World Wide Church

Re-Inventing the Church – Part 2

Re-Inventing the Church – Part 2
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

 

A “change agent… should know about the process of change, how it takes place and the attitudes, values and behaviors that usually act as barriers…. He should know who in his system are the ‘defenders’ or resisters of innovations.”[1] Ronald Havelock, A Change Agent’s Guide to Innovation in Education.

barna-smThere is no privacy in the church. We are called together to work out our salvation with fear and trembling….  Leaders are change agents.” [2] Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leader.

“In and through community lies the salvation of the world. Nothing is more important.” M. Scott Peck, Introduction to The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace.

“Think in wholes, not in parts…. God views sin as a community responsibility. When one person in the community sins, the whole community bears the guilt.”[3] Jim Van Yperen, Leaders on Leadership.


Bill Liniewicz and his family can no longer share in the fellowship at Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church (CLCBC) in Illinois.  Like other members who questioned the new church management, he has been banned from the communion table. By declining a series of “counseling” sessions and by failing to attend a “Solemn Assembly” — a special congregational meeting for the purpose of public confession, brokenness, reconciliation and healing — he supposedly proved his “unwillingness to submit” to his spiritual authorities. There’s only one way that “insubordinate” people like Bill would be welcomed back into fellowship: they must follow the steps to “reconciliation” determined by the new interim pastor.

For Bill, reconciliation would mean compromise, for he could neither trust the new leadership nor agree with the proposed program. And disagreement was, apparently, unacceptable to the new leadership. As Jim Van Yperen, the “intentional interim pastor” would soon teach, “There’s not a lot of things you have permission to disagree about.”[4]

What, then, was Bill’s initial sin? During one of many “adult group forums” held to introduce and discuss the new church agenda, he had shared his lack of peace, called for spiritual discernment and asked some challenging questions about the psychological strategies that might be used to produce change. He had reasons to be concerned.

It all began with some unresolved issues in the church. The last senior pastor had left and CLCBC continued to struggle with disunity. The old-timers still saw Bible teaching as the main focus, while others preferred the feel-good relational “church growth” approach to “doing church.” When the assistant pastor suggested outside consultation, the board agreed. It soon met with Metanoia Ministries, headed by Van Yperen. His team assessed the congregation, presented a diagnosis and proposed a solution.

You met Jim Van Yperen in Re-Inventing the Church, Part 1. He wrote a chapter titled “Conflict: The Refining Fire of Leadership” for George Barna’s book, Leaders on Leadership, and is a respected “change agent” for churches. “A leader of leaders,” George Barna tells us in his book by that title. He is “a marketing strategist and communications consultant,” who “has worked with a wide variety of churches, parachurch ministries and non profit organizations in the areas of vision development, strategic planning, communications, resource development and conflict resolution.”

As expected, the results of Van Yperen’s surveys, interviews and assessments showed serious conflicts — or more specifically: “systemic, structural problems.” The conclusions were presented to the church body, which hired Van Yperen as “intentional interim pastor.”

“I invite you into a process where, in this church, we will practice salvation,” Van Yperen told the congregation in his Sunday morning sermon on March 10, 2002. “We will grow up together to the glory of Jesus Christ.”

What does that mean? We tend to hear Biblical words through the mental filter of the traditional church, but the new postmodern context changes the old meanings. So when the “intentional interim pastor” promises to “lead a spiritual/discovery/change process that seeks to understand and to embody what it means to be the church,”[5] some might wonder what to expect. But, as Bill discovered, not all questions are welcome.

Van Yperen’s workbook, Making Peace, presented some goals of the ministry — and introduced some phrases central to the new church management system. Keep in mind, whoever defines, discovers, dialogues and decides the terms will help steer the change:

  • Define what God’s Word says about conflict and community,

  • Discover how these principles apply to your church community,

  • Describe what it would look like to practice redemptive community,

  • Discuss what would have to change in your church to be redemptive,

  • Decide how God would have you change your mind,

  • Do it! Start making and practicing peace.”

So, how does Van Yperen make and practice peace?

One of his sources of inspiration is M. Scott Peck who wrote The Road Less Traveled and The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. The latter book gave Van Yperen his model for “four levels of community,” which supposedly illustrate and guide the journey from “fake community” to “real community” — the place of true peace. Chaos and conflict are essential to this upward journey.

“Peck would say, ‘The only way to deal authentically with chaos is to live in it for a while,” explained Van Yperen during his weekly leadership training session (5-13-02) “Which means brokenness, not trying to get rid of this [the chaos] too soon.”

To understand Peck’s vision of the world, consider his introduction to The Different Drum:

    “…the human race today stands at the brink of self-annihilation. …. Because so few have a vision of community and so many know that peacemaking must be the first priority of civilization, initially I thought this book should be titled ‘Peacemaking and Community.’ But that would put the cart before the horse….

     “I am dubious, however, as to how far we can move toward global community– which is the only way to achieve international peace — until we learn the basic principles of community in our own individual lives and personal spheres of influence.” [more]

Does Van Yperen share Mr. Peck’s vision of global peace and solidarity? Probably not. Unlike Peck’s writings, his sermons proclaim the Lordship of Christ. His teachings on the cross and resurrection show a true understanding of Biblical salvation. And his ultimate hope seems to rest in an eternity with Christ, not an earthly paradise of man-made peace.

Yet, his continual emphasis of “community” and “change” seem to follow the tracks made by Peck and other modern visionaries. And the “change process” he uses to resolve conflict and transform churches resembles the Hegelian dialectic process which is central to the fast-growing networks of global systems. Used in the Soviet Union to mold compliant citizens, this process has been perfected by behavioral psychologists and embraced by schools, corporations, governments and other organizations intent on “developing” people for the envisioned global community. These world citizens would think and act collectively, not individually.

This manipulative program doesn’t belong in the church. Yet, many Bible studies and other small groups in churches, schools and homes across the country have adopted its rules for dialogue and its dubious approach to “common ground.” It produces an illusion of unity, but the unity is based on submission to the group consensus rather than submission to God.

Van Yperen is a gifted teacher and leader. His articulate sermons bring Biblical encouragement.  Most of his teaching on love, obedience, fellowship and submission sounds Biblically sound. But some of it turns sharply off its Biblical course and merges with the postmodern emphasis on group thinking and social solidarity. And his insistence of unqualified submission [4] to the “spiritual authority” of “shepherd-leaders,” who interpret and adapt “negotiable” Scriptures for group “discussion,” should raise deep concerns.

For example, in his sermon on March 3, he told the congregation that, “Ninety-five percent or more of Scripture was written for and to be heard by a people, not individuals. It was not given for your personal edification and devotion. That is not the primary purpose of Scripture.”

The following Sunday, March 10, he said:

“[W]e live by the Spirit… we sow to the Spirit — all of which are commands for a people, not an individual. As we collectively…. walk in the Spirit and grow with Him, we will, in the interactions of our lives, grow salvation…. 

      “God…. wants you to grow by receiving His Word in the fellowship of believers and in the interpretation of that. And in the coming together in the discussion of it. In the coming together and saying, ‘God speak to us,’ we grow.”

Some might argue that American churches have over-emphasized the individual at the cost of church fellowship and oneness. True or not, it’s still wrong to swing the pendulum into the opposite realm — that of mandatory agreement and unity. Throughout history, God has spoken to individuals as well as nations and churches through His Word. Forbidding dissent destroys accountability. And discouraging individual Bible study in order to produce community oneness would only undermine the genuine unity which grows out of each believer’s personal walk with Christ. God calls each of us to come to Him in a solitary place [see Matt. 6:6], find comfort in His Word, be filled with His life and bring His love to one another.

Even so, Christians are tempted to let a new group consensus — facilitated by leaders trained to “manage change” — interpret Scriptures and redefine its values. According to Van Yperen, “Learning comes through dialogue rather than presentation,”[6] and this pattern for transformation is fast changing churches around the world.

“It’s an organic movement of God,” he told the congregation in his leadership class on April 22. And it demands a shift in emphasis  –

  • “from knowing to interpreting”
  • “from methods to discovery”
  • “from individualism to community”
  • “from knowledge to character”
  • “from telling to inviting”
  • “from salvation out of hell to an invitation into a way of life.”[7]

Please consider each of these points in the light of God’s timeless and unchanging Scriptures. The Berean believers modeled the kind of Biblical scrutiny needed in our times. “…they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:10-11)  They didn’t just listen to Paul’s teaching; they also checked to make sure it lined up with Scriptures. Should we do any less?

1. From knowing to interpreting.   In a weekly teaching session with church leaders, Van Yperen explained his view of Biblical truth:

“We’re not going to negotiate whether Jesus is the Christ. We know that…. But there are relatively few non-negotiables. After those top five or six or seven or ten, whichever way you count them, there’s a lot of the Word out there that we have to interpret through faith and listening….”[8]

Few “non-negotiables”?  While God — by His sovereign will — has left many questions  unanswered, it’s not up to us to clarify mysteries He hasn’t revealed yet. We don’t “have to interpret” or “negotiate” those uncertainties for Him. When we try to describe what He hasn’t shown us or explain what He hasn’t fully revealed, we risk adding to a growing body of divisive speculations and deceptive myths.

