Question to SGM Board: Who is CJ Mahaney’s Replacement as President?

In the midst of all the discussion about polity, extra local authority, apostles, etc… it’s easy to lose track of simple statements of commitment and intent by those in charge of SGM.   One such example is the important commitment made by CJ Mahaney himself that his presidency over SGM was to be temporary.   Perhaps you’ve forgotten, so let me refresh your memory:

In a response statement, after the three adjudication committees had reached their findings,  CJ Mahaney said the following:

…here’s how I think I can best serve you in days ahead: as I step back into the role of President, I will only do so temporarily.  I think it would be wise for SGM to have a new President who has gifts better suited to serve Sovereign Grace in this next season… I look forward to serving SGM more effectively in a different role.  So my return will be temporary with a few important intentions... [he goes on to describe those intentions as transitioning from interim board to permanent board and helping find a successor].

and from the Pastor’s Conference where CJ Mahaney addressed SGM pastors, an honest self-assessment of his ability to lead an increasingly expansive organization –

“Now reflections on Sovereign Grace, reflections on my leadership of Sovereign Grace.  Prior to this leave of absence I had become convinced, with the help of others, that I am not gifted to manage a movement.  I lack the necessary organizational skills, I am not good at establishing policy and procedures and processes that set an appropriate expectation for how we serve together.”

This promise to return temporarily shouldn’t be idly tossed aside – it was stated to justify and explain his return to pastors and members who, frankly speaking, were losing confidence in his leadership.   It said in effect: “don’t worry, this is temporary – we’re actually going to appoint someone other than the old guard who can lead us through this mess”.

Now just a few questions –

Is CJ Mahaney going to honor his commitment to hold this position temporarily?   In my mind, this means 3-4 months but not much more beyond that point.    The first statement above was made at the end of November so it’s now been 7 months and counting….  This is important because his actions related to his words will either lend to his credibility as a leader or detract from it.

What specific efforts have actually been made to seek a new President?   Have the qualifications for this role been defined or articulated?   Have any candidates been approached?   Have the names of these candidates been made public for evaluation?   Frankly and sadly, we have no evidence that any effort has been expended toward that end.    If that is incorrect, then I welcome any information that might help clarify what appears to be inactivity in the search for a new President.   Sadly, it leaves many SGM members with the impression that CJ’s promise to return temporarily was done to placate us in hopes that we’ll forget.

Finally, if you can’t trust a leader to fulfill his commitments, can you trust him to lead?

Now we await hopefully to see if CJ Mahaney and SGM Board are men of their word.   We want to believe that they are – but their actions will tell us if they are so.

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Questioning SGM Apostles

In my last post, I discussed why modern day apostolic ministry, something promoted by certain influential leaders of SGM, is actually not consistent with a proper reading of scripture.   Much of what is promoted by those who favor apostles revolve around Ephesians 4:11.

Let me cap off the discussion by suggesting that when we read a passage like Ephesians 4:11, and immediately ask the question – “why shouldn’t the office of apostles continue presently?” – we are not approaching the passage from the right starting point.   Instead, we ought to begin by asking  – “what did Paul intend?” and “how did the Ephesian church understand this passage in their day?”

To those questions – we need to understand that Paul and the NT writers were very respectful and guarded about the definition of apostles – they didn’t use this term generically or randomly.   As I mentioned in the last post, over 90% of the time, when used in the NT, the term refers specifically to a special, unique class of individuals – the Twelve + Paul – a group that possess unique authority in the history of the church.    In other words, when readers in Ephesus read Ephesians 4:11, they were thinking of unique individuals with unique authority.  These individuals spoke words that were similar in authority to scripture and governed the church with unique authority.

Let me put this in another way that might be more palatable to my pro-apostolic ministry friends.   I am not unequivocally saying that there are no modern day apostles – I am in fact saying that if any should show up, they better be speaking in equivalent authority to Twelve + Paul.   The Bible only allows for two categories of “apostles” – authoritative special office (Twelve + Paul + possibly James, Barnabas) or a general delegate/messenger.

But this post isn’t about whether present day apostles are valid.  Instead, we want to followup by asking this overarching question – “even if present day, authoritative apostles are valid, why should SGM leadership be entrusted with such authority?”   

