2 Cor 4:7-13 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
One Sunday not long ago, I enjoyed a wonderful morning worshiping and hearing God’s word preached to God’s people. I came home and after some personal Bible reading, spent the remainder of the day writing. I was tired and went to bed early. During the night, I woke up needing to use the bathroom. When I leaned over to flush, I blacked out and collapsed to the floor!
When I came to my senses, I found myself face on the floor, crammed between the toilet bowl and wall. It was bizarre. I tried to get up and manage to stand - momentarily. Then I blacked out again and crashed to the floor on the other side of the toilet. I regained my senses but slowly.
After a while I was finally able to extricate myself from my lodged position, move my body across the floor, and prop myself up sitting against the wall. I waited until I was reasonably lucid. Then I managed to pull myself up with the help of the sink and return to bed laughing! It was hilarious! I could not believe what had happened!
I remember three times in my life when I came close to passing out. First, boxing a huge defensive tackle on the Arizona State University football team. He caught me upside the head with a roundup punch. Second, having my tongue sown back together in the emergency room without pain killer after a sport’s injury. Third, cleaning out a deep and dirty wound when I severed my pointer finger.
This was different. I didn’t see any stars. It was total lights out in a Nano second. The remembrance has kept me laughing. Well, I don’t know the exact cause and I don’t much care. I’d love to go home and be with the Lord! If I do, my fiercest critics will see it as an answer to pray. That’s fine by me. I’ll be in glory and who knows what the Lord has for me next.
The German Reformer, Martin Luther had a jocular wish for a vocation beyond the grave. Maybe I’ll follow his example. It sounds like fun.
“When I die I want to be a ghost and pester the bishops, priests, and godless monks so that they have more trouble with a dead Luther than they could have had with a thousand living ones.”
Of course, I am kidding.
Knocked Down but Not Out
Since our historic meeting with C.J. on August 20, 2004, I’ve been struck down but not destroyed many times by lies, threats, slanders, betrayals, injustices, cover-ups and conspiracies. The Greek word for “struck down” is kataballomenoi. It means “punched to the ground.” I’ve been through a 15 round heavy weight fight and tempted to quit on many occasions. I’ve known agony, despair and exhaustion. But even though I’ve been knocked down a plenty, I’ve never been knocked out. By the grace of God, I am still standing. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
Long ago, I articulated the battle plan SGM would use in its fight against critics and for supporters. It was all encompassing. No punches were pulled. No holds were barred.
C.J. Mahaney Convinced He Is Above Reproach & Fit to be President of SGM!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 2:48 PM
Here is their basic strategy.
1. Defend and reinstate C.J. as President [which happened on Jan 25, 2012].
2. Acknowledge little or no wrong doing to the public.
3. Withhold indicting information or incriminating evidence from the SGM pastors and public.
4. Refuse to answer hard questions that hold them accountable.
5. Misrepresent the past two years.
6. Disparage credible people and vital evidence by labeling it gossip and slander.
7. Put forth a positive image of SGM.
8. Cut their losses, put things behind them, and move on.
The first blows came from two big bruisers, Dr. Ligon Duncan and Dr. Albert Mohler (both men I respect and appreciate). They jumped in the ring with brass knuckles and started throwing punches even before SGM. These heavy weights were looking to take me out in round one. C.J. could be heard in their corner cheering them on.
