Go Fund Me for Brad Sargent, Futurist Guy: Do Good and Do No Harm

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There will be another post this evening!

TWW along with Julie Anne Smith at Spiritual Sounding Board are supporting a Go Fund Me Campaign to assist Brad Sargent in his work to develop resources to assist survivors of church abuse. We have been aware of his diligent work for a couple of years.TWW also posted Brad's story a couple of years ago.  We hope to raise $5,000. The following is Brad's explanation of the project. Please feel free to ask questions.

In the last 7 years, I’ve been producing a training curriculum for social justice start-ups and church planting endeavors to “Do Good Plus Do No Harm.” I began it after losing my job when the economy tanked in late 2008, and have put many hundreds of hours into it.

 The project started out as a curriculum about culture and ministry. But it evolved, because I needed to process a lot of experiences with spiritual abuse and in working with non-profits and church plants. I believe we can do ministry better, in ways that don’t inflict the kind of damage on others that we’ve unfortunately been seeing in the Church and community for many years. So, it’s now a 3-volume project on how to understand systems, discern trustworthy vs. toxic leaders and organizations, and set up sustainable projects.

 I believe “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” will help other abuse survivors process their experiences, and find redemptive ways to make a difference so what happened to us doesn’t happen so often to others. I’ve also designed it with lots of “indicator scales” so it can be a base for evaluating how safe – or sick – a church, ministry, or organization is. (The need for some evaluation system like that keeps coming up in conversations among survivors.) And who knows, it might even end up as a ministry development guide for those who are “Done” with institutionalized churches and are looking for alternative routes for Kingdom service in their communities. It’s all kind of the outworking of what my business card says: “Superhero Sidekick: I help people identify, validate, amplify, and activate their superpowers. And, hopefully, help them keep from distributing their kryptonite krud on others.”

 I’m finally very close to finishing the first 2 volumes, and could really use a boost so I can write full-time for a few months and get them done. I don’t have the “platform” that an established publisher would require, so I’m planning to just do print-on-demand publishing. Once the first two volumes are available, sales will hopefully cover my finishing the third volume and get into the other related trainings, technical tools, and measurement systems I’ve been developing. If you’re interested in sample articles, visuals, and workbook exercises, check out my Futuristguy’s Field Guides site.  I know some of my writings are dense and intense, and I hope you’ll see that I’ve worked hard to make these books accessible and practical.

 Finally, thanks for considering helping me out – and my thanks to Dee and Deb here at The Wartburg Watch, and to Julie Anne at Spiritual Sounding Board, for getting the word out. Their blogs have shaped the way I understand the larger landscape of authoritarian abuse of power, and I appreciate their work.



Go Fund Me for Brad Sargent, Futurist Guy: Do Good and Do No Harm — 32 Comments

  1. Brad, Dee, Deb, and Julie Anne,

    So glad that the word is getting out about Brad’s work. This has been a slow train a cummin’, but it is on the horizon!

    This work will be such an amazing resource. Looking forward to hearing how folks here have been able to support Brad financially and prayerfully in this endeavor for the Body of Christ!

  2. Thanks for hosting this fundraising campaign, Dee and Deb and Julie Anne, and for posting this, Dee – especially given all the family stuff happening in your world recently.

    And thanks all, for your comments and kind words. I’ll check here periodically to see if there are questions or comments to respond to. (And do feel free to post questions about the series — that’ll help me clarify the content and sharpen my perspective!)

    If you’re interested in overviews, details, and samples of the training series, you’ll find them over at my “Futuristguy’s Field Guides” site:


    Speaking of details, today I’m immersed in creating exercises for a workbook section using Veronica Roth’s *Divergent* book and film series. I see it as a rich entryway to study cultures and why they conflict based on the underlying paradigms they come from, think through problems in finding common ground for the common good, and composite “transcultural” teams where members rely on one another to fill in the gaps and file off the excesses in what they’re doing. Her dystopian series also gives us a great illustration of how power becomes the focus when there’s too much black-or-white thinking – and how people who are “divergent” threaten that system because their minds don’t conform to this strictly either/or thinking. (Sound familiar?)

    Meanwhile, I’ll respond to some comments and then onward and upward and back to *Divergent* …

  3. Mara wrote:

    Keep up the good work, Brad.
    The need is great and the workers are few, though I hope that is changing.

