New Covenant Publications - A Counter Cult Ministry


Atlanta Church Congregational Meeting

Reaction to Henry Kriete's Letter

February 16, 2003


(Notes taken by a current member of the Atlanta Congregation)

We were supposed to have a short sermon and a budget presentation today. However, before the opening prayer, Steve got up and explained that we would have communion and be dismissed to pick our kids. He said this would be the most important congregational meeting that we have had in 15 years, that he hoped we would stay, but we were free to leave because he said the meeting would be long. (This is true, we did not get home until about 3:00, and there were plenty of people waiting to speak to leaders when we left.)

Steve Sapp Congregational Meeting Notes

Acts 14:21-28 21They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. 23Paul and Barnabas appointed elders[1] for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

Whole church was informed in decision making. 27 They reported to the church, which is what we intend to do today.

Also, Acts 15:1-4 1Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them...

This church belongs to US - all of us, not just the staff. We are all invested in it.

Acts 1:6-9 6So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

God is OK with us not understanding where we are and where we are going. We hate uncertainty! Our purpose is to follow Jesus and to be like him.

Steve said that he had been criticized (he did not say by whom) for talking to the congregation about the Unity Meeting in LA. He was accused of "airing the dirty laundry" to the church. Steve disagreed with that and thought we ought to know for reasons stated above. He also listed real quick the changed that have been implemented up until this point in time in the ACOC:

Terminology Changes - for example, the only leaders are evangelists, elders, deacons and deaconesses, and teachers

Contribution - no accountability any more by envelopes; totally spiritually focused

Streamlined Statistics - before was too corporate and numbers oriented; only numbers kept are baptisms and people moving in and out of ministries, plus any births or deaths

Relationships with one another to be less controlling - People have used their positions of leadership to enforce people to do things; people usually walked around feeling like they were in trouble; they felt like they had to get permission instead of advice; leaders acted like "bosses"; you couldn't say what you thought and if you did, you were labeled.

Steve said it will take time for people to untrain themselves - leaders and members included. Steve said if someone tries to tell you what to do and they don't have book, chapter and verse, tell them to BUTT OUT. He said that the cell doors are open. Some are still in the cell and are too conditioned and need a "boss" even when they may not like the "boss"; some are like a "bat out of hell" and are going for it; some are a little skeptical and wonder - is this too good to be true? Some think we are moving too slow. Steve is afraid that if we don't move slow, we'll just invent another "system" which would pretty much undo all the change and put us right back where we were to begin with. D-trees have been done away with because they were a control mechanism, period, even tho it began with good intentions.

Steve said that 10 days ago, the Henry Kriete Letter (referred to hereafter as HKL) surfaced. Originally, this letter supposedly was only meant for WSL's and GSL's, but it got out and is spreading like wildfire. Steve has been in communication for the last 6 weeks with Henry and even was asked to read and give input to the letter BEFORE it was distributed. Steve says the paper is dead-on and the little things he disagrees with are inconsequential. He only disagreed that the Unity Conference, in Steve's opinion, was a step in the right direction (not a failure) and he didn't exactly like the way the letter was distributed, but he didn't explain why. He said those two points were really trivial, and that he agreed with Henry. He said that Henry even joked with him that when this letter got out, he might be calling Steve for a job because he knew a lot of people wouldn't like it.

Steve said that he thought the bulk of the change in Atlanta would be done at the staff level and not by the average rank & file member. The staff has to earn back trust. Things Steve then apologized for:

-He was part of the "system" that attributed to abuses.

-He built a numbers-driven ministry.

-Lots of selfish ambition

-Loved the praise of men to a fault

-Proud of the ACOC


-Slow to plant other churches because it would take away from his numbers.

-Could have planted more churches in SE if not for his sin.

-Prideful with staff

-Hard to talk to

-Pruning in 1992ish - 220 left the church; he confessed cowardice in going along with the pruning and felt that we drove a lot of people away then. (It was at this point that he had to ask for a Kleenex, he was crying quite a bit.). He admitted being uncomfortable with it but seared his conscience to do what he was told.

-CEO not a preacher

-He confessed to being abrasive, obnoxious, a name-caller.

-He thought he drove people away who were visiting by "bashing" their denomination, instead of simply preaching the Bible.

-Racial segregation - he knew he contributed to it.

-He trained people to be like him; he trained people to mistreat others.

-Afraid of being fired, so he didn't speak up when he should have.

1. HIERARCHY - even back in the beginning of Crossroads, he felt that there were stupid rules. He said over the years, he seared his conscience regarding rules and his own cowardice. He said it used to be said that we were a "discipling movement" and "discipling makes us different." Steve said - bag that. John 13:34-35 (our love) makes us unique. He said discipling partner and discipling aren't even in the Bible. We developed a system which was military and corporate - not based on the Bible and not based on family. It evolved into a system of control; it was built by the staff for the staff. You couldn't talk back or speak up. He said that they did it in the Bible without rules, so can we.

He said we placed too many heavy burdens on many disciples; BTL's or HCL's do more work than some staff people, and they have full time jobs. Steve then gave a time line:

1989-Nov 2002 - all bottom line decisions were made by Steve. There was input, but the buck stopped there. That's OVER.

Dec 2002-Jan 2003 - proposed having a consensus leadership. That's OVER.

Feb 2003 - there will be consensus leadership PLUS people not on staff making decisions - no "top man" in Atlanta

Elders - Steve said that out of 4,000 members, MAYBE ten were qualified for elderships. Two or three are in the full-time ministry. Steve confessed in the past, he had only wanted elders appointed in the full-time ministry already so they would know how he operated and so he could have them on his side. He said this was wrong. ACOC needs elders, and they will have elders.

2. RACIAL DIVERSITY - We have a segregated church. If you go to the East Region on a Sunday, it's primarily black. Same with NE Region which is primarily white. We need to deal with prejudice - everyone - we need to deal with the "white flight".

3. MONEY - Steve said that in last Tuesday's staff meeting, he had thought he would bring up SMC at the budget presentation, but he doesn't think we're ready for this. He has told Steve Johnson and Mike Taliaferro that we will be postponing SMC indefinitely. He said we needed to get our house in order and that was more important than SMC.

At this point, Bob Keen (our financial administrator) took over and started talking about money and where it's going. [Let me interject here: This whole money talk confused the heck out of me, and I have no idea if my notes are even accurate. He used so much jargon that I don't know if anyone got it.]

Bob told us how, way back in the day, the ICOC Corporation was set up as a mechanism to logically divide up responsibility for planting churches. There was one instance, for example, where several churches wanted to plant the DC church. It was unclear who SHOULD plant the church, and it ended up not getting planted for a while because of this dispute. When the churches joined the ICOC Corp, they "signed off", agreeing that they would perform certain tasks each year to facilitate the ICOC Corp in dividing up and planting churches. These tasks included:

a) giving $250K the 8th month of the year,

b) that we would collect a 16-18x SMC of which 1 multiple would be sent to ICOC Corp, and 1 multiple sent to an ICOC MS fund (contingency fund). This contingency fund was set up to help church plantings during uncertain times like civil war, for example, flying some brothers and sisters out of a country to avoid their getting wounded or even killed. Steve explained that a monthly fee was paid to the ICOC Corporation. That fee is determined by being 4% of the church's August contribution of the previous year (see point a).

c) Over time, cracks began to show in this man-made organization. Costs kept going up, instead of going down. The ICOC MS is probably no longer even needed. Church plantings are handled by local churches, even in third world countries like Africa.

d) He said it took them FIVE YEARS to get audits for the ACES WS and ICOC CORP, and he just got them last summer.

e) After following the paper trail, we discovered that 70% of SMC actually went to missions

f) Last year, the ICOC Corp reduced their overhead by 10%; this year they reduced the costs by about 80%. ACES has been cut by 50%.

g) There was an audit done recently of the ACOC which came back clean.

h) He said that about $850k was given BACK to Atlanta from various funds. (I think this was from the ICOC MS fund.)

Anyway - he said that there were two funds, the ICC Corporate fund, which took care of KNN, Law, etc., and the ICC MS fund (missions society fund?), which met the needs of mission teams. We paid a monthly fee into these funds each year. Eventually, the cost for SMC kept going up. He said KNN was expensive. Decisions were made without communication. (Nothing else was said about that.) He said there was a contingency fund for missions, and that they have been dismantling various overhead funds in ACES. He said more Southern representation would be on the ACES board, if there was even going to continue to BE an ACES board. [Like I said, I didn't understand what he was saying, so my notes are really sketchy. I personally got the feeling that he was covering something up, but what, I don't know. We were supposed to have a full budget presentation, but instead at the last minute, Steve felt we needed this other meeting instead.]

At this point, as Bob finished up, Steve was sitting on the edge of the stage; we noticed a woman come up to stage and talk with him for a moment or two. As Steve got up to take over where Bob left off, this lady took the stage and grabbed the mic and started blasting Steve and the people on staff. At first, Steve tried to take her mic with his hand, but she pushed him away. Steve wasn't sure what to do and was obviously at a loss; he tried covering her mic with her hand but it was ineffective in muffling the sound. He made motions to the back for the sound crew to cut the mic, but the hired sound crew was not at the sound board. She spoke maybe two minutes on the mic, and probably about 5 minutes without the mic, yelling at Steve. While she was on the mic, she explained she was a homeless member of the ACOC, how she had given sacrificially to the missions, over the years, and was now homeless. The church has yet to help her, but she sees leaders living in big houses making lots of money. She charged Steve with not truly repenting, but being busted by the HKL and being forced into repentance. She demanded Steve explain why he hadn't returned her phone calls. She explained how she had spoken to his secretary many times.

At this point, several women, who appeared to know her, went up on stage. It appears they were trying to calm her down and get her off the stage so they could talk; they were ineffective at first. Several members got up and went to the stage and gave her money. During all this, there were many mixed responses from the crowd. Some began yelling for her to leave the stage; others yelled for them to leave her alone and let her speak; some even booed and hissed. Emotions were running very high, and we were not sure what would happen next.

Eventually, Steve spoke in his mic and asked us to try and let us continue this meeting in an orderly manner. He said he knew a lot of people had a lot of things they needed to talk about, and that there would be local forums for discussion, feedback, venting, etc, but that with a crowd this size, it was inappropriate and could not be done constructively. He encouraged us to remember Matt 18 and to take our grievances directly to the individuals first, to a wider group second, and to the church last. Steve promised he would be available to speak with her and with anyone about this situation after the meeting, one on one. At this point, we took a 10 minute break.

Side notes:

1) our children were all present, since KK had dismissed after a short service so everyone could be there - so all this took place in front of the kids.

2) this was not our full church; it was half the ACOC, and the other half is scheduled to have meeting next week.

3) I personally thought she was going to physically strike Steve, she was that angry.

4) During all this drama, we witnessed several arguments between members who were arguing and shouting about what was going on on stage.

At this point, John Harris and Tim Alderman (members of the ACOC Corporation Board of Directors) stood up and talked about how good they felt about the finances and how good the church was with money. I personally thought I was going to puke and thought this was one of the fakest things I had ever heard; I truly felt like they were placating the crowd and were doing serious damage control. They didn't even seem really well informed, nor like they really even knew what the heckle they were talking about. Perhaps they were just, ahem, ineffective speakers. (wink) Steve got back on stage here.

4. OTHER CHURCHES - Steve briefly went over what's happening in London. He said that the Templars returned to London wanting consensus leadership (whatever that is) and that the staff there wanted them fired. He said 20 more staff members were sacked. (I wondered, tho, who's doing the sacking here.) He said explosive things were happening over there. He said that people were standing up in their chairs during sermons and shouting the speaker down. He said they've split up into 40 separate ministries. Steve said that he hoped Atlanta could have a peaceful resolution to things, but if people wanted his head, let the blood flow begin. He said he knew people needed to talk, and they needed to talk, just not in that situation. People needed to get together in their house churches and talk about issues and talk to the people who sinned against them.

Don B. (our only elder??) got up to close out. He also confessed to rampant cowardice on his part, and in tears, said he went along with things he did not agree with. He continued to speak at length about his own cowardice, and how ashamed he felt.

Ben Barnett came up to close us out with a prayer, and said that he, too, had come to love the praise of men and had been guilty of people-pleasing. He said that he felt bad for Steve with all that Steve is going through, and then he closed us out with a prayer, and we were dismissed.


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