Applegate Under Seige
After exposing Ben Courson, journalist Rebecca Hopkins has now exposed his father, Jon, on the Julie Roys website.
This is a story forty some years in the making and one I never thought would see print…even though it was the worst kept secret in the Rogue Valley.
Nobody wanted to take on the Courson’s…they had wealth and power and Jon had a reputation for being a holy man.
More than one Calvary Chapel pastor referred to him in conversation with me as “the godliest man I know”.
There was not much sense in making a rebuttal…
Tragedies also served to insulate the family from criticism…the death of Courson’s first wife, then his daughter, then the recent death of son Peter-John made them sympathetic figures, especially following the funerals, which were broadcast live.
Over the years dozens of people that left the church would tell stories about the abuses of power there, but no one would go on the record.
My highest commendations to Rebecca Hopkins for her tenacity and ability to gain the trust of these sources.
Of interest to long time readers here will be the revelation that Jon Courson went to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and Chuck Smith for his “time of repentance”.
Sources over the years have told me that Smith actually wanted to sit Courson down for an extended period of time…but Courson refused on the basis that Smith was lacking in moral authority because of his own “issues”.
Also, Courson reasoned that if necessary he could start another church in the area…and all the people of Applegate would join him.
He was right on both counts and Smith relented.
His return sparked the leaving of some staff and elders…who went on to start spinoffs all over the valley and elsewhere.
What you can expect now…
I don’t expect the Coursons to stay silent.
I do expect that Guy Gray will be the subject of some nasty responses which will be unfair and unnecessary.
The rest of the Ben Courson story will trump what has been seen so far.
Finally, tonight, I will always wonder why this is all being exposed now, so many years after the fact.
It should provoke a healthy fear of God in those who think their sin has been covered by time, wealth, or power.
The wheels of God grind slowly, but they grind fine, indeed.
Sometimes the red flags are small. I have never been to Applegate or met Jon Courson. Back in the early 2000s I noticed Jon’s NT commentary on the shelf of a Christian bookstore in Bakersfield, California. I picked it up an noticed Jon’s photo on the inside of the dust jacket. I was slightly struck by the fact that the top few buttons of his shirt were undone exposing a fair portion of his chest. I’d never seen a Christian author’s photo look so casual. I’m no prude, but it just seemed a little too…I don’t know…alluring? Just one of those things that rings a little bell in your head. The next time I saw someone present themselves in a similar manner (but even more pronounced than Courson) was Tulian Tchivdjian.
“There is none righteous, no not one”
I don’t know why we would be so surprised or shocked by this, “man”, no matter who he is, is fallen and weak, if you dig deep enough you will find the rotten putrid remains of past sins in most if not all men, that’s why scripture tells us to not put our trust in man, it doesn’t matter who it may be. Sexual sin seems to be the worst sin of all and the most prevalent among pastors, like in the days of Balaam, the enemy knew just what to use to bring down the Israelites, and he’s still using it today. I think everyone going into ministry needs to go through a course in sexual sin and how to safeguard against it, for most will eventually fall and full and complete restoration seems to be highly unlikely if not impossible.
It is my fondest hope and prayer that Courson’s empire and himself (like all the other Evangelical fraud leaders out there) suffer this fate:
The article mentions that the church once had a membership of 7,000 but now only has an attendance of a few hundred. Has it really shrunk that much? Most likely, they have plenty of money to keep going, nonetheless.
Are there any more Coursons to hand this over to? Maybe grandsons or spouses of granddaughters? Gotta keep the family business in the hands of some “righteous” male.
This only discusses John going on a Costa Mesa trip circa 1980’s. But he went again circa 2000, and was teaching at CM. This was the Sunday night Revelation broadcast series. And then the series just stopped if I recall.
You would presume the Lead Pastor of an Oregon church, to actually be at and teach in, the Oregon location. I personally know pastors that obsess over their pulpit and don’t want other individuals to really stand behind it.
Costa Mesa? Way to feel comfortable with another man touching your sacred wood.
Jon is like the rest of us, a complex individual. He works a crowd well, and expands a 20 minute sermon into 70 minutes or more (I was told he ran his elder meetings the same way), did other questionable things like sending out “the 12,” and had a record of exerting too much control in the affairs of the church, and at times, other people’s lives.
Yet he also acted with courage and character. I referred to him as the man who could be king. People loved him. He stepped away from Costa Mesa in the early 2000’s, when his Tuesday Night study (Tuesday, not Sunday Night, Nathan) was packed. He didn’t want to fight about who was to be the heir to Chuck Smith. He could have started his own church in Orange County and been very successful, but he went to Mexico for a short season instead. I was told he stood up in defense of Brian at a meeting with the CC old guard who were trying to prevent Brodersen from taking over after Chuck. He could have started his own movement, yet he didn’t push it.
