See a previous email response to Bob, HERE.
Some long time readers may remember my interaction with a local anti-Grace Church activist by the name of Bob Johnson. What Darwin Fish was as an antagonist to Grace Church in the 1990s, Bob Johnson has become in the 2000s.
In November 2009, Bob and his “findings” against Grace became the subject of a few webcasts put out by a former pastor here in LA by the name of John Coleman. John regularly entertains the ideas of another guy from LA by the name of Robert Klenck, an orthopaedic surgeon by profession, who has developed a lot of the so-called anti-church growth apologetics used by Bob. Together, these two men spread deceitful misinformation about my church and pastor to a far and wide audience who really have no ability to check if their accusations are true. Adding a veneer of “credibility” to their distorted nonsense is Bob’s supposed “eye witness” testimony of his one visit to a singles group at our church in 2006.
We have been having inquirers from literally all over the world who have come across Bob’s website or have heard Coleman’s webcasts. In order to provide something of a quick reference, I have formatted one of my personal emails to Bob in which I answered some of his key accusations. I did some re-editing for stylistic purposes and added my personal “editor notes” to provide some context to my response if need be. I provide Bob’s claim first bracketed with asterisks, then any notes I feel I need to supply will come next, followed by my original comments.
I hope to have a follow up article in the future addressing John Coleman specifically as well as Bob’s use of him as a supporter of his views.
I would imagine most people won’t find this post particularly interesting just because it involves a local gadfly. I do not speak with any authority on behalf of Grace Church’s leadership. In other words, I haven’t been commissioned to present this work. I do it on my own as a member who wishes to silence some seriously malicious and nonfactual criticism. There really is no need to turn on the comments with this post, but I do welcome any emails. My email is located on my profile page.
*The Guild and Foundry were/are Purpose Driven ministries*
[Editor’s note: The Guild is a singles ministry for older singles 35+. At one time it was pastored by a friend of mine named Tom Patton who now pastors another fellowship group at Grace. The Guild is the group Bob visited once in 2006 in order to draw his conclusions about Grace becoming church growth. The Foundry was a singles group for ages 21-30. It was once pastored by a fellow named Kurt Gebhards who moved on to pastor a church in North Carolina. Once he left, instead of continuing the Foundry, the leadership at Grace decided to allow the group to become a part of the college ministry].
(Fred) There is a rather big distinction between Grace and a Purpose Driven Life ministry. I can clearly see what a purpose driven ministry looks like: The watered down preaching, trendy music replacing good worship music, the emphasis on getting people to feel comfortable rather than on sound doctrinal teaching, marginalizing older saints as not having an important role to play in the life of the church, attempting to be relevant toward current cultural issues, for example, the interview Rick Warren did with Obama/McCain in the summer of 2008.
Grace is not doing this stuff, Bob. You are crying booger bears when none exist. As I have stated at the outset of this debate, both the Guild and the Foundry are singles groups. By definition, they have a different tone in those fellowship groups because they are singles. Working Disciples, the previous singles ministry, was like that before the Foundry replaced them. The college department has that tone. What you perceive as a pervasive PDL philosophy is just singles ministry activity. It is not bad, evil, or transformational, and it does not spill into the remainder of the church. If, for example, your absurd claim that Tom Patton is a “change agent” were true, you would see such things in the new ministry where he pastors, Cornerstone fellowship group. He took it over when the previous pastor moved on to another ministry.
*Their webpages were deleted because of my original paper.*
[Editor’s note: Bob claims Grace Church is intentionally changing websites to hide what he is allegedly exposing. Pastor Coleman and his side-kick, Robert Klenck, who is the source of a lot of the Church Growth philosophy Bob claims is happening at Grace, also accuses the leadership of Grace of intentionally hiding “proof” when it gets exposed].
(Fred) No they didn’t remove any websites. I told you in a previous email that I spoke with the webmaster. He happens to be a friend of mine. The guy who maintains the website for the Guild at that time was updating and changing the webpage for normal purposes. He was not changing them because you “exposed” some evil under belly going on there at the Guild. It was just a coincidence that those pages were changed around the same time you published your “paper.”
