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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:25 am 
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I know it is unfashionable to advocate for scriptural accuracy in our actions, never mind our thinking. Still, I cannot escape the conviction that mistaken, misguided, misunderstood or half-baked theology is at the root of a lot of what allowed a culture of oppression, secrecy and gross negligence to arise and thrive in NTM, Inc., as well as other "Christian organizations." If only surface changes are made, the chances are overwhelming that history will repeat itself. I am convinced that our beliefs matter, that they affect our actions and they are better represented by our actions than by our words.

Some (a lot? all?) of what is hopefully going to be the subject matter of this thread will probably seem nit-picky to some (a lot? all?) readers. Feel free to move on to threads that seem less so; I have certainly spent some time on other issues on this forum as well, and probably will again. Especially if Kyle Yunker keeps posting. . . Meanwhile, I think it is about time to dive in to the treacherous waters of Bible study - waters that I hope we can navigate without being condescending, preachy or aggressive. Pedantic is OK!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:55 am 
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What are the relationships between NTM, Inc.'s leaders and the other member-missionaries in NTM, Inc.?

We can skip their relationship in Adam, if we assume that they are all believers. In that case, the very first, most important relationship they have is as brothers/ sisters in Christ. Please note that they have this very same relationship with believers around the world, even those with whom they cannot communicate. So, while this relationship is overriding, it is not unique to this situation.

Leadership in NTM, Inc. has traditionally seen themselves as spiritual leaders, as presented in, for instance, I Peter 5.1-5. Is this accurate? Is it true to Scripture?

Legally, NTM, Inc. is the employer of all member-missionaries (including the leadership). This seems to track a little closer to being a "Master" as per Ephesians 6.9 than an elder. Does this present a better framework for the relationship between leaders and followers/ employees/ slaves?

Member-missionaries are expected to meet the spiritual qualifications of elders, insofar as they are applicable. But in the organization, they do not function as spiritual leaders of the organization, but part of the flock, carefully shepherded by the leaders. Can we find a parallel to this in Scripture?

What are the practical implications of these various, sometimes conflicting and vague relationships? Does it matter?


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:18 am 
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Wow . . .I can just see "dura-matter" crackling with electricity! Sounds like multi-part essay question my law school professors used to ask in my Business Associations class . . . .

The parameters of discussion you set out are not at all obscure matters for reflection, but can help in defining and understanding the principles by which NTM operated for so many years--the lies that underlay their approach and created a culture where rampant abuse, of all kinds, was allowed to fester, infecting the lives of many, many people. In the understanding, one can correct the philosophy, root out the cancerous people, and usher in true change based upon correct theology, not to mention harmatiology.

I will give some thought to what you posted. Your opening salvo is rich with implication.

Thanks . . . .


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 2:40 pm 
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It all really simple.
" Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely".
I dont care if these people have notarized statements from Christ himself. The same bunch has been in charge of NTM for years and while perhaps not directly involved in any of this brutality they used the system that they created to "hush up" any dissent . This not only pertains to these abuse cases but also to any issues that may have presented themselves over the years.
Without addressing the system by which NTM is governed these problems will occur again.
Its all very simple.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:33 pm 
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It is always easier to ask questions than to answer them! And, as answers are attempted, it will be easy to brush them off with, "Well, that's what was meant." I lightheartedly titled this thread "Picky, picky, picky: A thread for theological pedants" because I hope to encourage us all, myself included, to be meticulously accurate in our use of words; to say what we mean. That's a good, positive and helpful thing, even if it looks like pedantry to casual observers.

Mind you, even for pedants, it's acceptable to make certain assumptions. In fact, unless we're going to try to compose a systematic theology thread, we're going to have to do that. I don't feel a need to quote scriptures for every statement I make. But, if I make statements that seem inaccurate, they need to be explained or changed, based on scripture.

So, I'd like to begin with what will seem incredibly picky, picky, picky: Spiritual leadership. To save time, I'll even state my conclusion first.

Leaders in NTM, Inc. are not spiritual leaders as presented in the Bible. In other words, they are not elders, bishops, deacons, pastors or any other church office found in the Bible. Moreover, to arrogate to themselves the honor, duties or prerogatives of such dishonors the Lord and gives rise to unnecessary confusion, discord and conflict.

NTM, Inc. is not even a church in any sense that their own teaching recognizes a church - universal or local. Their leaders may well be members of local churches and even hold scriptural offices in that church. But, that does not make them an Elder in the Church of New Tribes Mission, Inc.

The church is important to Christ, to God. In Ephesians 5.25 we are told that Christ loved the church, and gave himself for her. The very same words are used in Galatians 2.20, where He "loved me, and gave himself for me." It is no small thing to intrude upon an individual's relationship with his Lord; it is no less so to do it with the heavenly Groom and His Bride. God's revealed plan is that qualified men serve in positions of spiritual leadership in local churches, not para-church organizations. Even messed up local churches are represented by scriptural example. There is no such thing as a "scriptural" para-church organization, and no room in such a group for biblical church offices.

