Defender’s Story

April 19, 2009 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Our new commenter, “Defender,” wrote with a story to share:

IS IT LOCAL, OR SYSTEMIC?

(There is nothing new

under the sun.) 

I prayed to receive Christ when I was 11 years old, back in 1971. (Do the math….now you know how old I am. ) This is only to say, “I wasn’t born again yesterday.” 

I was initially raised (in the faith) in a Lutheran church in Holt Michigan. When I was in the High school age youth group in that church, there was a move of the Holy Spirit and many of us were ………. Dare I say it? Baptized in the Holy Spirit. This was kept a secret among those of us newly Spirit filled youth as it was being preached from our pulpit that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was “Of the devil.” We knew better.

This is also to say, I was a Reformed, yet Charismatic long before PDI existed. I also learned early on how to do the work of a Berean, and beware of “church politics.” So at an early point in my life I set my path to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” and let all other things follow. 

Now, at that time, there was a Charismatic Church (Shiloh Fellowship) across town that had a reputation. These people practiced Discipleship. Yes, the dreaded Shepherding Movement. Little did I know, God had plans for me.

The Holy Spirit then told me He wanted me to leave that Lutheran Church, and join New Covenant Christian Church, formerly known as …….. Shiloh Fellowship. (See? Even in the 70’s, churches that went “bad” changed their names too.) There is nothing new under the sun. I prayed long and hard over that. Once convinced it was God, I joined New Covenant. Now, they had begun to amend some of their controlling practices, and were moving away from the practice of the Shepherding Movement, but they still had a long way to go. What I had learned while there was how “Discipleship” had been implemented, and how it damaged people’s lives. (This was useful later in PDI/SGM.) 

My (future) wife moved to the northern Virginia area and joined a newly planted church, New Covenant Christian Church (NCCC) of Reston Virginia. This church did not resemble the controlling ways of its namesake. I quickly realized that I could not live without her, and moved down and married her. Her most important qualities are that she is uncompromising in her devotion to God, and she will not take any “junk” from anybody, especially me. (And I know, as the doctrine of indwelling sin can verify, I was, and sill am, full of junk.) 

These were years of little spiritual growth for me, and I was growing increasingly frustrated with that; I wanted more. At my wife’s repeated requests, I finally agreed to visit a church that was greatly touted by friends as just the church we needed to attend. So on a Sunday in January, 1995, we checked out a PDI church, where the pastor was giving his “State of the Church Address”. (A recap of where they had come from, and where they were going.) They were Reformed, yet charismatic! “THAT’S IT!” I said.

We had found our home! 

(And the PDI/SGM journey began.) 

So we made the “jump” to that PDI church and were in the new members class, and thoroughly enjoying our new church home when we met this associate pastor (Pastor X) who was kinda goofy and quite animated. 

I had been working 2nd shift for several years; our Care Group (CG) leader began pressing me to attend CG or change jobs so I could attend. He tried to inform me that it was a requirement that CG be attended by all members, and that my growth depended on it. He even told me at one point that I should quit my job in order to attend CG. I laughed, and said that when God provides me to attend, I’ll attend. He didn’t like that. (Been there, done that, saw the Discipleship tee-shirt, and burned it.) 

At one time a little later, my wife and I were having some difficulties in our marriage, nothing terrible, but we needed some help in resolving some communication and respect issues. We met with Pastor X and he was helpful in guiding us to look at our own sin in the process of forgiving each other, which has been helpful in our marriage ever since. That was very good counseling that I still recommend to fellow believers to this day: “Humility asks questions, pride makes statements.” Pastor X was helpful to our marriage once

Around June of 1997, one day God awoke me from sleep to say (something to the affect) “I am having Pastor X plant a church out west, would you be willing to go?” or “Would you be willing to support?” 

I said Yes LORD. And went back to sleep. 

This exact exchange happened again the next day. 

I chalked it up to perhaps too much pizza before I went to bed, and did not think of it again, until……………six months later, January 1998. Apostle Y was making the announcement that he had approached Pastor X about 6 months back and asked him to plant a church in [City Name] area. 

I picked my jaw up off the floor and told my wife of my exchanges with God…..6 months prior. 

We agreed that we HAD to look into this and see what God would do. 

And so, a new adventure with God began. We were by ALL SGM (then PDI) standards not qualified to be on the church plant team. We were not financially wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, and Pastor X had a marriage problem judgment against us. We still decided to Seek First the Kingdom, (Seek God) according to Mt 6:33, We quoted this scripture to each other regularly, and watched to see if God wanted us to go, and to see if He would provide. It would take several pages to go over just how miraculously God did change our situation and moved heaven and earth to get us on the church plant team, and out to the [City Name] area. 

We were the last family to move out to plant [Church Name]. 

It was January 23rd 2000, around noon I was driving our moving truck with our belongings inside and was almost to the [State] border on the Interstate when the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “Satan is crouching in the corner of this church (you are going to) and he wants to destroy it. Be on guard.” 

I thought “Whoa! What does THAT mean?” 

God had done such a miraculous job in getting us to this point, He had a reason, and He did not say to “prevent” it, He said, “Be on guard.” He also waited until there was no turning back to tell me this. 

I pondered this in my heart, and only told my wife, until about 5 months later, when she voiced a concern to me about an attack on the church she perceived. 

I approached Pastor X, and relayed that word from the Holy Spirit, and he said something that gave me chills, and still does to this day. He said “You have nothing to worry about. Our Doctrine is too sound.” 

From that day on, I committed to serve God in whatever capacity He wanted, and remain on guard as He commanded. 

