PODCAST: A Church Called TOV, and Matthew 18!

by | Apr 15, 2021 | Podcasts | 15 comments

A Church Called TOV Podcast

Can we have a church with a goodness culture?

This week on the podcast Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer, father-daughter duo co-authors of A Church Called Tov, joined Rebecca and me to talk about what it means to create a healthy church rather than a toxic church.

Given all the work I’ve been doing with The Great Sex Rescue trying to address toxic teachings, I was so excited to have them on the podcast!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

0:36 Scot & Laura join us!
2:05 Experiencing the Willow Creek/Bill Hybels scandal
5:30 Signs of Toxic Church Cultures
13:30 The concerning misuse of Matthew 18 in churches
28:15 How to foster a ‘goodness’ church culture instead
36:05 How it was to work together as father/daughter!
40:00 RQs w/ Keith!
49:30 Encouragement from a new listener!

Main Segment: What Makes a Church “Tov”?

A Church Called Tov

We looked at 7 marks of toxic churches; why church leaders often preserve reputations rather than dealing with the issues; what we should be doing, and more!

Plus Scot McKnight helped us immensely by talking about what Matthew 18 really means! I often get accused of critiquing authors in the “wrong” way because I should have gone to the authors in private first. Here Scot McKnight shows how that perspective doesn’t apply at all, and is an incorrect reading of the verse. I really appreciate that!

Reader Questions: How do we confront our pastors when we think books he recommends are toxic?

Keith and I then tackled two reader questions, both along the lines of this one:

I’m a youth pastor. I’ve sped through just about every podcast since my wife introduced me to it. We are working together to introduce healthier resources, more productive conversation, and better information to our teens and youth leaders. We have had very deep and in depth conversations about redefining sex, viewing people as people made in God’s image and not objects, etc…with youth leaders. And then our men’s ministry has an event and the speaker “strongly recommends” every man’s battle, talk about men not being able to control themselves and men being more visual than a woman will ever understand. And I am just sick. I need help knowing as a youth pastor (have a voice and part in church direction, but low man on the totem pole for the most part) how to encourage and promote change and growth. I’m frustrated and frankly, disgusted. 

Another woman wrote in with a similar question about Love & Respect. She wanted to confront her pastor, but her husband was worried that the pastor wouldn’t take it well.

Keith had some good words of advice, but I’d also point you to our rubric and scorecard that are now available online. I think when people see in black and white how these books scored on a 12-point rubric of healthy sexuality (and it’s not difficult to score well; Gift of Sex scored 47/48), then it can be more obvious what’s the problem with it. Plus the problematic quotations that made us score the books that way are there in black & white, too!

Download the rubric and synopsis of our results to share with your pastor, plus get access to our scorecard, here. 

The Great Sex Rescue

Now Available!

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

A Church Called TOV Podcast

What do you think? Have you found a Tov church? Let’s talk about it!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Jo

    When you read the books for TGSR, did you by any chance do a word or line count on the amount of material written specifically to wives, husbands, and couples?
    My hypothesis is that even books purportedly written to couples spend a great deal more words/lines addressing wives than husbands, because “women are more verbal than men” and “men don’t read.” That is, I think the authors are giving lip service to being a book to couples or to both spouses equally, when they are in fact spiritual and psychological battering rams used on women.
    I happen to own Act of Marriage, Intended for Pleasure, and His Needs, Her Needs, so if you haven’t done any kind of numerical count like this, I’m volunteering to do the counting and report back. Maybe other readers would do the other books if they own them? Also, I’m going to count the number of instances of the word “clitoris” in each book, just as another gauge of content.
    I’d like to also offer a couple of links to things you alluded to in the podcast:
    Toxic church culture:

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Seriously, we wanted to, and we were considering hiring a research assistant to do it–to count how many words/paragraphs were directed at men changing vs. women changing.
      If you would like to do so, we’ll add it to our scorecards. That would be awesome.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      We wanted to, and that’s one of my many long-term projects (I want to highlight all specific wife advice in pink and all specific man advice in blue and then look at the difference) but we just didn’t have time! If you wanted to do the books you have already I’d love to see the results! That would be fantastic.

