Some of you may remember my post highlighting a conversation with a fellow by the name of Bob who was on the sidewalk out side of my Church passing out literature claiming that two of the single ministries were promoting Purpose-Driven Life/ Saddleback methodology. [Editor’s note: Those two ministries in question are The Guild, a fellowship group aimed at singles 35 and older, and The Foundry, a fellowship group aimed at college graduates 21 to 30. The Foundry disbanded in early 2009 because the pastor, Kurt Gebhards, took a pastorate in North Carolina and the elders of Grace thought it better to close it, rather than look for a replacement pastor]
Bob’s literature [available on-line HERE] further charged that these ministries were promoting what is called an Hegelian-dialectic process of “brainwashing” its members to all think alike. These dialectic sessions take place in small group settings and because Marxists have historically used small group settings to mind control the people, all of the small groups affiliated with the two suspect singles ministries are engaging in this Hegelian-dialectic process and thus stoking the hotbeds of Marxist revolutionaries.
Since I posted that original article, Bob and another fellow by the name of Robert who agrees with Bob, have been emailing me off and on. They both have been attempting to convince me of my slavish devotion to Grace and being blinded to the truth. The phrases “open your eyes” and “have an open mind” are oft repeated in their emails.
They have pointed me to the writings of a Robert Klenck and Dean Gotcher who claim to be the foremost authorities on the Church Growth Movement, and a local LA pastor named John Coleman who regularly entertains Klenck and Gotcher’s ideas on his web cast.
[Editor’s note: Robert Klenck is an orthopaedic surgeon by profession. He apparently has a propensity to entertain conspiracy theory type ideas such as the nefarious dealings of the U.N. in the world and their alleged attempts to usher in a one world government that will set up the anti-Christ. Much of his teaching regarding “church growth” methodology has been developed in this matrix of conspiracy laden ideology. Because his teaching against “church growth” has this conspiracy driven philosophy behind it, his so-called exposes’ against church growth methodology is unique, if not out right unusual and strange. He thinks that he has gotten to the real heart of the matter with identifying “church growth” methodology by highlighting the so-called Hegelian-Marxist connection and the small group dynamic.
Dean Gotcher has a similar approach to exposing “church growth” ideas as Klenck, but as I understand it, he has distanced himself from Klenck and Coleman. John Coleman is a former pastor who has had an “apologetic” style ministry in L.A. for a number of years. He once participated on a local apologetic radio program with the addition of pastoring a Baptist church. Around 1998 he was dismissed from his church due to some serious accusations of inappropriate behavior with male congregants. He now maintains a “house church” with a handful of supporters. He also has kept up a webcast called RAM radio on which he has frequently entertained the conspiracy theory ideas of Klenck]
Well, for the sake of providing a more comprehensive critique of what Bob is charging and providing an antidote to the non-sense about the core of church growth methodology being directly tied to Hegelian philosophy so that if your Church has small discipleship groups you are breeding Commies in your midst, I wanted to publish one of my more extensive emails to Bob that interacts with his key charges.
Just to make it perfectly clear to my readers, I am NOT speaking for Grace Community Church in any official capacity. My interaction with Bob is solely on my own free time. Though I do believe I am responding to him as a concerned member of Grace, my words are my own and I bare the sole responsibility for them.
I appreciate the email and the frankness of your words. I will address each of your points in turn, but by way of introduction it is important for you to realize that you are not unique. I realize you may think you have some sort of special message of alarm for the people of Grace; that you have some sort of wall watching ministry where you feel compelled of the Lord to alert us to some special message that you alone with a handful of friends have discovered. However, you must know that you stand at the end of a long line of odd individuals with an assortment of odd beliefs.
Grace has always had people like yourself standing on the side walks out in front of our church warning the members of some bad teaching or philosophy infiltrating our ranks. Years ago, Darwin Fish claimed we were all under the influence of psychology and he and his band of merry messengers handout papers like you have. Other people claimed John denied the gospel because he denied the blood of Christ, that he denied the deity of Christ because he held to incarnational sonship, and that he taught sinless perfection because of his views of Romans 7. Other individuals have attempted to warn us about his use of the NASB from the pulpit. We have received hundreds of copies of quack researcher Gail Riplinger’s book, New Age Bible Versions with desperate notes attached begging us to tell John to stop using the NASB for his preaching. Another group of protesters accuse John of being in league with neo-cons and Zionists, while others hand out papers “documenting” how the CFR and Trilateral Commission controls John because of certain views he holds.
