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When Salt Becomes Saltless It Is Good for Nothing

Matthew 5:13 (NIV) “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” 

This is one of those verses everyone knows but few people understand.  Contrary to most translations, Jesus was not talking about salt becoming tasteless.  He was talking about salt losing its preservative quality.  That was its most basic function in New Testament times.  

Jesus is not concerned about Christians becoming tasteless as though we are the spice of life.  The NASU and ESV are misleading in this regard.  The Greek verb for “loses it saltiness” is moraino.  The word literally means “to make foolish.”  Jesus applied this to salt that lost its ability to stop decay.  Our English word, moron, comes from the same word group.  Salt that does not preserve is moronic. 

Nowadays we use salt primarily as a seasoning but before the invention of refrigeration it was used primarily to stop the decay of foods.  For instance, it was rubbed into meat, poultry, or fish.  This caused the outside surface of cells to dehydrate which prevented bacteria from growing.  This in turn prevented rotting.  The primary value of salt was not as a flavoring but as a preservative.  

Christians are called to be salt and light in the world thereby impeding corruption while exposing darkness.  For good reason this section on salt and light in the Sermon on the Mount is immediately preceded by the last beatitude.  Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  The Old Testament prophets were salt and light.  Jesus calls us to be like them.  Notice, the work of a prophet is not fun.  It inevitably results in persecution.  

Scientifically and technically salt cannot lose it saltiness.  Sodium chloride (NaCl) remains sodium chloride.  It is a stable molecule.  But other minerals can be added to salt.  That is how salt becomes saltless.  For example, the salt deposits along the Dead Sea (or Salt Sea), between Israel on the west and Jordan on the east, contained a variety of other minerals like gypsum.  It was well know that salt from the Dead Sea was often of an inferior quality being mixed with other impurities.  The result was a weak or diluted product.       

When other minerals are mixed in with salt it becomes contaminated and ineffective as a preservative or a flavor enhancer for that matter.  For example, take your salt shaker at home and fill it up with salt, sugar, sand and baking soda.  Mix the ingredients and pour it on your filet mignon.  Do you like the taste?  Of course not!  You throw it out for ruining your steak.           

Jesus was saying that impure salt is good for nothing except to help control the growth of weeds and vegetation on walking paths.  Since it didn’t work as a preservative it was thrown out and trampled underfoot.  

The church is called to perverse society by being salt.  But what happens when the church becomes saltless because impurities from the world corrupt it?  It becomes good for nothing.  

Sovereign Grace has lost its saltiness and in some significant ways become good for nothing because no one around C.J. and Dave Harvey have been willing to stop the process of rotting.  The leaders of SGM can no longer be trusted to be “salt” having repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to lie, deceive, cover up, oppress, and act unjustly whenever needed to advance their self-interests.  

On August 20, 2004, Dave Harvey, Steve Shank, Pat Ennis, Joshua Harris, Grant Layman, Kenneth Maresco, Bob Kauflin and I sat down with C.J. to confront him on a host of serious issues (see Response Regarding Friendship & Doctrine, pages 16ff.)  I led that invention and knew big trouble lay ahead for me unless C.J. came to genuine repentance.  I was pouring salt on C.J. but others soon came along and washed it off.  As a result, Sovereign Grace entered into a season of rapid decay.       

Fifteen months ago, I was finally forced to send my private documents to the SGM pastors when C.J. and Dave continued down the path of lying and deceit.  I wrote the following as part of a cover note.  

“I care deeply for my friend C.J. and count it a privilege to have served him and Sovereign Grace for so many years.  I hope you find my writings helpful for the strengthening and preserving of Sovereign Grace Ministries for generations to come.” (Brent Detwiler, Letter to SGM pastors, July 7, 2011) 

I’ve tried to be salt and light but my attempts have failed.  There are too many impurities around C.J. like those individuals who have declared him above reproach and fit for ministry.  The old, interim, and new Boards are contaminated salt.  They’ve lost their power to preserve.  They have not held him accountable.  The same is true of many pastors in SGM who have been unwilling to stop the decaying process by speaking up about ethical misconduct.  C.J. does not qualify to be President of SGM, plant a church or be a senior pastor.  This can only occur in a saltless environment where decay in the form of compromise has been allowed to grow for a long time.    

The actions of SGM this past year portend an ominous future.   Church history is replete with examples of weakening and rotting.  The Protestant churches emerging from the Reformation were once white hot for the gospel.  Today most preach a false gospel.  Conservative churches in the beginning, they never thought they’d become liberal churches in the end.  Nor did schools or universities like Harvard or Yale.  But that is what happens when you lose your integrity and live for the praise of men.       

It is amazing to see how far SGM has fallen in one year.  Lies and deceit have multiplied exponentially in order to save face.  Nothing has been dealt with in an open, honest and accountable fashion.  I shudder to think where it may be in 50 years.  SGM had the opportunity to pursue humility, truth and justice.  Instead they embraced arrogance, falsehood, and injustice.  They have going the way of the world.  Once you start down the path of moral compromise your future is in jeopardy.  

Lest we forget, the Lord has taken note of every sinful action.  Until C.J. and others are held accountable for the past there is no bright promise for the future.  God will continue to give them over to sinful desires as they continue to suppress the truth.  Further moral decay will be the result.  In time, this will lead to a decay of doctrine.  Church history and the Bible tells us as much.  Compromised living leads to compromised doctrine and vice versa.  They feed off of one another.     

I sent my first document, Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine, to C.J. in March 2010.  I was to the point on page 3.  “My greatest concern is for the increasing presence of deceit and hypocrisy rooted in self-preservation and the love of reputation.”  I’ve addressed these corrupting influences in 2,000 pages of hard evidence over the past 3 years but still not a single leader in all of SGM, Peacemakers, or Ambassadors of Reconciliation has been willing to speak out against the deceit, hypocrisy, self-preservation and love of reputation so evident in C.J.’s words and actions.  

The same is true regarding Dave Harvey.  I’ve documented Dave’s deceit on my blog (see below) over the last twelve months hoping something would be done.  I’ve tried to talk to him in private.  I’ve tried to meet with him in private.  I was promised I could present my charges against Dave to objective evaluators.  All of these attempts were stopped by Dave and the interim Board.  No one has spoken out against Dave.  There is no question Dave pioneered a crooked path for SGM yet he remains in his original position of leadership.  How can his local pastors allow this?  How can the SGM Board allow this?  How can the SGM pastors allow this?  Everyone should have called for his resignation.  Sovereign Grace has lost its saltiness.  It cannot preserve the most basis scruples of Christian leadership.  

C.J., Dave and the three Boards of Sovereign Grace Ministries have promoted injustice at every turn.  SGM is in a state of decomposition.  It is leaving behind a legacy of corruption for those foolish enough to stay.  None of these requisites of justice have been preserved. 

“Justice serves alongside righteousness as the ‘the foundation of his throne’ (Psa 89:14; 97:2).  Like love it rejoices when people are treated fairly and  afforded due process.  It shuns hypocrisy and despises partiality.  It plays no favorites and shows no bias.  It holds people accountable and presses for truth.  Yet its judgments are equitable and based on evidence.  It does not turn a blind eye to wrong doing.  It hates the manipulation of others and does not cover up iniquity.  It treats all people the same.  It has no double standards.  It is integrity in heart and truth in action.”  (Brent Detwiler, A Final Appeal, p. 163)

This definition of justice describes salt of the purest kind.  It will preserve any food from rotting.  I didn’t want to send out my documents.  And I never thought I’d tell people to leave SGM.  Agonizingly, I finally arrived at that point on October 11, 2011 when the interim Board put forward an unjust adjudication process that violated every promise made to me in the past.  I said on my blog for the first time, “Things are bad!  It is now time for people, pastors and churches to seriously consider whether they should leave Sovereign Grace Ministries.”  I’ve since concluded that leaving is required given the unrepentant state of SGM leaders and their on-going practice of lying, deceit, hypocrisy and abuse.

Here is a classic response from one senior pastor who wrote me this past April after I appealed for a Church Court in order to hear my charges and grievances having been denied justice time after time.  See My Appeal to the SGM Pastors for a Church Court in Order to Avoid a Civil Court (April 27, 2012).  He was content, if not pleased, with all that transpired over the past year. 

From: [Sr. Pastor]
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 2:16 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Re: Urgent Appeal to All SGM Pastors 

I’m satisfied with the entire process.    

Moving forward in the proclamation of the Gospel.   

To be “worth one’s salt” is to be worth one’s pay.  Salt has value.  In fact, the word “salary” comes from the Latin word sal which is the word for salt.  This senior pastor is not worth his salt because his salt is corrupted with impurities.  Such blindness, indifference, and passivity is a terrible reproach to his position.  He was too lazy, fearful, or undiscerning to deal with the obvious.  He too will be held accountable by God for the decomposition of SGM.  I wrote him back.

From: Brent Detwiler
Send: Monday, April 23, 2012, at 2:20 PM
To: [Sr. Pastor]
Subject: Re: Urgent Appeal to All SGM Pastors 

I don’t say this with any anger or bitterness.  That means you are content with injustice and ongoing corruption. 

These kind of pastors may stay in Sovereign Grace Ministries but they have no salt.  SGM is rotting like a dead carcass under the new day sun and they do nothing to stop it.  No church member in SGM, let alone a senior pastor, should be satisfied with the entire process.  People and pastors should be outraged at what has transpired since July 2011.  

I recently wrote a pastor who pulled his church out of Sovereign Grace Ministries.  I asked him why they left.   Here is his response. 

From: [Former SGM Pastor]
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 1:40 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Departure 

Hello Brent: 

I apologize for this late response.  I was away from the office.

Thank you for your inquiry.  This decision [to leave SGM] was very hard and agonizing for us as a church, however, one that we are completely at peace with.  There are several reasons why we came to this decision.  However, as a leadership team we feel it is most consistent with the teachings of Scripture, and therefore most God-honoring to keep them a private family matter rather than make them public. Therefore, I want to stay true to that.  I hope you understand.

I respect the fact that the leadership team of this church pulled out of SGM for “several reasons” – not just differences over polity.  I don’t respect keeping those reasons private and I certainly don’t agree that this “is most consistent with the teachings of Scripture.”  This church had the opportunity to be salt.  They chose silence over godly speech that appeals for repentance.  This kind of approach is unbiblical given the serious patterns of sin at work in SGM and the fact that there has been no change.  It contributes to the process of rotting.  Here was my response.      

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 2:02 PM
To: [Former SGM Pastor]
Subject: RE: Departure

No problem with the delay.  I am just glad for your response. 

I respect the fact that you have left but I think Scripture commands you to address and expose the widespread corruption that exists among SGM leaders.  We all have that responsibility.  Every pastor in SGM.  A third of the Bible, the Prophets, speaks out against injustice, oppression, deceit, human idolatry, lying, and the like.  No one leaving SGM has the option of being silent as far as the teaching of the Bible is concerned.  C.J., Dave, and the Board’s sins are not trivial.  They are extremely serious and have adversely affected thousands of people.  Leaving well is not leaving silently.   You don’t have to say much but you should say you are also leaving over ethical concerns for C.J. and others and not just polity.  Please reconsider.     

I commend you for the decision you have made to leave.  I am sure it was very hard and agonizing!  God bless you as you forge ahead in his grace!  


From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 2:15 PM
To: [Former SGM Pastor]
Subject: RE: Departure 

I might add by way of analogy that you are called to protect your family (the local church) AND the extended family (all the churches in SGM).  Tell your aunts, uncles and cousins why you are leaving and encourage them to do the same. 



P.S. Despite my challenge please let me know if I can ever do anything to help you. 

In The Ethical Demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Part 1)  and The Ethical Demise of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Part 2), I cited 50 examples of lying, deceit and broken promises.  All 50 were been brought to the attention of the old Board, interim Board, new Board, Covenant Life pastors, pastors of SGM, Ken Sande (Peacemakers), Ted Kober and Ed Keinath (Ambassadors of Reconciliation) over the past 15 months.  During this time frame, no one has been willing to speak out against such decay.  It is no wonder corruption has grown unabated among SGM leaders. 

In June 2009, I was betrayed by two former friends who were lay leaders in the church.  Both of these men agreed with me that there were horrible problems in SGM.  They felt as strongly as I did about the presence of lying, deceit, sinful judgments, harsh treatment and the like.  They saw and experienced these realities up close but instead of fighting the good fight, they decided to compromise and accommodate sin for the sake of comfort and personal advantage.  They lost hope that SGM would change so they asked me to fall on my sword in order to get SGM off our backs.  When I didn’t, they betrayed me.  Read The Untold Story.  

For instance, one of these men told me to pretend agreement with SGM’s assessment of me so we could move on as a church.  He even counseled me to pretend contrition by asking forgiveness for things I did not do.  He wanted me to give the appearance of sorrow and agreement.  In a similar fashion, the second man counseled me to stop confronting the corruption in SGM lest I destroy the career I built over 27 years.  He’s a corporate executive making at least 400k a year.  He asked me to quit raising concerns and be quiet so I could keep my job and SGM would back off.  I objected to both of these men and adjusted them for their lack of integrity.  It is no wonder they later turned on me and became false witnesses.  Proverbs 14:5 A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.  Lying, deceiving, and compromising were acceptable practices to them.  They were unethical pragmatist rather than faithful prophets willing to stand up to SGM. 

These three examples, the senior pastor content with the entire process, the pastor unwilling to share the reasons for leaving SGM, and these two men unwilling to remain true, bespeak of the desalted nature of leaders in SGM to differing degrees. 

Jesus asked the question, But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  In the old world, there was no process by which salt could be freed from contaminates.  It had to be thrown out.  In our day, we have refineries.  If SGM wants to be pure again it will have to deal with every lie told, promise broken, injustice committed, and cover-up carried out.  It can’t be made salty again unless the impurities are removed by openly and honestly acknowledging them.  Short of this happening, SGM will remain corrupt and deteriorate. 

People and leaders in SGM can deny the evident patterns of sin that have characterized C.J., Dave and others over the past 15 months.  People are free to hold to all kinds of opinions that are not based in fact.  For instance, anyone can claim Bill Clinton didn’t have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, Rod Blagojevich didn’t try to sell Obama’s senate seat in Illinois, Bernie Madoff didn’t bilk investors out of millions, Joe Paterno didn’t cover up a sexual scandal, and Lance Armstrong didn’t dope.  Such opinions are worthless, however, because they are untrue.  In the same way, people can state their opinion that C.J., Dave and other leaders have not acted corruptly but all such denials are an affront to truth.  The vast majority of issues about which I’ve written are not human opinion.  They are fact based realities.  Not imaginary tales.  

Choosing deceit over honesty and pride over humility, SGM had no choice but to attack me and tell people my documents were evil.  In fact, my documents were vengeful and vindictive according to Dave Harvey.  The work of the devil according to John Loftness.  Worse than pornography according to Jared Mellinger.  And a veritable witch-hunt according to Mickey Connolly.  Yet, none of my charges have ever been justly examined.  C.J. and Dave knew a fair proceeding would result in them stepping down and they feared a lawsuit against SGM.  They had to do all in their power to prevent me from presenting my charges knowing they could not be rebutted.  Every member of every Board is also responsible for this manifest cover up and miscarriage of justice.  SGM has not been interested in the truth or in humbling themselves.     

