To All My Friends In Sovereign Grace Ministries

These have been some pretty crazy times, huh?

It seems like ever since Brent first released his documents, everyone has been forced to pick sides. Either you’re on CJ’s side or Brent’s side. Or maybe Larry’s side. Or Covenant Life Church. Or Sovereign Grace Ministries. There has been lots of criticism and lots of speculation. There have also been a lot of questions raised.

In the midst of this rough season, can I make an appeal? Can we be more committed to unity and to the name of Jesus than anything else? Yes, I realize that I sound naive and a bit “we are the world”-ish, but I really mean it. Because what’s at stake here is so much greater than any of us individually, or our churches, or even Sovereign Grace Ministries. What’s at stake is the name and reputation of our wonderful savior, Jesus Christ.

In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The way that we treat one another is a visible demonstration to the world of the reality of the gospel. The gospel is what brings reconciling power to our relationship with God and reconciling power to our relationships with one another. The fact that we are disciples of Jesus should also shape the ways that we speak about other people, both in person and on the Internet. If we bite and cut and lash each other, we’re making a loud statement about what followers of Jesus are like.

So can I make a suggestion? For every minute that we spend criticizing people, let’s spend two minutes praying for them. For every minute we spend reading on the Internet, let’s spend two minutes in God’s word. For every minute that we spend condemning the actions of someone, let’s spend two minutes praying that God would bless them.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we should ignore all the problems. Does Sovereign Grace Ministries have problems. Yes. Does Covenant Life Church have problems? Yes. Does Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA have problems? Absolutely. Does Stephen Altrogge have problems? Yes. Double yes, actually.

And yes, people have been seriously hurt, and that needs to be dealt with appropriately. And if you have serious concerns, I would encourage you to get involved in the Ambassadors of Reconciliation process that Sovereign Grace Ministries has set up.

So, in faith, let’s identify the problems, address the problems, work on the problems, and work on our churches. But let’s do it together, in faith that Jesus Christ is in our midst, at work in all of us. Let’s cover a multitude of offenses with the love of Christ. The Bible is one gigantic story of God working through really messed up people. It shouldn’t surprise us that we are where we currently are, and it shouldn’t surprise us when God keeps working in us and through us.

And can I just dispel one notion that I see on the blogs every so often? The pastors in Sovereign Grace Ministries are not stooges. We’re not drinking the Kool-Aid. We don’t blindly follow anyone. I can say with absolute confidence that my dad will lead our church according to the Bible, and nothing else. He doesn’t blindly follow CJ, or Dave, or anybody else for that matter. I can say the same thing of my friend CB in Reading, Ricky in El Paso, Dave in Gaithersburg, Tom in Altoona, Mike in Pittsburgh, and Pat in Vancouver.

In fact, CJ and Dave and the board would not want us to follow blindly!

Just last week I had an extended conversation with Dave Harvey in which I strongly voiced to him my concerns and suggestions for Sovereign Grace Ministries. And do you know how he responded? He listened to me and thanked me and asked follow up questions. He has invited me to share further thoughts. Even though we disagreed on some points! I’m just a 29 year old punk. Dave has more ministry experience than I have years of life (I think). So I really respect Dave. Do we disagree on certain things? Sure. But isn’t that normal in the church?

So could you please pray for the pastors in Sovereign Grace Ministries? We need help. And I know that Jesus will help us, because ultimately, all our churches belong to him.

NOTE: I’ve left the comments open for the time being, but I don’t want this post to be a place to debate what is taking place in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Thanks!

  • hofworthy

    Excellent post Stephen.

    I think we said this before we left SGC Indiana, but wanted encourage you – we have never experienced such a rich level of friendship, love, and care from our pastors before meeting Mark Altrogge and Steve Murphy (and more recently with you and Joe).

    Praying for you guys.

    -Phil

  • Dave Ketter

    Amen, Stephen. Thanks for speaking to this issue. I have written a piece addressing the seriousness of unity and the Body of Christ that was more generally addressed. If you’re interested, you can find it at http://www.reconnectedlife.org/2011/10/god-will-destroy-him/

  • http://speakingtothesoul.blogspot.com Nicole McLernon

    Excellent. Thanks for posting!!

  • http://www.judahupdate.blogspot.com briana

    "But let’s do it together, in faith that Jesus Christ is in our midst, at work in all of us. Let’s cover a multitude of offenses with the love of Christ. The Bible is one gigantic story of God working through really messed up people. It shouldn’t surprise us that we are where we currently are, and it shouldn’t surprise us when God keeps working in us and through us."

    EXCELLENT and refreshing, Stephen…courageous for you to "stick your neck out" and write this. Unity is a FIGHT, isn't it?! I have never known that experientially more than I have in the past few months. I love Jesus too much, though, to not fight for what He died for…Fighting with you, Stephen, to 'keep the bond of peace through the unity of the Spirit…"

    Thanks for writing this.

