“UNDER CEEJ” – Why the Impersonation of C.J. Mahaney is NO LAUGHING MATTER


It seems that one of the highlights of Resolved 2010 was Jonathan Rourke’s impersonation of C.J. Mahaney.   


This impersonation has been highly touted by those whom we label as Calvinistas.  Check out the following links:


(1)   Thabiti Anyabwile’s blog on the Gospel Coalition website


(2)   Josh Harris’ blog  


(3)   Girl Talk Home, a blog created by C.J.’s wife Carolyn and his three daughters.





Some of you may be wondering – what is the Resolved Conference?  Well, it’s another one of those annual ($$$) conferences held in Palm Springs ($$$) California and hosted at the Convention Center by Grace Community Church where Dr. John MacArthur is the teaching pastor.  


The first Resolved Conference was held in 2005.  Rick Holland, who serves as the college pastor at Grace Church (in addition to his other roles) is the founder and executive director of this annual conference, as the church website indicates.  



Here’s Rick explaining why he chose C.J. Mahaney as one of the conference speakers. 


Resolved 2010, which was held June 25-28, included the following speakers:  John MacArthur, Rick Holland, C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler, and Steve Lawson (all of whom will be returning next year for Resolved 2011).  John Piper has been featured in years past; however, as some of you may know, he is taking a leave of absence until the end of the year.  In case you'd like to learn know more about Resolved, check out this link.

Resolved draws a young crowd, and we suspect that many of the attendees are connected to the Master's College and Master's Seminary, founded by John MacArthur.   


Now, to the matter at hand… 


It's been said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, a saying attributed to Charles Caleb Cotton who lived during the 18th century.  Despite all the cackling by the audience at Resolved 2010, I find absolutely NOTHING funny about the above imitation of C.J., which was also attempted at the 2008 Resolved Conference.



As a matter of fact, I am DEEPLY DISTURBED by this spectacle.  Why?  I'll get to that…  


I'm going to give John MacArthur, Rick Holland, and others involved in planning this conference the benefit of the doubt that they are clueless as to what’s really going on in the SGM “family of churches”.  While C.J. is jetting off to all of these conferences and being schmoozed by his colleagues and adoring "fans" like those at Resolved 2010, a number of Sovereign Grace churches are experiencing tremendous turmoil. 


What seems to be the problem in so many SGM churches?  I have spent almost two years researching Sovereign Grace Ministries, and here is what I have discovered:


SGM pastors are extremely hyper-authoritarian in their leadership.  Their polity stipulates that they alone are IN CHARGE, with the congregation having NO INPUT whatsoever!  In addition, the "elders" of each church are selected by the leaders, not the church members.  This is NOT Biblical!


SGMers are expected to join Care Groups which meet bi-weekly.  "Indwelling sin" is highly stressed in Sovereign Grace churches so it stands to reason that some members might reveal intimate details about their personal lives in these close-knit groups.  Often it's too late when they discover that their Care Group Leaders (known as CGL's) have been "taking notes".  If SGMers ever becomes disgruntled, that incriminating information can be used against them.


Patriarchy (disguised as Complementarianism) is practiced and preached in SGM.  Unfortunately, this male-dominated approach to ministry can sometimes attract men who have a tendency toward abuse.  Sadly, some women and children in SGM suffer in silence because often their pastors will not intervene.    


Homeschooling is extremely prevalent in Sovereign Grace churches.  Public education is frowned upon, although SGM leadership denies it. 


Courtship is definitely in vogue in SGM.  With Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye at the helm of SGM's flagship church (Covenant Life Church), who would be surprised?


Those SGMers with adult children should beware — you may be held accountable for your adult children's "indwelling sin".  SGM pastors have been "de-gifted" because of their grown children's "indiscretions".


Modesty is a must in SGM!  Don't get us wrong… Dee and I absolutely believe in modesty, and we have worked hard over the years to train our daughters (who are now adults) to dress modestly.  But some take modesty to an extreme!  A warning to females in SGM:  Be careful of how tightly you wear your shoulder seat belt!  If the strap comes across your chest revealing your Ta-Tas, you have committed a grievous sin by causing your 'brother' to stumble…  


Why don't SGMers just find another church, you may ask…  There are those who have tried only to be told that they are disobeying God's will if they leave SGM and that they will no longer be "under God's covering" (protection), whatever that means.  WARNING:  Beware of ANY ministry that uses the term "covering".


When someone leaves SGM, it's not uncommon for them to be pursued to the new fellowship they plan to join.  SGM pastors have actually been known to contact pastors at the prospective church their former members plan to join and accuse them of being troublemakers who are "under church discipline".  Fortunately, this ridiculous stunt has been pulled one too many times in areas where the larger Sovereign Grace churches are located, and the accusations made by SGM pastors fall on deaf ears.  Not being able to leave SGM reminds me of a familiar Eagles hit Hotel California.  "You can check out any time you like, but you can NEVER leave…"         


Don't make the mistake of believing that these issues are isolated to a few rogue churches.  SGM is a "family of churches", and their policies are enforced across the board to achieve uniformity. 


These are the reasons why I absolutely cannot laugh at any of C.J.'s antics or the impersonation of him.  He and his abusive ministry have done tremendous harm to the body of Christ, and I simply cannot ignore it.  I am grieved for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have been deeply hurt. 


Sovereign Grace Ministries has been operating under the radar for decades by using its abusive "shepherding" tactics to control the flock.  Thanks to the internet there are those who have made it out and are warning others to beware of SGM.   


What absolutely STUNS me is that there are Christian leaders who associate with C.J. Mahaney and are either (1) ignorant of the abuse that is taking place in SGM or (2) are turning a blind eye to it.  What most concerns me is that some may be taking lessons from him in hyper-authoritarianism!  Yes, it may be coming to a church near you (or even your church) soon! 


In case you think I'm exaggerating about the peculiarities of Sovereign Grace Ministries, I challenge you to read two blogs:  www.sgmrefuge.com (hosted by a couple who used to be CGL's in SGM) and  www.sgmsurvivors.com  (hosted by a couple who attended an SGM church for a brief time). 


In recent months, several former Sovereign Grace pastors have been posting comments that have been extremely revealing  into the inner sanctum of SGM.  Obviously, Almighty God has convicted their hearts, and they can no longer remain silent about these abuses they have witnessed first-hand or even perpetrated themselves.



I conclude with a warning to those who are “UNDER CEEJ” (CJ). Actually "Under Siege" is more accurate:


Be very careful with your loyalties because when it becomes common knowledge that Sovereign Grace Ministries has been “covering” up its abusive/shepherding tactics, the joke’s gonna be on you!  


And remember, our Sovereign God is watching… 


“UNDER CEEJ” – Why the Impersonation of C.J. Mahaney is NO LAUGHING MATTER — 97 Comments

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    There may be some leaders who are supportive of CJ because they admire and envy his level of authority. I can’t tell you the number of pastors I have known who have huge egos and believe that they are righfully the head (CEO) of “their” church. I believe this is one reason for the rise in popularity of an “elder-led” model of church government, over a congregational model, in Baptist, independents, and other traditionally congragationally-governed churches. In many cases, the “elders” are nothing like the biblical concept of spiritually mature shepherds, they are just a business board in place to ensure that the will of the pastor is carried out with a minimum of input from or discussion with the congregation.

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    You are so right! There has been a tremendous shift in this direction in recent years. Watch out when anyone suggests that the church by-laws be changed!

    All of us need to WAKE UP!

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    A nother blog that came out of the SGM crisis of authoritarianism.

    “What absolutely STUNS me is that there are Christian leaders who associate with C.J. Mahaney and are either (1) ignorant of the abuse that is taking place in SGM or (2) are turning a blind eye to it. What most concerns me is that some may be taking lessons from him in hyper-authoritarianism!”

    They simply do not believe what a pew sitter says. It is that simple. When one is focused on authoritarianism as McArthur, Piper, Mohler and others are, they can do nothing else but look down on those who are not in their ‘league’. You exist to ‘learn from them’.

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    We need to stop financially supporting it. That is the only way to end it.

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    I really think you have greatly exaggerated these claims against SGM. You may have researched them for two years…but have you attended one? Have you listened to sermons from their pastors online? Have you been to a small group setting?

    Has it occured to you that some of these men like John MacArthur or John Piper actually like CJ, and have been in SGM churches and/or conferences many times and have not seen the claims you have made?

    Of course there are people with problems and people who disagree with the leadership in any group of churches. Do SGM pastors handle everything perfectly every time? Of course not. Has SGM gone through growing pains? I am sure they have.

    Let me tell you about my SGM experience. I attended a SGM church several years ago for three years. I absolutely loved the teaching of the pastor. I’d grown up in Arminian churches and attended an Arminian Bible college. For the first time in my life I was hearing the doctrines of Grace put forth so that they made sense. I was going through a very difficult time in my life that ended up in divorce, and I found the teachings on the Sovereignty of God so comforting. I believe the teaching at this church (in Virginia) helped me get through this time. I absolutely loved the worship. I’m not charismatic, and it was a little charismatic for me but they seemed to really tone it down after awhile. I fell in love with the music, and the deep theology and worship in the songs. I couldn’t wait to go to church on Sundays it was so enjoyable.