Let me unpack that overarching question by proposing a series of pointed questions that every SGM pastor and church member should asking.

1.  What is the source of SGM apostleship?  From where does SGM leadership derive its authority?  All apostolic authority exercised legitimately must answer this question.   The Roman Catholic Church answers this by drawing lineage from apostle Peter.   Most other denominations exercising a form of apostolic authority will draw authority directly or indirectly from the original Twelve.   The fact that SGM doesn’t speak to this represents a logical discontinuity and inconsistency in their argument.

2. What is the qualification and proof of their apostleship?   We must not trivialize the role of the apostle – what is the proof and qualification of the men that SGM puts forth as apostles?    Since the Bible offers no definitive statement regarding the qualifications of apostles (because the office was unique and not perpetuated),  what are the qualifying parameters for SGM apostles?   The fact is that there are no qualifying  parameters because the kind of “apostle” proposed by SGM, doesn’t exist in the Bible.

3. Have they demonstrated character befitting of apostles?   Have they acted in the highest degree of integrity, humility and faith toward God?  For instance, are they open to correction?   Have they humbly acknowledge errors and missteps along the way or do they have a propensity to respond defensively or minimize their sin or error?   Have they been an example in the way they’ve responded to criticisms?  Do they speak openly, honestly and plainly?    Finally, have exercised authority in amidst the churches with kindness and gentleness or with heavy handedness?   These are questions that pertain to the culture of SGM and in my view, the SGM corporate leadership (by this I mean CJ Mahaney, members of interim board as well as the present board) have not acquitted themselves well in this regard.   CJ Mahaney’s confession and non-confession stands in stark contrast to the kind of humble leadership we have espoused in SGM.    The “stacking” of board composition and the politicking is frankly very sad and disappointing to this longtime SGM member.

4. Have they demonstrated requisite competency?   Have they led well?  Have they led as servants or in the manner of the Gentiles (i.e. lording over).   Do they have the ability to define, organize, envision and lead an organization of approximately 100 churches?   This isn’t about whether they are good guys or nice guys – it’s about being qualified to do the job.  It is not evident that the members of this present board have the requisite qualifications or abilities to lead this organization.  There is little in what we’ve seen in their leadership that inspires confidence – at least not in me or most of my fellow church members.   I am honestly not trying to be mean-spirited in any way – I’m simply calling to attention the open secret that most pastors in SGM know but are too afraid or too polite to say – the first and primary qualification is loyalty to CJ Mahaney and the current SGM power structure.   That explains why no one of a different view other than that held by the current SGM power brokers have been appointed to the interim or present board or the polity committee – not from CLC, not from Fairfax or from any of the approx 20 churches that signed onto the “Fairfax letter”

5. How are these leaders accountable to the local churches?   One primary objection to the autonomy of the local church is that local elders need to be held accountable.  Yet, isn’t it ironic that there is no corresponding concern that apostles need similar accountability?  In this regard, those in SGM who argue for apostles are remarkable for their lack of self awareness.   I would strongly argue that any authority that might be exercised over local churches  must be accountable to those same local churches.

I believe and have argued that the office of a present day apostle authoritative over churches in unequivocally unbiblical.   But notwithstanding that, should you be convinced of their validity, the questions above still need to be satisfactorily answered.  Your answer  to these questions will decide if SGM corporate leadership is befitting of apostolic authority over local churches.    I’ve concluded my answer.

A Word on Apostles and SGM

As a movement, SGM has historical roots in “apostolic ministry” – an authoritative body consisting of “uniquely gifted men” who plant churches, provide authoritative oversight over local churches and frame the doctrinal boundaries of those churches. In more recent years, the emphasis has been to move away from a formal apostolicity and speak more of SGM as an association of local churches with SGM exercising no formal authority over local churches.

This backdrop may come as a surprise to those from the Reformed camp who know of SGM from a distance as observers, especially if they have come to interact with SGM in the past 6-8 years. However, the facts are irrefutable –  SGM has roots in the idea of apostles who function authoritatively over local churches, without accountability to those local churches.

