Ryan Ashton’s Experience of Abuse in Monday Nights, a Redlands, CA House Church

"All the glory, honor, praise, and shing-ding-dinging be given to Jesus!"  Monday Nights link

Ryan Ashton-self pic
Ryan Ashton

Introducing Ryan Ashton's new website

Ryan Ashton contacted me to tell his story about abuse and excommunication from a house church known as Monday Nights. He, along with some friends, have posted an incredibly well-designed website documenting their experiences. It's called Redlands: Losing and Finding Grace. I wish I had his web designing skills. If you go to this site, click on The Book. You can then read the book online at the site by clicking on the arrows. Well done!

What is the Redlands Church Family-Monday Nights?

Let's back up. Here is the link to the Facebook of the house church known as Redlands Church Family-Monday Nights. This is their story told in their own words.

God is expressing Himself in a unique and special way here in Redlands. There are several gatherings throughout the week where people are awakening to the radical love of Jesus. He is bringing living stones together, building His very temple, a tabernacle of the living presence of love. We are then experiencing this love in familial relationships and in learning to receive from our Papa. His life is abundant and has found its way in our hearts. This life is easily shared when motivated by love. We are now seeing our city impacted with the gospel and are excited about the future. All the glory, honor, praise, and shing-ding-ding be given to Jesus! love you! 

Shing-ding-ding…hmmm.

Here are their core beliefs. Yes, this is what they called them…

  • God is fun
  • Jesus is kind
  • "It is finished"
  • God enjoys you
  • Love looks like something

Needless to say, they have some interesting ideas on how to express core beliefs. So, you can imagine what might develop as a new doctrine is introduced to the group. It's truly interesting that a crowd that enjoys shing-ding-dinging God would take a hard line on a membership covenant and excommunication when Ryan disagreed with them. So the shing-ding-dinging types are not all that different from than the Calvinistas when it comes to *discipline.* How odd or maybe, how typical.

A new doctrine: Hyper Grace

This is the new doctrine that was introduced to this group.

This taught that sanctification doesn’t exist—Christians are already perfected, negating the need for confession, repentance, transparency, accountability, or even conviction of the Holy Spirit. Hyper Grace teaches Jesus Himself was a “law preacher” and Paul taught the fullest expression of the gospel, so we are to disregard Jesus’ words and read all of Scripture with a “lens of grace.” It ultimately leads to universalism and license to sin

Here is a decent review on hyper grace on SBC Voices: Hyper-Grace: the REAL Hyper-Danger by Dave Miller. 

One of the foundational doctrines of the hyper-grace message is that God does not see the sins of his children, since we have already been made righteous by the blood of Jesus and since all of our sins, past, present and future, have already been forgiven. That means that the Holy Spirit never convicts believers of sin, that believers never need to confess their sins to God, and that believers never need to repent of their sins, since God sees them as perfect in his sight.

Simply, hyper-grace is the emphasis on the grace of God to the extent that concepts of sin, holiness, the fear of the Lord, confession and repentance are largely ignored. It is the precious, biblical, wonderful doctrine of grace taken to a deadly extreme.

I asked Ryan to write an overview of what happened to him. The following is his response. Please make it a point to look at his website as well. I am going to link to it in our blog roll.


A week ago today, a group of friends who were direct witnesses to what happened with Ryan launched an e-book and website as a last-ditch effort to confront the spiritual abuse and false doctrine that has overtaken their once-loving house church called Monday Nights. “This document exists because all attempts to reconcile have failed,” the book opens, and it ends with the hope that the readers will have enough information to make reconciliation a reality.

The Voices of Redlands, written by John Baldwin and eight other witnesses, goes to great lengths demonstrating through first-person accounts, fact-based evidence, and copious documentation that the young people of Redlands are in great danger; a danger amplified by many adults and family members connected to Monday Nights who are going out of their way to ignore these events and deflect inquiry. Ryan and John have hope that now these testimonies are public, more people can see this case study of spiritual abuse and not just learn from it, but help rescue their friends who appear in desperate need of intervention.

Wartburg Watch: Can you summarize for us what The Voices of Redlands covers?

Ryan Ashton John Baldwin’s Testimony, which comprises the bulk of the document, begins with the theme that is apparent throughout: How far would you go for family? There are negative and positive ways this question has been answered, and John tells the story of how our former church, Monday Nights, has answered that call. John traces the story from the moment he met me, how the Gustafson brothers—the self-appointed leaders of Monday Nights—ginned up fear and lied to the group to get me excommunicated. The result is many refuse to listen to our pleas for help or to even listen to what’s going on. This has perpetuated not just a case of injustice, but allowed egregious sin and dangerous behavior to metastasize over the past three years. 

WW: And what is happening?
RA: The Gustafsons have been deceived by a heresy called Hyper Grace, and are using their influence to teach it to others and spiritually abuse and silence any detractors who get in their way. It’s a highly volatile situation, where Monday Nights has being lied to and prevented from knowing the truth and bystanders are being told by the Gustafsons that I hate the group and am slandering them. They have been told to refuse to listen to my pleas for help or to even listen to what’s going on. This has perpetuated not just a case of injustice, but allowed egregious sin and dangerous behavior to metastasize over the past three years. 

WW: What sort of sin?
RA: The kind that is typical for an isolated group of 20-somethings. Multiple reports of drunkenness, underage drinking, sexual immorality, adultery, drug use, parading around naked-even making the young girls who don’t participate in “No Make Up May” to run down the street in their underwear. Spiritual abuse abounds, such as threatening people who don’t disassociate from me with excommunication, blatantly lying about their detractors, discouraging religious leaders from investigating these issues, etc. All of these allegations are substantiated throughout multiple testimonies and documentation with scrupulous detail.

WW: How did this situation start?

RA: When I came to Redlands in 2012, I was fresh from several church abuse situations and was in no place to be open to a church again. Yet Jared Gustafson, a charismatic guy who is well-known to many locals, invited me to his church—Monday Nights—and I was embraced there. Monday Nights began as a college-age Bible Study from a local Evangelical Free Church (Trinity) and splintered off in 2009.

Soon after I arrive in 2012, Jared left to go to Africa to attend a missionary school for a few months, and I got to know the group really well in his absence. When he returned, he came back with a theology that was just beginning to sweep through the rest of the charismatic world called Hyper Grace. This taught that sanctification doesn’t exist—Christians are already perfected, negating the need for confession, repentance, transparency, accountability, or even conviction of the Holy Spirit. Hyper Grace teaches Jesus Himself was a “law preacher” and Paul taught the fullest expression of the gospel, so we are to disregard Jesus’ words and read all of Scripture with a “lens of grace.” It ultimately leads to universalism and license to sin, but in the beginning I had no clue about any of that.

WW: From the sounds of it, you had to find this out yourself?

RA: Yeah. Jared, along with another Monday Night member—Matt Anderson, who I’m still unsure whether he was in on this—began teaching “Gospel Chats” in January 2013, slowly unpacking this teaching but leaving a lot of unanswered questions for me. From February till April I was researching what was behind this new doctrine, because Jared had clearly changed since his trip to Africa and I wanted to know what happened.

WW: What exactly happened?
RA: Well, page 46 indicates that Jared had gotten involved with a clique at the missionary school he went to. This clique taught Hyper Grace, and it was rebuked as heresy by the leaders of the missionary school, Heidi and Rolland Baker. Rather than receive the counsel of his elders, Jared came back to Redlands intent on teaching this perspective of grace, which led to me researching it. Ultimately, this led to a confrontation.

WW: Is this the one between you and Seth Gustafson, Jared’s brother?
RA: That is the one. On page 66-67, I had just posted on the Monday Night page that I was concerned that Hyper Grace was being taught in Monday Nights and I was shut down—both on the Facebook page and later by Seth, through text, who admitted he and his brother were teaching it.

WW: How did that make you feel?
RA: I was furious. I told Seth “I will not stand my friends being led astray” and Seth replied “Then you might not have any more friends…Our actions might come down to that.” And they made good on their threat.

WW: When was that?
RA: April 8th, 2013. Everything happened really fast after that. Mid-April through May the Gustafsons convened at least two secret meetings with the rest of Monday Nights saying I was in sin by slandering Jared—by saying he was teaching false doctrine—and that I needed to be excommunicated. The book follows John Baldwin’s story from that point onward, as he was there for the Trial, the presentation of the Contract that I refused to sign, my attempts to reach out to the group (which fell flat), and then the Excommunication where John and his wife, Hannah, were bullied and threatened viciously for not agreeing to cut me out of their lives completely, which the Gustafsons argued must be done for the good of the group.

WW: Did everyone else cut you off?
RA: There were a few stragglers but ultimately everyone did, yes. I tried to stop it, and then tried to reach out and reconcile multiple times, but each time I either get silence or am outright refused.

