“Icon; painted; the Evangelist St John is depicted on the island of Patmos dictating to his scribe Prochoros a passage from the Apocalypse. The Evangelist is seated and turns his head to look at an angel behind him. Both the saint and Prochoros sit in a rocky landscape near a cave. Above the figures is the symbol of the Evangelist – a lion holding a gospel enclosed by clouds. “ British Museum
“Standing behind predators makes prey of us all.” –
Once again, I apologize for the typos in the last post. We are undergoing some blog updates and I needed to stay off the website after posting. It was an example of the old adage “If anything can go wrong, it will do so at the worst possible moment.”
The Apostle John’s exile on Patmos: Thoughts from my Greece trip
Year ago, I read the book Papillion by Henri Charriè. From Wikipedia:
He had a harrowing escape from what was supposed to be an unescapable prion. He eventually made his way to Venezuela where he lived out the remainder of his life. As an impressionable teenager, I viewed this island as the pit of hell with ferocious storms and bleak surroundings. It was known for the brutal treatment of prisoners.
I have long pictured the Apostle John’s exile on Patmos in the same way. He was also 90 years old. Except…it is part of the Greek Isles and I cruised there as well as other islands like Santorini and Crete. I quickly realized that my perceptions were not reality. As we approached the island, the temperature was a balmy 74 degrees late in the day. Patmos is a green island surrounded by the beautiful Aegean Sea.T he blue color of the water is unlike anything I have seen before.
We were brought immediately to the cave which is traditionally thought of as the cave where John’s revelation happened. Revelation 1:9-11 NIV
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit,and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum,Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
There are some scholars who debate if this was the actual Apostle John who was dearly loved by Jesus. However, it is thought that John went to Ephesus, along with Mary, where he reportedly established the first Christian community. It’s significant that after his release from exile, John returned to Ephesus where he passed away. I’ll save Ephesus for another day.
Back to Dee’s revelation of sorts. After visiting the cave of the revelation,(no pictures allowed,) I walked out and looked over a stunning view. This little island (@30 square miles with a current population of about 3,000, according to our local guide, is beautiful. It as the perfect climate for growing all sort or fruit trees and the surrounding ocean is chock full of fish. In other words, it is awful to be exiled but if one had to exiled, this wouldn’t be the worst place to be. One source described it during the time of John:
During the Roman period, Patmos was known as part of the Sporades islands, a group of remote islands used for exiling (banishing) people that were somehow considered threats to the Roman Empire. While some of the islands were simple prison colonies, Patmos had a bit more going on, including a harbor, a town, a gymnasium, and a temple to Artemis on the acropolis.
Some historians say that the island was a prison island on which prisoners had to work the mines. However, John was too old to be forced to work the mines. It is said he found this cave and used it to pray on a daily basis. There is even room for him to lie down. The Orthodox Church believes that John was accompanied by Pochoros to whom he dictated his Revelation. Remember, he was very old and frail at the time.
Prochoros is mentioned in the Book of Acts.
One of “the seven” chosen by the Christian community in Jerusalem to superintend the dispensing of charity to the widows and other poor (Acts 6:5). The name is Greek, and he may have been a Hellenist. According to tradition he became bishop of Nicomedia and died a martyr at Antioch.
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
The icon at the top of the page, which is found in the British Museum, is a 17th century Russian icon which shows depicts Prochoros with John and an angel.
I continue to be convinced that John the Apostle wrote Revelation but will enjoy the debate. My takeaway point is this. Patmos is a beautiful island and I would gladly spend a week there now. I now believe that John could have spent in his exile in far worse places.
Lori Anne Thompson’s post on predatory pastors.
You will be hearing more about Lori Anne Thompson in the near future. She is an advocate for those abused in the church and she also has her own story to tell. Here is a ink to her blog. A few of us are aware of the particulars of her story.
This post tells an aspect of her story without going Ito the specifics. However, most readers of TWW will get the general drift. As time goes one, readers may hear more of her story that I know will sadden and shock readers. In this instance, I know some of the particulars and can testify to having heard about. the events alluded to in her story.
