My Thoughts Lately

[Today I came out of my lurkerdom to post a comment in the previous thread. After I wrote it, I realized that it might make a good stand-alone post. I've been MIA here for the past several months, partly because I lead a very busy life with many responsibilities, and partly because I just haven't felt that interested in the topic of Sovereign Grace Ministries, at least in the way the discussions have been happening here lately. My comment sort of explains why, and it also gives some insight into where I feel things are heading here. Here goes:]

For the record, I utterly hate it when questions of basic Christian doctrine arise here and then it becomes the general consensus among commenters that no doctrine matters since those teachings were upheld by leaders and churches that ended up being abusive.

Yes, it’s true, churches abuse. It’s true that the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries have mishandled and mistreated many people through their organization’s own peculiar blend of hyper-authoritarian teachings and pastors-as-mediators with little formal training and zero formal accountability to their congregations. That combination was (and in some cases still is) particularly lethal.

But it’s also true, like it or not, that the Bible gives us some pretty straightforward assertions about Jesus and what we need to believe about Him in order to be viewed by God as “on His side” (and not lost, not condemned to an eternity in hell). I find it really troublesome when the conversation moves from calling out SGM’s peculiar twistedness and abuses of various Christian doctrines to trash-talking the doctrines themselves. I don’t really want any part of an environment where it’s suddenly not OK to hold firmly to certain Bible-based beliefs just because others who held firmly to those beliefs mishandled them and used them as a smokescreen to hide their own self-serving agendas.

I’ve actually been thinking over the past several months that it might be time to close comments here. It remains true that SGM as it has been in its various iterations over the past few decades has been a dysfunctional mess craftily masquerading as “doing church right.” I do not believe the dysfunction will ever be fully addressed until the pastors who were raised up in the dysfunctional system repent of how they came to power and change their church governance structures to officially incorporate input from ordinary members. I do think there will continue to be a need for the free discussion of SGM’s issues until this visible repentance happens. (It’s not enough for a church to merely withdraw from the SGM organization, hold some coffee klatches, slap a new label on itself, and think it has charted a new course. The way almost all pastors came into their leadership positions is still rotten at its core, and until that is addressed and until the root issue of lack of accountability to ordinary members is dealt with, the church will still remain SGM. To put it like the familiar saying, you can take the church out of SGM, but it’s not so easy to take the SGM out of the church.)

But this nonsense of wholesale-condemning everything SGM has ever taught just because SGM taught it has got to stop. Likewise, it is not at all healthy or fruitful for people to build an identity upon having been abused, rather than upon having been redeemed by Jesus Christ. Since the past 6 or 8 months have been something of a “slow news cycle” with respect to SGM’s bigger, more public issues, the conversations here have frequently devolved into something that just, well, makes me tired and (for lack of a better way to put it) feels wrong in my spirit.

My heart still breaks for anyone whose walk with God has been damaged or derailed by spiritual abuse…but at some point, it’s time to stop harping on the abuse and start praising God for who He is and for what He has done and continues to do. My heart still beats faster and I still get angry when I hear about the horrible fruit that comes from the abuse of various doctrines of the faith…but some of those same doctrines are the very foundation of what will still save one’s soul to the utmost.

If this site is becoming a place where people just gather to wallow in their victimhood and sneer at the act of really believing in what the Bible says, then I don’t want any part of it. It’s not good for me, and it’s certainly not good for the people doing the wallowing and the sneering.

I am still of the mind that there is a need for forums where spiritual abuse can be analyzed and challenged. But at the same time, it is not profitable for us as believers to make deconstructing every doctrine a priority over celebrating what we have in the Lord Jesus. If something newsworthy about SGM arises, by all means let’s discuss it. But until then, the general conversations about what we don’t believe – well, I just don’t see those as the point of this site.

2,386 comments

  1. Sopwith says:

        __

    SGM Survivors,

    Kind folk still need ta know dat plazes like SGM are at best a tenuous, and  questionable place to safeguard one’s family?

    hmmm…

    Kris & Guy, thanx for all you do!

    hum, hum, hum…God’s word is  a lamp unto my feet…

    (smiley face goes here)

    Sopy

  2. Bob says:

    Kris, I agree. This is what bothered me about Bridget’s comment re SGM’s teaching about heaven. (Sorry, Bridgett, I know I am piling on and I know you probably didn’t mean it to be received how I received it). It felt like she was criticizing this teaching just because it came from SGM. I am no SGM fan for sure, but I think we should criticize what is legitimately bad and lay off what is not. For example, I am so encouraged by teaching from Joni about suffering and heaven. This teaching is not that different than what SGM may teach.

  3. Kris says:

    I don’t want to pick on specific commenters – I appreciate everyone’s participation.

    But I have cringed many times over exchanges where people get up in arms over assertions of the truth of basic doctrines of the faith, like affirming that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. I know there are plenty of websites where all manner of questioning is welcomed, but that is not my comfort zone for this place.

    Matter of fact, I was reading in II Timothy the other day and saw this passage again:

    You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

    They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.)

    I know this passage is one that has been heavily (and sometimes quite abusively) emphasized within SGM in the past. It was one that was used to motivate people to engage in shunning those who were asked/told to leave because they persisted in disagreeing with their pastors.

    I also know that it can sound like Paul was nothing but a cranky misogynist.

    And yet – well, it’s scripture, and as such, it is profitable for doctrine, for correction and reproof and instruction in righteousness. Consequently, as I was reading this passage again recently, it occurred to me that we women can be uniquely vulnerable to being swept up in “forever following new teachings but never able to understand the truth.” If we constantly feed on negativity, on everything we think we don’t believe, it will only serve to drag us down further. It will lead us no closer to the Truth, who is Jesus.

    (And even as I write this, I know this will be a highly unpopular thing for me to say to many in the audience here. But that’s OK. God’s Word can stand on its own merit.)

  4. Persona says:

    Kris, I agree with your concerns on the doctrinal discussions. I tend not to read them so they have not affected me one way or another but, I wouldn’t want them to negatively influence others.

  5. Bridget says:

    Hi Bob –

    I’m a bit in the dark. I think you made a second comment to me on the other thread that I have not been able to read. The comments are no longer showing up for some reason. I don’t want to be insensitive, so please don’t take this comment personally.

    Please do consider, though, that what might be legitimately helpful to you (and I’m glad it is), may have been legitimately harmful and destructive to others. Scripture can be applied the wrong way in situations and do more harm than good. The Bible often speaks of “timely” words; to mourn with those that mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice.

    After years of listening to an unbalanced and unbiblical view of who believers are in Christ, and how God views his creation, I don’t want that for anyone else or their families. It was very destructive in my family and among my children. Before their small minds could grasp that God loved them, they believed God despised and hated them and ‘purposefully’ sent things into their lives. They can’t stand to hear it week after week in church and neither can I. I never stopped to think how children are assimilating some of these concepts. It can still be untimely and the wrong thing to hear.

  6. Fruit Flavored says:

    Kris,

    First, thank you for starting this blog so many years ago. During my time in SGM, it was probably the most accurate and honest source of information concerning SGM and my “local church”.

    As for something positive, which I count as God’s grace upon my family, my adolescent sons no longer look at themselves as worthless to God and man as they were taught sometimes subtly and other times overtly in SGM. They believe and know that they are valued by God, their parents and others. My one son now enjoys singing songs of praise and is quite a worshipper. My other is still struggling, but has a wonderful personal support from his youth leaders in our new church. God’s love for us has never ceased; we just lost a clear picture of it and him while in SGM.

    I do have one question for you and the participants here. We have not yet joined the church we have been attending for almost 2 years. One issue is that when new members are presented to the congregation they are asked to affirm three beliefs of the church. The first is that they agree to “protect the church”. While I agree with this statement, I don’t understand why it is the first article to affirm. Also from previous SGM experience, it kind of rubs me the wrong way.

    Thoughts?

  7. Eagle says:

    I want to thank Kris for running SGM Survivors and I want to write as to what this blog has meant to me and what it has kept me out of. Back in 2008 I started to enter a prolonged faith crisis, and the bottom fell from under me in 2009. I was vulnerable, scared, unsure, and confused. The faith I was taught imploded and I was trying to figure out what to do to include if I was going to be a Christian or an agnostic/atheist. I didn’t want to end up as an agnostic/atheist and banged my head against the wall trying to find a way forward. I was profoundly lost and in the lowest point of my life.

    During this time I had someone from Eric Simmons’ Redeemer of Arlington start to invite me to Sovereign Grace. I knew absolutely nothing about the Sovereign Grace movement. I had never heard of it, I’ve driven by SGM Fairfax a couple of times, but that was it. In my mind it was just a church…one of many. So when this individual started to invite me more and more to Redeemer of Arlington I decided to look into Sovereign Grace and see what the church, denomination, etc… is all about. Kris…that is how I found your blog.

    And the information, the spiritual abuse stories, child abuse stories, shepherding practices, and history of GOB/PDI/SGM really opened my eyes. At the time I was still living with some of the scars from Mormonism. Reading about Sovereign Grace helped inform me that this denomination is not healthy and has serious issues. Reading this blog and all the history of Sovereign Grace helped keep me out of Eric Simmon’s Redeemer of Arlington. I learned enough to realize that Redeemer of Arlington has issues and I learned enough to realize that I needed to stay away. My friend at the time loved (still loves) Redeemer of Arlington and I hope his experience is positive and that he is not harmed as I wish him nothing but the best. But I was deeply vulnerable and I worked hard at staying away. The sad thing is that there were some things that I said to him that I do have regret for to this day.

    But in the larger scheme of things I realized that I am a Christian and I belong to the Lord. It’s who I am and my life can’t be apart from the Lord. So despite my wounds, past church hurts and confusion I slowly assembled another faith in The Lord and am clinging to it by my fingertips. I’m holding on for dear life. At the same time I moved back into the “local church” at Fairfax Community Church. I was baptized on November 24, am plugged into a community group, and serve the homeless (except the last 2 times) one Saturday a month.

