Weaknesses PaperBy David Bovenmyer
Location: GCAC Pastors Conference
[tape begins here] ..enemies, I don't know, that's what we used to call them anyway. Today we are calling them critics. [laughter] But, ah, but ah. That's part of it, part of it I think as any movement gets larger it becomes more and more visible to the Christian community- It is kind of like when we first started the church up in East Lansing, ah, we were there for a while, and nobody knew we were there but after a few months all the, there were all these rumors floating around about this, ya know, group, that'd come in town and they spoke in tongues and did all these wild things. And, ah, you know just all these rumors that, ah, people just didn't know who we are but they were curious.
And I think the same thing is true of the national movement as we grow. Ah, people begin to notice us and especially with the staff program starting we're really getting out a lot into other christian circles. People beginning.. "who is this group?" And so naturally there's lots of rumors and questions and concerns and, ah, we have had some, ah, critics who have been quite critical. Some have compiled every negative newspaper article that's ever been published about any of our chruches and put it in a thick volume. Ah, any person that's been disgruntled; there's been some conferences where some people have gotten together and, and told their testimonies of how Great Commision ruined their life and, and caused all these problems and hurt them and ah- so they've got something like 20 hours of video tape of all these people that have been damaged by their association with Great Commision.
Um, there's files of packets of information that are floating around, and some of them, of our critics, have been quite um, quite prolific in their writing and distributing information that's negative to us. And it has caused some damaging effects, across the country. And I just learned a couple weeks ago or a couple months ago that evidently there's about I think 28 different people that have been deprogrammed from the Great commission church here and there. And I couldn't tell ya' where they all are from or who they all are, if they were members or just people that happened to attend a few meetings. But deprogrammed or exit counseling, I don't know, there's supposedly a difference between the two. And, ah, and there probably is.
But, ah, so I think that some of this is having effects. I know the church down in South Carolina and also in Raliegh North Carolina several of those churches just recently have had some difficulties with a lot of this information just floating around, and it seems to spring up in one part of the country then another part, and and that gets taken care of. And, and uh, there's just a lot of things like this going around; and I think that some of this frankly is a result of some weaknesses and problems that we ourselves have had. And I think that we as national leaders have felt that we need to really face up to some things in our past that really weren't the most healthy, ah- in certain aspects.
And so we have published, and a lot of you national leaders, or elders, I'm sorry, have gotten a copy in the mail, ah- of our weaknesses statement or our statement recognizing early errors and weakness in Great Association of Churches and we are going to be talking about that a little bit later here. And hopefully, ah, later on today, um, having an affirmation by the elders that yes this is a statement that we agree with. And, um, hopefully we will agree with it and if we don't that's fine too but we'll go back to the drawing board, but ah, we wanted to make sure we got the affirmation of all the elders. I'd just like to share a little bit about my involvement in this and how I've gotten involved.
A couple years ago, ah, we were, ah- members the National Association of Evangelicals, the NAE. Not the NEA, but the NAE. And they're a very, much better organization than NEA. But anyway, they, um, we were members as an organization and we had very little knowledge of how their organization, how the NAE works or anything. So we thought because legally we were, ah, at that time set up as a ministry, not a church or association of churches with the IRS and everything, we thought that we best fit the organization category.
But yeah, we started churches, and practically we were, would have been veiwed as an association of churches or a denomination or- there's all kinds of different definitions for all those terms, but.. So we would fit under the denominational category which would we did not realize and in the mean time they recieved a packet of information from someone, I'm not sure who. Ah, that caused them a lot of concern about us and they didn't know us or anything, so they, ah- the administrative board, without any consultation from us or anything.. We just, out of the blue, got this notice that our- that our ah- our renewal or our membership was not being renewed because of conduct not becoming of Christian organization.
And so we tried to find out what it was we'd done- er, what the problem was, and uh, and finally we ended up having a hearing with them which was very very helpful and very very good. And, uh, we talked with the executive director of the organization, president, and some others and I, I was very encouraged. The Lord helped us just to have humble spirit and to listen and learn and we realized that we understood that we really were in the wrong category and in fact it is much more difficult for a denomination or association of churches to join their organization than it is for just an, ah, ah christian ministry. And it really is a church run organization, and they, ah, they have about, ah, ah. Well, the way it works is that if you join as an association of churches, every church gets a vote and then the association itself gets something like ten votes or whatever is appropriate there. But in, ah, a ministry, not matter how large they are, you know Campus Crusade has thousands of staff and thousands of chapters, they have one vote. And so it's really a church controlled organization, but they're just a little more cautious, ah, in, in just wanting different associations to have things together before they join.
