Monday, January 9, 2012

The Preparation, the Novice, and the Tool

"Worth ten years of experience"
  That which passes for “the ministry” in the world of NTCC has a twisted and distorted aspect. The lower ranks are persuaded that the “Church-World” has grown soft and that the True Church needs men with backbone and a tough, thick skin. They believe as strongly as they do in the importance of toughness because their only real value to the organization lies in their willingness to obey and to accept harsh correction from their superiors who occupy the upper levels in the “chain of command”. Thus, they are conditioned to accept the preeminence of toughness, which leads them to overlook behaviors that are decidedly other than Christian. This is how a politically motivated class of preachers has taken charge of the group and put the gospel in a chokehold while they grasp for success and the attainment of personal ambition. When a leader shouts at his subordinates, when he bullies and pushes them, when he teaches them to treat the gospel as a business, his practices are accepted by malleable souls who are convinced that the great need for today’s Christian is the ability to accept harsh treatment without becoming “offended”.
  The purpose of the Seminary has become blurred by details, but the fog can be penetrated if one is willing to see. Ultimately, there are a few important goals, and these are best delineated by paying close attention to the classes personally taught by RW Davis. These classes are promoted as the equivalent of ten years of experience in the pulpit. Once known as The Advanced School of Theology, they are lessons in How to Win Friends and Influence People, a laboratory of Self-Esteem doctrine with personal financial success as the carrot. Though not expressly stated (for obvious reasons), the implication is: You can become rich off the ministry business, and here is how it’s done. The key is to emulate the Leader of the group and to lead with a clenched fist, using threats of damnation and getting more and more effort out of the people to whom you are supposed to be ministering, but who are really nothing more than stepping stones on your path to success in the Church Game.
  While you are absorbing these lessons, you are simultaneously learning to accept scathing correction, and to believe that any disagreement with the top leadership is ultimately an act of rebellion against God. The corporate structure re-creates quite successfully the boardrooms of the unrighteous mammon, with closed-door sessions resembling a form of heavy-handed wall-to-wall counseling between a CEO and his sales team, thundering disapproval and demanding better results. “Successful” ministers are those who get the most out of other people and pull in the most cash, and those who rise through the ranks learn to watch their backs. Hardness becomes the coin of the realm.
  Seminary students rarely find sufficient time for study and Bible reading, and most do not read their Bibles while enrolled. This fits the program very well, since they are not learning to minister, but are being taught, in an unrecognized school staffed by unqualified teachers, to succeed in the Church Game through Busy-ness.
  When they are finally released upon the unsuspecting world, these young and enthusiastic preachers are flush with the perception that they carry with them the antidote for sin and compromise, that all other churches in the city of their choosing are inadequate for the purposes of God in the lives of its citizens. They are novices of the faith and wholly unprepared for the task of ministering to souls, yet are buoyed by the exhortation, “Let no man despise thy youth.” This out-of-context imperative enlivens the hopes of many youthful pulpiteers who aspire to be leaders of other men and their families. Their hearers will soon find themselves under the influence of someone who has imbibed the Davis Theology, which states: “Push, and people will move. If they do not move, you do not need them. If they push back, they will be dealt with.”
  From time to time, these young preachers will receive visits from regional overseers whose experiences will prove invaluable. These upper-echelon leaders know that the way to succeed in the Church business is to push people, to get into their personal lives, to demand more from them. They realize there is a way to realize rich financial rewards through the pulpit, and have often leveled their gaze at the novice and tried very tactfully to explain “how it’s done”, often prefacing their couched remarks with the introductory, “Let me share something that might help you.”
  There must be no mistake; as a prospective minister of NTCC, the ministry is a business, and the growth of the organization will be your primary purpose. If you are satisfied with a feeble education and to be plugged into a direct-marketing-style pyramid scheme, then New Testament Christian Seminary should suit your tastes quite nicely. However, if you have any sensitivity at all, if you wish to avoid the corruption and hardness that have taken the place of Christianity, you may wish to re-think your decision to attend. These closing words, from the mouth of JH Olson, the group’s current CEO, reveal something of the tacit priority of success as defined by numbers: “You may say to me, ‘But preacher, did not Hudson Taylor labor for seven years in China before winning a single soul to Christ?’ Well, that may be, but remember this… You are not Hudson Taylor.” The implication thus stated is that you as a representative of NTCC are not allowed that kind of time. You are a salesman, a mere tool of the organization, and results are the only things that count.
This is the final article in the series entitled “What Can I Expect From New Testament Christian Seminary? 

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