Grace Church Exposed - Mt. Pleasant, MI Young Church, Twelve17 Coffee Roasters, 1217 S. Mission, Mount Pleasant

Protect, Expose, Heal - "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them."

Category: Emails


Over time we have become aware of many emails which have been sent to BF and other Grace Church leaders raising serious concerns about the conduct of certain leaders and as well as other harmful and unbiblical practices that were experienced or observed in the church.

Because the leadership often fails or refuses to disclose this information to anyone outside of leadership and since they have been unwilling to share the full scope of these concerns with the rest of the congregation, and since the congregation had/has no practical authority to demand them, we believe it is our responsibility to make the information in these documents publicly available to those who have been systematically kept in the dark. And since the church had/has no clear process for addressing these types of concerns that doesn’t require absolute trust in the very leaders that are implicated in these concerns, we are left with no other choice than to “take it to the church” by making these documents publicly available to all those prior members who were never informed of these issues, as well as the current “members” (however they are defining that these days) who probably have no clear way to hold these men accountable except by voting with their feet and their finances.

We have gone to these individuals, we have gone to the staff/leadership, and now we must go around them for the good of the sheep who have had the wool pulled over their eyes in a very systematic fashion.

For many years this church defined membership by using the phrase, “you are a member in-as-much-as you relate and participate.”

Under that definition there are many people scattered all over this country who are still technically members of this church (at least under the definition used while they were there and for the vast majority of the church’s history) because they are still relating to it on a daily basis as they seek to deal with the pain they are experiencing from the wounds that were received while they were physically present. In addition to this, many of them experience great heartache as they continue to witness the suffering of their friends and family members who are still in that environment.

We believe those “members” need these documents just as much as the current “members” do. And due to the nature of these issues, we believe we must make this information available to the broader church outside of this area as well so they can make an informed decision when they are choosing what local church body they want to be involved with.

And while this is necessary it breaks our heart that it has come to this. And if you have been hurt by your time at this church, we ask that you would be very careful as you read these materials, because you are probably going to be shocked and appalled as you learn just how often, just how clearly, and just how regularly a wide variety of people have been trying to address these issues with the leaders of this church. It’s easier to forgive people when you think they really don’t know what they’re doing because no one has warned them or explained these things to them. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. At least not any more.

And while we do not have every email that has been sent, I believe we have enough to make it abundantly clear to anyone who is willing to listen, that these issues have been addressed and repeatedly ignored by key leaders for years.

While some who continue to engage in these practices may do so with a certain degree of ignorance, others are far more culpable because they have received far more warning (Luke 12:48). And do not think that these emails are an exhaustive representation of what has been communicated to the leadership. They are but a small sampling. Only the tip of a much larger and more condemning iceberg. For lots of valid reasons, there are many others who don’t feel comfortable sharing that information right now. However, what you are about to read has been requested by us and posted with the permission of the one who originally sent it, in the hopes that it will aid in the healing, protection, accountability, and repentance which so desperately need to occur.

If you have any emails you feel comfortable sharing, please contact us via the Contact Page.

2018 Email #4 from Elder123

On Thu, Jan 11, 2018


It has been more than two years since we left Grace Church.  As you well know, my family and I left as a direct result of the three, six-hour inquisition type meetings that you orchestrated with all the elder/deacons and our wives.  The shameful meetings are the reason that I have never set foot on Grace Church properties again or spoken to you.  As a result of the meetings and violation of trusted information that you shared with everyone, someone called CPS on my family, accusing me of wrong doing, but you know that already.  Some details (only known to the group in the three, six hour meetings) were twisted and used in vulgar and offensive language, falsely accusing me to CPS.  The ensuing six weeks was hell and filled with mental anguish, but was easily proven false and I was cleared of any wrong doing as of February 22, 2016. This was done at a financial loss and heartache that won’t ever heal.  You were wrong in the meetings and “someone”, was wrong in the accusations given to CPS.  I corrected you, and yet you believed what you wanted, which influenced you or someone else in the calling of CPS.  Either way, I hold you responsible.  What you have done is unbiblical and unbecoming of a pastor.  Try not to shift this blame.  Go to the “7 signs of pride”, from your most recent sermon, and repent.  I wish for you to find humility.

