Happy Birthday, sgmsurvivors!

November 21, 2008 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Well, here we are.  Today (actually, sometime in the wee hours of this morning) marks the first anniversary of this blog.  I kept trying to think of something profound to post, something that would make up for my silence of late, and the one idea that kept floating through my thoughts, stubbornly refusing to go away, was:

I had no idea, when this site started, that there was any such thing as a Sovereign Grace Ministries “survivor.”

I’m not entirely sure how profound that thought is, but it pretty much sums up where I stand today, a year later.  No matter what your current opinion of the “family of churches” that call themselves Sovereign Grace Ministries, there is an inescapable truth out there, now, first brought to you by this blog, that there is also another group of individuals who view themselves as “survivors” of that “family of churches.”

And until SGM decides to deal with this fact in an open, public fashion, this blog will remain.

I thought it’d be fun to take a little trip down memory lane.  Over the next several days and weeks, as time permits, I will be revisiting some of what I believe to be the most entertaining exchanges we’ve seen in our “comments” sections.  I’ll also be re-posting some of the older stories and perhaps some excerpts of articles.

To start us off, here is a recounting of how this site began:

We were part of an SGM church for less than a year. We loved so much about it but had an unexplainable sense that all was not right. Our greatest issues were “cultural,” particularly with respect to courtship. Although most of our kids are years away from even thinking about the opposite sex (except when our daughter wants someone to join her in dissecting the bugs she finds in our yard :-) ), I just felt like the courtship system was too much about “control.” Actually, in a strange way, I had a gut feeling that there were a lot of “control” issues within SGM.

But we left on very amicable terms, sharing how we didn’t feel like we’d ever fully fit in but wishing them nothing but the best. To this day we have the highest respect for our pastors there.

However, after we’d moved on to a “regular” church, I began to think a lot about what we’d experienced at SGM. I’d spent months and months searching online for anything that would validate or explain my mysterious “gut impressions,” and I could never find ANYTHING, except for one 2-year-old blog where a “comments” section had taken on a life of its own when the tangential subject of SGM had come up and different people had written extensively about otherwise-unpublicized SG history. It was there that I learned, for instance, that SGM had actually been quite radically charismatic once upon a time. This was a shock to me! Also, I discovered at this site that SG hadn’t always harped on our “indwelling sin” as much as they do now.

One Sunday afternoon, as I was pondering our experience, I decided to go back to that blog and write something about what we’d seen. I put up a few fairly lengthy comments (which you can access in the “Here’s Our Story” entry) detailing our observations. I had no idea if anyone would ever read them, but it felt good to share what we’d seen, just because I’d spent so much time wishing that I could hear someone else’s blunt and honest “take” on things.

You can probably imagine my surprise when, a couple of days later, I checked back at that site and discovered that a couple of people had responded to my comments. One of these folks was VERY hostile toward SGM, and this amazed me. Because like I said, we’d never experienced anything remotely negative or unbiblical at our own SG church. I commented again, asking the person to explain what they were talking about. But when I checked back awhile later, I discovered that the entire post – huge “comments” section and everything – was just GONE. Poof! Nothing!

This was the night before Thanksgiving, and I’d stayed up quite late fixing food and getting our home ready for the big feast we were hosting the next day, so I do know that the lateness of the hour contributed to my sense of subterfuge and high drama. I can remember sitting here, practically gasping in shock, telling my husband, “This is weird! The blog owner just censored the whole thing! What is going on here???”

My husband, in his rational way, said to me, “Why don’t you put up your own blog?”

And in that moment, it hit me – that is exactly what I would do. With Guy’s help, we had a site up in less than an hour. Oddly enough, I’d taken the time to copy and paste all my comments from the other blog and save them in a document. I’d NEVER done that before, but it proved to be great, because I already had our first couple of posts ready to go. Also – and to me, this is even more amazing – I suddenly remembered that the comments containing the little-publicized SGM/PDI history had been so interesting to me that I’d copied and pasted them into an email that I’d sent to my husband months before. I checked in my “archived” folder, and there it was! Another article.

The blog’s name – sguncensored – came to me in a flash. It’s probably a pretty good indicator of the lateness of the hour and my mindset at the time. :-)  [Kris’ note:  We changed the blog’s name when Guy registered our own domain and we left WordPress, as some enterprising soul had already taken “sguncensored” due to how many hits our WordPress “sguncensored” was receiving…apparently they figured that they’d be able to make some money off the name.]

Although I’m sure some people still don’t believe me, I had absolutely NO “agenda” with the site, except to provide what I thought of as “another perspective” on Sovereign Grace Ministries. I figured maybe one day far off in the future, someone else would be like I’d been, doing research and trying to make an informed decision about settling into a church. Maybe in some small way they’d find my point of view useful.

You can probably imagine my surprise when someone posted a comment just a day or two later. I was flabbergasted when I realized that on the site’s third or fourth day, we’d had several hundred hits.

Over the course of those first few weeks, I gained quite a shocking education in the “dark side” of Sovereign Grace. The majority of people who shared their stories on the site had had VERY different experiences than we’d had, and I found myself growing alarmed at the trends I was seeing, both in the comments left on the blog and in the emails people wrote to me. It’s been pretty much the same thing ever since, with activity that waxes and wanes but then picks up again just when I think things have died down a bit.

Today, as I was thinking about this blog, I decided that my first posts were a little bit like a restaurant review that gave mixed marks. In those posts, I shared my impressions of SGM, which were that they did some things very well (we’d loved our Care group time) but that CJ Mahaney seemed to have a grip on people’s thinking that was all out of proportion to how he actually came across in his current sermons. I told of what had struck me as an unusual combination of cultural elements. I mentioned that if you didn’t want to conform to rather specific lifestyle choices, you might feel more comfortable at a different church. But I did not address anything that I found to be unbiblical or “wrong.” In my initial opinion, things were just…different.

But if my early posts were a mediocre restaurant review, people’s comments and stories have been something akin to reports of widespread food poisoning at other restaurants in the same chain.

© 2008, Kris. All rights reserved.