    Due to some of the people I hurt and the depth of my personal 6 year faith crisis I went back, repented and sought forgiveness from nearly 140 people in California, Montana, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. In the process I put my reputation, finances, and who I am as a person on the line. I was forgiven by 133 people, and I found closure and more importantly I helped bring others closure. I know Dee wants to tell my story one day of my faith meltdown and my return to Christian faith. But Kris you were one of the many, many people who I asked forgiveness from during this process. If my comment (I hardly post here BTW) or joking around yesterday led to your decision to close this blog, then I again ask for your forgiveness. I have a very sarcastic and dry sense of humor and for some people its too much. But if I offended you I ask…please forgive me.

    People move at the speed of life, meaning the move on when they are ready. For some it takes a year, for others it takes years and some people never move on at all. Like you, I also wonder the same thing at times because in all honesty some people do seem to wallow in their pain. And that is not good either. For some people it seems like pain becomes an idol and a means to hold a grudge against a church. Now please note that I am not telling people to flippantly get over it. But the fact remains and I learned this in my redemption from my faith crisis, is that if you are going to be a Christian than you MUST forgive. Sometimes you have to forgive a person and other times you have to forgive a church. There is no way around that point. And its something that must be done. In the aftermath of my destroyed friendship with my old friend from Redeemer of Arlington I realized one night that I had hatred against Sovereign Grace. And I realized that my old Sovereign Grace friend was correct when he told me earlier on about how much hate I had for the ministry. A year later I realized that he was correct and I contacted a Sovereign Grace church and confessed my hate and asked to be forgiven.

    But people do this in their own way, in their own time. While it’s not good to wallow in pain sometimes people need an avenue to tell their story, get it out of their system, etc… And that is what this blog has done for many. I feel sorry for those who stay stuck because in many ways they lose out on life. They are missing out on opportunities, experiences, another health church, future relationships, friendships, and heck maybe even a future spouse. But they need to realize that just as I realized it.

    I’m trying to be as raw, authentic and as honest as possible Kris so please don’t think that I am trying to be difficult , because I am not.

    With deep respect,

    Eagle

  8. Defended says:

    Kris, I’m looking for my LIKE button! :)
    You are “good people” Defender and I are proud to be co-heirs with you and Guy.
    It’s good to remember that JESUS CHRIST is why we live, and whom we serve.
    Keep the him as the Main Thing, and keep the main thing as the Main Thing!

    I can’t imagine where we would be in the healing process if we hadn’t found SGM Survivors, and Jim’s blog, but at the same time, presiding over bickering is certainly not what you were called to or found grace for, in this blog.
    God bless you, with whatever you decide.

  9. Scott (formerly Newbie) says:

    Kris,
    Have you ever posted a cherry-picked list of SGM’s wrong practices showing what the Bible says or doesn’t say? Verses about how to avoid going to another unhealthy organization? Verses about how were we fooled? Verses about how did SGM leaders get that way? That comes to mind when people are described as being “stuck”. Where do people go to find truth after that or even before SGM? That seems to be the million-dollar (ok after inflation maybe one billion dollars) question to me.

    I can’t see how you’ve been able to keep up with this all these years. I could compliment but I think the Lord will do a better job of that in heaven. By the way, I like the Survivor tv show font that you used.

    Ok I will thank you for this website, thank you :)

    Scott

  10. Kris says:

    Eagle said,

    If my comment (I hardly post here BTW) or joking around yesterday led to your decision to close this blog, then I again ask for your forgiveness. I have a very sarcastic and dry sense of humor and for some people its too much. But if I offended you I ask…please forgive me.

    It was no one person’s comments in particular, just a cumulative sense over the past several months that the conversations here can focus either way too much on what people don’t want to believe anymore, or way too much on victimhood. Neither strikes me as healthy or productive. It seems like rejecting SGM (or a similar ministry) leads many people to reject all of Bible-based conservative Christianity. While I understand how this happens, I no longer want to be responsible for hosting a place where those voices become the dominant ones.

    But thank you for your kind concern and your willingness to apologize. Like I said, though, it’s been no one in particular, just a longtime sense that there’s hardly any freedom here anymore to affirm any specific doctrine, even some of the most widely accepted basic Christian doctrines.

  11. 5yearsinPDI says:

    Thank you for your postings Kris. I share the deep concern (not limited to SGM) of watching Christians have a bad experience and then jettison all sorts of beliefs because of a single bad pastor or a few nasty people. It does make you wonder how much people believe for themselves because they see it in the bible, and because of their own walk with God, when they can so easily cast it aside after one bad experience.

    Anyway, about the blog…..

    I had felt a while back like the SGM beast was “declawed”. CJ is not speaking at the big conferences, CLC pulled out, Harvey left. The lawsuit has been big news, the truth is out there for those with ears to hear.

    However, I have been particularly struck by the astonishing events of the last few weeks, with both the CCEF Magazine and World magazine featuring an SGM church as an exemplary model for counseling within the church.

    With CCEF’s article by Gallo we see this lovely description of how they are trying to get people to counsel one another, and it all sounds nice, but this is after 3 decades of “go to the pastor with everything”, and the unreconciled events of Noel’s story and Wallace’s story, and the horrible statements about Gallo’s behavior as detailed in the amended lawsuit.

    In the World Article, the church where Steve Shenk is, suddenly has become the featured national example of how to minister to the mentally ill within a church. A bi polar, taking meds, and suddenly SGM is “doing it right”, read all about it. This is after three decades of mental illness being sin, and shrinks and meds not the will of God. While I am happy the guy with problems is getting support, how wierd is it to pick an SGM church with perhaps the worst apostle after CJ himself, to shower praise upon?

    Now there are three ways to look at this.

    One- Gallo and the rest have realized their errors and are repenting and trying to do right. Well, perhaps. But then, where is the admission of FORMER wrongdoing? Where is making it right with all the former depressed and mentally ill people they condemned as merely sinners? Where is the public statement?

    Two- this is just more history revisionism, a high level plot in the kingdom of darkness to try and make SGM look good, without the slightest confession on the part of SGM of their shepherding doctrine abuse. They have not renounced the past control and the shepherding “pastor in the place of God” errors; they have not confessed all the legalism and sin sniffing, and suddenly they are being rewritten as an example of how to do church right for struggling people. Bizarre.

    Three- this is another attempt to keep people from professionals. Gallo is now trying to get his church ministering to each other, and it sounds all biblical, until you know Gallo’s past and his desperate attempts to keep bad situations away from professionals like cops and counselors. Shenk’s gang, while not mentioned in the lawsuit, probably is all under the spell…how can they not be under the SGM spell from the past 30 years?

    Anyway, I find it all rather creepy and I wonder what is going on. And I am glad there is still a place online here where I was able to post about it. I have this vague sense that they can’t get away with it, it is just so wrong and misleading, they must repent of the past 30 years openly….and here we have two national magazines openly holding them up as examples. Are the magazine editors duped, are they under a spell…or are they complicit in the evil spirit of control?

    I am waiting to see what happens. I have looked in vain for even a couple sentences on the CCEF website. “In publishing our article by Lou Gallo, we regret to have given the impression of lacking compassion for those sexually abused in his church many years ago. We are glad to see churches realizing that they need to handle these terrible events wisely and to learn to minster to those impacted, and for that reason we are thankful Mr Gallo is using our materials and seeking to train his church, and we fully support him in his efforts and hope that any future victims will benefit”. blah blah blah, you get the idea. But nothing.

    Anyway, maybe you could not shut it down entirely, but let people send you information if it comes up that you could post, and maybe keep the site ready for if the lawsuit comes to trial? I guess I’m just not sure it is all over yet.

    Thanks for all you and Guy have done!! Whatever you decide, you will have my support.

  12. Acme says:

    I hope the information on this site doesn’t disappear like the Refuge. Perhaps enough other voices have taken up the cry but so many important stories are here.

    Thanks for keeping it going, Kris and Guy!

  13. Kris says:

    We have no plans to remove anything or take anything down.

    I’ve just been feeling lately like this site isn’t the place for ongoing conversations not directly related to SGM, especially the conversations that devolve into debates about theological issues.

    I’m not a fan of endless discussions of things like Complentarianism versus Egalitarianism, or Calvinism versus Arminianism. I know those are somewhat SGM-related, and yet it feels like being a victim of SGM can be used as a trump card, as in, “SGM is Calvinist, SGM spiritually abused me, therefore I am right in rejecting Calvinism.” Or, “SGM taught Complementarian views on men’s and women’s roles, SGM was a hotbed of dysfunction, so therefore Complementarian views always create dysfunction.”

    Those kinds of statements are what I would like to see taper off here.

  14. anon says:

    Good post; If people ACTUALLY want to be healthy, they have to move on. You wrote a Very ADULT post.

  15. just saying... says:

    Unfortunately, I think questioning the doctrine has become the natural evolution of things for those in SGM. Although you came into SGM with a firm doctrinal understanding, those within SGM had the doctrine change to Reformed without anyone ever delineating what the differences were. We learned we were Reformed from people outside the church. Many in the church had never heard the word “Reformed” when SGM blew up.

    I think as everyone has recognized the error in their SGM church, it is now causing them to investigate for the first time what those doctrinal issues actually are and question them.

    You have to remember studying the Bible was forbidden for decades. And doctrine was never explained.

    Not saying this is the place for SGM people to convert to being Reformed. But, it is not surprising everyone is questioning the doctrines now.

  16. OutThere says:

    Bob said in “Open Comments:”

    “the glory I see is dim compared to the darkness and tragedy all around. So, you saying that there is something wrong with focusing on heaven and instead just live an abundant life just tells me you don’t get it. I hate when people that have not dealt with tragedy keep saying to just trust God and he will make it all ok. He doesn’t, not in this life anyway.”

