Re-Inventing the Church – Part 1
Re-Inventing the Church – Part 1
by Berit Kjos – 2002
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16
“The Church seems afraid to invest in new modes of being the Church, breaking free from antiquated models and irrelevant traditions toward living the gospel in a twenty-first-century context.” George Barna, Leaders on Leadership
“Our common future will depend on the extent to which people and leaders around the world develop the vision of a better world and the strategies, the institutions, and then will to achieve it.” The UN Commission on Global Governance
“…there is a substantial critical mass of people and churches that are already moving.’ …While acknowledging that there are still many unhealthy churches, there is a justified‘change in basic premises, basic attitudes, basic mind set… on the whole, we are on the march….” “Peter Drucker on the Church and Denominations,” Leadership Network.
A strange distortion of truth has spread like a grass fire on a windy day through churches around the world. It calls God’s people not just to understand our changing times from the world’s perspective, but to actually blow with the wind and help fuel the transformation. This Church Growth Movement (CGM) uses familiar old words to persuade the people, but it conforms God’sWord as well as human thinking to politically correct views of unity, community, service and change.
Behavioral laboratories, schools, UNESCO and liberal churches all helped light that fire during the 20th century. Hidden from sight, their subversive efforts seared America’s Biblical foundations and prepared the masses to believe a lie.
Now, at the dawn of the new millennium, “conservative” and “evangelical” churches are following suit. Worldwide “Christian” networks provide trained leadership and management consultants to guide God’s people along this alluring superhighway to a new world order. Forget the old narrow way that leads to life. Today’s “change agents” hope to popularize Christianity so effectively that whole nations will join their crusade.
Forget solid Bible teaching and “the offense of the cross.” To win the masses “for Christ”, the church must be re-cloaked in a more permissive and appealing image. It must be marketed to the world as “a safe place,” purged of the moral standards that stirred conviction of sin and a longing to separate from the world’s immorality. So they re-imagined a feel-good church stripped of offense – one the world could love and claim as its own.
Their march to a “better world” is well under way. In this new church, group thinking, compromise, conflict resolution, the dialectic process and facilitated consensus are in. Uncompromising conviction and resistance to group consensus are out. For God’s way seems far too intolerant to fit the managed systems of the new millennium. [To better understand these terms, please read Brainwashing in America and The People’s Church]
Guiding the revolution
“Dissatisfaction with existing conditions seems to be a prerequisite for intentional change. ….dissatisfaction should not be regarded merely as a factor operating to furnish initial motivation. It should be utilized at all stages of the process to keep crystallization from setting in.” (See Utilization of Dissatisfaction)
Hard to believe? Then listen to the leadership team chosen by George Barna, founder and president of Barna Research Group, to write his revolutionary 1995 book, Leaders on Leadership. I call it revolutionary because it is. It actually invites a revolution in the Church and shows a new brand of leaders how to manage it.
Doug Murren, former senior pastor of Eastside Foursquare Church, wrote a chapter titled, “The Leader as Change Agent.” In it, he explains the first step in the psycho-social process of “managed change.” Notice that he takes his cues from an experienced “change agent” at Stanford University which — like MIT, Harvard and Teacher’s College at Columbia — is a major research institution in the area of social change, persuasive propaganda and psycho-social manipulation:
“Arnold Mitchell, a social psychologist from Stanford, has spent years studying the attitudes and behaviors of Americans. He contends that three ingredients are necessary for change to occur. First, Mitchell notes that change comes from dissatisfaction…. Effective change agents assess the chances for change by evaluating the level of dissatisfaction within the group. If dissatisfaction is strong, the potential for change exist….
“To be effective, a leader must also deliberately develop dissatisfaction.”
“Preparing people for change sometimes takes what seems like forever…. I shared startling or even embarrassing statistics about where we were as a church body and where we needed to be, seeking to create the right level of dissatisfaction.”
“Positive change rarely intimates ‘returning to the way it used to be.’ Most positive change I have witnessed has been about creating a better future rather than returning to a cherished past.”
The Stanford psychologist’s second and third ingredients are “a terrific amount of emotional and physical energy” and “insight” evidenced by “a well-conceived strategy for making things better.”