Please don’t confuse this email as the beginning of opening dialogue with you.  Recently, someone brought to my attention, the new call to “humility” at Grace Church (sermon, 1/7/18).  Since I failed to be notified of your repentance from breaking of trust and criticism of church members for years, and attempting to ruin my life, I am simply calling you to put your words into action.  I have called you to repentance in 2013 in a letter, that you claimed to never have read, and in 2015 with the letter below.  I am sure that you remember the letter below.  It has now been two more years and God is once again calling Grace church out of the darkness and into the light.  A “train”, vision by Dan, sounds very similar to one that I had years ago.  The train burst forth from below/darkness, a place of bones supporting the tunnel, and into light.  Nevertheless, the repentance, from darkness and hiding, needs to start with you, and openly, with how you have been untrustworthy, criticize/condemn, shift blame, control, and screwed up with the XXXXX.  I am innocent of your accusations, still in love with God, praising Jesus and unfortunately, thanks to you, not trusting church leadership yet.  XXXXX and the XXXXX never blamed me for their departure from our church.  I have made amends with them.  As for the rest of your accusations from the last meeting:  that just leaves, yelling at you and for how you treat people, and calling for XXXXX to step down to manage his family, and raising my voice with XXXXX for his mimicry of your leadership style.  I would do all again if necessary.  How many people have you made amends with?  How many people have you offended or negatively affected their faith?  I hear of many who still struggle.  Remember, you are to be a minister of God, among worms, for HIM.  You will answer to God.  I will wait for someone to tell me that you have repented openly to your church, and then I will watch it, and rejoice for you.

God bless.




Here is another copy of the letter that I sent you two years ago.  Please don’t try to contact me.  I think that you are still a blocked sender from two years ago anyway.

2016 Email #3 from Elder123

This is an email which one of the church elders received at the close of an investigation that was opened against him. The additional story which followed this email in the original posting has been removed at the request of Elder123 for the sake of his family and others.

Date: February 19, 2016



I have good news for a change.  The criminal investigation is closed.  XXXXXXX XXXXXX has no need for any additional interviews.  He called XXXXX the Isabella County Prosecuting Attorney who indicated she did not even need to review a written report.  So that aspect of this nightmare is over.



At 8 o’clock, February 22, 2016, our lawyer called again, and said “it is over”. I looked at my wife incredulous, excited, sad, and extremely tired; I put the phone down, and we cried. The most intense and emotional trial of our marriage and lives was over. A false accusation, and lies about me, that had been reported, to CPS (child protective services) were crushed by the truth, and God had come to my rescue. The whole family celebrated with ice cream Sundays that night.

2015 Email #2 from Elder123

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.


Subject: meeting
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.

God Bless,


2012 Email from KD

This email was a response to an April 21, 2012 email sent from two individuals on the Elder/Deacon team in which they had denied a previous request for a meeting. The response to this email ignored the clear request for a meeting with which KD ended this email.

Date: May 11, 2012

Dear deacons and elders,

Let me begin by saying that I speak only for myself.

I must be honest, I’m saddened by your response. You’ve read some long emails from RB and have had conversations here and there. Based on those, it seems to you that our minds are made up, so there’s not much point in meeting. You have more important things to do. I get that.

But I can’t help but wonder, why do we even need to justify prioritizing us on your agenda? I understand that we probably don’t fit into your strategic plan for the future of the church. Because of that, you might not perceive any return on your investment of time with us. It’s probably even a bit scary to let us talk at a meeting, knowing that some of us have some disagreements with the leadership or vision or actions of the church. Some of you have probably even classified some of us as toxic and dangerous.

But are we not sisters and brothers? Have we not served alongside each other for a decade or more? Haven’t some of us been very close to some of you or your wives at various times throughout our history together? So I can’t help but wonder, has it really come to this? We’re stuck in this pattern of one-way communication between representatives. I commend RB for trying hard to communicate the nuances of where we as a group find ourselves and what we’re thinking in a medium as limited as email… but we can’t keep going like this. There’s too much potential for misunderstanding. And if we actually decide to make an “official” break from grace church, would it not be incredibly sad if we never had the chance to “officially” say goodbye? Like I said, we’ve been together for a decade. We may have some disagreements, but what is that compared to a decade of trying hard to follow Jesus together?

