“Let me make it clear that this is neither gossip nor slander.”
“I don’t want to unnecessarily hurt Steve.”
“Steve is not a victim. Steve’s not a victim. This did not have to be this way.”
(Gene Emerson 2001 KingsWay Family Meeting)
Sovereign Grace Ministries is a “family of churches” that up until 2002 was called PDI and before that “People of Destiny”. Why do they find it necessary to keep re-inventing themselves? Well, the debacle at KingsWay provides a glimpse into the systemic problems that permeate SGM.
Why should we be concerned about what’s going on in Sovereign Grace Ministries? It is mind boggling to us how C.J. Mahaney and his SGM colleagues have gained so much prominence in the Reformed crowd over the last decade. Just take a look at the list of SGM leaders who will be speaking at the 2011 Gospel Coalition Conference – C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, Dave Harvey, and Joshua Harris – not to mention all the appearances they have made at other highly-promoted conferences. The hyper-authoritarianism that characterizes SGM is creeping through Christendom and bringing tremendous harm to the flock.
One of the flocks that has been negatively affected is SGM’s KingsWay congregation. Back during the “PDI” days, KingsWay planted a church in Roanoke. As Gene Emerson explained during the 2001 Family Meeting (which we have now heard), he and other SGM leaders sensed early on that God was making it clear that Steve W., a pastor at KingsWay, was to become the senior pastor of that newly formed church. For instance, Gene explained that at Celebration 2000, “Dave Harvey preached a message seemingly right to Steve.” How prophetic (or was it)? At the couples’ retreat held shortly thereafter, "it seemed that God was calling Steve to the pastorate at Roanoke", according to Gene. He then acknowledged, “Everybody around Steve believed without question that he was gifted and called to be the senior pastor. He believed that he was called to go but that question remained of gifting.”
Gene admitted during the 2001 Family Meeting that the morning following Dave Harvey’s sermon at Celebration 2000 Steve woke up in utter terror (we assume at the thought of becoming a senior pastor). Could this have been that still small voice instructing Steve NOT to go to Roanoke? Gene then stated: “Going to Roanoke meant he (Steve) would have to renounce fear and unbelief and embrace faith for that challenge.”
After Gene explained to the congregation how miserably Steve had failed in Roanoke, he informed them that “Steve is on a course where if he does not turn around he could have severe issues in his own life, and in fact to an extent that has already begun to happen.”
According to Gene, Steve confessed three particular areas of sin to the Roanoke congregation (which may have been suggested to him):
- Motivated and led by pride
As he named these areas of sin, Gene went into great detail about each one with regard to Steve and concluded this portion of his talk by stating: “Because of the combination of those three sins, Steve has gone down a very, very dark path…. I don’t necessarily want to put Steve in a negative light. I hope you know that. I hope you can believe that.”
After Gene divulged to KingsWay members what we consider to be way too many details regarding Steve’s physical and mental state, he emphatically said: “Now what’s so important and what I want to impress upon you tonight and this is the most important thing I’m going to say, Steve is not a victim. Steve’s not a victim. This did not have to be this way.”
Toward the end of his message, Gene warned the congregation that “When we sow sin, we reap death.” Is this the Gospel according to Sovereign Grace Ministries?
Gene explained that any of us could do what Steve did – have unbelief toward God and allow fear to rule in our hearts. “This is a profound warning to each of us,” he said. And here was Gene’s advice to the KingsWay congregation regarding their future interaction with Steve:
“When you see Steve, please pray for him and please communicate compassion to him. But if he is in a position, sometimes he is, when he would be feeling sorry for himself or because of his countenance you feel drawn to pity him, please do not do that. Please pray for him and encourage him.”
Toward the end of the Family Meeting Gene referenced Charles Spurgeon, whom he esteemed as one of the wisest men who has ever lived. I believe Gene embellished Spurgeon’s position on the sin of unbelief when he stated that unbelief is “the pinnacle of all sin. It is the quintessence of guilt. It’s more serious in some respects than adultery and theft and all the other sins, murder, because all of those sins say I’m just going my own way. Unbelief says God you’re not trustworthy.” So the sin of unbelief is the absolute worst sin? Remember doubting Thomas? How did Jesus Christ treat his unbelief?
I have listened to Gene's 2001 Family Meeting talk ad nauseum and each time felt as though I was being lulled into a hypnotic state by Gene’s monotone and repetitive language. How many times did he use the words fear and unbelief? Way too many for me! I guess if SGM pastors mimic their esteemed leader by repeating the same words and phrases OVER and OVER and OVER again, they become believable.
As I listened to Gene Emerson, I thanked Almighty God that I have never been associated with Sovereign Grace(less) Ministries. How these leaders have been accepted within mainstream Christianity is beyond me. SGM’s loaded language, sin sniffing, and guilt trips are a throwback to a harsh, vengeful God. Sorry, this does not reflect the God of the “gracefull” New Covenant.
Lydia's Corner: Exodus 21:22-23:13 Matthew 24:1-28 Psalm 29:1-11 Proverbs 7:6-23