Archives For Celebrity-Driven

The tagline for this website is “the issue isn’t leadership, it’s discipleship”. It’s the result of a video that Imbi and I shot with Chris Wright 14 months ago. This was shortly after he lead the Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

I believe that video, embedded at the bottom of this post, is particularly appropriate in light of my previous post — Sex, The Missional Position. And even more appropriate, in light of Pastor Mark’s recent interview with a British journalist for the UK magazine Christianity, noted on the British website, Christian Today.

Mark is quoted as saying,

“Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem. There are a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.” [emphasis added]

And refers to many British church leaders as guys in dresses preaching to grandmas”.

Those quotes lit up the Twitterverse and blogoshere — primarily in the UK — demanding that Mark be accountable for his words. Jason Clark, a church leader and blogger I respect, said this,

“I have to infer that either my bible teaching friends are too old, or are just a bunch of ‘cowards’. Part of me just sighs and thinks move on and ignore this, don’t give air time to what seems such crass pusillanimity.”

Krish Kandia, who Jason refers to, says this,

“The church does need people who are able to speak bluntly, I am sure the apostle Paul knew how to be blunt and direct. But there is no doubt he knew about humility, partnership, working together despite not being on the same page on every detail.”

Eddie Arthur, a missionary and Bible translator with Wycliffe Bible translators UK responds,

“Mark Driscoll did a good job of identifying some of the symptoms of the British church, but sadly, he failed completely to diagnose the disease. This isn’t a surprise, identifying what is going on in another culture, is really difficult. Even someone with a good deal more cultural sensitivity and understanding than Driscoll would struggle to do so. This is why missionaries need to invest a huge amount of time an effort in studying culture and gaining an understanding of what is really going on, before they open their mouths.”

Might I suggest the biggest issue here is actually that Mark Driscoll is a leader who has never been properly discipled — again referencing what Chris Wright says in the video below. Mark’s understanding of the church is based on the North American model of big leaders with even bigger platforms. To him that’s the only sign of the Spirit working. It’s a model where strong male leaders solidify their control of the church as they believe they are the only ones with the god-given vision.

As I note in this blog post on sheep and shepherds, Mars Hill once had a large elders board until Mark decided to solidify control with a triumvirate of two others and himself. When two of the previous large group of elders complained, Mark quotes a UFC fighter suggesting he ‘break their nose(s)’. Not the sign of either a well-disciplined or well-discipled leader. And in Mark’s version of leadership, people who challenge him at Mars Hill “are sinning through questioning”.

With his latest friendly-fire attack, this time on the UK church, Mark has had to go into defensive mode once again. Actually I’m wrong. He goes into offensive mode.

Rather than apologize for having said what he said, Mark decides that it would be better to attack the interviewer while claiming that he has been “taken out of context“. Mark needs to establish his bona fides by talking about how he and his dear wife are both graduates of Washington State University’s communications program.

Mark knows how media communications works. He accuses this Christian media organization of simply trying to increase advertising revenue by creating controversy through selectively editing what he and Grace said.

What chutzpah!

This from a man who constantly appears to court controversy at every turn. All the better to get more butts in seats listening to him live or via satellite. His communications degree has served him well. His theology degree, not so much.

Mark whinges,

“As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere.”

One might imagine how much easier this all might have gone had Mark simply said, ‘Yes you’re right I screwed up. I spoke without thinking. I’m an opinionated kind of guy and I need to learn to control my tongue.‘ But that’s not going to happen, now is it. In fact, Mark’s defense begins to sound like what one might hear from someone suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

He states that the interview was, “in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective.” Justin Brierley responds to this by saying, “I beg to differ, but you can be the judge when the full article is released and the audio goes up.” (See Justin’s Twitter feed for links.)

And the editor of Christianity magazine, Ruth Dickinson, says this,

“Justin’s interview with Mark Driscoll was robust and fair, and I utterly reject the claim that it was adversarial, disrespectful or subjective. We took great care to ensure that his quotes were in context, and gave him the opportunity to talk about his new book, as well as his life and theology.”

