Finding Jesus In The Muck

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14 Responses

  1. Pineapple Head says:

    I am friends with an individual who was a fairly well known pastor/writer/speaker who was at a large church pastored by someone everyone on this blog knows. But he got shown the door some 20 years ago because he once preached and showed some vulnerability. In this church, pastors were to be models and not allowed to show any weakness.

    As his forays in church ministry continued, he ran into more legalism and judgement. Finally, he just quit. Gave up on church, God the whole shebang. This was about 10 years ago.

    Then by the nudging of a friend and the Holy Spirit, this man started reading his Bible again with one aim: to discover the Jesus of scripture. He tossed off all the filters off denominationalism and locked down systematic theologies.

    And his life transformed. He found grace. He found healing (although that is still a work in progress). He know shepherds a small flock of 30 or so, a group I had the pleasure of visiting last year. Nothing fancy, as they rent a room from a local church on Saturday evenings.

    I love the latest incarnation of this individual so much more than the guy who once was wrapped up in such uptight churches. He was the real deal back then, but now he is someone who really understands Jesus’ words about lifting burdens and giving rest.

  2. Michael says:

    PH,

    I think your friend followed the best course for finding Christ…

  3. JM says:

    Well said, Michael! 🙂

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” Matthew 5:10-12a (NIV)

    “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” I Peter 4:12-14 (NIV)

  4. Paige says:

    Thank you. My husband and I were just this morning talking about your fierce battles and wounds. We admire you and pray for you. Thank you my friend.

    We are plainly at war.
    The immense celestial war of the ages.
    We know Jesus is Victor.
    This makes me think of how when a house is foreclosed, the loser resident will TRASH the house on the way out. Yet, it is owned by “The Bank”

    The Lord of Hosts is His Name.

    He is incredible…

  5. Midwife says:

    Just a public “thank you” Michael for your ministry here on the blog. It’s after 40 years now that for the first time I’m reading brothers and sisters speaking the truth about these ugly but very real experiences in Christian churches that have hurt, damaged and nearly destroyed their faith. I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear reassuring words on the real Jesus.

  6. Michael says:

    Thank you, JM and Paigemom.
    Midwife…thank you…we have a nice, if occasionally cantankerous, group here.

  7. JM says:

    Hey! I resemble that “cantankerous” remark! 🙂

  8. pstrmike says:

    I have suffered abuse in two different Calvary Chapels, which happened about five years apart. I stayed in Calvary Chapel because I was convinced that it was the place of God’s anointing, or as some say, “the spout where the grace comes out.” Absolutely convinced of this. It took time for me to realize that Calvary was not the only group that God is working in and through. But I also came to realize that Calvary is no different than any other denomination, both with its positive and negative characteristics. Perhaps some of your healing will be better facilitated in a different church.

    I don’t know how much of my stories are necessary to share ( both happened many years ago now), but I do know that the years and miles between us have helped me in not living these experiences over and over. But I still suffer various after shocks from the experiences. I think that is normal. I’ve learned to forgive, but I’ve also learned that two cannot walk together unless the agree (Amos 3:3). I’m no longer a part of CCA and my involvement with CGN is non-existent (mainly because I am out of their loop, and haven’t taken time to attend their conferences).

    The church is not a safe place, not for those who attend, nor for those who serve in any capacity. There is a lot of dirt, and things that cannot possibly be a part of the Kingdom. Augustine understood that the two cities—the City of God and the City of Man—both coincide together. I knew that Jesus was beyond all of the mess, and that He was the rewarder of those who diligently sought Him. That’s what kept me in the game.

  9. Re: Michael’s 10:15 –

    Both my friend I were part of the same church tribe. Me for a very short while, as I fairly quickly picked up on the red flags of weirdness. He grew up in it, so it was harder for him to see the faults and blemishes.

    It was amazing how we crossed paths a few years ago and ended sitting next to each other on a bus. At a large camp, he had many years ago taught a message out of the Psalms that was nothing but amazing. I shared with him that I had recently preached that same passage at my church, mainly because I remembered hist teaching of it, and because what a great message the passage held. He looked at me right in the eyes and said that when he preached that message in his church (as an associate pastor), that’s when he was shunned and shown the door. For the next hour he went on to share the whole bloody mess, mainly because he knew I “got it.” A strange way to make a bond!

  10. JM says:

    pstrmike and pineapple head,

    Compared to the original people that came together here many years ago, I am a newbie of less than 5 years. I do not know all the original stories. Thank you both for sharing just what you did.

    This is powerful, pstrmike! – “The church is not a safe place, not for those who attend, nor for those who serve in any capacity. There is a lot of dirt, and things that cannot possibly be a part of the Kingdom. “

  11. Paige says:

    pstrmike, I seriously hope that we will be hearing more from you here and other places in days, weeks, months and years to come. We hope to visit your church in the next month or so…. and if you are ever back in PDX, and have time, we would love to meet and take you and your bride out to dinner or host you in our home, if that is possible.
    Thank you for your words of wisdom, gleaned from the furnaces of affliction.

  12. JM says:

    pstrmike,
    another powerful takeaway from your post – “I’ve learned to forgive, but I’ve also learned that two cannot walk together unless they agree (Amos 3:3). I’m no longer a part of CCA and my involvement with CGN is non-existent …”

    Do you think pastors, who are supposedly outraged at the sin in the camp and the rationalized abuse, should disaffiliate and take the CC name off? In my book–they are not innocent. Even if they are really good people, keeping the name on the shingle outside implies agreement with a system that has corrupted itself , remained impenitant and has working philosophies that hurt people. Further, if they are a good person it’s almost worse when they keep the sign out there because people will be lulled into thinking everything in CC leadership is okay when it isn’t. That seems cruel to me.

