Symptoms Of Sickness In The Megachurch System?

As CEO of Acts 29, Steve Timmis was an effective and respected leader. During his seven years at the helm, the church planting network rebounded from the fallout around its co-founder Mark Driscoll and expanded from 300 mostly US churches to 800 around the world.

…Fifteen people who served under Timmis described to Christianity Today a pattern of spiritual abuse through bullying and intimidation, overbearing demands in the name of mission and discipline, rejection of critical feedback, and an expectation of unconditional loyalty.

In a letter to elders when he left in 2016, Stovell said, “I am not persuaded by the explanation that this is a case of strong leadership inevitably leading to some feathers being ruffled. People have been bruised by Steve’s style. People have become cowed due to it.”

Two weeks ago, internal reports raised similar concerns about Timmis’s leadership in Acts 29, and the board voted on Monday to remove him as CEO. Acts 29 president Matt Chandler announced the news in a video sent out to the network the following day, saying, “For where we’re headed next, we needed to transition Steve out of this role.”

The organization confirmed the allegations of spiritual abuse in a statement to CT. “A little over two weeks ago, the Board of Acts 29 was made aware of some accusations of abusive leadership against our CEO Steve Timmis,” it read. “The Board launched an investigation of these claims and found evidence that he should be transitioned out of the CEO role immediately. Where there needs to be reconciliation, we are prayerful and committed to seeking it.”

Kate Shellnutt,Acts 29 CEO Removed Amid ‘Accusations of Abusive Leadership‘” Christianity Today , Feb 7, 2020.

Former celebrity pastor, James MacDonald, has been fired. His sins have been splashed on national headlines. Every elder and senior leader at Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) has resigned. And the church is scrambling to stay afloat.

But it all could have been prevented. That’s according Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant, authors of The Elephant’s Debt (TED), a blog critical of Harvest and MacDonald.

The two revealed on my radio show last Saturday that in 2012, when they launched TED, they sent emails to prominent evangelical leaders and pastors, urging the leaders to visit TED and then use their influence to expose wrongdoing at Harvest.

Only two leaders responded to the email (posted below). One was Matt Chandler, lead pastor at The Village Church and president of the Acts 29 Network. Instead of offering help, Chandler said he would do all he could to oppose what Mahoney and Bryant were doing.

“I might not agree with decisions made by James or the elders at HBC,” Chandler wrote, “but I have no intention of drawing any attention to your blog and if I can in any way deflect others from giving it ‘coverage’ I will use my influence to that end.” Chandler said he believed the blog was “unhelpful and maybe even harmful,” and added, “This will not lead to repentance, this will only serve to push people to the fringes where helpful discourse is impossible and ignorance and aggression will take over the conversation.”

Julie Roys,Matt Chandler & Other Evangelical Leaders Rejected TED Bloggers’ Pleas to Expose Harvest in 2012” June 27, 2019.

Resources

Heidelcast 139: Of Megachurches, Busses, And Woodchippers

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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4 comments

  1. I am so thankful that salvation depends on God’s election and that the elect cannot be lost. If it depended on us, or the faithfulness of ministers, there would be no hope. The failings of ministers destroy the false faith of those who follow them, when their hypocrisy is exposed. People who put their faith in ministers are trusting in man. Our faith must be in the Word of God alone. It alone is True.

  2. A friend commented to me that the process by which Timmis has been removed is deeply flawed. This is a fair point. In presbyterial/Reformed/collegiate polity, there would be, in effect, committees to oversee him and to address issues as they arose. This seems to have happened rather suddenly and in reaction to bad publicity. In Reformed/presbyterial/collegiate polity, there are appeals to broader/higher assemblies. None of that seems to be in play here.

    Witness the various statements emerging:

    From IVP.

    From “The Crowded House

    • I am so thankful for this comment, Dr. Clark. “Things are seldom what they seem,” wrote Gilbert (or was it Sullivan?)…Steve and his wife are close friends of my family, and never have I experienced that line to be as true as it is in this situation. Praise the Lord for his omniscience, perfect wisdom, perfect justice, and sustaining grace. (Also, it was as a member of The Crowded House many years ago that I first understood justification by faith alone, contra justification by faith and works! I vividly remember where I was sitting in the building as the light of this incredible good news dawned in my heart. I thank God for the influence of that church in my life.)

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