    Eagle wrote:

    Indeed! You do a lot of amazing things Brad!

    Thanks, Mara and Eagle. As a member of the larger landscape of spiritual abuse survivor communities — and like so many of of — it’s become part of my general calling to do what I can to prevent the traumatizing beliefs and behaviors I’ve endured in Christian contexts from being inflicted so often on others.

    My specific focuses seem to have emerged from the crossroads of those abuse experiences, plus my work as an organizational developer, futurist, and research/resource writer. I feel like my main contributions are meant to be in looking at the big-picture level of “safe” versus “sick” systems, helping create sets of evaluation indicators for measuring organizational health versus toxicity, and watching for relevant cultural trends. It’s how I’m “wired” and I just do this stuff intuitively. I’ve been writing it down for a very long time and spent the past few years intentionally stitching it all together, trying to make more sense of it, and figuring out ways to share it more clearly.

    On the trends front, something came up in a recent email thread that ties in with your comment, Mara, about how things hopefully are changing. Here’s what I wrote, with some additional notes:

    I wonder if some types of tipping points have been reached in the larger group of survivor communities:

    (1) There’s a lot more general information available on spiritual abuse and recovery. [That’s been building since the early 1990s, and now covers key theologies, tactics, people, denominations, and movements.]

    (2) More info’s been emerging the past 5 years or so on similarities between various types of grooming and violation tactics in different types of abuse, and how their impacts interconnect. [For instance, emotional and verbal abuse, child sexual abuse, domestic violence. Advocates from these different fields seem to be connecting a lot more often because there’s a lot in common here about identifying abuse and supporting survivors.]

    (3) It seems a growing number of people are telling their stories of abuse and recovery. Beyond that, many are becoming spokespeople – support advocates – social activists for survivors from specific institutions, church denominations, theologies, etc. So, there’s an increasing number of “insider experts” who have the evidence of experience about the apparent abuses, deflections, and denials that have happened in the organization or movement they were part of. [Think of just the past 5 years or so and how many people and websites have come forward about: Mars Hill, Acts 29 and 9 Marks, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Gothardism and Institute in Basic Life Principles, Quiverfull, Doug Wilsonism, dominionism, Reconstructionism, Emergent/Progressive, etc.]

    Maybe we’re crossing the threshold into a different era when the voices of survivors are going to be heard, and truly valued … I hope and pray so.

  4. Desperately needed. Hopefully someone will gift some pastors with this so they can evaluate themselves and repent.

  5. @ Barb Orlowski:

    Thanks, Barb. Your doctoral research survey was instrumental in my shift toward writing in-depth about spiritual abuse.

    (For those who haven’t seen that survey, it’s an incredibly helpful tool with 20 questions that will draw out your thinking about experiences of abuse. It’s at the link below on Barb’s “Church Exiters” site. There you’ll also find information about the results of that survey in her book on Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness.)


    As I recall, I had to answer your set of 20 questions 4 times, once for each of the major instances of toxic leaders I’d experienced in churches or ministries. It turned out to be, like, 18 pages single spaced! Those abuse experiences totaled about 17 years of the then 35+ years I’d been in theologically conservative churches, so there was a *lot* to process! But that’s where I really began seeing patterns of similarities and differences between various ways these organizations were run. So, I owe a lot to you, Barb … as I know many others do — thanks for getting so many of us started and keeping us going!

  6. Beakerj wrote:

    Go Brad go! Look at your lovely face 🙂 I finally have a face to put to the wisdom.


    That particular picture is one I’ve used to show another side of my personality … but I’ve mostly used my “CamoClashMan” avatar photo for a dozen years or so. That was my Halloween costume in something like 2003-ish. I wore 4 different colorz of camouflage, and mimicked the pose of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” (Which is, ironically, from his massive Gates of Hell bronze doorway sculpture.) I’ve liked the avatar photo for its off-kilter take on The Thinker’s seated pose that stands for philosophy.

  7. Deb wrote:

    Thanks for all your hard work Brad! You have made so many significant contributions to our discussions here. God bless you!

    Thanks, Deb. Glad to have been part of what’s happening here. I’ve lost track of when I started following TWW … I think it may’ve been in 2008 or so, and I was a lurker a few years before commenting. And this is where I *finally* got it about the core issue being authoritarianism rather than legalism. (That too 3 years to sink in, as I recall!)

