I’ve been reluctant to take the next step, but to be true to my readers and my calling, I feel compelled to continue.
The Adventist Church, and virtually every other denomination or even independent congregation of which I am aware, is geared toward producing hollow III churches and leaders. That’s because evaluations are made on the basis of “success.” on numbers. Whether it ‘s the membership, attendance, or tithe, we assess and promote on the basis of success.
Numerous consequences follow. First of all, no institution is fond of “dark nights of the soul.’ Pastors and leaders who enter the dark night actually question success.This literally appears to be heretical to those above and below them in the organization. So institutional forces discourage and often punish the inward journey.
Necessarily, then, we end up with many in positions of leadership who are “hollow III’s,” individuals who have not found their personal identity and purpose.
These leaders will also discourage others from entering the dark night, and thus stunt the spiritual growth of any who listen. It also results in a church largely made up of those below level III, that is of those in the Romance and Discipleship stages.
In fact, in most congregations of which I have been a part, being in the Romance and Discipleship stages is the path to church office and leadership. As someone has said, people generally rise no higher than their leadership. This alone insures that most of our congregations will be stuck at levels I and II.
This explains why so many have such a negative view of Christians in the advanced world. The main examples they see are “successful” preachers. And so people ask, as the song did, “Would Jesus wear a Rolex on his television show?”
More likely they encounter Discipleship members, intent on learning, and often enforcing, all the “rules” as they understand them. This “gnat straining and camel swallowing” religion turns them off.
And those in the Romance phase seem simply delusional. If we want to have spiritually growing congregations, then we are going to have to change what we look at and what we measure. As Baptist Bob Logan warned us, “We need to change the role, the function, and the compensation of our pastors.”
Right now, we’re looking at the wrong things, and rewarding the wrong behaviors, from top to bottom. The problem is not only that we need to change, but that change will threaten Success, and perplex Disciple level believers. Indeed, if our model is correct, then leaders who attempt these changes will likely have made it to level V, the Outward Journey. And again, if our model is correct, as soon as the vast majority of Level II believers become aware of the leader’s true Level V status, they will kill him.
Having said this, is it therefore impossible to make such changes? No. We’ll explore how in future posts.