The Authority Of Leaders

A couple of days ago, a reader (“Local Church Fan”) posted a comment that discussed the need to trust our God-ordained leaders and know that if they are men of integrity, and God is indeed sovereign, we don’t need to concern ourselves with their decisions.

LCF’s comment provoked a considerable amount of discussion, as you might imagine.  One of the things it brought to my mind is a question I’ve had for as long as I’ve understood the way that Sovereign Grace Ministries operates, and what Sovereign Grace Ministries believes and teaches about the authority of its leaders and pastors.  And that question is this:

How do we know a particular leader (or group of leaders) is God’s ordained authority over us?

Or, to put it another way,

Where does a leader’s authority come from?

As I thought about this yesterday, I wrote the following comment.  It’s not very well-organized, but I was thinking it might be interesting for discussion purposes.  Here it is:


You know, the whole “Trust God by trusting your leaders” admonition is worthy of more analysis.

The truth is that ultimately, in the modern Western world that we live in, we are the ones tasked with choosing our own leaders. Unless one is Roman Catholic, it’s not like “the church” is this monolithic entity ordained by God from the time of our birth until our death. The reality is that in our mobile society, there are all sorts of situations that require us to go out and select a new church from a myriad of Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming options that are all “doing church right” to one degree or another.  (Unless, of course, we harbor a secret belief that our own particular church is the only one that gets it exactly right.  But that sort of belief would reveal an exclusionary, cultic mindset, so let’s assume that nobody secretly feels that way.)

We can look to the Bible to show us some basic principles. But Christians in the Bible were Christians in a different era, when there weren’t a dozen (or a hundred, or a thousand) choices. It’s different now. The Apostle Paul did not show up in my city (or yours) and evangelize and start a church…which is then THE church, the only option.

When you get right down to it, YOU make the choice about where you place your membership. And, contrary to how Josh Harris would like to portray things (in his Stop Dating The Church book), becoming a member of a particular church is NOT on par with getting married. There’s nothing in the Bible that portrays church membership as it exists today, in our 21st-century world, as a lifelong commitment akin to the marriage commitment, where we are somehow commanded to stick around “in sickness and in health,” through dysfunction or abuse.

Sure, there are those who believe that “God called them” to one church or another. But that’s highly subjective. People sense all the time that “God is calling them” to all sorts of things, and sometimes their “sensors” are not accurate – sometimes it’s NOT God. And of course, if you put enough stock into your sensors that you feel comfortable saying “God called” you to a particular church, you are almost forced to acknowledge that there can be occasions where God might be calling you somewhere else.

So ultimately, what church we end up in still boils down to subjectivity and personal preferences…AND, we have to say that there is nothing in the Bible that would demand that we remain at a church no matter what the leaders do and no matter what course the church takes.

(I mean, I think even CJ Mahaney himself would have to agree with that statement. Otherwise, he would have been in sin for leaving his Roman Catholic upbringing to start his own thing…and the entire premise of what eventually became SGM would be wrong.  And, he’d be wrong now for running away from Covenant Life Church and joining up with Capitol Hill Baptist during his “season of reflection.”)

So, after certain doctrinal considerations, our church commitment is one that we control. We are in charge of where we park our loyalties. And there are no direct instructions in the Bible that demand that we remain loyal to a particular church no matter what happens or what the church’s leaders do.

Connected with this, of course, is the question of where pastors – particularly SGM pastors, since the SGM system provides no formal accountability to the congregation – obtain THEIR authority. Within SGM, although it’s not discussed in so many words, the assumption has been that authority is conferred upon pastors by other pastors above them in the leadership pyramid. This leadership pyramid goes all the way up to where CJ resides at the top.

I think a lot of SGMers assumed, without actually thinking about it in so many words, that CJ’s authority was bestowed upon him by God Himself through the Charismatic/Pentecostal concept of “anointing,” which works out to mean something like the guy was a dynamic speaker whom people wanted to follow…a guy who made them feel like he was God’s ordained leader over them.

So in SGM, you have these guys who expect to be regarded and trusted as God’s ordained authorities…but the reality is that their authority was ultimately bestowed upon them by a man who pretty much ordained himself, through his ability to attract followers…which in the end hinged upon decisions made by his followers.

I don’t feel like I’m laying this out as clearly and as logically as I’d like to, but what I’m trying to get at is that the admonition to “Trust your leaders, and thus demonstrate your trust in God” doesn’t actually have any real traction, because the reality is that anyone can be your leader, if YOU decide he is.

That’s how CJ obtained his authority and then went on to hand out authority to those whom he and his underlings believed should have it.

Additionally, your own obligation to SGM is NOT actually the same as your obligation to your husband or wife. The Bible never says that church membership is on par with the marriage relationship. To get to that place, one has to do a great deal of extrapolation.

So, it’s pretty weak to abdicate one’s responsibility to exercise discernment and ask questions of one’s leaders. One’s leaders are only one’s leaders because one has chosen them and one continues to choose to remain in that relationship with them.

One could just as easily take one’s church membership elsewhere…and not necessarily be out of God’s will or be sinning. There’s nothing actually keeping or holding you to a place or to a group of leaders, if those leaders are not proving worthy of your trust.

In the end, the responsibility of who (and what) your leaders are is – YOURS.


A little later, I added the following:

And, what’s so fascinating to me in all of this is that the concept of the priesthood of all believers, and the notion that ordinary members have the right and the responsiblity to discern truth for themselves and have a say in what their leaders do – well, that’s one of the foundational principles of the Reformation.

