Gentle Parenting?

What in the world is gentle, or grace-based parenting? Let me begin by saying, As a 54 year-old father of four, I’m still trying to learn, and this is an area that my wife and I desire to transform, as we grow in grace.

We are not parenting “experts,” nor have we ever claimed to be, even though I know some that think they are. We were indoctrinated into a system of child-rearing that we have come to see as damaging and debilitating. It produces short-term results, but at the long-term cost of what? That is still to be determined.

As we began to learn the meaning of the word grace, we have begun to see the freedom in Christ, and His grace toward rebels like us. The real question remains, if He extends such unmerited favor toward us, and directs us in Him, why did we decide we needed to beat the sin out of our children?  

I wrote a Facebook post recently based on something I saw that bears repeating. The originator of this post is someone named Sarah Ockwell-Smith. I do not know her. She said this.

Compliant and obedient children seem great in childhood, but all of those years of obeying, not being allowed to ‘answer back’ to get their point across and eventually being too scared to confide in you, for fear of reprimand, does not make for an emotionally healthy adult.

Disagreements, debates, and healthy conflict may be harder on us as parents – but it makes for a much more positive future for our children.

The picture on this blog was posted by her as well, and I think it tells such a heartbreaking story. As a child, I was spanked more than a few times. I cannot declaratively say it hurt me in the long run, and this is not an article to condemn all use of the rod in discipline. My mom and dad were loving and careful parents. There were healthy boundaries in our home growing up. Healthy boundaries are reasonable, there is a clear difference between right and wrong, and obeying your parents, this is a good and godly thing to do. It is a command in the Ten Commandments and the New Testament.

Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (Ephesians 6:1).

We expect our children to obey and to honor us. The Ephesians passage continues that it is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you, and you may live long in the land, verse 2 through 3. No issues so far, we do not allow our children to run wild, we do our best to show them love, and to keep control over them, so they are not without boundaries. The more important focus of this article is the next verse.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

I’ve become convinced this is the key to appropriate parenting. I love the Proverbs, and I believe they are critical in gaining God’s wisdom. Grace-based parenting hinges on this verse. What I’ve often seen is that authoritarian based legalistic systems teach the rod with severity. They believe the will of a child must be broken, because they are guilty sinners in the eyes of a Holy God. Teaching them first to obey, must come with strictness and harshness. They wouldn’t say it must be harsh because they would recognize the verse says not to provoke to anger, but it has no other way to be interpreted by the child except harshness.

John Calvin has a well-balanced commentary on this verse:

Parents, in their turn, are exhorted not to irritate their children with immoderate harshness. This would excite hatred, and would lead them to throw off the yoke altogether. Accordingly, in Colossians he adds, ‘lest they be discouraged’ (Col 3:21).

When we as parents react in harshness, in anger, in frustration, when we are quick to pull out the rod, this carries the immediate effect of provocation. The outflow of discipline in our children is a provocation. Matthew Henry is my favorite Bible Commentator. He has offered balanced, orthodox commentary that has survived hundreds of years for a good reason.

His commentary is concise, but illustrates my desire:

Though God has given you power, you must not abuse that power, remembering that your children are, in a particular manner, pieces of yourselves, and therefore ought to be governed with great tenderness and love. Be not impatient with them, use no unreasonable severities and lay no rigid injunctions upon them. When you caution them, when you counsel them, when you reprove them, do it in such a manner as not to provoke them to wrath. In all such cases deal prudently and wisely with them, endeavouring to convince their judgments and to work upon their reason.

Calvin also affirms this treatment of children:

Kind and liberal treatment keeps children in reverence for their parents, and increases readiness and cheerfulness of their obedience, while a hard and unkind severtity rouses them to obstinancy, and destroys their dutifulness.

Calvin does offer a warning, that we are not too permissive, and this is the balance that must be fought for,

But on the other hand, lest there should be too much indulgence, as sometimes happens, he tightens the rein as it were, and adds, in the discipline and correction of the Lord. For God does not want parents to be so fond towards their children that they corrupt them by sparing them. Let their kindness be tempered, so as to keep them in the discipline of the Lord, and correct them also when they go astray.

I believe there is an ugly downside to the demand for obedience that comes out of most fundamentalist type groups. The children become aware and trained that obedience is better than beatings. They become conformists and have no way of coping with what their little minds cannot reason through. Instead, we need to seek balance.

I found some deep conviction in a sermon by Pastor Don Green, and I post it here that you might see the high demands of the first-time obedience crowd. I realize as 1689, Reformed Baptist, this probably puts me at odds with many of them, but that is okay.

I hope to come to a balanced position on the topic, which yields excellent long-term results in our parenting, and yours as well. I don’t want our kids to be unruly, I don’t want to withhold discipline so they will “like” me, but I also want them to know how much we love them and desire the best way to parent them.

Kevin

Social Media Distancing

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Well, we all have a lot of extra time on our hands these days, at least I expect most of us do. The natural thing is to spend more time on social media, advancing your cause, getting your message out there, and “encouraging” the masses.

I’m that guy too, so as not to be overly offensive. I’ve had my time as a keyboard warrior, where I joyfully went to battle every day to rid the world of Arminians, Easy Believism “Christians, and the like…

I have decided that I’m over it, but really what I want to encourage you today, is to live like we’ve been called to live. If you profess Christ, then live the life you were called to live.

