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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 01:48AM


I have grown up in a Sovereign Grace Ministries church. Now that I’m in my twenties, I think my eyes are being opened. I have always tended to be legalistic, thinking I have to follow a set of rules in order to be a real Christian. I’ve been really closed minded to other churches, thinking that my Sovereign Grace Ministries church was the best church there was out there. When I encountered other Christians, I thought that I was somehow better than they were. Wow.. how ridiculous this sounds to me now! How arrogant. I cannot believe how my heart can deceive me.

Anyway, my eyes are slowly being opened. I still can fall into my old tendencies and I am regularly reminding myself of God’s grace upon myself and others. My church is not the best church ever. In fact, another church may be better for me (shock!!).

One thing in particular I’ve become aware of lately is the control over people. Some of my friends are very controlling and for awhile I thought they were right in whatever they said because I thought “they are godlier than I am”. And when I confront them on things they get really particular about specifics and claim they don’t know what I’m talking about and they’ve never done such a thing (when in fact I can remember specific circumstances when they have). Somehow they manage to turn the conversation around to make me think that I am totally wrong, or to something I have done wrong, or to make me feel stupid for not being able to remember specifics (because I get so scatterbrained while talking to them that I get all turned around and forget everything I’ve thought of telling them).

Then I looked at the families and parents of my friends — and they are really controlling too! Some parents don’t let their grown adult daughters leave the house without permission. Or do anything without their permission for that matter. If we do go out and do something, there has to be a guy present to protect us. So what about girl time outside of the house?! I’m a free spirit and sitting at the house just leaves me bored. How are the girls under these parents supposed to learn how to live life if they aren’t allowed? How will they act when they get out in the world? How will they know how to do anything? For awhile I wondered why I liked hanging out with a few different friends (who are also free spirits and whose parents are definitely not controlling) more than some of my closer friends and I realized it was because of what they were “allowed” to do… Life was much more fun with them!

So here I am now, continuing to realize more everyday, some things making more sense as I read the SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge blogs. I continue to attend my Sovereign Grace Ministries church, but have begun to wonder and pray if I am supposed to stay there. I really have no idea where to go from there. I don’t know what other churches are in my area, or if they are any good. The thing is, I really do love my friends (please don’t get me wrong from what I said earlier, I’m really just concerned for them, and don’t like how their parents treat them and how it has rubbed off on them, therefore making it how they treat me and others). So, I’m not totally ready to leave my friends that I’ve had for so many years, and I’m not totally sure I’m strong enough to as I’m trying to figure myself out.

I’m feeling very lost and confused.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 02:23AM


I’m shaking as I write. I am afraid I will be known by my church and I also feel like I am a spy. I guess I’ll just start to tell you what is going on in my family. For the past 4-5 years, I’ve become increasingly depressed at church and could not put my finger on it. So I kept quiet and continued to be a sgmer. I bought into all the sgmese on courting, homeschooling, etc. What woke me up was my daughter. She became the barometer of what was going on. It was a wake up call. Let me clarify that she was a SGMer all the way. Her best friend also a lifer in Sovereign Grace Ministries began to think for herself some time in highschool and was IMMEDIATELY shunned by all but my daughter. As my daughter entered the college age group she became aware of how “different” she was. She does not feel called to be married at this point and would like to have a career that isn’t an Sovereign Grace Ministries approved one. She gets the eye roll when she tells them she can’t make it to caregroup because of an exam. She can’t look at any more books on the “approved” list. As time has gone on I began to see a child that was on fire for the Lord become increasingly depressed and began forcing herself to go to caregroup and other activities to make her friends still believe she was “spiritually” ok. Finally, after coming out of hiding, she shared her concerns about the legalism and immediately was dropped as a friend by someone she held dear. i could go on and on but I want to tell you about our dilemma. We also have a son who is a great kid who seems to be able to drown out the legalism and sin seeking. He’s liked by all and is neutral right now. My husband is ready to leave and I don’t know what I want. I don’t have any close friends after 21 years in Sovereign Grace Ministries. But I am afraid of what it would do to us as a family to start over. These 2 children are not little and leaving would mean disrupting their lives. Yes, I know the teachings are making me feel I’m a wretched sinner with grace sprinkled in there somewhere. I haven’t seen anything out there that doesn’t have problems. When I ask about the highschoolers in other congregations, the answer is usually “We’ve got our problems. We don’t seem to be reaching them.” That scares me. I have to say we’re not actually meeting the kids in our highschool group either. I know I’m rambling on and on. Sorry, I just don’t know anymore.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 02:29AM