Isn’t it crazy that the guys who claim to be Reformed are now wanting to take on the very kind of unquestioned, unquestionable authority that the actual Reformers rejected?


  1. Steve240 says:

    know that if they are men of integrity, and God is indeed sovereign, we don’t need to concern ourselves with their decisions.

    Well to me and a lot other people it has become quite obvious that these men aren’t men of integrity. For a supposed Christian group to tolerate a man who blackmailed their group’s cofounder and then stood up one Sunday morning and lied (real slander) about the circumstances shows to me the men lack any sense of integrity.

    It is a lot easier to believe other stories about this group. It was once posted that CJ covered up some sin of his son while other students at CLC were punished. It was somewhat hearsay though certain circumstances like Mahaney’s boy attending school away from CLC for a year seem to support the allegation. Now Mahaney’s actions have come out and how SGM Leaders have chosen to “whitewash” it I have no doubt that Mahaney and other leaders would conspire to cover his son’s sin. If Mahaney lacked the integrity to blackmail Larry and lacked the integrity to stand up and tell lies about the circumstances of Larry Tomczak’s departure than what makes you think he wouldn’t cover up his son’s sin?

    For that matter, it is now much easier to believe that these leaders have done other acts that lack integrity when they didn’t address and do the right thing for something so obvious. What other actions that lack integrity have SGM Leaders done that haven’t come out yet?

  2. Kris says:

    Like I said in my post, the question of where authority comes from has been on my mind a lot over the past 4 years. I wrote the following comment some time ago, but I think it lays out the question pretty well:

    I remember when this topic of authority has come up before. The thing is, I get it. I can even pretty much buy into the idea that God wants us to submit to our God-given authorities.

    My question has always, been, though – how do we know that a particular pastor is our God-given authority?

    How do we know that a particular church becomes God’s authority for us?

    I’m not trying to be snarky or sarcastic when I ask this. I’m really curious to understand how people who subscribe to more extreme ideas (about pastoral authority, and about “marrying” a certain church and remaining with that church no matter what, as though to separate from one’s chosen church somehow is akin to divorce) arrive at the place where they can say with total confidence, “THIS church is God’s authority for me.”

    Is it simply a matter of, “This is where I’ve ended up, so this church is God’s authority for me”?

    I mean, anyone but the most diehard SGM loyalist would say that there are (at least in theory) other good Bible-believing gospel-proclaiming churches out there. So how does someone get to the place of deciding that a particular SGM church is the place where God wants him to submit and obey?

    Is it based on happenstance, as I mentioned already? Or is it based upon some sort of spiritualized “sense,” as in, “I am convinced in my heart that this is where God wants me”?

    (How can you know your heart anyway, and why would you trust your heart, since your own church organization is constantly calling your heart evil and sinful and completely untrustworthy?)

    See, I think the more rigid teachings about church authority (like Bill Gothard’s ideas) present a real problem, in that there is just no way we can say with any certainty that one particular church’s leaders have the right to that much authority over us. A church is not like the parent-child relationship, where we are born into a particular family. A church isn’t even like the marital relationship (even if someone writes a book called Stop Dating The Church). There is NOTHING in scripture that would indicate that if we commit ourselves to one particular church denomination, we must remain committed to that church denomination no matter what. There is NOTHING in scripture that would indicate that leaving a particular church denomination is viewed by God in the same serious and negative light as divorce.

    Ultimately, if we cannot trace apostolic succession (which none of us Protestants can), then whatever authority a church does hold over us is there because we have CHOSEN to GIVE that church the authority.

    Unless, of course, we believe that our particular type of church is truly the only one that “gets it right.”

  3. Steve240 says:

    I know I won’t directly answering your question on authority but one thing I have noticed with all scripture that I have read on biblical “authority” is that it is always in the plural. It always says leaders (plural) vs. leader (singular). With this being the case one would think that it was God intention that what authority is established wouldn’t be just one man such as a pope or the top leadership positions SGM typically has at their local churches and for SGM. The authority should be shared with not one person being able to make the final ruling.

    Thus biblically I would question any type of authority where there is a call to submit to your leader. Leaders (plural) yes but not a singular leader. Could an authority really be established by God when it is a singular authority when God always talks in plurality?

    Just a thought.

  4. ExClcer'sMom says:

    Recently, a parent related a situation to me that occurred between them and their teenage daughter: The mother admittedly took what began as a somewhat normal situation, and let it degenerate to something so childish the she blushed as she related the story to me. The point that she was getting to, however, was the shock she experienced when, in an unreasonable “authoritarian-type move” , she told her daughter to go to bed (way before her normal bedtime), and the daughter refused! But, what I pointed out to this mother was that she should actually be glad to see that, because it was an example that her daughter (who was 14) was able to display some level of critical thinking. The Mother “left the norm”, becoming unreasonably childish and untrustworthy in her responses to the daughter, so the daughter refused to “blindly obey” something that was not the norm! Okay, I am NOT condoning children standing up to their parents, per se, but, unfortunately, there ARE some instances where it would be best for the child to say no-like when a parent attempts abuse, whether sexual in nature or not. As a parent, just like as a leader anywhere, our responsibility is to BE trustworthy and consistent, always bearing in mind the best interests of those we desire to follow us.
    So, even with marriage, or in a parental situation, there still remain instances where one needs to stand up for one’s self. While humans can be of varying degrees of trustworthiness, the only One Who is truly 100% trustworthy is God Himself, for He is the only one who can remain perfectly just and consistent! Therefore, we do trust people to different levels, because most people desire to be trustworthy, but since we are all human, then we all must be constantly discerning, according to God’s will in our lives-discerning for ourselves. If another wavers from the norm of trust, we can speak to them about it, but what they do about it is between them and God. We still must continue according to our own conscience. But, even beyond those types of instances, there should be NOTHING “disobedient” about going to live or fellowship where you feel God is calling you! It seems to me that no man should expect you to disobey your own conscience.
    Sometimes, it seems so complicated and difficult to put into words what just seems to be plain common sense!