Our son is soon to 13 years old at the time of this writing, that is how I know we left that faith community 12 years ago. I wish I could say it was 12 years of freedom, it has been more like 12 years a slaughtered slave.
We met a Christian Reform Church in Ontario, Canada. He sat at the rear on the left, and I, at front on the right. I could see his sadness and his shame in his slumped shoulders, and soft downturn of his beautiful brown eyes. They filled to brimmed with the longing to become: to belong; to be whole; and to be welcomed. For my bit, I was an unstable train wreck trying to keep the cars connected and contained. Every church service and event I had my hair swept in front of my face. I thought (I kid you not) that becoming a Christian meant you cried all of the time.
I knew enough to stay away from him but my journals are filled with pages, sonnets, epitaphs, and veritable volumes of what now look like pathetic petitions for B. I have always believed that B got the short end of the proverbial stick.
Just the other day, I said to him with upturned chin, “Thank you for asking me.” He responded with, “Thank you for stalking me.”
It’s not far from the truth.
I went to that particular church because, for all that I had tried to overcome the effects of my adverse childhood experiences (Lord knows I TRIED) I still could not. I was then a single parent (my first marriage a casualty of chaos) with limited resources and this church offered free counselling. What I could not have known, is that the cleric followed and endorsed a model of theological and therapeutic intervention that involved false diagnoses of mental illnesses and then treating them with a codependent relationship to himself.
Keep in mind — he is a cleric, not a counsellor.
Me now, knows what me then, could never have known. This cleric operated WILDLY outside of his scope of practice, standard of care, and duty of care — all no less, in the name of J-E-S-U-S (emphasis and southern accent added).
In fact, he was downright dangerous. I suspect he still is. He knows it not, and some of his family think he is fine (and they must) and a few of his followers feel he is the fatherhood of God personified. They believe that he was persecuted and that I, a faithless spiritual daughter, was the leader of the mass exodus — 12 years ago.
If you have read anything I have written, you know that my father fractured everything he touched — including me. He didn’t just touch, he groped, he grabbed, he ripped, he threw, he beat — he brutalized. I survived. He had beaten and raped my mother, my sisters, and very nearly me — to a person-less pulp.
He died not long after I had started in a counselling relationship with this cleric. He offered fatherhood, I accepted daughterhood. What a DREAM come true. A bad Daddy died — a good Daddy took over. “God is good, what provision,” I thought.
God may well be good, whatever else He is, but this guy used my own hunger, vulnerably, desire to belong, to be a good daughter, to be part of a family, to serve, to connect, to commune — to his own ends. Sound familiar? You bet it does.
In time I married B and together and in short stead, this cleric has used our corporate orphanhood to coerce $375,000 Canadian dollars from us. We were by far the “biggest losers” but by the time that we left the church 12 years ago, the community as a whole was out $2.1 million to the clerics failing business — more was lost by others after we left.
Now B and I have been called it all. Privately and publicly. I was called a ring leader, I who have never led anything but an aerobics class. I was Potiphar’s wife, the dragon at the end of the proverbial bed trying to steal the inheritance of the church. That in attempting to hold a financially malfeasant cleric to account, that my husband and I were ourselves the millenial embodiment of Ananias and Sapphire (a biblical couple who stole from God). The crushing icing on the proverbial predatory cake is that in time we are also widely broadcasted as litigious couple who sues powerful pastors as a means of getting money that we do not need.
I avoid theological arguments like an anaphylactic allergen. I may NEVER do this again because I cannot even begin to communicate how much rage I feel when blind guides and blinder followers use what is supposed to be words of hope to wound; salvation to slaughter; and the kindness of God to kill. Proof texting for predators is like taking a passage of text, pulling it out of context, and using as a nefarious knife. You know what knives do. They can rightly divide or they can brutally chop people into little bits and lost pieces.
