Think about what I am saying, for the Lord will enable you to understand everything.2Ti 2:7
Spirit vs. Name
Based on a sermon by Kris Vallotton, I started thinking about denominationalism vs. apostleship. Just as he did, I want to make sure that I will not be talking about denominations vs. apostolic networks, but about the spirit of denominationalism that can be found in many apostolic networks as well vs. the spirit of apostleship that is in some denominations just as it is in some networks. A name does not make a spirit.
What am I talking about?
When we look at the history of the church, we can easily see a great deal of splits. The catholic church split three times in its history, protestantism split the first time only a few years into its history when the Anabaptists left mainstream pro-testament, excuse me, protestant church. And since then, one cannot count the splits—in the US alone, there are way over 20’000 denominations.
Why all those splits? All of them can historically be traced to disagreements. Some disagreements made it necessary to split, some are just convenient. Especially the latter are a problem.
When disagreement is the reason for splits, that has some implications. To have a disagreement, two people need an opinion each. To have an opinion, one needs to think. Maybe he thinks wrongly, but an opinion comes from thinking. To prevent opinions forming and therefore disagreements and in last consequence splits, there is only one remedy: forbid thinking!
Let’s put it differently: if what holds us together is agreement, then, to keep it that way, we have to keep our people from thinking. We form hierarchies, and thinking is done only at the top. That is the spirit of denominationalism, no matter whether the person at the top is called pope, senior pastor, or apostle.
It is so different in apostleship. Apostleship sees everybody as an integral, gifted part of the whole. We are a people of kings and priests. Everybody is a part of the body of Christ. We are brothers and sisters, a family in Christ, not only in our speech, but in our heart.
Families do not bond because they believe the same and agree on things. They bond because they are family. They did not choose the family, but God did for them. Maybe, in the natural, they would never connect with the other family members, but God.
Family ties endure and overcome disagreements. That means, we can have opinions and therefore are allowed to think.
On the contrary, we need to think. Thinking allows us to grow, as we can deepen our believe, strengthen our gifts, and build relationships through it. Relationships become stronger, because we love each other, not because we are not challenged by the other.
Of course, we have to change out thinking, think from the right place, seated in heaven on the throne with Christ to reign. Think with the mind of Christ.
How do we change our thinking? Actually, by thinking. We read the word of God and believe it. Reading involves thinking, believing as well. We express our faith and hopes, which involves thinking. We have feelings, which is an act of expressing subconscious thoughts through another outlet, and therefore triggered by thinking. To think is essential. To disallow thinking is deadly.
But man has been trained forever to have puppet masters tell him what to do. It started in the garden. God created man with free will—which is only possible if man thinks, and is expressed in opinions. The god of this world though took over the thinking part for man and manipulated him into thinking his way. The first puppet master.
For a long time, man has been trained to fit in. Some upper class, some oligarchs, some called cast, or pure peer pressure made us behave the way we were intended to. Some call this the mammoth, because in early times, when survival was dependent on ones tribe, when hunting a mammoth needed all men to cooperate, you better fit in. Misbehaving carried the danger of being outcast from the tribe, and left for sure death. Did you ever hunt a mammoth on your own?
Therefore we trained ourselves to behave as expected. Expected by who ever we wanted to belong to. Belonging in a hunting society was defined not as much by family ties as much as by performance. Playing your part. A consequence of the fall, in essence.
Thus, trained well, man does not need an outward puppet master to behave. The old familiar patterns and strategies to belong are deeply rooted in our thinking. We become our own puppet masters. We behave the way we think we are expected to.
Not that our times really demand this any longer. Or let’s say, they demand it less and less of us. Diversity in culture helps as much as the fact that we do not have to hunt our own food any longer, and if we have to, we have the necessary tools that make it less and less vital to have a tribe to succeed.
But still, we want to belong, and therefore behave. Or—and that is essentially the same—we want to rebel, and therefore misbehave. Let’s call the agency that makes us do that the mammoth.
Doing what the mammoth wants is dangerous as it actually feeds the mammoth. It becomes stronger and stronger as the behavioural patterns become more engrained into our brain.
Taming the Mammoth
The mammoth therefore is fed by the opinion of others. Maybe not directly, but at least by what we think others expect from us. Whether it is self-induced or learned behaviour and thinking from experience does not matter.
Taming the mammoth can only be done one way. Think differently.
Rebelling against downtrodden paths—as we have seen—is no solution, as it is only reacting, just as behaving as expected is. It feeds the mammoth.
Building ones own opinion and acting on it with boldness, finding, or even better, developing ones own voice tames the mammoth. That is—work. Hard work.
Does opinion building and taming the mammoth exclude others? By no means. It just changes our framework, our reasoning about why we listen to them. While we used to listen to them to belong, we now listen to them to grow. We gather information, evaluate it, and distill our own revelation from it.
The one person that from the beginning wanted to have a partnership with us as responsible counterparts is God. He gave us all we need to have our own opinion and become all that he envisioned us to be: a mind, a free will, relationships, and all the information necessary. All of it has been challenged in the fall, but restored on the cross.
We have free access to all information needed. Our most important relationship has been fixed—we have free access to God. He includes us into his family, and we therefore have others to run our ideas and believes by for sanity checks within the heavenly framework of reasoning. We have the Bible, the Spirit, Christ in us. And we have free will and a brain. Let’s use it.
God will not ask us whether we fed the mammoth well. He will ask us whether we became what he intended for us.
Ready to think?