Over time, I served as the Sound Ministry Leader, and built a friendship with the Worship leader, and thought he had become my best friend, until…………… 

(By the way, our story has to be abbreviated or it would turn into a book, because of the convoluted manner in which it was handled by Pastor X and Apostle Y.) 

The CG grew, and in March 2003, an idea was exchanged to “temporarily” reduce the size by asking three couples (us and two others) to consider transferring to another care group. The three couples were chosen because of their close personal ties with each other. It was thought by leadership to be a “no brainer.” The problems began when each family was approached separately, and slightly different versions of the story (request) was given with instructions for us (the three couples) to meet and discuss our decision but to please hurry because our “going away party” was being planned. That looked a little presumptive to us, but when we found different versions of the request to contradict them, many more questions arose. We awaited a meeting with the care group leader to get clarification on what was looking like a controlling lack of grace coming from leadership. (Oh by the way, a little later on Pastor X told us three couples that we were guilty of Gossip because we (as instructed) talked amongst each other.)

May 4 2003, we met with CG leader & his wife (CG leaders). There were several exchanges that lead up to this meeting between some of the other couples and the CG leaders. These exchanges caused some friction between all couples and the CG leaders so that the meeting did not go as well as expected from the CG leaders perspective. Our part in this was that because of our awareness of the offenses between the CG leaders and the other couples, we were not expecting true objectivity on the part of the CG leaders. At one point in this meeting my wife asked if he had prayed about this request and he replied sarcastically that he hadn’t fasted over it. The CG leader stated that they (he and his wife) were asked to leave CG’s on many occasions when they didn’t want to. Although the meeting was at times a little “prickly” by the end of the meeting we wanted to be “right” with the CG leader and asked if we were “OK?” A few weeks later, my wife had a “questionable” exchange with CG leaders wife and afterward asked if “we were ok?” CG leaders wife said yes, we are ok, no offences. 

After the meeting the CG leaders wife made a report to Pastor X on this meeting. She had an attitude towards one of the other women. She colored the report that one of the women had ‘corrected’ her husband. Pastor X had (apparently) an attitude towards my wife. We didn’t know how this underlying information factored in until months later, but in June it started to show itself. One thing Pastor X had said in email to all 3 couples was that WE need to ask the CG leader if there was something we needed to know or could learn from, or possibly even need to confess, in our interaction with him and his wife, after their meeting with us. But since we were at that meeting, and the CG leader and his wife were so “in the tank” in our opinion about moving people around for some whim or convenience, we essentially blew this off because my wife had already asked and confirmed that we were “OK”. Besides, we had been in Ken Sande’s book PEACEMAKER and it was clear that if THEY had an offense from something someone said or did, weren’t THEY supposed to approach the offending party? Why was Pastor X repeating that “we” need to go to “them” for some confession or smoothing over of something, that we knew nothing about? 

Also in that meeting, at one point we were asking the CG leader some questions concerning church government. He said that those questions were best asked of Pastor X. He then added: “good luck getting a meeting with him, he is so busy that he doesn’t even return my phone calls.” 

A few weeks later, I approached Pastor X after a Sunday meeting and asked him if he was being spread too thin, because I observed that he looked and acted like he had a lot on his plate. Because I was Sound Ministry leader, I asked if there was anything I could take off his plate so that he could be better served. He asked where I got that idea. I said that it was just observations and because of a comment from one of the CG leaders that he was very busy. Pastor X became slightly agitated and said that my observations were wrong and that I might consider if I am suspicious of Pastor X. I then asked if he knew that his CG leaders though this way about him. I was told to go to that CG leader to take it up with him, not Pastor X. He then went on to say that he was in contact with Apostle Y about that very topic, and that steps were being taken to re-structure the workload in the church. I told him that I was greatly relieved to hear that. I then went back to the CG leader and it was settled very quickly. There was no other conversation, and I still did not know that there was concerns that CG leaders had to talk with us about. 

June (18th) At a birthday party, Pastor X approached my wife (ALONE) and began stating to her that she was drawing conclusions without asking questions about how busy he is.  And if she has a question to ask the persons involved.  To not do that is sin. He went on to say she was wrong for being anxious about his schedule and how busy he is.  (blah blah blah.) My wife could hardly get a word in edgewise, and had to interrupt. But it was at about that point that she was looking around for me to come join/rescue her. We were both unprepared for Pastor X’s anger that he was venting towards my wife. I countered that she was not anxious, and that it was I who had simply asked him about his pace or how busy he was, so that I could serve him. After re-stating that my wife was not anxious, I started talking about how I wanted to know so that I could serve him. My wife then brought up that perhaps his men were not representing him accurately, and that they project that he is way too busy (because she new about the previous exchange with the CG leader.). Pastor X asked for specific comments and she declined at that moment because of Pastor X’s tone. So without specifics he dismissed it as my wife’s conclusions again, and that perhaps that was not what was actually said. He then wanted to know the connotation for her calling the leadership his “team” or “his guys” and was she using that in a derogatory way. We were perplexed by that, because Pastor X uses those words himself, and they do, in fact serve him by representing him in various situations, and that was simply what she meant: They are his representatives. He kept saying yes, they are, but what did she mean by that? (By the way, Prior to giving birth to our first child, my wife was a personal secretary to the president of a well-known bank on capital hill in Washington, D.C. She does know something about how people who serve a leader have a continuing task of representing that leader at all times.) 

A little later that summer, I was approached by the worship leader and told that I should email at least two other men in the church who are not close friends, and tell them my deepest sins, and ask them to hold me accountable to “kill” those sins. He went on to say that I would not rise to the next level of spirituality until I did this. 