Standing for truth is important, Jesus stood for truth, Paul stood for truth, Luther stood for truth, but most of us aren’t Luther’s.  The point I desire to make, is that there is a balance to these things. Is it unimportant to be right? No, not necessarily, but I don’t want to compromise to the shame of Christ. He didn’t call me out of darkness to the glorious light of his gospel that I get to be a Raging Bull.

I’m going to begin practicing “Social Media Distancing” not because I don’t care about people, or what people have to say, it’s just that I’ve been shown that I’m really not that big of a deal. My thoughts are not that relevant. Perhaps you are different, and that’s fine, you do you…

I’ve decide I need to chill out, take care of my family, honor my employer, try to do a good job in my education, do a much better job loving my wife, the list is endless, and social media needs to be at the end of it. Thus ends my rant, carry on, and don’t forget to pray for those government officials that have some tough decisions to make.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. – 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Kevin

“Breaking Amish”

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Breaking Amish was a television series that I’ve never seen a single episode. On occasion, I would see a preview or a commercial for it, but the other day the thought of it struck me. Here is a description of the former series.

The reality series `Breaking Amish’ provides a unique look into the lives of young men and women as they break free from their Amish or Mennonite traditions to pursue dreams in another world altogether. Living in New York City and Brooklyn, New York, the cast wears jeans, uses electricity, and spends time in places that serve alcohol – all first-time experiences for them – but taking advantage of Western luxuries has its disadvantages. The cast members likely will be abandoned by their families if they commit to living full-time on the outside, and even if they return to their previous lifestyles, they risk being shunned by their community altogether. The choice is theirs, and they know it comes with potential lifelong consequences.

Amish and Mennonite communities and, subsequently, many Orthodox Christian communities place high priorities on external conformation to community standards, and this is clear with the Amish. The men wear blue or gray pants with suspenders, black shoes, and blue work shirts and wide-brimmed hats. The women wear blue or gray ankle-length dresses, hair bonnets, and black shoes.

Legalism is about appearances. They conform to a set of community standards that others set for themselves and those around them. Authoritarianism drives the train. While legalism can exist without authoritarianism, where authoritarianism exists, legalism abounds. They go together like “peas and carrots.”

Whether this show was a representation of reality or not is certainly debatable, but the concepts are legitimate and of great concern to the children in these environments. Not all children will run off to New York City and go wild. Some will internalize, and some will openly rebel. My contention with legalistic, cultic, authoritarian churches is that many of the children will grow up to become this themselves, or they will rebel against the system.

Upon leaving a place bound in legalism and authoritarianism, I made the argument that the children growing up in this place will grow to hate Christianity. They will only see it as a big set of rules. A series of do this but do not do that. Dress like this, but do not dress like that. But the whole time they most often see the hypocrisy of the adults involved. You see it is always easier to be a purveyor of the rules than an actual follower of the rules.  I hope I am wrong, but we watched the faces of the children as they grow up. They went from joyful, fun-loving kids to, in many ways, expressionless and somber. When seeds of Christianity seemed to blossom, they were often squashed because their testimonies did not meet community standards. They probably had not mourned enough.

True Christian freedom exhibited in the fruit of the Spirit is that we are free to love and be loved, to live for the glory of God in a way that each are unique and representative of the complexities of variety that God creates, but in authoritarianism, it is like Amish and Mennonite life. Everyone should look the same. Stand in line, wear the same clothes, have the same responses the questions asked…

Will the adults realize this before it is too late? I do not know, but we can hope, and we can pray.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

Kevin

Deception, Abuse & Disqualification

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In concluding a three-part series on exposing the practices of Grace Fellowship Church of Davenport, Iowa, (GFC) we will look at some of the specifics of the practices that occur, and why they are so dangerous.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

  Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

  and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24

February 4th, 2018 was the last service we attended at GFC. This very evening Mike Reid read this verse asking the congregation to examine their own hearts, I jotted down this note not knowing at the time its significance. I wrote in my note, “You prayed this Sunday night. The Lord is being gracious.”

I write this last article, with heaviness in my heart, that these leaders will turn from the practices that have hurt so many people, and the Lord will convict them to “clean up their messes”, and experience the joy and freedom of the Christian life.

I firmly believe the leadership of Grace Fellowship Church is biblically disqualified from Christian ministry, and dangerous to the church of Christ. I will present arguments from Scripture, from example, and personal interactions. These interactions are not only mine but also others. These are not personal attacks. Each of these men played a role in my life at one time, and I have no personal vendetta against them. The truth is I have a particular love for many who are still at GFC. I continue to pray for them. It is the glory of Christ and His church that needs protection from men that distort and twist the gospel to be something other than what Christ has given to the church. It should serve as a warning, not only to these men and those they lead at GFC, but to anyone that would potentially visit GFC. Also, to the universal church that it might be aware of these serious issues. May the Great Shepherd rescue His sheep from GFC and prevent even one more of His own from falling into this cesspool of biblical errors.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. – 1 Timothy 1:8-11

I believe Paul’s point is clear. Any slight distortions can and will be damaging. We see the example of teachers without understanding yet they make confident assertions. They use the law, but they do not use it lawfully. They use the law in a way that hurts others. The law is meant to convict and show error, but always in love. Then Paul calls them out, by name.

