I have long written (12 years this March, folks) about bully pastors. When I first started blogging much of my time was taken up by the Sovereign Grace/CJ Mahaney and Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll fiasco. It is my opinion that Mahaney and Driscoll were amongst some of the more visible pastor bullies that we have seen. However, it is the little bullies in untold numbers of churches that are changing the face of the church in American and abroad.
Here is my main point: Pastors and church leaders speaking out against bully pastors are themselves working for organizations and churches which promote bullying and they use Scripture as cover.
Two posts from The Gospel Coalition on pastoral bullies
Both posts bring out good points but both of them participate in a theological system that I believe promotes coercive tactics to subjugate their members/followers.
1. Sam Allbery wrote How Do Churches End Up with Domineering Bullies for Pastors? Allberry boils it all down to two models. The CEO/business model is found in the US and the military model which is found in the UK.
In the CEO model:
- His role is to bring success, often and especially measured in numerical terms: The church needs to grow in membership and giving.
- The pastor-as-CEO approach might foster entrepreneurialism and risk-taking, but it easily becomes results-oriented.
- One produces swagger: Their word is law because they’re economically indispensable to the church.
In the military model:
- The pastor is the three-star general who directs everyone to do the right things.
- (This) produces presumption: Orders must be followed because the general “knows” what is best for every person.
Allberry makes some good points about the problem of being domineering and comes to this conclusion with which I agree.
If a believer has certain doctrinal views or behaves in certain ways simply because a domineering pastor has coerced them to, then those views or actions are not proceeding from faith. It is not the Spirit of Christ who has brought them about, but the forcefulness of a leader. This is catastrophic because the believer isn’t being led by the Lord, but by man. Believing even the right things is no good if it is for the wrong reason.
Allberry discusses the role of love by quoting from 1 Corinthians 13. However, he is enmeshed in a system (Calvinista) in which the word love has been changed into “If I (the pastor) really loves you, then I will discipline you for just about anything I want since your membership covenant (contract) says you must submit to me.” It is fascinating to me that anyone would sign one of these things which allows a church to discipline a member without discussing, a priori, which infractions will be disciplined.
He ends by reminding us about *authority.* How this is lived out is the root of this problem. Authority? How much? When? Who?
Again, there is authority in the office of being an elder (Heb. 13:17). There will be times when a pastor needs to call for that office to be respected and honored. But the people should be obedient to their leaders not because they’re terrified of them, but because they’re inspired and encouraged by them.
Sam Allbery in his bio on his website says the following:
Sam Allberry is a pastor, regular conference speaker, global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, editor for the Gospel Coalition, and visiting professor at Cedarville University.
He does not mention that he has been a longstanding supporter of Desiring God and 9Marks. In this article, he recommends Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and even recommending Doug Wilson for a thoughtful alternative point of view. He’s also a speaker for Acts29
To make matters worse, I have been contacted by folks in the UK who are quite upset by the domineering leadership that is being touted over there. Allberry’s name has come up in these contacts. Apparently Acts 29 is having some headway in the UK amongst the elite public schooled set (In the UK public boarding schools are like the private boarding schools in the US. But more about that in the future.
So take a look at the list of Allberry’s associations. He is closely tied to groups that have had a rather poor history of addressing abuse or bullying within his own circles of influence.
- Ravi Zacharias
- Members churches of The Gospel Coalition
- Cedarville University
- John Piper/Desiring God
- Liberty University
Am I saying that Allberry is abusive? Of course not.I don’t know what he’s like when he is in charge. I would sure like to see him take a good hard look at his associations and address them directly. Instead, he has written a nice, safe article on bullies and no one will pay attention because he is being sufficiently vague…plausible deniability and all.
2. Recently Michael Kruger wrote How Do Churches End Up with Domineering Bullies for Pastors? which was presented on The Gospel Coalition website. Ironically, he points out bullies: Mark Driscoll, Jerry Falwell, and Steven Timmis. (I will reprint my entire post on the Steven Timmis debacle at the end of this post.) Steven Timms will become the dudebros proof they are *did something.* They did nothing about Driscoll and Mahaney in spite of pleas from hurt church members. But, the boys gotta stick together.
