My Departure from Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel (Colorado)
By Brian Karjala
In the spring of the year 2000 I attended an Easter Sunday morning service hosted by Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel at Sky Sox Stadium (now called Security Service Field) here in Colorado Springs. I liked the detailed Scriptural teachings of the Calvary Chapel churches and wanted to get away from the sappy motivational speeches common with many Charismatic churches. That year I started visiting the church on Saturday evenings on a fairly regular basis.[Home] [Top of Page]
In November 2002 I sent an e-mail message to the senior pastor of Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel about problems affecting a local ministry supported by the church. After being ignored for a full month I wrote other staff members about the situation and also inquired about the status of my e-mail to the pastor and whether or not it would ever be answered. Of the handful of people I wrote to only one responded back through e-mail with a partial answer. The assistant pastor scolded me, told me that I wasn't "priority number one" and then shortly after sent me this message:
"We do need you to take the link to our site off your site, if you would please."
At the time I had one sentence on my website stating that I was attending the church with an included link to the church website -- really offensive, huh? Clearly the church did not want people to think that I was in any way associated with them. The man wrote those words to me even after I had informed him about the problems I've endured and after I had told him about the potential danger I was in (for opposing a man by the name of Tom Papania). Let this be a lesson to us all: Be careful who you give your pearls to. I should have learned this a long time ago... but my desire to share with others is still strong. If you can't trust your local church then who can you trust?!
What was the man's stated complaint to me about my original letter to the senior pastor? He didn't like my use of the word "offering" in terms of the information I was giving. He said I was forcing information. No, I can't force anyone to accept anything. But wouldn't a church want to know about a form of religious corruption happening in their own community? Not if they are connected to it (as I've learned). Well, that was his one and only specific complaint about the actual content of my message. Then a short time later the man changed his tone and wrote his one and only friendly e-mail where he asked me to remove the link to his church ("friendly" in the sense that it was written politely but in another sense it was offensive because the short message expressed its disapproval of me and also ignored everything I had written). When I asked him why he wanted me to remove the link to his site he became agitated and reverted back to his initial rude behavior. But these cowards don't need to worry. People will now understand that I am not in any way associated with them... nor for that matter will I ever again refer someone to them.
Apparently the senior pastor, Brian Michaels, wanted this assistant pastor, Robert Beech, to do his dirty work for him. Robert did at one time offer me the chance to meet with him but I decided that I would not meet with a man insensitive enough to ignore my pain who also refused to give me a reason as to why he would tell me to disassociate my website from his church. His behavior was suspicious. All I wanted was to be acknowledged in a polite way and assured that the info was received and would be looked into. This Robert fellow kept insisting that I could arrange for an appointment to share my concerns with him. I tried to get him to tell me what needed to be discussed but could not get an answer from him. He wouldn't even tell me who the "we" represented in his statement where he asked me to remove the RMCC link from my site. I knew it was unlikely I would get a straight answer from him in person and did not want to enter into another frustrating situation. Nor would I dignify his obscene behavior by accepting his request. I knew where he stood after reading his first e-mail.
Belittling my attempt to communicate with them by calling me not a priority was unnecessary. This undisciplined Robert Beech character made a mistake and let his (sinful) bias show forth. He also criticized me for writing to other RMCC staff members. This belligerent control freak wanted to restrict my communication with these people! My decision to not meet with the assistant pastor very much angered the man -- I think he wanted the opportunity to bad mouth me in person (in which case I would have had to put this punk in his place with a fitting rebuke!). Even though I did not fall into his trap by engaging him on his juvenile level (keeping my messages professional and straight to the point) in his last e-mail he told me that I need to repent for what I wrote in my messages (?) and ended our conversation with some more insults (where he used an excessive amount of question marks and exclamation points). But the man's disturbingly rude and irrational behavior is not really about me; I am only a scapegoat. NONE of the staff members will address the real issues I've tried to raise regarding Focus on the Family.
Probably the most bizarre thing Robert wrote to me was seen in his final e-mail. Even after I had made it abundantly clear that I would not meet with him he felt compelled to inform me (in an angry tone) that the door to his office was closed to me from that point on. He needed the last word and the feeling that he was the one calling the shots. His words suggested that his closed door policy was a punishment toward me and therefore (in his mind) nullified the issues I raised about Focus on the Family. What a complete and total idiot. Church staff members are a dime-a-dozen in this city. I do not respect quick-tempered narcissistic people like Robert who are incapable of offering real solutions.
