And We All Fall Down, Giant Church Inc

I remember when I barely spoke about what happened at Giant Church Inc. Right after we left, I didn’t have words for it. When I finally found some words for it, I was guarded with them. Many of my friends still attended, served, and led there. There is a rule at Giant Church Inc about what to do with leavers. Don’t ask.

They never did.

I didn’t speak of it around my co-workers and colleagues because I was embarrassed. How did I not see the toxic culture in the beginning, and when I did see, why didn’t I question it or call it out? Why didn’t I do more or say more to make a change? These thoughts played in my head over and over.

I first uttered the words ‘Giant Church Inc’ to my family. I knew if I ever wrote about my experience, I would call it Why I Left Giant Church Inc. At the Speak Up Conference in 2018, I pitched the idea to a literary agent. When I told her the title she said it would deter a lot of readers. That was then.

This Is Now

Every week we hear a new story of the fall of a prominent pastor of a large church, or a scandal within a denomination or well-known Christian organization. But we all know these stories aren’t limited to large churches or organizations.

In 2019, I decided to write about my experience in a blog series. All the heartache and research, the stories I heard from others, the memories I jotted down, and the work I put into healing…..came together in my first post in January 2020, then in nine more weekly posts. The series continues to help educate the church about spiritual abuse and highlight the work of others who do the same. I want to keep the conversation going and point the church back to Jesus.

Still, I’ve yet to find other stories like mine and the others in The Healing Place. Until now.

In case you’re wondering, the Healing Place is a small group of phenomenal women who are committed to learning how to love Jesus and the world around us the best way we know how.

I’m Not the Only One

“I’m not the only one.”

That’s what I said to myself as I listened to the latest episode of Christianity Today’s newest podcast series hosted by Mike Cosper called The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. Specifically, the stories told by Karen and Wendy made me remember personal incidents similar to the ones they describe.

If you’ve been part of Giant Church Inc in any way at any time, I urge you to listen to this podcast. We can learn a lot from this story.

The first episode is a history lesson in what led to the surge in church planting in the 1990s. I helped plant a church in 1995 and went to leadership conferences with a team of others hosted by Willow Creek two different times in the late 90s. It was fascinating to learn more about what and who influenced Willow Creek and Saddleback Church. And the history is important.

Church, if we’re ever going to stop building and supporting toxic church cultures, enabling abuse, and choosing narcissistic bullies to lead our congregations, we need to learn why and how we started in the first place.

We can start by listening to the words of Jesus.

The people asked Jesus, “What are the things God wants us to do?” Jesus answered, “The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One he sent.” John 6:28-29

Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash

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4 Comments

  1. Bruce Martin on July 9, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    Such a good podcast. Thanks for sharing great resources!

    • marieg on July 9, 2021 at 12:40 pm

      Isn’t it? It brought back the memories of our church planting days.

  2. Rick Turner on July 15, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    Marie, you keep bringing abuse to light, and I so appreciate it. Listening to this series of podcasts has caused me to experience a full range of emotions, from “righteous indignation” (a.k.a. Wanting to kick some butt for abusing the saints, which I hope rates as righteous!) to heartbreak at the wounded souls who have left the faith as a result of this abuse. I’m amazed at our failure to stop abusers like this sooner than we do, and their ability to often do it again w/o being held accountable. With folks like you continuing to fight the fight, hopefully we’ll learn to fight abuse better. RickyT

    • marieg on July 15, 2021 at 4:14 pm

      Rick, you always seem to know when I need encouragement. I’ve wrestled again with how best to help the church and those who no longer feel safe or even welcome there. My heart is broken over and over by what I hear. At the same time, I see such beauty and goodness from those who worship the One who is heart broken with us and for us. May we seek God and His glory that we are strengthened in soul for the work He has for us. Thank you, friend.

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