Can a person heal from sexual abuse in a 12 week program? What about in a church where the leadership is enamored with John MacArthur and C.J. Mahaney? This is the story of Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church in Oakhurst, California. This also looks at some statistics and indicators of child sexual abuse as well. Plus I ask the question…is there an epidemic of child sex abuse in the Evangelical Free Church of America?
“I am no longer the victim!”
From the Renew Webpage Testimony Section
“The Renew ministry was the instrument the Lord used to remove the ‘lid’ off of all my denial. My eyes were opened to how the denial was a tremendous burden to my soul, and how pain and rejection became idols in my heart. God uncovered the hidden things of my heart … the dark things that I was never meant to carry. The Lord (by His grace) helped me to discover the soul ties that were squeezing the life out of my relationship with Him and others. Renew is where the healing in my life began.”
From the Renew Webpage Testimony Section
“Such a thing as a “psychological problem” unrelated to spiritual or physical causes is nonexistent. God supplies divine resources sufficient to satisfy completely all the spiritual needs.”
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God!
Shout out to my Grandmother in Michigan for her thoughts and feedback! Love you Gail! I would trade the life in D.C. for your neck of the woods anyday! 🙂
Psalm 42:11 NLT
Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church Logo in Screen Shot
Oakhurst, California is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Oakhurst is in Madera county and its 14 miles away from the entrance to Yosemite National Park. I have been through Oakhurst many times growing up on my way to Yosemite. Today’s post deals with Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church, but lets give you some background of this church and its leadership.
While I do not know the history (I’ve tried to research it and there are gaps) Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church moved into a 25,500 square foot church on Easter Sunday in 2006. This church is lead by Senior Pastor Bob Johnson and Assistant Pastor Craig Shigyo. When I was working through EFCA West in calculating the growth of Neo-Calvinist/Reformed Theology it was the favorite books of the pastors which led me to put Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church firmly in the Neo-Calvinist/Reformed camp. After all Bob Johnson on his biography states that his favorite publications to read are John MacArthur’s commentaries and books. Meanwhile Craig Shigyo is a student at Al Mohler’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary so the Kool Aid must be strong in this one! But another indicator is Craig’s favorite authors include John Piper and C.J. Mahaney. This blog has written plenty about Mahaney to include the following, “C.J. Mahaney Preaching at T4G? My Response Based Off Charlie Chaplain’s Mocking of Adolf Hitler in “The Great Dictator” and “Time Magazine Writes about Sovereign Grace’s Child Sex Abuse Issues, Yet C.J. Mahaney is Still Scheduled to Speak at T4G; Eagle asks Why?” Two other posts about C.J. Mahaney that I have written are “Is CJ Mahaney the “Bill Cosby of Neo-Calvinism?” The Mahaney Conversation that Thabiti Anyabwile Needs to Have” and “Has God Foreordained an Alleged Child Sex Abuse Cover up in Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches? Is that why CJ Mahaney is so Sacred?“ That is but a sampling as there are more articles that Craig can check out. But getting back to Craig’s favorite author he loves C.J. Mahaney’s “Cross Centered Life.” If Sovereign Grace is an indicator of the health of Oakhurst Evangelical Free I would run like hell for the back door, especially if you are a female or a survivor of child sex abuse. But all is not lost, after all in nearby Clovis, California the Senior Pastor of Clovis Evangelical Free Church Wil Owens also drools at the mere mention of C.J. Mahaney. Maybe Craig and Wil can have a slobber fest to their favorite authors! You can read about the Senior Pastor at Clovis Evangelical Free Church in “Is Wil Owens, the Senior Pastor of Clovis Evangelical Free Still Drooling Over C.J. Mahaney?“
Statistics on Child Sex Abuse
The statistics on child sex abuse today are quite dark. This is a major problem in society and the effects on a person are deep and long lasting. I would recommend all those who are reading this post to watch the movie Spotlight. I did a review of that and wrote about in in the context of Sovereign Grace Ministries in the following post. “Why C.J. Mahaney and the Evangelical Christian Church Need to see Spotlight.” But the question must be asked, what is child sexual abuse? The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) defines child sexual assault as the following:
Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. Child sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact between a perpetrator and a child.
