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“Trust Me” Versus Total Depravity

What follows was originally posted as a string of comments, but it struck me as thought-provoking enough to deserve its own post.  So here goes.

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Commenter “Argo” asked,

Does anyone know if Sovereign Grace Ministries applies the concept of total depravity in the orthodox way, or do they twist it to mean that since you are so full of sin, even after salvation, that you cannot think for yourself and you must have specially appointed pastors to control the mindless, sin-wracked sheep?

I think it depends on what you mean by the word “know.” There’s what we can know about SGM through their official doctrinal statements and through what pastors might tell us if we asked them.

And then there’s what we know about SGM through observing the realities present throughout their long history. There’s what we can know about SGM through watching the role that pastors think they are called to play in members’ lives.

If we were to go by the first concept of “know,” I would say that SGM’s ideas about total depravity harken back to a person’s inability to do anything to initiate the salvation process.

But if we go by the second concept of “know,” I think it’s obvious that your description –

Since you are so full of sin, even after salvation, that you cannot think for yourself and you must have specially appointed pastors to control the mindless, sin-wracked sheep

– would be very accurate.

We can see this view of total depravity at work in the underlying assumptions behind Mickey Connolly’s recent instructions to the members of CrossWay.

I know this might be a bit tedious, but I’m really going to break it down, so we don’t miss any of the implications:

1. Since the meeting was a “Family Meeting,” intended for CrossWay members only, and since being a professing Christian is a requirement for membership at CrossWay, Mickey had to have believed that he was addressing a room full of certified believers (as best as any SGMer could ever experience assurance of his or her salvation).

2. So, Mickey’s remarks at that “Mark Brent!” meeting were directed at people whom he believed to be Christians.

3. Presumably, Mickey believes that Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide them.

4. Yet he still felt the need to give very detailed and explicit instructions about what to do to carry out his command to “mark” Brent. He still felt the need to convey to his people a wholesale condemnation of Brent’s documents and “the blogs,” judging them several times to be “gossip” and “slander.” He still felt the need to tell people what they ought to think about the question of Brent.

5. The question is, why would a pastor who, on paper at least, believes that each person in his audience is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Whom the Bible promises will “guide us into all truth,” see the need to try his very desperate best to get people to avoid reading anything contrary to what he wants them to think? And the only answer I can come up with would be that Argo’s statement about total depravity is precisely what Mickey believes about his people.

Sure, SGM pastors would say that they think their church members (who, remember, must be professing Christians in order to obtain member status) have the indwelling Holy Spirit. But SGM pastors also clearly believe that people are still so sin-addled and so stupid and so weak that they need their pastors to attempt to control what they read and think.

THIS is the how-it-works-out-in-real-daily-life truth of what SGM pastors’ believe about the total depravity of their Christian members.

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Here are some additional thoughts about the interesting tension present in the way SGM’s ideas about total depravity are really at odds with SGM leaders’ commands to their members to “trust them”:

Y’know, I just can’t get over how bizarre it is that Mickey Connolly felt the need to do what he did in the “Mark Brent!” meeting…and that he obviously believed that people in his audience would listen to him.

Imagine for a moment this same scenario playing out in any other context.

Imagine this scenario playing out in a corporate setting, for example.

You have a company where a former top executive releases hundreds of pages of documents that contain dozens of verbatim emails from all the other top executives, including the CEO. Along with the former top executive’s commentary, the emails clearly demonstrate a problem of leadership-with-zero-formal-accountability within the company. All the shareholders of the company are talking about the documents released by the former top executive. The CEO himself initially steps down…although a couple of months later, he tries to retract anything resembling an acknowledgement of the former executive’s criticisms. He also instructs all the remaining executives to put the kibosh on anyone who openly tries to investigate the matter for himself or herself.

So, one of the other executives gets up in front of a portion of the shareholders and instructs them to trust him. Trust him. And don’t go reading anything related to the documents! The documents are slander! They are gossip! They are divisive! Have nothing to do with the former top executive. Don’t follow him on Facebook!

What would any halfway sane thinking person conclude about the CEO and his remaining top executives?

What would any halfway sane thinking person say about these guys’ motives for telling the shareholders to ignore the former top executive and his criticisms?

Really. Think about this. If this same scenario that is playing out right now within the SGM family of churches were playing out in any other context, about 99% of us would be 99% certain that the CEO and his remaining executives were simply desperate to hang on to their power…and that they were instructing the shareholders not to read the former executive’s documents because they didn’t want the shareholders to be exposed to anything criticizing the company or questioning the CEO’s leadership.

Yet when this scenario takes place within the context of a family of churches, we are supposed to suspend all logical thought and just trust the remaining executives?

This is especially bizarre and illogical when you consider what SGM believes about a Christian’s ongoing tendency toward depravity. SGM believes that its members will always and forever be leaning toward choosing sin rather than choosing righteousness. Either they believe this about all Christians across the board, INCLUDING PASTORS, or they believe that pastors are somehow above the ongoing pull toward sinfulness and are thus worthy of being given the constant benefit of the doubt.

I wonder which it is. Do SGM pastors acknowledge in themselves the same pull toward sin that they are always seeing in their ordinary membership? Or do they believe that they themselves are above this pull?

If they would acknowledge that they, too, remain completely polluted by their total depravity, then why should anyone extend unquestioning trust to them? Why should anyone defy all logic to “believe the best” about them? Why should they expect their people to assume that their motives are totally pure and not self-serving when they condemn unflattering information as “gossip” and “slander” and tell people not to read it?

Since they are expecting unquestioning trust, and since they are demanding that people suspend all logical thought in order to “believe the best” about their motives, it seems pretty clear that SGM pastors actually do not believe that they struggle with the same sinful tendencies as poor plain old ordinary SGM members do.

There’s really no other way to look at this. Either Mickey Connolly’s railings against Brent are legitimate and Mickey is deserving of people’s illogical blind trust because there’s just no way that Mickey could be operating with impure motives…or else Mickey Connolly is just as depraved as any other ordinary SGM member and consequently ought to be regarded with suspicion, ought to be viewed as the desperate-to-maintain-control despot that his actions would make him out to be in any other context.

479 comments to “Trust Me” Versus Total Depravity

  • Jason

    Wow Kris, you nailed it. Something to add:

    Mickey equates reading the documents and the blogs with gossip and slander. He asks, do you want to be “informed or biblically obedient?” Therefore if you read the documents and blogs, you are sinning. He then goes on to say, “If you cannot obey your pastors and what we are asking you to do biblically, then you need to find another church.”

    So Mickey is really saying, “If you can’t stop sinning, you need to leave the church.” Where is this in the Bible?

