David could bear persecution and murmuring, but when he came to prosperity he could not turn his eyes away from vanity.”
—Sir Richard Baker http://www.apuritansmind.com/Stewardship/ShortQuotesOnWealth.htm
Lack of Balance has been our recent focus, and we conclude this aspect of spiritually abusive systems with a look at C.J. Mahaney, vice-chairman of the Board of Directors of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and president of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). SGM is a “family of churches” worldwide that claims to be both “reformed” and “charismatic”. There are around 75 SGM churches at the present time.
C.J. Mahaney has risen to power in this religious system despite his lack of education. He never graduated from college. Consequently, he did not attend seminary. Nevertheless, Mahaney sits at the helm of a ministry that is revered by some, particularly those who are “reformed”.
What’s fascinating about C.J. and SGM are their ability to change. “Change is here to stay” is a common refrain sung by Mahaney and the leadership in this family of churches, and it’s very true! Not only has the name of the organization changed a number of times, but the spiritual emphasis has been altered over the years. We have found Wikipedia to be an excellent resource that describes these changes. Here’s the link:
A cursory review of SGM reveals that this religious “movement” grew out of the charismatic renewal that took place in the 1970s, primarily under the leadership of Larry Tomczak, a Catholic Charismatic. Larry had been asked to take a young C.J. Mahaney under his wing and help him grow in the faith. Mahaney had been a drug user who publicly admits that he was an illicit drug addict. It appears that C.J. experienced a radical transformation when he became a Christian.
The Gathering of Believers (now Covenant Life Church) in Gaithersburg, Maryland was formally established in 1982. People of Destiny (PDI) was the outreach ministry which began planting churches. Both Tomczak and Mahaney withdrew from the Charismatic Catholic crowd shortly before establishing the church that would come to be known as Covenant Life Church.
Toward the latter part of the 1990s, PDI became increasingly Calvinistic in its theology. In 1998 Tomczak parted ways with Mahaney amid much conflict. We doubt many have full knowledge of what actually caused a rift between the co-founders of People of Destiny International. Maybe one day the truth will be told.
In 2002 PDI changed its name to “Sovereign Grace Ministries”. This “family of churches” continues to operate under that ministry name, and gradually a network of churches has been established either through church planting or by adoption. A turning point for SGM occurred when C.J. Mahaney, Senior Pastor of Covenant Life Church (CLC), turned over the reins to Joshua Harris. Joshua, who was always homeschooled, hails from Oregon. He relocated to the east coast when he was 23 and moved in with the Mahaney family so he could be mentored by C.J. He lived with them for approximately one year. During that time his first book I Kissed Dating Goodbye was published.
When Joshua Harris assumed the position of Senior Pastor of CLC in 2004, C.J. Mahaney began an extensive campaign to advance SGM full-time as its president and “head apostle”. Since 2004, Mahaney has formed some important alliances with leaders of the reformed movement. Now C.J. shares center stage at various conferences with John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and others. How did this “success story” happen? As far as we can determine, C.J. Mahaney was not well known until the release of his book Humility: True Greatness in 2005 (please see our April 16, 2009 blog post for a review of this book) and the re-release of The Cross Centered Life in 2006. Mahaney seems to have become an overnight success, although it was at least 20 years in the making.
How did C.J. Mahaney become so popular among reformed Christians? As far as we can determine, C.J.’s secret to success is that he has friends in high places. We believe his recognition among the “Reformed Big Dogs” began when he befriended Mark Dever, Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, in Washington, D.C. (a church not far from Gaithersburg where CLC is located). C.J. interviewed Mark Dever for IX Marks (a Mark Dever ministry) last year, and they established during that recorded conversation that they have known each other for 10 years.
Mark Dever is directly connected with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) where he currently serves as a trustee. We believe Mark introduced C.J. to Al Mohler early in the Mahaney/Dever friendship because we have discovered that C.J. began making contributions to Southern Seminary in 2002 at the Leaders Associate level (annual gifts of $5,000 to $9,999). Both C.J. and CLC gave at the Leaders Associate level in 2003. From 2004 to 2007, C.J. gave at the Distinguished Associate level (annual gifts over $10,000), while CLC gave at the Leaders Associate level in 2004, 2005, and 2006. It appears the church did not make a contribution in 2007. We have not yet seen the 2008 giving levels, which should be featured in the Spring 2009 SBTS publication. All of this information can be obtained from the SBTS Roll Call by following this link:
(change the year accordingly). The information is stored in a PDF file, so allow a few seconds for it to be retrieved.
