Should Autonomous Churches be Cooperating in Church Discipline?

"The first step my own church takes to cooperate with other churches in discipline is to ask everyone joining the church, have you ever been disciplined from a local church? If the person answers “yes,” more questions will follow, and possibly the pastors will reach out to the former church."

Jonathan Leeman

(member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church)

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4031&picture=holy-bible&large=1 Holy Bible

Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks and author of Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus, recently wrote an article for the 9Marks website entitled Churches Cooperating in Discipline.  It was also featured on The Gospel Coalition website. 

Leeman emphatically states:

"Yes, autonomous local churches really can cooperate in church discipline. No, they typically don’t. But, yes, they should! . . .

As a small “c” congregationalist, I believe that churches are autonomous, meaning that they rule themselves under God’s Word and King Jesus. But no church should be entirely independent. Indeed, we should be inter-dependent, even in matters that go to the heart of a church’s authority such as membership and discipline."

What follows is a true story.  I am close friends with a married couple that had been very involved with their church.  They led a Sunday School class for a number of years; however, over time they became concerned about the direction in which the church appeared to be headed.  Not only that, they (along with a few other church members) challenged the elders about a matter involving a pedophile.  To make a very long story short, my friends knew they had to resign their membership.  The last day they attended church they taught their final Sunday School class.  Prior to coming to church that day, they drafted their resignation e-mail and just before their departure from the church they hit "send".  

They immediately began attending a congregation which was part of a different denomination.  They enjoyed this new church immensely and began to establish a relationship with the pastor and congregants.  After attending for a number of months, they wanted to join the church.  A meeting had been arranged with their new pastor to complete the process of membership.   A few minutes into the meeting, the pastor informed them that they could not join the church because he had conversed with their previous pastor.  He would not reveal anything they had discussed, but he explained that he would be willing to moderate a meeting between them and their former pastor.  They declined, but the husband did schedule a meeting with his former pastor to resolve the matter one-on-one.

It wasn't until the moment they were declined membership at the new church that this couple realized they were under some form of 'church discipline'.  Incredibly, their final moments at the previous church had been spent teaching Sunday School.  How could they possibly have been under church discipline if they were serving in a leadership role?

Is this is how Leeman wants autonomous local churches to cooperate in church discipline

We have read horror stories written by congregants leaving their churches only to be pursued to their new church.  According to testimonies posted on SGM Survivors, Sovereign Grace Ministries churches have been notorious for this.  SGMers would leave their church only to have their former pastor call the pastor at their prospective church and inform him that they were under 'church discipline'.  The online advice for these SGM defectors was never divulge the name of the church you plan to join.  Funny thing, when C.J. Mahaney defected, he ran straight to Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  No doubt, he was rubbing elbows with Jonathan Leeman.   Such hypocrisy!

Leeman goes on to explain:

"That means (i) another church’s decision in a matter of discipline and membership never formally binds your church, but (ii) you should give other churches the benefit of the doubt, assuming they have acted wisely until you have concrete reasons for thinking otherwise. Also, I hardly think churches should conduct manhunts for excommunicated members, following them everywhere they go and putting in phone calls to the pastors of any church building they walk into. But you should do what you can, with prudence, to aid other churches whenever they ask you about members who once belonged to you. 

Finally, there is no reason why Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican and other churches might not informally cooperate in such matters. Every church has a gospel-interest in seeing the others succeed in gospel health and faithfulness."

UPDATE:  6/3/13 – Deleted five sentences not attributable to Jonathan Leeman

Actions speak so much louder than words…  Leeman can deny that churches are conducting manhunts for former members, but we know better.  A word to the wise is sufficient… 

Since this article written by Leeman appeared on the 9Marks website, I wondered who might be reading it and following his advice.  9Marks is building a network of like-minded churches, as evidenced on the organization's website.  I decided to investigate which pastors in my native state of North Carolina might be consulting the 9Marks website and following the recommendations on church discipline presented there.  Here is the breakdown of North Carolina churches that affiliate with 9Marks:

Baptist – 61

Community Church – 33

Bible Church – 6

PCA – 9

Sovereign Grace Ministries – 3

OPC – 1

ARPC – 1

Acts 29 – 1

Harvest Ministries (James MacDonald) – 1

Family Integrated Churches (FIC) – 6

Interestingly, the church from which my friends resigned is included in the 9Marks directory of churches, and the pastor is a colleague of Mark Dever.  The congregation they tried to join is not affiliated with 9Marks.  After the husband met with his former pastor, he and his wife received an e-mail from the prospective pastor stating that they could now join the church. 

Not surprisingly, they declined. 

Church discipline has become quite popular among the Neo-Reformed crowd, whom we label as 'Calvinistas'.  As I understand Scripture, church discipline should be reserved for the grossest of sins (like the man sleeping with his mother-in-law – 1 Corinthians 5).  Yet some Calvinista churches are disciplining members for infractions like not attending church or care groups on a regular basis. 

Let's take a look at the church discipline policy of a 9Marks church here in North Carolina.  I found the following information on the church website.  (For clarification, this church is NOT affiliated with SGM, Acts 29, FIC, or Harvest Ministries).  Here is a portion of that discipline policy:

"Church discipline is plainly taught in the Scriptures. It is one of the primary means that the Lord has ordained for bringing about repentance and restoration in the lives of His erring children. When practiced according to Scripture, church discipline is an act of obedience that demonstrates our love for the Lord and our desire to have fellowship with Him by walking in the light of his truth….When other Biblical measures prove ineffective… those members of the church who refuse to repent of sin and submit to the church…will be 1. Removed from membership. 2. Excluded from communion. 3. Treated as an unbeliever…and turned over to Satan… When the disciplined member gives sufficient evidence of genuine repentance, the church is to heartily express forgiveness and receive the offender into fellowship again…Each member of [church name] agrees to submit to and participate in the discipline of the church.
Addenda:
1. Should a member become guilty of sin that the church deems scandalous, the church may excommunicate him immediately and without prior implementation of less drastic means of discipline, such as private expostulation or public rebuke. 1 Corinthians 5 records the command to immediately withdraw fellowship from a man who was guilty of scandalous sin. See also Galatians 2:11-16.
2. The decision as to whether or not it is necessary for a repenting member to confess his sin to the entire church rests with the pastors (also called elders and overseers) of the church; but the general principle is: the repentance ought to be as public as the sin is notorious. That is, publicly known sins are to be repented of publicly.
3. Unless providentially hindered, any member who willfully and habitually absents himself from the appointed meetings of the church will be liable to church discipline.
4. Any member who seeks a transfer of membership or any other removal of his name from the church roll while subject to any stage of church discipline will not have his name removed from the church roll without the consent of the Elders. If he should leave during the discipline to attend another church, [church name] will communicate the nature and status of the discipline with the pastor of the other church.
5. Each member of [church name] agrees that he will not initiate or pursue legal action against the church, nor against the pastors, deacons, or church staff in connection with their performance of official duties. Any Christian considering legal action against another Christian is encouraged to heed 1 Corinthians 6:1-8."

Let's be clear.  This is a legal contract!  Do the church leaders inform prospective members that this is a binding legal contract before they sign it?  In all likelihood, churches like this one has obtained legal counsel to write up their membership covenants, including the church discipline guidelines.  Shouldn't churches like this one be honest enough to advise prospective members that they are signing a legal document when they join?  If not, then why would you join a church that isn't transparent?  This is a HUGE red flag!

You can be certain that NEVER in a million years will I ever sign a document like that!  

Getting back to 9Marks, I am grateful that not that many churches in our great state have jumped on the 9Marks bandwagon.  Church discipline is getting W-A-Y out of hand when someone who 'habitually absents himself from the appointed meetings of the church' is disciplined.  What if his/her job sometimes conflicts with such meetings?  And 'publicly known sins are to be repented of publicly'?

Looks like the church discipline pendulum needs some serious correction because it has swung way too far to the right!   The Church at Brook Hills (where David Platt pastors) may be getting it… 

Here are some videos they produced in conjunction with a Platt's series on church discipline.

Lydia's Corner:  2 Samuel 14:1-15:22   John 18:1-24   Psalm 119:97-112   Proverbs 16:8-9
 

Comments

Should Autonomous Churches be Cooperating in Church Discipline? — 207 Comments

  1. This is why I’ll probably never join as a voting member of another church, or help out in certain ministries in it. It’s not that I don’t want to on either count, but the SGM experience and what I’ve learned from it in reading the blogs and related books on spiritual abuse, have left me sadder but wiser in that regard. We left “well”, but I cringe for those who did not and try to join a new church, from this new thread. Lawyers draw up parts of the “covenants” of some of these churches, so even though one leaves, one may not have been considered as having left! As was noted on the previous thread, Hotel California. From now on, I want to be as “wise as a snake, and gentle as a dove”. This is the kind of discipline which should only be reserved for issues as serious as pedophilia, murder, etc., imo.

  2. In 1994, I moved from Ohio to Texas to co-pastor a Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Elmendorf, Texas. I wasn’t there very long before I realized I had made a huge mistake. After trying to find a way to make it work, I decided to resign and return to Ohio. Imagine my surprise when I was told I couldn’t resign. Since I had to have the church’s permission to join the church, I had to have their permission to leave the church.

    Well, I resigned anyway and the church exercised church discipline against me. I was excommunicated and to this day I am considered a publican and heathen. Keep in mind, my only sin was resigning. My wife and children were not excommunicated, the church said, because they were under my control.

    I was at the church for seven months. During this time they disciplined numerous people over things like not regularly attending church or disagreeing with the pastors.

    I am no longer a pastor or a Christian. Of course, in their eyes, this is proof that they were right in exercising church discipline against me.

    Since then, I have met and pastored a few people who were disciplined in Calvinistic Baptist churches. In every case, the person was disciplined for things that certainly did not warrant being excommunicated. In one case, a woman moved to Ohio from New Jersey. The church elders counseled her against the move, she moved anyway, so they excommunicated her.

    Using church discipline like this is abusive and quite harmful to people mentally and emotionally. It is troubling the practice is becoming more common.

  3. I think church discipline is Biblical, but, I think the problem is when these congregational type churches do church discipline and nobody disciplines the discipliner. In my congregation (PCA) we have to submit to the Presbytery and the Presbytery needs to submit to the General Assembly, and on and on and on…

    … also it’s a bit ironic that the Baptist is talking like a Presbyterian :/

  4. Deb — Thanks for shining the light on these heavy-handed churches. Churches ought to be warm and loving places where people can worship the Lord together and enjoy fellowship, not places to live in fear.

    Thank goodness there are only about 2750 9 Marks churches. Other “Calvinista” churches include Sovereign Grace Ministries (79 churches), Acts 29 (about 300 churches), FIC, or Harvest Ministries. Plus other kinds of fundamentalist churches use heavy-handed discipline as well. These kinds of churches, plus others like them that don’t appear on any list, make up perhaps 5% of all churches in the U.S. (There are 200,000 churches total in the U.S. and 20,000 in Canada.)

    Here’s the link to the list of 9 Marks churches:
    http://www.9marks.org/churchsearch/searchmap.php

    Here’s a link to the list of Acts 29 churches:
    http://www.acts29network.org/churches/

    Here’s a link to the list of Sovereign Grace Ministries churches:
    http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/churches/list-of-all-sgm-churches.aspx

    Link to search for Family-Integrated Churches (FIC)
    http://www.familyintegratedchurch.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11

    3 Examples of “9 Marks” pastors and staff encouraging each other to monitor you and your family members wherever you go:

    Deepak Reju admits that he looks forward to stalking you – http://www.9marks.org/blog/gospel-minded-churches-cooperating-pastoring

    Jonathan Leeman’s very unsettling post on making life miserable for former church members – http://www.9marks.org/blog/churches-cooperating-discipline

    Deepak Reju again talking about maintaining information on your family members –
    http://www.9marks.org/blog/why-use-house-church-membership-directory

    Bobby Jamieson is a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and 9 Marks staff. He tells pastors not to let just anyone resign and leave the church.: http://www.9marks.org/blog/pastors-don%E2%80%99t-let-your-people-resign-thin-air (Look at the comments section.)

  5. Bruce Gerencser wrote:

    Well, I resigned anyway and the church exercised church discipline against me. I was excommunicated and to this day I am considered a publican and heathen. Keep in mind, my only sin was resigning. My wife and children were not excommunicated, the church said, because they were under my control.

    Bruce — Thank you for sharing your story. What a horror. My heart goes out to you and your family. This injustice must grieve the Lord deeply.

  6. What is amazing is the hypocrisy: Some churches will cover up for a child molester in their midst, but harass and excommunicate the person who needs to move away due to a job change. Sick. Sick. Sick.

  7. Thanks for those links, Janey! The church we went to previously was on there, as well as 2 we visited. Whew! Glad to be out. Makes me feel kinda dumb to admit it.

    Bruce, I’m praying for you all. I believe the Lord is using you, even now. God bless.

  8. This happened with our family. We were placed in church discipline AFTER leaving the church, unbeknownst to us. The pastor also followed my friend who also had left, Meaghan (defendant in our defamation lawsuit) to her new churches she was trying out to “tattle” with the prospective pastors. There is a strong allegiance among pastors to believe another pastor before trusting a congregant. Where have we heard this before?

    RB, I, too, am reluctant to join any membership. But I have to say, we were not members at BGBC and it still happened (although the by-laws clearly say church discipline is for bona fide members). If you have a controlling pastor, it makes no difference whether there are membership agreements, by-laws, etc, he can make your life very difficult if you do not submit to his self-assumed authority.

    Hi Bruce, nice to see you here.

  9. “He puts you under church discipline for challenging him.”

    As far as I can see, there is no biblical warrant for a pastor or the elders putting someone under church discipline. I’m not even sure that an apostle could do it on his own. The two main passages on the subject, Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5, both speak about the whole church gathering to excommunicate someone:

    “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
    (Matt 18:17-20)

    “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5:3-5)

    It seems clear that Paul is referring to Matthew 18 here, even using the same wording. In 1 Corinthians, elders are not even mentioned, even if it’s very likely that the church had that.

    I think it would give at least some protection against abuse of power and against wrongful church discipline if the decision was made by the church as a whole, and if it required this kind of solemn assembly.

    The concepts of “membership” and “pastor” are both difficult to find in the New Testament, which easily causes trouble when applying the teaching of the New Testament on church discipline. It just doesn’t quite fit…

    Concerning churches cooperating in church discipline, I think that is a hard question: What about people who have been put under church discipline for sexual or physical abuse, or psychopaths, or fraudsters? They could easily move to another part of the country, join a new church, and find new victims. This could easily be avoided if the new church made a phone call. However, the new church should probably still take the trouble to hear both parties, and make an independent decision.

  10. The first blog post link from Deepak Reju is terrifying , degrading ( he talks about people being wee little sheep) and disgusting. I cannot I imagine having a pastor like this!