So Bob, please don’t take it personally when people dismiss you as a kook. We have had our fair share of them around here over the years claiming they have some prophetic warning about the goings on at our church which are utterly nonsensical.
Furthermore, you must also understand our annoyance toward your accusations against two of our pastors we have known personally for years. For you, an ill informed outsider, to publish a paper accusing two of our fine men of basically being liars and brute beasts seeking the destruction of our church and the souls of the people in our church, only rankles us and closes our minds to your message. You claim you would not lie to me, but the very fact you are raising slanderous accusations against these two men demonstrates you are already doing this.
Now, I won’t say it is lying just yet, because I will grant you being woefully ignorant of the facts and there is teachability on your part. With that in mind, let me address your points:
*I knew that the Guild was a purpose driven ministry before I ever went there. It is obvious from the language on their website. I only went there to corroborate that fact. I suspected that the Foundry was purpose driven from the website as well. This suspicion was confirmed to me when I went there. It is not necessary that I go to these ministries more than once or even go at all in order to know this. I would estimate that the Guild is 85% purpose driven and the Foundry is 65% purpose driven*.
[Editor’s note: Bob visited the Guild once, meaning only one time. His accusations against our singles ministries is based upon this one visit to a Friday night study in the spring of 2006. Bob has also since modified his percentages claiming now that both ministries are/were 100% purpose driven].
(Fred) How did you know these ministries were “purpose driven” before you went there to see for yourself? Did you conclude this your self or did someone tell you? You deduced that from scanning over a website and witnessing “language” you find suspicious? [Editor’s note: Bob claims the use of certain language implies a PDL or Hegelian-Marxist influence. So, if someone were to say, “I want the Bible study to catch a vision for missions”, the phrase catch a vision is a PDL term, thus by implication, the user of such language adheres to the so-called “church growth” methodology Klenck and Bob point out].
I take it that it does not matter to you that all the leadership (many of whom I know personally at each group) denies these claims? From my observation of your paper you wrote, you have a description of church growth that I would reject. I could care less what Hegel or Marx taught. So what if they taught a small group methodology to control people, this is not what is happening at Grace. In fact, I notice through out your article that you have this hang up with small groups, like the application group you supposedly attended. Small groups have been an integral part of GCC for years, long before Rick Warren was even pastoring at Saddleback.
I thoroughly enjoyed my small groups when I was involved with a singles ministry (by the way, the small, application group dynamic is only found in the singles ministries; they are not found in the other adult fellowship groups). The home Bible studies and the application group is where I got to know people on an intimate level. I had accountability as a believer and I was prayed for and stretched to think biblically. To automatically equate any small group dynamic as you define it through Marxist-Hegelian filters with being “church growth” is utterly absurd. Like I told Rob who raised a similar objection, it would be like a person accusing John of allowing Mormonism to infiltrate GCC because one of his main series is called the “Fulfilled Family.” Because Mormons speak of having “Fulfilled Families” we are imbibing Mormon theology. such a comparison is ridiculous.
You (and the Klenck fellow) seem to have a fringe definition of what you perceive as church growth philosophy and because folks at Grace may use “buzz” words you find suspect or enact group dynamics you defined as suspect, it is automatically labeled as purpose driven and church growth. This is presumption at its worse.
Let me break up your next point and address individual claims:
*I spoke with a man who read my letter who attended the Guild and the Foundry for 4 months. He corroborated what I said*
(Fred) Who exactly was this person? Is he credible as a critic of these ministries? By “credible” I mean to say was he someone actively involved with these ministries where he was attending regularly, had friends within these ministries, and actually knew and interacted with the leadership of these ministries? I have met many people over the years who have attended GCC’s single ministries who have been critical of them, but when their criticisms are evaluated, they flow from some personality conflict with other folks in the group, or the fact the leadership confronted the individual about specific maturity issues, or the person came into the group with a certain level of expectation as to what to find and when those expectations were met with disappointment the person tries to find some fault with everyone in the fellowship group and the church in general. I have seen this time and again.
