The Duggars, Bill Gothard, and Me

TLC’s favorite super-sized, conservative, homeschooling family, lately receiving less than positive attention. The founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, who stepped down in 2014 amid allegations of sexual harassment stemming back into the 1970s. And me, a pastor’s wife, mother of two, and blogger just trying to live a “normal” life. What could we possibly have in common? Actually, more than I want to admit.

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This is me hiking (yes, hiking!) in 2001. Look familiar at all? The Duggar girls are actually more stylish than we ever were. 😛

And here I am, also in 2001, wearing my navy and white (a requirement) while working at one of Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminars.

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The Duggars are avid followers of Bill Gothard, although they have tried to distance themselves a little bit since the allegations came out in 2014. They use his homeschool curriculum (if you can call it that), and so did my family.

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you will know that I began to question a lot of Gothard’s teachings as I grew in a relationship with the real Jesus of the real Bible. (Who you will find, if you read it in context without someone twisting everything to meet their own agenda.)

The Duggar’s first appeared on TV in 2004. I was only two years “out” at this point and their original photographs (which you can find here) practically gave me a panic attack. (Okay, honestly, they still do.) I identified with this kind of family. We went to the “crazy church” with them. I had a friend who was still stuck being Cinderella in her large family with parents who wouldn’t let her leave. It was all too familiar, including the “facade of perfection” while dysfunction reigned underneath. I couldn’t talk about the Duggars for years without getting angry and emotional. So, mostly I just ignored their existence as much as possible.

I also didn’t talk much about Bill Gothard and his cultic organization until about two years ago. I would tell people that I was raised in a conservative Christian home. In reality there was tons more to the sub-culture I lived in, but it was incredibly hard to explain without sounding insane. So, I just tried to leave it all behind.

Everything changed for me two years ago when Recovering Grace (a website run by former students of Gothard’s “curriculum”) began to expose not only an incredible number of women who accused Bill Gothard of sexually harassing them, but also began to publish information and testimonies from people back in the 1970s and 80s that showed corruption in his organization and personal life. Suddenly all my doubts and questions and hesitations seemed vindicated. I’d known for years that something was off in his teachings, but Recovering Grace put words to my feelings.

I joined a support group Recovering Grace runs for those recovering from Bill Gothard’s teachings and tried to reach out to confused and damaged people, tried to share the real Jesus and real gospel of grace that I had found. My blog happened soon after; I became passionate about sharing truth as I noticed the ways Gothard’s lies have infiltrated “normal” Christian people and churches.

So, why am blogging about my connection to the Duggars and Bill Gothard right now? Because, believe it or not, Gothard is trying to start a new “ministry”, “seminar”, whatever. It’s the same old garbage, with a new name. You can find a link to his page here. The same vague wording with grandiose promises if you follow his secret steps. He posted on Facebook about it yesterday. (Or one of his minions did; I doubt Gothard himself is on Facebook.) And a bunch of us from my support group began to ask questions and post comments. They were quickly deleted by the “moderator” of the page. Anything that was questioning or negative was deleted and only the positive, encouraging comments were left up. Here is a screen shot of my comment, which had over 10 likes in a matter of five minutes before it was taken down.

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There is something screwy when a “Christian” organization can’t deal with criticism that their teachings don’t line up with the gospel!

So, why am I writing this post? For the same reason I write this blog. I am passionate about the truth! The truth that I believe is found solely in Jesus Christ. I’m writing in the hopes that someone who is looking for truth will find this post. I’m hoping they will read some other posts I’ve written and start to question themselves. I’m hoping to point people to Recovering Grace because they have a ton of resources showing the problems with Gothard and his teachings. But most of all, I’m writing because I am obsessed with Jesus and His grace, love, and forgiveness that He freely gives to all who believe. John 3:16-18

“Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief!” – What Is Standing In the Way of Your Relationship with Jesus?

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You would think that being friends with God would be a popular message among Christians. After all, it’s kind of the point of the whole Bible, the book we claim to base our beliefs upon. Jesus himself said, “…but I have called you friends…” (John 15:15). So why aren’t more of us living like God’s friends?

Why are so many of us content to go to church on Sunday but ignore God the rest of the week? Why are so many of us obsessed with rules and formulas, attempting to impress God with our outward “goodness”? If this is how we are living, then we aren’t actually experiencing a relationship with God, THE relationship that Jesus made possible by His death on the cross!

I’ve been a part of both sides at one point or another. Why are we so quick to reject a friendship with the God of the Universe? Here is what I’ve found true of me:

  • I want to be in control. It terrifies me to let go and let God run my life. What if He screws it up?
  • Sin is fun. I don’t want God coming in and telling me to stop it.
  • Rules are easier to maintain than a relationship. They make me feel good about myself.
  • I often believe lies about God, who He is and what He wants from me.

Sure, I like Jesus as my Savior; I’m all about spending eternity in heaven. But Jesus as my friend…that’s a little uncomfortable, a little awkward. So what is really stopping me? What is stopping us? What if it’s as simple as one word?

Unbelief

My husband and I are not adrenalin junkies. In fact, if you know us, that thought probably makes you laugh. However, we took a special date last weekend to a zip-line course! There were 10 zip-lines spreading over a mile in total length. It was a blast!

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First we got harnessed up, put our helmets on, and attached carabiners with some kind of a trolley (can you tell I’m not an expert at this) to our harness. Then, our tour guides loaded us into an awesome off-road vehicle and drove us up to the top of a ski hill. We climbed a short flight of stairs and there it was, the first zip-line spanning a valley and disappearing into the trees on the other side. I’m not gonna lie, my heart missed a couple beats!

One by one I watched my fellow zippers get clipped onto the cable and soar across the valley. Then it was my turn. Our guide clipped me in, got confirmation from the other guide across the chasm, and told me I was free to fly. Ahh!

What if, in that moment, I had doubted the cable’s strength and my harness’s ability? What if I refused to believe my zipping guide? What if I insisted on clinging to my own control and instead chose to climb down the stairs and continue across the valley on foot?

Obviously, that would that have been a waste of money, 🙂 but I would also have missed out on an amazing adventure! Soaring through the trees on a zip-line is incredible! (Hanging upside down, no hands, is even better!)

I miss out on an amazing relationship with God every time I chose doubt and unbelief instead of faith in Him.

  • I doubt God’s love for me, that He really likes me and wants me.
  • I don’t believe that He knows what’s best for me.
  • I doubt my own ability to stop sinning (and forget that He has given me a Helper, the Holy Spirit).
  • I don’t believe what God says about Himself all throughout the Bible.
  • I don’t believe that Jesus can really satisfy me.
  • I doubt that I can actually have a friendship with God; so I don’t try.

Stop! I just need to stop!

There comes a moment on every station of a zip-line course where you have to make a choice to trust the equipment and step off the platform. You can’t zip if you won’t jump. And, you can’t experience a real give-and-take relationship with Jesus if you won’t believe Him.

What do we need to believe?

We believe that Jesus paid for our sins by His death on the cross. (Romans 6:23) We believe that He rose again conquering sin and death once and for all! (1 Corinthians 15:20-26) We believe that Jesus is who He says He is: the bread of life (John 6:35), the living water (John 4:10-14), the way, truth and life (John 14:6). We believe that He will satisfy us, give us good direction and abundant life. We believe that Jesus wants to be friends with us. (John 15:12-17) We believe in His promises that if we seek Him, then we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:11-13; Acts 17:27; Matthew 7:7)

Nothing is better than a real relationship with Jesus! One where I talk with Him and He talks with me! I know this because I’ve experienced it, so why don’t I pursue Him more? Nothing can separate me from the love of God, except for my own choice to doubt, my own unbelief. Is it really that simple?

  • “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Jesus does not change. But our faith, our belief (or lack of it) determines what we experience of Him. He is not pushy. He will not force Himself on us. But, He is there to be found if we will seek and believe.

This should be the most amazing message, the most incredible part of being a Christian! Don’t let your unbelief stop you from experiencing everything you have and are in Christ.

What were my favorite zip-lines from last weekend? The ones where I ran screaming off the platform against all common sense, and the ones where I trusted my equipment and soared through the trees upside down.

“Jesus said to him, ‘All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately (he) cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” Mark 9:23-24

Is this your prayer today?

“Help us to believe You, Jesus! And as we seek You, and find You, and fall in love with You, overwhelm us with Yourself, until all we want is You.”

Truth Is, We Are All Broken!

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It was a beautiful spring day, the warm sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze blowing, and the grass was turning green. I was winding my way down the familiar road, feeling each curve, radio playing, singing along. All of the sudden, I knew with a jolt that I was too close to the road’s edge. The cold winter and spring rains had produced wheel-swallowing-potholes in this particular stretch. Breath caught, heart stopped, I realized I couldn’t correct in time. “Whump!” My front wheel fell into a small canyon. “Bam!” My tire blew. And there I was, stuck, with a broken car, on the side of the road. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I knew I was going to have to call the woman I nannied for and admit that I had broken her car for the second time in a week!

It is not easy to admit when we break something, and even harder to admit that we ourselves are broken.

Truth is, we are all broken, every single one of us. It’s easier to hide, cover up, and pretend. We feel guilty about being broken. We feel alone. Surely no one else is as screwed up as we are. We don’t think anyone would understand.We feel like God is disappointed in us, as though He could be shocked by our true selves. We push Him away too.

And often, people in the church seem to say, “You’re broken, so, get it together! Fix yourself! Look better! Or at least pretend.” We get good at hiding.

That’s not what Jesus says! Jesus says, “You’re broken, but I’ve got this!”

Our mess doesn’t shock God. He already knows. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves; He knows we can’t! He wants to fix us, but we have to let Him. We need to admit our brokenness and give all the pieces to Him.

What are you hiding? What are you holding on to? It’s not worth it! Let Jesus heal you. He’s a great Doctor!

  • “Jesus answered them, (the Pharisees who were complaining because he was hanging out with “bad” people) ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32 (ESV)

What if we just stopped pretending? What if we decided to be real and honest, honest with God and with each other?

  • “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…” 1 Cor. 10:13 (ESV)

We all struggle with the same things! There are no perfect people, just some better actors. Let’s embrace our common brokenness, our common needs, because they point us to the cross where we all find grace, and love, and forgiveness. Let’s run to Jesus together, knowing that He is the answer.

  • “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (my sin nature). For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through JESUS CHRIST our Lord!…” Romans 7:15,18,24-25

Not religion, not good behavior, not a list of do’s and don’ts, not church, not anything, but Jesus. Jesus is always the answer. He died so that we could know Him. Let’s do it! He died to forgive us and set us free. Let’s be free!

Will you come on this journey with me? Will you be honest with God and honest with others about the parts of you that are broken? Will you accept the love and forgiveness and grace that Jesus offers you? Will you throw away the things that are holding you back?

It may seem impossible. That’s okay. It’s a process. That’s why it’s called having a “walk with Jesus”.

Remember, you can’t do it. But Jesus can!