I almost could have written Anxious’ story, as we are in a very similar situation. My college age daughter is also pursuing a non-sgm-approved-for-females career. She has experienced many of the same things; no one understanding that she has an exam and can’t go out with the gang, she doesn’t have that *sit around and wait for a man* mentality, etc. Basically she has very little in common with the other girls her age. Just last Sunday she said it would be her last at the Sovereign Grace Ministries church (local church, that is, 20 miles away!). She has found a home group of mostly college kids that she loves. she will likely be moving to the University campus in Jan. That would go over big, I’ll bet – it’s a large public university!!

My husband and I have been gone (for the most part) for a little over a year when we hit a rough patch and got little help. Fortunately we had the presence of mind to get counseling. One of our sons, however is still in big time, playing in the worship band, leading worship at cg, and, like you, we don’t want to make him hate us for taking away most of his friends! 16 is a hard age for a big upheaval like that. We are seeking wisdom also! I think he is game to visit a nearby church dh and I have visited, but the worship leader won’t give him a week off to do so. Dh just wrote him another email, asking him to give ds days off so we can attend church as a family. We’ll see.

All that to say that we are in a similar spot, and I totally understand. I actually have taken a lot of time to re-examine my faith and to heal from all the garbage that’s been going on around us.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 02:49AM


My story is dated now and my wife and I have long since moved on from People of Destiny International / Sovereign Grace Ministry. But we still sometimes talk about the great work the Lord started in Cleveland, Ohio through PDI, and how disappointing that we all weren’t able to sustain it.

North Coast Church was one of PDI’s first church plants in Cleveland, Ohio . Larry and Doris Tomczak and a small team came to Larry’s hometown to start a church in the southwest suburbs. My wife was one of the first locals to join up, and she and some of the other single women were discipled by Doris Tomczak while Larry worked with the men. Within a few years, the church had almost 1000 members and was one of the most influential churches in NE Ohio.

When I joined in 1984, Steve Shank was the senior pastor and the church was clearly thriving. Larry T. still visited often and his sister and her husband were influential members. The church was made up of mostly young marrieds and hundreds of committed singles. Many singles such as my wife and I lived in singles households. I grew up in a large unchurched family, and my brothers and sisters were amazed at the number of friends we all had. We were convinced we were at the center of what the Lord was doing in Cleveland.

But there were problems behind the scenes. The first Sunday I attended, one of the four pastors announced that he was stepping down from leadership. Steve Shank said that this pastor needed more time to work on his marriage and his calling. The pastor did not seem to agree, as he said the Lord was calling him to Canada. Steve Shank said the other pastors could not lay hands on him and bless his decision.

Soon after, the church announced a new plant in Akron (about an hour south of Cleveland) . Another of the four pastors was sent out to lead that church. But in less than a year the pastor was gone and disillusioned. There is still a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Akron today, but it has never really grown much after 20 years.

Steve Shank handed off the church to the third pastor, Ken Roberts, in 1985 , and headed off to Virginia Beach to start another PDI work. But Steve and Ken did not see eye-to-eye, and eventually Steve and Dave Harvey asked Ken to step down as senior pastor. Ken Roberts did not agree, and the majority of the pastoral team backed Ken. So in 1994 , the members of NCC received a letter from Ken and the pastors stating that our church was ending its relationship with PDI because of doctrinal and leadership differences. Many people such as my wife and I were hurt and confused, and there was no real explanation from either our church or from PDI.

After much prayer, my wife and I decided to leave North Coast Church and started attending the closest PDI church in Akron. Many others left, many stayed at NCC, but long-time friendships were severed. If any of you have experienced a church split, you know how wrenching that can be.
We and many others appealed to Dave Harvey to please not abandon a PDI vision for Cleveland. Enough of us called that Dave agreed to come and meet with us. Several hundred people came to the meeting at a hotel with Dave Harvey and Steve Shank. People hugged and cried and believed God would raise up another great church in Cleveland. But Dave and Steve had a list of criteria before a church could be planted. There would need to be a commitment of support, and the PDI leadership would need to pray about whether they could support a new plant. We were told to wait and pray. Many of us did both, but it was almost 2 years before a decision to plant a Cleveland church was made.

Most of the several hundred people at the original meeting, including my wife and I, had moved on to other churches by that time. We eventually left the Akron church because it was too far, and floundered for a few years, but today we are happily plugged in to a CMA church.