    Over the past few years, I’ve had to reduce the number of blogs I follow so I could focus writing time on the curriculum project. It’s ended up being mostly here and at Spiritual Sounding Board, and I comment far less at either than I’d like. But, being here and there keeps me in touch with a lot of cross-currents in the survivor communities. The articles, questions, and comments spark my thinking in helpful ways to keep things relevant … so, thanks for your part in hosting such an open forum! This has all definitely shaped my thinking on relevant issues for recovery, prevention, intervention, etc.

  8. An Attorney wrote:

    Desperately needed. Hopefully someone will gift some pastors with this so they can evaluate themselves and repent.

    Thanks for that word of encouragement An Attorney … I’m hoping the tools can be used for intervention when leaders are on the road to toxicity, and also for prevention so they don’t start down that pathway of power abuse.

    I think we’re at an intriguing turning point on some of these issues of authoritarianism and abuse. In terms of trends, I have a gut feeling that more such trainings, evaluations, and construction tools for “safe” projects will likely be produced in the near future. There are already systems available or underway, and others I’m aware of from ongoing conversations that may be catalyzed.

    For instance, we’re looking forward to the completion by G.R.A.C.E of their curriculum project on child abuse and prevention, for colleges and seminaries.

    There are a couple of project planning and evaluation systems available that I talk about on my Field Guides blog and was involved with helping create. The Transformational Index is a system for social transformation endeavors that “measures what matters” and looks at qualitative elements of impact. It addresses this critical need for maintaining consistency, safety, and sustainability and looks at our purpose, mission, vision, and values when we’re engaged in the planning, implementing, revising, and evaluating stages of our activities.

    For faith-based non-profits, churches, and ministries, the Mobilyzr system offers tools and evaluations for various stages of the process of building organic ministry start-ups from the grassroots that are based in spiritual giftings — not in organizational programs assigned from the top.

    I’ve had a few conversations over the past couple years with people interested in developing some kind of criteria or systems for evaluating health vs. toxicity in leadership and organizations (something that could perhaps be an alternative to ECFA?). Similarly, there are people with expertise in church planting and social enterprise start-ups interested in creating a significantly revised system for church planter candidate assessments and/or placement. The people interested come from a range of perspectives, but are mostly “missional.”

    As far as tools from the for-profit and for-benefit business realm, new systems like B Corps and Low-Profit Limited Liability Company (L3Cs) have been emerging that give us a lot to work with for how to do investigations and evaluations of organizational sustainability. If interested in this, there are overviews and links in the section on “Opal Profiles – Organizational” on this page of my Field Guides site:


    All that to say, this seems to be part of an ongoing moment and movement toward concern to “do good plus do no harm” in both Church and community.

  9. brad/futuristguy wrote:

    As I recall, I had to answer your set of 20 questions 4 times, once for each of the major instances of toxic leaders I’d experienced in churches or ministries.

    And I thought the one instance I experienced was bad.brad/futuristguy wrote:

    And this is where I *finally* got it about the core issue being authoritarianism rather than legalism. (That too 3 years to sink in, as I recall!)

    Thankfully you “got it”, your writing helped me to understand it in much less time and with far less pain.

  10. @ Lydia and @ Bill M … that really is the way it’s supposed to work, isn’t it? What we learn, we share with others, and willingly repeat every so often, knowing there will always be people new to the information who need it just then, or need to hear it again when their “ah-ha moment” arrives.

    It’s like a series of discipleship “divine dominoes,” where all of us can help keep others in the game when there are forces bent on our destruction.

  11. brad/futuristguy wrote:

    I think it may’ve been in 2008 or so, and I was a lurker a few years before commenting.

    It wasn't until March 2009 that we launched TWW. 🙂 You were probably one of our early readers.

    Thanks for your loyalty!

  12. I also put up a post on my blog and share how Brad and I met and how he was influential in my lawsuit and even now in my blogging efforts. Although Brad does write articles and comments on blogs, he is so helpful to survivors behind the scenes. I’m so fortunate to have met him and am thankful for his expertise and his friendship 🙂 Go, B-rad!!


  13. @ Julie Anne Smith:

    Thanks, Julie Anne. I’d lost track of some of those details in your post. Wowzers, been an intense 4+ years since the BGBC lawsuit! Glad to be on this journey with friends like you … you’ve been a rock of support along the way.

