This is the look at 2019 at The Wondering Eagle. It was a busy year with a total of 459 posts written and half a million reading. This blog traveled quite a bit on the East Coast and to the Midwest. It played a role in the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal and wrote about a dark situation in the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey. Plus there was also the Scott Woods situation at David Platt’s McLean Bible. 2020 is going to be active also and that will keep this blog going.
“Remember it all, every insult, every tear. Tattoo it on the inside of your mind. In life, knowledge of poisons is essential. I’ve told you, nobody becomes an artist unless they have to.”
“Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar. Art consists of the persistence of memory.”
He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations
1 Chronicles 1:15 NIV
Todd Nathan’s Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey
As the year 2019 comes to a close its time to stop writing and reflect back on what has taken place at The Wondering Eagle for the past year. This blog has been exceptionally busy. In the past year there have been 459 posts that were written. Over 526,413 people have read the blog and found it through social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Google. This blog has had its busiest year. And it has reflected that in the travel that has taken place. This blog has taken me from around the Washington, D.C. area to New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. It has also taken me out to Chicago, Illinois as well. While it has been challenging it has also been a journey where I continue to find myself and interact with those who have seen the dark side of religion as well. As I look back at the work done in this past year some of the stories explored and written about have been exceptionally dark. You will see shortly what they are and the topics dealt with.
- The top story that was covered in 2019 is the implosion and scandal of Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald’s corruption. Harvest Bible Chapel will be known as the Mars Hill of Chicago. The spiritual abuse, financial fraud, abuse of power is one of the biggest and saddest waste of money that this blog encountered. Most of the posts that peaked at this blog dealt with Harvest in 2019. That said let me list some of the top ones and the numbers that exist. At 10,077 is the article that deals with Mancow Muller, a Chicago shock jock broadcasting James MacDonald’s alleged audiotape where he discusses planting child pornography on the computer of the CEO of Christianity Today at the time. You can read that in, “Mancow Muller Produces an Audiotape of James MacDonald Allegedly Wanting to Plant Child Pornography on a “Critic’s” Computer. Harvest Bible Chapel Elder Board Promptly Fires Him.” The next most read post is an exclusive that this blog obtained. This blog leaked the Dean Butters letter which was the most downloaded attachment this year. Dean Butters was the Executive Director of Business Operations for Harvest. At 9,083 you can read it in, “The Wondering Eagle Exclusive: Dean Butters Statement” and at 2,136 “Why Publish the Dean Butters Statement in Its Entirety?” At 4,897 is a response done to Kathy MacDonald on Instagram in, “A Response to Kathy MacDonald on Instagram.” At 4,118 is the personal post by Dr. Dale Harris formerly of Harvest Bible Fellowship who shares his personal experiences with James MacDonald. You can read that in, “Guest Post: Dr. Dale Harris, A Former Harvest Bible Fellowship Pastor Shares His Experience With Harvest Chicago and his Thoughts on James MacDonald.” At 3,426 the next post about Harvest deals with a mother who had to sit down and ask her son questions about Paxton Singer and his interactions with him at Camp Harvest. Paxton Singer was the former youth pastor who had allegedly engaged in sexting. You can read about this in, “Guest Post: An Open Letter from a Concerned Mother Disheartened About how Harvest Bible Chapel Mishandled Paxton Singer’s Arrest.”
- The next most read subject was Matt Chandler’s The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. The Village Church had an alleged sexual abuse situation that broke and was reported by the New York Times. It was on the eve of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting. At 3,285 is, “A Disturbing Story of Alleged Sexual Abuse in The Village Church Involving Former Associate Children’s Minister Matt Tonne. Plus how Matt Chandler Responded to Christi Bragg.” At 1,996 there is the another article analyzing The Village Church’s culture in, “What are the Take Aways From the Newest Scandal at Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Involving the Allegation of Matt Tonne’s Sexual Abuse of a Minor?”