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. – 1Timothy 1:18-20

Countless people have attempted to expose the grievous errors that occur at Grace Fellowship. Godly men and women, godly pastors, well-known and respected church leaders have attempted to correct the issues. We are left only to do what the Scripture calls us to do; Expose evil. Specifically, I want to put the spotlight on the ungodly and cult-like control the leadership exercises over its members.

 

The Leaders 

 

What is Grace Fellowship of Davenport IA? How did this place become a thing that has been written about previously and now? Who are its leaders? Grace Fellowship Church, originally called Legacy Church, sprang out of a church plant in Davenport from Christ United Methodist Church. The intent was to have an inner-city ministry that served those in need. From the start, there were problems, and it never got off the ground in the right way. The original church plant included my family and several others. Of the original launch team, only two families remain.

The original failure launched a pastoral search that eventually landed Mike Reid as the pastor, despite Reid’s lack of formal training in pastoral ministry, or a thorough examination process, he took the reins. Reid is still the pastor at GFC and the main subject of this article. He began his ministry by transforming a church that was hurting into what he believed a church should be. My wife and I had originally been very convicted and challenged by Reid’s preaching, and in the summer of 2009, while going through a bible study, came to repentance and faith in Christ. We were “all in” at the time and appreciated Mike’s teaching and preaching. It was like nothing we had ever been exposed to before. He preached from the Bible, verse by verse and we were learning and growing.

Nevertheless, many people were leaving. His “style” was not for them. He could be aggressive and abrasive; he could also be kind, which will be addressed later as one of the techniques of something called “gaslighting” which is a form of emotional manipulation. In addition to Reid’s behavior, some left GFC because he began to teach the doctrines of grace. This highlights the sovereignty of God and is difficult for some to swallow. While some were leaving, others that Mike knew from his previous church came and joined. One of those men, Nick Rolland, soon became one of the elders in the church. Rolland was virtually unknown to the church nor came with any formal training, and none of the current eldership or former had any experience or training in church ministry, which I will discuss more later. He, along with Cal Bolkema, and Mike Reid made up the eldership in the earlier years. Cal Bolkema was removed as an elder over some personal indiscretions. These were mostly hypocritical, as opposed to moral failures, but he was removed rightly as he was clearly no longer biblically qualified. Eventually, Tyler Bolkema, Cal’s son, became an elder at GFC. Cal is currently in leadership as a deacon.

One other significant player in the organization is evangelist Tony Miano. Tony is not in leadership, to the best of my knowledge. However, Tony’s role in the church is important for numerous reasons. Why was it important to get Tony here? I will attempt to cite several reasons later, but for now it was important because it provided Mike with some credibility in his ministry. Tony had influence and sway in the open-air crowd and the larger, Reformed camp. He had spoken at conferences that had speakers like Paul Washer and James White. He had been arrested twice in the UK for preaching in public. That he would move from Grace Community Church in Los Angeles to little GFC in Iowa was significant and signaled that Reid should be taken seriously as a pastor and preacher.

Tony was recruited by Mike and Nick while they were at the Shepherd’s Conference in 2015. I was serving as a deacon at the time and was a part of the recruitment process on some level. I would say Mike Reid played the most significant role in bringing Tony to Davenport. Some have argued that Mike steals credibility. He is not a seminary-trained pastor, and he never sat under proper teaching for an extended period that he might be tested. Some of his methods are evidence of these very things.

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:6

This may be a significant factor in the issues at hand.

While there are many godly men leading churches that do not have seminary degrees or seminary training, men that have oversight stand a better chance of not becoming puffed up with conceit, the importance of the two-fold call, internal and external, and the cultivation helps protect the church from unqualified men. I contend that this has been the case with Mike. He has a powerful personality, almost overwhelming at times. Given some power over people, nobody to answer to except himself, and you have a recipe for a cult driven by loyalty to its leader. Mike will claim the Scripture is his authority. He will also claim the other elders keep him accountable. No one should be fooled. Mike Reid runs GFC. Nothing is done without his approval. Any contrary thoughts or expressions are condemned and quashed.

A plurality of eldership is biblical, and I believe the best way to protect a local church. Additionally, having the support and oversight of an organization, or at the least other pastors that can provide counsel and truly speak into a man’s life, is a necessity. See the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith – Chapter 26. There is great danger of falling into this trap and the condemnation of the devil, but this is not the case with GFC, they are a completely independent church, without oversight, and no fellowship or accountability to any other local churches.

Grace Fellowship claims to be a Confessional church, formerly citing a combination of the Westminster Confession and the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith. They have abandoned their combination of those two venerable documents and adopted the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith. While I’m not sure when the change occurred, I do find it interesting they believed they could write a “better” confession by combining the two. I think it speaks to the inflated view of their abilities.

Writing in his book, The Creedal Imperative Carl Truman said: “On the whole, those who reinvent the wheel invest a lot of time either to come up with something that looks identical to the old design or something that is actually inferior to it.”

The leadership of Grace Fellowship of Davenport, IA are products of Mike Reid’s teaching and influence, there are no two-ways about it, he has been and continues to be the primary influence over the men he has picked to serve alongside him.

