This is an analysis of the issues and problems in how First Free Wichita promotes accountability. In addition to not teaching that people are accountable to God this looks at he horrors of evangelical accountability. Plus it asks the question, who are people like Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney and First Free Wichita pastors Josh Black and Jordan Krahn accountable to?
“Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day.“
“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely.
Proverbs 28:5 NLT
First Evangelical Free Church of Wichita, Kansas
The problem with evangelical accountability explained at the 4:50 minute mark.
First Evangelical Free is the first EFCA church in Wichita, Kansas. It was planted in 1950 and had its first meeting on February 19, 1950. 23 people gathered for Sunday school. The first pastor of First Free Wichita was Edwin C. Schumacher. Succeeding pastors are Clifford Smith, Marlin Jones, Richard Hauser and then Michael Andrus. Mike Andrus left First Free Wichita in 1984 and then returned in 2004. Josh Black took over from Mike Andrus on August 7, 2011. Josh Black as I understand attended Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. He worked with Young Life and attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity school. First Free Wichita moved to its current location in 1967. They have been involved in planting three other EFCA churches in the Wichita area. Those other three are Hilltop, and East Evangelical Free and West Evangelical Free. The Wondering Eagle has already written about Hilltop. You can read that post in “The Issue of Pain and Suffering, and “God Sightings” in Hilltop Urban Church; an Evangelical Free in Wichita, Kansas.”
I have heard some very interesting stories about First Free in Wichita. I look forward to writing more about this church in the course of time. And there is a lot to contemplate and write about. In the Midwest District of the EFCA First Free is the bastion of Neo-Calvinism as I understand it. Its more Calvin than John Calvin’s Geneva. So when I think of how John Calvin murdered Michael Servetus I am grateful that I am 1,256 miles away from this church. I find it comforting as I am writing this post from my humble abode in the Washington, D.C. area. That said I will be spending time in Kansas in the end of this week and if I see a mob on I-135 with pitchforks and torches then I will know that this post has been read by the First Free congregation.
When I was working through the Midwest District and studying the First Free website I found an interesting article about accountability. Its based off a sermon that Jeremy Krause gave on June 15, 2014. Jeremy Krause left First Free Wichita and today he is on staff at Mill Creek Community Church in Shawnee, Kansas. Mill Creek is a 9 Marks and The Gospel Coalition church so Jeremy is a Kool Aid drinker as a Neo-Calvinist. Today I want to analyze and ask some questions with Jeremy’s blog post. In writing this post I listened to Jeremy’s sermon twice. My comments below will be in red.
In my sermon last Sunday (June 15), I talked about the importance of gospel-centered accountability (GCA). Here’s a little more about what I mean and what it looks like practically. I’ll give you two ingredients, the “who, when, where, and what,” and then provide some simple questions to get you started. If you missed the sermon, I’d encourage you to listen to it here for an answer to the question, “Why GCA?”
First, GCA requires the confession of sin. GCA without a genuine confession leaves you unable to fully receive grace, since you’ve not actually confessed your sin. It’s like trying to take a breath when your mouth is full of water. It won’t work. Before the gospel can fully build you up, the honest confession must first strip you down and reveal who you really are. So, to begin with, confess your sin completely. You don’t have to be hyper-vigilant and worry that you haven’t systematically thought through every mixed motive ever. Rather, ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). Then, as the Holy Spirit reveals sin, confess.
Part of the problem with this is that many evangelicals can’t even agree on what sin is. What constitutes sin? What is sinful? Look at the story of the guy I knew from Sovereign Grace here in the DC area. He was so terrified of pornography because that was sinful. But the false accusation that took aim at my name , reputation, ability to earn income and more which has dragged on for years is not sinful. Evangelicals have a warped definition of sin and as I will explain below it gets even more problematic when the heads of churches and ministries are mired in sin but then they refuse to confess it. The other thing that gives me a chuckle is that the idea that the Holy Spirit lives and exists in some of these places is a riot! The Holy Spirit is active in Mars Hill Seattle? SGM? Acts 29? You have to be kidding me!
The second ingredient for GCA is the application of the gospel. Here’s why this second ingredient is essential. Confession without a gospel-centered response either becomes a whipping post for the sinner (a response that leaves the person confessing full of guilt and shame), or a lazy Sunday afternoon conversation in a hammock (a response which leaves one not worrying too much about sin since it doesn’t seem like a big deal). One response maximizes God’s holiness at the cost of his love while the other maximizes his mercy at the cost of his holiness.
This application of the Gospel can also be twisted by many Neo-Calvinists. The ultimate reality is that “accountability” as its being defined is designed to whip and control people. I would say that this is basically spiritual tyranny.