    I attended small groups. I never felt any pressure from them if I didn’t go…just maybe a “hey, we missed you last week!” Heck, you’d get that at any church. Yes, it is true we went over the sermon. I didn’t find that strange at all because the sermons and the theology expressed in them were very interesting. One could easily disagree with what was taught and no one cared. We prayed for eachother and shared eachother’s burdens. We talked about normal stuff and ate food. I’d been to many small groups of different churches in the past and I really found this no different. The only thing I can really remember that someone told the group that was kind of embarrassing was his pornography problem. For some people, letting others know about their problem and gaining accountability does help them. I wished he’d only done that with the men though. One single mother got pregnant in our group, and there was nothing but love and support for her. Of course no one was glad she did it, but she was extended plenty of grace and help.

    I do remember the very first Sunday I was there someone asked me if I homeschooled my kids. I said no, they were in public school. I did notice a ton of people homeschooled their kids and had very large families. I do honestly feel that lots of kids were almost a trophy of some sort in that church…I didn’t like that at all. There were at least two families in my small group that homeschooled their kids and the mothers were completely unqualified to do so and some of the kids were way behind in their schooling. That really did bother me. (But I’ve seen this in many other churches I’ve been in)

    The pastor of this church was the authority on child rearing in SGM (then PDI). I did really feel a lot of his teaching was whacky. He was teaching people to have their kids come to their parents and tell their wrong doing and ASK for punishment. I thought that was really strange. But I could take or leave child rearing advice…I think most people do. Never felt the pressure to do that. I noticed our small group leaders doing that with their kids and it drove me nuts. We’d be sitting in a small group, their young son would come and say “Daddy, I hit my sister” and then the father would go spank him.

    Eventually this pastor, the child rearing “expert” had a daughter run away and marry an Army guy. Yep, pretty embarrassing. Except for the child rearing stuff, I really loved this guy. He was removed which I was not happy about. I didn’t see the moral failure on his daughter’s part (she was 17 I think?) as his failure. But earlier that year he had boasted from the pulpit that if one of his kids ever went astray he would step down as pastor. It was definitely put forth by SGM leadership that he was demoted for pride, not for his daughter’s sin. In truth it was probably both. She did stand before the congregation and apologize…I think the poor kid was mortified that she had cost her father his job and well over a thousand people the pastor they loved. It was actually a very touching moment and the church really hurt for her. She was well loved.

    After this, I do remember Steve Shank or someone coming and apologizing to the church for the legalism that had crept in regarding child rearing. They said no SGM (then PDI) church should put pressure on people to homeschool and that people shouldn’t identify a good Christian as someone who homeschools or not. They were trying to correct this YEARS ago. Because we were pastorless for awhile, we constantly had people like Steve Shank, or Joshua Harris, or CJ Mahaney come. They were all very gifted speakers and I felt their sermons were very helpful. They spoke a lot on grace.

    I grew up in an independent fundamental church and had seen a lot of abuse by authoritarian pastors who weren’t answerable to anyone. I felt that having a chain of accountability was a good thing. I certainly wasn’t used to the concept of having your pastor chosen for you. I certainly wasn’t privvy to the intimate workings of the church. I am not saying that any of the things you mention never happened. I don’t know. Again, I liked the teaching and worship so much that the way things were structured didn’t bother me or strike me as odd.

    As far as not leaving an SGM church goes….I definitely remember hearing from the pulpit that if you really had to move, you should move near another SGM church. I never felt for one second that this was controlling or cult like. It was because the leaders really felt that their churches were great and that Reformed theology was the best point of view. I moved away and my SGM friends treated me totally normal and said they’d miss me. Nothing out of the ordinary. Ended up in a PCA church because the teaching was similar.

    I have since only visited some SGM churches. One visit was pretty recent. It seemed a lot less charismatic than it was–almost boring.

    I really feel for the most part that SGM is just fine…not perfect and alot of stuff has been blown out of proportion on this blog. Chances are people would have just as many negative things to say about the denomination the writers of this blog attend.

    I can clearly remember being told in small group that at one time the church endorsed shepherding but that was bad and they were no longer doing that.

    We were encouraged to buy PDI literature and music…but again, this is because they really believed that the stuff was helpful. They encouraged us probably even more to read Jerry Bridges, John Piper, RC Sproul etc.

    I really think the writers of this blog aren’t being fair to SGM.

    Well, that’s enough for one night. All I can say is at a time in my life when I needed teaching on Grace and the Sovereignty of God and good Christian friends, SGM was there for me.

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    I am glad you had a good experience but perhaps you should have stuck around. But what about others…like Noel’s 3 year old daughter?

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    Hi Lydia,

    Haven’t had a chance to read a whole lot here except this post on someone imitating CJ at a conference. I happened on this blog because I was reading about Ergun Caner. I didn’t stay at a SGM church because I moved too far away. Certainly they are more into accountability than some churches…and probably they’ve struggled to find the balance. I’m a person who can take or leave things…listen to the sermon and decide for myself what I am going to apply to my life and what needs to change. I can still remember my spouse and I making faces at eachother during child rearing sermons and going “Huh? Are they serious? We aren’t doing that with our kids!” But I was very pleased when the leadership of SGM denounced that kind of child rearing and apologized profusely. They did attempt to correct things.

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    Firstly, we have both been to an SGM church. We have even heard CJ preach. We have listened to the sermons ad nauseum. We identified some of the things we have talked about on our visit to the one church. And we have heard far too many things in the sermons.

    Now, there are a number of blogs that have been started and continue regarding the antics of SGM churches. Are you actually saying that so many people are wrong? You show very little concern or compassion for the awful experiences that people have had in SGM.

    Why do Piper, et al, embrace these guys without telling them to clean up their act is beyond me. Perhaps he is glad they are marching lockstep with his brand of theology. Perhaps he likes their hyper authoritarian viewpoint. Perhaps he is glad they are hawking his books and encouraging people to come to his conferences.

    I see some issues with what you have written and, in fact, you have shown that you have accepted their peculiar point of view.

    So, the pastor was the “authority” on child rearing, huh? Why? Their views on children are quite unusual and you are right;they are strange and border on abusive at times.

    Pastors in SGM have an “authority” complex that is quite unBiblical. But, pastors outside of SGM admire such “position” because then they don’t have to deal with the thoughts and concerns of the sinners who support their salaries by their tithes who attend their churches.

    As for the pastor being demoted, this shows a singular lack of understanding about the inability of mankind to “control” the behavior of others. Where in the Bible does it say that your kid should not grow up to sin if you do steps 1, 2, 3?

    A pastor steps down when his kid commits a sin, huh? Let’s see, a pregnancy involves stepping sown but an obnoxious kids who is full of himself means the pastor gets to stay? And a controlling prideful pastor who thinks he is the “authority” and abuses his station is revered and held up as a model is an example of a Biblical church?

    So, you should move to be near another SGM church? Why? Are they just a bit better than other churches? Did you know that this “being better than other churches” is an indicator of cult like beliefs?

    I bet you didn’t know that you small group leaders were writing reports on your attendance.My guess is that in the three years you did exactly what you were supposed to do and never questioned the status quo. That meant you were a good little attendee and gave your pastors “joy.”

    I am sorry that I seem sarcastic but I think it would behoove you to read the history of SGM-in particular, we have done some history on this blog. Go to the categories section. Please go to the sgm links on this site and think about what is being said.Also, please read the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Yo might be surprised to see some things outlined in there that you saw in your SGM church.

    I attended a church that admired CJ Mahaney. Although not part of his “family of churches” they stressed a number of his “techniques.”

    I had never seen such nonsense both before and after my experience in this church. I agree that no church is perfect. But I can testify that many, many churches get it right because for the vast majority of my church life I have been blessed by great churches.

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    I think your point was that WW exaggerated. That cannot be true when one has heard from so many who have experienced spiritual abuse at the hands of SGM.

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    I’m sure there are many people who have had generally positive experiences in SGM churches. The same could be true of most denominations, and even of most cults. The Southern Baptists and Catholics and Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. that I have known have mostly been happy with their churches and the experiences they’ve had with them. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems either in doctrine or practice with any of them.

    It is important to point out the problems and abuses in any kind of church, partly to hold those churches accountable and partly to warn people to know what to look out for. That’s on of the purposes of this blog, and I am thankful that the WW ladies keep us informed.

    It’s great for you that you were fed, nurtured, and cared for in your SGM church. But unless a person is horribly mistreated, as some ex-SGM folks have reported, it is easy to minimize any concerns or problems seen. Some of the things you described, both the things you didn’t like and the things you thought were ok, would be red flags to me for the potential for a spiritually abusive situation. The problem is in the structure and the culture of what is seen as acceptable behavior on the part of church leadership. SGM churches are by no means alone in this, but the way their system is set up and the teachings and practices about authority make the potential for abuse greater than in some other denominations.

