Struthers Memorial Church and the claim of one desire
The last sermon Struthers Memorial Church made available online was preached on March 12 2011 by the present leader of the group of churches. This article looks at the middle section of that sermon - in particular the claims in relation to the motivation of the Struthers leadership.
Many people, now being more fully aware of the claims of harm and problems caused by the leadership of this church, will be wondering what those leaders rationale and justification for their conduct is. In looking at what was said in this part of the sermon hopefully what they are thinking can be clarified.
and you say “but - how can we expect that? We are not perfect. We are not Daniels that they will not find fault in?” Christ stood beside us in our degradation. He stretched out His wings to cover us even at His cross when he saw us in our ungodliness and in our need. How much more when He sees people whose one desire is for the glory of Christ? Whose one desire is to see other lives saved, healed, baptised, delivered, brought in to the deeps of God. Does He not know our hearts? Does he not know the truth of what is at the heart of Struthers Memorial Church? Does he not know? Of course He does! There is not one of us that ministers from these platforms that don't do it out of sacrifice - of obedience to God to transmit something of the wonder of the truth of the glory of God and His salvation and of Jesus Christ. We do it for no personal gain. We do it for no hidden agenda
The claim of one desire is very important to notice and understand.
A great deal has now been written and said about the effects on people of what happens in Struthers Memorial Church. A great deal has been written speculating on why they do what they do. People have openly asked and wondered how they can justify some of the harsher treatment so many have now documented they received while in contact with SMC.
The claim quoted from the sermon above is very clear. Whatever people have said - or claimed has been painful and harmful to them - the assertion is that the leader of the Struthers churches believes God approves of what the leadership do; and have done; because He knows their motivation is absolutely pure and perfect.
But the claim has to stand under scrutiny. Do the claimed pure desires result in pure actions? So we reasonably test this.
How does the focus now on education, both of time and considerable money fit with this “one desire” to see people come to Christ? The school prospectus makes it very clear that the school is not a selling ground for The Struthers view of the world and there is no published claim that the object of the school is to see the children become members of Struthers Memorial Church. In fact there is no report that any children have joined the church as a result of attending the school. So is the claim of “one desire is to see other lives saved, healed, baptised, delivered, brought in to the deeps of God” by the leaders correct?
How does the allocation of salaried jobs reflect the “one desire” of the leaders? Or are the friends and families of the leaders somewhat over represented in the Struthers paid workforce? How does that not resemble personal gain – at least in the family context? This is not to suggest that that is the main reason anyone is involved but probity and following the law in these matters is very important. Particularly so if the leadership do not want to give the impression of using their positions of power in the church to feather their own nests by allocating jobs to their own friends and families. Of course it could be claimed that this “personal gain” is a fact but is:
Not the only motivation
Not important at all - although we are not sure Scots charity law would agree
Not really personal gain because although their own friends and family are benefiting - that is only because God has told them those are the people to promote. No thought of that persons personal link to them has arisen.
In case that sounds too ludicrous to people there has long been in Strurthers the need for the leadership to explain away the reason for odd and unpopular leadership appointments. In the past this was mainly when people were placed in unpaid leadership roles where the oddest, most insincere, excessively young, and very often totally unsuitable people were put in charge of parts of the Struthers work. When reasons for this favouritism were sought the reply would be:
1 demands not to criticise anything the leaders did as they only act on the express..., etc, etc.
2 the extraordinary claim that the leaders had not chosen these people for these jobs - but somehow, without any act of will on their part, they had been made aware God had chosen these particular peoiple because of their pure and holy motives.
3 how dare we suggest they have favourites
As we say this was often followed by a brief spurt of the person pushed forward into ministry in the limelight - as if they were the only person that mattered to the leaders or God at that point. Pains were taken to explain they were only in leadership because the main leaders had identified their commitment and their “one desire” to serve God.
This was often soon followed by a long embarrased silence once the overpromoted new “leader” had left the church and, in some cases, abandoned any pretence of following God.
Not like us plodders who sat watching the whole bizzare spectacle unfold from beginning to end. Sometimes some of us mentioned to the main leaders that we couldn’t see the specialness of this newly promoted leader. We could see that they had very little care or time for the least in the church; but would dance like a monkey in front of the main leaders. When we expressed such a view we were told to be more spiritual.
There is no need for us to concern ourselves too much with the motives and the “one desire” of those making these failed appointments. They possibly did have one desire. But that did not stop them getting things wrong again and again. If their desires to serve God were so pure it is a pity that they never seemed to feel God directing that selfless desire toward them picking for leadership people less like clones of themselves; or those less solidly in their close social circle.
Such appointments may have served the church better. In fact electing leaders by a vote of the mem ber ship would very possibly have worked better. Then everyone’s “one desire” could have come in to play. Not just the “one desires” of a controlling few. And the church would have been immeasurably stonger as the new leaders would have had a mandate from the whole church - rather that the need to continually use up platform time justifying and defending their roles and attacking those who questioned why they were there.
Another question is this - if the cake shops ceased to be a means of people coming to Christ - the one desire claimed by the leader here - would they be closed down and the resources and time expended there reallocated to purposes more successfully bringing people into a relationship with God? Since that is the one desire? Possibly reallocated to such things as providing leaders with pastoral training; or employing full time youth workers which have been very effective in other churches as a means of bringing people to Christ; and giving those who are in the church the time and help they each need as individuals - enabling them to become soul winners.
The language and claims of this section of the sermon are very flowery and delivered with a quavering voice in a passionate tone. That does not make the claims any more valid or true. They are true, SMC leader, if that is what you do – not just what you claim you do.