Brother Trickster:

The Cultism of Zac Kijinski's Gladstone Neverland Part 1 of 6


By Rev. Rafael D Martinez, Director, Spiritwatch Ministries © 2023 (All Copyright Reserved)

The three ring circus which we call human society today is overlaid with a vast and thriving continuum of alternate reality that helps bind it together, a reality filled with authoritarian leaders peddling their radical sectarian visions where innumerable followers blindly follow their revelation. This reality is what we at Spiritwatch Ministries have called the Cultworld, a culture of cultures and a world of worlds. Each of the gatherings we’ve seen which are popularly called cults are characterized by a radical devotion to an exclusivism of tribal proportions that is detrimental and antisocial to its members and the world it lives in tension with. 

These leaders steadfastly create  within their individual cultures cunningly concealed abuses of conscience, mundane lifestyle deceptions and spiritual traumatizing beyond belief which the outer world is usually unaware of. We’ve watched many a cultic community arise and have done our best to expose their damaging and disruptive ways of those we could.  It is a grim task to see this unholy circus’ big tent enlarge exponentially and daily .. knowing we will never be able to counter them all as they wring a vast cull of souls to their individual carnivals.  


Within a cult, it’s easy to become intoxicated with the narrow view that you and you alone know everything about matters of faith, life and death. It’s not hard to then feel you’ve been invested with a divine authority no one can question,  and after that delusional rush, gain a heady thrill that you have absolute power over others and that you have a right to dominate them and maybe even rule the world. Any movements drunk with this ego stroking firewater poison the larger human society around them with various levels of dysfunction, sorrow and misery using the highest forms of spiritual aspiration to bring people down into the lowest of bondage.  

Bondage is an equal opportunity common denominator within the Cultworld. While I was helping a production company in the late fall of 2021 to film a documentary on the cultic Xenos/Dwell movement in Columbus, Ohio, I came across the existence of a much smaller yet equally destructive cultic group reigning over its own clutch of victims just down Interstate 71 in Cincinnati. In the same manner as Xenos, this cultic movement has risen empowered by engaging youth, crackling energy and an utter conviction that it is the Only True Church on the earth. Their very exclusiveness blinds followers to any thought of making their leaders in any way accountable for their teaching and practice, no matter how outrageous. We’ve seen this deplorable development recur regularly all over creation in our years of ministry, so our discovery of the career of this earnest band of young heretics cheerfully destroying lives in the name of Jesus was not unexpected, even if wearily acknowledged.

This specific cultic elitism we speak of now operates as the Madison Place Community Church, having found that its original Gladstone Community moniker has become too soured by a controversial past it wants to pretend never happened. For the purposes of this expose, we’ll be calling it “Gladstone” to more easily chronicle the deception and exploitation it has advanced for years under the wiles of its tousle-haired leader Zachary Kijinski, who is known alternatively as Zak, Zach and Zac as this expose notes. He and his Gladstone
leadership team have been continually shape-shifting their public image and activity so as to sustain their well crafted guise of beneficent Christian community and industry. This public visage was created to hide an otherwise viciously abusive and mind controlling cultism that keeps them under his thumbs and his "elders" well compensated. Zac is an enigmatic yet larger-than-life ringmaster over Gladstone, a consummately charismatic figure. His charmingly mild public demeanor convinces his flock of twentysomethings that their devotion to his or her control of their hearts and minds is their path to salvation, and that their group really isn’t the groomed personality cult it actually is. 

Kijinski has essentially clothed himself in the robes of what is known as a trickster. According to a Wikipedia article, “
in mythology and the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a character in a story who exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and defy conventional behavior.”(1) The figure of the trickster is a popular one in global fables and has provided an ample amount of lore for many storytellers throughout human history. Their daily lifestyle summons the supernatural to plumb the depths of the world around their captive audiences and define the unexplainable in a way that draws them to sign on to the trickster’s quests and adventures they readily buy into.

One of the most recognizable tales involving the trickster is the timeless storyline created by the Scottish novelist J.M. Barrie about the fictional youth named Peter Pan, who was also known in his works as “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.” A charismatic child who could justify his impulsive and self-centered direction with the greatest of charm, Peter drew followings of his Lost Boys to accompany him throughout Barrie's Neverland, their place of refuge from the cold and hard real world. His reckless zeal and winsome daring was filled with boastful pride, self-gratification and infatuation with a lifestyle of play. Peter’s devil-may-care attitude attracted so many of his peers to unquestionably band with him and his community in fight and flight while providing an understanding of the known and the unknown realms of their existence. His trickster’s credo was that life, death and reality is a playful adventure, where friends were to do as they please and enemies ruthlessly crushed, and where the line between the two was often blurry.  


Remembering Peter Pan’s colorful lifestyle is a strange tale to use in beginning an expose on cultism. One doesn’t think of Pan’s Neverland when hearing of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple. But this ineffably dark side of fallen humanity is often best illuminated in unexpected ways through children’s stories and even popular myth. Truth is often foreshadowed through narratives that become cautionary tales which can give us great insight into human nature. That kind of understanding enables us to move from the known to the unknown, that is to say, connecting the dots of seemingly unrelated incidents and concepts to become revelations that can be life changing. And the Neverland of Peter Pan is a perfect literary metaphor that has materialized in the actual Gladstone persona of the “elder” Zac Kijinski.


In our years of discernment ministry that strives to bring a Biblically informed understanding of the cult problem that continually plagues humanity, the uncovering of unvarnished truth about their operation is our primary task so as to know how to help its victims and to warn the larger world about their doings. Our exposes on the cultic movements of our world always seek to bring clarity on a subject that is often completely misunderstood, downplayed and even viewed as a harmless eccentricity. For the amoral society around us, cultism is just an aspect of youthful foible or human endeavor that should be respected and treated as personal conviction of equal value with that of any other... and the nominalizing band within our culture played on.


But as we have been asserting, this small band of "true believers" living in a communal setting right in the heart of one of Ohio's most established urban settings is no idyllic circle of benign spiritual seekers. Kijinski's ability to bring young men and women under his control is a testimony to his mastery of group dynamics to compel his followers to serve his own agenda in a perfectly ordered way. Starting from a small Bible study with several people in 2007, the Gladstone community has grown to look like any other church on any other street corner in any other part of the Queen City. It is incorporated as a church, operates a ministry like one and by all accounts seems indistinguishable from one.

For any book, as the old proverb has said, the cover doesn’t always tell the story.


Located near the quaint planned community of Mariemont, filled with industrious young men and women living together in several segregated homes, they now operate the Madison Place Community Church there. They work together in several construction businesses including a bed and breakfast and a coffee shop. Their wages and personal assets are pooled into what they call a "common purse" collective, a form of socialist distribution meant to supply all of their necessities down to medical care, underwear and their daily bread. 


The lives of the community’s members are totally filled with Gladstone's vision of relentless continual interaction with one another 24/7, seven days a week, modeling their Christian faith before one another moment to moment. They share bathrooms and bedrooms, hang out and game with one another in crowded “covenant houses” and staff their community-owned businesses with labor to earn wages they immediately invest into a “common purse” joint collective fund to pay for the groceries, their deodorant, light bills and the maintenance of their business vehicles (which were privately owned by some of them).

So if you were to visit the Gladstone community in any of these well-curated settings, you’d likely have a heartwarming encounter with vibrant community of members who seem to be sincere young men and women taking their faith and commitments to one another quite seriously, yet in a refreshingly casual yet passionate way. Their intense devotion to a stripped down and up close and personal spirituality (a heady glimpse of it can be seen by clicking on the link) has persisted for well over 15 years. They seem so refreshingly appealing and innocuous as they pursue their daily industry supposedly meant to establish their community as part of the kingdom of God.

This appeal hasn’t been lost on the Christian community around them - we discovered that a host of local regional churches, parachurch ministries, world mission organizations and other auxiliaries have been involved with them in a variety of partnering arrangements. These have ranged from providing space for worship services and fundraising efforts, monetary donations to full-blown referrals to Gladstone’s “care” to help in “recovery” from substance abuse and personal turmoil. Many a Christian leader, impressed by their glowy public image of passionate Christian service, hurriedly gave them a superficial muster of apparent orthodoxy and embraced their work readily. 


Gladstone’s well polished public image has attracted a variety of regional organizations to involvement with them for years such as Focus Ministries, Teen Challenge, Pure Life Ministries, the Northstar Vineyard and Mariemont Community churches and others. At times they subsidized their activity with legitimizing cooperation, pew space, generous funding and the souls of hundreds if not thousands of people drawn to their modern day rendition of a communal first century church. Yet as their industry, fortune and influence have grown, Gladstone's well hidden inner reality is vastly different from their benign public image and this is where its real story needs to be told. 

This expose seeks to tell in part what is now known of their movement that isn't visible in their public dinners or street evangelism interactions. A following led by a leader and his hand picked elders that has complete control over the lives of unquestioningly obedient people down to when they can rest or whom they can’t be seen with should be itself followed with a critical eye. A sect that demands and receives a complete hand off of their members’ lives, possessions and destiny to a daily micromanagement of hard labor should be watched a lot more critically than it is. A “faith community” that parasitically feeds off the good will and cold cash it can wheedle from other established faith communities while sanctimoniously looking down on them as their spiritual superiors should be questioned a lot more closely than it has been.

A movement enthusiastically inflicting upon recovering addicts and abuse survivors, in the name of Jesus, what they call “treatment” that actually traumatizes them even further should have its activity very deliberately exposed. And a group that leverages its socialistic "common purse" group finances to buy remote land in Appalachian Ohio to be drilled in the usage of assault rifles in a preparation for an imagined persecution should be scrutinized more than it has been.

Zac Kijinski, the trickster Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up continues to thrive behind the curtains that hide the Gladstone cult reality. His is a perverse influence that can be dismissed and ignored no more. 


Zac The Golden Child
“I taught you to fight and to fly. What more could there be?”


The story of any cultic movement always starts with the emergence of its leadership from whatever corner of life it proceeds. For Gladstone, that would be on the banks of the winding Ohio River as it flows in the tri-state area where Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky converge. The history of the Ohio River community called Mariemont, where the movement first emerged, is an interesting one. Information found in a 1958 archaeological publication shows that there were three ancient Native American village sites scattered throughout the location. Burial mounds, earthworks and fortifications were discovered that had been created and then abandoned by them before European settlers arrived two hundred years later. The families that arrived intermarried with one another frequently, creating a close familial population there even as the river towns of Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky just to the south also emerged as the records and cemeteries of the time show.

Such close knit family ties certainly contributed to the planning of the area’s future. A staggeringly generous donation of $7 million dollars (worth almost a quarter of a billion dollars today) was provided by Mary Muhlenberg Emery, a local philanthropist who had been a patron of various civic works in Cincinnati. Her humanitarian concern was driven by the squalor and disorder of the slums of the Queen City’s urban environment and a desire to create an orderly city designed from the ground up as an example of real urban planning to spare future residents these difficulties. In the early 1900s, well known architect John Nolen was hired to design and build a town that would be called Mariemont, after Emery’s Rhode Island summer home, to be built upon a 420 acre site of rolling farmland just east of the city. 


The acquisition of property began in 1913, and the first spadeful of earth for Mariemont was turned by Emery herself. An army of laborers, civil engineers and architects helped build the community from a centralized plan that was designed, built and then managed by a company she owned until its dissolution in 1931. Emery’s deep sense of responsibility for this project was an inspiring example of putting wealth toward the betterment of the world, even as the ugly reverberations of the first World War began to shake the region, which was filled with German settlers who felt the painful stings of anti immigrant stigma as America went to war in Europe.

Today, Mariemont is a beautiful Ohio village complete with a town square and well designed streets and walkways. The village’s uniquely created design is registered as a National Historic Landmark and its well planned community is home to many conservative-leaning professionals and younger families, numbering about 3500 people or so. Mariemont is an appealing and quiet place to socialize or go for a walk with your Boston terrier. It’s a very American kind of place where most of the members of the community are also completely unaware of the cult that is enthusiastically metastasizing in their very midst, selling them lattes and flipping houses between public fun events thrown for the town to attend.


Among the populace of the region where the Gladstone movement emerged was one particular family tree of German extraction that produced the man we now know as Zachary Michael Kijinski, who was born along with an older sister into a solidly middle class family, coming into the world as the old song says in the usual way among them in 1986. Their family held to their traditional Roman Catholicism alongside their work ethic, love of the Cincinnati Reds, and single-minded effort to raise upright families and be good citizens. Zachary's parents and family were connected to a large family circle of secure social status and means who regularly came together for births and parties, weddings and graduations just as any other American family might. 

Zachary was surrounded by family and friends who he regularly interacted with and who also enjoyed all the things that close-knit family circles bring, such as a deep devotion to their elders and a doting upbringing by good parents. And it is from these early years of Zac’s life that the story of the Gladstone movement begins. 

Early childhood friends recall that Zac was an imaginative, precocious child with a driving impulse for being at the center of any activity around him. He was a voracious reader, cartoonist and had a serious devotion to an intensely imaginative playtime set around his fascination with supernatural lore and natural war. His inspirations took cues from the ready access to TV and video game influences that caught his interest. One former childhood friend, Josh Michaels, who met him in 1995 recalls this well:

Zak and I bonded first over our love for the first couple Mortal Kombat video games. They were violent, but it seems like we were more interested in the characters and the lore. The violent stuff would get mimicked and acted out in physical play.

But, Zak was real into war, particularly historical wars. He loved drawing big battle scenes. He’d spend so much time drawing them too. He was real into drawing characters and scenes. Eventually, he got real into war movies, like Braveheart, Gettysburg, and Joan of Arc to name the ones I remember most. I remember him getting into the Joan of Arc movie, which is interesting in hindsight considering it, like his later love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was about a messianic female warrior character. (2) 

But his daydreams stemming from obsessive attention to epic war movies and 1990s TV media were not to remain as an entirely solitary pursuit. Zac's social development revolved, as it does with any child, around the formative influences of his home life as well as encounters with his peers in school. He began to gravitate towards friends in his neighborhood to build the inevitable web of relationships children usually build as they go through childhood. And along the way, his fascination with the martial conflict between good and evil imparted an adventurous and questing nature into his daily life and his interactions with peers. We have already seen that fantasy and history preoccupied him enormously and Josh observed some telling details of his home life which would show how his playtime began to shape his lifetime:

Zak had one sibling, a younger sister Katie by about 3 years. Zak and I became friends in 4th grade, so we were maybe 9 years old. I can look back, though, and easily see how he was the family’s golden child. .. He had a very comfortable childhood at home, and he got spoiled by his grandparents, who I was around sometimes and even stayed the night at their house with him multiple times. His grandpa I think inspired Zak’s interest in historical stuff, like old Civil War weaponry. Zak even had an old, unusable Civil War pistol and some knives. He was super outgoing and fun around his family and his grandparents. In school, though, he wasn’t considered cool nor popular. So, in elementary school, he was more to himself and just doing his own thing. I think we clicked over that, and when we realized we had some shared interests, that created an easy path into a young friendship.


Zak was the only friend I had that had his own TV in his room. He had a VCR and a Super Nintendo in there too. He could use the family’s giant camcorder anytime, which we did sometimes for making movies. When we made movies, even our first one when we were maybe 12 years old (about 1998), I was always the de facto good guy protagonist, and he was always the de facto big, powerful antagonist. In that first movie, he was a crime lord. Later ones included a ruthless medieval emperor with Darth Vader-like traits (we both liked Star Wars, but he LOVED Spaceballs); a Dr. Evil-like big baddy with a council of stupid goon inferiors he’d boss around in comical way; and one last movie (I think) in which he had two roles: one was the leader of a massive army, and the other was the leader of a secret, robed, cult-like group of fanatics encouraging the war from behind the scenes.


