Jul 092014
Pancho Juarez of Calvary Chapel Montebello addresses the crowd at CCSPC 14 at CC Costa Mesa.

Pancho Juarez of Calvary Chapel Montebello addresses the crowd at CCSPC 14 at CC Costa Mesa.

Chuck’s dead, Bob Coy is busted, Brian Brodersen’s in charge, Greg Laurie’s trying to keep the peace, Josh Turansky’s pulled back the curtain for all (well done), Levi Lusko’s trying to make a balding Calvary Chapel look relevant…and Pancho Juarez was comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable…and sweatin’ like a boyscout at a catholic priest convention.

Days 1 and 2 of the Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor’s Conference 2014 are in the books…err, in the online archives!

Thanks to unprecedented access via online streaming and social media, all of us can get a front row seat to this year’s CCSPC 14 like never before. This is healthy and is kind of a form of accountability. Glad to see the young techie guys making this transparency happen…glad the old guys are allowing it to happen.

You can view the #CCSPC14 live feed here (and archives are available if you can’t watch live or missed the first two days): http://calvarychapel.com/resources/article/view/senior-pastor-conference/

What’s New or Different this year? What’s big news?

Well, the CCSPC is usually held at the Calvary Chapel Conference Center in Murrieta, Commiefornia…and this year it’s at the Brodersen’s Costa Mesa franchise…probably blind luck that they dodged a hot-spot for the current border/immigration crisis. The reason for the move to the Brodersen’s turf? Brian and Cheryl are in charge now and there’s a big Smith family battle waging behind the scenes…as well as a couple of old-guard CC splinter groups that are persona non grata.

Nothing says “We’re in charge now”…like changing the venue for the first CCSPC post-Chuck and having it at your place.

One quick side-note: Multiple sources confirm (including Smith family) how the CC Costa Mesa non-unanimous decision to crown the Brodersen duo went down…while Chuck’s body was still warm. I’ll report those accounts later and leave others to decide if that’s just business or if things were a bit strong-armed. I can tell you this, it wasn’t all kumbaya and wasn’t nearly unanimous despite the PR veneer. There is also, reportedly, a lawsuit coming in Kay Smith’s name to try and sort things out with regards to a life insurance policy that originally named Kay Smith as beneficiary, but reportedly got changed to CCCM so Kay Smith “would not have a ‘war chest’ to hire lawyers to get The Word for Today.” Sources also report that Kay Smith has very little income as Chuck didn’t pay into Social Security as a pastor. 

I hear the words of the New Regime, I see the “Forward!” (ironically Obamaesque)…I don’t see how you treat Kay Smith this way regardless of the family feud.

Once again, if you want to know what’s really going on, read the blogs…and don’t buy into the “it’s gossip, it’s the devil!” canard…who would be for truth and transparency in all matters and who would be for covering stuff up, keeping it hush hush and secret and in the dark? Jesus or satan? I’m not “specially anointed!” like our CCSP friends…and even I can answer that one.

Other stuff that struck me as different included Pancho Juarez’s address to the overwhelmingly white CC pastorate. Everything up to that point was completely predictable…so predictable I could pre-write the sermons of each and every speaker to that point. Not Pancho, LOL.

It was an uncomfortable message…which is a good thing…it’s needed. Jesus comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. Pancho was uncomfortable…he was sweating so profusely he gave a new meaning to the slur “wet-back” (bada bing!)…that was a joke, let’s not get all PC (not “Pastor Chuck” for you CC guys, rather “Politically Correct”).

