Tag Archives: grace

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.


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


Friendship – the wiles and graces

I have gone through times of being a loner when it comes to friendships. I’ve had too much crap that I’m trying to work through, or that was weighing on me. I’ve found that it really takes a very special kind of person to be able to put up with someone who carries a boat load of bricks around with them.  Honestly, it has been my fault as well, being in those lonely times. I was so depressed that I was seriously sucking the life out of the friends who were brave enough to be near me and listen to me.  But, through the concerns of three dear friends, I was able to see what I was doing to my friends, and immediately turned things around.

That didn’t mean that the depression/discouragement let up, or that things were all warm and fuzzy. I really did mess up a friendship really badly, and it was only through my heart completely changing that this friendship was able to be restored. That friend is now one of my closest and dearest friends, and I am so, so blessed to have a friend like her. I love our 2 and a half hour conversations full of tears, laughter, verbal hugs, and gasping over recent drama.

I am a loyal friend. I will fight tooth and nail for any one of my friends and God help you, should you try to mess with one of those friends. I believe that a friendship should be two sided, both people working on a friendship together.  I find it extremely hard to give up on friends, even if I am wearing myself out trying to keep the friendship alive. My husband can attest to the small handful of friendships that I still mourn to this day.

I have been greatly hurt through friendships, and I have also been given a lot of grace and love through other friendships. Friendships are finicky, especially when there is a certain level of distrust, or distance, intermingled with the friendship. I have had friendships where those I thought were friends have stabbed me in the back, or who have simply just fallen off the face of the earth, no explanation at all. I have had friends who weren’t willing to work  out issues, and I still wonder if I could have done anything different to mend that friendship. That’s when I realize that it’s  not worth the energy if there is no reciprocation from the other side.

I wrote a blog post, on another blog, a few weeks ago, talking about the importance of compassion and grace towards those who are hurting. I also shared in my post on slander, that I had had several people come to me and try to tell me how what I am writing about, or sharing, is slanderous to my parents and disrespectful. Here’s the problem I have with the way these people came to me. They were so concerned about what I was doing “wrong” and how they felt I needed to change. There was no compassion, no grace, and above all, they felt they were being faithful friends. I feel bad for them, and for their friends, if they feel like tearing someone down and pointing out their “sin” means that they are being faithful as a friend.

I have seen several instances where someone has shared, on FB or in a blog post, how their life sucks, or things are just terrible.  It has made me so mad when those who comment are so worried about how the post is slanderous, or how bad language is a sin, or they should be grateful they are even alive. Heck, where’s the grace, people?! where’s the care for the hurting? I wish more people would care and ask questions for those who express even the tiniest bit of sorrow.  I read something the other day about how it isn’t having emotions that causes you to doubt yourself. Those who say that your emotional reaction isn’t legitimate, are the ones who cause the doubting.

I desire to be the kind of friend you can trust. The friend who cares how you really, truly are doing, and the one who will listen without judging. I mean to be the friend who will correct, if need be, but will do so without judging, and instead will have compassion. My experiences, of having people verbally beat me down for sharing my story, have given me a lot of grace, compassion, and tolerance for others who are hurting.

I say bring it on people, I’m here to fight for my friends and to be the most loyal and caring friend that I can be.

With that in mind, and without further ado,

Chryssie Rose


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