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. – Matthew 10:24

Christ has told us we will emulate our teachers and ultimately Christ is the one we should be looking at for our final authority. However, the leadership at GFC very much resembles Mike Reid. They use the same techniques, they say the same things, and they have the same tendencies. While a plurality of elders exists in theory, it does not exist in practice. I believe the ultimate, determining factor in any disagreement at GFC is not Scripture, but whatever Mike Reid wants.

 

The Play 

 

In his book Churches That Abuse, Ronald M. Enroth notes that this pattern tends to happen over time in “churches” with abusive and authoritarian tendencies, and this is the bottom-line on Grace Fellowship. The central theme is the control-oriented leader. Mike Reid desires to know everything he can about everyone in his congregation. This creates a situation where everyone depends on him for “counsel” and advice.

Detractors of GFC have predicted that this type of control, along with Mike’s insistence on meeting with everyone, including women, would eventually lead to the usurping of a man’s authority in his own home. As former members of GFC, we watched this play itself out right before our eyes. It really begs the question, how many years must a pastor continue to “shepherd” a man’s wife on a weekly basis and not expect it to interfere with the authority structure of the home? How can a man possibly maintain credibility with his wife, when the pastor has this much influence? While the marriage bed may not be defiled physically, it certainly is defiled mentally and spiritually.

Mike has consistently been warned and criticized of this in the past but continues to exercise this kind of authority in the marriages of those at GFC. He believes this is part of shepherding the flock. He also meets with women of the church alone, with no accountability to anyone but God. He cites sources to validate this “ministry,” yet he denies any need to listen to any other counsel.

The following illustrations show the dangers and failures of this approach to ministry.

My wife and I were requested to meet with the elders for “marriage counseling”. While our marriage was in no way perfect, it was stable, and we had not requested counseling. In one particular meeting, Mike Reid continued to press my wife, over a past situation that finally left her in tears and repeatedly asking to leave, because she needed to pick up our daughter. She desired to be respectful, but Mike was having none of it, it seemed he desired to pick a fight, and after Jen had left, and I had more conversation with the elders, Mike stated, “I’m doing your job”. This really was the beginning of the end as I look back in disgust at the way my wife was treated, the cowardly way I failed to protect her, and the unbelievable control he has over people that place their trust in him. This is control-oriented, abusive leadership at its “finest” and it needs to be exposed, because this is sheep-beating, not loving shepherding. It also shows his desire to “do the job” of those husbands that can’t, won’t or aren’t progressing fast enough for him, and the goal is for the husband to have complete dominance over the wife. She should never question anything her husband says or does, nor should she ever ask questions of the eldership, after all they have been ordained by God, a phrase they were fond of using.

Another grievous example occurred on a car ride home from the abortion ministry in Iowa City; my wife was riding with Mike and Tony. My wife had recently experienced two miscarriages and perhaps too much time had gone by with her not being pregnant, so Mike asked my wife if “her parts were still working?”

On the face of it, this is immature and insensitive—at best. Why would any adult, let alone a pastor, ask such a rude and intrusive question? I believe there is a two-fold explanation. First, Mike does not hesitate to ask anyone almost anything, and often in a “caveman” sort of way. There appears to be little or no filter between the brain and the mouth. Second, and much more importantly, this is designed to show Tony the type of “relationship” or control Mike has with his people. It made Tony uncomfortable, in his own words, “I’m driving as fast as I can Jen…” Tony knew this was out of line, and this also has the future benefit of dropping Tony’s guard toward future boundary violations by Mike.

and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. – Titus 2:8

Mike has consistently used unsound speech, as evidenced here in this one example, but there are others, and the egregious nature of such a question to another man’s wife, in the presence of a virtual stranger (as Tony was at the time) is really inexcusable, and not above reproach, not dignified, not the behavior of a man of God, much less the pastor of a church.

Mike consistently digs into the intimate relationship between husbands and wives. He would tell of his relationship with his wife, in completely inappropriate ways, to help soften the blow for a wife to share details of her marriage bed. How often did she and her husband have relations? What types of techniques do they use? Again, there are no boundaries permitted—no information is off-limits to “Pastor Mike.” In his mind, this is a shepherding issue. However, the reality is that there is a trail of those damaged by these intrusive methods, having memories etched into their minds which they will never be able to remove. For Mike sex is a big part of marriage, “all things are spiritual” but if a couple is not seeking this counsel why must it be a part of the normal practices of the church? Is it truly a shepherding issue? A Christian minister should never overstep his authority in the home of congregants, and bring shame to the pastoral office in this manner.

 

Gaslighting

 

Gaslighting is a psychological technique used to manipulate and confuse people. It causes them to question reality and to lower their defenses. The techniques vary, but the goal is control over people. This article provides a good overview of the techniques used and, when used consistently and properly, can gain control over whole societies. This sort of psychological warfare is heinous and dangerous. Victims learn not to trust themselves, but to lean on the person employing the techniques. That is the point: breaking down a person’s independence, causing them to lean on the manipulator. I believe Mike Reid has continued using gaslighting as a means of controlling those at GFC.