Past leadership in NTM, Inc. has referred to the "high position, exalted position" of their leaders, based on their having been raised up by God to shepherd the flock. Present leadership still considers themselves to be spiritual leaders of their flock. This is defective theology, at best. It doesn't even match what they are attempting to do in church planting around the world. The model is to have the flock shepherded by local church leadership, not self-appointed men in another country.

Leaders in NTM, Inc. have no more responsibility, from a scriptural vantage point, for the spiritual care of their employees than any other Christian has for any other Christian, leaders or not. Or, to offer an example, a member of senior management in IBM who is a strong Christian has no more responsibility for the spiritual welfare of his subordinate who is a Christian than the subordinate has for him.

A member of senior management does have certain scriptural obligations to his subordinate, of course. Masters (employers we would call them today, though employees often feel like slaves!), are to provide their subordinates with what is right and fair (Colossians 4.1), showing the same concern for their welfare that employees are to show for the employer's (Ephesians 6.9). But, this is not a position of spiritual leadership ala the NTM, Inc. model.

NTM, Inc.'s leaders approach their flock graciously in love with concerns from the Word. When any sheep does not respond in the proper way, the shepherd's staff is laid aside and the boom is lowered; the sheep is fired. I do not say employees should never be fired. I do say that it is unscriptural to portray this as an exercise of church discipline. Indeed, it is a travesty of it.

Trying to wear the hat of the employer while carrying the staff of the shepherd only serves to confuse all concerned, and ensure that a good job is done neither as defacto employer nor pseudo-pastor. Sixty two years of NTM, Inc. history support this.

Comments, questions, corrections and insights solicited. I am not the only, and certainly not the best, theological pedant out there.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:14 pm 
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Huh, this has made me think - I posted about it being a faulty model on the other thread, maybe that was more accurate than I thot. This makes sense. I´m going to run this by some of my well respected theological advisors (my dad ;) ).


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:53 am 
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Before leaving the general subject of spiritual leadership, I'd like to anticipate a rejoinder that many may be thinking, even if they are too shy to admit to being a pedant: OK, so pedantically speaking, NTM, Inc. is not a church and its leaders are not elders in a true, biblical, picky sense. What's wrong with using the general principles of local church life as guidelines for corporate life, and the spiritual qualifications of church leadership as employment criteria?

My answer is going to be very pedantic. I am only going to attempt an answer to the above question, not to its sibling. I want to look at what is wrong with it, not what is right with it. Fellow pedants can handle that one – a topic on which most of us will agree.

Here are some things that I can see wrong with this approach:

1. If the use of general principles leads to an emphasis on the role of leaders as shepherds, pastors, or spiritual care-givers, it may well detract them from their actual (if neglected) role as masters (employers). At first blush, it might seem like the New Testament says very little to employers. Pay your laborers, give them what is right and fair, do not threaten them, all the while being conscious of your own Master in heaven. This seems so temporal, so insignificant compared to the spiritual ministry of the Word, being involved in people's spiritual growth and walk with the Lord.

So, treating employees fairly gets neglected. Threats become commonplace, even if worded as obtusely as possible: "You may need to find a new avenue of service for the Lord." In all fairness, NTM, Inc. has only one stick and no carrots with which to reward or reprimand employees: They can fire or ask for the resignation of missionaries, but they can't give any extra benefits – no wage increases, no extra paid vacation time, no special privileges. The closest thing to a reward is promotion to leadership, something that reinforces the mystique and perceived spirituality of the position.

Why not put emphasis on one's primary role first, then cast around for applications?

2. If the use of general principles leads to a belief that following the corporate application of them is equal to following the Word of God, much harm can be done. Nowhere is this more evident than in what used to be called "personal ministry." Adjustments, small and large, have to be made to allow the application of church discipline passages to a corporate setting: Who are the elders? Who is the church? Yet, adjustments are made and a verdict rendered and people actually think that they have been true to the Word of God.

3. Corporate leaders who are fixated on their role as shepherds very often fail in legitimate corporate duties and responsibilities. They can be reluctant to use their authority to resolve issues that concern the corporation and people/ agencies outside of it, lest it shut the door to future opportunities to minister to the heart of their flock. The example of NTM, Inc.'s leadership to report cases of sexual abuse of children to the law enforcement authorities of the country in which they worked is only the most horrible example of this.

4. Following general principles to the exclusion of specific instructions is a fruitful source of error. When people start referring to their corporation as a "body of believers," it should raise some eyebrows, if not alarms. NTM, Inc. is no more a "body of believers" than any group of believers scattered all over the planet. If what is meant by this is that they are part of the universal body of Christ, then so are millions of others, some of whom NTM, Inc. forbids its members from cooperating with. But, in no unique sense, in no scriptural sense of the phrase is NTM, Inc. a "body of believers."

