This is a post that I have been avoiding for a while. After discussing this with others I have decided to write a post about how this blog has been effective. From the EFCA, to churches in the Washington, D.C. area and in the greater United States this is a look at how has this blog influenced churches and people. This blog is introducing a new description. Its called the #WonderingEagleEffect
“The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society.“
“One person can make a difference.”
Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:16-17 NIV
David Platt at McLean Bible
The Lincoln Project is a group of former conservative Republicans who founded a PAC to combat Trump and Trumpism. Its an organization that pushes back against illiberal nationalist populism. Over on Twitter one will see the hashtag #LincolnProjectEffect being used frequently. The term was coined by one of the founders of The Lincoln Project, Mike Madrid. Madrid is formerly the state political director of the California Republican party. The Lincoln Project effect is when the organization is able to penetrate Trump’s base and work people off of Trump himself or influence Trump with psychological mind games. Mike Madrid wrote a post last May at Medium in which he introduced the concept, and explained how The Lincoln Project was working to flip Arizona and deny the state to Trump in the presidential contest. In a June podcast Mike Madrid explained The Lincoln Project Effect which you can listen to right here.
This blog, The Wondering Eagle would like to borrow the name of the #LincolnProjectEffect to introduce the concept of the #WonderingEagleEffect. The difference is that this blog is not about engaging in psychological operations, it is about writing about the issues and the dark side of religion. Its goal is to improve religion, draw attention to the problems and educate and keep people away from questionable and cult like churches. This blog was formed out of an incident with someone from a former Sovereign Grace/Acts 29 church called Redeemer Church of Arlington which was founded and led by Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin. Denomination wise this blog focuses on the Evangelical Free Church of America.
I have held off on doing this post for a while, but in consultation with a few people this blog is going to talk about the #WonderingEagleEffect and how this blog has influenced churches, people or a denomination. With that stated lets explore how this blog has influenced the discussion with specific examples.
David Platt, Scott Woods, McLean Bible Church in the Washington, D.C. Area
In early 2019 I was flying back to Washington, D.C. I had spent a lot of time in California with my Dad’s terminal brain tumor and all that goes along with the death of a parent. It was a trying time in life and I am still dealing with my parent’s loss. In the Los Angeles airport I received a tip about a situation that happened in McLean Bible – the new Southern Baptist megachurch in the Washington, D.C. area. A volunteer named Scott Woods in The Rock Ministries had groomed several teenagers for planned sexual abuse after they turned 18. Some people had pursued the issue all the way up to the top of the convention with J.D. Greear. Greear told one family that the Southern Baptists are autonomous and they could not do anything. The statute of limitations had expired and Fairfax County Police could not do anything either though they were aware of the situation. They tried to investigate Scott Wood’s computer and learned he had destroyed his lap top. Upon hearing about all this I laid the foundation to write about this topic long term. I wrote about this situation and informed all of McLean Bible in September of 2019 in, “How David Platt Never Learned From the Mark Aderholt Situation. The Disturbing Story of how McLean Bible Mishandled Scott Woods, an Alleged Predator in The Rock Ministries.” It was during this time I learned that some of the staff of McLean Bible were monitoring this blog. Some were upset over how McLean Bible badly mishandled this situation. And all this came after a theological coup at McLean Bible that was pulled off in part by Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church who helped Dale Sutherland convince Lon Solomon to make some changes. Sutherland became Solomon’s svengali. Someone on staff at McLean Bible reached out to this blog and expressed their anger over how McLean Bible mishandled Scott Woods. This blog was tipped off a few days before David Platt’s sermon on November 24, 2020 telling me to watch the talk. Platt was going to address the Scott Woods mess. This person then said something that was quite remarkable. They explained that this blog had helped bring the Scott Woods situation to the surface and had it not been for this blog David Platt would not have been forced to address this topic. That said in the communication by David Platt and McLean Bible leadership the church has still not named Scott Woods to the congregation or released the results of the independent investigation. But this blog continues to do so. You can read about the apology in, “David Platt Apologizes for McLean Bible’s Mishandling of a Sexual Predator. While its a Step in the Right Direction the Celebrity Pastor Still Will not Name Scott Woods as the Alleged Predator.”
#WonderingEagleEffect: Brought a dangerous sexual predator situation to the surface and forced the hand of David Platt to address the topic with McLean Bible.