The ultimate danger in gaslighting is that it causes people to question their sanity. In my personal experience with Mike’s techniques, I saw him use this on my wife and even on me. While I did not understand it at the time, I can see how I was manipulated into believing the leadership over my wife. They claim to put a high emphasis on marriage but they have actually done a great deal to tear down marriages. There are many broken relationships and shipwrecked marriages in GFC’s history that show how Mike’s desires to “shepherd” the flock did significant damage.

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. – Matthew 19:6

Other daily workings in church life previously included that girls in sports or attending college was highly discouraged. Most all sports were considered potentially idolatrous. Sports and girls getting a college education were the subjects of many teachings, and not only casually, or suggestively but quite aggressively. After all, why would you have girls participate in anything other than preparing to be godly wives and mothers?

A couple of things changed through the years regarding this teaching. The arrival of Tony Miano was significant because Tony’s daughter began attending the University of Iowa, and around that time, one of Cal Bolkema’s daughters decided to pursue a degree in nurse-midwifery. Nothing was ever said to the congregation; it just became something that was accepted. While this would seem the normal course of life to many Christians, it was nearly iconoclastic at GFC. It was shocking when it happened, yet nobody dared asked any questions.

As reported by a former member, Mike asked Tony Miano and Cal Bolkema in a gathering time if “(we have) ever taught against girls going to college?” Tony boldly declared, “no, pastor” as did Cal. This congregant was considerably upset over this hypocrisy, as she had lost a friend over this doctrine a few years earlier.

Here is a link to the teaching that Mike Reid, Nick Rolland & Cal Bolkema, himself, as the moderator of the conference, were quite aware they had taught against girls going to college.

From about 38 minutes and to 44 minutes will give a good overview of the clear position these men held regarding college education. I’ve quoted a few things stated below and the timestamps.

37:54 – Mike Reid: “But what did you learn in college that about being a wife and a mother and being a homemaker and being chaste and discreet and reverent… you learned the opposite at most every college you would go to not to mention you are outside of the protection of your father, again what did you learn and what is it that you are saying it is helping you to be a wife and a mother and help teach my kids?”

38:45 – Mike Reid: Speaking about his son Jack. It sounds good here, but Jack received very little education. “I’ve taken that on because he’s a man, or he’s becoming a man, so I’m educating him…”

The main idea is that teaching children the Bible and about God is the only thing that truly has eternal value. While on the surface this sounds like it might be a legitimate concept, the Bible teaches and encourages it is good and godly to work, to be able to provide for a family. Working toward a college degree is not necessarily sinful but can be a way to provide for a family.

What are the ramifications of such teaching? Observation and testimony from others that have family at this place are that many of the children will receive nominal if not marginal education. They encourage large families, which is not a bad thing, but many are unequipped, and unprepared to school this many children, so what happens is that education falls by the wayside. The church would never encourage you to send them out to school, and most people cannot afford private education, so you are stuck with getting by. Getting by is not enough to prepare these children. They talk a big game, like Mike said in his quote, that he is now educating Jack, but the reality is that probably doesn’t happen.

A question came in about girl’s attending a local college, but still living at home.

40:40 – Mike Reid: “Possibly, what are they going to learn there that you can’t teach them?”

41:36 Nick Rolland: “I think a strong desire to learn is a great thing, and there are these things called books that fit into most people’s homes and there’s lots of them and they can be read by almost anyone, anywhere at any time…”

Will an article exposing some of the hypocrisy, and heterodox teaching be effective? Only the Lord knows, and I will trust Him to have those that need to read this, read it.

I pray this will assist unsuspecting church goers with critical information before making a decision to attend GFC.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11:14

The former members and attendees of Grace Fellowship have voices that others will want to hear, I’ve posted them here. I know they struggled through leaving, just as we did. They were hurt, they were abused, and they needed to say what could not be said. Thankfully, they have been given an opportunity to say what needs to be said. So that all that read these articles have an opportunity to hear from them. I’ve talked to so many of them, and in many instances they thought nobody cared. Grace Fellowship is not all that unusual as I said in the first article, and so there are other places like this. I have seen the playbook written about time and time again as I began to spend countless hours researching these types of places.

Will those that still remain examine these claims and examine the teaching carefully and prayerfully desiring to know the truth? Seek the Lord, He will provide the answers.

There is so much more that I could say, and so many more stories that could be recounted, but this question needs to be answered;

Why would legitimate men of God desire to distort the Bible’s teaching?

Many would like to know.

 

Kevin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testimonies – And the Truths they Tell

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Christians are called to be light and to shed light into dark places, and nothing is more grievous than when the darkness resides in the church. I once again present this with a heavy heart and great hope and anticipation that the Lord Jesus Christ uses difficult circumstances for the good of his people and to glorify himself. I have decided to put forth what I had intended to be the third installment in this series, exposing error at Grace Fellowship Church of Davenport, IA, into the second article.

This article is in the words of those that have left. The range of these testimonies covers ten years, some of these people were recent, and some go way back to the beginning, but there are common characteristics to all these testimonies that will be evident. I have no joy in exposing these errors, but a desire to protect others from hurt. These are not new errors in Christianity, and if the leadership continue to resist what so many others have told them through the years, and seem to believe themselves above correction and reproof, this is a dangerous place to stay.

He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. Proverbs 29:1

Where there is no guidance a people falls, But in abundance of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11.14.  

