Blindfolding The Bride: Demian Norvell

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26 Responses

  1. Catmom says:

    Thank you for your courage Dem.

  2. LB says:

    Hilarious that I remember Jon being so anti-Amy Grant and yet his theme song for Searchlight has always been her classic track “Thy Word” and we would sing some of her written songs during worship. Jon’s ego is large he can’t even comprehend logical hypocrisy on his part. Lol

  3. AB says:

    Goodness. My parent worked in the bookkeeping office during these years. They were abused worse than this and it was honestly freakin’ scary to see your parent come home crying, stay in their room and not have the capacity to be your parent because ACF demanded all of their time.
    Jon’s female assistant was the worst of them all. Screaming, yelling, throwing things, verbal attacks, insults, bullying…I remember her telling a widow that she just needed to get over her husband’s death and get with the program (get back to work at ACF).
    That place is a sewer of abuse, sin and despair.

  4. TimP. says:

    Wow. This gentleman remains unconverted for 15 years under the pulpit ministry of applegate. He is converted privately unrelated to anything ‘applegate’ and then invited to leave…. This speaks volumes! God is sovereign. PTL for his testimony. Sobering.

  5. AA says:

    Demian Your story is familiar as I have seen the same abuses in other Calvary Chapels as Michael has documented. May the truth spread light into the darkness. Prayers for you & your family.

  6. Xenia says:

    There’s so much wrong with this style of “church” that I scarcely I know where to begin but like Demian, I felt like I finally became a genuine child of God outside of my evangelical church. He wrote in his article that he noticed kids getting baptized over and over, because they hoped it “took” this time. I didn’t get re-baptized, but I did say the Sinner’s Prayer many times because I never thought it really took. In retrospect, it never did “take,” although like Demian, I was extremely busy. I am almost inclined to think I truly became a Christian the day I was chrismated into the Orthodox Church. (This is just my story and I am not making assumptions about anyone else.) There was a definite before and after, in my case.

    So here’s part of the problem. Young men and women want to serve the Lord. They hope to accomplish this by volunteering, hoping to get put on staff someday, a goal the determined among them will achieve. They get paid peanuts, not enough to live on. They work atrocious hours, and live at the beck and call of the pastor. They do this at first because they truly want to serve God, but also because they want to gain enough favor to advance and get paid more. Demian’s story is all about this. They are like courtiers at the court of a medieval king. They work so hard, and are so tense, and are expected to be “glowing for Jesus” 24/7. I myself was always tense in my volunteer jobs at my old CC, although I was always treated well. But everything was a production, and any little misstep messed up the show.

    I don’t think it’s possible for these huge churches to operate in a godly fashion, even if the pastor tries to be humble, and that’s not even taking into account the theology which is probably responsible for many of these things.

  7. Xenia says:

    To add: all this servile behavior on the part of the volunteers/staff can have a bad effect on the personality of a susceptible pastor. He can become manipulative, squeezing more work out of his staff by dangling a big bonus or a promotion in front of them. And if a person begins to feel his family or personal life is getting out of whack, there’s always “If you love your wife/children/parents more than God (AKA, the pastor) then you are not worthy, etc. These things happen in secular jobs, too, but at least there the boss is not threatening you with hell.

  8. Xenia says:

    Again, I am not talking about my old Calvary Chapel. My troubles with that church were all of my own doing.

  9. DH says:

    I guess I missed the part of Demian’s story of how he is sorry for being part of the machinery (useful idiot or not) that for years left a “trail of bodies and blood that continues to be uncovered” and has repented of it.

  10. Catmom says:

    DH…. I will add my opinion of why. (been there, done that)…. because there is a sort of ‘spell’ that takes over in a situation like that. The narrative that you are ‘doing God’s work” is so strong, that, much like Stockholm syndrome, you literally cannot see what’s really going on. It’s a chewing machine, and once your arm or foot are caught in the machinery, escape is only possible by great injury.
    Bottom line is the sincere desire to be serving God and helping people. IMO

  11. Xenia says:

    Well, speaking for myself, I knew perfectly well when I was being a jerk and was trampling on people. But even so, it took me a while to realize I needed to write some letters of apology.

  12. DH says:

    Catmom,
    My comment wasn’t about how one gets caught up but coming to full realization that you also hurt people, if not he’s unqualified for ministry and hopefully has a secular job.

    Xenia, It sometimes takes time to realize what really needs to be said and done.

  13. TimP says:

    Conversion sometimes takes time… How many in ministry are just unconverted? not yet born again? (and therefore, yes, unqualified) … God’s work takes time and each of us has a different testimony of the Spirit’s work .. God will continue to build His church and bring his people in despite the mess

  14. JimmieT says:

    Thanks Tim!

