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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 02:50PM


Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.

I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others. I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin. And I am so very grateful for their forgiveness. But I want to perceive and confess any and all sin I have committed. Although my experience of conviction has already started—and this is an evidence of God’s mercy—I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge. Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others. And I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private. Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.

So here is what I am going to do. I’ve asked to take a leave of absence in order to give time to considering these charges, examine my heart, and receive the appropriate help from others. With the guidance of the SGM board, I would also hope to pursue reconciliation with former pastors of Sovereign Grace during this leave. I have stepped off the board and I will not be the President of Sovereign Grace Ministries during this period of examination and evaluation. In order for me to receive an objective evaluation in relation to these charges the board is securing the help of a third-party ministry that has no history of relationship with SGM. With counsel from that ministry, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward. After processing these findings, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward. This leave of absence will also help remove any impediment to the panel’s exploration that could potentially arise if I remained in my current position, and it will enable me to fully cooperate in the process.

Just so you’ll know, I have also contacted David Powlison and Mark Dever and asked them to review the charges and provide me with their counsel and correction. I have enlisted them to serve me personally during this time and to ensure this process of examining my heart and life is as thorough as possible. And for the past year I have been the recipient of Ken Sande’s correction, counsel and care. That, I am grateful to say, will continue. And as you would expect I will continue to meet with the appropriate men on the board of Sovereign Grace and benefit from their correction, counsel, and care as well. I am deeply moved as I reflect on how rich I am relationally and I am humbled by the time these men are willing to spend serving me and Sovereign Grace.

My friends, I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I continue to walk through this process. Please pray that God would give me the gift of sight where I have been blinded by my sin and others have been adversely affected by my sin. Pray that I will be convicted and experience godly sorrow resulting in reconciliation where necessary and adjustments to my heart and leadership. Thank you for praying in this way for me.

One more thing. For the past 5 years or so I have become increasingly aware of certain deficiencies in my leadership that have contributed to deficiencies in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ structure and governance, the lack of a clear and consistent process of conflict resolution and pastoral evaluation, and the number of former Sovereign Grace pastors who are offended with me/SGM. I have met with some and by God’s grace there has been reconciliation with men like Larry Tomczak (I wish I had recognized and repented of my sin against him years ago). This brings great joy to my soul. In other cases, appeals for mediation have thus far been declined, but I’m hopeful this process will facilitate further reconciliation. But beyond this, there are still issues that need to be addressed and fixed in our family of churches. And I bear a primary responsibility because it has happened on my watch and under my leadership. I have resolved that I and the Sovereign Grace team can’t effectively lead us into the future without evaluating the past, addressing these deficiencies, improving our structure, and as much as possible pursuing reconciliation with former pastors. So during this leave of absence I will not only devote all the appropriate and necessary time to the independent panel and the charges but also to doing what I can to identify where I have failed to lead us effectively in relation to pastoral evaluation and conflict resolution.

My friends, though my soul can be easily overwhelmed as I contemplate my sin and its effects on others, I am also resolved to examine my heart, address the past, and play my role in preparing SGM for a future of planting and serving churches. And given the mercy of God portrayed in the gospel my heart is filled with hope that his good purpose for us will come to pass and cannot be frustrated. I trust there will be much grace to tell you of at the end of this process.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 02:52PM


By now you may have read C.J.’s letter about recent developments in his life and in Sovereign Grace Ministries. We want to take a moment to communicate to you as well concerning these events and inform you of the steps the SGM board is taking in response.

We understand that this news may strike some as sudden and surprising. However, a process has been unfolding over a number of months in which the board has sought to evaluate charges against C.J., assist him in examining his heart and pursuing reconciliation, and bring accountability and guidance to him in this process. Because some of the charges move beyond C.J. to SGM, we also wanted to examine ourselves and our practices both past and current. To that end, we are in the process of securing help from an outside organization that can conduct a thorough and objective review of the charges being brought against C.J. and SGM. We are seeking to identify an organization that has no prior history with us and that has wide respect in Christian circles, and we will keep you posted on that search process as we make progress. We have by no means guided this process flawlessly, but we are learning and growing through this long and difficult process. And we are encouraged by how God appears to be leading us.

