While the information found in the Abusive Past section raise many valid concerns about GCM's past, what about its present state? In 1991 GCM promised "that reforms are achieved or underway," which while a major step in the direction of acknowledging and addressing organizational abuses, means nothing if not followed up by action and proof that such abuses have ceased. The burden is on the abuser to prove that he has changed, not the other way around. GCM has not provided such proof, and there are many who claim that to this day GCM churches are continuing to abuse its members through tactics and policies it has apologized for using in the past. Below are some of the concerns we have regarding the current organization, including excerpts from GCM's 13-page statement on church error and quotes from recent members regarding the current state of these concerns.

Concern Quotes
Exclusionism, Elitist Attitude Towards Other Churches:
We confess that, especially in our early years, we had a prideful attitude about the ways we believed that our churches were distinctive from others in the body of Christ. And while, to the best of our knowledge, it was never expressly taught that we were better than other churches, it was very much implied by our too narrow view of how God accomplishes His purposes through the church.

. . .The problem arises when one makes the subtle shift from believing that "this is the best church for me" to a conviction that "this is the best church, period."  We confess that this latter belief, though never, to the best of our knowledge, publicly taught and probably only rarely expressed, infect­ed our churches for some time.

. . .we confess that we as leaders believed, and at times expressed, that these individuals and organizations were not necessarily doing "God's best" like we were.  For our lack of humility, we apologize.

. . .One was a tendency to believe that our approach to the Christian life was not merely a "good" one, but the "best" or "only scriptural" approach. We considered those who we thought were not as zealous as we were to be "luke­warm."  Instead, we should have believed and clearly taught that, "this is the way the Lord has shown us. God can and does lead differently."

. . .Our overemphasis on the things that we believed distinguished our churches from other churches and organizations and our failure to recognize that God might desire to use those individuals outside of our association of churches made it difficult for some to leave without feeling guilty and inadequate, or believing that God could use them for His purposes in another church. It also caused some of those who remained to view those who left as choosing something that might be good, but wasn't what was best.  We deeply regret this, and express our sincere apology to those who suffered because of our pride and insensitivity.
- 1991 GCM Statement


For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
- 1 Corinthians 12:13


"Whether they admit it or not, abusive churches tend to view themselves as spiritually superior to other Christian groups. This religious elitism allows little room for outside influences. There can be no compromise with external sources, who, the leadership will say, really don’t understand what is going on in the ministry anyway."
- Dr. Ronald Enroth
"I recently left a GCM church on the account of the rebukes that I received for being involved in a community wide event where I was associating and working with believers from various churches with the term sheep stealing as the reasoning. When the other churches in the area work together on a community wide event or in support of an effort, the local GCM church usually refuses to participate. As this church has been called out on this they are improving in this. The closedness to the rest of the body of believers in the area is a source of my concern. If a member of that church pursues another ministry other then what is sponsored by that church, or attends another church for any reason there will like be rebuking conversations. . .This has extended to a member who is engaged to another believer ouside of the church being told that this was not a good idea. There is also the concept that anyone outside of the church is a bad influence on those within the church. As I left this GCM church, some of the individuals who I was discipling were told that I was a bad influence and should not be relied on as a source of counsel or accountability.
- Former GCM Member (left 2006)

"The GCM church I attended rarely mentioned the existence of other churches, and never participated in multi-church or city-wide Christian events. The culture of GCM seems to be that of "if it's not GCM, it's not happening." Pastors would show us charts of their church planting history and future plans, and when talking about planting to a new city they would simply presume that since no GCM church was currently there that there was no relevant Christian organization in that city. They would say such things as "we believe this city really needs God. It really seems to have no organization like ours in it," but when the city was something like Denver I found this very hard to believe."
- Former GCM Member (left 2005) 

"Because [Jenny] chose to leave the church for a few months on a travel job, she was expected by leaders to fail in her Christian walk. The assumption was that she would be unable to find a GCM church where she was going, thus she would lose her faith. Similar expectations were verbalized about three of my other friends. There is no trust in other churches at all."
- Current GCM Member

