Gwen Shamblin Lara, founder of Remnant Fellowship Church and six others including her actor husband, Joe Lara, died in a small private plane crash on Saturday, May 29, 2021, after their plane likely experienced a mechanical failure, according to investigators.
Shamblin Lara is best known for her 1997 book The Weigh Down Diet, which sold more than 1 million copies and whose accompanying “Weigh Down Workshop” took evangelicalism by storm. At one point it had over 30,000 churches participating in weekly workshops and learning her course material and the secrets to get skinny.
The Weigh Down Diet, which is still in use today, simply consists of having people eat less food and only during certain times, instead turning to turn to God in prayer and Bible study to help them avoid overeating. She famously explained on CNN that she got the idea of her diet plan by observing emaciated Jews in concentration camps, telling Larry King “How in the Holocaust did you have all these people getting down real skinny? They ate less food.”
She founded Remnant Fellowship Church in 1999, buying 40 acres and making it the staging ground for the ministry. Twenty years later, there are nearly 150 churches and only 1500 congregants between them. They consist mostly of smaller 5- to 10-member house churches, with the two biggest congregations having 80 and 100 people. In true cult-like fashion, they believe that theirs is the true church and all others false churches, teaching that they are led by “counterfeit pastors.”
Curiously, they adhere to an almost NIVO, believing the New International Version is the best possible and ought to be used in order to best hear God’s word, strongly discouraging any members from using different translations than that one.
The church also has a prosperity gospel focus, telling congregants on their website “While divorce, depression, obesity and out-of-control children are increasingly the norm these days, at the Remnant we are experiencing healed marriages, increasing joy, restored health, repaired finances and children who love to follow the guidance of their parents.” According to Spiritwatch:
Not only does Remnant Fellowship espouse unorthodox presentations on grace and the Trinity, they also demonstrate many of the sociological characteristics of cults. They emphasize conformity, denigrate and shame independent thinking, have rigid authority and hierarchy structures, move people by group thinking, use fear as a motivator, and quickly and permanently expel anyone who persistently questions.
In the summer of 2000, she was engaged in some controversy over coercing her employees to attend the church she founded a year earlier. During this time she had amassed an empire of churches who were in her programs, but some of them began to question her teaching on the Trinity.
In response to these questions, she sent an email to Weigh Down Workshop participants, explaining that the Trinity was fictional and she did not believe it for one second and in fact, her Weigh Down weight loss philosophy is directly tied to her view of Jesus’ relationship to God.
The Bible does not use the word ‘trinity’ and our feeling is that the word ‘trinity’ implies equality in leadership, or shared Lordship. It is clear that the scriptures teach that Jesus is the Son of God and that God sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not send God anywhere. God is clearly the Head…
We have been asked to pick up our cross daily and follow THIS Jesus…My experience has been that some of the trinity teachings confuse some people on how we are supposed to live like Jesus if Jesus and God are the same being…
The reason all of this is important is that if you do not understand that God is the clear authority and that Jesus was under God’s authority, then you will not have a clear picture of what it means to be Christ-like. Jesus suffered, obeyed, submitted, denied his will, and made it his food to do the will of the Father.
Later in the email, she would also write, “I believe that Jesus and God are two separate beings,” and denied that they have are equal in terms of their glory and power. Even now on their church website, she had large sections detailing their refutation of the Trinity.
Shamblin Lara is survived by her children, who will be taking over the wicked ministry.
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