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.” Ronald Havelock, A Change Agent’s Guide to Innovation in Education.
“There is no privacy in the church. We are called together to work out our salvation with fear and trembling…. Leaders are change agents.”  Jim Van Yperen, The Shepherd Leader.
“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.” 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.”
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,” 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  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,” 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.”
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….”
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. 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?'”
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.”
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….”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.” 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.”
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.”
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.
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.” 
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)
Or, as Van Yperen says, “It is impossible to grow godly character outside the church, that is, the fellowship of believers.”
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.”
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.”
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. “
“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….” 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….”
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  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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
10. Stephen Shields, “Christian discipleship in Postmodernity: Toward a praxis of spiritual friendship.”
19. Peter Senge in Personal Transformation.
23. Peter Senge 1990: 356
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’.”