Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven? Part 3

Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven? Part 3
Small Groups and the Dialectic Process
by Berit Kjos – March 2004

“The importance of helping members develop friendships within your church cannot be overemphasized. Relationships are the glue that holds a church together.” Rick Warren [2, page 324]

“This book is about a process, not programs. It offers a system for developing the people in your church and balancing the purposes of your church…. I’m confident the purpose-driven process can work in other churches where the pace of growth is more reasonable…. 

      “Saddleback… grew large by using the purpose-driven process…. Healthy churches are built on a process, not on personalities.” Rick Warren [2, page 69, 70]

* To understand the meaning of “healthy” in this context, see The UN Plan for Your Mental Health

“Encourage every member to join a small group,” says Rick Warren. “… Not only do they help people connect with one another, they also allow your church to maintain a ‘small church’ feeling of fellowship as it grows. Small groups can provide the personal care and attention every member deserves no matter how big the church becomes…. In addition to being biblical, there are four benefits of using homes:

  • They are infinitely expandable (homes are everywhere);
  • They are unlimited geographically (you can minister to a wider area);
  • It’s good stewardship (you use buildings that other people pay for!) releasing more money for ministry; and
  • It facilitates closer relationships (people are more relaxed in a home setting).”[4] Emphasis added

While we don’t deserve any of God’s gracious blessings, small groups do bring people together. So the issue here is not whether or not they are effective, but rather the nature of their effectiveness. Do they deepen our faith in God or our dependence on each other? Do they teach us to know and follow God’s Word or do they promote subtle forms of compromise for the sake of unity in diversity? Do they encourage Biblical discernment or open-mindedness and tolerance for unbiblical beliefs and values? Finally, are they led by the Holy Spirit or driven by well-trained facilitators and the “felt needs” of the groups?

Today’s facilitated small groups or teams are not like the old Bible studies many of us attended years ago. Back then, we discussed the Bible and its wonderful truths; now people dialogue until they reach an emotional form of unity based on “empathy” for diverse views and values. Dr. Robert Klench gave an excellent description of this process in his article, “What’s Wrong with the 21st Century Church?

“Total Quality Management [TQM] is based upon the Hegelian dialectic, invented by Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel, a transformational Marxist social psychologist. Briefly, the Hegelian dialectic process works like this:  a diverse group of people (in the church, this is a mixture of believers (thesis) and unbelievers (antithesis), gather in a facilitated meeting (with a trained facilitator/teacher/group leader/change agent), using group dynamics (peer pressure), to discuss a social issue (or dialogue the Word of God), and reach a pre-determined outcome (consensus, compromise, or synthesis). 

“When the Word of God is dialogued (as opposed to being taught didactically) between believers and unbelievers… and consensus is reached – agreement that all are comfortable with – then the message of God’s Word has been watered down ever so slightly, and the participants have been conditioned to accept (and even celebratetheir compromise(synthesis).  The new synthesis becomes the starting point (thesis) for the next meeting, and the process of continual change (innovation) continues. 

“The fear of alienation from the group is the pressure that prevents an individual from standing firm for the truth of the Word of God, and such a one usually remains silent (self-editing).  The fear of man (rejection) overrides the fear of God.  The end result is a “paradigm shift” in how one processes factual information.

In the past, God’s unchanging Word was the ultimate test of right and wrong and our goal was knowing God’s will and aligning our thoughts to His truth. Now the goal is to bond diverse people into a “family” that must “respect” all kinds of Biblical interpretations and contrary opinions—even when conclusions clash with the Bible. The old guidelines for discussion were based on God’s call for agapeolove, kindness, patience and scriptural integrity. Today’s ground rules are based on humanistic psychology and manipulative guidelines for social transformation, “relational vitality,” emotional unity and collective synergy.

Sounds complex and implausible, doesn’t it? That’s why Christians are being drawn into the dialectic process with little understanding of the real transformation that takes place both in churches and in individuals who participate in the new “systems thinking” and “outcome-based” or “purpose-driven” learning process.