"There is an attitude of pride within [GCM Church] and GCM. Sometimes it is subtle. Sometimes it is stated outright. I don’t know if the attitude can be blanketly titled as “pride” or “elitism” or even if there is a term for it. It carried over into an attitude of devotion that was at times shocking. People have tailored their lives around this church. They have chosen careers that would allow them to move with the church. They refuse to move to a town that doesn’t have a GCM church. They choose a wife or husband based on that individual’s commitment to GCM. We were told at our fall retreat that “If you are not totally committed to your local church, you lack courage.” And that “every time you change church families, you are damaging a part of your soul forever.” . . .the difference between GCM and “the Church” referred to in the New Testament has become blurred in many areas. Great Commission Ministries is only a very small piece of “the Church”. . .But the mindset seems to be that GCM is the way. It is the church. GCM has the answers, has the best way to do things, and other churches are seen as sub-par. Other churches will not get you as close to God as a GCM church will. Whenever such attitudes cropped up the first thing I felt was fear. Should I feel this, too? Should I not? Proverbs 3:34 scared me a lot. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I used to struggle a lot with this in my conversations with God. Was this real pride I was encountering? If so, what was I supposed to do? Was this really an army I could fight in, or would even want to fight in?"
- Paul Willis, Former GCM Member & Small Group Leader (left 2005, full letter)
Treating Council as Commandment,
Overbearing Leadership and Control of Members, Lack of Respect for the Priesthood of the Believer:

We acknowledge that there were instances where some of us in our immaturity tended to lead more by coercion and compulsion than by inspiration and example. . .At times, we were overly directive in the personal affairs of church members and were not always suffi­ciently sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading in the person's life.  When giving counsel, we at times advised church members to make decisions in their life based almost wholly on the goal of "reaching the world" with the Gospel.  And as noted earlier, we did not always distinguish between a command and a principle and so may have treated a scriptural principle as a command.  The consequence was that a person who had received counsel in some area might feel compelled to act in what he believed was obedi­ence to a scriptural command when, in fact, the area was one where they were free to choose how a scriptural principle ap­plied.
- 1991 GCM Statement


And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
- Mark 10:42-45 (1 Timothy 2:5 )


For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
- 1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV)


"Furthermore, I know that whatever church my wife and I choose to join, we will avoid any church that (like GCI did) uses a wholly ‘top down’ approach to authority that offers zero self-determination to lay members while it inducts leadership into chain of command cloaked in secrecy. I now see how ‘raising up elders’ in a local church can actually be an illusory phenomenon, and instead they can be ‘pulled up’ a hierachy [sic] by those above them."
- Former Member of the Early Movement
"If you asked counsel you were expected to follow it, or else you were considered disobedient to God. If someone higher up counseled you to do something, they were your "spiritual authority" and thus God in his sovereignty had placed them above you, and so you were thought to be disobeying God if you disobeyed them. The verse used quite often to back this theology up was: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch on behalf of your souls. Nobody was trusted to be able to hear from God on their own, and thus people's lives were basically lived in complete submission to what their spiritual leader decided was best for them. Wasn't always a bad thing as some people needed guidance, however it pretty much discouraged you from developing any sort of functional relationship with God, and was very legalistic and controlling due to the way it was presented as God's will and not a pastor's advice."
- Former GCM Member (left 2005)

"There is a greater emphasis on authority than I see in the Scriptures. . . There is an overemphasis on loyalty to the leadership team compared to the emphasis on loyalty to God. When loyalty to God is equated with loyalty to leadership, the sheep become confused as to who God is – is it God or is god the leaders? A distinction needs to be made between who God is and who the leaders are. We are never told to trust the leaders. It is written that we are to trust God and not man. I also think the line gets blurred when we say we are to trust God through the leaders. This thinking begins to set up a clergy-laity system where men are the mediator between God and man. . . Decisions are handed down from the pastors rather than developed through consensus. Yes, there is a place for pastors to lead. But I think it has been taken too far. . . I believe there is an over emphasis in Summitview on the immaturity of the sheep and a "putting down" of what they can understand and handle"
- Gregg Walters, Former Pastor (Resigned from Summitview Community Church, Fort Collins in 2004, full letter*)
* Resignation letter obtained through our own resources, and not specifically offered to this site by Gregg Walters. 

