Analysis of the Northern Plains District of the Evangelical Free Church of America

Today I am unveiling the analysis of the third district in the Evangelical Free Church of America. The Northern Plains District (NPD) covers North Dakota, northern South Dakota, NW Minnesota and Eastern Montana. This is the first of two posts and looks at Dr. Daryl Thompson the District Superintendent. Other issues deal with NPD promoting Peacemakers which is complicit in the Sovereign Grace scandal and corruption, and other concerns, plus a shout out to Scott Sheets of Riverside Community Church for his excellent blog post on pain and suffering.

“Partnering to Multiply Healthy Churches among All People”

Northern Plains District Motto

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11: 28-30 NLT



Some of the recent pastors and their wives in the Northern Plains District. This is from left to right. David and Jennifer Monreal of Faith EFC in Grand Forks, ND; Shiloh Morris of First EFC Bismarck, ND; NPD Superintendent Daryl Thompson; Jeremy Oakland of First EFC Bismarck, ND; Jason and Trista Wood of Calvary EFC in Rugby, ND; David and Cheryl Pickert of New Life EFC in Watertown, SD; Bob and Ruthie Thune of Grace Point Church in Bismarck, ND. (From NPD Facebook page)


Promotion of the Northern Plains District Conference

District Superintendent Daryl Thompson preaching


In December 2015 I wrote the following post that put out a call for stories of corruption and polity problems in the Evangelical Free Church of America. There have been a number of people who have responded to that post. However, in that post I also explore the breakdown of all the districts and the history of the denomination.  I decided to take this issue on because no blog out there has undertaken issues related to the Evangelical Free denomination and there are a number of problems that exist. I used to be involved in the Evangelical Free, I actually was baptized in one in 2000. Today due to a host of issues I wouldn’t step foot in one, nor would I explore faith in an Evangelical Free church. Just living in the D.C. area and observing the Evangelical Free denomination from a distance has been heartbreaking.  There are a lot of issues from abuse of authority, to legalism, to Reformed theology/Neo-Calvinism issues that befall the denomination and this blog is going to write and expose them in an effort to bring about change. Change will come with time, but it will come with each painful story that is published. The stories will reveal the problems in the polity. As SGM Survivors was a thorn in the Sovereign Grace denomination, it is my goal to make The Wondering Eagle a thorn in the side of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The goal is not to be difficult for the sake of being difficult but in the course of time to help bring change to the denomination. I have 17 districts to work through over the next year. Today I am looking at the Northern Plains District. This is the third district that I have analyzed.


Three Aspects Driving this Post and Blog: D.A Carson’s Corruption, Andrew White and Redeemer Arlington and Atheism

This blog – The Wondering Eagle –  is going to hold the Evangelical Free denomination accountable. It is going to write, report and reveal problems and issues with their polity. The Evangelical Free is not a healthy denomination and it needs reform. There are three key things I want to communicate to the Evangelical Free Church so they can understand what drives this project and this blog.

1.  In February of 2013 at the blog SGM Survivors which has documented and written about corruption and problems in the Sovereign Grace Ministries denomination the following occurred. A person called “Anonymous” wrote about how she was sexually assaulted when she was 13 at a prominent SGM member’s house. She also wrote about how she hoped the denomination would be held accountable.  Shortly there after the largest lawsuit in evangelical Christian history against SGM was dismissed on a technicality and statute of limitations reasons. On May 24, 2013 D.A. Carson who is a prominent professor at the Evangelical Free Church’s flagship seminary Trinity Evangelical Divinity School issued a statement in support of C.J. Mahaney (along with Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung). In that bastardized statement D.A. Carson went after and verbally attacked that rape victim from SGM Survivors. I consider this to be one of the lowest points in modern evangelical Christianity. When this behavior occurred from a prominent professor in the Evangelical Free Church’s flagship seminary the response by the denomination was also telling.  No one challenged Don Carson, no one publically rebuked him. No one said, “Now wait a minute Don you are out of line…”


No one did a damn thing. The Evangelical Free Church’s silence on this issue screams volumes about its health. I wonder if the denomination is familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. You see the lesson of that story is that you help the broken, the wounded, the person hurt alongside the road. In contrast the Evangelical Free  has been committed to growth, church planting all while one of its prominent professor’s at its main seminary attacks a rape victim.  In the process I would propose that many parts of the Evangelical Free denomination are acting like the high priest consumed with going to the temple who ignore the wounded person along the side of the road in the process.

