Problem Issues At Solid Rock, Amsterdam
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Problem Issues At Solid Rock, Amsterdam
Note: In January, 2001, the pastors mentioned in this item moved back to the USA, where they have joined another ministry. There is no evidence of any change in their theology and/or approach, nor of change in the small church they left behind. To my knowledge, there has been no accountability regarding the issues discussed here.
Upon my return to Holland from America in 1996, I briefly joined a church called "Solid Rock." I met some wonderful people, there, and experienced a measure of healing over some hurtful events in my life. However, at one point I was asked to leave Solid Rock (Amsterdam, Netherlands) because I asked questions about teachings, practices and ethical issues within the church. Earlier, an Assistant Pastor and his wife - outstanding, spiritual people who love Jesus and are examples to all - were also told to leave for the same reasons. Ever since, a number of people have contacted me for advice regarding their involvement and/or problems with Solid Rock. The "core group" continues to be small (currently said to be between 40 and 60 people). In the past, the pastors blamed the exodus on the devil, and they continue to blame those who dare to speak out on the various troublesome practices, teachings and ethical issues. It should be noted that while I have counseled and advised people regarding their involvement with this church, I have never told anyone to leave. I still believe it is important for people to bloom where they're planted. On the other hand, God has given specific guidelines in His Word, and we would do well to use them (and our minds) in deciding whether or not we should stay in an abusive church. In one ousting, the pastor misused the following verses as partial justification for his actions:
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
Titus 3:11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
In fact, in churches throughout Amsterdam, one can find Christians who were either asked to leave Solid Rock or who left on their own accord. This includes high-profile leaders who have left over theological and ethical issues (such as their unwillingness to be used to manipulate and control the people in their home group). As I continue to receive inquiries regarding Solid Rock, from people still part of the church, from those who have visited the church (many of whom even after one service speak of the manipulation and control they have witnessed), and from people planning to visit Amsterdam and looking for a place to worship, I feel it is important to provide the information on this page. In case anyone wonders: The Matthew 18 approach was followed by myself and many others who have either left or were sent away. It is now time to warn those who might otherwise feel Solid Rock would be a good place to fellowship. Following is a letter I sent to Solid Rock's pastors upon my own ouster from the church. Though it addresses several issues and concerns, the letter merely scratches the surface. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I do not intend to add to this page. If you suspect you are in an abusive church situation yourself, please check the resources at this page. Initially, I had hoped that sharing this information would not be necessary. I trust that you will receive and use this information in the spirit in which it was shared. It is my hope that the Pastors involved will eventually enter into accountability relationships with other local pastors and spiritual leaders (though I must say that I do not believe they should be in a pastoral position at all). And it is my prayer that those who still attend Solid Rock will look to Jesus, test everything ( ), and accept the counsel of spiritual leaders and former members outside of Solid Rock. P.S. From time to time I hear from people what kind of gossip has circulated at Solid Rock about me and others who are no longer part of that church. If you have questions regarding anything you may have heard, you are welcome to contact me. Anton Hein, June 2, 1997. [The above updated, July, 2000]
Thursday, February 12, 1997 Dear Dick and Suyapa, I received, through Michiel, your warning not to come to Sunday service or attend Cell Group until after I have met with you. While I question the wisdom and legality of such a request (including Michiel's strongly implied threat of removal at the hands of the police should I show up at church anyway), I do want to meet with you. I will be expecting your call with a suggested date and time. Because of the circumstances and importance of this meeting, I wish for it to be held on neutral ground - not in the Solid Rock office. Also, I would like to bring someone to witness our meeting. Based on my brief conversation with Suyapa after last Sunday's service, and after receiving counsel of others, I had already intended to write you this letter, which can serve as a framework or a jumpingboard for our discussion.
Cell Church Discussion List MessageI am aware of the fact that [***] alerted [***] to the message I placed on the Cell Church Discussion List. While I believe you have read the message, I will include its full text here. You will notice that I did not identify Solid Rock or any individuals by name. The subject matter is entirely appropriate for the Cell Church Discussion List, and I have already received much insightful, valuable advice. Full text of my message:
Reply-To: email@example.com Originator: firstname.lastname@example.org Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Anton Hein) To: Multiple recipients of listThese are serious issues. I believe that you are not unaware of them, as a number of people have addressed these issues in meetings with you. Many people have left the church over them, some have been asked to leave, while others are on the verge of leaving.