Christianity Today reported the removal of Acts 29 CEO Steve Timmis due to “abusive leadership” and “bullying.” Ironically, these were some of the same concerns that led to the removal of the founder of Acts 29, Mark Driscoll.
Even more recently, we see the problem of abusive behavior in the downfall of Jerry Falwell, Jr.. Prior to the revelations about sexual misconduct, Falwell’s reign as president of Liberty University was riddled with concerns about bullying, abusive behavior, and intimidation.
Dee commenced to banging her head against the table in the finally completed kitchen and scaring Tulip and Buttercup half to death. (Quick diversion: if you need to gut your kitchen and remake it, move!!)
Does Krueger even see the irony of his post appearing on TGC’s website? The TGC website promoted Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney even when well-documented stories appeared on blogs and media about their abuses??? They accused some of us of libel, not mentioning any names or anything. TGC is the website of wusses. Mark Driscoll crashed and burned and they quietly removed his articles from the TGC website, probably studiously ignoring the fact that TGC promoted him for years. Oddly they have done the same thing with CJ Mahaney, another prolific writer for the TGC website. See what happens when you go to Michael Kruger’s name at TGC Standing up for bullies means never having to say you’re sorry when it comes to TGC.
While all shortcomings in a leader have potential to harm the flock, there’s something exponentially painful about bullying behavior. People are being hurt by the very people who are supposed to protect and care for them.
Kruger says the right words: be kind, be gentle, be a servant, etc. but I find it hard to believe him. I know the history at TGC.
It’s time for the Calvinistas to take a good, hards look at their theology, their covenants, their buddies, and figure out what’s wh
I invented the term *Calvinista* to point a finger at those Calvinists who are domineering, self-absorbed, and absolutely sure they are right. These are not your daddy’s kindly Reformed pastors. They are nothing like my current pastors who are gentle, kind, and true servants. They are role models to me.
It’s going to take someone who really wants to make a difference in the status quo to make a dent in the innumerable bullies in the pulpit. But, the celebrity-driven Calvinista set has determined who’s in and who’s out And no one wants to be out.
My post from last year.: A TWW Tutorial on How to Spot a Controlling Bully: Matt Chandler Fires Acts 29 CEO Steve Timmis
This week begins a number of posts that have some links to the very beginning of this blog. TWW first wrote about Acts 29 in 2010: Big Papa D and the SBC (forgive the old formatting.) Of course, it was about Mark Driscoll, Acts 29, and his nonsense. All of our local SBC dudebros: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: Danny Akin and JD Greear were supportive of Acts 29. Interestingly, Matt Chandler shows up in support of this network led by Driscoll who actually was the one who brought this group together.
Throughout the years, TWW has documented in post after post, the inherent problems of authoritarian leadership and predatory practices in taking over churches. This post in 2013 was especially Is Acts 29 Planting or Decimating Churches?
The more we read and documented, the more convinced I became that Acts 29 is simply one of several entities that do things exactly in the same way. This includes 9 Marks, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God and any number of other Reformed Baptist and PCA churches led by those who consider themselves part of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement. Sadly, these men are no longer young and many of them wear their skinny jeans hiked up under their increasing girth. Oh yes, then there are the costly sneakers…
Acts 29 has long been known for its heavy-handed leadership style. I remember when Matt Chandler took over the network. The rejoicing was loud and unrestrained. Chandler was then known as the Pope of the YRR set except the pope starting exhibiting signs that his DNA was not much different than Mark Driscoll’s genes. There was the:
- Narcissistic Zero incident.
- Karen Hinkley must be pushed under Chandler’s authority and stay married to the child porn loving husband incident
- Matt Chandler and The Village Church being sued over a child molestation incident at their camp and tried to pull the *church covenant means you can’t sue us* incident which didn’t work. *(Ed: Hallelujah)
- Questionable counseling practices incidents.(Thanks to Anna Keith )
I could go on and on. It has been evident to me since the Narcissistic Zero incident that Matt Chandler was an authoritarian bully and that we would continue to see problem after problem with him which brings us to the real meat of this story.
Steve Timmis fired as CEO of Acts 29 as reported by Christianity Today.
