Phil Johnson of Grace Community Church claims that sheep, not wolves are the main trouble with churches
Yesterday, Phil Johnson of Grace Community Church tweeted this:
He is assuming the primary problem are the “sheepiness” of sheep??? That does not surprise me. Let me show you my personal experience with three pastors at Grace Community Church. It is my opinion that Grace Community Church’s default mode is:
1) Protect the pastor at all costs
2) Assume the sheep are the cause of your church’s problems.
I will share with you my personal experience that led me to come to those conclusions.
A few years ago, in response to my negative Google review, my former pastor said publicly that he had contacted a pastor at Grace Community who gave him the green light to sue me (my wording). I hadn’t received a subpoena yet, but knowing my pastor, I knew that me being sued was a likely possibility.
Here is the screenshot from Pastor Chuck O’Neal’s public lawsuit threat:
By the way, notice how O’Neal says “under John MacArthur” – – – he meant waaaaaaaay under John MacArthur, but the way he words it, it almost implies the person he spoke with was at the top of the leadership.
So, after seeing that note from O’Neal on Google Review, I contacted Grace Community Church (GCC) and spoke with the volunteer pastor of the day and told him my story of spiritual abuse at BGBC. My intention was to find out if there was any record of O’Neal calling GCC and a pastor telling him it was okay to sue a former congregant.
This volunteer pastor said that he could see no record of my pastor calling, but couldn’t rule it out, either, saying that he may have had a direct number with another pastor instead of through the number where they log all calls.
This volunteer pastor and I talked for a while. I noticed that he didn’t have anything to say about my pastor’s behavior of threatening to sue me. I was shocked. But what he did do was turn the conversation around to me my sin issues which he was trying to get me to confess. He questioned the state of my family/marriage and clearly did not like that I had posted something publicly about my pastor.
Verdict with Pastor 1:
Pastor = innocent (even when told about lawsuit)
Congregant = automatically guilty even before hearing story
Fast forward about a week, I did receive the lawsuit. Days later, I also received a phone call from Bill Shannon of Grace Community. I had no idea who this man was and he seemed surprised that I didn’t know who he was in the GCC chain of command. He said everyone knows who he is. He actually told me to look him up which seemed a bit arrogant to me, but I did look him up as I spoke with him.
Since this guy was a counselor, surely he would be able to listen to me share my experiences and would have understanding that I was dealing with an abusive pastor. I had heard John MacArthur’s sermons on spiritual wolves. At the time, I was devouring them trying to understand what I had gone through. My experiences lined up with what MacArthur described as a spiritual wolf.
Well, funny thing happened. Bill Shannon nearly duplicated the previous phone call conversation with the volunteer pastor of the day. I also felt like I was a less than – that my story didn’t matter and that my only respectable Biblical place for me was to be using all my time on my family/husband. He said he was trying to hear my side, but yet he defended my pastor. For the first time in my life, I felt like being a woman was hindering me from having a normal conversation with him. In fact, I told him something like: “I feel that if I handed the phone to my husband, you would give him the time of day.”
But what stumped me about these phone calls is this: what kind of church leadership defends a pastor who is threatening to sue a former congregant? Just the fact that a pastor was suing 4 and then later 5 congregants against scripture should scream “abusive pastor.” We already had the evidence that he was going against scripture on suing Christians.
Verdict with Pastor 2:
Pastor = innocent (even when told about lawsuit).
Congregant = guilty
Fast forward a bit and Phil Johnson got involved after The Wartburg Watch blog covered my story.
Phil Johnson was on damage control mission trying to do whatever he could do to protect Grace Community Church from getting in the spotlight of encouraging a podunk pastor to sue former congregants.
I heard that Phil Johnson had talked with Dee Parsons of The Wartburg Watch and he shared with her what he knew, but what about me? I was the stay-at-home homemaker sitting in Eastern Washington with a $500,000 lawsuit and had 10 days to respond to the court. If he found out that Grace Community pastors did not encourage Chuck O’Neal to sue me or even if they did and now were regretting it, wouldn’t a pastoral response (Phil Johnson is first and foremost a pastor) be for him to initiate a call to me? Ask how I am doing? Maybe offer prayer or assistance of some kind? To reach out to Dee Parsons before reaching out to me personally showed that he was more interested in protecting Grace Community Church’s reputation.
I reached out to Phil Johnson and he called me. He did acknowledge that the lawsuit was wrong. Regarding some of the stories of spiritual abuse, he in general said something like, “if what you say is true about your pastor, then that is wrong.” I felt like he heard me well and even blogged about it in a positive light.
However, the following day, Phil Johnson posted a link to a blog with commentary about pastors suing congregants (referring to my story) on his personal and public Facebook page. Here is Phil Johnson’s closing comment on that Facebook thread:
That kind of stung. It seemed as if he was now saying I was now an out-of-control complaint blog. So I actually questioned him if he was referring to my blog as “online nests of disgruntled, emotion-laden but biblically hollow chronic complaint” and his response to me was that he had never read my blog. Well, alrighty then, I guess it’s just amazingly coincidental how all of this came up: linking to a post about a pastor suing, and talking on the phone with a defendant of a $500,000 defamation lawsuit brought on by a pastor all within 24 hours.
Phil Johnson’s tweet shows what he believes: sheep create most of the church problems, pastors do not, and that is why I believe if you have experienced spiritual abuse and reach out to Grace Community, do not expecting any sympathy from their pastors. Even if you have a $500,000 defamation lawsuit in your hands from a pastor who is going against Scripture to sue you, the questions will go back to you and what sin you brought to the church.
It’s interesting that Johnson said in his Facebook note:
Abusive and heavy-handed, high-control church leadership is a serious problem among some very conservative churches, and those of us who are conservative should speak out against it. If there were fewer control freaks in church leadership, I think there would also be fewer out-of-control complaint blogs.
Aside from attempting to clear Grace Community Church’s name in the case against my pastor, it appears that Grace Community Church has not spoken out against the behavior of my pastor and in fact welcomes him and the men from BGBC with open arms each year at the Shepherds’ Conference (pics from BGBC men at Shepherds’ conference)- the very conference where O’Neal told a former church member that he would go Old Testament on him. Yea, there’s a wolf at the Shepherds’ Conference each year and: crickets.
Yea, Phil, so go ahead and blame sheep. Bah, Bah