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    True. That’s one of the reasons it is important to show the fallacy of the storehouse tithing doctrine. When people believe that giving a specified percent of their income to their loca church is necessary to be obedient and in God’s will, the leaders of those churches have a steady stream of revenues needed to continue in their authoritarian and abusive behaviors.

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    Off Topic:

    The truth of the great Caner conspiracy is finally out:

    A Difficult Confession

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    Thanks for checking out our blog. Although you were critical of my post, I found it ironic that much of what you shared from your experience in PDI (now SGM) supported my position. As Dee mentioned, she and I attended an SGM church and we heard CJ preach. Thanks for reminding me about the bookstore. I will be concluding my remarks about SGM in Monday’s post.

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    Hi Deb & Dee,

    I saw in the original post that it said appointed pastors were not biblical. (or something to that effect) I don’t ever recall seeing in the New Testament that members sat around and voted for their pastors. Some things are preferential…SGM has a different set up than most places and I can see that there are some advantages. It’s bad in ANY form of church government if people abuse their power, not just SGM.

    I was honest in my post…I had said I DID witness some of the things that were being talked about…but I heard SGM leaders denounce and apologize for them. I think they’ve been exaggerated in this blog. I personally don’t feel that they are reason enough to try to trash CJ’s character & reputation.

    You know, I’ve been to the Kingdom Hall to kind of see what JW’s were like…but does that make me an expert on JW’s and their inner workings? Years ago I was on a debate board with JW’s…and people were often telling JW’s “well you believe this and you do that” and JW’s were saying “no we don’t!” (of course I disagree with JW theology but I did learn to listen to what they were saying instead of relying on supposed Cult expert books) And then it was easy to listen to ex-JW’s go on and on about how bad the Watchtower is…but you know probably the average JW didn’t experience what this person did. For every one disgruntled ex-SGM person who takes to the internet, there are probably thousands of happy ones. If there are thousands of happy ones perhaps the churches aren’t as bad as you think.

    I personally think it IS harsh to make a pastor step down because of his kid’s behavior. But there ARE verses about this, and SGM takes them more seriously than other denominations. The pastors know this when they take the job..they don’t go into it blindly. I can’t explain why it would be enforced in some situations and not others. It could be favoritism or there could be circumstances people aren’t aware of.

    You know, it really doesn’t bother me at all if someone recorded my attendance at a small group. Why should I care? Most churches pay attention to who is coming. My last church (and I’ve seen others do it) had a “who’s who in the pew” clipboard in the pew and we signed it every week when we were there. Large churches cannot possibly know who is and who is not there…and who needs encouragement or might be sick.

    I never said that SGM taught their churches were better than other churches. That is a twisting of my words. I said “It was because the leaders really felt that their churches were great and that Reformed theology was the best point of view”

    Let me clarify that…many churches teach “saved by faith, live by works”. Of course, they don’t openly teach this but it is implied. SGM churches are very strong on being saved by grace and living by grace. If the leaders truly believe that their churches help people to understand the gospel why wouldn’t they recommend them? I still don’t feel like this is cultlike.

    I read a few posts somewhere…either here or one of the SGM Survivor websites. Someone said that SGM idolized the cross. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. Anyone who goes there knows that they are talking about the redemptive work of Christ when they say “cross”. Not a physical object.

    One post was referring to a removal of a pastor named Keith Jacobs. Have no idea what happened to him or why he was removed but I heard him speak several times before he went off to Colorado on a church plant. I’ll be honest… Keith Jacobs was the only pastor I couldn’t stand listening to. To me he clearly did not have the gift of teaching and I couldn’t figure out why they were sending him off to pastor a church. Maybe he got better.

    Have you ever thought of just writing John Piper, John MacArthur and others and just asking them why they like CJ Mahaney?

    You could always write CJ yourself with a point by point grievance like TurretinFan and James White did about Ergun Caner. Maybe he would answer it.

    I don’t feel SGM running church conferences is a bad thing…why would you? They have the media resources and the organizational skills to do it. One of the best conferences I ever went to was put on by them and yep, John Piper was there. I think he about croaked during the charismatic worship.

    I currently live only 50 minutes from a SGM church. If I felt God wanted me there, I could be there. I don’t think it’s practical for me to go.

    Well, off to bed…have a nice weekend. 🙂

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    In addition to the “imitation” here’s another video from Resolved, that I believe sheds some light on the “cult of personality” culture at some of these conferences.


    John Piper and Francis Chan are two famous pastors who have both addressed their concerns about the matter and have acted: Piper once blogged about how strange it was when people ask pastors for their autographs and is taking a hiatus from his ministry… Chan, when addressing the issue of people not coming to church when he’s not in town and someone else is preaching — has spoken at length about how he does not want his church services to be about him–but to be about GOD. He resigned from his post as leader of his megachurch, “Cornerstone” in Simi Valley, CA and hopes to start a ministry in a more urban, unreached part of the country or world.

    Chan’s now former church is also notable for having made the switch a few years back to donate 55% of their church’s “earnings” to missions and charitable causes. Before that they had only donated 4%, he also moved he and his family into a 2,000 square foot home from one double that size before…He said his trips to impoverished parts of the world where people were searching in dumpsters for scraps of food and babies were abandoned left and right caused him to repent of the comfortable lifestyle he had been leading.

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    Oops I need to clarify: when I said “John Piper and Francis Chan…have addressed their concerns about the matter, I don’t mean they’ve ever addressed concern over what’s in that video clip of the Resolved conference specifically. I meant that they’ve shared their concerns about the snares of idolatry, pride, and distraction from Christ “celebrity pastor” culture can lead to in general.

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    ” I think they’ve been exaggerated in this blog.”

    You might think differently if you have been reading SGM Survivors, SGM Refuge and Spiritual Tyranny. But then again, you might not.

    “I personally don’t feel that they are reason enough to try to trash CJ’s character & reputation.”

    I am more concerned with the victims of SGM spiritual abuse (and sexual abuse) than I am of CJ’s reputation.

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    “I saw in the original post that it said appointed pastors were not biblical. (or something to that effect) I don’t ever recall seeing in the New Testament that members sat around and voted for their pastor”

    Just as an aside, I looked up the Greek for “appointed” as in elders and found it means “hand stretching”… as in voting.

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    You know, the more that you write, the more I think that “thou dost protest too much.” (Do they let you read Shakespeare in SGM?). You have set up a series of gotchas-“Have you ever been to an SGM church?” Well, yes…”Not good enough”.
    “Heard CJ?” Yep. “Not good enough.” Yawnnnnnnnnn

    You have done a fine job of apologetics for the SGM cause. Only extremely mild disagreements to show that you are really “neutral.” Ho-hum………

    Now, we should write to CJ, Piper, et al. and “maybe” they’ll answer me. (Falling down, laughing…..) You know full well that CJ hasn’t answered all of the nonsense going on by his “flock.” If we said we had tried, then you would say that he doesn’t have to answer us since we aren’t members of his denomination (such a piece of nonsense that it is a family of churches- same thing). We know, we have been down this rabbit path before with similar comments. Wearisome……..

    Your comments have actually confirmed much of what we have said. Believe it or not, most people do not like having what they talk about in the privacy of a small group told to other folks. I know SGM “controllers” say they “keep watch over your souls” in order to control.Naughty, naughty-the rules of the game mean you need to tell people up front you are reporting on them-aren’t you supposed to be transparent?

    We intend to use your comments to write a post in the next few days.Perhaps you could alert all the folks up in Roanoke. Maybe they could teach them some new tactics for showing the bloggers “who’s boss.” Tell them that we have read “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” and we are getting really bored….

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    Dee…I just wrote a heartfelt post about how I could see what people over at SGM Refuge were saying, and how I admired them for trying for change and still loving their churches and trying to do the right thing despite difficulty. SGM Refuge (from what I’ve read) seems to be a very good website.

    But I deleted the post..was about to post it when I saw yours. It struck me that you are on a Warthog Witchunt. You only want to hear negative stuff…you don’t want to hear what is true and honest. You seem to be intent on making fun of me.

    I don’t see anything constructive going on here…I’ll go back to reading about Ergun Caner where the people who are criticizing him care enough to pray for him personally and pray the truth comes out.

    When was the last time you prayed for CJ Mahaney? Of course, I might be missing the whole intent of this website…maybe you aren’t Christians at all and it would be silly for you to pray for CJ.

    I’m outta here….

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    Are you sure you were really about to post a comment about what you read over at SGM Refuge or are you just exaggerating? I was really looking forward to reading it!

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    Oh, usually they come back to read the follow up posts so here goes….

