I learned a very important lesson during the first week of my MBA program. My professor made a point regarding a particular way to work effectively in a corporate environment. "The most important rules do not exist in a job description, a corporate hierarchy, or the legal department," he said. Then he wisely advised his students that upon entering the corporate world, they should spend the first few months discovering the unspoken or unwritten rules that dictate the “rules of the game.” Such rules might include: "Don’t get on Sally's bad side; she's the boss’s daughter from his first marriage and she can get you fired"; or "Even though the work day starts officially at 8:00 am, if you want to succeed get there at 6:30 am or you will never get a raise."
However, Jesus told us that His ways are not our ways (the ways of this world). He told us that He was the embodiment of truth. Our Father also gave us the rules of the game. We refer to them as the Bible. Unlike the mystery religions, Jesus Christ, while he dwelt among His creation, told us exactly how to be forgiven. Jesus teaches that we are to put God and others before ourselves. Camp Kanakuk calls it, “I’m third.” Selfishness and secret agendas have no place in the kingdom of God.
Whenever I joined a church, I would always read the statement of faith to make sure I agreed with the beliefs of the congregation. I would attend the prospective church's business meetings to ascertain the business practices of the church. Then, I would talk extensively with pastors and members before finally becoming a member. This method always seemed to work extremely well until I joined one particular church. This church did not define “the rules of the game” up front. To my surprise, one pastor readily admitted this unspoken reality.
In every church I joined, there was always the understanding that we would major on the majors and minor on the minors. In every evangelical church in which I was involved before this one, I had friends who were reformed, cessationists, amillenialists, charismatics, old earth creationists, homeschoolers, public schoolers, BSFers, those who believe the Nephilim were fallen angels and those who disagreed with that interpretation. How I loved the fun disagreements peppered with jokes, humility, and love. Foolish me! I thought that was how all churches functioned.
In Wade Burleson’s excellent book, Hardball Religion, he exposes the unbelievable, unbiblical direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the introduction (xv) he states, “Ironically, it is the demand for conformity on all things nonessential to the Christian faith, and a quiet submission to this demand, that is causing an historic nonconformist identity of Baptist people to be in jeopardy.” So, even in the SBC we see this change in the rules of the game. For all Southern Baptists out there, we will be reviewing this book in all of its mind-boggling detail in the coming weeks.
Once again, we go to our excellent resource, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, for some interesting examples of true stories regarding the third characteristic of spiritually abusive churches — Unspoken Rules.
You know we must never disagree with the pastor on his sermons — and if you do, you will never be trusted and never be allowed to minister in any capacity in this church.’ In this case, the unspoken rule is: Do not disagree with the church authorities — especially the pastor — or your loyalty will be suspect. Rules like this remain unspoken, because examining them in the light of mature dialogue would instantly reveal how illogical, unhealthy and anti-Christian they are. So silence becomes the fortress wall of protection, shielding the pastor’s power position from scrutiny or challenge.” (p.67)
"In some churches there is “an unwritten and unspoken rule that said, ‘It is better to be nice than honest’.”
“If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem.”
“The truth is, when people talk about problems out loud, they don't cause them, they simply expose them.” (p.68)
“Too many churches communicate this kind of shaming message: ‘The problem is not that your boundaries were crossed and violated, the problem is that you talked. If you would not have made such a big deal, everything would still be fine.’ If a person accepts that message, they will stop talking.
The real problem, however, is that if a Christian who feels violated stops talking, then the perpetrator will never be held accountable for his behavior.” (p.69)
I leave you with a couple of other examples of unspoken rules. The first one comes from survivors of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). Your blog queens are grateful to SGM and its former members for a plethora of examples to use regarding spiritual abuse. SGM and its "apostolic team" appear to be "leading the way" in developing the unusual art of spiritual tyranny. In the following example, it is important to understand that when “Fred” talks about “the church”, he is talking specifically about his former SGM church.
May 7th, 2009 at 6:30 am
Dating outside the SGM church: In my former SGM church there was an unwritten rule that you only “court” within the church. Those who dare to step outside of this boundary line (and there are those who did) are definitely frowned upon (including their parents who are frowned upon) for the most part. The reason being, the outsider has not been taught in the same way and frankly, there is the unspoken belief that all other churches are inferior.
One adult Sunday school class was working its way through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, a church recommended resource. In this book, Grudem recommends that churches allow belief in both young earth creationism and old earth creationism (note: I did not say evolution) to exist in harmony within the church. So the class decided to have a lighthearted debate on this subject utilizing excellent videos, local Christians representing each side of the issue, and respected Christian resources that examined all aspects of this issue. On the first day of what was to be a six week series, the classroom was invaded by a group of people who exhibited over-the-top anger that anything other than a strict 6,000 year creationism was being discussed. They were rude and even intimidated members of the class by throwing around worn out “proof” that one can only believe in their point of view. They were so upsetting that two of the teachers went to talk with the one of the pastors.
During this discussion, it was revealed that only one point of view was "allowed" to be taught in that church and that view was young earth creationism. He told them that one could believe another point of view and even express it within a limited class setting, but it would not be allowed outside of that setting. The children from kindergarten throughout high school and beyond were only taught that perspective of creationism. They asked the pastor why this wasn’t written anywhere in the church doctrines. His answer was astonishing! He said they didn’t put it in the written doctrines of the church because they didn’t want someone to reject this church if they found out about its strict and inflexible interpretation of creationism! They told him that it wasn’t fair not to inform prospective members about this unbending devotion to a nonessential. The two teachers said they would never have joined this church had they known about this unspoken rule. Full disclosure and transparency would have saved the church and the teachers much heartache. The pastor claimed he didn't send the ugly “posse” to the class and did not support them; however, he did nothing to stop such behavior.
There is freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, as the Calvinista movement gains momentum, we believe these stories will escalate. We believe that any church that would hide one belief might intentionally conceal others as well. If your pastors and church do not clearly communicate the “rules of the game”, it would probably be in your best interest to leave. The Calvinistas are on a mission, and NO ONE will be allowed to stand in their way!