Planetshakers Insider

Musings on Life, the Christian Journey and being a part of Planetshakers City Church

Posts Tagged ‘acc

Planetshakers’ Beautiful Woman Woman?

with 58 comments

I don’t know what more to say about this…

Open Letter to ACC National Executive

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An articulate letter was forwarded to me today via email (planetshakersinsider [at] gmail dot com)

It was described as an open letter to the ACC National Executive [AOG Australia’s top leadership], and was attributed to young pentecostal worship leader Ben Manusama (of Manifest Youth) – If someone can find the original source, I’d appreciate it – I couldn’t find it myself.

It clearly articulates some key points that have also been raised about Planetshakers leadership on this blog, as well as the wider pentecostal leadership in Australia and worldwide elsewhere in the light of Mike Guglielmucci’s fall, as well as the fall of Todd Bentley.

To the members of the National Executive,

I’m writing to you in response to the events of the last week regarding the confession of Mike Guglielmucci. I write as a young person directly impacted by his actions and wish to present for discussion a number of issues it has raised within the community of young people in the ACC.

To begin with, my church was quite removed from Mike’s ministry – I had only met him for the first time when he spoke at our youth meeting a few weeks ago. I say this with the hope that you can see the objectivity of my observations as I had no emotional attachment to the man or his ministry.

As I’m sure you’re aware, everyone’s talking, everyone’s speculating, everyone’s processing and trying to come to terms with what has happened and what the consequences are.

I don’t presume to speak on behalf of anyone other than myself but after posting a respectful blog containing some of my initial observations, I’ve had quite an overwhelming response of people who have read it. Some enthusiastically agreeing, some confused, some still undecided. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you there are many profoundly affected young people and they’re not all directly connected to him or his ministry (as you might assume).

I have grown up in the Pentecostal movement with parents whose itinerant ministry saw me and my family visiting churches all over the nation. I’ve been able to observe the changes of culture within our own movement and our observations have always been grounded in our family’s core values and passion for the Body of Christ.

This now is my assessment of these recent events.

What Mike has done is catastrophic not only in the geographical reach of the scandal but also because it has struck at the foundation of much of the methodology of our movement.

The questions being asked are not only about how a man ‘falls from grace’ but people are asking what this says about ministry, the Holy Spirit, human character and the capacity for a regenerated man to commit such wickedness.

The actions and official statements made thus far by the ACC and the Guglielmucci family seem to be dealing with some of these issues although that will need to be an ongoing process (certainly in a church-by-church fashion).

My concern is that the conversation will only go so far – that the issues surrounding ‘the man’ (which must certainly be addressed) will be resolved but that there will be no engagement with the broader problem.

Is it too simplistic to view this as just another case of a man ‘falling from grace’? I think to leave it at that is not only simplistic but negligent.

A person like Mike Guglielmucci is not born but created.

I say this not to negate Mike’s responsibility or guilt for his actions but to draw our attention to how the culture of the contemporary Pentecostal church has allowed and accommodated for somebody like Mike to thrive.

WHAT IS THIS CULTURE?

One of the strengths of Pentecostalism has always been its ability to become culturally relevant to all peoples – and particularly young people. This is seen in our ever evolving forms of communication, media, music and the content and delivery of our message. These things are important when they are the natural side effect of being creative human beings in a changing world, however when they become the mechanism by which we build the church there are dangerous consequences.

What began as a move to bring the church out of the dark ages and into the realm of popular culture has had devastating side effects: Praise and worship has become a music industry (complete with it’s very own rock stars), preaching has become motivational speaking (with little expectation to know or engage with the text) and ministry has become a desirable and lucrative career choice.

Against this background, the value system of church seems to have changed.

I came across an article by an American minister named Dutch Sheets. I am unfamiliar with his ministry but his response to the events surrounding Todd Bentley seem all too appropriate to our situation.

The following is a quote from him:

“We, the leaders of the charismatic church, have built on hype, sensation, innovation, programs, personality and charisma. This has produced: shallowness; false movements; novice leaders— gifted but immature and untested; a deficient understanding of God’s word; the building of man-centered rather than kingdom- centered churches and ministries; competition rather than cooperation; humanistic, self-centered Christians who don’t understand sacrifice and commitment; Christians without discernment; superstar leaders; a perverted and powerless gospel; prayerless and anemic Christians; a replacement of the fear of the Lord with the fear of man; and a young generation that is cynical of it all.”

As a young person in our movement I honestly believe that this almost summarizes the state of our predicament.

I look around and see so many insecure church leaders who are too eager to jump on trends and exploit new talent and ideas as a way to keep up with the Joneses/Houstons.

It is within this environment that a talented, charismatic, gifted, articulate, charming, yet-untested, son of a well respected preacher managed to not only slip through the process of accountability but then exploited the system to get to the top.

Our movement that seems to have become so obsessed with a man’s talent, gifting and ability to draw a crowd was the perfect environment for such a man to exploit. No matter what Mike’s motivations, regardless of the driving force behind his actions (whether he was psychologically sound or not), he has demonstrated that there is a ladder to be climbed and it can be done apparently with no help from the Holy Spirit.

