On September 16, 2018 another Acts 29 church, that of Immanuel Fellowship will be launched in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Its done in conjunction of Fellowship Associates, which John Bryson of Fellowship Memphis is linked; and also Acts 29/EFCA’s Trinity City Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It is this blog’s belief that Trent Senske’s church needs to be aborted before its launch. Is a culture that led to the alleged cover up of child pornography and voyeurism in Fellowship Memphis in Tennessee being duplicated in Minneapolis? That is the issue The Wondering Eagle wrestles with today right before this weekend’s launch of Immanuel Fellowship.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King
In college, I voiced interest in church planting to my pastor, mostly because I thought it was cool. But after college, I became convinced it was crazy. I loved the thought of churching planting, but I was reluctant about the work. Nevertheless, one morning while walking and praying in Memphis I sensed the Lord saying, “Give your life to preaching the gospel, planting urban churches, and training leaders for my Kingdom.” In August, we moved to Minneapolis to get assessed as potential planters and begin that work.
Trent Senskes on deciding to church plant.
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters,[c] by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,[d]” or “I follow only Christ.”
1 Corinthians 1:10-12 NLT
Trent Senske of Acts 29 Immanuel Fellowship in Minneapolis
Trent Senske preaching in Corem Deo in Omaha, Nebraska.
Trinity City Church tweeting about Immanuel Minneapolis
This weekend in Minneapolis Trinity City Church which is a part of both the EFCA and Acts 29 are working to help plant another church in the Twin Cities area. When I saw who was involved in the planting I became quite troubled and decided to write about this development. Trinity City Church is working with Fellowship Associates to plant this Acts 29 church in Minneapolis called Immanuel Fellowship. Lets start to analyze some of the churches and organizations in this church plant this Sunday.
An Overview of Acts 29 in the EFCA’s North Central District
The EFCA has several Acts 29 churches in the North Central District of Minnesota. Those Acts 29 churches are the following:
- Arise Church in Cloquet, Minnesota
- Hope Community Church in Minneapolis
- Antioch Community Church in Minneapolis
- Rock Hill Community Church in Duluth
And of course there is Trinity City Church which is subject of today’s post. There is a growing relationship between the EFCA and Acts 29 which is problematic. On the Acts 29 Board of Directors you have Ryan Kwon from Resonate Church in Fremont, California who appears to the be the key individual between Acts 29 and the EFCA. If you want to learn more about the troubled relationship between the EFCA and Acts 29 you can do so in, “The EFCA and Acts 29, Looking at Ryan Kwon of Resonate Church in Fremont, California; Plus the Issues with James Walden’s Riverside Community Church.”
Brief Look at Acts 29 Trinity City Church
Bryan Lair and his wife were thinking of doing a church plant in either Saint Paul, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; or Evanston, Illinois. In 2008 Bryan decided to plant in Saint Paul. This was done with support of Hope Community Church in Minneapolis and Evanston Bible Fellowship in the Chicago area. The North Central District of the EFCA also participated in the church plant. The goal was to plant in an area near several colleges and universities. Trinity City Church held its first worship service on July 12, 2009 in a private residence in Highland Park. On October 10, 2010 the church officially launched in Merriam Park and then on February 6, 2013 Trinity moved Sunday Gatherings to MacGrove after they lost the building. In 2015 Trinity City Church joined the Acts 29 network, and were able to purchase the prior property in Merriam Park which came back on the market. Trinity City Church then re-launched on February 7, 2016.
Bryan Lair grew up in southern Minnesota. He obtained a B.A in Biblical Studies from the University of Northwestern in Saint Paul. He then went on to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and earned a Masters of Divinity. After moving to the Chicago area and growing to like city life Bryan decided that he wanted to plant a church in the city. In Chicago Bryan was a member and elder of Evanston Bible Fellowship. Today after planting Trinity, Bryan is the lead pastor at Trinity City Church. He is responsible for most of the preaching, pastoral care, and oversight. Bryan is ordained as a pastor inside the EFCA. In researching Bryan I found some articles that help understand the culture at Trinity City Church. For example at the Gospel Coalition in 2014 they published an article about Bryan about integrating jobs and vocation. You can read that in, “Integrating Faith and Work in a Church Plant.” Also back in 2013 in the EFCA Today Bryan was part of a discussion on marriage which you can read in, “Will You Marry Us?” I have written about Trinity City Church once at The Wondering Eagle. You can read about that in, “How Acts 29’s Trinity City Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota Responded to the Neo-Nazi Rally in Charlottesville.”
