(The following is a public discussion of GCMWarning.Com and GCM, found originally at http://joeltpw.livejournal.com/113128.html)

man4yhwh
2006-05-23 03:38 pm UTC

So, I have been semi-following the thread on the GCM warning group. As a man who has been part of many christian organizations (churches mostly), I would like to extend to you something that becomes crystal clear when you do get to see many different groups.

There is no such thing as a perfect church. Churches are made by people born into sin (gee thanks, Adam and Eve). Because of that, no one in the group can truly make a claim to be perfect. We are all imperfect. We are all born sinful, then we meet Christ.

Because we are not perfect, no group we are part of can be perfect. Not even a group that is about honoring God. That is why even though the church is suppose to be a place of healing, and a safe place as well, the worst hurts come out of it. The worst emotional abuses tend to come from people of spiritual influence for a christian. It can be so bad, that a believer hurt by a fellow believer will some times learn not to trust ANY christian.

My parents have a saying that they got from a christian leader. Unfortunately, I don't remember who it was, though. The saying is this:

"You will never find a perfect church because the people who lead the church have sin in their lives. If you do find a perfect chruch, leave. As soon as you join that church, it will no longer be perfect because of YOUR sin"

This is very true. I just thought you might appreciate this perspective on this whole GCM warning group. The problem with most of these groups is that they are so busy being hurt that they don't take the time to see the hurt they cause with their words. The hurt they cause IS SIN. They are not taking the time to obey God on that. Jesus told us to forgive our brother (or sister) not just seven times, but seventy TIMES seven. Just for the record, that is 490 times. I can't keep cout that high, so I must be content with forgiving every time.

Jesus also gave us a conflict resolution plan that is so good, the federal govenment of the United States of America uses it without the "religious" language that is found in the Bible. If some one wrongs you, go to them privately. Try to resolve it involving as few people as possible.

So, Joel, I hope that I didn't make you feel beat up with this, and I will now get off of this soapbox, but I thought I sould share a lesson that people tend to need reminding on every so often.

I hope to get up to Ft. Collins to visit soon.

estameguapo
2006-05-23 05:19 pm UTC

Joel, Rick, in the words of Lee most recently, you men rock my face off. Seriously.

cjcandie
2006-05-23 10:14 pm UTC

Rick - that is awesome. :) Thanks

joeltpw
2006-05-24 01:29 am UTC

Rick,

I appreciate the thoughts. The GCM warning post kind of ballooned out of hand. I guess that's what I get for being one who always likes to challenge and often get into trouble. I think you have a point which is that I really need to work on grace. Grace has always been a hard one for me to grasp. I for sure don't allow any grace on my own behalf, this is quite evident at the major struggles I have. I'm sure there was a lack of grace on my part when it came to the church, leaders, other members. It is a challenge I need to work on. As for talking to people privately I simply wanted to challenge all of GCM with my opinion about the website. I did take some time to address the specific concerns I had with the leaders I felt relevant to talk with.

~Joel

man4yhwh
2006-05-24 01:53 pm UTC

I was speaking more on the people who made the site. My guess, after seeing how people tend to act after being hurt by a church, they didn't even think about thei sin in making their hurts public.

As for what I saw in the posts, I think you have been (relatively) doing the right thing. Christ doesn't tell us to never question why we belive what we believe. In fact, in Acts, a group called the Bereans were called better than others BECAUSE the weighed every message with scriptures. Paul also tells us to have an answer for our faith. The only way I know to have an answer is to question it and let the gospel stand up for itself. Just make sure you let it answer for itself too. :)

God bless you, I hope to find some time to come visit soon.

