Faith: May 2005 Archives

Dory of Wittenberg Gate has an excellent post up about manipulative people and the harm they can do in a church, particularly when they are in leadership:

Even more problematic, though, is when the controlling personality in the church is a member of the pastoral staff or the lay leadership. The lay couple I described above had no authority in the church, though they apparently thought they did. Most people in the congregation were able to simply ignore them when they became obnoxious. But a pastor or church officer does have real authority, and where there is real authority, there is the possibility of abuse or misuse of that power. There is also the opportunity to shape the culture and group dynamic that prevails in that congregation.

I think it is important to note that a manipulative leader can create a cult-like dynamic in a church that is not cultish or heretical in its doctrine, but rather well within the range of what would be considered the historic Christian faith. There may be an unbalanced emphasis on certain doctrines, such as an attitude that emphasizes works at the expense of grace, or an emphasis on such things as submitting to authority and giving financially to the church in a sacrificial way.

On the next post on this topic, I will write about the warning signs that we can look for when looking for a new church, or evaluating one we have already joined. In this post, though, I want to discuss the common characteristics of a controlling personality.

Dory provides a long list of characteristics, with a description and example of each, and there is a good discussion going on in the comments.

The second post in the series -- warning signs to watch for when considering joining a church -- is here.

Congratulations to Lawton, Oklahoma, pastor and blogger John Owen Butler for getting a mention in a Business Week article on religious podcasting. John's podcast can be found at, and it features recordings of the singing of the Psalms by choirs from around the world.

His latest entry is Psalm 98, set to the tune "Desert," a joyous tune I've also heard used for the hymn "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing." (The tune is Common Meter, so it could be used for a vast number of hymns.)

It's been a summer tradition for Oklahoma Baptist teenagers, going back almost 90 years, to spend a week in the hottest part of Oklahoma, in the hottest part of the summer, sitting on hard wooden benches and sweltering in an immense open-air tabernacle to sing hymns and choruses and hear the Word of God preached. My parents first met there as teenagers. I went three times to Falls Creek Baptist Assembly as a camper, once as a sponsor. While the cabins where campers ate and slept were renovated and air conditioned over the years, the tabernacle remained open on the sides, with only some big fans to try to make a breeze on a still summer evening. (The fans had to be turned off when the choir was singing, as they would have inhaled some of the more petite vocalists.)

The preaching and singing will continue, but the old tabernacle at Falls Creek Conference Center south of Davis is being replaced with an air conditioned auditorium with theater-style seats. The wooden benches, up to 20 years old, covered in graffiti, and ranging in size from four to twelve feet, are being auctioned off. Unfortunately for old campers, the auction house does not provide a searchable index of doodles, so the odds are slim of you finding the bench where you and your sweetheart de la semaine proclaimed your everlasting love with a penknife.

There's an opportunity for graffiti of a sort in the new auditorium, but it's only the one chance and it'll run you $500. For that price, you can "save a seat" and have it inscribed with the text of your choice. You could commemorate your conversion, remember a departed loved one, or honor your church. I suppose a camper could still get an inscription in the time-honored form AB+CD, but $500 is a bit much to pay and a brass plaque is a bit permanent for what may turn out to be wistful memories of the girl you surreptitiously held hands with during the sermon. It might be worth it, though, if that week-long romance turned into 44 years (and counting) of marriage, as it did for a couple I know.

(Found via the dead-tree version of the Baptist Messenger.)

You're encouraged to carve your favorite Falls Creek memories in the comments.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from May 2005.

Faith: April 2005 is the previous archive.

Faith: June 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]