So, in my mind, for this person to have any credibility as a critic accusing the ministries in question of operating with PDL philosophy, he would have had to have been actively involved with them for more than four months. If you think about it, four months is just 16 Sundays if the person came regularly and 16 Bible study times if the person attended those regularly. That is hardly enough time for him to draw such radical conclusions unless of course the person came to the ministry with these presuppositions in mind.
*He told me that these ministries are run differently from J Macarthur’s teaching. He told me that they are both extremely seeker friendly ministries and he told me that most in attendance there are not Christians. He told me that relationships are always discussed and emphasized in these ministries*.
(Fred) How exactly are they ran “differently” from MacArthur’s teaching? We do make a distinction between fellowship groups and the main service; a fact many of Grace’s critics such as yourself tend to overlook. A Sunday school class dynamic is totally different than the overall dynamic of the main Church.
At any rate, all the men I have spoken with at length about your charges affirm that the Sunday morning portion is spent in music, fellowship, and then the preaching or teaching from the word. This is exactly how I remember Working Disciples, the former single’s ministry these other two replaced when all the singles got married to each other. What should we do differently? I would expect more activities because singles have the time and desire to involve themselves in many activities. I did when I was single. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of activities.
Additionally, how is having a large group of non-Christians in attendance being automatically “seeker friendly?” Grace has had a 35 plus year average of having a large group of unbelievers attending our Church. It would only be a problem if the ministry sought to water down or ignore biblical teaching in order to accommodate the unbelievers so as to keep them comfortable. This is not going on with either one of these ministries. Furthermore, why exactly is it wrong or suspicious to discuss and emphasize relationships? Again, this is only a problem if that emphasis replaces the authority and teaching of God’s Word. This is not happening in either one of these ministries. The singles ministry I was involved with frequently emphasized relationships with others outside the Church and discussed relationships with each other in the immediate group from a biblical perspective. In fact, this is something common in single ministries simply because the main thought of singles is being married. There is nothing sinful about that, especially if the fellowship group is providing an opportunity for godly singles to potentially marry each other and is teaching the biblical perspective on these issues. You mistakenly assume it equates something bad, but it does not.
*He told me that he didn’t understand why this was so (I Do). He told me that he was so troubled by what he saw happening at the Guild that he attempted to speak with the pastor. He said that he avoided him for a long time and then finally when it came time to discuss a meeting time, the pastor refused to meet with him because this man insisted on having a witness present so the pastor would be held accountable. He refused to speak with him with a witness present! This man is highly credible. He also told me that the Foundry is worse that the Guild (which I already could tell). This man knows that these are not Christian ministries.*
(Fred) I cannot speak for this pastor, but knowing him like I do, I doubt the credibility and accuracy of this testimony. Again, you automatically assume the worse because you are attempting to uncover bug-a-bears and want him to be a bad guy. I personally would like to hear from this pastor about this specifically named person, as well as get the person to tell me exactly what he or she did in order to speak with him. At this point, this accusation is speculative and falsely accuses a personal friend’s character that I know is not who he is.
Let me break this point up into a handful of comments:
*The foremost Christian authority in the country regarding the church growth movement (CGM) is Dr. Robert Klenck MD. Dr. Klenck knows that the CGM/purpose driven church is at the Guild and Foundry. He knows from viewing their web pages*. [Editor’s note: Bob often appeals to Klenck as one of the “foremost Christian authorities” even though he evaluates church growth ministry according to his bizarre presuppositions regarding conspiracy theories and is virtually unknown to anyone else who has actually written on the subject].
(Fred) The foremost Christian authority in the country? Really? Seeing that I have never heard of him except through your paper, and a host of other folks I know who study church growth stuff also have never heard of him, I believe that claim is a tad exaggerated. I further find it amazing he can draw such a conclusion about the ministries of Grace by “viewing their web pages.” This is being presumptuous and such an attitude can be foolish and sinful. Once again, Klenck has a unique definition of church growth he attempts to tie to his so-called expertise in Marxism and Hegel’s philosophy. The use of words he believes is suspicious does not immediately equate his accusations. We don’t define church growth and seeker sensitive philosophy according to his themes, nor should we.
I mentioned Klenck to a variety of elders and teachers at Grace and his charges about the Marxist-Hegel elements and they all shrug their shoulders and dismiss the guy as hunting windmills. In order for Klenck to be correct about Grace, he would have to demonstrate that we are specifically using the church growth philosophy he defines in the negative manner he accuses the leadership. He would also have to demonstrate where he has actually seen a specific instance of its negative effects upon the church and document it. Has he? All he has done is accuse the two ministries of falling into his self defined patterns of church growth, a philosophy apparently hard to define according to you.