Honestly, I’m not sure that it matters so much what we actually discuss in a meeting. What matters, I think, is that we meet. We extend to each other the courtesy of a listening ear. Face to face conversation, give and take, feedback, listening, understanding. Sisters and brothers. Family. What we’ve said is that we want to be transparent about what we’re thinking and doing and why. Personally, I’m hoping for much more than that. What I’m really hoping for, I think, is the start of a fruitful conversation that’s good for all of us.

Of course, fruitful does not mean easy. It’s difficult for us to engage in this process. It’s difficult to be open to influence, especially from those with whom you have disagreements or trouble communicating. It seems easier to avoid the conflict and run. But I think we need you, your wives and some other women that have served with the women in our group as discernment partners. There are probably folks who would disagree with me on that, but you have known us for years. You knew us before we started the VAP and some of you have watched from afar as it and we have evolved. You all can provide a perspective that few others can and I dare say we need that perspective, especially as we consider choices that will significantly alter our lives.

What about you? I said I’m hoping for a conversation that’s good for all of us. Have you considered that we might have a perspective that’s valuable to you? That we might have something to say that you want or even need to hear? I know I’m moving way too far into presumption territory here. However, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that we’ve actually thought quite a bit about the choices we’ve made over the last few years. We’ve thought a lot about why we think we’re headed in a different direction than grace church right now. And probably more than all that, we’ve had experiences and gotten to know people that have made it impossible to read the Bible or think about what matters in the same ways we once did. I’m not trying to say that grace church should think the same way or do the same things as the village art project community. On the contrary, one of the outcomes I hope for in our meeting together is a celebration of our diverse unity in Jesus, an appreciation of the unique ways God has made us and calls us to live and work and be. But wouldn’t it be healthy to at least hear a little about all of that? To hear it from our own mouths?

One reason I think we need a meeting is that there’s great diversity even within our own group. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that each member of the VAP family is in it for different reasons. Sure, there are some overarching values and ways of seeing that guide all of us, together. But those took time to form. We all bring a unique perspective to each other, and we value that. It’s not a surprise, then, that we each have a different perspective on our relationship with grace church. RB has done a wonderful job trying to summarize our collective perspective in emails… but it’s exactly that. I’m not sure that you’re going to see that diversity without a meeting. Why is it important for you to see it? For one, you might be the folks who end up explaining to others in our church why we’re not around anymore. Perhaps selfishly, I don’t want to be misunderstood. Without hearing each of us in our words, it’s going to be easy to paint us all the same color, wonder how we got there, conclude that we’re a bit “off,” and move on. But isn’t it good for you, too? To understand how your friends came to this point? Some in our group have traveled this last part of the journey with tears and grieving. We’ve all had heavy hearts. I hope that some will have the chance to express why it’s been hard for them to think about leaving you.

Finally, allow me to look at our current situation through the lens of a question: what does it look like for someone to leave a church well? What if they want to leave, not because they got a nice job out of state or got accepted into school or are entering the mission field, but… for other reasons? Perhaps they sense God pushing or pulling them in a different direction. Perhaps it’s to some_thing_ different. Perhaps it’s to some_one_ different. Perhaps there are vague discomforts with the theology or focus or practice of the church. Perhaps there are very specific disagreements. Perhaps it’s all of the above. What does it look like for such a person (or people) to _leave well_? And how does a healthy church engage such people? How does a healthy church handle criticism? How does a healthy church have discussions about things that matter and make decisions together?

I hope we can all agree that there’s some room for our church to grow in this area. In this moment, we all, you and us, find ourselves in a position to do something about it. We might be able to help each other grow. We are willing, but this has been a long and difficult journey for us already. I’m not sure how long this moment will last. Would you reconsider allowing us to meet together, face to face?

Love, your brother in Christ,

2012 Email #1 from RB

This email was sent from a former Staff member and long-time servant in the church to the pastor and a group of about 60 long-time attenders, including most of those active in any leadership capacity.