Whether we understand a passage or not, it “is written” with the Spirit and authority of God. Therefore it is absolute and unchanging.[9]  Yet, Van Yperen continues with this strange statement:

“There is nothing we know absolutely because we are not absolute. So I think it’s presumptuous when any of us say, ‘I know something you must follow because I know it.’ Even when we do know and we’re right, it is a little bit presumptuous — perhaps spiritually arrogant — to claim such a thing. Rather, I do think you can say ‘I believe this. … Will you come with me to prove it?'”[8]

Does that sound familiar? Those who understand the dialectic (consensus) process know that its ground rules ban both absolute truth and statements such as “I know.”  Factual knowledge or absolute certainty would hinder the required compromise and could offend the group. On the other hand, words such as “I think” or “I feel” imply a more flexible attitude — a willingness to conform and bend one’s beliefs in order to reach the preplanned “common ground.”  In a context that “negotiates” God’s truth and adapts Scriptures to the need, even the words “I believe” become non-threatening. Stripped of the certainty that upsets skeptics, they no longer offend the group.

This process demands a willingness to put more faith in the group and its evolving consensus than in the unchanging nature of God’s Word. Stephen Shields, part-time pastor and technology manager for USA Today, summarized this evolving trend in his article, “Christian discipleship in Postmodernity: Toward a praxis of spiritual friendship.” He wrote, “One of the strands of postmodern reflection worth considering in this connection is the importance of community and relationships in establishing truth. … There are few things more powerful than when Christian has faith in Christian.”[10]

But God warns us not to put our faith in people.  Well aware of our compromising nature, Jesus modeled that caution. He “did not commit [or entrust] Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” John 2:24-25

While he walked on this earth, Jesus took His Father at His Word.  He memorized Scriptures, quoted what “is written” and spoke what His Father told Him. Few understood His teaching at the time, but He knew that the Holy Spirit would soon make His words alive in individual hearts. Today’s popular paths to collective “understanding” — such as Hegel’s group consensus, simplistic interpretations or feel-good cultural adaptations — would have been unthinkable. 

Jesus told His followers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32.

2. From methods to discovery.  Van Yperen’s shift from old ways to new ways may sound wise and helpful. But, like other change agents, he seems to be trading the old ways of teaching, preaching, fellowship and service for Total Quality Management, the worldwide formula for managing and conforming people to the global vision of solidarity. Adding Biblical words and phrases to validate the planned change, he persuades the church to implement the world’s latest pathways to group “discovery.”

“Leaders are visionaries who see the big picture, envision great goals and inspire bold work,” writes Van Yperen in The Shepherd Leader. “Gifted leaders are spiritual entrepreneurs. They are risk-takers and motivators. A compelling vision needs a gifted leader….”[11]

Van Yperen’s expertise in “conflict resolution” fits right in. The perceived conflict helps the congregation accept the need for change, embrace the “compelling vision” and conform to the new way of thinking.

The two — conflict and vision — are essential to “managed change.” A felt or perceived conflict — along with a strategic vision of a great future — is needed in order to make the new resolution palatable to Christian groups. As Mary Poppins sang, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” The collective “discovery” of a better world or church will hardly motivate people to accept radical change unless they also sense a current crisis.

Like Georg Hegel’s dialectic process, today’s more sophisticated forms of brainwashing are designed to expose continual conflict and produce nonstop tension. Both conflict and tension are essential. They fuel an ongoing demand for continual resolution. In other words, the contrived tension drives and sustains the process of change.

The initial conflict becomes a convenient catalyst to start this process, but it must not be resolved too quickly. After all, it takes time to reach the ultimate goal: a personal and communal transformation in the way people think, perceive reality, communicate their feelings and relate to one another. [See “Paradigm Shift: Total transformation“]

As Van Yperen wrote in Leaders on Leadership, “When a leader arrives too early at ‘the answer,’ it is usually by focusing on parts of the problem or individual events instead of the deeper issues underlying the conflict.”[12]

In the context of the above chapter, the “deeper issues” refer to a blend of theological, structural and relational problems. But whatever the conflict, it provides an opportunity to turn once again to the consensus process for a resolution. “What matters is that the root issue is revealed so that it can be explored in dialogue,” explained Van Yperen.

Of course. Ongoing conflict and dialogue. Both are essential to the process. It takes time to lead people to the new “discoveries,” examine “root issues” and — through group dialogue — rethink their “core values and beliefs.”  Minds must be “unfrozen” — flung open to the new ways of thinking, relating and interpreting the Scriptures. Then, when the new mental habits have been established, the leaders must “re-freeze” their changed minds. There can be no turning back!

In his manual on leadership, Van Yperen explains this constructive conflict with an illustration from the writings of Dr. Peter Senge, founder and Chairman of MIT’s Society for Organizational Learning, a “global community of corporations, researchers, and consultants.” 

“Peter Senge,” says Van Yperen, “writes about the tension between vision and current reality by describing two poles linked by a rubber band. The rubber band stretches between the vision and the reality, causing tension.”[13]

In light of Dr. Senge prominence in the world of business management and Jim Van Yperen’s promotion of the new church management, it might be helpful to compare the two parallel processes. The two sides of the coin — the sophisticated strategies used to build collective communities both in the world and in the church — are amazingly similar. And both change agents know how to utilize that constructive tension between a current conflict and an inspiring vision of a better future on earth.

That’s not surprising. Van Yperen’s hearty endorsement of Dr. Senge’s 1995 bestselling book on systems thinking, The Fifth Discipline, leaves little doubt that Senge influenced his views on organizational change. He specifically credits Senge’s book with his understanding of “the roots of conflict” and the effect of theology, structure and relationship on social and behavioral change.[14]

3. From individualism to community.  “Only with the support, insight, and fellowship of a community can we face the dangers of learning meaningful things,” wrote Peter Senge in his article, “Creating Quality Communities.”[15] 

 

 

Van Yperen uses slightly different words to teach the same message. Remember his earlier statement from Spiritual Leadership Formation, “Learning comes through dialogue rather than presentation.”[6] That dialogue takes place in a group, a community. “The church is not and never will be the church outside of a gathered community,” he wrote in “Shepherds as Leaders.”[16]   

Is that true? Has God not gathered to Himself believers “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”?  Rev 5:9  Most of us will never meet in this life, yet we are brothers and sisters in Christ, members of the the Body of Christ for all eternity!

Van Yperen goes on to say, “Sheep always graze together. In fact, an animal that feeds alone is usually a sign of sickness. So it is in the church…. There are no lone ranger Christians.”[16]

Actually, God’s “lone ranger Christians” are scattered around the world. Many have left the churches they loved because they couldn’t submit to compromising leaders. Most have sought Bible teaching churches in their community but found only shallow, feel-good messages stripped of truths that might offend. Some have established house churches, while others continue to seek genuine fellowship in Christ. 

God will surely use those solitary times to draw His people close to Himself. As we look to Him and the Biblical teachers He provides, He deepens our love for Him, our dependence on Him and our understanding of His truth. Thus He trained the apostle Paul during the solitary years that followed his conversion. [Galatians 1:17-23]

He trained Moses, David, and Jeremiah through years of aloneness to put their trust in Him. And countless missionaries in distant places found their only comfort in Christ as they sought the lost, shared God’s love, and endured hostility and persecution. Trusting His Word, they can say with Jesus,

“I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.” John 8:16

Our Shepherd cares for the needs of His people — whether they travel alone or in the great company of fellow believers. In contrast, Van Yperen’s assertion that “the needs of one submit to the greater need of all,” suggest a communitarian philosophy — the belief that the individual needs must be swallowed up in the “Greater Whole” of the collective.[17]

That philosophy fits right into Dr. Senge’s worldview. The article, “Peter Senge and the Learning Organization” mentions Senge’s emphasis on dialogue and shared vision.” It suggests a “link here with the concerns and interests of communitarian thinkers.” [18]

The dialectic process, which is vital to communitarianism as it was to communism, can build the appearance of Biblical unity through intimidation, manipulation, compromise and facilitated consensus. In contrast, true unity comes from each believer’s personal faith in our One Lord. As we study His Word, trust His promises and follow His ways, we become one. We share one hope, one goal, one blueprint for victory, one source of strength and one Spirit to guide us along the way.

“Fulfill my joy,” wrote Paul, “by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Philippians 2:2-3. That’s His goal for us, and He doesn’t need today’s psycho-social strategies to accomplish it.

4. From knowledge to character.  Building learning organizations requires personal transformations or basic shifts in how we think and interact,” wrote Peter Senge in Personal Transformation. “And the only safe space to allow for this transformation is a learning community.” (more)[19]

Or, as Van Yperen says, “It is impossible to grow godly character outside the church, that is, the fellowship of believers.”[20]

Actually, today’s church “fellowship” may even hinder godly character. Leaders who love the world and fear offending potential members often ignore the Biblical boundaries and disciplines that help build Christian character. In many churches, conformity to the culture in the name of tolerance has become more important than self-denial and self-discipline. In those settings, a Spirit-led choice to stand alone and refuse to compromise will do more than any human effort to conform their character to that of Christ.

In spite of their quest for “community,” some leaders show little tolerance for those who — like Bill Liniewicz — resist the process and ask hard questions. So, on March 3, Jim Van Yperen used the parable of the sower to validate a new standard for submission. Remember, in the gospels, Jesus gave us His interpretation to the seed that fell among thorns:

“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Mark 4:18-19.