Motivatation and IntentionsI believe you love the Lord, love the church, and have a specific vision and calling from the Lord. However, I also believe that the Scripture I gave you way at the beginning of our acquaintance, Zechariah 4:6b, is of special importance to you. I understand this Scripture has been given to you by others as well: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. As we got to know each other, I have openly, honestly and voluntarily shared my background with you. Subsequently, over the past six months I have freely submitted to you, have served you with my talents, time and energy, and have enthusiastically participated in Solid Rock activities and events. A change came with my decision to drop out of the Foundation Values Class. I believe I did so in obedience to God. When I discussed the Foundation Values Class with Suyapa, I was told that the class is a prerequisite for anyone who wishes to have a position of leadership within Solid Rock. That was all the more reason for me to drop the class. After all, there are a number of practices and teachings at Solid Rock that I can not stand behind. In talking about this with Michiel I mentioned an arbitrary percentage: there's 20% I can not support, while there is 80% I feel comfortable with. As I can not stand behind Solid Rock's vision, values, teachings and practices for the full 100% (which Michiel said was expected of me), I could not possibly attain any leadership position within Solid Rock. In praying about dropping the class - and how that might fit in with both my concerns and my agreement to submit to Dick - the Lord told me not to think of myself as a slave, but rather as a bondservant. The difference is that the former can not question what he is told to do, while the latter is a voluntary servant who can make decisions based on - among other things - his conscience. In recent months I have struggled with the question of how to find a balance between submitting to you - as you requested - and listening to the Holy Spirit working in my conscience. I did not want to be seen as "rebellious," or "unable to follow leadership directions." At the same time, I became increasingly aware that something was not quite right. It is best to discuss these things in person, as I wish for you to see my heart in this, rather than try and communicate feelings and emotions on paper. My motivation is obedience to God, love and concern for you, and love and and concern for the church. I bear you no ill will and harbor no bitterness. It is not my intention to in any way contribute to Solid Rock's decline or demise. It is my intention to be honest and straightforward when people ask questions that directly pertain to the issues others are concerned about as well. Isolation under a "don't gossip" guise hurts rather than helps people.
IssuesOver the past six months, a number of people have contacted me regarding real or perceived "problems" at Solid Rock. I have encouraged many to stay. I have not encouraged any to leave. After all, if you leave a church over one or two issues, you are likely to leave the next one too. Better to stay and to ask the Lord to use you where He has planted you. However, many people, both past and present members, as well as recent visitors, have expressed additional concerns - concerns that over time became clear to me as well. Topping the list are several issues that keep recurring in almost everyone's testimony:
GossipFrankly, it was incorrect to label what is going on within the church as "gossip." Rather,since people have addressed these issues with you in private without there being a satisfactory response, I believe we have entered a Matthew 18-type situation.
Mat 18:15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. Mat 18:16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' Mat 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."
