A Closer Look at Scott Sterner from Acts 29’s The Vine Church in Madison, Wisconsin; Is Scott Tilting the Forest Lakes District Toward Neo-Calvinism as the Forest Lakes Director of Church Multiplication?

Scott Sterner planted the first Acts 29 church in the Forest lakes District of the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) in Madison, Wisconsin. This is a look at The Vine Church and also his role as the Director of Church Multiplication in this EFCA District. Is Scott working at tipping the district towards Neo-Calvinism and is money intentionally being guided to Neo-Calvinist church plants? That is one of the questions I have.  I look at this issue in the context of the newest church plant in the Forest Lakes District, which is South City Church (led by Drew Pond) on the south side of Milwaukee.  

“The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may see, it is not your penis. Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while. While His penis is on loan you must admit that it is sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wondering the streets looking for a house to live in. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.”

Mark Driscoll on women being penis homes.

“We are an evangelical community of Reformed persuasion located on the southside of Milwaukee. Our mission as a church is to demonstrate God’s greatness by advancing a gospel that transforms people into fully devoted followers of Jesus.”

How South City Church describes itself in the 9 Marks Church Search 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.[a]

Matthew 4:4 NIV

Scott Sterner in Camp Randall

Scott Sterner at T4G 

Madison is the second largest city in Wisconsin. 245,000 call Madison home, as it is also the seat of Wisconsin state government. Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Madison is a city that bleeds red in support of Bucky the Badger. When I lived in Milwaukee I used to travel to Madison quite often. I loved the city. Walking down State Street and taking in the culture was neat. Grabbing a brat at State Street Brats or seeing the interesting delicacies is what makes State Street unique. Then there is also The Nitty Gritty which in Madison is known as the “Birthday Bar.” That is where a lot of Madison students celebrate turning 21. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is also quite a site to see. The layout of the campus is beautiful, and then you have the main part of the campus on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Attending a football game in Camp Randall is a must. It is a religious experience. I attended the Wisconsin and Fresno State football game in September 8, 2001. Watching the game, feeling the excitement and hearing the student section chanting “asshole, asshole” at the opposing team was all memorable. If you have not been to a University of Wisconsin football game, then you have not lived. That is the Madison that I knew when I visited. 


An Overview of Acts 29’s The Vine Church 

Against all that you have a hybrid Acts 29/Evangelical Free Church in Madison. Scott Sterner who was the Pastor of Programming and Operations at Parkview Church in Iowa City, Iowa wanted to be involved in a church plant through the Acts 29 network. In 2009 Zach and Kim Nielsen also got involved in this project. Shortly afterward Nate and Amanda Hobert also joined the team, and the name of the church was finalized as The Vine Church which is based off John 15:5.  The Sterners, Nielsens and Hoberts were indoctrinated by the Acts 29 network in 2010. The Vine Church started meeting corporately in July of 2010 and in the fall had its first home groups. In 2011 The Vine Church became a full member of the Acts 29 network, and the following year it became a member of the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) In 2013 The Vine Church helped plant another Acts 29 church in Madison called Redeemer City Church which is led by Nate Hobart and Casey Johnson. In 2014 The Vine Church became self sustaining. 

Scott Sterner is the person who led to the creation of The Vine Church. Scott originally comes from Kearney, Nebraska. Scott obtained a B.A. in Music Performance at Iowa State University and then followed that up with seminary at Covenant Theological Seminary in the St. Louis area. According to LinkedIn Scott also received theological training at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Scott also became the Director of Church Multiplication with the Forest Lakes District. Scott Sterner writes a blog called Deo Gloria. I found references to Scott at The Gospel Coalition, but nothing published at 9 Marks. Scott likes Sovereign Grace Music and he also attended T4G in Louisville, Kentucky in April of 2016. I wondered if Scott laughed when Al Mohler joked about C.J. Mahaney. Remember that the criminal allegations that continue to dog him. I checked both Crossway and Amazon and Scott to my knowledge has not published any books. Scott is married to his wife Carrie and they have five children. 


