Just Because You Heard it from the Pulpit …

Leaders speak with an authority accorded to them by their position. When Barack Obama gave the Ohio State University Commencement Address, he did so as President of the United States. With the authority of that office behind him, it will be few students that would question his direction to reject cynical voices. What are those voices saying?

Still, you’ll hear voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s the root of all our problems, even as they do their best to gum up the works; or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.

Do not question what big government is doing. Don’t listen to dissenting voices, just trust us. Anything less is doubting this “unique experiment in self-rule.” This leads me to a Joyism. A Joyism is a word or phrase my beloved wife, Joy, invents in the process of writing an article. She is more of a creative writer than I and says some profound things in entertaining ways. This particular one is, “Just because you heard it from the pulpit doesn’t mean it isn’t really stupid.” This is true in many areas of life, not just the church. It really boils down to “be skeptical” and it is quite biblical. When Paul taught the Bereans, they were skeptical and checked out what he said before accepting it. Biblically, leaders were and are to be servants of all not unquestioned bosses of all. The higher they ascend into leadership the more accountable they become to a larger number of people. The founding of our nation began with a distrust of human government. The founders were abundantly aware of how despotism and tyranny grows and takes over people who begin with great intentions. “Power corrupts and absolutely power corrupts absolutely” is not only a cliché but is so because it is true.

As important as this may be in the world of politics, it is much more so in the Church. Recognized leaders in the pulpit wield great power because they are speaking for God from that place of authority. As missionaries to cults and New Religions MCOI often has to deal with very broken people. Some of them are broken by a false teacher within the church. I have lost count of how many young adults that were raised in Gothardism have become atheists after leaving. A few years ago a state senator who had been very involved with Gothard’s teachings for over 20 years, left after reading our book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life and then called and ordered a few cases. He wanted to give it to the young men and women that had worked on his election campaign that had grown up in Gothardism and left the faith. As we spoke I told him that they do need to understand that even though God and Gothard both begin with “Go” and end with “d,” they are not the same thing. It is difficult because many churches teach the same view of authority which we find in non-believing secular leaders. Don’t question just hear and obey. Don’t listen to dissenting voices. Reject them, trust us, we know what is best for you. It is a scary thing to question one’s authority when you have been taught that they are speaking directly from God to you and to question them equals questioning God. That is a very big stick. In addition, many of the high demand groups inside and outside the Church like, The Institute in Basic Life Principles (Gothard), Vision Forum (Doug Phillips), Remnant Fellowship (Gwen Shamblin), the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society will work at ruling or ruining dissent and silencing those who dare question. (A very good book on this is The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church)

Jesus Himself taught His followers to be skeptical, “Beware of false prophets” He said in Matthew 7:15. Skepticism is a safe guard. It is a way to keep leaders accountable, perhaps the way to keep leaders accountable. If they realize they live in glass houses and everyone around them has Windex they will tend to be more circumspect and honest in their claims and teaching. Yes, I think the Joyism is correct, “Just because you heard it from the pulpit doesn’t mean it isn’t really stupid.”

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