I got a little red in the face and shook my finger in his face and told him that the only times I ever heard of “levels of spirituality” was in CULTS! . I would much rather spend my energy “seeking first the kingdom of God, and letting all other things follow”. I came on a little strong, but I take bad theological garbage like that very seriously. 

(Later, in our “Problems with Pastor X”, I discovered that Pastor X had sent this guy to deliver that exact message to me, and you can bet that Pastor X got a full report on my reply.) 

(And the fireworks began.) 

Pastor X began preaching a series of sermons about “The Evil of Mr. Tongue.”

This series seamed to be obsessed with reinforcing the standard teaching about “Gossip & Slander” In one sermon Pastor X said, and I quote “There is gossip & slander going on in this church, and I intend to kill it.” My wife and I were fairly alarmed by the force of that statement. It’s on tape; check it out if you don’t believe me. 

In another sermon in this series, Pastor X indicated that there were (I don’t recall if he mentioned specifically three couples) some couples who were in conflict with their CG leader, and said “if anybody hears that they were asked to leave the CG, it’s a lie.” My mouth dropped open, and I thought “Pastor X, we were asked to leave. You are lying, to the whole church! In a sermon called ‘The evils of Mr. Tongue’ no less!” 

In another sermon Pastor X stated that some people are accusing Pastor X’s leadership team of being “Yes-Men”. Pastor X went on, “my men are not ‘Yes-Men’, ‘Yes SIR!’ is how they respond to me!”  (I am still wondering how that does not confirm they are “yes-men.” And no, we have no idea who Pastor X was referring to. It just makes me laugh out loud when I remember it.) From June to September we observed an increasing anger from Pastor X, such that when I went elk hunting, my wife kept the kids home from church. 

It was September 7, 2003 at 12:45PM MDT when the three men (of the afore mentioned three couples) were finally able to meet with Pastor X to find out what his concerns were, because the CG leader certainly did not think that there were any concerns, or at least he did not want to tell us there were. I asked that our wives could be in that meeting and Pastor X said no. When I asked why, Pastor X said that I would understand when we were in the meeting. 

The meeting began with Pastor X waggling his finger in my face and going on in a 10-minute tirade about the sinfulness of my wife in how she had corrected a man in leadership. He kept going on and on about this terrible pattern of behavior in her life complete with a promise to take us before the church if I did not “rein in” my wife, when in my distress, I called (quietly) upon God to help me understand what was going on. (It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.) At that moment God answered my prayer with a recollection of some words from one of Pastor X’s recent sermons, “Do not ever bring an accusation against another, without specifics.” I then realized that there were no specifics in his accusations. So I held up my finger (Index finger, no birds here.) and asked him to pause a moment. I then asked if he had any specifics about my wife’s “sin”. Pastor X looked like a deer in the headlights. After a long pause, he said “No. I do not have any specifics.” And then turned to the other three men in the room who were on his leadership team and asked them if they had any specifics. They all looked around to each other shrugging and saying no, they had no specifics. (Oh did I forget to mention this was a meeting of seven men? This is important info for later in the story when I was arguing with Apostle Y about the protections offered in holding to the Matthew 18 model.) I said that I would look into this matter and get back to him as soon as I can.

Pastor X then went on to grill in similar fashion, the other two husbands who were called in with me, and discuss their wives sinfulness. I was in such shock over his accusation about my wife, I do not recall much of what he said to them, except that at the close of the meeting, I reassured Pastor X of my love and respect for him, and looked forward to bringing this issue to a Godly close. Little did I know, that in Pastor X’s eyes, that “Godly close” could only happen with my wife publicly repenting of everything he had accused her of, without specifics. By the way, how does a person ask forgiveness and repent for something that they don’t know they did, or for things framed in vagaries?

I decided that day, that my wife & kids would not return to that church if I were not there with them. We later learned that when Pastor X talked about “repenting” it was a repentance to him (Pastor X). 

It seemed that the accusations stemmed from the CG leader’s wife’s notes from the May 4 2003 meeting relating to the March 2003 initial request for us to leave the CG. After repeated requests, I finally got her to let me have a copy of her notes from that meeting so I could address the “questions” about my wife. Those notes clearly showed that the incident of the CG leader being “corrected” was one of a comment made by one of the other wives when she told him that much of the confusion and strife in our meetings were due to his lack of clarity and respect for the people involved, and that he “would be held accountable for his words.” (Ref to Scriptures here.) The CG leaders wife’s notes simply said “one of the women said…” Pastor X chose to apply those words to my wife. Everybody in that meeting knew exactly who said that. (By the way, I still have those notes.) 