- Next deals with the Willow Creek Community Church scandal in Chicago, Illinois. This is a guest post by Van Rue which was read at 1,381 is “Guest Post: Van Rue on the Willow Creek Independent Advisory Group Report, is it a Sham?“
- This was a dark story that came out of the Eastern District of the EFCA. In Blairstown, New Jersey there were plans to vote out a pastor who was autocratic. Todd Nathan then lashed out at a number of people and used a loophole to throw out a number of members from an EFCA church. Blairstown is a story of abuse, lordship, the weaknesses of congregationalism, and how the greater EFCA struggled with a response. At 1,023 is, “The Autocratic Reign of Todd Nathan and the Troubling Story of the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey.”
- In my backyard of Washington, D.C. is McLean Bible which is led by celebrity pastor David Platt. In the youth ministry called The Rock an adult volunteer who was sexually attracted to children allegedly groomed a number of teenagers for planned sexual abuse. This blog dragged the story out of David Platt’s church. The story of Scott Woods is deeply troubling and its one that the local Fairfax Police is aware of but they are dealing with someone who knows how to abuse the system. You can read more in, “Did McLean Bible Cover Up a Child Sexual Predatory Situation? A Comment on The Wondering Eagle Raises that Question.” The Scott Woods situation was read at 1,022.
- Next is a write up of Al Mohler’s relationship with C.J. Mahaney as told by Brent Detwiler. This deals with the Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal. At 937 is “Brent Detwiler Writes About how Al Mohler Severed his Relationship with C.J. Mahaney.”
- At 899 reads we go back to McLean Bible Church. This post deals with Dale Sutherland and asks what his legacy will be when he leaves. You can read that in, “Dale Sutherland is Leaving McLean Bible. What Will His Legacy Be?“
- The next one honestly surprised me. I didn’t think this would be as popular as it is but people keep reading it, which at 844 it stands today. It was a frank discussion of Mark Driscoll and a sermon he gave in Scotland in which he preached about the Biblical basis for oral sex and how a blow job brought a person to Christ in Mars Hill. You can read more in, “Reflecting on a Controversial Mark Driscoll Sermon About how a Repentant Woman Gets on Her Knees and Performs Oral Sex.“
- At 612 is a discussion on spiritual abuse and how if you have never experienced it then you won’t know how painful it can be. You can read more in, “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is.”
- The last most read post deals with the Sojourn Network out of Louisville, Kentucky. Its the story of Danial Montgomery and how he left and how Sojourn was not transparent about the issues that existed. At 578 is, “Why Daniel Montgomery Left the Sojourn Network in Louisville, Kentucky and How the Shadow of Mark Driscoll Hangs Over Neo-Calvinism.”
Former Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole being prayed over at Salem Church in Staten Island.
The leadership of the EFCA is in this picture.
A Look at Some of the Evangelical Free Stories Written About This Past Year
This blog writes about the Evangelical Free Church of America as a denomination. That is its primary focus. Over the year there have been many articles written about individual churches, conferences and blog articles at the national EFCA blog. Below are some of the articles that are worth mentioning.
- SE District Superintendent Glen Schrieber invited EFCA President Kevin Kompelien and other district superintendents to wrestle with the topic of injustice and racism at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. You can read about this in, “SE District Superintendent Glen Schrieber Invites EFCA President Kevin Kompelien and District Superintendents to Montgomery, Alabama Where they Wrestle with the Legacy of Racial Injustice.”
- This blog looked at EFCA One in Chicago which is a biennial event. You can read a write up of the event in, “A Look at EFCA One in Chicago at Compass Church. Its Schedule, Who’s Speaking and More.” When I looked over the schedule I really didn’t see the topic of sexual abuse being mentioned. This blog encouraged the EFCA to spend time dealing with that issue. You can read that in, “Why Sexual Abuse Needs to be on the Agenda of EFCA One in Chicago.”
