Other Kjos Articles:
Legalized Mind Control Part 1
SPIRIT-LED OR PURPOSE
By Berit Kjos
April 1, 2004
"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 [in the eyes of God or of trained facilitators?] 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)."
That's good counsel. Small groups do bring people together. 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. 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. 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 ground rules for discussion were based on God's call for agapeo love, kindness, patience and scriptural integrity. Now they are based on sophisticated psycho-social guidelines for social change, "relational vitality," emotional unity and collective synergy.
Sound 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. 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.
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's 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 clearly 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 [link: you have "Popular Occultism" on your site] 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. [See "Reinventing the World, Part 1"]
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:"
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 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." [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 -
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 includes unity and readiness to flow with the changes ahead. The people "stay on course" together by keeping their hearts and minds focused on the common vision. That vision is like the carrot dangling in front of a horse's mouth. It motivates the horse to move forward in a particular 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 carrot (stated purpose or vision) that together they embrace whatever new "mental model" (new worldview, paradigm or way of seeing reality) the facilitator or pastor presents. The group or collective must learn to think and follow as one.
That means a new kind of learning. As LCC tells us, "Team learning makes active use of the skills associated with mental models. Beyond these, team learning requires
"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 each other—one family in Christ, all led by the Holy Spirit according to God's perfect plan. But when God's aims for His Body of believers are placed into the context of a secular management system, 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 member 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." [See B-STEP - page 53 (live link to www.crossroad.to/Excerpts/books/mental-health/bstep.htm ]
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." [2 Corinthians 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."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 skills—teambuilding, performance challenges, and dialogue—will accelerate the entire learning process for a team."[3, page 142]
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."
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]
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 ignore 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 feelings and confess their weaknesses. To encourage such authenticity, the facilitator must build a permissive, non-judgmental or "safe environment." Affirmation, celebration and often a pluralistic 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. And God's enemies delight in using God's words in ways and contexts that twist their meanings and deceive God's people. At first, the subtle changes seem insignificant. But with each compromise and distortion of truth, discernment lessens and the paradigm shift toward apostasy accelerates. [See America's Spiritual Slide]
The dialectic questions in the back of The Purpose Driven Life fit this process. The 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 the members 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:
"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 fear, 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, it 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." [Look at Scott Peck's teaching in "The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace"
"...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." [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
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).
© 2004 Berit Kjos - All
Berit Kjos is a widely respected researcher, writer and conference speaker. A frequent guest on national radio and television programs, Kjos has been interviewed on Point of View (Marlin Maddoux), The 700 Club, Bible Answer Man, Beverly LaHaye Live, Crosstalk and Family Radio Network. She has also been a guest on "Talk Back Live" (CNN) and other secular radio and TV networks. Her last two books are A Twist of Faith and Brave New Schools. Kjos Ministries Web Site: http://www.crossroad.to/index.html
"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."