  • Jimmy

    He (mickey) asks, do you want to be “informed or biblically obedient?”

    Informed = aware of what is going and knowing the truth. He didn’t say, do you want to be lied to or biblically obedient. Therefore, the blogs are not gossip or slander. Rather, they are discussing truths that are inconvenient for sgm. How is my logic wrong?

  • ExClcer'sMom

    HappyMom, I had to let you know I so agree with your last post in the previous thread! :goodpost :clap

    Honestly, the bigger picture here is what has been going on in SGM for decades and what they have gotten away with for far too long. The Body of Christ has been damaged because leaders have done as they’ve pleased and attempted to build His church in their name with no regard for the wake of pain they have left.

    I wish folks from Fairfax had shown as much concern for the lies and deception that spewed out of their Family Meeting regarding their history of horribly mishandling three published sex abuse stories, all involving children. No one from Fairfax seemed to be bothered by the slander and deception that came from the staff. It appeared no one was willing to take V. Hinders or L.Gallo to task for the lies and misconceptions they shared in front of their church. I don’t know what kind of man it takes to lie and distort the facts regarding the sex abuse of an 8 year old little girl for the sole purpose of protecting his reputation and job. To me, they are no different than the coaches at Penn State.

    Regardless of whether the “if” was there or not, Mickey’s purpose for that meeting was to mark Brent as divisive, that is very clear.

    Plus, how many times, when we know we are dealing with truth and facts, do we say, “Go ahead, try to prove me wrong”, and then wait, with confidence, to hear the words, “You were right”. If one KNOWS they are correct, there is no problem letting someone become more informed on the subject, because that will prove to them the truth. It is only when trying to keep something secret that one would want to say, “Don’t look further”.. :koolaid

  • Martha

    Right, he admitted the truth of the posts by saying “informed” rather than using a word that implies untruth.

  • Friendly Observer

    Note to self: you must guard against much pride today, as this new thread appeared just as you were about to suggest to the esteemed Kris that her #315 comment from last thread (reproduced above) was worthy of — indeed, almost begged for — its own thread, in order to pursue a very sound and pertinent question of theology concerning indwelling sin and the “need” (or not) to receive dictatorship instructions on how to think and how to live one’s own Christian life.

    Thank you, Kris — your CEO/corporation analysis is world class, provocative, meaningful, fitting, applicable, and (in my judgment as something of a historian) very important and germane to the discussion.

    Staying with your analogy, let’s also remember that the origins of the corporation (then, we might say, a “pre-corporation”) were long before the electronic communication system today’s world has at its command (to enjoy or endure, depending on one’s vantage point — i.e., news headlines, including criminal actions at both lowest and highest levels, flash around the globe and across all time zones in mere seconds.)

    Thus, those who began with the “family” (when it was only a “newly married couple” (let us say) or a very small family) learned methods of communication that kept certain “skeletons” hidden, kept them from becoming widely known. This led to secrets, certain ways of thinking, practices whereby the underlying mission (and its “doctrine”) was molded into practices that could not be easily investigated, were easily kept under wraps for years, etc. Now, that world has utterly changed, and one of the former bosses can “suddenly” publish an entire history of written communication that some of the writers thought would never again see the light of day. (That is the main reason, IMO, that Brent is disliked now and is being shunned — he is a whistle-blower, and those with secrets and with power do NOT want any whistles blown. Let us not forget that no one liked the boy watching the parade who first said of the Emporer, “He has no clothes on,” but no one could dispute that he was correct.)

    Thus none of the bosses — and we’re talking about Mickey’s insistence that he (et al.) be trusted and listened to and obeyed implicitly — would deny that the belief in human depravity and sinfulness does NOT apply across the board. (Even the soon-to-be-reinstated top boss says frequently that he believes he is the worst sinner he knows — says it frequently and “on the record.”) And so there is no denial that top dogs AND peons/peasants/folks in the pews share alike the ravages of Adam’s sin and mankind’s fall. However, like Communism, which believes all the people are or should be equal, yet some are more equal than others. And so the leaders become dictators (in essence).

    This is long, but to conclude, Mickey (I believe — and I do not know the gentleman) is doing and saying merely what he has been trained and commissioned to do and say. He was trained in the old school, which meant when he and Brent were working together, it was a routine matter to throw his own mentor and discipler (overseer?) under the bus and move on with impunity — indeed, more than impunity, with commendation. He was and is convinced he is doing the will of God in citing Brent, in warning “his people” to embrace his own belief that now the once-esteemed brother and leader is an enemy of truth and must be shunned. He could not do otherwise and be true to what he believes he is called to do. It is his job, and he wants to be faithful.

    So his stated theology may be sound. (And depravity doesn’t mean that any of us necessarily sins to the extent or degree of which we are capable — only that we are sinners and capable of committing even the most vile sin.) Of course he knows he is a sinner. But his job is to be an overseer and guide (“pastor”) to other sinners who are less gifted — and thus he can demand to be heard and demand to be obeyed simply because he is in charge; he’s a boss now.

    Makes sense tro me. This is an important thread — very important discussion. Others will have insights far beyond mine. I’m an amateur theologian at best and have little history.

  • Heather

    Does this news article sound sadly familiar?

    “Just don’t bring your cellphone or BlackBerry, don’t try to send an e-mail, don’t plan to stroll down a street, and never try to talk to strangers or take pictures of ordinary people. None of that is allowed.

    This is North Korea’s unusual experiment in opening its door a tiny crack — allowing foreign tour groups, their cash and investors into the country, but under strict admonition to restrict movement and to avoid even the most casual contact with daily life.

    The vast majority of North Koreans are cut off from e-mail, the Internet, cellphones and almost every other form of contact with the outside world. Most days, there are just two government-run television channels — not on all day — with a third on weekends showing old Chinese movies. Opening this isolated country to tourists means risking the government’s near-total control over every aspect of what average citizens here can see, read, watch or hear.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/reclusive-north-korea-opens-door-a-crack/2011/11/10/gIQAXj7ePN_story.html

  • Dan

    Great post!

    I do honestly believe that there is a definite seperation of sinlessness/sanctification in the minds of the SGM pastors. A definite clergy/laity divide.

    When I was in my excommunication meeting, I explained how I did not feel I could go along with the ultimatums that the SGM Board Member had laid down – and how I had prayed and thought about this and read the Bible and felt that I had to withdraw and resign from such leadership that would lay down such demands.

    I was told clearly and absolutely that “because I was in sin” – I did NOT have the ability or capacity to “think clearly or biblically” hence the excommunication.

    So it seems clear to me that if they can suspect or accuse you of being in sin, then everything and ANYTHING you say is null and void – hence Brent. THEY on the other hand are pastors and so have the “mind of Christ” because (as Jeff Purswell said) they “stand in the very stead of God”.