  13. pstrmike says:

    JM,

    There are many things to consider when a church changes denominations. I have a few friends who have done so (none of them were Calvary). The thing about servant leadership that continues to speak to me is that we want people to follow by their own volition, not being coerced or manipulated. Making such changes could be very disruptive in some churches and they are scary at times to walk. In my own experience, we are taking the summer to forge the direction of our transition and future. I want my elders to be on board with me and take true ownership of the vision.

    That does not answer your question. There was a time that I would have said very emphatically that CC pastors should leave the camp—and it is my understanding that is CCA’s point of view—either get on board or get off the train. I still have a few friends in Calvary who are in spite of their personal shortcomings, seeing a work of God happen in their churches. But then again, God works in my church in spite of me.

    Let each one be convinced in their own mind (Rom. 14:5). For me, I could not stay: poor leadership, lack of accountability, and sin amongst leadership were the primary reasons. I was in a system that I had absolutely no voice for justice.

    I will add (trying to fully disclose here) that I am no longer convinced pre-trib is a correct eschatological view. So, I really don’t belong with CCA any more. I also have a different perspective of spirituality and justice than many within CCA. What was labeled as “house keeping” by Don McClure should have been a time when the cameras were turned off and a call to repentance and restoration. To me, that is a huge difference in how we view these things, and what might be required of us.

    Paige,
    I would love to me you and the infamous Mr. Fixit in person after all these years. I think I’ll be in PDX for bridge week at PDX Seminary doing post-doctoral work for spiritual direction, but it might be only for one day. You are always welcome to visit, but I’m afraid you might be disappointed 😉

  14. JM says:

    pstrmike,

    Thank you so very much for being willing to post your perspective for me. It is more than helpful. I won’t have you rehearse again what you suffered, but it is obvious that it was deeply hurtful and highly destructive. So many of the testimonies I have seen here are nearly unbelievable in the cruelty suffered. I am pleasantly surprised at those who might have thrown away faith in Christ completely, but did not. In the end, this is only a vapor. It will be in our eternal state that our treasure resides. I am blessed that you have persevered.

    I have struggled with the issue of “the name” since 1992 when I got confirmation of what I had long suspected about CC. After all I had been through and seen up to that point (and yet was still trying to advocate for dealing with rampant sexual sin and other behavior that I saw) the Hocking Debacle spoke volumes to me. To anyone who was really paying attention, it should have prompted an investigation by other CC pastors, a plan of action and more public objections within the CC camp. (There were many outside the CC camp who registered outrage, but the ones within CC were allowed to be muted.) So much could have been done to “clean house” at that time if pastors would have found their integrity and stood up to what was done. They did not and have to live with not objecting to all the immorality and abuse that has happened since. It may have still happened, of course. But at least their name wouldn’t be on it, too.

    When I objected to what was being done in the Hocking scandal, my own pastor’s reaction was to be quiet and go along. I realized that he, too, had drunk too much of the kool-aid. Instead of honoring Scripture above a man, he went along with his idol. Chuck Smith had just publicly modeled that a pastor’s immorality was different than the pew-sitter and exposed that he had an “us and them” attitude. Why could no one see the arrogance?! “Papa”, despite his public persona, was an unbiblical, self-serving “respecter of persons”. He used an Old Testament “do not touch God’s anointed” philosophy to rationalize, not only what he did for Hocking–but what he did for himself. As if those who knew what he did in the 70’s and went along with it wasn’t bad enough, this latest act of disobedience codified pastoral immorality without consequence into cement! There was no turning back and pastors did not have to fear removal no matter what they did–even to each other.

    My experiences with CC go back to 1973 in an informal way , but can really be clocked from 1979 in a more formal way. I apparently arrived at the Mother Church not long after Chuck chose to cover up his own sin. I came from a place out of the area and only knew CC by reputation. They were famous for the gathering of the Hippies, ocean baptisms and their music. It seemed the place to be for Christians.

    I arrived there with having read my Bible a few times and was constantly looking for behavior by leaders and congregants that represented what I read. I ended up fellowshipping in other CC’s within the OC as well. I was constantly asking questions about what was going on and being met with no action–only pat, almost rehearsed answers.

    After many years of travail, even I had to admit their reputation had nothing to do with reality and the problems were systemic, ingrained and no longer fixable. CC leadership had allowed it to become an entity that was in business so it could keep itself in business. The sheep had become secondary and those that were fully informed had no compunction against using their idol’s philosophies to rationalize “lording themselves over the people”. This despite the fact that the Bible says not to do it! We are in Mind Science territory when we openly defy Scripture and make up our own reality. This gets into psychological problems as well.

    “Christian” Leaders often are tested with moments of decision and it escapes too many of them that what they do next is not about them. It is about all the people who follow behind. God’s people.

    It’s sad that after Gospel of Asia and now Potters Field–which is a much more public situation–there seems to be no hope that CC leadership will learn from this and make needed changes within their own camp. All of these top-heavy, unbiblical leadership styles fed into the thinking that allows situations like that to proliferate. This may even be a crossroad for McClure–and maybe both sides of the split. What is not done will be very significant.

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