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Yesterday, we examined diaprax — dialectic + praxis. Christian author and  researcher Dean Gotcher coined the word diaprax after intensive study of Marxist influences in the church.  Today, we look at other aspects of the church which lend themselves to diaprax.

Cell groups

Rick Warren is fond of the small — or cell — group.  It’s often used for Bible study or prayer.  It works like a workshop in that the leader is the non-judgmental facilitator who wishes to guide the group from thesis through to synthesis.  Smaller Alpha groups work along this model.

I was sorry to read that the traditional, Reformed Anglicans Ablaze appears to support small groups.  Recently, its author, Robin Jordan, featured a ‘message’ from Rick Warren on the importance of this type of ministry:

Here is a message Rick sent to the Saddleback family explaining why small groups are so important to a believer’s spiritual growth. You’re welcome to adapt it for your own congregation —

It’s the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family.

It’s a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love. You learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share its honor” (1 Cor. 12:26 NCV). Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the connection God intends for us to have (Eph. 4:16, Rom. 12:4–5, Col. 2:19, 1 Cor. 12:25).

REAL fellowship is being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects you to show other believers—loving them in the same way Jesus loves you.

Hmm.  Well, I did try to warn Mr Jordan (but to no avail) about another emergent programme he touted earlier this year, Fresh Expressions.  I tried to contact him privately but his blog only allowed for Google account holders to post comments.

Of small groups, Dr Robert E Klenck in his essay, ‘The 21st Century Church: Part 3’ says:

[Warren] is aware of research by Lyle Schaller, of the Leadership Network, that shows the relationship between the number of friendships that one has in the church, and the percentage chance then of that person leaving.  Close relationships are formed in the small groups, thus, people are required to participate in them.

And this is a concern.  This type of group then becomes psychologically close.  Warren asks members of these groups to ‘confess’ their sins publically to one another, as the Oxford Group (not Oxford Movement) did in the last century.  Warren’s is known as an ‘accountability group’.

Let’s look at what’s left unsaid in Warren’s push for small groups.  It’s about church unity, which will become increasingly important as we move towards a worldwide Christian Church.  It is in small groups where that ‘unity’ can take root and where submission to the accountability group through public confession of sins effects this relationship. It’s all rather … cultish. Instead of focussing on God for salvation through the Holy Spirit and the Word, the small group member (unless he is the leader) looks to the group for affirmation, correction and forgiveness. The horror.

Imagine mentioning in passing during one of these gatherings that you disagreed with an aspect of the service on a Sunday morning.  The small group is there to monitor your behaviour and responses.  Expect to be corrected and brought into line with the received ‘paradigm’ of the small group, and by extension, your church at large.  Church unity is all, even when that church is in error.

Unbelievers and ‘felt needs’

Like his mentor, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren also surveyed potential members of his congregation early in his ministry.  He focused only on the unbelievers and, like Schuller, constructed his church around their ‘felt needs’.  ‘Felt needs’ are highly important to diaprax, which eschews what we would call ‘fundamental’, ‘eternal’ or ‘absolute’ truths.  There is no truth.  What may be true today may not be true tomorrow.  We must change constantly.

Warren’s secular guru, Peter Drucker, may have had an even larger role to play in the church growth movement (CGM) than Schuller.  Dr Klenck notes (emphasis in the original):

He holds a doctorate of theology degree from Fuller Theological Seminary – one of the strongest proponents of the church growth movement.

Organizational management “guru” Peter Drucker, who is very involved in this movement, stated:

“…noncustomers are as important as customers, if not more important:  because they are potential customers. … Yet it is with the noncustomers that changes always start.”[6]

Thus, in this movement, it is imperative that unbelievers are brought into the church; otherwise, the process of continual change cannot begin There must be an antithesis (unbelievers) present to oppose the thesis (believers), in order to move towards consensus (compromise), and move the believers away from their moral absolutism (resistance to change).  If all members of the church stand firm on the Word of God, and its final authority in all doctrine and tradition, then the church cannot and will not change.  This is common faith.

The tension must be present, otherwise we cannot move away from orthodox Christianity towards … a man-oriented church unity through a worldwide religious organisation.

Leaving God out of it

Bob Buford, another of Peter Drucker’s followers, started the Leadership Network in 1984, designed to put church leaders in touch with each other.  Note what its mission and values statement reads in part (emphases mine):

The mission of the Leadership Network is to accelerate the emergence of the 21st-century church.  We believe the emerging paradigm of the 21st century church calls for the development of new tools and resources as well as the equipping of a new type of 21st century church leader, both clergy and laity.  This new paradigm is not centered in theology but rather it is focused on structure, organization, and the transition from an institutionally based church to a mission-driven church.  We value innovation that leads to results …

God the Father?  Christ crucified and risen?  The Holy Spirit?  Grace?  Scripture?  Hellooo?

Have a look in Dr Klenck’s essay and scroll halfway down to see that neither God the Father nor His Son appears in the increasingly-used circular ‘core’ diagram.

TQM fine for the secular world

Having spent several years not only working in quality assurance but holding international certification, I can say that there is nothing wrong with Peter Drucker’s TQM for goods and business processes.  If, like Dr Klenck, you think there is, consider the reliability of everyday objects that you use: lightbulbs, cars and — in his case — surgical instruments.

I do agree with him that TQM has no place in the religious world at all.  In that case, yes, ‘total’ would mean ‘totalitarian’, whereas in a manufacturing plant or services company, it ensures that you get repeatable, measurable, reliable results every time.

Peter Drucker’s error

This is where Peter Drucker has gone wrong.  To him, a church (or another religious house of worship) is like a restaurant or shop which relies on what’s known as ‘footfall’, or ‘lots of traffic’.  In reality, some churches are smaller.  Some are larger.  What’s important is that they are pure and follow God’s holy Scripture.  Yet, Drucker said in an interview:

Consider the pastoral megachurches that have been growing so very fast in the U.S. since 1980 and are surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the last 30 years. There are now some 20,000 of them, and while traditional denominations have steadily declined, the megachurches have exploded. They have done so because they asked, “What is value?” to a nonchurchgoer and came up with answers the older churches had neglected. They have found that value to the consumer of church services is very different from what churches traditionally were supplying. The greatest value to the thousands who now throng the megachurches—both weekdays and Sundays—is a spiritual experience rather than a ritual.

Hmm.  How many orthodox Christians attend church and ask, ‘Did I receive value for money here today?’  Frankly, I don’t think a seeker would either, although he probably goes back because there’s free popcorn, coffee and a pastor who walks the stage and works the audience like a comedian.  A pretty good show.

It’s about the money

I mentioned before that CGM is very much focussed on money.  In time, probably when most of us will be too elderly to blog or the Internet is restricted to the elite, church members’ tithes and financial contributions will go towards providing welfare for the world.  This is what the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) intends, anyway.

Already, Anglican parishes in England are sending in a proportion of their donations annually to the diocese for various programmes for the disadvantaged.  Whilst there is nothing wrong with that, some objections must be brewing among those in the pews.  A couple of years ago, our church was asked to complete a survey, giving our views on how much we would like for the diocese to have and towards what programmes.  I can imagine that this came as a surprise to many on the parish electoral roll.

Dr Klenck notes:

The Leadership Network recommends numerous materials and research studies to pastors that are geared towards maximizing the amount of tithing, pledging, and giving in the church.  One of the “masters” of “stewardship” is John Maxwell.  Mr. Maxwell is the former pastor of Skyline Community Church, in San Diego, CA, and founded Injoy Ministries, a church consulting firm.

What next for the Church?

Part of the reason money is so important, is that the Church is set to become just another service industry.  Christ’s holy Bride sounds very much like a business when Bob Buford’s Leadership Network describes Her (emphases mine):

Partnerships, alliances and collaboration will become the norm, rather than the exception, and the relationships will be built on new loyalties and a new common mission. … The next movement will grow people, not parking lots. … These same people are in the congregations of the 21st century and they are going to be the “point people” for the partnerships and alliances that will achieve the vision beyond the property line.”

and Buford says:

The Church of the 21st Century is reforming itself into a multi-faceted service operation.

Don’t forget that one of the reasons why many CGM churches have a register of members’ professions and ‘spiritual gifts’ is that the government or the UN might one day require access to that information in order to evaluate how well a church is working with it on secular schemes for food, health clinics or day care.  So, if you start such a registry at the beginning, especially if you wish to encourage people to join personal accountability groups, you’ve laid the groundwork for future record-keeping and inspection. As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise to either the member or the church administration.

Tomorrow: Biblical reasons why you should avoid diaprax and CGM

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