    What about some compassion for the victims? For those being led astray or stuck in spiritually abusive churches? They are the ones who need the truth of scripture.Not the twisted version CJ promotes to elevate himself. What about Noel’s 3 year old daughter? Why doesn’t she deserve your prayers?

    let’s worry about those in the pews who are being led astray by the wolves. It can take years for them to figure out it is a cult. And by then a lot of damage is done to family’s. Especially the kids.

    BTW: Doesn’t CJ KNOW better? If not, why not? His type was written about in Acts 20. And other places.

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    Dear Mr. Greatly Exaggerated,

    One of the common tricks of hyper-authoritarian leaders is to question the salvation of Christians who disagree with them.

    That you would pass judgement on our humble blog queens only underscores your GREATLY EXAGGERATED perspective of yourself.

    Didn’t you read C.J.’s book on Humility?

    If you are going to question another Christian’s salvation, perhaps you should be MORE grateful to our Savior for your own.

    Dr. Jon

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    Excellent points, Dr. Jon!


    You need to re-post your book review of Humility for our newer readers, which your accurately labeled “False Humility, True Hypocrisy”. Even Mark Dever admitted that C.J. Mahaney is NOT humble.

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    As usual, an excellent comment!

    The ONLY reason for this post is compassion for the victims of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Dee and I will NEVER take our eyes off the victims…

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    To our gentle readers

    We apologize for the lack of manners exhibited by “Exaggerated.” There is a rumor flying around that SGM is beginning an offensive to defend their….how shall I say it…”notorious” name. I shall call it the SGM Summer Offensive on Bloggers (SSOB).

    Now here is how it works. He (she, but most likely he, since women don’t get to speak much at SGM) is far more concerned about CJ than anyone who has been abused. Interestingly, he could have said pray for SGM or pray for those in pain. Nope, pray for the apostle himself, the one who led this group of churches down this ridiculous path.

    If one leaves an SGM church, the person’s faith is called into question. Note-he uses this tactic with us. I guarantee you that he is been taught to think this way during the regular koolaid sessions down at the cult farm.So being the obedient learner, he pulls this tactic on us. I wonder how it feels when people don’t sit back and drink the koolaid. Oh yeah-when someone pushes back… “I’m outta here.” Such a lovely, mannerly group of folks-ain’t they?

    Also, note the name calling. We will wear it as an emblem of honor. Warthog Witchhunters….novel, yet lacking in subtlety. BTW, are these the hogs that sniff out truffles in France? Do you know how much truffles cost these days????

    Note that he likes the Ergun Caner stuff. Why? Well, ol Ergun had a thing about Calvinists. So, go after Caner but do not touch the anointed Calvinista head of Mahaney.

    Lydia has nailed this one down. There is no compassion for those who have been desperately harmed by these religionists.There is a superficial pretense of concern but it never really pans out since that is not the intent. This person could care less about a little girl who was abused.

    The SGM Refuge “compliment”is a pile of malarkey and meant to obfuscate what is going on. So to all our blogging friends out there-watch out. The SSOB has begun!

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    You ask a good question about why some of CJ’s friends don’t confront him on the questions of polity where there is disagreement.

    Dever, for example, in his 9 Marks and other writings says that a healthy church is led by a plurality of elders, but he clearly says that the elders should be elected by the congregation. Dever even goes so far as to say that even though there are elders, decisions should be made by the congregation, not the elders.

    Apparently, SGM churches don’t follow Dever’s teaching on what constitutes a healthy church.

    This leads me to conclude that people like Dever, McArthur, Piper etc. probably know that CJ’s churches don’t follow their models, but that what unites them is not local church polity. I have had friends who attend T4G, and they have said that polity is not something they have discussed.

    Also, they probably know that there are disagreements in this area, but they probably have not plumbed the depths of those disagreements. And they probably have no idea of how those churches are run practically. And if they do, they probably attribute a lot of dysfunction to each local situation.

    Maybe they shouldn’t do this. But that’s the most logical explanation to me.

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    “Warthog Witchhunters” – LOL!!!

    Hey, we’ve been called worse, haven’t we? “Wartberg Witches”, as I seem to recall…

    Do the SGM sycophants really think we’re intimidated by name-calling?

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    I would have agreed with you a year ago. Unfortunately, all Piper, et. al have to do is google sgm and the sites pop up one after another dealing with issues of abuse. The stories at these sites name the various churches and the numbers of named churches are growing regularly.Why? Because the authoritarianism is growing with each new graduate of pastors college and each new “adoption.”

    I have to figure that the big boys do not want to read about the abuses because they would then be morally bound to do something about it. There is a reason they are sticking with CJ. I fear the reasons are not good and may have something to do with their own views of themselves as “controlling” leaders, conferences and book sales ($$$), etc.

    Frankly, it is time that someone like a Piper give Mahaney a kick in the proverbial pants. I am tired of them lollygagging around with this nonsense. If this stuff continues, Michael Spencer’s prediction of the death of evangelicalism may come sooner than we think. This is not Christianity-it is cultish, weird, abusive, etc.

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    Hey Man Behind the Curtain

    Please add Warthog Witchhunters to the category “What the world is saying about TWW.

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    You know that name calling is the last refuge for the unimaginative. Poor dear-he just doesn’t know any better.

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    That is a great read!!!! LOL

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    I did not know the rest of the story on Chan. That deserves a read and perhaps a post. Thanks for alerting is to it.

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    Great comment, Anonymous!

    Mahaney and Dever spoke at the first ever 9 Marks Conference held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary last September. During his talk, Mahaney bragged that he had attended Capitol Hill Baptist Church and had voted along with the congregation on a business matter, even though he wasn’t a member. He thought it was a hoot, and he made it clear that he differs with Dever on this “mark” of a healthy church.

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    Hey Dr. Jon
    Remember when that thoughtful”leader” said to you…”Well, I don’t question your salvation.” We didn’t even know the subject was up for discussion.

    I swear there is a book floating around somewhere that outlines these tactics. Wish I could get a copy but feel I have already read it from cover to cover.

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    New name -The Wartburg Trufflehunters. It would actually bring in more money than writing this blog.

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    I do not applaud this at all, and I think that the guys who are not in SGM should be more circumspect.

    I suspect that most of those guys do not read blogs at all. I know that my pastor thinks that blogs are a waste of time and that there is a lot of misinformation on them. And my pastor is not a well known speaker etc. He just says that with all that he has to do, that perusing blogs and trying to sort out and argue about opinions and goings on is not that productive for him.

    I can imagine that guys like Dever, Piper et al probably have the same mindset.

    I am not putting down blogs, at all. I enjoy them.

    But the guys we are talking about are just not that interested in them. So they don’t know about a lot of the stories that are out there.

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    Don’t you find it rather interesting that these leaders who may be critical of blogs have their own blogs and expect others to read them?

    Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever (9 Marks), Joshua Harris, etc.

    Most of them don’t allow comments though. It’s a one-way street because they have all the answers!

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    So you’re doing all of this research and posting for free?

    To our dear readers:

    Dee and I love our Christian brethren so much that we spend countless hours each week researching trends within Christendom to keep our readers informed. We do the work so you don’t have to. Our prayer is that it’s making those who read here more discerning. We should all strive to be Bereans.

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    That last time I bought Truffle Pate it was 15 bucks a pound. And that was a long time ago.

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    Anonymous, That is not really how it works. Sounds good and pious, though. However, They have people who do make the rounds and check up on what is being said out there. The mega’s I worked with years back had full time media people and is all they did. Scour all media sources for any references at all to not only their church and leadership but denominational information, etc.

    I happen to know that one thing many of them do is have a person google every day for references, etc. They also have a list of blogs that are checked daily by their people. They ignore a lot of stuff but it also helps them formulate communications.

    Had it not been for blogs, I doubt Piper would have gone to so much trouble to answer his blog critics concerning Rick Warren? Such examples are endless. Blogs even give them sermon ideas. :o)

    And Deb is right…many of them have blogs and they have people who administer them. They have milieu control. But that is also what they hate about blogs and why you have seen resolutions against blogs and preaching on blogs as sinful and gossip. they do not like not having control of the information as they have had in the past.

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    You can join in our new venture, The Wartburg Trufflehunters since you seem to have a god sense for sniffing out, how shall we say, fungus in the church. 😉

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    I believe that many of the pastors and speakers who have blogs consider it an extension of their ministries. I don’t know that they read any blogs. And I am sure that they think the posting of comments and such would be distracting.

    Who knows.

    I did not follow carefully the Exaggerated guy above, but did notice one suggestion.

    I really do believe that a letter written to Al Mohler, Mark Dever and any others you think would be helpful about your concerns related to CJ would be a good thing. If it were not written as a piece of advocacy, but just as a concern – that they are associating with someone who runs churches in a way that is not NT (not a health 9 marks church) and has resulted in the abuse of people.

    I have only seen CJ, Dever and Mohler interact at the 9 Marks meetings at the convention one time. My sense of things was that CJ was way over matched intellectually (I think he admits that openly) and that he was not cut out of the same cloth.

