Mark Sandlin, one of the founders of The Christian Left, is also the head pastor of the Vandalia Presbyterian Church. A church in Greensborough, NC, Sandlin took over 8 years ago. Making radical sweeping changes in the direction of the church’s ministry did not go well with some of the more conventional members of the church.
Nonetheless, Sandlin was able to press forward with his mission – bringing the actions of the church back in line with the words of Christ. Then began the rumor mill.
Sandlin is a bad preacher.
Pastor Sandlin misinterprets the Bible.
Mark Sandlin’s vision was that of a progressive model of Christianity, and perhaps the last demographic left in Christianity where there is room to survive and grow, but it was just far too rapid and too extreme for many of the members who just “wanted their old church back.” Sandlin based his sermons, and his actual outreach on the community, off of the words of Christ – oft referred to as being a “Red Letter Christian“, someone living by the teachings and words of Christ rather than the Americanized interpretation of being a cultural Christian.
He created an alliance with the New Arrival’s Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping refugees from around the world start their new lives here in America by giving them free English classes. In addition to that the church also operated a food pantry as a way to give back to the local community.
While making this outreach change he also instituted a progressive worship service, bagged meals for the homeless, housing ESOL classes, and basic healthcare services for the local community. All of this is extremely substantial considering that it has only been instituted within the last 5 years with a congregation of less than 200 people.
Last year, for the first time in over ten years, Sandlin and the church board, known as The Session, presented a balanced budget to the church. This budget, as with every church budget, was contingent on the continued charitable giving of the members of his congregation.
The charitable giving then stopped.
The conservative bloc of his congregation refused to give funds to the church so long as Sandlin’s progressive charitable givings remained in place. This threw the church into turmoil, as well as all the community programs that had been put together under his leadership. In order to become more financially solvent Mark acquiesced. He agreed to roll back the style of worship but continued with the progressive vision of the community programs. When that accomplished no change in the giving of his congregation Mark advised the Board that he would be leaving the church.
This announcement created no difference in the amount of giving from the conservatives involved in holding hostage the outreach, and even basic operating, of the church. Without the charitable giving resuming the refugee center will be forced to close its doors by August 15 as the Vandalia Presbyterian Church has been propping it up with donations from their church plates.
Sandlin has agreed to step down as soon as he can find another place of employment but has begun a gofundme to help keep both organizations open through the end of the summer at the very least.
It’s very disappointing and sad to see a Christian Pastor creating social programs based on the teachings of Jesus being trampled upon by the “old Christian” mindset of picking yourself up by your own bootstraps.
Sandlin hopes to get a job writing full-time and eventually hopes to open up a community center that conducts the same types of community outreach that he has seen successfully, if only temporarily, created under his tenure at the Vandalia Presbyterian Church.