“When he encountered really successful churches, his devotion to the business became a definite longing to return to preaching: he ached to step up, push the minister out of his pulpit, and take charge, instead of sitting back there unnoticed and unadmired, as though he were an ordinary layman.
“These chumps would be astonished if they knew what I am!” he reflected.
After such an experience it was vexatious on Monday morning to talk with a droning implement-dealer about discounts on manure-spreaders; it was sickening to wait for train-time in a cuspidor-filled hotel lobby when he might have been in a church office superior with books, giving orders to pretty secretaries and being expansive and helpful to consulting sinners.”
“Elmer Gantry,” by Sinclair Lewis
“Pride also undermines unity and can ultimately divide a church. Show me a church where there is division, where there is quarreling, and I’ll show you a church where there is pride.”
“Humility: True Greatness” by C.J. Mahaney, page 34
No, you’re not seeing double! The more observant among you will have noticed that there has been a change in the most recent edition of C.J. Mahaney’s autobiography – Joshua Harris has been unceremoniously dumped, his foreword replaced by an equally flattering version penned by Mahaney’s Captain, Mark Dever.
Harris, a man intimately acquainted with the fragile psyche of Mahaney, had to know this was coming. Likely the only surprise was that it took so long to be purged from Mahaney’s “Humility: True Greatness” book. I would guess that Harris is actually relieved to have his foreword removed because what he wrote was pure flattery and lies, and that must weigh heavy on his conscience.
The average reader wouldn’t have known this until a few years ago; but as the unseemly tale of Mahaney’s corrupt ways came to light, we have all had the opportunity to understand what Mahaney’s colleagues knew for years, which is, far from being a role model for humility, Mahaney is actually a prideful, vindictive, insecure charlatan that drove dozens and dozens of leaders out of the Sovereign Grace denomination, and ultimately 100 pastors, 300 plus small group leaders, 40 churches including his home church (Covenant Life Church) and approx. 12,00 members from the Sovereign Grace Churches denomination. Giving declined by 67% or 3.3 million per year. The budget dropped from 6.6 million to 2.8 million. All because the man held up by Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan and Mark Dever as the premier role model of humility is actually a real life model of the fictitious Elmer Gantry. More on this later, but first I want you to read the foreword Joshua Harris wrote.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But as the saying goes “you don’t want to see sausage made because you will never again eat it,” what went on behind the scenes of Sovereign Grace will turn your stomach and crush the neatly manicured tale of C.J. Mahaney being a beacon of humility.
Readers would have done themselves a service if, after they read Mahaney’s opening lines in the Introduction they would have chucked the book in the bin and moved along to something more helpful; may I suggest “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Suess or “Crazy Busy” by Kevin DeYoung?
“I could entertain you for hours relating the comments and facial expressions of those who discovered I was authoring a work with this title. [Editors note: Actually Mahaney didn’t author it, but that’s a story for another day.]
I understand their reaction. If I met someone presuming to have something to say about humility, automatically I’d think him unqualified to speak on the subject.”
And you would be correct.
So let’s take a look at the Sovereign Grace Sausage Factory, shall we?
Here’s what important to note. In August 2004, he confessed his pride was “pronounced and pervasive.” In December 2010, he confessed his pride was “pronounced and persistent.” It was persistent because it continued unabated. It continued unabated because he “did not even begin to perceive” it until November 2010. Taken together, his arrogance in relation to others was pronounced, pervasive and persistent. That was true and that is what he confessed.
Furthermore, C.J.’s pride remained intact over the next 8 months – that is, from November 2010 when he began to perceive it until July 2011 when he fled Covenant Life Church never to return. In the end, all his confessions proved to be worthless. That’s because the “process of discerning and weakening pride in [his] life” abruptly ended when C.J. shut down the process soon after our meeting with him ten days later on August 20, 2004. He claimed, he was “so deeply grieved” by his sins against us. In reality, he was so deeply offended at us for confronting him and holding him accountable.
