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MK forum • View topic - Unquestioning obedience: What are the chances?

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:17 pm 
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"Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to. Some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living, and it is only the person dwelling in isolation who is not forced to respond, with defiance or submission, to the commands of others. For many people, obedience is a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed a potent impulse orverriding training in ethics, sympathy and moral conduct." Obedience to Authority, by Stanley Milgram, New York: Harper and Row, 1974, cited in When Killing is a Crime, by Tony Waters, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007, page 188

Stanley Milgram, author of the above quote, did a famous experiment where he found that he could get 65% of his subjects to obey a white-lab-coat telling them to administer an electric shock to a third person, even when the subjects believed the shock was causing real pain or had the potential to kill the third person. It behooves us to ask ourselves where we would rate. Not where we would like to rate, but actually rate. The odds are against us.

The Bible has an important warning for us: "Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." I Cor 10.12 Ouch. I find that I can easily identify with Peter: Not I, Lord. My performance, however, may often match Peter's as well. Or, maybe a little less.

Questioning leadership in NTM was (is?) almost always seen as defiance. I have had the experience of asking questions of leadership, only to be challenged on my lack of trust in them. "Do you have a 'thing' about leadership?" This, from people who encouraged us to take our concerns to them, rather than discuss these things among ourselves or, worse yet, with those affectionately known as "outsiders." I am a slow learner, so it took multiple instances of rebuke to catch on that questions were not welcomed.

Yet, look what happens when questions are NOT asked! Read the testimonies of Tina Sayers and Tuti Hess (http://fandaeagles.com/2009/06/timeline-of-events/comment-page-1/#comment-12733) and weep. And, put yourself in their shoes; chances are, I would have reacted the same. Wouldn't you?

In fact, I may well have already done so. I recall one instance on the NTM field of Thailand where a family was quickly, quietly sent back to the States and we were all told, "Do not talk about this and do not ask any questions." You will not be surprised to learn that this was not talked about, and to the best of my knowledge, no questions were ever asked. Not even by me.

I used to hold this up as an example of what a fine field we had; we had enough trust in our leadership that, in spite of our various differences, we were obedient when it really mattered. Now, I admit, I am afraid to learn the truth. I fit right in with Prof. Milgram's 65%. What have we done? What am I a party to? As a follower, I think I didn't do very well.

When to speak up, when to be quiet. When to obey, when to walk out. No one is going to get it right every time. But, if we err, let's do it on the side of safety, kindness, openness, justice.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 10:39 am 
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We should never abrogate our responsibility to listen to the voice of God.

Sometimes the voice of others can be so wrong. Look at Job's friends. Before I read the last chapters of Job and what God had to say, I had a difficult time understanding what was wrong with what they said. They sounded pretty good to me--still do in some areas. However, I knew that God said they were off track, and that was enough for me.

There are times when the Holy Spirit tells us others are off track, and we don't know why, but we need to trust the Spirit within us.

You are right, nobody gets it right 24/7; however, if we wait upon the Lord, when something isn't sitting right, then we can be confident that He will lead us.

The hard part is when what is revealed to us by the Spirit is contrary to those to whose authority we have submitted to, especially when the stakes seem high in harkening to God rather than men.

I was raised to be obedient. When I became a Christian, my obedience transferred to Lord rather than my unsaved family. That seemed pretty black and white. When I put myself under obedience to those I thought were mature, spiritual leadership, I tended to put what they said first. What did I know? It is ironic, as I think about it, because in doing so I was still allowing others to come between me and God. Should always be God first, then others.

There is a certain sense where we want to turn off our brain and be mute followers either out of fear or spiritual laziness. I say "we" because I don't think my situation is unique.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:19 am 
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Would this be a good rule of thumb? The best time to doubt and raise questions is when told to "trust us" or "don't ask any questions."

To pick a recent secular example, clients of Bernie Madoff would have spared themselves a lot of grief (and saved some money) had they not unquestioningly trusted him! How much of the present distress would have been avoided had we all been less trusting of established leadership, especially when they demanded our trust?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 1:35 am 
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More information about the Milgram experiment can be found here:
http://intruthandlove.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/follow-the-leader/


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:22 am 
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Thanks, Gene, for starting this topic.