*You had a chance to contact Robert Klenck who verified all this. You could have called Coleman’s show and argued, but you didn’t. *
[Editor’s note: John Coleman is a former inner-city pastor in Los Angeles. He once was part of an apologetic radio program known for taking on controversial issues, especially within the African-American community of LA. He also pastored a church for a while. According to a number of personal contacts of mine, around 1998, Coleman was dismissed from his church due to allegations of inappropriateness with male congregants. He was also known as being somewhat pugnacious with those with whom he disagreed. He eventually started his own “ministry” with a small number of supporters].
(Fred) I happened to have contacted both guys and neither one of them would respond to my emails. I have attempted to email Coleman concerning some other matters unrelated to our debate. He refuses to be corrected or challenged regarding his beliefs. He returns my emails unanswered and ignored, merely condemning me. So much for wanting to listen. Of course, I happen to know folks who are down in the area where Coleman is and have many negative things to say about his shameful conduct as a self-appointed minister.
*There are other experts in the PDC who have written well known books exposing the PDC who have corroborated that the Guild and Foundry were PDC.*
(Fred) And those experts are? You name James Sundquist. It may interest you to know he sent a copy of his book to GTY seeking John’s endorsement. At one of the Shepherd’s Conferences sometime in the mid-2000s, John mentioned the book, along with some others, as a possible resource on church growth philosophy. His recommendation was based upon a quick over view of the promotional copy he had received. I later had the opportunity to read it more thoroughly, and after doing so, I told Phil Johnson John shouldn’t recommend the book because it was conspiratorial in tone, appeared to come from a hyper-fundamentalist, KJV-only perspective, was poorly researched, and terribly argued. I would imagine you had probably encountered the book before you came to the Guild that one and only evening so you were predisposed to see PDL-new age-one world government stuff behind every tree.
*Are they also fools?*
[Editor’s note: The reference is to John Coleman, Robert Klenck, and James Sundquist as “experts” in the field of church growth]
(Fred) Let’s put it this way: they are a small, almost stand alone group. It makes me wonder if they really have the ability to discern. The question you need to ask is why it is these few individuals, who happen to run in the fringe circles of fundamentalism, are alone the ones seeing all these things and no one else. Believe me, I don’t care for Rick Warren and his pragmatic ministry style. However, I am not going to speak lies against the guy. What I see from you and your friends is the speaking of lies against Warren rather than offering reliable criticism where it is due.
*When you were given Klenck’s paper you called it “conspiratorial nonsense.” But the paper is basically inerrant. In calling an inerrant paper nonsense, you are denying truth.*
(Fred) That is because it was (an still is) conspiratorial nonsense. He is claiming all this infiltrating is leading to the one world government. Such is conspiracy my friend. Of course you have a specific definition of “inerrant” and any deviation from that definition is denying truth and reality so it is almost worthless to even reason with you. It is the same way I argued when I was a KJV onlyist: Set the 1611 up as the ultimate, inerrant standard for the Bible and any departure from the stated standard is automatically heresy and apostasy.
*The man who facilitated my small group was Alex Fitzgerald. He didn’t teach the bible. He’s a trained facilitator. *
[Editor’s note: Bob, John Coleman, and Robert Klenck, attempt to argue that any small discussion groups within a church are really dialectic sessions designed to re-train (Bob uses the term “brainwash”) the participants to reject traditional Church models and embrace the new community model that readily affirms the so-called New World Order. The men who lead these “small groups” are considered to be “facilitators” who direct the brainwashing session, as it were. Alex Fitzgerald led the small group Bob was a part of when he attended his one and only time. When I spoke with Alex about Bob, he remembers him spending most of his visit rambling on about how Al Mohler was a U.N. agent sent to infiltrate the church. Bob was also bothered that Alex read his Bible from his electronic Blackberry rather than from a physical, printed Bible].