I’ve always thought there was a correlation between Zak’s cushioned and golden-child home life, and his interest in living and behaving like a big ruler. A causation, though? Who knows.


Zak treated his little sister Katie very jerk, big-brother-like when I was around, but from what I remember, I think I used to think to myself that it was obvious he wasn’t always like that with her and was probably more of a kind and sweet big brother to her. His mom Jill was pretty firm, but also very moving toward him. His extended family adored him like he was a gift from God. He got all of his friends’ parents, and mine, to like him a lot too because he’d put on this very clever, fun, and grown-up act for them. Same with teachers in school.


He’s always been manipulative. Why that is, that’s difficult to say, but I suspect it’d have something to do with always getting his way at home and knowing how to ensure it continues, and just carrying that study and practice over to other realms of his life (teachers, other parents, and so on). (3 emphasis mine)


Zac's relationship with his father was a loving and yet distant one as observed by Zac's friend. It’s possible that his relative absence from Zac’s daily doings encouraged him to press ahead in his social exploration of the world through his intentional play and assume a dominant position among peers.. He perceived the world all around him to be the oyster from which he was to find the pearl. Perhaps the speculation that his friend shares here explains why he seemed so driven to seize moments, conversations, and personal relationships to turn them to his own given desire for the moment. While this reminiscence is not meant to be a psychological evaluation of him, it does reveal that he was a charming, intelligent and charismatic child who - like any kid - wanted to be at the center of attention which preoccupied his imagination and shaped his view of the world. It also shows something a bit more: that Zac had an extremely intense desire to be in charge of things.

This seemed to carry over as he began to hang out with groups of his peers to play or socialize. Zac would eagerly seek to somehow turn the group’s impulse into following his lead. Many of them went along because of his persuasive manner. In elementary school he was decidedly more introverted and wasn't that popular once he was outside his family circle. At home, Zac was the precocious progeny, yet he was lost in the shadows of most school circles. But as he entered his teenage years just as the 2000s began, that all began to change as the inevitable impact of his own wonder years made itself known. Josh, among others, saw it up close and personally and shared extensively about his first efforts to become a leader:


I think this started as soon as he had a circle of his own, which was later in elementary school when he joined the kids I’d befriended who lived around the corner from me, yet our backyards connected. They were three brothers—Robbie, who was the oldest, my age, and my closest friend around; Seth; and then Jason. Seth had a friend who lived farther down the street from them, another Josh, who hung around us too. How soon after Zak and I met this happened, I’m not certain. It wasn’t right away, but Zak and I met when we were 9 years old, and by 11 or 12, were all one friend group. I was much closer to the brothers than Zak, though, and remained that way until the brothers moved away the summer after eighth grade—Zak, Robbie, and I were about 13 years old.


But, importantly, as a friend group until then. Zak (then) dominated. I remember him especially being like a sort of boss man and Robbie turning into a sort of big dumb henchman, while I shifted into some sort of right-hand man role. But, when it was just Robbie and me, or all of us without Zak for whatever reason, because the brother, other Josh, and I all lived right around the same corner from one another, it was WAY more civil and childlike. …


Then the brothers left town. I lost my closest childhood friend around, and Zak and I became close. It wasn’t much later at all, if not already beginning to happen, that his sexual deviance toward me began. That summer they left town, Zak and I would visit them one time out where they moved to in a rural area east of the city. .. Zak was telling us he was sensing evil entities in the woods with us, first mention of banshees, and shortly after during a sleepover at my house with him, he said I had a banshee floating over me silently screaming at me as I slept.

Looking back, when the brothers left town, things began to become unhinged. I’ve never realized it before. I naturally was making new friends at school or becoming closer with school friends who I was learning actually lived nearby too. So as those friendships developed more, Zak became incorporated into them too, creating a new friend group that he would also dominate in a very similar way and soon after (that he) would basically create his first cult—the vampire hunting, demon-slaying, apocalyptic and secret group. He, of course, dominated this much more fiercely and obviously. And I can’t help but think so much of it had something to do with feelings or an infatuation with me, his oldest and closest friend (4 emphasis mine) 

This deeply personal account by Zac's closest friend helps us understand what formative influences were behind Kijinski's personal mannerisms .. some of which he kept well hidden. He engaged freely in role playing using his love of epic battle between the forces of good and evil and maintained an ownership of weaponry (including an old knife he threatened Josh with in one of his private jousts with him). Zac would regularly direct his typical neighborhood boyhood quests with a band of local friends into dramatic play involving storylines of his inspiration.

And as time went on, and in that secret place of intimacy that many children also so freely partake, Zac began to satisfy his sexual curiosity by exploring Josh’s body after gaining his trust that Zac then exploited. On sleepovers and in private places, Zac would seek non consensual sexual activity with his friend without a word before, during or after the acts took place. The drive of Zac's psychosexual development took full advantage of a situation where he could satisfy himself at his friend's expense. (5)

Going further into the nature of these interludes is unnecessary other than to say that they were unmistakable efforts by Zac to gratify himself and that Josh resisted only to find the physical pursuit so unrelenting he just gave up. These uncomfortable interludes continued off and on until their friendship ended in their high school junior years in 2003 but by then, Zac’s self-centered quest for spiritual adventure had already taken a darker form as we shall see.


What we should note is that Kijinski's thrall to his hormonal convenience was addressed with no more of a second thought than the slating of a thirst for RC Cola or an appetite for a Skyline chili dog. It's well known that same sex experimentation goes on among both male and female children during puberty (6) and has possibly contributed to the perpetuation of the “downlow” culture among adults who are supposedly heterosexual and yet maintain frequent same-sex sexual liaisons (7). Such leanings, as therapist Dr. Elizabeth Moberly has observed, can possibly arise from same-sex parenting deficits which aren’t necessarily involving abuse at all (8).

We have no real way of knowing if this was part of his situation but one thing that is certain is that Zac's carnal responses as described are those by narcissistic youths with little to no regard for the consequences of their actions ever seeming to enter their inner dialogue over how they choose to live and treat others. This is a childish characteristic natural to many kids left to themselves as they entered their pubescent years, the random lust of uncontrolled desire or curiosity seeking opportunity where it could find a way to play or be satisfied.


Whatever Catholic piety or Protestant social mores about sexual desire he may have received, it certainly made no difference. If there had been any registration of remorse over his doings, it surely had been short circuited within him. The wiring may not even have developmentally been installed in him. Such self-centered pursuit of the pleasures of the flesh driven by hormones reinforce a mindset that the fallen human nature of a self-centered young man (or women) never gives up easily - if ever. His casual pursuit in and out of these sexually intimate settings stem from his complete disconnection from anything that might have served as a restraint to his impulsive and restless activity. 


Still, we aren’t here to fault Zac for his human failings but to understand how these impulses of his childhood and youth began to shape and drive him. They would take a new and far more long reaching direction as his high school years began. 

Among his friendships then were Josh, his cousin Geoff Hill, and Ryan Dennis. Josh introduced Zac to the Protestant Christian world as he and the friend group began to seek spiritual direction together as they attended youth services at a local and now dissolved Evangelical church. They were guided by Tim, a youth pastor who was a great influence in all of their lives:

I want to say I first took Zak to church with me when we were maybe 12 or 13... We (were) all attending every Sunday morning adult service and every Wednesday night youth service. At some point (we) all started having a Bible study with Tim at church right after school every Wednesday. We’d all walk there from school and then walk home and reconvene at youth group. We were the oldest kids at youth group, which was mostly middle school kids and some younger high school kids. This was a solid group from I’d say 8th grade until sometime in junior year. So, 1999-2000 until sometime 2002-2003. We all graduated in 2004, and the dissolution really began junior year.

This church we all went to and loved was New Life Community Church. It was right down the road from where most of us lived (except the guys that went to the other high school after 8th grade). Great church. Great lead pastor and youth pastor. Great memories. I still adore Tim and the other Tim who was sort of an assistant youth pastor. But, the place dissolved during my senior year. …

Zak didn’t see church (at least Protestant church systems) until I brought him there, which was in middle school. But he didn’t become a regular until high school. I’m sure, though, that Zak could see the obvious hierarchy in the church. There’s this head pastor who leads the whole church. There are elders who get to have the final say in everything, even in what the head pastor does. There was Tim, the youth pastor, who led the entire youth congregation. And Zak was not a kiss-ass but was definitely very “holy” while in church settings or youth groups or youth retreats and missions.

This was the first of many pivotal moments of his life. Zac became caught up with the New Life church youth group and others under which a Christian framework of spiritual authority was in place. He would attend youth functions in small group or congregational settings and see how they were conducted. As in all Christian church spiritual formation activity, he saw how close mentoring relationships were developed between young people and older discipler figures. He observed how his peers readily offered submission to the influence and instruction of youth leaders like Tim on how to incorporate Christian faith into their lifestyles. These inner workings provided a far deeper perspective on human nature than Zac had seen before, giving him life experiences not lost on his ever observant manner.

And even as Zac heard the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as well as what the Evangelical Protestant perspectives on sin, redemption and grace personally implied, he was apparently more impressed by how spiritual authority was exercised in church discipling. For someone who had excelled in leading friends around his neighborhood, Zac’s new recognition of how the compulsion of Christian authority was extended in a communal focus left an impact upon him that deeply affected him on several levels. He began to see how a community of faith was directed and certainly, in his own way, took notes..


Years later, after the Gladstone Community emerged, Zac created a redemptive mystique about himself as an unworthy and flawed "Christian" disciple and yet loved by a merciful God who gives divine passes - with the implicit understanding that everyone else should give him one too. Perhaps some kind of guilt over this part of his life was on his mind when Zac penned a well known personal confession once found on Gladstone’s now defunct website which we share here. It’s meant to be a disarmingly transparent disclosure about himself as he supposedly “comes clean”:

My testimony about God is simple: when I was far away from God He came looking for me. He changed my life and gave me everything that I could never deserve by my own merit. I grew up in a loving home, with a loving, stable family. I had all a kid could need growing up, and yet for all these blessings for almost 18 years of my life I never once thanked the God Who gave them to me.

My name is Zak and I am a living example of the mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ.

I was far away from God, not thinking about Him or wanting Him and He showed Himself to me.

I was quick to anger, quick to argue, quick to hold a grudge and God showed me patience, kindness and unbelievable mercy.

I was a mess on the inside, full of proud thoughts, fears, immorality and ambitions and God jumped into my garbage and pulled me out of it.

I was in the dark, hiding my real thoughts and intentions, it was easy to lie, easy to manipulate others, but God shined His light into my life and made me a speaker of His truth. (10)

In any narcissist’s self-disclosure, you can expect half truths all the time and Kijinski’s confession here is such an example. It was clearly written for digestion among the greater Mariemont community years ago, when his Gladstone disciples began to build their local communal utopia. It was a winsome self-deprecation meant to disarm any critics. His account of a lurid past is probably an accurate picture of an inner moral depravity he readily confesses to, and yet he ends it with a claim to a divine calling on his life that we are to take as seriously. 

In writing this, Kijinski boldly engages the reader with a testimony of experiencing God’s mercy out of which his pretentious claim to be a “speaker” of divine truth is then boldly presented. Who could dare bring any kind of charge against Zac's life then? God forgave him... how can anyone therefore dare to hold any past failing against him? God speaks to him... how could anyone doubt this when he could declare so assuredly a Word From The Lord? Zac was a divinely appointed work in progress called by Him to proclaim His truth... how do you begin to even question this? His claim was meant to declare that he was a transformed sinner turned saint, a believing Christian in touch with a Savior Christ. That would, of course, certainly quash any criticism of his self-evident failings or subsequent struggling. 

Zac pointedly calls himself a speaker of God’s truth and in doing so, we cannot but recognize the archetype of the trickster again at work, defying his immoral failure by clutching at a fig leaf of justification God has supposedly given him. He and the band of young men and women he led down the same path have been able to sidestep any real scrutiny of their character, above all Zac’s, when they engage in this kind of personal deflection.

That God’s illumination in his life about his wrongdoing is obvious, but as the evidence we continue to present here will show, Zac’s confession is actually an establishment of self-justification that has led so many to fall under his pious spell. He spent years honing an affective external persona of a lovable young loser that has enabled him to avoid any fallout from his transgressions then... and those that were to come. 


Zac’s identity as a “speaker” of divine truth while engaging in his youthful lusts reminds one of Sinclair Lewis’ predatorial pragmatic Elmer Gantry. The main character of Lewis' famous novel by the same name that was a literary smash four generations past, Gantry was a party animal preacher of Prohibition days who knew how to soar in pastoral homiletics all the while bedding down women he’d see from the pulpit and creating a religious crusader’s empire using the support of “sheeple” all around him. Gantry's novelized ruminating and fornicating that cunningly relied on a pulpit calling to cover his sin is replicated in Zac's unblushing false humility here.

What is far worse is that Lewis’ Elmer Gantry is daily incarnated in far more depraved men and women running churches as their own private fiefs all around us, live streamed and empowered by cash-apps, that make millions of followers their private slaves, chattel or meat for their grinders. It’s as normal as mom, apple pie and Hyundai.

Indeed, in the utterly self-centered pursuit that Peter Pan’s own life of play freely indulged, he couldn't conceive of passion for anything other than his own preoccupation, regardless of what it cost anyone else. Zac really was a boy who wouldn’t grow up and his deeper immaturity was to soon bear far more pungent fruit. He would soon find others to adult for him, to dazzle others with his dreams and who would take on responsibilities he was too bored to see through. He didn’t need a Tinkerbell to grasp and turn into a shaker to slap onto others her pixie dust. Zac’s influence alone would come to do that all too well.   


Zac the Godwarrior Wannabe  

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”


These times of Zac’s life have been closely observed by many people. Extensive documentation created by other former close friends of Zac during his subsequent teenage years has brought much light to bear upon his efforts to create followings in thrall to him. As he entered high school, he used his loose network of friends and church acquaintances, some of which we’ve detailed here, to intentionally create yet another social circle he’d come to dominate. Some were of Catholic bent, others were Protestants and still others remained youthfully uncommitted to anything but their own eclectic leanings. All of them fell under Zac’s youthful ringleading of another new band of brothers. This group, however, was secretive and its existence and activities were well hidden among the group of tight lipped teen boys - no girls were ever involved.

Characterized popularly over the years as a “vampire hunting” band of true believing teens, Zac’s power of persuasion was the one binding factor behind its cohesion and longevity. The group had several secret monikers, among them the Knights of Isaiah. He had a working understanding of quasi-Christian spirituality, gained in his time in the New Life church youth group, to feed his own imagination to create a foundation he built upon which captivated his friends. Time simply will not allow us to share all that we have uncovered but we thank June Stickler, a former close associate of the Gladstone community whose unique perspective we’ll be quoting extensively later, for allowing us to cite her unpublished report about Zac and the Community:


In his teens, Zak convinced his close circle of guy friends that he had superhuman powers and was God’s chosen warrior, number 3 in command after God and Jesus, he said. He would have them go to the grounds of a local Catholic seminary at night, which he told them was the center of evil where demonic forces planned the destruction of the human race. Zak would instruct them to wait for his return while he went off to fight the demonic leader that lived there. He would come back bleeding and appear authentically beaten up.

On various occasions, there would be what appeared to be demonic manifestations in Zak. He would talk and act completely differently. At least on one occasion he ripped apart a Bible. His group would get instructions via America Online’s Instant Messenger that they needed to “baptize” Zak so he could become free of his demon possession and return to the “good” side. They would chase after him and physically struggle to hold him down while he vigorously fought back. These types of scenarios continued for four years.

