A Letter of Absolute Objection to the Executive Committee

I returned from San Antonio late last night. Tom Sterbens and I did a couple days work in preparation for the 2008 General Assembly. There are some very positive developments which over the next several weeks we’ll begin to share. A very significant piece of communication is contained in this entry. First, I have some brief thoughts:

  • Jesus is at work in the world. We should love Him more and be more committed to His mission.
  • We are very connected to the hard work of those who have paved the way for us in the Church of God. We have a tremendous godly heritage that is worth reclaiming.
  • After spending some time in research of the COG General Assembly Minutes from 1906 through the present, I have never been more convinced that we began as a mission-obsessed church and are called to be a mission-obsessed church today.
  • I am incredibly appreciative to the Lord for a significant Gospel-partnership that I have with someone who has come to be like a brother/father/friend to me. Tom Sterbens is a gentleman who loves Jesus and the Church greatly and who has and continues to demonstrate great integrity, passion, anointing, and insight.
  • Godly, courageous leadership exists within the Church of God.

I firmly believe that this trip was the continuation of a significant grassroots effort to embrace the missional heartbeat of the Church of God as established by those who went before us. I pray that it will be moved forward by those of us desperate for a return to the simple Gospel message of Jesus and the ensuing outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The culmination of this trip is a document written to the members of the International Executive Committee by Tom Sterbens and me. According to the nature and characteristics of a collaborative, grassroots movement, this document is not yet complete. Tom and I are asking for your help.

I am asking that prior to delivering this message you would offer your feedback so that our approach is reverential of 1) Jesus, 2) The COG General Assembly mandates, 3) the Executive Committee, and 4) the very good, godly men we love and esteem and who serve as state or regional overseers who have inherited Evangelism and Home Missions Budgets that have over the course of the past several decades fallen grossly out of line with the mandate of the COG General Assembly.

Because of the nature of the agenda item #2 which is the “Realignment of Resources,” a significant issue of covenant has been pushed to the forefront and a window of missional commitment is being slammed shut. If this issue is not addressed now, we may never have the opportunity to acknowledge and correct a grossly off covenant behavior within the Church of God. This issue is critical for godly covenant, trust, and integrity to be re-established in the Church of God.

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Letter of Absolute Objection to the Executive Committee (pdf, jpg)

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37 Responses

  1. Trav and Tom,

    I applaud your work and this strong document. I have a couple of questions:

    1. Could the work required to produce such a report be accomplished in such a short time?
    2. Does the Minutes of the GA actually require that the local churches give the 2.5%. I was under the impression that this 2.5% was highly recommended but not required by the Minutes.

  2. Question #3: How do you have knowledge of the Agenda? Has it been released? I do not have a copy and the COG web site does not offer a copy. Can you give us what you have?

  3. Good questions, Jerry. Here are my thoughts:

    1. Yes. If organizational and time concerns were the only barriers. If political concerns enter as a top priority, I don’t know. Considering that is a roughly $15,000,000 per year budget item and a decades old problem, one would think there would be significant cause to expedite such a request.

    2. I have heard some stories about ministers who have tested that theory. Perhaps, someone else could weigh in on that better than me.

    3. The agenda is being mailed out June 9th. Since it is coming out in the next 48 hours, I think it might be best to hold onto what I have. Feel free to call me though.

  4. for other conversation on this entry, you can check out Actscelerate. To this moment, the conversation from there is as follows:

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    Powerful NPS39
    Great work Travis and Tom!

    I’ve missed reading from you guys! Travis, I just thought you were out raising money for the 2009 Florida Minister’s Cruise! Wink

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    Post Phillip Johnson
    I don’t know if it’s the resolution on my Blackberry, or if it’s the picture itself, but I cannot read the letter. It’s small and blurry. I saved it and zoomed in, but it’s too blurry to read. Is there another format available?

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    Post Travis & Tom Ken Shelton
    In response to your query; I think that the letter is well-written and to the point. You might be well served to cite something more intentional regarding the scriptural priority of mission and integrity – thereby appealing to, not only COG polity but also the higher authority of God’s Word. However, the document certainly can stand on its own. The idea of any outside group auditing our records is precedent setting and I would not expect a warm reception. We have apparently grown comfortable with the idea of using the 2.5% in a way not prescribed by the G.A. minutes. You’ve certainly put your finger on a trigger point. Thanks for your leadership in this regard.
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    Post Chris Stiles
    Good stuff Travis.
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    Post The Dawg
    Great stuff. I will be interested to see the response, but seriously doubt there will be one.
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    Post Phillip Johnson
    I just went to MissionalCOG and read the letter.

    Dog,
    How is it possible that there would be no response. I believe there would have to be some response even if generic.
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    Post The Dawg
    Quite simple, they just ignore it. However, with the posting of the letter on here and on the blog, they have really put pressure on them to respond.
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    Post It Doesn’t Go Far Enough… Yo Dude
    Why withhold only the 2.5%? If the DENOMINATION is allowing this sort of mismanagement (that is, not being a good steward over what is going on), then it seem that we should withhold ALL monies until this if fixed.

    Otherwise, it’s kind of like saying, “I’m going to keep paying into my church, even though I know they grossly mismanaged the building fund to which I contributed.”

    If you do that, they’ll just shift funds and nothing much will change, I don’t believe.

    I say we withhold all until this is clear and they start providing us with clear, available line-item financial reports. Acts Enthusiast
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    Post For the sake of those who cannot get to the article Larry Wiley
    Members of the General Executive Committee:
    We, the undersigned, are writing in absolute objection to the gross mismanagement of the
    State/Regional Evangelism and Home Missions Budgets which is to have been spent under the
    mandate of page 173, S44. FINANCIAL SYSTEM, II paragraph 2, which reads:
    Local churches shall raise in [missions] offerings an amount equal to 5 percent of the tithes
    paid [into the local church]. Fifty percent of this amount, and 50 percent of all missions money
    raised in the district convention, shall be kept in the state in which it was raised, to be used in
    evangelizing new fields or, in the case of emergency, it may be used to assist small churches.
    The other 50 percent of these amounts is to be sent to the secretary general.
    We believe this mismanagement of funds is a historical event in direct opposition to the General
    Assembly, which has been perpetuated by appointees of the Executive Committee over the last several
    decades. It is an inherited problem, which needs desperate and immediate resolution in order to
    restore credibility and integrity to the covenant between our churches, the denominational entities, and
    our highest governing body, the Church of God General Assembly.
    This gross mismanagement is evidenced by various state financial documents in our possession.
    Based on other data to be found through independent audits of every state and region, we believe this
    will show a systemic disregard for the mandates of the General Assembly, which is our highest
    governing body. Further, we believe it to be a wholesale and long-term violation of covenant with
    every single member of the Church of God, past and present.
    The 2008 General Assembly Agenda includes, as the second item, a motion to strike said mandates
    governing state evangelism and home missions without striking the mandate to remit said funds to
    respective state offices. This missional mandate has been in place since the 1931 Church of God
    General Assembly (p. 115 – 26th Annual Assembly). The specific missional commitment mandating
    the funding of new field work was enacted in 1942 at the 37th General Assembly (p. 37 – 37th General
    Assembly Minutes).
    Therefore, we request in the strongest of terms that an immediate investigation be conducted by
    independent auditors to be selected by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability prior to
    the 2008 General Assembly. The findings of said investigation should be made available to every
    member of the General Assembly at the time of registration on Monday, August 4th and thereafter.
    Should such an audit and report fail to take place and be delivered on August 4th in San Antonio, we,
    the undersigned request that we immediately be released from mandatory financial participation in the
    2.5% State Home Missions and Evangelism offering as mandated by page 173, S44. FINANCIAL
    SYSTEM, II paragraph 2 of the COG General Assembly Minutes.
    Sincerely,
    (insert names).
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    Post Travis do you have an e-mail address or fax# Larry Wiley
    Where this could be signed and sent to.
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    Post Re: Powerful Travis Johnson
    NPS39 wrote:
    Great work Travis and Tom!

    I’ve missed reading from you guys! Travis, I just thought you were out raising money for the 2009 Florida Minister’s Cruise! Wink

    Neil

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    Thank you, Neil. When I go on cruises, hurricanes tend to encroach on the coast. So, raising money for ministerial cruises may not be the best idea for me. Thanks again.
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    Post Travis Johnson
    Phillip Johnson wrote:
    I don’t know if it’s the resolution on my Blackberry, or if it’s the picture itself, but I cannot read the letter. It’s small and blurry. I saved it and zoomed in, but it’s too blurry to read. Is there another format available?

    pj,

    You can find a copy of the PDF at MissionalCOG. I didn’t want to post basic text in the initial post because it would remove the formatting. The only way to embed a document here is for it to be a jpeg. Anyway, Larry got a good unformatted text copy of it up.

    If you want to see it, I’ll print off a copy for you…just stop by the house.
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    Post Looks like you guys did your homework. Layperson
    I have only one question…Could they possibly interpret the last sentence as a threat? I am just asking…. They don’t take kindly to having their authority questioned, much less threatened… Acts Enthusiast
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    Post Jerry Lawson
    Trav and Tom,

    I applaud your work and this strong document. I have a couple of questions:

    1. Could the work required to produce such a report be accomplished in such a short time?
    2. Does the Minutes of the GA actually require that the local churches give the 2.5%. I was under the impression that this 2.5% was highly recommended but not required by the Minutes.
    3. How do you have knowledge of the Agenda? Has it been released? I do not have a copy and the COG web site does not offer a copy. Can you give us what you have?

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    Post Re: It Doesn’t Go Far Enough… Travis Johnson
    Yo Dude wrote:
    Why withhold only the 2.5%? If the DENOMINATION is allowing this sort of mismanagement (that is, not being a good steward over what is going on), then it seem that we should withhold ALL monies until this if fixed.

    Otherwise, it’s kind of like saying, “I’m going to keep paying into my church, even though I know they grossly mismanaged the building fund to which I contributed.”

    If you do that, they’ll just shift funds and nothing much will change, I don’t believe.

    I say we withhold all until this is clear and they start providing us with clear, available line-item financial reports.

    Yo Dude,

    I agree that enough has been done in violation of our Minutes to bring about a reciprocal response if operating reactively. I don’t know that that is in the best interest of healing, unity, and repair. Speaking for myself, (though I believe Tom and I are certainly in agreement) I love the COG and do not want to see our church family injured. We want to see righteousness in covenant relationship. We want to see the mission of Jesus again become the top priority in the Spirit of the 1931 General Assembly. We’re calling for a missional resurgence.

    We also understand that our overseers are godly gentlemen. I am certainly blessed with a wonderful state overseer. Brother Taylor and Donnie Smith have been incredibly supportive many times over as it pertains to the relaunching of our church giving their full endorsement of a transition in our church. Over the past 5 years, their support has helped our church to grow from 35 people to just under 500. They have been a huge blessing to my life, the life of our church, and the life of our community, which is the second most unchurched communities in the USA.

    Our overseers have been placed in a very difficult situation where they have inherited this issue just as their predecessors did. I certainly do not want a single overseer, pastor, church, community, or administrator injured because of a move toward righteousness, mission-obsessed covenant. I believe we want healing.

    Healing begins with a proper diagnosis, personal responsibility. Our goal was to craft a strong letter that honored our Lord, His mission, the General Assembly minutes, and the church family we have both been blessed to be a part of.

    I have a long history in the COG dating back to the second credentialed minister in the Church of God. I want my children and their children to have the same history and love for Jesus and the COG that I do. Leveling everyone in our path will not accomplish that and I do not believe it will bring out our full redemptive potential going forward.

    Let’s create a path forward…a missional resurgence in the spirit of 1931.
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    Post Travis Johnson
    On a side note, if you click the image, it will open larger. Click it after it opens and it will magnify. You should be able to see it with clarity.
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    Post To the Alabamian Apostle… Tom Sterbens
    Jerry Lawson wrote:

    3. How do you have knowledge of the Agenda? Has it been released? I do not have a copy and the COG web site does not offer a copy. Can you give us what you have?

    Dearest Jerrinius Minimus,
    An angel of the Lord appeared to me…(much like the Apostle Peter prior to Cornelius’ house)…and said, “Tom, a new evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit will be spiritual visions and dreams…true Pentecostal people will know and perceive, through a vision such as this, the Agenda for the 2008 General Assembly now…the rest will receive it through June 9th mailing.”

    And that was the end of the vision.

    I would have thought you would have known. The fact that you don’t know is an unfortunate revelation of the smallness of soul and spirit you presently enjoy. If I shared anymore with you right now it would clearly exceed your current spiritual capacity. I would not want to cause harm to you…you need to be fit enough tomorrow morning to preach another one of your innocuous sermons that causes the impressive, albeit shallow and artificial growth your church is experiencing.

    I am sorry to have to deny your request. Acts-celerater
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    Post Re: To the Alabamian Apostle… Jerry Lawson
    Tom Sterbens wrote:
    Jerry Lawson wrote:

    3. How do you have knowledge of the Agenda? Has it been released? I do not have a copy and the COG web site does not offer a copy. Can you give us what you have?

    Dearest Jerrinius Minimus,
    An angel of the Lord appeared to me…(much like the Apostle Peter prior to Cornelius’ house)…and said, “Tom, a new evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit will be spiritual visions and dreams…true Pentecostal people will know and perceive, through a vision such as this, the Agenda for the 2008 General Assembly now…the rest will receive it through June 9th mailing.”

    And that was the end of the vision.

    I would have thought you would have known. The fact that you don’t know is an unfortunate revelation of the smallness of soul and spirit you presently enjoy. If I shared anymore with you right now it would clearly exceed your current spiritual capacity. I would not want to cause harm to you…you need to be fit enough tomorrow morning to preach another one of your innocuous sermons that causes the impressive, albeit shallow and artificial growth your church is experiencing.

    I am sorry to have to deny your request.

    —————————–

    Tom,

    I have never met a man so full of knowledge….yet so full of poop at the same time!!!! (Hope this doesn’t get me banned)

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    Post Great comeback Potsy, DrHardgrove
    That’s a line from “Happy Days.” I’ve interacted with Travis a few times and found him to be fairly intelligent–if a bit imperious. I’ve not met nor know Tom, but I will say that if his response to Jerry is any indication of his character then I don’t blame the Executive committee for ignoring him.

    I always enjoy watching people with a false sense of significance or influence, punctuated by arrogance and hubris, humbled. I’ll let you decide who I’m referring to and if it constitutes an insult.
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    You know. sheepdogandy
    I think ol Bro Tom was just pickin.

    It just struck me as humorous and good natured funnin.

    However, I do that alot myself and try to give folks the benefit of the doubt. Razz
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    Google

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    Post Re: To the Alabamian Apostle… Major B. Trammell
    Tom Sterbens wrote:
    Jerry Lawson wrote:

    3. How do you have knowledge of the Agenda? Has it been released? I do not have a copy and the COG web site does not offer a copy. Can you give us what you have?

    Dearest Jerrinius Minimus,
    An angel of the Lord appeared to me…(much like the Apostle Peter prior to Cornelius’ house)…and said, “Tom, a new evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit will be spiritual visions and dreams…true Pentecostal people will know and perceive, through a vision such as this, the Agenda for the 2008 General Assembly now…the rest will receive it through June 9th mailing.”

    And that was the end of the vision.

    I would have thought you would have known. The fact that you don’t know is an unfortunate revelation of the smallness of soul and spirit you presently enjoy. If I shared anymore with you right now it would clearly exceed your current spiritual capacity. I would not want to cause harm to you…you need to be fit enough tomorrow morning to preach another one of your innocuous sermons that causes the impressive, albeit shallow and artificial growth your church is experiencing.

    I am sorry to have to deny your request.

    Laughing Laughing Laughing ROFL

    This is the funniest post I have ever read on here.
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    Post Re: Great comeback Potsy, Major B. Trammell
    DrHardgrove wrote:
    That’s a line from “Happy Days.” I’ve interacted with Travis a few times and found him to be fairly intelligent–if a bit imperious. I’ve not met nor know Tom, but I will say that if his response to Jerry is any indication of his character then I don’t blame the Executive committee for ignoring him.

    I always enjoy watching people with a false sense of significance or influence, punctuated by arrogance and hubris, humbled. I’ll let you decide who I’m referring to and if it constitutes an insult.

    This is the 2nd.

    Laughing Laughing Laughing ROFL

  5. This throws down the gauntlet…

    and I personally feel that IF the gauntlet is thrown down with this letter, a significant number of COG Pastors MUST be willing to make the last paragraph a reality IF the audit is not produced or a reasonable explanation given as to why it is not being produced by the first week of August.

    I am not saying that there is not merit in the contents of the letter and I am not saying that we should not be willing to take such a stand. I guess I am just saying that we need to count the cost and be sure we are willing to pay the cost.

