Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Date: November 19, 2020 11:21PM
Hi all, and welcome to the all the new contributors in particular – I make it six new people in 2020: escapedtofrance, thisisme, seethelight, phoebe2, wise piglet and Rob 1967. Welcome all, and thanks for your insightful contributions. I have to say I have lost track of the total number of people who have now posted here, but it is amazing that there are still more people coming forward. Amazing – but also appalling that this organisation has caused so much hurt and pain, and even more appalling that they are totally indifferent to the pain they cause.
As I read both old and new contributors, I see the same common themes, one of which being a total lack of empathy, which I think is linked to the leaders seeing themselves as hyper-spiritual. As Brené Brown says, “Empathy is a vulnerable choice as, in order to connect with you, I need to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling”. The leaders of Struthers do not admit to that though – they cannot empathise with our weakness as, in their own eyes, they are so strong and invulnerable that they cannot relate to anyone who finds things difficult.
Contrast this with what is said in Hebrews chapter 4v15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.”
By showing such a demonstrable lack of empathy, the leaders of SMC are actually putting themselves above Christ – so high and mighty that they cannot empathise with us sinners.
To me, that does make them a cult, even if they are largely doctrinally sound.
That judgement is in line with most definitions of a cult, which are not related to doctrine or belief but are all about behaviour and relationships.
For example, one of the key tests of a cult is whether, “there is no go reason for leaving”. Any organisation that believes there cannot possibly be a good reason for anyone leaving is exhibiting cult-like behaviour. Reading all the contributions on the forum, including the recent ones form those mentioned above, it seems to me that Struthers passes this test with flying colours.
Another very simple test is to see whether people judge comments by their accuracy or by who says them. Take for example the “New Year Word” that Struthers proclaim each year. I have no idea what it was this year, but I would speculate there is a 50% chance it is from Isaiah, and an 80% chance that it was along the lines of “God will bless His people”. So… my question is, did it come true? Did God bless His people (or whatever the prophecy was) - is there evidence of that? I am of course going out on a limb here, as the prophecy may well have been “This will be a year of tribulation”, but I suspect not.
Now the Bible says: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.” So how will those in Struthers react to this? If it was anyone else (well, anyone who believed the Bible or chose to apply it in this case) they would say that applying the Biblical test confirms that the Lord has not spoken. Those in Struthers put the authority of the human leaders above the authority of the Bible however, so will argue the “New Year Word” was somehow still the word of God.
This is simply nonsense.
Jesus at one point said to Peter he was the rock on which he would build His church then, just a few verses later, called him Satan. Jesus did not make the mistake of thinking Peter had to be either perfectly right or perfectly wrong, He judged each action on its merits. So, even if every other word that has come out of Grace Gault’s mouth is true, the “prophecy” patently is not.
Even the SMC annual accounts say, ““Due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 will be a radically different year, both financially and in practical terms.” If the New Year Word is so informative and infallible, why do the annual accounts not say, “2020 will be a wonderful year of God’s blessing in line with the New Year Word” or something like that? Seems like even those signing off the accounts recognise that the New Year Word is irrelevant and out of step with reality.
I actually think what they are doing is dangerously close to “blaspheming against the Holy Spirit” as they are saying the New Year Word is the word of the Holy Spirit when it is clearly, not according to me but according to the test scripture tells us to use – just the words of a human being.
(Oh and while I am going out on a limb, may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb: my prediction for next year is something along the lines of “The Lord will restore the years that the locust has eaten.” A very natural wish to make it seem like the difficulties of 2020 were somehow worth it in the end.)
To reply to a specific comment in your post Phoebe, I suspect the “Andrew” you mention is Andrew Jewell, nephew of bookshop manager Chris Jewell (both of whom are Directors of the company). I am not at all surprised that it is not the usual suspects such as Grace, Diana or Jennifer who are providing sermons, as that triumvirate do not tend to really provide teaching – their addresses are more “God is a terrible God… BUT... He will look after those who are special… SO… you need to be more holy… NOW, let us turn to prayer. WAIT, God is here! He is blessing us!” (And of course the subliminal message that those present are somehow specially chosen by God.)
The problem with that approach is that it has to be real-time – it does not really work as well when delivered remotely or as a recorded message, as the key point is the emotional journey from fear through resolve and hope to ecstatic acceptance, and is built around that “God is here” moment. So, I am not at all surprised that they have to turn to someone able to deliver a message that includes a bit of theology accompanied by illustrations and applications. I doubt I will listen to any of Andrew’s talks, but would probably quite enjoy them if I did.
Not sure that would allow me to endorse him however. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If Andrew is developing an understanding of scripture then he has to stand up to evil, and reading this forum leaves me in no doubt as to the evil he is called to stand up to.
One other thought. As I was quoting the verse that says, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.” it reminded me of other similar themes in the Bible. Things like, “a good tree will bear good fruit” and “ my word shall not return to me void”.
It seems to me there is a broader test that we are all required to make - and I do mean “required” to make – and that test is whether the SMC approach works.
The leaders of Struthers claim that they have followed the specific leading of God in detail every single day for say 40 or 50 years. Every day, God has told them who to speak to, what verses to ponder, the words to use when preaching, even things like which car to buy or which job to apply for. Other Christians do not have this advantage – they are walking about using their own sinful minds to make all these decisions. If this is true, would we not expect to see a huge difference in outcomes? What about the verse that “My word will not return to me void” – if the leaders of Struthers have in some unique way been proclaiming God’s word in a way that others haven’t should we not see the impact of this? They claim they have been in exactly the right place speaking to exactly the right people using exactly the right words (in many cases reported here NOT speaking to exactly the right people as well!) yet what do they have to show for it? Dwindling congregations that are largely depressed and ineffective.
Sorry folks, that simply cannot be the work of God. That is not “good fruit”.
(It is however a very predicable outcome of putting people – especially hormonally active teenagers – through the trauma of that fear - resolve - hope - ecstasy cycle a few times a week.)
The opposite side of the coin is also worthy of examination. Those who have plucked up the courage to leave Struthers have often (eventually!) been very successful and have found a life that is peaceful, joyful and spiritually uplifting - and has also had an impact on those around them. Those left in Struthers often only see the first six months after someone leaves and, as this forum testifies, that can often be traumatic.
Meeting someone who left twenty years ago can be very enlightening however, which is why Struthers do not want you to keep up with those who have left. In my experience, those who leave are much more likely to have a fulfilling life (in every sense) and any children are also much more likely to find faith and fulfilment. That should give anyone still in SMC pause for thought.
So… apologies as usual for the length of the post, but it does seem to me that one purpose of this forum is to take all the things that Struthers tries to hide and open them up for honest scrutiny and debate.
Thanks again to those contributing bits form their own personal story – I know how hard it can be to examine these painful memories and share them in an open forum like this, but I also know how much it can encourage others who are carrying similar pain, so thanks to you all. There is a way through the pain and trauma, and life at the other end.
I think it was Enkrateia a couple of pages ago who quoted Thomas Merton:
“We spend our lives climbing to the top of the ladder only to discover two things: first of all, there is nothing at the top anyway, and even more ominously, we had the ladder against the wrong wall the whole time!”
Here’s to those who have seen the ladder is against the wrong wall and had the courage to move it!