So, it was now October 12, and I went back to Pastor X to set the record straight that it was not my wife, but another woman who openly admits to it, and that the GC leader and his wife would corroborate that story. I wanted to meet alone in the spirit of Mt 18. Pastor X had called over the Worship leader and the CG leader. I was a little distressed that I could not apply Mt 18 in the context of approaching my brother ALONE on my first attempt to bring his sin to him, I asked if I could speak alone and Pastor X said no. I decided that since the Worship leader and the CG leader had been in the Sept 7 meeting, I’d just proceed. After I tried to set the record straight, Pastor X apologized for surprising me on SEP 7 by not telling me in advance about what he was bringing to me. He then went on to reinforce his SUSPICION of my wife. In a long non-specific listing of how she gossips & slanders the church, I was told that I was guilty of standing by as she “ran on at the mouth.” I asked for specifics, and he said that specifics would cause for a litany of point counterpoint and that would detract from what he wanted to say. He said, “We don’t want to get into specifics of names and dates and words because that just degrades into arguments of  ‘he said, she said.’ We want to address a pattern of behavior.”  The worship leader went on to say (non specifically) how my wife has a tendency to plant pointed comments that cause people to question authority. Examples were given, and he said “So and so is on the PDG? Why isn’t [Defender] on it?” or (putting his hand on Pastor X’s shoulder) “This guy is running for Senate, and I say to the camera ‘I never said that this guy is an adulterer.'”  THAT is their definition of Gossip & Slander that they say my wife is guilty of, yet without any specific sins to repent for. At this point the Worship leader concluded his accusations by saying, “One day before the Sunday meeting had begun, I was up on the stage and looked across to the back of the room and saw your wife talking to another woman, and my heart was grieved because I just knew she was gossiping and slandering someone.” 

Pastor X then went on to say that someone had come to him to say that one of the women in our CG in question had said to a woman outside the care group that we were asked to leave the care group. That made him a “very unhappy pastor”. He is convinced that it is my wife, and when he confirms it, “that woman will repent!” He repeated that he didn’t know who it was but is sure that it is my wife. He said that he plans to talk about this in his message next week without mentioning my wife’s name. Just to let me know.

Pastor X then said that in the spirit of Titus 3:10….((NAS)  Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, “By Titus, I am supposed to warn you twice and then that’s it.

Consider this meeting as my first warning. If [your wife] says anything more after today, that’s it.” said Pastor X. “She will repent.” 

When I went home, I decided that [Church Name] was no longer a safe place for my wife and kids at all, so I chose to never take them back unless there was correction brought to the situation. Meanwhile, I asked God to show me whether this problem was local (Pastor X) or systemic (SGM). It would take 5 months of meetings and staying engaged in the “Process” before I would get that answer. 

Folks, I’m not making this stuff up! Pastor X referenced this exact quote, that the worship leader’s heart was grieved because he “just knew she was gossiping and slandering someone,” several times over the following months’ meetings, including the final meeting we had with Apostle Y. 

I have a box of documents, notes, and tape recorded conversations from this several months of conflict. Actually, much of the text in this report is copy/pasted into this report from the electronic transcripts of those notes so I can keep the story straight and use the fresh memory of those writings. I was keeping a daily journal for myself, just to keep it all-straight. 

And Yes. Tape-recorded conversations, because it was hard believe the things that were said, and I needed to listen again from time to time just to confirm, they really did say that. By the way, those tapes are my personal records, and are nobody’s business but mine. And, for those of you who are wondering, [State] law states that any conversation can be secretly recorded as long as ONE person in the conversation knows it is being recorded. That one person was always ME. (Note to SGM leaders: Be careful when you take on the “sound guy” who has a background in FBI surveillance. Heh heh.)

Some have questioned me as to why I kept those documents. They asked if was I harboring resentment? 

NO! 

I needed those notes over the following year for my sanity. All these meetings were of a similar bizarre nature. For a year after we left that church, I would still awake in a cold sweat and wonder if I had sinned, or misunderstood something or done something wrong. You see, after such an emotional conflict, your memory fades and you naturally begin to second-guess yourself, until you review the “details” and then say “Ah, I remember. It really was that bizarre.” I have not had to look into that box for over three years now, but the memory still stings. Every time I read Psalm 55, I am reminded of what I thought was a friendship with that Worship leader.

14  We who had sweet fellowship together, Walked in the house of God in the throng.

21  His speech was smoother than butter, But his heart was war; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords.

“……I just knew she was gossiping and slandering someone.” 

Two days later on October 14th, we (the three men being told to get our wives reined in) are asked to a meeting at Pastor X’s home. Now were are several other men on his leadership team also in this meeting, some were in the Sept 7th meeting, and some were not. The Worship Leader was not in this meeting. 

The meeting opened at 7 PM, in Pastor X’s basement. 

Pastor X opened the meeting and started with a lengthy description of how he would respond if anybody ever spoke to, or about (Pastor X’s wife) in a disrespectful way. I could not figure out what this had to do with the meeting, however, I was rather distressed by Pastor X’s descriptions of how he would respond with violence if any body did to his wife, (pretty much what he had done to our wives.) It was like he was throwing up some kind of cruel challenge to us men who were being made to endure, what he was describing that he would never allow to happen to his wife, as if to say that he was somehow manlier than us. (He did use words to describe exactly that, “manliness.”)

One of the other men on Pastor X’s leadership team noticed I was distressed, and asked what was wrong. I had had enough, so I said that Pastor X was wrong in accusing my wife without specifics, and then not receiving correction when I gave him specifics to indicate my proof of his error. Pastor X went ballistic! He stood up and started yelling and repeating “That’s a lie! I gave you specifics! That’s a lie!” I said “No, it’s the truth, and you said two days ago that you had no specifics and that you had no intention of bringing specifics.” This yelling match went on for about two minutes while Pastor X kept getting louder and louder. I realized that this was not going to end in anything resembling my favor because we were in Pastor X’s “territory”. 

So I backed off when Pastor X was so emphatic that he had specifics that he was going to show me “again” after the meeting. I thought, at least I will finally get those specifics I have been asking for. 

It was 1:00 AM, when everybody except us three men “on trial” had gone home, before I went into his office to get these “specifics” about my wife’s sin. 

What he then showed me was nothing more than a repeat of some vague references to 4 people who had “concerns” about my wife. I asked, what these concerns were, and Pastor X said he did not know what those concerns were, but that if I wanted specifics, I would have to go to these people and ask them. 