(Fred) Seeing that I know Alex rather well and I happen to know what he believes as a Christian. Such accusations border on the fantastic. A trained facilitator? Like he attended a top-secret seminar or something? Good grief.
*Find out how Patton and Gebhards knew to bring this model into GCC. Where did they learn it from?*
(Fred) Uhhh? They went to Master’s. I went to Master’s. I took the same pastoring and sermon prep classes as they did. I can tell you right now, they don’t teach Purpose Driven Life stuff. We read Warren’s book so as to be familiar with it and critique it.
*Instead of opposing truth, why don’t you help find the truth?*
(Fred) I believe I have the truth seeing I have first hand knowledge and know well the person’s being accused by you. Seeing that you only attended once and are making knee jerk reactions in light of a false view of church growth philosophy, I don’t believe you do have the truth. But I don’t believe that matters to you. I doubt very seriously if you were shown to be wrong with overwhelming evidence you would not do anything to repent of your slander against my friends and church. In fact you would attempt to spin things around in order to save face.
*Fred, Several people know that the Guild and Foundry were PDC.*
[Editor’s note: Bob has often stated there are “ex-members” of Grace who left the church because they saw the slide we were taking into church growth/PDL philosophy. The problem, however, is that Bob has never been able to produce these individuals as star witnesses in his defense. I have repeatedly asked him to contact them so they could in turn contact me or any other pastor at Grace. Though I haven’t personally met them, I believe there may had been individuals loosely affiliated with Grace who were irregular attendees who justify their departure from our church by referring to Bob’s claims. But they do not represent long term, actively involved members who left our church after their repeated attempts to alert the leadership of what was going on were ignored].
(Fred) Again, you need to find members of Grace, Bob. James Sundquist doesn’t even live here in LA as far as I know; hasn’t even come to Grace. Coleman and Klenck are also examples. None of them have interviewed any of these men you accuse of “transforming” Grace. Just like you, they are basing their judgment on secondary sources and hearsay.
So. The challenge for you Bob is first, tell me where you attend Church, then tell me about these members at Grace who see things like you do. Are they up-standing, actively involved members, or the fringy, hanging around the edge of things folks who maybe come to Grace for a year and then leave over some stupid thing that may happen to them?
*I know one person that told me The Guild and Foundry were PD left those ministries for that reason. He liked Macarthur’s preaching though.*
(Fred) And that person is…? Can you tell the person to email me and tell me his or her story? Was that person an active member, or some guy coming around to a singles ministry? Lots of people fit this category of liking John’s teaching but they get rubbed the wrong way and leave our church bitter. Generally they come around for about 9 months to a year before they leave. They generally get exposed later as being unsaved and have a whole heck of a lot more spiritual problems than what we were aware of at the time and the reason they leave is because their sin got stepped on.
*Why do you care where I attend church?*
(Fred) Because it reveals something about who you are, what you are about, who stands behind you, who influences you. When I spoke with you out on the street at Grace you told me you didn’t have a church. Is that still the case now? Being a rogue, spiritual “lone gunman” is unbiblical. John, Jude, and Peter all testified that we should be leery of those folks who have no church affiliation and claim to speak on the authority of the apostles, i.e. NT theology and doctrine. Such people were to be turned away, for they are wolves seeking to destroy the church. The fact that you are secretive and unwilling to tell me troubles me and causes me alarm for your soul.
*Fred, Well I can see that there is no convincing you that the church growth movement has infiltrated your church. I won’t attempt to convince you further about this.*
(Fred) Yes. Your insistence that our church is infiltrated by church growth is utterly unconvincing. I don’t think anyone who is an actively involved member of our church, who actually knows the ministries in question along with the people who are involved there, who is sound and stable in the Word of God and is not easily led astray into error, would be convinced of anything you wrote. On the other hand, only those people who are not grounded in spirit and Word would be led astray by our material. So far, the individuals who agree with you are those type of individuals. You have yet to produce one person who was an active member of Grace for any length of time who became alarmed about what you wrote and left.