Another Former Employee of The Chapel Speaks of the Toxic Culture of The Chapel Under Former Senior Pastor Tim Armstrong

Editors Note: The story below is reproduced precisely as I received it with the one exception that I deleted the individuals name from the end of the story. This person was happy to have his name published, but I thought I would let him share it with you all in the comment section if he so chooses.

What follows is his story.

October 1, 2021
This is an open letter to thechapel.life community and to those who have followed the crisis of this church,

I have wrestled with communicating my story publicly and have thought about staying silent about my perspective. There is not an easy platform to raise concerns that are not edited, sanitized, misinterpreted or shut down. My goal is to not be spiteful or “bite and devour”, but to give some encouragement to the process of reconciliation. When I left the Chapel in February of 2016, I was silent about my real reason for leaving. Some knew my concerns, but the majority saw my situation as “being called” to another work. That was disingenuous at best. In hindsight, I wish I were more vocal.

The current crisis at The Chapel: The recent story of the Chapel is well documented in the annals of online posts and PDF’s, much to the disappointment of most. I am part of the crowd who is heartbroken that this is taking up our time and energy versus a healthy focus on our relationship with God and ways we can love each other better. In many ways, this situation reveals our sinful nature and is no surprise to those who do not have a relationship God. The Bible is a public document that describes in detail the failings of many believers; we are sinners, not saints. We unfortunately are missing opportunities to communicate the message of reconciliation while we are creating the need for reconciliation. My prayer is that reconciliation happens and the gospel continues to be preached at The Chapel. Jesus, through His power, has provided the way for reconciliation. Take a moment to read 2 Corinthians 5. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

My Experience at the Chapel:

The following is my story related to serving as a Chapel lay person for 10 years (1993-2003) and joining the staff for another 13 years (2003-2016).

My wife and I joined The Chapel in the early 90’s. I was very hesitant to join a “mega” church because it seemed like an impersonal model. The leadership at that time showed grace, built a strong community, and made a large group of people feel small and welcoming. The philosophy was described like an airplane with two wings: one wing was to love God with all your heart and the second wing was to love your neighbor as yourself. My wife and I joined and served in the youth department as volunteer leaders for 10 years.

What was preached from the pulpit was lived out in the hallways of the building and in the community at large.

In 2003, I joined the Chapel staff and became the director of The Chapel’s camp that was 30 miles away from the main Akron campus. During most of my time at The Chapel, I was supported, equipped, and loved well. I delighted in my job and in the opportunity to share the hope given to us by the work of Jesus Christ in the midst of a positive, encouraging community.  Nothing can test one’s commitment to Christ more than living together in a camp setting. As I look into my own leadership as camp director, I wish I could redo some of my dealings with camp staff, show more grace, and work at softening my sometimes-harsh approach. I understand that there is a time to release (fire) an employee, but in a ministry setting, we should be an example of doing this in a loving way. It can be done; I have observed this from godly people at the Chapel and other healthy ministry organizations.

In 2014, when Armstrong became the senior pastor, I was looking forward to moving from a transitional time at The Chapel to a stable environment, continuing the mission of camp. Armstrong supported camp; we had a common love for hunting; we graduated from the same college, and he seemed to be a strong leader. The church had just endured a long leadership transition period, so I believe all the staff were a little weary.

In hindsight, I can say that the disunity of the Chapel did not start with Mike Castelli or the Green campus: it started with the hiring of Tim Armstrong. Before he came, the church operated for 18 months with a pretty unified team whose main focus was simply communicating and living out the gospel.

From what I experienced in Tim’s early days at The Chapel, this is what I am willing to share about his “harshness and fear-based leadership toward The Chapel’s staff”. To be clear, I resigned on my own; I was not fired. Looking back, had I stayed, I would have been fired.  I am a leader, a challenger, a collaborator, a professional; I am not simply a Yes-Man, but at the end of the conversation, I believe in submission to leadership.  I simply knew I could not submit to Tim’s type of leadership. The three main reasons why I resigned are these:

    • A lack of accountability with finances: There was a shift in accountability from my 13 years at The Chapel, and it started to look more like what James warned us about in the 2nd chapter of his letter in verses 1 – 9.
    • Collaboration was replaced with a long lists of mandates.
    • Staff were treated poorly: loving your neighbor turned into this: “if they don’t like it, they can leave.”