More recently, there are indications that the new board with Phil Sasser, John Loftness and CJ Mahaney are advocating for a return to apostles.  In my humble opinion, they are doing this in great part because SGM has lost relevance and influence over local churches. Over the years, they have failed to add significant value by way of leadership and arguably in some regions, have mismanaged the association of local churches. I won’t detail the mismanagement here but only to say – it was linked to poor processes in defining polity, patterns of disingenuous leadership and a lack of communication.

SGM’s response to this? Bring back apostolic ministry.

As a response to this recent development, I’d like to address the topic of apostles but with a caveat that there is no way that a simple blog post can cover all elements of whether apostolic ministry is doctrinally sound or wise.   Instead, this blog post serves as a hopefully helpful commentary on the topic of modern day apostles, especially as it relates to SGM.

To the point of apostles in SGM, let me say right from the outset – in my opinion, SGM has to “clear” two hurdles.  First, doctrinally – are apostles a valid, continuing office for the church today.  In other words – is the office of the apostle for the present day?

Second, simply put – why SGM?  Even if apostles are a valid, continuing office for today, why should these men be regarded as apostles or be invested with such authority?  I ask this respectfully – where does their authority come from?

Are Apostles for Today?

In answering whether apostles are a current, continuing office of the church, I would suggest that it begins with deciphering how the early church understood apostles.   Here’s why that’s important – a wrong, misapplied hermenuetic on this topic will lead to the wrong conclusions.   Instead, we need to begin by unpacking how NT describes or defines apostles and move toward our conclusions from that point.

Let’s begin by looking at what is meant by the word “apostles” (apostolos) – literally denoting “someone who is sent”.  So, in some sense, the word carries a generalized meaning.  However, while it may be used in a general way to denote a “messenger” or “sent one”, it is overwhelmingly used in the NT in a very specific way to denote a special office of the church (73/80 times).  This is what theologians will sometimes refer to as a “technical” definition of apostles.

Of the remaining non-technical instances, one specifically refers to Jesus Christ – in Hebrews 3:1 where he is referred to as the “apostle and high priest of our confession”.  Exploring this further, the general/non-technical use of the phrase as a “messenger” or “sent one” is used definitively only 3-4 times.  An example of this is in Philippians 2:25 where Epaphroditus is referenced as a “messenger” (ESV).

I’m highlighting this to emphasize that when the NT speaks of apostles, it is primarily referring to a special authoritative office and secondarily on a few occasions, a general messenger.   Hence, the idea of “lowercase a”, “semi-technical” apostles promoted by SGM is in my humble opinion, ill-founded.   In other words,  if you are seeking to stake a biblically consistent position around the validity of modern day apostles,  you need to either point to apostles in the lineage of the original Twelve or a variant of a general messenger/delegate like Epaphroditus.   What you shouldn’t do is invent a new type of apostle that is not biblically supported

With regard to the NT apostles, it is generally recognized that apostles have two qualifying characteristics –  First, apostles have received a direct commission from Jesus Christ. In other words, the basis for their unique authority comes directly from Jesus.  Second, apostles are eyewitnesses of the risen Christ.   Paul refers to this as validation of his unique calling (1 Cor 9:1).   It must be said that this is a necessary but insufficient attribute since not all who witnessed the risen Christ are deemed apostles.

It is important to note that as a class, these apostles also functioned in a unique, authoritative, foundation laying way. Together with local church elders, they made critical decisions that shaped the foundational understanding of the practice of law and grace in the life of the early church.   This was vitally important as the church moved from a marginal Jewish sect to a global faith.  Primarily, through the work of Paul, Peter and James, they wrote scripture that set the basis for the doctrine and practice of church life.

As such, the Twelve, together with Paul are recognized explicitly as apostles, having directly received their commission from Jesus Christ. (Luke 6:13-16, Galatians 1:1).  The uniqueness of this direct commission is noted even in the appointment of Matthias (Acts 1:21-26). James and Barnabas are not explicitly stated as apostles although a strong case can be made for them (Acts 14:14 for Barnabas).   James in particular, was noted as an eyewitness of the risen Christ (1 Cor 15:7) and also recognized publicly as being of similar authority to the Twelve in the Jerusalem council (Acts 15).