  11. The Neo-Calvinist crowd seems to worship church discipline/membership to a bizarre extent. But I suppose believing that church membership is “marrying the church” (as opposed to just attending which is “shacking up”) would make the whole idea a lot more weighty.

    We were never disciplined at our ex-PCA church, but they pushed membership on us pretty hard. We had the forms in our email inbox for around two years but never completed them. (For me, mostly this was because they wanted my testimony and I was timid about writing it. None of us have “shiny” or dramatic conversion stories and the pastor kept bugging my mom esp. to know hers. It’s basically “I grew up in the church and I’ve always been a Christian” which apparently wasn’t enough…?)

    But anyway, finally the pastor brought in this Dutch guy to guest preach. I was absent that Sunday (possibly because I was playing handbells at mass – #irony) so I looked him up on the internet and it took me about five minutes to figure out he was a Reconstructionist. Well, that was the last straw. We met with the pastor at the pizza place near from the church – mom had told him I was the one with a problem with the guest preacher. I had written something outlining said problems, w/quotes by the guy attached that proved I was right about his theology. I was the only person in my family qualified to properly explain the concerns.

    So what did the pastor do? He spent an entire hour-long dinner talking about other stuff until I left for handbell rehearsal, and then started in on the actual topic of the meeting. To my knowledge, he knew I was the one with the problems with the minister but waited until I was gone for some reason. Mom tried to explain my concerns and mostly failed (she knew the general point but not the details). Finally it got around to saying that this guy being let in to guest preach was enough for us not to join the church, and that she had been leaning toward not joining anyway because she was a Lutheran at heart. (I was too but I didn’t realize it at the time.) Suffice to say he wasn’t happy, though he didn’t blow up at the restaurant or anything.

    So when I got home from rehearsal that night I went on my FB and saw this post on the church’s FB (run by the pastor, to my knowledge), a quote from The Screwtape Letters:

    “Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him him until he becomes a taster or a connoisseur of churches.”

    The intended meaning was obvious. It was the cattiest thing I’ve ever seen, from a grown man to boot. We left.

  12. @ Janey:

    Thanks for those links! I have read some of those 9Marks articles, and we will be taking a look at them.

    As I'm sure you know, there is some overlap between the groupings of churches you provided. I would imagine that ALL of the SGM churches are on the 9Marks list of churches. I know all three SGM churches here in North Carolina are on the 9Marks list.

    When I included those videos at the end of yesterday's post, I should have looked to see whether David Platt's church is on the 9Marks list of churches. Yes, it is… http://www.9marks.org/churchsearch/viewItem.php?id=2395

  13. @ Janey:
    Thanks, Janey. It’s important to remember that only a small proportion of church groups who go all-out. But have you any idea about how widespread the general attitudes are?

    Several friends, a number of years back, judged/left me when I collapsed from PTSD. They were Christian Reformed, Reformed, Evangelical Free, and Baptist (don’t remember which conference). All educated professionals. Their specific reasonings varied but fell into line with what I’ve been reading here on TWW (sin-sniffing, mental illness as mere social construct, idolizing marriage, discipline = love, etc)

    Does anyone have a general idea how far this stuff reaches in the broad Christian community?

  14. @ Hester:
    That is a disturbing story, and I am sorry for how you were treated. I think you have said that that pastor is gone now (correct?), but in any case you and your family made the right choice. Reconstructionism is a destructive and hateful heresy and has no place in the PCA (or any other Christian church). Your new church is blessed to have you.

  15. My old efree church sent the pastors and the elders to CHBC this last weekend for a conference. After I have left they have pushed for membership and have added the crazy requirements to their agreement. When I left I had never joined the church so they had no authority over me, probably I was under some sort of discipline when I left too. It is sad to see this system take over a church and hold the members hostage in a way. Most people I talk to still that still go there don’t understand what is happening and think I am crazy. The koolaid drinkers I run into just question me and pompously infer that I am a liberal now.

    I saw this coming because during my youth group days they used the Sonlife curriculum. I went to the seminar as a kid and saw how they set up the youth group with a ministry team that went around and looked for dirt to report to the youth pastor. They also showed how to push away the people on the fringe and get them not to come back. Needless to say I tested the theory and was one of the fringe. I think I was the only one that walked out and never came back to youth group when they threatened me. So when all of this started to creep in there as an adult over all of the congregation I panicked in a way. I am so glad I got my family out when I did but feel like a fool for going back as an adult.

  16. @ Bruce Gerencser:

    I am so sorry for the garbage your put up with in your former SG Baptist church.

    We are equal opportunity offender. When we started this blog, we were nobodies with no influence. We were, and are, average middle aged women who dislike injustice wherever we see it. And when it involves abuse of children, we kick into high gear.

    Your story, unfortunately is one of hundreds that I have read over at Ex Christians.Net. Those folks gave me an education during the number of years that I lurked there. Some Christian churches act like jerks, pretending that they control one another’s lives. And as we have learned, the leaders can have some pretty bad sins of their own (I insert the word “alleged” for the lawyers).

    Although I know that you did not leave the faith over that incident, (another lesson I learned from ExChristians) I want you to know that I am so sorry that you were treated like owned chattel. I hope that you will find peace and freedom as you walk through life. And know that you have a few Christian friends over here who will not treat you like an object to be converted.

  17. This is my first time posting but I’ve been a long-time reader of this blog. Dee and Deb– thank you for the work that you do.

    I was a member of an Acts 29 church, and so many of the things talked about here are spot-on. The elders at my former church were absolutely obsessed with their own authority. So much crap went on that I barely know where to begin. I was a graduate student at that time and working extremely long hours. As part of the membership agreement, we were forced to attend community group. I say “forced” because apparently it was difficult getting people to go, so we were constantly being reminded that it was required, it was biblically mandated (never quite got that one), etc. And we constantly got the “be married to the church, not shacked up with it” shtick which, I am embarrassed to admit, was the kind of rhetoric that got me to join in the first place. Anyway, as school went on I became much busier and was always occupied in the evenings, and stopped going to small group (which I hated anyway, and didn’t consider it much of a loss). Around that time I got an email from my CG leader who wanted me to sign a “community group covenant”, as if the membership covenant wasn’t enough. In it, there was a promise that we would “faithfully” attend the group, and if we didn’t, we would call ahead of time and “provide a reason for missing the meeting” (!!!) It was a “last straw” kind of moment, especially since I had made it abundantly clear that I could not attend and had even asked people to pray for me because of all the stress. To make a very long story short, I ended up resigning my membership because I wasn’t able to fulfill my agreement to attend the small group. It was ridiculous. I was never under discipline but I certainly did not go with their blessing. Before I left I got a lecture about how I had committed myself to the church, and apparently because I wasn’t attending small group I had a “spiritual illness” according to one elder. How completely unbiblical. I will never, ever, again sign a membership/community/agreement/covenant/contract. Or subject myself to people like them.

  18. It is very clear what this is all about when one considers the fact that many of these authoritarian churches are the worst offenders when it comes to sheltering pedophiles. Why are child abusers welcomed back with open arms but skipping Sunday school means you are hounded for the rest of your life? I believe it’s because predatory abusers are liars and sociopaths who say exactly what these authoritarian pastors/elders want to hear. And that’s how the authoritarians reveal their true priorities. It’s not about developing or encouraging actual good moral character. It’s not about accountability. It’s about recognizing their authority. That’s what matters to them.

    The other way these leaders tip their hand is by always moving the goalpost when they’re the ones who want something different from what the church wants. THEY are allowed to make their own life decisions. They have special dispensation. The rules don’t apply to them. These are signs of cults, theocracies, and totalitarian regimes — not “biblical” Christian churches.

  19. Yeah…this is old school SGM Gestapo tactics. It is meant to intimidate members; simply another form of god-mandated violence to compel “sound doctrine”, which is little more than towing the party line.

    Beware when Calvinist-a churches declare something is “clearly” or “plainly taught” in scripture and then proceed to acknowledge it with a term that is NOWHERE found in scripture. For example: church discipline.

  20. We were “defacto excommunicated”from a PCA church for the sin of “contumacy” which means disobeying our elders by deciding we no longer wanted to sit under the teaching of a pastor who was out of control.(It was announced just this way on a Sunday morning because they had never written formal charges against or had any sort of trial.) Even some of the elders and other pastors in the presbytery agreed with my husband who tried everything under the sun to bring accountability into the situation. Following the proper denominational procedure, we filed a complaint with the presbytery who ruled in our favor. Then our elders filed an appeal and the presbytery ruled in their favor because they produced some document that said we had filed our complaint 24 hours beyond the allowed time to file. Righteousness fell victim to a statute of limitations apparently. When we tried to move on, the pastor followed us to three different churches, threatening them with being declared “apostate” if they didn’t hold to our discipline. This was when we decided we would not become members of any church again. We have been part of both congregational rule and elder rule and see equal problems in both. We have purposed to not join a church again but have no problem submitting ourselves to one another as believers in Christ. Church discipline has become one of the buzz words and is so bogus in most cases. We know of churches that are turning a blind eye to men who abuse their wives, outrageous business ethics, drunkenness, out and out deception, etc. on the part of church leadership without so much as a hand slap. I am so thankful the body of Christ and official church membership are NOT synonymous!

  21. I am having hard time figuring out what I want to say. I am not a member of a church and likely never will be again. Right now I don’t even attend a church. Did you know that in order to receive help from many churches you must at least be a regular attender, if not a member AND regular contributor/tither? The most recent place where I ran into this was an Assembly of God church. Doesn’t matter what kind of help, could be you are having a spiritial crisis and want to discuss it with someone on the “pastoral team”. Don’t even consider asking for help if you are in financial difficulty. You are on your own. I find this attitude unscriptural and unChristlike to say the least.

    This is the longest I have ever not had someplace to go to church. I feel sad that there is so much garbage going on in so many churches and I must sift through the compost heap in order to find a church. I just don’t have the energy to do that right now.

  22. Beware! They take church membership VERY seriously. A violation of the “covenant” is a violation of God, and they will ignore personal, familial, even civil/societal boundaries in order to fulfill God’s discipline.

    “Who should we obey, you or God?” This is the proof text they use in service to their violations of humanity.

    I recommend NEVER signing any membership agreement. Let your yes be yes. Anything else is from the evil one. Keep this in mind.

  23. @ thatmom:

    Ugh. How horrible. I hope that pastor is somewhere where he can’t wreak his havoc on others now.

    I love my denomination, but Voldemort’s words from Harry Potter describe way too many of us:

    “There is no right, there is no wrong, there is only POWER and those too weak to use it.”

  24. And never underestimate the good old boys factor in all this. Even Presbyterian churches that say their authority structure is a “plurality of elders” still have pastors who see themselves as above their elders. And then there is the ever-present church boss….every church has one…..who pulls the strings whether he is on a board or not.

  25. @ pcapastor:

    Oh that pastor is still pastoring the same church….12 years later. The people coming and going from there looks like a train schedule: member arrives,member departs. The guy came from a Roman Catholic background and I think he wants to be considered as the priest of his little PCA parish.

    I read an article about the PCA about 8 or so years ago that seemed to describe it well. It said that there are about 5 different types of PCA churches with various agendas that flavor different congregations including the federal vision, reconstructionist, missional, Baptist-leaning etc. We know ones in each of these categories. I think this is why some are so much better than others.

  26. @ Bruce Gerencser:

    Bruce, nice to see that you made your way over here to TWW. Dee, Deb and most of the crowd here are great people .. and while we all disagree on a variety of things…leading to some intense debates! We also agree on many things and have become friends. I hope that you will as well.

    Welcome

  27. “As far as I can see, there is no biblical warrant for a pastor or the elders putting someone under church discipline. I’m not even sure that an apostle could do it on his own. The two main passages on the subject, Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5, both speak about the whole church gathering to excommunicate someone:”

    Exactly! No where in 1 Corin 5 does Paul tell the Elders to handle it. The entire church was to recognize it as sin and be in agreement. Paul was chastizing them for ignoring it!

    Matthew 18, in my opinion, is not a good fit for “church discipline”. It is about offenses by one to another. There is a process to go through for justice which ends up in front of the church. (This was before Pentecost!) But we spend so much time with the letter of the law in process we forget the spirit of the teaching. Matt 18 gets complicated if you don’t go to the same church or if one person is in a leadership position,etc. And most of these guys add to Matt 18 to take it before the elders which is not in there.

    You really gotta watch these guys. They are slick.

  28. @ Janey:
    I briefly attended a 9marks church in my area. I had no idea until just now. When we left, we not only left, but demanded (and received) a letter from the church, signed by the pastor, renouncing our membership there. It was not enough to leave after their behavior. I wanted a formal record that we had fully renounced them. Finding that they were part of that network just now is astonishing, and pulls some of the pieces together for me.

  29. ” Use church discipline to keep control of members.”

    Really? Wow. That says it all.

    I just found out about the mishandling of elder authority in the church I am currently a member of. After hearing this, I was so sick to my stomach. I am so sick of church and I am frustrated. I will never ever become a member of one again. We have looked and looked to find a new church and get out of the Reformed community but good look finding one who isn’t part of 9Marks, Acts 29, etc.

    After being in the PCA community for the last 23 years, I am done with it. I have had enough of the lack of compassion, arrogance, pride, and male worship that is invading it. For those of you who pray, I’d appreciate prayer.

  30. Argo wrote:

    Let your yes be yes. Anything else is from the evil one. Keep this in mind.

    i totally agree with this when it comes to what is supposed to be the Body of Christ.

  31. The new definition for church seems to be:

    church = elders; pastor and elders; or simply pastor(s)

    Members in the church are simply those who are ruled.

    It’s very discouraging and not how I see the Church described or functioning in the NT at all.

  32. @ Bruce Gerencser:

    Bruce, that is an incredible,incredible story. Heartbreaking, and so egregious…how do I begin to express it? It must, among other things, have cost you a fortune.

    I would love for you to share a longer version of your experience. I think it could be of service to those looking for ways to ferret out the many lies.

  33. I have been listening to stories like these for the last 8 years. It has really gotten bad in the last 4 years it seems.

    And I keep having the same thought over and over: Why do we put up with the drama? I mean for many people they are not receiving a paycheck to go to church so what is it that keeps us in the drama for so long?

    I have some friends who have been at a certain church seens little kids. They are now 40 and they cannot let go. It is obvious a young generation have taken over and are not interested in anything those who have been there for years have to say. Just keep giving your money and we are in charge.

    People find it hard to let go. And I hate to say this but these guys who are so committed to “church discipline” have a some personal issues. i realize they couch it in Christianese but it has become a “doctrine” of the YRR movement. It was presented to the sBC as a way to clean off the church roles a while back but now we are seeing the real fruit of it and what it was meant to do. Control people and give the leaders more authority.

    These guys really do have issues. It is the discipliners we must warn folks about. They do not have the spiritual wisdom for such power and people are fools for agreeing to it. And if they were real “servants” they would NOT want the power. They would know the entire church should be involved in something that serious.