Hey, the fact is Pancho made some great points and challenged some Sacred Cows in the CC largely-white-yuppy Movement. Pancho called out “racism” and “bigotry” and challenged Calvary Chapel to reach out to the outsider, the untouchables, the homeboys etc…even seeming to include homosexuals in that list (while being careful to refer to the moral issue as sin). His message of “Love” was in stark contrast to some of his homies like Raul Ries and David Rosales…who he seemed to be speaking against when he challenged CC pastors to stop beating the sheep with law and religiousity (my words, the gist of his message) and to love folks. His other big theme was “transformation” and a pretty typical Transformation Gospel narrative…which I disagree with…all…whether Christian, Buddhist, Atheist or Pagan are capable of great good…and great evil (proven many times over and over…the Christian “anointed” are no different than the other Groups of fellow human sinners when push comes to shove). I thought it was refreshing that he gave a sort of altar call to the pastors there…challenged them to reflect on areas of sin they struggle with…and to ask God to take it from them. Well done. It was also great to hear him challenge his fellow CCSP’s that they didn’t have to travel the world to reach minorities and the poor etc, they could simply meet these fellow human beings with help and the message of Jesus in their own backyard. Well done.

The other messages the first two days were pretty run-of-the-mill and typical CC fare, nothing really noteworthy. Greg Laurie filled the role of Big Guru lending his name to the event and trying to broker some sort of peace in the transition post-Chuck. Bob Coy was noticeably absent…and noticeably an elephant in the room that was not addressed. The biggest national and international news story regarding Calvary Chapel since Chuck Smith’s death…and not a peep from Calvary Chapel. Typical. Well guys, we’ll stand in the gap and discuss the Coy situation in a very detailed upcoming series. Ignoring the truth won’t make it go away. There are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned from the Bob Coy rise and fall…and you won’t be teaching them…but hopefully some of the more independent minded non-CCool-aid drinkers will read and consider.

Damian Kyle looked ill, but played his role adequately. Basically, “pastors have your personal devotions…and don’t talk about each other…and Chuck Smith was awesome”…that’s his speech in a nutshell.

Landing the “CC is also young and relevant!” role was the funny-looking Levi Lusko. Envision a bow-legged Sid the Sloth with tattoos on his arms. Lusko did fine, he was actually less cheesy than I expected. Seems a sincere guy. I don’t remember much from is message other than he made it a big point to pay respect to the older generation before him who blazed the trails and paved the way for young CC guns like him. I thought it was a good thing to honor the old guard for the good they’ve done…unfortunately all you ever get from CC is one side of that story and no real honesty and transparency about all the mistakes to avoid. Again, you’ll have to read the blogs to find out the truth about those issues and you’ll have to be taught by someone other than CC about the pitfalls to avoid in ministry besides the white-washed version you get year-after-year….after year.

Don McClure got up there as the new Gate-Keeper of the “Calvary Chapel Association”…err, but Chuck Smith told me in the presence of Dave Rolph and his attorney Janet Carter that “all the Calvary Chapels are independent!” “We’re a denomination!” “We are not a denomination!” I guess it depends on whether you’re being sued or whether you’re building your Brand that you benefit from.

McClure’s message…yawn. His stuff about Facebook and Twitter was pretty funny, though. Leveraging social media and tech has been a big push at this year’s CCSPC…and McClure delivered some pretty solid humor…mocking both himself…and the tech-heads. “I’ve got 5,000 friends on facebook…and I know of about 10 of them…and five of them don’t even like me so I don’t know why they’re there”…hilarious stuff…and true, I’m one of the five, LOL. Don, I’m there to be a pain in your arse. Just kidding. I’m there to keep tabs on what’s happening and to encourage you and CC to do the right thing.

One disturbing, yet candid moment: McClure seemed to deviate from the crafted portion of his message when he made a comment about spiritual whaps (context being some sort of physical blow) and he quickly corrected himself…”I’m not advocating that” or some sort of retraction. He went on to discuss how you shouldn’t try to “fix” your kids in the flesh…and in a very candid moment said, “I would have gone to jail”…for stuff he did to his kids back in the day. Wow. Well, I’ve heard the reports from more than one source that Don abused his kids and that his son went on to abuse a spouse or significant other. Violence begets violence. The unfortunate part is that the CC pastor audience actually laughed pretty significantly at his “I would have gone to jail” comment. Not funny. Let me beat you for years and years and years…and then we’ll see if you find it funny. Good that he was honest and candid about abusing his kids, bad that it’s somehow funny. Good that he seems to get the message to a degree that you don’t advocating whapping or hitting or striking etc as a godly means of discipline. I’m not saying responsible state-defined corporal punishment is out of bounds (don’t leave marks, bruises, don’t draw blood etc.)…but from what I’ve been told, McClure was pretty rough with his kids…enough that, like he stated, he’d have gone to jail…and probably should have. Pastors, don’t hurt your kids in the name of Jesus. You aren’t required to “fix” them to your version of “good”…that’s God’s job. Love your kids, have responsible boundaries, but love your kids. Don’t hurt your kids.

