This is the second email from one of the church elders to the senior pastor. For multiple reasons we have removed all names from the email. Hopefully you can can still follow it.
Date: December 16, 2015
I am writing in response to your request to meet. XXXXX and I have given much consideration and prayer to it over the past three weeks. It has only been about two months since our family has left Grace Church. It seems much longer. This has been the hardest season of XXXXX’s and my life. I suspect similar on your end too. We have waited to respond these past three weeks to let God lead our hearts in this. Although you said that you have some concerns for us to consider, there was no further detail. You said, “I believe such (a meeting) would be in the best interests of you both and your family… I have some things for you to consider, be aware of, and have a chance to respond to.” Although vague, your invitation was kind, and it does serve its purpose that you are reaching out to us, which is appreciated.
As I considered your request, I have taken some time to look back over the past four years. What an amazing time. I am completely in awe of what God has done and not only that he has spoken, but how he has done it. We have shared precious time together in the word of God. I am thankful, and I am sad that it has come to an end. It was also impossible not to contemplate the two recent six hour meetings again. I remember looking at you during intense moments of that last meeting and thinking, “what are you doing? You are destroying something good”. I am not sure if you know, but those meetings broke something in XXXXX and I, and introduced a new level of pain into our lives. The mention of another meeting with you simply calls up that pain and the tears that we have wept so easily and so often since. In our last meeting, I remember looking at XXXXX crying and thinking, “I will never put you through anything like this again”, and not because of the crying, but more for what you were doing to her. The condemnation and calling us liars, the coercion and setting up the board with bullet points to remind us of past offenses was all too much, even at a leadership level.
Points of praise about the meetings:
We credit God for it and we love him for He grows us in his grace. I remember feelings of being carried along as though God had already chosen the outcome, for a purpose, and we were just witnessing it. We praise God for the pain; it has produced empathy in us. We have a new depth of empathy/care for others. I am lead to further praise God, as I read my past year of journals. My times with the Lord were giving me many clues regarding XXXXX, XXXXX and you and I. God is truly amazing how he prepares us. I wonder how he had been preparing you for it all, and how one day you might praise him for it.
There are probably questions that some from church might have, regarding our departure. Regardless of whether or not that is a concern, I thought I should address it. The original privacy I requested was from you and the men who were at the meetings. It was an effort to get time and space, but never intended to be directed toward other friends and church family. Some have come, and their care has been appreciated. So if people have concerns, you can surely direct them to us if you would like.
My first concern in communication with the church body, would be to reiterate that my family’s immediate separation was not at all my ideal, but the meetings you led, eroded any remaining trust we had in you, and the hurtful way it was done, made the exit plain to see. Quite shocking all around.
My second and more important concern right now is that of your repentance. I believe that any meeting or further discussion be focused on you. Since I haven’t heard otherwise (since my last communication), nor did your invitation give me any suggestion that you have openly repented, I am bound to ask it again. XXXXX, please repent and humble yourself before God and the church for:
- Untrustworthiness: You have been untrustworthy with private information as a pattern in your life. It breaks trust, and is not God’s way. It hurts the hearers, the church and your relationship with Christ.
- “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
- Criticism/Judgment/pride/control: Your criticisms and opinions about people in our church or otherwise are not acceptable, and they lack mercy/compassion/humility that has been offered to you.
- “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it be measured to you” (Mt 7:2).
- Far too much talk about people, especially those not fully engaged. I was saved out of the “fringes” (people who show no fruit or obedience to authority, active involvement), that you so often criticize/judge. They are souls in waiting, and they are precious. They are my friends. Never discount that God is working. You have become a stumbling block to His work.
- And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear” (Mark 4:26-28).
- You have trained up from youth, the E/D men, to be like you (critical, judgmental). Grace church has a critical eye for flaws in efforts to point out areas in need of sanctifying. They are smart and disciplined, but young in the wisdom of dealing with people gracefully. Stop trying so hard to sanctify God’s people. The effect is a confused/conflicted flock. Treat them with grace and love. We don’t grow the church by our will.
- “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts!!!” (Zech 4:6).
- “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1:12-13).
- Stop redirecting, turning concerns back on the one who brings it. It invalidates and disrespects people. Be approachable and willing to reason on the most offensive topic.
- “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18).
- No more quarreling, stubbornness or arguing. You have specialized in short term wins, but you lose when people leave; a pattern which repeats itself. Your pride has allowed you to think that you know what people think and you hold them to a word or text/email from past or even your assumption. A person’s anger or yelling at you doesn’t necessarily demonstrate a demon’s presence. It could just be a legitimate expression of anger in response to your controlling and pride.
- “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov 11:2).
I am praying for your repentance; I believe that it will take Grace Church to a new level and understanding of God’s Grace. Although it will hurt initially, and your ministry will certainly take a hit/fall, it will come back together and truly blossom as a result. I am sorry I wasn’t more effective in telling you truth these past years; it was never easy. I have tried in many ways; mostly I prayed. I am worried for you, I care about you, and I miss you. I have been a brother and served you, cared for you and your family, our church, and given in ways that only God could have mustered up in me. I can’t tell you what to do, but if it were me, I would be honest with people when they ask you what happened. No more hiding. This is actually probably brilliant; just tell them that you really messed up with the XXXXX with those two meetings and XXXXX didn’t trust me/XXXXX anymore due to untrustworthiness over the years, with gossip, criticism, judgement, etc. God will forgive you. XXXXX, as your friend and brother, I have sat by your side and things just haven’t changed. It is time for you to repent. No excuses.
Let me know when it happens and I will quit reiterating this call.
The effect of all of the above on youth is compounded, due to their impressionable minds and desire for acceptance and to please. It is an area that Grace church has to be so very careful with. Approach it with fear and trembling, as the effects of your teaching can influence them and their faith for a lifetime.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mt 18:6).
“You have a Father in Heaven who, because of Christ’s work, only gives his children what is good for them. Therefore, love people persistently. Treat them the way you would like to be treated. Your Father’s blood bought care for you is the spring of your persistent…love. If you experience him as this kind of Father, you will love people like this” (John Piper).
I have already expressed sorrow for what our leaving has done to you and I say it again now; I am sorry. XXXXX and I pray for peace on you and your family and the ministry that he has given you. At this time, we need to decline a meeting with you. My heart just doesn’t trust you in a meeting nor in receiving, your definition of, things that you think would benefit my family and me right now. I am sure that God can change that. It doesn’t mean I don’t care for you. My family and I do forgive you.