WW: So the story John tells at that point is the various ways Jared and Seth tried to cut you further out of people’s lives: the Tuesday Night Study called Mountain Brothers Fellowship, then picking off close friends of yours one by one.

RA: Yeah. People told me at the time  “all they did was kick you out.” It was utter nonsense. I was not allowed to have any friendships with anyone who knew the Gustafsons. Either I was to agree with Jared’s preaching of Hyper Grace, or I was to forfeit the only real family I had known up to that point in my life.

WW: Eventually Jared went back to Africa with a team from Monday Nights.

RA: Yes. I had already reached out to Rolland Baker, asking what had happened to Jared, abd he rescinded Iris’ invitation to Jared to visit. Jared has many connections and was most likely invited by someone who doesn’t know what he teaches. But then Jared begins to catch on that I had been communicating with Rolland, and proceeds to blatantly lie about me in order to refute my account of his spiritual abuse and heresy.

WW: Then John Baldwin steps in.

RA: Then John steps in. He had already tried to get through to Jared over the Mountain Brothers. This time he had had enough. He refuted Jared’s lies, but by that time Monday Nights had started a writing campaign and convinced Rolland and his staff that these two guys are just disaffected members and Jared should be allowed onto the Iris Campus. And he was.

After that, I include a brief-ish “Interlude” explaining what spiritual abuse is, and then John finishes by analyzing the big picture, indicating he and I want reconciliation with the group, but obstructing that goal is the Gustafsons themselves, who will not allow any discussion or forgiveness to take place. Jared and Seth have basically taken the group hostage.

WW: And then the book concludes with the rest of the testimonies.

RA: Yes. Verifying and adding even more texture to John’s account, which is compelling by itself. But we felt it necessary to include as much evidence as possible in order to provide a fully-orbed picture of what is happening in Redlands.

WW: Why the use of names and documents like texts?

RA: John and I realize people will bristle at that. I am not in favor of exposing every misdeed on the planet. Trust and safeguarding privacy are important to us. However, when it comes to exposing the corruption and abuse of the Gustafsons, and what they’ve forced Monday Nights to do, we have carefully chosen what documentation we believe proves something is wrong in Monday Nights. Additional documentation paints a picture of how Christians in our area have responded to the abuse—spoiler alert: not well at all—and so we hope by observing these facts people learn from them and don’t repeat the tragedy.

WW: Aren’t you afraid of being sued?

RA: Not at all. We had three lawyers review this document before release and defamation is incredibly hard to prove based on how carefully we have agonized over this project. These allegations have to be 1) false, and 2) stated with malice. Neither is the case. These facts are what really happened. These are their words—complete and unedited. These allegations are not made with malice but with scrupulous attention to detail, are the truth, and are revealed with the ultimate hope this exposure will put enough pressure on the group to reconcile.

Names are necessary t because this is a warning as much as it is an appeal. It is Scriptural to use names—Paul didn’t hesitate to do so (2 Timothy 1:15, 2 Timothy 2:17-18, 2 Timothy 3:8, 2 Timothy 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:14) and neither did John (3 John 9, 10). Public sins such as heresy and spiritual abuse warrant public rebukes as well. The Gustafsons have been rebuked by many leaders in private (David Inlow’s testimony lists some of them). Despite this, there are very few Christians who have taken our warnings seriously—the Gustafsons are still invited to churches and high schools to share and preach, and that makes them dangerous. 

WW: Why do you think people haven’t heard you up to this point?

RA: Well when everything was happening I was in a panic. I had experienced abuse before, abandonment before, and been threatened by Seth that I was going to lose all my friends—so I reacted rather than responded with a cool head. I did rash and desperate things. No one wants to listen to a desperate person. In a few weeks it was all over, and there was nothing I could do. John Baldwin wasn’t convinced then that Jared was teaching something false—that would come months later—so for awhile I was alone. John knew something was wrong, but was hesitant to take my word for it, which was understandable. Once he did, you’ll read how he was blown off time and again by the Gustafsons.

As to everyone else… the Gustafsons are very convincing. I didn’t believe it at first but they are master manipulators, and are very good at weaving a story that sounds plausible, but falls apart under examination. That’s why telling the full story is so important—not only to give people a good picture of what spiritual abuse is, but also give those in Redlands everything they need to put a stop to it.

WW: Will they?

RA: It’s hard to say. Up to this point there are very few people who care enough about the truth to even listen. For most, their friendship with the Gustafsons and almost universal desire to “hear no evil” dominates. Some of that is my fault. Some of that is “the bystander effect” which I explain at length in the Interlude.

WW: What has been one of the hardest things you’ve experienced?

RA: Not the excommunication, but the apathy of other Christians. I have begged so many people to listen and to help, only to be told “It’s not my problem.” These are the same people who either go to the group or have family members who go or who have shared Jared’s Facebook posts where he’s teaching his exaggerated form of grace. These people are already involved. We are all a part of the Body of Christ. It’s actually pretty immoral for all these people to support or be indifferent to the abuse, heresy, and terrible misconduct this group commits because they’re friends with the Gustafsons. I wish I could just pin them down and ask them “What do you think loving Jared and the people he’s hurting looks like for you?” Indifference and ignoring this situation is not acceptable. It’s going to get worse.  Yet these are always the patterns with abuse, I’m afraid. We are not learning these lessons—as a Church especially.

WW: What are you hoping will happen now that this book is out?

RA: Well a few things. One, Monday Nights was never able to hear the truth about what happened. Our hope is that they finally have that chance, will hold the Gustafsons accountable, and reverse the unbiblical excommunication. I think once we all can talk to each other again we can figure out what friendship looks like after this much wounding has taken place.

Secondly, this false teaching needs to be thoroughly discussed—amongst the group and the Church at large. Hyper Grace has destroyed Monday Nights. It is no longer the beautiful community it was. I hope that by showing people how it conflicts with actual Scripture they will have a choice that was never given to them: whether to accept it or not. As of now, they have been forced into the status quo by not being provided an alternative viewpoint.

WW: What happens if reconciliation doesn’t occur?

RA: Well, the website and book will remain, then. I will be adding a section on the website describing what Hyper Grace and Universalism are, edited by John and several theologians. That release will be imminent and will be a tool for many people on how to debunk this false grace teaching. The Gustafsons have hosted many Hyper Grace teachers in Monday Nights—Rodeen Williams, Tony Seigh, Andre Rabe—and are hosting one of the biggest names, John Crowder, in Redlands next May. I am hoping by that time enough local leaders will have warned their congregations what hyper grace is and put a stop to it and the families and friends of Monday Night members will have intervened and do what I couldn’t back in 2013.

All of us are to blame for this situation—myself, the Gustafsons, and everyone who has enabled these destructive behaviors from Monday Nights. That’s why it will take all of us to put an end to it.

John and I love our friends and will not give up on them. Until people are willing to see the truth and come to grips with what the Gustafsons have been enabled to do, we will not stop trying to be heard. The Gustafsons tried to destroy our lives, but they will not stop us from loving them enough to tell the truth.

WW: Where can people find the book?

RA: Go to www.RedlandsBook.com. You will find the book which you can read online, or download a PDF. I have recorded a 7-minute testimony as an introduction for those interested. Later on, this will be the place to see Hyper Grace, Universalism, and Spiritual Abuse explained in detail, as well as a page of resources for those seeking help and healing. 

Comments

Ryan Ashton’s Experience of Abuse in Monday Nights, a Redlands, CA House Church — 92 Comments

  1. Sometimes it’s helpful to have an “executive summary” of a project this large, so I’m copying-and-pasting here the overview I posted on November 1st about The Voices of Redlands, and the work Ryan, John, and others did. Here’s my analysis …
    .

    *THE VOICES OF REDLANDS* – a case study in spiritual abuse, advocacy and activism, and (hopefully) eventual restoration.

    Because I write regularly on topics of malignant leaders and toxic organizations, sometimes spiritual abuse survivors ask me for help related to their story of experiencing misuse of power by people in ministry. I’m not often able to do that, but occasionally I know I must. And The Voices of Redlands book, video, and website put together by Ryan Ashton, John Baldwin, and their friends was one of those situations. Months ago, I reviewed next-to-final versions of their book. I had a few conversations with Ryan about the purposes of the project and offered feedback on their evidence and analysis.

    Today they launched RedlandsBook.com and made their project public. I’ve just watched the seven-minute video of Ryan’s testimony on Facebook, skimmed through the final edition of The Voices of Redlands book they posted, and took a look at their initial website. I would commend this set of materials to you as an important, in-depth case to study. It shows, not just tells, what it feels like to be embroiled in the midst of abuse, what it means to stand up for others as their advocate, how to push back on control as an activist, and ways to support a community that is confused and suffering. Besides being a call to action in their local situation, these all provide tremendous practical resources for anyone thinking through the damaging dynamics of abuse, silencing of victims, and spinning the story.