    I agree with your statement, and I see (taking into account some of the other things you wrote) that you have and are experiencing searing pain. I don’t want to under-appreciate that. But I’m going to risk sounding presumptuous or trite here, because I’m concerned for you. You’ve experienced tragedy, so you have undoubtedly experienced acute stress, and over time this can effect the way you see everything – and I mean this in a literal, physiological way. And when you are in the midst of it, you can’t always rely on reasoning to help you see clearly.

    By this I mean that I believe you are seeing clearly what is in front of you – pain, suffering, and the fact that there is often no solution to this. But that is not all there is, and you aren’t seeing it, so I guess, technically, you aren’t seeing clearly. Unfortunately, trying to think it through isn’t going to make it clearer, if for no other reason than the fact that it seems stupid to value pretty flowers over tragedy (for example).

    I don’t know how to help you, but I do know that you need some kind of relief from the pain, physical as well as mental, and I do know it is possible for you to find it without betraying your son or your intellect. I am glad you have found comfort in the hope of heaven. But please know that there is hope for joy here and now, too, even in the midst of tragedy. Please don’t rely completely on your own understanding or interpretation of what you see around you. Use your faith to hold out hope for a better here and now, as well as the future.

    And an aside to everyone, not just Bob – remember CJ suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome? I’m not sure of the timing, but I wonder if his chronic stress somehow colored his view of himself (emphasizing the negative), which maybe influenced him to lead CLC into the “we are worms” theology, which he then took to new, cartoonish heights. My point is not to mock CJ here, but bringing things back to SGM as the topic, it’s a thought that just occurred to me.

    Anyway, I hope I haven’t offended you Bob, and hope the best for you.

  17. Steve240 says:

    Kris

    You do make a good point here. We can’t just dismiss certain doctrines due to their being associated with SGM anymore than we can dismiss Christianity due to SGM abusing and misrepresenting it.

    I don’t agree with Reformed/Calvinism but I am sure there are churches that have this doctrine that aren’t abusive as SGM has showed itself to be.

    IMO it more along the lines of Gothardism, shepherding, teaching by Watchman Nee that have all contributed to SGM’s abusive practices.

  18. Bob says:

    OutThere#16. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. No offense at all. Just truth which I agree with. In the midst of messy situations, I tend to only see the mess and the pain and suffering that follows. But, the fact is that God is present. His goodness and beauty is there. I need to ask him to help me see it more. I need to look more closely. I need to lift my eyes to the hills.

    I do see it at times and am thankful for it. He does give me joy in the midst of my situation. But, it is tinged with the reality of a broken world. Even in the midst of the joy, I am sad. This is not how God had intended life to be and it is not what life will be for eternity.

    I can react when I think people are saying (or I am hearing) “Just be happy, God came to give you an abundant life.” Yes, he did. But, that doesn’t mean that he will take away the brokenness around me. He hasn’t and likely will not. Of course, I pray that he will. But, he has not promised to.

    Bridget, I agree that SGM may have messed up its teaching on heaven. But that doesn’t mean that the teaching itself is wrong. I don’t want to throw out the precious baby with the SGM bath water. This is what I hear Kris saying.

  19. Kris says:

    “just saying…” said,

    I think as everyone has recognized the error in their SGM church, it is now causing them to investigate for the first time what those doctrinal issues actually are and question them.

    You have to remember studying the Bible was forbidden for decades. And doctrine was never explained.

    Not saying this is the place for SGM people to convert to being Reformed. But, it is not surprising everyone is questioning the doctrines now.

    I think this is very insightful, particularly the part about how studying the Bible – really studying it, not just reading a Puritan devotional at 5 a.m. or sitting around with your care group, regurgitating last Sunday’s message – was not actually encouraged.

    Independent thinking wasn’t encouraged, either.

    I understand where the need to question comes from. And I wasn’t meaning to imply that there is no place for that, or that it’s not something that most SGMers have to do at some point after leaving.

    However, lately (over the past year or so), when this questioning happens here, it seems like the popular conclusions are always the opposite of what SGM used to teach. If anyone tries to affirm one of SGM’s pet doctrines, the common reaction is to accuse that person of not being sensitive or loving enough – that somehow, having been victimized by SGM’s authoritarianism is an automatic free pass to believe anything, as long as it’s not what SGM taught them. Like all the various doctrines themselves were the problem with SGM, and not SGM’s use and application of the doctrines.

    I’ve always said that the hardest piece of figuring out SGM’s issues was realizing that they could actually get so much so right, at least on paper, but then turn around and use cultic methodologies to put their right beliefs into action, methodologies that harmed people.

    Take, for instance, the idea that all psychological problems have sin at their root. On the surface, there is lots of truth to this assertion. Our world is a broken place, and if you examine what causes most difficulties and struggles, there will typically be sin somewhere in the mix.

    Yet in the hands of the barely-trained pastor who has been taught that he needs to be people’s only true source of help and counsel, this assumption about sin can turn into a cut-to-the-chase blame game – the very last thing a person with mental illness needs or can ever hope to handle.

    Anyway, I’m rambling, but the bottom line is that I do understand why ex-SGMers question what they’ve been taught. But they also need to be open to hearing that those teachings were (mostly) around long before CJ co-opted them for his own use. Living through an authoritarian, spiritually abusive experience does not mean that it is now always harmful to believe some of the same things one was taught within the system.

  20. Somewhereintime says:

    Kris,

    I agree with you. Being reformed is NOT the issue. The processes/manners/sinfullness that was and continues to be prevelant throughout SGM is the issue. I particularly mentioned the demise of SGM when reformed theology was introduced. It wasn’t becoming reformed which was the issue, but how it was brainlessly accepted and then indoctrinated throughout the churches without the local chuch even having any input in to the process. In doing so, EVERYTHING that we knewPastors that didn’t believe in it all of a sudden believed in it. Members who didn’t even know what it was, or meant, just accepted it without questions or concerns.

    The ISSUE is that many in SGM don’t think for themselves. Many don’t read their bibles. Many just follow whatever the pastor says. Many wouldn’t know anything about the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives unless they were exactly told what it was by their pastor. So, when a pastor or leader is SINNING and you BLINDLY continue to follow him against EVERYTHING that is said in the Word of God, you only have yourself to blame.

    Sadly these issues exist across all avenues of life. Most sadly, it exists in the church and especially within SGM as men follow men who follow a man.

    For those SGMers out there that still go to a SGM church … reintroduce yourself to the bible. Read it. Study it. Pray for the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind. Go to the Lord. Not to your Community Group leader, friend, wife, pastor, etc. and ask HIM your quesitons. You are actually empowered by the Holy Spirit and HE will guide and direct you. You don’t need an intermediate any longer! None!

    Break the chains of SGM practice that bind you so.

  21. Bridget says:

    Bob –

    I figured out why I couldn’t read the older comments. Apparently I needed to switch to desktop on my mobile device to read the older comments. I don’t understand why I could read the comments on this new article but not the old ones. Anyway . . . I was able to read your additional comments.

    OutThere – I realized it must be something I was doing (had to put my tech hat on, that I don’t like to wear) when I saw your quote from the old comments above. Thanks! And you seem to be getting at what I was trying to say :)

  22. Bridget says:

    Bob said –

    “OutThere#16. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. No offense at all. Just truth which I agree with. In the midst of messy situations, I tend to only see the mess and the pain and suffering that follows. But, the fact is that God is present. His goodness and beauty is there. I need to ask him to help me see it more. I need to look more closely. I need to lift my eyes to the hills.”

    This is what I was trying to get at in my comment that upset you. There has been much unbalanced teaching and counseling in SGM that has been devastating to many people (see my comment above). Maybe you can pray for my children who are not walking with God at this time?

    I pray God sends comfort to you and yours. I’m sorry life is hard for you right now.

    I think that what I said before was not a timely word for you, and we all need to remember that we can’t expect people on a blog to know our personal stories unless they know us in real life.

  23. Bridget says:

    5years said –

    “I share the deep concern (not limited to SGM) of watching Christians have a bad experience and then jettison all sorts of beliefs because of a single bad pastor or a few nasty people. It does make you wonder how much people believe for themselves because they see it in the bible, and because of their own walk with God, when they can so easily cast it aside after one bad experience.”

    Please don’t forget that for many people it wasn’t just one bad experience, or one bad pastor. For many people it was 30 year(s) of pastor(s) in error and 30 year(s) of bad teaching(s). For many people (young and old) it was the sum total of their Christian walk. For some women it included not thinking about theology because they were told that the husband should lead in this area, and all areas, and they were given only certain books to read. They do need to look and search for themselves. It takes a long time to undo 5-30 years, and maybe more, of error mixed with a bit of truth.

    I am thankful that people come away from this, and cults, still loving God at all. And, yes, they are going to question everything. They are not going to believe something a pastor, or anyone else says just because someone believed it yesterday, 500 years ago, or 2,000 years ago. They may wrap the baby in a towel on the floor for awhile, so to speak. Is it wrong for them to struggle? To seek God? Does it matter if they end up not Reformed? God will not leave them or forsake them. He is able to keep them. He loves them.

  24. Kris, I want to thank you for all that you have put into this site over the years. It has been so helpful to me, especially during the time period 3-4 years ago when I was transitioning out of SGM. I have not been keeping up with the comments at all, and only saw this new post since it popped up in my blog reader. :-)

    I’ve been writing about abuse of authority on http://www.watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com for a couple of years, but have noticed that most of my recent posts have been focused on old hymns. Though I still touch on spiritual abuse even in most of these posts, my focus has changed. I think that’s a good sign.

    On the other hand, as I read at http://www.wartburgwatch.com and other sites, I am so aware of the on-going issues, not just in SGM.

    Bill Gothard is facing major allegations of sexually abusing teenagers who worked as his personal secretaries. The documentation is at http://www.recoveringgrace.org. Consider how much of family counsel at SGM was based on Gothardism. This is horrifying.

