More Narrow Than Conservative

January 23, 2009

 swinging-bridge

In the Foreword to CJ Mahaney’s book, Worldliness, John Piper writes:

“The gospel makes all the difference between whether you are merely conservative or whether you are conquering worldliness in the power of the Spirit for the glory of Christ.”

What an awesome and insightful statement.  In my circles I encounter way too many people who assume conservatism is an ends, and not a means to an end; that conservatism in itself is akin to godliness; and that the only real battle for godliness is against liberalism.  Yet Jesus tells us that the road is narrow (Matthew 7.13-14); and Proverbs warns us not to lean to the left or to the right (Proverbs 4.27).

9 Responses to “More Narrow Than Conservative”

  1. steve240 Says:

    You might find the following blogs about C.J. Mahaney and the group he leads of interest:

    http://www.sgmrefuge.com

    http://www.sgmsurvivors.com

    They share another side of Mahaney and his group.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Dennis Griffith Says:

    I approved the above comment because I don’t want to be censorius, unless something is indecent. But I do want to follow up about the links suggested.

    I looked at the SGM Survivors link for the first time the just the other day. If what is posted is in any way a real incident, I am deeply sorry for the pain the individual experienced. But I say that with two caveats:

    First, It reads like something out of a Frank Peretti novel, so I have my doubts about the validity of the whole story. Unfortunately the internet allows people to say whatever they want about whoever they want. And when you have done the kind of work Sovereign Grace has done, there are no doubt going to be some who are either envious or hateful. My suspicion is that this was simply an attempt to discredit CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.

    Second, if this was a real life incident, what is written appears to me to be something coming from a distorted perception. This is not to label the “victim” as someone intentionally trying to fabricate untruths. Instead I would suspect that she really may believe what she writes, and that the “facts” may be pretty close to truth, but that in understandable anger & pain, and/or coinciding bitterness & sinful anger, her perception has been distorted.

    Unfortunately in counselling, and church settings, the counselee is not always able to see the whole picture, or even a clear picture. There is an old cliche that seems to apply here: “Hurt people hurt people.” It seems possible that in her understandable anger, the writer misundertood or simply disliked the counsel given her.

    Fianlly, all I can do is express to the readers my own experiences with Sovereign Grace Ministries. I am impressed and indebeted to CJ Mahaney, and all those I have met with SGM, for their passion for the Glory of God, their faithfulness to God and the Scripture, and the tremendous insights they have offered into how to live in light of the Gospel. Those I have met, some whom I consider friends, are among the most gentle, humble gracious people I know. That is not to say that there may not be some who are part of SGM who have acted sinfully or unwisely. I am sure there are, as there are in any church or denomination. But to characterize SGM as a whole as anything other than humble, gracious, and godly, would be simply wrong.

  3. Steve Says:

    Dennis

    I am glad that you chose not to censor my posting. I admire your openness and would caution you as I see some wanting to in essence “put their head in the sand” with what has been discussed on these blogs. It took a while for a number of people to see the problems with Gothard’s teaching and his group. It may take a while for the same with C.J. Mananey and Sovereign Grace Ministries.

    I am not sure which story you are talking about that you read? Was it the one on sgmsurvivors about the poor handling of what happened to a 3 year old girl by a 15 year old boy that was in the same church (and the alleged poor actions of SGM toward this girl’s family. Was it Jim’s story on sgmrefuge of how he was treated (he was formerly in leadership in an SGM FL church but left and then smeared and the church leadership down there even refused the group called Peacemaker involvement ? There are more stories posted. A lot of the stories seem to have a similar theme especially those of controlling pastors and leadership that doesn’t do well with and is threatened by any type of questioning.

    Thus I would caution you and perhaps encourage you to read more before assuming there is just one story as your above comment also seemed to indicate.

    I know a few of the people that have posted their stories on the blog personally. I also know of others that have left SGM having similar experiences when they questioned.

    SGM may produce good songs and their leaders produce some good books and messages but there certainly appears to be a disconnect between what they say and what they practice in their group.

    Thanks again.

  4. Dennis Griffith Says:

    Steve,

    I can see you are concerned about SGM. All I can say is what I have already said in response to your previous comment. I am not part of SGM, but would not hesitate to associate with them.

    The only other thing I would mention, just for the clarification of others, is that what SGM teaches is not even close to what Gothard teaches. SGM is solidly gospel. You did not necessarily suggest that they were akin, but some may reasonably infer that from your comparison.

  5. steve240 Says:

    Dennis

    I was curious which incident you were referring to as “like something out of a Frank Peretti novel.” I listed a few options above. Maybe you meant the story that has been posted on SGM Refuge about the pastors at the SGM VA Beach requiring (under threat of church discipline) to stay with her husband? It was even sadder these pastors apologizing only after strong pressure. These same pastors are now allegedly threatening to discipline 3 other couples in the same church that stood up for this woman. Hopefully there will be a godly resolution to this.

    If one wants to see a similar story, one can look on Wikipedia and see quotes from his books where he describes the sad experience of being forced out of the group he cofounded. It is another sad story.

