David Brandt Berg, the iconoclastic founder and leader of the non-traditional
Christian missionary movement known as The Family, once said that
he aimed to leave people feeling either "mad, sad or glad,"
but never indifferent. Without a doubt, he succeeded in doing just
that. Even his death sparked intense reactions from his many admirers
and detractors, the latter fueling a media debate about whether
or not he had in fact died. David must be well-pleased that in death,
as in life, he and the often unconventional Gospel that he preached
continue to be a source of controversy and worthy of consideration.
Whatever David did, he did wholeheartedly. Certainly his crowning achievement is the almost single-handed formation of The Family. Working outside of mainstream Christian denominations, he recruited, trained and inspired thousands of predominantly unchurched young adults to become full-time missionaries. While most church leaders criticize some of David's doctrines, they grudgingly concede that his followers' dedication to evangelizing the world puts many of their own congregations to shame.
David Berg remains a paradox to those who did not know him well.
He was the leader of a militantly evangelistic organization, yet
he shunned the limelight, instead choosing to live in seclusion,
communicating with his followers and the public via the nearly 3,000
epistle-like "Letters" that he wrote on a wide variety
of subjects. His writings were often extreme and uncompromising
in their denunciation of evil, yet he always admonished the reader
to "love the sinner but hate the sin." Those who knew
him described him as a warm, self-effacing, loving and good-humored
individual with the genteel mannerisms of a kinder era. He espoused
doctrines that some mainstream Christians denounce as heretical,
yet his writings are permeated with the same love for God and passion
for winning others to Christ that has motivated the truly great
missionaries throughout the ages.