What is Fellowship Associates?
Fellowship Associates is also working to plant Immanuel Minneapolis with Trinity City Church. Fellowship Associates was founded in 1999 and is known for a program called “Authentic Manhood.” Authentic manhood is designed to train men and plant churches. Fellowship Associates was started by Steve Snider who still has a lot of influence over the organization. Four other key people in Fellowship Associates is Bill Wellons, John Bryson, Rick Caldwell and Mike Boschetti. Bill Wellons joined Fellowship in 2005 by doing leadership residency. John Bryson has been involved in Fellowship and pushed the authentic manhood program. He is also the pastor that leads Fellowship Memphis. I have a lot to write about this below. Bill Wellons currently serves as the Authentic Manhood Coach/Consultant. And Mike Boschetti joined Fellowship Associates in 2006 and was a charter member of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Fellowship Associates is closely linked to the Austin Stone, Fellowship Memphis, The Village Church, Redeemer Fellowship of Kansas City, and Fellowship Denver. Acts 29 also works closely with those churches after all those churches are affiliated with the Acts 29 movement.
The Launch of Immanuel Fellowship on September 16, 2018
The launch and planning for getting Immanuel Fellowship on its feet has been in the work for sometime. Trinity City Church is the sending church of Immanuel. Immanuel Fellowship joined Twitter in May of 2017 but has not tweeted. The key person driving the church plant who will lead Immanuel Fellowship is Trent Senske. Trent was the church planting resident at Trinity City Church. You can listen to Bryan Lair interview Trent Senske here. Trent is from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He grew up in the Lutheran Church, as to which branch I do not know. He studied at Creighton University in Nebraska and played on the men’s soccer team. He graduated in January of 2010. He earned a BSBA in finance and then Spanish. In 2010 he went to work for Parkview Church in Iowa City, Iowa as the Coordinator for Freshmen Ministries, followed by the Director of Campus Groups. After being there for two years he joined Corem Deo church in Omaha which is led by Bob Thune. This blog has written about issues in Corem Deo. You can read the following post that is deeply concerned with how Bob Thume looks at church discipline. “Bob Thune of Acts 29 Coram Deo in Omaha Greedily Reaches for More Kool Aid When Discussing Church Discipline.” Trent has worked with Corem Deo for the last five years and is still linked to the organization. According to Linkedin this is all that Trent Senske did for Bob Thune.
– Redesigned and launched a website/blog for writer and itinerate speaker Bob Thune
– Created and implemented a 20-page church-wide strategic communication plan
– Curated and edited church-wide communication and media content; utilized a variety of graphic design and film/video software
– Served as project lead/manager for all staff-wide initiatives given by Senior Pastor
– Functioned as an elder board liaison; compiled biweekly 30-50 page executive ministry briefs and attended all board meetings to record minutes and action items
– Provided administrative support for The Gospel Coalition Omaha Chapter’s website and events
Also during the 2014 until 2017 time frame he attended Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and picked up a masters.
In 2017 Trent started to work on planting Immanuel Fellowship in Minneapolis. The reasons why he chose Minneapolis according to his websites are for the following:
- Its the capitol of the northern United States when it comes to economics, culture and education.
- Strife and physical needs exist including the questionable police shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile.
- Diversity meaning the neighborhood Immanuel Fellowship is going into is incredibly diverse.
- Increasingly secular and many people do not attend church.
- The national populations of people from Somalia, Hmong from Laos, Liberia and other parts of Africa is also present. Trent believes that if you reach these people you can impact nations in Africa or Asia.
According to Trent’s website there are three phases to this church plant.
PHASE ONE (SUMMER 2016 – SPRING 2017)
- Residency. Trent will participate in the Fellowship Associates Church Planting Residency, training alongside fellow church planters with experienced mentors.
- Funding. Raising funds to support the work of church planting over the next 3-5 years is crucial. We’ll gather a team of people from around the country who will pray and provide financial support.
- Awareness. Church planters need to be cultural experts. In this season, Trent will meet with neighbors, community leaders, pastors, historians, etc. (really anyone!) to better understand our context.