For my 13 years on staff, a very consistent procedure existed. I presented camp capital development goals to the board, and we worked through a process of approval that was lengthy, but full of accountability. This “process” started to change. There was an attitude simply not worrying about finances; we have a donor who will support the camp, and we will bypass the cumbersome process of board approval. This did not sit well with me because I knew there needed to be accountability. Prior to this time, I had created an advisory board for extra support, wisdom, and accountability; my desire was to move forward, and I valued the collective voice of experience and wisdom.  I was told to dissolve this Advisory Committee; committees were cumbersome. Many other long-standing committees were dissolved under Armstrong’s leadership. This decision supported his strong autocratic leadership model. I was told to spend money on programs, not the needed improvements of the facilities of the camp because that was not easy to sell. I had been working through the struggling facilities and its failures for years, but my voice was silenced.

Less than a week after camp ended in the summer of 2015 and during the same week that my son was getting married, I was handed a three-page list of “mandates” on how camp should change. No collaboration, no consideration of the past years of running the camp, not even a conversation. I was told what and how to do things moving forward, as if I was asked to salute and do leadership’s bidding. There was no room for push back; only “submit to your leader because he is put there by God.” It was strange, uncomfortable, unanticipated, dumbfounding, unprofessional and disrespectful.

I tried. I took some time off in the fall and sought God for wisdom. When I came back from a solo bike trip, I really thought I could support the new vision/regime. I did not want to be a wet blanket toward the new vision and direction. Unfortunately, things fell apart quickly for me when I saw how staff around me were treated. Tim’s vision (mandates) was for children’s directors and youth directors to be more involved with the programming at camp with the hope of program improvement. I agreed with program improvement and highly supported this; how we moved in this direction was where I strongly disagreed, but I had no voice. The mandate stated that children’s or youth ministry personnel would be at camp for three weeks of the summer. No questions asked. If they did not comply, they could find another job. They were dispensable. Something in me broke at this philosophy. At that moment I knew I could not support a regime that did not care for its staff, its community, its neighbor. It was time to resign: this was a major mechanical failure in one of our wings; the plane was in trouble. I needed out, even if I had no idea about where I would go. This treatment of staff was my tipping point.

My resignation was given to the global family pastor who was on the Armstrong leadership team. If I am honest, this decision brought me to tears; I mourned the loss of this position, but I knew I had to do it. In hindsight, this was good for me personally. I was holding on too tightly to camp; it was good to let go. To Armstrong’s credit, he reached out to me on the phone when I resigned. I did not take his call and could not talk with him because of the pain involved in this decision.  A treasured trustee reached out to me, and we shared a coke at McDonald’s to discuss the situation. I was very clear that I could not work with a man who treated his staff the way that Tim did. This was in December of 2015.

I was willing to help with the camp transition and remained on staff until the end of February 2016. Hurt piled on during this time, and I could see how I could easily lash out at the circumstances. There were times that I did and there were missteps for which I take responsibility. I am glad that God moved me away from Ohio because in my weakness, bitterness would have festered, seeing all that has transpired through the years. I am still working through forgiveness; that is my responsibility in the reconciliation process.

As The Chapel body considers solutions to this crisis, they need to have a process that encourages listening so that they can discern when things are off track. The compounding hurt that was caused by Tim/Jim’s regime could have been avoided if there were ways to listen better to staff and hold those in authority accountable. There was a “King” structure in place, and the senior pastor should not be given so much unchecked authority.

I am grateful that Jesus Christ is faithful and provided an unimaginable camp opportunity that moved our family to Colorado. I am also grateful for the miles that separated us from the Chapel during my process of hurt. Though I have been settling into a new and healthy place, I still mourn the loss of the rich community, the body of Christ in Akron, the people and friendships whose lives intertwined with us as we reared children and served Christ for 27 years. I had never imagined or dreamed of needing to leave this family, my family.

The Chapel needs to return to a place where they develop their staff verses demanding compliance or blame it on personality differences. God is on the throne and will work things for the good when an organization is in an unhealthy place, but imagine how God could use The Chapel in a healthy place.

The findings published on October 1st

I agree with the Center Consulting Group findings that there was “harshness and fear-based leadership toward The Chapel’s staff,” at the very least. I could give more details about my experience, and I have shared some with the appropriate parties: Trustees, Constitutional Committee, and the independent committee. Godly people outside of those committees reached out to me to hear my story; I am grateful for this.

