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Five Questions Every Sovereign Grace Member Should Be Asking

Kris says:  A reader directed me to the following, from a new blog called “sgmnation.”  I thought it was really good.  PLEASE NOTE:  I did NOT write this post. 

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The response letter from SGC Fairfax, affirmed by a growing list of churches (at current count – 16) may be the first, formal call for reform issued by any SGM church. Yes, there have been questions asked over the past two years by many churches but no one has taken their questions public. The response was not only reasonable, thoughtful and gracious, it was also firm and uncompromising in conviction.

Now that the call for reform is out in the open – now what? What should each “ordinary” member of each SGM church do in response? I would suggest that every member should be processing through 5 fundamental questions

  1. Where does my church stand with respect to SGM and in particular, the decisions of the SGM Board? Now that the call for reform is public, no pleas of ignorance will suffice, no “burying head in sand” will be acceptable. Get engaged in the discussion of how your church should be processing the issues related to SGM – the history of association, what the benefits are, how much your church is giving, what your pastors think. Ask your pastors for a response.
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  2. What exactly is SGM? Is it a denominational body or a parachurch organization with a teaching and music ministry? How much authority/influence does it exercise over the local church? People – ask your pastors and if they don’t know, they need to find out.
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  3. From where (theologically, not legally) does the SGM Board and the regional leadership derive its authority or influence over local churches? Chew on this controversial statement – the office of the Pope has more biblical justification than the apostolic ministry as historically defined by SGM. The implication of any answer to this question is important. Does the SGM Board have the right to define the polity for all the SGM churches? Not unless the churches grant it to them… the authority to do so doesn’t emerge magically from the thin, rarefied air that the SGM Board members breathe in. Should the churches have a representative opportunity to shape polity and direction from the movement? Most reasonable Christians would say so.
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  4. How much does my church give to SGM and why? Giving 10% or any amount to SGM isn’t a biblically established right and is dependent on the answer to question #2. Financial stewardship is important and you need to weigh in on whether SGM has earned the trust of your church’s continued giving levels.
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  5. Is my church focusing on getting its local polity in order? Surprise, surprise – if you haven’t figured it out yet, you will – SGM exercises NO formal authority over your local church. If that’s the case, who is holding your pastors accountable to their substance of their teaching, conduct and financial stewardship? What happens if your pastors can’t resolve differences (re: Ashburn SGM church)? It’s so easy to get caught up in the SGM drama that you forget that how your local church is governed will matter more to you than how SGM Board moves along. Ask your pastor what your church is doing to address local governance structures.

Most of all, I suggest you pray for your pastors. If they are off-course and blinded by ill-founded loyalty to CJ/SGM – they need a serious adjustment. If your pastors are still figuring out what to do – they need wisdom. If your pastors are among those who stepped out to call for reform – they need humble courage. May God bless us all.

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KRIS SAYS:  Again, please note, this post is from the sgmnation blog.  I did NOT write it but thought it was very good, very discussion-worthy.

What do YOU think?

172 comments to Five Questions Every Sovereign Grace Member Should Be Asking

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  1. Let My People Go
    March 12th, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Kris #127- ” But if change is going to be deep and real and lasting, and if SGM/CLC is really going to shed the stuff that made it cultic, the leaders who were trained in the cultic system and who came of ministerial age believing that cultic stuff to be normal need some serious help from people who were NOT raised up and trained in that system.”

    I appreciate everything you said in #127. It is hard for me to imagine how any of the current leaders of SGM or SG local churches could effectively be leaders of change in SG without adequate deprogramming and reprogramming. That kind of deprogramming and reprogramming is going to take years honestly, don’t you think? It’s kind of like the oxygen mask analogy from the airlines…parents have to put their mask on first and then put their children’s on. I can’t even imagine that it would be reasonable to expect the current leaders of SG churches to be able to lead such a recovery process. They need their own recovery process.

    Thanks for the reality check and your wise words of counsel.

  2. Argus
    March 12th, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Check out Brent Detwiler’s new post: http://www.brentdetwiler.com/brentdetwilercom/2012/3/12/cotton-candy.html

  3. musicman
    March 12th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Katie-

    I’m glad to hear it…I would hope at some point, they would earnestly seek out all the families who were damaged beyond repair when they (the pastors) would not allow someone to go to outside counseling. Many former CLCers have reported divorces, abuse (physical and verbal), and sexual molestation that was either ignored or minimized by CLC pastors.

