The abuse situation coming out of Larry Osborne’s North Coast Church is profoundly disturbing. The allegations coming forward at an Instagram page about abuse in many different forms that has allegedly taken place over the previous ten years inside North Coast Church are hard to process. Sexual abuse allegations are going to test congregationalism as practiced by the EFCA. And especially after the EFCA’s 2020 pre-conference at the theology conference which addressed the topic of abuse. How individuals like Greg Strand and Tim Jacobs respond to this situation growing out of Larry Osborne’s church in California is going to speak volumes about the health of the EFCA.
“No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.”
“If you want to change the culture, you will have to start by changing the organization.”
The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.
Psalm 119:130 NLT
The EFCA’s Greg Strand
This blog is doing a deep dive into the issues at Larry Osborne’s North Coast Church. The abuse that it hemorrhaging out of it will poses many challenges to the national to and district of the EFCA. The question remains how is Greg Strand going to resolve these issues coming from North Coast Church?
Remembering the Sad Saga of Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson, Pennsylvania
In March of 2016 The Wondering Eagle started to write about a dark church situation at Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. In Elverson the senior pastors’ son allegedly raped his wife while intoxicated. He also allegedly domestically abused her and loaded a firearm and pointed it at her. Knowing that she could be killed in a domestic abuse situation she filed for divorce. The EFCA church in response moved to protect the son and practiced church discipline on the ex-wife. Appeals to the EFCA both through the Eastern District and to the national office were badly mishandled. When Steve Estes church ex-communicated an alleged domestic abuse victim it divided the community. All this drama happened in the Amish countryside of Pennsylvania not far from Philadelphia. The EFCA through Greg Strand and also Eddie Cole who became the new district superintendent worked to deal with this disturbing story. A fact finding team was put together by the EFCA and an investigation commenced. The EFCA also received legal advice in how to deal with the church’s behavior. The story dragged out for almost two years and the EFCA put forward recommendations for Steve Estes church. A congregational church had become elder ruled which contributed to the problem. The EFCA was in the process from my understanding of getting ready to remove Community Evangelical Free when the rogue church broke away from the denomination. If anyone wants to see the original posts that started the coverage of this situation you can do so in, “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity” and “Hurit’s Public Excommunication While Alleged Criminal Activity by Brock Estes is Withheld from the Congregation: Appeals for Help Fall on Deaf Ears to Steve Musser of the Eastern District and National Evangelical Free Church of America.” Writing about the Community Evangelical Free Church story was hard to do at this blog. The behavior of Steve Estes son especially with pointing a loaded weapon at a female was beyond disturbing. Sometimes I had problems sleeping while writing about this story.
Abuse Coming From Larry Osborne’s North Coast Church
On July 15, 2020 a new account was started on Instagram. Called North Coast Church Abuse (northcoastchurchabuse) a series of dark and disturbing stories began to hemorrhage from the largest EFCA church in California. Stories of a cult like atmosphere and questionable behavior from pastors came forward. “A Closer Look at the North Coast Church’s Chris Hilken. Questionable Behavior By a Questionable Pastor.” Another disturbing aspect is stories, serious allegations actually about sexual abuse by both people in leadership and those involved inside North Coast Church. “The Issue of Sexual Abuse and When a Predator Walks Freely Inside North Coast Church.” Larry Osborne who is the lead pastor at North Coast has ordered his staff not to engage or respond to the Instagram account. The church is telling members in small groups to ignore it when they bring it up. Meanwhile the abuse stories keep coming forward on a daily basis and reveal what a toxic church North Coast Church has been. The abuse stories are also representing what has happened at North Coast Church over the past decade.
North Coast Church in Vista, California
Why North Coast Church is Important in the EFCA
A couple of years ago an EFCA pastor in the Midwest was doing sermon preparation and while Googling the internet found my blog. Intrigued and interested he reached out to me. We had almost a three hour discussion that carried late into the night on the EFCA, his district, Calvinism related issues and much more. When talking about pastors this pastor said that one of the most influential individuals to EFCA pastors is Larry Osborne. He described him as a pastor to pastors and said his books are consumed and that he speaks at EFCA conferences and events. If I remember correctly he told me that his listened to Osborne speak at an EFCA conference.
