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45 Responses

  1. Steph says:

    Maybe people will read this and chime in….it’s a real question I’ve had:
    When a church’s theology is Biblically sound, and all written and preached material is Biblically sound; but the manner in which they operate “behind the scenes” is clearly controlling, manipulative, and even unethical….Is this a cult?
    I know that leaving a lousy church is good, regardless of the label; but my question is cult vs not a cult.

  2. Michael says:


    If there is inordinate control of the lives of the people…yes, it’s a cult.

  3. Steve Wright says:

    I posted this on my Facebook feed today. With link to the article.

    “It’s funny to this pastor how John MacArthur is getting lauded for “fighting for religious freedom” when all his court case and legal bills and media publicity won him is the “right” to do what we have been doing at CCLE all along. MacArthur even praises the judge and the details of the ruling. The same details some criticize us for insisting upon. Amazing times. And some of us pastors could care less about being “vindicated by a court” when our only vindication is rooted in Jesus Christ.

  4. jtk says:

    A church that is biblically sound
    A church that has all written and preached material that is biblically sound
    has integrity and honest dealings, doesn’t have things to hide…

    Don’t those churches still have difficult people to deal with?
    Personality conflicts amongst staff, between staff and congregants, between congregants and other congregants?

    Don’t they have struggles evangelizing the lost and discipline the converted?

    Don’t some of them even have all the above but then people don’t like the style of the senior pastor’s clothing, the style of music, the location or the stinking font on the bulletin?

  5. jtk says:

    I wonder what the numerical proportion of people that run away from cults versus the number of people who leave over the most petty of excuses and rationalizations is?

    I bet it’s 1 to 1000

  6. Jim says:


    I helped thousands leave sovereign grace ministries. Google them.

  7. Michael says:

    Yes, you did!
    You were also bright enough to know when to move on…which I’m obviously not… 🙂

  8. Jim says:

    You’re a writer. An artist, and this is your canvas. I was a rabble rouser who had a job to do for a season.

  9. Steph says:

    I went to a church where hundreds have left, at least 25% of the church. I watched them bad mouth every one that left before I finally caught on and made my choice to move on and the reason was far from being petty. Better late than never.

    An inordinate amount of control of the lives of the people…..exactly.

  10. jtk says:


    I’m sure there are too many with too many varied reasons, but were there commonalities in those who left?

    A newlywed couple who were a part of SGM told me SOME of their story there, but you could tell there was a lot of harm. It was stuff I read here that helped me fill in some of the blanks.

    I realized that my earlier comments weren’t very discerning. It’s not worth comparing apples and oranges. Abusive relationships are THE WORST.

    Oh, and Jim (or anyone), any pointers on helping those who left SGM, or similar organizations?

  11. jtk says:

    It was my first point that has me more concerned during COVID19. I’m seeing the unease of lockdown, the fear of COVID, the financial consequences of both, and personal disappointment destroy peoples’ peace of mind which takes form in them leaving their local church. Many other sins *sometimes* accompany that.

    I’m sad for how that affects so many, and how many marriages and kids are affected by the same.

    Both people leaving abusive churches and those with general unhappiness in life in 2020 matter, but they are NOT the same thing nor should they have the same urgency.

  12. Michael says:

    “Oh, and Jim (or anyone), any pointers on helping those who left SGM, or similar organizations?”

    Love them and pray for them

    They may get a bit crazy and it will take years for recovery…and then their faith may not look like yours when they do recover.

  13. Michael says:

    Covid 19 and the current political situation are simply revealing the state of the American soul.
    It’s not a pretty picture.

  14. Mike E. says:

    Sorry this is off topic but–my adult son was raised in the church, and he remains a committed Christian and churchgoer. Unfortunately, he’s chosen a very small church that has no Christian education for children. He is divorced and has two children by his ex-wife, and they literally have no Christian education. They are now teens and have no foundation. I try to share with them but it’s difficult because I don’t see them enough so when I do, it can seem like all I’m doing is preaching to them. It is looking like God may be opening a door for me to help with their home schooling due to Covid. I have advised my son to find a new church that has youth programs but he doesn’t seem inclined. I fear for them so much in this dark world. I just want them to have a foundation. But it’s hard in this culture of, “we’re their parents, stay out of it.” What’s a brother to do?

  15. JoelG says:

    Mike E. keep planting those seeds. God knows your concern for them. Keep talking to Him about them. That’s what I do with my 3 kids. You’re doing good, brother.