I wish the story had a better ending. North Coast Church also suffered after leaving PDI. The name changed, Ken Roberts eventually left, and today it has only a few hundred attenders. The Cleveland SGM church today, like the one in Akron, has remained small without a permanent church building.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the failures here in Cleveland. Leadership could not stay united, and most of us saints did not have the faith to persevere when our world was shaken. But I cant help wonder why the PDI team didn’t see hundreds of people showing up on a winter night from just word of mouth as a clear sign that the Lord still had work for them in Cleveland. And I also wonder why the PDI/SGM and NCC leadership couldn’t work together to save a great church.

But praise the Lord that He is faithful , even when we are weak! Today there are many strong and growing churches in Cleveland. And almost everyone one of them has a few ex NCC members on the road to full healing.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 03:06AM


I have finally made the decision to leave the mad house that I called my church. I honestly believed that I was going crazy until I found SGM Refuge and other sites where others have experienced exactly what I have experienced.

I have learned that ALL of the pastors at Sovereign Grace Ministries are alike. They are all taught the Sovereign Grace Ministries doctrine not the doctrine of love and mercy that Jesus commanded us to show for one another. They believe that our indwelt sin is the be all and end all. They truly believe themselves to be “ordained” directly by God and would have you believe that their “wisdom” and “counsel” is God speaking directly through them. Let no one dare question their counsel….

I believe that this “doctrine of sin” they so strongly emphasize and the emphasis that is put on humility and submission to pastoral leadership are subtle forms of brain washing. Over time and as one gets immersed in the Sovereign Grace Ministries culture, the subtleties start going away and the blatancies start emerging. The scary thing is that the irrational things one sees and the blatancies start becoming “normal.” You have sold out to your own logical thinking and the wisdom God has given you illogical Sovereign Grace Ministries ideology.

My issue lies with the fact the anything and everything that happens to you is a reflection on your own indwelt sin.

My story (in a nut shell) is that while going through Alpha and Beta with my unbelieving wife, she left me for a known felon and 13 year addicted drug user that was a member of our group. This man was from a local ministry that ministered to drug addicts. The small group leader for our Alpha and Beta groups was the actual pastor who ran the Alpha program.

As a member of the church (my wife wasn’t), I sought counsel form the pastor who was my small group leader. I believed at the time that he and I had become very close. He knew all of the players and the situation. He refused to counsel with me stating that “he was too close to the situation” (is he supposed to be “far” from the situation to better counsel or serve me?)

In my grief and state of confusion at how my whole life had just been turned up side down, I sought counsel from a family life pastor that my wife and I had been seeing. Too my horror, the counsel I got from him and subsequently every other pastor in the church was that I was seeing her sin more clearly than my own. I was told to focus on my own sin and nothing but my own sin! Not once did I ever get a word of encouragement, an email, or anything that even remotely resembled love from these men. For three years during the worst trials I had ever gone through in my life, I sought those that were supposedly my ”leaders” for answers, biblical guidance, and yes, a kind word. All I got was my own indwelt sin thrown back in my face!

For three years, I could not even be afforded a kind word from those men that I believed would love me like Jesus commanded. In three years of humbling myself and going back to them for guidance to get me through my darkest times, the only counsel they gave me was to seek out my own sin…. to stop looking at other’s sins more clearly than my own, and to not judge others….

For three years, those that I thought were my brothers in Christ, who would be loyal to a fellow believer turned their backs on me in my darkest times.

Shame on you Sovereign Grace Ministries for raising such men that will lay such heavy burdens on us with the emphasis on “our own sin” yet not lift a finger or even say a kind word to those going through the worst of trials. What hypocrisy, what hypocrisy….

May God forgive you “shepherds” of CFC…….

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 03:14AM


My little sister has disappeared in this Sovereign Grace Ministries mess, and I feel so helpless! She’s been in a Sovereign Grace Ministries church for the past 3-4 years, and the change is evident to all those who knew her. But she’s cut off contact with most of those who care about her, in favor of her new family, and we’re all grieving. I ache because I can’t connect with her- it’s like the person inside has died. She has no reaction to things that provoke normal anger, surprise, shock, joy in others. She can’t be in the presence of the rest of our family without her husband present (no alone time with us)- she’s literally become a Stepford wife, and I am interacting with a brick wall. Her husband is on the fast track to becoming a pastor at SG (without formal training?!), and they have been touted as the “poster couple” for courting. But she’s not her- she’s barely anyone. And now she’s had their first child, and I fear she’s locked in this culture (or cult?) for quite a while, because now there’s much to lose. Much to be ashamed of if it doesn’t work out perfectly, since they’ve invested so much faith and identity in this “perfect” way. Seems like a different form of the American-prosperity gospel, where if you get the doctrine right, it all works out well for you. And if it doesn’t work out well…that’s a lot of pressure to live under. She is NOT free, and that is not Jesus. I just want her to be free!