Rob McCoy was brought to the front and prayed for. CC Abuse participants will remember that McCoy was featured on here as a CC pastor running for a Commiefornia State Assembly seat for the Republican Party. There were allegations made regarding some situations at McCoy’s CC franchise. We looked into the issues, there was some truth there and some things that in context were mistakes, but not actionable. Initially, McCoy and I went to the verbal phone equivalent of UFC ultimate fighter, but in the end I found McCoy to be transparent and a man who has learned from some past mistakes, made great strides in implementing very solid accountability measures at his Calvary Chapel franchise…and someone who can be a change-agent and good example in that area. Rob, keep doing the right thing and please encourage your fellow CC pastors to have the sorts of Child Protection Policies and Financial Transparency and shared-power accountability you have self-implemented at your CC over the years. None of us are perfect, we all have situations in the past we either learn from or repeat the same mistakes. Honesty and learning from those mistakes is all most of us are asking. McCoy is a good example of that, IMO.

Some Suggestions from outside the CC Bubble:

1. Why no Saeed Abedini? You have a 1500 plus “Affiliation” and Movement…and you can organize and rally around a pastors’ conference and livestream and move heaven and earth to make this sort of cohesive and coordinated event happen pretty much Movement-wide now…but you can’t come together in an organized and powerful way to speak loudly about Saeed Abedini, a fellow CC pastor unjustly in Iranian prison for helping orphans there? C’mon Calvary Chapel. So far, not even a mention to my knowledge.

2. Calvary Chapel Association, you still have Affiliation Agreements to be an official Calvary Chapel, you issue invites to “your” conference. I can’t just show up. I can’t just call myself Calvary Chapel (or can I?) Institute mandatory Child Protection Policies and Financial Transparency as requisite by-laws in the “individual” CC’s incorporation to get an official Dove. Do it. Is the devil for or against Child Protection Policies and being honest and transparent with how you all spend the Jesus Money? This is not an “attack from the devil!”…ya, the devil is all about honesty, transparency with the finances and trying to protect kids from abuse.

3. Financial Transparency is needed because I am inundated with more and more info about Bob Coy and others in Calvary Chapel and the large amounts of Jesus Money they take home and fund their lavish lifestyles with. Hey, if you’re going to take over $500,000 per year of the Jesus Money…then at least be honest about it and let your congregation know it so they can decide whether or not to give the next time you are begging for more Jesus Money from folks who are struggling to pay their bills every month.

That’s all I got for the first two days. OK, not all I got, but it’s already long. What say you?

Jul 022014

CCFTL logoMultiple sources confirm the identity of one of the women in the Bob Coy Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale scandal.

Reportedly, the woman was a make-up artist for Coy who helped with his “Active Word” ministry and may have been on staff as a paid employee of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale in that capacity.

We have the name, but have made the decision not to publish it.

What is more important is the transition CCFTL is going through post-Coy. The celebrity-driven mega-church model is being questioned…and rightly so. Things are in transition. While Coy’s recent departure has been seen by some as a negative blow to the church, we see it as an opportunity for a lot of good to come from it…and fortunately, so do leaders at CCFTL who seem to be on a good path toward more accountability, less celebrity-driven mega-church focus and on to the real work of true ministry.

