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The Roys Report

English, Christianity, 1 season, 162 episodes, 5 days, 8 hours, 56 minutes
About
Reporting the Truth. Restoring the Church.
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Healing from Adult Clergy Sexual Abuse

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Ten years ago, Sharon Clements’ world turned upside down.  
7/18/20241 hour, 11 minutes, 23 seconds
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Why the American Church is in Crisis

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} The American church is in crisis.  
7/1/202459 minutes, 36 seconds
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Navigating Church Bewilderment

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} For more than two decades, Patrick and Mary DeMuth faithfully served as lay leaders at Lakepointe Church, a megachurch in the Dallas/Fort Worth area pastored by Josh Howerton.  
6/19/20241 hour, 4 minutes, 47 seconds
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Former Leader at Josh Howerton’s Church Speaks Out

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} According to the Houston Chronicle, hundreds have recently left Lakepointe Church—Josh Howerton’s prominent megachurch in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  
6/13/20241 hour, 21 minutes, 34 seconds
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‘Ghosted’ for Opposing Trump

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Nancy French was once a darling of the GOP—and ghostwrote books, speeches, and articles for some of the leading conservative politicians.  
6/3/20241 hour, 10 minutes, 46 seconds
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Escaping IFB Abuse And Lies

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Research shows more than 95% of women who report being raped are telling the truth.  
4/25/202433 minutes, 19 seconds
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Hurt And Healed By The Church

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} The church should be a place of healing and comfort.  
4/18/202448 minutes, 43 seconds
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Pivoting from Toxic to Tov

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Can a church that’s had a history of being toxic transform its culture and become truly healthy?  
4/11/202433 minutes, 35 seconds
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When Is A Pastor Disqualified?

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} What does it take to disqualify someone from ministry? An affair? Spiritual abuse? Sexual abuse? Abuse of power? Or, as some have claimed, can just about anyone be restored to ministry because “God is gracious” and “His call is irrevocable”? This edition of The Roys Report takes a deep dive into the Scriptures—particularly, those specific verses used to justify restoring pastors to ministry who have fallen in egregious ways.  
4/3/20241 hour, 4 minutes, 49 seconds
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Is Misty Edwards A Victim?

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} A bombshell report on the alleged “affair” between popular worship leaders Kevin Prosch and Misty Edwards published by The Roys Report sent shock waves through the charismatic Christian community. How could two people, who ushered so many into the presence of God, sin in such an egregious way?  
3/13/202458 minutes, 2 seconds
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Do’s and Don’ts of Healing From Trauma

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Once you’ve experienced trauma, how do you heal?  
2/29/202439 minutes, 43 seconds
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Were Pastors Meant To Be Atlas?

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Everything rises or falls on leadership. Ever heard that line? Think about what it means when applied to a pastor’s role in a church. What about the priesthood of all believers? And where is Jesus in that equation? In this edition of The Roys Report, veteran church planter and pastor, Lance Ford, challenges popular views of leadership, showing how they’re the opposite of what Scripture teaches.  
2/14/202451 minutes, 4 seconds
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Surviving Persecution From the Church for Exposing Abuse

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} As a Christian in Iran, Naghmeh Panahi was arrested numerous times—and once even had a gun pointed at her head.  
1/30/202452 minutes, 22 seconds
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Surviving White Evangelical Racism

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Why can’t people get over talking about race?  
1/15/202451 minutes, 34 seconds
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How Christian Teachings on Sex Enable Abuse

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Men need sex.  
1/9/202439 minutes, 55 seconds
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The Great DeChurching

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} America is experiencing the largest and fastest religious shift in its history—greater than the First and the Second Great Awakening and every revival in the U.S. combined. But instead of a massive shift into the church, what we’re seeing is a mass exodus. In this edition of The Roys Report, you’ll hear from Michael Graham, co-author of The Great DeChurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going, and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back.  
1/3/202445 minutes, 28 seconds
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‘It’s the System, Stupid’

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Why is church after church succumbing to corruption and false doctrine?  
12/20/202341 minutes, 15 seconds
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Responding Well to a Scandal

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} When faced with a scandal, organizations have a choice.  
12/14/202345 minutes, 58 seconds
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The Corrupting of American Evangelicalism

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} How did loving your enemies—a command of Jesus—suddenly become a sign that you’re “woke”? And why is “owning the libs” now the answer to “What would Jesus do?”  On this edition of The Roys Report, bestselling author and journalist Tim Alberta joins host Julie Roys to explore a disturbing phenomenon in American evangelicalism.  
12/11/20231 hour, 15 seconds
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Why Not Quit?

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Exposing abuse and corruption can be a thankless job.  
11/28/202359 minutes, 54 seconds
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Recovery & Empowerment: A Path Forward

Guest Bios Show Transcript /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-video .elementor-widget-container{overflow:hidden;transform:translateZ(0)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio)}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{height:100%;width:100%;display:flex;border:none;background-color:#000}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper iframe,.elementor-widget-video .elementor-wrapper video{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-open-inline .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;background-size:cover;background-position:50%}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{cursor:pointer;text-align:center}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay:hover .elementor-custom-embed-play i{opacity:1}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{display:block;width:100%;aspect-ratio:var(--video-aspect-ratio);-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover;-o-object-position:center center;object-position:center center}@supports not (aspect-ratio:1/1){.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay{position:relative;overflow:hidden;height:0;padding-bottom:calc(100% / var(--video-aspect-ratio))}.elementor-widget-video .elementor-custom-embed-image-overlay img{position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0}}.elementor-widget-video .e-hosted-video .elementor-video{-o-object-fit:cover;object-fit:cover}.e-con-inner.elementor-widget-video,.e-con.elementor-widget-video{width:var(--container-widget-width);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} /*! elementor - v3.17.0 - 25-10-2023 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} Clergy sexual abuse is one of the most devastating forms of abuse, impacting almost every area of life.  
11/16/202357 minutes, 8 seconds
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How to Judge ‘Independent’ Investigations

Guest Bios Show Transcript Third-party investigations have become increasingly common as churches and Christian institutions continue to be rocked by scandal. But how can you tell if an investigation is truly independent—or just another attempt to cover up?   In this edition of The Roys Report, experts address the red flags and key features to look for in any so-called “independent” investigation. And they answer questions like: Can a third-party investigation by a law firm ever be truly independent? What advantages are there to hiring an investigative team that’s familiar with church culture to conduct investigations involving Christian institutions? And what are the hallmarks of a “trauma-informed” investigation? The answers to these questions are especially relevant due to the current controversy over the third-party investigation announced by the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, or IHOPKC. Mike Bickle, IHOPKC’s founder, has been accused of abusing multiple women and IHOPKC leaders have been accused of mishandling reports of abuse. After announcing it had hired a national law firm to conduct the investigation, IHOPKC changed course and dismissed the law firm. Then, it hired another law firm, but is refusing to divulge the name of the new firm.  Joining us on the podcast is a top American litigator and former GoDaddy general counsel, who’s also a Christian with a passion to protect victims. That litigator is Christine Jones, who also serves on the board of The Roys Report. She has considerable expertise in this area and her insights on this issue are incredibly helpful. Two other experts joining me, Pete Singer and Robert Peters, are known for the organization they lead—Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment, or GRACE. GRACE has become the gold standard in the Christian survivor community because of the quality of its investigations and its commitment to protect survivor interests.  Listen now for a lively, and eye-opening discussion that will help you discern whether to trust a third-party investigation—or to cry foul. Guests Christine N. Jones Christine N. Jones is a top American litigator, business executive, and civic leader who has a passion to protect the vulnerable. Until 2012, she served as general counsel for GoDaddy. During her time there, she helped drive federal Internet-related legislation, including laws to keep the internet safe from child predators like the Protect Our Children Act and the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act. Christine also practiced law at Beus Gilbert, which has been ranked as one of the top law firms in the country. She also served several years as the COO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Christine recently launched her own firm, Newman Jones, a private law firm in Arizona, which specializes in representing victims of abuse in churches and Christian organizations. Pete Singer Pete Singer is Executive Director at GRACE, which focuses on abuse prevention and response in faith communities. He is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with 30+ years’ experience across settings. He received his MSW and certificate in Trauma-Effective Leadership from the University of Minnesota. He trains and writes on trauma-informed practice and his counseling practice focuses on children and adults who have experienced trauma. He has published and contributed to a number of articles and book chapters including Wounded Souls: The Need for Child Protection Professionals and Faith Leaders to Recognize and Respond to the Spiritual Impact of Child Abuse and forthcoming work Toward a More Trauma-Informed Church: Equipping Faith Communities to Prevent and Respond to Abuse. Robert Peters Robert Peters has been with GRACE over 10 years and is currently the Director of Institutional Response, where he oversees all investigations and assessments. He served as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Special Prosecutor in multiple West Virginia jurisdictions, where he specialized in the prosecution of sexual offenses, civil child abuse and neglect, and online child exploitation. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals. Visit netgrace.org Show Transcript Coming soon Read more
11/14/202349 minutes, 7 seconds
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Hope & Disillusionment: Recovering from Ravi Zacharias Scandal

Guest Bios Show Transcript https://youtu.be/kfW97erZjYA What do you do when the man you looked up to as your spiritual hero is exposed as a fraud? How do you recover from the disillusionment and betrayal? And how do you find hope when your world is turned upside down? On this edition of The Roys Report, you’re about to hear a highlight session from this year’s Restore Conference featuring Carson Weitnauer, a former director with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Ravi Zacharias had a huge impact on Carson when he was coming of age. When Carson was hired by Ravi’s ministry, he thought he had found his dream job. But then in 2020, the dream became a nightmare as more and more evidence showed that Ravi Zacharias was not the man he purported to be. He was not a model Christian leader and sterling apologist, but a serial sexual predator, who lied and manipulated to cover his tracks. The revelations rocked Carson’s world—and especially his faith. And in this incredibly raw and vulnerable talk, Carson doesn’t sugar-coat anything. He tells of his journey from believing the exposés about Ravi were just Satanic attacks—to realizing that his own leaders, people he looked up to, were lying to him. He tells of the excruciating betrayal, pain, and depression he experienced. He talks about almost losing his faith and feeling like God had abandoned him. But he also talks about hope and hanging on, even when life seems bleak. Guests Carson Weitnauer Carson Weitnauer is an author, speaker, and the founder of Uncommon Pursuit, a Christian apologetics ministry. He formerly served on-staff at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and resigned to advocate for survivors. He has coauthored multiple books. Learn more at uncommonpursuit.net Show Transcript SPEAKERS CARSON WEITNAUER, JULIE ROYS JULIE ROYS 00:02 What do you do when the man you looked up to as your spiritual hero is exposed as a fraud? How do you recover from the disillusionment and betrayal? And how do you find hope when your world is turned upside down? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And what you’re about to hear is the second of 11 talks from this year’s Restore Conference. Speaking is Carson Weitnauer, a former director with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. And as you’ll hear, Ravi Zacharias had a huge impact on Carson when he coming of age—and internalizing his faith. So, in 2013, when Carson was hired by Ravi’s ministry, he thought he had found his dream job. But then in 2020, the dream became a nightmare as more and more evidence showed that Ravi was not the man he purported to be. He was not a model Christian leader and sterling apologist, but a serial sexual predator, who lied and manipulated to cover his tracks. The revelations rocked Carson’s world—and especially his faith. And in this incredibly raw and vulnerable talk, Carson doesn’t sugar-coat anything. He tells of his journey from believing the exposés about Ravi were just Satanic attacks—to realizing that his own leaders, people he looked up to—were lying to him. He tells of the excruciating betrayal, pain, and depression he experienced. He talks about almost losing his faith—and feeling like God had abandoned him. But he also talks about hope and hanging on, even when life seems bleak. If you’ve ever experienced betrayal trauma or church hurt, I think you’re going to resonate deeply with Carson’s journey.  Here’s Carson Weitnauer, a former director with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries—and someone I’ve come to know as a man of integrity and courage.     JULIE ROYS 04:02 Hi, I’m Julie Roys, founder of The Roys Report and the RESTORE conference, and you’re about to see a video from RESTORE 2023. Though a lot of conferences charge for videos like these, we’ve decided to make them available for free. We’ve done that because we don’t want anybody to miss out on this valuable content for lack of finances. But of course these do cost us money to shoot and to edit. So if you’re able we’d really appreciate it if you consider donating to The Roys Report, so we can continue this important service. To do so just go to JulieRoys.com/donate.  Also, I hope you’ll make plans to join us at the next RESTORE conference which we’ll be announcing soon. As great as these videos are they pale in comparison to being there in person. As one speaker commented, “this year RESTORE is more of a restorative community than it is a conference.” And every year that community just grows deeper and richer. And so I hope you’ll be able to join us at the next RESTORE. Be watching for that. And in the meantime, I hope you’re blessed and encouraged by this video.   CARSON WEITNAUER 05:11 Julie Roys is a liar. It was September 21st, 2020, and I felt nauseous and disoriented. As I thought about all of the crazy things she was saying. I was at the beach with my family. We were trying to recover COVID. But it had been a hard year because Ravi Zacharias had died. He had very suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from cancer, and I don’t cry, but in May at his funeral, I had wept that Ravi was no longer with us. And I was angry that God had taken him so soon. The Vice President (Mike Pence) was there. He said, “In Ravi Zacharias, God gave us the greatest Christian apologist of the century. He was the CS Lewis of our day.” And tributes in that spirit poured in from all around the world. Christian media, social media was flooded with praise for Ravi Zacharias. And our ministry was trying to figure out what we would do without our founder our inspiration or leader or guide. But at the beach a few months later, I felt tense and tight. And I was trying to get my bearings because I was scrolling on my phone through these articles Julie had written. Julie claimed to be an investigative journalist. But responsible leaders at RCIM had explained the truth. She was a clickbait journalist. She would dig up dirt on people so she could get her 15 minutes of fame by, you know, scandal mongering. And now she was stooping to a new low in the aftermath of Ravi’s funeral. She was claiming that Ravi Zacharias had taken advantage of Lori Anne Thompson.   07:49 And Julie had documented a lot of facts about the situation I had never heard. So I read her articles. And I tried to do a critical reading of them, I tried to ignore all of her negative biased commentary. I just wanted to pay attention to the facts that she had primary documentation for. And every evening, after I got my kids to bed, I would open up my computer and open up a Google spreadsheet, and I would put everything that Ravi and RZIM had told me in one column, and I would put everything that Julie was documenting in another column. And I got 287 rows of discrepancies. And I just kept comparing Julie’s articles with everything I had learned for three years since 2017 and 2018. I’d scoured the internet for information for three years to get information on Lori Anne Thompson. I had talked to many of RZIM’s leaders, I debated what was being claimed with my colleagues. For every good point that was raised, RZIM’s leaders had a good answer.Lori Anne had schemed with some friends to leak emails to embarrass Ravi. And they made it look like Ravi had done something really wrong. But our leaders had the whole context of the entire email chain. And they explained that the whole chain of emails had been selectively and manipulatively distorted and taken out of context to make Ravi look guilty when he wasn’t.   09:30 Ravi and a senior leader who were both Easterners explained how they read these emails from an Eastern point of view. And they said if you think Ravi is guilty of something, that’s because you’re reading this as a Westerner. We had earnestly prayed for God to protect our ministry in this time from satanic attacks. And it felt like God had put a veil of protection, a dome of protection over our headquarters, and our ministry and our events. And these satanic attacks had been thwarted by the power of prayer. And it hadn’t been my job to investigate these claims. But there were people of outstanding integrity and leadership, Christian leaders of major organizations. And it was their job to look into this. And so there were two independent external investigations. Ravi’s denomination was a highly respected denomination. And when claims like this came up, they did a proper investigation to ensure that none of their pastors did anything like this. And they had found that Ravi was innocent.   10:44 Ravi’s publisher would not publish a book by an author who did this kind of thing. They wanted all of their authors to not only have good teaching but good lives. The publisher had a responsibility to investigate. They investigated, they found that Ravi was innocent. RZIM was a multimillion nearly $40 million a year organization, in the 30s of millions, and our board was comprised of extremely qualified Christian leaders. And when a claim like this came up, the board had a responsibility. They investigated. Our senior leaders were best selling authors and powerful speakers and well educated. They had a responsibility. So our speakers our senior leaders had investigated. So I was looking at four separate investigations by Ravi’s denomination, his publisher, his board, and the senior leaders. And all four investigations concluded that Ravi was innocent, and that Lori Anne and her scheming husband had tried to extort Ravi out of $5 million dollars. It was a blackmail attempt.   12:03 So what made more sense? A self promoting journalist, desperate for clicks and attention was passing on lies because she always believed survivors? Or multiple investigations by the most trustworthy people had gotten it wrong? And so I wavered.   12:25 I had first met Ravi, when I was in high school. I was struggling with my Christian faith, do I believe this or not? And I’d read Ravi’s book can man live without God, and it really helped me. And so there were some connections, and I got to go to a dinner around Christmas time where Ravi was speaking. And afterwards, it was arranged for me and Ravi to talk with each other. And I could not believe it. Ravi spoke to world leaders. And now he was going to talk to me. And he explained, keep in touch Carson, I’d like to keep in touch with you. So on the way home, I told my mom, I would love to work for Ravi Zacharias one day.   13:03 I studied at Rhodes College in Memphis, studying philosophy. And so I asked Ravi, I wrote him a letter and asked him to give me some advice on my future career. I studied abroad at St. Catherine’s college at Oxford. And while I was there, I visited the RZIM offices. It was a chance to meet the people that Ravi had hired and trained and spoke with. I then went into campus ministry for 10 years, seven of those years, I had the joy of serving students at Harvard College. We faced difficult intellectual and cultural questions. And so we often went and said, What is Ravi say about this? What resources does RZIM have to help us navigate this conversation with gentleness with respect, with biblical fidelity with intellectual clarity? So in 2013, when I was hired to work for Ravi Zacharias, it was a dream job. I felt like God had orchestrated all the details of my life and worked it out for me to work for Ravi. During the seven years that I worked there, I got to start with the US speaking team, leading them. And then I transitioned to starting and growing an online community called RZIM Connect. And we had hundreds of thousands of people visit this community and learn how to have good conversations about faith and get answers to their questions. I had respected Ravi and RZIM for over 20 years. I’d worked at RZIM for seven and RZIM was not just a job, it was a joy. It was my identity, my community, my sense of purpose, my faith, my spirituality. So I was a real mess on the beach. And then came to more bombshells.   14:58 Both Christianity Today and World Magazine reported that massage therapists who worked at Ravi’s spa alleged that Ravi was guilty of awful, horrendous sexual misconduct. And as I read those articles, my heart sank as I thought about what those women had endured. World Magazine also reported that the tax documents Julie had were accurate and that the Thompson’s had given away nearly $200,000 one year to different Christian charities. And so I just asked myself, “Are the Thompsons greedy extortionists or exceptionally generous Christians?” “Are all of the journalists self promotional hacks, or courageous truth tellers?” And I was reluctantly but totally convinced. And I felt that I had a responsibility to take action. Because for years, I had shut down people who thought Lori Anne Thompson was telling the truth. And I had defended Ravi. And now I needed to speak up for his victims. And I had been helped by RZIM so much, I had to do whatever I could to help the ministry do what was right.   16:16 And I just trusted that Ravi Zacharias International Ministries was nothing like Ravi Zacharias. I mean, he was a fraud. He was abusive, a bully a liar. But my friends, my mentors, the people I worked with day in and day out, we’d been on road trips together, we’d done ministry together, these people were solid, they were people of integrity, I could count on them to be truth finders and truth tellers and advocates for the vulnerable. So it was October 1st, 2020. And RZIM’s board had already put out two statements, fake news, these are false. We’ve already looked into it, nothing to this. And they also said truth is the foundation of what we do. And I had to ask myself, is truth, the foundation of what we do? Are you just saying that so people will believe what you’re saying?   17:20 And then we had a global town hall meeting because the ministry launched a investigation and they knew staff had questions. And one of the ideas on official motto was no questions off limits. And so I had a few questions. And I wanted to know if we have this investigation going on, but Lori Anne and her family are subjected to a nondisclosure agreement, how can the investigation include them? They can’t disclose. And the family wasn’t willing to release them from that. So would RZIM provide cover to the Thompsons were they to violate this agreement? If there was financial penalties or legal costs, couldn’t we make sure that they could participate? And the response was wonderful. It sounded very gentle and respectful. “We’re totally committed to the truth here. We want them to participate. The NDA won’t be a problem. We’re definitely going to include them in this investigation.” It sounded awesome. And then I thought about it. And they hadn’t made any concrete promises of unwinding the NDA or providing a legal defense for the Thompson. So they were just empty promises. And then the hammer fell. There was a private follow-up conversation with our general counsel. And he explained that I had been out of line and inappropriate and should not have asked those questions. And I still have flashbacks to that conversation. And I will freeze up and just feel feel so helpless. And then I will remember that I don’t have to be afraid of him anymore. And I will take a deep breath and relax my muscles. And I will try and go back into my day. One day out of nowhere, the Chief Financial Officer sent me and my line manager an email. I guess she’d gotten wind of what I was doing, talking to staff about the situation, advocating for the women. And she wrote to me, “while I agree that we should remain transparent with the truth, I don’t think repeating potential lies, or passing on judgment, or qualities we want to embody at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Carson.” She said she value transparency and truth. But her threat was not idle. Staff had been fired for asking questions that fall. I had thought Julie was a liar. And now one of RZIM’s senior leaders was saying that maybe I was a liar too. Throughout the fall of 2020, I heard many heartbreaking stories of my friends being bullied.   20:19 At one point, the human resources director sent out an email saying, “We want to make sure there’s someone to receive staff complaints. So we’ve appointed an ombudsperson.” And that sounded awesome! There’s going to be an ombudsperson to advocate for staff. And I was shocked to see the name. The new ombudsperson had a nickname:The Enforcer. She had a track record of bullying staff. So I wrote to the HR director and said, “This person has a track record of bullying staff. You can’t have her be the ombudsperson.” And they ignored my email. The ombudsperson stayed in her role. And I had to ask myself, why did they want a bully to receive complaints of bullying? If they cared about staff mistreatment, why did they appoint the Enforcer to this role?   21:09 And as information began to circulate around the ministry, I started to learn about some pretty big lies. Ravi had always said that for that nondisclosure agreement, no money changed hands. But in 2017, our senior leaders had read an email where they had learned that Ravi Zacharias had paid $250,000 for that NDA. And so for years they had known Ravi was lying. And they never corrected the record about a $250,000 payment. And the four investigations I had trusted, they consisted of asking Ravi if he did it, taking him at his word when he said he didn’t, and closing the investigation.   21:58 RZIM’s president asked us not to publicly comment on the investigation because they were so committed to the integrity of it and to finding the truth, they didn’t want anyone to comment about it, so it could run its course. But then, at the end of October, there was a major fundraising weekend called Founders. They would raise millions of dollars in one weekend. And all of the people speaking there, they basically said, “Ravi is a hero, and we want you to make a major gift this year in honor of his legacy.” In November, there was a global apologetics conference. Pastors and churches were trusting us to help them with the big questions of the day. And to a global audience, our speakers share their favorite memories of Ravi and how Ravi had mentored them. They encourage participants to imitate Ravi’s example. And I realized that our President’s request for silence wasn’t about the integrity of the investigation. It was about silencing anyone who believed that Ravi had abused women. It was about protecting Ravi’s reputation. And his reputation and our ministry’s reputation.   23:03 I had gone to prayer meetings four days a week, and the weekly chapel one day a week, for years. And at the prayer meetings, there were again prayers for God to protect our ministry from the satanic attacks. And I realized now that they were praying against me and what I was doing. And that really complicated my prayer life. By December, I was so discouraged and worn out and wrung out and exhausted. I talked to anyone I could about this issue and been pretty discouraged. When I showed up to our staff Christmas party, I was hoping, look, this is a classic, we laugh, we have fun, the spirit of Christmas. This could be a good moment of connection and recovery. And then came the Christmas Devotional. It came from our chief cultural officer who was a board member. It was Ravi’s widow. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, the apostle Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” And her Christmas Devotional was, “Everyone here, follow Ravi’s example, the way he followed Christ.” And it was a home run. People liked the message. They thought it was a great Christmas Devotional. And at that point, I knew RZIM was not interested in finding the truth. And they weren’t interested in the victims. They didn’t believe there were victims. It was about loyalty to Ravi over everything else. And I felt that darkness was closing in around me and I ran out of hope.   24:42 RZIM said they valued truth, and they kept telling lies. They said they valued respect, but they bullied us. They said they valued integrity, and they acted hypocritically. They use the name of Jesus to get money, and they didn’t use the money to follow Jesus. In September of 2020, I lost my confidence in Ravi. By December of 2020, I lost my confidence in RZIM. And in January of 2021, I resigned. And I had to wonder if I would lose my confidence in God.   24:42 I was a wreck. I was unemployed. I didn’t feel good. I found my family finances changed. I was directionless. What do I do with my life now? I was isolated. I lost all my friends from work pretty much. I was disillusioned. My childhood hero was a liar and a bully and a sexual predator. I was recovering. I was trying to find words to explain all the pain I was feeling. I was trying to understand what spiritual abuse was, how to respond to bullying. I didn’t know how to describe what I was experiencing. I was frustrated and angry. I poured my heart into this online community and it had to be shut down and then deleted. All gone. I was ashamed that I’d given seven years of my life to this ministry that would be always associated with scandal.   26:26 And I was so confused. Why would God bring me to work for a sexual predator and a corrupt ministry? I felt so rejected. And hopeless. I just felt like my whole body was covered in pain. One of my first attempts to recover didn’t go very well. I went on a retreat by myself. I got an Airbnb in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was beautiful. You know, since childhood my my Bible had been a source of life. But for three months it had been poisoned. And so I didn’t really want to read the Bible. And I’d usually loved praying to God. It just felt like dust in my mouth. I had graduated from seminary, but I had never had any training for this. I finally just opened up this journal I brought. And as I started to write, I wrote these incredibly bloody and raw and angry, just super intense prayers to God. Like some pages were just one word of anger at God. And I felt so troubled by what I had said to God, I threw the journal away.   28:01 Slowly, over time, I started to find a few things that helped. After I would drop off my kids at school, I would go to the gym. And instead of feeling weak, I would start to feel strong. And then I would go to the dry sauna. I would just sit in there as long as I could. And it just felt like the heat was taking all the pain out of my body. That’s a really good time. I kept talking with a counselor, and he helped give me language helped me express my emotions and start to understand what had happened. I shared my story with friends at church,. And I told them the same story 100 times and they listened and listened and listened and listened and listened to me. I got to know Lori Anne Thompson. I found she was a source of healing in my life. That she would be my friend and forgive me and give me wisdom and care to help me find my way forward. Ruth Malhotra is here. And she has been a steadfast friend and has helped me navigate so many complex things about this. My mom is here for this talk. And she’s been amazing. I leaned on my wife for support. I could not in any way have made the decisions I had made, except that she decided to be completely there for me. And it’s been years of her, offering me unconditional love and support as I figured things out again.   29:40 I had to rethink all of my beliefs. I read books on theology and church history trying to evaluate if this still made sense to me. And I got really, really honest with God. And I stopped having any pious prayers. It was unfiltered, direct expression of how I felt with God, exactly how I felt about him. I told him, what was on my heart. And even though I was yelling at God, I continued to sense that God was with me, and that God loved me. And I started to pray the Psalms, and I would tweak them as needed. And it was amazing to me that the Psalms were so visceral and real. They blame God for a lot of things. And God heard those prayers and said, I’m going to put these in my Bible. So people can pray them for the rest of time. And I realized that Jesus and the prophets had already spoken the words I needed to say to the leaders at RZIM. And to Ravi Zacharias. I had tested Ravi. He was a disappointment. I had tested RZIM. They were a disappointment. And then I tested God with my very worst. And I found that he could handle it.   31:16 One thing I didn’t know is that the road to recovery goes up and down a lot. Sometimes you cannot make progress. Sometimes you don’t know if you are making progress. Sometimes you thought you have made progress and you have not–you have regressed. At one point in the spring of 2021 My family went back to the beach for another chance to recover. And I got an email from RZIM saying they wanted to give me severance, which sounded like a real moment of repentance and hope. But I read the separation agreement and my heart sank. It was a nondisclosure agreement. I sent it to four lawyers to make sure I understood this correctly. All four said that’s a nondisclosure agreement.   32:05 Boz Tchividjian helped me fight it. And for two months, we were dealing with RZIM’s corporate attorney. I lost sleep. And I felt stressed out. And I could hardly think straight, that an organization with millions of dollars in the bank was trying to take the one thing I had left: my voice.   32:28 And if you think that’s an unfair characterization, consider that RZIM has never done anything to help Lori Anne Thompson with her NDA. To this day. It’s embarrassing. And I got hit from other angles that really confused me and threw me for a loop. I reached out to my whole network and people reached out to me. Mentors, respected Christian leaders, people who wrote books and talked about integrity and Christian leadership. And they had heard my heart ache. They had cared for me. They had prayed with me. They had told me they hoped I would get better. They were there for me. And then they endorsed the books of RZIM’s leaders. They did events with RZIM’s leaders. And I couldn’t understand why they would help relaunch the ministry of people who had bullied me. I reached out I said, “Can I update you? They have not done anything to get right with me or a lot of other people. They don’t have the Christian character and integrity you’re always saying is so essential.” They said, “Why haven’t you forgiven them?”   33:45 Some of them just refused to talk to me. They just never responded to the message. And again and again, I realized that for many Christian leaders, accountability is for anyone who gets in my way. It’s never for my friend who’s done something wrong.   34:09 And I didn’t know that I would have flashbacks. I thought the past was the past. I didn’t know that I would be at my desk trying to do work and be unable to do anything for hours because I couldn’t stop thinking about a conversation I’d had with someone at RZIM. I didn’t know it would keep taking days of my life.   34:29 I would log into Facebook. And Facebook would be like, here’s a happy memory of you and Ravi Zacharias. I would hear a new story about RZIM’s corruption. And there are so many stories that are not public. So up and down, up and down, up and down. There were times I was in so much pain, I didn’t know if I would ever get better. I didn’t know if it was possible to get better. I could not see a light at the end of my tunnel. And then I wouldn’t get a little bit better. But something would happen. And I would go back down into that pain again. So then, when I was better, I didn’t know if I would stay better. It felt so fragile. How long does this last for? When will something catch me off guard and knock me back down into the pit.   35:34 And if you feel like there is no light at the end of your tunnel, and if you wonder if you will never get better, I just wanted to say, I hear you. And then it’s okay to not be okay. That was one of the main things I just kept saying to myself, it is okay, in light of what I’ve been through, to not be okay.   36:03 And over time, I had to accept that Ravi and RZIM had damaged me. And for a long time, I just denied that and resisted that and hated that. It felt so unfair and wrong, that they had changed who I was. And I didn’t like what they had done to me. And the kind of person that they had shaped me to be through their hurt. And I felt so helpless. I mean, how do you change the past? How do you undo all the horrible things they did? You can’t. I didn’t know what to do with that. I didn’t want to face that reality.   36:50 But at some point, I gained the strength to choose who I want it to be. I will never justify what happened. I’ll never spiritualize it. All of the lies and bullying and spiritual abuse were totally wrong. But that doesn’t mean I can’t choose a better future for myself.   37:13 So I’m now awakened to the pain of survivors. I’m excited about that. That’s a good thing God’s done in me. When I see evangelical corruption, I’m not afraid to challenge it. Sometimes people say to me, Carson, are you worried that if you keep calling out all of these big name leaders for corruption is going to limit your future. And I say if it limits my future, that’s not a future I want to be a part of.   37:51 I once thought Julie was a liar. And now I can call her a friend. I hit rock bottom. I might go there again sometime in the future. But I’m here today sharing with you a story of hope. I enrolled in the Doctorate of ministry programs so I can learn how to build a healthy Christian culture. Some Christian leaders decided to investigate what happened. And they published a report holding RZIM’s leaders accountable. It’s sad how many ignore their report. But it’s great that they did that.   38:30 My former line manager at RCM reached out to make amends and over and over again, he made really sacrificial choices for my benefit. And that rebuild trust that he kept doing sacrificial things to repair our relationship. I started Uncommon Pursuit. And we’re creating resources to help people grow in their Christian faith. And I read the Bible with more sensitivity to God’s heart for many years, thanks to some good mentors, I had always had known for many years that God cares about the vulnerable. The orphan, the widow, the immigrant and the poor. God hates injustice. God hates racism. God hates sexism. God hates all forms of oppression. But it had shifted from being something that I could do exegetically to something I felt in my gut as I turned the pages of Scripture.   39:34 And I have developed a way more honest relationship with God. I don’t pray pious prayers anymore. What I feel that’s what I tell God about. And I know he can handle it. When the truth becomes a lie, when a good reputation is used to lure people in and abuse them, when the minister turns out to be a monster, it’s okay not be okay.   40:05 I am not here today with any answers or advice. All I have is the story of how God has been able to handle all of my pain and helped me to start to heal. And how with God’s help, this pain has helped me to choose a better version of myself. I am convinced that if we can maintain the courage to be honest with God, and with each other, about all of our reasonable and righteous disillusionment, that we will also find our way to hope. Thank you guys for the chance to share with you today.   JULIE ROYS:  41:02 Well again, that was Carson Weitnauer, speaking at Restore 2023. And what a very special and moving talk that was. And I hope if you’re in a place of disillusionment or discouragement today, that this talk encouraged you. Next week, we’ll be releasing a fitting sequel to Carson’s talk. That’s a talk by Lori Anne Thompson on trauma recovery and empowerment. And this was the most raw and real talk I think I’ve ever heard. My husband cried during this talk. And he’s a math teacher, so he’s not really given to shows of emotion. But wow, Lori’s talk is just so powerful—and helpful for anyone who’s experienced severe trauma. So, you’ll definitely want to be watching for that. Also, I want to mention that the videos of these talks are all available at my YouTube channel. A lot of conferences charge for their videos. But we’ve decided to make ours available for free because we don’t want anyone to miss out on this valuable content because of lack of finances. But as you can imagine, these videos do cost us to shoot and edit. So, if you appreciate this content and you’re able to pitch in, would you please donate to The Roys Report so we can continue this important service? To do so, just go to JulieRoys.com/Donate.  And when you give a gift of $30 or more this month, we’ll send you a copy of Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer’s latest book: Pivot: The Priorities, Practices, and Powers that Can Transform Your Church into a Tov Culture. So again, just go to JulieRoys.comDonate. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube. That way, you’ll never miss an episode! And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then, please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks for joining me today! Hope you were blessed and encouraged!    Read more
11/8/202340 minutes, 35 seconds
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Pivoting Your Church From Toxic to Healthy

Guest Bios Show Transcript How can you transform a toxic church culture into a healthy one? And what’s the best way to initiate change? In this podcast, theologian Scot McKnight and his daughter, Laura Barringer, join me to discuss their latest book, Pivot, a sequel to their earlier best-selling book, A Church Called Tov. While their first book explained the characteristics of a “tov,” or good, culture, Pivot tackles the next challenge—transforming ingrained toxic cultures into tov ones. As Scot and Laura discuss, transformation can be a grueling and painful process. And their research shows transformation takes an average of seven years! But it is possible. And cultures led by narcissist leaders that create consumers can transform into ones led by servant-leaders that make disciples.  In their characteristic relatable and warm style, Scot and Laura explain the practical steps required to do that. Specifically, they discuss the priorities, practices, and powers necessary to pivot, or transform, toxic cultures. And they give real-life examples of churches that have undergone this transformation and lived to tell about it! Scot and Laura draw from their own experiences in churches, conversations with leaders seeing transformation happen, and a deep well of research to provide actionable insights for churches and ministries. Guests Scot McKnight Scot McKnight is a professor of New Testament and has been teaching for more than four decades. His specialty is in the fields of Gospels and Jesus studies, but his passions are in the intersection of New Testament in its context as it speaks to the church today. Along with his daughter, Laura Barringer, they have published A Church Called Tov and a follow-up book, Pivot, which discusses what churches can do to help transform themselves from toxic cultures into tov (goodness) cultures. Laura Barringer Laura Barringer is coauthor of A Church Called Tov as well as Pivot: The Priorities, Practices and Powers That Can Transform Your Church Into a Tov Culture. She previously co-authored the children's version of The Jesus Creed and wrote a teacher's guide to accompany the book. A graduate of Wheaton College, Laura resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband Mark and their three beagles.  Show Transcript SPEAKERSSCOT McKNIGHT, LAURA BARRINGER, JULIE ROYS JULIE ROYS  00:00So how can you transform a toxic church culture into a healthy one? And what’s the best way to initiate change? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today are theologian Scot McKnight and his daughter, Laura Barringer. They’re the authors of the bestselling book A Church Called TOV. TOV is the Hebrew word for good or goodness. And the book explained how to create a church culture that’s truly good–one that resists abuse promotes healing and spiritual growth. But what if your church or Christian workplace already has an ingrained toxic culture? Well, that’s what Scot and Laura’s new book PIVOT is all about. It explains the priorities, practices and powers that can help you pivot or transform your toxic culture into a TOV culture. But it’s not easy and it’s not for the faint of heart, but it is God honoring and it is possible. So I’m very excited to delve into this topic was gotten Laura But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Plus you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information, just go to JudsonU.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out. Just go to BUYACAR123.com.  Well again, joining me is New Testament scholar Scot McKnight, who has authored more than 50 books. He’s currently professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. And he’s an ordained Anglican and maintains a blog with Christianity today called Jesus Creed. So Scott, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you join me.   SCOT McKNIGHT  02:25 Thanks, Julie. Good to be with you again.   JULIE ROYS  02:27 Yeah, second time. So I always like when I have a repeat guest. It means it must have gone okay the first time.   SCOT McKNIGHT  02:33 I used to be with you sometimes on the radio, in the old days.   JULIE ROYS  02:37 On Moody. Yeah. Yes, old days. Well, thank you so much for joining us. This is going to be fun. I love the book. And Laura, thank you also for joining me again, Scot’s daughter Laura Barringer, who’s co authored Scott’s last two books, A Church Called TOV and PIVOT. Laura also is a children’s ministry curriculum writer for Grow Kids. And her day job is teaching kindergarteners in suburban Chicago and Laura, I know you’ve had a full day teaching them today. So thank you so much for for joining us and for being willing to come on.   LAURA BARRINGER  03:09 Yeah, thank you for having me again. It’s nice to be with you guys.   JULIE ROYS  03:13 And you were just with us at RESTORE, and did a phenomenal job. And we’ve been rolling out the videos on that and yours will be rolling out in the next few weeks. But that was just delightful to have you. So thank you for joining us at that.   LAURA BARRINGER  03:27 I had a great time. It was such an honor to speak at the event and meet so many of the people that I’ve interacted with online over the last few times. I was just blown away by how special. I was anticipating it. But I was blown away by how special that was to see actual faces. And I came away just realizing this is so much more. It’s not just a conference. It’s so much more than that.   SCOT McKNIGHT  03:51 That’s what we experienced the year before.   LAURA BARRINGER  03:53 Yeah.   SCOT McKNIGHT  03:54 Same thing like these are the people.   LAURA BARRINGER  03:56 Yeah.   SCOT McKNIGHT  03:56 These are the people. Yeah, that’s good.   JULIE ROYS  03:58 Yeah, I think you called it a restorative community.   LAURA BARRINGER  03:58 That’s what it is.   JULIE ROYS  04:00 I love that. I was like, yes, that’s exactly what RESTORE is. And Scot, you joined us last year for the RESTORE conference. And your video is up on our YouTube site as well. And I believe it was on How To Be TOV, Not Toxic. So a lot of that stuff that we’re talking about today, although today, we’re talking more about your second book, which is kind of making that pivot when you realize you already are toxic, right? And you’ve got this culture ingrained that’s not so good. And Laura, I loved in the book where you said, at one point you’re like, I teach kindergarteners and now I’m doing all these interviews on how to make a church culture TOV and how to make it good and you’re like, how did I get here? And then a pastor said to you, “you know what you nurture little people all day you children all day long, and that skill, even though it’s often not valued by pastors is probably more appropriate than a lot of them realize.” And I just I love that. And I’m sure you’re finding that as you’re speaking to people.   LAURA BARRINGER  05:05 Yeah, that was very meaningful interview that was Jared McKenna. He has a podcast that he had invited me on. And for whatever reason, my dad wasn’t there. I don’t know, usually, they want my dad, and then I tag along. And so initially, those interviews could feel really uncomfortable, because every now and then I would stop and think, do these people, you know, they’d asked me about, like, the church abuse crisis. And I’d think, “do these people not realize that I was making kindergarten ready for school confetti earlier today?” How have I landed in this spot? But that was a very encouraging conversation for me when Jared said, you know, you have some of the qualities as a teacher that we want to see in our pastors. And I stopped, I thought, I suppose that’s what we do all day long as teachers we nurture and encourage and shepherd. So yeah, that meant a lot to me, as you read in the book,   JULIE ROYS  06:05 And Scott, you teach at a seminary, but a lot of seminaries aren’t teaching about this kind of stuff. Like you’re you learn a lot of Bible knowledge. But as far as how to create cultures and how to nurture goodness within churches? I mean, are we teaching this in enough seminaries? Or are we maybe a little heavy on the head knowledge and not enough on the cultivating of the heart?   SCOT McKNIGHT  06:30 The answer to that is no. There are really no seminaries that are focused on spiritual formation or character development,   LAURA BARRINGER  06:41 Really?   SCOT McKNIGHT  06:42 None. The curriculum for all the courses is Bible theology, church history, and skill development. And skill development is what is measured, as a general rule for what constitutes a good pastor. In other words, they can preach they can lead, you know, we talked about leadership, I don’t, but the evangelical world does. And we read books and from the business world, and we read, what is it, Jack Welch? We read all these people. And these are the people that are formational, for people’s perception of what is success, and what constitutes a pastor. One of the curricular changes that took place in seminaries about 15 years ago, 10 years ago, was to bring spiritual formation into every class, rather than located in one class, a class on spiritual formation. And so we do it that way. But Julie, I think character formation for church leaders, is caught more than taught, it’s embodied more than it’s instructed. And it requires time with someone who has that kind of character. So if you can be an assistant, in a church with Mr. Rogers, for five years, you’ll never be the same. If you are in a church with, we won’t name any names don’t need to in this context, for five years, you will be harmed in character formation.   JULIE ROYS  08:12 And that’s what’s so sad is that so much of my reporting is on churches where that’s happening, where you have pastors who can preach the Bible, and can teach it–sometimes with really good doctrine–and yet, the life does not match the teaching. And so that is so much of the problem. So I’m so glad that you that both of you have done these two books, which go hand in hand, and I loved your first book, A Church Called TOV, and I love this book PIVOT, because it’s, it really is sort of the sequel, and I think helps an awful lot. And we’ve been using this phrase church culture. Scott, let me just start there. What is a church culture? Because this is something we often don’t think about yet we often swim in it, and we’re shaped by it. But what is it exactly? And how is it formed?   SCOT McKNIGHT  09:00 A culture is a living agent that conforms people, whether they understand it, or not, unconsciously, unintentionally, to become people who fit in that culture. Now, that’s the impact understanding, but culture is a living agent. That is the result of people decisions, policies, over time, that result in a given set of assumptions that are mostly invisible, that shape what’s going on in a given institution, or church, whatever, without even being aware of it. That’s the culture.   JULIE ROYS  09:44 And so often what we see I know when I report on a church or a leader, and in several circumstances that’s led to the leader being removed, and then they bring in a new leader, and you think, oh, everything’s different now.   SCOT McKNIGHT  09:58 Yeah.   JULIE ROYS  09:59 But it’s really not. Right? Because  Nothing. You’ve got a culture that’s ingrained, you have people that have been formed by this culture. And they don’t know any different than how to run a toxic church, because that’s how they’ve been discipled. That’s the culture that they’re familiar with. So you use this metaphor in your book of a peach tree, to help us understand culture. So Laura, let me throw that to you. What is this peach tree metaphor? And how does it apply to helping us understand the church?   SCOT McKNIGHT  10:01 Nothing,   LAURA BARRINGER  10:30 So the peach tree metaphor, it’s, it is a cute, if you will metaphor, but it actually is research based and we based it on the research of Edgar Schein, he’s one of the, to my knowledge, most important researchers on organizational culture. And also to our knowledge, we were not able to find research or books on church culture or Christian organization culture. So we took what we learned from him and adapted it and made our model a peach tree, mostly because I have a peach tree in my backyard. Mark, and I planted it when we moved in our home about 10 years ago. And it ended up being perfect for this metaphor, because it’s very unhealthy. We’ve never even eaten one peach off the tree. So like, Oh, that’s perfect, because it was a very small because I called her tree. But at any rate, so we talked about peaches as the visible elements of your culture. And it’s what people see and experience when they walk in the door. So they might feel like, Oh, those graders were friendly, or who’s singing on stage or, when the Anglican tradition, they pass the peace, that’s part of the culture. And when they leave, they can probably explain what they felt, what they saw. So what we have learned, and again, this is research based, is that what is underneath the soil is what feeds the living elements of the tree. And most of that is like what my dad was saying that you can’t see it, you don’t even know it’s there. And like our peach tree in our backyard, the fact that it’s not growing peaches is not the problem. The problem is that is probably the soil or that we’re not caring for the tree, we’re supposed to add nutrients every year–we never do. So that’s how we develop the model is that the soil and what’s underneath the soil, what goes into the roots is what feeds the culture of your organization. And so you really need to look at, we learned, is “what’s feeding the soil?” If the tree is being fed by the fruits of the Spirit are by spiritual formation practices, the culture is likely healthy and thriving. If it’s being fed by ambition, or power abuse, then the culture is going to be toxic. And so you might get some healthy, like looking peaches, but underneath that’s very sick.   SCOT McKNIGHT  13:04 This is a good question. And Laura’s got a good answer there. But I was in a conversation the other day was a seminary professor who talked about the last three presidents of that institution. And the seminary professor said they were all narcissists. And I said, I think we have to look at why narcissists rose to the top in that organization. There’s a culture that gives rise to “that’s the kind of person that seems to fit the job description.” Why is that the case?   JULIE ROYS  13:39 And that is an important point to make. Because I think so often we do point at the narcissist, and oh, this horrible person that was there and did such horrible things. And we don’t look at what’s our responsibility for putting that person in and for following that person for not noticing the characteristics that we should have. And you’ve named some of the toxins that go into these soils of these toxic churches. You give, and I love this because you don’t hear the stories very often. And I’d love to report on a lot more of them. I wish there were a lot to report on. But it’s of a church that discovers that it’s toxic, and goes through this transformation process. And one of them that you talked about is is Oak Hills church in Folsom, California. Explain why Oak Hills felt like it had to transform and then how it began to do so.   LAURA BARRINGER  14:33 Yeah, this is one of my favorite parts of our work on PIVOT, I think. I had never heard of Oak Hills. Just one day a book arrived on my doorstep, sent by Scot McKnight. And he said you need to read about this, and then write about it as a case study for PIVOT. It’s such a beautiful story, but essentially, the pastors Mike Lueken and Ken Carlson founded a church in California called Oak Hills. And they had come out here to Willow Creek to learn as much as they could about doing church. And they don’t criticize Willow at all. They said, in fact, everything that we tried worked. Their attendance exploded, they became a mega church. But they started to feel I would describe it just like an unease like in their soul. And they felt like the exact quote is so striking. It says, “the way that we were doing church was actually working against the invitation of Christ to experience his transformation.” And they had been reading Eugene Peterson, and Dallas Willard and more. And they felt like our attractional model is working against transformation. And so they took the whole church through a very tumultuous process. Their attendance declined, like it was cut in half or more. But they ended up transforming their church from an attractional model to a spiritual formation model. They said the people in the church had become consumers. So like, they would sit there and want a really good show. And then the next week, they would come back and they wanted an even better show. And they said, it felt like we were feeding a monster, and they were drained. They were worn out. And they just felt that stirring in the spirit that they had to transform it.   JULIE ROYS  16:28 Yeah, somebody asked me once, whether I thought a mega church could ever be healthy. And my answer was, perhaps, but it just seems to me that all the pressures are in the wrong direction. And it’s awful hard to withstand the pressures that keep pushing you in that direction. And I’m curious, Scot, have you ever seen a mega church that, really, you’re seeing a real emphasis on spiritual formation? And it seems really healthy?   SCOT McKNIGHT  16:59 This is a really interesting question because it feeds into what we researched in this book. And Edgar Schein, I’ve seen a lot of them, because I’ve only been there for a day or two. Okay, so this is what they are masters of, is the weekend service is extremely impressive and they have talented, charismatic, winsome, affable people that welcome you at the airport, take you to nice hotels, feed you nice meals, provide a green room in the back with all the amenities that you need, and a wonderful platform where they stand up and even clap for you. Great music. So here’s the point, I do believe there are mega churches that are healthy. But the only way to know this is to have someone investigate them, not for the purpose of exposing anything, but for the sole purpose of finding out what’s really going on. And it would take three to six months of someone who’s skilled at knowing how to find a culture. This is what Edgar Schein does, he’ll go to places like let’s just say IBM, and work there for nine months. And it takes that long to find what is actually in the soil feeding the place. So there’s no megachurch pastor, or leaders, or any church is going to tell you that what’s driving them is ambition, and competition. They want to win the battle of the best church in the neighborhood or in the city or in the state or in the United States. They will never say that, but that is one of the drivers. And it takes a long time to figure out that that’s what’s actually at work when fundamental decisions are made in the church. So I would say I’ve never had the opportunity to actually examine a mega church at that level. I do know, a mega church model that the theory is that it’s small groups that meet on Sunday. That’s the kind of mega church model has the capacity to be working at character formation. But I can’t say that I looked at the people I’ve met there have been very impressive, but that’s what a famous pastor in Canada that was his model as well.   JULIE ROYS  19:26 Bruxy Cavey.   SCOT McKNIGHT  19:27 Yeah, that’s a lot of problems.   JULIE ROYS  19:29 Yeah. And he comes from Brethren In Christ Anabaptist background which is my background. I grew up in that so at that was very sad for me to see that happen.   SCOT McKNIGHT  19:39 Well, I endorsed a lot of his books so not that long before this story. Yeah, I’ve known Bruxy a long time. Sad story.   JULIE ROYS  19:47 Yeah, it is and Brethren in Christ churches from my at least from my growing up, I haven’t been in one for many years because we don’t really have them in the Midwest, but I felt like they were phenomenal at character formation, spiritual formation. You talk about three pivotal priorities–and one you’ve touched on–but I want to do a little bit of a deep dive because we’re talking about emphasis on character, not ability. I mean, that seems like one of those like, Duh, this is basic, right? I mean, we should be all about character. But why is it that this is such a misplaced priority? Like we really are not looking at character in our churches, and we find, pastor after pastor after pastor falling into scandal and into disrepute, because of character flaws? Why is this?   SCOT McKNIGHT  20:39 I think, let’s say the pastor on the platform is a different beast altogether than ordinary people in the church. But those aren’t the same things. The character issues, you’re expecting people to hire a pastor to be able to perform on that platform every Sunday, and put butts in the seats and bills in the plate, and baptisms in the pool. And buildings on the campus. That’s what they hire him for. But I would say there’s a couple things. Number one is our church is, let’s say, measurement devices, or success measurements are not shaped by that at all. A second thing is, it’s extremely difficult to measure spiritual growth in a true character formation. And I think I said two, but I got a third one. And it takes a lot of pastors. A lot. You can’t have one pastor working with the transformation of 50 people. They can’t do that. They don’t have that kind of time. That’s why the small group model has the capacity. If you don’t have pinheads running the small group. If you have people who are Mr. Rogers, like who get to work with people in that small group. We just have a lot of things distorted in the wrong direction. And they start in the wrong location.   JULIE ROYS  22:06 And this is the challenge, isn’t it? Like you said in the book, if you’re going to transform from a toxic culture to a TOV one, what you’ve seen is that it takes minimum seven years, probably three years before you see this change start to happen. And often the church will shrink. In Oak Hills, they lost what 1000 people?   LAURA BARRINGER  22:28 Yeah.   JULIE ROYS  22:28 Yeah. And I said this at the beginning of the RESTORE conference, to the pastors who were there, because we talked about, you know, a lot of church hurt at these conferences. And I did hear from one pastor who came and this was at the previous year, and he said, “Yeah, it was really, really powerful conference, but I kind of got the feeling as a pastor that maybe we’re the bad guys.” And so I wanted to make sure this one to say, “No, we love you. We’re so glad you’re here. And the fact that you as a pastor, invested in coming to hear from wounded souls, about the way that they’ve been hurting the Church says something about you and your character and why you’re here. And you’re exactly the kind of pastors that we need in our churches.” Yet. I think if I were doing a conference on how you can grow your church overnight, I wouldn’t have enough seats, if I had a proven method of making your church double overnight. But what you’re talking about here is, here’s a path to making your church maybe smaller, maybe less successful in the world’s eyes, and trying to get people to buy into this model. But in the end, there’s greater fulfillment isn’t there in knowing that you’re actually producing people who are furthering the kingdom of God? Because you’re actually modeling Christ to people. It’s a powerful thing. But how do you get people to buy into that?   SCOT McKNIGHT  23:48 Well, when you were talking, I’m sitting here thinking of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with his renegade subversive hideout seminaries in northern Germany and Prussia, and the impact of Dallas Willard on someone like James Smith, where it was over time, with one person working with another person. And that’s a different calling. And it’s not like that’s what we hire people in churches to do. You know, the last Barna book I read by David Kinnaman, was on pastors. And I think the number was 12% of pastors enjoy discipleship.   LAURA BARRINGER  24:34 That low?   SCOT McKNIGHT  24:35 Yeah, it may be lower than that, but I think it was in the book, Pastor Paul. But that is not what they see themselves doing. They see themselves preaching and leading and administrating and organizing. And some of them writing books, and traveling around speaking at conferences. That’s what they see themselves doing. But if you work in Navigators or you work in Campus Crusade or InterVarsity on a campus and colleges, which are some of the most effective TOV institutions in the world. They are all about working with young college students and helping them deal with the fact that they got drunk last night, and we got to find out what’s going on. And they disciple people. And it takes a lot of time. And in four years, those students, a lot of them want to come back and do the same to other college students. That’s the multiplication principle of Navigators. And Navigators is all about one on one,   JULIE ROYS  25:37 And what virtues should we be looking for? And should we be cultivating?   LAURA BARRINGER  25:42 Theologian.   SCOT McKNIGHT  25:43 (laughter) There’s a couple of ways to look at this. And I think we need to take the major virtue passages in the Bible. So look at the 10 commandments. Alright, look at the book of Psalms, pick a couple of prophets and say, What are they trying to inculcate in people? And how they should live? Then look at the Sermon on the Mount. Look at Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit. Look at what Paul says about love in First Corinthians 13. Look at First John’s teachings. Avoid Jude because he’s too hot, a little angry all the time. So and just realize that there are different ways to package this over time to frame what virtues we want to talk about. Now, there’s ways of summarizing, let’s say, we want to be followers of Jesus. That’s a summary statement. Or we want to be characterized by love. Or if you’re in the Puritan movement, you want to be characterized by godliness. And that means you read the Puritans, and you subscribe to Banner of Truth  Trust, and all this, and these become your heroes. Jonathan Edwards is the guy. But all these terms are summary statements that need to be unfolded. And so the virtues, the character that forms these virtues, so that they become sort of instincts can be framed in different ways. But all those passages can help us shape the kinds of virtues we’re looking for.   JULIE ROYS  27:23 So we have character is one of our priorities. Another one is TOV power. And I have to say, when you hear that word power, and you’ve experienced abuse of power, just that word power, can be scary. So how can we tell if power is being harnessed and used in a good way, as opposed to a toxic way?   LAURA BARRINGER  27:49 Yeah, this is a big one for us. After A Church Called TOV was published, we received letter after letter after letter, we wrote a lot about sexual abuse, we heard mostly from victims of power abuse, we would get these letters every week, my dad would get some I would get some. And it was story after story of people who had been wounded, mostly by pastors who had misused their power. And the people had tried to stand up for themselves or those who found the courage to maybe try to talk to elders. It was like they didn’t get very far because people didn’t believe them, or it was done behind closed doors. So people say, Well, I haven’t seen him do that. That’s not how he is. That’s not my experience. And that was so painful, because it discounts the reality of what another person endured. So this was a really big one for us when we went to write PIVOT. All of us have power, right? Like, I have power, I’m a teacher, so I have the power to influence those under me and how people use their power is a measure of their character of who they are as a person.   SCOT McKNIGHT  29:09 People have power. And anybody who exercises a decision, who is a leader, has a right to make those decisions. And people underneath them, I guess, have a right to bellyache about them as well. I mean, that’s part of the complaint culture that workplaces develop. But to me, one of the signs of power desire is when someone who is your leader makes a decision that you don’t like how do you respond? Do you manipulate? Do you gossip? Do you attack? Do you get other people in your corner so that you can eventually destroy that person’s reputation and character? That’s a very important element of power, in institutions, is a complaint culture that forms. All narcissists have no self awareness of the power that they have, and what they are doing to people around them. They have lack of self awareness. So they think what they’re doing is right all the time. And when they’re criticized, they DARVO. “That’s not what I was doing.” Well, yes, you did. That’s the impact you made on it. So they lacked that awareness.  So it needs to be revealed by people being able to have a safe place to be able to express what they’ve experienced from a person. I’ve been in institutions where presidents were removed. I’m at one right now. And the former president, there were too many people who were released, and then stories were released about that person. And The Roys Report reported about it.   JULIE ROYS  30:53 Yes we did.   SCOT McKNIGHT  30:54 Not very good news for our seminary. But those were symptoms, signs that something’s going on. And it was not a safe place for people to be able to register their complaints. And it didn’t seem to be achieving anything, I think power is going to happen. People get to do this, who are leaders. They have power. So they exercise their power, and not everybody’s going to agree with it, and people get to interpret it. And they can be dead wrong, and be very convincing, even though they’re wrong. But at the same time, there has to be some sort of device mechanism, TOV tool, that gives people some indications of how that person is using power. And I think it’s possible to reveal some of this stuff. But I think it’s impossible to change a narcissist.   JULIE ROYS  31:52 So you have to have somebody in positions of leadership, who obviously have the character and wants to use their power in a right way. And one of the things that that you do in this book, which I think is really helpful, is you not only have questions at the end of each chapter, but you do have assessment tools, where you can begin to assess some of these things to say, Okay, this is a toxic culture, this is a TOV culture, this is a good way of using power. And maybe not so good way of using power. It’s a beautiful thing, when you see somebody in power, use that power to protect others to draw out someone who’s quiet, who wouldn’t normally speak, to be able to notice the weak and the vulnerable and to use the power to protect and to help.   SCOT McKNIGHT  32:39 I think people who use power well, are not recognized as using power. Because something happens and you go, Oh, that was really nice. And you didn’t realize that that leader decided to elevate somebody in a way that empowered them. So when they’re empowering others, you usually don’t recognize that they’re using power. It’s when they violate the power. A good umpire in a baseball game is unrecognized. And when you’re talking about the umpires, it’s because they screwed up. They messed up stuff. You notice it. “That was terrible!” And I think that’s the same way with leaders. If you don’t recognize their leadership, and things are functioning pretty well, you probably got a pretty good leader.   JULIE ROYS  33:33 That’s good. Yeah, I would say the number one problem of most of the bad leaders that I report on, obviously, the character issues there and everything, but the way it often comes out is in hypocrisy. They’re just not living, what they say they believe. And you make a big point of one of the priorities is you got to model. You got to be the example of what you want your culture to be. And I love this, one of the people that you talk about modeling this goodness is, as you said, Mr. Rogers. Explain how Mr. Rogers is modeling exactly what he’s teaching.   LAURA BARRINGER  34:14 Well, when we went to write A Church Called TOV, I kept sending my dad examples like, what about this pastor or this one? And he kept saying, no, no, no. And he said, We need somebody that’s dead. (laguhter) Because–that’s exactly what he said–they have to be dead. Because there’s too many scandals that erupt. And sure enough, we have a story in A Church Called TOV, that when it went to the next printing, we had to remove because the pastor, allegations etc. So we use Mr. Rogers as our example. Mr. Rogers, from everything we have read about him, the man that you saw on TV was the man that everybody knew. He was patient. He was gentle. He was just as kind in person as he was on the television screen. He would get distracted by children, he would tell Oprah, I’ll come on your show, but you can’t have children in the audience because I will be distracted, I will be I know that I will be, all of my attention will go to them the vulnerable. That’s what my heart and soul is, is for. And so when you said hypocrisy, that’s the opposite of Mr. Rogers, there are some beautiful stories that we recited in the book about him that he is as good a man as he appeared to be.   JULIE ROYS  35:35 Hmm. And there was one in the book, I thought was so touching about a man whose wife . . . was the wife, the employee, I believe, or was   LAURA BARRINGER  35:44 The wife was the employee.   JULIE ROYS  35:46 Yeah. So the wife was the employee, and she died. It sounds like young, got cancer and, and Mr. Rogers would show up and visit, you know, visited on a regular basis. And the day she died, he he knocked on the door and said, I just had a sense that, that you needed me today, or you needed to be visited today. And here, she was dying. And he came in and cried with him, you know, as his wife was dying and prayed with him. And the husband said, he never talked about it. Nobody ever heard that story about Mr. Rogers.   LAURA BARRINGER  36:21 He didn’t get up and talk about the ways that he volunteered or helped people. I also love the story about the reporter who maybe this is in A Church Called TOV. No. I remember I don’t remember no. He said, “Do you know, who is the most important person in the world to me right now?” And the reporter was like, Who who is the most important person? Mr. Rogers said, “You, I’m talking to you, you have my full attention. You’re the most important person in the world to me right now.” And the reporter was, like, stunned that a celebrity would spend that much time and give him that much attention for I think he said an hour which was unheard of with celebrities, interviews.   JULIE ROYS  37:05 Well, and as a reporter, you’re just happy when somebody wants to talk to you because most of the people I talk to, they don’t want to talk to me.   SCOT McKNIGHT  37:13 But Julie, you know the issues of the people that that we want to find out more about, that have become celebrities that Katelyn Beaty has written about. They’re there. And you just think they’re just amazing because of the platform persona, that they’ve presented in their pastoral sermons. You just go, “I want to be like that person.” Okay, so the tendency is to make those the examples. And all you see about them is the presentation on the platform. And that’s why I said to Laura, we can’t take living examples now. I mean, yes, I understood what she was doing. And she had some wonderful stories, and they they truly are probably good people. But because I’m older, you know, I think when when I wrote when we wrote TOV I was probably 65.   JULIE ROYS  38:10 A whippersnapper.   SCOT McKNIGHT  38:11 Yeah, I was young compared to the day.  here were people that we wanted, you know, that I could easily say they were fantastic people that in the last five years, I would say, Well, maybe that’s not so true. So it was important for me I finally said, Laura, we got to find dead people whose whose stories are unimpeachable. But I have found stories of people that I have exalted in my years as a professor. I’ve written I’ve used their names. And I discovered later that they were horrific people. And nobody knew. Nobody was talking. Because even in those days, you didn’t talk about things like that. We, I mean, when Kennedy was a president, we didn’t talk about what was going on in the White House, behind closed doors. Now we know these things. So that’s why we went with dead people. But but nobody questions Mr. Rogers. And so we used him in both books.   LAURA BARRINGER  39:09 I remember that–my dad’s texts, “Nope, only dead people.”   JULIE ROYS  39:13 Problem is even dead people, Ravi Zacharias that didn’t come out, you know, until after he was dead. But I mean, obviously, a little better if they’ve had a little bit of time, between their life and some study of the kind of person they were,   SCOT McKNIGHT  39:30 I would also say that nobody’s perfect. Not many people are like Mr. Rogers. So people with warts and all is not the worst thing. David is hardly a beautiful character in all the pages of the Bible. The apostle Paul can lash out at people. I don’t know about Peter. Mary seems to be a good person, other than the fact that she’s trying to tell Jesus what to do and how to be a messiah. So we just we can’t expect perfection but we expect a certain level of maturity that we can count on. And we may find out that Pastor got really mad one day and said something he shouldn’t have, but he admitted it.   JULIE ROYS  40:11 That’s a big one to me is Do you hear the pastor admitting wrong, asking for forgiveness, because that needs to be a regular practice. Let’s talk about some of these practices of transforming cultures. And you talk about there being a transformational agent. Normally, when you see these kinds of transformations happening, and as well, a transformational coalition.   SCOT McKNIGHT  40:35 Julie, let’s just say you realize your church has got some stuff in the soil that needs to be healed. Alright. And you go through a process of discovery. And you come up with five things that we need to work on in the next five years. All right, I think that’s a pretty normal process. I don’t believe that the pastor should be in charge of all this. Now, in most churches, I believe the pastor will be in charge of this because the pastor is in charge of everything. But I think it should be handed off to a transformation agent, who is independent, and can get more honest responses from people than the pastor can, unless the transformation agent is just a flying monkey, as the as the words are used, or a mole for the pastor. If it’s a person of character, they’re going to be trusted, and the pastor is going to have to listen to the results. But I think it’s good to have a transformation agent whose responsibility it is to organize administrate, to evaluate, and to pass the information on so that it can be implemented in a really good way to the leadership of the church. But it can’t just be one person or two people. And it’s not based on it’s not a bunch of sermons,   LAURA BARRINGER  41:52 I don’t want to skip over something really important that we learned from Edgar Schein, again, the major researcher on this topic of transforming culture, is he said, You can’t transform anything until your problem is clearly defined and crystal clear. That’s what led us to write the TOV tool so that it can help groups or whomever is taking it churches, groups, teams, clearly identify areas of strength, and then areas where growth is important. And Edgar Schein said, that’s like the most important step of all is listening. And that might take a lot of conversation and a lot of authenticity and hearing maybe things about yourself, you don’t want to hear. But that’s like one of the most important steps is identifying, “we are not putting people above the reputation of our institution.” Or, “it seems like we’re really good at truth telling, but we’re not offering a lot of justice to the wounded.” So every organization is different. But those conversations where you unearth, what are the strengths, and where do we need to grow in these areas of like that we created the TOV tool out of our circle of TOV from the first book. It just cannot be skipped over. And then that can be used by the transformation agent and the coalition to have some data and listening as they move forward or attempt to move forward.   SCOT McKNIGHT  43:28 And I would add to the coalition is you can’t transform a culture because you’re a persuasive speaker, with a couple of friends in your church that are all doing this. It takes a culture’s ownership to get there. So our theory is okay, we got a transformation agent and a couple people, they studied the Bible, I won’t get into all that, then it grows to a group of five. And then it grows to a group of 10. And then it splits into a couple more groups that grow to a group of 30 or 40. And you’re starting to build a critical mass of people who are committed to this idea and working it out. But they’re contributing to the idea. So it’s not like I got a great idea. Now we’re gonna go implement it. It is, I have an idea. Let’s work on this together. And before long once you get 50 to 75 people involved in it, there’s ownership but the idea has now grown into something that is healthier, stronger, deeper, wider. It starts to get ownership, if you have a fairly sizable church, before you go to the church.   JULIE ROYS  44:36 And I think what’s to me exciting about listening about some churches that did this. And even hearing you talk about it, this is a very organic thing that happens as people are discussing this and something starts to grow. I mean, basically, this culture begins to reform as people are reforming. Right? And they’re beginning to model it, and they’re beginning to change, and so then you begin to see this transformation happen. And then hopefully you’re moving into a different culture. Right? And the congregation becomes a different kind of culture.  And those who quite frankly, don’t buy into it, leave. I mean, I remember the power of that when we did youth ministry, like we just said, from the beginning, we don’t do entertainment, the world does that better than us. But if you want to come and worship and pray, like, we’re really going to be a part of that, and studying the Bible, and the ones that weren’t interested in that would just fall off. And then we would gather a group of people who really wanted to do that, and it became our culture. But it takes that kind of time. But you talk about then the last part of your book about the powers and the congregational culture powers, I thought it was really interesting, especially Laura, when you were talking about kind of the practices that led to a culture at Willow Creek when you were there. And then you contrasted that with these practices that led to a culture at this Quaker church that was completely different. Talk about that, because I thought, it’s such a great example and a contrast, because we often don’t think about what we’re doing when we’re doing it, and how this is creating a culture. But I think, as I was reading it, it made me think about things that I’m doing, and what kind of culture does that create? So yeah, talk about that.   LAURA BARRINGER  46:29 So I didn’t really realize what the culture of Willow Creek was, until I left Willow Creek. And being out of it allowed me to see and I’m not criticizing it, I’m just saying like, factually, there are a lot of people that attend, they put people up on stage, that walk through the campus with bodyguards. And there’s sort of a feel of like haves have nots, or the whole service leads up to what the speaker is going to say. And you know, weeks ahead of time, who’s going to be speaking and like Mark, and I’d be the first to tell you, like, we got into a terrible rut at Willow, we were like, Oh, we don’t really like that speaker. So we’re not going to go this week, you know, our neighbors would be like, come for a bike ride. Okay, we’ll do that instead, like, we were just consumers of a show. So we left Willow Creek and experienced the Anglican tradition, which is very different. But then what I wrote about in the book, I tried to get into less Twitter fights or whatever X fights?   JULIE ROYS  47:37 It’s weird. It’s just weird.   LAURA BARRINGER  47:39 I know. One day, I just wandered into this, like delightful conversation with a Quaker pastor. And I remember his name, because we have a family friend of the same name, Scott Wagner, and he posted pictures, and I don’t know anything about the Quakers other than what I’ve read, you know, just a little bit. So I’m not I don’t know where they stand theologically at all. But his pictures were so startling to me. They were getting ready for a meeting. And the chairs were set up in a circle. And it was just in this like, small room with wooden floors. And after coming out of the Willow Creek tradition was like, well, where’s the speaker gonna stand? But that wasn’t what the goal was at all. It was like a meeting where everybody was seen as equals. And I don’t know, it seems like is that how the early church was? That’s how I picture people in my head, like, sitting in a circle together. Not like all of us staring at a person on stage.   JULIE ROYS  48:44 I have to say, being in a house church now and experiencing meeting in homes, and we haven’t had a sermon. You know, in the past 18 months since I’ve been going to our house church. There’s no sermon. We’re opening the Bible. And there’s a facilitator and we dig in together, and we study the Bible together. And I just love it. I mean, I come away every Sunday, it’s like, wow, that was rich, that was really good. And I’ve gone to a church too where we were in the round, in fact, is one of your colleagues there, Dave Fitch, his church that we attended, where we would have the chairs all in a circle, I love that, I think in the Anglican tradition, instead of the sermon being the highlight, really, the table is. Eucharist. That’s the highlight, and that communicates a value. So I think looking at what are we doing in the service, and I have wondered about this. And to me, the fact that we make a man on stage preaching, which is very heavy head knowledge. And I’m not saying that’s wrong, but I’m, I often wonder if that’s sort of a post enlightenment way of thinking that the pinnacle of the service is the sermon?   SCOT McKNIGHT  49:56 It happened at the reformation that turned the sermon into a major, the major focus. The early church didn’t have sermons.   LAURA BARRINGER  50:04 They had letters, right? They would hear, read letters?   JULIE ROYS  50:07 And at that one sermon where, what is it Eutychus?  Fell out the window and died. You know,   SCOT McKNIGHT  50:12 Paul was talking, he was talking. But I mean, it was a it was a house church, you’re talking about a normal sized living room with maybe an atrium with some water in the middle. And people around it talking and someone instructors instruction. There’d be the reading of a letter. There’d be the exposition of a psalm or something. And eventually, they would read scriptures and then preach about or teach about it. But it was a fellowship, where there was instruction, there was prayer, there was worship, there was caring for one another. And that’s where the church got started. Jesus didn’t preach sermons in the houses, he told stories, parables, it’s where the parables came from.   JULIE ROYS  50:59 Well, obviously, there’s a lot of things that we can do to sort of jumpstart transformation. We’ve talked about some of those. But I love that you kind of land this book with where the power really comes from. And it’s from the Holy Spirit, and it’s from God’s grace. So talk about the importance of relying on the Spirit, and grace, so that we’re not manufacturing something but we’re actually being led by God.   SCOT McKNIGHT  51:31 When we were writing this book, I told Laura, probably 10 times, every chapter could be the first chapter. They were all interlocking.   LAURA BARRINGER  51:39 We had trouble ordering the chapters.   SCOT McKNIGHT  51:42 And theologically, I wanted to begin with that theological ending, but I know that just sounds like I’m a seminary professor. And we’ve got to get people interested in the topic first. So the neuralgics is what it’s called sometimes. So yeah, I think the example of Christ, the significance of the Holy Spirit being open to the Spirit, the power of God’s grace, which is operative, in the example of Christ, and in the power of the Spirit, all those things are what ultimately is responsible for transformation of an individual person, and of a community, a church. If we think it’s just mechanics, and structure, and system and program, it’s gonna go dry. But when it is the dynamic of the Spirit of God, leading us, prompting us, directing us, making us change, making us think of new things, we’re in the right place.   LAURA BARRINGER  52:39 That’s what I love about the story of Oak Hills is that they say we felt this sense of dis equilibrium in our soul. And they surrendered to what they felt the Spirit was telling them and leading them. And they followed. And I think they would say, the transformation was worth it. Rather than having consumers, they were discipling people to grow in Christ. And they were like, we just steadily pushed against the culture, and taught people how to live like Jesus. That was it.   JULIE ROYS  53:12 And I believe that Jesus said, his last words were not to go and make big churches or converts. But yeah, to make disciples, that is, what the church should be doing. And so I just really appreciate what you guys have put together here in this book, and that you’re really moving people, I think, towards something beautiful and something good. Any last thoughts or final encouragement for those who might be thinking of embarking on this journey of trying to transform or are in the midst of it. And I mean, as I said, at the beginning, it’s not for the faint of heart, it’s not going to be easy. It could be a seven year or even longer process, any encouragement for them right now.   SCOT McKNIGHT  54:00 I would say go with it. There’s going to be many times when you’d like to return back to where you started and say, we’ll just go back to where it was working. Roll with it. Because it’s going to be different for every group. But it’s worth it to pursue this direction, to see what God can do in your church and in your institution, over time, as you begin to focus on, let’s say, the power of God’s grace to transform us into being people who are like Jesus Christ.   JULIE ROYS  54:34 And that’s pretty exciting.   LAURA BARRINGER  54:36 Amen.   JULIE ROYS  54:37 Well, again, thank you so much. I really appreciate both of you and appreciate the ministry that you’re having and the impact that you’re having. This has been extremely helpful. So thank you.   SCOT McKNIGHT  54:48 Thank you, Julie.   LAURA BARRINGER  54:49 Thank you for having us.   SCOT McKNIGHT  54:51 Thanks, Laura.   LAURA BARRINGER  54:52 Thanks, Dad.   JULIE ROYS  54:54 Scot and Laura, thank you so much for the gift of this book—and the gift of your time today. This has been so helpful . . . And if you’d like a copy of Scot & Laura’s new book, Pivot, we would be happy to send you one for a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report. Again, we don’t have any large donors or advertising. We simply have you—the people who care about exposing toxic churches and leaders, and then encouraging them to transform into TOV ones. So, if you’d like to support our work and get the book Pivot, just go to JulieRoys.com/donate. Also, I want to let you know that next week, I’ll be releasing another talk from Restore by Carson Weitnauer on Disillusionment and Hope. This is an extremely vulnerable and moving talk where Carson tells his profound disillusionment when he discovered the truth about Ravi Zacharias. At the time, Carson was a director at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries—and Ravi had been his hero. This is such a painfully honest, yet hopeful, talk—and one you won’t want to miss. So, be watching for that. We’ll release the talk as both an audio podcast and a video at my YouTube channel. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube. That way, you won’t miss any of these episodes! And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then, please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks for joining me today! Hope you were blessed and encouraged!   Read more
11/1/202356 minutes, 41 seconds
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Recognizing and Healing from Spiritual Abuse

