Monday, November 14, 2011

An Urgent Message to Our Brothers and Sisters in CrossWay and SGM

As a former member of CWCC I've been grieved by events that have played out in recent months within the church and parent ministry, SGM.

I write this out of my passion for the glory of God, and the desire for my brothers and sisters to walk in the freedom of sonship. This does not constitute an endorsement of a person or group of people or their positions in any conflict.

Today, out of the conviction that church leaders have crossed a line, I asked my friend and author, Dr. Stephen Crosby to address the most recent issue of "marking people who are deemed divisive". While this is directed to help people in a particular church and "fellowship of churches", the message may very well apply to you. In all, may Jesus truly be Lord of His church.

In an organization, leaders generally consider themselves in the right. It is part of the paradigm they create for themselves: if you have succeeded in making your way to the top of an organization, then, by definition, the values for which you stand, must be right, because they have been authenticated and validated by peers in the organization. In a cult-like controlling atmosphere, any challenge from within the organization to the values which the leaders have vested interest in, will always be considered as betrayal and a threat to the consensus orthodoxy of the group (whatever orthodoxy that might be). This adapted quote highlights a vulnerability leaders in any organization have. The church of the Lord is not immune. Church leaders often confuse confidence in the Lord and His Word, with confidence in themselves (as leaders) and their abilities in the Word. It is a powerful delusion.

In a church, a leader is someone who cares for people on behalf of God; someone who lays his life down, someone who gives his life away, who allows others to “spend them” and be loved the less for it . . . all gladly and without complaint. Many problems in church leadership are self-inflicted from embracing an organizational paradigm of understanding, rather than a family and relational one. God’s family does not have any CEOs. The church is not an organization to be managed. The church is a new way of living life together. The church is a new way of being human, together.

A godly leader is someone who would rather suffer personal loss than see the Lord’s interests in His people suffer, or His reputation be tarnished. A godly leader is someone who is willing to suffer injustice quietly. Perpetuation and maintenance of the organization, and the vindication of the reputation of its leaders is categorically not the same as caring for God’s people. It is often antithetical to God’s interests.

Godly leaders should be walking dead men. In fact, only walking dead men are worthy of our trust and submission. A walking dead man does not need his reputation defended, nor care if his organization is perpetuated. If a leader is not a walking dead man, clear thinking and proper decisions based on Jesus’ interests, not his own, will be the first casualties in crisis when paychecks are threatened by criticism and the departure of the allegedly “unsubmissive.”

The hegemonic control over people’s consciences and thought processes required by many who are the most de-voted to a Protestant Reformation tradition, is more Papist than the Romanists they claim to be protesting. The control is dressed in the language of “submission to authority, accountability, honoring leadership, etc.” However, definitionally neutering Romanist thinking so as not to offend Protestant sensibilities does not negate the fact that in essence, they are identical to those same Roman concepts: you must categorically submit to an elite group of specially selected religious superiors, or suffer dire consequences, either metaphysical and spiritual in nature, or punitive and disciplinary in actual practice. The Greek word for “having authority” (exousia) is never used in the NT in reference to one believer (or leader) exercising authority “over” another . . . never . . . not one reference.

Unfortunately, the practice of “marking those that cause division” is often used as a speech and behavior control template by these same leaders. It is exegetically indefensible and unjustifiable to apply this disciplinary passage to anyone who simply questions authoritarian leadership. The biblical context is that of those causing division by in-troducing doctrines and scandals that undermine the specific apostolic teaching concerning Christ, especially Gnos-tic incursions into the early church. Simply disagreeing with, challenging, and confronting a leader in his behavior and teaching is not categorically sowing division. It might actually be the redemptive hand of the Lord trying to intervene to stop self-destructive tendencies within leadership that they do not recognize about themselves. To claim otherwise regarding these passages, is simply a cultic control technique that should be resisted by all who call on the Name of Jesus as Lord. Dissent is not disloyalty. Disagreement is not a lack of unity.

If you are attending a fellowship and some of these value systems, behaviors, teachings, and doctrines are being propagated as legitimate exercises of spiritual authority, I urge you to seek God and find safe harbor elsewhere.

1 Adapted from Vanier, Jean. Becoming Human. Toronto: Anasnsi Press, 2008, 75.
2 Majority opinion, the points of view required of subordinates to belong to the group. The problem with consensus orthodoxy is it becomes entrenched and not amenable to change and/or correction. Consensus orthodoxy within a group is not necessarily the same as biblical orthodoxy. Consensus orthodoxy degenerates into spiritual calcification if not challenged.
3 Gender limitation is not implied throughout.
4 2 Corinthians 12:15
5 Every NT verbal reference is active, not passive. That is, the idea of someone being passive as someone else exercises authority over them, cannot be found in the NT. See Authority, Accountability and the Apostolic Movement, by Stephen Crosby, at
6 Romans 16:17, etc.


Dave said...

The whole thing breaks my heart. Well said response.

Melinda said...

Glad to see local response here! I'm a concerned ex-member from up north and this post has some very valuable insights. Thanks for your courage in posting!

Mayagirl said...

Thanks for your thoughts posted here. As a former member of a SGM church, I am grateful to be freed from the confusion of it all. It's difficult to follow Jesus and His Word when pastors want "their sheep" to conform to man-made agendas that are falsely, though never intentionally, presented as following Christ. God have mercy on HIS church. May we as the Bride be cleansed and ready for His return.

Anonymous said...

Not knowing any of the details of CrossWay and SGM, i would say there are some leadership issues that need addressing that seem to not wanting addressing by the "leadership". My comments center on simply this: power is a dangerous idea that our great adversary wishes to use against his greatest enemy here on earth.

The idea of leadership is completely misunderstood by those who assume positions of "leadership". The first misunderstanding relates to a major confusion of the fundamental idea of leadership. Leadership is not about recognition blessed with a measure of influence. Leadership is meant to be influence through the recognition of the needs of others. These ideas are in complete contradiction of one another. The first signals attention to the "leader", while the second signifies attention flowing out of the leader toward the needs of the "followers".

We would be wise to study Jesus's conversation with Peter about leading the Church. Peter was commanded to feed His sheep. However, feeding is not saying words for 30,40, or 50 minutes once or twice a week from a stage. Matter of fact, consider the nmber of times Jesus spoke from a stage or from behind a podium. Now compare that to the number of times he give attention to the needs of others. Peter was commanded to do the same for the Church by Jesus.

Again, I do not know the particulars of this fellowsip and what happened, but I do know the need for real leadership is greater han ever. However, the real leaders won't be looking for the influence and recognition that comes with the titles. Real leaders will be influencing the lives of others, including leading many to Christ for the first time because of recognizing and meeting their spiritual needs. Honestly, the sermon I hear from my seat is simply "listen to me because I heard from God" and not feeding sheep, which is a dirty, thankless job.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this excellent piece. We have dear friends who attend CrossWay and unfortunately, they will not be reading this. In fact, most of the people who need to read it will have been paralyzed by the "trust me" card.