If there is any truth to the bible and to the Gospel and to God and Jesus…then a celebrity pastor making over $500,000 per year “serving Jesus!”…and a church that is built on his personality and his charisma…and a Board and elders that enable and promote this dynamic…only affirms a skeptical and jaded view of the church and opens the door to distrust in the macro-Christian narrative. The other thing it leads to is power-driven egomaniacs who start thinking they are “specially anointed by God!” and soon believe their own hype and forget they are no different than the rest of us dirty lowly non-anointed “sheep”.

CCFTL, if you really believe what you are selling…then be more like the example of Jesus in the bible you say is to be our personal By-Laws and our personal Corporate Charter. The Jesus narrative of the Gospels and his example is very simple. Jesus’s example stands in contrast to the doctrinal/philosophical nuances of the Pauline Epistles…his example is far afield of the doctrinal/theological tall weeds. The Jesus Model of doing church and being a servant-leader and actually helping folks in a real and tangible way…is very very simple…and extremely easy to observe from the text and the human-personality-deity you claim is “the truth!” and the backbone of your entire reason for being a church and pastors and Christians.

In a coming series of articles we will be documenting some of the financial specifics of Coy’s salary and benefits, how the celebrity-driven dynamic emerged at CCFTL, the power struggle between Coy and others who pushed back and we’ll report the current direction of CCFTL as they transition.

Bob Coy’s rise and fall is an important story. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, at its core, is not Bob Coy. The situation at CCFTL is a microcosm of today’s evangelical church…and can be a lesson for all of us.

Jun 242014

Every Group…whether it’s a denomination, a non-denomination, a local church or a blog…requires rules. This has been hard for me to accept as a Libertarian and non-conformist leaning person. The pragmatist in me realizes, however, that I must deal with things as they are…not as they should be.

I’ve learned a ton at the popular PhoenixPreacher.com blog. One of the biggest lessons that has been cemented regarding “things as they are”…is that the leader and Core Group there are really no different than the leaders and churches and denominations etc. that they rail against and critique ad nauseam. I guess, to a degree, I am not much different either.

We all have our biases, our Sacred Cows, our “orthodox opinions”…and we all have our villains and our doctrinal/philosophical peccadilloes and our hierarchy of sins and our hierarchy of virtues…we all play favorites and we all have gurus and personalities we hold in high regard while vilifying others.

Conduct is important…when you have an opposing and dissenting opinion. Conduct is less important when it is an opinion expressed that you agree with. This is demonstrated in spades at PhxP. “Proper conduct!” is used as a cudgel to force conformity…yet the same standard of conduct is not required of those with an opinion that aligns with the Group and the leader…much like we see in Calvary Chapels and other churches the Phoenix Preacher criticizes and calls to task.

In my experience there, the Group Dynamic is very visible…very much quantifiable…the hierarchy of personalities is easy to define. Spend as little as a few weeks there and it will become apparent to anyone who has even a basic understanding of Group Dynamics and control techniques etc.

I accepted the fact that “rules” of conduct are necessary and important as defined by a particular Group’s consensus. It’s simply how we create order and make sense of the world as humans. It isn’t “wrong” for a Group…whether it be Calvary Chapel or the PhxP to have rules…even if a dissenter disagrees with those rules. The Group has the right to its rules…and the leader or pastor is responsible to the Group in a symbiotic relationship…despite the “leave the 99 to save the one” etc.

The problem is when those rules are not applied equally to all within that Group…and it takes on an especially negative spiritual implication when an “outsider” or what the bible calls a “foreigner” or “alien” is actually targeted and treated with more scrutiny and less grace than someone who is in the fold as part of the Group. It is even more sinister and wrong when leaders of the Group are treated with kit gloves and the rules are not applied to them…we’ve seen this double-standard in Calvary Chapel…and I’m sad to report I have experienced it at the PhoenixPreacher.com blog led by Michael Newnham.

One major bible narrative is how you treat the outsider, the foreigner etc…and the Pharisees were often chastised by Jesus for not applying their heavy burdens and laws and rules to themselves.

The issue goes further off the rails when the rules of conduct are followed…and then “opinions” become “offense” and actionable for punishment. This is ironically what the church fears with regards to its opinions that are contrary to the consensus of the United States culture with regards to homosexuality etc.