This has nothing to do with gossip, and everything to do with mutual accountability before the Lord. The difference is important because of the many young, immature Christians at Solid Rock. I have seen people hurt before under similar circumstances. And while I do not have an official position of leadership within the church, I do know that warning people about possible unbiblical teachings and practices is an act of love rather than of division. Incidentally, I certainly did not appreciate the fact that Paul & Elaine's letter was spin- doctored in such as way that it appeared as if the only reason they left was that the Lord has called them back to England. And were Paul and Elaine really prayed with and blessed on their way out? Would you allow Paul and Elaine an opportunity to honestly share with the church, and to be prayed with and blessed by the church? Dick and Suyapa, I too have the Holy Spirit, and it grieves me to see this kind of thing happen in church. Speaking half-truths in an attempt to clear up any perceived or real confusion is not something the Lord can honor. In fact, speaking a half-truth breeds confusion, and is itself a form of gossip. Let me explain my use of the phrase "I too have the Holy Spirt" (see Paul's use in 1 Corinthians 7:40). While I have freely submitted to you, I believe that on many occassions your counsel to me was inspired on your own insights rather than on directions given by the Spirit of God. I base this on my own impressions from the Lord (which I submitted to mature Christians who know me, as I did not want to be subject to what is known as "convenient revelation.") Further, I felt a check in my spirit every time you told me you are "prophetic" or are in any other way gifted. Prophecy is confirmation - not information. Likewise, you do not have to commend your giftings, as your giftings will become evident in their operation. This, however, was not the case in your ministry to me. Time and again I felt that your counsel to me was based on your impressions of my past, rather than the revealed word of God for the moment. The latter is especially interesting in light of the fact that you strongly suggested my own words of knowledge are/were based on my "educated reading of people" rather than on direct revelation. You told me this after you had watched a Rodney Howard-Browne video on the subject, and encouraged me to watch it as well. Dick, while I freely acknowledge that I have made mistakes in the past - be they wilfully or ignorantly - that does not mean that everything I learned, did, taught, or experienced is automatically null and void. Nevertheless, I feel that the times I brought you a word from the Lord, it was not taken seriously. As for gossip, I believe it is also prudent to point out I know that I have on more than one occassion been subjected to what Ken Blue, in his book "Healing Spiritual Abuse," calls "pastoral gossip." In addition to what has been said about me, you - Dick - have also talked to me about others. Specifically, you told me what certain people (and you named them) had thought, dreamed and said about me. There are other examples, but I do not need to list them. If we're going to apply Biblical principles, let's apply them soundly and across the board. For example, a copyright notice on a tape or CD is just as powerful and meaningful on booklets produced by Touch Ministries. Integrity demands that our public and our private actions both follow the same guidelines. On the issue of gossip, Ken Blue says
One of the most troubling abusive traits in the dysfunctional church or denominational family is the unwritten "no talk" rule. This rule implies that certain problems in the group must not be exposed because then the group might look bad and things would have to change. The"no talk" rule itself is among those things never talked about. Allowing such deception and suppression to exist within a fellowship not only fosters numerous abuses but is a flat denial of the meaning of Christian fellowship. If there are certain issues - such as leadership, decision-making or how money is spent - which you can not discuss with members of your church, you do not participate in Christian fellowship with them. What you share instead is a committement with what Schaef and Fasell call the "addictive organization": "Communication in the addictive organization is frequently indirect...People who feel they have conflict with one another refuse to state their conflicts openly to the person concerned. They are also unwilling to discuss these conflicts in public settings. Instead, they avoid the significant parties and carry tales to others." Gossip is one of the most destructive evils in the church today, and it is significantly encouraged by the "no talk" rule. If issues cannot be talked about in legitimate ways, they will be talked about in illegitimate ways. What actually happens is the inappropriate venting of frustration. Though gossip temporarily relieves tension and fosters the feeling of intimacy, ultimately it poisons."
At Solid Rock, the "no talk" rule takes on several forms:
Control and ManipulationMore from Ken Blue:
Healthy groups thrive on the free flow of information. Members have ready access to each other's opinions and concerns. Sick groups generally suffer from confused, defective or controlled communication. Arterburn and Felton explain, "Communication in a toxic faith system isn't a two-way interaction. Information is valid only if it comes from the top of the organization and is passed down to the bottom...Anything that doesn't fit into what they already believe to be true will probably go unheard." The inability to tolerate freedom of expression, honest questions and straight talk is a hallmark of an abusive system."
Again, serious stuff. In a system like that, people feel controlled and manipulated. This also happens when there is a lot of pressure to conform to certain expectations. Examples?