  16. Mike E says:

    Thanks Joel. I (sinfully) worry way too much. The Spirit and I are working on it. He keeps saying to trust Him. Thanks for the encouragement.

  17. Jim says:

    “Oh, and Jim (or anyone), any pointers on helping those who left SGM, or similar organizations?”

    I tried to help them refocus on who they are in Christ, and used the phrase, “God’s grace” a whole lot. Those of us who were sucked into legalistic churches with authoritarian leadership need to relearn the relevant basics, such as no mediator, and salvation by grace alone.

  18. directambiguity says:

    Also when a church exists to feed a man or the leaderships ego or pockets you are in a cult. IMO

  19. Jean says:

    Hi Mike,

    When you said, “I have advised my son to find a new church that has youth programs but he doesn’t seem inclined,” do you mean that your son’s church has no confirmation class of any kind?

  20. Eric says:

    Mike E,

    Nothing wrong with attending one church on Sunday and the kids going to another church’s youth group. I was a youth leader and we often had kids who were part of other churches (in fact in my last phase I was attending a different church on Sundays)

    Young people will learn the ways of Christ through their parents, Sunday church, youth group, bible + bible reading notes + other books/videos/etc, in both words and deeds. Get as many good pieces together that you can.

  21. Steph says:

    Direct ambiguity: agree
    The Moses model of the church that I attended really set itself up to be feeding both egos and pockets. It definitely produced a very cult like feel but some people disagree because their written and professed mission statement is sound.

  22. Jim says:

    I think that the definition has changed. In the 80’s the cult definition was all about doctrine. It seems (appropriately) that we’ve included cultic behavior in the definition.

  23. Mike E, that’s convicting. Since we abandoned church due to the pandemic, I’ve been failing to stand in the gap.

    My former CC, which has been defying state orders and not even enforcing safety that I can see from online, is hosting a homeless outreach soon (breakfast, lunch, various services and preaching). I used to sometimes volunteer. If I won’t go back to church yet, I won’t there. They might say it’s my lack of faith. I wish them well.

  24. CM says:

    When they start dropping like flies due to COVID-19, then nominate them for Darwin Awards. I honestly think the only way to get these cultists to have a chance to see reason if they get a serious case of COVID themselves or the closest loved ones start dying from it. And even then it is at best a 50-50 chance. In which case, then they will only see reason after they die from drinking the Kool-Aid.

  25. CM says:

    And be thoroughly practical and Machiavellian, most of the Kool-Aid Drinkers who ignore/minimize the threat from COVID, defy mitigation protocols, etc. are Trump supporters. Which means more of his potential will be dead before the election. Which thereby increases the chances of Trump losing. So perhaps it is best they are digging their own graves and to sit back and watch them die.

  26. Steph says:

    Yikes!, politics are ugly sometimes :0
    My prayer has been for the overall health (not just physical) of the country and especially for the church

  27. Michael says:


    I don’t like getting up and reading such things.
    While I am greatly frustrated by many current situations I have to maintain something akin to a Christ like attitude toward others, especially fellow believers.
    Comments like this will not persuade anyone, they will simply inflame them further.
    I don’t have the foggiest bleeping idea of how to navigate these waters, but I have a pretty good idea how not to…

  28. CM says:


    I understand. I will try not be so cynical and jaded. Though it is so very very hard not to.

  29. most of the Kool-Aid Drinkers who ignore/minimize the threat from COVID, defy mitigation protocols, etc. are Trump supporters.
    All of those protesters out in force in most every city (at least in my state of California) for those 14 days before the uptick in cases were/are Trump supporters?

    Who knew?

    As Michael said, the sides are pretty entrenched, so no sense arguing that. People see the world through the lens of their bias and objective observation is a lost practice.

    But I have a hard time thinking ANY Christian who was listening to some of the politicians a couple months ago when asked about the Covid threats (and I most certainly was listening to them) – and heard partisan politicians say our emotional healing (through protests) overrode the concerns of physical healing from Covid, who could agree with that statement could THEN….

    support those same politicians saying it is too risky for any church practicing safety protocols (the same protocols those politicians told us to use before the protests) keeping the doors open now.

    Now that most of the protests are over and those politicians are back telling people they can either sit in 105 degree heat and worship or stay home.

    I made a message (and it was posted on this website) encouraging churches to stay closed because we were NOT being singled out, no matter how much you might disagree with the Governor of your particular state. I took heat for that (and was supported by others too).