Compare the words of Jesus with Van Yperen’s interpretation, one that supports his ban on individual “knowledge”:

“Third, we have the seeds that fall among thorns. … These are the seeds who hear and roots take form, but the hearing is always in the form of knowledge — that now I know something. And so I assume something and form opinions about something. And the word does not become fresh in God’s work and hands to change us but becomes something that we possess and sometimes use against others to prove how we are right and they are wrong. It’s a thorny kind of hearing.”[21]

God calls us to love one another, not use His Scriptures as forceful clubs to press others into conformity. On the other hand, we need to know and follow His Word in order to grow in the character of Christ. For

“all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Our character must be rooted in truth — on God’s guidelines for right and wrong. When we sin against God we must confess our sin to God. When we sin against one or more persons, He calls us to confess to those we hurt by our sin. Repentance is primarily a personal issue between the sinner and our God. “Against You, You only, have I sinned,” said David in his heart-broken appeal to God’s mercy. Psalm 51:4

Van Yperen sees sin in a different way. “Think in wholes, not in parts…” he wrote in Leaders on Leadership. “God views sin as a community responsibility. When one person in the community sins, the whole community bears the guilt.”[22]

That was true in Old Testament days. But God promised us, through the prophet Ezekiel, that the time would come when the guilt of personal sin would be borne by the individual sinner, not by others:

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Ezekiel 18:20

5. From telling to inviting. “’Leader as teacher’ is not about ‘teaching‘ people how to achieve their vision,” wrote Peter Senge. “It is about fostering learning, for everyone. Such leaders help people throughout the organization develop systemic understandings. “[23]

“Preaching is not shepherding. Teaching is not feeding,” says Van Yperen.  “… Leaders must see their flock…as sheep who hurt and need understanding  and guidance to help one another. Our preaching and teaching must nourish the flock, not answer the intellectual questions….”[24] He illustrates his point with a story about a pastor who apparently violated this principle. Van Yperen had visited his church and heard his sermon:

“For the next 45 minutes the pastor spoke from Genesis about Noah and the ark. ‘There are two questions we must answer,’ he said in defense of Scripture. ‘Was there really a global flood?’ and “Could the ark really fit two of every species?’

The pastor had done his homework. He shared volumes of archaeological evidence, scientific data and meteorological facts. He was earnest to answer these questions because, as he stated, ‘if we cannot accept this story as true we would have to doubt all of Scripture.’

The pastor was obviously passionate and sincere. Some of his sermon was even interesting. … Like so many young ministers, this well-meaning pastor was answering a question none of us ever had or cared about….”[24]

Whether Van Yperen cared or not, many Christians do want answers to those “intellectual questions.”  When challenged by pseudo science and anti-Biblical persuasions, they want to respond with love, truth, facts and logic  — trusting that God will use the faith and knowledge He has provided. He tells us to

“always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you….” 1 Peter 3:15. 

While our hope is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ, others may not hear His promises until some of the world’s confusing barriers and “scientific” disinformation have first been removed.   

6. “From salvation out of hell to an invitation into a way of life.” That invitation is summarized in the introduction to Making Peace: “All believers are called into a way of life that makes peace. The place God has given for this is the church — the called out, called together community of believers. The Church is God’s agent for reconciliation in the world.”

But what does he mean by peace?  Peace and reconciliation between God and people? Between Christians? Or peace between the Christians and the world? 

To global leaders it means unity in diversity – breaking down barriers between cultures, religions, lifestyles and values.  

Unlike “seeker churches” that ignore words like “sin” and “guilt” for fear of offending visitors, Van Yperen rightly identifies sin as the culprit that destroys peace. He calls for confession [25] as a means to healing and unity. That’s good, as long as confession flows from genuine conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit and isn’t used to manipulate people into submission to unbiblical guidelines.

The problem? God’s truths have been put into the context of the new vision of community — a vision that reaches beyond the Biblical church to the world’s idea of a managed community. This vision changes both the emphasis of confession and the meaning of sin. So in spite of God’s promise in Ezekiel 18:20, he defines “sin” according to today’s demand for universal participation in the collective:

“As we submit to one another and learn to love one another and forgive one another and confess our sins to one another, we practice salvation…. Sin is never private. There is no private sin in the church. If there is sin in the body, it is our sin.”[26]

“Ninety-five percent or more of Scripture was written for and to be heard by a people, not individuals. It was not given for your personal edification and devotion. That… we have called that its primary purpose and looked and acted like lone ranger Christians, each with our private study Bible by our our private personal pastor and never interacted with others, is a sin.”[27] 

It could be a sin, if pride drives our personal study. God calls each of us to communion with Himself. Christians who can’t find a Biblical community that loves His Word can always find fellowship and peace in His wonderful presence. To discourage the personal study needed for a personal relationship with Christ would seem to be a greater sin.

It’s easy to see the Bible through familiar filters which show a preferred but slightly unbiblical perspective. When taught by a persuasive and articulate leader like Van Yperen, that filter will affect how the group thinks, acts and views itself, the Bible and God. Individual Christians who search God’s Word themselves can be strong corrective influences in authoritarian churches that deemphasize “facts” but do emphasize new interpretations of a “negotiable” Bible.

It’s no secret that cults through the years have twisted truths, denied privacy, redefined sin and pressured people to participate in group confession. So did Communist leaders and trainers in China and the former Soviet Union. In his testimony before the Committee on Un-American activities, Edward Hunter, an respected authority on Communist psychological warfare, explained the process which included constant “self-criticisms… confessions and the ultimate indecent and humiliating disrobing of minds.” And in his 1956 book, Brainwashing, Hunter wrote,

“‘Learning’ and ‘confession’ are inseparable from brainwashing. Everyone has to participate in them, whether a party member or not…. Confession is an integral part of the rites. In China there are no exceptions from it for anyone, any more than for attendance at “learning” classes. The retention of his own individuality by a single person is recognized as a deadly menace by the whole monolithic structure.”[28]  

Brainwashing blurs the line between fact and distortions, between truth and lies. Without facts and absolute truths — and the mental discipline to cling to those certainties throughout the horrendous assaults on their minds and bodies — the POW who faced brainwashing in Asian concentration camps quickly broke down. In contrast, the prisoners who knew the absolute certainty of God’s Word were able to endure and triumph in the midst of terrible oppression.

In light of our need as Christians for truths and facts in this changing world, Van Yperen’s message is all the more troubling.

“We are not called to know facts about God, but to know Him,” he told the congregation. “Knowing things about God is not knowing God.”[29]

The last part is true, but the first part is not. Yes, we want to “know God” personally and intimately both as individuals and as the Body of Christ. Anyone with a Bible can learn facts, even demons: As James (2:19) wrote,

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!”

But if we don’t study and know the facts that God has revealed about Himself, we can’t know Him as He wants to be known. Apart from the God-given truths, it’s all too easy to lose perspective, follow the world’s suggestions and accept an unbalanced or twisted view of our Lord. We need to understand His wrath as well as His love… His judgments as well as His wonderful promises. We must remember that — by His wisdom and love — He can be both “jealous” and “angry” when we turn to alternative sources of strength and wisdom, yet He is neither “tolerant” nor “permissive” as many like to believe.

The Biblical facts — even the less popular aspects of His nature — increase our delight in His wonderful attributes. Together, they enable us to love Him with all our mind and strength as well as heart and soul. They equip us to resist deception and stand firm in Christ. And they prepare us to follow Him without compromise or hesitation, as He intended when He chose us to be His friends forever.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season….” Psalm 1:1-3


Personal explanation:  It has not been easy to write this article. I have agonized before my Lord concerning the rightness of criticizing a pastor who desires to serve God’s people and heal His church. Many times over the last half year, I have tried to put this project aside and ignore these hard issues. Then this morning, as I again prayed for guidance and confirmation, God seemed to give me a clear answer, both in His Word and through Van Yperen’s taped April 21 morning message. Though I am not a member of his local church, I am a member of the Christ’s worldwide church — the Body of Christ. Therefore, we are called to minister to one another — as Van Yperen makes abundantly clear in this teaching:

“Some believe it is more loving to keep silent. But I suggest to you that in the Church, silence is not golden. It’s deceitful. If you know of someone who’s been in sin — or you know of a sin — you are called to go, either to confess or to confront. And to do so in a loving way. Keeping silent never helps….

“Am I my brother’s keeper? The answer is: Yes you are. You are your brother’s keeper. Denying truth is not a redemptive Christian response to good or bad….

You need to learn how to speak the truth. It is more hurtful to keep silent than not to. … If you are paralyzed by fear and doubt, ask God for the faith and the strength. Take courage. Believe.”

This report shows only a small part of the picture. It focuses primarily on the strategies used to change conservative Bible teaching churches, which differ from those used to mold the church-growth-oriented churches. But both use the dialectic (consensus) process to conform minds to the new vision of unity. Today’s leaders, whether in churches or the world’s organizations, are trained to adapt their process to diverse settings.

We plan to follow up with a glossary of new words and meanings that might help explain today’s persuasive language and the subtle new messages behind traditional words.

I pray that God will use this report to show the dangers of bringing the world’s ideology, visions and systems into God’s churches. By His grace, may He awaken His people to the envisioned transformation, the unbiblical processes and the ambiguous language that blind our eyes and twist the truths that we love. 


1. Ronald Havelock, A Change Agent’s Guide to Innovation in Education, ix.

2. Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leader, pages 10 and 19.

