I recently posted this update on Facebook.
Deciding to step down from jail ministry was hard, but I was deeply touched by the comments that followed on Facebook – especially from those who have first hand knowledge of my involvement in men’s lives at the jail over many years.
In the meantime, pray for Marianne, my mom and me as we bring grace and dignity to my dad as he closes out a lifetime of service to the King.
~ Jim Wright
For those who are involved in simple organic churches, there’s a great Facebook discussion group which I recommend. It’s called Real Organic Church Discussion.
Unlike most of the other “organic” church forums on Facebook or elsewhere, it has not swayed off into crazy doctrines and agendas that have nothing to do with actual functional churches. It is moderated (for the sake of disclosure, I’m one of the moderators) to keep it safe and on track, and the discussions are civil, focused and reality based.
It’s found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/realorganicdiscussion/
Take a look at the group’s description below, then hop on over and join the discussion!
~ Jim Wright
“Missional” seems to have become yet another buzz word used by gifted leaders to rally God’s people around their own callings and motivations.
It all sounds so good, but it becomes a trap when the Great Commission is reduced to one man’s vision and mission – especially if all the other gifts, callings and Kingdom imperatives in the New Testament then get pushed aside or made to play second fiddle.
Finally, the truth comes out and justice prevails.
Over the last several years, Marianne and I have ministered through Nathan’s Voice to five families devastated by abusive church leaders at Sovereign Grace Ministries and it’s network of churches – including Covenant Grace.
Now one of the abusers has received a 40 years sentence, after years of denial, cover up and shunning of his victims by the leadership structure at SGM. See Child Sex Abuser from Gaithersburg -area Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison.
Let this be a warning to all who respond to leadership abuse in the Body of Christ with the same kind insular mentality that “circles the wagon” through denials, cover up and attacks to preserve their own power, influence and ministries.
Just like what we saw over the years with SGM, the so-called “apostolic workers” and their “Beyond Cult” over at House2House Ministries (including Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, Milt Rodriquez and Keith Giles) have done the same thing.
Last Friday was a holiday here in the United States, and Marianne and I opened our home, yard and pool for a day of family, friends and fellowship.
Fortunately, following my heart operation and extended hospital stay two weeks ago, several brothers in a couple of fellowships we relate to stepped forward and organized things – including a great cookout.
Afterwards, Marianne and I both said that this was one of the nicest days we’ve had in years – not because the past few years have been bad (they’ve been challenging due to some of my health issues, but not “bad”!), but because we’re seeing solid maturity arise among those we’ve been pouring our lives into.
Although we’ve always loved them deeply, now it’s actually fun to spend time with them!
In addition, we now have the profound pleasure of watching them reproduce their life in Christ among others.
As they step forward and do the work of mission, discipleship and strengthening our various fellowships, it seems more and more that God’s role for Marianne and me is to step back and serve through simple hospitality, unassuming encouragement and quiet mentoring.
Author and “simple church” advocate Felicity Dale over at House2House Ministries is personally charming, and I generally agree with her views regarding simple church and gender equality within the Body of Christ.
But my own experience with her over the last year has been very troubling – especially when it comes to the contradiction between her public positions and private actions.
Felicity Dale is part of the self-appointed accountability team of Frank Viola, who is an author, an itinerant church leader and one of her fellow so-called “apostolic workers”. He also has a troubled history of sexual predation against young women and teenagers.
After Frank Viola rebuffed all efforts to communicate directly with him by those with detailed knowledge of the facts, some of us contacted Felicity Dale last year in an effort to resolve our growing concerns about Frank Viola’s history of abuse.
She also was given a lengthy private statement on behalf of one of Frank Viola’s multiple teenage victims, with details about how he abused that young woman and others.
That victim’s statement fully confirmed the separate warnings issued against Frank Viola by his former church. Among other things, his past church established through multiple witnesses and documents his pattern of predation and abuse – including his long-running exploitation of a teenager in that church who was half his age and a former high school student of his.
This new written statement, however, involved an additional teenage victim.
Today I was with a group of men in the jail. One of them was very troubled because his son was getting into all kinds of trouble. He couldn’t understand why, because (he claimed) he loved his son and was always telling him he loved him.
I felt something stir in my spirit, looked him straight in the eye, and said that was a lie. He didn’t love his son, he loved his drugs more – and thus had not cared enough to be part of his son’s life as his son was growing up. This deeply wounded his son, who felt unloved and worthless because of it – and was now acting out.