The current Chapel community and those hurt by the situation were probably hoping for more transparency as promised; what a difficult circumstance to navigate. The promise of transparency should not have been made; It simply cannot be honored. I agree with the boards recent ownership of missteps, of which that was one. The published findings are a summary and appropriate for the public. Leadership does need to respect the confidentiality of individuals who needed to speak up privately and did not want their situation public. We need to accept this and move on.

In the findings under next steps, they discuss previous staff. The suggestion is “We suggest that the interim senior pastor develop a plan to connect with previous staff to consider their experiences and determine whether reconciliation is necessary.”

Without question, reconciliation is necessary. However, may I suggest that reconciliation has two steps?

First, the hurt person needs to want to reconcile. As I look back at my situation, I ask myself if I could have done things differently. How could I have appropriately communicated my experience to people of influence without the Tim/Jim regime firing me? I wish I would I have spoken-up louder and brought to light what was happening 6 years ago. How could I have protected my heart while exposing the authoritarian regime? I am glad God moved me on because I probably would have become more than a “wet blanket” to Tim’s vision/authority. If I am not careful, I allow an unforgiving heart to win the day. I needed to come to a place of forgiveness. (My repetition of this is intentional)

Many previous staff are wrestling with forgiveness and need to come to that place. It will look different for everyone.

Mike Castelli was the right man to stand up and count the cost, but the Chapel, as a body needs to ask itself why this went on for 6+ years. The crisis did not start in May. Mike Castelli was also able to accept responsibility for his missteps in the process. Step one to reconciliation is owning your part and forgiving.

The second step to reconciliation is the other party involved taking some ownership, repentance.

Armstrong and Mitchell have thumbed their noses at the findings of the independent committee with their lack of apology or ownership of the findings and their arrogant statements of farewell. God will hold them accountable. That part of the wound will suffer without repentance.

In the recent Chapel letter posted September 24, the trustees stated, “Through this process, we have been made aware of ways in which the Board’s organizational oversight, past and present, should have been better. For this, we are truly sorry. We accept responsibility to restore the unity and wellbeing of The Chapel. Our hope is that the forthcoming Summary of Findings (see below) and Town Hall meetings will advance the process of healing and restoration.”

To the trustee’s I say, Thank you for accepting responsibility. As one of those “previous staff” persons, I appreciate you accepting responsibility. I believe that for people who were hurt during Armstrong’s tenure, this will take the process of healing to a different stage.

Upcoming Town halls:

During the town halls and online questions, I ask the leadership to not shut down the voice of people who need questions answered. I am out of town and cannot attend, but if I were still local, I would. I am using this platform as my voice, and I am thankful for that freedom.

Prior to the Chapel shutting down comments on social media, some Chapel members asked those who were hurt by the authoritarian regime not to air their comments publicly. I understand the concern, but the apostle Paul did not take that advice when he publicly called out Alexander the coppersmith: look at 2 Timothy 4:14. How about Jesus calling out the Pharisees and their hypocrisy? Look at Matthew 23:27, John 4: 16-18, Luke 7:36-50. The Bible is a public document and people and their sins were called out in the book; Jesus didn’t cover over sin–he brought it into the light, and sure, it may have felt like disunity. We all know the consequences of a little sin that is overlooked in our personal worlds. The world around us is aware that we are sinners– even if we don’t think we are, but they need to see the example of what reconciliation looks like when we fall. We have that ministry: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. If we focus on reconciliation, we won’t have to worry about shutting down social media comments. When this forum is the only voice people are given, they will use it. Victims must be given a voice (not necessarily a public one–but they cannot simply be silenced), and the church, the body of believers, must answer with an attempt at reconciliation.

What does it look like to move on?

God has been so faithful during this life transition that has affected my entire family. My employment with The Chapel was not just a job for me, and I still mourn the loss of leading The Chapel’s camp. After 6 years, the wound recently became painful again, not because I haven’t moved on, but because reconciliation has never been pursued (although the recent reaching out by Chapel members and the acceptance of responsibility from the current leadership for the true story certainly moved a bit in that direction).