Guest Bios Show Transcript https://youtu.be/xfqTi7vFjhwWhat are the telltale signs of spiritual abuse? And once you’ve been subjected to it, how do you heal? On this edition of The Roys Report, we’re rolling out the first of 11 talks from this year’s Restore Conference. This was an amazing gathering of survivors of church hurt and abuse—as well as pastors and Christian leaders wanting to better minister to these survivors. The gathering featured some incredibly powerful and eye-opening talks. One of those talks is on recognizing and healing from spiritual abuse, from Pastor Ken Garrett—one who knows about spiritual abuse firsthand. Ken and his family were members of an abusive church in Oregon, which turned out to be a cult. But after escaping the cult in the mid-1990s, Ken went on to complete graduate research on spiritual abuse. And he created the Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education, or SAFE. This is a bi-monthly meetup for survivors of spiritual abuse connect and support each other—where people of any faith or no faith are invited to participate. Ken also is the pastor of Grace Church in Portland, Oregon—and he’s the author of In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse in Christian Churches. This talk deals with narcissism, control, and breaking free. Ken, who is such a warm and gentle soul, guides us through these difficult issues with a father’s heart. Guests Ken Garrett Dr. Ken Garrett is the pastor of Grace Church, Portland, a diverse, historic downtown church, and author of In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse in Christian Churches. Ken has spoken and written for the International Cultic Studies Association, and provides support and encouragement to many survivors of abusive churches, cults, and high-demand groups in the Portland area. He founded the Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education, an informal gathering for mutual encouragement and education that welcomes and supports survivors of religious abuse from all faiths. Show Transcript SPEAKERSKEN GARRETT, JULIE ROYS JULIE ROYS  00:04What are the telltale signs of spiritual abuse? And once you’ve been subjected to it, how do you heal? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and on this podcast we’re rolling out the first of 11 talks from this year’s RESTORE Conference. This was an amazing gathering of survivors of church hurt and abuse as well as pastors and Christian leaders, wanting to better minister to the survivors. As one speaker commented, RESTORE is more like a restorative community than a conference. And there’s really nothing that quite compares to being there in person. That said, we had some incredibly powerful and eye-opening talks. And one of those talks you’re going to hear today, the talk is on recognizing and healing from spiritual abuse, and the person speaking is Ken Garrett, someone who knows about spiritual abuse firsthand.   Ken and his family were members of an abusive church in Oregon, which turned out to be a cult. After escaping the cult in the mid-1990s. Ken went on to complete graduate research on spiritual abuse, and he created the Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education or SAFE. This is a bimonthly meet up with Christian and non-Christian survivors of spiritual abuse to connect and support each other. Ken also is the pastor of Grace Church in Portland, and he’s the author of In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing From Spiritual Abuse in  Christian Churches. Ken also is a warm and gentle soul who I’m proud to call a friend, and I’m so excited to share his talk with you.   But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. Well, again, this is the first of 11 talks from the RESTORE Conference, which concluded on October 14. This talk on recognizing and healing from spiritual abuse is by Ken Garrett, a pastor and author of In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing From Spiritual Abuse in  Christian Churches. Here’s Ken Garrett.   KEN GARRETT  03:00 Sometimes in the process of recovery from spiritual abuse, it’s easy to think in terms of the long haul; Will I ever be okay? Will my marriage be okay? Will my kids get over it? And will I ever go back to church? Or will I ever be able to listen to another loud pastor guy standing behind a pulpit? I mean, all kinds of long-term questions. But really, the recovery is a step-by-step endeavor. And that step by step for me sometimes meant not even getting out of my car when I would drive into the parking lot of a church after I left because guess what? God’s will for my life changed when I drove into that parking lot. I couldn’t handle it. So, I drive on down the road or drop my kids off at the church and then go get breakfast or something. That’s what happened to me, and I want to talk a little bit about it. And Julie kind of covered what I’m up to now is I’m a pastor in Portland, Oregon, had been a pastor of a church there for 20 years in the middle of downtown Portland. And before that, ironically, I served as a paramedic in that district of downtown Portland. In fact, one of the first times I ever preached there, I took care of a gentleman having a hypoglycemic reaction, and then preached and I thought that was so cool as the kind of things you would write about if you were doing that, but that’s what happened.   And so that’s what I do now. I’m a pastor there, and Julie referred to my experience as having been in a Christian cult which is spot on. And I want to assure you today that I know you’re in all phases of figuring out what happened to you. I did not refer to my experience or the church I was in as a cult for, I don’t know, boy maybe 10 years or so, seven years before I could really think of it that way. And before it occurred to me that I had so much in common really, with my friends that had escaped Scientology, or yoga cults or Hindu cults or white supremacist cults are all of the polygamous, all of those cults. I had so much in common with them. And it was when I started learning about them, I realized I’m certainly, certainly just like them, I’ve survived a cult. And I was able to start calling it that. I realized, as I’m speaking to you today, that not everybody is comfortable. You’re not there, maybe you’ll never get there. Spiritual abuse is kind of on a spectrum. And I’m going to share with you some red flags of spiritual abuse in churches that I see and that I believe; not all of those red flags will relate to your situation. But I’m going to be so general about it really, that I think a few bells will go off for you. But it’s a process. And wherever you put yourself in that process, I’m delighted that you’re here today. That part of it is for you to take a step to cross through the door.   Most of you probably know what it’s like to walk through the doors of a church after you’ve had a particularly terrible experience in churches. And that really represents something if you’re able to do that. And it represents something today that you did that this morning, you got up knowing, having an idea of the things you were going to hear having an idea of the things we were going to talk about, but you came anyway. And I thank you for that.   Yeah, I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and grew up pretty normal. I like to think a normal guy. I  grew up in the Lutheran church, and I live in the neighborhood now that I grew up in. And my parents were Christians and went to church and raised us in the church. I joined the military when I was 20. And during that time, also, I got married. Sharon and I were married and lived in North Carolina for a while. And something that was true about us, and I don’t think it’s just because she’s a Baptist preacher’s daughter, I don’t I don’t think that’s the only reason. But we were fiercely devout to our age, you know? We had a little bit of Keith Green, gonna, you know, we’re gonna save the world. I mean, good grief, no stopping us. And we were very open to finding ministries that were a little Avant Garde, a little  different, a little edgier. You know, we didn’t want our mom and dad’s churches, neither one of us did. And so, I was then at work, one day, a fellow paramedic invited me to her church. And she said, Well, Ken, what are you looking for in a church? And I said, discipleship and Bible study. Man, that’s candy to a recruiter from a cult, right? I mean, it’s just like bing! Guess what we do? And as if that wasn’t enough, I actually said, you know, I’d also wouldn’t mind joining a church that meets in a home or something like that too Something a little different. She said, we meet in a living room, and thus began in 1984., my journey into a church that began to unravel and fall apart.   I’m still thinking through the reasons why it unraveled. I know we talk about abusive churches a lot,  if this was a church, and it was abusive. As if all of you had some malignant designs on each other because you were all bad, you were in an abusive church, you are all abusers or something. That’s not true at all. I’m still circling around this issue after many years of studying it. I find a narcissistic personality behind every abusive church I ever find. There’s somebody calling the shots and that person has some very distinct attributes about him. And I’m not going to say a whole lot about those attributes, but I’ll just say, our guy had those attributes. And he really, we studied the Bible like crazy. I mean, we were studying Greek and Hebrew and church history and giving. Oh, my goodness, like Monday evening, Wednesday morning, Saturday morning evangelism, Sunday morning worship, and then Sunday afternoon fellowship. And that didn’t even count meeting during the week with my discipler, mentor, the person who was supposedly going to help me grow spiritually.   So, it really kind of ended up eating up our life. which really, when we first went there, we wanted that, we were looking for a big commitment. We did in that sense want to save the world; we wouldn’t have admitted that. But sure, why not? Over the years, the whole thing really went off the cliff. And this gentleman who is leading our church, really through all kinds of issues in his life that were simply undealt with, that he really should have gotten, you know, real therapy for and help he didn’t. And the church was the low hanging-ist fruit of finding a social group that could be controlled and could become what is called a narcissistic supply for him. And all of those things working together, ended with us moving in together, and living communally with several large homes in a beautiful neighborhood of Portland. And did you know you can get like 24 people into one large home? It was pretty crazy. It was really communal, is what it was, although for some reason, while we were living that way, we and we were with our kids, too, we ended up having three kids in this group. For some reason, it was important that we qualified our communal living that it was semi communal. I don’t know what semi meant, because I wasn’t in charge of the thermostat or what cable channels we got or anything like that. And I was told when I would eat and what our family was going to do. So yeah, I’m glad it wasn’t communal then I guess because semi communal was really bad enough.   Well, everything really fall apart, it fell apart. And we really followed him off the cliff. And it’s important to note people in my church hate it when I note this. But it’s important to note that I was a card carrying fully supportive, on the bus disciple in this group. I progressed to being a kind of a Junior Leader, a deacon in the group, I was teaching, and I spoke a little bit and I supported the whole thing. And that’s the way it was for all of us too. That’s something that survivors of spiritual abuse, sometimes we have a tough time owning the fact that we really supported it. I mean, we were on target for it. We did alienate friends, we did ruin every Thanksgiving we went to with mom and dad, at least I did.   We have trouble sometimes seeing that, because we do carry vestiges of shame about us, don’t we? Shame as a husband as a father, I mean, just so that’s difficult to look at. And I realize, coming in here today that you probably carry the vestiges of those really hurtful and harmful feelings and things and thoughts about yourself that I’m still picking through 26 I think 20 I don’t know 26 years later, so. So, I get it about that.   So, in 1996, I had repented of a lot of personal sins in my life. Biggie, Biggie, Biggie things. I mean, the police watched us and the FBI for a while. So, we were kind of serious criminals, I think. And I repented of a lot of sins. And Sharon and I, our marriage, of course had fallen apart in the group and which is kind of what these groups do. And we got together again, although we’ve known each other since we were kids, we just started piecing together. And this sounds really strange. But the first encouraging thing about my marriage that we pieced together is establishing the fact that if I left the church, Sharon would go with me. Isn’t that sad? It’s not because she was so bad or, or I was so good. It’s because in these kinds of groups, that’s how it can be for a marriage. So yeah, and that was like, wow, she’s going with me. I can do anything. And here’s something interesting. I haven’t even touched my notes yet. And I’m glad I didn’t write a lot of notes. Here’s something interesting. When I first told God I wanted to leave this church, I felt guilty about it. And I felt that I was scared somebody would find out and overhear my prayer or something, even though I was on a mountain in Portland. But when I first told him I wanted to leave this church, the terms that I expressed that to him were this, I’ll give up ministry. I’ll give up my dreams of being a pastor. And I will put all of these ridiculous books away that I’ve been poring over for years, I’ll walk away from all of those aspirations I had. And I will live on top of a garage somewhere. Man, I’ll live in a packing box, a shipping box, I’ll live anywhere, if you’ll just let me keep my wife and my children. And if you’ll do that, God, I won’t bother you anymore with these aspirations of Ken being a pastor or anything like that.   That says a lot about me and how I viewed God. It really says a lot about what I felt was a transaction happening that I was failing in the contract. I was going  break my contract with God. And I found that that’s very, it’s actually consistent with Christians and other cults too. Scientologists, when they leave it, they break what for some of them is a 16-million-year contract that they’ve signed over to follow it. I know that sounds totally wacky. But the first time you hear it, you kind of what, but yeah, and they decided to break that contract. I lived as if I had a contract with God. And as I left the church with Sharon and our children and the few things that we still had to us. And as we walked out the door, on August 28, at about 3pm 1996, and got in our little car and drove away with the associate pastor yelling at me and the elders all angry, and all of that. We went to a hotel because I was too embarrassed to tell my parents, ugh you were right. I’d alienated them so much. I just couldn’t take that too. So, we went to a hotel. And the big question, of course, that I carried, and that took a long time to get around was simply the question, what just happened? I was 24 years old, fresh out of the military, great job as a paramedic, buying a house settling into life having babies and here I am, I’m 36, and I’m checking into a little hotel and afraid to call my parents and I’m really freaked out that they’ll find out where I’m at. And, wow, what happened?   Well, it’s really easy to say now what happened, spiritual abuse happened. My religion, spiritual abuse I’ve written down as the infliction of an emotional, psychological, and spiritual wounding, that is inflicted on a person within the context of that person’s religion. Spiritual abuse is not simply located or limited to Christian churches. Spiritual abuse is the use of a person’s ideological, metaphysical, or spiritual beliefs, their religion. It’s jumping into that world, and then beginning to corrupt the person’s thinking, and the person’s reasoning. And in many ways, they develop what’s called a false self. And that’s spiritual abuse when that happens.   Now, along with spiritual abuse, are equally terrible abuses and even more terrible that we’re not really here to deal with at this event, but sexual abuse, physical abuse, violence, marital abuse, child abuse, economic abuse, professional abuse, I mean, there are so many ways that this abuse happens, and spiritual abuse simply says that these abuses as terrible as they were happened in the context of my religion. The thing that was supposed to help me avoid that abuse. So that’s what happened to me.   Okay, so let me give you some red flags of spiritual abuse. And I don’t expect as I said that these will, you know, make sense to everybody but I’m going to run through them and I got rid of all of my little explanatory notes of my main notes because I thought you know, Ken, you’re saying some details here. But as I understand our group here, and what we’re doing here today, you guys have the details, you have it down. I’m just stating this out as a general idea about spiritual abuse and how it looks and how it can look. But as I see looking at the schedule of events and speakers, we’re gonna get detailed and you’re gonna get more details but I’m going to speak kind of generally. I’ve got 10 things that I think are that I found to be red flags of spiritual abuse. The first thing I should clear up is who joins an abusive church? Who joins an abusive church? I’m not just being facetious about it, but I’ll tell you the answer. Nobody. Nobody, nobody joins a church that’s going to wreck their marriage, alienate them from their children, take all their money, take them out of professional advancement and educational advancement that they would like to do, like everybody else wants to. Nobody willingly joins that kind of a group. Of course not. We join groups that promise to meet our deepest needs, that promise to give us the community, the quality relationships we want. When we’re young families and young parents, they promised to give us other young families and young parents that share our values so we can grow up together in it. This group promises to give us the things we so desperately want. So that’s the group we join. And it’s the same thing in the world. You know, wherever you’re at with it, people don’t join a cult, nobody goes out and says, You know what? I like the simplicity of an all-orange wardrobe. And I especially love the simplicity of a vegetarian diet, and the standing on the corner, yelling at people and trying to get their money. That’s just icing on the cake baby. That’s for me. Of course, nobody does that. They join a group that communicates to them that those deepest needs and desires of their life are going to be met there. And I suspect that’s how you guys either joined., or, if you grew up in one of these abusive churches, what you discovered. Okay, so the red flags, the first one is deceit, deceit. Every cultic group, or abusive group, or abusive church is founded when it begins abusing its members.   And again, I got to tell you, even though I’m saying members plural, and church plural, in my head, I got a picture of a guy. And that’s a bad guy. He’s finishing out a 20-year sentence at Oregon State Penitentiary, as we sit here today, for his badness of felony child sexual assault, finally got caught after like three trials. So, I’m thinking of a guy. And I don’t know what you might be thinking of, but it’s based in deceit. It’s based in deceit. The environment of a hurtful church is purposely unclear. The motives are veiled. The atmosphere is controlled. When I say atmosphere, what I mean is the milieu it’s the control of the milieu, what you look at what you see who you’re with, what kind of music you hear, where the pastor is, how the pastor stands, what does his pulpit look like? What kind of behaviors do you observe, are allowed and what kinds of ones are not? This is the whole cultural milieu, the context and it’s based in deceit, because it’s presenting to you a picture of the church that is simply not true. And this is important to note, because this is the aspect of an abusive church that destroys your trust, okay? It’s the very beginning, realizing, and I hate to put it this way, but realizing you were tricked. And that is a violation of your trust, which, wow, hits you hard. Lose trust in God, lose trust in religion, lose trust in your Bible, lose trust in your friends, your spouse, your religion. And worst of all, you lose trust in God, and you’re not sure if you got tricked into the whole ball of wax. So, the first thing I find is deceit with these groups.   The second thing and this is not a progressive order, it’s just kind of a 10 as they occurred to me. The second thing is isolation. Abusive churches and toxic groups depend on isolating their members from the other’s. Moms and dads, brothers and sisters, best buddies from high school, kids you grew up with, other Christians. I mean, the support that could be a support network for you, the abusive church moves toward isolating you away from that and diminishing the importance and the significance of those relationships, to where maybe You’ll spend Thanksgiving with your church family, those folks that really love you. And you’ll tell your mom and your dad, I’m not going to be able to make it home. Maybe you won’t go to the normal Christmas gathering that you’ve been to all of these years, because you know what? Pastor’s teaching of complete study through the book of Mark over Christmas break. That’s not something I want to miss. That isolation serves a much deeper purpose than simply showing the power of leadership. The reward and punishments as a system that take place in an abusive church can only take place if you have no outside influences. The abusive leader does not want you to be able to go have a cup of coffee with your high school buddy, and say, well, you’d never believe it. Actually, I’m tithing 30%, which was pretty tough for a new guy and a new paramedic, and with kids and everything, but I don’t know, what do you think of that? Well, after my friend got done slapping me he would, he would say something like Ken, wake up, wake up. This is not right. How can this be right? They’re rich, and they’re making you poor. That kind of discussion and reaction is poison to the leaders and the leader of an abusive church. So, the isolation has to happen. The reason it’s important is because you do not become completely pliable until you are effectively isolated, okay? And the way it happens is not through deriding and discouraging you from your present or your relationships or things important to you. It’s also through loving you within the group into such a way that you can say, well, maybe my needs will be met here. And it becomes emotionally very important to you that those needs are met and that you’re okay with everybody in that group. And you begin making decisions based on the underlying commitment you have to stay good with the group. Isolation is important to these to these groups.   Another one – elitism. Elitism. Just the idea of compared to other Christians compared to other churches, compared to other groups, this is a place where it’s done right. You might hear the translation of their Bibles criticize; you might hear their pastors criticize. You know, well, what kind of church do you think that must be? They got a woman pastor, right? Don’t throw anything at me. I was just using that as an example. So, this elitism begins to happen within these groups. You’re actually told, while you’re experiencing the worst life you can imagine you’re actually told that you’re a Green Beret for Jesus. I mean, you’re actually in the best group, and you are better and you’re going to be better, and you probably are going to save the world. Elitism.   Fourth, I see that the independence the freedom of thought begins to be controlled by the group. Nobody likes the word brainwashing, and it’s not a good word at all to use in the academic world. It’s called thought reform. That is through a system of manipulations and emotional controls, the very way that you as a member think, is changed. That happens partially through being told you’re more special than everyone else. And you’re elite. Your pastors the best pastor. He’s the most like King David. Isn’t that something? We really did say that. Yeah. Which if I would have really thought about it, I would have gone, oh man head for the hills. That is not exactly the best person to be like, bless him. But yeah, okay. So, the elitism hits and the independence your ability to think independently gets goofed up. That’s why it’s hard when you leave a group to think straight. It’s hard to think straight. It’s hard to pick up a book. I went to the store and stared at the section of Levi’s because I needed a new pair of jeans. And it was just months after leaving. I stared at those things. Man, there’s like a million different kinds anyway, right? And just trying to make a decision about it. And I walked out after an hour, couldn’t decide. It didn’t quite take an hour but I also walked out of the supermarket. I could not decide between white and brown eggs. And of course, that wasn’t a thing from my cult. It’s just my decision making and my trust in myself had gotten so out of shape that at moments I couldn’t even control I would be paralyzed and couldn’t not think straight. That’s generally not a good quality in a paramedic. But there it was, and I managed to survive. So yeah, the independence of thought is hid. And I call that really a freedom of conscience. The idea of being able to believe what I believe and know what I believe and own what I believe in these churches, of course, gets violated.   Fifth, I see that the member’s private life is violated. Okay, violated, it can take place through simply giving reports to those over you. How are you doing this week? How’s your time with God going? How are those memory verses going for you? Can I review you? Are you planning on making it to this? How is this going? Your private life begins to be dismantled. How’s your marriage, Kne? How’s your marriage? Well, don’t just say fine. I mean, how are you doing? When was the last fight you had and, that’s stuff that you, you bring up for help and assistance with somebody you trust. It’s not something that the bosses ask you. That’s your marriage. So, there’s a violation. And then of course, confession, the very demand that you as a member, confess your sin a lot, often. And that sin ends up making its way up the chain. And in some churches, they actually write them down. I think the Bible says something about that somewhere, keeping a list, you know. But the confession is a very important part of it, because it involves a public shaming, and an admission of your unworthiness and of your failure. When I went to court, which, you know, 19 years or so, after leaving my cult, I was on the witness stand. And it was very important to the defense attorney to discredit me as a witness, probably because I’m a pastor, because my daughters had been some of the children that this man had abused. But also, I had studied cultic dynamics and whatnot. And so, he thought to himself, well, I don’t really want Ken up there. And it was amazing. They remembered sins that I had confessed in 1984. Yeah, and now I’m a 54-year-old man who’s, you know, Grace of God moved on from a lot of things in my life. And now I’m faced with 24-year-old Ken with his totally goofed up compromises. And since they remembered it, they told their lawyer, and he nailed me on it in the courtroom, everything from well, I just won’t get into it here, but just everything they really it down. And it didn’t work. Because when you’ve left a group like this and faced things, who cares who knows whatever? They thought they were going to make my church maybe fire me or something like, Oh, if they knew what we know about him. That wasn’t exactly the case at all.   Another red flag is family. How the church treats family relationships. The two that I’ll just mention is, first of all, the marital relationship. I’ve said a couple of things about that already. But also, the relationship of children in the family unit. False teachers and abusive leaders get right to work in fusing marriages, especially young marriages, with issues of dominance, with fake communication with the concept of husbands discipling their wives, or maybe wives discipling their husbands. I mean, I’ve been to weddings where the pastor, in giving his wedding speech, reminded the young groom that he was now the authority in his bride’s life, and he would need the answers. She needed to come to Him for wisdom, no longer her father. Isn’t that weird? And I’m thinking to myself, good grief. This is a kid. And he’s being told that I mean, I know, he’s not even taking responsibility for his own life, because he’s 20 years old or whatever. And he also now is responsible for the life of the most precious human being in his life, his wife, and he’s set up for failure. Abusive churches hurt marriages, in many, many different ways. And they also hurt the relationships between children and their parents. The healthy connecting, and bonding that should be happening between a child and his mom, especially his mom, but a child and his mom and their dad, in the earliest years of life, often are disrupted in the abusive church, and it hurts because you can’t get those years back. The reason this happens is because narcissistic leaders hate dyadic relationships. Strange word: what I mean, there is this, they are jealous of any other two people in their world, having a relationship that is outside of their control, criticism, ability to step right into and mess with anytime they want. They resent these relationships, and they resent the relationships often between parents and their children. That’s how it was in my church. You know, he was just jealous. He was just jealous. There’s a distinct fear of displeasing leaders in abusive churches. Members end up living their lives with the consideration before they do anything of you know, anything, go out to a movie or whatever. They think, how would pastor so and so feel about this? And would I be in trouble or not? Is this okay or not? And they make decisions based on that. A terrible fear of leadership because of what they can do to you once you’ve been isolated by them.   Then the issue of grace, this is where I could talk for like 10 hours. And I probably wouldn’t even touch the bottom of it. The violation of grace that happens in abusive groups and churches is absolutely criminal. If grace is even spoken of, it is relegated to the theology pages of a book to explain the disposition of God, when He graciously and nicely presented Christ in such a way that you and I can believe and escape judgment and sin and, you know, be saved. And that’s it. But the issue of graciousness in the church, man that is not just twisted or perverted, it’s absent. Grace is absent. That’s the number one kind of theology that I find people when they leave these churches and begin to put their lives together  and heal the number one thing that blows them away, if they’re in that space, is grace. It’s the missing theological point of all of these abusive groups.   And finally, leaving the group is traumatic, it’s hard to leave. It’s not just hard to leave, it’s traumatic on you to leave. Long before you leave the group, the message is made clear to you, what will happen to you if you leave the group, what will be said about you by your best friends if you leave the group, how you will be thought of if you leave the group, how you will fail in life if you leave the group. Long before you walk out the door, you see it lived out before your very eyes and how your friends are treated when they leave. And you think to yourself, I don’t want that to happen to me. So, the trauma begins before you even leave it. But once you leave it, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, the anxiety attacks, the fear of crowds, the fear of people, the inability to keep commitments you make to meet somebody or to do something, the showing up late for an event or a church or something so that you don’t have to talk and then the leaving early, so that you don’t have to talk, all of those behaviors,  those all come about because of the trauma that you experienced of your soul being mashed up in a meat grinder by a church.   Okay, I’ve got just a few minutes to say just a few things. How do we begin to heal from this? What does healing look like? How do we begin the healing process? I’ve got just a few things to say. And the first thing is that the healing process absolutely involves a renewal of trust. It might take a year; it might take 10 years. I suppose I’m 26 years out and I’m still kind of working through it. But trust has been violated. Something that needs to be earned was violated. And you don’t trust churches, you don’t trust people. You struggle with trusting God. You struggle with opening the Bible, it triggers so much. I mean, so much of what happened to you is centered around somebody tapping a Bible while they were doing it to you. And worst of all, you don’t trust yourself. I couldn’t trust myself to buy a pair of pants. And I’m raising kids. And I’m giving life support to patients; couldn’t trust myself to just make a decision about buying a stupid dozen eggs in Safeway and going home. Your trust in yourself. And if your trust is violated on even those small things, imagine the big things. How do I know how to lead my family? How would I ever know a church that’s good or not? How am I ever going to trust another pastor? I trusted that when I trusted that church I trusted that doctrine. I trusted those things and I failed. I should be here and I’m not. I should have this much retirement I don’t. I should have this kind of house, I don’t, I should have this education, I don’t, my wife and I should be experiencing this life we’re not. So, trust is violated. And so, the first thing in recovery is to begin to consider the need for trust and make some small choices to restore trust. I’m a very literal guy. When I say small choices, I mean, like, get out of bed. So far, so good. I made it. And that’s what I mean is to begin to make good choices, and to establish trust. And of course, that involves people.   And that’s really the second thing of building back trust is kindhearted people. You need a relationship with people who get it. It’s best if those people are people that were in your group with you, they get it, and you can stay up all night telling stories. And that’s good. But you need people in some manner. And it can be a handshake and a hello. And that’s it for now, no problem, you’ve done something. But we need human beings to restore trust in human beings. If you’re trying to help people recover from these things, this is the most important aspect, that you are a person of integrity and kindness and you stick your neck out for the person that you’re wanting to help. And you understand that they don’t trust you. And they might not for a long, long time.   Okay. And then finally, you need information. You need solid information. I went back to seminary, and I was working on a doctorate, it was on some boring, boring subject that nobody has a right to really take anybody’s time. But I switched halfway into studying cults and abusive churches. And all I could find was basically other than a couple of good books, all I could find was devotional materials, or telling me why I needed to be nicer to King Saul when he throws a spear at me. You know what I mean? So, you need, you need education. You need to learn the dynamics of thought reform, of cults, of how psychologically things happen that hurt you. And I had to go into the kind of the secular academic realm to start researching and putting that together, and you need that information.   And finally, I got like a couple of seconds. Finally, if you achieve a bit of an education with people, you’ll develop the vocabulary to explain what I started out saying what happened to me? You will develop a common language so that you can show up here and get to telling your stories and sharing your heart a lot quicker and you can be understood and empathized with a lot better because you learn a common vocabulary. And over time, you develop the words, and you understand them and you’re able to share and to listen to your fellow survivors as you heal.   Please bow your heads if you would let me and grant me the respect of letting me pray for you. Gracious King. dear King, Shepherd. Every human being in this room is broken. And every human being everywhere is broken. We’re here admitting it. So, we ask you to carry us don’t just help us along don’t just help things get a little better. Absolutely 100%, save and deliver us. Even now, we want to have a good weekend. But God even now, wherever we’re at with this horrible issue, meet us, deliver us, give us trust. Give us good people and teach us father teach us for we are here to learn. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.   JULIE ROYS  44:25 Well, again, that’s Ken Garrett speaking at RESTORE 2023 which just concluded on October 14. Next week, I’ll be publishing my podcast with theologian Scot McKnight and his daughter, Laura Behringer, on their new book, Pivot: The Priorities, Practices and Powers That Can Transform Your Church Into a Tov Culture. That’s an awesome book and it’s sure to be an awesome podcast, so be looking for that next week. Then on November 8, I’ll be releasing a talk from RESTORE by Carson Weitnauer on disillusionment and hope. This is an extremely vulnerable and moving talk where Carsten recounts his profound disillusionment when he discovered that someone he thought was a hero of the faith turned out to be a fraud. That hero was Ravi Zacharias. And when Carson discovered the truth about Ravi, he was a director at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. This is such a painfully honest yet hopeful talk, and one you won’t want to miss. I also want to mention that the videos of these talks are all available at my YouTube channel. A lot of conferences charge for their videos, but we’ve decided to make ours available for free because we don’t want anyone to miss out on this valuable content because of lack of finances. But these videos do cost us to shoot and edit. So, if you appreciate this content and you’re able to pitch in, would you please donate to The Roys Report so we can continue this important service. To do so just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or YouTube. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
10/25/202346 minutes, 27 seconds
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Dane Ortlund Whistleblower Speaks Out on Workplace Bullying, Part 2

Guest Bios Show Transcript Part 2 of our eye-opening podcast on bullying, featuring the woman who blew the whistle on author and pastor, Dane Ortlund, is out! If you missed part one, you can find it here. In this podcast, Ortlund whistleblower, Emily Hyland, describes what she wishes she knew when she was being bullied that she knows now. And anti-bullying expert, Paul Coughlin, offers keen insights from his decades of experience, as well.  Coughlin, author of the best-selling, No More Christian Nice-Guy, and founder of The Protectors, reveals how bullies identify their targets. He also gives steps every person can take to stand up to them.  Meanwhile, Hyland explains how to educate yourself on bullies, but warns against trying to become an expert before taking action. She also shares important developments in her case against Ortlund, author of Gentle and Lowly. For anyone who has experienced bullying, or wants accountability for a bully, don’t miss this podcast. You may even want to take notes! Guests Emily Hyland Emily Hyland earned her bachelors in Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology before working for the Office of Naval Research in Washington, DC. While there she received a MHSA in Management & Leadership from The George Washington University. She has worked with the US Army and the Office of the Surgeon General, Accenture, GE, and across finance, manufacturing, health services, and information technology. Recently, she was the Director of Operations at Naperville Presbyterian Church in suburban Illinois. She is married and has three children.  Paul Coughlin Paul Coughlin is an author, an international speaker and the founder and president of The Protectors, which is dedicated to helping schools, organizations and communities combat bullying. His books include No More Christian Nice Guy, Raising Bully-Proof Kids and 5 Secrets Great Dads Know. Paul and his wife, Sandy, reside in central Oregon and have three teenage children. Learn more about Paul and his organization at www.theprotectors.org. Show Transcript JULIE ROYS, PAUL COUGHLIN, EMILY HYLAND JULIE ROYS 00:03 How do you deal with bullying by a pastor or Christian employer? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And this is part two of a two-part podcast with bullying expert Paul Coughlin and whistleblower Emily Hyland. If you missed part one, I’d encourage you to go back now and listen to that. It was a fascinating discussion in which Emily gave new details about the alleged bullying and retaliation she received at the hands of Dane Ortlund. Dane is the pastor of Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. He’s also the author of the bestselling book, Gentle and Lonely. But according to Emily, Dane is a bully. In Emily’s case alleging retaliation by Dane and his church because she blew the whistle on Dane’s bullying is now going to trial. And you’ll hear about important developments in that case in this podcast. You’ll also hear important insights on how to deal with bullies in a Christian workplace. And Emily will share what she wishes she knew back when she was being bullied that she knows now. I’m so looking forward to diving into the rest of my discussion with Emily and Paul Coughlin. But first I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington if you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. We now return to part two of my discussion with Paul Coughlin and Emily Hyland. Specifically, Emily explains more of what she wishes she knew back when she was being bullied that she knows now. And one thing I’ve learned about Emily is that she doesn’t do anything halfway. So, when she realized something wasn’t right, she quickly devoured resources like author and advocate Wade Mullins’ book by that title. But Emily urges that while it’s important to find resources, victims shouldn’t go overboard and get a PhD. We’ve kind of touched on this, you said find resources, but don’t get a PhD on the subject. I’m guessing, just knowing a little bit about you, Emily, you like to master something before you move forward with it. And I’m guessing you couldn’t do that. But you did a great job of informing yourself; talk about that process. EMILY HYLAND 03:08 There are so many more resources that are available in this moment than there were two and a half years ago. Coming right out of it, that book by Wade Mullen was the first I read because of the title, Something’s Not Right. Like you’re right, that is exactly describing it. I have to read that. And I went through, and I read Diane Langberg and Scot McKnight and Laura Behringer’s book. I read Chuck DeGroote, I went through an entire podcast called Power Corrupts and have been increasingly able to articulate accurately what happened and that makes me feel more safe, that I am not speculating. I can say, in the fewest words possible, here’s what happened, and the impacts and why it was wrong. That has helped in the legal sense is that I don’t waste my time on the nebulous side of just thinking, well, what might have those pastors been thinking? I mean, I don’t know what they were thinking, I don’t know their hearts. A psychiatrist maybe could get at some of these things. I don’t need to know those things. I just need to accurately know what was going on in my own mind, in my own heart. I think one resource that I value now is that I wish I’d had then was there was no ChatGPT two years ago, and I wasted a lot of words trying to get my point across. And people don’t realize that when you’re making an accusation about a pastor, you’re making it against a professional communicator, somebody who is possibly way better with words than their victim. That was really hard. I had just too many words. And now ChatGPT has made a big difference just for me personally, to feel more confident in describing the situation. But I really don’t think that you need to be 100% certain and able to write a dissertation on it to step forward and say, I’ve seen bullying behaviors. We need to tackle it now. But you’ve got to stand up and say something, whether it’s on your behalf or the behalf of somebody else. Bullies need to be confronted to their face. You can’t shove a book at them and say, read this; does it sound like you? You have to speak it out to people to say, this is an individual interpersonal matter. Books help to get you the right words, but you can’t get around the fact that somebody, at some point, needs to bring it up to their face. JULIE ROYS 05:26 Hmm. And one thing if I could add to that, is give yourself some grace. Because I heard you say, like my own motives and my own. It’s so hard when you’re in the midst of this and you’re angry, and you have a right to be angry, and you’re hurt, and you have a right to be hurt. And in all that to be absolutely pristine in every attitude and thought, of course, you’re not going to be. And I think people need to have some grace with themselves when they’re walking through this. I remember once we were leaving a church and I said to somebody, oh, I just want to make sure that we don’t sin. And he’s like, No, you will, but try to minimize that. Just hearing that gave me I don’t know, just kind of a relief that Okay, right. I’m human in this and don’t have to be perfect. PAUL COUGHLIN 06:15 Julie, if I did add to that there’s a great line by Shakespeare. And he says that some people are more sinned against than sinner. And that is how it is when it comes to bullying in the workplace in faith-centric organizations. What’s interesting is that many people who are targets of bullying are nice people. And nice people will spend so much more time worrying about their behaviors than the person who is abusing them, harming them and their family. We really need to move away from that thinking. I also think that thinking is baked into the system as well, in the rhetoric used by many of our leaders for decades, into make us think that there is something fundamentally wrong with us, when we recognize this behavior in other people. We really need to move away from that, we need to stop being so nice, which is often a knee jerk reaction to people pleasing, it has nothing to do with the fruit of the spirit of kindness. Niceness is never mentioned in the Bible, for example, as an attribute of the Father, Son, or the Holy Spirit, it’s not a fruit of the Spirit, and bullies in the workplace, particularly within the church faith-centric organizations, they use our niceness against us. It’s one of the reasons why we’re targeted. We don’t use the word victim at the protectors very often, we prefer the word target, and here’s why. You have been selected the bully in the workplace. The bully pastor has picked on some people but not other people. Why is that? Because a bully is not looking for a fight, they want to overwhelm another person. So, they look for the nice person, they look for the person for example, who lives by turning the other cheek. There is no more tortured scripture in the theater of bullying, then turn the other cheek. When you put it in context. It has to do with having a generous spirit. It has nothing to do with accepting abuse from another person. So, we really need to have these distinctions. Niceness is really not a virtue, it’s actually a vice in disguise. It’s often the sin of cowardice, Revelation 21:8, we need to get tougher and stronger. We need to speak the truth in love. We still need to be gracious. But we also need to be truthful. I love what Emily said, in that someone needs to speak to the bullies face that is so important. If I give one piece of advice. The sooner you stand up to a bully in the workplace in the church, the better your life is going to be. The sooner you do it, the better. JULIE ROYS 08:44 So good. And in that some of the weapons that are used commonly against the person who speaks up is the word gossip. And you’re labeled gossip. I’m guessing, Emily, that happened to you? I don’t know. But did you find that parsing out what gossip is and understanding and distinguishing between that and what you were doing, was that an important step for you? EMILY HYLAND 09:10 The verbiage was because I wasn’t talking to people about what was going on. And I regret caring about somebody’s reputation more than the harm they were causing people. Gossip is a hard concept in the church because a church is like a proxy for family not having family in the area. And so, I want people to know what’s going on in my life. I want to know what other people’s is going on, how can I care for somebody or support somebody if I’m really not knowing what’s going on? But then there’s that sinful gossip of self-serving prideful nitpicking rumor spreading,. Those things can really be meshed together. And for my experience is that this came all that this gossip part came to like this moment, the single experience where I’ve talked to two elders, and they should know what they’re doing. And there was this pivot as soon as they told Dane and the associate about what I had said. And now the elders are saying, Oh, we made a mistake. We should be modeling Matthew 18. Let’s go backwards. You go meet with him privately. And I was like, what? JULIE ROYS 10:19 Matthew 18, just to interject for anybody who doesn’t know this, if turn the other cheek is the most abused, this has to be second, right? Yeah. It’s Matthew 18, which instructs, and again, this is with personal offenses. It says, with a personal offense to first take your offense to your brother one on one, then if he doesn’t listen to you to take one or two people with you, then if he doesn’t listen, then speak it to the entire church. Again, Matthew 18 is not a prescription for bully pastors. I would say ITimothy 5:20, is the prescription for bully pastors, which is when there’s an elder who’s sending that you should publicly expose him so that others may stand in fear. Good grief, somebody who’s being bullied, does not need to go through a Matthew 18. They go to people who are supposed to be advocates who are supposed to hold the pastor accountable. And when they don’t, then to me, you’re completely in a ITimothy 5:20 situation where it’s time to publicly expose the sinning pastor. So rarely hear that passage. Instead, we always hear Matthew 18. And it’s used as a club. It’s used abusively, and it’s a misapplication. PAUL COUGHLIN 11:31 Julie let’s say that a person has gone under a sexual assault. Do we really think that we would require that person to meet one on one? No one but your most ardent fundamentalist would say yes to that. Most people would say, okay, that’s an exception. I’ll give you that exception. How is that the only exception? And this is used in Christian schools, by the way with kids who are being bullied, I argue it absolutely doesn’t apply, in fact, you’re retraumatizing that poor kid whose been the target of bullying to sit in the same room. So, we really need more than knowledge of Matthew 18. We need wisdom. And wisdom is doesn’t apply to all situations at all times. EMILY HYLAND 12:10 And that’s what made this so difficult is that I’ve just told two elders about the bullying and intimidation in those words. And their response is, I think we need to go do this again. And you need to go meet with him privately. And I can’t say no, he’s my boss. So that’s what we do. And it’s a closed-door private meeting, no witnesses. What was said in that meeting? But what really stood out to me was his line, have you told anyone else about this? It sounded like it was delivered, like straight out of a horror story to the character whose body is never found, because what the answer is, is that if I had said, Yes, I was guilty of gossip about a pastor, my church elder. If I said, no, there are no witnesses in the control of the narrative still possible, as long as I’m not around to contradict anything. And that’s what happened. Forty-eight hours later, that’s what I told him. I said, No, I haven’t said anything, because what I believe is that gossip hinders reconciliation efforts. And I wanted this to be reconciled. I had no premonition that this was unrecoverable. I know better now. But what I thought then is that, yeah, there was no need to gossip, because it’s like I saw a problem. I’m like, let’s get these elders involved. Let’s get this back on the rails moving on. And what it actually was, is, I did myself a disservice by not gossiping more. I don’t want to gossip. But I wish I had talked to people who were safe and outside of that church. JULIE ROYS 13:40 And that’s not gossip. No, that is getting the help that you need in certain situations. And so important for us to understand, distinguish between those. What about the family impact? Because you have children. And I’ve heard this from numerous people where I would do this, I would speak up, but I’ve got children in the church. Sometimes it’s the spouse, there’s all these connections and leverage that, quite frankly, the leader or the organization has over the person that’s being bullied. Talk about that and how you navigated that. EMILY HYLAND 14:21 For me, I kept this all under wraps. Nobody knew, nobody knew what I was feeling. So, they probably noticed there was something wrong. And I remember when my mom asked me, she’s like, how’s it going working for Dane? And I had no answer. I couldn’t just say fine, I held back. But then when this all came crashing down, she didn’t know how to help me. My husband didn’t know how to help me. Everybody knew I had worked for church. And then one moment I wasn’t, they really did not know why they were at this church one Sunday, and nobody from that church ever spoke to them again. I mean, I’m shouldering my own mountain of grief, and then I’ve got this, you know, layer of they’re grief. My oldest son, he’s like, I was happy at MPC. And they were until it was over. And I think that processing the grief with them has been valuable. I trust that God will use this in their faith walk for their good. But I wish I’d spoken up earlier, and I wish I had prepared my family for the consequences of speaking up. What happens when you tell the truth is that you might experience hardship and pain, it’s worth it. But I wish I had prepared myself to give them a little bit more solace as to how to navigate, and why their world changed so much so quickly. JULIE ROYS 15:42 I mean, listening as a mother, my heart just goes out to you and to your family, for what you’ve been through. And it’s hard enough for adults, but for children to process how this happens, and to distinguish between the people that hurt them who are symbols of the Church of God. It’s just so painful to see that and it just requires so much prayer, so much care. But I mean, none of us on this call, and I’m guessing, Paul, you included, my kids have not been spared any of the effects of what I’ve gone through. They shoulder it with me whether or not they deserve to because they really don’t deserve any of it. And yet, there’s no way to insulate them from it. PAUL COUGHLIN 16:30 And a job, in a supposed Christian environment, it certainly wasn’t. And I have three kids, and they were younger. And I would drive home from that job. And you just undergo stuff that is just horrendous. And I had a mantra that I would tell myself in the car – our old blue Volvo. I would say this is not my future, this is not my future, this is not the Lord’s will for my life. And it helped and it helps to highlight something fundamental for targets; hope is more important than love for a beleaguered individual, and a beleaguered community. We see this often in the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King. Why did he talk about hope so much? Because if you don’t have a functioning hope, that today, tomorrow, the next day year, could be better – love doesn’t land well. Without hope we can’t digest love very well. So, one thing that we need to do is to inculcate more hope in our spirit is to realize this is not your future. This is temporary, it’s not permanent. It’s one of the reasons why we recommend that people start looking for another job, because we’re talking about bullying within faith centric organizations. Looking for another job has a way of bolstering your hope. And with that hope we tend to think more clearly and more proactively. JULIE ROYS 18:01 Hmm. For some reason, I’m thinking of the movie Back to the Future. I don’t know if you remember that. But there’s a main bully. Yeah, and the two different scenarios that the entire family experiences because the father is bullied in front of his son. In the first scenario, that impacts the son’s view his father and the culture of the family, and how it changes when somebody stands up to the bully. And I think one of the things that we don’t think about enough is what it communicates to our children when we don’t say anything, and we allow this kind of harm to continue. I talked to somebody recently, and I have to sort of laugh because I asked her how your kids process what happened? And she sort of laughed, and she said, at first it was really difficult. She said that they kind of think their mom’s badass. I was like, okay, but I mean, in the very best sense of that word, if there is, is that they see that you’re worth standing up for and that there are things worth standing up for. There’s things worth paying a price for. And I think it’s important as Christians that we start modeling that in the way that we respond. PAUL COUGHLIN 19:19 We’re told as parents, not to exasperate our children, right in Scripture? One way to exasperate your children is to show cowardice and for them to witness that. That can make them feel incredibly uncomfortable and unstable. JULIE ROYS 19:32 Good point. EMILY HYLAND 19:33 I think it too is that you know, like that parable Jesus told about a man who finds a treasure in the field, and he sells everything to get the treasure. It’s almost the counter like the inverse is that what would I not give to keep my kids from being discipled in gracelessness and fear and corruption? I mean, to not have my kids in that I’m like, I will pay that price. My kids will not be breathing that air and under that thumb of oppression and hurting other people. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that that’s okay at church. You can, I think, latch on to the teeniest tiniest nugget of courage to say, I can do this, because other people might benefit. JULIE ROYS 20:22 In a way, you had no idea when you spoke to the elders, how that was going to play out and what the consequences were going to be. But you say that we should understand the risks but take the gamble anyway. Why do you say that? EMILY HYLAND 20:37 When I look back, I think, like you said about the matrix. I mean, there was a period, I was like, please just plug me back into the matrix. I just wanted to go back. And then there was the period where I was like, please just let me have a lobotomy so I cannot have these memories, and not know, have these relationships that you know, now are nothing. And now I think that outcome was the right outcome. To be violently removed, was how God needed to do it. He did it on my behalf, he did it on behalf of my children, I needed it. But on the behalf of other people in that congregation who had the similar experience. I think that knowing the risks, that you could be fired and disfellowshipped, and the House of Cards will come crumbling down. If you know those risks, you still stand up, and you still speak the truth. Because the speaking of the truth is important to Christians. And if you’re being abused by a Christian leader, whatever the outcome is of speaking the truth, is the best possible outcome. The other consequences coming from either tolerating sin or silencing your conscience; those may seem like a preferable outcome in the short term. But they are so costly to your soul and to your spirit that to be out of an abusive and coercive church is always better than being in one. So, to know those risks, and it’s painful, it could be awful, it could be the worst thing you ever go through in your whole life. But do it anyway, because you were meant to be on the outside of an abusive church. JULIE ROYS 20:42 Paul, one of the things I should say, a person and a characteristic that I didn’t even know about when I started reporting is the narcissist. And yet, I have learned about the narcissist in spades right now. But I think a lot of times, we don’t know that that is what we are dealing with, in these situations, because this person has a title. And this person can speak so lovingly from the stage. Talk about the narcissist, and what we need to know as the person who is on the receiving end of what they’re dishing out in our dealings with them. PAUL COUGHLIN 22:58 Yeah, so the narcissistic personality or antisocial personality can be depending on the study, 10, 12, 15 percent of a given population. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but sometimes that’s one out of every eight people can have this characteristic. That’s pretty big, particularly when you look at a congregation, right? Most bullies bully, not because they have low self-esteem. They abuse others because they have excessive self-esteem. They think they’re wonderful. And then you add on top of that this component that they are somehow especially circled by God. So, you already have this overinflated ego. And now it’s uber inflated, because now they are a special person in a special world putting out special information that other people have not discerned until they were born, which is pretty stunning. We need to realize that most narcissists see people in two ways, people who are either below them or a threat. And this is how they look at the world. They are constantly measuring things in order to keep themselves at the top of the hierarchy. And again, to keep themselves at the top of the hierarchy isn’t for them to necessarily usher in the kingdom of heaven to play their part, it’s for their kingdom. They’ll talk a lot about the kingdom of heaven, but it’s really about their kingdom. And I’m reminded of that, I had a dinner with Mark Driscoll and very interesting dinner. And he kept talking about how it was all about Jesus. And he kept saying it over and over. But yet, if you look at the guy’s actions, it’s not all about Jesus. So, they often speak one way, but they really behave in a very different way. One thing that narcissists have in common is that they have three things in common and I mentioned one of them, an inflated self-regard. They really believe they’re more important than other people. They don’t believe the Bible. The Bible says we’re equal, they don’t really, they’ll say we’re equal. But that’s not how they truly think. They really think they’re above the herd. And because of that, it makes them tremendously dangerous. They also have a great sense of entitlement; things are owed to them again, because they’re wonderful. But then they have a third component. And this third component is antagonism. And I’ve often explained to people who have been the target of bullying, but in faith centric organizations, the best bullies harm you, but they smile on their face and a lilt in their voice. They’re the most damaging ones, because they hide their antagonism. Their words are designed to humiliate, and really destroy you. But they do it in such a way that it almost seems like okay for them to do that. It goes back to that cognitive dissonance that we talked about earlier. The look on the face is kind, but the words are poison. That’s all on purpose. They have been practicing that dark skill for a long time, and most of them have gotten away with it for a long time, as well. So, to the best of our abilities, know who you’re really dealing with, because it’s a very different response than how you would deal with someone, for example, there’s conflict. There’s miscommunication, there’s misunderstanding. When you have those behaviors that’s often mistaken for bullying behaviors. It’s not, those behaviors are answered in a much different way. Like an interpersonal. Oh, I didn’t know what you were saying that okay. I’m sorry. Yeah, I’m glad we’re okay. Let’s move on. Bullying is a whole other category of behavior. JULIE ROYS 26:40 Hmm. Well, Emily, I am so glad that you stuck up for yourself. I’m so glad that you kept receipts. I always tell people, please keep receipts, because in my business, you don’t have receipts, it’s a he said, she said. It’s really very difficult to make a case. But you were able to make a case. Since this ruling by the Department of Human Rights last December, I know there was another major ruling in July. Would you get us up to speed with what’s going on? What happened in July with that ruling, and also, as you’re looking to the future, what’s coming up? EMILY HYLAND 27:18 I didn’t go into this wanting to go to court. And so, I’ve made choices that I’ve allowed this to be much longer but allowed for much greater investigation by outside agencies. So going and taking my case to the Illinois Department of Human Rights; that’s similar to the federal EEOC. And the Illinois Department of Rights did an investigation, they looked at the material, we had a long conversation between me and the pastors where they asked us all these questions. And then they came up with this report. So there was 10 charges. And back in December, they found that retaliation had substantial evidence. And so that charge was forwarded up to the higher agency, the Human Rights Commission. Well, the other dismissed charges, of which there were nine, I went back, looked at some of the evidence, had more evidence, put it on there, and resubmitted it through, it’s similar to an appeals process, but you can get them to look at it again. And so the higher agency looked at these other nine dismissed charges, and they said, alright, we’ll keep six of them stay dismissed. And some of them were just because of timing. But two additional charges were, in essence, overturned. So, they were originally dismissed, they are now considered substantially off to more going to trial. So those two are unequal pay and termination, the discharge. So, they joined up with retaliation, and it will be going to trial coming up in the next hopefully few months, maybe who knows, it just could drag on. But there’s also an Illinois Department of Labor claim that took two full years to get through the review system. And that one is going to be going in front of a judge in the next three weeks, where they’ll hear my evidence and then that of the churches and to look at unpaid wages. How much time was I being asked to do work outside of the hours I was ever going to get paid for? Which I think is one of those strange ways that bullying is normalized in churches, which is how we are asked to spend our time. That’s our time. And I loved my church, and I wanted to do a lot for my church. But when it became a I don’t get to have dinner with my family because I need to respond to an email that Dane needs turned around this very second. Looking at that evidence and saying how often that was happening with regularity is what we’re going into which is that yeah, I think that was a really hard one because you want to have your church go well, but you also need those boundaries to say, Why are you asking me for work to be done on a Saturday or while I’m on vacation or on a holiday? That was one of those, I think, very covert ways of controlling and coercing me. That is so normalized because it can just be passed off as Oh, it was just off the top of his head. And you don’t didn’t need to do that then. I mean, of course, you could have waited until Monday. Oh, we’ll see. JULIE ROYS 30:33 So, I understand the regular trial system. But I don’t understand the system going through government agencies like this. What does the trial look like? And what are you hoping to get out of it? EMILY HYLAND 30:45 Well compared to say a trial in a circuit court, the Human Rights Commission have their own set of administrative judges. Just as the Department of Labor has their own administrative judges. But there’s still a discovery process, there’s still witnesses and depositions. And then it all goes in front of her as a trial. JULIE ROYS 31:03 So, the judge will then be making the decision, and then damages and so forth would be determined by the judge? EMILY HYLAND 31:10 Right, and the church should be saying thank you, because actually, this is by far the cheapest route, even if you’re found guilty, there’s no punitive damages. So, they can’t slap the church and say, you should have done this, and here’s a giant fine. There’s no punitive damages. It’s all pretty much easy calculus as to how much you were making how much of interest how much of you know, and there’s limits on how much even of other damages. This was never about money. And this was about the fact that they broke the law, and they are unrepentant. And don’t think they’ve done moments wrong for two and a half years. So, I’m excited that there’s people who can read this and see like, oh, yeah, this was definitely wrong. And it’s not hard to identify it. It’s shocking that the people who are in the organization cannot see what is well visible to people who are reading the narrative, and also even people who are getting the highlights of it. JULIE ROYS 32:10 Well, it speaks to your character, that you’ve gone through this process, that you haven’t sought to be punitive when you certainly could have, and instead are waiting for justice. And so, we join you in praying for truth and praying for justice. And we do pray that all of that will become clear as this moves through the system. So, Emily, and Paul, thank you so much. This has been a rich discussion. And I know it’s been bought with a lot of blood, sweat and tears from you. And so, we acknowledge that. But thank you for the insights that you’ve gained through a very, very painful process. PAUL COUGHLIN 32:48 Thank you, Julie. Appreciate that. EMILY HYLAND 32:50 Yeah, and thank you so much for bringing attention to this because a lot of people are under the same burdens. And they can be in the same massively confused state that I was and feeling very isolated. Because that is how bullying works. It is so about isolating you from a reality that you’re in and keeping you from speaking up and pushing back and being happy. JULIE ROYS 33:16 Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’re a survivor of church hurt or abuse or you’re a Christian leader who wants to learn how to protect against abuse and help survivors, I want to invite you to join me at our upcoming Restore conference. This two-day event October 13 and 14, at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, is a very special time of healing and equipping. Joining me will be author Wade Molen, whose book we referenced in this podcast, along with Lori Anne Thompson, Sheila Wray Gregoire, Mary Demuth, and more. For more information, go to RESTORE2023.COM. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
9/14/202334 minutes, 35 seconds
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Dane Ortlund Whistleblower Speaks Out on Workplace Bullying

Guest Bios Show Transcript What do you do when you’re being bullied by your Christian employer? Do you take it and simply turn the other cheek? Or, do you confront it, hoping for repentance and justice? Unfortunately, workplace bullying has become a major issue—not just in secular contexts, but in the church. In this podcast, Julie explores this issue with the whistleblower who exposed Dane Ortlund, Emily Hyland, and anti-bullying expert, Paul Coughlin. Ortlund is a Chicago-area pastor and author of the best-selling book, Gentle and Lowly. But, according to Emily, he’s not very gentle or lowly; he’s a bully—and a misogynist. And she says, when she complained about Ortlund’s behavior to the elders of Naperville Presbyterian Church, where Emily worked, they fired her. Since then, Emily has filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, claiming retaliation. Last December, the Department of Human Rights ruled in Emily’s favor and found “substantial evidence” of retaliation by Dane and Naperville Presbyterian. In this podcast, Emily tells her story and updates us on her case. She also shares insights about responding to bullying she gained from her firsthand experience. Anti-bullying expert Paul Coughlin also contributes to the podcast, sharing advice he’s gained over decades of dealing with bullies. Paul met Emily at last year’s Restore Conference. And Paul has been a source of support and wisdom for Emily throughout her whistleblowing process. If you’ve ever had to deal with a bully—or are dealing with one now—you’ll find this podcast invaluable.  Guests Emily Hyland Emily Hyland earned her bachelors in Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology before working for the Office of Naval Research in Washington, DC. While there she received a MHSA in Management & Leadership from The George Washington University. She has worked with the US Army and the Office of the Surgeon General, Accenture, GE, and across finance, manufacturing, health services, and information technology. Recently, she was the Director of Operations at Naperville Presbyterian Church in suburban Illinois. She is married and has three children.  Paul Coughlin Paul Coughlin is an author, an international speaker and the founder and president of The Protectors, which is dedicated to helping schools, organizations and communities combat bullying. His books include No More Christian Nice Guy, Raising Bully-Proof Kids and 5 Secrets Great Dads Know. Paul and his wife, Sandy, reside in central Oregon and have three teenage children. Learn more about Paul and his organization at www.theprotectors.org. Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, EMILY HYLAND, PAUL COUGHLIN JULIE ROYS 00:04 What do you do when you’re being bullied by your Christian employer? Do you take it and simply turn the other cheek? Or do you confront it, hoping for repentance and justice? Welcome to the Roys report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys and joining me on this episode are Emily Hyland and Paul Coughlin. As you may remember, Emily is the whistleblower who filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights concerning a well-known Chicago area pastor, Dane Ortlund. Ortlund is the author of the best-selling book, Gentle and Lowly. But according to Emily, he’s not very gentle or lowly. He’s a bully and a misogynist. And she says when she complained about Ortlund’s behavior to the elders of Naperville Presbyterian Church, where Ortlund pastors, they fired her. But last December, the Department of Human Rights ruled in Emily’s favor. It found substantial evidence of retaliation by Dane and Naperville Presbyterian Church in Emily’s firing. And now that case is going to trial. Plus, there have been some additional charges added to that case. So, stay tuned, and you’ll hear all about that. But also joining me on this podcast is Paul Coughlin. Paul is an expert on bullying and a repeat guest here on The Roys Report. He also was a speaker at last year’s Restore conference. And I know from talking to Emily that she took pages of notes from Paul’s talk, which was super eye opening. And it’s out of that relationship and collaboration between Paul and Emily, that started at Restore, that this podcast was envisioned. I know many of you have experienced bullying in a Christian workplace. I get emails about this all the time. It’s bad enough to be bullied in any workplace. But when it happens at a church or an organization that’s supposed to be Christian, it’s especially painful. So, I’m really looking forward to our podcast today. But before we dive in, I want to thank our sponsors, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington if you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.com. Well, again, joining me is the whistleblower in the Dane Ortlund discrimination and retaliation case, Emily Hyland. Emily was the Operations Director at Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. But in March 2021, just nine days after complaining of discrimination and bullying to church elders, Emily was abruptly fired. And she has two cases pending right now, one before the Illinois Department of Human Rights, and another with the Illinois Department of Labor. So, Emily, welcome. I’m so glad you could join us. EMILY HYLAND 03:30 Thank you, Julie. And thank you for your continued support and drawing attention to these important issues that men and women face when they’re in a church and employed by one. JULIE ROYS 03:40 Well, it’s my pleasure to do so. And again, also joining us is Paul Coughlin, founder of the anti-bullying group, The Protectors. He’s also the author of a number of best-selling books, including No More Christian Nice Guy and Raising Bullyproof Kids. He’s also worked with the Baltimore Ravens and is an expert witness. So, Paul, welcome back. It’s just so great to be with you again. PAUL COUGHLIN 04:02 Great to be back. It’s always wonderful. And Emily, good to hear your voice. JULIE ROYS 04:07 Well, it’s so cool that the both of you actually met at the Restore conference. And I know that was before any of this became public. It’s before the Illinois Department of Human Rights found substantial evidence of retaliation by the church and Dane Ortlund. But Paul, let me just start with you and ask when you first met Emily, what was your impression of her case and just what she had been through? PAUL COUGHLIN 04:33 Well, you know, you hear a lot of the same things when it comes to people who have been abused either adolescent bullying but then also bullying in the workplace, particularly faith centric areas. And honestly, what you often hear is a good amount of confusion at first. Many times, people who have this confusion going in their minds, they often may take it out on themselves as opposed to really seeing it more clearly, and in seeing it more clearly, it’s not the fault of the target. It is the fault of the bully, and in many cases, the serial bully. JULIE ROYS 05:09 I hear a lot of these stories. And it’s usually Wow, this is so awful. But I’m not expecting justice with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. You hardly ever get a ruling in your favor. Were you surprised when you heard that she had gotten this ruling? PAUL COUGHLIN 05:24 Very much so. I mean, Emily had a substantial case, substantial amount of evidence. And you know that evidence comes from people who, you know, obviously are willing to talk. Do you know how many people are not willing to talk? They know the score, but for a few fundamental reasons, they remain quiet, probably because they’re worried that they’ll be next. So, we have a substantial case, where chances are few people really spoke up. JULIE ROYS 05:50 And again, that case is pending. And towards the end of this podcast, Emily, I’m going to have you update us on the latest developments, because there are some really important ones there. But let’s back up to your story, and what happened to you, Emily, for those who haven’t read the news reports. I mean, it came out in December, even if you did read the report, you might be a little bit rusty on what happened. Would you give us the cliff notes of what happened to you, that led you to file this claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights? EMILY HYLAND 06:21 Well, in some ways, it starts back before 2020 to my time at the church. I had been there since 2006, and Dane joined in 2007. So, for over a decade, we existed as two members of the same church, running into each other, same classes, same age kids. And so, when the former senior pastor left, a search committee was put together, Dane was on it. Two years go by and no senior pastor candidate. Well, then it’s announced, Dane is going to be the senior pastor candidate. And by that time, I was on staff and the director of operations. And I was surprised because he hadn’t been a pastor before. And I knew that the requirements for the job had been five years of pastoring experience. But I was since I knew him, I mean, he wasn’t a stranger. I had no inclinations that this was something that was going to be so catastrophic. But when he started, things just weren’t right. And they continued to get more wrong as the months went on. And as I started really telling myself, this isn’t what you think, it’s not right. I mean, maybe you’re off, maybe you’re just being a little petty. I had this mindset that was getting progressively more confused. And I was just talking circles to myself. And then finally, I happen to read in that February of 2021, when the Ravi Zacharias report came out. And in addition to obviously, the terrible accounts of sexual predation was the organizational aspect and how staff who raised questions who were having legitimate concerns, they weren’t buying some of the early propaganda that was being put out, that those staff were being bullied. And I read those reports, and I looked at this, and I’m like, Oh, my gosh, that is what is going on here. And I was shocked, because I finally had words and labels to what I was feeling, what I was experiencing. And so, I take the next maybe month, I read up a little bit more about the differences between bullying, harassment, rudeness, inconsiderateness, to really make sure that I’m linguistically precise in this matter. And it comes to a head when I call up two of the elders, and I tell them privately, I think I’m being bullied. I think it’s because I’m a woman. I myself had a hard time getting those words out, because I didn’t want to be bullied. And I didn’t want it to be because of my gender. So, the two elders sat on this for a little bit, because Dane was out of town. And when they brought it to Dane, that next Monday, it started the floor falling out of everything, where it was very swiftly after that, then maybe 12 hours, that I was going to be fired. And it took a few days. And in the meantime, I didn’t know what was happening. I just knew that this couldn’t continue. This was not the right behavior. I wanted the elders to help me navigate this and to be safe in it. But that’s not at all what happened. That at the end of the week, Dane fired me, and they had no elder walk me out the door. And then I was done. They follow that up by Dane telling the staff that I had been fired for cause and to not reach out to me. JULIE ROYS 09:53 In a day. Right. You lost your church of how many years? EMILY HYLAND 09:58 I had been there almost 15 years by that point. JULIE ROYS 10:02 You lost your job. You lost your church family. And you were ostracized at this point. People weren’t even talking to you, correct? EMILY HYLAND 10:12 Oh, right. Yeah, it was full on disfellowshipping. I mean, I didn’t know what that word was until somebody told me I was like, Ooh, yeah, that is exactly what it is. I had people who wouldn’t even look at me in public. These were people I had served with for 15 years. And I didn’t believe it could happen. I still I mean, my husband still cannot process that element of it, which is that he cannot believe that people who I’ve been with for that long would turn because I didn’t do anything to them. I didn’t even say anything publicly about Dane. I mean, this was two conversations with elders. And now people won’t speak to me. And that really continues now. JULIE ROYS 10:50 Really, to this day? Yeah. And I want you to comment on this, Paul. But first, I’d like to read a statement by Dave Veerman, who was an elder at the time. So, he participated in the firing. A few months after it happened, clearly had a change of heart, and he resigned himself. And his statement really played a pivotal role in the Illinois Department of Human Rights in their ruling. So, I’d like to read it. I can’t read the whole thing just because of the length. But some portions I think would be really instructive as to what happened and even corroborating what you’re saying. So, this is what he writes. The 2021 version of the Personnel Committee met a couple of times via zoom to discuss a few relatively minor issues. Then we got word that Dane wanted to have us deal with a serious issue with a staff member. At this Zoom meeting on March 16, he said he wanted to let Emily go and made vague references about her performance and relationships with other staff. He also said that he had met with her a couple of times, so we thought she had a pretty good idea of where this was heading. Let me just pause there. Did you have any idea you were going to be fired? EMILY HYLAND 10:51 None. It was so shocking. And this was two days before Palm Sunday. I mean, it is going into the biggest week of the Church year, and to just be like, Oh, we don’t need a director of operations. And we certainly don’t need her to do any turnover. We don’t need her to give us any of the information that she has been using in her job for eight years. I was completely surprised. JULIE ROYS 12:18 Well, and apparently Dave shared your sentiments there. He writes, this news was a shock to us because we had always been impressed with Emily and what she had done for the church. In addition, we had just had a session meeting on March 15, in which nothing had been said about her and her performance. Dane also said that Emily had gone to two elders that she felt close to, and thought would listen empathically and give wise counsel. Later, I learned that she had shared how she had been mistreated recently by Dane and was asking advice on how she should respond. And then I’m gonna skip through some of it and read. He describes that he had several meetings, then with elders and different people. Then he writes, even though I didn’t know Emily’s side of the story, I voted to move ahead with Dane’s recommendation. Our next step was to inform the other elders. So, the three of us each took a few men to call. Then Dane set up a meeting with Emily for Friday, March 19, to inform her and he asked me to be there. At that brief meeting at 1pm, Dane fired Emily saying it was, quote, the will of the session. Unsurprisingly, Emily was quite upset, although trying to maintain her composure. I tried to just listen and not say much. She started reading the agreement. Apparently was there an NDA that they had given you? EMILY HYLAND 13:32 Yeah. On top of the details regarding severance. JULIE ROYS 13:35 Is there anything remarkable about that, or pretty standard? 13:39 I think that it was passed off as something that oh, this is just how we do things. We don’t really know what’s in here. But I read contracts very thoroughly and to be like, Wow, no NDA, no severance. That was how it was written, is that if I did not sign away, my legal rights, agree to confidentiality and agree to a non-disparagement, I mean, never saying anything negative about the pastors, the officers, the church or how I was treated. That was the only way I was gonna get any severance. And that’s how it was written. There was no mention of why I was terminated. It wasn’t for cause that was it. JULIE ROYS 14:15 I wish I could say that that was remarkable in some way. I’ve learned that’s very unremarkable that’s very similar to what I got from the Moody Bible Institute when I was fired. And so many people that I’ve talked to are getting NDAs now, and I’m glad that this issue is coming to the fore. That people are realizing that churches now are giving NDAs, that Christian organizations are giving them and they’re about as carnal a document as there is and it is there to protect the institution; has nothing and no care and concern for the employee. As a sister in Christ or a part of the church, but I digress on my editorial comment on that one. But NDAs are just I just think they’re evil. He continues to write, Emily brought up her recollection of being bullied and strongly pushed back on the decision because of the current cultural attitudes toward misogyny. Skipping ahead. Later, I learned that at 3:30pm, a staff meeting was held to announce Emily’s termination. Dane said 1) Emily was fired for cause, 2) the decision was the will of the session, a session being in a Presbyterian Church sort of the equivalent of the elder board, and 3) staff should not contact her. I need to say that because of Dane’s actions, a few months later, I resigned as an elder and my wife and I left the church. Not to go into many details, but at that time I heard Dane give many of the same rationalizations and explanations for his attitudes and actions in this precipitating conflict. It made me rethink my decision regarding Emily, that I had made a mistake. My agreeing to terminate Emily’s employment was based almost entirely on believing the word of Dane, my pastor. I realized now that I should have looked deeper, ask more questions, and met with Emily to get her side of the story. And again, that’s Dave Veerman, a former elder there at Naperville Presbyterian church. Paul, as you listen to this letter, I could see on your face, yes, we’re on Zoom, by the way, folks, but I could tell that you’re resonating with some things in there. But what stood out to you, as you heard that letter? PAUL COUGHLIN 16:22 That elder is a rare person, sadly. I mean, that’s a rare person who’s going to stick their neck out like that. But those are the people who really keep integrity on the table. So, if I had a hat on, I would take it off to that gentleman. You know, there’s a lot of things that Emily has talked about. And we spoke earlier about the pattern of behavior, right, that people undergo. And when you recognize that pattern, you begin to realize you’re not crazy. And one of the things that is so painful for targets is betrayal. You could hear it in Emily’s voice. And she talked about it; people not talking to her, been at the same church for something like 15 years and people don’t talk to you. The emotional impact of bullying in the workplace itself is swampy for many people. And then you have this being ostracized. And one thing I’d like to point out for any workplace, but especially faith centric workplaces, is that you’re going to expect people to live by a certain level of integrity. And sadly, for whatever reason, it seems to be baked into the system, betrayal is coming. I’m reminded, and I’ve experienced that we’ve all licked our wounds when it comes to this behavior. I’m reminded of that wonderful movie Braveheart, where William Wallace was in. JULIE ROYS 17:45 One of my favorites, by the way. PAUL COUGHLIN 17:46 I’m not surprised. He’s betrayed by his best friend. And because of that, his heart is completely taken out of the battle, he doesn’t care anymore. That is what will happen to us. And so, what I would like to say to our listeners right now is that don’t be surprised by the betrayal. For some reason, it is baked into the system, in most cases, most of the time. I’m reminded by that quote from Martin Luther King, who said, in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. It’s just how it goes down. It’s par for the course. But I would also want to say to the people listening now who could be that support structure around others, please keep that in mind. You can play a profound role, not just in bringing fairness into the workplace and with integrity, but also in the psychological and spiritual bolstering of another person, you’re that important. JULIE ROYS 18:49 And I’ve heard that repeatedly from people who have been victims of spiritual abuse, church abuse, retaliation, bullying. That they can handle that there’s one bad apple. Like, they can handle that there’s a bully pastor out there, right? They can deal with that. What they can’t deal with, is that everybody got in line with that guy. Everybody stood there silently, while they were excoriated for false charges against them, whatever, and that the average person stood by and did nothing. And that’s been my experience. I know, I just had a birthday recently. I don’t even know if I should say this. But, you know, you get these greetings from folks that you’re like, wait, you haven’t talked to me since the day I was fired! In fact, you wouldn’t take my phone calls. But okay. Thanks for the Happy Birthday. Appreciate that. I mean, it’s one of those things that’s just absolutely stunning. And this is why I think spiritual abuse and church hurt is far worse and more fundamental than other kinds of abuse. And I’m not meaning to minimize certainly all of them are horrible, horrible. But there’s something about this that just goes to the core of your belief system of who you think people are. And if we don’t separate out, God’s people from God Himself, can really mess up and distort our image of who God is. And I think there’s so many people deconstructing today, whatever you want to call it, are just trying to come to grips with what is it that was true that I believed and what was just the stuff that I accepted with it that really wasn’t? And I know there’s people listening who are there, I’ve been there, right? I’m still there to some degree, you know. PAUL COUGHLIN 20:39 And Julie, could I add to that our Lord was bullied before He was crucified. Our Lord knows exactly what it’s like to experience betrayal, false accusations, to put up with the arrogance and the hubris of other people. And he can empathize with our weaknesses, he knows exactly what it was like, because the crucifixion included many of the same components of workplace bullying. So he is on our side, he knows exactly how we feel, and he is there for us. EMILY HYLAND 21:11 I thought about that over the last few years, when you take communion, and it starts with on the night he was betrayed. You can just stop right there and say, Jesus knows what it’s like to be betrayed, and forsaken by everyone who you thought was for you and with you. I mean, to identify in that aspect of religious community is a thread of hope you can have because Jesus knows betrayal. JULIE ROYS 21:39 I’m so glad that you both brought that up. Because I think the ability to identify with Christ in his sufferings, if you’ve been through something like this, is much greater. And yet, as I’ve experienced it, the eye opening thing hasn’t so much been that I get to suffer with him. But it makes me so much more aware of how hideous the suffering that Jesus endured. Just having tasted a small amount of what he went through, has given me just such a greater appreciation for the suffering of Christ by being able to enter into it again, in a very small way, comparatively. PAUL COUGHLIN 22:21 Julie, one thing I tried to point out for people who you’ve talked about, like deconstructing faith, and all three of us have gone through its process right. In my mind, one thing that I have tried to do to try to keep things clear is the difference between churchianity and Christianity. And I think when we see this suffering of Christ, of such great unfairness, I see that in the category of true Christianity, that’s what it’s about. What we are experiencing in faith centric organizations is what I would call churchianity. And I believe that there’s obviously overlap between the two. But also, there’s great distinctions. I think that’s very helpful for people who have been abused so that they can start thinking of it in terms like that, because it helps them hopefully not throw the baby out with the bathwater, where it’s all bad, and it’s all wrong. Rather, it helps to put it in context. JULIE ROYS 22:22 Well, much of what we’re going to be talking about in this podcast is really looking back and thinking, what I wish I had known then that I know now, because it is a learning process. And man, can it be a rude awakening, but an important one. It’s like the matrix as the red pill or the blue pill, right? You know, those of us who have taken I don’t know, is it the red pill that opens your eyes? But yeah, if you take that pill, there’s no undoing it, and you see it. Let me just start with you, Emily, I know one of the things that you said, if you were to do this over again, is you would stop talking to yourself and start listening to yourself. What do you mean by that? EMILY HYLAND 23:55 Well, as I said earlier, I think I was talking myself in circles, and something would happen, and I would disconnect from my intuition. It felt wrong, but I told myself, nah, and I downplayed the harm that was coming, which I know now, like, that’s not mercy. Mercy is an intentional weighing of the harm that you receive, and a decision to forgive it. To just dismiss harm, and to downplay it and pretend like that wasn’t harm, that’s actually not mercy. I think that, particularly to Christian circles, we think of the Spirit speaking through our intuition. For instance, if I had an intuition to go and talk to a neighbor, and invite them to a church choir service, we would say that that’s the you know, Spirit leading you. But it doesn’t work in the other way. Like if you have this intuition that, you know, I think something’s wrong here. I think my pastor isn’t behaving as a pastor should, that your mind does not really like that absolutely could be the Spirit speaking on your attentions, you’re trying to tell it this Be quiet, and to stop talking. And so, I think I was trying to rationalize away a pattern of events. And now, if I could go back, I would have told myself Stop, listen to how you’re feeling, and especially your sympathetic system. I mean, that is there by God’s design. And when we feel fear, when we feel out of control, when we feel afraid, or wanting to run away, or pressured, and those hormones start making you feel stressed and anxious, that’s not nothing. That’s your body responding to something that is really happening. And that I should have been listening much more carefully to that, instead of just telling myself in my higher brain, oh, don’t bother with that. It was like, No, this is merely myself trying to protect myself. And I discounted it for a very long time. Until one day, like I said, I just happened to read a description of what workplace bullying in Christian ministry looked like. And it was like my intuition just got plugged in all at once. And it was like, Whoa, now, what followed was my intuition bracket was perfect. I mean, it was remarkable how, yeah, I was right on this stuff. I was accurate. And I didn’t really want to be, I didn’t want to be bullied, and I didn’t want to work for a bullying pastor. None of that was by design. But identifying those behaviors, identifying what was going on behind the scenes, was when that intuition reconnected. And I think that if I could have gone back, I would have listened to my intuition, and realized, yes, that is the spirit, it’s saying some hard stuff that I didn’t want to hear. But that silencing it was to my own detriment. JULIE ROYS 26:53 And let’s also acknowledge that in a lot of these churches, we’re hearing consistent message often of listen to the authorities in your church, be submissive to the authorities in your church and their leadership. Don’t gossip, the meddling, we’re hearing those constantly. And so, it’s a cognitive dissonance that you’re dealing with. And I remember we did a surprise birthday party for my husband once. And there were numerous times that he should have figured out what was going on. And he just didn’t like, and afterwards, we asked him because he was so surprised. Like, how did you not get that? And he’s like, I don’t know. It’s just like this cognitive dissonance and you throw out things that don’t fit the narrative. And you just, it’s funny how we do that. One of the best books out there, and it’s funny that you’ve even said it several times. And when you’re talking about this, is it something’s not right. And I think Wade Mullins book, Something’s Not Right, is just so so good in helping you put your finger on that. So, if you’ve never read this book, you have to read Something’s Not Right. It’s just so good. Or listen to Wade’s talk at the Restore conference, where he talks about some of these things. They’re all available at our YouTube channel, you can see that. And by the way, Paul, your talk on bullying is available on video on our YouTube channel. It’s also available as a podcast, I think June 23, I think of last year is when we published that. So, you can go back and listen to Paul’s whole talk on bullying, which is I know mind blowing for so so many people. Paul, as you hear what Emily just said about trusting that intuition, what comes to mind for you? PAUL COUGHLIN 28:31 A number of things. One thing that would have really helped Emily and so many other people is if she had at least one person standing by her side. She talked about almost like talking to herself and the cycle. We all get into that. And what really helps if we have a person, ideally, a person who is wise, but also more than wisdom, courageous. If we have someone to confide in, they can talk us out of those circular thinking, tends to spiral down, not up usually. And in that wisdom that they give us, we can find the seeds of courage as well because when we get clarity, we have a much stronger ability to move forward, hopefully in an intelligent way with both truth and grace and love. So, there are people out there who need us desperately in that situation. And I’d like to point out a distinction statistically between men and women when bullied in the workplace. Statistically, men tend to get angry and leave. Women tend to medicate and stay. And unfortunately, and to hear that the protectors what we do is we often advise find another job because it can be so damaging to the person’s spirit to their soul when they undergo this work. And statistically it can be harder on women. That damage can go deeper and last longer. In fact, many of the characteristics of PTSD are the same that happens in the workplace, then people returning from war, it can be that bad. So, it’s an important distinction to keep in mind. You know what I think what happened was Emily, is they picked on the wrong person, and I’ve told Emily this; is that chances are the people in her former workplace, the main pastor particularly, in my opinion, has probably been doing this for a long time, has probably been targeting people specific people and getting his way. And what happened is he probably targeted the wrong person; a person of a lot of backbone. You can tell Emily’s very sharp, but sharpness alone won’t do it. Functioning degree of courage is often necessary in order to defend yourself. And we have a wonderful success story now, I think because of Emily’s character of who she is. JULIE ROYS 31:04 Well, this concludes part one of my podcast with Paul and Emily on bullying in a Christian workplace. In part two, you’ll hear Emily describe more of what she wishes she knew back when she was being bullied that she knows now. And you’ll hear more expert advice from Paul Coughlin, on how to deal with bullies. And also, why you may have become a target. PAUL COUGHLIN 31:25 Bullies in the workplace, particularly within the church, they use our niceness against us. It’s one of the reasons why we’re targeted. We don’t use the word victim at the protectors very often, we prefer the word target. And here’s why. You have been selected, the bully in the workplace, the bully pastor has picked on some people but not other people. Why is that? Because a bully is not looking for a fight, they want to overwhelm another person. So, they look for the nice person, they look for the person, for example, who lives by turning the other cheek. JULIE ROYS 31:57 Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Well, again, that’s Paul Coughlin. And we’ll be releasing part two of this podcast in just a few days. So, you want to be watching for that. Also, if you’re a survivor of church hurt or abuse, or you’re a Christian leader who just wants to learn more about how to protect against abuse and help survivors, I want to invite you to join me at our upcoming Restore conference. This two-day event, October 13 and 14 at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, is a very special time of healing and equipping. Joining me will be author Wade Molen, whose book we referenced in this podcast, along with Lori Anne Thompson, Sheila Ray Gregoire, Mary Demuth, and more. For more information, go to RESTORE2023.COM. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
9/11/202333 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Evangelical Imagination Crisis