Perhaps the best way to explain this transformation is to show some of the ways Pastor Rick Warren’s small group process matches the change process outlined in a book titled Leading Congregational Change (LCC). This book, largely inspired by Saddleback’s success, gives us a detailed look at the change process itself. “This is a book you ought to read before you change anything,” said Rick Warren in his hearty endorsement.

This book — we will refer to it as LCC — presents the dialectic process as part of a system. Its main model is Saddleback Church, where dialectic groups are led by facilitator-leaders trained in the psycho-social strategies of collective change.

The LLC shows us that the dialectic group doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It’s part of a system that controls the planned transformation with top-down standards for group values, relational skills and “service learning.” It provides surveys, assessments and data tracking systems that continually measures “change” and monitors conformity to the set pattern. And it follows the same Total Quality Management model embraced by governments, corporations, education systems, the United Nations and other organizations around the world.     

Leading Congregational Change (LCC) was written by James H. Furr, Mike Bonem, and Jim Herrington in 2000. Its publisher, Jossey-Bass, has been working closely both with the Peter Drucker Foundation (now called Leader to Leader) and the “Christian” Leadership Network founded by Bob Buford.  The latter serves as an international tool for guiding large churches through the process of “congregational transformation.” Its references to Rick Warren include these comments:

“We thank Rick Warren… for the opportunity to reach and refine our understanding of congregational transformation as part of Saddleback Valley Church’s Purpose-Driven Church Conference. We are also grateful to Bob Buford…. and others at Leadership Network for the many ways in which they have stimulated and facilitated our work.
“We were deeply influenced by Bill Hybles and Rick Warren and the successes of their congregations. We also saw many applications in Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline (1990) and in John Kotter’s Leading Change (1996).” 
[3, Acknowledgements]


“Pastor Russ Osterman… had an opportunity to attend a seminar at Saddleback Community Church in California. Seeing and experiencing the model of a dynamic congregation that was truly reaching uncharted people had a deep impact on Russ, and he returned to Glenwood a changed person. He had no experience in change leadership and no road map for how to lead congregational transformation…. [he] began to lead his church to embrace a new model based on what he had learned.” [3, page 28]

That new model, demonstrated by Saddleback Community Church, is outlined in LCC. While the “change” process involves numerous complex “skills” and strategies such as vision casting, system thinking, creative tension, self-assessment… we will only look at those that specifically relate to small groups here.

Let’s start with the new meaning of “small group” (or “team”). LCC defines it as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.'” [3, page 128]

To validate this definition, the authors point to 1 Corinthians 12: “Paul declares that though we are many parts, we are one body.”[3, page 128]  But this Scripture only applies to the Body of Christ. It doesn’t refer to the diverse members of small groups or teams made of believers and unbelievers who learn to empathize and identify with each other’s values and lifestyles. During the last century, this dialectic process based on Georg Hegel’s occult philosophy was embraced by Marx, Lenin and other socialist leaders. Today it’s the centerpiece of all the world’s management systems. It’s purpose — which is not to nurture God’s people—is to conform all minds to a global pattern for uniform “human resource development” in schools, business, governments and churches around the world. 

In LCC, we read: “In a team… a common goal is set. These goals can only be achieved through the mutual, cooperative efforts of the members. … A second distinction… is accountability. … In a team,each individual is responsible to the rest of the team.”[3, page 131]

In Saddleback terminology, the “common goal” would be the common “purpose(s).” And in the 40 Days of Purpose study guide, each group member agrees to be held accountable by signing a “Group Agreement.” It begins with this statement and three points:

“We agree to the following values:”

  • Clear Purpose: Grow healthy spiritual lives by building a healthy small group community

  • Group Attendance: Give priority to the group meeting

  • Safe Environment: Help create a safe place where people can be heard and feel loved (no quick answer, snap judgments, or simple fixes).

This contract matches LCC’s demand for group values or team guidelines. Rick Warren knows how to trade unpleasant words like “rules” for softer words such as “values.” But in this context both words refer to same requirement: guidelines that all must follow:

Establish Values to Guide Team Interactions.  “Before a team is launched, ground rules need to be established. Team members bring many unexpressed assumptions about what is and is not acceptable in group interaction. …  Openness, consensus, mutual respect, creativity, and diversity are some of the typical values of effective teams.”