The History of Acts 29, and Mark Driscoll Calling Women Penis Homes

Its my understanding that Acts 29 was founded by David Nicholas who pastored Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, Florida in 1998. David Nicholas has largely been written off by Mark Driscoll, but he deserves credit. David Nicholas who is a friend of Tim Keller I believe passed away on January 25, 2011. Mark Driscoll largely took the organization and became fixated on church growth. Starting on September 17, 2007 with the Raleigh Boot Camp Acts 29 began using Great Commission Ministries for fundraising and leadership training. In 2012 Matt Chandler was appointed the president of Acts 29. I believe this coincided as a result of the blog by Paul and Jonna Petry called Joyful Exiles being launched. In that blog people learned how the Mars Hill by-laws were rewritten and how Paul and Bent’s reputation were threatened. The offices and the movement were moved from Seattle to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Texas area. Specifically I believe the office is in Flower Mound at The Village Church. In August of 2014 Acts 29 kicked out Mark Driscoll and  Mars Hill Seattle from its membership. What led to Mark Driscoll being kicked out was the hemorrhaging of information where Mark Driscoll ranted about a “pussified nation.” You can read more about that here and here. In that rant Mark Driscoll also had taught that women are penis homes. But Mark’s views of sex had always been dark and disturbing. For example a few years prior Mark had taught that a repentant woman got down on her knees and performed a “Gospel-Centered” blow job on her husband. Once I had someone from The Gospel Coalition personally tell me that the Lord ordained C.J. Mahaney’s corruption. I find that to be quite intriguing. My question is did the Lord also ordain Mark Driscoll’s corruption? Again but that is but another reason why I reject Neo-Calvinism. In the end people are not responsible for their actions. The reader needs to remember that this history of Mark Driscoll is a part of the DNA of the Acts 29 network. And yes that DNA is very much present in The Vine Church in Madison, Wisconsin. 


Acts 29 Problems Continue as Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Attempts to Place a Woman Under Church Discipline for Annulling her Marriage to a Child Pornography Addict

The problems with Acts 29 just continued. Matt Chandler took over the church planting network and as I wrote above, the offices and organization moved from Seattle, Washington to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas. But the problems inside Acts 29 still remain and they continued done in Texas. In May of 2015 Karen Hinkley went public with her story. Karen and her husband Jordan Root had become missionaries in Asia. While as a missionary Karen learned that Jordan was addicted to child pornography. There were concerns that he may have acted on those concerns in his prior jobs as he sought out positions that granted him easy access to minors and children. The missionary agency immediately evacuated Jordan out of Asia and Karen came back to Texas. 

Karen realized that her marriage was over and that she married Jordan under a false pretense. So Karen Hinkley filed for an annulment and had her marriage dissolved. It was like her marriage had never happened. The Village Church staff then proceeded to start the process of placing Karen under church discipline for not “submitting to the Elders.” While a man who was sexually attracted to underage children was declared to be “walking in repentance.” The Village Church continued the process despite Karen’s requests to be respected and left alone. As Karen moved from Dallas to North Carolina, The Village Church pursued the issue. I later found out that Karen Hinkley read and followed the story on The Wondering Eagle. To learn more about this situation I would read the following posts. 

It is important to remember that these scandals and issues happened at “ground zero” of the Acts 29 network in both Seattle and Dallas. The Vine Church in Madison is designed to be similar in culture to The Village Church in Texas. So could The Vine Church in Madison do something similar to what Matt Chandler’s church did to Karen Hinkley? Yes I believe it is possible. Some of the emails I get from people in the Acts 29 network are disturbing. In my story the guy who tried to get me involved in Sovereign Grace’s Redeemer Arlington, well that church also became Acts 29. The Acts 29 network at times acts cultish or more like a cult according to former members that I have interacted with. This presents a number of deep concerns about Scott Sterner being in the key role of church planting in the EFCA’s Forest Lake’s District. 



South City Church announcing its joining and being planted by the EFCA

Is Scott Sterner Going to Try and Tip the Forest Lakes District Neo-Calvinist?  A Look at South City Church in Milwaukee 