In my few conversations I had with him, I sensed a man who could be narcissistic and a man who wanted to follow God. A man who indulged, and a man who exercised restraint.
It looks like the narcissist won out in the end. And it will not end well for the House of Courson and their Empire of Applegate….
Possibly. But his story, like our own, is not yet finished. As we all know, in the end, it is about where we stand with God. There is much more about our spirituality than the ministries that we do. Often we place too much emphasis on what we do rather than who we are.
Thank you for sharing your encounters with Jon. It helps with understanding the man behind the ministry. May he embrace our Lord more fiercely and pursue the right things rather than a spotlight or some legacy.
Seems like a wise way to view it. Likeable guy. I liked him … and felt he was stretching his teaching.
The video Michael posted of Jon praying over Ben truly was, a what the hell moment, as I called it. I was being serious in regards to his facial expression in the final 2 seconds. What is behind that expression is truly a mystery.
Perhaps that stunned and pained look was a good thing. They same way that pain after an accident, tells you your still alive, limbs attached and spine not severed.
The way to get things on track at Applegate is realization of the wrongs being done, coupled with true repentance and radical shifts in how they carry out ministry. Not easy when you’ve been doing things sideways. Old habits die hard. Praying for a rebirth of humility and holiness. But if they dig in, well that’s going to go bad.
I wonder what is the over/under on Applegate digging in? Given the track record of the vast majority of “ministries” and churches in the same situation, I say they will dig in. And the tighter they try to hold on, more it will slip from their fingers….
In which case, the Youtube link I posted earlier is very appropriate…
If Applegate has gone from 7000 to a few hundred, that should make it easier for the a leadership, hopefully a non-Courson leadership, to start afresh. The new leadership should be content with a small congregation and not try to return to their former “glory.”
I never met Jon Courson but I often listened to him on the radio when I attended Calvary Chapels for 30 years. I liked his voice, even though his teaching did often meander and the teaching was pretty “lightweight” in my opinion. Here’s my take : if you can’t ‘walk the talk’ you have no business preaching or leading a church. Some of these once-great pastors may have been blessed by God and used for a season, but clearly that season is over. No one should tolerate such behavior from their pastor, ever. I’m not saying that they are “bad Christians” but these men have lost all credibility as pastors and have no business preaching or counseling other Christians.
Serious question, and one I would think would give you pause, or should, maybe.
Knowing NOW all the obvious failings (I’ll resist pointing to specific theologies/practices), and ASSUMING more aren’t on their way, do we think if all this was out in the early 70s CCs would’ve exploded or just been another blip?
If you think had all this been out and CCs would’ve exploded, using the same standard of judgement CCs have leveled against a lot of other ministries, what does that say about your judgement? In other words, how do we explain the growth of something with so many issues because now the emperor is clearly naked.
What does that say about the church, this age, etc.?
If you think had all this been known and would’ve affected/stunted CC growth, than what’s changed in our thinking (we make excuses for alot in whatever our tribe is now)?
Notice I’m making no judgements against anyone, just curious.
I’m sensing (not just here) an unofficial theology that “well, [insert excuse here]” and “[plea to give-up changing anything here]” throughout the church, yet the opposite of excuses and fatalism is what’s preached most services and I would think no churches would’ve ever started or continued without at least those two things.
Also, we looooove attacking the world, THAT politically party (which ever you don’t agree with), but will never accept their leaders reply with excuses and fatalism.
I’m having and more difficult time as I age distinguishing logic or the church and any secular entity when explaining its conduct.
Ironically, on a more personal note, all this nonsense has made me a lot more comfortable with attending other faith context in my CCs days I would’ve though crazy. I now have MUCH less an issue attending somewhere the minister does more liturgical things I don’t understand as long as where I attend can stay out of the news and DA’s office.
“There is none righteous, no not one”
Even the Bible uses hyperbole.
In more than a few places.
Admittedly, your post is hard to follow.
I’m not reading here that anyone making excuses for the Coursons’ or the Applegate leadership’s actions, and if you think I was, then you injected your own bias. I think they should all resign. Good chance, they won’t. I never had much of a connection with Jon or his church, and the small thread I had was severed some years ago.
Every church denomination is messed up……every single one. From my own perspective as a pastor, I can then become totally independent and risk moving into an echo chamber where all they hear is their own thoughts. More often than not, those who do so tend to lose their balance. Or I can pick a group that you can at least deal with the prevailing group dysfunctions and emotional and spiritual immaturity of their celebrities and continue in the direction you believe God is leading you. One of the things about the tribe I am in now is that I can raise concerns without being told “if you don’t like it, there’s the door!” When I was CC, I was told that a few times, and three times I took that advice.