    This will all go away when the money dries up. They will have to get real jobs and be under someone elses authority. Proabably some smart saavy woman, too! :o)

  34. Patrice wrote:

    It’s important to remember that only a small proportion of church groups who go all-out. But have you any idea about how widespread the general attitudes are?

    Several friends, a number of years back, judged/left me when I collapsed from PTSD. They were Christian Reformed, Reformed, Evangelical Free, and Baptist (don’t remember which conference). All educated professionals. Their specific reasonings varied but fell into line with what I’ve been reading here on TWW (sin-sniffing, mental illness as mere social construct, idolizing marriage, discipline = love, etc)

    Does anyone have a general idea how far this stuff reaches in the broad Christian community?

    I think it goes on a pastor-by-pastor and church-by-church basis. One church in our area has the same danger signs, but isn’t on any of these lists. However a few powerful lay leaders from a 9Marks church started taking over about 15 years ago, and behind all of the smiles and Bible knowledge is an effort to control the flock.

  35. Hello, all,

    I told some of my story of being (formerly) involved with “9 Marks-affiliated” churches in another comment here. Most of you may have missed it, as it was fairly far down in the comment thread for another post. For anyone who wishes to read my account, here is the link: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/04/25/breathless-adoration-of-mahaney-gang-at-resolution-2013/#comment-99027

    I had wanted to be somewhat vague on this site about the exact “9 Marks” churches that I attended, but in light of some of the very disturbing links provided by Janey, I now think that I should be explicit. One of those churches, the first one, was Capitol Hill Baptist Church. It was there that I was schooled in the 9 Marks thinking. I embraced it fully, believing it to be “faithfully Biblical” at the time. In retrospect, I can see that one of the dangerous things about the 9 Marks philosophy is that it does strongly address some genuine weaknesses in many American evangelical churches. However, I can say, from experience, that some of the proposed “solutions” are as bad as (and sometimes worse than) the problems.

    Here is one example. At the time that I moved from the MD/DC area to New Mexico, in 2007, I had been a member of CHBC for approximately two years– a very happy member. After my move, I immediately began attending another “9 Marks-affiliated” church in Albuquerque. I was happy there too and desired to quickly begin the process of becoming a member, but at the time that I began attending, one cycle of membership classes was winding down, so I waited for the next cycle to begin taking the classes. I had been in touch with people from CHBC, including at least one deacon that I can remember, both just before I left for New Mexico, and after I arrived there and began attending the new church. I made it clear to the CHBC people that I was trying to seek membership at a new church, given my geographical move, for which members of CHBC had actually graciously helped to pay (they do help their members in many ways, and I was thankful for the help!).

    However, due to the delay in my membership process in the new church (waiting for the next cycles of classes to begin), it took about three or four months before I was able to actually finish the classes, sign the church covenant, and become a full-fledged member. During this “interim period,” I received a letter from one of the CHBC leaders, informing me that if I did not contact them before the next members’ meeting, I would be disciplined, and my membership would be terminated, given that it had, apparently, taken too long for me to become a member of the church in Albuquerque! I was absolutely stunned. I had been such an enthusiastic supporter of the “9 Marks philosophy,” both at CHBC and at my new church, yet now, I was being threatened with discipline for, seemingly, not sticking closely enough to one aspect of it! (It’s not as though I had had no contact at all with people from CHBC since I moved to New Mexico!) To be fair, I did contact someone from CHBC, after receiving the letter, and explained that the membership process was taking longer than I had hoped, and that I would soon be a member of the new church– thus averting “church discipline” from the CHBC elders. Still though, I just don’t see why that letter even had to be sent! I was not some kind of drifter who had become a member at CHBC and then refused any genuine fellowship and accountability in the church, finally moving, unbeknownst to anyone, to another church in another state, not ever contacting CHBC. Far from it.

    About the senior pastor/main preaching elder (mentioned in the comment which I linked to above) who unfriended me on Facebook, without a word, after I returned to the Catholic Church in 2010? His name is Mark Dever. That unfriending broke my heart. I could understand that Mark didn’t consider me a brother in Christ anymore, given that he believes (and teaches at CHBC) that the Catholic Church holds to a “false gospel of works-rightteousness.” I didn’t *agree* with that assessment of the Catholic Church and its teaching anymore, by the time that I returned to the Church, but I still understood how Mark had a very different view and was thus unable to continue viewing me as a brother in Christ. Especially given that I knew that he *did* hold such a view though, it broke my heart that he simply unfriended me, never writing or calling me at all to express concern or to ask me about my decision to return to the Catholic Church. His own teaching in the 9 Marks books and articles does not advocate such silence toward one who is considered an “apostate!” I still don’t understand it.

    I have long refrained from telling most people about the things that I have revealed in this comment. Part of the reason for that is that I did not want to engage in gossip with other believers about aspects of my former church. I am still very grateful for much of the solid Biblical teaching and genuine Christian love that I did receive there from so many people– including, in many ways, while I was there, Mark Dever and the other elders. Looking back though, there were also real aspects of CHBC that were unhealthy, and I can no longer remain silent about them. I feel the need to speak out, partially to provide people who may still be there, or who may be considering attending or joining, with some relevant information that they may not get from the elders.

  36. Wow. This is amazing and not in a good way. I went to the 9Marks website and looked up member churches in my area. I was shocked to find a church that we had attended for awhile but ultimately decided not to join. I am so grateful for that decision. You know why we didn’t join? My disabilities made it impossible for me to sit through a ninety minute sermon (plus 30 minutes of music) in grossly uncomfortable pews. I never thought I would be so grateful for my disabilities but I am now. Can’t you just imagine a pastor trying to discipline me for not attending church while recovering from any one of the five major orthopedic surgeries I endured in the last 2 years? That would have been rather funny. This “almost joined the church moment” was before I found TWW and knew that membership contracts were legally binding documents and the many problems with them. I am grateful for the tremendous amount of work Dee and Deb and the commenters here put into alerting us to potentially dangerous and damaging trends in Christianity.

  37. @ Anon 1:

    Hopefully, our brothers and sisters in Christ are beginning to see that the being a part of 9Marks does NOT a healthy church make. In fact, I believe quite the opposite is true.

  38. @ Mandy:

    Yours in an interesting testimony, and I am glad that the truth is finally being revealed about these churches that want to control their congregants to the nth degree. It’s bondage, not freedom in Christ.

  39. Christopher Lake wrote:

    That unfriending broke my heart. I could understand that Mark didn’t consider me a brother in Christ anymore, given that he believes (and teaches at CHBC) that the Catholic Church holds to a “false gospel of works-rightteousness.” I didn’t *agree* with that assessment of the Catholic Church and its teaching anymore, by the time that I returned to the Church, but I still understood how Mark had a very different view and was thus unable to continue viewing me as a brother in Christ. Especially given that I knew that he *did* hold such a view though, it broke my heart that he simply unfriended me, never writing or calling me at all to express concern or to ask me about my decision to return to the Catholic Church. His own teaching in the 9 Marks books and articles does not advocate such silence toward one who is considered an “apostate!” I still don’t understand it.

    And CJ Mahaney has “correct doctrine” so when he blackmails and protects molesters he can not only be a brother but run to Dever’s arms when he is being investigated to be protected from his own church discipline rules at SGM.

    The Hypocrisy is so in your face, it astounds me and shows me how cold hearted and delusional they are.

    Welcome to caste system Christianity

  40. Wisdomchaser wrote:

    This is the longest I have ever not had someplace to go to church. I feel sad that there is so much garbage going on in so many churches and I must sift through the compost heap in order to find a church. I just don’t have the energy to do that right now.

    Wisdomchaser, it is frustrating. These kinds of heavy-control churches are NOT the majority. There are plenty of good healthy churches out there.

  41. Christopher Lake wrote:

    have long refrained from telling most people about the things that I have revealed in this comment. Part of the reason for that is that I did not want to engage in gossip with other believers about aspects of my former church.

    What was done to you is not gossip. That is another part of their false teaching that must be warned about. You are allowed to tell anyone you want about what happened to YOU. And you can tell what happened to you from your experience and it is NOT slander, either. It is simply a negative truth from your perspective. That is NOT gossip.

    They have plenty of stages to tell their side of the story from.

    Don’t buy into their wacked out teaching that only serves to protect their wrong doing and operate in secrecy.

  42. Janey wrote:

    These kinds of heavy-control churches are NOT the majority. There are plenty of good healthy churches out there.

    It is one thing to say a church is healthy but it would be wonderful to describe what folks mean when they say that.

    Besides the basics of Jesus Christ, crucified and Risen:

    My number one question is “can I see a budget” before I join after visiting for a while. If they hem and haw around, I am outta there.

    If they do not trust the pew sitter who helps pay for the place/salaries with a detailed budget at least every quarter, then they don’t think highly enough of their pew sitters who pay for the place.

    If I cannot vote on a budget, I am not going to join. It is that simple.

    This gives me some insight into how transparent they are. There is NO good excuse from keeping a church budget private. I know I have heard too many. Why should we care if John the Athiest off the street wants to see our budget? We should gladly show him.

    The secrecy and back room stuff has to stop for us to even be considered the Body.

  43. @ No More Perfect:
    I’ll pray for you. I understand your frustration. I’d decided that I would never join another church again, but just attend as a perpetual visitor. But, after reading stories here of others who were disciplined from churches they hadn’t even officially joined, I’m growing wary of even visiting. I can live my life as a Christian without church. Churches today are operating more and more like cults.

  44. Anon 1,

    Thank you for your reply. I don’t believe anymore that I what revealed here constitutes gossip about any of my former churches. That’s why I chose to reveal it; I strongly believed that it needed to be told, so that others would read it and hopefully never have to go through what I did. Thank you for your kindness. God bless you.

  45. Moxie wrote:

    To make a very long story short, I ended up resigning my membership because I wasn’t able to fulfill my agreement to attend the small group. It was ridiculous. I was never under discipline but I certainly did not go with their blessing. Before I left I got a lecture about how I had committed myself to the church, and apparently because I wasn’t attending small group I had a “spiritual illness” according to one elder.

    Moxie — Thanks for sharing. The church leaders’ cold-hearted attitude toward people and their difficulties in life is really amazing. Like spouse abusers, they cleverly turn the blame on you. It’s always your fault. Jesus wasn’t like that. He criticized the Pharisees: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” — Matt. 23:4

  46. @ Janey:

    I think one of the reasons it is so hard to measure or even know about is that church discipline is so often done behind the scenes. The elders I mentioned believed that in the Matthew 18 process, “take it to the church” meant take it to the elders, which is the Jay Adams interpretation, I might add. That way they could privately say whatever they wanted to any church members and only announce in public that there was to be absolutely no discussion about such and such, that that would be gossip. It totally kept them safe from any accountability whatsoever and the rest of the congregation actually believed their interpretation to be correct. One only wonders how many others believe this….probably most churches we would be talking about here.

  47. Christopher, I think it takes a lot of guts for people to speak openly about what is done to them by some of these faux Body of Christ’. Your story is bad enough but light compared to what I have seen over the last 8 years. I have seen people finanically ruined, maligned, their reputations ruined, etc, simply for telling what happened to them.

    These guys don’t play around. This is their life. Their career. They are not going to give up the stages, the limelight, the power over others without a serious fight and they play dirty. I know.

    If the worst thing that happens to folks is shunning and unfriending, they do not konw how blessed they are. I have seen families ruined. Some even stuck in another city with no job, no health insurance and mortgage simply because they could not go along with some nefarious doings at a church plant. You think they are glad they trusted “Christians”?

    These people can be brutal to people and think that it is from Christ.

    Just like when Piper tweets right after a disaster when people are dead, lost everything and he simply has to tweet his false interpretation of God’s Sovereignty. Why can’t we understand this is where his heart is? He delights in the calamity because it shows God’s Sovereignty. And yes, he delights in it as it has happened way too many times to come to any other conclusion.

    We have serious warnings about these guys and many do not connect dots.

  48. @ Janey:

    In many churches, especially Presbyterian ones, yu cannot simply resign your church membership. You have to be released to someone else’s care.

  49. I am a “member” of a church. No covenants, total openess with budgets, etc and the pastor has hardly any power! He WANTS it that way and is scared to death of what is happening in the hearts of the pastor peers around him who strive for the power. He does NO hiring, no firing but has respected input and has a vote. “Laity” (even though that is not a biblical concept in the NT) run the church taking turns in various venues.

    This is rare. I know. And the YRR come in all the time telling us we are not biblical and trying to change it. We have some Calvinist members who are very mild and cannot stand the YRR. But the YRR rarely make it past 6 months because we keep smiling and saying, sorry but that is not how we interpret that. See, without being able to gain power, they have no traction, they finally get frustrated and leave. That is why their concept of elder led works. They are handed power over many aspects of the church, can be secret with things, etc. Don’t attend a church like that. (Everyone will say their church is not like that even th9ough a handful of men run the place. Truth is they really don’t know)

    If you go into a church were the people run it, you always ahve factions, etc but that is also a form of checks and balances and you know when it is out of wack and time to move on. But it is still best because you are not creating little popes or tyrants and enabling them to sin by handing them power. We will answer for that, too.

  50. thatmom wrote:

    In many churches, especially Presbyterian ones, yu cannot simply resign your church membership. You have to be released to someone else’s care.

    That is incredible to me. No wonder Mohler, Dever and those guys love Presbyterianism! This just does not compute with my brain living in America.

  51. @ thatmom:
    I think you’re right about that, thatmom. A friend of mine (who has commented here in the past) tried to resign her membership in a PCA church here in North Carolina. She was “church disciplined” after she left and shunned by almost all of her former friends in that church. Her leaving was apparently doubly sinful, in their eyes, because she was a single mom, and they were “concerned” that she wasn’t going to be under anyone’s “authority.” Some of her closest friends basically told her that they no longer considered her a Christian and would pray that she comes back to the faith someday. Unbelievable!

  52. Anon 1,
    What steps do you recommend for people who want to leave high-control churches? What should they expect and how should they deal with it?

  53. @ BeenThereDoneThat:

    Thank you! If it weren’t for my children, I would be a “none.” I struggle with guilt if I am not taking them to church on a regular basis and I also struggle with the “what will happen to them?” if Sunday morning worship is not a part of their lives. The unknowns are what keep me coming back.

    The PCA I am a part of, and all of the churches I have been members of, have never asked me to sign a covenant. I am grateful for that. Also, my pastor is very good about preaching “grace” every Sunday. However, little things are creeping in that are setting off my radar, as well as the unfortunate excommunication incident I learned about.

    I very nearly left the faith over the past year. It is only after I have started branching out (i.e., reading things that are NOT on the RBD reading lists, such as Brennan Manning, Scot McKnight, etc) that show me that Christianity is so much more than a list of rules and whatnot. I laugh with relief to see how far I have come in the last seven years: from a church that is part of the Covenant Presbyterian denomination to now, where I am searching for one outside of the Reformed community.

