Do SGM’s Problems Shake Your Faith?

Kris says:  What follows is one of those posts that some of you (those of you who come here looking for news) probably won’t like, as it’s an editorial of sorts – some of my thoughts about a recent trend I’ve noticed in my email and in comments people have left.  I really don’t presume to be any sort of teacher or profound thinker, so if you’re not usually interested in what I have to say, then you might want to come back another day, when we may finally have some news about things like the release of the report from the Ambassadors of Reconciliation.

That being said, if you’re still here – well, here goes.  :D

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In the previous post, new commenter “Shoreline” said,

I am much more interested in how to salvage shipwrecked faith as a result of the experience of sgm.

This is a theme I’ve been hearing more often lately. A few days ago, “yentl” wrote,

So…if good Christians throughout SGM stand up against spiritual abuse, will I be whole again? Unfortunately, if they find in my favor, my friends will hate me. Either way…I lose.

I get the feeling, from different comments and emails, that the issues with which Sovereign Grace Ministries has been dealing over the past 8 or 10 months or so have caused a lot of upheaval in at least some SGM members’ spiritual lives.

I’m looking at the last sentence that I wrote and realizing that what I just said probably seems really, really UN-profound to a lot of you.  But I think it’s important to understand that for people on the outside of SGM, their ideas about “church” are much more elastic…and much less foundational to their Christian faith.

And, if you find that SGM’s problems are causing you to feel differently about your Christian faith – your walk with Jesus – then that’s quite likely a sign that you have confused the real gospel (the good news of what Jesus has done for us) with something else (the role that your SGM church plays in your life as a Christian).

I believe that because of the way SGM churches were established (for years, SGM’s “missions” efforts were almost exclusively directed toward planting more SGM churches in already-churched suburban neighborhoods where there were already plenty of gospel-proclaiming, Bible-believing congregations), and because of what SGM pastors have believed and taught about church, too many people within SGM have made the way that SGM “does church” the defining aspect of their lives as believers. For instance, if you look at earlier SGM writings like the collaborative Why Small Groups: Together Toward Maturity, it is clear that for decades the leaders of SGM believed that SGM churches’ approach to “biblical fellowship” was the only real way to have sanctification…and of course, while sanctification does not save us (or so the book says initially), sanctification will be taking place if we are “truly saved”…and sanctification cannot happen apart from “biblical fellowship” as SGM defines “biblical fellowship”…so therefore, your SGM church, with its “biblically correct” approach to fellowship is crucial to your sanctification, which is required in order for you to actually be saved. (This is discussed here at some length.)

In addition to SGM’s rigid ideas about what constitutes “biblical fellowship,” SGM has for years marketed itself as practically the only purveyor of “correct doctrine,” because SGM is just about the only church out there that is – on paper at least – both “Charismatic” and “Reformed.”  Moreover, a lot of SGMers have absorbed the idea that pretty much no other church gives its people enough tough talk about sin.

The bottom line for many loyal SGMers is that although they like to defend their SGM churches by paying lip service to the idea that “no church is perfect,” the very reason that they feel the need to defend SGM in the first place is because SGM has in many ways historically believed itself to be “more biblical” than other churches, and about as close to perfect as it’s possible for a church to get in this lifetime.

SGM churches have also been “One-Stop Shops.”  For years, members were trained to look to their pastors for all their needs.  Within SGM, pastors were thought to possess special abilities to know their people’s hearts – abilities to discern a person’s sins better than the person himself could discern them.  From C.J. Mahaney’s Happiest [Dearest] Place On Earth sermon comes the following quote:

We need good and godly pastors to watch over our souls because we are vulnerable on a daily basis to the deceitfulness of sin, the hardening effect of sin upon our souls. So sin is deceptive. That’s the DNA of sin, the DNA of sin is deception, therefore we need the discerning and caring eyes of pastors and others because so – so often I’M BLIND TO WHAT IS OBVIOUS TO THEM.

Also, SGM members were for years taught to have disdain for anything having to do with the mental health profession.  No matter what the issue or problem, the SGMer was trained to seek help only from his or her pastor.  Professional counseling – even professional Christian counseling – was automatically suspect.  While it is true that pastors have been told within the past couple of years (since this issue has been discussed publicly here and on other sites) to tone things down, this stuff was taught to pastors as recently as 2009.  At the 2009 Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors’ Conference, Andy Farmer gave a lengthy teaching to SGM pastors about The Counseling Process in which he provided ample evidence of SGM’s longtime antipathy for the mental health profession.  In that message, he even suggested that pastors might help members figure out whether or not to take prescription drugs such as anti-depressants:

But, uh, I think in generally speaking, we can engage people in their medications in a very helpful thoughtful way and they could – and they could – they could be, ah – and – and – and – we can become part of that process of the management of it.  [View the context for this statement in paragraphs 12-15 here.]

Back in the day, SGM pastors even believed that they ought to be the primary go-to guys for situations involving child sex abuse, weighing in on whether or not victims should involve law enforcement and the legal system, putting pressure on victims to forgive perpetrators quickly, and basically doing little to support victims while at the same time seeming to take the side of the perpetrator.

The bottom line is that if you’ve been part of an SGM church for a significant period of time, you will have very likely reached a place where you are dependent upon your church and your pastor in a way that simply does not happen out in “normal” Christianity.  You have been required to place so much faith and confidence in your church and your pastors that they really do need to be close to perfect. 

To summarize, you’ve been taught that 1) your church is one of the very few purveyors (if not the only purveyor) of truly “biblical” doctrine, particularly as it pertains to being (supposedly) both Reformed and Charismatic; 2) your salvation is dependent upon your sanctification, which is dependent upon a very particular formula for small-group fellowship; 3) your pastors have superior insight into your heart than you yourself do; and 4) your pastors ought to be the main source for all manner of advice.

With all those teachings, it stands to reason that if you discover your church organization might not actually be worthy of so much blind and unquestioning trust, the way you’ve been living out your Christian faith – with so much emphasis placed on your local SGM church – may start to bother you.  You may begin to question many elements of what you have been taught.

The good news in all of this is, well, the good news - the gospel.  The real gospel of Jesus – what He has accomplished on our behalf, what He continues to do now through the work of the Holy Spirit, and the fact that He never changes, despite what your church may have told you about how “constant change is here to stay.”  If you’re finding yourself feeling like the bottom has fallen out of your Christian life because the SGM organization is struggling to define itself, then maybe that’s a sign that you need to look at your church less and look to Jesus more.

The Bible tells us that Jesus – and not a particular expression of His church – is the author and finisher of our faith.  The Bible also tells us that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  While I believe the Bible also tells us that it is important for us to seek out the company of other believers and worship and study the Word with them, the Bible does not specifically spell out (as SGM has always spelled out) the precise way this must be done.  If you’re finding that your faith is being shaken these days, there’s a good possibility that you may have been putting your faith in the wrong thing.

309 comments

  1. 5yearsinPDI says:

    Very good post Kris.

    You have been required to place so much faith and confidence in your church and your pastors that they really do need to be close to perfect.

    If you’re finding that your faith is being shaken these days, there’s a good possibility that you may have been putting your faith in the wrong thing.

    I thought I would broaden your concern a little bit in case anybody else, like me, has been shaken not so much by SGM itself but by the celebrity preachers of the Gospel Coalition shacking up with CJ. I think I have worked it through over the years, but although I did not put my faith in SGM leaders, I certainly put other men on high pedestals.

    The hardest was John Piper. I still think he is one of the greatest living preachers on earth. His collection of CD messages of biographies of late great men of the faith is profound. Romans, Hebrews, Future Grace, God’s desire for our joy in him( Desiring God)……Piper is a greatly anointed preacher. For us, recognizing CJ as sociopathic in the 90s, to see Piper link up with him, well, that was gut wrenching. The grief and dismay lasted for years.

    Duncan…..I’ve heard him preach on the Word of God at the PCRT, and other messages as well. What depth to the Glory of God. Watching him get into the T4G bed with CJ…ugh. CJ was such a poor teacher I could not for the life of me figure it out. I still can’t.