“If you have been confused or discouraged by things you have read on the internet concerning my friend C.J. Mahaney and his leave of absence from the board and presidency of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), I would encourage you to…ignore the assaults of wounded people on attack websites and blogs… It is clear that far from a scandalous cover up, our brothers at Sovereign Grace are taking these matters with utter seriousness and are endeavoring to walk in Gospel repentance and humility and fidelity. C.J. knows of my complete love and respect for him… It would have been very easy for the leadership of SGM to ignore and dismiss these charges, because so many of them are so evidently self-serving and spurious accusations. But instead, the leadership of SGM has taken the high road, or rather they have chosen to go the way of self-examination, submission to outside review and correction, self-abasement and repentance. It just makes me love and respect them all the more.” (“A Word About C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries,” July 12, 2011)
“I always have had only the highest estimation of C.J. Mahaney as a man and a minister. That continues absolutely unchanged. There is nothing in this current situation which would leave me to have even the slightest pause of confidence in him. There is nothing disqualifying in terms of anything that is disclosed in [the documents]. It’s just evidence we knew all along, that C.J. is human but a deeply committed Christian and a visionary Christian leader. Detwiler has an obvious vendetta against C.J.” (The Courier-Journal, July 12, 2013)
Dave Harvey and the Interim Board jumped in the ring for round two (see "Sovereign Grace Ministries Board of Directors announcement regarding C.J. Mahaney"). It was one of the few rounds I won. Dave attempted to fight his way out of trouble using sucker punches.
An Honest Take on a Difficult Week
July 15, 2011 by Dave Harvey
This week has been very challenging, and heading into the weekend I am aware of some places where we screwed up. I’ll make no attempt to be exhaustive, but here are some highlights… When we posted our resolutions on Wednesday, people were quick to infer that we were “circling the wagons.” And I think I understand that interpretation. We should have been a lot more clear about our resolve for self-evaluation, growth, integrity, and honest dialogue. So I’m not surprised that folks wrote to tell us of their heartbreak and stomach knots in response to our post, and I do regret that… Communicating our “resolutions” seemed a precise way to convey all that. More seem to disagree than agree, and we’ve heard you… All that to say, we messed up our delivery and in the process confused our #1 audience—the people in Sovereign Grace churches. It was a halting start for our new board, but we’re determined to do better. You all have asked a lot of valid questions and we’re grateful that these events mean so much to so many… When people are tempted to think that you are (and I’ll pull from our vast supply of quotes here) “gaming the system,” engaging in “cronyism,” “going to war,” behaving with “hubris,” “presumptuous and self-serving,” and, well you get the idea—you’ve got the burden of ensuring they know you get the point. What’s the point? God is drawing our gaze inward as an organization. Not in a hyper-introspective-there’s-no-mission-out-there manner. But in a way that makes it clear to everyone, we have problems. Some of these were already on the radar, others surfaced more recently. But we’re going to face them. All of them. What I want to get across to people through how we handle this (and not just with what we say) is that we want to be more rigorous in our self-examination than anyone else is with us. We want to be leading the charge in that, not playing catch up.
The middle rounds were fought by the likes of Curtis Allen (a former D.C. gang member turned pastor) and SGM Board Member, Mickey Connolly.
“Brent, you need a hug man. For real! The only people that would sit and listen to you for two hours saying the same old stuff, are you, a few homeless people that thought there was going to be food afterwards, and a few flunkies that actually think all this is God glorifying. Brother, you got one foot on the grave and another on a banana and you are slippin’. Cut this stuff out man. Say what you got to say at the adjudication hearing and be done with it. No matter what you say in these emails and on your blog, we are not on your team man. You brought some good things to light that gave us categories to ask questions but now this is just division homeboy. This is factious. You need Jesus.” (Oct 24, 2011)
“[Brent] has now, in a sense, invaded your home and workplace with his campaign against SGM and Crossway… Let me be very frank with you… Brent is driven by a sinful lust for vindication and vengeance… Brothers and sisters, we must not allow this witch hunt of C.J. and other SGM leaders to continue. We can’t stop Brent from his writing but we can and should refuse to read or listen to the divisive speech he and others continue to spread. To do otherwise is to poison your soul, damage Crossway and displease God.” (Aug 3, 2012)
[Note: Mickey really needs help. See “Ten Common Cult-Like Characteristics Evident in Mickey Connolly’s Leadership” from August 12, 2012.]
