Dear SGM Defender…

August 3, 2009 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Dear SGM Defender,

Thanks for your message.  I appreciate that you took the time to write and express your concerns about this site.

First of all, I would like to clarify something:  my husband and I are NOT “bitter” against SGM.  We did NOT have a bad SGM experience.  We continue to plod along with this site because as members of the larger body of Christ, we are concerned about the many stories of abuse that have been (and continue to be) brought to our attention since we put up our first non-committal posts back in November of 2007.

Secondly, while I’m very glad that your own time within your SGM church(es) has been so great, and that you haven’t seen any of the abuses recounted on this site, your personal satisfaction with SGM simply does NOT negate what has happened to others.

But I do understand your confusion.

Your experience has been nothing but positive. Yet here you’re reading about others who have gone through some horrendous stuff at the same place where you’ve seen nothing but good.  How is that possible?

The way I look at it, there are a few explanations.

The first explanation is the one that is the most tempting to believe, which is that everyone here is simply misrepresenting the truth.  Note, I didn’t say out-and-out lying, but “misrepresenting the truth,” which can take on many nuances.  One of those, of course, IS lying.  It’s possible that these stories are fabricated.  Another of those nuances would be that if we heard the pastor’s side of the story, we would somehow understand his actions and support them.  Or perhaps we’re not hearing the full truth.

But while I fully acknowledge that this could be the possibility in some of the stories from unhappy ex-SGMers, the reality – as we’ve already discussed – is that this explanation simply does not make any logical sense for all the stories.

Second explanation for the mind-bending idea that while your time in SGM has been nothing but edifying, others have experienced great pain there: your SGM church is different, and these problems don’t manifest themselves there.

This explanation does have a lot going for it.  And I’m going to grant that it’s possible.  Definitely, from my perspective, it does seem like certain SGM congregations have more issues than others.  Off the top of my head, I can think of a half-dozen SGM locations that seem to come up way more frequently than others.

And yet after doing this site for more than a year and a half, I can say that I’ve pretty much heard from folks at just about every SGM church out there.  Right when I’ll think that there IS the exception, someone will send me an email and I’ll realize that SGM’s issues have leached into that location as well.

Third explanation:  these problems within SGM have all been addressed in recent years, and the stories are all old.

Well, while there is a bit of truth to this – that some of the stories here are from years ago – I can say that from my perspective, the only thing that has really changed is that SGM leaders have learned how to avoid the more obvious (i.e. potentially legally damaging) pitfalls of abusing their authority.  The organization as a whole has also stepped away from openly teaching their cultural expectations.  And when they do venture into specifics (such as the teaching about how to choose your child’s education), they are very careful to issue lots of disclaimers…even as there is virtually no way that a spiritually sensitive person could come away from the teaching with anything but the main point that the pastor was really intending to make.

So yeah, on the surface, there have been some changes, many of these for the better.  Especially if you’re someone who just sort of goes with the flow and basically follows the SGM lifestyle ideals in the first place, you’ll probably encounter leadership that’s less intrusive and controlling than in past years.

Fourth possibility for why you personally haven’t seen anything like the abuses you’ve read about here:  you’ve just not been alert enough to notice it.

I tend to think that this is one of the more likely explanations.  I mean, think back over the years and remember the various folks who have left your church.  First of all, do you know why they left?  Have you spoken to them about why they’re no longer there?  Did you sense that they shared their full stories with you?  Do you even keep in touch with them now that they’re not part of your SGM church?  What have your leaders said about why such-and-such left?  Those might be some interesting questions to pursue.

Fifth possibility:  you haven’t personally witnessed abuses from your SGM authorities because you have never persistently pursued a different view or opinion than that of your pastors.  This one can actually work in tandem with the fourth possibility.  Some folks never see anything negative within SGM because they’re both sort of oblivious (they don’t want to ask the hard questions) and they simply have personalities that fit in really well with SGM’s culture.  They don’t make waves…and (more importantly) they don’t have any “messy” needs for their pastors to address.  They already have a handle on how to lead productive lives, so they incorporate SGM’s teachings and practices into the successful stuff they’re already doing, and it works beautifully.

Sixth possibility, which, again, can work together with explanations four and five:  you simply have not entered into SGM’s world deeply enough to absorb the additional definitions and layers of meaning that accompany typical Christian terminology.  You think SGM’s stock phrases mean just what they’d mean in any other Christian context.

Seventh possibility:  you’ve simply been totally duped by your leaders.

As you might guess, I do not believe that this seventh explanation works for the vast majority of SGM defenders.  What goes on within SGM is simply far more nuanced than blatant deception.  SGM really does work well for a good percentage of its members, and it’s highly unlikely that they’re all just “duped.”

So, dear SGM defender, I have no idea where your experience fits in this list of potential explanations.  But I do understand the confusion this site causes in otherwise happy SGM customers.  It’s definitely a conundrum.



© 2009, Kris. All rights reserved.