"I saw the recklessness of church covenants. I now see them as violating Scripture's warning regarding improper oath taking. Especially disturbing is the practice at many 9Marks churches of reciting the Church Covenant during the New Covenant meal."
"9Marks churches are very dangerous places to attend church. The ones I had attended lacked love and integrity — two marks of a congregation of true worshipers (John 4:24)."
Church Membership — it's a topic that is heavily discussed among New Calvinists/Neo-Cals. Recently, we noticed on The Gospel Coalition website links to two posts on church membership written by Greg Gilbert. The SBC's International Missions Board (headed by David Platt) published them on its website last week.
Greg Gilbert, who earned his M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was an intern at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in 2000, has been serving as senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville since 2010. Third Avenue Baptist Church is listed on the 9Marks website (see screen shot below) and in The Gospel Coalition church directory.
Given his long-term relationship with Mark Dever (who trained him and most likely helped land him his current position), there is no doubt in our minds that Greg Gilbert serves as his mentor's mouthpiece. In his post Yes, the Bible Does Teach Church Membership, Gilbert writes (see screen shots below):
Then in Part 2 of The Bible Does Teach Church Membership, Gilbert states:
It's good to know that the heart of church membership isn't signing something; however, we seriously doubt there is a 9Marks affiliated church that doesn't have a written covenant / membership agreement that those joining the fellowship MUST sign. Our list of brothers and sisters in Christ hurt by membership-obsessed churches is growing, as evidenced by the tragic testimonials we have shared, and we suspect that our list will only get longer.
In this post, we are revealing the testimony of 'Dale', a professional who lives in the Charlotte area. We have been in communication with Dale and know his last name, his address, phone numbers, email address, and profession. Dale shared some of his story in comments on a recent post, and we asked whether he would be willing to reveal more details in a guest post, which would be helpful to our readers. We were amazed to discover that he had already written out his testimony and shared it with some of his friends before revealing to the TWW community how he had been hurt at former churches.
Dale is passionate about getting the word out regarding abuse in the church. He discovered our blog after having experienced first-hand the danger of 9Marks' teaching. He sends out an occasional newsletter to some of his friends and acquaintances, and in the last year Dale has been focusing on the issue of improper submission to church authority. Below is one of his newsletters. We are so impressed by our brother in Christ!
My Journey Out of 9Marks
It is funny how one's perspective can change over time. For example, from childhood to age 34, I trusted in the teachings of the Roman Catholic religion. I was convinced that it was through its sacramental system (receiving infusions of righteousness) that I would eventually get to heaven. Now I am certain that Rome's system is an Improper Religious Structure (I.R.S.) I had a 180 degree change of mind. I have had a similar perspective change in relation to the teachings of Mark Dever and 9Marks. This is the story of my experiences with 9Marks churches and my changing perspectives.
Best Church Ever!
When I first attended a 9Marks church (July, 2003), I was sure I had discovered a loving church home. The pastor was an effective communicator and expository preacher. It appeared to me that he was sound in his theology. He defended the gospel. My perception was that this was a great local church. I met people whom I knew from my former church, and that made me even more comfortable. One friend (I'll call him "John") told me how much he liked the church, and that he was contemplating membership. Several months later, I also became member.
A Pastor's Serious Sin
My friend "John" and I worshiped together for about three months at which time he stopped attending. Six months later (April, 2004) he was brought up on charges and eventually excommunicated. We were advised by the pastor not to associate with "John." In June of 2005 I was in the process of creating a website for ministry, so I invited "John" to lunch to ask for his advice. During our discussions I asked, "What happened that caused you to be excommunicated?" He shared his story. He had received marital counseling from our pastor, and when he received conflicting counsel from outside pastors and Christian friends he decided to find another church. He shared with me his letter of excommunication. He was charged with refusing to attend a meeting with men from the church to discuss his "sin."
I approached my pastor to discuss this unfortunate matter. My perception at the time was that my pastor committed a serious sin, but that a meeting to discuss this could clear things up so that my friend's reputation would be restored.
A Rogue Pastor
Two fruitless private meetings later, the Pastor asked what my next step would be. I told him that I would quietly leave the church since my friend "John" did not want to get involved and I had no other witnesses. But he insisted that we "handle this biblically" and I was snookered. On August 14, 2005 I received a registered letter stating that I was being brought up on charges: I had brought an accusation against an elder without witnesses; I had acted with pride and insolence; and I had become a false witness and slanderer. My perception at the time was that I was dealing with a rogue pastor.
A Spiritually Abusive Church
Surely the church would see the injustices being committed by the pastor. But I was convicted by the judge and jury (the pastor was the only elder at the time). Friends (with whom I had spent the better part of two years) bombarded me with phone calls and emails calling me to repentance. After my conviction, they were advised to shun me. My perception at the time was that I had become entangled in a spiritually abusive church.
A Too Narrow Statement of Faith
Fast forward to February, 2008. I received a phone call from a friend at the church that had excommunicated me. We met for coffee, and he apologized for being one of the three "witnesses" who charged me with sin. He escaped the church and was part of a new church plant. The pastor was a recent graduate of The Masters Seminary, and the church plant affiliated itself with 9Marks. I began attending and again believed I had found a good church home. I became a member. Then in March, 2010 I met a couple visiting our church who would soon become my dearest friends.
But there was a problem. I discovered from my pastor that in order to teach at our church, one must hold to dispensational eschatology. Furthermore, he pointed out that the church could never support my best friend's ministry because he was not dispensational. I checked the "fine print" of the church's statement of faith which I had agreed to when I became a member. Yep, it required that one be "dispensational." My perception at the time was that this was a church with a too restrictive statement of faith. I felt forced to resign my membership. I shared my concerns with my friend, and he and his wife also stopped attending.
Unloving and Disingenuous Church Leaders
My close friend shared with me how he came to Charlotte. He had been living in the D.C. area and was attending Capitol Hill Baptist. His wife was ready to retire, and they were looking to move. He was encouraged to relocate to Charlotte by a local 9Marks church. Based upon pledges and guarantees made to him from the leadership, he sold his home in Virginia. His ministry would be supported financially. There would be ample opportunity to teach the Bible. The leadership would undertake to make room for office space. In reality all expectations vanished into thin air as a misleading and disingenuous leadership failed to follow through on what was assured. My friend, looking back on what happened, told me:
There is much that gets in the way of actually being a good servant leader. Pride and arrogance along with monetary security certainly lead the list. No doubt mini megalomaniacs, who so dot the evangelical landscape, have hurt many unsuspecting Christians. The Bible teaches us that there ought to be a plurality of leaders in the local church. Any hint of a one man show or a so-called anointed one is to be avoided. The marks of a good Church are many but certainly the marks of a good man must begin with humility, love, compassion, truth and kindness. And may I add that this is never at the expense of faithful teaching of the Word. The best leaders exhibit these qualities while being faithful to the Word of God.
My perception at the time was that these were devious elders who lacked love and integrity.
A Doctrine that is Insensitive to Visitors
After leaving my Dispensational church, I began attending a PCA church near my home. [Yes, it is now a 9Marks church.] The pastor moonlighted as a seminary professor at RTS-Charlotte. One issue that I encountered while attending was the fencing of the Lord's Table. Every time we had communion, I was fenced out due to the fact that I was not currently a member of a church. My perception at the time was that this was an error and that they were not being sensitive to visitors such as me.
A Cult of Membership
Now we move to September, 2015. There was a new church replant (revitalization of an existing church) that was being co-sponsored by a large Baptist Church in Charlotte and Capitol Hill Baptist in DC (home church of Mark Dever). I was attracted to this church for several reasons. I knew that Mark Dever was dead set against making eschatology a litmus test; I hold to believer's baptism and it was a Baptist church; and many of my friends from former churches were going to attend. The first thing I noticed was that even at this Baptist church the Lord's Table was being fenced based on church membership.
After our pastor was officially "installed" as Lead Pastor by Mark Dever, the congregation had an opportunity to attend a Q & A session with Mr. Dever. When the meeting started, our pastor stood up and said: "Now is an opportunity for our members to ask Mark questions." Even though the church had only formally been in existence several weeks, I was again being fenced out! I mustn't even ask questions! My perception was that 9Marks churches were unfriendly to visitors and had an inappropriate cult of membership.
A Serious Lack of Integrity
I decided to attend the church's membership class. To become a member, one must attend a three hour class, pass an elder interview, sign the church's Statement of Faith and Church Covenant, and be received by the congregation. I studied the church's statement of faith and the church covenant prior to attending. I had some concerns. The first hour of the class was devoted to the statement of faith, which was derived from the New Hampshire Confession. A chart outlining the church's statement of faith was handed out. It stated in part: "The leadership of [the church] has modernized the language, removed articles regarding the sabbath and the harmony of the law and gospel, consolidated two other articles into one, and added an article regarding marriage and the church."
As the elder reviewed each section of the confession, we were given an opportunity to ask questions. I had a copy of the original New Hampshire Confession on my tablet, and was comparing it with their updated version. Much to my surprise, when they got to the section on "Baptism and the Lord's Supper" I discovered an omission. The original New Hampshire Confession stated that baptism is the prerequisite to the Lord's Supper. This wording in the New Hampshire Confession was removed from the church's statement of faith. I inquired as to why it was the church's policy to accept members of any evangelical church to the Lord's Supper, but deny participation to Baptists who were not currently members of a church. I was told by the Lead Pastor that "this was not a theological question, and they were very comfortable with their policy." I also noticed that as a member church of the Southern Baptist Convention, we were to submit to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM). But baptism is the prerequisite for participation in the Lord's Supper according to the BFM!
My perception was that the church leadership lacked integrity in modifying the section on Baptism without telling the prospective members. They also required submission to two confessions that contradicted one another.
Authoritarianism and Errant Teaching
As I delved further into the notion of signing mandatory Statements of Faith and Church Covenants, I had an epiphany. Here I was, attending a church that effectively had been in existence for only two months, and they were requiring prospective members to sign a statement of faith, a church covenant and submit to the authority of the elders. These requirements suddenly appeared ludicrous to me. How could a church where we barely knew one other require such submission to authority?
Regarding the statement of faith, not only can perceptions change over time, but beliefs do as well. Therefore, to require adherence to a man-made confession of faith seemed dangerous. It seemed to contradict the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
Many of those attending the new members class were college age or twenty-somethings. It was expected of them to completely understand the New Hampshire Confession (as amended) in a one-hour course and submit to it. I think this turns Matthew 28 and the Great Commission on its head. It places the cart before the horse. "Go and bind consciences; then after they are bound teach them and disciple them." What student is required to master the subject before he receives adequate instruction?
I saw the recklessness of church covenants. I now see them as violating Scripture's warning regarding improper oath taking. Especially disturbing is the practice at many 9Marks churches of reciting the Church Covenant during the New Covenant meal.
I learned about problems with church covenants at other churches, such as the Village Church and Karen Hinkley. I thought back on my church experiences and my problems at the 9Marks churches that I attended. I considered the lack of hospitality towards visitors. I thought about the divisions that were brought about by the 9Marks teaching. I saw the lack of integrity of many 9Marks elders. I saw the danger of inflexible accountability structures and unbiblical excommunications. I saw the legalistic usurpation of the New Covenant by the Church Covenant. I saw the likelihood that the Holy Spirit would be "quenched" in such a legalistic environment. I discovered that spiritual abuse and authoritarianism were an epidemic in 9Marks churches.
