Ten Rules to Revival or Ruination?

Or “How to Develop a Cult Mentality in Your Congregation”

    Some churches are publishing and promoting from the pulpit “Ten Rules” to follow when confronted by “facts” or “rumors” in a church setting. (See the April 30, 2000, The Hills Newsletter, Indian Hills Community Church, Lincoln, NE; Gil Rugh, senior pastor.) The fact that the word “rule” has so many definitions is the first drawback of having “Ten Rules.” Are the Ten Rules authoritative regulations, guidelines, or merely suggestions?   They sound more like regulations than guidelines or suggestions.

      A second drawback of promulgating the Ten Rules by church leadership is that most Christians are reluctant to be Bereans and too readily leave discernment to the church leaders. The Ten Rules taught by the church leadership will sound like ex cathedra pronouncements to be followed rather than teachings to be tried by the Word of God. There is already too much unbiblical leadership/laity division. The Ten Rules will exacerbate that chasm and further intimidate those Christians who are not in the inner circle of “leadership.”

      Additionally, the Ten Rules contain serious errors both in what is said and what is implied—serious questions about leadership versus rulership and about serving versus intimidating. These Rules are pontifically promulgated without one Bible verse presented to support any of them. This is because there are no Bible verses to support any of them.

      These Ten Rules are a sure way to quash questions rather than to open dialogue. Having the need to promote these Rules in a church is a sure sign of weakness in the leadership ranks and an indication that there may be trouble in the church that the leadership is not able to handle.

      This response to the Ten Rules is predicated upon certain Scriptures. If one accepts these Scriptures and what they reveal, then the Ten Rules will be rejected as a viable means of leading the church: 

The first Scripture is Acts 17:10-11, where we see that the Bereans “received the word with all readiness of mind,” but they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” For this reason, the Bereans were said to be “more noble than those in Thessalonica.” Christians need to be encouraged to be like Bereans and not to follow blindly what is taught or what is thought just because it comes from the leadership of the church.

The second Scripture is from the Apostle Peter, in which he says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The Reformers referred to this as the priesthood of all believers.

A third Scripture is from 1 John 4:1: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Believers must discern according to the Scriptures whether the source is Biblical or not, and every pastor should encourage believers to do so.

A fourth Scripture exhorts Christians to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

A fifth Scripture is found in Galatians 2:11-14, where we read Paul rebuked Peter “to the face” and “before them all.”

      Pastors and church  leaders do serve in church offices designated in the Bible. That is not in question here. How these leaders function in these Biblically designated offices is the issue. Those in church offices must be servants to those whom they lead and not tyrants, whether benevolent or not. Every Christian has certain Scriptural obligations, but too many avoid their Biblically mandated responsibilities and permit the pastors and other leaders to function like a priestly class between God and the people.

      While the promoters of the Ten Rules may say that they are about the operation of the church and not about doctrine or Biblical principles, the fact is that one cannot separate the two. Note also  in Acts 6 that the Grecians brought up an issue “because their widows were neglected.” This was a legitimate complaint that had Biblical implications and was Biblically resolved to the satisfaction of all. The Grecians were not intimidated into silence by a leadership allowing no questions.

      While in a few churches the use of these Rules may result in Biblical conduct in the operation of the church, and may even result in solving internal issues and preventing apostasy from entering the church, such Rules, whether stated or not, function in the overwhelming majority of churches to block the needed involvement of its most discerning members by intimidating them into silence. These Ten Rules (whether printed or not) operating in a church are often a wide doorway to apostasy, heresy, and aberrant teachings. Churches operating under the Ten Rules will, in the main, sooner or later be infected with ecumenism and lack of Biblical separation from the world and false doctrines.

      Keep the preceding in mind while reading the Ten Rules along with comments and suggested rule replacements for leadership: 

Rule 1:

     “Do not believe all that you hear, no matter how credible the purported source. If you have not heard the ‘information’ from the pulpit or read about it in church publications, withhold judgment. If there is necessary news for the congregation, it will be shared at the appropriate time.” 