    Although when I confronted them on this, they laughed and said; “Well we do not speak with papal authority”.

  • A Kindred Spirit

    Wow! I so hope the folks from CrossWay are reading.

    That’s it! You’ve nailed it, Kris (and Argo).

    It’s why ALL of SGM do what they do!

  • Oswald

    Jimmy #2 — Good point. Unintended by MC, I’m sure.

  • sgmnot

    Dan #6: Your testimony about your own excommunication, written out so clearly in this comment, just chills me to the bone! If you are able to explain (or feel comfortable doing so) what ultimatum was the SGM Board asking you (forcing you) to do?

  • So, when Brent was an Apostle over dozens of SGM churches, we and our own pastors were supposed to trust him unquestioningly with our souls and obey everything he said (which was often over the top). But now that he has fallen from (Sovereign) Grace and wants truth to be known (yes, he is still sometimes over the top in his approach but still has a very valid message), we are to shun him like a pariah and not listen to a thing he says? I vote for listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to our own God-given brains and grace-bought hearts. We might disagree with one another, but we can never disengage from the thinking/discerning process. There must always be liberty of conscience.

  • 5yearsinPDI

    I don’t think the problem has anything to do with the doctrine of indwelling sin. The problem is shepherding doctrines recycled from the 70’s and early 80s.

    Back then, we knew people who sincerely believed that within your sphere of authority (pastor, care group leader, father, parent) you were essentially infallible because God delegates His own authority to people, and we obey it as we would God, because it reperesents the authority of God himself. God speaks through His delegated authority.

    It isn’t that people are so sinful, or don’t have the Holy Spirit. But God by the Holy Spirit will tell the authority who somebody should marry, or what job to take or what house to buy, and so forth. The Holy Spirit may lead somebody about what to do first, but it MUST MUST MUST!!!!! be confirmed by the authority because yes, we are fallen humans and might be led astray by our fleshly desires.

    You can’t understand SGM or Mickey or CJ unless you understand shepherding error and men in the place of God, including as your spiritual covering (blood atonement) protecting you from Satan. They would not claim to be replacing the blood of Jesus, but in essence they talk that way. Google the Ft Lauderdale 5, Bob Weiner, shepherding doctine. CJ and Larry were totally into this crap since day 1, maybe Larry came out but CJ never did.

    Mickey is just doing his job- being God. He is God’s delgated authority telling the sheep what to do. Classic shepherding. Those of us who suffered under it a generation ago can see it, but the young folks in it now are caught up in the same fears of being rebellious and independent and not under covering. So, they will dutifully defriend Brent as God through their authority told them to do. I understand it, 35 years ago I was the same way, except that it wasn’t indwelling sin we talked about, just our fallen tendency to be “in the flesh.”

    I hope God wipes SGM out. What a disgusting mess. Ugh.

  • Yellow is a Happy Color

    Kris, you are spot on in your word choice:

    (the CEOs, ie SGm) “are desparatly trying to hang on to their power”

    I think that is exactly what we are seeing, and I am afraid it will only get uglier!

  • SA

    Perhaps I’m wrong yet I don’t think Mickey, despite calling himself Reformed and/or Calvinist per SGM’s company line, knows or cares very much about what those systems of belief have to say about total depravity.

    People who are truly Calvinist and Reformed believe in the priesthood of all believers and that you have the right to read and interpret the Bible on your own in your native language. Arguably this was the whole point of the Protestant Reformation, as well.

    The concept of total depravity has never precluded questioning those in authority over you.

    Thus I don’t think that Mickey thought long and hard about the theological issues underlying his treatment of Brent Detwiler and the members of his church. He simply complied with a directive from at least one member of the SGM board to “shun” Brent Detwiler as a crude means of intimidating Joshua Harris and the rest of the CLC pastors by showing them, “this could happen to you too” following their strong criticisms of SGM at the CLC family meeting on Oct. 30.

    http://www.covlife.org/1030_members_mtg/


    Your pastors don’t think that our leadership in this time of crisis over the past four months is the real issue. We believe what has caused the crisis is deficiencies in the structure of Sovereign Grace, as well as deep-seated problems with the unaccountable and arbitrary ways its authority has operated.

    Two Main Issues

    We see two main issues that Sovereign Grace needs to address: First, deficiencies in the leadership structures of our family of churches, and second, the need for fair and objective evaluation of the many charges and criticisms being leveled against Sovereign Grace.

    1. Deficiencies in leadership structures…

    Presently, the board of Sovereign Grace is a self-appointed authority without constitutional accountability or checks and balances. And all authority within Sovereign Grace exists within this board.

    Member churches and pastors have no constitutional means of voting upon the membership of the board or of redress to the board’s decisions.

    This would be reasonable if Sovereign Grace were only a parachurch ministry that seeks to come alongside local churches for the purpose of producing music and literature, or for the purpose of furthering mission, but it is unreasonable if Sovereign Grace assumes authority over the leadership and policies of local churches.

    Therefore, in order for us to maintain genuine and mutual partnership, our desire is to work with Sovereign Grace to clarify its purpose, to increase its accountability and to establish appropriate, biblical boundaries in its relationship to Covenant Life and other local churches.

    2. Due process for the many charges and criticisms being leveled against SGM…

    We remain convinced that a comprehensive and impartial review of Sovereign Grace leadership would serve everyone well. Much has been said about proper due process. We think it is very important for all sides to have an opportunity to share their thoughts. We won’t make progress without working through grievances, and we want to see that done with integrity in an orderly manner. The Sovereign Grace board has set in place plans for a Group Reconciliation Process and the evaluation of Brent’s charges, and we’re looking forward to see how the they will act on what they learn.

    We are deeply grieved by any way in which CJ and his family have been slandered. However, to characterize everything that has been said about CJ as unproven or slanderous accusations or allegations is inaccurate. It is important to note that there have already been significant admissions and confessions from CJ about patterns of behavior and specific leadership decisions and sins that have been brought to light and witnessed by many. When someone confesses to something, it’s no longer an allegation. To be fair, CJ has said that he doesn’t agree with all of the charges that have been brought against him, but his public confessions indicate that he is aware of the truthfulness of some of them.

    Where an individual confesses his sins, there ought to be full and unreserved forgiveness. The Lord has forgiven us of so much, and we want to graciously extend forgiveness ourselves.