3. George Barna, Leaders on Leadership (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1997), page 254.

4. Jim Van Yperen, Sunday evening, April 14, 2002. Teaching on submission: “It’s sin not to submit. … By my refusal to admit it is sin, its a further problem. That’s what Satan wants to do. He wants to separate us. And if he can give me the idea that I’m right and you are wrong so I’m not going to submit to you because you are crazy or I don’t like you or I’m not going to listen to you or I’m won’t come to church… that’s an act of sin. Its rebellion. Its sin. It needs to be confessed repented of and forgiven. Most of what happens in the church that get us into trouble are these relational sins that we want to minimize and say, ‘No I just disagree.’ We’ll talk about disagreement. There’s not a lot of things you have permission to disagree about.”
5. Jim Van Yperen, CLCBC Proposal, Metanoia Ministries, Jan. 25, 2002.

6. Jim Van Yperen, Spiritual Leadership Formation, Metanoia Ministries, page 6.

7.Van Yperen list some additional changes (for example: “from mission to vision” in his training manual, “Strategic Leadership Formation,” Metanoia Ministries, page 10.  

8. Van Yperen 4/22

9. Galatians 1:6-8, 2 Timothy 3:16-17Revelation  22:18-19.

10. Stephen Shields, “Christian discipleship in Postmodernity: Toward a praxis of spiritual friendship.”

11. Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leaderpage 46.

12. Jim Van Yperen, Leaders on Leadership, page 254.

13. Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leaderpage 43.

14. Jim Van Yperen, Leaders on Leadership, pages 253, 259 (note #7).

15. Peter Senge, “Creating Quality Communities.” http://www.sol-ne.org/res/kr/qualcom.html

16.  Ibid., page  42. 

17. Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leaderpage 4.
18. Peter Senge and the Learning Organization at http://www.infed.org/thinkers/senge.htm

19. Peter Senge in Personal Transformation.

20. Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leaderpage 22.

21. Jim Van Yperen, 3-3-02.

22. Jim Van Yperen, Leaders on Leadership, page 255.

23. Peter Senge 1990: 356

24. Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leaderpage 38.

25. Confession has been used in many parts of the world to produce brokenness and submission to totalitarian leaders. Please read “Brainwashing and “Education Reform’.”

26.  Jim Van Yperen, 3-10-02.

27.  Jim Van Yperen, 3-3-02.

28.  Edward Hunter, Brainwashing (New York: Pyramid Books, 1956), pages 184.

29. Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leaderpage 38.

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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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….”[3] 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.”[4]   

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.”[5] 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.”[6]

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….”[6]

 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 developmentstrategic 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 individualsWe must learn to read our Bibles this wayInstead 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.”[7] [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.”[8]

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:

 

 Good Thinking vs. Poor Thinking

            “This model helps us make some valid and useful distinctions between good and poor thinking. Here we wish to distance ourselves from those who equate good thinking with a long list of discrete mental operations and those who describe poor thinking in terms of several logical errors.

 

            “Good thinkers are willing to think and may even find thinking enjoyable. They can carry out searches when necessary and suspend judgment. They value rationality, believing that thinking is useful for solving problems, reaching decisions, and making judgments. Poor thinkers, in contrast, need certainty,avoid thinking, must reach closure quickly, are impulsive, and rely too heavily on intuition.”[9] Emphasis added

 

[See New Beliefs for a Global Village]

 

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 standStandtherefore, 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”[10] 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.”[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

 


See Re-Inventing the Church – Part 2


Endnotes:

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.

12. The Nature and Tactics of Satan

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.

The Shepherding Movement Comes of Age

 

The Shepherding Movement Comes of Age

 By Lynn and Sarah Leslie

 

January, 2004

There is a new twist in the old Shepherding Movement and it is coming soon to your church, if it hasn’t already. This new twist is presented to pastors wrapped in silver gilding, and looks quite reasonable and rational. Should a discerning pastor, or one who steeps himself in the Word, take a second look, the gild disappears and in its place will appear rust and corrosion.


Across the country, parishioners are now being challenged to take oaths, perform vows and sign covenants. These things would have been unheard of in generations past for one simple reason. These things used to be forbidden, or only permitted under the gravest of circumstances. A few decades ago churches founded their beliefs sturdily upon the rocks of historical creeds, documents that have withstood the test of time and human whim, and which have imparted to each new generation an understanding of the major tenets of the Gospel faith. Now, in our latter days of dumbed-down Christianity, a minimal number of people in the pews know the creeds, have studied them, or even know about them!

And it is no wonder. A few years ago a pastor told a particularly grievous story. He had attended a meeting with pastors from his conservative denomination. At the meeting the men were handed paper and pencils and asked to come up with their own creeds. This pastor was duly horrified! Courageously he stood to speak against this. The great historical creeds of Christianity, he stated, were wrought in the fires of persecution, under great seriousness and solemn efforts to preserve the Truth of the Gospel. Wasn’t this a frivolous, touchy-feely kind of exercise? Should a handful of men in an auditorium even dare to presume to be able to come up with such a ponderous document in a few short minutes with paper and pencil, he asked. His protest, sadly, was greeted with scorn and ridicule.

The New Covenants

Churches which have come under the influence of Rick Warren, Lyle Schaller, Bob Buford, or any of the other church growth business-model experts, have undergone profound changes. They will have adopted a Mission Statement, Core Values, and Vision, often through a “consensus” and “dialogue” technique. In order to become a member of these churches, parishioners are required to sign an oath to uphold their church’s covenant. The word “covenant,” which used to have biblical significance, is now applied liberally to this new church structure, apparently to give it credibility.

These churches post their covenants on the internet, presumably so that “seekers” will read about their church. Each church which has adopted this new model of membership is exactly like each other church. They are all cut from the same mold. “New Age” Unitarian churches have adopted the same plan as Presbyterian Reformed churches. Baptist, Assembly of God, Nazarene…. the list could go on and on. The new church structure is cross-denominational. Everybody’s plan looks exactly like everybody else’s plan, even though some churches have been led to believe that they had reached their own “original” or “grassroots” plan. This new plan came from on high, and it was carefully calculated to lure pastors and leaders into its new system of church governance.

This emergent church is hierarchical in nature. It is a top-down management structure, resembling the old shepherding models of the 1970s. There is an over-emphasis on “leaders” and “leadership” and “leadership potential.” In many of these churches, leaders are given complete authority over the lives of those in their flocks.

The Valley Church Servant Leader Covenant is a typical model. The aspiring leader makes a commitment with the church:

“As a servant of God in The Valley Church, I want to unite with my fellow servant leaders at this time to undertake commitments appropriate for leadership. These commitments are made in the first place between me and the Lord, and in the second place between me and this community. Realizing that I may fail at times to fully keep these commitments, I think it is important that I purpose in my heart and confirm publicly my desire to keep them. Although this covenant may be changed in coming years this is where we presently stand as a church.”

A list of “Spiritual Commitments” includes a daily prayer life; regular time in God’s Word; active involvement in a small group (usually a cell group); responding obediently to God’s discipline; purposing to discover, develop and use spiritual gifts; living a moral life, maintaining a healthy family life; attending church services; tithing; and supporting the leadership. Most church covenants emphasize the word “all” or “everyone” in their statements such as “Everyone involved in a weekly or ongoing ministry” or “everyone involved in discipleship experience.” No one is excepted.

Each church covenant includes a section pertaining to resolution of conflict. These examples are noteworthy in their extreme application of Matthew 18, in which the parishioner must agree to never speak “evil” of anyone or any leader in the church, including “negative” or “critical” statements about church policies or doctrines. Also, the conclusion of any dispute will be resolved by the leadership of the church, and the parishioner must agree beforehand to submit to their discipline.

Membership is described as the “gateway to leadership.” Everyone is presumed a potential leader. Aspiring leaders must make additional commitments, usually called “responsibilities,” which have to do with evangelism, promoting church programs, discipling others, agreeing to be held accountable, and undergoing periodic “continuing education.”

There is a signature line and a date at the bottom of these covenants for people to sign, indicating their commitment to abide by this new church structure. Some churches require that their members sign the covenant yearly. Others only require it upon membership. Some churches require strict adherence to the oaths, and promise that they will hold the members accountable. Other churches leave wiggle room for people who fail. One church states:

“While nothing is set in stone, nor do we track your fulfillment of the covenant items, this Covenant does give you an idea of the level of commitment we consider membership to be here.”

Some churches reveal that their covenants may change, although it is not specified whether the parishioners will be able to participate in this process, or be given a chance to re-sign the oath at that time.”

The use of New Age terminology is often mixed with biblical-sounding language. One church explains why it is necessary for its parishioners to sign a “pledge”:

 “…a pledge is a solemn promise (which is an indication of future excellence) characterized by deep thought. That is exactly the kind of spiritual practice I would have us engage in! To make a pledge is to enter into an agreement, and to agree is to be of one mind. A pledge holds more potential than I ever realized…. Let us consider making and keeping agreements that express that harmony and oneness.”

Another church explains that their “collective consciousness on social issues” is “not enforced legalistically but members agree to embrace them….” Yet another church states that a “membership covenant implies a clear ownership of the core values, beliefs, vision, and mission that function as the DNA of congregational life embedded into every leader” for a “shared identity.”

A few churches, which were originally founded upon a congregational model, give slightly more freedom to lay people in leadership and decision-making roles. However, this new church structure is markedly characterized by the demise of congregational forms of church governance. In fact, some churches have re-written their bylaws, and make them part of the actual church covenant which must be signed. In these cases the parishioner is then signing a legal contract as well as joining a church body.

