The Archdeacon of Northampton tonight accuses the county-based Jesus Army of being 'More like a snatch squad' than a church on a rescue mission.
But Noel Stanton, self-styled founder of the organisation, insists his members are just Bible-believing Christians.
Four members of the group, including a family doctor and a former drug user, talk tonight about the benefits the church has brought to their lives. But different stories are told by former members.
One says he was very vulnerable when he joined in 1982 and it took him nine months to leave because he believed he would go to Hell if he left.
Another who spent six months in the community with her daughter, says the church encouraged her to use a cane to discipline her child. 'They decided I should start rodding her if she was naughty - with a long piece of bamboo. But I didn't do that'. She says it was a big mistake to join and she is glad to be out. 'I would never ever recommend anyone else doing it. It is so difficult to get out once you are in. You are just sort of sucked in, deeper and deeper.'
Mr Stanton admits the church recommends corporal punishment. A smack on the arms or legs is suggested for children between the ages of two and five and the slipper can be added from time to time for older children, he says.But he urges: 'Do it with care and don't do it unless you have to make sure everything is done in love and not in anger.'
Of the Army's rapid growth, he says: 'I believe that God is on the march. I believe that many, many groups are being renewed and revitalised in the Holy Spirit and we are just one of them.'