Examples of child sex abuse according to RAINN include the following:
- Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction
- Exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor
- Masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate
- Sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal
- Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children
- Sex trafficking
- Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare
The disturbing reality about child sex abuse is that the majority of the perpetuators are known by the family and the children. Again according to RAINN 93% of the victims younger than 18 know their abuser. The perpetrator does not have to be an adult. Actually in many of the cases in Sovereign Grace Ministries the child sex abuse was done by teenagers. You can read more about Sovereign Grace Fairfax in this post here. But the abuser can also be a coach, family friend, relative, or ministry leader as well. There are a lot of myths about child sex abuse which RAINN dispels in this page here.
The physical and behavioral signs of child sex abuse are listed below. Again I grabbed this information from RAINN.
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes
- Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital area
- Pain, itching, or burning in genital area
- Frequent urinary or yeast infections
- Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact
- Exhibits signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Expresses suicidal thoughts, especially in adolescents
- Develops phobias
- Has trouble in school, such as absences or drops in grades
- Changes in hygiene, such as refusing to bathe or bathing excessively
- Returns to regressive behaviors, such as thumb sucking
- Runs away from home or school
- Overly protective and concerned for siblings, or assumes a caretaker role
- Nightmares or bed-wetting
- Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behaviors
The scars, pain and trauma can last a lifetime from child sex abuse and carry long after the abuse has ended.
A 12 Week Program to Overcome the Effects of Sex Abuse?
Oakhurst Evangelical Free offers a sex abuse recovery program for women who are victims of sexual abuse. The name of this program at this church is called Renew. Its for both those who were abused when they are young and older in life. This is a 12 week program that helps people overcome the pain of their sexual abuse. The facilitator of the sexual abuse group is someone who has recovered from sexual abuse. Here is how the group describes itself.
Research indicates that as many as 35% of all females have been sexually violated. These are startling facts. The pain of having been sexually violated is often concealed by those who carry its scars. Chained as prisoners of the past, many hide in secrecy, afraid of the consequences of revealing the horrors of childhood and adult experiences. On the surface, they may seem carefree and happy, yet inside a festering wound exists.
This group provides a safe and caring environment where you can be heard with confidentiality and not be judged… a place where your pain can be brought into the light of Jesus’ healing power and restoration can begin. Recovery includes healing from the traumas done to us at sometime in our past, as well as healing from the influence these past experiences continue to have on our lives.
Participants work through a 12-week curriculum in a small group of women with discussion led by a facilitator who has experienced healing from sexual abuse. Participants are encouraged to share their struggles at their own pace.
While the page defines sexual abuse well, consider what is said next:
Healing can begin when we face the hard reality of truth, even when the truth is ugly and we don’t want to face it. Recovery includes healing from the traumas done to us at sometime in our past, as well as healing from the effects – such as denial, anger, fear and unforgiveness – that these past experiences continue to have on our lives today.
Sexual abuse has no religious or social boundaries and it is probably the most “soul-deadening” trauma there is.
Our goal is to see women experience freedom in Jesus Christ as John 10:10 states,
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Deep Concerns About Oakhurst Evangelical Free
I have a number of deep concerns about Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church, with the biggest concern being this 12 week program. For a moment I am going to assume that Bob Johnson has the best of intentions. That he cares, is compassionate, and loving. Let me ask you this in light of that…can a person still be well intentioned and either naïve or wrong? Do you honestly think a person who has been the victim of child sex abuse can heal because of a 12 week program? Now consider the influences of both John MacArthur or C.J. Mahaney on this church. It makes me want to ask the question is the Evangelical Free Church of America ready to deal with the child sex abuse epidemic that exists today? Actually it makes me want to ask an ever deeper question…when you scratch under the surface of the Southern Baptist Convention or other denominations the issue of child sex abuse is not far underneath. If I scratched under the surface of the Evangelical Free Church of America would I find a child sex abuse epidemic that is waiting to come out?