  4. 5yearsinPDI
    March 12th, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    “adequate deprogramming and reprogramming. That kind of deprogramming and reprogramming is going to take years honestly, don’t you think?”

    There is a ballpark figure I’ve heard thrown around that when a minister commits adultery, he has to step back for a minimum of three years, with counsel and accountability, to undo patterns in his life and marriage. Some churches ask for a longer time if not forever. Given the systemic ingrained nature of the abuse, hard to say how long is adequate, but honest repentance is the first step. Is that occuring?

  5. 5yearsinPDI
    March 12th, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Brent’s latest post “Cotton Candy” is excellent. Credit where credit is due. His 25+ years as a big A are paying off.

  6. Kris
    March 12th, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    5years –

    I agree. Brent’s latest post contains MUCH that is discussion-worthy. A lot of it directly connects with the questions that “sgmnation” asked in the original post here.

    I just wish that Brent had broken it down into more manageable chunks. It’s so lengthy that I’m afraid people are going to give up before they make it all the way through everything he has to say.

    Excellent analysis, though.

  7. glad i am out
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Kris, i will admit that i couldn’t make it all the way through brent’s post – about half-way – i just got tired, and kind-a assumed he was saying things i had heard before – maybe i will go back…

    But one of your very excellent synopsis would be greatly appreciated!

  8. Unassimilated
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    As I’m going through Brent’s new post, I found the SGM answer to Question #2 of this thread.

    What exactly is SGM?

    SGM is an expression of extra-local ministry that is connected to local churches, emerging out of local churches, endorsed by local churches, and working with local churches, with the goal of planting churches and serving those churches as they grow toward maturity.

    That being said, how nebulous is the term “expression?” CJ is most definitely in charge again.

    Just as trees are an expression of nature and blue is and expression of color. SGM, well I have an expression, but this here is a christian blog. :wink:

  9. Unassimilated
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    From Brents quotation of the SGM By-Laws –

    When a member church chooses to no longer affiliate with Sovereign Grace, the apostolic team of Sovereign Grace will relinquish its role in a God-honoring manner, and grant that church the freedom to withdraw unless the leadership of the member church is suspected of heresy, immorality, financial impropriety or substantial and unrepentant breaches of the leadership qualifications appearing in 1 Timothy 3: 1-7 and Titus 1: 6-9.

    Awesome, SGM gets to define heresy BTW, and forget that CJ dropped the ball on 1 Timothy 3: 1-7 and Titus 1: 6-9 in his own life. This is the control clause.

    Given Josh’s recent message, it seems that either they have already broken from SGM, or there is a fight brewing.

  10. sgmnation
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Kris, Unassimilated – of everything Brent wrote, the thing that caught my attention was the various threads that speak of “extra local ministry”, “gifted men”, etc… It’s exactly why I asked question #3 regarding the authority of the board and regional apostles. Like Brent alluded to, I believe that there is an initiative afoot to re-established apostolic ministry SGM style… I suspect some of the board and CJ backers believe that all this uprising is due to the loosening of grip on the local churches.

    Unlike Brent, I do not believe that apostles as defined in Acts or early church are functioning today. In SGM’s case, it lacks the theological and historical underpinnings that justify their position – hence my statement comparing the Pope with the SGM apostolic ministry – I’ll explain my position in the future. But keeping an eye on how they define “extra local ministry” is probably a good thing to do.

  11. Unassimilated
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Ok, last post for me today. Gotta say that Brent is funny and sounds like us when the sarcasm comes out.

    The new Board gets to install the new President. I know we live in America but does “install” mean “coronate” or “enthrone.” I am little confused. Oh that’s right, no one gets to vote in SGM. I guess the interim Cardinals get to pick the new Cardinals who install the new Pope. All this done in a secret conclave under Southern Seminary with secret ballots that will be burned. Sovereign Grace followers, keeping waiting in suspense unto white smoke billows from the Sistine Chapel (i.e., Mohler’s office).