*Other Christians know besides for me. Would you like to hear what he says about this? Please do. Go to www.johnecoleman.org and click on Ram Radio Stream. Scroll down about halfway to Ram Radio Live 1-21-06. Listen to the first hour of this 2 hour broadcast. Dr. Klenck will say that the CGM agenda is going at GCC at full swing. Do you think that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about?*
(Fred) I did listen to the link and all I can say is that I am stunned of the horrible misinformation John and his friend are passing along. I am disappointed that someone like Coleman would be so easily sucked into believing it. I am troubled by this and truly wonder if he has any real discernment. I take it that you are the “Bob” feeding them the poor information about GCC? A couple of things struck me from their comments.
First is their berating the email to you from “George” who refused to meet with you after another certain pastor told him not to do so. Apparently, you, Coleman and Klenck see that as thought control or hiding the truth or something. We however see this as shepherding our people. Coleman of all people, who is a pastor, should know better than to bad mouth what happened. I don’t know who George is, but it is the duty of any pastor of Grace to protect him from being led astray. I am sorry if it offends you that we think of you as a wolf, but your material and protest behavior out in front of our church place you in that category. It is a biblical mandate to protect those who are immature and unstable from false teaching. For you guys to see that as negative demonstrates to me a woeful misconduct with the souls of the saints. I would expect Coleman to protect his members from some Fred Price wanna be who wished to meet alone with them. It is his calling as a pastor.
Second, Coleman suggests that John MacArthur is out of touch and unaware of what is happening in these ministries and he seems to think it is his duty to inform John of what is going on. I can assure you that John is actively involved with all the ministries at Grace in spite of our Church’s large size. He meets with the staff weekly when he can, as well as monthly with the elders, one or two who are members of those two ministries in question. To assume John’s ministry is so big that it is near impossible for him to know what is really happening under his nose is another example of presumption.
*Mohler is a fellow of a UN-NGO. He’s a fellow of the ERLC. The ERLC is a UN-NGO. Pastors, leaders and staff workers at GCC denied these facts for one year. Why? Why did they lie?* [Editor’s note: Bob has a fixation with Al Mohler, Jr. and even claims that Al’s loose affiliation with a non-governmental organization in the U.N. makes him really a satanic agent who’s duty it is to water down the Christian church as a whole with his teaching]
(Fred) Are you sure they lied that the Faith and Family group was part of the U.N.’s non-governmental organization list, or that they denied your charges of one world conspiracies? I have never denied that the ERLC was listed under the UN’s NGOs. I have stated that there is nothing sinister about such an affiliation. I am guessing you are from an independent fundamentalist background and adhere to rigid (unbiblical) secondary separation principles? Also, Al is a fellow, which means he is on a board of directors or has some other loose affiliations with the group. Moreover, several other prominent men are fellows like Paige Patterson and the late Carl Henry. Are they guilty by association like Al is?
*Mohler is dedicated to fulfilling the principles of the UN charter. This goes without saying and it naturally follows. Also, I was told this by his associate. Anyone denying this denies reality. If you think that a man can serve 2 masters, then you deny scripture*
(Fred) If the principles of the UN charter are as benign as they are listed on their website, http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/index.html I would agree with them. I think because you operate from this 70s, one world government eschatology in the vein of Hal Lindsey, you start with a goofy presupposition that the UN is going to bring in some one world government ready for the anti-Christ. I judge the UN as being incompetent and too given over to corruption to accomplish such a grand scheme. If Al Mohler believes he can exploit the UN charter to advance the gospel in the world, I say we let him try. As for the serving 2 masters thing, why can’t Al Mohler cooperate with the UN and be a Christian? What exactly does it mean to “serve two masters” in your mind? How are you defining that? Am I serving two masters if I agree to uphold the employee agreement at say, Wal-Mart or Target, and still be a Christian? I believe you are misapplying Jesus’s words.