It is also important for us to be clear that we are supportive of C.J.’s letter and the decisive actions he has taken. The charges against C.J. are serious, but his response has been one of self-examination and, when possible, specific confession to those sinned against. However, given the numerous events, people, and perspectives involved, the work of an independent panel will be vital to fully examining these charges and arriving at an objective conclusion, especially on those charges with which the board does not agree. We therefore believe the leave of absence is appropriate in the present circumstances to afford C.J. the time to reflect upon his heart and to allow an independent panel space to conduct its review. Like C.J., we are committed to facilitate as thorough and objective a process as possible by an independent panel.

In addition to our search for an independent panel, we have taken other steps in response to these circumstances. In order to secure a broader source of accountability and benefit from a deeper pool of wisdom, we have expanded the board to lead SGM in this season. The current regional leadership team members, all pastors in SGM churches, constitute the additional board members: Craig Cabaniss, Mickey Connelly, Rick Gamache, Pete Greasley, John Loftness, Aron Osborne, Mark Prater, and Steve Shank. We are grateful for the wisdom and experience these men bring to this board and for their willingness to serve in this capacity. To facilitate continuity in our day-to-day operations, the new board has appointed Dave Harvey to act as the interim president during C.J.’s leave of absence.
As for C.J., his primary focus during the leave of absence will be to continue to examine his heart and consider the various charges and offenses, as well as to fully cooperate with an independent panel, once chosen by the board. Any pursuit of reconciliation with aggrieved parties will be guided by the counsel of the board and the independent panel. C.J. has also fully submitted himself to the board’s direction regarding his ministry activities and external commitments during this time.

All of us carry concern for the Mahaneys personally, and the board is working to ensure that a clear and helpful plan is in place to provide adequate care for C.J. and his family during this season. This plan will integrate the local care C.J. receives with other lines of counsel he receives from those outside of SGM.

We realize there is much to process here, and much of it is disconcerting. Our theology serves us well in times like this: God is clearly at work in C.J., in our own lives, and in SGM. Our desire is to embrace all that he has for us in this season, knowing he is working for our good, however difficult that may be. To those in the SGM family of churches, our commitment is that we will, by God’s grace, seek to walk as humbly, wisely, and transparently as possible during this season, and to seek to serve and care for Sovereign Grace churches in whatever way we can. We covet your prayers, and we cherish our partnership with you now more than ever.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 03:15PM


This past week we (the Sovereign Grace Board and Joshua Harris) came to the mutual decision that it would be best for Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries for Joshua to step down from his role as a board member.

While still committed to our shared theological foundation and partnership in Sovereign Grace Ministries, as well as a common desire to walk through this unique season in a God-glorifying way, this change seems wise in light of certain points of disagreement over how best to proceed. Joshua also faces a sizable responsibility of steering Covenant Life through this trial and stepping away from his board role allows him to focus entirely on that task.

What remains unchanged is our affection, respect, friendship and partnership within Sovereign Grace. Joshua’s work on the board for the last three years has been important and we still want him to be a source of counsel for the board. To that end, Joshua has graciously agreed to continue joining board meetings as requested.

We celebrate the fact that in our family of churches, unity in the gospel doesn’t mean unanimity on secondary matters. Ultimately we believe this change will better preserve our essential unity while allowing Joshua to focus his attention on leading Covenant Life and the Board to provide leadership for Sovereign Grace in a time of crisis.

Later, the SGM board added this statement:

A few minutes ago, we announced that Joshua Harris is resigning from the SGM board. If you’re wondering what that may represent, let me just make a couple of points.

First and primarily, as a board we still have a strong desire for Josh’s input, and all parties involved are eager to keep the partnership strong between SGM and CLC. Josh has graciously agreed to keep attending our board meetings as requested to give us counsel, and for that we are very grateful.

Second, Josh and the board agree on many things about our current season.

We are grateful for how C.J. has confessed to sins and leadership failures in this process and we agree that other accusations against him require further examination.
We agree that giving C.J. his requested leave of absence is key to facilitating that examination.
We agree there are other problems in Sovereign Grace Ministries that need attention.
We agree there are people hurting over this situation for a number of reasons, and that we need to take that seriously.