Guest Bios Show Transcript How is it that evangelicals, who have long extolled the virtues of the First and Second Great Awakenings, now think being “awakened” or “woke” is a bad thing? And how did we evolve from valuing sanctification—to reducing faith into a self-help project? In this podcast, author and longtime professor Karen Swallow Prior joins Julie to discuss the current crisis in the church, which isn’t just about Trump or celebrity pastor scandals. As Karen explains, evangelicalism suffers from a crisis of imagination.  Somehow, over the past few decades, the pool of images, stories, and metaphors that form our imagination has become distorted and diseased. And the result has been catastrophic. We no longer think or imagine in biblical ways. For example, instead of thinking of the kingdom of heaven as something that advances as we love, serve, and sacrifice for our fellow man, we’ve adopted an empire mentality. In this system, one wins by dominating his fellow man and putting the right people in office. It’s a far cry from the words of Jesus: The last will be first. To get out of this crisis, we need to reform our imagination—radically. But to do that, we first need to understand how we got here, Karen explains. And only then, can we chart a way forward. Guests Karen Swallow Prior Karen Swallow Prior (PhD, SUNY Buffalo) is a reader, writer, and longtime professor. She is the author of several best-selling books including On Reading Well, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Prior has written for Christianity Today, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, First Things, Vox, and Religion News Service. Show Transcript SPEAKERSKAREN SWALLOW PRIOR, JULIE ROYS JULIE ROYS  00:04How is it that evangelicals who have long extolled the virtues of the first and second great awakenings now think being awakened or woke is a bad thing? And why have testimonies degenerated into a contest over who has the most dramatic story? And how do we evolve from valuing sanctification to reducing faith into a self-help project? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and today I’m going to be talking about the evangelical imagination with Karen Swallow Prior.   Karen has just written a book by that name. And as she explains in her book, our current crisis isn’t just about Trump or celebrity pastor scandals. Evangelicalism is suffering from a crisis of the imagination. Somehow over the past few decades, the pool of images, stories and metaphors, the form our imagination has become distorted and diseased. And the result has been catastrophic. We no longer think or imagine in biblical ways. For example, instead of thinking about the kingdom of heaven as something that advances as we love and serve and sacrifice for our fellow man, we’ve adopted an empire mentality where we win by dominating our fellow man, by putting the right people in office, by winning an actual culture war, by being first not last. And so, if we want to navigate out of this crisis, we need to reform our imagination. But to do that, we need to understand our history and how we got here. And Karen has done a masterful job of researching and explaining that development. So, I’m very much looking forward to our discussion today.   But before we dive in, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU.   Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM.   Well, joining me now is Karen Swallow Prior, a former longtime English professor at Liberty University, and until quite recently, she was a research professor of English Christianity and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Now she’s a full-time writer and the author of several fantastic books including her latest, The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories and Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis. Karen also writes a monthly column for Religion News Service, is a contributing editor for Comment, a founding member of the Pelican Project and a senior fellow at the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture. And last but not least, she and her husband Roy live on a 100-year-old homestead in central Virginia, with two dogs, Eva the Diva, and Ruby. If you follow her , and I’m just thrilled to have you.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  03:45 And so great to be talking with you, Julie, thank you.   JULIE ROYS  03:48 I am going to start this podcast with a little bit of a confession. Normally just because of my schedule, when I come to do a podcast and I come to read the book, it’s often the day or two before the actual podcast and I’m rushing through this book to get through it. And true to form, I did that with your book. Now that I’ve read it, I am really dying to go back and to read it again. And to sit down I’m even thinking, I got some friends like we should do a book club and do this book because every chapter is so so rich. And so, I’m just thanking you for writing this book and for the richness in it. And you bring so much of yourself into it. It’s just quintessential Karen Swallow Prior because of all of the literary illusions that you have and just fantastically done. So, thank you.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  04:42 Thank you. I have had a few interviewers either confess or read schedule. I think a lot of Christian books are fast reads. And so, I think a lot of people picked it up and just thought they could breeze through it, and I don’t maybe if I were a better writer, I would write in a breezier style,, but you’re not the only one to say it’s you know, it’s rich and taken time and a lot of thought.   JULIE ROYS  05:05 absolutely true. And with most books, when I go through them in two or three hours, I feel like I’m done. Your book I didn’t get through in two or three hours, it took me much more than that. But at the same time, I was just like, Man, this is important stuff that we need to really meditate on. And we really need to think about. And this idea of writing about the imagination. I love that because I think the imagination is something that so often, especially in evangelicalism, right, because we’re so reason focus, we think of the imagination as something that’s fiction, something that’s not real. And we don’t realize the extent to which the imagination and the stories, this pool of ideas and thought, how that really impacts the way we act, the way that we think, the way we perceive the future, all of that. And you so beautifully wove that into this book. I remember from when I was homeschooling my kids, we used to talk about the imagination as a garden, and how the weeds can take over. And I think in essence, that’s a lot of what you’re saying in this book, there’s a lot of weeds that have gotten into our imagination, and yet, we’re not even cognizant of them. So first, let me just ask you, why did you decide to write this book at this time?   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  06:26 For me, it takes a long time to write a book. And maybe that’s why it takes so long to read. So, I started imagining this book, probably 2018 or 2019. But it really arose or teaching Victorian literature, and my college students are primarily evangelical, grew up in evangelical subculture, and a lot of what we would  read in the Victorian age. Now, the Victorian age is the century after the rise of evangelicalism, but it sort of embodies the great influence of evangelicalism. And so, we would read this literature that talked about purity culture, and the sexual double standard that you know, the one standard for women, and another one much lower for men, family values, the separate spheres for men and women, all of those things in this wonderful literature that I love. And my students would often say, wait a minute, this sounds like the idea I was raised with, or this sounds like what I was taught, you know, in the 20th century. So, we would have these discussions, these conversations. Well, what is a truly biblical view of purity of family of men and women, and what’s really just Victorian? We started separating those two threads in the classroom with my students who had largely been brought up in evangelical subculture was the beginning of the book. And, you know, so it’s been a few years where I’ve been able to think about this, find other examples. And of course, a lot has been going on in the culture outside the classroom that helped me to see this as not just an intellectual exercise in the classroom, but really part of the crisis that our movement is facing right now.   JULIE ROYS  08:05 Isn’t that interesting that the Victorian era would be like our current era? I don’t think most people would even fathom that, that’s true. And even so many of the hip and, you know, cutting edge ministries we have today, would not recognize how their roots are actually in some of these centuries, way before them, and we’re going to delve into that. But before we do, since we’re talking about the evangelical imagination, let’s start with a definition of evangelicalism because this is something that has morphed with time and means different things to different people.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  08:43 Absolutely. And of course, even the term has many different meanings and understandings, as it might have had over the years, it’s really been kind of hijacked and catapulted into headlines and political polls and surveys. And so, it’s just become even more confused and contested. And so, I realized that I am evangelical, so I know this, the problem surrounding the term and in many people’s desire to reject it or replace it or denounce it. So I drew on a number of definitions that are given by scholars and the primary one that I think everyone either agrees with or differs with a little bit is that of the church historian David Bebbington as the Bebbington quadrilateral, and Bebbington basically looks at the evangelical movement from the 18th century on and says that, regardless of the denomination or the country, or the century, evangelicals are defined by their emphasis on the conversion experience, the centrality of the Bible or their lives as God’s authoritative word, the centrality of Christ’s crucifixion, and His sacrifice for our sins. And also, a lot of people don’t maybe realize this but an activist spirit like evangelicals have always been activists of some kind; missions in the 19th century, social justice in the 21st, you know. I mean, across the board left or right evangelicals are defined by all four of these things, but including they all come together, activists spirit.   JULIE ROYS  10:16 And that activism has its outworking very different in each age, which you highlight in a number of your chapters. But each one of your chapters sort of focuses on a word or a concept that captures an aspect of the evangelical imagination. And then you talk about this development of the concept about what’s good and true about the concept within evangelicalism, but also what may be a perversion and that’s what I think is so eye opening. Let’s start with just this concept of awakening, your second chapter, because your first chapter sort of outlines what the imagination is, which I think was awesome. But explain how awakening and this idea of being awakened, is central to evangelicalism throughout the history and development of the movement.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  11:10 My expertise is in British Literature, the 18th and 19th century. So, I’ll say that’s the beginning, but most people are more familiar with American history and religious history, even if we’re not experts. And we all know about the Great Awakenings, right? I mean, the Evangelical revival in America in the 18th century, it was called the Great Awakening, and then there are ones after that. So right away, we know that this whole idea of awakening is central to the evangelical movement. It also happens to be a very powerful and prevalent symbol in literature, throughout all time, but also during this period. So that is an area where I was able to make a connection, like why awakening and how many ways is that concept, that idea that symbols show up, and we have the Great Awakening in America. But the other thing that really defines America is the American Dream, which of course, you know, sleeping, dreaming, waking, these are all connected. And so that’s one of the points that I make in this chapter and a couple places in the book is how the American Dream, which was so much part of America’s founding has been part not just of American history, but also of evangelical history, just because of the way our nation was founded. And so, people talk about whether or not you know, there’s Christian nation and what that means or doesn’t mean. Even the whole concept of the American dream, and that sort of consumerist materialists prosperity idea is interwoven not only with American history, but evangelical history.   JULIE ROYS  12:49 And of course, the American Dream is in the New Testament. Not. Not close.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  12:57 But Make America Great is there.   JULIE ROYS  12:59 Oh, yeah, exactly. And this is the issue that you’re getting at this sort of sifting between, you know, what is real and true to Christianity. Obviously, the idea of being awakened spiritually, I mean, evangelicalism grew out of what had become a very dry and dead and wrote Christian church culture, and yet people awakening some of them pastors awakening, which is beautiful, to the truth of a relationship with Jesus who is the truth. Ironically, I thought that the word woke, right. Something that’s based on being awakened, has now become within a lot of evangelical circles, a pejorative term, and yet, again, it’s our roots.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  13:47 It’s our it’s our roots. Right? And, and it is, you know, I talked about this in the book, and there’s so many more things I could have said, but I wanted to trace that history. That’s, you know, the way that the African American community use the word woke early in the 20th century, is really similar to the way that we were using it back in the 18th century. Now woke is centered in Yes, social justice and being awakened to oppression. But that’s what the Great Awakening is too, is being awakened to the spiritual oppression that we undergo when we do not have that relationship in Jesus Christ, or we are denying the work of the Holy Spirit. And so, there’s a direct connection there. And, again, going back to what I said about how evangelicalism has always been defined by an activist spirit. So this whole idea of being woke and having your conscience gripped by things that are wrong in our culture, whether systemically or individually, or there is sin matters or social matters. Like that is part of our heritage and to use that variation of the word woke as an insult or a pejorative or just an outright dismissal for everything that you disagree with, does violence not only to the language but does violence to our heritage as evangelicals and just violence to the people who are using that term to express this urgent and important felt need.   JULIE ROYS  15:12 So, to the person who’s trying to keep what is good, throw out what is bad when it comes to this most central concept of being awakened spiritually, what would you say?   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  15:23 I would say that, you know, this is one reason why I’m still an evangelical is because evangelicalism arose in the modern age. And an important feature of the modern age is the individual [ ] the individual soul that need for individual salvation and conversion. And it’s all centered on the conscience. Now, I also happen to be not just evangelical Baptist. And for us, soul autonomy is really important, like the idea that we are each responsible and accountable as individuals, our own individual souls before God. And so that idea of the individual conscience is central to the evangelical movement. And so being awakened, not only spiritually, but also awakened just to our relationship in this world with one another and how we treat one another. It’s just to me, it’s central to what it means to be an evangelical.   JULIE ROYS  16:26 So, A related term, which you already mentioned, is conversion. I think if you’ve grown up in evangelicalism, you’ve heard of this idea of easy believe ism. I remember that my mother moved from the north to the south, and she did go to a Baptist church in the south. They had a horrible tragedy where a teenage boy shot his family, killed all of them. And then he turned the gun on himself. And I remember my mother was so shocked that the pastor got up and said, Well, we know that the shooter was a Christian, because he came forward and gave his life to Christ. You know, when he was I forget what age and she was just appalled by this, that that was given as something to sooth the community, supposedly. I mean, she felt like how can we know this man that just went on a murderous rampage? Of course, we don’t know, if he had mental illness, whatever, but  that kind of statement, which, again, it takes that conversion experience into almost 100% iron clad, you’re going to heaven, I think there’s been some perversion of what a conversion really means. And you talk about the history and development of this term, if you would, give us a little bit of the background and how this has evolved over time.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  17:45 You know, the Evangelical revival in England arose at a time when, you know, a couple of centuries after the Reformation took place, and there was an established church in England, a state church, a government Church, which meant that if you were born as a citizen in England, that meant that you were a Christian, officially. So, it just bred of nominal Christianity, but this is what the Evangelical revival is like the Wesley’s when they were young men, John and Charles Wesley who helped begin this who were Anglicans, studying for the ministry. They felt something was lacking, and then had that famous warming of the heart experience, and which we would call it being born again, or individual conversion. And so, this revival in England and this awakening in America centered on this idea that you’re not a Christian just because you are born into a Christian family or confirmed or baptized as an infant in a Christian church, but you must be born again, you must have an individual salvation experience. And, again, I’m evangelical, I believe that. But as you pointed out, just because someone goes forward, or just because someone fills out a card or raises their hand, that in itself does not mean that they were converted. And that is why the Bible does say, not all who say Lord, Lord will be saved. And that is also why the Bible gives us evidence, such as fruit of the Spirit, to show that someone that exhibits godliness and Christ likeness and doesn’t mean that the converted don’t sin. Would that it were so but it’s not. But again, this good, important biblical idea becomes distorted when all of the emphasis is on going forward, getting the hands raised, filling out the cards, counting the number of people who’ve made decisions for Christ, and then letting them off and go without any follow up or discipleship, or kinds of things that can’t be measured as easily, which are actually so much more important.   JULIE ROYS  19:47 But it sure makes a good newsletter.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  19:49 Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, it does. And that’s the sad part about it. It often becomes a fundraising gimmick. How many people have come forward or whatever. And sometimes with good intentions, but I think it has been perverted. You talk about an 18th century novel in this chapter, which I had never heard about called Pamela. Talk about that book and how it sort of typifies the issue. Yeah. Non one ever reads or talks about Pamela unless they take an odd course, from me or some other 18th century novel professor. It’s considered widely is like the first English novel. It’s so rooted in all of evangelical history during this time, because it’s a story of, you know, a young servant girl whose harasser is attempting to seduce her and harass her and she’s holding on to her virtue. He actually tries to sexually assault her twice. If anyone wants to read it, spoiler alert. And the novel shows that through her good behavior, she tames him and he’s inverted. You know, that’s obviously not a good idea to follow that model. And she marries him. Yes, I think we still have those dynamics. But the reason I include that novel is because the story doesn’t end when they get married. The story ends much later, when this horrible husband, this former Reagan player has had some kind of conversion experience and grows and matures. But the novel was widely criticized and mocked and satirize, because it was showing this like cheap grace kind of dynamic that we just talked about, and that this guy can just be converted, and everything  is instantly better. And so, it’s an interesting novel from a literary perspective. But it’s also interesting because it parallels a lot of what evangelicals were thinking and teaching and modeling, but it shows it in such an access that we should stop and question and say many this is not how to evangelize and convert people.   JULIE ROYS  21:53 A related concept is the idea of testimony and giving your testimony. And again, I’m thinking about my childhood. So, I’m one of those that went forward when I was six years old, at a camp meeting. don’t really remember what was preached. But I remember like when he said, Do you want to come forward and accept Jesus? I was like, Oh, I’ve heard about Jesus my whole life. Of course, I do. You know. And so, I did go forward. I actually remember it very vividly. Because for the next two weeks, everybody I met, my parents would be like, oh tell them your testimony. But it was good for me because it solidified in me that experience and the importance of it. A lot of people don’t have necessarily that one time testimony. I know my sister, one of the most beautiful Christians I know on the planet, she can’t point to a time, and I think in your book you talk about you can kind of point to a time period, right? But not really a time. So, this can be a good thing, the testimony. You talked about testimony envy, which I thought was a great phrase. How can this be twisted, and how has it been twisted within evangelicalism?   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  23:03 So, testimony and story  are just a central aspect of what it means to be human and also to what it means to be a Christian. We are to be prepared to give a defense to give our testimonies to tell our story. And yet, we also have to examine sort of the flip side, and as you said,  if we don’t remember that particular time and place and we can’t tell that story because we, like in my case, and probably your sisters, were so young. But even John Bunyan, as I show in the book, has a really long Spiritual Autobiography. And you keep wondering, okay is this the moment is this the moment he keeps having these spiritual epiphanies or awakenings. And Jonathan Edwards himself says, sometimes people don’t know and that’s okay. I’m paraphrasing him, obviously. So, it’s wonderful to have a testimony. But that testimony envy that I talked about, and you mentioned, can lead people to feeling as though if they don’t have a testimony, something is wrong. Or we’d come to learn that someone who shared a testimony, embellished it. And so again, as I show throughout this whole book with all of these beautiful, wonderful concepts and ideas that are rooted in the Bible, but also become part of our imagination, our social imaginary, if they get distorted or twisted, then we take something that is good and true, and turn it into something that is not that; our salvation testimony is the most important one, but also our sanctification, our growth, the way God works, and as well as all of those are testimonies.   JULIE ROYS  24:36 I couldn’t help but think of Michael Warnke when I was reading that chapter. If you remember, he was in the 80s had this very dramatic testimony of being converted from being a Satanist to Christ, and he would tell the stories became an evangelist. Well, it turned out it was all bunk. He had concocted the whole thing; he had made it up. And the horrible thing is It just takes one fraud, for about 100 real testimonies and the truth for a lot of people, the Christian life is day by day living in the ordinary. And these days, I’m much more impressed by the person who’s not so on fire outwardly, but just is living that quiet life of obedience to Christ, not bringing attention to himself or herself, and just following the Lord. And I think we forget how ordinary even Jesus was right? You know, some of them have dramatics; Saul has a dramatic testimony. But a lot of them it was just, follow me., and they did. The evangelical, or the Protestant work ethic, which is another concept that you talked about. And that’s something that was drilled into me, in fact, there wouldn’t be a Roy Report if I didn’t have a Protestant work ethic. Yep. Before reading your book, I don’t think I’d ever really thought about how this work ethic developed out of sort of an age of improvement, and how it even might be contributing to our self-help movement today. Would you explain how these things are related?   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  26:09 Yeah, that was a fun chapter, because I too, am a product of the Protestant work ethic, and it’s made me who I am today. And so that is good. But there’s this sort of, off branch of that work ethic, which is improvement, even the idea of a self-improvement or an improvement to your life was something that people for thousands of years, didn’t imagine. Because for thousands of years, people’s lives, generation after generation after generation, looks the same. You were trying to survive trying to herd your sheep and raise your children, and nothing much changed. So, improvement itself is a very modern idea. I’m for improvement too, but it goes too far when we improve just for improvement sake, or when it breeds lack of contentment, or we often don’t look at what we lose or sacrifice by trying to make an improvement. If we go to the supermarket, we see these packages of food and products that say new and improved. And when you read the fine print, it’s really just the labels changed or something. It’s not even necessarily anything substantial that is improved. But we love improvements so much that the marketing and the research that goes into it shows us that it works to have that little label on it, even if we don’t know what the improvement was. And of course, that carries over into modern evangelicalism when we are formed and shaped and motivated by self-improvement and influencers. And these aren’t all bad. But we’re the Christian, we are supposed to undergo growth and sanctification, which is really not quite the same thing as improvement.   JULIE ROYS  27:50 The focus of it is so different. I mean, it almost becomes like a Babel thing, like I’ve built this, I’ve done this, instead of, you know, sanctification, the point of it is to become like Christ. Why? So that we can glorify Him. Because the chief end of man is to glorify God, and we miss that. We think the chief end of man, actually, we think the chief end of religion is to make our life better, so we can live our best life now. I mean, we’ve just so fundamentally perverted it. And this is why I think, when I hear so many people deconstructing, and I think we all should, I don’t know if I like that word. You want to call it sifting, whatever. But we should be looking at what is it that we have imbibed? And what is it that we’re really rejecting? I’m very grateful that for me, the stories, and the ideas that I feel like inform me, a lot of them are centuries old, because they’ve grown up in our family and in our church. But if you came to the Lord in this generation, and this is all you know, is this iteration of evangelicalism, I can see why people hate it. I hate a lot of it too, because it has nothing to do with the gospel, just nothing.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  29:01 There are so many layers that need to be peeled back. And so many things that need to be examined under the surface, but we have to look at them, so we know what to throw out and what to keep. And that’s what I’m trying to demonstrate with this book.   JULIE ROYS  29:15 So, you devote an entire chapter to sentimentalism which I think highlight a major, major tension in evangelicalism. I mean, on one hand, we are products of the Enlightenment, and I think you really explain that in a really good way. We love reason. I think when you look at the Sunday service in most churches, you can see that –  what’s the highlight? It’s the sermon, right? It’s the word. That can be a good thing. I will say it’s one of the things I liked about the years that we spent at an  Anglican Church is that the highlight was actually the table. It was the Eucharist which is a much more experiential though not experiential in the sense of rooted in your subjective experience, but in coming to the table that Christ has called us to do every week. And so, I love that, but again, you’ve got this reason on one hand, and yet on the other hand, as you describe, we’ve been influenced by something called the cult of sensibility, which emphasizes more feeling and emotion. And you use the book Sense and Sensibility, which doesn’t necessarily mean what we would think it means today so that that has changed over time. But this is kind of a new idea to me. And then how this sensibility has sort of morphed into the sentimentalism that we find so commonly in churches today.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  30:30 Yeah, so Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a good touchstone for thinking about this idea, because most people are at least familiar with the title, if not the book. And if you’re at all familiar with the book, or even the movie, you know, that like sense represents Eleanor and her rational, reasonable, non-emotional approach to life and Mary Anne represents sensibility, which is that romantic emotional approach. And Austen was actually satirizing just before Austin’s lifetime was called the cult of sensibility, which tried to show that moral virtue is demonstrated by how sensitive you are to art and literature and opera and theatre, and not necessarily the real people suffering around you, perhaps, but at least you may respond emotionally with your heart to something that you see. And that is the mark of virtue. And Austin was making fun of them. But there was a short-lived movement. But it did slowly morph into sentimentalism, which is basically emphasizing emotion for the sake of emotion. As you said, we’re both Protestants; we’ve made that clear. We’re both maybe privilege word and reason and rationality a little bit more. So, it’s not to say that we should ignore or downplay the emotional aspect of our humanity. It’s not to say that empathy is a sin or anything like that. Because we are both emotional and rational creatures, and that those things should be in balance. But what sentimentalism does is it just emphasizes the emotional, and more specifically, when I talk about like Christian and evangelical art, it’s emphasizing the sort of cheap, easy emotion like the easy way of feeling sad or happy, if you watch like a, you know, Hallmark or Lifetime movie. It just plays on our emotions, or a Budweiser beer commercial with puppies and horses, plays on our emotions, right? Those are cheap, easy ways to draw out our emotions that ignore sort of the hard realities or the sacrifice that good art, or spiritual redemption requires. So we live in a culture that has emphasized sort of the cheap and easy emotional shortcut. Real truth and sacrifice and redemption as well as good art requires sacrifice, and bringing into balance, truth, goodness, and beauty, which is just not the same thing as sentimentality.   JULIE ROYS  32:59 I kept thinking of the verses where the Lord says, These people worship Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. I see it in the church today. I mean, people that I report on, and I know so much about the sin that they’re involved in, and yet I’ll see them in their services, you know, projected on YouTube, acting so spiritual and crying and during the worship, and it’s repulsive, I think it has become manipulative, it has become where we leave no room for the moving of the Holy Spirit in our highly programmed services. And where it’s excesses of emotion that’s in the church. And again, over the centuries, the church has been very concerned about this, and has thought deeply about the place of worship and emotion. And sometimes airing way too far to cutting off emotion side, but at the same time, wanting it to be real.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  33:59 Yeah, I mean, emotions are an essential part of what it means to be human. But if we confuse emotion with worship, I mean, we can worship God, and we want to feel what we are saying and expressing with our worship. But some of us are just more rational, some are more emotional. And the goal as individuals, and as a church is to have them in balance, not go from one extreme to the other.   JULIE ROYS  34:21 For time sake, we’re gonna have to skip over several chapters of your book, although I will just say, I would really encourage people to get the book. And by the way, if you get the book right now, it’s something that we’re offering as a premium to all the donors to The Roys Report. So you can get Karen’s book, which thanks to some intervention that you did on your part, because this is a hardcover book. It’s an expensive book, but you helped us get it at a really reasonable price, so we can offer it to anybody who gives a donation to The Roys Report in this month, we will send you a copy of Karen’s book, which again, fantastic book. You just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  35:03 And if I can just throw in one word. It’s not only a hardcover book, but this is also something I’m so proud of, because I negotiated it. It includes a number of beautiful color plates of paintings and artwork that I either talk about in the book or that illustrate the things I’m talking about. And so, I think books should be beautiful. And I think this one is.   JULIE ROYS  35:24 Oh, it’s gorgeous. So, thank you for helping us get that cheaper than we deserve.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  35:31 I’m so glad I was able to do that.   JULIE ROYS  35:33 So, the last three chapters, which I think are absolutely crucial, chapter nine, you explore the concept of empire, and how evangelicalism, maybe without meaning to but it is just integral to this idea of British imperialism, which again, the sun never set on the British Empire, right? I mean, talk about the pride involved in that. But would you describe how evangelicalism, even the modern mission movement has become so married to Empire and how we can extricate ourselves from that.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  36:08 If anyone knows anything about me and my work, you know that I love cultural engagement, right? I love to engage all of the culture, art,  literature, think about it as a Christian, applied biblical worldview. And the fact is, even with the negative things that I have to say, especially in this chapter, this is sort of the darkest, heaviest chapter. I think. My whole point is that we are creatures of culture, no matter what Christians we’re talking about the ones that the first century, the ones of the 30th century should the Lord tarry.   All Christians will be in a culture, they will be influenced by their culture, hopefully they will influence their culture. So, what I’m talking about in this book of, you know, a 300-year slice of very like Western British American evangelicalism and the problems that we have to face, all Christians are going to have to face that entanglement with culture. So that’s just how it is. And so, I’m not saying anything in particular, that is different. Where us as modern evangelicals as for Christians than any other place. But Empire happens to be an area in which it is the time and the place and the context in which evangelicalism was great before. The evangelical movement arose as the British Empire was arising. Evangelical influence and power reached its peak when the British Empire was peaking. So, the great work the evangelicals wanted to do as missionaries was inextricably tied to the work that British Empire wanted to do in colonizing and conquering around the globe. And so even if it’s just barely coincidence, which it’s more than that, there was effort and human intention and agency and mixed motives and all that involved, but even just the mere coincidence of the movement, and the Empire, arising at the same time means that evangelicalism was born by notions of Empire.   And so, we might not go out as evangelicals and take lands and oppress people. We might we might not, but we don’t have to do that to see the influence of empire in our evangelical culture today whether it’s what our friend, Skye Jehani, has coined the evangelical industrial complex, or mega churches or big conferences, or coalition. All those things that I’m part of, too. So, I’m not standing at the outside and pointing. What I’m asking and examining saying, has this imperialist mindset affected us? Well, it has, it’s in our DNA. And so that empire exists when we try to dominate our neighbors rather than loving them.   JULIE ROYS  38:52 I will say, just to balance a little bit with that there was an article in Christianity Today several years ago that talked about colonialism and the missionaries and found that a lot of missionaries, actually the majority of them, were much more on the side of the Indigenous people and fighting for their rights than they were the colonial powers. So, I think there is some balance to that. But when I read this, the thing that I thought of so much, and this is where I’ve probably experienced so much change myself, is just the triumphalism within evangelicalism, and sometimes it’s just really trite that we just always have the Cinderella story. It’s in our brain and in essence, Christianity is a Cinderella story. I mean, Jesus did rise from the dead, we are eventually going to see heaven, but the in between, we forget the cross and the suffering and all of that, and that’s a part of what it means to be Christian. And now I think, too, I’ve become much more aware of how I’m a part of the white dominant culture. And it’s just like we’re talking about the imagination that the soup that you swim, and you don’t even realize it.   But now that I’m beginning to realize it, I can see it more and more and more and in the ways that Christianity around the globe, I mean, quite frankly, Western Christianity is shrinking. The global south is growing and growing by leaps and bounds, and we’re going to be, we are learning from them. And we need to learn much more and stop thinking that we have the corner on the way to do things when we need to admit that they do. This is not a white man’s religion. This is, you know, something that was started by a Jewish dark-skinned man. And so, we need to be aware of that.  Then your next chapter on reformation reminded me of the motto of The Roys Report, which is reporting the truth, restoring the church. It’s central to our again imagination as evangelicals to reform to be restored. I mean, that’s huge. And yet we have seen so much perversion of the real. And I know there’s people listening right now who are so disillusioned because of what they’ve seen in the church. How do we reform something that has been so fundamentally distorted?   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  41:21 That’s a big question. But I think some of the answer is, it’s so simple, it’s listening to one another, as you said, like listening to the people outside of our circles, who have different stories, different experiences. It’s not turning away, You  model that. It’s not turning away from the sin that’s in front of us, or the sin that’s beneath the surface that we sort of sense we would rather not know about. It’s paying attention to the red flags, it’s being open, honest, supporting those who are courageous enough to come forward, and just opening our eyes. And I feel like for me, that’s where I am in my life. And so, this book, in some ways, is sort of my confession, because it’s just me demonstrating what I’m going through, because I had a very good for the most part experience within the evangelical world, most of my life, but others . . . .   And so, I don’t feel like I’m saying anything in here that is new. It’s new to me, perhaps, but I can hear other people saying, Yeah, well, I told you so a long time ago, or we’ve been saying this a long time. And so, I humbly respect that and admit that, and yet, we had this Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, which we’ve already identified with. And yet part of what that movement said is like, always reform is not just one reformation. And the way that I frame it in the book is that maybe that first big reformation was over doctrine and cleaning up the doctrine and clarifying that in the church, and maybe in the next 500 years is about practice.   JULIE ROYS  43:01 For too long, we have focused almost exclusively on orthodoxy, you know, right belief. And there’s been so little emphasis on orthopraxy, which is right behavior. And we have people who are preaching on huge platforms with the most pristine doctrine you can imagine and, you know, passing judgment on those who don’t have as good a doctrine, and yet their lives. And I’m so glad you said fruit of the Spirit when you were talking about fruit because that’s what reflects whether we’re filled by the Holy Spirit, not by how many people are listening to our sermons or our podcasts or sitting in the pews. It is about Christ likeness. Well, lastly, let’s talk about the Rapture. This has been the topic of so many evangelical books and movies from the Late Great Planet Earth to the Left Behind series. And the rapture, again, is something that’s just seared into the evangelical imagination, and yet a literal rapture, which, at least in the tradition I grew up in, was very much assumed. Now, a lot of evangelicals are saying, well, maybe it’s not exactly how we had envisioned it.   Regardless, our obsession with the rapture, I think sometimes we miss the point. And you talk about that. What do you think about the Rapture now, as you reflect on it? What’s it about, and what is God really asking us to think about His Second Coming?   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  44:33 Yeah, I mean, for me, I have some lighthearted fun with this, because what’s not fun talking about the Rapture and chick tracks and left behind and although you know, the trauma of that. This topic does illustrate what I’m trying to do throughout the whole book, because I grew up thinking that this interpretation of a physical literal rapture. I didn’t know that was an interpretation, right? And I also didn’t know it was an interpretation that arose in the 19th century. I just thought it was what all Christians believed. And so, it was a shocking revelation when I learned that not all Christians have this interpretation. And so that’s not the only thing that we could say about having interpretations. And so, we need to examine not only our assumption, but examine our interpretive communities, because we interpret in community.   And so, we are shaped by the way that our communities read Scripture emphasize scripture, which parts they tend to quote in the sermons and which ones never get preached about. And so, rapture is just, you know, one sort of dramatic example of that. And I say in the book, I haven’t studied this on my own, I’m not a theologian in this area, I don’t even really care what it means because I was just so tired of it. But I do know that whether the rapture is physical and literal or not, what the word means refers to us being caught up in Christ, right. And so all of the interpretations of that phrase are important, especially the one in which we are caught up with him now. Because we see him and are so filled with the spirit that we reflect Him and nothing else is as important. As Paul said, all this world is dung. We only want Christ. And that’s what it means to be caught up in him. And so that’s the most important interpretation. And that’s kind of the note that I closed the book on is just to say, let’s just imagine that.   JULIE ROYS  46:32 Let me read that because I think you put it so well, and it really moved me. So, I just want to read this part of your book. The rapture is assuredly this. We who are in Christ will be caught up with him, caught up in him. To be caught up with Christ in Christ is to be filled with a love not only powerful enough to move the sun and the stars, but powerful enough to love that person we would otherwise despise. It is to love the kingdom of God more than the kingdoms of this world. It is to count all human empires as dirt, all our petty platforms and performances, as dung. To be caught up in Christ is to be enraptured by him, to be beholden to him, to be taken by him to be, as 17th century poet John Donne puts it, ravished by him. Not just in the sky, and on some future day, but here, and now. Just imagine it. I love that.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  47:29 Thank you. I worked hard on that ending.   JULIE ROYS  47:32 I’m sure you did. And if that captured our imagination, as Christians as evangelicals, if we were more caught up in Jesus, and in this picture of oneness with him, instead of in the political empires that we think we have to gain or in the huge mega churches we think we have to build. If it really was about Jesus, again, what a huge difference that would make. And if anything, I hope people take away from your book, it is that; that this needs to be about Jesus and not about us and our imaginations need to be filled with what’s good and true and beautiful. And that will change the world. So, thank you.   KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR  48:17 Thanks, Julie.   JULIE ROYS  48:19 Well, again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to recording the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And as I mentioned earlier, if you’d like a copy of Karen’s book, The Evangelical Imagination, we’re giving them as a thank you to anyone who gives a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month. So, if you appreciate these podcasts, would you please consider giving to support our work? As I’ve said before, we don’t have any big donors or advertising, we simply have you, the people who care about the integrity of the church and the protection of the most vulnerable. To donate and get a copy of The Evangelical Imagination, just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATED. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
8/24/202349 minutes, 39 seconds
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Affair or Abuse? The Church’s Hurtful Response

Guest Bios Show Transcript Victims of adult clergy sexual abuse often report that their first wound—the abuse itself—was awful. But it wasn't as bad as the second wound: the response by the church to their abuse.  This is precisely what Moriah Smothers and her husband, Jack, describe in a follow-up conversation to our initial podcast interview about the alleged abuse Moriah received at the hands of her former pastor, Patrick Garcia. In this podcast, Moriah tells of the shame and rejection she experienced from other church members when her abuse was mislabeled an “affair.” Some called her “Judas.” Others told her the devil had got the upper hand. The backlash left both Moriah and Jack devastated and confused.  Yet after a year of extreme pain and brokenness, Moriah heard an earlier edition of The Roys Report podcast with another victim of adult clergy sexual abuse. She said it led her to an epiphany and significant healing.  It also prompted Jack and Moriah to confront leaders at their former church—The Hills Church in Evansville, Ind.—for how they handled Moriah’s abuse. The couple also reached out to Bob Russell, pastor emeritus of one of the largest churches in America, who is currently re-platforming Patrick Garcia.   You’ll hear how Russell and the Hills Church responded. And you’ll hear Moriah and Jack’s impassioned plea for the church and other Christian institutions to start dealing with clergy sexual abuse in an appropriate way. Guests Dr. Moriah Smothers Dr. Moriah Smothers is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education and a former elementary special education teacher. She is also a survivor of adult clergy sexual abuse (ACSA). Dr. Jack Smothers is a Professor of Management and a secondary survivor. Their heart is to help other ACSA survivors find healing and community. They are passionate about educating church leaders to identify, prevent and respond to ACSA. They have two children and have been married for 15 years. You can connect with them at [email protected]. Moriah has also been affiliated with Restored Voices Collective, a nonprofit group that seeks to break the silence around ACSA. Show Transcript SPEAKERSJULIE ROYS, MORIAH SMOTHERS, JACK SMOTHERS, PAUL LINGE, JIM BURGEN JULIE ROYS 00:04In 2020, Moriah Smothers says her spiritual and sexual abuse by her pastor was suddenly exposed. Only no one recognized it as abuse. Instead, it was labeled an affair, and Moriah was ostracized by her church. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and this is part two of a two part podcast with Moriah Smothers and her husband Jack Smothers. In part one, Moriah told of what she believes was grooming and abused by her former pastor Patrick Garcia. And if you haven’t heard part one, I encourage you to go back and listen to that now. It’s a harrowing and cautionary tale about how adult clergy sexual abuse happens. And I wish more Christians understood this phenomenon because it’s a widespread problem wreaking havoc in the church. But so often it goes undetected, and the victims instead of receiving help receive condemnation, and the predators often get re platformed only to continue their predatory ways. So again, if you haven’t heard part one, I encourage you to do that now.

 But in this podcast, Moriah and Jack describe what is often called the second wound. This was the response of their church to Moriah’s adult clergy sexual abuse, and the shame and the rejection that Moriah experienced was absolutely devastating. But you’ll also hear how after a year of extreme pain and brokenness, Moriah heard an earlier podcast that we did on The Roys Report with another victim of adult clergy sexual abuse and hearing that podcast and recognizing that it wasn’t an affair, but abuse led to a ton of healing. But it also prompted Jack and Moriah to confront the leaders at their former church, Hills church in Evansville, Indiana, for how they handled Maria’s abuse. The couple also reached out to Bob Russell, Pastor Emeritus of one of the largest churches in America, who is currently re-platforming Patrick Garcia. You’ll hear Bob Russell and the Hills church responded, and you’ll hear Moriah and Jack’s impassioned plea that the church and other Christian institutions start dealing with adult clergy sexual abuse in an appropriate way. So, I’m very excited to share this podcast with you. But first, I’d like to thank our sponsors, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM.We now pick up my conversation with Moriah and Jack Smothers. They previously described how their pastor Patrick Garcia groomed Moriah and then abused his power by luring her into an emotional and sexual relationship. This was eventually discovered by Patrick’s wife, who then told the church leadership. And this is where we join our discussion. So how did you feel the church responded to you, Moriah? MORIAH SMOTHERS 03:49I don’t want to over exaggerate this and I can share details. The abuse from my pastor was horrible. The way the church responded was 10 times more traumatizing than the abuse. I could have recovered from the abuse in a reasonable amount of time, I feel but the literature when you read about this, it calls it the second wound. And the first is that having just that abuse experience, but then the church response was really painful. I don’t think the church had any knowledge of adult clergy sexual abuse. And so we were basically told again, through zoom, I think Dave was designated to be the person that communicates with us, nobody else really did, that they were going to release a statement. This is what the statement was. We were not involved in any of the processes the information. I did again, we thought we only had a fair narrative. We had no information about ACSA. And so I did send a text message. Jack and I thought it was a good idea at the time to some of the women I was really close to and I disclosed that this situation had to do with me. In hindsight that was not a good choice because of the way I worded it but oddly, one of the things I’ve struggled to recover the most from, were some of the communications from my very best friends from the church. And most of them were very involved in the church as well. And so one of the ones that has just stuck with me is when your identity is eviscerated, things just have the ability to sink really deep. One of them was calling me Judas and Patrick’s wife at the time was like Jesus. A lot of them wrote, you need to get help, you really let the devil win was a common one I got. I’ll never trust you again was often. And I will say those that were ugly, hurt, they hit really deep. I did get a few women to respond or just like I don’t understand but I’m praying for you. And very little support from within the church. I do want to say that God was really I wouldn’t have been able to make this big faith statement a year ago, but I realized now God was so good. He sent I didn’t know this woman, but she was local. When she heard what was happening at the Hills. She is also a survivor. And she asked for my contact information from a mutual acquaintance. And she immediately got in contact with me and has mentored me, she didn’t know about abuse either. But she and her husband made it and were thriving. But it was another abuse situation locally and just was such a good mentor to me. So, inside the church, the response was not supportive. It was not understanding. We were ostracized, basically. Even people we love dearly the extent of support was basically like, go get marriage counseling, and so not supportive. Outside the church, nobody we met understood ACSA. So I’m not saying that we still never got the language. But there were some people that were able to love on us. Our next-door neighbors, were just Jesus to us. This fellow survivor, my parents came around us very quickly. And so we did have some support that we you know, a lot of people don’t have, so I want to acknowledge that. JULIE ROYS 07:04Wow. Jack during this time, you and Moriah’s parents met with Dave Bowersox and Daryl Maron. As I’m understanding that was a pretty tough meeting. Would you describe what happened in that meeting? JACK SMOTHERS 07:22It was intense. But so Moriah’s parents are wonderful, amazing Christians, they have invested a lot into Moriah and I, and we trust them, we love them. And so we felt that it would be good to take them along. And I’m glad that they went. They’ve done a lot of counseling in their life. And so they took resources, books, a variety of different resources to help Dave and Daryl in the Hills guard against situations like this occurring again. So they gave them those resources. And we talked through the situation, they shared some of the information that they had, such as you know, I was not aware at that point in time, of the May encounter that had happened at the zoo and police report. And since I was not allowed to come to that meeting with Moriah, I didn’t have that information. MORIAH SMOTHERS 08:22There’s was an investigation. JACK SMOTHERS 08:23There was an investigation. They hired an investigator to look into Patrick’s devices to see if they could uncover anything. And I guess that went on throughout the summer. And when that didn’t come up with anything that he was re platformed later on in that fall. JULIE ROYS 08:41Help me understand this. And maybe I misheard you, you’re saying there was an investigation, they looked at all the devices, and then they re platformed Patrick? JACK SMOTHERS 08:52Yeah, The investigation came up with nothing, they did not find any communication. Their suspicion of communication. But they didn’t find anything between Patrick and so this was after just to clarify, this was after the May event. JULIE ROYS 09:08Got you. So in between the two? JACK SMOTHERS 09:10There was that investigation that didn’t come up with anything. When everything finally did come out, and what was that? September? October? That’s when the meeting happened with Moriah’s parents and myself and the pastors. JULIE ROYS 09:25And is it true that Dave Bowersox confessed during that meeting that he was aware that Patrick had an attraction to Moriah? JACK SMOTHERS 09:34That is true. So Dave’s advice to Patrick was just get a handle on it, get it under control and resolve your old feelings, essentially. They felt like Patrick may have targeted Moriah, but they said that they felt like Moriah was complicit in that situation. Of course, they didn’t understand at the time the ACSA framework and that complicity would not be possible in that situation. So it was high drama. JULIE ROYS 10:03Stunning to me that seminaries don’t teach this. It’s against the law. I wish it was in more states, but in certain states, it is against the law for a pastor to have a relationship like this with a congregant. It seems like we’re, maybe we’re just on the cusp of becoming awake to this. But even as I have interviewed pastors, and say, hypothetically, do you think it would necessarily be abuse if a pastor has a relationship with a married congregant? And there’ll be like, we don’t know what the role of the woman was. Like, I don’t even understand the basics of exactly what you said, Jack, that when there’s a power differential, someone cannot give consent, when there’s that kind of power. But it’s just stunning to me complete and utter ignorance. And it’s inexcusable. Every pastor should be aware of this. The same way that you have to go through training with Title XI, if you work for a university, pastors need to go through this kind of training, if they’re going to serve in the pastorate and so do all the elders and the people who are holding them accountable. But it is just not happening. And it’s really unbelievably frustrating. MORIAH SMOTHERS 11:19Yeah. And really, that’s the heart of why we’re talking to you, is that you’re right. It’s illegal in 14 states right now. Understanding adult clergy sexual abuse is a job requisite skill at this point. 20 years ago, maybe not knowing maybe I can get it. There’s so much literature now and fantastic researchers that this has been discussed too widely to claim ignorance at this point. And so I completely agree with you. There should be no ignorance of this issue. JULIE ROYS 11:50In the wake of what happened is my understanding that Hills church actually paid for counseling for Patrick, is that right? JACK SMOTHERS 11:57That’s what they told us. JULIE ROYS 11:59Okay, did they pay for counseling for you? JACK SMOTHERS 12:02They did not. JULIE ROYS 12:03Help me understand that? Did they give any kind of explanation for that? JACK SMOTHERS 12:08No, we didn’t ask them to pay for anything. MORIAH SMOTHERS 12:11I chose a counselor because my survivor friend had also seen this woman. And again, she didn’t know she was actually a survivor at the time. And so she was affiliated with a church that the Hills did not want us to receive counseling from. And so they actually discouraged me from seeing a counselor. They wanted us to see a counselor that was also I believe, seeing Patrick and his wife at the time. And so I was uncomfortable seeing a counselor that they recommended, which they didn’t offer to pay for anything either way. But again, Julie, our supportive statement was go get marriage counseling. As if our marriage was broken, not that I was targeted and groomed and abused, confusing. JULIE ROYS 12:55And the statement that was given at the time called it an inappropriate relationship, correct? Patrick did say that it was his fault, and no one but him. His fault, yet seems like some mixed messages in what was being said. MORIAH SMOTHERS 13:10And there was no disclosure, I was a congregant. And I think that while there was no overtly blaming me in this situation there, I felt like the context of the sermon was, frankly tacky. It was preaching from the woman caught in adultery. And it was from the lens of a let’s not throw the first stone but as a broken woman, I listened to it. That was all I heard is the adultery piece. They had all the advisory boards stand up front, and you could just see their disgust on their face. It was a group I should have been part of. Because if anybody had known I was missing, that would have been very a clear signal if they had known. It really has always bothered me, they never disclosed I was a congregant. I think that was very intentional. Actually, Dave Bowersox had apologized. He said, I’m so sorry you all are having to go through with this. And Jack, I think he said something like, I’m sure there’s not a script for it. And they’ve said, Oh, no, there actually is. So they received counsel from somewhere about how to handle these situations. JULIE ROYS 14:13They didn’t make you were a big Scarlet A, at least. I guess we’ve progressed a little bit. But unbelievable. Yeah, what you went through and I’m so sorry. That just sounds absolutely traumatizing. For a year while you’re in biblical counseling, you’re believing the narrative. How did you internalize what you had done and the consequence? MORIAH SMOTHERS 14:40Yeah. Oh, man, that’s complicated. Julie, honestly, a lot of pieces did not make sense. But I was so desperate to keep my family together. I was willing to take responsibility for anything and everything. And so that’s what I did for a season is I did a lot of work with my biblical counselor to figure out what was wrong with me. Like how had I sinned, how had I fallen, I will own it, I will repent for everything under the sun. Because I wanted to be well and whole. I didn’t understand how this happened because I didn’t want to have an affair. To be honest, I’m not even attracted to Patrick. I had no clue how this happened. But all we had was a fair framework. My mom tried to be really sweet and helpful gave me like a fair recovery books and things. And I started to read them. And I was like, this isn’t me, this isn’t I’m not represented in this. And so I will say the counselor I saw, knew nothing about abuse and trauma for this situation. She did some good soul care kind of things with me. But yeah, we were just trying to keep it together with the fair. JULIE ROYS 15:47Wow. That’s a very humble response, and so often we don’t see those. You can only do what you know. But when you know, then you’re responsible. And that’s super, super important. It seems like you did have an epiphany. And it was on a podcast that we published, which, when I hear things like that it’s so heartening. We work in the trenches a lot from day to day. And it’s not the easiest work. But things like that, to hear stories of how it has impact is, it can give you some fuel for a decent amount of time. So I’ll just say that it just is really encouraging. MORIAH SMOTHERS 15:47He won’t say this, but my biggest source of healing was Jack. That sweet man, we walked together a lot. That’s where we bond as we walk. And so like we were walking every day for miles and miles. And he was my counselor at that time. And how deeply unfair for him to have been traumatized the way he was, and yet he was supporting me. I wanted basically nothing to do with faith at that point. And I’ve loved Jesus my whole life basically, that I thought, How can God cannot be good if my pastor treated me this way. Which I could have gotten over that, but I thought, There’s no way the church is good or right, if it’s been covered up by other pastors. So I was relying on Jack’s faith. And Jack never asked me to leave. And again, we thought affair, never asked me to leave. He never yelled at me. There was a moment that it’s still it’s really hard to talk about. It was very soon after all of this had come out. And again, I was following him around the house because I was dazed and confused what had happened. He stopped in the doorway, and our kids were sitting there watching. And he said, I just feel so much compassion for you. And that was the first time he hugged me since it all came out. And I don’t usually cry. I’m not a crier. I sobbed and sobbed in the hallway. And it was like, from that moment, I knew we were going to be okay. But it was hard. It was a hard road. And I did get some bad advice spiritually. The counselor told me that God had probably planned this for me, maybe for Patrick Garcia to get out of ministry. And I thought, man, if that’s what God plans for the children he loves, I don’t want to follow that God anymore. So that was a rough road. I will say for that counselor, Jack and I once we did realize what had happened, that it was abuse, we went back to her, presnted that. She graciously received that she apologized to us for not knowing. And so I have a lot of respect for her for that reason. And I’m excited for the work she’s going to do in the future with this new knowledge. JULIE ROYS 17:49But you heard a podcast, I guess it was November 2021, that I recorded with Katie Roberts, a beautiful, wonderful person that has become a friend, because I’ve been able to share her story with a lot of you. And so courageously she walked through what was incredibly difficult, and she took incredible hits from people criticizing her. It is just so indicative of the misogyny in our culture, that we just have such a difficult time wrapping our heads around the fact that women are not the temptress or that we cannot acknowledge that this is abuse. But Katie, beautifully did, and you heard that podcast when she talked about her own grooming, and abuse. Talk about what that was like to hear that and for the light bulb to go on. MORIAH SMOTHERS 19:23That was an epiphany and that’s exactly what it was. I’d been listening to your podcast for a while because I didn’t have the words but I felt like something was mishandled here. It just, what happened in the church, it didn’t sit right. Like I knew it didn’t feel like justice somehow but I didn’t know why. And I’ve been listening to you for a while Katie came on. And I remember almost feeling a little shaky and scared because I felt like she’s telling my story. Like how could she possibly know what happened to me? And how has it happened to her? And this was way before I knew that there’s so many similarities between these grooming and abuse stories with clergy. And I listened to the whole thing, I sent it to everybody in our support network, which let’s be honest, that actually wasn’t very many people at the time. But anybody that knew our story and would listen, I sent them the podcast. And I was like, how can this be? The language she used to explain like the grooming and the trauma bonding, the love bombing. She used the language that I had been describing, but didn’t have the right word for it. And so it was such a weird thing. But I remember feeling I have to know more about this. And so I looked up Katie’s email, and I emailed her and I said, I don’t know if this makes any sense or not. But this is my story. And I shared it all. And she responded, and we ended up hopping on a phone call or zoom, I don’t remember. But her first words to me, I actually wrote them down to share at the end of this podcast, because there was so much compassion when she heard my story. And she said, I’m so sorry how you’ve been mistreated. And from someone outside of my circle, but didn’t have to love me and hear my story, that was such a powerful moment, because she got it. And while we were talking, she kept saying I understand, and that makes sense. And I thought, I didn’t even understand all of this, and she did. And that’s another part of the reason we’re talking to you is that we found truth and understanding and freedom through Katie’s story, which I know was a grueling experience for her. And I thought if the Lord is going to bring this opportunity full circle, where I learned through Katie, if someone can hear our story, and hear the tragedy, but also the hope, then we can’t pass that up. JULIE ROYS 21:53I love that. And I have found that nobody can minister to a survivor like another survivor. MORIAH SMOTHERS 22:03I’ve learned the most through that community, there’s a support group community that Katie and a few others founded. It’s called Restored Voices Collective, and the learning, the growth, the empathy that happens in there, it could not be replicated, and it’s only other survivors. So we’re just supporting each other, we’re not trying to overly educate or correct, it’s just living life together in the aftermath of deep brokenness. JULIE ROYS 22:33And I think that’s what I’ve heard and what I’ve experienced, what I’ve seen. The Restore Conference that we’ve done, you know, a couple of those. And I remember the first one, I thought, oh, we should have prayer ministers, you know, to make sure because really, I mean, the whole vision was just to gather people that were literally strewn along the highway. I mean, that’s just how it seems when you report these stories, and the church isn’t caring for them, the church harmed them. And so they have nowhere to go and to see them come together. And I realize the prayer ministers are here, they’re each other, right? It’s the person who’s sitting down right beside you, who you don’t have to explain hardly anything because they get it. And it really is. And I know the survivor community is not perfect. And sometimes there can be some really painful things that happen within it. But I would say 90-95% of the people in there are just some of the most compassionate, good people because their character has been refined by fire. MORIAH SMOTHERS 23:39And I attended your last Restore conference, and I got to meet a lot of the women I’d only known online up until that point, through zoom meetings, and one of the things that struck me is that personally, they’re very normal, seeming. It’s like when you feel so broken and devastated. Which is strange to me, like these very regular moms and women, but what I also know about them is they are warriors, they are so strong and so capable and intelligent. And that was an amazing experience just to see like my supporters in person. And that was amazing. Thank you for putting on those conferences, because I got to meet my people in person because of that. JULIE ROYS 24:20It’s a pleasure to do it really is and it’s an honor. And we have another one coming up. So October 13 and 14th. If you’re interested in that, I hope if you’re listening you can because honestly, being with those people and experiencing what God does there, is probably one of the favorite things that I’ve ever done in my life. I absolutely love it. So it’s RESTORE2023.COM if you want more information on that. So talk about the difference and you’ve already touched on it but the healing journey for you and Jack having this new perspective that this was not an affair that this was abuse, that you are a victim, that you’re a survivor walking through this, what difference did that make emotionally and relationally, but also spiritually? MORIAH SMOTHERS 25:16Oh, that’s a big question. So I will say, for me the language made all the difference. Because earlier in the podcast you mentioned, I wrote that I felt like an addict. Now, knowing that description while being true is describing trauma bonding, that was really powerful. And I think because I’m a teacher person, like, language has been so healing for me. And it’s given me search terms, basically, to read about what does this mean. So that’s been a huge part of my healing. And then also being able to teach other people in my life about this is what this means this is how this happens. And just having the right words to study has been very healing. Also, I would say, understanding ACSA was healing in and of itself, because there’s so many pieces of who I am, who Jack was, our life didn’t just didn’t fit affair. And so it felt very insufficient. And we did not have answers. Once we had this framework and understood how this happens, I started talking to other survivors, hearing similarities and stories. It’s a really sad club to be part of. But then you have your other people to compare notes with. And so you have options and choices again, that I never had before. And so again, we were happy healing in private with that, but that made a big difference. My faith was a battle though. I think, intellectually, and emotionally, Jack was so stable for me and such a good listener, he helped me heal up in that way. My faith was a big, I still struggle with that, if I’m being completely honest. I was really ready to walk away for a while thinking that there’s no goodness in church, I don’t see how God can be good if these are the people that are leading a church. And so I got to a place in my faith that I realized that, so our kids committed their life to Jesus as well before, while I was really still struggling, which was such a beautiful thing. So I really felt like to be a good wife and mom, I’ve got to figure out this faith thing. Because I was willing at that point, I’ll follow Jack wherever he goes. So if I have to attend church and just be mentally elsewhere, I will. But I knew I’ve got to figure out what this is. So I mentally went through like the major religions. And I was like, I don’t see myself becoming a Buddhist and like really going through, like, where am I going to land because I’m a faithful person, I always have been, I knew I needed a religion, or faith. And so I thought, gosh, well probably like my best option is just really going with some kind of new age thing. But I would be a horrible God to myself. And so I felt like that’s not on the table. And so I thought, Okay, I’ve got to figure out what do I really believe about Jesus? Because Jack has been being Jesus to me. And I don’t mean that in a weird way, just like modeling the goodness of God, like I was holding on to his faith. And for the first year, again, only affair framework, I was able to read the Psalms, which was fine, like that was good, it was a start. But then when I realized I’ve got to make my mind up about what I think about Jesus, I started reading the gospels again. And that was a moment for me that I realized, I absolutely love the person of Jesus Christ, and that our hearts were so much in alignment about, he rarely called out anyone in sin or the vulnerable. He called out religious leaders for the way they were hurting vulnerable populations. And so that was a turning point for me is that, first of all, Jack modeled faith to me. He modeled the love of Jesus, which kept me hanging on by a thread. And then once I could finally reengage with the Word of God, I just focused on the person of Jesus. And I was able to fall back in love with him and really have some deeper roots again. I say now, and I completely mean this. The only people in my life I really trust are Jack and Jesus. JULIE ROYS 29:08Wow. I love the honesty and the vulnerability. And I don’t know anyone who has walked through church hurt, or certainly adult clergy sexual abuse- that’s just brutal – who hasn’t struggled in their faith in their walk with the Lord. I just spent the weekend with a survivor and, boy, they were raw, and they were honest, and I’ve been through it too. So. MORIAH SMOTHERS 29:40And we’re really healed up in a lot of ways. But I mean, we’re almost three years out, but church is hard still. We’ve just moved. We’re looking for a new church home. It’s hard. And there’s a lot of triggers and red flags and it’s just even when you’re in a good place and you really love the people. It’s just hard. JULIE ROYS 29:56It is, but I will say one thing, my teachers, Katie has been a teacher. Lori Anne Thompson has been a teacher. And they’ve been gracious with me like when I’ve written something and I used a wrong word or a wrong term, and they won’t mince words. They’ll reach out to me, but they’re gracious when I’m like, Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I’m not. Yep. Okay. Help me understand. MORIAH SMOTHERS 30:22That’s survivor community, they are loving but they are fierce and I love that about them. JULIE ROYS 30:27Yes, they are. But I think it’s so important to process what’s happened. And I know just my own church hurt, experience, being able to process with people that you’re not going to rack them, if you just say exactly how you’re feeling in the moment. And that’s just super, super important. Let’s turn to holding the church accountable, because after this happened after you became enlightened about what had actually happened to you, you reached out to the Hills leadership, and you wrote them a letter, you’ve given me a copy of that letter. I think it’s so good. I would love for you to just read it because my understanding is you sent this letter, so far, you haven’t gotten a response. MORIAH SMOTHERS 31:17No, I think it was confirmed it was received. Actually, the first letter I sent Jack was really kind. Again, I know we’ve been harsh about the church we came from, the Hills. We love a lot of the people there. I think there’s some good things happening there. Out of respect, Jack met with Dave Bowersox to let them know this letter is coming. But besides that, you did get a response after this letter, though. Didn’t he call you? JACK SMOTHERS 31:42He did respond. I don’t know if it was a call or an email. But he did respond. MORIAH SMOTHERS 31:45And I think it was basically like we mishandled the situation was the response. I wrote this letter in fall 2021. So that was right after learning about adult clergy sexual abuse. So I will say I’ve learned a lot more since then. There are a few pieces of it that knowing what I know now, I would reword differently. But this is right where I was at having learned it, so I’ll read it for what it is. My Hills church leadership. For most of the past year, Jack and I have been trying to navigate our way through this situation, with the framework and language that surrounds an affair or inappropriate relationship, which implies there was full consent from both people. While many of my choices were sinful and I egregiously sinned against God and Jack, it did not account for many of the experiences represented within the reading and counseling in which we engaged. I voraciously sought material to gain an understanding of what happened with the hopes that knowledge would alleviate my confusion and brokenness. In doing so I recently discovered the concept of adult clergy sexual abuse, ACSA, and for the first time I understood what had occurred. With this new knowledge, I felt compelled that we as the church need to grow in this area. Upon reflection, Jack, and I believe there are two logical explanations for the way that Hills leadership handled the situation, which include either ignorance or intentional misrepresentation. From an assumption of ignorance, if you had been aware of power dynamics requirements for consent, the cycle of ACSA abuse, how targets are chosen by predators and the grooming process, then this situation would have been conveyed to the congregation differently. The alternate explanation is that you received legal/peer counsel to minimize the liability of the church by intentionally misrepresenting clergy abuse as an inappropriate relationship. Regardless of the explanation of what happened in the past, there is much work to be done going forward to minister to those who have been hurt within the church. Therefore, I am writing to you with the hope that you as an institution will be able to grow and change as I have been growing and changing in my understanding and the implications of this critical issue. I hope you have read and shared my side of the story with the church leadership, elders, pastors and advisory council, which was given to you in fall 2020. However, if you have not, I suggest you review it so you have an anecdotal understanding of ACSA in this specific situation. Given my new understanding of power differentials and how they apply to pastors and congregants, I fully believe I was exploited by Patrick Garcia, and it was erroneous and misleading for the church leadership to convey it as an inappropriate relationship, which conveys consent. The predatory nature of the lead pastor was not communicated to the congregation, which is of great concern to me because it minimizes the impact of abuse within the church. I’ve included several resources on ACSA and I pray that you will educate yourselves and your leadership teams on the nuances of this type of abuse, how to effectively prevent it and how to handle it with integrity and transparency if it does occur. The reason that I am writing to you is threefold. One, I ask that you reach out to other potential victims and provide them with the support and resources to understand misconduct, grooming and abuse by spiritual/pastoral leader. As you are likely not aware of all the victims who have been adversely impacted by pastoral misconduct in the church you lead, an open invitation to all congregants is likely needed. Please connect them with a female counselor that is well versed in adult clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. The wounds from this are complex and deep. So I implore you to seek out your hurting sheep and care for them. Two, I ask that you share my story and ACSA resources with anyone in the church that you consider a leader. In my opinion, this means the elder board, pastoral staff and advisory board at a minimum. It is the church leadership’s responsibility to shepherd their flock with care and dignity. Choosing to not educate yourselves when a wolf has wreaked havoc on your congregation is not living up to the call our Lord has placed on your role. Number three, I ask that you inform the perpetrator and people from whom you received counsel, that this was not simply an inappropriate relationship, that it falls under the criteria of adult clergy sexual abuse. By doing this, I hope you will clearly communicate that God’s church is a place that abuse in any forum is not tolerated, because your primary goal is to protect the people under your care. I then provide some working definitions of clergy sexual misconduct, clergy sexual abuse and abuse of power. And then there were hyperlinked resources at the bottom. JULIE ROYS 32:41So you asked for three things. Of those three things that you asked for, have you gotten any of them? MORIAH SMOTHERS 35:40If any of those things have been done, they have not been communicated to us. JULIE ROYS 36:39Okay. And, Jack, you had a conversation with Dave Bowersox after he received this letter? What did he say? JACK SMOTHERS 36:50They were still processing what their response was going to be. And so he did thank me for meeting with him before we sent the letter to give him a heads up about what our intention was in sending the letter. But that was the extent of the response that we received. JULIE ROYS 37:06And then you send a follow up letter to a couple months later, still nothing. MORIAH SMOTHERS 37:10No. I reminded them of the request, and I sent the follow up, not to just be hounding them, but it was when everything had come out in a bigger way with the SBC. And so I thought surely this will get their attention that they’ll realize how serious this is because the SBC even came out and said that if a pastor is in a relationship with a congregant, it’s abuse, and that’s a disqualifying sin. And so I thought having this outside entity that is that powerful, repent, hopefully, that should speak volumes to them. I received confirmation it was received, but I have not heard word if anything was actually done. JULIE ROYS 37:50Right. And when this is called an affair and not abuse, it does open the door for the person to reoffend, and to continue doing this. And there may be others who have similarly been groomed by Patrick. MORIAH SMOTHERS 38:07I’ve been told very specific information about those situations, which makes me think it’s credible, but I have not had interaction or communication with any women that would say that. But again, they probably wouldn’t even know it was grooming. JULIE ROYS 38:21So now, almost three years have passed since Patrick resigned from the Hills. When he did so he said he was going to undergo a quote, season of restoration so that the root of my brokenness and dysfunction can be addressed. Christian Post just published this article in June in which Patrick says he’s repented. He said, he’s gotten to the root of his pride. He’s preaching again. Do you believe Patrick Garcia is repentant? And why or why not? JACK SMOTHERS 38:53I’ll give my thoughts on that. Not to dodge the question, but I don’t believe it matters whether or not he is repentant. I believe that an abuser is disqualified from ministry regardless of whether or not they repent. I hope that he has restored his relationship with God. I hope that all abusers come to an understanding of the pain that they have inflicted and are genuinely sorry and repent from that sin. But that does not mean they are then qualified to stay in that profession. They can go get any other job anywhere in the world, but not that one. MORIAH SMOTHERS 39:35Actually, one of the things I feel strongly about is that I hope he’s repentant. I hope everyone repents, but that does not mean there’s leadership roles out there for them. I think actually, repentance means not seeking out leadership, because that’s where this pain occurred. Like clearly that’s a temptation that’s a difficult area. Restore your relationship with God and be involved in a healthy body, church body. But I don’t think that means leadership. And that’s where I’m seeing my biggest concerns are about the church right now is that repentance equates to re-platforming. And I don’t think that’s what that means. JULIE ROYS 40:13And when trust is betrayed, trust has to be earned back. And honestly, I said this not too long ago, but some of these guys don’t have enough time in their life to earn back the trust that they’ve squandered and that they betrayed. But I agree with you. And I know there’s going to be people who disagree. And what about David? We’ve talked about this so many times on podcasts, or listen to other podcasts, we’ve addressed this ad nauseam, but I’m just so tired of it. Above reproach is the qualification in Scripture for an elder. Are you above reproach? I have a tough time thinking that someone who has preyed on a congregant. Think about that; you’re supposed to be a shepherd, and you became the wolf. How we could ever put that person back in the sheep pen again. And the amount of concern and compassion and let’s pray for the predator that you hear. And the little that you hear about praying and concern and care for the victim is appalling. And I think it’s very indicative of the kind of culture that we live in, which puts celebrities up on the platform. And man, if you are an order, and you you have the right stuff, boy, people just love you. But man, if you’re not, and you happen to be in the way of someone getting back on that platform, it’s very difficult. So I asked Jim Bergen, he’s the lead pastor of Flat Irons Community Church in Colorado, and Paul Linge, who currently oversees the counseling ministry there at Crossroads, whether or not they thought that Patrick was ready to return to ministry, whether he should be replatformed. I got two very different responses. So I’d like to play both of them. First, here’s how Jim Bergen responded. JIM BURGEN 42:12Patrick absolutely messed up in a simple way with this woman. Her degree of willingness or participation. I don’t know anything about she didn’t call me. Patrick confessed to me, and I okay about disclose everything you know, and get on it. And even as he’s starting to move back into ministry, I have a lot of texts going hey, do you think I can preach again? Do you think I can preach again? And I’m like, slow down. Because it’s been, I don’t think, we lose most of the New Testament and all of the Old Testament, if sexual sin disqualifies you from ministry forever. I mean, David, we lose Abraham, okay. But I don’t think that when a pastor makes a mistake like this, it’s a death sentence forever. But it definitely is a slow, long healing process. And that’s what I cautioned him with, over and over again. JULIE ROYS 43:04Okay, clearly, Jim Bergen doesn’t share our view on this. MORIAH SMOTHERS 43:09Really, Jim Burgen understand or know any survivors of ACSA. Just sexual sin and not the spiritual or emotional or psychological. He needs some education on that. JULIE ROYS 43:20He does. And actually, in our conversation, I pushed back on that and asked him about spiritual abuse, about adult clergy sexual abuse, as well, and what qualifies. And it was clear to me that a lot of this was new to him. MORIAH SMOTHERS 43:35Yeah, we’ve met some really, truly good men, good shepherds, pastors that we have a lot of respect for. They don’t know. And I’m just floored by that. JACK SMOTHERS 43:47But the good ones respond with a desire to learn. Yes, and that’s really encouraging. Moriah has done a wonderful job of putting together training on ACSA. We’ve been able to deliver that to two different churches, and it’s just fantastic and encouraging and edifying to see the godly people who get it and they want to improve they want to protect their congregation and guard against wolf-like behavior. JULIE ROYS 44:16As I said, I also asked Paul Linge about this question, and I’d like to play his response. PAUL LINGE 44:23Christian Post article stated that he did meet with Crossroads elders as part of what I think was I don’t remember if it was Southeast or Bob Russell in particular but basically trying to put him on a restoration pathway which to me was grossly inefficient. General sense was it was a box to check rather than any kind of your display of repentance. Because for him to really go on a restoration journey with the people at Crossroads and Evansville. That’s not a one-time meeting. There’s probably months of meeting, based on the damage that was created in our community. So that’s why it feels very superficial. I personally, and just through my own contacts have not seen the necessary repentance, or else he would be spending a lot more time in Evansville, the community that he helped blow up if that were true. And so I don’t, I think the article comes across as in not just to me, but to others in our communities who read it, as though he was somehow the victim, whether that was the victim of Crossroads, the victim of the Hills leadership, the victims of Savannah, and it’s just not true. At some point, a person has to take ownership and responsibility that for their own choices and behavior. I think he keeps getting prodded along by some key figures, who, for whatever reason, are reticent to just tell him the truth. Maybe they are, and I just don’t know it. But it just seems like he’s been continued to be propped up. I don’t know if it’s so much of a timeline, Julie, as it is looking for mile markers along the way. Right. So looking for signs of humility, looking for signs of teachability, looking for signs of repentance, looking for signs of restitution. I wronged you, you know, I dented your car, I’m going to pay for it to make sure it gets fixed. When you see that, you know, kind of the key is anybody I have wronged, then I’ll make it right. That’s the type of response I think you’re looking for when you’re talking about character change, or even your personality change. Once you start to see that and you’re like, okay, something’s happening. What we’re looking for is their demonstration is there not feigned or fake remorse, but genuine repentance. And that’s what I would say, at least from my experience from my seat. I have not seen that in Patrick Garcia in the last five years. JULIE ROYS 47:02I’m guessing you resonate with a lot of what Paul said. I think he’s absolutely right for looking for the markers of repentance, whether or not that means you can re-platform that’s another question. And there’s really need to be two different questions that people need to understand; you can be restored to Christ, you can be restored to the body restored to a position, that’s a totally different thing. And I think people need to just start saying you’re permanently disqualified. I don’t know why we just can’t seem to say that in the church. And yet I think it needs to be said for abusers. Absolutely. MORIAH SMOTHERS 47:39And, Julie, I just want to again, echo what Paul said in his clip. It’s what Jack and I were saying, Actually, Jack wrote this to Leonardo Blair, who wrote the article that the level of pain and trauma that article caused from Patrick, Blair made himself as the victim clearly demonstrates no understanding of spiritual authority, power dynamics, abuse. Anyone that was mentioned in that article, he re traumatized, and Leonardo did too. So I’m going to be very blunt, I hold the Christian Post responsible for publishing that as well as Patrick Garcia. Because I think, yeah, I think I hold them all responsible. We have too much information to just publish whatever might get a few clicks at this point without considering all of the victims, not just Jack and I, but the churches, the families. JULIE ROYS 48:30And I think reporters need to be educated, absolutely need to be educated and trauma informed and all of these things and if you’re not fine, but it’s no excuse at this point. Get it. MORIAH SMOTHERS 48:44Yeah, we get it. If you’re not and don’t want to be, go report on the weather, don’t report when they’re in a space where there are victims. JULIE ROYS 48:50Yeah, absolutely. And there is clearly, I would agree, complete dearth of understanding of what ACSA, adult clergy sexual abuse is, and it needs to be remedied. I agree. Again, Patrick has been re platformed by Adventure church. He’s preached there several times. That’s a church in Louisville, Kentucky. I reached out to Adventure for comment. The church did not respond. Bob Russell has also replatformed Patrick. Bob had Patrick share about his fall and restoration at Bob’s mentoring retreat for pastors. This, that Patrick is up there now instructing pastors about his fall and restoration and they’re learning from him how to be a pastor. How does that make you feel? JACK SMOTHERS 49:41That is absolutely ridiculous. You can’t have someone who is an abuser trying to instruct people on how not to abuse. I don’t understand really the line of thought and why you would want to put him into that scenario given his background. I think honestly I would just say my concern is, why is there so much focus on helping these pastors who have abused other people, instead of focus on how do we help the abused? How do we help the victims of the people who we have, are partially responsible for their victimization? That’s really where the focus should be is how do we care for the vulnerable? because that’s exactly what Jesus did. That’s who he ministered to. And that’s who he loves. So that’s, we just have a mis alignment, a missed focus on on what we really talk about in churches. JULIE ROYS 50:37And I’m guessing Bob Russell has met with Patrick, and continues to mentor him and yet, you guys reached out through Dave Road up, who I understand is someone who has relationship, he’s in Christian leadership has a relationship with Bob Russell. He wouldn’t meet with you. He would not meet with you. MORIAH SMOTHERS 50:58Yeah. Paul Linge was the connection. We met with him and several other Crossroads leaders and shared our story shared educational material. They held space for us and held our story with so much goodness. That was very restorative. I struggle with pastors in general, getting to meet with Paul Linge helped restore some of that faith in that role. So the connection between us and Bob Russell is very removed, we don’t know him. But we told Paul, if Bob Russell’s willing to hear our story, we’re willing to share it. And so there was also David Roadcup was involved there. David Roadcup knows our story as well. He shared it with Bob Russell what he could and said, Are you willing to meet with this couple, because they have concerns that Patrick Garcia is preaching again. And his comment was that if there was not sexual intercourse, I will not meet with them. That was what we were told. And so I guess anything, pastors are allowed to do anything, and be preaching and be re-platformed, besides have sexual intercourse with someone who’s not their wife, is the message there. JULIE ROYS 52:01Well, and again, we didn’t hear that directly from Bob’s mouth. But I have reached out to Bob, to try to get comment to try to clarify to give him opportunity. And he has not responded. If he’d like to, I’m still here, and he can do it. And I’ll report what he says. Or if he’d like to apologize, he can do that, too. But just would like to hear from him, it would be really nice. Last question. And thank you so much. I know this is so hard, and can be re traumatizing. And it’s difficult. And I know that you only do this because you care about other victims, you care about the church, and its ability to care for others and so this doesn’t happen and keep happening to people. And so that Patrick doesn’t get platformed and is able to prey on vulnerable people again. But I know it comes at a cost. And so I’m extraordinarily grateful to both of you. I know, just knowing the audience that we have for this podcast, that there are people listening, who have been through what you’ve been through, they may be in totally different levels of healing right now of understanding. But I think it’s amazing how well both of you are doing three years, that may seem like a long time, it also seems a really short time, and you’re doing remarkably well. Not just as human beings individually, but together in your marriage. And that’s, I think, a testament to who you are as human beings and to the godliness. As you know, when you were talking about Jack and the way he’s carried you through this, great husbands are a gift. And that’s really beautiful to hear that. But I’m just wondering what you might say to other survivors who are listening, some of whom may just be right now white knuckling it just to hold on? MORIAH SMOTHERS 53:55Yeah, yeah, and the survivor community is really, that’s my heart. Like you said, that’s why we’re here. There’s a line in Wade Mullins book that I’ve tried to anchor myself to, and I’m not going to quote it perfectly. Something’s Not Right is the book that says, as part of your healing journey, you need to think about what your abuser or his supporters would want you to do and do the opposite. And so this is me reclaiming using my voice for that. And so I really thought about what would I say to other survivors, because I know where they’ve been at. And so I would repeat what sweet Katie Roberts said to me the first time I spoke to her in person, and is that I’m so sorry for how you’ve been treated. You aren’t alone. There’s others of us that have been where you’re at. It’s an absolute nightmare. But there are other people out there that get it. We’re here for you. There’s a group of women that would love to hear your story, and we’re going to understand it because we’ve lived it as well. We’re here to support you in that and that’s Restored Voices Collective. Julie, if you can put that little link in your bio that would be great. I would encourage other survivors work really hard to find a counselor that understands trauma. Don’t settle for a counselor that just loves Jesus. With what you’ve been through, it’s not enough. They need to know trauma and abuse. If they love Jesus, that’s great too Take the time to learn and study the language of what happened to you. Some of the researchers and writers that have been instrumental for me are David Pooler has been one of them. Dr. Heather Evans is another one, Mary DeMuth’s book, We Too, is a really wonderful book. And I would say, take care of yourself. I know, this healing process is long and hard. You need people that can cheer you on and just sit with you in the pain. And the last thing I would say is, my faith is intact. And I hope that people that have really had a close relationship with Jesus, that have been abused, I hope you’re able to find your way back to Him. But take your time; he’s patient, he’s willing to sit with you through all of the pain. And so when you’re ready to explore faith again, or figure out what that looks like, just look to Jesus, don’t look to your church leaders don’t look to a denomination. Just look to Jesus for that. JULIE ROYS 56:12That is so good. Moriah thank you. And thank you for just sharing so openly, Jack, thank you the same, again, difficult topic, but appreciate the way that you guys have walked through this with integrity. And the way that you’re really reaching out to others and taking courageous stands to speak out, which is never easy. So thank you, it’s just really been a blessing to get to know you. JACK SMOTHERS 56:37Thank you. MORIAH SMOTHERS 56:38Thank you. We appreciate the opportunity. JULIE ROYS 56:40And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’ve appreciated this podcast, would you please consider supporting the work that we do here at The Roys Report. As I’ve said before, we don’t have any big donors or advertising we simply have you, the people who care about telling other survivors stories, exposing wrongdoing, bringing healing and restoring the church. Also this month when you give a gift of $30 or more, we’ll send you a copy of Christy Boulware’s book, Nervous Breakthrough. It’s such a great resource and I’m so excited to make it available to you to donate and get a copy of Nervous Breakthrough, just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged.   Read more
7/27/202357 minutes, 50 seconds
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My Pastor Called It An “Emotional Affair,” But It Was Abuse