    But the issues we are facing as a church are not primarily about CJ and his sins. It would be a significant mistake to see this as dispute between Brent and CJ In fact, there are many other former leaders with grievances, as the need for group reconciliation reveals. Our concern is primarily about the organization and structures of Sovereign Grace, which we believe failed to guard the organization, its leadership as well as its membership from arriving at just such a crisis as this. We think that this controversy should lead to a thorough reexamination of all of Sovereign Grace’s leadership structures and ideas about biblical authority.

    We’re doing this kind of self-examination at Covenant Life, and we see hopeful signs that Sovereign Grace is recognizing that this season calls for similar examination on their part. They’ve told us they are committed to this process of evaluation, and we are watching to see it unfold.

  • Dan

    Hi SGMnot! #9,

    Don’t mind at all – have shared this before a while back when we were “SGM Uncensored”!

    They/he wanted me to;

    1. Move back from my flat to my parents house (also SGM members) despite the fact that I was in contract to my rented accommodation and to move out would have occured huge costs in breaking contract..
    2. Make a FULL confession to my father of my “sinful” behaviour/history (I had already shared with them that he was very homophobic and could not cope with hearing ANY detail of my life).
    3. VOW to attend every Sunday/care group (despite the fact that I was a nurse and required to work various shifts and could not do so).
    4. And one other – that I’ve forgotten!

    Hope that helps fill in!

  • Stunned

    Some of these SGM leaders are hysterical. I swear, you couldn’t write this stuff in abook of fiction because people would say it is too outrageous to be believable.

  • CHBC Member

    This is a good, thoughtful post. It’s interesting, but this is exactly what Mark Dever did. He told CHBC members what they ought to think about the situation and discouraged us from reading Brent’s documents because he said they would not be edifying.

  • griefofwisdom

    Agree with ‘5 years’ above, problem is with sheparding movement more than doctrine of indwelling sin. Regarding the effect of ‘total depravity’ on our thinking, it is taught in SGM that we need others to help us evaluate our motives, total depravity keeps us from accurately assessing it ourselves. I think though that it is taught we need others “in the local church” for that, thus the importance of the local church. I don’t remember it being taught that we need our pastors to do that for us.

    So while I think total depravity is used in SGM to teach that we cannot think for ourselves, it is generally not used to reinforce trusting those in authority. Maybe total depravity is being utilized though to reinforce the authoritarianism of SGM in this case, which derives from the shepparding movement. It is just a sick mix of a number of toxic ingredients.

  • Muckraker

    Kris: Your detailed breakdown makes so much sense. Their actions and statements as leaders reveal their actual operational belief system, including aspects that are not verbalized.

    Since they are expecting unquestioning trust, and since they are demanding that people suspend all logical thought in order to “believe the best” about their motives, it seems pretty clear that SGM pastors actually do not believe that they struggle with the same sinful tendencies as poor plain old ordinary SGM members do.

    I have been noticing shades and undertones of Roman Catholicism in their application or emphasis. CJ stated at the Pastor’s Conference that his first reason for taking a leave of absence was to “protect the office of President of the SGM”. That smacks of RCC doctrine. Why is the job of “President of the Board”, considered in his mind, a separate office, which foremost needs to have its reputation be “protected”?

    Is that concept normal is the corporate/business world? :scratch

    Do they think that pastors are immune (by their “office”) from the affects of depravity on their OWN minds and thoughts, and thereby are called to “think” on behalf of church members “under” them?

  • Oswald

    SA #13 — You said, “He simply complied with a directive from at least one member of the SGM board to “shun” Brent Detwiler as a crude means of intimidating Joshua Harris and the rest of the CLC pastors by showing them, ‘this could happen to you too’ following their strong criticisms of SGM at the CLC family meeting on Oct. 30″.
    This nails it for me. Everything that’s happened lately; the letter to pastors, MC words to CWCC, bookended around the pastors conf, were obviously the work of one strategic mind, geared to get the attention of the pastors to guide their thinking. Can we dare a guess who that strategist would be?

    He (MC) simply complied with a directive from at least one member of the SGM board to “shun” Brent Detwiler as a crude means of intimidating Joshua Harris and the rest of the CLC pastors by showing them, “this could happen to you too” following their strong criticisms of SGM at the CLC family meeting on Oct. 30.

  • sgmnot

    Dan #15 Sorry, I have only been reading/commenting for the past few months so I don’t know your story. Were you excommunicated because you didn’t follow their specific directives, as you outlined above, or because of some other unrepentant sin, such as living out a homosexual lifestyle? (Forgive me for being so direct, just wanted to be clear on what you meant.)

  • Friendly Observer

    This may well prove to be among the most important — if not THE most important — thread (and the discussion contained herein) since I have “joined” (i.e., followed) the flow.

    Along with Kris’ intro, we’ve had around a dozen or so entries (only), and yet some real dynamite has been put into play, blowing the lid off any further “hiding” except for the most stubborn and closed minds who might read here. It’s amazing how truth can take on a life and mind of its own.

    Here’s from Dan @#6 — and maybe the most “chilling” to me of all the data posted:

    “THEY on the other hand are pastors and so have the “mind of Christ” because (as Jeff Purswell said) they ‘stand in the very stead of God’.”

    Isn’t Mr. Purswell the resident theologian? This is pre-Reformation heresy (and post-Ref, of course), but the Bible coming in the language of the people and the clear Anabaptist and post-Reformation doctrine of every believer priesthood should have precluded someone like Purswell from sayng such a thing even under torture. The purswell statement makes a special priesthood out of pastors and other “clergy.” I am actually stunned over this disclosure that he ever could have uttered those words.

    Then, “5years in PDI” @#11, wrote this:

    “Mickey is just doing his job- being God. He is God’s delgated authority telling the sheep what to do.” And this, not to toot a horn of my own, reflects my own thought in #5:

    ” … Mickey (I believe — and I do not know the gentleman) is doing and saying merely what he has been trained and commissioned to do and say. … He could not do otherwise and be true to what he believes he is called to do. It is his job, and he wants to be faithful.”

    And 5years and I don’t know each other and have never privately communicated. It is simply truth emerging, inexorably, and the result may not be healing for the aggrieved, but it might result in eyes being opened and freedom for those still in such severe, cultish bondage.

    Doctrine, therefore — whether of sin or of sanctification — doesn’t matter one whit. It is the power of the (special) priesthood that counts. Speaking with apparent infallibility. Mickey is. at this point, merely a cog in the machinery, part of a gear box (no offense intended) to keep the SGM “family” (Machine!) moving forward.

    Brent can never be reconciled. Whether flawed or virtuous, he has committed the unpardonable sin, namely, questioning the Authority and taking a diverse position.

  • 5years and “griefofwisdom” –

    I should have made this more clear in my post, but I do NOT believe that SGM’s ideas about total depravity represent the way the doctrine is viewed within traditionally Reformed and Calvinist circles.