No, you didn’t answer my question, but did provide some helpful insight and possibly a framework from which to serve.
My question is pure historical and to understand our collective judging processes.
Every ministry I’ve been a part of begins and sustains itself (at least in part) of inspections of secular failures, not official doctrine mind you, but definitely what you hear.
Now that so many of us have witnessed very little difference between our tribe’s failures and that of the world’s, how does that play into how we judge and what we say, how we justify?
Also, regarding our tribe’s historical interpretation, which has been blasted to nothing, how do treat rosy interpretations now when we know full well something odious is probably happening and being covered up.
I’m not blaming anyone or judging even the culprits.
Just noticing our treasured narratives held so dear and used as fuel for so long are a $3 bill.
I guarantee you Jesus would’ve rather had 1 sheep not sexually assaulted than all the “glorious [insert excuse here].”
If you’re reading my question and after 20 years haven’t seen most of what your tribe bragged about not being worldly happen and not be dealt with, I’m amazed, but please ignore this from me.
It’s my intention to paint with a broad brush.
This has been the only place I’ve felt safe asking such questions – mostly.
Praise God for those who haven’t felt at least a little swindled.
Yes, I’m “saved,” not because of the church, but an event which occurred in Iraq.
However, I sure wish now that back then the leaders (before all their dirt came out) would’ve spent the time they used to blast every one else, to admit outbreaks lives are no different than non-believers at least as far as failings.
I would’ve save myself a lot of grief and $.
I honestly have no theology I can use with non-believers and believers on how to live and what to expect to Jesus, at least nothing I can say with a straight face.
Yes, I’ve got the “hereafter” stuff nailed.
I just realized I’ve been out of the loop for a while, maybe churches have stopped promising a better anything compared to the world regarding their lives here, then my questions are moot.
I remember ironically Greg Laurie accidentally did me in.
I would listen to him talk about the life they could have here and think, “who the hell is he talking about?!” knowing from other leaders and sometimes their own words the other side of things.
Again, my fault.
I allowed myself to be too gullible.
Now my childlike faith is only red letter and everyone else gets no special treatment-which is an effective permanent disbarment from ministry, as many former pastors have said.
Sorry, I meant it’s NOT my intention to paint with a broad brush.
Enough has come out, nobody needs to use a broad anything.
One thing every failed CC Pastor has in common, is that they had all operated under the Moses Model, it seems like this model has a great potential for growth as it eliminates a lot of the red tape and bureaucracy, allowing a man of God to truly be led by God without committee, but at the same token the other side of the coin which is what resurfaces time and again is an ugly side indeed as we see the many failed pastors and wrecked ministries. The question is, is the beautiful side of the coin worth the ugly side with it’s exponential potential for personal ruin for those who are lifted up and placed in Moses seat?
If the answer is no, then the Moses model needs to be eliminated in order to prevent this from happening, and the checks and balances provided by elders of equal say not just “yes men” needs to be put in place. But with these types of systems such as a Presbytery, we might not have the same explosive growth that a Calvary Chapel ministry has had, with all the beautiful things that it has produced, such as incredible Jesus music, and many changed lives, which all began with an open door to the hippies, that from the outset would not have happened, if there had been a committee guiding and directing Chuck Smith, in fact this was one of the reasons Chuck Smith created the Moses Model. So “to be or not to be,” that is the question.
In the meantime for those who have operated under the Moses Model, and have not succumbed to its trappings as they are lifted up to celebrity status, and the Temptations as they have absolute reign and authority in what can become their own private little kingdom, I salute you!
I too wonder why this is being exposed now after all this time. It reminds me of Ravi Z. who eventually was exposed after his death. Perhaps the full story of Chuck Smith will be exposed. Its obvious this story about Jon is now being revealed because of the pressure on his son Ben. Maybe if the pressure on Jon got to a boiling point we would get the full story of Chuck. UnCCed, I hear everything you are saying. I also allowed myself to be too gullible. In some ways I still am, but I’m probably a bit younger than you. Thankful to this website in helping me deconstruct the CC mythology.
The “Moses Model” is nothing more than CC branding their version of the entrepreneurial model of ecclesiology.
It is used by almost all non denomination, independent churches.
I was gullible too. And I wanted to believe so badly that this was the right way and the right truth. It took years for me to move on after I realized there were too many inconsistencies of ethical behavior and questionable doctrines for me to be at peace with all that I saw, heard and knew. I’m learning to live with the inconsistencies, but my focus is more inward.
