Creating Community - Part 2
Managing Change through a New Way of Thinking
Rick Warren sees a a more inclusive vision of oneness
By Berit Kjos - November 2004
For background information, please see: Systems Thinking
"Welcome to another exciting chapter in the history of Saddleback Church as we begin 40 Days of Community this weekend! We anticipate the next 6 weeks to be a... turning point in the life of your small group and in your life personally." Rick Warren
"But all this is not about us.... It's all about the global glory of God! We intend to leverage the attention that the Purpose Driven Life has garnered to bring about a whole new way of thinking and acting in the church about our responsibility in the world." Rick Warren
"Fragmentation, competition, and reactiveness are not problems to be solved -- they are frozen patterns of thought to be dissolved. The solvent we propose is a new way of thinking, feeling, and being: a culture of systems. Fragmentary thinking becomes systemic when we recover 'the memory of the whole,' the awareness that wholes actually precede parts." Peter Senge and Fred Kofman
"The challenge to humanity is to adopt new ways of thinking, new ways of acting, new ways of organizing itself in society, in short, new ways of living." UNESCO
"It changed our church!" "It's amazing!" "Transforming! "The fellowship is awesome!" "We're growing!"...
The chorus of praise for Rick Warren's "40 Days" programs sounds impressive, but it's not surprising. The dynamics behind the facilitated small group -- the heart of the 40 Days process -- are both exhilarating and transformative. But they're neither new nor Biblical. They are merely postmodern adaptations of the old Gestalt Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Esalen-based encounter groups and all the other expressions of the Human Potential movement that helped transform western culture in the 60s and 70s.
This social transformation had been planned decades earlier. [See Steps toward Global Mind Control] By 1948, when the World Health Organization (a UN agency) had established its anti-Christian "Mental Health" program, globalist visionaries in both Europe and North America were experimenting with behavioral psychology as a means to eradicate traditional values and Biblical absolutes. They hoped to "un-freeze" minds and release them from the old values, promote open-mindedness to their revolutionary ideas, fill minds with pluralistic values, and then "re-freeze" the new collective views in the public consciousness.
They succeeded! Working through UNESCO's education program, WHO's global mental health program, national and local governments around the world, the mainstream media and countless private and non-governmental agencies around the world, they fueled the social forces that shaped today's postmodern mind and culture. Liberal churches were among the first to embrace the postmodern thinking, but soon evangelical churches began to accommodate the rising cultural resistance to absolute truth and moral boundaries. To grow, they argued, churches must trade God's unchanging Word for feel-good adaptations.
A website focused on "Organization Development" gives us a brief glimpse into the dark history of government mind control:
"In 1947, the National Training Laboratories Institute began in Bethel, ME. They pioneered the use of T-groups (Laboratory Training) in which the learners use here and now experience in the group, feedback among participants and theory on human behavior to explore group process and gain insights into themselves and others. ... The T-group was a great training innovation which provided the base for what we now know about team building. This was a new method that would help leaders and managers create a more humanistic, people-serving system....
"Success in these goals depends, to a large extent, on the implied contract that each participant is willing to disclose feelings... and to solicit feedback."
What's new in group dynamics is mainly the feedback technology and marketing. Today's corporations hide their manipulative psycho-social strategies behind nice-sounding organizational buzzwords, while church leaders mask them with Biblical terms and pleasing euphemisms. The guiding assumption seems to be that the ends justify the means. As Rick Warren points out in Purpose Driven Life, "The importance of helping members develop friendships within your church cannot be overemphasized. Relationships are the glue that holds a church together."
Andy (my husband) and I discovered the seductive power of encounter groups back in 1970, when we were invited to join a "Quest for Meaning" group in the home of a respected business acquaintance. We had no idea what to expect, and we saw no reason to reject the offer. After the first group meeting, we were hooked. The friendliness of the leader/facilitator and the openness of the dialogue disarmed us and made us feel more than welcome. So we returned to this virtual "family" week after week for the next few months. By then, foreign names such as Teilhard de Chardin had been introduced, and our topics included some strange notions about spiritual evolution toward a utopian world of peace and oneness. We began to feel uneasy but were reluctant to turn our backs to this satisfying fellowship. Finally, after a weekend retreat designed to seal the group relationships, we were asked to sign a pledge and formalize our commitment to a common vision. By now, our eyes were opened and we left.
