As someone who has in their history been a victim of and seen first hand the effect upon loved ones that spiritual abuse has had, it has been emotionally and at times mentally exhausting hearing and reading of others experiencing similar things.
My own background is a Christian who believes wholeheartedly in the importance of historic creeds and confessions, that we can look at and see what exactly the good news of Jesus Christ is, has been and always should be. It is this message of good news that is known as the Gospel.
Steve Timmis has been removed from his position as CEO of Acts29 (A network of Churches) after an investigation has found that his leadership has been bullying, intimidatory and spiritually abusive and manipulative. After recent events surrounding Josh Harris, James MacDonald and abuse handling by Matt Chandler (Whose own part to play in this episode has been awful as well) I can not say I am surprised and yet oddly enough I am not even saddened. In many ways I am very happy.
I got a chance to see Steve in the flesh many years ago when he was touring across the UK plugging one of his new books. He spoke really well and was very engaging. I kind of liked him as despite his age (he was there along with Matt Chandler) he was really passionate. I had heard about him only in name but when he was introduced I realised that he had co authored a few books that I actually owned.
He and Tim Chester (Whos is an enabler of the abuse Timmis inflicted) had knocked out a number of books that were getting eagerly eaten up by many Reformed Evangelicals who wanted to be less cold and stodgy and more warm and friendly with their fellow neighbour. Timmis was at the forefront of putting these things into action and putting bible verses behind them. So to vast swathes of middle class and rather nervous reformed Christians his books were just what they were after.
I too caught the bug, having ended up reformed after a brief period in non denominationalism. I had always had a heart for welcoming and befriending those who I felt the church was ignoring. I was at this stage tired of what seemed to be denominations that seemed to cater to only one type of class and seemed to be rather clueless as how to change it, so Steve in my eyes was one of the good guys.
So thousands of us happily bought anything that was promoting a ‘missional’ or ‘gospel intentional’ way of living. Church planting was the buzz word and it was something all the people who ‘actually cared’ were involved in. These were the spiritual heavy hitters who by their works showed how much they loved God.
In the providence and mercy of God my desires to be part of a number of church plants, mission outreach positions and the like never happened. Back then it was frustrating but now I look back and praise God.
Often I will look at one of my old bookcases. It is filled with different books I had bought and read from cover to cover. The first shelf of those is made up mostly of reformed books that were written in the early 2010’s and beyond. I cannot express how much time I wasted reading them.
While not trying to turn into a grump, I honestly have come to the conclusion that the majority of christian books that are written could disappear and the world would be a far better place. I now spend most of my time trying to rid my mind of the gunk that has become ingrained in my mind. So many of these books are worthless after one reading and honestly makes you wonder if they were not produced simply to bring in money and justify speaking tours.
It is hard not to get burnt out and feel jaded. Especially when the writers of these books turn out to be far from the law keepers they expect those below them to be.
Josh Harris wrote a number of books dedicated to essentially giving people solid ‘biblical’ advice on relationships, with the promise of a diet prosperity gospel marrige and sex life. Turns out it was actually a pile of rubbish that was built more on courting stories from grandpa’s day and the preaching of all Law and no Gospel. These books he wrote when he was barely out of his teens. He then went on to pastor a church. Now Harris has openly apostasied from the faith and is now divorced.
James MacDonald who had been pastoring in Chicago for over 30 years, who had made numerous appearances and contributions on the Gospel Coalition and had a powerful internet ministry (Some of his sermons were used by God to powerfully impact me) was ousted by his church. A long history of bullying, intimidation, financial indulgence and other heinous activity finally appeared out in the open only when a close friend and former church member could no longer take MacDonald’s deceitfulness, airing recorded footage of MacDonald stating that he wanted to plant child porn on a reporter’s computer. It then was further revealed that he had also allegedly attempted to hire a hitman to kill someone he was displeased with. He has now started up his own Church house network.
Apologia Church which rose to acclaim for it’s apologetics and anti-abortion ministries has been also given a blow when it was revealed that it’s Pastor Jeff Durbin secretly recorded a conversation between himself, two others and Tim Hurd. Hurd who had been jealous and envious had called to ask forgiveness for the envy in his heart and had stated that his criticism of Durbin had been fuelled mainly by this. Then recently Hurd started to give his opinion of Durbin’s preaching and apologetic method (Something that is not uncommon for people in Durbin’s case). Durbin then started to share the call to people around him and with people who kew Hurd. Durbin then uploaded the previously mentioned phone call anonymously online to try and silence Hurd. The fallout then lead to a prolonged justification by Durbin in a ‘special’ Apologia episode. The whole thing was boggling and seemed that Durbin was more interested in silencing criticism than anything else. The fact that he would share the call of a man confessing and seeking forgiveness, then point to a few youtube videos as evidence that this man had not repented was jarring. It seems that this may just be the tip of the ugly iceberg
Now Timmis has shown to have been bullying, manipulating, isolating, abusing, isolating and intimidating. Leaving a long list of believers bruised, battered, blacklisted, slandered and wounded because of his ego, arrogance and pridefulness.
For many Christians these things are uncomfortable and the gut response can be to hush these things up. In doing so they think they are doing God a favour (As if our Lord needed us as a PR team) but instead, they are causing the name of the Lord to be blasphemed. Timmis has hurt children of God, burdened them with burdens that the Gospel has freed them from and acting like a tyrant, rather than a loving shepherd.
I honestly can shed no tears for him. I find in these circumstances that the celeb pastor has no end of comforters publicly supporting and endorsing them, however the nameless, small and often poor victims who have not the luxury of a recognisable name have very few comforters. I am overjoyed that Timmis has been outed and hope he can hurt less and less people and those who he has hurt can find healing and fellowship with our Lord.
For the last few years I have come to realise how much of my faith I put in other people. I put faith in people who were doing ‘great’ things and in doing so I took my eyes off Christ. I pray to God that in the next 100 years the celebrity pastor will be a thing of history. Let Timmis be the last idol that needs cast down so we can see how stupid the time we give to ‘famous’ Christians. I hope that he will repent.
I have taken time to just look at my Bible, my prayer books and lots of Martin Luther. I have really enjoyed learning about the Gospel again. Free of agendas, ego, book sales and brands. God has used him to remind me that each day I need His Law and each day I need His Gospel. For the first time since I can remember I feel like I have been born again, again. Instead of focusing on my works, I am focusing on what Christ has done, who He is and all the good things that He has promised me. That He loves me and that no one who puts their trust in Him will ever be disappointed.
Lord Jesus Christ
Son of God
Have mercy on me