So that's what they counselled us, is to write a book of government, get your, ya' know, inner workings all worked out, ah, work on some of these problems you have with your critics and that type of thing before you join. And that was their counsel. They said we can join anytime we want, but we decided to take their counsel and we've just been working on those things, and we may or may not apply again, I don't know how the Lord will lead us in the future. But, ah, at this point we are not members of the National Association of Evangelicals, so that was a very traumatic period; all that happened. And, ah, I was invovled a lot in kind of working with some of that along with Hershal and, ah, John Hoppler. And I think we're just, more and more have been seeing some of the damage that's being caused by some of these critics and criticism.
And just to let you know, I think that what our view has been in the past toward our critics, I think has been a great change in this. Ah, we looked a lot at the example of Nehemiah where he was building the wall and he had his critics his out here saying. Tobias, and, they were, there were even some Jews that were, ah, on his side, and you know kind of siding with him and causing all kinds of trouble. And Nehimaiah, he was, essentially his strategy was "let's get the wall up, let's just ignore our critics." And that was kind of our, 'ar idea. I think we felt that we had pursued as we could, we had done all that we could to seek reconciliation, but there wasn't anymore we could do so we just had to plug on.
And, and yet as I was, just been praying, I was praying about this one day and I just thought, well you know these people are really causing some problems. And it's one thing if the guy is just kind of threatening over there, and not doing anything, but if they are coming into your camp, and um- killing soldiers or workers it's time to do something. And we as, uh, shepards of God's people, we are shepards and wolves will come in. And it's our job to either drive those wolves away or, or kill 'em, or whatever we can do- not literally, obviously in our case but, ah. Just, just stick with the analogy here. But drive 'em away so that the sheep will be safe.
And so I think all of us feel, all the national leaders, feel that we need to give some more attention to this because it is having an effect, it is damaging individuals. And the sad thing, I think, about some of these programming situations is that the people that go through that, not only are they astranged from their friends and people they've been close to, and people that have building in their life spiritually, but their often very very suspicious of any type of serious Christian commitment. Because that, it's a whole process that brings them to a very suspicious attitude, and ah- um, just not wanting to get involved in anything that might have any control or authority in their life, or amount of influence.
And so, I.. I- my understanding is a lot of times people's lives really are, ah, not only turned away from us, but away from the Lord, and really following Him with a whole-hearted commitment. Ah, and being united with others, so anyway, that's, ah about- ah six months ago at one of our meetings we decided that I should essentially concentrate full time on some of these difficulties and problems and trying to clean this up for the next couple of years. Um, working on some different things. So we put together the weaknesses statement, we.. Basically, we got together a draft of a Book of Government for association, that, ah, I'm going to be handing out in the second half, here later to, to you elders. And, um, so that's some of the things we've been doing.
One of the most exciting I think that's happened over the last six months is the reconciliation efforts and to me it's just been thrilling; there's nothing more fun than reconciliation, and if that can really happen, if it's. I'm just so glad to be able to report that that has been happening. And the people we thought were wolves in some cases, ah, were just sheep that were butting the other sheep or something, 'er they just had, I think they had just such a wrong concept of who we were, and we had such a wrong concept of who they were, just getting together has opened up that communication and I think that is going to allow us to make atleast some progress toward mutual understanding.
And how things kind of started.. there's a fellow out in California, ah, his name is.. name is Ronald Enroth. He is a professor of sociology, he's a Christian writer. And, ah, ah, an expert in cults, and new religious movements; anyway, he was writing a book, called, ah Churches on the Fringe [Note: Final title was Churches That Abuse] and by the way if you're on the fringe it means you're still in there, you're just on the edge okay? But, ah, anyway we were gonna be mentioned in the book and that caused us some concern.
And so we got together with him out there one time when we were in California, several of us, and had just ah- fantastic time with him, sharing who we were and he shared a little, some of the concerns he had. We watched the last game of the World Series together, and- ha ha ha.. Cause Tom Schroeder was a Cincinatti Reds fan, and ah, we watched the last inning or something. But, ah, anyway, we ah, we had a good time there and he suggested a follow-up meeting with some people he'd gotten some information from. It was ah, ah.. Mr. and Ms. David Lang an- and ah, Judson Pulling, and we pursued that and ah.. Mr. and Ms. Lang had caused us a number of problems in different place distributing information and, an.. all kinds of stuff like that. And, ah, we were just really encouraged at their gracious spirit, their attitude, their real desire to help. In many cases I think they were uninformed, and they were taking, you know, one situation or problem that occurred in one individual church an- an- didn't even have a full picture of that, and applying it to the whole movement, type of a situation.