“And finally thanks to Josh [Harris], Kenneth [Maresco] and Bob [Kauflin]. Your example of humility is the most compelling I have observed up close and personal. You men are exemplary in the way you consistently and precisely confess your sin, aggressively pursue correction, welcome correction and respond to correction. I should have followed your example but to my shame I have only admired your example. How kind of the Lord to providentially place me with you men (and now Grant [Layman] and Pat [Ennis]). In whatever remaining years I have left to serve I hope to resemble your example to some small degree. I have no excuse if I do not.”
-C.J. Mahaney email, August 10, 2004
“The pastors asked hard questions. In a loving and I think gracious way they pressed CJ on the important issues. … It was not always comfortable. He was sobered by the serious questions these issues raise about his integrity as well as the integrity of the SGM board. We talked about categories of hypocrisy and deception and coercion. We were encouraged by the way CJ was deepening in conviction and processing his sin while acknowledging a need for deeper conviction—one example of how he humbled himself was how he owned the issue with Larry. He was clear that what he did was wrong, sinful and a threat. … I told CJ and Dave and Jeff that I have played a part in failing to challenge CJ. If I had been more courageous 7 years ago he might not be at this same place. I feel that I have failed many people. And so I feel a great weight of regret and I know the Lord is disciplining me in this process too.”
-Joshua Harris email, July 1, 2011
“Two weeks later on July 10, 2011 C.J. attended Covenant Life Church for the last time. A month later on August 12, he announced on the SGM website that he was leaving CLC for Capitol Hill Baptist Church to be with Mark Dever without ever talking to the CLC pastors. It was a complete shock to them. When they found out they asked him to stay. He was unwilling.
July 8-12, 2011 – During this timeframe, Joshua Harris resigns from the Board because he is unwilling to declare C.J. fit for ministry.
C.J. was “slow and dull and blind.” Even worse he was terribly angry and offended. His pronounced, pervasive and persistent pride was on full display before thousands of people. A decade of correction had produced no fruit. As C.J. says above, “Pathetic really.” And there was no doubt, his pride and self-righteousness were the root cause.
I repeatedly illustrated in just fashion C.J.’s lack of integrity, deceit, hypocrisy, concealment of sin, covering-up of wrong doing, damage control, spin, manipulation, partiality, favoritism, abusive use of authority, lording over others, unwillingness to confess to SGM or its pastors, refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing by other SGM leaders like him, and refusal to acknowledge the effect of sinful judgments passed on by him to other leaders who mistreated people as a result.
There is no question C.J. covered up child sexual abuse despite his audacious denial. By that I mean, he and his staff intentionally did not report known or suspected child abuse to law enforcement. That was their policy as stated by Robin Boisvert, Corby Megorden, and Joshua Harris. It was all handled internally and covered up. People in harm’s way were not warned. As a result, abusers like convicted felon Nathaniel Morales went on to abuse and destroy many lives. C.J. should be in jail.”
Below is an excerpt of a Mahaney sermon at Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church, March 30, 2003. On display is the typical Mahaney ploy of flattery and cash donations to obtain the friendship of a celebrity.
Now please read Mark Dever’s foreword to “Humility: True Greatness.”
“C.J. MAHANEY IS NOT HUMBLE. At least, that’s what he’ll tell you. And that’s one reason he’s so well qualified to write this book.”
That’s what I wrote about this book ten years ago, and I feel that eve more strongly now. However, this foreword isn’t so much about C.J. as it is about humility.
Humility is what you want with you when times are dark and friends are few. Humility can take personal tragedies and find quiet reason to rejoice in God’s reliable goodness. Humility can help us to see more of the truth about ourselves. Humility has power to grant us the ability to carry heavier weights and run longer distances than we ever could without it.
And it’s precisely because humility is so important that you’ve made a wise choice to spend some time with this little book. Though this volume is short, its effect in your life can be long, and deep. As I read the Gospels, few things seem to separate me from Jesus more sharply than His utter humility and my repeated lack of it. That difference pains me. And I want to work on that. This book has helped me and continues to do so.
In the pastoral internship at our church, we ask each intern to begin by reading this book and then writing a five-page paper on themselves, using the lenses that C.J. has provided here. These papers are always good exercises for them, and they always lead to good initial discussions among the interns. It’s hard to imagine a more important way to begin an internship designed to equip men to serve the Savior who laid down his life for us.
