(Scott’s posts are archived on the Regular Columns page under the title “Apologetics: Apply Liberally.” This is the fifth post in a series on the TCN program. It is also posted on his website Stand Firm.)
Last time, we took a look at a Transforming Churches Network (TCN) Consultation Report. In it, we got our first glimpse on how the actual transformation of the congregation will occur. While you might expect a Biblical transformation through the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:2), in this case you can expect a removal instead if a renewal, a removal of some of your church’s bylaws, followed by a re-engineering of your church’s structure, and lots of talk about “vision” and “accountability.”
When you, as the TCN consultant, stand up before a congregation and tell them they have the wrong focus and lack leadership and vision, and that they need to completely reshape their church structure in order to be “successful,” you might expect some resistance. However, the consultant expects that the majority of you will go along with their plan (for those of you who don’t, you’re the ones labeled as having “regressive attitudes” and are given the “left foot of fellowship“). Many of you will even jump at the chance to start remodeling, because of something called transformation.
Transformation is a process whereby change is gradually effected via certain steps that take their origin from the occult thought of George Hegel and his dialectic process. This process is used the world over to forge such things as Outcome Based Education, the New Age New World Order, Total Quality Management, socialism, the United Nations One World Government, and all sorts of business plans. The people who implement these plans are sometimes called change agents (in TCN they’re called coaches or personal trainers or pastors or facilitators). Many of the books that TCN recommends for its participating pastors to read are written by change agents, including Neil Cole, Paul Borden, John Whitmore, Dwight Marable, John Kaiser, and Peter Drucker.
In the dialectic process, a leader casts his “vision,” which the people are to follow. In order for this to happen, a close-knit group must be created, enthusiasm for the vision must be continually generated, unremitting monitoring of the progress of the group is accomplished, goals are constantly redefined, and members are held accountable for these goals. A sense of urgency is maintained to apply pressure on the group. The group is encouraged to dialogue about their thoughts (not discuss in a judgmental way, but rather dialogue in an accepting non-threatening manner). Barriers are broken down with mandatory openness, self-disclosure, and tolerance. They are encouraged to take risks in order to effect change. Subjective feelings and experience become the tools whereby common ground is discovered. The more diverse the group, the more successful the dialectic process works. An idea is mentioned (the thesis), with others presenting their ideas (the antithesis), dialogue occurs, and a group consensus is reached in a never-ending process (the synthesis) as the group moves forward. The dialectic process takes opposing views and reshapes them into a new synthesis somewhere in the middle. In the hands of a skillful facilitator, this process is repeated and manipulated until the desired outcome is reached. This procedure may be well suited for the business world and other applications, but is untenable where the truth of the Gospel is at stake. Unfortunately, the people undergoing the process don’t recognize what’s happening, and sometimes, the facilitators don’t either!
As the group is encouraged to put aside their differences for the sake of unity, it is apt to move further and further from doctrinal truth. “Accountability” is subtly emphasized in multiple ways, so that the group members constantly monitor each other, enforcing an unspoken requirement to fall into line with the group consensus, which in this case is the CGM paradigm. Those who dare question the consensus are labeled “divisive” (or “speed bumps” or “museum keepers”) and are driven out. The dialectic process is effective with most Christians. They are naturally inclined to avoid conflict out of love for their neighbor, and don’t realize that pointing our doctrinal error is done out of love for their neighbor. Some people lack proper catechesis and therefore don’t recognize falsehood. Throw in the constant societal barrage of political correctness in the form of sensitivity, inclusivity, and diversity, combined with the preplanned CGM strategy for transformation, and it’s no wonder Christians are deceived into having their church hijacked in favor of an un-Biblical model.
We saw that in the New Testament, true unity is gospel-centric. The false unity that is being promoted today is not like that. In most cases it is unity under a religious leader’s “vision.” What is meant by the term “vision” is not the same as the Biblical usage. It is used in a modern marketing sense and relates to the leader’s mental image of what he wants the product and corporation to be like in the future.
The unity that is necessary to create a church molded from the mental image of a religious leader’s dream of an optimal future is unity under the religious corporation’s vision. To fulfill the dream each piece must work together and each piece must contribute to the purposes determined by the visionary leader. The wisdom of business gurus has been mined by Christian leaders who have created religious versions to help pastors market the church.
