Tag Archives: Sovereign Grace

Mahaney Has No Clothes!

14 May

Excellent re-cap of all the lies and mistruths concerning CJ Mahaney, Josh Harris ,and the whole pastoral staff at Sovereign Grace’s former flagship church-Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, MD.
In short-they knew about sexual crimes committed against children and they did nothing, covered it up, and allowed a pedophile to exit their church and continue to abuse children for another 20 years. So much for all that Apostolic oversight they used to brag about…

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Pastors, Porn, and the Myth of the Moral High Ground

19 Mar
Billy Sunday (1861-1935)

Billy Sunday (1861-1935) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since leaving the Christian faith, one of the questions that has yet to be answered for me is this…

“Why is God so bad at making people good?”

I say this without malice or tongue in cheek.  I say it as someone who was drilled with the idea that a relationship with Jesus and knowledge of God’s word led to a Godly and abundant life.  But I found this to not be true.  For all the talk of morality and the need to make a stand as Christians, especially on issues of sexual purity, the Christian church is full of failure and hypocrisy on issues it proclaims as central to Godly living.

According to Ben Witherington, in a post on pastors and porn, over 50% of all pastors admitted to using internet porn.  Many of these same men (and sometimes women) are proclaiming changed lives and moral living, and yet they can not practice what they preach.  They are just as human and just as interested in human sexuality as the guy next door.

Shaming Those Who Admit It

When I managed a Christian bookstore, I saw firsthand the awkward and heavy-handed way that many Churches dealt with those who admitted to viewing porn.  In one instance, a customer of mine was fired as a worship leader when he confessed that he regularly viewed porn.  He confessed to the elders of the church, and in return for his honesty,  was fired and shamed until he left the church in humiliation.  Not to mention, the shame and embarrassment that surrounded his wife and kids once the gossip, I mean prayer chain, kicked into full swing.

In a twist of irony, about a month after he was run out of the church, I discovered that my boss was using the computers at my Christian Bookstore to view internet porn.  It was ironic, because he was one of the elders of the church that fired this guy.  When I confronted him about the porn pop-ups on the computer, he pretended not to know what I was talking about.  When I showed him the viewing history and the porn images that would upload, he still did not confess.

I went home that night and wrote him a letter, telling him that I knew he had been using the computers for porn.  I also told him if that he didn’t come clean, I would go to the elders of his church and report my concerns.  Within seconds of reading my letter, he was fearfully confessing his porn usage and practically begging me to not tell the elders at his church.

I really had no desire to put him through the ringer, considering he already had told his wife and would only face condemnation from his church.  I accepted his apology and let the whole matter pass.

The Moral Low Ground

I won’t belabor my point, but when it comes to sexual purity, as defined by Christian morals, the church in America has absolutely no moral authority.  The amount of hypocrisy concerning sex, porn, etc…is almost laughable.  But it’s not funny, because the church, while holding the average Christian to extremely high moral standards, and condemning those who fail, often times allows its leaders to wallow in the moral low ground in their own lives.

In my own life,my best friend’s wife committed adultery with a worship leader at my old SGM church.  He was soon divorced, but the worship leader convinced his wife to  get marriage counseling outside of SGM so he could maintain his “Godly” image and continue leading worship.

There was another friend who led worship and eventually became pastor in the Vineyard.  He was a regular user of internet porn and seemed to just give up at trying to overcome it.  So much for the Spirit filled life.

I could list a dozen more, but you get the point.

The hypocrisy of so many church leaders telling people to do one thing while being unable to follow their own advice is staggering.  And until the church quits condemning those who do not follow their views on sexuality, this hypocrisy will contine to erode any shred of credibility it may of had in our culture.

The myth of the moral high ground has been shown for what is, a Christian ideal that is not followed by those who supposedly are leading others  to it.

Musicman Part 2-The Church Plant Years

14 Nov

You can read the first post here.

Next Update-The Church Plant Years….

Ok-so my wife and I had our first baby on the way- when it was announced at church, that our best friends at our SG church would be leading a church plant to a mid-sized city in the mid-west. We were very excited for them, and spent a week talking about signing up for the plant. We genuinely loved these guys and I thought the husband would make a decent pastor, if he showed the same type of love to others that they shared with us. My wife and I also felt like our new marriage and involvement with our larger church was good, but had led us away from being able to share the gospel and befriend anyone outside of our church circle. I think we even agreed ,that we were both feeling dry spiritually and wanted to be used more by God in building his kingdom-we thought this would be a perfect step towards doing just that. We shared our desire to go and we were given the green light to pursue being a part of “the team”.