This was subtitled: “Steve Timmis was acclaimed for his model of a close church community. But former members claim that inside The Crowded House, he resorted to bullying and control.”
Here are some quotes from the article.
- Fifteen people who served under Timmis described to Christianity Today a pattern of spiritual abuse through bullying and intimidation, overbearing demands in the name of mission and discipline, rejection of critical feedback, and an expectation of unconditional loyalty.
- Inter-Varsity Press UK will no longer sell Timmis’s titles (including Total Church and Everyday Church, both co-written with Tim Chester), citing “that the style of close church community advocated in these books lacked sufficient safeguards against abusive control” and apologizing for them possibly contributing to “unhealthy and even abusive church cultures.”]
- He recalled being berated for making travel plans without consulting with Timmis first. He was told he was rejecting discipline and choosing to be “a law unto himself,” a signature Timmis phrase (originating from Romans 2:14) that former members repeated in multiple stories.
- To go from being inside a highly relational, tight community to being considered an “ungospeled” and rebellious outsider can be traumatic. “We at one point thought it was easier to leave the country than the church,” said Murphy, who belonged to The Crowded House for more than 13 years. It felt impossible to avoid his former church community in day-to-day activities like school pickups and neighborhood walks. (His family now has plans to move to Belfast.)
Matt Chandler fired five critics of Steve Timmis who came to him for help. He mirrored Timmis’ bullying style.
Apparently, 5 staff members complained to Chandler that Timmis was a bully. And Matt Chandler, acting as the supreme bully, fired them all.
- According to a copy of a 2015 letter sent to Acts 29 president Chandler and obtained by CT, five staff members based in the Dallas area described their new leader as “bullying,” “lacking humility,” “developing a culture of fear,” and “overly controlling beyond the bounds of Acts 29,” with examples spanning 19 pages.
- During a meeting with Chandler and two board members to discuss the letter, all five were fired and asked to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of their severance packages. They were shocked. ( Ed note:I wasn’t-it’s classical Chandler.)
Chandler played the “I didn’t know it” card.
I don’t believe Chandler. He was well aware of Timmis’ abusive style since, in my opinion, it mirrors Chandler’s modus operandi.
A tutorial on how to evaluate Steve Timmis’ church, The Crowded House, for clues that this guy might be a spiritual abuser.
Google his name and see which ministries admire him.
There is one thing I always do before evaluating the church website. I like to see if the person I’m looking at hangs around or is admired by other concerning ministries. In this case, I searched Steve Timmis and Sovereign Grace churches and came up with some links. It is obvious he is admired in this ministry which I believe has a history of abuse and authoritarian leadership. This is not proof. Only a clue.
Go to his church website: The Crowded House link
I believe one should spend at least 20-30 minutes reviewing a church website prior to visiting the church for the first time. These websites often give enough information for the reader to spot red flags. In this case, I am looking for potential clues to point towards the potential for controlling and abusive behavior.
Steve Timmis has been dumped from Crowded House and the church *intends* to hire *someone* to explore what happened and make recommendations.
We write with a concern for the reputation of Christ and a desire to care for his people.
Steve Timmis, the founder of The Crowded House, has been transitioned out of his role with Acts 29 following allegations about his leadership style. This was followed by an article in Christianity Today about his conduct in the church. On Friday 7th February Steve Timmis resigned as an elder of The Crowded House. We have valued his ministry among us and his role in founding the church. Many of us owe him a personal debt.
We also feel the weight of the stories told in the article. It is therefore our intention to ask someone from outside our network to explore what has happened and make recommendations. It will be for that person to shape the process, but we want to listen to all concerned with humility. We are willing to hear where we may have failed people. We recognise the need to open ourselves up to external and impartial scrutiny.
– The remaining elders of The Crowded House churches.
Sunday 9th February 2020
That’s really good but…my understanding that one of the elders is related to him and the other two elders are quite young. So, do not take this as a sign that they are taking care of the mess. Wait and see who is selected to *make recommendations.* In the meantime, do some of your own research.
They intend to control you.
Again, on the home page (they are making this easy for me) read this.