    I think SGM has twisted the doctrine of total depravity to mean that members’ hearts are forever and always utterly deceitful, desperately wicked, and unknowable (a la Jeremiah 17:9).

    SGM pastors tacitly demand blind trust and unquestioning obedience. (After all, what was it that Mickey Connolly was asking from his members, if not that? Under no other circumstances would any normal person suspend all logic and not investigate all the literature out there on a topic like CJ’s and SGM’s issues, just because the very leaders the literature discusses are asking them not to. Under any other circumstance, such a command to “Trust me!” would be regarded as blind trust. Likewise the command to “Obey me!”) SGM pastors believe that if people question their motives and have a desire to examine the available materials for themselves, the people are in sin. They are entertaining “gossip” and “slander.” Anything that reflects negatively upon SGM pastors and the SGM organization is by default “gossip” and “slander.”

    So I think it’s obvious that SGM leaders must not believe in the desperate wickedness and unknowability of their own hearts in the same way that they believe in the depravity of their members’ hearts. Otherwise they could not in good conscience stand up in front of their members and demand that the members trust them blindly. They would acknowledge that the definite possibility exists that perhaps they are presently sinfully motivated…that perhaps they are guilty of at least some of the accusations…and they would freely welcome their members to examine all the charges and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, decide for themselves what to think.

    SGM leaders have sliced off a tiny corner of the traditionally Reformed view of the doctrine of total depravity – the tiny corner that would cast suspicion, always, on the post-conversion, post-indwelt-by-the-Holy-Spirit hearts and motives of ordinary non-pastoral members only.

    The leaders themselves, however, float above this cloud of suspicion.

  • Bridget

    Dan –

    Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry if the ways of SGM affected your walk with Jesus adversely. I hope not. Jesus has a better way, as most of us know. I was curious about the comment in your post attributed to Jeff Purswell. Is “they stand in the very stead of God” in his teachings to PC students somewhere? :scratch

  • Muckraker

    Friendly O. #22: I concur.

    Here’s from Dan @#6 — and maybe the most “chilling” to me of all the data posted:
    “THEY on the other hand are pastors and so have the “mind of Christ” because (as Jeff Purswell said) they ‘stand in the very stead of God’.”

    This gave me chills, as well. These actions and words are revealing aspects of their doctrine which is faulty. We all need to guard our doctrine. We all need to continually seek the truth IN SCRIPTURE, and re-adjust our thinking when necessary.

  • A Kindred Spirit

    November 22 marks the 4 year anniversary of this blog. Take a look at the titles of some of the first posts back in 2007…

    “SGM/PDI – part of the shepherding movement?”

    “Is Sovereign Grace Ministries “Charismatic”?”

    “Courtship and the Gospel”

    “Gossip and Double-Speak”

    “Anonymity…”

    “What makes a cult?”

    “What C.J. Mahaney Teaches About Submission And Obedience Within The Church”

  • Wasabi

    SGM’s obsession with total depravity, even after receiving Christ, is one of the main reasons I pulled my family out of this denomination. Scripture certainly supports Christians’ fight against the sinful nature (Jer 17:9, Rom 7:24), but overemphasis and reinforcement of this concept by SGM then establishes a doctrine that minimizes the role of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. How many times have you heard SGM pastors state that attempting to know your own heart/motives is analogous to looking at yourself through a carnival mirror? This belief is entirely appropriate when balanced against our new creation (2 Cor 5:27), but overemphasizing it to the extent SGM does negates the regeneration we experience as believers: we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16) and we have the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and guides us in truth (John 16).

    I once questioned the pastoral staff on the logical conclusion of this “carnival mirror” doctrine and was told “Wasabi, whenever you think you’re right, you are actually wrong”. But doesn’t that mean we are all floundering without guidance if everyone is wrong? No, I was told, that’s where the counsel of the pastoral staff is critical to my daily walk. I actually had a pastor tell me that he prefers to have the senior pastor make decisions for him (e.g. regarding his own personal finances), because he doesn’t trust his own heart. I kid you not.

    IMO this is why “sin sniffing” is so prevalent in SGM, and especially in Brent’s documents. Brent’s pit bull obsession with CJ’s sin is consistent with this indoctrination – where the role of the Holy Spirit has been relegated to the pastoral staff.

  • SA

    Thanks, Oswald. Guessing is fine yet one could also simply ask the Crossway pastors, “Did you come up with idea to ‘shun’ Brent Detwiler shortly after Joshua Harris publicly threatened to cut off funding to SGM or were you acting on someone else’s orders?”

    It seems as though the Crossway Members have a right to know the answer to that question especially as the SGM board has not repudiated or even commented on the actions of their pastors.

  • Someone with more time than I have right now ought to do some digging about the “stand in the very stead of God” line. If memory serves, Protestant Knight wrote some very good analysis of this line, wherein he documents who first said it and so forth.

    I seem to recall, also, that after PK’s analysis was floating around out there for awhile and more SGMers were questioning their pastors about this twisted teaching, Jeff Purswell (I think it was Purswell) put out a “What I Really Meant” post, where he tried explain that he wasn’t actually saying what he’d so clearly been trying to imply.

    But – my memory isn’t always perfect, so I’m hoping that someone who either has the time to do the research or else remembers more accurately than I do will provide links and correct my inaccuracies.

  • El Pastor

    Kris, I think your analogy to the corporate world is very illuminating, like opening the blinds in a very dark room and letting the sunshine in. One of your best!

    I also think 5Years and Friendly Observer are spot on, too.

    I was doing some casual reading in a book on the church last night, and came upon this quote. I think it is very appropriate, and it’s clear which error SGM has fallen into. If only they could see it.

    In evangelical circles today we are witnessing the abuse of ecclesiastical authority in two directions. There is, on the one hand, an abdication of church authority by some. Confronted with the individualistic, anti-law spirit of our time, cowardly church officers refuse to exercise biblical oversight entrusted to them by Christ. In many churches, authoritative preaching and corrective discipline are conspicuously absent.

    Equally dangerous, however, is the tendency by others to overreact against such laxity. Church leaders lose sight of the fine line between the virtue of biblical counsel and guidance and the vice of usurping control over the conscience. Wise pastors recognize that parishioners who emerge from the social, moral, and domestic of modern society need order and structure in their lives. In view of the Christian’s struggle with uncertainty and confusion of life in a post-Christian environment, watchful shepherds of God’s flock see the need for firm direction and predictability. Yet in grappling with these challenges, godly overseers can blur in the minds of their followers the distinction between God’s word and man’s word and unwittingly shift the standard of God’s will from the Bible to human pronouncements. Counsel becomes control, control becomes coercion, and coercion becomes tyranny over the conscience. Christian freedom is eroded as lay people become more and more enamored with the decrees of elders and the commandments of men. It all has the appearance of wisdom, but it represents a slippery path into slavery.”