I think this book could help you, too, reader. I pray that it will.
pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
It is telling that the first book Mark Dever has his new interns read is “Humilty: True Greatness.” It is actually shameful. Mark Dever has had an opportunity to read all the inside information published by those who spent years with C.J. Mahaney and actually know what type of an individual he is. Whether he has availed himself of that information is not known. What we do know is that Dever has repeatedly been the recipient of unabashed flattery by C.J. Mahaney, and at least ten thousand dollars of money tithed by Sovereign Grace members, perhaps much more. Flattery and cash have a tendency to influence a recipient to speak highly of the source, maybe even to offer a bit of flattery in return, which is what Dever’s foreword is.
Do you think Dever informs his young interns that the first book he assigns them to read on humility was authored by a man who was so proud that he chose to drive two-fifths of the churches in his denomination to depart the denomination rather than admit his sin? That he knowingly covered-up sexual abuse of children in his denomination, and then penned a false statement denying that he did any such thing? That he blackmailed the co-founder of the denominaton? That he set up a hush fund to keep a pastor quiet about the fact that his son was raped by another Sovereign Grace pastor’s son?
Do you think Dever informs his young interns that he allowed C.J. Mahaney to flee to his church to escape discipline at his home church? This in direct conflict with what 9Marks continually preaches on church discipline.
I doubt it. Dever wouldn’t want his interns to realize what a hypocrite he is, nor would he want to reveal that he either lacks discernment or has been corrupted by money and flattery, or both.
This from Brent Detwiler:
“C.J. was in community with Covenant Life Church. That was his home church since it began in 1978. After his meager confession before the church on July 10, 2011 concerning sins against me, Dave Harvey and Larry Tomczak; he abruptly and angrily fled CLC never to return. He never talked to any of the pastors-elders-overseers in the church about his underhanded plans to leave. No, he planned it and executed it behind their backs. It included fleeing to Mark Dever’s church where he preached and was treated like royalty.
Dever allowed this to happen contrary to everything he has taught about the rule of elders and commitment in the local church. It was also contrary to everything C.J. has taught. People throughout SGM were stunned by his brazen hypocrisy. The CLC pastors wanted C.J. to stay. They knew his bitter departure would do great harm. It did. C.J. remains unreconciled to thousands of people who were members of CLC. After his vague and non-specific confession to CLC on July 10, 2011, Joshua Harris asked C.J. to return at the request of members so members could ask him questions regarding the charges in The Documents, etc. He refused. C.J. has never asked forgiveness of CLC for any of sins he committed against them.
Moreover, the responsible men were me, Joshua Harris, Kenneth Maresco, Robin Boisvert, Grant Layman, Ken Sande and David Powlison. Not Mark Dever. C.J. rejected our input and then cut us off as friends. We were the men speaking truth into his life.”
Finally, below is an excerpt of an email written by Bo Lotinksy to Brent Detwiler in 2012. Lotinksy was Executive Director (i.e., chief operating officer) of SGM for 14 years. He worked closely with C.J.Mahaney and knew him extremely well.
I have come to believe that CJ genuinely doesn’t really care about people. I know he would take great offense with this but I don’t believe he has a shepherd’s heart. I don’t know if he ever did. He and Larry [Tomczak] are very much alike in this regard. I remember when I shared with Larry my musings about going back to Indiana to get back into pastoring. Nancy and I recall what he said because it surprised us. He said, “Why do you want to get back to changing people’s diapers?”
I always felt that he and CJ were two birds of the same feather in that regard. They were quick to hire Gary [Ricucci] then Robin [Boisvert] to handle the messy work of pastoring. Have you ever known CJ to pastor the lowly flock? He pastored the church vicariously through his pastoral team. Other than pastoring pastors and notables like John Piper and Mark Driscoll has he really spent much time pastoring? You would know better than I but I never saw it.
I can go as far as recognizing other leadership gifts in his life. God has clearly gifted him with that rare charisma that few leaders have. He’s a gatherer of men. He can teach, though, like Larry, his skill in that area is waning and is becoming more narrow in scope. He is a strong leader though has glaring weaknesses that he doesn’t seem to see and the enablers around him are either too afraid to point this out or are too blinded by an unhealthy loyalty to clearly see this.