    Randy Alcorn- a good guy. A real Christian. Praising CJ?? that was a blow.

    Never cared too much for Mohler, Dever, Trueman anyway, and could brush off DeYoung and Ortland as young. Could step back and watch Driscoll still be part of “the group” and realize that as long as you had TULIP in place and the 5 solas, they left you alone on prayer and polity. But Grudem??? Grudem?? Wayne, don’t you get it?

    Sinclair Ferguson, the incredible doctrinal genius with a big heart for children and laymen (unlike what I saw in SGM)…Sinclair, don’t you get it?? How can you speak at their conference?

    No, they don’t get it. How can we see it and they do not? Do you have to be in SGM to see it? I struggled so long with it all.

    I have cried on the phone with my pastor, and talked at length with my husband. Talk about agony. I have had to face that I put men on pedestals, and to face that God himself allowed SGM to fool people with an image that only now is getting exposed, in His divine purpose. God is exposing more than SGM, He is exposing trends and weaknesses and sins that go to the very top in neocalvinst circles nation wide. As a neocalvinist myself, this has been rough for me. My faith itself was not shaken, but my cynicism about church and pastors has been tested to the max.

    My biggest helps:

    1. Meditating on Peter who fell so bad as described in Galatians, due to peer pressure and fear of man.

    2. Folks I knew at CCEF who told me that they saw it all and could not send anybody to SGM. Finding out that Ken Sande saw it all and CJ would not listen to him.

    3. My husband exhorting me that neocalvinists have made an idol out of doctrine to the neglect of dependency on God in prayer, and true care for the sheep. “The goal of our instruction is love”. Repenting of that idol myself- (which is why we even joined SGM. We alone had Calvinism and Charismatic truths together. We were the best place for doctrine.)

    4. Being in a decent church now with a true pastor and true elders. They have their flaws and we have had arguements, but it has done a lot for my cynicism. The outreach to needy and orphans has kept my focus right. I don’t know if you can ever get over it all unless you are part of a flawed but decent real church.

    5. Survivors and Refuge. The blogs have helped me process reality in so many ways, and have forced me to examine my own heart and attitudes so many times. Too many posters to list by name.

    At the end of the day above everything else I come back to exCLCer who has left the faith after watching what happened to her family in response to sexual molestation, and [another victim] in a mental hospital, cutting her own body, suicidal and in agony. At the end of the day I have met up with the God of Justice who loves these women and is going to deal out the fires of Justice.

    I do feel compelled to obey this verse ( Isaiah 62):

    “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves, And give Him no rest, until He establishes
    And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”

    We must not rest in our prayers for the Lord to establish His church.

    Sorry to be so long winded. Thanks again to the many posters here without whom I don’t know if I ever would have processed my own sin and need to repent, and gotten past bad church experiences ( not just SGM). To think we are just evil pornography :D :roll:

  2. Mattie Chathan says:

    I have to say, after leaving SGM, I’ve had a ton of cynicism and disillusionment to work through. The worst of it has been a total disinterest in reading the Bible, as I still hear Gene and his messages through the passages underlined in my ESV. My current solution has been to just read the Message.

    The other thing that I’ve had to deal with (which you mention) is the fallout from the total rejection of psychology and counseling. I think I might have majored in psychology if I hadn’t been in a SGM church before heading off to college, and even today I’m at a total loss regarding finding a “good” counselor. I have no criteria for knowing a good professional counselor or therapist, and I’m torn between habitual distrust of secular therapists and being jaded toward the ones who profess to be Christian (using papyrus font on their websites doesn’t help that much, either). There’s no good way to find a happy median–no polar start to chart these waters post-SGM.

  3. Epaphras says:

    Trite, but always true: the strongest deceptions intertwine themselves around the most profound truths.

    Truth: the church is beloved to our Lord Jesus.
    Deception: any particular local church is co-extensive with the church.
    The hook: post-modern church shopping does displease our Lord.

    Truth: as we behold HIm in fellowship with one another, we are transformed.
    Deception: we do not have a direct one-on-one communion with Him in heaven by the Spirit.
    The hook: we do not, indeed, live to ourselves.

    Thirty years ago, thankfully, I really got “it” and both my life/ministry was transformed:

    If our hearts (individually AND) corporately) are fixed on Christ Jesus the Person, the local church somehow ‘appears’ and, admitting her sins, does well.

    If our hearts are fixed on the local church(es), ESPECIALLY if we fantasize that we ‘serve the church’ for Him personally, we lose Him (e.g., not literally, but Body detaches from Head functionally) and so lose the local churches too.

    Just as the Holy Spirit ‘obsessively’ turns all attention from Himself to Jesus, though He is the Third Person of the Godhead, healthy churches don’t even notice themselves, their programs, their size, their coolness any more than a bride focuses on herself instead of her Bridegroom.

    That isn’t just nice religious talk. It’s the whole ballgame.

    Though real, findable-on-GPS local churches are His will without question, they remain scaffolding which come-and-go over the centuries. If they weren’t, ‘planting’ a church in areas where there are already other churches would be sheer wickedness. Though always biblically questionable, there ‘may’ be reasons to do so, solely because those churches AND OURS are tents of pilgrimage, not eternal stone cathedrals.

    If our faith is in ‘the church’, then Revelation 2 and 3 will shake our faith. How can the Lord who loves His LOCAL churches treat them so? Because He loves you and me far more than the assembled entity He addresses in Ephesus, Smyrna, etc.

    His ONE Body is indestructible and eternal. The ten million (probably more) precious local scaffolds for the on-the-ground building up of His ONE Body are temporal.

    While subtle, the universal practice of terming a local church “our Body” or “our local Body” verges on doctrinal heresy; no exaggeration. Once Screwtape gets us to function as though a local church is The Body of Christ (he is glad we’re so ‘clever’ that we pooh-pooh even the notion that WE would be so silly).

    Aren’t we glad that the way back to faith is always the same? “Follow Me”.

    That’s something children like us can understand.

    (Oh and SGM-organization-things are merely scaffolds OF scaffolds).

  4. DB says:

    After we were dismembered from our church we couldn’t find another one just like them with nice pastors instead of Dave Harvey and his henchmen so it took awhile to realize that we should thank God for that and enjoy our newfound albeit reluctant freedom in Christ and let the thing go.

    It has taken some time (and we have some work left to do) to separate what is godly and what is churchly, peel away the churchly and focus on the godly.

    Now, we realized that the godly/churchly combo was a lethal dose of legalism but cutting away the sgmanure was tedious but the more we got rid of it, the more of what was godly was visible.

    The body of Christ is like a chimera or a moasic mutation (or the X chromosome inactivation) if you know any one of those three phenomanon in the first, you have a blanding of two genomes a chimea was two animals/one body. There are extremely rare cases of this in humans, if you don’t already know about the other two, just stick with the first (it would take too long) the Body of Christ in SGM land is a bad mix of the mutated or bad line of manmade junk but it is packaged such that it looks like its from the same source as the godly stuff and you get a bizarre piecework that isn’t healthy or godly.

    I am questioning everything right now because when I started to question before, I felt like I was evil entertaining evil rebellious thoughts and everything. Now, with a large dose of freedom in Christ and a desire to put a whoopass on anything that holds people in bondage, I am questioning everything.

    So far, no lightning bolts to my bad ass.

    Oh, yeah, I have a *minor* in Psychology and I’m taking a class right now on Evolutionary Biology,

  5. Izze says:

    My short answer is no. The Jesus of the bible is the same regardless of how people act or how pastors interpret specific principles. He is still the one who saved this lost and hopeless college student many years ago. However, I do question many principles that were taught and culturally expected.
    1) I may actually work when I have kids and that is okay.
    2) I don’t have to homeschool.
    3) It’s not “unsubmissive” to question my husbands decisions (he would never think so anyway)
    4) I don’t have to run to our caregroup leaders if we have a conflict. Being grown up means working through things together. i don’t have to share EVERYTHING.
    5) I am not the worst sinner in the world. I’m just not. And to make any sort of comparison is not beneficial.