    New Republic has also just reported that Patrick Henry College is under fire for mishandling student rape cases. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116623/sexual-assault-patrick-henry-college-gods-harvard — and here is their response: http://homeschoolersanonymous.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/phc-statement-to-alumni-and-students-feb-18-2014-1.pdf

    Then you have Vision Forum and Doug Phillips going down in scandal last year. They were also popular in the SGM crowd. http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2013/11/vision-forum-and-friends-turn-your-eyes.html

    There are more, but I don’t have time to bring them all up.

    I am still dealing with the fallout of our years in SGM and the patriarchal edge of the home school movement. I think it will last a lifetime. But I, too, and trying to move along and live a fresh life. Still, I feel that I need to use my experience to help others with their own paradigm shifts.

    Grace and peace,

    Virginia Knowles

  25. narrowayistheway says:

    Kris,
    Thank you for your post. You articulated perfectly what needed to be said.
    You are SO perfectly suited to do what you do here or maybe someplace else.
    If I may just emphasize 1 thing.
    We can put on many identities during the course of our lives. I know I have.
    But the only one that is a perfect fit and is custom designed to fit each of us perfectly, is our identity and who we are in Jesus Christ.
    I leave with a Scripture. I pray it blesses and lifts each of us up:
    “And if on some point you think differently, that too will be made clear to you. Only let us live UP to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:15b-16
    Thanks again and many blessings to all.

  26. Paula Rice says:

    It would be a shame if this blog devolved into an embarrassment to true SGM Survivors. I’m sure there are many people who have emerged victorious from their SGM experience and aren’t ‘wallowing in their victimhood.’ But for someone whose SGM experience is only secondhand, I can understand the lack of understanding regarding it’s severity, and how the experience itself provoked a need to process the whole thing.

    In fact, Kris, you have shared that your short-living encounter with SGM is what provoked you to start this blog. You shared you never expected this to turn into what it did. Yet, it seems to me anyway that you grew in many ways as a consequence of your interaction with SGM survivors and members. It allowed you to hone your analytical skills, you manage a blog together with your husband, to have a place where you could showcase your writing talents, as well as you work out your own beliefs within the framework of the SGM experience.

    Personally, I’ve had a lot of things to work through and I know I’m not alone. There have been a lot of questions about the SGM experience itself to work through, as well as questions regarding how I allowed myself to get involved in the first place and why I stayed so long. And depending upon other factos and circumstances, the whole thing can really end up changing someone’s life – as well it should.

    But this is your blog, that you created as a forum for SGM Survivors, with the understanding that you could impose your beliefs and views upon the experience as you saw fit. And certainly that has been your right. But from what I’ve observed lately, I don’t see you personally emerging from this a victor, as though your own non-SGM experience and anonymity has shielded you from becoming a casualty yourself. You sound like you’ve been taken in, and really don’t know how to escape from this effectively.

    All I can do is appeal to you do is to not cause survivors any further embarrassment and to just bow out gracefully, without these kinds of parting shots.

  27. just saying... says:

    Kris – it would be very helpful if you would link to a reliable source that you feel accurately describes Reformed Theology or describe it yourself.

    To me it seems to be “Cross. Cross. Cross. Whatever that even means. I hate my life. I am garbage. Gospel. Gospel. Gospel. Tell me all my sins. Distrust myself. Hate my life. I wish I was dead. Parrot what I’m told even though I have no idea what we’re saying”.

    What is it supposed to be?

    You could post it with comments closed so we don’t debate the doctrines.

    We don’t trust any sources. We don’t know where to go. What is it? Presbyterian?

  28. Kris says:

    Paula –

    I’m not really sure what it is you’re trying to say. I call it like I see it. If that embarrasses you or anyone else who reads here, I’m sorry.

    I cannot imagine why it would bother any believer to affirm, as 5years asked you to do in the previous thread, that Jesus Christ came to this earth as God in the flesh. I wasn’t going to mention specifics, but, quite honestly, your response to 5years was one of the elements that made me just not feel like doing this anymore. I don’t want to provide a forum that gives airtime to people who use their SGM experiences as an excuse to deny the very basics of the Christian faith.

    Who Jesus was and is is really that important.

    Yes, it’s true, I’ve enjoyed many of my interactions here. I’ve learned from this site, from many of the amazing people who have commented and shared their stories.

    But aside from those interactions, I cannot, try as I might, think of any way this site has benefited me personally in the way you seem to be suggesting. The banner ads Guy put up some years back have not even brought in enough revenue to cover hosting fees. Guy and I are not “running a blog” as some sort of fun and rewarding family business. The level of angst I have felt over all the ways this “accidental blog” has offended and bothered people is most certainly a negative that outweighs the positives most of the time, especially when I see people using the space to display how they have not only rejected SGM but have also begun to reject the very basic elements of Christianity.

    I say this not to whine or have a pity party, just to share my heart. At the end of your life, what you do with the biblical claims of Jesus Christ is the only thing that will truly matter. SGM and the nitty gritty details of twisted doctrines and spiritual abuse will all eventually fade away. They won’t be there as excuses on the day when you’ll be asked, for the final time, “Who did you say that I am?”

    It really bothers me to be responsible for even a low-traffic online venue that would provide space for people to act like there’s any other acceptable answer but to say that Jesus was God.

    If that’s “embarrassing,” somehow – well, then, so be it.

  29. Jenn Grover says:

    Let me add my thanks to everyone’s else’s for everything you, Kris and Guy, have put into Survivors. Your thoughts pretty much echo mine and have posted rarely, recently, as I have pretty much moved on. I whole-heartedly apologize for delving into the Calvinism discussion. Truthfully, I became a Calvinist apart from SGM and prior to my SGM church becoming reformed. Calvinism is just one thing I have questioned since leaving SGM, it is just the question that lingers for me and will likely longer for some time. I am not rejecting, just open to changing my mind on it.

    I doubt we will see many, if any more churches leave SGM. WE might even see a handful rejoin. No doubt, there will be more Kingsway-like stories and more situations where individuals come forwards to their friends with stories like we have heard from so many. It is my prayer that all that has been revealed through “the blogs” make their paths easier.

    I look forward to worshipping alongside so many of you and so many still in SGM when all that is wrong will be made right and we see no more abuse, fear, or any of that which encumbers us here.

  30. Just Sayin,

    I wrote about some of this even before I left our SGM church, actually, in response to a sermon that was along the cross-submit-worm vein. You can find it here: http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2011/08/life-of-christ-our-identity-in-christ.html

    We did, by the way, end up in a mellow little Prebyterian Church (PCA). I don’t hear any of that. It’s been a good place to recover. So much genuine kindness and common sense.

    Virginia

  31. Kris says:

    I’m not actually a fan of the label “Reformed.” It has been been so overused and applied to so many different interpretations that it could mean ten different things to ten different people.

    That being said, here is a list (probably just a partial list) of the elements of “Reformed” theology that I would say align with what is in the Bible:

    1. God created this earth, all that it is in it, and Adam and Eve as perfect and sinless.

    2. Humans sinned, bringing death and destruction into the world in a way that forever tainted and transformed all of creation, including the human race. Every problem and every struggle we face exists in some way because of sin, either our own personal sin or the broader brokenness of our world because of original sin.

    3. Because of God’s love and mercy, He worked out a perfect plan for our redemption. At just the right time, His Son Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Jesus’ father was God, Jesus was God Himself, and He was both fully human (through his mother Mary) and fully God (through the Holy Spirit).

    4. Jesus did not come into this world with our same flawed and sinful human nature, enabling Him to live a perfect and sinless life, making Him eligible to be the perfect Lamb of God who could shed His blood as a payment for our sins.

    5. Jesus lived a sinless life, being tempted in all ways as we are tempted, without succumbing to temptation.

    6. He willingly laid down that life for us, suffering the full punishment we all deserved simply because we were born human in a fallen world infected by sin.

    7. He was truly dead, and buried.

    8. After 3 days, He defeated death by rising back to life.

    9. His resurrected self was seen by hundreds, which is why so many people were willing to be persecuted and die for their belief in Him as their salvation. They had witnessed His death, knew He was dead, and then also witnessed His being alive again. It was historical fact for them, just like what you got for Christmas last year is a historical fact for you.

    10. When we hear this good news (i.e. “gospel”), our response is either belief or disbelief. We can believe that Jesus took our punishment to provide us with eternal right standing with God, or we won’t believe it.

    11. (Here is where I get a little more “Reformed” in my outlook.) I know not all Christians who read here will agree with this, but I think it’s very clear in Scripture that it is the Holy Spirit who moves and works in our hearts and minds to cause us to see the truth of Jesus and accept it. In that way, I think it’s true – mysteriously true – that God does somehow choose who will be saved even as we all have an equal opportunity to hear the truth and choose to believe it. Again, I don’t think there’s any way to fully explain to our human minds how both these elements can be true, how one can both freely make a willful choice and yet at the same time be chosen to make that choice. But in the Bible, there are dozens of verses that support both truths almost equally.

    12. When we accept what Jesus did on our behalf, we receive a regenerated spirit that can now have a relationship with God. Our sin is wiped away, both the sin that we commit willfully and the sin we inherited. Our sin is no longer a barrier between us and God. We can come boldly to Him. He calls us His children, He is our Father. We can ask Him for anything in Jesus’ name. He commits to keep us and lead us and make us perfect. (I love the verse that calls believers, “Those who are being made perfect.” Clearly, it is both an already accomplished fact as well as a work in progress.)

    13. God puts His Holy Spirit in us as part of our new alive spirit. The Holy Spirit shows us the good things God wants us to do and then equips us to do them. He comforts us. He convicts us of sin when we mess up. He continuously leads us back to repentance.