    I get the impression the CJ admires Dever and Mohler very much.

    My hope is that CJ and “his churches”? would change and would have the 9 marks of a healthy church.

    But I do believe that a thoughtful letter written to Dever, Mohler etc. stating concerns could have some long term effect. Not immediate. But over time.

    I would write one myself, but I an not crisp on the details.

    One day, if I get the chance, I will speak with Dever or Mohler about this issue. But I am so far removed from the facts, even a simple question would throw me off on details. All I could say is I read it on a blog somewhere… I know how far that would get me in most places, but hopefully that won’t happen.

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    They would never post comments. That is not how they communicate. Most of the celebrity’s think that would be beneath them. However, I think it is naive to say they do not read blogs when I happen to know some well known celebrities that do. However, most have people who do that for them on a regular basis and report problems sometimes even printing out some comments.

    For those who approach the weekend services like a theatrical production, the message is coordinated. This means all forms of media and includes the blogs of leaders in the church.

    As to writing Mohler or Dever..it is a huge waste of time. Mohler’s position at SBTS has benfited financially from his dealings with CJ in more ways than just donations to the seminary.

    The waste of time is dealing with the celebrities. They know better but have bigger fish to fry and too much to lose.

    It is the pew sitter, the person who is being led astray and used by the celebrities that should be our focus and have our compassion. And we need to be there to encourage them and pick them up when they figure it out.

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    I believe you are correct. Also, John Piper has dropped out to get it together. Let’s see what happens there.

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    I guess I am having trouble believing that a high profile pastor would not do his homework. If they are that stupid, then they should not be in that position. But, I don’t think they are stupid. I think they are blind on purpose.

    Let me put it this way. I would never, ever enter a conference in which my name would be linked to, let’s see, a TD Jakes. Ed Young Jr does it and he knows full well this man’s history on Trinitarian doctrine.

    My guess is that Jakes would never, ever be invited to a Piper or Dever conference. Why? because they know about his doctrinal issues. Why would they know about that and not know about abuse allegations regarding SGM?

    Anonymous, they know. They don’t want to deal with it. It is too “icky” and will cause great upheaval and their alliance is far more important than some little girl who has been molested.

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    I guess you know that C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler are EXTREMELY close friends, especially Mahaney and Dever.

    Furthermore, Jim (a former Care Group Leader in SGM) who hosts SGM Refuge made this post over a year ago. Here it is in its entirety http://sgmrefuge.com/2009/05/27/does-anyone-want-to-tell-cj-your-story/:

    Does Anyone Want to Tell CJ Your Story?
    Jim on May 27th, 2009

    “5YearsinPDI had a good idea here.

    I think it’s a second option, if you’ve done everything you can to work things out directly with SGM first.

    Matthew 18 is pretty clear on this.

    I’ve been told by someone I trust that CJ is open to receiving a letter (or letters) from me expressing concerns about any unresolved issues with current or former members of SGM.

    The reformed big dog who reached out to us believes that CJ will not give weight to anonymous third hand accounts, but believes that CJ will do all that he can to encourage a proper response in situations in which people would be willing to identify themselves.

    I told this gentleman over two months ago that I had dozens (round number-I have no idea how many accounts are in my inbox) of accounts of pastoral abuse, which I would define as an abuse of authority.

    I simply don’t have the time to do what I had originally planned, which was to contact everyone individually, hence the online request.

    If anyone has an interest, please send me a note. I’ll answer every question I can. jim@sgmrefuge.com.”


    Some former SGM members wrote letters, and I think some actually heard back from C.J. However, it appears that nothing of any consequence has happened after all this time.

    Honestly, what good do you think a letter from a non-SGM members like Dee and myself would do? That’s why we post openly about the problems that have come to our attention.

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    Which is strange since it is a much celebrated comp marriage. Too bad other comp husbands in the pews cannot afford to “tend their gardens” without pay for 6 months. Ministry pays well.

    It is too bad that Noel could not be his total equal partner in ministry.

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    Hello. I like your blog. I appreciate your commitment to ferreting out the facts. But I didn’t read Exaggerated’s posts as necessarily apologetic towards the Ceej. Full disclosure: I attended a SGM church for about 7 years. I haven’t been to one in about 3 years. I don’t care for CJ or SGM’s style. But this took a while. In fact, I had to read SGM Survivors for a number of months and, indeed, evolve in my thinking. When someone like Exaggerated comes along I would respectfully recommend that you give him/her a little more kid gloves treatment. In my case, even though I had left the SGM church because of discomfort with legalism, a rebellious streak that wouldn’t allow me to submit in the way called for by the care group context, a problem with the personality cult/”humility” introductions of leaders, the hour long music/”worship,” and doubts about more orthodox beliefs, I still had a soft spot for my old church and defended it. Perhaps that’s what Exaggerated is doing. When he/she raises the legitimate point about praying for CJ, the point was completely ignored and met with the obfuscating reference to the obviously tragic, terrible, and totally depraved circumstances surrounding the treatment of Noel and her family.

    Anyhow, just my $.02. And with that said, I like what you folks do here.

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    Surly Boy,

    Thanks for your heartfelt comment, and welcome to The Wartburg Watch! Tomorrow I will be discussing hyper-authoritarianism in general. Hope you’ll come back and comment. Blessings!

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    “When someone like Exaggerated comes along I would respectfully recommend that you give him/her a little more kid gloves treatment”

    Surly boy, blame it on me. I used to be part of the problem. I know the play book inside and out. And I know that if it were not for the folks sticking their heads in the sand or not wanting to look “mean”, these wolves could not operate. And the jerks who were trained by CJ would not have told Noel’s and her husband to forgive the boy who molested their 3 year old..the minute they found out! That means, forgive right away and do not call the police. They would handle it. I mean, after all, it was just a little girl. Don’t you feel safe with CJ’s trained pastors looking out for the welfare of your kids? The examples of spiritual abuse are endless out there.

    Dee and Deb are very nice. But I have a lot to repent for and my focus is to warn people and point out the illogical thinking of so many when it comes to the wolves and hirlings leading so many astray in these cults.

    BTW: Exaggerated was using some of the techniques we used to train staff and new members to use when people critisized or complained about mega churches.

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    Hi Surly

    First, thank you for your kind comments. We appreciate it when someone not only reads our blog but takes the time to comment, even if it is in disagreement with us. Welcome. You don’t sound as surly as your name implies.

    What if I know there is an agenda behind a comment? Sometimes it is hard for other readers, especially new ones, to see behind comments that we get. However, due to some hard earned experience we have an idea when things are not what they seem. “Exaggerated”‘s comments followed a well described pattern that has been all too typical of certain SGM apologizers. I also had some other info outside of the comment that led me to think things we not what they seemed. Some of our regular readers picked up on it as well.

    I survived a terrible situation at another church which involved a pedophile who harmed a significant number of kids, badly. My first and foremost concern is always with the victims of abuse. And, unfortunately, SGM seems to have spawned a fair number of those who claim abuse. So, when I read a comment that seems to feel more sorry for the wealthy and idolized leader of a movement that has allowed for what appears to be significant pain, guess who I spend most of time praying for? CJ is adored, loved, fawned over and prayed for time and time again. I, too, have prayed for him. But, an abused child, is hardly remembered in the same fashion. Guess how often ol CJ is prayed for in all of the conferences he speaks at? Tons and tons. How many of those people at those conferences took the time to pray for a little abused child?

    Also, I pray for every subject and person that we write about on this blog. I prayed for CJ when I was listening to him at the SGM church. It could appear to be condescending to assume that such prayers are not being said. For example, I would assume that you would be praying for CJ, your old church, and even what you wrote here.I would assume that now that you know about the little child who was abused that you will pray diligently for her and her family.

    I do not presume to think that people are not praying. The reason that I “obfuscated” as you indicated was to feed back to him the exact statement he made to me. It wasn’t obfuscating whatsoever. It was playing back his own words in a different context.He told me to pray, assuming that I hadn’t (of course, he also said that I might not be a Christian. something I would not assume one way or the other about him), so I wanted him to hear his words said back to him.

    I hope to reach folks who come to this blog and sometimes reflecting a person’s comment back to them might help them to see their shortsightedness along with baseless assumptions.My response was most deliberate. I was saying, THINK.

    Perhaps this helps. Blessings

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    On a more personal note” why do you assume that it was a “rebellious streak” that wouldn’t allow you to submit to your care group leaders? I have lead small groups for years. Never, in this lifetime, would I assume that anyone in my group would need to “submit” to me.

    These groups should be a meeting of the priesthood which is on even footing. Just because I “led” the group doesn’t mean I was some sort of official. I saw such a group as a meeting of the priesthood in which I had as much to learn as any other member.

    Perhaps you weren’t “rebellious.” Perhaps there was weirdness that deserved to be pushed against. In my groups, I enjoyed the people who pushed back the most. They were the ones who really wanted to grow and wouldn’t take sappy, pat answers.