    I’m sure I could go on but these are the things that held power over me when I was a “good lil Sovereign Gracer”

  6. Lost in (cyber) Space says:

    Kris,

    Wow! This post really captures my experience over the past 8 mos. I have realized that I put my SGM leaders on pedestals and made my church an idol. See, I made it my “god”. I looked to the church and their interpretation of doctrine to tell me what I was supposed to be like as a Christian. I drank the koolaide big time. When I saw things that bothered my conscience, I told myself to believe the best for they knew far more than I did. I acted my part pretty well… at least on the outside. Inside I was dying.

    Since the release of Brent’s docs, the wool has been removed from my eyes and I see the lack of integrity and hipocrisy of the head honchos in SGM. This has shaken my faith, for I really believed they were above reproach. I was told they were humble godly men that were worthy of my admiration and emulation.

    Yes, my faith has been shaken… but it is my fault. My foundation is/was faulty. I built on the sand. I did not study God’s Word for myself. I read devotionally, but was not a “Berean”.

    Kris, I believe the Lord is establishing in me that, of all that I have heard and learned, the thing I can build on is the true gospel. Jesus is the Son of God. He came to seek and save the lost. He died on a cross for my sins. He was raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father. The same Spirit that raised him from the dead abides in me. He has given me His Spirit to guide, lead and teach me in His ways. This is true. This is my foundation. All of the other stuff… well… I will need to look to the Holy Spirit to help me know what is good and what needs to be tossed into the fire.

    Thank you for writing this post. It really helps that you and others see what I see and have experienced what I have. I am grateful to God that He has opened my eyes to see my idolatry and the fallibility of my SGM leaders. He has used you and many of the posters her to help me see that more clearly.

  7. musicman says:

    The short answer is no, it didn’t shake my faith in Christ, despite the abuse we endured and observed. It did shake my faith in the local church as an institution. It also set me on a decade quest, researching church history and the history of scripture….that did shake my faith.

  8. Michael says:

    God help me, yes, they do.

    But then, if the problems shake my faith, that means my faith has been largely placed in SGM. It’s one thing to have outrage against injustice, to speak up for the oppressed, both of which are Scriptural practices. But to waver, to doubt Him…but He wasn’t the one who sinned.

    What this reveals to me is that I have never fully placed my trust in Jesus. I struggle to do so to this day. I mean, “take up your cross and follow Me” is still one of the most terrifying statements that I have heard in my life. And it’s not like you’ve never heard that if you’ve grown up in an SGM church like I did: you hear that all the time!

    It is disheartening to me how quickly I gravitate toward placing my trust in man, even men and women who do some ridiculously bad things, because it’s more tangible and less frightening than an enigmatic Christ. I didn’t just trust that my leaders were godly because they told me they were: I WANTED them to be exactly as godly as that. I wanted to stop thinking, and just follow. Just serve. Just do it.

    Was I encouraged to do that? By some, yes. But I wasn’t coerced. I am culpable as well.

    Lest you think I am still buying into the SGM culture’s crusade against victims, I have been abused and betrayed before by someone outside of SGM. I was an innocent victim. I can discern the difference between the two situations. In my time with SGM, as long as I was silent or participatory in its wrongdoings, I was part of the problem.

  9. Roadwork says:

    What helps is realizing that I was not the problem. The legalistic man-made structure and the leaders that support it is the problem.

    Thankfully, my wife and I had a number of good church years prior to SGM. If SGM were the whole of our experience, we may not have come out of it in anything but a destroyed condition. In other words, if that’s the best there is (and that is what they infer), then I’m not interested.

    Getting out and visiting other churches, meeting other believers and their pastors has been very helpful.

    I liken SGM to a cheap Chinese made knockoff of the real thing. The parts are inferior, it’s not UL listed, not code compliant, it’s a shock and fire hazard, it’s manufacturer is not bound by regulations, it’s not afraid to steal original designs from others and it won’t last like a real well-made product.

    When it breaks (and it is broken), it’s not worth fixing. Toss it and get a real one: Christ and Him alone. Patronize only those that support the Real Thing. (In other words, a well established church, grounded and rooted in the faith.)

    Maybe you think I’m just spouting off. Maybe I can break this down (and I’m sure you can add others):
    • The parts are inferior – They are a corporation and not a church. They’ve lacked any substantial mission and mercy efforts for years.
    • It’s not UL listed – Underwriters Laboratories is an independent testing facility that tests products to determine whether or not they are safe when used according to the instructions. SGM has been tested these last 30 years and it’s not a safe place to be.
    • Not code compliant – They twist biblical words and patterns to fit their own use. They aren’t even well versed in what the Code (the Bible) says.
    • It’s a shock and fire hazard – How many families and individuals have been burned by SGM?
    • Its manufacturer is not bound by regulations – There is no accountability.
    • It’s not afraid to steal original designs from others – Grudem’s book too heavy for the “intensive” training of the PC? They made their own and edited out stuff they didn’t agree with.
    • It won’t last like a real well-made product – I think we’re witnessing this.

  10. Persona says:

    One of the first things that happened when I finally saw the pastors of the founding church as, the big bullies they were is, Jesus got bigger, much bigger. Soon, I began to see Jesus as my first love again and, I ran to him for comfort. That’s when healing began for me.

    How had I allowed those pastors to rob me of this experience? I still don’t fully understand but, part of it is them asking for adulation and another part is me giving it to them.

    So, after years of cold and calculated abuse, the scales finally fell-off and I was free to imagine life without the oppression and mind-numbing cruelty that typified our treatment at the hands of the ‘shepherds’ in that church.

    Healing was sped-up by three months of counseling from someone well-trained in abusive church practices. That counselor helped me see that men were never meant to be entrusted with the trust that should be reserved only for God.

    I am just now beginning to enjoy and learn from sermons (from non-sgm pastors) so, total recovery might take years to achieve. But, I have every hope that it will.

  11. Lee says:

    For me, I can say that my three years in SGM didn’t shake my faith at the time. I think whether or not it does depends a lot on your background. I had been in some good healthy churches, always did a lot of reading, and had actually seen some concerns while I was there. But I can see how if someone was there a long time and didn’t have the experience I did with other denominations that it could really affect their faith. Something I find almost amusing now is that I used to do a lot of research on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society and wonder how on earth people could be attracted to it, and I ended up in a similar situation! (better doctrine but still similar control)

    I do have to wonder though if my experience at PDI did not contribute to some of the problems I faced a few years after leaving PDI. I went through 18 years of an incredibly abusive marriage of which the very last three years were spent at PDI. I had a bit of a meltdown emotionally and spiritually after I got divorced (outwardly I was stable but inwardly I was a mess) I did find myself with a total distrust of male leadership and a ton of cynicism regarding Christianity. I honestly really can’t totally separate out what may have been because of my marriage and what may have been because of PDI.

    I, like Lost @ #6 do feel like I do bear some responsibility for building on sand and not being more of a Berean. I tend to be a trusting soul and want to think the best of everyone.

    Anyways, for those experiencing doubt…I would say to keep reading your Bible and keep trying to pray. For years I couldn’t even read my bible and pray and I still struggle with it.

    Don’t give up on finding a good church. They exist. In the past, I could always find a good church right away. This time I couldn’t. I tried and tried. The churches I visited weren’t bad, but there just seemed to be something missing. I knew I needed a very grace based church. Don’t discount a church till you’ve tried it several times…for four years I passed a traditional looking SBC church on my way to work and finally gave in and went. They were indeed traditional. But the pastor’s preaching was incredible and so full of wisdom and grace. I’ve probably driven the pastor crazy with comments and questions. He probably thinks I am nuts but he doesn’t show it. I know now that God knew this church was exactly what I needed, and perhaps God was the one who was keeping me from being content in the other churches because He wanted me there. This church is so NOT based on entertainment or Christian celebrity. I am sooo thankful for that now!

