Should You or Your Church Leave SGM? The Case for Staying in the Game

Now that the dust has settled on the announcement of a new Board, what will you do?  Now that you know that the interim Board decided to disregard the wise counsel of approximately 20 churches and over 60+ pastors represented among them… now what?

What’s a regular member to do?   Is this the last straw?  Is this the proof that those in power at SGM-land are not interested in reform or positive change?   Well, as frustrated as many of you may be, I’d like to encourage you to take a deep breath and consider the possibility that staying and seeking real lasting change is better than bailing at this crucial moment.

In short, I’d like to lay out the case for staying and fighting for reform – for members staying in their churches and for churches to stay in SGM…. at least for now.   Here’s why I think individuals and churches alike should not leave –

First, start with this idea – the SGM Board does not own SGM.   They may have the legal right to govern SGM but fellow members, hear this – they do not have a right to SGM in a moral or ethical sense – truth is, they don’t even know what SGM is (more on that in a future post).  Of course, ultimately God owns SGM but humanly speaking, I see no reason to cede SGM to those who seek to perpetuate the status quo of narrow mindedness, flaky legalistic practices, top down management ethic and poor leadership.   They may have a legal right to govern but they don’t have the moral warrant to direct SGM like their own personal country club.  The members of each SGM church collectively have the right and responsibility to voice their opinion on SGM – what it is, what it should be and where it should go.  Don’t cede your right to them but stay in the game – all day, everyday until they change.  They may kick you out but don’t give up the fight prematurely

Second,  you can’t call for change if you have one foot out the door.   Some have questioned why the response letter from SGC Fairfax (at this point, affirmed by 18 churches) asserted that as a church they were not intending to leave – seeking reform,, not separation.   Let me say unequivocally- that is absolutely the right tone and emphasis for anyone seeking change.   If you want a better future – you have to be around to help make it happen.

Third, things might actually change…. or not…. but at least, you tried and exhausted all possibilities.   It may be that the SGM Board will play hardball and close ranks against the “dissenting” churches but if they do so, they are in more trouble than they know.   On the other hand, perhaps the new Board will act courageously and competently – acknowledging the need to hear different views, slowing down, collaboratively working with churches….and maybe something good will happen.   As long as God is on the throne, good outcomes are always on the agenda.

Now, to be clear – staying in the game doesn’t mean just acquiescing.  No, in fact, I think it means being very deliberate and consistent in calling for change and modeling change.  It also means not feeding the machine until the machine gets fixed.  Frankly, I believe that churches who do not agree with where things are going should stop giving to SGM.   As an individual, if you happen to be in a church that is pro-SGM status quo, by all means, please talk to your pastor about reducing/stopping the money flow. Churches that wish to continue giving to SGM should at least afford church members the opportunity to opt out of indirect SGM giving (i.e. via the church).

Let’s also remember that these men who blindly support SGM/CJ are still brothers in Christ, they mean well even if they are poorly motivated and execute terribly.  For the good of the many in the “family of churches”,  they need to be served by hard medicine of truth, humble confrontation and intelligent debate – and that’s what I suggest every member delivers.   Here’s the bottom line –  for their good and yours, stay in the fight for a better SGM until they make you leave.

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17 thoughts on “Should You or Your Church Leave SGM? The Case for Staying in the Game

  1. Good post!

    I think that a case could be made either way (staying or going) with neither being necessarily right or wrong. It’s similar to the differences between Puritan and Separatist ideology. Of course, we aren’t experiencing the religious persecution that existed in the 1600’s for those religious groups, so the choices for SGM congregants are different. I’d argue that separatism is favorable for an individual under certain conditions:

    1. That after having prayed, & flushed out their individual SGM concerns with their pastors, there remains an inner unrest and lack of peace.
    2. That these SGM issues affect their participation in corporate gathering on Sundays, preventing opportunity to worship, rest, feed on the word, or serve willingly & joyfully.
    3. That due to SGM concerns, they are consistently tempted to lose sight of what Sunday & Church participation is about.

    If these scenarios are present in any SGM congregant, then they should be greatly encouraged to find another local body of believers that blesses their heart! There is a danger in encouraging someone to tough it out, if it ultimately toasts them toward all Christianity, or biblical leadership. The advantage in this day and age is that SGM is not the only thing out there, and they’re not settling for less if they join a different denomination. Some people are called by God to be Puritans, at least for a time. But I would encourage separatism for those other individuals whose spirit’s would be hurt by these abuses of leadership, or the stress & frustration of appealing & seeking reform. There are just too many good, godly churches out there to plug into!

    • The above pretty much describes me. I appreciate what my church and pastors are doing. I applaud and commend their calls for reform. And I am incredibly grateful for them and the reform they’ve made and are trying to make at the local level. I love my pastors and consider them dear friends.

      But there’s just so much baggage from years of bad teaching, among other things. Even though some of the current pastors weren’t there at the time, it just taints the whole brand for me. I have a hard time separating the SGM nonsense when I go on Sunday mornings in order to properly participate. Most times I don’t even want to participate in a Sunday meeting.