The Evangelical Free Church of America
This blog writes primarily about the EFCA denomination. It does so because of my past experience with the EFCA and also understanding the need that there is not a solid blog that writes about this topic. This blog has influenced the EFCA in several ways.
Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson
Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson, Pennsylvania
This blog received a tip about a very disturbing and troubling story out of Southeast Pennsylvania in late 2015. Brock Estes, the senior pastor’s son had allegedly abused his wife “Hurit” and sexually assaulted her while intoxicated. Brock Estes had a drinking problem at the time. In addition he also loaded and pointed a gun at his wife. She knew should could be killed in the domestic abuse and filed for divorce. Senior Pastor Steve Estes warned his daughter-in-law if she went through with it she would face church discipline. She carried through and the church in an orchestrated service ex-communicated her. It split the town and became deeply controversial. Members of the church contacted the Eastern District Superintendent who was receiving cancer treatment and he dropped the ball. Church members contacted the EFCA in Minneapolis asking for help in this situation. This blog wrote about it in two posts in March of 2016, “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.” The Elverson story is what put my blog on the radar of the EFCA in Minneapolis. Minneapolis scrambled on this issue with Greg Strand getting involved. Lawyers got involved. The EFCA did a fact finding investigation with Eddie Cole the new district superintendent. The EFCA was trying to deal with this rogue church and was in the process of trying to get it to repent. The rogue EFCA church eventually broke away and changed its name to Brick Lane Church. Today it has a cult like reputation in Pennsylvania. The most moving and beautiful aspect of this dark story is when the Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole went to the mother of the rape victim and apologized over what happened to her daughter from a rogue EFCA church and how the EFCA dropped the ball. Eddie Cole’s behavior meant so much to her.
#WonderingEagleEffect: Get the EFCA in Minneapolis involved in a rogue church not practicing congregationalism. Covered the story until the rogue EFCA church broke away. This story is what led the EFCA to monitor this blog.
The Reconciliation of Eddie Cole with a Former Member of the EFCA’s Salem Church in Staten Island, New York
While the Elverson story was playing out I received an interesting email. A former member of Salem Church reached out to me and explained how he used to be close to Eddie Cole. There was a falling out and this individual expressed to me his desire to work things out with Eddie, but when he learned about what happened at Elverson he actually read and watched to how Eddie led in the situation. This for me was a tricky one and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get this possibly resolved. Much of it was out of my hands but I thought I could prod the situation. So I gently emailed Eddie Cole and he thanked me for it and said that he would be happy to talk to anyone. This former member for Salem emailed him and there were a couple of exchanges, but Eddie was deeply busy with EFCA work and traveling frequently. In an email to me this former Salem member was discouraged and frustrated and I vouched for Eddie Cole sharing some stories that I heard about him from others and encouraging this individual to try again. He did and Eddie responded to his email. Eventually they and their spouses met on Staten Island and talked everything out. There was a lot of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. After this happened I received one of the warmest emails I received. I wept in my kitchen over this beautiful story of reconciliation and the fact that one individual found peace. This is a part of that note.
“I’ll simply say that it could not have gone any better last night with the Coles. We truly both offered heartfelt apologies and forgiveness. We gained a lot of insight and perspective. Most importantly, I believe that the Lord was honored by the conversation. I felt as if we were all able to cover all the necessary ground, and have all questions and concerns answered on both ends, without rancor. Both Dr. Cole & Jessica were gracious and apologetic. There were a lot of unfortunate circumstances, and we were also able to recall the good times with genuine fondness.”
And part of another email shortly afterward.
“Anyway, thank again for your prodding. Without it, I most likely would not have reached out again, while saying, “I did what I could.”
I also hope that for you, seeing that this is possible, is helpful, and helps your faith walk. I see God’s hand in all of it, and I think it’s no coincidence that our paths have crossed. God has used you in a big way, and for that I’ll always be grateful.”
Afterward I sent an email to Eddie Cole and thanked him for reconciling with this individual. Of all the stories this one is the most amazing. The following year I drove up to New York City and met with these individuals. Over a pizza they explained how they found peace and his wife mentioned that their marriage improved with the conflict resolved. This blog has a deep amount of respect for Eddie Cole and for all the problematic people I write about, Eddie is in a class by himself. This blog is grateful that he is a pastor.
#WonderingEagleEffect: Helped reconcile two individuals by gentle proding. This helped improve one’s marriage after the reconciliation.