I considered sharing my concerns with the leadership. My perception was that they would not listen to my concerns, see me as a troublemaker, and urge me to leave.
A Dangerous and Divisive Religious Structure
Still, my friends were attending. I had recommended the church to a friend's daughter and son-in-law. I felt obligated to do something. Thus, I drafted a letter to the elders. This led to a private meeting at the home of the elder who taught the Statement of Faith at the new members class. A second meeting occurred at the church. I shared my concerns with the Lead Pastor (who was a pastoral intern under Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist). This meeting did not go well.
As the meeting was about to conclude, the Lead Pastor pointed at my wedding ring and questioned the appropriateness of my praying with two single women in the church. He asked, "Did you ask them out to lunch?" I was flabbergasted. At the time, my sister was dying of Glioblastoma Multiforme, a virulent brain tumor. A week earlier, I met two women who were sitting in the row in front of me. After service, I shared about my sister's disease and it turned out that one of their best friends was dying of the same disease. They asked me if they could pray with me, and we sat down in the fellowship hall to pray together. [Apparently I had violated some unwritten church guideline by praying with the opposite sex in church.] I asked the pastor, “Who gossiped about me?” and he refused to tell me who my accuser was. [I assume it was one of the elders].
When I arrived at church the following Sunday, one of the elders physically attempted to bar me from entering the church building. After a brief discussion with another elder, I left. Later that week, the Lead Pastor phoned to warn me that if I ever set foot on the church property again, the police would be contacted. For the next nine months I attempted to resolve the issue. I first went to the large Baptist church that co-sponsored the church plant. They were not willing to get involved.
In God's providence I met an acquaintance of the Lead Pastor who is a pastor at another local 9Marks church. He was helping one of my friends move. I asked for his assistance in resolving the matter. He met with the Lead Pastor for lunch. Nothing came of it. I sent an email to the church, requesting a meeting where a more peaceful handling of the matter could be attempted. I received silence.
My perception now? 9Marks churches are very dangerous places to attend church. The ones I had attended lacked love and integrity — two marks of a congregation of true worshipers (John 4:24).
In Part 2, which we plan to post soon, Dale answers the question —
"Why are 9Marks Churches So Unhealthy?"
Dang! If I hadn't been watching the Warriors mop the floor with Charlotte I could have been first.
Hi, all. I have posted a new update (2/1/17) on the open discussion thread. Thank you all for your prayers and support.
I recognize the last 2 of these churches. I have attended these churches as well, and although I did not know Dale well, I had many of the same experiences.
For example when we were attending the dispensational church that Dale refers too… my husband lost his job. He was not able to find one that could support our family for about a year. This was in the thick of the recession. I was able to find a job that supported us during that time. My husband looked diligently, but could not find anything.
During that entire year, the church leadership did not once ask us how we were doing or if there was anything they could do to help. We were on our own. We had asked if we could help with the children's ministry, and we were met with a lukewarm response. We figured it was because we were not from master's seminary like all of the other leaders, and they did not trust us.
But it turns out something else was bothering them. After a year of being unemployed, the pastor asked my husband to meet with him for breakfast. He proceeded to confront my husband because he had allowed me to work. This was sinful. The wife was to be at home. He told my husband, that he should work 100 hours at mcdonalds for minimum wage, rather than allow his wife to work. My husband pointed out that working this many hours would not allow him to look for a suitable job, nor would it allow him to be a father. It would be better for me to work 40 hours than for my husband to work 100 at minimum wage.
The pastor disagreed, and asked my husband to repent of allowing me to be the breadwinner. This was not the proper gender role. Needless to say, my husband was furious at the lack of compassion, and the rigidness of applying gender roles in a difficult time. He wrote the pastor a letter resigning our membership. The pastor responded with a letter saying he regretted "he could not accept our resignation" as we had signed the church covenant. At first this made my husband and I laugh. How can you refuse a resignation letter?
The pastor eventually persuaded my husband to come talk, and talked him out of leaving. However, within a few months, the church split in half (a long story) because of the pastor's heavy handedness with other members. This time we just left without asking for permission, although we were hounded by leadership for months afterwards.
Bravo Dale. Excellent job.
That was my experience at my hateful, 9Marxist ex-church — Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley. No love, no hospitality, and NO integrity.
Given the multiple and repeated failings of 9Marks based churches when it comes to leadership, authority, accountability and institutional structures, we should perhaps take note that the movement itself appears to be moving a political direction (see Jonathan Leeman’s recent book).
Excellent points by Dale:
“I saw the legalistic usurpation of the New Covenant by the Church Covenant. I saw the likelihood that the Holy Spirit would be “quenched” in such a legalistic environment.”
Also, the slander against Dale merely for praying in public with two women is horrifying, both that someone would report this as a sin and worse that the church “leaders” [bullies really] would agree with this accusation.
“On August 14, 2005 I received a registered letter stating that I was being brought up on charges: I had brought an accusation against an elder without witnesses; I had acted with pride and insolence; and I had become a false witness and slanderer. My perception at the time was that I was dealing with a rogue pastor.”
This is right out of the cultural revolution playbook before confessing your bad thoughts in the re-education camp.
You were sinning by questioning.
I also want to thank you for seeking to help your friend in the first place. So few do this. They never question and assume the pastors know what they are doing.
Had you not sought to help restore your friends reputation it might have been years before you knew what was really going on.
Reciting the church covenant during the New Covenant meal? What in the world does this mean? They had to recite the whole thing every time before taking the Lord’s supper?
And where is Christ in that “New Covenant”?
I am truly saddened as a 40 year plus Southern Baptist that is membership nonsense is supported by David Platt and the IMB.
This is what Mark Dever wrote in his 9 Marks book about what they do at Capitol Hill Baptist Church:
“Every time we gather around the Lord’s Table, and in every members’ meeting we convene, the members of the church stand and we read aloud together this covenant.”
I would feel really uncomfortable as a visitor at CHBC when I am sitting down while all those around me are standing and reciting their church document.
Ancient church recital: “Jesus is Lord!” Three words.
Capitol Hill Baptist recital: http://www.capitolhillbaptist.org/about-us/what-we-believe/church-covenant/
357 words. Perhaps church covenants ARE biblical. Was Paul explaining and reciting the Troas Church Covenant when Eutychus fell asleep and fell from the third floor window?
As of last year, my husband and I no longer support the IMB. Sorry Lottie Moon!
Lydia, I thought I had a close relationship with the pastor who excommunicated me. We spent a great deal of time together in “F.L.O.C.K’s” group at his home. I invited him to ski with me, and we spent two days together. In my naivety I thought that I could confront him as a friend and that he would repent. I truly feared as to the consequences of what he had done. He was persecuting Jesus.
“His” church is strewn with wounded and abused sheep that he has persecuted over the last thirteen years.
For years and years my wife and I had supported the Lottie Moon offering. As a pastor in previous churches I pastored I had strongly supported this offering. In the small church I now pastor I only gave a small amount this past December. I never thought I would not want to support a Lottie Moon missions offering in my lifetime. I guess I am not supposed to but I have a strong contempt for the SBC leaders who have brought me and you and others to this point.
The SBC is morphing into an organization I don’t recognize anymore.
Loren Haas wrote:
I hope you got a restraining order.
Ack. Sorry about the formatting.
Dale, I would feel uncomfortable too. That strikes me as bizarre to the point of cultish.
LOL…maybe he was, at that.
Good grief. I just read that thing, and the effect of recitation at every Lord’s Supper is to put the entire focus on us, the church body instead of God. I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised at this occurring in a church that believes in ordinances, not sacraments. Not trying to start a theological debate, but in 9 Marks churches it seems to be all about what we do for God, not what He does for us.
Among other things recited corporately:
“We will, when we move from this place, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.”
Can you imagine repeating that right before partaking of the elements?
I’m sure they’d rather you “supplement his income” with one of the bazillion multi-level-marketing schemes floating around the church. 🙁 Good Lord! I’m so sorry you had to deal with that.
No, that’s unique to neo-Cals. I’ve never been to a non-neo-Cal Baptist communion that wasn’t all about Christ. Having grown up Lutheran, aside from using a order of communion (script), the words were very similar in the Baptist church, as they’re taken right out of Scripture. Note that using the covenant removes the Scripture from it.
I don't understand how a church can decide if I am a true christian or not. That is not up to them. It is between me and God and nobody else. I can understand if somebody questions you because you are committing adultery, etc., but to say you aren't a christian because you don't fit into their strict set of rules and guidelines is ridiculous. And they wonder why people are leaving their churches by the multitude. Also, where is it written that people of the opposite sex can't pray with each other? I have many a meaningful prayer with men, even when I was single. There was nothing wrong with it. It was just 2 or 3 christians that were praying with each other. Nothing evil about it. But these churches are too busy sin sniffing that they can't see that it was not wrong. My husband and I worked for the same company for many years and even in the same office. I had male friends I would go out to lunch with. He had no problem with it. They were just friends. Nothing more. When he was on business trips he often had lunch with female co-workers or associates. I would like to tell some of these pastors of 9Marks churches to go hide under a rock from where they came from, but then that wouldn't be very nice of me would it. I might be accused of sinning. Oops, sorry.
Um, we say the Lord’s Prayer and hear about Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and return. I guess we’ll need to upgrade.
I guess it depends on whether or not any Scripture verses were recited either before or after the church covenant. Either way, I think what they’re doing is inappropriate. The focus should always be primarily on Christ, and they’re basically adding to God’s Word, whether they realize it or not.
9Marks doesn’t always go as far as other neo-Cals, but there’s no mention of Christ or love in their 9 “Marks”. When you promote the church’s supremacy in the lives of believers, you have to minimize Christ’s, and they still do that to a large extent.
Far as I can tell, most neo-Cals just pretend like the gospels don’t exist.
The Lord’s Prayer is actual Scripture. Furthermore, that church covenant says nothing about the life, death, resurrection, and return of Christ. There’s a brief mention of Jesus and salvation, but almost the entire thing is about the members and what they’re pledging to do or are doing.
@ juulie downs:
@ Loren Haas:
You had more fun!
It's not surprising that Greg Gilbert (a former Dever intern) would be a New Calvinist mouthpiece to push whatever the big boys need. He has been a celebrity groupie for a while. He first popped up on my radar when I heard him interviewed by Al Mohler re: Gilbert's book "What is the Gospel?" It was early in the movement when the young reformers were trying to convince Christendom that we had lost the true gospel – so Gilbert thought we needed a refresher. At one point in the interview, Gilbert responded to something Pope Mohler said "Ohhh, what a sweet question that is." He came across very syrupy and patronizing of the idol who sat in front of him. It's a dirty shame the way the big dogs are using these young folks.
This response is illegal and you could have filed a civil lawsuit against the church. This is well established law in the US.
One more reason that I left the SBC.
Chris S wrote:
Can you imagine them telling some lawmaker that he can’t leave the church when he wishes to?
As did the early church, our model … not “upgrades” written by mere men.
Can you imagine what goes on the minds of these men? I wonder why that is what they thought. I wonder what goes on in there private lives that would make them think this…
All this splitting. All this divisiveness. It seems that these healthy 9Marks churches can’t even get along with one another. The church that I was excommunicated from split to form the church that Johanna attended, which then split…
According to the pastor of the first church, the second church was deeply in sin. No fellowship allowed between members of the two churches.
