Why Good Guys Go Bad

A lot of people within Sovereign Grace Ministries churches puzzle over how it is that there are accountability issues within the SGM organization.  How is it that otherwise nice and godly guys with a sincere desire to serve the Lord could end up having such a difficult time providing real accountability for each other…especially when they have demonstrated such skill in confronting ordinary church members about their sins?

I was thinking about this question today, in the comments of the previous post.  Here is what I wrote.


If we examine the process of becoming and remaining a pastor within SGM, it will help us understand why pastors in the SGM system – who can seem like such nice, godly guys who are sincere in their desire to serve God – can easily end up compromising their integrity. I’d even argue that because of the way the system is set up, it’s practically guaranteed that they will compromise their integrity.

How does one become an SGM pastor? Well, as we’ve frequently discussed, the road to a pastor’s job within SGM is one that starts by invitation only, and the invitation is issued by men who are already pastors.

The invitation comes when pastors believe you to be a godly man whom people want to follow – and “godliness” within SGM is characterized primarily by SGM’s concept of humility. In SGM, “humility” is not necessarily the same as it is in the rest of Christianity, where it is characterized by self-forgetfulness and serving “the least of these.” In SGM, “humility” instead is demonstrated by submitting yourself to your leaders and by elevating your leaders through your obedience to them and through your expressions of deference to them. A key part of this is always agreeing with your leaders about their assessments of your sin.

Elevating your leaders and deferring to your leaders – as well as demonstrating in front of your leaders that people also want to follow and defer to you – will be the behaviors that cause your leaders to believe that you are humble…and thus godly.

This deference – always agreeing with your leaders’ assessments of your sin, always speaking to them in the most respectful, honoring way, doing whatever you can to serve your leaders and lift them up through praise – is amped up to a whole other level at the Pastors College. There, you are paired up with a pastor-mentor who proceeds to make you strip spiritually naked. Your (and your wife’s) deepest darkest sins are confessed and discussed freely and openly with your pastor-mentor and his wife. Your every weakness is probed relentlessly.

Just like in the army, you are broken down to nothing through the weekly meetings you have with your pastor-mentor as well as through the use of “humorous” put-downs and even some silly hazing rituals.

After you are broken down, to where you truly believe you are nothing and have nothing to offer, you are then built back up – in the image of your pastor-mentor, who himself is patterned after CJ.

It’s little wonder that the guys who come out of SGM’s Pastors College have so often ended up talking and even looking exactly the same. They were taught that they should “follow their leaders, even as the leaders follow Christ.” Unfortunately, in SGM, that mandate has been interpreted in the most literal and wooden of ways, to where all too frequently, “following Christ” has been equated with following CJ and CJ’s followers.

After being in the environment of the Pastors College – which, incidentally, is a very expensive 9 months of SGM-centric study that is more about learning the SGM way of doing ministry than it is about actual Bible knowledge and real Spirit-led growth – the newly minted SGM pastor comes out completely re-made, ready and willing and completely submitted to do whatever his leaders tell him to do.

He’ll be placed on staff at a church somewhere and given a salary decent enough to allow him to afford to buy a nice-enough home and support a family with a stay-at-home wife. Almost immediately, he will get to enjoy the fruits of his labor, as the deference he paid to his SGM leaders for the previous several years will now be paid to him. He will be talked up in an introductory speech as the greatest, most humble and wonderful guy ever to come out of the Pastors College…and he’ll quickly be extended the same sort of obedience and submission by the church members. He’ll find himself counseling people and assessing their sin and having people agree with him.

That’s some pretty heady stuff.

Some years go by. Our PC grad is now a senior staffer. He’s not the senior pastor, but he’s one of the more established church leaders. His family owns their nice-enough home and has enough money to live well enough. His wife perhaps homeschools the kids…and in her own way also enjoys a level of influence in the church community as a women’s leader.  One of the main fruits of their labor is that they are regarded all around as godly leaders to be revered and honored.  Although they don’t misuse anyone, they have nonetheless grown accustomed to having people want to serve them.

Now, think about what happens when the proverbial fly gets into the ointment. Our now-veteran PC grad established pastor is cruising along, when lo and behold, he begins to get inklings that all is not as it should be in something the senior pastor is doing. The senior pastor is not behaving with integrity in some fashion. What does the junior pastor do?

Well, although he’s quite used to directing the lowly church members’ attention to their own sins, it’s a different game with his boss. So he must proceed very carefully. He doesn’t just barrel into a confrontation. Perhaps he approaches it in a round-about way, hinting at the problem. When that doesn’t work, he bucks up and – with much trepidation – dares to try and put his concerns into words. All the proper flowery flattery does come first…but then he does his best to oh-so-gently lower the hammer.

It does not go well. The senior pastor is even more used to the deference from everyone in his world, and “everyone” would include the junior pastor. Having Junior attempt to correct him just feels…wrong. Plus, if Junior just knew how things really were, he wouldn’t be asking questions or insinuating that something was wrong. Junior is misinformed. Moreover, Junior is arrogant! Junior must be put back in his proper place!

So Senior Pastor does what by now comes naturally. He directs Junior’s attention back to Junior’s own sins and shortcomings. Certainly Senior Pastor is very familiar with what those sins and shortcomings are – he’s had enough years with Junior to know just how to bring up the besetting sin, the Achilles heel.  He knows just how to hit the sweet spot.