Scripture TeachingI also strongly encourage you to not stiffle people's attempts to get together for independent Bible Study and ministry. Independent means just that. While you are to oversee the flock, too much control is dangerous in that you make people entirely dependent on you, your doctrines, and your understanding. From the first day I attended Solid Rock, to the present, I hear people ask for solid Scripture teaching. Peter Helm strongly underlined this in his recent teaching here, and I believe that was a prophetic word for our church. It is important for people to know their Bibles, so they can test what is being taught, what is being preached, and what is being modelled. An occassional "Insight" class is no substitute for regular, solid Bible teaching. It is wrong to emphasize "heart knowledge" over "head knowledge." It is wrong to imply that experience is better than knowledge. Testing everything with Scripture does not equate with quenching the Spirit. While a strict trusting in knowledge only leads to Phariseeism, the bible teaches there is a balance between knowledge and experience:
Mat 22:37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'" Prov 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Solid Rock's emphasis on experience clearly has kept many people in Solid Rock immature in the Lord. While by now many should have already been teachers, they still need to be taught the elementary truths of God's word.
Heb 5:12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Heb 5:13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Heb 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, Heb 6:2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment
Problematic as well is the fact that even some of the Cell Leaders appear to have a very low view of Scripture. I recently was told by a Cell Leader that the way to test things is to see if they come true. When I showed, from the Bible, the need to test everything according to the Word, he insisted this was "head knowledge." I could give a long list of example, but If, as you are fond of quoting, "we value what we do and we do what we value," then the study of the Word does not appear to be a value within Solid Rock.
Overemphasis on ManifestationsI am not speaking out against manifestations. However, much of what passes for manifestations at Solid Rock is nothing more than human effort to fit in. It is an attempt to live up to expectations. It results in sad displays of immaturity that have far reaching effects. For example: On numerous occassions when I have come forward for prayer, I received "ministry" that was so utterly ineffective and counter-productive that I have stopped asking for ministry. However, when Peter Helms spoke recently, I obeyed the prompting of the Spirit and went forward to pray, expecting ministry. While up front, in an attitude of prayer and worship, a member of the ministry team laid hands on me - quite literally. It seemed at if his hands were everywhere at once: on my head, my ears, my arms, pushing(!) my stomach, my back, etcetera. This in itself was very uncomfortable and disturbing. One of the most basic rules of ministry is that there be as little touching as absolutely necessary. This person prayed in tongues, interspersed with bouts of forced laughter. From time to time he encouraged me to "just let it go." My stomach was again pushed, and subsequently blown upon. When nothing happened, I was blown (and sprayed) in my face. Then he gave me a word he said was from the Lord. It was less accurate than most long-range weather forecasts. When I told him the word was not for me, and that he was not in tune with what the Spirit was doing, he insisted that the Lord would reveal it to me if I only yield to it. Later, when Peter Helms prayed over me, I received the Word and ministry the Lord had for me. As a mature Christian who is well-versed in Scripture, and well-experienced in hands- on ministry, I can deal with this type of situation. However, young and immature Christians will wonder where they are missing the boat. While they come up front with a genuine desire to experience a touch from God, many will come away with the nagging feeling that something is not quite right with them. This is something that people find difficult to share with each other. Some may force themselves to experience certain manifestations, from laughing to falling, and from bending double to screaming, in an attempt to catch what others already seem to have. In turn, this leads people to question whether the manifestations experienced by others are genuine or self-induced.
Word/Faith Doctrines and PracticesIn my own paradigm shift with regard to the Toronto Movement, I have learned - yet again - that I still have to separate the wheat from the chaff. It appears that you yourself have had your own paradigm shift toward the Word/Faith movement. Like you, I believe we can learn some valuable lessons from that camp. However, there too, you need to separate the wheat from the chaff. And right now, much of what we get is recycled chaff that does not have a sound, Biblical basis. Some examples:
ConclusionIn this letter I have addressed a few of the most pressing issues. I think each of them is serious enough to deserve to be handled with much prayer and humility. I encourage you not to respond to this letter in haste or frustration. Remember, I still believe that Zechariah 4:6 holds the key to your ministry here in Amsterdam. I realize that the past four years have been a rocky road for the two of you. Your desire to make your vision come to pass is understandable. Still, you will need to trust Lord:
Psa 127:1 A song of ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psa 127:2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves.
I share these things with you out of the concern of my heart, in obedience to God, and with love for both of you. Yours in Jesus, Anton » Follow-up letter to Solid Rock
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