- In the Texas and Oklahoma District of the EFCA this blog wrote two articles I would like to mention. One deals with Zack McCoy’s Redemption Church in Houston and is called, “Zack McCoy at Redemption Church in Houston, Texas on Why We Need Each Other.” Then this blog noticed that a controversial discipleship program influenced by Sovereign Grace Ministries was abandoned. Did an EFCA church show discernment? You can read about Zion Church of Kurten in, “What Happened to the Milestone Program at Zion Church of Kurten in Kurten, Texas? Did an EFCA Church Show Discernment and Wisdom?”
- There were a few articles about the EFCA’s Western District which is mostly Northern California and parts of Nevada. Soma Church Community had a post at their blog about forgiveness and I responded as to why forgiveness should not always be practiced. You can read that in, “Why Forgiveness Should Not Always be Practiced and Why Some Christians are Manipulated Through Forgiveness.” This blog also learned of an Acts 29 and EFCA plant in San Francisco and remains deeply concerned about the EFCA’s connections with Acts 29. You can read about that in, “Deep Concerns About Acts 29 Plant The Porch in San Francisco Which is Being Supported by EFCA District Superintendent Neal Brower” and “An Open Letter to Western District EFCA Superintendent Neal Brower (Why Can’t the EFCA Take the Spiritual Abuse From Acts 29 Seriously?)”
- In the Eastern District a number of situations were written about. John Park at Ambassador Bible Church in Chantilly, Virginia gave a sermon on love. I wrote a response saying that Evangelical Christianity is devoid of love in, “John Park of Ambassador Bible Church Preaches on Love. When Will Someone Tell this EFCA Pastor that Love is Largely Absent from Evangelicalism?” Faith Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania looked at what would happen in an active shooting situation inside a church. You can read that in, “What do you do in an Active Shooter Situation Inside a Church? The EFCA’s Faith Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania is Discussing that Issue on June 19, 2019.” There was a situation of sex abuse at Salem Church in Staten Island which was handled well. You can read about that in, “How the EFCA’s Salem Church in Staten Island, New York Handled an Alleged Sexual Abuse Situation.” Also worth nothing is two posts dealing with Benjamin Vrbicek at Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One dealt with the topic of friendship and the other dealt with him being ordained as an EFCA pastor. You can read both in, “Benjamin Vrbicek of Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Writes a Tender Blog Post on Friendship” and “Benjamin Vrbicek of Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Passes his Ordination Exam as an EFCA Pastor in the Eastern District.” Dave Boerema of the Eastern District showed that he does not understand the problem of mega churches. You can read about that in, “The EFCA’s Dave Boerema’s Post on Mega Churches at the Eastern District Blog is Ignoring the Facts.” The last item to feature is the changing leadership structure in the Eastern District and Eddie Cole leaving his role to take a position in the EFCA in Minneapolis. You can read that in, “Eddie Cole Leaves the Eastern District Superintendent Role and Accepts VP of EFCA Reach National in Minneapolis. Meanwhile the District Leadership is Split Between Tony Balsamo and Cedrick Brown as Clause B Takes Effect” and “An Open Letter to Eddie Cole (Transitioning Eastern District Superintendent of the EFCA and Wishing Him Well)”
- In the Midwest District of Kansas and Nebraska two EFCA churches have been written about in 2019. Problems continue at a 9 Marks, EFCA church in Wichita called First Free. You can read more in, “Why You Should Not Enter into Covenant Membership at First Free Wichita” and “Jane Schaible Contributes to a Post for the National EFCA Blog on Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity. When will the Employee of Josh Black’s First Free Wichita Acknowledge how Corruption Causes People to Lose Faith to?” Meanwhile at Tom Nelson’s Christ Community Church in the Kansas City area they celebrated their 30th birthday. You can read more in “Tom Nelson’s Christ Community Church in the Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas Area Turns 30 in 2019.” Then based off a sermon series done last year I suggested that their former pastor Tyler Chernesky at the downtown location could review the new Fred Rogers movie in, “Why Tyler Chernesky of Christ Community Church in Kansas City Should Do a Blog Post About Tom Hank’s New Movie About Fred Rogers.”