Mark operates as a power unto himself. He gets away with saying the things he says or writing the things he writes because it appears that no one in his immediate or extended circles are truly willing to take him to task. It’s too often left to those of us ‘living in (our) mother’s basements, writing in (our) pajamas’ to ask him to live up to the qualifications of being a leader in the church.

As he claims to be a charismatic Christian who hears from the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, Mark needs to be reminded that the only sign of the infilling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (And yes I realize, that “snark” is not on this list and who am I to call out anyone else on the fruit of the Spirit. So noted.)

Let me leave the last words in this post to my blogging friend and Wesleyan pastor, Dave Faulkner,

“…what sticks in my throat is the way I see the word ‘Pastor’ in front of his name all the time. It’s Pastor Mark this, it’s, and so on. What exactly is pastoral about this behaviour? We all slip. I do. But Driscoll has been called out as a bully before, and his elders have taken him to task. I think it’s time for a repeat. And a look at why this kind of behaviour keeps recurring.

UPDATE 2: Read my post written after listening to the full interview that prompted this post. 

UPDATE: Wenatchee the Hatchet weighed in on this yesterday. You should read his post and put him in your RSS reader.

Sex – The Missional Position

kinnon —  January 10, 2012 — 6 Comments

It’s true. I live for terrible puns and dubious double entendres. But what better place for a bad pun than a blog post on Celebrity-Driven Ministry Leaders selling their opinions on sex?

So, apparently this week Junior Ed Young and his dear wife are going to spend 24 hours in a bed on the roof of their church talking about sex – as a way to help market their book on marital bliss – Sexperiment. One might reasonably ask, “How ridiculous is that?” Or “Why didn’t they set their bed up on a wing of their private, French-made, jet?”

And, of course in that same bringing-sexy-back marketing space, Rupert Murdoch’s Zondernelson has released Pastor Mark + Wife’s Real Marriage. Or, as I like to call it, TMI from the Driscolls.

Since I doubt I will ever read the Driscolls’ book, let me direct you to a number of good reviews/critiques/comments of/on said book; this review from Rachel Held Evans, an oblique critique from Emerging MommySarah Bessey, Susan Wise Bauer’s very well-written review, and this excellent non-review from Chaplain Mike at the InternetMonk. As well, I simply must link to the brilliant commentary from Eugene Cho — one which has generated 72 comments at this point in time.

But if there was a missional position on sex, I’d want to point you to my friend, Dave Fitch’s post from last year, We Are Broken. Though primarily focused on the LGBTQ discussions within the church, Dave makes an important point when he calls us all to knowledge our own sexual brokenness regardless of orientation. He says,

By saying “we are broken” we are clearing the table… …When the leader confesses “I am broken” it forms the safety and the space by which we gather before the cross. Frankly, regardless of whatever sexual orientation we inhabit, if you feel like everything is perfect in your life in this regard, there simply is no need to discuss your sexuality in the church. Taking all particular sexual sins off the table, can we agree, together that WE ARE BROKEN? The gathering of people before Christ is for the broken. And …. “we are broken.” [emphasis added]

This isn’t the ”perhaps we were broken but we’ve been fixed and we can get you fixed too“ approach of the Driscolls and the Youngs. One which wants to get into improving the mechanics and frequency of sex. But rather it is an acknowledgment that we are all sexually broken people living in a sex-obsessed society. (I realize that certain of my cat and dog readers won’t appreciate the ”get you fixed” phrase. My sincere apologies.)

Marketing Sex

Madison Avenue Ad Men have known since before Mad Men that sex sells. Mark Driscoll and Junior Ed Young know it too and might I suggest they’ve been using it to market their ministries for a while now. See my 2008 post, Jr. Ed Young Knows — Sex Sells – a post which is waaaay more fun than this one. Never afraid to steal a good church marketing idea, Ed has drawn from the sexual marketing wellspring before – only this time he includes a book in the offer.

