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.

2,361 comments to My Thoughts Lately

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  1. Persona
    September 15th, 2014 at 11:57 pm


    Che was likely told he wasn’t gifted to be a SGM senior pastor because he wasn’t doing everything CJ wanted him to do.

    After Che left, CJ sent John Loftness out to Pasadena to ‘settle the church. I can only imagine what he did that year to ‘settle’ that church. I think other original folks left, too.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if most pastoral weeding-out happened to increase CJ’s tightened control. Think how much CJ gained by placing his bro-in-law in charge of the youth ministry and his 2 sons-in-law over two other ministries. We can all be thankful he only had three sons-in-law!

    It’s frightening how little freedom each SGM pastor enjoys. I’m just glad it’s illegal to clone humans; I hate to think what this world would look like if it were.

  2. TrustingOnlyInJesus
    September 16th, 2014 at 12:21 am

    John Loftness was in Pasadena while Che was Senior Pastor. Loftness was sent by CJ to “spy” and report back to CJ regarding Che and his leadership. While in Pasadena, Loftness said multiple times that he came to serve with Che and had no plans to leave. We now know this was just another lie by Loftness.

  3. 5yearsinPDI
    September 16th, 2014 at 10:13 am

    hi Out there-

    Easy now, but years ago it would have been very hard.

    I’ve been through some hard things over the years, but also have a good husband and handful of good friends and I feel close to the Lord in prayer and when I read the bible. So what people think of me has lost a lot of its grip. Part of that is just getting older I think, age mellows.

    Also, I have had a very very hard time the last few years with what I see as a betrayal of the sheep by the Gospel Coalition. There have been lone voices here and there- MacArthur on Driscoll, Boz T and Matt B.R. on the sex abuse victims. My husband and pastor talk occasionally about the celebrity focus with not one word of sympathy for true victims. It is a disgrace. So when “Beltway” posts here about their pain from an SGM betrayal, I guess I want them to know how easy it was for me to do the same. It is easy to suck up when you need what the suckuppers have to offer. It is everywhere in out culture, often just for money, but also to be in the inner ring.

    Once you admit it and confess it, the disgust with yourself lifts, and you have a more realistic view of your fallen nature. It makes grace look better, you’re more grateful to Jesus Christ. And you see the “doing it right” legalism of SGM for what it is. And you want nothing to do with cliques and people who act superior.

    I now see the Gospel Coalition and the hangers on as infected all over the place with sucking up. Not all of them, but many I think. Ironically I am a Calvinist complementarian. But until we get back to prayer and dependency on God, and the poor and needy, something is drastically wrong. And the pathway out may be very painful for them, I know it was for me.

    Folks like RP just don’t get a place like this blog, and what it is to process your own past and the current Reformed Big Dog scene….

  4. Diego
    September 16th, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Attn CFC, your leader has spoken:
    Jared Mellinger

    Text: Exodus 20:1-2,16

    Main Point:

    We are called to guard the reputations of other brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Key Ideas:
    •We guard the reputation of others by actively waging war on gossip.
    •We guard the reputation of others by developing an appropriate sense of loyalty to one another.
    •We guard the reputation of others by proactively sharing affirmations of others.

    Remember the reputations of your leaders is more important than the wounds inflicted upon the sheep. Sheep can be replaced, your leader is priceless… Jesus said NEVER…

  5. LateToTheGame123
    September 16th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Out of Babylon, just saying, Fruit Flavored, Out There, Lover of CLC, Persona, Dave MacKenzie and others:
    Thanks for your words.

    Steve240 Earlier I wrote about a televangelist in the 1980s and you were right in your call on who I meant.
    Here is an update on his ministry. We could all learn something from this man and how to do church ‘the right way’. Read some of the comments at the end as well and see how people in the world view the ‘church’. I’m sure most on here already know this, though. Warning: The Daily Mail does run articles about celebrities with photos on the right side that may be offensive to some. Just keep your eyes straight ahead if so.

  6. Somewhereintime
    September 16th, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Regarding Jim Bakker … I saw one of his “survival” programs about two years ago. I chuckled.

    The point that people need to remember is that these “high-level” pastors only have it in their blood to maintain their standard of living. The problem is that it becomes their idol in their lives. They LOVE it on easy street once they become pastoral big wigs. They get the alcolades, the money, and in Baker’s case, the chicks.

    They end up trading their souls in for the pleasures of this world.

    This is why Mahaney backed out of his confession and has fought tooth and nail to maintain his role in SGM. He realized that it would alienate him away from the Big Dogs, and that it meant a huge loss in income.

    Pride, greed, sex, jealousy … it’s the same old sins that have haunted man since the fall of Adam. This is why we need to guard our hearts and minds and LISTEN and OBEY the Holy Spirit and those that hte Lord puts in to our lives.

    If you don’t, you get Jim Bakker, you get CJ Mahaney, you get Mark Driscoll and they destroy hundreds and thousands of lives along the way.

  7. LateToTheGame123
    September 16th, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Somewhereintime 2356 you said:

    Pride, greed, sex, jealousy … it’s the same old sins that have haunted man since the fall of Adam. This is why we need to guard our hearts and minds and LISTEN and OBEY the Holy Spirit and those that hte Lord puts in to our lives.

    What you wrote is completely accurate.

  8. Jenn Grover
    September 16th, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Diego, was the impetus for our visit from RP?

  9. Diego
    September 16th, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Jenn, I’m sure many memos are coming from the Top Dogs on closing ranks. CFC is a special place where kool ade is made sweeter than usual for many. The remaining SG Churches are concentrated with those who have chosen to ignore the damage done by the denomination and leaders. To have a core of stepfords will only make it more cultish in the future. RP won’t be the last. It would be more tolerable if he was just a troll seeking attention but he is more of a sniper.

  10. Jenn Grover
    September 16th, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    CFC has always been my least favorite SGM church. I have never visited another church where people who know who you are look the other way to avoid a conversation so consistently. Most people I knew who moved there found themselves miserable trying to make friends.

    Of course there were some exceptions, but not usually found in leadership positions.

    The leadership has always enjoyed such devoted followership, which to me, is the only possible reason Christians of any maturity can submit to their leadership.

  11. Persona
    September 17th, 2014 at 1:35 am


    Jenn, CLC may have exported that behaviorism to CFC. You might be amazed to see the way some members and pastors of CLC look straight through you when you bump into them around town. And, strangely, as much as it occurs between older members, it is particularly noticeable in the youth.

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