Guest Bios Show Transcript In 2020, Moriah Smothers thought her emotional and physical relationship with her pastor, Patrick Garcia, was an affair. She blamed herself and was ostracized by many in her church. Yet now, Moriah realizes she was the victim of adult clergy sexual abuse. And since Garcia has returned to preaching—and was recently featured in an article as a repentant and reformed pastor—Moriah is speaking out. In this exclusive podcast interview, Moriah and her husband, Jack, speak publicly for the first time since Patrick Garcia resigned from The Hills Church in Evansville, Indiana. At the time, Garcia confessed to engaging in an “inappropriate relationship, both physically and emotionally.” And he pledged to undergo a “season of restoration so that the root of my brokenness and dysfunction can be addressed.” Almost three years later, that season is apparently nearing a close. Garcia said recently that he’s been able to determine what caused his crash. And, with the backing of mentoring pastor Bob Russell—pastor emeritus of one of the largest churches in the U.S.—Garcia is starting to minister again. This comes as a shock to Moriah, who says Garcia groomed and abused her, using his power as a pastor to keep her in a relationship she repeatedly tried to escape. And, in this podcast, Moriah and her husband, Jack, explain why they don’t think Garcia should ever be allowed back into ministry. This podcast includes an interview with a pastor who served under Garcia at Crossroads Christian Church, where Garcia served until 2018, when he was fired. The Crossroads pastor says Garcia wasn’t fired for mere “philosophical differences,” as previously announced, but for profound character issues. Also offering perspective is Jim Burgen, lead pastor of Flatirons Community Church in Colorado. Like Pastor Russell, Jim is a close friend and mentor for Garcia. Is Garcia a restored pastor, whose gifts shouldn’t be withheld from the church? Or, is he a predator, who continues to deceive and manipulate, and shouldn’t be allowed in ministry again? Multiple voices engage with these questions and provide understanding on adult clergy sexual abuse. Guests Dr. Moriah Smothers Dr. Moriah Smothers is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education and a former elementary special education teacher. She is also a survivor of adult clergy sexual abuse (ACSA). Dr. Jack Smothers is a Professor of Management and a secondary survivor. Their heart is to help other ACSA survivors find healing and community. They are passionate about educating church leaders to identify, prevent and respond to ACSA. They have two children and have been married for 15 years. You can connect with them at [email protected]. Show Transcript SPEAKERSJULIE ROYS, MORIAH SMOTHERS, JACK SMOTHERS, JIM BURGEN, PAUL LINGE JULIE ROYS  0:00 For a year, Moriah Smothers thought her emotional and physical relationship with her pastor Patrick Garcia was an affair. She blamed herself and was ostracized by many in her congregation. But Moriah says she now believes she was a victim of clergy sexual abuse. And now that Garcia is returning the ministry, she’s speaking out in this exclusive podcast. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys and joining me on this episode is Moriah Smothers and her husband Jack Smothers. Moriah has not spoken publicly since 2020 when Patrick Garcia resigned from the Hills Church in Evansville, Indiana. At that time, Garcia confessed to engaging in an “inappropriate relationship both physically and emotionally.” He added, no one is to blame for this repeated wicked behavior but me and he pledged to undergo a “season of restoration so that the root of my brokenness and dysfunction can be addressed.” Now almost three years later, that season is apparently nearing a close. In a Christian Post article last month, Garcia says he’s been able to determine what caused his crash. And now with the help of mentoring Pastor Bob Russell, Pastor Emeritus of one of the largest churches in the country, Garcia is starting to minister again. He’s also speaking out claiming the relationship he had with the other woman was an emotional affair, but the church forced him to say it was physical. He also claims the church didn’t know how to handle his struggle with anxiety and depression, contributing to what happened. All this has come as a shock to Moriah, who says Garcia isn’t telling the truth. She says Garcia groomed and abused her using his power as a pastor to keep her in a relationship she repeatedly tried to escape. She also says she’s reached out to Russell and leaders at the Hills, trying to get them to acknowledge the abuse, but they’ve refused. On this podcast, you’ll hear her story. You’ll also hear from a pastor at Crossroads Christian Church, where Garcia served from 2016 to 2018. That’s when he was fired for alleged philosophical differences. And you’ll hear from a pastor who like Bob Russell, is a close friend and mentor for Garcia. You won’t hear from Patrick Garcia. We reached out to him to hear his side of the story. He responded via email saying and I quote, “enough has been said about that part of my story. I’m in the season of accepting the Lord’s forgiveness and moving on.” We’ll get to this important podcast in a moment. But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Plus you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. Well, joining me now is Moriah Smothers, who is speaking publicly for the first time about what she claims was clergy sexual abuse by Patrick Garcia, former pastor of the Hills Church in Evansville, Indiana. Also joining her is her husband Jack Smothers, who has stood by Moriah throughout the turmoil and devastation of the past several years. So Jack, and Moriah, thank you so much for being willing to talk about what I know is just a really painful and difficult situation.   MORIAH SMOTHERS  04:11 Thank you for having us Julie.   JACK SMOTHERS  04:12 Thank you, Julie.   JULIE ROYS  04:14 So as I mentioned in the open, Patrick Garcia resigned from the Hills Church in 2020, confessing to what the media called an affair. In the past three years you haven’t said anything publicly about what happened. And now you are speaking publicly for the first time. So what led you to want to speak out now about this situation?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  04:37 Julie, Jack and I have never wanted to, felt the need or the call to be public about any of this. Our heart was basically to disappear and heal up, figure out what happened, why it happened. And we have taken a few opportunities these past three years to for some educational reasons with some local church leaders, but really, we were very happy healing up in private on our own with some supporters as well. The reason that we’re talking to you now is because of the Christian Post article that was recently released. We had no prior knowledge of that article, completely caught off guard by it. But after we both read it, we were deeply troubled by the fact that there was no mention of adult clergy sexual abuse in that write up. And even then I still didn’t feel the need to say anything different than Patrick Garcia’s story. But what really pushed us to reach out and say something and be public for the first time is I was so devastated and insulted for the survivor community, for other women that are your friends, and in a support group with now. I just felt the article was deeply disrespectful and tone death of everything happening in the evangelical church, between Ravi Zacharias and Hillsong, and the SBC, the Christian Post can do better and should do better. And so I felt like, I didn’t want this opportunity. Jack didn’t want this opportunity. But here it is. And we’re really here to tell our story for survivors, and hopefully, for church leaders to know better and do better.   JULIE ROYS  06:12 And so Leo Blair, who wrote that article. I know, Leo, he’s a colleague, someone that I’ve talked to on numerous occasions, and has been helpful to me in stories. And he’s done some excellent work. But in this case, sounds like he did not attempt to reach out to you, correct?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  06:29 No, there was no attempt at all. Nobody involved in that story reached out to us or notified us at all. We were very surprised by it.   JULIE ROYS  06:36 Okay. And I think he did reach out to the Hills’ elders who did not respond to him. I guess they could have put him in touch with you. But that didn’t happen. And I’m not sure that that was asked for even but a very regrettable situation. And so I’m glad that you’re going to be able to tell your side of the story. Let’s back up to when both of you met Patrick Garcia. As I understand, both of you were volunteers at Crossroads Christian Church in Evansville, Indiana. And that’s where Patrick pastored from roughly 2016 to 2018. Would you describe your relationship with Patrick at the time?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  07:16 Yeah, sure. Basically, Julie, there was no relationship. We started attending that church when Ken Idleman was pastoring it. We had a lot of respect for his preaching and teaching. And it would be classified technically, as a mega church; it was very large. We were serving and attending but the pastoral transition did happen while we were there, but there was no relationship of any sort. Our children are about the same age. So we might have walked past each other in a hallway but no kind of communication, no, no relationship of any sort, except he was the pastor. And that was it.   JULIE ROYS  07:49 Okay, and I’m guessing you had impressions of him, though. He was your pastor. Jack, was there ever did you have any conversations with him at this point, or he was just the man up on stage/   JACK SMOTHERS  08:02 We had passing conversations. And I do remember, one time at Crossroads when Patrick was still a pastor there. I did say to Moriah, I have a bad feeling about him. I didn’t have any evidence of anything, I just got a bad impression and asked her to keep her distance from it. That was the extent of our interactions.   JULIE ROYS  08:23 So then, in 2020, Crossroads fired Patrick Garcia, and another Pastor Rick Kyle, over in this is what the statement said, at least initially was philosophical differences. That was the reason given. I’ve also spoken with Paul Linge who was and still is a pastor at Crossroads. And we’ll get his take in a minute about what really was happening behind the scenes. But from your vantage point at the time, what did you think had happened and why Patrick Garcia was being fired by the church?   08:25 At that point in time, we were just congregation members very far removed from that inner circle with any sort of connection to Patrick or the elders. And I think that’s an interesting question. It’s something that churches should really consider deeply because for your average congregant, especially in a megachurch, that pastor, that teaching individual is going to be the person who your congregants feel more connected to. And we had a personal relationship, a friendship with another pastor by the name of Dave Bowersox, he was a friend. We love him and his family and he chose to resign from the church as a result of all that. And that, at the time, spoke volumes to us and we trusted him we trusted his friendship and I chose to side with them in moving to the Hills, which at that point in time, Patrick was not a part of, it had nothing to do with Patrick moving to the Hills. He didn’t come on to staff  at the Hills until later on. But at that point in time, it was really because of our friendship with Dave.   JULIE ROYS  10:04 Was there a narrative though? That was because I know that this cause major turmoil. In fact, it spawned, I know, an article in Christian Post back then, because I went back and read a lot of these articles. I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I wasn’t covering this sort of news, or I think my nose was probably in other stories at the time. But it sounds like it caused a lot of turmoil at Crossroads, several pastors resigned when Patrick was fired, there was a petition circulating. This was a major deal. And I’m guessing there had to have been trying to figure out which side is telling the truth, am I right?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  10:40 Yeah, there was definitely it was highly contentious. The narrative I remember hearing, believing, understanding was that the elders wanted to lead in a more traditional way. And that the pastors that were being fired and or resigned and left wanted to be more progressive. And so there was truly what we believe the statement about philosophical differences in leadership. And again, at the time, we also believe that maybe Crossroads was wanting to be a bit more of a country club feel, then really reaching out to the needy, the vulnerable. So that was the narrative that was being put out there for people that were asking questions. That’s what i remember.   JACK SMOTHERS  11:22 You don’t realize how gullible you are until after the fact until hindsight is available. But there was evidence that we could have looked into and chose not to, because of those connections and those relationships that we had those trusted relationships. And so those just exerted a profound influence over us. And then we regret that.   JULIE ROYS  11:43 As I mentioned, I talked to Paul Linge, who currently oversees the counseling ministry there at Crossroads, but he served as executive pastor under Patrick Garcia. And this is what he told me about why Patrick was fired.   PAUL LINGE  11:58 There were some fundamental character fissures in the makeup of his heart, his mind, his belief system, and those would leak out on a fairly regular basis. And while I never saw him act, to my knowledge, inappropriately toward a female, okay, that’s too much that’s inappropriate, that’s wrong. But he would laugh at it just crude things. And unless they like for nudity, not that I saw but like pictures of like a shadow of It’s a little embarrassing to talk about, shadows of a man’s penis, and, and this was like early on, and he would laugh about it. And I was like, yikes, okay, something is a little off here. And I would confront him on it. And sometimes he would receive it. But it was dismissive as well. Basically, he was unteachable, he was young, he was still in his late 20s. I saw the way that he would posture himself in elder meetings, he was unteachable, he would not listen to men who are leaders in their areas of business and industry and are men of God. He had his own his official group of Crossroads elders that he was technically under the authority of, but he had his own private board outside of that. It was composed of guys who would tell him what he wanted to hear. And some of these are the Bob Russell’s, and others, some of whom have had what appears to be great success in ministry. But they didn’t have the nuts and bolts of the character of Patrick Garcia. And so I think it could be said that he came with what looked like a good pedigree; graduate of Cincinnati Christian University, the son in law of Dave Stone, who at that time was the lead pastor at Southeast Christian Church. And so it looked like good pedigree, but I don’t know that the proper due diligence was done in tossing him the keys, so to speak, of Crossroads Christian Church. It felt like the keys were tossed to a reckless teenager rather than a mature man of God, who had in mind things of God.   JULIE ROYS  14:02 That’s Crossroads Pastor Paul Linge, expressing a perspective that it sounds like neither, you know, you, Jack or Moriah had at the time. I’m just curious, as you listen to that, what kind of thoughts do you have and feelings about what you just heard?   JACK SMOTHERS  14:20 Gosh, it’s hard to go back in time and put yourself in that place. Of all the information that we were ignorant of. What we know now is Paul Linge is a man of God like that guy that is truly the real deal. He is a committed Christian and I don’t have insider information because I was not a member of the elder board. But I am not surprised by anything. Any comment that he made in that clip.   MORIAH SMOTHERS  14:46 There was a lot too. Jack and I kind of were looking at each other like we’ve heard this before. There was a lot of weight put on Patrick’s pedigree, and the people that he had surrounding him in ministry support. And again we didn’t know, but we thought that must mean something because it was consistently put out there. A phrase we heard a lot was ‘he comes from good stock’. I bet we’ve heard that hundreds of times. And knowing now that he was going a lot on reputation, and I think we’ve heard a lot for different organizations. But it seems like we’re looking at charisma more than character is something I’ve heard in other churches. And yeah, nothing Paul said was surprising to us knowing what we know now. But, Julie, you’re correct. We did not have any of that information, when this split was happening. And we were trying to make a decision; we didn’t know.   JACK SMOTHERS  15:38 And I think that’s important for churches to keep in mind when they are, I think Crossroads did as good as they possibly could have with handling that situation. But as a congregant, I think we probably needed more information to truly assess their rationale, their justification for letting Patrick go, because we essentially put ourselves into a dangerous situation.   JULIE ROYS  16:04 Well, it does sound like some of the elders did try to speak up and they were pretty strongly censored by people for doing that. So I know it can be a very difficult situation. And I’ve often said when I’m reporting, it’s like saying something bad about somebody’s grandmother. Like, it may be true, but people just don’t want to hear it. They want to believe what they want to believe. And it can be a very difficult situation. But as you guys mentioned, Paul Linge mentioned one of the difficulties that Crossroads had was dealing with these outside advisors. And like you said, this stock that he came from, he had this close relationship with Bob Russell, retired pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, one of the biggest churches in the country, very influential church. At the time, Patrick was also married to the daughter of Dave Stone, who was the pastor of Southeast Christian Church at the time, and Patrick, and Dave Stone’s daughter has since divorced, but at the time again, he was Dave Stone’s son-in-law. I reached out to Bob Russell for comments about the role that he’s been playing in Patrick’s life, as well as the role that he was playing at the time. He did not respond to me. However, one of Patrick’s other advisors is Jim Burgen, and he’s the lead pastor of Flat Irons Community Church in Colorado. And Jim was kind enough to grant me an interview. And here’s what Jim said, regarding his understanding, at the time of why Crossroads fired Patrick.   JIM BURGEN  17:31 My understanding is that he was trying to be very transparent, trying to be very real and authentic, admitting that he wasn’t perfect and admitting he dealt with depression, things like that. And I do remember him telling me that the I don’t want to be a gossip because I wasn’t there, alright? So I know that Patrick was telling me that they didn’t really want that image of their pastor. They wanted their pastor to be somebody who, because he had faith, and because he had the word of God, these things weren’t really problems in their life anymore. They want him to stand on a pedestal and be an example, that you can overcome anything, which is a lot of pressure, but it also is, it’s just not integrity. And so I read the same stuff you’ve read, but I’ve heard from Patrick, they didn’t want that. They didn’t want that. And then they parted ways over the I don’t believe they parted ways over one thing, though, like, is just the overall, you have a different philosophy of ministry than we do.   JULIE ROYS  18:28 So like then, or since you haven’t really talked to any of the leaders at Crossroads?   JIM BURGEN  18:34 No, not once. Or Hills. I’ve not talked to any of those leadership.   JULIE ROYS  18:39 Again, that’s pastor Jim Bergen who served as an advisor, I think he still is a mentor to Patrick. I like Jim, he was very gracious to grant me an interview. And we talked a long time. But I have to say when I heard him say that he hasn’t talked to the leadership of Crossroads or the Hills, not once, that was concerning to me. Especially I know, he had Patrick come speak at his church in 2019. So this was after Patrick was fired from Crossroads. And it just doesn’t seem from my vantage point, that there was respect for the local elders; enough respect to say, hey, what happened? But it seemed more like Patrick was, he’s our prodigy. He’s our guy. And so if he says this, I’m going with it. And if there’s one thing in this story that even we’ve seen so far, nobody reached out to you to get your side of the story. Nobody reached out to these elders between these advisors to get their side of the story. I’m guessing you’re feeling some similar things there. But do you have anything to add that you thought when you heard this from Jim?   JACK SMOTHERS  19:50 I don’t know if Jim is willfully and intentionally ignorant, or if Jim is confused, perhaps, or maybe I’m wrong, right? But in my opinion, that’s the only thing that I can say. His statement about Patrick trying to be very transparent and real and authentic. What Patrick was actually doing is trying to manipulate other people into getting what he wanted. So my reaction to pastor Bergen is, I guess I should have gracious assumptions and say he did not apparently know the real Patrick Garcia.   MORIAH SMOTHERS  20:28 My concern with his statement too Julie is, I think, a lot of times when these situations occur, the person where the blame should fall is excellent at isolating individuals so they can control the narrative. And I think that when that happens, it’s really easy to spin the story that is in your favor. And so I think it was a real leadership failure to not have broken out of that vacuum, and have talked to other stakeholders like the Hills and Crossroads and other people involved in that.   JACK SMOTHERS  21:03 Do you feel that the language he was using, the language that Patrick would use about being so real and authentic was really a way to justify his sin and normalize his behavior?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  21:17 Yeah, I think the closest thing I’ve ever read that accounts for that is that Chuck DeGroat. He wrote When Narcissism Comes to Church. I came across the term I think he’s the one who coined it, it could have been someone else, but called fauxnerability. That term exactly represented the culture of the Hills, and the culture that I believe Patrick wanted to create; that I’m going to be very open, vulnerable, transparent, but it’s more transactional. And then I’m not really going to live that privately, which was a lot of the interaction he and I had together was horrible.   JULIE ROYS  21:52 So within months of Patrick leaving Crossroads, he joined this new church that two former pastors at Crossroads started Dave Bowersox and Darrell Marin. Both of you decided to become part of this new church. What motivated you to do that?   JACK SMOTHERS  22:11 Really was our relationship with Dave, we barely knew Darrell. But we were in a small group of Dave and his wife, Sandy, and really trusted them and loved their family a lot. And we also had kids about their kids age and Dave and I had a meeting at the university where Moriah and I are employed. And he mentioned, they were creating an elder board and said, I would be a great fit for that. That never really came to fruition while we were there. They created an advisory team and invited Moriah to be on that. I wasn’t invited. We were involved with a discipleship ministry while we were at the Hills. But anyway, our relationship with Dave is what drew us there.   JULIE ROYS  22:54 The not having an elder board, and having an advisory board with I’m guessing really had no teeth or accountability. Am I right?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  23:02 That’s exactly right. And so this advisory board they created had men and women that were all in with the church. Which I thought at the time, like what a wonderful demonstration like representation of the church. It was made very clear to the board multiple times that there was no accountability that pastors had to us. And we were never to be a decision making body. At the time I was there, it was very much, so we’re gonna read you our stats, tell you the good things we’re doing and you brag on us. And so it was a Yes-man and woman situation, let’s cheer and say, rah. But no, there was no authority with that position.   JULIE ROYS  23:41 And I will just say right now, and I do get asked this all the time. But people say like, how can you evaluate a church? And it’s step one, look at the elder board. Are they truly independent or are they beholden to the pastor in some way? Are they staff members of the church? In other words, is the pastor their boss, so of course they’re not going to buck him? Are they family members? This is another one that nepotism that runs in these. All of these things need to be looked at but what can they really do look at the bylaws. Do you have bylaws? If you do have bylaws, how is a pastor senior pastor going to be removed? Is that spelled out in your bylaws? Finances – do you know how much your senior pastor makes? And I don’t care if you’re at a small church or a large church, whatever. To me the fact that religious nonprofits and churches don’t have to reveal what their top wage earners make, but secular nonprofits do, to me is appalling. Why should the church be less accountable to the people that give it money than the world right? than the secular nonprofits? It’s these kinds of red flags that before I got into doing what I do today, I wouldn’t have thought of either so I don’t fault people for it. But I think we’re in a season or a time in the church right now that’s really somewhat of a crisis, with scandal after scandal coming out. And if people, if the church individuals, congregants, if we don’t wise up, we’re never going to see a change, because it’s not going to come from the top, it’s going to come from the bottom up. So, Moriah, it’s my understanding that about a year later, so it was about October 2018, that you began on the advisory board at the Hills church. But then Patrick started communicating with you on an individual basis. And this is what you would say, is the early stages of what you believe is grooming you. Would you describe why you believe that this was a grooming situation and the beginning of abuse?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  25:48 Before I get into that, Julia, and I will, is that one of the things that was revealing in the Christian Post article is that Patrick actually told on himself and said that he’d had a crush on me for three years. We had no interaction, we didn’t know each other and knowing what I know now, I absolutely believe that I was targeted well in advance. I think he had been taking notes on me the times we had interacted. Jack and I lead a Bible study group with the pastors for a new curriculum, there were some things from that were a little unusual, but I just didn’t think much of. So that communication initially, I would have considered very innocuous. It was really about the ministry Jack and I were helping run and so a lot of those emails early on, like I would have to discuss with Jack and things like that. But eventually, they turned into more texting, still some emails, but more texting. And I didn’t loop Jack in on those, which was a huge error on my part. But it really a lot of it was just like joking and silly things that if someone had picked up my phone and read, they would have thought, that’s odd, her husband sat on a bit, it wouldn’t have been anything. So it wouldn’t have been an obvious red flag. And so I let a lot of that go, even though I’m sure I had a gut check at the time, but it’s my pastor, like, I’ve always had healthy, safe relationships with my pastor. So I didn’t think anything about it. it fairly quickly turned into joking though. His demeanor is very polling. He described it like a very silly kind of teenager, he just joking. The first thing that really caught my attention, though, was like, that doesn’t seem quite normal is he sent a gift to my work. And so he put a different name on it a pseudonym. And it was an inside joke about a logo from Flat Irons. I made the joke our son was into Pokémon, and I asked him, I said, Well, Patrick, you’re wearing a Pokémon shirt. Matt, our son would love bat, like I didn’t know you were a fan. And so he sent this to my office. And then that was the first time it caught my attention, texting, communication. And honestly, a lot of times it was about church. And so it was intermixed between what was happening at church and fake life, and then personal and personal questions and things like that. I didn’t have any of this language then. But all of this was really heavily infused with love bombing, which I know now I didn’t know at the time that just this excessive praise, this endearment that, honestly, it really ingratiates someone with you, you feel so valued and seen. But the intention there is for manipulative purposes. And so I really believed a lot of that. The more we communicated, the more he sought out my opinion on church issues. And I did I just felt flattered that he thought my perspective was valuable in that context, because I’ve never, that’s never happened before within that kind of inner circle church group. Also, the thing that very quickly happened is he started depending on me for things. He would just often say, like how overwhelming his work is, and he’s so far behind, and he’s shepherding and writing sermons and doing all these things, and I’m a former Special Ed teacher, like teachers are helpers by nature. It’s what we do. It’s what we’re good at. And so I thought, like, oh, my gosh, I have the skill set, I can help you out. Do you need me to proofread something? Pretty quickly, he said, You just take over doing all my emails for work. And I thought, well, I can respond to some of them, I guess, because it’s what my pastor needed. And so that’s really where it started. It clearly escalated into much worse, but I would say those are some of the initial grooming stages is the joking silly conversations, personal questions, and then it started creating that need of I need you to help me be successful in ministry. The other piece that I would feel maybe goes between if we’re looking at severity or intensity of grooming, this one kind of straddles the line is he very quickly started sharing personal information with me about himself and about his colleagues and about the church. He told me some things about Crossroads. I mean, just things that I had no business knowing as a congregant, confidential information that he never should have shared with me about himself and others. And so at the time, I was giving advice and input, but I felt flattered that he wanted to share that with me as well.   JULIE ROYS  30:14 And I’m sure as you know, now, your story is not an isolated incident. This is a pattern that plays out over and over again. And at least from sitting in my seat, the one characteristic that I see that makes people vulnerable is it’s the ones that are really sincere, and helper type people. And it’s so awful because it’s actually such a virtuous thing that the victim possesses as a character quality that predators seem to be able to just sniff out and just be able to exploit. And I know that’s how you feel, and what you feel Patrick did to you. When did you first realize, Oh, my goodness, this is a dangerous relationship?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  30:59 Yeah, it was fairly early on, really. I don’t know that I would have said dangerous, but I recognize that I was looking forward to him communicating with me. And so it was even small, but I thought, Man, that’s not healthy. And I think a common belief is that anyone who is targeted , they’re struggling in their marriage. Jack and I have a wonderful marriage. We did before I was groomed we were doing well during and praise the Lord, we have a wonderful marriage now. And so I’d like to debunk that, that it’s only broken people or broken marriages that are targeted, because that’s not true. But it was pretty early on, I realized I’m looking forward to him texting, and that was messed up. And this is the other spot that man, if I could do anything and go back, this is the spot I would go back and redo this is I thought I could handle it. Because I really again believed that my pastor would honor his fiduciary duty of putting me and my family’s best interest above his own. And so I said, Hey, I need to talk to you about something, let’s FaceTime. And so we hopped on a FaceTime. And I tell him, I said, This is so humiliating, I’m humiliated, and I know you’re going to be embarrassed. But I’m looking forward to you contacting me, I think I’m attracted to you. And so we need to cut communication. And he reported this in the Christian Post very differently than what had happened. I think he said, I hooked him. But what really happened is that I asked him, I said, this is again, I didn’t understand, I thought it was my fault. I said, we need to stop all communication totally like this has to be done and over. And he said your family is too important to our church, to the ministry. I love your family, we need to be in contact still. So do you trust me to pray about it? Absolutely. I’ll trust my pastor at that time to pray about it for me. And I said, Sure, I understand that. I didn’t want to lose our community. And that I trusted him to pray about it. And Julie the part I would go back and do is that was my moment in time to tell Jack, but I did not tell Jack about what was going on. Because Jack is a man of character and integrity, we would have been out of that church so fast. I didn’t want to lose our people in our community group. And what I didn’t realize is Patrick came back and I basically just opened the doors for full on grooming and abuse. And he said, Moriah, you know, I never do this. I never say this when I preach from the stage. But God has told me that if we stay above reproach, then he wants us to be together. And it was a strong implication of like, for ministry purposes. And I was floored by that. But Jack and I are happily married and we’re doing great. I had no desire to be out of my marriage ever. And so I was really confused by that. But he was very convincing that this was a word from the Lord. So things accelerated from there in a really tragic way.   JULIE ROYS  34:03 And this is spiritual abuse 101. It doesn’t get much more blatant than God told me. And this should be a red flag for anyone. But again, we’re not trained in how to identify these red flags. But when somebody says God told me, I mean, how do you argue with that, right? I mean, it’s just really manipulative language that somebody would use.   MORIAH SMOTHERS  34:28 He’s my pastor, I trusted pastors, healthy relationships. My dad was a pastor, like, I had no reason to think there would be any kind of predatory behavior. Like none at the time. I clearly know better now, but.   JULIE ROYS  34:43 So about this time is when the relationship progressed to you and Patrick meeting in public parking lots, which is kind of a next step. Would you describe the frequency of these meetings and the nature of them?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  35:02 So I remember the first one he asked to me. So we could figure out this is a common phrase of how to manage the tension of being in communication, but it not being romantic. That was the first time we met. I vividly remember how sweaty my hands were. I knew I shouldn’t be in this situation. But I also, truthfully, I still trusted him that, okay, if I meet with him, then we can figure out a way for this to be over. That didn’t happen. And so we did on and off continue to meet. I would say it was, I honestly don’t remember a number. I would say maybe once every couple weeks or so. It was almost always surrounding the situation of I tried to end it, he would say, let me figure this out, figure out a plan so you don’t have to leave the church. And then let’s meet as our last time. And so when we would meet honestly, like, we talk about church, we would talk about our personal lives. It was a lot about how he was struggling just being a pastor managing everything difficult relationships. I felt like I was his counselor most of the time, it was a lot of that. Sadly, it did progress. The abuse never became fully sexual, but there was hand holding and hugging things of that nature that happened. Yeah.   JULIE ROYS  36:23 And he said, in the Christian Post article that at one point, you tried to kiss him, but he put the brakes on. True? Not true?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  36:32 I don’t remember that happening. There was embracing that happened. So I could see him thinking that’s where it was going.   JULIE ROYS  36:40 So you wrote in your timeline that you sent me that during this period, you felt like, quote, an addict living two lives. Would you explain that?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  36:49 So the timeline I sent you I wrote in 2020, when things were very fresh. I had no language surrounding abuse, trauma, ACSA. And so that feeling was still is still correct of how I felt. What I know now, though, is what that is was trauma- bonding. That happens in a cycle of abuse of feeling like very affirmed, valued the love bombing, and then trying to end it. And it’s like this very toxic cycle. And so that’s what it was, is I, frankly, I hated who I was becoming. I love being a wife and a mom, and I love my job. So there were so many beautiful parts of my life. I loved the church I was serving, we were super engaged. So I felt like there were all these beautiful parts of my life. And then there was this really toxic, ugly thing that I didn’t know how to get out of. Even as a grown woman educated, I didn’t know how to get out of this. And so that’s where I just felt so painfully torn. Because at this point, I knew things were bad. Like I knew they were very bad, because we were communicating every single day, multiple times a day, even when I would end the relationship, he would still use phrases from the stage to communicate with me that were like inside praises. He’d post on social media photos, but he put little photos like emojis in the corner that were messages to me, and the communication was all the time. So I now know it was trauma bonding, but the truth is, at the time, I saw no way out without imploding our life. And so I stayed in it, because I didn’t know how not to.   JULIE ROYS  38:30 And it’s interesting. And I hear this all the time, the minimizing of the devastation that a relationship that didn’t go there was no sexual intercourse, but had obviously a sexual component to it had this kind of grooming involved in this kind of trauma-bonding, love-bonding, I mean, all of these things, the devastation is massive, isn’t it?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  39:00 Yeah. And I think what’s really hard to account for and if I’m just being really honest, I don’t expect for anyone who hasn’t experienced this or walked with someone to understand this. But physically, what happened was minimal compared to the emotional and the spiritual wreckage of feeling like your pastor should be doing the right thing, and he’s not. I would say I ended this relationship. I use that term very loosely, it was abuse, but I ended it two or three times every single month. It was ongoing. That was most of our conversations with me trying to figure out how to get out of this. And there was a lot of communication in between as well but yeah, I think what’s not accounted for when these situations come out, is just the emotional spiritual psychological damage that’s left in its wake and it’s horrific.   JULIE ROYS  39:57 And Jack during this whole time, are you seeing red flags or things that are making you go, what’s going on? Or was this pretty much hidden from your sight?   JACK SMOTHERS  40:06 I had no evidence if that’s what you mean. But what I did see was Moriah’s natural demeanor is very light hearted, very life giving just a joy to be around. And that was stolen. She became darker she became her humor became vulgar, her language in terms of profanity that started to occur. And so I remember asking her one time, like, hey, something is changing about you, and I don’t know what it is. Is it something that’s wrong with our relationship? Or what can I do to get us back on track? But something is off, and I don’t know what it is. And she couldn’t answer because she was in a cycle of abuse at the time.   MORIAH SMOTHERS  40:51 And Julie, so horribly as well that I would sometimes bring this home to Jack. Like I was so torn up about what was happening privately that I would put that on our marriage and say, but if you treated me like this, when it had nothing to do with Jack. Towards the end, I even started saying, let’s move, let’s apply for jobs, let’s go somewhere else, because I thought that’s my only way out of this. And so was pushing so hard to escape, but I made life pretty hard for Jack for a while, because I was not me anymore.   JULIE ROYS  41:24 Moriah, eventually, your relationship with Patrick included sexting. In fact, that was the title of the Christian Post article, basically, How Sexting Brought This Pastor Down. Would you describe the nature, the frequency, who initiated the sexting? How did that happen?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  41:46 But that also had a grooming process to it. I’ve never been a selfie person, I think I’m just old enough that I missed that kind of way. Patrick would send dozens of photos a day. And so I think there was a grooming process with getting me to that place. But the sexting did occur, it is incredibly painful to talk about still. I don’t remember the frequency, it wasn’t truthfully, many times what I would consider overt sexting. But the ongoing dialogue for us was highly flirtatious and inappropriate. What I would say was over happened, I don’t know probably less than 10 times, and it was always followed by like, guilt, shame, that can’t happen again. And then we were back there.   JULIE ROYS  42:33 All of this did remain secret until May of 2020. And that’s when this police report came to the attention of pastors at the Hills church. How was there a police report that made this apparent to them?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  42:47 I honestly I still don’t have all the information. Because when everything did eventually come out, we were very much so left in the dark. So I don’t fully understand all the details to this. But my knowledge, what I do know is that there was a time we were meeting in a public parking lot. We’d met there several times, the people working in that location had noticed it. And so after so many times of meeting there they called the police to check because they thought it was odd that two cars were parked there. I think we were there after hours even. And so a policeman came out just said, Hey, what’s going on? Nothing was going on. And so, it wasn’t any kind of like, charges or anything. It was just documentation that we had been there. And so I don’t know the process of how that actually got to the Hills, but it did. Once that happened, I didn’t know anything about that. I think we were on vacation as a family. And what I’ve been told not being involved in that is that Dave and Daryl, the other pastors, met with Patrick, confronted him with what was in the police report, which wasn’t much information, just that we’d met there several times, and it was documented. Patrick spun a story that there was nothing going on, that he and I had only met there once. And Jack and I haven’t seen this report. So we’re not really sure what’s in it. That he said we had only met there once, and that we were handing off a binder or a book or something. And so he had been there before, but I hadn’t. And so very shortly after that, Patrick was also instructed not to contact me because they wanted to verify his story. Patrick got in contact with me immediately said this is exactly what happened. I remember he said, I took a bullet for us. And so you’re gonna get called into a meeting with Dave and an elder, and this is what you need to say to backup my story. And so I knew what was going on. We got home from our vacation. Dave called and asked me to a meeting, and I asked if Jack could go with me, and he said no, he cannot. And so I think again, I was still I was not in a good place mentally and emotionally. I think I was hoping that if Jack was there, it would come out and maybe I could be free from this, but Jack wasn’t allowed there. And so I remember sitting in the parking lot of where I was going to meet the pastor and the elder. And Patrick called me and he said, these are the exact lies I told. If you want to save your family, my family, the church, and also they were fundraising for a new building at the time. And that money he indicated to me was associated with him, because he had raised those funds. He said, If you want to save all these things,  then you need to backup my story. And I consented, or I agreed to backup his story. And so I think in the Christian Post article, it read very much so like I eagerly and enthusiastically agreed to lie. But I felt very much if I’m gonna lose my family and my church, then I’ll lie. And so I did lie. I sat down with the pastor and the elder. They very much so wanted to hear the version of the situation, I told them, so I didn’t have to lie much, because they wanted to believe it. And so I did lie in that situation.   JULIE ROYS  46:03 And did you volunteer to step down from the advisory board at this time?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  46:08 I did. Yeah, that was the primary way Patrick had access to me just individually without Jack around. Otherwise, Jack and I did ministry together, we were pretty much always together. So I said, I’m happy to step down from that. I guess that’s appropriate. And they didn’t want to raise any red flags about why I was stepping down. So they told me no, please don’t do that.   JULIE ROYS  46:28 Wow. And you secretly were trying to get out.   MORIAH SMOTHERS  46:33 I was trying to get out in a lot of ways. But except being fully truthful with Jack, which would have got me out.   JULIE ROYS  46:42 So Jack, what was your response when you heard the rendition of the story that Moriah told you?   JACK SMOTHERS  46:50 The story that I received was, she made a silly mistake and met Patrick in a parking lot to receive a binder about church. Sounds pretty innocent when you are in a loving relationship with someone who has, over a long period of time, established a firm foundation of trust, you’re raised in a family where people treat you in a trustworthy way. It builds a lot of gullibility in a way and so I didn’t really second guess it. I just said, Oh, man, that was silly. Let’s just learn from it and move on. And in retrospect, that was maybe not the most loving thing to do. The most loving thing to do would have been to ask more questions, if I felt uneasy about it. Yeah.   JULIE ROYS  47:33 Yeah. It’s tough, though. You don’t want to be the jealous husband, who doesn’t believe. It’s a very difficult situation to be in. At this point, Moriah, you asked Patrick to basically get some outside help, right? Like, I mean, you knew he had this outside Advisory Council board, whatever you want to call it, mentors that he looked up to. How did he respond when you asked him to get this help?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  48:02 Yeah. So all the previous times I’d ended it, it was really just between the two of us and I just want it to be done. But this time, I said, clearly, I felt like this was, again, I was spiritually very twisted. But I feel like this is God telling us like this has to be done. This was our chance to end it. And he didn’t feel like he could end it, that he needed me. And so I asked him to just, I begged him, I’d said, like, please just talk to somebody tell somebody what is going on. Because this entire time, I had some real questions like even like I said, this an affair, isn’t it? Nice to no, because it’s not physical like that it’s not. And I asked him, I said, please just talk to somebody get their input. And so he told me, he did talk to a couple people. One of them was a former colleague and friend that was in his previous church in Texas. And then also he communicated that he talked to Jim Burgen about it. I didn’t know either of these people at all. But he told me that he was advised by both of them to not share any of this information with people at the Hills, the other pastors, they just didn’t need to know the details, and it would cause a difficult situation. And so I thought he had been advised by wise counselors, which is what I asked him to do.   JULIE ROYS  49:19 And of course, you have no way of knowing whether that actually happened or not. But I did reach out to Jim Burgen, and asked him specifically about this, about whether or not he ever encouraged Patrick not to confess the details of his relationship with you to the church. And this is what Jim Burger said.   JIM BURGEN  49:37 I knew they were having struggles. I didn’t know he was meeting in cars with women. Not at all. And if I had known that, I would have absolutely done the opposite of what you’re hearing; cover it up, don’t disclose. It would have been the opposite of that is you’ve got to cut this relationship. You need to go to Savannah, you need to go to your leaders. I was fresh off the heels of sabbatical. I was on a sabbatical for six months at the end of 2019, dealing just with a lot of exhaustion. So at that point, I would have been really raw and open because I was in such a tremendous, intimate relationship with my elders. They knew the inside out of my heart. I would have pointed in that direction too. Whether he had that or not, I don’t know. But that’s what my advice would have been. I never, never ever in a million years would say, cover this up, keep it a secret, don’t give details because basically what I’ve been counseling this keep going just don’t get caught, which would be absolutely the opposite of what I would ever have counseled anybody.   JULIE ROYS  50:36 Again, Jim Burgen weighing in on his perspective of what happened. It didn’t take a long time after this whole police report surfaced for the truth to come out. So apparently, the church sends Patrick off on, I’m sorry, this study break. I’ve seen so many study breaks. For pastors, they get caught with things like this, you wish they would just be upfront with what’s going on. But instead, it’s covered up from the church. And I guess he needs to do more study about something. But during that study break what was happening between the two of you?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  51:15 Yeah, so during the study break, keep in mind, I was still on the advisory board, because they hadn’t taken me off. This was also not disclosed to the advisory board at all about what was really going on, their concerns. We were still in communication. I think there were attempts to slow the communication down, that it was frequent. There was also up until this point, things had been bad. But again, most of our communication was just like silly, everyday things, light hearted. Things got dark after this and really heavy in a way that it hadn’t been. There was a lot of like power reversals. And I remember Patrick being very clear that like, I have control of this situation. And he would want me to like verbalize consent at that. There was a situation where some pastor I have no clue who it was, it was just in the news that he had probably an affair, which is the language they use, which would have been abuse. And I said something to Patrick about it. And I said, “Hey, I read this story. Did you read that?” He had. And I said, “Doesn’t that sound like what’s happening here?” And he like, forced me to verbally agree that’s not what’s happening here. This is consensual, and so it just got really heavy. He also started pushing to blame. He was like, let’s reassess when we’re gonna be together. And I mean, I remember the clearest time again, only in hindsight of being gaslit was, I was just feeling very convicted. And I said something like Patrick, I’m not leaving Jack, I have no desire to end my marriage. I’m not doing that. And he somehow flipped it around, and I ended up apologizing to him, that I would even think he might ask me to do that. And so just really, really sick, twisted. But the communication was still often.   JULIE ROYS  54:07 And how old was he at this point?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  54:09 So if this was in 2020, he was probably 32 ish?   JULIE ROYS  54:13 Thiry-two. It’s a lot of responsibility for someone extremely young, really. And he’s in his late 20s and pastoring a church of 7000 previous to this. It’s just a little bit stunning that someone so young would be given that kind of responsibility. In September 2020, then I’m guessing he comes back from his summer break. And you met in person a few times. Would you describe what happened in those meetings?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  54:45 Yeah, so all of those were to wrap things up to end things like again, there was this kind of mounting pressure. It just has to be that and frankly, I was starting to be a mess. Like I had been able to keep my life together pretty much. He would actually say, I know this is hard for you. But just let me shoulder the pressure of keeping this together. I was not doing well at that point in time. And so we met in a parking lot. And again, naively thought, like this is the last time, but that was, every time I was nervous and felt like oh my gosh, would have foreseen and it was, it was scary. That was the first time that he scared me, at the way he was behaving, and I actually had the thought, like, I hope I’m able to get out of this car. And it was just, it felt like things were moving really fast. And so again, I was hopeful that maybe that was the last time. But communication just continued, even though there’s so many last times that communication continued still.   JULIE ROYS  55:46 So the following month, October 2020, Patrick’s wife, Savannah, she discovered some of the messages between the two of you the sexting, I’m guessing she saw?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  55:57 Yeah. I don’t know exactly what was seen. You read those? Yeah. Yeah, it was a lot of it was just silliness. But then there were things that absolutely indicated that there was sexting and it was highly inappropriate.   JULIE ROYS  56:10 You found out about this from Patrick, right, when Savannah found out what was his demeanor and reaction?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  56:19 Well, I knew something was a little wrong. We had been communicating. And Julie, I don’t think I mentioned this, but early on through the grooming, it was mainly text, emails, and then it switched through social media platforms. And so he was always very thorough, reminding me like, hey, delete our messages, delete our conversations. And we were communicating with an app Words with Friends. We were playing a game on there, and there’s a chat feature. And so we’d been communicating, I gotten distracted with something, and had just left our conversation because something happened quickly. And when I came back, I messaged him again, and there was never a response. And so I knew something seemed different because he always responded. But he didn’t that time. And so it was all through the evening. I never got a response. I knew something was going on. I think that was I shared maybe a little bit with you at that time. I’ve minimized I heavily minimized what was going on to Jack. But I did disclose a little bit to him. And it was sometime in the middle of the night, I got an email from a random email address. But the email address and how it was worded was like a lot of inside jokes between us. And the phrasing was really strange. It didn’t the email it was from Patrick. We know now he had all this like technology taken. So I don’t know how he did this. But he basically said that Savannah found messages. And then he included a bulleted list to say like, these are the lies we’ve told remember them and back them up about what it was. But the email sounded like silly, like almost joking. It was not like, devastated. It wasn’t angry. It was a very strange message. When I knew that this had been discovered, I freaked out. And so I deleted the email, I never responded and I like permanently deleted it from my Gmail. And the next day, he sent another one from the same email and it was just, sorry, with a crying emoji and I deleted that one as well. I did end up telling Jack eventually that he had sent that. So I did know something was coming. But I didn’t know the fallout that was about to happen.   JULIE ROYS  58:30 Jack, how did you find out?   JACK SMOTHERS  58:32 Moriah disclosed a little bit of what was going on. But really it was Dave Bowersox who called and shared the communication, the sexting conversations that had occurred, and in a PDF document. And so I read through those, and yeah, that’s how I found out. Of course I was devastated at the time. But my really, I think God was very gracious over me at that point in time because all I could think about was our kids. Sorry. Two wonderful and amazing children that they deserve a safe home. They deserve to feel protected. And this was an attack on our family. We have a great example in scripture of Christ protects his bride, how Christ dies to himself to protect his family. So that’s where we at. Sometimes protecting your family looks like getting on your knees and praying. Sometimes protecting your family looks like asking a lot of questions. listening intently. I was thankful that in our job, so in higher education, we are required to go through training. I believe it’s every year, we’re required to complete these modules just on what is Title IX, sexual harassment, all these things. There’s one thing that stuck out to me. And it was where there’s a power imbalance, there’s no such thing as consent. And so I thought, okay, professors, student, doctor, patient, Pastor, congregant. These are all similar relationships where there’s a direct power imbalance, there could not have been consent, and I’m smashing all this together. This was not all at one time, this was weeks or maybe months of reflecting and trying to absorb the information that we have. It wasn’t until probably a year after it all came out that we really understood ACSA and that entire framework.   MORIAH SMOTHERS  1:00:48 But Jack was the first person to raise this piece of information, like how is there consent there as your pastor? And some of the contextual things that I’d never recommend this for anybody, but we were quarantined at the time, with COVID. So we couldn’t be with anybody. And so we can laugh about it now a little bit, but it was at the time, just heartbreaking. I was so broken and devastated and confused. It looked like I was coming out of a cult. Like there’s this like trauma fog that descends. I didn’t know what to do. I followed Jack everywhere in our house. I couldn’t be away from him. And so he’s grieving and mourning, and I’m following him around and we’re quarantined and have little children that were trying to – it was a mess. So everything we did was over Zoom about all the disclosures.   JULIE ROYS  1:01:41 So how did you feel the church responded to you, Moriah?   MORIAH SMOTHERS  1:01:45 I don’t want to over exaggerate this. And I can share details. The abuse from my pastor was horrible. The way the church responded was ten times more traumatizing than the abuse.   JULIE ROYS  1:02:04 That concludes part one of my interview with Moriah and Jack Smothers, and we’re ending on a bit of a cliffhanger. But this is something that I’ve heard over and over again from victims. The original abuse is horrific, for sure. But it’s easier to understand that the church can have one bad apple than to realize that it’s not just one bad apple. There’s a whole system protecting and managing that one bad apple, often at the expense of the victim. And you’ll hear that part of Moriah and Jack’s story in part two, and it’s such an important story. So I hope you’ll be watching for that to release in just a few days. But thank you so much for listening to The Roys Report. And if you’ve appreciated this podcast and our investigative work, would you please consider giving a gift to support us? As I’ve said before, we don’t have big corporate sponsors or large donors. We have you, the survivors, advocates, allies and church leaders who care about ridding the church of predators and making it a safer place. Also, this month if you give a gift of $30 or more, we’ll send you Christy Boulware’s book, Nervous Breakthrough; Finding Freedom From Fear and Anxiety in a World That Feeds It. This is such a great resource for anyone struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, or really any mental health issue. So to get the book and support the Roys report, just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you are blessed and encouraged. Read more
7/25/20231 hour, 4 minutes, 5 seconds
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Overcoming Anxiety & Spiritual Abuse, Part II

Guest Bios Show Transcript What do you do when you feel called to start a ministry, but your pastor tells you not to? He says you’re not ready. You need to be under his authority. And your ministry must “complete,” not “compete,” with the local church. That’s precisely what happened to Christy Boulware, author of Nervous Breakthrough: Finding Freedom from Fear and Anxiety in a World that Feeds It. And in this second part of Julie’s interview with Christy, she tells about how, after overcoming a severe panic and anxiety disorder, she wanted to help others—but her pastor stood in her way. This led to the painful discovery that her church was a “cult,” and her pastor was addicted to control. This threw Christy into a tailspin and caused her to question her calling. But over time, with the help of wise friends, she and her husband realized they needed to leave their church and continue the ministry God had given her. Christy’s is such a powerful story. And through it, she gives a helpful blueprint for how to discern spiritual abuse and escape it. Guests Christy Boulware Christy Boulware is an international speaker, author of Nervous Breakthrough, Bible study creator, and founder of Fearless Unite. She is happily married to the love of her life, Troy. They have three beautiful children together. Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, CHRISTY BOULWARE JULIE ROYS 00:04 What do you do when you feel called to start a ministry, but your pastor tells you not to? He says you’re not ready. You need to be under his authority, and your ministry must complete, not compete with the local church. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and what I just described happened to Christy Boulware, author of Nervous Breakthrough: Finding Freedom From Fear and Anxiety in a World That Feeds It. For a decade, Christy’s biggest nemesis was severe anxiety and panic disorder. But once she got well she found she had another obstacle, her own pastor . This threw Christy into a tailspin and caused her to question her own calling. But over time, she and her husband realized that they were being spiritually abused. They also realized that the church where Christy at first found Jesus and gotten saved, was also very cult like and harmful. Then the second part of my discussion with Christy, she tells her story of experiencing church hurt. And I believe there’s so many great lessons in this story about how to handle spiritual abuse and its aftermath. So, I’m really looking forward to sharing this conversation with you. But first, I’d like to thank our sponsors, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. We now resume my conversation with Christy Boulware, author of Nervous Breakthrough: Finding Freedom From Fear and Anxiety in a World That Feeds It. JULIE ROYS I know that once you got to a place of feeling healthy, and God had brought you through this, you had an excitement, to share that with others. And that’s really how God works. The comfort that He’s given us, He wants us to give others and so I think that’s such a beautiful desire. But as you began to step out in this, and this is so sad, you would hope that your pastor would be the person most excited about that and getting behind it and blessing it. And I hate to say this, but I think especially when it’s women stepping out in ministry, very often they don’t find their pastor blessing it. And that was your situation. Tell us that story of and you don’t really touch on it in your book. But I know that’s a bigger part of your story. When your pastor really wasn’t thrilled. CHRISTY BOULWARE 03:59
Yeah, I actually had a warning sign that I missed. So, I was about 18 months into my recovery journey and tapped into this local church doing really well making friends, things were going great. I started sharing my testimony, they had given me an opportunity to share my testimony. I was blogging and doing a little bit of speaking about it. And so, this was around June of 2015. So, the breakdown happens in 2011 and June of 2015. I just was starting to feel this prompting to start a support group for other women that were struggling with the same thing that I struggled with. And I asked my friend who, my very good friend who actually was the pastor’s wife for advice about this feeling that I was having didn’t know what to do with them. And she just said, let me talk to my husband, which was our pastor. And she comes back to me and she said that. Here’s what he said. He said Christy, you need to aim longer before you fire. And I just paused. And she just said, basically what he’s trying to say is you’re not ready to start a ministry, Christy. And I got off of that phone call just completely crushed, and so confused, too. And I took this hunting analogy to my husband because he’s a big hunter too. And I said, Troy, this is what she said to me, this is what Pastor said to me, what do you think? What do you think I should do? And it was this moment, I’ll just never forget it. Troy just boldly and confidently said, No, if you aim too long, you’ll miss. It’s time to start this ministry. And I was like, All right, let’s do it then. Let’s start it. So, here’s what’s so crazy, Julie. Fearless Women was what it was called before, we’ve now rebranded as Fearless Unite. But it started in a library with 38 women in attendance, and it grew rapidly. And churches started to hear about it and other churches started partnering with us. And before we knew it, we were doing these monthly meetings where 200 or 300 women were showing up at it. And by the end of 2015, we were a legal 501 C 3, and we became a nonprofit organization. So, part of the programming that we offered was these local community events that were completely free. The support groups that kind of outgrew the support group mentality, because so many people were coming to it. So, we started putting together programming called Impact groups. Now what these were, they were fear and anxiety Bible video studies that were written and produced by myself, but also our Fearless team. So that was interesting. I got called into the pastor’s office. Yeah, I got called into the pastor’s office. JULIE ROYS 06:44 I’m feeling anxiety right now. I’ve experienced this. But okay, yes. CHRISTY BOULWARE 06:48 What smoke alarms are going off right now? So, I got called into the pastor’s office, this was early 2017. And my husband was with me for this meeting. And we had these, like, kind of three major big ideas that he was explaining to us in the meeting. And the first was, God’s work must be done God’s way. And he used II Samuel 6, the Ark of the Covenant. And as you recall, in that story, Usiah, I think is how you say his name, he died for touching the Ark. And we began to get this underlying feeling that he was saying, You’re messing with God’s way by not doing it the way that we want you, like, I want you to do it. And so, he didn’t come out and say, You’re gonna die. But there were these implications of using that scripture to make us understand that God’s work must be done God’s way. Now, the next big idea that he gave us was parachurch ministry, which is what Fearless Women was a parachurch ministry is not in the Bible. So, he just told us parachurch ministry is not in the Bible. So, he then said, we’ll support parachurch ministry if you’re doing something that we don’t do, or can’t do, and it was built under biblical government. And then this big idea was said, Christy, don’t compete with the church, complete the church. And I was super confused after that point. And then we got to one of the, there was lots of points. But these were the three main ideas that really hit my husband and I. The last one was God works through authority. And so, he used John 10 1,3, but then also, verse seven, I’m just going to read it to you, it says, Then Jesus said to them again, Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. And then he gave us two points after that. He said, God gives the senior pastor, he said, senior pastor, a flock. And then the second one is the door, in and out, is through the pastor. Needless to say, my husband and I had a lot to think about a lot to pray through. And truthfully, Julie I left that meeting feeling so confused, and conflicted, controlled. I also felt like we were doing something wrong, I felt like we were being disobedient to his authority. And it was incredibly difficult to process through that. JULIE ROYS 09:16 Let me pause you there. Because there’s so much to unpack and what you just said. One, going back to you not being ready. Almost in a way, and I’m guessing being ready would be the pastor telling you you’re ready, which would put him in control of when you’re ready. But it also, and this might be a strong word to call the curse. But it’s almost like saying, it’s going at you as a person. It reminds me of I remember when I was in my late 20s, wanting to step out in a ministry and I had a pastor look at me and say, Julie, you’re not a visionary leader. And I remember at the time just being like so puzzled by that because I had already started like two different ministries at this point, and I’m like, how am I not a visionary leader? And he’s like, Well, I can’t go into detail like I can give you the book. And I could go through all the points, but you’re just not. I remember just coming back home, and it was my husband who looked at me and said, “That’s insane. Of course, you’re a visionary leader, like you’ve started all these things like, how could you do that if you’re not a visionary leader? I mean, I don’t know what they mean by that. But don’t receive that, Julie. And I’m like, Okay. CHRISTY BOULWARE 10:18 Thank you, Lord, for an amazing husband. JULIE ROYS 10:21 I know. And what’s sad too, is that as women, I think our fallen condition is that we tend to be bent towards men that we don’t look straight up into the Father’s eyes, which is what we really do need to do. And it’s wonderful when you can have a man bless you, like we had our husbands bless us. But often the men won’t. And sometimes we need to just be able to look directly. And we do need to be able to look into the Father’s eyes and say, who have you made me? And what are you calling me to do? And our identity has to come directly from Jesus, because otherwise, we will be paralyzed, and we won’t be able to move out and what he’s calling us to do. CHRISTY BOULWARE 10:56 You gotta preach, Julie. JULIE ROYS 10:57 I think it’s important to name those things, right? Because we do and as women, I hate to say it, but it comes so often, because we’re a threat to somebody in spiritual authority sees us as a threat. And I don’t know what it is about strong women, but we just make these men go, they do, they just, they get so threatened. And that’s what I hear in your story. But then the authority and control using scripture the way that he did, and to say Jesus doesn’t say that the pastor is the gate. Jesus says, I’m the gate, right? They enter, and I know my sheep, and they hear My voice, and they recognize my voice, because their mine. And he’s put himself what he did in that conversation is put himself in as Jesus, which is frightening. But that is what so often happens. And so, I know there’s people listening right now that are probably, you know, there’s bells going off because they’ve had this happen. But it’s devastating to us in the moment. It is so confusing, because we’re hearing, the confusion is not because oh, what our pastor is saying the spiritual authority saying is true, but because we’ve heard something from our father, our father has called us and has commissioned us to do something. And yet we have these earthly voices that should be, you know, blessing that and instead saying, No, you can’t be getting that right. And so, it puts us into a tailspin. So how did you work through this? CHRISTY BOULWARE 12:28 Lots and lots of prayer. But I think one of the biggest things was we asked for his notes. We said, “Can you please put in writing what you taught us that day? Because we’re very confused, and we would like to study it out ourselves. Can you put the scriptures down? Can you put the notes down? So, we received the notes that he taught us that day, and we felt led to go seek wise counsel. Now what’s important about this wise counsel, and if anybody’s listening, it was outside of our local church. We sought console outside of our local church. And the beautiful thing is the Lord had blessed us with so many partnerships of other churches with what Fearless was doing at the time, that it was very easy for me to find a neighboring community of an elder of a lead pastor, that I could have a sit-down talk with. So, I sent the notes over to this pastor, my husband and I and this pastor and his wife, we sat down over a nice lunch, and I’ll never forget it, Julie, he just very boldly and bluntly said, Christy, we reviewed your pastor’s notes, and we think you’re in a cult. And we think that he is using scripture to manipulate and to control you. And I remember even the pastor’s wife that day was like, oh, no, no, but we could say this a little nicer kind of thing. And you know, we don’t we’re not trying to hurt your feelings. And he’s like no, I don’t know how else to say this. I don’t know how much easier like how to say this. And I remember us leaving that going, no, this can’t be true. We love our pastor, like we believe in him, like just know, like, Ah, this can’t be true. So, but then we had to just really wrestle with that. JULIE ROYS 14:09 Boy, I love what you did. It reminds me of the Bereans, right? Who, even the apostle Paul, took what he was teaching them, they searched the Scriptures to see if what he told them was true. And I think so often people that are in hyper controlling churches or cultic churches, which as I think over the past decade, the definition of cult has changed where it used to be it has to have some sort of heretical doctrine at the core of it. And I think people are realizing no, you can have an orthodox, very biblically Orthodox Church, it can still be cultic because of the control. And because of the place of the pastor, and because of these things. Thank God, that you were able to find someone who was able to discern that. But wow, that’s when you’ve been, how long have you been at the church at that point? CHRISTY BOULWARE 15:00 So, since 2007, that’s when I raised my hand and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. So now what we’re at 2017 when that conversation took place, yeah. JULIE ROYS 15:08 Wow. So, you’ve been there a decade. And you hear this, and this is your community. So how did you process it? CHRISTY BOULWARE 15:16 We still believe the best and our pastor, and we asked for one more in person sit down meeting with him. And so, we did. And it was my husband and I and his wife, and we sat down. And we wanted to take a humble approach. Because what if we were wrong, Julie? We hadn’t been to seminary, we didn’t have all this extra knowledge, you know. So, it’s like, gosh, what if we were wrong? And we wanted to believe the best in him. But here’s what’s interesting. My husband, we’re talking about our strong husbands. He prayed this very simple prayer as we walked in, and we were holding hands together. And he said, Lord, show us what we need to see. That was it. Just show us what we need to see. And so, our first topic of discussion when we sat down was that my pastor wanted to go over the biblical government that our parachurch ministry had. And he asked, do we have a lead pastor on our board? And we were genuinely curious. It was like, no pastor. I mean, we don’t have a lead pastor on our board of directors, but we have a pastor. And we’re curious, like, why does it matter if it’s a lead pastor? And he started to use this analogy that lead pastors know how to bench press more. JULIE ROYS 16:27 Sorry, wow! Okay. Okay. CHRISTY BOULWARE 16:32 Could bench press more. And so of course, we were dismayed. And we’re just but again, we have so much respect for this man and love that we were just still trying to process it all out. And again, remember, since parachurch ministry is not in the Bible, the only way you would support it would be under biblical government doing things that the church wasn’t doing, and if I wasn’t competing with the church. So again, he was trying to make a case for the biblical government, which just led us into that next area of concern was how he didn’t feel like it was right that we were producing, and leading out small groups, which is what I called Impact groups, and that was competing with the church. And so, I remembered Christine Caine had just spoke at our church. And she does propel groups. And propel groups were exactly like what our impact groups were. We were creating biblical, small group material, that were helping people overcome fear and anxiety. It was a meeting and need in the church because fear and anxiety is an epidemic right now. And there were so many people that would love to be in a Bible study about fear and anxiety. And we were producing these and putting these out. So, I asked him, I said, Well, we just had Christine Caine here. And she does propel groups. And we’re okay with that. And Dave Ramsey, he does Financial Peace groups. And I said, I’m just trying to do something similar to this, and not compete with the church, but just meet a need in the church to disciple to hurting women that are struggling with the same thing. And interesting that you had brought up that scripture in Corinthians, comfort, comfort others with the same comfort God has given you. That was the key verse for our impact groups, it was, God had comforted me, I was going to turn right back around and comfort others. Julie, he wasn’t really happy with my line of questioning and responses at that point. And the conversation started to go a little bit south, and we wanted to keep it holy. And I just said to him, I said pastor, I can tell that we’re not going to agree on this topic here. So, can we just agree to disagree here? Or is this the end of the road for us? And I’ll never forget this, Julie. He looked right at my husband and I, and he just said, this is the end of the road for you. You will not be supported if you continue. And just like that, the place that I found Jesus, by the man who led me to Christ, we were no longer welcomed in our church anymore. And I left that meeting completely devastated with my heart in a million pieces. And my husband, on the other hand, just had a smile on his face. And he said, Thank you, God for showing us what we need to see. JULIE ROYS 19:08 Wow. I haven’t told this story yet. And I will just allude to it now because I haven’t fully felt released to tell it. But I have friends who were told that if they persisted in something they were doing, they could no longer take communion within a church. And I thank God that they listened to the voice of God, and not the pastor at that point who was not speaking the words of God. And I’m just struck that whole senior pastor thing. There’s no biblical basis for that. And where is the priesthood of all believers? Yeah, that is such a control move, but so glad that you were able to discern rightly, what was going on. Wow, I can only imagine the devastation you must have felt. I mean, there’s one thing to know in your head. God’s calling me to do this. I’m sure there had to have still been some degree of doubt, because that’s just how we work as human beings. When you have a spiritual authority, say something like that to you, it’s hard. It’s hard to take. And it messes with you inside. Even if in your head, you say that was BS. I know, it’s somewhere deep down. You know what you’re doing is, right. You have that conviction. But at the same time, you’ve got that kind of messing with you. I guess you could apply the same thing you were talking about the anxiety, snowballing thoughts where you had to take this thought captive now and these doubts captive, but walk me through the process coming out of that emotionally, spiritually? That’s got to take to some degree your legs out from under you. Or did it? Maybe you were just like, so confirmed that you just shot right out of the gate? I don’t know. CHRISTY BOULWARE 20:46 Oh, heck no. JULIE ROYS 20:48 Maybe I’m projecting but yeah, how did you deal with it? CHRISTY BOULWARE 20:51 My husband was very strong. He was so grateful. And for me, this is where I found the Lord. This was where all my dearest friends were. I lost all kinds of friends. I felt so lonely, depressed, incredibly anxious. You’re right. The self-doubt raged in my mind. What if I’m wrong? What if I’m being disobedient? What if I’m rebellious? What if I am in direct contradiction of God’s word? I want to honor God’s word. So, it was like this mind game of questioning my calling, who I am, what I should be doing. I mean, it was excruciating. But I do, I think there’s some things that we did right, and some things that I think we did wrong. And what we did right was we stood up for ourselves, we stood up for ourselves, and we did not allow ourselves to be manipulated and controlled. And we refuse to slander and gossip, even though all of that was being done for us at Facebook and the things that were being said, and this behind-the-scenes conversations that would later come back to us. I was just floored by the amount of just deception and just straight up slander and things about our character that just were not true. Another thing we did right is we took a while before we jumped into a new church home. And when we did feel called to move on to a new church home, we did sit down with the leadership of that church and asked, What are your thoughts on parachurch ministry because we didn’t want to get ourselves. We found that they were with open arms excited to take in this parachurch ministry, were championing, welcoming, cheering it on in a very healthy way. So that was good. Another thing is we took some time before we started serving. We really needed healing. And we didn’t just jump right into serving again. Some things we did wrong, Julie, this situation felt like a divorce. Now, I’ve not walked through a divorce. But I’ve walked through many dear friends that have had to walk through a divorce. And it’s so incredibly painful. I mean, the place that I fell in love with Jesus Christ is the place that wounded me. That made me second guess and question everything that I’m doing and feel called to do. And so that just created an enormous amount of anxiety in me and again, losing all these friends. And I became obsessed, literally obsessed with trying to figure out why God allowed this to happen. And I wasted too much time being distracted by that. And I was worried about it constantly. I think something else that we did wrong is I didn’t get counseling soon enough. I just didn’t. And I’m in counseling now. But I’m learning that even so long ago, this is 2017 that I am still disentangling myself from bad theology that was imposed on me for years and years. Even in my new church, a healthy church, where I’m my counselors, I need you to take church off of an idol here, Christy and I need you to ask yourself, are you codependent on your pastor’s covering right now? And so, ah! all these really big ideas that I’m working through myself right now that are going all the way back to 2017. And I wish I would have gotten into counseling sooner, because it’s affected the way I view church. It’s affected the way I view pastors; it’s affected the way I view church, people, and community. And this last one might sound a little funny, but I forgave too fast. And here’s what I mean by this. When I was in therapy, my therapist said to me, Christy, you cannot forgive what you haven’t acknowledged. And I thought, oh, so then she gives me this worksheet where I have this five-page worksheet, and I have to work through the four stages of forgiveness, and part of it is writing down why you were hurt. And when they said XYZ to you, how did that make you feel? and when this person betrayed you through and it was like a ripple effect because it wasn’t just my pastor I needed to forgive it was the pastor’s wife. And then it was the friends that betrayed me. And it was like this ripple effect of forgiveness that needed to be put out, but I needed to walk through the stages of forgiveness first, to truly forgive. I think I was just like, oh, yeah, I forgive them. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what Christians do you forgive. But really deep down, I was still bitter. I was still hurt. I was still wounded and had not worked through that forgiveness properly. JULIE ROYS 25:09 What a wise counselor you had. CHRISTY BOULWARE 25:11 Oh, amazing. JULIE ROYS 25:13 Yeah, that’s wonderful. And that is a gift. And I’m curious because you said this covering? Did you have the umbrellas of authority that were like the Gothard thing going on, or something similar? CHRISTY BOULWARE 25:24 I’m watching Shiny Happy People right now, too. And I’m just like, I can’t wait to see my gosh, it’s giving me anxiety. I was never shown like a picture of umbrella or covering. But this idea of spiritual authority that you had to run to or be over like your pastor was the person that you needed to check in with, was absolutely under woven in all of it for sure. JULIE ROYS 25:48 Wow. Well, I’m very grateful. I did not grow up in that. I grew up in a very conservative Christian church, but it was not fundamentalist. And my mother was a very strong spiritual force. And she was our superintendent of Sunday schools in the church I grew up in, and I had a pastor who gloriously did not feel threatened by my mother, and just was able to bless her. Now they moved when I was in college, from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, and then that stopped. And she couldn’t really minister after that. And that was really sad for me to watch. But I have said many times, I’m so grateful for that heritage that I was given. Because when I saw spiritual abuse happening, when I began to experience it, yes, there was self-doubt, there was all of that. But I also knew, it’s like what they say, with dollar bills. If you’re trying to figure out a counterfeit, you look at the real, you study the real, and I grew up in the real, and I’m so blessed, I know I’m so blessed by it. I thank God for it. Because I see so much of the non-rail right now, in the work that I do that I’m just I’m so grateful that I know the real exists, I love the church. I couldn’t stay in this work if I didn’t love the church, because I’ve seen how beautiful it can be. And I’ve seen how beautifully it raises the next generation within it. But we’re just really gotten a foul of it because of and sadly, a lot of it is due to these pastors who are into building their kingdom, and not the kingdom of God and controlling and you cannot control what God is doing. It is completely outside of your control, but the Holy Spirit, you don’t know where it comes from. And you don’t know where it’s going. But you better get on his agenda. Because if you’re trying to steer yours, you are going to just shipwreck everything. And we’re seeing that happen all over the church right now. And I know, and we’re running out of time. So, I have to get to our last question. But we could talk so long on this. But I know right now there are people listening, who have had all of the same things that you’re talking about happen to them maybe, and then some and the spiritual abuse and the confusion and the pain and all of that they’re in the midst of this. And that’s what with so much of the interviews so many of the interviews I do., it’s that abuse that they’ve experienced, sadly, in the church that is causing so much of their anxiety and their trauma. So, would you just speak that person who right now is feeling really stuck in the midst of the aftermath of this kind of church hurt situation? CHRISTY BOULWARE 28:29 I think understanding that you can be understood. I think that’s so important. And that church hurt is so excruciating, I think sometimes we sweep it under the rug, like it’s just not that big of a deal, or it doesn’t hurt that bad or I mean, it’s truly one of the deepest pains I have ever walked through. Even going through suicidal thoughts and a nervous breakdown. It was so painful. So, I think I just want to tell you, I get you, I understand you. If you’re on the other line listening, gosh, I’m so sorry for the pain that you’ve experienced. And I think I just have three little pieces of advice. The first one would be don’t stay in an abusive situation. Please go seek wise counsel outside of your church community. And ask God pray, ask him to give you wisdom and discernment because oh my goodness, he will. Like you said with the dollars I didn’t grow up where I knew the real so I couldn’t tell there was a counterfeit and that’s why it was making it so difficult. But God was so faithful to provide the people at the right places at the right time because my heart was bent towards truth. I wanted to know the truth and he gave me the truth. And do not please man. Please God. That’s what we’re here for; please God first above all else, and then get help for the hurt. I wish I would have gotten help sooner. I love Julie that you’re doing The Restore. I think your conferences what you’re doing with that is just so beautiful. So go to one of her conferences, go get into therapy, get help. And then this last one is probably the most difficult for me to say. But it’s just remember that God still uses imperfect people. And sometimes that just doesn’t make sense. And here’s a little story. I was recently interviewing someone for a marketing position that’s available in our organization. And one of our interview questions was just tell me how you found the Lord. And she tells me the story about how she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior in this most beautiful, glorious way, and how God was working in her life. And guess what? It’s through the same man that hurt me in the same church, that we were asked to leave. And I just thought, oh, my gosh, and I was so conflicted in my flesh in that moment, and the Lord led me to Philippians 1:15 – 18. And it’s when Paul’s talking about okay, look, some people are going to preach out of envy and rivalry, and some are going to do it out of goodwill. And then it goes down in verse 18, it says, but what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached, and because of this, I will rejoice. Yes, I will continue to rejoice. So what I’m not saying is you shouldn’t address church hurt, or you shouldn’t address control or manipulation, like you absolutely should do it. But do it in a Christ honoring way. But remember, that God still use an imperfect people to reach people for His glory. JULIE ROYS 31:39 Yeah, and that’s a tough one. But it is true. I’ve had a number of people process; I came to the Lord through this abusive person. I came to the Lord through somebody who I don’t even know is a believer at this point. And does that mean that you didn’t truly come to the Lord? No. That doesn’t mean that . The Lord has met you and praise God that He can use a donkey so he can use a bad pastor. Christy, thank you so much. And thank you for mentioning Restore again, that’s coming up October 13 and 14th at Judson University, and early bird tickets are still available for Restore. But it is a wonderful two-day conference where so many other survivors come together and find healing. But not just survivors. And I’m really encouraged. I was excited at our last Restore, we had a number of pastors come, we had a number of seminarians come. And it does grieve me that I find so many pastors like if you do a conference on how to grow your church big and how to be successful man, they will flock. But to come and hear from survivors? to come and hear about how to handle church hurt? or how to respond when somebody comes to you and says, I’ve been sexually abused? to find out those things, how to really shepherd and care for your sheep. Often pastors aren’t very interested in that, because that doesn’t bring in the dollars and the people and the noses and all those things. So, I really encourage you, if you’re listening, and you’re in a position of spiritual leadership, at a church or a para church, I really encourage you to consider coming to Restore. And those of you who are hurting, wonderful place to find healing. Again, it’s RESTORE2023.COM. You can find out more about that. But Christy, thank you so much. This was just such a great discussion, and I so enjoyed your book, but even more so being able to talk with you. So, thank you. CHRISTY BOULWARE 33:38 Thank you so much. JULIE ROYS 33:39 And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’ve appreciated this podcast, would you please consider supporting the work we do at The Roys Report? As I’ve said before, we don’t have any big donors or advertising, we simply have you the people who care about telling other survivors stories, exposing wrongdoing, bringing healing, and restoring the church. Also, this month when you give a gift of $30 or more, we’ll send you a copy of Christy’s book Nervous Breakthrough. It’s such a great resource and I’m so excited to make it available to you to donate and get a copy of nervous breakthrough. Just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
7/11/202333 minutes, 42 seconds
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Overcoming Anxiety & Spiritual Abuse

