Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven? Part 9 (shorter series)
Dealing with Resisters
by Berit Kjos
Please read Part 1,Part 2,Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 and Part 8
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“I also believe that pastors are the most strategic change agents to deal with the problems society faces.”[1, page 20] Rick Warren
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.... Try to identify resisters before they become vocal...."
[2, pages ix, 122] Ronald G. Havelock, The Change Agent's Guide to Innovation in Education.
"Change leaders must also be prepared to deal with members who choose to 'stay and fight.'"[3, page 91]
"The purpose driven life is being promoted in almost every church in my town. The banners are hanging everywhere! ... We pretty much stand alone with a few friends." A visitor to our website
The previous chapter triggered a stream of letters from troubled Christians around the world. They had watched as the focus of their churches shifted from Bible-based teaching to purpose-driven experiences. Many had sensed something wrong but couldn't define the problem. Some wondered how God's guidance fit into this tightly controlled man-made system. They had asked questions, but none could calm their concern. They had tried to warn their pastor and friends but had been rebuffed. Some were even told to find another church. All shared the pain of rejection. The following letter from Pat Johnson illustrates the struggle faced by those who cannot, with a clear conscience, go along with a church that embraces the world's transformative marketing and management methods:
"I just read 'Small Groups and the Dialectic Process.' Absolutely dead-on! At the end of it, I read this paragraph which took my breath away: '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 families they have loved, served and supported."I have been forced out of two churches for being such a 'resister.' I am a normal wife and mom and teacher who would not conform and, as you stated above, have been shunned and vilified. This has caused me considerable heartbreak and torment. For years I have struggled to cope with the shock of losing my church family and being branded as divisive.
"The ONLY way I have been able to come through this is to return to my Lord and trust His Word only. For years, I didn't really realize that I had drifted away from Him. Then when the storm hit, I didn't have the means to withstand it. By His grace and mercy, I have emerged from the mind-hell that shaming and shunning create...."
Vilifying and shaming "resisters" is nothing new. Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah described the rejection and mockery they endured for speaking God's truth. In 17th century England, Pilgrims and Separatists faced ridicule, torture and imprisonment for refusing to conform to the Church of England's demand for total conformity and universal participation. During the Spanish Inquisition, non-conforming Protestants were beheaded while villagers flocked to watch the show. In China today, millions of believers who worship their Lord outside the state-controlled church risk beatings and death under the capricious hand of Communist prison guards. Human nature doesn't change, and social barriers to cruelty against non-conforming Christians crumble as Biblical morality yields to the world's sensuality.
Who were targeted by the media after the tragic bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building? Christians, conservative radio hosts and homeschooling parents together with Militia groups and criminals! Day after day, the media's accusing pens pointed to suspected foes of American oneness — those whose "enraged rhetoric" had created a national "climate of hate and paranoia." And their emotional appeals worked! It's easier to shout, "Stop spreading hate!" than to encourage rational debate.
The same is true in postmodern churches. Like secular change agents, from UN visionaries to local educators, church leaders are being trained in the latest management theories. They envision a unified community where all members participate in the required "lifelong learning" and facilitated consensus groups. No one would be exempt from the continual assessments that measure cooperation, monitor compliance and provide leaders with the feedback needed to periodically adjust the process. All would be tracked through a vast networks of databases available not just to the local church and government but, eventually, also to the United Nations. [See An International Information System] And resisters — those who stand back and question the process — become enemies to this quest for oneness and solidarity. [See Ban truth and Re-Inventing the Church]
And no wonder! "Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world," warned Jesus, "therefore the world hates you.... If they persecuted Me they will persecute you.... for they do not know the One who sent Me." John 15:19-21
One reason why people conform to the seductive "change process" in evangelical churches is the fear of loss. Rejection hurts. But such fear is useful for today's change agents. Just as severe public punishment has through the ages been used to frighten the masses into outward conformity, so fear of personal rejection now prompts people of all ages "to go along to get along."
In order to transform churches from the old ways (where pastors preach and everyone learns the Scriptures) to the Total Quality Management model, "transformational leaders" must find ways to curb resistance to change. The popular church management manual, Leading Congregational Change (LCC), promoted by Bob Buford's Leadership Network, offers a well-used plan. "This is a book you ought to read before you change anything," said Rick Warren in his hearty endorsement. Ponder its definition for resistance and the tone it sets:
"Address Specific Pockets of Resistance. Resistance is the 'opposite reaction' to change.... [It] can come in many different forms—confrontational or passive-aggressive, from known troublemakers or loyal supporters, as a result of a specific change or of an incorrect perception." [3, pages 90-91]
Since change agents must be totally committed to their strategic mission or purpose, they must also view dissenters as wrong. While some issues can be negotiated, this is not one of them. Successful transformation depends on persuading the vast majority to share their single-minded focus. Those who disagree with their manipulative strategies are viewed as intolerable barriers to the ultimate goal: a new way of collective thinking, being and serving. [See Reinventing the World]
In the end, the specific vision or stated purposes matter little. What counts are the unity and conformity derived from the common focus, the feel-good group experiences, the peer pressure, and the facilitated process. The only real obstacles to mass compliance are those who oppose the essential steps to top-down control and infect others with their doubts. You may recognize some of the steps:
1. Identify resisters. In the Church Growth Movement, the resisters are those who question the need for systemic change (total restructuring of all facets), distrust the dialectic process, and criticize the transformational methods. What's worse, they refuse to shift their primary focus from the actual Scriptures to the positively phrased "purpose" or "vision" or "mission statement." LCC warns change leaders about this problem:
"Change leaders should expect resistance to team learning. ... Recognizing and making this resistance explicit to other team members tends to lessen its grip. It takes time for a group to emerge as a team, and all the concerns and resistance related to teams will resurface during this period." [3, page133]
Rick Warren is more subtle, and his references to health versus disease cloak his hostility toward "unhealthy" members who resist his agenda. In The Purpose Driven Church, he writes:
"When a human body is out of balance we call that disease.... Likewise, when the body of Christ becomes unbalanced, disease occurs.... Health will occur only when everything is brought back into balance. The task of church leadership is to discover and remove growth-restricting diseases and barriers so that natural, normal growth can occur."[1, page 16]
Scott Peck, famed author of The Road Less Traveled, uses the same analogy. "There's a term therapists use; it's 'resistance,'" he writes in Reflections on Leadership, "which refers to people who don't like to or want to be healed or converted, so they resist."[5, page 92]
The Change Agent's Guide to Innovation in Education by Ronald G. Havelock tells it like it is. This popular manual for transformational leaders was funded by the U.S. Office of Education and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1973 and continued to receive government funding until the 1980s. Since then, it has been foundational to the training of teachers, pastors, politicians and change agents in diverse fields. A few years ago, it was promoted on the churchsmart.com website. (The page has since been removed). Comparing Havelock's model for change with the management process taught by Bob Buford, Rick Warren and their common mentor Peter Drucker, one quickly sees the similarities. All use the same basic formulas dressed in different words, phrases and illustrations. Like LCC, Havelock's book prompts change agents to watch out for resisters:
"Many social systems also contain some members who assume the active role of resisters or critics of innovation. They are the defenders of the system the way it is, the self-appointed guardians of moral, ethical, and legal standards.... Resisters of various orders have been very successful in preventing or slowing down... diverse innovations." [2, page 120]
"Resisters' may be identified for having spoken out previously on the innovation or from having come to you with objections.... It is important, however, to try to identify resisters before they become vocal and committed on this particular innovation."[2, page 122]
Charlotte Iserbyt, in her revealing book, the deliberate dumbing down of america,(sic) shares her observations of a meeting she attended many years ago when she worked for the US Department of Education:
"The presenter (change agent) taught us how to 'manipulate' the taxpayers/parents into accepting controversial programs. He explained how to identify the 'resisters' in the community and how to get around their resistance. He instructed us in how to go to the highly respected members of the community... to manipulate them into supporting the controversial/non-academic programs and into bad-mouthing the resisters.... I left this training—with my very valuable textbook, The Change Agent’s Guide to Innovations in Education, under my arm—feeling very sick to my stomach and in complete denial over that in which I had been involved. This was not the nation in which I grew up; something seriously disturbing had happened between 1953 when I left the United States and 1971 when I returned."
2. Assess resisters and determine the degree of resistance. Negative or uncompromising attitudes will be tracked using the sophisticated data systems that monitor each member. "Continual feedback" from these high-tech systems (made available to many large churches through Bob Buford's Leadership Network) provides the data needed to make necessary adjustments. It's all part of Total Quality Management! As we read in The Change Agent’s Guide, "Resisters should be judged for relative sophistication and influence." [2, page 122]
LCC's suggestions fit right in:
"Treat Each New Initiative as an Experiment. ... People are less resistant to a short-term experiment than they are to a 'permanent' change. ... An experiment signals that the leaders do not claim to have all the answers. Experiments give people more room to innovate, learn and improve with less risk of repercussion. ... Measure, measure, measure. Before beginning an experiment, a scientist defines the desired result and establishes procedures to measure the outcome. Measurement implementation requires clarity about the goal and process for evaluating progress."[3, page 82]
"Continually Monitor the Commitment Level. Healthy congregations have good feedback systems. As change occurs, commitment levels will vary. For some people any change calls for a 'withdrawal from the emotional bank account' (Covey, 1989). When the account is overdrawn, people become unwilling to make further changes. As withdrawals are made, change leaders should intentionally replenish the account through acts of kindness, good communication, love and concern."[3, page 104]
3. Befriend, involve and persuade borderline resisters. Participation in small group dialogues may encourage borderline resisters to trade their traditional convictions for a more permissive fellowship. Some will reconsider their objections and conform to group demands. Others will quietly leave on their own.
"Coercive power only strengthens resistance," wrote Robert Vanourek in Reflections on Leadership. "...Instead the leader's skills at 'facilitating' the group should be used. The ideas should evolve from the group. Then the leaders can simplify them in a persuasive fashion. Then commitment to the vision can be gained."[5, page 301]
Ronald Havelock would have agreed. "Increasing pressure against the opposing forces usually will increase the resistance pressure," explains his Change Agent’s Guide, "Frequently, but not always, the wisest and most effective course of action is to focus on ways of understanding and reducing resistance rather than trying to overwhelm it." [2, page 301]
Their best solution is friendly persuasion. "For unity's sake, we must never let differences divide us," wrote Pastor Warren. "We must stay focused on what matters most — learning to love each other as Christ has loved us, and fulfilling God's five purposes for each of us and his church."[1, pages 161-162]
That sounds good. But how can concerned Christians embrace a unity that involves compromising the truth? Only if our primary focus is fixed on Jesus and His Word can we truly share His agape love in a darkening world. For His name's sake, we can't let a human vision of unity force us to minimize His truth.
Change agents have little tolerance for such an uncompromising Biblical position. It gets in the way of total and continual change. Therefore, LCC warns its readers to remain vigilant, keep promoting the vision (or purpose) and build congregational support. Notice that the strategic vision, not the Holy
Spirit, must guide the process:
"Never stop. The change process never truly ends. ... The art of leadership is knowing when to pause and when to press forward.... It is easy to be lulled into a premature feeling of victory after the first round of implementation. Established momentum and alignment will—
Spread the vision ... to a congregation-wide effort
Steadily break down the residual places of resistance
Instill a new approach for vision-guided, strategic decision making throughout the congregation
Create the mindset and systems that will help the church... maintain or increase its impact on its community."[3, page 93] Emphasis added.
"There is no 'next stage,' but the change process is never-ending. The eight stages of the change process need to be revisited often. This cycle becomes a part of the congregation's culture and way of life."[3, page 94]
4. Marginalize more persistent resisters. They obstruct progress and undermine the needed unity, momentum and passion for change. That's why pastors often suggest to "divisive" members that they might be happier elsewhere. When the unhappy members leave, they usually, out of obedience to their Lord, follow the pastor's request that they not speak to anyone about their reasons for leaving. The congregation will be told not to ask any questions. Thus the change leaders avoid potential conflict. The LCC summarizes this stage:
"Some loss of members is likely throughout the change process. Even at this late stage, some people will decide that they are not on board with the vision and that they need to leave. When this happens, leaders must be willing to allow people to find a different place to worship.... The worst mistake is to compromise the vision to try to retain a few members.