Larry Osborne is one of the most important personalities inside the EFCA. He has also been a controversial one as well as this blog has written. When Mars Hill Seattle imploded amidst stories of abuse, bullying and Mark Driscoll’s behavior it was Larry Osborne who helped to re-launch Mark Driscoll in Arizona. Yes, this is the same Mark Driscoll who taught that women are penis homes and at a church in Edinburgh, Scotland once preached in an expository sermon about how a blow job brought a person to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. 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.” Mark Driscoll as you recall had such a problem with anger that the wife of former Mars Hill elder Paul Petry wrote that if Mark had the power to burn her husband at the stake he would have. This blog raised these concerns back in 2016 when I published, “Why is the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) Silent on Larry Osborne’s Strong Support for Mark Driscoll and The Trinity Church? Does the EFCA Also Believe Women are Penis Homes?”
Within California North Coast Church is the largest EFCA church with as many as 13,000 to 15,000 involved. It also is among one the largest churches inside the EFCA if I have researched that correctly. So its influence is not just felt on the EFCA and the EFCA West district but even beyond the EFCA itself within larger evangelicalism.
EFCA West District Superintendent Tim Jacobs
Why the North Coast Church Abuse Situation Will be a Test to Greg Strand and the EFCA on the District and National Level
This abuse situation that has developed from North Coast Church is going to be a test of the EFCA in multiple ways. Let me tick those reasons and explain how that will happen.
- In early 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the EFCA held its theology conference at Trinity International University outside Chicago. Prior to the start of the conference there was a pre-conference that addressed abuse inside the church. The sex abuse crisis inside the Southern Baptist Convention and the Willow Creek Community Church scandal with the sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against Bill Hybells is what led to this pre-conference. This blog wrote about the event in, “The 2020 EFCA Theology Pre-Conference Deals with Abuse in the Evangelical Church. Plus a Look at the Main Theology Conference.” So here is the question that this blog would like to pose. When you have an event that discusses sex abuse, culture and more what is the EFCA going to do when such a situation comes along? North Coast Church is going to test the EFCA in regards to its policies in abuse.
- The EFCA West had a large change in leadership. Steve Highfill who led the district for over three decades retired. In to his place stepped Tim Jaocbs, an EFCA pastor from a church in Arizona. EFCA West now has new leadership at the head. How Tim Jacobs responds to the situation at North Coast Church will test his leadership and the strength of the district. This blog is going to be observing this especially after interacting with the people in the abuse community from North Coast. If you want to read more about Tim Jacobs you can do so in, “District Superintendent Steve Highfill Leaves EFCA West as Tim Jacobs Steps into the Key District Role.”
- When Elverson happened the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements had not happened. In once writing about this once asked if Elverson was ahead of the curve in the national debate about abuse. You can read that in, “Before there was Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Laurer and Others there was Brock Estes and Elverson. Was this Small Pennsylvania Town Ahead of the National Issue When it Comes to Sexual Misconduct?” The question stands what is Greg Strand going to do about the abuse coming out of North Coast Church? As the director of theology inside the EFCA is Strand going to approach this like he approached Elverson? Will the EFCA put together a fact finding committee that will look into the culture of Larry Osborne’s church? Will the EFCA engage those who have been sexually abused inside North Coast Church and help them? This blog is going to watch and see what Greg Strand does about this abuse situation out of California.
North Coast Church is going to test the EFCA. Sex abuse inside a congregational model is going to show the challenges and limits. The EFCA is going to have to find a way forward to deal with this issue. Likewise if the EFCA downplays this situation at North Coast Church and lets Larry Osborne speak at the next EFCA conference than what is the EFCA and Greg Strand communicating about the EFCA and sex abuse? And hopefully Greg Strand and perhaps EFCA President Kevin Kompelien will pull Osborne aside and ask him why he helped to re-launch Mark Driscoll in Arizona? Its the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is at stake in situations like this…does Greg Strand and Kevin Kompelien care? This situation at North Coast Church is going to test the system. If the EFCA can’t deal with such a test then the model is flawed and needs to be changed. Handling this well could help put the EFCA on the right path. Time will tell and this situation is just getting started.
This Blog is Going to Monitor and Cover the North Coast Church Story
When it came to the Elverson story this blog wrote close to 90 posts. The North Coast Church situation is crucial and critical to the EFCA. An abuse situation in one of the most influential churches inside the EFCA will tell us quite a bit about the health of the EFCA. Due to the nature of this story this blog is going to camp out here and write quite a bit about it. There are discussions behind the scenes to allow North Coast Church victims to tell their story through this blog. And this blog supports the Instagram page. Each and every single person who comes forward is brave and to be commended. They have my deepest respect. But The Wondering Eagle is going to research, write and do a deep dive into the culture and issues of Larry Osborne’s North Coast Church. And as always I don’t hide behind a computer I am willing to talk with people in the EFCA or North Coast Church about this situation as well. However, please understand in this situation I stand with those in the Instagram page.