And, ah, so you know we were able to talk about some of those specific situations and instances and ah, and so we were very encouraged with that, we were ver- extremely encouraged with Judson Pulling. He is a.. a, ah, one of the pastors at Well Creek Community Church. He was tremedous help and I think that this process is just kind of opened us up, even, and helped us to learn some of the weakness that we have had. And we're just praying- I know one prayer I have is that God whenever you get criticism, I think there's two tendencies. You can reject it and say, "ah, no I don't want to learn from this." Or you can let that pressure of criticism divert you from the very thing that's making you effective in the very thing God wants you to do. And so I think the devil has two strategies. One is that we don't learn, the other is that, that criticism turns us from the very best.. and I think it really requires a lot of prayer, and discernment, and seeking the Lord to know whether that criticism is from God or whether it is the devil trying to divert you from what you should be doing.
And, ah, so you can pray for all in this because I think all of us, an, and even yourselves as you recieve criticism throughout your life, and, and even right now, in different churches, you'll have to, you'll have to go through that discernment process and knowing.. ah what is of the Lord and what is not of Him to try to get you off from what, what God wants. But, ah, but anyway, we had some very good times with them.
We also had a meeting with ah- ah Larry Pile who is one of, he considers himself an archivist of the Great Commission, ah.. critics.. or whatever, I don't know what you'd call him, but anyway.. He's- he has kind of compiled all these tapes and information and if someone requests he'll send out information about them about us an.. and ah.. we were just, ah, um- I mean at the end of the time I was personally almost in tears because of Larry's gracious spirit. An I just had a, ah- um.. um- a vision of him that was totally wrong. And he, by the way, had a vision of us that was totally wrong too. And, ah, so, I mean it's not like everything is just "we're buddy-buddies" or something now [chuckling] I still have some problems with some of what he's doing I think he still has some problems about some of what we're doing.. or have done..
And ah.. I think that it was just a tremendously great start and also we've got with Paul Martin, another, ah, friend of his, and used to be, both these guys used to be in our movement years ago. And there's several guys, ah- men out there that, former leaders that for some reason became estranged or, very critical some of them, close friends of mine personally, and I'm just very excited about this opportunity to seek reconciliation.. and, ah, and I have very very high hopes that that can happen, so I really would appreciate your prayers. In fact, ah, this, right after this, ah, conference on Saturday we're getting with a few men, ah Friday on Columbus just to work through some problems and open up some discussion with them. And see if we can come to some, ah, some agreement.
Ya' know it's interesting when you have problem with someone, how amazing it is if you can, even if the problem is almost 90% theirs, and a lotsa times we think that don't we: the problem is 95% his not mine. But if we start by saying the 5% that we did wrong, it's amazing what can happen. And I, and that's what we're- that's the approach we're taking. We're trying to discern what are the things where we were wrong, erroneous, weak, sins, whatever they were, and acknowledge them.. and that has just given a tremendous response on the other side as well, although, I don't- we don't have people doing cart wheels saying that they were doing wrong, but it ah- you know just ah- created, a.. ah.. ah gracious spirit I think in the people we've been talking to.
So pray for the meeting here Saturday and this continuation for reconcilation efforts. Ah, we have put together a weaknesses statement, and I don't know if I could get a couple maybe some of you guys in the front row here. So right here is this box here, not that one, so their all in here. Ah, see what this is...so we don't want this [shuffling sounds] If you've got ah- Robert, if you've got some a chance. If you got some pastor surveys there, they don't go out- okay good. This is um- this is one per elder, I've only got one per each elder. If you're not elder you'll have to look on 'er. If you're an elder raise your hand, okay? This is one per elder. Most of you got this- um.. This, let's let's try to keep, ah, keep attention even though we're passing things out, okay?
Most of you got, in fact all of you should have got one of these in the mail, and if you didn't get one in the mail, maybe you should call me at the office just to make sure you're on our mailing list. But, ah, [laughs] um, what we've done with this is put together a statement.. let's ah, keep attention here.. listen out- We've put together what we, an overall of what we feel some of the weaknesses of our early days as our movement was getting started, we still have weaknesses by the way.. And, ah, but these are ones that we feel like we've worked on and we've corrected, recognized and have either corrected or are correcting. And a lot of you have read this.
Ah, Wednesday afternoon we had a little meeting and got some feedback from a good number of guys that had concerns and questions and we incorporated some of those. We didn't incorporate others and so this is not gonna be something that all of you think is perfect, but it is something that I think, ah- The general sense that I've gotten is that we all, most have really been encouraged with and agree with. What we're gonna do with this is we're gonna give you a chance to read this, sometime during the day today and I would like all of you elders to read this, okay?