    “… the importance of declaring a value and enforcing it repeatedly. Mastering team learning will be difficult if values are not made explicit.

    “Another value to establish is the team’s boundary conditions. These define the outer limits of acceptability for new ideas…. In some congregations, an underlying value is that only denominational programs and priorities can be considered. This and other similar boundaries should be exposed and discussed by the group. Doing so will help establish the team’s values…”[3, page 135] Emphasis added

VISION or PURPOSE: The continual focus of the group must be its common vision. Pastor Warren uses the word “purpose” instead of vision, and—while it may line up more closely with a mission statement—it serves the same unifying purpose as the organizational vision, written to inspire and motivate all members to flow with the planned transformation process. In its chapter on “Discerning and Communicating the Vision,” LCC states,

“Our definition of communicating the vision is a comprehensive, intentional, and ongoing set of activities that are undertaken throughout the transformation process to make the vision clear to the congregation. …

      “Rick Warren reinforces this theme when he says, ‘Vision and purpose must be restated every twenty-six days to keep the church moving in the right direction [2, page 111]).” [3, page 62]

Pastor Warren is more than faithful to that rule. The first lesson in Small Group Study Guide for the 40 Days of Purpose deals primarily with the word, purpose. Its focus is not on God but on “the consequences of not knowing your purpose.” It warns the group that “without knowing your purpose, life will seem TIRESOME… UNFULFILLING… UNCONTROLLABLE.”  Instead of studying the Bible, the group receives a lesson on the importance of “purpose.” According to the group study guide, “knowing the purpose of your life will –

  • “give your life FOCUS.”
  • “SIMPLIFY your life.”
  • “increase MOTIVATION in your life.”

In short, Warren is putting “first things first,” just as LCC recommends:

Vision is a description of God’s preferred future of the congregation in three to five years. One of the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, according to Steven Covey, is ‘putting first things first.’ This is the practice of allowing our long-term objective (vision) to guide our short-term actions (implementation). It also involves the discipline of staying on course by avoiding unimportant diversions.” [3, page 81]

The long-term objective is collective transformation. This transformation involves new ways of thinking, new ways of understanding one’s place in the collective, and a new readiness to flow with the changes ahead. The people “stay on course” together by keeping their hearts and minds focused on the common vision or purpose. That vision — which includes the hope of meeting “felt needs” and common desires — is like the carrot dangling in front of a horse’s mouth. It motivates the person to move forward in a planned direction. There’s no final goal other than ongoing and unhindered transformation and conformity—i.e. continual change.  And each part of the group or community must be so focused on the coveted carrot (with its offer of personal gratification) that together they embrace whatever new “mental model” (new worldview, paradigm or way of seeing reality) the facilitator or leader presents. The group or collective must learn to think and follow as one

Aldous Huxley made some interesting observations about such social oneness in a book he wrote after Hitler shattered the utopian vision of an perfectly evolved human society. In Brave New World Revisited, he wrote,

“As Mr. William Whyte has shown in his remarkable book, The Organization Man, a new Social Ethic is replacing our traditional ethical system—the system in which the individual is primary. The key words in this Social Ethic are ‘adjustment,’ ‘adaptation,’ ‘socially orientated behavior,’ ‘belongingness,’ ‘acquisition of social skills,’ ‘team work,’ ‘group living,’ ‘group loyalty,’ ‘group dynamics,’ ‘group thinking,’ ‘group creativity.’…”

“In the more efficient dictatorships of tomorrow there will probably be much less violence than under Hitler and Stalin. The future dictator’s subjects will be painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained social engineers….”

“Their behavior is determined, not by knowledge and reason, but by feelings and unconscious drives. It is in these drives and feelings that ‘the roots of their positive as well as their negative attitudes are implanted.’ To be successful a propagandist must learn how to manipulate these instincts and emotions…. Whoever wishes to win over the masses must know the key that will open the door of their hearts.’… [Remember Rick Warren’s initial community surveys of needs and wants]  Twenty years before Madison Avenue embarked upon ‘Motivational Research,’ Hitler was systematically exploring and exploiting the secret fears and hopes, the cravings, anxieties and frustrations of the German masses.”

