The Irish Prophet at the Mercy of the “Shepherds”

“I have a very strong feeling the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.”         Leo Buscaglia





The Prodigal Prophet, Part 4


Since yesterday, when Deb and I had a moving time of fellowship with an old blogging friend, I have been musing about the role that love, or the lack of it, figures into spiritual abuse. Last Sunday, Jim Abrahamson, one of my pastors, taught on Galatians 5 and emphasized the role of empathy in the Christian walk. Here is link to the notes from that class at his site Apt to Teach.

Something Jim said came through loud and clear to me. One of the signs of a disciple is the ability and desire to empathize with the plight and journey of others. It is not something that is coerced or commanded. It flows out, sometimes most unexpectedly, from within us. This past week, I had such a moment. I truly felt sad for someone who was part of a group that caused me pain. In fact, I called and friend and said that I thought I had a fever because the feeling was so unexpected. I also wanted to follow through with an action to express this concern. So, this lesson came at the perfect time, both for this post and me.


The following is a short take on the lesson. You can read it in it's entirety at the above link.

Let your service be motivated by love not law (fear, guilt, etc.).

“Galatians 5:13 says “but through love serve one another.”


  1.  The focus is on our relationship with other Christians.
  2.  Love is defined by action (service).
  3. The motive for obedience under grace is love.


Galatians 5:14-15
” For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."

Matthew 7:12
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”

Therefore, let your love be deeply gentle.”

Practically, this means that, if you are truly compassionate, you will be able to see life from the other person’s point of view and you will be less inclined to hurt your brothers and sisters.



What does this have to do with Dylan Morrison’s story? Everything. Our programs, our missions, and our doctrines become so important that we forget to love one another. All too often, people, who show up at our church, become a means to end. For example, if we can get them tithe, the church can have big buildings and new missions. If they don’t do what the church asks, they are viewed as an impediment, to be discarded in order to concentrate on the “good and useful” people who will play ball with our agenda.

How often I have read stories at the Sovereign Grace survivors sites, as well as other groups, in which a person, who has questions for the pastors, is berated, denigrated, and heaped with accusations of sin and guilt. They are told to make the pastors’ lives easy so the pastors can do the important work of serving God. But is not that person the “important” work of God? (As an aside, Sovereign Grace Ministries has some ties to the shepherding movement being discussed in Dylan’s story).

How many of these people have walked away from the faith, refuse to go to church, or live in pain and depression? From where I sit, the answer appears to be "quite a few."

Somehow, in the midst of our agenda, we have forgotten the love. We don’t know each other and, if truth be told, we are way too busy with our little Bible studies, church meetings and committees to truly love and care for one another. We claim to serve a God of love, we claim to believe that we are supposed to love one another but, when push comes to shove, don’t many of us feel isolated and alone?

Perhaps one of the clearest signs of a church that has gone off-track and is even abusive is a lack of empathy for the feelings and lives of its members. This sort of church and church leader is more prone to use people to meet some undefined goals or objectives that are more self-serving as opposed to being “others” serving


I will highlight some of the signs of a spiritually abusive church as we continue to look at Dylan’s experience


1. Warped priorities: The agenda of the church or leader trumps the pain and suffering of its members.

One thing I really like about Dylan is his willingness to be vulnerable, even at his own expense. Many of us can learn from his transparency.

When his first baby arrived, his wife had severe postpartum depression. However, the shepherding ministry was too important to ignore, so Dylan spent more time helping the “church” than his wife. Of course, Dylan was under the coercive influence of his shepherd. Then, tragedy struck. His baby unexpectedly died soon after routine vaccinations. Both Dylan and his wife were profoundly devastated and turned to the church, especially Jake, the shepherd, for support.

But Jake was at some sort of conference. (What is it with these confounded conferences)?  He refused to return because this meeting was more important. A church conference trumped real ministry. This was Dylan’s first indication something was seriously amiss. ( I know Dylan is reading this and I want to express how sorry I am for the pain Za and he had at losing their first child. There is nothing worse than losing your child).


