Team Pyro Opens It Up…

Frank from the Pyromaniacs blog has put up a post that permits commentary about Sovereign Grace Ministries.

I haven’t yet decided if I have the courage to join that discussion.  Frankly, I’ve found the interactions over there pretty intimidating, even just as a lurker.  I’d strongly encourage anyone who chooses to participate to abide by the established rules, work hard to contribute concise and focused points, and do your best to keep your cool.


  1. Nevermore says:

    ATC, I’d move over there for the weather alone! :D Most of the time, as a shade-loving goth girl I find LA sunlight rather too hot and bright. :P THen there’s also that bit about being a huge Anglophile. Yeah, that. ^^

    It’s really hard for me to fully trust any church or Christian group, given that I grew up in the likes of SGM. The church I’ve visited since childhood and attend now is so very kind and affirming, and that’s why I trust them. I still differ a bit on views about doctrine, but I appreciate the way the pastors (one of whom is a woman by the way! She is fantastic) go out of their way to show God’s love to people.

  2. Nevermore says:

    Julie Anne, you have my support and prayers! Exposing spiritual abuse is a cause that’s close to my heart as well. I wish astounding headway for you. :)

  3. ExClcer'sMom says:

    Julie Anne, my prayers are also with you! May God cause you to be strengthened and invigorated by the path you are paving! If I had any funds, I would certainly donate them to your legal fund! I cannot even imagine how any lawyer would think it a credible lawsuit at all, no matter what the pastor thought! Either he must be a member there, or just figure he will take the money anyway! I pray God uses what that church started (the lawsuit) to take all of their funds and make them have to pay it back to you instead, that you may further fight against spiritual abuse! May God send Angels you way daily, to gird you up for battle!

  4. KWIM says:

    A friend sent this to me. Thought I would share it with you all

  5. 5yearsinPDI says:

    KWIM….thanks. Very kind and caring article.

    Kris, might make a nice featured post.

  6. Ellie says:

    Good article, KWIM. Thank you.

  7. Persona says:

    Yes, KWIM 154, that is a well-written appeal to the Band of Bloggers and the SGM pastors to care for the sheep. Great exhortations there. Let’s hope they can hear it from one of their own.

  8. OffMyRocker says:

    A note I received about Julia Duin — sounds like an interesting opportunity for those in the G’burg area: “Current and former SGM members may wonder if they are the only ones in Reform/charismatic circles to undergo these trials. Not at all: Those of you living in the Washington, DC area have a chance to hear Julia Duin, the former religion editor of the Washington Times, now writing for the Washington Post Sunday magazine, talk about her book about what went on with Episcopal and Catholic charismatics, whose problems with community life and control make what happened with SGM seem like child’s play. Her book “Days of Fire and Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community” talks about how a famous Texas church underwent very similar experiences and the lessons learned from the debacle. She will be talking about her book Saturday May 19 at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, specifically from 11:40 a.m-12:20 pm in the Rachel Carson tent. Her web site
    has more information about the book. Or you can buy it from

  9. After reading again on Wartburg Watch about Julie Anne, and realizing I was getting a lot of traffic on my blog since she linked to me, I just posted more about recovering from negative experiences with churches and Christian organizations.

  10. old timer says:

    Wow Virginia, thanks for a great article….and such wisdom!

  11. Ellie says:

    Good article, Virginia!

  12. Neverinsgm says:

    It’s interesting that Team Pyro has not yet put up anything about a nationally reported news story– Julie Anne being sued by a pastor who CLAIMED to have gotten advice to do so from someone at Grace Community. Mr Johnson being an elder there, you’d think he’d want to set the record straight with his blog audience.
    Instead, we find Mr Turk once again goading his commenters into saying something HE deems negative so he can delete/ban them, “Negative comments will simply be deleted without any warning or recourse.” The third friend, Mr Phillips, appears to break the rules but HE doesn’t get deleted.

  13. Rick says:

    I thought the Rick Thomas article overall very constructive–well worth reading. I do have a problem, though, with one aspect of the article and that is this–the statement that “no doubt many of the people in this group are sinning”. Then the reference to anger and bitterness that follows as evidence.

    Is it sin to tell your story, or air your complaint, with honest emotion? I would be careful to limit a judgment of sinfulness to something that is posted that is demonstrably and purposely untrue. Many, if not most, churches, use in the context of worship psalms that register complaint–we don’t decline to read those psalms–we understand that God has a purpose in preserving them for us. God is gracious in abundance, demonstrating that in His hearing our complaints–and loving us through and in them. Isn’t interaction here an opportunity to participate with Him in this loving work.