ThatChurch! is probably the scariest example of the new covenant, found on a brief internet search:

“Congregational members do not have the right to vote in business matters of the church….All governmental authority in the church shall be vested in the Director of Ministries, the Board of Directors, and the Leadership Team as set forth in the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the Church.”

The leaders can prescribe that members take any courses of study at any time. Members are accepted into the church at the sole discretion of the “Director of Ministries” and must fulfill “responsibilities” such as “follow and support the leadership of this church as they follow the Lord.” In exchange they are offered “rights and privileges” which include permission to attend worship services; entitlement to receive Christian teaching, personal pastoral care, and prayer support; and opportunities to grow in the Lord.

In an ominous revivification of the shepherding movement, ThatChurch!’s bylaws indicate, “Grounds for discipline will be determined by the leadership of the church.” Many paragraphs later, after incredibly detailed explanations of how disciplinary functions will be carried out, it becomes evident that the church leaders retain the right to bar members from the “rights and privileges” listed earlier in their bylaws. But, it isn’t over yet. Each member must consent in advance “to the exclusive jurisdiction of the church in resolving any matter involving church discipline.” Further, there is an elaborate explanation of mediation/arbitration and “outcome” of such discipline, including agreeing to “specifically and expressly [waive] any right to sue in a civil court on any matter covered herein.”

Rick Warren Driving the Church

Dr. Robert Klenck, an orthopedic surgeon, has been speaking out at conferences around the country about the origination of this new covenant agenda. He explains that Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Church, has sold over a million copies and that over 150,000 pastors and church leaders have been trained in his model.
1 Rick Warren was mentored by Peter Drucker, a corporate management guru with strong ties to the New Age/New World Order. Drucker “influenced the start and growth of Saddleback Church.”2

Drucker has dedicated much effort into bringing the church into conformance with the “systems” model of governance, which is known as Total Quality Management in the corporate world. In this model, parishioners are “customers.” The focus shifts to “outcomes” which means that people will have to be held “accountable” for “performance.” Certain rewards (“rights”) and “responsibilities” accompany these outcomes, and a small group structure like cell groups is a perfect way to ensure that people are meeting these “outcomes.” These “outcomes” or expectations are driven by people, not by the Lord or His Word. By implication, if one doesn’t meet the “outcomes,” there may be “penalties” such as the ones prescribed by ThatChurch!

According to Klenck there are rapidly developing networks for “21st century churches” and “best practice churches.” These networks are databasing churches and parishioners. Chief among the organizations spearheading this change is the Leadership Network, which provides “technical assistance” for orchestrated “continuous” change in churches, fitting churches neatly into the business model.

Peter Drucker grew up under the influence of the German philosophies of the 1800s. His “systems” theories are based on “General Systems Theory” (GST) which is esoteric, derived from a merger of social Darwinism and eastern mysticism. GST believes that man is evolving to a higher-order. In order for this to occur, man must become unified and of one consciousness. Drucker developed the theory of a 3-legged stool – Corporate, State and “private sector” (Church). The first half of his long life (he is 94 years old) was devoted to merging Corporate and State into one “system.” The second half of his life has been devoted to merging Church with Corporate, and Church with State into one comprehensive system. He has been wildly successful.

Drucker is a communitarian, which is a modern “communist” who has effectually distanced their views from the old communists. In his communitarian model of governance, the State is in reality the only leg of the stool. The Corporate and the Church subsume their identities and comfortably merge with State into one comprehensive “system” of governance for mankind. Drucker’s ideas gave rise to the faith-based institution movement of the last decade.

Indeed, it is noteworthy that the highest concentration of the new “covenant” style churches can be found in the faith-based arena. The federal bills in Washington that originally began dispersing funds to churches that were doing welfare reform, job training, etc. required that these churches exhibit “ecumenicity.” Churches receiving federal dollars must be held “accountable” One significant way to achieve this goal is to transform the churches into the Corporate/State mode of governance, using the “systems” model.

It is not uncommon, therefore, to find that faith-based, government-financed “covenant” churches are requiring even more of their members. Members at one such church in Pennsylvania must participate in daily e-mails from the pastor, evening worship several nights a week, daily intercession activities, cell group activities, and up to 5 hours per week of “community service” in any of over a dozen state-funded, community-based “ministries.” Churches like this one have become “centers” for State charity work. They then become “accountable” to the “State” for the monies that they receive. When one signs an oath to uphold the covenant of this type of church, they are also agreeing to uphold the State/Church relationship!

What Does God’s Word Say?

“Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

“But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” (James 5:12)

According to Webster’s, a “covenant” is a “binding, and solemn agreement made by two or more individuals, parties, etc. do to or keep from doing a specified thing.” Covenants can be legally binding contracts. “Covenant” can also mean “an agreement among members of a church to defend and maintain its doctrines, polity, faith, etc.” Covenants are supposed to be irrevocable, unchanging and binding on those who made it. It is the strongest expression of a relationship.

An “oath” is a “ritualistic declaration, typically based on an appeal to God or a god,or to some revered person or object, that one will speak the truth, keep a promise, remain faithful, etc.” An oath, therefore, is a sworn promise to keep the terms of a covenant or agreement. The oath is a verbal statement or pledge to keep the covenant. Related to the word “oath” are the words “vow” and “pledge.”

The issue of taking oaths came up a few years ago when the men of Promise Keepers were making seven promises. It is possible that PK broke the ground on this matter, desensitizing Christians to the whole idea of taking an oath. On the one hand, the “promises,” like those of PK, seemed like 7 “suggestions” and trivialized the whole idea of keeping commandments. On the other hand, it is important to realize that in the spirit world, there is great significance to these matters. There are rituals that accompany these activities, and it is believed that curses accompany broken covenants or failure to keep an oath or vow. Pagans would invoke the name of a deity to set evil in motion. Secret societies such as freemasons require oaths. This explains one major reason why the Lord Himself would state the issue so strongly in His Sermon on the Mount.

Historically, Christians have agreed with these Scriptures and opposed oath-taking. These verses from Scripture were considered to be so vital for a Christian that at the time of the Reformation both the Anabaptist and Reformed branches of the church addressed them in their creeds. From the Reformed branch, from which arose churches such as Congregational, Lutheran, Anglican and Presbyterian, came the Westminster Confession of Faith, Article 22:

 

Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.

“I. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth or promiseth; and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.

“II. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred. Yet, as, in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the New Testament, as well as under the Old, so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters ought to be taken.

“III. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth. Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform. Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.

“IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation. It can not oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt: nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.

“V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

“VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for obtaining of what we want; whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties, or to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

“VII. No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance of which he hath no promise or ability from God. In which respects, monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.”

Especially note Sections VI and VII, in which oaths were to be voluntary, a personal matter of conscience, unto God alone, not contrary to the Word of God, and in utter dependence upon God to keep. Also of relevance is Article 20, Section II, which pertains to blind obedience, destruction of liberty of conscience, and loss of reason:

“II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his Word, or beside it in matters of faith on worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.”

The new oaths and covenants run counter to the historical Reformed church on many counts. Whereas previously the Ten Commandments would have been taught, now they are replaced by new church laws which are subjective and potentially heretical. Previously these churches would have taught that Christ won on the cross liberty from the laws of men, and that the conscience is subject to God alone. The Reformed church used to teach that man lives by faith, and through His strength man is able to keep His commands. Now a new structure has been erected, with man-made laws, and man-directed accountability.

The Anabaptist branch of the Church, from which came Baptists, the Pentecostals, and modern evangelicals, historically took a stronger stand and opposed taking oaths altogether. The Anabaptist beliefs can best be summarized by the Dordrecht Confession of Faith (1632):

“XV. Of the Swearing of Oaths
Concerning the swearing of oaths we believe and confess that the Lord Christ has set aside and forbidden the same to His disciples, that they should not swear at all, but that yea should be yea, and nay, nay; from which we understand that all oaths, high and low, are forbidden, and that instead of them we are to confirm all our promises and obligations, yea, all our declarations and testimonies of any matter, only with our word yea, in that which is yea, and with nay, in that which is nay; yet, that we must always, in all matters, and with everyone, adhere to, keep, follow, and fulfill the same, as though we had confirmed it with a solemn oath. And if we do this, we trust that no one, not even the Magistracy itself, will have just reason to lay a greater burden on our mind and conscience. Matt. 5:34, 35; Jas. 5:12; II Cor. 1:17.”

The Schleithheim Confession (1527), Article 7 states, in part:

“Seventh. We are agreed as follows concerning the oath: The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making promises. In the Law it is commanded to be performed in God’s Name, but only in truth, not falsely. Christ, who teaches the perfection of the Law, prohibits all swearing to His [followers], whether true or false, — neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by Jerusalem, nor by our head, — and that for the reason which He shortly thereafter gives, For you are not able to make one hair white or black. So you see it is for this reason that all swearing is forbidden: we cannot fulfill that which we promise when we swear, for we cannot change [even] the very least thing on us.”