PHASE TWO (SPRING 2017 – SUMMER 2017)
- Gathering. Although developing relationships is always happening, this phase is marked by relationships, relationships, relationships — meeting new people, recruiting a leadership team, and cultivating community.
- Team. I’m committed to a philosophy of ministry that emphasizes team. One key focus of this year will be intentionally building a multi-ethnic team that serves as the core leadership of the church.
- Developing. In this phase we will train and disciple our launch team to embody the core values of our church. Rather than one pastor “doing the ministry,” we’re committed to equipping the saints for the work of ministry. We want to empower our church to maximize its God-given gifts and abilities.
PHASE THREE (2018 ONWARD)
- Launch. Once we reach a critical mass of people, we will launch public services on Sunday mornings. Gospel Communities will continue to multiply in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Bryan Lair’s Trinity City Church as I said up above is helping with this plant. Last Sunday on September 9, 2018 Bryan gave a talk called “Rooted to Plant Churches.” In it Bryan explains why you plant churches and says church planting is an indicator of a healthy church. In the talk Bryan recalled how Hope Community Church planted Trinity City Church and commissioned them off through prayer in a sendoff. I will get into this below but I find it disturbing that Fellowship Associates and John Bryson would be involved in this church plant especially given the Fellowship Memphis scandal in Tennessee. We need to examine that issue next.
Original crew from Fellowship Memphis
What was the Fellowship Memphis Scandal?
The Fellowship Memphis story was one of the darkest situations I wrote about at this blog. One Sunday morning a couple of years back I checked my email and I received a note from someone who was the victim of an alleged sex crime. After reading it I almost vomited. Fellowship Memphis was led by Bryan Loritts and John Bryson. What had happened is that the worship pastor Rick Trotter was into voyeurism and in 2010 Trotter placed a smart phone in the restroom of Fellowship Memphis and illicitly recorded a large number of people. He was eventually caught, and it was learned that he also allegedly manufactured child pornography in the process. The leadership of Fellowship Memphis worked at covering up the alleged criminal activity. The lawyer for the church told Fellowship Memphis to throw the child pornography “into the Mississippi River.” (Today people wonder if Bryan Loritts still has it, you can read more in “Exploring the Role that Bryan and Crawford Loritts Played in Covering up Rick Trotter’s Voyeurism at Fellowship Memphis. Plus How Rick Trotter Got Off Easy Because of the Loritts Family Behavior.” ) Bryan Loritts and John Bryson then took the victims and made them sit down with Rick Trotter and forgive him for the illicit recordings. The victims were told that if they went to the Memphis Police then they would be responsible for the destruction of Rick Trotter’s life. Rick Trotter was terminated very quietly and Fellowship Memphis contained the situation. The church was more concerned with their image then following the law.
In 2011 Rick Trotter subcontracted to become an employee of a new church plant in Memphis, Tennessee called Downtown Church. In 2014 he requested to become a full time employee. John Bryson behind the scenes lobbied for him to be hired and he was brought on staff. In 2014 Rick Trotter resumed his voyeurism and perfected his trade craft. For three years he recorded people in the church’s restroom. It is this blogs estimation that about 800 to 1,000 people were illicitly recorded in that time frame. And from my perspective that is a conservative guess. In 2016 Rick Trotter was caught making an upskirt video during a church service and he was fired. The church went to the police and then the scandal at Fellowship Memphis erupted. John Bryson hired a PR firm that went after the victims and tried to silence them and prevent them speaking to the press. The story was covered in the local Memphis newspaper, the Commercial-Appeal. But the newspaper for legal reasons left out Bryan Loritts from the scandal. I wrote the following post after reconnecting the evidence and connecting the dots and tied Bryan Loritts to the scandal. You can see the posts by Bryan and the emails he sent me in either the article below and other posts that I have written. According to the victims the following post captured the scandal quite well. “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.” Over two years time I wrote 54 posts that dealt with the scandal as more information came forward. The sources had good access and that helped in writing about this problem.
