Tag Archives: caregroups

The cross this…the cross that…

Shortly before my family started attending a SGM church just over four years ago, a friend of mine pulled me aside and expressed grave concern that we were going to be joining this church. She kept mentioning something about the church and organization heavily steeped in only focusing on the Cross. It is the cross this, and the cross that, she told me. I didn’t really pay attention and brushed her off. I didn’t give any credit to her words, partially because I had, and still do, some broken trust with her. But mainly, I didn’t believe her because of I hadn’t picked up on what she was talking about, and I really didn’t know what she was talking about either.

When I joined the church as my own member, I was asked what the gospel is. I stuttered and stammered feeling pressured to know, but I couldn’t answer. The pastor residing over my membership interview told me that it (the gospel) could be summed up in 5 words. “Jesus Died For My Sins.” One word for each finger on one hand. Easy, straight to the point, totally encompassing right? No. I can see it now, and even though I blindly sucked up everything I heard and didn’t think to question anything, that one-liner is not quite right. It’s only a part, a very small part, and I saw the cross/sin obsessed church in a clearer light at the Christmas Eve service my husband and I attended.

The past year has brought a lot of changes to how I view my faith, my church-life, and my relationships with other believers/unbelievers. I have stripped myself of ALL labels and am just now slowly coming to terms with my bible again. I still stumble over words like “blessing,” “blessed,” and I find myself cringing when anyone says a very Christian-ese term such as, “All by God’s grace.” I can barely help the sneer that creeps on my face and the shudder that washes over me. I cannot read things that I have written years ago and that are full of praises to Jesus and spiritually emotional. Reading those things reminds of the pain I went through, and the hypocrisy I have faced in the presence of my dad. In a way I mourn those old poems and writings because they were written by such a naive and innocent little girl. I mourn the innocence I used to possess and the bliss of not questioning. I grieve the days when I didn’t doubt the teachings I got from my dad or other men who were around me.  Even though I know I can never go back, I am very aware of how much I have benefited from questioning, from doubting, and from being unwilling to be stagnant. I am willing to challenge anything I hear, and even though I am not 100% what I believe in most things, I am slowly figuring things out. and that is completely okay.

Through challenging my faith and shedding the things I can’t stand by, I have had a clearer view on the things that I don’t agree with at our old SGM church. Namely, their obsession with each other’s sin and the cross. I have learned that if there is one part of the cross, grave, and resurrection that I want to speak about the most, it would be the resurrection.  The three parts of Jesus’ sacrifice are all important, but I chose to focus on his resurrection. He bore my sins on the cross, and faced rejection from his father. He was buried in a tomb and took my sins with him and wrestled with the devil. He rose from the dead, having conquered death, and pronounced freedom for all of those who are with him. I chose to focus on Jesus’ resurrection because that to me is the most important. I have been freed, I have been called clean and pure, and that is beautiful.

The sermon at the Christmas Eve service was, eh, okay. Both my hubby and I got up and walked away wondering where all of the joy and happiness was for Christmas. Jesus was born to fulfill the law, and to free us from the chains of sin, not to remind us of how much we have sinned and how despicable we are.  The whole sermon was about how Jesus died on the cross for our sin, and how our sin is so wretched. I felt condemned and was very confused when the congregation clapped and cheered for their sinful wretchedness. My mind went back to the old caregroup meetings we used to go to. They were all about our sin, and we were pretty much required to bring a conflict to caregroup to share with the group so they could counsel us about getting to the root of our sin. How depressing! I really don’t think that the people in that church or organization don’t know about Jesus’ resurrection, but I definitely know it gets overlooked at all times of the year except for Easter.

If being a Christian means attending a church, bible studies, or one on one interactions that are surrounded by this depressing obsession with sin and the cross, then count me out. I have stepped away and broken free from those obsessions because that does not help me enjoy God or His blessings. I cannot rejoin that crowd of people because I cannot be tied down to legalistic practices. I have broken away from those practices of obsessing about sin, reading my bible every darn day to fulfill my quota for the week, or bowing down to the cross. I have not gone back to reading my bible because I am still tied with thin strings to some of those practices and they haven’t snapped yet. By going back I would be strengthening the very ties I want to break.

I know those post is a bit rambling, but I wanted to get these thoughts out. It really bothers me when I’m asked whether or not the church I go to is a gospel centered church. I feel like asking if they mean is it a cross centered church in return. I am learning about balance in my faith, and being so one sided as focusing on the cross and sin the most does not fit the balance I’m trying to build. I believe there is a place for both of those in the balance, but I have seen too many people blow up those too much.


And then you broke my heart – Courtship, Part 2

I couldn’t keep Daniel away from me that night at the party. I would turn around and he would be right at my shoulder, big smile, and a running mouth that wouldn’t stop chatting with me. My heart knew this was one heck of an awesome guy and I was falling head over heels for him.

We danced for hours that night, swing dancing, laughing, and talking after our week of no communication. It was exhilarating and comforting to be back on talking terms with Daniel. That night I texted him and told him how much I loved dancing with him. He texted back and said that he still didn’t want to be texting yet but that he enjoyed dancing with me too.

Our church was in the middle of doing a high school play and both Daniel and I were involved. As rehearsals got more intense and as opening night for closer the more I got to see Daniel. I was 100% sure he was just as interested in me as I was in him. Especially when he was having to be reminded often that he was needed on stage instead of talking with me. We got close and spent a lot more time as the days past almost attached at the hip. We were inseparable but I felt like something was going to go wrong. More and more of my friends were coming to me asking if it was wise that I spent so much time talking with Daniel. They were concerned for my heart and didn’t want to see me get hurt. I brushed off all of their concerns and told them that we were just friends. But I quietly worried that something really bad was going to happen because I had seen close friends spilt because parents felt like the couple was too close.

It was the week before opening night and I got really upset about so many people butting into my business and worrying over how much I was in Daniels company. It didn’t help that as I was working in a prop piece Daniel was right there keeping me company and chatting away. I was so sick at heart because I knew something was starting to go wrong. He left that night after rehearsal and I ignore him with a very heavy heart and a sick stomach. I have often been able to tell when something’s about to blow up and this was one of those times. On another note, I had found a caring and wise ear in my adopted grandfather and when he had visited the two weeks before I had talked for hours with him about my feelings for Daniel. Since i felt like I couldn’t talk with my dad about Daniel, it was such a relief to talk with my grandfather. He had promised after talking with me that was going to write Daniel a letter and encourage him to pursue me if he felt like that was what he was supposed to do. Looking back, the promise of this letters was quite significant in changing the direction of my feelings toward Daniel.

The next morning, I woke up with a very queasy and nervous stomach. Today was the day that I knew something was going to happened. I remember sending a few messages to Daniel, but when I didn’t get any sort of response, I remember thinking something’s wrong. My grandfathers letter to Daniel arrived in the mail that day and I was anxious to give it to him but I decided that I wanted my dad to give him the letter. I figured my dad would be willing to do that especially since my grandfather spent a while trying to talk to my dad about Daniel and I. I should have known better than to ask my dad to get involved but I am getting ahead of myself. I left for rehearsal excited and very nervous since I knew something was up. I got to church and started working on what I hadn’t finished from the day before. I soon saw Daniel get there and my heart sank. He was pale, almost looked like he had been crying and he completely ignored me. He grabbed the mutual friend who had introduced us and asked to talk with her. My heart dropped further and I ran in the opposite direction frantically dialing a best friend’s number. As soon as she picked up, I said something is very wrong and I am very nervous and anxious. She talked and listened for about five minutes when I got another call from Daniels and my mutual friend. I switched calls and this friend told me that Daniel wants to talk with me and could I meet them at the back entrance to church. I got back on the phone with my best friend and told her to pray and pray hard because here comes the storm. I hung up and saw my other friend walking toward me and my heart started cracking. When she came up to me I could barely talk and as we started walking toward where Daniel was I stopped and started crying saying I couldn’t do this. I was so close to passing out and even as I write this I am feeling the pain all over again. My heart aches for what happened next.

I walked up to the back entrance of church and felt the bombs hitting my heart as the black fog rolled in over h eyes. Daniel looked sick and he was incredibly nervous. He barely looked me in the eyes, and I was really lightheaded and my heart felt like it was being completely ripped to shreds. With our mutual friend standing by my side, and Daniel facing me, he started the little meeting by telling me in a choked voice how much I meant to him, that he will never forget me, and that I mean the world to him. He then told me with tears in his eyes that his parents told him that we needed to cut off our friendship and we couldn’t talk, chat, email, or even be in groups together. I could barely see him because of the black fog that was cutting off my vision, and I was starting to sway on my feet. My heart hurt so bad. He asked me if I had any questions or if there was anything I wanted to say, and I could only shake my head. He then bolted out the door, tears streaming down his cheeks. He was gone for several hours running, crying, praying, and just trying to understand what he should do now. After he left, I staggered outside and fell to the ground stunned. I lay there with quiet tears falling, and I felt so empty. I somehow found myself inside the church about an hour later, I wandered around in a daze. I didn’t have any strength to do any costume work, but at the same time I was suddenly determined to act like nothing had happened even though my heart was no longer beating.

I can’t describe the pain my heart felt that day (and I’m feeling it again as I write. I am very much anxious for my husband to get home for I need that reassurance that he is mine now). I asked our mutual friend to ask Daniel something for me. I asked her to ask him if he, in the future, could see himself courting/marrying me. She asked him and then brought me back the answer. She said that he gave her a resounding absolutely yes in response to my question. When I saw Daniel get back from his escape, I felt my heart shatter all over again, and I realized that I couldn’t handle being there any longer. Even though the major part of rehearsal was just starting, I had to go home. I called my mom and told her what had happened and asked her to tell dad and come get me. She came and picked me up, and as soon as I got home, my dad gave me a hug, and then told me that if my heart was hurting then I did something wrong. I was stunned when he told me that, but I didn’t say anything. I lay on my bed for the rest of the evening crying and missing desperately my best friend, and cursing the separation.

The few weeks that followed as the play came to an end were torture. I could barely eat, and I honestly don’t remember much. I remember being in a daze and finding it hard to breathe at times. My heart was broken, my dad didn’t care, and the friend Daniel had become was desperately missed. (oh snap, I’m crying now as I write and am remembering those days.) After the play ended up, I didn’t see Daniel all that often. Maybe saw him at church, or saw him at a party, but we didn’t go to the same places, and I bitterly felt that loss. As the months slowly passed, I tried to move on, but I couldn’t. My parents and I went to a seminar at church for parenting young adults, and guess what, Daniel and his parents sat right behind us. That was pure torture knowing that the guy I was falling in love with was siting right behind me. I tried to talk with mom about the severe heartache I felt, but I couldn’t. She didn’t understand and so I kept my mouth shut and only talked to the people I knew I could trust and who would care for me. I tried sharing the story with the small group I was now apart of since I had graduate HS and they didn’t get it one bit.

Shortly after our friendship was shattered, we both asked our parents to meet and try to help us come up with a game plan so that we could talk, or at least have guidelines. All four parents met, and came out of that meeting all with very different ideas of what was going to happen. The bottom line was that we couldn’t talk, and that was it. No talking with us, no trying to understand where we were coming from, the parents shut things down, and then walked away believing that was all that should or would happen. My dad believed that it was a done deal and there was nothing between Daniel and I. That summer was the absolutely worst summer of my entire life. I was a ghost of my former self, and I was painfully aware of the gaping whole in my heart. I saw Daniel at several key points over the summer, but the friendship that we had had was never seen when we ran into each other at social events. It was incredibly awkward and I always walked away kicking myself and blaming myself for causing him more pain if I was rude (without meaning to be) or abrupt. Being in the single’s ministry meant that I saw him at big meetings for all of the singles, and after one of those, I told him that I had to remove him from my friends list on Facebook. That was very difficult for me to tell him, but I had to do it because of the flack I was starting to get from my dad if I was even seen near Daniel at church or anywhere else. If I breathed in Daniel’s general direction, I was immediately chewed out.

Life was HELL. I was lost, and I can’t remember large portions between April, when he told me we couldn’t talk anymore, to October, when the next big chapter started. We kept individually begging our parents (what I don’t understand is how we were singles, seen as adults, and yet still allowed our parents to completely control our relationship…that’s the courtship dilemma for ya) to get together and give us guidelines so we could talk, and each time the parents met, they all walked away with a very different idea of what was going to happen, not one parents’ recollection of the meeting lined up, and still, we weren’t allowed to talk.

Around July, I suddenly realized that I didn’t just like Daniel, I had fallen in love with him, and I knew for sure and for certain that I was waiting for him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I found out later that he had had the same revelation about me…a few months before. I broke down on the day I realized that, and freaked my dad out because when I called him at work (which I will never do again, and have never done since) to tell him that I loved Daniel and I wanted to be able to talk with him, my dad was hugely surprised because he truly believed that there was nothing between us. I got a huge talking to when he got home from work that night about how I was making Daniel an idol, and how I was lusting after him, and that no, we weren’t going to be allowed to talk, there was nothing there. He kept telling me that I would grow out of this, and that it wasn’t wisdom for us to talk.  I remember walking away, feeling renewed in my determination to not let my dad take away my love for Daniel. I felt sick that my dad was accusing me of being idolatrous especially when I knew of his porn addiction.

Daniel had started finding reasons and opportunities to come over to my family’s house in September, 5 months after our friendship had been destroyed. I would nervously bounce around the house, trying to obey the rules that I couldn’t talk with him, but I would try to be around wherever he was, and would throw in the token word every once in awhile. I even found an opportunity to hand him a letter I had written to him the day after he told me we couldn’t talk anymore. But even though I knew he was strongly interested in me, I still had had no verbal assurances from him.

One day I had had enough of trying to guess Daniel’s feelings for me, and I had had enough of not being able to talk. I couldn’t handle it anymore, I called him, and as soon as he picked up the phone, I asked him how he felt about me. His response was instant with no delay.

He loved me.

He wanted to marry me.

He wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.

And that’s the end….right?


Thoughts on Sovereign Grace Ministries

*This is a guest post from my husband and I thought it was worth posting. I am very proud of him for breaking away from SGM, and for being able to so clearly see the things that have really damaged a lot of people. I certainly married well, and I love him very much!*

I have spent my entire life in a huge church in the Sovereign Grace Ministries sphere. I’ve personally interacted with almost all of the SGM celebrities at some point in my life. I have personally had over a dozen peers leave SGM for either personal reasons/disagreements or for life changes. Every one of those who have left have been shut out and forgotten about after leaving. Their “friends” discuss rumors and speculation about them “walking away from God” as the motivation behind leaving our SGM church. I grew accustomed to this early on in the youth ministry and didn’t even flinch. I never thought twice about it. I was left with the impression that our church was the BEST church and in CJ’s words “The dearest place on earth.”

I was deceived. I do not blame anyone for this but myself. I want to emphasis that it was I who allowed myself to be deceived. There were several categories that I have fallen under a dangerous philosophy on;

1) When people leave the SGM sphere, they are no longer worthy of acknowledgement. They are ignored publicly, they are judged, and their “friends” openly slander them justifying their words with “We’re burdened by their decision.”

2) Small groups are small churches. The leaders of your small group have the authority of pastors, and the purpose of small groups is to discuss conflicts, sin, and accountability.

3) Humility is present when your words reflect a “humble heart”, control over emotions, and the ability to deflect compliments or encouragement.

The above are all “ideas” or philosophies that are heavily present within the congregation of my church. I say congregation because that’s the majority of the church, and as your peers, there is an overwhelming amount of peer pressure in SGM churches or even ex SGM churches. All in the name of “staying in God’s will”.

This past summer my wife and I left our SGM church. It took me a while. Over two decades in SGM and then leaving. Not as easy as I thought. In the last 3 months of our membership at our church, all of the above things shot up like rockets in our lives and we were overwhelmed by the pain that people under these ideas have caused us and others. Let me walk through each one.;

1) The mindset in issue one is horrible. It’s selfish, arrogant, self righteous, and cult like. I’ve seen it happen to close friends and even to whole families. They leave, whether because of a disagreement or because of a job in a new state, and they’re erased from everyone’s lives. No one will talk to them, and if they see them in public (i’m not making this up) they will refuse to acknowledge their presence. This happened to my wife a week ago. Someone we’ve known for years walked up to the friend my wife was talking with and said hello to the friend and wouldn’t even look at my wife. This is wrong. The greatest strength of the church is community. Just because you don’t go to the same church as someone else or because they disagree with your doctrine, does not give them any right to ignore you publicly  We are called to love and peace and community, not to what could be called persecution. Because of the above mindset, I believe that SGM has a very elitist mindset that is extremely contradictory to the whole message of Jesus and the Bible. It amazes me that members will pride themselves about their outreach groups yet turn around and refuse fellowship and friendship with members of other churches or ex-members of their church. This is very troubling to me. It’s hard enough trying to meet new people or couples in our old church, even though it had over 4000 members. Unless you were part of their Care group, or their clique, you’d either get the “let’s do it” then silence, or you’d never hear from them when you contacted them to get together. This has baffled me since the youth ministry. This is a big reason why we are backing away from large churches and SGM altogether. The elitist mindset is harmful to the community and very hypocritical of the whole idea of what a church is as presented by scripture in the New Testament.

2) I’ve never understood small groups in SGM. Why are there “leaders” when really it’s supposed to be a time set aside for fellowship and Bible study? Instead, it’s a time to share sin, often discourage each other because of your sin, go through marriage books by guys with scary mustaches, and even spend hours discussing a quote from Piper or Mahaney. There’s also this idea that care means pointing out your sin, and then telling you what to do. Questions are asked to “bring sin to the surface” and if you get emotional, you are flat out accused of being in the wrong and having a sinful heart. If you in any way question someone’s rebuke, you are rebuked for being prideful and are “counselled” to pray about what humility looks like. Care in care groups, with the exception of a few I’ve only heard of (I’ve only experienced what I am describing), is about rooting out sin, making judgments on each others’ hearts, and refusing to listen to the person you’re caring for. If you don’t agree, you’ll hear the rebuke over and over again until you say “I’m sorry, I was wrong, you are right.” This is wrong. My wife came from small churches and she immediately explained the problem. No other  “normal church” has pastor established “bible studies” that only specific members can attend based on where your pastor places you. Other churches have open Bible studies that do not discriminate based on season of life or preference for peers. The other problem with the setup of small groups in SGM is the strange misunderstanding on the whole idea of how we should care for one another in Scripture. The Bible nowhere says when we meet we should root out sin, hunt down pride, and rebuke sin on a regular basis. In fact, the New Testament encourages frequent encouragement, sharing scripture in love, seeking peace, and caring by carrying burdens and being understanding. When I read Paul’s letters and the Gospels, I’m at a loss as to where this grave misapplication of a few verses (2 Samuel 12, Matthew 18:15-17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and Titus 2:15). Do I think there are times to rebuke? Sure! We’re told that in scripture. But our fellowship should never be known by frequent rebuke and reproof.

3) Finally the one thing everyone can understand coming out of SGM; the humility philosophy. In scripture, humility is all about your heart. In SGM, and churches who have been associated with SGM, Humility is your highest calling in life. To my peers, humility is present when you say words like “I’m saying this with humility” or “I want to be a true friend and be humble by sharing this.” I’ve also been to countless care groups, birthday parties, and events where you’re asked “to bring an encouragement” to share during about an hour long awkward period where everyone puffs up someone else. “You’re so humble” or “You’re so Godly”. This is the most contradictory practice I have ever experienced. It’s actually comical. If you respond to anyone asking a question with any kind of emotion, even if you have been abused, hurt, or scared, you’re not being humble. If you’re not being humble you can’t get married. If you share a viewpoint that’s not in line with your care groups, you’re not being humble. If you have an opinion that is not popular, you are not being humble. From what I can gather, if you are submissive to everyone, conforming, quiet, have low self esteem, and use the right lingo you are humble and things will go well with you. You’re can’t know your own heart, you can’t know yourself better than others, and you can’t disagree because that’s not being humble. After all these years at an SGM church, I don’t want to be humble. I’d rather stand up for my convictions, my faith in God and scripture, and be willing to say “I think you are wrong” than have this false face of humility. Humility is about the heart. Many people like to use the verse about “out of the abundance of your heart, the mouth speaks” to trap anyone who said something that’s not humble enough. I hate that. That makes me mad. It’s irritating. It’s not helpful. Right now, I have no clue what humility is because I’ve been sucked into the weird SGM humility face idea that it’s all about outward stuff.

These are basically my three biggest beefs with SGM churches. I know I am not alone. I’m so relieved to be out of that mess. I hope that my thoughts can give encouragement to others who feel the same way but have been shut down. Speak the truth.

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With that in mind, and without further ado,

Chryssie Rose


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