- In the EFCA’s Hawaii’s District there were two posts written about the EFCA’s/Acts 29 Harbor Church Honolulu. I explained why love in an Acts 29 church is shallow and what Harbor will not reach Honolulu in, “Why Acts 29 Harbor Church in Honolulu Will Not Reach the People of Oahu” and “No John Lee. Acts 29 Churches Like Harbor Honolulu Have Love Which is Shallow, Cheap and Always Conditional.”
- In the EFCA West District I looked at how an EFCA church responded to the shootings in the Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The response showed how Calvinism makes the problem of evil worse. You can read more in, “Brian Hammonds of the First Evangelical Free Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico Responds to the Domestic Terrorist Attack in El Paso, Texas. Plus a Disturbing Analysis on Suffering.”
- In the Pacific Northwest District I looked at what an EFCA church said about giving. Plus I also looked at the growth of Neo-Calvinist theology in the State of Washington. You can read more in, “Echo Lake Community Church in Snohomish, Washington on Giving” and “Looking at the Growth of Neo-Calvinism/Reformed Theology in the Evangelical Free Church of America in the State of Washington.”
- In the Forest Lakes District of Wisconsin there were two EFCA situations that were written about. The First Evangelical Free Church of Racine protested abortion. I asked the question what if they loved instead? You can read more in, “First Evangelical Free Church in Racine, Wisconsin Protests Abortion in 2015. What if Evangelicals Learned to Love Instead?” Plus there was a guest post by Nyssa on her EFCA experience and fundamentalism. You can read more in, “Guest Post: Nyssa the Hobbit on Their Brush with Fundamentalism in an Evangelical Free Church in Wisconsin.”
Julie Roys and RT Maldaner discussing Harvest Bible Chapel at Restore
Other Stories to be Featured That Were Written About in 2019
There were many other stories that were written about in 2019 that deserve to be looked at. From a conference I participated in, to developments in the Roman Catholic church and other evangelical churches or personalities or the rise of Christian nationalism.
- This blog noticed some troubling developments with the Roman Catholic church and the growth of fundamentalism within. There is the issue of Church Militant and the alt-right movement which you can read about in, “A Look at the Alt-Right Movement Targeting the Roman Catholic Church. Michael Voris and Church Militant“ In another post I explained how populism is a threat to the Roman Catholic church in, “How Populism is a Threat to Roman Catholicism.” There is also the issues with EWTN as well which you can read in, “Mother Angelica, The Catholic Culture Wars as Waged by Traditionalists and an Expose by National Catholic Reporter on EWTN.“
- Earlier this year I wrote myself an open letter. If I could give myself advice to the 25 year old David Bonner what would it be? Its simple I would tell myself to avoid Evangelical Christianity completely. You can read more in, “#Youngerself. What Advice Would I Give Myself at 25?” In order to understand evangelicalism its my claim that one should abandon their Bible and read George Orwell instead. The abuse of power, “newspeak” and manipulation of information is very Orwellian. You can read more in, “In Order to Understand Evangelical Culture One Should Cease Reading their Bible and Read George Orwell Instead.”
- There are a couple of developments with 9 Marks and Capitol Hill Baptist Church that I explored. Mark Dever celebrated 25 years as a pastor and that was looked at in, “Mark Dever Celebrates 25 Years as a Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. A Reflection on a Theological Autocrat.” Plus David Schrock from Occoquan Bible Church in Virginia wrote about when Calvinists are hated. You can read more in, “David Schrock From Occoquan Bible Church in Woodbridge, Virginia on When Calvinists Are Hated. A Response to a 9 Marks Article.”