      • Jo

        OK, great! I don’t know that I’m interested in submitting it as a PhD thesis (having merely a BS in engineering), but ever since I started reading your site about a year ago, I’ve realized that what I learned in those books not only did not help me; it all actually made things worse.
        So, I’m going to do line counts, because I’ll be working on paper, and like you say, I’ll mark pink for wives and blue for husbands, and do green for couple-addressed bits.
        (If other readers have some of the other books and would like them to go to a good cause, then in lieu of burning them, they could first donate them to me to read, mark up, and count. THEN we can burn them!!! 😉)

      • Jo

        Oh my… (and sorry this is so long)
        Started with HN, HN. I’m drawing the appropriately colored lines down the margins to indicate whom each line is addressed to (him, her, both). I’ll be honest, some of it it’s hard to assign to a color. But what’s more alarming is the way some of this stuff is worded. I’m only through chapter 3 (on her need for affection, page 41 of 185 in the main text, plus 24 pages of appendices) and already have four pages of notes. Quotes from the 1994 edition (mine is the fortieth printing):
        12: “Obviously, any marriage has other potential trouble spots besides the man’s basic need for sex.” This is the ***only*** need mentioned specifically; no mention of equal trouble that may result if the woman’s #1 basic need isn’t met.
        Compare these quotes
        22: “Mary responds passionately during lovemaking.” Very specific description of how she can meet one of his needs. No mention that he helps her enjoy sex as much as he clearly does.
        23: “Mary takes tennis lessons so that she can keep up with John in his favorite recreational pastime.” Again, a very specific description of how she can meet one of his needs. No mention of him doing anything particular to meet one of her needs.
        23: “She feels proud of John and often tells him so.” Again, very specific action point the wife can take.
        to these:
        22: “John remains affectionate, patient, and as caring as he was when they dated.” Vague emotional terms with no specific WAYS in which he demonstrates his affection, patience, and care.
        23: “Mary knows she can trust John, because he is so honest in every way.” Again, vague emotional terms with no specific WAYS he shows he is trustworthy and honest (like remembering to get milk on his way home as she asked and doing things he said he’d do without her having to remind him).
        In the pp. 36-37 bullet list of ways to show affection, he does list “help[ing] with the dishes, after dinner,” but he completely omits helping with the kid gauntlet of feeding/diapering/helping with homework, bathtime, and bedtime.
        On p. 33 he suggests the husband taking the wife out for dinner to convey “You don’t need to do what you ordinarily do for me.” Um, what??? Wouldn’t what she “ordinarily does for him” be planning a menu, buying the ingredients, cooking, serving, and cleaning it all up?
        But I think the most egregious thing so far is that on p. 40, the author says he will “confront” wives about their husbands’ need for sex. Husbands were not “confronted” about their wives’ top need of affection. Instead men “need to understand,” “need to develop,” and “a sensitive husband will” (p. 33), plus men “need some instruction” (p. 40). His strongest language to men is that they “must get through their heads” her need for affection (p. 40).

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yep. Most definitely. I noticed some BIG problems with this book, too, and you’ve laid them out so well here!

      • Lisa

        In HN, HN, the wife is instructed to buy a book to learn how to orgasm because it’s important to her husband. No need for the couple to lovingly and selflessly explore this together, she needs to learn on her own because her husband needs it.

  2. Robert

    Listened to the TOV podcast. Very good overall. although I think McNight’s comment about every pastor of a large Church being on the spectrum of narcissism is an unsupportive claim. Having your husband on to answer questions at the end of the podcast was helpful. He’s a good balance! You mentioned your sexual rubric. Who were the authors of this? Was it peer reviewed by professionals (like an IRB) before being applied to the ministries and leaders you are critiquing? I’m also reading GSR, and your sample of 20K is strong, and would you consider it a random sample? When and where will the demographics of that sample be published? Lastly, providing a haven for the abused is so…so important and after reading their comments on your blog you have done a good job in giving them an opportunity to share their losses. However I’m still finding it problematic that you’re not balancing any good (i.e. with equal wording and voice) to the positive work of Shaunti, Focus on the Family, Love and Respect, Harley, etc….Any thoughts about that??

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      HI Robert,
      I’ll be responding to your last question in tomorrow’s post. We did partially deal with that in our podcast on the Thalidomide test and in my post on why it’s not okay if Christian books are just a little bit harmful. As for the rubric, it’s actually one of the first things that we’re submitting to peer-reviewed journals. Joanna’s just putting the finishing touches on it! We’re hoping that we set a new standard that those who do write in the sex & marriage field in evangelicalism do it to the level that it can be sent to peer reviewed journals.
      No, our survey was not a random sample, nor is really any sample of this size. It was a convenience sample. However, we did not need a random sample, because our big research questions were not about frequency (how often a certain thing occurred in that population) but were rather comparisons of what happens if someone believes X vs if they don’t believe X. We have those questions answered on our page about our survey methods.