A recent post on abusive tactics called, “There’s A Verse For That , reminded me of how twisted the spiritual torment was, how cunning and confusing the faith based offenders narrative was, and how bitter the taste of betrayal from the once beloved community.
We do not “count it all joy.”
You betcha there is a verse for that.
Speak directly to the shepherds and tell them this is what the Eternal Lord has to say: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel whose only concern is to protect and nourish themselves! Isn’t a shepherd’s job to look after the sheep? Yet you exploit them in every way. You devour their fat, make soft clothes and blankets out of their wool, and slaughter the best sheep for your table.
Let me get this straight…
- your only concern is to protect and nourish yourself?
- you are supposed to look after the sheep yet you exploit them in every way?
- you devour their reserves,
- you use their reserves to cover your own ass,
- and if that’s not enough — you slaughter them and eat them.
That sounds about right— but that’s not all. That chapter goes on verse after verse to rightly name the clerical offenders nefarious neglect. Perhaps that is too uncomfortable?
Let’s try a Matt 23:13…
Woe to you, you teachers of the law and Pharisees. There is such a gulf between what you say and what you do.
Boy — I’ll say.
Yikes, shall we look at Matt 23:14?
Woe to you, you teachers of the law and Pharisees. What you say is not what you do. You steal the homes from under the widows while you pretend to pray for them. You will suffer great condemnation for this.
My home has been stolen by preying pastors who pretended to pray. I’m counting that they will “suffer great condemnation for that.”
I have come to fan girl these verses… Matt 23:23-24
So woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees (clerical elites this means you). You hypocrites! You tithe from your luxuries and your spices, giving away a tenth of your mint, your dill, and your cumin. But you have ignored the essentials of the law: justice, mercy, faithfulness. It is practice of the latter that makes sense of the former. You hypocritical, blind leaders. You spoon a fly from your soup and swallow a camel.
Justice, it appears — J-E-S-U-S is into.
There is biblical chapter after bloody verse for bastards like you. Oh, yes, to be sure…
We can proof text your abusive conduct all the day long. It makes you uncomfortable, you call us bitter. If this is bitter, then pull up a pulpit and call me Mara. The Almighty will judge between you and me. The trouble is that you wolves run in predatory packs. You have a platforms and power that far outweigh the weakened and slaughtered sheep.
Your conduct leads me to believe that you hope that the God you call upon is a liar like you and is reckless with his words. I, for one, count on the exact opposite. I hold fast to the conviction, that despite your despicable and diabolical deviance, the Shepherd still keeps the sheep. And “Woe,” says He, “to the wolves.”
9Marks offers counseling for those leaving toxic church environments
Lucas O’Neill posted Some Counsel for Christians Leaving Toxic Church Environments on the 9 Marks website. As one who has documented abusive church practices within the 9 Marks network of churches, I knew that I would have to draw your attention to their thoughts on the matter.
I doubt the author sees his association with 9 Marks as possibly contributing to Christians who have experienced a toxic church environment. I wonder if he knows why 9 Marks is sometimes referred to as 9 Marx? He should give me a call. Even one of his fearless leaders wrote Don’t Be a 9 Marxist.
Jonathan Leeman is a pleasant fellow with whom to have a conversation. However, he adamantly refuses to admit that his system inherently produces toxic churches and leaders. He claims that they are all just applying it wrong. My constant rejoinder is this. If someone like Matt Chandler gets it wrong (and Chandler is considered quite the leader dude despite his well known blunders) then lower ranking pastors will surely break bad.
Leeman also claims that a *congregational* model will prevent such problems. To which I remind him, over and over, so what happened with Todd Wilhelm. Todd has offered to sign a release form for them to discuss his little dustup at UCC Dubai, the home of Mark Dever’s BFF, John Folmar. Leeman steadfastly refuses to do so which, in my mind, means he knows it is a losing proposition. So, if one of their own dudebros is an authoritarian dictator (within a congregational model), there is little hope for anyone to get it right.
So let’s see how thoroughly O’Neill overlooks 9 Marls in giving us all advice.