    35+ years in Kingdom experience has taught me this–censored communication leads to stunted change. We have to hear–with grace. We have to speak–with grace–but it may take being our story being listened to in its rawest, ugliest form before we can embrace this graceful speech that so many are concerned with. Truth needs to matter more to us than the packaging.

    I am open to correction–

  14. Rick says:

    One more thought–I beg your indulgence in this. I worked for 14 years in critical care medicine, with experience in both ER and ICU. When a battered woman came into the ER, a victim of spousal abuse, or children who had been abused by one or more of their parents, no judgment was ever made regarding the nature of the complaintant. It was understood that the person with the power had the responsibility to restrain himself. Whether the wife was non-compliant in some way, whether the children were misbehaving in some way, was irrelvant. The responsibility of those with power is self-restraint–and they are held to a higher level of accountability.

    Those we entrust our souls to in church leadership have a responsibility to first, do no harm. Restraint, consideration, dying to selfish expectation–to serve, rather than be served, to take the lowest, rather than the highest place. Its tough–not many should even attempt to do it. Its evident by what we read, here and at other sites, and too many assume this mantle before counting the cost.

  15. Rick Thomas says:

    Hey Rick, Perhaps you missed the part where Rick Thomas said what you’re saying. It is here:

    These people have been wounded and they are hurting. Every counselor who has ever counseled the hurting understands the temptation of a person to sin back when sinned against. I’m not promoting allowance here, but understanding.

    People who have been sinned against will be tempted to sin in return. Have you ever sinned back when you were sinned against? Okay, let’s move on. We’re all guilty – every blooming one of us, especially me because I know my fallen tendencies the best.

    I never condone my sin and I don’t condone the sin of others, but I get it. When people are hurting, more than likely they will respond sinfully. In such cases I listen to them, but I listen through them first – I listen to the real story, the hurt, not the sin that is coming out of their mouths.

    I want to help them. In time, after they have been heard, helped, and are on the road to being healed, you can begin to address their sinful reactions. If I rebuked them or marginalized them because they did not say it the way I wanted them to say it, I would never be able to help them.

    One of the many wonderful things I learned while pastoring a SGM church was that if someone comes to you imperfectly, you should have the grace to hear the critique more than the imperfect approach from the person who brought you the critique.[5]

    My friends, there is a critique that is being brought imperfectly to SGM, but the most important part of the critique is generally being marginalized or ignored. We’re being asked to ignore it, and the argument has instead focused on the methodology of how to bring critiques.

  16. Rick says:

    Lest I seem to be assuming a mantle of righteousness as I make these grand statements regarding the respnsibilities of leadership, I must confess this. I was in church leadership for a number of years–I judge myself in these areas. I am no longer in leadership and don’t know if I will be in the future, but I am thankful for this. I had the opportunity, before a gracious church body, to publicly repent for some wrong actions taken and words spoken while in leadership. Even in the best of our lives, we do harm, knowingly or unknowingly–I am thankful for those who spoke to me regarding certain issues.

    Some of what I felt called to repent for came without the intervention of others–God is good to that, I think. But everyone in leadership needs a Nathan–someone willing to scout them and let them know how they are relating to the body. We can be so ingrown–and think so well of ourselves.

    I have always sensed God’s love in a great way as I have engaged public repentance–and honestly, for leadeship, for wrongs we do to the body, I think public repentance is necessary–we do not have the option to hide the wrong that we do in exercising authority in the church. Basilea Schlink referred to ‘a glad repentance’. Oh the freedom that comes with this.

    I am typing on an IPAD–bear with my spelling and grammatical errors.

  17. Rick says:

    Rick Thomas–I did read, and probably did not state strongly enough how highly I thought of your article; its wonderful. I centered in on the caveat regarding sin for a reason–those defending SGM use that as a club to swing in justification for ingnoring the very pleas for help that you communicated so clearly. I did not think it necessary in the context of your writing, but I gladly own any offense I may have caused you–will you forgive my breaking out that small piece of what you wrote?

    My sense from your writing is that you probably already have–but just in case. Those who have read my past posts know that I have a particular sensitivity to statements like that.

  18. El Pastor says:

    Lots of wisdom there, Rick. We have lost the essence of servant leadership as defined by our Lord Himself.

    I was at a Russian ordination service several years ago, and the men being ordained to the ministry were each given towels with these words on them, “Do as I did to you.” What a great reminder!

    If we have to have conferences, we need new conference subjects:
    “The Limits of Pastoral Authority.”
    “Feeding, Not Flailing the Flock”
    “How to Repent for Failure in Ministry.”
    “Ministry is a Privilege, but a Pastor is Not a Privileged Person.”