1. A changing church for a changing world.
Not long after our departure, I became a Christian. God immediately led me to a local veterans hospital where I volunteered as part of the chaplain service. Longing to share God's love and hope with lonely and needy patients, I began my Spirit-led training in speaking His truths and answering challenging questions.
One day, the chaplains told me about an encounter session (a form of Gestalt therapy) recently started for both patients and staff. It called for authenticity, self-disclosure, sensitivity to diverse views and all the other interpersonal skills so important to contemporary group synergy and transformation. Seated in a circle, everyone would vent their feelings and empathize with each other. Any expression -- no matter how extreme -- would be tolerated and respected. "It really freed me up," said one of the chaplains one morning as I arrived. "I'm a different person. More open.... You ought to try it."
I did -- without checking with God or my husband. Seated in the circle, I heard the same profanities that bombarded me daily on the medical wards as young veterans tried to shock and challenge me. But something was different. I had entered a spiritual battle zone without wearing my spiritual armor. Since God didn't send me, He allowed me to face the consequences of my foolish choice. Driving home, I kept hearing in my mind the same vulgar words that had been spoken by the members of the group. I felt polluted and horrified. Though I confessed my sin and prayed for His cleansing, He allowed those profanities and suggestions to torment me daily for nearly three months. Then He suddenly caused them to disappear, but I had learned my lesson.
I know that the process works! Facilitated dialogues, based on a strategic set of well-tested ground rules, feel good to group members who commit themselves to the process. Whether these psycho-social strategies are marketed under business labels, New Age forums, or Christian terminology, they transform the thoughts and values of cooperative participants. Christian or not, people feel they are becoming "better" people because they have chosen to set aside their former assumptions and divisive beliefs in order to empathize with contrary views. They learn to tolerate, accept, respect and appreciate behaviors and expressions that earlier seemed wrong or unjustifiable. They judge nothing [other than people who seem divisiveness or uncooperative] and identify with everything. They praise each person who transcends the old barriers, and they celebrate each new step toward unconditional conformity and unbiblical unity.
Pastors and church leaders seem as eager to implement the new management strategies as schools, community groups, corporations, government and the United Nations. Across the board, leaders and followers are learning the same new ways of thinking, acting, speaking, listening and serving. The "UN Report of The Commission on Global Governance," titled Our Global Neighborhood, illustrates this worldwide march toward an integrated global management system based on these psycho-social practices:
"By leadership we do not mean only people at the highest national and international levels. We mean enlightenment at every level -- in local and national groups, in parliaments and in the professions.... in small community groups and large national NGOs, in international bodies of every description, in the religious community and among teachers... in the private sector and among the large transnational corporations, and particularly in the media....
"The new generation...[has] a deeper sense of solidarity as people of the planet than any generation before them.... On that rests our hope for our global neighborhood."
Pastors and management gurus such as Rick Warren, John Maxwell, Bob Buford and Peter Drucker are promoting this new organizational model around the world. One of Pastor Warren's Ministry Toolbox Issues commends an influential book by Dr. Peter Senge (the secular/holistic founder of MIT's Society for Organizational Learning) titled The Fifth Discipline. Rick Warren's website calls it "one of the best books of the last 10 years on the subject of organizational transitions.” It has nothing to do with Christianity, but it has everything to do with social transformation and the new way of thinking.
2. Systems thinking
"It is interesting that the words 'whole' and 'health' come from the same root (the Old English hal...)," wrote Dr. Senge in The Fifth Discipline. "So it should come as no surprise that the unhealthiness of our world today is in direct proportion to our inability to see it as a whole." With that revealing introduction, he goes on to define systems thinking:
"Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationship rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static 'snapshots.' It is a set of general principles.... It is also a set of specific tools and techniques.... [T]hese tools have been applied to understand a wide range of corporate, urban, regional, economic, political, ecological and even psychological systems....
"I call systems thinking the fifth discipline because it is the conceptual cornerstone that underlines all of the five learning disciplines of this book. All are concerned with a shift of mind from seeing parts to seeing wholes...."