Despite his best resolve, Junior finds himself responding the same old way when he hears the same old song about his sin  – with automatic deference, because it has been by now beaten into him.  Especially if Senior Pastor happens to be someone like his own dad (who was trained in the 90s to spank a 2-year-old Junior with a glue stick until Junior joyfully obeyed), Junior will find himself folding like a cheap lawn chair the moment he faces his first real challenge from Senior Pastor.

End of confrontation.

End of potential accountability for Senior Pastor.

And this was for an area of real concern to Junior. This was for an area of actual sin in Senior Pastor’s life.

Imagine what the relational dynamic is like for more prosaic, less obvious dilemmas. Imagine what a meeting looks like where some neither-here-nor-there church decision is being made. Whose will is almost always guaranteed to prevail…even if lip service is paid to making a mutually agreeable choice?

But let’s say that the Holy Spirit is at work in Junior’s life, and Junior begins to experience real and genuine conviction about something he knows is not right in the inner workings of his church. Let’s say that rather than folding, as he’s been so conditioned to do, Junior instead continues to stand firm. He continues, stubbornly, to refuse to bow and bend as he always has. Going against all his training, he refuses to submit to Senior Pastor – who is, after all, Junior’s spiritual authority, his covering, his head.  Instead, Junior sticks up for what he believes.

What’s going to happen to Junior?

At that point, Junior faces the very real possibility of having Senior Pastor decide that Junior is exhibiting “ungodly” behavior. Junior is demonstrating pride! After all, Junior is no longer submitting to his authority. Junior is unteachable. Junior is not humble, despite his most ingratiating preambles.

The wheels are then set in motion, and Junior finds himself on the fast track to being disciplined out of a job. Junior looks around and wonders what he can do.  Unfortunately, SGM’s Pastors College training isn’t really acknowledged or accepted as adequate pastoral education in the rest of the non-SGM Christian world. If Junior is lucky, he will have earned a college degree prior to being sent to the PC. If he’s really lucky, he will have some sort of other non-pastoral vocation that he can once again embrace so that he can make a living. But it’s going to be a struggle. Junior discovers, to his dismay, that what had seemed like a moderate salary is actually quite generous when compared to what he’ll be able to earn just starting out in his new profession, if he’s even lucky enough to get a foot in the door and get an interview, let alone land a job. As a pastor, he enjoyed all sorts of tax advantages. As a manager at Home Depot, on the other hand, he can no longer count on things like a tax-free parsonage allowance. All he’s left with is the same old ordinary mortgage interest deduction that’s available to all little people.

Junior begins to have serious doubts about his convictions. Who is he, to ask questions? Really – who is he? He knows his own heart. And of course, his heart is deceitful. His pastor – Senior Pastor – is the one who knows Junior’s heart better than Junior knows it himself.  That’s the answer!  He will do the (SGM version of) the godly thing and go back and submit himself to Senior Pastor once again.

Who wants to go work for Home Depot anyway? Far better to be sacrificing for the gospel.

THIS is how SGM’s dysfunctional lack of formal accountability happens.



  1. Mommy2boo says:

    Just hit “submit” on this one after the comments closed from last post:

    Bridget #43 – I had the same thought. Sure, they’re in control of all the local churches, until someone like Happymom goes to appeal that someone step in and intervene where some heinous wrongdoing happened. Then they’re totally hands off. Sorry, Ma’am, we have no jurisdiction…it’s out of our hands.

    Cowards. :(

    Kris, I think that your description above is good, except that I know more than one just-out-of PC administrative staff member whose family struggled to get by. And who really wanted to live in the neighborhoods with bigger houses with the rest of the pastors (some of whom could hardly afford to even furnish their houses) but had to settle for living just outside the neighborhood, with a goal of working and saving to get over there with the rest of them. It’s all sacrificing for the sake of the gospel, you know.

  2. Mommy2Boo says:

    I’m really going to stop with this one, but just think about that for a minute. Think of the dichotomy of CJ’s house compared with Joe New “Pastor”/staff administrator out of Pastors College who struggles to to feed his family.

    I mean, honestly. And I’m not talking about a small-town SGM church. I’m talking about one of the top three BIGGIES. It’s one thing if a small town pastor is pulling in small money leading his little congregation. That’s really sacrificing for the gospel. But when Senior Pastor in this same church is probably pulling in close to six figures and Junior needs help… :scratch

  3. El Pastor says:

    Penetrating insights, Kris. It explains so much that is hard to understand about what it’s like inside SGM. What is so sad is how twisted it is from biblical-informed, “normal” Christianity.

  4. Roadwork says:

    In the previous post, Eric NS asked:

    There have been numerous posts here and at Refuge about the need for “repentance”. These posts include ideas suggesting that “change” will not be sufficient unless it is accompanied by “repentance”. Most recently, it was Mr Stretch #80, but I’m not pointing to him in particular; its been a frequent refrain by several posters.
    The basic definition of repentance is change (first inwardly, then outwardly). Therefore, I’m wondering if some who feel strongly about this topic can expand on what it is that they mean by the word “repentance”?

    Repentance begins with asking forgiveness. They should do what we’ve been counseled to do by them. If they’re aware that they have sinned against others, they should go to the offended party. Don’t simply say, “I’m sorry”. They should be specific about their sin. They should describe their sin using only biblical terms. They should then ask forgiveness.