  19. Rick says:

    Rick Thomas–just one more thing–an area in which we may disagree (respectfully) is that I don’t see the use of what I would term ‘psalm language’ as inherently sinful. I think that many church cultures do–SGM being one of them.

  20. Unassimilated says:

    El Pastor –

    Your 168, spot on!

  21. Rick Thomas says:

    Hey Rick, I take no offense at all, but I appreciate your humility. The only reason I pasted that part of the article was to say we’re saying the same thing: the point is the hurting, not the packaging. That was the main thing about the article and hopefully the main point people takeaway from it.

    I understand the tenuous nature of the problem and I most CERTAINLY understand SGMs two greatest commandments: (1) I’m right; (2) You’re a sinner…and how this can make one gun shy when sin is mentioned. Their hammer is heavy and it hurts. All that to say, I agree with you. Peace.

  22. Rick says:

    Rick T–thanks; and to you, El Pastor–I came to the conclusion after being in leadership for awhile, is that we who led were just better at hiding our pathologies than regular members of the congregation. Being around leadership, especially at the extra-local level could tempt one to early disallusionment if not for the awareness, as Luther siad, that “we are sinners in the best of life”.

  23. Bob Dixon says:

    Thanks Rick for your excellent article (Appeal from former SGM pastor) and heartfelt appeal to the body of Christ to begin to heal. In that regard, I want to remind folks….. I will be in Gaithersburg on Saturday, May 26th to meet with anyone who feels they need help understanding and/or processing issues related to spiritual abuse. Please go to and fill out the contact form so we can set up an appointment. It appears there are enough individuals to consider starting a Support Group in the Gaithersburg area. I will be exploring this possibility with those I meet with on the 26th.

    God has begun the process of healing and closure for those hurting from negative church experiences (see May Newsletter). Please keep Symboulos Ministries in your prayers, especially for wisdom, discernment, and insight on the part of myself and those receiving counsel. Our goal is to be set free and return to our first love, Jesus Christ. Thank you for your encouragement, love, and support. Bob Dixon

    PS Thanks Kris and Guy for letting me use your vine to get the message out.

  24. 5yearsin PDI says:

    Rick T- question for you. By the way really nice article you wrote.

    It was my understanding based on various things I heard over the years (1990s), that most of the pastors and CG leaders did believe they were right, not necessarily because they were proud, but because they held to a wierd sort of thinking I look at as shepherding movement error. God had anointed them for their task, and they were functioning within their sphere of authority, so because of their position they were indeed right- even when they gave imput to husbands about what to do in marriage, and to parents about what to do with kids. It was almost like when you stepped into a leadership position, a magic mantle-oops, spiritual gifting- came down and fell on you, enabling you to have a direct hotline to God for anybody under your mantle. I saw several examples of this over the years. The most blatant seemed to be the PC grad who claimed that to even ask a leader a question implied that the leader was capable of making a wrong decision, and you sinned to even ask something.

    So, would you say that the consistent abuse pattern (leader always right, sheep always sinning) was actually logical, given the mentality that leaders have this special anointing?

    When it came to marriage they didn’t seem to say that wives submit because the husband is right. They seemed to be rational that wives submit even if wife thinks hubby is wrong, and hubby might be wrong, but it is respect and obedience to God’s order to let hubby be the head even when he made mistakes. But they didn’t demand the wife actually think the hub was always right, and label her sinful if she disagreed.

    So why didn’t this pattern carry over to leaders? It wasn’t like the leaders rule, and even when they botch things and make stupid mistakes, you still submit to God’s order. No, it was more like the leaders are always right by virtue of the work of God through their position. Especially the apostles. CJ was never ever wrong, never.

    Was it this way all over, or just where the big A’s had a tighter grip?

  25. 5yearsinPDI says:

    Brent has a new looong post on SGM apostles that I only read half of. Excellent analysis of the situation from a former A.

  26. BeenThere says:

    I was listening to the Janet Medford show the other day, and she was interviewing the head of Cult Watch (, and they were talking about pastors and leaders taking on more authority then is Biblically warranted. The leader’s name escapes me, but he was from New Zealand, and he said something that I thought was right on. He referenced how we had the Tea Party movement here in the states due to people being upset about what was going on with their government. He said we need a Tea Party movement within the Christian Church to rise up against all the things that are happening in Christianity right now. They’ve got some good articles on their site about the abuse of spiritual authority.

