9Marks, Leaving the Church, Meetings with the Pastor, Shunning, Spiritual Abuse

9Marks, Spiritual Abuse, and How Church Members Can Fall Through the Cracks

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Yesterday, I shared the a comment that I had posted on SharperIron.org forum.  From my limited times there, I gather there are quite a few pastors.  We were discussing 9Marks practices.  Chip asked me to elaborate after reading my comment:

I’ve read some of the 9Marks writings and some of these ideas are troublesome to me.  I am concerned that while the basic principles may seem to work as a guideline for good and decent shepherds, they also may give license to those pastors who are heavy-handed in authority and ruling over their congregants.    We need to be wise in turning to core values in the Bible, not core values of Dever and 9Marks – just sayin’.

I explained one bothersome aspect in yesterday’s article, 9Marks:  Church Authority over Church Members.

Below is the second part of my response to Chip.   Instead of answering his question with a short logical answer, I wanted him and other readers to have an understanding of what some of us have gone through, to have the eyes to see through a personal story (even if it is made up).  This story is a combination of my story and many stories I read.    It’s not a profound, in fact, it was typed up quickly as a comment and so is not “polished.”  You might find parts of your story tucked in there.  I didn’t get much of a response from this story at the site, but at least it’s giving these folks something to think about regarding spiritual abuse.

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So now, let me explain why I have problems with the 9Marks brand of church membership, discipline, changing churches.  I’d like to explain in story form.

Patty is a single, middle-aged woman going to a church with a bona fide spiritually abusive pastor.  She had difficulty with some of the teachings at church and questioned an elder.  The elder told the pastor about it (elders are instructed to tell the pastor of any kind of ‘dissension” among the ranks).

Patty’s church is an independent church. Her church is connected with 9Marks.  Her pastor has two elders, but they are yes-men (truth be told, they are afraid of the pastor).  They have never questioned him or challenged him on anything they have seen over the many years they have served as elders.  They remain silent on any issues of concern.

The pastor has no one over him to hold him accountable.  He is spiritually abusive, twists scripture in order to gain more authority over members, and uses his authority in ways that are intrusive in the private lives of church members.   Patty decides that she must leave and so she quietly leaves Grace Church and finds Pastor Nate’s church.

Pastor Nate’s church is part of 9Marks and knowing the guidelines set up by 9Marks, he appropriately asks Patty which church she recently left.  She tells Nate, “Grace Church, from across town.”  Nate knows the pastor of Grace Church.  He’s a likable guy.  Pastor Nate has run into him at various events in town and knows him by name.  He had recently seen him at his son’s soccer game, but they were supporting opposing teams, so they waved to each other as they passed the concession stand.

When Patty tells Pastor Nate that she left Grace Church, Pastor Nate tells her she must go back and tie up loose ends at Grace Church before he will allow her to stay at his church.  Patty then reluctantly tells Pastor Nate that her pastor from Grace Church was spiritually abusive.  She really had hoped to not bring that subject up.

Pastor Nate doesn’t know Patty, but he’s known the Grace Church pastor casually for 5 years.  Surely this could not be.  This pastor couldn’t be spiritually abusive.  There surely is a misunderstanding.

Who is Pastor Nate going to believe?  Patty, whom he doesn’t know from Adam, or the pastor whom Pastor Nate has known casually for 5 years?  Most likely Pastor Nate will believe the pastor, after all, both churches are connected and committed to the 9Marks practices, so the Grace Church pastor can’t be that bad, right?

What does Patty do now?   Patty is having a hard time trusting anyone in church authority at this point, but she knows the Bible tells her she needs to be meeting regularly.  She likes Pastor Nate and his church.  It is solid biblically and it feels safe to her.  She wants to stay there, but Pastor Nate says she must go back to Grace Church.

Patty thinks to herself that maybe the spiritual abuse was in her head (spiritual abuse victims often justify the abuser’s behavior – similar to a domestic violence victim).  She convinces herself that maybe she does need to repent of her sins with the pastor at Grace Church (Patty hasn’t sinned, she’s been spiritually abused.  Victims often unknowingly set themselves up to re-victimize themselves.)

She goes back to Grace Church.   Now, because the pastor found out that she left his church and went to Pastor Nate’s church, she is put into church discipline for not following the proper membership rules (sanctioned by 9Marks).  She is excommunicated and shunned by the church members (the pastor sometimes stretches the rules)- and all of her friends she has had for the last 8 years abandon her.  She is completely alone.

Where can Patty go now?  If she goes back to see Pastor Nate, he will tell her he cannot receive her because she is in church discipline from Grace Church and needs to repent.  The pastor from Grace Church called Pastor Nate.  They at first made some small talk about common connections, but then he told Pastor Nate the story of Patty’s divisive behavior.  The story was compelling to Pastor Nate.  How could Patty have been so dishonest with him?  (She was completely honest.  The wolf was pulling the wool over Pastor Nate’s eyes.  Honing in on their mutual connections and experiences, the wolf built a level of intimacy and trust, and Patty’s “divisive character” was an easy sell.).