  • Ozymandias

    Kris #23 said:

    SGM leaders have sliced off a tiny corner of the traditionally Reformed view of the doctrine of total depravity – the tiny corner that would cast suspicion, always, on the post-conversion, post-indwelt-by-the-Holy-Spirit hearts and motives of ordinary non-pastoral members only.

    The leaders themselves, however, float above this cloud of suspicion.

    I would only add that, given the amount of linguistic kabuki that one sees in the back-and-forth emails provided in Brent’s materials (especially in everyone’s salutations and conclusions), I wonder if many of the leaders felt like they just might not be completely outside that cloud. Or at least wanted to signal that they understood the cloud existed, and wanted to make sure that they weren’t put into the same category.

  • Wasabi wrote,

    I once questioned the pastoral staff on the logical conclusion of this “carnival mirror” doctrine and was told “Wasabi, whenever you think you’re right, you are actually wrong”. But doesn’t that mean we are all floundering without guidance if everyone is wrong? No, I was told, that’s where the counsel of the pastoral staff is critical to my daily walk. I actually had a pastor tell me that he prefers to have the senior pastor make decisions for him (e.g. regarding his own personal finances), because he doesn’t trust his own heart. I kid you not.

    IMO this is why “sin sniffing” is so prevalent in SGM, and especially in Brent’s documents. Brent’s pit bull obsession with CJ’s sin is consistent with this indoctrination – where the role of the Holy Spirit has been relegated to the pastoral staff.

    It is this set of beliefs and practices, coupled with SGM’s pyramid-shaped polity structure (that has ever-narrowing spheres of accountability, the farther up toward the top one moves, until you’re CJ with nobody who can truly confront you on your sins) that has led to the vast majority of abuses.

    The assumption that pastors have a clearer view of their people’s sin than do the people themselves is woven throughout much of what SGM has taught over the years. Read CJ’s Dearest [Happiest] Place On Earth sermon transcript from 2009. He pretty much says this in so many words – that where we are blind to our own sin, our pastors will see it clearly for us.

    This is the main source of SGM’s crazy-making. If you can grasp the mentality, everything falls into place. Brent’s documents and his seeming obsession with getting CJ to confess his sins (as Brent assesses them) makes perfect sense. This is why I’ve said all along that even though Brent was for years a main contributor to the issues, I now have a lot of admiration for the fact that at least the guy was consistent with what he was taught and with what he believes/believed. The bottom line is that if CJ is going to create and sustain a system based upon the premise of pastors playing the role of the Holy Spirit, he’d better have some sort of built-in version of the “pastoral Holy Spirit” for himself, so that someone can see his own sins clearly for him.

  • For the record, the consensus among Brent D, Jim from Refuge, Steve S and his wife, and I is that Mickey Connolly did indeed quickly mumble the controversial modifier “if.”

    So basically, Mickey tells people they must obey him and not read any of Brent’s materials, not on blogs or on Facebook. [If] that means unfriending Brent to avoid temptation, then you have to unfriend him.

    I still say what I’ve said all along, that the “if” hardly matters. Mr. Connolly still commanded his congregation to put blind trust in him and forbade them from reading blogs and Brent’s documents. The implication of what CrossWay folks were being told they ought to do was quite clear, with or without the “if.”

    But Mickey slipped us a Mickey and gave a quick “if.” :D

    Whatevs, peeps. Those of you who want to be good little CrossWayites still know what you need to do.

  • BB

    @ Friendly Observer. http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/blogs/cj-mahaney/post/the-preacher-standing-in-the-stead-of-god.aspx This is the article from CJ’s blog referring to “standing in the stead” It also says, that preachers are in the same succession as Moses, the apostles and prophets. Wouldn’t that imply their words have the same weight as scripture???? For me this was the last straw. We discovered this before things “broke” over the summer. Glad to be out.

  • Here is the direct quote from CJ’s Dearest [Happiest] Place On Earth sermon:

    Why you need godly pastors to watch over your soul. Number one, the continued – the continued presence and influence of remaining sin. The continued presence and influence of remaining sin. Sin is subtle, sin is active, and sin is present. And so we read in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1, “Let us lay aside every weight AND SIN which clings so closely.”

    Second, the deceitfulness of sin. Not just the presence of sin, not just the influence of sin, but the deceitfulness of sin. So we read in Hebrews chapter 3 verse 13, “Exhort one another every day as long as it is today that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” We need good and godly pastors to watch over our souls because we are vulnerable on a daily basis to the deceitfulness of sin, the hardening effect of sin upon our souls. So sin is deceptive. That’s the DNA of sin, the DNA of sin is deception, therefore we need the discerning and caring eyes of pastors and others because so – so often I’M BLIND TO WHAT IS OBVIOUS TO THEM.

    Here’s a semi-new thought (one I don’t remember having before) – in this teaching about the pastor’s superior sin-sniffing abilities, there’s no acknowledgement of the FACT that sometimes a pastor’s judgment could easily be clouded by selfish motivations that would drive him to believe the other person was in the wrong, was the sinful one.

    How many times have we heard stories of SGM situations that did not end well for members because members butted heads with their pastors over the pastors’ assessments of the members’ sins? (Dan just shared one such example in his #15.) Always, the assumption was that if a pastor sees sin and has ideas about how the member should deal with the perceived sin, the pastor simply has to be right – regardless of the possibility that a pastor’s own deceitful heart could be clouding the pastor’s perceptions and assessments.

    THIS is why I believe SGM pastors do not really and truly believe they have the same totally depraved hearts that their members have.

  • “This is a good, thoughtful post. It’s interesting, but this is exactly what Mark Dever did. He told CHBC members what they ought to think about the situation and discouraged us from reading Brent’s documents because he said they would not be edifying.”

    Maybe this explains why Mahaney changed churches. Mahaney wanted to be at a church where the pastor specifically told the members to not read the documents while Josh almost encouraged members (at least head of households) to read the documents. CJ doesn’t like his sin being pointed out so he finds another place to go where people are encouraged to ignore his sin.

  • Liberty

    I’m signed up for a daily devotional that comes to my email.

    A portion of today’s verses:

    Acts 3:22-26 —

    “For Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.”

    Maybe Mickey and company are just confused on how to study scripture in context and thought that this was applicable to them :wink:

    This would be laughable if it weren’t all so sad. Isn’t there a scripture that talks about grieving the Holy Spirit?

    I cannot even imagine, if my human heart is grieved over all of this, how much MORESO the Holy Spirit is.