    I pray that you have found a place where instead of being thought of as rebellious, you are thought of as one who wants to be “iron sharpening iron.”

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    Yes, in Acts 14, “appointed,” means, “hand stretching,” as to vote, but practically, there was most likely not a vote taken, since the elders, in this passage, were appointed by Paul, Barnabas, and Derbe, two of which were apostles. So, there was no vote taken by a congregation. The three were most likely in agreement with whom they should appoint.

    In Titus, Paul instructs Titus, another apostle, to appoint elders. This word means to, “set.”

    So, there is no biblical basis that I’m aware of where the congregation votes on elders. However, in Acts, those who would serve the table, later known as deacons, I believe, were chosen by the congregation, not appointed.

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    You are one of those who smell it a mile away and I mean that in the nicest way! 🙂

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    On a practical note, I believe a good rule of thumb concerning authority is this: One’s authority does not extend beyond the borders of his responsibility.

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    Thank you for your comments.

    Have you ever been in a church in which the elders were simply the pastors, “boys?” I know one church in which the pastor brags that the elders have only disagreed with him twice in 28 years. So, are elders simply cheerleaders?

    This places far too much power in a pastor. Pastors are still sinners and can make some serious mistakes. I think it is getting very nit picky to point out one small example and say that is exactly what was intended for the church.

    I believe in congregational input and voting. The priesthood of the believer is part of the checks and balances that God has provided to prevent “pastors gone bad.”

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    Ah, but what does one do with the pastors, such as the ones at SGM, who actually believe that they have watch over our souls, are our covering, and will give an account for the state of our souls in the hereafter? If one actually believes this, then one could claim “absolute authority.” Thus we have the “proof” to allow hyper-authoritarian nut jobs run churches.

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    Dee, It takes one (former one) to know one. :o)

    Michael, Who gets to decide the borders?

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    Thank you for your response.

    Yes, Dee, I left a church almost two years ago where the pastor was a liar and the deacons, (who really functioned like elders), were a bunch of pansy yes men who would not disagree with the pastor, checking their brains in at the door. One of them said, “Well, if the pastor and the executive pastor prayed about it and believe that’s what we should do, then that’s good enough for me.”

    They were all placed in their positions of leadership by a congregational vote.

    I agree with your statements that pastors have too much power and that they are sinners and can make serious mistakes. I would add to that; those in the congregation are sinners, as well, and are also prone to make mistakes.

    I do believe in the wisdom of many, but in a congregation that does not realize their priesthood and their intrinsic authority as believers, they are subject to, “group think,” and, “group dynamics,” and are easily manipulated to vote in favor of what the pastor or elders want. Most people do not want to stand in the congregation and disagree with the pastor because their need to connect is stronger than their need to be right.

    Whether one is appointed as an elder or voted in as an elder, it is his job to oversee with integrity and hold both the congregation and the pastors accountable. The mistake that I have seen them make is that they wrongly believe their first role is to protect the pastor, as opposed to serving the congregation.

    Finally, you think I am being nit picky? Let’s recap; Lydia is the one who pointed out one place where, “appointed,” means to stretch out the hand, implying that because of one small example, congregations should vote on their elders. I clarified that one example to show that there was no congregational vote there; it was three people, two of which were apostles. Furthermore, I added another example in Titus, where Paul instructs Titus, another apostle, to appoint elders, making that two examples.

    So, I have a few questions: Are you going to call Lydia’s one small example, “nit picky,” too? Do you believe that voting somehow makes elders fulfill their role better? I’ve provided two examples where elders were appointed without a congregational vote. Can you provide a biblical example of elders being voted in by the congregation?

    I agree with your premise that pastors need accountability, because they do go bad. However, I’m not going to make up my own way of doing things, that have no biblical basis, as a solution. The solution is to operate with loving confrontation, when needed, and mutual submission. The congregation needs to know their own authority and understand that the authority of leaders extends only to the boundaries of their responsibilities; no further.

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    Obviously, my comment was made for the benefit of those in congregations with hyper-authoritarian nut jobs as pastors and leaders.

    What do you do? I believe that many in the congregation know that something is wrong; they just don’t know what it is. It is the duty of those who do know the error to teach and inform the others, as long as they are in a position to influence. That’s what I did, until God allowed me to be removed from that congregation. Now I just pray that the leaders and those in the congregation will see the truth.

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    I apologize. It was late and I should have gone to bed and answered in the morning. What I meant is the following. The Bible has many verses. I find that some pastors use one verse and make a whole doctrine and list of activities based on it.

    Here is what I meant to say. I am not sure that the one verse quoted can be used to categorically state that congregational voting is not supported by the Bible.

    Lydia just elaborated on what the meaning of that word can be (stretch out). It never ceases to surprise me that folks can create whole ministries based on one word. For example, an insistence that the word “yom” means a literal 24 hour day when it has 58 different meanings throughout Scripture has launched a bazillion courses and books on an insistence that, to be a true Christian, one must believe thusly.

    I believe that insistence on such interpretations has created untold misery and divisions throughout Christendom. Case in point: Mark Dever has stated that he would not allow Ligon Duncan, a colleague to take communion is his church because he (Duncan), as a Calvinist, believes in infant baptism.

    Although I profess believer’s baptism, I would not hesitate one minute in sharing communion with someone who holds to infant baptism.

    I hope this serves to better express my thoughts on this matter. I should not have used the word nitpick since it has a pejorative connotation that I did not intend. Please forgive me.

    As for an example, I uphold to the priesthood of the believer and attend churches where such a vote is considered Biblical. I do not believe that pastors have a corner on the spiritual market and that the pastor should be a servant and not a ruler by fiat. I see nothing in Scripture that would lead me to believe otherwise.Do you think that all of those churches are behaving outside of Scriptural thought?

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    I recognize that I should defer to your experience in regularly dealing with SGM apologists and probably assumed too much good faith on Exaggerated’s behalf. Again, however, I was struck that my approach was much the same when first encountering SGM Survivors and that I needed to evolve, so to speak, in my analysis and understanding of the problems with SGM.

    I think my choice of the words “rebellious streak” was poor and that my sneaking suspicions about the conduct of care groups was actually more like you describe, Dee. My use of the word “submit” was likewise not the most appropriate term, although I do think leadership at my SGM church would characterize their near requirement to participate in care groups as submission to their authority or right to require participation for the “care of my soul.” I suspect that this approach is consistent across the SGM board, as it were.

    Lydia, not blaming ( : Just my initial off the cuff response to what, again, was my own evolution in thinking.

    Once more, I do enjoy the blog. I think I too initially came here from a link regarding the Ergun Caner fiasco but have very much more interest in the analysis of SGM doctrine. I look forward to the post on hyper-authoritarianism.

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    I, too, faced an intolerable church situation. I first tried to confront it. Useless except for a few changes that helped some poor kids. The structure didn’t change and the manner in which I, along with others, was treated was bordering on abusive. My response? The Wartburg Watch.

    Seeing pastors and elders behaving like that opened my eyes to the nonsense out there. I used to be a Pollyanna Christian because the churches that I attended handled things so well. God showed me things up close and personal. I would never have believed some of the stories that we write about here unless it happened to me first.

    Funny thing, I am actually glad that God allowed me to go through that circumstance because it changed my vision for my life. Hence, you and I are communicating which wouldn’t have happened if those awful things had never happened.

    Thank you for your comments.

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    Surly Boy,

    We welcome you to our very open forum. Since you have expressed interest in Sovereign Grace Ministries, perhaps you haven’t been here long enough to realize that we have written extensively on SGM and C.J. Mahaney. Just check under “Categories” for the many articles we have written.

    As you have demonstrated through your comment, SGM has a language all its own. I’ve never been in SGM, but I have researched the ministry extensively and have learned some of the buzz words. Do any of these sound familiar?

    “standing in the very stead of God”

    “watching over one’s soul”

    “bring an observance”


    “submission” and “submit”

    “SGM is NOT a denomination but a ‘family of churches'”

    “charismatic and reformed”

    “apostolic leadership”

    Can you think of others?

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    Thanks Deb.

    Aside from the first and third phrases you note, I very much recall the others as their use was ubiquitous at my old SGM church.

    Others I recall are:

    “How are you doing?”, one is asked, to which one is programmed to respond, “Better than I deserve.”

    Use of the term “the Savior” to the near total exclusion of “Jesus” or “Christ.” (Really just mimicking everything CJ says/does, including his particular phraseology, which is a topic all its own).

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    If you have ever been around ex Amway people and listened to them describe their experiences, it sounds so much like the structure and thinking of SGM that it is scary.

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    Please read my comment to you which I just added to “R U ‘UNDER CEEJ'” having to do with MLM.

    Honestly, I didn’t see this comment before writing that one to you. We are definitely on the same wavelength. Must be the Holy Spirit.


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    Thanks for your response. Maybe I got my feathers ruffled a little bit with the words, “nit picky.” I accept your apology and it’s really no big deal. Thanks.

