Thursday, March 31, 2011

Silencing Dissent in the Pews #1

What would you think if you saw this in a church bulletin? I'd like you to tell me. Is it just me or are these pastors becoming utter control freaks? I visited a church and saw this:
"Ways To Encourage Your Pastor 1. Be Patient and understanding with your pastor, his mate, and his children. Do not expect your pastor or his family to be perfect. A man of God has the same human tendencies that we all face and so does his family. Let your pastor's spouse be herself, and don't place unspoken expectations on her to perform particular ministries. 2. Do not speak against or listen to gossip or slander about your pastor. If you hear negative comments, respond with a positive one. If misinformation is being spread, correct it with the accurate information.
#2 bugs me far more then the first. I can understand pastor's families suffering under the fish bowl syndrome and pressures of pastor's wives and families, but the second, well, why is that even necessary? It seems to be something like Jim Jones would write, to keep any dissent quiet. I was bothered quite deeply. This is what it has come to, that grown adults are told what to say or discuss? Do these pastors think they are above all question? The "one man show" aspect of the churches is misdirected enough. One thing the definition of gossip has become so broad in these churches, it seems even discussing someone's challenges for prayer, would be defined as such. I realize the above text, was taken from elsewhere, and is being used in many churches. Here you see an expanded version: "14 Ways To Encourage Your Pastor". It has some good things of treating someone right, but it also has that deferential blind obedience smell to it. Remember when I did this article on Covenant Membership in the churches? These are the churches that have you sign a covenant for 'official" membership in their churches. This church has that too including the "protect the unity of our church" clause, where one has to sign a promise "refusing to gossip" as one item on the list. This is something Rick Warren started and he has a similar covenant in his own church, that Paul Proctor discusses here including that proverbial "refuse to gossip" clause.
"(1.) I WILL PROTECT THE UNITY OF MY CHURCH" (Unity occurs automatically when church members consistently obey scripture not when they make covenants with men, ignore heresy and accept sinful behavior.) (a) "...By acting in love toward other members" (Is love defined here by the CGM as going along to get along i.e., compromise?) (b) "...By refusing to gossip" (Does that include challenging, questioning or criticizing any unbiblical teaching or behavior by a pastor, teacher or staff member?) (c) "...By following the leaders" (Regardless of their error or deceit?)
I realised to my dismay the language of this church's covenant was very close to Rick Warren's. See this article written by Rick Warren, where he discusses the above church covenant and thinks all churches should adopt one. Warren states:
"The most important part of a marriage ceremony is when the man and woman exchange vows. Before witnesses and God, they make certain promises to each other. This covenant between them is the essence of the marriage. In the same way, I believe the essence of church membership is contained in the willingness to commit to a membership covenant. It is the most important element of our membership class."
What does it mean when adults are treated like children, and have their very speech controlled? One thing with gossip, lying about people and telling their secrets and personal business to hurt them is a sin but watch out for those who define gossip in the most broad way possible to squelch any dissent for false teachings and who wish to separate church members from each other in discussing problems and issues. David Cloud wrote a good article called "What is Gossip"? probably to challenge some similar happenings in these churches. He states "All too many pastors have wrongly defined “gossip” in order to manipulate the church members and to make them fear to question anything he does". He is correct that speaking truth, warning of sin and error, questioning a pastor's teaching is not gossip sadly when churches have people sign pacts to follow "rules" like this or strongly discourage free speech in 'questioning authority" this seems to more about control and setting things up so people do not speak out. What else would it be be for? They sure expend a lot of energy on these things! Also one thing I would say to these kind of pastors is I left the Pope and priests behind when I left the Catholic church, I do not need a new one. Be careful of a pastor who sets up things so you cannot ask questions or think things out. What should one make of people who want the language so controlled of those around them? It seems to me these church leaders just want to control people and do so in an extreme fashion. A humble pastor tells you, TEST ME [and yourself] BY GOD'S WORD. The others issue rules curtailing your speech.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen, BB. Anon. #1