The Herescope apologetics website, whose contributor Jewel Grewe has been on Issues, Etc., had this to say:
This type of language has entered evangelicalism like a flood. It came into the church via the business gurus and consultants. Churches have been feeling pressure to define their “mission, vision, and values.” Pastors have been told they should strive to become “visionary” leaders.
Christians are being deceived into thinking that “visioning” processes such as these are necessary to bring about the Kingdom of God. Nothing could be further than the truth!
Christian apologist Berit Kjos says:
Did you catch the difference between discussion and dialogue? A good discussion relies on facts and logic â€” solid information â€” to present a logical argument that might persuade others that something is true or right. But such a didactic discussion clashes with purposes of the dialectic group, which trains diverse minds (remember, everyone is encouraged to bring friends) to ignore offensive truths for the sake of unity. Each person must learn to share their hearts authentically, to “listen” empathically, to ignore divisive facts or Biblical standards, and to continually synthesize individual views and values into an ever evolving common ground. Naturally, this feel-good process blurs God’s dividing line between good and bad, truth and error.
Herescope also states:
“Vision” statements are usually concocted in orchestrated consensus meetings, in which foregone conclusions move people from Tradition towards Transition. During the Transition process, people normally are challenged to leave Tradition. Their “cherished assumptions” are supposed to be abandoned in order to acquire new ideas, beliefs, opinions, attitudes and values.
The dialectic process can be seen working throughout all the different venues of TCN. Triads and the small groups are prime breeding grounds for the dialectic process to take place. It occurs as the coach trains the pastor, and then as the pastor interacts with the church leaders and the congregation. The pastor is the main change agent. When he casts his “vision,” who can argue? At that point, he’s like the Blues Brothers – he’s “on a mission from God.”
The following quotes are all taken from TCN materials, and serve to illustrate the dialectic process at work in the “Mission Revitalization Process”: The pastor is to “use the pulpit to cast vision and to create a sense of urgency,” and “ensure that adequate momentum for change is harnessed.” He “creates urgency in casting vision continually; understanding and leading change.” “A pastor at some point will need to be an agent of change.” “The pastor is the initiating leader of the transformation process.” Prayer teams “focus on seeking God’s help to bring new vision and passion to our congregation….” Triad members “agree to read a section of scripture and review it, sharing questions and reactions. Then discuss difficulties, sins and obstacles to a relationship with Jesus and pray about ways to overcome these.” “I encourage members to take risks and try new things in ministry and group leadership.” “Leadership will continually insure that every member knows and is committed to carrying out the vision.” “All existing and new ideas, facility plans, programs and ministries must be evaluated in light of this vision and any that do not enable the congregation to move closer to achieving this vision shall be stopped or not implemented.” “A personal trainer must master the skills required in any problem solving situation which include the articulation of the problem, the discussion of the issues related to the problem and options for effective resolution of the problem. Often, the pastor will be able to discover the right path if a skilled personal trainer will help facilitate the journey.” “…Open communication based on trust and confidentiality are essential. Personal trainers need to be able to keep track of the issues that have been discussed so that appropriate accountability can be brought to bear in future personal training sessions.” “A personal trainer can offer tremendous help to a pastor in encouraging him to articulate his dreams and aspirations.” “Once reality has been sufficiently explored the personal trainer makes a natural shift toward creating a way forward.” “Equip the pastor to deal with roadblocks and resistance. Resistance is likely to be present as the church transitions to the Accountable Leadership model. The pastor may need your counsel and support if the threat level becomes high enough.”
As already noted, there are grave dangers here for Christians. It is important for Christians to understand and recognize the marks of the dialectic process, so they will not be duped by it. The clear meaning of Scripture is not something that can be dialogued about and interpreted. Small groups can become their own mini-church, but lacking pastoral supervision. The “vision” of the pastor is not a vision from the Holy Spirit, but rather his own “wish list.” What specifically are the doctrinal problems inherent in the TCN vision? That will be the topic of the next post, where we get into the theological meat of the discussion.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. Jeremiah 23:16 ESV
For more information on the Hegelian dialectic process:
“Small Groups and the Dialectic Process” by Berit Kjos:
“Transforming the Church Through the Dialectic” by Dean Gotcher: