Decision making and the will of God

This started out as a reply to the comments in the previous post. It grew and became a post of it's own. I strongly recommend reading the comments from the previous post. Irish Mist sure wrote an incredible piece.

I agree with most everyone's comments. The writer of the book seems to have defined "cult" so broadly that everything can be described as a cult. I don't know if I'm going to finish the book since I just checked out a new book from the library that has my interest right now. I do want to read the concluding chapters that talk about defending ourselves from cults. However, I do believe the author is such a strong supporter of Secular Humanism that anything that seems to go against strident individualism is a cult. He believes in the individual to the exclusion of any group. It is a very common mentality around us. It is a mentality that allows us to view any church as a cult.

I have a list of what I'm looking for. It was in a previous post. It was not received well on the forum that I regularly visit.

Irish Mist,
I would like to see a church like you described, one in which everyone shares. I have sat many times in a church service feeling that I had something to share with the topic being preached, only to leave and share that thought with wife in the car. I loved the comparison between the church and Amway and how we have modeled it after that.

I have read the book by Gary Friesen that you mention. Here and here are posts that I made while reading the book. There might be more. I agree that wisdom plays a role in decision making and the will of God. But I also believe that God guides when he wants us to make a decision that would otherwise be unwise except for the guidance of God. I think the God of Mr. Friesen's book could be dead and everything would still be the same.

And in my church hunt, I have no idea what the wise decision is. Is it wise for me to plant a church? Is it wise for me to go to a church that focuses on individualistic Christianity to the exclusion of the life of a body? Is it wise for me to go to a church that focuses on the life of the body to the exclusion of the life of individuals? Is it wise of me to go to a church that seems to have correct theology but not the love of Christ? Is it wise of me to go to a church that has the love of Christ but not proper theology? I have no idea what is wise.

We are implementing Holy Halloween tonight. However, no church is sponsoring it. It saddens me and makes it less effective. I let you know how it goes.

Watch out for the potholes.

The Pyramid Structure of a Cult is very Similar to...

I'm reading through a book right now entitled Soul Snatchers on Cults and the manipulation tactics that they use. It's written by a psychiatrist/crimnologist. It's been interesting so far. I wanted to find a book on manipulation tactics that people use and how to avoid them. This book was the best I could find. Actually, my friend at the library found it for me.

This desire to defend myself stems from specials we have seen recently on television about cults and the damage that they have done to people who have found themselves wrapped up in them. Along with me giving in to go to a meeting about a new "internet-based business" that I didn't want to go to in the first place, but the person inviting me manipulated me so easily. I thought that I needed to build up my mechanisms. I'm so weak. Attach that to the fact that we are hunting for a church home right now; I feel we needed to be more educated on the matter.

"Every clear idea that we form decreases our slavery and increases our freedom." - Alain

Although that might not be 100% accurate, I think there is a lot of good truth there.

Anyway, onto what has stirred me from a six day blog hiatus. The following is an excerpt that I found very interesting from the book. What is the difference between what we view as church leadership and cult leadership?

The pyramid structure is fundamental for the coercive cult. Guarantor of secrecy, it is also the indispensable condition of coercion, for it supposes a hierarchization of knowledge, power and benefit. Between the bottom and the top, the recruited and the guru, one observes:
- the higher one goes, the more the benefits increase:
- the lower one is, the more coercion he faces.

Generally, the individual will know only as much as he is told. He has less information than his immediate superior. Progression from one stage to the next is slow. Accession to a higher stage is a sign of fast promotion; the contrary also exists - downgrading and sanction.

Such a system aims to keep the individual under constraint. On the one hand, he finds it impossible to get out of a model of which he knows only the direct demonstration and, on the other hand, the impossibility of attaining the higher levels directly. The way up is the follower's only means of access to the guru, who benefits from isolation because that protects him from unfavorable assessments that might emanate from the bottom of the pyramid.

The guru controls the flow of information from top to bottom. He also has means of gathering and controlling information from the bottom up.

When a follower rises in the structure, it should be noted that the rewards for merit generally include certificates and status, but it also happens that material advantage may be added in a way that can be taken away again if the disciple falls out of favor. It remains essential that the chosen members be dependent. And this can only be so if the psychic dependence is accompanied by a real financial dependence on the part of the follower so that it becomes impossible to leave...

...The pyramid structure is of double interest for the cult member. It gives him a feeling of pride when he climbs up the hierarchy. It also strengthens the feeling of membership and dependence. Further, it "also allows the mystification of the secret to be maintained over a long time, by allowing only gradual contact with the intiates."

The larger the church the more reminiscent it is to the structure of a cult described in this section. I don't know if that is necessarily bad or just a necessary result of being large. I just found it interesting. I also have seen such a heirarchy existent in denomenations and in small local churches. No structure is immune.

One point I would have to agree with is the use of material benefits to manipulate. Without going into details because it is personal and about a relationship between myself and another person, I feel that I was once paid to be in a position at one point in my life in order for the person paying me to have control of my actions. Money is a great tool to manipulate. It makes people clock in every day to work on an assembly line. It is also a great tool to keep ministers or associate ministers in line.

This section also stresses the lack of transparency in a cult. A cult makes decisions and wields them from the top down. I wonder how we balance biblical leadership with the totalitarian leadership of a cult. What is the difference? Is the only difference the direction the leader is taking the people?

Reading this book also makes me comfortable that the church I planted in Lansing, albeit different, is not a cult. My observations only come from when I was there. They might've changed. I haven't seen a more transparent group of people living the call of Christ together. Everyone was involved in decisions that effected them. Nobody was manipulated one step at a time - a famous trick of manipulators and cult leaders. For instance, take the "internet business" I mentioned previously. I wasn't told the reason for the meeting on the phone. I wasn't even told the name of this "internet business". Nope. They take people one step at a time in order to completely engulf them in their business. (The book I'm reading doesn't just focus on religious cults but also on cults of business, politics, etc.)

I struggle with the idea of how to plant a church down here if that is what God calls me to do. The fact that the path isn't clear is a sign to me that planting isn't the direction He has for me right now. Maybe that will change. I don't know. I don't believe a clear path is a sign that is from God either. I don't believe that God only works through the open door/closed door policy. Sometimes it is tough to do what God has called us to. Sometimes when the door appears closed, God still wants us to go into the other room. But I digress.

When I planted the church in Lansing it all seemed so clear. I sought God's will on who to include. I presented my vision for the church and what we would be doing to those individuals laid on my heart, intentionally trying to avoid the manipulation that one step at a time causes. I shared the whole vision. Some joined in; others said no. Down here, I have no idea where to begin. Nobody seems interested. It's like I'm walking in a foggy field on a damp Spring morning. I can't see a thing. I'm lucky to even know where to go.

And since I'm long-winded and nobody will read this far anyway, I will talk briefly about the church hunt. It is so discouraging. We've been to four churches now. One of them multiple times, but I feel that we are no closer to finding a church home than when we began. Since this is a public forum, I don't feel it would be proper to go into details on here. To copy the words of Bono - "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." Most of them seemed like healthy churches, but I just didn't know which one God wants me at. I know some of you reading this don't think that God has a will like this for people's lives, but I do. Maybe getting rid of that belief, comprosing, and joining in somewhere is what I need to do. I'm just not there yet.

After the second week, we made the decision to send Isaac and Eli to church with my mom and dad. The church hunt seemed to be very tough on Isaac, probably because it is tough on us. I just hope we find a church home soon. Here's to another week walking aimlessly in the body wilderness. (I lift up an imaginary glass of liquid). "Cheers."

Watch out for the potholes.

Let Us Be People That Work - A faith in action

Here is a collection of verses and thoughts that have been bombarding my head this last week. They won't leave me alone. Maybe they will bother you too.


Matthew 5:16 - "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."


"It's not what I am underneath, it's what I do that defines me." Batman in Batman Begins.


James 1:22-27 - "But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.


From Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship:

"Ye are the salt." Jesus does not say: "You must be the salt." It is not for the disciples to decide whether they will be the salt of the earth, for they are so whether they like it or not, they have been made salt by the call they have received. Again, it is: "ye are the salt," not "Ye have the salt." By identifying the salt with the apostolic proclamation the Reformers robbed the saying of all its sting. No, the word speaks of their whole existence which was the burden of the beatitudes. The call of Christ makes those who respond to it the salt of the earth in their total existence....

...The call of Jesus makes the disciple community not only the salt but also the light of the world; their activity is visible, as well as imperceptible. "Ye are the light." Once again it is not: "You are to be the light," they are already the light because Christ has called them, they are a light which is seen of men, they cannot be otherwise, and if they were it would be a sign that they had not been called. How impossible, how utterly absurd it would be for the disciples - these disciples, such men as these! - to try and become the light of the world! No, they are already the light, and the call has made them so. Nor does Jesus say: "You have the light." The light is not an instrument which has been put into their hands, such as their preaching. It is the disciples themselves. The same Jesus who, speaking of himself, said, "I am the light," says to his followers: "You are the light in your whole existence, provided you remain faithful to your calling. And since you are that light, you ccan no longer remain hidden, even if you want to." It is the property of light to shine.

Faithfulness, not Greatness

Yesterday, while visiting a church, I was struggling with whether to plant a church rather than find a church to serve at. It's a regular struggle of mine. Having been used to successfully plant a church in the past is one of the greatest events God has led me through, yet it is also one of my greatest hindrances to moving forward.

I was convicted that I am not to plant a church at this time. It all happened during the Lord's Supper. Maybe this wasn't from God but it sure seemed to be.

Here is what I felt I was told. It's not original. It's just what struck me.

You want to do great things. I just want you to be faithful. I want you to humble yourself and serve. Then you might do great things. But even if you don't, it doesn't matter. All that matters is whether you were faithful to my guidance or not. I'm in charge of making things great; you job is to remain faithful.

Jesus didn't do great things by accomplishing things that the world thought was great. He didn't rule a nation. He didn't have 1000s of followers at the end of his life. His greatest act, which you are remembering now, wasn't perceived as an act of greatness when He did it. Hanging on the cross was humiliating and disgraceful. Nobody looked at Him and said that there hangs greatness.

We know that what was perceived as weakness and birthed in faithfulness turned out to be one of the greatest actions in the history of humanity. His faithfulness gave forgiveness and entry into My kingdom to everyone sitting here and in churches around the world. It is through his humble faithfulness that the world was changed.

Now don't confuse things and make changing the world your goal. Make faithfulness your goal. I will be in charge of changing the world.

That's what I was convicted of. Is it true?

Watch out for the potholes.