Often in “church” and certainly within the PhoenixPreacher.com blog…contrary opinions become an actionable “offense” akin to inappropriate or offensive conduct. This is what happened to me. I tested the boundaries of “proper conduct” and came in line and in agreement. The goal posts moved and the issue became my “opinions” as offense…even expressed in a civil and polite manner without hyperbole and without insult etc. This is the nature of all the things the PhoenixPreacher.com Group has railed against with regards to other churches and leaders (with regards to what they call “spiritual abuse”…I am not considering clear cut sexual or physical abuse or financial corruption as such…those issues are more cut and dry).

Once a difference of opinion, expressed responsibly and diplomatically, becomes an “offense” that is actionable…you are now off the rails and no different than any of the churches and leaders you have built a career and reputation critiquing.

That is the PhoenixPreacher.com and I can no longer endorse it or condone it or be a part of it. There is a bad dynamic there and the Group and leadership is blind to it…similar to the Groups and leaders I’ve watched them call out for years.

Doctrines, philosophical opinions, theology…it’s all extremely subjective…and to mark a particular person’s opinion as “not Christian” or worshipping a “false god” or calling them an “idol worshipper” etc. is as much spiritual abuse as any spiritual abuse that Group has judged in other churches….or as much acting like an “ODM” as they call it as any ODM they’ve called to task. Yet, that behavior is the same behavior of the blog there.

I have liberal theological opinions and most of the arguments I dissect that appeal to “the bible” have major consistency problems. I don’t believe this invalidates the bible as containing truth and I don’t believe it invalidates “God” or Jesus…but it certainly invalidates a particular man’s interpretation as absolute and concrete and “thus sayeth the Lord!” and chiseled in stone. If it was so absolute and non-subjective, you would not have 9,000 to 30,000 different denominations and main lines and all the many differences of opinion under the umbrellas of Christianity*…you’d have one church, one doctrine, one theology. It isn’t math, it isn’t physics. It’s all very subjective.

As such, I am going to lay down some rules at this blog to avoid the mistakes I see at blogs like the PhoenixPreacher: 

1. We will tolerate differences of opinion expressed responsibly.

2. We will apply the rules of moderation and banning equally to all.

3. We will refrain from name-calling, even Calvary Chapel…I will have to change in this regard.

4. Conduct is important, I concede that point…but difference of opinion expressed responsibly and how those individuals are dealt with is something that both the church and the PhoenixPreacher blog needs to change. We will do our best to not repeat those mistakes and poor treatment.

5. I will moderate comments that I view as stirring up conflict within the Group, unless it is merely a difference of opinion expressed responsibly.

6. The focus of this blog is on Church Abuse and Church Corruption…but we will discuss other philosophical opinions as they are often closely related to church issues. Be kind, be tolerant, don’t be the thing you say you hate.

I am committed to being better than how I was raised in Calvary Chapel…and I’m committed to being better than the five or so years I wasted on the PhoenixPreacher blog. That starts today.

UPDATE: Michael emailed me and did bring up a pertinent fact that was not included until now, I did post a lot of comments which was one source of irritation to his Group and I agree the volume was excessive sometimes…however, many times it was simply due to the fact I was often ganged up on and was responding to many personalities there and their many challenges to my opinions…and then would often get accused of dodging their questions or challenges if I didn’t respond…then when I responded thoroughly I would often be accused of “dominating” the thread…so, often times I was damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. Oh well, I am now a “blessed subtraction” as they often criticize guys like Mark Driscoll of promoting.

Jun 082014
Group dynamics, in all groups, require conformity most of all.

Group dynamics, in all groups, require conformity most of all.

Spiritual abuse or proper church discipline? Obedience and submission or rebellious spirit and trouble-making?

One thing many have in common on church abuse blogs is that most have been at odds with a particular church group and church leader/pastor…and were summarily shown the door, shunned, banned, moderated from participating with the church they once called home. This can be devastating for most. You lose friendships, family relationships, you’re called names like “troublemaker” and “instrument of the devil” and “not submissive” and “rebellious” etc. It hurts.