Everyone had gone home, Pastor X lied again, he had no specifics, and no one was there to verify this lie.

I then told Pastor X a truth I stand by to this day, that in the name of The Doctrine of Indwelling Sin, Pastor X had people seeking first to “Kill their sin“, but the last time I checked scripture, it was Jesus who said with His own mouth, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,.” I said, “Pastor X, you got it upside down.” He looked at me with that deer in the headlights look, and made no response. 

I gave him my assurance that I wanted to find the truth, and would seek to do that. We then parted with warm regards. It was then 1:30 AM and we three men who had carpooled, still had to go to our jobs later that morning. 

These types of meetings were the standard with Pastor X, that is, for meetings to go into the wee hours of the mornings with no determined end time, with one exception, when Apostle Y required an end time to one meeting. 

 [I gotta lighten this up a little.] 

Then for the next several weeks I was in this email exchange with Pastor X about bringing Apostle Y into our “conversation” because we were clearly not getting anywhere the way we were going. 

The emails went pretty much like this: 

Me: Pastor X I want a meeting with Apostle Y.

Pastor X: Why.

Me: Because we need reconciliation.

Pastor X: Why.

Me: Because you are irreconcilable.

Pastor X: Why.

Me: Just call Apostle Y will ya?.

Pastor X: Why.

Me: If you don’t by tomorrow, I will.

Pastor X: Why.

Me: Never mind, I just did. 

Shortly after I contacted Apostle Y, I tried as per Apostle Y’s instructions to have private meetings with Pastor X and then the Worship leader, but it degraded into another series of emails similar to the above comical rendition. 

Something like this: 

Me: Pastor X, I need a meeting to talk about what is true, and what is false about the allegations against my wife.

Pastor X: What do you want to talk about?

Me: I need a meeting to talk about what is true, and what is false about the allegations against my wife

Pastor X: I don’t understand. What do you want to talk about?

Me: I need a meeting to talk about what is true, and what is false about the allegations against my wife

Pastor X: I don’t understand. What do you want to talk about?

[Comedy break over.] 

Over the next several months, I had multiple phone conversations with Apostle Y.

In the opening phone call, Apostle Y acted speechless at the situation I was telling him about. But then in later calls, it became obvious that Pastor X was also talking with Apostle Y and Apostle Y was increasingly taking Pastor X’s side in the matter. I was becoming increasingly angry about this bizarre situation and soon the problem became in Apostle Y’s eyes, my anger. 

(You bet your A$$ I was angry. My wife was being falsely accused, and I was being told to roll over and let the church have their way with her. What God fearing man would not stand his ground between his bride and bizarre men who have clearly stated they want to do evil things to her? ) 

I began to call the people on the list Pastor X gave me in his office to find out what these “specifics” were. 

Person 1:

Pastor X’s reference to her “concern” was that Person 1 had observed my wife and concluded that she (my wife) was “discontent” about the church. So we called, and all four of us, me & my wife, and she and her husband, were on the phone together. When asked for specifics, she got all upset and stated that she did not want this to go as far as it did. She went on, that in a Pastors Discipleship Group (PDG), Pastor X had warned people to be on the lookout for “discontentment” in the church, as this will kill any church if not dealt with. So this woman, immediately told Pastor X that she thought she saw that happening already, and Pastor X insisted that she tell him whom it was she saw. She was reluctant at first, but finally relented and told Pastor X it was my wife.

We asked what was the incident she saw? 

A few months earlier (while Pastor X was already sorting out our GC problems) Pastor X sent out notices that he would be choosing people to be “trained up” to be leaders in the church by forming the PDG, and then in a later notice had sent out the names of people chosen. We were not on that final list. Now, I was at that time the sound ministry leader, and one of the (greatly touted by Pastor X) original church plant families, so this woman was surprised to not see our names on that list. We, on the other hand were relieved to not have to tell Pastor X “no thanks” because I was not giving another night away from my family to the church. To this woman, however, it was a great honor to have been chosen and therefore projected on my wife that she was somehow disappointed to not be chosen, (It couldn’t have been farther from the truth.) 

There is the set-up. 

Now, to what happened. 

My wife has a little hobby business where she breeds our dogs (a few pets we have in our home) and sells the puppies for a little extra grocery money. When we were still in our original PDI church, we bread our Labrador Retrievers (and placed one pup with Benny & Sherrie Phillips.) We were now branching into the new Labradoodle breed, and had bred our Chocolate Lab to a local poodle, but something had gone wrong and she had a serious internal infection. This Lab was our beloved pet and life long companion born in our bedroom back in Virginia, and now on her deathbed. She needed heroic surgery to hopefully save her. The dog went into surgery on a Saturday afternoon, and we would not know if she would survive until Sunday afternoon. 

So, it’s now that Sunday, and I am in an after church meeting for a little while, and my wife is sitting in a chair in the lobby, and quietly praying that God would save our beloved pet’s life, when this woman looks across the room and sees her and decides that she is sad because she did not get chosen for PDG, and was therefore now discontent.

For Pete’s Sake! (What’s this looking across the room and assigning motive and sin to people anyhow?) 

So, we then relayed to her what you now know, and she was so sorry and full of apologies and wanted to make it right. Her husband stepped up and said that he would contact Pastor X and set the story straight and would call me back when that happened.