    I don’t think it is a coincidence that the SGM story along with a host of others are coming to the forefront right now. I really do believe God is exposing what has been going on for far too long in way too many churches across all denominations and non-denominations.

    On a side note on the Janet Medford interview they were talking about the fallacy of tithing, and how this has led to abuses. They referenced a good resource site located at Just today I ran across this article where a minister compared the failure to tithe with the sin of Annanias and Sapphira. I think trying to control people through their money is a big part of the spiritual abuse that is happening today, but it is hiding underneath the politically correct banner of tithing so pastors feel they can threaten, guilt, and control because of what they believe is a Biblical mandate.

    Lots of good stuff happening. Just hope Christians are waking up.

  27. Foot says:

    Eph 4:11, true. But, just as there were false apostles in the early church, so it is today. Nice touch by these false “a”postles to hold the AOR report till after Easter (a big time of giving), these are your tithe dollars at work, PAST, present and future…this is your partnership, PAST, present and future. Time to re-evaluate your investment and partnership people. Phil 1:5, partnership is also accountability, you yoke yourself the wrong way and the yoke is on you. People forget, our Lord Jesus Christ is “The Apostle!” And, these so called “a”postles are not “sent” by Jesus! They are false apostles, greedy men, foolish men that think they can get away with this stuff they have pulled for decades, including Brent Detwiler, who was partnership in the design. The Lord is near, watching for hungry hearts that will stop feeding on slop and turn to Him, who is Truth, the God of Truth.

  28. Oswald says:

    This is way off topic but I am appalled that Liberty University, as a Christian center of education, would have a Mormon as the graduation speaker. Maybe it’s more important to them that he’s a Republican. What are they thinking? Christians, organizations as well as individuals, must wake up and see the way things are going, and speak out. There is far, far too much tolerance of non-Christian thinking. We don’t need to be ‘in bed’ with non-believers to win the White House. Winning the White House is not the most important thing for our country. National revival and repentance, beginning in the house of the Lord, is what’s needed. We need to trust in God and always make right and good choices.

  29. deciBel says:

    I have been a lurker on this site for over a year since my first visit to an SGM church and subsequent short stint there. My approach to SGM was one of ignorance and an open and unbiased mind, but not without an understanding of theology and an amount of discernment, for which I thank God. This site helped me to understand a lot of questions I had about SGM after attending there a short while. All that to say, I’ve been following SGM’s happenings, but I did not join the church, nor did I feel I needed to post here. It’s been confusing for me and sad to watch what has been happening I have really believed that there are major issues within SGM and SGM thinking that need attending, but no one on the “outside” seems to get it or see.

    Anyway, Rick Thomas, thank you for your courage to write the article you did and to interact on this site. I have great respect for you and your ministry. I became aware of you through Wretched Radio with Todd Friel,( and my wife and I own and enjoy “Drive-By Marriage”. Thank you for your very gracious, yet transparent and convicting article. It should be convicting to the three facets of this situation; SGM, those who have sinned in their reaction to SGM, and mainstream blogs/personalities who have not responsibly dealt with this situation. I have been perplexed as to why, if all these issues in SGM truly exist, no one in any sort of Christian leadership role or one possessing similar clout to those in SGM leadership has publicly pointed out the issues and sought for SGM’s reform. Your article gives credibility most importantly to those people who have been hurt, but it also gives weight to the situation on hand that seems to be perpetually spiraling.

    I have been praying since last summer that the truth would be made evident, whatever it is, in this situation. I haven’t really been sure how to pray about this whole deal other than the Truth–that God would bring the truth to bear, and that we would humbly submit to Him.

    Thanks Mr. Thomas. Your ministry is effective and a gift from God.

  30. wow says:

    I have friends who were born and raised in Europe who really look weirdly upon the way we Americans put leaders on pedestals. One went so far as to say that this is our downfall. I asked her how their churches differ from ours. What he said was that in their churches, it is simply about what the Bible says, whereas in ours, the people want to know what we are to make of it.

    If Scripture is truly supreme, complete, and adequate, why do our TG4 leaders and their cohorts feel so much need to put forth and endless list of books, blog posts, etc. of their own opinions? Shouldn’t at least one of them author a three-word publication that simply says, “Read the Bible”?

  31. Moniker says:

    wow (#179) – AMEN!

  32. Stunned says:

    wow- WOW! Agreed. “Where words are many…”

  33. Kris says:

    I have a part-time job that’s been consuming a lot of my time and attention lately, so I haven’t been able to interact here as much as I wish I could.

    First of all, I want to give a shout-out to any of the new readers and commenters who have just joined us. Rick Thomas, thanks for interacting. Your article is really a good one. And “deciBel” – welcome!