Worse still, not only did he make a complete mockery of Pentecostal rhetoric but he was ultimately endorsed by the leaders of our denomination – which is you guys.

Even at the end there were churches (including my own) who were unsure about his ministry but finally accepted based on the endorsement from the national executive.

QUESTIONS.

In closing there are some burning questions and challenges I would like to put forward.

1) For a denomination that is supposed to be led by the Holy Spirit instantly one asks where was the discernment of our leaders? Is it too much to expect that our spiritual fathers and shepherds will be led by the Spirit to protect their flock? Granted everyone’s saying that he hid this from his own wife and family but surely God would try to forewarn and thus prevent such a catastrophic deception that has ruined so many lives.

2) What system of accountability allows such a man to get so far? Amidst the excitement over his ministry and his ability to draw a crowd – was there anybody in his life to challenge his behaviour? And if so, if someone actually knew even in part about his struggles, why were measures not taken to limit his reach of influence until those struggles were resolved? Surely some of the reports coming out about his methods as youth pastor at Planetshakers City Church should have raised a red flag. Was everyone too quick to celebrate his role in growing the church, and too hesitant to question or check a rising star?

3) Who takes responsibility? In the official statements released so far – no one has taken ownership. Words like ‘illness’ and ‘professional help’ deflect attention from the real underlying cultural problems and the role played by leadership in allowing this to happen. What’s to prevent another Mike Guglielmucci from happening?
It just seems like it would be too easy for somebody else to come through and exploit it all over again.

I don’t think it’s enough for our leaders to say they don’t condone what has been done – this whilst separating themselves from ‘the man’ does not acknowledge their role in the greater problem. Nor is it enough for them to say they had no idea what was going on – that they didn’t know. It was your job to know (surely even just on a practical level regardless of your theology).

Just as a father is responsible for what happens to his kids, aren’t you in some way responsible for what happens to our generation?

The statement from Dutch Sheets in regard to the Lakeland scandal is, I feel, an inspiring example of leadership being transparent and taking responsibility (www.dutchsheets.org).

My concern is that the next few weeks will be about damage control and no discussion or admission of the greater underlying issues.

We don’t expect for you guys to be perfect but we expect honesty and openness. Perhaps if our leaders were willing to be transparent about their weaknesses, we would be less inclined to hide ours.

4) What are you going to do to change it?

__________
There’s a multitude of young people looking to you now. We’re hurt, confused, bleeding and angry.

You’ve spoken to us at meetings, conferences, youth alive retreats and through DVDs. Speak now.

You’re always so quick to let us know you’re leading us.

So lead.

I agree wholeheartedly with Ben Manusama’s sentiments.

While I’ve said previously that I believe Manifest had their heart in the right place, I would encourage Ben Manusama and others at Manifest to also reflect on their actions placing Mike Guglielmucci on stage when they did. Perhaps they were complicit of some of the same failings?

However, I also believe that the questions Ben Manusama asks are apt, and deserve to be answered – by the AOG National Executive, Planetshakers, Hillsong and even Manifest:

1) What happened to the discernment of leaders?
2) How did the lie slip through any accountability, and get so far?
3) Who will stand up and take responsibility?
4) What will happen to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

All reasonable and fair-minded questions.

Mike Guglielmucci – Hillsong’s Brian Houston Comments

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Real-Life Expectations of God and the Numbers Mentality

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“Mike” had an interesting comment on the need to “Feel” a distant God for ourselves, how this creates the wrong expectations, and how we place individual celebrities (who in fact are sinners, like all of us) in a place of reverence reserved God:

My heart does go out to the number of young Christians that have or will have been affected by this. But this only shows how there are a number of people out there who base their faith not PRIMARILY on God’s Word but to the ‘celebrities’ of Christian worship.

Unfortunately, that is the problem today where the people seek instant gratification in all walks of life. So when there is a massive concert, people flock to, get saved and then go back to their normal lives. And the fact that human nature to “see and feel” God that they put idols in their lives.

No doubt that Mike G. will be accountable for his actions to God for what he has done and what he has failed to do.

And to those Christians that were deeply affected by this: you need to ask the question – Who do I really believe in – Jesus Christ or the person on the platform?

NV: Youth groups have fun events to get the numbers going. Then numbers fall off when you start getting serious with God and the Word. And then this is viewed as a failure. I think this is a wrong perception prevalent in many churches today – numbers is a measurement of success and growth. God never gave a minimum quota but rather He just said to “GO and make disciples of all nations”

We as a church need to get rid of this “NUMBERS” mentality and focus more on the needs of the individual rather than our own church image.

Written by Planetshakers Insider

August 27, 2008 at 5:25 pm

ACC / AOG focus not on Jesus

with 10 comments

Received an email from someone whose identity I promised I wouldn’t reveal, due to the sensitive nature of their position in the church.

I received permission to publish some parts of the email, and wanted to share it with you in a way this person couldn’t themselves.