In general, there was a lot of enthusiasm and much earnest prayer with the team of folks that began to consider making the journey. It was exciting to be with like-minded people, risking life as we knew it to launch out in to something new-all with the hope that a new church would be born that would live out the vision of Godly community in our new city. And we would get to be part of it all-not just spectators or Olympic style applause meters-no, we’d be actual participants in God’s chosen vessel, the local church. And we were truly excited about it!

But there were other happenings that began to serve as red flags to what we were about to experience. One of the couples considering coming was told that they could not come on the plant. It was obvious there was much tension, but few details were given. I just happened to know the husband of the couple from care group, so I was aware of the sending church “intervention”. They were eventually given the go ahead at the last-minute and went west with us. More on this later…

Another thing happened, there was a subtle shift in our relationship with the couple leading the plant. We were still friends, but they began to speak more about how we’d have to submit to them. My wife also began to feel a growing disconnect with the person she knew the future pastor’s wife to be, and how she (the pastor’s wife) began to carry herself and speak to my wife. I just chalked it up to some nervousness and the couples reactions to being in a more prominent leadership position. “New Leader Mistakes” is what I’d say to my wife, to calm her growing doubts. I assured her that any differences would be worked out because of the way SG desired to work things out orderly and relationally. It became especially hard for my wife-I’ll explain.

My wife began to have doubts about the church plant and was feeling more distant from this future pastor’s wife. But at the same time she was asked to speak at a special ladies event-which was set up to honor the new pastor’s wife. She was asked to please speak at the end of the event about how God had used this woman and their friendship. My wife agreed, only after I convinced her to speak about the past grace and not to worry about the current state of the relationship. She eventually “submitted” to my leadership and agreed to speak. When I picked her up after the event-I asked how it had gone. She said it was a very frustrating night for her because she felt like she had been a phony. I asked her what she meant. She replied that another pastors wife kept praising my wife’s friend, about how much God was using her and especially how wonderful to see “such good friends” now joining together in this amazing endeavor, to church plant together. My wife then got up and read her honest appreciation for all this woman had done and how much she meant to my wife-the only reason it really got to my wife-is that it hit her during her homage to her friend, that they were truly growing apart and my wife felt like a total phony for pretending that things were still as they used to be. She said many women came up to her afterwards and heartily encouraged her about being “such good friends” and how good it was to see “such good friends” going off to do ministry together. It truly became the buzz catch phrase after that night-it must’ve been said to me 100 times from my pastors and lay people alike.

Besides some of the red flags-we pushed ahead. As the target launching out date neared, we were constantly praised for what we were about to do. At one point our Senior Pastor had called us (the church plant team) on stage. He pointed to us and said we were his heroes of the faith. In our final weeks before leaving the sending church we had meetings with pastors, church leaders-it all seemed so important-like we were going on an Apollo mission or something. We were warned that they’re might be trouble ahead-but not to worry-the home church would never leave us nor forsake us. They would always be available and especially to resource our new pastor-who would lead and guide us thru these truly exciting and amazing times. I know some of you are thinking that I’m being too flip-but I need you to understand that it was such a heady type of atmosphere that surrounded the sending out of this team. It truly felt like we were on a mission from God-historymakers, pioneers, spiritual heroes were some of the praises that all of us on the team were told.

Finally, the day comes, the final cut of those who not only had a desire, but actually quit jobs, found new ones, said goodbye to friends and family and moved out to plant a new church. My new pastor preached with passion about the city we were moving to-the racial reconciliation that would occur, the lives that would be touched, the desire to preach the gospel, and be a new testament local church. Special songs were sung, prayers prayed, and a total of 3 couples and a handful of single folks in their 20′s launched off……..

After the long drive and moving everyone in to our new locale-the adventure began. After about a week into my new job, someone familiar with the fact that I had moved to be a part of a new church, asked me about the town we planned to meet in. I told him all about our vision to preach the gospel, be a multi-cultural/ multi-racial church and told him where we were located. He practically laughed at me when I told him the town. He laughed because he didn’t know how we were going to do all those great multi-cultural out reach ministries in an almost all white, upper class suburb that was called “the bubble” by those who lived there. I was slightly shocked and asked another church plant member if he knew about “the bubble”. He said he did and that it was true (he had grown up near by).

