I once heard Joe Theismann say, “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” I understand the sentiment. It’s a “nice” statement. Being nice is not a biblical position, but it is a biblical position to be kind. Kindness has the connotation of virtue, and of being useful. Nice, according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary is softness or delicate. Modernity has told us it’s nice to be nice, but the Bible has a different solution to properly deal with people given the context necessary to deal with them. We can’t always be nice, but we must be truthful and loving, and sometimes love is not received well.
We started our summer vacation and that included a trip to Iowa. Yes, I know, who goes to Iowa for vacation? We have now lived in New Mexico for three years. It was a planned trip, and we had a desire to see many friends. The time spent with them has been sweet, and renewing affections for them and us was unnecessary, the affections have never left.
We also knew there was the possibility of encountering our old “friends” from Grace Fellowship (GFC). If you are new here you can brush up on who they are here, here, and here. In short, they are the church we were members of for nine years. When we left the church, I was serving as a Deacon and we were in good standing. We had never been under any discipline. We attended faithfully (of course that was required) and we gave faithfully and abundantly to the ministry (God loves a cheerful giver as we were reminded of every week). But we were giving to the Lord, not to them, although they were charged with the stewardship, I digress…
In the six or eight months leading up to our departure, I began having conversations with the pastor, Mike Reid, about legalism. The church was going through a lack of joy phase, admitted by the elders, and certainly experienced by our family. As time progressed it became evident, that they had zero intention or desire to make any course corrections. They were firm in their resolve, we might say, to stay the course. The course, of course, was not just legalism. It was far worse and looking back it was hard to imagine just how bad it really was and still is. I expect this post may help shed some light on those skeptics, or the ones that might think it’s time for us to get over it. I’ve addressed that topic as well previously; you can find that article here if you are so inclined.
The week we’ve spent in Iowa has been surreal. It’s a great place. It’s beautiful, it’s green, it’s friendly, it’s almost everything you would want in a place to live, except for the roads, the winters, and the cultish, or dare I say cult, “The Church of Davenport” that we once called home. I’ve not come to that distinction lightly. It took a long time for me to call it a cult. The more I’ve studied, read, and discussed the issue with others far more advanced than me, I can come to no other conclusion. The audio below will hopefully convince you as well.
Since coming to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel I have given myself to seeking the Lord and living as God calls me to live. I fail often. I get back up and seek again. The one thing I’ve never sought to do is be willfully ignorant nor rebellious to His word. I know what the Bible teaches about most major doctrines. I understand many theological nuances. I am well-studied on many topics. I understand my own weaknesses and shortcomings. But I would never knowingly dishonor the Lord through my actions. That is what I’m being accused of doing by writing these articles and appearing on the Apologetics Live podcasts to expose GFC.
What I can’t get my mind around is whether Mike Reid thinks the same thing. I’ve tried to reconcile his salvation with his actions. He has stated that I’ve questioned his salvation. I certainly do urge him to examine himself. Just as he has urged so many to examine themselves.
What I find reprehensible are his actions.
It is after all, “by their fruits that we will know them” (Matthew 7:20). What are the fruits of Mike Reid and Grace Fellowship’s actions? These are just a few.
He has a poor reputation in the community and abroad. I would say that every church in town knows of GFC and knows how they act. It’s not just that they are active in the open air. I have no issue here, but it is that Mike himself is thought of as being imbalanced. I have personally spoken with several pastors locally, and many others nationally that know of him and know what he does. This alone should disqualify him from ministry.
“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7).
He is not above reproach. He has a loose tongue and often says things that are unbecoming of a pastor. Those that have been around him when he is in a casual setting know this about him. I’ve written before about how he asked my wife if “all her parts were still working” while riding in the car with another man. It is disgraceful to say something like this, but then never to recognize just how boorish this is and never come back and say something. “You know Jen, that was inappropriate of me, I’m sorry.” He can’t do that because this would show weakness from a man that touts holiness.
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8).
I could say so much more, but I’ve been fairly exhaustive in my critiques in previous articles.
The main crux of this article is to highlight our encounter here in Iowa with a man from the church while in a grocery store on our very first night here. I’ll call him Peter for the sake of this article, but that’s not his real name. Jen and I anticipated the possibility of running into someone from GFC while here. It was simple really, we agreed to say hello in a friendly manner. We wouldn’t seek a conversation, but we would be polite, and kind. There were no internal motivations on our part as we have been accused. If we saw Mike Reid or one of the other elders, I had planned to be, “not as nice” and would say something to the effect, “how long will you go on hurting people?” I think an appropriate response to what they’ve done in their fourteen years. There is a well-attested list of those damaged under their “ministry.”
On our first night, we went into Hy-Vee (grocery store chain) to pick up some milk. Moments into the store I saw Peter walking my way. My wife was ahead of me and she turned and pointed at him, but I had already seen him. I said, “Hello, Peter.” He turned and looked at me, probably quite surprised as you will hear in the audio. He was caught off-guard. He returned the hello and then stopped to talk. I believe he was ready to extend a hug to me, but I offered my hand instead, and he took the handshake. We spoke for a few minutes, he introduced us to his sweet daughter, five years old, as she willingly informed us. We exchanged a few pleasantries and asked a few questions, and he did the same. There was nothing nefarious, and in hindsight, his actions to be kind back to us were keeping with his instincts and his love for others.
He and I were once friends. He respected me, and I liked him. We did a lot for his family. Jen did a LOT for them. But we did it because we loved and cared for them, not out of a sense of obligation.
