Sunday 10am  Gathering Times


In Case You Googled Us

Dear Reader,

If you’re reading this page, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve come across some of the content out on the web containing various accusations made against our church and its leadership over the last several years. It’s also possible that you’ve been visiting our church for a while, and you’ve been sought out via social media by a particular couple who were once members of our church, with the intent to discourage you or scare you away from associating with our church any further. Apparently, in the minds of some, we’re like a cult or something.

While it remains our principled position to limit our interaction with those who revile our church and spread false narratives, we thought it may be helpful to take the time to address a couple things for the benefit of the type of reader described above. 

Why No Public Response?

First, we understand that to some folks the absence of a response from our church to these things over the years could be interpreted as some kind of tacit acknowledgement that the allegations are true, and we have no defense. From time to time, the question arises, “If all of these allegations are false, why doesn’t Grace Fellowship Church respond publicly to all these allegations to clear her name?”

The answer to this is very simple. We do not recognize the court of public opinion to have any authority or standing as relates to adjudicating the affairs of the church. Sadly, in the social media-frenzied age in which we live, the internet is filled with all types of trolls who sit at keyboards all day and think it’s their Christian duty to render an opinion about everything going on under the sun—including giving their opinion on matters of church discipline in churches across the country which they aren’t a part of, involving people whom they’ve never met, and facts that they are in no position to know. Many such people go on to become self-proclaimed “discernment bloggers” who make it their so-called ministry to go around sticking their nose into ecclesiastical affairs they have neither the authority nor the information to adjudicate. They are theological ambulance chasers, hoping to garner attention by “exposing” the evils of this or that church and “protecting God’s people from wolves.” In reality, however, such men don’t know the first thing about caring for God’s sheep or loving the church, and wouldn’t know what a wolf looked like if it was staring at them in the mirror. Truthfully, such men and/or women are nothing but meddlers and busybodies. The Bible has quite a bit to say about these kinds of people, and we would urge the reader to consider this (1 Tim. 5:13, 1 Thes. 4:11, 2 Thes. 3:11, 1 Pet. 4:15, Prov. 20:3, Lev. 19:16).

To summarize, we believe the Scriptures give pretty clear instructions that we are not to feed the trolls. So if you’re waiting for us to give a detailed defense concerning every false allegation, half-truth, twisted truth, one-sided narrative, or flat out lie that’s ever been brought up in a blog or on a podcast about us, we’re afraid you’re just going to have to keep on being disappointed. The internet at large is not owed an explanation or accounting for how a local church conducts its affairs. We maintain that God has given the authority and responsibility to each particular church congregation to adjudicate its own affairs in the fear of the Lord and in obedience to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 5:4-5, 6:1-4. See also 2LCF Ch. 26). Social media keyboard warriors don’t get a seat at the table here, no matter how badly they want it or think they deserve it. That isn’t how church discipline works (see Matt. 18:15-20).

In addition, for our church to offer up our side of the story in each of these cases would require publicly divulging personal details about the lives and conducts of the accusers, which would publicly expose their sins and cast them in a negative light. We are unwilling to do this, even despite their willingness to revile us. We will not return evil for evil in these matters (Rom. 12:17-21). So far as it depends on us, we prayerfully hold out hope in the Lord for reconciliation with the parties involved, and we are perfectly content to wait upon the Lord to do such a work.

As a Reformed Baptist church, we believe in the autonomy and authority of the local church. We believe in the authority of God’s Word. And we believe in the biblical models for conflict resolution, church discipline, and reconciliation. We continue to extend an open, outstretched hand to anyone willing to be reconciled to us, but this reconciliation will only come through the mediation and adjudication of the church, not podcast debates and blog wars.  

Judging a Matter

Second, while we won’t be publishing any sort of response to any of the specific allegations found online concerning our church, we would encourage you to remember that the Bible gives several cautions about judging a matter based on one side of a story (Prov. 18:13, 17, Deut. 13:14). Simply put, dear reader, don’t be so naive as to believe everything you hear or read on the internet. We would invite you to learn about our church and our doctrines by visiting with us, personally, rather than by listening to chopped up, out-of-context audio clips of our pastor pieced together by strangers on the other side of the country, or by listening to long hours of podcasts put together by discernment bloggers giving platform to the grossly exaggerated, one-sided narratives of former members with an obsessive hatred against us. If you think you’re getting an unbiased view of the facts from these sources, then we know a Nigerian prince who would like to talk to you about an inheritance coming your way. 