- In 2019 this blog wrote a number of articles about atheism and secular humanism. Portland, Oregon banned discrimination against atheists which you can read about in, “Portland, Oregon Bans Discrimination Against Atheists.” After visiting an Egyptian exhibit I explained in an alternative thinking post as to how we are all atheists. You can read more in, “An Alternative Perspective as to How We Are All Atheists.” An Atlantic magazine article led to a post about why religion declined in the United States. You can read more in, “Reflection on an Atlantic Article that Discusses how Religion Declined in the United States and how the Nones Grew.” I also looked at the de-conversion story of Luke Douglas and how he lost his faith in a Chic Fil A restroom. You can read more in, “De-Conversion Story: How Luke Douglas Lost his Faith in a Chic Fil A.”
- I looked at doubt and more with two leaders in the evangelical movement Josh Harris and Marty Sampson from Hillsong. You can read my analysis of Josh Harris’s deconversion in, “Why Josh Harris’ Deconversion From Christianity is a Positive Development, and How Evangelical Christians Are Responding to Him” and “Hillsong Worship Leader Marty Sampson and Considering Evangelical Christian Culture and Doubt.”
- There is a lot that happened with Franklin Graham this past year. In 2018 Franklin Graham attacked Pete Buttigieg for being gay. You can read more in, “Franklin Graham Attacks Pete Buttigieg for Being Gay.” Then there is one side of evangelicalism which keeps getting more and more political. You can read more in, “The Politicization of Evangelical Christianity Gets Worse with Franklin Graham Calling for People to Pray for the Most Persecuted President in American History – Donald Trump.” Then there was the moving of the Billy Graham archives from Wheaton to North Carolina which you can read about in, “In Moving the Billy Graham Archives From Wheaton to Charlotte, North Carolina is Franklin Graham Planning to Censor History?“
- This blog was started years ago out of an incident from someone at Redeemer Arlington. This blog continues to write about Redeemer a former Sovereign Grace church led by Jordan Kauflin and Eric Simmons. In 2019 the relationship between Redeemer Arlington and Acts 29/EFCA Redemption Hill solidified. You can read more in, “Looking at the Relationship Between Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington.” Also Jordan Kauflin’s son’s leukemia relapsed. I extended an olive branch to end the conflict between this blog and Redeemer. That olive branch was ignored. You can read about that in, “Jordan and Tali Kauflin’s Son has a Relapse of Leukemia. And an Olive Branch to Redeemer Arlington is Ignored.” Then I also looked at how corruption is transferred in the Evangelical Industrial Complex as that corruption was passed down from Bob Kauflin to Jordan Kauflin. You can read more in, “The Pimping of God: Bob Kauflin Along with his Sons Jordan and Devon and the Evangelical Industrial Complex. Plus how Corruption is Transferred From One Generation to the Next.“
- Speaking of businesses there were several articles written about Rod Stafford’s Fairfax Community Church. I wrote an article about how I became a whistle blower at Fairfax Community Church when a violent sex offender had access to families and the church misled and lied to the congregation. You can read more in, “The Stress of Being a Whistle Blower in a Washington, D.C. Mega Church. Plus How Did Fairfax Community Church Bully a TV Station Not to Report a Scandal? Was Loretta Rogers Cooper Responsible for that Action?“ Then I looked into the prosperity gospel and how the senior pastor’s wife views Joyce Meyer. You can read more in, “Donna Stafford, Joyce Meyer and a $23,000 Commode.” Every summer Fairfax Community Church has Fairfax at the movies. I take Mel Brook’s classic Spaceballs to look at Rod Stafford’s church. You can read more in, “Fairfax Community Church at the Movies! The Theological Lessons From Mel Brooks Spaceballs as Applied to Rod Stafford’s Church.“
- This blog traveled to Chicago and participated in Julie Roys Restore Conference. I explained in a post why evangelicalism is broken and can not be reformed. You can read that in, “Before Julie Roys Restore Conference An Explanation as to Why Evangelicalism Can Not Be Reformed.” Then I also did a review of Restore in, “Review of Restore Chicago and How it Can Be Improved For Next Year.”