  5. Yellow is a Happy Color says:

    A follow up from the last thread that I thought was worth reposting…..

    Stunned said:

    “ATC, there already may be someone working on a book which tells the stories of individuals who were/are in abusive churches.

    Anyone who wants to tell that person their story can contact me at I will let “the author” know.

    God is at work and moving even when we can’t see it.”

    ………now let’s talk about authority!

  6. Yellow is a Happy Color says:

    Regarding SGM/CLC’s view of authority, has anyone ever heard them use the rationale “Don’t touch God’s annointed one”? I have heard this phrase before in another church that happened to be quite charistmatic. I think the member who told me this was citing David in the OT.

    I have never heard this talk in CLC circles, but it could really free up a leader to do whatever he wanted, knowing he wouldn’t face any accountability from his church members……

  7. Kris says:


    I’m guessing someone could respond to your observation by pointing out that SGM churches claim to be governed by a “plurality” of elders. And, technically speaking, in most cases that is true (as long as you equate “elder” with the SGM definition of “paid staff pastor” or “guy from the congregation hand-selected by paid staff pastor”).

    Also, lots of SGMers have argued that their “local” churches are totally independent of SGM Corporate – that the guys in Gaithersburg (or the regional leaders formerly known as apostles) have no governing authority over them. I’m not sure how true that is in actuality, as I think we could point to many situations where SGM Corporate made hiring and firing decisions that were imposed on various local churches, and NOT at the behest of either people in the congregation OR of the pastors in charge. So I’m not sure that SGMers would ever acknowledge that they in effect submit ultimately to CJ Mahaney…although with the way CJ’s reinstatement has been handled, it seems obvious that he can do what he wants to and the guys around him will just be OK with it – he doesn’t actually submit himself to any authority other than his own.

  8. Another Joe says:

    @ kris

    I so wish that SGM would stop using the word Reformed, I personally believe them to be reformed. But not the type of Reformed that we all refer to as REFORMED.

    SGM has a such a scary way of doing things with words. They start using them and then start changing the meaning until you end up light years away from the original context of the word you started out with.

    So let me say this if you are a Believer in Christ and not held under the authority of any man save yourself for your salvation then you are Reformed.

    So tired of SGM speak….. :koolaid

  9. Another Joe says:

    And you know what i mean on that last bit…. lets not jump off the deep end……… :beat

  10. Steve240 says:

    I have heard group’s use the don’t touch “God’s annointed.”

    At best, using the scripture is quite a stretch. First of all it referred to when David refused to physically harm Saul who David considered “God’s annointed.” David wasn’t talking about verbally saying something bad or critical about a leader but physical abuse. David said a few things to Saul criticizing him.

    Another point is that “God’s annointed” applies back in the OT time when God annointed one king over Israel. That isn’t happening these days where God is “annointing” one person to be king of the body of Christ.

    Perhaps in my last post I should have said that plurality of leadership is what is talked about in the NT and is part of the new covenant we are under. It should also be pointed out that God never wanted to have a king or one person as God’s annointed. God allowed Israel to have a king after they repeatedly asked for a king so that they could be like the other nations. When God relented and gave them a king he told Israel that they had rejected Him as king.

  11. Steve240 says:

    I’m guessing someone could respond to your observation by pointing out that SGM churches claim to be governed by a “plurality” of elders. And, technically speaking, in most cases that is true (as long as you equate “elder” with the SGM definition of “paid staff pastor” or “guy from the congregation hand-selected by paid staff pastor”).


    I am sure they could. Most SGM Churches typically have Sr. Pastors and it appears the other pastors below the Sr. Pator “submit” to this Sr. Pastor’s “authority.” In a similar way it appears that the SGM Board submit’s to C.J. Mahaney’s “authority.”

    Thus though there is an appearance of a group, it appears that one person really runs the show at each local church like a branch of a business vs. shared authority.

  12. Muckraker says:

    I remember CJ specifically teaching (repeatedly) in the 80s and early 90s, that CLC was started “NOT by the will of man” (his words) but from a direct leading from God. CJ would tell the story of how he and LT each felt a leading from the Holy Spirit to start a church vs. continue TAG, while they were on a retreat together, each praying in a separate room. They then ran to meet each other and shared this common revelation. It sounded spiritual and dramatic. They seemed to have so much passion and integrity–so it had to be true. Right?

    He would contrast this story of “how they felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to start CLC” by putting down other men who “thought” they heard God but were really just starting a ministry for their own glory–never any specifics on who he was talking about–but those in the congregation knew it meant any men with ministries in their own names (i.e like Kenneth Copeland Ministries, etc.) and any guy who felt called and started his own para-church ministry or went to seminary, and got hired by some random church in Hickville, USA or some hole-in-the-wall, store-front, urban church. Those ministries, churches and callings–well, seemed so, initiated by a man’s will or desire vs. some HOLY CALL.