  34. Kris says:

    5years said,

    It was my understanding based on various things I heard over the years (1990s), that most of the pastors and CG leaders did believe they were right, not necessarily because they were proud, but because they held to a wierd sort of thinking I look at as shepherding movement error. God had anointed them for their task, and they were functioning within their sphere of authority, so because of their position they were indeed right- even when they gave imput to husbands about what to do in marriage, and to parents about what to do with kids. It was almost like when you stepped into a leadership position, a magic mantle-oops, spiritual gifting- came down and fell on you, enabling you to have a direct hotline to God for anybody under your mantle.

    I think this is a great summary of one main assumption that is at the root of SGM’s patterns of hurting people. In his Happiest [Dearest] Place On Earth sermon, CJ Mahaney himself puts forth what had always been SGM’s position on the role of pastor (and that transcript is from a version of the message that CJ presented to the Knoxville church less than 3 years ago, in August 2009). The pastor’s task is to “watch over souls.” And the members’ task is to obey and submit and make their pastors happy, because “God wants happy pastors.” According to CJ, a pastor will be effective in ministry only if people are obeying and submitting to him. If a pastor is NOT effective, it is his people’s fault for not obeying and submitting to him like they ought to.

    Embedded in this idea is the assumption that as long as they are functioning in their pastoral role, there is basically no way they can truly mess up or truly hurt anyone. If a member is hurt by a pastor’s actions, it cannot, in the end, really be wrong. The pastor cannot really be wrong – for he was performing his biblically commissioned duty, which is watching over souls. Almost no matter what, no matter how that “watching” works itself out, it cannot be bad. If there’s a problem, it’s always because the member is just not submitting and obeying well enough. The pastor has been given the authority to “watch,” however he makes that happen. The member’s only truly correct response is to obey and submit.

    Even the pastor does something egregiously hurtful, the member has no right to complain or take offense…because if the pastor isn’t functioning properly – if the pastor is not “fruitful” in his ministry – it is the member’s fault for not obeying and submitting properly. CJ started out his Happiest Place sermon by saying this:

    The undeniable emphasis in [Hebrews chapter 13] verse 17 is not on the pastoral team, the undeniable emphasis and accent in verse 17 is on the responsibility of the congregation TO the pastoral team, and here’s why. Here’s why.

    The effectiveness of pastoral ministry is dependent upon a proper response TO pastoral ministry. THE effectiveness of pastoral ministry is indeed dependent upon a proper response TO pastoral ministry.

    Toward the end of the message, CJ says this:

    Now, finally. Number three. The relationship between church members and the pastoral team. The relationship between church members and the pastoral team. So having made this distinction between the role of pastors and the responsibility of church members, here’s where I wanna conclude, I wanna conclude in impressing upon you really the inseparable nature of this relationship, because I said at the outset, as I said at the outset, the effectiveness of pastoral ministry is dependent upon a proper response TO pastoral ministry. So. If a congregation does not respond with the appropriate obedience and submission to their pastors, then the leadership of those pastors will not be fruitful, and those pastors will not experience joy in pastoral ministry. And here is what you as a member of this congregation are commanded by good and wise God. Look with me again at verse 17, where we read, “Let them” (your pastors) “do this” (watch over your souls) “with joy and not with groaning due to disobedient, uncommitted church members, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Let – let them do this with joy. Let them do this with joy.

    God wants happy pastors. That’s what He wants. Wants happy pastors.

    And a few moments later, CJ then says this:

    But let us not assume that you are all a joy to pastor. Therefore, let us humbly go to our pastors and say, “Am I a joy to pastor? And if not, why not?” Listen, do this because – if – if – look at the end of this verse. “That would be of no advantage to you.” If they aren’t happy – if they’re groaning instead – if their pastoral ministry is characterized by groaning and complaining, that is of no advantage to you. It is of – listen – follow this – it is to your advantage for you to be a joy to pastor, through your appropriately biblically defined and described obedience and submission to the pastors of this church. It is to your advantage to be a joy to pastor. I mean – doesn’t it – when you read that, you – it seems like the writer is appealing to self-interest as a motivation. Actually, it’s just another illustration of the following: God’s commands are always for our good. His wise commands are for our good. This is what grace is like. Ultimately for His glory.

    This – this – this – you show me an effective church, you show me a gospel-centered church – this is present in that church. You show me a church that’s fruitful, this is present. You show me a church where the gospel is advancing, this is present. Listen, whenever I encounter a fruitful church, I observe a demonstration of this particular verse. Which is why I thought it would be appropriate to bring this message to your attention.

