Responding to Criticisms
John Hopler, Great Commission Churches Director
A man warned the 18th century evangelist George Whitefield that some people were criticizing him. Whitefield replied, “I thank you sir, for watching over my soul. As for what they say, I know worse things of myself than what they say concerning me."
We in GCC aspire to have the same humility and faith exhibited by George Whitefield. We hope to be humble, recognizing and addressing our own sins and weaknesses before a holy and gracious God who forgives us and transforms us through His Son Jesus Christ. We also hope to have faith like Whitefield who was not alarmed by criticisms but continued to move forward, boldly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have experienced specific criticisms over the years, sometimes because we were actively sharing our faith and other times because of our flaws.
The Great Commission church movement began on college campuses in 1970 as a grassroots movement of young enthusiastic Christians who were devoted to telling others the message of God's love in Jesus Christ. During the 1970s and 1980s, some secular newspapers wrote articles accusing churches in our movement of being a cult. We understood then (as we understand today) that some people are quick to use the word “cult” in describing Christians who are serious in their devotion to Christ and who are actively sharing their faith. In addition, because we were a new movement that was not well known, unfair and exaggerated statements were published that were based on ignorance or false reports. Now and then some of these mischaracterizations of GCC from the 1970s appear on secular blogs and websites today.
At the same time, in the early years there were some valid criticisms. Our immaturity and isolation during the 1970s and 1980s contributed to some errors and imbalances (whether universally or in specific churches). The strongest criticisms were aimed at Jim McCotter, a pastor who was the primary leader nationally during the early years but who left Great Commission in 1986.
Since the 1980s, God has led pastors in Great Commission Churches to make significant changes. In 1991, we conducted Project Care, a movement-wide effort to reconcile with any who had a grievance with us. This included the writing of the 1991 Errors and Weaknesses Paper in which GCC pastors acknowledged errors and imbalances from the past. Since then, we have set a higher standard in servant leadership, personal and organizational accountability, responding to criticisms with humility and empathy, and unity with the body of Christ. Today we are confident that the general issues from our early years have been addressed and corrected. GCC is now a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
All of these changes occurred while we continued to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, build churches, minister to the poor, strengthen families, and start new churches in the United States and overseas. Like George Whitefield, we made a decision to not allow our past flaws or unfair criticisms to hinder us from advancing the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ.
At the same time, because we are flawed people ministering to flawed people, relational conflicts and misunderstandings still arise. When conflicts occur, most Christians we know pursue a respectful reconciliation process privately. Others, however, make anonymous posts on blogs. We believe God will be most honored as individuals with concerns pursue a private appeal process. Click here for a Christian Perspective on Internet Criticisms, written by GCC and offered as a resource by the National Association of Evangelicals. Also, click here to read GCC's appeal for reconciliation to those who make anonymous posts on the internet.
Therefore, if you have questions or concerns related to a GCC church or GCC, please contact the church board or the GCC office (firstname.lastname@example.org). We promise to listen to you with sympathy and to make a good faith effort to resolve your concerns.
In addition we ask for your prayers as we seek to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the United States and the world. Our heart in Great Commission Churches is that God will be honored through our lives, our relationships, and our ministries in order that the message of God's love in Jesus Christ might spread to the ends of the earth.
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