    My understanding of where SGM leaders claim they originally got their authority from? This specific incident of what they felt was a “call from God” apart from any other man’s direction. And yet they went on from there (what may have been an actual prompting from the Holy Spirit to go into ministry–I am not disputing that) but they, then, started their own church and began to dictate in absolute authority in very similar ways to the RCC–i.e. everyone is wrong or not as good as us, so listen to us only–we have the only true church (so to speak) because we heard directly from God.

    Does anyone else here remember that story which CJ used to tell of the founding of CLC?

  13. ExClcer'sMom says:

    Back in the day, I remember Larry Tomczak speaking about the “plurality of elders”, and the benefits of the “checks and balances” it would bring, using examples from Scripture. But, if one chooses a bunch of men who are submissive to peer pressure, and form a “good ol boy club”, then those assumed benefits are thrown out the window! It seems to me that a leader, instead of being one who is so totally submissive, especially to peer pressure, a leader is one who is strong enough to stand up to another leader, when it appears that they have wandered from trustworthiness. The kind of leaders who are strong enough to stand up for what is right are the very ones they send packing! :bang

  14. Kris says:


    It’s not just SGM that is widely considered “Reformed” yet still teaches this Pope-like stuff. The guys over at 9Marks (Reformed Big Dog Mark Dever’s organization) also would appear to believe in it. Check out this post:

  15. musicman says:

    I think the truth is, that CJ will pick and choose whatever “teaching d’jour” will appease his listeners and keep them from seeing the truth, that he alone calls the shots. Whether it’s charismatic with a significant reformed influence, TULIP, Reformed, new Reformed, Reformatics, etc….CJ will say just about anything to maintain control through confusion.

    CJ and others (Dave H. and crew) will keep pouring new meanings into old words and systems to maintain the illusion of plurality, when in fact it is a dictatorial leadership regime that acts like a crime family.

  16. Steve240 says:

    I think I should add to comment #1 about the leaders not having integrity.

    Maybe these leaders really think the are doing the right thing and are just deceived. That is they are “sincere” but sincerly wrong. If these leaders can’t see Mahaney’s actions for the sin and disqualification that it is then what other actions are they doing they think are biblical to do that really aren’t. If somoene is this skewed in knowing what is right and wrong it wouldn’t surprise me if they are doing other actions that shows proper judgment.

    Thus I am sure there are other questionable actions these leaders are doing due to either their lack of integrity or skewed judgment.

  17. ExClcer'sMom says:

    You know, Muckraker, I dont remember all of those details, but I DO remember them telling a story of running to meet each other with the same desire and calling. I dont remember them talking about men with ministries in their own names, but that was probably because by the late 80’s, I was on my way out. When GOB first started, they were way more “accepting” of other ministries. I was thinking how wonderful it was to be “non-denominational”, meaning (to me anyway), that we all put down our “differences” and just agreed on believing in Jesus, that He died for our sins. Back in the very beginning, Larry and CJ actually listened to and acknowledged that God could speak through anyone, and that if you accept Jesus as your Savior, then you ARE called!
    I DO believe it was started with a ‘calling’, and a lot of good happened. It became corrupted, like most things men get their hands the proverbial pot of water heating on the stove, with the frog in it, who never jumps out before it cooks him..Things changed and evolved, with many not even noticing,with no real checks and balances, until it became corrupt. Those who could bring a balance were “de-gifted”, leaving only those who will conform. And, people just continued to “trust”. :koolaid

  18. Kris says:


    That’s very interesting and would totally fit with the way that CJ and his underlings went on to structure the PDI/SGM organization…and with their connections to the Shepherding Movement.

    SGM’s pyramid-style authority structure only makes sense if the guy at the top was an actual apostle who received his own authority directly from God Himself. I think CJ has always believed this about himself, but he can’t exactly say that out loud any more, given the Reformed company he wants to keep. SGM’s historical roots as a Charismatic entity, structured very much the way any of the other Charismatic ministries (Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, Joyce Meyer, and even Benny Hinn) are structured, is a fact shoved deep back into SGM’s closet.

    There’s that saying, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your character.” We can get a good idea of what SGM was like when Larry T left, by looking at the guys to whom Larry sent his letter when he was trying to hold CJ accountable. If memory serves, two of the men were Rick Joyner and Mike Bickle, who are at the forefront of the hyper-Charismatic “New Apostolic Reformation.” You can read a generic and apparently pretty accurate article about the NAR at Wikipedia, here:

    I say that because Larry T clearly thought that CJ would care about the opinions of NAR guys like Joyner and Bickle…and to me, that’s evidence that PDI and hyper-Charismatic NAR types held to similar views back then.

  19. 5yearsinPDI says:

    There is a theological term called “heresy of emphasis”.

    Heresy in itself means something not true, not biblical, not orthodox, parading as Christianity. For example Mormonism or denying the deity of Jesus (Jehovah’s Witnesses).

    Heresy of emphasis is when a person or church takes something true and blows it out of proportion. Instead of keeping essentials and main things the main thing, they harp constantly on periferals out of all proportion to how the bible speaks of them. Have you ever met somebody who has a bee in their bonnet and all they can talk is about one thing, as if the whole sum of Christianity and the bible is that one thing? They might be right about that one thing, but it is an emphasis that the bible does not give.

    We can see it with CJ and the cross, to the disregard of the resurrection and our union with Christ.

    With this authority thing- well, I can only speak for my 5 years in the cult. It was overblown, overemphasized, pushed down our throats. Mostly it was about how the leaders had so much humility, so much integrity, so much wisdom. Leaders leaders leaders, pastors pastors pastors. It was worship. It was almost constant.