    Travis & Tom won’t be enough, not by any means. I feel they will either be ignored or crushed if it is only them. This MUST be backed by a significant number of pastors; especially leading pastors of leading churches in every state/region.

    Just my thoughts. What are yours?

  6. On Jerry’s question #3, the 2.5 % on the state level is supposed to be addressed by each individual state’s program. Some states require, some states strongly recommend.

    While in Eastern NC, ten years ago, I found some churches opted to not send in the state’s 2.5% but instead took up special offerings and pledges. I never heard any complaints from state officials or local churches about not sending in the 2.5%.

    Here in WV, however, if you don’t send it in you’re in trouble.

    Trav and Tom,

    I think this is a great document.

    I hope that if this does not work out at the GA level that it would be concidered by each state on their regional level.

    Thanks for all the hard work and effort you are putting in.

    DB

  7. Dear Travis,
    I was forwarded your website and letter from a mutual acquantance. While I have not met you, I have served with Tom in various venues and find him to be a man of great integrity and character. You asked for reviews of your letter, so I will offer one.

    First, I will not sign such a document. Here are my reasons:
    1) The letter comes across to me as greatlly disrespectful for the offices to whom it is written. I don’t suspect any of those men are perfect, but they are my leaders, and following the pattern of scripture, I honor them with great respect and communicate with them in the same manner.
    2) I don’t find the letter or actions suggested thereof to be unifying, but moreso dividing to the body of Christ. For me I try to make decisions not based on emotion or frustrations, but on what does scripture direct. One of the utmost priorities of scripture in the New Testament is unity in the body.
    3) While I have not seen an Agenda and have no idea what is on it, if what you alledge is true I am not sure that I am opposed to each state having the right to direct their own funds. As a matter of fact I’m sure I would support that. I’m in SC. I don’t think anyone in Tennessee or Calif is more qualified to say where our funds should go than we are here in SC; at the same time I am not qualified to say where Tennessee or Calif funds should go; Some states have been heavily evangelized and probably should re-focus on church planting; other’s are new fields to our church and probably need more evangelism for now. My experience is that each state is different, with it’s own culture, and the best decisions for that state can be made within that state by its own elected leaders.

    Got to go; give Tom my best; please don’t take offense, just wanted to give you another view point.

  8. Jerry Madden,

    I appreciate your open and thoughtful critique of Tom and Travis’ letter. You state that the letter comes across as “greatly disrespectful”. While I have not stated openly whether or not I will sign the letter, I would never sign anything that is greatly disrespectful to our leaders. But when I read it, I didn’t really get that feeling. So could you please site what in this letter seems “greatly disrespectful” to you?

  9. Jerry Madden,
    As with Jerry Lawson I would never sign anything that I felt was disrepectful to those in leadership. My question to you would be, is it direspectful when we question leadership? Where is the line between disrepecting leadership and holding them to the oath that each one has taken to administrate this church? I have not stated openly nor even determined in my own self if I would sign such a letter at this time, but I do believe that for any person, church, or demonination to move forward we have to take an honest and open look at ourselves. There are times when everything that can be shaken must be shaken. Like Jerry I would also like to know what you found so disrepectful about the letter?

  10. […] the issues and proposing solutions that I believe are pretty much on target. For instance the Letter of Absolute Objection is a powerful document with the right intent, and while I definitely agree with it, I did not want […]

  11. Jerry (Madden),

    The actions that I am taking hold a greater measure of personal internal conflict than just about anything I have ever been engaged in. I intend no disrespect whatsoever…nor am I approaching this with some sense of swaggering “I want to be a prophet,” bravado or cavalier attitude. And….no one is more suspicious of “my righteousness” than me.

    The point with the EHM fund is that it is solicited and given for and with explicit expenditures mandated by the General Assembly Minutes. To date not one state or region is spending those collected amounts for that specific purpose.

    It is not my intention to tell anyone how to spend the monies they would raise for anything. That is certainly none of my business…but it is also certainly not the point of my effort.

    The present pattern of spending the EHM funds has been going on for perhaps decades and appears to be generally accepted. To me it is reflective of a larger representation of the leadership consciousness and actions in the Church of God that is continuing to erode the credibility and trust of that leadership…and the resulting unity that should follow.

    In fact I believe and hope my efforts to be something that will contribute to greater levels of credibility, trust, and resulting unity than we have ever witnessed in the Church of God.

    I have no other agenda.

    I risk the loss of several friendships in bringing this matter up. Friends who are involved in respective state and regional leadership capacities. That makes me sick to my stomach…really. Unfortunately the beginning of substantive change will probably be borne on backs of these men who have simply been handed an accepted mode of administration they did not create.

    Your words are not taken lightly…only intensified the searching of my heart and motives. Thanks for your perspective and your leadership.

  12. Jerry (Madden),

    Thanks for the heartfelt comment…much appreciated. It is received in the same generous tone in which it was given.

    I assume Scott King got in touch with you based on what he wrote on Actscelerate and the inboxes we exchanged. I know Scott from North Cleveland…really appreciate him a lot.

    I private messaged him on Actscelerate after hearing about the letter you sent out to the ministers in South Carolina inviting them to a meeting to discuss the General Assembly agenda. I was excited about that proposition. When I heard about the meeting on Actscelerate before I knew you were the one calling the meeting, this is what I initially wrote:

    “I don’t know what the South Carolina agenda is. I don’t know what the Florida agenda is. We don’t typically have venues for those kind of talks. But, it is good for us to get together. Even if they organize to support something that I don’t, I will be praying for them and proud of them for taking their role in the General Council and General Assembly seriously.

    Praying for the guys in South Carolina.”

    I honor you for taking a bold step to openly discuss matters affecting our churches which are coming and have come before the General Assembly. It would seem that you and I are engaging in the same behavior and expressing the same hope for the future of the COG.

    I’d echo Jerry Lawson and ask for help on what part of the letter was “greatly disrespectful.” That certainly is not my heart.

    -trav

  13. Guys, what are your thoughts about this. It certainly seems that every state is in defiance of the Minutes by spending the EHM money on other projects rather than just on new field evangelism or needy churches in emergency cases. But the water is pretty muddy considering the following:

    1. Most states are already in a budget crisis (I know Alabama is). If they were to truly divert that 2.5% to evangelism it would likely throw the budget into default in many places.

    2. As I understand it, many states have actually voted in minister’s meetings to use that money for other uses (insurance programs, youth camp facilities, etc). So if there is a violation (I believe there is) then it seems that the ministers of said states are complicit with that violation.

    3. Some actually claim that paying a minister’s insurance IS part of evangelism. Paying for a facility IS evangelism. To me this is not in keeping with the actual wording of the Minutes, but others think this is okay.

    Conclusion? WE HAVE A BIG MESS. What can/should be done to fix it?

    Solutions? Ideas?

  14. Jerry,
    If we have any chance of getting out of the mess that we have found ourselves in we have to do more to promote the growth of our church (new churches) and the health of our existing churches. I believe there is a way we can come out of this but we will have to take a hard look at how we use our resources. I believe the only way that we can build revenue is by building up churches. In business one way that retail businesses build their stock is by starting new stores. The way they build revenue is by making their stores more profitable. I think the COG can do this in a three ways:
    (1) Promote the idea for larger churches to start satellite churches or new works. Allow these new works to be under the mother church and out of the state work until they are fully able to be on their own. This gives the church time to build itself up, use its resources for advertising, staffing, building, etc. Allow the pastor of the mother church to continue to be the mentor to that pastor (like a DO).
    (2) We need to use money to build some of the churches we have. There are a great deal of churches that just need direction and some resources. Pastor that need funds to advertise, staff, or remodel the church. Though we have to be smart about where we spend this money and make sure it is a good investment, there is nothing that gives a greater return than making our existing churches healthier.
    (3) Do more Organizational promotion. We have a state of the art studio we just built in Cleveland. Let’s use it to promote the church in areas, states, and even nation wide. Allowing churches and states to use this to make commercials or promotion videos would be in the best interest of the COG.
    If out main problem is that we need more money then we have to do something different to build revenue. More members equals more revenue. We can not continue to do the same thing and expect a different result, which is the definition of insanity.

  15. Jerry,

    I’ll come back with more thoughts on this later. My initial thoughts are simply that we must create a safe opportunity to correct the situation. Alabama and/or Florida ministers in session are a subordinate body to the General Assembly.

    The resolution is not to endorse incongruent, inappropriate action. The resolution is to identify it and correct it immediately.

    We made a mistake. Let’s not make another by perpetuating it now that it is out in the open. Our future, our integrity, and the mission of Jesus is on the line.

  16. I’m not sure how we could move to this, but I personally favor a model where the local church contributes 2.5% to a church planting fund at the state level OR provides financial reporting where they used 2.5% in their own church planting iniatives. At Daystar, we recently planted a new church. The new church is only 10 weeks old and it is already as large as any church planted by the State Office that I can remember in many years.

  17. Jerry,

    There is so much that could have been done along those lines that would have been a beautiful arrangement.

  18. […] of dollars annually on whatever we want.  In 2008, the Executive Council has now determined that we should no longer believe that and has proposed to strike this language which articulates our belief held for the past 66 years […]

  19. […] this case to quote Jim Collins, “good is the enemy of great.” The good has led us to truly objectionable places.  However, with a focused spending of these resources, we could: be faithful to the Minutes and […]

  20. What is interesting to me is that I’ve heard the use of these funds objected to by executive leadership as well- citing the Minutes, etc. I think the validity of the point cannot be refuted.

    However, the language seems to presuppose rejection and, I think for the executive leadership reading it, provoke it. What I’m referring to is “absolute rejection”, “gross mismanagement” (x2), “direct opposition to the General Assembly”, “systemic disregard”, “wholesale and long-term disregard”, “immediate” (x2). This language makes it VERY difficult for leadership to respond positively, to do so would be to open themselves to serious charges. What I’m saying is that I think the issue can (and should) be legitimately raised, but it should also give leadership an opportunity to respond to it- language should presuppose a positive response rather than pose a threat to a negative.

    This is a systemic, long-term problem. How did it develop? What will a correction involve? Obviously the correction will be difficult and painful- though this does not negate its necessity. I think you’ve got a good handle on the cost to the movement if we don’t see a true correction, but it is important also to see clearly the cost of the correction itself as a plan of action is determined. “Immediate” may not be possible- so tabling the change of the Minutes until it can be examined as you have suggested may be the option at this point with clear voicing of the “why” at this GA.

    I applaud the desire to return to origins of who we are as the Church of God and I am personally committed to this, not only in words but in my own leadership. I’m coming later into this conversation, but intrigued by what I am reading. The danger is that the valid issues you are raising could be discounted if voiced too “shrilly” so I think it’s great that you are putting it out there for feedback first- I hope what I have shared is helpful.

    Blessings…

  21. Jonathon,

    This redirection of these funds was not initiated by any current state overseer or member of the Executive Committee/Council. We’ve simply found ourselves here after decades of this being our common practice.

    But, someone within our current structure has to speak to the issue. I’ve never heard a proactive voice. I’ve had several good, godly men who are serving as Administrative Bishops state their frustration with the practice while also expressing an unwillingness to subject their staff to termination in order to correct the issue. These are men I love and greatly respect.

    The emotional quandry I’ve been left in is how to vocally oppose the practice of “grossly misdirecting” monies (up to $13 million per yr) which is designated for “new field work and in the case of an emergency, small church assistance” and still maintain the heart that I desperately want to remain in a father/son relationship with those who are over me in the Lord. It’s tough.

    But, the greater priority is the stated mission of the church as articulated by Jesus and as expressed in our Minutes and our Vision statement.

    I pray that my heart is heard…love for Jesus and love for my church family. I’m not a newcomer to the COG. In fact, my family goes back to MS Lemons, the second person credentialed in the COG, RP Johnson (my great-grandfather) who was the Asst. GO, Otis McCoy who was the editor of the “Hymns of the Spirit,” David Lemons, and Ida McCoy who was the first licensed lady evangelist. I pray that my hope for us comes through loud and clear.

    With that said, there has to be a call from someone to cease this practice, to acknowledge that this practice exists, and to articulate a plan for returning to who we are on paper.

    I hope that helps you see what’s on the inside of these legitimately strong and highly appropriate statements.

  22. Travis,

    Thanks for the reply. There is a longing in our generation of ministers to “be” the Church of God that the Lord of the Harvest birthed in the earth at the end of the 19th Century, incarnated relevantly to a 21st Century harvest. I understand and relate to that, so I connect with your call for a return to origins and purity of purpose.

    I’ve also had my share of disappointments and observed more than I wished of “wrongs” in the church. My experience with injustice has not all been second hand, and I have the scars and the t-shirt. I know what it is to hold the frustration in until when it comes out it’s like a dam bursting and the water destroys rather than gives life- I’ve been right and expressed it wrong.

    Travis, I don’t have your beautiful heritage in the Church of God. I was brought up in the Baptist church and my family attended a Methodist church before experiencing Pentecost at an independent Pentecostal church. I don’t have a degree from Lee- mine is from the A/G Vanguard Univ in CA. I walked into the Upper Room Church of God in Westminter, CA with no prior knowledge of the Church of God. Honestly, I’d heard better singing than the choir and Pastor Floyd Lawhon never quite finished a sermon (God would move and the altars filled)- what touched my soul was the FAMILY. I was loved into the Church of God, not born into it, preached into it, or sung into it. The people “had church” before and after the event of the worship service. No- they didn’t “have” church, they “were” church. From that day until now, I knew that God had placed me in the Church of God, and this is “home.”

    So, that’s my COG heritage and I won’t go into bio here except to say I’ve been a COG full-time missionary for 17 years.

    I hear your heart, your point is valid- but I’ll agree to disagree with you that the documents needs to be worded as it is. I know there is solidarity with what you raise in leadership, but you won’t get to a unified response to addressing it with a document that reads like an indictment of leadership.

    That’s my perspective, and I appreciate the open forum that you and Tom have created where we can voice ourselves freely in the common desire to see the Church of God be all that it is called to be in these Last Days.

    Blessings

  23. Jonathan,

    I really don’t think the EHM is an indicitment of any singular person. It is an indictment against all of us over the past several decades. It is laid at no one person’s feet. I bear responsibility. Our ABs, state councils, EC, and Council of 18 bear responsibility. Some people have to be “the guys” that step up and directly speak to this issue in the precise terms of what it is.

    We cannot afford to describe it as anything less than it’s reality. This is what is happening. We must address it with sincere, loving honesty if we have any hope of repairing it. It certainly won’t repair itself.

    I could be wrong. But, I believe it is carefully and accurately worded. After preparing notes and determining where we were going with it, we spent a good four hours writing it in San Antonio.

    My concern is that we would be more concerned with the raising of the issue than the actual issue. How would you suggest addressing it in a way that we catalyze change? Give me some specifics of how we could have done it better and some advice on what our next steps should be. I’m all ears (or eyes in this case).

  24. Jonathan,

    Thanks for your insightful comments. Each time I hear you and talk with you, I have a sense of the depth God is developing in you to speak to our church. I pray you will continue to be the leader you are. You have a voice.

    Simply put, your comments and dialogue with Travis here speak for many young men and leaders in the church whom I am talking to and who write to me. Change is coming to our community and if we don’t “flinch” or lose direction in the midst of our words, we will see our hearts desire.

    I genuinely and sincerely believe that.

  25. Hey Jonathan!

    It feels like the old days with you on here…I started looking around for Craig’s comments! 🙂

  26. A Couple Questions/Observations From This Thread

    Jonathan – a quote from you earlier in this thread….

    I’ve also had my share of disappointments and observed more than I wished of “wrongs” in the church. My experience with injustice has not all been second hand, and I have the scars and the t-shirt. I know what it is to hold the frustration in until when it comes out it’s like a dam bursting and the water destroys rather than gives life- I’ve been right and expressed it wrong.

    The unfortunate side effect in attempting to be succinct is mis-perception. So the disclaimer: I have followed your ministry and great admiration. I also value your critical thinking perspective as I have read what you write. And, last, the following question risks being heard as defensive and that is not in my heart.

    The nature of your response back to Travis (in quotes above) appears to suggest that objectionable observations may be only born of unresolved anger or disappointment.

    Points to consider:
    1. Travis is not the sole author of the “Letter of Objection” document…I shared in that.
    2. I really have no Church of God wounds or scars….no “rotten overseer” stories, no being “passed over” or passed by stories. I don’t see my actions as the result of some cathartic purging of the vomit of disillusionment which can no longer be restrained by appropriate ecclesial decorum.

    I think a “redemptive” posture can, at the same time reflect some measure of anger-born passion and yet have in focus a view to resolution or remedy. As you know, passion with no purpose is directionless and fruitless. That’s not where we are. Thanks…..


    For Bill Isaacs….your response to Jonathan

    Thanks for your insightful comments. Each time I hear you and talk with you, I have a sense of the depth God is developing in you to speak to our church. I pray you will continue to be the leader you are. You have a voice.

    Simply put, your comments and dialogue with Travis here speak for many young men and leaders in the church whom I am talking to and who write to me. Change is coming to our community and if we don’t “flinch” or lose direction in the midst of our words, we will see our hearts desire.

    I genuinely and sincerely believe that.

    Bill…..would you mind unpacking that in light of the context of this thread? It was wonderfully “Toastmastered.” 🙂

    OK – Now I have to offer another disclaimer – I guess people should know that we are friends…and personally, after Katrina…you don’t have to do anything else to impress me anyway! 🙂

  27. Tom:
    The internet is not a good communication vehicle for understanding intent of words…such as “toastmastered”…what’s that? I enjoy toast…ate some yesterday morning early with butter…but only my mother has mastered toast from my experience…so I’m at a loss to the intent of your wordsmithing….!!!!!

    Does that help you any?

    Bill

  28. Bill,

    You’re a sorry dog. OK I’ll bite.

    “Toastmasters Club” is historically a place where leaders (business, civic, political, etc.) gather to master the art of public speaking. Years ago it was a joke that it was the place that politicians would learn to master the art of answering a question so that determining the substance of the answer would be left up to the subjective interpretation of the listener.

    “Well, what do you think that meant?” ….and it contained enough non definitive references to the issue at hand so as to be potentially interpreted to support views which may in fact oppose each other.

    Here’s a quote from one of the many Toastmaster web sites:

    While you are encouraged to answer the question, there may be times when you find nothing comes to mind immediately. If that happens, try to say something even if it is not fully relevant to the question. Sometimes, you’ll find you get back to the question if you keep on going.

    Too funny……..

    So in the end…………nothing like making a joke where no one gets the punch line but me. Oh well, I guess I could use a piece of Toast my own self. 🙂

    While I have responded to you at face value….why is it I have the nagging suspicion that your last post is only evidence of the substance of what I have just written? 🙂

  29. As one wise man noted to me in my formative years, — in many words are many traps!

    In order that you may find peace (HA) and that you and others who frequent this blog may not be wondering my intent…I offer…

    There is a lot of talk on these kinds of sites about heritage and everyone wants to point to theirs. Paul seemed to have some annoyance about such boasting but then we are not to be chided for our personal pride in relation to this church and its history. However, it is my conviction we should not be judged by the virtues of our heritage because we had nothing to do with it. Rather, we are charged with the responsibility to lead courageously, wisely and with a heart of compassion–as Jesus would.

    Too often, leaders are tempted to “flinch” as it were in moments of great opportunity…there is concern or worry that some will not understand, that the decision will cost personally, the impact will be too hard on some, etc. It is an endless list. What happens (and it has happened to me) is we “flinch”…because we lack firmness in our understanding of the moment of our opportunity. It is the same spirit that Jesus laments when looking over Jerusalem and weeps–he knows they missed their moment–in essence they “flinched”.

    The Church of God has been through great storms, trials, diversity, debate, internal squabbles, financial challenges, leadership discipline and on and on. The church has survived and will, from my perspective because good men will not “flinch” nor get distracted from the opportunity of a moment. I write about this at forwardleadership.org–the worry I have about our distraction and temptations in the church to get side-tracked. It has happened and can happen again. When it does, we lose our way–in the midst of our many words.

    I was talking once to a great leader in this church and I asked…which is more important that I pray for each of you…COURAGE or WISDOM? He paused and then said–most intelligent people know what to do and while we need both, the larger challenge for most leaders is COURAGE (I defined to him courage- as strength to do what you know is right).

    Many words do not answer our questions in this church. The answers we all desire are located in the courage of our own hearts and those who lead us. To that end, we must pray and come together in community, despite what has happened to us personally because this is really about us…and I worry that we are so self-absorbed with some things because of their personal impact to us that we cannot see the larger picture of our future. We can have our way but it may limit our future!

    Tom, you and I stand between two generations (you look older than me but I’m close)–each with a piece of our hearts. We love them both. My heart is for a church courageous to take the future in hand and advance the kingdom of God. In my opinion, we have that–both leaders and followers–courageous for the future. A future that is counting on us not “flinching” or losing our way in the midst of our many words.

    Wow…did I write all that? (Now, you know why I went with the shorter answer.)

  30. Tom:

    I like the wording. I like the passion with which you and Trav write. I guess it’s not everyone’s style. Perhaps it stirs some to frustration and disillusionment, but it stirs in me resolve.

    With that said, I disagree with this statement of yours:
    “The nature of your response back to Travis (in quotes above) appears to suggest that objectionable observations may be only born of unresolved anger or disappointment.”

    I do not see that in Jonathan’s comments. I only heard a suggestion that some of the passionate rhetoric might, in the end, stand in the way of getting the very thing that’s being asked. I don’t see anything that suggests that “objectionable observations may be only born of unresolved anger or disappointment.”

    Can you explain how you get that?

  31. Jonathan (Stone),

    Perhaps you’re right and it is a simply a misread on my part.

    It was really for me just a synthesis of terms and grammar that was used ….(I’m not being sarcastic here – forthright answer).

    From first post by Jonathan Augustine:

    However,
    the language seems to presuppose rejection and, I think for the executive leadership reading it, provoke it.
    What I’m referring to is “absolute rejection”, “gross mismanagement” (x2), “direct opposition to the General Assembly”, “systemic disregard”, “wholesale and long-term disregard”, “immediate” (x2). This language makes it VERY difficult for leadership to respond positively, to do so would be to open themselves to serious charges. What I’m saying is that I think the issue can (and should) be legitimately raised, but it should also give leadership an opportunity to respond to it- language should presuppose a positive response rather than pose a threat to a negative.

    I applaud the desire to return to origins of who we are as the Church of God and I am personally committed to this, not only in words but in my own leadership. I’m coming later into this conversation, but intrigued by what I am reading. The danger is that the valid issues you are raising could be discounted if voiced too “shrilly” so I think it’s great that you are putting it out there for feedback first- I hope what I have shared is helpful.

    From Second Jonathan Augustine post:

    I’ve also had my share of disappointments and observed more than I wished of “wrongs” in the church. My experience with injustice has not all been second hand, and I have the scars and the t-shirt. I know what it is to hold the frustration in until when it comes out it’s like a dam bursting and the water destroys rather than gives life- I’ve been right and expressed it wrong.

    First post – addressed the language in the “Letter of Absolute Rejection” …both in the sense of the terms chosen and the tenor (“shrill”).

    Second post, the phrase “I’ve also…” and then offers his reactions in similar situations, which I assumed he saw as a parallel to the substance and impetus/motivation behind what we are doing.

    I did choose the term “anger” and you’re right that in fact it does not appear, the term “disappointment” does. Then his consummation or conclusion of, “hold the frustration in until it comes out like a dam bursting and the water destroys…I’ve been right and expressed it wrong.”

    To me it painted a picture that “wrong” (objectionable) expressions were in fact the substance of the “Letter of Absolute Rejection” and that they were the fruit of pent-up emotions (frustrations behind a dam) that finally burst out inappropriately.

    I promise…..all this grammatical exegesis is not a smarty pants response on my part. And as I said, I may have synthesized his two posts inaccurately. I guess my goal was to convey that what we are doing is not a bursting dam of reactionary passion…it is instead very much a chosen path of encounter where words are weighed carefully. Thus….all the blah, blah, blah I just wrote to you.

    Thanks for the tough question.

  32. Bill – your point taken…my point made. (I’ll be back) 🙂

  33. Tom:

    Thanks for the detailed explanation. You should be an English teacher! 🙂

    I see what you’re saying with the more detailed explanation. I didn’t understand how you got that from the original quote you cited. But now I can see your point, as well as why you would want to make the clarification.

    I would not have taken the details for smarty pants on your part! And certainly didn’t mean the question as smary pants either! Thanks for taking the time to clarify.

  34. […] concerning what has transpired. Without any doubt and in keeping with our previous writing, “A Letter of Absolute Objection to the Executive Committee,” this practice of spending Evangelism and Home Missions funds for ancillary items DID NOT […]

  35. Just moved from Missionary housing and now have no internet at home so it’s taken me longer to respond- and in the meantime preachers have been synthesizing my verses! 🙂

    BECAUSE the issues raised are so important and urgent, the tenor with which they are raised is necessarily vital. That’s the synthesis of my posts.

    As I mentioned in my first post, (and Travis, you recently mentioned in one of yours) there are executive leaders who share the same concerns. I’m not suggesting that you should do something else- in fact, my comments were offered with the hope that what you have done would accomplish its intended purpose.

    Perhaps I misunderstood the aim, but if it is to illicit a response from the Executive Committee, then language should conform to this aim. If it is to illicit a response from readers here (which my friend Jonathan Stone alludes to), then stronger terms which invoke passion may be what you want after all. I honestly don’t feel that some of the language serves the prior aim and when I see that in my own writing, I ask myself “where is this coming from?”

    Tom- you read/listen like me- I’m looking for the connections, nuances, and the thought behind the words. You were close, but read a little more into it, specifically:

    “Second post, the phrase “I’ve also…” and then offers his reactions in similar situations, which I assumed he saw as a parallel to the substance and impetus/motivation behind what we are doing.”

    That assumption is wrong because I was not speaking to the “substance and impetus/motivation behind what you are doing”- merely the choice of language in this particular document to the Committee.

    Secondly, you said:

    “To me it painted a picture that “wrong” (objectionable) expressions were in fact the substance of the “Letter of Absolute Rejection” and that they were the fruit of pent-up emotions (frustrations behind a dam) that finally burst out inappropriately.”

    Again, I think I made clear that I see the substance, the issue you raise, as been unimpeachable and vital. Because this is true, I responded to the invitation to give input so that the final document presented would accomplish its purpose (that’s what I understood).

    This starts to feel like “wrangling with words,” which is NOT what I’m about- this is a time for courage, speaking the truth, and passion for what God has called the COG to be- I’m with you on that.

    However, I’m responding to your invitation to give input and at the same time inviting you to hold me accountable that we be men of honor before the Lord. I know you as such and don’t doubt that all this arises from concern for the church. You are tapping a previously untapped means of interconnectivity for ministers (Thank God- at last!) and the power of that (actual, not positional) brings with it a humbling amount of responsibility. My critical mind may be overly critical at times, but I don’t miss many opportunities to declare my heart when asked, whether by executive leadership or in a forum like this. My hope is that it serves rather than hinders.

    Oh- and leave Bill alone, my fans are so few I can’t be at all picky about the canned nature of their praise. Bill, my ministerial file number is….NO, wait, please don’t do that, I’ll be come one of THEM. (I think if we could get the THEY’s and the THEM’s run out of the Church of God we’d be more than halfway to resolving whatever challenge we face…it seems to me that THEY are taking over OUR church)

  36. Jonathan (Augustine)

    Let’s see….how do I do a poetic parallel with the MasterCard commercial?

    “Nature of you response – objective.”
    “Explanation of previous post – concise.”
    “Last paragraph – priceless!”

    LOL!!!!

    Thanks for taking the time to “wrangle” with words. I think I get it (a little slow). Good counsel…and certainly received on this end.

  37. […] into our books by the ECFA came on June 7th, 2008 in a document posted at MissionalCOG.com entitled “A Letter of Absolute Objection.” It was tied directly to failure to distribute General Assembly mandated church planting resources […]

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