    They have well documented the situation in Redlands, California, with first-person accounts, factual evidence from other sources, theological insights, and helpful analysis about how spiritual abuse happens. I believe they’ve made the case that there are serious problems in both doctrine and authoritarian influence afoot in Redlands, and that such abuses can’t be corrected by ignoring, deflecting, or defending them.

    They did not put this together hastily – it took three years for them to get to this point, with many attempts to challenge alleged abuse and seek reconciliation along the way. Sadly, the situation remains unresolved and so they have gone public in order to warn others.

    So, as you listen to Ryan and read from John and others about what happened, I hope you will hear their hearts in seeking to protect the Church and restore relationships, however imperfect their efforts and others’ reactions to them. I appreciate Ryan, John, and their friends risking what it takes to shine the spotlight into the dark. In my opinion, they have been careful, self-critical, and conciliatory – and this makes them role models for making a difference in the face of surviving abuse.

    Please take time to consider their work, and reflect on their efforts to bring truth, justice, and hope into what looks to be a severely abusive situation.

    [This was followed by the links for the video, website, and PDF of the book, which are available through the website link found in the first paragraph of the TWW article above.]

  2. I am confused. How can one be in sin for disagreeing with the leaders when they teach hyper grace. Isn’t it interesting how that works? Sigh.

  3. Lydia wrote:

    I am confused. How can one be in sin for disagreeing with the leaders when they teach hyper grace. Isn’t it interesting how that works? Sigh.

    Sounds like my ex-church. The very pastors/elders who called for “unity” were incapable of it themselves whether in meetings with church members whom they abused or announcing to Christian attenders from the pulpit not to come back to church if they weren’t going to sign an authoritarian Membership Covenant.

  4. From the article:

    WW: Aren’t you afraid of being sued?

    RA: Not at all. We had three lawyers review this document before release and defamation is incredibly hard to prove. These allegations have to be 1) false, and 2) stated with malice. Neither is the case. These facts are what really happened. These are their words—complete and unedited. These allegations are not made with malice but with scrupulous attention to detail, the truth, and with the ultimate hope this exposure will put enough pressure on the group to reconcile.

    Ryan and team were scrupulous in the details of their work, which definitely helps. However, when I blogged the above executive summary, one of my friends commented, “I hope he doesn’t get sued.” For readers who are new to the topic of lawsuit issues intertwined with situations of putting the spotlight on alleged spiritual abusers, my response to her comment gives an overview of some key factors that add to what Ryan said in the interview. Here’s that comment:

    QUOTE: Likewise, Jan. However, there are always risks in documenting and exposing alleged abuse. If the authors of those pieces are sued for defamation of character, there are some legal protections in place, as the people being put into the spotlight are likely to be deemed “limited public figures” due to the public nature of their ministries. If I understand correctly, that would mean for their lawsuit to succeed, they would need to demonstrate that the authors (1) lied, (2) knowingly lied, (3) and did so with malice. Malice is particularly difficult to prove.

    Another protection for whistleblowers like these is found in SLAPP statutes. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. These are civil suits whose purposes are generally designed to silence or intimidate opponents. SLAPP suits are often frivolous and insidious, used by individuals or entities with “deep pockets” – ample funds to outlast and outlawyer their opponents. In many states, when it appears a lawsuit is filed to shut up those who are blowing the whistle on abuse, the defendants can file an Anti-SLAPP countersuit. This tends to stop any further legal “discovery” process, turn the action over to the court system for expedited consideration, and require the plaintiff(s) to pay all court costs and legal fees if the court decides in favor of the plaintiffs. For more information on SLAPP/Anti-SLAPP, see section 8 on my page of Spiritual Abuse Legal/Media Research.

    Because the authors in this particular case have been very detailed, it seems to me the ministry workers exposed by their allegations would have a difficult time making their own case.

    Also, on the moral-ethical-ministry side of things — even though that doesn’t figure much into the legal aspects of things — as mentioned in the blog post, this extensive publication was pretty much a last resort effort after multiple attempts at reconciliation. The New Testament has quite a few instances of “spiritual whistleblowing” on leaders who fail tests of moral character, upright behavior, and not using their position to exert control by lording it over others. [END QUOTE]

    Here’s the link to the Spiritual Abuse Legal/Media Research page with more details:

    https://futuristguy.wordpress.com/resources-for-research-writing-on-situations-of-spiritual-abuse/

  5. Lydia wrote:

    I am confused. How can one be in sin for disagreeing with the leaders when they teach hyper grace. Isn’t it interesting how that works? Sigh.

    Interesting isn’t it. Whether authoritarians are hyper grace, hyper calvinist, or just hyper, they punish the same unpardonable sin, questioning the overlords.

  6. brad/futuristguy wrote:

    Another protection for whistleblowers like these is found in SLAPP statutes.

    And we in California, where the author lives and this occurred, have very powerful Anti-SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation Lawsuits].
    http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/anti-slapp-law-california

    “[California]Code of Civil Procedure – Section 425.16.
    (a) The Legislature finds and declares that there has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances. The Legislature finds and declares that it is in the public interest to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance, and that this participation should not be chilled through abuse of the judicial process. To this end, this section shall be construed broadly.”

  7. A lot of times on this or other blogs, House Churches are touted as a cure-all for all the problems in churches — just a small group of believers together who fled the corruption into a new New Testament Church.

    Well, it isn’t, and accounts like this show it. Problem with a house church is it’s completely independent, and if it starts drifting off into cultland there’s NO reality check. (Never mind the “Us Four, No More, Amen” syndrome.)

  8. When asked what the hardest thing for him was, RA points to the apathy of other Christians. I agree – if we stand up for each other no one can get away with abuse.

  9. GMFS

    I am reluctant to comment in detail about a situation I knew nothing at all about until an hour or so ago, but I note the phrase:

    …Jared had clearly changed since his trip to Africa…

    … and that this change involved seizing upon a new doctrine that was not approved by his hosts there.

    As HUG pointed out, House Churches can’t escape the “corruption that is in the church” by imagining that they themselves are fundamentally less flawed than others.

    I happen to believe that new and challenging ideas are a good thing: even if they are wrong, the act of identifying why they are wrong can broaden and strengthen our beliefs. Rather like pathogens testing our immune systems. But like pathogens, they are also dangerous: they can overwhelm us with novelty and get us carried away with our own enthusiasm at having discovered a “truth” that everyone else has missed. (Conversely, they can provoke an out-of-control allergic or inflammatory response that destroys a lot of healthy cells. And I speak as a Type 1 diabetic..!)

    And we all know, all too well, about how a community can profess “love” on the outside. Whether it truly loves or not is only really seen when its dominant personalities are challenged.

  10. Hyper-grace ideas do seem to be being overlooked in some circles. I never heard of it until recently but on investigation it does seem to be infiltrating some folks. Didn’t Tullian T try to defend himself against some accusations of teaching hyper-grace at one time? I guess if one is going to defend one’s own sins then hyper-grace would be a very appealing concept.

    I am not going to preach but would not calvinist election theory as some teach it also be in the same general category of relieving somebody’s need to continue in an attitude of repentance toward God? Then there is always the idea that somebody made a one time profession of faith, got baptized, and then was free to live like the pure-T devil because all God ever wanted was for people to vote for his platform at least once anyhow.

    We are saturated with similar ideas about grace. Only the facade is different.

  11. Velour – your situation immediately came to mind when I was reading this even before you posted your comment. I know there are many others out there just like you, John, RA and the like going thru situations like this and worse. These so called “Men of Gawd” need to get off their power trip and realize they aren’t God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. They are just people. We don’t need to reinvent what the Bible says or change what it means to suit our individual beliefs. It stands alone. I for one stand on the solid rock that is Christ my saviour.

  12. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    But like pathogens, they are also dangerous: they can overwhelm us with novelty and get us carried away with our own enthusiasm at having discovered a “truth” that everyone else has missed.

    that was the fate of the ‘gnostics’

  13. I read the Redlands book last night. It was very well put together. I can’t add anything that brad/futuristguy hasn’t already said. He’s particularly got it right regarding the legal ramifications. However, I would note, based on my experiences with Scientology, that well-funded litigants can make your life awful, even if they’re in the wrong.

  14. okrapod wrote:

    Hyper-grace ideas do seem to be being overlooked in some circles. I never heard of it until recently but on investigation it does seem to be infiltrating some folks. Didn’t Tullian T try to defend himself against some accusations of teaching hyper-grace at one time? I guess if one is going to defend one’s own sins then hyper-grace would be a very appealing concept.

    I am not going to preach but would not calvinist election theory as some teach it also be in the same general category of relieving somebody’s need to continue in an attitude of repentance toward God? Then there is always the idea that somebody made a one time profession of faith, got baptized, and then was free to live like the pure-T devil because all God ever wanted was for people to vote for his platform at least once anyhow.

    We are saturated with similar ideas about grace. Only the facade is different.

    very thought-provoking comment, OKRAPOD

    when first reading the post, I remembered that years ago, I had come upon a comment that ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ was ‘obsolete’;
    and I didn’t get the thinking of the person who stated that as his belief

    then, I wondered later how ‘once saved always saved’ had in some cases morphed into ‘all of your sins are covered in the blood of Christ, no need to confess them’ in another strange comment from a different source;

    then the cavalier rejection of Our Lord ‘lens’ by which to see the meaning of sacred Scripture in the 2000 BF&M, followed by the evasion of neo-Cals by stealth into the SBC bringing along their ESS (Eternal Subordination of the Son) heresy, accepted by many non-neo-Cal SBC leaders …..

    and now this ding shing a ling a ling thing …. ‘Hyper Grace’ 🙂 with Our Lord completely thrown under the bus

    ?

    it didn’t happen over night, I know, but I am still shocked at reading this post … just how far people have wandered from the faith given to the Church to pass down through the ages from the Apostles

  15. okrapod wrote:

    Didn’t Tullian T try to defend himself against some accusations of teaching hyper-grace at one time? I guess if one is going to defend one’s own sins then hyper-grace would be a very appealing concept.

    There’s an overview of the background about that controversy between Tullian Tchividjian and The Gospel Coalition, and links to related articles, in the “Chronology 2014” section of this resource bibliography/timeline at Julie Anne’s Spiritual Sounding Board blog.

    https://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2016/03/18/resource-bibliography-on-system-issues-related-to-the-tullian-tchividjian-situation/

  16. Dee Holmes (fka mirele) wrote:

    I would note, based on my experiences with Scientology, that well-funded litigants can make your life awful, even if they’re in the wrong.

    I met Julie Anne Smith through Barb Orlowski, within a few days of when Julie Anne received notice she was being sued for defamation of character by her former pastor. Even though that case got expedited because of an anti-SLAPP countersuit, it still dominated her life on a daily basis for over 7 months — with ramifications that have lasted much longer. So, I am *really* thankful for those who instigated anti-SLAPP legislation — I can hardly imagine how horrific the angst inflicted by plaintiffs in frivolous lawsuits would be otherwise!

  17. okrapod wrote:

    We are saturated with similar ideas about grace. Only the facade is different.

    Maybe the doctrine of grace as taught in Western theology is fundamentally flawed.

  18. I had hopes of giving you a simple answer of Martin Luther and hyper grace but it is not that simple. I have been doing some reading and need to back burner it in order to work on the story from Memphis. I will try to get back to you.

    I think CS Lewis simple observation in the Chronicles of Narnia gives a graspable and proper perspective.

    “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

  19. Muff Potter wrote:

    Maybe the doctrine of grace as taught in Western theology is fundamentally flawed.

    There is more than one concept of the doctrine of grace in western theology, and they are in part contradictory. So, for sure they are not all equally correct.

  20. okrapod wrote:

    There is more than one concept of the doctrine of grace in western theology, and they are in part contradictory. So, for sure they are not all equally correct.

    As true as the proposition that the square root of 2 is not a rational number.

  21. Hyper grace is nothing new. Someone just finally gave an official name to an excuse to live in intentional sin in the name of God, and it is being practiced by groups, instead of by individuals here and there.
    Many years ago, when I decided it was time for me to join a church, I had narrowed it down to two churches. One was a General Baptist and the other was a Missionary Baptist. But, I had trouble understanding both unconditional election (once saved always saved in MB) and conditional election (backsliding in GB). I almost rejected a Missionary Baptist church because of something a friend there said to me: “You need to join our church. We believe once saved always saved. That means we can do anything we want to do, and still go to Heaven!” It took me a while and some long talks with the preacher to finally realize and accept the fact that this person was probably not saved. Now, I can put a label on that belief.

    And I doubt that the church leaders at Redlands are saved. If they ever were, they have since rejected Jesus. …………. Just my opinion.

  22. from that paean to grace:
    ‘Hound of Heaven’ by Francis Thompson

    “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
    I fled Him, down the arches of the years;…..
    ………..

    …..‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
    I am He Whom thou seekest!”

    https://vimeo.com/76242863

  23. okrapod wrote:

    Thanks.

    You’re welcome! Those timelines/bibliographies that Julie Anne and I and others put together come in handy when least expected. Actually, we probably do them because we *do* expect the “unexpected,” i.e., that those whose actions disqualify themselves from ministry keep having questions come up about their past actions and present attempts to get back in the game.

  24. Harley wrote:

    Velour – your situation immediately came to mind when I was reading this even before you posted your comment. I know there are many others out there just like you, John, RA and the like going thru situations like this and worse. These so called “Men of Gawd” need to get off their power trip and realize they aren’t God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. They are just people. We don’t need to reinvent what the Bible says or change what it means to suit our individual beliefs. It stands alone. I for one stand on the solid rock that is Christ my saviour.

    Thanks, Harley, for your empathy for me and others who have been the victims of spiritual abuse in churches. It’s sadly a widespread problem.

  25. Hyper grace is what we were taught distinctly at two ELCA churches, so we left them.

    And yes, beware of “house church” folks as much as church with a building folks. In my comment on the previous post I discussed tail gate church and church at the wagon, etc, but that is a totally different thing.

    For believers living out their own personal faith to voluntarily get together to share in worship without a leader there is, I believe, far less risk than groups essentially forming traditional churches complete with a head shaman but just meeting in homes. Two different things.

  26. Hyper grace…

    It is a bit like a married partner who is assured his/her partner would never divorce him/her no matter what, using that fact as an opportunity to egregiously sin against their partner with impunity. This is not love! It is not a true marriage. One who would behave this way does not love their spouse.

    1John 2:3-6
    By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

    While it may be true that “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us,” (Psalm 103:12), using that as a license to sin and commit abuse betrays a disrespect for Christ, not a union with him.

    What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2

    It seems like this group is following a tragic but well defined path: A group of well-meaning believers bands together, an unbalanced individual ascends to a position of power over the group, and an authoritarian, controlling cult emerges.

    The path from being love-bombed to being shunned is a familiar one.

  27. Muff Potter wrote:

    As true as the proposition that the square root of 2 is not a rational number.

    For which there is good, and rather interesting, evidence.

  28. In the last thread, I mentioned how I am coming to realize how many things Christians say are actually devoid of any objective meaning. This section brought that home to me yet again:

    God is expressing Himself in a unique and special way here in Redlands. There are several gatherings throughout the week where people are awakening to the radical love of Jesus. He is bringing living stones together, building His very temple, a tabernacle of the living presence of love. We are then experiencing this love in familial relationships and in learning to receive from our Papa. His life is abundant and has found its way in our hearts. This life is easily shared when motivated by love. We are now seeing our city impacted with the gospel and are excited about the future. All the glory, honor, praise, and shing-ding-ding be given to Jesus! love you!

    Can this be translated into an actual statement that means something?

    Just to pick on one statement, “We are now seeing our city impacted with the gospel”

    What exactly does this mean? What does “impacted” even mean? Is it reflected in any kind of measurable change? Was the city un-impacted before? Does the city know it is being “impacted”?

  29. brad/futuristguy wrote:

    Actually, we probably do them because we *do* expect the “unexpected,”

    I can not imagine the hours and hours of work and research you devote to this stuff. ……… Hats off to you for your dedication to the truth!

  30. siteseer wrote:

    In the last thread, I mentioned how I am coming to realize how many things Christians say are actually devoid of any objective meaning. This section brought that home to me yet again:

    God is expressing Himself in a unique and special way here in Redlands. There are several gatherings throughout the week where people are awakening to the radical love of Jesus. He is bringing living stones together, building His very temple, a tabernacle of the living presence of love. We are then experiencing this love in familial relationships and in learning to receive from our Papa. His life is abundant and has found its way in our hearts. This life is easily shared when motivated by love. We are now seeing our city impacted with the gospel and are excited about the future. All the glory, honor, praise, and shing-ding-ding be given to Jesus! love you!

    Can this be translated into an actual statement that means something?

    Other than Buzzword Bingo?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S0FDjFBj8o

  31. The first red flag I saw while reading this is that the leaders of this house church split off from an already existing church. Why? I point to this excellent article written by one of the biggest promoters of house churches Frank Viola: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/heretic/
    He describes what the word “heretic” originally meant. The Gustafson brothers were already heretics before they started teaching a false doctrine. You will have to read the article to understand what I just stated. It is notable that one of the most famous house church promoters states that church splinter groups are technically heretics even if their doctrine is sound. Therefore, he cannot promote the practice of forming a sub-group within an existing church and then taking the whole group with you to create a house church visa=vi a church split.

  32. @ okrapod:
    This is a dangerous thing to say and I hope people will have hyper grace when considering this (hee hee) but some of this comes from an imbalance on the concept of “faith alone”.