Dr. Senge also co-authored the report, "Communities of Commitment: The Heart of Learning Organizations," which summarizes the key parts of his highly praised book. This report focuses on the "fragmentation" that keeps us from trading our old Biblical view of reality for a more systemic or holistic perspective:
"Fragmentation, competition, and reactiveness are not problems to be solved -- they are frozen patterns of thought to be dissolved. The solvent we propose is a new way of thinking, feeling, and being: a culture of systems. Fragmentary thinking becomes systemic when we recover 'the memory of the whole'.... Competition becomes cooperation when we discover the 'community nature of the self'....
"In the new systems worldview, we move from the primacy of pieces to the primacy of the whole, from absolute truths to coherent interpretations, from self to community....
"Thus the nature of the commitment required to build learning organizations goes beyond people's typical 'commitment to their organizations.' It encompasses commitment to changes needed in the larger world and to seeing our organizations as vehicles for bringing about such changes."
Today's purpose-driven church movement fits right into the worldwide transformation envisioned by secular leaders ranging from community facilitators to the highest levels of national and international management. And two of our earlier articles, "Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven? Part 2: Unity & Community and Part 3: Small Groups and the Dialectic Process," show how the purpose-driven model matches this vision of social change and facilitated oneness. Please read them, since I won't repeat the same information.
Then ponder the following slogans and statements from Saddleback's 40 Days of Community campaign. These affirmations of collectivism may sound true, but -- as you will see in a moment -- they imply unbiblical absolutes that clash with actual truth. As you read the quotes below, please remember that (1) the word "we" refers to two or more people, not you and your Lord; and that (2) "lone ranger Christian" in this context would include God's faithful disciple who is rejected or excluded by a compromising church (see "Dealing with Resisters"):
"'WE' is more powerful than 'me.'"[11, pages 44, 46]
"There is power in partnership.... Evangelism is always a team effort." [11, pages 44]
"There's no such thing as a lone ranger Christian.... We're better together and we belong together."[12 - CD #1]
"The Bible says we're better together. We were created for community."[12 - CD #3]
"Why are we so reluctant to admit our need for each other? There are two powerful reasons: First, our culture glorifies individualism.... Second we have pride.... But there is absolutely no shame in needing others. God wired us that way! He wants his children to depend on each other."
"We were designed for relationships. We were formed for fellowship in God's family and created for community."[11, pages 68]
"God hates loneliness.... You're not just a believer, you are a belonger....
"...when God calls the church 'the Body of Christ,' he has a human body in mind where every part is interconnected and interdependent. ... Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body' (Romans 12:5a, Msg). And like parts of any living body, it's impossible for believers to thrive without each other."
"You must be connected to a church fellowship to survive spiritually. More than that, you need to be in a small group of people where you can love and be loved, serve and be served, share what you're learning and learn from others."[11, pages 69]
"We must continually remind ourselves that we belong to each other and need each other."[11, pages 70]
"Love requires community. We cannot obey Christ's command in isolation. We have to be connected to each other in order to 'love one another.'"[11, pages 17]
[Note: Remember the testimonies of persecuted saints both in Roman catacombs and Communist prisons. Those faithful believers proved God's gracious sufficiency in the midst of solitary confinement and unthinkable pressures to conform to socialist thinking and communal values.]
Pastor Warren wrote the foreword for a fast-selling book by Erwin McManus titled An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church GOD had in Mind. "To get the most out of this book," wrote Warren, "pay close attention to the metaphors and stories.... If you change the metaphors, you can change the world! Jesus did.... This book models what a postmodern, purpose-driven church can look like.... I love this book because Erwin loves the Church."
With such a glowing endorsement, Pastor McManus has caught the attention of church leaders around the world. Ponder his view of unity:
"When God creates, he creates with relational integrity. Everything is connected and fits together. This is not only true in the physical realm, but even more so in the spiritual. The Bible tells us that when man sinned, all creation groaned.
"Those who study science have told us that a butterfly fluttering its wings in South America could, in some sense, be the primary cause of an avalanche in Antarctica. This level of complexity strikes us as new and innovative, and yet the Scriptures have advocated this kind of interconnection for thousands of years....
"According to Scripture, everything is connected, and every action has at least some effect on the whole. In the same way the church is part of the whole...."