  12. Persona
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    The most chilling phrase thus far in reading Brent’s latest post is:

    “…the Corporation may do any and all lawful acts which may be necessary or useful for the furtherance of said purposes.”

    Is it just me, or does a Christian organization really need to spell out that they can do anything as long as it’s legal? Shouldn’t that be a given?

  13. Let My People Go
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    5years – I hear what you are saying about honest repentance. However, I am of the opinion that before that repentance happens, there will need to be some degree of deprogramming for those who have been in SG for a long time and even for some who have been there for not so long. I read here for about 6 months and was then convicted of a lot of unbiblical aspects of SG (including the absence of elected elders). In my experience, you all deprogrammed me ALOT and God used it to lead me to repentance. And the deprogramming and reprogramming continues for me at this time. Thanks for your thoughts that always help me process stuff.

  14. Unassimilated
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Sgmnation- (Ok, so I broke my word and am posting again…sorry)

    What do you do with that heresy clause though? Regardless of theological and historical underpinnings, or lack thereof, it is all really matter of interpretation. It is clear that SGM sets its own polity based on it’s own interpretation. Then there is the loosey goosey ‘expression of’ term that says while similar to, in truth-not exactly as, thus negating any historical theological positions from the start.

    If SGM pastors are truly agents of the corporation with ecclesiastical duties, and
    ordained as such, then what recourse do they really have. They are not ordained ministers in the traditional sense, they are managers as defined by the preferences
    & prescripts of CJ and company. The corporation has every right to take over a franchise location if the board deems it is best for the brand. It’s very clear.

    So to answer your number three, the authority comes from the SGM pastor/agent signing his name as in agreement with their claims, & by accepting employment for said corporation. Done deal. That is not to say that in the eyes of God, and from the perspective of history that CJ and friends are anything but dead wrong IMO.

    But there it is. It is in the signature acknowledging SGM as such. They need not the Bible nor history, and again, they are an ‘expression of’, rather than ‘truly are’ as outlined in the bible.

    Who wants to try and drag a God’s literal word v God’s heart as perceived by CJ battle into a courtroom? (Not gonna happen)

    Question three is Moot as far as application towards SGM goes. Good question for before one signs their name though. Lets call it the hindsight question.

    I am on your side Sgmnation, just my perspective on what it is. Apologies if I sound harsh, I am told that I can come across that way in writing, not my heart though. It breaks with every SGM claw that reveals itself as inoperable.

  15. 5yearsinPDI
    March 12th, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Let, I am sorry if I was not clear, but I agree with you. It will take years. I could not go into an SGM church even if they broke with the board and hooked up with other decent people. The ingrained responses are too deep IMO. My comment about repentance is that even if they do leave, they won’t change at the core without it. I’ve been in two shepherding churches and we had to repent of things inside of us that let us stay as long as we did in both.

  16. Mole
    March 12th, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Izze, Nickname…..
    I’ve been off the koolaid for about 13 years. I just hung around for so long because I was fighting a particular battle and wouldn’t go away…. I tend to be tenacious. My good friends say I’m like a dog with a bone. It would be a very long story but to answer your question about detox, the epiphany for me happened when I was placed in a position to tow the party line (SGM teaching) regarding the issue I was fighting for or extend love to an abused brother. As I turned my back on the party line and began to love my brother I began to realize the two were incompatible. This set off major alarms and in turn motivated me to get to the bottom and root of what the problem was in SGM.

    As I pressed into God’s word in a concentrated way I began to realize that I had allowed myself to believe things that simply were not true. In other words, I had to admit that I was a deceived man. Yet, I had to take responsibility for my state. Renewing my mind on many key doctrines of orthodox Christian faith is a vital component in working through the detox process. As the illustration goes, they teach bank tellers how to detect counterfeit money by continually exposing them to authentic and genuine money. It is the same with detox, exit counseling, or cult deprogramming. Exposing oneself to the truth will set you free (who would of thunk?). This is the short answer but I think you get the idea. In the next few weeks I will be launching a counseling ministry to help folks work through this very process….. stay tuned and thanks for asking.

  17. Roadwork
    March 12th, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I finished reading Brent’s latest. It’s good. Really good. It’s shows the power Corporate really has over the unfortunate franchises.