    Somehow, Jesus’ words Repent and believe became only “believe”. And that any other view is considered by some as works salvation’ or legalism. But are we really saved to do evil deeds to others?

    The gift and work of Christ with the cross/resurrection is done whether we accept/believe it or not.

    Luther was not a fan of the book of James as it teaches a faith without works is dead. That does not mean that Luther did not have pet “works” himself such as mandatory church attendance, obeying leaders, etc.

  33. siteseer wrote:

    Can this be translated into an actual statement that means something?

    What? You want it to mean something other than ethereal horse_____? (fill in the blank). The folks who come up with this… er .. ah… stuff, do not deal in brass tacks reality. Well-heeled white folks in Redlands don’t have to worry about where they’re gonna get the water for a maize crop or even safe water to drink for that matter. In that kind of comfy cocoon, you (generic you) can afford to deal in gossamer intangibles.

  34. siteseer wrote:

    Can this be translated into an actual statement that means something?

    Just to pick on one statement, “We are now seeing our city impacted with the gospel”

    What exactly does this mean? What does “impacted” even mean? Is it reflected in any kind of measurable change? Was the city un-impacted before? Does the city know it is being “impacted”?

    That is the beauty of such statements. They get to define what it means how and when they decide.

  35. Muff Potter wrote:

    siteseer wrote:
    Can this be translated into an actual statement that means something?

    What? You want it to mean something other than ethereal horse_____? (fill in the blank). The folks who come up with this… er .. ah… stuff, do not deal in brass tacks reality. Well-heeled white folks in Redlands don’t have to worry about where they’re gonna get the water for a maize crop or even safe water to drink for that matter. In that kind of comfy cocoon, you (generic you) can afford to deal in gossamer intangibles.

    In the words of the prophet Alfred Yankovic:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwvlbJ0h35A

  36. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Other than Buzzword Bingo?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S0FDjFBj8o

    Ha, that was good! I think if you added some extreme passion, hand gestures, exxagerated facial expressions, and energetic walking you’d have the modern megachurch sermon in a nutshell.

    Can I just say that God moved in a powerful way as I watched this? The glory of the Lord fell in a mighty way as I considered all that God has for me and how he will use this to advance his kingdom.

  37. I agree with you. The more theological term is indeed antinomianism. The Bible teaches that if you take Jesus as Savior He must also be Lord@ Nancy2:

  38. Hi, Ryan. I am very sorry for these circumstances. I hope for beautiful things to come out of all this for you.

  39. @ Nancy2:

    Thanks Nancy2. It’s how I’m wired and it works with the spiritual gifts I’ve got, and it helps keep me going, knowing there is immense purpose in protecting the sheep by having such compilations. Such as …

    * It documents the unfolding history of what happened, and then people can start comparing old versus new interpretations of the facts to see what was left unsaid or undone that should have been said/done earlier.

    * Perpetrators and those who protect them cannot erase all the evidence and say such-and-such didn’t really happen.

    * People can start analyzing the evidence for patterns, which they can line up with other important details. I’ve seen it happen that very unexpected things emerge, once you get timelines together. Such as you discover that an author was apparently in the midst of an adulterous relationship while writing his next book, and … uhh … failed to tell his spouse, his denominational overseers, or his publisher.

    So, those are some of the values in that kind of research … it really provides the whole community a base for shining the spotlight into the darkness, and fending off accusations that we are gossiping, lying, defaming when the collected evidence says otherwise.

  40. I became somewhat familiar with the idea of hyper grace, or antinomianism, during the ongoing sanctification debate of the past couple of years among the neocals and other reformed. I’ve also run into some helpful stuff by Jordan Cooper on the 3rd use of the law in the Christian life. Apparently, Lutheranism had such a movement that taught there is no place for even the 10 commandments. Third use teaches that for the Christian, the law shows us what sin is, as well as how we can strive to love God in light of His love for us in Christ. For me, it was a very timely teaching, especially after years of moralism and law preaching from the pulpit. Geniune antinomianism might have been very tempting for me.

  41. Velour wrote:

    Harley wrote:
    Velour – your situation immediately came to mind when I was reading this even before you posted your comment. I know there are many others out there just like you, John, RA and the like going thru situations like this and worse. These so called “Men of Gawd” need to get off their power trip and realize they aren’t God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. They are just people. We don’t need to reinvent what the Bible says or change what it means to suit our individual beliefs. It stands alone. I for one stand on the solid rock that is Christ my saviour.
    Thanks, Harley, for your empathy for me and others who have been the victims of spiritual abuse in churches. It’s sadly a widespread problem.

    siteseer wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    Other than Buzzword Bingo?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S0FDjFBj8o
    Ha, that was good! I think if you added some extreme passion, hand gestures, exxagerated facial expressions, and energetic walking you’d have the modern megachurch sermon in a nutshell.
    Can I just say that God moved in a powerful way as I watched this? The glory of the Lord fell in a mighty way as I considered all that God has for me and how he will use this to advance his kingdom.

    I hope this was supposed to be funny, bcause it made me guffaw!

  42. NJ wrote:

    Geniune antinomianism might have been very tempting for me.

    I think it has been for many. That is, until you are the victim of a horrible or unjust action by another Christian. Then, it’s not so great.

  43. The problem with trying to bring the OT law to bear on the Christian life is what we saw in a previous thread, a commenter insisting that a woman has to scream out loud or she is complicit in her own rape…

    There is a better way:

    Matthew 22:37-40
    And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    Romans 13:10
    Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    James 1:25
    But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

    You don’t need an OT law to tell you that what has been done to Ryan and the others is wrong, it is the opposite of love.

  44. Christiane wrote:

    okrapod wrote:

    Hyper-grace ideas do seem to be being overlooked in some circles. I never heard of it until recently but on investigation it does seem to be infiltrating some folks. Didn’t Tullian T try to defend himself against some accusations of teaching hyper-grace at one time? I guess if one is going to defend one’s own sins then hyper-grace would be a very appealing concept.

    I am not going to preach but would not calvinist election theory as some teach it also be in the same general category of relieving somebody’s need to continue in an attitude of repentance toward God? Then there is always the idea that somebody made a one time profession of faith, got baptized, and then was free to live like the pure-T devil because all God ever wanted was for people to vote for his platform at least once anyhow.

    We are saturated with similar ideas about grace. Only the facade is different.

    very thought-provoking comment, OKRAPOD

    when first reading the post, I remembered that years ago, I had come upon a comment that ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ was ‘obsolete’;
    and I didn’t get the thinking of the person who stated that as his belief

    then, I wondered later how ‘once saved always saved’ had in some cases morphed into ‘all of your sins are covered in the blood of Christ, no need to confess them’ in another strange comment from a different source;

    then the cavalier rejection of Our Lord ‘lens’ by which to see the meaning of sacred Scripture in the 2000 BF&M, followed by the evasion of neo-Cals by stealth into the SBC bringing along their ESS (Eternal Subordination of the Son) heresy, accepted by many non-neo-Cal SBC leaders …..

    and now this ding shing a ling a ling thing …. ‘Hyper Grace’ with Our Lord completely thrown under the bus

    ?

    it didn’t happen over night, I know, but I am still shocked at reading this post … just how far people have wandered from the faith given to the Church to pass down through the ages from the Apostles

    The person who called the Lord’s Prayer obsolete might have been a hyperdispensationalist (or “ultradispensationalist”). They believe the church started during the middle or at the end of Acts, and therefore everything before that in the Bible is “not for today”, including the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. They also reject water baptism, claiming that Paul abolished it. There do seem to be some similarities between hyperdispensationalism and hyper-grace. In fact, hyper-disp adherents are also known as the Grace Movement. One famous proponent is talk show host Bob Enyart.

  45. MidwesternEasterner wrote:

    They believe the church started during the middle or at the end of Acts, and therefore everything before that in the Bible is “not for today”, including the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. They also reject water baptism, claiming that Paul abolished it.

    Wow. I remember being shocked at the time I first read about this kind of thinking.

    In orthodox Christianity, EVERYTHING touching on the Christ Event has eternal significance, so for me to hear about things like what you have described, as well as the ESS heresy, and the rejection of Christ as the ‘lens’ through which we view all of sacred Scripture;
    that is a hard thing to come across and not be very shocked and also to wonder ‘what are these people thinking’????

    I’m not that familiar with dispensational theology. I might have found some answers there. Thank you for pointing to it. Maybe someday I’ll understand better how people come to such strange beliefs. I once heard that a whole segment of Christian theology was built around a single footnote in the Scofield Bible, but how can that be? (?)

  46. Christiane wrote:

    and now this ding shing a ling a ling thing ….

    Sounds like Crazy Crowder and his Tokin-the-Ghost Jehovah-Juana “Yoing! Yoing! Yoing!”
    Or Tatted Todd of Lakeland and his knockoff of Emeril’s “SHEEKA-BOOM-BAH! BAM!”
    Or that Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey video.

  47. First let me say that this clear abuse and it’s wrong at any angle and should be exposed. The church and it’s pastors are just plain off the charts.

    I am the only one here but did that website seem a bit weird?

    Compared to the websites and blogs on Mars Hill and the survivors, this caught me a bit off guard. And I pretty sure I read them all.

    From watching the video and reading the book I found it kind of strange. Yes it is highly detailed and plenty of info…which is great. But almost detailed in a weird way. Comparing it to the the Mars Hill survivors, why would you put a gloss video out like that…why would you publish a book and website like that with photos and structure that are just not quite “correct” to what you trying to do. I kind of have a problem with it. NOT the exposing of the abuse.

    Comparing again to the MH folks… How they handled it, how they dispersed the information and how they went on were more in line to the norm than what I see here.

    Something just feels a bit “off” to me.

  48. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Hi HEADLESS,
    yeah, I am surprised when some ‘church’ talks about things that pertain to God in ‘casual’ ways. One example was that creepy pastor (forgot his name) whose idea of the Lord’s Supper was to tell his flock he had bought the cheapest bread he could find and it was on a table in the back of the room and they could grab a piece of it on their way out the door.

    Not sure about these folks go out of their way to profane what was important to Our Lord. I mean it’s so bad that it’s almost like a game of one-upsmanship in who can be as disrespectful to Our Lord as possible ….. what are these young pastors trying to prove?

    ?

  49. A.Stacy wrote:

    First let me say that this clear abuse and it’s wrong at any angle and should be exposed. The church and it’s pastors are just plain off the charts.
    I am the only one here but did that website seem a bit weird?
    Compared to the websites and blogs on Mars Hill and the survivors, this caught me a bit off guard. And I pretty sure I read them all.
    From watching the video and reading the book I found it kind of strange. Yes it is highly detailed and plenty of info…which is great. But almost detailed in a weird way. Comparing it to the the Mars Hill survivors, why would you put a gloss video out like that…why would you publish a book and website like that with photos and structure that are just not quite “correct” to what you trying to do. I kind of have a problem with it. NOT the exposing of the abuse.
    Comparing again to the MH folks… How they handled it, how they dispersed the information and how they went on were more in line to the norm than what I see here.
    Something just feels a bit “off” to me.

    Maybe a bit off. It sure looks slickly produced, like something phony and fraudulent that Mars Hill would’ve produced, just from the opposite perspective. That said, it could also have been put together by someone with a gift for graphic design who didn’t want to put out schlocky design for public consumption. It’s not really a blog or traditional website anyway, more of an e-book, very professionally done.

  50. @ Law Prof:

    @A.Stacy and @Law Prof — and @RyanAshton

    I thought it might be of interest to share some background on this particular project and where I think it fits with other kinds of survivor blogging sites and case studies. It might be helpful to readers who’re looking at the possibility of documenting their situation and/or creating a case study about spiritual abuse.

    I mentioned earlier that I had some conversations with Ryan by email and phone. To make it clear, I didn’t have a major role in what they produced, just gave feedback on content and format. We also talked about the big picture of survivor blog history and the kinds of websites and case studies out there, and issues in presenting materials in both online and print formats, and I made suggestions based on that.

    So, with that in mind …

    I know Ryan is taking a degree in graphic design, so that’s one factor. As best I can conclude from both written and phone interactions with him, he is as articulate as comes across in the video. So, it’s understandable that it could come across as “slick” — and that really is something that needs to be considered. (From my interactions with Ryan, he seems very open to critiques, so I trust he’ll take in all your feedback.)

    THOUGHTS ON SURVIVOR BLOGGING AND CASE STUDIES

    (As I don’t know of any history of survivor blogging, I think this might be of interest … and please jump in with corrections or different categories, etc.)

    As far as the flow of things, most of the more prominent multi-topic survivor blogs like The Wartburg Watch and Spiritual Sounding Board have been around 10 years or less. They cover a range different topics related to spiritual abuse, specific situations of alleged abuse, connections between theology and abuse, and specific individuals who are alleged abusers or functionaries who keep abusers afloat. Many of these include comment sections for people to respond to the articles and interact with one another.

    Another whole group of “case study” survivor websites tend to address a single denomination, theology, leader, church, or situation. These tend to include primary sources (like personal accounts, documents, interviews, transcripts, images, retyped contents or screenshots of text messages or comments) and secondary resources (theological analyses, timelines, bibliographies, etc.). Some allow for interaction, others are more just archives.

    Some of these case study webpages or websites were uploaded when completed. For instance, the static archive pages of the BGBC lawsuit against Julie Anne Smith at Spiritual Sounding Board. Others, like Recovering Grace about abuse allegations related to Bill Gothard and Institute in Basic Life Principles, built up a series of personal testimonies, articles, and theological articles over at least a three-year period. That paved the way to their lawsuit.

    Point being, the Redlands project was launched all at once, at a time where we have multiple different survivor case studies sites and formats available to consider as role models. As far as I know, none have done a simultaneous launch of a website plus print version of the content. This is why in my analysis overview earlier in this thread, I suggested the Redlands project might be one model for how to present materials that document a particular situation of alleged abuse.

    THOUGHTS ON THE REDLANDS PROJECT MATERIALS

    Some of the Redlands content is angled toward particular target audiences. From my conversations with Ryan and my reading of the materials the Redlands team put together, he had at least two distinct target audiences in mind. First, those who have been part of the Monday Night groups. Second, those who may be considering hiring the people in question for events. The former know insider details, the latter don’t, and both groups likely need to understand the context of spiritual abuse because it’s not something that is general knowledge in churches, training programs, etc.

    Ryan has used a lot of primary sources to document his case (like personal accounts, documents, interviews, transcripts, images, retyped contents or screenshots of text messages or comments), and secondary resources (theological analyses, timelines, bibliographies, charts, graphics, etc.) to either summarize details of evidence, or show how things relate to concepts on spiritual abuse. Also, those potentially hiring the people under the spotlight likely have some significant funds, so a professionally produced site and book may be important to lending credibility to the research work.

    Some of the content is designed to make it easier to follow in translating digital information to print format. For instance, Ryan and I discussed the two-page timeline and ways to show a reasonable amount of essential information without it getting overcluttered. That’s very hard to do in print — a lot of survivor case study situations and sites use separate timeline programs to create online timelines (as with Julie Anne Smith’s BGBC lawsuit, and an Sovereign Grace Ministries timeline, both of which give event dates, details, and links to sources for more research). I think he did about as well as he could, given the complexity of what happened in Redlands.

    If the Redlands Project had been developed over time, the look and sections on the site might be different. Most survivor case studies are that way, built over time as the situation continues to unfold. But an all-at-once launch is less common, mostly with static/archive pages or site (like Julie Anne’s BGBC lawsuit archive pages on the Spiritual Sounding Board site). It might have had to happen this way, as it took John three years to get his narrative account together, if I remember right.

    So anyway, there are some thoughts on producing a case study, FWIW.

  51. linda wrote:

    Hyper grace is what we were taught distinctly at two ELCA churches, so we left them.
    And yes, beware of “house church” folks as much as church with a building folks. In my comment on the previous post I discussed tail gate church and church at the wagon, etc, but that is a totally different thing.
    For believers living out their own personal faith to voluntarily get together to share in worship without a leader there is, I believe, far less risk than groups essentially forming traditional churches complete with a head shaman but just meeting in homes. Two different things.

    I’ve been there. I went with a “house church” group that left the church I was attending because I was given the impression that this was the “spiritual” and “Biblical” way to meet. The man who suggested the idea was our minister, and I respected him. I lasted five years before I finally told my husband, it’s not working. We need to get out.

  52. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    A lot of times on this or other blogs, House Churches are touted as a cure-all for all the problems in churches — just a small group of believers together who fled the corruption into a new New Testament Church.
    Well, it isn’t, and accounts like this show it. Problem with a house church is it’s completely independent, and if it starts drifting off into cultland there’s NO reality check. (Never mind the “Us Four, No More, Amen” syndrome.)

    Yep. Been there, done that, and while house churches CAN work, in my experience, they did not work for me.

  53. Brad… thanks for the insight. I can see where the slickness came from.

    It’s just kind of different with the minor keyed music and the photos in the book looking like and arranged like a modern marriage engagement announcement.

    After 15 years in a modern growth/ARC church I probably have a sensitive sore spot when I see slick church-ee marketing stuff.

  54. A. Stacy wrote:

    After 15 years in a modern growth/ARC church I probably have a sensitive sore spot when I see slick church-ee marketing stuff.

    I haven’t looked closely at it, but it sounds like you’re just seeing the style. Substance can be well done too. I don’t want to judge based on that.