Even today the conservative Mennonites and Amish descendants of the original Anabaptists will not take an oath, but will instead “affirm.” Churches used to teach, even a generation ago, that any words that served no useful function should not be spoken, that it was wrong to “curse” (oaths, swear words), and that “minced oaths” were sinful (“Gosh,” “Gee,” “darn,” etc.). It used to be taught that even portions of oaths, such as “Well, I’ll be…” or “So help me…” were wrong to speak. In today’s loose climate of speech, action, and morality it is no wonder that oaths have now gained a foothold. Remember when a man’s word was “as good as gold”? Few remember or adhere to the old ways of integrity, honesty and forthrightness.

The Trouble With Taking Oaths

Shall men take an oath or make a promise that they have no intention of keeping? Shall they sign on to a covenant that they may break? Not only is this forbidden by Scripture, but in days past this would have been dishonorable and disgraceful act. One Christian writer, Paul Shirk, in his book, Come Out of Her My People, has expressed it well:

“We…however much we swear, can never guarantee a course of action, therefore we say, ‘if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that,’ for we know not what may be on the morrow.

“Our yes and no should represent the honest intentions of the heart and will, but above that we risk falling into condemnation (James 5:12) for our inability to perform an oath. Originally the oath was used to commit the will to the proper course of action; now, men that have the Spirit of Truth are to simply affirm it with a “yes” and stand by their word.”3

Matthew Henry, in his Commentaries on James 5:12, addressed this topic:

“…those who swear commonly and profanely the name of God do hereby put Him upon the level with every common thing. Profane swearing was customary among the Jews. Some of the looser sort of those who were called Christians might be guilty also of this. But why above all things is swearing forbidden? Because it strikes most directly at the honor of God and throws contempt upon His name and authority. …Let it suffice you to confirm or deny a thing, and stand to your word, and be true to it, so as to give no occasion for your being suspected of falsehood. Then you will be kept from the condemnation of backing what you say or promise by rash oaths, and from profaning the name of God to justify yourselves.”

The new oaths and covenants put a pressure on church people – a pressure that comes, not from God but from man. Peer orientation, fear factors, and the demands to conform or meet expectations prevail. The focus is on self-mastery, not God-directed discipline. Some will do the bare minimum just to “get by.” For others, good deeds that were formerly done in secret, arising out of love and compassion, are now done openly and boldly so that leaders will see and approve.

This new “gospel” of “works” requires one to neglect the unseen duties of life. One must perform visible deeds in order to meet requirements of “accountability” – even to the detriment of their God-given responsibilities. Women will especially suffer under this odious system, developed by corporate businessmen and perpetuated by institutional church men. Caring for elderly parents, nursing babies, chasing toddlers, raising handicapped children, homeschooling, or other family-oriented personal deeds of self-sacrifice and love which are performed on a hourly basis every day of the week, will go unnoticed and unrewarded in this new “system.” Fulfilling the onerous requirements and obligations of these types of covenants will be well-nigh impossible for those who are elderly, infirm, or duty-bound to others. Should these churches establish two tiers of membership – one for the “do-ers” and the other for the “be-ers”? Or are those who are less able or unable to meet the stringent requirements unwelcome?

Indeed there is a certain elitism about the new church structure. Pastors who are true shepherds, quietly feeding their flocks on the hillsides of life, ministering to their births, deaths, illnesses and crises, can’t compete in this new system where everything is “purpose-driven.” This new style of church is for the Type-A personality who is “driven” by “results.” Everything is programmed according to modern business methods The little church in the vale isn’t good enough anymore – everything has turned into a “volunteer mobilization unit.”

A Still Small Word

There may be a reason for the upsurge in oaths and covenants. It may have to do with the agenda of Peter Drucker and his management gurus who wish to transform the Church into the likeness of the Corporation and the State. Historically, “citizens were required to take an oath of fealty. Starting from the year 1066, every English male took an oath of allegiance to the King of England. When the Protestants had established their power in England in 1688, additional oaths were required denouncing the Pope’s authority and the doctrine of transubstantiation.”
4 In other words, States have required oaths and the Churches, whenever or wherever they have reigned supremely, have required oaths.

“Wherever the nationally established Christian religions have taken root they have tried to use religious oaths as a means to bind the wills and consciences of men to their own expediency and have used various methods to argue that Christ never meant what he plainly said concerning the taking of oaths.”5

Oaths and covenants are a new form of legalism entering the church like a flood. They require more of us than Scripture requires. It is a horrible new form of bondage, accomplished in the name of a new church for the 21st century. This is a “transformation” not a “reformation.” It would return the church to the dark ages of oppressive State Church. This movement did not arise from God, but from the rapacious desires of evil men.

If you have been caught up in this whole extravaganza, and are marching in this parade, it is time to slow down, stop and reflect. If you have taken an oath to one of these new covenants, you can repent. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ does not require so much of us:

“The Lord do so to me, and more also,” is God’s form of Old Testament oaths – a binding of judgment upon the soul. From this shackle the Lord frees us when He asks us to “Swear not at all.” If free from condemnation, why should we invite the judgment by taking the oath? (S.F. Coffman)

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thess. 2:16-17)


Endnotes:

1. For solid documentation on Peter Drucker and his work with Rick Warren and others in the church growth movement, readers are referred to Readings In the Dialectic: Papers Presented at The Institution for Authority Research Diaprax Conferences, “How Diaprax Manifests Itself in the Church (Growth Movement),” Dr. Robert E. Klenck. This booklet is available for $15 plus shipping from the Institution for Authority Research, Box 233, Herndon, KS 67739, iardeangotcher@yahoo.com.

2. Http://www.fullydevoted.blogspot.com/2002_12_15_fullydevoted_archive.html, p. 3.

3. Come Out of Her My People by Paul Shirk, page 164. This book, which is a scholarly apologetic work which effectively counters modern dominionist theology, is available from Discernment Ministries (PO Box 254, High Bridge, NJ 08829 – 0254) for $11.00 plus postage.

4. Ibid, page 160.

5. Ibid, page 166.

Conforming the Church to the New World Order

Conforming the Church to the New World Order

by Berit Kjos – 2000

 

“We restored the vital center, replacing outdated ideologies with a new vision anchored in basic, enduring values: opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and a community of all Americans…. We must shape a 21st Century American revolution – of opportunity, responsibility, and community. … a new nation.” President Clinton, 2000 State of the Union message.

“One Church for One World.” World Council of Churches , 1948

“. . .  change will probably be radical, if not total.  Those whose lives are dedicated to serving the Church of the past will resist these suggestions with a vehemence that always emerges from threatened hierarchies and dying institutions…. But the seeds of resurrection are present in the exile, and in time those seeds will sprout and bloom. When they do, we will once again be able to see continuity between the Church of the past and the purged and opened church of the future.”  Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die [1]


Year 2000 has arrived, ushering in the United Nations’ “International Year of the Culture of Peace.” It brings new pressures to establish the global management system President Clinton calls the Third Way – one that allows governments to yield responsibilities, but not control, to their “private” and “civil” partners who will be required[2] to implement the vision.  

The church-state partnerships touted by candidates Bush and Gore fit the picture. These political alliances are already being established from coast to coast, not by law, but by an army of willing and often well-meaning religious leaders.  Those who share the UN vision of the 21st Century community usually lead the parade. They seek a global village of peace and social equality – unified, not by faith in the Biblical God, but by faith in human nature and a pluralistic god-spirit operating in and through each person. 

Christian evangelism doesn’t fit this utopian vision. It offends people of other faiths. It threatens the religious leaders who have built their platform on humanitarian ideals rather than the Bible. And it clashes with the international standards for tolerance and mental health.  

This spiritual shift didn’t start in the nineties. Liberal ecclesiastical leaders realized more than fifty years ago that Biblical absolutes, separateness, and evangelism would block their agenda. To clear the way, they built the foundations for today’s worldwide movement that would 

  • Equate Biblical truth and evangelism with hate and intolerance
  • Redefine Christianity
  • Hold Christians accountable to global standards for mental health
  • Conform churches to the demands in UNESCO’s Declaration on Religion in a Culture of Peace
  • Build the framework for global control
  • Establish the one world church

Equate Biblical Truth and Evangelism with Hate and Intolerance

It’s not surprising that Chicago’s liberal Council of Religious Leaders opposes a Baptist plan to send 100,000 missionaries into their domain next summer. Nor is it strange that the Southern Baptist Convention’s refusal to cancel its plans fueled the fury of two groups: those who equate Biblical values and evangelism with hate and intolerance and those who feel they had been specifically targeted for conversion.[3]

“The evangelical fervor of the Southern Baptists, America’s largest Protestant denomination, remain undiminished despite criticism over their controversial ‘prayer book,’” wrote Ramesh Chandran in The Times of India News Service (12-9). The offensive prayer book describing Hindu beliefs and culture – one of several prayer books written for training purposes – dared to suggest that Hindu devotees had “darkness in their hearts”[4] and didn’t share in Christ’s promise of salvation. 

Such Christian “intolerance” and “exclusiveness” is outlawed by UNESCO’s Declaration on Tolerance[5] and unacceptable to the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish leaders.  Naturally, they don’t want Christians to pray for their salvation or write critical descriptions of their beliefs and culture in their training manuals.   

Chicago’s Council of Religious Leaders has joined Mr. Chandran on this spiritual battlefield. Made up of 40 Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish institutions, this civil-minded Council wrote a letter to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) asking that it “enter into discussion with us and reconsider your plans….” In other words, it called for conflict resolution based on the consensus process and aimed at compromise and common ground.  