      • Robert

        Thanks! Yes, I’ll listen to tomorrow’s podcast. I’m trying to learn how to “chew up the chicken” in many teachings and spit out the bones.
        Best, Robert

  3. Andrea

    I’ve been waiting until the end of the day to be the shrew to bring this up (because I was hoping someone else would do it first), but this line of Scott’s from near the beginning of the podcast must be addressed:
    “When you have that array of highly intelligent, articulate, morally virtuous people saying what they’re saying, it happened.”
    This is dangerous reasoning. If you start unpacking it, then what does a person’s IQ need to be and the state of their (sexual?) virtue for them to be believed? The low-wage earners are the most exposed to harassment and cannot hope for the justice (well, that’s questionable, so let’s just say acknowledgment) that the powerful Willow Creek women got. And where exactly would the housekeeper Hybels harassed fall on the intelligent and virtuous spectrum?
    I hate to criticize one of the good guys, especially one who not only uses the phrase “old white men,” but uses it critically. If only a few others had the same depth of self-reflection! However, these kind of qualifiers about people reporting abuse are the remnants of the patriarchy in ALL of us and must be discarded.
    Hybels was particularly brazen to go after “intelligent and virtuous” women (what this really means is college or higher educated in a heterosexual marriage with children) because they are the most articulate and most likely to be believed, although, for what they were put through… Ravi, by contrast, knew to stick to women nobody would be inclined to believe, the uneducated, inarticulate spa workers, the people generally perceived as belonging on the lowest rung of intelligence and virtue. This is why the powerful women in the organization could honestly say that “this is not the Ravi we knew and loved.” Had Hybels left the intelligent and virtuous women in his own church alone, he might have managed to get away with it, as Ravi almost did.
    I think we can all agree that a sex worker with a learning disability deserves the same kind of justice as a teaching pastor with a master’s degree. We just need to work on articulating that better.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true, Andrea!That’s a great point re: Hybels vs. Ravi. We need to stand against abuse no matter who it is.

    • Bethany#2

      I suppose it depends on your perspective, because I would never have assumed that wage earners were any less intelligent than college educated. In my family, college is optional and one that none, save my husband and 1 brother have chosen. The majority chose a manual labor job, because they like it. It’s in our culture, and I don’t think it makes us dumber. And I think the #1 factor of a victim being believed or dismissed (unfortunately), is their reputation. Though their assumed mental health or sickness is also a big factor.

  4. Lisa

    I loved this podcast and I’m ordering the book.
    One thing I feel obligated to point out is there is A LOT of toxic teaching and untouchable pastors in small churches. There are many, many small churches all over the US where women are taught to wear only dresses and “if you can do it in a dress, a woman shouldn’t be doing it.” They are taught that the only godly calling for a woman is to be a wife and mother that earns no income and submits to her husband. These women have no voice in church because it is their place to be silent. One friend’s pastor actually preaches sermons from books written by the Puritans. I know many women who have escaped from these places and shunned as a result, lies spread about them.
    It is to the point that I cringe when I pass a tiny little independent Baptist church or tiny independent “Bible church,” because I have a pretty good idea what goes on there.
    Spiritual abuse happens in churches of all sizes.

  5. tohu va-vohu

    I think a more accurate way of saying that all Pastors are on a narcissist continuum, is that it takes ambition to want to be a Pastor (I capitalize “Pastor” when I mean the churchianity idea of a professional church leader, not to be confused with a shepherd as seen in the bible; a Pastor is never seen in the bible). I have been a professional Missionary and an unpaid Pastor/elder; I had a lot of ambition which God has completely burnt out of me)
    Church size is an issue. If a church is over 120 people, one shepherd can’t know and shepherd all the people. So you then need a bureaucracy or hierarchy to manage “ministry” (because churchianity is not structured for every believer to minister; it’s not ever going to happen in this structure).
    Church leadership is an issue. Hierarchy is not biblical and will lead to leaders lording it over others as their “benefactors”. It also leads to heresy and cult-like behaviour (aka controlling).
    Church mission is an issue. Basically all churchianity is structured to encourage “bad soil”. It is designed for soil choked with weeds or shallow. Good soil is not satisfied in churchianity. Hard soil doesn’t go.


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