Two weeks later I call him back to ask if he had called Pastor X yet. He did and was waiting to see me on Sunday, I had to tell him that we were in conflict with Pastor X and would not be back until it was resolved, so he can just pick up the phone whenever he wanted to speak with us. Anyhow, he told me that he contacted Pastor X and relayed the explanation and said that the “Discontentment” judgment was a mistake. Pastor X then told him something to the effect of “That’s too bad, because if you knew as much about her sin as I do, you would have handled it differently. I will handle it from here.”

That is the complete story on this issue, but Pastor X’s accusation that my wife is discontent came up in about every meeting we had with Pastor X, even when Apostle Y finally came to our “final” meeting. 

Person 2

Person 2 was carrying an offence against my wife and me. Instead of coming to us, she went to Pastor X. This woman is of Mexican descent, so English is a second language to her. She openly admits this as part of her explanation for her confusion. She explained that when she communicates, she hears in English, and then translates to Spanish in her head, and then her responses come to her in Spanish, and she translates them to English to speak. So, she simply misunderstood some things we said, and instead of asking for an explanation, she decided (incorrectly) what we meant, and took offense. 

When we met, it was all cleared up, she was embarrassed, we forgave her, we all laughed together, and we went on our merry way. 

We had to go and have a second meeting with her a month later after she met with Pastor X, because when she was relating to Pastor X how our meeting went, she was confused about another series of words I spoke, (did not translate correctly again) and was offended again. 

It was something like when we met, and when I corrected her to say “no that’s not what I meant, I was saying (this).” She translated that to mean, “You lied, that’s not true.” So I had to help her understand that I was not calling her a liar, but that she merely misunderstood me. 

After that second meeting, we resolved that we could not speak with this woman again under any circumstances, as long as she was receiving counseling from Pastor X. 

Person 3

Person 3 was married to a “leader” and Pastor X’s best friend, as Pastor X would say. She was also a social friend to my wife, so she was invited to a birthday dinner at a restaurant with some women in January.  My wife made a sarcastic comment about the absence of the Care Group Leader’s wife because of how frequently she was excused from attending care group. (The Care Group Leader’s wife wasn’t invited to the dinner gathering.) Later my wife said she was convicted by the Holy Spirit, in a personal private moment that she had a resentful attitude towards the GC leaders wife and sought God’s forgiveness. In October, in the midst of people being sent to us, person 3 came with her husband, and the 4 of us met and it was stated that perhaps this incident would shed light on my wife’s sin. My wife admitted the wrong attitude and repentance and then asked why it took so long to bring this “help” but Person 3 didn’t have an answer to that. 

At the end of that friendly meeting my wife talked with the Leader about sin in a church or bad leadership in a church being as dangerous as the classic story of a frog in a pot, where the heat is turned up slowly and the frog doesn’t jump out but gets cooked. This guy said confidently that that could never happen at our church. When she asked why, he said “Our doctrine is too sound.” My wife let that one sit for a minute, but in the parking lot before we left she went back to it and said, if he/we believe in the Doctrine of Indwelling Sin, doesn’t that automatically mean that we are vulnerable to the frog in the pot scenario? He said she had him on that one, and he would have to think about it. Person 3 admitted that we were discussed in leadership meetings and her husband was at the September 7 meeting, and she honestly thought her adding her perspective might help my wife in some way. 

Person 4:

This person was the Worship Leader’s wife, and said by Pastor X to have “concerns.” We asked if we could meet to clear it up and ask forgiveness if needed. She said she had no “Concerns” but would ask her husband. He had no concerns and a meeting never took place, even though Pastor X insisted that we meet, and we finally met on January 9. (He had no concerns, even though when he talks to Pastor X he “looks across the room and he is grieved…”.) 

For our second meeting with Person 2, the Worship leader was sent out to moderate that meeting. I told him “NO” that this was a Matthew 18 meeting between Person 2 and my wife and their husbands. He insisted on moderating and I said that it would be in contradiction with scripture and my conscience. Surely, I argued, he would not want me to violate my conscience, would he? And He relented on moderating our meeting, but insisted on having a meeting with person 2’s husband and me, BEFORE we all met. In that meeting, he drew out a diagram and explained that there were only a few options for my wife. She was to repent publicly, or be taken before the church and disciplined. I asked where was the proof of sin that she was to repent for? He had no proof. I stood up, pointed to the door, and said “GET OUT!” He tried to “calm me down, and I said “JUST LEAVE NOW!” I was quite angry, but also quite controlled. Person 2’s husband had no idea about the accusations Pastor X and the Worship leader had against my wife, up to that meeting. Ever since then, I was considered the one who was “out of control.” And to a point I agreed, Pastor X nor anyone was going to control my family or me. I was simply out of their control. 

I tried on several occasions to meet again with the worship leader to “try this again”, because he supposedly had several examples of my wife’s “sin”. 

We were holding out for a meeting involving Apostle Y. Apostle Y called and urged us to meet with Pastor X and the Worship leader BEFORE he would come. I told Apostle Y that I would not submit my wife to another of Pastor X’s “to the wee hours of the morning” type meetings where Pastor X breaks down into fits of rage. Apostle Y was surprised. Apostle Y called Pastor X and spoke with him for a while, and then called me back and assured me that Pastor X would have an ending time of no later than 10:00 PM and promised that Pastor X will not lose his temper this time. I said OK. 

On the 9th of January my wife & me met with Pastor X and his wife, and the worship leader and his wife to discuss my wife’s sin. We were hoping to find any specifics with any tread on them. 