Chip, this is not a far-fetched story when it comes to spiritual abuse.  This is the type of story that I get in my blog’s e-mail.  Even you (and any pastor reading here) are not exempt from being fooled by a wolf.  Unless you personally know what is going on in someone’s church (you won’t know that unless you are part of it intimately), if you go by 9Marks guidelines of connecting with pastors of previous churches, you may mistakenly align yourself with a wolf and inflict harm on people by adhering to those guidelines.

Chip, I’d be happy if my blog could shut down.  It’s only been growing and it’s because of stories similar to this.  People want to be in church, but church leaders are sometimes unknowingly working alongside a spiritual wolf who is destroying lives.  I get some of those broken pieces of people saying:  what next?  where can I go?  who can I trust?

I know this comment is very long, but I hope I have shown you a different side worth considering as you consider aligning with some kind of 9Marks system where precious sheep can slip through the cracks and be left abandoned and shattered like Patty.

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For extra bonus points:  Using the above photo, can you find any significance with the picture and Patty’s story?  Any hidden parallels, ideas, thoughts come to mind?

Here is the link where you may read the entire discourse.  However, per Summer’s suggestion, I’m issuing a medical alert warning.  Reading it may cause your blood pressure to rise.

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199 thoughts on “9Marks, Spiritual Abuse, and How Church Members Can Fall Through the Cracks”

  1. Is this Mark Dever on the South Park…ugh I mean evangelical circus of today.

    “Respecting my authoita!!!” 😛


  2. “Be especially careful about anything that seems off base. I have noticed a tendency for church organizations to be distinguished by each one’s substantially unique heresy. That is, the very thing that makes one church different from others will tend to be the one thing that church has wrong. The reason this is important to note is that this will also tend to be the one thing that is emphasized over and over. Heresy must be defended.”

    This is so true, Gary W. I was once warned by my mother that any church that emphasizes a secondary doctrine as primary, is suspect. For example, a church that is constantly talking about gender “roles” or “discipline”, etc, would be suspect. Ask yourself, why the focus? Because that is where their heart is and it is not love.


  3. “My own view is that, Biblically speaking, they simply do not have the authority they claim. I am repeating myself, but relationships between Christians are to be based on love, not authority”

    Totally agree. And note, they usually have redefined “love” as being their “correct doctrine”.


  4. Gary,

    I quote you partially, due to length:
    “Yesterday at 8:52 Jonathan Leeman states that, ” in Genesis 1:28, God places authority into the hands of human beings.” Actually, what God granted according to this verse was dominion, not authority, and the dominion was granted over fish, birds and other living things–which does not appear to anticipate the domination of other humans. It just makes me angry that anybody would confuse dominion with authority.”

    God Bless You Man!! That was awesome, and right on the mark.



  5. Diane’s 10:15 comment: “From Mr. Leeman, …The individual who attempts to preempt this process by resigning before the church enacts formal discipline is guilty of usurping the church’s apostolic authority to speak in this manner. In so doing, he compounds his guilt, like the criminal charged with “resisting arrest.”

    It seems 9Marks is preempting any means of escape.

    BTW, I think “speak” is too soft. Mr Leeman isn’t talking about a two-way conversation. A truer, more accurate word for the sentence above would be “control” instead of “speak”. Thoughts anyone?

    Gary W’s 3:13 comment: “They end up being able to legislate whatever requirements they desire (legislative authority), to decide who and who is not living up to their expectations (judicial authority), and then impose excommunication, the spiritual equivalent of the death penalty, on those who do not please them (executive authority).”

    Yes, exactly. Your insight is helpful. And the judgment of “guilty” is automatically assigned EVEN IF the only “crime” is to leave the church & forgo “formal discipline”, no matter if the discipline is warranted. Thus, the guilty verdict is administered over an individual for “usurping” AKA “resisting arrest” of the apostolic authority & control of the church.


  6. Dianne,

    You quoted Jon here:
    “The church exists not simply for its own sanctification’s sake or even finally for the world’s sake. It exists to accomplish the task originally given to Adam and Israel but fulfilled finally in Christ, the task of imaging or representing the glorious rule of God on earth.”

    Where in the hell did he get this idea from?



  7. Gary W, Your 3:48 comment looks at the overall “big picture”. They claim authority that belongs to God alone.


  8. I’ve pointed out how a lot of the Calvinista takeovers (and subsequent “Cleansings(TM)”) are done straight out of Comrade Stalin’s playbook.

    Exactly. During the time of John Calvin, Geneva was an authoritarian state that had Michael Servetus burned at the stake for denying the Trinity, and had a girl beheaded for striking her parents.

    FACT: Tyranny is the result whenever man follows determinism, either atheistic determinism in the form of Communism, or religious determinism in the form of Calvinism.


  9. Ed,

    You ask where in the hell did the idea come from that the church exists to accomplish the task, fulfilled finally in Christ, of imaging or representing the glorious rule of God on earth. At first I wanted to respond that your question was answered in the asking, i.e. that the idea came from the very bowels of hell itself. It may be so, but the reality is that we needn’t look any farther than John Piper. In “God’s Passion for His Glory,” Piper, in homage to Johnathan Edwards, waxes eloquent on, well, God’s Passion for His Glory. Then, borrowing from Question 1 of the the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Piper runs with the proposition that, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” See “Desiring God,” p.17, Kindle ed.