    However, now we ARE being singled out. It still isn’t persecution, but it is selective enforcement due to political bias by the politicians in charge – exactly what the Constitution forbids.

    I heard from many in my congregation who said how important it was to be in person worshipping with others. Many are widows, singles, or those living in a home of unbelievers. Many are elderly who otherwise have little reason to leave the house.

    And they are more than happy to sit apart, wear masks, and not hug each other. To abide by all policies like one person in a bathroom at a time, and only after we clean it from the prior person. As long as they can be with others in their church home worshipping the Lord. And yes, they are well taught that the church is the people, not the building. But it is a “called out assembly” very different from a bunch of individuals at home in front of computers.

    I’m not making them sit in 105 degree August heat of Lake Elsinore if they don’t want to, and I’m sure not closing the doors now after watching my CA politicians in action during the summer of protest.

    I have no problem standing before Jesus in this conviction, and in no way am I making a political statement in doing so.

  30. Michael says:


    It’s a simple fact that the cognitive dissonance created by allowing mass protests while shutting down other gatherings utterly destroyed the credibility of the governments involved and threw up deeper into crisis.
    We are not going to gather in person in my church for the foreseeable future…but I have no issue with those who gather following the guidelines.
    Those who gather without them are another story…

  31. Steve Wright says:


    I agree. As you know, we waited until the CA Governor allowed churches to meet again. My video that you so kindly published was a direct pushback against those churches meeting before the State allowed it.

    The state provided a very lengthy and detailed list of safety protocols for churches who chose to open in June and we put those in place as we started to meet. We also spent some money to do some extra things in terms of air purifying and such.

    Now the same Governor and his allies are telling us these protocols are not enough. Not because of any evidence they are insufficient. But because of a rise in cases statewide that began 14 days after the bulk of public protests all over the streets of California.

    As an aside, it is unfortunate that so much is seen through a political bias on both sides given we live in a nation where half the people (or more) don’t even vote. In Los Angeles County that big house party that lead to the threat to cut power and water by the LA Mayor (which was photographed and shown on the news) was not hundreds of Trump supporters.

    Young, largely ethnic LA residents that support Trump could barely fill a phone booth much less a mansion on Mulholland Drive. And truth be told most of them likely won’t take the time to go vote for Biden either.

    My University of Oklahoma was having great success keeping Covid cases under control during football practice. The coach allowed them to go home for a week before school since the season start was pushed back. They went home, and a bunch of them now tested positive when they got back to training camp. All due to “community based infections” – Once more, this has nothing to do with politics. It is what it is.

    But it also “isn’t what it isn’t”

  32. Michael says:


    You and are are usually on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I think what you just wrote is both reasonable and true.
    If you and I can agree on common sense, fact based responses to this situation then others who refuse to do so should be ashamed.

    “And truth be told most of them likely won’t take the time to go vote for Biden either.”

    Again, I agree. And I’m tired of their crap…it changes nothing except to harden people against the claimed cause…

  33. Michael,

    One other note. Since we don’t have the free donuts and coffee. Don’t have the children’s ministry. Haven’t had a VBS for the kids, or the occasional pot lucks, day conference, family movie night and other things we try to do during the summer for fellowship opportunities.

    The people who DO come out are coming out for one thing. To worship with their brothers and sisters. Period. Full stop. They arrive, worship, maybe share a few brief hellos with others, then leave.

    And those who are unable, uncomfortable, or for whatever reason not willing to come out now, are not judged in any way. In fact, I encourage them to keep staying home. And we provide the online prerecorded worship service that they can view at their convenience. I know some families would be coming if we could open the children’s ministry but we can’t accommodate that now.

    And despite all that, we are going to lose a few people – the loudest, most political sorts. So be it.

    One guy told me I serve Newsom not Jesus, because we have a mask requirement for sitting indoors on Sundays.

  34. Michael says:


    I feel bad for so many guys like you who are trying to navigate this mess with reason and grace.
    It’s a no win situation in a lot of ways and I know lots of guys are very tired right now…

  35. Michael,

    I try to balance the “You serve Newsom” hits with the “You don’t care about human life you Trump supporter” hits.

    I figure when you get it from both sides of the spectrum, you likely are where you need to be.

    That said, a good pastor friend of mine and I, (about my age), probably spent a little too much time this past weekend talking about what retirement might be like. LOL

    He too has been faithful and gotten a few arrows from those he thought were friends.