(Anonymous)
2006-06-02 02:47 pm UTC

Hi there, forgive me for intruding; I stumbled upon this blog while doing a blogger search. I am a former GCMer who recently departed over many of the same concerns listed on the GCM warning website (which I just discovered yesterday). I would just like to gently challenge Rick's remarks about the creators of the GCM site being "sinful" by "sharing their hurts" in such a public way. I didn't feel this is what that site was doing at ALL. Regardless of the conclusions you come to regarding GCM (which may be in complete disagreement with me!), please consider that there is a difference between "publically sharing hurts" (which would be wrong) and publically sharing concerns that an organization is misleading people. For example, my husband and I experienced some real hurt in the way our pastors handled our departure from the church. We did not make this public; rather, we confronted these men with our hurt, they apologized, and restitution was made. We are not reeling with anger at our former church or GCM; we have moved on. However, our concerns over some of the things going on in GCM still exist, and are still of interest to us as we deal with the aftermath of leaving a church and as we still have many, many friends who are still involved. How is it a sinful thing to lovingly be open with these concerns -- well-documented concerns, at that?
Joel, I am not trying to plant seeds in your head that you should leave GCM. If that is where you are being fed and growing in the Lord, man maybe that is just where you need to be. Who am I to judge?! The ultimate truth of the gospel is still being preached in GCM churches, which is a beautiful thing. I am simply trying to challenge the comments that the creators of GCM warning are acting sinfully. Anyway, just my thoughts, for whatever they are worth. Thanks for reading!

man4yhwh
2006-06-02 08:04 pm UTC

The concern is this. The creators of this site, which I look at as I write this, wrote their web site portraying GCM as a cult. I, as well as you, am a former GCM'er. I ended up leaving for career reasons, and have absolutely no hard feelings with GCM at all. That said, I don't agree with all of their stands, and I have never agreed with all of the stands of any church I have ever gone to. The fact is, as you said, GCM is preaching the Gospel. I can ignore the areas where GCM doesn't agree with me simply because of what they preach.

As I posted earlier, there is no perfect group. To expect a bunch of sinners to get together in God's name and never sin is, well, an impossible expectaton.

As for GCM's "Exclusionism, Elitist Attitude towards other churches", that is a bunch of BS (excuse the acronym for swearing. I have seen GCM churches reach out to other churches. In fact, right now, as I write this, there are a bunch of my friends who go to a GCM church that are helping out in an area that has NO GCM CHURCHES as of yet. There have been many trips like that in just the past year. Is GCM looking at putting a church in that area? I believe so, but whether or not GCM does put a church into that area, there are churches that are benefitting from this group. Now, based on what I know, is it possible that GCM is more like what I have seen that what the creators of that site saw?

How about "Treating Council As Commandment/
Overbearing Leadership And Control Of Members." Well, you want overbearing leadership and control of members, we can go into my past with churches. Real churches preaching the gospel and Satan gets a hold of the heads of the leadership. Boy did they get those leaders get confused. As a result of Satan's ideas for how to run the church, or may be it was just man's wisdom instead of God's foolishness :), they became control freaks. You were told what you could listen to from the pulpit. You were expected to bring people into that church, but you were not allowed to leave type attitude. If you disagreed with them on a point that was not spelled out in the Bible, you were railroaded. Did I see this behavior in the GCM church I was at? No. You can ask the leadership at my old church too, I disagreed with a lot of non essential things. Given that I was raised Charismatic, and GCM is most definately not Charismatic, (even though it started about the same time and turned left where the Charismatic movement turned right) they had plenty to try that with me on.

This group also calls GCM a cult. Now, I haven't checked their sources, but I have one to have people check out. I disagree with this man on almost every point in the world. Many things that are in the Bible he can apologetically dismiss. But, he is an athority like none other when it comes to spotting a cult. He can tell you what to look for when you are checking to see if your in a cult or if you know some one in a cult. Be forwarned, though, every church can fit into the definition in one or more ways. The man's name is Hank Hanagraaff. His organization's website is http://www.equip.org/. Go check it out. Just don't tell me that he says Charismatic Christians are in a cult. Check the fruit of the church out first.

God Bless

(Anonymous)
2006-06-02 09:15 pm UTC

Hey,
Thanks for your response; very thought provoking. Obviously this can be a difficult forum to discuss this issue in, as we both have history in different GCM churches, and our personal experiences with GCM are different. All I can do is respond by sharing some viewpoints I hold from my experience that caused the GCM Warning site to really strike a chord with me -

-I'm absolutely in agreement with you that no church is perfect and that it would be ridiculous to expect a church not to sin. However,what was happening at my church was that leaders were sometimes twisting the word of God from the pulpit and were never corrected. For example, last year one pastor got on stage before our entire church (during a big "church celebration service") and told us - clear as a bell - that we, as a church, were HIS bride, that for us to look at other churches could be compared to adultery, and that we needed to commit to this church for the rest of our lives. This message was widely disseminated to the congregation, despite the other pastors quiet admittance that perhaps this pastor was a bit "off". Several leaders were confronted about this. No pastor was willing to call this man to correct his error, excusing him by saying "I know his heart". We heard that phrase - "I know his heart" - over and over. Our issue wasn't with his heart, though - it was the fact that he wasn't held accountable for his words - it may just have been poorly phrased, but no one held him to it, which was so sad. How many people were mislead because of that sermon? Anyway, that was just one red flag, and was not by any means an isolated incident of these kinds of words being spoken from the pulpit.

-Re: GCM's exclusionism, elitist attitude toward other churches. I would agree that GCM (at least the church I was a part of) has made great strides in this area over the past few years, which was very encouraging. However, every once in awhile, hints of it still appear (exemplified in examples such as the one above).

-Re: "Treating Council As Commandment/
Overbearing Leadership And Control Of Members." - unfortunately this was another thing I experienced at the church I was at. On more than one occasion, we were told by the pastor that "God speaks to leaders first", and that "the leaders of the church are like Moses, we were like the Israelites", and were reminded of the destruction that came upon the Israelites when they didn't obey Moses. Large church decisions were almost exclusively made by the pastors - or maybe people APPOINTED by the pastors. This created sort of a "hierarchy" of sorts - like God was at the top, then the pastors, then the congregation. This attitude manifested itself in big ways and in small, difficult to describe ways. There was (and is) just this air of "I'm the pastor, I'm talking down to you".

-As far as GCM being a cult - I wouldn't call it that, myself. I don't THINK that website is saying it, either. However, in my opinion it has some "cult-like tendencies" - which I am guessing is why the site mentions those cult books. Fact is, GCM HAS been listed in some books/resources on cults (including "Cult Proofing Your Kids" published by Zondervan in the early 90s).

I do believe that GCM still preaches the gospel, and you are right we should praise God anytime it is preached. Paul talks about that (sorry, I don't have my Bible with me to give you the exact verse :( ). The power of the gospel can break through even the most unhealthy of organizations, it's true. However, that doesn't mean that error should not be recognized, or that I need to recommend what I think is an unhealthy church to someone. I can't. And it breaks my heart.

Anyway, just my thoughts. God bless you...

(Anonymous)
2007-01-02 04:58 am UTC

Hi. My name is Tim Courtois and I am on staff with GCM. I thought that as a CURRENT GCM staff member I could contribute something significant to the discussion...

To start off, I want to critique the use of the word "cult" to describe religious groups. That word gets thrown around so much that it really has no meaning anymore - it's just a pejorative term that people use to describe religious groups that they don't like or that freak them out in some way. ("Fundamentalist" is another word like that nowadays.)

Further, any church that follows what the Bible says will look "cult-like" from time to time. There are times where leaders have to put their foot down. There are also times where people have to be removed from fellowship. These and other behaviors are easy to criticize (and sometimes need to be criticized), but I think itís best for us to do so using descriptive words that actually have a clear meaning rather than just name-calling.

That being said, I strongly agree with a LOT of what was said on the GCMwarning website. Before even reading it, it was not hard for me to guess what I would see there. I still remember the first time I read the GCM apology paper and being shocked - because all of the weaknesses remained in my church to some extent.

In my opinion, there are some MAJOR issues woven into the DNA of GCM as an organization. These issues go beyond the actions and words of GCM staff members and leaders. They are deeper heart issues that affect the way we teach and lead. These internal motivations come through even when the specific words that we use are without flaw. I know this because I MYSELF AM GUILTY OF ALMOST ALL OF THE WEAKNESSES LISTED on the website.

I look back on how this has affected my life and ministry over the past 8 years and I am sad. I am sad because of the way I have pressured others and robbed them of the true grace and freedom that Christ intended for them. I am sad because much of what I have worked so hard for has been ďchaffĒ that I think will not produce lasting fruit. Most of all I am sad because of the damage that these sinful attitudes and motivations have had on my own life.

I have been battling deeply with these issues for a long time. I think that many others are doing the same, though I am not satisfied with the extent to which these issues are PUBLICLY dealt with on a church or organizational level. I can say that I regularly have conversations with others in my church about these very issues. (Though again, I donít think that the pastors and staff that I have spoken to see the issues as being as serious as I think they are.)

Despite all of this, I still work for GCM. I am glad and willing to work for GCM and I believe it is Godís will for me as well. I hope that you will pray for me and GCM to grow in these weaknesses. I appreciate sincere criticism - especially from fellow Christians. GCM is not evil, but GCM is weak, immature, and struggling.