But we disagree on some important matters too. For example, we disagree in our interpretation of this current season of ministry. Is God disciplining all of Sovereign Grace Ministries right now? Josh says yes, and we’re open to that conclusion. But before arriving at that conclusion we would want to walk through a process of evaluating all of SGM, which we have not done yet. It also became apparent that Josh and the board think differently on how best to help C.J. engage with an evaluation, and how the board should exercise leadership as that process unfolds. These differences in our thinking are important and it recently became clear that the other 10 board members and Josh are in a different place on these issues.

And that’s okay. Individual churches like Covenant Life have the flexibility to do things differently. We don’t force Covenant Life to adjust where they are at, nor does Covenant Life demand that we respond differently.

The disagreements remain, which explains why Josh could not sign the board statement that we released on Wednesday. Josh also wanted to be free to focus on leading Covenant Life Church through this season.

The important thing is that Josh and the board continue to affirm our ministry partnership together. Josh’s resignation from the board is not a grand statement about our future together. It’s not even an indication that we disagree on most things. We don’t. In fact Josh and the board agree on about 98% of things, especially on our shared mission we have been given to see churches planted and built in this country and around the world. We share this vision, even if we find disagreements elsewhere.

So that’s pretty much what is going on. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to talk to your pastor or email Sovereign Grace Ministries. And please continue to pray for us during this time!

On behalf of the board,


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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 03:35PM


I joined SGM in 2002 after hearing C J Mahaney speak at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000 (run by Terry Virgo and Newfrontiers) -- it was a small church plant in Bristol, in the United Kingdom and was a member of the growing church for 2 years.

I started to have personal problems get worse -- linked to being abused when I was a child at school and having issues with my sexuality (I don’t believe in using labels). The issues were essentially depression, self-harm and anorexia. I kept it secret for a long time and then my parents suggested going and speaking to my care group leader who I probably had the best relationship with out of the church leaders.

I did so, and they (CGL and wife) were initially very receptive but said they would go and tell the senior pastor. I then had a follow-up meeting with senior pastor and CGL and again it was initially okay. But the next meeting turned nasty -- in between meetings the senior pastor had met with Peter Griesley (UK “apostle” as was then and now on SGM Board) and told me that the issues were related to sin and they suspected I was in an active gay relationship although he admitted he had no proof. They presented me with four ultimatums, which involved moving home to my parents, and being wholly accountable to my homophobic father.

I had two weeks to decide, and so being rather shell shocked I contacted some close friends including my former senior pastor all of whom were horrified at the authoritarian demands. Being ignorant of SGM and what would happen, I rather naively thought that if I went and said I would not be complying and felt it best to leave and move on, that would be that.

The meeting was awful -- the senior pastor was very shocked and then got progressively nastier and told me that I could not resign, as I was in sin. If I persisted, they would write to all churches in the area and tell them of my sin (he actually admitted he followed this through with one Newfrontiers church in Bristol), they would tell the whole church of my sin and any members would be told not to speak to me if they met me. I was shocked but felt this confirmed I had made the right decision.

Being shocked I thought again rather naively that I would write to the SGM Board (Mahaney, Detweiler, Shank and Harvey) and explain what happened. I received a very short note from Harvey saying that Peter Griesley was the father of the church and it was not their concern. I then received an extremely terse email from PG saying that I was wrong but they would “speak to me if I wished” -- which I declined.

I have had no contact for five years until January last year when I felt I could not tolerate the splits with my family (who are still in SGM) and being forbidden to attend the SGM church, so with the help of Steve who opened up the process of reconciliation I finally had some meetings -- firstly with Peter Griesley and then with the senior pastors of the church. The meeting with the senior pastors was really great, and they apologised for acting as they did and said that I would be welcome back at the SGM church (I have been back once and warmly welcomed by them).

So all in all -- largely a happy story -- I hope it gives hope to some that reconciliation IS possible and I must be honest -- it’s SO great being rid of bitterness and anger against the SGM leaders, finally I feel free!

Still very grateful to this site and SGM Refuge for helping me realise I was NOT cast out to Satan and was not alone, and indeed having a voice when the leaders refused to contact me or care for me. And still very concerned for all those hurt and abused by SGM, and of course have a deep love and concern for SGM being as my family are still in it and so many friends here.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 03:45PM


I have never been a member of an SGM church. I read Larry Tomczak’s autobiography a long time ago and was quite inspired. Subsequently I read everything PDI I could lay my hands on. They used to have the complete archive of People of Destiny Magazine online.