I believe that the infamous CJ Mahaney put it “sinfully craving answers.” What a crock!
I have a novel idea… If you want to know What Is the Gospel? why not consult the four Gospels inspired by Almighty God rather than Neo-Cal books that are being peddled for mammon.
They want you to feel uncomfortable. They want to embarrass you into the club.
Let it be known that believers who are exiting a once-great denomination are not leaving the SBC … the SBC left them.
And then filed a lawsuit. They would have won.
Seriously???? Man. My biggest worry about all this Dever stuff is that they would mess with the adorable little old lady potlucks CHBC used to have, and it sounds like they have by making them creepy and cultish.
I agree. I am far happier now in my church than I have been in years.
I loved church potlucks, bean suppers (New England) and spaghetti dinners.
The SBC has been continuously morphing for the worst since the fundamentalist takeover 37 years ago.
I think I could have answered that correctly when I was 18. What they are writing about is not the gospel. It is merely church membership rules and regulations.
This is why they don't like me. I would have started giggling. That is creepy.
Oh but the Gospels don’t support reformed theology, so they have to twist Paul’s epistles and/or peddle books to convince their YRR army they on the right track. It’s good for the movement to keep the young folks toeing the party-line, not to mention the mammon.
“Follow the Mammon!”
(hmmm, you heard that line here first – perhaps, I should copyright or trademark it and charge you mammon if you use it)
Sadly, I think it’s going to take a spate of lawsuits before they get a clue. Even then, how much you want to bet they’ll view that as “persecution” from the State instead of thinking that they’ve done anything even slightly heavy-handed?
The Lord’s supper has nothing to do with remembrance of the body and the blood of Jesus. It’s all about church leaders and the contracts- uh, covenants – they have so wisely and sacrificially slaved over for the control – uh, protection – of church members. Salvation through church covenants and obedience to those who enforce them. These church leaders have excommunicated the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
They don’t have a chance of surviving as dictators of any small, third-world countries, so they plant “churches”!
I believe they realize it. And, they are raising themselves to God’s level, position, and authority.
I feel slimy when I listen to these folks, but I do it for TWW. ;^)
And precious fellowship with the Saints! All of that is being replaced by Gospel-centered espresso and pastries in the foyer.
Maybe that is the 9Marks plan for church growth and pastoral full employment. [Whenever the government passes a new tax law, we deem it the “Accountant’s and Attorney’s Full Employment Act.”] Gotta find new churches for all the recently hatched “men o’ gawd.”
I honestly don’t understand this level of micromanagement nor those who think they have some special privilege to ascertain what is best for your family.
Dale, that bit about the church only being two months old and people are already being required to submit to leadership via these (legal) documents is the most disturbing aspect to me about this church system. It rings true to my experience as well – I literally had an elder ask me my name, right before asking me if I had considered joining the church. This is so backwards it’s not funny. They think if they can just legislate a perfect system, then real Christian community will automatically follow.
No mutual relational currency is built up, no trust established, no give and take of accountability or going through struggles together – You know, the foundation of real lasting meaningful relationships. No, they want to short circuit this process, a process difficult enough that most have to work through many years to achieve the level of trust required to make this system work, but then the system is useless because its members are mature enough to not need it.
I believe they misunderstand scripture to start with, but that’s not really what’s striking to me about this. What’s disturbing is how they have completely lost sight of how relationships work – forget the church aspect, is this how they treat “ordinary” relationships? Their spouse, their kids, their co-workers, their neighbors?
You’re also spot on about beliefs changing too. Again, two months is enough time to get to know people,
SBC’s church planting program is a home for many of the new reformers – it’s a first stop for newly hatched “lead pastors”. But, if they are up for the challenge, others can deceive their way past search committees and proceed to takeover/split traditional churches. It’s a tougher row to hoe, with much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but it’s good for the movement to move those old traditional Baptists and their altar calls out of the picture.
I have a friend who works in a government agency that used to make the staff recite a long mission statement in unison before each staff meeting. This stopped when the top person was replaced.
This brainwashing childishness is everywhere.
I did a quick check of the 9Marx website, to see what churches in our area are connected with them. Very few, thankfully. But they did list one nearby, which had been around for decades, until the Elders kicked out the Pastor and hired a guy straight out of Johnny Mac’s Masters Seminary. They even had a Johnny Mac audio clip on the main page, giving his endorsement of this “biblical” church. Within a year, the church closed.
It doesn’t sound as if this 9Marx concept is working.
Hit enter too quick:
Two months is enough to get to know people, their trajectory, where they’re coming from, heck – past criminal records, anyone? How does this make sense?
Dever and Co, church is messy, relationships are messy, communities are different, they’re hard, they’re unique as the people involved in them x2. And that’s when it’s healthy. That means people are invested in each other, that means the Holy Spirit is present, that means gifts are free to be used, that means hurt people find a healing process and safety. You can’t manufacture that. Pastoring is a GIFT, elders are seasoned, experienced people, with a bank full of relational currency with their communities. You. Can’t. Manufacture. That.
Sounds familiar … as in Marie O’Toole. The patriarchs want dissenters back under their watch so they can officially excommunicate you! They ‘must’ have the final say – it’s part of caring for your soul!
I have a friend who works in a government agency that used to make the staff recite a long mission statement in unison before each staff meeting. This stopped when the top person was replaced.
This brainwashing childishness is everywhere. @ Max:
I drive by his church all the time. It is close to the University. A small older church that was most likely take over by SBTS for Neo Cal replant. My guess is it attracts CRU students and seminary students who are encouraged to attend. I do wonder where the money comes from. NAMB?
I tend to view those sort of pastoral appointments as launching pads for some of their loyalists to build their brand on social media and with articles, speaking gigs, etc.
Oops! Sorry for repeat.
The saddest, and scariest, thing to me is that these “leaders” (not pastors) don’t even recognize what they are doing to the Church or how they are maligning Christ and his message.
These churches are nuts.
They can’t. They think they can, somehow, but they’re sort of terrible at it. There was a 9marx article about how you can’t baptize children (not babies, children) because the church doesn’t know if they’re saved yet!!! That’s monstrous to me. I grew up Baptist and this is just unfathomable.
We used to do ice cream, real, homemade ice cream, at the church I went to as a kid. It was awesome.
(I think I misread that post because I hadn’t had coffee, but still. I find these recitations creepy).
Just went online to find local 9marks churches and discover FBC Beaumont, TX is now 9marks.
Now FBC is not what it once was, and recently moved from the downtown location where it established in the 1800s to the ” fashionable” West End of town where the money people now live.
At one time FBC was a classic SBC Church, it was THE Baptist church in SE Texas, but times have changed…. I now wonder what is going on with this church?
I only found one near me. This is what it says:
Such and Such “Baptist Church is a Southern Baptist fellowship currently pursuing reform. In addition to implementing the “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church,” we are cultivating a culture of peace through “The Peacemaker Principles.”
Currently pursuing ‘reform’. DANGER.
Does anybody know if Greg Gilbert is a PK and if so are his parents Al and KK Gilbert?
Al went from SBC mega here to the NAMB (is that what they call it now?) I can’t find their kids’ names nor can I find the names of Greg’s parents.
There are 7 9Marks churches in Bowling Green, KY – ’bout 50 miles from my rural home. Bowling Green is not a large city, but it is a college town – home of the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers.
Off-topic announcement regarding Shauna in Texas and her son Billy’s financial needs for this month. (Dee wrote about Billy’s abuse story at the hands of a church member.0
Shauna on Wed Feb 01, 2017 at 01:00 PM said:
Thank you Talmidah. God is answering your prayers and mine. Two people put up to 45 dollars on the gofundme so far. What a blessing….. im praying for the need to be met but im not fretting im just trusting that what gos on the gofundme is exactly what the Lord wants us to have. Im certain He will provide work or other means if theres not enough. I just came off an 8 hr shift and I have a chance to earn 60.00 today detailing cars. Tonight I have to go back in at 1am for another 3rd shift, im tired so pray for me. My hours haven’t changed just the shifts have that shes giving me. Praying for endurance and needs to be met
$87 car insurance
About $200 for food/gas
Now you know what their Real SCRIPTURES(TM) are.
And where there’s a college town, there’s going to be Mommy/Daddy/Student Loan money.
Follow the Money.
Follow the Money.
Especially when Pastor has to keep up with the Furticks and DFW Megas.
Keys of the Kingdom, i.e. the Dispensing of Existence.
Kinda like the reverse of when you had to stand up in class and give an oral report. Just writing that sentence made my hands start to sweat!
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
And you’re correct. It is why they moved to the ” fashionable ” West End. Money.
The CEO currently riding Sears into Chapter 13 did similar with Atlas Shrugged; gave copies to all his subordinates for required reading and held mandatory “Bible Studies” with Ayn Rand as SCRIPTURE.
“Understand these guys do NOT hang out together. The Universe cannot have two Centers.”
— Kooks Magazine regarding Conspiracy Cranks (and the difference between Kooks and Cranks)
On those quotes from Gilbert in the beginning, good job getting the screenshots, because mmmmmm that’s good Federal Vision!
In Matt Chandler’s “Beautiful Design” sermon series, he says something similar, of course in much smilier way. Even if your wife is a billionaire heiress, man was created to work so you still need to have a job. I can find the specific quote later. So that is something that gets taught on the down low in these circles.
And only when you had been broken to the system and of your own free will bent the knee and recited “Comrade Chairman is LORD!” would you be granted the release of the pistol bullet in the back of the neck.
Velour, if these 9 Marks ‘churches’ are not the real thing (and I agree they don’t appear to be at all), what ARE they? Are they cults? Or are they ‘franchises’? Is the set-up of these ‘churches’ legal, if they are actively pursuing and harassing people in a very abusive way?
What ARE these entities?
And what is their relationship to the Body of Christ, or is that relationship reserved only to some of the members who are ‘captives’ of these wolves???
Scientology and People’s Temple with a Christian coat of paint.
Dale, the way you have been treated is a dishonor to how Christ has called us to behave. Many light continue to show on these disgusting behaviors..
I’m sure that’s what Dever and his buddies think they’re pushing. Or at least, it what they want you to think they’re pushing. An upgrade. That’s why you absolutely must pay big money for it.
“Christianity 2.0!! It’s new and improved! New and Improved!! NEW AND IMPROVED!!!”
“And to think, all this time I’ve been eating ‘old and inferior’.” (Garfield’s sarcastic response to a similar cat food commercial)
That is a ‘sign’ of an absence of mercy on the part of the leadership AND the rest of the community, if no one reached out to help you. The Royal Law commands us to help bear one another’s burdens.
Even the Mormons ‘get it’. Our neighbors whose twin boys were best friends with my son had a terrible problem: the husband was badly injured delivering newspapers one morning at four a.m. …. his car was hit by a truck and he was almost killed. His Church reached out and the family was supported and cared for in all possible ways during this crisis. The good man recovered, and was spared much worry about the support of his family. All medical bills were covered that were not insured. There was no question that the family were ‘on their own’.
I look forward to Dale’s part two. I just don’t understand how ANY person could witness this kind of ‘cult’ behavior from within a 9 Marks ‘church’ and be a party to it by staying …. something ‘traps’ them? …. mixed messages? ….. threats? ….. it can’t be ‘shaming’ because to be shamed by these ‘leaders’ would be an honor, I think, at least in the Kingdom of Our Lord, yes.
