When Followers Don’t Follow: A Closer Look at Coercion

Life is stewardship. In a perfect world, everyone would not only recognize that fact, but they would also recognize and accept the responsibilities that go with their individual stewardship. Perhaps people would still need to be told what to do, but they would never need to be coerced. “Do this in order to receive this short term reward” would be weird, and “Do this, or else” would be unheard of.

But that isn’t the world we live in, and people are much in need of leaders to influence, persuade, and yes, coerce.

Coercion, though, is so easily botched! As a result, leaders often lapse into acting like either bullies or beggars, and both errors tend to produce followers who don’t follow. As one who struggles to use the tools of leadership properly (and who has experienced their misuse by others), I believe it’s worth the effort to understand coercion better.

Previously, I overviewed the leadership tools of coercion, persuasion, and influence, and what I mean by these terms. Here we’ll take a closer look at coercion, its value, some of the many ways it goes wrong, and some specific harms. These observations are grouped around three principles.

1. We All Have to Coerce Sometimes.

Coercion is an occasional responsibility in many roles. Parents must coerce (Prov. 22:15, 29:15). Government authorities must coerce (Rom. 13:1, 4). Ordinary, decent human beings in general must coerce when someone we can help is being victimized by a bully or more serious attacker (e.g., Psalm 82:3-4).

In a culture that prizes individual liberty, we tend to broadly reject coercion when we’re on the receiving end. But we’re willing enough to use it on others when we think it’s warranted—and sometimes it is.

Pastors

Do pastors have coercive authority over their congregations? Though the New Testament emphasizes persuasion (2 Tim. 2:24) and influence (1 Tim. 4:12) in the pastoral role, and places only limited corrective (and coercive) action in the hands of congregations (1 Cor. 5:4-5), elders/pastors are obligated to “rebuke” at times.

Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, (ESV, Titus 1:13)

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:15)

But is rebuke coercion?

2. It’s Easier to Use Coercion than We Tend to Think.

In Part 1, I explained that I’m using “coercion” to refer to any use of external leverage to achieve a desired behavior. To put it another way, it’s the tool that uses a stated or implied “or else.” This can take a great many forms.

Emotional Coercion

We all know people who use emotional coercion on a regular basis as a habitual mode of relating to people—and they scarcely seem aware of it. Since they inflict a kind of emotional pain (we wince!), nagging and scolding are forms of emotional coercion. The implied or-else is, “Do what I want you to do or I’m going to keep nagging and scolding you.”

Biblical rebuke is a close cousin to scolding but is different in a couple of crucial ways. For one, biblical rebuke is aimed at specific error. It’s not an angry tirade or laundry list of “things about you that bug me!” Second, it’s a tool used intentionally—not an emotional outburst.

Emotional coercion also often takes the form of accusations, insults, and unwarranted attacks on motives and character.

It would probably sloppy to say that nagging, scolding, and insulting are never appropriate forms of coercion, but because they tend to be self-indulgent and thoughtless, odds are good that coercion in this form fails in one or more of these ways:

  • The authority to coerce does not actually exist in the role.
  • Some other form of coercive leverage would be far more effective.
  • Coercion is unnecessary because patient teaching (persuasion) is both possible and practical.

As an example, husbands are—as far as I can tell—not authorized to coerce their wives. If less than zero is possible, wives are even less authorized to coerce husbands! Since women generally possess a higher degree of emotional skill than men, the emotionally coercive wife is not uncommon. (Curiously, this is rarely talked about.)

Results

The point here, though, is that many of us can emotionally bully people without realizing we’re doing it—and even in roles where some kind of emotional coercion is permissible, the results of this kind of coercion are nearly always counterproductive.

  • Negative emotion begets negative emotion (Proverbs 15:1).
  • Emotional coercion tends to fuel resentment and resistance (Eph. 6:5).

If your followers don’t follow, it may well be because you’re emotionally hitting them over the head all the time—and people instinctively (and correctly) feel that they are entitled to more respect than that. This is even true of children.

I have observed individuals who routinely give their fellow human beings less respect than I give my dog. What they don’t seem to realize is that using emotional battering this way erodes their personal influence. As they fail to show respect to others, others lose respect for them as well. Often, a dynamic of resentful compliance develops in which those on the receiving end determine to do only the bare minimum they can get away with—and even that with absolutely no enthusiasm. Some will actively look for ways to sabotage the overall effort.