Guest Bios Show Transcript Fear and anxiety are gripping society today. A stunning 42.5 million Americans are diagnosed with anxiety disorders each year. Nearly 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide each year. Repeatedly, Jesus said fear not. But let’s face it, many of us are finding that increasingly difficult. In this edition of The Roys Report, you’ll hear from someone who knows about fear and anxiety firsthand. In 2011, Christy Boulware suffered a debilitating panic attack. Then she experienced vision issues, paralysis, and hospitalization. At one point, she couldn’t get out of her bedroom, so her mom had to help her care for her own kids. Prior to this, Christy had been ‘superwoman,’ excelling personally and professionally at most everything she did. But out of nowhere, fear and panic rendered her unable to do even basic tasks, and she was on the verge of suicide. If you’ve struggled with fear and anxiety, you’re going to find Christy’s story of how she overcame a severe panic and anxiety disorder extremely helpful. But there’s another battle Christy has fought that many listeners to this podcast will relate to: her battle against spiritual abuse and control. In fact, for many of you, your fear and anxiety is due to spiritual abuse or church hurt. What Christy learned through her process was painful, and it reveals powerful truths for us all. Guests Christy Boulware Christy Boulware is an international speaker, author of Nervous Breakthrough, Bible study creator, and founder of Fearless Unite. She is happily married to the love of her life, Troy. They have three beautiful children together. Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, CHRISTY BOULWARE JULIE ROYS  00:04 Fear and anxiety are gripping our society. A stunning 42.5 million Americans are diagnosed with anxiety disorders each year. Nearly 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide each year. And depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Repeatedly Jesus said Fear not. But let’s face it, many of us are finding that increasingly difficult.   Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys and joining me today is someone who knows about fear and anxiety firsthand. In 2011 Christy Boulware suffered a debilitating panic attack. Then she experienced vision issues paralysis and was even hospitalized. At one point she couldn’t even get out of her bedroom, so her mom had to help her care for her own kids. Prior to this, Christy had been super woman excelling personally and professionally at most everything she did. But out of nowhere fear and panic gripped her, and she was on the verge of suicide.   If you’ve ever struggled with fear and anxiety, I think you’re going to find Christie’s story of how she overcame a severe panic and anxiety disorder extremely helpful. But there’s another battle Christy has fought that many of you will relate to as well. And that’s her battle against spiritual abuse and control. In fact, for some of you, your fear and anxiety is due to spiritual abuse or church hurt. And I think hearing this part of Christy’s story and what she learned through this painful process is going to be especially powerful for you. So, I’m super excited to talk to Christy and to dive into her story.   But first I’d like to thank our sponsors, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM.   Joining me now is Christy Boulware, a speaker and author of the book Nervous Breakthrough: Finding Freedom From Fear and Anxiety In a World That Feeds It. Christy also is the founder of Fearless Unite,  a nonprofit helping people overcome fear and anxiety issues. So, Christy, welcome, and thanks so much for joining me,   CHRISTY BOULWARE  03:03 Julie, thank you so much for having me.   JULIE ROYS  03:04 And I wish I could say that I read this book, and I couldn’t relate to anything in it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’ve had my own struggles with fear and anxiety and trying to overcome those, and it’s difficult. And it strikes each of us in different ways. But your book was so honest and vulnerable. So, I thank you for that.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  03:26 I’m happy to share. And I wish that there wasn’t such an epidemic of fear and anxiety happening in our world right now. Because it truly is. It’s an epidemic. And I think that we have to get more open and honest with the real things that’s happening in terms of depression and worry and fear and anxiety and panic disorder and have more open and honest conversations about it as well.   JULIE ROYS  03:51 And you mean we can’t just pray it away and it’s gone? Tell people they need more faith and boom, they’re better?   CHRISTY BOULWARE  03:56 Are we gonna go there now? Let’s go there now, because I got some bones to pick about that, for sure.   JULIE ROYS  04:02 Let’s table that because we are going to get to that and I’m looking forward to getting to that. But let’s talk first about where you started. Because you never thought that you would ever be in this place of struggling with fear and anxiety. As I read your book, you were like a superwoman, right? You never met a challenge that you didn’t face and overcome and then all of a sudden, you’ve got this issue with panic attacks. Just if you would describe your progression and how you got there.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  04:34 I’m sitting on the sunny beaches of Cancun sipping a fruity drink reading my gossip magazine, and all of a sudden this feeling of ‘I gotta get out of here now’. Now, Julie, I’m looking at the beach. I’m having a great time. Why in the world would my body all of a sudden just break down on me? So, it was this feeling of I gotta get out of here now, my heart starts beating really fast, I feel very disoriented, I’m dizzy, I’m queasy. I get up to my bedroom in our hotel, this very nice hotel that we’re at. And all of a sudden, I’m like, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna pass out. And I remembered I packed this really strong fan. And for something just told me like, start taking deep breaths into this fan. I start taking these deep breaths, cleansing breaths, and this lasts about 20 minutes. And then it was poof, it was just gone. I go back down to the deck with my friends and my husband, and I’m like, I have no idea what just happened to me, but that was so weird. And they’re like, Christy! We’re in Cancun! It was probably just bad water, bad food, whatever it might be. And then we just brushed it off. And that was my first episode that took place.   JULIE ROYS  05:38 And so, you go home, and you’re thinking that was just weird. And then what was it about two weeks later, or something like that? This is so weird how this hits us. I mean, it reminded me of that book, The Body Keeps Score. And of course, it’s talking about trauma and stuff. But we can pretend that stuff isn’t happening and that we’re not under all this stress and pressure. But eventually our body will tell us what’s going on. So, tell me about how that happened that you began to realize, no, this is a full-blown panic disorder.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  06:09 Yeah. So, I actually was in the airport on the way home Julie, I open up my email, and I realized I had missed about 200 emails. Now here’s what you need to know, I was in a high power corporate medical sales career. I had climbed the corporate ladder, I was incredibly successful, doing really well for myself making over six figures. And I was a workaholic. And I never rested. I was constantly obsessed with achievement, and accolades and money and the next sales gig that I could land. And so, I open up my email and like, oh, man, I got 200 emails, and all of a sudden, I started seeing black dots in my eyes. Sometimes when you slam on the brakes in a car because you don’t want to hit the car in front of you, and then you get this rush of adrenaline that comes through, and it feels like pins and needles in your body. That’s what was going on. I had black dots and pins and needles on the right side of my body. And I’m like, what is happening to me? It progresses, I go home, I’m trying to sleep, I can’t sleep. In the middle of the night, it’s about 3am, I start feeling complete paralysis on the right side of my body. I call my primary care physician and I’m like, Doc, something I can’t feel the right side of my body. He’s like, Christy, I think you’re having a stroke. Go ahead and take yourself to the emergency room. Husband takes me to the emergency room. And I get there and of course I land myself a stay. They do all the right stuff, cardiac screening, everything. I’m there for about a day. Doc comes in and guess what, Christy? Good news. everything checked out okay.   Now, Julie, at that point, I wanted to punch the doctor because I’m thinking there’s no way I’m okay. Like, I feel like I’m dying. And he said, but here’s the deal. We’re pretty sure you’ve got panic and anxiety. And I’m gonna write you a prescription for Xanax. Go home, follow up with your primary care in a little while and I thought you got to be kidding me? Like panic and anxiety? A bottle of Xanax? Like nothing computed, nothing made sense. And all the while I’m snowballing out of control. This panic and anxiety is getting worse and worse and worse. And just like that discharged me home. And I’m starting to understand, what does it mean to have severe panic and anxiety disorder?   JULIE ROYS  08:20 And at one point, it got so bad you couldn’t leave your bedroom? Is that right? Like your mother had to come? You had kids at the time too, right? What were the ages?   CHRISTY BOULWARE  08:28 Two small boys. Actually, this still haunts me during the severe panic and anxiety disorder. You’re right, I couldn’t leave my bedroom, my hair was falling out of my head I couldn’t eat. In my darkest moment, I had suicidal thoughts. There were hunting guns that were in the corner of our bedroom, and they weren’t loaded. But I knew where the bullets were. And the kingdom of darkness just whispered this thought, why don’t you just use those guns, you’re never gonna get through this. This is going to be your life forever. You’ve already missed your son’s first steps, which is, I was so confined to my bedroom that it was my only safe place. It was the isolation, it was, as soon as I began to walk out of the room, the panic and anxiety was so intense and so deep that I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t eat. And it was just like I couldn’t leave my bedroom. And it was so severe and so bad that the thought of, if I have to live like this, if this is gonna be my life forever, it would be better if I just wasn’t here.   And I remember my husband coming home the day that I was having those thoughts and I had put blankets over the guns. And he came in our bedroom that day, and he’s like, Christy, why are there blankets over my guns? And I just fell and collapsed into his arms, and I was like, because I am afraid I’m going to use them. I’m tempted to use them, and I remember him thinking like, wow,  I can’t fix this. This is so bad.   And see Julie I was a person that had it all together. I was a person that prided had myself in getting out of any difficult conversation, landing any sales deal, always being in control. So, to all of a sudden go from being this high executive, workaholic, corporate girl that had it all together to literally having back-to-back panic attacks being diagnosed with severe panic and anxiety disorder, not being able to leave my room, was such a huge change in my life that nobody understood, nobody got it. They were used to in control Christy.   JULIE ROYS  10:31 And you were used to in control Christy. I loved how you wove together in your book, your faith journey, with this whole journey through mental illness and panic disorder. Your faith at this point, sounds like you call it a CEO faith. So, I’ll let you describe what CEO is for but describe how this began to really break you. But spiritually, Jesus said, until a seed falls into the ground and dies, it can’t be reborn. And it really is often these breaking situations that brings us to the point of need, and understanding we need a savior. So, describe your faith and how this began to impact you spiritually.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  11:15 Yeah, and it’s the play on words with the title of the book. It’s nervous breakthrough, I had a nervous breakdown. But my nervous breakthrough was really the breaking point for everything that was important in my life. I was a CEO Christian, which is Christmas, Easter only. I grew up Catholic. And I had Catholic roots. I grew up praying traditional prayers, the rosary, going to parish school religion, but it was just a tradition. It was just a set of rules. It meant nothing to me. And it wasn’t until I was suicidal, having a nervous breakdown, diagnosed with severe panic and anxiety, where I started to ask myself important questions like, if my help doesn’t come from me, self-help, then where does it come from? And I would ask myself questions like, maybe there’s a better way than the way that I’m doing things. And I remember in the middle of my nervous breakdown, after the situation with the guns, there was a little cross that was above our bathroom in our master bedroom. And this cross meant nothing to me. And I had never even really paid attention to it other than it was just a nice gift that somebody gave to me at one point. And I remember after being so broken, that I got down on my knees, and I prayed to this little cross, because in my Catholic roots, you would kneel when you prayed, and I kneeled. And I was like, alright, God, if you’re real, and you are who you say you are. And again, Julie, I don’t know what I’m praying at this point. You know, I’m just saying these prayers out of desperation. Help me, I can’t make it through this on my own God, I need you to show up. And I promise if you do, I’ll dedicate my life to you.   That was the desperation. And it was like after that moment of surrender, after that moment of prayer, little mini miracle after mini miracles started to take place. And hope began to come back in the room. And also, the shift of that too was my husband’s prayer for me after the guns. We were not a praying couple. We knew of God. We didn’t have a problem with God. But we didn’t need God. And it wasn’t until I untangled my Superwoman cape and laid it at the feet of Jesus, that things started to actually turn around in my life.   JULIE ROYS  13:34 Interesting. And I’m just curious, as I’m listening to you, I’ve been actually going to an Enneagram coach, slash kind of spiritual advisor person.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  13:44 Are you an eight?   JULIE ROYS  13:46 No, everybody thinks I’m an eight. And I’m not and actually, she initially thought I was a one. Because that’s a reformer want to be good. And then she realized, no, I think you’re a three. Which is the achievement oriented. Are you a three?   CHRISTY BOULWARE  14:02 I’m an eight. I’m an eight.   JULIE ROYS  14:03 Oh, you’re an eight! Yeah, that’s interesting. Yeah. The challenger. Yeah. But I thought that was interesting. She said, “I think you grew up in such a one environment like I grew up in the holiness background. And that I think that’s why you presented as a one is because that’s like what’s most important to you. But yeah, more of a three. And I described something in my past where I’m like, I wonder I’ve always wondered Is that panic attack and she’s almost every three I’ve talked to has these in their background. And I remember at one point, I just memorized Psalm 90. I’ve memorized tons of Scripture, and I would just say them to myself to get through it. And that renewing of your mind that Scripture does is amazing, like putting the focus on Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I mean, just so hugely important. And it’s funny because I think a lot of people think, because of the line of work I’m in and the kind of people I go up against, I’m not scared. I’m scared all the time. If it weren’t for the Holy Spirit and His indwelling of me, and given me the courage and courage is not the absence of fear, right?   CHRISTY BOULWARE  15:02 So good. No. I think understanding the depth and magnitude of God’s love is one of the major things that we underestimate in dealing with overcoming fear and anxiety. And so, the Scripture you’re talking to is 1John 4:18,  but we’re not reading the beginning part of it. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.   JULIE ROYS  15:03 It’s walking through it. And for everybody who’s like getting all, I don’t know, you bring up Enneagram you never know what people were gonna say. I don’t even know what I think about it that much. All I know is I trust this person because she’s grounded in a Christian worldview. And I just find it a helpful tool. But as you’re saying this one of the things that she said to me, she went to these conferences, you know, it’s a secular, sort of in the Enneagram thing. And she said, they talked about fear. And they’re like, Yeah, this is all rooted in fear. So, you just have to stop fearing. And she’s like, you know, like, where? And she said, but the thing that struck me as a Christian being, you know, having the scriptures, perfect love drives out fear, right? Perfect love drives out fear. And I know that was important for you in your journey. If you could talk to me about how God’s love became real to you during this process, in maybe a way it hadn’t before.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  16:21 So first, we have to get real with the fact that there is no fear in love. So, if we’re fearing, is it possible that we don’t quite understand the love and magnitude and character of God’s faithfulness and goodness? I remember just recently; I was fearful about a procedure that I was having. And I was kind of having these mini panic attacks. I call them setbacks after the initial nervous breakdown now, when I have a panic attack, I call them a setback. But basically, I was in the closet, and I was praying. And I felt the Holy Spirit just say to me, daughter, I don’t dangle suffering over my children. And it was this moment of, well, yeah, would my dad dangles like my actual biological would he dangle suffering and I and I realized that not everybody has a beautiful relationship with their father, but my dad would never dangle suffering over me. That is not a loving thing to do. So, I started to just realize that man, God’s love is so deep and so good, and so faithful, that I have to understand his love better. And when I recognize his love, I’m not going to fear as much, and His perfect love really does cast out fear. So, I was trying to teach people like when you’re fearing and you have this anxiety, ask yourself like, is this the Lord? Did the Lord send this to you? And it’s no he didn’t. There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear.   JULIE ROYS  17:47 That was key for me is recognizing whenever you’re feeling fear, that’s never from God. Fear is from Satan, right?   CHRISTY BOULWARE  17:55 For I did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, in 1Timothy That spirit of fear is demonic, and it’s just not from Jesus. Now, is there times that he’s going to warn you? But in those times where I have had those warnings, there’s a level of perfect peace that passes all understanding. I talked about when my father-in-law was dying of pancreatic cancer. And I remember being in a little side by side going to the farm with them. And I was like, I called him Papa B. I said Papa B, are you afraid right now? You’re facing death? No, I’m not afraid. I have this is like, Okay, God, whatever we’re going to face, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, no matter what I face, you’re going to be walking right beside me, therefore, I don’t have to fear. So therefore, if I am fearing, I know that it’s not from God. So, it’s just having to really recognize the fear that we walk through and knowing that he’s going to be right by our side, even if we do walk through it there. And we don’t have to be afraid then.   JULIE ROYS  18:54 And so, would you say that during this process is when you actually became a Christian? Or do you feel like you were a Christian when you were a kid? I don’t even know those designations are important, you know, in a way, because we either walk with Jesus and work out our salvation as we’re doing that. But I’m just curious, at what point you would say, Yes, this is where I became a Christ follower.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  19:15 Yeah, this is interesting, because I’ve wrestled with this, because in 2007, in my past church, my pastor asked me to raise my hand, and repeat a salvation prayer after him. And I guess in that moment, that’s when I committed my life to the Lord. But no fruit came from that prayer at all. I went back to doing my same old things. This was in 2007. And then in 2011, I had the nervous breakdown. And I would say that my moment of surrender, which surrender is a daily choice. Every day I have to choose to surrender to Jesus Christ every single day, sometimes minute by minute, Julie. And so, I think that breakthrough moment that breakdown moment was when I decided to say you know what, I’m no longer in control. You’re in control. Had I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at that moment in 2007? Yes. However, I don’t believe my lips knew what I was saying, I don’t know that even my heart and my mind knew what I was saying, I required discipleship, I needed somebody to walk through that with me. I mean, my heart was good. I wanted that. But I didn’t know what I was saying, I didn’t know what I was committing my life to. And it wasn’t until that breakdown where I really had that breakthrough moment. So I would say my true surrender moment happened in 2011, in the middle of my severe panic and anxiety disorder.   JULIE ROYS  20:36 This would be a totally other discussion, I won’t go too far down this rabbit trail, but I’ve talked to a number of Catholic believers who own their faith later in their life or sometime in their adult life. And I talked to a guy who actually was involved in really evangelism among other Catholics. And he said, Boy, I tell you Catholics are so easy to lead to the Lord. And he believed there was a grace imparted when they were baptized. Of course, a lot of evangelicals would be like, No, that’s not possible. But he said, All I can say is the heart is often so ready to receive, because it’s been maybe bathed in this. And Catholics, of course, have a really good strong sense of guilt. So you don’t have to talk that much about needing forgiveness of sins. But I always love talking to people that come from a Catholic background, and who have really found true faith. And I think you can grow up just as nominal in a very Bible believing Evangelical Church and walking through the motions, and never have owned your faith. Fascinating to hear how this worked, and how the Lord worked in your life, to bring you to this point of surrender. You also Okay, I’m going to bring it full circle to our initial thing about medication, and faith versus medication. Obviously, there’s a faith component. Honestly, I don’t know how anybody makes it through any kind of mental illness without knowing the Lord without having God working in them. Because our mind is a battlefield. And if we are not renewing our mind with what’s true, the lies will just overcome us. But there’s also just our human weakness that our flesh, like sometimes we need some help. And so I know there’s been a lot of guilt around using medication as believers. And I think it’s really unfortunate. But would you speak to the role that medication played in kind of your healing and walking through this process?   CHRISTY BOULWARE  22:30 Absolutely. I was blessed with a Christian primary care physician. I didn’t know that he was a Christian. But when I had my follow up, after having my three weeks of back-to-back panic attacks, I walked into my primary care physician, and we discussed my hospital visit, we discussed my symptoms, and he looks at me and he says, Christy, you have severe panic and anxiety disorder. And then he goes on to say this, you are going to have to get to the root of your problem. Because if you don’t, and you don’t figure out how you got here, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to give you a prescription, and it’s going to help, and you should use it. But you’re going to come back to me with the same problem and I’ll up your medication, and then you’re gonna come back to me again, and I’ll up your medication to where it’s gotten so far, that I can only give you so much, and then I won’t be able to help you anymore. So, I suggest you go home, and you do the work. And you figure out how you got here, and he even suggested, get into a church get into a church family. Now at this point, since I was a CEO Christian, I wasn’t faithfully committed to a church at all.    So, I remember thinking in the moment, wow, I don’t want to continue to be on medication for the rest of my life and keep upping my medication over and over and over. I don’t want to rely on that. So, I have an interesting perspective on this. I believe that the church has done a mighty disservice to people that are dealing with fear and anxiety with the work that I do with a nonprofit organization that I run. I can’t tell you how many people have come to me with spiritual abuse that have said, I was told that I didn’t have enough faith or if I would just pray more my anxiety would go away or mental health isn’t a real thing. And it breaks my heart because it’s really I have to tell you, if somebody in the spiritual community in the depths of my hell and the middle of my fear and panic and worry, would have handed me a Bible and said, You need to read your Bible more and you need to pray more, I would have been so devastated and so wounded, because here’s the truth. My body was in breakdown mode. I had so much adrenaline and cortisol flooding my body that I was literally in a depressive state, and I couldn’t function and think on my own. I didn’t know how to pray. I couldn’t open a Bible. I couldn’t read for myself. The medication got me to a point of stability to where then I could function I could shower again I could eat. And I was able to actually read a Bible or a book or pray or think clearly.   So, I feel very strongly that we should use medication and every good and perfect gift comes from above. So, if God is offered the medication and we have medication available, and we’re in a space where I was in then goodness gracious, use it now.   On the other side, I believe that we’re passing out antidepressants like candy. And that’s not the answer, either. So, what is the answer? The answer is we are a holistic body, soul, and spirit. I like to use a tricycle is a visual, but it’s got three wheels. And if I rolled into this interview with you on this tricycle, and only two of the tires had air in it, and one was completely flat, I would look like a fool trying to pump this thing into our interview, because it’s just not going to work properly. I have this dream of the faith community and the medical community coming together and working together so that we can treat somebody body soul and spirit and I have a whole chapter in my book on that. And so yeah, is there room for medication in the life of the believer? Absolutely! Especially for mental health. And I’m so grateful that I had it because I couldn’t, I wouldn’t have been stable without it. Now, am I on it anymore? No. But I did the hard work dug deep. And I like to say it’s like an arrow, a bow and arrow, sometimes you got to pull the arrow back. And that gives you the strength and the power to plow forward. And so, I say anybody, it’s my personal conviction. But if you’re on an antidepressant, or you’re using medication for anxiety, I believe that you should be walking with a therapist. I believe you should be doing the hard work to find out why it is that you’re there. And for me, it was years and years of the approval of man, that’s what my soul lived for. Success was my drug of choice. It was accolades and money and all the things that really doesn’t bring happiness and peace into your life. So, I had to dig deep. Why did I care so much about that? Why did I care about the approval of man? Why was I so obsessed about success and master’s degree and money and landing the next big, like, why was my worth founded in those things, and instead of in a holy, amazing God? So, I had to work through all of that. I had lots of pride; I was dripping with pride. All of my conversations were about me, myself, and I, and just really learning to let go of that. And focusing on what really matters in life, which is serving and loving Jesus,   JULIE ROYS  27:43 We look at these as breaking situations, I think they actually are what make us human. I look back at my life, and there’s numerous times where I feel like the Lord has broken me. I feel like I keep having to be in that Jacob situation where you wrestle with the Lord and you get the limp, you have to walk with a limp, or boy, I tell you pride it is the root, I think of just about all sins, has some sort of origin in pride.   Let’s talk about the battle of the mind a little bit. We’ve alluded to that. But when it comes to anxiety, there’s the snowballing effect, right? There’s a little thought, and then you obsess on it, it becomes bigger and bigger, and we get more and more anxious. So how did you find that you could deal with these thoughts? Scripture says take every thought captive. Easier said than done. Right? It’s like, okay, I got it. That’s a very difficult thing to do. And yet, I do think it’s something I don’t think God tells us to do something, and then doesn’t give us the equipment to do it. So how did you learn to deal with that?   CHRISTY BOULWARE  28:50 What I’m about to share with you is probably single handedly one of the most important things that I had to learn to be able to overcome fear and anxiety. And it’s this whole idea of our thoughts matter. And you mentioned the snowball, but like I’m a very visual person. So, what I literally think about is this tiny little snowball at the top of the hill, and then you just, ploop, you make the snowball go down the hill. And as it goes down the hill, it’s getting bigger and bigger, but it’s also getting faster and faster. And so, when I think about that, I think, Okay, I have got to stop my negative thought that’s coming in while it’s this tiny little ball at the top of the hill, because if it doesn’t, it will plow me over and I will have a panic attack. And so, the revolutionary idea that I had to understand was that my thoughts matter and my thoughts will cause panic and anxiety. And once I got real with that, and then I realized there’s science behind that, but then the Bible backs that up. I love Romans 12:2 where it says don’t conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It’s this whole idea of okay, what does renewing your mind actually mean? What does it really mean to take every thought captive? And so, for me, it starts with a thought dump. Almost every day, Julie, and I’m not perfect, but almost every day, I will do a thought dump, which is where I’m really saying to myself, Okay, what ticked me off today? What am I frustrated about? What am I worried about? What am I happy about? So, I put gratitude in there as well. But then so what happens is, I began to see a theme. I am worried about my health today, or I am worried about this relationship today. I’m worried about this conflict. So, then I’m recognizing. so, I have these five R’s that I do. So, it’s the thought dump, and then I recognize so what’s the theme of my negative thought? Then I’m gonna replace it. So, what are the scriptures that I can use to replace these lies or these themes that I’m believing about myself? And then I’m going to rewrite it. And so, I’m going to actually take some time to insert God’s truths into these lies that I’m believing, and then I’m going to recite it. And I don’t think people go this far, they don’t talk or say it out loud. So, I take time to speak these rewrites out loud. And then I’m going to repeat it. I’m going to do it over and over. And guess what? The second I’ve mastered that negative thought that I have, another one comes in. So, it’s like, it’s and I have to then refuse to not renew my mind. Like, I have to renew my mind every single day. And so, I like to tell people once you’ve had a nervous breakdown, it’s like a heat stroke situation. Once somebody’s had a heat stroke, they’re more susceptible to having another one. It’s the same thing for me with panic and anxiety. So, I have to guard my heart and my mind, I have to do these thought dumps. It is a necessity in my daily living. Otherwise, I will have a panic attack in three seconds flat, and I know it like I know it. So, if I don’t journal if I’m not diligent about renewing my mind, I’m going to have what’s called a setback and aftershock is what I call them aftershocks, yes.   JULIE ROYS  32:07 Wow! So, it’s not something in a way you are walking with a limp. You’re recognizing this is my humaneness. This is my weakness, and it’s something that you live with, and you can overcome. But it’s like we live with our weaknesses, right? But how beautiful that it forces you to live a reflective life, it forces you to live a life that’s in conversation with your father about what’s true about me and what’s not true. And really daily, putting off the old man and putting on the new man, or the true self and the false self, however you want to call that. you also talk in your book about smoke alarms and recognizing that there’s smoke alarms that are going off. And I think you know, for the first part of your life, you were just ignoring these. Talk about those and how we can be recognizing when alarm goes off.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  32:56 Julie, if you and I were in the middle of this interview right now and a smoke alarm went off, we both would have to go Hold on stop cut the interview, you’d have to edit it, all that stuff. And we would have to pay attention to that smoke alarm. Yet, our body has these beautiful God has designed these beautiful built in smoke alarms that you and I are plowing through every single day. So, I’m very passionate about teaching people about smoke alarms and reminding them not to ignore these things. So, things like clenched jaw, or I always tell people when they’re sleeping, pay attention to where your shoulders are. Nine times out of 10 my shoulders are up here, and I’m supposed to be in bed. Like my shoulders are up to my ears and I’m tense in bed when I’m supposed to be relaxed. So, pay attention like where are your shoulders? How do your shoulder blades feel like how is your body? Are you clenching your fists? These are indicators. They’re smoke alarms, there are stress going on in your body that you’re not paying attention? Are you having tension headaches? Are you often having headaches? Is your stomach often off? Like you feel like you’ve constantly got butterflies? Are you having heart palpitations? Are you having tightness in your chest? These are all beautiful blessings. I like to tell people that sometimes anxiety is my friend, because it says hey Christy, something’s off here. Where are you not trusting the Lord? Where aren’t maybe you’re walking in unforgiveness right now maybe you’re bitter towards somebody, maybe you’ve got a conflict that you need to hit straight on and you’re not doing it? What are the smoke alarms that are going on in your life? Because I promise if we’ll just stop and go okay, Lord, my jaw has been clenched for three days. And I’ve had insomnia for four days. What is it that I need to hear from you on? What is it that I need to do? What is it that I need to trust you on? Just the other day I use a roller to help get the tension out. And I just felt like the Lord was like, hey, you can think about every knot that’s in your body is a way that you haven’t been surrendering or trusting me. And I thought oh man, what a way to look at it. Okay. Like I’m building this tension up, because I’m either trying to take control again, I’m not trusting the Lord, I’m not waiting on his timing. So, it’s like Carrie Underwood says, Jesus take the wheel. I’ve taken the wheel back again. So, it’s so important that we pay attention to the smoke alarms.   JULIE ROYS  35:16 So, I haven’t talked yet about Christian community. But I know for me, and it’s been traumatic for me, and I’ve talked about this in other podcasts, but we lost our church home, or we left. But it was a point at which we couldn’t trust the leaders anymore because of some of the covering up of sex abuse and some things that were happening. But that’s a trauma. And I found, we’ve been in a position in the past year and a half of rebuilding Christian community again, and I’m in my mid-50s, I’m not really enjoying having to do that at this stage of life. And yet God has been so gracious to bring just the people that have come into my life in the past year to 18 months have been just amazing gifts from God. It’s funny, I was talking to somebody just yesterday about the pain that they’ve gone through, in church and in Christian community. And I’m like, can’t live with them can’t live without them. You gotta just press in and somehow find Christian community, whether that’s in a formal church, when I totally get when people can’t. But man, we just, we can’t do it without each other. So, I’m just curious what role that Christian community played in your life, as you began to rebuild,   CHRISTY BOULWARE  36:32 I’m going to tell a little bit of a story because for my journey, letting someone into my mental health space was very challenging. And not everyone earns the right to speak into that deep, dark place. And I learned that the hard way. And so I had to really understand what proper community was first. And Beth Moore has this brilliant quote. She says be authentic with all transparent with most intimate with some. And so, then I had this kind of visual that I like to think about. And so, in the early 2000s, frosted glass in a bathroom was like, on a shower was really in and cool. Now, it’s like clear glass is really cool. But anyway, I have this thought of it’s frosted, glass, Christy, like, when you would walk into a bathroom, and you’re showering and frosted glass, if somebody came in, it would be fuzzy, right? They wouldn’t be able to see everything, they could see some things, but not everything. And I think that’s how we’re supposed to be with most people. Transparent where you can see but not everything. But where I went wrong is I was intimate with so many people about my journey, and my healing, and just my heart. And they didn’t prove to me that they could handle it. And I was destroyed by that. And that actually wound up isolating me more. So, for me, I had to learn what trustworthy people were. And I had to learn that the hard way. And so, community at first wasn’t a great thing for me. And it wasn’t until I had to walk through that, until I realized that once I shared with healthy, trustworthy community, God’s people then that true healing and community took place.   JULIE ROYS  38:22 Yeah, that’s something definitely as I’ve lived in this very public space that I’ve had to learn and learn some of it the hard way, that there are some things you really do have to hold very tightly and only share with really trusted friends.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  38:38 Be a little frosty is what I like to say.   JULIE ROYS  38:40 A little frosty is very true. And especially when you’re in a space where you have as many enemies as I do. You really have to watch that, yet you have to find that place where you can be real but absolutely true that you don’t have to be intimate with very many, even though that’s really important. Well, this concludes part one of my interview with Christy Boulware. And if you’ve been encouraged by this episode, you’re going to love Christy’s book, Nervous Breakthrough: Finding Freedom From Fear and Anxiety in a World that Feeds It. And this month we’re offering Christy’s book is our gift to anyone who gives $30 or more to The Roys Report. As you know, we don’t have any huge donors or grants driving our work, but we have you the people who are passionate about seeing truth exposed and the church restored. So, if you’d like to support our work and get a copy of Christy’s book, just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. But there’s more to come from my conversation with Christy. In part two, Christy tells what happened when she got well enough that she wanted to help others and start her own nonprofit. You would think this would be something that her pastor would be excited about, but instead he tried to shut it down which sent Christy into a tailspin. Fortunately, some wise friend spoke truth to Christy about her pastor and her church.   CHRISTY BOULWARE  40:05 We sought console outside of our local church. And so, I sent the notes over to this pastor, my husband and I, and this pastor and his wife, we sat down over a nice lunch. And I’ll never forget it, Julie, he just very boldly and bluntly said, Christy, we reviewed your pastor’s notes, and we think you’re in a cult. And we think that he is using scripture to manipulate and to control you.   JULIE ROYS  40:31 Well, again, that’s just a taste of the second part of my discussion with Christy, which explores spiritual abuse and how to respond to it. We’ll be releasing part two in just a few days, so you’ll want to be watching for that. But thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. And if you want to make sure that you never miss an episode, I encourage you to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or Spotify. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
7/6/202341 minutes, 20 seconds
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The Megachurch Worship Monopoly, Part II

Guest Bios Show Transcript Hillsong Church has been embroiled in a steady stream of scandals, exposing sexual and financial misconduct—and a toxic and exploitative leadership culture. So, should we still be singing their worship songs? Or should we re-think our song selection and worship sets? In this podcast, Julie continues her dialogue with two collaborators of a groundbreaking new study on modern worship. And in this second of a two-part conversation, we explore the scandals surrounding the megachurches producing so many of our worship songs. As we discussed in part one of our discussion, the new study found that almost all the top worship songs, being sung in churches across America, are produced by just four megachurches. They are Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation, and Passion City Church. Now, the two study collaborators, Elias Dummer and Dr. Shannan Baker, join me for part two, where we discuss the scandals at these incredibly influential megachurches and implications of using their creative content. Elias is a singer/songwriter who’s also worked in marketing and research. And Shannan is a post-doctoral research fellow at Baylor University, who’s studying contemporary worship. So, they know this subject matter extremely well and were able to provide valuable insights. At some points, though, we disagreed strongly. But Scripture tells us that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) and we believe that this kind of challenging discussion helps all of us think more critically and deeply. Guests Dr. Shannan Baker Dr. Shannan Baker is a postdoctoral research fellow at Baylor University, where she recently received the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Humanities. Her research focuses on contemporary worship. She explores the theology of the text, the music and industry of the songs, and its practice in the church. Her hope is that her research will edify the body of Christ by finding practical applications for the worship life of the church. Elias Dummer Elias Dummer, a native of Ontario, Canada, and current resident of Nashville, Tenn., is passionate about the local church. A founding member of The City Harmonic, he was lead singer and songwriter for the contemporary Christian band which disbanded in 2017 after eight years together. Recently, he helped plant a church near Nashville and has released a two-part solo album entitled The Work. Show Transcript ELIAS DUMMER, JULIE ROYS, SHANNON BAKER, PhD JULIE ROYS 00:04 Hillsong Church has been embroiled in a steady stream of scandals exposing sexual and financial misconduct and a toxic and exploitative leadership culture. So, should we still be singing their worship songs? Or should we be rethinking everything, including our worship sets? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And this is part two of my discussion of a groundbreaking new study on modern worship with two study collaborators Elias Dummer and Dr. Shannon Baker. Elias is a singer songwriter who’s also worked in marketing and research. And Shannon is a postdoctoral research fellow at Baylor University who’s studying contemporary worship. In part one, we explored how almost all the top worship songs being sung in churches across America are produced by just four mega churches. They are Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation, and Passion City Church. It was a fascinating discussion exploring the history and development of the modern worship movement. And I encourage you if you haven’t already, go back and listen to that podcast. But in part two, we talk about the scandals these incredibly influential mega churches had been involved in and what that means for worship pastors and congregants. Ours was a very lively discussion, and at some points, we disagreed strongly. But I believe we generated more light than heat. And so, I’m really excited to share this podcast with you. But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out. Just go to BUYACAR123.com. Well, again, joining me to discuss some of the difficult issues surrounding the worship industry, and the songs that we sing every week in church, are Elias Dummer and Dr. Shannon Baker. We pick up our discussion with my explanation of the conundrum I feel in singing worship songs produced by mega churches like Hillsong, which seem so corrupt. This worship was making Brian and Bobby Houston, the founders of Hillsong, rich. It was enriching their son Joel, who was heading up Hillsong worship. In fact, Joel Houston wrote The Stand. And I watched the video, and it was from 12 years ago, I watched it last night. And honestly, I am even now thinking about it. It’s hard for me, because that song, I remember singing, right? I remember being moved by that song. And I’m seeing people on this video clearly impacted singing worship to the Lord. And yet right now it turns my stomach. There’s no way that the people at the top didn’t know what was going on, and what they were participating in. How do we process so much of this? Let’s just look at Hillsong first, and let me just ask you Elias; today, would you play a Hillsong song at your church? ELIAS DUMMER 03:39 Without hesitation. JULIE ROYS 03:41 You would play one? ELIAS DUMMER 03:41 Absolutely. JULIE ROYS 03:42 Okay. ELIAS DUMMER 03:43 I think if you start to go down that road, you may as well rip two thirds of the Psalms out of the Bible. David was an accused rapists for all intents and purposes. SHANNON BAKER, PhD 03:54 And murderer. ELIAS DUMMER 03:55 And murderer. Paul, once upon a time murderer. I think it’s also really easy to look and see a shared last name and assume that everything Joel did, it’s an impossible game to win. And we’ve all worked in and alongside larger institutions. And while there are cultural facets that play out if that’s very true, I think the specifics matter. The sort of Whack a Mole boogeyman thing doesn’t work because it is so often distraction to solving the real problems. I’ll give you a really specific example. In the Hillsong documentary that came out a couple of years ago, I guess now, the last episode of that documentary, the focus on the assaults and the cover ups. That was really the meat of what that thing should have been the entire time. And probably because of the way that Netflix distribution deals work, they had to make three episodes. I’ve been in the media world we all know how this works. They made three episodes out of a one-episode, important conversation piece. And what they filled almost an entire episode with discussions about manipulative music. When in reality, not manipulative music most people would consider to be bad music. Like we literally go to music to be emotionally manipulated. We go to all music for that purpose. And so, it is a tricky thing because we engage music, we love the art, the art does something in us psychologically, neurologically, and emotionally. And then we come out of that, inferring upon its author all kinds of trust, and goodwill and assumption, in most cases, that may or may not be fair. Like, O Holy Night; people love O Holy Night. I might be wrong about this. But I had heard it was written by a guy who’s not a believer at all. So, we have to be really careful with assuming that art and its author always have this direct relationship to its use. I think we’ll be sorely disappointed in the Bible’s authors; we’ll be sorely disappointed in the authors of the Psalms, and we’ll be left with very little to do if we’re looking for humans that aren’t complex to create art. May as well the AI do the rest. JULIE ROYS 06:07 A lot there. Let me push back a little bit. Because I hear the David thing all the time, right? I think one of the things we forget about David is that he was punished. His firstborn with Bathsheba was killed, the Lord took his life. We also forget that David repented. And I haven’t seen repentance from the Houston’s. ELIAS DUMMER 06:30 But we don’t strike the pre repentant Psalms from the Bible. JULIE ROYS 06:33 No, but I’m saying what we see in David is someone that the Lord called a man after his own heart, and part of being a man after his own heart, was how he responded to sin. And he was very repentant in what happened. And when I report these stories, people often say, what are you hoping for? I’m hoping for repentance. I’m not hoping for things to burn down. I’m hoping for the leaders to repent. I have yet to see it. ELIAS DUMMER 06:59 You and I are on the same. I mean, my wife and I had this conversation not too long ago. I’ve had eight senior pastors in my life that I’ve served under or alongside. Of those eight, three are no longer pastors because of something related to sexual sin or adultery or similar things. So, it’s not like I don’t understand what it means to see the scale of the problem. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is, we can’t take for granted like, what is it that Joel Houston is supposed to be? It’s a leap, for example, to say, because this happened at the top, and they share a last name, it must mean that he knew what was going on, it might. JULIE ROYS 07:37 if you look at the whistleblower documents that have come out, the enriching that was going on, was throughout the entire organization. ELIAS DUMMER 07:45 And I’ll give you an example, the reporting on that scandal about a month ago, I believe, indicated as one of its big whistleblower elements, that Hillsong had paid a million dollars in royalties to Joel Houston. And this was treated as one of the negative components. The crazy thing about that is Hillsong was legally obligated to pay those royalties to Joel Houston. They were collected through ASCAP and BMI and these sorts of things. And Joel and Hillsong as the song publisher, now we can have a conversation about that. But Hillsong as the song publisher couldn’t keep the money, it had to go to Joel. JULIE ROYS 08:20 And that’s the way things were set up. I will say right now. ELIAS DUMMER 08:22 That’s how songwriting works. JULIE ROYS 08:24 I don’t know why that wasn’t happening, as I understand, with Vineyard when they were doing it. ELIAS DUMMER 08:29 It’s kind of that’s a different conversation, then. Yeah, yeah, question of whether songs are tracked. And whether the whether $1 exists, that’s never the question. Somebody somewhere made a few bucks. And in the days of Fanny Crosby, it was the hymn publisher who made the money, and it just didn’t happen to flow down all that often. So, there is and always is money in the distribution of goods right? Now, our relationship to that I’m not taking that for granted as good. That’s not my point. My point is that we want to say, the way it is now is uniquely evil. I think it’s different. And I think it’s complicated. And I think if we don’t deal with the specifics, then our efforts to deal with what looks like the problem end up being a little more than hot noise and white noise, that we never deal with the real thing because it’s too easy to dismiss. And Hillsong is filled with examples where that documentary was a perfect example. Somebody could go and what are you talking about? Listen, all music moves me. And then the credibility of the documentary is shot. The documentary has spent an hour talking about something that’s easily dismissed before addressing a thing that’s very much a problem. JULIE ROYS 09:38 I’m not arguing that. Yeah, and I’m not arguing in favor, I think Hillsong there’s been a lot of documentaries made and they’re made by organizations that, frankly, don’t understand half the time. The media organizations they may be trying to do their job, or they may be trying to sensationalize. ELIAS DUMMER 09:54 But there’s a lot of information missing. JULIE ROYS 09:56 But there often is, and this is my thing with so much of the media when they report on evangelicalism. They don’t understand evangelicalism, they don’t understand the church. And so, they don’t, I don’t think they do it well, and they often miss it. And sometimes they do it very well. But sometimes they don’t. But I cannot overlook how big and how much money is being exchanged. And when we talk about these four churches again, the whistleblower documents that were released what it showed, and it called the whistleblower themselves who came from within Hillsong this wasn’t an outsider, this was an insider, called something called the celebrity preacher scam. This whole, you invite me to your church, my church will pay you an exorbitant honorarium, then I’ll invite you to my church, we’ll pay you an exorbitant honorarium. We’ll give you first class or business class travel, we’ll put you up in the best hotels, and who’s the honorarium going to? It’s coming from the church from donors money, but it’s going to the particular pastor who’s coming to speak. And when we look at these four churches, here we go. Hillsong is a number one mega church that’s driving all of this. I would say, it’s so much of this worship music. Louie Giglio of Passion was a regular speaker at Hillsong, pulling honorariums between $5000, which may seem reasonable to $35,000 Australian dollars for each engagement. Bill Johnson, head of Bethel spoke at Hillsong least four times between 2019-2020 making between $5000-$28,000 a speaking engagement that’s in Australian dollars. Steven Furtick, of Elevation Church spoke at Hillsong, at least once. Again, these aren’t the whistleblower documents aren’t comprehensive of everything. it’s what was reported and what we have, but at least once was paid $14,000 to speak at Hillsong. But of course, we know Steven Furtick lives in a 16,000 square foot, multimillion dollar house. I am looking at that seeing in Scripture that you’re right, money isn’t evil, but the love of money is. And when you see these kinds of huge honorariums going to the head of these churches. And you see the kind of collusion when you’re talking about, you can say there’s nothing evil about that. But how much has money perverted, and this is the question, I guess, when we get right down to it, is how much has money and the love of money, perverted not just these churches and the way they’re operating, but the worship industry itself? Because let’s look at the four most powerful churches that influence the songs that we sing. And are they even living in a godly manner? How would Jesus feel if he came today, to those churches? Would he be flipping the tables? Would he be? ELIAS DUMMER 12:36 Those are great questions. I mean, I think it’s a complicated space that we live in, and I Shannon hasn’t as much I’ve lived in that space for the last 20 years. There’s a couple of things to consider. This isn’t necessarily an apologist approach; I’m just throwing it out there. The way that the talent industry works, and the way that the music industry works, and whether we like it or not, that’s what we’re talking about here, talking about people who have managers and agents, and so on. And depending on their book publishing deal, depending on their record label deal, and how it all there’s people who have to share everything, it’s all percentage splits. So, if you are a speaker, and you have an agent, that agents probably taking anywhere from 10 to 15%, sometimes more, depending on their deal, you have a manager who’s taking 15 to 20%, sometimes more depending on the deal. And so, you’re looking at anywhere from a range of minimum 25% to 35-40%, going out the door immediately. So, every fee gets split, and then you’ve got costs on top of that. So even your $5,000 fee starts to look pretty unreasonable for the sort of black and white value that a speaker would bring to attending an event. And now that’s, of course, more true in the conference space than it is true in the local church environment. That’s a different ballgame. But at some point, it does get complicated and weird. You’re right. I will say in from my own life, I’m someone who has gone out of my way to set my life up so that I’m operating with integrity. To some people’s standards, I make good money. The reality is most of that money is made in my business ventures. So, what people don’t, it can be easy. And it’s helpful to have the real black and white documents, of course, but it can be easy to project onto Oh, the fees are there. Therefore, this is happening. When I think of Saddleback and that sort of thing, where the salary was $0. And his books were selling enough that the books bought his house multi times over. And Stephen Furtick’s case I know he’s often listed as a writer; we could talk about that. But at the end of the day, if he’s a writer on all of these big songs, to what extent is that the fruit of his work as a pastor speaker versus the fruit of his work as a creator and that sort of thing? I don’t know that I have the answer to that. I do share your discomfort with it. With the sort of sheer scale and the way that there is this ability to dictate the market when you have a big enough share of the market. That’s true in every market. JULIE ROYS 15:01 One thing, let me just when it comes to Steven Furtick, his name being on all the songs, interestingly, because I’ve spent a lot of time reporting on Harvest Bible Chapel. And James MacDonald was on some of those songs. Luke MacDonald was on a lot of them. I’m not sure what role they actually played on them. But I know when they set it up, you’re right, Vertical Worship, they will get a cut. I don’t know if they’re still getting a cut. I know they were. I also know that those contracts from talking to Josh Caterer who used to be a worship pastor there, but who had been in the music industry for a long time, before he became a believer, actually had a punk rock band. And he said, those were the most exploitative contracts he’d ever seen. In fact, he left because he wouldn’t sign it. But Furtick Yeah, he’s probably getting a commission on the music. Some might look at that and say, well, he wrote it, and he should be a part of it. Some might look at that and say, Well, isn’t that nice? He got his name on there, so he could get the royalty. There’s two ways to look at that. ELIAS DUMMER 15:57 I do know that he contributes to some songs very meaningfully. I’ll say that. He’s not a writer. JULIE ROYS 16:01 Okay. Let me say too, though, when you look at his house, we don’t know his salary, because they don’t disclose it. If you’re a secular nonprofit in the United States, you have to disclose your top wage earners. The only ones that don’t are churches. And why is it that a church, a religious nonprofit where you have people giving to God’s work, why should the leaders there be less accountable than your secular nonprofit? So, we don’t know what his salary is. But we do know that the people that set his salary, who are supposedly providing accountability, are other megachurch pastors. Who are the megachurch pastors that are setting a salary, and what are their salaries, what do they think is reasonable? And the fact that they won’t tell us there is no transparency. So that kind of transparency, like you’re teaching us some stuff about what’s happening in the music industry. But there is a lack of transparency across the board. ELIAS DUMMER 16:51 I totally agree. And I think that’s part of what motivates us a little bit, is the idea that I think we operate with a sort of naive mythos of what worship songs are, and partly evangelicals and Christians, maybe not at large, but evangelicals certainly have this sort of allergy to talking about business in business terms. So, we’re drawn to using spiritually veiling language instead of discussing money as money. I think for me, part of what motivates me in this, and I’ve said this to Phil Wickham, when he asked why we’re doing this, it is, at the end of the day, I think it’s important that we talk about what is true so that we can solve real problems with real facts,. It is really hard if what we’re doing is talking about these ideals we hold about the things and not treating the participants as human beings and not taking for granted that basically caricature which isn’t quite what you’re doing in this case. But I agree with you in transparency, we need to be talking transparently about how money works in the music business, about how royalties work about how we discover songs, but what we really think about that sort of thing, and what we think about where worship songs come from, and why. And if we can have an honest conversation about that, then maybe we can shape an industry which is going to exist in some form, into something that we all feel better about. But if what we do instead, just like with senior pastors, is prop up a sort of mythology of the thing, then we can’t do that. It protects the status quo. Now our team is a bunch of participants. We’re not trying to take this thing down. That’s not at all what we’re trying to do. I probably trust the Joel Houston’s of the world more than you’re prone to do. And that’s fine. But it’s not because I think the sun shines out of something. It’s just as simple as saying, I think our relationship to art is complicated. And the industry, which we’re all forced to participate in, in doing this is also very complicated. And naivety around that is part of what contributes to the degree of hurt that so many of us experience. JULIE ROYS 18:56 Shannon, let me ask you, when we’re talking about some tough things, and I liked that this conversation has gotten real. I think it’s healthy to have this kind of back and forth. But as you look at scripture and principles, what should be guiding us as we do try to evaluate this industry and these kinds of issues that we’re talking about? SHANNON BAKER, PhD 19:20 Yeah, I think the guiding factor for me, as I’m thinking about, I’ve also been a worship pastor at a church for a few years, is when we’re looking at all of these songs, I think, above all else, making sure that we’re selecting songs, wherever they come from, that have solid, biblical and theological truths that align with interpretation of Scripture, for your context, I think is the most important factor. And I think I’m being broad intentionally because there are churches that will use Bethel songs and have no problem with Bethel theology. And will use Bethel songs. Great if it’s edifying your church and people are coming to know Christ, awesome. Because that’s the goal, right is to have more and more people drawn to Christ. I know there are other churches that don’t agree with Bethel’s theology, and will not use Bethel songs, and they’re finding other songs, and people are coming to know Christ. And I think at the end of the day, yes, it’s helpful to know who the songs are by. I mean, Elias has already given a lot of contexts for maybe how to approach who the artist is. But I think for me, it’s really just important that whatever you’re singing is theologically true and aligns with good interpretation of Scripture. So, and I think what really comes down to that is some people would look at these four mega churches and say none of them do. They’ll look at all four of them and say, the songs, none of them are theologically true. It’s all heresy. Which, you know, that’s their prerogative. I think there are some great songs coming from these churches. But I would say for the ones who just blindly use the songs from these four primary contributors, just for whatever reason, maybe they don’t have enough time to listen for new people, or they just trust them. So, we’ll use whatever they get from them. I would just challenge to look for the songs that are maybe a little more hidden. Spotify makes it really easy. And whatever songs you find, just remembering too, yes, music can be manipulative, but making sure that the words we’re singing and that worship pastors are choosing for people to put on their lips and say before God, are theologically true. JULIE ROYS 21:41 I’m trying to think the on the list that I saw, was In Christ Alone on there? SHANNON BAKER, PhD 21:46 So that song was written before 2010. JULIE ROYS 21:49 I was gonna say that would be an outlier. SHANNON BAKER, PhD 21:52 It does appear it says there are a few outliers like that. In Christ Alone I believe appeared on almost every single list in the 2010s decade. So, there are a few of those songs that are still sung just weren’t new songs on our list. JULIE ROYS 22:08 That would be one, I would say it’s theologically rich. But you’re right. That’s a good question. We haven’t really talked that much about the actual content of the songs and what’s happening with them. We used to have a joke, I know at our church, that there are meteorology songs, let it rain and let the winds blow and the song, and some of them have very little theological content. Although I will say too, one of the things I think that worship music gets really pounded for is people say, Oh, it’s just mushy, love songs. And when I look at the Psalms, that’s a lot of mushy love songs in there. And people would say, we sing them over and over again. And I’m like, What do you kiss your wife over and over again? Yeah, I mean, I think we forget that this is relationship with God. And I appreciate what you brought up there, Shannon. At our we had a Restore Conference last year. And it was our second one that we’ve done, but it gathers a lot of folks that have been hurt or wounded by the church. And in our first one, I intentionally wanted to have worship there. I know there’s some people that will be like, when you gather people who have been wounded by the church, these are just all triggers for them, and some will go so far that we shouldn’t talk about God because they were hurt by the church. And if we don’t talk about God, and we don’t invite the Holy Spirit to be present, then we’re cutting ourselves off from the source of our healing. And that will be devastating to us. So, the first one we did that we actually had a band. The second one, I just really felt it was important to strip it all down. And so, we just had a guitar and the worship leader brought, he did bring somebody who played keyboards and would sing background, but it’s very stripped-down worship. And almost all of our songs were hymns. Because I did notice that so many of the worship songs today, for these people who have been hurt in the church, have triggers for them. But it makes me wonder but for the people listening who have been through sort of a church hurt experience, and they’re looking at these songs or even looking at how it can be done differently, speak to them. How should they look or approach this worship music that and I understand what you’re saying Elias. Handel’s Messiah, I don’t think Handel was a Christian even. And yet we worship with it. But yet I think now because of the current cultural moment that we’re in, with so many of these scandals blowing up, and because of people being wounded in those environments, what would you say to them when they say, I know a lot of them saying, I have trouble even entering into worship anymore, because of what happened to me. ELIAS DUMMER 22:55 Sure. Yeah. That’s definitely a heavy thing to think through. And like I mentioned earlier, not something that I don’t personally understand exactly. My own main mentor in life is somebody with whom I have a complicated relationship in my mind. I think of stuff going on over in the UK right now as a really good example of the same sort of thing and people like Matt Redman are commenting on it. So, I think there’s this. JULIE ROYS 25:17 And let me just for those who don’t know about that, we actually just published a story not long ago about Mike Pilavachi, who was the founder of Soul Survivor, which brought huge youth festivals, would bring in like 30,000 youth from all around mostly UK, but really all around the world. People would come from all over. ELIAS DUMMER 25:34 It was hugely influential for me. JULIE ROYS 25:36 And what’s coming out is that a lot of allegations that he abused these young men who were a part of the Ministry of Soul Survivor, and Matt Redman was one of the early people that came his worship music really became popular through Soul Survivors. Go ahead. ELIAS DUMMER 25:52 Yeah. So, all that to say, I think there is often this kind of flattening of the question of experience of church based on the platform versus not the platform, that I don’t know if it works in reality. I think there is a pretty big gap between the senior pastor in the church and everybody else very often. And there’s just people have different roles to play, and they play them. And so, I think, experientially, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be easy to be in a context where you’re experiencing something that for you is associated with pain and hurt. I can understand that. And I can understand needing to work through that. But at the same time, we’re human beings. So, if I think about like, what it means to think about humans coming together in worship, there isn’t really another activity that’s as unifying, in a holistic sense, in an embodied sense, as song. And so, it’s difficult to think of something which would cause 300 people to pray the same thing at the same time and feel something about it. It’s basically music, that’s what we’ve got. There’s no easy answer to that question, I guess is what I’m saying. It just really is a difficult thing to work through. I think where it gets hard is when we start to want to remove anything that can be very difficult. I don’t know exactly how we do that, and then not end up with something which is as lifeless and soulless, and almost dualistic in a sense. We start to take the things like the one that gets raised a lot in my world is that question of emotional manipulation. Is worship music emotionally manipulative? And my answer is yes. And the reason is, what I said earlier. We look to music to do that thing; that’s music’s function is to move us. And the person who first sought to manipulate the music was the writer trying to manipulate themselves, in a sense. Like trying to bring about in them a feeling that conveyed the thing they were trying to put across. And it’s so easy to look at the people doing this and infer intent and infer sort of malice, where maybe it might exist, and it might not. And I wish there was an easier answer for this. But in my experience, there isn’t. It is just a complicated thing that is hard to wrestle through, if you’ve been through that sort of hurt. I’m writing songs like this. And I was talking with my friend Chris, who’s in a band called Brain Collective. And we were writing a song together. And we were saying how it can be so hard to write worship songs, because every song is practically an existential crisis. You don’t have that when you’re writing love songs about your wife, it’s not the same. And so, it’s not as though the writers of these songs are lacking gravitas and are not wrestling with these questions themselves. They are. They’re often some of the first victims of it. And so, I think we need to be comfortable, or we need to at least do the work of seeing things for what they are and what they are not and approaching them as such. And yes, that can be like untangling a ball of yarn. But on some level, if we hope to still be around in this thing. That’s work we have to do. And it’s hard. JULIE ROYS 29:11 I know for me, there was a period where I couldn’t listen to any modern worship. I’ve come back to being able to and I lead worship, just in a small context now. But being able to play some of those songs that have such positive connotations for me, where it says in Scripture, come back to the things that you did at first, and often those are those songs that are so meaningful, that first connected me with the Lord. And so, I found that very meaningful. Now, will I ever be able to sing an Elevation song again? Or Hillsong? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. That would be really tough for me personally, but I hear what you’re saying. And I appreciate it. Shannon, any final thoughts on your part before we sign off here? SHANNON BAKER, PhD 29:58 I guess my final thought would be our study focused on the 2010s decade. It focused on the previous decade leading up to the pandemic. The worship landscape now, the contemporary worship landscape now looks very different, and there is starting to be a shift. That is encouraging. There are new artists that are emerging. One of them seemingly has no connection to these big four. Her name is Charity Gale. She’s becoming more and more popular. Maverick City is coming up. Other names are becoming known whether they have associations to these big four are not. So, I would say, on an encouraging note, the 2020s, I think, are going to look very different than the past decade. And there are a lot of positive changes that I think are coming. JULIE ROYS 30:48 Is there any chance that somebody who just writes songs and isn’t a great singer or performer, that their song will ever their worship song could ever be played? SHANNON BAKER, PhD 30:58 If they’re not the one particularly recording it or releasing it themselves? I think they can collaborate with some people who are, and it probably will get known that way. But without, right now, I think unless you’re latching on to an artist that’s becoming popular right now without a connection to them, or getting and landing a big record deal, I think it’s very difficult. Which again, puts the burden on the worship pastor and the worship leader to take the challenge and the responsibility to seek out lesser-known artists who are writing great songs. You just have to look for them. JULIE ROYS 31:38 And maybe within your church context, there can be songs that are just yours, and are happening being written by your own people. Well, Shannon, and Elias, thank you so much for this challenging discussion and for the insights you have from the study. I know it’s continuing to be released. I think you’ve released like three articles, which is releasing part of your study. But like a total of you expect about eight, right? So, we’re not even halfway through some of the unveiling that’s going to happen. So yeah, I look forward to that and to reading those. But thank you so much for taking the time today. Really appreciate it. Well, again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’ve appreciated this podcast, would you please consider supporting the work we do at The Roys Report? Its generous supporters like you that make this podcast and all of our investigative work at The Roys Report possible. And this month for gift of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Wounded Workers: Recovering From Heartache in the Workplace in the Church. I know a lot of you who listen to this podcast have experienced church hurt, and many may be in a situation right now where you’re trying to evaluate whether to stay or to leave. This book is especially designed for you, and I think you’re going to find it invaluable. So, to donate and get a copy of Wounded Workers just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
6/5/202333 minutes, 41 seconds
Episode Artwork

The Megachurch Worship Monopoly

Guest Bios Show Transcript What comes to mind when you hear Hillsong? Elevation? Passion? Bethel? You may think megachurch. You may think controversy or scandal. But you also may think of music. And chances are, if you were in church last Sunday, you sang a song produced by, or associated in some way with, one of these four worship powerhouses. In this edition of The Roys Report, two collaborators of a new study on worship join me to discuss their stunning findings. Perhaps the biggest jaw-dropper is that almost all the top songs sung in churches across America over the past decade have been produced by just four megachurches — Hillsong, Elevation, Bethel, and Passion City Church. And what’s especially concerning is that some of these megachurches have been embroiled in scandal and have ties to questionable theology. Hillsong, for example, has been embroiled in one scandal after another for the past two years, involving alleged sexual misconduct, fraud, spiritual abuse, and toxic leadership.   Bethel has attracted controversy for promoting bizarre practices like “grave soaking.” Elevation, Bethel, and Hillsong have been accused of promoting the prosperity gospel. And Passion Lead Pastor Louie Giglio was a frequent speaker at Hillsong and participated in what some have dubbed Hillsong’s “celebrity preacher’s scam.” So, what does it mean that these churches have essentially had a monopoly on worship in American churches? Historically, how did we get here? And how should churches and worship leaders navigate this current music landscape?  These two guests bring much wisdom and experience to the discussion. Dr. Shannan Baker earned her Ph.D. in Church Music and is affiliated with Baylor’s Christian Music Studies program. And Elias Dummer is a veteran worship leader and singer-songwriter with decades of experience on the inside of the Christian music industry. Guests Dr. Shannan Baker Dr. Shannan Baker is a postdoctoral research fellow at Baylor University, where she recently received the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Humanities. Her research focuses on contemporary worship. She explores the theology of the text, the music and industry of the songs, and its practice in the church. Her hope is that her research will edify the body of Christ by finding practical applications for the worship life of the church. Elias Dummer Elias Dummer, a native of Ontario, Canada, and current resident of Nashville, Tenn., is passionate about the local church. A founding member of The City Harmonic, he was lead singer and songwriter for the contemporary Christian band which disbanded in 2017 after eight years together. Recently, he helped plant a church near Nashville and has released a two-part solo album entitled The Work. Show Transcript SPEAKERS SHANNON BAKER, PhD, JULIE ROYS, ELIAS DUMMER JULIE ROYS 00:04 What comes to mind when you hear Hillsong, Elevation, Passion, Bethel? You may think megachurch, you may think controversy or scandal. But you also may think of music. And chances are if you were in church last Sunday, you sang a song produced or associated in some way with one of these four worship powerhouses. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys and joining me today are two collaborators on a new study exploring the songs we sing in church and the affiliations that produce them. Stunningly, almost 100% of the top 25 worship songs of the past decade were written or in some way connected to just four mega churches. And those mega churches don’t necessarily have the best reputations. Hillsong, for example, has been embroiled in one scandal after another for the past two years. These involve allegations of sexual misconduct, fraud, spiritual abuse, and toxic leadership. Bethel has attracted controversy for promoting bizarre practices like grave soaking. Elevation, Bethel and Hillsong had been accused of promoting the prosperity gospel, Passion is perhaps the least controversial among the four though Hillsong whistleblower documents show that Passion pastor Louie Giglio was a frequent speaker at Hillsong. And he participated in what some have dubbed Hillsong celebrity preachers scam. So what does it mean that these organizations have essentially had a monopoly on worship in American churches? Historically, how did we get here and what’s the takeaway for worship pastors and congregants? I’m super excited to explore these important questions with my guest today. But first, I’d like to thank our sponsors, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Curt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go toBUYACAR123.COM. Well, joining me now is Elias Dummer, a Canadian born singer songwriter from Hamilton, Ontario. He was the lead singer of a contemporary Christian band called The City Harmonic which disbanded in 2017. After eight years together, Drummer also helped plant a church near Nashville. And in 2019, he released his first solo album called The W, Volume I. So, Elias, welcome, and thanks so much for joining me. ELIAS DUMMER 03:01 Thanks for having me, Julie. JULIE ROYS 03:02 And before I introduce Shannon, can you just tell me how you got involved in this worship leader research project and what your role in it was? ELIAS DUMMER 03:10 The worship leader research is a follow up to some research that was done by two of the partners in our team, Mike Tapper and Mark Jolicoeur, which looked at the shelf life of worship songs and how that’s changing, and maybe has come to reflect, say, a big pop single more than it used to. And so, I knew Mike and Mark, both being Canadian, and all Canadians know each other. No, I played a show at a church where Mike used to pastor and it was quite a memorable event where the fire alarm went off, and we. And it’s the concert in the parking lot, and all kinds of stuff like that. So Mike, and I’ve kept in touch quite well over the years. And he knew that I had been involved in other domains as well. In addition to music, I’ve run a strategic marketing consulting firm for 16 years. The idea of interacting with the kind of follow up project and looking at what some of the implications of the data we happen to have. And not only what has been going on in popular worship for the last 30 years or so; we’re one of a handful of people who have that data, but also building out sort of project which looks at the ways that worship leaders themselves view the major producers of worship and kind of understand their own role and what they think they do versus what they actually do and that sort of thing. That’s really where I came in my history in marketing was bridging the industry, the music industry, of course, and the sort of attitudinal market research component, which has been really fun. JULIE ROYS 04:43 Yeah, and fascinating that you wore so many hats that really dovetail together in this entire project. Also joining us is Dr. Shannon Baker, a postdoctoral research fellow at Baylor University. Shannon’s work focuses on contemporary worship, the theology of the lyrics, the music and the industry of the songs and their practice in the church. Sounds like some fascinating work, Shannon. So glad that you could join us. SHANNON BAKER, PhD 05:07 Happy to be here. JULIE ROYS 05:08 And you bring in, as I understand, the know-how on the methodology and how to go about the study. Is that correct? SHANNON BAKER, PhD 05:15 Yeah, so I’m operating as our academic data specialist. So, my role was to really crunch the numbers, get findings that our group could talk about and discuss since it is a collaborative project. So, our methodology for this project was very similar to some other research that I’ve done. There are so many different ways to approach studying worship music. So, in order to find popular songs, there’s a couple key places that researchers will typically go to examine contemporary worship songs. And one of the top ones is the CCLI, Christian Copyright Licensing International outputs top 100 lists based on church reporting. So obviously, at least on the academic side, that’s the go-to place to find out what the popular songs are. But there’s also some criticism about who is represented by that top 100, which churches report to CCLI. So, to try and mitigate some of the criticism we might receive from focusing on just one list, we did cross reference with another list or multiple lists that you can find publicly from praise charts. So, looking to cross reference to figure out what those top songs are. And yeah, that’s how we eventually got down to the collection that we studied. JULIE ROYS 06:38 And CCLI is something that you’ll often see projected on a screen if you look really carefully. And I don’t think a lot of people understand how that works. But when you project a song, and there’s a CCLI license, somebody’s getting a royalty on that song, is that right? SHANNON BAKER, PhD 06:53 Yes. So CCLI’s role is to consolidate the process for churches to use copyrighted songs. So, a part of that process is they provide churches the ability to legally use copyrighted music, in exchange for the church’s having to report back to CCLI, the songs that they use, and then CCLI takes care of paying out the royalties to the appropriate people. JULIE ROYS 07:19 And a lot of that is good in the sense that, you know, Elisa, you’re a singer songwriter. You want to get paid, and you need to get paid, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yet, at the same time, I think there’s a growing discomfort in what has been recognized as an industry and evangelicalism in a way is an industry. And we talk a lot on this podcast, even about the Evangelical Industrial Complex, and all of these are interconnected, and synergistic, and sometimes ungodly in the way that they cover for each other with certain things. So, there is I would say on this podcast, probably a following of people that become increasingly concerned about how that all works together. And can we have something where money is involved, and money exchanged, and have it be holy? And when we’re talking about worship music, one of the most personal, one of the most intimate parts of our relationship with God is worship. It’s the one thing that we give back to God, right?, is worship. Everything else he gives to us. And so, this is just a fascinating topic. But also, it’s something personal, probably to everybody listening, if you have a relationship with the Lord. ELIAS DUMMER 08:26 Sure. Yeah, it’s probably worth adding that it’s almost 100% because there are two notable exceptions. But basically, as Shannon said, we cross referenced these mega lists. And naturally, we ended up with a bunch of titles and filtered out songs which were written or produced prior to 2010. Because we were mostly interested in where new songs are coming from and what are the attitudes towards the people who make them and that sort of thing. And so, after doing that, we ended up with a scant 38 titles. So, in 10 years, a total of 38 titles reached the top 25 of those two lists, is what it comes down to. JULIE ROYS 08:26 So let me just dive in to probably what is maybe surprising, maybe not surprising, because I think there’s this understanding that, wow, a lot of these songs sound alike these days that we’re singing. I’m not sure that a lot of people mind that because they become so popular. But you found that 100% of the top 25 worship songs from 2010 to 2020, because that’s where your study was, came from just four mega churches: Bethel Church, based in Redding, California, Hillsong Church based in Sydney, Australia, Elevation Church, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Passion City Church, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Elias, let me throw this to you. Walk us through how your team made that discovery. ELIAS DUMMER 09:55 So, of those 38, a majority, I think it’s in the mid 60% range were directly attributable to those four churches. So, by that, I mean, they either released them themselves, or they had a co-writer on the song, regardless of who the artist was. So that is a direct tie. Then you have a second group, which is not quite as large of songs which might be, let’s say, affiliated with that movement. And so that would include an example like, say, Great Are You Lord, by All Sons and Daughters, is a song that at first glance doesn’t appear to have anything to do with any of these churches. And so, you start to notice when we did this by tracking published dates on YouTube, of covers at churches, and so on, that the song was covered meaningfully and repeatedly, prior to appearing on the top 25 of the two charts. So, once you start counting, for those, only two out of the 38 songs don’t fit that pattern. So they are either all directly attributable to these four churches, or attributable by affiliation. Now, I’m friends with a lot of these people. So, I need to be intentional in saying, Hey, this is not taking anything away from those artists. In fact, my own song, Manifesto, which came out in this window and was in the CCLI charts, would have fallen into the Passion category. Charlie Hall covered it and so on. So, and I’ve was never signed to Passion, they didn’t write the song, it’s just different. What we were interested in partly was how do worship leaders view these things. And I think sometimes it says though, there’s, I want to say, as though there’s this worship leader cabal of this church guys, which in some cases, there’s other important conversations to be had. I think this probably says more about guys like me planning worship at the local level, even than it does about the institutions themselves. So in any case, by affiliation, or direct association, all but two songs were tied to those churches. And those two songs, one is from North Point, so itself, a mega church. And the other was a Phil Wickham song called Great Things, which is sandwiched between two big songs he wrote alongside Bethel. So, it’s hard to say that it played no role at all. But for the purposes of our study, we certainly couldn’t attribute it that way. JULIE ROYS 12:16 But Northpointe big mega church right there in Atlanta right next to Passion, and this is something I found when I was at Moody Radio for 10 years, is that at the top, it’s a really actually a very small group. And a lot of people know each other. And so, there is, and can be beautiful collaboration. For example, one of the songs Phil Wickham, he describes how Bethel Church really was instrumental in his song, This Is Amazing Grace, becoming popular, and talks about how it was picked up by somebody at Bethel. I think it was Jeremy Riddle, who was at Bethel at the time, now he’s at Dwelling Place, which used to be Vineyard. Whole entire, we actually just published a piece on that, and then a lot of scandal going on there allegations of abuse. But anyway, I digress. But he rewrote some of it for Bethel, then Bethel released it, and then Phil Wickham’s song got out there. It kind of seems like I remember in the days when I was growing up, and this dates me, but for a comedian, the goal was to get on the Johnny Carson Show. And if you got on Johnny Carson, that was sort of launch your career. With music, country music, especially, you got to play the Grand Ole Opry, right? Has it become like that, in that if you’re a musician, if you’re a worship leader, if you want your song to get out there, these are the gatekeepers. ELIAS DUMMER 13:37 Yeah, I think there’s something to that. I don’t know if it’s quite that simple. But part of it is there has been a lot of research done on how listeners in general approach new music. And so, it can be tempting to say, Oh, this is a gatekeeper in the sense that they are controlling the industry. And I think it’s more complex than that. I think we tend to look at all music through kind of a social lens, before we decide to even check it out. And if you think worship pastors are notoriously overworked for their, in terms of the deliverables they have to have versus the time they have in a week, and it’s just at some point, there’s going to be some natural bottlenecks. And so, it makes sense, as disappointing as it can be as a songwriter myself, that is true for all intents and purposes. Without a rubber stamp of approval, it can be difficult for a song to sort of pop through that wall. But some of it is created by circumstance and the environment that we’re in and how we listen to all music as well. So, it’s just a complicated problem. So, it’s interesting that you use the term gatekeeper because in my research recently, I used that term for a different set of people, the worship pastors, and the worship leaders at the church. JULIE ROYS 14:53 Oh, interesting. SHANNON BAKER, PhD 14:54 Right? Because just because a song is written or released by these major contributors doesn’t mean it’s getting sung in the church. Someone has to select that song to use in the church. And that was the second part of our study that we looked at and should be released hopefully soon. But we looked at quantity of how many songs are being released by these primary contributors, versus how many songs actually appear on our list. And the percentage is very small, from the 10 to 12 songs that are released on an album, only two or three actually get major use in the church. So, while you could view these major contributors as the gatekeepers of the industry, keeping other people out, really, if their songs aren’t getting sung, they aren’t becoming those primary contributors. So, the real gatekeepers are the worship pastors who are choosing to continue to select and use regularly these major contributor songs. JULIE ROYS 15:57 Okay, that is a really interesting point. And I’m curious, Elias, you’ve been a worship pastor at a church, right? So how would you determine what songs to play? ELIAS DUMMER 16:10 I mean, it is hard when you in my case, I’ve run several companies alongside working at the church. So, it’s been years, it’s been years since I was full time at a church. So, I was part time. And in part time capacity, there’s a limit to how much time I can spend listening to music and still do the rest of my job. And so, at some point, you are looking at the charts to see what’s working, and how do I shortcut what to check out what to discover and that sort of thing. And so that absolutely plays into it. You hear through, say, Facebook groups and different things like that, stories of a great song that’s really hitting and maybe you check it out, maybe it’s a fit for your church, maybe it isn’t. But it is, I think, absolutely fair to say that the gatekeeper for as far as the writer, songwriter, recording artists record label is concerned, the real gatekeeper of worship music is the worship director. It’s an interesting thing about CCLI, for example. It’s not like when your church happens to play that song, you’re cutting a check to a church, it doesn’t work that way. It is more like a pie system, where a CCLI takes in all of the reporting for that period, and then divvies up all of the royalties received based on a percentage share of the plays in that period. And so, it’s not a per play payment, which really skews the way that the data works a little bit, and explains exactly why during your reporting period, the person dictating exactly how rich Chris Tomlin is, is the worship pastor. JULIE ROYS 17:40 Okay, that’s an interesting perspective. And I do want to dive into looking at some of these mega churches where this music’s coming from. But I think you make a really good point. And I’ve said this before, too, with so many of the scandals even that I cover or the accountability. It really depends on the consumer to a certain degree. And we look so much at what’s happening at the top. But we have to realize at some point, we’re driving this as a consumer, we’re in the church, we’re the ones that keep going to these churches, we’re the ones that allow it to happen. And so, I think sometimes there’s a lack of knowledge. And so that’s one of the things we try to do is bring information, bring knowledge so that you can be an informed, and I hate to say consumer, I can’t stand that our churches have become so consumeristic. But it just, in some ways, is the way that it is. But before we talk about that, I just want to table that for a second and back up and talk about how this developed, because I was in the Vineyard movement for about 10 years, many years ago, but I actually had it, I loved it. This was back when John Wimber was a part of it. And it was a very different philosophy of why we did worship and why Vineyard music was there. It was my understanding that John Wimber he was trying to document what God was doing in the churches. And honestly, I’ve never seen such nurture of worship leaders as I did in the Vineyard. And I played guitar, not really well. Took a few classes in junior high. But it was in the Vineyard. There’ll be classes, oh, you play guitar? Come, we’ll train you to be a worship leader. And so everybody was getting trained on how to be worship leaders. And then you were deployed into your small groups to lead worship. And then you just started doing it more and more, and we had so many worship leaders. And as a result, there was so much songwriting happening. And it was grassroots. It was from the worship leaders up and then really what Vineyard my understanding Vineyard music, was trying to capture what God was doing in the church through the songs. So instead of it being like it is now where you have these big names producing all this stuff, and then the worship leader going to this big, centralized location, it seemed like it was very much grassroots from the bottom up, and then trying to record it So give us the history of kind of how it started. Initially a lot of this contemporary Christian music getting played in the churches started with Calvary Church and the whole Jesus People movement, which was very much driven by bringing the songs that were popular to people, hymns were getting sidelined, and putting things in the vernacular, musically speaking of the people. So, whoever wants to take that one, I’ll throw it out. And would love to hear you describe how it began there. ELIAS DUMMER 20:21 Sure, I’m pretty familiar with this. I will say I’m not are resident historian. Adam Perez, in our group, is our historian. So, he definitely has more details than I do. But I would be remiss to not mention that the whole movement actually started in the 1940s when a man 1940s and in Canada, no doubt. So, in the 1940s. JULIE ROYS 20:46 Okay, let me just stop you there. I would say some people would say it goes all the way back to Martin Luther. He used to take bar songs, right? And bring him into the church, the tune just changed the words. But anyway, go ahead. ELIAS DUMMER 20:57 I would just say there’s a theory out right now that there’s two different streams that eventually culminate into the way that we understand contemporary worship music today. One of them does start in Canada in the 1940s with a man named Raj Loiselle, who started in his church, what came to be known as the Praise and Worship movement. Where you would start with the praise song and then move into a slower time of worship. So that was back in the 1940s. So, it has existed since then. But yes, the Jesus People movement, Calvary Chapel in the 1960s is the other stream, the contemporary worship stream, where a lot of I think more of the industry side a little bit starts a little bit more with creating music that’s getting recorded and distributed. So, you have, as you already mentioned, Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, and Integrity Music were the three big contributors and creators of this music in the 1960s, 70s and into the 80s. SHANNON BAKER, PhD 21:59 And I think the main thing that we see as the movement continues to develop is each of these individual churches, as you even kind of mentioned, were writing songs for their church networks,. Vineyard was writing songs and singing them and sharing them with Vineyard churches. Same with Integrity music was sharing it within its networks, Maranatha within the Calvary Chapel Network. So, most of these churches songs were staying within their church networks. As it continues, and we start to see more and more of the individual church solo artists, you’re Michael W. Smith, and a few others in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, you get Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin. The one thing that we start to see in the 2000s, pushing into the 2010s, is this desire for that solo worship artist to be housed within a church, because it lends them this extra measure of authenticity. So that’s when we really start to see worship music come back into being housed within the church is because the solo artists are finding homes and leading regularly at their home churches. Which then leads to all of these home churches creating their own worship bands, which is what we see now is the major development in the 2010s is the development of the church worship band. So that’s when you have Passion becoming a little bit bigger. They existed because of their conference in the 2000s. But really, as an established band led by Chris Tomlin in the 2010s. You have Elevation emerging right at the beginning of the 2010s decade. Bethel comes on the scene 2010. Hillsong has been around for a while, but you have these two new major players emerging that are these church worship bands onto the scene in the 2010s decades. So that’s how we got there a little bit. But the main difference now, and Hillsong recognized this, after a while because they’ve existed for a couple of decades. Is they realize their global reach. And so started to acknowledge that and write with that in mind. These other churches, depending on who you talk to, Elevation worship still describes their process as writing songs that they’ll use in their church. Bethel, in a similar way, you know, leads their songs at their churches, and Passion in the same way. So, all four of these major contributors do lead their songs at their church and in some cases, exclusively, as far as we know, at least as far as they’ll produce on YouTube. Hillsong primarily does Hillsong songs and Elevation primarily does Elevation songs, but for the most part sharing with the rest of the church. JULIE ROYS 24:53 One group we haven’t mentioned yet and I don’t see it in your study, and it might be because they become much bigger in the past, probably five years ,is Maverick City Music, which is this collective as I understand it, bringing more persons of color into the scene which had been really white dominated. And of course, they’ve been connecting a lot with Elevation. Do you see any difference with what Maverick City Music did? Or do you see it just following the pattern that we’re seeing? ELIAS DUMMER 25:22 There are a couple of factors there. Like you said, they do a lot of collaborations, Elevation, that sort of thing. It’s not known necessarily by all but Maverick City’s first writing camps were funded by Bethel, at least in part. JULIE ROYS 25:36 Oh, interesting. I didn’t know that. ELIAS DUMMER 25:38 And that’s what I mean by this sort of, it’s tempting to look at this and see this evil cabal of people. It’s like, well, they’re also trying to solve the problem that we all see at the same time. I think the question even and Maverick City is actually a very good example of this, Elevation is a good example of this, is the degree to which the movements we look at the artists we look at, the labels and churches we look at are interfacing with the music industry as we know it. And how we understand that is I really think the question that screams from it all, Maverick City pivoted to these kinds of pay to attend writing camps eventually. They started charging serious ticket money and filling arenas very, very quickly. That’s not as necessarily as a critique. I’m a recording artist myself. I just think the way that we talk about all of it, and I think you’re doing a good job of this, but the way that we talk about all of it needs to be earnest and transparent. Because there’s always been money in Christian music. Every part of what we do, somebody somewhere is making it, distributing it, and sharing it. And there’s $a dollar involved along the line. And I think the advent and proliferation of streaming can’t be overstated, as just dramatically changing the way this whole thing works. If you think about it, based on the radio numbers, my estimates are somewhere between 70 and 80% of church going Americans don’t listen to Christian music outside of church. The only place that they’re hearing most of these songs until they’ve heard them and come to like them, and then go listen to them is at church on a Sunday. And in many cases, one of the dominant ways that new music, like Maverick City, is discovered is through Spotify playlists, and that sort of thing, a lot of which is managed by either algorithm, or literally three people. But it’s this strange relationship between the local church and the music industry that I think we’re not really talking about. Most of the time, when we talk about this, we’re still operating on the models that Vineyard and similar movements popularized, and taking those for granted when we look at the new way, and they couldn’t be further apart. I mean, The Blessing is a really good example of that, a very popular song. I think we as a worship pastor, I would often take for granted that a worship record heard was an album of songs, which had grown up in a church network or in home group somewhere, and became a song that had been tested, if you will, in the local congregation,. The Blessing was written on a Thursday and played and released to the public on a Sunday. So, this is the song which was ultimately even if it was from that church was ultimately industry first. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing. It’s just, it was a Beyonce style move. Not a Wimber style move. JULIE ROYS 28:29 I know I’m looking at it, and I am uncomfortable, because I loved the songs coming from the people where the Holy Spirit was anointing it, and people were beginning to sing it. And then I’m not saying it can’t happen the other way. Obviously, God can anoint any means of in ways of things happening. But probably my biggest discomfort when I read this study was that the four churches that we’re talking about: Hillsong is embroiled in a major scandal. We’re talking sexual misconduct, financial misconduct, abuse of volunteers and interns. It was a toxic culture. Hillsong College, toxic culture. And yet this was one of the if not the most influential church movements because of not because of the preaching of Brian Houston. I’ve never heard Brian Houston preach before I started researching this. Not because of anything other than the music. In fact, people look at Shout to the Lord by Darling Zscech. Boom! That put Hillsong on the map. I didn’t even know what Hillsong was before Darlene Zscech. That’s what most of us think of at least in the States, when we think of Hillsong. This worship was making Brian and Bobby Houston, the founders of Hillsong, rich. It was enriching their son Joel, who was heading up Hillsong worship. In fact, Joel Houston wrote The Stand. And I watched the video, and it was from 12 years ago. I watched it last night and honestly I am even now thinking about it. It’s hard for me, because that song, I remember singing, right? I remember being moved by that song. And I’m seeing people on this video clearly impacted, singing worship to the Lord. And yet right now it turns my stomach. There’s no way that the people at the top didn’t know what was going on and what they were participating in. How do we process that that so much of this? Let’s just look at Hillsong first and let me just ask you Elias, today, would you play a Hillsong song at your church? This concludes part one of my podcast with Elias Dummer, and Shannon Baker. In part two, you’ll hear how Elias answers my question. You’ll also hear some difference of opinion and a lively exchange as we hash out respectfully those differences. We also forget that David repented, and I haven’t seen repentance from the Houston’s. ELIAS DUMMER 31:01 But we don’t strike the pre repentance Psalms from the Bible. JULIE ROYS 31:05 No, but I’m saying what we see in David is someone that the Lord called the man after his own heart, and part of being a man after his own heart, was how he responded to sin. Well, I especially enjoyed the second part of my interview with Elias and Shannon, and I think you will, too. These are difficult issues, complex issues. And as Elias explains, they’re ones that he encountered personally, as several of the pastors he served under left their positions because of personal sin. So be watching for part two of this discussion, which we’ll be releasing soon. Also, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and appreciate our investigative work, please consider donating to The Roys Report. As I’ve said before, we don’t rely on big donors or grants or advertising. We rely on you, the people who want the truth and are passionate to explore these issues so the church can be renewed. To support our ongoing work, go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
5/31/202332 minutes, 38 seconds
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She Deserves Better II: Modesty Messages

Guest Bios Show Transcript Is it true that men are visual in a way that women will never understand? Or that boys can’t help but lust if a girl is dressed like she’s inciting it? In this edition of The Roys Report, we continue a two-part discussion with Sheila Wray Gregoire on toxic teachings on sex and womanhood within the evangelical church. You just heard two doozies. But there are more, like: A girl has a responsibility not to be a stumbling block to the boys around her by what she wears, and Girls who dress immodestly are worse than girls who dress modestly If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve probably heard these teachings. But are they true? And what kind of outcomes do these teachings produce? Sheila answers those questions, drawing from a survey her team conducted involving more than 7,000 women. She also shares what one thing our daughters most need to hear if they’re going to grow up healthy in the church. Guests Sheila Wray Gregoire Sheila Wray Gregoire is an author, podcaster, and researcher into evangelicalism and sex. The founder of BareMarriage.com, together with her team she has surveyed over 32,000 people for her books The Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better. Her goal is to change the evangelical conversation about sex to be healthy, evidence-based, and rooted in Christ. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband. They have two adult daughters and two grandbabies. Show Transcript SPEAKERS SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE, JULIE ROYS JULIE ROYS Is it true that men are visual in a way women will never understand—or that boys can’t help but lust if a girl is dressed like she’s inciting it? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And in today’s podcast, I continue my two-part discussion with Sheila Wray Gregoire on toxic teachings on sex and womanhood within the evangelical church. And you just heard two doozies. But there are more, like: A girl has a responsibility not to be a stumbling block to the boys around her by what she wears, and Girls who dress immodestly are worse than girls who dress modestly. If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve probably heard these teachings. But are they true? And, what kind of outcomes do these teachings produce? Sheila will answer those questions, drawing from a survey her team conducted involving 7,000 women. She’ll also share what one thing our daughters most need to hear if they’re going to grow up healthy in the church. We’ll get into our conversation in just a minute, but first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast—Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JJUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. We now return to part two of my conversation with popular marriage blogger Sheila Wray Gregoire about her book, She Deserves Better. We pick up our conversation with talk about the purity culture and modesty. JULIE ROYS Obviously, there’s been a lot of pushback on purity culture. In fact, you mentioned in your book about Matthew West, when he had that song come out about Modest is Hottest. And I know he said it was satire. And maybe it was kind of tongue in cheek, but at the same time, it’s sort of double down on some of these purity messages that are so, so damaging. I mentioned that I read this book, at least portions of it, with my daughter who’s 21. She really resonated, especially with the discussion on modesty, I think, because there’s just been so much trauma that she’s experienced, that I think a lot of girls experience. And yet I think, you know, as parents, we’re like, oh, jeez,, what do we do with this? I mean, it is really, really difficult. But talk about some of these modesty messages, how they’re communicated, and what is communicating to our daughters, how are they internalizing these things? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE So, we wanted to really flesh this one out, because we knew this was going to be a big one. So, we asked about four different iterations of the modesty message, when the girls had believed. S we didn’t just say, Did you think you had to be dressed modestly? We asked it in four different ways. So, we asked girls if they believed boys are visual in a way the girls will never understand. Boys can’t help but lust if a girl is dressed like she’s trying to incite it. A girl has a responsibility not to be a stumbling block to the boys around her by what she wears. And girls who dress immodestly are worse than girls who dress modestly, and we let people decide what worse meant. So that was up to the survey taker. All of those messages are horrible. They all have terrible outcomes. But I’ll tell you the two with the worst outcomes: is the two about boys about boys natures. When girls believe that boys are visual in a way that girls will never understand, and boys can’t help but lust, when you take those girls and look at them long term, they are 52% more likely to have a sexual pain disorder called vaginismus as an adult. And vaginismus is largely a condition of evangelicals. It’s when the muscles in the vaginal wall contract so that sex penetration becomes very painful, if not impossible. A lot of women can’t insert tampons without pain. It’s really debilitating. And we found an incidence rate of around 23%, which is at least two to two and a half times the rate of the general population. If you talk to any pelvic floor physiotherapist, they will tell you most of my patients are evangelicals. And so, there is something about our teaching that is actually hurting women’s bodies. And in our first book, our first big book, The Great Sex Rescue, what we found is that obligation is really highly correlated with vaginismus. So, when you tell a woman you’re obligated to give your husband sex if he wants it, her chance of experiencing sexual pain increases to almost the same statistical amount as if she had been abused. So, women’s bodies interpret obligation as trauma. JULIE ROYS It is abuse, isn’t it? It’s essentially psychologically abusing them so that they’re conditioned to a certain behavior. I mean, it’s really, really damaging. And yet harkening back to my Moody Radio days since we’re talking about this, I know on Moody Radio, when we would talk about this issue, so many people will call in and quote Scripture about the woman needing to please the man. I mean, it’s just, it is mind blowing to me. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Yeah, it really is. So, you know, the obligation is dramatic. But we also found that modesty is dramatic. And especially not all of it is all of the modesty messages results in the higher rates of sexual pain, but especially the ones about boys. Because what those messages tell you is that you can never be safe. You live in a world where boys will always objectify you, where boys and men will only ever see you as sexual objects, all your dreams of intimacy, they’re just pipe dreams, and you’re just never safe. And this is what we’ve told women and girls, so they’re 52% more likely to have sexual pain, they’re 68% more likely to marry an abuser. Interestingly too, believing the modesty message means you’re more likely as well to be assaulted as a teenager and more likely to be in churches where other people around you are assaulted. Because churches that teach the modesty message, guess what? Predators love those churches. Because those churches are telling your daughter, if he lust after you, it is your fault, not his. JULIE ROYS And what does it do to the boy to be continually told that you have a sex drive you can’t control? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Oh, I know. I mean, this drives me nuts too. Because for boys like we’ve also conflated noticing with lusting, right? So, if a boy notices that a woman has a good figure, he thinks he’s already lusted after her. And then we tell him that you know this is hopeless because you’ll never get over it. I mean, the Every Man’s Battle Series actually tells boys that we know the reason for sexual sin among men. You got there naturally simply by being male and they say men just don’t actually have that Christian view of sex. Like no! women do not have the Holy Spirit more than men do. JULIE ROYS That is so so damaging. And I’m so glad that you’re calling this out. And clearly, if this is the view that you have, I mean, it seems like and when you’re talking about the low self-esteem, and so many of these girls like they begin to internalize the message that they’re an object, right? They’re nothing more than an object. And you were even saying later down the line that it’s not just in high school. But even as these women get older, tell me what your survey found as far as their self-esteem, and their ability to even view themselves rightly as I get older. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Yeah. So, if you believe those modesty messages as a teenager, you’re 30% more likely to have low self-esteem below average self-esteem as an adult. Like this affects you long term. And it’s interesting, because whenever I talk about modesty on Facebook, people will always say, Well, sure, I mean, girls aren’t to blame if boys lust, but, and there’s always a but, right? But girls need to understand how boys are visual and how they can’t help it. It’s like no, stop it. Like what our data shows is that you cannot say that. When you say girls need to just understand what boys experience then you are saying it is okay to live in a world where girls are 68% more likely to marry an abuser, where girls are 52% more likely to have sexual pain. No, that is not okay. And we can expect boys and men to respect women. Can I tell you some of the worst examples of the modesty message? JULIE ROYS Yes, please. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE So, this is from Dannah Gresh’ Secret Keeper Girl curriculum, which was quite popular in sort of those thoughts and onwards. She wrote a lot for Braille magazine about modesty. She had Secret Keeper Girl conventions all across North America. She’s now rebranded to True Girl, and the curriculum was changed a bit, but it still focuses on modesty and not encouraging men to complete the picture of your body. And its addressed to 8- to 12-year-old girls. So, there was this one fashion test that girls were supposed to take. So, you’re supposed to raise your hands, it’s called the raise n’ praise. And if your belly shows, that’s bad, because and I quote, bellies are intoxicating. And then there’s a conversation, a script that moms are invited to have with their daughters, where you explain what intoxicating means to your daughter, how intoxicating is like when he’s drunk and has gotten out of control. And God created men to be intoxicated by your body. And that’s a beautiful thing. But God only wants one man to be intoxicated by you. And that’s your future husband. And so, you need to cover up so that you don’t inadvertently intoxicate other men. Let’s break this down. She told girls as young as eight, that the sight of their bellies would make adult men out of control, and that God made it this way. And that’s not Christian. That’s pedophilic. And how did nobody say anything? JULIE ROYS That’s a good question. I mean, what explanation do you have for that? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE I think we are so enamored with the idea that men can’t help it. So, everything has to be on women and girls to control it. That we just give in to this. You know, we also looked at the adult women because most people who believe this modesty message as teenagers do not believe them today. That’s the good news. So, most people believed all this stuff in youth group have deconstructed a lot of these beliefs. So, but when you look at the women who haven’t, when you look at the women who still believe the modesty message, which would include women who are teaching it, because most of these, most of the stuff is taught by women, when you ask girls who told you to dress modestly, overwhelmingly, they will say by other women. So, it’s largely women who are teaching this stuff. Well, the women who believed the modesty message as adults, are far more likely to be in abusive marriages, they’re more likely to be in marriages where their husbands use porn. They’re more likely to be in marriages where they are worried about how their husband looks at other women in public. They’re more likely to have lower self-esteem themselves. And so, I wonder how much of it is women. And this isn’t all women, okay? This doesn’t mean that if a woman believes in modesty message, she necessarily has a bad marriage, she’s just more likely to. But how much of this is women not wanting to believe there’s something wrong with their husband, and so they’re just trying to control what their husband sees? Because that’s something they feel they can control, since they can’t seem to make a difference with him. JULIE ROYS And I’m wondering how much of it too is devaluing yourself so that when you’re dating, and these red flags come up, it’s kind of like, well, this is how I’m used to being treated. Or this is all I deserve. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Yeah. And actually, this is actually one of the big things we talk about is because if you tell girls, hey, boys can’t help but lust after you. And hey, all boys are visual. All boys are going to check girls out. This is what boys do. This is the male objectification of women and male sexuality are one and the same thing. If we tell that to girls, and then they’re dating someone who’s constantly checking out other girls who’s constantly making comments about other women’s bodies, are they going to realize that guy is a creep? Or are they just going to think I guess that guy is just a man? JULIE ROYS Exactly. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE You know, we’ve taught them don’t look at red flags. Red flags aren’t even real because all guys are like this. You can’t expect anything more. JULIE ROYS Let me just play devil’s advocate, because I know there’s probably some people listening who are gonna say, Well, okay, those modesty messages, you’re saying those were damaging. But at the same time, I’m super uncomfortable with what my daughter is wearing. Or when you go shopping with your daughter, it’s tough even finding, you know, I find it kind of tough to find decent clothes. As Christian parents, how do we talk about this with our daughters? And you know, to the person who’s saying, Hey, listen, can we really go overboard with this? Because look, you know, what the culture is doing? Speak to that person right now who’s feeling that way? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Yeah. So first of all, I do want to say that in She Deserves Better, we do have like, a really good exercise to do with your daughter after the modesty chapter on how to talk about clothing that has nothing to do with not causing him to lust but has to do with how do we be appropriate? How do we be kind? How do we not flaunt our wealth? Which is actually what the Bible is talking about when it talks about modesty. JULIE ROYS Right about braiding and gold. And yeah. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE So, we do walk you through so that that can really help. But let me just say this, when I was 18,19,20, mom jeans were really in style, right? So, you had the narrow waist, and then everything got really big. So, nothing was tight around your butt. And it was quite high waisted. And this is just what I was used to. And so, I would wear these for years, and then more of the form fitting jeans came in, and even the low-rise jeans, and I didn’t wear them forever, because I thought that is scandalous. Like that is absolutely scandalous. But then after a few years, I realized everybody is wearing these, and nobody seems to care anymore. And so, I got some and I actually liked them, you know. Now I’m kind of happy the waist have gone back up a little bit because I was kind of tired of always having your butt crack showing. But you know, like things are, things are better. But the point is, when something becomes common in the culture, it loses its effect. Okay? So, let’s take yoga pants. Gen Z, I’m sorry, I’m Canadian. So, I will say Gen Zed, but okay, Gen Z guys. Do not notice the yoga pants on the whole because everybody was yoga pants. And once everybody wears yoga pants, it’s pretty much lost its power. Boomer men notice the yoga pants, because when Boomer men were young, no one wore yoga pants. And so, Boomer men and Gen X Men are just going, oh my gosh, look at her in the yoga pants. But to other 20-year-old guys, they don’t see it. And we need to stop judging the younger generation by our standards, because look at what the younger generation was. And if you have a daughter who was wearing exactly what every other 19-year-old or 18-year-old or 16-year-old or 15-year-old wears, she isn’t being immodest not for her culture. Because there are some cultures which consider shoulders super immodest, but cleavage is fine, right? There’s cultures where you can basically go topless, but you could never wear pants, you have to be in a skirt like, things are different. It’s all very cultural. And there isn’t one particular body part that is always going to turn on men, it really is largely cultural. So, I would just really encourage people to stop thinking about certain fashion trends as being terrible. And start thinking instead about ideas of how to get dressed so that you respect yourself so that you show that you respect others so that you’re not off putting, I mean, you know, like, I think there’s issues if you’re wearing tons of piercings and tons of mean tattoos, like that’s a question too, because what are you saying to other people about whether or not you want to be friends with them, or whether you’re comfortable around them? Right? So, there’s lots of issues other than just showing skin. I think we can talk to our kids about consent, like there are certain parts of my body that someone would need to consent in order to see. Like, you’re not supposed to just go flashing your boobs in the grocery store in our culture. And so, I don’t ever want to show any parts of my body that somebody should legitimately have to consent to see because then I am violating their consent. So, you know, so you can have those kinds of conversations, but we just should not be pairing it with the idea that boys can’t help but lust. JULIE ROYS In your ministry or business, your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully, you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it, and Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For a free consultation go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM. You talk about the one thing that parents should consider non-negotiable if they want to raise a healthy daughter, What is that one thing? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Your daughter needs to be able to disagree with you. She needs to be able to use her voice. That’s such an important thing. Because if your daughter can say, you know, Mom, you know, Dad, I think you’re wrong, then she’s going to be able to say that, in the future, if she’s married to a husband who isn’t treating her well. She’s going to be able to say that in a work situation, and speak up for others, she’s going to be able to say that in an unfair educational situation. But if she doesn’t feel like she can ever disagree with you that her voice doesn’t matter, she’s not going to learn how to speak up. And one of the most important things that your daughter needs to know is that her voice matters, and her opinions matter. That doesn’t mean that you have to agree with her. But you can honor her and let her speak up without punishment. And when we model that at home, then she’s going to be able to do it in other places where it is ever so important. Because so often instead, we think that obedience to parents means that you have to go along, and you have to agree. And that is how churches end up becoming abusive. Let your daughter have a voice. JULIE ROYS That’s interesting that you say that, because that’s the one thing I’ve talked about in my home that I grew up in, where we would have just really spirited discussions about everything under the sun at the dinner table. And we’re kind of weird because we never took it personally. It was like sport for us, like we loved it. And you know, every now and then it would kind of get, you know, to a certain point, and my parents had kind of tried to tone it down. And at that point, it was too out of control. But it wasn’t till I got older that I realized you offend people when you do that, because nobody got offended in my family generally, like when we talk about ideas and different things. But I realized now, that was in same ways, training me for a lot of what I do today. And I know my daughter recently was at a job where she’s in college, but she’s, you know, having to work restaurant jobs. And she had one boss that was horribly abusive. And she got up and she walked out and reported him to her boss. And he was moved to a different place. And I remember asking her I’m like, if you hadn’t reported that, would somebody have said something? And she’s like, No, he just would have kept doing it. And he was, you know, sexually harassing people. He was screaming at them. I mean, all of this. I was so proud of her for doing that. I mean, I felt so good about that she’s learned that you matter, that you have worth, that nobody has a right. You know, I don’t care whether it’s a boss, I don’t care whether it’s an authority figure in the church, I don’t care who, nobody has a right to degrade you or to cross your boundaries or to treat you as less than human. That’s not okay. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE And why hasn’t the church been teaching that to girls? JULIE ROYS Patriarchy maybe? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Yeah, well, I think it I guess it must be but it’s like it doesn’t come from Jesus. How can anybody claim they know Jesus, and then try to control and try to blame girls for boys sins? Like, and it’s not only in the in the sexual realm there. Shanti Feldhahn wrote a book called For Young Women Only. Shanti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice. And it was based on a survey that she did of boys, and it was directed at teenage girls, this book. She also wrote a lot for BRIO magazine, Focus on the Family. And in it, she was talking about how boys have trouble often expressing their feelings. But what boys really, really need is unconditional respect. And she didn’t just mean the boy you’re dating, like all boys around you, they need unconditional respect. I don’t have a problem with that. If by respect you mean listening to them talk, you know, honoring their boundaries, treating them like a person. But then she says some boys have trouble expressing their feelings. And so, if you’re trying to figure out if you’ve crossed the disrespect line, watch for anger. JULIE ROYS So, their anger is your fault? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Right. So, if he’s angry at you, you must have disrespected him. Now, if you’re a girl, and you’re in an abusive relationship, what are you going to think? Or maybe you’re not in an abusive relationship, but you’ve just internalized this teaching, and then you get married. And you start thinking if he treats me badly, it’s because I’ve disrespected him because I haven’t unconditionally respected him and given him complete deference. JULIE ROYS What an awful message and that is making women small. And I love your chapter on women deserve to be big, right? I love that. And those messages, those weren’t just for girls, those were for wives too. I remember being in Bible studies and being told, if you know the right answer, don’t say it in front of your husband. cuz he needs to do that, and you can’t be too much. And it’s like, I remember listening to this. And I’m just like, Who are these, like insecure men who can’t even have their wives disagree with them, or know more than them or whatever? I mean, it was just pathetic. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE If you’re driving in a car, and he turned the wrong way, don’t say anything, because that wouldn’t be good. JULIE ROYS It’s just so bad. And I think we should be respectful of each other. You know, I mean, I don’t like it if my husband says something nasty when I’m driving, which he never does. And he’s just not like that. But I mean, respect one another is a good thing. But these messages that women have to be less so men can be more, it’s just, it’s really gross. Two groups of people, I want you to just before we get off this podcast to speak to, and one is the mom right now who’s feeling a little panicked, because she’s like, Oh, my word! What messages has my daughter been getting in church? How can she know whether or not these harmful messages are being taught by her church? And then what can she do about it if she finds out that they are being taught? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Okay, well, first, some good news that I do want everyone to hear. Religiosity, church attendance, believing in Jesus, these are all good, good things. So going to church women who go to church as kids, they’re going to have better marriages, on the whole, when they’re an adult, they’re gonna have higher self-esteem. The church tenants believing in Jesus, all good things. But and here’s the big but; once girls start to internalize some of these toxic messages, like about consent, how boys can’t help it. And so, you need to stop the sexual progression. So, about modesty, about being small about not talking so much, once they start to internalize those things, the benefits of church attendance disappear. And in some cases, it would have actually been better not to have gone to church at all. So that’s the sobering part. That doesn’t mean every church is bad, though. So, everyone, I want you to go back in time to your grade four math class, and your learning averages. And what you’ll know is that the average means that you’ve taken all of the data from all these different things, and the average is less than the best, but better than the worst. And so, if we know that the average of church attendance is good, but we also know that these toxic teachings are bad, there has to be something bringing up the average. So, it means there are churches doing these things right. There are youth groups, maybe the church isn’t that healthy, but the youth groups actually pretty good, you know, or whatever it might be, there might be some good youth leaders. And so, it’s really incumbent on us to take a look at what is being taught in youth group. And often youth group is so separated from the adult church that you don’t always know what’s going on. So, I would just say, volunteer. You know, talk to your youth pastor, what are you teaching about modesty? What are you teaching about sex? So, your church, maybe your church doesn’t talk about gender dynamics very much. Like it’s a relatively healthy church, there’s lots of women on the platform too, the pastor doesn’t say anything openly misogynistic. But what you need to understand is in youth group, all they talk about is relationships and dating. So even if they don’t say it in the main church, whatever they believe, is going to be exponential in youth group. And so, find out what is being taught in youth group. You know, if the youth leader is teaching something weird, give them a copy of She Deserves Better, and see what they think. Because a lot of times, it’s not that people deliberately want to spread toxic stuff, and that they won’t listen, they just honestly don’t know what else to do. And this has been in the water. And so, I’ve heard from so many women this week since the book released where they’ve gone to their youth pastor, and the youth pastor has been excited about the data and the graphs and the charts in the book. And they’re like, oh, wow, okay, this is a new way to talk about it. And that’s great. But if they don’t listen to you, then you need to take a good hard look. Because if your daughter, maybe you’re a healthy family, you know, you don’t teach this weird stuff, you actually communicate really well. But if your daughter is in a church that is teaching her not to use her voice, that she talks too much, that she’s easily deceived, that boys should be deferred to, even if these things aren’t taught explicitly, but if that is the message that has been given, she’s more likely to go to church camps with people who believe even more conservative things to go to Christian colleges where they might believe even more conservative things to marry someone who was way more on that spectrum. And so, we need to think, okay, is this the social group that I want for my daughter? And that’s a hard conversation to have. But you’ve just got to be involved. You got to meet your kid’s friends, meet your kid’s youth leaders, because our girls deserve our attention, and our girls deserve us to put in the work to figure this out. JULIE ROYS And can I say they also deserve youth groups where they’re not just talking about relationships? Like, yeah, I thought it was so good in your early chapter where you talk about how when you were in church, and you were in youth group, I mean, you were talking about your relationship with Jesus. I mean, I remember when I was in youth group was some of the most profound spiritually formative things happen to me. I mean, we were talking about Jesus, we were talking about the Holy Spirit, we were talking about, you know, missions, we were talking about, you know, reaching our friends for Christ. That’s what we were talking about. We really weren’t talking about relationships that much. I mean, of course, we were with our peers all the time, you know, but yeah, yeah. I mean, we were talking about what is the most important thing is to love God right? And then love others. You know, I mean, we were talking about the mission of the gospel. And I think it’s sad and pathetic, that our youth groups have degenerated into all we talk about is relationships and dating. I mean, I remember we focused on Bible study, and worship. And we’re like, if you want to go to the youth group that entertains you, the world entertains better than the church anyway. So go there, but we’re going to be about Jesus, we’re going to be about worship, we’re going to be about the word. And people came, you know, that’s the thing. I think there’s such a spiritual hunger. And so, I just think it’s so reductionistic, that when we think that our youth, which most people become believers between the age of 16 and 24, this is their prime spiritual formation time, and you have an incredible opportunity to really mold their souls and begin to really introduce them to Jesus Christ in a powerful and personal way. And it just grieves me that we’re not doing that more. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Yeah, exactly. I was the same too. Our youth group we were how to give your testimony how to reach your school for Christ like that’s, so we were so interested in it. And I don’t know why things changed except the church as a whole changed. And we started emphasizing gender essentialism and male hierarchy a lot more in the late 90s and early aughts than we had in the 80s and 90s. And there really was a big conservative resurgence. JULIE ROYS Lastly, I wanted you to speak to the women my age, your age, you know, maybe a little bit younger, or even the millennials. I know I, I listened to the bodies behind the bus your interview had with John Harris and her talking about so many of these messages. I think the millennials really internalized a lot of these, but who are just saying, Man, I did internalize these messages, and I’m realizing how harmful it is. And yet, it’s hard to erase those tapes. If you were taught these messages, it just goes deep, especially then, if you went through the you know, Nancy DeMoss. What she said to teenagers is one thing what she says to wives doesn’t get a whole lot better. And so, I know people who are in that camp. Speak to that woman about how does she begin to heal and adopt more healthy messages about herself and her worth? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE I think I just want to say I’m sorry. Like I am so so sorry. I subscribed to BRIO magazine for my daughter, Rebecca. And she devoured that magazine. And she developed an eating disorder because she thought she was fat. Because of the modesty rules. They told her she had to be able to pinch an inch of fabric or else she wasn’t modest. Well, my daughter was very slim, but very curvy. And in those days, there were no genes where you could pinch an inch. And she told that story. I didn’t even know that story. She told on a podcast recently. And I started crying because that was another thing I didn’t know as a mom, I was an involved mom, I should have known, and I didn’t. I got her that magazine. I gave her I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I put her in two different youth groups that were teaching her all of these negative things. Now, thankfully, we had a great relationship. And we could joke about a lot of these terrible messages. And I raised a daughter who could speak up to youth leaders, and that’s wonderful. But she should never have been put in that position. And a lot of people weren’t able to speak out, they were just told your voice doesn’t matter. Because you’re a woman. And that was never Jesus saying that. That was never Jesus saying you don’t matter. The longest conversation we have recorded of Jesus with another human being was this with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus spoke to women. Jesus treated them like people not like objects. Jesus wasn’t trying not to lust after them. Jesus wasn’t bouncing his eyes so that he wouldn’t sin with temptation. Jesus looked at them and saw them. And that’s what you should have had. You should have had people seeing you seeing who you were, instead of judging you and accusing you of being a temptation or being a stumbling block or being bad and it can get better. I think Jesus really wants this to get better and I think Jesus really wants you to know his heart for you. That your voice matters, that you’re not easily deceived that you don’t talk too much, that you aren’t just a stumbling block that you are precious. And so I hope, I think She Deserves Better can be so healing, just to hear what you should have heard all along, and maybe give you a glimpse of Jesus’s heart so that you can hold on because I know there’s so many people who are struggling with faith and thinking, should I just throw it all away, because this is so toxic, and it should never have been. And I just hope and pray that there is a new revolution coming in the church where people are gonna say enough is enough. We need to get back to Jesus’ heart for people because we all deserve better. JULIE ROYS That’s so good. And, you know, we just celebrated Easter not long ago. And it just reminds me the first people that Jesus appeared to were the women, the women who in that culture, couldn’t even be a witness in a trial because their testimony wasn’t even thought to be worthwhile and be credible. And yet Jesus appeared to women and told them to go back and tell the male disciples that he had risen. Just so much affirmation from Jesus and I think if we just would be biblical, instead of extra biblical in the way we teach about these things, it will be much better and I just thank you, Sheila, for bringing us back to that and for writing this book and so, so excited to have you come to Restore and to meet you in person will be just so much fun. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE Yes, I’m excited about that too. JULIE ROYS Well, and just a quick reminder that if you’d like to join us at the Restore Conference where both Sheila and I will be speaking, just go to Restore 2023 dot com. That’s Restore 2023 dot com. Also, if you’d like a copy of Sheila’s book, She Deserves Better, you’re in luck! We are giving away the book to anyone who gives a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report. Plus, your gift will help support great podcasts like this. To give your gift—and get a copy of She Deserves Better—just go to Julie Roys—spelled ROYS—dot com, slash donate. That’s Julie Roys.com/donate. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. That way, you’ll never miss an episode! And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then, please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks for joining me today! Hope you were blessed and encouraged! Read more
5/16/202334 minutes, 21 seconds
Episode Artwork

She Deserves Better

Guest Bios Show Transcript Is the church conditioning women to think less of themselves? And do the most common teachings girls hear in youth group make them more likely to marry an abuser? Less likely to understand consent? And more likely to blame themselves if they’re assaulted? In this edition of The Roys Report, we’ll explore these topics with Sheila Wray Gregoire, author of a fantastic book exposing toxic church teachings on sex and women titled She Deserves Better. Sheila and her team surveyed more than 7,000 women for this book. And what they found was truly eye-opening—and concerning. They found, for example, that the emphasis on sexual purity can backfire. Instead of helping girls make good choices, it can actually shame them and then prime them for abuse. Similarly, much of the teaching surrounding modesty can lead to low self-esteem and body image issues in girls. In this podcast, Sheila breaks down these toxic teachings. And we discuss how to really protect our daughters, so that they can experience healthy relationships—with men, with themselves, and with the church. Sheila Wray Gregoire Sheila Wray Gregoire is an author, podcaster, and researcher into evangelicalism and sex. The founder of BareMarriage.com, together with her team she has surveyed over 32,000 people for her books The Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better. Her goal is to change the evangelical conversation about sex to be healthy, evidence-based, and rooted in Christ. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband. They have two adult daughters and two grandbabies. Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE JULIE ROYS 00:04 Is the church conditioning women to think less of themselves and do the most common teachings girls here and youth group make them more likely to marry an abuser, less likely to understand consent and more likely to blame themselves if they are assaulted? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be speaking with Sheila Gregoire, author of a fantastic book exposing toxic church teachings on sex and women called She Deserves Better. Sheila and her team surveyed more than 7000 women for this book, and what they found was truly eye opening and concerning. They found, for example, that the emphasis on sexual purity can backfire. Instead of helping girls make good choices, it can actually shame them and prime them for abuse. Similarly, much of the teaching surrounding modesty can cause low self-esteem and body image issues. In this podcast, I’ll explore these toxic teachings with Sheila, and we’ll discuss how to really protect our daughters so that they can experience healthy relationships with men with themselves and with the church. I’m so excited to explore this topic with Sheila. But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JJUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. Well again, joining me is Sheila Gregoire, founder of BEARMARRIAGE.COM, the largest single blogger marriage blog. She’s also an award-winning author of nine books, including The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex and her latest, She Deserves Better. Sheila is passionate about changing the evangelical conversation about sex and marriage to line up with kingdom principles, and she’s passionate about calling out abuse and making church a safe place which makes her a kindred spirit. So, Sheila, welcome and I’m just so excited to talk to you about this book. It’s a fantastic resource. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 02:39 Thank you, my friend, it’s good to join you again. JULIE ROYS 02:41 And again, being you’ve been on my podcast before but before I recorded this podcast with you, I went back and listened, and I’d forgotten all about this. But you and I were on Moody Radio together back when I did my show, UP for Debate, talking about of all things, modesty. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 02:58 I know. It’s funny that things come full circle. JULIE ROYS 03:03 They do and I think both of us if we were to record that today would probably be in a little different place. So, a lot has happened in the past five or six years. And I think that’s a lot of what we’re going to be talking about, the evolution of things within the evangelical church, a lot has changed. But unfortunately, a lot has stayed the same as well. And so really looking forward to diving into that. Before we go any further though, I also want to mention that I have an exciting announcement that you will be coming to The Restore Conference on October 13 and 14th. So, so excited about that and about having you join us. So, thanks for agreeing to do that. I’m just thrilled that you’re gonna be there. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 03:41 Well, I’m just so excited to meet people in real life. You know, you feel like you type into your keyboard all the time. And I’m so yeah, I’m so jazzed to see everybody. JULIE ROYS 03:49 Yeah, and for those of you who don’t know what Restore is, it’s a two-day conference for folks that have experienced church hurt or those who are allies of these folks who have experienced church hurt or church leaders, especially we would love to see church leaders come. I know at the past few conferences, that’s been an area that’s been growing people coming saying we want to know how to minister to people who have been through these sorts of church hurt experiences, and some of the other folks coming, Wade Mullen Mary Demuth, Lori Ann Thompson, who I know is your fellow Canadian, there in the great white north. So really excited about that. If you want more information, just go to RESTORE2023.COM. But Sheila, to get to your book., She Deserves Better. I just finished reading it last night. It was outstanding. And what was really kind of fun is that my daughter, my 21-year-old is home and so I got to read portions to her, and she was like, man, I want to read this book this is an outstanding book. So, you got the thumbs up from my daughter as well. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 04:55 Oh, that’s great to hear. JULIE ROYS 04:57 Yeah, it was really cool. And I know that we’re going to have a lot of conversations around this book. And actually, after each chapter, you have discussion questions that moms and daughters can have these conversations, which, what a great resource. I mean, I think this is going to be so helpful for moms and daughters to engage over these topics. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 05:16 That was really our prayer. We have about 1000 people in our launch team, which has been crazy. And a lot of them are saying, I’m either reading it so that I can talk to my daughter better, or I’m reading it to reparent little 15-year-old me. Yeah, cuz it’s all this stuff I should have heard, but I didn’t. JULIE ROYS 05:31 Yeah, yeah. Well, I love the premise of your book that women deserve better, especially women within the evangelical church. And I have to say, it’s just been sad to see in so much of my reporting that women in the church are not believed, a lot of the time, they’re silenced. They’re gaslit, they’re fed lies about who they are, and about their worth. And so, I see that changing, and the culture is changing. I think we’re just on the cusp of that change. But I think you’re a big part of that. And your advocacy and your voice has been so important. So, thank you for that. And looking forward to unpacking that. I had to laugh at the opening of your book, when you talk about growing up with blue eyeshadow, the Brady Bunch, and learning to play guitar using Amy Grant tunes, while on summer missions trips. I think we must have had the same adolescence. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 06:21 Yes, with the bangs that go really high too, right? You’re teasing your bangs. JULIE ROYS 06:25 Yeah, man. My hair, I think from one side to the other was about a foot, you know, I mean, yes, it was the 80s. But we really did have different messages when it comes to sex and marriage and dating. You know, you said that you dated a lot in high school, I dated a lot in high school. I came from a very strong Christian home. I dated non-Christians, which I’m not sure that was the best thing. You know, I look back and I’m like, ooh, some stuff could have gotten really bad. It didn’t. But it could have. But yeah, I mean, that was the culture we grew up. And our daughters, on the other hand, grew up thinking, if you’re in certain evangelical, conservative churches, that dating was taboo in the church, you know, we had books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The purity ring’s became a thing. You would think that given all of this emphasis that we’ve had in this, you know, latest generation on dating and sex and everything, that it would produce a lot better marriages and a lot healthier marriages. That’s not what you found, was it? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 07:30 No. Exactly. When purity culture came in, and you can kind of date it to the mid-90s, maybe to like 2015, although I think it’s still there. It’s just using different words. But the message is that we’re really taught especially to girls ended up having really significant long-term effects that were harmful, which is so sad. And I don’t think the intention was ever that. I think that the people teaching this stuff had good intentions, but they just didn’t realize the implications of what they were saying. And so that’s what we’re trying to do in She Deserves Better, using actual research. We surveyed 7000 women, to see how their experiences as teens in church and the messages that they were told in church, how those impact them long term. And the picture is not pretty. JULIE ROYS 08:20 Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, because in the church, so often we talk about all the dangers that are outside the church. And you actually found that the messaging around some of these things is actually more healthy in the secular culture, which is shocking, then in the church. Am I getting that right? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 08:38 Absolutely. Especially around things like consent and date rape around ideas that women have worth and that our voices matter. Those are things that are definitely healthier in secular spaces. And I think that’s tragic. And it needs to change. JULIE ROYS 08:54 Yeah. And when we’re talking about this, though, even though we’re talking in the church, these messages that we’re gonna be unpacking, these are biblical messages. It’s not like Christianity has been tried here and found wanting, it’s like, I kind of think of it like it’s a Pharisee ism, on top of what the Bible actually says. We’ve created these rules on top right? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 09:15 Yeah, exactly. Because when you look at the negative things that we measured, Jesus never said them. Jesus, in very many cases said the exact opposite. And yet, our church culture has created gender dynamics that are really harmful for girls. And we need to confront that because our girls do deserve better our boys deserve better. And we deserved better in the past too. And I think if enough of us look at this, honestly, if we’re willing to look at this, I think we can do better for the next generation. And I believe there is such a hunger and an urgency to this. I think people are ready. JULIE ROYS 09:52 Let’s start with church youth groups. I know for a lot of families, the reason they go to a church is for the youth group. And I’ll be honest, even though my husband and I have done youth group ministry, the older I get, the more I’ve really started thinking about the wisdom of pooling a bunch of teenagers all together at this stage of life and then putting some inexperienced pastor over them. I do think they can often be just sort of a breeding ground for all sorts of trouble. And sadly, so many of the abuse stories that I report on happen within church youth groups. I know you found that there’s tons of landmines within these youth groups. Talk about those. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 10:35 Oh, there are. I don’t know where you want to go first. But here, let me just give you a stat that’s very sobering. So, of the 7000 women that we surveyed 18.7%, I believe reported being sexually harassed or abused or assaulted within youth group situation. Of those about 10% were by a pastor, 20% or by Sunday School teacher or other youth leader. And then you had I think it was like 52% were by a peer and 48% were by some other adults. So, it doesn’t add up to 100. Because people could have had multiple people abusing them. But in total, if you look at it, 12.9% of women say that they were sexually harassed or assaulted or abused by an adult in church while they were still minors. JULIE ROYS 11:18 And there’s so little training, isn’t there? Like, it’s not like these youth pastors come in, and even if they have seminary training, there’s nothing hardly out there, is there really training them to deal with abuse? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 11:29 No, there really isn’t. And so much of the training in seminaries doubles down on a lot of the messages we’re going to be talking about, which tend to put the responsibility for male lust and male sin on girls shoulders. And so when they’re in a seminary situation where this is constantly taught, and then they get to a youth group situation where there’s all these girls around, that’s a lot of problem. And they also are not equipped. If you think about it, the person on staff at a church who is the most likely to hear disclosures of abuse, of eating disorders, of mental health problems is your youth pastor. (Yeah). And yet your youth pastor is often 24 years old, maybe newly married, very little education, very little real-life experience, very little life experience outside of church settings, and they’re not qualified for this. And that doesn’t mean they’re not good youth pastors. I know that there are, but we need to think that the most qualified person should really be in charge of the youth, not the least. JULIE ROYS 12:27 Yes, absolutely. And I think we way overblow the proximity to youth that they need to be, you know, like, they don’t need to be that young. In fact, when we were in youth ministry, we found that the number one characteristic you need to be in youth ministry is love for the kids. And sometimes in especially with these kids who sometimes don’t have good parents and good role models. Sometimes they love the 50–60-year-old who’s willing to come in and it’s great. I mean, it’s a wonderful dynamic when you have that. But you know, bare minimum, we just need to have some training. And there just isn’t very much. But let’s talk about some of these messages. I think one of the saddest things that I read in your book concerned drawing boundaries. I think we do a good job of encouraging our kids to draw boundaries around their faith, you know, to stand for their faith and be bold about it. And, you know, avoid drugs and alcohol, things like that. But when it comes to standing up for themselves, especially if you’re a girl, you found that our churches do a pretty abysmal job. Would you tell me about that and what your survey found? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 13:38 Sure. So, do you remember the acronym JOY? It’s been used a lot in church circles; Jesus first, others second, you last. And Camp Kanakuk has a similar saying called I’m third, where you know Jesus first, other second, your last. And so, we’re supposed to be caring for other people and not worrying about ourselves. Camp Kanakuk is also involved in one of the worst sexual abuse scandals, where they ignored complaints of parents, where they allegedly promoted and move people around who were known to sexually abuse kids. And you have to wonder how much is this I’m third idea impacting abuse rates? Because I think they’re very linked. And that seems to be what we found as well. When it comes to boundaries, there’s two different kinds. There’s what I call conviction boundaries. So, I don’t drink, I’m not having sex till I’m married. And we’re really good at those like you said, you know, churches are super good at those. Christian kids do tend to have sex less, to drink less all of that stuff. So yay, way to go us. That’s some good news. What we’re really bad at is protection boundaries. So, the idea that I am worth protecting, that I actually matter, because when you believe the JOY acronym, then what you think is everybody else’s needs have to come before my own. That’s not actually what Jesus said. You know Jesus said, you know, love others as you love yourself. So, we need to love ourselves too. But girls especially are often taught, if you say no to someone who needs you, then you are hurting that person, and that is bad. So, you’ll have, you’ll have a friend, maybe you’re their only friend, they’re a little bit socially awkward. they text you constantly. So, what are you doing? It’s like you’re trying to get a paper done and say, I’m bored and they won’t go away. And then if you try to draw boundaries, they’re like, but you’re just the only person and without you, I would be so lost. And maybe they even threatened. You know, we talked to women whose they would have people threaten to kill themselves and you don’t know what to do as kids and you feel like I am responsible for this person. And so, no matter how much awkwardness I feel, no matter how put out I am, I have to live with this because that’s part of being Christian. Jesus didn’t even do that. JULIE ROYS 15:55 And you talk about, and we talked about this a lot, and you know, abuse survivor communities about DARVO. You know this idea – deny, attack, reverse, the victim, and offender. You talked about the churches were actually DARVOing these young teenage girls often. Right? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 16:10 Oh, we do it so much in many different ways. Throughout the book, we show how we DARVO about modesty, about consent, about boundaries, about feelings. JULIE ROYS 16:18 We’re really good at DARVOing in the church. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 16:20 Or we are. But one of the ways that we get kids to have no boundaries is we tell them that their emotions don’t count. Right? So, whatever you’re feeling, you’re not really feeling it because you’re supposed to have joy in the Lord, Julie. What’s the matter with you that you don’t have joy in the Lord? And so, if you’re feeling anxious, if you don’t like being somewhere where other people tell you, No, this is supposed to make you happy, then you’re told well, the heart is wicked and deceitful above all things. And you need to stand on faith, not on feelings because feelings are bad. But emotions are what God gave us to be our little Spidey senses, like they tell us what is going on in our situation in our circumstances. And if there’s something that we need to work on, and if we’re constantly telling girls, you don’t feel what you think you feel, then they learn that when I’m uncomfortable, I need to disregard that. Well, you never want your child to disregard being uncomfortable. You want your daughter to say, Okay, I’m uncomfortable. Maybe there’s a reason for this. Let me investigate what’s going on to figure out if there’s a reason that I’m uncomfortable, or even if I’m uncomfortable, that matters in and of itself, and I’m allowed to remove myself from the situation. But no, it’s like, you don’t really feel that. What do you mean, you feel uncomfortable? What do you mean, you don’t like being with this person? Don’t you realize Julie, , and now we’re gonna reverse victim and offender that by saying that you are hurting them? Now, what do you mean, you don’t want to be with this youth leader? You know, don’t you realize how much time they’ve spent? How do you think they’re going to be able to keep ministering Julie, if you if you say that to them? JULIE ROYS 17:53 That’s unbelievable. And as you’re saying that I’m thinking of the church that we recently left, because there was a sex abuse scandal, and it wasn’t handled correctly. And you have an abuser, who is being chaperoned, to come to church. And again, it’s like, oh, but don’t you care about the abuser, the person who abused a teenage girl? Sure, I care about him. But I care about protecting all of the women in the church, and this idea of chaperoning them so they can come. I mean, it’s just, why are we so often and you’ll hear this so often too, when you have an abusive pastor, whatever. Let’s pray for him. How many are praying for the victims? Like why do we always seem to prioritize the predator instead of the victim or instead of the vulnerable? What is that? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 18:41 Yeah, you know, my oldest daughter, who’s one of the co-authors on the book. So, there’s three of us. JULIE ROYS 18:45 How fun is that to have your daughter work? I mean, that’s just got to be awesome. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 18:48 It is really. Rebecca, I like to say that Rebecca writes most of the snarky lines, so when there’s really good one liner, that’s Rebecca, my daughter, and she wrote most of the modesty chapter, because that was her big thing. And she edits, she makes everything better. She does all our focus groups. And she writes the survey. And then Joanna does all of our stats. And she’s amazing at that. I don’t even understand half of what she says. But she’s very good at it. But when Rebecca my oldest when she was in youth group, she was probably about 15. And there was an 18-year-old who was hanging out in their youth group, and he was known to have sexually assaulted several girls at the high school. So, this was a known predator. And he gave off seriously creepy vibes. The girls did not feel comfortable near him. So, she went to the youth leader. And they were doing one of those 30-hour famines, you know, where you sleep overnight. JULIE ROYS 19:35 Oh, yeah, we did those. Yeah. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 19:36 And she said, we don’t feel comfortable with him. And the youth leader said, Why are you being so judgmental? Just because someone is weird. Don’t you know they need Jesus? Wow. And wouldn’t do anything about it. And so, the boys in the youth group each did a buddy system with each of the girls so the girls were never left alone so that this guy couldn’t do anything. So, the boys protected the girls, but the youth leaders told them, You are being judgmental. Don’t you know, he needs Jesus? And so, his need to hear about Jesus was greater than the girls need for safety. JULIE ROYS 20:13 Wow. And no wonder we’re having these issues in our youth groups, if that’s where we’re placing our priority, and we’re not protecting women and girls, that’s just so bad. And it’s actually you know, in a way, these girls are being groomed to be abused. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 20:29 Exactly. Because if you feel uncomfortable, and you want to get away from somebody you don’t want someone here will Don’t you know, they need Jesus, you might be the only one who can bring Jesus to them. JULIE ROYS 20:38 What an awful message. Let’s look at dating. because the big runaway book, you know, that came out when we were doing youth ministry was I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Of course now, the author of that Josh Harris. Thank you, Joshua Harris. Yeah. Now has renounced his faith. I mean, it’s really sad, but I remember, I remember reading it and going, oh, wow. I’ve never thought about that before, you know, and we kind of had a joke in our youth group, because we had discussions about it about the book, I don’t know, it was like three or four weeks that we spent on it. And during that time, everybody started dating in the group. So you know, people weren’t absorbing it. But we, you know, we just had discussions about it, like, what do you think? But it became, you know, I know in a lot of circles became just legalistic and this idea of courting, and then all these dating rules, you couldn’t kiss before you were married, which I just can’t even imagine going down the aisle, having never kissed a boy, and then having your wedding night. I mean, I just can’t even fathom that. But now we have several decades to sort of look back and evaluate, you know, what’s been the fruit of this? So, tell me, I mean, you’re the expert, what has been the fruit of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and all of these, these rules? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 22:01 Okay, so much to say here. Well, first, let me paint the picture. Yeah. So, in the 80s, we often think that everything is getting worse, right? Like society is going downhill. And we’re, everything’s just terrible. But actually, in the 80s, teen pregnancy rates were higher than they are today, the rate of teen sexual activity was higher. Drug and alcohol use were higher. Now today, oral sex is higher, porn use is higher, mental health is worse. So, we have, you know, we have our own issues. But the 80s was bad. And all of these school boards and counties and governments and churches were looking at the teen pregnancy rates, and they were going, we got to do something. And so, they brought in super comprehensive sex ed, and Christian parents didn’t like that. And so, there was this big revolt against comprehensive sex ed. And that’s when purity culture largely came in with the whole abstinence only message. So, we’re only going to say abstinence. And at the same time, you have this dating movement where we’re not going to date, we’re not going to even kiss, we’re going to wait to the wedding. And it was kind of sold as like, this is what Christianity should be. And we’re going to harken back to the olden days. There were no olden days where people didn’t kiss before the wedding. Like even in Jane Austen. Like you watch, they kiss, they’re engaged, okay. Like, there is no olden days. And in our survey of 7000, we broke people down by generations. And if you look at boomers, there was like nobody who waited to kiss for the wedding. Like in Gen X, maybe 1%. You know, and then suddenly you get to millennials, and you’re looking at I think it was like 12 or 13% waited for the wedding. JULIE ROYS 23:41 Wow. Yeah, it’s kind of funny. We, my husband used to like to say how he waited so long before he kissed me. And he was telling this story to all these people. And I’m like, sweetheart, do you realize when you kissed me? And he’s like, Well, I know I waited a long time, blah, blah, blah. I’m like, you kiss me on our second date. Yeah. He’s like, I did not. I’m like, Yes, you did. And he’s like, Well, I know by that time, I was serious. I’m like, Well, yes. You were born serious. Yeah. It’s just so funny. But I have to say, now you’re going to this is not going to be helpful to me because my daughter and I got in this. This I wouldn’t say heated argument but like it was, it was lively, we’ll say lively. But everything we do, we really are passionate in our family. I know. That’s hard to like, imagine. But yeah, we got in this whole thing because I was like, you know, when I was a kid, I mean, to me, the hookup culture. So, my perception would be the opposite of what you just said. Because my perception when I was growing up, like and again, I’m in a small town, maybe I’m living in a bubble. I don’t know. But like when I was growing up, not one of my friends had sex and talked about it. One friend I remember said like, let slip that the boy she had been dating, like for a year and a half that they were having sex and we were all like, oh, and they weren’t even Christians, right? We were just all Like, Oh, my word, you know, we were like so shocked it was, which, you know, I talked to my daughter and the culture seems like it’s gone, you know, like her culture she grew up in. So different. So, so different. So, I’m trying to put that together with the numbers that you’re given me, you know. I mean, it just wasn’t true to my experience. But maybe, I mean, help me put that together. Am I missing something? Or is it just that I just lived in Small Town, Pennsylvania, where we were about 15 years behind the culture for sure. Yeah, it really did and also, I’m talking about high school, right? Like things are very different once you get to college age today, for sure. But even among college, college students, the rate of sexual activity has dropped. Now the rate of porn use has gone way up. And this is all it’s difficult to tease out what’s going on. But for high schoolers, yes. In the broader culture, there was more sexual activity in terms of intercourse in the 80s, 70s and 80s then there is today. Which I know we think is bizarre. But things are not necessarily always getting worse. Now, you could argue that because there’s more oral sex and porn use, have we really gotten better and very good point. Maybe it’s more casual now too, because like, the idea of having sex with somebody that you weren’t dating. I remember when I heard that people were doing that, like, I’m in my 40s. Again, probably a little bit out of touch. But I was just like, You’re kidding me. You know, like, I was just shocked by that. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 26:23 I’ve never been part of the hookup culture either. And just imagining that it’s, I guess, I can’t quite get my head around it either. But you can understand why I think when purity culture came in, people really did want to help, because there was so much heartache going on. And STDs were high. You know, people were trying to prevent teen pregnancies. And so, they thought, all we need to do is get kids to stop dating. If we can just get kids to stop dating, and to take marriage more seriously. And, you know, to get parents involved in the courtship so that you choose a good mate, and you’re protected. And it was very much let’s protect these kids. So, here’s what we did. We looked at, we took our 7000 women, and we divided them into four groups. So, people who were allowed to date and dated, people who were allowed to date and didn’t date, people who were not allowed to date and didn’t date, and people who were not allowed to date but did date anyway. So, there’s your four groups, a little quadrant, and we looked at their outcomes. The thing is that during purity culture, there was really only one outcome that people cared about, which was, are they a virgin on the wedding night? Yeah, I have two married adult daughters. And I can tell you that on their wedding day, that was not my primary concern. On their wedding day, I was just thanking God, that neither of them were marrying abusers. And the both of them were marrying guys that I had total faith in. Because as a parent, what you really want, like the biggest nightmare is that your child is going to marry an abuser. And so, we measured that. We looked at their future marital and sexual satisfaction, we looked at their self-esteem, because self-esteem is highly linked to better mental health, better jobs, better relationships overall. So, we had a number of different outcome variables, including whether people got married or not. Paul commends singleness, we should be far more welcoming of single people in churches. I think it’s terrible that we have created churches that are so antagonistic, often towards single people. But at the same time, I think if someone wants to get married and never does, that is something that that we can mourn. You know, if people are happy being single, that is wonderful. But I think we do need to acknowledge some heartache. And if our kids want to get married, we want them to be able to get married. So, let’s add that as an outcome variable. When you look at all of those things, here’s the hard truth. There is no one size fits all rule that works best for all of those things. And during purity culture, people were trying to find a rule, they were trying to say, just tell me what to do with my kids. And there isn’t a rule. What I can tell you is that there is one option that works out best for most of those things. And it’s your child being allowed to date but choosing not to. And that’s not something parents can control. JULIE ROYS 29:09 No, no, I’ve raised three kids. None of them were disinterested in dating, much to our dismay. We would have been happy for that. But yeah, I mean, that’s just a tough thing. But there’s no rules in some ways, I think for raising teenagers period. Like everything you’ve been taught, you know, the worst. The worst parenting advice I ever got, was from one of these homeschooling, I don’t know if Veritas Press or what it was, but I got this DVD teaching and it was all about how Jesus at age 12 had all of his character formed, and how your child at age 12, Sheila, should have all of their character form and I just remember as a parent going, oh my word we’ve completely failed! I don’t think there brain is formed It was insane and all this guilt but the Christian space, not just were these messages that you’re talking about hard for the kids and for those adolescents coming of age, but for the parents too, because they put these ridiculous rules and measures of success on parents. And you know what? What I’ve seen over raising three kids is if you love them well, and stay engaged with them, and that relationship stays warm, despite whatever mistakes they make, and you make because you will make plenty and keep them connected to you know, they stay connected to the Lord and to you. By the time they’re adults. love covers a multitude of sins. Thank you, Jesus. But that’s I mean, those are the important things like you said, my daughter’s not married, I have a son, one son who’s married, and you’re right on their wedding day. The most important thing is what kind of person are they marrying? And what’s the trajectory of their life right now? Are they pursuing the Lord or not? I mean, these are the things that matter. Not did they perform according to these rules, or whatever. And it’s it really is perverse, and it’s no wonder that we have a performance-based idea of God like he’s a taskmaster. I mean, this is a microcosm of really a much larger problem, isn’t it? SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 31:33 It really is. And it’s interesting how the things that we tell teens, they are kind of like a painting a small miniature painting, of how we see God in general, because the way that we parent our teens is the way that we think God parents us. And so much in the last few decades in evangelicalism has all been about trying to control kids and guilting them into things and blaming them for things, even things they weren’t even thinking about yet, but assuming that they’re messing up when they’re not messing up. JULIE ROYS 32:07 Well, this concludes part one of my interview with Sheila on her newly released book She Deserves Better. In part two, we’ll discuss modesty messages, like men are visual in a way women will never understand, or boys can’t help but lust if a girl’s dress like she’s inciting it. You’ll also hear about a sexual pain disorder that appears way more in evangelical women than anyone else. SHEILA WRAY GREGOIRE 32:31 It’s really debilitating. And we found an incidence rate of around 23%, which is at least two to two and a half times the rate of the general population. And if you talk to any pelvic floor physiotherapist, they will tell you most of my patients are evangelicals. And so, there is something about our teaching that is actually hurting women’s bodies. JULIE ROYS 32:50 Again, that’s just a short excerpt from Part Two of my discussion with Sheila Wray Gregoire. But if you’re thinking I’d love to get a copy of Sheila’s book and explore this topic more, you’re in luck. This month, anyone who gives a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report will get a copy of She Deserves Better. Plus, you’ll be helping support our ministry which is almost 100% grassroots funded. We don’t have any big donors or grants or advertising. We have you the people who are passionate about protecting the vulnerable and seeing the church restored. To give your gift and get a copy of She Deserves Better, just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about this podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
5/10/202334 minutes, 17 seconds
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JESUS v. Evangelicals, Part II: The Megachurch

Guest Bios Show Transcript American evangelicals love megachurches. Today, there are about 1,750 megachurches in the U.S. and 65% of them are evangelical in their theology. But are these megachurches truly helping the evangelical movement—or are they destroying it? In this edition of The Roys Report, Julies continues a discussion of Jesus vs. Evangelicals with Dr. Constantine Campbell, author of the book by that name. And in this second part, Dr. Campbell offers a scathing, yet necessary critique of the modern megachurch movement. Many see these huge megachurches—with big buildings, large congregations, and massive budgets—as success stories. But when evaluated by the standard of making mature disciples of Jesus Christ, these megachurches fall woefully short.  Dr. Campbell and Julie also look at evangelicalism’s so-called “lunatic fringe”—from prosperity preachers to proponents of Christian nationalism. At one point, these agenda-driven grifters would not have been accepted by the evangelical community. But increasingly, these leaders are becoming mainstream despite their heretical gospels. Dr. Constantine Campbell Dr. Constantine Campbell is Professor and Associate Research Director at Sydney College of Divinity. He is a New Testament scholar, jazz musician, and the author of several books, including Jesus v. Evangelicals: A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement. Dr. Campbell also teaches jazz performance at The Australian National University. Show Transcript Coming soon Read more
4/26/202328 minutes, 19 seconds
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JESUS v. Evangelicals

Guest Bios Show Transcript Evangelicalism was once known for its theological convictions, like the centrality of Scripture and the need for personal conversion. Now, it’s known for Trumpian politics, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, megachurch scandals, and grift.  Clearly, it’s a movement in crisis. And according to New Testament scholar Constantine Campbell, if the movement doesn’t correct course, it’s in danger of becoming shipwrecked. In this latest podcast, Dr. Campbell, author of Jesus v. Evangelicals: A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement, critiques evangelicalism using Scripture as his standard. And he shows that it’s not Christianity that’s failed in this present age. Instead, it’s evangelicalism that’s failed in recent times to behave Christianly. For example, Jesus taught his disciples to win the culture by making disciples. But today, evangelicals are trying to transform culture by gaining political power. Similarly, evangelicals today rail against some sins, like sexual immorality or perversion. But we wink at equally, or even more pernicious sins, like pride and arrogance. Those grieved by what we’re seeing in the church will surely be encouraged by this podcast. In discussing what’s wrong in the church, Dr. Campbell also describes what it would look like to do things right and to truly follow the example of Jesus. Dr. Constantine Campbell Dr. Constantine Campbell is Professor and Associate Research Director at Sydney College of Divinity. He is a New Testament scholar, jazz musician, and the author of several books, including Jesus v. Evangelicals: A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement. Dr. Campbell also teaches jazz performance at The Australian National University. Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, DR. CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL JULIE ROYS  00:04 For many evangelicals, evangelicalism and Jesus are one in the same. But according to New Testament scholar, Dr. Constantine Campbell, that’s no longer the case. The movement is in disarray and unless evangelicals correct course, they’re in danger of shipwrecking their faith. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today Dr. Constantine Campbell, author of Jesus versus Evangelicalism, A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement, joins me, and if you’re a regular listener to this podcast, it’s not going to come as any surprise that evangelicalism is in trouble. But what Dr. Campbell does so well is explain why what’s being modeled in evangelicalism is antithetical to the gospel. To quote G.K. Chesterton, “It’s not that the Christian ideal has been tried and found wanting. It’s been found difficult and left untried”. For example, Jesus taught His disciples to win the culture by making disciples. But today, many evangelicals are trying to change the culture by gaining political power. Similarly, evangelicals today railed against some sins like sexual immorality, or perversion, but many wink at equally or even more pernicious sins, like pride and arrogance.   Friends, if you’re aggrieved by what you’re seeing in the church, I believe this podcast is going to encourage you. Yes, we’re going to be talking about what’s wrong in the church, but in doing so, Dr. Campbell describes what it would look like to do things right and to truly follow the example of Jesus. I’m so excited to share this podcast with you.   But first, I’d like to thank two of our sponsors, Accord Analytics and Marquardt of Barrington. In your ministry, your business, your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully, you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it, and Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For a free consultation go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. Well again, joining me is Dr. Constantine Campbell, a New Testament scholar, author, and documentary host. Dr. Campbell is a Professor and Associate Research Director at Sydney College of Divinity in Sydney, Australia. He’s also the author of several books, including his latest, Jesus versus Evangelicalism, A Biblical Critique of a Wayward Movement. So, Dr. Campbell, welcome, and thanks so much for writing this book and for taking the time to join me today.   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 03:08 Oh, thanks so much for having me. Julie. It’s great to meet you and speak with you today.   JULIE ROYS  03:12 Well, I feel the same way. And I’m honored that you referred to The Roys Report several times in this book, it’s always just super, super encouraging when we see the impact of the work that we do, not just here in the US, but in Australia, too.   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 03:28 It’s so important. I mean, I can’t think of another ministry really like it. Just so important to be keeping churches and church leaders accountable. And not in a sort of policing kind of way, but in a way that has genuine concern for the church. I just think it’s so important, and I’m really thankful for the work you’re doing.   JULIE ROYS  03:47 Well, thank you for saying that. It is a joy to speak with you. To get to our topic, I don’t think it probably comes as a surprise to anybody that’s followed my work that evangelicalism is, as you say, a wayward movement, a movement that’s lost its moorings. Yet, It’s sad to speak of it that way because I know historically and for me and my family, which goes back many generations of following the Lord, evangelicalism has been known as a movement that really is about vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. And so, I think that’s hard to come to grips with. But I think any evangelical who really loves Jesus has to admit that that’s what it at least is becoming, or in fact, has become, and you even call it perhaps a pseudo-Christianity. What led you to the conclusion that we are in this state?   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 04:41 Well, you know, as you say, it’s difficult for anyone who has really identified with the movement that we call evangelicalism. It’s difficult to sort of stand back and critique it. For a long time, you know, I became a Christian as an adult in an evangelical church and I was trained in an evangelical seminary, and my entire academic career has been teaching in evangelical institutions. And that label that badge means so much to the people who wear it, who use it. And nevertheless, as you say, these are very troubling times for evangelicalism. And what tends to happen here in Australia is we say, oh we’re not that sort of evangelical. We say, well, they’re the Americans, or they’re this sort of evangelical,  we’re another sort. But the reality is, that distinction really doesn’t mean very much to anyone who’s not inside the movement. And even within the movement. A lot of people don’t really understand what the label is supposed to mean, you know. A lot of people think it just means evangelistic, rather than a set of theological convictions or a way of being a Christian. But I sort of came to this point of critique, I touched on it briefly in the book, but kind of as a quiet critic over the years, since I’m a biblical scholar in New Testament in particular, there’s so many opportunities when we’re looking at the text of Scripture with students to be thinking about, well, there’s hear what the Bible says, and, you know, and I would say, I don’t often hear people speaking about this theme that so clearly here in in Paul’s writing, so I don’t hear preachers talking about this very much. Or sometimes, you know, I heard in a sermon the other day, someone said this, and this text is clearly you know, stands in direct contrast with what I heard or, and students would offer their perspectives and was more of a sort of internal critique initially, a kind of, I guess, as an evangelical myself, wanted to be guided by what I think is the most important evangelical commitment, which is the authority of the scriptures, and to allow my faith, my belief system to be shaped by that, even if I’d heard other things or if I’d been taught other things. So, I wanted to allow the Bible to critique that. And I wanted that for my students to create a sort of robust, biblical evangelicalism.   But the reality is, it’s sort of cut to a point where I guess I couldn’t be a quiet critic anymore. And things sort of reached a point for me personally, but also in the movement, especially in America, especially with certain political things going on, where I think for the sake of evangelicalism, something needed to be said, publicly, and sort of pretty strongly. And so that’s sort of how the book came about.   JULIE ROYS  07:37 And you talk about a number of different symptoms of evangelicalism being, you know, sick. That we really are having trouble, but you say this is, really these are the symptoms that reflected a deeper illness. And so, I want to dig into some of that, as we kind of walk through this book, chapter by chapter. Sometimes I don’t do that when I do books, but this one was so good. It’s like every chapter I want to talk about. So, if we may split this up into a couple of parts, just because, again, it’s really rich.   And you start with, and you’ve alluded to this, God and country and this priority that American evangelicals, I don’t know if this is around the world, but American evangelicals seem to place on cultural and political transformation of our nation, and sometimes marrying America as the city on the hill when I don’t think it was mentioned in Scripture as the city on the hill. But evangelicalism has always had sort of a social action kind of component to it, but it seems like something’s really shifted. And I think it probably shifted a long time ago. But I know for me, I didn’t realize how profoundly it had shifted until the Trump administration. From your perspective, what causes you alarm, as you think about the politization of the gospel, and this God and country theme that really is very, very strong in America?   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 09:09 Julie, there is so much to say about that? Right? I think the starting point would be this assumption, that there’s something special in God’s purposes about America. And I don’t want to deny that that could entirely be the case. But the sort of assumption that America is and ought to be a kind of Christian nation. And that’s sort of been there historically, really, from the beginning of America’s history since European colonization. And this, to my mind really does not reflect biblical teaching. There’s not one particular country that, you know, has a special place in God’s plans. Or if there is one, it’s Israel, and as you say, in the Old Covenant in the Old Testament. So, I think a lot of American Christians want to preserve that sense that America is a Christian country. So that’s one thing.   The second is how to go about that, but also how to go about any cultural influence or political influence. In the book, I sort of contrast the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, with the sort of religious right movement beginning in the 80s. And this is not my observation, but I repeat this observation that the civil rights movement was not partisan. It didn’t connect itself to one particular party. It was political in the sense that it appealed to politicians and appealed for legislative change in those sorts of movements. But it did it from a nonpartisan position so that it could actually function as a prophetic voice in society. And it did it the long way, which is to try to persuade American minds through nonviolent protest, through television, through interviews, through preaching, and then gradually, you know, if you can persuade the population, then politicians fall in line, you know, that’s how democracy works.   And so, the Civil Rights Movement achieved enduring change, because it actually changed the way America thought about race. Whereas the religious right movement went for the shortcut approach, which is try to achieve change by using political power. So just go straight to the top, win offices, get your people in position, and then the lawmakers can actually affect policy. But the problem is, if you don’t take the people with you, then it’s not going to create enduring cultural change.   And it actually and this leads to my third problem, which is that Christians should have a totally otherworldly view of power, and how power is used. And I think this is one of the things that go right deep into the heart of the illness of American evangelicalism in its present state, is that it wants to exert power in a worldly way, which is, simply I’m going to overpower my enemy. And I’m going to use political power, in this case, to get what I want for me and my tribe. And that just seems antithetical to the way the New Testament addresses issues of power.   Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians in chapter one says that the cross of Christ turns upside down human power structures, and its actually this foolishness to Greeks. Because how can you worship a crucified God, like, what sort of powerful God gets himself crucified? But Christ crucified is the power of God for salvation. And so, it turns the whole economy of power upside down, so that in God’s economy in the kingdom of God, if you like, the economy, the kingdom of God, the weak are exalted, those who are humble are exalted, and those who exalt themselves are humbled are lowered. And if Christians don’t operate that way, in seeking to change culture and influence the world around them, then they’re actually just being secular, and just being like the rest of the world, where the strongest winds, and that is not the way of Jesus, that’s not the way of Christianity and it fundamentally misses the heart of what Christianity is about.   JULIE ROYS  13:35 And I remember back in 2016, writing some commentaries, and I lost actually, supporters for doing this because I was like, if we’re gonna say that character matters, we can’t all of a sudden jettison that because this is the Republican candidate. And it was shocking to me to hear my brothers and sisters in Christ, I thought we were on the same wavelength, make arguments, rationalizing why we had to basically shelve all of our values and commitments to get us a Supreme Court, you know, that’s going to vote our way. And we’ve seen some benefits of that. Yeah, we have a court right now that overturned Roe v. Wade, wonderful. I’m glad that happened. However, at what cost? At what cost? And that’s what I love that you bring out and I said this, I said, we are going to see, we may have some political gains. But at the end of all of this, the harm to the church is going to be profound. And I don’t see evangelicalism as a whole right now willing to even acknowledge how much harm has been done yet alone, repent of it. I mean, as you look at it, what kind of what’s been the lasting damage of us adopting this approach?   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 14:50 There’s so much, but I think the probably the thing that I find most sad is that the very reason for exercising power in this way is to try to transform a community or a culture to be more God-wood, you know, to reflect God’s values. But the irony is by pursuing political power in this way, I think it’s made a culture deaf to the message of the church. Because all they see are power mongering hypocrites, who are trying to get their own way at any expense. I mean, look, to be honest with you, Trump is a threat to the world, not just America, you know. He’s actually such a dangerous figure. And I think, you know, to put the world at risk, in this way, simply to get policies passed, and to get the Supreme Court justices that you want. Like, I’ll just speak frankly, it’s doing a deal with the devil. And that never works out well. So, the sacrifice of character and integrity, and the sacrifice of the message of Jesus, for political power is, you know, I don’t want to be too dramatic about it. But I think it’s put the cause of Christ in America backwards decades.   JULIE ROYS  16:11 It has, and we have a huge PR problem now. And you say, I heard you saying earlier that we forgot that culture is downstream of politics, right? You change a culture before you change politics. But you also change a culture by changing the heart. And we have to start there. And right now, the hearts are hard to our message. And they’re associating things with Christ that have nothing to do with Christ. And we’ve got some, some hard, hard work to do. And I think some repenting some public repenting to do before, people are going to listen to us, hopefully, in our private realm of the people we encounter who are non-Christians. I think they’re surprised often now when they get to know us that we’re not this thing, that we are in the media. And hopefully we’re not that way in private. But we’ve got some work to do.   We have had in politics, obviously, an us/them mentality, right? And that’s caused a lot of problems. But you also talk about there being an us/them mentality within the church, and this tribalism, and it is so so true. I mean, you have the reformed community, you have the Charismatics, you have, and I read that, and I thought of actually a really a sad, but  it will be forever. In my memory of one of the first meetings I had been at Moody Bible Institute, I was with Moody Radio for about 10 years. And we were having a meeting. And we were trying to figure out what the new president wanted and what he liked. And it wasn’t about like what Jesus wants. It was about what the new president wants. And I remember at one point, the VP of broadcasting drawing a circle, and putting writing in the middle of that circle, charismatics, and then drawing a line through the circle. And I remember at the time just being shocked, and I’m sure had I not been there for just I’ve been there two weeks. So, like, I’m just like, as green as can be, that I probably would have said something that might have gotten me ousted out of there quicker than I was. But at the time, just so shocked that these are our brothers and sisters, and we’re drawing a circle and putting a line through it? I mean, are we nuts? But that’s what’s been happening. And it really is an us/them ,if you’re not a part, not only or if you’re not an evangelical, but if you’re not in evangelical who’s part of my tribe, then you’re not with me, you’re against me. Explain how you see that, and, again, the damage this is doing to the cause of Christ.   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 18:48 So, I think tribalism is a terrible danger to the church because we get stuck in these idiosyncratic sycophantic echo chambers. And we just kind of spiral down in them and become weirder and weirder and more off base, and more and more off base, because we don’t have anyone challenging and correcting us. Yeah, I do think it’s an insidious problem, because so many evangelicals really are blind to it. It sort of happens often without us noticing. And this is an area where my own context here in Australia, that issue is very relevant here, just as much as in the US. In some ways, you know, I got caught up in it myself, and I needed to kind of leave Australia. And when I was in America, particularly, I was able to look back on the scene there and see it a little more objectively and see some of the things that were going on, that really could only be described as tribalism. So that if you line up behind a certain leader, as opposed to a different leader, who may believe 99.9% of all the same things, who might both be faithful people who might both be, you know, great leaders, but if you line up behind one rather than the other, you’re the enemy, you know, or even if it’s not put that strongly, you’re just sort of left out, you know, you’re just not in the in group. You’re in that other group. And you know, and we have a certain opinion about that other group and It’s just not, it’s just not acceptable, even if any particular tribe could claim that they’re 100%, right in theology and 100% right in practice, they’re 100% wrong to exclude others on those grounds, because that again, betrays the spirit and character of Jesus, who said, If you love one another, then they will know you’re my disciples. That is how the disciples of Jesus are identified by their love for one another. And he didn’t say, if you love one another, and they’re Calvinist, or if you love one another, and they’re charismatic, or if you love one another, and they’re inerrantists. No. He says, If you love one another, and I think that actually gives us if we take all of it tremendous freedom, to embrace one another, and recognize, you know, we’re aliens and strangers in the world, we are fallen human beings. And yes, we have the Spirit of God, if you trust in Christ. But we’re all so flawed, and so wrong about so many things. And we’re on a journey, you know, where we’re going to learn, and God will teach us, and we will teach each other. But no one’s got 100% right, and even if you do, where’s the compassion for others who are not there yet, or who think differently, or who’ve come from a different culture, and so don’t read the Bible the same way that you do? Like, actually, by listening to them, you might see things about the scriptures that you hadn’t seen before. Because we’re all sort of blinded by our western individualistic, modern mindset that shapes the way we read the text. And so, any reading of the text and any practice of Christianity must be conducted with humility. And we should invite contrary views to sort of open our minds and our eyes to see things that we may be missing.   JULIE ROYS  22:18 That’s interesting, you say that. I mean, it’s almost what happens if you continue to inbreed within a group, right? I mean, it’s their weaknesses. Yeah, it is what happens. And we’ve lost that someone who might think differently than us, might be, God forbid, right, and we might be wrong, or might add some nuance, which there’s no nuance anymore. And there’s no humility. I mean, the amount of arrogance to think that you have the scriptures figured out, right? It’s mind boggling to me.   We have this us versus them within evangelicalism, we obviously have it in spades, I think between us and the world. And we see different groups within evangelicalism capitalizing on that right? To sort of, I call, well, actually, I didn’t get this for myself, Coleman Luck calls it the politics of panic. And he’s right, we do a lot of this. Because if you can fire up the base with a lot of fear, you can motivate them towards something. But I think it’s created a real problem with how we’re perceived by the world because we’re, you know, it says, they will know you’re Christians by your love. And yet they’re certain groups of people, and you talk about them, you know, LGBTQ community is not seeing us as loving them. And I don’t see you saying we need to throw out our core theological convictions. But what I do see you saying, and I’ve said this to some people recently is that I feel like my core convictions haven’t changed, but how I hold them, has changed. Where I find myself more willing to sit in discomfort, because it’s uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable, but to sit with that, and just keep my mouth shut, and just listen. And how can I love you, you know. But it’s pretty tough to do. And, you know, I see, as I’m reading your book, you are saying, if we don’t come up with a different way of engaging the world, we’re not going to engage the world. Right?   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 24:28 Yeah, I think that’s a good way to put it. Yeah, we’re just going to be treated as well, actually increasingly in the West. And I think in Australia, we may be ahead of the states, but this is probably where the states is going. Christianity is seen as immoral. So, it used to be that Christians were good people. Then Christians were neutral. You can believe what you want as long as you don’t foist it on other people through to now being Christians are the most immoral people because the one thing that modern society won’t tolerate is intolerance. And Christians are perceived as intolerant. And I think you’re absolutely right. This in one way has nothing to do with what you actually believe about those issues. It has everything to do with how you hold those beliefs. As you said, I really like that phrase. And again, it has to do with how we love other people. We’re all products of a broken world. If I know God, and you know, God, that’s by the grace of God, it’s not by any merit of our own. That’s evangelical theology. Right? That’s we haven’t deserved this place in God’s family. We haven’t warranted the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is God’s free gift to us. And so, who are we to look down on someone who has not yet received that gift? You know. That’s just appalling, to be honest. And again, I think we need to think about what’s our ultimate goal here? Is our ultimate goal to win something? Is it to take power? Is it to  dominate someone or judge someone or be over someone? Or is it to point them to the love of God? How do you point someone to the love of God by telling them that their whole way of living is evil and corrupted from the devil, and I want nothing to do with you? It’s just like it’s not going to work that way.   JULIE ROYS  26:33 Judson University is a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Well, and I think we’re entering an era where Christian values, like you’re saying, are no longer the dominant cultural accepted, you know, value. So, we’re going to have to live a little differently. And I just think of my grandpa, when he was a missionary to Sierra Leone, West Africa. And, of course, in the communities they went to, the villages, there were chiefs with many wives. And if a chief got converted, I mean, one, you don’t lead with your living an immoral lifestyle by marrying many wives. I mean, I don’t think if you lead with that, you’re really gonna get very far in a culture. But there were things in the culture that were horrendous. I mean, they did female circumcision. I mean, just horrendous things. But they didn’t lead with that. You know, my mother used to always have this saying that you don’t try to clean a fish before you catch it. And we need to start allowing the gospel of Christ to change hearts, and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work, instead of us relying on us doing the work and changing things to look clean to make us feel, okay, or to say to the Mission Board, well it was as a Mission Board then you know, hey, this is what we’ve done. And this is what it looks like right now, instead of this is a mess, and we’re living in the mess, and by God’s grace, we think he’s going to redeem it. But I mean, I think right now, we are living in I mean, there’s, there’s a mess. There’s no doubt about it. But I think as believers, man, we just cannot be leading this way.   Let’s talk about one that’s a little more I’d say very, very common in the church, the acceptable sins, and the unacceptable sins. Because we’re kind of touching on that right now. Because we do have our acceptable sins, you can be a glutton, and speaking of DL Moody, very, very large man. That’s okay. You know, in the United States, that’s absolutely fine. Or, you know, greed seems to be just fine in our capitalist society. We’re fine with that. But sexual immorality, abortion, drug addiction, these things. Those are sins that are not going to be acceptable. Talk about that a little bit about why do we have sort of this dichotomy of sins? And I do like you don’t just sin-level the whole thing and say they’re all the same. But we’re kind of upside down a little bit, aren’t we on what sins get our attention and which ones don’t?   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 29:35 Yeah, I think you’re right. We are upside down. And as I kind of cheekily refer to it, if you look at the broad teaching of the Bible, the most biblical sin is pride. And I sort of argue that that is really at the root of not being able to be right with God because if Jesus message is to repent and believe the good news, where repentance requires humility because you got to turn around from the direction you’re going and come back, you got to admit, okay, I was wrong and to go the other way. And to believe that means to trust and have to make allegiance with Jesus. And so, you’re saying, Okay, I’m not going to go my own way, I’m not going to be boss in my own life, I’m going to make Jesus Lord, and I’m going to trust him what he’s done for me. So, repentance and belief that repentance and faith are like, that’s his message. And it’s impossible to do either of those things if you’re full of pride. And Jesus teaches in several parables, especially in Luke’s gospel, about the difference between humility and pride. And perhaps the most shocking is in Luke 19, where he talks about the Pharisee, and the tax collector praying in the temple, and the tax collector, you know, this is a trope that every one of his listeners would understand. This is a simple person who, you know, supports the Romans, those occupiers those evil occupiers, and cheats our own people to line his own pockets. So, he’s despised, and it’s kind of the definition along with prostitutes of what a sinner is in that culture. And then the Pharisee, who is this elite religious leader who, you know, is so impressive by religious standards and more serious and committed than any other religious group in Israel in the day, and they’re both praying at the temple, and the Pharisee prays basically saying, I’m great look at me. And I’m glad I’m not like these other people, doesn’t ask for anything, doesn’t show any dependence on God doesn’t ask for God’s mercy just basically says, Thanks, God, I’m not like these other people. Whereas the tax collector beats his chest, can’t even look up to heaven. He’s full of shame and says, God, be merciful to me. And Jesus says, the tax collector, not the Pharisee, walked down from the temple justified, made right with God. And it’s incredibly powerful. I still get shivers down the spine, when I think about it, that parable, because it just turns again, turns everything upside down, which is what Jesus did again, and again and again. And religious performance if it’s mixed with pride is not celebrated by Jesus. But someone who’s committed terrible sins yet is humble and throws themselves upon God’s mercy is exalted by Jesus. It says, be like that person, be like that person.   And unfortunately, our churches, and you document them. And this is one of the reasons your ministry is so important is that you actually shine a light on leaders who are committing the kinds of sins that our evangelical culture tolerates, but that Jesus does not tolerate and that the Bible as a whole does not tolerate. I mean, in Proverbs, it even says that God hates the proud. I mean, that’s so strong. That’s so strong. He hates people who are proud. And so how do we have church cultures that permit leaders who are proud, or who are arrogant or who are bullies, or who dominate, or who exert power in these unchristian ways to last in their role until it eventually becomes too toxic, and they have to go? Whereas commit one of these other sins, sexual morality is the most sort of prominent one in our minds, I guess. They’re gone like that overnight. So, what’s gone wrong? Yeah. And that’s what that chapter about acceptable sins is all about that we’ve actually we’ve got it; we’ve got the balance incorrect. And that Jesus offers mercy and grace to repentant sinners. And especially they seem to keep coming up as the ones who failed sexually in various ways. And he doesn’t rub their noses in it, you know, but he forgives them. It says that their sins are forgiven, but the proud religious leaders who resist Jesus and who resist repenting, received no mercy from him. There’s no word of comfort for them. In fact, he condemns them in pretty much the strongest language possible.   JULIE ROYS  34:23 And I think you see, in the investigations that we’ve done, I mean, this has been one of the hardest things is getting the church to take bullying and intimidation and spiritual abuse seriously. And I remember like when I was first reporting on Harvest Bible Chapel and James McDonald I remember somebody saying, you know, sort of tongue in cheek but I wish this were just sexual immorality, it’d be so much easier. And I’m like, Yeah, you’re right. I report that there’s no argument about whether this is bad enough to disqualify you from ministering. But we have you know, right now I did so many stories on Andy Wood, who’s the successor for Rick Warren at Saddleback, and even had a colleague of mine do an interview recently with Rick Warren and I was just so grieved over it. And I reached out to him, and I said something because they were chalking it up to just workplace issues and administrative type issues. And that’s not really a serious issue. And I’m like, No, this was absolute bullying, and spiritual abuse. And yet it’s getting a wink within the church. And of course, Andy Wood went on to succeed Rick Warren. And very concerning when you have that kind of pattern because it doesn’t usually go away.   But we really have forgotten, and I used to have a pastor that said, there’s one choice in life, and it’s between pride and worship. And the more knowledge we have, right, the more theologically correct we are, the more susceptible we are right? Because knowledge puffs up to those sins. So, I appreciate you dealing with that. And you go into one of the unacceptable sins, which to you is personal, which is divorce and remarriage. And I have talked to so many women within the church, like Nagmeh Panahi, who was pressured to go back to her abusing husband, Pastor Saeed, because it ruined the image, right? And we’ve made this idol out of marriage. But I’ve talked to so many women who have encountered that in one way, shape or form within the church. You encountered it yourself because you experienced divorce. What was the church’s response to you? Did it feel like Jesus to you?   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 36:36 First off, I’d say some people, and some responses really did. And that was kind of a saving grace for me, in a way, because I have to say that this is the time when I didn’t know if my faith would survive it, to be honest with you, because I think we had made such a strong connection between marriage and Christian faith, that it was almost like, no one would say this, but it was almost like, you know, if your marriage fails, are you even a Christian anymore? Like, that’s how strong.   JULIE ROYS  37:08 It’s like apostasy too, yeah.   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 37:10 Yeah, exactly. And that’s just not a biblical concept at all. And it undermines the mercy and grace of God. It sort of says, there’s one unforgivable sin and it’s divorce. And, you know, no one can recover from that and be a Christian. And it’s just total rubbish, thankfully, and I had a few people in my life who knew that and reminded me of that, and who drew nearer to me, and I thank God for them. And actually, that experience, contrary to what I thought was gonna happen, really deepened, and renewed my faith, because I really saw the grace of God working through those people and working through my life circumstances as well.   But to be sure, there were many others and church culture in general, that was I felt not reflective of Jesus; judgmental, jumping to conclusions, cutting relationship, believing rumors, and rumor mongering, and gossip mongering, taking sides, all this sort of stuff that you it sort of, I mean, I think back on some of these people, and if you told me that was going to happen, before it happened, I would think that they would never react that way, you know. No, that’s not going to be you know, surely God’s love, you know, surely common sense, you know, but I was just shocked and surprised again, and again, how, I guess I put it down to how ill equipped some parts of the church are in dealing with what I would regard as a major personal catastrophe. Some people just couldn’t cope with it. And didn’t have a way to think around it except, well divorce is wrong. So, either fix it or  I don’t see how you can be a Christian. And it’s just like, yeah, so writing a chapter about that was really personal obviously. If you’ve read it, as I know you have, but the listeners if they read it, you know, it’s personal, I probably didn’t succeed. I tried to keep my personal feelings and hurt out of it so that it’s useful for everybody, whether it’s those who are suffering, post-divorce, or suffering in a marriage where this even sounds wrong, but there needs to be a divorce, but also to help the rest of the church, to know how to care for people in those situations, and to show the love of Christ because as I read the Bible, there’s no failure that disqualifies you from the love of God. That’s what Paul says in Romans 8. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ, famine, hardship, nor divorce. So, I rest my head on that truth.   JULIE ROYS  39:51 And you say there’s a couple of questions that are helpful to ask and a couple of questions that are not helpful to ask just on a practical level. Walk us through those.   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 40:01 Yeah, I think people should be able to work them out for themselves, if you operate from a posture of what is the loving thing for this person in front of me? Rather than thinking, I’ve got to satisfy the inner juror and decide, you know, is this person guilty of something, needs to be rebuked, or, you know, the sort of inner policeman or inner juror. Bhat if we’re operating out of a genuine concern for the other person, a good question to ask will be are you okay? How can I help you? Do you want to talk about it? Bad questions to ask, in my experience are what is the biblical grounds for your divorce? Is there someone else? These sorts of questions come with assumptions that are accusatory before you know anything about the situation. And they’re just not helpful. It’s a bit like your grandpa’s experience. You don’t lead with that stuff, you know. First, relate and connect and be loving. And I think if someone wants to talk about their situation, that’s fine. But it’s actually not other people’s job to judge whose fault it was that this separation or divorce happened, or, you know, what sins were committed. And that sort of thing.   JULIE ROYS  41:17 Yeah. I mean, what do you say, I’m guessing when you applied for your job at the seminary, you’re at, you had to answer some questions about it. And there are some legitimate places where, obviously, we need to explain ourselves if we’re going to be in positions of leadership. But for the average person, can we not love without knowing all the answers and just love imperfect people living imperfect lives, in an imperfect world, right?   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 41:46 That’s right. We’re aliens and strangers in a fallen world. And we’re all getting hit and bruised and hurting others. And it’s all part of the messy life that we live in. And yeah, I think in positions of responsibility, especially in a theological context, questions need to be asked. But again, the way they’re asked is very important. There’s more to finding out whether someone is capable or should be in a position of leadership, as The Roys Report keeps pointing out well, okay. I find it extraordinary that the elders of Mars Hill concluded that Mark Driscoll was not guilty of any immorality was their wording, right? So, what they mean by morality is, he didn’t commit adultery, and his marriage stayed together as pretty much what it means. But being domineering and arrogant, and being a bully, is not counted as immorality. So, that’s crazy, you know? So, I think when people are being interviewed for those sorts of positions, or whatever, the question should not be just around, how’s your marriage? Or can you tell me about your divorce? But also, like, you know, looking for how do you exert power? You know, what sort of leader are you? You know, how do you treat people who disagree with you? Those sorts of things, which are just as important in my view.   JULIE ROYS  43:09 Well, this concludes part one of my podcast with Dr. Constantine Campbell. In part two, we’ll explore the mega church and its impact on evangelicalism. And Dr. Campbell doesn’t mince words, but actually says this model of church is destroying evangelicalism, and it’s a far cry from the model described by the apostle Paul.   CONSTANTINE CAMPBELL 43:28 Paul talks about this model of the church where it’s building itself up in love. It’s an idea of every member of the church working together, as the body of Christ grows in maturity. Not numerically, necessarily, but in maturity, and in faith. The consumerism of the mega church model is that you see a few people working very hard, the professionals, but the average person attends.   JULIE ROYS  43:54 Well, again, that’s just a taste of part two of my podcast with Dr. Constantine Campbell, author of Jesus Versus Evangelicals. And if you enjoy this podcast, you’re really going to enjoy the next one. I also believe you’re going to enjoy Dr. Campbell’s book, Jesus Versus Evangelicals. And in April, if you give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report, we’ll send you a copy of Jesus Versus Evangelicals. Plus, you’ll be helping support our ministry which is almost 100% grassroots funded. We don’t have big donors or grants or advertising. We have you the people who are passionate to see evil exposed, and the church renewed. So, to give your gift and get a copy of Jesus Versus Evangelicals, go to JULIEROYS.COM/CONATE.   Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to the Roys report on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please Share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you were blessed and encouraged.   Read more
4/19/202345 minutes, 28 seconds
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Why Do People Like Harsh Leaders?

