I just stumbled upon this thread but definitely feel the need to step up and clear up some of the confusion here. I am a member of Desert Life Church, and have been for approximately six years. My name is Ryan Sanden. I am now 25, graduated (valedictorian) of electrical engineering from Arizona State in 2007, and was a member of the campus ministries at ASU. I now live in Sichuan China, and have not forgotten the excellent impact this church has had on me.
I knew Lee as an acquaintance, and I believe I know urbanevangie, "j", who is probably John. John knew Lee better than I did but I can pretty much vouch for what he has expressed. I talked to Lee at outings and Bible studies. The church, of course, provided as much of a positive environment as possible. It's a sad situation. No one knew Lee well enough simply because he was somewhat aloof, and he withdrew. Until being informed, I simply thought he moved. :(
Anyway, I also am deeply knowledgeable about Desert Life Church and what kind of people are running this institution. Pastor Troy is a man of basically faultless integrity. He is dedicated to Biblical truth, and in the six years I have known him, I have never felt anything "fishy". In fact I would drive around 45 minutes every week, twice a week, to attend services (and DLBI). There were other churches around, but, as they say, "a church alive is worth the drive".
I have completed the entire two-year "Desert Life Bible Institute (DLBI)" program, taught by Pastor Troy and Pastor Scott Adams. Regardless of the origin of the material, there was nothing taught that was subversive or biblically incorrect, and every point would be clarified by the pastors to ensure that it was interpreted hermeneutically-correct (that is, the meaning is true to its author's intent, inclusive of cultural norms that we as readers should be aware of). Classes were two to three hours long, each week for two years. There were tests. I learned a lot, not only about "Christianity" but other belief systems, apologetics, philosophy, theology, history, culture, interpretation of scripture, and even some relevent Hebrew and Greek.
I will now directly answer some questions:
(1) racecardriver: There was a church split between Pastor Troy Johnson and his senior assoc. pastor last year. I hear it was very bad and there has been no reconciliation. From what I hear, Pastor Troy displays all the characteristics of an insecure leader, which may have led to the church split.
No, it wasn't that bad. The issue was only one of timing. Originally the church made plans to start a new church plant in Chandler, because Scottsdale is far away (I was driving 45 minutes from Tempe; some were driving over an hour). The plans were canceled collectively by the church leaders (which is more than just "Pastor Troy") and the senior associate pastor who was going to lead it still felt it should be done. So, there was an argument, the church "split", which just means that many people close to Chandler started going to the start-up church, which the associate pastor basically did "on his own" instead of "with the group". But there was no sin involved. No weird dealings. Just a disagreement over whether now was the right time or not, which resulted in an associate pastor resigning and starting the church himself. The email sent by Pastor Troy is admonishing the 10% who were making rumors and jumping to false conclusions about what happened, before we had a chance to discuss it at the State of the Church Address that same year.
(2) ezbuild: i think this is kind of fishy that a church would respond so adamantly to an thread that is two years old and never makes an accusation. hmmm...
The title "Destructive Church or Cult" makes that accusation implicitly. I don't care if it's 3 years old now; I just found this thread. It is the third Google result on "Pastor Troy Johnson", and this is not a destructive church or a cult! Isn't that a valid reason?
(3) Sparky: In other words, were I the seeking relative I would have to say thanks but no thanks for your "help". How can you make such claims unless you know first hand how he disappeared and why and what he was feeling/thinking?
No one really knew what Lee was thinking or feeling. I certainly don't. But if anyone knew, John would.
> I would also ask about your church's finances. Are they transparent? Do you know where all the money goes? Can anyone disagree openly with your pastor(s) and still be a welcome member? Does the church hold elections? Does the membership have the ability to "fire" your pastor?
The finances are very transparent. We have an annual "State of the Church Address" where all of that is laid out (in powerpoint), and the numbers are third-party audited. Even the value of the building and outstanding loans are included. We also discuss issues and any member of the congregation can ask whatever questions he/she wants, getting a direct answer in front of everyone.
Sure, someone can "disagree openly" with the pastor and still be a 'welcome member', but that person would be expected to provide evidence that the pastor's views are unbiblical or incorrect. Pastor Troy will listen to anyone; he is not proud.
Does the church "hold elections"? Not in a "congregation-votes-each-year" sense. Did biblical churches in the Bible hold those types of elections? People should hear what they need to hear, not what they_want to hear. Biblical truths are timeless, and they must be explained by those qualified to teach. This church is run by levels of authority, with a council of elders at the top who keep each other in check. I know them personally, and they are honorable. I would direct you to Pastor Troy's sermons regarding this. ("The End" sermon comes to mind). Elsewhere (in the Proverbs series) he further explains this concept and encourages anyone to bring forth issues based on truth.
Can we fire the head pastor? Sure. Just talk to any of the group of church elders and explain why. You will *not* be ignored. But it doesn't happen, because our pastor *is* true to his word. It's hard to find pastors like this: someone you can sit under, learn from, and have confidence in. Someone you have tested personally and found to be a man of integrity.
(4) i see you: no to all the above....this church is not represented by it's members...only the chosen few(two) decide how to benefit the chosen ones .
On what basis do you make this claim? Are the finances transparent? (Yes). Can we disagree with the pastor and be welcome and respected? (Yes). Does the church hold elections? (Yes in the sense that the Elders elected him to lead). Does the membership have the ability to "fire" the pastor? (Of course)
If you don't believe be about the Biblical accuracy of Pastor Troy's teachings, then simply watch his sermons online, live-recorded:
In fact, My fiancee and I took the time to translate one of the sermons (45-min long) into Chinese, transcribing, proofreading, and recomposing the video. It took 100 hours. I would encourage you to take a look:
So, to say that this church and its Pastor is anything less than perfectly accountable for its actions is, at least from what I know, totally unfounded. The original poster is asking if we and this church had a negative influence on Lee. No. I believe we did everything we could to stand at the door and knock, but, in the end, that door was not opened.