*As I stated in my letter, the CGM is not easily understood. The leaders at GCC can’t recognize it. Also, do you think that those bringing this agenda into Grace would admit it to you? They know that you cannot discern what is going on* [Editor’s note: Notice how on one hand with Bob’s arguments outlined above, the Church Growth Movement (CGM) is easily recognizable by him, Klenck, and Coleman as having infiltrated Grace Church. It’s noticeable on our websites and is visibly taking place in our singles ministries. Anyone who would take the time to examine their claims would see it so plainly. Yet , on the other hand, here we have Bob claiming the CGM is not “easily understood” except by some supposed expert like himself and Klenck. In a manner of speaking, Bob’s teaching smacks of gnosticism, or the idea that only a few “anointed” individuals know the truth and their message must be heeded].
(Fred) Then basically, if you believe this Bob, you are charging the elders and pastors of Grace with intentionally lying to and willfully deceiving its members. In a nutshell, you are charging our pastoral staff as being unbelievers. Is that your position, Bob? Out of all of those godly men who are leading Grace, none of them have the ability to discern what you can discern and those who can are lying about it and trying to hide it? Is that what you are saying?
*Since I handed out my letter, as I count it, 19 pages have been taken off their website. These are the pages that contained the purpose driven phrases and revealed the purpose driven agenda that I quoted from in my letter. Why were these pages taken off? Obviously because they want to hide the PD language and agenda written on these pages. Now when someone reads my letter, it can’t be verified from the website. If the 19 pages were all Biblical, then why take them off?* [Editor’s note: Bob, Klenck, and Coleman all assert that Grace church is trying to hide the evidence they bring against the church leadership by removing the alleged “evidence” from websites, or letting pastor go, or shutting up members by threats and the like. Coleman has even gone as far as claiming an overt racism on the part of Grace’s elders because he, being a black man, is “smeared” as being “nuts” by the white elders of the church. He also argues other motivations of wanting to shut him up about the “truth” such as protecting the money source from rich donors]
(Fred) I can’t speak to that directly. I will ask around and see what folks say. However, I know the website updates regularly and old stuff gets removed and replaced by new stuff. But, to suggest that the staff of these ministries are intentionally hiding things is again charging them with lying and being dishonest and thus accusing them of being ungodly and unbelievers.
*I know of a church in the LA area that is becoming purpose driven. They have spiritual gift assessments, diverse small group ministry, leadership seminars for accountability and purposes of “relationship building”. A man in their office told me that they couldn’t be PD because the “vast majority of their staff and pastors come from the Masters College and Seminary*
(Fred) Do you care to tell me the name of this Church so I can contact them about your accusations? Who was this man in the office? Again Bob, you have yet to establish, as has Klenck and Coleman, that diverse small groups and leadership seminars for accountability and relationship building are inherently evil and unbiblical. Just because Marx or Hegel or any other crackpot in the past utilized these things for their purposes does not equate to us using these things in the same manner. Methodology is not in itself evil, but those who utilize it for such purposes. Here is our main disconnect: Where you see evil behind small groups, we see a good thing that has been beneficial for the spiritual health of our Church. When you continually insist, despite our protests to the contrary, that this is what we are doing, you are headed into the realms of paranoia.
*Did you know that GCC officials called the police on me the second week I was there giving out my letter? I did nothing wrong. The GCC officials lied to the police. Why?*
(Fred) I spoke with one of our key security men, the man who told the police about your presence on the sidewalk, and he told me that you certainly did nothing wrong. He never accused you of wrong doing at all. In fact, he had no problem with you handing out your paper on the sidewalk. The patrol unit was already at GCC because they routinely drive through our parking lots to help deter thieves which we have had problems with in the past. The security guy simply stopped the car, told the officer you were there and asked him to stop by and make sure you knew what your rights were and were not. That is all. Unless you come on to our property, you have every right to protest out in front of your Church. Of course, we also reserve the right to dismiss you as a crank and heckle you if it is deemed necessary.
*It sounds to me that you are naive. This agenda can only be at GCC because Christians like you lack knowledge and discernment*.
(Fred) Just a closing thought. Ok, lets suppose I am naive and lack knowledge and discernment, what is the end goal of this “agenda” as you call it? If church growth has truly infiltrated Grace, how will it manifest itself in the open beyond just the use of trendy buzz words and small groups meeting together without the Bibles opened? Could you elaborate on that for me? [Editor’s note: This is the one key question neither Bob, nor Klenck, nor Coleman have ever answered. They refuse to interact with me or anyone else who has attempted to correct them of their slanderous misinformation]