    If you don’t like that, use this from Why Small Groups: Together Toward Maturity, pages 72 and 73, written by the Pope himself:

    Confessing Our Own Sins

    I’ve spent a lot of time discussing what to do when other people sin. However, it is far more important to regularly examine our hearts to identify instances where we may have sinned. We should not have to wait to confess until someone has confronted us with our sins or a breach in our relationship. When we realize we have sinned against someone or offended him, or even think we have, we should go to him and make things right. Again, there is a right and a wrong way to do this.
    “Well I guess maybe I might have sinned against you a little but only because you did such-and-such first, so I guess maybe I owe you an apology if you were offended.” This does not meet the biblical criteria. Then what does?
    For starters, thoroughly examine your conscience.
    Determine, with the help of the Holy Spirit, where you have sinned. Ask for conviction and godly sorrow for each of those sins.
    When you get together with the one you have sinned against (and don’t wait for these meetings to “just happen”-make them happen), confess your sins honestly, clearly, specifically, and completely. This means you confess not only your words and actions but your motives as well. Never gloss over your sins, offer excuses for your behavior, or generalize. (“Sometimes I tend to be harsh” is pale and ineffective compared to “I was harsh to you when I said such-and-such.”) This will not be difficult if you have godly sorrow for your sin. Ken Sande’s insight is helpful here: “Specific admissions help to convince others that you are honestly facing up to what you have done, which makes it easier for them to forgive you.” Remember, the goal is not just to clear your conscience but to gain reconciliation with the one you have sinned against.
    Express sorrow for what you have done and for the consequences of your actions. By this you are letting the person know that you realize your actions have affected him or her by causing pain, anxiety, or difficulty. It also lets the person know that you are willing to accept any consequences that may accompany your confession (such as repayment of damages, going to others who may have been drawn in by gossip, etc.) Also, identify the lessons you have learned from the experience and specific ways you are going to change as a result. This will give the person hope and trust for the future and will help him or her see how seriously you are taking your sin.
    Finally, ask for forgiveness. To actually say the words, “Would you forgive me?” is important-for forgiveness is indeed what we need and are seeking.

    In case you missed it, they’ve just been shot with their own gun.

  5. Kris says:

    Mommy2boo –

    Then imagine how it’d be when Junior had finally worked his way into the better neighborhood and no longer struggled. How much harder would it be to jeopardize his job at that point?

  6. Kris says:

    The best illustration we have of the dynamic I tried to describe in my post is what happened to Brent.

    No matter what you think of Brent, the way his “de-gifting” went down makes it obvious that life gets hard and then harder for the SGM whistle-blower. Even if the whistle-blower had been right there in the midst of all the policy-making and whatnot, he was ultimately marginalized and then made into the bad guy when he tried to hold his superior to the same standards to which the superior held everyone else.

  7. Bridget says:

    Mommy2boo –

    What you explained in your second paragraph is warped to me. Why would everyone need to live in the same neighborhood, in the same big houses? Are they building a country club? The Church is not about our church friends and being with them. We will be with them at times, but in SGM this becomes such a major focus that it takes over and leaves many others excluded from the “club,” which we are trying to claim is the Church. Maybe they are in the exact neighborhood where God wants them :). Maybe the members in the other neighborhood need to stop insinuating that everyone should be in a neighborhood like ours. :scratch

  8. Mommy2boo says:

    So true. I saw your billionaire analogy in the last post and I think it feels more like the billionaire doesn’t really care what happens to the people (not that he necessarily likes it), as long as he’s getting what he wants.

    Which, in that case, is to go back to being dead.

    And there’s where the analogy takes on so much zombie weirdness that I think it’s best to just let it go. :scratch :D

    Honestly, though, I do see the craziness of “rewriting the will” to say the same thing, but it seems less like it’s because they “liked” what happened to the others and more because they liked what happened to THEM.

  9. 5yearsinPDI says:

    I meant to say what a great post #76 was in the last thread. Glad you made it a featurette. Excellent analysis.

    I would not have believe the change that happened in a tender hearted caring guy we knew, before and after the PC. Its like he was taken away and a cold hard glittery eyed critic was put in his place. Your section on the PC is chilling, but oh so true.

  10. Argus says:

    Continuing that thought in response to Eric NS, I think repentance, to be convincing to the injured parties, needs both WORDS of contrition and ACTIONS to correct the wrong.

    The right words would communicate clearly that the offenders get it, that they understand their wrong and are sorry, that they get what the right course would be and are committed to the right course from now on.

    Then the right actions would prove that they meant what they said.

    I wouldn’t institutionalize a new formulaic practice, the latest SGM Shuffle, but I do think, at this point, that nothing less will quite suffice.

    Spirit-born conviction and contrition, humble heartfelt confession, asking for forgiveness, purposing to change by the strength God gives, and then following through — is that really asking more than the Word of God asks?

    To say all the right words without corresponding actions is hypocrisy.

    To try to sneak in some pacifying changes without first confessing their previous error is simply dishonest damage-control. It conceals all manner of error: pride, arrogance, control, politicking, obfuscation, pretense, a grasping to hold onto power and position, etc.

