Wednesday, April 09, 2014
A reader wrote recently to say that my previous post (No ‘I’ in ‘CHURCH’–How American Evangelicalism Gets Its Pronouns Wrong) mirrored the collectivist thinking found in error-ridden cults and the teachings of New Age gurus. While I would argue that the actual teachings of such people are, in fact, largely about self-actualization rather than group actualization, if there is any guilt here, it is by association alone (ha, ha).I think Dan is right in his distinction of self-actualization and group actualization. I wonder what lies at the heart of it? I have been thinking on this a lot lately, about why groups, particular small groups work, and why they don't. One must start by asking just what they are. Some act like confessionals, some like educational groups and many like psycho-therapeutic groups.
Here is truth: The entire narrative of Scripture is geared to a group. The story of God working is a story of Him working among a people. If anything, the words of Scripture should disabuse us of any notion that at the heart of it is the individual. What God is doing in the world has always been a “group project,” and if anything, the individual finds his or her truest expression of fullness only within a group.
Certainly there is a place for confession in the church, it is much needed. But if that is the purpose of a small group, then the members ought be trained on how to receive a confession. Too often we hear a fellow group member confess and we respond in a psycho-therapeutic model when we should respond in a spiritual one.
Likewise, there is a need for serious Christian education; however, that means the group needs to have a designated educator. Too often, in an effort to be egalitarian, the group had no designated leader and everyone just ends up feeding off of everyone else's ignorance.
Finally, psychotherapy is a wonderful and useful thing, but it should be practiced, even int he group setting by professionals. Amateurs do it amateurishly. Then there is the fact that psychotherapy, useful as it is is a human based means of healing, not a spiritual one. It can impede the operation of the Holy Spirit.
Dan's right, but we have a lot to learn about what it means to be in a group.
Holy Spirit psychotherapy small groups