    I’m a strong believer in the Sovereignty of God…not because of SGM, but because I believe that is what the bible teaches. If He’s started a good work in you, He will finish it! Don’t beat yourself up over the past, but start asking God to work in you, to show you what He wants you to learn and to keep conforming you to the image of Christ. Ironically, my favorite new song is actually an SGM Song called “Show us Christ”.

  12. Jimmy says:

    sanctification will be taking place if we are “truly saved”…and sanctification cannot happen apart from “biblical fellowship” as SGM defines “biblical fellowship”…so therefore, your SGM church, with its “biblically correct” approach to fellowship is crucial to your sanctification, which is required in order for you to actually be saved.

    Kris,

    This assertion by you is way over the top and a jumping to inaccurate conclusions based on inaccurate assumptions – No SGM pastor that I know would agree with this distortion of truth – group dynamics can definitely encourage sanctification in specific areas of our lives, but the Bible tells us that “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” – I Cor. 1:30.

  13. Unassimilated says:

    Jimmy –

    John Loftness, Corby McGordon, Grant Layman, Adam Malcolm, and a few other SGM Pastors have said from both the pulpit, and to me personally, what Kris states about the cruciality of the Church to your sanctification. That concept is also the basis for “Why Small Groups.” Published by PDI/SGM.

    We used to joke about those that thought they would be independent/solo christians by calling them Charasmaverics.

    I would agree that it is a ridiculous notion, but it is a key principal of the SGM program. In truth Christ is sufficient, in SGM, Christ is simply the groundwork for the role & work of the church. Unless I missed something, and I may have, I do not think that Kris would agree with SGM on this principal.

    It is the man centered approach of SGM that leaves many people spiritually weak once they have departed SGM. Many mistake God for the manipulations, men, programs, and publications of SGM, and once they are gone, there is not much left for the survivors.

  14. Muckraker says:

    I will never forget the first days after leaving SGM…to feel the weight lift off of me…I had been under the heavy burden of legalism…

    And I will never forget the day, a few years later, when I heard that that CJ had blackmailed Larry T. way back then and a number of the leaders knew about it all these years….

    But this is my hope, “In Christ Alone (I Stand)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ipl-rLRxOrs&feature=related

  15. Persona says:

    Unassimilated 13

    I agree with you that all those pastors teach and practice all the things Kris mentions. J. Loftness even wrote his own curriculum called, “How People Change”, that focused on public confession and left out the Holy Spirit as the primary agent of change. This may be the curriculum J. lee and C. Megorden are using in their series at CLC. The title of their series is the same name, anyway. CLC put a HUGE amount of weight on confessing your sin to one another. They even train the new members to come into their new groups and say, “Hello, I am ___, and I want your help to change ____. ” One pastor even told me one time that he actually forgets to confess his sins to God because he is so focused on confessing his sin to his accountablity partner! If this isn’t the skewed Christian life I don’t know what is.

    Loftness did mention the HS as an afterthought, toward the end of his teaching series, as people were packing up to leave but, that was not what he focused on. Too bad, change simply won’t happen without the HS being central.

    And, when John corralled the small groups together for this “How People Change’ seminar, the break-out groups were a big flop. The group I was in even mocked people as they confessed sins, intimating they weren’t digging deep enough. I got the strong impression that public confession possibly invites bullying and oppression. It certainly tempts immature saints.

    Another thing, has anyone noticed how frequently current members of sgm church scold commenters on this site? Scolding is another thing they teach you at the sgm church I was in. Nit-picking and scolding and upbraiding people was very common.

  16. Bridget says:

    Jimmy –

    Where does Jesus put such importance on the role of the local church in scripture? The people are the Church. The local bodies are the results of the work of God through his Son. Scripture does not say that sanctification comes only by belonging to a local church. Sanctification comes through the work of the Holy Spirit and being a doer of the Word, not hearing only. But when was the last time you heard anyone speak of the role of the Holy Spirit in SGM. According to CJ you need the pastor preaching the Word to you for sanctification. There was no Word to preach from during the time of he NT. Jesus told his disciples that he would send the HS and they would be empowered. The Holy Spirit was to be their Helper. Did God give us new instructions regarding the Holy Spirit?

  17. Saint Elsewhere says:

    @5 years #1 – You said, “Folks I knew at CCEF who told me that they saw it all and could not send anybody to SGM. Finding out that Ken Sande saw it all and CJ would not listen to him.” – Maybe everyone else has heard this before, but I have never heard it. Do you know this personally, or was this information discovered some time ago and I missed it? The reason I ask is partly becasue I have wondered if the Biblical Counseling folks had noticed anything…

    @Unassimilated #13 – I think that if you were to try and corner those guys about whether the sanctification process was impossible without fellowship or if it was just a “means of grace” to help it along that they’d choose the latter. The irony of course is that the whole problem we are seeing at SGM is that CJ dodged fellowship re: Larry and Brent and that the SGM board doesn’t want the benefit of fellowship when it comes to their own little world. So in a sense, we all agree that they need the light of day and the voices of others to keep them accountable. We just don’t want anyone to say that somehow the grace of God only flows to us, His children, in circumstances that seem to be under the control of others. because of course God’s grace flows to us abundantly in many, many ways. (Sorry, I’ll stop now! :P )

  18. Roadwork says:

    Ahem… Jimmy: May I offer the following quotes from Why Small Groups: Together Towards Maturity?

    It starts on Page 3

    What Sanctification is – and Is Not
    Theologian Wayne Grudem provides a fine, concise definition of this critical doctrine: “Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.” That’s the goal of the Christian life, isn’t it? Increasing from sin and increasing resemblance to Jesus. Small groups provide an ideal context for this to occur.

    Not every small group is intent on this purpose, however. Some put a higher priority on socializing than on sanctification. Others excel in open sharing and sympathetic listening, yet they never confront sin or challenge members to change.

    This is unacceptable. A group with a less-than-biblical purpose can do more harm than good. Groups that meet without the biblical purpose of pursuing character development have the tendency to reinforce, rather than confront, the sin and selfishness already present in us. None of us needs such reinforcement. Instead, we need to be challenged by others so we can grow in spiritual maturity, for the glory of God.

    A shot over the bow – Any small group that meets together for anything other than the express purpose of sanctification is unacceptable – not biblical. The bible study you attended at your old church wasn’t biblical.

    From Page 5:

    Don’t Try This Alone
    Although one’s personal responsibilities for sanctification is paramount, sanctification cannot be accomplished in isolation from the local church. Scripture clearly teaches that sanctification is intended to take place in the local church – and small groups contribute invaluably to this process.

    You’ve taken a torpedo below the water line – Sanctification cannot take place in any context other than the local church.

    From Page 6:

    There is a common yet false supposition among Christians that practicing the spiritual disciplines (prayer, memorizing and meditating on Scripture, fasting, confession of sin, etc.) is sufficient to maintain spiritual growth. But as vital as these practices are, they are not sufficient.
    Small Groups provide the encouragement, correction, and accountability that are necessary to keep us from drifting.

    Now you’re taking on water. What you’re doing isn’t enough. It must be accompanied by works – the works of attending your biblical small group for the express purpose of sanctification. The Gospel has just been added to.

    From Page 9:

    Simply reading your bible and listening to good preaching won’t make you more like Jesus.

    You’re sunk unless you attend your local church’s small group for the express purpose of sanctification.

    And it gets worse if you keep reading. Rescue is not possible unless you forsake all others so that you can commit yourself fully to attending every small group meeting.

  19. Ellie says:

    Izze, #5 – great post! I wouldn’t have worked when my kids were little, but that would’ve been my choice, but everything else – :clap :clap :clap

    Roadwork – #9 = what an excellent analogy!!

  20. Unassimilated says:

    Persona,

    I recall the Loftness seminar. I did not find it helpful in any way.

    Roadwork,

    Yep, no sanctification without the SGM church. It explains why they become so concerned for ones ‘salvation’ when you desire to leave. in the SGM eyes, you are not only rejecting your God ordained leaders, but you are also abandoning the ‘biblicaly’ prescribed means in which you are to be sanctified. Everyone ‘knows’ that sanctification really does not happen at a decent rate or depth to amount to anything outside SGM.

