techniques that save me. I won’t have to get it together. In fact, I can’t, because I am perishing and need someone to help me! If I could get it together, I wouldn’t need Jesus to save me.

But, here is the problem. I keep hearing a voice saying, “you were warned” and when I pray, I keep thinking Jesus is showing me that he will not hear an empty cry. (Also I hear, “you won’t repent.”) I have been praying and praying, begging for mercy. If I don’t get mercy, it’s because I didn’t want it. But now I am stuck. So now what?

[“Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it” was a verse Stewart often quoted in the morbidly hopeless meetings in my earlier years in the church, when he was talking about the hopeless condition of the older brothers and sisters. Stewart told us how and why our prayers would not be answered.]

So I just go to my need for Jesus. What else can I do? It looks hopeless. I am asking for a way out. I can’t have mercy until I repent, but I can’t repent unless I receive mercy. I can’t really mean it unless Jesus gives me mercy and unless he gives me mercy I can’t really mean it.

[The last paragraph shows the typical circular thinking of any COBU member. This confused way of thinking, a kind of learned helplessness, was greatly promoted by Stewart Traill’s teachings and it was a type of dependence he sought to produce in us.]


Another My Need for Jesus Paper, also written for myself only:

I need to hear Jesus’s voice. All the little things he does to reassure me. These things are on a slightly mystical level and I probably won’t tell them to anyone. But, I take them as real encouragement. For example, there are times when I am very uncertain about my election, and I keep seeing pictures of sheep. Or when I pray, I hear a voice that says, “I hear you.” Or while I’m sitting in a chair, “I understand you.”


This next paper was written in plain English. It was meant to be my official paper which I had to show anyone who asked to see it. This paper was called Evidence of God’s Love for Me, which was another paper we were required to write. We were supposed to be asking one another to see our papers and also read them aloud when asked.

Evidence of God’s Love for Me:

God has saved my life numerous times. He shows his love for me most of all by sending his Son to die for me (John 3:16).

He gave me faith and desire to follow him.

He has raised me up and restored me many times from leaving the right path.

“We know that in everything, God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

He kept me in our fellowship, in the sheepfold, where I could be kept safe and preserved from harm. I have seen many leave and I have seen their condition after they left and I don’t envy any of them.

I still have a right mind. I have seen many others who are quite deceived (or trying to be) and carried away by the spirit of false religion or by sin and open rebellion itself.

He gave me faith and a desire to be in Christ, which is a proof of election.

He came and found me when I was wandering in the world and in sin. (“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.”)

I have sinned and was trying to sin as much as I could (although I didn’t realize this was what I was doing at the time), yet, he kept me back from many sins that were worse, so that I was not entangled in them and unable to come to Christ (he didn’t leave me in my sin). I think this is because I am a weaker person and that sin would have done irreparable damage to my person. Many other people are saved out of a life of drug abuse, violence and perversion. Yet, for the most part he kept me from these things or greatly limited them in my life. (It wasn’t me, because I would have, at the time, liked to do more, because I thought I could find fulfillment and motivation and happiness in it.)

He reassures me when I am brought low or despairing – not immediately though, but just when I begin to give up or stop calling for his help. When I’m at the end of my rope. There must be a lesson in this. Maybe about not confiding in my own strength. And about how I should always pray and not lose heart.

My Need for Jesus

This was also an official version of My Need for Jesus paper, and not necessarily my real thoughts on the matter.

I need Jesus because of my strong temptation for sin. I am immediately overcome by it without him. If I live without him, soon I’ll be wanting these sins and looking for ways to do them, not even trying to fight against it. I even pray now, ahead of time, about the temptations that are sure to come, so that I will be ready. (“Lead us not into temptation, but  deliver us from evil.”) I really appreciate his salvation from sin.

Another way I need Jesus, is due to my state of mind, and how it is with and without him. I have no stability, and cannot hold a train of thought for even a minute (unless it is something evil or some bitterness or resentment – then I’ll go on and on about that). I am driven and tossed about and I can’t respect being that way. Something I value is my mind (and the proper and effective use of it) and only he can keep me. Romans 8: 5-8.  [Note written in code: Including extreme calculating about what others are thinking and what move to make next.]

I need Jesus for the issue of desire and priorities. I really believe that any right desire for him, or desire to do his will comes from him. Also I need his help in priorities, that is, to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well.

I desperately need his mercy, specifically because of sin, death and hell. I deserve hell because of my iniquities, yet mercy triumphs over judgment.

I need his salvation from these things every day and for all eternity.

I need his forgiveness. Without it, I will hide in shame and do all kinds of things to cover up what I really am. (His love, mercy and grace also apply here.)

I need his guidance in my life and help in all situations and problems in this life. (“I will lead you in the way you should go, I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”) Otherwise, I will quickly be overcome by just about anything and also will end up rotting here in Woodruff as some dead, wiped out monk.

