Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Equipping the Cults to Deal With the Church - 07

The Indifference is Frightening

I was speaking at a church in the North East of England. As always, it was by invitation and from a church concerned that the Mormons were putting up a large building and raising their profile in the area. There was talk of widespread concern but, after a day spent travelling, I was more disappointed than surprised to be met with a very small group for the day of seminars that had been planned.

After a morning of teaching we stopped for lunch and, as I stood at the lectern tidying up my papers and trying to be philosophical about the all-too-typical turnout, a man walked up to me and expressed his regret at such a poor turnout for such an important meeting. I was encouraged that at least someone understood the need to take this ministry seriously. Imagine how I felt then when he went on, “I’m afraid I can’t stay for the afternoon session because I have some sheets on the washing line and have to bring them in”, turned around and marched out of the church. I thought of the man who said:

“’I have bought a piece of ground, I must go and see it. I beg you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I beg you, have me excused’” (Lk.14:18-19)

It breaks my heart to say that this is indeed typical. Although many Christians and Christian leaders express real concern for the growth of cults and the effect on the local church and community, there is an inexplicable and inexcusable indifference to work with the cults. It has never been a popular work, despite the fact that people mistakenly think it exotic and thrilling; nevertheless it is astonishing that Christians seem so determinedly blind to their responsibility in doing something about it.

Sometimes it is plain laziness. I got a call from the local Christian book shop and the manager, a good friend, told me of a customer who was looking for advice on how to witness to a friend who was a Mormon. Over the phone the customer explained the situation and I asked her if she had found anything useful on the bookshelves. I knew the shop and was confident that there would have been a good selection of books. She mentioned a couple of titles and I assured her that they would be very helpful. After an awkward silence she explained that she hadn’t the time to read so much. I asked if there was anything else and she mentioned a couple of smaller volumes. Again I encouraged her to buy and use one of them but again she said she felt it was all too demanding.

Finally, I asked her if there were any booklets, perhaps something by Harold J Berry, and she said that there were. Now a booklet is not the best thing but it is at least a starting point so I recommended she read that. I could almost sense here squirm as she excused herself with explanations for why even this was just too much to ask. Some Christians are just too lazy to turn up for their friends.

Sometimes it is hubris. How often I have heard leaders say “We don’t do cults!” It is as though in their arrogance they have decided it is beneath them and perhaps that the cultist deserves all he gets. Or because they won’t admit they need help in learning what to do. I knew one pastor who refused to have me speak in his church because he felt it quite unnecessary, feeling the church should be able to deal with such things without any help. Of course, the church (which includes those involved in cult ministry by the way) should be better able to deal with the cults and that is a major part of the work, i.e. equipping the church to deal with the cults. However, it is ironic that it was his church, though a previous pastor, that had so disastrously handled a plea for help from a young Mormon man (see "If These are Christians")

There is also an irony in the fact that Christians with this attitude often preach victory on a Sunday singing, “The Battle belongs to the Lord”, then hide in the bathroom on a Monday when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to call; preach grace on a Sunday singing, “Just as I am, with not one single plea”, and on Monday stand at the door berating the Mormon for not being fit for human company let alone the company of Christians, much less the company of God, haranguing him as they might the devil himself.

Why do we do it? Why are so many Christians so apparently indifferent and uncaring?

Previous posts:
If These are Christians
The problem with the Church
The Problem with Anti-Cult Ministry
The Fear is Irrational
The Prejudice is Petulant
The ignorance is Inexcusable

Future Posts:
Christians and the Magical World-view
Ambiguity Tolerance
When "They" Look at the Church

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