    Basically, in this Happiest Place message, CJ makes it impossible to have a real complaint against someone in leadership. He sets it up so that the only reason a pastor would be “ineffective in ministry” (capable of making real, lasting, problematic mistakes) is if the church members aren’t obeying him and submitting to him properly. In other words, if you have a problem with your pastor, the problem always comes back to you – because if you were just doing your job (obeying, submitting, making your pastor happy), your pastor would be “effective in ministry”…thereby nullifying your complaint.

    Deeply embedded in all of this is the assumption that if a man has been placed into the role of pastor, then nothing he does can truly be wrong (or produce “ineffective ministry”) – because “ineffective ministry” is always because of MEMBERS who aren’t submitting and obeying properly.

  35. Bridget says:

    Wow –

    Thanks for your input. It is so true! Many words added to the mix often makes a convoluted mess!

    Leaders are offen put on a pedestal because many teach that they are God’s anointed ones to their churches. Leaders also build each other up as truly outstanding men of God when they introduce each other at conferences. It goes way over the top at times. You seldom here that these men are being sanctified like the rest of Christendom (their church members).

  36. Kris says:

    I agree with what “wow” wrote – that we tend to place too much importance on leaders – but I also think it’s probably a little too simplistic to dog on leaders and believe that church congregations can function well without leaders.

    I’ve watched a couple of families I know leave their traditional churches for the “home church” movement. Nothing particularly wrong with that…but it’s been interesting to observe that “home churching” hasn’t turned out to be any sort of utopia, either – at least not in the long run. It seems like it’s almost inevitable that after awhile, the relentlessly democratic attempts at home churching will devolve into situations where someone does end up functioning as a leader. Whenever you get a group of people together, whether it’s 500 people or just a dozen, someone (or a group of someones) will end up taking the lead. And the rest will follow them.

    Seems to me there’s something built into human nature to want a leader, to seek out leadership. And since that appears to be the case, I think it would be more realistic to set aside blanket condemnation of the concept of leaders. Instead, it would be more productive and helpful for churches (or any group of believers that wants to worship and learn together) to examine how best we can put safeguards into place so that leaders can lead while yet being enabled to retain the servants’ hearts that will make them truly great in God’s eyes.

  37. Whirlwind says:

    @Kris #185: I can’t help but wonder (though it’s been brought up before, your post brings it back to mind) how much of SGM’s error have occurred because of shallow theological education. CJ reads, “Obey your leaders and submit to them…Let them do this with joy and not with groaning,” and he comes away with “God wants pastors to be happy by having a submissive congregation.”

    Now this could be a completely self-serving attempt to get a congregation to go along with whatever you want to do, but for the moment, let’s “think the best” and assume this is honestly what CJ thinks the text says. The problem with a shallow theological education is that you haven’t been challenged to consider how this understanding can go incredibly wrong (as it did with SGM). Then as the teaching is passed down, I think it tends to be received at more and more shallow levels (i.e. CJ teaches it without thorough consideration, PC students receive it with even less consideration because it’s come from above).

    Now, I’m all for submitting to leaders (those are the words we find in Hebrews – I’m even complementarian – I’m not wanting to somehow empty the word submit of all its meaning), but a shallow theological understanding also gives a shallow understanding of words like “leader” and “submit,” and it replaces “joy” with “happy.” I’ve known people who make their pastors groan and I feel for those pastors, but CJ’s teaching seems to make these things absolute without ever considering that a pastor may be groaning because he’s being appropriately challenged on the use of his “leadership.”

    I was also thinking the other day – has CJ ever had to submit to anyone? From what I understand of his history, he’s pretty much always been in positions of leadership. When has he ever had to submit to the leadership of anyone – even fellow leaders? How well can he really understand what he’s teaching on these issues? It seems like he could very well be completely blind to what he’s actually saying. Of course, at this point, he’s willfully blind to go on teaching a shallow submission to church leaders.

  38. Bridget says:

    If you want to know what is meant in the texts that talk about submission, one should do a study of the specific word(s) in the original language and how those words are translated throughout the NT.

  39. Bridget says:

    Whirlwind @ 188 –

    I wish someone who might know would speak up about CJ’s participation in a local church as a regular member. From all the reading I have done, I don’t see a time when he was not leading in some capacity.

    How does someone become a “servant leader” if one is not predisposed to that style of leading already? Anything is possible with God and he can change one’s disposition, but one would need to be working toward that goal as well. I don’t think just “humility” would make a servant-leader.

  40. 5yearsinPDI says:

    oswald 179…amen and amen.