  11. Bridget says:

    Roadwork –

    I’m with you on the asking for forgiveness issue. This needs to be happening in the private realm with specific people by specific people. It also needs to happen in churches by men who have been part of damaging specific churches. Lastly, forgiveness needs to be sought by CJ, Dave Harvey, Brent D., Steve Shank, et al from all the members of all the churches in SGM. Their specific sins have affected everyone in SGM to some degree. Do you think that they are waiting for the AoR report to see in some totallity the results of their actions? . . . I can only hope that this is the case but, really, why di they need to wait if they have been convicted by the HS, or if people have told them so already. N

  12. Argus says:

    To the country club idea — we live in a nice neighborhood on the edge of an even nicer neighborhood, and almost all of the original pastors and ‘church planters’ bought homes in this development. I pass the houses of at least seven other church families just on my street, and pass a couple of dozen more within a mile or so. The membership is spread out much further by now, but the original epicenter was where the planting pastor bought his home.

    It is supposed to build community, to show the world a living example of the love of Christ as we love one another, as we share our lives, as we live like a city on a hill.

    Maybe it works that way for some, but I haven’t seen it. Unless you are one of the favored ones, it is pretty darn lonely, in fact. Everybody is so busy being impeccable.

    Anyway, the pressure to stay is strong when leaving a church means you are on the outs with your neighbors and school/homeschool group, too. After all, many people go to the same mechanic, the same hairdresser, etc. It’s weird. And it makes leaving a big giant step. It would almost be easier to move.

  13. Roadwork says:

    Bridget asked,

    Do you think that they are waiting for the AoR report to see in some totallity the results of their actions?

    Why should they wait? Again, from their own version of Doctrine and Covenants:

    We should not have to wait to confess until someone has confronted us with our sins or a breach in our relationship. When we realize we have sinned against someone or offended him, or even think we have, we should go to him and make things right.

  14. Argus says:

    @Roadwork — In the words of the venerable Bard, as Hamlet says, they are “Hoist with [their] own petard”

  15. Kris says:

    I know this is random, but I just have to say that you guys are AMAZING.

    As I was reading through the comments on this post and the previous one, it struck me anew just what tremendous communicators the participants here are. Seriously.

    I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – SGM apparently appeals (or has appealed) to highly talented and intelligent people. I really appreciate the writing skills and clarity of thought on display here. I’ve always said that this site would never have been anything at all without its participants.

    Thank you!

  16. A Kindred Spirit says:

    Ah yes, Argus…the “SGM village.”

  17. The jiggler says:

    Kris #6

    Could also go a long way towards explaining why Brent has lost his marbles. Why he solicits donations rather than getting a “real” job like the rest of us. Why he continually fantasises about being Moses or Elijah or Jesus…

  18. Epaphras says:

    Repentance equals individual churches leaving SGM and the organization itself shutting down or being money-starved and so shutting down.

    This is the only way for member churches to discharge their sacred responsibility before our Lord Jesus. By it, with-or-without the nominal legal standing to exert impact, they address CJ/Board’s brazen and continuing rebellion against discipline. By it, they also testify before God and men that what went before in SGM and in which they participated was systemically wrong. It honors, in the right, loving and merciful sense, all who suffered and were slandered, including those on this blog and the blogs themselves.

    Remaning in SGM declares the opposite, no matter how many sincere tweaks are made.

    Whether God brings something truly new and different to life which include some of these churches together is a separate matter. It will not be SGM, period. He will show that as/when it pleases Him, following authentic repentance.

  19. Kris says:

    Someone emailed me with the following (and gave me permission to post it anonymously for them):

    The flip side to this whole scenario, Kris, is when the founding pastor is drummed out by young whippersnapper PC grad, who comes in thinking he stands in God’s stead who has been told by folks like Kevin DeYoung, that the world is not worthy of him. He thinks he knows all, and Senior, who either went to a normal seminary or no seminary at all, who still believes in the priesthood of believers, is defenseless to this warped way of thinking.

    Another thought, is with how SGM emphasizes (worships) youth, the deck is really stacked against more traditional Senior pastor. Makes me sick.

  20. Somewhereintime says:

    Kris said … SGM apparently appeals (or has appealed) to highly talented and intelligent people

    Note to Pastors from CJ: Ensure that you make highly talented and intelligent people feel subservient to you. Make them feel as though they have little value outside of what value you bestow upon them. Remember, YOU are the smart ones! Remember, YOU are the talented ones!!! Remember most of all … I AM OVER ALL OF YOU!!!

  21. Dan says:

    Hey the jiggler – #17,

    Just a point about Brent and your comment; “solicits donations”.

    Brent has never “solicited donations” – he put that option on his blog at my (among others) request and insistence.

    It very much upset and grieved me that Brent was cut off from SGM, his previously decent salary – simply because he fell foul of C J Mahaney. Whereas C J on the other hand took his “voluntary leave of absence” – we are guessing – on his full decent, substantial salary plus book royalties.

    So whatever disagreements you may have with Brent – he is not to be blamed for agreeing to allow voluntary donations. That’s my blame.

  22. Izze says:

    @Argus- Don’t forget the same OB/GYN too. When I was way more “fearful” to leave I had the same thought “let’s just move dear”! How weird.

  23. Ellie says:

    [the] young whippersnapper PC grad, who comes in thinking he stands in God’s stead who has been told by folks like Kevin DeYoung, that the world is not worthy of him.

    WHAT?? What??
    This is all so nauseating. I can’t take it.
    Thank God, for His eternal justice. He will make it ALL RIGHT.

  24. Epaphras says:

    The most flagrantly unbiblical element of SGM’s doctrine of ministry/government is their disregard for elders by age and experience. This is far from a minor oversight, but grossly contradicts the biblical world view of governance tribally, familially and spiritually.

    In other words, preaching and practicing ‘hierarchy’, SGM systemically subverted the gracious hierarchy instituted by God creationally.