Filling in the Blanks on Former Senior EFCA VP T.J. Addington
Since this blog stood up something unusual happened to me in the process of writing. In different parts of the United States some EFCA pastors were doing sermon prep and in Googling they found this blog. Several reached out over the course of time and they had one question or one concern regarding the EFCA. I was asked if I knew what happened to T.J. Addington? A few EFCA pastors had no idea and wondered, and a couple heard of rumors of him being allegedly caught up in the Ashley Madison scandal. When he left the EFCA the cited reason was for a “moral failing.” The EFCA was not specific about what happened. This blog had wondered about the topic and proceeded to write and research. Eventually someone with the information who had ties to the EFCA reached out and gave me the information and encouraged me to write about the situation. This blog did so in, “T.J. Addington Doesn’t Believe Pastors Should be Held Accountable. A Look Back on How the Former EFCA Senior Vice President Was Caught Up in the Ashley Madison Scandal.”
#WonderingEagleEffect: Filled in the gaps to an issue in the EFCA that many pastors had inquired about.
Did this Blog Get EFCA West District Superintendent Tim Jacobs Involved in a Situation at The Bridge Fresno?
This blog wrote about Andrew Smith who leads the EFCA’s The Bridge Fresno in Fresno, California. This was my former EFCA church when I was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ at Fresno State. The church had a worship service indoors in violation of the purple tier of California’s COVID-19 protocols. It led to a COVID-19 outbreak. After writing about it I did another post and emailed the EFCA West leadership about the situation. Around the same time it appears the senor pastor left a sly comment on the blog. This blog wrote about it. This blog wonders if the email provoked the district leader to inquire and if that angered the pastor who then commented. I could be wrong, I don’t know. Hopefully in time there will be an answer. You can read more in, “For the Valley or For Andrew Smith? Did the Senior Pastor of The Bridge Fresno Leave a Comment on this Blog? It Appears So…“
#WonderingEagleEffect: Possibly got district leadership involved in a church violating California COVID-19 guidelines.
The Story of an Authoritarian Neo-Calvinist Church Outside Minneapolis Becomes a Book
This blog told the story of Amanda Farmer’s EFCA church experience. The church became Neo-Calvinist in time and very authoritarian. Some people lost their church home. This story highlights the issues and struggles of Neo-Calvinism inside the EFCA. To read the story go to, ” A Neo-Calvinist Hijacking at an EFCA Church in Minnesota That Took Place in the Shadow of John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist.” And to read the book review of this book by Amanda Farmer go to, “The Wondering Eagle Book Review: Amanda Farmer’s “Once An Insider, Now Without a Church Home”
#WonderingEagleEffect: Published a story which became a book highlighting the issue of Neo-Calvinism inside the EFCA. This book was mailed to all EFCA district superintendents.
What Does the EFCA Think of This Blog?
Over the past few years a couple of people have shared that this blog has been discussed at EFCA theology meetings and a district meeting. Some people in the EFCA do not know what do and think the best course is to ignore the blog. There is concern about blog posts following some EFCA churches. I learned through a blog mistake about D.A. Carson that Trinity Evangelical Divinity School reads this blog. After a mistake in about 15 minutes I received a tweet correcting me. I acknowledged the mistake and corrected a post. So the EFCA closely follows this blog.
Acts 29 Churches
This blog has also affected some Acts 29 churches and heard about how people were influenced.
One of the many attempts to evangelize me from someone at Redeemer Arlington that triggered this blog.
Redeemer Arlington in Arlington, Virginia
Before this blog started I met with Eric Simmons face to face at Northside Social Coffee & Wine Bar in Arlington, Virginia. I brought my mess of a false accusation from a former individual to the leadership of Redeemer Arlington on the advice of an attorney. Eric Simmons at the meeting encouraged me to reach out to Jordan Kauflin. At that same meeting I told Eric Simmons I was going to start a blog that would write about his church. He threw up his hands and said, “Fine!” My mess was never resolved and Jordan Kauflin failed to do what a lawyer told me to accept. It was frustrating and aggravating.
But over the course of time I have heard about how this blog is being read and followed by some inside Redeemer Arlington. Once in a small group Jordan Kauflin was asked if Redeemer was going to meet with and engage with David Bonner citing this blog. It was an awkward moment for Jordan Kauflin. Others have asked the Redeemer leadership about what happened. This blog is willing to meet with (in normal times) and talk with people involved inside Redeemer Arlington.