    14. When we die, we leave our earthly bodies and are with God in heaven.

    15. Our great hope – in the end, our only hope – is that Jesus has promised that He is eventually coming back, in the same manner that He ascended into heaven, to bring us to the fullness of our salvation. This is going to happen at a real point in history, in a real and undeniably physical way. Nobody, though, except God Himself knows the day and the hour…but it WILL happen. And when it does happen, we will have perfected resurrection bodies (but still physical bodies, just like Jesus Himself was able after the resurrection to eat and drink and be touched and have scars). There will be no more sickness, no more sorrow. God will wipe away every tear. Death then will truly have no victory or sting. The believers who died will literally rise up out of their graves (or somehow spin their ashes together and resurrect wherever they might be, who knows, another of those mysteries that is too great for us to understand). We will see all those believers who have “fallen asleep in Christ.”

    16. This whole amazing story is God’s gift to us. If we believe, we become part of God’s family. We do not work to earn our salvation, we do not have to maintain some sort of particular lifestyle standard to “maintain” our salvation. It is God who works in us to do good, and He is the one who keeps us.

    17. That being said – well, if you truly believe something, you live like it is true. If you believe that you have a new nature that is free from sin, you will align your behavior with that new nature. You will reject certain behaviors and embrace others. You will REPENT – turn away from – everything that was part of your past sinful life. The Holy Spirit will teach you what to do…will lead you…will enable you and equip you…so it’s not like this is some horribly stressful duty or a miserable life. In fact, you will find more joy and more peace as you live more and more in the way God wants you to live. It is faith that saves us, and the faith is a gift from God. But if we have faith, we will live lives that demonstrate what we believe.

    18. For whatever reason, God really does care about what we believe about Jesus. If we say that Jesus was/is God in a human form, who met all the requirements to be the perfect payment for our sins, then we are saved. If we deny this is true, we are not saved. It’s pretty clear in the Bible that what we affirm does matter.

    19. To add to what will happen someday, when Jesus returns, we have been told in the Bible that every knee will bow and every tongue will indeed confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. In other words – anyone who does not affirm the truth about Jesus now is going to affirm it someday.

    20. Those who do not accept Jesus as Savior are condemned to an eternity apart from God, in a place where there will be “great weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    EDITED TO ADD:

    21. Also, I wanted to add to my list of crucial beliefs something about the attitude a Christian takes toward the Bible. I believe that what we can know about God is found in the Bible. It is God’s Word to us, and as such, it is infallible. I believe that the Bible can be read, for the most part, in a straightforward way, without having to work too hard to project our own 21st-century cultural standards upon it. In other words, if the Bible portrays a particular behavior as sinful and something God does not support, then that behavior is sinful, even if our present-day culture would approve the behavior. If we find ourselves having to do mental gymnastics and lots of word studies in order to get the Bible to agree with what we want it to say, that’s likely a sign that what we want is not actually what the Bible is saying.

    At the same time, I am aware that this approach to scripture is precisely what leads to legalism. It is also the approach that CJ & Co took with many of the passages that affirmed their vision for the church. I acknowledge that it’s very easy to emphasize certain passages at the expense of the larger picture of God’s redemptive plan.
    Yet I will still affirm that it is the Bible that shows us the truth. It is the Bible that tells us where we came from, what our big problem is, Who God is, how He chose to save us from our big problem, and how He now wants us to live.
    ——————–

    Those are the basic elements of what I mean when I talk about the core truths of the Christian faith as it is presented in the Bible. I’m sure I have missed some things. And, of course, there are many different interpretations on the details of how this all works out.

  32. Marie says:

    Many thanks to Kris for keeping the blog open for as long as possible. It has been a great place to go while I did not think I would ever feel safe in a church again. Now I am involved with about 4 church communities…Feeling very safe indeed!!

    As a result of finding out about the Duke University seminar, this person has surfaced: It looks like a great book. Hopefully I can get the money soon to buy it…

    There is a great excerpt inside that points out that some people have been so triggered by abuses, they might not be able to hear the Bible quoted to them without great pain. I hope to type out a few quotes this weekend. Not to justify the extended arguments, but just to point out that some people might be like me in that they are unaware of the depth of their pain until they have tried to post here without triggering strong reactions from others.

    Thank you Bridget for your prayers. You were one of the few people who responded in genuine kindness when I posted last Fall about a well-meaning conference that made me horribly uncomfortable. After talking with a few of the organizers, I found out that I was not the only one who felt dumb-founded and extremely troubled as a result of attending the conference. After a few months of discussion, I am closer to being able to articulate to the organizers what went wrong for me.

    Kris you have shown extraordinary kindness and courage to keep things open this long. I am extremely indebted to you for these past 8 months, while some of the most difficult in my life, have finally yielded great spiritual fruit. Thank you again and again, from the depths of my heart.

    Registration is closed for this conference, and I hope it becomes an annual event so I can go to it next year.
    https://divinity.duke.edu/calendar/sanctuary-sexually-abused-introduction-pastoral-care-conference

    We Were the Least of These: Reading the Bible with Survivors of Sexual Abuse Paperback – May 1, 2011
    by Elaine A. Heath (Author)

    Much of what is written about abuse and the Bible focuses on the ways Scripture is used to hurt rather than heal. This accessibly written book provides a muchneeded perspective, illuminating the good news of healing and liberation that the Bible offers survivors of sexual abuse. As a theologian and survivor of abuse herself, Elaine Heath handles this sensitive topic with compassion and grace. She offers a close reading of several biblical passages that have proven to be profoundly healing for her and for other survivors. The book is illustrated with stories and insights from sexual abuse survivors who have experienced healing through the Bible in order to bring hope and encouragement to victims. It will be welcome reading for those who have suffered from abuse as well as for pastors, counselors, therapists, and others who minister to them. Each chapter ends with two sets of reflection questions and recommended activitiesone set for survivors and another for those who journey with them.

  33. just saying... says:

    Thank you so much for that Kris. That is very helpful.

    Not to make you write another term paper, but I would be interested in knowing how you feel SGM mishandled this doctrine?

    What do you feel is error? Or, what do you feel was mishandled by inappropriate emphasis or balance?

  34. OutThere says:

    Kris, you said in 28:

    “I don’t want to provide a forum that gives airtime to people who use their SGM experiences as an excuse to deny the very basics of the Christian faith.”

    Just a couple of thoughts: the title of this site is “SGM Survivors” and many SGM survivors no longer believe many of the things they used to believe, including Christianity in general. This doesn’t make anyone less an SGM survivor.

    Also, most if not all SGM survivors (and probably current SGM members, as well) are familiar with the unspoken practice of shunning people because they believe something different from what is accepted by the majority. I don’t know why Paula Rice did not answer the question 5Years asked, but I can’t help but wonder if she was afraid she would lose a voice on this site if she expressed a view that was not “acceptable.” In fairness, PR did bring up doctrinal-type topics, so it seems like she would be game to talk about her basic beliefs….but apparently not. It’s also possible she was simply offended at being asked what seemed in the moment like a litmus-test question.

    Kris, this is your site, you are the one who started it and have endured the work it takes over the years to keep it going. And you have endured the criticism. You have the right, and you have earned it, to call the shots, and I mean that sincerely. But are you saying that only SGM Survivors who continue to believe in Jesus should be allowed to voice their opinion? I support your desire to keep people from engaging in endless discussion about things that have been argued about for centuries, but sometimes discussions about the SGM leadership style, what was taught, etc. are going to lead to some people saying things that are relevant to the SGM discussion, but which are going to conflict with what you also wrote in 28: “like there’s any other acceptable answer but to say that Jesus was God.” But those new beliefs are part of how they survived – I don’t think it’s fair or even accurate to say they are simply excuses to deny basic Christianity.

    At the same time, I understand it must be difficult for you to consider what you yourself can accept in good conscience (remember Queen Bee? That’s an attempt at humor, btw). So, I’m just saying…for what it’s worth.

  35. Paula Rice says:

    So, because I made the choice not to engage with 5years you rush in like she did, take the spiritual high ground, make assumptions, and pass judgment upon my faith in Christ? And all this after you asked that people not get into lengthy discussions about complementarianism yet said nothing about her diatribes lol?

    Now that’s rich.

  36. Marie says:

    Hey Paula, I just wanted to chime in, before things wind down, that I found the tone of 5yrs question to be excessively smug. I realize I risk getting into yet another argument here, but I had wanted to ask you 2 questions, before she jumped in with what I thought was a total misunderstanding:

    1. What has happened that has led you to believe that Wendy Virgo is no longer a warrior?
    2. What is the Eternal Subordination of the Son doctrine, anyway?

    I will Google these on my own, but I just wanted to point out that there have been more than a few times where people just could not see that their tone was just an echo of what was experienced in PDI/SGM. Rather than ask a few clarifying questions, just “go to guns” like they do in Top Gun when the distance is to close for a missle. I am working hard on being conscious of my tone, and I don’t mean to come across as nasty in my attempts to defend you, Paula. I don’t think you need help defending yourself, you are quite capable of that. But I just wanted to weigh in that that exchange was a disappointment to me, in that what could have been a genuine information exchange dissolved so quickly.

    Paula, I thought your response to that question was quite gracious.

  37. just saying... says:

    Paula – Kris has earned the right to be respected on her own blog and she has been more than fair for years. The moderator makes the terms. If she wants to ask that people not use her blog to convert each other to unbelief, she has that right.

    In case I never get to say it Kris, thank you.

  38. Marie says:

    Interesting point, just saying….so are you the moderator of interpreting when people are trying to convert someone into unbelief?

  39. Marie says:

    PS Before I get accused of being a heretic, I just wanted to mention that I thought the original confusion between 5yrs and Paula was more about how to explain the Trinity, which can be a difficult concept to describe, than it was about Paula trying to convert someone to unbelief…..

  40. Marie says:

    Kris #31 Awesome post….That actually outlines the majority of my beliefs….without referring to any celebrity pastors!! Hooray!

    I just googled ESS and got this link…It looks like a very detailed analysis of the Trinity. Paula, was this what you were originally referring to, that there are different perspectives of the Trinity, and you feel that someone wrangled a perspective, or made one up, just to justify a certain version of how women are to behave in the church?

    My favorite verse is the one in Philippians about how Christ laid his rights down for us.
    Imitating Christ’s Humility

    2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

    5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

    6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!