    If you want to join a church, well, the bible says to obey the church leaders and submit to them as they govern the church. It is right there in scripture. Don’t be one of those people always whining about every little decision about the sunday school and the facility and which songs we sing. Support, don’t be a critic. It is like marriage- if you want to get married it is your choice, but you don’t live like a single afterwards. Bend your preferences for your spouse.

    So there are two questions really….is what SGM teaches about church authority biblical? Or, do they just have “heresy of emphasis” where they take one correct thing and make it their predominant thing?

    My opinion is they fail in both areas. Not only do they hold to shepherding errors where their authority extends far beyond their role of governing the church, and meddles with things not their business, and they see themselves as a protective covering that only the blood of Jesus is for us…..

    ….but in addition, even if they were correct (just for the sake of arguement suppose their polity is correct with CJ as the one man pope and his A team minions usurping the authority of local church elders)…..

    …they still have heresy of emphasis. A more overblown focus on church authority and leaders I have not seen since the days of the Ft Lauderdale 5 in the 70s. Even IF their understanding was valid- which it is not- the overfocus renders them out of accord with the bible, and all the bible teaches about the body of Christ, the giftings and anointing of all believers, and the priesthoofd of all believers.

    Even if they repented and started to explain what the limits of pastors are, and what good polity is, they still need to change the subject away from constant focus on pastors and leaders and polity and authority. Maybe a nice start would be a focus on prayer, and helping the poor and needy.

  20. Moniker says:

    This is a great topic for discussion and you ask some important questions, Kris. I think it’s imperative that we all, as Christians, really study what the Bible teaches about authority and not just passively accept what those who think they have it tell us about it. I haven’t completely formed my conclusions yet because I really only started looking into it when I left SGM last year. But I do know that there was something very wrong with what they taught us. Just look at the fruit! So, anyway, thanks for starting the discussion. I look forward to reading what everyone else thinks.

  21. Lee says:

    Great questions Kris…ones that I have thought about too.

    I’ve also wondered how much mobility has shaped what we think about church membership.

    In the old days, you pretty much had no choice but to attend the local church because you might have already been riding 5 miles on a horse to get there. Now that we are so mobile churches want commitment on a piece of paper.

    I’ve always thought that what makes you a true member of a church is not the piece of paper but the relationships you establish with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Perhaps the reason both you and I did not have overly bad experiences in SGM is because we both get it that the authority pastors have over us is the authority we give them. I could sit and listen to awful child rearing sermons and think “you’ve got to be kidding…I wouldn’t raise my kids that way” while the person sitting next to me would think “Oh, Benny said it so I must do it!”

    I didn’t join the church I attended after FCC (though I faithfully attended for six years until I moved) and still haven’t joined the one I am in now. Deep down I think there’s a fear of misuse of authority after being in SGM for three years, but also there’s a stubborn part of me that just sees a piece of paper as being unnecessary. I am not going to live my life any more holier by signing a piece of paper.

  22. Moniker says:

    I also wanted to mention an article on the topic of authority that was recently posted on Wade Burleson’s blog. It’s very interesting. For example, it states that “‘church’ (ekklesia) and ‘authority’ (exousia) never even appear in juxtaposition in the scriptures. The word ‘authority’ (exousia) is never mentioned in regard to elders, pastors, deacons, prophets, local churches, or even any apostles, except for Paul himself and those who labored with him in the gospel.” Something to ponder. Here’s the link to the article:

  23. ExClcer'sMom says:

    If you want to join a church, well, the bible says to obey the church leaders and submit to them as they govern the church. It is right there in scripture. Don’t be one of those people always whining about every little decision about the sunday school and the facility and which songs we sing. Support, don’t be a critic. It is like marriage- if you want to get married it is your choice, but you don’t live like a single afterwards. Bend your preferences for your spouse.

    :goodpost 5 Years, you said that really well!

    Lee, you mentioned signing a piece of paper to be a member of a most churches do that, or only SGM churches? I don’t think I have EVER signed a piece of paper! I don’t think I would feel comfortable with a church that wanted me to sign some contract! Doesn’t that seem like not trusting God? :scratch

  24. Kris says:


    Excellent thoughts.

    Contrary to what some people might think, I would actually agree with this:

    If you want to join a church, well, the bible says to obey the church leaders and submit to them as they govern the church. It is right there in scripture. Don’t be one of those people always whining about every little decision about the sunday school and the facility and which songs we sing. Support, don’t be a critic. It is like marriage- if you want to get married it is your choice, but you don’t live like a single afterwards. Bend your preferences for your spouse.

    I agree with the first portion completely.

    I think HUGE problems can arise when we equate church membership with marriage. While we read in the Bible that “God hates divorce,” and while we have Jesus’ own words about that, we see no such similar clear commandments about what our commitment to a particular congregation is supposed to look like. We can extrapolate to a degree, with looking at biblical principles for “letting your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no,'” and take such principles to mean that if we commit to a particular church, we should honor that commitment. But I just don’t see anywhere in the Bible where God equates the marriage commitment to the type of commitment that we would have to a specific church body…especially when the leaders of a specific church body aren’t holding up their end of the bargain by proving themselves trustworthy.

    So I guess I find equating church membership with the marriage relationship troubling, even as I agree that church membership requires that we submit ourselves to our leaders, up to the point where they abuse that trust or use their position to “lord over” their people.

  25. MagruderHighDays says:


    I thought you would appreciate seeing this video of honoring CJ before JH transition to senior pastor. SGM and CLC tried to bury it sometime ago from public viewing around 2007. But old copies were kept and have now surfaced. Ironies of all ironies, brent detwiler honors CJ’s life in this presentation as well. Enjoy all.