Nothing changed in the final rounds. They kept to their eight point strategy throughout all 15 rounds. For example, I recently received a letter from an old friend in Phil Sasser’s church in Apex, NC. Here’s my response. I’ve changed identifying details.
April 6, 2013
I know it was hard for you to write. Thanks for taking the time to do so. For over a decade I tried to help C.J. in private. It was finally necessary to send out my initial documents to all the pastors in July 2011. C.J. and Dave Harvey’s deceit had grown so greatly I had no choice. Since then there has been no repentance. Only further deceit, etc. I am not motivated by a bitter vendetta.
The issues are ever so serious and pervasive. All of this would have ended if C.J. had humbled himself and those around him had held him accountable. Instead, men lied for him and shielded him. As a result, God’s opposition increased. Now we have a class action lawsuit. I am not to blame for the downfall of C.J., Dave, John, SGM, etc. The Lord has done it all.
I appealed for the longest time to bring my charges before a just and fair hearing. I was repeatedly promised this would happen. All those promises were broken. I’ve never been able to bring one charge against C.J. or his inner circle. Instead they chose the way of intimidation, lying, deceit, hypocrisy, manipulation, etc. Those are just the facts - in the hundreds. Not bitter statements.
In 2004, C.J. made a calculated decision to cover up the dealings of God in his life. In 2007, Dave joined him. Others since then. It is providential that God is using the court system to finally get their attention when they would not listen to anyone in the Church.
Phil bears some blame in all this too. His handling of me was most unjust in 2009. I was never permitted to face my accusers. I had little to no idea what was being said about me. False witnesses spewed lies. I had no access and given no opportunity to defend or cross examination. It was nightmare. Every tenet for a fair hearing that Phil included in the Book of Church Order he violated then. Again, you cannot see my face, I am not bitter, I’m just stating the facts. He knows this is true. You are welcome to show Phil this note. I’ve written about it at length.
He also knows the Three Review Panels in December 2011 were completely unjust. Once again, every tenet for a proper hearing that Phil included in the Book of Church Order was violated. I was horribly abused but he has taken no responsibility. He has asked no forgiveness nor been willing to speak out.
Sally, in all honestly, I have spoken mildly compared to the biblical prophets who addressed these same kinds of sins. The corruption is ever so great in SGM. I’ve produced thousands of pages in evidence (not slander) so people can be warned. Why? Because I hate C.J.? Hate SGM? Out to get vengeance? No! Because “love rejoices when the truth wins out!” I hope you and [Jack] will take a stand and speak out in Christian love.
You are welcome to pass on our notes to anyone. I am glad for them to see my comments.
These kinds of unremitting attacks leave you badly shaken and bloodied. Here’s a glimpse into my soul from last September.
When Salt Becomes Saltless It Is Good for Nothing
Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Several times over the course of the last 3 years, I have feared to the point of physically shaking. I used to do a lot of rock climbing. On more difficult ascents you inevitably found yourself in precarious situations. On one especially difficult section of rock, I remember looking down and seeing my legs shake involuntarily. In those moments you’ve got to get a grip. Climbing down the rock is not an option because it is even more dangerous to attempt. You’ve got to finish the climb whether you want to or not. There have been numerous occasions when I’ve wanted to get off of Mount Mahaney for fear. In the flesh, I much prefer life in the synagogue and the acceptance of men.
And let me be honest. It also proves something of a temptation to quit knowing pastors in SGM have been happy for me to risk my life on Mount Mahaney. They’ve been glad to watch from the ground and cheer me on in secret. Some days I wonder if I’m an idiot (no commentary needed). At this point, they should be on the rock, not me. I left SGM three years ago. But truthfully, though beaten and battered, I would not trade places with them. I am going to finish the climb. The top is within view.
A Ring Fight versus a Street Fight
In addition to rock climbing, I did a fair amount of boxing growing up. Ring fighting has rules. Street fighting does not. C.J. has never been willing to engage me in the ring. Nor has anyone else. For years I’ve asked for just one thing - a fair fight before the public! Such an arrangement terrifies SGM. That’s why all such requests were denied.
Instead SGM had to resort to street fighting knowing they could win no other way. They had to punch below the belt and tell people I was bitter and vengeful. They had to kick to the groin and say my writings were gossip and slander. They had to beat off witnesses to their hooligan actions with the threat of church discipline. How else could they prevail? Allowing me to present my charges and call witnesses would have resulted in a knock out.
This same kind of strategy has been used against countless others. It may be the most deeply entrenched pattern of spiritual abuse in SGM.
Here’s why I sent out the documents. It was not to slander. It was to let the SGM pastors know the truth so they could bring about reform. This followed more than a decade of private attempts to help C.J. All failed.
April 23, 2012
To All SGM Pastors,
Urgent. Please read immediately.
On July 6-7, 2011, I sent you Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine, A Final Appeal, Concluding Remarks, and The Untold Story. This became necessary for eight reasons.
1. C.J.’s deceitful explanation for his leave of absence.
2. The favoritism shown C.J. by the Sovereign Grace Board
3. The failure of the Covenant Life Pastors to enforce 1 Timothy 5:19-21.
4. Making me out to be the only witness against C.J.
5. The necessity of telling the Church (Matthew 18:15-17).
6. The denial of sin problems in Sovereign Grace Ministries.
7. The deceit of Dave Harvey and the Sovereign Grace Board.
8. The need to speak against evil.
See "Eight Reasons Why Sending Out the Documents Was Not Slander but Necessary" for a much fuller explanation.
I wish to God other leaders in SGM had addressed these issues of sin with firmness and perseverance. All that has transpired could have been avoided if C.J. had simply been held to account by faithful friends. That would have meant his certain removal from ministry. No leader has been more reproachable. No leader has mistreated more people. No leader has been a greater hypocrite.
These are not angry or bitter words. They simple represent the truth. Not as I perceive it but as clearly presented in the overwhelming evidence and testimony against him. And yet C.J. has emphatically stated he sins were not serious and he never considered the possibility of stepping down from ministry. That is the upside world of SGM.
Time to Wrap Things Up
Things are coming to a close. The Book of Church Order has been approved. Elders have decided whether or not their church will stay or leave SGM. Yesterday was the deadline. Mark Prater will be installed as Executive Director the end of May. The other polity changes will be fully implemented the remainder of 2013.
I’ve fought long and hard for the reform of SGM. This has resulted in external changes but no internal changes of which you can take note. Past wrongdoing has not been addressed or acknowledged. There has been no public repentance, confession or restitution. I admit to feeling like Isaiah who gave this summary of his life’s work.
Isa 49:4 (NIV) But I said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”
Isaiah’s labors did not bring about reform in Israel or Judah. They seemed meaningless. The northern and southern kingdoms remained undeterred and ran headlong into judgment at the hands of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Isaiah “confesses his sense of failure due to Israel’s poor response” and yet he “does not turn from God in cynical unbelief, he accepts emotional suffering and frustrating toil with confidence that God will reward him” (ESV Study Bible on Isa 49:4).
What a life! Isaiah labored 40 years, confronted kings, addressed nations, and was sawn in two! He had his priorities right! There is so much to learn from his example and writings.
In the Hands of God
Sovereign Grace Ministries is in the hands of God. It always has been! That is the only explanation for its great fall in such a short period of time. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt 23:12). The Sovereign Lord has humbled Sovereign Grace but the story doesn’t end there.
This divine humiliation is ordained by God as a warning to other leaders and ministries that resemble SGM. The evangelical and Reformed church is filled with celebrity leaders and preachers. C.J. was one of them. His downfall is an object lesson for everyone.