I have received more material than I can put into this post and hope that people will read it all the way through. I have endeavored to keep these testimonies concise and truthful to their intent. These are mostly direct quotes or slightly adapted due to grammar. These are powerful testimonies, and are verifiable, as I have kept meticulous records of these encounters so that I am accountable to them and the reader. Given the overwhelming response and some that I have yet to receive, I intend to provide more as this series progresses. I never expected to do this much on the topic, we were content to leave and leave well enough alone, but in love, urge those still at GFC to consider what is said, and see the pain, hurt and damage that has been done.

A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful. – Proverbs 14:25

I’ve added one paragraph between the testimonies, and it is bolded.

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Through our time of attendance and membership at Grace Fellowship (9+ years), we experienced several practices and teachings that were unbiblical. Our children, especially our daughter, were damaged by these things, including the judgment and condemnation she experienced from many of the adult members.

Last year as the elders of GFC was teaching through the confession statement that they were adopting, and they taught that there is no limit to an elders’ authority in believing members’ lives. While I am referencing the teaching of this specifically regarding the confession statement, this was taught throughout our time there using Hebrews 13:17 as their basis, often admonishing members that lack of obedience to their requests or expectations would be unprofitable. We had even been told before that we ought not to be listening to sermons from other pastors, but that rather we should go back and listen to previous sermons from our pastor.  The intention of this was to discourage those of us who were seeking to ‘test’ what we were being taught by looking for other sermons by like-minded pastors on the same sections of scripture.   Some examples of expectations that were strongly taught over the years include that wives were expected to quit jobs to stay home in order to live out ‘God’s design for families.  Wives caring for their homes is certainly good; however, the elders influenced women to believe that working outside of the home is unbiblical or even sinful. One former member received counsel that she must not even be saved in part for her desire to go back to work to a job she enjoyed because it was a sinful, selfish desire and reflected a lack of contentment in God’s design for her as a wife.  Additionally, it was common for individual private meetings between Pastor Mike Reid and women to include discussions of intimacy with their husbands up to and including a prescribed frequency in at least one case.  Finally, toward the end of our time there, I was especially bothered by the misuse of Colossians 3:16 wherein we were directed to be looking around and singing to or at each other during the song service. To use songs and this portion of a church gathering to take away from the worship of God and direct our focus away from Him and to one another seemed greatly misdirected.  At one point a comment was even made from one of the elders in the pulpit that we ought not to be closing our eyes (to worship) because that was not allowing us to minister to one another in the song service. This exposes the idolatrous view that the elders and members of GFC have of their assembly and ended up being yet one more reason we were compelled to leave.

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Under the leadership of GFC, I saw a misconception of the term “submission.” All was well unless one questioned authority or spoke out, asking for clarification of a sermon or study. It was truly a do as I say, not as I do form or manipulation and control taking place regularly. Counsel came swiftly if clergy perceived an error on anyone’s part. The clergy’s own family was called out regularly and chastised and belittled in front of the congregation. That is not loving. Shaming, judging, and public ridicule does not bring one to Christ.

The reason that our family left was that it was being torn apart. I watched my teenager go from loving the body of Christ to stone-cold fire and brimstone. It has turned her completely away from Christ at present. I watched my husband seek guidance under weekly counsel that offered no encouragement, grace, or mercy. Counsel consisted of perceived wrongs and unwavering demands to mans contrived rules and perverted doctrine. I watched my family slowly lose the love of Christ until the day we left. It was shortly after the elder council and pastor called me in and stated that they determined I was unsaved based upon my inability to attend the weekly bible study.

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I started attending GFC around February of 2011 through April 2013. Three primary reasons caused me to leave. First was the leadership telling the people of GFC if they get something out of reading the scriptures other than what the elders told us, then we were wrong; in effect, all interpretation had to be approved by the elders.

Secondly, Mike’s son moved because of some behavioral issues in the home and Mike told the Men’s Bible Study that if we disagreed with the reasons behind it we need to keep those to ourselves, and lastly, was Mike’s insistence meeting alone with women, even after I said I am not okay with that, specifically as it related to my wife. Mike told me that if he could not meet with her alone, then I was asking them to sin by not allowing the pastor to shepherd the flock, which led to him discussing our marital intimacy without my presence giving her instructions about helping her feel closer to me.

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One common theme is how the Elders took more control of our daily life; here are some examples in no particular order.

1) Whenever I questioned something an Elder said or did, I was told to “be careful, and I’m on dangerous ground.” We were taught not to question them, and we thought if they were our Elders chosen by God, we better obey.

2) I was asked regularly about how many times a week I had intimacy with my wife.

3) I was continually told confidential information that another member revealed in closed sessions with the Pastor. He justified sharing it to make a point with me about my life.

4) There is a constant emphasis on sin. The entire church was instructed to actively look for other’s sins and call them out. Things like not being joyful was a sin of a bad heart. Once I had another member follow me into a small janitor’s closet, close the door, and asked me if I was chewing tobacco! He was 2 inches from my face!

5) Over the top emphasis on the man is the head of the home. The wife had no say, wasn’t supposed to offer an opinion if they did that was a sin issue. Wives were not to be involved in any financial decision. My wife is the best person to get an opinion from regarding any financial decision. Yes, I am called to lead, but a good leader uses all available resources, like in my case….my wife!!