Further, we need to ask ourselves the following question – “how were they perceived in the life of the early church – were they perceived as unique or simply as one of a multitude, continuing line of apostles?”    I believe a reading of the NT will indicate that they were recognized as functioning in a historically unique role.  One example of their unique role – their words were represented to their contemporaries, as scripture or commands from God Himself (2 Peter 3:2, 2 Peter 3:16, 1 Cor 14:37).

Building on this point, it must be noted that the NT offers no indication regarding the succession of apostles.  Nor did Paul or any other NT writer provide qualifications for apostles similar to qualifications for supposedly “lesser” offices of elders and deacons. Here’s my point – if this significantly authoritative and vitally important role was meant to extend beyond the early church, how would an all-loving, all-wise God omit such critical information on how to qualify and select future apostles?

For all the aforementioned reasons, to my mind, there is no question that these men were unique in their role and office.  Together with Jesus Christ, the Chief Apostle, they were foundational in history and life of the church.

“So then you are no longer )strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,”  (Ephesians 2:19-20)

A natural question arises – if in fact apostles are foundational to the church of Jesus Christ, what becomes of apostolic authority today and how is that authority expressed?    The answer as most evangelicals will offer is that apostolic authority is expressed in their writings in the NT.    As Christians, our confidence and arguably the confidence in the building of the church, rests not in the “unique giftings” of present day apostles but in Holy Scripture.

Let me finish this post by saying that I know there are many of you, especially long time SGM members who will disagree with me.  I respect you and your point of view – I really do.   However, I humbly submit to you that the understanding that apostles were a unique class and that the office no longer continues in the present day, is orthodox, evangelical belief.   In seeking to find a new form of church government, I would strongly suggest that SGM can ill-afford to experiment by creating its own theological construct for apostolic ministry.

Former SGM Pastor Makes Appeal

Some of you have wondered why this blog has been so quiet recently.   All I can say is – thanks for even noticing –  but the main reason for a lack of activity is that I’ve been bogged down with significant workload at my job.

Also, I would like to put some thoughts together on apostles which will take a little more time to piece together.

However, in the meantime, there is this post from a former SGM pastor.  I suspect many of you have already read it but Rick Thomas makes an appeal for a compassionate disposition from “SGM Corporate” toward those who are hurting from the SGM debacle.   I agree with much of what he says but the main thing I want to highlight is the tone of his blog post as an example of how to engage your pastoral team with SGM related issues.   You can make your points, even difficult points – but make them biblically and humbly – and hopefully your pastors will listen with an open mind and humble heart.

Feel free to read, share your thoughts.

Excerpts from the Letter on the SGM Polity Committee

A letter was recently issued to the pastors of local SGM churches regarding the polity committee formed and commissioned by SGM Board of Directors.  I have included excerpts of the letter (in italics) with a few comments interspersed.

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As you were informed last week, the Board of Directors of Sovereign Grace Ministries has appointed a committee to propose a future governance structure and partnership agreement for our family of churches. The Board realizes that its present role is to lead SGM through significant changes in polity. The Board is working from some constraints of the existing polity and bylaws with a view to transitioning SGM to a different governmental structure that involves more participation by the pastors of its member churches. Our history together in Sovereign Grace has been characterized by much grace, but we have been aware for some time now of the pressing need for further ecclesiological definition. It is our intent that the changes we make be informed by our common history and involve the robust participation of our pastors, with sound doctrine as our ultimate guide. The Board has not yet determined whether the new polity proposal will be submitted to a formal vote of the pastors or a less formal process of affirmation.

We should duly note the same leader who led us into this disorder now chairs the polity committee. To my mind, the fact that the committee is chaired by CJ Mahaney, speaks the disingenuous posturing by both the Board and Mr. Mahaney himself.   Prior to his return to President, there was much posturing that this would be temporary and that the Board would quickly seek a new President.   From all appearances, this was not their intent.

Also note that this is furtherance of the elitist, top down control mentality that has pervaded the way SGM has run for years.  “We will figure it out and when we do, we’ll let you know”.   I don’t know about you but the “less formal process of affirmation” didn’t work so well in the appointment of the new Board.  The disregard of the input of approximately 20 churches stands as a stark reminder of the way the “process of affirmation” works in SGM-land.