    I really do not know where my journey will end up. Like I said, I am very frustrated.

  54. @ No More Perfect:

    As I came out of these churches, one thing that has kept my head on straight and really helped me to have the right perspective is to read the Gospels, taking note of how Jesus interacted with others. I especially noted how he dealt with repentant sinners as opposed to authoritarian legalists. Hallelujah what a Savior! It really puts church life into perspective!

  55. @ No More Perfect:

    One of the last authoritarian churches we were part of eventually morphed into one of the first in the Covenant Presbyterian denomination. What intrigues me about them is that they have several elders who were considered renegades and out from under authority themselves. R.C. Sproul Jr. James McDonald, and Marian Lovett are all ordained within this group but were out from under “proper authority” as they started the denomination. What’s good for the goose…….

  56. No More Perfect wrote:

    If it weren’t for my children, I would be a “none.” I struggle with guilt if I am not taking them to church on a regular basis and I also struggle with the “what will happen to them?” if Sunday morning worship is not a part of their lives. The unknowns are what keep me coming back.

    The way I look at it is, if you think it’s not a healthy church environment, why would you want to bring your kids up in it? We left almost two years ago and took our two youngest (teenagers) with us. We’re all much better off.

  57. Janey wrote:

    What steps do you recommend for people who want to leave high-control churches? What should they expect and how should they deal with it?

    Paladin Press (a rather strange small-press publisher) used to have this book titled “How to Disappear Without a Trace”. I think it was a how-to on faking your own death and surfacing under another identity somewhere else. Since you’ll lose all your friends anyway (“Shun the Apostate! Shuuuun!!! Shuuuuuun!!!”), what have you got to lose?

  58. Anon 1 wrote:

    And CJ Mahaney has “correct doctrine” so when he blackmails and protects molesters he can not only be a brother but run to Dever’s arms when he is being investigated to be protected from his own church discipline rules at SGM.

    NOT “Correct Doctrine”, Comrade.
    PURITY OF IDEOLOGY.

  59. thatmom wrote:

    As I came out of these churches, one thing that has kept my head on straight and really helped me to have the right perspective is to read the Gospels, taking note of how Jesus interacted with others. I especially noted how he dealt with repentant sinners as opposed to authoritarian legalists.

    Amen. For me, the best antidote was reading the four Gospels straight through over and over.

  60. Janey wrote:

    Anon 1,
    What steps do you recommend for people who want to leave high-control churches? What should they expect and how should they deal with it?

    Can I add my $.02?

    Vote with your feet and don’t look back, do not pass go, do not collect $100, just get outta there.

    If they engage, ignore. Just wipe your hands clean of them. No need to do negative Google review or start a new blog. If you are tempted, contact me. I will do my best to talk you out of it.

  61. Julie Anne wrote:

    What steps do you recommend for people who want to leave high-control churches? What should they expect and how should they deal with it?

    Can I add my $.02?

    Vote with your feet and don’t look back, do not pass go, do not collect $100, just get outta there.

    If they engage, ignore. Just wipe your hands clean of them. No need to do negative Google review or start a new blog. If you are tempted, contact me. I will do my best to talk you out of it.

    Julie Anne — Thank you for that. It’s so tempting to want to engage with them. But it’s better to go quietly. We don’t have to respond to their requests for meetings.

  62. @ pcapastor:

    Thanks for your reply. I’m glad for the PCA folks at TWW as it keeps me from writing off the entire denomination as a complete can of worms.

    My particular church was very small (~30 people max) and has been that way for years. The same core 4-5 families, all homeschoolers, stay while others come and go…much like ThatMom described above, like a train station. Looking back, that should have told me something.

    And yes, that pastor did leave shortly after. He refused to become bivocational even though the congregation couldn’t pay him (the church is 5 figures in the red, last I heard) and he was putting two of his three daughters through college. Then last year he married off the youngest daughter (17) to a 38yo divorcee with a 12yo daughter (creepy-deepy much?) and went to Uganda, Hawaii, etc. Don’t know where he got the $$$ to do that, since I still haven’t heard that he has a job and he’s not pastoring anywhere. And the church that’s 5 figures in the red just got a new pastor with even more kids…

    Don’t get me started. I still can’t figure it out.

  63. Hester wrote:

    90 min?!?!?!?!?!?!

    I hope that’s not a growing trend. We used to sit through 2-3 hour sermons. Our kids were “trained” to sit still through them, too. When I told my kids a few weeks ago that we were going to visit a church (United Methodist), they stared at me in horror. I explained that it would be very short compared to what they were used to. I hope our former church hasn’t turned them off of church for good.

  64. This entire “membership” thing to me is a strange concept. I grew up Roman Catholic, left because of theological differences in my 20s, went to a church for several years that did not stress membership so much (they were more of the mindset of “community” vs signing some piece of paper), and then started attending my current church.

    My husband and I found out that our current church is actually an Acts 29 church, but has never been presented as such. We only caught on after digging around. Of course, it’s listed on the 9 Marks site.

    I’m pretty thankful we found out when we did. We were being asked to consider leading a small group, which would have required us becoming members. God blessed both my husband and I with a healthy dose of “why do I have to do this” mentality. :P Neither one of us has ever gotten the entire “membership covenant” thing and always assumed being part of the body of Christ was enough to belong to any church.

    Needless to say, we’re not signing any document they ask us to sign.

  65. @ No More Perfect:
    I’m in the same boat as you as far as kids are concerned. We’d like our kids to grow up going to church.

    I think others have given you good advice considering their experience with PCA churches. Especially reading the gospels. We were “disciplined” out of a UPC splinter group just a few months before they made the news for child molestation cover-ups, harsh child discipline, and abusive, controlling behavior toward the congregants. I discovered TWW when they picked up the story, and have been reading here ever since. Knowledge is power. As I’m recovering from our former situation, I’m learning what the growing trends are in Christiandom. Hopefully, when we do find another church, it will be a healthy one.

  66. Janey wrote:

    Moxie — Thanks for sharing. The church leaders’ cold-hearted attitude toward people and their difficulties in life is really amazing. Like spouse abusers, they cleverly turn the blame on you. It’s always your fault. Jesus wasn’t like that. He criticized the Pharisees: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” — Matt. 23:4

    Janey, that was exactly the scripture in my head at the time. This particular church catered to upper middle class white families with young children (usually homeschooled). By the way I don’t have anything at all against that demographic. They did not know what to do with anyone from any other walk of life at all. They stared at me blankly when I told them I was working until 8-9pm every night. (It always made me laugh inside when they talked about how hard the pastors work and that they needed Monday as a “sabbath day” and Saturday as a family day, and Sunday afternoon off, and they didn’t counsel in the evenings, and they didn’t get in to work until 10AM…. ) They marginalized singles, college students, the elderly population, etc. It was like they completely lacked any true empathy. Still makes me angry to think I let myself stay there for so long.

  67. Anon 1 wrote:

    These people can be brutal to people and think that it is from Christ.

    Thomas Paine wrote this in the 1790s:

    “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man…”

  68. Moxie wrote:

    They marginalized singles, college students, the elderly population, etc. It was like they completely lacked any true empathy. Still makes me angry to think I let myself stay there for so long.

    Moxie — Many of us kick ourselves for staying so long. I think it’s a sign we are idealists. But the important thing is that we got out. We can freely truly worship and minister in a church that cares about the hurts of the world and touch a lot more lives. It’s so great not to walk on eggshells anymore, and not have to watch every word you say.

  69. @ Janey:

    Please don’t let my experience go to waste – lol. You are the problem in their eyes. You won’t change their mind. If they didn’t have ears to hear when you were there, they won’t have ears to hear after you are gone because you are their problem. You will be going in circles, drawn into that craziness. Save your sanity. It’s a valuable asset.

  70. @ Anon 1:

    “I have some friends who have been at a certain church seens little kids. They are now 40 and they cannot let go…

    People find it hard to let go.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    Hard to let go of a community (I can understand).
    But also hard to let go of a style, a method, a feeling of comfortable routine & predictability…..a habit….

    I think christians often mistake sentimentality for principled conviction, even truth. To their own detriment, but also the detriment of others (when powerbrokers build operating procedure and systems around it, doctrine and theology, too.)

  71. elastigirl wrote:

    think christians often mistake sentimentality for principled conviction, even truth

    Yes! This is it exactly. But one has to stop and seek truth outside the circus arena. Therin lies the problem with letting go. The first step is to question the assumptions.

  72. Muff Potter wrote:

    Anon 1 wrote:

    These people can be brutal to people and think that it is from Christ.

    Thomas Paine wrote this in the 1790s:

    “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man…”

    Right Muff. It is so true. I went and read the letter where he wrote that a few weeks back again after a many years. Makes you wonder….how the Diests and Humanists got it so right.

    Here is the letter if anyone is interested:

    http://www.deism.com/paine_essay_age_of_reason.htm

    Can you imagine someone like Jonathan Edwards or John Mather working toward individual rights and freedom of religion?

  73. @ Moxie:

    “It always made me laugh inside when they talked about how hard the pastors work and that they needed Monday as a “sabbath day” and Saturday as a family day, and Sunday afternoon off, and they didn’t counsel in the evenings, and they didn’t get in to work until 10AM…”
    +++++++++++++++

    …privileged powderpuffs…

  74. I feel like by focusing on crazy stuff that doesn’t need discipline, churches miss truly grievous things that are going on. And how about addressing why church is hardly even relevant or motivating to many of us any more.

    I am attending an efree church which I like o.k. and is helping me keep my focus on the Lord. But I don’t even know where I am in my relationship with the Lord any more. It’s tough after having seen the craziness at CLC and having a run in with my last pastor because I asked him some sincere questions and was quickly (in one phone conversation) removed from leadership and told to take my whole ladies group and look for another church. I truly feel that I won’t ever sign a membership covenant again. And unfortunately my current church is headed in the direction of a signed contract. Yikes!

  75. thatmom wrote:

    yu cannot simply resign your church membership

    That is what they tell you. you do have legal recourse, though. I will write about that today.

  76. Janey wrote:

    What steps do you recommend for people who want to leave high-control churches? What should they expect and how should they deal with it?

    All of this depends on size of church and their level of service in it. Personally, I would never announce it. I have some friends that are planning on leaving their church which is not high control but a seeker mega that spends money like drunken sailors and has celebrity pastors. They have finally woken up they are supporting something they no longer agree with or see the point in.

    They are teaching classes so they have said they cannot commit to that again this fall and will leave when last class is over without making a big deal of it. Most likely few will notice for a while. It is funny because as a few months pass your attitude in responding to any inquiries is much different. You are a stronger person for being away.

    A smaller church, I would do the same if serving by saying you cannot commit after this term is up and just leave.

    If you signed a covenant/membership agreement of any sort, there is a place on this site with a letter you can send certified alerting them to remove you from membership as of that date. If folks don’t do that, they can harass you or hurt your reputation and you have no legal leg to stand on. TWW committed to helping people with this resource has been invaluable. You cannot imagine how many people I have been able share that information with.

    My advice would be to completely stay out of the drama. Rise above it. You are an adult and owe no one any explanations about where you worship, your relationship with Christ, etc. Remember, those who are trying to control others most likely do not have an imitmate relationship with Christ. I know, sounds mean– but think about it. Common sense is a plus.

    Or you could be like Argo, stay and view it as a research laboratory. :o) In fact, that sort of intrigues me.

    The genus of high controlling churches. :o)

  77. Anon 1 wrote:

    If you signed a covenant/membership agreement of any sort, there is a place on this site with a letter you can send certified alerting them to remove you from membership as of that date.

    I will link to that letter in today’s post.

  78. @ Moxie:

    “It always made me laugh inside when they talked about how hard the pastors work and that they needed Monday as a “sabbath day” and Saturday as a family day, and Sunday afternoon off, and they didn’t counsel in the evenings, and they didn’t get in to work until 10AM…”
    +++++++++++++++

    sorry… just can’t get off this one.

    it’s like a parallel universe or parallel reality — professional christians like what you describe live in this reality that is so “other”, so removed from the realizy of the human beings they walk alongside…

    and they look normal, but really they’re not. an alien species.

    so, are they born alien, and grow up incognito? or once religious professionalism is conferred on them, do they secretly drink something together that alters them?

  79. Marge Sweigart wrote:

    A friend of mine (who has commented here in the past) tried to resign her membership in a PCA church here in North Carolina. She was “church disciplined” after she left and shunned by almost all of her former friends in that church.

    This is why you should always have some friends OUTSIDE of church. That way, they don’t have you by the short hairs if you become a dissident. Too many in the Evangelical Circus have NO friends or social interaction outside of Church (my writing partner has encountered it way too many times in the small churches he pastors) and that all too easily becomes another weapon in the arsenal of a control-freak Pastor/Dictator.

  80. @ elastigirl:
    I think they manage to convince themselves that they deserve such a cushy life because their profession is so “difficult”. I forgot to mention that the lead guy was granted a 3 month paid sabbatical to get some rest. They hang out around other pastors and they pat each other on the back. They tell each other that it is important to sabbath, and use that as an excuse to be lazy. I think the notion that their job is harder than everyone else’s comes from the fact that for *some* pastors, their job really is challenging and draining. My current pastor is bi-vocational and gives his life to the church. I’d like to seem him get more time off. Conversely, my old pastors should be forced to get a real job. Unfortunately my current pastor is a nobody, a *truly* humble pastor of a small church, that the big shots would write-off in a moment.

  81. @ Marge Sweigart: I don’t think it’s true of the PC-USA, though, which is the “mainline” Presbyterian denom. (Though I might be wrong – does anyone have any experience with them?)

  82. @ elastigirl:

    “and they look normal, but really they’re not. an alien species.

    so, are they born alien, and grow up incognito? or once religious professionalism is conferred on them, do they secretly drink something together that alters them?”
    ++++++++++++

    i feel a comic book series coming on… anyone here good at comic book illustration? this could be fun.

  83. Moxie, Don’t get me started on whiny pastors. In the mega industrial complex it is a hard week when they put in 20 hours or have one of their never ending conferences they “had” to go speak for with a nice big honorarium attached. And they have people who do everything for them such as drying cleaning pick up, car oil changed, etc, etc. They have staff pastors who do all the grunt work. They make 6 figures and live on golf courses while praising single moms who can barely make it for tithing to the church which they claim pleases God.

    They sound like OT priests, don’t they?

    Me thinks there is going to be a lot of ‘splainin one day.