In one case, when the worship leaders wife had confided to my wife that she had a problem with how Pastor X did CG. Mothers would miss 1/3rd of CG’s. She said that she was sorry for slandering Pastor X. My wife advised her and said that she didn’t think that [the worship leader’s wife] sinned, just that she was working through the questions, but was told by my wife to take them to Pastor X. By this exchange, Pastor X determined that my wife has no conviction about gossip. The worship leader, on the other hand, stated that my wife understood that she, [his wife,] was submitting to Pastor X in spite of her preferences and that was how my wife saw it. He therefore, assigned sin to my wife for not assigning sin to his wife. [This confused me then, as much as it does today. I’m not making this up! I had to study my notes for some time to be sure that I relayed it correctly here.] 

Another specific sin of my wife’s was on an occasion when she and the worship leader’s wife (WLW) were talking, and the WLW said that a certain elderly woman in the church was known as “Grandma” to all the children in the church. My wife replied that this was not true, that she was not “Grandma” to our children, because they hardly knew her, and that there was no close relationship between this “Grandma” and our family. The WLW assigned “slander” to my wife for not agreeing that this woman was known as “Grandma” to our children, even though my wife would be lying if she said such a thing. 

[One line notes from that meeting.]

Pastor X said we are guilty of lack of ownership of sin, and lack of Self Suspicion.

Pastor X said “You are AROGANT in your lack of self suspicion.”

We have a “Pattern of tearing things down.” 

In this meeting, we maintained that we answer to God and look to the Holy Spirit for conviction of sin, and would expect others to do the same in their lives. We believed that some of these “Sins” people were holding against us were merely differences in opinions. He looked at my wife and said “God couldn’t care less about your opinion!”

Pastor X also said I misrepresented him on OCT 14 (He still says that he brought specifics in that meeting.) This meeting ended at around 11:30 PM. 

Over these several months, we had several other conversations, some with Pastor X, some with others but always by his direction. My conversations with Pastor X were the most Bizarre. I became convinced in my meetings with Pastor X that “reconciliation” was not really his goal. Pastor X wanted us slapped down in our place and silenced!

I kept asking to meet in the spirit of Mt 18, but was repeatedly told “no.” 

On January 15th, Pastor X called me at my work! 

He and the Worship leader were on the speakerphone in Pastor X’s office and they began badgering me over my wife again. This phone call lasted 90 minutes. At one point Pastor X asked me why I refused to meet with the worship leader? I said that I made several attempts to meet and he refused to meet with me. Pastor X responded, “That is slander!” I had long strings of email threads pertaining to how I was trying to meet with the worship leader, and his continuous refusals. I finally was so angry I told Pastor X to not call me at my work again and hung up. Pastor X immediately called me back and began to tell me how he had never been hung up on before, and that was “sin”. At a later date when I spoke with Apostle Y, Apostle Y was also amazed at my hanging up on Pastor X, as though that was some great sin to hang up on one’s pastor. Not that Pastor X, taking 90 minutes of my employer’s time was not stealing from my employer. Human resources immediately confronted me that day as to how it is considered stealing when I spend too much private time on the phone. So I clocked out early that day, and stayed late to finish my work. 

Then at one point (it was that 90 minute phone call in my office) Pastor X said that a Mt 18 meeting needed to take place with several couples! 

Wait a minute! Several couples?! That’s not how it starts.

It starts with ONE on ONE. 

Ya know, once Pastor X preached, that if he brings “sin” to someone, and if they don’t repent IMIDEATELY, they are in rebellion. I thought, “What if the “sin” you are bringing doesn’t EXIST?” 

What if Pastor X is wrong? 

The final meeting with Apostle Y (Complete with scripture)

So in March 2004, we finally got to sit with Apostle Y and hopefully openly talk about all these accusations and air the truth and facts I had gathered. 

We were called to meet in an hotel room, in [another town], about 20 miles from the church.  The meeting was to start at 7:00 PM on Friday, and again at 8:00 AM Saturday through the day until finished. Well, I thought, at least we will have time to cover all our bases. So, I went in with ALL the documentation in electronic format on my laptop and most pertinent documentation in paper copy in my briefcase, and was ready to “do battle”, when the Holy Spirit said “Do not defend yourself, only bring Scripture.” 

(Sigh, “Okay LORD.”) 

Apostle Y opened the meeting reading from Proverbs 26.

1  Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest, So honor is not fitting for a fool.

2  Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, So a curse without cause does not alight.

3  A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the back of fools.

4  Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.

5  Answer a fool as his folly deserves, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.

6  He cuts off his own feet, and drinks violence Who sends a message by the hand of a fool.

7  Like the legs which hang down from the lame, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

8  Like one who binds a stone in a sling, So is he who gives honor to a fool.

9  Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

10  Like an archer who wounds everyone, So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.

11  Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.

12  Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. 

And then Apostle Y stopped reading and said, Do you see how this description of the fool looks so bad? And then it says how a man wise in his own eyes, there is more hope for a fool than for him? He pointed to me and said, you are that man who is wise in his own eyes, YOU are worse than a fool! And the Holy Spirit reminded me to not defend myself, only bring His word. It was very clear at that moment, that we were already condemned and this was just a formality. If I had defended myself, it would have only served to further condemn myself in their eyes. So, we sat for two days and took notes. 

I am abbreviating this meeting for the sake of the readers here. 

In the meeting was Apostle Y, Pastor X, my former friend the Worship leader, and another man who I requested to be there as an objective observer, my wife and myself. Throughout the two day meeting there was a parade of people from the church that was brought in to “testify” against us, many we had already met with before and had resolved their “concerns” but that wasn’t enough for Pastor X and Apostle Y. Some, we never knew about having any problems with. These were a surprise to us. Most of these offences were so petty; that we couldn’t believe they had harbored these offences and saved them for this meeting. Ken Sande would have been so “proud” of how well his book was used to beat us over the head. We did a lot of apologizing, and asking forgiveness in this meeting, because we considered ourselves as being before God, and wanted to truly remain humble. 

