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My Thoughts Lately

[Today I came out of my lurkerdom to post a comment in the previous thread. After I wrote it, I realized that it might make a good stand-alone post. I've been MIA here for the past several months, partly because I lead a very busy life with many responsibilities, and partly because I just haven't felt that interested in the topic of Sovereign Grace Ministries, at least in the way the discussions have been happening here lately. My comment sort of explains why, and it also gives some insight into where I feel things are heading here. Here goes:]

For the record, I utterly hate it when questions of basic Christian doctrine arise here and then it becomes the general consensus among commenters that no doctrine matters since those teachings were upheld by leaders and churches that ended up being abusive.

Yes, it’s true, churches abuse. It’s true that the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries have mishandled and mistreated many people through their organization’s own peculiar blend of hyper-authoritarian teachings and pastors-as-mediators with little formal training and zero formal accountability to their congregations. That combination was (and in some cases still is) particularly lethal.

But it’s also true, like it or not, that the Bible gives us some pretty straightforward assertions about Jesus and what we need to believe about Him in order to be viewed by God as “on His side” (and not lost, not condemned to an eternity in hell). I find it really troublesome when the conversation moves from calling out SGM’s peculiar twistedness and abuses of various Christian doctrines to trash-talking the doctrines themselves. I don’t really want any part of an environment where it’s suddenly not OK to hold firmly to certain Bible-based beliefs just because others who held firmly to those beliefs mishandled them and used them as a smokescreen to hide their own self-serving agendas.

I’ve actually been thinking over the past several months that it might be time to close comments here. It remains true that SGM as it has been in its various iterations over the past few decades has been a dysfunctional mess craftily masquerading as “doing church right.” I do not believe the dysfunction will ever be fully addressed until the pastors who were raised up in the dysfunctional system repent of how they came to power and change their church governance structures to officially incorporate input from ordinary members. I do think there will continue to be a need for the free discussion of SGM’s issues until this visible repentance happens. (It’s not enough for a church to merely withdraw from the SGM organization, hold some coffee klatches, slap a new label on itself, and think it has charted a new course. The way almost all pastors came into their leadership positions is still rotten at its core, and until that is addressed and until the root issue of lack of accountability to ordinary members is dealt with, the church will still remain SGM. To put it like the familiar saying, you can take the church out of SGM, but it’s not so easy to take the SGM out of the church.)

But this nonsense of wholesale-condemning everything SGM has ever taught just because SGM taught it has got to stop. Likewise, it is not at all healthy or fruitful for people to build an identity upon having been abused, rather than upon having been redeemed by Jesus Christ. Since the past 6 or 8 months have been something of a “slow news cycle” with respect to SGM’s bigger, more public issues, the conversations here have frequently devolved into something that just, well, makes me tired and (for lack of a better way to put it) feels wrong in my spirit.

My heart still breaks for anyone whose walk with God has been damaged or derailed by spiritual abuse…but at some point, it’s time to stop harping on the abuse and start praising God for who He is and for what He has done and continues to do. My heart still beats faster and I still get angry when I hear about the horrible fruit that comes from the abuse of various doctrines of the faith…but some of those same doctrines are the very foundation of what will still save one’s soul to the utmost.

If this site is becoming a place where people just gather to wallow in their victimhood and sneer at the act of really believing in what the Bible says, then I don’t want any part of it. It’s not good for me, and it’s certainly not good for the people doing the wallowing and the sneering.

I am still of the mind that there is a need for forums where spiritual abuse can be analyzed and challenged. But at the same time, it is not profitable for us as believers to make deconstructing every doctrine a priority over celebrating what we have in the Lord Jesus. If something newsworthy about SGM arises, by all means let’s discuss it. But until then, the general conversations about what we don’t believe – well, I just don’t see those as the point of this site.

Open Comment

Sorry to do this again, but Kris is quite busy with a side project and my poor database is complaining. No “meat” to this post, but I need to start a new thread to alleviate some symptoms. Carry on Survivors!

C.J. Mahaney Says He Will Not Be Participating In 2014 T4G Conference

C.J. Mahaney announced today that he will not be participating in the 2014 T4G conference.  Here is his statement:

After much prayer, reflection and counsel I have decided to withdraw from participation in the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference. My reason for doing so is simple: I love these men and this conference and I desire to do all I possibly can to serve the ongoing fruitfulness of T4G.

Unfortunately, the civil lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries, two former SGM churches and pastors (including myself), continues to generate the type of attention that could subject my friends to unfair and unwarranted criticism. Though dismissed in May (and now on appeal), the lawsuit could prove a distraction from the purpose of this important conference. My withdrawal is not intended to communicate anything about the merits of the suit. My decision simply reflects the reality that my participation could create a hindrance to this conference and its distinct purpose of serving so many pastors. My strong desire is to make sure this doesn’t happen. I believe the most effective way I can serve my friends who have supported me, and continue to support me, is by not participating in the 2014 conference.

My enthusiasm for this conference is undiminished and I believe it will continue to be a powerful context for encouraging and equipping pastors in their efforts to serve their churches and proclaim the gospel. I am immensely grateful for the undeserved privilege to have been involved in previous conferences, and, most importantly, my ongoing friendship with these men I love and respect.

You can read the statement on the T4G website here.