  14. If my math is right, it will be 4 yrs in late Feb 2016. In some aspects it feels like I’ve been doing this for many years. In other ways, time has flown by. It’s been painful, rich, and rewarding all at once. The relationships that have been established along the way have been my favorite part 🙂

  15.   __

    “…as you have believed?”

    Serve the Lord your God and He will bless your bread and your water, and He will take sickness away from the midst of you?


    Unsuspecting victims of  ‘Churxh’ abuse NOW have a choice, a simpathic ear, an outlet, and a voice, -special thanks to all of You – Dee, Deb, Mary Ann, and Brad…


    Did the ‘church world’ just get a ‘little’ brighter?




  16.   __

    “…as you have believed?”

    Serve the Lord your God and He will bless your bread and your water, and He will take sickness away from the midst of you?


    Unsuspecting victims of  ‘Churxh’ abuse NOW have a choice, a simpathic ear, an outlet, and a voice, -special thanks to all of You – Dee, Deb, Julie Ann, and Brad…


    Did the ‘church world’ just get a ‘little’ brighter?




  17.   __

    “Happy To Ride?”


    “Todd’s post of last week :


    …points towards an important aspect of the YRR movement which explains the ubiquitous multitasking of key figures: the highly limited gene pool of its self-perpetuating leadership.  For a movement beset by scandals among some of its key players over the last few years, from those who do not understand the importance of the Trinity through to abusive leadership practices and adultery, it has proved remarkably resilient.   Even when leaders have had to go because of terrible public scandal, they have simply vanished with no subsequent public soul-searching by the organizations who made them great or who were happy to ride on their reputations until such time as that became uncomfortable.
    Two factors seem key in this.  First, the major organizations involved in spearheading the movement, such as TGC, Desiring God and the CBMW, tend to have significant overlap in top leadership personnel.  This makes problems in one branch of the movement less likely to be critiqued by others.  Silence on key issues is easier to maintain when different groups share a common pool of leadership.  They thus have both a vested interest in that silence and a means of enforcing it: a virtual monopoly on the trusted media outlets where such critique might appear, and a powerful framework for keeping discipline among the lower orders — platform patronage and jobs for the boys.  Break ranks and you lose your potential place at the table/conference/blog/bookstore.
    Second, the powerful personality-driven nature of the movement also makes it hard for the rank-and-file to offer criticism.  Over recent decades, psychologists have noted a strange phenomenon relative to some financial scams: when people have invested so much in them, it becomes virtually impossible for them to stop giving money, even when they know they are scams, because the emotional cost of accepting that fact is simply too high a psychological price to pay.   It seems that a similar thing happens in religious movements when people invest in a particular organization or person: what has been notable about the various scandals surrounding the YRR is not that these have led the rank-and-file to a more sober and modest assessment of the movement’s leadership but that they have frequently generated even more passionate uncritical devotion to the cause, as anyone who has ever dared blog a criticism will know…
    The YRR started with high hopes and did much good.  But the interconnection of its various parts and the clear emergence of individuals in the movement as brands has served to foster a leadership with a very skinny gene pool which cannot serve the church well in the long run.”  -Carl Trueman

  18. Pingback: GoFundMe Campaign and Great News on Project Progress! | futuristguy

  19. Sopwith wrote:

    The YRR started with high hopes and did much good. But the interconnection of its various parts and the clear emergence of individuals in the movement as brands has served to foster a leadership with a very skinny gene pool which cannot serve the church well in the long run.

    I’ve been out for a couple days, so my apologies for the delay in getting back to this thread. Those are two *very* intriguing posts, thanks for the links, Sopy!

    It reminds me of the concept of interlocking directory, when there is a “skinny gene pool” [great term!] of leaders directing a set of interrelated organizations. So they’re basically covering for and commending each other. All rather introverted and self-protective, and nearly impossible for outsiders to break into it. But it’s to their own loss, as far as their personal formation, and the Body of Christ’s loss, when this part becomes ossified instead of being flexible.

    From what I’ve experienced, it seems to me that such monolithic monocultural enterprises tend to implode eventually because they *cannot* grow. They’re bonded with superglue to a system they consider so very right that they can never be wrong. They don’t want diversity around them, so they don’t really want to learn. So they just keep hearing their own playlist of songs over and over. Sad.