Gentlemen…D.A. Carson’s behavior is a disgrace to the denomination and it needs to be challenged. But there is another question that needs to be asked…why would Don Carson behave that way? Over at the blog The Wartburg Watch it was revealed that C.J. Mahaney gave at least $200,000 to Al Mohler at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I put a link to that post in the previous sentence. All together now can we say a “Gospel Centered Bribe.” It has also came out over at the blog SGM Survivors that C.J. Mahaney allegedly gave a lot of cash to Wayne Grudem to help finish the ESV translation. You can read about that in this comment below:


That money given to Wayne Grudem was actually certified by Grudem’s own writing which you can read about in this post here. Plus it was revealed the C.J. Mahaney gave money to Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  So having said all that if we follow the money it is well within reason to ask the following question. Did C.J. Mahaney give money to D.A. Carson and is that why Carson felt obligated to attack a rape victim? To read more about the Sovereign Grace scandal the Washingtonian and Time magazine has written about it. Plus there is my analysis of the Washingtonian article as well.

2. There is another aspect I want the Evangelical Free denomination to know. Shortly before D.A Carson attacked a rape victim I was thrust into the darkest season of my life, and it happened when I was coming out of a prolonged faith crisis that consumed half my thirties. An Air Force Captain I knew who was a Care Group Leader at Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington (a former SGM Church plant in the Washington, D.C. area) gave birth to a false accusation that took aim at my name, reputation, employment and future employment. An attorney who looked over the situation believed I was sitting on a defamation of character lawsuit against Andrew. When I saw how a military officer can abuse his power the situation taught me as to why rape and sexual assault is a very serious issue in the United States military. This situation was the darkest season of my life. The situation was so painful to where you had a 38 year old man crying in his bed in the middle of the night in emotional pain. After I was unsuccessfully recruited into Redeemer Arlington and as I slowly picked up the pieces of my life and tried to find a way forward Andrew White focused on recruiting another person. Andrew has not repented, or expressed sorrow for the pain he caused. It actually goes  to another issue in modern evangelicalism today. Christians don’t say they are sorry…they don’t repent when they hurt other people.  They are often indifferent and apathetic to those who they wound. Its what makes many parts of the Christian faith laughable and a joke.  So that situation with an Air Force Captain and the pain I endured drives me and often keeps me up to 2:00 a.m. to make sure that not another soul is harmed by fundamentalism, that no one endures the hell I walked through. There is something deeply wrong when the fruit of your faith is hubris, psychological trauma, false accusations, and pain.

3. Finally this blog also writes about atheism as well. To date I have written 69 articles about atheism, and there are a lot more to write. The reason why I write about atheism in the context of evangelicalism is for the following reason. Corruption in evangelicalism is one of the factors that fuels atheism. I think many evangelicals would be surprised to learn as to how many people have rejected Christianity due to the corruption hemorrhaging out of the Christian faith today. Don Carson’s corruption along with The Gospel Coalition is a prime example. When I was in my faith crisis walking into an Evangelical Free Church in Manassas, Virginia and learning that it was helping to launch an Acts 29 church (in this case Redemption Hill in DC) – even with all the garbage pouring out of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill after all the corruption and issues was stunning for me at the time. Its not every day that one stands in a church lobby and explains when asked “Who is Mark Driscoll?” “He’s that Pastor in Seattle that speaks about the Biblical basis for blow jobs!” You can read about that interaction in the lobby of Crossway Fellowship of Manassas, Virginia right hereIt is my contention that the single greatest threat to the Christian faith today is not gay marriage or the secularization of society. Instead its internal corruption which is corrosive and destroying the church. Like I said the Evangelical Free Church denomination has a lot of issues and this blog will write about, monitor and be a deep thorn in the side of the Evangelical Free Church of America. It will do that for the people caught up in this troubled denomination. This blog will be the voice for those in the pews.


Making the Northern Plains District of the Evangelical Free Church Aware

Having explained all that I want the Evangelical Free church denomination to be aware of what I will report and write on.