Guest Bios Show Transcript Why are Christians drawn to abusive celebrity pastors? And why do appeals to love and serve often gain less traction than condemnation and harshness? In this edition of The Roys Report, Julie explores explore these questions with Dr. Raymond Chiu, a business professor at Redeemer University in Ontario, Canada. Along with two colleagues, Dr. Chiu has done extensive research on why we like our leaders to be rough and tyrannical. What they found is that the appeal of tyrants is not an aberration, but a phenomenon tied to how our minds work. Because these leaders, like megachurch pastors, are distant and unknown, we don’t really know them. And in the absence of any real knowledge of who they are, we look for certain defining characteristics that we associate with leadership. But what’s scary is that those characteristics—or “defining features”—are extremely toxic. They’re features like domineering, pushy, manipulative, conceited and loud. In this podcast, Dr. Chiu will unpack why we do this—and how we can combat this tendency. He also addresses how this dynamic plays out in church contexts and what we can do about it. Tune in to our fascinating discussion, which has practical application for your life and ministry. Raymond B. Chiu Raymond B. Chiu teaches leadership and nonprofit management at Redeemer University, a Canadian institution rooted in a Christian Reformed tradition for over 40 years. Together with Agata Mirowska and Rick D. Hackett, their leadership research has been featured in Forbes, Psychology Today, and other national media. As a business professor with training in theology and ethics, he takes special interest in understanding the expression of faith in the public sphere, especially among workplaces, religious refugees, and charities. Raymond celebrates a 25-year marriage to his wife Lesley and enjoys walking alongside his three young-adult children. Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, RAYMOND CHIU, PhD JULIE ROYS  00:05 Why are Christians drawn to abusive celebrity pastors? And why do appeals to love and serve often gain less traction than condemnation and harshness? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to explore these questions with Dr. Raymond Chiu, a business professor at Redeemer University in Ontario, Canada. Along with two colleagues, Dr. Chiu has done extensive research on why we like our leaders to be rough and tyrannical. What they found is that the appeal of tyrants is not an aberration, but it’s a phenomenon tied to how our minds work. Because these leaders like megachurch pastors are distant, we don’t really know them. And in the absence of any real knowledge of who they are, we look for certain defining characteristics that we associate with leadership. But what’s scary is that those characteristics or defining features are extremely toxic. They’re features like domineering, pushy, manipulative, conceited and loud. In this podcast, Dr. Chiu will unpack why we do this, and how we can combat this destructive tendency. He also addresses how this dynamic plays out in church context and what we can do about it. I’m so excited to delve into this fascinating topic with Dr. Chiu.   But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Accord Analytics and Marquardt of Barrington. In your ministry or business your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it, and Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For free consultation go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out just go to BUYACAR123.COM.    Well again joining me is Dr. Raymond Chiu, a business professor with training in theology and ethics at Redeemer University in Ontario, Canada. He’s also a leadership researcher whose work with colleagues Agata Mirowska and Rick Hackett has been featured in Forbes, Psychology Today and other national publications. So, Dr. Chiu, welcome. I’m looking so forward to our conversation today.   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  02:51 I am too and thank you so much for focusing on all of God’s children that are in churches today, especially those who are hurting or neglected in some way and don’t have a voice. So thank you for doing that work and helping me to understand leadership as well.   JULIE ROYS  03:06 Well, and I can tell just in your work, that your heart is for the vulnerable and those in our churches who are hurting, and I’m looking forward to diving into our topic, which again, deals with tyrannical leaders, authoritarian leaders, but I’m really curious, how is it that you got interested in this topic of research and looking into why we tend to prefer some of these leaders? You’re right that there are various terms that are used for that you’ve mentioned tyrannical, authoritarian, domineering, aggressive, they’re all in the same area. And I’ve worked in nonprofit management for a while and being concerned about social ills. Of course, the ethical failure and success of leaders is always an interest given the challenges that we face in our communities and the world today. And as I came out of seminary and into doctoral studies, I discovered that my supervisor and I both had an interest in leadership and ethics. And he invited me on to a team that had just started looking at the relationship between morality or what we call moral foundations and people’s leadership preferences because we want to know if there’s something deeper they’re causing the troubles we’re seeing in the world today. And that led to about a decade of groundbreaking research.   So that brings us to what I think is one of the most maddening topics in our church today, one of these dynamics where we seem to prefer these tyrannical leaders or these authoritarian leaders. You know, we have someone like John MacArthur, who tells Beth Moore to go home, and people cheer him for that, right? We’ve got a Mark Driscoll who’s been shown through all the research and the reporting, definitely a bully type leader. And yet, you know, I was in Phoenix not that long ago, and his parking lots full at his new church, people are going to it’s a mega church. Again, he knows how to grow these. So, what is your research shown as far as why we seem to prefer these kinds of leaders?   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  03:47 So we did a study of 1147 North American participants, and we look specifically at elements such as fear, such as their deep moral convictions, and try to see how they related to their preference for tyrannical leaders. And it turned out there was a relationship between a person’s fear of a dangerous world and their propensity to adopt conservative or traditional moral values. And those values or morals or intuitions, which is what we call them, are also related to a preference for a domineering leader.   So that would be the impression or the perception that these leaders are truly effective. And so we have this chain reaction that is happening, it’s psychological. It’s not just sort of a feeling in the moment, but it’s something that occurs among individuals and groups. We focus on a tyrannical leader what we call a tyrannical leader, because we’re really focusing on the traits, the fact that these people exhibit things that are clearly destructive and dysfunctional, but somehow, people seem to gravitate towards them. So we have these three things: fear, morality, and these impressions that we have of leaders is usually in the context of a lack of information as well. But these things are causing this perception that this kind of leader is a good thing.   JULIE ROYS  05:22 So you mentioned that fear tends to move people towards conservative or traditional values. Now, I tend to be pretty conservative myself. I like to think that my values and my beliefs are rooted in truth, and that’s why I’m choosing them. But help me understand this fear and how fear might move us in that direction. And are you saying that the Conservatives are more fear based than liberals? I mean, is that what you’re saying? Because it kind of sounds a little bit that way.   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  05:52 Yeah, that might be the implication. It makes me think of the question, do we follow Jesus because we love him? Or do we follow Him because we fear condemnation, or we fear eternal damnation? Fear is always part of our human experience. If I were to give examples, you can see how fear mongering is actually something that is often part of the political discourse. It’s an intentional political strategy. Social media and conservative media especially has a lot of doomsday language saying our country is under crisis. Certain groups, gays, Muslims, migrants are threatening our country. This is part of the language of conservatism and it’s part of our daily human experience. And you know, when you think about it, it gets down to the core of our frailties as human beings. Just think about the times when your mom told you not to stay out at night or to be careful with strangers. And these reactions to threat, to danger are manifest in many different ways. There’s decades of studies showing that they relate to things like becoming more prejudiced, wanting to have more children, wanting to punish social deviance. It even reduces men’s desire for attractive women. It does as well, for example, fear of disease, which is related to fear of a dangerous world. And we’ve seen that and experienced that with the pandemic. It leads us to become politically and socially more conservative, to conform to the majority to become less extroverted, less open, less liberal in our sexuality. So, these are effects that pervade in our day to day lives, and experience and you think about all the things that we are even more afraid of now post pandemic. And so it’s understandable to perhaps suggest that, you know, some of these fears that we walk around with every day are going to affect the moral and social values that we adopt in churches in society.   JULIE ROYS  08:03 Coleman Luck and I did some podcasts together. And he wrote a book on the curse of conservatism. Not saying that conservative ism is wrong. Well, being conservative isn’t wrong, maybe the ISM, here’s where you get into problems, because that’s where it becomes an ideology, right? But there is definitely a politics of panic going on.   Interestingly, you bring up like COVID, it almost seemed like the Conservatives were more on the non-fear side saying, well, we don’t need all these restrictions, why is everybody living by fear? And then you had liberals wanting to have more of the restrictions. But I also see your point in that, to conserve it means that you want to protect something right? You think there is something worth conserving or protecting? And fear isn’t always bad, either. I mean, we have it’s one thing when I look at some of these bully types, you know, Christian leaders, and I wonder to myself with the way they’re behaving, do they have a fear of God, the way they behave? Like it seems to me, they really don’t fear God and I legitimately fear God. Like, I legitimately know that someday I’m going to give an account to someone to whom I’m morally responsible. And I’m going to have to say and justify what I did, although, thanks to what Christ did on the cross, I’m forgiven, but still I have that idea that I’m going to be held accountable. And I do wonder whether some of these folks have that.   But you mentioned this idea of, sometimes we have love and fear in conflict, right? And you know, as Christians, we are to be driven by love, and certainly not fear of protecting ourselves. We’re to give up ourselves, right? So, talk to me a little bit about this moral response, and even as Christians, how we should be thinking about things when fear and love might be in conflict.   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  09:49 You know, I think we all care about ourselves and each other as well. And we all have good intentions. And that’s something that is reflected in moral foundations theory and our understanding of morality in general, we want all people to have well-being. The question is, is how that well-being is achieved. For some, it’s through caring directly for people and their rights, and for others is by, as you say, conserving or protecting the group. And so while the Conservatives may not be so concerned about fearing the disease within, their fear that disease without, from the outside the China virus, right? You know, what are other countries, you know, what conspiracies are going to be attacking and compromising our country. So it’s not that they don’t care, but they care in a different way. And they care from a group perspective. And so, it’s that group perspective that allows a certain kind of leadership a kind of social authoritarian values having to do with, you know, how one should behave in a group. That’s the kind of conditions that allows that to happen.   And so we had discovered, in fact, there is a relationship between that fear and that sort of group focused morality, which focuses on specifically three types of conservative or traditional morality: authority, the belief in strong authority, a belief and strong loyalty to the group, and a preservation of a kind of purity or sanctity in a group that’s often used to define a group.   JULIE ROYS  11:27 I want to hone in on that. So how does our want to conserve something, to protect something, to what I’m hearing you say, protect a group, right? How does that move us towards being predisposed to liking more of your strong, even heavy handed leader?   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  11:46 So we have impressions in our mind, about what a leader looks like, or should look like, and we call these prototypes, right? So we have stereotypes, prototypes of men and women, you know, fathers and mothers. And in the same way, we have these prototypes in our mind if we see someone who matches that prototype, alpha male, you know, athletic, student, Council, President, whatever it is, but you know, those people who seem to be popular and get a following, those people match the prototypes. And there are a number of prototypes, most of them are good.   We have your sensitive leader, you’re intelligent, dedicated or dynamic leader. These are all proven by social science to be things that people have in their mind.   But there’s also what we call this tyrannical prototype that authoritarian, domineering, aggressive leader. And the specific traits that have been identified are these; there are six of them. And you can think about how they play out in your own experience perhaps. Domineering, pushy, manipulative, loud, conceited, and selfish. When you think about these, some of these are clearly ungodly. But if we were to sort of be in Sunday school, we would obviously say these are not godly or good things. But we’re talking about the average person out there and even a Christian who’s back at home watching movies or playing video games, right? The things that they react to that draw their attention that they find to be impressive, you know, are not necessarily the quiet demure soft spoken pastor. That doesn’t draw anyone’s attention. It’s the rich televangelists. It’s the preachers in sneakers, right? It’s the prosperity gospel, these are the things that signal to people, oh, they’re up on a stage, they must be successful, they must have something right, even though they’re displaying these dysfunctional traits. And, you know, it makes me think about I don’t know about you or your listeners, those times when we listen to this really domineering preacher on Sunday morning, and thought to ourselves for a moment, you know, if that person behaved that way in normal society, that wouldn’t really be acceptable. But somehow there’s this feeling that we’re really impressed that they got away with it, that people are in the audience, as you say, are laughing and that, you know, there’s this sort of group reaction that man, this guy can pull it off, and they are somehow better for it. It’s incredible.   JULIE ROYS  14:37 If I’m understanding you correctly, and tell me if I am. What you’re saying is when we have these fears, and we see a world that’s dangerous and out of control, which there’s no doubt there’s that element throughout conservative Christianity where the world is bad and it’s scary and it’s changing. You know there’s truth in that. But that we’re tending to want this leader that doesn’t look anything like Jesus. Right? I mean, this leader who maybe has these negative characteristics, yeah, we think, Wow, that guy may be a jerk, but he can, he can be my champion. Is that what you’re saying?   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  15:19 Yes, he can be our champion, he can do what we go to leaders every day for, and that is to get the job done. I think it’s fair to say that we all have an agenda. It’s not surprising to say that certain religious groups that are allied with political movements have an agenda. That could be even perhaps a cultural mandate, I think it varies depending on you know, which part of the world you’re in. And so, if that’s your agenda, to protect society from crisis to save our country from degradation, then who can get it done? It’s more likely the person who’s going to ram it through, you know, to the extent there who are, you know, greedy and selfish ourselves, after thinking about it not surprising that we would just buy into a leader that we feel will do our dirty work, so to speak.   JULIE ROYS  16:16 Well, I mean, that dynamic is definitely there. I mean, I don’t get it on a certain level, because I remember when Donald Trump was running, and I was like, wow, he’s such a jerk, like he won’t get anywhere. That’s my thinking. Like, I’m immediately repulsed by bullies. I always have been. It’s probably why I’m in the line of work that I am. But I was shocked. I mean, absolutely shocked with how the Christian community got behind him. And then was like, well, you know, sometimes you and what you just said, sometimes we need the bad guy to do our dirty work, was essentially the argument I got from other Christians. Sometimes we need a bad guy to do our dirty work. And so a perfectly you know, almost like, well, Jesus couldn’t get us out of this mess. So, we can’t really act like Jesus. I mean, really? Bottom line. That’s, what I’m hearing some Christians say.   But then to see this come into because there was an argument with Trump. Well, he’s not a pastor, right? People are like, well, he’s not a pastor. Let’s not expect him to be one. But we’re talking about pastors in a lot of these situations, we’re talking about, and this is what’s been shocking to me. And there needs to be a good study on this because there was a study and it turned out it was very flawed, but it was on narcissist pastors. And, and it showed that there tended to be a preference, like Christians were preferring these narcissists in these positions. And it’s no wonder that we’re getting so many narcissists in these mega churches. But it seems like there’s a curated image, which is kind of like maybe a tough guy. But we’ve made the tough guy acceptable, like somehow we’ve Christianized the tough guy. And so we’ve got these mega church pastors with curated images, because they’re on social media. And I think this is one of the problems. And I talked to Caitlyn Beatty about this when we’re talking about celebrities for Jesus. This goes back pretty far for evangelicals, you know? Even the Great Awakenings and Jonathan Edwards, who would get up and preach and would go to different towns, and people didn’t necessarily know him very well. And so we have these leaders, and there’s a lack of information, we don’t really know, for example, how does he treat his wife? Have we seen him with his kids? You know, it used to be the pastor stayed in the community for a very, very long time, would live there, maybe his whole life pastor, the same church, and he lived there, and people knew they would know if he had rough edges, and I would think there would be a certain amount of positive pressure on the pastor to conform his image to Christ, because everybody’s seeing it. But now it’s almost the opposite way. So, talk a little bit about how this lack of information and what your research found how this contributes to promoting these people with very poor character, but do have a really flashy image.   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  19:03 A different way that leadership scholars study leadership, which is to look at the actual behavior. So when we are able to research people who do know their leaders, then we asked specifically, about, you know, whether or not they are ethical, whether or not they you know, consider the needs of their followers, whether or not they, you know, communicate well and exhibit certain virtues. So, you’re absolutely right that there is this difference between the everyday pastor that we know. Like my pastor who has been pastoring for 35 years and is very soft spoken, but you know, such an excellent, genuine person. A difference between that person and someone that we hardly know and, you know, social media makes it a lot worse. Obviously, probably one of the most important articles I’ve read in a long time, by Jonathan Hight in the Atlantic highlighted the fact that social media really only serves to be a platform for the most extreme views to stand out and gain traction.   And so if I’m a tyrant, and I’m able to work that type of social media through Tweets and Instagram, and then also do things that attract the attention of media outlets, and they themselves amplify and repeat those traits, we’re essentially feeding to the base exactly those things that got them attracted to that tyrant in the first place. So, it’s a kind of self-perpetuating mechanism that we have. Now it’s a perfect storm. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter the substance of what the leader says anymore, because if they already identified now, because it’s about groups, it’s about identity, if they already identify with the leader, and what they say or how good they are, probably doesn’t matter anymore. It’s really sort of how they feel. It’s again that impression they get that, oh, this person is really going to take it to those other people. And if they can feel that this leader will continue to advance their agenda, continue to be aggressive, domineering, selfish, and in whatever way in order to achieve the group’s goals, then that’s all they need to know. They don’t need to know the details. They don’t want to know the details. You know, it’s interesting that more or sorry, less conservative media will have quite a preoccupation with tracking all the intrusive of people like Donald Trump, but when in fact, you know, there’s followers of him and you know, similar leaders who really don’t care about that kind of thing.   JULIE ROYS  21:47 Let’s talk about toxic masculinity because in my reporting, I’ve seen an awful lot of this, sadly, within conservative Christianity. We mentioned Driscoll, and I remember talking to the head of his security who talked about being in a staff meeting and Driscoll turning around and just berating his associate pastor, you know, and berating his masculinity. Tough guy, right, but very toxic, toxic form of masculinity, or, you know, the whole patriarchy movement, where we see men encouraged to rule their homes, not serve their wives and children, but to rule over them. And that somehow this is a good. So, what did your research show about this kind of toxic masculinity and why it’s happening?   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  22:38 In fact, it wasn’t a primary focus of our study. And really interesting link emerged in that that relationship between traditional morality and preference for tyranny turned out to be stronger among males, which reinforces this idea that there’s this association between leadership and masculinity. I think Kristin Dumas from Calvin University addresses this much better in her book called Jesus and John Wayne. But that particular angle taken in this book is, you know, we have this problem with evangelicalism and masculinity, and our research would offer something to embellish or maybe expand on that. And that’s a fact that most leadership researchers understand based on decades of research, that basically there’s this think-leader, think-male principle, that whenever we think about leadership, we think about masculinity, we expect leaders to be male, we expect leaders to have male traits, as well, which are more agentic more aggressive. And so because, you know, even subconsciously, people associate leadership with masculinity, you can think about what effect that has on leaders, especially male leaders, who are looking to fortify their own sense of masculinity.   Now, we didn’t, you know, this is not something that can be conclusive from the research, but it’s understandable to see how males especially because the leaders are male, and because many leaders are strong, that, you know, males could be trying to actualize themselves through the type of leader that is before them. And hence, we have, of course, hyper masculine groups like the Proud Boys, like the Oath keepers, who, of course, were part of the disruptive and violent movements that we’ve seen in in recent years. But they are also fashioned around this idea of the toxic male leader.   JULIE ROYS  24:50 You said something that was very curious to me and something that I’ve sort of had a theory about myself, where you said that, that some of these men were trying to actualize themselves in the leader, which says to me, these are men that are actually weaker in their masculinity, who tend to prefer these hyper masculine leaders. In other words, it’s not the strong man who is going after this kind of leader, not the man who’s secure in himself. But it’s more a man that’s insecure in that, who is, I mean, almost compensating by attaching to this toxic leader. What I found is that a lot of these churches that when I, you know, begin investigating, I will find that a lot of the men that gravitate around these really bully type leaders, a lot of them are not alpha males, they’re beta males, right? I mean, I hate to use those terms. And so that alpha male, I mean, the men that have stayed with, for example, Mark Driscoll for 30 years, you have to be I mean, you’re berated on a regular basis. So, you kind of have to be to put up with that. And then you’ll see the men who are strong in their masculinity, they’ll be the ones that call them out. So they’re not going to last that long, because they’re going to be calling out this leader for their behavior. But yeah, it’s just really, really fascinating to me. There’s so much in there that I’m sure you could research for a long time, and still have more.   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  26:21 Yeah, I have actually come across research that talks about it, the fact that it’s more insecure males that would follow after a dominant leader. So, there’s research done in a different way that corroborates with what you say. And it certainly is understandable that yes, it’s going to be those so called weaker males that are going to be able to put up under those environments. And even the fact that I used the word weaker, I mean, you know, weak implies, you know, less valuable, less worthy, but, you know, there are other forms of masculinity that are valuable. And, yeah, it’s unfortunate that our cultures, religious or not, are feeding into this idea that to be masculine, you need to be having these sort of even destructive qualities.   JULIE ROYS  27:12 Well, and Jesus was the strongest leader that there was, and his strength enabled him to lay himself down and to sacrifice himself for us and, every time we talk about leadership, I always, you know, go back to wow, Jesus didn’t talk that much about leadership. He talked a lot about servanthood. And yet we you know, in this culture very obsessed with leadership. Judson University is a top-ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. I want to pivot talking about how in these hyper masculinized cultures, that abuse seems to so often thrive. And I know that’s something that you did look into in your research. What did you find out between the connection between abuse and masculinity?   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  28:24 I think the answer to the question really can be imagined by thinking about what would happen if a stranger came up to you on the street and tried to bully or coerce you? I mean, of course, you know, who is this person, you’d have nothing to do with it, you’d have your guard up right away. And you probably wouldn’t feel much pressure, hopefully not. But you know, everything changes, when you’re in an environment where you have this kind of tyrannical leader, where not only does the organization and its legitimacy, endorse this leader, which means that he is automatically afforded trust. But this leader also embodies all of those things that address those fears and insecurities, those priorities, those convictions that we talked about before; that this leader fights to overcome our uncertainties and our threats and our fears, that he fights to protect the group, he leads people to God even, he presents a father figure, you know, we’re thinking about the masculine aspect, and, you know, provide spiritual insight, spiritual guidance, of course, in a religious context. You know, when that happens, then you have this entire environment and this entire organizational structure that then provides an opportunity for abuse.   Another way to think about it is this; one thing that leadership scholars often think about and ask themselves is, do leaders lead by behaving in ideal ways such that followers followi it? Like, are leaders just sort of trying to do the sort of servant leadership thing and transformational leadership thing? Or do they lead based on what works? Do they just kind of behave how they think they should behave or how they see other leaders behave? And you know, if it works, it works. You know, God must be blessing me. I must be a good leader. It’s more likely the latter, in many cases, as we’re kind of fumbling through leadership than the first. If a preacher has experienced sort of domineering, vindictive, disciplinary preaching in the past, and, you know, uses it, and find it works, and find that people come and say that they’ve been transformed, and they’re awestruck. I mean, they’re going to keep on doing that thing. And so if that environment that I talked about before is also an effect, and they’re finding that these things work, why would they not have a propensity or at least an enticement to use that power for their own needs and for their own gain? Right, because, you know, so far, they’ve really been doing it, supposedly, for the good of the congregation, and it works. But the problem is, it fosters some of these destructive traits that are really not kind to other people. And that’s the unfortunate thing.   JULIE ROYS  31:29 So, help me understand how did you research that? I mean, did you find, did you ask leaders, for example, whether they do, they tend to just do what works, or whether they move towards their ideal of what they want, or their followers, which whether they’re going from a pragmatic point of view.   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  31:52 Some people think that leadership is just a question of just, you know, being good, and then people follow you. But people follow bad leaders, too. So, part of it is understanding how this leadership can translate into specific situations. And I think it’s more of the kind of research that you’re doing, and that, you know, the historical research that Kristin Dumas is doing, and others that put color and explanation, you know, put the real stories and the narratives to these broader phenomena that we see. I mean, the data that you have is actually really, really rich data to recall that qualitative data. And it’s the combination of this quantitative research with this qualitative research. As scholars, we often remark that journalists often do excellent, excellent qualitative research, you know, case studies and investigations into how an entire organization works and functions. And oftentimes these case studies are used by academics as case studies. So I think brought together that, you know, the data is there, the research is there sort of as a whole.   JULIE ROYS  33:01 I know we’ve talked a lot about academic theories and your academic research. But this isn’t just academic for you. You were in a church, I understand that had been planted by an American mega church movement. And that did not end well for the church. And I’m guessing there was a lot of hurt as the fallout of what happened there. But would you speak to some of that, and the dynamics, when we see this tend or preference for authoritarian leaders, how that does play out specifically in the church context.   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  33:38 And this particular church just happened to be much more on the authority-based, top-down approach. And the important thing is that it really plays out in how people do church, how the church is structured. So, this particular church really prided itself on the fact that only the elder board had authority for all decisions. And the organizational structure did not have any space for accountability to members or accountability to any other body. So, it’s only that sometimes very small group of elders who would be vested with all the responsibility and authority to make all decisions.   And so when trouble happens, it was literally impossible for the membership to do anything to raise the issue to call a vote because there were no members; members were the elders and you know, this kind of sort of top down structure would be reflected in the fact that everything was quite tightly controlled. Lay and youth leadership was genuinely de-emphasized, there was little grassroots initiative. You know, this eventually led to a power struggle because you know, when you have this situation you also have a context within which the leaders themselves believe that they are capable of leading without incident, right? So if you’re in this small group, and you’re saying to yourself, we don’t need accountability to anyone else, you’re also saying to yourself, we can handle it, like we can decide on everything. And I’ve also heard people within the denomination, and leaders within a denomination saying that, you know, all we need in this church or all we need in churches like this is a godly leader. We don’t need to deal with organizational structure, we don’t need to do with deal with culture, we don’t need to deal with our norms and systems and how we make decisions here. All we need is a godly leader. That’s why we’re having problems. And so that kind of mentality signals the fact that authoritarianism is really linked to a whole set of interconnected beliefs. And it’s very unfortunate this happened, you know, I pray for them. Those people are very dear to me. But, you know, I generally would not recommend that kind of approach for our church.   JULIE ROYS  36:07 I think you’re touching on some really big dynamics within the church right now and things that I think we need to wrestle with. And if we are leaning more towards authoritarianism, it would make sense that we’re also becoming more mega church, right? And would you say that if we’re going to reverse this trend, obviously, we need to look at things in ourselves, because we’ve talked about that. And I want to talk about that, but just on a structural level, do we need to move towards something that’s smaller, so that more people can be involved, that every person gets a voice?   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  36:46 I would concur with that. And I currently attend the opposite of that kind of more authority-based church that I went to before, where you can see the difference. And I think, in my case, the leaders are relatively hands off. They’re very trusting of the laity who are organized very effectively into lay-led committees, there’s a tremendous mind initiative, there’s quite a few kind of mature Christians that are stepping out into the different areas of ministry, the youth are highly, highly engaged, and involved in leadership, it’s a totally different experience. But you know, as you said, you know, if the belief is that we want this church to operate efficiently, and we prefer expediency over the process, then the result is going to be what you’re going to get, you reap what you sow, essentially.   JULIE ROYS  37:43 That’s something I learned, I was a history major in college and dictatorships are extremely efficient, extremely efficient, at least in the short run. Now, they tend to in the long run, not to be so efficient, because people get trampled on, and then you get a big mess when there’s an uprising. But in the short run, they’re very efficient. But more if leadership and the governing of something, the running of something is more spread out between a lot of people, it’s going to be a little bit messier. It’s going to take more time, but then you also have people growing up, you know. I mean, you can go to a mega church and just sit there and have everybody do something for you. And you never have to do anything. And if you’re in a church, like you’re describing, which is a lot like, we’re in a house church now and like if we don’t step up, then we just don’t have church on Sunday, right? I mean, either we do it or it doesn’t happen, which I think is not too far away from the New Testament model. Again, this gets back to what do we want? Do we want to be involved? Or do we want to go to the show? Do we want someone who will do all the work for us and all the protecting of the, you know, the evils out there for us? Or do we want to be involved, and, you know, trusting God for those things, and really seeking his leadership in those things?   So we’re talking about a lot of root problems, which really get down to who we are, and how we think, as human beings. And so if we’re going to change, you’re talking about some pretty fundamental changes in our thinking, but also in our actions. And I know that that could feel pretty overwhelming for folks. So what kind of hope can you offer in our current climate?   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  39:25 I think we can offer hope. And I think you alluded to some of these things already when you talked about sort of coming back to what you think is sort of the root of doing church and doing church in a good way in a godly way. And I truly do believe the answer comes from returning to the Bible and to Christ. I mean, it’s really interesting to read the Bible again, for what it’s saying about leadership about how leaders emerge, and not necessarily in good ways. It’s often that you see in the Bible that there’s these perceptions or assumptions about physical prowess or seemingly redemptive violence that you know, qualifies someone to be a leader, if I use the term from Walter Wink. There’s many stories in the Bible where leaders emerge through some of these kinds of tyrannical kind of behaviors. Prime example is Abimelech, son of Gideon, by a concubine, actually. And he used racial politics to gain a following and then killed seven of his brothers, as some of you might know, to gain the throne.   And so, we need to be looking at these stories as well as you know, many other stories in Jesus time where people had all sorts of expectations about what kind of king or ruler, or insurrectionists, that Jesus would be. All kinds of insights in terms of what people are looking at. While at the same time, God was always saying, well, you don’t need a leader, you don’t need a king, you just need to follow me, right. And so, reading the Bible in that way, just returning to the word, and then also looking at Christ, and not putting him in a box. Just realizing that he really reflects, you know, as someone who is a leadership scholar and professor, he really reflects one of the most diverse expressions of leadership I can think of. And it’s not just servant leadership, it’s also transformational leadership, in the way that he deals with people. It’s a deep sense of stewardship of his mission, and his flock, and the time and the resources that he has. It’s also a diverse set of moral virtues that exhibits in his character that come out at various times whether its courage or humility or empathy or justice. And of course, he also exhibits almost a subversive form of leadership, where he’s trying to say, yes, you know, follow me, but I’m gonna do whatever I can to subvert your perceptions of what a leader should be. I’m going to subvert sort of your reliance on the idol of leadership and bring you back to the gospel bring, you back to the true source, which is grace. And so yeah, I think I think there’s a lot that we can learn by just going back to square one.   JULIE ROYS  42:06 We could talk for a very long time about these things. But we have run out of time. But I want to thank you so much. And I’m guessing your research will continue along these lines, and you’ll have some more research coming before long  am I right? Are you working on something now?   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  49:25 Yes, we are. We’re working on trying to study this from a different angle, using scenarios of tyrannical leaders in real life contexts and then seeing whether or not people’s moral intuitions as well as the gender of the leader. So, our prior study did not look at the gender of the leader. So looking at whether the gender of a leader has Ian effect on whether or not these moral intuitions result in preference. And we know from prior research that women do not do well trying to emulate men.   JULIE ROYS  50:23 Fascinating. Well, I look forward to that and look forward to maybe having you on again to talk about that. But thank you so much, Doctor Chiu. I appreciate you appreciate your work, and for taking the time.   RAYMOND CHIU, PhD  50:34 Thank you for having me on. It’s been a privilege.   JULIE ROYS  50:36 Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And just a reminder that we’re able to do this podcast and all of our investigative work at The Roys Report because of support from people like you. So, if you appreciate our work, would you please consider giving a gift to support us to donate just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
4/6/202346 minutes, 2 seconds
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‘Jesus Revolution’: The Untold Story

Guest Bios Show Transcript Jesus Revolution—a new film recounting the Jesus Movement of the 1970s—has become a box office sensation with Christian moviegoers. But is the movie accurate? And does its focus on megachurch pastor Greg Laurie do justice to this 1970s movement that changed the world? On this edition of The Roys Report, Christian filmmaker David Di Sabatino, creator of the Emmy-award-nominated documentary, Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher, joins Julie. If you’ve watched Jesus Revolution, then you know that Lonnie Frisbee played a pivotal role in the Jesus Movement. He was the hippie preacher who helped lead thousands to the Lord and performed mass beach baptisms on the Southern California coast. And, he’s the young man who imparted his vision of reaching lost hippies to Pastor Chuck Smith, who then launched the Calvary Chapel movement. But there’s also a dark side to Frisbee that the movie didn’t portray. According to Di Sabatino, Frisbee was living a double-life—partying and engaging in gay relationships at night and then preaching the next morning. Plus, Di Sabatino says the film’s focus on megachurch pastor Greg Laurie is the antithesis of the 1970s Jesus Movement. The focus of this revival movement was Jesus—not celebrity preachers. Plus, Di Sabatino says some of the facts presented in the film are just plain wrong. For example, Laurie, whose memoir the film is based on, misrepresented how his church started, Di Sabatino says. We sought comment from Laurie on some of these issues, but his secretary said he was not available. However, he has spoken to other media outlets about some issues with the film, and these are included in this podcast. This is an eye-opening podcast. And though we’ll be discussing some of the issues we had with the film, we’ll also be discussing what’s inspirational and beautiful about it, as well. David Di Sabatino David Di Sabatino is a documentary filmmaker known for his films Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher, which was nominated for an Emmy Award, Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman, and No Place to Call Home. Trained as a historian, Di Sabatino is the compiler of The Jesus People Movement bibliography (Greenwood Press, 1999).  Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, DAVID DI SABATINO JULIE ROYS 00:00 Jesus Revolution—a new movie recounting the Jesus Movement of the 1970s – has become a box office sensation. The movie made $15.5 million dollars in its opening weekend. Now it’s nearing the $40 million mark—and has become a runaway hit with Christian moviegoers. But is the movie accurate? And does its focus on megachurch pastor Greg Laurie do justice to this 1970s movement that changed the world? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is David Di Sabatino, a Christian filmmaker and creator of the Emmy-award-winning documentary, Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. If you’ve watched Jesus Revolution, then you know that Lonnie Frisbee plays a key role in the movie. That’s because Frisbee played a key role in the Jesus Movement. He was the hippie preacher who helped lead thousands to the Lord and performed mass beach baptisms on the Southern California coast. And, he’s the young man who imparted his vision of reaching lost hippies to Pastor Chuck Smith, who then launched the Calvary Chapel movement. But there’s also a dark side to Frisbee that the movie didn’t mention. According to Di Sabatino, Frisbee was living a double-life—partying and engaging in gay relationships at night and then preaching the next morning. Plus, Di Sabatino says the film’s focus on megachurch pastor Greg Laurie is the anti-thesis of the 1970s Jesus Movement. The focus of this revival movement was Jesus—not celebrity preachers.  Plus, David says some of the facts presented in the film are just plain wrong. (Sound byte): “Greg Laurie is lying about how that church started. Now, whether he doesn’t remember whether he just wants to keep Lonnie out of his lineage—Lonnie handed off to him a church of 300 thriving young people. That’s when Greg came in.” I reached out to Greg Laurie to get comment on the issues David Di Sabatino raises, but his secretary called me back and said Laurie was not available. Greg has spoken to other media outlets, though, and I include his comments to them in this podcast. This was an eye-opening podcast for me—and I trust it will be for you too. And though we’ll be discussing some of the issues we had with the film, we’ll also be discussing what’s inspirational and beautiful about it, as well. We’ll get to my interview with David in just a moment. But first, I’d like to thank two sponsors of this podcast—Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. Well, again, joining me is David Di Sabatino, creator of the Emmy award winning documentary called Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. David also has produced a documentary on the life of early Christian rocker Larry Norman, and a documentary about a Christian sect in Chicago called Jesus People, USA. So, David, welcome. And thank you so much for joining me. DAVID DI SABATINO 01:06 Thank you for having me. JULIE ROYS 01:07 Today, we’re going to be talking about the Jesus revolution and the movie and just the events depicted in it. But before we do that, I’m just curious what got you interested in the whole Jesus movement and this time in the 1970s, when being a Christian was cool and following Jesus became kind of a hippie thing. DAVID DI SABATINO 01:29 So I grew up in the Italian Pentecostal movement in Toronto, Ontario. As a Pentecostal, there’s talk of revival, there’s talk of these great guys of spiritual power. I started looking around and trying to figure out what a revival was, because, you know, is a revival meeting next Tuesday at 10 o’clock, or was this a larger thing? I started looking, what’s the last revival that we had? Somebody said the Jesus movement. So I started looking at that. I was a Larry Norman fan. JULIE ROYS 01:59 As was I. DAVID DI SABATINO 02:00 Yeah, he would talk about it. And then I decided that I wanted to document this because there weren’t really a lot of books on this thing. So, I honed in on Lonnie because his stories as I started to talk to people, it’s like, a prophet was dropped in the middle of 1960s hippiedom in California. The stories are larger than life and it just drew me. So I was attracted to him because of that background, because of the signs and wonders, because of the miracle stories. Lonnie is just this fascinating character. And you’re seeing that now, because he’s the most riveting character in that movie. JULIE ROYS 02:41 Well, it is interesting because Lonnie Frisbee and I grew up in the church, not in the Pentecostal movement, but in the Evangelical Church. And I mean, to be honest, I didn’t hear very much about Lonnie Frisbee at all. Even Chuck Smith, we were kind of outside the whole Calvary Chapel thing. But that’s someone that I’ve become very familiar with, as I’ve been reporting, because Calvary Chapels keep showing up in different scandals that I’m covering. There seems to be a lot of scandal that follows Calvary Chapels. And there is like a whole other side to this. And I’m curious for you, you grew up Pentecostal. Did you come to this as a skeptic, as a believer as maybe a mixture of both, or just, you know, someone who’s curious? DAVID DI SABATINO 03:26 I’m not a true believer in the sense that I didn’t have questions. I’ve got lots of questions, you know. I mean, I went to seminary, I went to Bible college, I went to grad school, I was curious and interesting. But when I found roadblocks in it, I just didn’t discard it, I just found answers for it. JULIE ROYS 03:43 Give us a little bit of the history sort of in a snapshot for those who don’t know it very well. DAVID DI SABATINO 03:48 The 1960s was a time of tremendous openness. People were searching for truth, with open hearts, you know. It was a very innocent time in some respects. And whatever you decided was the truth, you got up on a street corner with a guitar and sang it or preached it out. And people would sit and listen, because they were so hungry for truth. I mean, the great scene in The Graduate where, you know, he’s got all these opportunities offered to him. And he goes, you know, what, I don’t want my parent’s culture. I want to go and find something that’s real. I don’t want to just this staid-50s culture. So these kids all at the same time, started looking around. And there was a percentage of them that started looking up and straight to Jesus, and saw that he had truth, not necessarily organized religion, but you know, the Jesus of the Bible. And so, all these little 18 year olds and some hippies, some church kids, they started embracing this. And you had then a movement that started people like Chuck Smith, were open to it. And it caught on like wildfire when somebody from that kind of culture said yes to this. So now you have you know, Calvary Chapel explodes because you have all these young hippies going, well, you know this guy, he loves us, and he’s going to take us in. There were other places that said, no, these dirty hippies, you know, leave them at the door. So the Jesus movement then, you know, starts to go on and these people start to make music, they start to do Jesus papers, you know, the countercultural kinds of papers, they aped those. There were communes all over the place. And this happened not just in Southern California, but across the country, Canada, some parts of Europe. I mean, it was a worldwide phenomenon, because something was happening. And people were tuned into it. JULIE ROYS 05:37 Yeah, I used to be a part of The Vineyard, which is one of two denominations. They don’t like to call themselves a denomination, but network of churches, whatever you want to call it, that sprung out of this, and actually, Lonnie Frisbee was connected to. But you have Calvary Chapel with over 1000 churches coming out of you have Vineyard churches, actually, not just in the USA, but worldwide. And I remember talking to a pastor at the Evanston Vineyard here in Chicago area. And he said, Boy, back in the 70s, like Jesus people movement, you just had to like, say, you’re having a Bible study, and it would just like flood, like, you know, people would just come. And so just an amazing time. And I think, an amazing period of Christian history and an amazing move of God with some very complicated characters. And interestingly, I mean, in the Jesus Revolution film, and we’ll talk more about this, Greg Laurie features prominently. I mean, he’s basically the main character, but was really, you know, I don’t want to say a bit player, but I mean, he kind of was I mean, that, yes, the Harvest. His church grew out of that, but he was not central to the beginning of the Jesus people movement. Correct? DAVID DI SABATINO 06:47 Correct. He left out some stuff, which is fine. One of my friends said Greg Laurie made a selfie movie, which I thought pretty much what I mean, if you he paid for it. So, you know, he can do whatever he wants. So, he’s attached himself to the story. And I have some thoughts on that. I bumped heads with Greg when I was doing the Frisbee documentary. He did his movie. You know, he followed Lonnie around like a lost puppy dog. He dressed like him. He tried to ape his moves. He tried to be him. And that’s not represented in the movie, which is fine. Again, I’m not a person that goes to that movie and go, oh, man, he got it all wrong. It’s his movie, right? Lonnie’s story is yet to be told. Because Lonnie story is much more difficult. JULIE ROYS 07:33 And I’m really looking forward to unpacking that because I think that is an important part of the story. And I think the Jesus Revolution and what happened there has a lot to speak to us today. Especially you know, as we’re looking at what happened at Asbury, and is that revival, is it not revival, is it renewal? I mean, what’s happening? We’re gonna dig into that. Let me start with what you liked about Jesus Revolution. Again, this is an extremely popular movie it was supposed to they were hoping to gross what 15 million now they’re double or even triple that. I mean the movie is doing extraordinarily well and obviously connecting with people, and I found myself connecting with parts of it deeply and parts of it not. DAVID DI SABATINO 08:15 That’s how I felt. Yeah. JULIE ROYS 08:16 Okay, so tell me what you liked. DAVID DI SABATINO 08:18 What I liked about it? Those early Calvary Chapel scenes where love song is playing those songs and people are drawn, the water, baptisms, seeing the power and transformative power of the Holy Spirit come down on people. You know, they did a really good job recreating the beach baptisms, all those kids sitting on rocks at Corona del Mar. Wonderful. I mean, that was just, they really captured that well. I thought Jonathan Roumie, I thought he did a great job of Lonnie. I mean, that’s a tough character to nail and he did a good, he did a great job. But Kelsey Grammer was just fantastic. I mean, who doesn’t like Fraser Crane? I saw him in interviews and he’s, you know, he’s saying the words that I crafted, you know, because, you know, whatever you say about whatever I did, I mean, the documentary kind of set the stage for this story. And some of the words that I put together he’s now saying, and I got a kick out of that. JULIE ROYS 09:20 I was really connecting with the Kelsey Grammer character, as well as Chuck Smith. And the reason I think I connected so deeply with it was that was my parents. I grew up late 70s, early 80s. I was in high school and this is when Christian music was just taking off. You know, Larry Norman. You know, I remember his very early, early, you know, drinking whiskey from a paper. You know what I mean? DAVID DI SABATINO 09:49 The best of all that stuff. No doubt about it. I give him his due. He was a great performer. JULIE ROYS 09:56 Yeah. And I saw my parents who you know, in my home, we listened to sacred music and we listened to I think the Carpenters and John Denver were like, the most rock we could get, you know, that’s the closest we could get the pop music that we were allowed on like long trips. And so I saw my parents struggling with this new like Christian rock thing just reminded me of Chuck Smith, although I don’t think they were as square as he was. But they embraced it because they saw the impact it had on me. And when I was in high school, there was, you know, your Jesus people who found Jesus went to Oral Roberts University, charismatic, all that, who ended up discipling me, and we ended up doing this coffeehouse ministry outreach to my friends, and my parents, you know, I saw them take him and his wife under their wing and disciple them and do very much like Chuck Smith did. And so that part of it really was precious to me, because it brought me to that. I mean, it’s nice to have a movie that doesn’t make fun of a spiritual reality and things that we honestly can’t describe, like healings or manifestations of the Spirit. I mean, they’re hard to wrap our heads around, but yet at the same time, we follow a God that Aslan is not a tame lion, so to speak. So, he does things that confound us. So, I agree with you. Like there’s some things in this really to be commended. But there’s also some issues as well. So, let’s start diving into some of those. Connie Frisbee, you said that her head is going to explode when she sees how she was portrayed. Why do you feel that way? DAVID DI SABATINO 11:38 Funny enough, I talked to Connie yesterday. And, you know, my question was, did anybody bother to ask about Connie and who she was? I mean, I’m assuming that what happened was, and I don’t know this, but Greg probably framed all that stuff for them and they just filled in the Connie character, you know, because it wasn’t a big role. So, she comes off extroverted, you know, and a couple of my friends said, we were waiting for her to, you know, lean over and kiss Greg next. And because, you know, there was almost like an intimacy developed between the two of them. JULIE ROYS 12:16 Yeah, that was a little creepy, to be honest. DAVID DI SABATINO 12:16 Yeah, but I don’t know what this is about. But I’ll tell you what her response was, you know, she just, you know, she said, Look, I’m used to this, I’m used to them, you know, dismissing me from history and not talking to me at all, you know, my phone is open. Why didn’t somebody call me? At the same time, I said, it doesn’t work that way. You’re a bit player. They cared about the Frisbee character and the Chuck Smith character. But you know, curly hair extroverted, that’s not Connie. They take license and you have to deal with that. JULIE ROYS 12:48 Yeah, you do. DAVID DI SABATINO 12:50 They’re not doing the Connie Frisbee – Lonnie Frisbee story. They were doing the Greg Laurie story. So that’s what’s important to them. That’s a little thing. JULIE ROYS 12:56 Well, another maybe little thing, but this bothers me. I mean, I know there’s artistic license, but why can’t we do things true to the story? Chuck’s daughter picking up Lonnie as he’s hitchhiking. That never happened, right? DAVID DI SABATINO 13:09 It never happened. No. JULIE ROYS 13:10 How did he meet him? DAVID DI SABATINO 13:11 That girl was dating a guy named John Nicholson, who brought Lonnie to Chuck Smith. That’s, you know, it’s another thing. But she gets up on stage with love song at the end. Yeah, I mean, come on. That never happened. JULIE ROYS 13:25 Some artistic license also with the guy who wrote the Time article. DAVID DI SABATINO 13:29 Ian Black. JULIE ROYS 13:30 He wasn’t African American, right? DAVID DI SABATINO 13:32 Oh, no. Richard Ausling? No. There were two guys that came out and did stories. So, I think they’re conflating there is the Look magazine article, which came out first. That story, it came out in February 1971. It’s the Jesus movement is upon us. Now that’s Jack and Betty Cheatham, who did all the photographs. And Jack Cheatham is responsible for getting the Jesus movement story to New York. And when he put that up the ladder to these guys in New York, these guys said, did you pay those people to go into the water to be baptized? Are you staging this? They didn’t believe it. And he said no. He said, that’s what they’re doing up and down the coast. They’re having beach baptisms. And so that’s why that story got slated. The guy that wrote the article, his name is Brian Vashuan. Then there was the Time Magazine one which is Richard Ausling. All white, everybody’s white. Again, creative license, you know, that’s fine. JULIE ROYS 14:31 I mean, I just saw Les Mis in theaters and the cast was not all European, which I guess if you want to be true to Les Mis, it would be. But I like that, that we’re using diversity and I like that but at the same time, it wasn’t Time magazine that put him on the charts as you’re saying it was it was Look magazine, who published first so I mean, again, minor things. DAVID DI SABATINO 14:55 But you know, I talked with Chuck Smith’s right-hand guy is still alive and he’s a pastor, and he said to me, he said, in the crowd early Calvary Chapel, there’s black faces, you know, there’s people that are of color. And he said, we maybe had three the whole time I was there. You know, there just was a white crowd. But historically, this is what it was. It was a white movement, really. So, if you’re a Black person in the 1960s, and they did join up with some Jesus movement groups, but largely, why would you do that? They’re not speaking your language. Really. Just the way it was, yeah. JULIE ROYS 15:34 What a missed opportunity and how the church might look different today. And we wouldn’t be having half the issues we’re having today, had that happened and had we seen properly that the Civil Rights Movement is a part of our values as Christians to be a part of that. That’s something we’re extraordinarily late to the game on. DAVID DI SABATINO 15:55 There’re other things I’d like to say about some of the missteps in the movie. Lonnie would have never said that he was the Jesus movement. Like when he turns to Chuck and says, The only reason this is happening is because of me. I mean, that’s not true. That’s not Lonnie. You know, I talked to Connie yesterday, her comment was Lonnie wouldn’t even ever had that thought. One of the great things about Lonnie is he understood that this was God moving through him. He would have never thought he took any you know; it was anything of his. I mean, he understood and his comments where, God raised me up from the dunghill. He understood throughout his life that it had nothing to do with him and that is was all God. One of the great things about Lonnie, he never would take credit because he didn’t do anything. He just kind of showed up. And God put this thing on him to be kind of like a fire starter. So that comment in that film they just got that so wrong. That’s just not him. Beyond that, Lonnie started Greg’s church. So that narrative about how Riverside happened, that’s wrong. That’s just dead wrong. There’s a fellow named Fred Wah, who was involved with the early Riverside Church. Twenty years ago, Fred phoned me up, and he says, David, I love Lonnie, and I love Greg. But Greg Laurie is lying about how that church started. Now, whether he doesn’t remember whether he just wants to keep Lonnie out of his lineage, Lonnie handed off to him a church of 300 thriving young people. That’s when Greg came in, after Lonnie had discipled these people and brought them along. So that’s the story. I got one more. The fact that they have marketed this film to suggest that, oh, this is going to be the catalyst to a revival. I mean, that is the most disgusting thing about this whole thing to me. Because it’s like, name me the movement or somebody’s self-centeredness, and hubris has fired off something in the Spirit. You think the spirit responds to your selfie movie? Give me a break man! To say that this is going to spark some sort of movement in the Spirit. What are you talking about? Are you so daft that you can’t see what you’re saying? Because basically, he’s saying I am the high point culmination of everything good that came out of the Jesus moment to which I say, Oh, that’s nice. You built a big church, who cares? Who cares, man, good for you. You know, I don’t care about that. But to say that that’s going to spark the Spirit of God. That just got my blood boiling. JULIE ROYS 18:48 Well, as we’re thinking of revival, and especially coming out of the Asbury revival, which let’s remember at Asbury, we had a bunch of big-name people who came in right? Wanted to co-op the revival for their own platform. And the administration there said, you know, if you want to come fine, but you’re gonna sit like any other congregant, and they put the kids up on stage, you’re not going to get on stage. And it was good for them. And they made it very clear, this revival is what God is doing in a grassroots movement through the students, and we’re not going to get in the way of it. I love that. But what’s happening now for Greg Laurie to say, you know, it is kind of the antithesis of what happened at Asbury to now go promote this movie and say, you know, this is what God did, and he can do it again. Yes. Can you do it again? Yes. But what’s it about? And this is what bothered me so much. It wasn’t about the celebrities. I mean, Chuck Smith is about as vanilla as can be the way he’s portrayed, and I think it’s probably somewhat true to form. Lonnie was a character but as you say, the thing I like about Lonnie is that he really seems to be showing up for what The Holy Spirit is doing. And he’s there to be a part of what God’s doing not to kind of co-op this for himself. But I do get the sense from watching your documentary and reading some others that Lonnie truly was seeking something real. But he was a pretty complicated character who maybe never overcame his own demons. But he was seeking something real. And so, to see this movie, it’s played prominently, that Lonnie, and Church both tell Greg Laurie that he’s going to go preach to thousands. And to me, this is so classic charismatic, and I love charismatics. And I lean that way myself, but I remember once turning to my husband and saying, When is somebody going to get a prophetic word that you’re going to live out your life in relative obscurity, and you’re going to serve your family and do it faithfully. But that’s going to be the beautiful thing that God has birthed in you, is that your life is going to be remarkably normal, but you’re going to live faithfully for him, and you’re going to touch some people profoundly in your life through living that quiet life. Like you never hear these, you always hear these, you know, kind of grandiose, and that’s where I see like, just the spirit of man getting caught up in these things. DAVID DI SABATINO 21:09 I say that all the time. I say, you know, when Is God gonna anoint somebody to make dinner? I don’t get it. And I’ll tell you even with this story, and I’ve watched this the whole time, everybody wants to be important. So, I have a question for you. The Asbury thing; I know what happened in the 70s. Is it the exact same place? JULIE ROYS 21:27 Well, it happened at Asbury did it happen in that specific chapel? That I don’t know. DAVID DI SABATINO 21:32 But the fact that it happened at the same college 50 years later, that is extraordinary to me. That coincidence, like why? Because I know the original one, some teachers got up and said, Hey, man, we’ve been phoning it in, and we’re sorry. And this tremendous sense of forgiveness and confession, started this whole vista. And people just started flocking to this place because the Spirit reacted to the humility or whatever. I mean, you know, that’s what I’m thinking. And it was tremendous, but that 50 years later, the same thing sparks off and good for them to rope it off. JULIE ROYS 22:10 Yeah, I mean, my mother was Wesleyan, and she grew up on the campus of Houghton College. So very similar roots and coming out of the holiness tradition, for them, the litmus test of it is not speaking in tongues being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is a second work of this spirit to give you the power to overcome sin in your life. It’s a repentance and holiness movement. And so my mother, like I remember her telling me stories of when she was a child being woken up in the middle of the night, because revival was happening on the campus of Houghton College, and going out, you know, like, I don’t know, one-two in the morning, as a really young teenager, and being in the church and hearing professors get up and confess their sins. For her as a kid, you can imagine hearing these adults get up and confess their sins. just remarkable. But again, it was very grassroots and she used to talk about it. So, this was part of my growing up; wanting and longing for revival and wanting for holiness in the church. That has always been, you know, deeply rooted in me because of my history. But I’m guessing at Asbury the same sort of thing, because it comes out of a similar revivalist history. But yeah, it’s beautiful when you see that happening. DAVID DI SABATINO 23:29 I think that’s why people gravitate towards Lonnie, there’s an authentic Ness to him. You and I both know that charlatans abound. Lonnie wasn’t like that. He kind of just showed up. And you know, the authenticity of Lonnie is he moves a 40-year-old pastor who doesn’t like the hippies, to let him up on stage the next week, knowing full well that he came out of the homosexual lifestyle. How does that happen? The meeting between Lonnie Frisbee and Chuck Smith should be on the Mount Rushmore of 20th century spiritual events, because what happened there just defies all logic. And they get at it a little bit. I don’t know how you would do it screen-wise. Lonnie explained it much more dramatically than Chuck did. He said it was like a cloud came and enveloped us. And we were both moved because we understood that there was some connection that had been made. You know, Chuck downplays it because Chuck comes out of Aimee Semple McPherson. He downplays the demonstrative acts of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t want to talk about that stuff. He doesn’t want any kind of glamorization of that because he saw the abuses. You know, Aimee Semple McPherson was, you know, the dramatist and the healings and Katherine Kuhlman followed in that step and a lot of that is just show. I mean, I’m not suggesting that they didn’t do good things. I’m just a lot of that is for performance. Lonnie just wasn’t like that. So, for him to move this guy, that is extraordinary. This is absolutely extraordinary. And he gives him his pulpit and this thing starts to explode, you know. So for me for Greg Laurie to super impose himself on that. You know, and that’s maybe my own personal pet peeve. And I know he was there, but that should be a hands off event where you go, I don’t want to take anything away from this event because this was an act of God. JULIE ROYS 25:39 But yeah, this is an amazing thing. That Lonnie is able to come in both of them know Jesus, Chuck and Lonnie, but he really converts Chuck to what’s most important. And being willing, you know, this is something that I did love about the Vineyard is that they had a commitment to the church being messy, because when the Holy Spirit moves, it’s usually messy. And we want to clean it up because it makes us nervous, right? But I love that Chuck embraced that at the beginning. DAVID DI SABATINO 26:09 I mean, you know, I’m watching people do backflips and calisthenics to try to scrape the gay off Lonnie. JULIE ROYS 26:16 So, let’s talk about this. It’s my understanding he renounced his homosexual past and got married, but then sort of back slid into, you know, and this is when he was married, he was going to gay bars, partying one night. And then the next morning preaching. What Brent McCorkle told Christian Post was, they chose not to mention it, because they wanted to stay true to the story of who Frisbee was in 1969 and 1970. And supposedly, he wasn’t acting out on his, you know, homosexual desires at that time. Laurie told Christian Post and I quote, I don’t know the specifics of his, Lonnie’s, immorality if it involved homosexual encounters. But during the time of the Jesus movement, I never saw or heard anything of that kind. And I don’t believe it was happening at all in his life. This is something that happened later, his marriage fell apart. And then we know he died in his 40s of AIDS. So, I mean, how do you respond to those explanations of why they didn’t mention it? DAVID DI SABATINO 27:20 So, for this movie, I don’t think this was the vehicle by which to try to explain Lonnie’s complexities. Now, the things that they are saying, there’s, you know, they’re saying that out of ignorance. Why would Greg know that? He wouldn’t, I mean, Lonnie leaves in 1971. So Greg never sees him until his deathbed in 1993. I don’t think that they had any interaction. You know, so he doesn’t know about Lonnie’s life. You know, I can tell you from what I know, that Lonnie did renounce, you know, homosexuality, and for the rest of his life, preached that he was not gay, and that he did not, and that homosexuality was a counterfeit. And he preached that and told anybody that wanted to talk to him about that. However, what he did throughout his life, was venture back into that lifestyle. So, the people that are saying, well, you know, he was molested as a child, and therefore, he fell into this sin or whatever reasoning that they want to do. I think you have a real problem with that, because I can show you all along the way that he was engaging in that behavior all along. JULIE ROYS 28:33 Even in the late 60s, early 70s? DAVID DI SABATINO 28:36 Yes, I talked to Connie about it yesterday. But this is the reality of his life. JULIE ROYS 28:41 And wasn’t Lonnie disciplined by Chuck Smith for some of his behavior? DAVID DI SABATINO 28:47 Chuck knew. To his credit, so I think he knew about it. And I think he said, but God is using him. He didn’t dismiss him, even though he knew. I give him credit for that, because that’s unlike anybody else, including John Wimber, who treated Lonnie horribly for 10 years because of this. Horribly. JULIE ROYS 29:10 So, Lonnie was a married man, whether this is a homosexual relationship or heterosexual relationship. I mean, it was forbidden by scripture, I mean, to have extramarital affairs. So when you bring up Chuck Smith, I mean, I read a 2007 article just recently, CT article called Day of Reckoning. And they’re talking about Calvary Chapel and specifically Chuck Smith having this dangerous laxity and maintaining standards for sexual morality among their leaders. And this became, I mean, really a hallmark for Calvary Chapels. I mean, tons of scandals. And one pastor said these men cannot call out sin. Easy forgiveness, insiders say, has created an atmosphere of sexual license where some unethical pastor sense that there are few consequences for sexual misconduct. So not to make it a gay issue or a non-gay issue, I mean, the fact of dealing with sin within Calvary Chapel, he did have a pattern of looking the other way, which then came back to bite the movement. What I’ve heard, and I hear this repeatedly because I report on these scandals, right? Is that we have men from broken homes, maybe abuse in the background, all sorts of you know, drug use immorality coming in getting saved, right? They get saved, and they want to follow Jesus and they want to do what’s right. And they do for several years, because you know, you’re on that sort of a honeymoon period of just, you know, you’re kind of on this high, Jesus high, whatever you want to call it. But when life hits, and it requires character, and it requires dying to self, and it requires walking in holiness, there’s not that ability to do it. But also, there’s like zero understanding in the church zero, about, you know, getting some professional counseling about getting some help for these folks, for someone like Lonnie, that was abused as a child. I mean, just horrible that we have not had a framework of dealing with those root issues. You know, has the church treated gay people horribly? Absolutely. No question. But have we treated just broken people with just a lack of care and understanding? And that’s where, again, I’m watching this movie, and I’m seeing those issues. DAVID DI SABATINO 31:32 Yeah. Boy, it’s complex. Boy, I tell you, cuz, you know, I’ll tell you from what I know, Chuck had his own issues. And again, the overriding principle of Calvary Chapel was if you are anointed, then we’re going to give you all the slack that there is. So yeah, you are absolutely right. There is that thing in Calvary Chapel. And what they say is, you know, you take on the limp of the leader. And this is the way that he handled it, because it was given to him, he was given grace for his foibles. Again, it’s a good impulse. And then when taken to another level, it becomes the rigor des jour and, you know, unfortunately, people will use it and abuse it. So, you’ve got guys that are running around, and nobody’s going to put the hammer down. Because, you know, there’s a fine balance between the law and the spirit and you know, you can’t just have that sort of thing. And you’re right about Calvary Chapel, I don’t follow them past, you know, a certain point, but I could see that happening. Absolutely. Lots of guys that, you know, have gone off the reservation and do things and then nothing happens. JULIE ROYS 32:48 And Calvary has influenced a lot of I would say charismatic movements. Chuck Smith was famous for the Moses model. And this was the idea, right? So your pastor, you know, we’re not living in, you know, like we’ve skipped over Acts 2 where the Spirit of God comes on your young men and your women and your children, we’ve missed that. Now, we’re reverting back to an Old Testament model where the Holy Spirit speaks only to your pastor. And then he has to disseminate the words of God to His people, and the elder board isn’t there really to hold him accountable, it’s just there to support him and try to keep them as healthy as we can, while he’s self-destructing half the time. I mean, and this has become the model for the Association of Related Churches, ARC. The largest, arguably the largest church planting organization in North America. And if you just go to my page, and go under investigations, and click on ARC and Church of the Highlands, and you will see a litany of scandals just in the past two or three years. Unbelievable how much sin is going on in that church, and this is a, I would just say, the Moses model is perverse. And that’s why when I see at the end of the movie, you know, Greg Laurie, wanting to, you know, glorify the mega church, but also appropriate, these words of knowledge, you know, prophecies, whatever, as you know, for him, and this is why, you know, he’s got this mantle. I can’t say whether God said that, or he didn’t say it. But I can say that that kind of thinking and the celebrity and thinking you’ve got the anointing and the mantle’s on you, has been absolutely toxic. It is, and instead of us watching a movie about what Jesus did, among unbelievably ordinary, messed up people, we’re hearing about the words of these celebrities that were making even Lonnie being a celebrity. I mean, I think all of that, did God use them? Yes. Could he have done it without any of them? DAVID DI SABATINO 34:47 It’s funny, because like, after my time within that world, I kind of thought to myself, you know, it’s sad that church has become the center of so many people’s focus instead of the family. And wouldn’t it be nice for us to pull back and go, you know what? let’s make the center of the locus what God wants to do the family instead of this thing. I don’t get it. I don’t get what people are expecting church to be. And these mega churches, are they a good thing? What’s the guy that did Purpose Driven Life? JULIE ROYS 35:20 Rick Warren. DAVID DI SABATINO 35:21 You know, he repented of all that, to his credit. Now I don’t, you know, I didn’t follow it. But I remember, you know, when I came down there, and I met him and because he was friends with my boss, and I liked him. He repented of building the biggest, baddest church on the block. But he got caught up in that. And he shouldn’t have and he realized it. He’s one of maybe, you know, I don’t know. I don’t see too many people do that. I see a lot of people trying to emulate that. And that seems to be the goal. JULIE ROYS 35:49 Yeah, but what when he retired instead of saying, Okay, let’s break this up and have each one be a separate congregation and let’s find pastors, he brought in a guy with all sorts of allegations of spiritual abuse. And it’s like, we have to find somebody you know, the man, right? We have to find the celebrity pastor to pass this on to. And you know, it’s like, when do we wake up and say, the model is broken? DAVID DI SABATINO 36:12 I agree with you. JULIE ROYS 36:13 It’s heartbreaking. I’m just thinking, put not your trust in princes in whom there is no help nor the Son of man in whom there is no help happy as he whose hope is in the Lord. You know, and yet we have made it about man over and over again. And I probably need to get off my soapbox, but I could talk about this all day and obviously have a lot of passion behind it, because I’ve seen the damage and I talked to the wounded and I talked to the casualties of this movement. In your ministry or business, your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully, you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it, and Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For a free consultation go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM Well, let me get back to the story because you’ve hinted at why Lonnie and Chuck didn’t split. What did eventually cause them to part ways and then Lonnie to end up I mean, he ended up at the Vineyard? DAVID DI SABATINO 37:41 Lonnie felt that, you know, he would say, Church, why are you putting the Holy Spirit in a box? You know, that was one of his great lines. He felt that, you know, Lonnie loved Katherine Coleman. And he saw, you know, the show people that that did this stuff. And I think there was a little bit of that with him. I think, too, it was just an honest expression of who he was. He was an experimentalist, not only in the counterculture, but when he came to church, and fortunately, or unfortunately, God would sometimes backup, you know, what he did. So he would take this mantle and put it over people to get them to speak in tongues, which is, you know, it’s ridiculous. But he was a hippie, he didn’t know, you know, so he’s doing this stuff. And then, what’s kind of sad is that people started to do the same thing around him and you’re like, you know, anyways. What happened with Chuck, it was a spiritual thing. Chuck was very uncomfortable coming out of that Foursquare drama, you know, everything’s drama. Everything’s manipulative. He did not like that stuff. So, inch by inch, he started encroaching on Lonnie’s kind of charismatic. Chuck, we call it charismania. Where you make the gifts of the Spirit and the demonstrative acts of the Holy Spirit, the main thing. He was against that, so it was Lonnie that made the decision to leave Calvary Chapel. Chuck would have never told him to leave. But on Chuck’s part, I think Chuck was restricting him more and more. And I think the movie touched on that. I mean, that’s a complex issue. But that’s basically what happened. Lonnie left; Chuck did not want him to leave. JULIE ROYS 39:23 What’s hard, is reconciling the fact that someone who was sinning. In some ways people would look at his lifestyle and say, that’s open rebellion against God. You know, he’s partying one night and, and that’s hypocrisy. I mean, that’s hard. That’s something that Jesus was pretty clear about. Whether the immorality is heterosexual or homosexual, the point is, as a minister of the gospel there, I mean, there’s scriptures that are pretty clearly about what qualifies you as a pastor. Being above reproach. DAVID DI SABATINO 39:59 And pride is so insidious. Yeah. I mean. My thing was, I thought it was tremendously unfair that Lonnie got marginalized and treated because of this sin. I’m not saying that it’s okay. And that, you know, it should have been that a blind should have been turned to it. I don’t think that’s good, either. But my feeling is that we dote on this sexual sin, to our detriment, because what are we saying to people that have sexual sin when they come into the church? I mean, if I had sexual sin, I wouldn’t go to a church. That would be the last place because if I’m exposed, the way that I get treated is much worse than somebody else who’s just proud. You know. I mean look at what’s going on here. Greg’s pride and arrogance are being used as a virtue. Really. And what do we do? And in the American church, this is something that’s great. Look at him. Oh, that’s wonderful. Hey revival is going to happen. Really? Really? On pride and arrogance? This is what you’re going to build revival on? Okay. I’d like to see that happen. You know, I’m waiting for that to happen. Now it’s great that they’re making all this money. But you know, that’s because you’re marketing very smartly. But revival outbreak? Come on. You can’t imagine how that galls me. I mean, it’s just so ridiculous. I don’t know what the answer is to this. I mean, because there’s always a fine balance between these issues. JULIE ROYS 41:27 Well, there is. I hear you talking out of seeing people, wounded people in the church, not be properly loved and supported. And really, people walk through healing, like, and we’ve been so like, allergic to professional counseling, and to learning from the world at all, which I think has been a real problem for the church, because we’ve not helped people that really need help, and we’ve not come alongside them. And yet, I’m coming at this from seeing the unbelievable license for pastors, and especially if you’re a superstar, and if you’re a celebrity, and if you perform well. Wow! And it’s destroying the human being, though. I mean, this isn’t loving to the human being it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be loving for Lonnie, even in that situation to just have it winked at and for Chuck to keep using him, because, yeah, you’re bringing people in, it’s working. I mean, that can be an abuse, too. I mean, so I think there needs to be, you know, if we’re not going to grieve the Holy Spirit, and we’re in the midst of a move of God, we need to uphold both his holiness and His love. And both of those things need and they both of them work together. When they’re applied, rightly, DAVID DI SABATINO 42:42 I would hope that that happens, I just don’t, I don’t know how that balance gets struck. I don’t know, I don’t know what the what the resolve is. For me, it’s been come out of her and just, you know, be separate, and just kind of go handle my family, and just not worry about all this other stuff. Because it’s just so painful to watch. I’ve had friends who committed, you know, sexual acts outside of their marriage, and they get treated worse than the devil. You know, it’s like, these people lose their minds. How can this happen? What really? You had heterosexual sex, you don’t know how that could have, like, this is uncommon to you? That they treat him with such disdain. That person is cut off from talking to anybody. So, one week, they’re the guy and then the next week, they’re the devil. And it’s like, is this how God would handle this? Like, really? I don’t know what the resolve to that is, I have no idea. You know, Chuck’s trying to be gracious. And now you’re saying 30 years later, this is a huge problem. That’s, I can see that. The drift, you know, just the drift of that notion can then become an abusive thing. Like anything what starts as a good impulse, and then it becomes calcified. And people, you know, are trampling over it, just to use it for their own gain. JULIE ROYS 44:03 And only Chuck knows why he did it. But I will say, I mean, Lonnie became the person that attracted people and launched the Calvary Church. So, I mean, we’ve given Greg Laurie a hard time here. But he does live in a $3.5-$4 million dollar home there in Newport Beach. The movie itself is a huge capitalist venture. Laurie, is you know, one of the movie producers. There’s a whole book Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed An Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again. You can buy that for a retail price $18. You can get the Jesus Revolution study book from Lifeway for$14.99. You can get the leaders kit from Lifeway for $89. Somebody is making an awful lot of money on this. Here’s the thing. I mean, as I’m looking at it, and I’m understanding revival, that normally repentance and renewal is the precursor. You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see all these multimillionaire megachurch pastors, which where have they gotten their money? From donated money from, I would like to see them do exactly what Jesus urged the rich young ruler to do. I mean, what would happen in our churches, if they opened up the books and said, here, you’re gonna see what we pay everyone, and our pastor who’s making, you know, over a million dollars or six-hundred grand, or whatever it is you’re making, you know, and he’s going to come down, and he’s going to have a median, whatever the median is here, you know, whatever it would be. I’m not going to say the exact and people are gonna say, well, you’re saying it’s wrong to be rich. And it’s one thing to be rich because you produce something that people buy. And that’s how you’ve made it. It’s another thing to be rich because people are donating. You know, and I guess you could say the ones that got rich off of publishing and, you know, their book royalties, and that’s a whole other thing. But I just think somewhere in there, if there’s going to be revival in this country, and the mega church leaders, our celebrities want to want to lead? lead by stepping down, lead by giving up, lead by selling all your goods, doing those radical things that Jesus said. Lead that way, then I would say, I wouldn’t be surprised if a revival would come to this country. DAVID DI SABATINO 46:11 Yeah, agreed. I would love to see that movie. Now, you said we’re piling on Greg Laurie. Let me pile on some more. I don’t like Greg Laurie. I’ll say that right up front. I haven’t had a lot of interaction with him. I got a phone call one day when I was doing this movie. There was a story about his salvation. Lonnie tells it very differently than Greg tells it. Lonnie tells it much more dramatically. The Lonnie’s rendition is that Greg came and started to heckle at Harbor High School, he started to heckle him. And Lonnie saw him in the crowd and said in the name of Jesus I command you to shut up. And Greg, Lonnie says he hit the ground. And as he hit the ground, he started speaking in tongues. That’s the story. And when people came to him and said, well, so Greg wasn’t a Christian when he was heckling. But then by the time he hit the ground, how does this work? When did he get saved? And Lonnie would say, on the way down. You tell the story, and people would laugh. And you know, it was one of the big stories. So I’m listening to that story. And I’m going, okay, so I find a guy that says he was in the crowd and he saw that happen. So, I, you know, I’m a researcher, right. So, I have prima facia, kind of, I have a guy, right. So I started telling that story, because I got a guy, right that says he was there. It was not just Lonnie story. It’s a guy that says he was there at Harbor High School when it happened. So, Greg gets wind of this, and I’m telling the story. And he phones me up. And he starts to say, that didn’t happen. And I said, Okay. And he said, Let me tell you, and the first thing out of his mouth is this. That guy took a lot of drugs, you know? And I was like, whoa! look at this. He’s dismissing this guy by besmirching him. He’s not contesting what I said, he’s not entering into a dialogue with me. He’s belittling this guy. And I said to him, and I didn’t say this to him, but I wrote him a letter later, because I was, I was stunned. Like, I was just like, what? So, and again, I was working for a guy who’s his friend who put me on the phone with him. So, I’m in a position of, you know, do I want to keep my job or want to yell at Greg Laurie? So, I didn’t yell at him. But I sent him a letter later on. And I said, How does this work? Because you took drugs? And not only did you take drugs, you sold drugs? Do I get to dismiss you? You know, is that how this works? Because what you should have said to me was, well, I have my take on it. And I can produce these people or, you know, come back to me with some sort of dialog that says that you’re interested. Instead, you dismiss this guy who you know, who is your friend at one time. And I said, what is that? So that’s who Greg Laurie is, to me. And I’ve corroborated that with a bunch of people. He is an arrogant man to do that to his friend, and to besmirch him like that. Just a total jackass to me, but that’s my feeling. JULIE ROYS 49:21 Who is this guy? DAVID DI SABATINO 49:22 He’s passed away. His name is David Sloan. David Sloan was a young hippie friend of Lonnie’s. He laid the foundations of Calvary Chapel. I mean, this is, you know, he found out that I had done that to him because somebody, Greg must have told somebody else. He came back and he thanked me. He said, you know, you had my back and I said, Dude, he should not do that. Like, that’s just, you know, because it’s, I’m the guy, right? Like, I’ve got this church and I can do whatever I want. I was like, nah, nah, you know, that pissed me off. Because again, God called me you know, when I was in Canada, God laid Lonnie’s story on me. And Lonnie is the guy that gets written out right? When I came down in 2001, all of his friends are bemoaning the fact that nobody is talking about Lonnie. And so I said, okay, we’re going to fix that to whatever extent I can, because God has laid this story on my heart. And so, I stuck up for the little guy. Because that’s what Lonnie was. And that’s how I feel. And that’s what you know, you’re doing the same thing. We stick up for the people that can’t stick up for themselves. Because either we have big mouths or we don’t know any better. I don’t know what it is, you know, but, you know, for me, it’s like, you can’t do this to people. You can’t treat them like the gum on the bottom of your shoe. How dare you do that! That’s my feeling. JULIE ROYS 50:48 And I think I think God’s heart is grieved. DAVID DI SABATINO 50:51 Oh, yeah. JULIE ROYS 50:53 And I think he still has and longs to gather people to Himself. And I think we’re the ones who are getting in the way. And so, I mean, am I thrilled to hear people talk about revival? Absolutely. Was I thrilled to see what happened at Asbury? Absolutely. Do I long for that to happen now? Absolutely. But I think it begins, it does begin with us facing these things and how people are treated, how the little guy is treated in our church, how the sinner is treated, you know how the person up front, who sets himself up an example how they’re living? How are they really living when it comes to loving people and exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit? Which are not numbers and money and how many books you’ve sold. It’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control. These are the fruits of the Spirit. I think there is an opportunity now with people talking about revival, and looking at past revivals and looking at moves of the spirit. But I think it starts with us getting in tune with what God’s doing, instead of trying to coopt stories for our own self-aggrandizement. Right? That’s where it needs to begin. So, David, fascinating discussion, I knew it was going to be fascinating. I knew that it was going to be challenging and it has been and I just I appreciate your commitment to truth and to getting the truth out there and to giving a more complete picture of what happened and encouraging us towards that. DAVID DI SABATINO 52:31 Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. JULIE ROYS Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And just a reminder that we’re able to do this podcast and all our investigative work at The Roys Report because of support from people like you. So, if you appreciate our work, would you please consider giving a gift to support us? Whether your gift is $10, $100 or $2,000—they’re all important. And they all help us pay for reporters, editors, producers, and web designers. And without those, we can’t create this important content. So, to give, just text 22525 on your phones and the word, “report.” That’s 22525 and the word report. Or go to Julie Roys.com/donate. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. That way, you’ll never miss an episode! And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then, please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks for joining me today! Hope you were enlightened and encouraged! Read more
3/14/202356 minutes, 32 seconds
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Understanding & Overcoming Spiritual Abuse, Part II