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The bylaws of SGM state that any committee appointed by the Board of Directors must have two members from the Board. We have added to that three other pastors and two members of the Leadership Team. Here is the Polity Committee:

C.J. Mahaney, Co-Chairman (Leadership Team, President of SGM)        

Phil Sasser, Co-Chairman (Board Member, Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church, Apex, NC) 

Paul Buckley (Board Member, Pastor, King of Grace Church, Haverhill, MA)            

Matthew Wassink (Pastor, Providence Community Church, Lenexa, KS)  

Jared Mellinger (Pastor, Covenant Fellowship Church, Glen Mills, PA)      

Bruce Chick (Pastor,-Sovereign Grace Community Church, Roanoke, VA)                          

Jeff Purswell (Leadership Team, Dean of SGM Pastors College)

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Once again, this is what you call stacking the deck.  The omission of anyone from two of the largest and most influential churches in the network of churches is notable – why is neither CLC or SGC Fairfax represented on the committee?   Besides those two churches, there are other knowledgeable and wise pastors marginalized from this process – and that is disappointing.   Please read over the names of the polity committee again – do you believe these men, with their predisposition to maintain status quo and current power structure, will capably invent a polity structure that is consistent with biblically sound and common wise practices?   The following excerpt from the letter indicates their propensity to maintain current power structures.

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Let it be noted that SGM as a family of churches has enjoyed a rich history together. There are many doctrinal positions upon which there is widespread unity within SGM. As a result, the Board believes that there are some areas that should be preserved in our future polity. Here are the three important areas to be preserved.

a. SGM churches are elder-led. This has been taught and firmly established for decades. Of course there are many questions about the specific qualifications of those elders, how they are selected, how they are ordained, and the nature and scope of their authority, which will need to be examined.

b. Extra-local leadership has also been a part of our history. This will definitely inform our approach, but the Board of Directors realizes that there are many questions about extra-local ministry which must be answered. These include the nature of extra-local authority, the basis of that authority, the extent of that authority, and the means and methods by which that authority is exercised in the local church.

c. SGM as a family of churches has historically been committed to planting and caring for local churches. This mission is essential to all that we stand for; we are determined to continue in this mission. The Board also realizes that there is much to be discussed, determined, and defended concerning the mission of the church and the ecclesiological status of SGM.

Regarding (a) , Is the selection of local church elders, the purview of a organization outside the local church?   There is no warrant for SGM to exercise such authority over the local church.  In fact, any local eldership that surrenders that authority to an extra-local body is acting in out-of-step with biblical principle and abdicating governing responsibility.

Regarding (b), this is what you call self-interest/self-preservation.   Indeed, there are many questions to be answered including the relevance of a body that exist outside of the local church that seeks to exercise authority or leadership of the local church.

Regarding (c), local churches plant new churches – that is the biblical model.  What role does SGM play since they have no biblical right to exert authority over local churches?   Perhaps they could function in a similar way to a Missions Board but the scope of their function should be limited and under the direction of the local churches.

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There is much more to the document but I sincerely do not wish to further the analysis of their letter, especially in a negative tone or in a nit-picking manner. I merely wanted to call out relevant areas that signal the continuance of a top-down leadership style in the hands of insiders.  This my friends, is not reform, no matter how SGM seeks to package it.

AoR Report on Sovereign Grace Ministries – Observations & Commentary

This is old news for most  – SGM has released the AoR report.   First to SGM Board – thank you.  I suppose if I’m going to call you out in my last post to “do the right thing” by releasing the report in entirety – I should thank you for doing so.

Following the release of this report, there have been different responses – disappointment to many, encouragement to others,  vindication to the very few.  With this post,  I’d like to offer a few comments and observations about the AoR report that I hope might be helpful.

Let me start by saying this –  I think there’s a lot that’s good and helpful in the report – thank you AoR for your work.    In particular, the general call for every participant to examine his/her own heart – repent and refrain from sinful communication patterns is good and wise.    It is also useful to hear again the need to extend and proclaim forgiveness.   As we often say in our church culture, if you’re around us long enough, we’ll sin against you – how true and well exemplified through this sad episode but we must forgive when someone repents.  The encouragement to extend love, not only to those currently in the church, but also to former members is very helpful.   There are other notable good points so I would encourage you to read it in totality and maybe a couple of times.