It would be interesting to see a copy of these “Peacemaker Principles”.
Some folks are having another look at the 9 Marx directory. I think we need more emphasis on their distinctives because of the increasing number of churches adopting their tenets under the radar, due to the increasing amount of bad press online. If any of these guys get smart enough to refrain from quoting the YRR celebrities and their books in order to fool the sheep, it’s good to know what ideas, doctrines, and practices to watch out for.
There’s a cartoon that I have on my fridge.
Two men are talking. The one says he wants to warn the other about “John” who is a very bad person and to stay away from him. The pastor says he is openly sinning and how terrible that sin is. The pastor works tirelessly to keep his congregation from ever falling into that sin.
The other man asks what that terrible sin is.
The answer? “Thinking for himself”.
Wow, just wow. Reading Dale’s story, then Johanna’s (and not to forget Velour’s experience) and on and on. I had no idea this insanity was so widespread! Great case studies and thanks to all for sharing.
I recently had a friend confide in me that he would like to take his family to church. He hasn’t gone to church since he was a small child. I don’t know why he thinks I would have good advice, I kind of left religion some time ago, but I recommended he go with the Lutheran church as that was what he was raised in but did warn him not to sign any sort of contract. Advice I would never have known to give without reading here.
As I’ve mentioned before, with all the press about contracts I wouldn’t be surprised if you start to see a de-emphasis on membership. I suspect this has happened at my wife’s A of G church – it used to be on the website but now I think that it is presented to folks after an orientation (membership class by any other name). I thought for a while they had abandoned such silliness but I suspect not.
My wife has not signed any contract and I trust her judgment in this regard. If the place became too authoritarian, she’d be one of the first to go.
could it be that they enjoy breaking a person down so that they can build him up again ‘in their own image’???
when bullies demand ‘complete loyalty’ without question, often there is a period of intense destruction, belittling, attacking of credibility and shaming to destroy self-confidence and any signs of independent thought:
what follows is taking the broken-down personality in and reforming it to accommodate the ‘alternative truths’ of the leadership
apparently it works in cults
But they are predestined by GOD to govern the church and people, and to tell people exactly how they are supposed to do every small thing! Why would people need to use things like spiritual gifts or even think for themselves!
(please insert sarcastic tone!)
After reading this and the many comments, I am so thankful that the YRR pastor we had decided to quit the minute we uncovered his 9-Marx/Calvinist plan for our church. We begged him to abandon these teachings, but he would not. He came straight out of SBTS and this was his first (and hopefully LAST) pastorate. He saw my family and other families in the church as a threat to his “authority.” He abruptly resigned (without even giving two-weeks’ notice!) because the church failed to follow his “leadership.”
The SBC is becoming a spiritual wasteland for the REAL gospel truth! Our church survived this time, but how many thousands if not millions of Southern Baptists (as well as other denominations) are being spiritually abused by this heavy-handed garbage? I hope this “movement” runs out of steam but soon!
Dale’s story really struck a nerve with me and broke my heart. I guess John 13:35 isn’t in the 9-Marx version of the Bible! How much collateral damage is being strewn along the narrow way as these pharisaical dictators destroy the Body of Christ? I do not envy them on Judgment Day!
From CREDO Magazine’s interview with Greg Gilbert:
Q: “Who have been your biggest heroes, dead and alive and why?”
A: “… My mentor in the ministry is Mark Dever. 90% of everything I know about the church and preaching, I learned from him …”
That sufficiently paints the picture.
Well, my former church (in Charlotte, no less) isn’t Marks affiliated and didn’t have a formal covenant (as of the date of my getting out of Dodge) but some of the things Dale experienced, I also did.
1) Errant teaching and the idea that the pastor would not be receptive to criticism. He misused Exodus 18:21-22, John 1:35-42, and Proverbs 29:18 to promote his agenda, and would use “Church isn’t about you!” to shut down questions before they could be asked.
2) Separation of (non-married) men and women. Besides ridiculous “Man Day” and “Lady Day” socials, the pastor went into a bizarre rant when promoting his “Operation Andrew” scheme, telling the pew sitters that it doesn’t work with opposite genders and implying that men would hit on the women, ending the whole thing with “I don’t want any jokers playing around with me.” I almost walked out right then and there. Automatically assuming men and women only want to mess around when together? Calling his congregation “jokers?” I lost all respect I had for the guy with that little tirade.
3) Hotel California Church. Guess who still tries to call me, three months removed from my last day attending there? Yep, the same pastor who thinks I (and everyone else) is a joker. I never answer him, so I don’t know what he wants to talk about (aside from wanting me to come back, most likely.) And at this point, I really don’t care what he wants to talk about.
My church in Charlotte was an incredibly toxic place and it didn’t even wear the 9Marks banner or have a formalized covenant. I couldn’t imagine sitting in a church that DID…
What a pile of you know what that church is…. I am at a loss for words to say any more…
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
I have absolutely no problem with individualism and am concerned it has become labeled the sin of selfishness.
For the elder who won’t let his wife discipline their (his?) children:
“Sometimes when we feel powerless as parents, we resort to bringing out the big guns. Have you ever found yourself saying things like, “Wait until your father gets home!” or “Wait until your mother hears about this!”? I’m here to tell you that if you threaten a child with what their other parent might do, you’re making two serious mistakes.
The first is that you are giving up all your power and transferring it to the other parent. When you say, “You just wait till mom or dad hears this,” what you’re really saying is, “I don’t have any power over you, but the person who does have power over both of us is coming home.” Another message you’re communicating is, “I’m powerless just like you,” or even “You’re more powerful than me.” These are very ineffective messages to give children because they are not statements that hold them accountable or define the parent/child relationship in healthy terms.”
Religion News Service has the following article from 2015.
The final paragraph says:
“Though most wooden stocks have been moved to museums, some modern churches may be returning to a more Puritan-style model that utilize formal tribunals and public, punitive discipline to deal with wayward congregants. But the world has changed much since the first Puritans held sway in America. Public behaviors now often have legal implications.”
This made me think of how twitterpated the neocalvinists are with the original Puritans and everything about them. I wonder if that was the real inspiration behind this recent church discipline movement.
Dale, you have documented your experiences carefully and made the problems with 9Marks and covenants very clear. Thanks so much for your careful reporting. I see a clear danger sign to any Christian who wants to follow the Bible’s instruction to be a Berean. Once you sign those papers, you are no longer free to pursue your own research or growth in your understanding of God or the Bible. You are no longer free to ask questions or think freely.
You never really know someone until you oppose them.
There’s an interview up on the City of Man podcast with Leeman, he seems to tap dance around politics as conducted by bodies with ‘monopolies on coercive force’ and the church as a ‘political entity’, without drawing the obvious conclusion (though he does mention ‘excommunication’ with unseemly haste)
It strikes me how vague the actual meaning in the phrases is, how open to interpretation. I doubt the average member would ever imagine how those phrases can come to be used against them!
I do not believe I should sign something that is a lie, and ultimately I believe most of these ‘contracts’ are lies. Because if you decide that you really, strongly disagree with the leadership of a church? There will come a point when you reject what you have signed and talk back or leave regardless. All they are is a scare tactic, to try to get you too scared to do that, but people who are pushed far enough eventually will. Which means they are a thing you’ve written that you really don’t intend to follow, if it offends your conscience. Better to stay away.
Yep. If you want to see who a man is, tell him no.
This is by design.
Chris S wrote:
There’s talk now of repealing the Johnson Amendment, which would allow pastors to openly endorse political candidates from the pulpit.
I could see this causing a schism. There are a lot of people (myself included) who would not want to attend a church that involves itself in electoral politics.
Maybe there should be a “Free Church Pledge” churches could sign, in which they agree not to engage in 9marks-style controlling behaviors, cover up abuse, or endorse political candidates. Sort of like the Better Business Bureau, but for churches.
There are only two IX Marks churches in my city (population 450,000+). They are on the opposite edges of town, and one is a small minority language (not Spanish) Baptist church. There are several SBC churches here, including one within walking distance of my home. None of those are members of IX Marks, not even the one that had Driscoll come speak in the fall of 2015. I should note that my city is religiously diverse; it was founded by Mormons, who make up a significant chunk (but not a majority) of the population, followed closely by Catholic parishes and a large number of Protestant churches. There are four megachurches here, three of which are within two miles of my house. So we’re not some sort of religious desert, even if we are in the desert.
Parachurch orgs and activist ministers have done this for decades. Not sure I see the difference in the end.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
Exactly. The “Dispensing of Existence” and Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s (psychiatrist) research work about the psychology of totalism and how the Chinese Communists brainwashed people and gained their compliance to obey authoritarain leaders.
I just finished reading psychologist/cult expert Steve Hassan’s book Combatting Cult Mind Control. It was so painful for me to read as a spiritual abuse survivor of an abusive, authoritarian church that I had to take many naps. It truly “knocked me out”. But at least I know how Thought Reform/Undue Influence now works.
“You Do Not Exist.”
That was doublethink.
— G.Orwell, 1984
Though I read today that Aldous Huxley (author of that other classic dystopia, Brave New World) commented once that future totalisms would probably not use the blunt “boots on faces” methods of Orwell’s dystopia.
That sensory overload of trivial information (counting on shortened attention spans through media overload) would keep people constantly confused and off-balance. Like the “purloined letter” gambit hiding vital information in an ocean of unrelated urgent information, one nugget of truth in a maelstrom of trivia, minimizing the signal-to-noise ratio.
The news article went on to comment that Huxley sounded like a world of 24/7/364 Social Media, Twitter, and Reality Shows.
Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:
Which desert are you physically in?
From the mix you cited, I’d guess Phoenix or Las Vegas. Or maybe central Texas.
Like “Hooliganism” in the Russian Penal Code (dating back to Tsarist times).
“Hooliganism” is so vaguely defined that in practice, it means anything those in power say it means. Whether the Autocrat of All Russia titles himself Tsar, Premier, or President.
When playing Caesar Commodus in Gladiator, actor Joaquin Phoenix stated his handle on the character was “a spoiled rock star who has never heard the word “no” in his entire life”.
They do it anyways, even if they are less obvious than saying ‘vote for bob’ from the pulpit.
The USSR also used a lot of “formal tribunals” (show trials) and “public punitive discipline” (Enlightened Self-Criticism before Party Commissars and the Masses) to deal with dissidents.
The rule-of-thumb of my own church (RCC) is that the church cannot endorse a particular candidate (especially partisan ones), but can state for or against a specific policy or law or political principle in relation to church teaching. (There can be some indirect overlap if a particular candidate is associated with a particular policy, but I don’t know how that works out.)
When you’re talking Rand, you’re talking a self-deified cult leader whose cult taught Utter Selfishness.
well, someone at IMONK keeps saying that 83% of ALL evangelicals voted as a block in 2016. So it does raise questions not so much of the ‘religion’ guiding the vote, but the integral unity of those who follow a certain political line finding a comfortable home in a certain faith. I see it back to front these days. In short if you are a Fox News, homeschooling, conservative voting, states’rights supporting, ‘corporations are people’ person, you are likely not going to be too uncomfortable culturally with a denomination that voted almost exclusively with your interests.
Jeffrey J . Chalmers wrote:
In this context, I use St Paul’s term: SKUBALON.
What worries me is that is over the 80/20 threshold where Groupthink locks in permanently.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
LOL ….. this is hysterical!