Why Now? 

After remaining publicly silent about these things for years, some may be wondering why we’ve chosen now as the time to say something. You may also be wondering why you’re detecting a slight touch of sarcasm as you read this. 

For the first few years after all this commotion began, Grace Fellowship Church made earnest attempts to reach out privately to our accusers to attempt resolution. This included reaching out to former, excommunicated church members (and where applicable, the leadership of their current churches), as well as some of the internet meddlers. In more than one case, we’d even gone so far as to offer to fly pastors of other churches out to meet us—at our own expense—in order to sit down together and examine these matters (see 2LCF, Ch. 26, Par. 15). All such attempts have been rebuffed. It’s clear to us that our accusers are only interested in duking it out in a social media cage match, and will entertain no other outcome than the immediate dismemberment and disbanding of our church. 

Perhaps most alarming is the stunning disregard for biblical ecclesiology exhibited by self-promoting internet “pastors” who honestly believe they have the authority to lord over a church hundreds of miles away on the basis of hearsay. We confess boldly in the Lord that such men ought to be ashamed of themselves. 

While our initial disposition was to sincerely, soberly and prayerfully attempt to engage with our accusers, their long track record of hard-hearted indifference for the damage they are doing to the bride of Christ has left us with no reason to take them seriously, and we’ve resolved to obey the apostle’s command to give them no further attention (Tit. 3:10-11). And frankly, the Lord has taught us to laugh a little. He who sits in the heavens laughs at the schemes of the wicked (Ps. 2:4), and we’ve come to learn that sharing in His humor is sometimes the best thing for our souls. While our hearts remain filled with sorrow over the hard realities of persecution and grievous division in Christ’s church, we are confident that the Lord continues to build His church, and His great promise that the gates of hell will not overcome it causes us to remain as cheerful as ever (Matt. 16:18). 

Unfortunately, due to our church’s relatively low internet presence (we have a pretty bland website that rarely gets updated, and we aren’t active on social media), our revilers have been able to do such a bang up job in producing and promoting content against our church that their stuff tends to come up front and center whenever someone Googles our church. We have to give credit where credit is due here. They have soundly beaten us in the SEO game, which means whether we like it or not, visitors and prospective members tend to stumble into this mud regularly, so we have to keep dealing with it. 

In fact, we fully anticipate that even this very writing will be received by our revilers as blood in the water. As soon as they pick up the scent, we expect them to waste no time pouncing on this article, carefully analyzing every word to see what they might use against us. But this does not surprise or dishearten us. It’s the sort of behavior the Scriptures teach us to expect. When Paul warned the Ephesian elders that there would be wolves, he was sure to emphasize that they would be the grievous, savage type (Acts 20:29), not the kind you’d find in a Disney movie. But this article isn’t written for them. Our hope is that this writing might offer the judicious Googler a little insight into our perspective before forming an opinion about us. 

Okay, but Seriously, How Weird are You People?

One of the overarching allegations about our church is that we’re “cultish.” Supposedly we’re all being led astray by a horrible, villainous pastor who rules the church with an iron fist and micromanages every aspect of the personal lives of every congregant. Frankly, as a congregation, we hold these assertions to be—if we may speak so plainly—pretty dumb. We’re certainly prepared to grant that our church is a little weird, but only because we’re black coffee Calvinists, and we still use paper hymnals (campaigns to convince the elders to move to a 1990’s overhead projector have thus far been unsuccessful, but we’re slowly grinding them down). 

In seriousness, we at Grace Fellowship Church take the gospel and the doctrine of the church very seriously, and we do so in an age where these truths are being greatly assaulted even within many evangelical circles. To many Christians, church is a thing you go to on Sunday when you feel like it, rather than something you’re a vital member of (1 Cor. 12:27). To many Christians, being a member of the body of Christ is an ethereal concept, rather than a reality to be lived out in the context of a real life congregation. Many Christians are largely unknown in the churches they attend. Many have never even met the men whom they consider to be their pastors. 

We believe this ought not be so. We take seriously God’s design for individual Christians to be joined to particular churches, to be in fellowship with particular brothers and sisters, and under the pastoral care of particular men appointed by the church as elders. We believe no Christian is meant to live their life in anonymity or seclusion apart from the love, nurture, and fellowship of the local church (Acts 2:41-47, 14:23, 20:28, Rom. 12:4-5, Col. 3:16, Heb. 10:24-25, 13:17).

The difficult thing about real fellowship is that it involves being close enough to people to sin against them and be sinned against. It also means having our own sins exposed. This indeed can be uncomfortable, but we hold that it is simply God’s good design for the continued growth and sanctification of the Christian, as we live out the Christian life together, and God continues his good work of transforming each of us more and more into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). The New Testament is filled with exhortations for Christians to forgive one another (Eph. 4:32), bear with one another in love (Col. 3:13), bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), to strive for unity (Phil. 1:27), etc. All of these commands presuppose that we’re going to be up in each others’ grill sometimes. And we say, “Amen” to all of it. 

If this sounds cultish to you, then we’re happy to be guilty as charged. But in a world where church life has been largely relegated to a Sunday morning TED Talk, you’ll have to forgive us if we don’t take the charge too seriously. Besides, there are plenty of other Reformed Baptist and even Presbyterian churches with whom we fraternize that receive the same kinds of insults, and we’re pretty content to consider ourselves to be in good company (1 Pet. 5:9).

Fear Not the Chained Lions

In his classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan paints a brilliant allegorical picture of the Christian life. One scene in the book has to do with the Christian coming into the church. Following his conversion, Christian (the main character) finds himself ascending a hill called Difficulty. At the top of the hill is a palace called Beautiful (representing the church). As Christian comes to enter the great house, he is met by two lions blocking the way.

“. . .[Christian] made haste and went forward, that if possible he might get lodging there. Now, before he had gone far, he entered into a very narrow passage, which was about a furlong off the porter's lodge; and looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two lions in the way. Now, thought he, I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by. (The lions were chained, but he saw not the chains.) Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them, for he thought nothing but death was before him. . . “

Readers have long wondered what exactly Bunyan meant to represent by the imagery of the two lions. Many believe that these represented the powers of civil government and the state church which, in Bunyan’s day, were persecuting Christians to discourage them from joining local churches not sanctioned by the Church of England. Regardless of the specific interpretation, what we know for sure is that these lions represent forces which serve to discourage Christians from joining themselves to Christ’s church. These lions served to scare travelers from going any further, and instead to force them to go back.   

Sadly, we observe that many such lions exist in the world. There are many people—professing Christians, even—who make it their aim to stop people from venturing into the safety and nurture of a local church. Some of these lions come in the form of arrogant internet trolls like the ones we described above. Some of them come in the form of former church members or apostate Christians who through their unbelief and hard-heartedness have given themselves to such disgruntledness that they now make it their life’s work to oppose and ridicule the churches they once called home. Our church is hardly the first to endure this kind of thing, and we won’t be the last.

So we’d leave the reader with this encouragement, from what came next in the story:

“But the porter at the lodge, whose name is Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, "Is your strength so small?" Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that had none. Keep in the midst of the path, no hurt shall come unto you.”

Whether you end up deciding to visit our church or not, we exhort you in the Lord not to be scared by the lions. Trust in Christ, and join yourself to a local church. Your soul needs it. Don’t let the internet trolls rob you of the nourishment and grace God has for you through the means of the local church. 

The Lord hates a false witness who breathes out lies, and the one who sows discord among brothers (Prov. 6:19). We continue to pray fervently that those who strive to tear apart the body of Christ will be granted repentance. The Husband will not fail to avenge every offense committed against His beloved Bride. Let those who fear the Lord take heed and tremble. 

May the Lord Jesus Christ be glorified through the sanctifying of His people. May His churches be filled. May the earth be filled with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the seas. 

May the Lord bless you. 

Warmly and Sincerely, 
The Members of Grace Fellowship Church

May 14, 2024