His deep loyalty and love is reserved for his family. Beyond that his relationships are expendable. He would vehemently deny this. I know he doesn’t believe this but look at the wake of broken relationships in his life. Take Steve Shank for example. Who has been more loyal than Steve even to the point where Steve willingly did CJ’s dirty deed with threatening [i.e., blackmailing] Larry and Doris? And what is the status of that relationship? Steve has been marginalized. Why? Steve faithfully follows CJ’s direction when overseeing the west and when it ends up in shambles and the Tomczak thing blows up who is the one who suffers the consequences? Poor Steve. I wish I could get Steve to be honest about how he’s viewing all this now. I’m guessing he’s suffering in secret like many of us had to.
CJ, if he is suffering, he is suffering because he has a twisted understanding of loyalty and a lack of understanding on what genuine Christian love is. Because of this he is unable to accurately understand why people have been “disloyal.” If CJ knew what love really was and how it operates in the life of a believer, I don’t believe most of these relationships would be broken. We didn’t desert him, he deserted us. When we tried to biblically love him, he recoiled, marginalizing us and eventually viewed our love as disloyalty and concluded that we were untrustworthy and even viewed as a potential enemy.
I too feel sorry for my friend but not for the same reasons.
The audio below is Carl Trueman chastising the Christian celebrities at the 2012 T4G conference. All the celebrities on the panel applauded Trueman and outwardly agreed with his expressed sentiments, but apparently they were seething in their hearts. Trueman was never invited back and the same 12 celebrities are still the ones speaking at the high dollar conferences. (Inquiring minds would like to know the total renumeration each speaker at the last Together 4 the Gospel Conference received. Why is this information not readily available to the public?)
I hate to bang the same old drum that I always bang at this point, but lay people need to realize there is big money involved, and some of the high profile cases of guys who survive long after they should not have survived because they are no longer of good reputation, some of those cases connect to money. It’s as simple as that.
Every time I say that I get emails from people saying “Well, give me an example.”
Well, it’s hard, but just open your eyes, just open your eyes and look at the level at which some of these guys are living at. We’re not talking of huge millions and millions of dollars, but we’re talking of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In our world we are talking of significant sums of money that are attached to particular names that have become brands.
I assume that I will be totally ignored on this. I would remind listeners that pretty much everything I have said about the celebrity culture and evangelicalism, and pretty much everybody I have called out in the last decade, I’ve been proved to be right; even though you’ve all ignored me. That’s fine.
The whole big money “uber-conference” circuit depends upon big names and the pressure on the one hand to write blog posts about child abuse, and then to tweet stuff protecting people who have been pulled into those kind of scandals. That’s huge; it’s huge because it plays to the gallery on the one hand-that you look cared for and concerned; but when it comes down to what we call “brass tacks,” you’re really not doing the evangelical movement any favors at all.
I think the problem in a lot of evangelicalism now is the money has gotten so big from a lot of these peripheral organizations that they’ve become laws unto themselves, and the blowback on the child abuse thing is that names become too big. They do become indispensable to the economy of evangelicalism and that’s a problem, that’s a real problem.
That points to the optics of a lot of this as well. I’m tired of reading statements coming out from churches and organizations where there has been child abuse, where you get two or three lines of throat-clearing at the start, [stating that]
“We’re very sad that X, Y, and Z’s lives were totally ruined by sexual abuse that we should have taken steps to deal with,” and then you get thirty-six pages of how the devil is using this to destroy some good ministry or some good man’s ministry. The optics on this are absolutely abominable.
This has done incalculable damage to ordinary Christians, not only those who have been abused but those who quite frankly get sick of the cover-ups and sick of the self-serving rhetoric at the top. I can understand why people drift away from the Reformed faith on this score and that’s why I think the leaders need to take more responsibility, we’re not trying to score cheap points here, we’re trying to make the point that our faith is being damaged by the need to preserve certain organizations and certain ministries. That’s a problem!
Carl Trueman, Mortification of Spin, April 19, 2016