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
It’s the effect of the power of ‘shaming’ ….. ever seen people take on someone who disagreed with them and smear them as ‘liberals’? So, if you do your own thinking, in circles like that, where no respect is to be found for the diversity of thought, you might tend to keep it to yourself. Cowardly? Well, look at how people in small towns survive … one maybe two churches, a school, very little parameter for what is ‘acceptable’ and ‘respectable’? Outward conformity is, for people in such places, a way to survive.
Check out the problems in that place in Idaho where whats-his-name is a big cheese …. I think it’s called ‘Moscow’. I hear that even the judges there are in ‘what’s his names’ pocket. Hard place to speak up and establish your real identity and uphold your integrity. It must be like those towns where white supremacists come in and buy up the properties and try to take over ….. they are LOOKING for a fight, and the original residents have to make a decision of whether to hand their town over or to stand up for their American values in an act of defiance. It’s tough these days to maintain integrity.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
Let’s not pretend this is only a problem on one side of the aisle. There is the conformity aspect, but there is also people who gravitate to each other because they have a similar outlook. And then there are the oddballs like myself who go to a church or have a friend set who are mostly different politically.
I don’t have the URL in front of me, but one blogger called “Daylight Atheism” did a chapter-by-chapter snark on Atlas Shrugged similar to Slacktivist’s page-by-page snark of Left Behind: Volumes 1-whatever. And the two are so similar, even down to Rand (a rabid Anti-Theist) hitting ALL the tropes of Bad Christianese End Times fiction. While going through both, I realized that AS & LB are the same story (the Ultimate Escape Fantasy/Revenge Fantasy on The Other), just with different trappings pitched to different target audiences of The Faithful.
And as for Sears — the FIRST mail-order house in the world — one pop book on business trivia I read years ago dates Sears’ death spiral to the 1980s, when they ditched their entire mail-order business (and diminshed their retail operations) in favor of Financial Arbitrage on Wall Street (hello, Gordon Gecko). Junk Bonds, S&Ls, Real Estate flip mortages, you name it.
Ten years later after they ditched their entire mail-order business and infrastructure came the Dot-Com boom. And successful Dot-Coms such as Amazon WERE basically mail-order houses with Internet-savvy front-ends, ordering, and payment. E-commerce WAS a Year 2000 version of mail-order (i.e. Sears’ pre-Wall Street core business). So Sears put themselves completely out of the running before the biggest mail-order boom of all time. (Like Kodak holding onto the film camera business when digital cameras hit the big time.)
My experience dates from local Furry Fandom years ago, where (due to a perfect storm of dominant-personality movers & shakers in the early days, analogous to Gospel Glitterati Celebs) the 80/20 ratio was 80+% gay and 20-% straight. I found out the hard way that gays are just as capable of persecuting straights when they become the 80% groupthink majority. Perhaps more so, as they are coming from a mythologized history of a previously-persecuted minority.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
That’d be the Sonoran Desert, in a suburb of Phoenix.
Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:
The Valley of the Sun.
(And it’s called that for a reason.)
“I guess I am not supposed to but I have a strong contempt for the SBC leaders who have brought me and you and others to this point.”
are the actions of the SBC leaders contemptible? seems to me your reaction is that of a normal and healthy person. no further analysis needed.
Back to Dale’s story, the praying with single women is bad thing really bugged me. For a lot of reasons, obviously, the gossipy aspect but also the idea that praying in public with someone of the opposite sex is something that isn’t acceptable?
I guess since these kind of churches have no women in leadership roles, and they can’t pray with the men, they would be shunted off to the pastors wife, assuming someone cared enough to be bothered? Ugh.
The magisterial reformers of the 16th century clashed with the free church (Anabaptists and others). The New Calvinists are picking up Calvin’s mantle via their display of authoritarian rule. Religious spirits never die; they just manifest themselves again where the organized church is vulnerable.
Dale: “I would feel really uncomfortable as a visitor at CHBC when I am sitting down while all those around me are standing and reciting their church document.”
NJ: “I would feel uncomfortable too. That strikes me as bizarre to the point of cultish.”
all that’s needed is some kind of unison hand gesture and we’re inside the history channel. (“All H|itler. All The Time”)
I’ve been out of church for a few years. Went to a Christmas Eve service, and the whole church was reciting together the sections in the bible about Jesus’ birth, shepherds, angels, glory to god in the highest, etc.
these are nice verses. but it felt totally disturbing. All the unison voices, same cadences, intonation, everything. felt like the institution had sucked up everyone’s mind, and was spitting it out again (in a highly controlled stream) yes, totally gross.
took a few hours for my toes to uncurl.
Since the average New Calvinist is not really that good of a preacher (they parrot others), and certainly couldn’t be called a pastor with their obvious lack of love, why go there in the first place?! If one’s reason to attend such a place is because it’s cool, your children’s friends go there, free coffee, it’s the nearest church, etc. … well, those are wrong reasons to do church that usually get you in trouble. When it comes to signing anything, when in doubt don’t. As I’ve noted before, the only covenant a believer needs is the one Christ paid for with His blood … no contract written by mere man is needed.
The Calvinistas I know are very proud to be more “right” and biblical than everyone else. They talk endlessly about it, almost like an obsession, but just spout Piper or Ware or Grudem or Mohler when asked to defend that claim, even when they don’t really understand the questions. And don’t forget the leadership has been very sly about promising men they can own their wives and families, and maybe one day be an elder that gets to rule everyone else.
Cater to their pride, the one sin in Christian circles that nobody talks about and fuels all other sin.
“What is the Gospel?”
“I think I could have answered that correctly when I was 18. What they are writing about is not the gospel. It is merely church membership rules and regulations.”
yeah, me, too. gospel: Jesus bridged the gap and God and are friends and co-workers. God shares of (him)self with me (his love, companionship, counsel, power, ability), and I share myself with God (my love, companionship, thoughts, needs, fears, efforts and attempts, courage, etc.) It’s a 2-way thing.
as far as they gospel-brokers are concerned, there’s nothing in it for them. nothing really for them to do.
so they convolute the whole thing. talk about creating jobs!
Thank you. Because I feel this way about the SBC leaders every day.
“Just went online to find local 9marks churches and discover FBC Beaumont, TX is now 9marks.”
conglomerates, swallowing things up.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
Yeah, all 30 of them who squeezed into her NYC apt to talk and smoke too much– for a few years. One was a young Alan Greenspan who quickly sold out. :o)
you score high on the healthy meter.
I was thinking more along the lines of; if you are going to define the church as a body with a ‘monopoly on coercive force’ as a first principle, you are going to potentially end up in some very bad places when it comes to church discipline (as can be seen), and sure enough over time this movement approximates the worst excesses of the Heavy Sheparding movement.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
Thanks, H.U.G., for the literary info.
And yet I feel more comfortable in a liturgical church. Guess it depends on experience, my wife doesn’t really like liturgy for the same reason – finds it a little creepy with everyone intoning the same words.
Yet oddly I had more intolerant experiences with Pentecostals than with Lutherans or Roman Catholics.
And my wife has had more intolerant experiences with the RC church – go figure.
Just a question: Why is authoritarianism on the rise? Is it really on the rise all over or primarily evangelical churches – and why evangelical churches if they seem more “free” in their worship? One would think its the other way around – that liturgical churches would be more authoritarian, since there is more structure – or maybe we just aren’t hearing about it. I have my own theories but what does everyone else think? But I also don’t attend church so maybe it’s changed in my absence.
Mark Dever has insisted in 9 Marxists that when the Bible says that the early church was growing it really meant that they were taking church attendance and had church membership. He is clueless, isn’t he?
Her Objectivist Society is still going strong.
And she has other fanboys out there (including the claim that started this sub-thread about the CEO of Sears).
* After the 2008 elections, the Internet was deluged by John Galt Celebrity Impersonators — move over, Elvis!
* And my informants told me two books were flying off the shelves — Twilight for women and Atlas Shrugged for men. This didn’t sound like it could end well.
* And the T-shirts I’m seeing — ATLAS SHRUGGED – FACT, NOT FICTION!
* My local newspaper, which claims “Libertarian” but speaks of her as some sort of Godhead. (False Christ?) I’d also like to see them hold up some other example of their ideal “Free Market Economy” than Victorian England.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
I still maintain that if Ayn Rand had the same power of life or death over a country and its people as Josef Stalin had, her Objectivist regime would have been just as bloody as Stalin’s Communist one. There can be only One True Way.
Hooray, Hooray for the One True Way…
The only thing the Pope, Luther, and Calvin could agree on was a Final Solution to the Anabaptist Problem. (And I use that phrasing deliberately.)
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
Trying to picture thousands of Howard Roarks in lock step. :o) kinda defeats the whole point. Like herding cats.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
Rand was originally from Russia, you know.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
Yep, that’s my goal and meaning for individualism. Sheesh!
In case you are thinking that 9Marks cannot get any weirder, here is what they posted today: https://9marks.org/article/the-pronouns-of-the-gospel/
How does that work when one gets excommunicated? “We” (not they) excommunicated “us” (not me)?
Rand was originally from Russia, you know.
I do. After probable emotional abuse from her social-climing mother, she lost everything to the First Russian Revolution and flipped one-eighty from its Forced Total Unselfishness for The Collective into Forced Utter Unselfishness. And went with it with the same quasi-religious Fundy fanaticism as the True Believer Bolsheviki.
This was a Tumblr blog about her I came across a couple years ago:
All I can say is the more I find out about Ayn Rand, “Only Truly Rational Mind Which Has Ever Existed” (her self-description, not mine), the more repulsive she becomes.
well, our liturgy connects us to the Christians of the past more than it connects us to ‘leadership’. There was the liturgy in the Church before there WAS a New Testament and its oral tradition helped the early Councils to verify what parts of sacred Scripture had been used in all the churches throughout Christendom consistently over time as the liturgy made heavy use of the writings of the Apostles and their followers. Before it was ever gathered together and verified and made into a whole New Testament canon, the gospels and epistles were sung and prayed and recited orally in the ‘work of the Church’ (liturgy) when most people were illiterate and relied on the oral tradition of receiving and handing down the treasured Apostolic deposit of faith.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
she must have been very wounded to end up so malevolent
I think there’s always been a selection of authoritarian churches for narcissist types to choose from. There’s always been cults, too. But maybe since people seem less rooted to one place or institution, and with the rise of the information age, churches now feel like to maintain that level of control, they have to threaten people into staying with contracts and heavy manipulation that they have authority to do so.
Ken F wrote:
Sounds like someone has been smoking something to write that nonsense!
Yeah funny thing is. It was a church plant with about 50 people. Our annual revenue was 120k, and he took a 100k salary. Not bad for a church plant in its first year. XianJaneway wrote:
Chris S wrote:
They totally lack self-awareness. Almost everything they do is unseemly. They are drunk on their own self-importance, and like most people who are drunk, their judgment is impaired.
The church is the body of Christ. It is certainly *not* a political institution. Jonathan has been steeped in D.C. too long. Churches and other religious institutions have became cozy with political cities before, and that has never, ever worked out well for anyone except the well-connected insiders. Jesus was not a well-connected insider, but I suppose Dever and Mohler and the other Glitterati know better
Ken F wrote:
“Hive mind”, “collective consciousness”.
“We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.”