  • This blog will write about church members who are caught up in membership covenant issues where they can’t resign or walk away. I should also note that I have deep reservations and concerns about membership covenants. My views are summed up in this post right here called.  “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: the New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War.In that post I draw similarities between membership covenants being a modern version of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of oppression throughout the Cold War until it fell in November 1989.
  • In-appropriate church discipline will be hammered here at The Wondering Eagle.   If an Evangelical Free church in the Northern Plains District practices in-appropriate church discipline (Side-note I am not talking about adultery)  they will be written up about. For example if a church disciplines a rape victim, or someone who ends their marriage because they were domestically abused. This blog will intervene in those situations for the people in question, and this blog will hammer that church. If you want to see an example of this look at Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania headed up by Steve Estes. Steve and his Elder board disciplined and excommunicated an alleged rape victim. The Senior Pastor’s son allegedly raped his wife while intoxicated and allegedly pointed a loaded gun at her. In this story the woman knows she could be dead. At the time the Evangelical Free church ignored the pleas of members and former members to get involved. I am continuing to write about it as the situation develops.
  • Abusive and questionable church authority issues will be written about extensively as well. Church discipline and membership issues are but one factor. You can have pastors who usurp their authority and force their will. They are often surrounded by yes men who lack any objectivity from outside parties. Nepotism is a major problem in evangelicalism and this issue reveal itself in these situations.
  • Theological church hijackings will also be written about. If a Neo-Calvinist pastor comes in under the radar and hijacks an Evangelical Free church and turns it into a hardcore 9 Marks, or The Gospel Coalition church they will be written about. Its in situations like these where members face discipline for things that never were issues previously. Its divisive and forces people away from their congregations. I will have no sympathy for a pastor who hijacks a church and takes it in a direction that was not its prior theology. Hijackings split congregations and drive people from their theological homes for years.
  • Child sex abuse along with domestic abuse cover up will be written about as well.
  • Following the laws in regards to sex offenders will be researched and emphasized. What I will do is randomly take an Evangelical Free Church and run its staff through the sex offender database in the appropriate state to see if its being compliant, open and transparent with the congregation. If not expect to see a post similar to this one written about Fairfax Community Church in the Washington, D.C. area.
  • Financial issues are another aspect that will be written about and covered. Lack of financial transparency, building campaigns that are questionable will be covered in great detail. Church growth is an idol that is worshiped in the modern evangelical Christian church.

Now if the denomination does not like that and Daryl Thompson or individual pastors are displeased that a blog has popped up that will write about denominational issues there are two things you can do. One is you can express your personal displeasure to D.A Carson and thank him for attacking a rape victim. Second, in honor of D.A Carson The Wondering Eagle celebrates “Festivus” on Don’s birthday on December 21. As part of the annual “airing of grievances” you can read this post I wrote and participate in your own “airing of grievances” at your computer.  Or wait until the next Festivus and complain, and grieve about Don Carson or even the existence of this blog. After all according to the calendar Festivus is now only 232 days away! I have no problem with pushback and allow differing points of view. I am not a dictator. I also want to go on record to state that this post has been emailed to the Northern Plains District leadership of the Evangelical Free Church as well as all the churches and as many Senior Pastors and pastoral teams in the  denomination within NW Minnesota, Eastern Montana, North Dakota and northern South Dakota.  So they are now noted and have been made aware that there is a blog that will write about this denomination and their potential church. This blog will have a bite to it, and that bite exists for a reason. It’s to protect and go to bat for the person standing in the pew. There are too many wolves and too much corruption that exists in modern evangelicalism, but especially the Evangelical Free denomination.


Northern Plains District Under Dr. Daryl Thompson and Affiliated Ministries

The current District Superintendent of the Northern Plains District is Dr. Daryl Thompson. Daryl as I understand it went to Dallas Theological Seminery and worked on his ThM. He then went on and obtained  a Doctor of Ministry from Talbot School of Theology which is a part of BIOLA in LaMirada in California. You can look at Daryl’s linkedin profile here.  In 1985 Daryl Thompson became the Senior Pastor at Liberty Evangelical Free in Williston, North Dakota. His leadership guided the church through growth, including purchasing their facility. In 2000 major renovations took place which included building a large fellowship hall, and additional classroom space. Daryl Thompson led Liberty Evangelical Free Church until the spring of 2008 when he became the District Superintendent of the Northern Plains District. As I discovered when I googled Daryl he is a very busy man. It appears as if he makes himself available to his staff and likes to engage people. He also loves to give presentations, for example at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois the IPM Summit is going to take place. Daryl is giving a workshop called “Emotional Intelligence: The Often Unrecognized and Frequently Overlooked Problem.” He also gave that talk at the Northern Plains District conference. Daryl is married to his wife Beth.