I started to find it odd, though, that Larry T had disappeared. Some time around the early 2000s, PDi became SGM and Larry was expunged from the public record. It was – in all SGM publicity – as if he never existed and CLC/PDI/SGM was the vision of one man; CJ.

The more I read and heard from CJ (who I had previously liked), the more I began to have big doubts about the balance within his theology. It also seemed as though SGM had ceased to be practicing charismatic and merely creedally so.

I made friends with several SGM people. An old friend of mine also joined the staff of an SGM church after attending Pastor’s College. I also attended our then-local SGM church several times.

During the same period, I began to meet individuals who felt they had been mistreated by SGM pastors. I wrote them off as just being disgruntled people who would not be happy in any church.

Soon, three things happened:

1) One of my closest friends left his SGM church. We talked about this at length and – though he wasn’t angry with the church – it was clear that being part of that church had dried up his spiritual life to the point of almost eliminating it (it was later refreshed when he joined a very different type of church).

2) I wrote the Wikipedia articles on Larry, CJ and SGM. Despite writing true and unbiased articles in which every single statement was referenced to a reputable author, armies of SGMers seemed determined to suppress the truth. They didn’t want Larry acknowledged, they didn’t want the shepherding movement to be mentioned, they didn’t want the fall-out with Lydia Little to be included. They certainly didn’t want any links to blogs like this. They didn’t want Larry’s and Josh’s publishing success to be written about in such a way as it might overshadow that of CJ. They wanted Carolyn mentioned. They didn’t want any description of their church planting methodology. All in all, I encountered many many SGMers and CJ fans who valued PR over truth. I had no agenda in writing these articles (other than to present the whole story, not just the one recorded in current SGM documentation) but I was shocked at the CJ Youth and their militant desire to push against the simple retelling of the truth.

3) Two of my closest friends joined SGM. They no longer talk about Jesus or about their relationship with God. They talk about (in this order): their church, their sin, CJ.

Nowadays, I am not living close to an SGM church, but I swing in and out of the blogs. I feel a strong identification with what is discussed here because of similar experiences I had in a non-SGM church. I also have a passion for the truth, and hate the way SGM seems to distort the simplest of facts about itself. I also hope to be of help to those friends of mine still in SGM.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 04:01PM


Here’s my story from the prior post, copied and pasted as requested, with this addition. I am anonymous because I know that SG is vindictive to the core and I have family still entrapped there. Until they get out I’ll remain cloaked (along with my Klingon warship off SG’s port bow). Plus it keeps the SG TopSecret Uber Intel Gathering team in a bind. Remember, they can’t acknowledge or parley with anonymous bloggers. Their rules, not ours.


Kris asked us ” … to share a bit about their history with SGM. How long have they been (or how long were they) part of the organization? …”

I was part of a church in SGM for ~ 5 years. During that time I was a home group leader and then a pastor. I resigned from all leadership positions because of staff and leadership issues, by my own choice and without any indication from church staff or SGM that I should do such. At the time the church was engulfed in a number of interpersonal conflicts. I had great hopes that these conflicts (especially the ones that I was part of) would be resolved. To this end I remained a member and attended the church for ~ 6 months after I left leadership. I fully expected conflict resolution and reconciliation until my last day attending the church. On that day I had a most painful but most fortunate encounter with the regional apostle. During this encounter I found out (among other things) that men I had served with were accusing me of sin. This is one of the lies that the apostle accepted as fact. He had never once prior to this encounter attempted to contact me in any way. Neither had any of the leadership team.

I was ready to bag it right then but my best friend and soulmate, MsFSGP urged me to give the apostle a chance. So I did. He was supposed to get back to me but several days went by and I did not hear from him. (I guess accusations of sin are not that important at the local leadership, local sr pastor, and at the apostle level). So I contacted him and suggested that maybe Mt 18 was the way to proceed. He agreed and gave me the names of my accusers and asked me to contact them and arrange meetings. I did this – and every one of my accusers refused to meet with me one on one. One never even responded to my attempt to arrange a meeting. Are you with me so far? It gets better.