There is a long list of people who have been hurt by this regime; it should not have taken this long to remove Armstrong and Mitchell. I hope that a system will be put in place to avoid a king-type leader without healthy accountability to ever be given charge over the body of believers at The Chapel.

I will be praying for The Chapel, and I am hopeful as I currently attend a mega church in Colorado that has a group of humble leaders who nudge us to Love Well–Change lives–Through Him. Mega multisite churches are not bad and can be used in mighty ways if the leadership owns humility and submits to healthy accountability before God. I don’t think Green and Akron should split, and I think Mike Castelli is one of the leaders who will be able to work toward restoring unity. After all, he was mentored by one of the best unifiers who has ever served the Akron area.

God has moved our extended family to Colorado, and we are enjoying the beauty and the opportunities of The West. I am still working through what it looks like to let go and heal after being a part of a toxic regime.

As I wrestled in 2016, this song rang in my heart.

As time has moved on, God brought a new song to the forefront of my mind during the healing process.

He is still writing the story and will faithfully bring it to completion.

I pray now that the Chapel will move from worrying about what is posted on The Wartburg Watch blog to getting back to church business:  loving God and loving their neighbors well. Fix the plane, my friends!

Phil 1:6

 


Comments

Another Former Employee of The Chapel Speaks of the Toxic Culture of The Chapel Under Former Senior Pastor Tim Armstrong — 42 Comments

  1. “There was a “King” structure in place”

    Therein lies the core problem with churches like this. King Jesus has no authority or influence. He is superseded by a mere man who sits on the throne with minions bowing to him … all doing church without God, a dangerous game with Judgment Day in their future.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  2. So if you read the entire document I say thank you for listening.

    For those I know who were hurt by the actions of the chapel I say sorry. This is not how to run a church that should focus on getting to know Christ and loving their nieghbor like themselves even if they are a dispensable employee.

    People of the chapel return to your mission and expect that of your leaders.

    Those who know me have no question who this is.

    “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
    ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭

    I am praying God continues His work at the chapel.

    Mike Landis, former Camp Carl Director and chapel staff person

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  3. “I hope that a system will be put in place to avoid a king-type leader without healthy accountability to ever be given charge over the body of believers at The Chapel.”

    That system is called congregational governance as modeled in Scripture. Elder-rule polity is a set-up for a King-pen and Yes-men. The New Testament church was built on soul competency and priesthood of ‘the’ believer, doctrines which have been tossed aside in New Calvinist belief and practice in favor of a a us/them clergy/laity separation.

    Whose job is the ministry? Every believer has a part. A return to congregational governance where the pew has an equal voice to the pulpit, where open discussions are encouraged, where church leaders are held accountable to the members they serve, where every believer is equipped and mobilized to fulfill the Great Commission together … these things can lead to a healthy church if everyone is on the same page (rather than following a 9Marx formula). It must begin with humility, prayer, repentance, and seeking God by all at The Chapel … if forgiveness and healing is to flow through the Body of Christ there.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  4. I cannot even remotely relate to this. God knows we have a TON of really bad apples in the Catholic clergy, with more horrific news emerging daily.

    But nonetheless, I personally cannot relate to this whole testimony.

    With the parish system, if you have issues with your pastor, you can just start attending a different parish, and nobody gives a hoot. It’s an everyday occurrence. You’re still in the same Church, so what’s the problem? And that’s really how everyone sees it. No biggie.

    I cannot imagine being *that* wedded to one pastor, one “vision,” one way of doing things, one eccesial oligarchy (elder board), etc. etc. etc. I mean, I can see forging bonds with a local community, but then there’s nothing that says you have to break those bonds if you move to a different parish. And quite often the bonds do persist, as long as you do remain in the same geographic area.

    I cannot relate to this at all.

    And I especially can’t relate to that sterile corporate “church” building shown in the photo at the OP. *That’s* a church? A colonoscopy clinic would be my more inviting, warm, and congenial.

    Make churches look like churches again. And make them have an open door that swings both ways, so nobody has to feel as if Life As We Know It will end if one moves from one parish to another.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  5. Catholic Gate-Crasher: I cannot imagine being *that* wedded to one pastor, one “vision,” one way of doing things, one ecclesial oligarchy (elder board), etc. etc. etc.

    I can’t even imagine this framework as the NT church model as founded by Jesus, and carried out by His followers and disciples when He left us with His Holy Spirit.