I know of a church situation, which profoundly affected how I view pastors with self-serving agendas. A group of teens were sadistically molested by a pedophile within the church. The day this came to light, in a very public way, a lead pastor in the church was away on sabbatical (well, actually on a cruise during the sabbatical). He did not return to the church for several months. Sure, he made a few ship to shore calls but quickly returned to the business at hand-a good tan. When asked about this response several months later, he said that he would not return to the church when he was on Sabbatical “even if the church was burning down!” This is the honest to gosh truth.

Here is a challenge. Watch your pastor over a period of time. Is he a person of empathy? If not, it is time to leave. You will only be a cog in his schemes.


2.The individual is only valuable when he/she meets the expressed or unexpressed agenda of the leaders. Conversely, the individual is expendable and viewed as useless whenever he/she does not fulfill said agenda.


Soon after the death of his baby, Jake tells Dylan to become accountable to another shepherd. Note the timing of this move. Charlie is in pain and he needs the love and support of his shepherd, Jake. He is expected to obey without question.

Dylan was in a group that believed in specific gifts of the Spirit. It was widely acknowledged within the group that he had the gift of prophecy. However, he was rarely permitted to use this gift. Apparently the leaders decided who could use their gift and when they could use it.


3. Legalism (Covenant Theology)/Rules are more important that the individual.

Dylan begins to question covenant theology as it is taught in the shepherding movement. He calls it “Deuteronomy dressed up in the New Testament.” He says the basic belief taught by his group is summed up in the following. “If a person obeys all the rules and lives a righteous life, God will bless you. If you sin, you will not receive God’s blessings.” He correctly perceives that he is in a works oriented group, which puts the members under the burden of the Law.

The shepherds are now arranging many of the marriages within this group. They also insist that everyone must tithe in excess of 10%.


4. Exclusivity: No other church understands them so they start their own denomination. Also, other churches begin to question their teachings and activities.

The Methodist church they are meeting in begins to express concern about the teachings of this group. The newspapers increasingly portray the group in a negative light. So they bought a dance hall in order to convert it into a church building.They want to start their own denomination. (Hey ex-SGMers-Is that like a family of churches)?

Sovereign Grace Ministries has had a number of concerns raised about their teachings via the blogosphere. It is very important for the average church attendee to research their church thoroughly before becoming a member. When concerns are raised, members should investigate if they are valid and refuse to pretend that they don't exist. Valid concerns are NOT gossip as some pastors would have you believe. That is a tactic used by abusive pastors to protect their ill-begotten agendas.


5. Coercive and cult-like tactics are masked as Biblical mandates. Corollary: Church building campaigns often bring out non-Biblical, agenda-driven teachings. (What is it with this building weirdness anyway?)

The church needed money to renovate the building. Jake began teaching about Old Testament Biblical vows. He said that if they gave all their cash to God, (read: the new building fund) then God would bless them and do whatever they wanted.
He improperly used the book of Nehemiah to link the rebuilding of the walls to their church building. He was able to coerce the members to devote excruciatingly long hours towards building renovation.

They also had an interesting accountability system for collecting the required tithes. The husbands and the singles would give their tithe checks to their shepherd who would hand carry them to the church. Then, leaders would call those who did not submit their tithes and ask for the money. Shades of Ed Young Jr.!


Jake started extended, late-night, prayer sessions that were required of all the members. This would make them very tired. Exhausted people are far more malleable and have little energy to question with the teaching or the teachers.

Dylan's Revelation


However, Dylan has an positive and thoughtful attitude as he assesses this difficult period of his life. He believed that God transcended this abusive, authoritarian system and reached out and blessed individuals with His presence. In other words, through the pain, he sensed God’s presence and peace. He would continue to experience this in the difficult struggles yet to come.