      That being said, I want to stand behind them and support them in their calls for reform. But I suspect that even if major reforms occur, the desire to leave will still be there. It’s like wanting to help and make sure the ship gets on the right course. Then giving hugs and handshakes in celebration, but getting off at the next port.

      • Nearly Departed – I’m very sympathetic to how you feel… I really am. However, I would suggest that if your pastors are doing the right thing in seeking reform and you trust them – then why not support them in their effort. From my perspective, the only hangup would be if they are still feeding the machine financially. If they aren’t then, you may want to stand w your leadership team and help them along the journey. If your church is going to end up leaving, then so be it.

        Try not to think of SGM or your local church as a brand but as an assembly of fellow believers. Obviously, I’m not deluded – there are serious problems but in the end, we need to also maintain perspective – there are a lot more injustices and wrongdoings in this world other than what’s going on at SGM. Not trying to lecture you and I hope my reply didn’t come across that way – just wanted to give a different perspective.

    • I have to say that you’re probably right. Staying and calling for change isn’t for everyone and it depends on how it’s affecting you as an individual or your family. I was just trying to make the case to stay… which is harder to make everyday based on the SGM board’s responses.

  2. I think the problem with the line of thought that says “stay and create change from within” is that it’s very near-sighted and doesn’t take PEOPLE and their SOULS into account. Sure, we want change within SGM. But if individual congregants (and/or whole families) are feeling burnt out, then they should be whole-heartedly encouraged to leave and find a better place of rest. “Change” at the expense of people is never, ever a good thing.

    • yes – I wouldn’t stay as an individual if it was going to significantly affect my soul. Nor should church stay in, if staying in serves as a significant distraction and hindrance to its core mission

  3. ‘So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign LORD.”’

    • Karen – thanks for stopping by… I do love the book of Ezekiel – he was a radical dude w a radical message. Wish you had supplied commentary – not exactly sure why you were sharing that particular verse. Were you relating that to me (which is absolutely fine) or SGM or just for general edification.

  4. Though I appreciate your attempt to be kind I must ask why “narrow mindedness, flaky legalistic practices, top down management ethic and poor leadership” is your description of what is going on? Shouldn’t it read “deception, lies, spin, outright evil, manipulation and corruption”? You sound like I do when I don’t want to truly confess my own sin. For that matter, you sound like CJ during his minimal “confession”. I can also minimize my sin, call it something softer than scripture would call it to make it easier to swallow and not sound so bad on me.

    I would also question the purpose behind the blind support of SGM/CJ after so much evidence and obvious manipulation and spin have been presented over the last 9 months. I believe if we are going to call for reform, lets do it in the light, using our real names, and calling what we see by what God would refer to it as. Just because I call deceit, spin, lies and manipulation what it is doesn’t mean I am judging the motives behind it all. But it is what it is. How can we seek “reform” if we don’t properly identify WHAT we are reforming. I don’t care about reforming “flaky legalistic practices” nearly as much as flat out corruption! At least from my standpoint these are the things I see and I can only make decisions based on what I see viewed through the lens of scripture. If these things are being done willfully, and I’m not sure how they couldn’t be, then they will answer to God for that. If this many men are this blind to the pride, arrogance and manipulation then I pity them. My concern is that things are put in place to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately a few leaders are putting in place more structures to keep any TRUE reform from happening. What has been done most recently only seems to continue to stack the deck for more of the same. The fact that SGM did not wait to legitimately hear from those opposed to the haste of this process tells me there is no hope for reform under the current leadership. They are shoring up the SGM fortress and apart from God sending a Joshua type army that circles the walls and lets out a timely roar to bring the walls down this is fruitless. Personally nothing solidifies the charges brought against CJ more than the actions of the board and CJ since those charges went public. Isn’t this EXACTLY what Brent and others have been trying to bring to CJ’s attention for at least 10 years?

    Seriously, all one has to do is study Matthew 23 to see how God feels about this and how Jesus spoke against it. Let’s stop sugar coating the issues and call sin for what it is, then and only then can we truly hope to help these brothers and bring reform. Hasn’t that been the teaching of SGM for decades? Let’s be in Joshua’s army and circle the walls that are being put up. And when the time comes we will let out a roar that will bring these walls of sin protection down. But this is all in God’s hands and I don’t know anything beyond this moment. The one thing I do know is that He doesn’t call me to hide behind false names and the curtain of cyberspace. It’s important to be a visible voice in order for real change to occur and I believe the more visible voices there are the faster the time for the “roar” will occur. I do not believe this is “divisive” but instead is standing up for the gospel message and keeping it pure in the church (as has also been preached to us for decades)! Let’s get behind these 18 churches and 80+ pastors as a congregation and support them, visibly.

    • Tom – you obviously feel strongly but why do you assume your description is more legitimate than mine? Yes – there are examples like Brent who are out there, name calling and inflammatory but how’s it really working out? First of all, he’s not a current member, truly disgruntled and so has nothing to lose…more importantly, to most SGM church members, he is marginalized. I’m not disgruntled – I’m kinda happy actually and I’m not going to let SGM ruin or run my day, much less my life.

