The Dangers of GroupThink

In a comment on my blog about Christian Magazines, Eric left a comment thinking I’d been a bit rough on the industry and painted with too broad a brush. I thought his comments had some validity, so I want to try to clarify that previous blog here:

Eric, Thanks for writing. I love you’re perspective and your heart. Maybe you’re right. It was a bit tough.

I certainly do not believe nor mean to intimate that folks who work for Christian magazines are evil. But this piece was not directed at individuals who work in the industry, but at the industry as a whole and how groupthink can make the subobjective of making a profit more important than helping people discover the truth of God’s work on the earth. I tried to make it clear that they don’t see it that way, and as you say are doing what they think best to spread the kingdom.

But isn’t that what is scary about it? When I was a pastor I was deeply convinced that by building my institution, I was buildilng the kingdom. My passion for God was the same then, but the groupthink of the institutional enviornment took those passions and twisted them into manipulating people with guilt and commitment, saying what would not offend even if it wasn’t quite the truth and thinking the success of the institution was more important than the growth of individuals. When the subobjective of buildling an institution replaces the key objective of living loved and loving, horrible things can happen by well-intentioned people. I wasn’t writing about anything I haven’t also experienced firsthand. And yes, that is a confession.

I wrote the original blog because of the number of people that thought I could influence Charisma to give more weight to those thinking outside the box. I know the futility of that given their readership. I don’t know the editor there at all, though I have tried to write him on a number of occasions and have never had him respond. I have LOVED a lot of his editorials that challenge religious ways of thinking. I’ve often wondered how he stays there given the overall humanistic and materialistic feel of the magazine and those it covers. I stopped reading it years ago because it beckoned the wrong motives in me.

That said, I do think there is a huge difference between people reading what I write because it resonates with them, and me writing what I write to draw the largest audience I can. Very different. Pleasing people is not a trap I hope to fall into yet again. I’ve been in that pit way too many times before. It’s muddy at the bottom and the sides are steep and slippery. There’s no way out without a firm and loving hand from above!

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6 Comments
  1. Tyler Dawn June 7, 2006 at 5:10 am

    Thanks Wayne, and no you don’t tickle my ears. I largely see two types of Christians in the world (and this is a large oversimplification) — those who read something and go “Ouch! That hurt, I’m never reading anything from this guy again. Cancel my subscription,” and those who say, “Ouch! That hurt. Lord, why did that hurt so bad? I’d better keep reading.” Instead of encouraging the latter group, most cater to the first group.

    That isn’t to say that every writing has to fall into that category, I have read some wonderfully life affirming stuff out there that has edified me greatly and the Lord has used it to reassure me during dark days. But He does His real work when my soul rises up in offense to His scalpel, and yet I submit to the pain and healing it brings. When I hurt, when I am offended, I know there is still work to be done and I am grateful for the revelation, although maybe not right away. Unfortunately, you can’t run a business that way and maybe that is why nowhere in the scriptures do you find any commands or authorisation to profit from the scriptures. Anything we profit from immediately becomes a commodity, as humans we cannot help but have it be that way. I look at the book of Malachi as a grave warning to those who would profit from the gospel of God through any worldly means. This is not to say that there are not genuine servants out there, but it takes an incredibly humble servant to survive in such a world. The apostles, if anyone had the right to do so, could have profited but didn’t. These men didn’t live in luxury, or even in comfort, and died with literally nothing but Christ, subsisting from day to day not on a salary, but on whatever the Lord felt they should have. Sometimes they had much and sometimes little, but it didn’t change their message. We should all be humbled by their example.

  2. Tyler Dawn June 7, 2006 at 8:10 am

    Thanks Wayne, and no you don’t tickle my ears. I largely see two types of Christians in the world (and this is a large oversimplification) — those who read something and go “Ouch! That hurt, I’m never reading anything from this guy again. Cancel my subscription,” and those who say, “Ouch! That hurt. Lord, why did that hurt so bad? I’d better keep reading.” Instead of encouraging the latter group, most cater to the first group.

