Monday, July 11, 2011

A Fallen Idol- one man's sin exposed my own

CJ Mahaney steps down as SGM President...

I'm still midprocess, but wanted to share thoughts on what God is teaching me. This week, I read that the President of our family of churches was voluntarily stepping down for a season of discipline and restoration because of sins of pride, sinful judgement, lack of submission to accountability, and even spiritual blackmail. We were assured this has been a year and 1/2 long process and he had already been restored to many he had wounded in his sin, but is stepping down to help healing personally and in Sovereign Grace Ministries as a whole. One (godly) man compiled 600 pages of documents of accusations and emails that he sent to CJ and that were posted online. I read through much of it as I grieved and wondered what this means for the church we've loved these past 6 months and our family.

Andy and I prayed. I cried. And then I poured over websites of hurt former members and the official documents. They were written personally to CJ and I admit it felt wrong to read them, but I continued reading all night long. Somewhere in the midst of the final document, I realized I wasn't concerned for CJ, known in our circle as the "humble Pastor", or even the people hurt by his pride. I was reading just hoping that the Pastor I had loved and cherished for years (Josh Harris, CJ's disciple) was not fallen as well. Woh.

God so gently revealed a deep sin in me. At some point, I stopped just being thankful for a Pastor who God had used (we attended Covenant Life Church whenever we visited family and supporters in DC) to renew my love for Him and His Word and revived my weary heart. It became more- I have been following man, not God. Josh Harris became my idol. And I had a pride in our family finally becoming a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries, who I had deemed the best churches. What horrible pride and idolatry. And it came out as I read about CJ's very public confession and accusations of his sinful pride.

A passage God used to reveal this depth of sin- "All men are like grass and all their glories like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord stands forever." I have always thought of celebrities when I read this. Some people just seem like really pretty flowers. They just stand out beautifully and we fall in love with them as a culture. This is exactly what I've done with Pastor Josh. He just shined as this really sparkly flower: solid, humble, and with an incredible ability to point to Jesus. Ironically, I admired the pretty, but fading flower and have missed the Creator. I have set "part of" my hope away from God and to a godly man instead. I'm bawling as I type because I long to love Jesus with my whole heart and life and I'm finding myself surprised by how quickly I turned from Him. I proudly believed I was above idolatry. I'm not. Ouch.

I cannot begin to share in one post how sweetly God has forgiven me and is lavishing grace and rest on me. I'm studying 1 Peter 1 this week with my bible study ladies (hence the "flowers fading" passage striking me) and verse 7 jumped out to me. God uses trials to test the genuineness of our faith. If sin is present in those who are His, the fire will reveal it. This is exactly what has happened to me. It's revealed. I have painfully confessed my sins to Andy, and some trusted friends, and now I'm posting here. I believe God has revealed them because He wants my hope to be "set fully" on Jesus- our living hope (1 Peter 1:13). He doesn't want my heart divided, but pure and full in Him alone.
"Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright."- Proverbs 14:9
I'm thankful for CJ's public confession and for this whole process it's started in me. We've been continuing to pray for those who have been directly and indirectly wounded by CJ. We've been praying for his family, for Covenant Life Church, for so many in other SGM churches, and for our own local church as we begin looking to our own sins and confessing to one another. We're praying for healing and restoration. And we're encouraged by a few really awesome steps we've seen already take place:

1) Larry Tomczak, the man CJ spiritually blackmailed and hurt by his sinful actions (in the 90s) wrote an incredible letter sharing his forgiveness of and full restoration to CJ and shared how CJ met with his wife, son, and in laws as well. It was an incredible picture of the work God does to restore all that our sin has destroyed!

2) Our local Pastors shared everything in detail on Sunday, offered to meet personally with anyone who wants to talk through deeper, and did not make light of sin and repentance. I'm thankful they were so open and vulnerable and praying that may become a normal practice in our church.

3) Josh Harris (yes- the very idol of my heart God is lovingly taking from me) shared a very timely and needed sermon on God's discipline in light of all the church is experiencing with CJ's sins revealed.