Pastors/leaders often feel justified in the particular banning as a proper form of church discipline….they are just “protecting the rest of the flock” as they say. Behind the scenes, often, it is the majority rules of that particular flock that is pressuring the particular pastor/leadership to deal with the dissenter or “troublemaker” and to deal with this individual or family once and for all.

From the perspective of the person being dealt with in such a manner…they feel they have done nothing wrong. They are simply trying to hold the particular pastor and/or leadership and/or church accountable for some perceived (real or imagined) wrong or injustice or inconsistency with a bible doctrine that needs to be remedied. The person takes their beef up the chain of command and when the pastor and/or leadership disagree…some sort of final judgment is finally made…often resulting in the particular person either “submitting” to the rules of the particular church group or facing expulsion.

“Spiritual abuse!”….or “church discipline for the good of the rest of the flock!”…depends (in general) on which side of that particular line you’re on.

Of course, there are many examples of clear wrongdoing by pastors and church leadership and there are clear cut structural wrongs within many church organizations. Let me be very clear that I am not questioning the reality and truth of “spiritual abuse” nor am I questioning the reality and truth of legitimate church abuses that need to be confronted and reformed. There are many many legit examples that are not mere “differences of opinion”….many of the stories and personalities who comment on this blog have very serious examples where churches and pastors crossed major lines. I’m referring to issues that are lower down the ladder….issues that also become “spiritual abuse” but from the other perspective are viewed as “protecting the rest of the flock” from a “troublemaker”. The line can sometimes be a fine line…sometimes it’s clear cut.

This issue is one that has peaked my curiosity for some time. I’ve observed the Group Dynamics of blog communities very much resembles that of a local church group.

Anytime a group of humans forms….there is a general dynamic that always occurs…this “Group Dynamic” is the sociological science that observes how those dynamics occur and how they generally play out in a group setting. It’s a fascinating area of study…one of my areas of interest since I was introduced to that science as part of my collegiate studies.

Blogs, like churches, take on a hierarchy over time. You have a central leader….the blog host…who becomes akin to the pastor. You have a “core group” of blog voices that participate regularly and contribute to the overall success of the blog as measured in comments and even sometimes in donating money or support…akin to regular church members who give regularly, volunteer to serve and serve as deacons or elders. The regulars in both groups support the pastor or blog host. They protect the pastor or blog host when outsiders come into the group and start “trouble”. The “good” church members and good core bloggers are generally very agreeable to the pastor’s rules and the blog host’s rules and they assume their particular roles within the group in protecting the group and the group leader…the group leader then protects the core group. It’s a very symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship.

Then comes the outsider…the “troublemaker”…who doesn’t conform to the group’s written and unwritten rules. The person may have a particular beef with the pastor, a beef with how the church or blog does things, a beef with a key member of the core group, a beef with a particular doctrinal or philosophical position….and then there’s conflict and trouble.

The core group generally rallies around the particular irritant like white blood cells around an invading virus. Conflict ensues. The rules are asserted and then broken again…and the core group appeals to the pastor or blog host to deal with the “troublemaker” once and for all….usually after some sort of disciplinary efforts of confrontation, moderation, sanctions etc. When all else fails, the core group calls for the “troublemaker’s” head in the equivalent of the group dynamic’s death penalty: Banishment from the group!

The leader exacts the penalty. The “troublemaker” is eliminated. All is well again within the group.

I’ve been the “troublemaker”, I’ve been a member of the core group, I’ve been the leader. I’ve experienced legitimate church abuse, seen the real thing many times. I’ve been the legitimate target of group discipline when I didn’t follow the rules.  I’ve seen real “spiritual abuse” and fake. The distinctions can become blurred. Where is the line?

In the battles with Calvary Chapel, there are some clear-cut examples and many that may just be typical group dynamics in play where a person just doesn’t conform to the group consensus and bucks the norms there.