Guest Bios Show Transcript Many times, those who have experienced spiritual abuse are retraumatized when they try to speak about what’s happened. They’re often labeled bitter, disgruntled, and gossips—and once again, wounded by Christians and the church. In part two of Julie’s podcast with Justin Humphreys, they discuss how to help survivors of church hurt. How can church leaders and members promote their healing? And how can the church—the source of so much pain and trauma for these survivors—become what Jesus intended it to be, a place of safety and healing? Justin and Julie also examine spiritual leadership. What does authentic, healthy leadership look like? And how does it differ from the toxic forms we so often encounter? As CEO of Thirtyone:Eight and author of Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse, Justin has profound insights into these questions. And if you missed part one of Julie’s podcast with Justin, exploring the definition and stages of spiritual abuse, be sure to take time and listen now. It’s our hope and prayer that these podcasts will help equip you to spot and deal with spiritual abuse. Justin Humphreys Justin Humphreys is CEO of Thirtyone:Eight, an independent Christian safeguarding charity operating across the United Kingdom and internationally. Established in 1977, the charity now supports in excess of 10,000 member organisations to create safer places for all.   He is co-author of two recent books Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse: Creating Healthy Christian Cultures (SPCK, 2019) and Just Leadership (SPCK, 2021). He is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Kent (Department of Religious Studies) and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Chester (School of Psychology).   Justin holds an MSc in Child Protection and Strategic Management, a BSc. (Hons) in Social Work Studies and a Diploma in Counselling Psychology & Psychotherapy. He has been a Christian since the age of 11 and is married with three adult children. Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, JUSTIN HUMPHREYS JULIE ROYS 00:04 Many times those who have experienced spiritual abuse are re traumatized when they try to speak about what’s happened. They’re often labeled bitter, disgruntled and gossips and once again, wounded by Christians in the church. So how should the church respond to survivors of church hurt? And how can we create cultures in our churches that are safe and healthy? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And in part two of my podcast with Justin Humphreys, we tackle these crucially important questions. And if you miss part one of my podcast with Justin, I encourage you to go back and listen to part one. in it we deal with the definition and stages of spiritual abuse. And as the CEO of Thirtyone:eight, the leading Christian safeguarding charity in the UK, Justin has profound insights into this unique form of psychological and emotional abuse. But in this podcast, we look at the aftermath of spiritual abuse. How can survivors heal? And how can the church the source of so much pain and trauma for the survivors become what Jesus intended it to be a place of safety and healing? We also look at spiritual leadership. We’ve discussed some of the ways that it can be abused. But what does authentic spiritual leadership look like? We’ll get to my interview with Justin in just a moment, but first, I’d like to thank two sponsors of this podcast, Accord Analytics and Marquardt of Barrington. In your ministry or business your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully, you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it, and Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For free consultation go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM. Well again joining me for this podcast is Justin Humphreys, CEO of the Christian safeguarding group Thirtyone:eight. Justin also is coauthor of the book Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse. We pick up our conversation, as we’re discussing what happens after you leave a spiritually abusive church. Part of navigating your way after you’ve left one of these systems is dealing with the emotions. And I think it’s especially difficult in Christian environments, because some of these emotions, we’re told we shouldn’t have, that they’re wrong, that spiritual people shouldn’t feel this way. And of course, they’re always called bitter or disgruntled or, you know, all of these disparaging words. But speak to the person right now who’s feeling these emotions, very powerful, real emotions of anger, and betrayal and mistrust. JUSTIN HUMPHREYS 03:25 Can I firstly speak to the word you used, gossip? Because so often, an accusation of gossip is made towards the individual who just needs to vocalize what they are seeing and experiencing. To be told that that’s gossip is hugely destructive. I mean, it’s a weapon, it’s a threat that is used. It is a beast in itself. So destructive. So, I guess, I would say, don’t be persuaded to think that sharing your concerns is gossip. Clearly, we’re not necessarily in the early stages, at least if we can discern and intervene at an early stage, that sharing that concern with somebody appropriate is anything other than a good thing to do. And we’re not talking about shouting it from the rooftops. Although sometimes I guess we feel that that’s the only way. But deal with things that are low level if you can. You know, we talk about the hallmarks of healthy culture. And it’s really difficult when the culture is not safe and it is not healthy. The opportunities to deal with things that are low level are really they’re seldom there. So, taking a step back, taking time to reflect on what has been the buildup of low level concern. If we can challenge it early enough to prevent those issues from becoming embedded and entrenched and more deeply rooted, then we may have a slightly easier escape. I don’t say that with any sense of glibness because I’ve seen the damage. I’ve seen the damage. So I guess I’d want to say to your listeners, Julie, I’ve heard you. If your experience is what we have been talking about, I’ve heard you. You need to know that there are people who do understand who do believe, who would want to get alongside you; those people when you’re in the middle of it may not always be the easiest to find. But we’re out there. JULIE ROYS 05:44 When the victim or the survivor of spiritual abuse, many of them don’t want to ever reenter a church again. I shouldn’t say many, some. I thought it was very interesting, and actually, my last interview with a cult experts said that often survivors of cults, they do return to a church that has a similar theological structure. Because you can’t unbelieve what you believe, you know, and especially when it happens to be rooted in the word of God, and you know it’s true, but it’s been twisted. So, they come back to church. And often, the churches don’t know what to do with them. Just don’t know what to do with them. Because, and I think we often tend to ostracize them, because their emotions make us feel really uncomfortable. Really, really uncomfortable. I thought you made a great point about the process when someone begins to open up. Speak to that and speak to the person, and this is why, and I’ve heard this, I heard from one pastor who sent his entire staff to our Restore Conference last year. We’re having another Restore Conference in June. And I just really, really encourage people, whether you’ve been in abuse, whether you’re abuse survivor, whether you’re just a member of a church, whether in leadership or lay member, if you just want to be helpful to the survivors that come in, because there’s so many refugees out there right now, spiritually speaking, who are coming into your churches. But I heard from a pastor who said he sent his staff. And he said, wow, wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. But it ended up being better than I thought it was going to be. And they have come back with a tenderness and a sensitivity, that they couldn’t have come to without hearing firsthand from people what happened. So yeah, speak to this process, speak to church leaders and church lay people about what they need to do and to be for these survivors that walk into their churches. JUSTIN HUMPHREYS 08:03 I think, possibly one of the greatest challenges for church leaders, is to reach out and reach in, despite your fear. So, there will be so many occasions, like you just said, Julie, where church leaders and others come on our training, and they say, we really just wanted to find out what all this is about, and why you spend so much time talking about it. We expected to hear one thing and we’ve come away experiencing something very different. And there is almost a change of heart, you know, to enter the room defensively, expecting that they are going to need to challenge left, right and center. Oh, well, this can’t be right because and when you can’t say that, because and that’s not true, because and actually find, wow, this has actually resonated with sometimes my own experience, you know. So, it’s not unusual for delegates to come to our training and be confronted with the reality that they have, at some point in their journey been a part of a spiritually abusive community. And when the reality of that dawns hearts change. This is not about attacking God. This is not about attacking Christians. This is not about destroying the Church and its ministry. This is about shining a light into some very dark places, acknowledging that it happens more than we might like to believe., and that actually, there’s something that needs to be done here, you know. So I think I would just encourage church leaders to particularly, if you are going to have people enter your church who have been in harmful, abusive, damaging circumstances, some of them spiritually, how are you going to address them and meet them in their place of need if you have no understanding of what they’ve experienced and come from? So, reach in , reach deep, confront your own fear, I think is probably one of the key things that I would say. Don’t be persuaded that what you’re doing is destroying God’s church. Because actually, God is big enough, powerful enough to protect himself and do his own business. He just chooses to use us. And I love that you said that when someone default is what happened to them, we tend to think, Oh, this is an important conversation, which it is, but we don’t realize this is a process. This is just the beginning. And we really don’t need to say a lot. We just need to be a safe space, right? and validate their feelings, validate what they’ve been through, and don’t pass judgment. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Just enabling somebody to come and be, to watch to listen to, in a sense, rebuild what they had before the sequence of events took place. And if you have somebody who is perhaps reacting in a way that seems, you know, unexpected, or disproportionate, just take a moment to ask yourself why that might be. JULIE ROYS 11:40 Exactly, yeah, trauma victims act like trauma victims, and yet they often get shamed for it. I love that because they really need a space to be able to be reactive for a while. And who of us wouldn’t be good grief? Yeah, I appreciate that. Let’s talk about creating healthy church cultures. I love that you, it reminded me of you know, Church Called Tov by Scot McKnight, Laura Behringer. Their book is so good on trying to create that environment. First, let’s talk to the leaders and to authentic leadership. Because, as you note in your book, I mean, it can be that abuse happens, sort of along people of equal spiritual footing, you know, or authority from lay person, lay person or can even happen from lay person to a pastor or a board member or something like that. I mean that’s possible. But I will say of all the reporting I’ve done, that is really, really small. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen; I have heard from pastors that just got ganged up on horribly unfairly, and that does happen, but most often, it is from someone, and they’re able to do it because they have this position of power. And there is this question of, okay, I’m exercising spiritual authority. Where do I know, where’s that line? Like? When is, you know, appropriate spiritual authority? And when is it becoming control and then abuse? You know, where are these lines? And how do I know as a leader where those are? And how do I lead authentically in the body of Christ? JUSTIN HUMPHREYS 13:25 And these are the million-dollar questions related to coin an overused phrase, but it is. You know, going back to Mark Stibbe, he talks in a piece that he wrote for the Church of England newspaper back in 2018, that it is so difficult to chart the transition between exhortation and coercion. When do we move from one to the other? How do we know that that’s happening? Is there a red line over which once you’ve stepped, you’re well and truly the wrong side of it? Well, I’m not sure that often there is. I mean, sometimes there are some clear marks and there are clearly some behaviors which apart from anything else may be criminal or legal but outside of that this huge expanse of gray in that area and how we, how we hold ourselves accountable, how we take time to self-reflect on our own behavior, on the responses of others to the things that we have said and done, and are prepared to when necessary, self-regulate, to say there’s clearly an issue here. I clearly stepped over somebody’s line. Somehow. I need to understand where that line was, why it was there. Why did that person take such offense, why did they respond in the way that? And can I do? Should I do something different? You know that passage in scripture where the psalmist says, search me and know me God. That actually means that we’ve got to be brave enough as leaders to say, you know the worse of me, God. I need you to help point that out for me, I need to be able to root that out, deal with it, so that I’m not causing harm to other people. But is there a distinct red line? Not always, it’s really tricky. And we see what we call a spectrum of behavior. Lisa Oakley, my colleague has been working on this in recent months. And it depicts a progression, a journey from what is healthy, into things that are unhelpful to things that might be unhealthy, and ultimately, things that are harmful. And we need to understand that often, we see people moving up and down this continuum. But we need to be alert to the indicators of when we’re stepping into the right-hand end of that spectrum. And we’re starting to look at an unhealthy and unfortunately, sometimes harmful behaviors, and that we’re prepared to bring challenge and we can hopefully pull that back, rather than let it become embedded and entrenched. There’s a huge amount to do. JULIE ROYS 16:26 And all of us misuse our authority at some point. I remember talking to Diane Langberg, who has written so just I mean, her books are, they’ve just opened a whole new world, I think, for understanding spiritual abuse. But she said to me, I remember, if you’re a parent, you’ve misused your authority at some point. All of us have done this. And I think you make a good point, you know, it’s how do you respond often? And what are your motivations? Like, are you there to lead? Are you there to serve? Because Jesus said that, that those who would want to lead would be the greatest servants of all, and I think our whole leadership movement, I did an entire podcast on this with somebody wrote the book Unleader, fantastic. I love this podcast, because he’s like, Yeah, everybody’s concerned about leading, nobody’s concerned about serving, even though that’s what the Bible talks primarily about. But can you give an example of something that might be you know, just to kind of make this a little more concrete of something that might be just sort of unhelpful, and then, where it might move into, like this unhealthy or abusive category? JUSTIN HUMPHREYS 17:28 We often talk about unhealthy patterns. So, when does bullying become bullying? Is a single offensive comment bullying? Is two bullying is three bullying? Often we find that it is a repetitive pattern. It may increase in its severity or its impact. But as soon as we have moved into something which has become a repeated event, then we are seriously at risk of it becoming at the very least unhelpful and sometimes harmful. You know, we’re not talking about the person who says, Well, I asked my pastor if I could preach on a Sunday morning, and he said, No, I think he’s spiritually abusing me. Well, how long have you been in the church? Six weeks. You know, I say that slightly tongue in cheek, but it’s not those disagreements, it’s not those misunderstandings, not those differences of opinion as such. But when they become repetitive, and when they become more serious, often, then we know we’ve got a problem. And particularly when challenge has been brought and the challenge is rejected, then we’ve often got a problem. JULIE ROYS 18:51 Well, let’s talk about that, because you talk about kind of these different hallmarks of safe and healthy churches, and one of them is, you know, how do you respond to your negative stories? When you hear a negative account, as a church, when somebody brings up maybe something that happened that you don’t feel so good about as a church like this was not a good thing? Is there an openness to discuss it? If there’s a criticism, do we take that criticism well, or do we punish the person and shame the person who’s brought the criticism? I mean, talk about some of these hallmarks of healthy churches that stand in contrast to the dysfunctional ones and the abusive ones. JUSTIN HUMPHREYS 19:37 Yeah, it’s a really good point. And I think much of the situation that you’ve just described about how willing is a church or a leader or leadership to acknowledging its past failures or negative elements, all rooted in this sense of humility, you know. So, in Philippians, if you remember there’s this passage that’s often in various versions titled imitating the humility of Jesus. And it talks about preferring each other, each other’s needs. It talks about servanthood it talks about a complete reversal of, you know, the expected norms around leadership. And that humility that actually is able to say, I am not going to get it right all the time. In fact, I can guarantee you, I won’t. But when I don’t, I welcome your feedback. I welcome your constructive challenge, because I want and I need to learn. You know, when we see an open, humble posture being taken by a leader in that regard, then we can have some confidence that our ability to bring our challenging narratives might not be quite as hard as it would be elsewhere. It’s one of a whole number of things that we might look for. You know, how we listen, and listening well as leaders got to be the place to start. Now going back to talking about how we, as leaders going to deal with those who come to our churches who have had a spiritually abusive experience elsewhere, what if we’re not prepared to sit with them and listen? Well, we’ve got right off on the wrong foot is so important. JULIE ROYS 21:31 Judson University is a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. And you talk about messaging and symbolism, and I thought this was good. You talked about a church that has like an old, faded poster about how to report you know, if there’s abuse or something, and that that communicates something. That you can’t put up a poster that looks sharp, and that looks fresh, and it says this is important to us. And if you see anything, this is how you report it. I mean, do we need to as churches, to put in our programs, you know, or to put up on the screen every now and then or to have posters, saying if you see a problem, here’s how you report it in the staff manuals, very clear reporting structures, and safeguards that you’re not going to be retaliated against? I mean, what do churches need to do to tell their congregants this is a safe place? JUSTIN HUMPHREYS 22:46 So many different things, you know, ranging from what is public, what’s on the wall, the posters then being up to date that, you know, they’re not being the dog eared things that are covered by a million and one other things have got pinned onto that board. You know, the messages that are taught from the platform, and the fact that we need to communicate messages appropriately to different audiences within our congregation, community, whoever it is, including our children, young people. How do we talk to and teach our children, young people to contribute to their own safety, safety of their peers? So I remember having a conversation, I was leading a seminar at a large Christian gathering in the UK a few years back, and it was a bunch of 50 or so church leaders. And I said, How many of you have either preached or heard a preach on a safeguarding related issue or the importance of the biblical mandate, if you’d like, for us to be creating safe places? Well in the room of about 50, about 3 hands went up. Come on people! What is going on? We either believe this or we don’t! You know, sort of messaging and the communication is so important. JULIE ROYS 24:09 And I would say if you’re sitting in a church, and you repeatedly hear messages on gossiping or on social media and things that are said and basically vilifying people who speak up, wouldn’t I mean, that I would get up and walk out, right at this point, you know. If I heard that in a message, I’d be ready to get up and walk out. I have once, once in my life been in a sermon where a pastor pointed out, here’s whistleblowing. And you know, it’s interesting, not only did the whistleblower blow the whistle on wrongdoing, he named names. So many want to talk about Matthew 18 about going privately you know, which has been so abused. So few want to talk about publicly exposing somebody who needs to be held account and Good grief, don’t expect the vulnerable victim to go one on one to the abuser. I mean, we need to be communities where it’s said from upfront, and it said across the board and it is safe to say, we stand with victims. And if you report something, we’re going to take it seriously, and we’re not going to vilify you. I have, I have yet to hear, you know, I’ve heard one sermon where that was said and alluded to, but a really strong message. I mean, pastors, I would really encourage you that if you’re listening right now, do that on Sunday. Do that, especially with all of these scandals going on, get up there and make an example and say, we will be different. And if I’ve done something like this, if I’ve grieved you, or the Holy Spirit, please come tell me. It’s so badly needs to happen in our cultural context. And I’m thinking of two, there’s a revival going on, supposedly, you know. That’s what people were calling it, whether it is or it isn’t, I don’t know. But we have students meeting 24/7, at a Christian college here in Kentucky, Asbury University, and a hallmark of that is repentance, repentance, and the church owning and people finding healing for some of these, you know, the church hurt, at least according to reports, that’s what’s happening. Well, how refreshing would it be? And could there be revival in our countries, and over here in the US across the pond there in England all around, if Christians will begin repenting, Christian leaders repenting, and churches saying we need to do things differently? We need to see reform. And so let me go this gets me to my last question. And it is with all this abuse and scandal going on. You know, I hear it a lot that people feel despairing. I felt despaired. You know, at times I felt despairing. Is this a move of God where he’s cleaning up his church, though? I mean, should we be encouraged that sins that have happened and persisted for decades, are finally coming to light? Is this a move of God? What’s your opinion on that? And here’s the other thing. How long is it going to take? I think some people are like, Oh, we thought we were done. Oh, my goodness, there’s more? There’s more? And so, I would like your take on this. Well you know what, I’m going to withhold what I think I want to hear what you think, on this on this point and then I can share mine, although I wouldn’t be surprised if ours are similar. So how do you respond to that? JUSTIN HUMPHREYS 27:38 Julie? Emphatically yes! This is a move of God. I have no doubt in my mind. I was having a conversation with a dear friend of mine, who I become to know because of these sorts of situations. But we were talking together about this ministry, this call to be a part of shining a light, shining God’s light into some very dark corners, a prophetic ministry. Because the way I see it, Jesus wants to return to his bride. He wants a Pure Bride. There is so much impurity in the church, so much evil doing. And I do believe that there is a period that we have entered into, and I don’t know, maybe to preempt the final question. I don’t know how far in we are, and I don’t know how far we’ve got to go. But I know that we are in the middle of doing something, being a part of God’s great clean up. You know? And as difficult as that is, and I hear you, Julie, you know, the despair, you know, the sense in which we could be gripped by hopelessness, if we did not keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We will not let that overcome because there is work to be done. And as tough as it is, it’s a privilege to be used in the way we are. And there’s lots to be done. JULIE ROYS 29:42 Amen. I just think of the scripture where Peter was told that the gates of hell would not overcome the church. On you I will build my church again. Not you, as in Peter as the Catholics may think, but on this statement that you are the Christ. But on you I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it. We have as much as we believe in Jesus, we have to believe in His Church too. And that he will accomplish his purposes in it. And I do think, you know, we want a quick escape. I remember somebody saying to me once about somebody that was in the midst of counseling, and I so desperately wanted to see healing for this person, and they said to me, you know, Julie, it didn’t take this person a month or even a year to get into this problem. It’s been persisting for a long time, it took a long time to get in, it will take a long time to get out. I think we need to have some stamina as Christians. We’re in a pruning, we’re in a really hard season. And this season isn’t going to be a year, it’s not even going to be five years, it might be decades of God doing and dismantling and exposing, but that’s what we’re in for, right? And it shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus said, Watch out for the wolves in sheep’s clothing. He said, Watch out for the false prophets. And yet, we’re so thrown when we see them. But I agree with you, God is doing something. Every time I report an investigation, I sit there and I just I look at it. And every time I see God delivering information into our hands, so that we can report it. And not because we were so brilliant at doing our jobs, but because God brought it to somebody and convicted them that they need to report this and they bring it to us. And so, such a privilege. And it is a privilege to be a part of what God is doing. And so I encourage people and I said this at a talk I did, actually in 2019, at the Restore Conference, that God gives each of us like he gave David one smooth stone that we can use, and every single one of us can be a part of what he’s doing. And so just encourage everyone listening, God is using you, God will use you, don’t lose heart, and He will accomplish his purposes. Justin, we could talk for a very, very long time. And I say this to so many of my guests. But it’s so true, because I only talk to people I want to talk to and then when we get into discussions, it’s so rich. But it has been rich, and I so appreciate you. And so thank you, thank you for your work. Thank you for engaging so deeply in this discussion. And God bless you and what you’re doing. Thanks, Julie. And you too, amazing work. Let’s keep on keeping on. Amen. Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And just a reminder that we’re able to do this podcast and all of our investigative work at The Roys Report because of support from people like you. And right now we’re offering Justin’s book Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse to anyone who gives a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report. To give just TEXT22525 five on your phones and the word REPORT. Or to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
2/28/202333 minutes, 50 seconds
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Understanding & Overcoming Spiritual Abuse

Guest Bios Show Transcript Spiritual abuse has become an increasingly hot topic, as more and more stories of bully pastors and hyper-controlling churches have grabbed headlines. But how does spiritual abuse differ from mere emotional and psychological abuse? And what are its key features and stages? In this podcast, Justin Humphreys, CEO of Thirtyone:Eight and author of Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse, joins Julie to discuss this important issue. Thirtyone:Eight is the leading independent Christian safeguarding charity in the UK. And over the past few years, Thirtyone:Eight has conducted numerous high-profile investigations of churches and leaders accused of spiritual abuse. This includes what some British publications have called the “mother of all abuse stories”—abuse by Jonathan Fletcher and John Smyth. Smyth ran a system of evangelical camps for boys from elite schools throughout England. And Fletcher was vicar of the prominent Emmanuel Church Wimbledon and one of the most influential evangelicals in all of England. During this in-depth conversation, Justin describes those cases, and how both Smyth and Fletcher twisted Scripture to suit their selfish ends. He then explains how the term spiritual abuse came into being—and how our understanding of it has evolved over the past few decades. Julie and Justin then explore the stages of spiritual abuse, how to leave spiritually abusive systems, and then how to heal and create safe church cultures with authentic spiritual leadership. Justin Humphreys Justin Humphreys is CEO of Thirtyone:Eight, an independent Christian safeguarding charity operating across the United Kingdom and internationally. Established in 1977, the charity now supports in excess of 10,000 member organisations to create safer places for all.   He is co-author of two recent books Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse: Creating Healthy Christian Cultures (SPCK, 2019) and Just Leadership (SPCK, 2021). He is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Kent (Department of Religious Studies) and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Chester (School of Psychology).   Justin holds an MSc in Child Protection and Strategic Management, a BSc. (Hons) in Social Work Studies and a Diploma in Counselling Psychology & Psychotherapy. He has been a Christian since the age of 11 and is married with three adult children. Show Transcript SPEAKERS JULIE ROYS, JUSTIN HUMPHREYS JULIE ROYS  00:04 Spiritual abuse has become an increasingly hot topic as more and more stories of bully pastors and hyper controlling churches have grabbed headlines. But how does spiritual abuse differ from your emotional and psychological abuse? And what are its key features and stages? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is Justin Humphreys, CEO of Thirtyone:eight, the leading independent Christian safeguarding charity in the UK. Over the past few years Thirtyone:eight has conducted numerous high-profile investigations of churches and leaders accused of spiritual abuse. These include an investigation of the Crowded House, the Church founded by Steve Timmis. Timmis is the former CEO of Acts 29, who was fired in 2020 for alleged bullying and spiritual abuse. Thirtyone:eight has also investigated what some British publications have called the mother of all abuse stories, abuse by Jonathan Fletcher and John Smyth. Smyth ran a system of evangelical camps for boys from elite schools throughout England. And Fletcher was vicar of the prominent Emanuel Church Wimbledon, and one of the most influential evangelicalisms in all of England.   So, Justin Humphreys is well acquainted with abuse in a church context. And in his book, Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse, Justin explains how the term came into being and how our understanding of spiritual abuse has evolved. He also explores the key features of spiritual abuse and its impact. And he explains how to create safe church cultures with authentic spiritual leadership. I’m so looking forward to my discussion with Justin.   But first, I’d like to thank two sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt  of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of integrity. To check them out just go to BUYACAR123.COM.   Well again, joining me is Justin Humphreys, CEO of the Christian safeguarding group Thirtyone:eight. He’s also an Honorary Fellow at the University of Kent and a visiting lecturer at the University of Chester. And Justin is coauthor of the book, Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse. So Justin, welcome, and thanks so much for joining me.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  03:00 Thank you for having me on Julie. It’s great to be here.   JULIE ROYS  03:02 And I am so excited to speak with you because I’ve been following your work and the work of Thirtyone:eight. And you’ve you know, as I referenced in the open, you have been at the center of some of these major investigations involving scandals with Jonathan Fletcher, and John Smyth. And Thirtyone:eight has just done phenomenal work. I know you’re very well respected. But sadly, because we’re in the US most of my listeners, though, certainly not all. But we’re often not aware of what’s going on there in England. So a lot of people probably aren’t familiar with your work aren’t familiar with John Smyth or Jonathan Fletcher, and yet I think what is happening there in the UK mirrors so much of what’s happening here in the US with a lot of abuse, both sexual, physical and spiritual abuse happening and then being covered up. So I would really appreciate it if you could summarize for us, and I know it’s hard to summarize these huge stories, right? But if you would give us just kind of a brief synopsis of what happened with them, and then the impact that it’s had there on the church in England.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  04:11 Yeah, thank you, Julie. Firstly, John Smyth was a very high profile, highly influential leader within the Church of England and the wider conservative evangelical tradition of the church, if you like. Now deceased, but John was also a queen’s counsel. So, for those who may not be familiar with that top lawyer, Barrister in this country, prominent, well connected. I mean, connected to the highest levels in society. And he was found to have abused countless men throughout an extensive period of time. He would go through a long period of grooming, and then would befriend, and then emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually abuse those men in the name of Scripture in the name of God. And when he was a risk of being exposed for all of those abusive, horrendously abusive practices, where he would take these young men into the shed at the end of his garden in a country home, he would literally beat them to within an inch of their lives. When he was at risk of being exposed of that he was aided to flee the country. He went to South Africa, and then continued to abuse and the evidence would seem to suggest even kill others whilst out there.   There’s a lessons learned review, as we call it in the UK here that’s underway, that was commissioned by the Church of England. It’s called the Machen Review being undertaken by an individual called Keith Machen. It is now long, long overdue in its reporting. It just goes to show the scale and complexity of what’s being looked at.   JULIE ROYS  06:18 And John Smyth. Also, these camps that he ran with really elite, those educated in the best schools of England. And a lot of names that we know here, even in the US like Nicky Gumbel, who has the Alpha course, went through those camps, and they were just extraordinarily prominent, weren’t they?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  06:37 Yes,  hugely, hugely influential. I don’t think we can underestimate the connections that an individual like John Smyth had. It was described to me as a spider’s web. It’s really quite unlike anything I’ve seen before and possibly since.   JULIE ROYS  06:57 Kind of the mother of all abuse stories, because of how long it went on, the fact that they had done an investigation found he was guilty, and then shipped him to South Africa, just absolutely horrific. But one of the men who was somewhat complicit in these, in this abuse was Jonathan Fletcher, who has his own story. So, if you could tell us a little bit about Jonathan Fletcher, who he is and what he did.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  07:23 Yes, Jonathan Fletcher in many ways, a similar character, certainly within the same conservative evangelical tradition of the church. Again, very well connected. Up until recent times, largely a very well respected, a hugely influential figure, one of many would have argued the greatest teachers and leaders in the Christian world that this country has seen, certainly in recent times. But again, found to have committed awful offenses against individuals. Our own review into that particular case, 146 pages of report into that matter, found that he had also harmed and abused men in his care emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and as suggested by some sexually as well. Some similar behaviors, some different behaviors, but again, with this sense that it was not open for challenge, it was the way and it was the way that God would have it. And so on a spiritual level, incredibly deep, leaving emotional, spiritual as well as physical harm upon individuals.   JULIE ROYS  08:55 And evangelicalism is not as big in England as say it is here in the United States. So I mean, I can kind of guess, but I’d like to hear from you like, how devastating is it to the evangelical community, to have two of its most prominent figures there in England, be found to be such horrific abusers.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  09:19 To find that there is a, let’s say, a very rotten apple in that cart, hugely damaging. And I guess whilst we have to acknowledge that that is undoubtedly the case for many people, that it would bring people to a point of questioning their own belief systems, their own faith, their own relationship with God, which is absolutely the worst part of all of this. There is a sense in which all of those things are often the things that are used to perpetuate, defend, and justify the abusive behaviors. Look what damage you will do to God’s name, look at the damage you will do to this wonderful person’s ministry, if you were ever to speak out about what you have experienced. So whilst the reality is it does do huge damage, those are the very things that are often used as some of the threat at the time.   JULIE ROYS  10:22 It’s interesting you say that because I mean, obviously, I hear that all the time that if we report this, it’s going to just do such damage to the kingdom of God. I heard from one guy who said, I’ve totally lost my faith because of not the abuse, though this is the thing. It’s often not the abuse, it’s the cover up, and he even said, if more people had spoken out like you are, I think I’d have my faith today, I might believe. To speak out, and to take a stand and to do the sorts of things, revealing this rot at the core, to me is what Christ calls us to do. It’s what the prophets did. And you see in Scripture, they just did not shrink from talking about what was awful, even in our own house. In fact, I would say it usually began with our own house, right? God spoke to the Israelites about their sin, He cared more about their sins than the Philistine sins, right? He cared more about the Jewish people sins and what they were doing. Even in the New Testament, where we see him clearing the temple, who was he harshest on? It wasn’t the sinners; it was the Pharisees.   So again, just to bring this back to where it, I think it’s so important that we be truth tellers, and we be truth tellers within our own tribe when it hurts. And so that’s why again, I feel like you’re a kindred spirit, and so good to talk with you. But let’s talk about spiritual abuse. Because I think Jonathan Fletcher and John Smyth’s very clearly their physical abuse, the sexual abuse, that’s easy to pin down, right? I mean, you can look at that and say, well, that’s horrific. The spiritual abuse, as you mentioned, is more insidious in its nature, and it’s more cloaked. And it’s very, very confusing. And at the beginning of your book, I thought the foreword was so well done by Mark Stebie, who is a survivor of John Smyth’s abuse. Would you recount some of the abuse that Stebie experienced at John Smyth’s hand and kind of how that typifies the spiritual abuse and how these predators cloak what they do in the work of God and the words of God?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  12:33 Yeah, I mean, firstly, I have to say, Mark has become a dear friend. And the degree to which I hold him in high esteem is something else. I think, you know, his courage, his bravery, his suffering, all immense. So, for him to agree to just put some part of his experience into words for Felisa Oakley, my coauthor and myself, was a huge privilege and a real eye opener. And in many ways Mark shares a story which is fairly typical of a larger group of fellow survivors at the hands of John Smyth. And if I can just read a couple of excerpts from the book from Escaping the Maze, that Mark gave to us because I think they make this point and they help us to try and think about what it is that sets spiritual abuse aside from any other form of abuse. And maybe we’ll come back to talking about the coexistence of different types of abuse later on.   But here so in the foreword, Mark writes under a short section called Divine Position, he says, “When Smyth had undermined the core tenets of the Reformation by setting himself up as a mediator between the victims and God, he thereby reduced the effectiveness of the Atonement. That is true. But it was worse than this, Smyth told us that God is our Father in heaven, therefore, he cannot be your father on Earth. So, I’ll be your spiritual father.” And then he goes on to say about how particular passages of Scripture were used, they were distorted, twisted and misapplied.   So one of his favorite verses one of John Smyth’s favorite verses, was ‘you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood’. He took that from Hebrews 12:4. And he took it literally as a justification for the physical and sexual abuse that he meted out upon extremely vulnerable, yet intelligent young men and the horror really that that conjures up, a passage of scripture can be so twisted and so distorted, so embedded within the psyche of an individual that it can result in those sorts of abusive behaviors. It is beyond belief almost. But we know that it’s true. These things happen. This was the reality for Mark and his fellow survivors. That is, in many ways, one of the factors that sets spiritual abuse apart from any other. That there is a justification that’s given that is based upon scripture, more often than not completely taken out of context, but used to serve and justify the means of the abuser.   JULIE ROYS  15:47 As you’re speaking about that I’m reminded of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. I mean, who is it that takes scripture, and twists it? Its Satan. This is just I would say, and I don’t use these words that often, but really satanic to take the words of God, manipulate, twist, pervert them and use them to try and control which is exactly what Satan tried to do, tried to control Jesus in the desert using his own words, you know, the words of God. So, so evil.   So again, this is not a new phenomenon. In fact, I would say it goes back even to, you know, Eli’s sons in the Old Testament, Hophni and Phinehas, who, here they were priests of God, and they stood at the gates and would really manipulate people to cheat them and get the best part of the sacrifice for themselves, who would sexually abuse women who came to the temple. I mean, just so so wicked, and they were punished by God for that. And so, we see it throughout the pages of Scripture, but I think this term spiritual abuse is rather new, as I’m understanding kind of coming out of the 50s and the heavy shepherding movement. Is that right?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  17:04 Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s where we were charted back. Some of the responses that we still receive today, that seek to push back on the existence of spiritual abuse, would say, well this is a new untested form of abuse. And the terminology is unhelpful. Well, some people may find it unhelpful. But the reality is, this has been around for a long time.   Going back to the account in the Gospel of Matthew, you know, the famous passage that refers to the millstone and the mills, it would be better for a millstone to be tied around your neck and to be cast to the depths of the sea than for you to harm one of these little ones. Well, the whole context that Jesus is talking about there is the damage that is done by individuals who would seek to come between them and God. Distort, divert, damage, and destroy that relationship. So, Jesus was talking about it, and warned against the dangers of it. And I can’t imagine many more, I can’t recall many more harsh words ever spoken by Jesus, whilst he walked this earth than those. He reserved special judgment, special punishment for those who would behave in this way. So those that would say, oh, you know, this is a new thing and really isn’t tested and it’s not, you know, it’s not really legit. Well, I would argue strongly against that. And I would say, Well, what, what’s this speaking to then?   JULIE ROYS  18:42 Hmm? Well, and so often, it seems like the pushback comes from those who have the most to lose about us talking about it. So, I’m so grateful for it. And I’m glad that we call it spiritual and abuse because that’s exactly both those words are important. And we’re gonna get to a definition of spiritual abuse exactly what it is. But you do, I think, a really great job of talking about what it isn’t or maybe some of the myths surrounding this term spiritual abuse, and one is that it just happens to really vulnerable people, which it’s almost victim shaming, right? Like you’re so stupid that you got manipulated. Speak to that, does this just happen to you know, weak willed people who put themselves in the way of these powerful manipulators?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  19:31 Far from it. Spiritual abuse can happen in an environment with the most intelligent and seemingly the least vulnerable. What we see is that spiritually abusive cultures and behaviors can exist amongst the most unlikely and my coauthor Dr. Lisa Oakley, talks about it well in some detail about how it is only often once you in a sense, have escaped the maze, and have looked back upon what it was you were in and a part of, that you come to a point of realizing just how damaging toxic it had been.   JULIE ROYS  20:19 You know the one characteristic I would say in all of the abuse victims that I’ve talked to, when it comes to spiritual abuse, the most prominent characteristic I found is that people that are incredibly earnest, incredibly good, and it’s their goodness, and their just really their purity. That is exactly what again, because they are so sincere in their faith, that then the wolf, the manipulator, the predator, sees that sincerity and uses this very beautiful, childlike thing that Jesus said, we can’t enter the kingdom without and uses that very thing against someone. Just, again, so wicked.   Let’s talk about too and I’ve wondered this myself. And I remember once even kind of crowdsourcing it on Twitter saying, Does this happen in some denominations more than others? Are charismatic churches more, more likely? Are Reformed churches more likely?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  21:28 The short answer is no. There is no boundary to this. And I remember casting my mind back to the launch of Escaping the Maze, going back to 2019 had all sorts of people come, we were in the House of Lords in London. And I spoke to an individual who had come into the room and sat at the back. I didn’t know who he was, didn’t recognize him at all, an Asian gentleman. And he sat there, and I thought he was basically playing with watching some content on his phone the whole way through. But I spoke to him afterwards. And he confirmed in what he was doing. He was making notes. He said, I’m from within the Muslim community and I’ve just been sat here making notes as you talk, because everything that you are talking about is something which I see happening within the Muslim community. So, the fact that yes, it reaches across the Christian community should be no surprise, therefore, we actually see it operating in communities of completely other differing faiths. Where there is opportunity to use faith, scripture, sacred texts to justify harmful behavior, it will happen.   JULIE ROYS  22:56 And the same thing seems to apply too about theological, doctrinal convictions. I do know there have been a good deal of cases, at least here in the US involving abuse of women and children, and those being dismissed by the leadership. And it does seem to happen in a lot of complementarian churches where women wouldn’t be allowed to be pastors, for example. And a lot of people suggesting that that is to blame. At the same time, here we have Willow Creek Community Church, where Bill Hybels was very much an egalitarian, very pro women in leadership, and yet we know he was abusing. Do you see any patterns along kind of doctrinal lines, or any types of abuse that seem to attach themselves to certain doctrines?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  23:49 Well we at Thirtyone:eight have been really quite careful to try and navigate a solid path through all of the theological, doctrinal confusion that exists around these particular issues. After all, we have been accused of gunning for the conservative evangelical tradition in the United Kingdom. That’s not the case; we have only gotten involved in dealing with issues where we have been invited in to do so. And it just so happened that there were a number that that were from that particular tradition.   So, we try very much to steer away from the theology because we’re not theologians, after all, for the most part. But what we do find is that there are some potentially problematic doctrines out there. So where we find the role of male headship being the model that is used to the exclusion of all others, what does that actually say about how women are valued, how they’re treated? What their contribution is towards the wider community? And if you’re starting off with any sense that anybody is a lesser person, less able to contribute, does not have equal standing, then well of course, you’re going to encounter difficulties. And we just have to be so careful, don’t we that we are not setting up constructs which just facilitate harm and abuse. And that is so often what we see. I mean, I don’t mind saying to you, Julie, you know, I, on occasions have said to myself, that said to God, God, what are we doing to your church? You know, what have we made this thing? Do I even want to be a part of it anymore? And that being the reality, because much of what is happening, are constructs that are put in place to be self-serving, to maintain the institution, or the process, or the belief mechanism or the doctrine. At the end of it all, are we loving people? Are we really doing our utmost to reflect who Jesus is who God is, as a just God? It’s not just about what we do what he did, or does it about who he is, he is a just God. So why do we need to dress it up in all these ways that make it so difficult and so confusing for everybody to navigate? Because where the confusion exists, the harm often follows.   JULIE ROYS  26:31 And that is the hallmark that we’re told in Scripture that they will know you are Christians by your doctrinal purity? No, by your love. And I know that’s become more and more important to me, it’s like I could care less about your doctrinal purity. I mean, do I think doctrine is important? Absolutely. It is important, but at the same time, I want to know more about how you treat people. Because I think at the end of the day, it’s loving Jesus loving other people. That’s what it comes down to. And I don’t think entrance into heaven is going to be a doctrinal quiz. It’s going to be did you live it? Did you live it? Did you follow me? And did you really have saving faith that impacted these areas of your life? Because it hasn’t impacted these areas of your life, whether you’re a Calvinist or an Arminian, or whatever your doctrine is, Scripture seems to indicate that you’re in trouble, if it hasn’t. I’m so with you on that.   So, let’s talk about spiritual abuse. As you’ve said, some people say, this shouldn’t have its separate category. This is really psychological and emotional abuse. Make the case why do you think spiritual abuse needs its own category?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  27:41 Well, I think what I’d say in this case, and it may be different in the US to how it is in the UK. But we are still struggling with a universal or broadly accepted understanding of the issues of spiritual abuse. I’m struggling with how we articulate that to the authorities that may need to be called in to intervene and be a part of the response, where it has taken place. So actually, what we have found at this point in time is that it is more helpful to frame it as a form of emotional and psychological abuse that has spiritual elements which are relevant to the believer. And if we can’t use the language of emotional and psychological abuse, as understood by the authorities in whatever jurisdiction we’re in, then we’re going to struggle with addressing the issue. So we have found that actually talking their language as a first base and then saying, but you need to understand there are these extra elements, there are extra overlays to this situation, which, frankly, you may struggle to understand but you need to understand this much that they are a fundamental importance to the victims and survivors. That is how we have approached it. What we need to work so hard towards is gaining a better understanding of those within secular society as much as within the Christian community, so that we can actually just open the door on it. You know, I mentioned before, that spiritual abuse will inevitably coexist with other forms of abuse, whether that be emotional, psychological, physical, sexual. And often we just find that it’s the other labels or the other categories that get our foot in the door, that then enable us to say, but you know what, there’s this other thing going on as well.   JULIE ROYS  29:58 Well, and I would say as a category of emotional and psychological abuse., it is, and of course, I’m speaking as a believer, but I think it is the most damaging form of abuse. I think, one that goes to the very core of who you are as a human being and understanding yourself as a child of God, and to have someone who is a spiritual symbol of God, God is our Father. These are fathers, they are spiritual fathers who are doing these evil things. I don’t think you can have a more damaging type of abuse. And I’ve talked to people who’ve said, you know, the physical I could take even the sexual I could take, it’s the way that this was spiritual, that got at the very core of who I am, who I understand myself to be, who I understand God to be. And what an awful, awful, awful thing to do to a human being.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  30:54 110% agree with you, Julie. And I often find myself speaking to people to say, why is it that we find it relatively so easy to talk about physical or emotional harm or abuse, and so difficult to talk about the reality of spiritual abuse? After all, we often talk about mind, body spirit, or you know, Paul talks in in his letters, doesn’t he about the things that he does that he would rather not do. The clash of the flesh and the spirit. Well, if we’re acknowledging that the spiritual element of our existence is so important, why can we not acknowledge that that element of who we are can also be abused and damaged? And I just, I don’t get it.   JULIE ROYS  31:47 Well, here’s the million-dollar question that I’m sure a lot of people are waiting an answer for, and that is, what is spiritual abuse?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  31:58 We would identify a number of key defining factors in relation to spiritual abuse. Coercion and control, manipulation, and exploitation, enforced accountability, requirement for secrecy and silence, and the pressure to conform. They are among the key factors and identifiers of spiritual abuse. But what we see they are done with this overlay of spiritual or scriptural justification. So these aren’t, they’re not exclusive, they’re not exhaustive, but they are some of the more common factors that we see that would alert us to the possibility that we’re looking at a spiritually abusive situation. And it would be important to say that whilst these are often behaviors displayed by a leader towards others, it can happen in reverse. And it’s important that we acknowledge that fact. But what we often see is that there is a difference between coercive control or bullying and harassment, as abhorrent as those things are, they would not necessarily in our view, meet the definition for spiritual abuse, unless there is that spiritual justification. You know, it’s almost you know, I am the appointed and anointed, you shall not challenge what I say, I hear from God for you, and you will not question. Therefore, all these things that I’m telling you are what you have to put into practice in your life. So, no ability to consider, to challenge to reject, to make choices about what you might choose to accept and what you might want to reject. It is no, this is how it is and you will do or you will believe.   JULIE ROYS  33:54 So you devote an entire chapter to kind of these key characteristics, key features of spiritual abuse, some you’ve already alluded to, kind of a an elitism of saying, like John Smyth did, I’m your father and I will take care of you. And kind of I’ve got a corner on the truth, right? I mean, you seem to see this. I know it’s been in a lot of the churches I’ve reported on where yeah, there’s other Christians out there, but we’re kind of the best expression of what God’s doing on this earth. Talk about some of these other key features that people might see might be a red flag to say, you’re in a spiritually abusive environment.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  34:40 What we would often see is that all of those sorts of things are playing out. And they are happening with an absence of accountability.   JULIE ROYS  34:50 Accountability for the leader, yet usually one of the features is there’s hyper accountability. Yeah. If you’re the follower, you’ve got to say everything, be accountable to the nth degree right to the leaders?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  35:03 Absolutely, absolutely. So that that refusal to acknowledge the need for accountability in themselves, having set up power structures that shall not be challenged. All roads lead back to the one individual. A different rule book at play, you know. So, all of you will do it like this. But I’m different. I’m God’s anointed and appointed. I’m the one leader, I can do things slightly differently, I’m allowed to do that. Even God has given me permission not to do or to do, you know? So again, the justification, the divine justification that is given in those scenarios.   So I think one of the things that we would always say is that there may be some indicators that would suggest that spiritual abuse is taking place, those are all valid. We need to take quite a comprehensive and holistic view of the environment of the culture in which the behaviors are existing, and really give ourselves time and space to examine what is that? What does the culture say? And how does that either facilitate potentially harmful behaviors, or how does it actually prevent those behaviors from taking root and allow challenge?   JULIE ROYS  36:31 In your ministry or business, your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully, you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it. And Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For a free consultation, go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM. Something that your book did that I honestly find somewhat novel in all the books I’ve read is that you talk about the stages of spiritual abuse. Which it often starts out extraordinarily positive. The experience with the church and, and honestly, with that, that really positive, as you call honeymoon stage, it would be hard to then kind of initiate the other stages. But let’s go through these; talk about that honeymoon stage and why it’s important.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  37:38 I must give credit to the analogy of the honeymoon, to my coauthor, Lisa Oakley, who is an amazing individual, by the way, and so dedicated to this work extraordinary. But she talks about this honeymoon phase, which is that at the outset, everything’s rosy in the garden, there is no reason to question what it is you are a part of, or what somebody is saying to you and whether that’s okay. You are experiencing in effect, everything that you should be experiencing of the Church of the Body of Christ. It’s good, it’s wholesome, it cares for you, it loves you, it goes out of its way for you, it’s generous. All of those things, but it is after our honeymoon period, or can be in many cases where spiritual abuse then occurs. There is a point after which once that getting to know that familiarity has been built almost that being lulled into a false sense of security has happened, that we might then fall into the next stage, which looks quite different.   JULIE ROYS  38:42 Right, you talk about the next stage, a catalyst moment. This is where the honeymoon picture begins to crack a little bit. And you know what’s so sad, though? I mean, even as I’m hearing you discuss it, the honeymoon period, when you’re experiencing that, I mean, I’m sure there’s people thinking this right now. Wow. I love my church. I think my church is great. It has ministered to me so much I feel belonging, and all those things. And it’s not to say that if that’s what you’re experiencing, that it’s not real. That could very much be real and beautiful. But this is what you need to at least be aware of. Because I think when you’re aware of it before it happens when it happens, you recognize it. So, let’s talk about the catalyst moment. What is this stage and kind of how it plays out?   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  39:35 Yeah. So the catalyst moment is the moment that you might identify because let’s give an example. You have brought some constructive challenge to something that you’ve been told, or maybe something that was included within a sermon on a Sunday morning. And the response that you get is explosive. Way way out of proportion. And you’re left feeling Whoa, what is that? Totally disproportionate total extreme reaction. But what you have seen is the first indication of a different side to an individual who is capable of being spiritually abusive.   So actually, in my later book, Just Leadership, talking about the dark side, we all have that part of us going back to the writings of Paul, where you know, the things about ourselves which aren’t so good, which are capable of taking us down a wrong path, and the blind spots that we have to those things. And what we start to see is the manifestation of that dark side, the inability of that individual to exercise sufficient self-care that this stuff is overflowing and impacting everybody else. So that explosive reaction to constructive challenge, which is seen as destructive criticism.   JULIE ROYS  41:07 Or gossip. Gossip is so overused. But yeah, and I’ve often said in a dysfunctional system, there are no problems. But if you raise a problem, you become the problem. And that is just a hallmark of these systems. After the catalyst moment, for me, I’m reading this and I’m going through story after story after story, because I report so many of these, but there’s often a very positive experience. In fact, so positive, because these are master manipulators often, but so positive that it makes the victim go Wait, did I miss read that? Am I making too big of a deal out of this? Wait, what? And so there is this questioning and you use the term gaslighting, which again, is making the person who had the experience who really is saying feel like they’re a little crazy. In fact, I don’t know how many times I’ve received emails saying thank you so much for reporting this story. This happened to me, thank you for confirming I’m not crazy, because you often feel like you are crazy in the system. So, you have this positive experience. And then you have something called renewing the vows. Describe that.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  42:17 An analogy for this stage or period where that extreme positivity starts to come almost as if out of nowhere. The result of that is confusion. So, was I wrong about all of that that’s been taking place for however long it is? Maybe I need to rethink maybe I need to question because actually this person is would appear to be okay. And you might even be pulled in more closely than you ever were before, before you started to be pushed to the periphery of the inner circle. You’re now being pulled in even closer. And the confusion that takes place is significant. And it is a power play. You know, it is about seeking to rock the foundation of what you believe, or think has been happening to date, deliberately. Let’s be buddies, let’s be best friends. We’ve not had a good period. So, let’s just put it all behind us. Let’s get back on a good footing. We’ll be great, everything will be fantastic. You’ll be back to the honeymoon phase. But actually, it’s just a ploy.   JULIE ROYS  43:39 Well, and the more you’re drawn into the inner circle, and I remember Dave Jones who was at Harvest Bible Chapel, James McDonald for years, he’s the one that first pointed this out to me, but he said the degree of damage that people experience in these abusive churches is directly correlated to how close they are to the inner circle. So if you’re out on the periphery, you may not notice this stuff, but the closer you get drawn in and then when you get drawn in there’s a certain amount of you know oh I’m special which you know, who doesn’t want to be special who doesn’t want to be you know, important who doesn’t want to be often in these mega churches at the center of what’s happening? It’s very often these folks have their own ministries that are somewhat contingent on the bigger ministry and this leader’s approval of it and it’s got a lot of pull that you know, hooks into things in us that are able to be hooked, you know. But then there does come a point which you call the final catalyst and a point at which it’s a bridge too far. But I tell you what, leaving is way, way easier said than done. Brutal process. Talk about that final catalyst and what happens when you actually leave.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  45:06 I guess it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s that final event that triggers a realization that actually, if I stay here any longer, what makes it so difficult to make that decision to leave amongst many other things? Well, if you imagine the ploys and the games and the power plays that have been going on, in the period running up to that, I mean, in Just Leadership, the other book, I talked about the loyalty card.   JULIE ROYS  45:37 Oh, that’s yes.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  45:39 That is played by the leader that demands your unwavering support and loyalty. They hold you in close, they lavished reward they have heaped on praise. We all want to be loved, right?   JULIE ROYS  45:53 And we want to be thought of as loyal. But here’s the twist. It’s not loyalty to God. It’s loyalty to the leader.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  46:01 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, the final catalyst, I guess, in a sense, is the point of, I don’t know, enlightenment? Where you come to a point of thinking, however this has been dressed up, this is not good. But leaving means so many things on so many levels, doesn’t it? Because, after all, we attempt to fashion church after our concept of family. So we’re tearing ourselves apart from our families, from people that we love. Ultimately, we will be told that by leaving, you are turning your back on God, you are being disloyal to Him, you will remove yourself from under the cover of his grace and mercy. With the conversations, Julie that I’ve had with people who have made the decision to leave an abusive church or setting and the lengths that have been gone to by the leader to make them persona non grata in their communities and networks. They’ve been told that if they leave, that will happen. They leave and every effort is made to make that happen.   So, leaving is or can be the hardest part. So in escaping the maze we draw the analogy throughout the book,  you know, it is a maze, you know, we’ve got so many different opportunities to turn this way to turn that way we come up against dead ends, we have to turn back again. And ultimately, sometimes it takes us to reach a point of high ground to see the exit to see what we’re in for what it is. And then we’ve got the difficult journey to find our way out.   JULIE ROYS  47:45 Well, again, that’s Justin Humphry’s, author of Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse. And this is the end of part one of my discussion with Justin. In part two, we’ll talk about that important journey of recovering from spiritual abuse. We’ll discuss managing the painful emotions survivors feel. We’ll talk about building healthy church cultures. And we’ll discuss the importance of telling your story and not being silenced by those who call whistleblowing gossip.   JUSTIN HUMPHREYS  48:12 Don’t be persuaded that what you’re doing is destroying God’s church because actually God is big enough, powerful enough to protect himself and do his own business. He just chooses to use us.   JULIE ROYS  48:26 But again, part two will be releasing soon. So please be watching for that. And just a reminder that we’re able to do this podcast and all our investigative work at The Roys Report because of support from people like you. And right now, we’re offering Justin’s book Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse to anyone who gives a gift to The Roys Report. To give just TEXT 22525 on your phones and the word REPORT. Or go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcast or Spotify. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you were blessed and encouraged. Read more
2/23/202349 minutes, 37 seconds
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Escaping & Healing from Abusive Churches, Part 2

Guest Bios Show Transcript After years spent in an abusive church, how do you heal? How do spot a safe pastor—and can you avoid repeating the same mistake?  In this edition of The Roys Report, Pastor Ken Garrett, author of In the House of Friends, returns to describe the process of healing after escaping from an abusive church. It’s the second of a two-part interview with Ken. If you haven’t already, listeners are encouraged to tune in to part one first. In part two, Ken describes the powerful experience he had when he first divulged to a pastor outside his former community that his previous pastor had sexually abused Ken’s two daughters.  Ken recalls: “He just exploded—not quite out of his chair, but . . . his head snapped back and he became visibly enraged.”  Though surprising, Ken said his new pastor’s reaction was healing.  “I hadn’t let myself experience that (righteous anger). I was so ashamed to be a dad who was out there preaching . . . and look what this wolf was doing to my children.”  But over time, Ken worked through that shame and eventually became an expert on church abuse and healing. In this episode, Ken goes into detail describing how to spot a safe community and a safe pastor. And, he tells of the decades-long legal battle he and others have had, trying to bring his former pastor to justice.  He concludes by discussing what survivors of abuse need most after escaping their abusive communities. If you’re a survivor of an abusive church, or family or friend of a survivor—or maybe you just want to understand spiritual abuse better—this two-part podcast is for you. This Weeks Guests Dr. Ken Garrett Dr. Ken Garrett is the pastor of Grace Church, Portland, a diverse, historic downtown church, and author of In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse in Christian Churches. Ken has spoken and written for the International Cultic Studies Association, and provides support and encouragement to many survivors of abusive churches, cults, and high-demand groups in the Portland area. He founded the Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education, an informal gathering for mutual encouragement and education that welcomes and supports survivors of religious abuse from all faiths. Show Transcript SPEAKERS KEN GARRETT, JULIE ROYS JULIE ROYS 00:04 After a year spent in an abusive church, how do you heal? How do you spot a safe pastor and have you avoid repeating the same mistake? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is Ken Garrett, author of In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse in Christian Churches. And today’s podcast is part two of a two-part series on escaping and healing from an abusive church. If you missed part one, I encourage you to go back now and listen to that podcast first. In it can tell us about the 12 years he spent in a cultic abusive church in the Portland area, and he draws on that experience to describe hallmarks of abuse of churches and their narcissistic pastors. He also describes what survivors of abuse need most after escaping their abusive communities. And in this podcast, Ken describes the powerful experience he had when he first evolved to a pastor outside his former abusive community that his previous pastor had sexually abused Ken’s daughters. Ken describes what a safe community and a safe pastor looks like. And he tells of the decade’s long legal battle he and others have had trying to bring his former pastor to justice. This is such an important discussion and I’m so glad you’ve joined me. But before we dive in, I’d like to thank two sponsors of this podcast, Accord Analytics and Marquardt of Barrington. In your ministry or business, your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it, and Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For free consultation go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of character. To check them out, just go toBUYACAR123.COM. We now rejoin my interview with Ken Garrett, author of In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse in Christian Churches. And we pick up our conversation after Ken explains how hungry survivors of spiritual abuse are for community yet understandably they’re weary and mistrusting especially of churches and Christian leaders. So, Ken decided to do something a bit radical. Rather than expecting survivors to come to church, he rented a room at a pub in his home city of Portland. And rather than inviting just Christians, he opened the meeting up to survivors of abuse from any religious background. That gathering has become what’s known as the Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education, a regular gathering to promote friendship and education for survivors of spiritual abuse. Ken Garrett explains. KEN GARRETT 03:24 When I started this thing, I thought to myself, I was working on my doctorate and I really wanted to do something, but I thought, good grief, no one’s gonna come to this. But I want to try something, but I don’t want to start a small group that has the feel of a recovery meeting. You know, this bear lightbulb swinging in the in the ceiling while you drink bad coffee and say yuh. I wanted something even less formal. So, I went down the path of a meetup and just come and get to know people. And it’s worked really great. But when I just put that on Facebook, because it was cheap, and a way to advertise it, I had 200 people by the end of the first week. And now it’s like, I don’t know, I think 700 or so. And it has exactly what we had hoped every week. Usually, 15 or so people come into this meeting. And yeah, they grab a piece of pizza and a glass of beer or whatever. And they just hang out. Some of them never talk and they grip their chairs, like it’s a plane going down or something. But others find an opportunity to discuss what they’ve been through. And so that’s just what we started doing. And I think we’re in our fourth year now for it. And it’s been tremendous. It’s not, I don’t want to oversell it because I’m not a counselor. I don’t offer extended care really. But I have found that just the community, it means a lot to people that has surprised me. I used to just do all the teaching of the principles that I’d learned and Lifton and all of this stuff, great stuff. But we’re at a point now where I introduce a topic, I say a few things about it, and then we kind of throw it out there. And more and more people are, you know, Scientologists, for instance, are wanting to say, wow, that’s what happened to me. Or somebody from a polygamous background is more willing to say, yeah, that’s the bologna that I lived with. So, there’s this strange sharing that is tearing down, what to me was the exclusivity of Christian abuse. We’re not special. JULIE ROYS 05:50 Well, let’s talk about we’ve talked about the spiritually abusive pastor. Talk about the safe pastor. And I love this quote from your book, where you say over the years, I’ve come to believe that Christians need great pastors more than they need great preachers. The great preachers are the ones that we put on the radio, that we sell the books of, and everything else. And often they are the most abysmal pastors. So, what does a safe pastor look like? KEN GARRETT 06:21 A safe pastor is somebody who has a highly highly developed theology of the pastorate. He has not made it to where he’s at, because of his skill set or because of another powerful pastor that’s brokered him in. Great if that happens, and you get a job out of it, but your success as a pastor depends on your understanding of what that calling means to you. And if you abuse the people that you are called to serve, you have horrifically violated a calling. And it’s serious business. All of these restoration schemes that happen when the big guys get in trouble? And I mean, some of the local ones that I know and that you know around me, they’ve actually attempted to craft their own restoration process and told their elder team, here’s how it’ll work. I’ll be out of the pulpit this long, and I know you guys need help with this. No. You have violated something so precious, that you have to leave what you’re doing. And you have to leave it with no plan or demand with nothing but your desire for God. And then you trust Him for how you’ll be restored. You trust him for that, if at all in that position. So, a good pastor has the fear of God that drives his life. I started out wanting to be a great preacher. My mother managed a big Christian bookstore, and she started sending me study guides from Chuck Swindoll. Who’s like this awesome, you know, Chuck Swindoll, wow. And it was back in the 80s. And between that and Keith Green and my own somewhat ambitious and exhibitionist nature, I thought, I belong in a pulpit. And so, my vision of ministry rose and fell on my speaking abilities. I had taken a lot of theater in college because I love theater and acting and all that I just felt like it was a good fit for me. But it was such a betrayal of my needs, and really a betrayal of what a church needs. So over the years, with failure, with study, with cancer, with the various challenges that I faced in my life that have broken me down, I so treasure now being a shepherd and a pastor to other people with drug problems, cancer problems, failure. I just like being in that boat with them. That’s really the idea of being a pastor who’s a safe person. It just really comes down to being the Ezekiel Shepherd, that is fiercely loyal to the owner of the sheep and serving the sheep in love because he’s a sheep, the pastor’s a sheep. Ezekiel said that. He said, Well, I am a sheep. So you have that clear understanding, as opposed to the shepherds that are extracting and using the sheep. And then my personal feeling, you know, Julie, is I don’t understand how, regardless of the religious tradition you come from, I can’t wrap my mind around how you could be an effective pastor without being a winsome, gracious, consistently tender hearted man or woman. I can’t wrap my mind around that. Sometimes historically, we’ll hear about pastors that were just real curmudgeons, you know, but boy, could he preach or he’s kind of demanding, but boy did he know His scripture or something. So, I believe the true shepherd is simply one who settles in in his life with his with his flock. That’s what gets me through the day. JULIE ROYS 10:31 That is so good. And if I had, you know, $1 for every time I’ve been told, when I bring up bad behavior, oh, he’s apostolic or he’s, as you say, pioneer, or he’s, whatever you fill in the blank. There’s no excuse for it. If you’re a pastor, you serve the sheep. You don’t abuse the sheep; you don’t prey on the sheep. Something that you wrote in your book that was powerful to me, was about the way that your pastor responded. When you first left the church, you ended up at a church that you didn’t know if it was safe or not, you know. The pastors first interaction seemed good, but you didn’t really know. And then one night you came over to talk to him about probably the most awful revelation that you didn’t even know when you left the church. Right? KEN GARRETT 11:19 Absolutely. My daughter’s being molested by the pastor. Sure. JULIE ROYS 11:22 Yeah. Absolutely. I can’t even imagine as a parent who has a daughter, the heartache, the rage, everything. But the reaction of that pastor, describe what that reaction was and what it did to you and to your soul. KEN GARRETT 11:40 Wow. Well, we went to his house to meet with him and his wonderful wife, and Lois. And we just got together, I think we were having coffee or something. And we wanted to tell him that our daughters had revealed to us that our pastor that we’d left, had sexually molested them, as you know, in the years past,. And we just didn’t know where to go with that. Now, we had gone to the police right away. But as Christians and in a church and a seminary student, I just, we didn’t know where to go with that. I wasn’t aware that every pastor takes care of people who have been sexually molested. I didn’t know that at the time. So, I felt very alienated and isolated. You know, this unthinkable thing happened in my Bible Church. So as we shared with him about what was going on, of course, you can tell when you’re talking to somebody, if the subject matters getting serious, you get a zeroing in and focusing. And so Pastor Ralph, and I could tell we crossed the line, he knew that we were talking about something big. And I told him and he just exploded, like, not quite out of his chair, but he like kicked his leg out. And his head snapped back and he became visibly enraged. And I hadn’t let myself experience that. I was so ashamed to be a dad who was out there preaching to everybody at work and studying Greek all day, and all of this and look what this wolf was doing to my children. And I was like anybody, when you discover something like that with your children, you’re so ashamed, it is paralyzing. So, I had not quite allowed myself to respond with that kind of anger, that kind of response. So, seeing it in a man who I grew to love very deeply and looked up to and who was doing the job I hoped I could do someday, you know,. Seeing that unleashed in me the kind of normal and righteous response to the issue that you should have as a pastor. You never as a pastor should consult the lawyers about what you’re going to do to protect your church with what’s going on. Not until a long way down the line. And you should not even really approach it for that reason. You should not call the other leaders right away to let them know this thing that you learned you should you know, gird your loins, and get out the door and go get to work on the problem and confront and console and you know, get right into the blood and guts of the issue. And that’s what Pastor Ralph did. So, to me, it was like a course in pastoral theology. I should have gotten three seminary credits for it for having coffee. It just struck me, not only as such a beautiful response that was natural and spontaneous, but also so tragically different from the pastor of the church I had been to. So here I am, 26 years later. And I remember it like it happened this morning. It was so powerful. And that’s where I began to just ask God to please make me like that. It’s okay if I’m not the next Chuck Swindoll. That’s okay. And it’s okay if I’m not the, you know, as powerful or whatever, as I hoped I could be or thought I might want to be. Would you make me that? A man identified with his church that way? So, it was life changing for me, Julie. Yeah. JULIE ROYS 16:22 I love that story. To have someone have the emotional response that feels with you? I mean, that is empathy. Right? It’s entering into it and feeling it and having that anger. But the other thing is, it’s anger. And Christians are so afraid of anger. And recently, I actually met with somebody who’s kind of an Enneagram coach, and I don’t know hardly anything about enneagram. I just mentioned it so that the real fundamentalists can go out there and like, call me a Satanist now, because, honestly, I don’t know that much about the enneagram. But it was fascinating meeting and actually, the Holy Spirit showed up in a really powerful way for me personally. But I found out that I’m a very unusual one. Because I guess ones often have a very strange relationship with anger. Like they usually feel guilty for feeling angry. And I’ve never felt guilty. In fact, when people are like, gee, Julie, you sound angry. I’ll say, yeah, I’m angry. Children are getting abused, or getting sexually molested in our churches, by our pastors. Why are we not angry? People were being bullied by pastors who are supposed to be the shepherds. Why aren’t we angry? And to see how healing it was for you that your pastor got angry? And I just I think there’s a call to Christians being angry, righteously so, not sinning in our anger. But yes, should we be angry about the injustice and what’s happening within our churches? 100%. And I’ve seen it be healing as I interview people who have been through this. It’s natural, and it is right and good. There is a place for anger. I mean, Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, and there is a place for it. So, I just that story blessed me in a very personal, personal way. KEN GARRETT 18:22 Yeah, yeah. Thank you. Yeah, the anger. You know, the primary responses people have after they’ve been abused in these kinds of places are depression in various forms, and shame, which is tragic, and anger. And I believe that anger is so suppressed in churches. I’m not sure of all the reasons why. But the problem is of those three things, anger is the one correct feeling that much of the time you should have. I got ripped off by this guy. He violated areas of my life that I don’t even like thinking about. And yet, I struggled with not letting anger get ahold of me or something. There’s a good point there. When anger turns into vengeance or when anger corrupts your own well-being in life, of course, it’s toxic. But like you said, anger is a righteous response to the, well, good grief, cosmically to the shalom of God’s creation, the violation of a human being. But personally, think about that; somebody does that to you or somebody you love, and anger is down the line. So yeah, there’s something that anger is not commended when it should be in the church. It’s almost treated as a necessary sin that we hope you’ll get over pretty soon because we all know you can’t be angry. JULIE ROYS 20:06 If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres, just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Let me turn to your last chapter in your book, which I thought was really just really helpful. Because I know people personally who have loved ones in some of the abusive churches I’ve reported on and they are distraught, some of them are actually cut off where they have no communication. Some of them do have communication, but it’s just extremely strained. It’s difficult. Talk to that person and everybody who leaves these abusive churches, has relationships with people that are still in them. And it’s tough. So how do you deal with that in a helpful way when you know somebody is in an abusive church? KEN GARRETT 21:27 Yeah. Good news, bad news. The bad news first, you can’t snatch them up, put them in a van and drive to a Motel Six and fix them. And I’m half joking with that. But there is no coercion of truth bombing, or doctrine arguing, or shaming, or anything that’s going to work. You have to understand the contract is in play. You no longer hold a place of significance to the cult member. You got to understand that; don’t let your feelings get hurt. That’s what cults do. They usurped you. And so that’s the bad news. But the good news is your behavior and relating to the member to the cult member is not unnoticed. It does make it to the soul. And it is so dangerous to the cult leader’s agenda, to have his people treated with kindness, love, protection, respect, because you’re creating any emotional, when you show those things, you’re creating an emotional, if not physical escape route. You are creating an escape hatch in the soul of your loved one, by showing kindnesses by saying things like, let’s get a cup of coffee and we don’t even need to talk about religion. Or you can say, hey, you know, we have a lot of differences, and I understand them. But you know what? We’re family, we love each other., and I noticed you’re doing great on your job, you’re studying and I just want to commend you, man, you’re doing some great things in your life. Now, normally, we want to go, you’re not coming to Thanksgiving. You’re in a cult or something like that. But showing that kind of love and kindness is really what should be an art form for us Christians, and for the cult member. And this is what happened to me when I was in. It’s devastating to have love and kindness shown to you by people who believe you’re in a very destructive life situation. Now, you’re emotions or your soul, the unseen part of you gets plastered over in the cult, with one survival scheme after another to keep you from incurring the wrath of the leader, to keep you on the good team, to keep you safe. And underneath those layers and layers of epoxy is a living soul. Your soul is owned by God, it is not yours. And he does not give up that real estate. It is His. You can abuse it. You can hurt it. You can do all kinds of terrible things to it, but you cannot sell it and you don’t give it up. I believe that soul given to us by God has a certain self-protective nature to it. And so, it’s chipping away. It’s like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption man. It’s always chipping away at the prison of the cult for that day of escape. And I think there’s a part of you that wants healthiness and safety and goodness, and righteousness and rightness with God. So when you’re shown kindness by your family, you’re concerned loved ones. And you know, it’s so painful for them that when they show you gracious kindness and emotionally rise above reacting to you, that kindness goes straight to that part, the inside part. And it is devastating to evil to have that placed in the human soul devastating. The very kindness of Christ, planted in the life of a cult member. It might not do anything for five years or 10 years, maybe never. But man, you’re giving them the best shot at getting out by showing them kindness instead of withdrawing or arguing or gossiping. One of the things people do that have contacted me with their loved ones in abusive churches, culture just this has happened a couple of times. Parents have contacted me with oh my goodness, evidences and emails and stories of the horrific way they’ve been treated, and that I treated my parents; cutting off, judgmental, involved in all kinds of things. And as we’ve talked about the importance of bearing the burden of continuing a loving relationship, they’ve unfriended me on Facebook, because they want to make sure that they are all there for their kid or their friend in the cult. And that if, in the cult, they knew well I’m also friends with Ken Garrett, who wrote this book about you and or something like that, that would destroy the whole thing. So, I really treasure the fact that when they make that decision, kind of keep me at a distance because I’m the anti-cult church guy. And I don’t want to be the buddy of the dad whose daughter’s in the cult saying, yeah, we really love you. This is the dad’s job and the mom’s job. So, when a person moves into that kind of demonstration of love and kindness to the cult member, I think it involves an aspect of loyalty and character protection and not gossiping, that you don’t go to your small group at church and talk about the latest thing they’re doing. You just begin to protect the dignity of your cult, your cult member friend, or whatever, and begin to employ a strategy between you and the Lord Jesus, of storming the gates of this hell, and you’re all alone, you got to do it. JULIE ROYS 27:49 And in doing so, you’re disrupting the narrative of what they’re told about you, right? And what they’re expecting. So, the whole dance is disrupted, and that creates a dissonance. Again, love right? And I mean, it comes down to love, it comes down to love. We’re known by our love, people. Repentance comes by kindness leads us to repentance. We forget these things, I think sometimes. And so, so important. I just want to end by asking you, we haven’t talked a lot about this other than your pastor’s response when he found out that your daughters were molested. But I know, this has been a long legal process. At one point, you’re pastor, Mike Sperou is how it’s pronounced, S P E. R O U. Yeah, he was convicted of molesting a minor. But then because of a Supreme Court ruling, this got overturned and now you guys are waiting. He’s out there, pastoring a church right now. KEN GARRETT 28:49 Yes. Right. Yeah. JULIE ROYS 28:50 And you’re hoping that he will get behind bars again. Just if you can tell us what’s happening and what you’re hoping with the whole legal case right now? KEN GARRETT 29:00 Sure. Well, just a brief timeline is charges were filed in 97. And the police really fumbled dropped the whole thing. And then they were refiled by the girls by seven victims in 2013 or 14. He went to trial in 15 was found guilty by an 11-1 jury of sexual assault felony assault on a minor. And it was one remaining girl who fell into the statute of limitations for Oregon. So, they got him on that. And they sent him away on a 20 year sentence to the Oregon State pen. It was appealed. Because in the course of the trial, the girls were all referred to as victims. And the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that that wasn’t fair. It made the jury think that it was a foregone court agreed upon concept that they were victims. Maybe they weren’t or whatever. So that appeal was overturned. And we went to court again, and he lost again, okay? On like an another 11-1 or something and went back to prison. And then the Supreme Court argued, okay, so that was Supreme Court vs or Louisiana, Louisiana versus Ramos, I believe it was, in 2020 is when the ruling came out. And that basically invalidated the court system of the two states of Oregon and Louisiana, that a non-unanimous felony jury decision was not to be accepted. So, and ours was 11-1. So and this, the non-unanimous jury has racial histories, especially I think, in Louisiana, and probably here in Oregon. And so, I understand their reasoning on it. And I don’t at all, you know, feel horrible about that. But we were non unanimous. So, in July of 2020, it was in the middle of COVID. His conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeals in Oregon. At the court appearance where it was officially overturned, at the very same court within about 20 minutes, the deputy DA refiled charges. And he said, I’m not going to let a serial pedophile skip around on this. So, charges were refiled. And we are back to court now in May, just in a few months here. So, it’ll be our third major trip to court. And I have no idea you know, what’s at stake for him. Whatever it is, I’m sure he’ll start working at a I don’t know, I just don’t know how the DA and defense attorneys are going to go on it. But it is scheduled for three weeks of court again in Multnomah County in May. And he is out now pastoring his church, I think there’s a couple of dozen people left. They’ve disappeared from social media over the last couple of years. I imagine their lawyer, an expensive defense lawyer. I imagine he said, look, I’m sure you guys really believe in what you’re doing. But you look like you look guilty. So, no more postings no more w