Date: Fri, June 22, 2012

Hey brothers and sisters,
I’m writing to you because in some way over the past decade, we’ve prayed, celebrated, worshipped, learned, served, struggled, and/or played together as family at Grace Church.  I count each of you a friend…and indeed more than a friend.  A sister or a brother in the Lord.

I’m writing to you because after twelve years, my family and I have made the decision to leave Grace Church.  We’re not moving.  I haven’t gotten a new job.  I’m not going back to school.  We decided after a long while of prayer, discussion, and struggle that we, along with a number of other families and single folks, will be ending our association with Grace Church in order to focus more closely and intentionally on the work and life we feel Jesus compelling us toward…

I’d be remiss not to mention that in addition to the positive pull of an alternative vision, there’s also been a growing sense that I can no longer, in my own heart and mind, fully support the processes and emphases of Grace Church.  (Though a group of us is leaving together, this is most definitely a personal email.  I speak only for myself here…the views of others shouldn’t be assumed based on what I have to say…we’re all unique after all!)

Now at this moment I feel tempted to assert and defend my spiritual health and wellbeing…but I won’t.  My own self-reporting isn’t worth all that much.  I know that in the past when friends of mine have left Grace Church without an official send-off, I’ve wondered at the state of their faith…”Have they ‘fallen’? Are they struggling in their walk with the Lord?  There must be something wrong with them.”…maybe you can relate to that.  Having heard recently from some of these folks, I now understand how hurtful, and just plain wrong, those assumptions can be.  If you have questions, or even concerns, please feel free to ask me.

I want to emphasize that this has not been an easy decision.  It’s been very hard and very emotional.  I’m so overwhelmingly grateful for the many years I’ve had together with many of you.  I will never be the same because I was blessed enough my freshman year of college to find a group of people, mostly my age, who were serious about following Jesus, whatever the cost.  That was sheer grace.  I am grateful that I found a group of people with whom I learned I could confess my sins, be transparent, receive new power and strength to live a holy life…and still be able to admit my failings when I screwed up again!  I’m grateful that in the presence of you all I was free to use old gifts, develop new ones, and receive from each of you the gifts you’ve brought to our lives together.  You all have been a family to me…the family of God.  And family we will remain.

I must share with you something that has been deeply saddening, angering, and confusing in this process because it seems necessary and appropriate, given that one of the first questions people ask is, “have you talked with leadership about this?”  As a group, we asked to sit down and talk with the elders and deacons (read: our brothers and friends) to explain the vision behind our decision to depart, being convinced that simply “cutting and running” wasn’t something we could do with a good conscience.  We were asked to submit something in writing, and were given no indication that to do so would mean the possibility of a future meeting.  We found this request both hurtful and antithetical to the purposes for which we requested the meeting in the first place.  We responded at length, asking the board to reconsider a face to face meeting.  We received an email again denying that request.  Since that time, each of my requests to meet on an individual basis with men on the elder/deacon board have been denied, each of them citing with surprising confidence that they believe such a decision is God’s will.  I have no doubt that the men on this board feel sincerely justified in these decisions…that is, I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to “do harm”.  But I have serious doubts about whether God has ordained this virtual ban on face to face communication, and instead find this course of action alarming, counter to the way of Kingdom, symptomatic of deeper issues in Grace Church’s leadership culture, not to mention deeply hurtful considering the time we have spent laboring, serving, and being family together over the past decade and more.  (In case you’re wondering, these thoughts have already been shared with both individuals on the board and the group as a whole, with no change in position.)

I am keenly aware that there are two distinct and competing narratives present in this situation….two very different stories about what has and hasn’t been said and about why things are going down the way they are.  And because face to face communication has been systematically refused, I don’t know how resolution or even real understanding can happen.  I’m sorry that those of you who care will have to sort through this situation by talking to delegates from each group and then comparing the stories in your own head.  That’s very, truly sad. I sincerely hope that this process, along with a variety of other things, are seriously considered and brought to open, candid, communal, body-directed discussion within the larger church, particularly among those of you who’ve been around for as long as I have or longer…and not merely ignored on the way to exciting new ministry opportunities.

