Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Twisted

Thanks everyone for your comments on the last post. It was really helpful for me to get some perspective and reaction from others who have no investment in the situation.

As Jamie mentioned in his comment, this church shouldn't necessarily be vilified. We were involved there for many years. There are quite a number of people who esteem this church as one of the best they've ever been a part of in their life.

I ask myself how so many intelligent, mature Christians can rationalize something like the last post as acceptable behavior in a church. But in answering myself, I remember the dynamics of buying in to the teaching and vision.

How can something like this happen without anyone raising an eyebrow?

Well, begin with a group of people who have been in community with one another for over twenty years. The real strength of this church is the true love that many of the members have for one another.

The strong relationships have produced a desirable, yet difficult to penetrate social group. Those who are a part of the group conform to the teaching to maintain their acceptance and inclusion.

As the government of their church has become more authoritarian, they are gradually conforming to an unhealthy system where diversity of opinions is no longer allowed. What happens to those who are "unteachable" has been demonstrated.

Those who do question what is happening must weigh the price of leaving. Acceptance in the social group requires submission to the false teaching. Leaving will cost inclusion in the group which they have enjoyed.

This is not an evil church that most of you would run from if you visited. It is actually a group of wonderful God-loving Christians who have gradually come under false teaching and authority. They don't see it yet, and they don't want to hear that something might be wrong at their church.

I have let go of worrying about when and how this will work out. It is not my responsibility. While I do care about the people that are there, I also believe it is their responsibility to discern and choose concerning their situation.

Most of my friends there will probably not be targeted like the person in the former post. They are the desirables. It will be the difficult people who will experience the most blatant abuse. However, even if they aren't targeted, the desirable people will be affected by their submission to a false and toxic system.

While I find myself uniquely positioned to understand the dynamics involved in this situation, I also find myself sequestered from involvement in the outcome.

Like all false teaching, the real danger is that it is cloaked in so much good.

10 comments:

Chris said...

I have watched family members go through a lot of pain in a church that sounds rather similar to what you describe. The really sad thing was that they were young christians, whose view of what it meant to be a christian was formed in that church. Now that they have been out of that church for many years, I can still see the way that it has formed their spiritual understandings, and it makes me very sad and angry.

It is undoubtly hard for someone who has experienced a dynamic and healthy relationship with Christ and the church to be led into a bad situation, but maybe even worse when a bad church disciples so many young-in-the-faith believers into unhealthy attitudes that they will have an even harder time unlearning.

Pam Hogeweide said...

you just described how cults get started, grace.

David Cho said...

You hit on all the cylinders, grace. What a great post.

This reminds me of the time as a kid, living under an authoritarian regime. It didn't seem bad, and the system appeared to work.

That is because we did not get the big picture because of censorship. Most of us were oblivious to all the evil things that the people in power were doing.

I did not realize the authoritarian and abusive nature of the church until I left it to relocate for a job. People were asking me why I did not drive over an hour each way to stay in the fellowship, which got me to think.

You are right, Pam. That is how cults get started. Sun Myung Moon's church was once a regular church too. I believe the Jonestown was too. There are other examples as well.

David Cho said...

"Like all false teaching, the real danger is that it is cloaked in so much good."

Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!!!!!

John Frye said...

Grace,

These are wise words you wrote: "I have let go of worrying about when and how this will work out. It is not my responsibility. While I do care about the people that are there, I also believe it is their responsibility to discern and choose concerning their situation."

Inheritor of Heaven said...

You said, "The strong relationships have produced a desirable, yet difficult to penetrate social group. Those who are a part of the group conform to the teaching to maintain their acceptance and inclusion," I think this is part of what I meant when I was commenting before on being submitted to Christ first and foremost and then subimtted to leadership. I suppose if the leadership becomes more about maintaining status quo then about expanding the kingdom, then this insular mentality gets stronger.

I think your comment about being unteachable begins with the leadership and spreads to everyone under their authority. Being unteachable opens them up to false teaching because they are not open to the authority and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Instead they become Pharisaical and teach only what comes from their own hearts and minds. I suppose this is also related to repentance, confession, and forgiveness as well. When we have (especially when those in leadership have) a large log in our own eye and try to control and manipulate the specks in everyone elses eye then the environment becomes even more toxic.

Jim said...

You didn't go to a Pentecostal church in northern Kentucky, did you?.....

Jim said...

Whoops! Catching up on my reading after vacation and just went back to your last post. I've actually gone back to visit my old group a time or two and they have this strange perception that "once a member, always a member". I'm just another backslidden departee who will eventually embrace the truth and return............

Bruce said...

Any church whose members have been together for very long will get sucked into this kind of hard to penetrate clique, whether they are being taught truth or lies. And it makes it difficult to get new ideas into this kind of group. I heard this past week about an old church who got rid of their minister because he grew a beard, didn't always wear a coat to preach in, and wanted more contemporary music. They are a church of less than 300 meeting in a sanctuary for 1200. And still dying.

Good post Grace.
B~

grace said...

chris,
I think spiritual abuse could be devastating for a young believer. It makes me sad too. What's sad is how many mature believers will also submit to false teaching if it's packaged right.

yes pam, I sometimes wonder where the line is between being a little off and becoming truly false.

david,
Stepping away from something definitely brings perspective. There is an element of blindness when one is fully involved.

john,
This is still hard because it creates an unspoken barrier between myself and some very dear friends. For now, there is no bridge across that barrier, just avoidance of the topic.

Great comments inheritor.
It becomes scary when those in leadership truly believe that they have more ownership and authority in others' lives than the scriptures actually give them.

jim,
You mean this happens in the south also?! Yes, we've also heard that some people are waiting for us to "see the light" and return.

Very true bruce.
The strength of their relationships is the very thing that could cause them to be deceived as a group.