Other things began to happen as well-we began doing “outreach” in the neighborhoods. We passed out free cofee and flyers about our church in front of a drug store. We passed out batteries in another nearby neighborhood (for peoples’ fire alarms) and offered an invite to our church -as we awkwardly explained why a brand new church, with no affiliation to the local fire department, was passing out batteries and offering spiritualized reminders about fire safety. It was so weird. What was even weirder is that we were calling this evangelism and spending an inordinate amount of time obsessing with our outreaches and upcoming new church. We rented a table at a local outdoor grocery market and passed out flyers about our new local church. We all had to sign up and do our time at the table. As I remember-there was a lot of bickering over whether or not we should have some sort of gospel tract made available at the table. After much infighting between a few of us-I think our pastor agreed mid-day to have chic tracts or something to that extent on the table. Whew-I’m sure you can all imagine how inviting we must have seemed with all our wrangling over whether or not to have gospel tracts at our “grocers” table. As I write this-I’m still amazed at how absurd so much of this actually was and that I spent months being a part of this nervous energy.

Well the official launch day came-after month’s of prayer, music practices (I was one of the worship leaders), and evangelistic outreaches as described above-we held our first service. But it didn’t go totally as planned. At the last minute-the building we were going to rent changed their mind and pushed us back a week. Not to worry-we could not cancel because of all the new folks that might come from our evangelism and batteries. It was decided that our first meeting would be held at someone’s house instead-and a few scouts would go to the advertised meeting spot to direct the newcomers to the proper location.

Another detail-since we’d been prepared to set up chairs and full sound system for the worship band in the rented building-we stayed on track and set up around 40 chairs and a full sound system in this person’s house (no joke). Besides being very labor intensive-it was also extremely cumbersome to have a full-blown worship band (and sound system) crammed into our friends new home in “the bubble”.

We anxiously waited for our scouts to arrive with all the new people. But here’s the strange thing-nobody ever showed up at the advertised meeting place. But instead of packing things up or scaling back for the 12 or so adults-our new leader launched us into a full-fledged church service patterned after our sending church (whose attendance was over 500 people). We passed out printed programs, the worship band played, we had feedback that caused everyone to go temporarily deaf, we even had our pastor turn over the announcements to another worship leader and we all were instructed to continue speaking in the microphones for the service. The worship leader had originally planned to give a welcome to guests-but since there weren’t any, he thought he’d skip it. Oh no-our pastor instructed him to go thru the whole deal. You know-”Is anybody here for the first time, if so, we have a packet just for you, if you’d just stand so the ushers can see you….”

And then our pastor launched into a 30 minute sermon about the church (and it was obvious he had geared it towards visitors)- it was absolutely insane

Not that what we actually did was insane-just that we were “pretending” there might be visitors, that we were “pretending” we were still in a rented auditorium and not in someones house-thus the need to speak to all 6 people in the cheap seats with a microphone. Never mind we were only 5 feet apart-why let reality set in? “Pretending” that this was what we had signed up for…….I could go on. It was one of the more “twilight zone” moments of my life.

But as my title suggests, this was just the start…………to be continued.

The Stories…Shedding Light on Sovereign Grace’s Abuses

24 Oct
Scales of Justice Brisbane Courts-1=

Scales of Justice Brisbane Courts-1= (Photo credit: Sheba_Also)

I’ve had a huge uptick from folks searching for more information about Sovereign Grace Ministries and the lawsuit filed against current and former pastors (including CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak).  The lawsuit alleges that sexual abuse of children was covered up and not properly reported to the police and to the churches.  Many that read here are very familiar with the alleged abuses and the years of stories of heavy handed abuse and deception by SGM leaders.

To an outsider, who might only know of CJ Mahaney and Josh Harris as Christian authors/speakers, it can be intimidating to understand the unique culture and abuses that have occurred over the decades.  I would like to recommend a  link that may help you understand the types of abuses that have occurred and why SGM is now being sued.

Kris, over at SGM Survivors, has a  link called The Stories.  It is a huge compilation of stories from past members of Sovereign Grace and the abuses they endured.  The document is equivalent to a 140 page PDF file and has years of posts from former pastors, small group leaders, worship leaders, average church goers, and children that grew up within the Sovereign Grace family of churches.

This link alone should give anyone a pretty good idea of just how deep and wide the problems of abuse have dogged Sovereign Grace, because of their cultic view of pastoral authority.

As a side note, I wrote 3 posts for SGM Survivors back in 2008.  They are included in this link under Musicman’s story.  Musicman is the handle I’ve used at SGM Survivors since I began posting back in the fall of 2007.

I actually hadn’t read the posts I had written in a couple of years and will post them here at the Christian Agnostic over the next few days.  It may be of interest to some of my readers, since these posts were written a few years before losing my Christian faith.

Regardless, it is the true story of the abuses I saw and endured during my time in SGM.

Until next time….