  20. Thought I share a mid-November update. I’m very grateful for people’s generosity and prayers. It’s been a great de-stressification to get all my November bills paid and have the rest of the month clear to write! Looks like I might have Volume #1 done in the next few weeks, because I’ve had a productive period lately. I got my promotional website launched, related media pages planned out, and a last stack of notes typed and ready to paste into place. I also got outlining done for workbook sections for all three volumes so there’s continuity.

    And I was recently at an event where I got constructive feedback from people in my target audience. That helps, as it confirms the sense that I’m on the right track with helping people tackle both what TO do, and what NOT to do in organizations and start-ups, in order to deal with abuse!

    I began this project almost exactly 7 years ago. Who knew writing it’d take this long? But I feel like this support campaign has given me a second wind so I can run to the end. (Okay, walk briskly.) Thanks for your part in making this happen!

  21. Update, early December: Significant progress the past few weeks on the workbook and overall project.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that my God-given design is to write encyclopedias. (Some here probably realized that way before I did.) However, the calling for this book project has also clearly been to create a scaled-back “field guide.” So, throughout the production of this training course, I’ve had some major issues to figure out:

    (1) How large the various pieces should be in the book versus workbook sections.

    (2) How to fit different elements — text, images, case studies, “lab work” exercises — together in a way that makes sense and isn’t overwhelming.

    (3) How to balance the needs of two interconnected audiences: survivors of various kinds of organizational power abuse, and different types of organizational developers.

    (4) How to keep it a reasonable length, and make the language practical and accessible instead of too academic.

    The combination of answers has eluded me for years. But — good news — it seems I’ve leaped over that last pothole in this steeplechase at last! The issue of the workbook was the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place, I feel like I *finally* have a workable format.

    After a couple weeks focusing on the workbook, I spent a whole week getting files and folders for that framework ready, and now I’m in the process of pasting *hundreds* of pieces into their slot to get them ready for a final editing.

    I’m feeling encouraged and even more a bit more energized than usual. And it’s getting exciting to know the finish line is very close!

    Meanwhile, thanks again to everyone for your encouragement and support, and hope you all have a meaningful Advent season …

  22. Update December 18th.

    This has been a low-key day of multi-tasking on odds and ends, much needed after a number of high-intensity weeks on the book project and eBay sales listings. I’ve often said that most writing/editing days are like taking two college essay exam finals. It just takes time to recuperate mentally. But this project has been like two essay finals a day, four days a week, 50 weeks a year, seven years. Hence, need to steward energy well by taking down time regularly.

    So, to chill out, today I’ve been copying and pasting notes into the right file for the chapter it fits with. While watching the X-Men movie series. Which I’ve seen a kazillion times, more or less, so I can fade in and out on them and not exactly lose the plot line. And it keeps these characters in mind, which is good since I’m using X-Men as a case study in opposing movements where one has a mission for the “common good” (led by Professor Xavier) and the other has a mission for the “greater good” (led by Magneto). Lots to material to compare/contrast in that case study, and apply to contemporary situations …

    Meanwhile, the files and folders are set up for chugging through editing together the rest of the chapters. I’ve gotten the 200+ films I reference categorized and shelved. Most of the 8 to 10 boxes of books I might refer to are reorganized. So, it’s doing whatever tasks I can on a given day to persevere and make progress toward the finish line. And today, it’s fighting off fatigue by multi-tasking with the X-Men.

    Hope you have a great rest of the year and a super start to 2016!

    2016 … the year this project gets finished and printed, Lord willing!

  23. P.S. For those interested, here are some thoughts of the moment regarding the X-Men movies and opposing approaches to what constitutes “the good.” It’s ironic that Magneto is a survivor of the death camp at Auschwitz – a manifestation of the Nazi’s drive for the “greater good” of the Aryan race – and yet he adopts the same philosophy to protect his fellow Mutants, at least initially.

    The “greater good” typically ends up in self-benefit, under the guise of doing something that promotes a favored group. It was the philosophy of Herod in the slaughter of the innocents, as much as it was of Hitler in his “final solution” for the Jews. But with striving for the “common good,” it’s the philosophy that individuals benefit when the group as a whole makes progress. As in the Code of Dinotopia, “One raindrop raises the sea.” This can’t happen at the exclusion or sacrifice of this or that person, this or that group.

    Those of us who’ve survived spiritual abuse in churches or ministries have experienced the difference. We know how abuse of power ends up for the “self good” for few, the supposed “greater good” for some, and “not good” for us.