"Instead of holding on with inordinate pride to the past, a replanted church dies to its former glory, its methods, its structure, and its practices and strategically plants its resources (body, budget, and buildings) in the spiritual ground. The result is a virile replanted church with a God-renewed mission to give life to the spiritually dead community in which it ministers."
Allow me to introduce you to Becky, who hails from Indiana. She attended Countryside Christian Church from the late 1990s until 2002 when her children wanted to participate in programs at another church. Becky and her family returned to Countryside in 2006 and joined the church several years later. A couple years after that Becky, her husband, and their children were 'perp walked' out of the church (more on that later).
Let's start at the beginning…
Countryside Christian Church was established in Michigan City, Indiana over three decades ago by Rick Jones, who pastored the church until his retirement. The church was built in two stages with the sanctuary and classrooms being constructed later. For a number of years the congregation met on Sundays in the gym and demonstrated much prudence in managing its resources. Everything was done with transparency and accountability. Eventually, the church borrowed money to complete the construction. The final result was a 1,400 seat sanctuary, multiple classrooms, a kitchen, gym, and outbuildings for the food pantry. It was a beautiful facility and a haven for the community.
Countryside Christian Church grew to be a rather large congregation. When the church was at its largest size, it held two services, and according to Becky weekly attendance ranged from 1,500 to 2,000.
Countryside supported 12 to 15 missionaries for a long time and ministered to the community through its preschool program, a Celebrate Recovery program, and a food pantry.
When the congregation needed to fill its worship leader position, it hired a younger man named Kevin Galloway. Kevin had a liberal arts degree but no seminary training, and he worked as a police officer prior to accepting the position as worship leader. Kevin’s appearance and demeanor were much cooler than his predecessors – he was a jean clad, guitar playing, soul patch kinda guy. Kevin and Becky had an amicable relationship, and he appreciated her ministry of knitting hats and scarves for cancer patients.
In early 2008 Pastor Rick Jones retired after a long career. His successor was Kevin Galloway. Becky and her husband began attending a small group once Kevin became the senior lead pastor, and they decided to join the church.
Not long after the leadership change, the congregation began to hear Pastor Galloway using terms like ‘relevance’. He would tell the parishioners: “We want to be relevant.” Six to eight months after that, the congregation started hearing about an organization called Acts 29. Initially, the older church members were tolerant of some of the changes; however, over time they began to feel marginalized. The modus operandi of the church changed significantly.
Then in fairly short order, the cool dude pastor ‘canned’ the food pantry by shifting this ministry to other churches in the area. Pastor Galloway encouraged all staff members to read books on Mark Driscoll’s booklist, some of which were secular books. The two female staff members refused to read the secular books and in less than six months they were ushered out as quietly as possible. The lady who operated the preschool that folded was one of the women who would not read the secular material. Finally, Pastor Galloway forced out the individuals who were leading the Celebrate Recovery program. At that point, lots of people left the church.
As these established ministries were being axed, Pastor Galloway (and the church leaders) made strides to plant a church in Valparaiso, Indiana, which was 20 minutes from Countryside. Interestingly, Valparaiso is an affluent area of the state and also a college town. The Acts 29 Network requires all its member churches to plant churches.
During the church planting phase, money was flowing out of the church coffers at an alarmingly rate. Countryside, which at one time had thousands of dollars in savings, was scraping to get by. Church members were told they had to tithe. Where were all those contributions going? They were being spent on:
– Large pastor salaries
– Health and disability insurance for pastors
– Large cell phone bills
– Whole Life insurance for two pastors at $840/month each
– Expenditures and gas money to plant the new church
The leaders did not say anything about the mounting expenses. As money got tight, a deacon’s wife said something to Becky about the pastor possibly using church funds inappropriately. Becky made a request for financial information, and the church secretary handed her a large packet including copies of credit card statements. One item that caught Becky’s eye was a $250 charge to Nordstrom. Apparently, the pastor was on a trip to meet Mark Driscoll and had to make a clothing purchase because there was some problem with his luggage (or whatever!) Becky does not know whether the church was ever reimbursed for that personal expense. There were other unusual charges on the credit card statement like $288.69 for a pastors' outing to Binny’s Beverage Depot (a liquor store).
In just a few years, Pastor Galloway ran the church into the ground. The bottom line was that the church had racked up charges on its credit card well over $10,000 (at a 17 percent interest), and the church was only able to pay the minimum balance each month. Countryside was in dire straits under Pastor’s Galloway’s leadership.
Becky began discussing the church's financial debacle with other congregants and made some negative statements on Facebook about the state of the church like “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid". Someone in the church spied on church members' Facebook accounts. If a parishioner said something the leaders didn’t like, s(he) was called in for a meeting and berated.
After three disciplinary meetings, Becky and her husband were informed that they were not allowed to come back to the church. The following Wednesday, Becky's husband took their children to the evening activities and was rebuked. "What are you doing here?" was one of the questions he was asked. The following Sunday, March 27, 2011, Becky and her family decided to attend church anyway and were sitting in the balcony when they were spotted.
After 20 minutes, church leaders approached Becky and her husband and told them that if they did not leave the cops would be called. They remained seated. On the left side of the balcony sat an off duty police officer who came over and said if they did not leave immediately he would call the police on duty. Then he escorted them out of the church and told them to never return. Becky and her husband have a handicapped child who was 15 or 16 years old at the time; however, his mental capacity is that of an 8 or 9 year old. He is not retarded but has a special handicap and can only understand things at a 9 year old level. He was sitting with his family when they were thrown out of the church, and it was extremely upsetting to him. He was crying and very distressed because of what happened.
It is certainly worth noting that at no time did Pastor Kevin Galloway meet with Becky so that she could share her concerns.