Better Coercion

Where the authority to coerce is legitimate, there is almost always a better method than emotional pressure. Rather than yelling at Johnny every time he leaves the toilet seat up (or worse yet, telling him what a lazy slob he is), inform him cheerfully that he’ll be cleaning the entire toilet next time—“to help him remember.” (If he claims innocence, cheerfully explain that you need his help to solve this problem and you are appointing him official Guardian of the Toilet Seat. His solemn duty is to ensure that everyone puts the seat down. Some recognition for success might well solve the problem permanently.)

Rather than yelling at a team for not meeting a production goal, task them with setting their own goal and throw a party when they reach it (better yet, build in a bonus-based incentive system).

Rather than harangue a congregation for not attending services often enough, help them understand why they, as believers, actually really do want to be present (and/or make sure plenty of what thriving believers crave is there for them when they do come).

Rather than scolding the entire class (again!) for the failure of many to be seated and quiet when the bell rings, cheerfully inform them that next time, you will simply begin to write down the names of those not seated and quiet the moment the bell rings, and those on the list will have additional homework. (Dramatize the list-making when the time comes, and even a room with 30 high-energy 7th graders will settle down very quickly. A few days of this and you’ll rarely have any names to take at all.) Or flip it around: the first five to be seated and silent when the bell rings receive a special exemption from a dreaded daily or weekly assignment. (What will happen, though, is that everyone will be seated and silent before the bell rings…so keeping your promise can get complicated at that point!)

3. We’re All Guilty of Using Coercion at Times When We Should Not.

Not everyone overuses coercion habitually. But I’m convinced that everyone occasionally fails to use better alternatives. The reasons for this are many. Coercion is often the fastest and simplest way to get results, superficial though those results might be. Coercion is certainly instinctive in many situations, and whatever is automatic is going to be used thoughtlessly and wrongfully at times. Anger and fear are often factors as well: the angry urge to destroy resistance and the fearful urge to have everything under control both tilt us toward coercive behavior in situations where it isn’t the best option.

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There are 32 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

....the idea of pastor as general, or as CEO, is in my mind one of the banes of the church today.  Sheep are best led, not driven.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It can be very subtle. It's been a long time but I used to hear pastors and "evangelists" identify themselves with Moses & the prophets. Some would imply that they had some kind of special connection with God & so it would be dangerous to cross them.
They did not seem to understand the long term ineffectiveness of making their relationship to listeners a coercion-centered one.
(One cannot really scare people into *belief* of what one is saying. This requires *persuasion*)

Mike Mann's picture

I remember when some dictator types would quote "Touch not my anointed." inferring that people would be judged for disagreeing with them. I hope that has fallen by the wayside.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm sure they're still around. That breed has been around since the apostle Paul's day... including himself, before the Damascus road. But in a few of the epistles, he alludes to their ilk within the churches. They may or may not have classed themselves as "anointed," but they definitely had a coercion-centered approach rather than a faith-centered approach. I believe I'll explore this a bit in Part 3.

Bert Perry's picture

Mike Mann wrote:

I remember when some dictator types would quote "Touch not my anointed." inferring that people would be judged for disagreeing with them. I hope that has fallen by the wayside.

I've seen a touch of this, though my view is that authoritarians tend to moderate their speech in all but the most extreme, isolated settings these days.  More common is to speak nicely until the pastor's chosen direction is challenged, in my view.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think one of the reasons that coercion is often ineffective is that it is usually just laziness. It is much harder to teach in a way that helps the child/student/congregation internalize the cause and effect of their behavior. Coercion sounds like "Because I said so", devoid of patience or empathy.

Mark_Smith's picture

"More common is to speak nicely until the pastor's chosen direction is challenged, in my view."

 

Sometimes, when the leader of an organization, whatever the type, says this is the way we are you going, you have 2 choices: follow or leave. Arguing with the leadership about the direction is not your place...

 

Sometimes coercion is the result of lack of faithful followers.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

"More common is to speak nicely until the pastor's chosen direction is challenged, in my view."

 

Sometimes, when the leader of an organization, whatever the type, says this is the way we are you going, you have 2 choices: follow or leave. Arguing with the leadership about the direction is not your place...

Sometimes coercion is the result of lack of faithful followers.

...is first of all whether coercion can create faithful followers.  If we truly believe that we are regenerate as we repent--agree with God about what sin is--and we undergo a head and heart transformation by the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, can the imposition of a reality by the pastor do this?  See Romans 12:1-2.  My view is that this can not be--it may generate unregenerate people who are outwardly compliant, and it can add goats to the sheep-fold, but it cannot add sheep to the flock.  Practically speaking, this is probably a big reason that so many young people leave the church.  They are compliant because it's too painful not to be when they're under 18, but as soon as they're outside the pastor's and the parents' influence, they skedaddle.  See "Already Gone" by Ham & Beamer.

