T.A.C.O.s Anyone? By Roger E. Olson
This article provides a sober warning by Dr. Olson that increasingly applies, unfortunately, to certain segments of the so-called “organic” or “simple” church community here in the West – which have come under the influence of so-called “apostolic workers” and their books, blogs and magazines.
Often, when you find an evangelical cult, you don’t have scratch very deep to find some self-professed “apostle” just below the surface.
Unfortunately, the “apostolic workers” now peddling their influence, books and conferences in the organic/simple church community – like we’ve seen with other so-called and often dead-end “new apostolic reformation” movements – are self-appointed, self-proclaimed and unaccountable (except to other “apostolic workers” who are part of their own mutual promotion network).
They also have been aggressively seeking to silence – through threats and slander – all who dare mention the history of sexual predation, abuse and coverup among them.
Everyone loves the poor, until asked to share a meal in their home with one.
Everyone loves mercy, until they have to embrace the actual mess of inconvenient victims.
Everyone loves justice, until it disturbs their comfort zones.
Everyone loves the prophetic, until it exposes sin among them.
Everyone loves grace, until it calls them to repent.
Everyone loves love, until it speaks truth.
Is it any wonder that a generation raised to believe it’s all about them has a hard time grasping that it’s all about God?
They are easy prey for those peddling God’s amazing grace, love and acceptance, while rejecting repentance, truth and change.
The greatest deceptions, however, involve half truths.
Unfortunately, there’s just too much of this going around these days, and it’s terminal when it comes to healthy believers and healthy ekklesia.
A ministry Marianne and I are part of, through our churches, is Nathan’s Voice. It has helped many victims of sexual abuse by church leaders, and hardly a week goes by that we are not assisting or counseling yet another survivor – both men and women.
This is a widespread problem, involving leaders in the church who use their position of trust to sexually prey upon men and women seeking their help.
It effects all kinds of churches, from highly structured traditional churches to loosely organized organic fellowships – and all kinds of church leaders, from local “pastors” to so-called apostolic “workers”.
Most people are surprised to learn that in the United States, this is not illegal in most jurisdictions unless it involves some other misconduct – such as a direct physical assault, a minor, or maybe employment discrimination (i.e., sexual harassment in the workplace against an employee of the church).
Is Janet Mefferd Being Intimidated by the “Gospel” Mafia to Shut Up About SGM? ~ The Wartburg Watch
Finally, the truth is coming out!
For several years, Marianne and I have been deeply involved behind the scenes in helping victims of the Sovereign Grace Ministries sex abuse scandal. We’ve seen its impact on close friends, while also counseling survivors and their families through Nathan’s Voice.
I also know Boz Tchividjian, who is publicly confronting SGM about its history of sexual abuse and is mentioned in this article.
Although we can’t directly talk about all the underlying facts regarding SGM due to confidentiality, we believe that this exposé by The Wartburg Watch is spot on.
What’s happening in that case is very similar to what’s also happening in the ongoing scandal involving author Frank Viola and his team of self-appointed apostolic “workers” and his additional “accountability team” of other organic church “leaders”.
The problem is not so much that organic church wannabes – who persist in writing, opining and peddling influence on all things organic without actually being part of a healthy, functional, local fellowship – are wrong in theory.
Rather, it’s that their opinions and aspirations lack a sufficient basis for being right in application.
There’s just too much of this going around these days:
Detached, unaccountable and self-appointed “apostles” who find their credentials in mutual promotion networks of other detached, unaccountable and self-appointed “apostles” – rather than a functional local church.
Whether they go by “apostle”, “worker,” “church planter” or whatever – a local church dud telling you how to be the church is a danger to your church.
There’s a proliferation of authors, bloggers, speakers, e-magazines, online courses and websites telling us how to “be the church” – or promoting this or that aspect of healthy church form and function.
At first, years ago, I was very much enticed by all they had to say.
Among our fellowships, we keep it real.
We have to. We have no choice.
Continually, people are coming to the Lord through us from places of deep bondage and despair.
“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers.”
1 Cor. 4:15
These days, we are inundated with aspirational books and blogs by articulate but unproven advocates for this and that movement, pet doctrine or agenda …
… while there are too few spiritual moms and dads, quietly laboring without name or fame in committed local fellowships to build strong believers.
Fortunately, God is changing this dynamic.
While some want to instruct and inspire the masses with lofty ideas that have not yet been proven or matured in their own lives …
… effective leaders are content to reproduce in just a few what God has truly taught them.
We all would do well to listen to the latter, and be cautious of the former.
~ Jim Wright
The other morning a young man stopped by the house.