    Although he would not agree with my assessment, the overall impression I form from reading Piper is of a god who, being obsessed and primarily motivated by His passionate concern for His glory, is some sort of supra- or trans-cosmic narcissist, with mankind’s assignment being to enjoy every moment of an existence spent feeding God’s ego. Thus, you have people advocating for ideas such as the church existing to image or represent the glorious rule of God on earth.

    My Bible, on the other hand, says that God is love. This plain and unambiguous Scriptural statement simply cannot be reconciled with whatever contorted logical interpolations and extrapolations must have been required to cause some to believe that Scripture portrays the aforementioned narcissistic god.


  10. Gary W.,

    Your comment reminded me of this quote I read earlier today from a familiar name, Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks:

    Rather, the church exists because Christ came to establish his kingdom, and he means for a marked off group of people to represent his heavenly rule on earth (see Matt. 3:2; 4:7; 5:3,5; 6:10,19-20; 13:11). The church exists not simply for its own sanctification’s sake or even finally for the world’s sake. It exists to accomplish the task originally given to Adam and Israel but fulfilled finally in Christ, the task of imaging or representing the glorious rule of God on earth. Source


  11. Gary,
    I agree…The term, “God’s Glory” has really been twisted. All of the evil that happens in the world is for God’s Glory, because he gets a kick out of it for his “good will and PLEASURE”.

    What do we call a human that gets PLEASURE out of evil? Hmmm…Glory? I think not. If he did, he would be in prison for life.

    Oh, but we just don’t understand God….phewy!!!



  12. Hi Julie Anne and others. I am new to this blog but I find the timing uncanny. My story is very similar to Patty’s. I was excommunicated (by a 9 Marks church) for “slander against the elders” for reporting their horrible and partial handling of a personal matter to the EFCA district office (my former church is independent like all EFCA churches and the district office said they don’t get involved in individual church matters). After absolute shunning, and having my reputation damaged and my employment prospects reduced, I decided to ask some other pastors in our small community to approach my former church’s leadership in a type of Matthew 18 process. All refused, citing discomfort at the idea. A year after excommunicating me, I heard myself characterized as an evil woman and a termite in an online sermon. I am convinced that suing my former church for defamation is truly warranted. My dilemma: how do I find an attorney who handles such matters (and i have searched), and who is a grounded-in-the-truth believer? This seems to be an insurmountable obstacle. I hope this is not an inappropriate post. Thanks.


  13. Ed said:

    Where in the hell did he get this idea from?

    You’re being dundant (if I put the “re” in front of that word, I feel like I’m being well, re-dundant – it’s one of my pet peeve words – – – – – and it’s late).


  14. Welcome, Janet!

    What an horrific story! I’m angry inside just reading it. My story is different in that I was sued for defamation for speaking out against my former pastor (who excommunicated and shunned my family).

    I’d like to help if I can. Please contact me spiritualsb@ gmail.com

    Julie Anne


  15. Does Jonathan Leeman do what Jesus did?

    The answer is NO.

    Jesus let people is own followers walk away without screaming at them, penalizing them, or harassing them. He simply let them leave.

    When a city refused to believe in Jesus, his disciples wanted to call fire down on the inhabitants. Jesus rebuked the disciples.

    9 Marks churches obviously think Jesus is too meek for leadership…that he needs enforcers.

    But we are supposed to imitate Christ.

    I’m so glad there’s a list of 9 Marks churches. I had a friend who was in a spiritually abusive para-church ministry. Turns out the leaders were members of a 9 Marks church. I helped her get out. She’s so much happier now. And she knows it was the leaders’ problem.


  16. 9 Marks aren’t the only authoritarian churches out there. Here’s a map of where fundamentalist, King James Version only, independent Baptist churches are. My area is solidly yellow, meaning we don’t have very many…thankfully.


  17. Lydia,

    Yesterday at 5:21 PM you note that “they usually have redefined ‘love’ as being their ‘correct doctrine’ “. In the case of Jonathan Leeman this appears to be demonstrated by the title of his book “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline.” No doubt this book is an exposition of 1 Cor 13. NOT.

    It appears Leeman is coming from a Southern Baptist background or perspective. If so, his emphasis on the anachronistically conceived “local church” is not surprising. It was from observing the inordinate and, in my opinion, idolatrous Southern Baptist emphasis on the “local church” that I formulated my observation that denominations tend to be differentiated by each one’s defining heresy. (I once yielded to pressure to be re-baptized into a Southern Baptist church–and yes, they do baptize you into the local church as opposed to baptizing you into Christ.) It was also with regard to this idolatrous emphasis on the “local church” that I observed that a “church” organization’s defining heresy is the one thing that get emphasized over and over and over.

    Given his apparent Southern Baptist influence, I am not surprised that Leeman’s books for sale on Amazon all address the topic of church membership.


