This is the final of three parts.
It is about total and complete cult-like control of all aspects of a church member’s life. C. J. Mahoney, the now disgraced former leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries, created a financial model that is spreading through-out the conservative Christian world, corrupting the entire Southern Baptist world.
“...Why would reformed leaders like Al Mohler, President of SBTS, endorse C.J. Mahaney who is not a Southern Baptist and who arguably is not a theologian? We believe one of the secrets is that Mahaney’s ministry has led the way in AUTHORITARIANISM for at least THREE DECADES. Could it be that reformed leaders are willing to endorse C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries in exchange for learning how to rule their flocks by implementing SGM’s church polity?
Here’s where the lack of balance in Sovereign Grace Ministries comes into play. We have done extensive research on SGM by following two blogs that are speaking out against this “family of churches”. They are www.sgmsurvivors.com and www.sgmrefuge.com
We have read alarming testimonies written by current and former SGM members, and we have concluded that the pastors in this “family of churches” rule with an iron fist. Patriarchy is preached and practiced in these churches, and the members are extremely fearful. We have never seen such heavy-handed control exercised in a church setting. As we have been following the New Calvinists, it appears they want to implement SGM “management” techniques in their own congregations. We dare you to read a few entries on either of these anti-SGM blogs. You will be SHOCKED just as we were. We are praying fervently that the truth about SGM will be revealed to the entire world because our brothers and sisters in Christ are being victimized in this spiritually abusive system…”
There are some churches who feel, once a person has become a member, they have the right to control a person’s life.
“…1.The troubler of First Baptist Smallville needs to either reconcile with that church or join another one where he can be more content. He can’t simply resign his membership and sit on his couch on Sundays. If that’s what he intends to do, FBC Smallville’s response should be church discipline, not “See you later!”
2. Churches’ membership procedures should reflect the fact that the church, not the individual member, has authority to accept and dismiss members. A member cannot unilaterally resign. A member can submit their intention to resign to the church, and the church will either accept or reject that intention.
Different polities will work out the procedure differently, but I’d argue that Scripture gives final responsibility over the matter to the whole congregation (1 Cor. 5:4-5; 2 Cor. 2:6). This means that the church as a whole should have the final say in the matter.
3.Churches’ governing documents (constitution, by-laws) should reflect the fact that individual members do not have the unilateral right to terminate their membership. Instead, that prerogative belongs to the church. Therefore, the church has the right to refuse someone’s resignation and pursue discipline instead. It’s important to have this clearly stated in a church’s documents for both pastoral and legal reasons.
Here’s an example of the kind of language I’m talking about, from the constitution of the church I’m a member of (Third Avenue Baptist in Louisville):
“Clause 3. The church shall have authority to refuse a Member’s voluntary resignation or transfer of membership to another church, either for the purpose of proceeding with a process of church discipline, or for any other reason the church deems necessary or prudent.”
One important note: Numbers 2 and 3 in this list should probably be well established before a church attempts to resist someone’s resignation, whatever the circumstances.
4. The pastoral specifics of how churches handle individual resignations will vary. For members who have moved out of the area, I’d suggest that a baseline requirement on this front might be something like “they intend to join another evangelical church in the immediate future.”
I’m using slightly squishy language like this because churches’ membership practices vary. Some churches only take in new members once a year, for example. And some metro areas have a number of solid evangelical churches, and it might take a while for a family to settle on one. And it doesn’t always help to keep a church that’s 3,000 miles away on the line that whole time.
For members who intend to go to another church within the same metro area, the standard should probably be a little bit tighter. This will help to ensure that the member doesn’t fall through the cracks before they’re safely tucked into another sheepfold….”
There are signs that a church has a leader who is controlling.
- 1. Idolatry – Create excessive, and sometimes blind, admiration and devotion to a person or group, and their beliefs.
- 2. There is a well developed, and often unstated system of rules and codes for behavior. Teaching God will approve of the members who follow the leader and are loyal to him is of utmost importance. God is not acting out of grace or mercy. God is a strict judge of justice who is working directly with and through the leaders who alone know what God really wants. The Mind Controller becomes their parent, and his followers are treated like children. They do not need to know everything, but just what the leaders think they need to know.
- 3. Almost total dependence on a leader, leaders, and the group, combined with cutting off most of the outside world; especially close friends and relatives.
- 4. Systematically using subtle techniques for changing the way people think, what they think, and keep existing member’s thoughts and hearts loyal to the Mind Controller and his cause. The goal is to have the Mind Controller as the parent, and the adult subjects functioning as his children.
- 5. Teaching that the group has all the answers; it has everything good in life and there is nothing else.
- 6. Creating an environment of fear in leaving. Any deserters are punished by shunning, and are vilified and marginalized by ridicule before and/or after they leave. This creates a profoundly deep subconscious fear in the existing members to never leave, so this won’t happen to them. Anything outside of the group is inferior and of Satan. It is evil. There is no rule or doctrine more pure, or better, than the group’s. Outside is failure and disaster.
There is a church contract that states: I will protect the unity of my church by acting with love toward other members, refusing to gossip and following the leadership. One must participate in a house group, unless you have been excused. A member is to sign on the dotted line, promising what-ever. You must attend as required. You must tithe as required. You must perform like a trained seal at the minister’s request. It is a sign of an abusive church. (For additional information on abuse, and church discipline)
- You must submit to elder authority?
- Christians are under elder authority?
- Those who submit to elder authority will have the benefits of shepherding care, protection and discipline from elders
- Elders are like a parental authority?
- Small group participation is mandatory. (It is a way of controlling lives)
- Work must not get in the way of home group participation. Members will be disciplined, accordingly.
- Non members must submit to elder authority?
- They don’t want you to leave.
- If you leave without permission, the minister will literally stalk you to your new church and make your life a living hell.
- They have a tendency to make a serious issue out of a person who wants to leave the church.
- If you have been raped, harassed or abused, you will be forced to reconcile and forgive the abuser.
- You go to the elders before you go to the cops.
- The abused, especially a young woman, is considered guilty, especially if accusing a godly leader.
- Pedophiles are to be sheltered.
- Abused children and their families must never report the crime to the authorities.
- You don’t question authority.
- You are to obey.
- You are to submit to church authority the way a woman is to submit to the authority of her godly husband.
- You cannot discuss church problems.
- You cannot question theology.
- You cannot criticize without sinning.
- You cannot express an opinion.
- If you try to leave, you are threatened with absolute ruin.
- You can’t gossip.
- Your life is no longer your own. Elders visit your home. At ‘home meetings’ every little detail about your life is recorded.
- If you are subjected to ‘discipline’ everyone in the congregation will know it.
- The abuse of power can be so great, entire families are destroyed, lives ruined.
- You are told how to dress.
- You are told how to eat.
- You are told when to have sex.
- You are told what to read and what not to read.
- You are told what music to listen too.
- You are told what television you can watch.
- You are told what movies you may watch.
- Your children are controlled through home schooling.
- You are not allowed to divorce an abusive spouse.
- Every aspect of your life, if you allow it, will be governed by your church re: the contract.