The EFCA just completed its theology conference for 2021. In the conference for worship they used songs from Sovereign Grace Ministries and Harvest Bible Chapel worship arm Vertical Music. This post is designed to ask a question, should the EFCA use music from a scandal plagued ministry? Greg Strand and Mike Strand should consider this issue and discuss this ongoing issue in modern evangelicalism.
“Overcoming abuse doesn’t just happen, It takes positive steps everyday. Let today be the day you start to move forward.”
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.[a] 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
Romans 14:13-23 ESV
Bob Kauflin from Sovereign Grace Churches and his sons Jordan and Devan
Recently this blog did a summary of the EFCA’s Theology Conference for 2021. You can read that post in, “A Look at the EFCA’s 2021 Theology Conference on the Psalms.” Greg Strand plays a major part in the EFCA’s theology conferences, and it appears that Mike Strand from South Suburban Evangelical Free in Minnesota also selects the music for the theology conferences. And there is one aspect that was noticed by this blog that needs to be asked. When I looked over the worship playlist I noticed that the EFCA used a number of songs from scandal plagued ministries. Hillsong has been in the news recently for a number of similar reasons. But this blog has also written about Sovereign Grace Ministries and Harvest Bible Chapel as well in the past. The EFCA Theology Conference for 2021 used one song from Vertical Worship which is the worship label for Harvest Bible Chapel. The conference used three songs from Sovereign Grace Ministries. Also used were one from Hillsong.
This blog was born out of an incident form a former Sovereign Grace Ministry church called Redeemer Arlington here in the Washington, D.C. This blogger in trying to get a situation resolved interacted a number of times with Jordan Kauflin. You can read both in, “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is” and “A Fifth Open Letter to Jordan Kauflin (Why are you Acting Like C.J. Mahaney and Running From this Spiritual Abuse Situation?).” The Kauflin family is a part of the evangelical industrial complex. This blog wrote about the history of Bob Kauflin in Sovereign Grace Ministries 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.” Sovereign Grace Ministries had covered up sex abuse, and the scandal was covered in the Washington Post and Washington, D.C. media. For a good write up of the scandal involving C.J. Mahaney you can read in the Washingtonian, “The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch“
Harvest Bible Chapel is another ministry plagued by scandal. Vertical was the worship music brand and had a number of issues. You can read about Vertical in, “The Vertical Leadership Cohort Illustrates the Evangelical Industrial Complex. Plus Why is Luke MacDonald Teaching/Coaching?” The Harvest Bible Chapel scandal was explosive and dealt with James MacDonald’s abuse of power, finances, anger issues and bullying behavior. This blog played a role in leaking Harvest documents such as the Dean Butters letter which you can read in, “The Wondering Eagle Exclusive: Dean Butters Statement” and “Why Publish the Dean Butters Statement in Its Entirety?” James MacDonald was finally fired when he talked about planting child pornography on the CEO’s computer of Christianity Today. You can read about 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.” So the question should be asked, should an organization like the EFCA use music from a scandal plagued ministry? There are a couple of thoughts to share on that topic.
Recalling a Conversation With an EFCA Pastor Two Years Ago on the Sovereign Grace Ministry Scandal
This blog likes to travel up and down the East Coast and pop up in EFCA churches, observe and see what is happening in the denomination. About two years ago this blog popped into one church that will remain nameless. I spoke with the pastor who invited me into his office and we started to discuss modern evangelicalism and its scandals. I asked him about the Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal and the effects on his church and the EFCA. Sovereign Grace was centered here on the East Coast and came from the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Gaithersburg, Maryland originally. This pastor then began to explain to me that he was in a no win situation over the issue. .Part of his congregation wanted to hear the Sovereign Grace music and communicated that if it were dropped then they would leave the church. At the same time this pastor also had people who wanted Sovereign Grace music stopped as they thought it inappropriate to use in worship. This pastor then explained the bind he was in. Either way he acted and he was going to lose a part of his church. And after he made his decision a number of people left. I left that meeting troubled by what I heard, but I sympathized with the pastor’s bind. But I also realized that this situation is complex as well.
Should the EFCA Use Scandal Plagued Music?
This is a hard issue to contemplate and yet its one that should be talked about within the greater EFCA. This issue should be discussed in the EFCA national office in Minneapolis as they could help set the tone and also the example for all districts below. The challenge for the EFCA is that it struggles to talk about these issues of spiritual abuse or misconduct. The lessons from that come from the firing of T.J. Addington. The EFCA likes to hold their cards close and say things in a general sense, which is what they did with the former Senior VP in regards to his Ashley Madison scandal and Craigslist hook ups. You can read more about this 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.” What should give both Greg Strand and Mike Strand of South Suburban Evangelical Free pause is that the ongoing Ravi Zacharias scandal should make them stop and think about these topics of abuse. If the EFCA had a discussion on these kinds of scandals and then decided to use a couple of songs that would be different. That is better than at least sweeping such scandals and problems under the carpet and acting like these issues do not exist. But here is another thought for the EFCA in these kinds of situations, are the likes of Greg Strand and Mike Strand going against Romans 14 in creating stumbling blocks for those outside evangelicalism? Are they making it harder to practice faith or come to faith? As I type this post that is one of the issues that hangs with me. But in my case I have not only rejected evangelicalism but pushed back from faith also. So in closing this is a complicated issue and hopefully this post gives the EFCA something to think about in regards to this issue.