A Word From “Praise Warrior”

Kris says:  I received the following today via email from “Praise Warrior,” who posted it as  a comment over at SGM Refuge.  “Praise Warrior” asked that I consider posting it here – and I am more than happy to do so.  Once again, please note:  I am NOT the author of this particular post, although I think the sentiments it contains are very good.

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Submitted by “Praise Warrior” —

Enough is enough.  

God, while ever patient, will not be mocked. There is a time for everything and perhaps it is time for some righteous anger. There seems to be an unrelenting stubbornness and resistance from somewhere within SGM leadership that is repelling numerous true attempts at repentance and restitution. Some have had grace to stay. Others have had grace to leave. This is not just “our perspective” – these are our experiences. We don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing them with a reconciliation group like AOR with whom we have no relationship.  

Ideal SGM review panel: Peter, Paul, James and John.  

A few questions here – all, we pray, asked in the atmosphere of “breathing grace” (as Ken Sande would say) and Christian love and concern: 

Would Peter find historical issues of some in SGM leadership lording it over the flock? Maybe he would speak to the instances of some being compulsive, shameful, blackmailing and domineering and urge humility and leadership by willing example. 

Might Paul admonish that there has been some partiality and it would stand to reason that the charges brought against some elders have been by more than the required 2-3 witnesses? 

Could James call for a council of all the elders to come together and decide whether too great a yoke has been placed on our necks  that neither we nor our fathers can bear? 

Is it possible that the disciple Jesus loved would recall the letter of Christ to the Ephesians who had abandoned their first love? Maybe he would encourage you to remember from where you had fallen and do the works you did at first. Perhaps he would warn you that unless you repent, Jesus will come to you and remove the lampstand from its place. Yep – those are strong words but they are not ours neither are they our opinion. 

CJ has proclaimed the hills on which you will die. There are many things you stand for that you hate, but what do you love? 

Analogies always break down somewhere but you get the point. Is there hope for SGM? Always, if your hope is in God alone. He alone is the Chief Shepherd of the church. Pastors are undershepherds. SGM members/leaders consider this: have there been ethical leadership violations during this whole debacle? If so, where is your voice? Is it confined to the forum of one brave pastoral team sending a letter on behalf of some churches or is there a way through the wilderness here that would bring good to all? 

Reality check: if you are an SGM member or pastor and you find out what is going on in SGM from these blogs, you might want to grab another cup of coffee.  

If anyone would find it difficult in good conscience to invite an unbelieving neighbor to attend your local SGM congregation with you because you might have to eventually try and explain this mess, it might be time to make your departure. Talk with the Good Shepherd about it. Maybe He will have you stay. Would He want to attend with you? When God comes to church, there is no mistake He is there. 

There is a pain associated with exiting – believe us, we know; but there is also the issue of integrity and honor. The fires of First Love have dimmed and in some cases appear to have been quenched. Have the once passionate and zealous group of pioneers  in large part become settlers? 

Some leaders appear to be content with putting Band-aids on festering wounds. Dressing up a situation with new board members and changing your polity will not be the end all move without fundamental repentance and heart change. We submit that this would involve all three of these: confession, repentance and restitution. 

Confession. Repentance. Restitution. Those seem to be the forgotten life-blood. It is not okay for a perfunctory report to come out and say “Oops – sorry – we really missed it there.” Peoples lives have been affected. Eldership that goes un-checked and unbalanced is unwise and can violate people. 

SGM, return to your First Love. We are not arm-chair theologians who have vengefully conjured up the notion that we are self-appointed judges and prophets. We are brothers and sisters in Christ who cannot stand for the few leaders driving things at the top of the organization that was once an organism. Then there are some leaders who seem to just be “yes men.” We believe in telling the truth in love and many of you have not listened. 

Thank you to those of you who are listening. 

Please, we appeal to you. Do not harden your hearts and instruct your flocks to not read the blogs. We are not hate-mongers and malicious gossips. We are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater nor are we painting you all with broad brush strokes. We are deeply concerned for you. We pray for you. Many of us stayed until it became an issue of conscience and we felt forced to leave. May of us had our loyalty called into question. Our departures do not equal disloyalty. Our loyalty is to Christ. 

So we are watching – some from a distance and others from within. We long for our remnant to have a voice. 

There are some statements coming from current leaders that are encouraging. We are listening but words without accompanying change will be meaningless. Glad you are re-wording your polity but it is true: actions will indeed speak louder than words. 

Example: where is the AOR report and why does it need to be discussed in Louisville before we ever see it? What is there to hide? 

Some have suggested that we are just a bunch of bitter and resentful people. Maybe some of us are. Perhaps we aren’t. Maybe we have been exasperated. We might just be sad and if you will permit a category of hurting. People who are sad and hurting yet full of love for you. Why sad and hurting? 

It would appear to us that the once dearest places on earth are slowly becoming a desert. Where have all the soldiers gone? Is there anyone out there who is not just hearing us but perhaps may be listening too? Post here, please. Engage us in the dialogue.

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Kris says:  Once again, although I think this is a very good message, I am NOT its author.  “Praise Warrior” is.

215 comments

  1. Kris says:

    This post asks a lot of powerful questions. One that’s been rumbling around in my mind, unarticulated, is this:

    Where is the AOR report and why does it need to be discussed in Louisville before we ever see it? What is there to hide?

    Yes, indeed – why DOES the AoR report need to be discussed in Louisville before it is released to the members of SGM churches, who, after all, provided the tithes and offerings that paid AoR’s fees?