    Interesting to note that on one occasion, when I pressed Corby M for details on where
    the Holy Spirit fit into all of this, his reply was that the desire to attend, participate, and obey was the work of the Holy Spirit. He got a big grumpy face when I asked how one differentiates the Holy Spirit from peer pressure and mass conformity at CLC.

    He abruptly quipped that we are to believe the best, and that even the desire to appear righteous comes from the Holy Sprit.

    That’s when I got a grumpy face.

  21. Deuteronomy 32:35 says:

    How difficult it is to watch when someone stands to defend what is defenseless…the next defense that might be offered is; “Well my pastors have never done anything to hurt me, so I have no problem with SGM”…how nice for you…that would be a valid answer if only the scriptures didn’t teach that “when one member suffers we all suffer”…or that we are to “bear one anothers burdens”…but you can’t bear someone’s burdens, or suffer with them when there is a gag order in effect to cover up pastoral miscarriages…you can’t help when serious problems that arise between church members or between church members and their pastors when MT18 is routinely misintepreted and not applied at all…”take it to the church” means precisley what it says…take it to the church…let the church decide…oh but they in the pews…the “laity”…word makes my blood boil…the laity are too stupid to judge such issues…

    If everything were being done in an orderly and honorable fashion…why would there be such a need for all the secrecy (which the internet blows up of course but still they try)…if it can’t stand the light of day…something is VERY WRONG…

    Even if you want to ignore the terrible details of the worst cases on the blogs…as a current SGM member you must ask your self why it is that what is supposed to be a Christian organization has generated so much animosity towards itself…dismiss some of what you may think are some of the less substantive accusations if you will…the question still remains…is there a contemporary scenario like this that any of us know about? Have other evangelical movements or denominations generated this kind of deep antipathy towards themselves? Maybe there are more current examples but I don’t know of them…maybe it would have been worse for Jimmie Swaggert and (who was the guy who led “Praise the Lord” ministries on TV?) Maybe if blogs had existed then in the late 80’s all hell would have broke loose about what he and Tammy Faye were doing…

    So dismiss some, but you can’t dismiss it all…where there IS smoke there IS fire…if you have any sense of justice…yes justice despite SGM teaching God is a God of justice…you MUST be asking serious questions of your leaders and of yourself about all of this…three blogs now dedicated to diagnosing SGM issues…a summer “cattle call” at the PC to even try and get their arms around all of the issues and trouble (I know not really meaningful but it LOOKED good)…what evangelical church has ever had to stage such an event? Now 16 churches who have publicly affirmed much of what has been said critically about SGM polity and leadership…oh I forgot…that’s right…they are devisive and rebellious and they MUST BE ROOTED OUT…must be in the book of Maccabees…haven’t seen that Biblical directive before…C’mon Man!!! Get your wits about you…I really had to control myself there…much better analogy available but “no coarse jesting”… :bang

  22. Unassimilated says:

    Saint Elsewhere –

    My #20

    Also, I did corner them as best I could without causing too much trouble for me and my family. They would say that sanctification was not impossible, yet is was practically ineffective to be a solo christian. They would then point to Paul as a one and a billion exception, not the rule.

    Did you catch their switch??

    I was never inquiring about a solo christian existence.

    Iron sharpens iron, and yet, to replace meaningful friendships, relationships, and group studies with ridged inward curriculum, list, agendas, and a one size fits all template seemed to be a pendulum swing into the opposite sides of grace and personal relationship with the savior.

    To assign groups, and claim complete compatibility based on solely the common purpose
    & goal of sanctification, is to ignore human intellect & friendships. Yet is was intentionally done that way to keep us isolated from those that may ‘reinforce’ our sin and tenancies towards heresy.

    Overprotective, ill-informed, or just a control tactic. Manipulation has many faces IMO.

    If you can’t live and grow without them, guess you can never leave.

  23. Deuteronomy32:35 says:

    This is getting fun…can’t believe we have all forgotten the “three trees” system of sanctification!!! The three trees…ala CCEF…it’s a beautiful thing man!! Who needs Jesus? I can sit down and diagnose my own sin thank you with the help of my brothers and sisters…we can nail it down and trace it’s history better than Ancestry.com!! We can even white-board it and use ourselves as examples to abuse ourselves and mortify those root causes…even came with a three ring binder ’cause ya know your gonna need a lot of three trees charts baby!!! Your a MESS!!!

    I’m sorry guys…must be TGIF…promise I’m not blogging from happy hour at AppleBees…

    Also, in the mix of helping people with truly tragic events that took place as a result of their SGM experience…I would never minimize those by being simply silly…but we can’t forget “That the joy of the Lord is my strength”…we SHOULD be the happiest people on earth…we should have more fun legally because we know we have no abiding place here…and that this is not THE END…Jim Morrison wrote a book entitled, “No One Gets Out of Here Alive”…but We do…tell someone who don’t know it yet…it is true that in due time that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…we are being prepared…

  24. Unassimilated says:

    “promise I’m not blogging from happy hour at AppleBees…”

    :D

    No judgement here if you were, I would have to confess that I might be envious of you if you were. Better than how Eric Simmons sees you…

    I’m also concerned because at this point in time, we are at the pinnacle of the Information Age. You can in an instant find tons of information on any subject you want on Google. Do you realize that Google allows you to be one step away from a lot of heresies?

    There are a lot of heretics out there with a lot of false teachings that have blogs. And it’s phenomenal to me in our age now, that what is represented on the Internet is now seen as fact, and authority, and truth! And the reality? Most of these guys who are writing blogs are 24-year-old guys living in their moms’ basement, sitting there in their underwear! That’s what they’re doing! They’ve got a robe on, and they’re just typing away. And they’re typing away their false teaching, which is honestly a bunch of garbage.

    It’s an oldie but a goodie, and born from the same fear-mongering perspective that authored “Why Small Groups.” Its a bad world out there, come in, shut the door, forget the world, SGM is here now. There there now…shhhh.

  25. A Kindred Spirit says:

    The exposure of SGM’s problems has STRENGTHENED my faith.

    I’ve sat back for YEARS and watched SGM and those like them look down their noses at Christian outsiders for not doing things “their way.” I’ve been estranged from family members and friends. I’ve been made to feel like a “second rate” Christian – many times feeling terribly stupid. I’ve observed countless kids and women suffer under authoritarianism – some of those kids turned from the faith. I’ve observed more condemnation, manipulation, and control issues among “men of God” than I have EVER observed within any other group – more narcissists, too (in fact, I had my first exposure to a bonafide narcissist). And I’ve NEVER met a group so messed up when it comes to marriage, sex, and raising kids.

    For years I prayed and cried, pleading for God to do something, wondering if God was listening, wondering if God even cared. When I was at an all time low, I discovered Kris’s little blog, and the rest is history.

    God heard. God cared.

  26. Wasabi says:

    Kris said:

    If you’re finding that your faith is being shaken these days, there’s a good possibility that you may have been putting your faith in the wrong thing.

    IMO this is the primary cause for the SGM house of cards finally coming down, not polity. SGM passively promotes this idolatry by continuously reinforcing SGM culture. When sheeple are repeatedly taught the importance of conformity, far over the importance of pursuing God and His glory, how can a new believer not help but equate conformity with sanctification? It is just too easy for me to connect the dots between Christ’s disdain for the pharisaic laws and His hand in the inevitable collapse of SGM’s current doctrine and structure. He does not tolerate idols.
    Over time the SGM indoctrination becomes an addiction. And just like any other addiction, the hardest step is admitting we have one. The longer we stay in, the harder it is to acknowledge we are/were deceived. Then once we break free of the SGM bondage, we’re temped to rebound with “shipwrecked faith”, anger at being controlled, anger at being deceived, anger at squelching the Holy Spirit’s voice within us. That anger is too often mistaken for “bitterness” by critics of this blog.
    To those struggling with their Christian walk because of SGM’s distorted culture: Kris is spot on when she reminds us that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Accept no substitute; His refreshing living water will satisfy your parched spirit!