    Netflix series:
    How to Become a Tyrant:

    Seize Power
    Crush Your Rivals
    Reign Through Terror
    Control the Truth
    Create a New Society
    Rule Forever (bloodlines & royalty)

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  6. Of course this has little if any meaning, like everything we do, God has chosen and He will retaliate to any deviation, even of His perceived will. I have to admit I am still trying to get past God hates me, its clear to me He does, but its a bit off putting to think I will suffer for all eternity any hint of disagreement, even an atoms length. I have spent a lot of times, to utterly no avail b/c God does not want to hear it, another gift I got from the evangelical industry. Someone asked me who do I think God will save, I responded, no one, we all will burn and then some. That was a bit off putting but it is what I remember of my evangelical truth that was shoved into every single pour of my soul, if I have one. I highly doubt even that, another gift of my faith experience.

    I get God hating me, I needed God, I asked for prayer, I wanted to lean on Him and other such vile sins of fellowship. I became a burden and God kills people for that. I was burned as a kid, I survived, I am still trying to justify that another gift from my evangelical experience. Those folks that call this good news, its not, never has been and never ever will be. Sad to say there is no good news here, just death. Then I remember those I have worked with, those (far better human beings than I will ever be) overcame and I remember. Each second of hope is filled with grace, it reminds us that we are and will be redeemed. I still hope in that, every second.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  7. Bridget:
    Catholic Gate-Crasher,

    Honestly, the church building shouldn’t be anissue at all. A group of believers can meet anywhere. As we see from this article, what goes on among/between believers/God is what matters.

    Sure. You can worship anywhere.

    But beauty matters.

    And so does environment. Think of it in terms of a workplace. If you work in a dreary, depressing environment, it will affect your spirit. It really will. (Been there.)

    Also, we owe God our best. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

    That conviction inspired the greatest masterpieces of sacred architecture, from Hagia Sofia to Notre Dame to St Mark’s in Venice. The atmosphere in such churches lifts the soul to Heaven. The atmosphere in a glorified auditorium has the opposite effect, in my experience at least.

    But I’m a very visual person. YMMV.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  8. Max: Ex-staff who experienced Mr. Armstrong in all his glory would probably agree that it was closer to a colonoscopy clinic than a house of God.

    Colonoscopy Clinic or Colonoscopy PREP?

    I’ve been through the Alien Abduction Special twice, and the prep the night before was the worst part.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  9. Catholic Gate-Crasher:

    I cannot imagine being *that* wedded to one pastor, one “vision,” one way of doing things, one eccesial oligarchy (elder board), etc. etc. etc. I mean, I can see forging bonds with a local community, but then there’s nothing that says you have to break those bonds if you move to a different parish. And quite often the bonds do persist, as long as you do remain in the same geographic area.

    Honestly it was easy to leave the leadership. What I was wedded to was the mission and vision of the church. I also loved the job and the community. Our family has moved to Colorado and this was a huge transition for us. Could we have stayed in the community? Yes, but we found another camp opportunity here and it was a good change.

    The way I would describe my commitment to the work at the chapel is like a Philadelphia Eagles fan. In your excitement for the team you paint your upper torso green, wear a white fuzzy head with a beak yelling as loud as you can for your team. The next day as you are trying to remove the green paint and feel the soreness of your throat you think, What did I just do? Was it worth it?

    In my journey it was good to let go and I did hold to tightly. I am always impressed with how God works out His purposes in our journey. I will not hold so tightly to something like this in the future and do not have regrets at leaving the organization.

    I still deeply miss the community, but still stay as connected as the distance allows.

    On a lighter note, I agree with the building observations. 🙂

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  10. Brian:

    Then I remember those I have worked with, those (far better human beings than I will ever be) overcame and I remember. Each second of hope is filled with grace, it reminds us that we are and will be redeemed. I still hope in that, every second.

    Brain, I am sorry that you feel like there is no good news or that God hates. I can see how you could come to that conclusion.

    The good news that I see in the message is in God’s son Jesus Christ. I would imagine you have heard the stories, but for me at one point it became personal.

    At first I bought into the message to fear God. What 6 year old would not want to avoid hell? That is an easy sell.