  • Kelley

    Thank you. So. Much.

  • Eric Grover

    Steven,

    I appreciate your passion for the glory of Christ to be pre-eminent during this storm or crisis or whatever we are calling it. I think your call to love each other is right on target.

    I do however take issue a bit with your call to unity. You wrote: "Can we be more committed to unity and to the name of Jesus than anything else?" I cannot agree with the first part of this rhetorical question. For example, I cannot be committed to "Unity" more than I am committed to truth. I think there are many questions that are still unanswered that have to some degree made a truth based unity (the only unity that we as believers should attain to) still out of reach with some in our movement. In fact in order to be "committed to Jesus" more than anything else, at times it requires us to speperate from those who would distort the truth.

    continued in next comment …

  • Eric Grover

    We should avoid an urge to piece back together a relational unity without first making sure that the foundation of truthfulness and integrity are in place.

    I am glad that your conversation with Dave seemed to go well. I would advise you to be careful however not to mistake grateful and affirming words with genuine teachability. One can look like the other, but you won't know that your input has really been helpful to them until actions are produced that correspond with the humble response you observed. Perhaps I am jaded by my past experiences, only time will tell.

    Grateful to you and your dad.

    Eric

    • StephenAltrogge

      Eric, I would be glad to talk to you over email about this more.

      • Eric Grover

        Feel free to shoot me an e-mail any time.

  • Josh

    Stephen that is excellent and I am really happy you said that. I have felt that way since the beginning. But growing up within Sovereign Grace Ministries there is one way I might suggest that we may do better, and perhaps its already being brought up. Perhaps you have already mentioned it to Dave.

    I agree that we should stand united, but within our unity I think we can respectfully disagree with each other. I think the leaders of Sovereign Grace make a conscious effort, and for good reasons, to appear united. However, I think it would be healthy to show some minor disagreements where they exist, not to inspire division amongst the church but to show that Godly minds can come to a disagreement and stand united at the same time. I think we don't actively see that and it can be confusing as a church member what to do when we disagree. I think we need bold and strong leaders that show we may be united but we can voice minor disagreements and not divide but to work together to bridge gaps of understanding. It is hard to sort these things out as a Church member, when disagreements are typically theoretical rather than illustrative from the leadership. Does that make sense?

    • Josh

      Oh and I would like to add that I think the Bold and Strong leaders are in place… I read this again this morning and realized the post sounded harsher than I intended it.

  • Jenn Grover

    Hi Stephen,

    A couple of thoughts about what I believe are primarily unintended implications of your post:

    There seems to be this implied notion circulating, that if people criticize SGM they must not be praying for it or that they somehow don’t want to see God glorified in this mess. I am not sure that is what you meant to communicate, I am hoping it is not. But with such generalizations it is risky business. Second, and I highly doubt this was your intention, for many of us who have been around SGM for a long time the implicit, “leave the thinking to the pros” mentality has grown thin, especially when we discover what the pros have been up to. Third, I do not believe we can count on SGM for accurate, complete information. I have been frustrated with the difficulty in getting straight, complete answers. That should not be the case.

    But most of all, thanks for posting something public about this. I think it is helpful to bring this to mainstream discussion. Contrary to popular belief, I think it will reduce the tendency towards gossip and slander if we can talk about it in an open, honest fashion.

    • StephenAltrogge

      Hey Jen, I would be glad to talk to you about this over email if you like!!!

  • Karen

    Jesus has to be the focus, and yes lots of questions, hurts etc etc. I wonder if EVERYONE could take a step back for a month and just worship!
    I think only in his presence will you find peace, find rest, and strength to then come back and ask and answer but it will be in a different light.

  • Prayforian

    Thanks stephen. For many reasons, we have decided to not get very deep into the issues at sgm. But thank you for the post and, more importantly, for each day at work making it your aim to help us love god more. I would not have had the courage to marry ian were it not for the doctrine and care that we have received at sgc. We have only been but blessed and taught the gospel, and we are so very gratefu to you, mark, steve and joe.

  • Donna Banks

    Well said! Thanks for redirecting our gaze once again. : )

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000277618200 Keith Stuart

    Teachability is what described my friend Dave in years past…in the core of who he is…and will be regained if not already regained. Hopefully, it was never lost. It's also very descriptive of the Brent I have known. I believe the Lord is restoring whatever may have been lost in the past and we need to agree with what God is doing at this present hour. It's Love & Truth…not one or the other and remember that Mercy triumphs over Judgement. The Lord is not worried or wringing His hands over this situation. Can He be grieved? Of course, but He is a very present help in trouble…Remember His Vision and Mission that you have been called to. Good Word Stephen.

  • Trent Broussard

    Thanks for posting this. This article is not only relevant for SGM but for all churches who seek for follow Jesus Christ. I don't know the issues at hand and it is not my place to know them. But I know that a ministry and a group of churches who have greatly blessed me and my church with their ministry are hurting and I lift you up in prayer asking God for Christ to be glorified in your midst and in all these situations. Thanks for your faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Jason

    "Peace, if possible, but the truth at any rate."

  • http://www.redbytina.com Tina Gaspard

    "So, in faith, let’s identify the problems, address the problems, work on the problems, and work on our churches. But let’s do it together, in faith that Jesus Christ is in our midst, at work in all of us. Let’s cover a multitude of offenses with the love of Christ."

    Amen. Amen. And, Amen.

  • Aaron

    Thanks for your post .. your call to unity is very important, but how do you suggest we respond when we see the leaders of SGM take actions that slap unity in the face? I am still trying to understand the actions of SGM in October as they refused to let Brent back into the adjudication process, merely 12 days after he missed the deadline.

    I’m all for not taking sides (CJ’s versus Brent’s) and reconciliation .. but when SGM so overtly stomps out any hope of these concerns being properly adjudicated, I am so confused and torn.

    UNITY YES!! Lack of communication and addressal of the issues, NO!!

    • StephenAltrogge

      Hey Aaron! I would love to talk to you in person over email about this if you would like!

  • Mary Ann

    Might be over simplistic, but here is an old quote:

    In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

  • Lynne Bassler

    I agree that we should strive for unity in the Lord Jesus. I just don't want unity to be translated as "peace at any price." I am wondering what you mean by "we aren't drinking the kool-aid". What philosophy or set of ideas would you consider to be the "kool-aid" in this SGM situation? Thanks!

  • Art

    Thanks for the encouraging post. This whole process has helped me see that I can fall into the trap of placing my hope in men or systems, churches or ministries Like you said, it's not about taking sides, complaining, piling on or taking cheap shots. The Holy Spirit reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that "our righteousness, holiness and redemption" are not a result of us but "because of Him" . Like the old hymn says, "My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness." In the end, I trust what changes need to be made, He will oversee. I trust those who seek reconciliation, will be reconciled by His grace applied. I believe this not because I trust SGM or the men I know or in some new improved system. I trust in a sovereign God who's plan can not be thwarted by men or circumstances. The Gospel will triumph.

  • http://www.ikdg.wordpress.com Steve240

    I wonder if it has ever occurred to you that this call for "unity" might have been one of the reasons that SGM has gotten to such a place. Under the guise of unity people are afraid to speak up etc. since they don't want to damage "unity." Maybe what has happened is the "price" of unity when one is fearful of speaking the truth in love.

  • https://www.facebook.com/eve.marie Eve Marie Barner Gleason

    As a member of an SGM church, I am glad to hear that pastors are expressing their thoughts and ideas w/in whatever channels exist in SGM and that there are diverse perspectives being addressed. Since a member has minuscule influence over the outcome of this crisis, we must be in prayer and waiting on the Lord. Either God will do a great work and will soften and change SGM leadership so that this becomes a more genuinely humble, more healthy family of believers, or I believe he will lead those of us with serious concerns out of SGM.

  • Jeff Truesdale

    Hi – Hey, when you said "Just last week I had an extended conversation with Dave Harvey in which I strongly voiced to him my concerns and suggestions for Sovereign Grace Ministries."

    I was wondering what the concerns and suggestions were that you strongly voiced to Dave; can you share what they were?

  • Lynn

    Hey, would you mind explaining what you mean exactly by the word unity? Do you think that people in a church need to agree on 100% on everything? Couldn't a church have unity and still disagree without fighting? I would reallt like more explanation on this. So if you could email me back, or respond, then I would like that.

  • http://facesoflions.wordpress.com David Wilson

    Stephen,

    Good reminder. I think prayer and humility are things we must continue to embrace in the days to come.

    As a movement, we want to celebrate those things that honor God in our lives, and change those things that do not.

    Dave

  • Marie Walker

    Love your honesty Altrogee punk. I will not divide in my heart, again. All are right and all are wrong. Me too. It's what we're NOT having to face and pray about that is most astounding. If we're going to heaven one day…where no more tears, sorrow, sickness, sin or hatred will exist, where we all bow down together before the throne of Jesus.. we'd better get use to loving those we disagree with on this side since eternity is a very long time to be together.

    • StephenAltrogge

      Thanks Marie!

  • Donnie Winn

    Sadly, the deadline for getting involved with AoR is past. Anyone with issues now is out in the cold, at least if their name is Brent Detweiler, who, after the "deadline" given him by SGM, decided he did want to participate, was told he had missed his opportunity. Perhaps that applies only to him.

  • jun ang

    right on the spot. I'm not from sov grace but i love sov grace. Thanks for posting this, Stephen

  • Harold Brown

    EntToer text right here!To have unity requires that we are all being taught of God ! "And they shall be all taught of God" John 6:45

    Harold
    halj6450@yahoo.com