  84. Moxie wrote:

    This is my first time posting but I’ve been a long-time reader of this blog. Dee and Deb– thank you for the work that you do.
    I was a member of an Acts 29 church, and so many of the things talked about here are spot-on. The elders at my former church were absolutely obsessed with their own authority. So much crap went on that I barely know where to begin. I was a graduate student at that time and working extremely long hours. As part of the membership agreement, we were forced to attend community group. I say “forced” because apparently it was difficult getting people to go, so we were constantly being reminded that it was required, it was biblically mandated (never quite got that one), etc. And we constantly got the “be married to the church, not shacked up with it” shtick which, I am embarrassed to admit, was the kind of rhetoric that got me to join in the first place. Anyway, as school went on I became much busier and was always occupied in the evenings, and stopped going to small group (which I hated anyway, and didn’t consider it much of a loss). Around that time I got an email from my CG leader who wanted me to sign a “community group covenant”, as if the membership covenant wasn’t enough. In it, there was a promise that we would “faithfully” attend the group, and if we didn’t, we would call ahead of time and “provide a reason for missing the meeting” (!!!) It was a “last straw” kind of moment, especially since I had made it abundantly clear that I could not attend and had even asked people to pray for me because of all the stress. To make a very long story short, I ended up resigning my membership because I wasn’t able to fulfill my agreement to attend the small group. It was ridiculous. I was never under discipline but I certainly did not go with their blessing. Before I left I got a lecture about how I had committed myself to the church, and apparently because I wasn’t attending small group I had a “spiritual illness” according to one elder. How completely unbiblical. I will never, ever, again sign a membership/community/agreement/covenant/contract. Or subject myself to people like them.

    Welcome to TWW and thanks for sharing your story, Moxie! I left an Acts 29 church a while back and had a VERY similar experience to the one that you describe. Unhealthy emphasis on authority of the elders (all of whom were under the age of 30) and crazy demands on my time (sometimes up to 10 hours a week, between Sunday service, mandated community group, and mandated accountability group).

    I embarrassed to say, as bad as the above is, it took something worse for me to leave. Abuse of authority, as well as the fact that it became very clear that the leadership simply was not competent/trained/equipped to lead a church.

    I’m curious – if you’re willing to share – what was the leadership like at your former Acts 29 church? Were they old, or young? How much education did they have? Did the sermons focus a lot on sin-sniffing and condemnation? Was sexual sin given an inordinate amount of attention?

  85. @ Headless Unicorn Guy: You’re so right – and that was one of the hardest things, when I was kicked out of That Church. I no longer knew people in regular old churches… if I had, I’d have had some recourse and a possible refuge from what was going on.

    [b]Never. again.[/b]

  86. Argo wrote:

    @ Bruce Gerencser:
    Bruce, that is an incredible,incredible story. Heartbreaking, and so egregious…how do I begin to express it? It must, among other things, have cost you a fortune.
    I would love for you to share a longer version of your experience. I think it could be of service to those looking for ways to ferret out the many lies.

    I agree with Argo. Thank you, Bruce, for sharing. I am deeply saddened by the way that your former leaders mistreated you and mishandled the situation. If you are ever up to sharing a longer version, I agree that it could be very helpful for the community here at TWW.

  87. @ Hester:
    Yes, ma’am. He spoke really fast and had trouble choosing what he should preach on Sundays so he did the equivalent of three 30 minute sermons. I used to do an outline while he was preaching and you could see the three distinct sermons and the points for each one. Perhaps by now he has gotten it down to just two sermons and an hour’s time. I have a bad back and can only sit for about an hour at a time before needing to stand up and stretch. That is in addition to my knee problems. Needless to say, standing up and stretching during the middle of a sermon isn’t exactly appreciated. :) Right now I’m very grateful that I didn’t end up joining the church.

  88. I’ve read through all the horror stories here and have no hesitation in saying that they are all totally wrong.

    However, I can’t ignore church discipline completely, not least because the Bible seems to support it.

    And I believe it’s needed. Take, for example, a man who has an affair, walks out on his wife and kids, and marries the lady in question (who is invariably younger and more attractive than his former wife).

    Is that Christian conduct? I don’t think anyone would say it is, and the church should not tolerate it. Yet it happens quite regularly, and moving churches is one of the ways that such people avoid discipline. They new couple turn up in a different church, no questions are asked, and they’ve escaped accountability for what they’ve done.

    I note that discipline is related to disciple, and we’re obviously called to make disciples (although the church has preferred to make converts a lot of the time).
    Effective discipline is part of discipleship.

    So, I guess I’m wondering how can we have church discipline with sufficient checks and balances to prevent abuse.

    Or am I talking nonsense? Is church discipline is something that should be consigned to the history books

  89. @ Mandy:
    Goodness, Mandy! I’d have excused myself to go to the ladies room at regular intervals. :-) But it’s probably best that you just moved on.

  90. There’s a guy who pastors a real small church here locally and I’ve attended there a few times. He’d like me as a member, but, to be blunt, while I like him, his family and the church itself, I’m flatly agnostic about the whole religion thing. And I can’t tell him right out, “I like you guys, but I’m not a believer,” because he’d have a very hard time taking it.

    Anyway, that preface was for this brief conversation I had with him a few weeks ago. I’ve been sick, his church has been praying for me. But I don’t disclose everything. He told me, “Discomfort, pastor is your best friend.” I just let him talk on about that while thinking to myself, “uh, no, pastor is NOT my best friend.” My experience with pastors and people in authority in religion is that for the most part, they do lord it over you. There’s all this talk about servant leadership, but that’s just to mask what’s really going on, which is putting the leader up on a pedestal and not allowing any discussion of his pronouncements.

  91. @ Hester:
    I am a member of a PCA church and have been for 20 years. When I read what goes on in some of them, I feel very fortunate. My pastor preaches grace, grace, grace, and although he does not agree with an egalitarian point of view, he respects my position. However, I will say this. We’ll be relocating in a few years and our next church will NOT be a PCA. Perhaps we will become nones … we’ve been going to church fewer and fewer Sundays lately now that our kids are old anyway.

  92. Mr.H wrote:

    Welcome to TWW and thanks for sharing your story, Moxie! I left an Acts 29 church a while back and had a VERY similar experience to the one that you describe. Unhealthy emphasis on authority of the elders (all of whom were under the age of 30) and crazy demands on my time (sometimes up to 10 hours a week, between Sunday service, mandated community group, and mandated accountability group).
    I embarrassed to say, as bad as the above is, it took something worse for me to leave. Abuse of authority, as well as the fact that it became very clear that the leadership simply was not competent/trained/equipped to lead a church.
    I’m curious – if you’re willing to share – what was the leadership like at your former Acts 29 church? Were they old, or young? How much education did they have? Did the sermons focus a lot on sin-sniffing and condemnation? Was sexual sin given an inordinate amount of attention?

    Hi Mr. H. It is validating to know that I’m not the only one with issues with them. It seemed that, from the get-go, there were red flags but I willfully ignored them because the people around me weren’t reacting to the same things I was reacting to. Yes, the pastors were all very young and very naive (not in a “not yet tested” kind of way, but in a completely-incompetent-to-be-leading others sort of way). As far as I know, only one (of 7 or so) went to a Bible school. There was an incredible emphasis on condemnation and sinfulness– though the lead pastor would be the first to shout about how there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” but would then would focus for the entire hour long sermon on sinfulness. They were obsessed with the “obey your elders and submit to them” verse. They would not listen to questions or input of any kind. They constantly liked to talk about church members who wanted to take the church in other directions. As far as I remember, there was not much of an emphasis on sexual sin, however this was before Driscoll’s sex book came out. They absolutely idolized that man, and it would not surprise me if they started talking about it a lot more after that book was published. As I read through some of their material given to us in the membership class, I realized that they had copied huge chunks of it verbatim from Driscoll’s books without attributing it to him. Also, I once heard a sermon by one of them and then several months later listened to a talk given by Matt Chandler at the Gospel Coalition (or similar, I can’t remember what organization). The sermon was the *exact* word-for-word sermon that had been given at my church, including personal illustrations and EVERYTHING. It was SO weird.

    While I’m at it– another story about church discipline. I remember that at some point during my time there (it all blurs together in one horribly dysfunctional and abusive picture) someone had been talking smack about the lead pastor. I have no idea what the issue was about but the “gossip” got back to the lead pastor. From the pulpit, the pastor reprimanded this anonymous person (he did not say their name). He told us that “sometimes the sheep stray, and you don’t put up with that. You’ve gotta discipline them.” And –here is where things get creepy— he made this sweeping motion with his arm and hand as if spanking someone. He kept talking about how, in love, sometimes you have to take action and show them they can’t do stuff like that. All while doing the spanking motion thing. I kept looking around the room for other people to be like “Yes, we are seeing that, and yes, it is freaking weird.” But no one else seemed to react.

  93. The IRD just picked up SGM’s case and started tweeting info on it
    http://www.theird.org/

    @TheIRD

    The Institute on Religion and Democracy

    Christians should be aware of and informed about the disturbing allegations brought against @SovereignGrace bit.ly/13MBd0Y

  94. Ian

    I ave written extensively on this matter and will do so again today. I believe in church discipline and have seen it used successfuly when applied judiciously. But, due to today’s hyperauthoritarian crowd, it is being used for stupid reasons. I am writing a post on this that will be published shortly.

  95. @ Ian:
    Unfortunately, in many cases, people in grievous sin, such as adultery and pedophilia, are protected and “ministered” to, while the victims of such behavior are “disciplined” for not forgiving the perpetrator. Control-freak pastors will “discipline” a congregant for disagreeing with him. I wish such churches would apply discipline to the situations that the scriptures specify. It has gotten out of hand.

  96. @ Marge Sweigart:

    Here’s a short statement from their site:

    The Institute on Religion and Democracy is a faith-based alliance of Christians who monitor, comment, and report on issues affecting the Church. We seek to reform the Church’s role in public life, protect religious freedom, and support democracy at home and abroad.

    And here some of their members:

    Board of Directors

    Officers & Executive Committee:

    Helen Rhea Stumbo Chairman
    Paul Marshall Vice-Chairman
    David Stanley Treasurer
    Fred Barnes At Large
    Mark Tooley President

    Board Members:

    The Rt. Rev. David Anderson, President, The American Anglican Council
    Ms. Sara Anderson, Chief Operating Officer, Bristol House
    Mr. Fred Barnes, Editor, The Weekly Standard
    Dr. Kenneth J. Collins, Professor, Asbury Theological Seminary
    Dr. Janice S. Crouse, Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute
    Rev. Sue Cyre, Executive Director, Presbyterians for Faith, Family, and Ministry
    Dr. Mateen Elass, Presbyterian Minister
    Dr. Thomas Farr, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs
    Fr. Hans Jacobse, President, American Orthodox Institute
    Mr. J. Robert Ladd, Evangelical Seminary
    Dr. Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom
    Rev. Martin Nicholas, Sr. Pastor, Sugarland United Methodist Church
    Mr. James Robb, Vice President – Operations, NumbersUSA
    Mr. William Saunders, Sr, Vice President of Legal Affairs, Americans United for Life
    Mr. David Stanley, Retired attorney
    Mrs. Helen Rhea Stumbo, Publisher, Bristol House Ltd.
    Dr. Graham Walker, President, Patrick Henry College

    Emeritus:

    Dr. Ira Gallaway, United Methodist clergyman
    Dr. Robert P. George, Professor, Princeton University
    Carl F.H. Henry (1913-2003)
    Rev. Richard J. Neuhaus (1936-2009)
    Michael Novak, George Frederick Jewett Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
    Thomas C. Oden, Director, The Center for Early African Christianity
    Edmund W. Robb, Jr. (1926-2004)
    George Weigel, Ethicist and biographer of Pope John Paul II

    _________________________

  97. Moxie wrote:

    As I read through some of their material given to us in the membership class, I realized that they had copied huge chunks of it verbatim from Driscoll’s books without attributing it to him. Also, I once heard a sermon by one of them and then several months later listened to a talk given by Matt Chandler at the Gospel Coalition (or similar, I can’t remember what organization). The sermon was the *exact* word-for-word sermon that had been given at my church, including personal illustrations and EVERYTHING.

    Ha. That’s exactly what one of the MacArthur clones at my old church does. I’ve heard long word-for-word quotes taken from other authors. He never gives sources. He acts as if these great insights are his. Amazing plagiarism.

  98. Deb, Dee, and other readers,
    Been reading your blog for a while, first time I’ve commented. My wife and I attended a local Kansas City church strongly influenced by 9Marks and the SBC. We were there about 4 months, but never signed the membership papers they so deeply wanted us to sign. During the meetings, I felt like we entered into fellowship with the group and were recognized as fellow Christians. But since we hadn’t signed their papers, they excluded us from communion (every week). I loved the connection I felt with many of the men in that group. We stayed for those 4 months because I was hoping they’d see the foolishness of their doctrine that excludes fellow Christians because a man-made document hadn’t been agreed to. We were told we needed to “join” so the pastors’ could know who they were responsible for. I wondered how the pastors “knew” they were supposed to become pastors in the first place? Did someone sign a paper for them? They ended up exercising “church discipline” and telling us to leave because we wouldn’t join. We had decided to leave by that point anyway, but it was a painful and horrible thing to see in person.

  99. Just a follow on to my original comment, I really see church membership as a negative thing. Its a man-made doctrine that almost always avails itself to either pride or control issues for the leadership. Being a part of a group of Christians should be voluntary and done out of love for Christ and others, not done out of obligation and control.

  100. No More Perfect wrote:

    ” Use church discipline to keep control of members.”
    Really? Wow. That says it all.
    I just found out about the mishandling of elder authority in the church I am currently a member of. After hearing this, I was so sick to my stomach. I am so sick of church and I am frustrated. I will never ever become a member of one again. We have looked and looked to find a new church and get out of the Reformed community but good look finding one who isn’t part of 9Marks, Acts 29, etc.
    After being in the PCA community for the last 23 years, I am done with it. I have had enough of the lack of compassion, arrogance, pride, and male worship that is invading it. For those of you who pray, I’d appreciate prayer.

    Welcome to the misfits club! We’ve had more than our share with abuses in the church (we should write a book about it…probably would make #1 on Amazon in a heartbeat)…my wife was branded a hypocrite and thrown out of a church because she went against the ‘authority’ of her father and moved out of her home at age 19. It involved two churches and hundreds of people.

    Another church we were part of for a year had internal turmoil in the leadership…we inquired about it and were told to either leave or sign on the membership line and shut-up for a year. On and on and on.

    It has cost us relationship after relationship once people realize you aren’t members of any church. Home-school opportunities were close to nill because of this – many of them requiring you to be members of some church.

    Now I tell people that ask the ‘where do you go to church’ fallacy that we are part of the local expression of the body of Christ in our little town. Ken

  101. Seth wrote:

    We were told we needed to “join” so the pastors’ could know who they were responsible for.

    That is interesting. I wonder in what way they think they are responsbile for you? Is not the Body of Christ responsible for each other even without a piece of paper? Would signing one mean you are saved or something?

    When you really analyze what they are saying/doing, it often makes little sense.

