Monday, January 19, 2009

Advice for One Leaving Sovereign Grace Ministries

GregC posted the following comments on I thought that this was valuable advice for someone who plans to leave or is already leaving Sovereign Grace Ministries.

I hope this is helpful.

Hello Friends, I actually requested this category, so please pardon me for not posting to it sooner. As some of you may remember, I was happily part of CLC for many years and part of ministry teams and CG leadership until I fell into disagreement with leadership over several issues including a lack of (real) missions efforts, the process for installing and removing leaders, sloppy doctrine, and my own dismissal as a CG leader. My series of meetings with pastors lasted 9 months and ended well from an administrative stand point. They finally repented of abusive behavior, and I agreed to move on to a more suitable church. However, the process was so drawn out and damaging that 13 years later I was still hurt and essentially spiritually disabled. Only in the past year have I been able to say that I’ve moved on by the love of God and care from the Body of Christ.
So, here are some ideas on what I went through. I hope they are helpful.


  1. Denial – this is not happening to me. It only happens to “problem” people. I’ve been so devoted.
  2. Anger – this where you try to fight leadership and express your hurt and outrage, thinking they are reasonable, compassionate, and will validate you. They will not.
  3. Bargaining – you think you can repair the situation or change the leaders, policy, or doctrine. You may even try to negotiate terms under which you can stay. You cannot. Once SGM pastors remove you from a position, accuse you of sin, or start suggesting that you find another church, you are done. Someone please prove me wrong.
  4. Depression – real, disabling, and even life threatening depression can set in. You question your faith, any form of organized church, even the worth of you own soul. You may feel that you have lost your joy, your calling, your faith, even your will to live. The cause of this is the tendency of leadership is to turn a disagreement over an issue to an attack on your very person. The intent is to disable you so you won’t cause problems.
  5. Acceptance – yes it really did happen. It may take a while to realize the full extent of who hurt you and what they did, but this is critical. Yes, they were people you loved and admired, and yes, what they did was wrong. You may have lost friends or the sense of community and purpose you loved so much. Have hope, God can and will restore this.

Obviously, these are the standard stages of grieving a la SGM. Several friends have described leaving SGM as a death or a divorce. I think it is in a very real sense. For many ex-SGMers, the depth of grieving is that profound. I had to allow myself the time and space to go through the grieving process.

Several of my friends have struggled as I did with life after SGM. Here is a beginning list of ideas on how to recover, In Christ, all that was taken away from you by spiritual abuse. Please contribute your own ideas.

  1. Tell your story - This is really key to recovery. I recommend telling your story over and over in full detail to few mature, objective, and trusted Christians. When you get that stunned look like, “They did what?” you begin to finally realize the extent of abnormal behavior at SGM. No detail is too small, no wound to minor that it does not need to be healed. One of my biggest mistakes over many years was trying to be brave and not admitting to myself how often and how deeply I was hurt. In a manipulative environment, subtle tactics like offhand comments or withholding of support can wound as gravely as open abuse. Don’t be surprises if you have to share your story in many different ways until you get it all out and are completely healed. My hope and prayer is that we all receive the compassion from the Body or Christ that we sought from the beginning.
  2. Admit your faults – you may have contributed to the problem with your attitudes or actions. This may range from depending too much on the acceptance of others, to idolizing leaders, to angry reactions and trying to get back at those that hurt you, or holding onto resentment for many years. In no way can you ever do or say anything that justifies abuse, but the goal of self examination is to keep a clear conscience before the Lord.
  3. Forgive – this can often be a ongoing and even daily process until you feel no pain or anger towards those that hurt you. There are many good books on forgiveness, maybe someone can recommend some resources.
  4. Keep yourself in the love of God – stay close to your loving Father in prayer, bible study and other devotions. Stay in fellowship with other believers. It may take a while to find a church or ministry where you are loved and can function as designed, but it will happen because God is faithful to His purpose for you.
  5. Healing – related to the four points above is prayer for healing. I recommend that any time you share your story, don’t leave with an open wound. Extend and ask for forgiveness and have your friends lay hands on you and pray for emotional healing. I can’t tell you how much this has helped me and restored my faith in the Body of Christ.
  6. Where was I? – at some point your hopes and dreams were crushed. Dust off those youthful dreams of serving Jesus. Every dream, gift, ability, and calling God ever spoke to you is just as valid as it ever was. Nothing heals the pain of personal disappointment like the excitement of sharing the gospel and serving others. I had to go back to goals I had 15 years ago and start pursuing them again.
  7. Recover your identity in Christ – you are who God says you are, not what others say about you. Renounce any curses spoken against you (you’re rebellious, you’re not called etc.) and confess scripture over yourself. As time goes on and you begin to function in a healthy way in church, you will find that your unique personality and gifts are useful and appreciated and that you are who you thought you were.


Mandy said...

While browsing the links you left I am startled by what I'm reading, but I'm more shocked at the advice being given. Tell others your story over and over till your healed? As much as I would like to believe the stories I'm reading I think it's really sad how your handling this problems by starting blogs over them.

Steve said...


Thanks for your comment.

I don't see the advice of "tell others your story over" until you heal that you claim.

It certainly shown value for a lot of people to know that they weren't the only ones to experience what they did while at a Sovereign Grace Church. This has served as a source of healing. This is especially important when these former members were told that they were the source of the problems.

"Starting blogs over them" certainly has done a number of people some good as they share in these blogs. I am not sure what else can be done. What do you suggest. Leadership at SGM doesn't appear to be open even consider issues being raised by these blogs.

If you have another approach that might be better let me know.