  2. Izze says:

    :goodpost :clap My favorite parts below:

    “There are many things you stand for that you hate, but what do you love?”

    “When God comes to church, there is no mistake He is there.”

    “where is the AOR report and why does it need to be discussed in Louisville before we ever see it? What is there to hide?”

    “We are listening but words without accompanying change will be meaningless.”

    “We might just be sad and if you will permit a category of hurting.”

  3. Kris says:

    This line really hit a nerve for me:

    Perhaps he would warn you that unless you repent, Jesus will come to you and remove the lampstand from its place.

    It hit a nerve not because of anything SGM-related, but because over the past several days, I have been reading in Exodus for my Bible-reading time. Because I’m a big believer in the idea that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, and for correction and instruction in righteousness, I’ve been slogging through everything, including all the intricate instructions that God gave Moses for the construction of the tabernacle.

    Something that I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit bringing to my attention has been the description of the lampstands, first as they are portrayed in Exodus and then as they were mentioned by Jesus in His parable about the foolish versus wise virgins (I just “happened” to stumble across a discussion of that parable a couple of days ago).

    So it was downright WEIRD to see “Praise Warrior’s” allusion to lampstands in this post.

    Anyone out there who has made a study of the significance of lampstands in the Bible – I’d love it if you’d share what you’ve learned. I feel like there is something here that I’m supposed to understand in a new way, but I’m not sure what it is.

    (In particular, I’d LOVE to know what an Old Testament scholar has to say about the symbolism of the almond blossoms that are part of the lampstands in Exodus.)

    To anyone out there looking for an offbeat place to do your personal devotions, join me in reading the chunk of Exodus where God tells Moses exactly – PRECISELY, down to the fabric and color and stitching selections – how He wants the tabernacle constructed. The mind of God is just…amazing to me…it’s amazing to think how detail-oriented God is.

  4. Kris says:

    Random thought re what I mentioned in my #3 –

    Isn’t it interesting that God was so totally specific about things like the tabernacle and the temple in the Old Testament…but did not spell much of anything out very clearly for the New Testament Christians when it came to how they were supposed to “do church”?

    It makes me think that SGM’s current seeming fixation on figuring out the precisely “biblical” way to do (or redo) their polity is not exactly that biblical.

    I wish they’d just address the obvious problems caused by their lack of formal accountability to their congregations…rethink their beliefs about their own “God-ordained” authority…deal with the fallout from their apparent assumption that they cannot actually make mistakes when functioning in their pastoral role…and quit thinking that they’re ever going to figure out the “most biblical” way of setting up their church structure.

    The New Testament would seem to show us that God didn’t care about too many governmental specifics. After all, we know that when God wanted to get detailed in His instructions, He certainly had no problem doing so. Trying so hard to extrapolate the “best, most biblical” approach to something like church governance strikes me as pretty futile…and possibly little more than a distraction from actually dealing with the real issues.

  5. 5yearsinPDI says:

    That was beautiful. Thank you PW.

    I find these SGM blogs to be challenging to me as a wife, mother, friend, and sister at church. The sins of SGM are temptations to us all. There is a human tendency to be selfish, self sufficient, not quick to apologize, to hide our shame and pretend, and to lose our first love. SGM has become for me a model/mirror of where sin leads, so I will be careful.

    I think God put histories in the bible like David and Bathsheba, wise Solomon turning to idols, and Peter sliding into legalism and having to be rebuked by Paul, to warn us. Corinthians says that the OT stories are warnings to us not to behave like they did with their idols and murmuring and unbelief. For me as a Calvinist, Charismatic, Baptist, and Complementarian Christian in doctrine, like what SGM claims to be, SGM has become the all time negative role model for just how BAD church can become and how sinful Christians in the “cheap seats” can be. The shunning, the overlooking of little girls who were sexually abused, the blind trust in leaders, the denial, worship of man….so so much. May I be delivered of it all.

    I think God is trying to warn the entire neo-Calvinist movement, ie the Gospel Coalition crowd and all of their tens of thousands of followers (I’d say I am in that camp). I wonder if many of them are really hearing anything at all.

    God will shake. I hope I am listening myself. May we all get over any stupidity in thinking that we in our flesh can do it right and make things happen. May we all turn to God in dependent prayer knowing that He MUST move by the power of His Holy Spirit.

    Kris #4…Grudem agrees with you, ironically enough, given the way they spout Grudem.

  6. Bridget says:

    Kris –

    But what you ask in your post @4 flies in the face of what the whole Neo/New Calvinist movement is about. They want to get it all “Biblically” and “Gospel Centered” right. They want to know it all and teach it all to everyone else. They rarely, if ever, teach about being a new creation in Christ Jesus who is called to be a doer of the Word and not merely a hearer.

    We have seen this again and again with many of the leaders in SGM. They do everything they can to prop up their authority and eliteness, but they don’t DO the things that truely humble, spirit-led servant/leaders would do.

    SGM hires AoR to tell them what people HAVE been telling them already and bringing to them for years. They go have a retreat to read the AoR report and develop a response?? They have lost touch with the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. They have lost touch with being disciples and making disciples. It’s not complicated. Jesus didn’t make it complicated, hard to enter-yes, but not complicated. All SGM wants people to do is contemplate the cross. That’s what they teach over and over. Where does the Bible tell them to do just that one thing?

    Yes, dealing with the real issues . . . that would entail some actual Biblical actions toward the people they have wronged. They can’t fathom that, though, since it doesn’t line up with their precious doctrines which include contemplating the cross/gospel. Is contemplating the cross/gospel what we are told to do when we have offended someone? It seems to me that they have stunted their spiritual growth and only have a form of godliness. They simply don’t believe the whole counsel of God.