After the parade had ended, Apostle Y was bringing his summary and concluded that “[My wife’s] sin cannot be verified.” But there is still this pattern of behavior that is at issue. 

Two days of inquisition, and they could not verify that she had done anything they accused her of! What pattern? 

At one point Apostle Y finally concluded that Pastor X’s original accusation that my wife had corrected another man was wrong. Pastor X then sat forward in his chair, folded his hands and said “Would you for give me?” And before I could answer Pastor X looked over to Apostle Y and said “was that good?” (He was literally asking if his apology met with Apostle Y’s approval!) (And yes by the way, I did forgive him.) Apostle Y took it one step further. Pastor X was told to make a personal apology to each of the men present In the September 7th meeting. (Remember? 7 men!) Pastor X asked if he could just email them. Apostle Y said “No, it must be in person.” Pastor X asked if it could be a phone call. Apostle Y paused and sighed, and said that a phone call would be sufficient, but face-to-face was preferred. 

I have had limited contact with some men from that meeting, and continuous contact with others, and to this day, that I know of, no man I have had contact with has had any apology from Pastor X that he falsely accused my wife. 

So much for accountability. 

Then I was asked if I had anything to say. 

I referenced Matthew 18: 

I had repeatedly requested why Mt 18 had not been adhered to as church policy clearly stated it would be. The first time I was approached with any sin (actually my wife’s sin) it was in a room with 7 men! Apostle Y countered with his argument that we just can’t call upon Mt 18 when it favors us. He went on: Paul did not cite Mt 18 in Acts 20, or in Galatians 2 when there were conflicts. Therefore I cannot fall on Mt 18 as my protection in conflict brought upon me by SGM! Excuse me? While he was arguing this, I quietly looked in my study bible (in my lap) and noticed that the book of Matthew was written AFTER those other two books were written. How could Paul cite something that had not yet been written? I thought, “What kind of stupid argument is that anyhow?” 

This man is officiating as one of the apostles of this organization! 

Secondly

I said, that one of the recurring themes in our string of meetings was that Pastor X was not satisfied in that I was not willing to submit to the church for my sanctification, but that Pastor X insists that sanctification comes from the brothers and leadership in the church, and oh yah, the Holy Spirit too. 

I stand firmly that the Holy Spirit IS our Sanctifier. PERIOD! 

I cited Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will complete it…..” Apostle Y said, And I quote “That verse has NOTHING whatsoever to do with Sanctification, but that Paul was referring to a certain un named man in that church who had started a building project or something to that effect, and that the people were concerned that God would call that man away before the project was complete.” Apostle Y went on to say that we (my wife and I) “were too dependent on the Holy Spirit.” 

Too dependent on the Holy Spirit? 

My prayer would be that every believer be accused of such a “crime”. 

Was Apostle Y willing to “hamburger Scripture” like that in order to maintain his position that I was worse than a fool because I was “right in my own eyes”? 

This man is officiating as one of the apostles of this organization! 

Pastor X chimed in at this point to say that he and others were constantly trying to show us our sin, and that our over dependence on the Holy Spirit was preventing us from sanctification and stated at one point that it was unfortunate that he (Pastor X) was not the Holy Sprit or we would be more sanctified. Pastor X’s words were “Regretfully, I’m not the Holy Spirit.” (That comes dangerously close to Blasphemy in my book.) 

I actually have an mp3 recording of Pastor X saying something very similar in another meeting. “I love to be the Holy Spirit, and I am awful at being the Holy Spirit.”

I had my answer! It was Systemic! From the top down. 

That is, if CJ Mahaney knows about this, and does nothing, he (CJ) is guilty too!

If CJ Mahaney is a leader at the same, or higher level of authority as Apostle Y, and knows nothing about this, where is his (Apostle Y’s) oversight? 

Who holds Apostle Y accountable? 

Who holds CJ accountable? 

Or what is (was) Apostle Y hiding from CJ? 

In my opinion, the biblical doctrine of indwelling sin is a valid teaching, however, SGM has turned it into a church-wide hunt for sin between believers that has people knocking each other around with the logs sticking out of their faces. 

To those who are still in SGM churches, it may not be too late. It’s time to “grow up” and fall on your faces before God and understand the word of God. 

We as Christians are called by God to DISCERN! 

You who remain in SGM churches will stand before God someday and give an answer to HIM for your discernment, or lack thereof. 

OBEY GOD! Not men. 

I have spent the last 5 years healing from the hurt of being mistreated by what I thought were friends and people I could trust. Although I had to deal with my anger in the beginning, I am now, and have since been deeply concerned for Pastor X’s, Apostle Y’s, and the worship leader’s eternal status, as well as everybody else back at that church. 

I keep hearing Jesus’ words,

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’

“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (NASB) 

I pray for them regularly, and hope that they will eventually repent to God and return to “the fold”. Back when we arrived to plant this church, Pastor X presented my wife and me with two ceramic mugs with the church logo and slogan on them as a gift. I have now committed to drink my coffee each Sunday morning from one of those mugs and remember what happened, and to remember that there are people who are gathering to worship something that I believe is another gospel

We are warned in several places in scripture that false teachers will arise among us, and by my observation and experience, this is one of those times. 

There is nothing new under the sun.

© 2009, Kris. All rights reserved.