And through the 1st decade of this rapidly aging millennium, Pastor Mark has been doing his Christian sex therapist to thousands routine with his repeating series on Song of Solomon. It should be noted that his new book would apparentlysuggest that in spite of his “wink, wink, nod, nod, nudge, nudge” Pythonesque delivery of his 1st SoS series, things were not quite as peachy, personally, as Pastor Mark inferred — noted by my blogging friend, Wenatchee the Hatchet, a former Mars Hill congregant, in this post.

And in turning again to the Missional Position, in his We Are Broken post, Fitch writes,

Can we… agree among our missional communities that before anyone discusses this issue, goes public with a statement on the sexual issues of our day, before we get into the actual details, or any of the issues are to be determined, before we can even discern this among ourselves, before we can even examine ourselves before the Spirit, we must make way for a safe place that is comfortable, loving and supportive where we can mutually submit to one another and say “we are broken.” From here, we can love, care and have discernments about ANYTHING. But most importantly, from here we can submit one to another to Christ, allow His gifts, his discernments to take shape in a group. God by the Holy Spirit can work here.

Again, this kind of unusual place will probably have to happen in small missional communities (where you can avoid the ideology). Because we live in one of the most sexual charged, excessively sexually focused, sexually abused, sexually broken cultures (compare U.S.A. to Africa or even Europe), we will need to make way for these kind of places. And so to deal with any of this, we do not need a do’s and don’t’s list of what’s permissable and what is not. We need a place where the Holy Spirit can work in and among His people, a place of uncovering. Otherwise we will get no where in this mess.

So the first item for missional communities (and I would argue for the broader church as well) to accomplish in this day of controversy over sexual relations, is discuss how we can put ideology aside, and come together in small spaces where there can be redemption because “we are broken.[emphasis added]

Would that the stars of the Celebrity-Driven Church acknowledge their own sexual brokenness and quit offering themselves as leading exemplars of Christian sexual fulfillment.

I read Walter Isaacson’s Steve Job’s bio when it first came out. As much as I found it to be rather hagiographic, there was much I enjoyed in the reading.


One of the first thoughts that struck me was the hope that it would not be read by many church leaders. Jobs was both brilliant and a petulant, spoiled, narcissistic child. One of the two women he loved the most (the other was his wife), thought he was NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder.) (Page 266)

This article in the Atlantic expresses my concern far better than I can, Be A Jerk: The Worst Business Lesson from the Steve Jobs Biography, (Note that some may find the use by the author, Tom McNichol, of Bob Sutton’s technical term for bad leaders offensive for which I’m truly sorry… or not.)

You can be a genius and an asshole, but the two aren’t necessarily causally linked. In fact, there’s a strong body of evidence to suggest that there are plenty of assholes who aren’t geniuses at anything other than … being assholes.

But such subtleties may be lost on CEOs, middle managers and wannabe masters of the universe who are currently devouring the Steve Jobs biography and thinking to themselves: “See! Steve Jobs was an asshole and he was one of the most successful businessmen on the planet. Maybe if I become an even bigger asshole I’ll be successful like Steve.”

This sort of flawed thinking – call it asshole logic – isn’t something that’s necessarily endorsed by Jobs’s biographer.

“(Jobs) was not the world’s greatest manager,” Walter Isaacson said in a recent interview with 60 Minutes. “In fact, he could have been one of the world’s worst managers.”

But asshole logic, not surprisingly, tends to ignore facts that don’t sanction one’s own assholery.

Read the entire Atlantic Article, and when it comes to the church please be careful who you recommend Jobs’ biography too. We have more than our fair share of “Bob Sutton’s technical term for bad leader” leaders.

Jesus and the Marlboro Man

kinnon —  November 27, 2011 — 21 Comments

I’ve been away from blogging for a little longer than I intended. More on that in a later post.

Marlboro man as Pastor

I originally mindmapped this post in the spring with plans to make it part of the Celebrity Driven Church series (which has multiple mindmaps but no prose as yet).