Yes…I’m deeply saddened and even, at times, angry at how this process has progressed.  But at the end of the day, when I sit down to consider the last twelve years, I am mostly, sincerely grateful.  Who am I that I was counted worthy to experience the mercy and grace of God by finding you all and growing together with you into a life I never would have imagined for myself?  I can’t tell you how much my family and I sincerely grieve this loss, even as we look forward with joy to the blessing of being the family of God together with the folks in the Village.  You all and Grace Church as a whole have been and will continue to be in our hearts and in our prayers.

If you want to talk with me about anything personally, please do. It’s the surest way to figure out what I’m actually thinking and feeling. I would prefer not to randomly meet you in Meijer and have a really awkward, uncomfortable and shallow conversation.  How sad that would be after all the good we’ve shared together in Jesus’ name.  I still want to be your friend and brother.

From this day on may we all be found giving Him our whole selves as we look for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on the earth… Deep love and gratitude to each of you, with praise to Jesus, the humble King.

ps.  I realize that Grace Church is moving toward some new ministry opportunities.  It could be tempting to some of you to see this email, and others like it, as “a demonic attack” trying to “discourage” the church on its way to its God-ordained goals.  I know I can’t control that, but I can at least encourage you not to believe that.  It could be that this is something that God actually wants you all to hear as you stand on the brink of big decisions about Grace Church’s future.

2009 Email from Member123

This email was sent to the pastor by a former staff member who was at the church for well over a decade.

Date: Fri 7/10/2009



XXXXX I hope all is going well with you.

I am writing out of duty, desire, and respect, to communicate where my heart is at, as well as my wife’s heart, too.  For a while now, God has been doing some deep things in our hearts.  Some of which were triggered during the “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” book and Bible study.

God has given me the grace to examine my heart, beliefs, and experiences, and for the first time I realized some things on a level that I never have before.  I began acknowledging some things on the surface, but allowed myself to go deeper.  When doing this, I saw a depth of hurt and disagreement in relation to experiences and philosophies of our church. As [my wife] and I began to understand some of the effects that our church environment had on us, we grew into a deeper freedom in our walk with God. This change in us makes us think that others in our church body may be in a similar place as us, and that the healing we are undergoing would be great for others to experience, too.  Also, it seems like it would be a good thing for our staff to go back and consider, from an objective position, the effects of our church philosophies and culture on the psychological, emotional, and spiritual health of the church members.

According to the way I perceive them, the following are some examples of ways that an unhealthy imbalance in areas of our church can create emotional, psychological, and spiritual baggage as a consequence.  They are communicated in somewhat black-and-white terms in order to paint them the color in which I perceive them.  It must be clear that we DON’T believe these are all black-and-white, or right and wrong issues.  The items are in this list because of the perception that they are or have been detrimentally imbalanced.  It may take a bit of effort to view these things from the perspective that even though they were well-meaning, they held a potential to be damaging, controlling, or manipulative when out of balance.

  • The schedules, LAP’s, and weekly updates we submitted to each other
  • The preoccupation with excellence and with Willow Creek and their church model
  • An excessive focus on the ”submission to leaders” concept
  • The controlling effect of the “ministry cycle” concept
  • The lack of church governance
  •  Ministry involvement to the “neglect” of our families, our in-your-face way we handle Pilgrimage, our insistence on confrontation, our views on speaking the truth in love
  • Inhibiting the autonomy of the people’s individual responsibility before God, going out-on-a-limb to address things that are not clearly addressed in Scripture
  • How a person can feel they had to get permission and leadership’s blessing to make decisions in life, the way we view other churches, having an environment where it is not easy to think for yourself, the feeling that people in leadership know better, the pressure to submit to your leader , comparing yourself to others, institutionalized gossip, the way that the system of ministry seemed to come before the hearts of the people

I believe that due to the above mentioned things, emotional, psychological, and spiritual baggage accumulates over time.  The baggage takes on the form of pressure, tension, confusion,  self-doubt, hurt, fear, worry, guilt, feeling judged, feeling criticized, feeling manipulated, feeling controlled, feeling analyzed, feeling gossiped about, and worst of all – our image of God is tarnished by these things.

As to which of the items on the list have come and gone, it is hard to say for some things and easier for others.  I have to wonder to what extent the impact of these things are quietly below or above the surface in the lives of our church members still.  Indeed, some apologies were made, but there may still be healing and change that need to take place in our church body.

