Ben Groen is the senior pastor at Oxboro Evangelical Free in Bloomington, Minnesota. Recently he preached on Jonah and in a stunning statement said that those who criticize the church want to run from God. That type of thinking can put individuals like Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald and Bryan Loritts in a new light. But it raises another issue as well. If there were sexual abuse at Oxboro who would come forward when the senior pastor teaches something like that? This post is a response to the senior pastor’s teaching.
“Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.”
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil[a] has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
Jonah 1:1-3 ESV
***UPDATE: June 10, 2020. Ben Groen from Oxboro sent me an email yesterday. He asked to speak about what I published. Late this afternoon we spoke on the phone for about 30 minutes. Ben wanted to clarify that his sermon was only to be viewed in the context of Jonah. Ben believes that controversial ministries and organization like Harvest Bible Chapel, or Sovereign Grace Ministries should be criticized. He finds those scandals troubling. And he is troubled by how people have been hurt. In the conversation he also wanted to talk a little bit about when I last went to church and my background. I spent a lot of time listening to him and his perspective. In addition Ben communicated that he had trouble sleeping last night because he was troubled to be linked to people who abused their ministry. He felt hurt. When he said that I communicated that was not my intent and apologized. Some people as I explained look at these scandals differently. Some ignore them and some take them personally. Ben also explained that he is going to stand before God and give an account for how he has led and how he pastored people. And he takes this seriously. Ben as I learned is compassionate and caring. I told him that he is free to interact of reach out. But I want to make people know that Ben is someone who is pastoral and engaging. In writing about the EFCA its a large organization that is diverse and complicated. And there are some pockets that are good. In the course of writing about the EFCA as an outsider it I ever find myself in the Bloomington area (In normal times I do travel!) I would like to swing by and sit in the back. This blog appreciates Ben Groen and is grateful for his pastoral nature. This blog wishes him well. In writing such a project I want to go on the record and state that people are free to engage and reach out. I don’t hide behind my computer and I don’t live in an echo chamber.
James MacDonald led a corrupt organization called Harvest Bible Chapel. He is known for his anger and outbursts. James MacDonald was also very abusive as a pastor. He misused money to the point that the organization’s 501(c)(3) status was compromised. Harvest Bible Chapel under James MacDonald’s leadership was $44 million dollars in debt. As the scandal prone ministry dragged on James also kept buying larger mansions. Some people in Harvest were giving under the threat of church disciple and struggled to feed their families and pay their bills and yet James had more giving campaigns. People spoke out, and a blog called The Elephant’s Debt popped up which was led by former Harvest individuals. But what got James MacDonald fired was when on a hot mic in his ministry Walk in the Word, he allegedly talked about how he wanted to plant child pornography on the computer of the CEO of Christianity Today. You can listen to that hot mike up above. James talking about child pornography occurred at 4:49. You can read the story and see press coverage in the following post, “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.”
James MacDonald faced a lot of criticism. But according to Ben Groen of Oxboro Evangelical Free in Bloomington, Minnesota those who criticize the church are just people who want to run from God. So in the end in regards to the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal I guess those who criticized James MacDonald just want to run from God. Poor James..in the end he really did labor for the Lord.
Out in Seattle you had the situation of Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll was known for his abuse and anger. One of the wives of former elder Paul Petry wrote on a blog that if Mark Driscoll could burn her husband at the stake, then she believed that he would react in violence. But there were other issues as well. Mark Driscoll bullied and had other anger issues. In addition he had quite a warped mind. He gave a sermon in Scotland in which he talked about how a blow job brought someone to Jesus. In the process he also told people how a woman should repent to not sexually serving her husband and she should get done on her knees and give her husband a blow job. You can listen to that sermon in, “Reflecting on a Controversial Mark Driscoll Sermon About how a Repentant Woman Gets on Her Knees and Performs Oral Sex.” Then there was the time where Mark Driscoll on an internal bulletin board taught that women are penis homes. The press from Seattle to New York covered that in detail, the link I provided is from one of the New York newspapers.
Blogs popped up and people who left Acts 29 and Mars Hill criticized Mark Driscoll. But according to Ben Groen of Oxboro Evangelical Free in Bloomington, Minnesota those who criticize the church are just people who want to run from God. So in the end those who left Mars Hill Seattle and Acts 29 who criticized Mark Driscoll just wanted to run from God. Poor Mark Driscoll he labored so hard in the vineyard toiling for the Lord.
A Troubling Aspect to a Sermon Ben Groen Gave at Oxboro Evangelical Free in Bloomington, Minnesota and Some Analysis
I set out to do a couple of posts that documented how the EFCA in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area reacted to George Floyd’s death and the riots and unrest that followed. You can read the first one in, “A Compilation of How EFCA Churches in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Area Are Responding to the George Floyd Protests, Riots and Unrest Part 1.” While doing that I listened to Ben Groen’s sermon on Jonah. The sermon is embedded in Facebook but I have the link up above. At 35:00 Ben Groen proceeds to talk about how those who criticize the church just want to run from God. I was taken back when I heard this especially in light of the corruption that exists inside modern evangelicalism,. And while he did say some criticism is fair, I was troubled by how much time he spent on saying that those who criticize the church just want to run from God.
