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Global Catalytic Ministries Hides Behind Veil of Secrecy

Christians serving in dangerous places often conceal their work for fear of persecution, but Global Catalytic Ministries takes that approach to an extreme, declining to answer any questions about its work, history, finances, or leadership.

The secrecy comes as GCM, which had revenues of under $1 million in 2019—the last year for which it publicly released a financial report—has in recent months conducted fundraising campaigns seeking to raise $2 million and $10 million for work in Afghanistan, a country it rarely mentioned before the U.S. troop departure in August.

Quick to release press releases with unverified claims about its work and need for funds, GCM is slow to respond to reporters with questions. Spokesperson Audrie Trevino initially told MinistryWatch she was “Happy to help,” saying, “I can connect you to the right person on our team if I could gather a few details from you.” But that changed after we submitted questions.

“Unfortunately, due the nature of what we do in restricted nations we do not take interviews, give names or share details publicly for security purposes,” she said. That includes details about its work in Iraq and what happens at its U.S. headquarters in Idaho.

GCM does not comply with ECFA guidelines

GCM is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, but violates ECFA guidelines by refusing to provide an audited financial statement to those who ask.

Lack of transparency is a problem we’ve encountered with other ECFA members, including My Faith Votes. ECFA did not respond to a request for information about non-compliant members.

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GCM’s unusual practices (including refusing to publicly identify its CEO, senior employees, board members, or founder) and poor financial performance (it often spends less than 70% of income on programs, and 40% of its income comes from three donors) have raised red flags for some of the philanthropic advisory firms that evaluated GCM on behalf of their clients.

What is GCM?

GCM offers varying descriptions of its work, many of them characterized by grandiose but unverified claims, such as “transforming Muslims worldwide,” “750 churches planted throughout the Middle East and Central Asia,” and “bringing disciple-making methods to the West to build a decentralized network of discipleship communities that will prepare America for the end time harvest.” 

Long focused on Iran, the ministry now claims it has expanded to 14 countries.

GCM says it uses the discipleship methods of David Watson, vice president with CityTeam who formerly worked with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. But GCM declines to say if Watson is part of GCM, or what its relationship to Watson is. Watson is listed as director for a GCM operation incorporated in Fort Worth, Texas.

Who’s behind GCM?

GCM declines to say who its leaders are, but public documents give clues.

  • Its Guidestar profile lists Scott Montgomery as chief executive, and Joel Richardson as board chair.
  • The video, “Sheep Among Wolves,” focuses on two leaders, Richardson and Dalton Thomas.
  • But in a 2021 video, Richardson claimed he was a “partner” of GCM, not an employee or leader.
  • Other sources say Steve Trevino is on GCM’s senior leadership team, but Trevino’s LinkedIn page describes him as “Executive Lead” for GCM.

It’s not clear why GCM keeps its U.S. leaders shrouded in secrecy. Its website even claims it has no leaders, and is instead a self-guided movement: Our rapidly reproducing discipleship movement…owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and has been sweeping the Middle East for over 10 years.” 

Sudden Pivot to Afghanistan

Founded in 2011 and granted tax-exempt status in 2014, GCM long focused on Iran, calling itself “part of the Iranian awakening.” It rarely mentioned Afghanistan until August 2021, as American troops were preparing to leave. Suddenly, GCM zeroed in on Afghanistan, seeking in one campaign to raise $10 million—ten times its total 2019 income—for unspecified work there.

MinistryWatch has reported that Afghanistan fundraising has been a boon to nonprofits that previously did no or little work there, including Glenn Beck’s Nazarene Fund, which raised more than $30 million in three days for evacuations, and Sean Feucht’s Light a Candle Project, which raised more than $200,000 for Afghanistan work that hasn’t yet been spelled out.

In a Sept. 1 press release, GCM referred to itself as “Afghanistan’s Underground Church.”

Audacious appeals

After rarely mentioning Afghanistan during its first decade of work, GCM has launched a series of appeals since U.S. troops packed up in August:

  • “Winter In Afghanistan- Keep Families Fed And Warm In Harsh Conditions”
  • “Keep Afghans Alive: Between now and September 11, Global Catalytic Ministries is raising emergency funds to supply Afghan believers and ministry partners with food, water, and shelter.”
  • “PLEASE SOW INTO THE UNDERGROUND AFGHAN CHURCH // $500K BEFORE SEPTEMBER 11.” (GCM says this campaign raised more than $1.8 million.)

But the biggest appeal was announced Sept. 1, with a goal to raise $10,000,000 to assist people escaping the country. “With our years of experience in Afghanistan and large network on the ground, we have multiple options to deliver these goods and operations in and out of the country. 100% of the funds raised (less bank processing fees) will go directly to Afghanistan for these efforts.”

GCM declines to say how the money was put to work.

GCM’s website claims: “Many news agencies and ministries are now fully supporting our efforts as well.” But it only mentions three supporters (Gateway Church in Texas, Church of the Highlands in Alabama, and Victory Worship Center in Arizona), and declined to name others.

GCM’s recent fundraising campaigns were brought to our attention by a loyal reader who questioned their legitimacy.

Ramping Up?

GCM says its work “is carried out almost entirely by nationals and former Muslims—some of whom were even terrorists, and are making disciples where no one wants to.” GCM is seeking to drastically increase its staffing from 2020 to 2022:

  • In 2020, it claimed 198 disciples trained, 750 churches planted, and 28 underground leaders.
  • In 2021, it claimed 472 disciples trained, 850 churches planted, and 58 underground leaders.
  • Its 2021 appeal says it seeks to raise these numbers to 800 disciples trained, 1,000 churches planted, and 100 underground leaders.

It’s not clear how GCM hopes to achieve these numbers so quickly.

State corporations

In addition to its Idaho headquarters and the Fort Worth corporation registered to David Watson, GCM has incorporated in other states over the past five years, including Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Alabama. 

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.