    My original post to Lydia was just to bring clarity regarding the passage she used, both affirming her correct Greek meaning, but pointing out that this would not be a good verse to use to give validity to congregational election of elders. I also pointed out that the congregation did, in fact, choose deacons. However, I did not make a declaration of what I thought would be appropriate in churches today.

    It’s hard for me to begin because I consider the church so out of line with what God intended. First, it boggles my mind that the New Testament only mentions the word, “pastor,” one singular time, yet that office seems to be so over-emphasized in church today. Even in the list it’s in, in Ephesians, it’s second to last. He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;…(for how long?)…until we all attain to the unity of faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

    Don’t the saints still need equipping? Do we all have the unity of faith? Are we all mature? If not, don’t we still need the apostle, prophet, evangelist, and teacher, as well as the pastor?

    Also, when you look at scripture, elders, not pastors were appointed to oversee the church. I know, some seminary-brainwashed student will say they are synonymous. If you look at the verses where elders are instructed to shepherd, (derived from the word meaning feed or pastor), shepherd is always or almost always a verb, making it a function, not a noun, making it an office. For example, just because I patrol or police my neighborhood as a participant in my neighborhood watch program, it doesn’t make me a policeman. You would not say my action is synonymous with an employment position.

    So, churches fall short of recognizing that some offices still even exist, much less recognize and place the positions in the church, allowing them to adequately function. And because the church is taught incorrectly that elders and pastors are synonymous,…(Taught by whom? Pastors, of course),…we have pastors running the show with undo authority, instead of elders, who are mature men in the Lord. I have much more to say, but I’ll leave it at that.

    Having said all that, even though elders were appointed by apostles in the early church, it would be hard to do that today if a church doesn’t even believe apostles exist today.

    So, to conclude my response to your question, no, I do not believe that churches who vote to elect elders are outside of Scriptural thought. I think we could all improve our thinking in this area, though.

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    Great question. God decides the borders of responsibility because He places those in authority. However, it is the responsibility of the priesthood of believers to know where those borders lie and to use their authority to make sure they are not violated.

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    You are doing the church a great service, which probably would not be happening unless the church situation reared its ugly head. I’m sorry for the past pain. But, please keep up the good work and try to extend your influence.

    For nine years I had the privilege of singing in hundreds of churches all across the country. Most of them were Southern Baptist churches, but I also sang in a lot of Calvary Chapels and other evengelical churches. After talking to so many people in those churches, as well as ministers of music, and dealing with many pastors, I like to think I have a unique perspective concerning the church in America.

    You are right, there is a lot of nonsense out there, so I’m glad that this blog is a voice bringing insight and correction to much of the stinkin’ thinkin’ out there.

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    So, you have seen it, too! You know why they are alike? Because it is typical cult tactics.

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    How do yoiu know these men would not respond and why are they dubbed celebrities and thus think things are beneath them?

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    I know because they have not responded to the wealth of information available to them. If they are involved in conferences with those of similar minds, it behooves them to check out what in the world is going on with there co-laborers.

    I have come to believe the “see no evil” approach is used by many in ministry in order to have plausible deniability. I know of churches in which the staff protects the pastor from learning of awkward sin in their churches so that they can continue to present “best foot forward.” I know of pastors who actually bury sin in order to “protect the church.”

    In this day and age, with the internet available to all, a wise leader would do some research prior to involving himself with anybody. And I don’t buy “they are just too busy going about the Lord’s work.” The Bible clearly admonishes that their are false prophets. It also clearly states that all have fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore, it should be a priority to know who one’s co-teachers are.

    Ed Young Jr allows TD Jakes in his pulpit. Are you telling me that he doesn’t know that Jakes has a problem with the Trinity? The same goes for all of the guys that co-labor with Mahaney. They know or don’t want to know.

    As for being dubbed “celebrities” -here is one example. What do you think about some of these guys autographing Bibles?

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    I think it is the motive behind signing the Bible. I am no celebrity and was never a mega church pastor but have on occasion signed a Bible at the request of a child or young person I baptized or who may have come to Christ undedr my ministry. I was not a hero to them but they loved their pastor.

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    Thank you for taking the time to comment on our blog. I am so glad that you have been loved by those whom you serve so diligently. They are blessed.

    I, too, have a Bible given to me by a pastor. It is signed on a page that says: To:
    From: Occasion: As a pastor, I actually think you know what I am driving at. When the ESV Bible came out, it was the rage at conferences to get Piper, et al to sign it. Even Piper has begun to express reservations about this practice (before he went on leave).

    The goal of this blog is not to talk about sweet practices such as giving a kid a Bible. It runs far deeper than that to an underlying personality cult that is becoming obvious to many.You are probably a fine pastor who has not seen this sort of nonsense. I, too, used to think that this stuff was a bit exaggerated until I had my own epiphany.

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    Some of us know it from working in that world.It amazes me how many people think the stage persona is that person. I am constantly amused at young men who get to shake the hand of their favorite Christian celebrity and will talk about what a real nice guy he is. He does not even know the person!

    There is a carefully crafted persona and image at work. In some circles the word ‘branding’ is even used in marketing the celebrity as a ‘brand’.

    People do not think this goes on in the reformed circles but it does.

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    John, Just one more thing…it is a small thing that communicates volumes if you think about it:

    The celebrities, which includes mega church pastors, Christian authors, etc who draw the crowds, always travel with several people usually young men. (Some even have body guards that are in plain clothes) These young men are called “walkers” in the vernacular and their one job is to regulate who and when people can talk to the celebrity. (You need this backstage as well as on stage at conferences)

    The celebrity never wants to look rude because of his celebrity status. So, he brings someone along to be rude for him. The walker is to say, “we have to go” when the celebrity is talking to another tiresome fan clamoring to have his bible signed by the great one.

    I know quite a few mega church pastors who NEVER walk alone from their office to the sanctuary. They would not dare. And when the celebrities come to give seminars or conferences, many will have walkers assigned from the hosts if they did not bring their own. Most bring their own.

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    Can you please provide Biblical proof of your accusations against SGM… I’m particularly interested in your defense of the following:

    “In addition, the “elders” of each church are selected by the leaders, not the church members. This is NOT Biblical!”

    Thank you.

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    Which part do you want us to prove? That the elders are selected by leaders or that this is not a Biblical practice?

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    You asked for a defense of the following statement:

    “In addition, the “elders” of each church are selected by the leaders, not the church members. This is NOT Biblical!”

    Obviously, you disagree with my statement. Before I share the evidence, I’m curious why you have challenged this point. Are you in SGM?

    The following link takes you to an article on SGM Polity (written by Dave Harvey) which was posted almost two years ago over at SGM Refuge.


    In order to demonstrate the validity of my claim that elders in SGM are appointed instead of being elected by the congregation, check out the following footnote in Dave Harvey’s booklet on SGM Polity.

    “14. Grudem, 925-926. (Sovereign Grace believes that it is apostolic ministry, not the congregation, which selects and ordains elders for the local church.)”

    For more information, go to the above link.

    Clearly, SGM congregations DO NOT select their church elders. I believe this is unbiblical.

    The following is an excerpt taken from an article on church government (along with the link). I believe this is the Biblical method for selecting elders, as explained in Acts 6.


    “Acts 6 reveals that explosive church growth resulted in problems of administration of food for the needy. The twelve apostles were simply too busy with the preaching ministry to “cover all the bases.” Notice how they dealt with the problem. First of all, verse 2 tells us they “summoned the multitude of the disciples.” In other words, they got the whole Church together. They then explained the problem and enlisted the entire Church membership to provide the solution. “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:3). The apostles asked the membership to select seven men to serve as deacons. Although the apostles made the selections official by ordination, the members “nominated” the candidates. Perhaps the apostles could have exercised a “veto,” but in any event the entire membership selected the seven men. To put it in modern terms, they “voted.”

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    For those of you who may be wondering about the current state of affairs within Sovereign Grace Ministries, you might want to take a look at the current posts over at SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge.

    Here are the links:



    KingsWay held a family meeting last Sunday night, and there were some shocking revelations to say the least. SGM Survivors provides a synopsis and SGM Refuge has poignant comments regarding what took place.

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    Acts 6 should not be used as an example for appointing elders, since they were appointing deacons, (waiters), not elders. This could be used as a basis for church congregations choosing deacons.

    On the contrary, In Acts 14, it was Paul and Barnabas who appointed elders in every church. Titus was to have appointed elders in every city, as mentioned in Titus 1. So, it would seem more biblical to have apostles, not the congregations, appoint elders, since Paul both did it and instructed it to be done.

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    Do you believe in apostolic succession? If not, how do we prevent getting elders that become the pastor’s boys like one church I know? My current church elects the elders and people in the church can make proposals for the elders.

    Also, how do we know that this must be applied to today’s churches? Did they not appoint the elders in the beginning of the early church to have some form of accountability and governance while the local churches were being established? Once things were off and rolling, why couldn’t the local church elect the elders?