Rule 1 Comment:
     This rule sounds eerily like one that would come from a cult leader, not an evangelical pastor. The words “from the pulpit,” “church publications,” and “shared at the appropriate time” are keys to this rule. If Christians in a local church body are hearing news, and particularly from a credible source, it’s already an indication that the leadership has functioned too slowly. The appropriate time for leadership to share news is before it gets spread around, and especially from credible sources. The church is a body that should be functioning together, not two or more separate entities divided according to position or influence. All Christians who are part of a fellowship are responsible for what goes on in that fellowship.  

Rule 1 Replacement:
To prevent misinformation and stories from occurring, leadership should provide factual information about important matters regarding the church as immediately as possible. 

Rule 2:
      “Understand that only a few people should know all the facts. These people are the Board of Elders and the Senior Pastor. They are therefore also in the position to explain the church’s position.” 

Rule 2 Comment:
      Again, this smacks of cult mentality, not true Christian leadership. If “all the facts” refer to private, unrelated-to-the-church business (i.e., personal information that should be kept confidential to protect certain persons), then having “only a few” people “know all the facts” would be understandable. However, the congregation must be given as much available information as possible so that they can exercise discernment regarding a matter. Too little shared information is the rule in most churches and gives the aura of a clandestine operation.

Rule 2 Replacement:
      The leadership should provide as many of the facts as possible to all in the congregation and do it as rapidly as possible so that believers can Biblically consider and evaluate church matters and not be in the dark or blind-sided if a serious matter becomes public. 

Rule 3:
      “Accept the fact that just because all the facts are not made known,  that does not mean the leaders are conspiring to protect themselves.” 

Rule 3 Comment:
      If there is a failure to reveal “all the facts,” then explain the reasons why, or suspicions of conspiracy or underhandedness will naturally arise.  

Rule 3 Replacement:
      Leadership should explain why some of the facts are not being made known. Logical reasons explained to the congregation will prevent suspicions of the leaders “conspiring to protect themselves.” 

Rule 4:
      “Understand that details (or pressed-for information) regarding a given situation may be interesting, but it does nothing to change reality and may in fact increase the difficulty for others. Therefore, do not expect the nitty-gritty to be publicly discussed.” 

Rule 4 Comment:
      The leadership needs to explain why details are omitted and how such details “may in fact increase the difficulty for others.” Also, an explanation is needed for why the “nitty-gritty” cannot be “publicly discussed.” 

Rule 4 Replacement:
      Unless a rational and clear reason can be given to the contrary, all details, including the nitty-gritty ones, should be provided to the congregation by the leadership. Too often leadership arbitrarily decides to withhold more than is necessary, resulting in questions and confusion leading to suspicion. 

Rule 5:

      “Understand that financial matters are always a concern to the leadership. Long-term solutions are usually chosen over short-term ones, and it does little good to instill panic or distress in the people over matters that are beyond their responsibility.” 

Rule 5 Comment:
      This “it’s none of your business” attitude is also typical of cult leadership that attempts to control what is thought, when it is thought, or if it is to be thought at all. Because many in the congregation tithe and wish to be good stewards of what the Lord has given them, a position of full disclosure and open financial ledgers it absolutely essential to encourage confidence in what the leadership is doing. The continual practice of withholding information and financial secrecy will logically lead to suspicion and withholding of tithes. 

Rule 5 Replacement:
      Understand that financial matters are always a concern to members of a local body of believers. In order to avoid “panic or distress,” leadership should demonstrate to the congregation how the long-term solutions are chosen and the short-term ones ignored. Share the financial responsibility with the congregation. Instilling trust in the area of finances will encourage believers to trust the leadership and cooperate with their decisions. 

Rule 6:

      “Accept the fact that there are many ways of doing something, whether it be how finances are managed, or how difficult changes in the ministry are accomplished.” 

Rule 6 Comment:
      For those who ask, an explanation of the many ways of financing and why one way was selected over another and of the difficulties of changes in the ministry related to the finances should be available. 

Rule 6 Replacement:
      Explanations for the complexities of finances and the reasons for selecting one way or another should be openly available. Changes in the ministry affect programs, staff, and participants and should be announced in advance, thereby permitting those in the congregation who are affected to ask questions and receive answers. 

Rule 7:

      “The leadership, over the years, has spent much time ascertaining the facts in many situations. When the staff is divided the facts become supremely elusive. Therefore, do not believe the ‘facts’ from any source, unless the leadership confirms them.” 