Notice that Pastor Murren’s “three ingredients” for changing people have nothing to do with God’s guidelines or standards. They have everything to do with deceptive human visions of how elite “change agents” can control the masses. Their manipulative methods have become so familiar that their subjects barely notice what is happening. Lest you forget, take another look at the initial steps:
1. Assess (survey) the attitudes, values and wants of the people. Your personal assessment will be the benchmark for measuring planned change in the months and years ahead.
2. Stir dissatisfaction with the old ways so that the seeds of revolution can grow without regrets. Actually, the survey itself initiates the “dissatisfaction”, since a “good” church survey would contain anxiety-producing questions that suggest internal problems and prompt public dialogue and complaint.
This tactic was explained in a 1951 manual on “group development” written by such infamous psycho-social change agents as Kurt Lewin. Titled Human Relations in Curriculum Change, it includes a chapter on “Utilization of Dissatisfaction, which states:
“Dissatisfaction with existing conditions seems to be a prerequisite for intentional change…. Yet, it is not a simple matter to make dissatisfaction function actively as a motivating force in our complex modern society. … In utilizing dissatisfaction as a factor in producing change the student of society must learn to deal with these two types of conservatism, the conservatism with those with a stake in the present arrangement and the conservatism of those who do not wish to be bothered with change….
“Fortunately for human progress, thee is a fourth group of persons in whom already exists dissatisfaction of such nature that they are ready to be utilized at once as motivation toward action…. This group can be counted on a nucleus for hasting the process of change….
“… dissatisfaction should not be regarded merely as a factor operating to furnish initial motivation. It should be utilized at all stages of the process to keep crystallization from setting in. Groups should be encouraged to make use of valuable solutions to problems only so long as they serve a useful purpose.” [pages 58-59, 63. Emphasis added]
3. Offer an inspiring vision of “a better future.” That better future must be a here-and-now future — one that man can create with his imagination. It’s the opposite of the glorious future God offers us for all eternity. In this context of worldly change, heaven serves no earthly purpose. Only visions that motivate collective efforts and drive transformation can advance the revolutionary plan.
To guide this process, well trained leaders are needed. That’s why Mr. Barna gathered “a team of experts that is as awesome as any of you can imagine” to write his manual for the church. “Fifteen people have contributed chapters to this book,” he wrote. “I believe that the cumulative efforts of this team have demonstrated the meaning of synergy.” emphasis added
Mr. Barna wrote the chapter on “The Vision Thing” himself. In it, he explains that vision “is a view of the kind of world God wants us to live within, a world He can create through us if all those He has called as leaders would lead according to the guidance provided by His Spirit.”
Does that statement sound like an oxymoron? It is. Mr. Barna seems to imply that God will recreate the world around us if today’s “change agents” would walk by the Spirit. But these leaders of “managed change” have been trained to follow a formula never given by Holy Spirit. Man may shoot himself in the foot, but God will not give us tools that clash with…
Biblical absolutes (Isaiah 40:8)
His call to trust Him, not human ways and philosophies. (Proverbs 3:5-7)
His call to share in Christ’s suffering and persecution (John 15:18-21)
For example, Mr. Barna calls for “evaluative tools prepared so you can assess how well you are doing along the way, fine-tuning your implementation efforts as you go along….”
But God doesn’t tell us to continually assess and evaluate our progress. He tells us to love Him, study His Word and follow His ways, then leave the result with Him. He will produce the fruit. He knows that if we continually measure our successes, we may shift our focus from His will and sufficiency to our own vision and achievements. That’s why David was punished severely when he disobeyed God by measuring (assessing) the size of his victorious army. (2 Samuel 24)
God’s Word and Spirit must guide our daily steps, not our human standards and measurement for success. And His ways tend to clash with the world’s vision of prosperity, numbers and success. But that matters little to mentors of “managed change” whose minds are tuned to effective methods rather than to their Maker.
Molding Truth to fit the vision
Mr. Barna introduced Jim Van Yperen, another change agent on his team of experts, as “a marketing strategist and creative communications consultant.” Van Yperen has “worked with a wide variety of churches, parachurch ministries and non profit organizations in the areas of vision development, strategic planning… resource development and conflict resolution.”
Note those buzzwords. They help us identify the change process whenever we see it.
Mr. Van Yperen is consultant, not a pastor, but he has been “serving several churches as Intentional Interim Pastor.” He hires himself out as Interim Pastor after leading a church through the initial phases (assessment, dissatisfaction, vision, etc.) of the change process. Using his strategic surveys to assess church attitudes and needs, he facilitates group dialogues and “diagnoses” the health of the church.