    Trinitarian Agency and the Eternal Subordination of the Son: An Augustinian Perspective

    Keith E. Johnson
    Keith Johnson (PhD in Christian Theology and Ethics, Duke University) is the director of theological education and development for Campus Crusade for Christ. He also serves as a guest professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is author of Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluralism: An Augustinian Assessment (IVP, forthcoming).

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/trinitarian_agency_and_the_eternal_subordination_of_the_son_an_augustinian_

    In recent years a debate has emerged among conservative evangelicals over the “eternal functional subordination” (EFS) of the Son. At the center of this dispute is the question of how we are to understand scriptural teaching regarding the nature of the Son’s eternal relationship to the Father. Is the obedience of the Son to the Father limited merely to the incarnation, or does it also extend to the Son’s eternal relationship with the Father?1 The trinitarian teaching of the church fathers plays a central role in this dispute. Proponents and opponents of EFS accuse one another of “tampering with the Trinity,” and they appeal to past theologians to substantiate (or deny) this claim.2

    One of these theologians is Augustine of Hippo (354–430)….

  41. Pin Atire says:

    I haven’t contributed much here, however, if comments are being closed, I feel compelled to share what I wished someone had shared with me prior to joining SGM:

    SGM has about as much to do with true Christianity as a fraternity does in a student’s true college education. Both provide a strong sense of community, friendships that become as close as family, a debasement of one’s previous identity and a sense of power in belonging to a ‘familial’ organization whose members will use their resources to help one another. Loyalty in both cases is paramount. Doctrine in SGM is nothing more than a measure of your loyalty to the system, it’s overseers and power players. Doctrines of marriage/divorce, dating, slander, gossip, sin, etc. are all used to paddle the recipient into a submission, not to Christ but, to a system. If that were not the case, could Megan Kauflin have been able to get divorced and remarried so fast (even if such a thing was inevitable)? If doctrine is important, it doesn’t just change within a year or two. It isn’t selectively applied to one member and not others.

    While Christian doctrine might be the hook that gets members in the door and interested, the strength of the group is really it’s SGM-blessed brand ambassadors. The rich, charismatic, influential and successful who supposedly live out this perfectly blended version of Christian doctrine as perfectly as possible on this side of heaven. The whole system is about members that people want to ‘be’ vs. the members who are still in the pledge cycle trying to ‘arrive’ and learn the nuances of what it takes to belong. That is why I believe you have so much nepotism and folks who are above the system because brands always need to be protected. If the brand loses credibility, what else is left to hold SGM together, Jesus? And suppose Jesus was really the only brand SGM peddles, would there be a need to keep the power positions closed and within certain families who can only be themselves with other SGM power families? Everything in the fraternity system like SGM is an incredibly fine line of being stripped to the level of a child in order to be remade and then being let in on the joke that you don’t really have to play by the rules everyone does. It explains why there has been such abuse of power and a certain arrogance surrounding pk kids like Chad M. who graduates free and clear despite getting caught smoking weed or Chelsea Kauflin who can cruelly berate a poor receptionist for daring to ask her to cover the phones (because she needed a bathroom break) because it was beneath her ‘admin assistant’ position and then be presented as models of servant heart-ed virtue. These are the types who are provided leadership training and invested in by the group. The survivors, the strong, the proud, and the pedigreed.

    Are the women of SGM who prop up and submit to a system in which they have no voice in on the joke? Who else are the chosen brand ambassadors like Carolyn McCulley, who financially thrive off a system where they are a handful of women allowed to teach, to speak, to sell and cross market the SGM lifestyle through books and events? There was and is no need for McCulley to submit to the system when she was the charismatic voice of whatever was the doctrine of the day for woman and had no qualms about making money off the backs of women she encouraged not to further educate themselves through an example she uses herself of having told a young woman to not to go to Harvard after she had been accepted for a program because of the financial debt for their future husbands.

    I believe that because true Christian doctrine is used in this grievous way within SGM, there is no question that it would also be the first thing one would question in leaving. Despite it probably being the most real and authentic thing about the whole SGM institution. Kris I can understand your desire not to host a forum where Christian doctrine is part of backlash that people broken in the SGM system rail against, yet I believe that God’s own word is powerful enough to break through the insidious use of doctrine on the part of SGM and ‘former’ SGM churches to control members.

    Maybe the lawsuits, had they been successful, would have taken down the SGM system as it was but if there didn’t exist members who wanted to be part of the SGM ‘fraternity’, it would not have the power to exist. But unfortunately like fraternities where abuse, assaults of all kinds also happen, the group think is powerful enough to focus all the blame on the victims, limit liability to the group, and close ranks so that the group is even more of a exclusive haven to it’s members. It is more noxious to think of ‘them’ (whoever they are: victims, attorneys, courts) coming in to break up the ‘family’ than to think about and have compassion on any real victim, even if it eventually one’s own soul. The real tragedy of any system like SGM is that under the guise of Christianity,the self and ultimately the group that now sustains the worth of this self is more important than God or any real doctrine in His word.

    We all have the propensity to abdicate our loyalty to Christ and a desire to find easy ways to get the keys to the kingdom. It is easier to have your worth and faith validated through a charismatic leader or church but much harder to use the freedom that Christ bought for you and invest that back into a real relationship with Him through study and true loyalty to only Him. Working and waiting for an authentic relationship with God is worth waiting for.

  42. Cult Watcher says:

    As Kris has pointed out here many times, pedophedia is neither casual, nor temporary, or isolated. It takes a deep toll on everyone involved. This was made real to me by a recent docudrama on Redrum. Yet once the SGM lawsuit was dismissed, the scandal blew over. Even when Nate Morales was prosecuted, media coverage did not put his activities in context.

    http://movzap.com/vuaada7wof6e

  43. Breeezey says:

    Kris did an excellent job outlining a basic biblical christian belief system. Some years ago I wrote a paper on the Trinity that I’m posting here. Hopefully it will help in explaining this complex issue to someone that has a problem in this area. Most Christians know what they believe but not why. Hopefully this will answer the why part.

    The Trinity… A Short Uncomplicated Study

    My goal is to give a teaching on the Bible doctrine of the Trinity. It will be complete with references written out so there will be no misunderstanding of the text.

    The Trinity…Definition: Within the nature of the one God there are 3 eternal persons: The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.

    Did the early church believe this? YES. In the New Testament each of them was called God within the text. (The translation used is The New International Version.)

    If it can be shown that there are 3 persons mentioned in the New Testament…
    If it can be shown that these 3 persons are called God…. If it can be shown that there is ONLY ONE God… THEN the 3 have to be the one God

    The Father

    2 Peter 1:16,17…We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of or Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

    The Son…Inferred by worship

    Hebrews 1:5,6…For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”?
    Or again, I will be his Father and he will be my Son”? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, He says, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.”

    (Notice God the Father turned to creation, the angels, and told them to worship the Son.)

    Luke 4:6-8… And he (Satan) said to him (Jesus), “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, ” It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ ”

    (Notice Jesus rebuked the devil when the devil suggested worship of anyone other than God.)

    John 20:28,29…Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed.

    (Notice that Jesus did not rebuke Thomas. He not only received the worship from Thomas but He also received the name. If Jesus is not God then Thomas blasphemed and Jesus had to rebuke him.)

    The Son…Alpha and Omega

    Revelation 1:8…I am the Alpha and the Omega, ” says the Lord God, ” who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

    Rev.21: 6…He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

    Rev.22: 7, 12-13,16,17,20…Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”….”Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”…I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.
    The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”…He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
    (Notice Alpha and Omega is also the First and the Last. Rev 22:13)

    Revelation 1:17,18…When I saw Him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ” Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

    (Notice…Alpha and Omega is the First and the Last…the First and the Last said he was dead and is now alive forever and ever…when did God die???
    Is the First and the Last God Almighty?)
    Isaiah 44:6…This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
    I am the First and I am the Last; apart from Me there is no God

    Jesus is God in human flesh by his own words.

    The Holy Spirit

    Acts 5:3-4…Then Peter said, “Ananais, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit…You have not lied to men but to God.”

    (Notice when he lied to the Holy Spirit he lied to God.)

    Acts 13:2…While they were worshiping the lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabus and Saul for the work for the work to which I have called them.”

    (Notice that the Holy Spirit answered the prayer, not the Father and not the Son. Only God can answer prayer.)
    If it can be shown that there are 3 persons mentioned in the New Testament…it has
    If it can be shown that these 3 are called God…it has
    If it can be shown that there is only one God

    Deuteronomy 6:4…Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
    1 Timothy 2:5…For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.
    Galatians 3:20…A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

    There is only one God…The 3 persons are the one God.

    The Trinity at the Incarnation

    Luke 1:35…The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
    Father, Son, Holy Spirit at the incarnation.

    The Trinity at the Baptism of Jesus

    Matthew 3:16,17…. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
    Father, Son, Holy Spirit at Jesus baptism.

    The Trinity at the Resurrection of Jesus

    John 2:19-21…Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in 3 days…But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
    Jesus said he would raise his own body.

    1 Thessalonians 1:10…” and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
    The Father raised Jesus’ body

    Romans 8:11…And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
    The Holy Spirit raised Jesus’ body

    Acts 17:30,31…In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
    GOD raised Jesus from the dead
    Father, Son, Holy Spirit at Jesus’ resurrection

    How can we understand this 3 within 1 dichotomy, the following is the best example I have ever heard…Take some water out of the tap. Put it in a test tube. Pump out the air, put it under 230mm of gas pressure. Then reduce the temperature to zero. When the temperature approaches zero the bottom of the tube will freeze, the center of the tube remains liquid, and the top of the tube vaporizes. At one given moment h2o (water) one substance becomes solid, liquid, and gas, all the same nature, BUT one substance. If water, which is the simplest of all substances can be 3 and 1 at the same moment then God the Supreme chemist can be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same moment, with no violation whatsoever.