  7. Persona says:

    Kris 4

    Excellent thought:

    “I wish they’d just address the obvious problems caused by their lack of formal accountability to their congregations… rethink their beliefs about their own “God-ordained” authority… deal with the fallout from their apparent assumption that they cannot actually make mistakes when functioning in their pastoral role… and quit thinking that they’re ever going to figure out the “most biblical” way of setting up their church structure.”

    Neither SGM nor CLC has changed on the deepest level. They still think they are called to tell everyone what to think and how to live. And, they have yet to confess or repent for past abuses of authority to members.

    I believe it is folly to hope that they can rebuild on the same foundations. Because of this, I believe it is appropriate to call for certain SGM leaders to resign or retire from ministry. The list would probably be long but, that would be the simplest solution.

  8. Oswald says:

    Kris #3 — Whenever I come across something 2 or 3 times in a short period of time, I assume the Holy Spirit is wanting me to see something there; maybe so with you.

    Several years ago,(maybe 40 years ago) I attended a Bible study where the tabernacle was studied over several weeks. I was very interesting to see all the symbolism in the metals, materials, colors, measurements, etc that were used. What was taught concerning the lampstand is as follows. “The golden lampstand was beaten with a hammer into the shape of an almond bush, stands for Christ’s resurrection. Center shaft with 6 branches was one solid piece. Christ is the stalk, believers are the branches. Lamp in each branch burned with olive oil [oil often symbolizes the Holy Spirit]. No measurements given as we can’t measure the Lord’s work. Christ was beaten before Calvary. Aaron took care to burn the lamp and the incense. Lamp light was never to go out. It was the only light, just as Christ is to be our only light and must never go out, no light came in from outside.”

    In the letters to the churches in Revelations, it says this about the lampstands.
    Rev 1:20 — As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

  9. His Name is Jesus says:

    This is a very well thought out written appeal/exhortation. I might add, that it is very gracious in tone as well.

    “Some have suggested that we are just a bunch of bitter and resentful people. Maybe some of us are. Perhaps we aren’t. Maybe we have been exasperated. We might just be sad and if you will permit a category of hurting. People who are sad and hurting yet full of love for you.”

    This was brilliant!

  10. B.R. Clifton says:

    Kris:
    There are a few good books on the Tabernacle of Moses out there that are well worth purchasing for study. The lampstand is symbolic of the illumination we as disciples of Christ need. The accompanying olive oil provided the fuel for the seven lights and is symbolic of the annointing in our lives (the Holy Spirit). You’ve probably already read the part where the lamps are to be kept burning 24 hours a day. That’s also reflective of how we are to keep the Holy Spirit active in our own lives in order to maintain the annointing and illumination to know the path we are to walk. That’s being led by the Holy Spirit.

    I just finished teaching a series on the Tabernacle/temple and the seven God ordained feasts that Israel was to keep during the year. The whole point of the study was/is to show that God was giving Israel a preview of what Jesus was to perform here on earth on our behalf. When studied closely Jesus is the very focal point of the feasts and even the detailed structure of the Tabernacle itself points to our saviour.

    It’s a crying shame that so many churches and denominations now ignore the Old Testament. It is the very basis for everything that is written in the New testament. In fact, without the Old Testament there is no basis for the New. Think asbout it. What bible did Jesus and John the Baptist preach from? What bible did Peter, John, Paul, and all the others preach from? The very Gospel of Jesus Christ is found in the Old Testament. The New Testament can be looked upon as a sort of commentary on the Old. You still have to have the old, however, for the New to make sense. The N.T. was written to jews who knew their background and to Gentile converts who had an understanding of jewish religion, so the N.T. writings made perfect sense to them. Not so the 20th century Christian who generally knows Zip about Judaism and Jewish culture. More mistakes are made in teaching and doctrine by disregarding this subject than just about anything else.

    I’m glad you wrote your post about this. Perhaps others too will get curious and begin studying the Bible from “A” to “Z”.

  11. Remnant says:

    Quite a word, Praise Warrior. :word
    Your heart is precious and I pray your sentiments, your questions, your probing ideas bring many to pause and reflect.

    Kris, regarding the Lampstand (singular stand with 7 branches)it can be said that this is a perfect symbol of the Messiah Jesus, who is the Light of the World.

    The Lampstand had a center base, topped with a cup for oil. Attached to that base, are 3 curved branches with the top of each curve having a cup for oil. The total of cups is 7, the number of perfection.

    The Lampstand stood in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple.

    Isaiah 11:2 has this to say of the Messiah:
    2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
    3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

    If you picture the Lampstand, the center which forms the base and the middle pot of oil: this represents the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit and the words from above: “The Spirit of the Lord.”

    The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him. He does what the Spirit instructs. Jesus is full of the Spirit and One with the Spirit.

    Then the verse describes the “Him” whom we know as Messiah Jesus. The description has 3 sets of 2, and each set represents one of the curved branches.

    One branch: the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    Second branch: the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    Third branch: the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.

    If I can find a file, I’ll email you a drawing I have of the above representation.

  12. newbie says:

    re: jason #172. i saw this at the bottom of the website:

    About Blog Comments

    We always benefit from hearing your feedback, however staffing constraints prevent us from moderating blog comments at this time. If you have a question, please use the Contact Us form and your inquiry will be directed to the appropriate staff person.

  13. Kris says:

    newbie,

    Thanks for not letting Jason’s question get lost in the shuffle.