  18. “The “Glorious Rule of God On Earth” phrase reminded me of Dominionism or Reconstructionism.”

    Yes it does me too. What kind of ruling does God do,…and when is this going to be manifested? I guess each church is a mini-heaven on earth representation with God ruling?…and with passports — do NOT forget your passport….liars and thieves and swindlers and non-passport holders shall not enter into the kingdom of 9marks.


  19. “What Is a Local Church?

    By Jonathan Leeman | 5.7.2012

    A local church is a group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ’s name to officially affirm and oversee one another’s membership in Jesus Christ and his kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances. That’s a bit clunky, I know, but notice the five parts of this definition:

    •a group of Christians;
    •a regular gathering;
    •a congregation-wide exercise of affirmation and oversight;
    •the purpose of officially representing Christ and his rule on earth—they gather in his name;
    •the use of preaching and ordinances for these purposes.

    Just as a pastor’s pronouncement transforms a man and a woman into a married couple, so the latter four bullet points transform an ordinary group of Christians spending time together at the park—presto!—into a local church.

    The gathering is important for a number of reasons. One is that it’s where we Christians “go public” to declare our highest allegiance. It’s the outpost or embassy, giving a public face to our future nation. And it’s where we bow before our king, only we call it worship. The Pharaohs of the world may oppose us, but God draws his people out of the nations to worship him. He will form his mighty congregation.

    The gathering is also where our king enacts his rule through preaching, the ordinances, and discipline. The gospel sermon explains the “law” of our nation. It declares the name of our king and explains the sacrifice he made to become our king. It teaches us of his ways and confronts us in our disobedience. And it assures us of his imminent return.

    Through baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the church waves the flag and dons the army uniform of our nation. It makes us visible. To be baptized is to identify ourselves with the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as to identify our union with Christ’s death and resurrection (Matt. 28:19; Rom. 6:3-5). To receive the Lord’s Supper is to proclaim his death and our membership in his body (1 Cor. 11:26-29; cf. Matt. 26:26-29). God wants his people to be known and marked off. He wants a line between the church and the world.

    What is the local church? It’s the institution which Jesus created and authorized to pronounce the gospel of the kingdom, to affirm gospel professors, to oversee their discipleship, and to expose impostors. All this means, we don’t “join” churches like we join clubs. We submit to them.”


    It looks like God’s glorious rule on earth means “The gathering is also where our king enacts his rule through preaching, the ordinances, and discipline.”
    Maybe this is all it means? I really an mot sure.
    But I don’t like these army/passport/embassy/institution/outpost descriptions..

    Also….”the sacrifice he made to become our king” ???? Whatever is he talking about? Jesus was Lord and King before He condescended to die for us.


  20. Gary W,

    SBC did not used to be so monolithic before the Conservative Resurgence which began in the late 70’s and really gathered power by the early 90’s. I grew up in it and no way we insisted on re-baptism of those who joined but had been immersed in another denomination. And we were not Nazi’s about the “local church” And I was in many SBC churches because of my mom’s ministry.

    If you look at the history of that movement, you will see many of the same tactics using different issues. The emphasis was on inerrancy and if you did not proclaim inerrancy you were a godless liberal. (There were a few profs in some SBC seminaries who denied the virgin birth, etc and this was magnified to claim godless liberals had taken over)

    The CR was about power politics. And every movement that gains power using those tactics and factions within that movement learn from it and further splinter the movement. That is what Al Mohler has done in the SBC. He and his followers claim the SBC roots are Calvinism. Well, so was the pro slavery stance. Roots are not always a good thing. But history proves their determinist god was not on the side of those who lost a war and more people started rethinking both positions. All that became shameful and the SBC moved away from both positions around the turn of the century..

    The YRR/NC movement is nothing but power politics and a further splintering of the CR movement which gave birth to the YRR. Has nothing to do with Jesus Christ or evangelism. It has to do with amassing power with lots of followers. People always make the mistake of thinking money is the big motivator when it isn’t. It is power and influence. One has to ask what in the world an educated president of a seminary has in common with an uneducated “Apostle from the People of Destiny cult? It was about numbers for this movement. And I will even tell you when you get into the stratosphere of guys like Mohler, Mahaney, Dever, etc, the doctrine is just a rallying point for the young guys. “We have the real truth”. Every movement needs an enemy and their enemy are the phantom Arminians who do not know the real Gospel. It worked. Young people are especially susceptible.

    As I have watched this movement for the last 10 years up close and personal I have seen the trajectory. It has moved to more and more narrow stances slowly because people would have thrown them out. . Ten years ago, Dever would have been laughed out of the convention if he had proposed exactly these things. But you indoctrinate a generation and it is amazing the results you can get.
    They were patient and worked quietly behind the scenes…reading Quiet Revolution gives insight on what they have been doing.

    The SBC is dead. Now it is just a matter of time for the money to dry up. Al Mohler pretty much has his loyalists in most of the entities and is the big influencer. The non Calvinist leaders are scared of him. There are a few who stand up to him but they are too late. While they were asleep at the wheel, he was building a movement and his tentacles are deep. And guess what the most amazing part of this is? Mohler is an EMPLOYEE of an SBC entity! He is NOT independent. But his power is so solid, no one dares touch him.