However, I’d also suggest that there were a number of points that were perhaps a little off the mark or not encompassing the essence of the SGM debacle.  Here are a few points of observation or analysis.

  • Have you ever heard of the saying – “to a hammer, everything looks like a nail”?   Well, I think it applies here.  AoR has a decidedly “conflict resolution” perspective of the problem at hand.  To be sure, personal conflict is one dimension of the problem but the issues related to SGM are much broader than that.   In this sense, I think AoR’s work (and possibly expertise) is misaligned w the macro problem at hand   What’s needed for SGM is not simply reconciliation between parties but reformation of church culture and polity.   I agree that there is a need for forgiveness to be extended all around – pastors to fellow pastors, pastors to members, members to pastors, etc…   but there is need for much more than that.   When you only apply the category of inter-personal reconciliation, you may misunderstand and misinterpret your observations.   As an example – absent the category of spiritual abuse, you may be more concerned about pastors correcting sinful speech than extending forbearance toward those who may be sinning as a result of spiritual abuse.
  • AoR is not a completely neutral, independent, objective party…but that’s ok.   I believe this to be true for 2 reasons.  First, they are paid by SGM, spent time with SGM board in preparation for their work, and worked in concert with SGM board throughout the process.   More than payment, time spent interacting with SGM leadership undoubtedly would shape their view regarding the nature of the issues.  For instance, SGM has repeatedly sought to frame this problem in terms of personal conflict while many of the church leaders calling for reform have repeatedly stated – “this is not primarily about a conflict w CJ”.   Second reason, AoR is not completely neutral or objective is due to an effect similar to the “Heisenberg Measurement Problem” in physics – which says that when you try to probe and measure a system, you inevitably alter the system that you’re trying to measure, hence invalidating the accuracy of the measurement to some degree   Here’s how the “Heisenberg Measurement Problem” may have possibly affected AoR as the process unfolded – when AoR began their participation, some in the blogging community were unfairly critical and suspicious of them.  This could very likely have affected AoR’s view of the situation.  Frankly, how could it not?   They were reading the blogs and that kind of response to them only served to reinforce SGM’s opinion of “the blogs”.  This would certainly explain their negative fixation on “the blogs” in their report when frankly, in my opinion, the blogs have served an important purpose in bringing what is hidden into light.  Yes, there has been unprofitable sinful speech but that’s not all that has occurred in the SGM blog land.   Before I leave this point,  I must emphasize this – just because AoR is not completely neutral or objective does not mean that their report is materially unfair or prejudiced.  Nor does it mean that they’ve done anything wrong – overall, notwithstanding their judgment of the blogs, they probably did as good a job as can be expected on a rather broad, challenging task.
  • In my opinion, AoR missed the bigger picture when making observations about the SGM debacle.  The report is full of valid observations about the SGM church culture – both positive and negative but they may have missed the mark in their analysis.   I’m not sure AoR grasped why there is widespread frustration over SGM leadership culture.  Why are otherwise mature, kind pastors and church members so up in arms over what’s happened in SGM?   Here’s a clue – it’s not because they have a vendetta against CJ (at least not for most).   It’s actually because of this – since this entire sad situation has broken, all that has been exposed and observed is that SGM leadership including CJ has been out of step with the church culture and practices that we hold dear.  In some circles, this may be viewed as hypocrisy.   It may or may not be so, but it is nonetheless frustrating to current members.   I don’t think AoR understands this.  For instance, is it any wonder that when a corporate leader steps down, confesses and then some weeks later publicly recants his confession that it might lead members to completely lose confidence in the leader?
  • AoR made a point of praising CJ’s preaching but failed to make the point that he needs to take corporate responsibility for its failures.   They observe with some puzzlement that CJ’s preaching is gospel centric but this “gospel-centeredness” does not accord with our practice.   Actually it’s not so mysterious. Have you ever been in a company or group where the professed values do not match up with the practice?   I have and it’s not altogether unusual.  But in those cases, you can almost always trace the culture back to the head honcho.  He’s responsible and if he’s a great leader – he’ll own it – good, bad, ugly and seek to change.   AoR should be aware that CJ’s current preaching content is a small slice of his pastoral influence over the churches in the past several years.  The culture, not the preaching is the full measure of his body of work and he should take ownership for it.
  • I want to say this humbly but I do believe that AoR missed it on specific advice regarding the nature of sinful communication and appropriate mediums of communication.   I understand that if you live in the realm of conflict resolution, you are particularly concerned about sinful communication but is the admonishment to not conduct public “family meetings” really on target?    Seriously, just because you witnessed a couple of those meetings get out of hand, should we not have public meetings?   Let’s be clear – there is no biblical warrant for that.   I’ve seen people sin in prayer meetings, should we abandon prayer meetings altogether?   As a matter of interest, my SGM church has conducted a number of very good and helpful public meetings where members asked hard questions, challenged decisions but all in all, did so in a brotherly Christian spirit.   Both members and pastors were helped by those meetings, including the difficult and challenging questions.  Perhaps this is where the lens of conflict resolution can be a little narrow in focus.  The goal of these meetings isn’t to avoid sinful speech.   The goal is actually to have a family meeting in the true sense of the phrase whereby fellow members can express their sentiments openly, safely and in a God glorifying manner.   If, on occasion, a few members get frustrated and angry, that’s ok – we can encourage repentance, we can extend forgiveness and in so doing exemplify the gospel in church life together.  I’ve seen it happen at our church.   Look – I have no time or space to get into the topic of slander/gossip here but there are lots of reasons to disagree and even criticize at times – not all of them sinful.   When someone questions another persons qualifications or critiques the body of his work, it isn’t necessarily sinful speech.

