December 28, 2008 in Sovereign Grace Ministries
Every day – even on Christmas day! – people send me stuff. I get lots of email. Here are a couple of topics for discussion, inspired by my email:
Fear and Loathing, revisited. A great deal of this email has a bit of a “cloak-and-dagger” feel, where the writer is anonymous and quite concerned about remaining so. I’ve written a bit about this before, in the post entitled, “Fear and Loathing in My ‘In’ Box,” where I discussed the conviction that my correspondents’ palpable paranoia alone ought to be enough to convince an impartial person that Sovereign Grace Ministries has some issues. What normal church would ever inspire so much fear of being “found out” for publicly expressing one’s concerns or sharing one’s own personal experiences? Can any SGM defender explain why so many SGM churches have left such a trail of bemused or even battered members, both former and current, who feel so nervous about being “found out” for telling the stories of what happened to them?
Tight Care Group Control. Over the past few months, a topic that has been suggested several times as worthy of discussion is Covenant Life Church’s approach to care groups. As far as I can gather, CLC makes participation in a care group a condition for continued church membership. But a member cannot simply select from a list of “open” care groups and then begin attending where he or she feels comfortable. Nope! A member must be ASSIGNED to a care group.
A few years back, all of CLC’s care groups were completely retooled. Care groups, even those that had been meeting together for years, were disbanded. All members were asked to submit a list of other members with whom they wished to socialize. Then, CLC’s pastors got together and created new groups, for the most part attempting to match each member with at least some of the folks on his or her list.
These newly assigned groups were pretty much on a “like it or lump it” basis. If you happened to be placed in a group where you did not feel comfortable, you COULD perhaps go to your pastor and request that you be reassigned. But doing so was apparently automatically suspect. Moving care groups is not something that happens easily. One has to REQUEST a change, and then one has to WAIT for one’s pastor to make a decision. This process can apparently drag out for years, with people requesting changes and being turned down. Pastors seem to regard learning to like one’s assigned care group as an exercise in spiritual development, and particularly if one expresses any specific dissatisfaction when requesting a change, one’s request will probably be denied, since it is likely that “sin” is prompting one’s original lack of contentment with one’s care group assignment.
Folks have written to me with tales of being mired in the same uncomfortable care group situation for years. And remember, they are REQUIRED to keep attending in order to maintain their status as members in good standing.
Does anyone else join me in thinking that this is a bizarre example of SGM leadership exerting UNNECESSARY control over such an important component of their members’ church lives?