    And God is going to bless that … how? and when?

    No. And never.

    (…. which does not mean young men/women are barred from exercising gifts, even spiritual authority, in great power; only that they do so under the loving encouragement of wise, seasoned older ones. God gives young men, for instance, great energy and boldness so they can go forward and make all kinds of useful mistakes, as well as bear courageous fruit that I have forgotten I used to once bring forth myself …

    Of course, this is normative. Doctrine establishes norms per the Spirit’s edification throughout scripture. As sinners, we fall from God’s norms. Thankfully, He offers the churches counsel for how to handle that too, also graciously, in the same Book.)

  25. Bridget says:

    @ 19 the person who sent the email –

    Did you read one of Brent’s articles back in the fall, when he revealed CJ’s thoughts and ideas about “young men that might be arrogant and prideful in leadership,” but CJ was ok with that — “they could adjust the issue of pride later?” Some of the other (a)postles were not on board with this, but CJ prevailed and wanted the “young men” to be leading. (This is all paraphrased.)

    Wow! For one, CJ assumes that he/they have the power to change a man. Secondly, the idea of putting young, unproven, and inexperienced (in life) men in to pastor/elder positions is totally unscriptural. Timothy was the exception to this in that he was young, but this should not be the norm.

    Some of this nonesense just boggles the mind. It seems that CJ wanted to emulate some other ministry at the expense of proven wisdom in scripture. I hope Josh is one of the exceptions because of the truth he finds in scripture and the Holy Spirit at work in him, and not for any other reason.

  26. Happymom says:

    Similar to what Kris said in #5 – and THIS is why they will throw friends, family, children under the bus to protect that job.

    What a sad, humiliating and deceptive ladder to climb.

  27. Ellie says:


    #25 – putting prideful & arrogant young men in positions of authority is another part of the control puzzle. Such men are not led of the Holy Spirit & are more likely to consider what their flesh wants rather than what God wants when it comes to following what CJ wants in the churches.

  28. Roadwork says:

    Putting youngsters through the PC and into leadership was simply the breeding of “Yes Men”.

    The last thing any young man needs is the idea that he might be infallible or that he’s some sort of “oracle”.

  29. Persona says:

    Bridget 25

    “…CJ assumes that he/they have the power to change a man.”

    Exactly! This error is one result of SGM’s exaggerated elevation of the role of pastor/elder. In doing so, they extend far too much value and power to mere men.

    I believe this issue might be responsible for the growing gap between the two leadership camps in SGM. CJ seems to think Joshua, et al had sufficient power to shut down criticism of CJ and SGM, beginning in July.

    Joshua, et al, apparently disagreed, at least in part and, they look like they are giving some measure of freedom to members, in their thought-life, anyway.

    They would still probably all dearly love to see the blogs silenced but, that won’t happen as long as sgm continues to block the free-flow of information to it’s members.

  30. Much afraid no more says:

    Kris, I love this post!! I think you captured exactly the way the “system” compromises and corrupts these men who may have really wanted to serve God with all their heart, but ended up tangled in a web they couldnt extricate themselves from. And when they counted the cost of standing up to their leadership, they found that cost too great, and instead settled for the tangled web…. So Very Sad

    And even though Brent is Brent… a mixture of strengths and weaknesses and mixed motives, (just like most people are), I am still grateful for his courage to be a whistleblower in the midst of this mess.

    Thanks for this post, it brought me clarity and understanding.

  31. Kris says:

    El Pastor –

    Since you’ve “been there,” I’m guessing you’re only too familiar with the way SGM pastors are trained to revere and submit to those above them. I know you don’t participate here much, but I think it’d be fascinating to hear from a pastor’s perspective what this was like.


    Roadwork –

    EXCELLENT explanation for what true repentance would be like.

    I’d add to the D**ning quotes from Why Small Groups? that I would be more prone to think the current changing that SGM is doing is “repentance” if it didn’t feel like there’s still so much concern about how everything plays out in the minds of the non-SGM public.

    Honestly, that’s how it seems – like just as much (if not more) energy is expended thinking about SGM’s reputation than on openly addressing faulty teachings and practices, seeking out and apologizing to the victims of those faulty teachings and practices, and just…well…seeming like they were actually sorrier that their “mistakes” had hurt people than they were sorry their “mistakes” are being discussed publicly.

    Change is not necessarily evidence of repentance. Repentance will always include change, but change does not always include the godly sorrow that must come with repentance. Sometimes change happens because the old ways cease to work, and sometimes change happens because people get embarrassed that the problems with the old ways were publicly revealed. Neither of those is repentance – they’re just change.

  32. El Pastor says:

    # 31 Kris

    I am an SGM outsider…seminary trained, independent church pastor. That’s why I don’t post much. I am a learner. I do wish I could peek inside the PC! I have been following for a while now (since the public kerfuffle on The Documents) and find all of this fascinating. I’ve been in the ministry a long time, but I have learned a lot here, and all that I have learned about abusive leadership has impacted my teaching about leadership and my own ministry. My current series on 2 Corinthians has been deeply impacted by what I have gleaned here.

    You are actually doing a lot of good outside SGM, where CJ has had an influence and has been respected as a model leader and teacher. Much of what has come out about SGM culture is quite shocking and disturbing on so many levels. It is by God’s grace and goodness that it is all coming out. You are truly doing God’s work. I am actually encouraged by recent events. And although I’ve never been a big T4G conference kind of guy, my opinions about the Reformed Big Dogs has changed markedly as well.

