Finding Christ in the SGM Debacle

Much of what the sgmNation blog engages in falls under the category of polemics which Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as  “an aggressive attack on or the refutation of the opinion or principles of another.”    We’re not on a personal vendetta – we’re seeking to confront Sovereign Grace Ministries in a Christian, brotherly spirit in hopes of spurring change, reform and restoration.

However, as Tim Keller has so astutely pointed out, polemics is about cure, not nourishment of the soul –

Polemics is medicine, not food. Without medicine we will surely die—we can’t live without it…Yet we cannot live on medicine. If you engage in polemics with relish and joy—if polemics takes up a significant percentage or even a majority of your time and energy—it is like trying to live on medicine alone. It won’t work, for the church or for you.

Friends, we need to live on food and not medicine.  We cannot allow the SGM debacle to dominate our lives.  It is so easy to get entangled in the SGM narrative and lose perspective.  If we allow this to happen, we will be poorer for it.   So how do we find Christ in the midst of the SGM narrative?    How do we engage this conversation about SGM without losing sight of God?

I’d like to share one theme that I’ve been meditating on and I hope that in some small way, you might likewise find it helpful.

Theme: Jesus Christ – the Great Shepherd Leader who leads perfectly, rules justly and shepherds us graciously when our earthly leaders fail us.

Let’s face it – beyond the polity issues and communication missteps, it’s the ethical leadership failures that hurt the most.   As I’ve interacted with many members and get to the essence of their disappointment and frustration, it’s really about the ethical failures – the double-talk, the leaders who act inconsistent to their professed values, shepherding without care, the posture of arrogance, favoritism, etc …   Frankly, our disappointment is a result of setting our hope on leaders who are limited in understanding and flawed in character.

It struck me in the past several weeks that we’re not unlike the Israelites in this regard.   Let me explain – much of the Old Testament is a picture of God’s people in search of leaders who would lead them into God’s glorious purposes.   There were judges who led Israel – some honorable, others less so but all ultimately unsatisfying as leaders.   The Israelites turned their hopes to a king – hoping that the rule of a king would satisfy their longings.  Enter Saul – physically impressive but ultimately proving to lack the requisite character.  Surely, David would prove to be the king they long for – a man after God’s own heart , a king appointed by God Himself and a warrior mighty in battle.   Even though the Davidic rule was the “golden age” for Israel, it ended sadly for David – his kingdom didn’t endure, his rule tainted by scandalous sin, his family legacy in ruin.   And so it continued throughout with Solomon…

You see, the backdrop of this “frustrating” Old Testament narrative simply sets the stage for the appearing of the Christ – the one true, unfailing King who rules perfectly over His people.

Jesus is the eternal Son of God who served by condescending to save us – dwelling among us, taking the form of a servant, dying for our sins, rising in victory.  (Philippians 2:5-8)

Jesus is the Good Chief Shepherd who pastors us even when under-shepherds fail us.  (John 10:11-13)

Jesus is the Ruler who can unite a disparate multitude from many nations, tribes and tongues (Galatians 3:28, Revelation 7:9)

Jesus is the King who rules with justice and loving kindness.  (Psalm 89:14)

Jesus is the One who is always consistent and true in word and deed. (Psalm 119:160)

Friends, many of us are deeply hurt and disappointed because we expected so much more – we long to be led by leaders with integrity, strength of character, trueness of word and deed.   Here’s the harsh reality – we will not find this kind of leadership in the men who lead us.  In fact, we are not meant to.    We may have fine pastors – I couldn’t respect my pastors more but they are not equal to this.    Here’s a point to consider – what if this sad SGM narrative serves as both a backdrop and catalyst to reset our deepest hopes in Christ alone?  Is he not the leader we need and long for?   May no earthly leader gain entrance into such honor.

This by no means excuses the failures of the SGM leadership or their incongruent behavior but let’s not be captive to this episodic mess.   Let us cast our eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising its shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:2).