There are two other things that cause concern.  One is the lack of a church governance structure in the form of elders, deacons, or a board.   The second, is that the central teaching of our church seems to be mostly on an introspective, analytical view in forms like, “be more self-disciplined”, “observe the Sabbath”, “be more compelling”, and “read the Word more”, etc.   All of these topics are good and true, but it seems there is not as much about the things that drew us to God in the first place.  It seems we dwell less on the compelling love of Jesus, Salvation, the character of God, grace, love, etc., – the things that point us toward God rather than point us toward looking into ourselves for problems or growth.

Let me say that I am aware that this letter is written imperfectly.  Some things may come across as beating-around-the-bush, while others may seem insensitive.  Please, do your best to filter out the things that are [me] and filter “in” anything that may be of the Lord.  I am not calling each item or concept a sin, nor am I calling my differing point of view the height of correctness.  As my wife and I opened the doors of our hearts and minds to all this, a lot came out.  It took us a while to know what to do with the way we feel and the things we believe and perceive.  We believe that God would have us share it with you.  You have given and sacrificed so much for this church…I can only imagine how difficult these topics would be to examine.  Hopefully, throughout this letter I didn’t draw too many conclusions on the points that I made, because truthfully, God may very well have better conclusions than I could come up with.  We pray that these things will be considered and sought to be understood with only the kind of understanding that comes with God’s grace through the Holy Spirit.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.  Thanks for letting me share this with you.



2009 Email #3 from StaffML

After receiving permission to forward his email, ML sent the following email along with a copy of Email #2 to BF and 12 other current and former staff members.

From: ML
To: Staff
Date: Fri, Jul 3, 2009

Hey there everyone,

I emailed BF today (see 1st forwarded conversation) to check back with him and see if he wanted to get together to discuss an email I sent him in April that contained a list of some of the tensions and concerns that contributed to my decision to step out of my staff role and my leadership role at the church. I also asked him if it would be O.K. for me to forward that email on to you for the reasons listed below. He said, “yes” and also asked that I include his response, so I attached that as well the rest of the email conversation.

In B’s response to my email today he mentioned that he didn’t think I would be able to get together with him or the staff for a couple months, but I just wanted each of you to know that if you would like to meet with me to discuss any of this further, at any time, please email me and I would be more than willing to set something up. I appreciate you guys, your friendship over the years, and your faithful service to the Lord and his church. I hope these emails give you a better idea of some of the things the Lord’s been laying on my heart these last few months; and I hope that expanding the conversation like this will prove to be beneficial for all involved and our church as a whole.

I tried to send this to everyone who was on staff with me around last summer. If I forgot someone, please let me know and/or feel free to send this to them as well. Also, as far as it concerns anything I have written in these emails, you are free to share them with anyone you think it might be helpful to share them with.



2009 Email #2 from StaffML

This email was sent by a former staff member who was at the church from 1998-2009 and worked on staff most of those years.

From: ML
To: BF
Date: Fri, July 3, 2009


I was just wondering if you had any thoughts regarding the last email I sent you with the five issues/concerns. If so, I would love to meet and discuss them.

I ask for two reasons:

  1. It looks like I may only be in Mt. Pleasant for another few weeks (approx. July 18th) and once I’m in XXXXX it will be much more difficult to have regular face-to-face discussions about these things.
  2. I would like to forward that email to the rest of those who were most recently on staff with me because:
    • As my friends, I think they deserve to know more about where I’m at with things and some of the factors that have influenced my decisions and actions.
    • As the church staff, I think it is their responsibility to be aware of these issues that broadly affect our entire body, which they shepherd.
    • I would like them to know that I have taken steps to communicate and discuss these issues with you in an effort to help our church grow and move forward, that I am continuing to do so, and am willing to continue to do so even when I’m in XXXXX.

Let me know what you think.


2008 Email from SB

This email was sent to a paid staff member and “Associate Pastor” in 2008, and copied to most of the other staff members by an individual who had served in ministry and then left the church three years earlier. There’s a fair amount of context in the emails that preceded this which you can read about in the full comment this individual made here. But the email addressing the larger issues is included below:


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.