After being excommunicated from Countryside, Becky wrote the following and posted it on Facebook:
After actually reading the letter that Countryside has circulated to its membership (what is left of it) all I can say is…. wow!!! If anything you the leaders of Countryside just proved our point! I had to do and say nothing, just sit back and let you maliciously attack my husband and me, and spread your filthy lies, and watch you shame our Lord. Until it became apparent to my husband and me that you would not be corrected or challenged to walk away from Acts 29, I refused to name you or call you out directly. We had hoped that someone with some integrity would show up at our meetings and at least agree to speak and or address our concerns about possible financial mismanagement… But nope, too busy trying to accuse me of gossip and storytelling, all the while gossiping and storytelling to other about us! Really … , did you think that those ladies you told all about the sin I had committed would not eventually come to me and ask me what happened? The sin you NEVER deemed to address with me at all, the sin to this day you REFUSE to even name the person who accuses me or supposedly heard me say? I name you the liar and the deceiver, when Brian showed up on Wednesday he told you God had NOT released us to leave Countryside and then asked you specifically if the police would be involved if we showed up and you told him no several times. I name you the liar and deceiver… And you, Kevin Galloway, who have refused to even involve yourself in this process and have created an environment where the elders and deacons have absolute power with no one to hold them accountable well done, you have built YOURSELF an empire and are welcome to it. I desire God's approval more than yours, we are all accountable to the truth of the word even you.
We repeatedly asked the leadership to bring forth our accusers, those who have told them the stories that are now being circulated about us. And every time we met with you new accusations were made against us with still no proof presented, or even a willingness to give us those names. And you will lie and tell people you walked Matthew 18 with us? Shame on all of you. Have any of you actually watched Kevin's sermon on the churches website? I believe you just reposted it this week from Jan 2010. In it he clearly states how the Bible explains Mathew 18 and how is should be walked, they way we confronted you to walk it and then you refused! The way you told us in our meeting we MISUNDERSTOOD this scripture. Really? What amazes me is you still believe that labeling us is going to win you anything. Hundreds of people have left because of your hardhearted leadership and then you pull this? Wow! I bet new members are signing up in droves… All through this mess we have asked to see the supposed reimbursements and get info on Kevin's expenses, we have also shared our extreme concern with … Acts 29 and all the while you have broken your necks to manufacture our sin and discredit us for our questions. God saw it all and I will leave him to his vengeance and try to not get in his way too much.
I am so not perfect, I have made mistakes folks. I trusted these men and even when they treated us wickedly we believed them when they said they would never involve the police. We never would have brought our children with us if we hadn't. I have always been willing to submit to my husband and I follow him as I should, the problem with his leadership was only thought up by this leadership because he refused to allow them to beat me up and challenged them to walk scripture with me, he questioned why there was no one to accuse except these men who heard these supposed stories second hand, he was then told he did not understand Mathew 18 and told he was unrepentant too. And this madness continues even today. My husband's only sin has been to love me and stand in front of me with these leaders, refusing to let them pull this stuff without godly challenge. And their response has been to tear him to pieces too. They shame our Lord by their refusal of his word. And I pray that God will grant them repentance and that one day they will come to us asking for our forgiveness as they should. But I won't hold my breath.
My repentance has never been an issue I only required them to bring my sin to me in the proper manner as Mathew 18 dictates and as Kevin himself preaches. Their unwillingness to do so indicates to me that the minute I showed them the paperwork of the budget I received and had the nerve to challenge the Acts 29 link to our church home, they began their own agenda. One needed to shut me up and make me look bad and that they just proved to my family how far they will go to protect themselves. This happened to us but who is next?
The power of God's word cannot be denied. It is absolute. Nothing can be added or taken away. We certainly acknowledge and believe that. This is not about our denial of the word of God just the words of Mark Driscoll and Acts 29… And regardless of what Kevin would like you to believe, they are not one in the same. Scriptural purity is what we require of our leaders as the word of God commands this. We are told to watch out for the false teachers and to be wise and ready to defend our faith. Even when those actions result in ungodliness. So here we stand by this line we have drawn. We have been wrongly accused, lied about, slandered and watched as many of you will turn your backs on us because they tell you to. I will end this with a borrowed paragraph, I have altered it a bit in the spirit of truth, but here it goes.
We warn you the church (a body of believers, not a building or a place) not to fellowship with, nor listen to the continued lies, gossip and slander that come from Countryside leadership. Their sin has harmed many souls, and is contrary to the teaching of God's word. May our refusal to fellowship … honor our God with obedience and through this obedience lead these men to repentance.
Brian, Becky and their children
Perhaps we are finally getting a glimpse of church discipline and excommunication Acts 29 style. Remember, Mark Driscoll was firmly at the helm of the Acts 29 network when this took place.
We leave you with an excerpt from a resource on the Acts 29 website called What is Replanting? which Kevin Galloway most likely read and followed.
7. Fearlessly Lead the Replanting Process (1 John 4:18).
a. Prayerfully determine if God has called your church to enter a replanting at this time. Do you feel God is calling you to replant your church?
b. Once affirmed, lead fearlessly through the rough waters, people jumping overboard, sea sickness, and mutiny among the crew. Many people (including leaders and even spouses) will become disoriented, discouraged, and dissenting. Lead the body patiently, lovingly, but firmly – just as Jesus would. But don't lead fearful of losing popularity, friendship, or a comfortable, secure job. A manager is a pleaser of people. A visionary leader is a pleaser of God.
In our upcoming post, we will share the conclusion of this heartbreaking saga.
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 12:1-14:32 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 Psalm 57:1-11 Proverbs 23:9-11