So, I struggle deeply because there’s that the part of me which has fear and compassion for her. And yet, when she does talk (usually after she’s run the conversation back by her husband or someone else on “leadership” in the church), she is both cliche and arrogant. It makes me so angry that her answers are someone else’s- not critically digested or thought through. I also am really hurt that her responses are so condemning of me and others for “not getting it right.” (She quit college, and I’m an MD in residency). But what is so maddening, is that it’s a passive-aggressive and very manipulative condemnation. Her disdain is shrouded by some weird Christian-ese, and I haven’t been able to pinpoint what’s wrong in her statements. It’s her distance from me, and what feels like a distance from Christ, that feels wrong. But how do you quantify that? She wouldn’t know what I was saying. Has anyone else felt this trapped? I don’t know how to keep my relationship with her- I don’t know how to be me around her. And yet, I want her to see freedom in Christ in hopes that she may be free to love Him with anger, joy, sadness, mistakes, successes. So I feel stuck- I wonder if I’m feeling what she’s not allowed to feel herself??

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 03:22AM


Erin, I’m not sure if you realize this, but Sovereign Grace Ministries does read ex member forums and will be trying to figure out who you are, especially given the fact that you mentioned your sister’s husband is on the fast track to becoming a pastor.

Just giving you a heads up. Sovereign Grace Ministries doesn’t play according to anyone’s rules but their own, and they are extremely into damage control and very protective over their own (i.e. pastors or potential leadership esp.)… my mentioning a friend of mine whose husband was just considering going to the PC was what “gave me away” last year.

I was a nobody in Sovereign Grace Ministries, in an obscure and recently adopted Sovereign Grace Ministries church, in a small town in Texas…if they can figure out who and where I was, they can with others. The fact that they even took the time to in my case was so ridiculous…as I said, I was a nobody in the world of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Pray up…and don’t be surprised if your sister comes to you very angry because her pastor told her that you (her sister) were posting about her on an ex member forum. That is a a HUGE no-no in their mind. Don’t think for a second that they won’t try to turn family against family to remain in control, or divide husbands and wives, turn children against their parents….they do it ALL the time. That’s how sick it really is.

I will be praying for you as well as your sister and her husband….truth bears out. Pray and love your sister. Point her to the SGM Refuge forum and others if she does not know about them already. And now she has hundreds of others praying for her as well…. Juli

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 03:33AM


Erin, I have never shared this part of my story in any detail. I do so now because I want you to know that I can relate and understand your frustration and concern.

When we were dismembered from our (then) People of Destiny International church, my sister and her family were also attending there. She and I are very close in age and had always had a close relationship. At the time of our turmoil, naturally we shared “our side” of the story with her. Then she went to see the pastor. Afterwards, everything was different. There was a wall between us. I was wounded. I felt she of all people should have come to our defense. As the years went by and she became more entrenched in all things Sovereign Grace Ministries, our relationship was non-existent. She did not call me when her youngest two children were born. I did not share any of the details of my life with her. More years went by. She moved away to be part of a Sovereign Grace Ministries church plant in a different state. Still, no relationship.

Then, one day, the Lord spoke to me. Go see your sister. I obeyed. It was a joyous time. Even though she was still convinced of Sovereign Grace Ministries’ wonderfulness, the foundation of our lifelong relationship was in tact and we were able to be reconciled. She had missed me and I had missed her! (As a side note, we attended her Sovereign Grace Ministries church during that visit. It was the first time in many years we had been in that environment. The man who preached was instrumental in our demise. The spiritual atmosphere was oppressive. When you have been removed from it for a season, then revisit, the error is glaringly obvious. Oh, how the Lord met me! I was able to shut out all the oppression, open my heart to Him and WORSHIP with great thanksgiving! There was absolutely no fear. That’s when I knew for sure, I was healed.)