In addition to the annual gift levels, the SBTS Roll Call includes the “Lifetime Cumulative Gift Levels”. On the 2005 Roll Call, C.J. Mahaney was listed as a “Patron Member” (cumulative gifts of $25,000 to $49,999). Check out page 45 at this link:
Incredibly, on the 2006 Roll Call, Mahaney has risen to the level of “President’s Council” (cumulative gifts of $100,000 or more). Check out page 43 at this link:
Until the cumulative gift levels for the SBTS Roll Call are increased beyond the $100,000 mark, C.J. Mahaney will always be listed under “President’s Council”.
That’s quite commendable to go from being a Patron Member to a member of the President’s Council in JUST ONE YEAR! C.J. Mahaney gave A MIMIMUM OF $50,001.00 in 2006 to accomplish that feat.
How did he do it? Here’s our theory. Books can be BIG BUSINESS with the right endorsements! C.J. Mahaney’s book Humility is copyrighted in 2005 and includes this endorsement:
“This is the right book from the right man at the right time.” R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
When Mahaney’s book Living the Cross Centered Life was published in 2006, Al Mohler wrote the forward. Dr. Mohler’s endorsement begins as follows: “The book you now hold in your hands is nothing less than a manifesto for turning your world upside down . . .”
By following the money trail, we believe we have discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. When a rather obscure charismatic (C.J. Mahaney) receives a glowing endorsement from a well-respected Baptist leader (Al Mohler), the results can be extremely profitable for both Mahaney and SBTS!
Why would reformed leaders like Al Mohler, President of SBTS, endorse C.J. Mahaney who is not a Southern Baptist and who arguably is not a theologian? We believe one of the secrets is that Mahaney’s ministry has led the way in AUTHORITARIANISM for at least THREE DECADES. Could it be that reformed leaders are willing to endorse C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries in exchange for learning how to rule their flocks by implementing SGM’s church polity?
Here’s where the lack of balance in Sovereign Grace Ministries comes into play. During the past nine months, we have done extensive research on SGM by following two blogs that are speaking out against this “family of churches”. They are www.sgmsurvivors.com and www.sgmrefuge.com
We have read alarming testimonies written by current and former SGM members, and we have concluded that the pastors in this “family of churches” rule with an iron fist. Patriarchy is preached and practiced in these churches, and the members are extremely fearful. We have never seen such heavy-handed control exercised in a church setting. As we have been following the New Calvinists, it appears they want to implement SGM “management” techniques in their own congregations. We dare you to read a few entries on either of these anti-SGM blogs. You will be SHOCKED just as we were. We are praying fervently that the truth about SGM will be revealed to the entire world because our brothers and sisters in Christ are being victimized in this spiritually abusive system.
Another reason we believe high profile Christian leaders are attracted to C.J. Mahaney and thereby SGM is because they use technology extensively in marketing their ministry. The internet presence of those associated with Sovereign Grace Ministries is absolutely ASTOUNDING! Just search “Sovereign Grace Ministries” and you will see how effective they have utilized the internet. Not only does C.J. Mahaney have his own blog, but pastors maintain personal blogs which are linked to their church web sites.
Books, CDs, and conferences also play a HUGE role in the promotion of SGM. For those of you who may not realize it, conferences are EXTREMELY LUCRATIVE!!! Check out the cost of a ticket to one of SGM’s big events, and remember that the ticket price does not include food and lodging. Just who is pocketing all that cash?
It’s been fascinating to observe Christian conferences going mainstream in recent years. Together for the Gospel (T4G) has become popular among pastor types. In 2006, four men (the reason for the “4” in T4G) joined forces and planned a conference in Louisville primarily for pastors. Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan (a PCA pastor), and C.J. Mahaney hold these conferences bi-annually. SGM alternates with T4G and holds its own pastors’ conference every other year.
In case you haven’t noticed, the number of Christian conferences has been increasing dramatically. The secret’s out among Christian leaders that conferences are a great way to make some fast cash! These Christian conferences are being held in select venues for different target audiences. Some conferences are being used to promote CBMW’s agenda of “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”. This is another reason why we believe C.J. Mahaney has become so popular among reformed leaders. The MAHANEY MONEY MACHINE is rolling along, and these reformed leaders have jumped on board!!!
C.J. Mahaney is a member of the Gospel Coalition and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in addition to his involvement with CBMW, and we are in disbelief that no one is willing to speak out against the blatant abuses that are taking place within Sovereign Grace Ministries. When the truth about SGM is FINALLY revealed to a watching world, it is highly probable that C.J. Mahaney will take some high profile reformed leaders down with him. Almighty God is watching . . .$