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The Lesser to Greater Argument: A Classic Example of C.J. Mahaney’s Abusive Leadership

Paul the apostle argues from the greater to the lesser in Romans 8:32.  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” 

The greatest thing God the Father could possibly do was give up his beloved Son on the Cross to be the substitutionary and propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.  We had no greater need.  He had no greater gift.  Therefore, arguing from the greater to the lesser, the apostle assures us the Father, along with the Son, will most certainty meet all our lesser needs.  What a remarkable promise! 

I’ve been writing this blog since July 2011.  Initially, my readership was almost exclusively made up of people in Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM).  That has changed over the past four years as the audience has grown.  Today, the greater percentage of readers are from outside of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  They don’t have a personal history with C.J. Mahaney though they are familiar with him through books, conferences, and associations.  These people have sought to understand the fall of Mahaney and demise of SGM.  

In this regard, I’m often asked about Mahaney’s abusive leadership style.  Inevitably, I point people to an illustration found in A Final Appeal under the subheadings, “The Request for Chad & Vacation Days” (pp. 15-43) and “C.J.’s Superior Discernment” (pp. 43-45).     

Chad is C.J. Mahaney’s son.  Mahaney asked if SGM could pay for Chad’s plane fare so he could accompany his parents who were speakers at an upcoming retreat.  This was the first time anyone on the leadership team made such a request for their children.  It was not part of our policy.  I offered a gracious solution. 

In the process of evaluating the request, I noticed Mahaney had taken 30 days of vacation when he only had 20 days of vacation according to our policy.  I graciously brought this to his attention and sought to remedy the situation.  

I knew about these things because I did all the master planning for SGM and the men on the leadership team.  That involved coordinating and scheduling our vacations, teaching weeks in the Pastors College, ministry travel including international trips, leadership team meetings, retreats of various kinds, and numerous conferences.  We had to plan 2-3 years in advance.   I was also extensively involved in developing policies and procedures for SGM. 

I did not think C.J. was acting without integrity in taking 10 more days of vacation than allotted.   I was simply bringing up what I thought was an oversight on his part and/or misunderstanding of our vacation policy.  I now believe he intentionally took more time than allotted. 

I simply pointed out the discrepancy as a friend and as part of my job.  What followed was spiritual abuse of the worse kind by Mahaney and Bob Kauflin. That is another reason for using this illustration.  It shows how Mahaney used other willing surrogates to carry out his abusive leadership.     

I concluded with the following statement when I wrote up this illustration for C.J. in A Final Appeal. 

“I hope this vacation illustration helps you see how difficult it is to raise concerns about the simplest matters when your pride is offended.  It is a risky and exhausting enterprise.” 

In this example of spiritual abuse, I was arguing from the “lesser” to the “greater” for Mahaney.  I corrected him on a minor issue.  It resulted in a major response that was horribly abusive.  Imagine correcting him on something serious.      

Dave Harvey, a former President of SGM, put it this way. 

“To correct C.J., or to challenge his own self-perception, was to experience a reaction through e-mails, consistent disagreement (without seeking to sufficiently understand), a lack of sufficient follow-up and occasionally, relational withdrawal.  Along with this, C.J. was poor in volunteering areas of sin, temptation or weakness in himself.”

Harvey puts it mildly.  To really understand the seriousness of the matter, you’ll have to read “The Request for Chad and Vacation Days” and “C.J.’s Superior Discernment” on pages 15-45 in A Final Appeal.  It’s a classic.

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