    I know of one church that was a church plant from another church. The church was set up with a pastor. However, after a period of time, as the congregation became established, they decided that the founding pastor was no longer effective for the particular needs of that church and they hired another.

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    I know you don’t like hyper-authoritarian situations, so I am looking forward to your response.

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    No, I don’t believe in apostolic succession. The church I left had deacons, (no elders), who were voted on by the congregation. Today, I talked to the chairman of deacons at Two Rivers BC, when all that mess was happening. Their congregation nominates and votes on who becomes deacons. (They don’t have elders either). Obviously, nominating and voting on deacons or elders does not provide any immunity from the deacons or elders becoming the pastor’s boys. Likewise, just because an elder was appointed by some individual, it does not mean he will be the pastor’s boy. Bottom line, although it seems intuitive, there is not necessarily a cause and effect relationship between the method of appointment and the appointee’s loyalty.

    It very well may have been that governance needed to be established because the churches were just getting up and running. And I don’t see any prohibition in scripture that prevents a congregation from electing elders.

    But let’s be consistent here. Deb used Acts 6 as a foundational scripture to validate her belief that, “elders,” should be elected by the congregation. I pointed out that they were not electing elders but deacons. Acts 6 is just an historical account of what happened. No one was ever instructed after that to repeat the process. However, my references in Acts 14 and Titus 1 show an example of apostles appointing elders and then instruction to Titus to appoint elders. I would think that if you were going to hang your hat on Acts 6, and form a belief, how much more should you be hanging your hat on my references as to how elders are appointed. And if your going to bring into question alternatives to the method used to appoint elders, how much more could and should you be considering alternatives for that one singular passage in Acts 6, concerning how deacons are elected?

    Having said all that, I think the emphasis is wrong. The emphasis is not on the method but in getting the elders in place. You know what’s ironic. So few churches even have elders. See how prevalent it was for the apostles and elders to jointly decide on issues in the church in Jerusalem. It seems that the elders had as much say as the apostles. Yet, in today’s church the majority of churches have neither apostles nor elders. And let’s not forget about prophets, evangelists, and teachers. So, is it any wonder that the church is messed up and out of order? Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers were ALL given for the equipping of the saints. How will the saints get equipped if we don’t even acknowledge some of these in the body, including elders? Is there some scripture that says we’re in a new dispensation where only pastors are used to equip the saints, going forward?

    Finally, for clarification, I do not use elders and pastors as interchangeable. That’s a faulty assumption that many make, in my opinion.

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    You are so thorough in you answers! I am amazed that your previous church didn’t listen to you. It just shows how sinful pastors and leaders can be.

    I don’t have the experience that you do. However, the two churches that I have been in which they carefully sought input from the congregation in the selection of elders were the two churches that I found functioned the best. The elders were approachable, listened carefully and responded appropriately.Neither of those churches could be described as having elders that were the pastor’s boys. Yet, they, of course, supported them.Its funny. Those churches were the ones where I most loved the pastors as well.

    Another church that I was in pretended to have congregational input but it was just the same old, same old rotating on and off. They were definitely the pastor’s boys.

    Now, one of those good churches had the lead pastor function as one of the elders but the group was large and said pastor did not dominate the group. In fact, said pastor often referred to the elders as his “bosses.”

    I do have a question for you. Do you know how it developed that some churches have both of the offices of elder and deacon and some do not? Both are outlined clearly in Scripture.

    Funny aside. One church I know has a whole mess of deacons. Their major function is to park cars and set up chairs. My husband and I used to laugh about this role. He said he could never be a deacon because we are always late for church and he would never be there in time to fulfill the sacred office of car parking.

    Anyway, I am back in one of those good churches that I described. I feel like I have surfaced to the air after swimming underwater for so long.

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    “However, my references in Acts 14 and Titus 1 show an example of apostles appointing elders and then instruction to Titus to appoint elders”

    I did a study on this a long while back and my memory is fuzzy but I do remember the Greek word for “appoint” described as meaning “hand stretching” as in voting. Could be a translator bias or there is another meaning for the word to mean choose.

    So, it could very well mean those instructions could have meant have the group decide…why? Because an elder would be the most spiritually mature and most would gravitate toward those anyway.

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    Some day you must write a book that outlines your thinking. You are a rare woman and have so much to offer others. Put me down for the first 20 copies.

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    Yes, the word in Acts does mean to stretch out the hand as to vote. I answered this in a previous post that I can’t find. But, “they,” in “they appointed,” refers to Paul, Barnabas, and Derbe. So, they might have come into some type of agreement as to who would be elders in each church. But the passage gives no indication that the congregations, themselves, appointed or voted; it was the three men mentioned above.

    Titus uses a different Greek word translated appoint that just means to set or place. Titus was given the instructions to appoint.

    I’m not going to be dogmatic about what should occur today. There are no instructions about how elders should be appointed in churches. But, in my opinion, they should be appointed, somehow. And they should function as such and not be called deacons or function as such.

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    In Acts 14 the word is :cheirotoneo
    from a comparative of G5495 and teino (to stretch);

    to be a hand-reacher or voter (by raising the hand), i.e. (generally) to select
    or appoint:–choose, ordain.

    In Titus 1 the Greek is: kathistemi
    to place down (permanently), i.e. (figuratively) to designate, constitute,
    convoy:–appoint, be, conduct, make, ordain, set.

    So, once again, we see different instructions. Of course, I could imagine things were very different in Crete where we get the word “Cretans” and Paul has some choice things to say about them :o)

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    You mentioned one pastor referred to the elders as his bosses. I think you posted earlier that it was Pete Briscoe. He sounds like a humble man. I wish there were more like him.

    I’m not much of a church history buff, so I don’t know when or why some churches had both and some had one or the other. I agree with you that they are outlined in scripture pretty clearly.

    That’s funny, “the sacred office of car parking.” What’s sad is that at so many churches, men that are low level deacons are called on to make elder level decisions regarding important matters of the church, and they simply lack the maturity and other qualifications to make those types of decisions. That’s part of the reason so many are victimized. They may be well-meaning, but they lack the wisdom of true elders.

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    This brings up the question of 1900 years later, who is qualified to “appoint” elders? Should elders beget elders? I know of many such structures and they breed disasterous ivory towers of arrogance and some nepotismic inbreeding. Church history can attest to that. Modern church history, too. Just think “Everson”.

    Just for grins: cheirotoneo is used in 2 Corin 8:19, 2nd Tim 4:22, Acts 14 and Titus 3:15 in the KJV.

    In the NAS only in Acts and 2 Corin.

    I would be interested in your view of how elders operate as overseers and what you think that entails.

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    Great questions. I have certainly thought about that some.

    I had a close friend visit this week, who has been a missionary in Indonesia these last seven years. During that time, they have started 30 house churches with new believers. The churches range from 4 to 12 people. Who should appoint elders here? Probably my friend, who is acting as an elder and overseer. His function, as he oversees these churches is to empower those facilitating the teaching of God’s word in the churches. There are also many other functions, probably too numerous to count.

    With larger churches and more mature Christians, the appointment of elders might look completely different. Here, it would be an appointment more of convenience than necessity. And I have certainly been exposed to the politics, nepotism, arrogance, etc. Like I wrote earlier, I’m not going to be dogmatic on how they should be appointed. But, they should be appointed.

    There are new qualifications for elders now, did you hear?

    1. You have to be an author.
    2. You must be proficient in letting all the visitors know they can pick up your latest book for free at the information desk. It helps to put a picture of the book up on the screen for all to see.
    3. You have to be able to lie to the congregation and have dumbed them down enough for no one to be able to discern the lie.
    4. You have to affirm insecure men, so you can manipulate them to do all your dirty work, while they believe they’re doing God’s work.
    5. You have to be proficient in disempowering anyone who might be a godly leader, who might represent a threat of exposure of your bad doctrine.
    6. You have to be able to put on a fake, plastic smile and fool people into thinking you give a darn about them.
    7. You have to be able to exclude any person who is not white collar from potentially being a deacon or elder.
    8. You have to be narcissistic.
    9. You have to have messed up kids.
    10. You have to be able to never commit yourself to a controversal belief.
    11. You have to fund church growth by mountains of debt.
    12. You have to tell stories that happened in other countries or on airplanes that no one could ever validate.
    13. You have to work from someone else’s vision, instead of one given to you by the Holy Spirit.
    14. You have to make everyone else believe that you don’t struggle with any of the bad sins, so they can keep you on a pedestal.

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    I like this list. I may want to use it as the basis of a post if you wouldn’t mind.

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    Most of the elders in the megas I was involved with were millionaires. If not, they had some other claim to fame but were still very well off.

    In hindsight, I would have chosen one of the janitors in one mega who was much more spiritually mature than them all.

    BTW: A few blue collars were allowed to be deacons since at least 300 were needed to work the parking lot and pass the offering plate each weekend for the 4 services.

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    That’s fine.