“It is by manipulating ‘hidden forces’ that the advertising experts induce us to buy their wares—a toothpaste, a brand of cigarettes, a political candidate. … ‘All effective propaganda,’ Hitler wrote, ‘must be confined to a few bare necessities and then must be expressed in a few stereotyped formulas.’ These stereotyped formulas must be constantly repeated, for ‘only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea upon the memory of a crowd.’…

In an age of … accelerating over-organization and ever more efficient means of mass communication, how can we preserve the integrity and reassert the value of the human individual? … A generation from now it may be too late to find an answer.”[5] Emphasis added

Now, almost fifty years later, the Organization Man — and the postmodern thinking that supports it — have become a reality. Individual thinking gives way to collective thinking under the skilled guidance of benevolent facilitators whose sophisticated strategies have been tested and proven in psycho-social laboratories, among low-income students and military guinea pigs, in corporations everywhere and, more recently, in God’s churches around the world. The transformation is becoming universal — and woe to those who resist!  The new world view — or “mental model” — demands conformity to the new “values” or standards, not confrontation.

As LCC tells us,  “Team learning makes active use of the skills associated with mental models. Beyond these, team learning requires

  • close and transparent relationships

  • an accepted and challenging goal

  • collaborative approach for sharing and examining information.

“We refer to these three essential team learning skills as team building, establishing performance challenges, and dialogue.”[3, page 134] Let’s take a closer look at those three vital skills:

1. TEAM BUILDING. “Staying on course” involves lots of repetitions. Part of the vision/purpose is an ever-deepening awareness of the collective nature of the group. All must find their place and meaning in the larger body — no matter how much it drifts away from God’s truth and ways. As Pastor Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Life“You discover your role in life through your relationships with others. The Bible tells us, ‘Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around.” [1, page 131] A few pages later, he adds,

The Body of Christ, like our own body, is really a collection of many small cells. The life of the Body of Christ, like your body, is contained in the cells. For this reason every Christian needs to be involved in a small group within their church, whether it is a home fellowship group, a Sunday schools class or a Bible study. This is where the real community takes place…” [1, page 139]

Pastor Warren’s statements illustrate “systems thinking” in a church context. Yes, God wants us to be one with Himself and with each other: one family in Christ, all led by the Holy Spirit according to God’s perfect plan. But when God’s guidelines for His Body of believers are placed into the context of a secular management system — and when each member is told to find its “meaning” or purpose in the collective “body” rather than in Jesus Christ, the Head of His body — the Biblical ideal becomes little more than a tool to conform people to an unbiblical process. Let me try to explain.

In order to be “effective,” the small groups involved in the 40 Days of Purpose must be diverse; they must mix more traditional church members with their invited neighbors and friends who may have no Biblical knowledge at all. This diversity is essential to the planned “learning” process. A 1969 report by the Behavioral Science Teacher Education Program (B-STEP)—a brainwashing program established and funded by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare to build global citizens for a socialist world—included two vital requirements: broad diversity and continual assessments:

“If BSTEP is to be functional beyond the specific sample of students it serves, then that sample should be representative of the diversity of American society. High priority is recommended to maintaining a student mix which includes:  Students from urban, small towns, and rural backgrounds…. Broad racial and ethnic representation…. Broad range of academic achievement potential…. Students with diverse and unusual interests…. Representative ratio of males and females….

     “Continual assessment of student progress is important in a permanence-based curriculum.” 