 Ryan Dennis, another former friend of Zac in his childhood years, wrote in a 2009 document to warn the Northstar Vineyard and other churches about Zac’s fraudulent self-representation when his Gladstone following had extensively grown. Dennis’ terse narrative sheds light as to the extent that this had become a movement in its own right and how it was entirely focused around Zac’s soaring mystical dogma and self-indulgent teen megalomania:

He convinced us that he was God’s chosen warrior throughout the history of the world, a vampire slayer, a fighter in angelic wars, and that he had superhuman powers. Let me assure you that none of this was a prank and was deeply believed by around fifteen to twenty people at various times including individuals living in Michigan and slightly by two adults for a short period. All the followers were men and all were roughly fifteen to eighteen years of age. 


My involvement in this quasi cult was only around five or six months, but other people, especially one individual, the time span was around three years. I repeat three years. Zak has a very wild imagination and we later made many connections of things he said and did to the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer...

We stayed the night at each other’s houses often and Zak would leave the house to fight vampires. There were times when he reunited with friends and would be beaten up, where he must have made himself bleed somehow. Other times, we were informed that he was demon possessed and we had to chase him down, physically hold him down and baptize him to return him to the good side. When he was demon possessed he fought us at times, ripped up a Bible, talked and acted differently, and was overall extremely convincing (12) 

The faith and trust these young men put into Zac’s slayer persona explained their draw to it and their loyalty to his cause. June Stickler went on in her summary to relate how the Knights, their great conflict in the spirit world and their social activities at night came to an abrupt end when the young Godwarrior became too persuasive and Ryan also further elaborated:

He lost his followers when parents became aware of what was going on. Later, those who had been part of his group made many connections of things Zak had said and did with the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series 1997-2003). The main character, Buffy, surrounded herself with a circle of loyal friends and was taught and aided by a “Watcher” to battle demons and other forces of evil. (13)

 For this group of young men, this was no longer Spaceballs the Backyard Activity where you went home at night to microwave dinners after putting your crucifixes down, but a real-life, nightly clash between good and evil. It became an overtly religious quest and a clandestine spiritual warfare with suburban Ohio nights covering such arenas of destiny like the black woods of the Mount Washington community as well as the sprawling grounds of the Athenaeum where the Roman Catholic Mount St. Mary's seminary was - the center of the evil empire in Zac’s story. The stakes were as high as they could be and his young friends were astonished that they’d been recruited to be part of a clandestine ring of spiritual warriors changing destiny just by being friends with Zac as he skulked around at night with them and while they went to study hall during the day... just like Buffy and her all teen junior slayers did in the TV show.

It never seemed to occur to any of Zac’s earnest young band who were going to weekly Protestant church services to actually question any of his claims, much less confide in the New Life youth pastor leadership they knew there. He’d sworn them to secrecy since so much was obviously at great stake. Zac’s power to lull a group of young men into being willingly controlled and guided by him, as a teenager, was uncanny. An entire article could be written from the interviews and testimony we’ve gathered on this very point - we simply don’t have the time to engage in it here.

But what’s important to realize is that Zac’s penchant for bringing his peers, their belief and their resources together to follow his own agenda playing upon their mutual interests rose to new levels of sophistication and influence. He used old fashioned handwritten epistles together with the earliest of the Internet’s forms of remote chat and email communication to help manifest a sacred science and fearful alternate reality that none of his friends - all true believers - could truly question. It was a furtive yet effective way to convince his acquaintances to stave off any doubt of what he wanted them to actually believe and live by.

Of Zac’s created mythos, Josh unblinkingly remembered that … 

(a) critical part of Zak’s fantasy narrative was that it had to be kept secret between those involved in the fight. For whatever reason, though, (their) girls couldn’t be brought in, even though they were super close to those friends they were dating. I think it’s because Zak knew they’d call bullshit (14)


Zac's muted amorous responses to teenage girls around him were not lost upon his friends. While he was, as some told us, no “babe magnet,” he had several opportunities for engagement with other teenage girls who were around him in middle school. Teen romances are the stuff of the most primal of memories of someone's past and yet there was no teenage sweetheart they could recall, no romantic interludes he pursued that displayed a gravitation towards the normal attraction of the sexes. Later, one young girl who was an athlete did hang out with him for a time in high school but that attraction was stimulated by his literary and fantasy interests more than anything else. She was asked out on an apparently platonic prom interlude and no more. (15) Perhaps Zac fancied her in some way as some sort of warrior princess far more earthy than Buffy was, more like the TV heroine Xena, another ‘90s fantasy icon airing all over. 


Zac's personal and sexual infatuation with Josh also involved a simultaneous attempt at dominance over his friends, He was the five year old boy who wants everyone paying attention to himself and he seemed to be acting out of an arrested social development, a breakdown in the maturing that many young children grapple with going through puberty and beyond. In other words, we can see that in Zac’s world, his fantasy-energized ability to control others served to reinforce within him an abnormal fixation in his relationships to seek control over others by play and imaginational interaction. He craved their attention and lingering time with them - seeking no other life experiences beyond those he enjoyed with those around him he could dominate, including his same sex “companionship” with Josh to satisfy his drives. It was plain to all that the teenaged Zac was a very fixated youth.

Zac had no need to pursue a “Xena” within his reach or any other women - he could be as remote as he chose to be even as friends noted that his ambivalence in seeking deeper relationships with them became more and more subtle and yet obvious. Zac’s private sexual dalliances while keeping young women at arms’ length may have well been enough to gratify his cravings and were perhaps all he ever really wanted. His fixations sated, Zac could then channel his almost inexhaustible energies towards creating devoted characters in his dramatic teenage productions that brought so many under his leading. His claim of embracing celibacy for the sake of his spiritual warfare is probably best understood in this well hidden context to his profession. In our sexually explicit era, one can have opposite or same sex leanings and channel their behavior in any way they choose to display - or conceal - them in their chosen lifestyle. This is the legacy of the twenty first century, after all, 

This control of his order of Knights’ behavior by control of their thoughts, including his dramatic mystical manipulation, is a textbook example of how social circles can be readily turned to serve an agenda by the usage of influence at the right point by the right person. They were youthful manifestations of Zak’s budding mastery of social manipulation which cultic mind control is founded upon. So it was out of his fanciful belief drawing on his church observations that Zac intuitively fashioned a martial occultic worldview to indoctrinate a following of peers who became players in his own drama hidden in American Buckeye suburbia. The young and tender golden child had become a ten foot tall and bulletproof Godwarrior general fighting evil. If Buffy could do it, why not him?

But as it turned out, the slayer would soon be found out through a turn of events Ryan had recollected:

For several of us, the end of following Zak came when what was supposed to be the biggest event yet, fell apart. We were informed .. that a huge battle was going to take place and at the last minute Zak was once again going to be possessed. We had to convert Zak back to the good side before the end of the day by baptizing him or else he would be evil forever and the world would be ruled by Satan. Our protection against Zak was “holy” water, reading scripture, and crosses.

Everything fell apart when some of the people from Michigan skipped their first day of high school to come down and fight in the big battle. When they got lost in downtown Cincinnati, one of the group member’s parents had to help them out and learned about everything Zak was teaching us. So that day I ended up by myself trying to save Zak by trying to baptize him but failed as he somewhat fought me whenever I got close to him.

Later in the day, he was miraculously back to normal and did not know what (happened) or what he did at all that day. Thankfully, this failed event led to the beginning of much confusion and us doubting that Zak was who he said he was. Also, around this time some of us started attending a local youth group which also led to doubts as what the youth pastor explained from scripture seemed very different from what Zak had been teaching us. Shortly after this, we were able to trace the emails that were supposedly sent by “Lucillia” (a leading demon), generals, and knights to Zak’s computer

Over the next few weeks most of the remaining members involved, including myself, stopped believing Zak altogether. His response was to isolate all of us from himself and one person who still somewhat believed. He then tried to convince this person of these things with new plot twists for another year or two. It finally ended with the last remaining person when he told Zak that he didn’t believe any of it and he wasn’t going to hang out with Zak or be his friend if he ever talked about it again. At this point Zak was probably seventeen years old and this is the last I know of Zak’s mini cult. (16) 

Most people with the chutzpah to create such a bizarre following that crumbled with the light of parental disapproval shone on it would likely have just stayed in the shadows.

Not Zachary Kijinski.  

While he proverbially dropped “off the grid” at Anderson High School in Hamilton County as well as the church and neighborhood social circles he was involved with for a time, Zac waited until the hue and cry died down. He then took up his bucket of pixie dust again as he sought new friendships and new connections apart from his past. His graduation from high school in 2004 was capped with an ambitious enrollment to the University of Cincinnati but he soon dropped out from that year’s fall enrollment. 


Of these days, Zac has soberly affirmed that he had been interning for a local politician’s office at the time and, for the sake of the calling to become a “speaker of God’s truth,” he’d left that ambition behind him (17). Other sources indicated that it was about this time Zac went on the record that he’d also given up a supposedly healthy desire for women and embraced celibacy to fulfill his destiny to serve God. That there’s no evidence found anywhere indicating Zac harbored a political idealism that resulted in work in local politics which was nipped for the Lord probably hasn’t fazed Zac a bit.

It's unknown if Zac’s parents ever found out about his vampire hunting activity or whether they did anything about it, but his insatiable drive to head another crusade began in earnest not long after his unnamed cult finally folded. Ever popular and engaging, ever the kind of charming young man you couldn’t stay mad at, Zac’s new machinations almost effortlessly sidestepped his grotesque Godwarrior career in an evasion that would make the infamous Mafioso John Gotti, the Teflon Don blush with jealousy.

Zac The Vampire Hunter Turned Vineyard Exhorter

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”


Like the phoenix rising from the ashes of its destruction, Zac the Super Christian emerged. His personal rebuild would follow Peter Pan’s reminder to never dismiss the familiar in life... no matter what. That is precisely what Zac did, even after the slayer cult folded. His essential persona never changed and his worldview remained intact. Pan’s boyish aplomb was Zac’s elaborate inner defense against adversity. This is a testimony to the power of cultism in that so much of human nature is where it finds its potential. It’s the draw of relationships between followers and leaders based upon the personal charisma of the leadership that undergirds their approach. The quality of a cult’s cagey leadership empowers their ability to stage a profound seduction of their followers, even if their luster is somehow off.   


Again and again throughout the history of cultism over the ages, the common denominator of positive regard and even an abiding admiration and love of the person of the cult leader shines forth. Whether they were acolytes of middle age Catholic mystics or homies of urban rapper cults in 1990s Chicago, an evoked affection and even ardent love of cult members for their cult leader is always part of its most enduring draw for both parties.

In his post-vampire hunter days Zac’s irrepressible and sunny disposition arose to the occasion, as Ryan Dennis related:

Around a year or two later I started hanging out with Zak again for some reason, probably because he is a very likable guy and I did always enjoy his company. (18)

We’ve repeatedly heard this same declaration from Zac’s friends - he was such an engaging and friendly young man to hang with and as can be seen, even some of those exploited by him couldn’t resist being around him. Never without  companionship, a few fellow church goers became new local friends. They became a circle of offbeat, carefree young men who became inseparable. He moved into an apartment overlooking the main town square of Mariemont in 2004 along with another young man named Brian Roselli who eagerly came under Zac's amenable spell. Roselli was the funny, energetic young guy in everyone’s small circle of friends who had a streak of generosity a mile wide. He eventually financed a trip to Europe with Zac in 2007 and a couple of their other friends, feeling that “God told him to do so.” In time, Brian and Zac would share the apartment with Geoff Hill, Ben Cook and Nick Pajic.

During this timeframe that Zac’s rapprochement to the Christian faith opened to him doors of major opportunity to once more seek the center of attention. Ryan goes on:

Around this time I invited him to the church I had been attending called Northstar Vineyard in Loveland, OH. He was one of my few friends claiming to be a Christian so we once again started hanging out and getting close again, but we never mentioned anything that happened in the past. (19)

Already familiar with the inclusiveness of much of Evangelical congregational life, Zac’s rebuilding of his connection to the church circles around him in 2005 was facilitated by his expectation that he could put distance from himself and his cultic past safely by participating in a new church group fellowship, as well as the more prosaic position that he’d be accepted readily, even if found wanting - and he found such a refuge. He was such a likable guy and having friends who chose to not remember his past or make it public made it easier to fit in.

Ryan had begun to attend a new church plant called Northstar, in Loveland, Ohio which was part of the fast growing Charismatic Evangelical movement founded by the late John Wimber that is known globally as the Vineyard Church (20). The leaders of the new church included its dynamic young senior pastor Mike Massey and an older man called Rob McGillivray who served in a kind of floating mentoring role there but who was not actually in an official leadership position. While McGillivray’s  presence was welcomed, Pastor Matt was the senior leader, both greatly respected and a solid expositor of Biblical faith with a real passion to serve his church and community.

At the time, Northstar had become deeply involved with other local churches in what was called the “Crossroads Initiative,” an interfaith effort involving close fellowship to facilitate evangelistic and discipling outreach to the region in the hope that churches involved would find renewed vision to reach their communities. Cincinnati’s churches at one level or another have always harbored such commendable effort and in those years when Zac attended Northstar, the Initiative would become the focus within a year or so.

The Initiative planned to launch a ten-week small group emphasis using a common curriculum and Zac, Ryan Dennis and others also became caught up in this innovative interfaith cooperation leading up to it. It was like his New Life days again, but here Zac was rubbing shoulders with young men and women who were his peers who seemed to be blissfully unaware of his past. These groups met in homes and church settings that were laid back, casual and yet serious attempts to help them grow in their faith. So when one group ended up starting to meet in his very own Mariemont apartment it suited Zac quite well as we will see. This hosting was often viewed as a divine sign of approval upon their choices and spiritual progress.


Like many Charismatic churches, the Vineyard has many of the popular emphases common to the Pentecostal and Charismatic “full gospel” cultures in Christendom. These include such things as lively worship, engaging preaching and a busy conference and retreat schedule. Interaction with other larger church movements like the controversial International House of Prayer and “Toronto Blessing” River churches were regularly pursued. The literally hands-on and participatory nature of the Vineyard’s highly experiential liturgy brought many of them together to worship, study and learn from one another in “knowing God and making Him known” as a timeless Christian principle of mission has set forth.

It was fellowship in every sense of the word and part of Vineyard’s unique expression of it frequently involved the practice of spiritual giftings. These “gifts” are viewed, as in other Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, to be divinely bestowed enablements given by the Triune Godhead and exercised through members of their body to help them live more on-mission, intentional Christian lives in a godless, adrift culture. There were also retreats, young adult Bible studies and open connections with many other young men and women that occurred within Northstar itself that Zac also availed himself of. He would visit different groups and move freely around in them, once more becoming a sponge, observing the emphases and passion of this form of Evangelicalism most closely.

It was here, in the midst of his new immersion into Charismatic church culture that Zac was introduced to the nuts and bolts of its inner workings by a church leader given to an expansive exercise of these “spiritual gifts” wherever he could. Again, Ryan’s 2009 letter relates how:

…after Zak went to some prophecy group led by a man named Rob (MacGillivray) at Northstar Vineyard... Zak then claimed that God spoke to him directly every day, often telling him every little thing to do that day. He claimed he would wake up and God would then tell him a list of things he wanted him to do. Around this time he started hanging around new people and started a new small group that met to study the Bible. The small group meetings I attended and remember were all either on prophecy or how God speaks to people. (21)

It was under Rob’s tutelage and example that a new shift of Zac’s direction occurred. For Zac quickly recognized the authoritative nature inherent in spiritual gifts of prophetic declaration as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and viewed it as a normative part of Christian practice. These involved the giftings of prophecy, the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge, being practiced by those around him. These giftings,
when practiced by stable and mature believers, are understood to be revelatory insights supplied by the intervention of God, the Holy Spirit, who gives to seeking believers divinely inspired direction, comfort, confirmation and even correction in this manner. 