  102. BeenThereDoneThat wrote:

    Unfortunately, in many cases, people in grievous sin, such as adultery and pedophilia, are protected and “ministered” to, while the victims of such behavior are “disciplined” for not forgiving the perpetrator. Control-freak pastors will “discipline” a congregant for disagreeing with him. I wish such churches would apply discipline to the situations that the scriptures specify. It has gotten out of hand.

    Bingo. The truth is that any pastor who has to make church discipline a “mark” of his church has bigger problems. But I thank him as it is a neon warning sign to stay away.

  103. Anon 1 wrote:

    Seth wrote:
    We were told we needed to “join” so the pastors’ could know who they were responsible for.
    That is interesting. I wonder in what way they think they are responsbile for you? Is not the Body of Christ responsible for each other even without a piece of paper? Would signing one mean you are saved or something?
    When you really analyze what they are saying/doing, it often makes little sense.

    We got that too. They referred us to, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” They said, “how can we give an account for you if we don’t know who you are.” At my church their whole church membership argument revolved around this verse.

  104. Right, I agree. How does one know anything in life? Is a signed document to preceed every decision? I remember that I am to love my neighbor because I have have a signed document? It’s bizzare and even more so when I consider how many other-wise bright people have bought into that idea.

  105. @ Ian:

    I believe most who comment here would agree with you. If church discipline were used in those kinds of situations, I highly doubt we would be focusing on it here at TWW.

  106. Moxie wrote:

    They referred us to, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.”

    Horrible translation by the historical church/state translators. Seems more modern translators loved it, too. But then they also made their living in some ministry type profession. :o)

    If you take believe that bad translation it actually negates other NT scriptures.

  107. Dee and Deb, Thank you for this blog! I have been following it closely since I moved to Raleigh recently. One of my relatives became heavily involved in Open Door church, which I found out is a Mark 9 church. I am concerned with the amount of time they spend volunteering there, they skip family holidays-even at the last minute if someone at the church calls and I know they were effected by some of the disciplining actions that are used. I am getting very concerned, but haven’t found anything about these issues on the Internet. This relative is very concerned about my salvation. He talks about predestination, and my only response has been, ” If God hasn’t predestined me, then I guess I am screwed. It is out of my hands”. I ask him why they evangelize since God’s already decided and His will can’t be thwarted. He can’t really answer that. (BTW- I have been a believer for 36 years). Do you have any info about this church? I would appreciate any imput and you can respond privately if that is better. Thank you for all you do. Ann

  108. Fendrel wrote:

    bit.ly/13MBd0Y

    A nice quote from a long article from The Institute on Religion and Democracy summarizing the Sovereign Grace Ministries child sexual abuse lawsuit:

    “Although it is important to investigate the charges thoroughly before drawing conclusions, I question the wisdom of putting these men in prominent and influential positions while these grave allegations hang heavy and unresolved. Further, I wonder why, in the seven months since the lawsuit was originally filed, we have heard little to nothing from those who have close ties with Mahaney and SGM concerning the severity of what is potentially the largest sex abuse scandal in American evangelical history.”

    Emphasis mine.

  109. @ Mandy & BTDT:

    Wow. Our pastor’s sermons are 20 min exactly (I’ve tested him several weeks running – the organist doesn’t have anything else to do during the sermon, right?). If he’s really verbose he’ll hit 23.

    Hester is putting a new rule in her church-picking manual. If the sermon is an hour or more, no go. It seems the pastor is full of himself if he preaches that long.

  110. Mr.H wrote:

    Was sexual sin given an inordinate amount of attention?

    Mr.H,
    In my experience, sexual infractions (next to same sex relations) are THE most egregious thing there is in conservative evangelicalism.

  111. Remember: the most important part of the week is the” preaching event”

    Trivia– What celebrity preacher said that?

  112. I’d never heard of church memebership until I was in my 20s, so it’s not in every group. But I haven’t seen anything good come from it. And yes, I do believe in some church discipline, but most of what the NT speaks of is on an individual application level, not a top down one.

  113. @ Hester:

    “Our pastor’s sermons are 20 min exactly…

    If the sermon is an hour or more, no go. It seems the pastor is full of himself if he preaches that long.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Hester, Mandy, Beentheredonethat–

    aside from minutes at the mic, is any of it worthwhile?

    my growing feeling is that we dutifully sit there and listen and not listen to “the sermon” out of sheer habit. When the truth of the situation is that it is rarely worthwhile.

    I can’t remember the last time i heard a “sermon” or a “speak” (from a professional christian speaker) that was insightful, that grabbed me, that was anything worth implementing in my life, anything worth remembering at all.

    I feel that all i’ve heard for years is tired out ideas, regurgitated time and time again, making the rounds amongst the christian convocations, and then cycling back through again. It is stale. Stale, dry, and flavorless as the very old rice in the white chinese take-out carton sitting on my kitchen counter.

    What do you think?

    Why do we do this? Perpetuating a habit that is becoming meaningless?

  114. @ Hester: Long sermons seem to be the norm in churches in the Reformed tradition. I’ve heard hour+ sermons at one of the big Presby churches in the D.C. area (aeons ago!)

    Lutherans, otoh, tend to keep their homilies short and to the point, which is a mercy!

  115. @ elastigirl:
    “aside from minutes at the mic, is any of it worthwhile?”

    At times I thought some of it was worthwhile. But, I now suspect that much of it was “regurgitated” from other sources, and not always good ones. Our church was, admittedly, more extreme than others. They didn’t allow TVs, Internet access, newspapers, magazines, and they discouraged books and literature that were not approved by the ministry. In that kind of environment any idea they presented would seem new and fresh. :-) However, since reading at TWW and SSB, I really believe much of their material was lifted from various authoritarian “Christian” movements. There are just too many similarities. They presented so many of their ideas as “revelations from God.” Well, maybe. But I now see these “revelations” floating all over out here, and some wreaking havoc in people’s lives.

    I’ve only visited a church once since then. I don’t know how insightful the sermons will be at another church. I just want to worship and express my thanks to God for taking care of us. If we get anything more out of it I will count it as a bonus. I’m not against sermons, but I am against manipulation. I’m done with it.

  116. @ elastigirl: A lot of the time, I think it’s as basic as this: some people are in love with the sound of their own voice.

    A lot of them preach, while others go into politics.

  117. Church Suckers: “Protecting ‘The Name’ of Who?”

    hmmm….

    “Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks,  wrote a book entitled:”Church Discipline: How The Church Protects The Name Of Jesus”?!?

    huh? What the fat?

    Isn’t this another rabbit hole, a venue for a proverbial Alice’s discovery?

    What?

    Since the Ascension, Jesus has resided upon the throne in heaven, among a ton of angelic beings. Jesus now requires a author, or a church pastor’s protection…what a hoot!

    Isn’t this another clear demonstration of churchmen overstepping their mandate in Matthew 28? 

    What about the Gospel?

    The Gospel of Christ, in certain circles is being used, unnecessarily as a means of controlling the church masses.  This we know.

    The extension of church discipline coming to a neighborhood near you?

    hmmm….

    Isn’t contacting one’s former church, also a form of control? Can’t this behavior be labeled as some form of religious stocking?

    Going to ‘church’ means ‘someone’ starts a UIF “file” on you?

    hmmm….

    I’ll add that to ma list….intrusion alarms, property use warnings, servalence cameras, armed security teams, insurance companies, law firms, Bla, Bla, Bla…

    (these churches soak you for ten percent of your gross income, then they use it against you as a means of control? Apparently in certain cases, you also loose your constitutional rights once you step foot upon their ‘incorporated’ property purchased with your hard earned dollars. And if you don’t like it they then call you crazy….you know the drill.

    Ha!

    Just think, wouldn’t kind folks be better off meeting in a recreation area parking lot. (This peaceable assemble requires no sanction, or approval, worship is free, and there are no background church-to-church checks.)

    Hmmm….

    novel idea?

    ….our church meets in a recreational  area, just pull up tune in your radio, and wham, instant church. One less phonecall for these hokey church overlords ta make! And hey, the money(s) collected actually goes to taking care of the poor, and needy, not some PASTOR’s 1.3 million dollar McMansion.

    -snark-

    “….free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last!”

    (grin)

    hahahahahha

    Sopy

  118. thatmom wrote:

    Following the proper denominational procedure, we filed a complaint with the presbytery who ruled in our favor. Then our elders filed an appeal and the presbytery ruled in their favor because they produced some document that said we had filed our complaint 24 hours beyond the allowed time to file.

    What a story. My condolences. I’m so happy to hear you got out and have found a better situation.

  119. elastigirl wrote:

    Hard to let go of a community (I can understand).
    But also hard to let go of a style, a method, a feeling of comfortable routine & predictability…..a habit….

    We wound up staying at a controlling church for 10 years past when in theory we should have left. But our kids were happy and we formed a small group that, unknowingly to us, was basically a rouge group in the church. When our kids started getting kicked out of Sunday school classes due to asking hard science questions about the YEC lectures plus a few other things we were exposed and soon most of us were gone. :)

  120. @ Seth:

    If you don’t mind an answer from others.

    The covenant lays out what the church expects you to do and what they believe they can do (to you). If you sign it, you are agreeing to what it says. It protects the church from being sued if ex-members come back and say they were mistreated or harassed.

  121. Since the post title takes the form of a question, it seems only fair that I give you all the benefit of my august wisdom by providing the correct answer. And it’s somewhat counterintuitive.

    Insofar as this is a part of all the autonomous “churches” in an area dwelling together in unity as the Church, then yes, they should. There are occasions when it is genuinely necessary for the health of believers that churches are warned about dangerous individuals. A convicted sex-offender might be an obvious case in point; not all churches view child abuse as a trivial offence. Again, I know of an analogous example in a congregation of which we were members a few years ago. A couple joined, set about defrauding various trusting members of significant sums of money to support a fictitious business venture, and simply stopped coming when the leaders challenged them over their behaviour. They then set about “grooming” another congregation for suitable victims. The leaders, rightly, warned the other congregation (to little effect, unfortunately).

    Sadly, I could continue. This site rightly champions the cause of the victims of specious and abusive church discipline wielded in self-interest by unruly and rebellious false shepherds. But the existence of such doesn’t mean that there are no unruly and rebellious false sheep.

    There’s another point, though, which is that proper co-operation between different congregations would expose those same false shepherds to the very accountability they refuse to submit to in “their” sects. Someone who is forced out of a church over some petty secondary doctrine will not be shunned by a totally separate congregation who think differently on it. And if all the churches in an area are equally corrupt and in cahoots, such that they’ll rubber-stamp “expulsions” without any fair hearing, then that area does not have a visible manifestation of The Church at all, but a corrupt counterfeit to which believers owe nothing.

  122. Our church likes a lot of things that 9 Marks puts out.

    But we don’t do this kind of thing.

    My pastor has had a handfule of conversations with people over 20 years about why they lef their former church that caused him to have questions. I believe there have been probably a few calls with former pastors.

    But we have never refused membership because of status at a former church. I can imagine a circumstance where that would occur (e.g. I Corinthians – a man takes up with his mother in law), but the likelihood of that would be really remote.

    We would never exercise discipline like the example you gave. How wierd?

    You are right, however, about discipline, especially amoung young pastors. It is all the rage these days. It’s way overdone in some places.

  123. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    I love your “august wisdom,” Nick. :-) What you proposed sounds great. Is there any place where the collective church actually functions like this?

    At least in my area, most other churches recognize that my my former church, to quote one individual, “acts less like a church and more like a vigilante group.” We won’t be turned away from any churches here because of them. But, the 9 Marks disease does seem to be spreading in this country.

  124. Recently left a supposed to be, inter-denominational outreach, because I’ve been noticing a push towards Reformed doctrine, ESV is now # 1 recommended translation, etc. Just also happened that my former supervisor, (very un-Reformed) was edged out and put down according to the wordage the new leader used, and the new leader (could be my daughter) was micromanaging my work and pushing Reformed material on me. The church she’s in has been mentioned here more than once. Was there a touch of pride on my part? Possibly, but can we say conflict of interest and that the umbrella org should have been keeping better tabs on this brand newbie and how she’s treating others in a venue still considered only basic Protestant tenants of faith? Grr. Enough of TULIP bullies. Waiting for the fallout of Calvinism to run its course and for eyes to open. I know some wonderful believers who are Reformed and hate to throw the baby out with the bath water, but some of this has gone way too far.

  125. Anonymous wrote:

    You are right, however, about discipline, especially amoung young pastors. It is all the rage these days. It’s way overdone in some places.

    It is about having power. And it is like giving teen boys whiskey and car keys. Some of the stuff coming out of Mars Hill and other places are down right bizarre.

  126. It’s all about…DISCIPLINE!
    I covenant to submit to discipline by God through his Holy Spirit, to follow biblical procedures for church discipline in my relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ, to submit to righteous discipline when approached biblically by brothers and sisters in Christ, and to submit to discipline by church leadership if the need should ever arise…I understand that this covenant …is an acknowledgment of my submission to the elders of the church.

    http://marshill.com/membership/covenant

    This allows church “leadership” to wiggle out of any potential lawsuits from abusive or tortious treatment of a “member” under “discipline”. Courts generally refuse to interfere in the internal workings of an ecclesiastical organization, especially when a member has agreed to be “disciplined” by that organization.

    Discipline. Discipline! DISCIPLINE!!!
    We must have DISCIPLINE!

  127. numo wrote:

    @ elastigirl: A lot of the time, I think it’s as basic as this: some people are in love with the sound of their own voice.
    A lot of them preach, while others go into politics.

    :-) So true!!!

  128. @ dee: PS The courts. recognize that one can leave a church and not be subjected to humiliation. Timing is everything.

  129. TedS. wrote:

    It’s all about…DISCIPLINE!
    I covenant to submit to discipline by God through his Holy Spirit, to follow biblical procedures for church discipline in my relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ, to submit to righteous discipline when approached biblically by brothers and sisters in Christ, and to submit to discipline by church leadership if the need should ever arise…I understand that this covenant …is an acknowledgment of my submission to the elders of the church.
    http://marshill.com/membership/covenant
    This allows church “leadership” to wiggle out of any potential lawsuits from abusive or tortious treatment of a “member” under “discipline”. Courts generally refuse to interfere in the internal workings of an ecclesiastical organization, especially when a member has agreed to be “disciplined” by that organization.
    Discipline. Discipline! DISCIPLINE!!!
    We must have DISCIPLINE!

    This is such a great comment that it bears repeating.

  130. We we left our family-integrated church, one of the elders tried to take over our process of finding a new church. He suggested a couple places, including one that someone else at this site had a very negative experience at. He kept talking about wanting us to “have a smooth transition.” We were irritated beyond belief at the way he behaved.