After remaining quiet for over a year, it is time to expose – and name names – the ongoing campaign by Frank Viola and his fellow self-appointed “apostolic workers” at House2House Ministries as they use proxies like Bart Breen to attack and try to silence victims of their abuse and cover up.
In this exposé, I update an earlier blog to address what’s been going on – both publicly and behind the scenes – over the last year as they desperately try muzzle the truth at the expense of their victims, rather than openly confess and repent.
Their “Beyond” cult has run its course. It is now time for men and women of good will to speak up and confront their lies, abuse and cover up.
This afternoon, I’m driving to Richmond, Virginia, to attend the graduation of a young man I first met in jail years ago. He’s receiving his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, with honors, from Virginia Commonwealth University. From jail to now has been an intense journey as Marianne and I stood with him during the hard times and refused to let him fall through the cracks. Now, we get to rejoice with him as he achieves this major milestone.
Following God’s Presence is something I wrote five years ago about him, and the church he was part of in the jail. In fact, he’s one of the brothers who asked to pray for me, as I recount in that piece.
I’m not going to use his name, because he is very humble and doesn’t like publicity. But you know who you are, and I am so very, very proud of you! Even as I write this, I’m tearing up thinking about the honor it’s been to be part of God’s plan of redemption and restoration in your life.
~ Jim Wright
Genuine Seeker-Friendly Church is Simple (Organic), by Steve Sims
This is a short, wonderful blog by my friend Steve Simms that captures very nicely what real church (regardless of whatever label you want to put on it) is all about.
What I like about Steve is that, unlike so many who pontificate on how to be the church, he’s actually doing it!
Yesterday, like we often do, we had family and friends – some old, some new – over for supper and fellowship. Marianne cooked the main dish, I put on a big pot of coffee, and they brought everything else.
Because it was Easter, we opened our home to folks who didn’t have family in the area and invited them to spend the day with our family. They included guys from several fellowships we’re linked to, and some not in any church.
Unfortunately, I lost my John Hagee “Bible Prophecy Secret Decoder Ring”, so I was unable to determine the true meaning of last night’s “blood moon” before I went to bed.
Within nothing more to do, I decided I might as well get a good night’s sleep, wake up in the morning, and get on with my life – just like normal.
Now that it’s morning, I see that the world’s still here – with its normal complement of good news and bad news.
What a bummer. I was hoping for something more exciting, given all the hype.
Several of our fellowships want to open additional recovery homes in the county for those putting their lives back together following abuse, imprisonment, addiction, economic distress or other major disruption. Over the last several years, we have teamed up with another ministry to support this local need, but its focus is only on addiction – which is very much needed. However, we also need similar homes for those dealing with other issues.
Our desire is to create transitional, peer recovery homes where there is functional, Christ-centered community within each house. This would involve mutual support, encouragement and accountability among the residents – with appropriate outside support and oversight.
Our experiences to date have confirmed that such a focus is essential for real change to occur among those in each home. Otherwise, the houses become little more than a warehouse for knuckleheads, and become a detriment rather than an asset for those seeking to put their lives back together.
Until we understand that the Gospel preached by Jesus was the “Gospel of the Kingdom”;
That “Christ” wasn’t His last name, but meant “the King”;
And that He claimed “all authority” over all things,
Both in heaven, and “on Earth”…
We either seek to redefine Jesus, or we let Him redefine us and our world – on His terms, in His way, through His Word.
Really, this is the major fork in the road.
The next time you are tempted to fall under the influence of some author, blogger or other self-anointed “itinerant” authority on “being the church”, ask first if they have a history of personally being – on a sustained basis – part of the kind of church they promote.
For example, here in the U.S., the number of phonies pontificating on all things organic and missional in various books, blogs, social media posts and conferences is astounding. They talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.
This is a burning question for the organic church community – as well as other reform movements.
Do we embrace a fabricated Jesus, or the authentic Jesus?
You heard it here first…
Last week, several local leaders openly intervened – after private efforts failed – to deal with a few individuals who were trying to dominate a particular fellowship with their false, hyper-grace heresy.
Here’s a montage of my twenty most significant posts on Facebook in 2013.
When Facebook created it, it brought many smiles and a few cringes:
Feel free to take a look.
As this montage shows, it has been a wonderful, yet “interesting”, year.
I think my biggest struggle was seeing the power games, leadership abuses, lies and cover ups in the organic/simple church community at the national level – which far exceed anything I’ve ever witnessed in the traditional, “institutional” church – while still holding firm, despite their hypocrisy, to some related core principles.