  26. MagruderHighDays says:

    Kris if you do get sometime to watch it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it as well. thanks

  27. MagruderHighDays says:

    also for those interested, Brent Detwiler comes on stage to speak at the 14:30 mark just FYI

  28. Luna Moth says:

    I have been reading the e-book someone linked on here several days ago–it’s called “Straight Talk to Pastors,” by Frank Viola. He points out that whenever Paul writes a letter to a church, he addresses it to the church–to the brethren (and sistern), not to the elders. He usually doesn’t have much to say separately to the elders. He is speaking to the church as a whole.

    This was blowing my mind.

    And I question that joining a church means “submit to the leaders,” primarily. When I first came into PDI they were big on authority and submission. (And yes, I did hear “Touch not the Lord’s anointed”–as though even disagreeing was displeasing to God.) I swallowed it. Then it started to roil, and come back up. :barf:

    So, I question very much whether joining a church means “submit to the leaders.” I’m not saying make trouble at every opportunity. Clearly people should be in harmony. But I question that.

  29. Luna Moth says:

    A week and a half ago I went to a local Baptist church with my teens (one of whom is a member). After church there was to be a potluck lunch and quarterly business meeting. “You don’t have to be a member to attend the business meeting and have your voice heard,” one of the pastors declared.


    I grew up Baptist, but as a child the church business meetings were never what I thought of as fun. And yet–now I see what a gift they are. What a wonderful thing.

    In the course of the meeting, the church was choosing a new “Auditing Committee.” These folks were charged with the task of keeping an eye on things, just to be sure no misuse of finances went on. They were regular members, not staff. Amid chuckles, a teen was added to the committee as sort of a trainee.

    People!! Do you see how awesome this is?? …and yet it’s business as usual. Of course they have an auditing committee. The pastors welcome the committee’s involvement. So normal, cheerful, everyday. And yet so amazing after years of PDI/SGM and “don’t criticize the leaders.” :spin

  30. Kris says:


    Oh my.

    That video.

    I’d seen it once, long ago, back when we were just starting out at our SGM church. I can remember feeling like, “Wow – this guy is about as close to perfect as you can get!”

    Then, when I got to thinking about the video again, after this site started getting busy, I couldn’t find it any more.

    Thanks for posting the link.

    I’m a little less than 2 minutes in, and already it’s clear this is a worshipfest.

    Seriously – if anyone wonders why we say that SGM has inappropriately idolized CJ, just watch this video. This level of lauding and honoring a human being is just not right. Not at all.

    Given CJ’s tight control over everything that went on, it wasn’t like he couldn’t have stopped them from doing this sort of thing. He PERMITTED it and WENT ALONG WITH IT.

    On a random side note, I’m going to see if Jesus’ own name (rather than “the Savior” or “our Savior”) is ever mentioned.

  31. Sue Anne says:

    @Kris and Everyone:

    I think that Martin Luther would be rolling over in his grave if knew that SGM considered itself Reformed, but that’s almost beside the point given the recent conduct of the leadership of several organizations associated with the so-called Neo-Calvinist movement:

    Like the rant from Mark Dever’s organization, that Kris cited above, the following message from Ken Sande is disturbing on many levels:

    For one thing, an attorney like Mr. Sande should know that a church’s capacity to exercise church discipline is heavily impacted by clergy confidentiality statutes that vary dramatically from state-to-state, so he’s living dangerously by issuing general guidelines for so-called church discipline policies. Churches are also subject to federal HIPPA guidelines regarding disclosing people’s medical records so blabbing about how someone supposedly got an STD or something of that nature is probably off-limits during a church discipline proceeding, too. A court also may not regard a simple one-time waiver, that someone has likely been pressured to sign as no one who had been advised by counsel/in their right mind would have signed it voluntarily, as grounds for setting aside clergy-confidentiality statutes that have been on the books for centuries nor matter how such a waiver is worded.

    But mostly, the details of the contents of the links above aside, I can’t help wondering what century and country Ken Sande and Mark Dever think they’re living in. The United States of America, in 2012, is not a fascist regime in which people can or should be forced to remain in religious institutions they no longer want to be a part of or subjected to punitive never-ending church discipline procedures. Any type of church discipline process should end when a person leaves a church. If the pastors of that church believe that someone has committed or may commit a crime, they should inform the appropriate civil authorities of that concern. Otherwise, from an ethical perspective, the business of the church member who has left the church should not be passed onto that person’s employer, new church, 3rd-cousins, etc. as a means of manipulating him/her.

    To me, that’s just common sense reflecting the fact that we are not in Spain, in 1495, hoping that speaking a heresy doesn’t get us burned at the stake.

    I think that private organizations are entitled to some privacy. However, non-profits, that accept tax breaks from the public should be open to feedback from the public.

    I plan to write Ken Sande a letter regarding his professional judgment and the general ethical standards of the non-profit he runs. I encourage others to do the same regarding the conduct of any other non-profit with which they are not aligned. If they don’t want to publish blog comments, let them read snail mail.

  32. Oswald says:

    Magruder #25 — Thanks for sharing the video. Just the first few minutes was sickeningly man-centered. We had something like that at CovFel when Dave Harvey stepped aside after 25 yrs to have Jared Mellinger come to be Sr Pastor in Oct 2008. I thought it was a little over-the-top at that time.