The next communication I received from the apostle said … wait for it … “they” decided that I had not sinned. So face-to-face, one-to-one meetings were not necessary. This produced a precipitous dip on the emotional rollercoaster! So I hadn’t sinned??!??? But whatever I had done was serious enough to talk about among local leadership and the regional apostle (without me). And fuel the church gossip mill???

MsFSGP and I were like the old cartoon Popeye at this point: we stands what we can and we can’t stand no more. The sweetest place on earth, modeled on Scripture, was instead the little house of horrors, modeled on Kafka. We sent an email to the local leadership team, thanking them for opportunities to worship and serve our Triune God together, blessed them … and resigned.

The response was odd. The senior pastor never directly acknowledged our resignation. There was one member of local leadership who never responded. There was another who responded with argument. The apostle was informed of our departure, and he asked if we would continue to attend the local. Two members of the leadership team asked as well. We responded with absence. Several years have gone by so that maybe they got the message by now.

But that’s not all! The locals wanted to meet with me to “share observations” and the apostle encouraged this as well (sure he did). This was so important that they wanted to set this meeting up nearly 8 months after I had quit leadership and 2 months after I had resigned from membership. And I, despite advice from 3 people very close to me, agreed. (Yeah, I’m not the sharpest tack in the happy meal). I still thought reconciliation was possible. I suggested an agenda and a time limit for the meeting. The pastor responded that the meeting would be short because they just wanted to bless me and recognize my service (yeah, right – there is not a single true “survivor” or “refuge-e” who believes that one!). Another leader was a little more transparent; he said the meeting would take hours – after all there were a lot of issues to be worked through. I’ve watched enough Westerns in my lifetime to smell an ambush. So I said “see ya”, though not exactly those 2 words.

Life post-SG has included battles with depression, anger, and resentment. Yep, ol’ FSGP is way human. That is why he has to pray so much “God, be merciful to me a sinner”. But life has emerged into a time of greater joy than I ever had in the SG system. My best days have been in the past few years, after escaping.

Get out, friends, and get on with life. There is Joy to be had!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,
Former SG Pastor

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 07:54PM


I attended an SGM church from 1992-2000, with a little time off around ’93.

I had been a Christian for many years and was a seminary student, so I immediately thought several things at ______ were a little off, but I had my reasons for going. Because of a recent major loss in my life, I found the sung worship part of the service to be a place of healing, as I literally cried out to the Lord as we sang. The tears that flowed were healing.

But I was put off by the lack of solid teaching (I always felt as if I were on starvation rations while I attended) and the top-down structure, among other things. I had never experienced such a strange form of church govt. in the several churches I’d been a part of over the years. I found it most troubling but didn’t really have anyone to discuss my concerns with so I just pondered it on my own. Although I tithed (but never gave to the misnamed “mission fund”), I was never privy to any sort of financial documents or budgets. I always thought it strange that the paid pastors had the ability to determine their own wages, etc. Seemed like the foxes minding the hen house, if you will. Now I will say, I was never a member, so perhaps those documents were available to members. In any case, my “crap detector” was giving off enough warning signals that kept me from formally linking up with this organization.

However, I did attend membership classes and went as far as having the pastoral interview in which, as we were finishing up, the pastor, actually one of my favorites (no longer in pastoral ministry but still attending, I believe), remarked, “I believe God is giving you to us.” I have no idea what I said in reply, but I remember thinking that God was going to have to communicate that to me before I signed on!

Because I had been involved in very missions-active churches, I was puzzled by the lack of any sort of mission outreach. In fact, I did raise this concern in my membership interview. It was 1996, an Urbana conference year and I asked what would happen if some college students went to Urbana and came away from it sensing the call of God into foreign mission work. The gist of the reply was that they would have to find another church because PDI didn’t do missions.

I rejoiced at Celebration 1998 and maybe 1999 when John Piper said something to the effect that the Church needed to send out its young people to hard places—to go and die, if need be, for Jesus’ sake and for the eternal welfare of those who are lost (how I wish I could find those tapes—JP preached powerfully and passionately and I was so sad because I knew he was speaking a different language and that his words were falling on deaf ears. And I knew that unless an edict came down from CJM, this aspect of PDI life would never change, though Jesus Himself issued the command).