    :(

  • Rejected

    We have a much clearer picture now of why our family was never really accepted by our SGM church. We cannot and would never avoid someone because a pastor- SGM or otherwise- told us to. We used to wonder why we weren’t accepted but over the past few months we have seen the big picture.

    We can see that if you don’t do exactly what they want, including avoiding the “undesireables”, you are dismissed and seen as devisive and may tarnish their reputation by being known to associate with you.

    We are not angry about this but pray that God touch the hearts of each and every member and pastor to see that this is not Christ’s way. We all need to be praying for the hearts of these people caught up in this entangling mess.

  • Kris

    Interesting quote from Mahaney’s “Happiest Place” sermon. It is too bad that Mahaney apparently didn’t listen to his own advice when he said “We need good and godly pastors to watch over our souls because we are vulnerable on a daily basis to the deceitfulness of sin, the hardening effect of sin upon our souls. So sin is deceptive. That’s the DNA of sin, the DNA of sin is deception, therefore we need the discerning and caring eyes of pastors and others because so – so often I’M BLIND TO WHAT IS OBVIOUS TO THEM.”

    If you listened to what Mahaney said at the recent SGM Pastors’ conference it sure looks like that is what is happening to him such as the “hardening affect of sin” and it being “deceptive.”

  • Defender

    Wasabi #27;
    I think you touched on a key issue.

    In our (Defended & Myself) story, the roll of the Holy Spirit was challenged on a number of levels.
    We were told by Steve Shank that “We were too dependent on the Holy Spirit.”
    Keith Jacob said “our over dependence on the Holy Spirit was preventing us from sanctification.” and stated at one point that it was unfortunate that he (Keith Jacob) was not the Holy Sprit or we would be more sanctified. Keith Jacob’s words were “Regretfully, I’m not the Holy Spirit.” He said that, intending to be sarcastic.

    It has been discussed here over the years, that C.J. and other SGM leaders have “Dis-invited” the Holy Spirit in SGM life and activities.
    In their words and actions, they keep proving that they have not only erred or strayed, but are running and barricading against God in their little self made kingdom.

    When the Holy Spirit is blasphemed, God no longer lives in them. Satan is their father. God is not their father.

    It is a hard thing to say, but just how much evidence do we need to see, before it is clearly and universally understood that these SGM leaders are not in the same Kingdom as are we?

    I take no pleasure in saying this, but the evidence is there for all to see.

  • Sick With Worry

    OK – I am ready to be blasted for this, but I can take it. :( This is a little different perspective here.

    I see two sides of the “blogs are unhealthy” debate. I will try to explain.

    It is certainly unhealthy for the organization and the morale of the “followers” to read a constant barrage of data that casts doubt on the leaders’ ability to lead. If that is what Mickey, Dave H and Mark Dever said, I do not disagree. If I was running a company and being subjected to a detailed public critique of every move, and every word that came from my mouth was questioned, I can see myself telling employees, “Look, we have our detractors, but you need to trust me. If you cannot trust me, please look for another place to work, because you are making this more difficult than it needs to be”.

    I think the issue with SGM, is that they actually (indirectly) created the documents, and the blogs, and have made them more and more popular. It is SGM themselves that keep feeding this monster, because of their own lack of communication and openness. I just cannot figure out why, when the blogs first popped up, these men could not remedy these issues, make restitution, and fix these issues behind closed doors. While the sins of some of the leaders are great, none of these issues are so complicated that they could not have been addressed years ago.

    Have any of you guys in SGM leadership wondered why the “anti-John Piper blog” never grew? How about the “Charles Swindoll Survivors” site, or “Tim Keller refuge”? Even with all the criticism the liberal churches get, like Joel Osteen’s, I do not think it has risen to this level. Why? It is because with all the criticism others receive, they are down-to-earth regular guys and for the most part they are not misrepresenting themselves. If my memory serves me correctly, even the Machen versus the liberals debate at Princeton was pretty much an open debate – none of these men were disguising themselves or hiding anything.

    So, from Mark Dever’s perspective, no, the blogs are not edifying. But, I am surprised that he thinks that it can be reduced to that. This has moved far beyond telling people “do not read the blogs and Brent is a bad guy”. If you need to tell your people that, then you have not lead them in the first place. I think someone else mentioned this too.

    I am a little disappointed in Mark Dever, if this is all true. I know him as an advocate for elder rule, but he also espouses a lot of congregational accountability with good training from within and a good track record of installing lay elders. I do not know him, only what I have read and heard from him. In the back of my mind I have been wondering if Mark Dever will pull the trigger and give CJ a good talking to. I am still hoping that the Lord will use some of CJ’s friends to talk some sense into him.

    BTW – I think the strategy at Mickey’s church is this. They realize that the people reading the blogs will not stop. And the people that do not trust leadership probably never will. The longer those people stick around, the more likely they are to influence others. What Mickey is trying to do is split the church down that line now, before the line moves. This will allow him to cut his losses quickly and “re-launch” with a clearly defined team of supporters. If all that I read here is true, Mickey is not the kind of leader I would want as a pastor. It does not appear he has a shepherd’s heart at all. Nonetheless, if I was consulting for him and did not have an opinion about his behavior as a pastor, I would advise him to do exactly what he did in that meeting. It is simply the way that organizations work.

    OK….. one clarification, I do not think I could ever mention “de-friending” someone in a business meeting, for fear of looking like a sour 12 year-old girl. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • Blues0080

    i was hopeful that cj and sgm would embrace god’s correction and let the spirit of god move and bring about change…but it is so eveident that the sgm leadership hearts have been hardened and sgm has officially “jumped the shark”. with cj’s pronouncement that the inquisition has begun against those that question his/sgm’s autority/polity and the mickey connoly marking of brent, they have reached the point where we’re at the beginning of the end….so sad…

    for those of you unfamiliar with “jump the shark”…it’s a phrase used to describe a tv show that goes off of its original premise and begins it’s inevitable slide towards canciliation….more specifically, it refers to a happy days episode where fonzie did a waterskiing jump over a shark ….

    :trainwreck

  • Guy

    sick with worry…

    great comment. i’m going into a C-level meeting in a few minutes and will make it a point to tell a couple of them that I’m de-friending them from fb…just to see what the reaction is

  • equus asinus

    From what I’ve personally experienced (I’m a recently departed Ashburnian), I find that SGM pastors consider themselves to be just as likely to sin as any other Christian. I think that they would expect that the average member would still want to follow them because they have the specific role, given by the Holy Spirit, of leading and oversight within the body. That’s all pretty reasonable, assuming you accept this particular church model.