One must look at the church as one’s family. This means that significant decisions that impact the family must be considered. If you read the entire CT article, you will see this example.
He recalled being berated for making travel plans without consulting with Timmis first. He was told he was rejecting discipline and choosing to be “a law unto himself,” a signature Timmis phrase (originating from Romans 2:14) that former members repeated in multiple stories.
This is significant. I know a church which mirrors Crowded House. A young man wished to change jobs for a better position that he had long wanted. He told his *family* and they disagreed with him and told him to turn it down since it might take time away from them!!
This statement alone would cause me to stay away from this church.
Under the gospel-centered category on the first page (this is so easy) you find the following.
Speaking the truth in love, we challenge one another to be sacrificial, servant-hearted, risk-taking and flexible because the gospel has priority over our comfort, preferences, security and traditions.
That sounds really, really nice. However, can you see how this might be used to coerce an unsuspecting member to acquiesce to an uncomfortable demand?
Does Crowded House affiliate with other groups? Yep
At the very bottom of the front page, one can see the logo of Acts 29 which is known for being authoritarian in its *gospel* presence.
Crosslands is a ministry for training and education started by, of course, Acts 29 so one should be aware of the DNA Involved. For example, Biblical counseling is offered through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Always look at a statement of faith.
In this, one quickly learns the parameters of doctrine. Definitely reformed, and definitely complementarian
The Crowded House is evangelical, missional, reformed and complementarian.
Ask what they mean by complementarian. What exactly can women do and not do?
Always click the About button.,
By doing this, I discovered something. Not only did they can Timmis but at least one other elder stepped down. I bet it was his relative. Yikes! The two who are left are very young. This should be another red flag.
Click on “internship” and read it carefully. Sounds really good.
The Crowded House internship is a year long programme that offers a unique opportunity in which both your character and skills will be developed. Our aim is to provide a significant experience of gospel ministry that will prepare you for a lifetime serving Jesus among his people in the world.
My good friend, Todd Wilhelm, called me last evening and got me laughing about this. You see, it appears that the interns are supposed to develop character. Its really important. How do they do this?
Yep, sweep the floor and develop character. I went to a church that had a ton of deacons. Their job was to assist in the parking lot and add chairs in the sanctuary as needed.I have to admit that it was funny when men (only men in that church-Reformed baptist) who were so excited to be deacons, found themselves spending the better part of Sunday morning in the parking lot.
There area number of other red flags on that website but I’ll leave that up to TWW sleuths.
Finally, always check for outside sources who are interested or who have been involved in the situation. This is one incredible blog post.
Here is one well-written post: God frees us from celebrity pastors
I got a chance to see Steve in the flesh many years ago when he was touring across the UK plugging one of his new books. He spoke really well and was very engaging. I kind of liked him as despite his age (he was there along with Matt Chandler) he was really passionate. I had heard about him only in name but when he was introduced I realised that he had co authored a few books that I actually owned.
He and Tim Chester (Whos is an enabler of the abuse Timmis inflicted) had knocked out a number of books that were getting eagerly eaten up by many Reformed Evangelicals who wanted to be less cold and stodgy and more warm and friendly with their fellow neighbour. Timmis was at the forefront of putting these things into action and putting bible verses behind them. So to vast swathes of middle class and rather nervous reformed Christians his books were just what they were after
…So thousands of us happily bought anything that was promoting a ‘missional’ or ‘gospel intentional’ way of living. Church planting was the buzz word and it was something all the people who ‘actually cared’ were involved in. These were the spiritual heavy hitters who by their works showed how much they loved God.
Often I will look at one of my old bookcases. It is filled with different books I had bought and read from cover to cover. The first shelf of those is made up mostly of reformed books that were written in the early 2010’s and beyond. I cannot express how much time I wasted reading them.
…I honestly can shed no tears for him (Timmis). I find in these circumstances that the celeb pastor has no end of comforters publicly supporting and endorsing them, however the nameless, small and often poor victims who have not the luxury of a recognisable name have very few comforters. I am overjoyed that Timmis has been outed and hope he can hurt less and less people and those who he has hurt can find healing and fellowship with our Lord.
That was one awesome post.