Cause you are going to be try- given an opportunity to affirm it, okay, and we're gonna do that tonight.. I haven't talked to anybody about this, but I, what I'd like to do is, right before the meeting tonight, is have a ballot essentially, where you put your name on it, and just a simple yes or no concerning the statement of weaknesses, whether you affirm it. This statement was put together by the national leaders, we thought we needed to get your affirmation. And if there's a good number here that, that don't affirm it, they think I don't like it, we'll go back to the drawing board, okay? So don't, don't feel hesitant to put down a no, however if you do put down a no, and you don't like, don't like this paper for some reason, make sure you put down why, or why you don't like it, or what area it is you object to in it. And there may be some things, you may think, "oh, I don't think that's stated quite right," or "I'm not sure I would state it quite that way," ah, that's fine, just go ahead an put yes. If you have some real objections put no, ah, but we'll do that right before the meeting tonight.
Another thing we're praying about is called a Doctrinal Ministry Audit. And what that would be is to get five.. ten.. maybe about five.. three to five Christian leaders in different disciplines.. Maybe a psychologist, a sociologist, or a cult expert [laughs] or ah.. a ministry.. from the ministry aspect.. just different areas like this that could look, not so much at our financial- it's not a financial audit.. not at your books, although sometimes you guys may want to have someone look at your books from time to time - anyway, but that wouldn't be what this was, but a- ministry audit, and they would just go and - to different churches, fly anywhere in the country, talk to elders, talk to people in the churches, try to just ah- talk to some of our critics and their concerns, try to ascertain and give a report about the health and condition of this ministry.. of our movement.
And then we could use this if it turned out positive, which I think it would.. we hope.. but ah- [laughs] if it turned out positive we could use this to put some of our - some of the critics - I don't think we're going to gain recouncilliation with everyone, and especially I don't have hope with some unbelievers that are attacking- they're attacking everybody from Catholics to eastern orthodox people and uh- so I don't have a lot of hope with some of these people, but I think if we have something to put them on notice, "look this is just not true," um- why I think it could calm and stop some of the attacks from some of those quarters. So that's something we're praying about, it's not for sure we're going to need that, but it may be something that we will do. We may again, if the Lord leads, we may as a last step, apply again for uh- membership in the NAE, and again there's a lot of things up in the air.
We've also been working on, as I mentioned, on a Book of Government.. we can pass that out in a minute here too. Ah.. a second part, in fact, maybe we should do that. [laughs] You guys mind doing another one here? They are all in that pile right there. This is for elders, again. I don't know what this is.. Ah, here we go. [shuffling of papers] I've got a lot of information, I'm sorry that I wasn't able to collate this so that it was just one.. one time, but ah- We would like to put together a Book of Government that basically defines the relationships of the individual churches and pastors to the national association, to the regions, and you can really pray for us at this time, because there's a lot- there's some- I don't know.. a lot.. there's a degree of adversity amongst some of the national leaders and just how we want to organize.. okay?
And so uh- we're still really defining a lot of these relationships and so, you could really, we'd appreciate your prayer in this, but one thing we wanna do is we want to document it so that when a church joins this association they know what their responsibility is. Or what they're supposed to do, or how you join, or how you- how you leave.. type of situation.. and all those things, we feel, need to be documented. Um.. position papers, we want to do some position papers.
Let me just say on this, ah, thing I'm passing out right now for you elders.. ah.. this is the second half of that Book of Government, and its called the Book of Discipline, and it has to do with procedures for church discipline. And, uh, it is no where near a final version, in my opinion. I think it probably needs several.. several edits. And uh.. so.. what I- the reason I gave it to you, in fact it's a version that we put together several months ago, but the reason I passed it out is I'd like to get you- your overall comments on it. And if you think the whole approach is wrong or the Scriptures we're using- we're applying them wrong in some way or another- or procedure is wrong and really anything that you have in it.. uh.. please mark it up and just send it to the office. Uh.. to my attention there in Maryland.
We also would like to write some position papers, on all kinds of subjects. From.. uh.. dating, to uh, areas we've been accused in or we maybe had an off balance in the past.. to our position on training leaders within the church.. to ah.. you know our position on national leadership.. that type of thing. All kinds of position papers that we would like to formulate.. uh.. at this time. So that it's clear what we do believe.
I think sometimes because we haven't had this, someone has an unusual position over here.. someone, you know, gets information about that and its attributed to everybody when maybe that's not the position of the association as a whole.. at all. And so.. we would like to, as national leaders, put together certain position papers, at least what our position is, and I think a lot of times churches may not share that position but at least they know what ours is. That's- and uh.. so that's fine.
Audio of Teaching (mp3)