Praying for both effective medicine and food for the future.

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17 thoughts on “Finding Christ in the SGM Debacle

  1. Wow, you described my disappointment perfectly. I could no longer sit under a pastor I could not respect. So thankful God moved me on.

    “As I’ve interacted with many members and get to the essence of their disappointment and frustration, it’s really about the ethical failures – the double-talk, the leaders who act inconsistent to their professed values, shepherding without care, the posture of arrogance, favoritism, etc …”

    • Freedom – That’s exactly what I’m hearing from many folks – sometimes, they have trouble articulating it but the disappointment is real. I do hope you’re at a place where you can find rest – where God can rejuvenate your soul.

  2. sgmnation –
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write out your thoughts for the rest of us to read and ponder. I appreciate all you’ve shared on this blog, both in your posts and in your responses to comments.
    Heb. 3:12-13

  3. Again, well said and with great economy of words. A small group of us met last night, and this is where we trying to go. A very wise man once told us, “you don’t have to live in denial to live righteously”, and does that not resonate with truth? Real problems exist, real harms have been done, we must not allow that to be denied! And may we walk in the reality of that but empowered by the grace of God have His favor as we Micah 6:8 our way thru this!
    He has told you, O man, what is good;
    And what does the Lord require of you
    But to do justice, to love kindness,
    And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NASB)

  4. This piece is a wonderful application of Ephesians 4:15. Thank you for building us up in Christ our Head.

    One thing that seems nearly impossible in all this is to open the eyes of those who have been sgm favorites. At my church, there’s not a one of these pastors’s pets that I don’t also love with admiration and affection. But I’m almost certain they can’t “get” what it’s like for the many of us who aren’t loved and cared for (ie liked by the pastors) as they are. In other words, they don’t get how we don’t “feel the love” that they are always surrounded by. And the whole dynamic is wrong anyway- both the favoritism, the provocation we feel as “lowlife members,” the whole class system. It stinks to high heaven. Shame on me for wanting to “be somebody,” but how has it not been a temptation in such a strange atmosphere where a pastor’s frown or smile can seem as if it is from God Himself?

    • Annie – I know there are some who don’t get it – they are fueled by loyalty (which is a good attribute) but perhaps are blind to the fact that others are feeling like something isn’t quite right w our SGM church culture. Overall, your last statement may be the key to this – we place inordinate hope and satisfaction in the approval of our pastors. It’s not only our sin but I would also say that any wise pastor would ask – how have I contributed to this temptation among the members? In other words, there’s something in pastoring resulting in the culture that idolizes the pastor’s approval

      • Thanks, sgmNation, for your reply. In looking back at my attitude when I wrote the above, it was bitter. My bitterness stinks to high heaven, too. Repentance is a daily (a constant) need. Thanks for sharing your insights and for having this refreshing blog. Jesus is getting bigger in my heart because of it. Hope is growing. May the Father open all of our eyes, from the “least” of us to the “greatest.”

  5. Had a moment of clarity, methinks. Could it be that sgm has left sgm? CLC, Fairfax and others are holding the line, standing firm, holding fast, if you will, to what sgm taught in the past, but it is sgm that has apparently taken a sharp 90 degree turn away from their own teachings/practices. Just a thought.

    • 2tim224 – I see your point. In my opinion, it is the “dissenting” crowd – CLC, SGC Fairfax, etc… – who are embodying the heart of what we’ve been taught and believed – gospel centered character – integrity, humility, etc… It is precisely what the SGM board are not conveying in their approach and their communication to local churches. The truth is that it’s been that way w SGM for a while – we’re just waking up to it.

      • Exactly! We don’t want to leave, we want to stay! And may the Lord wake more and more of His precious ones to rally and stand and speak. And may He have mercy on us all. O, Lord, send your Spirit wherever Your people gather this day!

  6. For reasons unrelated to SGM, the Keller quote is very meaningful to me. Could you please provide a citation?

    Thanks in advance,

    Seeker

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