1 Cor 10:6,11-12 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did...These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
The leaders of SGM have steadfastly refuted the notion that God is disciplining them. They have not made right with their Maker. He’s been dissed. That is why no pattern of sin has ever been identified or confessed. You only find passing references to “weaknesses,” “inadequacies,” “policy deficiencies,” or “leadership failures.” Biblical terminology is never employed when describing their sinful actions (e.g. conceit, lording, hypocrisy, favoritism, selfish ambition, etc.) This is pure folly.
Here’s a suggestion for all SGM pastors including those that have left. Go back and read everything I’ve written. That’s right. Of course, you’re welcome to disregard anything unsupported by Scripture or unsubstantiated by evidence. But don’t allow your bias or prejudice get in the way of your learning. God has been teaching many lessons. Go back and discover what you missed or failed to master.
What Does the Future Hold?
In this post, I wanted to share some of the personal challenges I’ve faced. I also wanted to restate a few salient concerns for SGM before moving on. We have all being given a stewardship by God. That is, a calling we are gifted to fulfill and for which we must give an account (1 Cor 4:1-5).
I didn’t ask for this assignment. It was given to me by the Lord. I’d rather be ringside watching than in the ring fighting. Fighting is violent. It is dangerous. You get hurt. But some fights are necessary! Paul told Timothy, “I have fought the good fight.” There are good fights and there are bad fights. I’ve been fighting for the good of SGM.
For example, my last post about Mark Prater. In fighting against Mark’s confirmation, I was fighting for SGM. SGM desperately needs someone who can restore trust and unity. That is not Mark. He is one of the men responsible for creating so much distrust and disunity. SGM needs an Executive Director who will implement biblical solutions. That means addressing a corrupt past while building an honest future.
For the last 3½ years, I’ve fought a 15 round heavy weight match. There have been no breaks in the action. It has been nonstop. In the process, I’ve been “punched to the ground” on many occasions. I’ve been tempted to stay down for the count. By God’s grace, I persevered and fought on for the good of others.
The good fight has now concluded in the providence of God. That doesn’t mean I plan to retire the gloves. I will continue to comment on major developments in SGM and keep people up to date. For instance, the Second Amended Complaint (i.e., lawsuit) comes out next week. I’ll provide my analysis. It does mean I plan to redirect my focus. There is so much else I feel called to pursue. I am looking forward to the future!
I first wrote C.J. on March 10, 2010. I sent him Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine. That was a long time ago. It is now May 4, 2013 and my appeal has not changed.
My last words to C.J. are the same as my first words to C.J.
“I write because of my deep love for you and for Sovereign Grace Ministries. My greatest concern is for the increasing presence of deceit and hypocrisy rooted in self-preservation and the love of reputation. I’d be overjoyed to see you acknowledge these things to the movement, whether or not you ask my forgiveness for anything specific. Comparatively speaking, the latter is unimportant. Ultimately, this isn’t about us. It is about something much bigger. Therefore, I provide the history that follows for your careful consideration (p. 3)....
“I’d love to see our friendship restored. I’d love to see some acknowledgment of wrong-doing. I’d love to see issues from the past resolved. I’d love to be in good standing with Sovereign Grace Ministries. But all of these hopes and desires are very secondary!
Primarily, I hope and desire to see a restoration of integrity, truth telling and justice in Sovereign Grace so there is no lying, spin, manipulation, lording, cover-up, or partiality. I am concerned for the movement. Some men have followed sinful aspects of your example and leadership – the kind referenced in this response. These men have acted deceitfully, judgmentally, unbiblically, and hypocritically. Their example in turn, has harmed others and been corrosive in its effect.” (p. 128)
I didn’t win the fight but I did fight the fight. My reward is with Him.
Please Help - All Gifts & Tax Deductible Contributions Are Kept Strictly Confidential
 I sent out my documents to the SGM pastors on July 6-7, 2011. Duncan and Mohler responded on July 12. C.J. got to them right away with talking points. SGM responded on July 13.