There are a number of other ministries that NPD supports. This is a run down of those on the website.  Cooperstown Bible Camp in Cooperstown, North Dakota is used for pastors conferences, retreats and other functions. There is also Elim Care in Fargo, North Dakota. This offers a variety of health services and rehabilitation services that help make a successful transition from a hospital visitation to the home. Elim offers skilled nursing care for a broad range of medical needs and memory care. The final one is the Baptist Home in Bismarck at the Baptist Home Health Care Center.


Deep Concerns about Ken Sande’s Peacemakers Being Promoted by Northern Plains District

Peacemakers sounds wonderful, it sounds harmonious and we all know reconciliation and healing is needed in many ways. I say this as a guy who has spent a couple of years trying to resolve a false accusation that threatened my name. However, when I learned that the Northern Plains District embraces and uses Peacemakers, I was stunned and wanted to spend some time writing about this disturbing problem. Peacemakers is part of a cottage industry of “reconciliation” programs and it has deep ties to Sovereign Grace and C.J. Mahaney which is dogged by allegations of criminal activity, child sex abuse cover up and Mahaney’s own blackmail of Larry Tomczak which you can read about right here.

As the scandal in Sovereign Grace poured out story after story of child sex abuse cover up and other issues what was interesting was how Peacemakers tried to intervene. In the story of Noel from Sovereign Grace Fairfax here in Virginia her child was sexually abused by a teenager who was then allowed to be active in the congregation and have access to other children. SGM tried to handle child sex abuse internally and discouraged people from contacting law enforcement. Noel told her story at SGM Survivors which you can access here. I wrote a condensed version in this post here if you are more pressed for time.  In the situation at SGM Fairfax Ken Sande who is buddy, buddy with C.J. Mahaney tried to intervene in the situation with Noel. His efforts indicate how many evangelicals struggle both with situational ethics and comprehending what a conflict of interest is. Kris who writes SGM Survivors wrote an open letter to Ken Sande and addressed the problems of Peacemakers. You can read that post right here.

Ken Sande wrote much of the material as a lawyer and then allegedly withheld that information on his website. You could search the Peacemakers at the time and not find that fact at all. But here is the other issue…Peacemakers ultimate goal is not peace, or reconciliation – instead its goal is to allow the church or organization to win at any and all efforts in the end. Ask yourself this my friends…since Peacemakers profits and makes a living from church leadership and denominations when it comes to making decisions are they going to ever cross the organization that pays their bills and employs them? Are they going to give them a resolution that they do not like? Money is one of the many things that taints the Peacemakers process. There are other issues with Peacemakers process which I will get into below.

Peacemakers requires people to sign covenants which is what the damning Shepherding or Discipleship Ministries of the Ft. Lauderdale 5 promoted in the 1970’s. Many of these covenants act like legal documents. Now here is the other problem that exists in this model since many of these convents are written by lawyers and vetted through a legal system, what many churches end up doing is laying the foundation for legal action against members of their churches. Peacemakers in itself is quite regimented. It has four promises of forgiveness which merges reconciliation and forgiveness which are two entirely separate issues.

  1. “I will not dwell on this incident.”
  2. “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
  3. “I will not talk to others about this incident.”
  4. “I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”

Ken Sande is gone, but his material is still used. Peacemakers I believe has relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado. There is so much to write about Peacemakers but I will leave you with these posts  from The Wartburg Watch to read, and consider.