But before I proceed further let’s look at the senior pastor of Oxboro. Ben Groen completed his undergraduate degree from Northwestern College and received his masters from Bethel Seminary. He has been affiliated with Oxboro for 12 years now. He started in 2008 as an intern in the student ministry. In 2010 he became an associate pastor and held that position until January of 2017 when he became the senior pastor. On a personal note he is married with his wife Anna and they have three daughters.
Ben Groen’s comments in his sermon really stunned me. My focus in listening was to see what he would say in regards to the Minneapolis unrest. But in reflecting back his sermon seemed tone deaf. This is a problem with evangelicalism as evangelicals are often in their own bubbles and oblivious to the world around them. I would have expected a sermon more of lament in light of what some of the other EFCA churches did in the Minneapolis area. But his sermon for me also explains why evangelicalism is so toxic. This line of thinking is what came out of corrupt ministries like Sovereign Grace or Harvest Bible Chapel. Effectively its a way to bully people into silence and shut them up. To state that those who criticize the church just want to run from God is also comical in light of some of the scandals that have taken place in evangelicalism. Mark Driscoll flees Seattle and sets up in Phoenix with no remorse or desire to apologize. C.J. Mahaney flees his church in Gaithersburg, Maryland and first hides behind Mark Dever’s ass at Capitol Hill Baptist Church before ending up in Louisville. James MacDonald doesn’t own his mess at Harvest Bible Chapel and pops up in California ready to do ministry. And the abuse that triggered this blog resulted in a military officer who boasted of how “Gospel Centered” he was in going to Colorado with much pain unresolved. In many ways you can state that modern evangelicals are nothing but Jonahs. I looked at that issue a couple of years ago in, “From Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill, to C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace to Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington and an Air Force Captain I Knew, A Question that Must be Posed. Are Neo-Calvinists Modern Day Jonah’s in that All They Do is Flee?”
Then there was another aspect that this blog found troubling. At 37:03 Ben quotes J.D. Greear to make his point in saying that if you want to run from God there will always be a ship ready for Tarshish. The question this blog would also like to pose to Ben Groen is what do you do when J.D. Greear hires a “Jonah” at his mega church The Summit in North Carolina? Why does J.D. Greear have credibility or even the capacity to teach? Recently J.D. Greear’s church hired Bryan Lorrits. Bryan Loritts was involved in the Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis scandal that this blog covered and reported on for the last three years. For those who are not familiar with what happened this is it in a nutshell. At Fellowship Memphis in Tennessee the worship pastor, who was also Bryan Loritts brother-in-law at the time engaged in voyeurism in a church restroom. Bryan Loritts covered his brother-in-law’s illicit behavior which also included the manufacturing of child pornography inside a church restroom as two minors were recorded as well. One of the biggest initiatives in the Southern Baptist Convention is the Caring Well which deals with responding to sexual abuse. J.D. Greear’s church then hired Bryan Loritts on June 1, 2020. Hiring a pastor who covered up deviant sex crimes undermines the entire Caring Well initiative which helps explains why the Southern Baptist Convention is a mess and one that struggles with sex abuse as well. If you want to learn more about J.D. Greear in this mess in hiring Bryan Loritts from the Fellowship Memphis scandal I would start here. Then I would read the following articles:
- “Bryan Loritts is Joining J.D. Greear’s The Summit Church on June 1, 2020. So Much For Caring About Sexual Misconduct and Sex Abuse Inside the Southern Baptist Convention.”
- “Wondering Eagle Exclusive: Fellowship Memphis Source Responds to J.D. Greear’s Letter About Bryan Loritts Allegedly Covering Up Illegal Activity of Rick Trotter.”
- “Due to His Narcissism Bryan Loritts Over-Extended Himself with The Summit in Raleigh-Durham. And How Loritts Hiring is The Most Important Issue Inside the Southern Baptist Convention.”
To listen to all this inside a sermon inside an EFCA church is depressing. First you have a warped view that states that those who criticize the church are just running from God. But consider this, say there is a sex abuse situation at Oxboro Evangelical Free one day. Who would come forward and report that with a pastor who teaches such garbage? Why would a sex abuse victim or the parent of one report sex abuse to church leadership? This behavior helps explain why I have pushed back and largely rejected evangelicalism as its unstable and toxic. While hearing this description this blog would very much like to study Ben Broen’s bookshelf in his office to see who is influencing him. That could be another post in itself.
My hope is that people in the Bloomington, Minnesota area read this post and see the issues with Oxboro. This is an EFCA church to avoid and one that has issues that are systemic of evangelicalism. If you find this blog post while Googling Oxboro Evangelical Free my advice would be to move along. This is not a place to get involved in.