    I have to say, it’s interesting to me that SGM’s comment moderation practices are such that they require “staffing.” Seriously.

    I can’t imagine that the SGM site’s moderator’s job would be that big of a deal…unless, of course, he or she feels compelled to exert a great deal of control over the conversation.

  14. Defended says:

    Kris, Praise Warrior .. all I can say is THANK YOU.
    Praise Warrior – I love your name!
    Regarding this:
    Confession. Repentance. Restitution. Those seem to be the forgotten life-blood. It is not okay for a perfunctory report to come out and say “Oops – sorry – we really missed it there.” Peoples lives have been affected. Eldership that goes un-checked and unbalanced is unwise and can violate people.

    funny, I don’t see a mention here or in the Word, among the Disciples you named, of discussing anyone’s sin as “normal” or “ordinary”, do you? Or a leader getting a pass because that’s how their sin can be described?

    PW, I also liked the part that His Name is Jesus pointed out:
    “Some have suggested that we are just a bunch of bitter and resentful people. Maybe some of us are. Perhaps we aren’t. Maybe we have been exasperated. We might just be sad and if you will permit a category of hurting. People who are sad and hurting yet full of love for you.” :word

    The irony for me is that when Defender and I took a stand on the truth that the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts us of sin, not men declaring they saw sin we needed to confess, we were in heap-big trouble in the very same ex-congregation as His Name is Jesus belonged to. :bang

  15. ReformedGuy says:

    I am interested why so few people seem to be spending so much time with SGM? I looked over the past 4 posts and there were 699 comments by 121 people. The vast majority of the comments where by less than 50 people. Why is that?

  16. Kris says:

    ReformedGuy –

    I am interested in why you took the time to do all that counting and write that question?

    :wink:

  17. ReformedGuy says:

    It only took about 10 minutes. I was interested in how many people seemed to be concerned about SGM and entering the conversation. There seems to be a lot of SGM church members who are happy with their local church. They just don’t have a blog. Seems to be a minority that are contributing to this blog and others. Thought I would would do some unofficial stats on the last few posts. Just watching with curiosity.

  18. ExClcer'sMom says:

    Good answer, Kris! I would like to add, however, reformed Guy, you would need to go back way longer, and yet also read all the posts. Many people go through ‘seasons’ reading and praying before they even comment the first time! I am sure that just like most things in life, everyone who reads or comments on this blog has different reasons for doing either one. Sometimes, I go through a more reflective time, where I just read, prayer, consider..other times, the particular topics are something that just are not as meaningful or relevant to me as others (I tend to fade out when people begin to argue doctrine..that is just me), and yet there are also times when my life is so busy, I dont even have time to get to the computer! What I have found during the last year of reading these blogs is that just because people are not commenting, does not mean they are not reading. I think people feel like , “If you dont have anything relevant to say, then read and learn and pray”, perhaps? That is pretty much how I feel at least.
    But, I was wondering, did your question have a point, or were you just curious? I hope I may have broadened your perspective a little.

  19. Persona says:

    Ref-Guy 16

    I too think it strange that you drop-in with such a leading question, and a negative one at that. You give us no intro and no clue as to your curiosity about SGM. Are you a statistician by trade?

  20. Diego says:

    Hey Reformed guy – I ran into some friends this weekend that I thought were still going to a SG church… they left… Can you tell me how many people have left SG churches over the 9 months? How many people have been withholding their tithe? How much money are church (like Kingsway) loosing each month? I NEED STATS :spin :spin :spin :spin :spin :spin :spin :spin :spin :spin :spin :spin !!!

  21. Stunned says:

    I’d imagine for each person, we have our own reasons.

    So curious now. Why do you ask?

  22. Oswald says:

    Diane #15 — Thanks so much for the links to info about the lampstands. Plenty of verses to remind us that Jesus is truly the Light of the world. There is no other.

    To Ref Guy #16 — Who cares?

  23. glad i am out says:

    Reformed Guy…

    I may be wrong, but i think i see where you are going… You love your local church, and want to badly believe that people who speak out about it are a minority…

    !st, since you are counting, why don’t you go back 4 years, instead of a few weeks, i think you will find several hundreds, if not thousands (Kris?) of voices represented here…

    I know how you love your church,, most of us here did too… we can relate…

    We learned the hard way, the truth…

    Here is an important difference between most of “us” and you…

    We did not read the blogs… they did not exist….

    We learned from our leaders that they were not accountable, not properly trained, not reading, if i may say so, their own bibles… we learned from our care group leaders the same… We experienced the unGodly legalism.. the rules… the LAW!! read galatians and see what Paul has to say about the law…

    You do not need the blogs either to discern the truth… Honestly, if you do not know by now, that your church has SERIOUS issues, then you are a fool.. If you want to stay a fool, and attack the bloggers, well… we can not help you…

    But if you want to see the truth, and work for reform, then stick around…

  24. Ozymandias says:

    Reformed Guy #16:

    First, I’d take a look at this: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html.

    Second, I’d be interested to take a look at any major Young, Restless, and Reformed (YRR) blogger and run the same exercise. I would imagine that you’d get a similar ratio between number of posts and number of discrete contributors.

    Third, I’d be interested to take a look at any major YRR blogger and map the number of posts regarding SGM and the number of discrete contributors…but that could prove difficult to do because, for the SGM-related posts, those blogs tend to turn off comments altogether.

  25. Oswald says:

    Ozy #23 — Concerning the link you posted, ’nuff said.

    :goodpost

  26. Oswald says:

    Glad #22 — :goodpost

  27. 2+2=4 again says:

    B.R. Clifton-10. In Him, thank you!!!