"Change leaders must also be prepared to deal with members who choose to 'stay and fight.' When the resistance is overt and destructive, failure to act on the problem is far worse than the cure. The Bible gives clear principles in Matthew 18 for how to handle these conflicts." [3, page 91]
Actually, Matthew 18:15-17 shows God's way of dealing with an actual sin — a violation of God's law or guidelines — not someone who, in obedience to God's Word, takes a stand. Yet, in spite of the enforced tolerance toward moral and spiritual sins within the Church Growth Movement, there is little tolerance toward those who appear to disobey the top-down mandates of this manipulative management system. Sold out to pragmatism, it often turns a blind eye to Scriptures such as Acts 5:29, "We must obey God rather than man."
Pastor Warren is more subtle, yet he models an attitude that breeds intolerance and judgment toward individuals who violate his politically correct guidelines concerning unity and relational synergy. As you saw earlier, he equates sincere Christians who question the adoption of the world's methodology with germs and disease within the body. And he calls on the church leadership to "remove growth-restricting diseases and barriers so that natural, normal growth can occur."[1, page 16]
What are those barriers? Are they the thoughts and actions that the Scriptures call sins, or are they attitudes and values that clash with psychological criteria for a politically correct "healthy church?" As Pastor Warren demonstrates throughout The Purpose Driven Life, it's all too easy to prove a point by cloaking the world's psychological notions in short, simple or paraphrased Scriptures taken out of context.
5. Vilify those who "stay and fight." At this stage, negative labels, accusations and slander are permitted, if not encouraged, to circulate. Resisters — now labeled as divisive troublemakers — are blamed for disunity, for slowing the change process, and for distracting the church body from wholehearted focus on its all-important vision, mission or purpose. Ponder the subtle suggestions and negative labels Pastor Warren attaches to individuals who question his purpose-driven management system:
"The Bible knows nothing of solitary saints or spiritual hermits isolated from other believers...."[6, page 130]
"Today's culture of independent individualism has created many spiritual orphans—'bunny believers' who hop around from one church to another without any identity, accountability or commitments. Many believe one can be a "good Christian' without joining (or even attending ) a local church, but God would strongly disagree."[6, page 133]
"A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation."[6, page 133]
"Isolation breeds deceitfulness."[6, page 134] Emphasis added in each item
Notice the derogatory implication in each statement. We discussed some of God's special "solitary saints" earlier. Trusting God alone, they grew strong in Spirit. Those who have searched long and hard for a Biblical church with solid teaching and edifying fellowship may identify with what Rick Warren mocks as "bunny believers." And the "isolation" of a faithful Christian who obeys God's call to separation from worldliness and unbiblical fellowship produces purity, not deceitfulness. [2 Corinthians 6:12-18]
Yet unfair and misleading labels continue to undermine the credibility of faithful believers. In a review of the book, Making Change Happen One Person at a Time: Assessing Change Capacity Within Your Organization, resisters were labeled "tares in a wheat field." In other words, a negative Biblical image was used to disgrace those who couldn't conform. Those who flowed with the change were the "wheat field." Resisters were tares:
"At the opposite end of the leadership spectrum are the resisters who resemble the tares in the wheat field. They appear willing to change, but use a variety of ever-so-subtle tactical means to prevent the organization from reaching its objective."
Where pragmatism rules, anything goes. As The Change Agent's Guide to Innovation in Education tells us: "Sometimes collaboration will not work and, when it fails, there are a number of alternatives that should be considered, ranging from complete abandonment to complete deception."[2, page 131]
No doubt many are being deceived. And all who embrace this process of "managed change" tend to share its hostility toward resisters. Some of you may identify with the pastor who sent us the following letter:
"I am a pastor of a small congregation in Australia that grew out of a desire for the TRUTH.... Having been branded rebellious and out of divine order for challenging the senior leadership of a large church, (of which I was a pastor) — and having been disciplined by the senior pastor and the elders because I dared to address the errors of our ways and to challenge even our vision and church programs (which were hurting more people than healing) — my wife and I soon found ourselves 'churchless.'
"Following some painful experiences of ostracism and spiritual rejection, I sought God in fasting and prayer for a week in solitude.... Our glorious and faithful heavenly Father finally broke through and after much weeping, brokenness — and repentance for the sins of self-effort and trying to please man rather than God, we were led into His wilderness for more trials and testing. We grew stronger in faith and deeper in His Word than we ever had before, and found refuge and strength in Him alone.
Since then God has taken us through a time of searching the scriptures and fasting and prayer for His church. In time, God sent those who had also been 'rejected' or left the church because they could no longer tolerate the sin, compromise and false or diluted teachings, and we found ourselves meeting and worshipping in homes as in Acts 2. We now meet weekly and are growing in His glorious Word, and in biblical fellowship together.
Rick Warren's '40 Days of Purpose' is taking this country by storm and just about every church is running it. Before I even looked at it I felt a heaviness on my heart and a check in my spirit.... I began to read the book. Having already heard of the damage done to many churches by his 'Purpose Driven Church' years before, I was reluctant to do so, but I felt it my duty to at least look at the material. It wasn't long before I began to see the deception, not so much by what he taught, but by what was missing...." Emphasis added
6. Establish rules, regulations, laws and principles that silence, punish or drive out resisters. At Saddleback, every new member must sign a "Membership Covenant." It includes this innocuous promise: "I will protect the unity of my church... by following the leaders."
This covenant is backed by Scriptures such as Ephesians 4: 29 ("Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths....) and Hebrews 13:17 ("Obey your leaders and submit to their authority....")
But taking a stand on God's Word is hardly what the Bible refers to as "unwholesome talk." And, if church leaders followed the world's management system rather than God's way, the command to "obey your leader and submit...." would be overruled by other relevant Scriptures. For example, when the religious leaders in Jerusalem told John and Peter to stop teaching "in the name of Jesus," they answered,Church management consultant and interim pastor, Jim Van Yperen, might disagree. Teaching on submission at a church where he had been hired to lead the change process, he said,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19
"It's sin not to submit.... By my refusal to admit it is sin, it's 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. It's rebellion. It's 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." Emphasis added.
Van Yperen wrote a chapter titled "Conflict: The Refining Fire of Leadership" for George Barna's book, Leaders on Leadership back in 1997. "A leader of leaders," George Barna calls him. Like other leading change agents, 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." His international influence makes his next statement significant. Notice its emphasis on collective, holistic or "systems thinking" — one of the more important outcomes of the world's new management system and its consensus process. Ponder the far-reaching implication of this postmodern principle:
"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."
You saw evidence for of Pastor Warren's holistic views in the chapter on "Unity and Community." Some of the following rules or principles also reflect a collective ideal. Violations open the door to various disciplines:
"God blesses churches that are unified. At Saddleback Church, every member signs a covenant that includes a promise to protect the unity of our fellowship. As a result, the church has never had a conflict that split the fellowship...." [1, page 167] Emphasis added
"Rick's Rules of Growth.... Third, never criticize what God is blessing, even though it may be a style of ministry that makes you feel uncomfortable." [1, page 62]
Who determines what God is blessing? Does the growth come through the Holy Spirit or through the latest strategies in behavior modification? The assessments that measure progress toward pre-planned outcomes don't discern spiritual influences — whether from God or other forces. Like public schools, they measure personal change toward collective thinking and readiness to cooperate, but they can't test the heart or measure obedience to the promptings of the Spirit. So the question remains: are new members added because they were seeking God or because they liked the feel-good fellowship, the sense of belonging and the unconditional respect?
Listen to the words Jesus spoke to the crowds fascinated with His message and healing power. “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life....” Matthew 6:26-27
Peter Drucker's unbiblical emphasis on success by man's standards should stir great alarm among Christians. What happens to people who don't fit his blueprint for productive human resources? Sarah Leslie, co-author of The Pied Pipers of Purpose, a vital document that makes the complexities and connections behind the new management systems understandable, wrote:
"We’ve come across numerous references in the Purpose-Driven literature to a concept called 'abandonment.' It is a Peter Drucker concept that has to do with businesses abandoning parts of their business that don’t make money. In the private sector (churches) it translates into churches abandoning projects that don’t produce pre-defined 'results' (the measurable kind, 'outcomes,' etc.). This also means abandoning people who don’t go along with the flow — the 'laggards' who won’t participate in the transformation. A church split is seen as a good thing, in that it gets rid of those people who are blocking progress towards church restructuring."
If someone were to rewrite the parable of the Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one that was lost, do you wonder if he would check to make sure the one lost sheep would fit the new management standards?
One of the standard rules for small group dialogue tells members to respect every diverse position or point of view. Don't violate someone's comfort zone by implying that an unbiblical behavior or lifestyle constitutes sin. As LCC tells us, "Create a safe environment. Participants in the process must feel that they have permission to raise questions, challenge assumptions, and explore a variety of options. In transformational planning, there can be no sacred cows." [3, page 124] Emphasis added
Do you see the inconsistency? There is little respect for the old views and standards. Resisters within the church have no permission to question or challenge the change process. Why then would its change agents encourage critical challenges to truth in a group setting that discourages clear Biblical answers? And why would the "critical thinking" strategies used by public schools to change our children's home-taught values now be used to transform churches?
The answer is simple but shocking. First, LCC tells Christian leaders that, "Using critical thinking intentionally to challenge the mental models of an organization is a key skill. Critical thinking is the process of taking a fresh look at a problem by stripping away the assumptions and constraints that may have been imposed in the past. It requires probing deeper than most groups are comfortable doing."[3, page 120-121]
Second, the goal for change agents in mega-churches matches the goal for UNESCO's worldwide education system. Concerned parents who have been watching the changing education system will be familiar with the term critical thinking. In the Glossary of our 1995 book, Brave New Schools, we defined it as "Challenging students' traditional beliefs, values and authorities through values clarification strategies and Mastery Learning. (See Sex Ed and Global Value and Three Sets of Meanings of Educational Buzzwords)
Don't minimize the significant parallel between church and school. The words and phrases used by the two systems may differ at times, but the manipulative management methods and change processes are identical. Both fit into the "seamless" structure of the global management system. Both would agree that it's okay to criticize and tear down the old ways of thinking and believing. But it's not okay to criticize the global vision for a utopian future or the march toward solidarity in a new world order. Both the vision and the method were planned by socialist leaders back in 1945 through 1948, when Alger Hiss, Julian Huxley and Brock Chisholm (the first heads of the United Nations, the UNESCO and the World Health Organization) outlined the ambitious plan for global solidarity through education and mental health standards around the world. Their vision hasn't changed in the last 59 years. If anything, it's stronger and more acceptable to our culture and churches than ever. [See "Legalizing Mind Control" and The Revolutionary Roots of the UN]
Where do God, the Holy Spirit and the Bible fit into this monstrous worldwide system that uses deception and behavior modification to mold Human Resources for the Global Workforce? They don't. That's why schools must either ban or adapt religion to the ultimate goals of our globalist managers. And that's why change agents assigned to transform churches must redefine Biblical terms, paraphrase Scripture verses, and determine which truths are useful and which are offensive. Behind the familiar sounding mission, vision and purpose statements stands a system that leaves little room for the actual guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is no room for God's ways if they can't be conformed to the detailed man-made plans for change.
Certainty and peace in the midst of change and struggle
Man's grandiose aims and deceptive strategies never surprise God. He sees the end as well as the beginning, and He warns us to watch for signs of things to come. He tells us to guard against the world's illusions and promises His strength in our weakness. He calls us to separation unto Him even as we love the lost and share His truth.
He tells us that His ways, His truth and His nature never change, for "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). The almighty Father and sovereign Lord of the Old Testament is still our Father and Lord in New Testament times. And this holy and righteous “Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:30).
By His grace, His faithful followers find "refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us ... an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Heb 6:18-19). But those who hop on the bandwagon of "continual change" have no such anchor. Nor do they know where their ride will end, since they leave behind the unchanging absolutes of God's Word.