  1. Peacemaking – A Flourishing Cottage Industry
  2. Peacemaker’s Ministries: Honest Conflict Resolution?
  3. Peacemaker or Kingmaker?”
  4. Connecting the Dots…SGM, CCEF and Peacemakers

Given the deep systematic and systemic issues with Peacemakers the reason why I write this is to prevent people from getting harmed. People in SGM were slammed and the possibility exists for similar problems to happen in Calvary Evangelical Free in Rugby, ND or Lakeside Bible Church in Mobridge, SD. So after writing all that if you ask what would I recommend how about if Steve Austvold, Paul Backstrom and Steve Dockter read this post instead about Eric Smallridge and Renee Napier. This I believe is a more pure, and healthier conflict resolution. Please note if you are familiar with the story of Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge if they would have followed Peacemakers they would not be speaking around the country about drunk driving, Renee’s daughter’s death, grace, forgiveness because they would be covenanted to not talk about the incident that took place.


Some Gems I Discovered in the Northern Plains District 

As I went through all the websites of all the Evangelical Free in the district I found a few interesting things I wanted to share. One thing that stood out as I started to research the district is to discover how old many of the churches are. I know the roots of the Evangelical Free are in Scandinavian immigrants and we are in the part of the country where many immigrants came and settled. For example Eagle Valley Evangelical Free had its roots in the 1870’s while Bethel Evangelical Free came about from 15 individuals  in 1891. As a history nerd I appreciate the history and I enjoyed getting to poke around in Montana, my family history runs deep in that great state, and I look forward to exploring more in the Northern Mountain District which is the EFCA just west of Northern Plains District. But how deep does my family history run in Montana? It goes back to the territorial days and includes one of the governors. I wrote about this in a post about how fundamentalism crashed a funeral in Butte, Montana.

 What I found interesting is that this post is the third time I have written about the Thune family. Mostly I have written about Bob Thune’s son (also Bob) who is an Acts 29 pastor at Coram Deo in Omaha, Nebraska. I used his post on John Piper with guns to illustrate how celebrity pastors are destructive and kill independent thought and spiritual development. Want to stunt someone’s faith? Have them read Matt Chandler,  Mark Dever or John Piper. The reason why is because people run around quoting someone else without having wrestling with the difficult issues themselves. Many parts of evangelicalism like to teach people what to think, and not how to think. Then I did a review of all the Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) Christmas conferences last December. I panned the Minneapolis Christmas Conference I used to attend which is called TCX because I was deeply disturbed that Bob Thune from Coram Deo and Acts 29 was given center stage and promoted to many young and impressionable individuals. Promoting Acts 29 by having one of its speakers teach is a highly questionable endorsement. Acts 29 still has the DNA of Mark Driscoll all over the network. Yes this is the same Mark Driscoll who spoke about the Biblical basis of oral sex and talked about how a repentant woman gets down on her knees and sexually services his husband. Recently the vice president of Acts 29 was removed from The Journey in St. Louis, and as I wrote about in this post we still don’t know why he was removed! The other day the St. Louis Post Dispatch had a very interesting article about the situation at The Journey.  Acts 29 has deep systemic and systematic issues that plague it and I would avoid it like cancer. That was the second time I wrote about Bob Thune, the son. Today I am writing about Bob Thune, the father who became the Senior Pastor at Grace Point Church in Bismarck, North Dakota. Bob Thune formerly pastored Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, California. What stood out for me as I analyzed the website is the description of the men’s ministry. Here it is…

What it means to be a man: Being male is one thing.  Being a man—a true man’s man, a man from God’s point of view—is quite another.  Because of recent developments in our culture, our vision of manhood has become blurry, and that doesn’t bode well for men or for our culture.

Let’s stop and ponder what that says. The truth of the manner is that many evangelical men don’t know what being a man is either. And evangelical Christian culture is also confused and its been made worse by some of the celebrity preachers teaching on what manhood is. For example I knew a number of people who got into Mark Driscoll and liked his teaching on what being a man is. This happened in a number of churches and it really stunned and bothered me as to how they were adversely affected by some of this “a man is…teaching…” Not only that but you were dealing with someone who beat his chest, talked about cage fighting, drinking beer, and believed Jesus is a dude bro who could beat the hell out of anyone he desired. And many evangelical men bought into it.  Plus as I wrote about above the question remains…what kind of man who is around the age of 70 attacks someone publically who was allegedly raped when they were 13. If someone can ask Don Carson that question I would love an answer. But having criticized evangelical culture on their manhood teaching can I now answer your question Bob Thune?

Here is what a man is… a man is sensitive to the needs of females around him. He hates injustice and will not turn away from wrongs being committed. He won’t stay silent about child sexual abuse which is an epidemic in evangelicalism (and I believe has a bigger problem than the Roman Catholic church) . He engages, is kind, and gives a voice to those who have none. He is responsible in his actions, Plus when he makes mistakes he owns them and cleans them up. A man brings healing to his community and the people around him. A man loves the Lord and tries to develop his faith but does so in the long term perspective, after all I now believe sanctification is a long term ordeal. A man engages, listens and responds to those around him. A man is attentive and practices discernment and cares for those in need. He is aware that the Lord may bring opportunities in his life and he is sensitive to that need. He loves his family, his co-workers, and he care for his cube mates or the man he exercises with. But to answer your question what is a man..I think if evangelical Christianity adopted more of those beliefs it would be far healthier.

This next one is rich and in involves Bethel Church in Fargo, North Dakota. But before I point out the concern…let me relay a story about my life. I was involved in a serious automobile accident in 2006 in the Washington, D.C. area on the 395 just half a mile away from the Pentagon. My 1996 Honda Accord was totaled and I was forced into the market to shop for a new car. Car shopping is never fun, and exceedingly difficult. During this time I showed up at a Honda dealer and walked into the showroom to look. I wasn’t even in the place for a few minutes when this salesman shows up and before he gets to know me, hear my needs or what happened he says the following. “Fill out this instant car loan approval so you can buy a car today.” He wouldn’t listen, consider my needs or allow me the time to think it over. I was disgusted and it was one of the only times I ever filed a complaint. What happened in a Honda dealership in 2006 is kind of how Bethel Church in Fargo treats membership. In their intro to Bethel class they role out and push membership. You haven’t had a chance to see if the church is right. If its a good fit, or find out if you agree with them theologically. Instead it becomes about joining and oh by the way promote one of the hard line Neo-Calvinists, Thom Rainer, formerly from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,  and now the president of Lifeway in the process.  Where-ever Jim Jones is at he is probably smiling at how this church greedily grabs for more Kool-Aid.  The nextAbout Bethelclass is May 15, so this post is just in time for this indoctrination session.

The next part I really enjoyed and just want to single this out. This is the third district of the Evangelical Free Church that I have studied. I have looked at a lot of blogs, and examined many, many websites. Of all the blogs I have looked at I have found Scott Sheets of Riverside Evangelical Free Church in Mayville, North Dakota to have one of the more serious and thought provoking blogs. At this blog I have written intensely about the problem of evil here, here, here, and here. Plus I have also looked at the problem of pain and suffering in this lengthy post through the eyes of several different individuals. Plus I also wrote about Joey Feek’s cancer and on prosperity theology.  Many evangelicals run from such heady and difficult topics. If you want to see one agnostics (at the time…) attempt to ask questions in the church this post will reveal it to you. Against all that I found this post by Scott Sheets called “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” The simple and yet beautiful transparency that comes across in this post is amazing. The fact that a pastor says that he can struggle and discuss it in an intellectual way reveals quite a bit about how gifted Scott Sheets is as a pastor. The fact that he tried and took a serious stab is to be commended. One of the things I learned from my faith crisis  is that many atheists and skeptics are deeply intellectual. They think different, and process information in a very independent way. One of the things I enjoy most about this blog is dealing with people who are in the midst of faith crisis themselves or outside the Christian faith. I can nod my head when I see their emotions, or spend well over an hour on the phone hearing about how their faith fell apart and how they are done with Christianity. Skepticism is rising in our society, and the nones and the dones are growing. Yet people have questions and many people are still seeking. The sad reality is that to this seeking and questioning world the evangelical church is not going to be able to engage. Tracts like he “5 Spiritual Laws” which Cru is known for dumb down the faith and leave people wanting more. Many parts of evangelicalism are intellectually lacking, and this has been attested to in the classic book by Mark Noll, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” On the flip side to that there is the Neo-Cal movement however, the problem that exists with Neo-Cal theology is that it is very much deterministic and teaches a sovereignty that makes the problem of evil worse. Its why people like R.C. Sproul and John Piper are so predictable. Mark my words, but the next time there is a massive tornado, terrorist attack, or some form of human suffering playing out on the world stage you will see a post at Desiring God or The Gospel Coalition proclaiming it being God’s will or how the Lord’s sovereignty is on display. Its nothing but determinism or fatalism. So when it comes to pain and suffering the Neo-Cal movement makes it much worse and exacerbates it. If you want to see an example of that read this post of what I did years ago on the John Piper Kool-Aid while my Mom was recovering from pancreatic cancer. But I wanted to single out Scott and say that Riverside is fortunate to have them as their pastor.