When Neo-Calvinism Acts Like a Virus
When I was working through the North Central District I read about the coming launch of Immanuel Fellowship. I saw the links to Fellowship Associates and ties to John Bryson and I was troubled. So I resolved to write a post before the launch. This is a church plant that needs to be aborted. This situation with Fellowship Memphis has popped up in other ways through Fellowship Memphis’ church planting program or through Fellowship Associates around the United States. In reading the above how Trent was praying to do a church plant in Memphis I honestly would like to know which church he was involved in. Was it Fellowship Memphis? After all on Trent’s Twitter feed he follows Fellowship Memphis and Ricky Jenkins. Here in the Washington, D.C. area there was another Acts 29 church called All Peoples Community Church that was launched by Kenji Adachi who was trained by Fellowship Memphis. I wrote about the issues and asked what he knew about the scandal, after all he was on staff at the time the alleged cover up occurred. As an Acts 29 pastor his behavior mirrored Mark Driscoll and he bullied me well. I wrote about that Acts 29 church in, “When Neo-Calvinist Church Planting Becomes Idolatry: Kenji Adachi and All Peoples Community Church.” Church planting is a form of idolatry among the Neo-Calvinists. When organizations work together to plant churches while covering up alleged criminal activity that is deeply troubling. John Bryson has no business being a pastor. He is a fraud and if you want to put it in Biblical terms, is Romans 13 followed when criminal allegations are swept under the rug? In these situations we are seeing the “fruit” play out in Minneapolis and it is rotten. Rotten to the core. Church planting like what is launching in Minneapolis I liken more to a virus, then the “Gospel.” I liken Immanuel Fellowship more to be a spiritual version of Ebola.
Is the Culture that Led to the Cover-up of Child Pornography Production and Voyeurism Being Duplicated in Minneapolis?
In his sermon on September 9, 2018 Bryan Lair stated that the sign of a healthy church is church planting. Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis has been doing church plants while they covered up voyeurism and the alleged manufacturing of child pornography inside a church. This blog would like to ask Bryan if that is healthy? Is it healthy to partner with a deviant and questionable entity like Fellowship Associates knowing John Bryson’s influence? Is voyeurism healthy and “Gospel-Centered?” I find it supremely ironic that Fellowship Associates and Acts 29 talk about being a man, and then Fellowship Memphis under John Bryson’s watch covers up an alleged sex crime. Here is a question I have for Trent Senske. Is Immanuel Fellowship in Minneapolis also being trained to act in a similar manner? Due to how the culture of one location is now duplicating itself from Tennessee to Minneapolis is that toxic culture multiplying itself? If child sex abuse, voyeurism or the manufacturing of child pornography occurs in Immanuel Fellowship will they act in a similar manner to Fellowship Memphis? This question is being asked because of the influence of John Bryson at Fellowship Associates. After all Fellowship Associates didn’t fire John Bryson or asked if he is qualified to preach the “Gospel” after the Fellowship Memphis scandal. These difficult questions are too important to ignore. I write too much about these kinds of scandals. And I get tired of reading and hearing about what it means to be a man, pound your chest and then disregard the law. These are concerns that need to be raised. This post will be a warning for people in Minneapolis to stay away from Immanuel Fellowship. This is a church that needs to close before it launches. If Trent Senske wants to honor God he wouldn’t have worked with John Bryson’s organization. He would care about the women and those who today still remain frightened of Fellowship Memphis and who still live in fear. He would confront John Bryson and call him out. That is if he cared for the Gospel. Messes like this are why I primarily are on edge and will likely walk away from Christianity in time. This kind of blatant corruption is too disturbing to see play out repeatedly. If people from Immanuel Fellowship or Trinity City Church want to discuss John Bryson and Fellowship Memphis I am happy to engage. If they want to honor God the best thing they could do is abandon Trent Senske’s church plant. Let’s kill the church plant now so that the hydra that comes from Fellowship Memphis through John Bryson and Fellowship Associates will close, and a virus has ended. Bryan Lair and Trent Senske will view this post as a spiritual attack, and its no such thing. Its my belief that churches should not cover up alleged criminal activity as Fellowship Memphis did. Organizations like Fellowship Associates should address John Bryson and his role in the scandal. I plan to raise this issue with the EFCA North Central District leadership, but I also know the limits of congregationalism. Hopefully the EFCA will be concerned enough with child pornography and voyeurism to back away from Fellowship Associates and ultimately John Bryson’s whose church allegedly covered it up. That is it for the day. This is a hard post to write but these words need to be said. Minneapolis I love you guys!