In fact, this “learning” process—whether used in schools or churches—has little to do with knowledge of traditional facts or Biblical truths. Instead it’s aimed at developing group skills and “systems thinking” (seeing ourselves and everything else, not as individual people or projects, but as integrated parts of a greater whole). As people learn to empathize with each other within the diverse groups, the members gradually learn to set aside their old Bible-based assumptions, boundaries and divisive absolutes. The diverse members join their hearts, thoughts and feelings as one. They commit themselves to each other. This new, exciting oneness feels good. It also prompts the Christian members to ignore God’s solemn warnings concerning compromise, conforming to the world, and being “yoked together with unbelievers.” [See 2 Cor 6:12-18] As LCC explains:

“In an effective team, differences create synergy. Rather than staying a safe distance apart, the close working relationships within a team turn diversity into a source of strength. … Team building is the place to begin to embrace the differences that the team members bring.”[3, page 135]

“In an environment of trusting relationships, team collaboration to set performance standards generates creative tension for the group…. The most challenging and potentially most important skill for teams is dialogue. These three skillsteambuildingperformance challenges, and dialogue—will accelerate the entire learning process for a team. ” [3, page 142] Emphasis added

Yes, those time-tested strategies for social engineering will indeed accelerate the “learning process.” But the “measurable outcome” will be the blinded products of human manipulation, not the Body of Christ taught and established by the Holy Spirit.  

2. PERFORMANCE CHALLENGES (or measurable standards). In his teaching video for small group leaders involved in the 40 Days of Purpose, Pastor Warren calls for Health Assessments:

“Before you get into the video teaching and we start digging into the purposes, we want to take a moment to find out where people are spiritually…. Your health is never static. It needs to be regularly checked in order to ensure a lifetime of health.

      “The same is true with your spiritual health and that is why we want to begin this second week with a brief “health” check using a simple tool called the Purpose Driven Health Assessment. Take a couple minutes… to fill out your own health assessment (found in the Group Resources in the Small Group Study Guide). Tally the numbers and note the areas that you are doing well in, and the growth areas. In the first few minutes of your group time, challenge the group to go through the same process. …

      “Here is an opportunity for you to model authenticity by sharing with the group where you are progressing and where you need to grow. Whatever the level is of your vulnerability and need for accountability will quickly become the norm in the group.”[6]

In a non-threatening way, Pastor Warren has just introduced the group to an essential part of the change process: continual assessments. The health, growth and progress of every member must be recorded and monitored. This is where today’s sophisticated high tech data systems fit into the Church Growth and Purpose Driven paradigm. [See CMS in Part 1] Every person, every step forward, every change must be recorded and tracked, analyzed and taken into account. The same is true of Outcome Based Education in schools, Al Gore’s attempts at “reinventing government” and Total Quality Management in business around the world. All follow Peter Drucker‘s worldwide formula for business management.

LCC shows how the vision or purpose works together with continual assessments to accomplish the human and social transformation:

“Suggested Actions to Foster Change. “Ultimately, momentum for ongoing transformation is a function of two factors: the organization’s ability to continually assess current reality, and its ability to create internal alignment around the vision….

     “Recasting the vision is best done through periodic assessments with the vision community. They should address whether the vision needs to be revised in order to be consistent with their understanding of God’s calling.”[3, page 88]

Commitment to Learning.  …Change leaders should assess the skills of each member and try to create targeted learning experiences at every stage of the change process.

    “Learning experiences must focus on more than transferring information. Team members should have opportunities to discuss new insights with each other. They should be challenged to draw implications from the learning experiences that are unique and helpful to them and their congregation. Critical skills will need to be revisited over and over…. Follow-up presentation and discussion is usually needed. Actual practice in applying the skill, constructive feedback… are essential for skill development.” [3, page 134] Emphasis added

3. DIALOGUE: In the first of his weekly video lesson for leaders, Pastor Warren says, “I want you to discuss what we talk about each week, dialogue with each other, consider the implications, and plan some action steps as a result. The more you get involved and participate, the more benefit you’ll receive from this spiritual growth series in the next six weeks.”

Sounds good and true, doesn’t it? Now consider LCC’s explanation of dialogue. It quotes Dr. Peter Senge, founder and Chairman of MIT’s Society for Organizational Learning, who authored a bestselling book on systems thinking called The Fifth Discipline which has served as a worldwide guide on social and behavioral change.

“The purpose of dialogue is to go beyond any one individual’s understanding” (Senge). In dialogue, each individual’s understanding is made available to the entire group so that all learn….