  27. glad i am out says:

    Skipped a few posts to post this so do not know what else was said regarding sanctification, and whether or not membership in a local church body is necessary to achieve it, or whether is it necessary to be saved…

    I have two favorite passages from scripture that free me more than any others, and let me know more than any other, of the heart of my heavenly father, and his love for me…

    The prodigal son and the thief on the cross…

    Let’s talk about the thief. He had a conversation that lasted only moments w/ Jesus… he did not confess his sins, get baptized, was not a member of an sgm church, did not ask a care group leader if it was ok to move to another town, had no chance to walk through sanctification, yet Jesus looked upon his heart and invited him to dinner in paradise that very day…

    End of discussion.

  28. glad i am out says:

    Having just read Roadwork’s quotes from the book “why small groups?,” i will add that SGM’s position on the importance of care groups to create an environment where sanctification can occur really just creates a HUGE boiling cauldron for the marination of legalism….

    Did anyone ever hear of the Holy Spirit? I think i remember once learning that he was to lead us through the process of sanctification, not my arrogant care group leader who is power hungry, eager to please a pastor, and spying on me, and sharing my confidences…

    I think i will just do it the Holy Spirit’s way, he knows what he is doing…

  29. Unassimilated says:

    Wasabi –

    When Jesus prayed for his disciples, he stated, in John 17,

    My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

    Yet that is opposed to the SGM system of sanctification. SGM takes you out of the world, and places you into a man made sanctification process that is man centered rather than Christ centered. So if by indoctrination, you would include this SGM practice of sanctification, then yes. As you say, an addiction is born, for me I see it as an unhealthy co-dependancy.

    If sanctification does not exist apart from the SGM way, you have to stay. When that method of sanctification is based on the preferences and prescripts of man, your not
    really following Christ, rather an expression of their interpretation of Christ.
    I call it a false gospel. They may be able to line up their claims with scriptures, but their practice is opposed to the words of Jesus. Hmmm

    What church, other than non-christian cults, would discourage group bible studies?!?

    Scripture tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Yet that word is not trusted to be freely read and shared in a group context in SGM.

    I would submit that for many in SGM, their faith is in the system, rather than the savior. So once separated from that system, where is ones salvation? Crisis will ensue for many.

    @ Kindred – The recent events have been encouraging and helpful to me as well. Its been a rough couple of years for me, but fortunately I had a faith and relationship with Jesus prior to SGM. As we have discussed on this board before, it is a much rougher road for those that came to faith in the SGM system.

  30. Unassimilated says:

    glad i am out – Your #27

    SGM would say to you, was that really Gods best for him? How much more would the thief have accomplished for the kingdom, how much more would God be glorified, how much more grace could he have attracted, how much more reward would he have in heaven, had the thief plugged into a good church and lived his life in accordance to the teachings of his God ordained Pharacies, leaders?

    Too much grace in the example of the thief. Not good for building international cell groups a family of churches either.

  31. glad i am out says:

    I had never read the book Why Small Groups… i found most of the church assigned reading to be a waste… But, now considering some of what it says, I feel like barfing my freaking guts out!! I really really do…

    What heresy, what blasphemy, what a works-oriented-Jesus-denying pile of pig crap!!!

    Look folks, i have already confessed on this blog that i am not good at holding my tongue, that i am a loose cannon sometimes with my emotions, and i will never do this – seriously, never, so do not think so..; But when i hear some of this stuff, i want to see SGM churches burn to the ground (w/no people inside, of course). If stuff like this is taught, and i know it was, and possibly still is, because i was there for 20 years, i just want to see the end of SGM…

    Now one SGM pastor told me a few years ago i was not saved…

    You know how i know i am, besides that i know that i know….? read two posts up, about the thief on the cross, that is me, and i weep bitter tears, happy tears, all kinds of tears, every time i share that story, or even think of it…

    That is the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me… He is the one who leads me thru the process of sanctification… How DARE they say, reading the bible and listening to sermons isn’t enough!!! It may not be, but care groups are not necessarily the answer – God knows our heart, he is the author and perfecter… Not the author of that crappy heretical book, that once i was probably required to buy!!!

  32. Kris says:

    Thank you all for your comments and what you have shared. I’ve been out most of the day and haven’t had the opportunity to reply to anything, but I hope to catch up later.

    Just a quick note to Jimmy – if you go to the post I linked to (the one called “Survivors Rewind: Revisiting Why Small Groups?), you will find a link to a free download of Why Small Groups? You can read it and see for yourself that CJ and his collaborators do indeed indicate that sanctification cannot happen apart from doing small groups precisely the SGM way. And before asserting that, they also establish that sanctification is a vital indicator of salvation – that without sanctification, it’s doubtful that one is even saved.

    Roadwork already did a GREAT job of culling the key quotes for you, but if you haven’t done so, you really ought to read Why Small Groups? for yourself.

  33. Kris says:

    Brent responded to additional questions.

    READER QUESTION: for Brent Detwiler, if it is not too late:

    Brent discusses SGM’s “reasserting its commitment to apostolic ministry,” in his Cotton Candy post, concluding with the statement, “So if you don’t believe in apostles, it is time to get out of your SGM church.”

    Does this paragraph regard SGM’s disingenuous replacement of the term “apostle,” or does it regarding their practice of “apostolic” leadership and authority?

    BRENT’S RESPONSE: My meaning was, “It’s time to get out of SGM if you don’t believe in apostles” as a matter of biblical conviction. But it is also true that it’s time to get out if you believe SGM apostles abuse their leadership and authority. Moreover, as you point out; the “disingenuous replacement of the term ‘apostle’” is another example of deceit and reason to leave. C.J. needs to come out and say he is the senior apostle. The spiritual leader of his movement.

    READER QUESTION: If towards the practice of apostolic leadership, has Brent’s opinion regarding this type of leadership and position in the church changed over the years since he himself was practicing apostolic leadership and authority in SGM? I am not intending to be critical if his perspective has changed (I would celebrate it), but mostly I am curious as to his thought process. I remember the days when the role of the importance of the “office of apostle” in the church was much proclaimed in PDI.

    BRENT’S RESPONSE: I still believe in “apostolic leadership and authority” just like I believe in pastoral leadership and authority. Both are biblical. Both can be abused. Every church should have godly apostles and shepherds (i.e., pastors, Gr. poimen) but not false ones or untrustworthy ones. Truth and Christian character are the dividing line.

    We started a magazine in September, 1983. For the first two issues, it was called Christian Destiny Magazine. The first issue was titled, “Restoration of the Church: Are You a Pioneer or a Settler?” (Sept/Oct ’83). The second issue, “Evangelism as a Lifestyle” (Nov/Dec ’83).

    With the third issue, the name of the magazine changed to People of Destiny Magazine. The topic, “Apostolic Team Ministry” (Jan/Feb ’84). Those were the good old days. The team was comprised of Larry, CJ, Brent, Bill Galbraith, Steve Shank, Che Ahn and Dick Wolohan. Through the years, everyone but Steve left over, or with, concerns for C.J.

    I wrote a lead article in that issue entitled, “20th Century Apostles – They’re As Necessary Today As They Were 2,000 Years Ago.” That was 28 years ago and I was 30. I fully believe today what I wrote then. My understanding of Scripture on the subject has not changed. I still believe what Larry T. wrote on page 2, “Apostles and Prophets: Past History or Present Reality?” (see attached)

    In my article, which was mostly an apologetic for apostles, I said, “Like overseers and elders, an apostle also had to be a man above reproach in his personal life and relationship with others (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). He was a man sent forth from a proven base of ministry where he had been responsible for building the church locally (Acts 11:25-26; 1 Cor 9:1-3).”

    Apostolic ministry only works (and can only be trusted) when men are above reproach. This is the problem with Sovereign Grace Ministries today. It is full of compromise at the highest levels. Men cannot be trusted. They are not above reproach. In the old days, we had to be “sent forth from a proven base of ministry.” In C.J.’s case, he left Covenant Life Church in a huff, never consulting with his pastors or asking for their blessing. Furthermore, the Sovereign Grace Board counseled this action by C.J. without talking to CLC pastors. It’s a different day. A sad day.