If I knew then what I know now, I would like to say that I would have moved on much sooner, but I can’t say for sure. I wished I had listened to those quiet voices that were warning my that it was not healthy, but I ignored them because of the good I saw, and the move of the Holy Spirit that I witnessed at Costa Mesa in the early 70’s. So in a sense, I did know then, and stayed for many reasons of which I feel no obligation to explain on a public forum. So, condemn me if you must, I don’t care. I do know this is my walk with God and that He uses what He uses based on our level of understanding and submission to HIs will, which is the best we can expect of ourselves in this journey. It may very well be that part of why I am in the place (both spiritually and physically) today is because of my experience being a part of Calvary Chapel. I recognize the hand of God on my life in that context.
The “Moses Model” only has a chance of success if we’re talking about the Moses of Numbers 12:3.
Somethings wrong with the fellowship churches in Southern Oregon. I grew up going to Ashland Christian Fellowship about 45 min away from Applegate. The original pastor was involved in a sex scandal, Another pastor there who was my youth pastor committed suicide a few years ago. I could go on, but it seems these churches exist for themselves and not for God. The loose stance on sin and worldliness has created a breeding ground for corruption. One day these monstrosity buildings will be empty and believers will meet in their houses again.
I wish to remain anonymous, I went to Ashland Christian Fellowship when I was a kid. I knew the head pastor and the youth pastor you mentioned really well. I loved the youth pastor and was very grieved to hear of his suicide many years later. I think he was a good man but very, very broken. I have nothing to add beyond that, really. God bless you.
A word about the youth pastor in question.
He was a vet who had seen combat and suffered badly with PTSD.
I believe he tried to live with all he had…but sometimes the wounds take us anyway.
Michael, that’s the story as I know it. Even as a kid I think we could tell he was in a lot of pain. I didn’t understand until years later. I think about him sometimes and will remember him in my prayers tonight.
I think I will too…amen.
Sources said this and that. What sources ? Hearsay is not fact and never will be. Let a think be established by two or more witnesses. Apostle Paul had his enemies and I am sure many of the Pastor’s have their enemies also. Let him without any sin cast the first stone. Crickets !
Sadly, I can always tell where people receive their theological training…
No report is ever published here that does not have at least two separate sources.
In this case there are many more than that.
I see mistakes everywhere including from this blog and commenters. From what we’ve seen there does indeed seem to have been something wrong in Jon’s early career and the criticism of how it was handled if fair. However, what everyone seems to be doing is assuming is that the way it was handled is proof that there was no real repentance. It’s very possible that during his short break he did actually repent and there has been no impropriety since. I read all the other accusations and they are all gossip and hearsay. Someone who says they had to do something because someone told them Jon wanted it. It’s all typical gossip stuff. The article outlining the so called mistakes of Jon included one man claiming Jon repeatedly made prophecy predictions that never came true. That’s just a ridiculous and verifiably false claim. Jon speculated about how things could happen and opined what he thought might be happening as it related to world affairs but he’s never made any specific predictions. Most of the criticism of Jon is unfounded. Again, I agree he should have been disqualified back when his supposed affair happened but he didn’t step down and there is no way we can say later there wasn’t real repentance. There certainly has never been since that day any confirmed accusations of a serious nature. Not saying he’s perfect and I don’t agree with his controller leadership style but I’m also not about to crucify him on rumors.
As for Ben, he absolutely should have been removed and the way this was handled is an issue. Time will tell what happens in the future with this.
If you can document mistakes, we are open to correction.
Jon could easily solve part of this by confessing to the sin that is known and telling of his repentance.
Instead, we have a continuation of the cover up.
While I appreciate your comments regarding heresy (I am an ex cop), I have witnessed first hand some of the accusations regarding Jon s well as falling victim to some of his abuses
FYI The pastor who investigated the charges against Jon some 40 years ago has testified recently, of what he uncovered. So while there is some heresy, there are those, including me who can speak of things we personally experienced or witnessed.
If you haven’t already read Deminan Norvell’s account of his years at ACF, I would encourage you to do so.
Also regarding his impropriety, Jon only admitted to an emotional affair. Did anything happen with women after that asdmssion? I have no reason to believe so. But to say that Jon fully repented or even suggest it would seem to be a stretch.
Isn’t it interesting that we so easily slip on the shoes of the savior and parrot his words to the pharisee crowd wishing to stone the woman caught in the very act of adultery…as though we had his omniscience, his insight into the hearts and motives of the accused and the accusers, and hold his divine right to judgment or mercy and choose to pardon and forgive…
We are not Jesus in the story. We are the pharisees. We are the woman. We are the absent lover. We are the lusty and the blood-lusty. Now we arrogantly, cavalierly, toss his words around to protect the wolf, the thief, the false shepherd. Pathetic. What’s next? Touch not the Lord’s annointed?