    But later in life I was witness to people who had a personal relationship with God through the work of Jesus. My parents were divorced and I grew up in a legalistic environment: rules not relationship. But there were people who were authentic and showed me love unconditionally. (far better humans than I will ever be as well) They got their strength and love from understanding that Jesus cared when no one else would.

    If you are going to find the gold you will need to do some refining to get rid of the dross (CRAP).

    I am a dad of three wonderful kids. They will be the first to let you know that dad was not perfect and failed many times. But I want the best for them and my grandkids. If a screwed up human like me could love his kids how much more will a mighty God love His kids? God is a god of love and gave his life to prove it and provided a way for me to be adopted into His family. True love.

    I came to a point that I looked past the rules and started to develop a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. How Christ lived His life is a reflection of His (God’s) character. He called out the inauthentic Pharisees, provided food for people who forgot their lunch, made friends with tax collectors, cared for the sick, hung out with people who did not follow religious rules, and so much more. He took the time to care.

    Now, He asks us (his kids) to be an ambassador for Him. Unfortunately some drop the AMB__ and the ___ADOR. Don’t look at them as an ambassador or what the character of God is really like. Their life does not reflect the good news.

    Those people who are better humans than us are the ambassadors … the Gold.

    Brian, I am praying you will see that God is love. We all should have the perspective of John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, “Although my memory is fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.”

    He is a great savior! He loves us deeply.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  11. Michael Landis: The way I would describe my commitment to the work at the chapel is like a Philadelphia Eagles fan. In your excitement for the team you paint your upper torso green, wear a white fuzzy head with a beak yelling as loud as you can for your team. The next day as you are trying to remove the green paint and feel the soreness of your throat you think, What did I just do? Was it worth it?

    I love your analogy. 🙂

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  12. Bridget: Honestly, the church building shouldn’t be an issue at all. A group of believers can meet anywhere.

    Agreed, but this is not an enthusiastic new group, meeting in a school cafeteria. This is a deliberate church design for a large congregation. It has symbolism. It proclaims an identity. What message is it supposed to send? Who designed it? What direction does it face? Who paid for the land? Who constructed the building? Who furnished it? Is the plain exterior supposed to beckon people, or is it supposed to contrast with an amazing interior?

    And finally, why does it not look like a traditional church? Do they take a position against idolatry? Are they trying to distance themselves from older traditions in older styles of buildings? Were they limiting construction funds so they could also build a homeless shelter and soup kitchen?

    Every detail about this building is deliberate, and it would be interesting to know some reasons.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  13. Michael Landis: your excitement for the team

    I was never a church staff member, but I volunteered extensively, burned out, and stopped attending (without quite planning to do so).

    After returning to church five years later, I vowed that my default answer to requests would be no. I say yes if something fits my abilities and most of all my time. No more burnout projects. Life is too short.

    I also deliberately avoid intense friendships at church, and anything that looks like drama.

    It is absolutely fine to be a calm, cautious church member. When I’m calm, I find it easier to pray, to understand things, make good decisions, and—yes—to contribute productively. Come to think of it, my grandparents were always calm at church.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  14. Friend: After returning to church five years later, I vowed that my default answer to requests would be no. I say yes if something fits my abilities and most of all my time. No more burnout projects. Life is too short.

    It took me a few years to figure out that it is OK to say “No!” in church. I once had a pastor approach me and say “God told me that you should take the lead role in the Christmas program this year” … to which I responded “Hmmm, interesting! He didn’t tell me that!” (acting is not my spiritual gift)

    Doing church can be an exhausting experience … it is supposed to be refreshing.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  15. Friend: I also deliberately avoid intense friendships at church, and anything that looks like drama.

    I run the other way when a church member starts a conversation “I know I’m not supposed to gossip, but …”

    Instead of hitting the street on Monday to fulfill the Great Commission, a lot of churchgoers hit the coffee shops to drink in the drama about this and that at church.

    Yep, I may not emerge out of the Done ranks until I see widespread revival and spiritual awakening in America. It’s just too weary to do church without it. In the meantime, I focus on personal revival.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  16. I would also say that I cannot relate to the mentality that any Mega-Church was ever any kind of thing to be praised or be proud of ever being involved with! The reality is that someone hired a malignant narcissist to be King over a big domain. Who did this? Were they “Godly men” or the white-washed septic tanks that Jesus asked how will you avoid hell? I loath when people pat themselves on the back and brag about what a great job they did of being part of a leadership team.