The last thing that caught my eye is some of the Sunday school material at Calvary Evangelical Free Church in Rugby, North Dakota. I see they are using Matt Chandler’sThe Explicit Gospel.” The title of that book became the title of my post about a horrific scandal at Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. This is the title of the post, ‘“The Explicit Gospel” at Matt Chandler’s “The Village” Includes Child Pornography, Church Discipline and Membership Covenants’ If you do not know the story what had happened is that Karen Hinkley was a missionary married to her husband Jordan Root. She learned on the missionary field that her husband was addicted to child pornography and that he had sexually abused a couple of others in his youth. The missionary agency evacuated and terminated his employment. Karen in learning all this information decided that the marriage never took place and filed for annulment in Texas. Matt Chandler’s church attempted to place her under church discipline for her annulment to her husband. The church shunned, cut her off while pursuing the matter to North Carolina. (Makes you wonder how healthy your Acts 29 is doesn’t it?) Eventually Matt Chandler flew out to Ashville, North Carolina and apologized.  However I consider it half baked because the Elders never apologized to her, Karen’s small group leader never apologized and many of her friends from The Village Church still shun her and treat her like she is dead. Its amazing how parts of modern evangelicalism can share a lot in common with Mormonism. Below are all the posts I wrote about The Village Church scandal. I later learned from Dee Parsons at The Wartburg Watch which broke the story of the scandal that Karen likes to read me. 🙂

  1. An Open Letter to “The Iron Lady” Karen Hinkley (formerly Karen Root of The Village Church)”
  2. An Open Letter to Matt Younger of The Village Church (Dallas Northway  Campus)”
  3. The Village Church’s Letter of Apology to Karen Hinkley (Part 1) A Primer on What is Repentance? What is Forgiveness?”
  4. The Village Church’s Letter of Apology to Karen Hinkley (Part 2) An Analysis of the Apology and how it Falls Short
  5. An Open Letter to Matt Chandler and Why Eagle is Deeply Impressed with The Village Church’s Repentance to Karen Hinkley

To the Northern Plains District I am looking forward to interacting with you and writing about this EFCA District in time. As always I love you guys, and if any church members in the Northern Plains have any problems or issues, let me know and I will go to bat for you. I will now move on to another district as I work through this denomination.


10 thoughts on “Analysis of the Northern Plains District of the Evangelical Free Church of America

  1. Here is what a woman is… a woman is sensitive to the needs of people around her. She hates injustice and will not turn away from wrongs being committed. She won’t stay silent about child sexual abuse ……….

    Your description of a Christian man is also the description of a Christian woman. We see that, David. Will they ever?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eagle, you could have made 10 posts out of this, my head is spinning trying to connect all the dots. 🙂

    One thing, the 4-point “peacemaker” stuff is chilling:

    1. “I will not dwell on this incident.”
    2. “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
    3. “I will not talk to others about this incident.”
    4. “I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”

    This is how those in power handle things when someone in power has done something very wrong. Put another way, “We’re not here to rehash or go backwards; we’re here to move forward in the Lord & move towards reconciliation!”

    How can one reconcile, if one won’t honestly address what caused the rift?

    #3 is how they try to cover it up, while abusing & misappropriating the word “gossip”. They need to get it straight: Gossip is when one passes on others’ stories & experiences. But sharing one’s *own* experience is not gossip. It is truth. And it is only when people share these stories of abuse (thinking of Bill Cosby & other abusers, both in & out of church) that the truth comes out & abusers are taken down.