So, GCA is made up of genuine confession and an application of the gospel to the confessed sins. This allows the person confessing to have integrity in sharing their secrets, while also providing the context for their accountability partner to clearly apply the gospel to them. We all need to be reminded of God’s holiness and loving mercy. We need truth and love.
Note to First Free Wichita…there are many evangelicals who lack integrity. Its a major problem that exists. If evangelicals had integrity they would back away from organizations like Sovereign Grace, Acts 29, Harvest Bible Chapel, 9 Marks, The Gospel Coalition and more. I can’t tell you how many stories I have written about where people still go to some of these places despite profoundly disturbing allegations of criminal activity occurring. Many evangelicals treat church as a social scene instead of an organization to worship God. If evangelicals cared about God then they would not be giving money to such questionable and un-ethical ministries.
Who, When, Where, & What
Who should you meet with? Choose carefully. You want a safe person that you love and trust. You’ll be sharing your secrets with them, so be sure they understand what you’re asking from them (confidentiality, honesty, and gospel-centered responses). Could this person be your spouse? I suppose that for some sin, it very well ought to be your spouse. But for a regular GCA, I’ve found that meeting with guys (and gals with gals of course) provides a healthy context of friendship and honesty. I’ve also found there are some sin issues that are dealt with in a healthier manner in a same-gender context (e.g. purity issues).
This is a recipe for destroying a friendship. I did the same thing years ago in Crusade in Milwaukee and it destroyed the relationship. It also led to both people being fried and burned out. I have a lot more to say about this below. The other problem is that many evangelicals struggle with confidentiality. Its amazing how much evangelicals can gossip about people. Just look at how they can treat widows, elderly, those dealing with pain and suffering and more at times. The other thing that is disturbing is that First Free Wichita is doing a fine job of sexualizing people and turning them into objects. That is profoundly sad in so many ways.
When should you meet? I’d recommend weekly if you’re trying to figure this whole GCA thing out. Twice a month is doable for the uber-busy person (though one reschedule leaves you at a once a month frequency). Instead of planning to meet once a month, I’d reevaluate why you’re looking for GCA and then encourage you to increase your meeting frequency.
Where should you meet? Make it as simple as possible. You want a place you feel free to speak honestly. Are you a loud talker? I’d avoid the local coffee shop. It’s bad enough to share your sin with someone you love and trust. No need to give the baristas and patrons something to talk about when you leave.
To offer push back I believe this should not even be done. As this is being described its a recipe for creating burned out and fried people.
What do you talk about? Well, here’s what GCA looks like for me and some guys. We get together over lunch. We just go around in a circle and ask: “How are you?” Each guy shares a little about what life has been like for the past week or two (depending on how long it’s been since we met). We share challenges, successes, struggles, and invite feedback. There are no questions “out of bounds.” Inevitably, each guy ends up near the end of their sharing to mention sin issues. How do we discover those? Well, I can only speak for myself, but it’s pretty easy. What is it that the Lord is convicting me of? One of my annual goals is to have a clear conscience and so I seek to identify whatever I need to get off my chest. Once that’s done, the guys are good about applying the gospel to me. This is the critical second step of GCA. After I’ve confessed my sin, one of them will look at me in the eyes and say something like: “Jeremy, that IS sin. But, because of Christ’s death on the cross, that sin can be washed white as snow. Know now, your sin has been paid for by Jesus’ precious blood. You aren’t defined by that sin. It is not your master. You are set free from sin, condemnation, and shame. Now, walk in his grace.”
You know another option you could consider at First Free Wichita is that you could really start to do nasty interrogations. In the effort to get people speaking you could also do “Gospel Centered” polygraphs in order to find out who committed a lustful thought? Who drank a beer when they should not? Who didn’t give as much money to First Free as they should have? Or you could also figure out who called in sick when the they just didn’t feel like going to work? The fact that nothing is “out of bounds” makes polygraphs all the more beautiful. But here is the one question I have especially when I think of how Neo-Calvinists drool about John Piper. Is it a sin to have a wet dream to John Piper? In the Neo-Calvinist world its not as John Piper is that fourth member of the Trinity and the 67th book of the Bible.
By the way when you speak about having a clean conscious that is another problem. What do you do when you have someone who feels no guilt about what they do? What do you do when it comes to dealing with a sociopath? What is being described here in accountability is no different than what Shia Muslims do in the Day of Ashura. On Ashura Shia Muslims take whips and beat themselves and use knives to cut themselves. Its when Shia Muslims mourn the death of Muhammad’s grandson. If you want to read more about it you can read this British newspaper article about it.