    The problem is pride. The definition, from the scriptures, is thinking too much of yourself. Too much of your giftings, accomplishments, callings, your dealings with others and the list goes on. I would say that it is better to leave some room for Jesus to praise you on judgment day, then to go around telling everyone about what a great org. you were once a part of. Better to think low of yourself and your ability to discern good from evil.

    In this case a man realizes that he was too emotionally attached to his ministry position. This is the beginning of the path towards actual humility. On that Great Day we will all see the wood, hay and stubble of so many imperfect works burned up. Poof! I know I have done a poor job and I expect no praise from anyone and God has blessed me with exactly that on this earth! Where I go, people ask me to shut up or leave because I see the gap between the idealism of ministry and the realities. As Jesus said, “woe to you when all men praise you.” The only people I saw Jesus praise were the prophets who suffered so much for simply being honest and bold. This is likely to remain true at the very end…

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  17. Max,

    Gossip is an issue, but so are intense and seemingly positive experiences. Why just bring a dozen cookies, when you can bring 72 of the Best Homemade Cookies Ever—although somebody will have to put the kids to bed while you stay up all night baking? Why just like someone, when they can be your Closest Friend You Can Talk To About Anything—although they did tell you to lose weight and stop your teenager from using hair dye?

    A lot of nuttiness comes from inside, from good-hearted belief that church is somehow an ideal place full of perfect people. Love-bombing yourself (general “yourself”) feels great for awhile, but it’s not sustainable.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  18. Friend,

    I’ve worked on staff, vunteering many hours as well, been very involved in several churches and finances. In my humble opinion, way too much money is spent on material things in most churches. But if the goal is to get people “in the doors,” which is what leaders often proclaim, then you’re bound to want to present a nifty product, great music, and fun stuff for kids. It’s a two edged sword with so much money spent. I simply can’t stomach it any more. I don’t believe it’s what God wants.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  19. Friend: way too much money is spent on material things in most churches.

    Will you please give examples? I

    Just had to go back and check their website. I attended in 1975-76.

    This from their website on history of the church:

    The 1970s

    In 1970, God called Pastor Bob Ricker from California to become senior pastor. Under Pastor Ricker’s leadership, the church introduced Grace Groups, a cassette tape ministry, a bookstore, faith promise commitments, missions festivals, and an Awana program. The church was renamed Grace Church. In 1974, the church dedicated a new 1,000-seat worship center. And in 1979, Faith Promise giving increased to $435,000, resulting in proportional increases in missionary sending and support. The Lord called Pastor Ricker to another ministry in 1982, but the fruit of his leadership is still evident. In recognition and appreciation of his faithful service to Grace Church, Pastor Ricker was given the honorary title of pastor emeritus in 2004.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  20. Todd Wilhelm: as part of their building expansion, added an indoor racquet ball court. Pretty sure it was used to spread the Gospel though.

    My take on many such efforts: they are trying to create a Perfect Little Kingdom for Members Only… NOT like “the World”! And oh dearie me, it’s not at all like a private club!

    The church where I grew up had a gymnasium that doubled as an auditorium. Because the church did not pay taxes, we considered it our duty to let community groups play basketball, hold meetings, etc. Many churches still do this. (My current church hosts AA, Head Start, and other groups. We also run our own programs, such as walk-in counseling.*)

    It would be fascinating to call some of the multi-campus megas and ask how your youth sports team or Narcotics Anonymous group can sign up to use specific rooms for, say, four hours a week for the next year. I’m not sure they can legally refuse reasonable requests.

    *As always, this is not a boast. If people assume their church is private property, though, this traditional service to community might come as a surprise.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  21. Todd Wilhelm: Friend: way too much money is spent on material things in most churches.

    Will you please give examples?

    Most of the money goes to programs to entertain the giving units. But did not Jesus tell us with his last words to make disciples who do everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, not just cherry picking what we like, that He commanded. Every dollar spent on programs and making a building look cozy is one that is wasted. We are supposed to be helping each other to DO and not legalistically but from a heart purified and overflowing with love for others. Very few programs actually bare fruit in keeping with the goal the King gave us.