The first reaction from the church was to ignore me. Their next response was to distance themselves from me publicly by asking me to remove any link between me and them. In a church that caters to many employees and supporters of Focus on the Family I knew ahead of time that my chance of getting a direct and understanding response from them was slim to none. I was right. Still though, in the interest of truth I thought I should at least try. I provided them with important information. How they decide to respond to it will determine their commitment to truth. BUT... if how they responded to me is any indication of how they will deal with the issue of corruption at Focus on the Family I think it's safe to assume that the leaders at Focus have nothing to worry about. It's unlikely that anyone from RMCC is going to challenge their ungodly behavior. The pastor of RMCC is not likely to jeopardize his status with an organization that has featured him on the front cover of one of their magazines. (It is my understanding that Brian Michaels was featured in an issue of the now discontinued Focus on the Family magazine Pastor's Family.)
This is not the first time a large Calvary Chapel church has rebuffed someone who tried to warn them about a corrupting influence. Consider Tom Papania. Papania has deceived multitudes of individuals and remains unopposed by organizations like Focus on the Family (a ministry that once promoted him and KNOWS that he is a fraud). Papania has also been supported to some degree by the Calvary Chapel movement. The first minister who dared to warn people about Tom Papania was rebuked by many different people, including the Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale -- a church that is networked with the Calvary Chapel here in my home town of Colorado Springs (RMCC). Birds of the same feather. (Read about this brave minister here.)
Here's my challenge to my now former church: Tell me why you don't want any public association with me. That's all I want to know. Can you tell me what I have posted on my website that you find so offensive? Are you blaming the messenger? Why would Robert Beech direct his anger toward me and not Focus on the Family? Rather than distancing themselves from me publicly RMCC should explain to me why they oppose my writings. If they think I am in error shouldn't they confront me with what they think I am doing wrong? Before Robert had asked me to remove my link to the RMCC site I had been informed by the senior pastor's secretary that there were church members who had made complaints to Brian Michaels about my website. They complained about me having a link on my site to the church website. (And because there is only one of me I guess majority rules.) I wish the people who had complained would have first come to me and stated their concerns. No one from the church has yet to tell me why they are against me. Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
Come on, Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel, don't beat around the bush with me! I want the leaders to tell me straight-out what they're all ashamed to say. Say it like this: "Brian, we have long supported Focus on the Family and when it comes down to it we would rather ignore the information in your article. Our support for the organization is strong and, like our statement of faith declares, we are not overly concerned with doctrinal issues which is why we state that love is the only real basis of fellowship (RMCC's Statement of Faith). Additionally, we care only about issues that affect us directly. Though we like to give people the impression that we are set apart from the world we are in fact driven by popularity and do not want to lose members by in any way opposing the actions of Focus on the Family (as many of our church members regularly support Focus). Furthermore, we are not comfortable having you reveal the true character of George W. Bush. Most in our congregation support the man and we are not pleased to have you reveal his association with an occultic organization (Yale's Skull and Bones)."
Now that would at least be honest! What I've written is not just a description of one church -- it's a sad commentary on the condition of many churches in America! If none of these churches come forward to offer specific criticism about my articles I will assume that their silence is an indication that none of them have an effective counter-response to give.
I've dealt with a lot of opposition for taking a stand against heresy. Truly this is the day the Lord Jesus prophesied would come:
"And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."
Love will grow cold? You're not kidding! The amount of resistance I've met for making a stand for the truth is incredible. But there are some who understand. Since going public with this information I have received e-mail from others who are aware of problems associated with the overall Calvary Chapel leadership. The problems concern everything from Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith's mistranslation of Greek texts to his numerous appearances on the heretical Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). I've even been made aware of some allegations of cover-up regarding child abuse at some of the churches. This is a denomination with some real problems. Though it does need to be stated that there are some fine Bible-believing Christians who have been a part of this movement. It was at the private Christian school, Maranatha Christian Academy, on the campus of the Costa Mesa / Santa Ana Calvary Chapel (Chuck Smith's church) where I gained knowledge of the Lord way back in 1980 at the age of five (see my kindergarten picture that year). So I am not a new attendee looking to make trouble with this movement. For the first several years of my life I wanted to believe only the best about these churches. It's so unfortunate that a large number of these CC Bible teachers have shown such poor leadership skills. In their statement of faith RMCC omits truth as a prerequisite for real unity. This I believe helps to explain the behavior of my local Calvary Chapel (as well as the international movement from which their statement of faith was derived).