6) Over the top emphasis that the true family is the church. We have two sons with children. We were encouraged not to miss any church fellowship due to being with them.

7) The misrepresentation of idolatry. I was told my grandkids are an idol, and my wife was told I was an idol to her. Interesting, the Elders wanted the church to idolize them!

8) Other various things: we were strongly encouraged not to celebrate Christmas. We were told to not say the Pledge of Allegiance or display an American flag (obviously, these were idolatrous acts). We were encouraged not to vote (although it wasn’t mandatory). We were told GFC was the only “true” church in the Quad Cities. Other churches were regularly spoken against.

Women were strongly encouraged to wear long dresses or skirts, but not pants. Girls were not to participate in sports and should not attend college. (I will speak more definitively about this in the next article).

Courtships and courting arrangements were encouraged, Elders were to be informed about financial and work-related decisions. The married couples were to completely leave the size of their family in God’s hand, no birth control choices.

Shepherding played a vital role in the church, not only for men, but wives and young women were to meet regularly to discuss a wide range of personal topics. Attendance at church functions and social gatherings became a “must” with a phone call follow-up if you did not attend.

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The stories above are familiar to the teachings at Grace Fellowship Church. While there may be appearances of biblical doctrine, there is always the level of “over-the-top,” and the constant pushing the limits of how far teaching can intrude into the lives of God’s people that become an error. The next series of testimonies were painful to read, painful to tell, and painful to post. Does this represent the damage done to individuals that one would have to ask what were you thinking? Additionally, what was God thinking? The question posed to these elders, have you caused God’s children to sin?

behind_the_mask

———————————————- Testimonies —————————

We came to GFC as saved believers in Jesus Christ, with a letter of good standing from another church we had attended for a couple of years.  We were looking for more expository teaching and thought, based on GFC’s website, that we would receive it there.

Our letter of good standing was not accepted; they did not believe our testimonies because

  • Our lifestyle was unbiblical because my husband had retired, and I was employed
  • My salvation was uncertain because I couldn’t name a date and time it occurred
  • My husband had some besetting sins he was working through, and therefore because his life wasn’t completely sinless (or at least sanctified enough), his salvation wasn’t real

We were denied the Lord’s Supper because we were not members; however, when I asked about it after several months of steady attendance, I was told I could partake one time.  Me, not my husband.  I did not partake.

We asked about church membership and were handed application questionnaires asking about our past, our sin history, the circumstances around our salvation, etc.  I completed the application and waited to have a meeting scheduled because Mike was traveling outside the country.

While there, we were witness to the discussions of two families who had left the church and were subsequently excommunicated.  In each case, the actual letters or emails from the families were not printed and shared.  Excerpts were read aloud, and defenses of the elders given, but at no time was any acceptance that anything these families identified as reasons for leaving or questioning the teaching may have been accurate.  In both cases, we were told never to speak to them and to shun them completely.  We were not comfortable with these admonitions, and my husband stood during one of the meetings and questioned whether that treatment was in keeping with Jesus’ teaching to pray for the lost and to bring them home.

The sermons given always stressed sins and never (or rarely) the joy, grace, and mercy that we receive through salvation.  We were basically taught to doubt our salvation, that assurance was not given. This constant message caused my husband to doubt his faith.  The more we attended and listened to the teaching, the more depressed he became.  He was continually told he wasn’t saved, and the methods used to convince him of that seemed intended to drive a wedge between us.  I began to believe what they said about him, and our marriage began to suffer.  Despite this, we continued to attend, believing that we were being taught the scripture correctly and just needed to be more repentant.  In hindsight, I feel like the way my husband was treated was due to him standing in public opposition to the treatment of the excommunicated members.

A meeting to discuss my membership with the church was scheduled, and I was told that my husband was not allowed to attend. It was held in the basement office; three men and me.  No women present.  I was uncomfortable with that and mentioned it to Mike.  He brushed off my concerns as unreasonable and unnecessary.  During that meeting, the validity of my faith was questioned, my military service berated as sinful, and I was told that a spousal rape that had occurred with my previous husband was not possible. (This was based on their teaching that the husband’s authority was never to be questioned and the wife was to be submissive in all things) I was asked if my income was six figures. I responded truthfully and never again was the fact that I held a job brought up.

During a Wednesday prayer service shortly after this, my husband asked for prayers for a family member suffering from cancer and who was not a believer.  After that service, a member with some standing due to his street ministry approached us, and in front of the entire congregation told my husband quite loudly that he was a “liar and a sinner.”  He was berated for requesting prayers for another when he was not saved himself. This went on for nearly 5 minutes.

We continued attending for a few weeks, even though we were beginning to have serious doubts about what was being taught there.  My husband missed a couple of Sundays due to depression and near-suicidal emotional state.  He believed what he was told that he was a sinner, and his prayers would not be answered, especially concerning my brother, who was on his deathbed.  I began to really see the lack of joy in the membership, and the humiliating and disrespectful way in which the women were treated began to really bother me. It was little things, little twists of scripture that made you go “hmmm” during the sermon and then spend hours reading and studying later to figure out just what wasn’t right.  We were not allowed to question anything that was taught – absolute authority and power of the elders.