    But then I’m reminded of my friends and experiences in India. These days are like butterfly kisses compared to what I know they have experienced in serving Christ over the years.

    We are so stinkin’ blessed with freedom in this nation that it angers me greatly to hear anyone, from any political angle, talk about the great horrors brought upon by politicians of whatever stripe.

    A lot of people need to get a passport and travel around the world a little once this pandemic ends. I’ve said my whole Christian life every Christian needs to get out of America for awhile and really get to know the Church in another country.

    Nice talking with you today. Bye.

  36. Corby says:

    Mike E. I would argue that it isn’t the church’s job to teach kids, regardless of age. It’s the parent’s/family’s job primarily. I’m not saying the church has no responsibility or obligation, but people think of church like they think of public school when it comes to church; I drop my kid off and they do the education. Besides, most youth programs are more entertainment based anyway, not unlike adult church.

    I think that we as the church should focus on equipping parent to raise their kids instead of providing services that do it for them. We don’t need spiritual latch key kids (in an ideal world).

  37. Mike E says:

    `Jean..”do you mean that your son’s church has no confirmation class of any kind?” Not sure, but it’s non-denominational and I don’t think they do.

  38. Jean says:

    Thanks Mike for the reply. In the Lutheran tradition, we promote the attendance of children in the Divine Service with their parents. I love it when I see a mom with her finger under the words of the liturgy an hymns not only teaching their children from a young age to read, but also to vocalize the hymns, prayers and liturgy. There’s no better catechism, IMO, than when parents attend church with their children. Not only is the child immersed in the faith from a young age, but they see the example of their parents.

    The division of children from the Divine service into a separate class or children’s message, etc. is, to my understanding, a recent innovation.

    One concern many of us have, who value traditional worship, is that children’s programs, which can be designed to excite or enthuse or be attention grabbing for children, set them up for a huge disappointment later in life, when they encounter a regular worship service and find it boring.

  39. bob1 says:

    Isn’t mainly the Protestant ‘mainline’ churches and/or liturgical churches that do confirmation classes? For example, I was raised in the UCC and spent 2 years in confirmation, around junior
    high age. When your Xn formation schema is baptism and faith is where I think you’ll find

  40. Mike E. says:

    I apologize, brothers and sisters. I Will have to reply in one comment because today my energy is low.

    ERIC–“Young people will learn the ways of Christ through their parents, Sunday church, youth group, bible + bible reading notes + other books/videos/etc, in both words and deeds.” Great advice friend. I just bought new teen oriented study Bibles for my three teenage grandkids. I’m on it!
    THE NEW VICTOR–don’t worry brother. Our Lord stands in the gap for us when we fail. I don’t blame you for not going to volunteer. We must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Bless you and your desire to please Him.
    CORBY–Wise words. It’s just our culture today where adult children are so touchy about being advised by their parents. It’s a fine line you have to walk, or as a grandparent, you could end up getting put out of their lives altogether. Especially in this State of Washingon, grandparents have little to no rights with their grandchildren. Like everything else today, it’s a tightrope.
    I am trying to arrange since I am retired to be able to help homeschool the kids. In addition to math, science, spelling, and all the rest, papa plans on teaching his own catechism class! LOL! So if God works that out for me, it may become a beautiful thing.

  41. Jean says:


    I don’t consider confirmation a “youth program.” In the confirmation classes I have witnessed, they are not sensationalized and are not a substitute for church with parents. Thus, I think they are a salutary complement to church and at home catechism by parents. In fact, in my church, parents have a role in the confirmation of their children.

  42. Xenia says:

    It’s good to see Steve here again.

  43. Jim says:

    I agree with Corby and commend Mike E for stepping up. Also agree it’s good to see Steve here.

    CM is kind of special.

  44. Mike E says:

    Steve – – you and I disagree on probably most everything in the political realm. But I will tell you I deeply respect what you have described here as your approach during the pandemic. I feel much empathy toward you and others like you as pastors especially how you described being hit from both sides as you are attempting to faithfully execute your ministry. It is obviously very difficult, and I would not want to be in that position myself. Thank you for your faithful service to our Lord and his people.

  45. Outside T. Fold says:

    Seeing the news about all the fires in the Santa Cruz mountains area, and thinking of Xenia, who lives in that greater area. And also of the people who live closer to the flames and the old old trees that are there.

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