    Another very good example I have heard is simply speaking a word. Try to say a word, any word, for instance: bubble gum. Take away the thought and what are you left with? bbbelggu (random letters or sounds) Take away the form and what are you left with? bbelegulg (again random letters or sounds). Now take away the breath and what are you left with? Thought and form but not communicated. Just speaking a word is triune.

    Winkie Pratney calls the Trinity the master pattern of the universe. God not only created but he created in His own pattern. He allowed me to copy this section out of his book for this paper.

    Triune Patterns of Reality…excerpted from The Nature and Character or God by W.A. Pratney…Bethany House Publishers 1988 used by permission
    From this mirror we can begin to explore not only the outer fringes of God’s greatness, but also His wonderful universe. Probe any fundamental reality, and you will see His Triune imprint: each element of that unity in diversity will follow the order of the Designer. Here are just some of the many examples of this pattern that can bring out our worship in every avenue of life and perception:

    Man:
    • Soul—The creative invisible source; the origin of individuality.
    • Body—The embodiment of the individual in a tangible expression.
    • Spirit—That which relates the individual to God and others.

    Personal Existence:
    • Nature—The essential source of personality, the innermost, primal “I” who realizes or sees. “I myself who see.”
    • Person—The embodied self whom I or others see or realize. “I who am seen by myself.”
    • Personality—Myself recognized as myself. “I who am recognized by myself.” Myself as I touch, affect, and influence others.

    Space:
    • Height—Potentiality, space related to its source.
    • Breadth—Embodiment, the “thickness” of space.
    • Length—Relation of space in reference to other space.

    Matter:
    • Energy—Universal, unseen source potentiality.
    • Motion—Particular embodiment of that energy.
    • Phenomena—Particular motion in contact with other existences.

    Time:
    • Future—Universal Source, potentiality of events.
    • Present—Particular embodiment, realization of future things we know and touch.
    • Past—The present after it has related itself to other things.

    Universe:
    • Space—Source of all God’s omnipresent outspreading creative energy.
    • Motion—Embodiment of the tangible universe, the omnipotence of God upholds all things.
    • Time—Everything known is revealed to us by the time-length of its vibrations.

    Marriage (Genesis 2:24)
    • “Leave”—From; the source of a marriage; legal, public act.
    • “Cleave” —Through; the embodiment of a marriage, personal, tangible
    • “One flesh”—By; the consummation of a marriage, relational, motivational.

    Family
    • Husband—Source of the family.
    • Wife—Embodiment of the family.
    • Child—Relation of a husband through his wife.

    Ministries of Christ:
    • Prophet—Bearer of universal and absolute truth.
    • Priest—Embodiment of God’s truth, incarnated truth.
    • King—Bringer of people into orderly relationship with God’s truth.

    Loyalty:
    • Heart—Love. The source of absolute loyalty, spring, unseen fountain.
    • Head—Wisdom. The practical embodiment of in which loyalty is seen in judging, speaking.
    • Hand—Power. The executive expression of commitment, ministry to needs.

    Christian Truth
    • Spirit—Universal truth, ultimate source, personal experience with God.
    • Word—Particular embodiment of an experience in propositional form.
    • Church—Record of relationship, what Christians know and believe on the basis of relationships with each other and God in past history.

    Perception:
    • Concept—The universal Idea.
    • Perception—The particular embodiment of an idea.
    • Relation—An idea as it applies to other ideas.

    Biblical Wisdom:
    • Sophia—“Wisdom.” Knowledge as it relates to ultimates and universals.
    • Phronesis—“Prudence.” Knowledge relating to particular, practical embodiment.
    • Sunesis—“Understanding.” Relates things to other things, puts things together.

    Christian Apologetics:
    • Mystical—Direct personal contact with the Source of truth.
    • Propositional—Intellectual, objective embodiment of truth in written form.
    • Historical—Relating the experience of the living and written word in other’s lives.

    Deductive Logic:
    • Major Premise—Universal truth; nature of thing under discussion.
    • Minor Premise—Particular embodiment of truth in major premise.
    • Conclusion—That which proceeds from the major through the minor premise to bring both in contact with the thing under discussion.

    Philosophy:
    • Universal—Idealist; the concern with the way things ought to be, the perfection.
    • Particular—Realist; the concern with the way things actually are, what is seen in actual fact.
    • Relational—Pragmatist; what works and actually gets things functioning

    Psychology:
    • Nature—“Higher” self. Will it bring good? Will it cause happiness?
    • Person—Self. Personal interest. Will it bring good for me? Bring me happiness?
    • Personality—Family, community, and world. Will it be good for them?

    Sociology:
    • Mankind—Universal humanity, human nature.
    • Man—Particular embodiment in a person.
    • Mannishness—Personality related to others.

    Anthropology:
    • Shem—Revelation, universal
    • Ham—Technological. The practical solution to life’s problems in service. Embodiment in practice.
    • Japheth—Illumination, puts together the whole pattern.
    (See A.C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons)

    Art:
    • Source—Idea, conception, ideal, inspiration.
    • Embodiment—Picture, poem, song, statue, building.
    • Work—The object as it affects others in vision, challenge, and in emotion. (See Dorothy Sayers, The Mind Of The Maker.)

    Law:
    • Love God—Universal ultimate source and primary command.
    • Love Yourself—Particular embodiment of law we know and experience.
    • Love your neighbor—Law as it relates to others.

    Love in the New Testament:
    • Agape—Divine love; motive source; ultimate choice.
    • Phileo—Embodied love in friendship, companionship
    • Storge—Relational love of the comfortable and familiar

    Temptation:
    • World (Spiritual)—Attacks the relationship God has given us for communion with the Father (1 John 2:15-16).
    • Devil (Personal)—Attacks our self-image, the relationship with God we enjoy through and in the Son (Matt. 4:1, John 8:44).
    • Flesh (Social)—Attacks our relationships with others given by the Spirit (Gal. 5:17).

    Witnesses on Earth (1John 5:8)
    • Blood—Witness of salvation to God.
    • Water—Witness of salvation to our humanity.
    • Spirit—Witness of salvation to others.

    Vocal Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:10)
    • Prophecy—Forth-telling, revelation of the truth of God.
    • Tongues—The embodiment of divine revelation in word.
    • Interpretation of Tongues—That which relates the Divine to the human.

    Power Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:9-10)
    • Faith—That which lifts vision to the realm of universal; ultimate vision.
    • Gifts of Healing—That which restores the physical body to health.
    • Working of Miracles—That which demonstrates and relates the Divine to the human.

    Wisdom Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8,10)
    • Word of Wisdom—Universal principles, basis of ultimate truth.
    • Word of Knowledge—Facts that are practically applicable to a personal need.
    • Discerning of Spirits—revelation of a spirit that motivates an action.

    Righteous Men (Ezekiel 14:14,20)
    • Noah—The father of redeemed righteous men; source of the new world.
    • Daniel—He who embodied righteousness in a pagan kingdom.
    • Job—He who witnessed to both heaven and earth of righteousness.

    Spiritual Israel:
    • Abraham—Faithful father; originator of 12 tribes, a type of the Father.
    • Isaac—From Abraham; obedient son willing to be offered in sacrifice; a type of the Son.
    • Jacob—Through Isaac; his fruitfulness peopled the 12 tribes, a type of the Holy Spirit.

  44. Sopwith says:

      
    *
    *
     __

    “Window Of Opportunity?”
    *

    …has Jesus got you ‘covered’?

    hmmm…

    I’m sure there are kind folk who have emerged ‘unharmed’ from their SGM experience.

    What?

    Kris & Guy, fortunately (as far as they have shared here) were never harmed by SGM’ teachings and/or actions towards themselves. 

    Whew!

    …we, all who read and possibly comment here, rejoice.

    However, many who read this blog and other blogs that deal with this type of abuse, wether it be physical, mental, spiritual, doctrinal, …have.

    (Krunch)

    As you can see SGM Survivors.com, kind folks have issues. They come to blogs like this for relief, to share their pain, to break their isolation, and heart-acing. maybe ta see if anyone really cares, maybe ta learn to trust Jesus again, and to  once  again learn to follow His faithful words.  

    (bump)

    Jesus said that heaven can be our home.

     When he got up from the dead, he said he was going to prepare a place for all those who would believe in him could go.

    simple.

    …now today, there is dis here religious proverbial monster(s) wit many names, on da loose, that seeks ta keep us from da proverbial greener pastures, Jesus has faithfully prepared for us during our durational stay here on the Earth.

    We read his recorded words in a book we call da bible.

    Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch!

    …if da words of this book ‘source’ – confusion, division, separation, fear, prolonged grief and despair, perhaps evil as well, then perhaps someone is reading, and possibly applying it wrong.

    perhaps, very wrong.

    perhaps, very, very, very, wrong.

    (sadface)

    Jesus promises ‘rest’ to all those who would come to him.

    …if your not ‘resting’, maybe you’ve cone to da wrong ‘door’.

    Jesus said he is the only true one… (door)

    please try,try, try… again.

    your eternal soul depends upon the outcome…

    simple as dat.

    (tear)

    No one in Jesus’ camp has ta be one fry short of a happy meal.

    Really.

    ATB

    Sopy
    __
    Inspirational relief:
    “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aGJwAENQuk

  45. Kris says:

    OutThere said,

    But are you saying that only SGM Survivors who continue to believe in Jesus should be allowed to voice their opinion? I support your desire to keep people from engaging in endless discussion about things that have been argued about for centuries, but sometimes discussions about the SGM leadership style, what was taught, etc. are going to lead to some people saying things that are relevant to the SGM discussion, but which are going to conflict with what you also wrote in 28: “like there’s any other acceptable answer but to say that Jesus was God.” But those new beliefs are part of how they survived – I don’t think it’s fair or even accurate to say they are simply excuses to deny basic Christianity.

    This is a very good question, one where the answer isn’t always clear to me.