Most of Christendom has rejected their existence as spurious, and distorted manifestations of it are the grist for many a Hollywood media bash or skeptic’s poison pen. Still, millions of Christians regard the reality of these gifts (including this author) as Biblically mandated divine interventions rightly recognized as wondrous breakthroughs of God’s vocalized truth in a created order filled with demonic and human deceit. While Biblically grounded Pentecostals and Charismatics don’t view such exhortation as authoritative as Scripture itself, they readily make room for their operation as God’s Spirit might ordain through the sharing and caring offered by any believer seeking to be used of God in their “flow.” Scriptural principles for their orderly application are safeguards to head off their abuse, even if it sadly still has occurred (22). Viewed as admonition by a watchful God ever willing to supply guidance in the lives of those who submit to his Lordship, these revelatory gifts have been a reality shared for centuries in the Christian cultures across time where room was made for it.

As we have already uneasily observed, in a Christian fellowship predisposed to accepting direction from people speaking in the first person of God who are believed to be empowered by divinely inspired spiritual giftings, things can go wrong very quickly if not properly monitored. Not only can there be misunderstandings of what’s said but the intrusions of human ego, questionable delivery and personal integrity can result in extreme and even bizarre consequences. This aberration of congregational life is a lamentable given that is often disregarded.

It’s a part of the very human side of any assembly of spiritualizing people. Disagreement with what God said through someone can become quite a serious issue for the one who wants to obey a claimed Godly perspective but struggles with what may be said. The practice of spiritual gifts is a tension with the created natural order as it is being momentarily superseded by divine intervention - and the caution and limitation of one’s perception is to be challenged by an authoritative mandate given by someone supposedly hearing from God.  


In too many church circles, people can readily say “I heard the Lord say X and Y,” and be readily believed yet uncritically judged and considered, regardless what Scriptural principles safeguarding against such extremes warn against:


Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

1 John 4:1

For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. 

Ecclesiastes 5:7

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

1 Corinthians 14:29-33


These Biblical admonitions are often more recognized by people who take heed to “Words From The Lord” by how many times they “overlook” (or ignore) and not heed them. Such is sadly too often the case among Pentecostals and Charismatics. While the biblically grounded among them readily exercise such discernment, far too many others do not. 


And Zac quickly realized how readily those who live in a religious world where no one questions much can be induced to be led, especially if someone says they speak for God as an oracle among wondering and impressionable young adults making room for spiritual direction in their lives. As 2005 turned into 2006, Zac’s aroused new spiritual vocation as a prophetic seer took further shape, in the open environment of Northstar that became a sharpening stone for his unpolished diamonds. In an egalitarian atmosphere where spirituality was democratized and everyone could participate and share input that would be heard by all, the one time possessed destroyer of bibles now had successfully, in the cruelest of ironies, come across to a rapt audience as a pious bible teacher. And Rob’s group prophetic grooming encouraged Zac to start casting prophetic words among the groups he moved among with a certainty and authority that was arresting and seemingly inspired from Above. 


Geoff recalled how consumed Zac became in absorbing information, using his keen command of detail to good effect by viewing YouTube videos, surfing internet sites and reading all the books he could on how to speak publicly, teach from the Bible, and generally organize his thoughts upon what orthodox Evangelical doctrine and practice involved (23). His reading and surfing exposed him to the thinking of C.S. Lewis, the preaching of Francis Chan and the chronicles of Christian martyrs such as Richard Wurmbrand and many others. If a book came up that he needed to know something about, he would buy it. Zac’s eidetic memory and recall consumed reference books, preachers on video, and all of the content and context he would need to become an earnest young preacher whose exegesis of Scripture poured out into staunchly edifying homiletics.

In turn, charged with his newly acquired insight, he was always seeking for moments in which his mastery over a subject could be hung out for public sharing, whether with friends or groups. As he made his rounds through Northstar’s small groups and Bible studies where he could, he never passed up any opportunity to substitute where a teacher was absent or at least offer some trenchant, deep insight into a subject or a Bible passage. His persona was now shifting once more from that of a Millenial back row hanger-on into a mystical Believer anointed by God’s Spirit who should be paid attention to.

So when Zac’s involvement in another Northstar group study of the New Testament book of Revelation occurred in 2005, it was yet another turning point of his own development even as the United States itself was culturally reeling. 


Islamist fighters dressed in black with riflesAll of America had been awash in the consequential horrors of an amok apocalypticism. Islamic extremism’s forcible injection into Western consciousness via the September 11, 2001 attacks had been a terrifying reminder of its truly devout perception that America was indeed the Great Satan. The ongoing threat against Western defenders that they would face a fanatical mobilization of jihadists ready to die in terror attacks was echoed in its media.


And the Muslim prophet Jesus, second only to Muhammad, was actually coming to see Christianity itself pulled down and worship of him finally ended (24). The inevitable War on Terror for many stunned Westerners became an almost holy Crusade against the infidel Arabic Jihad that was coming to pull down its civilization. 

The rallying of the nations to root out the Jihad by armed conflict from one end of Turkey to the ends of Pakistan and beyond to Indonesia had become a soberingly real world conflict. Arguably, it could be seen as a third World War by some that has yet to cease. The cost of packing men and women off to Wanat or Fallujah to fight Taliban or Iraqi insurgents and come home in flag draped coffins made America groan with rage and sorrow even as fresh replacements were airlifted in to replace them within hours. The immediate years of the post September 11, 2001 world were very darkened days of uncertainty illuminated only by the flashes of deployment, embedded journalist dispatches and many talking head commentators on TV.

This grinding, agonized war of cultures certainly transcended any imagination Zac had perhaps indulged in before. The immeasurably stark reality of America at war with Islamic extremism began to impact him deeply. His friends would note how obsessed with understanding the practice of "the prophetic” in light of the end of the world he had become. Zac filled his computers with Internet searches on the Antichrist and the last days as foretold by Bible prophecy, coming to the conclusion that the Pope was the “man of sin” that the Antichrist is called in Scripture. 


As we’ve seen, Zac’s past fascination with epic battle accounts had led him into a laser-focused review of Revelation’s stark prophecy of the fires of Megiddo. No other subject focus more resonated with Zac than his attention to the prophetic and end time prophecy. These uncertainties were engaging the hearts and minds of many young Christians in the early 2000s who were anxiously trying to understand how to live in the shadow of a seemingly imminent Armageddon and while he was one of them, it was becoming apparent that Zac was blazing a trail within him to offer what he thought would be a response via speaking for God. The prophetic shadow of the end times that covers the Bible has always been a predominant feature within the Gladstone community’s lore and lifestyle. Their values and decisions were subject to scrupulous rethinking in light of the inevitably heightened anxiety about the Tribulation years pressing in upon them, as described in the book of Revelation. 

We don’t have the time to detail Gladstone’s traditions about it, but Zac’s shrewd exploitation of the dark imminency about the end of the world within the group was a powerful and often completely unspoken deployment dual motivations to comply with his leadership and direction.  The community was saturated by an angst over the End of all things which he and his elders played upon regularly: fear drove the community to continually re-examine their obedience and commitment to God and to those spiritual leaders among them who He, they thought, had brought into their lives to help them survive the tribulations to come. And the awe-stricken amazement over having been privileged to acquire such searingly eternal perspective and  understanding conveyed a wonder into their spirituality that would make them readily and wholeheartedly devote themselves to community perspectives. Such fear and wonder transformed minds especially when hellfire and damnation for failure to comply with that direction were ultimately at stake. Zac knew where he was going with his poring over BIble prophecy and he knew how to rise up and present himself as a sage of destiny for others to look up to and completely obey.

Further honing his already well-advanced ability to hold an audience, Zac effortlessly began to issue prophetic “words” to those around him as he’d seen in Rob McGillivray's example. He would tell people what he said God wanted to tell them. His unpolished yet undeniably compelling manner delivered inspiration in a low monotone that would get animated as he continued. Friends recounted the low-key and almost casual way he’d speak in the first person of God the Spirit to give a rebuke or direction to some area in their life in some conversation stemming from a church service or a Bible study. His emulation of Rob was spot on and speaking for God just seemed to come so naturally to Zac - people listened and took him quite seriously.

The conditions were therefore right for a mass movement to begin. It was a perfect storm of opportunity for the former vampire hunter now turned into a Vineyard exhorter.

The times were troubled by the never ending escalation of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the real-time daily reports of slaughter and death overseas. We cannot forget the economic insanity of the pre and post 9/11 years that resulted in the global financial bubble burst of the Great Recession in 2007-2008 which overshadowed these grim times even further. There was a great groundswell of high school and young adults looking for interdenominational Christian fellowship as a source of refuge from these and other anxieties and a place to understand how to live in spite of them. The ardent spiritual passion among them to seek new relationships and direction centered around a living Christian faith compelled so many to seek such certainty in a world of doubt.

Above it all, in Cincinnati, this passion was about to be tapped there by an engaging, relatable young peer who could do a heck of a tap dance through the Bible and connect ancient faith to contemporary challenges via a first person directive from God Himself. 

Within the intimacy of a small group meeting in an austere apartment overlooking a city where idealism about doing life together was its spiritual womb, a new spiritual movement launched. And how fortunate it was for the Vineyard exhorter when that bare little living space just so happened to be his own. How propitious for him that the refuge from the darkness of world events was comfortably in reach of his fridge and he had so many people underwriting his lifestyle. Peter Pan’s comfortable situation with his Lost Boys in Neverland couldn’t have been more cushy.


Zac The Excellent Adventurer

“ .. he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him.

It was saying 'to die will be an awfully big adventure.”

The Bible study services on Thursday nights in those first years began with exuberant worship led by Matt Carlin, a mentee of Pastor Matt Massey’s, in the apartment, but the group’s study of Scripture turned quickly to Zac’s potent ability to sustain their attention as he spoke like a New Testament oracle. The studies would go on for almost two hours and then afterwards, there was well over an hour more of free socializing everyone participated in where laughter, friendship and spiritual zeal were freely exchanged between a large and loud group of young men and women seeking to walk closer with their Lord.

It was during this time Zac continued to interact, built relationships, and exercised his prophetic powers - aided less by the word of the Lord than by his extensive personal profiling of every one that came, which he shared with Matt Carlin. Carlin recalled that from the very beginning of his influence in the study, this had been a major point of discussion. Zac would do all he could to gauge “the horizontal fabric” of individuals around them, learning what their fears, concerns and personal struggles involved (25). He pressed his vast photographic memory into use to create this inner spreadsheet of spirituality as he conversed and it proved to be quite profitable.

Several of the relationships he curried out of his interactions with others in this manner would become instrumental future pillars of his community vision, touched not by an angel but a tousle haired prophet who “spoke into their life” and changed it using the group interactional dynamics he could easily dominate and steer. This insincere manipulation was hidden to everyone who came innocently and trusting, the same way the area around old time revivals with fire breathing preachers who had their own inner systems of measuring their congregations used their insight to speak their own spurious “words” and steer lives the way, they would say, God intended them to proceed. His continual gauging of his audiences began to reap dividends when many in that loud group of young adults became new disciples attracted to his vision - and his mastery of a mystical manipulation, a spiritual shock and awe sideshow, would result in the subjugation of their critical thinking and the foundations for the creation of cultism.

Zac’s extension of authority over their lives was through his purely oral tradition that he generated to guide them, verbal directives on how everyone was to act, live and even think which weren’t written down mandates whatsoever. Instead, his oral directives were handed down within relational sharing and group activity every time they met. And when preserved by enthusiastic sentiment, such tradition is where the real work of indoctrination and retention within Gladstone really came forth. So when the ten week Crossroads Initiative Kingdom Group curricula in 2006 finally ran its course and ended, the group gatherings never stopped. They chose to keep meeting because of the irresistibly electric atmosphere among their gathering that veritably crackled when it met. While Zac’s “divine” persuasion was a major factor, it was certainly not the only motivation. As Dennis ruefully remembers, the spiritual devotion of the young teenagers and twenty somethings was positively contagious, “It felt particularly holy and sacred and energizing. It was like a group of youth at a concert.
In that atmosphere, in a seemingly fun way, they could lose their minds.” (26). 

The joyous assembly of the young disciples where love could be loud and extravagant and ideas and spiritual passion so freely expressed not out of fanaticism but real hope and genuine faith was the espousal of a young bride with her Lord. It’s touching to hear of the devotion they all shared and tragic to behold how Zac’s verbosity came to so completely steer it. His endless spouting of oral tradition powerfully exerted direction through a personal charisma and authority magnified by their willingness to submit to it. This has become what is known as the hidden curricula, observable in any environment of learning - including any religious discipling where the enthusiasm took on a dimension that the enthusiastic were scarcely aware of. Understanding how this formative tradition came to be a primary focus of cultism within Gladstone later is crucial to understanding how it came to be so destructive, and we will discuss that in our next article.

For now, it’s important to see how their enthusiastic “togethering” that rejoiced in their love for God and one another was readily embraced by all and their ideals of Christian community shone brightly from meeting to meeting, whether in weekly study or impromptu hanging around cups of joe and open Bibles. They came and went as they pleased, gamed the latest titles on Xbox 360’s and genially invited peers and strangers alike to their Christian cribs.  The sky seemed the limit in those first heady days of Christian community. 


And then the nominal leadership from Northstar inexplicably disappeared.

Massey and the leadership abruptly decided not to proceed with an attempt to offer further pastoral guidance of the group and a married couple who were present for the Crossroads curricula as part of the church’s oversight moved on after its completion. Rob McGillivray was a frequent visitor to the gatherings and would ponder as Zac taught and prophesied. Rob’s initial involvement with the group was facilitated as he personally mentored Zac but he largely just attended and socialized with the group initially without any leadership oversight outside of his relationship with Zac. Rob had been also pursuing an eldership role at Northstar that according to several sources didn’t pan out. However his influence within the group was leveraged by respect for his mentoring presence at the church and he was still being listened to by Zac. And since everyone was convinced Zac knew what he was talking about, Ryan, his one time fellow vampire slayer, found a growing unease as his exercise of prophetic authority and teaching influence grew which he could no longer contain, as his account in the 2009 letter reveals:

Throughout all the prophecy times I was suspicious and believed that Zak was making it up once again, but at the same time conflicted because I liked him and didn’t want to think he was repeating what he did before in a different way with a somewhat biblical twist. Over the course of a couple months I felt very uncomfortable with what Zak was teaching and the things he was claiming that God was doing and speaking to him. At the same time I was confused because Rob and the pastor of Northstar Vineyard seemed to support and back what Zak was doing and I trusted their judgment. However, as a result of our differences Zak and I eventually parted ways and I joined another church at that time as well. That was around fall of 2006 and we have only spoken a few times since. (27)

Ryan’s unflinching account details how his concern over Zac’s claims to divine inspiration and ruthless exploitation of others from that self-proclaimed position finally could no longer be tolerated. It is these concerns that Northstar leadership seems to have been fully aware of at this point. While Zac and the leadership of the group wanted to become an official extension of Northstar’s small group ministry, Matt Massey and Northstar’s eldership continued to quietly yet firmly rebuff the efforts of the group leaders to amalgamate with Northstar. Ryan Dennis’ 2009 letter about the situation in 2006 indicates, however, that a real perception still existed that Pastor Matt and Rob were actually supporting Zac’s influence there, with an inference that their toleration of his aberrant leadership was a consent to it. What’s certain is that the church leadership certainly was aware of it for two years or more and did little to mediate any of it.

This is clear when Geoff painfully recalled discussions in which Pastor Matt’s reaction to the thought of bringing the group into the church’s ministry was anything but positive. He’d already been receiving complaints from Northstar members who were feeling the pressure of Zac and the group leaders to comply with their demands of obedience to their rule and had assured them Northstar had not supplied the group any kind of authority to act in their name: one of Massey’s pastoral directives he had to resort to continually in those days was the reminder he’s share to any one who asked: “Nobody’s forcing you to live there.” (28). Still, despite his disapproval of it, there didn’t appear to be much more Massey did to say or do to bring any kind of directly corrective influence to bear upon the situation. 