The last straw for us was a broadcast Mike was part of where he discussed the authority of the church elders over membership, and that he had absolute authority over whether members could move away from the community and his church – he could tell them no.  The day after that broadcast, we sent Mike a text and told him we withdrew our request for membership and would no longer be attending based on the statements he made during the broadcast.  He responded, asking for specifics – we did not reply.  We also advised a couple of others that we were not returning, and in one instance, the man who called my husband a liar responded to the joint text asking me to reconsider – not addressing my husband at all.  Because we were not members, our exit was nothing like it was for others who left and were excommunicated.

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My experience with Grace Fellowship Church (GFC) began with reading an article (I can no longer find) Tony Miano posted on his blog about his first experience with GFC. He talked about his street evangelism with them and his experience with Mike Reid and the other members there. His first impression, as I recall, was that they were legalistic, but concluded: “they were pursuing a higher level of holiness.” (This may have been Tony’s wife that stated it was a legalistic church)

I tweeted Tony about evangelizing with him when he comes to Iowa again and got a response from Nick Rolland, one of the elders at GFC, to join them. The people were kind and welcoming, with almost too personal of greetings having just met.  A week or so later, Mike Reid invited me to spend the night at his house. He asked me about how I came to faith in Christ. I told him my testimony and a brief synopsis of my addiction to pornography. Mike asked me more about my sex life. He kept on prodding and justified it by saying he wanted to know everything so he could help. Then he told me his testimony and about his wife’s affairs and his affairs against his wife. These have since been taken down from Sermon Audio. He seemed to brag about how he had done the deed rather than simply looking at women, and there seemed to be no remorse in his voice.

I went to the Sunday service the next day. I would ask people their testimony, and many of the people would say they thought they were a Christian until they met Mike. They said Mike helped them realized they were not saved and preached the true gospel to them. Others who still claimed to be saved praised Mike’s preaching and teaching, which gave Mike credibility in my eyes. Afterward, Mike, Nick and I talked in Mike’s office. Nick told me he did his research and said there are not any good churches in my area.

On April 24th of 2016, I asked Nick about becoming a member of GFC. They told me to sit down at any of the tables after service. I remember them coming over with very stern looks on their faces. They sat down and asked me why I would like to become a member. Mike proceeded to bring up my sex life and willful sin again. He told me that if anyone loves God, they will keep His commandments. He asked me if I had been keeping the commandments, and I said no. I was broken. I began to cry like a baby. Mike asked me where I deserved to be for looking at women with lust, and I cried out, “In the deepest, darkest pit of hell!” Mike and Nick seemed surprised by my reply. Mike asked me, “If Elder Nick’s wife was naked in the other room, would you have sex with her?” I was confused by his question, wondering why he would even ask me that. He said something to shame me again, and I started crying again., Mike said, “I command you to repent.” I lifted my head, looked Mike in the eye, and said, “That is God’s command.” He shifted in his seat, got mad, raised his voice, and said, “You need to repent.” Nick said, “this was the most loving thing we could do for you, to help you see your need to get right with God.” I sat there, crying and confused.

I was a mess on the way home – crying, angry and confused, I thought, “How can a pastor say something like that, is it right for a pastor to tempt someone to sin? Why would Mike ask me that?” The following Saturday, a friend of mine received a text that said the elders of GFC had declared me ‘unsaved.’ I thought, “That’s it. I’m done with them.”

In the middle of May 2016, I became convinced I wasn’t saved, and this led to a very dark time in my life. I stopped reading my Bible, stopped going to church as often, and had no desire to evangelize. My flesh had full reign. I went down a path of committing grievous sins.

After some time had passed, I sat down with men from the local church and told them about the things that happened at GFC and the grievous sins I committed. They were heart-broken and wished to see me repent and restored. They practiced church discipline in a loving way I had not experienced at GFC.

Other Christian brothers reached out to me and helped me to see that what they are doing at GFC was unbiblical. One friend shared Chuck O’Neal’s article with me, and this began to open my eyes to the strange and evil things that were going on there. I still had to deal with my sin. I went home, and God granted me repentance, and I was restored to fellowship with the brethren of my local church. Praise the Lord!

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I never became a member of GFC because Nick and Mike did not believe my story of salvation credible. My testimony didn’t fit their template because my level of holiness hadn’t yet risen to the level they insisted it must be, and since my sanctification wasn’t complete, as I did continue to have some ongoing sin issues, they feared that if they accepted my testimony it might give others in the church license to stay in their sin and still claim salvation.

My faith in Jesus alone for salvation was okay with them, but my sanctification had not progressed enough to qualify me as saved, and until I was willing to admit that my past salvation experience was false, I was disqualified. They used 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Ephesians 5 to “disqualify” me. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone was their claim, but it felt so much more like my salvation was dependent on me, not good works, but an absence of sin.

They also wanted me to dismiss my coming to faith in Jesus, 15 years prior, as a false conversion.  I just could not do that.  They were asking me to deny a change in me that I could only contribute to the work of the Holy Spirit and attribute it to something else.  That seemed like blasphemy to me, and I wouldn’t do it.  I still to this day, question my understanding of what salvation is and looks like, not only for myself but others as well.

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May the Lord bless these testimonies, and may the truth be revealed.

Kevin