A number of years ago, The Pretenders produced an incredible song, “I’ll Stand By You.” It’s rather sad when those outside the church sometimes get it better than those who are supposed to be bearers of the Holy Spirit. We send this out to our Georgia blogging friend, Dylan, Michael, SGM survivors and to all of you who have experienced pain at the hands of an uncaring church. Please know that we, at TWW, will do our best to "stand by you." We care.




Lydia's Corner: Leviticus 25:47-27:13 Mark 10:32-52 Psalm 45:1-17 Proverbs 10:22



The Irish Prophet at the Mercy of the “Shepherds” — 10 Comments

  1. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Dee wrote:
    “I know Charlie is reading this and I want to express how sorry I am for the pain Carol and he had at losing their first child. There is nothing worse than losing your child.”


    I echo Dee’s sentiments. I was very saddened when I read your account of how you and your wife lost your young child. I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Thank you Deb for your kind words and prayers.

    I believe much stoicism exists in the religious world and the fear of questioning God holds many back from showing true compassion to the wounded other in their midst.

    May seeds of hope and new life result from my putting my story down on paper.

  3. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    I love that David cries out to God in the Psalms. “Why do the wicked prosper?!!”

    David knew that God wasn’t scared of our questions, our pain, our grief. God gave us feelings as a gift. It is so sad that we are scared of them ourselves. When we stuff them down, it seems all we are doing is lying to ourselves and just as bad, to God. He knows our feelings, our hurts and our pains even when we do not acknowledge them. Pretending that everything is OK so as not to offend God is like a child claiming they didn’t have any cookies when there is chocolate covering their faces.

    How much He loves us and delights in us talking with him and being with him! So good to be open with Him, even if, like David, we once in a while end up yelling at Him. He’s a big boy. He can take it.

  4. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Charlie, can I ask you how long it took you to put those words down on paper? From first thought of doing so until the final edit?

    It would help me a lot to know that.

    Thank you,

  5. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Hi Stunned

    I began writing in July 2009 shortly after I left Northern Ireland for Lincoln England – most of my writing was complete by mid September of that year.

    I’ve been editing it on and off since then – my publisher is doing a final edit before publication in a month or so.

    By the way I agree with your ideas on feelings – they have been made the enemy in Evangelicalism.



  6. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Charlie, I am going to be a pain here. (Not trying, but I seem to be able to do it without trying. Look Ma, no hands!) But I’m also curious how long you thought about writing your story before you actually did it. Was it 20 years? 10? 3 days? Or did you just think about it and do it? Or did you think about it for a long, long, long time, then do it?

    Sorry, rumminating on writing so cherish the thoughts of other writers.

  7. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127


    I’m equally curious about Charlie’s writing experience. Looking forward to his responses to your questions.

  8. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Hi Stunned and Deb

    One day a couple of years before I moved to Lincoln,England, just after my Divine hijacking, an inner Voice calmly informed me out of the blue – “You’ll write your story and call it ‘The Prodigal Prophet’.” I instantly knew it was God, but was still a Maths teacher at the time having written nothing since my own schooldays. I couldn’t see how it could ever happen but stored it away in the back of my mind.

    On moving to England the inner Voice told me to start writing – I felt like a religious weight had been removed and it was the time to fly so to speak – like a greyhound released out of its trap. The writing just flowed like a stream pouring out of my spirit – I somehow knew then that The Prodigal Prophet would touch folk all over the planet.

    As a young man I’d felt a prophetic call to the nations that had died during middle age. I have a wee feeling that TPP may be the fulfillment of that calling although clearly not the way I’d envisioned it.

    Hope this helps

  9. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    🙂 Thank you, Charlie, it does help.

    I am overjoyed at the weight that has been lifted and the words that have been able to flow from you.

  10. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Off topic,

    Here’s a civics quiz my husband enjoyed taking. I just finished answering all 33 questions. Fortunately, both of us scored above average. I missed six and my husband missed seven. I guess I need to brush up on my civics.