  131. @ elastigirl:
    Honestly, I have learned more about why I believe and what I believe in the last two years of non-church attendance than I ever did while regularly attending church services. The pastor I referred to in my earlier comments – his sermons were interesting but he spoke so fast that most of the congregation couldn’t keep up (and this is coming from a woman who speaks faster than most yankees!). My mom keeps nagging me to get back to church now that I can actually walk but I don’t feel any rush. I’m not sure what would happen if I went back. There is one local pastor I enjoy listening to on tv but the church building is very old and all but impossible for me to get into. I think I’m afraid I’ll fall back into that familiar rut with the church becoming my entire social life, with no desire to interact with the rest of the world. And then there is the complacency that comes from listening to a sermon instead of actively learning and researching for myself. There is also the physical aspect – my body is still pretty fragile and I get tired of explaining my not always obvious limitations (if I fail to explain myself, I will hear a lot of nasty comments in the seats surrounding me for daring not to stand and sit and stand and sit). I don’t know what will happen in the future but right now I am content with independent study.

  132. We have been members of Samaritan Ministries health care sharing program for about five years. We’re thinking of getting rid of it and getting health insurance instead. To stay members, every year you need to have a church official sign that you follow the Samaritan rules. The problem is, we aren’t members of a church anymore and don’t have anyone that can sign the renewal form for us.

    We’ve been attending a UMC church since the fall and when they admit new members, the members stand before the congregation and agree to certain things. Most are very generic (about being a Christian) but the one that bothers us is something about being loyal to Jesus through the Methodist church. What does that mean? (I have no idea if new members sign anything or have to be vetted in any way.)

    Mr. Hoppy and I were discussing a few days ago if we should go to the meeting (2 hours long) about what joining the church involves. The only reason we’d consider joining is to stay members of Samaritan. Now I came here and have doubts all over again.

    I haven’t contacted Samaritan yet to ask if I can renew without being a member. They might let us get by for one year, but I doubt any longer than that. I looked into Medi-Share today, a competing brand, and while the website didn’t specify that applicants need to be official members of a church, it did say you need to regularly attend and be “under the discipline of” a congregation, which I assume means church membership.

    I already throw out the Samaritan newsletters each month. They are filled with pro-dominionism articles. The two that bothered me the most were:

    1. A few years ago, they had one by Doug Phillips of Vision Forum talking about how women with ectopic pregnancies shouldn’t have the pregnancy removed, but just watch and wait. He claimed a couple of babies somewhere once gestated long enough to be born and live. Somehow from a few miracle cases (if they even exist), he’s concluded that women who get medically needed treatment are killing their babies.

    2. The February 2012 newsletter had a pro-adoption article. None of the points about adopting were that couples should do it because they wanted more kids. The one I remember best was that Christians should adopt kids so those evil, heathen, gay people can’t get them. It mentioned people who were “convicted” to adopt kids after they heard that the “homosexuals” were willing to jump through the hoops needed to adopt through the county. Regardless of your view on homosexuality, this is a disgusting attitude. They won’t acknowledge that gay couples can provide loving homes for kids, even if the gay couple itself may be sinning.

  133. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    This is why you should always have some friends OUTSIDE of church. That way, they don’t have you by the short hairs if you become a dissident. Too many in the Evangelical Circus have NO friends or social interaction outside of Church (my writing partner has encountered it way too many times in the small churches he pastors) and that all too easily becomes another weapon in the arsenal of a control-freak Pastor/Dictator.

    AMEN! +1,000,000!

    We thought our friends at the FIC were like family. It turned out that of the three families we spent much time with outside of church:

    1. One viewed us as projects, not as equals (the elder I wrote about above)

    2. Another family started brushing us off, telling us they had a new policy about only getting together with other families twice a month and they were all booked up for the next few months (but then posting on Twitter about their impromptu get togethers with other families).

    3. The third family we are still friends with. Unfortunately, they still go to that church, even though they know how poorly we were treated. They themselves were both put under church discipline last fall because they were thinking of getting divorced (after decades of a miserable marriage). They say they continue to attend, despite all this, because of all their friends there. (Although really, Mr. Hoppy and I have known for years how much the elders look down up the husband in that family.)

    Mr. Hoppy and I agree that we will never again have all our friends from the same church, or any other group from that matter. Just like people should diversify their investment portfolios, we should diversify our friends. That way if an organization implodes, we still have other friends left.

  134. “A few years ago, they had one by Doug Phillips of Vision Forum talking about how women with ectopic pregnancies shouldn’t have the pregnancy removed, but just watch and wait. He claimed a couple of babies somewhere once gestated long enough to be born and live. Somehow from a few miracle cases (if they even exist), he’s concluded that women who get medically needed treatment are killing their babies.”

    Which Medical school did Phillips attend? Where did he do his residency?

  135. dee wrote:

    Janey

    The gospel boys will say that they are a bunch of liberals and should be ignored.

    Janey wrote:

    Fendrel wrote:

    bit.ly/13MBd0Y

    A nice quote from a long article from The Institute on Religion and Democracy summarizing the Sovereign Grace Ministries child sexual abuse lawsuit:

    “Although it is important to investigate the charges thoroughly before drawing conclusions, I question the wisdom of putting these men in prominent and influential positions while these grave allegations hang heavy and unresolved. Further, I wonder why, in the seven months since the lawsuit was originally filed, we have heard little to nothing from those who have close ties with Mahaney and SGM concerning the severity of what is potentially the largest sex abuse scandal in American evangelical history.”

    Emphasis mine.

    Wow. Actually, Fred Barns (who is on their board of directors) is the executive editor of one of the most nationally popular conservative news sources. I thought it sounded familiar when I read his name, but I just looked it up and it sure is the same guy.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Barnes_(journalist)

    This man has major exposure, with regular appearances on Fox News and the like, not to mention running his own news publications. I would LOVE for TGC or the like to try to go the “oh they’re just liberals, pay no mind” route. Haha! Talk about backfire.

    Hrm. Perhaps this is a gateway for national exposure?

  136. Thanks Bridget,
    I can understand suing a church for sexual/pedophile stuff, but does anyone actually sue a church for harassing them about missing a small group meeting? I wouldn’t think that would be a big problem, people would just leave not sue right? I can’t see that kind of case going anywhere in the courts either.

  137. @ Anon 1:

    “Which Medical school did Phillips attend? Where did he do his residency?”

    That would imply that Doug Phillips is a doctor. He’s a lawyer. Real doctors call his position what it is, unethical and reprehensible.

  138. Seth wrote:

    can understand suing a church for sexual/pedophile stuff, but does anyone actually sue a church for harassing them about missing a small group meeting? I wouldn’t think that would be a big problem, people would just leave not sue right? I can’t see that kind of case going anywhere in the courts either.

    Depends on the harassment. I have seen some pretty nasty stuff when a church member disagrees with a pastor publicly– including trying to hurt their businesses, dividing marriages, spreading maliscious rumors, etc.

  139. Seth wrote:

    I really see church membership as a negative thing. Its a man-made doctrine that almost always avails itself to either pride or control issues for the leadership.

    In today’s USA there needs to be a membership of some kind to deal with payroll, rents, tax returns, etc…

  140. Fendrel wrote:

    Here’s another sad thing regarding churches…they are not obligated to follow federal fair hiring practices. They can discriminate for example based on sex..sorry ladies you can’t become pope.

    Not really a valid complaint. If you want to join the RCC the restrictions for becoming the pope are laid out up front. And you certainly aren’t doing it for the money.

  141. @ Lynn:
    It’s not limited to the RCC, no church in the US is obligated to follow fair hiring practices. Just that it seems if ANYONE would want to voluntarily subscribe, it should be churches.

  142. @ Seth: Seth
    I think you may have missed our point. Churches will attempt to destroy the reputations of people who leave churches. They hold church meetings and notify other churches that people . This is a way to help people get the heck out of their church without post facto shunning. Therefore, fight fire with fire.

  143. @ dee: And it has been upheld in court. There was a woman in Florida who quit her church because she was shacking up with her boyfriend and her church told her to move out. She refused.

    She sent a clear letter of resignation. The church then proceeded to have an all church meeting in which they told the congregation the details of her sins. Her daughter was present since her mother had no idea this would happen. She sued and won.

    Churches do not own humans. They are not slaves. Churches must let them go.

  144. This issue is about control and the inappropriate use of power by pastors without a Biblical mandate. However, I think the greater issue is the problem most people have with setting boundaries. When you have been in a system that tells you what to do and how to do it to achieve God’s perfect plan for you, it is sometimes hard to stop and think for yourself. I urge everyone to study the Word themselves and not rely on someone else’s perverted interpretation. One last thing: it’s alright to say no (actually, for me it has been very liberating)!

  145. Anon 1 wrote:

    Which Medical school did Phillips attend? Where did he do his residency?

    Oh, didn’t you know? He is a bioethics expert…or so he says. Of course, Vision Forum also claims that one of their conferences (or products, I can’t remember which) gives women a PhD in homemaking! I’m surprised that someone who went through law school would devalue the hard work involved in getting a graduate degree by claiming that cleaning is as difficult as getting a PhD.

  146. Fendrel wrote:

    @ Lynn:
    It’s not limited to the RCC, no church in the US is obligated to follow fair hiring practices. Just that it seems if ANYONE would want to voluntarily subscribe, it should be churches.

    I used the RCC due to your pope comment. I have a severe problem with any advocacy organization or social based group being required to hire people who do not adhere to their beliefs. Must the local “Obama for President” be required to hire a republican birther as a secretary?

  147. @ Hoppy:

    Must be an honorary expert-hood. If he knew squat about bioethics he’d know that it’s better to save one life than lose two. Knowingly letting a person die, when their death is not inevitable and you could save them, tends to have nasty names in legal parlance.

    As for devaluing hard work, he admitted on one of the lectures I listened to that he managed to worm his way out of all his required math classes at William & Mary but still got awarded his degree.

  148. Ian wrote:

    (who is invariably younger and more attractive than his former wife).

    Maybe it was unintentional, but please don’t equate beauty with youth. Women over 30/ 35/ 40 are just as lovely as 20-somethings.

  149. It sounds like these churches are expecting and demanding absolute sinless perfection in all aspects of a person’s life, given that they are harassing people over minor, stupid, or unbiblical infractions (like not showing up regularly to meetings).

    The Bible indicates believers won’t obtain sinless perfection until the afterlife. They are demanding something of rank-and-file attendees that even God Himself does not expect.

    The Apostle Paul said he sometimes did things he didn’t want to do, but he did them anyway. Paul would not be welcome in the churches every one here is discussing, and he wrote a majority of the New Testament.

  150. Wrong Turn: “Scary Escarpment?”

    HowDee YaAll,

    R U sweating the deal from the bottom of the deck, dealt by the hand of certain nefarious professional church leaders, who tell you they represent Jesus, but lie, and only represent themselves?

    hmmm….

    My Fathers house is to be a house of prayer, yet ‘you’ (name goes here) have made it into a den of thieves, pedophiles, and spiritually abusive professional churchmen, etc? And when you (name goes here) try ta get away, they give 
    pursuit? 

    Q: Is any one listening? 

    Q: When are the rocks going to cry out? 

    Q: What to do when facing a stacked church deck, or loaded cr@ps?

    hmmm….

    “Living Life Against A Stacked Church?”

    What?

    Webster defines a stacked deck as: “to arrange secretly for cheating or to arrange or fix so as to make a particular result likely.”

    hmmm…

    Q: How to face these incredible odds, or in the english language, what appears to be facing a stacked  ‘church’ deck?

    Note: this is not about life’s semi-common occurrences such as: the toilet backs up, the beans boil over, and somebody comes to the door and knocks and your hair’s still in curlers or else you’re walking around in your boxer shorts – You know, when everything seems to go wrong at once kinda stuff. Nahhhh, datz not it.

    This is about…what ta do when profession churchmen do a tap-dance on your ‘faith’ ? 

    Why when subjectively ‘bad’ church men (name goes here) bludgeon you (name goes here) with proverbial oranges in a white cotton pillow sack, do you fold your ‘cards’ and give up on Jesus? Then you (name goes here) possibly throw away the bible with the church (name goes here) water.

    Why would any self-respecting believer throw away the words of ‘eternal life’ Jesus spoke of? Yeah, the dude that hungout with ‘bad’ questionable people, said he was God, and got himself ‘nailed’ for his trouble?

    -snark-

    Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. People cr@p on you, so you stop breathing air?

    What?

    Re-‘dick’-u-lus….

    ….next time they ask you what bible you read, tell them: “The Gideon, I  think….”   That should infer that you are still searching, questing for the truth, as it were, –which you are, are hopefully still doing….

    hint, hint…

    Remember if they (name goes here) slam the screen door on you (name goes here) when your still seeking the truth, it’s their own ‘a double s’ they are flappin’ n’ displayin’, act accordingly.

    May I offer you some ideas for encouragement the next time you’re feeling like the churchmen’s ‘deck’ is stacked against you?

    Seek, and you shall fined, knock, and the door shall be opened to you….

    Tune into God, pray, read your bible….act accordingly, tell God what you need, and for dear sakes find other kind folks doing the same. No pity parties here. Focus on God’s bible words, not the hurtful words (oh we are just trying to help, they say…) of the profession churchmen knocking you down. R U Alone? ….don’t let the buzzards pick you off. They will if you let them.

    hum, hum, hum….this lit’l lite O’ mine, Ize gonna let it shine….

    …give up on Jesus?

    HorseHockey.

    Do we get discouraged and give up on Jesus without even making a incy-wincy, itsy-bitsy effort? Are we really intimidated  by these nefarious profession churchmen? The stuff they do, or don’t do? or, are we really motivated by God’s incredible odds? Remember, ‘courage’ is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it, and the best way to take care of that fear, is to put your faith in the fearless Christ, and into action. 

    Bonus!

    If you look at the church world you’ll be distressed sometimes — as a lot of bad things happening in the church world. If you look within you’ll be depressed sometimes– i.e. I see my own faults and failings and shortcomings. But if you focus your attention upon Christ you’ll get better odds.

    Take God’s ‘odds’ ?

    Sure.

    Jesus is ‘g-o-o-d’ for it!

    Heaven and earth will disappear, but Jesus’ words will remain forever.

    So, tell the truth,  n’ trust in Jesus, and don’t let the professional church b@$tards wear you down.

    (grin)

    hahahahaha

    S“㋡”py
    ___
    Refreshing Relief: 
    “Jesus, You Are My Hope.”

  151. First, to get my own bias out of the way, I consider myself as one who is reformed in my thinking. I must admit I have seen in the churches I have been involved with that are reformed a tendency for control and legalism. And I must admit that I have struggled in my own life with pride and arrogance in my walk — because I am reformed. I have treated Christians (who are not reformed)who have been walking with Jesus longer than I have been alive with a very condescending and Pharisaical attitude. Here I am someone who has claimed to love the doctrines of GRACE — and have treated so many ungraciously to say the least.