Story of Child Abuse from the Mothership of SGM-featured at Exchristian.net

3 May

exCLCer has posted her story of abuse at the hands of two pastors from CLC.   For those not familiar with Sovereign Grace Ministries, CLC (Covenant Life Church) was the founding church of the cult.  One of the founding pastors is CJ Mahaney, author and speaker in many of the new Reformed conferences.  CLC’s current  pastor is Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

I attended SGM churches for almost a decade, including a brief period at CLC in Gaithersburg, MD.

I’ll let her story speak for itself:

http://new.exchristian.net/2012/05/losing-faith-gaining-facts-my-story-of.html

How Smart People Get Sucked into Cults

14 Apr

I was a few months into my new job and really enjoying my position and co-workers.  I was taking a quick break and jumped on a computer in the break room to check email.  After checking email, I decided to click over to the SGMSURVIVORS board for current and former member of the cult I used to be a part.  I was just about to wrap it up when one of my newest co-workers came up and enthusiastically asked what I was reading.   AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!  Do I just kinda fudge it and say nothing while I quickly close the page?  Or do I just tell the truth?

I hesitated and she asked “What?”-you know, the kind of one word question that says “did I just say something wrong to you” sort of what.

I breathed deep and said, “I was checking on a Survivors blog  for former members of an abusive church I used to attend…..a cult.”

My co-worker looked surprised and said “But you’re smart, how did you end up being a part of a cult?”  Without getting too deep into the details, I explained that I was raised Christian, and while at college I attended some churches to try to stay involved with my faith.  Unfortunately, I ended up at a church that seemed so friendly and nice at first;  but after being involved for years, came to realize that they would suck people into their relational network, only to threaten to take it away if you dared to disagree with church leadership.

It took me years to admit it….but it’s true.  I was part of a cult.  And you know why it took me years to admit it…pride.  You see, only gullible and naive people get sucked into cults, right?  I mean, if I admit that I was part of a cult, than what does that say about me?  That I’m gullible and naive, of course.  And what intelligent person wants to admit that there a sucker…I certainly didn’t.

Emotional Creatures Are We

The experience of getting sucked into a cult has taught me something-we are emotional creatures first, rational creatures only when forced to change.  This is a generalization of course, but I think it holds true and is why thinking people get caught up into cults.

From my experience, I can look back now and see how the church I attended would Love Bomb visitors and then exploit the relational needs or vulnerabilities of these folks.  They would draw their new-found recruits into a deeper relational network composed of only members of the church.  Once someone became intertwined in the church, that’s when the additional demands (both doctrinally and practically) would be trotted out.  At this point, I am forced to make a choice.  Do I reject this new doctrine/demand and risk losing  my new-found relationships, or do I try to make a go of it so that I can continue to enjoy the relationships that I now depend on for support and self-worth?

It’s this exploitation of our emotions that makes leaving a cult so hard.  It hurts like hell, in fact.  All of the sudden, people you thought you could depend on are treating you like you’re a criminal.  Or acting as if you don’t exist anymore.  All the while, you thought you were building relationships to last a lifetime, only to see them washed away in one fell swoop.

It’s then that you realize that all the phone calls, the meals when you were sick, the invites to hang out as couples all hinged on you being a part of the “best church” since the New Testament was written; maybe even better.  Now that you’ve voiced some concerns, or pointed out an area where they do not practice what they preach, you become “persona non grata”.

And that’s it in a nutshell.  It almost doesn’t matter what the particulars of the belief system are.  It’s the fact that you will be punished through your relationships, with cruel efficiency and forethought by people you love.  It’s this threat of relational banishment that holds current members in fearful check, while those being banished find themselves overboard and drifting on a sea of emotional turmoil and confusion.  Have I mentioned it hurts like hell?  Well just in case you missed it, it hurts like hell.

Christianagnostic featured on The Wartburg Watch

23 Mar

Until The Wartburg Watch is back online. You can view my post here.

 

The good folks at The Wartburg Watch have asked me to share my deconversion from the Christian faith.  You can click here to read the post and the discussion that is ensuing:

http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/03/22/my-deconversion-a-former-sgm-music-leader-leaves-the-faith/

The Wartburg Watch is a Christian Site that discusses current issues facing the church.  I began reading and posting at TWW under the name of doubtful, as I was questioning my faith.  I still comment there from time to time, even though I no longer believe.  Dee (one of the moderators of TWW) emailed me with the idea to share my deconversion.  She has written an intro, explaining the reason  it is important for Christians to hear the stories of those who have left the Christian faith.

Dee and I do not agree on the Christian faith, but she has my respect.  My sincere thanks to The Wartburg Watch for the chance to tell my story to a primarily Christian audience.