    Where this breaks down, though, is that a pastor is not any other Christian. A pastor is a Christian for whom additional standards apply. When a pastor sins, shouldn’t we ask the question: “has this sin changed this Christian’s status as a pastor”? Now that people are voicing these kinds of questions, SGM as a whole does not seem to be answering them, or not answering them very well. I most certainly classify “marking” the questioner as “not answering very well”!

    So, Kris, I think that the disconnect does not reside in the doctrine of depravity, but rather in the inflated understanding of the role of a pastor. SGM pastors, for some reason, have a hard time seeing their flaws in light of their role. Their sins seem to apply to them as Christians, but not so much as pastors. 71, 71, 71.

  • Jayson

    #42 “If all that I read here is true, Mickey is not the kind of leader I would want as a pastor”

    Sadly, Mickey was the pastor we had for some years at SRC, before he moved to CW. Hi Mickey if you are reading this blog. I can say, Mickey is definitely of the shepherding mindset and worse. One guy was not as athletic as Mic wanted, so Mic referred to him, behind his back, as a panzy.

  • “Sick With Worry” said,

    I just cannot figure out why, when the blogs first popped up, these men could not remedy these issues, make restitution, and fix these issues behind closed doors. While the sins of some of the leaders are great, none of these issues are so complicated that they could not have been addressed years ago.

    I think SGM leaders were unable to address and fix these issues for two different reasons that are actually two prongs of the same reason.

    First, contrary to what some may think, the problems actually ARE pretty complicated. The abuses HAVE BEEN pretty bad, and they ARE systemic. The whole way that SGM is structured and has grown is (dare I say it?) rotten to the core. In order for the problems to actually be fixed, to where there’s no danger of similar stuff happening again, SGM leaders would have to surrender their authority, and they would have to dismantle and reconstruct the government of their churches. That would take away their power.

    A lot of these pastors genuinely believe that their absolute unchecked authority as pastors is “biblical.” They’ve been taught that, and until fairly recently, this structure seemed to be working without too many major flare-ups. So many are reluctant to change what they think is the “right” way to do things.

    Then, a lot of the pastors – let’s be honest – are reluctant to relinquish this kind of authority. The power trips are kinda fun…kinda ego-boosting…and for at least some of the guys, are one of the main reasons the SGM pastor job appealed to them in the first place. It feels good to be an officially recognized Humble Authority with higher-level sin-sniffing capabilities. I think a lot of these guys would lose what has provided a key piece of their identities as believers, if they were to move to share their governing power with some form of congregationally representative governing board of elders (or some such).

    Interwoven with this first point is the second part of the reason why the problems weren’t addressed when they first started being made public. And that is this: without changing the whole system, trying to make one issue disappear (i.e. “solving it behind closed doors“) would be like playing the game Whack-a-Mole. Try to stuff too many secrets down, and they’re going to keep popping up. A “behind closed doors” approach would never have worked…because it is an inappropriate way to address widespread and systemic issues.

    Mixed in with all of this is the sad reality that for many of SGM’s leaders, the SGM entity itself – “the Movement” – has gotten all tangled up in their thinking with the gospel of Jesus. SGM leaders have been extremely reluctant to do anything at all that would indicate that SGM has made mistakes and that SGM’s leaders have gotten it wrong occasionally. Because of how tangled up their ideas about “the gospel” and “the [SGM] Movement” are, SGM leaders seem to labor under the delusion that if they admit a flaw or fault in SGM, the gospel will somehow be dishonored.

    (If you doubt that SGM has confused promoting SGM with promoting the gospel of Jesus, just think for a moment about how SGM has historically thought of its church-planting efforts as synonymous with missions work. Where have most SGM churches been planted? Right down the street or across the road from lots of other decent Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming churches. So SGM simply has to be about something more than just a church that proclaims the gospel. Spreading the gospel to these guys has been about spreading the specific SGM way of handling the gospel and looking at the gospel and working out the sanctification process, through all of SGM’s many systems.)

    So you have these guys who are reluctant to share their own power. Couple that with what they’ve been taught about the rightness and superiority of the SGM way of doing church. Mix in the fact that promoting SGM has been confused with promoting Jesus. Add the fact that these guys see revealing SGM’s mistakes and flaws openly as somehow “threatening the gospel.” And what do you have?

    A system on your hands that will do almost anything other than openly talk about problems.

    I could add to this mix the fact, too, that SGM leaders have heavily imbibed the notion that anything that is not directly flattering to SGM or SGM’s leaders is “gossip” and “slander.” And we’ve seen what happens to those who are labeled “divisive.”

    Is it any wonder that nobody would – or even could – do anything to solve SGM’s problems?

  • Oswald

    Jayson #46 — You said “One guy was not as athletic as Mic wanted, so Mic referred to him, behind his back, as a panzy.” Isn’t this CJ’s attitude in the same situation? The leader leads.

  • Dan

    Thanks sgmnot and Bridget :)

    No worries at all – very aware that some may be not aware!

    And definitely don’t mind directness – in fact like it!

    No, I have struggled with same-sex attraction since I was sexually abused at school. I have slipped and sinned a couple of times, but during my time in SGM I was attempting to live a celibate and godly life and because of that struggle got very depressed and down because I felt I was making no progress or seeing no victory.

    The senior pastor stated he believed I was living a “sinful life” with a dear friend of mine who was more like a brother to me. I asked if he had proof and he said no – it was “just a feeling”. Reminded me of Mark Driscoll’s “TV on abuse” story?!

    So the whole excommunication was based on his “feelings”.

  • Persona

    “Thank you, Kris — your CEO/corporation analysis is world class, provocative, meaningful, fitting, applicable, and (in my judgment as something of a historian) very important and germane to the discussion.” Amen!

    I also agree with equus asinus # 45 that SGM has a faulty doctrine of the role of the pastor. This becomes abundantly clear whenever you have a disagreement with them.

    Over the years we have clashed horns with several sgm pastors, including one senior pastor. In each case, as soon as they get you to confess any sin, they immediately take over the case by saying you can no longer think clearly because you have been caught in sin and are ‘blind’.

    In practice, they disqualify members from any more ‘thinking’ or disagreeing with them. It’s a maddeningly effective control technique.

    They can also get ‘caught in sin’ themselves but, in the main, members did not often confront pastors about their sins.

    I notice that CJ is not following this practice as he seems to be thinking and rejecting a lot of sin that he is been accused of. I wonder if the top dog in the organization has immunity?

    I am also thinking that Crossway might be a test case for CJ. He may be planning to ask all his churches to make suggestions similar to the ones Mickey made about avoiding reading blogs and Brent’s docs. I’m sure CJ wishes Joshua had done this at CLC.