RMCC was a church I supported prayerfully and financially. I never wanted any conflict with the leadership. My report on Focus on the Family is one of concern and I even told the church leaders that Focus could be a stronger and healthier organization if the people there were to repent of their sins. But apparently the very suggestion that Focus is in sin was offensive to them (it's the kind of thing these mean-spirited phonies want me to keep quiet about).
[Not long after I left RMCC the church shortened its name to RMC.]
The article responsible for the controversy:
The Deceit of Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family
UPDATE: On June 1, 2005 Brian Michaels stepped down as pastor at RMC. He returned to Las Vegas to work with his (step)father's Calvary Chapel (Spring Valley). His replacement is said to be a like-minded individual. (Eric Cartier is way too "smart alec" and immature to inherit the position of senior pastor. Others agree with me that this is another tragic mistake in a long line of mistakes.) I learned this after hearing an online sermon from the church website where Michaels' departure was announced. In his online message no specific reasons were given as to why he decided to leave the church though he was still able to sell the decision to his congregation as the will of God. Interestingly, he originally moved to Colorado Springs from Las Vegas in 1991, the same year I also moved to Colorado from Vegas. I mentioned our similar background to him in my e-mail (of November 2002) and also shared with him the appreciation I had at the time for the Calvary Chapel movement. My e-mail was very polite but I never received a reply from him. This is because I mentioned the problems I have become aware of at Focus on the Family. In Colorado Springs you can't reveal the unpopular truth about Focus on the Family and remain a popular person in the "Evangelical" community (the underlying issue is that they don't account for their own sin). This is why I believe he refused to respond to my message and wanted no association with my website. I'm ashamed to admit that I was a member of his church. It was hard for me to even listen to his words online... I just can't accept that he is a godly leader after the way I was treated by him and his hatchet man. It sounded so phony to hear him talk as though he is a spiritual person in touch with God. What kind of message do these people at this church think they are sending by rejecting the information I have presented? Do they think disassociating themselves from me will make it all go away? I'd love to hear their rationalization for the way I was treated.
Shortly after writing the above paragraph I was contacted through e-mail by an RMC staff member who let me know he had read this page. In his (June 2005) message he explained that he oversees the day to day operation of the RMC website and noticed that I had (originally) made a comment about the statement of faith being (temporarily) dropped from the RMC site and that I wanted to know why this happened. He informed me that if I wanted to "satisfy" my curiosity about the matter I could contact him by phone or come see him in person. My first inclination was to follow his instruction and find out about the matter. But as I thought about his message I began to realize that something wasn't right about it...
If this staff member read this web page and his only comment concerned my one sentence about the RMC statement of faith being (temporarily) removed it seems he has missed the point of my writing. Why have I not received any comments from RMC staff members addressing the primary focus of my writing, namely, why I was treated so badly when all I wanted to do was make the church aware of some important issues? Can you imagine my disappointment? [I should have asked that obtuse Matt Patterson if he was the one responsible for blocking this site from connecting to his church site. For a brief time right after I created this page I could not directly link people to the RMC site which is why I spelled out their weblink in the above title.]
I do not want to hear from any member or leader of RMC who fails to address the core issue of my writing.
A former member of a Calvary Chapel has offered an explanation to my primary question:
I also attended a CC. Your question can be answered simply by reading "The Ministry of an Assisting Pastor" (Or, More Things I Learned From My Pastor) written by Larry Taylor. Sections 7&8 deal with "gossip" and "defending the ministry and the pastor against all negative talk". Larry instructs us that gossip is defined as "saying anything negative, whether true or not, about the pastor or about the ministry." We are only allowed to take our concerns directly to the pastor, and if that doesn't work, we are to "resign and move on". In situations where the sheep are in spiritual danger, "say nothing to anyone, resign, and move on". These are actual quotes. Maybe you can now understand what you are up against. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me. Your brother in Christ, Kevin.
Larry Taylor is a disciple of Chuck Smith. In the Forward to the booklet mentioned above Larry tells his readers that everything he teaches in the booklet was originally taught (or "caught" non-verbally) to him by Chuck. Chuck has also endorsed the booklet.
Brian Michaels calls Chuck Smith his pastor. He has also publicly stated that he consulted with Chuck when he first considered leaving Rocky Mountain Calvary.
You know who founded RMCC in 1989? The aforementioned Larry Taylor! It's a small world after all.
Larry's work, "The Ministry of an Assisting Pastor" contains some of the most offensive false teachings I've read from a person claiming to be a Christian. Is there no shame with any of these people? They actually believe that hiding sin helps to honor Christ (their real interest is in protecting the reputation of their "ministries" among their fellow man). And Smith is treated as though he is a god. Good grief...
[There is no Biblical title of "assistant pastor" or "assisting pastor." That's why Larry had to define the role for a title that is not Scriptural (and he did so in the worst possible way that he could). Even the Biblical title of "pastor" is misused by men who define the pastoral role in different ways than what God intended.]
When thinking about what Larry has written a short but powerful Scripture verse has been impressed from my heart into my mind:
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."
Reports were sent to me (in 2006) stating that Brian Michaels resigned his position at the Las Vegas Calvary Chapel due to an inappropriate relationship (he admitted to an "emotional affair"). That he was unfaithful to his wife is a sad situation for his family, but it should not be surprising to us that this would happen. A spiritual leader who turns a blind eye to corruption in order to follow his own path is not someone who has the blessing or wisdom of God.
Brian Michaels has had his Calvary Chapel ordination removed. He now runs a church called Springs Lighthouse.
Here is part of an e-mail I received:
Greetings. My name is Greg and I'm a Calvary Chapel reject in Minnesota with some interesting correspondence with your beloved Brian Michaels. Mr. Michaels was and possibly still is the mentor of a one time close friend of mine. I say "one time" because the Calvary Chapel system of indoctrinating their pastors led to my friend suspecting me of trying to sabotage "his" church. It has been a very emotionally painful ordeal that I am finally starting to move beyond. However it is a bit complicated since my friend and I both work at the same company and have occasional dealings with each other.
I was asked to attend a board meeting to present my issues concerning my friend that Mr. Michaels was present for as a board member of the church. I quickly realized the purpose was not to actually listen to anything I said but to essentially gang up on me and put me in my place for ever questioning a pastor. I obviously had motivations aimed at creating friction and controversy, or so I was told.
Anyway, in answer to an e-mail I sent to Mr. Michaels in which I let him know of my frustrations with the way the situation was handled this is what he wrote back:
----- Original Message -----
From: Brian RMC
Cc: email@example.com ; D&T [edited]
Sent: Thursday, September 16, 2004 2:19 PM
You need a spanking!
In Christ's love,
So when Greg stated his complaint he was taunted by Brian Michaels. You can see that the "love" Michaels talks about is a mockery and perversion of Christ's love. (You know, for a little guy this Michaels creep sure has a big mouth.) One of the disturbing things for me was realizing that Michaels' assistant pastor was trying to provoke me to anger at a time when I was seeking fellowship and understanding (the issues I presented to these immature men were too big for them to know how to deal with). Even though I never had direct contact with Michaels I can clearly see that his assistant pastor's response to me was consistent with his own attitude. The true nature of these RMC antagonists is revealed to those of us who are not afraid to speak out against their wickedness. They cannot bully me into silence.
Meaningful discussion with these people is not possible, nor would any genuine person desire to have a conversation with these RMC leaders after learning about their methodologies.
Calvary Chapels Avoidance of Controversial Issues
(from a former RMCC/RMC board member)
[The truth is only controversial to those who are in love with the lie.]
Some pages have been torn out of Psalty's songbook. And that makes Psalty really sad . . .
UPDATE (Oct. 2013):
Calvary Chapel Founder Chuck Smith Dies at Age 86
Christianity Today acknowledges Smith's earlier (1970s) association with the hippie Lonnie Frisbee but neglects to mention that Frisbee was expelled from the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard movements when his homosexuality was discovered. (Frisbee later died of AIDS in 1993.)
Lonnie Frisbee, even as a new Smith convert, remained a drug user when he became a featured speaker of the Jesus People movement. It is one thing for Smith to minister to the lost and neglected youth of his day... but a significant error was made when the hippies were invited inside Smith's founding church and allowed to mold it into their own image.
Send questions and comments to: Brian Karjala