  33. Moniker says:

    You know, if these guys would just believe what they teach in the membership classes – that God arranges the members in the Body as HE chooses, it sure would solve a lot of these problems. If they would just submit to Jesus as THE Head of the church. Ah, well, I can dream… On kinda the same subject, something I’ve been thinking about is what a pastor actually is, according to Scripture. Ephesians 4 says that the pastor is just one of many gifts of the Spirit that He gives to the Body. It’s a gift to be used for the good of others. That’s all it is. I don’t think it’s to be thought of as a position or office or occupation. A pastor/shepherd is just someone that God has gifted in a special way to care for others. But we’ve made it into a position of power that was never what God intended it to be. I just don’t get how these men think that they have the right to rule over their brothers and sisters when Scripture teaches that we are all equal. Different giftings, different functions, but all equally important and all equally accountable to God.

  34. B.R. Clifton says:

    Luna Moth #28:
    That prase about “Do not touch the Lord’s anointed” get’s overused and misused in ahorrible way. It comes out of Psalm 105 and is not talking about a professional clergy at all. IT speaks about the Lord’s people! That’s you and me. There’s a lot of things that is said from the pulpit to justify the position and existence of the professionals that just isn’t true. I really have a hard time with the domination of pastors over the people of God; especially when they are only mentioned in the New Testament ONE TIME. They are never mentioned in Acts and never in any of Paul’s, Peter’s, or John’s letters. It’s amazing to methat they stealthfully became the lords over the flock. The exact thing that Jesus taught against.

    I Like what you usually say. You have a good way of peeling the bark off a subject and getting right down to the meat of it.

  35. Another Joe says:

    Kris wrote “The truth is that ultimately, in the modern Western world that we live in, we are the ones tasked with choosing our own leaders. Unless one is Roman Catholic, it’s not like “the church” is this monolithic entity ordained by God from the time of our birth until our death. The reality is that in our mobile society, there are all sorts of situations that require us to go out and select a new church from a myriad of Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming options that are all “doing church right” to one degree or another.”

    Exactly Kris, That is why i believe that SGM does not fall into the category of a Church organization.

    They have proven time and time again that they are a corporation. Sovereign Grace Ministries is a Brand. They are not a church organization they are a company that does its business within a church market. The facts are the facts.

    So when i read brent’s writing’s, larry’s letter’s or C.J.’s tearful confession. I read them understanding that this is one big gigantic stage. With Multi Million’s of Dollars at stake.

    Not a whole lot of people are willing to say it like this but i will.

    C.J. is to SGM what Eli manning is to the New York Giants. They are not going to get rid of the star quarter back because he hurt someone (Brent) on the defensive lines feelings. And they sure don’t care about what the people in the crowd think either.

    Now in saying that if people wise up and stop paying the ticket prices well then this could be a real big problem for them!!!!!

    Like i said its all about money. It was all good while Brent got his share of the winnings. My personal feelings are Brent got his feelings hurt. Spouted off kept all of the emails and now is playing the good guy. If Brent had not gotten himself into trouble you would not be hearing from him. Actually you would he would be that big defensive line man trying to run all of us over. He would have fought to shut these web sites down.

    Back to the main point, if the people in SGM want to see real change stop funding the madness. Demand to see how much money goes to C.J. and company. Then have a vote to stop all payments. Problem solved, SGM cannot survive without the tithes and support of people like you. Oh i forgot you cant vote, well maybe you should think about going to a church where you can.

  36. MagruderHighDays says:

    You might be curious to see these sometime as well. These other videos also show how cultish CLC was when CJ controlled everything.
    The mortgage pay off celebration at the end is something to watch. They passed out matching church colors balloons and fake contracts for everyone to tear up on CJ’s countdown. Then red koolaide outside on the lawn served to everyone after….hmmm Mortgage Payoff Celeberation 1 MPC 2 Building Dedication Sunday

  37. B.R. Clifton says:

    Kris #24:
    Preachers who teach that sort of “commitment or marriage” to the church have a pretty clouded view of what the church is. The church is not a single group of people tucked away somewhere in a neighborhood or urban setting. The church, as Jesus defines it, is all of His people everywhere throughout history. Anyone who becomes coverted from darkness to light is automatically a member of His church and their name is then written in the book of life. Personally I don’t give a rip whether my name is ever written down in some institutional church register somewhere. What I care about is my name being in His book of Life. If my name is written there then I am a member of the church no matter where I choose to worship Him on a Sunday morning or any other time.

    The ecclesiastics love to exercise their brand of “discipline” over the people because it gives them tight control. Make no mistake about it, it’s ALL about control.

    I could rave on about this subject for a good time longer but I suspect I would be preaching to the choir. The ones who need to read it (the offending ecclesiastics) of course won’t so we’ll just leave it here.

  38. B.R. Clifton says:

    Moniker, Another Joe:
    Good words, both of you. It’s too bad the ones who need to read them won’t.

  39. Izze says:

    @MagruderHighDays – It says I do not have permission to watch this video. Are you able to not make it private?

  40. ExClcer'sMom says:

    Moniker, if only it were so, what a wonderful place this would be!
    Another Joe, I totally agree!

  41. Persona says:

    In the early 80’s Larry and CJ were strongly influenced by UK leaders like Terry Virgo, who urged people to leave their denominational churches behind. One criticism they had was it was too difficult to influence their denom churches for the better if the ‘heads’ of the church were leading them astray.
    Ha. This idea has certainly come back to bite them. But, PDI attracted lots of young people who were bored or disappointed in their denominational churches, thinking, PDI had discovered a better way of doing church.

