Public Secrets?

January 21, 2009 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

As an outsider looking in, something I find really hard to understand is the way that Sovereign Grace Ministries makes personnel changes, especially with respect to its churches’ senior pastors.

Apparently, most of these changes come as a great surprise to a lot of the people involved. There are stories of congregations where at least half the people were shocked to learn they were getting a new pastor.

The other half, though?  Well, what’s also interesting is how some of this information does get around.

Take the Colorado Springs church plant, for instance.  Aside from the fact that there are MANY solid, Bible-believing, Gospel-proclaiming churches in the moderately-sized city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, SGM had been planning a church plant there, so that Colorado Springs could FINALLY have one “good church” that was “truly Reformed.”

I’m sure that thousands of Colorado Springs Christians – many of whom are employed by the nationally known Christian ministries headquartered there – breathed a huge sigh of relief and rejoiced greatly that there was finally going to be a “good Reformed church” in their area.

But alas, it looks like plans have changed.  All those people selling their homes and quitting jobs and leaving friends and family in Arizona so that they could go out and evangelize the great unreached mission field of Colorado Springs are learning that they’ll be staying put.

Word on the street is that the pastor who was to be in charge of this church plant will instead be moving to another city in Colorado to take over an existing Sovereign Grace church.

Supposedly, this information is a “big secret,” so big that a good many of the people affected by the news aren’t even supposed to know about it for another month or more.

Yet…how is it that LOTS of people already do know about it, to the point where word has leaked out and more than a few folks have emailed me to share the news?

If SGM’s main decision makers have already figured out where they’re going to place their men and how they’re going to be “repositioning” these guys, why not just announce it openly, and SIMULTANEOUSLY, to all those who would be affected by these decisions?

Why the need for secrecy?  Why the stealth?  Why the delays?

Especially when these moves obviously are NOT so secret or stealthy.

I really don’t get it.

If you’re one of the people whose lives are being affected by these “secret” stealthy decisions, you really ought to be asking some questions right about now.  If you’re a member of the Denver congregation, how do you feel about having absolutely no input into the decision of whether your current pastor stays or goes?  How do you feel about the way these decisions appear to be made?  How about the “surprise” element?

If you’re one of the leaders involved in these closed-door meetings, where the fate of these men was decided, I just have to ask you WHY?  Why keep an entire congregation in the dark about a huge change coming down the pike, when a bunch of random folks in another location already know about it? 

I know you guys have redefined the word “gossip” to mean any and all sharing of information that you don’t want people to be discussing.  But is it really “gossip” to want to know if one’s senior pastor will soon be swapped out for another guy?  Is it somehow wrong to be concerned about who will be leading one’s “local” church?  Wouldn’t it demonstrate, actually, a strange lack of concern if people did NOT desire to know about these things?

And if this news IS “gossip,” then how is it that you’re passing it on to some folks, but not to others?

There’s been a lot of discussion lately on this blog about what Sovereign Grace Ministries needs to change.  A lot of folks have been saying for a long time that SGM needs to change their entire paradigm of church government.  Many of the stories of abuse shared here would never have happened if the average Sovereign Grace Member had a real VOICE in what goes on at his or her SGM church…or if the church leadership had been more OPEN and HONEST with their people.

And while the seemingly random and out-of-left-field repositioning of pastors couldn’t exactly be defined as “abusive,” there is still something unnecessarily CONTROLLING about it, that merely reinforces the perception that the only people with any say at all over what happens at your “local” church are those guys sitting in some conference room in Gaithersburg.