    When reading these stories it is heartbreaking that people have been excommunicated or disciplined for “not going to CG” or whatever controlling technique has been used in a number of the “reformed churches.” I think like myself, a number of those who have considered themselves “reformed”, have lost sight of their first love and that we have forgotten our need for Jesus and have elevated our own works {theology?} (ironic isn’t it) to a place of idolatry as some have claimed. I am thankful that Jesus is not like me, that He is greater, that He is more tender and compassionate, that He is more loving and caring and that He has done for me what I have not done in not loving His people as I should.

    For those who have left the faith, who are considering it, or for those who have been shot by their own (read reformed or otherwise) please know that Jesus is not like that and that he is able to care for you better than any under shepherd ever could. I would plead with you to go to the gospels and see how Jesus treated those who were needy. I would plead with you to see Jesus as a beautiful Savior who longs for you to come to Him. He is more than able – and He is willing!

  152. Lynn,
    If you have to resort to an extra-biblical theology to support your “payroll, rents, taxes…” then maybe the later should be re-examined too.

  153. @ Dee I guess I haven’t been around churches that do all that. I can see your point though. It’s kind of freaky to imagine it.

  154. @ thatmom:

    Yes, the Covenant Pres denom does have many “renegade pastors.” When I was drinking the koolaid, I thought they were wronged men living bravely for Christ. Now? Ha! What a joke.

    Marge Sweigart wrote:

    No More Perfect wrote:
    If it weren’t for my children, I would be a “none.” I struggle with guilt if I am not taking them to church on a regular basis and I also struggle with the “what will happen to them?” if Sunday morning worship is not a part of their lives. The unknowns are what keep me coming back.
    The way I look at it is, if you think it’s not a healthy church environment, why would you want to bring your kids up in it? We left almost two years ago and took our two youngest (teenagers) with us. We’re all much better off.

    Yes, Marge, you are correct and in my heart I know this. But coming from a life of legalism, it is hard to throw those shackles of fear off. I have to keep reminding myself that my children will be okay if they are not at church every single Sunday. In fact, at this point, they are better off not going.

    @ ken:
    Well, I am happy to be part of the misfits club with you. Seems that was the group that Jesus liked to focus most on when He was here on earth, so I guess we are in good company. :-)

  155. Lynn wrote:

    I used the RCC due to your pope comment. I have a severe problem with any advocacy organization or social based group being required to hire people who do not adhere to their beliefs. Must the local “Obama for President” be required to hire a republican birther as a secretary?

    While I agree wholeheartedly about the edge cases (there is no way a Muslim cleric would be qualified to be hired as a minister for your local Methodist congregation), I think rejection often happens for reasons that are less valid.

    For example, many churches will only hire people who are married. Because, of course, married people are more mature than single people, and single people have an insatiable ***ual appetite that will always get them into trouble, while married people never have that problem. Evar.

    Or, take LGBT people who fully comply with the ethics of the congregation by remaining chaste and celibate. If so much as a hint of their struggle with “same *** attraction” or gender identity becomes known, they’ll stand no chance of being hired (or they’ll be fired if they were already hired). Because, well, take the “problems” of single people, and multiply them three times over, and that is how celibate LGBT Christians are perceived (never mind the ones who are out and proud).

    So, yeah, some churches discriminate at times when it’s not justified.

    I’m sure this applies to church discipline somehow, too. Maybe in a few moments I’ll come up with a reason. ;-)

  156. Bruce, so sorry to hear of the abuse that you went through. I hope you will frequent Wartburg Watch. You will find many friends here who will support and love you. You can be real here. You’re in my prayers..

  157. @ Josh:

    I’ve never had sex (was waiting for marriage, marriage never happened). I’m more chaste than most married preachers these days, the preacher guys that get caught having affairs or molesting kids, or who admit to being addicted to dirty web sites.

    But all the sexual purity lectures, when given, are aimed at singles.

    Even more insultingly, they’re usually addressed to the under-25 group… as though anyone who is single past 25 isn’t se-ual, or have desire, or something.

  158. Re “Should Autonomous Churches be Cooperating in Church Discipline?”

    This is ironic, if you think about it.

    Some church systems want to band together to keep track of members for grievous sins, such as, falling asleep during a sermon, people chewing gum in the church building, or skipping Sunday School..

    But some church groups and denominations refuse to put a se- offender data base in place, to keep track of adults who molest children.

    Nappers in church or gum chewers in church pose a greater danger to the body of Christ than child predators. There’s some really weird reasoning going on with some Christians.

  159. Pingback: Should Autonomous Churches be Cooperating in Church Discipline … |

  160. Daisy wrote:

    But all the sexual purity lectures, when given, are aimed at singles.
    Even more insultingly, they’re usually addressed to the under-25 group… as though anyone who is single past 25 isn’t se-ual, or have desire, or something.

    Yeah, because the day I turned 26, my libido went down the toilet. /sarcasm

    Let’s see, how to connect this… Ok, my church right now, for all its foibles, is pretty sane. That said, they’re Baptist and lean reformed. So, we could end up with a Mohlerite preacher after our current pastor retires. If that happens, I’ll be out of there before they can blink (aka before they can discipline me for the sin of remaining single past college graduation).

  161. Another 9Marks quote by Jonathan Leeman–“Stop calling yourself a Christian if you are making a habit of living independently from the local church.” Our former pastor posted this on his Facebook page after we left. All law, no grace.

  162. Another one wrote:

    Another 9Marks quote by Jonathan Leeman–”Stop calling yourself a Christian if you are making a habit of living independently from the local church.”

    It should be: Stop calling yourself a Christian if you are making a habit of making a living off the local church.

  163. Anon wrote:

    Stop calling yourself a Christian if you are making a habit of living independently from the local church.”

    Many of these ministries are directly responsible for those who ARE Christians and won’t step foot in the church.

  164. It’s been several months since I first saw that comment by Jonathan Leeman–I had never heard of him before or many other “big” names. I still can’t get my head around the fact that they actually believe this stuff. I’m sure there’s a long list of reasons why some Christians don’t attend church–like shut-ins, people living where there are no churches nearby and those who(God forbid)think for themselves instead of attending where thinking is done for them….

  165. Fendrel wrote:

    The IRD just picked up SGM’s case and started tweeting info on it
    http://www.theird.org/
    @TheIRD
    The Institute on Religion and Democracy
    Christians should be aware of and informed about the disturbing allegations brought against @SovereignGrace bit.ly/13MBd0Y

    The IRD used to be a group that exposed liberalism in mainline denominations. That alone was enough to keep them busy. With this move, they’ve lost my respect.

  166. Janey wrote:

    Fendrel wrote:
    bit.ly/13MBd0Y
    A nice quote from a long article from The Institute on Religion and Democracy summarizing the Sovereign Grace Ministries child sexual abuse lawsuit:
    “Although it is important to investigate the charges thoroughly before drawing conclusions, I question the wisdom of putting these men in prominent and influential positions while these grave allegations hang heavy and unresolved. Further, I wonder why, in the seven months since the lawsuit was originally filed, we have heard little to nothing from those who have close ties with Mahaney and SGM concerning the severity of what is potentially the largest sex abuse scandal in American evangelical history.”
    Emphasis mine.

    OK, that changes things. That’s more like the IRD I’m familiar with.

  167. HoppyTheToad wrote:

    We have been members of Samaritan Ministries health care sharing program for about five years. We’re thinking of getting rid of it and getting health insurance instead. To stay members, every year you need to have a church official sign that you follow the Samaritan rules. The problem is, we aren’t members of a church anymore and don’t have anyone that can sign the renewal form for us.
    We’ve been attending a UMC church since the fall and when they admit new members, the members stand before the congregation and agree to certain things. Most are very generic (about being a Christian) but the one that bothers us is something about being loyal to Jesus through the Methodist church. What does that mean? (I have no idea if new members sign anything or have to be vetted in any way.)
    Mr. Hoppy and I were discussing a few days ago if we should go to the meeting (2 hours long) about what joining the church involves. The only reason we’d consider joining is to stay members of Samaritan. Now I came here and have doubts all over again.
    I haven’t contacted Samaritan yet to ask if I can renew without being a member. They might let us get by for one year, but I doubt any longer than that. I looked into Medi-Share today, a competing brand, and while the website didn’t specify that applicants need to be official members of a church, it did say you need to regularly attend and be “under the discipline of” a congregation, which I assume means church membership.

    You hold up your hand and say you’ll join another Methodist church if you leave. I don’t know of any UMC church that really enforces that. If you join another church, notify them and they say “whatever” and remove you from the rolls. (They actually appreciate it if you notify them as the congregations pay apportionments to the denomination based in part on membership; so the less inflated their rolls are, the less apportionment they pay.)
    But there’s none of this tracking you from church to church like the YRR types do.

  168. Deb,

    Churches cooperating in church discipline is a two-edged sword. I believe they should, but they should only do it the right way. I understand my last sentence is obvious, or should be, at least! ;)

    A personal story – back in the 90’s when I was single, a 30ish single woman started attending our church, and became active, always seeming to help people out. Well, unknown to us, she had previously been excommunicated from another church for seducing men. She attempted to seduce me, and when I caught on, I confronted her. She manipulated the pastor into rebuking me for avoiding her. It wasn’t long before the whole thing exploded and we all found out there were numerous men, including my roommate and other friends she was trying to seduce. But it was too late, as she succeeded in one case, and many lived were damaged. I later understood that there was somebody at our church that was at her previous church when she was excommunicated, but nobody said anything. So, there’s one case for churches cooperating.

    On the other side of the equation, Leeman presents a dangerous practice: “(ii) you should give other churches the benefit of the doubt, assuming they have acted wisely until you have concrete reasons for thinking otherwise.” Well, when ever you assume, you make an ass out of you and me…as the saying goes.

    What is baffling about this stance taken by Leeman is that 9Marks literature is so chock full of material about how churches are doing everything wrong. Why would you assume that a church – which is most likely a theological mess according to your views – is right on a particular case of discipline? If anything, I would assume the church didn’t do it correctly and ask questions about them.

  169. I was excommunicated from an Evangelical Free Church a year ago. This church is Reformed and extremely authoritarian. I didn’t realize that the EFCA churches are autonomous and without any accountability. These elders insinuated themselves in a dispute I was having with a contractor I hired who had defrauded me (and whose license was suspended by the state board because of a complaint I filed). The elders told me I could not file the complaint, nor tell anyone about the poor work he did (because “it would impair his ability to earn a living”). I wrote the EFCA district office to advise them how my elders handled this matter, and I was publically disciplined for “slandering the elders in emails to the EFCA District Office.” Not only was my account enirely true, I did not share details with anyone
    in the church body. I was never given the chance to defend myself. I let the EFCA district office and the national office know about the unjust steps the local church had taken against me and their response was: “Find a church home where you will be loved,” NOT repent and submit yourself to your elders. Unfortunately, in my small community, the pastors are a tight-knit group and I don’t believe I will be welcomed in anyone’s church. I never dreamed I would be without a voice or a defense in the body of Christ.

  170. By the way, as an addendum to the above post, my former church prides itself on being a “9 Marks” church.

  171. When I left my church, I was not under church discipline. I was called to “repent”, let go from my job as worship leader, and told they did not accept my reasons for divorce, but they stopped short of church discipline.

    My new church, a PCA church, asked me before I joined if they could meet with the elders from my previous church. I told them that I was not under church discipline, though one elder from the new church told me that if I WAS under church discipline that wouldn’t necessarily mean I couldn’t join because they had different views on divorce, but they wanted all of the information.

    I told them they could, they did, and the old church backed up my story: that I was not under church discipline.

    Now as difficult as it was to be put under the microscope like that, I think what the new church did was right. Because what if I was not actually divorced? Or what if I’d had an affair or was an abuser? (I’m not saying people who mess up can’t join new churches, but if they are fleeing to another church to avoid dealing with their sin, the new church needs to be careful). I think it was fair that they wanted to know why I’d left my previous church. And in fact, they had this meeting before I even requested to join the new church. I think this is part of their duety to protect their congregation- I could have been selling them a bunch of lies.

    But they did ask me before doing anything, and when I said “yes” they did not put it back on me to “reconcile”. In fact, I was a little humbled that they were willing to put the time and effort in when I wasn’t even joining the church yet.

    One other thing- the new church asked me to take time before asking to join. They asked me to make sure it was what I wanted and not to feel any obligation to join. I must admit, this was a little difficult for me at the time. I felt unwanted. Ultimately, though, this was good advice. I found that while this new church was a great place for me to “rebuild”, it ultimately ended up not being the right destination for me. It was a perfect church for me to go and stand in worship on Sunday mornings and be greeted warmly by a few people who knew me, but it wasn’t the right place for me to jump in with both feet. The elders there recognized I wasn’t ready for intimate church relationships (I had MAJOR trust issues at that point), which I hadn’t even understood. The first time I witnessed folks join the church, though, I was triggered so badly I almost broke down in the middle of the service. I’m glad I didn’t try to go through that process before I was ready.

    The church I DID join was known to the church I didn’t, and when I chose it they told me they thought it was a great church for me. No animosity, just encouragement after they poured all of that time into me. Incidently, the second church (also a PCA church) did not investigate my previous church. But I guess by that time it was pretty clear I was not under church discipline.

    It was a hard process, but I think when you have a guy who was just fired from being a worship leader and who divorced his wife, it was right for the church to get some details from the previous church on what happened. In my case, everything came out as it should have, even if it was a bit painful.

  172. @ Janet:
    That is a horrifying story :(

    How can writing a letter be “slander”? Why is the district office there for if not to listen to people from the church?

  173. By the way, the 3rd edition of Mark Dever’s book “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church” is being published August 2013.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17152708-nine-marks-of-a-healthy-church

    http://www.crossway.org/books/nine-marks-of-a-healthy-church-tpb-2/

    On the surface, it sounds so godly, but people should know what 9 Marks churches are really about — in their own words.

    3 Examples of Mark Dever’s associate pastor and one of his elders encouraging each other to monitor you and your family members wherever you go:

    Deepak Reju is an associate pastor at Mark Dever’s church. Here he admits that he looks forward to stalking you – http://www.9marks.org/blog/gospel-minded-churches-cooperating-pastoring

    Jonathan Leeman is an elder at Mark Dever’s church. Here’s his very unsettling post on making life miserable for former church members – http://www.9marks.org/blog/churches-cooperating-discipline

    Deepak Reju again talking about maintaining information on your family members –
    http://www.9marks.org/blog/why-use-house-church-membership-directory

    Here’s the link to the list of 9 Marks churches:
    http://www.9marks.org/churchsearch/searchmap.php

    Creepy.

  174. Janet wrote:

    These elders insinuated themselves in a dispute I was having with a contractor I hired who had defrauded me (and whose license was suspended by the state board because of a complaint I filed). The elders told me I could not file the complaint, nor tell anyone about the poor work he did (because “it would impair his ability to earn a living”).

    Terrible story. My heart goes out to you and I hope you find a healthy church family. You were victimized by the contractor and they re-victimized by your church. Have they never heard of crooked contractors, how about Christian “financial advisers”? As to your church: Good riddance.