While church authoritarianism can take root anywhere it finds an opening, there is no doubt that New Calvinism is playing a significant role in this leadership trend. Patriarchal control is modus operandi in the new reformation. With reformed theology comes a puritanical passion to purify the church. These young pastors (some not so young) are determined to restore the gospel that the rest of the church has lost (or so they believe). In doing that, they must purify believers by corralling them into the ‘right’ belief and practice, which of course only New Calvinism provides. They must get the church ready by presenting it to God without spot or wrinkle; they feel it is their responsibility to do that. But they forget that it is God who must do the washing and ironing, not them … and He does that through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The new reformers also forget that it is Jesus who is head of the Church, not their favorite New Calvinist icons. It is Jesus we must come through to be accepted by the Father, not a reformed celebrity with 5 points and 9 marks.
Chris S wrote:
This is what I have been thinking for some time. What we have today almost seems worse than the Heavy Shepherding movement!!
Just like the Wahabi & Talibani’s puritanical passion to purify Islam.
I got my former coworker into eating hot dogs and beans on Saturday nights. A proud New England tradition!
The unfriendliness you described here and elsewhere strikes me as a blessing in disguise. Far worse is the love-bombing to suck people into the authoritarian abuse. On the other hand giving newbies the cold shoulder communicates accurately what is yet to come.
My experience with an authoritarian narcissist pastor tracks well with your narrative. At the time I was unfamiliar with the type, now I can see the pattern of manipulation. What we see as building friendship with them, they see as grooming us. Ultimately there was no value for others beyond their utility to the pastor’s agenda.
I now believe discipling is done through relationships, largely one to one. The church I left behind tried to build disciples using a factory model to mass produce disciples using classes and curriculum. In the end that agenda was set aside with no understanding why it utterly failed. It was replaced with a greater focus on those few hours Sunday morning which yielded similarly abysmal results.
All of this is not surprising. I was an elder at a 9 Marks church for 7 years. Though we would never physically bar anyone from entering, church was all about control, about abiding by the “regulative principle,” and knowing we did church right unlike other churches in the area that were actually growing & having converts! Rarely did we have time for anyone to process doctrine that was taught; it just had to be accepted. I once bought into all of this. It’s amazing how we can take general principles and dogmatize them into church polity that has little regard for actual shepherding. My wife and I will never go back into a 9 Marks church.
@ Former CLCer:
my father used to talk about how as a boy, he was sent down to ‘the beanery’ with the family bean pot to buy the evening’s beans …. long ago, in Massachusetts …. real baked beans, with molasses and salt pork … a true New England tradition, yes 🙂
An authoritarian state usually appears peaceful on the surface, unlike the messy hubub seen in a democracy or a republic. Back in the 30’s there were some in the US that admired fascist Italy because it didn’t exhibit partisanship. It would be interesting to trace if there exists similar seeds breeding such sympathies and the authoritarian structures that seem to dominate 9Marks.
By the way, Dale’s phrase “cult of membership” is an apt description. Spot on. @ Adam E.:
Just think if this would happen to all the Neo-Cal, Comp, Membership Contract churches. One split after another, after another, after another, until there is nothing left.
I just ate and you’re making me hungry again.
Here’s that page-by-page snark review of Atlas Shrugged I mentioned above:
The comment threads of each installment get as lively as here.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
on Patheos, no less 🙂
Bill M wrote:
That mindset is also the alt-right/neoreactionary movement in a nutshell. Mencius Moldbug would be proud of these guys.
It’s highly ironic because Moldbug blames Calvinism for subverting “natural” authoritarian structures, and yet today the most authoritarian churches in the USA (except perhaps for some fringe cults) are neo-Calvinist ones.
@ Former CLCer:
Ever heard of Jacob’s Cattle Beans?
I’ve only read enough of Moldbug to get a mental picture of pompous, is that a fair characterization?
I understand it. I lived in a Christian cult that controlled every minutiae of people’s lives. It’s considered being committed to and zealous for Jesus, didn’t you know? 😉
Exactly. But the Neo-Cal, 9Marxists are gonna keep trying, and trying, and trying, and…..
Thanks for sharing Dale. It was very informative and I loved this bit:
“My perception now? 9Marks churches are very dangerous places to attend church. The ones I had attended lacked love and integrity — two marks of a congregation of true worshipers (John 4:24).”
Alert: on a related note the 9Marxist regime is now sneaking into the UK through the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. The speakers at their annual conference gives me cause for concern:
Thabiti Anyabwile is one of the pastors of Anacostia River Church in Washington DC. He previously served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands) and as an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Washington, DC) and Church on the Rock (Raleigh, NC).
Matt Schmucker was born in Pennsylvania into a large Roman Catholic family (seven sons!) and was converted in his senior year at university. For 25 years, Matt served as an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and oversaw the 9Marks Ministries. Today he organises Together for the Gospel (t4g.org) and CROSS (crossforthenations.org), a student missions conference and helps pastor Anacostia River Church in Washington DC.
Following my last post, I wrote to John Stevens, the director of the FIEC, some months ago and showed evidence of their cultic teachings and I did not get a reply. It seems they are just pressing on with their own agenda which confirms that I did the right thing by leaving one of their affiliated churches (another one run by former friend stocks books by CJ Mahaney and John Piper and has likewise ignored all my evidence and continued selling their books).
This is a bit off topic but it does point out what unchecked/authoritarian rule by decree can lead to in the extreme. Gerhard Kretschmar, a name we should all learn well and enshrine, he was the linchpin as were his peers. They are the first and often the last bastion of humanity traded for expediency before a nation or people dive headlong into oblivion. He was the "test" case for the T4 "hospitals" and laid the groundwork for the deaths of over 200,000 mentally and physically disabled children and adults. I happen to believe that it was far more than that. The concentration camps were already open and the race/hygiene laws already past. Some of those laws and forced sterilizations were based on some laws in the US. Eugenics was considered "science" at the time. I bring this up because any group can be marginalized to such an extent that they are dehumanized. It can happen extremely fast and with great fervor or it can be quiet much like the T4 program was. But it starts "delegitimizing" victims. I think we should remember this 5-month-old boy of a farm worker (from the article). This is why a constant voice for the voiceless needs to be continuously sounded. Never again needs to be a creed, not just a sound byte.
Bill M wrote:
A church plant with a number of people I used to go to church with went Calvinista for awhile, joined Acts 29, had the heavy covenant, and so on. Everyone who told me they visited there, even if they didn’t know I knew those people, said it was cold and unfriendly and nobody spoke to them.
They built a new building, expecting to grow, but they never did. I visited their website a few weeks ago, and noticed they’ve backtracked on much of that, left Acts 29, and put in provisions in their covenant for the members removing elders and leaving without impunity. I wonder if they’ve changed their atmosphere and friendliness level, because that was an immediate sign of how entitled they felt they were.
Velour, you will get a kick out of this. The name of the church from which I was excommunicated was “Grace Fellowship Church.” The pastor who brought charges against me was Greg Johnson. The churches’ constitution and bylaws were “plagiarized” from Grace Community Church (where MacArthur is senior pastor).
The beginning of my “downfall” was when I sent an email to the pastor concerning his improper excommunication of my friend. I listed six issues:
1) Inappropriate and unwise to perform marital counseling in a highly charged group setting.
2) Escalating a minor conflict with my friend, who had already tendered his resignation, into a full blown excommunication.
3) The whole process violated my friend and his wife’s confidentiality.
4) By bringing nebulous charges against my friend, you basically slandered him.
5) Heavy handedness, rush to judgment and a lack of love.
6) As the only elder, there was a lack of accountability. Pastor was the plaintiff, prosecuting attorney, judge, and jury.
After agreeing to bring the issues I had with the pastor before the congregation, I listed reasons why the whole process stunk to high heaven. There were violations of due process:
1) The pastor refused my friends request that they meet privately to discuss whatever “sin” he saw in my friend’s life.
2) There were no detailed charges. My friend was excommunicated for “failure to meet.”
3) Violation of by-laws: No board of elders.
4) Accuser acted as judge.
5) Trusted counselor was the accuser.
6) No advocate or appeal process.
I then listed how the law of love was trodden:
1) Unwilling to meet with my friend whom he was about to excommunicate. My friend was willing to go through with Matthew 18 process to discover what his “sin” was.
2) Only one person from the church approached my friend to ask him to repent of his “sin.” Of course, we didn’t really know what the “sin” was.
3) My friend was slandered.
4) My friend’s Christian testimony was damaged.
5) My friend had already agreed not to return to the church and had formally withdrawn his membership prior to being charged.
6) My friend had not attended for more than six months prior to his excommunication.
7) Improper shunning.
8) My friend was “handed over to Satan” for “failure to meet” to discuss an unknown sin.
Before I could address these issues with the congregation, I received a letter dated August 14, 2005 informing me that I was being charged with slandering the pastor, being prideful and insolent, bearing false witness, and being a reviler. I had already tendered my resignation on August 3rd, and was planning on shaking the dust off my feet and just getting out of Dodge. But I had agreed to the “Hotel California” document. I had no choice but to try to defend myself against these ridiculous charges. So, on Sunday, August 21st I decided to attend GFC and speak to my accusers.
Hi NANCY TWO,
Jacob’s Cattle Beans? Nope, never heard of ’em. Sounds like some kind of South-Western cowboy food.
John Smyth, the father of Covenant Life Church pastor PJ Smyth, has a monstrous past. Brutal beatings of young men and even a questionable death.
CLC seems to have stepped in it once again.
Those words were made for proclamation, not recitation.
The Arrogance of the Predestined Elect.
“WE ARE BORG…”
If we’re back on bowls of beans…
Bachelor Survival Cooking (for one or two):
I start with a small can (1 lb/half kilo) of Bush’s Baked Beans (one of the better brands), then slice about 1/4 lb (about 120 g) of smoked sausage into it plus a squirt of my roomie’s BBQ sauce and let it simmer for a bit. Sometimes chop half an onion (if there’s one handy in the fridge) into it for texture. Goes best with a couple rolls — French, dinner, or King’s Hawaiian — and any leftovers go into the fridge for later.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
When I cook baked beans for my husband and add chopped onion, and hot Italian sausage, he goes crazy. He could live on the stuff.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
HUG, I can’t for the life of me understand why the concept of individualism makes you automatically think of Ayn Rand. I didn’t bring her up. you did.
I don’t believe we can separate the concept of individualism from self-governing. Collectivism is the polar opposite with elites governing the collective. I still don’t think self-governing is a bad thing to strive for, but I realize many people do.
one can hope that the concept of self-governing, which requires some individualism, is more accepted than the dictated good.
I’m looking forward to reading your ‘Part 2’ about your ordeal. On the whole, when other people saw how you were being treated, did they join in the abuse, or did they try to intervene on your behalf? The ‘climate’ must have been extremely oppressive if people were afraid to speak up when someone was being mis-treated.
This is absolutely awful!
Lydia, I think you would identify better with Henry David Thoreau than someone like Ayn Rand, yes. Here’s one of my favorite Thoreau quotes:
“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resigns his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays
Thoreau operated in another century, with different problems, but he is a ‘classic’ individualist in the BEST sense, in my view.
Thus begins the most humiliating day of my life.
Okay, so I show up for Sunday School and am immediately approached by the pastor who asks me to go with him to a separate room. He then gathers two other men, one of whom was a police officer. The pastor, Greg Johnson, sits down and informs me that “You are here to make a scene!” He tells me that I should immediately leave, and that the police officer could contact the police and have me removed. After this threat, I informed him that, as far as I knew, I was still a member of said congregation, and got up and left the room and went back to the Sunday School class. He approached me after the class telling me that I was not to speak a word in church, with the presumed threat that if I did the police would be contacted.
