Struthers Memorial Church and the “higher place”





The separation sermon 22 Jan 2011 continued:



(mins & seconds into the record-ing)

O it doesn't mean that you don't care for them. It doesn't mean that from time to time that there can't be a burden for them. Who rescued Lot? It was Abraham. O yes he was still burdened but it didn't mean that he went and he lived near Sodom. It didn't mean that he went and lived in the places that Lot lived in. He lived in a different place and it was because he lived in a different place that he was able to rescue him when he was in danger.

So it appears this "place" your life will come into once you separate yourself is one above the common herd of man and other Christians; and your main contact with humanity is not as a fellow, brother or friend but as a rescuer of those in lower and lesser positions. Is this a description of how the Struthers leadership sees itself?


If so it may seem to some people that they are taking a position that is unjustifiably arrogant, deeply unpleasant and very weak on love for their fellow man.




But sometimes it is not just a separation from other people although that can be the case. Its the separation from the Lot part of your own nature. Its a separation from that part that would drag you down.

Does the speaker seriously believe that to say:


         God wants you to “separate from the Lot part of your own nature"


means anything at all to the congregation? What on earth is she teaching?


We have lots of memories of people testifying to dealing with barriers, ceilings and spiritual problems. Some of these ended up in books and became no clearer in print. We are not looking for more of these bewildering testimonies which claimed great breakthrough and insight then regularly failed to deliver any tangible change in the time that followed. We are asking for clarity, reality and detail. If this cannot be provided then we should not be surprised if those who are looking for something that works in reality and is biblical go elsewhere; and those who remain stay confused.


Please give us all some examples of real people who have applied the teaching in this sermon and tell us how this worked in real life.




  • What was the "Lot part" of their nature?


  • How did they deal ruthlessly to separate themselves from that “Lot part” of their nature?

(we can see the mental health danger of that phrasing which does not come from any bible verse but is the way the teaching has been presented. No one in the bible is given the instruction to “separate themselves from their own nature”)


  • What happens to someone who was dragged down by the "Lot part" of their nature - perhaps someone who succumbed to materialism? What was the visible and actual impact on their life?


  • Crucially how did they achieve the required "separation from themselves"?


  • What was different in their lives after they had accomplished this separation?


  • What impact did this significant and important change (as we are told this is) have on others and, for example, on the effectiveness of their Christian ministry?



Then please tell us why there are many in other churches who have more and deeper and more blessed and effective ministries who do not speak in these terms or "seek to separate themselves from the Lot part of their own natures". Why are so many so much more successful than the vast majority of people in Struthers – on the basis that success in the church and Christian service is defined in the bible? Where there is some success - such as the establishing of a church - why is it that other Christians who do not follow this teaching have also been able to establish churches, often having much more impact on their communities than the Struthers churches? If this is both necessary and the only way - why are so many other churches growing and seeing people being saved through preaching of the saving blood of Jesus yet in the absence of this "only way" teaching?


The Struthers claim seems to be that without this teaching none of that can happen.


That is manifestly untrue.



And you know there needs to come into each and every one of us a ruthlessness. A ruthlessness with the old – that we might turn and move into the new. A ruthlessness with that which would cause us to be absorbed with the things that would make "my life" comfortable. With the things that would bring "me" happiness in the material world. And we've got to look at what does God want. Where am I going to find the presence of God? Where am I going to find the life of God? Where am I going to find the voice of God – the speaking of God?

This is a typical and somewhat hysterical conflation of two things. It is a familiar Struthers teaching that if you are in any way happy or contented - or what people in other churches might describe as "blessed" - you are in terrible and imminent danger of "loosing" the presence of God. There is little possibility allowed in SMC sermons of blessing in this life, and material gain, being anything other than spiritually detrimental.


The concept of God materially blessing us being a good thing to be welcomed and enjoyed seems to never figure as a possibility and certainly has never - in our recall - been publicly acknowledged.


The fact that God blessed Abraham, Lot, Noah, Job and Joseph with material gifts and blessings made them better able, not less able, to deal with the problems and challenges that came into their lives. People think SMC leaders focus far too much on the old testament for their teachings. If you look more closely they seem to actually focus far too much time on just a few selected and oft repeated old testament stories showing God's dealings of only part of the life of some of the patriarchs. A lot of the rest of their life stories – the bits that don't fit the required ascetic need -  are conveniently ignored.