They’ve got lot of people who have been abused in a church coming to 9Marks for help.
Well, darn. I wonder if they called the previous church of these poor folks to see if they were all under church discipline or hurt their former pastor’s feelings when they left.That is part of the 9Marks way. They usually side with the pastor because he is, after all, the holder of the keys to the kingdom and probably buys their books.
Maybe the churches that these folks left did not fit into the 9 Marks definition of a real church-the ones that use membership covenants to beat the sheep into submission. Who knows.
Sometimes, my church feels like the triage wing of a hospital.
To my right, I see the pain in a visitor’s eyes as he lamented the stain on the gospel his previous church had become. To my left, a few of our members—who themselves had left a large church over their former pastor’s egregious moral failures—are praying over another couple who only now have come to reckon with those same discoveries. I turn yet again to greet some new faces and discover they’re here because they too can no longer attend their previous church. The leaders have become too corrupt. One of them shared a few thoughts, but it was difficult for him to speak. Two others seemed to communicate nonverbally that if they uttered even a few words, they wouldn’t be able to compose their grief.
If you leave, leave for the right reasons.
Now we get to the core of the post. Right reasons are always defined from the perspective of 9 Marks. That means the unsuspecting person who falls onto their door step, seeking help, may be in for the surprise of their life. Remember, the new pastors get to define the parameters, not the person who has been harmed.
Be careful if you show up on their doorstep from a church of one of their own 9 Marks tribe. Guess what will happen? Its amazing what sins they can find on the fly.
You don’t want to leave out of spite, and you don’t want to leave simply because working through difficulties is too taxing. In fact, I’ve encouraged some visitors to go back to their former churches to work things out. We want to receive the broken and the hurting but we don’t want to enable those who turn away from good churches simply because they’ve had a disagreement.
Leaving a church can be the right move, but dropping church altogether is always the wrong move.
it’s never appropriate to drop the local church completely. God has positioned the local church as the place to find healing even when the wound is from another church. Yes, there are unhealthy churches, but there are healthy churches as well.
Well, actually, he is not telling you the whole story. Todd, who was looking for a new church after he left UCC Dubai, was put under discipline because they believed he needed to join a church immediately and he wasn’t buying it. He had already made two mistakes (Sovereign Grace and 9 Marks) and he was being wise. Wisdom is not respected by 9Marks, only the blind following of their rules. There is no right of conscience allowed in this crowd.
Also, it appears that O’Neill could never imagine a 17 year old student who is abused by a pastor and the abuse is covered up. Instead of condemning someone who has drifted, it is time to show understanding to those who have been severely abused. But that gets yucky, especially if it involves one of their tribe. Remember, this is the crowd that was devoted to CJ Mahaney and refused to believe any report of abuse. Dang-they even featured him as a speaker in many of their churches. His BFF, Mark Dever, has yet to say anything about his little buddy who sucked up to him, calling him “O Captain, my captain.” (Who allows this nonsense?)
Talk about it but talk about it wisely.
Don’t you dare spill your grief out onto the new 9 Marks church. His explanation is an example of how abuse can happen in a 9Marks type of congregational church. I. wouldn’t go within 10 miles of this crowd.
Others, however, may give in to the allure of “getting it off one’s chest” by bringing it up in nearly every conversation. These people are airing out their grievances, but often in a way that’s fueled by malice, vengeance, or bitterness.
There’s plenty more in this article. However, that’s enough for me to say that 9Marks is unable to see their own problems. They refuse to assess where things went wrong. As one of their leaders said to me…”There are other 9Marks churches doing it right.” Yeah, right…
I retorted that I come from a medical background. We have a thing called Morbidity nd Mortality rounds in which everyone gets together and tries to figure to why the patient was harmed. The single patient who experienced a serious event is important to the hospital. The single sheep who had strayed was important to Jesus. The single individual who is harmed means nothing to these guys. So long as a few church do OK, then everything is fine.
This is terribly sad to me.