5. Slipshod use of general principles can lead to inaccurate and untrue comparisons. To pick an example that I used to decry at every opportunity, teamwork is not like marriage; marriage is like our relationship to Jesus Christ. There is nothing else like it. In the Bible, teamwork is compared to many human relationships – but never to marriage. Why not pick an analogy that the Bible already uses, rather than corrupt one from its true meaning?

6. People become desensitized to poor interpretive principles when all that is used are fast and free applications of general biblical principles. After a while, anything goes. That's dangerous.

Further comments are welcome. I am only trying to suggest some lines of inquiry.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 2:05 am 
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The major premise behind this thread is that NTM, Inc. has been building on less-than-firm foundations almost since its inception. I believe it is important to examine those foundations on a foundational level, even if it seems picky, picky, picky.

The minor premise behind this thread is that I am not alone in holding to the major premise, and probably not the best exponent of it. Others are invited to join in. In fact, if this thread is going to reach anywhere near its potential, it's going to need a lot more input.

I am not setting the agenda or moderating the content or direction. If it seem like that so far, it is only because I'm the only one posting!

One final word of explanation: I do not mean to imply any employee of NTM, Inc. is a heretic or wacko. Nor do I mean to say that nothing that NTM, Inc. employees do is valid or honorable or right or biblical. None of that would be true. I do believe, however, that many, if not all, of the problems that have faced and continue to face NTM, Inc. can be traced back directly to faulty understandings and applications of the Word of God.

So, if no one else chimes in with a new picky point pretty soon, I'm going to!


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:54 am 
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Gene Long wrote:
I do believe, however, that many, if not all, of the problems that have faced and continue to face NTM, Inc. can be traced back directly to faulty understandings and applications of the Word of God.

I agree. I believe that alot of these problems started with missionary training/bible college and I wonder just how much of that traning has truely changed since the begining? And even if the training has changed, what about those on the field for the last 20, 30, 40 years who have not had re-training since they became missionaries in remote places? NTM, in 1997, changed there view on grace. What else could need changing?
As you may have noticed I am not a theological person :) :oops: But I agree with you, Gene, so I wanted to encourage you to keep it up.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:05 am 
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[quote="Gene Long"]It is always easier to ask questions than to answer them! And, as answers are attempted, it will be easy to brush them off with, "Well, that's what was meant." I lightheartedly titled this thread "Picky, picky, picky: A thread for theological pedants" because I hope to encourage us all, myself included, to be meticulously accurate in our use of words; to say what we mean. That's a good, positive and helpful thing, even if it looks like pedantry to casual observers.

Mind you, even for pedants, it's acceptable to make certain assumptions. In fact, unless we're going to try to compose a systematic theology thread, we're going to have to do that. I don't feel a need to quote scriptures for every statement I make. But, if I make statements that seem inaccurate, they need to be explained or changed, based on scripture.

So, I'd like to begin with what will seem incredibly picky, picky, picky: Spiritual leadership. To save time, I'll even state my conclusion first.

Leaders in NTM, Inc. are not spiritual leaders as presented in the Bible. In other words, they are not elders, bishops, deacons, pastors or any other church office found in the Bible. Moreover, to arrogate to themselves the honor, duties or prerogatives of such dishonors the Lord and gives rise to unnecessary confusion, discord and conflict.

NTM, Inc. is not even a church in any sense that their own teaching recognizes a church - universal or local. Their leaders may well be members of local churches and even hold scriptural offices in that church. But, that does not make them an Elder in the Church of New Tribes Mission, Inc.


quote]

Gene, I appreciate your opening of the topic of NTM leadership structure. You suggest that NTM is not a church and therefore it follows that the EC office for example, does not correlate to the office of an elder in the New Testament. The nearest correlation might be the elders in the church in Jerusalem settling a dispute between Paul and leagalists. The problem with this comparison is that the church at Jerusalem was, in fact, a New Testament church while NTM Inc. is a legal entity which is recognized by the IRS as a "church".

Paul Flemming and founders felt they had a call form God to start NTM. OK, so far that is good since traditionsl missions at the time did not accept just anyone. Thier mottos: God can use anyone who is willing to be used"..... "Walk by faith..." among several. While these core beliefs are Biblical, and inspiring, how these beliefs were carried in practice is quite another matter. NTM was set up in a militaristic framework as evidenced by setting up Fouts Springs "boot camp". One had to pass through a gauntlet and abusive enviroment of boot camp and those that didn't "wash out" (another military term) would be released for service.

The reason I bring this up is because it is necessary to go to the beginning of the movement to understand where some of the core values came from.

Back to NTM leaders. How are they selected? How does thier selection process compare to appointing of elders found in the NT? How are they disciplined and removed from office? For example, a) person confronts EC member, b) EC member doesn't respond so person brings a witness, c) person and witness then takes matter to EC d) EC publicly (in fornt of the church) removes EC member from office.

Transparency seems to be the most lacking ingredient in NTM's dna and it shows (pardon my feeble attempt at humor).


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