  28. B.R. Clifton says:

    2+2: Thanks.

  29. B.R. Clifton says:

    Ref. Guy:
    Why do you ask?

  30. Kris says:

    Apologies to “ReformedGuy,” who had a response stuck in moderation all night. It now appears as comment #18, for those who are interested.

    “exCLCer’sMom” is correct, in that the assortment of people who might comment here shifts and changes over time. Last year when Brent’s documents hit and we were fielding traffic that was as high as 60,000 page views per day, the site’s database became overwhelmed and Guy had to remove the comments from older posts. But if we were to go back through those comments, we’d see that hundreds of people have been part of the commenting group here over the past 4 1/2 years. Some old-timers still contribute, some pop by once in awhile, some read and process their SGM experiences and then move on. It’s the nature of the subject matter.

    What’s interesting is that the comments represent just a fraction of the site’s audience, based upon stats. I get a LOT of email from people who don’t choose to comment for one reason or another, but who still have had difficulties at their SGM churches. Many who write to me don’t comment because they are still in SGM churches and feel a level of fear over what might happen if their participation here were to be discovered. Some don’t have a lot of experience with the online world and haven’t take the time to figure out how to comment. It just depends.

    If “ReformedGuy” did his math project to show that the segment of SGMers who have had bad experiences or even just concerns about their local churches is statistically insignificant, I’m afraid he’s out of luck.

    It might be interesting for “ReformedGuy” to do a deeper, more extensive kind of research and poll Christian counselors in his area, particularly if his SGM church has been around for a decade or longer. Ask these counselors if they have dealt with a disproportionately high number of people who have suffered enough to seek professional help after having a bad SGM experience.

    Or, seek out an interview with an Ambassadors of Reconciliation staffer and ask how their recent SGM project compares to anything else they’ve ever done.

  31. Kris says:

    Thanks to everyone who posted re my questions about the lampstand and almond trees. I know it’s off-topic, but wow – fascinating stuff!

  32. Stunned says:

    Hi Ref Guy,

    thanks for responding! I hadn’t seen your response when I said I was curious as to why you were curious. Like I said above, I’d imagine there are as many reasons why people post here as there are posters.

    But since you like stats (like I do- math nerds unite!), I thought you might find this interesting. I believe that pre-Brent’s-documents, there were 20,000 UNIQUE visitors to this site on a monthly basis. (Kris, please correct me if I am wrong.)

    And I think (again, Kris, please correct me if this is wrong) this fall, one of the months this site had something like 80,000 UNIQUE visitors. Unique means that it is not the same person coming back over and over again, but that 80,000 unique visitors means that there were 80,000 DIFFERENT computers visiting here.

    Now, since I don’t own tens of thousands of computers, I can only assume it’s not one person visiting 79,999 other computers for the sole purpose of logging in here to read. Which means there are probably 80,000 people coming here to read, at least for one month this fall.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think there are currently that many people still in SGM. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if PDI/SGM has cranked through that many people since the 1970’s. I don’t know if you know that stats on people coming to stay or people coming for a decade, two decades, even three, then leaving after experiencing abuse at the hands of their leaders in SGM, but it’s amazingly high.

    And just ’cause you love stats as much as I do, (yes, I am a complete dork and proud of it), I know sometimes there are people who come here who are not currently or were not members, but who have close family members who are in SGM. These mothers or children come here to try to understand the change that has taken place in their family members. To understand why they have been cut out of their relatives lives. They are some really lovely people. I have met some of them. Sadly, this is a much more common occurence in SGM than you might know. I have literally met mothers from Washington state to Florida, who mourn for their children and long to be let back into their lives and into their grandchildren’s lives. The numbers on this situation, are tragically high, as well. Siblings who are both believers, who love God, who walk with God, being cut off, merely because they have chosen to worship elsewhere.

    I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. If you could, please, help to dig up stats about that, that would be helpful to all those who are in that situation and who would be comforted to find out, they are not alone.

  33. Kris says:

    One other thought –

    As the de facto moderator here, I have to say that I feel bad sometimes for the way I’ve fallen down on the job. There are some days when I have barely had time to read through all the comments, let alone respond as I ought to. I know that people have contributed some amazingly insightful posts that have unfortunately slipped by, unremarked.

    If you’re reading this and that’s happened to you, by the way, I’m sorry!

    I think one reason certain comments don’t generate a lot of responses is because they’re so profound that they stand alone. Yeah, that might sound kind of grandiose, but it’s true. A lot of times I will read something and go, “Yes!!!” and then feel like there’s nothing else I could possibly add to what was said. The sad thing is that when that happens, the contributor can take the lack of further dialog as an indication that he or she is not welcomed into the conversation…when the reality is just the opposite, in that what they wrote was so good that there’s nothing left to say.

  34. Stunned says:

    Kris said, “generate a lot of responses is because they’re so profound that they stand alone.”

    SO TRUE! To me, often times, the BEST comments I feel NO need to respond to. I just sit back and enjoy re reading them. I feel like anything I add is merely trite and unnecessary.

    But to Kris’ post, I DO feel the need to add this: Kris, I am not trying to be nice here, but I can’t imagine you being a better moderator. I can’t imagine being able to read everything here, let alone comment, along with creating new posts AND reading all the private emails people write to you, then on top of all that, responding to those private emails, as well. Seriously, I appreciate your diligence and care. Please don’t be hard on yourself. Grace, grace, grace.