This unresolved tension between the Northstar group attendees who balked at Zac’s demand for all to comply with his prophetic authority was bringing things to a dramatic head.

So he probably was expecting the moment when he and his group leaders, all of whom were still attending Northstar Sunday services, were called up to the stage during one Sunday morning service in early 2008. Zac and the group leaders actually had hands laid upon them in prayer for their ongoing ministry, with Pastor Matt’s officiating over what was essentially a send off of the group. This prayer of release of the group to continue on with Northstar’s blessing concluded with Massey’s shepherd's admonition that they should not go any further without some established source of pastoral oversight for their work.

The thought, according to Geoff, was that Massey’s commending them to their own direction was “not him saying ‘see you later’ but ‘see you next Sunday.’ Matt Massey was letting us go do our own thing
but by then we were already a full blown cult by then.” (29 emphasis mine) The group wasn't expelled from the church, and fellowship was never withdrawn, but Northstar leadership was clearly signifying to the group that they should go their separate ways of direction and were giving them the blessing to do so. And that was the end of the group’s efforts to become a Northstar auxiliary and  it was Massey’s effort to distance the church from the group.

As we will see, that became an unenviable and futile task. For years thereafter, Northstar’s leadership continued to field complaints by many anxious family and friends of those who cast their lot in with Zac. The withdrawal of a potentially prophetic influence of the Northstar Vineyard to this day is a bewildering, even maddening abrogation of pastoral influence that should have been exercised - and was not. When a wolf approaches a sheepfold, shepherds defend their flocks and seek to save those scattered outside their fencing from their stalking. This didn’t occur and countless souls paid the price as Northstar moved on.

The unspoken implication in Pastor Matt’s exhortation was that Rob McGillivray, an already well known father figure to the group, would be an ideal choice for such a role. The suggestion was well taken by Zac, already familiar with Rob and certainly someone whose book he’d already read. For his part, Rob had made it clear to the community that he, a bivocational married man with two daughters living out of the Mariemont area, would not be signing any documents but would gladly provide wisdom and input to the growing group as it might be needed. Since his eldership ambition was not going any further at Northstar, this was an opportunity for Rob to finally assume a role of respected leadership in an exploding spiritual movement. Rob and his family ultimately would move closer to Mariemont for him to pursue this secondhand shepherding direction. He even
hired Zac’s roommate Brian Roselli to actually be a chief intercessor in his secular company, paid to do one thing, and that was to pray for its prosperity. (30) 


As the new era arose among the group, now free to do as it chose, the fluid leadership dynamic with Zac channeling his authority through his leaders as watched by Rob flowed through the community’s efforts. Rob chose to work with the new community rules as they were formed and would give his stamp of approval on the group’s activities even as they pursued their community building and organized street evangelistic efforts canvassing the city for Christ. But as the need increasingly arose for correcting Zac when his authority got heavy handed, Rob’s stepping in to mediate some extreme of practice (such as a recruitment effort getting too heavy handed or a discipline attempt of a member becoming too authoritarian) was deeply resented by Zac. 

Even as Rob would humbly pull him aside to say “Zac, let’s think about that a little more... maybe we can go about that a little differently.” (31) it was no secret that Zac despised being made accountable to correction or authority.
His deep resentment, difficult to contain, was noted by many in the community also and prophetically warned of almost two millenia ago in 2 Peter 2:10 about “... those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries...” That was not a verse, we reckon, that was much mulled over by Zac’s leadership staff retreats.


But Rob’s graciously offered oversight continued even as Zac’s resistance doubled down and the group continued to grow. The exciting expansion pleased him to no end, and Rob felt that he was on the ground floor of watching a youth revival movement flame into existence right before him (one of the obsessive fascinations that Charismatics and Pentecostals share). The feelings were not mutual however, and while there had been quite a buzz about this spontaneous fellowship of young Christians from all around the area coming together to seek and worship God, Zac seemed more interested in consolidating his direct authority over it and short circuiting Rob’s attempts to provide the pastoral oversight that he initially agreed to pursue. The struggle for authority was on.

Word still continued to spread rapidly about their gatherings. The refreshing amount of fellowship continued to draw many seekers. Many young men and women visited from a variety of churches and even though Zac’s coercive direction often alienated and drove off many of these prospects, many more would take their place and join. When confronted by anyone who might challenge his presumptuous authority, Zac was successfully able to elicit sympathy by playing the humbled role of a deeply wounded and misunderstood messenger of God who just simply reported what he was told. He became adroit at deflecting and rebuffing any dissent of his control, enabling him to continue to press it home until the dissenter submitted... or left. With that kind of authoritarian posturing, cagily acted out, the community swelled with people ready to enjoy the show. It was amazing to all, especially Rob, to see the Mariemont apartment consistently fill weekly with fifty people or more at a time. Amid what was a gracious visitation of the stirring up a group of young Christian people to seek the Lord together, Zak continued to press home his own imprint upon it. 

In 2016, an article written about Gladstone by Cincinnati Magazine writer Justin Williams goes on to concisely chart their exploding progress:

The new group attracted followers quickly. Kijinski and his roommates decided to pursue the common purse practice (emphasis mine) and began hosting a Thursday night Bible study at their apartment, generally led by Kijinsk, which anyone was welcome to attend. It was mostly high school and college-age kids, growing from 10 or 15 people to as many as 70 by the summer of 2008. (32) 


It at first seemed so innocuous, so much an earnest of youthful spiritual unity. What Zac compelled his four friends living with him in the Mariemont apartment to do in the creation of what has come to be known as “common purse” seemed so harmless. The common purse ideal, a pooling of a group’s financial and material resources into a shared community fund available for all to use, was a principle they would bind themselves to, but the first signs of Zac’s control began to be displayed as Geoff remembered the circumstances surrounding their first drafting of the "Common Purse" document:


We all kind of wrote the terminology for it, the five of us put it together. We were the first signers and then anyone who joined later signed it. It had that terminology about submission to leadership, largely around like not asking questions, about warnings, like three strike rules and things like that. It wasn’t as stringent until we moved, until we bought the Gladstone house on Grace Avenue - none of us were making money except Brian (Roselli). Brian’s dad had died shortly before joining, and he was like selling off his stuff on eBay. That’s where we were getting our money from. I got money from it because Brian was selling his stuff but I wasn’t working then. (33)

It was first suggested by Ben Cook (34) that the pattern of the early church as described in Acts to provide for its community by its own periodic generosity (35) should be a model for the Christian life. This simple observation became an ideal that made Zac’s ears burn and led them to all agree that their lifestyle should be based upon it. Despite the fact that this one verse did not mandate a binding universal behavioral principle upon the Christian church, Zac’s mind was made up and he would require the “core four” to sign an agreement to route their earnings and income into a fund that would be used to meet their needs. Geoff observed that it wasn’t until they moved out of the Mariemont apartment that Zac began to demand its enforcement over his apartment mates. 

The creation of a written agreement to govern the function of any group’s activities is always a fateful one. Consolidating gains in growth is always a top priority for those leading it and Zac’s ambition, as we have seen, knew no bounds. It’s impossible to understate how revolutionary this moment was in Gladstone’s history and what implications it would have as the group continued to grow. Back then, Gladstone’s happy warriors were lost in its early days of youthful zeal and completely unaware of what was to come but that was soon to change as pressure began to build upon others within the group to sign on to the agreement and to seriously consider living with them. The Common Purse document would be streamlined later into a comprehensive mandate (click link to view the revised later document) that every Gladstone community member was to sign, affirming their submission of their entire economic future to the absolute control of their community rule, automatic bank drafts, protocol for disbursals that required board approvals and which were never guaranteed. This financial shackling was a major source of Zac’s influence over the group’s activity and cohesion.

Zac’s mastery of his prophetic persona had gleaned an abundant amount of practical  modeling from Rob about how to verbalize the unspeakable through prophetic utterance that drove direction home.  Rob drew this from his own fixation on the prophetic, small group and “deliverance” ministry emphases so prevalent in Vineyard circles as they are in the larger Charismatic and Pentecostal cultures. Matt Carlin, who was part of the rapidly changing young adult fellowship, emphatically explains how McGillivray and his influence in Northstar also profoundly shaped his protégé's own developing sense of purpose and practice:

(The community) was initially the opportunity for Rob to finally be in control of something and to rear a spiritual movement of his own. .. Matt (Massey) eventually passed all responsibility onto Rob .. giving Rob the reins on this little sub movement .. Zak was definitely closest with Rob and it was Rob who gleaned Zak to think so highly of himself, using strong, over-bearing 'prophetic' influence in order to rear Zak in the same manner as he was. 

... Rob was very comfortable saying “God says (fill in the blank with whatever Rob thinks God is saying).” So, he reared Zak to be just like that and Zak was SO comfortable speaking on behalf of God. I saw him use that to manipulate people and give false “words of knowledge” (one being over my sister to try and get her to move into the community). (36) 

Massey’s implication that someone like McGillivray should have some kind of actively shepherding role within the growing group had been a defining moment in the evolving life of the group. The model of the “prophetic” Rob had lived out before Zac in Northstar circles was a flexible one that empowered them to both become equals who could personally hear God’s direction. He continued to press for, as the “wise bearded man” among the group, some semblance of guidance but as the group grew, Rob’s admonition increasingly became at odds with the directives that Zac began to issue about what he said was “God’s direction.” Tension began to grow between the vibrant young Zac and the pushback of oversight being provided by the low key Rob that for a time was carefully hidden by both. It wasn’t long, however, before the tensions would become quite open because ultimately, in any tribe, there can only be one chief.

Part of what God had been saying to Zac, Rob would affirm (even if Rob didn’t directly hear the same “word”) was that their great need was to start learning how to live far more devoted Christian lifestyles, lives of industry, purity and bold action. Zac’s direction, fresh from God’s “revelation knowledge” was to foster a unified New Testament church lifestyle as seen in the early church in the book of Acts. The early Christian church was an energized community where preaching the Gospel in active, daily evangelism was the only reason for existence to show real faith and obedience in Christ’s final command in his Great Commission. His preaching and prophecy found fertile ground in the hearts and minds of the group and with the Evangelical ideal of outreach to a world needing to hear the warning of Biblical truth, Zac’s vision began to underlie their waking days and their lifestyle choices. His word became final and the group’s acceptance of his authority increasingly became unquestioned and unquestionable. He had laid down the foundations for an authoritarian rule without anyone ever really noticing, as easily as Peter Pan had kept the Lost Boys in line in their own Neverland.

The Evangelical Christian tradition champions forms of direct personal spiritual encounter which underlies Christian evangelism. Believing the world to be in need of the redeeming personal encouter of Christ and moved with a zealous compassion to reach out and share His Good News is what the Christian church as it follows Christ’s Great Commission should be principally engaged in. This was endlessly impressed upon the small group as well as the need to embrace a fully communal form of living that proved they took it seriously. Zac’s prophetic directions for those wanting to know if they should go to college, date or move here or there. It was only a matter of time before the “words of the Lord” began to compel all who submitted to them to follow Zac’s lead, to accept his authoritative direction and to consider the community as the place to throw their lot into. He fearlessly projected a divine perspective for direction, guidance, rebuke and correction of all who sought counsel from him. To seek answers, it was understood, you waited on God speaking through Zac.

And Zac’s four roommates unwittingly became his instruments of control. There was a firm establishment of authority derived from the new oral traditions Zac was imposing. It took on a new urgency as a hierarchy of spiritual power as in all cults which are centered around their own unique and hidden curricula:

“We were the core group of guys that got it going, he would have us talk to the other members and the other people attending... the main times that Zac would do the correcting if it was to us core guys since there was no one else to do it. There were a number of occasions Zac would talk to me... and say ‘this is how you should go correct this guy, this is how you should talk to them, this is what you need to say, give them an opportunity to repent. Zac would instruct us on how to correct them. (37 emphasis mine)

The perception was that the Gladstone Community was a divinely ordained work of God no one could question and not be brought into question themselves. Zac had now created a perfect and painless way he could govern as well as quash dissent and that was by the heavy hand of his lieutenants who would do his heavy lifting by acting on his verbal direction.

When a young prophetic firebrand speaking in the name of God is able to blunt all dissent with the anesthesia of pure trust in his stammeringly casual yet prophetic manner, the inevitable occurred. The growing band of young men and women took up the call to become that community and more people signed into the “common purse” arrangement as well as other documents we’ll examine shortly. God began to do “a new thing” with “new wine” in “new wineskins.” in Mariemont and the continued growth of the group was seen as His divine sanction upon their doings.

                                                          Zac The Mighty Man Manifests

              “Wendy," Peter Pan continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist,

                                             "Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”

No photo description available. 

From the earliest time of the Bible study inception, this desire to emulate the early church became a driving inspiration within the small group. Like many other innumerable small group movements throughout the Christian era, they earnestly began - with Zac’s reminders - that they needed to live by what the Scripture had opened their eyes to. After the Crossroads initiative ended, the drive arose to a fever pitch when the group understood that they now had within their grasp an opportunity to actually become a New Testament church. So offerings and money and other means of mutual support were pooled and the group, as engaged by Zac, entered into further discussion of the natural conclusion such close sharing would result in, that being the emergence of a planned living arrangement.

Zac and his friends on one personal road trip ended up in an unknown Charismatic church in the West and once there on a visit, were invited to “receive the Holy Spirit” by some older Charismatic believers there… This term is Pentecostal / Charismatic shorthand to receive prayer for a personal touch from God’s Spirit, for a literal infilling called “the baptism of the Spirit” that would spiritually renew and empower them... just as in the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, when the early church arose to a level of communal Christian faith energized by God’s Spirit. The experience was an initiatory moment and with the manifestations of the Spirit within Zac and the others, they felt compelled to embrace the Charismatic dynamic of Christian faith.

A leadership cadre consisting of Geoff, Brian Roselli, Nick Pajic and Ben Cook - the “core four” as they would be known by - were prevailed upon by Zac to commend this direction to the entire group. As time would go on, they would soon be anointed as elders under, of course, the direction of Zac himself. The young leaders injected into their exhortations a call for those who hadn’t yet done so to bind themselves to the common purse and to live together in community. A second agreement - called, of course, the "Community Covenant" outlined their rules for communal living in what were to be called Covenant Houses.  All hopeful candidates for residency there were advised that this was another needful pledge of commitment. It was supposedly an agreement to walking out the Christian life as Gladstone mandated. Invitations made to all were no longer viewed as recommendations but requirements to be in God’s will, with dire and stark consequences for not joining. 

Within the document (viewable in the link above) is a citation of the "Apostle's Creed," a 4th century confession of faith, held in common by both Protestant and Roman Catholic Christendom which lent to Gladstone's efforts to lay claim to the ancient Christian faith's earliest and purest roots. And with a flurry of Bible verses cited to proof text their organizational ideals, it was made clear that requirements for submission to group authority and self-denial of personal will that enabled a community imposed discipline were non-negotiables. The propositions of apostolic creedal faith and expressions of loving unity are readily seen as organized with an iron hand of control. Even their self-effacing call for humility ("
We agree to submit to any corrections or disciplines from Your hand that come with violations of Your law") is actually a compulsory directive turning the attention of the errant to the Gladstone leadership who represent God's "hand."

The document is actually a binding agreement of a Gladstone member to remain humble, unquestioning and subject to any correction from authority. What they were actually doing was committing themselves to a voluntary submission to what the Gladstone leaders set forth, an agreement that came with the inevitable heavy chains that would emotionally, spiritually and financially dig into the tender consciences of those who gave themselves to it. But through the rose-colored spectacles of new convert zeal, it was just an expression of agreement to live in Christian unity.

Geoff recalls that the group’s pursuit of sexually segregated conventional housing to facilitate their community building began in 2007 (as of August, 2022 there are 35 known houses and properties that the community now owns and lives in). It seemed like a great way of living out what they thought God expected of them in their pursuit of pure and blameless lives. Thanks to one of the group members’ means (and credit score), they were able to purchase a house for the men within 30 days, just before the full chill of the housing market collapse of the 2008 recession (38). Within a few weeks after that closing, several of the women involved indicated in no uncertain terms that they too wanted to live communally in their own home. Some of the most deeply committed and devoted members of the group were young women whose faith in its structure had become a foundation to their Christian life and some of them to this day remain firmly involved with it. 


So almost as quickly, a second house for women - called the “Rib Crib” (39) - was purchased and also filled. Other house purchases in rapid succession would come soon enough and all of them were located on Grace Avenue there in Mariemont. The financing for this second home was energized by the generosity of the same group member. At this point, the common purse collection enjoined upon them all gave them purchasing power none of them could have easily mustered. Geoff also remembered how their ability to purchase the first few homes so quickly was seen by Zac and his friends as a sign of divine favor on their new venture in light of the housing bubble that year. The stark reality was that the poor regulation and laxity in mortgage financial business practice had actually been the chief reasons they were able to do so but they didn't appear to be a relevant point to raise (40). To be fair, it wasn’t really obvious to a vast majority of the institutions and individual homeowners in 2008 who found themselves mired in the ruins of the market collapse.

With this purchase of the first homes and the continued growth of the group, they’d structurally become a standalone faith community, a nameless yet purposeful gathering that didn’t remain nameless long as breathlessly described in the
Cincinnati Magazine article:


By that point, the members had moved into the church’s first house on Grace Avenue, which inspired the community’s name—it was the same frame as the “Gladstone” model home from the old Sears catalog. “Those Thursday nights, they were fun. I got really close with a lot of the members,” says Danny Dressler, who joined the community that summer. “I had only been a believer for about two years. Everything was new and exciting. It was something I wanted to be a part of.” (41) 


The Gladstone house gave them a new moniker and their ongoing study and activity fanned the flames and as Dressler had said, everything was indeed new, exciting and came at them fast. New ways of living and relating to one another were being worked out and the new Gladstone community took it enthusiastically in stride. The common purse accounts began to swell as community members had their salaries and wages direct deposited into bank accounts. Friends were being invited and others on the streets were being hailed forth in direct person to person outreach evangelism. Among them was a zealous young man named Cebastian Hilton who would go on to become a leader there. The joy in sharing the best news you could share underlay Gladstone activity in those days and all ex-members we spoke with have warm memories of fellowship and unity unlike anything they’d seen before or since.

Zac’s prophetic whip got a bit more crack into it when in March 2007, several of the group traveled to Kansas City, Kansas and spent time at the gatherings of the International House of Prayer (IHOP). While it was viewed as an exciting road trip of spiritual intrigue by the Gladstone members, Zac would come away from it with a newly infused spiritual intensity that would again serve as a page turning moment for their group.


Founded around 1999, the IHOP became the place to be in the new millennia to learn more about the most cutting edges of Charismatic spirituality. These emphases were drawn from the self-proclaimed “New Apostolic Reformation” (or NAR) movement but were specifically guided by the vision of one time pastor and alleged “prophet” Mike Bickle (42) with his own controversial past rooted in an unhealthy spiritual elitism that became apparent and yet unchecked in the Kansas City Christian community, until quite recently.

IHOP was a center where worship, praise and prayer were conducted 24/7 and had started to be livestreamed around the world. By the mid 2000s, the IHOP was a place of pilgrimage by hundreds of thousands of Charismatic Christians from around the world as ardently pursued by Roman Catholics journeying to Saint Peter’s Square, Muslims to Mecca or Hindus their Kumbh Mela. People of every ethnicity would bask in the exuberant atmosphere of corporate worship, extended times of intercession and the teaching on what IHOP called the “apostolic” and “prophetic” - tutelage meant to instruct IHOP disciples on how to hear and follow the voice of God.
To heed the Lord, a hyper attention to a supernatural realm that pervaded the world but was largely ignored was emphasized.
It was a Christianized mysticism made for mass public consumption with its deliverables of passion and ecstasy borne by blasting praise brands, study guides and utter trust in the orthodoxy of the sources without looking too closely at the stitching (43)

But Mike Bickle’s Charismatic theology was a novel hybrid of barely Biblical precept twisted into a mystical veneration of God’s presence supposedly beheld in the subjective dreams, visions and prophetic impressions of people from all around the world. He readily directed openness to their direction in the IHOP culture, therefore, and Bickel’s permissive attitude became a gateway to many popular teachings within the Charismatic worlds seeking an audience among the attendees there. Into this atmosphere, once again just out of his element, Kijinski became the silent observer and sponge, watching and listening during his March, 2007 trip there. 

And Zac was certainly not the only ambitious acolyte there: another aspiring young apostle who visited IHOP that year was one Tyler Deaton, who would - most ironically - become the head of a fellowship called “the Community” two years later in Kansas City where spiritual gifts driven by his own vision and control brought a dark and tragic end to it in 2012. (44). Whether Deaton and Kijinski knew one another or ever met is irrelevant - what is important to realize is that both discovered that the permissive environment of IHOP was a place where divine direction and power seemingly was there for the taking.

One could argue that this direction was actually more delusional than anyone wanted to admit there. These young radicals both came and plunged headlong into an environment where they experienced potent reinforcing revelation that validated their ambition, underwritten by a suspension of critical thinking and any real discernment. This is a cautionary tale all its own that is outside the scope of this expose but these historical alignments are indeed most chilling. (45) God alone knows how many other young visionaries came away from IHOP in those days to become new Deatons or Kijinskis ..

It was an article of faith for Bickle, one of the infamous “Kansas City Prophets”  to commend the fuzzy impressions of enthused people’s dreams and visions to their direction even if - by his own admission - most of it was religious room noise that was worthless. (46) For Charismatics, especially those within NAR circles, the fascination and attention paid to finding direction from God through dreams was not an idle pursuit as this ad print from a IHOP bookstore at the time emphasizes:

“God uses dreams and visions to reveal your future, impart direction, expose strongholds, and anoint your destiny... On average, people spend 33% of their entire lives sleeping. Even when you are asleep, Heaven is still communicating. Your spirit is still awake, though your body is not. Through your dreams, you can hear and discern the voice of God. The question is: How do you simply and Biblically hear God speak through your dreams? … Your dreams are bridges that connect you with the supernatural realm. Visions and dreams are Biblically sound and relevant for your life, today. Dreams access and unlock divine creativity that is deep within you.” (47)

During that same road trip to Kansas City with their friends, Zac, Brian and the others ended up in a prayer room there at IHOP, seeking another spiritual encounter with God which was made out to be such an immediately accessible occasion of Christian life. This is a common feature of the Pentecostal and Charismatic church world in which smaller and more intimate rooms off to the side of the main sanctuary are built for seeking God and personal ministry by IHOP intercessors there. This was also a standard practice in Northstar’s Charismatic congregational life which they would have been familiar with.  

And it was in that prayer room that a young, unknown intercessor laid hands upon Zac to deliver a word of prophecy to him, a divine source of direction that affirmed that the five guys would become the start of a community of believers who would shake the world. This prophetic affirmation became a part of Gladstone’s inner lore, confirming their divine origin and authority from God.(48).  Zac, certainly flushed with such authority, readily accepted this unknown intercessor’s “revelation knowledge” as a sign from God that the New Testament church was indeed going to arise once more - under their watch.

So the inexorable happened once more: not long after their arrival back from Kansas City, Zac pulled his apartment mates aside one day to relate a dream he’d had.

I remember when we're sitting around a little coffee table... And Zach told us he had a dream that .. we were his mighty men. He was David. And we were going to go create this protective bubble in Cincinnati that would deflect God's wrath and judgment. And we're young guys and we're like, “yeah, that sounds great. Let's do it.”

You know, he got us on board actually believing that. But in fact, the whole time, you know, like I said (in the 2016 article) I'm like, either he's crazy or he's really good at lying. Like it's one or the other because he's not dumb and he's not stupid.

The individual who was an eyewitness to Zac’s guarded report of his dream noted that Zac didn’t repeat it publicly but seemed to have delivered this to his roommates in a private setting just to see how much of it would be actually believed. Zac’s delivery was certain, yet sounded tentative and almost halting. To him, Zac’s bold foray into deriving divine authority and divine direction from God through dreams was a kind of marketing test, to see if the concept would work among them. The young men hesitantly agreed that Zac’s vision was a divine revelation that was charting out for them a divine deliverance God was to send upon the Queen City during such troubled times.

But it would be contingent upon what
they did and that the ongoing refuge of the city from His judgment would be in their hands. With this dire warning heavily impressed upon them, Zac’s leaders felt the burden of uplifting his authority in a whole new and disturbing way - the same way that his Knights Of Isaiah vampire hunters had also been prevailed upon to believe and follow cryptic spiritual directives with the destiny of nations at stake..

This development was expected. After Northstar’s release of the Gladstone community to follow its own way, a marked change had been noted about how Zac’s exercise of his “prophetic” gift would occur. It was no longer being used strictly to exhort and encourage, even if it occasionally strayed over into what is known in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles as “meddling,” that is to say, a freely indulged interference of personal affairs and decision making by a prophetic declaration from some male or female seer. Zac began to embellish their initial posture of Christian community as modeled by five guys wanting to live for Jesus and elevated his own lifestyle ideals into a divinely inspired law that couldn’t be questioned, only obeyed. Free of any oversight from a church, Zac’s oracular demeanor totally shifted and with no real accountability to any respected authority (since Rob was being routinely ignored), his utterances immediately became most directive, even to the point where to question his direction was seen as a rejection of God’s authority. It was seen as a test of their bonds of fellowship and even their spiritual destiny and salvation.

In 2007, Zac’s befriending of Cebastian Hilton had one of the most long reaching impacts on the community. His immediate submission to Zac’s relational charms and his own enthusiastic embracing of the community ideal would result in him becoming another key elder there a few years later. But what isn’t known is that from several accounts, and before joining Gladstone, Cebastian had lived with friends in Columbus, a two hour drive northeast of Cincinnati and had become through them involved with allegedly Christian students living together in what they called “ministry houses.” These were single family homes with the communal weight of 10 to 15 young male students essentially turned into crash pads, where they lived, ate, slept and socialized practically on top of one another. It was the house leader’s devotion to a controlling lifestyle based on the young men’s submission to his dictates that was also extended into how they engaged in Bible study and the socialization around it.  Cebastian had gone to hang out and found that the control of the leader over the lives of the house members had a repulsive vibe. But even though he stopped going, we are certain that Cebastian shared with Zac details of what had gone on there, what it was like and what he saw.

From this testimony, it is very likely that Zac had discovered a new source of wisdom in the ways he could compel focus his own control in Gladstone’s community life. It’s unknown if he ever visited this house setting himself to observe in his own piercing way. We are also not certain who this college group was that Cebastian hung out with, but there is only one “church” in Columbus, Ohio that prides itself on its “campus ministry” to the Ohio State University there, organizing and requiring its college student membership to live in what they literally call “ministry houses.”  (50) There is only one “ministry” requiring college student participants to live communally, often in squalor, and who claim that their partying lifestyle of chest-thumping group dynamics was “outreach” aimed at church growth. This is the infamous Xenos Christian Fellowship that actually structures and fancies itself as a cutting edge church but functionally operates as a cultic movement - a grotesque reality long documented by so many over the past fifty years.  It’s almost certain that Cebastian had briefly and unwittingly become a subject of this abusive church’s influence by attending his friend’s Bible studies there. Because he wasn’t a member, he could easily walk away from it but not without being infected by its authoritarian virus, like a carrier of COVID 19 who shows no symptoms but can spread it widely in no time at all. So Zac, already bent toward the same lust for power over people, wholeheartedly absorbed the news and sharpened his own approach toward controlling Gladstone in a new and darker way. The trail of the serpent certainly made tracks in the Ohio Valley when coercion is used as a collaborative enterprise among the same demographic of unwitting subjects.


This warped direction continued to manifest itself in Gladstone community life in very personal and direct ways. People who visited on Thursdays and often came to hang out throughout the week yet didn’t live under the community covenant found themselves suddenly under the smoky eyed visage of Zac’s casual mumble about needing to join the community and come under their authority. He would tell them it was the Lord’s will for their life that they needed to submit to, otherwise there could be drastic consequences for failing to do so.

Zac, who didn’t work and who found the common purse a handy way to finance his lifestyle, would readily converse with people who dropped by wanting to be a part and who knew of the exciting times in the Bible studies which by now had shifted to the Gladstone house on Grace Avenue. The afterglow of the spiritual excitement drew young men and women seeking Christian fellowship and who became ripe pickings for more personal attempts at blatant proselytization. They came, as Matt Carlin observed well, with a zeal, vulnerability and passive desire to be led obediently. (51) Zac was only too happy to bring them into his harvest.


So the big carnival tent of Gladstone continued to fill with souls. Their own midway of group encounters would also take place in the fellowship times after their own Thursday Bible studies. The leadership’s mastery of laser-focused high pressure demands upon those who came to visit became the touchstones of Gladstone’s earliest religious abuses. Zac by far was the chief Sermonator of their message and documentable instances in which people were told to drop out of college, not date or marry and just to sign their lives away to live in Gladstone began to mount. Geoff, being a part of the leadership team in those earliest of days, was eyewitness to many of these:

Zac would engage them, to convert them so to speak... Interestingly enough there were times in which people would say ‘I don’t want to live here all the time, but I’d love to fellowship with you guys and Zak would say ‘This is something the Lord is telling you need to do.’  If you don’t live here, you’re not going to be under the Lord’s blessing.” (One person) left and came back six months later with their life a total disaster. Zac would use that and say “see I told you so” ... and that person would say, ‘Oh, Zac was right! I should have stayed, my life wouldn’t be so horrible now.’

There was a lot of coincidental stuff. Man, he would even use the weather and say ‘see I told you it was going to rain, you shouldn’t have gone out.’ Every day was this narrative.
It wasn’t one off, little ad hoc events. It was all the time. (52 emphasis mine)

With this daily lifestyle being routinely directed by Zac’s influence and prophetic voice as defined by his interpretation of the Bible and his hearing of the voice of God, the Gladstone community began to take the shape he said God wanted it to be. A review of the two covenants is only a partial picture of what Zac required since so much of his influence was conveyed by direct personal prophecy to which so many of the Gladstone community readily obeyed. 


However, it’s important to keep in mind that in the most subtle and stealthy of approaches, Zac and the other leaders capitalized on these opportunities to polish presentations of what in effect was Gladstone’s unique “Work Gospel” message: a mandate of organized industry and skilled labor under group control as the goal of the Christian life. It was overlaid with enough "sound" doctrinal exhortation to create an illusion of Scriptural legitimacy as well as a brazen elitism about their superiority to all Christian churches everywhere else. The Gospel of Christ’s foundational call to believe on Jesus and seek conformity to His image (Colossians 3:1-17) became completely secondary to this new and fluid Gladstone gospel which required “real Christians” to live communally and engage in full-time employment to support their communal lifestyle. After years of impressing this upon their membership, Gladstone leaders summarized their claims in this 2015 edition (the earliest version we were provided) of what is known as their “Work” document:

A culture of hard work is not a Community principle but a Scriptural command for all Christians. Again, holding each other accountable for daily, productive work should be happening in every fellowship around the world because it is a Biblical command for everyone claiming to follow Jesus Christ. In a broken world that needs Jesus there is no room for idleness or excessive leisure (which the Bible calls sloth, laziness) in the life of a believer. Because a culture of hard work is not about money we hold everyone accountable for a godly work habit in both schedule and ethic, whether they participate in Common Purse or not.  ….

We have a set of minimum standards in order to make sure that the way of life we live continues to honor the Lord, as well as each other. These minimum standards are set so that we can be accountable to one another in fulfilling the Scriptural commands of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15:

 • Everyone must work 40 hours a week minimum.

• The goal is to have 40 paid hours a week. …
• You need to work diligently and with an attitude that honors the Lord as you work for the community. Bad attitudes and ingratitude are not acceptable. We work for the Lord, not for man. When we disrespect our brothers and sisters we disrespect God. (Ephesians 6:7-8)

• You should be doing all you can to pick-up hours at work (keeping in mind the few restrictions you have: Thursday nights and Sundays).

• Honor God by not having to be called out to fill your hours, but offer yourself willingly and of your own accord.

• *Note* Prayer and Scripture reading do not count as work unless you have been called to be a regular teacher of the Word (see the Apostles in Acts).

• When you work for the Community- ENJOY IT! Have a good time working with those you love and who love you in the Lord. Choose a good, joyful attitude. …

Accountability: First and foremost accountability begins and ends with God. Conforming to the image of Jesus, and allowing your work ethic to be shaped by the Holy Spirit is crucial. However, because we are all a work in progress, the Lord has given us brothers and sisters to help us stay accountable to God. The primary accountability for honoring this culture of work for non-Common Purse members will occur in their House (Fellowship Group). (emphasis mine) (53)

This glimpse of how the Gladstone Work Gospel (as I will call it) played out within the community is singularly revealing. Zac and the elders routinely took New Testament Scriptures calling for Christian self-denial and discipline as a way to extort deeper levels of sacrifice and obedience out of Gladstone members and in this document it’s quite obvious how this was done. While nominally saying the Holy Spirit was to be leading everyone in their decision making of how they would serve God, it is immediately made apparent how the Holy Spirit was going to be heard - through the leadership and direct governance of the elders. Community members are actually directed to grin and bear it, smile and wave and beam with happiness as they labored away at whatever they ultimately did to demonstrate the appropriate attitude within the Community. Several Scriptures citing a strict call to Christian industry were pressed by Zac to provide justification for his mandate - even when it was well known within the community that he himself never lifted a finger in any of the manual labor that he charged others to do. (54) 


When Zac decided that 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 mandated that all honorable Christian lifestyle standards included rigidly controlled 40 hour work weeks patterned after 20th century American labor law and customs, with micromanaged lifestyles revolving around them, he turned Scripture into a book of rules. When Zac decreed that everyone should radiate joy and happiness at all times, stiff upper lips of smiles affixed on their faces even as they worked through exhaustive self sacrifice and hours of verbal abuse, he turned Christian community into exploitational slavery. When Zac demanded everyone to toil away for the fattening of a common purse which would become a line of credit he and the elders would start dipping into for self-enrichment, he became a extortionary taskmaster as driven to feed upon others as any parasite might be, not one led by the Paraclete to serve and lift them up. 

So essentially, all of the dynamic activity of the community had become drawn into energizing the creation of a new cultic religion that clutched about itself the trappings of a Bible-centered Christian church institution. This Work Gospel’s ethos and practice was founded on misinterpreted Scripture and the whims of a twentysomething trickster who commanded a warped form of religious slavery from deluded and unquestioning followers as proof of real faith. It wasn’t even questioned by the community, as Geoff ruefully recalled saying the system (was) so established, so well working, Zac (didn’t) need to directly speak to people anymore. (It was) so elevated in a hierarchy level, he (had) people to do it for him.” (55) Sadly, this sleight of spirituality as cunningly spun by deceptive influence had been long warned about from the pages of Bible by no less than the apostle Paul 2 Corinthians 11:3-5:

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

So even as the Gladstone community grew, the endless admonition of Zac requiring their attention to hard labor for it just seemed part of the cost of being a Christian disciple and more and more of them willingly “put up with it.”

But it wasn’t long before those of Gladstone’s leadership were finding themselves in struggles of conscience they could no longer ignore. They clearly saw Zac’s imposed control and the consequences many suffered a result of applying it to their lives. And they could no longer quite tuck away the sharp edges of doubt that pierced their minds. The unease of Ryan Dennis, who had never lived there and who was among the first to leave the group in 2006, was no longer his alone. Others had witnessed the high-handed control gambits of Zac and been too long an extension of it. Before much longer, when Zac’s capricious behavior became intolerably troublesome enough to them, both Ben Cook and Mark Pajic left as well. 


10 Reasons Why Moms CryOne disturbing intimation of what was to come within Gladstone was painfully recounted by Geoff when a mother approached the community to tearfully plead to be allowed to see her daughter, who had become so completely swept up in Gladstone’s influence that she refused to return her mother’s calls and was completely devoted to living and working there. When this was brought up to Zac, his typical response was that he wasn’t going to be involved in telling her how to live with her family, and that they would have to deny her request as her daughter was too busy in the work of the Lord, which perfectly covered her own personal rejection of her mother. Having to relate this to the distraught mother deeply shook him, leading to a grave disillusionment with the evasive manipulation displayed there. When Zac’s direction was that Geoff should no longer spend time with his father in a grotesque attempt of naked manipulation, he finally left and cut the community’s common purse strings upon his personal bank accounts (resulting in their story that he was “stealing” from them, which is why they expelled him). (56)

This hidden encounter of Zac’s heart-rendingly callous sanctimony was a presage of what life in the Gladstone Community was already becoming - a ruthless religious machinery he ran as he pleased regardless of the personal cost to the followers there. We are aware of multiple instances in the Gladstone community in which outside families were divided by the exploited zeal of young recruits to it who found community mentors all too ready to take advantage of them. That it began so early on in Gladstone’s existence and was tolerated as a normal part of the Christian life and persists to this day speaks volumes about the power of deception that the whole Community enterprise is immersed in.

And Rob McGillivray's grossly low key input of restraining admonition became increasingly marginalized, ignored and then decisively rejected. In dismay, he’d watched for years what had been a Christian Bible study group becoming something else entirely - something all too heartbreakingly well known in global church history, when the spiritual Christian revolution became a smothering cultic institution. It has been said by many of those interviewed for this expose that Rob had been unaware of the depth of narcissistic dominance Zac was capable of and had been operating in good faith as if he’d be following Rob’s promptings, signing off on his dictums and trying to keep him in check. It was only a matter of time before Rob found out too late Zac had a different agenda.

For all of his deep personal spirituality Rob lacked the moral rectitude, perhaps emotional maturity, to provide firm and unrelenting governance over Zac’s obnoxious errancy when young disciples began to murmur about his control-oriented power. When sheep want to wander with straying flock, when Lost Boys want to play Peter Pan in their lives, all mentors watching over developing youth should understand that they needed a strong hand of unwavering guidance and influence and this was a critical failure which Rob did not provide. It’s an axiom of spiritual formation long recognized within Christian discipling circles that
any attempted discipling without meaningful discipline always results in spiritual dysfunction. All of Rob’s posturing about his conversations with God were disconnected from the situation. His intimacy with God ceased to make traction in his intimacy with Zac. He certainly wasn’t ignorant of Zac’s abuses that, for all of his gentle remonstration, continued unabated.

After a final encounter with both Zac and Brian Roselli over perceived pride in their attitudes, (57) it was only a matter of time when, in the final days of 2008, Rob was pulled aside one day by Zac and the remaining elders faithful to him and given the right foot of fellowship. They calmly and firmly told him he was no longer allowed to fellowship with them and simply forbade his presence any further among them. Without any additional ceremony than the stern talk, Rob McGillivray became
persona non grata in Gladstone and he vanished out of existence from their group. He became the most visible casualty of Zac’s deception at that time and he would not be the last either. 

With this draconian act, Zac freed himself from any further dissenting influence in Gladstone, and his authority was unbound. His complete control over the hearts, minds and lives of the men and women who had fallen in line with his authority was now unchallenged. The devotion and sacrifice by all, especially that given by the women who clamored to get aboard Zac’s new Ark to find truth and salvation, now had a new focus. This was indeed the point at which the Mighty Man had emerged, creating a brightly colored nursery of Lost Kids to suckle and dreaming of new adventures ahead. He was ten feet tall and bullet proof and his religious ambition was completely unchecked. 


In 2009, Zac’s checkered past and deceptive nature became a major focus of a letter authored by Ryan Dennis, one of Gladstone’s earliest leading figures, who had left. After recounting the known history of Zac’s checkered past, Ryan’s unsparing pen sounded a warning that was submitted to several area pastors as an attempt to warn others about their aberrancy: 

The point in explaining this history is to show you how Zak came to the position he is in today. He has always made himself the leader and God’s chosen one in one way or another. He is by far the most convincing and manipulative person I have ever met, while being extremely likeable at the same time. I have heard second hand of strange spiritual things with angels and demons once again happening with Zak and his friends. I have heard a rumor that he lives with a group of guys who give him their paycheck every month and he gives them an allowance. I want you to know that he was able to make us think we saw things like vampires or a fallen angel that weren’t really there. To my knowledge he has never repented or publicly acknowledged the mini cult he created and led as God’s warrior.

If he was able to convince a group of people all the crazy things I have only begun to explain, he could much easier convince others he has the gift of prophecy and that he hears the voice of God. There is no reason to believe he is any different now than he was then other than the fact that he masks his new operation under a more biblical scheme. I implore you to deeply consider these things I have written and understand that these things he does have drastic consequences. Out of the fifteen or twenty people involved previously I have been the only one who is a Christian that’s a part of a church, until just recently when another friend came to repentance.


This is extremely important and the things Zak has done and is doing are destructive. Please hear my warnings and seriously consider them. Make this letter known to others who are following him or may be influenced by him. I am more than willing to speak with you about these things and there are other people who were involved that have also agreed to verify these things and speak with you. In conclusion, take the warning the Savior gave us to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). (58) 

The letter was written to be circulated among several pastors of churches in the area where the entertaining of Zac’s oracles among several young men and women who attended them had caused no end of controversy. The manipulation and questionable teaching being issued by a self-anointed prophet speaking in the first name of God had emerged to draw away a number of them to join his Bible study and the fast growing social movement there in the community. These churches were experiencing the wiles of spiritual deception stalking their young members and warned in no uncertain terms of just who Zac was and what Gladstone was becoming - a personality cult with abusive influence.

Reports of Zac’s Rasputin-like mesmerizing of his disciples, of families being divided, of young men and women dropping out of colleges, cutting families off, quitting their jobs and signing up to have all of their financial and material means provided by the Gladstone culture had been circulating for over three years. Many of them didn’t see this coming and were alarmed as more and more people brought these tidings to light. Ryan shared recently about the nature of the occasion that compelled him to write his epistle.

I knew he was claiming to be a prophet. I heard about the common purse set up, the commitment to celibacy by individuals involved, and dreams Zak was having that were once again exalting him and revealing things like that he was a modern day David and the men living in his house were his mighty men. .. It was around this time that I read a history Zak wrote about his conversion, the beginning of Gladstone and coming to the idea of a common purse. Needless to say, it was filled with lies and misrepresentations and left out everything about his real past. At that point, I don't believe he had shared his past of manipulation and cult leading with anyone at Northstar in leadership or anyone at all really. He had never repented up to that point. Never sought to make things right with individuals he harmed and took advantage of.  

So my original attempt was to try to meet up with him and confront him. It took quite a while (months?) to get in contact and I was finally able to get a response. There was some back and forth but in the end he kept putting off meeting up, so we talked on the phone and I explained that I wrote a letter that I was sending to Northstar's leadership team. 

That was the original letter... it really came about because of increased concern over the information I was hearing which seemed to confirm that Zak was at it again and had a new, more successful cult he was leading. (59)


Dennis wrote the letter as a warning which was amply justified when two area pastors who had approached Gladstone's leadership to discuss their concerns were brusquely brushed off. Zac, of course, was nowhere to be found as the community elders took the measure of these pastors to hastily dismiss their concerns. When he approached Pastor Matt Massey about the Gladstone affair, Ryan found him less than receptive to his concerns, to diplomatically put it:

The only pastor I spoke with was Matt Massey and during our conversation he was very defensive and initially said he refused to even read my letter. He finally agreed to read it and said he was going to discuss it with the elders at Northstar and reach back out to me. After a lengthy period of time, I hadn't heard anything so I called him and left a voicemail. He then called me back and I got a voicemail basically saying thanks for my concern but the elders have all agreed to not doing anything about it at this time and that they thought some of things at Gladstone were immature, but not concerning. 


From what I have heard since then... It sounds like they concealed the letter, individuals at Gladstone were told someone wrote something "mean about Zak" and they all agreed to not read it. As a result, they spent years in the dark not knowing who they were following.

(60 emphasis mine)

Ryan’s troubling yet telling memory speaks volumes here about how Zachary Kijinski, an enemy of the Cross of Christ was able to create the Christian “empire” he’d long bragged he’d bring about .. when gutless shepherds excused themselves from the tempests they helped create  and had clumsily tried to bottle the lightning of the storms they helped to seed. Matt Massey and Rob McGillivray certainly have a lion’s share of the responsibility for this travesty to have arisen and to this day, have not said or done anything to prove otherwise.


Zac, Angel Of Light Arising
“Peter had seen many tragedies, but he had forgotten them all.” 


When the turn of the decade came, despite the underlying malign influence of Zac’s authoritarianism, the Gladstone community still gladly attended the Thursday Bible studies as well as the other services throughout the week they organized. Despite all of the control-oriented socializing, it was fun, clean and the Bible was used a lot, which made it all seem so totally spiritual. It seemed to meet a real need for Gladstone members for like minded socializing and many visitors also continued to stop in to sample the unique flavor of Gladstone’s fellowship. Not a few came around and joined the community, signing the common purse and house covenants and readily joining in providing the raw labor for some project. But as  the exponential STREET EVANGELISM | Christian Forums @ Christianity Boardgrowth of Gladstone’s community occurred, none of the community houses could physically contain the group when it met any longer. So to continue their consolidation of the group’s formation and their never ending engagement of new prospects, a bold new direction in 2010  would be struck by the community to make it more accessible to the larger society around them.

The Gladstone community had long become a center of attention by churches and other parachurch ministries throughout the region. Their direct efforts engaged people on the street, in work spaces and in public marketplaces of infinite variety, challenging them with presentations of the Gospel of Christ and daring them to live sold out lives serving Him by serving others and seeking connection in, of course, Gladstone. This was the kind of bold evangelism that these regional and local ministries had been aspiring to offer. Young men and women had continually flowed into their activities and been captivated by the enthusiastic reception they would get from their peers there. Fiery Gladstone members regularly deployed a number of energetic personal and team outreaches targeting unchurched street people as well as church kids raised in Christian homes and churches around the area (61)

Their heartfelt exhortation and personal testimony was a vibrant influence that warmed the hearts and captivated the minds of so many. This point cannot be overstated too much. The hearing of pastors and ministry leaders was engaged by wonderful reports of exuberant and zealous young Christians worshiping together, digging into Bibles and going out to do street ministry and outreach in some of the rough and gritty parts of the area to win people to Jesus and help them transform their lives. It was a dream that seemed too good to be true (and it wasn’t), but the kinetic activity stirred up a lot of positive regard for them by the Christian circles of Cincinnati. Zac, of course, enthusiastically curried this favor and became well known as the youthful, unorthodox yet zealous leader of a genuine Christian movement that saved souls, drew crowds and was growing fast.

This mystique was appealing and appalling. Understandably so, the mentality of getting in on the ground floor of the next New Thing God was raising up transfixed so very many of these leaders. And that appeal certainly was galvanizing - that previously posted old YouTube video (62)  made in December 2011 at what it was tiled as a “GLADSTONE house church in Cincinnati” captures just a moment or two of a packed living room full of the young men and women there. It is a exhilarating and inspiring glimpse of the full throated spiritual ardor they unashamedly displayed and its winsome appeal was irresistible.

Invitations to dialogues with these Christian leaders all over the region began to become a regular part of their daily interaction with the larger world off Grace Avenue. It’s certain that little if anything about the dark side of Gladstone’s “immaturity” ever became a topic of these discussions. Just who knew what about Zac and his band will certainly be known in the Judgment Day, but we have enough anecdotal evidence on hand that implies that more than a few of those who moved ahead to partner with Gladstone were aware of their abusiveness and did so anyway. Ryan Dennis’ letter of warning about Gladstone he’d been circulating for a couple years had fallen upon many a deaf ear, apart from the few pastors who’d attempted to confront the Gladstone leadership . A whole investigation could easily be pursued here but that’s outside the scope of this expose, although we will have a bit more to share on this later.


There was likely only the most perfunctory talk about any “alleged” controversies and tension that the community had stirred - all objections or specifics were speedily dismissed as the understandable harmless excess that infrequently showed up when Christian renewal swept a community’s youth. Gladstone was misunderstood and their zeal a point of jealousy for too many. Just as they had done with the few pastors who had outright confronted them,  Zac and his elders certainly played their best poker faces when representing Gladstone as an outpost of orthodoxy. Certainly, the sweet lilting voices of young Christians praising God after winning souls on the streets was a tantalizing heady spiritual rush. The energetic support they offered to a variety of those they’d dialogued with were rewarded with invaluable connections and relationships with churches and ministries all over the area. 

Invitations to partner with them in cooperative joint Christian ministry ventures began to mount up as recognition of them grew.. Out of such sanctified schmoozing, the community found itself able to call upon the generosity and charity of the Christian circles of Cincinnati. Support for a variety of their projects and their ongoing operation came directly from the donations they received. No source of blessing would have the deepest of consequences than when the Mariemont Community Church, bowled over by the zealotry of Gladstone’s example, became its greatest support system.

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In philanthropist Mary Emery's planned community of Mariemont, the first building to be erected was a house of worship, first called the Memorial Church, a building void of sectarian identification other than its purpose. It would soon be called the Mariemont Community Church and its congregation become well known for their attempts to continue an irenic tradition of interfaith cooperation through its openness to the community and other local churches. Long open to the Charismatic dimension of Christian living, worship and ministry, they had also been involved in the 2005 Crossroads Initiative interdenominational fellowship. The church was certainly aware of the Gladstone community, especially when several of their own members began to involve themselves with their Bible study and fellowship, quite taken by its spiritual appeal.

Zac and the Gladstone elders began to meet with the leaders of the Mariemont church (or MCC as we will call it) to discuss what their cooperation might “look like” sometime in 2011.  And MCC’s newfound relationship with Gladstone was facilitated by their connection with pastor Dennis Beausejour.  This connection went from friendly to warm to positively intimate. Pastor Beausejour, a former advertising executive for Procter and Gamble with a dramatic testimony of deliverance from pornography addiction, (63) radiated an inclusive and welcoming spirit to all. Two of his own children even began to get involved with the community, which likely upped Pastor Dennis’ personal stake there.

He and the MCC leaders had relationally connected with Zac and Gladstone, viewing them as a gathering of young believers they felt needed affirmation, care and further admonition - the very thing Rob McGillivray was booted from among them in the first place, and the very pastoral duty Matt Massey had checked himself and Northstar out of. It’s astonishing to have seen this approach to Gladstone go over so ignorantly but that’s what it essentially was. Their attitude towards outside authority over them somehow had changed and what MCC knew of the community’s starkly cultic history is unknown, but the fruit of their discussion over a new joint venture with Gladstone didn’t remain long under wraps.

Justin Williams in the
Cincinnati Magazine article detailed what came of these consultations.

In spring 2012, Gladstone Community Church registered with the state of Ohio as a nonprofit corporation. Around the same time, the Thursday night gatherings moved out of their meetinghouse and into Mariemont Community Church. (That’s not an unusual location—around 40 or so local organizations, from Alcoholics Anonymous to Boy Scouts of America, gather at the church in any given month.) About a year later, they began meeting in the church’s chapel along Wooster Pike on Sunday mornings as well. …(64)


With a bit of shared business acumen, MCC’s influence upon the community came into sharp focus. Zac and Gladstone suddenly decided that their incorporation into a non profit 501 C 3 organization was their next logical step. This may have long been on their minds, but we suspect counsel from the MCC leadership finally encouraged them to make the leap. Their new corporate identity was that of the Gladstone Community Church (or GCC as we will call them here). New Gladstone elder Eric Potticary, a manager at a Loveland accountant firm, filed the necessary paperwork with the state of Ohio  and the church legally came into existence on April 26, 2012.

It’s stated purpose was to “operate exclusively for charitable, educational, religious and scientific purposes .. by conducting a Church of followers of Jesus Christ, meeting weekly for worship services, Bible Study, Prayer, Ministry Training, Missions Preparedness, and conducting community projects that affect the community for the Gospel” (65). After the incorporation, Gladstone wasted no time filing for IRS tax-exemption, along with the issuance of an Employer Identification Number, applying for every benefit a non profit 501 C 3 organization can enjoy in America, including a whole new level of financial footing they never had before. The businesses they created from that time forward would enjoy tax advantages as well as a way to legally hide their financials from all scrutiny and therefore accountability.


So Gladstone found itself at the seat of a choicely set table. They began to conduct joint Sunday services with the MCC congregation in 2012 and when the church’s beautiful old chapel was opened up for their usage, their Thursday night gatherings suddenly found a new and spacious home . As the first decade of the 21st century dawned, MCC’s Sunday services were almost overflowing, with the church’s pews filled to capacity. The older and established Mariemont congregation made room for the infectious energy of youthful passion for God that the Gladstone group provided. Such an intergenerational and non denominational assembly of Christian fellowship was a profound statement to Mariemont and the region.

These gatherings in a packed sanctuary filled with a host of people pursuing unified worship of God certainly were inspiring assemblies to participate in - church going people tend to assume that capacity Sunday crowds equate to solid growth and Christian fidelity, thus assuring them they were attending a place of divine import and spiritual security. Pastor Dennis and his elders certainly couldn’t have been more pleased or supportive.   


And the renewed infusion of material, moral and financial support for Gladstone’s operation ensured a new and golden time of expansion. With this church partnership becoming solidified, the GCC became firmly cemented in the local community by being invested with a legitimacy that association with the MCC granted which was now virtually unquestioned. In time, Zac would find himself deeply involved in preaching and teaching regularly under the auspices of the MCC itself, preaching through many a sermon series that the MCC leadership would present in those years: as of 1 April, 2023, the MCC YouTube channel is filled with videos of Zac’s preaching that positively radiated Evangelical piety.

The ministrations of the Gladstone Community Church itself fairly exploded at this point as their community found new people, funding and opportunity. During these first years of the 2010’s, with MCC’s silent partnership empowering their doings, the congregation began to field many creative outreaches to the community in the mean Cincinnati streets. It involved direct personal evangelism, food and clothing collection and distribution as well as personal encounters with street walkers, drug addicts and whoever they met downtown as ways to bring the Gospel to them. Gladstone’s outreaches, a combination of rescue mission and recreation hall, undeniably became an effective street-level urban outreach that delivered results. Many of the community strove mightily to reconcile the dark and toxic side of their communal lives to the genuinely godly 
passion they had to share the Gospel. Their reached out to provide food, compassion and the good news of Christ to whoever they met .. along with just a little bit more than met the eye..


We have wished long and hard that the account of the years that the MCC and the GCC worked together would’ve  become a story that would chronicle a miraculous manifestation of the Kingdom of God. We’d be only too happy to report that Zac and Gladstone were able to shake free of their deep errors and go off to disappear into a warm orange sunset of real Christian destiny in the Ohio Valley.

That idealistic notion is tragically nowhere near the far more stark reality which is utterly ignored and overlooked by everyone involved - except by those pinned under its jackboots.

The Gladstone Community Church’s dominance over its members would grimly escalate to a whole new disturbing yet furtively covered level, of both concealment and severity as their association with the MCC continued to consolidate. It was now a church whose members lived together in an economic and social compact that ran businesses to support itself. These church-owned businesses needed more cheap labor. Souls needed saving and then subjugation. Zac’s Work Gospel had to be spread, and new Gladstone recruits were to be “marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.”  With every new query by local ministries for possible partnership, there needed mobilization of smiling Gladstone contacts and teams. As we’ve said before, it can’t be overemphasized enough as to how politely and sweetly this ruthless control would become. 


The remainder of this expose is devoted to revealing to what depths this depravity has plumbed and how Gladstone’s reach has gone way beyond the Grace Avenue nook they primarily live in to walk in the footsteps of Rajneeshpuram, Waco, Nauvoo and Jonestown. There are a lot of moving parts in this engine of destruction and we can only highlight the most essential of developments. History will tell if we got the story right.



(2) Josh Michael, personal interview 2022

(3) ibid

(4) ibid

(5) ibid




(9) Josh Michaels, ibid


(11) Unpublished report by Ernie and June Stickler, undated

(12) Ryan Dennis, letter 2009

(13) ibid

(14) Josh Michaels, ibid

(15) Ryan Dennis, ibid

(16) ibid

(17) Since the inception of the movement, Zac readily circulated personal anecdotes that were to emphasize the depth of his consecration to the calling of God on his life. His claim to having worked as intern for some unidentified local Ohio politician gained for him a certain notoriety and a deeper respect among his new friends. It was freely declared by him, without a shred of verifiable evidence, but his glowy manner certainly was most convincing.

(18) Dennis, ibid

(19) ibid

(20) The Evangelical Charismatic church culture identifying itself as the Vineyard is a global movement that was directly tied to the Calvary Chapel church movement, which itself originated in Southern California in the late 1960’s. John Wimber’s spiritual and practical roots were derived from the laid back and unstructured Charismatic concepts then circulating in Christendom. It’s easy to lose sight of this, but Zac’s deft repurposing of certain aspects of Charismatic practice for usage in his own urban tribe of spiritually hungry young people came directly from his observation at the Vineyard and his consummate ability to model a spot on mimicry of what he said and heard there. His development as a prophetic seer took cues from the trends and influences which his Vineyard connections gave him, and those around him who took him to having some kind of oracular mantle deferred readily to his dictates and manner.

(21) Geoff Hill, interview 2022

(22) For what is probably one of the best and balanced books on the subject, read Donald Gee’s “Concerning Spiritual Gifts.” Had the full wisdom of this British Pentecostal pioneer of three generations past somehow been passed on to those in the modern Charismatic movement, specifically the leaders of the Vineyard Zak took to, the emergence of the Gladstone cult might have been averted.

For a brief review of Gee’s position on spiritual giftings:

For a more recent treatment on the subject written with Scriptural balance

(23) Ryan Dennis, ibid Zac’s intellectual prowess readily absorbed each Evangelical treatise he encountered which he was effortlessly able to articulately, even passionately reflect in his teaching, even if his obvious spiritual and character deficits stood out like sore thumbs. He would be introduced to them by a variety of people in the Evangelical and Charismatic circles he prowled around in.


(25) Ryan Dennis, ibid

(26) ibid

(27) ibid

(28) Interview with Geoff Hill, 2022

(29) Hill, ibid

(30) ibid

(31) Hill, ibid

(32) “Houses Of The Holy,” Justin Williams. Cincinnati Magazine, 5 April 2016

(33) Hill, ibid

(34) ibid

(35) Geoff Hill, ibid. The modern Christian ideal of communal living as a great spiritual house of believers living lives together very likely looked a lot different from the cultural realities the early church faced as it sought to “be together” and live under a communal rule as “pilgrims and sojourners” not a part of the world order and yet very much installed in it.

(36) Matt Carlin, interview 2022

(37) Hill, ibid


(39) Hill, ibid


(41) Williams, ibid

(42) Mike Bickle, leader of the Kansas City International House of Prayer (IHOP), a Charismatic conference movement that emphasizes campaigns of nonstop, around the clock prayer movements around the world, is no stranger to controversy. A one time pastor of the Kansas City Fellowship (KCF) church, his ministry grew in stature and influence to the point that it was globally recognized by the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements due to its embracing of ministry models involving prophetic figures such as Paul Cain and Bob Jones whose rustic sincerity belied unbiblical doctrine and practical excesses resulting from it. It took the intervention of John Wimber himself who tried to offer a nominal oversight of Bickle and the KCF by inviting them into the Vineyard movement in an attempt to head off the errors Bickle’s errant direction had overtaken with. We detail more of this in the expose itself to bring insight upon the kind of influences the ever impressionable Zak Kijinski was to baptize himself in.

Within a few years, IHOP and its networking with like minded organizations had grown so exponentially to the point that Bickle, ever a spiritual maverick like his mentors Cain and Jones, began to minimize scrutiny of their doings by exited former affiliation with the Vineyard and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Bickle’s spin doctoring of his history and his relationships with equally controversial figures within the “New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR) movement is a classic textbook case of evasive deception to protect a questionable and unbiblical agenda that is intrinsically imbalanced and has contributed to a dumbing down of the Christian faith resulting in spiritual shipwreck of the souls of thousands, a circulation of a corpus of confusing doctrines among millions and even more reproach upon the Christian faith.





Bickle’s rueful candor about the liquid pliability - and reliability - of prophetic speakers around his IHOP circles is almost beyond belief and should be remembered.



(48) Geoff Hill, ibid

(49) ibid

(50) Christine Hilton, interview 2022

(51) Matt Carlin, ibid

(52) ibid

(53) “Work”, Community document, unpaginated.

(54) Zachary’s freedom from any labor whatsoever was an established community reality: almost every person interviewed commented on how quickly Zac would direct work crews and all manner of labor to be done and yet never picked up a tool, swept a floor or engaged in any of the manual labor he commanded. He found time to surf the internet for hotel deals and recreation, however. He could stay up all night long war gaming, arise the next morning to wage war on the subjects of his empire and never do anything more strenuous than texting or checking other community member’s emails and “purity” software reports on them.

The ancient church took a rather dim view of those who didn’t work and the teaching found in the Didache, an ancient Christian body of teaching from the 2nd century is unmistakable : “But receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, and prove and know him afterward; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be. But if he wants to stay with you, and is an artisan, let him work and eat. But if he has no trade, according to your understanding, see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep away from such.”

(55) Hill, ibid

(56) ibid

(57) Anonymous ex-member 1 and Jeremiah Zoltani, interviews 2022

(58) Untitled letter, Ryan Dennis, 2009. Ryan’s observations were preserved in a letter that he and others circulated to pastors and concerned parties who sought information on the Gladstone community, when the religious abuses and the disruption of family ties came home to churches and individual households.

(59) Ryan Dennis, interview 2022

(60) Dennis, ibid

(61) Multiple accounts from several former members of Gladstone attest to how street outreaches complete with one on one witnessing, Bible distributions and offerings of bags of food and personal items but would readily target and engage any churched believer to hail them forth to seek a new walk with God. It was from among this social stratum that Zac and the elders recognized, from their earliest days, that the greatest chances for successful recruitment to Gladstone would occur.

The ever unspoken and underlying message was that a “new walk with God’ would involve becoming part of the Gladstone fellowship, who were the only church in the area who walked in the fulness of truth and prophetic moral authority. Their fielding of evangelism teams preaching “the Gospel” and their personal accessibility and transparency were supposed proofs of their authenticity. It was a powerful draw for many gullible and undiscerning people who ended up including pastors, ministry leaders and hundreds of curious and spiritually hungry young Christians in the area.



(64) Williams, ibid.


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