    Clearly from your post, you have been given some insider information on the PC. I would be interested to hear more. Until now, I couldn’t understand how a ministry training school in this day and age could be so brief (nine months?). If there are any former or current SGM pastors who could reflect on the training they received at the Pastor’s College, especially as it relates to the topics in view here, it would be very helpful to many if you would share some of that.

  33. Kris says:

    El Pastor –

    Thanks for clarifying. I confused you with someone else.

    I agree that it’d be fascinating for someone to post here openly about what the PC was like. I have gleaned a lot from email correspondents – especially a couple of the PC students’ wives. But I think we could learn a lot from a former student or two who would be willing to take our questions.

    From what the wives shared with me, the Pastors College was an odd tango. PC candidates and their wives were the recipients of MUCH extravagant “care” – dinners with elaborate decorations, special meetings, people eager to host the students in their expressly-built-for-that-purpose basement apartments. Being a PC student carried with it quite the caché.

    But at the same time, with all the fawning and the positive strokes came the expectation of absolute and complete submission to anyone in a pastoral position – but particularly a student’s mentor pastor. The student (and his wife, if he had one) were expected to open themselves up without reservation. No topic could be off limits. The mentor pastor would disciple the PC student. The mentor pastor’s wife would do likewise with the PC student’s wife. The couples would meet together for additional meetings. This all happened on a weekly basis.

    Frankly, it sounded awful.

    So from what I’ve pieced together, there was a continual push and pull between building up and then tearing down. I can imagine after awhile the PC students would just become bowls full of mush, not really sure which way is up, but willing to do whatever they’re told.

    Another source of what I know about the PC comes from reading various blogs I discovered (or was directed to). Blogging appears not to be “porn” as long as it’s done by a PC student’s wife, with liberal use of sepia-toned photos and lots of Spurgeon quotes. Or by a PC student himself, as he waxes eloquent with dramatic weariness about how hard he’s studying and how intense the curriculum is. It’s easy to read between the lines of these blogs and hear (especially in the wives’ words) the wistful longings to be everything that people are wanting them to be…along with a disturbing sense of just how much time they’re spending obsessing over their sins.

    Intriguing stuff.

  34. 5yearsinPDI says:

    Kerrin was a PC grad. I’d love to hear his analysis.

  35. Kris says:

    I could be wrong, of course, but I have a hunch Kerrin’s PC experience would not have been the norm, since he was a regular CLC member and also already had a mentor pastor relationship with his SGM celebrity father-in-law.

    But he could, of course, talk about the academic side of the PC.

  36. Persona says:

    El Pastor 32

    I think it would be great if some men from the PC would dare to post their thoughts here. It might even be more interesting to hear from those who have either NOT been accepted in the PC despite years of pursuit or hear the stories of those who were tossed out of the PC mid-year. Nothing was ever announced about those ‘errant students.’

    At the very least, the churches who sent the student should be apprised about their dismissal. They sacrificed so the church could send the PC candidate and they were expecting their return. One student our church sent went MIA mid-year. He did not graduate with the class and others were missing as well. He turned-up later in another state involved in a new career. Why the secrecy? And, why were some guys chosen over others?

  37. Marians says:

    Spot on, Kris!

    I think you understand how SGM works better than many in there who can’t see these things for what they are…or, at the very least, are denying them. Though some of this is conjecture, the part about the salary, house, respect, etc. are very true because many of my good friends who attended college with me are now in either the “junior” or “senior” position and it’s certainly true of them!

    Yeah, I’m an old timer for sure and feel pangs of guilt for bringing some “good guys” into all this madness. :(

  38. Kris says:

    Earlier today, I received Brent’s response to the questions that had been directly addressed to him. In the email I sent to Brent, it’s possible I missed a question or two. If so, please let me know. Anyway, here are the questions, followed by Brent’s answers:

    READER QUESTION: Can I have a timeline on this? Is this a response to the Fairfax et al letter? Or was their letter a response to this 2/28 email of proposed bylaws? I started to read on Brent’s site but honestly, when I couldn’t find the context of timing I walked away.

    BRENT SAYS: “An Update from the Board” was sent out to all SGM pastors regarding “finalized details for the upcoming Board transition” on February 27.

    Mark Mullery, on behalf of 13 churches (more now), responded to the Board on March 7 saying, “Our dear brothers, we appeal to you to slow down. Please stop and listen to the churches you are connected to and emerge from; create forums for pastors to speak together and with you; and call a council of pastors from each church together to discuss our future and make decisions together.” See “An Appeal from Thirteen SGM Churches for the SGM Board to Stop and Listen.”

    I wrote “Cotton Candy” on March 12 to expose the superficial changes being put forth by the SGM Board and to help the SGM pastors understand the issues as they fight for change. I sent “Cotton Candy” to each of them with this note, “This was written for your benefit as you decide the future of SGM under the Providence of God.”


    READER QUESTION: Does Covenant Life Church Inc. in affect own Sovereign Grace Ministries? It would seem to me that the board is acting scared that Covenant Life could in effect put SGM down by themselves if they saw fit to. I wonder if Covenant Life is just now realizing that they have this authority over the corporation?

    BRENT SAYS: I don’t think CLC owns SGM but I’m sure a lot of people are looking into the legal ramifications of being “an integrated auxiliary.” I’ve not had time to investigate what this entails but it certainly complicates things for SGM.