One of the scariest things about our implicit trust in authority--that is, besides the fact that average, well-meaning people are capable of murder--is the human defense mechanism. When we're accused of doing something wrong, we want to pin the blame on someone else (it's Adam & Eve all over again). Human nature tempts us to transfer/diffuse responsibility for bad decisions, and its especially easy to get away with this in a large organization like NTM where responsibility is tossed around like a hot potato until it's buried and forgotten, or where enough smoke & mirrors obscure the issue into everlasting oblivion.

By the way, thanks for posting the blog link. :D


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 4:30 pm 
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@apg: Your comment, "When we're accused of doing something wrong, we want to pin the blame on someone else (it's Adam & Eve all over again). Human nature tempts us to transfer/diffuse responsibility for bad decisions..." is very insightful.

Repeated oft throughout the ages, too.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:27 pm 
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Thank you, FrmrNTer. You're right, it's been a big problem that we just can't seem to get under control.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:06 pm 
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The quandary with NTM administration today is that over the years they have developed a leadership culture all their own… Proof of this is:

1. During the 30 years that we were with New Tribes, never once did they offer leadership training to any of its members (on our field of service). Since resigning from NTM we have had the privilege of participating in several leadership courses and seminars!

2. NTM committees do not “choose” leaders that think differently from themselves. Many excellent potential leaders were “overlooked” over the years because they did not fit the “mold”.

3. Today it is no different… GRACE would have not been necessary if NTM had been applying and practicing proper leadership principles.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:17 pm 
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One possible indication of leadership abuse is when the leader wants to keep things quiet, hide facts, ask people to say nothing. The follower should always question the need to "say nothing." There are times when it is important to keep silence - for example when someone's reputation is at stake and the accusation is questionable. But when the offense is demonstrated, the knowledge should be open to the Church, and public rebuke should be given. At least Paul says so.

Good leadership is transparent. Transparency helps develop trust between leader and follower. Trust is the mechanism that God uses in the New Covenant for our salvation - trust in Him. He than gives us the Holy Spirit, rather than a list of commandments, and trust us to follow Him as guided by the Holy Spirit. He is as transparent to us as Divinity can be to humanity, and the promise in I Cor. 13 is that when the perfect is come, "we will know as we are known." Right now, one key purpose of the Holy Spirit is to guide us to the fullness of the truth concerning Christ. God is as transparent to us as He can be (or maybe as transparent as we can stand). A Christian organization should demonstrate that same transparency and mutual trust.

There are a lot of links between the statements in the paragraph above, and the conclusion might throw some people I will fill in the blanks if anyone wants me to.

MKys


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:21 pm 
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One possible indication of leadership abuse is when the leader wants to keep things quiet, hide facts, ask people to say nothing. The follower should always question the need to "say nothing." There are times when it is important to keep silence - for example when someone's reputation is at stake and the accusation is questionable. But when the offense is demonstrated, the knowledge should be open to the Church, and public rebuke should be given. At least Paul says so.

Good leadership is transparent. Transparency helps develop trust between leader and follower. Trust is the mechanism that God uses in the New Covenant for our salvation - trust in Him. He than gives us the Holy Spirit, rather than a list of commandments, and trust us to follow Him as guided by the Holy Spirit. He is as transparent to us as Divinity can be to humanity, and the promise in I Cor. 13 is that when the perfect is come, "we will know as we are known." Right now, one key purpose of the Holy Spirit is to guide us to the fullness of the truth concerning Christ. God is as transparent to us as He can be (or maybe as transparent as we can stand). A Christian organization should demonstrate that same transparency and mutual trust. Note that the trust goes both ways. The organization must trust the members, must be transparent to the members, must listen to the members. God has the humility to listen to us. How dare we not listen to "these the least of our brethren."

There are a lot of links between the statements in the paragraph above, and the conclusion might throw some people I will fill in the blanks if anyone wants me to.

MKys


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