I remember that the pastors were preaching through the book of Acts (sort of) and the sen. pastor coming to odd conclusions about the missionary aspect of the early Church. I think it was in response to this message series that I commented to one of the other pastors that I thought ______ was playing fast and loose with the text. (I had heard really good expository preaching over the years so I had a sense of when I was being snookered and that someone was trying to tell me that the text was saying something it wasn’t.)

Clearly, I was totally clueless about PDI culture at the time, so I can only imagine that my comments found their way back to the senior. Not that I care, of course.

I could go on but will spare you. I left in 2000 for so many reasons but I suppose the bottom line for me was that I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. But the lack of serious Bible study; the Stepford Wives approach to people; the homogeneity in thinking (or at least the attempt to produce this); and so many other things which wear on the soul merely confirmed that this was not the place for me.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 07:59PM


I can’t use my name or location. We were in PDI for 12-13 yrs. I started reading other books, checking out internet prophecy, looking into other doctrine and realized that what was being taught and force fed to us wasn’t exactly what I wanted our family to hear. Each Sunday at the end of the message I would sit there feeling the weight of condemnation….because the Lord was dealing with me to leave until I finally told HIM, ‘Ok, I’ll go.” There was no joy, no victory in Jesus, no Blood of the Lamb who took away the sins of the world, no love lifted me…..just focus on what a worm you are until you go crazy. We couldn’t even say that someone had a good heart, no, we had to say they had a horrible black sin-infested, disgusting, revolting, deceitfully wicked heart above all things, ad nauseum, etc—on and on and on.

Now, this was way before the blogs and I thought I was crazy. I felt so alone, isolated and terrified. But I knew that I had heard God and HE said leave so I did. Still it was extremely difficult because of reasons I can’t even share publically…all I can say is that God is faithful and HE will provide for us and be the Father He says He is! The last few years that I was there I only remember the Holy Spirit moving 2 times…….and he used young teens to do it. A visitor from another country said it was dry as dust there on a Sunday morning and it was.

I wondered why people even went to church if they didn’t even want to know what HE was saying to them or wanted them to do. Why didn’t the leaders show folks how to know God for themselves and then let God tell the people what HE wanted them to do. Another lady who left said that the leaders don’t need to tell me how to spend my time because God can tell me what He wants me to do for the area. I knew how church money was spent and that regular tithers wouldn’t appreciate some of that. I saw much hypocrisy in the leaders and didn’t appreciate it…..they said one thing in public but another thing in private. The same standard they used to measure others was never applied to themselves. They sure loved to hear themselves talk.

The elitism and superiority was more than I could bear. If you weren’t in our church you were a heathen and going to hell. Other churches weren’t even Christians.

After I left it was such a relief….no more condemnation, no more double standards, no more hypocrisy.

We have friends still there and they are stuck. They see and observe what goes on but don’t leave—just attend out of tradition and routine.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 08:11PM


I was in CLC from 1983 to 2000 (with some visiting before that while in college). Initially I learned a lot about the Lord, but then the church became reformed and C.J. became solemn and condemning. There was lots of legalism and tons of awkwardness between single men and women. At a time when I needed serious counseling for a family crisis, C.J. preached against Christian counseling for a year. That was tough for me when in a vulnerable spot, but thank God I continued to pursue what was best for me instead of following the pastor’s opinion. After hearing about sin ad nauseum, feeling like I had to edit everything I said in care group, and being told I was “self-focused” when I was clinically depressed, I got tired of it and threw in the towel. I had started to see C.J.’s controlling personality and how others were snowballed. When I left, I would find myself smiling for no reason. It was great to be free of the legalism. A friend told me after I left that leaving the church was good for me and asked what happened. I replied that he was seeing the real me, since I wasn’t free in CLC to say or do things that truly reflected my personality.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 27, 2012 08:20PM


I posted the following three posts in 2008 shortly before leaving CrossWay in Charlotte (Brent and then Mickey’s church). I just found them and re-read them for the first time in 3 years. We left shortly after I posted here (Spring 2008) and it’s amazing to me how these issues have come out. If the SGM leadership was truly humble and “teachable” they certainly had many opportunities to foresee what they are now reaping.