    READER QUESTION: My question is based on if Covenant Life gets to appoint a board member why not the rest of the SGM churches?

    BRENT SAYS: CLC was given this legal privilege because of its unique role when SGM was incorporated under them as an integrated auxiliary. But now all the SGM pastors should nominate, vett, and vote upon potential Board Members “in order to further develop and perpetuate the close working relationship between Covenant Life Church, Inc. [all the churches] and the Corporation, as well as to ensure mutual faithful adherence to our shared religious bonds and convictions.”


    READER QUESTION: Will this post be read by Mohler, Duncan, and Piper, etc.? Are they following the situation enough to read this? Will it be sent to them by anybody they respect? Is it just “pornographic evil” that they would not even consider looking at? I know Ted Kober/AoR probably read all sorts of things, but what about the Big Dogs, especially T4G? Any thoughts?

    BRENT SAYS: When I first released The Documents last July, Mohler and Duncan wrote them off as hate speech and spurious. I doubt any of these men read my material. I suspect they rely on C.J. alone for updates and perspective. Ted told me he has a tough time keeping up with my writings. I hope he takes them seriously. He has been given that task. Big Dogs don’t eat my dog food. I’m afraid they lift a leg and urinate on it.


    READER QUESTION: The Articles of Amendment/Restatement from 2002 that are on your blog show you as one of the five Directors. As a Director, did you not approve these Articles which made you and the other four Directors “all powerful”?

    BRENT SAYS: Yes, I signed it but I doubt I read it in 2002. We were changing the name, addresses for legal resident, etc. Just technicalities. I suspect the document was put in front of us to sign as a legal necessity.

    READER QUESTION: The original Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Maryland Secretary of State in 1988. Did you sign or otherwise approve of the 1988 Articles?

    BRENT SAYS: I’m sure I signed and “approved” the 1988 Articles and Bylaws. But to be honest, I don’t remember discussing them or looking them over carefully. Hopefully, I read them. I know that sounds crazy but in 1988 I was not much concerned about legal documents. Larry Tomczak was team leader and he came up with them in conjunction with our lawyer, Chip Grange, and the executive director at the time. I don’t remember playing a part in the process. That doesn’t absolve me. The documents reflected all of our thinking. C.J. replaced Larry in 1990 and carried on the tradition.

    Here is another crazy point. We didn’t really follow them or use them. They were just there. Now they have come into play. Like a will or testament. You don’t need it until it’s time to divvy up the estate of the deceased.

    That is what Al Mohler did when he removed all the liberals from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He got out the founding documents, including the Statement of Faith, and asserted his extraordinary authority as President. Southern Baptist Churches are congregational in polity. SBTS is not. C.J. is using the same strategy with Mohler in mind. Here’s the difference. Mohler got rid of liberals. C.J. is freezing out men that don’t agree with him or have challenged him.

    The Articles and Bylaws were poorly written. There should have been more checks and balances on the apostolic team and provided for greater involvement by the SGM pastors. I am partly to blame. I should have taken them more seriously in 1988.


    READER QUESTION: Is it your intent to sue Sovereign Grace Ministries for lost wages and mental anguish? I know I would.

    BRENT SAYS: Not for mental anguish. More like mental annihilation. I plan to write a blog post on the subject in the coming weeks.


    READER QUESTION: May be a little off topic. How many churches have been adopted by SGM and of those churches how many still have the original senior pastor?

    BRENT SAYS: These are rough estimates. One third have been adopted. Two thirds planted. Half of all churches have the original senior pastor. Maybe less.


    READER QUESTION: Has anyone discovered the reason why so many SGM churches changed their names to ‘Sovereign Grace Church” (starting about 2008)? SGM rarely does anything like that without cause, especially something that would cost a lot like changing signs, ads and stationery. Wondering if it had to do with legal issues?

    BRENT SAYS: A lot of guys changed the name of their church to “Sovereign Grace Church” because of the added name recognition and media exposure on the internet that came from associating with SGM. I expect some churches will come up with a new name now.


    READER QUESTION: I can’t help but remember the NUMEROUS times when Brent came to speak at KWCC and when he did the primary teaching at our Men’s Retreat and he and Gene would just GUSH over each other and what brothers they were and how much they loved each other and on and on. I sure would like to know what really happened behind the scenes there, or if it was just hypocritical crap to begin with.

    BRENT SAYS: Gene was a very close friend (or so I thought). We did gush. If you’ve read “A Final Appeal” you know I worked with Gene on issues of pride for a long time (pp. 136-154). It was not until he was placed “over me” by C.J. that I discovered the extent of his ruthlessness and ambition. C.J. flipped Gene and Gene turned in order to please C.J. Gene sacrificed our friendship in order to gain favor with C.J. The betrayal was sudden and complete. It was excruciating for my wife and me. I can’t really put it into words. Here is an excerpt.

    “C.J., you and Gene share common characteristics. Gene can be very affable, kind, encouraging and generous. He is capable in many respects. I’ve worked with Gene on all the issues above for over a decade but I did not know how serious they were until you placed him over me and assigned him to deal with me. I admit to being shocked. I thought he had made more progress. Gene first confronted me with your assessment and on your behalf in March 2008. Up until then Gene had been empathetic toward me. But his disposition suddenly changed as a result of conversations with you and counsel from you [Footnote 166: Gene was now loaded for bear having been armed with your sinful judgments of me.]