Regarding the comment "arguing with the leadership about the direction is not your place", let's take a look at Acts 17:10-13, where the Bereans specifically check everything Paul said versus the Old Testament.  Now, how does the author know they did this, except that they must have approached Paul to discuss some points of confusion?  In other words, the context of the passage indicates clearly that some level of debate occurred between Paul and the Bereans.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

You can, and it is obvious to me you do it really well.

 

At some point, you either get on board and shut up, or leave. Has anyone ever told you that Bert? I'll bet you have several times...

And comparing the Bereans to arguing about the direction of pastoral leadership is ridiculous!

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, this is what you said: Arguing with the leadership about the direction is not your place.  Recant if you like, but what I said is exactly what your words mean.

Since a lot of the great mileposts in church history came about from arguing with church leadership, like Nathan's rebuke of David, Paul's rebuke of Peter, Christ's rebuke of Peter, Paul's rebukes of the Judiazers (e.g. Galatians), Paul's interaction with the Bereans, John's rebuke of Diotrephes, the Council of Nicea (many of the early councils), Luther's 95 theses, Hus, Wycliffe, Tyndale, the Fundamentals, Calvin's Institutes...

I can confidently assert that the Church is best served by rigorous debate on a lot of issues, and that those who would close it off really set themselves up as Popes sans Magisterium.  Dangerous place, and it's worth noting that the only place that flat out told me to leave is no longer a church, but a mosque.  They were downplaying the necessity of preaching, and that's a fight I don't regret accepting.  Other places where I didn't "get on board" include a church that was using teaching from a guy downplaying the Trinity and accepting prosperity theology, and a place that was quietly pushing KJVO/Trail of Blood in multiple contradictory forms.  

No shame in standing for the Gospel in any of those cases, really.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Much depends on who truly owns the decision-making authority. In most Baptist & similar churches, it officially belongs to the congregation, though it is unwise for them to micromanage the pastor.
There is usually a proper setting for debate to occur. After that, if a decision has been legitimately made, the right thing to do is support it, or stay out of the way, or leave. This is true for both pastor & members.

Mark_Smith's picture

Once a decision has been made and a decision of direction made, if you are a member shut up and help it get done. If you can't do that, LEAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do every one a favor.

Examples:

-The pastor decides to paint the bathroom green instead of blue. Get over it and march on. Yes I have seen a large fight over just this thing...

-The church decides to change a position on some issue. After lengthy debate they go with position B while you preferred position A. At that point, debate is OVER. If you can't live with B. LEAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Mark_Smith's picture

Let me help you with your selective reading. I said this "Sometimes, when the leader of an organization, whatever the type, says this is the way we are you going, you have 2 choices: follow or leave. Arguing with the leadership about the direction is not your place..."

In case you missed it, I said SOMETIMES.

That is SOMETIMES.

Did you read that? SOMETIMES.

Dan Miller's picture

Aaron, what a neat series! It meshes interestingly with my series on Conscience. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-28, Paul gave his reasoning for celibacy. He introduced it with, "I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." This, I think, is a very gentle form of persuasion. He wants to persuade the persuadable. Then, in ch.10:14-22, he gave his reasoning against eating in the temple. He introduces the conclusive part of his argument with, "I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say." This, I think, is a much more powerful argument, but still one that Paul recognizes is only a good argument if his readers "judge for themselves." Here, he wants to persuade, and he wants to encourage everyone to be persuadable ("Are we stronger than He?").

Question: What examples of coercion exist in Scripture? It seems to me that examples of persuasion and influence FAR outnumber coercion. 

Numbers 22 - The experience of Balaam and his donkey.

Mark_Smith's picture

Some churches don't have anyone to help...They aren't mature enough to have deacons. The Pastor does nearly everything.

Someone has to paint the bathroom, don't you think?

 

 

Dan Miller's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Once a decision has been made and a decision of direction made, if you are a member shut up and help it get done. If you can't do that, LEAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do every one a favor.

Examples:

-The pastor decides to paint the bathroom green instead of blue. Get over it and march on. Yes I have seen a large fight over just this thing...

-The church decides to change a position on some issue. After lengthy debate they go with position B while you preferred position A. At that point, debate is OVER. If you can't live with B. LEAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

I agreed with Jim that the pastor should probably leave bathroom paint to deacons. Mark didn't; he responded that some churches don't have deacons, so the pastor has to do stuff. If so, then what sort of "marching on" does Mark have in mind? If there's no one in the church who is 'servant' enough to choose and paint a bathroom, then is anyone up to any 'marching'? 