      Let me suggest to you that the battle of reformation isn’t around the 20 churches that have signed onto the letter or another 20 churches that are probably blindly bought into SGM. It’s actually around the members in the remaining 60 churches who can influence the direction of their churches – by educating themselves, speaking winsomely to their pastors and swaying the opinion of their fellow members. Reform smart, not just hard… if you think through this, you will realize that SGM Board has COMPLETE legal control – they can do whatever they want… the only way they will be persuaded is to exert pressure outside of frontal attacks or direct character charges (even if they may be legitimate). Here’s how they will be persuaded – when half the churches choose to stop giving and openly demand a different approach to polity, communication and leadership style. We have almost 20, let’s work on the remaining 30… Chances of success? absolutely slim but why not try – God can do anything.

      In terms of identification, each person may have reasons to identify or not – I ask that you respect mine and the other participants on this blog who choose to be anonymous.

      • Please forgive me for my arrogance. I was not purposefully condemning those who maintain anonymity for whatever reason but I can see that that is what came out. From what I’ve read since all this broke I certainly can understand the need to keep identities private in some circumstances. And, yes I do feel very strongly about this, which I can also see came through in my postings, and I’m not really saying your wording is inferior to mine. I am questioning whether some people are sugar coating the realities of what is taking place and I want to guard against that just like I need to guard against my doing so when confessing my own sin. BUT, I would encourage anyone willing to post to really search for why they feel they need to remain anonymous. Are they not trusting the Lord with respect to reputation? Or is there lingering fear of being ousted? Neither is good, would you agree? Do you believe the impact of someone’s statement carries more weight when the audience knows who made the statement or does that not really matter? I know it matters to me who said what I’m supposed to believe. I will try to be more respectful of individual decisions to remain anonymous especially since I have no insight into their motives. And if I’ve been name calling please bring specific observations. I’ve really tried to not make this any personal attack on anybody. I know my posts have been very strong and lacking in grace and I really am not trying to offend anyone. I’ve tried to speak directly to the sin I see, not the person’s character.

        Whether Brent is “truly disgruntled” or simply passionate for the truth to be heard isn’t my call. Only God can judge his heart. I do accept most of what he has presented, and backed up with scripture and multiple references and supporting documents, as the most truthful. I also do hear the cynicism in his writings. It also helps greatly that I know who he is. But, to my knowledge no one has disputed any of his points as being false, whether they like the delivery or not. They question his motives, they question his character, they even question how he can bring these concerns when he was in the middle of most of this from the beginning. But NONE have questioned his facts or points to the best of my knowledge. Maybe they have marginalized him but isn’t that what SGM does to everyone who opposes their view? Look at what they just did to 18 churches and 80 pastors. How many of the Pharisees liked Jesus’ delivery about themselves? Doesn’t change the truth of what is being delivered and the weight of the delivery should match the weight of the sin or level of blindness to it from what I glean from scripture.

        I greatly appreciate how you are trying to offer a platform for those still in SGM churches to come together to bring reform. I also know there are multiple opinions about how people believe that reform would best be served and I respect all who seek to “fight the good fight”. Please forgive my lack of respect displayed in previous posts.

        As I write these things I continue to be reminded of how immature I really am in my growth in the Lord. Sometimes that alone keeps me from saying anything, and maybe that’s showing more wisdom than these postings, BUT one thing that has changed in me since all this broke is that I won’t NOT speak out of fear of being wrong anymore. I spent many years convinced I was so lowly compared to the leaders and pretty much anyone else in the church that I never spoke out and the few times I did I got slapped down, not just “corrected” but slapped down! I am always open for input from others as I not only pursue reform in SGM but also pursue growth in my own walk with Christ.

      • No worries, Tom – I probably could have responded less sharply myself. I’ve noticed that most everyone falls into two camps. The first camp doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about – “yes, CJ sinned.. ok, he didn’t lead well… so what?”. The second camp, which I am in, is truly disturbed that what was espoused by the leaders including CJ is actually not practiced by them at this most crucial of moments. We are troubled by the doubletalk and frankly, arrogance. Folks in this camp are rightfully responding emotionally and sometimes that emotion can get the better of us. But I’ve purposed that this is not going to dominate the focus of my life nor affect my experience in God. I’m satisfied to let God deal w CJ and the SGM Board – hopefully with the same grace he’s shown to me.

  5. oh, how i concur with so many things! it strikes me that the Lord reminded me how young a movement sgm really is, barely an adolescent! may that afford me the ability to give to all the grace i have received! and i pray for the Lord’s continued and affective discipline toward those He loves….. us, each and every one!!!

    • you are right that we’re a young movement but many movements die for lack of change… they don’t all grow up and flourish. Hence, we do have to pray that God will work in both leaders and members to bring about change. In particular, I am hoping that SGM will listen to local churches, not marginalize dissenting views and give greater credence to the voice of individual members. Your prayer is right on point.

      • thanks! i so appreciate your thoughtful posts, sometimes it’s tempting to think i’ve lost my mind and i am the only one thinking like this, but the Lord faithfully reminds me that not only will He never leave me nor forsake me, but He has also ordained that i live in community, and until He clearly says otherwise, this is where i stand. praying for mercy, abundant and sure!

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