"There is also extreme pressure on members to participate in summer programs/missions, etc. to the extent that to one member it was recomended that they sale there [sic] livestock and pets and break their lease, and end there job in order to go on a summer program."
- Former GCM Member (left 2006)

"I have felt a calling to pursue a very specific ministry with my life. Part of that pursuit includes going to seminary. After a long time spent in prayer, I honestly believe seminary is a direction the Spirit wishes me to go. But when I presented this desire to the leaders of the church, I felt as though that desire was downplayed, even discounted. I was presented with alternative choices, paths that would keep me at [named GCM Church] despite the leading in my heart. To their credit, at one point in the conversation the leaders stepped back and told me that they would not try to stand in the way of where I felt the Spirit leading. But the next subject that came up was the importance of submitting to church leadership. Such turns in conversation seem to be too convenient, and have happened on more than one occasion. I was also told that it would be a mistake to take a step in another area of my life without explicit counsel from them. I felt as though I was being told that I could not be trusted to hear from the Holy Spirit myself."
- Paul Willis, Former GCM Member & Small Group Leader (left 2005, full letter)

"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'."
- Former Member (full discussion)

"It is with trepidation that I write this. I have noticed that recent references to Great Commission Ministries and Great Commission Association of Churches seem to say that the group is not as destructive as it has been in the past. I recently left this church after having been a member of it for 8 years. . . I think there are still unethical practices that definitely keep this group or at least some of its churches in the unhealthy church category . . . The pressure to grow the numbers, and the deemphasis of making life long friends. People become tools and projects . . . Many, many sermons on submission, unity, obedience – messages that suit an unhealthy church’s purpose well . . . At first we found the people in this church to be incredibly loving. As we grew deeper into the church we found that the pressures were subtle but at the same time clearly delineated. You knew if you were a good member or a bad member. The pressure to belong was crushing. The commands to submit and be unified tireless. And as a woman, I found that my self esteem suffered immensely as I was pushed into a little box of submission and limited options for my life."
- Former Member (May 2004) (this and other letters)
Unwillingness To Listen To Criticism, Unscriptural Use Of Church Discipline:
We confess that we have too often responded defensively to those both within and outside of our churches who questioned or criticized us, and at times exhibited an unwillingness to listen to their perspective. Instead of too quickly concluding that these individuals were acting divisively or irresponsibly, we should have made a greater effort to care­fully consider and respond to their views.

. . . Early on, some of us had an incorrect under­standing of church discipline.  In some cases, this resulted in some individuals being placed under church discipline for actions that were not, according to scrip­tural standards, sufficient to merit it.

. . .Church disci­pline is the most serious action that a church can take against one of its members, and it should only be imposed for offenses mandated, and accord­ing to procedures described, in the Scriptures. The real­ization that our churches did, in a number of cases, improperly exercise church discipline is, therefore, a very unhappy one. We sincerely apologize to those who were treated wrongly, and express our commitment to clear up such cases, even if they occurred in the very early days of our movement.
- 1991 GCM Statement
"Freedom to express a contrary viewpoint is minimized. Oftentimes the person who shares the problem, becomes the problem. . . Divisiveness has been expanded beyond the Biblical explanation in Titus 3. Titus writes that anyone who shares something that one particular group of people (whether they embrace some specific teaching or based on ancestry) is blessed over another group should be warned and rejected from fellowship – having Jesus is our only basis of blessing."
- Gregg Walters, Former Pastor (Resigned from Summitview Community Church, Fort Collins, in 2004, full letter *)
* Resignation letter obtained through our own resources, and not specifically offered to this site by Gregg Walters. 

"Being called aside is a very regular thing within the church.  It could have to do with anything: having a public conversation with a member of the opposite sex, questioning procedure or policy, or positions on doctrine.  It is by and large an attempt to shame the person in violation of norms into submission or humiliation.  It is very rare that a person is called aside for a scriptural sin by the person who felt sinned against.  This is usually handled by leadership or another person instead."
- Former GCM Member (left 2006)

