A Prophet Speaks!
Well this is a bit of a 'confessional' entry. I have been challenged by a very good and dear friend about some of the negative things I have said in the blog particularly about SGM and my time with them. While he (I think) meant it semi-jokingly, God really seized his words and applied them strongly to me. I knew it was the Spirit of God speaking because if any human had told me off for being negative, I would have fought my case strongly and fervently. I have been wronged! There is a story to be told! But I was so undone by what he said. Therefore I really do apologise if I have come across as angry and bitter.
It is so amazing to have good friends who aren't afraid to challenge and correct in true love. I particuarly appreciate it as I haven't got a wife to do that job yet! Today has really taught me a lesson in how the church of God should be acting. Therefore the challenge that he has set me and I have set myself is to let nothing "unwholesome" come out of my mouth. I want this blog to be a reflection of wonder and amazement at the grace of God - something that is edifying to write and encouraging to read.
So to start that off, I want to sum up SGM. The horrendous impression must come across that I have nothing to say that is good about them because my exit was so painful. That is not true, I spent 2 years there for a reason. So here's what I think is GREAT about SGM!
1. They are Prophetic in Emphasis.
I have mentioned SGM's "obsession" with the Cross and while I don't quite agree with the outworking of "never moving beyond the Cross", I do think that their sole emphasis has brought a prophetic contribution to the Church that is much needed. This can particularly be found in C J Mahaney's teaching. His keynote session at the Brighton Leaders Conference on "The Cup" was just outstanding and I do sincerely recommend that anyone interested gets the CD. You can order it online at http://www.newfrontiers.xtn.org. He and SGM remind us that the Cross isn't simply a historical event that was applicable at the time of our conversion but then no more. It has much relevance and power for us today and now!
2. They are Persuasive in Doctrine.
SGM are far more a Reformed group of churches than many and many of the conferences that they hold boast an impressive display of preaching of the Word of God. While a great deal of the preaching is "Cross centred" they do cover other subjects and indeed cover them well. They are beginning to produce a number of booklets touching on some of their key doctrines. These are called "Perspectives". C J Mahaney wrote the first one on "Sovereign Grace" (the doctrine not the group). Dave Harvey wrote the next on "Church Polity" which explains the way that they run and also their understanding of apostles today. It is telling that Mahaney has been invited to Trinity Divinity School Illinois to present a number of lectures - such is the respect in which their senior leaders are held.
3. They are Passionate in Worship.
Anyone who has seen or attended a Celebration event or indeed been to an SGM church will know that these people know how to worship vibrantly, loudly and joyfully! While their worship is not classically charismatic - in terms of a deep rooted belief in the need to be baptised with the Spirit and the gifts that result from that which are contributed freely - they do long for the "active Presence of God" (a term they have coigned from Wayne Grudem) and long to lift God high. They boast a number of gifted songwriters including Bob Kauflin and their songs of course are Cross-centred. Rather than being catchy and easy to learn and sing, they tend to be more hymn-like. They are doctrinally deep and enriching to meditate on.
4. They are Protective in Ecclesiology.
Their understanding of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is extremely important to them - I would query perhaps too important - and C J Mahaney has said it is a "hill they would die upon". You can see that they are consistent in their church life with this doctrinal position. The women in their churches frequently study books such as Carolyn Mahaney's "Feminine Appeal" and they all strive to be submissive wives. The men too are catered for well with C J's recent contribution; "Sex Romance and the Glory of God". The key phrase for me is that he was urging the men to "touch their minds before they touch their bodies". Quite a difference to the classic Christian man today.
Their pastoring too is extremely protective. Church members are usually made to feel loved and accepted and valued. The pastors are not afraid to confront their flock but usually counter-balance any correction with "evidences of grace" - a self-made phrase that stands for encouraging what God is doing in their lives.