Rule 7 Comment:
      Again, this sounds like a rule designed by a cult leader in order to keep his flock in total dependence and in complete subjection. The idea that only the leadership can ascertain the facts and is the final source of confirming them communicates an extreme lack of confidence in many in the congregation who are as spiritually mature as those in leadership and who may have better experience in the areas where decisions are made. 

Rule 7 Replacement:
      Avoid giving the congregation a choice between believing the staff and the leadership and avoid making the leadership the sole true source of information. 

Rule 8:

      “When there is disunity on the church staff, there will be confusion in the church body. In these cases, simply follow the Senior Pastor.”

 Rule 8 Comment:
      Wow! “Give me some of that Kool-Aid, Mr. Jim Jones.” “Please tell me what to believe, Mr. Koresh.” To “simply follow the Senior Pastor” without question and without information would require believers to set aside their own discernment and their own spiritually maturing experiences, which would be an abrogation of responsibility on their part. 

Rule 8 Replacement:
      When there is “disunity on the church staff” do not “simply follow the Senior Pastor,” but rather gather information, pray, and fast if necessary to discern what God would have you do. Remember, when you stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, you will NOT be able to blame your actions (or inaction, as the case may be) on the leadership of your local church.

Rule 9:

     “Perhaps this should be the first rule: Make an unqualified commitment to the church, its leadership and trust the Lord to work out things that are not understood.” 

Rule 9 Comment:
     At best, this sounds like what the Roman Catholic church would have their parishioners do. At worst, this sounds like the group commitment required of cult members.  In addition, many times “things ... are not understood” precisely because the leadership has not only withheld the information necessary for understanding, but it has intimidated the flock into silence by implying that anyone asking questions is being disloyal (see Rule 10).

Rule 9 Replacement:
      Leadership should make an unqualified commitment to God and His Word and trust Him to bring discernment though prayer so that “things that are not understood” will become clear, and then fully explain the reasons for an action to the congregation so that they can commit to the church and its leadership. 

Rule 10:
“Lastly, pray that your contribution would be to ‘build up,’ not ‘destroy’ this local body. Commit to and trust the leaders, believe in God’s watchful care and discount the rumors.” 

Rule 10 Comment:
      A connection is made between “‘build up’ and not ‘destroy’ this local body” and “Commit to trust the leaders.” Once again, cults often associate any questioning of leadership with disloyalty. Many times, though, blindly committing to and trusting the leaders would be contrary to God’s Word and clear doctrinal teachings, not evidence of  building up and submitting to “God’s watchful care.” 

Rule 10 Replacement:
      Put God and His Word first, follow the doctrines of Scripture, and make sure the leadership is doing likewise so that God can be glorified among His people and His church can be built up. 

      If pastors train people to follow without information and knowledge, they are training them to shirk their responsibility to grow in wisdom, discernment, and understanding. Who knows where the next person in the pulpit may lead them, if they are accustomed to following the leader because the leader says so. These Rules will encourage Christians to remain babes, letting someone else be responsible for their thinking and acting. Is this not the stuff that cults are made of?

      In contrast, Jesus said to make disciples—learners. Each believer has the Holy Spirit in him to guide him with the Word of God. Believers are to grow through  having “their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:15).

      While the early church had offices (elders and deacons) and gifts (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers), an example of the extremity can be seen in the unbiblical hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church—the ultimate in cult-like thinking. Although the Roman Catholic hierarchy would be criticized by those in the professing evangelical church of today, it is often subtly duplicated. While the offices and gifts must function in the church, there is an overriding need for the church to be a priesthood of all believers. The thinking implied in the “Ten Rules” is the antithesis of the Biblical model.

      Pastors and church leaders are familiar with Romans 12 and other Scriptures in regard to members having “differing” gifts and in regard to their use in the church. However, too many pastors and too many churches function dogmatically according to a version of the Ten Rules. These Ten Rules in most churches are Ten Rules to ruination of the church rather than revival, and will more often lead to the development of a cult mentality in the congregation that follows them.

      One must seriously question the wisdom of any pastor who would promote the “Ten Rules.” It is a sign of weakness in leadership, not strength, that would require God’s people to blindly follow—asking no questions, receiving no answers. 

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 6/2000