Here are some simple questions I’ve integrated into my meetings. Use what’s helpful and ignore what isn’t. Feel free to invent your own. Whatever you do, I encourage you to be sure to identify the questions you need your friend to ask you. The point of GCA is honesty and application of the gospel, not shifty answers that avoid the heart of the problem. Here are some questions that have helped me:
– Have you spent time in God’s Word and prayer this week (not to earn God’s love, but to know God)?
– What idols are battling for the center of your heart?
– Have you embraced a gospel-centered lifestyle by relating to believers (parents, siblings, and friends) in love, kindness, honesty, and humility?
– Have you related to non-believers with a gospel-centered lifestyle by listening well, sharing your faith, loving sacrificially, and serving with humility?
– Are you being discipled and are you making disciples? Who?
– Have you battled for purity and maintained your integrity by not allowing yourself to have sexually impure attitudes nor exposing yourself to anything explicit (internet, cell-phone, TV, movies, music, or physical relationship) that would not glorify God?
– Have you been faithful and done your 100% best in your job, school (not-cheating), and other responsibilities?
– Have you maintained peaceful relationships (resolving conflicts to the best of your ability and being quick to apologize for all conflicts and offenses you’ve created)?
– How can I pray for you?
– In what ways has God blessed you this week?
– What disappointments consumed your thoughts this week?
– Are the “visible” you and the “real” you consistent?
– Have you told any half-truths or outright lies, putting yourself in a better light to those around you?
– Have you kept your tongue in check this week (no cussing, gossip, making fun of someone, etc.)?
I’d love to hear how GCA ends up working for you. I’m praying for you.
Love, Pastor Jeremy
Wow…many of these questions are so outrageous and so out of bounds. Prying into someone’s life I fail to see how that is any different than looking at pornography! Is that what this is about when you get involved in such a legalistic setting where everything is criminalized? When everything is so legalistic and breathing is sinful is that how a person in that world gets their jollies? By prying into another persons life? Is this part of the reason why evangelical Christians have no concept of healthy relationships? No concept on healthy boundaries? Is this why many evangelical Christians are so warped in their thinking? Its because of the teachings of Jeremy Krause at First Free? I have a lot to say below in response to all this.
Why Evangelical Accountability Should be Rejected
First of all I have to say that I listened to Jeremy Krause’s talk twice. Yes..it was painful but in writing this blog I listen to a lot of stuff. I have written many posts by listening to sermons and writing responses to them. The first time I listened to Jeremy’s sermon I did so alone just to think about it. The next time I listened to it I did so in the context of thinking about many of the evangelical scandals and issues that are playing out today. That will the point of the next section. But let’s focus on the reasons why Jeremy’s version of “Gospel Center” accountability are so warped and needs to be rejected. But before I continue I get a laugh when Jeremy around the 15:34 – 38 section couldn’t explain what circumcision is. He told kids not to Google it and ask their parents instead. Is the community of First Free Wichita so reclusive it lives in a bubble? So Jeremy can’t explain that circumcision is when the foreskin of a male’s penis is cut off and removed? What is wrong with saying that? If circumcision is wrong then why did God command it? Does First Free have a problem with God when they get all sensitive about such topics?
Here is the biggest problem with accountability that I find totally missing in much of evangelicalism. Many Christians forget that they alone are accountable to God. Not to to their accountability partner or others. Watch the video up top and listen to Wayne Jacob dismantle everything that Jeremy Krause taught in that sermon and blog post. It starts around 4:50. Many evangelical Christians have totally forgotten that they are accountable to God. That is forgotten, not taught or totally dismissed. Instead you see programs and teachings like this at First Free. I am burned out and fried and I am close to being a done in many ways. I get a knot in my stomach over the thought of this kind of accountability. In August of 2016 at The Wondering Eagle I wrote an open letter to Zach. Zach was my accountability partner from Campus Crusade at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Accountability backfired big time and helped destroy the relationship. It forced Zach to be dishonest. Wayne Jacob talks about this up top. The problem with many ministries and organizations that encourage accountability is that they do so to find out what you are vulnerable in, and then to use that against you later on. Think of it as a spiritual version of blackmail. Last I heard Zach is an atheist living in Chicago. He is done, and he is fried. Churches like First Free in Wichita, Kansas helped kill and destroy his faith. I wrote an open letter to Zach which you can read here.
Today at First Free in Wichita many atheists and Christians who will transition into the “Dones” are being created right now. Its programs like this that are laying the foundation for people to be fried. Another problem is that many evangelical Christians have a warped definition of what sin is. Look at my story..when I was in a faith crisis I had an Air Force Captain who was into Sovereign Grace here in the Washington, D.C. area. He was so terrified about pornography that he asked me to change the password on his computer. I agreed to do that for him. Then shortly later he gave birth to a false accusation that took aim at my name, ability to earn income and more. It was painful for my family. My Mom wept when she heard what happened. It has dragged out for four years and was never resolved. Recently my Mom died and I had to bury her in California. When my Mom was dealing with her illness which would take her life she was asking about this issue. It was one of the most jacked up things I encountered. So what is the lesson from my life story? For an Air Force Captain who was into “sound doctrine” the pornography is a sin. The false accusation that almost destroyed my life is not a sin. As they say in the military whiskey, tango, foxtrot!