    “A onetime friend began to act more like a pit bull than a pastor. At the end of his first confrontation, I asked Gene if he thought I even loved Jesus, so harsh and condemning were his words. He didn’t answer the question. [Footnote 167: And yet you have no concerns for Gene. This was one of the worst experiences of my life – Jenny’s too. How many other people has Gene treated in the same way? I confess, I did not care for Gene adequately. I am partially to blame for his abuses. God forgive me.]” (AFA, p. 154)


    Thanks to Brent for his responses.

  39. Greg says:

    We may be shifting direction with Brent’s replies, but I want to add an aspect to Kris’ post.

    You have described the politcs of deference perfectly. It exists in organizations that are self focused and self perpetuating. When people are grieved by the state of the lost, the poor, and the oppressed, they quickly forget internal politics and selfish gain and work together for the sake of the less fortunate. When they labor in prayer, they are not concerned with eachother’s sins.

    There is a component of the disregard for social justice in the “Good Guys Gone Bad” dynamic. In the early days of GOB, most of the congregations were urban. We were reaching the homeless, the poor, the oppressed. I spent afternoons dealing with strung out addicts showing up at my door, many a night counseling the demonized who where contemplating suicide.

    When we loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly (Montgomery County), we left behind the people and the mission we were called to. I was told not to waste my time with the hard cases I was dealing with. The church was sanitized and was left with nothing better to do than perfect itself. That has proven to be a very self destructive process.

    If CLC wants to be heard by God, it needs to return to its call to prayer and reaching “the least of these”

  40. Kris says:

    Just for the record, the conversation can go in any direction or no particular direction. I posted Brent’s responses to the questions because he’d sent them to me and I didn’t want anyone to think he hadn’t answered yet. But we don’t have to talk about that.

    Greg, I agree with you that a self-focused organization is one that is not thinking so much about evangelizing the lost – which would go right along with the observation that typical evangelism within SGM has for too long been about bringing already-saved Christians into SGM churches.

  41. Oswald says:

    There is a new ‘View From the Cheap Seats’ today, over at the SGM site.

  42. Res Ipsa says:

    Kris, thanks for compiling the questions for Brent. I appreciate that he took the time to answer them. I am perplexed by his answers to my questions to his role in the Articles of Incorporation. In the time I worked for him, I never saw or even imagined him signing something without first reading or even scrutinizing it. If I removed a staple from a document, Brent told me to put the new staple exactly in the old holes (a skill I perfected, by the way). That`s not a guy who approves or signs important legal documents without readimg them. Very odd.

  43. Persona says:

    Os 41

    CJ seems to be preparing the way for his new church plant.

    I remember well when he planted the first church and I was there the night he and Larry ended T.A.G. But, somehow I think the next time I will see him will be after we have all gone home.

  44. Unassimilated says:

    “Integrated Auxiliary of a Church” Defined;

    The term integrated auxiliary of a church refers to a class of organizations that are related to a church or convention or association of churches, but are not such organizations themselves. In general, the IRS will treat an organization that meets the following three requirements as an integrated auxiliary of a church. The organization must:

    Be described both as an Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) organization and be a public charity under Code section 509(a)(1), (2), or (3),
    Be affiliated with a church or convention or association of churches, and
    Receive financial support primarily from internal church sources as opposed to public or governmental sources.

    Men’s and women’s organizations, seminaries, mission societies and youth groups that satisfy the first two requirements above are considered integrated auxiliaries whether or not they meet the internal support requirement.

    Source: Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations

    Found here – http://www.irs.gov/charities/churches/article/0,,id=155750,00.html

    Not sure what the implications are for CLC, other than SGM was first an auxiliary of CLC prior to becoming and auxiliary of a ‘family of churches.’

    My hunch is that SGM only has an issue if both their church associations & revenue streams from the family churches drop below other sources. This could be why they are hyper-focused on the tithe from the family churches. No formal ownership of SGM by CLC is there, it is more of an affiliation/definition for tax purposes.

    I am having lunch with a college who is well placed in the IRS this weekend. I will add this to my list of SGM questions.

  45. B.R. Clifton says:

    Roadwork #4:
    Actually repentance begins with recognizing that you committed asin (whatever it may be). Secondly one immediately confesses that sin to the Almighty. Thirdly there’s the request for forgiveness, both from God and then from one who might have been offended (if any). Lastly, one stops doing the sin and begins practicing the right thing to do.

  46. B.R. Clifton says:

    BTW, in reference to my last post, if one leap-frogs to number three without going through one and two then it’s probably not repentance. Then it’s called trying to get off the hook.

  47. Stunned says:


    AMEN!!!!!!!!! (to both posts)

  48. Roadwork says:

    B.R. Clifton RE: 45

    And this bunch that’s so prideful and self righteous about their “biblical understanding” (SGM leadership) can’t seem to figure that out?

    Why does anyone bother with them? Seems that they are still in need of milk.

  49. DB says:

    Kris, #33 gag me.

    And how much does PC cost (like $45K/year?)

    God-willing, I am about to get my MS and it wasn’t that expensive.

    And I can make my blog anything I want it to be, imagine that.

  50. A Kindred Spirit says:

    If I removed a staple from a document, Brent told me to put the new staple exactly in the old holes (a skill I perfected, by the way).

    Think about that, folks.

    (Res, you obviously had the “patience of Job” with Brent – I wouldn’t have lasted 2 hours working with him.)