    “In discussion, an individual’s perspective … is presented with the objective of persuading the rest of the group…. In dialogue, an individual offers his or her perspective or assumptions for examination by the group. The object of dialogue is to allow others to see what you see and why you see it, not to convince them. Dialogue can create a rich understanding if information is shared openly and if all participants listen deeply.

    “This can only be done in a safe environment…. If members of the group expect their views to be disregarded or used against them, dialogue will not occur. Defenses will go up or information will not be fully shared.” [3, page 140]

Did you catch the difference between discussion and dialogue? A good discussion relies on facts and logic — solid information — to present a logical argument that might persuade others that something is true or right. But such a didactic discussion clashes with purposes of the dialectic group, which trains diverse minds (remember, everyone is encouraged to bring friends) to ignore offensive truths for the sake of unity. Each person must learn to share their hearts authentically, to “listen” empathically, to set aside divisive facts or Biblical standards, and to continually synthesize individual views and values into an ever evolving common ground. Naturally, this feel-good process blurs God’s dividing line between good and bad, truth and error. [See 2 Timothy 4:3-4]

As in Soviet brainwashing, Gestalt therapy and the popular encounter groups of the sixties, each person must learn to be “authentic” and vulnerable—willing to freely share their personal feelings and confess their weaknesses. To encourage such authenticity, the facilitator must build a permissive, non-judgmental or “safe environment.” Affirmation, celebration and often an all-inclusive view of God’s promises help people feel at home—no matter what their beliefs, lifestyles and values.

But, you might ask, doesn’t God call us to unity, empathy and authenticity (purity, honesty…)? Yes, He does. All who are born of His Spirit are one in Him. In contrast, there is no genuine unity between Christians and the world. Yet, God’s enemies delight in using God’s words in ways and contexts that twist their meanings and deceive God’s people. At first, those deviations may seem so subtle that they escape notice. But with each compromise and distortion of truth, discernment lessens and the paradigm shift toward apostasy accelerates. 

The dialectic questions in the back of The Purpose Driven Life fit this processThe first two begin with “What do you think….?” and “What do you feel…?” None of the questions point to the Scriptures, instead all focus on subjective elements of Pastor Warren’s five Purposes.  They free members of the group to identify with subjective feelings and bond without fear of correction, no matter what their beliefs or lifestyles.

Since the 40 Days of Purpose program is only the first step in a non-ending process of group learning, it does little more than open the door, begin the training in dialectic thinking, demonstrate the oneness achieved in a facilitated encounter group, and build a hunger for more of the same kind of unity. Apparently, the majority of participants become so attached to the group (and to the unifying process) that they continue either with the same friends or in a new group with others whose lives have been “transformed.”

Now take a look at the aims and ways of this process as explained in LCC. Notice its roots in Dr. Senge’s unbiblical agenda for changing the world:

“Senge identifies three key practices for teams engaging in the practice of dialogue:

1. “Participants Agree to Describe their Assumptions. …True dialogue allows team members to examine one another’s assumptions. As this unfolds, participants often develop new insights into the personal assumptions that they bring to the process.”[3, page140]

2. “Participants Agree to Treat One Another as Colleagues. …Senge observes that ‘dialogue can occur only when a group of people see each other as colleagues in a mutual quest for deeper insight and clarity.” … This practice serves teams most powerfully when individuals hold differing points of view.[3, page141]

3. “A Facilitator Holds Group Members to their Commitment to Dialogue.  …Most groups overuse (discussion)…. Changing this tendency … requires commitment, practice and assistance. A facilitator can strengthen the group member’s ability to use dialogue by helping them establish ground rules and calling them back to the rules when they slide from dialogue into discussion….

      “Mastering the skill of dialogue is a painstaking process…. Dialogue is risky because it requires a high level of transparency and vulnerability from all participants, especially the team leader. … dialogue significantly increases a team’s ability to achieve the results that God desires.” [3, page 142]

The next quote from The Purpose Driven Life illustrates the positive perceptions of small group fellowship. In a Biblical context, it would represent the very best of Christian fellowship:

“In real fellowship people experience authenticity. Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface-level chit-chat. It is genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level sharing. It happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives. They share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer.”[1, page 139]

But, in the context of church growth and MIT’s general systems theory, this prescribed authenticity fits right into LCC’s transformational process:

“The gospel of Christ calls us to this kind of authentic transparency. Jesus modeled this self-awareness. He knew who he was… his purpose in life. He knew how his culture influenced him.

