Monday, April 26, 2010

What is the most important thing we ask of our Church members: Conform to our views OR Do you love God?

I truly enjoy the writings and conversations with Ron Martoia. He is asking the difficult questions about culture, social structures and church that makes us uncomfortable. In this article published on his blog he is asking probing questions about what is really important to us. My personal opinion is that we are more earnestly seeking to protect the organisational viewpoints that seeking spiritual growth in ourselves as well as in those around us.

Human Development; Beyond Socialized Mind

APRIL 26, 2010
Human development can go further than the socialized mind. Informing people and getting them to fit in or conform to everything from doctrinal statements to more pious sounding “requirements” so they can be accepted and belong is the doorway in and in some cases goal
in many of our churches. James Fowler calls this the “mythic literal” stage of development and a remarkably high number of people stay here their entire lives. They conform to doctrinal standards, think denominational distinctives, to stock answers to the standard questions, if you don’t ask many questions or question the systems certainty or become too independent in your thinking you can belong for a lifetime. This is mythic-literal faith. If you haven’tread Fowler you need to.
A couple weeks ago I posted something from Robert Kegan, the great adult development chairman at Harvard. As Kegan is to stages of human adult development, Fowler is to stage of faith development, a subset of human development. I repeat real quickly this first conforming, belonging, stage of development here.
The Socialized Mind

We are shaped by the definitions and expectations of our personal environment.
Our self coheres by it’s alignment with and loyalty to that with which it identifies.
This can express itself primarily in our relationships with people and schools of thought or both. (I am Baptist, I’m republican, I am a union rep)
• Team player
• Faithful follower
• Aligning
• Seeks direction
• Reliant

Here is my observation. Our church systems are designed specifically to develop the socialized mind; socialized to my churches doctrinal distinctives, predestination or free will, inspired without error text or a text with errors, or endtime hysteria, lifestyle statements about alcohol or tobacco, evolution or young earth creationism, accepting of gays or not accepting…I could continue. The fact is I know lots of guys and gals in lead posts and church staff positions that want to buck and deny this as a characterization. But upon even a bit of questioning agree that you can’t be on staff, you can’t be a leader and in fact you can’t usually be a member if you hold your own views on any of these big issues. And yet here is the interesting thing?
Not one of these churches checks on, and I mean asks questions about, their level of transformation over the last 6 months, year, or decade. In other words we need to check on your doctrinal commitments, we need to make sure you are with us on the socialized mind piece, but when it comes to whether or not you are really serious about being transformed, growing, changing, more patient with your kids this 6 month run than the last 6 month run, we apparently don’t care. I know…harsh. BUT…true!
Note this is the lowest level of human development. Without developing this yet, might this be why so many millions, that is right millions, are leaving the church looking for alternative areas for faith development? Is it possible that they are moving beyond the socialized mind level of development and the church doesn’t know what to do?
Apparently we more concerned about doctrinal conforming than real growth? We want to make sure you conform to our standard of agreed upon tenets that qualify you as socialized into our system. We in action and policy at least, consider this primary and more important then whether or not you really show the marks of a disciple, which is growing in love, alertness, patience, joy, peace, etc…
Is your context one where you have to subscribe to certain tenets or is growth and real movement more important?
Did Jesus give the disciples a doctrinal and lifestyle statement before they could follow him? Follow him was the question NOT join an organization he was forming. Maybe I missed something but I don’t think so.


  1. Ek stem 100% saam Paul. Die kerke wat nie oop is vir God se plan om te groei in Sy verhouding met ons nie gaan verlore raak. Tradisies en doctrines het baie waarde, maar wanneer dit geestlike groeie beperk om dat ons nie uit ons gemak zone wil gaan nie doen dit meer geestlike skade as die oorspronklike waarde wat dit gebring het

  2. Stem saam Juba. Tradisie en doctrines gee vir ons die illusie van beheer en dit is juis hierdie illusie wat ons ondergang beteken.

  3. Die ironie is dat albei nodig is, maar dat ons alewig die goed verkeerdom sit. Frederick Buechner het dit fantasties gese: At its heart, religion is mysticism…Religion as instruction, ethics, dogma, ritual, scripture, social action – all of this comes later and in the long run maybe counts for less. Religions start, as Frost said poems do, with a lump in the throat..."

  4. In ons beste pogings om vir God tevrede te stel, bestudeer ons die Woord, ons luister na wat God s^e, doen wat Hy s^e, vertel vir mense daarvan wat dit aanvaar, verder interpreteer, dit as norm stel, reels en tradisies daarom bou, dit na die volgende en volgende geslag oordra, dit leer as die regte, die enigste interpretasie, dwing dit af, verstaan self dat daar nie ander opinies KAN wees nie. Uiteindelik word iets wat aanvanklik van God was, goed was, 100% waarheid en toepaslik was, deur mense gemaak tot godsdiens. Wat van mens kom, kan net menslike natuur wees.

    Hier raak my verstand en woorde te min om die God werk ten volle te kan begryp, beskryf, verduidelik...

    Wat God vra is net liefde vir Hom uit 'n onbeskryflike dankbaarheid vir die GROOT liefde wat Hy ons bewys en genadewerk wat Hy vir ons gedoen het. Selfs hierdie besef, bewuswording of erkenning is onmoontlik vanuit 'n mense perspektief... selfs dit is 'n geskenk van God, deur die Heilige Gees wat in ons woon.

    Vanuit daardie dankbaarheid behoort ons net in liefde op te tree teenoor alle ander mense... maar veral daardie mense wat verlore gaan... sondaars, moordenaars, verkragters, gays, egbrekers... noem maar op.

    Die kerk is maar net die gemeenskap van baie gelowiges. Indien die gelowiges se persoonlik ervaring en kennis van God arm is, sal die gemeente ook geestelik arm wees... kan dit nie juis anders wees as net godsdiens nie. Die kerk is immers nie die plek waar mense kom om net te kom kry, volmaak, inneem, haal, seeninge ontvang, nie. As ek kyk na die nuwe testamentiese kerke, 'n plek waar mense alles bring wat hulle het om dit te offer en aan te wend tot voordeel van elkeen wat 'n behoefte het... tot voordel van almal, wonder ek of ons ooit kerk is soos God dit bedoel het.

    Vandag het die kerk 'n plek geword waar 'n paar mense baie hard moet werk om 'n groot klomp mense te probeer tevrede stel... om hulle te bedien... en die wat bedien word kan vir jou moeilik raak as alles nie perfek is soos hulle dit verwag nie. Die sleutel l^e daarin dat te veel mense bedien wil word en nie self wil dien nie. As jy deel wil wees van 'n gemeente is daar 'n ewe groot verwagting dat jy sal dien met alles wat jy het as wat jy kan verwag om bedien te word in jou behoeftes. Indien hierdie aspek van gemeente wees sou terugkeer, sou seker 80% van mense nie meer deel wil wees van die kerk nie.

    Is die probleem nie juis dat ons probeer om kerk vir mense te wees in plaas van kerk vir God nie?