I ask this because I find it aggravating that many American Christians seem to think that their main (or only) Christian service is showing up for church services. And many pastors encourage this by being content with attendance and statements of "good sermon."

Bert Perry's picture

I don't know the full dynamics of what went on with that, but I bet if you got to the bottom of it, that little incident could tell you a lot about why that church is having trouble.   What are the dynamics of leadership, of discipleship, etc..  And it's a great example of why NOT to just tell people to leave--those who are "causing the problems" (besides the pastor) have a  story to tell about what is motivating them.

Or, as my dad told my brother innumerable times, if you've got the energy to fight, you've got the energy to work.  One might be surprised how much people will do if asked and given basic guidance on how to proceed.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

jumping to conclusions and running over fellow posters....

 

Forget the details. The point is, when leadership of any organization decides to do X, you either go along or leave. I assume X is not illegal or egregiously unbiblical.

Is that incorrect? Is staying and complaining about the decision and how you are so brilliant and would have done Y and predicting the doom of the project, etc. the right thing?

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

jumping to conclusions and running over fellow posters....

Forget the details. The point is, when leadership of any organization decides to do X, you either go along or leave. I assume X is not illegal or egregiously unbiblical.

Is that incorrect? Is staying and complaining about the decision and how you are so brilliant and would have done Y and predicting the doom of the project, etc. the right thing?

Mark, there's no jumping to conclusions.  People make decisions, whether it's to plant roses or to fight over the paint in the loo, based on their motivations, teaching, and more.  Problems in the church generally have their genesis in....what they were taught at church.  So when a fight breaks out over the color of the bathrooms, it means something.  The question is what it means.

And yes, you are incorrect in your analysis.  For starters, picking, or worsening, a fight by overriding a real or self-appointed "interior decoration committee" does violate the spirit of Acts 6:4, as Jim notes.  Moreover, the Bible speaks consistently  of the importance of differing roles and gifts in places like 1 Cor. 12, and also addresses the importance of counting the costs in places like Luke 14:25-34 and Proverbs 21:5.  Really, would you prefer that (a) a curmudgeon warns that your church/ministry won't be able to pay back its loans before papers are signed, or (b) that after years of suffering to make mortgage/bond payments, the entire enterprise crashes in a ball of flames?

Smart pastors learn to appreciate the curmudgeons in their midst, and often pray that they can get a good "numbers guy" on their deacon/elder board who instinctively run the numbers for them.  They pray for someone with a good eye for color and style to make the facility welcoming, and for someone who is happiest on the seat of a lawn tractor, and the like.  The church belongs, after all, to God, not to the pastor or other leaders.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Let me try this!

Bert, I never said the church had an "interior design committee". This church had 20 members and was a year old. The pastor painted the old paint in a bathroom green. A few people were upset that it wasn't painted blue. There was no discussion before hand. They came in one day and the pastor had painted it.

I am not talking about the process of making a decision. Then opinions can be given. But once the decision is made and the contract signed, etc., it is help it or get out of the way.

For the record, I NEVER SAID THAT THE PASTOR SHOULD TELL PEOPLE TO LEAVE like you falsely accused in a previous post. I am saying that YOU need to decide to leave or help. If you can't help THEN LEAVE.

Mark_Smith's picture

Also, you seem to assume many pastor's are megalomaniacs out to rule their domain like we are all Jim Bakker or Jack Hyles. Most are just trying to get by day to day. Most pastors pastor fewer than 100 people. Most pastor's would appreciate a little respect from the church. Can't we give a little respect and compassion?

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Let me try this!

Bert, I never said the church had an "interior design committee". This church had 20 members and was a year old. The pastor painted the old paint in a bathroom green. A few people were upset that it wasn't painted blue. There was no discussion before hand. They came in one day and the pastor had painted it.

I am not talking about the process of making a decision. Then opinions can be given. But once the decision is made and the contract signed, etc., it is help it or get out of the way.

For the record, I NEVER SAID THAT THE PASTOR SHOULD TELL PEOPLE TO LEAVE like you falsely accused in a previous post. I am saying that YOU need to decide to leave or help. If you can't help THEN LEAVE.

Mark,read between the lines; if people got upset, the church did indeed have some people who thought they knew better than the pastor what colors would look good in the loo, hence an unofficial interior design committee.  The pastor simply didn't know who they were yet, just like the Apostles didn't know who the deacons were in Acts 6. You've got to ask.