    Kris…well said.

    Wow…..just to keep a balance, yeah, you see a major problem indeed. But the other side is that “I believe the bible” is what every cult and heretic in history says. People take verses and twist them to mean all sorts of things. That is why it is good to have statements of faith and confessions, and to thoughtfully consider what pious and brilliant scholars of old have concluded when they study the bible, and why it is good to check out Greek words in the commentaries.

    We all need the body of Christ, and God gives teachers to the church. The problem is not books exactly, but deciding that we will only read books from our narrow insular modern group, and not reading much if anything about history. I think a stint in a real seminary, reading lots of old books and lots of history, would actually be a real plus for these SGM and neocalvinist young guys.

  41. ATC says:

    There’s an excellent website which deals with a John Bevere book (‘Under Cover’) but also has lots on Hebrews 13, etc.

    Mr Rick Thomas – THANKYOU.

    I hope lots of people read your article.

    I truly think that some of the commentators on the recent ‘Pyro’ thread should feel convicted by the Holy Spirit of Jesus if they read your article with an open heart.

    Also, Kris: with the benefit of hindsight – do you think you should change the title of this thread?

    ATC, Bristol, UK.

  42. Steve240 says:

    Whirlwind said:

    I was also thinking the other day — has CJ ever had to submit to anyone? From what I understand of his history, he’s pretty much always been in positions of leadership. When has he ever had to submit to the leadership of anyone — even fellow leaders? How well can he really understand what he’s teaching on these issues? It seems like he could very well be completely blind to what he’s actually saying. Of course, at this point, he’s willfully blind to go on teaching a shallow submission to church leaders.

    C.J. has never been under or submitted to anyone’s leadership that I can see. He has always been either the top leader or a joint leader. This goes back to the TAG days in the mid 1970’s.

    Thus C.J. has always been in a place where people have looked up to him as a leader. Sadly this shows. Even if C.J. had gone to seminary during the TAG days instead of just reading the books he chose it would have been good for him. Just being in a class where your opinion can be questioned and you have to logically prove your position would have been a large value for him.

  43. 5yearsinPDI says:

    Nice article for pastors that can apply to all of us.


    I’m not surprised by bitter, socially uncomfortable pastors with messy or dysfunctional relationships at home, tense relationships with staff members and lay leaders, and secret, unconfessed sin. We have become comfortable with defining ourselves in a less than biblical way. We approach God as less than needy, so we’re less open to the ministry of others and to the conviction of the Spirit. This sucks the life out of the devotional aspect of our walk with God. Tender, heartfelt worship is hard for a person who thinks of himself as having arrived. No one celebrates the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it.

    I know I am not alone. Many other pastors have developed spiritually treacherous habits. They are content with a non-existent devotional life constantly kidnapped by preparation. They are comfortable with living outside of or above the body of Christ. They are quick to minister but not very open to receiving ministry. They have long since quit seeing themselves accurately and so tend not to receive loving confrontation very well. And they tend to carry this unique category identity home, making them less than humble and patient with their families.

    You are most loving, patient, kind, and gracious when you realize you desperately need every truth you could give to another. You are most humble and gentle when you realize the person you are ministering to is more like you than unlike you. When you have inserted yourself into another category that tends to make you think you have arrived, it is very easy to be judgmental and impatient.

  44. just saying... says:

    In response to comments about pastor’s having super-powers:

    I know someone who asked a pastor about the practice of soliciting negative reports about people behind their backs and why that wouldn’t be entertaining gossip and slander.

    The pastor said they believed pastors had a special grace to hear negative reports (gossip and slander) and not be affected.

    They may have super powers, but we don’t have the ability to be slandered and not be affected.

    It should not be surprising abusive practices of slander have led to members who aren’t holding that in high regard now.

  45. That Bad Dog says:

    One of the issues that came up repeatedly with the Pyro post was the persistent deletion of first-hand accounts of abuse. Why, they ask, would my story be deleted, when this is something that, you know, actually happened, which I know about, because I was there? This they think, because they make the error of acting like a rational being, not having been schooled in modern Reformed ecclesiology.

    In daily life we regularly accept first-hand accounts of events – life would not even be possible without it. Our court system so highly values the first-hand account that it is the only kind of account that is normally admissible, and then we allow the jury to determine if they believe some, all, or none of the testimony presented.

    This method is highly objectionable to modern Reformed leaders, and a doctrine has been promulgated that I call “Pastoral Immunity.” It is based on 1Tim 5:19, Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. There is an interpretation of the verse that is now so common as to be uncontroversial in Reformed circles. For example, I found this statement of the doctrine readily accessible on the Founders (SBC) site.