In blogging in many online communities…Christian, Atheist, Political, Economic, etc…I’ve noticed clear group dynamics in play…very consistent patterns, rules, core groups, leaders…and every group responds to “troublemakers” in a similar way. Is the “troublemaker” always the victim of “abuse” when they are shunned and banned even though they think they were right to buck the norm of a particular group and challenge its rules, its sacred cows and its leaders etc? Probably not.

Sometimes conformity is a requirement to be part of a group. Those who are non-conformists often have a difficult time remaining part of a group…whether it is a church, a blog, a club…whether it be Christian, Atheist, Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, you name it. My observations from testing a broad range of groups is that they all tick the same, essentially. Conformity is the primary aspect of being a good and healthy group member.

My practical advice if you want to remain part of any group is this: Learn what the written and unwritten rules are. Learn who the core group members are and don’t challenge their authority within the group. Know the leader’s sacred cows and pet peeves and steer clear of pushing those buttons. Conform quickly and demonstrate submission to the core group members and leader….and slowly build trust with them. Over time, if you play by their rules…and if you pay your dues…you can become part of the core group…and then you can incrementally challenge some things in very small steps and progressions…and affect some small changes over time without arousing suspicion and getting kicked out.

Personally, I am largely a non-conformist and I have a rebellious streak…more due to my abusive high-control upbringing, out of principle and due to my ability to see beyond the surface that blinds most folks with regards to systems of Control. Most have no clue as to the dynamics in play and are rather confused when they find themselves at odds with another professing group of Christians (or insert your particular group here). Much of the time it is not anything spiritual at all….it is simply group dynamics. The folks violated the dynamic and most don’t even know what happened until they’re kicked out. The easiest explanation, often, is “abuse!”…when in fact, it’s simple non-conformity and part of what you’ll face in any group if you don’t notice the rules and don’t get in line.

I know when I’m bucking the group and when I’m going along. I’m rarely surprised. You have to make the personal choice: Do you want to fit in and be a part of this group?

Some don’t want to fit into a group…there are legitimate troublemakers…the internet era has identified them as “trolls”….these are serial non-conformists who like conflict and controversy and exhibit the “dark tetrad” from a psychological perspective…they are akin to sadists who enjoy hurting people through their words. You see these sorts of folks in online forums as well as in physical church groups. There are also folks who like to test their disagreement within a group they disagree with…you see this with atheists participating in Christian forums…and Christians participating in atheist forums….liberals and conservatives in political forums, etc. Sometimes there are folks who are just socially unaware and can’t gauge the dynamics and step in it seemingly every time they try to become part of a group. I once thought there was some sort of “right” and righteous Christian ideal in play…an ideal that trumped the humanness….an ideal that grace was to be given to the worst of the offenders.

There is no pure ideal in play. There is no truly free grace, not within any group. Conformity is the price one must pay.

I’ve conducted some social experiments to see if there was some sort of truly free grace ideal that truly existed…if there truly was some sort of spiritual ideal that trumped human group dynamics. I can confidently report to you: No, there is no spiritual ideal that trumps human group dynamics. There is no Christian “grace” for troublemakers who don’t go with the flow. I even tried to hold a principled line on this blog…wow, I was proven wrong in spades. Matthew Perri shows up and disrupts the group here…everyone reacts adversely to Matthew’s behavior and calls for his moderation or banning….that this isn’t a safe place, I’m not doing my job as a leader to protect the fold, I’m not being just, etc.

Groups like their status quo, they like their rules, they like conformity. Groups want a King to enforce it. There is no spiritual ideal that turns the other cheek and administers blind grace even to the most irritating non-conformist. There are rules. There is a hierarchy. There are sacred cows. There is a symbiotic relationship between the core group and the leader. There is a control structure that expects conformity. Get on board, or get out.

The consensus Christian gospel message is the same: Conform…or go to hell. Grace is earned through conformity. Conformity is required to be in the group.

That’s the truth as I currently know it with regards to this issue after much testing and hashing out.

 Posted by at 2:14 pm