MSNBC Expose On ‘Teen Mania’ & Their ‘ESOAL: Honor Academy’



A few months ago we posted this news report on ESOAL, a sort of boot camp for the Teen Mania army.

Turns out the local news isn’t the only group interested in investigating exactly what the folks at Teen Mania are up to.

This time, MSNBC got in on the act.

Unfortunately, we missed the original airing. Fortunately, Christian Nightmares and Unreasonable Faith were kind enough to post the episode.

So, here it is in its entirety. Watch it and let us know what you think. Are you ready to join the Teen Mania army?

[youtube FGoAWW0BIgQ]

  • Sara
    November 14, 2011

    I was heavily involved with Teen Mania throughout my teens and it was a giant relief to me when I ran across and was able to know I wasn’t the only one who felt some of Teen Mania’s methods were questionable. In my younger years I was happy to accept anything Ron Luce taught me and I depended on my yearly (sometimes more) visits to Acquire the Fire in order to feel like I was really connected to God (all of this in spite of my parent’s reservations).

    I don’t want to get too one-sided in this comment because I did make great friends and I think being exposed to people living in the third world on the mission trips I went on was great for me. However, I think that the extremism often showcased in Teen Mania’s teachings is dangerous and harmful. I think that Ron Luce and other leaders in that ministry encourage an elitism that is not truly about emulating Jesus and instead encourages attitudes of judgement, hostility and self-righteous, at least it did in me.

    I would encourage any youth pastor’s thinking of taking their kids to ATF or getting involved with this ministry in any way to think twice. Visit the blog above and check out the links across the top of the page.

  • John Bentley
    November 14, 2011

    My wife (then girlfriend) got her wallet stolen from ATF in 1998. Looks like someone acquired more than the fire.

  • Wendy J. Duncan
    November 14, 2011

    Thanks for helping to increase the awareness of the damage to young people and to Christianity.

  • Gary
    December 2, 2011

    I was an intern at the Honor Academy from August of 2000 – 2001. I will be one of the first to tell you, “What you are pitched at ACQUIRE THE FIRE about the Honor Academy isn’t all informative”. Yes they use different media at Acquire the Fire to persuade you (or is that manipulate you) into feeling “God’s Calling” of joining the Honor Academy. There are some definitely out of balance theologies, and practices at the Honor Academy.

    However, that being said, I am a bit upset? Most of the blogs, groups, videos, reports, etc. about the Honor Academy meant to expose them; are primarily about ESOAL. In most of these different medias it really isn’t made clear, and/or is very hastily mentioned that ESOAL was voluntary. Unlike the “real” experience of the Honor Academy being shared at Acquire the Fire, ESOAL was very accurately described to us interns while I was there. They presented it to us, used variable media to “persuade” us to do it, and then gave us the option to do it.

    I am not defending ESOAL or Honor Academy. I am not saying that those things are right. However, my objection comes from a disappointment that these exposures via current media where really bias. I understand that most of the people speaking out were, and/or are hurt by the actions of Teen Mania Ministries, but I feel that an objective stance against something shouldn’t be done from a bias perspective; only shedding light on one part. It should however have a non-bias stance shedding light on everything that encompasses the particular subject.

    I chose not to participate in ESOAL while I was there. I felt no guilt, nor judgment for not taking part. I understood what it was and questioned its purpose, and decided it was not something I wanted to be a part of. ESOAL was a few days out of a yearlong internship. My disappointment is that most everything I have seen bringing Teen Mania in a negative light is more about the hammer that hit the nail, and not the body that swings it.

    There is good and bad at the Honor Academy, as well as everywhere else. I would not recommend it to anyone just because frankly it isn’t how they present it. “Oh, come and spend a year with your peers passionately seeking after Christ. Be a part of our internship and be forged into the leaders our world needs. Come and worship God, and study his word like never before”. All of those things sound great right? What they leave out though is – it will cost you several thousands of dollars – you will work at least eight hours a day as basically a “Christian” telemarketer, grounds crew, kitchen staff, assistants, etc.- You will have classes, and worship sessions that will probably get canceled so you can work extra hours – You will be expected to change for the “better” even though much needed healing and deliverance aren’t available.

    Basically you will work for a ministry for a year. You will pay to work the long hours required of you. Your awesome year with God, worshipping, and studying will be based around a strict agenda and time line that comes second to your work schedule. When considering if the internship is right for you; remember the key word they say…”internship”. Because that is what it is, and will be. What makes it worst is the way that the Academy has changed since I was there. It has become more legalistic and routine.

    My advice to every young person “praying” about what to do is this – Wait a couple weeks after Acquire the Fire before you make your decision whether to go or not. Share your interest with someone you can trust to give you a healthy objective view – If you are really considering it, find a college you think you will want to attend afterwards and see if they will give you credit for the internship and what you “learn” there.

    Most colleges will credit out a class if you do an internship. Especially any business majors, you should seek out whether or not they will accept this internship. You might as well get credit for it, because you are going to work while you are there, and let’s not forget literally pay for it. So, you might as well get something out of it.

    I will leave you with my biggest problem with my year at the Honor Academy – returning home. They will warn you about “bubble syndrome”, but it will not honestly prepare you. You are living in a community with “like-minded” people, and once you leave there after being around those people for a year, it will be a bit of shell shock.

    If God is telling you to go.. then go. However, I extremely warn you, and encourage you to make sure it is God, and not some emotional high you experienced at Acquire the Fire. Thousands of young people all singing and praising God together is extremely intoxicating. Being in unison with thousands about anything is intoxicating. But, making decisions while intoxicated is a bad idea, ask any drunk driver after a wreck. Passion without character is dangerous. Unfortunately while we are young teens we are usually the most passionate, and any good business knows that. Teen Mania is no different. So, they will take your passion and capitalize on it.

    I did make some great friends there. I did have some very good experiences there, but some negative things I allowed into my life there set me up to fail years later. There is a great word that doesn’t get used too much in the “Christian” world… BALANCE!

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