Not too many years later, things began to unravel for my sister in her Sovereign Grace Ministries church. She has her own story to tell and I will leave that to her, but suffice it to say, she was severely disillusioned and wounded. How grateful I was that God had helped me work through my offense, allowing our relationship to be restored prior to this difficult time, so I could love and support her and her children in any small way.

As I think back on it, my sister was in a precarious position when we were dismembered from the church. She loved me, but was married into a prominent family. Imagine the tug of war that she went through initially before she disappeared entirely into the culture. I have much more compassion for the position she was put in now than I did then.

Anyway, I say all that to say, everyone’s advice to you to keep loving her and communicating the best you can is sound in my opinion. Gracie

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 03:41AM


I don’t know if this is funny or pathetic, but I’m putting it out here to prove my point : I said to Erin on June 6th that Sovereign Grace Ministries reads the ex member blogs, which we all know, and that they found out who I was, etc etc..and to be careful cause someone somewhere in SGMville was already placing her identity because she mentioned knowing someone being considered for pastor’s college.

what’s today? June 10th? On June 8th, just TWO DAYS after my comment, Craig Cabbanis (or Craig Cabannis, however you spell it), the regional apostle for Texas, linked to my blog from here on this thread…and spent a considerable amount of time reading all my posts related to Sovereign Grace Ministries, and even did a nice little search of his own name…..

Just to put this in perspective – I left Sovereign Grace Ministries April 2008…I am nobody and was nobody in the Sovereign Grace Ministries world….I don’t talk to anyone from the church anymore except for a few families who are not pro-Sovereign Grace Ministries anyway. Yet I still have numerous people from this area, not to mention Craig, and Sovereign Grace Ministries and Covenant Life Church visiting my stupid little blog. And I rarely even post anymore.

They are still trying to figure out who is who…and they know they can get more “scoop” on these blogs than they can in the churches!

They LOVE these blogs.

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Re: Sovereign Grace Ministries
Posted by: Maranatha Trail ()
Date: August 23, 2012 03:55AM


One thing I did fail to mention in my original post was that not only did the pastors constantly tell me to “seek out my own sin,” and did absolutely nothing to love me or encourage me.. they actually sided with my X-wife who is not a member, nor is she a Christian, left me for a drug addict/felon, and filed for divorce and 8 court actions against me (I filed not one thing against her),

Yes, they supported her and turned the tables on me… The one pastor was meeting with my X during this whole mess without my knowledge. She was slandering me and he believed every word she said. I would show him court documents and other evidence to prove that she was lying, he still sided with her. He would write me NASTY emails and copy her. She was using the emails against me in court. Even though I told him she was doing so, he continued to send the emails. (Just an FYI…not once did he bring up her sin, not once!!)

This same pastor also decided that he wanted to share what happened behind closed doors in counseling with third party members of the church. Specifically, a 25 year old young man that I had become friends with. Out of concern for me (bitterness towards the pastor/s), the young man set up an appointment with the pastor to speak about me. I had no knowledge of this at the time. This young man is NOT in any leadership/pastoral role in the church by the way.

I have no clue why any pastor would have agreed to set up an appointment with any third party to discuss my divorce or marital counseling. This individual was told intimate details about closed door counseling between my wife and me. He was told the lies my wife had said about me. The ones that the pastor believed. I was beside myself when I heard words spoken behind closed doors come out of this young man’s mouth. Again, it was weeks later that I found out that this meeting had occurred.

This pastor had broken the golden rule of counseling..both secular and Christian!!!

There is so much would make your head spin. I couldn’t make this stuff up…even if I wanted too!

Funny, I was re-reading my original post below and sensed such anger in my tone. God has soothed my soul in these past few months. My bitterness is residing and my heart is reveling in the joy of Christ again.

One last thing: Only by Gods mercy and Grace… nothing in any court action presented against me was upheld. As a matter of fact, even though I filed nothing against her (all I did was defend myself) I got almost everything I had asked for from the courts. Especially, my two beautiful kids :) After the divorce, my X and I had not spoken a word for almost five months. I finally asked the judge to order co-parenting counseling and he did.
Amazingly, it took a secular counselor one meeting with us to get us back on talking terms. In three meetings with her, you would have never known we were ever at odds with each other. We now get along better than ever. I wonder sometimes if we had gone to this secular counselor before the divorce if we’d still be married. All I got with the pastor/s was “You’re a sinner,” and “you’re seeing her sin more clearly than your own,” and “seek out your own sin first!” etc… hummmm?

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