". . . 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 [2005] 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."
- Former Member (full discussion)
Treating Dating As A Sin:
Many of us in the early years of our churches encouraged young men and women to refrain from dating until they had a fairly strong conviction that God was leading them toward mar­riage to a partic­ular individual.  This had some very positive results . . . However, it also had negative results including alienating believers who did not share our prefer­ence and causing some who did to develop a bad attitude toward Christians who dated. It is our present understanding that discouraging casual dating was a preference of many of us leaders and not a command or even a principle of Scripture, although there are many principles that may be used to support the preference. We believe that individuals are free to have different prefer­enc­es as to how serious they want to be before they begin dating someone. Pastors may suggest or encourage their own personal preference concerning dating, as well as their reasons for that prefer­ence, but they should be careful to clearly communicate that it is simply their prefer­ence, and that others may be equally valid.
- 1991 GCM Statement
"I was told straight up by my small group leader that dating was a sin. . . the unwritten consensus among most people was that it wasn't allowed or Godly. . .I had gone through a divorce previously, and so the idea of skipping dating and going straight to the engagement step wasn't the most appealing to me. . . no girl and guy could be in the same room alone together without each of them bringing another person of their gender, which was ridiculous because it presumed nobody of opposite gender could have an adult conversation without it turning into a make-out session. . . GCM takes guy-girl safety measures way too far, treating twenty year olds like children, and the lack of trust GCM leaders put in their members is very disheartening. I do understand the wisdom behind choosing to not date, but it's not for everybody and your choices should be respected."
- Former GCM Member (2005)

"There is also the legalism and direction in relationships with members of the opposite sex. Close friendships even in carefully controlled situations that are not dating/courting are basically forbidden even if there is all of the accountability that can possibly be found."
- Former GCM Member (2006)

"I still have a copy of the pamphlet [GCM Pastor] penned and distributed. It is a step-by-step assertion of how God's plan for our relational lives is to give up dating. It uses scripture in a leading way to encourage non-dating while giving caveats at the end about "becoming legalistic". It became legalistic. Those who wished to spend time alone with a member of the opposite sex for any reason needed a very good explanation for doing so, or did so secretively. All complaints about the legalism of this culture were explained away apologisticly or dismissed outright."
- Former GCM Member (2006) 
Discouragement Of College
However, by not actively supporting the commitment the parents had made to a college education for their child, we implicitly encouraged some students to choose to leave college, contrary to the wishes of their parents.

. . .We realize that a number of individuals made poor decisions concerning their education and careers partially because of our encouragement or because of the examples they saw in our churches. To these people, we offer our sincere apology and regret that our mistakes contributed to career decisions that caused problems, financial or otherwise.
- 1991 GCM Statement
"I recall sitting through the sermon at [GCM Church] of an older, visiting GCM pastor, who vividly described his joy that he didn't have 'that degree to fall back on' thus he was able to 'follow God' his whole life without being tempted to quit and find a better paying job... I wasn't in college at the time, but I remember wondering if people in the room who were in college felt guilty or looked down upon for pursuing their education, as that seemed to be the gist of that part of the message."
- Former GCM Member (2005)

"I wanted to go to the best school I could for nursing, my parents wanted me to as well. . . Church employed leaders tried to talk me into applying to a local community college associates (degree) program instead because I could continue to attend our church and all its functions. I was approached multiple times by my discipler, some of the leaders tried to make me feel guilty about wanting to apply to these nationally renowned schools. . .The pressure didn't just come from leaders, but most of the members of small group . . . In our women's studies the general expectation was that our future husbands would financially support us, therefore the pursuit of further education was unnecessary. . . I did feel looked down on to the point that I stopped bringing it up. I didn't get excited in front of them about getting into a school or applying to one. I didn't expect their support in any way shape or form concerning my further education."
- Current GCM Member
Discouragement Of Outside Counseling
A common theme in interviews we conduct is that GCM strongly discourages any outside Christian counseling, even on issues it has nobody trained to handle. Quite often what happens when someone finally does get outside counseling, the counsellor recommends they find another church. This may explain their reluctance.
"We were overwhelmed with our two special needs children. [Both special needs, each needing 4 therapies per child (physical, occupational, speech, and vision) every week since they were born] We tried to talk to certain people, and their response was, "You know what your problem is? You need to serve more. You are focusing too much on yourself. You are not being Christ-like, because when Christ found out that his cousin John had been beheaded-- he then feed the 5000!" That compounded the problem and we sought a biblical based counselor and when it came up... I was specifically reprimanded for getting counsel outside of the church. Our small group leader was excessively offended to the point of confronting us and saying, 'You should not have gone outside of our church!'"
- Former GCM Member (2005)


While no doubt a lot of good has happened through the Great Commission movement, the following quote (taken from a public discussion) succinctly summarizes many people's view of the current organization:
"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 . . . 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."


Want to give feedback on your experiences with GCAC/GCM? Looking for more in-depth information on the movement? Please email us at gcmwarning@gmail.com.

Further reading:

>> Resources -- Links to articles about GCM, the full church error statement, books and articles on the movement, and more.