The belief in a connection between material blessing and spiritual loss comes from various places. The Pharisaical Calvinism of the Brethren, the early church Ascetics, the Roman Catholic priesthood and monkish orders, and the holiness groups of the 19th Century - many of whom erroneously taught that separation and sanctification commitments were what the Bible described as the Pentecostal experience. Subsequent events in the worldwide church proved this teaching to be wrong – as even Struthers would agree.



I don't find after this that you hear of God speaking to Lot. He's not in a place where he can hear Him. He's not in a place where he can know His voice.

This is a speculation which seems designed to frighten the listener into agreement with the speaker. Someone she admits the bible describes as “righteous Lot” she then claims is not in a place to ever again hear God’s voice (!) That view might fit well with her sermon but it is not derived from the bible. We similarly do not hear of God speaking to Barnabas after he split from Paul. Are we to therefore assume that he also was not in a place to hear God's voice? That would be a massively false conclusion. Where the bible is silent it is better for the preacher to be silent.













But I find that again and again God is speaking to Abraham because he is in a place where there is a drive in his soul. There is a love in his soul for spiritual things and there is a desire to move on. I believe Lot was in the place of the church of Ephesus who we read of in the book of Revelation: He had lost his first love. But he was still part of the family of God but he was in the place where it had become dull; where it had become diluted; where it had become mixed with so much that would cause the voice of God to be distant. He wasn't separate unto his God. And the child of God hasn't only to leave the land of Ur and travel forward, to leave the land where the Lots of this life settle down. And you move from there into a place that is much, much deeper.  


And now we are coming in to very deep waters. We are coming into a place that I think comparatively few people reach. But it is the place of moving into the power and the glory of God.

We repeat the request that we made in the punishment threat article. If there are people who have achieved "deep" places or "heights" or have "moved into a new place" or who have a drive in their soul to move on – who are they? Name them so we can know. Name them so we can see real people who are living in the way described. The speaker claims there are comparatively few:

And now we are coming in to very deep waters. We are coming into a place that I think comparatively few people reach”.


Fair enough. Just let us know who has made it on this road. Who has moved into "the place of moving into the power and the glory of God". Is the speaker claiming to be there? Is the current leader of SMC? Are all the 6 of the Struthers charity directors there? Are all who work in the school there? Or just some? If any - who?


The SMC leadership have created a problem and a division within their own churches. Some people are in a position to climb into a pulpit and claim to be deep and in a place of power; and some people are told by sermons such as this one to feel they are not and they need to do something – something ruthless - with their personality or their circumstances or their friendships or - astonishingly – possibly even with their marriages. This because they are being told this is what God is demanding in order to admit them to a place of power (presumably in Christian service though that also is often kept vague). But if there are only comparatively few - and those as yet remain unidentified - how will anyone ever know if they have made it?


People may cut off contact with a friend or a relative after a sermon such as this thinking that this is what is required. Yet once this is done their new closeness to God remains utterly subjective to themselves and they are not in any tangible or even noticeable way moving in the power and the glory of God more than they were before. These people are also no more an important part of what is going on in Struthers than they were before. Some people are in the heart of things but not them. So what was this ruthlessness with their natures for? So they try and try then give up and just pretend to try.


Finally they get wise to the un-winnable nature of this teaching which keeps people forever self centred on their own religious performance and they give up in despair, leave Struthers branded a failure, or depend on medication to get them through life. For many who have attended for years - failure is the only tangible outcome so far and they are reminded of it week after week.


Yet the successful do not always seem to be the ones who have been ruthless with material things and with the flaws in their own natures. Yet because of their connections in the church and their particular location, or their job, they get involved in things not open to others. Jobs in the school, jobs in the shops, part of singing groups, part of ministry teams, preaching duties, seem to be awarded not to those who have attained this deep and high place in God but to the favoured and the friends and the families of the leaders. At least that is how it looks.