  35. DK says:

    I have only posted on the blog a few times, but I check in and read the blog at least twice per day. It has helped me process my 28 years at CLC and is having a profound effect on my view of my SGM experience and my own Christianity. Like the iceberg where 10% is above water and 90% is below, many followers are not seen.

    I also think the exodus of people from CLC is not over. Not a week or an errand goes by during which I don’t learn of a new family that is planning to leave. They may not have left yet, but they are looking, planning, or waiting for the right timing (e.g., end of school). Often they appreciate what Josh is trying to do, but some of the basic theological, polity, or social issues have not changed enough for them. And some just want to change geographical location for family or financial reasons, and finally feel free to do so.

  36. Kris says:

    Stunned said,

    I know sometimes there are people who come here who are not currently or were not members, but who have close family members who are in SGM. These mothers or children come here to try to understand the change that has taken place in their family members. To understand why they have been cut out of their relatives lives.

    Stunned, thanks for bringing up another segment of our reading population.

    One of the sad truths about SGM – one of the characteristics that SGM has shared with cultic groups – is that historically, membership in an SGM church has tended to alienate the member from non-SGMers, including close non-SGM (but still Christian) family.

    I hear from a lot of these poor people who find themselves cut off from kids and grandkids, mystified at what has happened.

    And just in case anyone is wondering, it’s not that these people would represent “bad influences” or anything else negative. As I said, many of them are Christians, just not SGM-style Christians.

    I know that since it has been discussed publicly, SGM pastors are now trying to change this – but historically, SGM has viewed itself as the best game in town, the “most biblical” kind of church, the place with “correct doctrine” and all the right ways to live life. No, it wasn’t necessarily stated outright from the pulpit in so many words…but SGM churches have created people who see themselves and their denomination as spiritually superior to other groups.

    (If this weren’t true, then why has planting more SGM churches in already-church-saturated suburbs been regarded as “spreading the gospel,” to the point where for a long, long time, its church-planting efforts were SGM’s only “missions” work?

    A couple of years back, there was even an established SGM church that was going to do a church plant in Colorado Springs, CO. A reader sent me the link to the area on that church’s website where the church plant was discussed. It was incredible to me to read people’s comments about how excited they were to sell their homes, change jobs, uproot their families, and basically go to a ton of trouble to move to a town that is known as something of the Mecca of the Evangelical world, with so many decent gospel-proclaiming, Bible-believing churches already available that to visit them all would take way more than a year of Sundays. The people who were planning to be part of this SGM church plant were actually discussing their joy in “sacrificing for the gospel”! Think about that. Think about the spiritual superiority that has to be present in order to believe that it is “sacrificing for the gospel” to plant an SGM church in a place where there’s already a ton of good churches.)

    The non-SGM family members who have written to me have shared stories of finding themselves quickly sidelined and cut off from their relatives’ lives after the relatives joined SGM churches. Sometimes it was because the SGM relatives were just sooooo busy with SGM-related activities…but often, it was actually discussed outright, as though the Christian non-SGM family members weren’t quite Christian enough to qualify for close fellowship with the SGMers.

    This reality is, as I said, one of the qualities about SGM that would be characterized as cultic. But it’s been true, in so many ways, that SGMers have historically viewed their way of “doing church” as so significantly different than other churches that joining SGM practically represented a whole new level of conversion. That was one of the disturbing things that Guy and I noticed when we were part of our own SGM church for awhile – people’s testimonies, which usually (in the non-SGM world) are about how they came to know Jesus, were instead about how they came to be part of SGM. The testimonies were all along the lines of, “I was a Christian for X number of years, and then I found this church…”

    (Another thing the statistic-lovin’ soul might want to look at is this: any time new members are welcomed into your SGM church, what percentage of them would be new believers with no prior church membership?

    If our statistic-lovin’ soul is honest, he will discover the truth, that SGM churches typically don’t draw unbelievers to Christ so much as draw Christians to SGM.)

    This is why SGM has alienated non-SGM family members. Being an SGMer is just different than being an “ordinary” Christian.

  37. Jason says:

    newbie,

    Thanks for your answer in #12. SGM’s explanation still doesn’t explain why they chose to remove all previously published comments from older posts. It’s strange too, because SGM usually provides detailed explanations with solid reasoning before they make a change (where’s the sarcasm font?).

  38. Lost in (cyber) Space says:

    Kris,

    You said “that SGM churches typically don’t draw unbelievers to Christ so much as draw Christians to SGM.)”

    When I first read your thoughts on this in previous posts I was alarmed. “Really????”, I thought. But then I started thinking about the different people I know who have come to my church in the past 6 years. Yes, the majority by far are from other churches. I do know of a couple new believers and those that were coming back to Jesus after walking away, but our church has more than doubled with mostly people from neighboring churches. That is really scary to me. We have taken so many members from one church that relations with that church are strained. Are we merely preaching our church to other Christians and not reaching out to the lost? I have been in SGM since the mid-80’s and it wasn’t always that way. We used to go out regularly and share the gospel with people on Friday nights. We saw many saved and miraculously healed. I miss those days! What happened?????

  39. Kris says:

    Jason,

    Good point, about the removal of all the old comments from the SGM blog. I can’t imagine how leaving them up would have created “staffing issues.” :roll:

  40. Izze says:

    Jason #38- Didn’t realize SGM had decided to pull all previous comments off their blog. Do they see how cowardice that makes them look? What are they so afraid of? I feel like so many decisions they make are based out of fear. How will that make them “look” or how so and so will perceive it? They must have no idea what the heck they are doing. Where is the transparency they so desperately demanded from laity for years and years? Why do they feel the need to control the information? I do speculate that running with the RBDogs is quite a feat for them. Like keeping up with the Jones. One tiny slip up and negative press from one of the RBDogs and they lose so much buy in from so many well.. “book buyers”. Although CJ was genius to get in on the T4G wagon. It’s basically a safe haven for him to be a part of it because well…if he does something dumb, it makes them all look dumb. No wonder they ran to his defense as soon as Brent’s “fit hit the shan”. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. God have Mercy!