    The ‘corporate’ pastors and “franchised” churches have no authority to “amended, altered, or repeal”

    He’s starting to sound like one of us. Proof he really may be in detox.

    But here’s the biggie – methinks he gets the need for true accountability at the corporate level! Now, Brent, carry that thought through to each local church and the wise, Godly men and women that can be found therein. Let the body work as a body.

    Towards the end he describes SGM standard operating procedure:

    The interim Board is lord! They alone “review and discuss” the feedback received on their precious nominees. They won’t share any of those concerns with the SGM pastors. They won’t tell anyone how much feedback they receive on any one candidate. All dissent will be handled over the phone. Here’s how the calls will go. “Hello, Rev. SGM pastor. Thanks for your feedback. We’re listening. Isn’t it great partnering together. You’re right, Mr. Nominee isn’t perfect but neither are you. We know him better and you’ve got some of your facts wrong. We want him on the Board so he’s in but thanks again for participating in the affirmation process. You’re participation is vital.”

    While he’s describing Corporate, maybe unknowingly he’s also described the sad experience of every SGM member.

    Brent adds some comments at the end regarding his personal theology:

    I can tell you this much, the SGM Board is in desperate need of prophets.</blockquote)

    Good luck on that one, Brent. SGM has been running off anyone with Holy Ghost sensibility. Those with discernment have largely left the building. They got precisely what they wanted.

  18. Roadwork
    March 12th, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Sorry… Messed up the blockquote in my last section.

    Brent adds some comments at the end regarding his personal theology:

    I can tell you this much, the SGM Board is in desperate need of prophets.

    Good luck on that one, Brent. SGM has been running off anyone with Holy Ghost sensibility. Those with discernment have largely left the building. They got precisely what they wanted.

  19. Let My People Go
    March 12th, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    5years, sorry, I misunderstood. You know, I think the reality of the whole mess just gets clearer sometimes and you just shake your head. I think the leaders alone would need years of counseling just to get to the point of understanding what grace really is and to finally accept it in their own hearts and let go of the religious addiction and just come to God. It really is just one, big, horrible mess. Waitin’ on the Lord with you.

  20. Luna Moth
    March 12th, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Reading Brent’s latest. And (concurring with several others), I think everyone needs to read this.

    Brent’s analysis of the Bylaws is important information for people to know. Have these bylaws ever been available to us before? Anyway, having a guided tour through the bylaws is really a good thing.

    Read it! Even if you have to do it in two or three sittings.

  21. Persona
    March 12th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Please excuse the length of this post but, my spouse wrote down these questions after hearing Joshua’s message and I thought they were important ones for members of CLC to ask if they haven’t already.

    1. What pastors are on the committee drafting the constitution?

    a. How were they appointed?

    b. What qualifications commended them to the job?

    c. Do they represent the church at-large; singles, marrieds, youths, seniors etc.?

    d. Are any of them beholding to the committee chair, (assumed to be K. Maresco.), for pay or benefits i.e., can we be assured there is no conflict of interest regarding their opinions/judgments about things he may propose for the constitution?

    e. Do they vote on the items to be included, or do they seek unanimity?

    i. If they vote or, is this done by simple majority?

    2. Did the congregation participate in choosing the drafting committee?

    a. If not, why not, and could this be done now?

    3. Can the broad categories of the constitution be shared with the congregation for initial evaluation as to completeness (apart from the actual content, which is allegedly still being “hammered out.”)

    4. What are the names of the groups/churches that have been contacted regarding their constitutions?

    a. Can we see copies of what they have been provided?

    5. What are the present “action items” of each of the members on the committees and their due dates?

    6. In the draft constitution, will membership in any present or future league of churches (e.g. SGM) be something the congregation will weigh in on?

    a. If not, why not?
    b. Has this already been decided on by the CLC pastors?

    7. To foster communication, prayer and transparency, could a prayer list be posted on the members-only site that details specific meeting/decisions regarding SGM, the constitution, and other important items that are important for the future direction of CLC?

  22. Guy
    March 12th, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Fyi, pay no attention to that obnoxious “error message” up top. The software we use has a problem that is affecting literally thousands of blogs right now. Hopefully, it will be fixed soon.

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