    Pastors are protected against a charge that is brought by a single individual. Paul is not simply saying that a pastor cannot be indicted and convicted based upon the testimony of one. He is saying that if there is only the testimony of one person, that testimony is to be thrown out of court. It is not be entertained or heard.

    It does not take a genius to see how this verse can be wielded as a deadly weapon in the hands an authoritarian, abusive elder.

    [The following story is not fictional, but is composited]

    Let’s imagine you are a member of FBC Authorityville. You grow concerned about statements or actions made by Pastor Bigpants. You arrange to meet privately with Pastor Bigpants. During your meeting, Pastor Bigpants comes completely unglued, accuses you of a number of outrageous sins, and threatens to “expose you” for various imagined sins before the church if you don’t submit to him. In fact, Pastor Bigpants even pulls a gun out of his desk and waves it menacingly.

    What to do? Do you go to the police? The other elders? The congregation? Your spouse? No. According the Reformed doctrine of Pastoral Immunity, there is absolutely nothing you can or should do (except pray, I suppose). You cannot tell anyone, because you are the only witness. It doesn’t matter that it actually happened – that is, that you are making a factually true and accurate record of events that you are willing to swear took place.

    I cannot emphasize this enough, so here it is in bold – under this doctrine, a factual, first-hand adverse record of events is morally indistinguishable from malicious and intentional lies.

    It gets worse.

    Several people have said that people who give first-hand, public accounts of what happened to them were to be faulted for “failing to follow Matt 18.” This is a particularly cruel twist of the knife, because according to the doctrine of Pastoral Immunity, you are barred from seeking redress through Matt 18, and in fact are yourself guilty of sin if you attempt it.

    Once again, this is non-controversial amongst today’s Reformed. Here is the Founders site again:

    …not only is this accusation not to be acted upon, it is not even to be received. Rather, 1 Timothy 5:19 ought to be cited and the accuser ought to be asked if he or she has another witness to substantiate the accusation. If not, we are not to receive it. The Scripture tells us not to even listen to or entertain an accusation that is unsubstantiated. If it cannot be substantiated, you and I must not participate in the sin of the accuser by listening to it.

    Do you see how this works? As long as the abusive pastor engages in his behavior privately, there is literally no limit on what he can do or say, and there is an absolute limit on what you can do or say about it. If you attempt to follow Matt 18 by bringing two witnesses to accompany you in your confrontation, not only are they not to accompany you, but rather, you yourself are to be reproved for your sin. Moreover, people like Team Pyro believe that they are morally obligated under these terms to “not participate in the sin of the accuser by listening to it” by providing a forum for its discussion, or allowing such accounts to be posted. That is why they delete all negative first-hand accounts.

    And it still gets worse.

    This multiple witness immunity is reserved for church leadership. You don’t get any. Let me explain by returning to our story.

    Pastor Bigpants realizes he may have gone too far, and decides to get out in front of the issue. He goes to the other elders and says that during your private meeting, it was actually you who became angry and violent. You are called before the elders and confronted. No substantiating witness is required of the charges against you, because you are not a church leader. Furthermore, your disaffection is already proven – after all, didn’t you request a meeting with Pastor Bigpants to “complain about his ministry”?

    Worst of all, you cannot even contradict the accusations made by Pastor Bigpants, because to do so would be – de facto – to accuse a church leader of telling lies, and therefore would require multiple witnesses, which is what you don’t have. And so, in the Kafka-esque world of modern Reformed ecclesiology, just denying the false accusations made against you by an elder makes you guilty of malicious slander.

    But what happens when there is documentary evidence, or multiple witnesses? Well, that’s where the Matt 18 Machine really gets to cranking. You saw some of it on Pyro. More on that later.

  46. Ellie says:

    ThatBadDog – that sounds downright demonic! =:o

  47. Bridget says:

    Bad Dog –

    It is a no win situation. I imagine that you can’t bring a witness with you the first time you go to speak to your pastor either, because you then would not have first gone to your brother in private. You are always at the mercy of your “depraved” pastor. You have to trust that he will be honest. We know that Brent refused to meet with CJ in person after a point. He must have known how it worked.

  48. sgmNation says:

    @Kris #185 – was CJ a joy to pastor? I wonder what his former pastors at CLC would say? Just wondering…

  49. BeenThere says:

    I haven’t had an opportunity to totally study this out or its implications, but under pyro’s understanding of Matthew 18 was Paul in violation of this principle when he confronted Peter publicly without a private meeting first (see Galatians 1)?