When the news started breaking last week, my reaction was total disbelief at first. How could such a situation have slipped under the radar? How could so many of the “best and brightest” lights of the ACC movement have gotten caught up in something so awful and so outrageous?

Well, I agree with your question on the blog … Is Church Culture To Blame? … and the answer to that, after much reflection, is a YES. But its much bigger than being a Planetshakers issue. The ACC itself exhibits some characteristics which are unhealthy, some of which you have already documented, such as:

— a “cult of personality” revolving around leaders of big churches
— a “don’t question the leadership or our direction” attitude
— treating all criticism as negativity, and thereby dismissing it
— focus gradually moving from content to presentation style
— a complete obsession with numbers (i.e. how many people, how many churches)

The “don’t talk” rule which is in operation, which prevents healthy questioning and criticism from coming to the fore, would have prevented anyone with a question or critcism of the Mike G scenario from coming forward. Nobody would have listened, and would have dismissed the questioner as being negative, pulling down God’s annointed leadership, etc etc.

Healthy critical analysis is essential to preventing us from slipping into error, or falling into a trap. Without it, we are accountable to nobody and are therefore prone to error

WHAT TO DO?

Our National Executive need to take a step back from the particulars of this situation and have a look at our culture. In particular, they need to consider whether the pendulum of “leadership” has swung too far and needs some correction. Such change can only come from the top. So I pray that they will have both wisdom and courage enough to confront ACC culture and take corrective action where it is needed.

If we think the problem (Mike G) is the problem, we’re wrong … its a symptom and a warning shot across our bows.

There is one answer, and one answer only: Jesus!

Any time our focus is drawn away from him and on to “the church” or “numbers” or “leadership” or “worship” or “building the kingdom” or whatever, then we’re missing the point. Our focus is Jesus, and everything else stems from that personal relationship we have with him.

For the most part, I’ve left my own personal convictions out of this blog and taken a questioning and soul-searching approach.

However, I have to agree with this email.

It’s my hope too that focus is no longer on leaders, or numbers, or sound and light shows – but on Jesus, and developing deep personal relationships with Him (in the Trinity) through the Holy Spirit.

Final Note: As I’m pressing “Publish” on this, I’m thinking about Planetshakers being the fastest growing AOG church in history. Perhaps God chose Planetshakers to stumble in order to highlight the problem with focussing on the numbers, and not focussing on Jesus.

Hillsong, Planetshakers; Running, Hiding from the Mike Guglielmucci Fallout?

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But it seems that Planetshakers isn’t the only church hiding from criticism in the wake of the Mike Guglielmucci scandal.

Hillsong and ACC (Assemblies of God in Australia) have been doing the same.

From my original post:

…Planetshakers has removed references to Michael Guglielmucci, crediting his role on these albums, from their web-site.

For example, the online blurb for Planetshakers 2004 album “Always and Forever” previously read:

Produced by lead songwriter Henry Seeley, with songwriting credits and lead vocals to Mike Guglielmucci and Sam Evans, Always and Forever is an album not to be missed.

Now, the blurb on the Planetshakers discography page reads:

Produced by lead songwriter Henry Seeley, with songwriting credits and lead vocals to Sam Evans, Always and Forever is an album not to be missed.

And the blurb for the 2007 album “Never Stop” previously read:

“Featuring Henry Seeley, Mike Guglielmucci and Sam Evans, this studio album is signature Planetshakers praise and worship for a new generation. Includes CD and bonus DVD of Planetshakers live worship and inspiring messages.”

Now:

“Featuring Henry Seeley and Sam Evans, this studio album is signature Planetshakers praise and worship for a new generation. Includes CD and bonus DVD of Planetshakers live worship and inspiring messages.”

(All references to Planetshakers live album “Savior of the World” have also been removed entirely from the Planetshakers Discography page.)

These are conspicuous absenses given Mike Guglielmucci wrote 11 out of 13 of the songs on “Never Stop”, and 7 out of the 10 songs on “Always and Forever”…

Hillsong’s response was to file copyright “take-down” claims on all YouTube videos that contained Mike Guglielmucci and his song “Healer” – I believe that the copyright on some of these videos were under Planetshakers’ (or at least Word Publishing’s) control.

Some of these videos had over 300,000 views.

Is copyright the issue? Is the means of removing these videos the same as the motive for removing them?

Apparently not – Hillsong United, Darlene Zschech and the Hillsong band all still have videos available on YouTube – videos which would obviously violate copyright if Hillsong was concerned about copyright itself.

And ACC?

Speaking to a webmaster of one prominent Christian web-site, I found ACC (Assemblies of God in Australia / Australian Christian Churches) responded by contacting web-sites that ranked prominently in Google for Michael Guglielmucci’s name and have them modify their web-sites to minimize negative publicity.

I wonder to myself… Is this just? Is this fair? Is this honourable?

Is it hiding from an issue, covering up, and “protecting the brand”?

Or is it something more honourable than it might seem on the surface?