Questions For SGM Survivors…

December 10, 2010 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

What would you say if you discovered that you had been the subject of a “confidential” email conversation among the top brass of Sovereign Grace Ministries?

What would you think if you learned that in that email chain, the commenters and readership here were referred to as a “small group of embittered people”?

What are your thoughts about the following statement, something purportedly said by one of SGM’s top guys:

I think there are many reasons why it is unwise and harmful to reference the blogs.

And then there’s this, from another leader:

I think it would be helpful to accent the vindictive attitude of the people writing the blogs, not the blogs themselves.  The blogs have simply made us aware that there are people who are out to “take Sovereign Grace down.”  It’s what they might do with this story that makes it of concern. i.e., take it to newspapers, spread it around the internet, etc.

What would you say if you discovered that that same leader – and keep in mind, SGM pastors have always maintained that they do not read here – also said this:

I think we should give as little credibility to those blogs as possible and not interact with them directly.  The more I’ve read, the more I’ve become persuaded that while helpful initially, they are ultimately unhelpful in resolving real issues.

What would your response be to the following statement from another of SGM’s top men:

I don’t think we should plan gospel strategy based on what a [Kris says: in reference to blog commenters] small group of embittered people might do.  

How about this one:

I strongly agree with C.J. that we should not give the blogs a prominent role.  I would not want to leave the impression with any of these folk (nor set them this example) that we are sensitive to the blogs, responding to them, that they are influencing us and determining our response and timetable and decisions—in short, any kind of reference that gives them credence, authority, or makes them a significant factor in our plans.

I know what my own reactions are to these statements from the leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

First of all, I think it’s quite revealing that their own words show that these guys do indeed view the promotion (and, more importantly, the protection) of Sovereign Grace Ministries as “gospel strategy.”  I’ve said for a long, long time that one of the most troubling aspects of SGM is that they see their church-planting activities – where they send out groups of transplanted people to (typically) well-to-do suburbs where there are already plenty of Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming churches – as “promoting the gospel.”  Indeed, SGM doesn’t really engage in any other “missionary” endeavors, aside from creating and supporting more SGM churches.  This fact has been vividly illustrated by how, at some churches, monies donated to “missions” funds have been used to pay for expenses relating to building funds and church facilities, under the reasoning that the “local SGM church” IS “missions.”

And now we have a statement straight from one of SGM’s leaders in which he distinctly refers to SGM-promoting activities as “gospel strategy.”  It’s obvious that within these leaders’ minds, “the gospel” has become all tangled up and confused with the particulars of Sovereign Grace Ministries. 

That’s some fascinating stuff.

You know what else is fascinating to me?  That these guys believe we are “actively looking” for SGM’s problems…and that I (as moderator of one of the blogs) am trying to “take down Sovereign Grace Ministries.”

Dudes.  Really. 

Three years ago, I tossed up a random blog into cyberspace, one of literally millions of blogs.  The only thing I was looking to do was provide a home for some interesting comments that had been made on another site, comments that alluded to pieces of SGM’s history that had seemed to disappear from record.  I also shared a bit about our family’s own SGM experience, one that was not bad, not harmful, and had certainly never done anything to cause us to become “embittered.”  I realize that this is no doubt hard for such controlled, deliberate, and intentional types to believe, but I had no real plans and certainly no ambitions for the site.  I was stunned, actually, to learn that my vague impressions during our time at our SGM church had been accurate and that there indeed were reasons to believe that SGM promoted a controlling and authoritarian approach to the Christian life.

The funny thing is that what really confirmed SGM’s weirdness for me was interacting with the people who came around to defend SGM.  After awhile, it got to be glaringly obvious that the SGM thought system causes people to lose their ability to think and to reason and makes them unable to acknowledge the reality of what their own eyes and ears are seeing.

Naturally these things – hearing all the stories of SGM experiences that did not end well or turned out to be downright abusive, as well as interacting with current members who so clearly feel threatened when people question their denomination family of churches – caused my opinion of SGM to undergo a change.  I quit being ambivalent and unsure about SGM and began to believe that there are serious foundational flaws in the way that Sovereign Grace churches are governed, and in the way that members are trained to unthinkingly copy and follow their leaders, obeying and submitting to them with no reciprocal formal accountability.

But I did not start out with those beliefs.  And I have never – and I repeat never – wanted to “take SGM down.” 

(With all the stuff people have shared with me over the past three years, if “taking Sovereign Grace down” had been my goal, don’t those guys understand that it probably would have happened by now?)

No one here is “vindictive,” either.  It’s not “vindictive” to want an organization to own up to the truths of where it came from, what it has done, and what it continues to do and promote.  It’s not “vindictive” to provide a forum where people can warn others by sharing what they themselves have experienced.  It’s not “vindictive” to examine public teachings and see if they hold up against what the Bible says…and to point out obvious leaps in logic and self-serving twistings of scripture.

If anyone – or anything – is going to “take down Sovereign Grace Ministries,” it will be the refusal of its own leaders to openly and publicly own up to their mistakes, missteps, and sins.  It will be the refusal of its own leaders to acknowledge all the odd things they have taught over the years (like, for example, C.J. Mahaney’s own blanket condemnations of the mental health profession) that were in fact wrong.  It will be the apparent inability of its leaders to treat SGM members – present and former – as “joint heirs in Christ,” as brothers and sisters in the Lord worthy of just as much honor and respect as they believe themselves to be.  It will be the ghastly reality of their deceived and wacked-out ideas about their own authority and power.  And their obvious belief in their ability (and right) to control what people think, know, and say about Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Nope.  SGM doesn’t need me (or any of “the blogs”) to “take them down.”  Their own paranoid and deceptive and controlling thinking and behavior will do more destruction to Sovereign Grace Ministries than any blogger – “embittered” or not – could ever do.

© 2010, Kris. All rights reserved.