    Now the SBC is known publicly for coddling Mahaney, the man who protected child molesters and taught that victims (as young as 3) are sinners too just like the molester. Thank you Al Mohler. These are sick men and those who look the other way or insist on some sort of false unity are enabling their evil teachings and behavior.


  21. “Although he would not agree with my assessment, the overall impression I form from reading Piper is of a god who, being obsessed and primarily motivated by His passionate concern for His glory, is some sort of supra- or trans-cosmic narcissist, with mankind’s assignment being to enjoy every moment of an existence spent feeding God’s ego. Thus, you have people advocating for Ideas such as the church existing to image or represent the glorious rule of God on earth. ”

    This is a big one for me. I so want people to think through what they are really teaching. “God’s Glory”. Sounds good, right? But they are really teaching is that is all God cares about, “His Glory”.

    Does that sound like our Savior who hung on a tree?

    Here is an interesting article on an SBC Calvinist pastor blog where they simply did not get why a young man would ask if the God they are teaching about was a narcissist:

    Thankfully there are some “voices” there who are not determinists. But you can read that and see how deep that thinking paradigm has become even with long time pastors who are part of that movement in the SBC. They really have been brainwashed by Piper and Mohler


  22. “Gratefully, one son of Adam, one son of Israel, did keep God’s law perfectly, the same one whom Paul would describe as “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Now, those who are united to this one Son are called to bear that same “image,” which we learn to do through the life of the church “from one degree of glory to the next.”

    It seems he is saying you cannot learn to bear God’s image? unless you are in a church. I presumes he is talking about sanctification. Where is the Holy Spirit in these men’s teachings? Are they the Holy Spirit for us?

    “Local churches should be those places on earth where the nations can go to find humans who increasingly image God truly and honestly. As the world beholds the holiness, love, and unity of local churches, they will better know what God is like and will give him praise.”

    I find more people who image God truly and honestly outside the local church…not in. I found much of fake love and unity in the last church we attended.

    And if I were Leeman/Dever/9marks, I sure would be distancing myself from SGM and Mahaney because being the cause of the biggest evangelical sex abuse lawsuit does not make for a positive image of the “holiness” and “love” in that groups of churches. I am convinced that “as the world beholds” the actions of some of the gifts from God elders in that family of churches, people are not going to like the God they are imaging.


  23. Link for my above comment.

    Also…link for elders are a gift from God…for anyone interested.

    “Additional Reading – Elders”

    “Elders are to be recognized by the church as gifts from God for the good of the church. The church should therefore delegate to them the duties of teaching and leading the church. Those duties are only to be revoked when it is clear that the elders are acting in a way that is contrary to the Scriptures. And for their part, the elders must recognize the God-given authority of the congregation. (e.g., Matthew 18; I Cor. 5; II Cor. 2)The church should trust, protect, respect and honor its elders. Thus Paul writes in I Timothy 5:17, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is teaching and preaching.” The elders should direct the affairs of the church, and the church should submit to their leadership. So the writer to the Hebrews wrote in 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

    We have seen the emphasis in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus on the elders being “blameless.” (In Titus 1:6 Paul wrote, “An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”) The elder, then, must be willing to have a life that is open to inspection and even a home that is actively open to outsiders, giving hospitality and enfolding others into their lives.

    The elders should be marked by a use of their authority which shows that they understand that the church belongs not to them, but to Christ. Christ has purchased the church with His own blood, and therefore it should be cherished, treated carefully and gently, led faithfully and purely, for the glory of God and the good of the church. The elders will give an account to Christ for their stewardship.

    As in a home, or in our own relationship with God, a humble recognition of rightful authority brings benefits. In a church, when authority is used with the consent of the congregation for the good of the congregation, the congregation will benefit as God builds His church through the teachers He gives to His church. Satan’s lie––that authority is never to be trusted because it is always tyrannical and oppressive—will be subverted by the benevolent practice of and recognition of the elders’ authority in the context of the congregation.”

    –Mark Dever, A Display of God’s Glory, pp.25-26.

    Download or purchase A Display of God’s Glory.”


  24. “Where is the Holy Spirit in these men’s teachings? Are they the Holy Spirit for us?”

    This is one of the most important questions. In my years of following this movement, that is one of the biggest missing pieces. And yes, they are taking the place of the Holy Spirit in your life. They are not interested in mature Christians eating meat and growing in Holiness. They need you to be dependent on them.


  25. Lydia said: “And yes, they are taking the place of the Holy Spirit in your life. They are not interested in mature Christians eating meat and growing in Holiness. They need you to be dependent on them.”

    This is exactly what I picked up on at BGBC – no HS and completely dependency on the pastor. It’s so bizarre how this happens because not all of these pastors went to the same seminaries.

    I’ve joke about the underground Creepy Spiritual Abuse School (CSAS) that these kinds of pastors go to and am now more convinced that there are satellite schools all across the nation, in large metropolitan cities and even small towns. But if I tell you where they are, I’ll have to shoot you.


  26. At 8:52 on 8/6 Jonathan Leeman uses an illustration to defend the application of authority wielded by those holding spiritual office (a word not found in the Greek New Testament). He says: “God gives us a tool to build a house, but we use that tool to hit someone on the head.” Well, yes, it has been my observation that more often than not men (and it’s most always men, not women) use claimed spiritual authority in ways that are destructive.

    Yet I would submit that it is not just the manner in which a spiritual hammer is used. These hammers of spiritual authority are by their nature formed, as it were, of an alloy laced with unspent plutonium. The spiritual hammer of authority is by it’s nature destructive, not just of the one whose head is smashed, but of the one whose hand wields the tool.

    As plutonium is destructive to the body, so also is claimed spiritual authority destructive to the soul and spirit.


  27. By the way, please don’t anybody conclude from my harsh assessments of his views that I am intending to personally condemn Jonathan Leeman. So far as can be observed from his earlier interactions here, his manner makes him deserving of our grateful thanks. I perceive that we would do well to follow his example regarding how to approach those with whom we disagree.


  28. Okay…I’m going to venture into the mud here and post some thoughts after taking a break from TWW and other blogs.

    I read Jonathan Leeman’s comments and this is all I have to say…

    Bullshit – squared

    In Genesis man was given dominion over animals and the sea – not authority over man. What is being created in Christianity today is a Caste system. Just like the Caste system in India. Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks and other Neo-Cals are creating a caste system with the pastors being elite and above the rules, while the members of the congregation are the new Dalits. It doesn’t matter was is said…the Dalit has no say, no respect, and no word. Jonathan Leeman and others are acting and playing the same game that Mormons play. They are redefining the rules, changing definitions, re-writing history, denying history, claiming special access and revelation. Mark Dever and crowd really should migrate out to the Salt Lake Valley as they would have great company there. The Mormon church rolls are intentionally “exaggerated” I’m sure Thomas Monson could use the company and help of 9 Marks.

    Now….as I said pastors are exempt from the rules. All one has to do is look at the entire CJ Mahaney and Mark Dever mess. One fled discipline and the other enabled . Here are the 9 Marks:

    The Gospel
    Biblical Theology

    How many of those did Mark Dever and CJ Mahaney violate when CJ ran with his tail between his legs. I’d say at least 7.

    1. (Discipline) Mahaney fled discipline at CLC and Dever helped him avoid it by giving him refuge at CHBC.
    2. (Leadership) Both Dever and Mahaney showed no leadership, a strand of cooked linguine would have more spine than either than these did. Why do the women….whether it be Janet, Julie Anne, Dee, Deb, etc.. have more balls and more leadership skills than Jonathan Leeman, Mark Dever or CJ Mahaney?
    3. (Conversion) Did Mahaney feel remorse for his sin? No.. Did Dever point out his sin? No..he defended his sin. Conviction of remorse is sign of being a new creation in Christ.
    4. (Biblical Theology) Since the Bible talks about discipline both Mahaney and Dever violated Biblical theology.
    5. (Discipleship) Mahaney fled discipleship and Dever didn’t disciple him. If he did disciple him he would have told him to submit to discipline and scripture!! Due to Mark Dever and CJ Mahaney’s actions they have both shown they have a low view of scripture. And people who defend them also have a low view of scripture.
    6. (Membership) Membership was violated as Mahaney fled his membership requirements and his community at Covenant Life. Pardon my French but Dever showed a lot about how important membership is at CHBC by letting him preach and be intimate there. The pigeon crap on the sidewalk in front of CHBC has more value than the membership both of these guys hold up and proclaim.
    7.(Preaching) Preaching since many of this was taught in expository fashion who then didn’t follow the preaching what does that show? How important is preaching.

    As you recall I almost became a Mormon in college. And I got a good taste of the LDS culture. I see that same culture in the Neo-Cal and 9 Marks ministry. Its dishonest, deceptive, and to be frank its bullshit.

    Okay back to lurking….


  29. BTW… my analysis is meant not to condemn Jonathan Leeman personally. I appreciate him showing up and posting.


  30. Eagle, it is so good to have you commenting again. Your presence has been missed here and on TWW.

    Back to the topic. When we moved about three years ago, we were encouraged to check out a church in town, I will call it “S” church. I met the pastor’s wife and just thought, okay another woman who has no opinion other than what her husband gives her. Hmmm. That just irritates me. Then I checked their website. I was concerned that the pastor had so much “authority” and there was a very strong emphasis on the various points mentioned in 9m*rks (this was before I knew what 9m*rks was). I told my parents that hell would freeze over before I attended that church. Just now I looked on the 9m*rks website and saw that “S” church was listed. The same thing happened at another church we attended – my gut instinct said that something was a little funky beyond the extremely long sermons. Once again that church was listed on the 9m*rks website. There is something to be said for fleeing any religious institution that is hyper-obsessed with authority and/or discipline.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Eagle, I’m somewhat of a newbie commenter. I’ve read your comments on TWW before. 🙂 You call it straight up as you see it. It’s cool to see you comment here.


  32. Mandy, Your experience is important to the conversation.

    It seems that the list is quite helpful, then. As a warning? It’s appropriate for CON to be on the list?


  33. I’m sorry to come late to the convo. Every time I tried to load the post on my tablet it crashed. I just now had time to sit down at my desktop and read the post and comments.

    Eagle, I was just thinking about you today! Glad to see your presence again.

    Gary W, “My own personal approach? I do not expect that I will ever again join a religious organization. I may or may not participate in an organized religious institution, but I will not join. It has simply become too dangerous.”
    Same here, Gary. Same here. By the way, as a lawyer, you may find this post over at TWW of interest: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/05/23/abusive-church-discipline-how-to-recognize-it-and-escape/

    Thank you everyone for the insightful comments. I have been receiving quite the education from reading these blogs for the last year. If only I had known 24 years ago what I now know. There is so much good information here that I wish could be more widely dispersed.


  34. JA said:
    “Ed said:

    Where in the hell did he get this idea from?

    You’re being dundant (if I put the “re” in front of that word, I feel like I’m being well, re-dundant – it’s one of my pet peeve words – – – – – and it’s late). ”

    I didn’t realize how I worded that until I began getting comments. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Anonymous and All Others,

    Anonymous @ 4:23am said:
    “Jesus let people is own followers walk away without screaming at them, penalizing them, or harassing them. He simply let them leave.”

    HE IS SO RIGHT!!!!!

    John CHAPTER 6:66-67
    “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. The said Jesus unto “THE TWELVE”, Will ye also go away?”


    Thanks anonymous.


    Liked by 1 person

  36. J.A., I live over 1500 miles away from your location, and our former church which was abusive is also listed on “9 Marks”. People who left went to another church – Attending and giving money were not “enough” – they were pushed to be members so the leaders can “speak into your life” or something to that effect. (That church is also on “9 Marks”.) We actually use the “9 Marks” list as a “reverse look-up” now – if a church was listed there, we crossed it off our list of places to visit. We found a small independent Baptist church that wasn’t listed on “9 Marks”. After several weeks the pastor preached “What is a Church?” & quoted from “9 Marks”. (they have far-reaching influence) We’ve been asked to consider membership, but don’t want to “sign a covenant”. We didn’t accept an invitation to a dinner to talk about membership, but this pastor wasn’t “pushy” and he still lets us attend.

    “9 Marks” is not the only “church recommendation list”. There is another national list, and both of these authoritarian churches in our area are also listed there.

    TWW had a very good sermon on e-church in July that helped us understand the proper interpretation of Hebrews 13:17 “Only Servants and No Masters”

    CON did us all a favor by his actions that resulted in you blogging. You are not a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” – men that denigrate women who speak up expose their true character and show that they lack the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

    Thankful for you & SSB blog, Julie Anne!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. BTDT,

    Thank you for the link to the article on TWW with a long list of real life examples of abusive church practices. What is even more appalling than the practices themselves is their prevalence. The sample resignation/demand letter is also very interesting. I wonder how well it, or letters like it, tend to actually work in practice.

    It’s all a reminder of the dangers of joining ourselves to a church or anything else other than Christ alone. Though Paul would have us avoid even marriage, a man and woman may be joined together in marriage. In every other instance I can think of, to become a member of anything other than the body of Christ is to commit an act of idolatry. Others will disagree, and I do not condemn them, though I pity them. Why voluntarily enter into bondage?

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Hi, Julie Anne. Dr. Orlawski recommended I visit your site some weeks ago and I marveled at your courage. Thanks for your kind encouragement. I understand you were a defendant. As a potential plaintiff, my concern is finding an attorney who is a believer and who understands the best goal is reconciliation of all parties. I’ll keep you posted. I’m loving your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Believers! Who have been outside church because of abusive leaders of church.
    Know the true that you are no longer under bondage of human connection,rather being connected directly by Father in heaven in his true light,so remain in his light .To do that leave the evil behind you,whatever it is whoever they are, be very conscious about your own mind not to be polluted by any hatred ,grudge, bitterness,
    Un forgiveness toward church authorities who have hurt you against Father’s love towards you.From now on your only authority comes from the Lord,no other human will take credit which belongs to God.Not The thieves with pastors titles!
    Know the true ,obtain knowledge of God,help yourself free to be who God bless dearly for eternity .Now your are the body of Christ on mission for kingdom of God on this earth and Heaven,God bless you ,protect you ,keeps you in his light in the name of Immanuel Jesus!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. My former 9 Marks/John MacAthur-ite/Council on Biblical Manhood Womanhood/NeoCalvinist’s church’s elders RE-WROTE the By-Laws so that members wanting to flee for saner churches couldn’t. Instead they have to meet with two pastors/elders’ for an “exit interview”. The Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley pastors/elders however brought their friend a Megan’s List sex offender to church and refused to vet him with his supervising law enforcement agency, the Sheriff’s sex offenders’ task force.

    The church is so threatened by my posts that they’ve gotten my negative YELP review and Google review taken down.

    My ex-church was a proverbial Salem Witch Trials II, complete with excommunications and shunnings of anyone who critical thinking skills.
    They kicked out a godly doctor in his 70’s! Faithful and loving husband for nearly 50 years. Loving father to grown children. Just evil. Before him was a middle-aged woman in finance. And then after the good doctor…was me.

    “It was very disturbing to be a member of this church and to see the level of mistreatment shown by the GBF pastors/elders to adult Christians, an iron-fisted authoritarian control over adult Christians’ lives and demands for “obedience.” There were excommunications and shunnings ordered of dear Christians for any independent thought.

    Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley is one of the growing number of authoritarian, NeoCalvinist churches spreading across the U.S. and it’s not Biblical.

    *Heavy Shepherding. GBFpractices the 1970’s heavy-Shepherding movement’s un-Biblical control of Christians’ lives by the pastors/elders. The Florida founders repented for its abuses and un-Biblicalness. The GBF leaders have not repented and the damage is growing in the lives at GBF. GBFcopies Mark Dever’s (Capitol Hill Baptist, Washington, D.C.) 9Marks organization. It is a heavily criticized model, including by conservatives, who have said that there is only ONE Biblical mark of a healthy church: Love. The other 9Marks are un-Biblical and it’s the Heavy Shepherding Movement all over again.

    Membership Covenants. Members are told to sign them because they’re *Biblical and back to a Biblical basic. In point of fact they aren’t Biblical and are used to exert authoritarian control over members’ lives. Jesus required people to sign how many pages to follow Him? Correct answer: 0 pages. (Don’t sign!)

    *Congregational vote. GBF wants your money but doesn’t believe in a true Biblical church honoring the Holy Spirit’s work in Christians lives and giftedness. It is more authoritarian control exerted by a few yes-men over the Body of Christ, hobbling the power of the Holy Spirit to truly work. I will never go to a church again that is run like GBF. I will never give money to one again.

    *Women. GBF pastors/elders promote Complementarian/Patriarchy doctrine that women are to “obey” and to “submit” and be 2nd class citizens. At GBF they live under the old Covenant and not the new one in Christ. GBF pastors espouse the Council on Biblical Manhood Womanhood which teaches a Semi-Arian Heresy by Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem called the Eternal [a lie] Subordination of the Son to justify the subordination of women. It is untrue and is trinatarian heresy. GBF has put this man-made doctrine on par with The Gospel. If you reject Comp you reject The Gospel. Nonsense. Read: Wartburg Watch blog for more info.

    *Teaching. GBFSV does not permit Godly women to teach the Word of God. They base this on the writing of the Apostle Paul. Paul wrote Timothy about one woman — original text in Greek said “the woman” — teaching one man error. Paul wanted her to learn correctly first. The issue wasn’t her being a woman, the issue was error – and that would be true if it was a man in error. Manipulative anti-woman Bible translators conveniently changed the text to something Paul never said.

    *Nouthetic Counseling. GBF leaders believe that Bible is sufficient counsel for everything. They have no training and licensing, do not follow Cal. law, and frequently cross over the line into the Unauthorized Practice of Medicine (a crime in California that can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony). This bogus form of non-counseling comes from the un-trained Jay Adams and his books. It is malpractice. GBF pastors/elders did not get an older woman alcoholic to the care of a physician to supervise her treatment and spent months with members discussing “gossip” and drawing pictures on the blackboard. In the end this woman, her adult children, and church members were harmed.

    Additionally, the GBFSV pastors/elders held me responsible for the genetically inherited brain disorder – Dyslexia – of a woman church member who refuses medical care. She can’t remember entire events and accuses other people like me of lying. Dyslexia isn’t just a reading problem but a memory problem.

    Excommunications/Shunnings/Stalking. A godly woman left GBF for a saner church and was harassed by church members on the orders of the GBF pastors/elders. A godly doctor was excommunicated for dissenting in private. I was excommunicated because the GBF pastors/elders blamed me for someone’s memory problems. A bizarre church!!!

    Credentials. Snr pstr’s *Ph.D. is from a MO. diploma mill.

    GETTING OUT: Don’t tell them. Send a certified/return receipt letter & resign, no details. Call 911 and contact an attorney if they bother you. Read: Wartburg Watch blog for details.

    DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Women – call domestic violence shelters/support groups for help getting out. Call 9-1-1. Read: A Cry For Justice blog by pastor/cop.

    BOOK: Churches That Abuse, Dr. Ron Enroth (FREE online).

    SEARCH TERMS: Spiritual Abuse, Membership Covenants, Authoritarianism, NeoCalvinism, Homeschoolers Anonymous, Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board,Steve Hassan

    I learned that I know more than I thought I did & I will never listen to authoritarian men again!:


  41. @Chung,

    Thanks for the encouraging words.
    I’d like to say that my heart hurts for all of the dear sweet saints men and women
    Christians, all ages including senior citizens, who were abused at my ex-church.
    And the false teachings being loaded onto the backs of sincere believers, who get more depressed by the day from the legalism.


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