    On the one hand, anyone who has something to say about SGM has always been welcomed to say it, however they’d like to say it. I’m not a big believer in the SGM policy of first assessing a statement for sin on the part of the person making it, or for finding fault with the person’s “tone” or attitude and using that to discredit the truth of what they are saying. If someone is struggling with what to believe post-SGM, he is free to say that, too. I think people can attest to the fact that I typically don’t moderate things much here in terms of censoring comments.

    On the other hand, it’s amazing to me how quickly the tide can turn, to the point where in the rush to reject everything SGM used to do, nobody is allowed, ever, to raise the topic of sin, or personal responsibility for our experiences, or stand up and say that there’s a dividing line between Christians and non-Christians and it’s important to cling to the truth.

    I’ve noticed, actually, that it’s almost as though it is a given on so-called “discernment” websites that deconstructing faulty, too-legalistic beliefs nearly always creates an environment that is far more welcoming and affirming of the non-believer than of the conservative Christian. There’s way more love shown to the person who has something bad to say about SGM than the person who dares to suggest that maybe some of SGM’s teachings weren’t 100% wrong.

    If you read back through the comments, and if you’re honest in your assessment of what you read, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    It’s like people here have far more in common with and far more love for those who have rejected conservative Christianity than they have for those who are their actual brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Something is not right with that picture…

    As one who believes with all my heart that there is a dividing line between those who follow Jesus and those who are rejecting him, and that that dividing line is the difference between an eternity in heaven versus an eternity in hell, I really struggle with being responsible for a venue where there’s more peer pressure to affirm the non-believer rather than challenge him or her.

    After all, if “surviving SGM” means the person had to toss out all their Christian beliefs, then they are in a more dangerous place than they were to begin with.

    (And it’s so crazy, even as I wrote the above sentence, I could feel that many readers here will think that’s almost sacrilegious to say such a thing, to suggest that maintaining one’s Christian beliefs is more important than rejecting SGM.)

    So, really – I guess this is kind of a non-answer to the question. But I have been thinking a lot over the past several months about how short this earthly life really is and how long eternity will be. I have watched as different near and dear ones have moved shockingly quickly from being able-bodied and of sound mind to basically what is the end of their earthly lives. It has really brought home to me the reality that what we do with Jesus matters more than anything else.

    I don’t want to be responsible for a venue where it’s more acceptable to reject Jesus than to embrace Him.

  46. Kris says:

    Also, I wanted to add to my list of crucial beliefs in comment #31 something about the attitude a Christian takes toward the Bible. I believe that what we can know about God is found in the Bible. It is God’s Word to us, and as such, it is infallible.

    I believe that the Bible can be read, for the most part, in a straightforward way, without having to work too hard to project our own 21st-century cultural standards upon it. In other words, if the Bible portrays a particular behavior as sinful and something God does not support, then that behavior is sinful, even if our present-day culture would approve the behavior. If we find ourselves having to do mental gymnastics and lots of word studies in order to get the Bible to agree with what we want it to say, that’s likely a sign that what we want is not actually what the Bible is saying.

    At the same time, I am aware that this approach to scripture is precisely what leads to legalism. It is also the approach that CJ & Co took with many of the passages that affirmed their self-serving ideas about their own authority. I acknowledge that it’s very easy to emphasize certain passages at the expense of the larger picture of God’s redemptive plan.

    Yet I will still affirm that it is the Bible that shows us the truth. It is the Bible that tells us where we came from, what our big problem is, Who God is, how He chose to save us from our big problem, and how He now wants us to live.

  47. Kris says:

    “just saying…” –

    I have to dash out in a bit (on a Saturday morning…sigh…) and don’t know if I will have time to fully address your question from comment #33, but my short answer is that with respect to what I see as basic Christian beliefs, SGM over-emphasized sin and our own efforts to combat sin. SGM also over-emphasized the role of pastor and accountability group, typically at the expense of the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. It was like SGM eagerly latched onto all the sad and heavy parts of being “Reformed” (i.e. our personal wretched sinfulness) but rejected the overall concept that it is God who keeps us and preserves us. This imbalance puts too much emphasis on what we ourselves must do to “eradicate” sin in our lives…too much emphasis on submitting to doing church a particular way, whatever way the pastor tells us this year…too much emphasis on the work of the pastor rather than the work of the Holy Spirit…

    There’s a lot more, but I will have to pick this up later.

  48. Steve240 says:

    pinstripe said:

    SGM has about as much to do with true Christianity as a fraternity does in a student’s true college education. Both provide a strong sense of community, friendships that become as close as family, a debasement of one’s previous identity and a sense of power in belonging to a ‘familial’ organization whose members will use their resources to help one another. Loyalty in both cases is paramount. Doctrine in SGM is nothing more than a measure of your loyalty to the system, it’s overseers and power players. Doctrines of marriage/divorce, dating, slander, gossip, sin, etc. are all used to paddle the recipient into a submission, not to Christ but, to a system.

    Very insightful. The social system that a lot of SGM churches provides is like a “fraternity” as you indicated. IMO a lot of what draws people to that group vs. their doctrine. If they hadn’t set up this type of system then I doubt they would have attracted the numbers that they did.

    Also good point that a lot of their teaching on “gossip/slander” and dating etc. are the “paddle” SGM uses to beat the regular members into submission to their system and not Christ.

    I believe that because true Christian doctrine is used in this grievous way within SGM, there is no question that it would also be the first thing one would question in leaving. Despite it probably being the most real and authentic thing about the whole SGM institution.

    Good point again. Since SGM used this doctrine it would be the first thing that one would think is wrong. To use the old cliche about “not washing the baby out with the bathwater” would be appropriate. In other words separate the wheat from the chaff or just because SGM misused a lot of things doesn’t mean it isn’t appropriate.

    It was a really insightful comment that pinstripe made.

  49. Steve240 says:

    pinstripe also said:

    Chelsea Kauflin who can cruelly berate a poor receptionist for daring to ask her to cover the phones (because she needed a bathroom break) because it was beneath her ‘admin assistant’ position and then be presented as models of servant heart-ed virtue.

    I hadn’t heard this but it sure wouldn’t surprise me if this was the truth. From what I saw, there was also a lot of nepotism in the receptionist positions at CLC/SGM.

    I am sure it would have been handled differently if it had been a regular person who said that vs. someone of “royalty” like Chelsea Kauflin. How dare a “commoner” ask someone in SGM “royalty” to do something as low as answer the phones.

    I don’t see how answering the phones could be part of an “admin asst.” position. ;-)

  50. OutThere says:

    Kris said
    “I don’t want to be responsible for a venue where it’s more acceptable to reject Jesus than to embrace Him.”

    That’s a completely reasonable position, and it is your call. I have not picked up on that being the case here, but I am not the monitor of this site, so I do not read the comments with an eye for feeling responsible for what is said by everyone, and I’m sure I have missed something.

    For what it’s worth, y own personal preference is to not reference Bible verses and my particular beliefs for the following reason (it’s 2 parts that go together), and perhaps in the process it can be interpreted as disregarding Jesus:
    1. I do not believe there are any arbitrary commandments in the Bible, meaning that I don’t believe God randomly says do this or don’t do that, and I don’t believe in magic words – there is a reason behind everything, and it is meant to benefit us. So rather than mention verses, doctrine, etc., which can get really tricky, it makes more sense to me to get to the heart of the matter, the reason that I think is behind the command (or whatever). And if I am wrong, it will be easier to spot why.
    2. I have kids. I appreciate when, at 5 or at 10 years, or even at 14 or 15, they do something just because I said they should do it. But I will be embarrassed if at 30 or 40 they are saying that they do something because I told them to, and I would view it as a cop-out for doing the hard work of thinking things through on their own. I want them to understand on their own why some actions and behaviors are better than others. That glorifies me, to know that they “get it” and that they can think without me being there to help them.

    In short, I don’t like to reference verses, doctrine, beliefs, or quotes from pastors or thinkers as my first or even second line of reasoning because I think it creates a sense of being at least one step (if not more) removed from being responsible for thinking things through and taking responsibility for my own thoughts and actions.

    Also, since this is a site about people who left a particular church/system of churches, there are bound to be many who believe different things at this point. So it seems to me counterproductive at times to discuss doctrine (confession – my eyes glaze over during these discussions, but I know some people really enjoy it, even during conflicts, so I’m not knocking it), beliefs, and bible verses, when you can get right to the heart of the matter with why or why not something makes sense. It’s a way to find common ground, and have a real discussion about what is right and what is wrong. We are less likely to misunderstand each other, and we are not as likely to spend a lot of time discussing tangents on the effectiveness of one doctrine vs. another, the various possible meanings of a particular bible verse, etc. (“tangents” referring to things that are not SGM-related).

    And while I’m on the subject, since many have stated why they think SGM fell (one doctrine vs another, for example), I will weigh in here on what I think was SGM’s downfall – they emphasized the rules and missed the reasons for the rules, which ultimately have to do with caring for people. And we as followers followed that way of thinking, so by “SGM” I mean all of us at one time or another, not just the leaders. I could cite a bible verse here referencing something Jesus said, but somehow, as I mentioned before, that makes me feel a step removed from the responsibility I believe I have to “own” the basic idea of emphasizing people (aka love) over rules.

    I’m sure someone will think “humanist” but remember – I coming at this from the perspective of a parent (see above), and thinking about God as a father. I’m not rejecting God or Jesus by doing this – I’m choosing to engage in discussion about what I think are the real, core issues with other people I assume do not share the same religious beliefs.

    Someone else may also think what I am describing (rules over people) is the definition of legalism – it probably is, but I don’t want to use that word because it has become cliche, and it has the effect of cutting short the process of really thinking about the implications of legalism.

    Lastly (in case anyone was thinking it), I’m not really saying that to mention God or Jesus is childish; but think about it – don’t we often hide (maybe unconsciously) behind our professions of belief as a way to avoid thinking through things on a deeper (and more difficult) level?

    I will shut up now, as I have undoubtedly gone on too long.