I’ve been reading the SGM Survivor forum for a few days. I’m a current Sovereign Grace Ministries member in the southeastern US. My closest friend and his family just officially left the church this week. In the 6 years my wife and I have been members, we’ve had numerous close friends leave. I’m beginning to understand why.

I’m posting on this thread because it started off with the topic of CJ’s message on submitting to the leadership. The last time CJ was at my church he spoke on a similar passage (1 Cor. 3), where Paul warns the Corinthians not to align themselves with a particular leader, saying (paraphrasing) “Apollos led me to the Lord, so I follow him” nor should we say “Paul shared the Gospel with me so I belong to him.” The whole point of the passage was to say that the leaders in the 1st century, though worthy of support and respect, were not the head of the church.

But CJ actually used this passage, and somehow turned it upside down, to turn it into an opportunity to bring up our Sr. Pastor and Brent Detwiler and honor them for having led the church so well. It became one of those “it’s appropriate and right to honor these two men” speeches. I couldn’t believe it. And everyone stood and clapped and it was all so nice and an absolute perversion of scripture.

Anway, I could look past that because it was isolated, or so I thought, and I figured CJ had come into town to bolster support for the local leadership, like a good CEO. But lately the scales are dropping off and I’m beginning to understand how the emphasis on our sin nature, on our unworthiness, and on submission to our self-appointed leaders make a dangerous combination.

I too love the folks at SGM. We’ve benefited tremendously from many fine examples of loving servant-heartedness and care, as well as many excellent practical teachings. But it has become difficult to feel like a non-conformist when I have some differing theological views, or to feel like every time I have a concern or question about how church or care group works, I need to be directed to what my “root sin issues” are. It’s amazing how the leadership “humbly” accepts the praise for the good things in SGM, but, as you pointed out at the top of this post, any failures are due to members who are not submissive enough.

Yes, I’ve had a meeting with our Sr. Pastor, and actually I’m meeting another pastor today to express these things. In past discussions, there has always been a gracious response from the leaders, but then a “let me point you to the cross” approach. You get pointed back at your own failings (of which there are many in my case), and the leadership is kind and sincere, so it’s hard. But who do they listen to? Who are they accountable to? It’s like you said, if there’s any defect in the system, it must be because folks aren’t submitting enough or self-examining their own sin issues enough.

It’s often difficult to point to specifics when having a conversation with those in leadership, it often feels more like a Jedi mind trick. You leave with this kind of “I-don’t-know-what-just-happened-but-there’s-nothing-wrong-with-what-I-was-just-told” kind of feeling.

So I had a meeting this afternoon with my pastor. He was very gracious. Indeed, as is my experience with all of the leadership, these men are genuinely caring and desirous of serving God and doing their jobs the best they know how. I shared my concerns, and he listened to them. He took notes and is bringing them back to the Sr. Pastor.

When he asked me what I wanted, I said I’d like to see some change, some acknowledgement from the pulpit that there are structural defects that have produced undesired results, ie, good people leaving the church for similar reasons – a feeling that the leadership is unapproachable or getting tired of being directed back at one’s own sin whenever one has input for the leadership. I said I’d like to see pastoral accountability to the body, not on a one-on-one basis, but corporately in the form of an elder’s board (that ain’t gonna happen). And I said I’d like to see the pastors belong to care groups and get rid of the sphere groups and “pastor/care group leader retreats and meetings.” Oh, and I also suggested that there be a lot less of the honoring thing.

He did receive these things sincerely, though he said of course that it’s not likely that many of these things will happen. And he did show his concern for me that I not allow my own cynicism to plant a seed of bitterness (that’s common SGM speak, but he was sincere and caring).

At the end of the day, I think there’s just a fundamental flaw with the Apostolic model, particularly since the “apostles” were self-appointed, and they’ve surrounded themselves with men who affirm their apostle-ship. There’s not a lot of room for transparency and questioning, and the “apostle” definitely sets the tone and calls the shots.

What they perceive as their methods for dealing with the logistical or administrative challenges of caring for a large flock, I see as diminishing their ability to relate with the flock. I think they function efficiently, but efficiency’s not always best spiritually. And I think they’ve decided they’ve figured out the best way to do church, and there’s not a whole lot of opportunity to change things.

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