Tacet qui consentire videtur is a Latin phrase meaning “he who is silent is understood to consent.”  To date, Sovereign Grace Ministries has managed to silence all its pastors.  No one has spoken out against the injustice, oppression and unethical conduct that has been so prevalent.  C.J. and Dave don’t know Latin but they know this amounts to consent.  They been able to use this to their advantage but there is a chance that will change in the coming weeks and months.  I believe some of the pastors are ready to speak out.  Praise be to God!  

Eric Holter, the senior pastor of Redeeming Grace Church in Durham NC, is not one of them however.  He is pro-C.J. and pro-SGM.  He recently wrote a letter that was distributed among the pastors about leaving SGM “as amicably and as peacefully as possible.”  Eric is putting forth the approach to separation from SGM that C.J. and those around him are advancing.  They want pastors to leave quietly and peaceably over polity with no mention of ethical concerns or the loss of trust in the leadership of SGM.  This is the loving and respectful way to leave according to them.  Here is an excerpt from Eric’s letter. 

“If, in the end, your church ends up declining to participate in the new polity separation does not have to be an overly grievous or destructive event…. If we can love our PCA [Presbyterian Church of America] and Southern Baptist brothers with much affection and respect--how much more love and respect should exist between future Sovereign Grace and future former Sovereign Grace churches?  There is no reason why we could not maintain mutual love, respect and deep gospel-centered relationships.  Should you decide not to sign off on a future more clearly defined polity statement what should a process of separation look like?  How can this be done as amicably and as peacefully as possible?  How should Sovereign Grace Ministries be involved in this process?... I would want to have a representative from SGM involved in this process to reassure the church that this separation, while necessary, is not anything more than what it is--a church whose polity simply is not in agreement with SGM’s polity.… Whatever the future holds for our movement we know that we rest in the hands of a sovereign and good God, we trust in a powerful and capable Savior and we stand firm in a glorious and powerful gospel.  We don’t know why the Lord has willed that churches reformulate, separate, and sometimes divide.  It’s perplexing.  But we don’t need to know.  We only need to trust him and walk faithfully to His Word as we run our race and wait eagerly for His glorious appearing.” 

This statement by Eric reminds me of a typical description for the taste of wine.  Very flowery but not helpful.  For example.

Athair Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2009 California - a rich, creamy style that serves up lots of flavor, offering ripe pear and apple flavors, with a tasty gram cracker pie crust edge.  This lingers, with butterscotch, honeysuckle and smoky wood notes that show a hint of roasted marshmallow. (Total Wine and More)

How in the world is your mind supposed to sort out the taste contained in this bottle.   Furthermore, once you pop the cork, your brain and tongue will be doing mental and physical gyrations trying to figure out if the description matches the taste.  I’ve thought of taking all these ingredients and putting them in a blender to see if the concoction tastes anything like the wine.  I bet not.  Such a description is surreal. 

Eric is not living in the real world.  We know why the Lord has willed for churches in SGM to reformulate, separate and divide.  It is not a mystery.  God has been opposing and disciplining SGM.  He is removing churches for their own good.  Men like C.J., Dave, John and Mickey should not be in positions of authority.  They cannot be trusted.  God is repositioning churches to begin something new.        

I hope SGM pastors are tired of consenting, and, so, will no longer be silent.  Too many pastors have feared social and economic consequences and loved the praise and acceptance of peers more than Christ and his righteousness.   

John 12:42-43 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him.  But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; [43] for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. 

Jesus tells us why men are willing to compromise their convictions.  They fear man and they love praise.  This is true in SGM.  Too many pastors fear the “Pharisees” inside and outside of SGM.  They fear being put out of the “synagogue.” They want Reformed leaders and SGM leaders to think well of them.  They may not agree with C.J. being President, and they may carry grave concerns for Dave’s integrity, but they will not say so. 

In such cases, they are silent because praise from God is less meaningful than praise from men.  Let’s face it.  If you speak out against C.J. and Dave you will be despised by well-known leaders throughout the nation.  That is the price you pay for maintaining your integrity.  And you will also be despised by some pastors and leaders who remain in SGM.   

Several times over the course of the last 3 years, I have feared to the point of physically shaking.  I used to do a lot of rock climbing.  On more difficult ascents you inevitably found yourself in precarious positions.  On one especially difficult section of rock, I remember looking down and seeing my legs shake involuntarily.  In those moments you’ve got to get a grip.  Climbing down the rock is not an option because it is even more dangerous to attempt.  You’ve got to finish the climb whether you want to or not.  There have been numerous occasions when I’ve wanted to get off of Mount Mahaney for fear.  In the flesh, I much prefer life in the synagogue and the acceptance of men.

And let me be honest.  It also proves something of a temptation to quit knowing pastors in SGM have been happy for me to risk my life on Mount Mahaney.  They’ve been glad to watch from the ground and cheer me on in secret.  Some days I wonder if I’m an idiot (no commentary needed).  At this point, they should be on the rock, not me.  I left SGM three years ago.  But truthfully, though beaten and battered, I would not trade places with them.  I am going to finish the climb.  The top is within view.     

President Mahaney, Vice President Harvey, and Chairman Loftness know they are in a heap of trouble if a majority of the pastors who already plan to leave are simply honest about their assessment of C.J., Dave and the Boards.  I pray all of these pastors mortify their fear of man, renounce any love of reputation and speak out with clarity and boldness.  There are no legitimate, biblical reasons for remaining silent under the circumstances.  Only excuses that enable SGM to continue in its deception. That’s why SGM is working overtime to convince these pastors that the only “gospel loving” way to leave is by limiting their explanations to differences over polity.  This is a perversion.  God forbid any pastor succumbs to such manipulation. 

And let me add this note.  Any pastor who remains in SGM because he agrees with their new polity but doesn’t insist on C.J. and Dave’s removal from their positions is condoning corruption.  Those who issue no such call are intentionally refusing to face the facts and are guilty of compromise before the Lord to whom they will give account.

To date, SGM has been enabled to continue in sin because there has been no outcry for righteousness from its pastors.  No call for public repentance, confession or restitution.  This has contributed to further putrefaction.        

I fear the loss of integrity for every pastor who stays or leaves but does not speak out against the corruption in SGM.  You cannot be an effective preacher, teacher or pastor when you are constantly convicted of hypocrisy by the Holy Spirit.  How can you preach on the fear of man when you gave into the fear of C.J. or Dave or whomever?  How can you teach on personal integrity when you refused to confront the lack of integrity so obvious in SGM?  How can you exhort a counselee to renounce the love of reputation when you chose the praise of men in SGM? 

It comes down to this.  You can “leave well” as defined by SGM or you can leave well as defined by Scripture.  You can be silent or you can do the work of a prophet and speak out against unrighteousness.  For the faithful pastor, silence is not an option because “he who is silent is understood to consent.”  Years ago, I heard someone say that the opposite of love is not hate.  It is indifference.  Only those who “hate” SGM will remain silent.  Love rejoices when the truth wins out and falsehood is exposed.  Leaving well means leaving honestly not silently.

That’s why every eldership that decides to leave should provide an ample and honest explanation to SGM, the pastors of SGM and their church.  This explanation must contain ethical concerns for C.J., et al. and a call for repentance.  Silence about the ethical decay of SGM only accelerates the process of rotting.  It does nothing to  preserve what little remains in SGM.  We need new salt.  Refined salt.  Salt that has power to preserve.  Those who leave SGM but leave silently and quietly have lost their saltiness.  Though not as advanced as those who stay, destructive “bacteria” called the fear of man and the desire for the men’s praise are at work in the subtle process of decay.  That is no way to strengthen and preserve a church or start anew.    

Matthew 5:13 (NIV) “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”


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