Those supposed absolute truths taught by Pastors Warren and McManus sound good, don't they? But there are at least four Biblical reasons why the above affirmations twist our understanding of God and present one important part of the Christian life as being only option and absolute truth.
(1) Our wise and wonderful Lord wants us to "depend on" Him, not on people. Sometimes He separates us from people so that our reliance will be on Him alone. He is our strength and sufficiency -- now and forever! See Psalms 18, 23, 45, 73 and 75.
That's how God trained David, the shepherd boy who became Israel's king. His youth was spent herding the family sheep alone in the open pastures of the land. There, in those lonely places, he learned to know and trust the Lord as his Rock and Refuge, Shepherd and King. David was still a solitary shepherd boy when he faced the mighty Goliath and the trembling armies of Israel. Taught by God Himself, the young shepherd had the wisdom to reject the ungodly counsel of those who doubted that a boy with a sling could kill a giant with a sword. Confident that God was with Him even if all others turned away, he spoke the memorable words recorded in 1 Samuel 17:37 -- "The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine!”
(2) While God will never fail us, people will. That's why Jesus "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) He alone knows our hearts and all of our spiritual needs; therefore He tells us to trust Him rather than human strength or wisdom. While He can work through human friends and counselors, our ultimate confidence must rest in Him, no one else. (See Guidance)
(3) We belong to God, not man, even when we commit ourselves to serve, work, love and live with one another. He who created us also holds our future in His hands. "...do you not know," asked the apostle Paul, "that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s." 1 Corinthians 6:19 "For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s." Romans 14:7
(4)There can be no Biblical unity between sin and purity, between pagan myths and God's truth, between our holy Lord and the opposing forces of darkness. See 2 Corinthians 6:12-18 and "Loving evil more than good."
3. Unity in Diversity?
On the other hand, Pastor Warren's affirmations of unity would generally be true, if the small groups were made up of committed, regenerated Christians who were truly one in Christ through God's saving grace -- and who loved and followed His Word (including the less acceptable passages about sin, guilt, and self-denial).
But such Bible-focused groups would be incompatible with today's dialectic groups, for the purpose-driven groups must be diverse and open-minded (free from non-negotiable absolutes) in order to fulfill their hidden purposes. The synergy that supposedly energizes group members is fueled by the dialectic process of reconciling opposing views and values.
Since these strategic small groups are designed to (1) meet felt needs of the unbeliever and (2) build common ground, they cannot meet the true spiritual needs of the believer. Individual freedom to share and delight in Scriptures must be limited, since the very nature of God's Word is considered divisive. You can't speak Scriptures that might offend other group members. Since church growth is one of the driving purposes (though it's not among the official five), you cannot walk in the footsteps of Jesus and risk exposing "the offense of the cross."
Yes, God does call us to share His love and truth with non-Christians. He also tells to encourage us through fellowship with other believers who love His Word and long to serve Him. But those are two separate functions.
When outreach to unbelievers and fellowship with believers merge into a single practice (the dialectic experience of the mixed group), the Biblical fellowship naturally yields to politically correct, cross-cultural dialogue. The demand for a "safe place" where unbelievers can feel unconditionally affirmed rules out all those precious Bible truths that might bring conviction or sin or sound too inflexible.
Yet, Rick Warren tells us that these small groups that draw thousands of unbelievers into seeker churches are also designed to meet the believer's need for Biblical fellowship. But he can't have it both ways! That is, unless his real purpose is more aligned with the world's purposes than with God's purposes. Maybe our spiritual "eyes" are so blinded that we no longer notice the direction the world around us is headed. If so, it might be good to consider what UNESCO wrote in Our Creative Diversity, the report from its Commission on Culture and [human] Development:
"The challenge to humanity is to adopt new ways of thinking, new ways of acting, new ways of organizing itself in society, in short, new ways of living.... We have not yet learned how to respect each other fully, how to share and work together.... It means an open mind, an open heart, and a readiness to seek fresh definition, reconcile old opposites....
"Extreme doctrinaire views look to an imagined past, seen as both simpler and more stable, thus preparing the ground... for the intimidation of individuals and indeed entire communities....
"Education everywhere,' says David Hamburg, president of the Carnegie corporation....'needs to convey an accurate concept of a single, highly interdependent, worldwide species -- a vast extended family sharing fundamental human similarities.... The give-and-take fostered within groups can be extended far beyond childhood to relations between adults and to larger units of organization....'"
In the mid-eighties, few of us realized that David Hamburg, President of the globalist Carnegie Corporation, was using his authority to negotiate a binding US - USSR Education Exchange Agreement with the Soviet Union. Signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan in 1985, its terms required that we trade our education technology for the brainwashing strategies (primarily the dialectic group dynamics) used to indoctrinate Soviet children, change thinking, modify behavior, and monitor the masses to ensure compliance with Soviet ideology.
Thanks to Peter Senge, Peter Drucker, John Maxwell and Rick Warren, today's world leaders know that their quest for solidarity -- which requires freedom from the old Biblical restraints -- can be met through facilitated small groups that join Christians, Muslims, skeptics, pagans, atheists, and all the rest who are simply caught up in the excitement of unconditional acceptance and a sense of belonging. Ponder these statements by Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, who claims to have become a Christian:
"Incorporating the dark and the light, the sacred and the profane, the sorrow and the joy, the glory and the mud, its conclusions are well rounded.... Be fully aware of human variety, and you will recognize the interdependence of humanity."
"Community is a spirit-- but not in the way that the familiar phrase 'community spirit' is usually understood. ... The members of a group who have achieved genuine community do take pleasure -- even delight -- in themselves as a collective."
"The spirit of community is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that community is solely a Christian phenomenon. I have seen community develop among Christians and Jews, Christians and atheists, Jews and Muslims, Muslims and Hindus."
"Community is integrative. It includes people of different sexes, ages, religions, cultures, viewpoints, life styles, and stages of development by integrating them into a whole that is greater—better—than the sum of its parts.... Community does not solve the problem of pluralism by obliterating diversity. Instead it seeks out diversity, welcomes other points of view, embraces opposites.... It is 'wholistic.' It integrates us human beings into a functioning mystical body."
That mystical body that integrates moral and spiritual opposites is not God's Church, the Body of Christ. As His people, we cannot trade the spiritual unity we have in Christ for today's systems thinking and an extra-biblical view of a human "family" and a humanistic interconnectedness. He makes that very clear to us in His Word:
"...what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'
"Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you....” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
"If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing.... From such withdraw yourself."1 Timothy 6:3, 5
Spiritual growth occurs when we feed on God's word, hide it in our hearts and walk in the light of its unchanging truths by the strength of His Spirit. God may lead us in many lonely paths as He did with Paul, Joseph and David as well as Jesus Himself. Or He may surround us with people. Wherever He leads, we must trustfully follow! And when we do, we can count on this wonderful promise:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
1. Rick Warren, "40 Days of Community" brochure.
2.Rick Warren, http://www.saddleback.com/home/todaystory.asp?id=6213
3. Kofman, Fred Senge, Peter M., "Communities of Commitment: The Heart of Learning Organizations". (Special Issue on the Learning Organization) Organizational Dynamics p5(19) Autumn 1993 v22 n2 at http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/pub/tqmbbs/prin-pract/comcom.txt
4. Our Creative Diversity, UNESCO, 1995, p.11.
Organization Development: T-Groups at
Organization Development: T-Groups at http://www.orgdct.com/more_on_t-groups.htm
6. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), page 324.
7. Our Global Neighborhood, "UN Report of The Commission on Global Governance" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); 355, 356, 357
8. Ministry Toolbox Issues Ministry Toolbox (Issue #175, 10-6-2004) at http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=134.
9. Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline ( Doubleday, 1994), pages 68-69.
10. Peter Senge and Fred Kofman, "Communities of Commitment: The Heart of Learning Organizations"
11. Rick Warren, Better Together (Lake Forest, CA: Purpose Driven Publishing, 2004).
12. Rick Warren, 40 Days of Community, CD.
13. Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force (Group Publishing, 2001), pg 15.
14. Our Creative Diversity, UNESCO, 1995, p.11-12, 67, 168.
15. I have a copy of that agreement, provided by Charlotte Iserbyt. Read more about this education exchange at US - USSR Education Exchange Agreement
16. The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), pages 65, 73, 75, 234.
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For background information, see: Reinventing the World Part 2: The Mind-Changing Process