My decision to sit down and finally write this was triggered by a recent post from my blog world friend, JR Briggs. The post was about his response to the image on the right – you can see a much larger version of it at his blog. He wrote this,

I absolutely love this image.

It reminds me of the role of the leader, the visionary, the church planter, the pioneer, the entrepreneur, the kingdom fire-starer, the person with an apostolic wiring.

Visionaries do the hard work of going ahead, going before and creating paths that no one else has thought about or dared to travel . (Emphasis in original)

I asked, in the comments, whether he was being ironic. No response. So. I’m assuming he wasn’t.

The image he professes to love leaves me cold. It’s an image that fits with America’s love of the mythic super-hero. The one who saves the damsel in distress and by extension the world.

This is the myth of the rugged individual and it is one, I’d suggest, that has done more damage to the church in the west than we care to realize.

As I was lamenting JR’s post, an email from Leadership Network arrived in my InBox talking about the latest study by Thuma & Bird on Mega Churches. This bulleted point from the email reinforced the American Church Leader myth:

— The leader at the helm makes all the difference.

Seventy-nine percent say the church’€™s most dramatic growth occurred during tenure of current senior pastor.

It’s all about that one man at the top, now isn’t it. (The document tells us that these leaders are, on average, 51 and male.) As my friend Sonja said in an email exchange,

As I read that report all I could think was, “well, of course, most of that data is self-identified. I wonder if the surveyors did any kind of independent quantification of those markers?” That’s what you think when you’ve grown up with a statistician for a dad ;)”

And as I read the report, I was reminded of the saying popularized by Mark Twain, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” And yes, I have used that one here a time or two before.

TheChurchPlanter book coversmaller

However, the original trigger for this post was Darrin Patrick’s book, Church Planter. Note the image from the front cover. The mythic pattern persists. Darrin, a leader in the Acts29 network promotes the prophet, priest and king model of church leader.

Kings develop strategies for bringing the vision and mission of Christ-centered living to fruition. They tend to ask the question How? They function like executives of the church because they spend a great deal of time and energy building and executing plans to sustain and grow a healthy church. Church Planter (Darrin Patrick) Highlight Loc. 1464–71 (Kindle)

I don’t quote Darrin approvingly. In fact, I heard this same kind of language in my charismatic mega church days and witnessed (first hand and otherwise) the kind of damage done by this warped belief to both the “kingly leader” and his subjects. (Jesus’ powerful statements on servant leadership in Matthew 20 and Mark 10 are strangely missing from Darrin’s book. ) Darrin writes a lot about the need for and qualifications of elders – but then focuses on the single person church planter/senior pastor (with hopefully a wife supporting him.)

The full title of his book is Church Planter — The Man, The Message, The Mission.

The Man and thus my concern with those who buy this message and buy the myth that they are singlehandedly called to plant God’s next great church in whatever neighbourhood.

Believing they are called to be, in J.R.’s words, visionaries (who go) ahead, going before and creating paths that no one else has thought about or dared to travel. No wonder so many of them fail.

This is far different from the Matthew and Mark passages mentioned above, as well as the equipping and sending that Jesus does in Luke 10. A hint, he sent them out in twos “into the harvest” with no resources other than prayer. The single “harvester” on the front cover of Darrin’s book runs counter to what Jesus teaches in this passage. How odd.

The American church (along with its global acolytes) has bought the myth of the rugged individual as conqueror and builder,€” represented well by the iconic Marlboro Man a character created by Ad Agency, Leo Burnett. It’s a fabulous marketing image… for selling toxic substances.

A final aside: A horrible irony is that two of the men who portrayed the Marlboro Man died of cancer from consuming what their images had been promoting.

My friend and fellow ‘gator, Brent, the blogger formerly known as Brother Maynard… no… wait… still known as Brother Maynard – when he deigns to blog –  has a very long fuse. But. When it finally reaches the dynamite (or is that dunamis), watch out.

On Mark Driscoll’s recent Effiminagate,

Whatever would possess a well-known “successful” big-church pastor and author to go around suggesting that effeminate worship leaders should be publicly ridiculed and that David was much more masculine than the average worship leader because he started killing people as a kid? Um, yeah, are you serious? That’s your apologetic for a trucker who doesn’t like effeminate worship leaders? Hey, Mark, you ever think of suggesting the dude just try a different church? I’ve been told that not all worship leaders are the same… Might it be that the guy just didn’t like the worship leader? Mightn’t it be remotely possible that this fellow didn’t actually think that all Christians were effeminate and was rejecting God on that basis? Or is it really a better apologetic to reinforce the stereotype this guy already had, and characterize “proper” masculine behaviour as killing people in one’s youth.

And it’s so nice that your elders sat you down and told you to say things that were meaningful, but it seems to me they should have been saying, “DUDE! Tone it down or hit the streets! Oh, and we need you to issue a public apology.” But of course, these elders simply told you that you should say meaningful things. Important things. So thanks for not apologizing and promising instead to launch a website promoting your new book. I guess that was meaningful and important. So glad to learn that you’re accountable to someone who can get you to change your behaviour and your public statements when warranted.

Please go read it all.

In light of my previous posts on the on-going Sovereign Grace Ministries calamity, allow me to reference this earlier writing of mine on leadership “authority.” These thoughts are from a discussion of Hebrews 13:17

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Too many “leaders” see authority as a position attained via title. They translate the word as “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience”. It’s a power word – submit or else.

Mark Driscoll in a January 2009 NYT article title, Who Would Jesus Smack Down, was famously quoted as saying that people who dared challenge his authority were “sinning through questioning” – this during the church process of consolidating the power in the church to “Driscoll and his closest aides“. It would appear that MD would translate authority as the right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience – “break(ing) their nose(s)” if necessary.

But authority can, and in my not humble but accurate opinion, should be translated as the power to influence or persuade others because of one’s recognized knowledge about something and experience practicing it with a high level of efficacy. (Note that this is a Kinnon translation based on a number of others.)

Unfortunately it is both via experience and research that I can write that the church seemingly overflows with narcissistic leaders who live to exert power and control. (Follow Alice down the rabbit hole that is the People Formerly Known as discussion if you’d like to do your own research.) It matters little what cheering section of the theological pool these people are in – they are in it for the power. Let me reinforce this: because I use a Driscoll example does not mean that I believe his particular section of the theological pool has any higher percentage of narcissists than the mainline, emerging, RC, EO or the 90,000 variations of the evangelical church. (One of the positions people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder – extreme narcissists – are attracted to is church leadership. It is one of the best places to practice irrational authority unchallenged – as these leaders convince you they are on a mission from God. If you learn best via pictures – this might help.)

GuyMegaphoneOnChair Perhaps it is a knee-jerk reaction then, when I read or hear church leaders insist on authority – and use terms like discipline rather than discipleship. Who speak of themselves as shepherds and their followers as sheep. (Though technically, biblically correct – too often this is twisted into stupid, smelly sheep being owned by their respective “shepherds” as this attests. I should note that Pastor is the Latinate translation of shepherd.)

But Matthew 20:25-28 is still the true test of Christian leadership. You are a leader with authority if you serve, rather than are served and value your position as last rather than first amongst the sheep – of which you are one.

Authority is earned. Respect is given – rather than demanded.

The Hip Gnosis of the Church

kinnon —  July 15, 2011 — 6 Comments

Hip gnosis definitions1

How many issues in the Celebrity-Driven Church are created by our desperate need to follow people we think are spiritually aware/cool/hip - supposedly tuned-in to “the fresh things that God is doing?”

“Gifted people” who have some special insight into the mysteries of the faith – or at least the personal charisma to convince us thereof?

Are we suffering hip gnostics hip-gnotizing the church?*

*And yes, my addiction to puns is evidenced here. Does this make me a PUNdit? 

Alternate post titles:

Making Celebrity-Driven Church Omelettes – You Know You Gotta Break Some Eggs.

What Edmund Burke may have said about evil.

The man behind the curtain 02

Welcome back to the Wizard of Odds where we are doing our very best to protect you from any evil witches.


Whatever you do.

Don’t look behind the curtain!


YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” as Jack Nicholson’s character, Colonel Jessep screams in A Few Good Men.

‘After all, what is the truth? Really?’

‘How dare you ask that question!’

‘As a leader in the North American Church – it’s whatever I tell you it is. And if you don’t believe me, it’s because you are a disobedient, unrepentant, unsubmissive trouble-maker in danger of me casting you out into utter darkness where you truly belong. If you read the Scriptures properly, you’d know God has give me that POWER over you!’

To quote Shakespeare’s King Lear, “O, that way madness lies, let me shun that, no more of that.”

If I’m being far too obtuse I apologize. This is a continuation of my previous post – C.J. and Semper Reformanda or… Not So Much. Perhaps I should have titled this post, C.J, his friends and Semper Mendacis. (You can figure it out.)

If you remember back two days, you will recall that two of C.J. Mahaney’s T4G friends, Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan immediately (if not sooner, according to the writers at The Wartburg Watch) jumped to C.J.’s defense. Effectively saying, (as I wrote previously) ‘Nothing to look at here. Move Along. Everything’s under control

My theo-pub buddy, Dan Gouge (who attends a Toronto PCA church led by another good friend), says this at the team blog, City of God,

Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan have both stood up for Mahaney and, in essence, insist that his critics shut up and that everyone else move along.

What’s remarkable about this is that there seems to be a reflex here that is shockingly similar to the one that kicked in at the Vatican when the child sex-abuse scandals started to leak into the media. (Note: Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that C.J. Mahaney is the equivalent of a sex offender.) The hierarchy circled the wagons and went about blaming everyone else while trying to protect itself. Neither T4G nor SGM is a hierarchy like Rome, but there is an undeniable star system at the top of today’s Reformed church world with a handful of powerful men who dominate conferences and bestseller lists, and it appears that they have taken to looking after their interests – the interests of the powerful – at the expense of all those whom they claim as followers. [emphasis added]

Of the far too many stories (at SGM Refuge & SGM Survivors, alone) that bring Mahaney’s leadership and SGM polity into question – Brent Detwiler’s story of Mahaney’s apparent blackmail of PDI/SGM co-founder Larry Tomczak is perhaps the most telling. City of God blogger, Keith Brooks asked me this question in the comments of the previous post,

Blackmail is a serious allegation! Is there hard proof of this or is this hearsay? Given the wikileaks nature of this, if it’s true, there should be hard evidence, no?

In my response to Keith, I pointed him to SGMWikileaks document 3beginning at page 131 which Brent Detwiler titled, “The Blackmail of Larry Tomczak.” I specifically pointed him to pages 139 through 149. (I also suggested he read this and this.)

No whistleblower

In rather sickening irony but consistent with their “shoot the messenger” policy as SGM is a ‘no-Whistelblowers zone’, the SGM board accuses Detwiler of “public slander.”

Brent Detwiler’s distribution of written accusations against C.J. Mahaney to all Sovereign Grace pastors constitutes the public slander of Mahaney’s reputation.

Just a note, SGM board guys, if it’s written it’s libel, not slander. And there are far too many voices who suggest that Detwiler learned this on the very platform from which you pontificate.

One of the reasons the first working title of this post was, “If you want to make an omelette, you need to break a few eggs” – a quote attributed to both Lenin and Robespierre – is the blanket approval of Mahaney by Mohler and Duncan. In spite of the pain caused to ‘the little people’.

Mohler, Duncan et al are effectively communicating that the ends justified the means. ‘Yes, there are hurting people – but that’s just what happens when you build something big for God. You need strong, authoritative leadership to do that, you know.’

This news article more than suggests that Mohler told the reporter that he has read all of the SGMWikileaks material (portions of which I’ve pointed to above), and the writer than quotes him saying,

“There is nothing disqualifying in terms of anything that is disclosed in this,” said Mohler, who regularly speaks on programs along with Mahaney. “It’s just evidence we knew all along, that C.J. is human but a deeply committed Christian and a visionary Christian leader.”

Really!? Is Church Leadership Blackmail 201, a course your seminary teaches, Dr. Mohler? So the “Blackmail of Larry Tomczak” if proven to be true, will not disqualify Mahaney from his “visionary” leadership. Ridiculous!

As I said in response to another comment, “I know not what this be, but it be not Christianity.”

My dear friend, and Missional Instigator buddy, Brad Sargent said this in the comments on the previous post,

Two relevant quotes from *Dune: The Butlerian Jihad* by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson go to the heart of the mental and emotional issues here. First, “Assumptions are a transparent grid through which we view the universe, sometimes deluding ourselves that the grid is that universe.” (For instance, relying on a theology about Jesus is not equivalent to relying on Jesus, even if we think the thought suffices.) And, “Fanaticism is always a sign of repressed doubt.” (These systems don’t allow for even the appearance of personal weakness or of relative knowledge about absolute truth.)

Sadly, we ALWAYS get these kinds of SGM situations when we treat theology and people like machines, and we always will. It’s in the deepest DNA of their system, and the rotten fruit shows what was in the roots. Not all Reformed epistemologies are this harsh relationally or near-gnostic in terms of intellectualism – – and they, too, bear fruit according to what DNA is in the seeds they plant. [emphasis added]

People have and will continue to ask me, “Why do you concern yourself with this, Bill?” Allow me a quick further moment to respond.

I am convinced that one of the biggest problems with the church in North America is it’s Celebrity-Driven culture. And this is not exclusive to the Reformed. From the conservative to the progressive ends of the Church, we have created a culture of “follow your favourite apostle, and no, you don’t need to think for yourself.”

We are the people in 1 Samuel 8, choosing to follow whichever particular little church king captivates us. The end result is often what this passage of scripture states,

“This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”

And finally, if you’ve made it thus far, the quote attributed to Edmund Burke, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good (people) to do nothing,” motivates me. Too many people are content to plug their ears, cover their eyes & mouths while ignoring this kind of evil being perpetrated within the Body of Christ.

And I confess that I am stunned by the relative silence on this from the blog world that screamed incessantly about Rob Bell’s Hell.

Semper Reformanda – or more exactly in the latin, Ecclesia semper reformanda est – which is basically, the church must always be reforming.


One of the stars in the present Reformed universe is C.J. Mahaney. He is a favourite speaker at Together for the Gospelone of the four founding friends of this Reformed movement.

T4G is convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many Churches and among those who proclaim the name of Christ.”


It appears that Mahaney has both misunderstood & misrepresented the Gospel in his own network of churches while marginalizing or discarding any who dared questioned his motives, methods & ministry.

Allow me to explain.

A number of years ago I began to read SGM Refuge – a blog I was turned on to by Michael Newnham and the community at Phoenix Preacher. (And I had discovered PP through the truly inimitable iMonk, Michael Spencer.) What I found at SGM Refuge (and later, SGM Survivors) were hard stories of hyper-controlling leadership, devastating coverups and a particularly effective ministry of  “shooting the messengers.”

There is not enough space nor time to go into great detail – you can do your own reading at the provided links. Suffice to say that it would appear that a legion of wounded SGMers are in recovery from what they’ve suffered at the hands of this “ministry” led by C.J. Mahaney, their lead apostle. And this while Mahaney has trod the conference stage of the Reformed universe – as one of their “humble” super-apostles to be emulated.

But, even though some want to deny or question the seriousness of the charges, apparently CJ’s sins have found him out.

Phoenix Preacher quotes Mahaney from his blog:

Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.”

As PP states, it seems that what finally motivated CJ to respond – after ignoring the hundreds of thousands of painful words written at SGMR and SGMS and the countless meetings of SGM pastors with wounded people – was what has been called the SGMWikiLeaks from former SGM senior leader, Brent Detwiler. Reading it is like entering a world where the walls are all funhouse mirrors – everything is distorted – SGM polity in particular.

