Excerpt from Recover Your Good Heart by Jim Robbins
A friend of mine, Dennis, is afraid he may be fired from the church where’s he’s a drummer for the worship band. The reason they could ask him to leave has nothing to do with his abilities as a musician or his desire to serve.
The church has instituted the typical church-wide small group mandate, stating that every person on every team needs to be involved in a small group (You have to love mandated relationships. Contrived community always comes up empty.) It’s not enough that everyone on the worship team is being strongly urged to participate in a small group, but they also have to read the same book. Perhaps that means that everyone will be on the same page when they’re done reading the book. (Getting people on the same page usually means that disagreeing with the leadership is discouraged. Can you smell autocratic “unity” here?)
Notice the pressure to conform to standards of religious behavior, even well-intended activities?
Dennis is a deeply committed believer, and tends to think for himself; meaning that he’s not satisfied with an unquestioned approach to faith. What’s more, he’s already strongly involved in a fellowship with people he’s been walking with for years; but that fellowship isn't’ connected to the local church where he’s playing drums.
Dennis is afraid that if he questions the mandate to participate in the worship team small group – with its scripted small group study – he’ll be challenged at best, and asked to leave, at worst. His fears are not unfounded.
He knows how religious organizations conduct themselves, even well-intentioned ones: “Unless you follow Jesus in the way we’ve prescribed, your faith is suspect and your commitment is questionable.”
Uniformity of behavior and conformity to particular benchmarks are modus operandi of many of today’s churches. Conformity makes us FEEL (emphasis mine) as if everyone’s in agreement, pursuing the same path to righteousness: It is control masquerading as discipleship. Uniformity gives us the illusion of ‘church unity,’ when all it does is produce masses of cyborg Christians who have no mind of their own and are reluctant to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth.
End of excerpt
“Dennis is afraid that is he questions the mandate to participate in the worship team small group – with its scripted small group study – he’ll be challenged at best, and asked to leave, at worst.”
Being in the same church for 17 years and in the leadership for the last 10, I can speak firsthand about example after example of this being true – at least in MY experience.
At one time, we had a truly gifted children’s Sunday School teacher who was ultimately asked to step down because he was not “faithful” to all of the services, and was told therefore a bad example to the body as a whole and especially the children he taught. Needless to say, he left the church and the Baptist denomination. His sister considers him to be one of the most spiritual persons she knows, and I would wager that he’s not “faithful” in the Baptist sense of the word.
Coming out of that and now with the perspective of time, I can now see the group-think tactics, however good-intentioned, that were employed there. Not completely knocking that body, but I believe that it is all too common in the Post-Modern American Christian church.
We are spoken of as “faithful” if we attend every service and every activity, never stopping to think what that even means. In other words, (in their mind) using this language, I don’t have” faith” if I don’t do the prescribed behavior that the Pastor expects – in this case, attending every service with an occasional absence – usually only thought of as legitimate if one is going out of town or there is an illness. I understand that us coming together fosters closeness and edifies the body, but saying that one doesn’t have faith if one is not at every service is shameful . Yes, it’s full of shame.
Being spoken of as faithful really massages the ego, especially when spoken by the Pastor in earshot of the one being spoken of.
Also, it will be a cold day in Hell when the phrase “small group” will be used in an Independent Baptist church. We used Bible Study Hour, which itself is most likely frowned down upon from other, more conservative, IB churches.
”Dennis is a deeply committed believer, and tends to think for himself; meaning that he’s not satisfied with an unquestioned approach to faith.”
If one would disagree with the faith statement of the church, or at the very least ask a difficult question, then that person would then become “suspect”. The Pastor’s word has final authority, and anyone that questions that is “sowing discord.”
My Pastor would say that Paul’s prophesy in 2 Timothy 4:3 is being fulfilled in us that have, at the very least least, lost confidence in the IC - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; or as another version states: A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear.
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