in other news

February 7, 2012

I know that you wouldn’t normally see this.  We don’t read the same news. In most people’s lives, it’s not even news. Some friends on twitter were asking about what I said earlier.

Over the summer, a pastor named C.J. Mahaney took a leave from absence from his position as the head of a group of churches called Sovereign Grace Ministries.  There are lots of aspects to this story and plenty of important characters.  Lots of taking sides, and deciding who’s telling the real story.

I heard about this from christians who blog and have some connection to this ministry.  Mostly because C.J. Manahey is a part of the Gospel Coalition.  I even saw him speak in person at the TGC conference last year and have read some of his books.

He was accused of treating other leaders in his ministry in a very worldly fashion, rather than a loving gospel centered fashion. If you are interested, you can read what I read from these links.

So it wasn’t a big secret that this was happening.  Sovereign Grace took this seriously and set up mediators and agents of reconciliation to hear stories of people hurt by the unhealthy way the organization operated. That was August.

The big push for this to happen was that it wasn’t a single person making waves (though there were significant individuals), but that someone started a different kind of blog for those who had left those churches.  They called it SGM Refuge.  You can read any number of their stories, including the pastor who helped start the first Sovereign Grace church with C.J. Mahaney and didn’t talk to him for more than 10 years after they split.

So why today? Why is this important now?

Because some Christians from a different group of churches on the other side of country just started doing the very same thing. They started a blog for people to tell their stories about why they left Mars Hill Church.  There isn’t much overlap between these two groups of churches.  There are general similarities, but no real connection.  Different men, different circumstances, different people…..same result.

I haven’t read all of those stories, and I don’t know which ones are the real story of what happened. Mars Hill hasn’t recognized these in the same way SGM did.  What is scary to me is that they sound so similar, and all of them are stories of people being hurt.  By their church, by their leaders, by the other Christians they were trusting in community…..and what to me sounds like being hurt in the name of that community. That the church collectively was more important than the individuals, and so those people needed to go.

Maybe I’ll write more about this if you’re interested.  I certainly have been thinking about it a lot over the past month….or 6….or 12.

One last thing.  A friend pointed me to this on twitter, it’s an article in a Seattle paper written about the Mars Hill thing.  However, it’s obviously written with an agenda by someone who has issues with more than just this one church.  You can see it here-


5 Responses to “in other news”

  1. The Andy White said

    Thanks for posting, Jess. I’ll get to reading those links when I grow my eyes back after scratching them out over ethics reading.

    By the by, I’m not bitter against academia, just desirous of a more balanced view of things in my own life and pursuits. I’m very much supportive of the mentality that Theology should be every man’s hobby. Here toward the end of my scholastic trudge, I’ve finally come around to the idea that bible college should be (and often is) unnecessary for the average Christian’s academic hunger. And for those who wish to excel in the academic sphere, there’s rarely a greater need for a deep connection to the body in both service and leadership. Humility and responsibility are truer anchors to orthodoxy than mere ideals.

    Upon reflection, I have spent too much time defending or castigating secondary and tertiary concerns, the practice of which has enabled my neglect of the fundamentals. Party lines are often vain and devicive. And true unity is seldom brought to bear over opinions.

    Gramps gave me his double-headed axe. I bought sharpening supplies. 🙂
    [end ramble]

  2. steve240 said

    The saddest thing here is that if C.J. Mahaney had found another pastor in his group doing the same thing that Mahaney did Mahaney would have made the pastor step down. This is sadly a double standard. Rules that apply to most SGM Pastors don’t apply to Mahaney.

    Here is what Larry Tomczak posted last week about this:

    Larry Tomczak was a cofounder of SGM (called PDI at the time). Larry Tomczak was blackmailed by C.J. Mahaney over 10 years ago. Sadly Mahaney’s sin was hidden for over 10 years and the SGM Board even conspired to hide Mahaney’s sin vs. confessing and forsaking it.

    • Jesse Janis said

      i don’t think i know you, but I’m going to disagree. The saddest thing isn’t that C.J. got preferential treatment. The numbers of people being confused and cast off from their church home because of a man centered leadership style or organizational structure dressed up in the name of the Lord is far worse. Double standards would be one the symptoms and not the cause.

      • steve240 said


        You have a good point. It is sad the effect this sin of leaders is having on regular members. It is also disheartening for them to find their leader wasn’t what he presented himself to be.

  3. Caralyn said

    So I’ve been continuing to read up on this situation since you initially tweeted about it..- thanks for the blog post, and the follow-up. in all honestly, it leaves me with an overwhelming sense of loss. Jesus said that the world would know his followers by our love.. and i’m beginning to question these days on whether I know what that love actually looks like anymore. I know what it looks like personally, don’t get me wrong- but I don’t know for sure if I know how that plays out in the church anymore, or the religion of Christianity as a whole.

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