Since he speaks persuasively and manages this process well, he can soon inform the members that their church has some good qualities yet current conflicts and dissatisfaction demand drastic measures. To become a “healthy church,” it needs new leadership, new structures, new schedules, a new way of thinking and a new emphasis on spiritual growth through group relationships.
He also teaches a new way of understanding the Bible. His chapter in Mr. Barna’s book, “Conflict: the Refining Fire of Leadership,” contains a section called “Affirm Truth in Community.” It helps set the stage for the consensus process by suggesting that the Bible can best be understood in groups where members pool their thoughts and shape their consensus. Notice how his guidelines minimize the New Testament emphasis on a personal love relationship with Jesus and maximize the world’s view of the collective:
“Nearly all of Scripture is written to and for groups of people, not individuals. We must learn to read our Bibles this way. Instead of asking, ‘What is God saying to me?’ we need to ask ‘What is God saying to us?’
“Responding to power with truth places Christ at the center and builds bridges with our brothers and sisters. It acknowledges that no one person knows the truth completely, so we need each other. It opens up the opportunity to own our assumptions honestly, state our convictions directly and allow others to give perspective openly.” [See Creating Community – a New Way of Thinking]
Today’s change agents don’t really want everyone to “give their perspective openly.” Some facts and group observations can topple their plan. They want “dissatisfaction” but not dissent. They want tolerance toward the things of the world, but they stir intolerance toward “uncooperative” or “divisive” church members. Those who are found to be enemies to their manipulative process must be disciplined, expelled or changed. [See Dealing with Resisters]
I have talked with many humble and faithful Christians who were labeled “divisive” or “critical” by the new leadership in their beloved church. Some were given a simple choice: leave or stop asking hard questions. Others were told that “confession” — including confessing the “sin” of questioning the change process instead of submitting to it — and counseling under an assigned change agent would be a prerequisite for permission to stay and continue their ministry.
In contrast to the critic, the perfect group member is flexible, cooperative and open-minded — especially toward new and different ways of interpreting the Bible.
Thinking outside the box and Bible
Church reform, like education reform, calls for “critical thinking,” but few church members know the real meaning of this phrase. To pacify parents, public school teachers might define it as“teaching students to think for themselves.” They know that the revolution in education will proceed far more smoothly if parents never realize that “critical thinking” means criticizing and challenging traditional beliefs, values and authorities.
Former pastor, Kenneth O. Gangel, is academic dean and Vice president of Academic Affairs at Dallas Theological Seminary. A prolific author, he wrote “Competent to Lead” and is considered an expert on this topic. A natural choice for Mr. Barna’s book team, he wrote a chapter titled “What Leaders Do.”
One of the six tasks of a leader, says Pastor Gangel, is to “think.” Of course, we all think. But, in the context of managed change, thinking isn’t really thinking unless your thinking fits the new formula.
Pastor Gangel quotes Stephen Brookfield who, for ten years, was Professor in the Department of Higher and Adult Education at the liberal Teachers College at Columbia University. While traveling as keynote speaker to national, and international education conferences around the world, Brookfield continues to serve as Adjunct Professor at Columbia. The statement Pastor Gangel used to support his own teaching came from Brookfield’s book, Developing Critical Thinkers:
“Central to critical thinking is the capacity to imagine and explore alternatives to existing ways of thinking and living. … Critical thinkers are continually exploring new ways of thinking about aspects of their lives….
“Critical thinking is complex and frequently perplexing, since it requires the suspension of belief and the jettisoning of assumptions previously accepted without question.”
Did you catch the message? “It requires the suspension of belief and the jettisoning of assumptions previously accepted without question.” That’s the essence of “critical” thinking! Church managers can’t establish the new view of “reality” without first undermining the old Biblical beliefs. Before they see success, the group must let go of the old absolutes and dare to flow with the winds of change.
Linking the old mental hindrances to negative feelings speeds the process and brings lasting change. That’s why each group member must learn to associate the “poor thinking” of the past — including Biblical absolutes that can’t be bent to fit our times — with something unpleasant or unacceptable. [See illustration] On the other hand, “good thinking” must feel good and be linked to the “right” things such as unity, small group fellowship, or fun entertainment such as Harry Potter. This illusion of freedom without consequences is illustrated by a set of Middle School lessons published by the curriculum branch of the mighty, liberal National Education Association:
Does the phrase “suspend judgment” remind you of Dr. Brookfield’s call for “suspension of belief.” It should! The two phrases make the same point. They also show that the new breed of church leaders are simply taking the world’s pedagogic formulas and psycho-social strategies and peppering them with Christian words to veil the unbiblical sources and diffuse opposition.