Rabbi Ira Youdovin, executive director of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, was the chief author of this letter. He wrote, 

“While we are confident that your volunteers would come with entirely peaceful intentions, a campaign of the nature and scope you envision could contribute to a climate conducive to hate crimes.”[6] 

Hate crimes?  

Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission wrote an answer. Its warning should concern everyone who values our increasingly fragile Constitutional right to follow and express our convictions: 

“…To say that Southern Baptists should refrain from an evangelistic campaign because it might, as the council said, ‘contribute to a climate conducive to hate crimes,’ is not a very far step away from then claiming that the act of witnessing itself to those whom you believe need to be saved is a ‘hate crime.’ 

“…those who criticize Southern Baptist’ efforts to evangelize cities or groups always preface their criticism by acknowledging Southern Baptists’ right to express our belief. It seems they affirm our right to express our beliefs as long as we agree not to do so. As soon as we seek to practice what we preach, they severely criticize our “arrogance” and our ‘presupposition’ that non-Christians ‘are outside God’s plan of salvation’… 

“I grieve… that a Methodist minister would make such statements in response to fellow believers’ attempts to heed the Great Commission commandment of Jesus our Savior, who it should be remembered did say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.’ (John 14:6)”[7]

You may question the wisdom of the ways the SBC trains its missionaries and handles its private training books. But its intention was to spread love, not hate, and its plans include feeding and clothing the poor. “We have a message that we think will bring encouragement and hope to people,” said Herb Hollinger, an SBC spokesman.[8]  

Still, their message will bring little hope to those who seek socialist solidarity. The Chicago Council can’t build its kind of unity without silencing contrary voices.

Redefine Christianity   

Few things offend the liberal church establishment more than an uncompromising faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to God.  It “smacks of a kind of non-Jesus-like arrogance,” said Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, a member of the Council of Religious leaders and the head of 425 churches in the United Methodist Church’s Northern Illinois Conference. Referring to the SBC summer campaign, he continued,

 “I am always fearful when we in the Christian Community move beyond the rightful claim that Jesus is decisive for us, to the presupposition that non-Christians … are outside God’s plan for salvation.”[9]

Bishop Sprague apparently believes that people of every religious persuasion would be safe within God’s saving grace. If so, Christ’s death has little significance today, an evangelistic crusade would be futile, and the Bishop’s response would make perfect sense. This campaign could, he said, “upset the unity that has carefully developed between Protestants, Catholics and Jews in Chicago during the past few years.”[9] 

He is right. It could. Bishop Sprague’s kind of community oneness permits diversity in the non-essentials, but it demands unity in some key areas that violate Biblical truth. It forbids divisive attitudes as well as Biblical values, and it sets its new social standards above God’s word. 

Small wonder, then, that when World Net Daily asked the Methodist bishop if “preaching against homosexuality could be considered a hate crime,” he answered, “…it certainly can. It creates a climate in which hate can fester.”[9]

As chairperson of the National Shalom Committee and founder of Communities of Shalom, Bishop Sprague is committed to a course of action that would guard his city against “the offense of the cross.” He has no objections to social action, but Baptist evangelism would be unacceptable:

“They are welcome to come, if they’re coming to join with us in acts of mercy and justice on behalf of this community in general, and specifically on behalf of the marginalized and dispossessed…. We are not interested in their coming to proselytize or to suggest, however well intentioned, that Jews, Hindus, or others are second class.”[10]

At over 260 Shalom sites across the country (including Chicago) churches are working with their communities “toward systemic change.” Collaborating with community organizations and residents, they pursue benevolent  social goals such as economic development, affordable housing, multicultural relationships, and “health and healing that addresses issues affecting physical, emotional, and social wholeness.”

“Spiritual and congregational development” is encouraged through “study circles” which pair “congregations from different faith traditions” in small groups “for dialogue.” Here they “grapple with public issues and build community.”

But in these consensus groups, everyone must follow certain guidelines. They must “seek common ground,” be willing to compromise, and come to consensus. To hold on to absolute truths and refuse to conform to the group values would be considered uncooperative and intolerant.

It’s an effective process. That’s why Marx promoted it and Lenin made it the cornerstone of the Soviet education system. It’s guaranteed to destroy Biblical faith and redefine Christianity. (See Mind Control)  

The Shalom website includes the standard mission and vision statements that are part of the new global management systems. It quotes the Bible but puts Scriptures into a context that changes the meaning. It also shows why, from the bishop’s perspective, the Baptist plan would undermine his efforts to establish solidarity.

“The Biblical understanding of shalom (Hebrew word for peace), is not merely the absence of conflict but everything that makes for people’s highest good. It works toward hope and wholeness in which people, individually and collectively, experience health, prosperity, security, oneness with nature, and spiritual renewal. In John 14:27, Jesus, in one of his final moments with his disciples, offers peace… not as the world gives but as God gives (NRSV). Shalom is the transforming power of God at work through the church in individuals and the community. Through the power of God, Communities of Shalom work for spiritual renewal, community economic development, and healthy communities.”[11]

Notice the twisted truths. While Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace, John 14:27 points to a different kind of peace – an inner peace that can only be enjoyed by believers who trust and follow Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Unlike the world’s peace, the peace He offers doesn’t depend on comfortable circumstances. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace,” He told His disciples. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) 

In contrast, “healthy communities” refers to a U.S program linked to the World Health Organization, a specialized UN agency, which intends to impose its socialist uniformity on every community under the banner of peace. This global “mental health” system has nothing to do with God’s peace. Its “shalom” is only for those who conform to the new global values. Its aim is to measure and monitor beliefs and values everywhere, then remediate all who refuse to compromise. To “promote the… optimal development of the mental health of the population,[12] it must stamp out Biblical faith and obedience. (See The UN Plan for Your Mental Health 

Hold Everyone Accountable to New Standards for “MENTAL HEALTH”  

Bishop Sprague is not the first American church leader touting a public health program that includes “mental health” based on politically correct standards. He and his Shalom Community partners across America have joined hands with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In its 1954 Biannual Report (58-196), the National Council of Churches referred to its Commission on Religion and Health which would address the “mental health problem.”  In his well-documented 1958 book, Collectivism in the Church, Edgar C. Bundy explains,

“Because ‘mental health’ has become available as a lever to be used for promoting political and ideological designs, a word on the subject is in order. No one is against adequate care for people who are, beyond reasonable doubt, insane….. 

“Something new has come into the subject of insanity, however, within the past several years. People who are normal in every sense of the word but who hold unpopular political ideas, such as opposition to world government and to the United Nations, Federal aid to education, and socialism, are now being branded by their political opponents as ‘lunatics,’  ‘nuts’ and ‘idiots.’

“Some of the mental health legislation which has recently been introduced on state and Federal levels gives such wide latitude of interpretations to psychiatrists and politicians… that it is conceivable that anyone who takes a stand for the sovereignty of the United States, in favor of Congressional investigations, in opposition to fluoridation of public water supplies, and in favor of state’s rights could be committed to an asylum in order to silence opposition.”[13]

Do you find this hard to believe? Concerned that these warnings might be realized, U.S. Congressman Usher L. Burdick of North Dakota submitted Resolution 98 to the 85th Congress. Here are a few points in his resolution:

“WHEREAS … the language of this bill is subject to misinterpretations which could jeopardize Constitutional rights of the individual; and

“WHEREAS among the psychiatrists are those who advocate an ideology foreign to the United States, as set forth in ‘Mental Health and World Citizenship,’ the statement of the 1948 International Congress on Mental Health; and

“WHEREAS the mental health organizations are sponsoring in the several states commitment legislation which violates the rights guaranteed to every citizen under the Constitution of the United States….

“RESOLVED by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring) That the Congress of the United States make a complete investigation into all ramifications and implications of mental health legislative programs which are currently being promoted.”[14]

If only the current Congress would take the same precautions.  Right now, a far more sophisticated system for measuring and monitoring “the mental health of the population” is being implemented through WHO-federal-and-state partnerships that work in local communities to accomplish what Congress would never permit, the mainstream media may never tell, and the public may not realize until the system is in place.  

Conform the Church to UNESCO’s Guidelines

The standards for 21st Century spirituality are outlined in UNESCO’s 1994 “Declaration on the role of religion in the promotion of a culture of peace.” You probably haven’t heard of this “soft” international law signed in Barcelona in December, 1994. Yet, its guidelines have spread throughout the world, fueled by multicultural education, interactive technology, books such as the Harry Potter series, the media, movies, television and last, but not least, American churches.  

As you read these short excerpts from UNESCO’s Declaration on the Role of Religion, try to remember where and when you last heard these politically correct attitudes or assertions: 

  • “Religions have… led to division, hatred, and war.”
  • “Peace entails that we understand that we are all interdependent….  collectively responsible for the common good.” 
  • “Our communities of faith have a responsibility to encourage conduct imbued with wisdom, compassion, sharing, charity, solidarity, and love; inspiring one and all to choose the path of freedom and responsibility. Religions must be a source of helpful energy.”
  • “We should distinguish fanaticism from religious zeal.”
  •  “We will favor peace by countering the tendencies of individuals and communities to assume or even to teach that they are inherently superior to others.”
  •  “We will promote dialogue and harmony between and within religions… respecting the search for truth and wisdom that is outside our religion. We will establish dialogue with all, striving for a sincere fellowship….” 
  • “…we will build a culture of peace based on non-violence, tolerance, dialogue, mutual understanding, and justice. We call upon the institutions of our civil society, the United Nations System, governments, governmental and non-governmental organizations, corporations, and the mass media, to strengthen their commitments to peace and to listen to the cries of the victims….”
  •  “We call upon the different religious and cultural traditions to join hands… and to cooperate with us….”  [Emphasis added]

 In case you are wondering how UNESCO could possibly be linked to Chicago’s Council of Religious Leaders or to Methodist Bishop Sprague, lets go back to the fifties again. There we see both the roots of religious synthesis ( the blending and blurring of beliefs and convictions through the consensus process) and the hidden partnerships that link church leaders to powerful politicians who carry the “Christian” social and economic agenda into Congress and the White House.  