    In this setting, camps for kids would be one of these items. It is great, as has been written here many times, for giving perps a place to prey upon children, but how much actual good fruit in discipleship has all the camps actually created? Today they are great places to go to ignore the pandemic and to easily spread disease to others. But perhaps this is just the material reflection of something that has always been a spiritual reality. Have more kids been harmed without recourse then helped with all of these summer camps? Wasted time and money or good stewardship?

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  22. Mr. Jesperson: Most of the money goes to programs to entertain the giving units … Very few programs actually bare fruit in keeping with the goal the King gave us

    “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]; but wanting to have their ears tickled [with something pleasing], they will accumulate for themselves [many] teachers [one after another] to satisfy their own desires and to support the errors they hold” (2 Timothy 4:3 AMP).

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  23. Friend: Will you please give examples? I’m interested, not questioning.

    Fog machines and aircraft are a bit much, but what excesses do you see?

    You name it. Buildings. Buildings in the right places to attract the middle to upper class group. All the bells and whistles for children to attract children. The perfect and loud music set ups. Yes fog machines in some cases. The right decor to make everyone happy and comfy. The well paid cool lead pastor and staff. Many church budgets have 90% of their income going to all of the above. Then they might tithe 10% to other ministries. Hope that helps.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  24. Michael Landis: Honestly it was easy to leave the leadership. What I was wedded to was the mission and vision of the church. I also loved the job and the community. Our family has moved to Colorado and this was a huge transition for us. Could we have stayed in the community? Yes, but we found another camp opportunity here and it was a good change.

    The way I would describe my commitment to the work at the chapel is like a Philadelphia Eagles fan. In your excitement for the team you paint your upper torso green, wear a white fuzzy head with a beak yelling as loud as you can for your team. The next day as you are trying to remove the green paint and feel the soreness of your throat you think, What did I just do? Was it worth it?

    In my journey it was good to let go and I did hold to tightly. I am always impressed with how God works out His purposes in our journey. I will not hold so tightly to something like this in the future and do not have regrets at leaving the organization.

    I still deeply miss the community, but still stay as connected as the distance allows.

    On a lighter note, I agree with the building observations.

    LOL, as a Bama fan, I can relate. Although I never painted a red A on my face. Or even mixed myself a yellowhammer.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  25. Bridget:
    Catholic Gate-Crasher,

    Everyone is different with respect to what is beautiful to them. Iprefer God’s natural beauty. No buildings with all the stuff and fluff. Money can be used for other things.

    I live on 18 densely wooded NC acres with a wintertime view of the Sauraton Mountains (foothills of the Virginia Blue Ridge), so I’m pretty sure I’m attuned to natural beauty, too. 🙂

    But, at the same time, I can’t help yearning for artistic and architectural beauty, rooted in many centuries of rich, storied Christian history. Sterile gymnasia and rock-concert stages just don’t do it for me.

    Indoors and outdoors, I crave beauty. As you say, we are all different.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  26. Catholic Gate-Crasher: I live on 18 densely wooded NC acres with a wintertime view of the Sauraton Mountains (foothills of the Virginia Blue Ridge), so I’m pretty sure I’m attuned to natural beauty, too.

    But, at the same time, I can’t help yearning for artistic and architectural beauty, rooted in many centuries of rich, storied Christian history. Sterile gymnasia and rock-concert stages just don’t do it for me.

    Indoors and outdoors, I crave beauty. As you say, we are all different.

    BTW a church needn’t have “stuff and fluff” in order to be beautiful. A local historic Moravian church here in the NC Piedmont is about as sparse and spare as a church can be, but it has beautiful “bones” and amazing high windows that let the light in just about perfectly.

    Europe’s great Gothic cathedrals are not especially “fluffy,” either. No gilt, no fuss, no rococo froufrou. Just heart-stopping vaulted ceilings and achingly beautiful arches and exquisite jewel-tone rose windows…all expressing the faith of generations of Christians who poured their pennies, sweat, and devotion into adorning the House of the Lord.

    No corporate-looking office building masquerading as church can compare. 🙂

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  27. One staffer said Mr Kelly had sex with her at a family home in Connecticut, then threw her in the shower and called her “f****** filthy,” before making her walk home alone to a train station at midnight. Akin Akman, another top employee who formerly worked for SoulCycle, allegedly shamed a front desk worker on his Instagram story for eating pizza.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

Leave a comment - Click here for our commenting rules

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *