My story isn’t as messed up as other ones I’ve heard. When this came up, I started thinking back on various post-Young Church feelings that I had and thought of a brief e-mail exchanged that I had with Scott K that happened after he sent me a “Celebrate our 10-year reunion” e-mail. It got a little hot, but I think the rawness of my email is worth sharing (this was in 2008, so about 3 years after leaving). I certainly don’t have this animosity now (10+) years later. The following is pretty raw, but I think it sums up what was going on in my head and heart at the time. Perhaps it will resonate with some of you who are sorting stuff out.
I also copied this email to a number of people who were staff at the time but who (unsurprisingly) are no longer a part of the church (BJ, Shannon, Angela, Matt) in addition to the 5 guys who are still at the top there. I’d be curious to hear if any of you even read this when it was sent.
From Scott to me :
I will indeed not bother you with further emails. However, I will pray for you as the Lord brings you to mind. There are cancers worse than the physical kind my wife has. One of them is bitterness. I pray that Jesus will heal you.
And my response to him:
I don’t think that your wife’s cancer is an occasion to attempt a semi-eloquent, but ultimately predictable, put down about forms of cancer that are worse than the physical kind. You should respect her more than that. I also know you better than to believe your patronizing pontificating. It is inappropriate since you are partly responsible for the “cancers” that you are condemning.
I tried to be reasonable with your first email, figuring that since my brother complained you’d put the pieces together and not bother people who have already been bothered enough by your church. But how many more people will fall into your grasp so that when they stop serving
the church’s purpose, they can be kicked out? Do the new generation of people at the church even know about me and [15 other people… names redacted], and how many others who have entered the church and have either turned away or been turned away because they didn’t fit your mold? How many more cancers are you putting into people with each Dickens, or with each service on Warriner Mall, or with each acoustic brew?
Everytime I think of you guys and what you do, I start to shake. It begins deep in my stomach and it comes out to my whole body until I can’t concentrate and I can’t see straight. I lose my appetite. I feel like vomiting. It’s not fear of you, and it’s not even anger
towards you. It’s disbelief that a group of people could be so set in their ways, and so sure of themselves and the “god” the profess that they will sacrifice the spiritual lives of countless, sincere followers who won’t do what they say. It’s worry about who else is going to be sucked in and sucked dry to prove themselves to their “spiritual leaders.”
I’m afraid, Scott. I’m afraid for you and for your other staff members. I’m afraid for the freshmen students who get involved with your ministries; who honestly want to help people; who think they have “eternal” friends that care; and who will be spiritually and emotionally abused by the Grace Church; who will give up their money because you can convince them it is God’s plan for their pocketbooks, because you’re so sure you need to buy the embers, or the red house, or start a new church somewhere else; who will give up their time, neglect their studies, neglect their non-church friends, neglect their families, because YOU told them to, because YOU told them that it was not what God wanted for them.
And they will believe you. And they will pay for it if they have sense in their heads to realize for themselves how they are being manipulated. And they will be left wondering where God is when all of their holy friends have left them because they weren’t holy enough. And no one will hear their stories. They will be threatened to be blacklisted from churches in Mt. Pleasant. I know that happens because I’ve had friends who have been threatened by your leaders. Staffers will believe their co-worker’s stories instead of trying to hear the truth from the person who is out of the church. I know that that happens because it happened to me. I heard from a friend of one of your staff members, a friend who actually cares about me, that that particular staffer asked about me specifically in a staff meeting. He was given a rote answer from other leaders who had never talked to me about what had happened. He believed it from them, instead of hearing my side and thinking for himself. Even when I was kicked out of the church, one of the “leaders” who was there asking me to leave had never talked to me about anything related to what was going on.
It’s manipulation, Scott. It’s dishonesty. It’s greed and pride and lies. That’s is not where honesty, charity, and truth lie. That is not how we should be living our lives.
And I’ll let you have the last word when you respond to this. Any more squabbling and trying to put each other down is a waste of both of our times.
I’ve sent this to other members of your staff so that this isn’t something that goes by like a whisper. Together, you can make it one, but at least it will be heard.
[Second Post from SB]
I was in the band playing guitar, and there was one week where I got sat down by another guitarist (AA) who told me that he felt like God really wanted me to play in the band the next week (which was his week) and that it was a really great opportunity of service that I should strongly consider doing. That it was important to be faithful when the call for sacrifice went out. I didn’t b/c I had family plans (which he outright asked me to cancel… sorry…. “encouraged” me to cancel) , but come to find out, this guy was trying to get someone to cover for him so he could also go to a family event.
I also worked out every morning for a summer with this guy and at one point he said, “I’m glad I get to mentor you like this.” I said, “uh, no, we’re just friends.” I realized, upon reflection, that it’s essentially a pyramid scheme where your status elevates as you cram people under you in the hierarchy. The highest leader is the one who manages to submit the greatest number of people under him, and it trickles down from there. So, you get some of these low-level folks who are just struggling to validate themselves by subjugating someone to their oversight, advice, demands, manipulation.
This is the guy who also cited 2 Timothy 2:2 as the reason why we could no longer be friends once BK (backed by JS and SK) asked me to leave: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” If I couldn’t commit to the church, I was no longer faithful and reliable, and therefore friendship was not an option. I would not be surprised if many of you have been quoted that verse, too.