He had been struggling with emotional pain and bondage, and said he hadn’t come earlier because he didn’t want to be a burden.
I shocked him by responding that he and his problems were a burden – that there were other things I could be doing that morning. But, I explained with a huge grin, it was my joy to be burdened by him.
He paused and thought about it, then nodded as he realized I was being totally transparent and real with him. Thus started an amazing time of talking, sharing and ministry.
Until they stop excusing a history of sexual predation within their ranks, their blogs and books on sexual equality by self-professed leaders in the organic/simple church community ring hollow.
And until they accept local church accountability and warnings about that abuse, their blogs and books on how to be the church likewise ring hollow.
God is a polyglot: He speaks to different people different ways.
Some primarily hear Him through the language of their heart and feelings, some analytically through their mind, some through the dynamics of action, some through the identity of relationships, and some through the passion of mercy and justice – among other ways.
Problems often arise among His people, however, when we think that our primary language for hearing God is His only language, or is superior to other languages He uses with others.
When we think of redemption we usually think about Christ’s atoning blood which delivered us from our sins. Yes, on the day we personally surrender ourselves to the Lord and ask His forgiveness, He redeems our soul and we become His children.
Christ’s sacrifice was vital. We can now partake in His kingdom here on earth and when we die join Him in heaven. However, I believe that Christ’s act of redemption is far more encompassing then simply making a way for us to enter heaven.
Tim Day, a fellow elder here in Virginia, is co-teaching a Biblical Foundations discipleship class with Sheri Warren and me on Sunday evenings.
That class pulls together folks from indigenous, participatory fellowships that are relating together in our county. Through it, the three of us – with help from other local elders – are helping to lay a foundation of sound doctrine in those churches through their emerging leaders.
Over the last few weeks we have focused on spiritual gifts, and the importance of everyone being able to encourage and minister to one another in our local fellowships as we each use the gifts God gives us for our mutual benefit.
Part of the Christian life is being loving and forgiving. These are qualities I pray for daily because they are so much not a natural part of me. In my effort to distill down doctrine and make sense of it for me personally I go with the statement from First John 4: "God is love." Likewise, I understand that if we don't forgive others (Mt.
Like Marianne and me, licensed mental health counselor Carl Austin (the author of this piece) has ministered to many "perps" and seen amazing grace and redemption, but never without full and open confession and repentance. This is why we remain so resolute in opposing the proud abusers who never come clean. Unlike those who openly confess and repent, they are a blight on the church and remain a threat to others.
I came across this quote from professor Karen Swallow Prior:
“Christ belongs in places outside of my heart, too – indeed, in all places.”
Yes, indeed -
Over every square inch of creation…
Over all nations, societies and culture…
Over all spheres of human endeavor…
Christ now boldly proclaims “mine!”
On Saturday, over sixty people gathered for a mass baptism at our house, involving various fellowships and ministries relating together here in Virginia.
After we buried lots of old natures, and lifted lots of new believers up into that same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead, we enjoyed a cookout and just hangin’ with each other.
The Christian Pundit published an interesting article, Young Evangelicals Are Getting High.
It claims that the trend among young people now is towards “high church”, including Catholicism and Anglicanism, where they can find “a holy Father who demands reverence, a Saviour who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality…”
This a clear reaction against the recent fad of Christian existentialism – in all its many forms.
Among the fellowships relating together here in Virginia, we’re seeing a deep hunger for mature discipleship, in-depth training and sound doctrine.
That hunger was reinforced earlier this year, when Miguel Labrador visited several of those fellowships. Miguel, with his wife Claudia, has been a catalyst for the rapid spread of the gospel in Ecuador – where they’ve helped birth many generations of new believers and fellowships over a relatively short time.
Like us, they have a “go and sow” approach – where we go and sow the gospel in existing communities, thus allowing local fellowships, believers and leadership to emerge indigenously within those communities.
This stands in stark contrast to the more common “come and gather” approach, which urges people to organize around a single church with its central building, programs and pastor.
It’s great to write books and blogs promoting the role of women in the church, finding “ekklesia”, and all sorts of other local church issues.
But the rubber meets the road when it comes to those with a history of using the church to sexually prey upon and exploit others.
It is hypocrisy to then defend and promote them, to discount the properly issued warnings of their own local church (see 1 Tim. 5:19-21), to ignore the evidence you personally have seen, and to stand quiet as they continue a campaign of cover up through threats and intimidation against anyone who dares bear witness against them.
When it really matters, do you put your values – and the things you write – over personal friendships and your network of mutual promotion?
It’s time to walk in integrity once again…
God wants leaders who’s public persona, words and values match their private lives.