The charges against me were going to be put before the congregation the following week, but because I showed up, Johnson moved it forward one week. I was about to sit through my trial in the “kangaroo court” with no ability to defend myself, not even to speak.
Whew! “Awful” is never a word that should be used to describe a church! Of course, what Dale experienced was not ‘the’ Church. I do believe that if such “pastors” were not constrained by 21st century boundaries, they would take on Calvin’s 16th century spirit to torture, banish, imprison, or execute dissenters.
I see parallels between your testimony and what Martin Luther went through with Pope Leo. Have you seen the movie Luther? It’s one of my favorites!
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
I’ll give this a try sometime when we go camping with our RV. 🙂
Todd Wilhelm wrote:
No kidding, stepped into it–it’s apparently a huge scandal in the UK, because the Archbishop of Canterbury knew of the abuse and did nothing.
Well, Pope Francis was reported in the press as having used the word individualism recently in a very negative sense. He was opposed to it, at least so it seemed. So I looked it up and found out that this word has different related ideas for different people. The Romans criticize each other from time to time for being ‘cafeteria catholic’ which means picking and choosing what to believe and what to agree to and what to practice for themselves.
The opposite of that was how I was taught religion SBC style in the very old days which emphasized that the individual was personally responsible to God first and foremost, and they did not see God channeled as it were through the church. One was responsible for studying scripture themselves; one was responsible to not run with the crowd be it church crowd or government crowd or friends or family (though none go with me, still I will follow) and such. One looked to the final judgment of one’s works (not salvation) and nobody could use the excuse that they were just following orders. But this was during and after WW II and that following orders thing had been dragged out for all the world to see at Nuremberg.
Probably this issue of ‘individualism’ gets really complicated when comparing different religious sub cultures.
I am still who I was, individual, ism or not. Because I believe that we are held to that standard by God himself.
When I think of this mess which has become known as “New Calvinism” and the laws and regulations the new reformation imposes upon church folks, I am reminded of another Thoreau quote:
“Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”
Authoritarian church leaders packing member contracts would not have a platform to strut their stuff, if it weren’t for a gullible audience to prop them up. Sure, we can all be deceived – the problem with deception is that you don’t know you are deceived because you are deceived. But when you begin to wake up and see the red flags, get the heck out of there! Shunning only lasts for a season, but spiritual bondage can be forever. Regardless of what New Calvinists tell you, you have a free will … exercise it!
Did you ever see The Devil’s Advocate? They go through the whole long temptation thing and then reset and then the devil tries again using his pride and the ending is “Vanity, definitely my favorite sin”. (not saying that’s a great movie, but that would definatley work on most of these people).
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
@ Todd Wilhelm:
Richard Barth has a very good article covering the John Smyth news story over on his blog:
The camps at which Smyth worked have a huge unseen influence in British Evangelicalism due to their tactic of inviting ‘top boys from top schools’ (i.e inviting possible future leaders attending Britains elite private schools to attend their camps). Past attendees have included John Stott and Nicky Gumbel (of Alpha Course fame)
@ Adam E.:
I would love to hear your story. Dale’s sounds very familiar.
Somebody up thread was asking ‘why now’ on the growing authoritarianism. My theory on that is that with everything going on politically plus changing demographics, they are in a growing panic. For all their talk about the sovereignty of God, I think they too often are prone to forget.
Bill M wrote:
Re, pastors. It cannot help that they are being specifically taught to NOT be friends with parishioners! So that feeds into this.
Wait, they were doing group counseling of marriages? Multiple couples, and all that?
Not multiple couples. Several pastors (one for the husband and one for the wife), and I think one or two other “lay persons.” My friend was getting horrible counseling from our pastor (think male headship on steroids). The spit hit the fan at this counseling session. When my friend spoke to pastors, counselors, and trusted friends from outside our church and got conflicting advice, it was then that he decided to pull back from our church. Because he mentioned this conflicting advice to our pastor, he was treated as having slandered him.
Of course, his mom did his laundry…
Ah, thanks. That’s a bit better. I have major concerns about the seeming lack of confidentiality in this type of counseling, though.
“When my friend spoke to pastors, counselors, and trusted friends from outside our church and got conflicting advice, it was then that he decided to pull back from our church. Because he mentioned this conflicting advice to our pastor, he was treated as having slandered him.”
Greg Johnson is a delicate little flower.
The excommunication of my friend, though painful to him, was the best thing that could ever have happened in his marriage, for his relationship with his wife and his kids. The act of leaving (or getting kicked out of) a toxic church allows the healing process to begin. Unfortunately, some poor souls often find themselves gravitating to another abusive church similar to the one they left. That is why it is so important to get the word out about these toxic churches, so that people are able to avoid them. When you are involved in an abusive church, it is often the people gifted with discernment that get the heave ho. This leaves the remaining sheep extremely vulnerable.
Jacob’s Cattle beans are spotted, like Holstein cows. I learned about them from my mil in Maine (Soldier beans, too) and got her recipe for baked beans. She cooked red hot dogs with them.
Yes, I am a Southern Kentuckian, but occasionally, I cook Yankee beans Yankee style. Gotta have my cornbread with ’em though!
Dale, you didn’t fold to blind group-think. You stood up for yourself and your friend. You called church leaders out where they were soooooo wrong. You are a Berean.
You da man!
Greg Johnson is one smooth operator. I have a tape recording of my hour-long dressing down at the hands of the poor pastor whom I “slandered.” He basically convinced the congregation that it would be sin on their part to listen to my side of the story. If they were to get any information on the matter, they were told to go directly to him. The fact that I broke the “shunning rule” by speaking with my friend was seen as corrupting anything that I could possibly know about the matter.
French Canadiens in the NorthEast call ‘cornbread’ ‘Johnny Cake’ 🙂
They eat it with pea soup. I do too.
Very food of cornbread where I add sour cream and a can of creamed corn …. it is rich and moist and sweet, but very dense even though I put in three eggs. Sooooo good! 🙂
I like depression beans. That would be any bean, but great northern is best, slow cooked forever with a little country ham, served in a big ole pasta bowl with chopped raw onions sprinkled on top and actual corn bread on the side, and wash it down with buttermilk. That is a whole meal right there.
They used to offer that at one of the hospitals in St. Louis where I was; never heard of it before then. Too bad, because it would have made a classic southern dish.
Here is a segment from Greg Johnson’s diatribe:
“I love Dale. This is something that has grieved my heart since this has taken place. And I have pleaded with him personally. I love him. And that Dale and I have had a good relationship you all know… And I have said to Dale that he is responsible for his sins in this matter. But this is as if it is of the Devil… I don’t believe there is ANYBODY who have heard the things that have taken place and say that there is anything founded in any of these accusations. That there is anything founded in the way it has been handled… So I would plead with Dale to repent of these things, for his good. This is a SERIOUS matter. This is a test for our congregation as well. It is very much a test if we are going to be a biblical church. Whether we are to honor God. Whether or not we are going to love our brother enough to go to him. And these things are DIFFICULT. They are awkward. They are hard. So I would ask you, whatever he has brought with him this morning (I have everything documented; I’ll give you documentation if you have questions which you believe are profitable for you to be able to go to him properly), but I would not even receive anything from him. Go to him, and plead with him to repent.”
So, I received multiple emails and phone calls (no personal visits, lest I corrupt someone) urging me to repent. Period. What else could they do? I had already been convicted in their mind of slander, and the pastor told them not to associate with me. If they visited me to hear MY side of the story… they would be risking contamination and excommunication. Fear often keeps the sheep in line in an abusive church.
Believe me, it ain’t the same. My fil’s parents were French-Canadian …. moved to Maine from Saskatchewan when he was a child. Mil’s parents were from Nova Scotia.
The other smart move that Greg Johnson did was to bifurcate the two excommunications. One was not allowed to delve into the first excommunication of my friend. In other words, I was slandering whether what I said was true or not. You can’t make this stuff up!
Greg Johnson: “However, these are two separate matters… The sin that we have brought on Dale’s part is sin no matter what the church discipline…”
Yep, but don’t forget the ripe tomato relish! Pintos are good that way, too! Oooooh, green onions?
I wish that I had a recording of our meetings. At the time it just never occurred to me that it would be necessary to record a meeting with my pastor. Approximately 15 seconds into the second meeting, I knew things were just not going to go very well at all. In fact, I knew things were going to be very strange.
Cult, cult, cult!!!! I’m so glad that you had sense enough to get out. Shame other contractual members aren’t more like you.
Yes, and a vicious control freak — an abuser who should be disqualified from pastoring any of God’s flock.
It is reassuring that not every autocrat wannabe gets their own expanding empire. Pastors coming out of seminary with the goal of building empires reminds me of inner city kids who grasp to go professional in sports, few have the ability. At least the sports dream is a reasonably decent goal. The newly minted pastor at the church I quit was by appearances lazy yet he wanted to “be pastor of a big church”.
It is okay to revile their behavior.
Gram3, his story is severe. I don’t have that experience but I do understand the church mindset that drives it and can easily see how 9 Marks folks end up doing this. Thankfully, the elders I was a pet of never acted like what dale experienced but the excessive focus on membership and control were still there. @ Gram3:
Oh, and did I mention the worst part of this whole charade? My 89 year old mother, whom my wife and I were caring for in our home, fell and hit her head on the edge of a chair. She had a subdural hematoma that put her into intensive care. She needed an immediate craniotomy to save her life. This didn’t work, so the doctor asked if we wanted him to try a second craniotomy. He wasn’t hopeful. We said “yes” and the second procedure saved her life. She lived with us until age 97.
That all was happening during the the two-month process of confronting the pastor and being excommunicated. “I love Dale” had little meaning to me — there was no empathy whatsoever. What a cold fish!
Bill M wrote:
Obviously the Newspeak meaning of “Love” .
As in The Ministry of Love, Airstrip One, Oceania, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Bill M wrote:
Looking forward to the Furtick Mansion to which he is Entitled:
“O Come Let Us Adore Him,
O Come Let Us Adore Him,
O Come Let Us ADOOOOOORE HIIIIM…”
Delicate Little Flowers/Speshul Little Snowflakes often are.
Surfacing when the Speshul Little Snowflake hears the word “No”.
Successful grifters, serial killers, con men, serial rapists, and sociopaths-in-general have to be.
Otherwise they would have been exposed and caught long ago; we only hear about the dumb ones.
Another bean-related quickie of mine is “microwave succotash” — one regular-sized can of whole-kernel corn (drained), one same-sized can of beans (pinto or white works best, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES USE LIMA BEANS!), about 1/4 cup (about 60-100 ml measure) of chopped dried parsley, and seasoning to taste (I like Montreal Steak Seasoning). Mix it all in a Pyrex casserole dish and microwave until hot. Or stove-top simmer in a pot for a bit.
Bill M wrote:
That group thankfully didn’t have any of those. There were a couple non-pastors that started it who were just followers of people like John Piper. I think they were literally fanboys of the movement. Then they invited a pastor in, who I respect, and I think he tempered them somewhat. But he was just one elder among 9-10, and I think they joined Acts 29 before things really went crazy with that group. I’m impressed that they were able to walk away from the neo-Calvinist movement and become more moderate.