Here is the question that I would like to ask. As a part of Acts 29 is Scott Sterner using his position to promote Neo-Calvinist churches over other non-Calvinist churches? In his position can Scott guide or steer money to certain projects and away from others? Another aspect to consider….can Acts 29 itself or the Neo-Calvinist wing of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) give money to Acts 29 churches in the EFCA  as a way to undermine or influence another denomination? In other words is the Neo-Calvinist wing of the SBC interfering with the polity of the EFCA and adversely influencing it? Those are questions I have in my mind when I consider the Acts 29 culture and its modus operandi. Because of that I am deeply concerned about Scott Sterner being in the position that he is in, especially as an Acts 29 individual. When I laid out my goals for the EFCA one of them was to guide the denomination away from Acts 29. You can read my goals in “First Free Wichita Wants to Introduce you to the EFCA; Plus The Wondering Eagle’s Long Term Goals and Agenda with the EFCA.” Its my understanding that in parts of Acts 29 Mark Driscoll is still looked upon favorably. Mark Driscoll was crude and coarse and his teaching that women being penis homes is just an outflow of who Mark Driscoll is. I very much would like to know where Scott Sterner stands on the Mark Driscoll issue and if he also believes that line of teaching as well. This isn’t me trying to be difficult this is me asking deep cultural questions especially with many churches and pastors culturally trained to duplicate the Mars Hill or The Village Church culture. This is part of the reason why I believe The Vine Church has deep systemic issues, and if there are former members who have situations or stories they want to tell than I will be happy to give them a platform and let them explain. After all look at Matt Boedy’s experience at Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina. That is Acts 29/EFCA just like The Vine Church. Last year,  The Wondering Eagle broke the story of James Walden in “Disturbing Allegations of Spiritual Abuse at James Walden’s Acts 29 Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina” 

But part of what led me to ask about Scott using his position to advance Neo-Calvinist churches in the Forest Lakes District was a study of the newest EFCA Church plant in the district. Called South City Church it is a hard core 9 Marks church being planted on the south side of Milwaukee. It was adopted into the EFCA on June 21, 2017 and is led by Drew Pond and Kirk Miller. There were many disturbing aspects to this outfit, after all in studying the recommended reading list you find Mark Dever and Wayne Grudem being promoted. Wayne Grudam has raised many concerns due to his warped view of the trinity. I have written more about that issue in “Wayne Grudem’s Un-Orthodox View of the Trinity and the Question that Must Be Asked: Can the ESV Bible be Trusted?Then there is the issues with Mark Dever…one cannot talk about Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist without speaking about the scandal at Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and C.J. Mahaney. When it was revealed that Mahaney had allegedly practiced blackmail on Larry Tomczak who was being dogged by allegations that he covered up child sex abuse Mahaney fled. The bastard fled Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland and ended up at Mark Dever’s church. Mark Dever is all about church discipline however in the case of C.J. Mahaney he let him go. 9 Marks, which comes from “9 Marks of a Healthy Church“, were seriously violated by Mark Dever. I would strongly suggest that Mark Dever violated membership, “The Gospel”, leadership , church discipline, and discipleship. You can read more about it in “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.” So if you are involved in South Side Church and you have Mark Dever’s 9 Marks book, remember you can always use it as toilet paper. Mark Dever also believes that communion can’t be served to a person in a nursing home. Jonathan Leeman actually disagrees with him on that issue. To learn more I would encourage you to read “Analysis of Jonathan Leeman’s Recent Mailbags; Plus What is Mark Dever Going to do About Communion When he is in a Nursing Home One Day?” The main question I pose is what is Mark Dever going to do when he is 85, wearing a diaper, and in a nursing home one day? Should he be denied communion and reminded of what he taught? And then I would also direct you to read this following critique of a chapter from Mark Dever’s latest book. Its called “A Look at Mark Dever’s Newest Book – Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus. Finally I would direct you to this article I wrote about C.J. Mahaney preaching again at T4G. When Al Mohler laughed about child sex abuse I wondered if Scott Sterner rolled on the floor in a hysterical fit of laughter.C.J. Mahaney Preaching at T4G? My Response Based Off Charlie Chaplain’s Mocking of Adolf Hitler in “The Great Dictator

Its profoundly sad to learn of this news that Scott Sterner is pushing this kind of EFCA church plant. South Milwaukee needs a 9 Marks church about as much as they need a crack house. The fact that the EFCA is helping to launch that monstrosity is profoundly disappointing. I would very much like to know how Scott Sterner got into his position of Directer of Church Multiplication. If anyone could tell me I would love to write a post about it. Church multiplication is evangelical lingo for church planter.  This is a district to watch and pay attention to in this area. This alone reveals how unhealthy parts of the EFCA can be. That is it for the day, again guys know that I love you. 

3 thoughts on “A Closer Look at Scott Sterner from Acts 29’s The Vine Church in Madison, Wisconsin; Is Scott Tilting the Forest Lakes District Toward Neo-Calvinism as the Forest Lakes Director of Church Multiplication?

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