  15. KristieC says:

    This was interesting to read. I hope he’s seeing a therapist because it sounds like he still has a lot to unpack. I wanted to point out and strongly disagree with his characterization of an ACF intern or staff person who performed acts on young men. Unless it’s predation, it sounds like he’s labeling her as a jezebel. I think it’s important to remember that we are programmed to absolve men and blame women. This felt like that.

  16. Em says:

    KristieC, it seems to me that we’ve taught lour young women to ” go along to get along” (skating close to Sharia law)….
    Perhaps, as you impllied, it is time for us to instill in our young girls a strong sense of self worth and appropriate behavior?

  17. Xenia says:

    Em, many Christian women are so disgusted by certain aspects of women’s liberation that they willingly choose to join a group where women are treated in a more traditional way. I am inclined in this direction myself.

  18. Steve says:

    I can’t really relate to Demian’s story too much other than when he mentions Jon’s sheep. I hear it all the time about pastor xyz’s church like somehow they have ownership in it. These abuses are real as AA has pointed out and part and parcel to most CCs in particular the large ones. That says it all. CC to me was like fools gold. How can any church be better than preaching through the entire Bible verse by verse? It’s taken me a long time to realize this but there is probably not a worse type of church you can attend when every single verse in the verse by verse teaching is misinterpreted and manipulated to support a narrative and agenda that is completely misguided. The attraction is based on personality and charisma primarily and wacky prophecy hysteria.. Mr. CC senior pastor, for what it’s worth, it’s not about you and your family.

  19. Xenia says:

    Often we say: “the church needs to do this” or “we need to do that.” Better to say “I need to do this” and “I need to do that.” Who is this “we?” Who is this “church?” I think being specific in our lives and prayers is more likely to make a difference.

  20. Ray says:

    I listened to the recording of Demian telling his story and was spellbound and shocked.

    I do want to say though that I think it’s important not to generalize or broad-brush this type of behavior as a by-product of the evangelical style of church. This was strictly a problem with Applegate.

    For I have been involved in several evangelical churches over 40 years as a pastor, missionary, and every other form of ministry. I have never seen or been a part of any form of abuse, over-work, or pressure like in this story. The Christian faith of everyone involved simply prevented us treating each other this way.

    Of course, all the churches I’ve been involved in were relatively small. Would you say this type of problem more likely in a large mega-church with all the pressures that maintaining that brings?

    I listened to the recording of Demian telling his story and was spellbound and shocked.

    I do want to say though that I think it’s important not to generalize or broad-brush this type of behavior as a by-product of the evangelical style of church. This was strictly a problem with Applegate and it’s pastor.

    For I have been involved in several evangelical churches over 40 years as a pastor, missionary, and every other form of ministry. I have never seen or been a part of any form of abuse, over-work, or pressure like in this story. The Christian faith of everyone involved simply prevented us from treating each other this way. I think that’s true too for the vast majority of evangelical churches out there.

    Of course, all the churches I’ve been involved in were relatively small. Would you say this type of problem more likely in a large mega-church with all the pressures that maintaining that brings?

  21. Michael says:

    Ray,

    If you haven’t seen it, you must not have been looking…this is a feature, not a bug…

  22. Ray says:

    I listened to the recording of Demian telling his story and was spellbound and shocked.

    I do want to say though that I think it’s important not to generalize or broad-brush this type of behavior as a by-product of the evangelical style of church. I think the abuse in this story is the is the sole fault of one man: Jon Courson.

    For I have been involved in several evangelical churches over 40 years as a pastor, missionary, and every other form of ministry. I have never seen or been a part of any form of abuse, over-work, or pressure like in this story. The Christian faith of everyone involved simply prevented us from treating each other this way. I think that’s the case with most evangelical churches.

  23. Nathan Priddis says:

    Ray. I don’t consider this account unusual in missions. If the organization is led by a person with a 30,000 foot view, I would expect the problems to be severe.

  24. KristieC says:

    @Em, I don’t think this is about teaching young women not to go along to get along. I don’t know the woman’s story. What I was trying to say is that I think it was uncool for Demian to feature her and make it sound like she was doing these things to young men. I would hope that whatever happened was consensual between two people, but the point is there was no mention of the mens’ role in this. Men should do better.

  25. Em says:

    Xenia, realizing one has worth and an important role in God’s plan does not rule out the expectation of respect.
    Does Scripture anywhere direct men to treat us otherwise?
    Yes, i know some women do invite disrespect, but does God’s plan put us in that position? I say “no.”

  26. Ray says:

    When my post didn’t appear to go through the first time, I ended up posting it again unnecessarily. Sorry.

    Anyway, I would never, as a pastor, dream of treating people in such as way as what happened with this man.

    However, my churches always remained relatively small.

    Is this type of pastoral behavior exhibited by Courson the price of building a mega-church?

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