    Kris, I’m glad you brought up this topic since we are presently formulating what we think a healthy church looks like. We already know pretty well what it shouldn’t look like!

    CLC pastors are famous for recommending Dever’s, “9 Marks of a Healthy Church”, when asked by visitors, for help finding a new church. I find it humorous since they offer this advice even as they only believe 7-8 of those ‘marks’ themselves. I also find it curious that some of their own children have left CLC in recent months. Apparently CLC isn’t their cup of tea any more. I wonder if they found ‘healthier’ churches?

    So, even when Arlington pastor, E. Simmons, tells his congregation that it is totally up to them, should he remain their senior pastor, I have yet to see any concrete change in sgm polity that allows for congregational involvement to that level, and I would like to ask who sent Eric to lead that church in the first place?

    As for us, we are searching for a small congregation of like-minded believers, with a polity that reflects mutual accountability among membership, including staff. We are not looking for a myriad of programs or shiny productions. We prefer simple worship and solid expository teaching. We would also appreciate encouragement for the gifts and callings of each member, male or female, old or young. And, we are hoping to find one that funnels the vast majority of their funds directly to missionaries, in the field.

    To gain my much-eroded trust, the congregation should have information available on each and every purchase or investment of the church, even if they are not directly involved in each transaction. There would also be an elected, rotating group of members (deacons and deaconesses) to serve the church as needed. The congregation should also be involved in choosing the pastors of the church and weigh-in on any major decisions.

  42. Muckraker says:

    Moniker @33 :clap

    Kris: I’m not sure how to differentiate charismatic vs. hyper-charismatic (more activity in the aisles? :spin LOL) But, seriously, I am a charismatic…seen too many evidences of the Holy Spirit working in active ways…so I’m not personally opposed to someone having a subjective sense/feeling, that God is speaking to them personally and then acting on that (as long as it is in line with what the Bible teaches) What I object to is someone considering, that THEY have the direct line and that YOU need to hear God’s “voice mail” thru THEM!

    In regards to the 5-fold stuff…definitely SGM (formerly-known-as-PDI) was totally “in” to that theology. (Don’t remember if that has been talked about here or not) What is now known as the SGM Board was the Apostolic Team. Each man on it, had to have one or more of the 5-fold giftings (identified by the other PDI leaders at that time) If I remember correctly, LT was considered an Apostle/Evangelist and CJ was the Prophet/Pastor/Teacher….

  43. Mommy2boo says:

    Kris: :goodpost
    The other thing that I always thought was so odd was that if someone DID actually feel like they were experiencing a call from God to leadership/pastoring, those people were the ones most certainly NOT chosen for the Pastor’s College. For surely those folks were too ambitious and self-promoting to have approached a leader and asked if they might become a leader. It was only those people who seemingly had zero interest in being pastors that the leaders would select to send to the Pastor’s College, thus negating any validity of a “call from God.” Unless, of course, God was telling the leaders whom to select and send to the PC. Funny he didn’t actually speak to them about themselves, though, I guess. :spin

  44. ExClcer'sMom says:

    Maybe some of it is subjective, given the knowledge I have now, but, I can’t watch more than a couple of minutes of CJ. Seriously, he really does reek of false humility to me! Just like the email exchanges between Brent, CJ, and the other leaders, with their sounds so fake, so “attempting to project an image”. I think I saw the beginnings of that in the late 70’s, early 80’s, but I thought then that it was people just trying to make sure they used the right words, so as not to be misunderstood..Now, I think what i was really seeing was the beginning of a language of deception. :barf:

  45. Just me says:

    :new I have never posted but have been reading for several years, since I left CLC in 2007. And boy am I glad I did! I am still in the process of putting the pieces of my psyche back together…
    Persona, I am not sure where you are, but if in the Gaithersburg area, I recommend Derwood Bible Church, which I attend before I got married and moved to another area. It is the kind of church that you describe. They meet at Magruder High School, and that’s the only thing they have in common with CLC :)

  46. Kris says:

    Hey Mommy2Boo –

    Good to see you again. How are things? How are the little ones?

  47. AnotherPresbyterian says:

    An interesting bit to add to the discussion of how an authority becomes an authority is that it is the historic Reformed belief that authority for elders/pastors only extends as far as the connection to Scripture. Any time your pastor can say “Thus saith the Lord” and show you in Scripture, then yes, it’s binding. But it’s not binding because your pastor says it. It’s binding because Scripture says it, which means God says it. If your pastor can’t support what he’s telling you from Scripture, then it’s not binding on you. It may be smart, it may be the best choice, it may not be either of those things, but it’s definitely not binding.

    My Presbyterian pastors tell me that whenever a pastor’s emphasis shifts from something being important because it’s in the Bible to something being important because that pastor said it, then, well, I’m looking at a potential false teacher to whom all the admonitions in Jude apply.

  48. Mommy2Boo says:

    Hi there! :) Thanks for asking! The little ones keep me busy, hence my lack of posting (though I do check in and read a lot). I can rarely get through all the comments, though, before there’s a new post, so I especially appreciate when you take a particularly poignant comment and turn it into its own post! Thanks!

  49. MagruderHighDays says:


    Exactly what I thought would happen. In the span of a few hours, they contacted the user of the videos and now all those links i posted are private and cannot be seen by anybody. Fortunately, I was able to make copies of them all and will upload them for you guys again sometime soon. But did you see how fast they did damage control with that amazing,,,,,

  50. Mommy2Boo says:

    PS, the initial video is private (now?) and I don’t have permission to view it. Am I missing something?