     “Small groups of many kinds provide a safe setting for individuals to think out loud about themselves. ….

     “Individuals who want to master the discipline of mental models begin by committing to a growing sense of self-awareness. This allows them to identify their mental models and test them against reality.” [3, page 118]

The next two quotes place confession and authenticity, first, into an interfaith context and, second, into the overall process of Soviet brainwashing. Confession and authenticity has been vital to both. 

“We think of confession as an act that should be carried out in secret, in the darkness of the confessional…. Yet the reality is that every human being is broken and vulnerable. ….

      “Vulnerability is a two way street. Community requires the ability to expose our wounds and weaknesses to our fellow creatures.”[7] 


“…classes had virtually stopped. Varieties of ‘learning’ meetings were taking up all the time. The students were working on confessions, as were many of the faculty members….

     “Meetings were being held in vacant rooms and open spaces wherever a group could gather to discuss, self-criticize, and confess.”[8] [Read more about this process in Brainwashing and “Education Reform]

Edward Hunter wrote his book on Soviet-style brainwashing after numerous personal interviews with victims of the Chinese “education reform.” These survivors include Western missionaries, prisoners of war, teachers, and business men who were trained through cruel but sophisticated “brainwashing” tactics to betray their nation, embrace dialectic materialism, “confess” lies, and serve the Communist propaganda machine. In the end, he shows how some were able to resist the process.


In today’s Church Growth Movement, resisters are usually sifted out fairly early in the process. In the next installment, we will look at some of the ways non-conformists are assessed, exposed, vilified and dismissed from the church family they have loved, served and supported.

“… in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
“…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned…”  2 Timothy 3:1-14


Biblical Fellowship & Christian Community Human Friendship & Traditional Community Dialectic Groups &  Postmodern Community

Example: Community-Making LED by the SPIRIT DRIVEN by felt NEEDS DRIVEN by organizational OUTCOMES or PURPOSES Includes “Born again” believers from all nations and cultures All who choose to belong, share common interests and are accepted by the group Diverse (spiritually & culturally) participants in the dialectic process Foundation God’s Word and Spirit Felt needs; natural desire to belong to a group A pre-planned strategy and outcome (purpose) aimed at personal and social transformation Goa Love, faith and obedience to God, agapeo love for each other, unity in Christ Build relationships, meet need for fellowship, have fun Transformation: from former beliefs and values to an ever evolving group synthesis or consensus Result God is glorified through our worship, praise, service and oneness in Him.Personal gratification, a sense of belonging, increased dependence on the group Bonding of group members, willingness to compromise, changed beliefs and values, surrender of personal will & meaning to the group Shows others:God’s supernatural agapeo love Human phileo love Skill of facilitator, power of the dialectic process Ultimate goal Eternity with God Rich relationships in this world Achieving the vision of the ideal community


1. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).


2. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995).


3. James H. Furr, Mike Bonem and Jim HerringtonLeading Congregational Change (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000). Peter Senge, the founder and Chairman of MIT’s Society for Organizational Learning, a “global community of corporations, researchers, and consultants,” authored the 1995 book on systems thinking, The Fifth Discipline, which presents today’s process for social and behavioral change. 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.” “’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.”


4. Rick Warren, “Relationships hold your church together.”http://www.pastors.com/article.asp?ArtID=3917

5. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (New York: Harper & Row, 1958), 25-26, 41, 43-44.

6. Rick Warren, 40 Days of Purpose, Transcript of Small Group & Sunday School Teaching Video (PurposeDriven, Saddleback Parkway, Lake Forest, CA), page 16.

7. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987); pages 69-70.

8. Edward Hunter, Brainwashing (New York: Pyramid Books, 1956), pages 50, 51.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *