Updated: Why We Should Care About What Is Happening In Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)

(Update: The father of one of the victims of sexual abuse responds to the pastors of CLC.)

(Update 2: A Powerful Note To C.J. Mahaney…And A Request From A Reporter. Note: If the rest of the Christian news world does not get on this…)

I’ve been asked why I care about the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) controversy. It’s not a bad question but the better question is probably, “Why aren’t more people talking about?” Why don’t they care enough to discuss it?

My guess is there is too much to lose. Followers have have read the books, sang the sings and been to the conferences and walked away too happy to question that there could be huge systemic problems within such an influential group of pastors/churches. The pastors who have very public ministries and are colleaugues and friends of CJ see this as too huge a loss for T4G and TGC and so say nothing. Are they hoping it will all go away? Would they be so silent if it were someone outside of their circle?

Someone needs to write a post comparing the furor over Rob Bell and the silence over the pastors of SGM.

Regardless, here are some thoughts as an outsider:

1. For years I have been pointed to CJ Mahaney and SGM to learn from them. I have pointed others to them also. This is an opportunity to continue learning, most likely we can learn how not to lead and what kinds of authority structures to be wary of.

2. As of now, some SGM pastors have publicly apologized and reached out to those on the blogs (and this does not include Josh Harris’ public statements.) But this was only after the leak of Brent Detwiler’s documents (approaching 71,000 total reads) detailing the struggles to keep CJ accountable by the same standards he expects of others. It took such a thing as the leaking of these (emails, etc.) to get SGM pastors to acknowledge their callous handling of the victims of sexual abuse, using other people’s sins as blackmail, etc. That is terribly instructive. It is good it is happening, it is sickening it took the release of the documents.

3. We are no longer in a situation “if this is true then…” Too much has already been admitted by pastors of SGM churches. We are way past the ability to call this gossip. When we call this all mere gossip, we seek to silence those who have been crying out for years for justice and we do so from the safe side of those in power. But we as believers, should be longing to hear from those who have suffered, this is who we should be fighting for.

4. If we as a church ignore those who have been hurt in these kinds of situations because we do not want to push against a celebrity pastor, it proves we do not really care about justice. We toy with justice only. For four years a handful of blogs (start here and here) have been detailing abuses and injustice and only now are the SGM pastors acknowledging them. You may ask, “Are blogs the best way for victims to air their complaints?” They tried other means and were often further victimized.

5. Pastors under discipline at SGM churches have been expected to stay in their SGM churches after being removed from the pulpit, being “degifted” and otherwise. CJ Mahaney has refused to do this even though he was asked to do so by the other pastors of Covenant Life Church (the church he started and the flagship of SGM) and is now attending Capital Hill Baptist Church, a non-SGM church. The rules seem to have changed.

Before you dismiss all of this with a wave of the hand read this story aaaaand this one. Just two of the stories that are not being dismissed by the pastors of Covenant Life Church.

7 thoughts on “Updated: Why We Should Care About What Is Happening In Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)

  1. Unknown August 16, 2011 / 2:58 am

    Matt,I am surprised that many people haven't posted on your post. Not knowing much about SGM I went in this pretty open and unbiased. I have read some of C.J. Mahaney's books with one of my favorites being the one on humility. I have also read a book or two from Josh Harris. Believe it or not I wasn't super surprised at what I read. The length of time and the amount of information was overwhelming but other than that it is something that nowadays is all too often played out on the national and local church level. My biggest takeaway is that this is yet another example of how God is yet again telling us that we do not need a king. As much as there are good men that we can learn from there is never a substitute for his Word. Perfect power corrupts perfectly and we should constantly guard ourselves from placing people on pedestals. As men and leaders in whatever station we must surround ourselves with other men who are not afraid to rebuke us and keep us accountable and that we would fervently pray that God would soften our hearts to make us ready to receive this rebuke. Lastly, while I have been convinced that a plurality of elders is the very clear biblical structure of the church it is clear that via bylaws and additional structures there must be checks and balances to allow grievances to be shared and transparency to be present in all church dealings that give members a strong sense of trust and confidence. Thanks for sharing!Your brother,Chad Molen

  2. Jacob August 16, 2011 / 1:30 pm

    It seems to me this shows the danger of a church (or a group of churches) not being held accountable to a larger assembly.

  3. Matthew B. Redmond August 16, 2011 / 3:41 pm

    Chad, I think your analysis is spot on.Jacob,That is certainly part of it. But you don't have to spend much time reading the documents and stories on the blogs to see a systemic problem that would pollute almost any structure. Thankfully though, I am hearing they are wanting to move to a more presbyterian polity.

  4. kristen August 17, 2011 / 8:03 pm

    Having spent time in a city with a large SGM church and observed it for a while, I was astounded. This is a long overdue catalyzing moment to alert people to the fact that a lot of people have been systematically abused* for a long time. Some of the people in the pews have woken up (the church I know of is at 25% of its previous attendance) and some of the churches have woken up (Joshua Harris is surprising me with his response.) But without some big sweeping changes, this ship isn't going to weather the storm. I am praying for God's people. And I am grateful for so many people I knew who are doing so much better now outside the SGM "umbrella." I am also grieving for those who are no longer in the church after their experiences with SGM and praying that those who hurt them would have the courage to go to them in godly sorrow and repentance. *to be fair, it wasn't shocking crimes in the instances I know, but more garden variety spiritual abuse akin to cults.

  5. Matthew B. Redmond August 17, 2011 / 8:11 pm

    Kristen,I absolutely agree and am pleasantly surprised to see such character in Josh Harris. He seems to be real deal.

  6. Michael MacCaughelty August 17, 2011 / 8:48 pm

    I sure hope Christians have a good long weeping and lamentation season before we/they react and hurt more people with unthoughtful blog posts. This just makes me so sad and longing for Jesus. I hope more pastors will LONG FOR real heart accountability and plurality of elders in the wake of such. Praise God for the courage of those who have brought this to the Church.

  7. Jeff Hutchinson January 31, 2018 / 12:18 pm

    And now be sure to read this, if you haven’t already: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html

    Especially this part:

    “The ultimate reality that I live with is that if my abuser had been Nathaniel Morales instead of Larry Nassar, if my enabler had been [an SGM pastor] instead of [MSU gymnastics coach] Kathie Klages, if the organization I was speaking out against was Sovereign Grace under the leadership of [Mahaney] instead of MSU under the leadership of Lou Anna Simon, I would not only not have evangelical support, I would be actively vilified and lied about by every single evangelical leader out there. The only reason I am able to have the support of these leaders now is because I am speaking out against an organization not within their community. Had I been so unfortunate so as to have been victimized by someone in their community, someone in the Sovereign Grace network, I would not only have their support, I would be massively shunned. That’s the reality.”

    So thankful for you, Matt, for calling this out nearly seven years ago, shining light and doing all you could. So tragic the damage SGM did to so many, including the brave Denhollanders. Lord, have mercy.

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