    One big help these blogs have been, btw, is that they have provided a source of healing to those with bad experiences with SGM. It is nice to know that you weren’t the only person who, when trying to honestly question something within SGM, had it turned around on them and told they had bad attitudes etc. and many times were forced to leave.

    Similarities or at least use of Gothard’s teaching has been discussed on the blogs I have referred to. Also, many of the early people withing SGM attended and promoted SGM.

    1. Courtship (vs. allowing dating).
    2. Homeschooling
    3. Definition of “gossip” and “slander” including its use to prevent questioning.
    4. Teaching on authority structure. Gothard’s “umbrella of authority” vs. SGM pastors seeing themselves as “standing in the very stead of God.”
    5. Even SGM’s and Gothard’s definition of “grace” appears to be similar. For discussion on this see:

    http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/?p=409

    look at Comment 100

    I am enjoying our discussion.

  6. Dennis Griffith Says:

    Steve,

    Before we continue this discussion further, I guess I’d like to know a little about where you are coming from. I know what you are against. What are you for? What is your role? What is your personal experience with SGM?

    As I said in an earlier response,the internet allows people to attack, and remain under cover. While not suggesting you are necessarily doing that, I think readers should be able to critique your position as well. And please don’t just refer us back to your web pages. Just give us a brief overview of your positive beliefs.

  7. Dennis Griffith Says:

    Because of the nature of the posts and accusations that have been made concerning the SGM, I took some time to review the two web sites recommended in the first response.

    Here is what I found:

    1) Both sites exist for the sole purpose of tearng down SGM. While one puports to be primarily a “haven” for those who have left a SGM congregation, and secondarily to ask for a “reform” in SGM, the substance of the foundational documents is one man’s personal vendetta against the SGM movement – and really, primarily against only one pastor with whom he is in conflict.

    2) Both sites are really rather childish in both their accusatory tone, and the substance of some of their gripes. While I cannot characterize all of those who are aligned with this agenda, my sense of those I have read is that they are are venting under the guise of warning others about SGM.

    My suggestion to readers would be to consider what SGM has done, or the fruit of their ministry; consider the friends of SGM, i.e. Together for the Gospel; John Piper & Desiring God, Mark Dever & 9 Marks; Lig Duncan, Tim Keller, and many PCA leaders… the list goes on. While not without our own warts, the fruit of faithfulness of these ministries is tremendous. Just as a man is known by the company he keeps, so should a ministry…

    Now, who is aligned with this group that exists to malign SGM?

    3) Most importantly, nothing on either site suggests that these sites exist to exalt Christ in any way. Christ is indeed mentioned, and in a positive light. But, Christ is incidental in all accounts I read, and especially in the foundational documents.

    I have a good friend who has on many occasions lamented the negativity on most of these “so called” Christian blogs. These are just two more of the same.

    So, in summation, while I do not plan to censor any further posts Steve may make, I have no sympathy for those who will labor to tear down one expression of the Bride of Christ, while showing no evidence of building her up anywhere else at all.

  8. steve240 Says:

    Dennis

    We certainly have different opinions on what these blogs stand for. I am glad that you have at least done some reading on them before you criticize though not sure you have done that much reading with what you purport to see there. I certainly don’t see people on there speaking with venom. Some are getting over hurts and abuse that they suffered at the hands of SGM leadership which you may be seeing.

    I really don’t think debating this with you would really serve any purpose. Time will eventually tell if whether what has been brought up about SGM become legitimate. It may be, as when in the early days people started to question Gothard, a lot of people defended him for a while until they eventually saw what was really going on and what Gothard stands for.

  9. Dennis Griffith Says:

    Steve,

    I agree. We do have different ideas about the nature of the blogs you suggested. And I agree, there is no point debating about them, or about SGM.

    In fact, quite honestly, it was never my intention to enter a debate with you. My comments were merely to clarify the differences between what I see in SGM and what you, and these websites, claim.

    To be clear, I would be foolish to assume that there have not been cases of abuse and poor judgment, within the SGM network. Sadly, there have been in my own denomination from time to time. Such sad stories exist in any group, organization, or church, that has been around for any length of time, or has expanded to any degree. It is the sad reality of sin, that the Church is not immune to.

    If you have taken my comments as being directed personally at you, please accept my apology, and be assured that is not my intention.

    But know, I will continue to endorse SGM, and their resources, unless I find substantiated reason to do otherwise. And because I endorse them, I don’t feel it wise to leave a charge against them unanswered. That could cause some who read this blog to forsake availing themselves of, what I believe would be, beneficial resources. That would be contrary to the purpose of my blog.

    I’m sure you can appreciate that, even if you don’t share my appreciation of SGM.

    That said, I do still think it would offer a beneficial perspective if we understood where you are coming from. What do you stand for, in a positive way? What do you believe?

    I would much rather my blog reflect the awesomeness of the Gospel, instead of harping on the failures of individuals. That was the purpose of the post that led to your initial comments. By sharing what you believe you can help me achieve that.


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