I'm reminded how deeply sin wounds. And yet, I'm coming through this with such a greater picture of how God redeems and how freeing it is when sins are confessed and healing can begin.
May we be people who humble ourselves, set our hope fully on God's grace, and seek restoration.


Steve said...

Excellent blog post. Glad to hear how your pastor acted. I was quite encouraged by Harris's message. It is a shame the response I have seen from SGM Kingsway (Richmond VA) and SGM Fairfax (VA) Churches. I do pray that they will come around.

Steve said...

One thing I will add is that I don't think C.J. Mahaney fully understands what affect his sin and the sin of the leaders that helped hide his sin may have on SGM. Mahaney is assuming he will be at the upcoming SGM pastors conference and stand on stage with Mahaney.

Maybe there won't be an SGM by that time to have a pastors conference. Harris did a good job of shoring up issues at CLC this past Sunday but CLC/SGM could stil implode especially in view of the way other SGM Church Leaders are taking it as I noted above.

Why does Mahaney assume that things will be going back to any kind of normal this soon or at all? Did David sin with Bathsheba and suffer no consequences? It might be wise for Mahaney to realize this just might happen.

Kate said...

Steve, may I ask what the response has been that you reference at SGM Kingsway (Richmond VA) and SGM Fairfax (VA_)? I have not seen anything posted specifically from those congregations - though perhaps what you are referencing is their silence?

Steve said...

Kate good question.

For the Kingsway response go the church's website and download/listen to this past sunday's message.

For Fairfax go to their Facebook page:

look for the video titled "special announcement"

I will be curious to hear what your impression is. These two are quite a contrast to Josh Harris's message that included confession and alarm etc.

Steve said...

With the SGM's board latest statement pretty much trivializing Mahaney's sin I now don't find the differences in response to this situation that surprising. It was interesting that Josh Harris's name was missing from the board's announcement.

Maybe Harris is taking a different direction.

Kate said...

Well, what a day it has been :(. I'm sure you are as aware as I am about the SGM Board Statement and Brent's response to it. So sad, all around.

I did have a chance to listen to both the Kingsway and Fairfax responses today (thanks for your help in finding them). I found them both lacking. Seemingly-cautious and "gentle" in tone, but really lacking in comparison to the open heartbreak that Josh displayed in his Sunday message. They (K & F) held nowhere near as sobering a posture...and I found that unfortunate. Almost as though they were afraid of giving the impression that it was "a big deal" - yes, I think that's part of what I perceived: that in their caution both displayed a bit too much "calm".

I was truly offended by the Board's Statement this morning. So rash. So unfair to Brent. So poorly handled and immature (in my opinion). I have been following the comments on that too...What a mess. Don't know if I'll post here again, but did want to reply to this original string.

Ginny said...

Sorry I haven't commented back! You both know a lot more than me about all of this. I'm suprised by some quick responses I've seen (both in support of and against CJ/ SGM) and have been trying to carefully weigh my response. Today, I was surprised at the bold SGM statement and then encouraged by Pastor Josh confessing that he shouldn't have compared believers concerned with enemies of Israel. What a strange mess this all seems to be growing into. Certainly praying and watching and hurting for so many right now.

Steve said...

It is really sad. I guess the SGM Board doesn't consider blackmailing someone that serious of a crime.

Had this been someone else who had done anything near to this Mahaney when in power would have insisted that they step down and probably never be reinstated. Sadly the rules don't apply to him like they do others or so they think. Of course that is what the released document indicate.

I would suggest people read the documents for themselves if you have time. So far I haven't seen someone go thorough and summarize the more egregious actions these documents show.

Sheree said...

So moving and humbling and honest. Thank you for sharing your heart. I'm inspired.

Steve said...

What is really sad is that Mahaney already went back to preaching. Mahaney preached at Capitol Hill Baptist on Sunday 9/25/11. I guess Mahaney's definition of "season" for reflection was literally a "season" as in summer.

It is sad to see Mark Dever enabling Mahaney in this way.