  41. Izze says:

    This is off topic (sorry Kris) but needs to be said. I’m not defending anyone here and I am not devaluing many concerns about where in the world all the $$$$ comes from that CJ has…but I just wanted to correct some house upgrade speculation (and then the convo can be done, because there really are bigger fish to fry). Basically the 125k upgrades had been put into the house before the Mahaney’s bought it. Kitchen was already done up, and yes the previous owner put a lot of $$ into it. The things they changed were structural because they needed to fit two families into one house.

  42. 2+2=4 again says:

    Izze-41, yep, “Perfect love casts out fear”. For all the “correct doctrine”, you’d think love would be the hallmark, not fear of man, which ironically, they are always warning against. Every child over a few years old there feels such pressure to be accepted, to stay in leadership’s good graces.

  43. CLCya says:

    I wanted to let everyone know that Mole will be coming to Gaithersburg, Richmond, and Fairfax, “in the near future…to engage in individual counseling sessions, particularly where issues of spiritual abuse may be relevant…”.

    Please visit his web site: http://www.symboulosministries.org for more information and be sure to complete the online form if you are interested in pursuing counseling.

  44. Kris says:

    I’m thinking this might make for an entire post of its own, but while I was responding to a reader’s email just now, in connection with my #37, something occurred to me.

    In #37, I’d said,

    SGM churches typically don’t draw unbelievers to Christ so much as they draw Christians to SGM.

    This is why SGM has alienated non-SGM family members. Being an SGMer is just different than being an “ordinary” Christian.

    Here’s a question I have: is it necessarily wrong that the membership of SGM churches is usually comprised of people who used to be members of other Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming churches?

    The short answer is, of course, no. It’s not necessarily wrong. But as “Lost in (cyber) Space” pointed out, it’s significant…especially because the planting of SGM churches is the very way that SGM has historically defined its “missions” work.

    If SGM’s “missions” were really JUST about spreading the good news of Jesus, then it would follow that a significant percentage (rather than a tiny minority) of new SGM members would also be new believers rather than longtime Christians from other churches.

    Unless, of course, the SGM way of doing church does indeed represent the way that true Christianity should be…and (conversely), what’s going on in all the other Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming churches in the neighborhoods near the typical SGM church does NOT quite represent the way that true Christianity should be worked out.

    So the question becomes, is SGM a superior way of doing church? Does SGM “get it righter” – or is SGM “more biblical” – than other churches?

    If the SGMers out there reading this would be honest, they’d have to admit that they do believe their church is better and more right than other churches.

    Now, they could say, in their own defense, that that is a very normal human thing, to believe in the inherent superiority of one’s own particular choice…and that we all, to some degree, believe thus about our own church selections.

    And that would be true, to some degree.

    BUT…

    Where that defense falls apart is in the SGMer’s honest gut reaction when she, say, meets another Christian (true Christian, someone who has come to understand his sinfulness and helplessness to save himself and make himself right in the eyes of a holy God, someone who has heard and understood the good news of Jesus and what He did through His death and resurrection to take his punishment upon Himself, to satisfy a righteous God’s demands, and to present him holy and blameless before the Father) who happens not to be an SGMer. Let’s say our hypothetical SGMer finds herself attracted to this person and decides that she wants to date (er…be in a courtship with) him. He shares her feelings and initiates this relationship.

    What happens next?

    Would she feel like she needed to “reach out” to this person and hope that he leaves his present (Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming) church to join her SGM church? Or would she be able to entertain the possibility that his church would be perfectly adequate for the two of them, should they become a couple, get married, and need to find a church home together?

    What would her SGM parents think of this situation? Would they even let the courtship proceed?

    (What’s interesting is that some years back, Brent Detwiler even put together a document about courtship that made the rounds throughout the SGM organization, and one of the sections was about this very thing, the couple’s joint commitment to an SGM church. So this stuff has actually been acknowledged and taught outright.)

    I think that if SGMers were to be brutally honest with themselves, they’d simply have to acknowledge that the gospel SGM shares with people is not just about the good news of Jesus…and not even about participating in Jesus’ visible organized church in some general way. Rather, the SGM gospel is “Jesus Plus.” It’s “Jesus Plus How We Do Church.” Or, “Jesus Plus All Our Formulas And Strategies For Holy Living.” Or, “Jesus Plus Our Own ‘Sound Doctrine.'”

    Now, getting back to the original thought that sparked this comment, is it true that SGM churches represent a better way to do church?

    I think we can acknowledge that SGM churches do get some things “righter” than your typical church. For instance, the SGM approach to small groups and fellowship does make it a lot easier to bond with and feel connected to other church members. Also, SGM churches have done a good job about urging members to pursue righteous living.

    But if we were doing a balance sheet, I’d have to say that the problems (particularly as they’ve been revealed in undeniable ways over the past 8 or 10 months) more than outweigh what SGM gets right. For everything that SGM does “righter” than other churches, there’s an awful lot of baggage that can end up becoming harmful legalism. The push for instant intimacy in care groups, for instance, can involve an unhealthy emphasis on getting people to open up too much about their sins. The push for avoiding situations that can lead us more easily to sin has given us homeschooling-as-the-11th-commandment…and courtship-as-the-12th-commandment.