    That isn’t to say that every writing has to fall into that category, I have read some wonderfully life affirming stuff out there that has edified me greatly and the Lord has used it to reassure me during dark days. But He does His real work when my soul rises up in offense to His scalpel, and yet I submit to the pain and healing it brings. When I hurt, when I am offended, I know there is still work to be done and I am grateful for the revelation, although maybe not right away. Unfortunately, you can’t run a business that way and maybe that is why nowhere in the scriptures do you find any commands or authorisation to profit from the scriptures. Anything we profit from immediately becomes a commodity, as humans we cannot help but have it be that way. I look at the book of Malachi as a grave warning to those who would profit from the gospel of God through any worldly means. This is not to say that there are not genuine servants out there, but it takes an incredibly humble servant to survive in such a world. The apostles, if anyone had the right to do so, could have profited but didn’t. These men didn’t live in luxury, or even in comfort, and died with literally nothing but Christ, subsisting from day to day not on a salary, but on whatever the Lord felt they should have. Sometimes they had much and sometimes little, but it didn’t change their message. We should all be humbled by their example.

  3. Wendy June 7, 2006 at 9:15 am

    Wayne, thanks for clearing this up. Your blog about Christian magazines seemed more generalized, and thus, less gentler and fair towards the “other side” than most of your posts are. That bugged me (although I was willing to give you a pass on the premise that everyone has an off day) but I’m glad to see the problem was that you just didn’t communicate your thoughts clearly enough initially. That’s why dialogue is so important, so that we get the proper message the communicant intended. Thanks again!

  4. Aida Calder June 7, 2006 at 10:16 am

    I read the previous blog and comments and like Eric I thought it was a bit harsh. However, that being said, I am not a fan of Charisma magazine. Several months ago, I decided not to renew my subscription since I no longer felt that the articles were helpful. I feel my time would be better spent doing things that are for me more profitable, such as reading the Jake Colsen book which I’ve probably read at least 6 times and will read again. Also, listening to your SuperDisc and a set of tapes that Brad sent me on hearing God’s voice. These have been more helpful and life giving than any Christian magazine that I’ve read.

    I’m learning to understand those that feel threatened by believers who serve God outside of the box. I look back at myself a few years ago and I didn’t think any differently than they do. I questioned how committed anyone was who wasn’t sitting in their row on Sunday mornings. I also went through a period of pastor worship. Boy, that’s embarrassing to admit!

    My hope and prayer for these brothers and sisters is that they might come to experience the freedom in Christ that I’m learning to live in.

  5. Wendy June 7, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    Wayne, thanks for clearing this up. Your blog about Christian magazines seemed more generalized, and thus, less gentler and fair towards the “other side” than most of your posts are. That bugged me (although I was willing to give you a pass on the premise that everyone has an off day) but I’m glad to see the problem was that you just didn’t communicate your thoughts clearly enough initially. That’s why dialogue is so important, so that we get the proper message the communicant intended. Thanks again!

  6. Aida Calder June 7, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    I read the previous blog and comments and like Eric I thought it was a bit harsh. However, that being said, I am not a fan of Charisma magazine. Several months ago, I decided not to renew my subscription since I no longer felt that the articles were helpful. I feel my time would be better spent doing things that are for me more profitable, such as reading the Jake Colsen book which I’ve probably read at least 6 times and will read again. Also, listening to your SuperDisc and a set of tapes that Brad sent me on hearing God’s voice. These have been more helpful and life giving than any Christian magazine that I’ve read.

    I’m learning to understand those that feel threatened by believers who serve God outside of the box. I look back at myself a few years ago and I didn’t think any differently than they do. I questioned how committed anyone was who wasn’t sitting in their row on Sunday mornings. I also went through a period of pastor worship. Boy, that’s embarrassing to admit!

    My hope and prayer for these brothers and sisters is that they might come to experience the freedom in Christ that I’m learning to live in.

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