Again from PP,

600 + pages of emails and documentation from another one of the co-founders of the movement detailing the palace intrigue, politics, and even blackmail that kept humble C.J. and his cohorts in power while disposing of those who crossed them.

That massive document is not just an indictment of Mahaney, but of the whole leadership structure of Sovereign Grace Ministries and it appears that they are all complicit either by commission or ommission in creating yet another culture of leadership impunity. [emphasis added]

Read that again – “and even blackmail…” It would seem that Mahaney forced out his original co-founder Larry Tomczak who was not happy with then PDI’s move to Calvinism. It is suggested Mahaney did this by threatening to reveal counselling secrets about Tomczak’s son.

If anything needs semper reformanda, it would be Sovereign Grace Ministries. And one should question any leadership from someone who may have been willing to blackmail in order to get his own way. But you won’t hear that concern expressed from Mahaney’s T4G buddies.

Ligon Duncan dismisses those who have suffered directly from the leadership of Mahaney and his hand-picked team. And, of course, none of the rest of us have any right to comment. (Except for C.J.’s buddies.)


I would… encourage you to ignore the assaults of wounded people on attack websites and blogs, and that you discount the opinings of those who have no real knowledge of these matters or relation to SGM or authority to comment upon them, and that you refrain from assuming that you (or they) are in a position to render judgment on these things.

One might reasonably ask Duncan whether he has spoken to any of the folk who have been wounded by SGM. But. Obviously he doesn’t need to. He’s one of the T4G Celebs working with CJ – “ C.J. knows of my complete love and respect for him.” One wouldn’t want to confuse the facts with friendship.

Al Mohler has also stepped up to the plate for CJ in this Courier-Journal news item, which Duncan approvingly links to. (Note that the good folk at The Wartburg Watch have shown how Mahaney and his SGM church are significant donors to the seminary where Mohler is president.)

“I always have had only the highest estimation of C.J. Mahaney as a man and a minister,” Mohler said in an interview — his first public comments on the situation involving Mahaney, one of his fellow leaders in the Reformed, neo-Calvinist movement. “That continues absolutely unchanged. There is nothing in this current situation which would leave me to have even the slightest pause of confidence in him.”

“I assume he would retain every position in leadership,” Mohler said. “I expect he should be very quickly returned to leadership of Sovereign Grace.“ [emphasis added]

Nothing to look at here. Move along. Everything’s under control.

And this from the people who seem to live to sit in judgment on their non-reformed brothers and sisters.

But. Those are the people, they would tell you, who have “misrepresented” and “misunderstood” “the Gospel of Christ” “in many Churches and among those who proclaim the name of Christ.

Unlike their dear brother, C.J., of course.


There are those like Ligon Duncan who will say that I and others have no right to comment on these matters. They are wrong. The public ministry of Mahaney is held up by the new Reformed as an example to be emulated by young male leaders. (In the T4G world – women can never be church leaders.) If it was reasonable to expect Dever, Duncan and Mohler to actually concern themselves with the charges against Mahaney and respond appropriately – I would not have bothered to spend the time writing this. But Mohler and Duncan’s cavalier response to the many hundreds if not thousands who have been damaged by Mahaney’s leadership suggests this won’t happen – in fact, these wounded will no doubt be blamed for the troubles in Mahaney’s ministry. If only they’d submitted properly none of this would have happened.

Another story in the Celebrity-Driven Church.

Apologies & Update

kinnon —  June 20, 2011 — 3 Comments

First, please accept my apologies for the RSS stream of old posts that you received if you subscribe to the RSS feed. This is an unfortunate part of the move to new blog hosting and hopefully you will never see this again – at least not from here. 🙂

Secondly, I hope to begin the Celebrity-Driven Church series a little later this week. I’m just in the process of finishing the first cut of a short documentary and as soon as that’s done, I can finish writing the first post in the series. It will no doubt annoy a number of people, but the hope is to begin a conversation on what the C-DC is and the role we all play in creating it.