  55. @ A. Stacy:

    I can totally understand that. And I often find in videos that certain kinds of music or levels of balance with the speaking get distracting …

  56. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    A lot of times on this or other blogs, House Churches are touted as a cure-all for all the problems in churches — just a small group of believers together who fled the corruption into a new New Testament Church.

    Well, it isn’t, and accounts like this show it. Problem with a house church is it’s completely independent, and if it starts drifting off into cultland there’s NO reality check. (Never mind the “Us Four, No More, Amen” syndrome.)

    Well spoken HUG. I don’t think a body starts to see these things until they’ve been round’ the sun a few times. When yer’ still wet behind the ears, reality is just an inconvenience that old folks gotta’ deal with.

  57. A.Stacy wrote:

    I am the only one here but did that website seem a bit weird?

    It caught me the same way. I believe and support them but I think the message would come across better in a simple blog type format, let the story tell the story on it’s own. But then I wondered if putting it together may have been therapeutic for someone with those design capabilities. I don’t want to sound discouraging, though, it’s a minor point.

  58. siteseer wrote:

    It caught me the same way. I believe and support them but I think the message would come across better in a simple blog type format, let the story tell the story on it’s own. But then I wondered if putting it together may have been therapeutic for someone with those design capabilities. I don’t want to sound discouraging, though, it’s a minor point.

    Many people have been in churches that poured their passions into designing slick websites and professional church logos. They deliver messages intended to promote church growth and the pastor’s brand–rather than speaking the truth and loving others. The messages sound great (at least by dismal Christian standards) and sound motivational and inspiring–but when you analyze them, they’re shallow nonsense, derivative, trite, stupid, and often, just plain heretical. Leaders spend their time talking to each other of target markets and, basically, treat an increase in parishioners as a gain in market share.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with slickness, but so many people have had their spiritual lives damaged and their careers and families ruined by Christian leaders so-called who had nothing but superficial professionalism. So when many of us see the slickness, we’re triggered and our antenna pop up.

  59. A.Stacy wrote:

    First let me say that this clear abuse and it’s wrong at any angle and should be exposed. The church and it’s pastors are just plain off the charts.
    I am the only one here but did that website seem a bit weird?
    Compared to the websites and blogs on Mars Hill and the survivors, this caught me a bit off guard. And I pretty sure I read them all.
    From watching the video and reading the book I found it kind of strange. Yes it is highly detailed and plenty of info…which is great. But almost detailed in a weird way. Comparing it to the the Mars Hill survivors, why would you put a gloss video out like that…why would you publish a book and website like that with photos and structure that are just not quite “correct” to what you trying to do. I kind of have a problem with it. NOT the exposing of the abuse.
    Comparing again to the MH folks… How they handled it, how they dispersed the information and how they went on were more in line to the norm than what I see here.
    Something just feels a bit “off” to me.

    Hello Wartburg Watch family, especially @A.Stacy, @Law Prof, @siteseer, @brad/futuristguy.

    John and I have been following the conversation a bit and we wanted to begin by thanking you all for your support, the time you’ve spent digesting our story, and providing helpful critique. We really appreciate all of it, as the welcome we’ve received into this world of “survivors” is truly an unexpected one. I hope our contributions to this courageous community will helpful for years to come.

    Secondly, I would like to directly answer some of the critique generously offered by some here, as it is important to be answerable to people we are journeying toward healing with.

    The question “why would you put a gloss video out like that” (“with the minor keyed music”), and “why would you publish a book and website like that” (“book looking like and arranged like a modern marriage engagement announcement”) is relatively easy to answer. It will just take some time, so please bear with me.

    This all was originally going to be in a book I was writing. I was encouraged to write down what had happened in 2013 in order to present the evidence that Jared Gustafson truly was teaching Hyper Grace because he flatly denied sharing this theology in the early stages of this situation. (Only later on, and recently, has he fully embraced the moniker, but even then only with those who do not understand the full depth of this teaching.) The person I gave my original manuscript to declined taking any action because Jared “wasn’t speaking against _him_,” as if his personal ministry trumped the concern and danger of the Redlands group. Saddened, the (at the time) 40-page testimony John had written (along with Jaziz, Mark, and Marcus) lay dormant for a couple years as I continued my studies and sought the Lord on how to pierce the fog of the Gustafsons’ lies.

    This past summer, as I explain in my Interlude, my lunch with a Monday Night parent yielded no results—-she refused to discuss what has been happening because she thinks its gossip, “negative,” and “I want everyone to be winners! People can’t be winners if you ‘make them wrong!'” I knew the immense amount of work and effort I had already poured into this project was gone, since I want this mother, and others, to face what is happening to her children and do something about it, but I wouldn’t be heard.

    Because John’s testimony was so well-received among those who read my imposing manuscript, that I decided to have John update it, expand it, and edit it. We made it into a document first to be shared with the group itself and break the stalemate. Later we realized such a meeting would never happen, so we figured a website would be a better delivery system. It took me two months of laying it out. We included pictures and screenshots because we have over 800 images that prove Jared is teaching Hyper Grace, and it’s important to prove these are really the words of Monday Nights (because they will deny it and say they’re fabrications). The text is laid out in two columns because you can fit more text on a page in two columns rather than one (and it’s easier to read). I knew from my graphic design studies that making things as easy to read and follow along is the primary responsibility of a graphic artist, and making a difficult story a page-turner required both beauty and smart design in order to retain people’s attention. So I put what skills I have to use in order to make something that would be read.

    It is not my intention at all to appear slick or inauthentic, and I apologize for triggering you. There is no manipulation from my end. I want our story to be credible and communicate– and we felt that can’t be done on a bland WordPress template. (More on that in a second.)

    The website itself will become a blog–there are pages I am almost finished creating that are merely hidden now, which will explain what Hyper Grace, Universalism, and Spiritual Abuse are, and then provide the resources that have been helpful to me in healing.

    In addition to communicating to the group and those in Redlands, we want the website to be a usable tool– both on computers and on mobile devices– for layman and clergy alike. These heresies must be confronted, and we are hoping to distill the massive amount of information and narrative into bite-sized information that can be utilized by anyone who loves Jesus and the truth.

    In my research and the many blogs both for and against Hyper Grace / Universalism, there isn’t a website out there that communicates the truth in a striking, simple, beautiful way. To me, and those in my Millennial Generation, beauty can often be compelling on its own, and so my attempt to reach people who are dazzled by outward show (and heresy) is necessarily coming at the expense of people who would rather something more straightforward. Again, I apologize. You are not an oversight, but the alternative–reaching people more prone to think elegance = credibility– was deemed a more immediate need.

    Furthermore, regarding the blandness of WordPress and what survivor blogs can be… The internet is a powerful tool, and the democratization of our voices is a huge development in the modern era. That oppressed and abused Christians can be heard now is a remarkable reality no other generation in the history of the Church has had before. With this ability comes responsibility. I do not believe we have scratched the surface of our capabilities yet, and if I am going to be a part of the Survivor community for any length of time, I would like to contribute something useful. To wit, it is frightfully hard to present truth in a compelling way. In a very real sense, our website is a digital tract for the truth, because the Church–and the truth–has been plagued with bad design for years. It is my hope I can elevate our expectations for what survivor blogs can be and accomplish– to not just tell our story but provide a beautiful alternative. Like the Master’s did in painting and sculpture during the Renaissance, I would like to make a mark by offering fellow survivors a gift… as a graphic designer, my mission is to help you communicate your message and help you find your voice. It is not my responsibility to “be a voice for the voiceless,” which is in fact quite arrogant. I want to _unleash_ your voice, and part of that is thinking of ways to solve the problem of a drab and dreary internet world that speaks to other survivors but seldom reaches beyond the confines of our wounded circles.

    As time goes on, I intend on making logos and blogs and websites for discounted rates for those in need. There are other ways I can contribute, but for now, I wanted to see what was possible with my story first before offering these abilities to others.

    If we are going to change the Church, we need to utilize all the tools we have and show a better way to love, lead, and convey the truth.

    Finally, a word for @Headless Unicorn Guy, who says “Sounds like Crazy Crowder and his Tokin-the-Ghost Jehovah-Juana “Yoing! Yoing! Yoing!”

    Indeed. The other part of why we designed things and made it as professional as possible is because we are facing many teachers and manipulators who have had a few years head-start on deploying this deadly poison. If we are to counteract this message, we need to face them head-on.

    Our competition is John Crowder himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTA8pU8kiPU
    Crowder is going to Redlands with Monday Nights as his host in May 2017 to spread his bilge. I am hoping the website will be fully-finished at that point and people in Southern California are ready to counter-act the lies.