- The last topic deals with Christian nationalism which is a controversial and hot topic. Christian nationalism is affecting Southern Baptist missionary work which you can read about in, “When Evangelicals Rejected Bethlehem and How I Walked out of a Christmas Eve Service. Plus is Christian Nationalism Derailing Southern Baptist Missionary Work?” I am disgusted that I once admired Eric Metaxas. You can read more about him in, “A Closer Look at Eric Metaxas and His Comments on Mass Shootings and Impeachment. Plus the Fallacy of Intellectual Evangelicalism.” Then there was the time on Twitter when a Mormon explained the Gospel better than the Christian nationalists. Perhaps the Trumpvangelicals should consider Mormonism as they would learn the Gospel better. You can read more in, ”
Considering Christian Nationalism: When the Mormon Understands the Gospel Better Than the Evangelical Christian.” This blog has also written a number of articles about Liberty University and the problems that exist. Matt Boedy wrote about the problems with their Christian nationalist think tank in, “Guest Post: Matt Boedy on FalKirk – The Christian Nationalism Think Tank at Liberty University.”
What is Coming in 2020
This blog has been busy through 2019 and remains very engaged. Words alone can’t tell you the time I pour into it. I have listened to many podcasts, sermons, watched and transcribed parts of talks. I read and scan blogs and try to keep up with the email. This blog has also led to traveling in the United States. I don’t hide behind my computer. I have sat through EFCA services in California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and many other places. In addition I have also sat through Southern Baptist, Acts 29, Harvest Bible Chapel and many other events.
Why do this? I will be the first to admit this but I am a broken man. This blog was formed out of deep psychological pain. I have made my mistakes in life and have no desire to be a pastor and remain baffled why so many people want to be one. The honest truth is that I keep running afoul of the system and I largely consider myself to be a part of the dones. Currently I don’t trust evangelical Christianity. When I get that email from someone from Harvest Bible Chapel or a dark situation in Acts 29 or the EFCA I can talk to them because I know the dark side of religion. This blog gets the dark side of religion. Deep down I am hoping that I will have some experiences that encourage me to remain in the faith. Maybe that is why I will journey to sit through different services in New Jersey, California, Illinois or Pennsylvania. In the end all that this blog writer wanted was peace and closure from Redeemer Arlington and Jordan Kauflin. That was denied and that psychological pain is what drives this blog. But from those inside the EFCA to Acts 29 or even the secular humanist community, for those who inquire know that this blog is the fruit of a painful situation from Redeemer Arlington. Since I will never get a sincere apology from Redeemer or the person who caused the pain, what I will settle for is the closure of Redeemer Arlington. There are some churches that need to be closed And Redeemer Arlington is one of them. And the other aspect is that I do this to try and figure out what happened to me. This blog is personal in that aspect. I want other people to have the peace and closure that I never will, and that is why I do this in the end.
Each year my final post is ended with the classic Frank Sinatra song “My Way.” This blog has indeed been done my way. Its been done with conviction, tears, and resolve. I have laughed and cried in writing these posts over the past year. So that leaves me with the next question. What is coming in 2020? This blog has a lot of goals. The Harvest Bible Chapel scandal continues and I have been asked by many former members to write about it and I have given them my word to write about it from time to time. I am sitting on some stories from Acts 29 and the EFCA that will be told. There are more EFCA churches to study and districts. I am hoping to finish the remainder of the EFCA in 2020. I want to come up with a permeant church database for the EFCA. The issue of authoritarianism and Neo-Calvinism has my focus; as is to find out some numbers in the denomination in regards to the growth of Neo-Calvinism. If you live in the Washington, D.C. area expect more articles about David Platt and McLean Bible. Expect more to be written about 9 Marks. Christian nationalism is a major issue so expect that to be covered. Finally expect some write ups related to atheism and secular humanism.
For those of you who read this thanks for doing so. If any of you pass through the Washington, D.C. area and want to meet I am happy to do so. The best part of this blog is meeting people. I hope you have a great 2020. Be safe on New Years Eve and spend the time with those you are close to. Please take care of yourself.