Do you wonder how Pastor Gangel, the academic dean at Dallas Seminary, could use Dr. Brookfield — a globalist change agent — as a model and authority? I do, and it grieves me to see such deception in high and trusted places.
It’s no secret that Columbia’s Teachers College embraces the UNESCO education agenda and leads the world in training teacher-facilitators for the new global management system, which has no tolerance for Biblical truth. As in the former Soviet Union, the education goal is nothing less than developing a new kind of person — not with facts and logic but with the latest high tech versions of the mind-changing strategies first used to manipulate and monitor the Soviet masses.
Taking our stand
This is spiritual war, dear friends. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” writes the apostle Paul, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Paul tells us how to “stand” in the victory Christ won for us on the cross: “…take up the armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Standtherefore, having girded your waist with truth….” Ephesians 6:12-14
The main truth has to do with the nature of God Himself. We need to know Him as He has revealed Himself through His Word. We need to know…
His justice in order to understand His mercy
His wrath in order to appreciate His amazing love
His mighty power so we trust Him in our weakness
His wisdom so we can let Him be our guide always.
The second truth of the armor deals with our imputed righteousness in Christ. If you indeed have “been crucified with Christ” and filled with His Holy Spirit, you belong to Him. You are already a “new creation” blessed with a personal relationship with the King of the universe! As you set your heart to follow Him, He will speak to you through His Word and guide you by His Spirit through the challenges of each day.
Jim Van Yperen may tell us that the Bible must be understood in groups — as something “written to and for groups of people, not individuals.” Don’t believe it.
Like the serpent’s deceptive arguments in the garden, those misleading words sound believable because the message is cloaked in a half-truths. We do need each other, but each of us can best encourage others when we know Jesus as our life and His Word as our guide. Then, even if we must stand alone for His name’s sake, His loving presence will be enough. Many tortured and persecuted martyrs can testify to the sufficiency of Christ when all other help is gone.
What we don’t need is dependence on a group that would divert our hearts and attention away from Jesus to hollow alternatives. The facilitated group consensus that Van Yperen promotes trains people to compromise their understanding of truth under the noble banners of relationship, “conflict resolution” and “common ground.” While God wants us to practice standing firm in our faith, such groups press members into oppressive re-learning sessions which force everyone to practice — over and over — conforming their convictions to that of the group.
As His ambassador and earthen vessel, I must follow His narrow and rocky way. But it’s easy and sweet when He takes my hand. I must refuse to compromise, but I’d rather have Jesus than the world’s fame and fortune. An old hymn summarizes the disciple’s walk well:
When I survey the wondrous cross
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
1. George Barna, editor, Leaders on Leadership (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997), page 29.
2. Our Global Neighborhood, The Report of The Commission on Global Governance (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1995), page 12.
3. “Peter Drucker on the Church and Denominations“. This pdf file is posted on the Leadership Network website at http://www.leadnet.org/allthingsln/archives/netfax/1.pdf
4. Doug Murren, “The Leader as Change Agent,” Leaders on Leadership (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997), pages 204-206.
5. George Barna, editor, Leaders on Leadership (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997), page 7.
6. Ibid., page 48.
7. Jim Van Yperen, “Conflict: The Refining Fire of Leadership,” Leaders on Leadership (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997), pages 246-247.
8. Stephen D. Brookfield, Developing Critical Thinkers (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1987), pages 8-10. Cited by Kenneth O. Gangel, “What Leader Do,” Leaders on Leadership (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997), page 40.
9. Alan A. Glatthorn and Jonathan Barron, “The Good Thinker,” Developing Minds: A Resource Book for Teaching Thinking (Alexandria, Virginia: The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1985), 51. Included in Caught in the Middle: Educational Reform for Young Adolescents in California Public Schools, Report of the Superintendent’s Middle Grade Task Force (Sacramento: California State Department of Education, 1987), 14.
10. Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17.
11. Van Yeperen, page 246.
13. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide/ The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide./ When other helpers fail and comforts flee,/ Help of the helpless, O abide with me.