    Our other competition is Jared: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZXV7wdx9Ck
    He’s an incredible speaker and very charismatic. I don’t have that charisma, and I am not convincing at all. I have also been told (by Monday Nights at my Trial) that my heart doesn’t come through my writing– but that I do better communicating in person. So I decided to make the “book trailer” and apologize for the desperate ways I tried to stop Monday Nights doing what it did so that I could clear the way for John Baldwin to be heard. If the group could read him without the lens of my own desperation to be heard clouding their mental sky, then the video will succeed. (The music was twice as loud before, and it is only playing so as to hide the air conditioner in the background.)

    My hope is to create other–shorter– videos as intros to each part of the website, helping to orient people and allow them to digest the heaviness of the story with the hope that comes from knowing I survived this and am doing okay. If people can hear my voice and know I love God still, I hope they can read the truth with a little less weariness.

    In a real sense, you are all becoming a part of the story by reading. You are interacting with one of the characters in the plot, and you can make a difference in Redlands by offering your prayers, skills, and talents. As Brad and Dee have done, by posting about our story, they are helping the truth get out there more.

    We need all the help we can get. I love the people who are trapped and being held hostage by the Gustafsons– even the Gustafsons themselves– and we want this story to be the tipping point that changes the direction of Redlands.

    Thank you all for your contributions and counsel. Please email me at ryanllashton@gmail.com if you want to correspond more and give more direct critiques.

    -RA

  60. @ Ryan Ashton:

    @Ryan, you rock! Thanks for sharing so much background about how your project ended up the way it did … helpful to know for future websites, documentation resources, etc. that could have multiple media in mind from the outset.

    P.S. I hope I’ve conveyed well what our earlier conversations were about. If not, please let me know so the record can be corrected — thanks, Ryan.

  61. As a South African who has done ministry several times in Mozambique, as well as working closely will several missionaries who have spend many years working in Mozambique and having encountered the work of Heidi and Rolland Bakker I would suggest extreme caution be exercised by anyone becoming involved in any ministry associated with them.

  62. Ryan Ashton wrote:

    It is not my intention at all to appear slick or inauthentic, and I apologize for triggering you…I would like to make a mark by offering fellow survivors a gift… as a graphic designer, my mission is to help you communicate your message and help you find your voice.

    Totally understood, it’s a superficial thing that a few of us see here and are triggered by; it doesn’t mean that the substance of what you’re doing is in any way inauthentic. I can relate to the desire to make Christian stuff as good as possible; decades ago I worked as a graphic designer also. Since I did it professionally, once was asked to do some design work for a mega I attended, and had the distinct displeasure of having the work I’d done torn apart at a board meeting by some blustering sort of old guard, higher up type in the church who evidently couldn’t stand the idea that anything might happen without him putting his hands in it. He made random suggestions, none of which made sense to the professional designer in me. Naturally, the middle aged ladies on the committee swooned at each of his suggestions and I, standing alone, was swamped. The advertising ended up looking cheap and amateurish. Frosted me that the Unitarian Universalists had professional-looking ads and our looked like, well, a paunchy, middle aged, arrogant, church leader guy (who knew nothing whatsoever about design and who’s only qualifications were that he happened to lead the marketing committee) had designed it. Was embarrassing in the extreme when people at the mega told me how beautiful “my” ad looked (it didn’t, trust me, told them “Er, it didn’t look like that when I did it, kind of got out of hand when it got to committee.”)

    So I definitely understand the desire to make things look as good as possible–your work is excellent.

  63. Ryan, thanks for your response, it makes sense. I agree with your assessment that many blogs could use better design. WordPress templates can be beautifully designed through the CSS and a child theme, but it may take more time/expertise than some have. Over time I’ve gravitated to simplest is best in terms of readability and usability. I like your idea of including video and graphics. You have to do what feels right to you and expresses what you want it to express. You will likely find it evolves over time as it grows and you add more to it. Design can be challenging these days because there are so many screen sizes, ultimately the important thing is for people to be able to easily read your material and find their way around your site to the different parts.

    I wanted to speak to your comment, “he flatly denied sharing this theology in the early stages of this situation.” In the situation I came out of, it seemed as if our pastor had suddenly started teaching strange stuff, but I went back and listened to audio of sermons in the past and realized that from early times he had been dropping many hints that we all missed, because the phrases and references didn’t mean anything to us at the time. After finding our way through a few negative church experiences, we became convinced that anything you bring up to a pastor is something he’s already thought of or heard and developed a defense for.

    I so agree that the internet is a powerful tool, and the democratization of our voices is a huge and important development. There has never been such an opportunity for church members. It seems like it’s bound to change things in time, at least to some degree.

    You have run into a problem I think we’ve all grappled with: the difficulty interesting those who have not personally been on the receiving end of abuse. Not many people seem to want to wrestle with these issues unless they are forced to. People are so invested in church being a positive thing in their lives, it goes against the grain to see negatives about it. Christians have been trained to fear they are “gossiping” any time they talk openly, to look on the ‘bright side’ all the time, and to think of pastors and leaders as above them in authority. I think the best we can do is have the information there, easy to digest, for that time when they are ready for it. Those who are going through church abuse are hungry for the information.

    I want to thank you for being willing to wrestle with the issues involved in your group and try to come out of it having learned something positive and wanting to use that to help the larger body and protect others. May God bless you and use you to bless many.

  64. Ryan… Gosh. I do appreciate the response. And no apology is needed.

    You are talking to (here) some pretty concentrated folks so the response maybe a bit tilted.

    Like I said I just came from a highly slicked church and I know I’m like a jilted lover and all that took away from what I thought the real message was and should be.

    I sincerely wish you the best!

  65. Ryan Ashton wrote:

    To me, and those in my Millennial Generation, beauty can often be compelling on its own…

    Stopping my catch-up reading to interject—I’m a 61-year-old baby boomer, and beauty in design (and music) is always compelling to me. Maybe that’s why your new site didn’t give me any pause at all.

  66. Ryan Ashton wrote:

    He’s an incredible speaker and very charismatic. I don’t have that charisma, and I am not convincing at all.

    A couple thoughts-

    And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom… 1Cor 2:1-4

    “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27

    Just speak the truth in love to those sheep who are searching. Set them a guidepost to find their way.

  67. Ryan, not sure you’ll be checking the comments any more, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t. I’m just wondering whether the Gustafsons might be related (grandsons, maybe?) of Wesley Gustafson, who was the first pastor of the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, founded in 1955. I ask only because your story had a EFC connection. It would be a sad legacy for him, if that’s the case.

  68. Law Prof wrote:

    I … had the distinct displeasure of having the work I’d done torn apart at a board meeting by some blustering sort of old guard, higher up type in the church who evidently couldn’t stand the idea that anything might happen without him putting his hands in it. He made random suggestions, none of which made sense to the professional designer in me.

    Is David Miscavige cloning himself now? (Ugh, what a thought…) From what I’ve read elsewhere, this description fits him to a ‘T’. Getting his fingers in every major project, and convinced he knows more and better than anyone else on the planet.

  69. Ryan Ashton wrote:

    Our competition is John Crowder himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTA8pU8kiPU
    Crowder is going to Redlands with Monday Nights as his host in May 2017 to spread his bilge.

    No Skubalon?
    Crazy Crowder himself?
    “Ding Shing Ling a Ling!” meets “Yoing! Yoing! Yoing!” live onstage and it ISN’T a parody?
    (Is he going to be doing his “Pee Pee Miracle”? And “Toking the Lamb” on the ass-end of that little lamb plushie of his?)

    I mean, there’s a reason he’s called “Crazy Crowder”. Several years ago one blogger whose name/blog I can’t remember did annual online contests for “Craziest/Stupidest Preacher-Man” (online vote, double-elimination) and Crowder was always in the Top Three finalists when he didn’t win outright.

  70. Mr. Jesperson wrote:

    The first red flag I saw while reading this is that the leaders of this house church split off from an already existing church. Why? I point to this excellent article written by one of the biggest promoters of house churches Frank Viola: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/heretic/

    Do you remember the Ultimate Theoretical End Stage of Protestantism?
    MILLIONS of One True Churches, each with exactly ONE member, each denouncing all the others as Heretics and Apostates.

  71. Serving Kids In Japan wrote:

    Law Prof wrote:
    I … had the distinct displeasure of having the work I’d done torn apart at a board meeting by some blustering sort of old guard, higher up type in the church who evidently couldn’t stand the idea that anything might happen without him putting his hands in it. He made random suggestions, none of which made sense to the professional designer in me.
    Is David Miscavige cloning himself now? (Ugh, what a thought…) From what I’ve read elsewhere, this description fits him to a ‘T’. Getting his fingers in every major project, and convinced he knows more and better than anyone else on the planet.

    If you sincerely believe you’re the Called One of God, the One who gets to say from the pulpit, under the spotlight, “Let me tell y’all about My Calling”, the One to whom others must pay obeisance, the One who gets paid, the Professional, the One person called to carry out this Mighty Work in this community, the Head of the local church, The One above all others, then under what possible circumstances could you not be right? What qualifications do you need other than Called One?