#WonderingEagleEffect: Members inside Redeemer read, follow and have raised this blog to church leadership asking questions.
Matt Chandler’s The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas
This blog has written about the scandals and problems with Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. This blog has received questions and even a couple of members upset about what has been written. This blog told one person that I would be willing to speak with the Acts 29 pastor written if they wanted to talk. The person declined. A couple of others told me that they left after reading some of the posts written.
#WonderingEagleEffect: Influence and engage with members of The Village Church. This blog led to some leaving Matt Chandler’s church.
Bryan Laughlin’s Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia
This blog told the story and issues with Acts 29 Remnant church. The story led to a number of people leaving and going to Eastside Fellowship of Richmond instead. The posts written also led to an intense debate on a Reddit thread asking if Remnant is a cult. Some members of the Acts 29 church were angry and defended the church in the discussion. This is the post that triggered all this, “The Disturbing and Cult-Like Behavior of Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia is Adversely Affecting Lives” This blog also played a role in closing Remnant when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020. The Acts 29 church planned to remain open and conduct live worship during the pandemic in violation of Virginia law. This blog was contacted and I researched and wrote about it in, “When Church is Hazardous to Your Health. Acts 29 Remnant in Richmond, Virginia Allegedly Plans to Continue Meeting During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Does a Recent Blog Article by Doug Ponder Explain Their Reckless Behavior?” That article was shared on social media and amongst the Remnant congregation. It led to pressuring the church to change their decision and thus close and be in compliance with Commonwealth of Virginia law. That post was followed up with an update. “Update: Acts 29 Remnant in Richmond, Virginia is Canceling Services and Changing Course After Previously Planning on Meeting Through a Pandemic.”
#WonderlingEagleEffect: Helped some people leave Remnant church. As the COVID-19 pandemic began this blog helped close the church and protect people and be in compliance with Commonwealth of Virginia law.
Bryan Loritts Fellowship Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee
This blog was contacted by a victim of Rick Trotter. The former worship leader at Fellowship Memphis had engaged in voyeurism and recorded females in the church restroom and in the process made child pornography. Fellowship Memphis of Bryan Loritts and John Bryson had covered it up. Bryan Loritts let his brother-in-law go and Rick Trotter went to another church where he engaged in voyeurism and making up skirt videos. He was caught leaning over taking a picture of a female while she worshipped. He was arrested and then the Fellowship Memphis scandal broke. This blog wrote about it in, “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.” This blog has written extensively about Fellowship Memphis, Downturn church and followed Bryan Lorrits as he fled to Mountain View, California. When he was hired by J.D. Greear’s The Summit the church put out a twisted narrative. My Bryan Loritts source told me that this blog had followed the scandal and his career so effectively that Greear’s church had to put out a twisted statement to justify his hiring and answer some of the claims my blog raised.
#WonderingEagleEffect: Write so much about Bryan Loritts, Rick Trotter and Fellowship Memphis that The Summit in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina had to put out more of a justification in hiring Loritts due to all the blog posts written which follow him on the internet. This blog has become the key source in the Bryan Loritts scandal.
The Sojourn Network out of Louisville, Kentucky
The Sojourn Network in Louisville, Kentucky traces its roots to Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill of Seattle. It was led by Daniel Montgomery who led the main campus in Louisville. He led the church and then he suddenly disappeared. It led some to inquire and ask what happened? This blog was contacted about it and I had a few people in Louisville find some of my posts about The Sojourn Network. Someone reached out and in a discussion internal documents were leaked to me. This blog learned that Daniel Montgomery had the same problems that Mark Driscoll had, and that under the attempt to “rehabilitate” him Montgomery suddenly left. You can read more about that in, “Why Daniel Montgomery Left the Sojourn Network in Louisville, Kentucky and How the Shadow of Mark Driscoll Hangs Over Neo-Calvinism.”
#WonderingEagleEffect: Find out why Daniel Montgomery left Sojourn and answer the questions of many.
All I Wanted…
This blog was started out of psychological pain. It has been effective. Its helped bring about justice and be involved in a number of situations. It has played a role in reconciliation and warned others of cult like churches. And the reality is that all I wanted at the beginning of this is a sincere apology by a United States Air Force Captain at the time. That will never happen. And while I am grateful that others found peace, I don’t think I ever will. That is just the reality of the situation.