We are exploring Seth Godin’s prophecies from eight years ago to determine how they relate to the modern church.
Amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities
In the past the great silencers would banish a dissenter. A train ticket to Siberia is cost-effective! Disconnect them from the rest of the world. Problem solved.
There is no longer anywhere to send them.
A less drastic technique of the great silencers is to isolate them socially. They would sully their reputation, limit their opportunities for advancement, threaten their livelihoods or break their kneecaps—anything that could be done legally or without getting caught. This would often be done under the guise of beneficence. We are doing the world a favor.
Today, they can be called out by anyone with a smartphone and a backbone.
The Church is slow to discover this. Church structure takes comfort in acceptance. The clergy have a pulpit. They have an audience. They don’t use their voice with much effectiveness. They crave acceptance.
Someday they will find their voices. It will only take a few little successes and a refreshing power will be released.
But it won’t be easy. For example:
One retired pastor—a member of Redeemer—uses his voice. He writes letters, mostly to clergy, protesting the actions of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod in our neighborhood of East Falls and pointing out the violations of the governing rules.
The reaction: Synod Council voted to ask a neighboring bishop to censor him. They wrote a letter. Most, if not all, signed it. It didn’t work. The neighboring bishop knows this pastor to be a good man. And so they are left to take another course — just dismiss him as a malcontent.
Time will tell whether or not he was right.
Interestingly, the people who signed the letter have found no other way to use their voice on the issues. They follow the crowd.
While the whole world is exploring new ways to right wrongs and make the world a better place, the Church is still seeking ways to keep people towing their line (even when their line violates their own governing rules).
Where this will go for the Church is hard to say. It is a new force that wise church leaders should recognize and begin to work with in more enlightened ways.
Reverting to the Middle Ages is not likely to work.
The Creation and Amplification
of the Voice of Independent Authorities
This is something that the Church really needs to explore.
It can be dangerous in the world of religion, eclipsing any possible good. But it might also be good, if nurtured.
It has never been more possible to create a cult. Cults prey on the insecurities of the faithful.
It has always been a problem in the Church. Some ordained pastors practice cult leadership. They find ways to make themselves the center of the religion—making obedience and compliance indispensable to salvation or participation. The major tool is charm. They tend to be likable people. Do some good things that attract admiration and attention. They soon have a growing following—that will disappear as soon as the cult leader disappears (often with the money or a harem).
Sometimes they are called out but rarely before serious damage has been done.
The road is difficult and divisive for all—those who get caught up in it and those who try to battle it.
You can be certain it is happening in today’s church—in little pockets and in broader territories—perhaps entire denominations. A few years of damaging leadership can create long-term strife.
And so, the Church (that means everyone in the Church) must be vigilant. Most important they must be knowledgable in their faith. A strong knowledge of faith is the best weapon in fighting potential cult leaders.
Sadly, Christian education tends to stop at age 10 these days. When these Christian children grow up and begin to face the complexities of faith, they are ill-prepared to cope. Easier to opt out.
But it’s not all bad!
New leaders with good faith foundations may emerge outside of the “system.” They may have something important to say and add to the mainline expression of faith. They will see things that have been camouflaged by ritual and tradition.
Will there be room for them?
Or will they be silenced?