Build the Framework for Global Control

In 1942, six years before the World Council of Churches was formally launched, its organizers within the Federal Council of Churches held a National Study conference at Wesleyan University in Ohio. Among the 30 delegates were 15 bishops, seven seminary presidents, and eight college and university presidents.

John Foster Dulles, who later became Secretary of State in the Eisenhower administration, chaired the conference. As head of the Federal Council’s inter-Church “Commission to Study the Bases of a Just and Durable Peace,” Dulles submitted the conference report. It recommended:

  • a world government of delegated powers 
  • immediate limitations on national sovereignty
  • international control of all armies and navies
  • a universal system of money
  • worldwide freedom of immigration
  • a democratically controlled international bank
  • even distribution of the world’s natural wealth.[15]

That was 1942!  Soon afterwards, Time magazine wrote a summary of the report. In its statement below, notice these words:  “a new order… through voluntary cooperation within the framework of democracy or through explosive political revolution.” This solution, “voluntary cooperation within the framework of democracy” gives us a glimpse of the true meaning of nice-sounding words such asdemocracy, volunteerism, participation (involving everyone in  the consensus process), partnerships, and civil society:

 

“Some of the conference’s economic opinions were almost as sensational as the extreme internationalism of its political program. It held that a ‘new order of economic life is both imminent and imperative” – a new order that is sure to come either ‘through voluntary cooperation within the framework of democracy or through explosive political revolution.’ Without condemning the profit motive as such, it denounced various defects in the profit system for breeding war, demagogues and dictators…. Instead, ‘the church must demand economic arrangements measured by human welfare…’”[16]

 

In 1943, John Foster Dulles convened another Council of Churches conference. It endorsed “Six Pillars of Peace,” a plea for a world political organization – a United Nations.  In his speech, recorded in the Council’s 1944 Biannual Report, Dulles said,

 

“Interest in this subject had been enormously increased by the declaration of the Moscow conference, which stressed the necessity of creating at the earliest possible moment a general international organization…. People in and out of the churches were urged to ‘remain united and vigorous to achieve such [an] international organization.’ …  This statement, signed by more than 1,000 Protestant leaders, was given to the press and mailed to the President and members of Congress.”[17]

The most infamous of the Council leaders, Alger Hiss, was a secret member of the Communist party. [Finally the truth about soviet spy Alger HissThat didn’t keep him from serving President Roosevelt both in the State Department and as his adviser at the 1945 Yalta Peace Conference where the ailing Roosevelt was persuaded to yield Eastern Europe to Stalin.

Nor did it block his acceptance as coauthor of the UN charter and as Secretary General of the United Nations organizing conference in San Francisco in 1945. The Soviet connection may even have encouraged John Foster Dulles to recommend that Hiss head up the multimillion dollar Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Strong links to high places would speed their agenda. 

Establish the One World Church

While world socialism and economic redistribution [18] topped the Council agenda, global spirituality followed close behind.  Speaking to the Methodist General Conference in 1948, Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, President of the American wing of the newly formed World Council of Churches, announced the Council’s slogan: “One Church for One World.”[19]  He continued,

“Methodism is determined to preach a gospel that insists that all men are brothers and children of one Father, to whom final loyalty is due….

“Fifty-two years from now, when man has reached the year 2000 and has won, let us pray, the justice, the brotherhood and peace of his dreams, let us hope that the contribution of the people called Methodist may have been so significant that history may proudly record, “A Man Named Wesley Passed this Way!”[20]

We have reached year 2000, and Bishop Oxnam’s followers still await the fulfillment of his dream. But they are closer. The mindset of the American public has slowly conformed to the global standards. That, too, was planned long ago. When the International Congress on Mental Health met in London back in 1948, it presented a report titled “Mental Health and World Citizenship.” Listen to the message:     

       “Social institutions such as family and school impose their imprint early…. Thus prejudice, hostility or excessive nationalism may become deeply embedded in the developing personality… often at great human cost…. Change will be strongly resisted unless an attitude of acceptance has first been engendered.”[21]    

With church and education leaders paving the way, that “attitude of acceptance” has now been engendered. To the general public, politically correct spirituality and world government seem normal and necessary. Uniformity based on compromise has become far more acceptable – even in churches — than Biblical unity based on the cross. And those who, like the Baptist evangelists, resist the new ideology are painted as enemies to peace and progress.  

Today, as two thousand years ago, contrary convictions disturb religious leaders whose goals demand solidarity and compliance. That’s why Jesus’ warning has continued to encourage Christians through the centuries:  

“I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you….  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…. because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 15:20-21 

Many churches ignore those verses. They seem so obsolete and irrelevant. But that’s changing. Those who resist “common ground” spirituality, will face increasing pressures to keep still or to compromise.  History is repeating itself, and our models may be the forgotten faithful who fled to America three centuries ago seeking freedom to follow the uncompromising truth no longer tolerated by their religious leaders.

A little book called, Seeing the Invisible: Ordinary People of Extraordinary Faith, shows the similarities between politically correct 17th Century England and our nation at the dawn of the third millennium: 

“October 1662 was a dark month for the church of Jesus Christ in Scotland, comparable only to Black Bartholomew’s Day in England two months earlier. Then two thousand English pastors and teachers had been evicted for their unwillingness to comply with the terms of the Act of Uniformity. Now all Scottish preachers were required to seek preordination at the hands of the bishops — a measure to which few could submit in good conscience…. Those who would not comply should lose their ministries forthwith, their pulpits being declared vacant….  

The “compilers of this retrograde legislation imagined that most of Scotland’s preachers were like themselves, loving security and income above considerations of conscience. They anticipated that no more than ten men would prove awkward and refuse reordination. In the event, over four hundred Scottish preachers chose poverty, homelessness, suffering and even death rather than the path of compromise.”[22]

 The framework for control is in place. So is the process for managing, molding and monitoring “healthy communities” and “healthy people” around the world. (  Three centuries ago, this nation offered a shelter – a place of refuge from the persecution that has pursued God’s faithful followers since Christ died on the cross. When our nation shuts its doors to Biblical truth, where will Christians hide? 

The answer is simple: in Jesus. The Bible tells us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12). But, in the midst of the struggles, He will fill us with a peace the world can never understand. By His grace, we will stand firm and immovable while demonstrating His gentle love to all who hunger and thirst for the everlasting peace and unity only found in Him.

“Oh, how great is Your goodness,

Which You have laid up for those who fear You,

Which You have prepared for those who trust in You

In the presence of the sons of men!

You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence

From the plots of man;

You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion

From the strife of tongues

Blessed be the Lord,

For He has shown me His marvelous kindness…”

Psalm 31:19-21


Endnotes:

[1] John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die (HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), pages 198-199.   

[2] Government partners must comply with Federal guidelines and standards, even when they clash with Biblical values. See  Trading U.S. Rights for UN Rules  and Federalism

[3] For more information, read “Witnessing vs. Proselytizing” and “Is Evangelism Possible without Targeting?”

[4]  “Religious leaders fear Southern Baptist presence may spark hate crimes,” Associated Press, 28 November 1999.

[6]] Frank York, “Is Christianity a ‘hate crime?‘ World Net Daily, 3 December 1999.

[7] Southern Baptist leaders disagree with Chicago’s Leaders’ hate Crimes Assertion,” Zondervan Newz Service, 1/3/00, at www.zondervan.com/zns.htm

[8] “Religious leaders fear Southern Baptist presence may spark hate crimes,” Associated Press, 28 November 1999.

[[9] Frank York, “Is Christianity a ‘hate crime’? World Net Daily, December 3, 1999.

[10] Ibid.

[13] Edgar C. Bundy, Collectivism in the Church (,1958), page 196-197, referring to the World Council of Churches’ 1954 Biannual Report, page to page 58.

[14] Ibid., page 197-198.

[15] Ibid., page 165.

[16] Time, March 16, 1942.

[17] Bundy, page 91.

[18] Ibid., page 209. Here you see two of the three goals at the heart of Sustainable Development: Worldwide economic redistribution and socialist equality. The third is global management of the environment — another means of managing human resources. See  Local Agenda – The U.N. Plan for Your Community.

[19] Ibid.,  203.

[20] Ibid., 204-205. Some members of the U.S. Congress were not pleased with the World Council agenda. Some found it downright dangerous. On July 21, 1953, Bishop Oxnam was called before the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives. (page 207)

[21] We have a copy of  the report titled “Mental Health and World Citizenship.”

[22] Faith Cook, Seeing the Invisible: Ordinary People of Extraordinary Faith (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1998), page 141. 

 

[Article Reprinted with Permission]
by Bert Kjos 2003
www.crossroad.to

Original Source: http://www.crossroad.to/text/articles/ConformingChurch1-00.html#religion

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