    As I said, for everything SGM churches seem on the surface to do better than other churches, there is (or can be) a seriously dark side…which indicates that SGM churches don’t actually have a corner on what’s right.

    So if it’s true that SGM churches do NOT represent a superior (“more biblical”) way, and if SGM considers its church-planting efforts as THE WAY they spread the gospel, and if the gospel they spread is something that tends to appeal most to those who are already Christians and already have the “old” gospel…then what SGM is actually spreading just might be a different gospel.

    I know that’s harsh…a bitter pill for people to swallow…

    But again, if the majority of new members are simply longtime Christians from other churches, than the gospel the SGM church is preaching cannot be simply about Jesus and His generic Church. It’s about something else.

    And I think SGM needs to address this mindset and figure out what’s behind it. Perhaps then, SGMers will cease alienating themselves from non-SGM Christians, including their non-SGM Christian family members.

  45. 2+2=4 again says:

    Kris-45, thanks! Yes, for 2 years, a small group we were in was very much about getting everyone in line with hyper-Calvinism, and peripheral doctrines of Reformed Theology, and most definitely, that air of superiority has come across.

  46. 2+2=4 again says:

    I should have also added, that even though Reformed doctrine and related books, never the Bible, were always pushed, that also ironically, the priesthood of all believers, truly a concept the Reformers expounded on, was never mentioned. This group of churches is very close to the Catholic mindset and way of doing things, imo, very much into law, although they could NEVER see it that way.

  47. Lost in (cyber) Space says:

    Re: Kris #45,

    I think that SGM (formerly PDI) started out with a true zeal to be serious about the Christian faith. Think about it… both CJ and Larry came out of a dry legalistic Catholic experience where many were just going through the motions and perhaps Christian in name only. I know that’s what my religious experience was growing up. So then they get radically saved, love Jesus and want to please and honor Him. Great motivations, right? They are young but zealous. Their zeal is very contagious and the church begins to grow. So they teach that being a true Christian is serious buisness! We wanted to be a pure and holy people. I think the problem came when we started to believe that what God was doing with PDI was different and new. He had called us to a higher standard. In comes the reformed doctrine and we then become very serious and concerned about our sin. It becomes very imbalanced. Legalistic even. When newcomers from other churches visit, they see a people who really take their Christianity seriously. They hear doctrine that perhaps was never really addressed in their church. It is intelligent and attractive. They see people relating closely to each other and they want that for their families. The thing they don’t realize, which I am just learning, is that we have lost our first love. Maybe not everybody, but we are very church and doctrine focused and not as Jesus focused. We are very well organized and do church well, but we have lost that initial zeal for Jesus— Him alone. We are missing the simlpicity of just loving and knowing Jesus. I know I have. I want it back! And a lot of these churches that we thought were not as doctrinely sound as SGM actually have that right. They may not know the Westminster Cathecism(sp?), but they know and love Jesus.

  48. Steve240 says:

    Izze said:

    Didn’t realize SGM had decided to pull all previous comments off their blog. Do they see how cowardice that makes them look? What are they so afraid of? I feel like so many decisions they make are based out of fear. How will that make them “look” or how so and so will perceive it?

    I am sure they are afraid of a number of things. It wouldn’t surprise me if (especially in the past) there were a number of people with questions that thought they were the only ones with those questions. When they find out that others have the same questions or when those who aren’t questioning hear these questions it might make some ask the same questions.

    The way SGM has defined “gossip” and “slander” has kept a number of people from being vocal about their questions. I am sure SGM would like to keep it that way.

  49. Persona says:

    Kris 45

    “But again, if the majority of new members are simply longtime Christians from other churches, than the gospel the SGM church is preaching cannot be simply about Jesus and His generic Church. It’s about something else.”

    If SGM churches didn’t steal most of their members from other churches there might be no other way for them to grow a church! Their evangelism strategy is that flawed!

    To understand some of the fear-based and/or pride-based foundations of SGM-built churches you must look at what the leaders do, not only what they say.

    For instance, CLC pastors say they want to actively spread the Gospel. They might even say that is their PRIMARY goal.

    But, when asked, at one of the last CLC Family meetings that allowed an open-mic Q&A time, not one pastor could say they had a personal evangelism plan.

    When Joshua came on-board (following the advice of CJ and John Loftness), he (Joshua) rearranged the church to ensure every corner of it was tightly secured under pastoral authority.

    Pastoral control was attractively presented in guise of friendly household titles such as, “Foyer”, “Living Room” and “Kitchen”. But, in the process, the pastors forbid anyone from inviting non-believers or non-members, to their care group meetings or events. They were not to be invited to any event that was not specifically designated for outreach. That effectively ended a LOT of friendship evangelism.

    And so, CLC substituted member-led evangelism outreach for pastor-led and controlled ‘ALPHA” style programs.

    An example of the effect on one person we invited to ALPHA: they got offended when they figured out the majority of people in their circle were church members. There were only 2 other non-believers in their group of 10! And, two out of three of them dropped-out of the meetings before they ended.

    The foundation of this decision to restructure the church, was a fear that CLC members were not being influenced enough by the ‘pastor’s voice’. The pride underlying that belief is that a pastor’s God-given role is to control everyone and everything in their church, including evangelism. These lies have unfortunately greatly hindered the Holy Spirit at CLC.

    The pastoral patterns of control stopped me from serving or inviting guests to church since Joshua was installed. It also led us to leave the church after a membership that spanned half our lives.