Vicious control freak applies to every Calvinista I’ve ever met. I thought the IFB folks were bad but Calvinistas are even worse.
A missionary from a rather intense Bible church showed up at our house a couple of years back. Even though he was a man and I was alone, we talked. After awhile he very kindly offered to join me in prayer for my family. We talked and prayed just inside my front door, in full view of anyone passing by. I silently disagreed with this man’s theology, but welcomed his prayers and his skill at outreach.
It’s also unfathomable to people (like me) who are fine with infant baptism. Whether you’re dealing with an infant or an adult, you can’t tell what they believe. Only God knows that. These church “leaders” are trying to read people’s minds by making them say things and sign things. God, thank heaven, is deeper than that.
What kind of peace do they want, and how many Peacemakers are they toting?
Don’t matter if they can’t hit the target.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
I had some family of family who used to make lima beans with like two sticks of butter, a bunch of bacon, cream, etc. So good.
I was just listening to a podcast about nuclear war and how they named a lot of warheads and things names like ‘peacemaker’. Fitting!
I think the difference is not about speech but about donating money to candidates. Imagine church “elders” inviting candidates to talk/preach, and then giving them money. In some churches, this would be decided by the men at the top. In other churches, members might agitate.
The repeal would not apply just to churches, but to all bodies of worship (flying spaghetti monster, satanists, or the religion I make up tomorrow). The repeal would apply to secular charities too.
To get a little more on topic: 9Marx and other oppressive churches could dangle big cardboard checks in front of political candidates. I don’t see this as a good development.
Ken F wrote:
Maybe they are secretly Rastafarians, with that “I and I” language that pops up in reggae… Can’t you just hear Bob Marley singing, “I excommunicated I”? /sarc
Sounds kind of like how Scientology pursues members who want to leave and bans their family from seeing them again.
You betcha they would Max!
Here’s what John Adams had to say on the matter in 1817:
Addressing Jefferson, who had in 1817 complacently boasted that
their country had averted a Protestant Popedom, he exclaimed:
“Oh! Lord! Do you think that a Protestant Popedom is annihilated
in America? Do you recollect, or have you ever attended to the
ecclesiastical Strifes in Maryland Pensilvania, New York, and
every part of New England? What a mercy it is that these People
cannot whip and crop, and pillory and roast, as yet in the U.S.!
If they could they would.”
— From Brooke Allen’s Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers —
I fear a cage wrote:
I agree – you bring up good points. The marriage of church and state has always resulted in illegitimate offspring.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
Gotta try it, too!
@Dale. We only went to Grace Fellowship one time. They told us that FLOCK groups were a requirement for membership. It was not optional. We walked out the door and never went back. We went to this church after Creekside (the dispensational church)… so we went in reverse order as you, but by that point we were able to sniffout the heavy handedness immediately and never went back.
That sounds familiar. Just before Dee and I launched this blog, my husband and I were involved with the re-plant of a Southern Baptist church. At first we were excited about it, but in the weeks leading up to the church launch, there was a Q&A session with the two pastors. One of the men who had served as a deacon asked what would happen if a church member decided NOT to join a community group.
The answer from one of the leaders was: “They would be put under church discipline.”
That was the last straw for my husband and me. While we don’t have a problem with community groups, we do not appreciate being told that we MUST participate or else…
“Cafeteria Catholic” has long been a pejorative for said folks even outside of Catholicism.
I God bless em’ (cafeteria catholics), they’re people after mine own heart, cuz’ I’m a Cafeteria Protestant. I own it, and I fully admit it.
If they were Rastas, they’d be a lot mellower.
Is de ganja, mon.
Yes sadly I think you are right. Looking back I suffered abuse from my church but it is nothing compared to what Dale has suffered here. Dale – I am so sorry for the way you have been treated here.
More and more, after reading the stuff here, I’m thankful for my church that is in a conservative Presbyterian denomination. Our church does practice discipline. It’s not perfect, but here’s the deal: If somebody is tempted to misuse their authority, there’s another level to be appealed to (Presbytery, General Assembly, etc.). Any member can file charges against the session of their own church if they feel abuse has occurred. Churches with ongoing problems get help from committees of people from other churches — an outside view to try to help mediate disputes and sort out problems.
I can’t say I’m completely against church discipline. Let me give you an example. In a non-disciplining church I know of, one guy ran off with another member’s wife. Busted up two families. The adulterers continued to attend church in good standing. The scorned spouses ended up leaving the church because — well, what else were they supposed to do? With no church discipline, there was no protection for two people who had the rug totally pulled out from under them. Their marriages got destroyed and they didn’t even have the support of their church to help through that hard time.
I realize that you are a new commenter. Most people would not have problems with the type of church discipline to which you are referring. In fact I said so in my most recent post. However, if you read Dale’s story along with everyone else who has been disciplined, it is for awful things such as leaving an abusive husband, questioning what is going on in the church, etc. It would be nice if churches disciplined for what you discussed but most of them discipline for other reasons.
Secondly, do not be too secure in your knowledge that you can appeal to a higher authority. In our experience, it is rare, if ever, that they reverse abusive actions by churches. We have also written about that here.
I recommend that you keep reading about abuses in churches, including your own. It might challenge you.
One more question, why did you say this? has you church ever harmed a person with its form of discipline? Whoever I hear this sort of statement, there is usually a sad story behind it. No church is perfect but no church should ever misuse discipline to abuse an individual. That should not happen-not even once. If it happened once, it will most likely happen again.
Deb left a church who made that a requirement as well.
Within New Calvinist ranks, what is the “higher authority”? Even in SBC ranks, as long as an individual church professes belief in the Baptist Faith & Message (BFM), it is still given the freedom to act autonomously without denominational oversight. There is no appeal process available to church members who find themselves facing a disciplinary action. The BFM was revised in 2000 to provide theological wiggle room to allow New Calvinist belief and practice to set up camp. There is no recourse available in an elder-ruled SBC church for a member to escape authoritarian chastisement. Most, if not all, new SBC church plants adopt this form of church governance … where the young, restless and reformed rule the roost – no questions asked.
I used to think appealing to higher authority was a protection until I found the higher authority rubber stamped the decisions of the 30 year old pastor, ignoring the concerns of the member in good standing of four decades.
Bill M wrote:
That line, itself, ought to scare the American church to death! When 30 year old pastors and “elder” teams in their 20s-30s are making decisions with no congregational check & balance, anything can go! Welcome to an SBC-YRR church plant near you!
I didn’t know about that Ammendment. I thought the majority of fundamentalist-evangelical pastors did promote the political party that they believed represented their interests and agendas.
If a pastor was inclined to engage in political matters as an advisor to his flock, I don’t think an Amendment would stop him.
Where it gets sticky is when a pastor is conflicted. Example: if a pastor is for respecting life from conception to natural death, and then also supports the political agendas that threaten or defeat what must respect life …… that is a problem for him and for those who look to him for some guidance as to what ‘the Church’ teaches. The more ‘conflicted’ the Church appears to the people, the less clarity the Church has in its moral voice and influence.
Thank you Dale for sharing your experience. I left a 9 marks church. Met with a friend who still attends this weekend. She had gone to the pastor for marriage advice when going through a difficult time. She started crying and was told by the pastor her tears were from the devil, and to stop crying! The lack of empathy and love is scary. Praying blessings for you.
I visited quite a few churches across the spectrum over the decades and found the practice rare, at least out here on the West coast.
In my case it was neither SBC nor YRR, just authoritarian in structure. The denomination used to move their pastors every three years and that kept a partial balance of power but since the 70’s they stopped the practice. It was over decades that the shift in power occurred and although I couldn’t articulate it till after I left, I was increasingly uncomfortable with a paid staff holding all he power. It was when abuse began that I left.
@ Bill M:
I appreciate your witness to that as it is reassuring. I hope ‘the pulpit’ does not become a political hack for any political parties in our country.
I do not think that most protestants would tolerate having some pastor try telling them how to vote. I do personally think the the pastor, like any citizen, is welcome to his own opinion and his own party affiliation and his own vote of course. But IMO the protestant political mystique is solidly grounded on freedom of thought and opinion.
At the same time, somebody (wink) did speak from his own bully pulpit about economics, immigration and most recently global warming. I think he had every right to do so, but as to how that affects his own crowd I have no idea.
I would agree with Bill M on that one. Most fundagelical honchos tend to not enter any political fray by direct engagement, but they will ‘tap dance’ around various issues. There are a few however, who will engage ‘the enemy’ (a popular fundagelical label for anyone who doesn’t agree with them) by ‘spiritual warfare’, and if that includes urging their congregants to the ballot box, so be it.
I live in the Bible belt West, which includes Southern Calif and Arizona.
Most fundagelicals in the belt vote a straight Republican ticket no matter what (propositions) or who is on it.
Muff Potter wrote:
I go to a liberal church and they do the same thing. It’s like speaking in code, everyone knows what you mean. People just can’t resist.
All you need to trigger the transformation is to tell him “NO”.
My husband and I just moved our family into an area that, unbeknownst to us, has approximately 20 9Marks/Acts 29/ARC churches. I literally do not know where to attend church now. This is right outside of Dallas, in a city called Northlake. It’s everywhere, folks.
@ Michell Adams:
We have a similar problem here in North Carolina. 🙁
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
Here’s what happens when a Delicate Little Flower hears the word “NO”:
Now imagine that Delicate Little Flower with POWER over you by Divine Right.
Ever heard the phrase “Jesus Christ – wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party”?
Perhaps you can hear the similarities.
Reading that there are quite a few LOL moments for me. Not laughter out of happiness. But laughter out of shock and disbelieve.
“On August 14, 2005 I received a registered letter stating that I was being brought up on charges: I had brought an accusation against an elder without witnesses; ”
Invulnerable elder kings are invulnerable.
Let’s say you lost your whole car in the church parking lot one day. 3 days later you see your car directly in front of your elder’s house. And then you saw him get in and drive your car away. You know it is your car because all the little dent and scratches are exactly the same. In fact the elder didn’t even bother changing your license plate! What more evidence do you need? What would be the elder’s defense? That you accused him without 2-3 witnesses and that is a MUST requirement on the bible? So in fact you yourself must repent or be excommunicated and be labeled a false-Christian and cultist.
In fact because Jesus loves the elders so much, when it says 2-3 witnesses it actually mean 22-33 witnesses. Think of Matthew 18:22. Even if they give you a clearance discount you would need 10 witnesses (whoa over 50% off such a good deal!) See how everything in the bible PROVES that invulnerable elders are invulnerable?
“I discovered from my pastor that in order to teach at our church, one must hold to dispensational eschatology. Furthermore, he pointed out that the church could never support my best friend’s ministry because he was not dispensational. ”
Yes we all get it. If you are not a dispensational-ist (or you don’t believe in any other theology from 9 Marks) then you are not a true Christian. And so your so-called ministry is more or less a cult. As such of course 9 Marks cannot support your ministry.
“When I arrived at church the following Sunday, one of the elders physically attempted to bar me from entering the church building. After a brief discussion with another elder, I left. Later that week, the Lead Pastor phoned to warn me that if I ever set foot on the church property again, the police would be contacted.”
Oh. So NOW they trust in the police force? What hypocrites! These are the same “group” of people that say they SHOULDN’T call the police when they discover elders sexually abusing little children. That all “Christian disagreements” must be handled in house. And the parents and the sexual abuse child victims MUST forgive the rapist and MUST’T call the police.