I need Jesus to help me keep my mind on the basics and do them. It’s easy to throw them behind, partly because of pride and partly because of the drive and feeling that I need something more complicated, because how could something so simple solve my problems? (Sure, we go on to solid food, which is for the mature, but everybody starts at the basics.)

Another need for Jesus is my shameful fear of man. This is not a fear that people are going to beat me up or kill me, but more of an inward thing. This is how it works: I can spend whole days calculating about how I am going to get it from everybody at a meeting. Or, I will get my 20 names – not to please God or to help others hear the gospel, but the motivation will be something more base, that is, because I know someone will ask if I got my 20 names and I will get reprimanded for not having them, so this is my motivation for getting the names. I can’t respect that. “Fear not those who can kill the body and after that have nothing more they can do with you. But I tell you whom to fear…”  One of my favorite precepts is, “I fear God and hell. Do I speak and live as though I am standing in the presence of Christ Jesus?” This is real freedom and it instantly brings me back to my senses.

I need Jesus to help me face and live that my own sin is my basic problem because I have a problem with blaming people and circumstances, and of getting caught up in them and preoccupied with them. I think preoccupation with this cuts me off from Christ. I avoid facing painful realities, such as sin, judgment and hell, by looking to these circumstances, but I receive none of the benefits of his love, mercy and grace and no peace and help for my problem.

I need Jesus to help me take my Christian Training seriously and apply myself to it. Yet if I am not one of his [1], then all the training in the world won’t do me an ounce of good. I believe this, I believe in predestination. But if I am predestined, then I need him to help me take to the training readily.

[Meaning that if I am not one of Jesus’s sheep, one of the elect, chosen and predestined by God from eternity to be saved, then the training won’t help me, no matter how much I do it.]


These are some meeting notes. “I” was Stewart Traill speaking. Stewart spoke in the first person, but we were supposed to repeat his words, agree with them and make them our own, as if it were ourselves speaking and believing these things about ourselves:

“I desperately…” [This was followed by whatever things we were supposed to be doing. Everything was “desperate,” “urgent,” “serious,” and we were “about to die soon and be thrown into the lake of fire” and other such things.]

“I am here to upbuild middle and new brothers, vs. I am here for my fun or pity numbers. I am here to lay down my life to upbuild the new brothers. (Because I am commanded to, so they can take my place. Because I am going to be with Jesus soon.)”

[This was an example of Stewart Traill’s death teachings. The older brothers were supposed to train the new and recent converts to take their positions, because we were going to die, really soon. In the next day, week or year maybe. The unspoken part of this is that older brothers and sisters should give up all their wants and desires in this life because they weren’t going to be around much longer. But, there is an unusually hopeful twist here. Stewart was actually saying (this time) that we were going to be with Jesus, instead of the usual “you’re headed straight to hell.”]

“This is an excellent, genuine humility. Are you declaring war on your Savior? Have you lost your mind, or are you being humbly obedient though faith? He who doesn’t gather with me scatters. The destroyer is working through you. Have they lost their minds, have they gone over the brink totally? Or are they genuine humility (that isn’t mushy, but working for what they really need)?

“There is a deference between being trustworthy for a position of leadership and forgiving a brother. Yes, you must forgive him if he asks you, but a leader shouldn’t flip-flop.

“Every time there is a call to draw closer to Jesus, what do you do? Wake up!

“U Verses.

“Predestination things. You think you are going to fool God when he had it all worked out ages ago. Surrender to God from the heart. He catches the wise in their craftiness. The ones who think they know better are the ones who are going to get sunk.

“He came looking for those who were already his sheep. He is not a sheep thief.

“Try this: He destined us to be his sons in love, but it is not good enough for me. Or: I am more than glad to settle for it. Try this: read Ephesians 1:5, then say, ‘But that is not good enough for me.’ Does that fit your form? With your actions. It’s far deeper than your mind. It has been good enough for some of the noblest people and the best minds throughout history, but it is not good enough for you. You are deciding every moment.”

[Stewart Traill almost always came from the place, when talking to us, that none of us wanted to serve Christ and that we were rejecting him.]

“Christian Training in Faith.

“Training in setting our hope in his love, mercy and grace is the exact opposite of human drives. It means we will be breaking up our flesh. God will be getting glory; we will be getting peace and joy and confidence. Training in faith. Learning our ‘U.’ No way we can be training in faith if we are half and half. We must be us abiding in him, it is a personal relationship. Not just working at a paper. Single-minded, direct devotion to Christ. Inward and outward being devoted to Christ. Instead of hiding that you are not being devoted to Christ. If we do this we can unite with others and in turn go and stir up others who aren’t.”

To the sisters: “Write down down all the new brothers’ ideas for the Business. No holding back. All ideas, no matter how stupid sounding.”

I added the following as my own ideas:

I wonder, it could be a good idea then to write down all the new brothers’ ideas and observations on the fellowship – any and all ideas, no matter how stupid, even wrong (is this okay?).

Preoccupation with this cuts me off from Christ! I avoid facing painful realities.


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