Friends, do lay hold of AoR’s good advice to examine our hearts for uncharitable judgements and bitterness.  Extend forgiveness when warranted.  But also bear in mind that this isn’t primarily about personal reconciliation.  For many current members of SGM churches, it’s about reform and we’re not ready to stop calling for it.   We may have to at some point, but we’re not there yet and we’re hoping that SGM board will have the good sense to listen.

Finally, since AoR had a negative view and concern about blogs, I would sincerely and humbly invite them to please contact me if they felt anything I said here was uncharitable or sinful.

SGM Board – Please Fulfill Your Commitments

The SGM Board just released a statement regarding their meeting with AoR and highlighted what was accomplished in the recent meeting in Louisville, KY (Aside: SGM members: get used to hearing – “reporting from Louisville”).   You can read the entire statement here.

With little surprise, but great disappointment to this blogger, they appointed John Loftness as Chairman.   It is unclear what relevant competencies Mr Loftness has demonstrated befitting this position but there are reasonable questions raised to the contrary.  Contrary evidence of his qualification would include but not limited to – his management of the Ashburn church crisis and his poor communication with key churches in his region.   But then again, he is loyal to CJ Mahaney – so perhaps in that regard we should not be surprised that he is considered to be eminently qualified.

Let me just take this opportunity to remind the SGM board of the commitments that has been established with SGM members.

First, please, be men of your word.   Giving us an update is fine and all… but what we expect is for you to release the AoR report in entirety, without edits and word-smithing.   Our confidence in SGM leadership to “do the right thing” is at an all time low.   Please demonstrate the kind of gospel centered courage that brings into view all faults, failures and sins – takes responsibility for them – but leans into Christ to redeem.

Second – be accountable to appoint a new President immediately as we were led to believe would happen after CJ returned to office.   Please do not allow misguided loyalties derail the future of SGM.   SGM isn’t CJ’s or your personal ministry experiment.   Think instead about the thousands of stakeholders who have invested their lives – through  financial giving and gifts employed in service to their local SGM churches.   Please hold CJ and others in SGM corporate leadership accountable for the undefined polity, abysmal communication practices,  heavy handed apostolic authority and failed example.   This means a whole new leadership team and structure.   If you fail to do that, you will not regain the confidence of members.

Finally, actually come clean, listen and make changes. The excuse till now has been the temporal nature and limitations of the interim board.   Now that we have a permanent board in place – please act with integrity and do as you should.