    The fourth issue of People of Destiny Magazine was “Becoming a Prophetic People” (Mar/Apr ’84). As Larry said, “The prophet is not just some electrifying preacher or ‘weird-acting’ opponent of sin; he is a submitted [i.e. working with apostles] and anointer seer who brings necessary revelation [e.g. keen discernment] and insight to keep the house of God pure and on the right track.” C.J. does not have any prophets. They’ve all been slaughtered. He does have blogs.

  34. Roadwork says:

    They haven’t all been slaughtered. Some are hangin’ out over at Obadiah’s place.

  35. Bridget says:

    Roadwork –

    I agree. They’re still around, but the leaders are not seeking them out. When they do speak out, most leaders do not listen to them.

  36. Wallace says:

    Here is a brief update regarding the leadership at the SGM Fairfax church:

    In November 2011 we gave our story to Ted Kober from AoR in an effort to receive help in reconciling with Pastor Lou Gallo. However, Senior Pastor Mark Mullery and his staff rejected the offer from AoR to intervene.

    During my communication with AoR, they said they were receiving this type of response “across the board” with SGM leadership.

    It is interesting to note that Mark Mullery would challenge the SGM board without first dealing properly with sex abuse issues in his own church.

    For those new to the blog, our story, (Wallace’s Story) can be found in Kris’ above post under “seeming to take the side of the perpetrator.”

  37. Kris says:

    Wallace,

    Thanks for the update, although I’m sorry to hear things didn’t go differently.

  38. Happymom says:

    Fairfax’s refusal to meet with AoR is quite an interesting contrast to their Weep-fest Family meeting, July 2011. If expressing true sorrow was their goal why weren’t the victims and families invited? Because their goal was to clear themselves and twist the facts.

    They’ll come to the table with SGM pastors, (J. Britt) they’ll come to the table with an SGM paid, peace-maker trained mediator, but turn down AoR.

  39. Uriah says:

    Prophets are still very much alive and well. Many live in caves, sort of speak, but come out when God calls them. True prophets do not need to be publicly recognized as prophets in order to be taken seriously. If they are true prophets, the “words” they speak to leaders and to the church will not fall to ground but will accomplish what they were sent to do. They carry the concern and well being of the church on their heart continually and with unrelenting passion. They are fearless, uncompromising, and say things that others would not dream of saying. The church is the better for their ministry. Most will receive their reward in heaven, for in this life they are generally counted as crazy by the world and often “the troubler of Israel” by the church.

  40. Philly Girl says:

    Until I heard about these blogs, I had no idea there were all these problems in SGM. What I read here, I can’t believe I was so blind. And to think of all the people in our caregroup, how many have I hurt in their faith. I have blocked alot out and don’t really remember timelines. When we first went to CFC, it was after being in a church with adultery in the pulpit and the pews. I do remember telling Bill and Alan (pastors at CFC) I didn’t trust them. They listened and prayed with us. They also told us that CFC was a charismatic church looking for college educated young professionals. In a few years, we were asked to be caregroup leaders. No idea why, but we were faithful. We believed what they taught. We were taught alot of attitudes from the church, but not directly from the pulpit on Sunday. All those reports, after all, the pastors needed to know what was going on as they were responsible before God. We were simply unpaid pastors. Oh Lord, forgive us. And then it happened. Renewals in Toronto and Brownsville, and churches coming together in Philly. Yeah, I remember a monsignor spraying holy water and worshiping Jesus while walking down the center aisle of a RC church. The nun playing the keyboard fell out in the Holy Spirit. I remember Dave and Kimm being prayed for in Philly and flat on the floor. Those were the days! Then it was shut down. If these guys are so controlling as I read here, no wonder the Holy Spirit was shut out. Silly boys, you can’t control God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit. We were told that it would be gossip to talk to anyone so we moved away. Couldn’t continue to live in an SGM neighborhood, being stopped in the supermarket by a member. I was told that I hid my sin well, as they were all shocked when we were thrown out. I didn’t know we were! Our problem was that we addressed a sin issue with Dave, the Sr. pastor. He didn’t respond to us at all until we met with Joe, who brought in Dave and Dave told us it was our sin for thinking he had sinned. To this day, I don’t like tulips, stay out of the Epistles and read the Gospels. How’s that for rebellion? Where are we now? Tried several churches and can’t handle family businesses or fluffy feel good messages. In the last 10 years, we have only been invited to church by a friend, who is gay. Who knew, a gay guy who cares for the faith of a straight couple! We still haven’t been to church and really don’t miss the politics. If I want politics, I can watch Fox News! OK, I’m done for now. :mic Kris, whomever you are, keep up the great work you are doing to help all of us. Be blessed!

  41. radicallysaved says:

    Kris – interesting post…thank you once again.

    I must admit I am addicted to your blog – your insights are uncanny, many folks posting here I have grown to respect and admire….well, also I have prayed for and wept for….

    I don’t post much, but I read almost daily. This question you ask about Faith being shaken, well, I must admit that while my faith in Jesus, salvation, and my eternal destiny has not been shaken, the question of “how am I to walk out my Christian life in this temporal body and world” has been, if not shaken, well at least…doubts and regrets have been hounding me.

    Small examples – I was a parent who had many “spanking rods” in multiple locations, so that I could “serve” my children by addressing sin “immediately” without delay, so no black cloud of a future discipline would hover over them….I look back and have regrets, if not serious questions, about how much we spanked…but at the same time today, I do believe in what the bible says “Spare the rod spoil the child”…So I am , though not shaken, at least….conflicted.

    I also felt the ecstasy of confessing sin on an incredibly deep level (from my perspective) with my care group, confessing adulterous thoughts, agreeing wholeheartedly that men and women needed to be seperated bi-monthly so “Men could discuss our twisted sick lust of women”…those were heady days when my sanctificationn was in seeming overdrive….I have moved on now, out of SGM, but yes a part of me cannot shake the feeling that I have become a “soft” christian, that my greatest growth came during my times in an SGM church…dare I say, that reading the Q&A from Brent, that I have a “little bit of Brent in me”…That is, as I am no longer at SGM, there still is a questioning in my soul that the glory days of SGM still produced the “greatest fruit” in my chrsitian walk to date?? I think that is the crux of what you have heard in private emails, not so much a questioning of faith and salvation, but rather a “doubt” or struggle that “Am I Missing the boat on sanctification, am I not growing as much as I should, or could be, by leaving SGM and going to an “ordinary” church….count me in the conflicted group….

    May God show us how to live, how to share, hoe to love….and yes I think the bible says lots about God showing us…if only SGM had allowed us to read and discuss the bible….

  42. BeenThere says:

    Hello all, I have posted here before but stepped back for a little while. I don’t have an SGM experience, but I do have experience with abusive church atmospheres, and I enjoy reading how people are overcoming this issue in their own lives and experiences. I haven’t kept up with a lot of your threads, but I skimmed through the last one and this one, and it seems on these you’ve really been spot on when it comes to the issues surrounding an abusive church experience. I’ve been in both IFB and Charismatic circles where abuse has occurred, and reading through many of your SGM experiences has confirmed for me that the main ingredients that cross all doctrinal and denominational lines is Shepherding and Legalism. You keep the people under control through Shepherding, and you make them feel like they need to be controlled through legalism. These go hand in hand. However I must also add that I found in my own experience that this is a two-way street. There is a draw and an attraction to this kind of system. Legalism is attractive because it is a system that we can see and hear with our natural senses. Rather than having to seek God for ourselves we can be told what is right and wrong from a man. The line I’ve used is that it is easier to work a system than develop a relationship. Coming out of this kind of system is tough, and it takes years to detox. There is a feeling of guilt that you really aren’t living the Christian life right unless you’re going through all the machinations and man-imposed responsibilities that you’ve been used to.