Who are C.J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll and Pastors Like Josh Black and Jordan Krahn Accountable to?
Here is the other problem with accountability. Many major evangelical churches and ministries have made accountability a pillar for their congregations or ministries. And yet here is the issue…they often do it to control people. Its not about purity or holiness. Instead its a way to control a person’s life. To control how they give money to an organization or more. Two ministries or organizations that were pillars in the Neo-Calvinist camp which Josh Black’s First Free Wichita belongs were Sovereign Grace Ministries and Mars Hill Seattle. Let’s look at both and explore the issues with them.
C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries promoted accountability and people were expected to practice it. People faced church discipline for the smallest issues. For example does Josh Black or Curt Romig know that here in the Washington, D.C. area people gave and tithed under the threat of church discipline? Accountability I believe was used to enforce this program. In some of the wealthiest counties of the United States members of Sovereign Grace tithed and gave to the point that it was affecting their diet and feeding their families. Families went without meat and had oatmeal for dinner. Accountability was used in Sovereign Grace to control people. And what happened with C.J. Mahaney? Who was he accountable to? He was a strong advocate and enforced it within SGM. In the end Mahaney was accountable to know one. The man who boasted of demanding sex from his wife while Carolyn Mahaney was hugging the toilet and vomiting due to morning sickness was accountable to no one. When it came out that Mahaney practiced blackmail against Larry Tomczak, and then allegations of criminal activity came to the surface especially in regards to child sex abuse Mahaney fled. He fled Covenant Life Church in Gaitherbsurg, Maryland and ran and hid behind Mark Dever’s ass at Capitol Hill Baptist! Mark Dever is also about accountability. Actually accountability is built into his 9 Marks program. Did Mark Dever enforce accountability and give C.J. Mahaney a good strong kick in the ass and tell him to leave Capitol Hill Baptist? Of course not! For First Free Wichita and Mill Creek Community Church’s reference I did an article explaining how Mark Dever undermined and made 9 Marks worthless. You can read that in “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.”
But let’s look at another strong player at one point in the Neo-Calvinist community. You had Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Seattle. Does Dick High or Curt Romig remember when Mark Driscoll taught that a repentant woman gets down on her knees and gives a “Gospel Centered” blow job to her husband? Yes Mark Driscoll taught and advocated this belief. Then remember Mark Driscoll also claimed that women are penis homes and talked about a pussified nation. Isn’t that deep theology? Mark Driscoll was all about accountability and in the end who was he accountable to? $2.3 million dollars from the Mars Hill Global Fund were missing. Then in addition Mark Driscoll resigned and fled and popped up in Scottsdale, Arizona. So in the end another pastor who was all about accountability refused to practice it himself. It was fine to threaten others and use accountability to control them and use a whip to get others to practice it, but in the end Mark Driscoll was exempt.
I write about people like C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, and Mark Driscoll for this one reason. I would bet my 401K that those individuals were at one time promoted and used in First Free Wichita (or in the case of Mark Dever probably still are). I can’t tell you how many churches I have written about like First Free Wichita that promote and expect such accountability like Jeremy Krause taught who in the end were not accountable to anyone either. This is an issue that pops up frequently at The Wondering Eagle. So for the members under the leadership of Josh Black, Dick High, Jordan Krahn, Curt Romig, Matt Stranghelle, and Phil Thengvall I ask the following question. Who are they accountable to in the end? Or is First Free Wichita going to be like many of the other churches I have written about here at this blog. I am more than willing to let members publish posts of issues at First Free if they exist.
In closing this post on First Free Wichita I am going to do something deeply questionable which shows the absurdity of what is taught. In his talk Jeremy Krause couldn’t talk about circumcision and what it is. So in honor of Jeremy I will leave you with a PG themed Disney song. The beauty of this Disney song is that it talks about seeing the light, and having your mind opened. However there is another problem for First Free when one considers it, as it can be truly evil. You have a boy and a girl hanging out alone just enjoying each other’s company. Man the raging temptation and the way the girl is tempting the guy. So even in First Free Wichita this will still be unacceptable, which also shows the absurdity of the teaching by First Free Wichita. Either way you can’t win. So again First Free I know this will be a challenging post for you especially with the bubble you live in. But please know that I love you. I am looking forward to traveling to Kansas later this week. Again I love you guys!