Now here is the other concern I have as well. Remember Bob Johnson says that John MacArthur is his favorite author. Is the material in this program from John MacArthur’s Grace to You Ministry? If so remember, John MacArthur has been a vocal critic of psychology. You can read more about John MacArthur’s views on psychology in an old post Julie Ann Smith wrote called, “Can High-Controlling Pastors Lead Their Members into Depression and Even Suicide?” In the case of John MacArthur you also have to remember there is a reason to be concerned. Back in 1979 at Grace Community Church outside Los Angeles a pastor who was incompetent and not trained advised a man who was suicidal in house. He was discouraged from seeking outside mental health treatment and eventually committed suicide. The parents of Kenneth Nally field a lawsuit that went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. The legal battle between this family and Grace Community Church lasted a decade. You can read more about it in this New York Times article and this Los Angeles Times article. So it begs the question what is the material that is used in this Renew program? If its from John MacArthur then I think its safe to say that you have some expensive toilet paper that you can use. But it also begs this question…how is the facilitator of this 12 week program trained? Is she trained in the Jay Adams and Nouthetic Biblical Counseling tradition? If so I would have deep, deep concerns and would advise people to stay away from this program. Getting involved in this program is like being diagnosed with a brain tumor and going to your pastor for treatment. Its not gong to work and cause more harm in the long run.
Just to be fair I asked someone I know who has been sexually abused as a child if she would get involved in this program. She looked it over and told me in two words…”Hell No!” She explained the reasons why.
- She was concerned about this church having professionally trained and licensed therapists who knows and understand child sexual abuse.
- Is the person leading medically trained to identify disassociate identity disorder? Is the person well trained in psychological issues?
- What is the age of the person leading this program? Are they 55 or older? Trained by wisdom and years of experience?
- Does this program understand how PTSD works? Do they have a complex medical knowledge and the cutting edge medical training and information?
I like the last two paragraphs that were said and I am going to let them speak for themselves.
Jesus isn’t a magicians and putting it out there saying “The thief comes to steal kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” is false advertising. Why? Because many times it doesn’t work the way they are framing it. Healing can take a lifetime, that said, its a great tactic to offer hope, who doesn’t want to be free from anxiety, depression, self loathing, worthlessness and all the other baggage that comes from abuse? Ya right, they say one does it at their own pace. I get it, I wanted healing more than anything. Going through a few bad group experiences only intensified my unworthiness because I didn’t get over my shame, fear, rage, guilt that left me in a pile of hopelessness. I was taught that if Jesus didn’t heal me, I must have some hidden sin in my life or other foolishness that these wanna be pseudo Messiah complex helpers said to me. I.E. I wasn’t praying enough, or in the word enough, submitting to my husband, blah, blah, blah….
Yes, Jesus Christ offers overcoming, but healing comes in His way and His time and since a day is a thousand years to the Lord and His ways are not our ways to suggest that a twelve week course is going to open the doors to untold healing and freedom in Christ is disingenuous.
And there is another question I would like to add in this post. This program focuses on females and sexual abuse. Does Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church believe that teenage boys and young children can also be sexually abused and raped? I would like to know how is that handled or does this church mainly believe that predators only like to prey on females and thus perpetuate many of the myths that exist.
Its really time for the modern Christian church to firmly embrace psychology and modern science. I would happen to suggest that they are created by the Lord to help wounded and broken people. I would also suggest that people don’t heal, instead they learn to live with the scars and psychological trauma. After all in my life I never dealt with sexual abuse, but I did go through that false accusation courtesy of someone from Sovereign Grace. But when I saw this program I knew it had to be written about and discussed. Please let me know your thoughts. Again I love you guys!