    “Peacemaker” isn’t peace at all.
    It’s a recipe for festering pain & resentment in perpetuity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a lot about Peacemakers that is troubling Ejj. It is a deeply flawed program. The fact is that since they get heir business from many denominations and churches when will they ever render a decision against the person who is paying their bill. That is why all the members and people in the pews EFCA churches in the Northern Plains District are at risk. In the story of Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson, PA, the trial is based upon Peacemakers. There was no peace in the situation at all. There is so much to write about this I agree. Actually the damning aspect is to compare and contrast Peacemakers with the story of Eric Smallridge and Renee Napier. If the Peacemakers model would have been followed one of the most amazing stores of forgiveness and repentance in the modern church would have been squelched and prevented from teaching. So is Peacemakers about peace? No its about control.


    • “One thing, the 4-point “peacemaker” stuff is chilling:”
      On first glance most would likely think the four points innocuous. For peer relationships it may be innocuous but I’m allergic to formulas to solve interpersonal conflicts. Unfortunately these formulas are also used for unequal relationships where they become instruments of suffocating those who don’t hold power.

      In similar fashion Matthew 18, go to your brother, is constantly being misused to control dissent in authoritarian systems. Whatever merits of Peacemakers, their system should not be used in relationships between those who are unequal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill M,

        You’re spot on.
        Here’s a situation that turns Matthew 18 on its ear.

        Someone on another site wrote this:
        “If the brother/sister is not brought to repentance in Matthew 18, the next step is that they are brought before the church. Someone who is confronted privately by individuals/elders and then decides at that moment that it would be less awkward to “skip town” and leave quietly is then immediately ushered into the next realm of Matthew 18. According to the Bible itself, this must be told to the church[by elders].”

        I was in a situation where the pastors & elders demonstrably lied to my wife & me. The *one* thing that they *didn’t* want was to take our situation to the church. In fact, when we followed Matthew 18, first taking our concerns to the pastors, then followed up by taking it to the elders, when we then threatened to take it to the whole church, the elders replied that, “WE ARE the CHURCH. WE represent the WHOLE CHURCH. This IS the final step of Matthew 18.”

        When we asked the elders some pointed questions about how we had been demonstrably lied to, where the pastors had demonstrably contradicted each other, and asked how the elders could reconcile the multiple opposing statements, they left the room for 15 minutes to get their stories straight, then returned, said they wouldn’t answer our questions, while noting that we weren’t there to look backward or “rehash” (their word), but to go forward. They then ordered us not to speak of what happened to anyone, and put us under church “discipline” & threatened to kick us out if we spoke up about it. This was a church we served in prominently & faithfully for 15 years.

        What then?
        We decided to leave/resigned quietly.

        We simply wrote in our resignation letter that the Lord sees it all, we trust Him to work it out, and “as for me & my household, we will serve the Lord.”

        Our resignation letter was never acknowledged, nor to our knowledge was it ever addressed directly by the pastors/elders to anyone, though the pastor vaguely alluded to the situation in sermons now & then from his bully-pulpit. So in fact, we don’t even actually know if we’re still technically members or not. Not that it matters or changes anything.

        A number of trusted friends recommend that’s what we should have done.
        It’s what my (non-confrontational) wife wanted to do.
        But to this day, I wonder if I should have taken it to the church.
        It’s the *last* thing the pastors or elders wanted.
        (And apparently, of course, they ARE the church.)

        #3 of the “peacemaker” solution essentially torpedoes following Matthew 18 to its logical conclusion, doesn’t it? Should we have taken our concerns to the entire church? Or did we do the right thing by leaving?

        We are one of those about whom some might say, “[decided] at that moment that it would be less awkward to “skip town” and leave quietly .”

        One good thing that happened because of our decision, is that we did not get the “church shun” that many people seem to receive. We are still friends with just about everyone from that church. In my mind, it may be the one good reason to do what we did. From what I’ve read, alas, many are not so fortunate.

        But when I read :”peacekeeper” stuff, it makes my skin crawl.

        Liked by 1 person

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  4. “It’s what my (non-confrontational) wife wanted to do.
    But to this day, I wonder if I should have taken it to the church.”
    Extrapolating from my experiences I’ll vote with your wife. I’m now of the opinion many of them are less of a Church and more of an institution. An institution is much harder to change and less worth the effort. The vast majority sitting in the pews defer to the paid staff. Even if you were able to pry lose enough support to make some needed changes you would get labeled divisive. I firmly believe it would be a no win situation.

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