    Trusting God and developing a personal relationship directly with him is a scary thing at first when you haven’t been used to it. I think if we’re being real and honest, there were times when we may have have manipulated the legalist system we were win for our own gain when we saw the opportunity. But when you’re face to face with God there is no manipulation that works. He knows your deepest thoughts, attitudes, and motives. He drills down between joints and marrow and the innermost places, and that is a very vulnerable feeling. But yet where our sin abounds, God’s grace even more abounds. That’s the real benefit. Yes it is harder to come face to face with God, and yes more of our deepest sin is exposed, but unlike man-made systems God can and does provide real grace that causes us to not to just feel better about our sin condition but actually provides the means to overcome it and grow in true sanctification. Colossians 2:20-23 talk about how legalist systems have an appearance of doing some good, but they are actually worthless.

    I had a couple of other thoughts on the different topics on this thread so I’ll break them up in other posts.

  43. BeenThere says:

    I’ve seen where some of you have been really disappointed that various ministers who’ve had associations with CJ and SGM have not seen through what is happening and called some things out. I think part of the problem is that ministers have a blind spot when it comes to other ministers. In the Charismatic church I was in there was a couple that came to minister a few times a year who were great people, and who taught against church abuse. They were known to be very discerning, but yet they couldn’t see what was happening within our church. This couple had friendships with some of the people in our church going back years even before they started attending this particular church. And when these people started experiencing some of the abuse they went to this ministering couple. EVEN THEN this ministerial couple sided with the pastors and still could not see (or would not see) what was going on.

    I think there’s probably several reasons why ministers have this kind of blind spot. One reason is probably all ministers have experienced being called abusive at some point and time, and so they are quick to take a minister or pastor’s side on this issue. I think ministers and pastors in particular view themselves as a kind of fraternity with a common set of experiences and struggles with a lot of those challenges and struggles coming from dealing with people in their church. And we have all been in churches where we’ve seen pastors being given a hard time by different parishioners who are just hard to work with and deal with.

    So while I personally wish a lot of these pastors would see through more of a lot that goes on not just in SGM, but in a lot of other churches; I tend to cut them some degree of slack because I know that this is a blind spot that is currently shared by a lot of ministers today.

  44. QE2 says:

    As recently as a few months ago,(local SGM church, January, perhaps?) we were told during a message that we were not to forsake meeting together, and while the scripture did not actually say that meant small groups, it meant small groups!

    So the teaching is still alive and well.

    As far as the Holy Spirit-well, he’s the helper. And we all know that the helper, whether we mean female or Holy Spirit, is a second class citizen whose main role/job description, is to submit.

  45. Acme says:

    Wallace and Happymom, I am so sorry.

    I still believe the essentials: the Nicene Creed list and Jesus’ red letters. I reject almost everything else from my SGM days and find gungho anything disturbing–sometimes laughable, sometimes pitiful, sometimes crazy making.

    The benefit of having been here and in refuge so long is that I can read what I wrote earlier and marvel at the journey.

  46. Sick With Worry says:

    Kris – your last post on “why good men go bad” was very insightful. These are Godfather-like tactics, but I think only CJ, Diamond Dave and a couple others intended for it to be this way. Perhaps CJ himself is not smart enough to design it this way, but Dave was always the smart one. I like the fact that you call them “good”, because I believe that these are mostly decent men that have allowed themselves to be stupid. I will not understand why, but I guess they find a sense of fulfillment.

    BTW – My faith is not shaken – but I am disappointed and worried that so many people, including pastors, will not reach their full potential.

  47. Sick With Worry says:

    OK – totally random thought, but are there any “Little House on the Prairie” fans out there? Remember the episode where in an attempt to boost revenue, the Olsons hire a consultant that turns the restaurant into a franchise? They think it is a great idea, until they realize the details in the contract keep them from cooking the meals that the townsfolk love, and remove any and all creativity from the “process”? I think the episode is called “The Wave of the Future”. Anyway – I think it compares to some of the SGM takeovers of existing churches. It just hit me in the shower this morning because my kids were recently watching that episode.

  48. facedown2000 says:

    @radicallysaved #41:

    I think it’s okay to be conflicted. As you say, the Bible condones spanking, although it doesn’t specify how often or for which violations. The problem occurs when a Biblical tool is promoted to exclusivity. Spanking is a tool, but it’s not the only tool, and the atmosphere at many SGM churches promotes a “reduction to one practice,” as was discussed at that fateful CLC meeting almost a year ago. If you don’t look like everyone else, you are pressured (directly or indirectly) to conform.

    I think the same goes for small groups. Certainly most folks here would be okay with occasionally discussing sin at a small group meeting. There are many good suggestions in “Why Small Groups?” and even though we’re out of SGM, I still recommend it, particularly for churches where sin is never discussed at all (or is only ever mentioned generally). Why? Because “faithful are the wounds of a friend” and I want my friends to help me on my way to heaven. Confession is a biblical tool, but practically it’s difficult to incorporate confession in a Sunday meeting. God is dishonored, though, when the *only* thing discussed at small groups is sin — again the whole “reducing to one practice” thing.

    I was in several small groups while involved in SGM, and for the some of them, I felt like the “sin-sniffing” attitude was pervasive. But there were several groups where this wasn’t the case, where the main point was worshiping God by studying scripture, singing, and praying. Those meetings were blessed times.

    As I’ve thought about leaving SGM, I think there’s a temptation to treat everything we learned as suspect. But I’ve realized that to do so would be akin to “cutting of my nose to spite my face.” Instead, I’ve tried to take a nuanced approach: stand against the bad stuff, without disregarding the good teachings. Inasmuch as anything I learned from SGM was biblical, it would be a bad idea to ignore those principles. It’s easy to write off the entire movement, and perhaps those who have never been involved would be wise to do just that. But since I spent a significant amount of time in SGM, I am finding it helpful to dig in to scripture and try to determine what God was really teaching me during that time. Personally, I’m trying to keep the stuff that I find to be biblical while getting rid of the un-biblical principles and emphases.

  49. facedown2000 says:

    One other thing: ad hominem works both ways. Just because a total jerk says 2+2 = 4, it does not make this statement false. While have very little respect for CJ at this point, it would be logically inconsistent to propose that all of his collected sermons, writings, etc. were false.

  50. CLCya says:

    (Formerly CLCerNow)Unfortunately, my faith WAS shaken last summer. I bought into the “dearest/best place on earth” and thought I would never leave. One person told me, “You’ve given your life to this church.” I realized then that I had given the church way too much time…and over my family. Church had become an idol for me, big time, and had turned into a popularity contest of sorts. I’ve got to admit, that for the first six months or so, my passion for the Lord waned. I turned the radio station when I came to a Christian station. I had absolutely no desire to go to church. It’s like I invested a lot of money and time into buying what I thought was a masterpiece only to find out that it’s counterfeit! I was investing in CLC/SGM, not Jesus. I am glad God yanked me out of there and revealed how my loyalties were misplaced. I am just now starting to truly worship again. It’s a process, for sure, and I’ve got a long way to go.

    I know of someone who left who is now embracing a “false” gospel. People coming out are extremely vulnerable with their “itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Understandably! It’s a real shame the spiritual damage that has been done. I weep for people (ExCLCer and others) who have been abused by so-called Christians.

    I just finished reading “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” by Johnson and Van Vonderen. I highly recommend it! There is a section toward the end entitled “Post-Abuse Recovery.” One of the chapters, “Recovering Right Focus”, says:

    …it is imperative to refocus the victims of spiritual abuse on the truth about God and his “good news.” For this reason we offer a list of “reminders,” from the heart of God as follows:

    God love us a great deal…
    He is extravagant with His grace…
    He makes us stand…
    He can be trusted…
    We have been made entirely new…
    We have been handpicked…
    We are blameless in his sight…
    What is His is already ours…
    God is not keeping track…
    He doesn’t have a problem with our struggles and pain…
    We don’t need to improve on what He’s done…
    When we fail, Jesus defends us…

    CLC is pretty much all I knew as a Christian (until seven months ago), so a lot of things need to be unlearned and relearned. I’ve said that everyone in SGM needs to be rewired. I am looking forward to being rewired myself and experiencing what God has to teach me about what real, normal Christianity looks like. Bring it on!