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ....” Philippians 3:18-20
Those whose hearts are set on eternal life, but walk with Jesus in this life, will share in His suffering and rejection. Even His disciples complained about some of His teachings, which was anything but politically correct. In John 6, we read His response to their grumbling:
“'Does this offend you? ... It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, 'Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.' From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to go away?'” John 6:61-67
What about you? Walking with Jesus may mean that you must speak unwanted truths, share the offense of the cross and separate yourself from the crowd. But when you face hostility, rejection and abandonment, Jesus is there — softening the pain and replacing it with His sweet presence.
After reading Pat Johnson's opening letter, I asked her how God strengthened and sustained her during the painful exclusion from her church "family" and friends. May her answers encourage you:
- By never leaving me even when I turned away from Him in hurt and anger
- By forgiving me daily for turning to the flesh and mercifully waiting for me to return to Him
- By speaking to me loud and clear through His Word.
- By increasing my faith, a prayer of my heart for a long time
- By steering me away from the instant gratification that the rock and roll churches tend to foster
- For teaching me to have more confidence that I am His child and am able to hear His voice
- By teaching me about His providence
- By lovingly revealing my own sin in response to being shunned
- By giving me a wonderful husband who has loved me without condition, even though this trial has surely tested us and our marriage
- By restoring my relationship with my parents and siblings. (They believed we had belonged to a cult.)
- By giving me 3 very active children to keep me going and focused and feeling loved, even when I was so very rejected (I was very worried that they would turn from God and reject His church, but thus far, it hasn't happened)
- By pruning away my self-pity
- By keeping me healthy and giving me the gift of running
- For giving me encouragement from believers on the Internet when I had no one else to turn to that understood the dynamic of controlling churches/church leaders
- By showing me that there is no other way but through humility
- By freeing me from the dangerous practice of pleasing man (a life-long sin)
- The thing I am grateful for the most is the first thing I started with: He has never left me or forsaken me (though many have). This, to me, is mind-boggling and requires a faith that has only come from severe rejection by those I have loved and trusted.
"...we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are
— hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed...
— perplexed, but not in despair
— persecuted, but not forsaken;
— struck down, but not destroyed
— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Part 1: Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven Part 2:Widening the Gate to the Kingdom Part 3: Softening God's Word Part 4: The Spirit of Worship Part 5: Music-driven outreach Part 6: Forgetting the fear of God Part 7: Unity & Community Part 8: Small Groups and the Dialectic Process
1. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), page 20.
2. Ronald G. Havelock, The Change Agent's Guide to Innovation in Education (Educational Technology Publishing: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1973). According to Charlotte Iserbyt (note #4) "This Guide, which contains authentic case studies on how to sneak in controversial curricula and teaching strategies, or get them adopted by naive school boards, is the educator’s manual for bringing about change in our children’s values. Havelock’s Guide was funded by the U.S. Office of Education and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and has continued to receive funding well into the 1980s. It has been republished in a second edition in 1995 by the same publishers. [Ed. Note: Why is it that the change agents’ plans and their tools to “transform” our educational system never change, while parents and teachers are told, repeatedly, that they must be ready and willing to change?]
3. James H. Furr, Mike Bonem and Jim Herrington, Leading Congregational Change (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000). Authored by James H. Furr, Mike Bonem, and Jim Herrington in 2000, it was published by Jossey-Bass, the main publisher for the Peter Drucker Foundation (now called Leader to Leader) and the "Christian" Leadership Network founded by Bob Buford.
4. Charlotte Iserbyt, the deliberate dumbing down of america (sic), http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/
5. Larry C. Spears (Editor), Reflections on Leadership (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1995); pages 92, 301.
6. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).
7. Book review: Making Change Happen One Person at a Time: Assessing Change Capacity Within Your Organization (Amacon, 2000), posted at http://www.booksunderreview.com/Society/Genealogy/Surnames/Organizations/Organizations_13.html
8. Jim Van Yperen. Transcribed from taped message. Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church (CLCBC), Illinois, Sunday evening, April 14, 2002.
9. George Barna, Leaders on Leadership (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1997), page 254.
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