"take Isaac, your only son whom you love".  What is your Isaac? What is the thing that God has given into your life? The thing that is very, very special and given and anointed of God. Loved in your life but perchance has come between you and your God. Perchance something that has got into a place, or could get into a place, that is the wrong place for this in your life. For some it can be something like a career, it can be something like a possession, for many it is a relationship, sometimes a God given relationship – a husband, a wife, a particularly close spiritual friend. Someone through whom you have been blessed and God says: "take it and give it to me. Put it on my altar, make me first in your life". These things are very, very real. I don't know that Isaac was in a wrong place in Abraham’s life. We are not told that. But we are told that God wanted to know that He the Lord God was first. He wanted to know that He had the throne in Abraham's life. And so they start on this journey to the mountain that God had showed him of (sic). And Abraham had to separate himself from his love of Isaac It must have been very very deep, very searching, very puzzling,very difficult, for him to understand. He didn't know at the beginning that God was going to give him his Isaac back. And sometimes with us its a matter of God putting the thing in its right perspective and never again does it come anywhere near that throne in our lives that is the throne where God is. We read that the Lord our God is a jealous God and that He will not allow any other love, or any other thing, to be in that place that is His and His alone. He is looking for a people who are separate unto Him and when you loose this, or when you don't travel into this, you miss what is the fullness of the calling of a life in Christ Jesus. There is a fullness in this place and in this place alone.


Could the SMC leadership reflect on the fact that in general Christians do not have the calling on their lives that Abraham had. They have a calling and a place in Gods work and in Gods heart. They are not all called to be the father of many nations and for their lives to have a worldwide, historic impact. Generally.


Therefore is it sensible to take what was a massive and cataclysmic event in biblical and world history - this incident with Isaac which happened once in the whole life of Abraham - and make from it a theology which needs repeated week in and week out? The claim is that God wants the SMC congregations to look for things to sacrifice of tremendous value in their lives because the dealing of God with Abraham tells us that this very thing we love is what is separating us from our high calling in God.  


As the speaker indicates - the bible does not even claim that this is what this story is about!  She brings that meaning into it.


This is actually about God giving Abraham a promise and then asking him to obey in a way that looks like it will destroy the promise and calling God has given. We are reminded of our own article on the hogging of the platform. This story illustrates how God may give a person a promise and a calling and then ask them to do something that does not immediately and clearly fit with their view of what that calling involves. Such as an SMC leader taking a sabbatical and trusting in God rather than in their determined hold on power, that He will, after a healthy break, bring them back into a place of service. The story of Abraham and Isaac speaks about those who love what God has given them as part of His promise for them spiritually and for their service to Him. Are they prepared to sacrifice that on the altar? Or will they hold onto it because they have no other life and no other hope even when God is saying give your Christian service and leadership and hopes for spiritual success to me, and lay it down as a sacrifice.


In that we agree with the speaker – there are comparatively few who are prepared to do this – and let the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die. Jesus says they will abide alone and not bear much fruit.  



and we have been hearing a great deal about the promise we have for this year ...and He can only come in in the fullness in which He wants to come in when we are separate unto Him. When we have given Him everything. Everything that would clutter the path, obstruct the path, where he would travel into the throne of our lives. We have been hearing a lot about the coming of pentecost in the first century and in very recent centuries. And you know again and again as the power of pentecost draws near, it draws near to hearts and lives that have come to this place where there is a total giving of themselves to God and a looking for the sweeping in of that power into the central place in your heart and in your life.  


Actually we believe this is not true. The massive impact of pentecost and pentecostalism in the last hundred years has largely not been accompanied by this teaching. To suggest this has to happen in this particular way before God will bless a church with the power of pentecost is not historically or evidentially true. Whether the SMC leadership like it or not most pentecostal churches are full of people that are baptised in the Holy Spirit and reaching out to their community with the gospel. Unless the leaders can show that there are those who have succeeded via their own ruthlessness with their "separation" activities and as a result have achieved more fruit or more sacrificial love in a tangible way - why should we even listen to them? It is fruit which the bible instructs we are to look for in peoples lives – not blindly accepting what they tell us (or say about themselves). Unless we can identify the difference in peoples lives experienced by the comparatively few who it is claimed manage to live successfully according to this teaching, then all SMC are presenting is slanted teaching with no evidence that their in-road to pentecost is better than anyone else’s.  


We can know them by their fruit and by the love of people for one for another.


In that - perhaps - we could look at evidence of:


  • love for one another as Christians - especially how those who are on this high road treat those who have no position in the church; and therefore to whom they simply show love without any thought of reward in this life
  • tangible and visible acts of love for the lost
  • the love for enemies which only God’s miraculous power can enable
  • the love that makes a true Christ-like leader the kind of person who puts a towel round their waist to wash the feet of everyone in their congregation. (John 13)

He did not do this “spiritually” - Jesus actually did this in the real world with a towel and peoples feet.


By this last example Jesus demonstrates what we are asking for - real world evidence of the high claims in this sermon which reasonable people can see and understand. His spirituality did not have to be continually asserted - in Jesus it was made obvious in the physical expression of repeated acts of incredible kindness towards people.


We are fortunate to know many good pastors who would not meet the requirements of the Struthers leadership as revealed in this sermon - but they would pass with honour the test of true servant leadership which Jesus set. Their congregations know that they are loved no matter what comes against them. They have seen with their own eyes how others have been well treated and they know they are safe.




and I don't know how many of you have experienced at least in a measure what I am speaking of tonight. I know some of you have.

It seems even the speaker doesn't know who sitting in front of her is on the high way and who isn't. Presumably the congregation have to guess for themselves who among them is on the high and only way. Presumably some will correctly believe they are; and some will delusionaly think they are. Our confusion becomes less surprising.




Some of us have touched it but there are depths and there are levels and every single one of us has a place to travel to and God would cause us to travel yet further into that place.  

"There are depths and there are levels". When will the depths and levels that people have so far attained cause SMC to bear more fruit than other “lesser” churches? When will it be able to show that the power of God (according to their teaching) is so able to move through certain separated people from Struthers that they will have a significant and notable impact on Scotland? Or perhaps a town in Scotland? When will this teaching lead to special and unique ministries and happenings which do not happen in other churches - especially those who do not understand and teach this "separation to go on a high way" approach?


We are not inventing these terms. We are asking about evidence to confirm that what the preacher is teaching is actually biblical and actually true.



There is an obvious, embarrasing “elephant in the room” when this teaching is being given.


If this attainment of a place of separation and high and deep living does result in the power of God flowing into a church and a community - where is that now happening in the special and particular way spoken of in this sermon?


We cannot be looking for the kind of things that happen in normal mainstream churches; but surely something much more significant and of more visible blessing and public impact. If we cannot see it - does that mean that the lives of even the main current leaders in Struthers - those who most strongly push this teaching - are not themselves sufficiently separated and living free from the Lot part of their lives. Surely if they were this power would be impacting on society in the revival like way indicated in this sermon that it should. “This is the road to revival”


We do not deny the SMC church leaders have some minstries and gifts in the same way as many other churches leaders do. But they seem to be claiming they have something more than others have.


Why is their “separation” not leading to great, visible blessing and ministry of an effectiveness way beyond that seen in the work of other churches?


Surely they are not claiming that following this teaching will result in success for others which they have not yet come into themselves? Or, if the teaching of this sermon is correct, is this lack of a revival indicative of a fundamental failure in the lives and ministries of those in leadership in Struthers?



We have no reason to ask this - other than that it is a very logical question arising from the sermon preached on 22 January 2011.


In the terms of this sermon do any of the Struthers leaders see themselves as successfully living in the way described and which SMC members are being encouraged to aspire to?


If so - please indicate who - so we can all know and examine their lives.    




The most tragic part of this teaching, however, is that it transmits to the SMC congregation the belief that God Himself is somehow not sufficient, strong and loving enough to protect us adequately. The SMC leadership make sure that all manner of things are continually depicted as the greatest possible threat to our relationship wih Him. That seems to include even those things which God has given us for our good out of His loving Father Heart - such as Christian spouses, children, friends, families and even the roof over our head. He cares so little for us, they seem to say, that even tiny mistakes of emphasis in our lives and we may never hear the voice of God speaking to us ever again - illustrated by the very dodgy claim that this is what happened to Lot.


We believe this is tragic and dangerous.


We believe God is not petty or powerless as this sermon implies.


We do not believe His love for us is determined by how ruthlessly we can follow the legalistic requirements of any group.


Any Christian parent who loves their children understands that our love for them is but a pale shadow of His love for us - and for them. If we would not reject and disown our children for “failing” us in the strange ways described in this sermon; what is different about God the Father that He would?


 We think it is more likely that Struthers Memorial Church is wrong.










  • Thanks to the Rick Ross forum discussion on Struthers Memorial Church many valuable pieces of information for those dealing with these issues have been able to be shared more widely. One of these is this article on Lordship Salvation, sourced by Covlass, which is a good summary of the problems and issues arising in a church where this teaching is being given. It well illustrates the problems people will encounter while trying to connect the teaching given in this sermon with a biblical view. This article very well illustrates the problems with this tradition of teaching and the damage it can cause.



  • We think this further reading article is relevant and will be helpful. However if the SMC leadership feel that what is criticised in it does not reflect their teaching we would welcome their comments and will be happy to share any clarifcation of their position they can provide.