As we departed the store Jen and I said, I’m betting the church knows by now that we are here. We also discussed we hope he doesn’t get in trouble for talking to us because we knew if he told Mike he would have some serious questions to answer to. I’ve been on the receiving end of those situations. You do something inadvertently or violate the rules, or don’t do something you should have, and you’ll get a call into the pastor’s office, or a meeting with the elders and a firm rebuke. “I need to love you more than that Kev,” Mike has told me before. I cringe to think of Peter getting the beat down when he was caught flat-footed by us. We didn’t do anything to hurt him or them intentionally. I hope it is an opportunity for him to reflect on the lack of grace at the fellowship “church.” Perhaps, an opportunity to see what we saw so many years ago now, and actually think for himself rather than being told what to do and think.
That happened on a Friday night and Monday morning someone sends me a text and says, “Hey, check this out.” He had no idea we were in the Quad Cities, and I don’t know how he came across it, but as I listened, I knew immediately what it was all about, because I’ve seen it play out more than once. I’ve seen grown men either make some sort of a mistake toward the church or ask too probing of a question and then end up “repenting” over their egregious sins toward the elders. I would have to believe Peter got up and confessed his sins of “ministering to us” that night in the store. I’m sure he sought the elder’s forgiveness and the congregation’s forgiveness for not honoring his lord and savior, Mike Reid.
After all, this is all about Mike. It is his reputation that was offended. It was his leadership that is being threatened. What I found most shocking, was his insistence that everyone in the church be on guard and ready to defend HIM. He was very clear that this was about HIM and HIS reputation, and the people that had interactions were not ready to stand up for their poor ol’ pastor who is being treated so terribly.
Does that sound harsh?
In my non-professional view, however, supported by others that are in the know, Mike fits all the descriptions of a narcissist. If you listen to this recording it exhibits narcissistic behavior. He is controlling, he demands obedience, and he is afraid of losing a grip on these people. Did I mention he is controlling, not to mention his visible anger? It rolls off his tongue. To post this monologue publicly exhibits his narcissism as he twists the Scriptures to fit his own needs.
I will cite some examples but there are many. He says that we have been “put out” of the church. I stated above that we left while in good standing. Our being “put out” was after we left. So, his claim that we were put out is only to make it sound good to him and the congregation. As if, they had done it biblically. No, we LEFT the church. It’s like getting fired after you quit. No employer with a shred of intelligence fires someone after they quit because then they are liable for unemployment, but GFC excommunicates’ people like it’s going out of style. They fire them after they quit.
He says we are the chief revilers and slanderers, and in effect, is hoping God strikes us down. Here again, Mike uses the Scriptures to meet his needs. He refuses to look at all the things he has been accused of. Not just by me, but by fourteen years of victims of his “ministry.” For there to be true reviling and slandering these things must have no basis in truth. If I went out and said he was a bank robber I would be reviling him and slandering him, but he’s not a bank robber. What I have said via the written or spoken word is true and if anyone would like to contradict those statements I’m willing to stand behind them and provide evidential support.
The truth is that he just doesn’t like the exposure. It’s easy to say I’m the slanderer and in this, he becomes the slanderer of me. He is the reviler, he is the slanderer, and he is the divisive one, and this is what narcissists do best. If I’m a believer and Peter is a believer, we are both members of the universal church and unless there is good reason to believe that I am in unrepentant sin then Peter has every right to greet me with a “holy kiss” and doesn’t need to cower because his pastor has been offended that I’ve exposed his hypocritical lifestyle. Peter did the right thing. He handled the situation with grace and love because he knew it was the right thing to do. Sadly, it probably didn’t end up that way. I only pray he realizes it someday.
In his rousing monologue linked below, Mike gave explicit instructions to his congregation on how to deal with us if they see us in public. We attended a high school baseball game and saw one of the leading men of the church. He is a man that is not afraid to tell you what he thinks. He is not afraid to offer a stern rebuke. I saw him walking straight toward me. We would have been difficult to miss. He approached and was within touching distance then took a hard left turn never making eye contact although I was looking directly at him.
I’m sure he had to consider if the confrontation was worth it or not and decided it wasn’t by the fact he didn’t engage. He has plausible deniability. I’m confident he saw us. He has a reputation that I’m sure he wants to protect. That is probably more important than Mike’s honor, or so I theorize, perhaps the congregation doesn’t fully agree with Mike on this issue? Will others engage us if they see us while we finish our days here? That’s hard to say.
I write this hoping that others will read these words and understand the dangers that abound. These dangers are especially real in what parades itself as Orthodox Christianity. Abuse abounds. Narcissism abounds. Legalism is only one branch of the tree. At the root lies an authoritarian leader that needs his ego stroked. Mike Reid loves to have his ego stroked, he loves, or demands to be called pastor. He loves it.
Please take the time to listen, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. I desire to be very careful with my words. To be exact in my accusations, and not to accuse without good cause. I’m not the arbitrator of who is saved and who isn’t, but I think if someone consistently hurts people and calls themselves a pastor, they better be prepared to examine their testimony of faith and see if it aligns itself with the Scriptures. It seems to me they are self-deceived. The track record is long and speaks for itself, and many have testified to its validity.
“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim. 5:19—20).
Lord help us stand against tyranny and abuse in the church so that they may fear the repercussions of their actions.
Listen to audio here: The audio is of poor quality, but that is in the original.
Original is located here. It starts just before two minutes and ends at sixteen minutes.