After an article of mine generated criticism of Greg Surratt, president of the Association of Related Churches (ARC), Surratt on Sunday encouraged his congregants at Seacoast Church to pray judgment over their persecutors.
“So . . . I would say when you’re praying for an enemy who is persecuting you, pray for judgment on them,” Surratt said in his sermon. Yet, cautioning that only God judges justly, Surratt tempered his comments, telling congregants to let God choose specific punishments. “Just don’t tell God what his options are, okay? . . . You have to hand the case over to him and let him do it his way, and not your way.”
Also, while teaching on “imprecatory psalms”—psalms praying curses or punishments on one’s enemies—Surratt joked: “If David lived today, he would have said, ‘May their fingers be crushed as they type their venom on a keyboard.’”
Nowhere in Surratt’s sermon does he mention me or The Roys Report. And if I didn’t report so regularly on spiritual abuse, I might dismiss what seems like an indirect, yet deft, condemnation of critics like me.
Yet as Wade Mullen notes in his book, Something’s Not Right, spiritual abuse is rarely overt. Instead, it comes in the subtle form of impression management—the skillful use of spiritual language to cover one’s own wrongs and gain power in a crisis. And as Mullen notes, “There is a pattern that accompanies abuse, as if abusers are somehow reading from the same playbook.”
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Surratt’s sermon follows that pattern perfectly as he uses Scripture to paint himself as an innocent victim, aligning with King David, and those opposing him as “evil” persecutors deserving of punishment.
This is classic DARVO—deny, attack, then reverse victim and offender. And it’s insidious, especially when employed by a pastor who twists Scripture to suit his ends.
Surratt’s sermon comes five days after I published an article highlighting an apparent contradiction between Surratt’s claims about ARC’s financial agreements with its member churches and ARC contracts obtained by TRR.
It also comes after I published a podcast with a former ARC pastor revealing the concerning unbiblical underpinnings of ARC, like the “Moses model,” which ascribes Old Testament prophetic authority to modern-day pastors.
In the past several months, I’ve also reported on numerous pastors connected to ARC who have been embroiled in sexual scandals. I’ve published about ARC and ARC executives who are facing lawsuits for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by ARC pastors. And as I’ve noted, ARC takes pride in replatforming sexually fallen pastors, including multiple pastors on ARC’s own Lead Team.
The Roys Report has sought comment from Surratt numerous times, but other than one interview last October, Surratt has not replied.
Instead, Surratt’s brother, who has no position with the ARC, published a blog last week responding to my latest article. When asked for his sources, Geoff Surratt told The Roys Report he had talked to a friend “with first-hand knowledge” of ARC who didn’t want to be named.
Then, Greg Surratt got up on Sunday and preached on persecution. And instead of encouraging congregants to bless their enemies, as Christ taught in the New Testament, he urged them to call down judgment.
Surratt equates online criticism with persecution
In his sermon Sunday, Greg Surratt appeared to equate my article last week and online criticism to “persecution.”
“So, persecution—this week, I received a little digital love—nothing too serious,” Surratt says.
He then encouraged people who feel persecuted like him to go to Psalm 69 where King David is “drowning in persecution. And people are accusing him of doing things that he hasn’t done.”
Surratt adds, “Some of you relate to that. You just tried to do the right thing. Somebody has it out for you. And they’re accusing you of stuff, speaking evil about you, lying about you, or accusing you of lying.”
In his sermon, Surratt reads portions of Psalm 69 in which King David pleads with God to rain down judgment on his enemies.
“‘Pour out Your wrath upon them,’” Surratt reads. “‘Let your fierce anger overtake them. May their place be deserted. Let there be no one to dwell in their tents.’” Then, he inserts, “Let them be hit by a truck!” which evokes laughter from the congregation.
At the end of the list of curses, which includes, “May they be blotted out of the book of life,” Surratt exclaims: “I love that! I love it! It’s the Bible.”
Yet, Surratt notes that Christians today don’t necessarily have license to pray like David prayed.
David was under the Old Covenant, which stresses adherence to Old Testament law, Surratt says. But Christians are now under the New Covenant, which stresses the “law of love,” he adds.
Yet, the “law of love” apparently permits Christians to pray judgment on their persecutors.
After asking whether praying judgment is permitted, Surratt says: “You may be surprised at my answer. My answer is—yes, it is. And I’m gonna tell you why. I think it’s hugely important to do it . . . because that’s how you transfer your anger and potential bitterness to God, okay? If you don’t do anything with it, it’s gonna fester.”
However, Surratt says when Christians pray judgment on their enemies, they should refrain from asking for specific punishments or “options,” like David did.
Surratt notes that Jesus, when he was on the cross, did not retaliate but entrusted himself to God who judges justly. Surratt claims Jesus did this because “he’s saying, in my humanity, I have no idea what’s on that guy’s mind. . . . I have no idea what his intentions are.”
This is an odd claim, since Scripture repeatedly says Jesus knew people’s hearts (Matt. 12:25; Mark 2:8; Luke 6:8). Yet Surratt applies Jesus’ alleged finite knowledge to us. And he says that like Jesus, we’re not able to understand everything about our enemies, so we need to trust God for the outcome concerning our enemies.
“So, here’s what I would say. I would say when you’re praying for an enemy, who is persecuting you, pray for judgment on them,” Surratt says. “Just don’t tell God what his options are, okay?”
Surratt then notes that God has lots of options, and recounts when God struck Herod dead and he was eaten by worms.
Surratt’s interpretation contradicts evangelical scholars & pastors
Surratt’s interpretation is deeply concerning and contradicts what many evangelical scholars and pastors teach.
William Ross, an author and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, notes in an article at The Gospel Coalition that the apostle Paul instructed Christians in Romans 12:14 to “bless and do not curse” their persecutors.
Similarly, W. Robert Godfrey, President Emeritus of Westminster Seminary California, noted in a forum on the topic, that even in the Psalms, David first prays for the ungodly to repent.“Our longing for Christ’s return and final judgment is always preceded by our longing . . . for the wicked to be converted.”
Jeff Thompson, a former ARC pastor who was featured in my recent podcast on ARC said in response to Surratt’s sermon: “It’s become clear that ARC pastors are charismatic public speakers but don’t know the Bible. . . . When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44 CSB), it’s clear he was saying to pray for their good. And the greatest good is their salvation.”
Thompson noted that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners and added: “If Jesus had the attitude toward us that Surratt is encouraging us to have toward our enemies, we’d all be damned, literally.”
There’s no doubt Surratt did violence to the Scriptures on Sunday. Yet, it’s not me or The Roys Report I’m concerned about. I’m well versed in these kinds of tactics and pretty impervious to them.
What I’m most concerned about is the 14-campus church, and the more than 1,000 ARC churches, Surratt leads and influences. Twisting Scripture to bolster one’s own image and undermine someone else’s is a serious offense. And encouraging one’s flock to seek the destruction of their enemies, rather than pleading for their salvation, is the antithesis of what Christ taught.
I don’t wish for Surratt to be hit by a truck or his fingers to be crushed. I deeply desire for him to repent and to bring in people of integrity to clean up the ARC. But from what I’ve learned of toxic systems, this is not likely to happen. Instead, he and other ARC leaders will likely continue to deny, and attack, and reverse the victim and the offender.