There’s a lot of intense discussion going on right now; Discussion centered around the IBLP / Bill Gothard scandal. It has some people on the defense, some people jumping on the attack, and some people who feel like their whole world just came down tumbling around them. It’s not easy to talk about. No matter who you are or what your affiliation and opinion previously, there is a lot of confusion, blame shifting, regret, and disappointment.
My brother and I just read a book called A Matter of Basic Principles, an expose on the incorrect theological foundations of IBLP / ATI. This book was fascinating, riveting, and frighteningly accurate (with a quarter of the book dedicated to sources and actual documentation). This book does not simply breed contempt for the organization and move on, but shines a light on why specific theologies are biblically incorrect. My brother and I were both so challenged and encouraged by the “why” such things were incorrect. We had often discussed why we may not have agreed with things, but it always seemed as though we could talk in circles with no solution or progress. This book was the first time we actually were able to realize what had been going on with the beliefs we were challenged by. I would highly recommend it.
My parents joined ATI when I was 11. I could tell you stories about the things that came from that. There were some good things. I had a lot of opportunities and experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I met some really special people and made lifelong friends. I saw the world and went on adventures that shaped me in remarkable ways.
To be completely honest, I look at my experiences and am fairly conflicted. There were things that happened between people, between leaders and followers that were not ok in my heart. The emphasis placed on authoritarianism was far from biblical. I saw a lot of people hurt by the pervasive legalism. That is honestly what made me distrusting of IBLP. How could an organization that was so “biblical” continuously hurt the people within it? If the two things that will last forever are the Word of God and souls, hurting followers didn’t seem like the greatest kind of fruit that Jesus would be proud of.
I am thankful that The Lord led my life in a direction that drifted further and further away from IBLP. As I was able to interact with some truly incredible leaders and individuals who had hearts for nothing but giving The Lord glory through their lives, I also slowly began a journey of discovering what it was to truly be His follower. I had to relearn what it meant to be a Christian – someone who first and foremost above all things followed Jesus in every day life. I had to completely reframe my perspective: Loving Jesus meant fostering deep, committed, and passionate relationship with Him. That and that alone signified being His follower.
From this place of authentic relationship comes a place of humility and gratitude – that the God of the universe had the boundless love, grace, mercy, and compassion to rescue us. He rescues us from our sin. He rescues us from our failures. He rescues us from our inability to keep the law. He rescues us from our incapacity to perfect ourselves. That is the gospel of grace. Jesus saves us. He sanctifies us. He starts the work in us and completes it until we see Him face to face.
I wish I could say it was a fast lesson. It wasn’t. There were so many “lessons” that I learned via the seminars or the booklets that took scriptures completely out of context. How do you combat inaccurate beliefs when those beliefs originate from the bible itself?
It’s simple: Jesus. His truth reveals. His light shines. It’s scary. There may be a few mistakes. But the amazing part is that He always leads us when we are willing to follow. When our life existence is all about HIM and not about us – our ministry, our performance, even our daily quiet times – that’s when we see that being a believer is all about Him and His love for us.
I think this situation also goes to show that emphasizing outward conformity never, ever confirms that we are really following Jesus. It is more easy to pretend we are followers than to actually follow Jesus.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to the situation. But I do hope that my testimony of God’s grace and leading will give hope to others. There is recovery. There is truth. There is freedom. And it is wrapped up in one person alone: Jesus.
Follow Him. His grace is sufficient.