Moreover, if you are correct that people ought to shape up or ship out, how would we claim that it is not the pastor's job to teach this truth?  You may not have realized it, but it's the obvious implication of what you claim.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Dan Miller wrote:

Aaron, what a neat series! It meshes interestingly with my series on Conscience. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-28, Paul gave his reasoning for celibacy. He introduced it with, "I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." This, I think, is a very gentle form of persuasion. He wants to persuade the persuadable. Then, in ch.10:14-22, he gave his reasoning against eating in the temple. He introduces the conclusive part of his argument with, "I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say." This, I think, is a much more powerful argument, but still one that Paul recognizes is only a good argument if his readers "judge for themselves." Here, he wants to persuade, and he wants to encourage everyone to be persuadable ("Are we stronger than He?").

Question: What examples of coercion exist in Scripture? It seems to me that examples of persuasion and influence FAR outnumber coercion. 

Numbers 22 - The experience of Balaam and his donkey.

Thanks, Dan.

I think you're right that there is a good bit more persuasion. And there are really good reasons for that. Some of them hopefully get attention in the next installment.

One of the things that is difficult to manage in this series is talking about these things separately when, in real life, they are just about always mixed to some extent. That is, coercion almost never happens in the absence of some messaging of some kind that is aimed to persuade, and always happens in the context of some kind of standing in the eyes of those on the receiving end (what I've been calling "influence"). That standing can be quite negative, very positive, ambivalent.

But lots of specific efforts to get people to do things we think they should do are predominantly coercive, persuasive, or merely influential. I bring this up because God's persuasive actions in Scripture are never separated from the fact that He is Judge of All the Earth. So they are never entirely non-coercive. On the other hand, as the case of Balaam shows, they are almost never (never?) entirely coercive. Balaam is physically stopped but no sooner does this happen and God begins, through the lowest of vehicles, messaging--He seeks to increase Balaam's understanding of the situation through information and implications.

And of course, God's coercive and persuasive activities are both always rooted in His identity and the respect (all words--awe, love, esteem, worship--seem to understate the situation here!) we ought to have for Him.

So in reality, our efforts to move people are soup or salad... but there is still utility I believe in looking at the main ingredients separately... and learning to think about what we're putting in that soup.

A note on the whole pastoral angle

I am not a pastor now but was one for 13 years... But having pretty much grown up in church, I've still worn the "member of the congregation" hat much more than I've worn the pastor hat.  Anyway, that's just context. What I want to say about that to Bert and Mark is that there are many, many complex situations pastors find themselves in and it's a good idea to be slow to judgment as to whether they are properly carrying out the role. What would be tyrannical for one might not be tyrannical at all for another, though it may appear so to someone who isn't fully informed of the situation.

If I were to generalize about my own tenure, I'd say that I evidenced the same tendencies I have in other roles: I tend to do too much myself rather than letting other folks do it. Trying to learn... but it's often simpler (not really easier) to just do it. So this is how some pastors end up painting bathrooms. It can be (a) a great way to relax compared to what pastoral work is normally like and (b) sometimes it's so, so much easier to just do it than to get someone else to do it.

(But no, I never painted a bathroom... Helped paint other things but other people did all the decision making. I was labor. Did lots of other things that are not usually considered "pastoral" though. That can be very healthy.)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Sorry for the double post... Gotta tack this on. My advice FWIW, is that if there seems to be a whole lot of friction between congregational leaders and pastor, step one is to do a whole lot of listening. Really listening. Listening is not "waiting for them to stop talking so I can get back to making my case that they're wrong." Smile

Listening is also not "Watching carefully for weaknesses in their case so I can go after those as soon as I get a chance."

Listening is "Seeking to fully understand what their position is and why... to the point that I can describe it all back to them in terms they accept as fair and accurate."

So many problems go away that way.

Mark_Smith's picture

Hypothetical. You are a member of XYZ Bible Church. XYZ deacon board votes for a building program that is questionable as far as affording. After much discussion, the papers are signed. The mortgage papers are in hand. You opposed the building program and argued against it.

Do you keep complaining about the building project?

When it fails do you announce to the church that you had predicted this. If only they had listened to you? 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:
My advice FWIW, is that if there seems to be a whole lot of friction between congregational leaders and pastor, step one is to do a whole lot of listening. Really listening. Listening is not "waiting for them to stop talking so I can get back to making my case that they're wrong." Smile

Listening is also not "Watching carefully for weaknesses in their case so I can go after those as soon as I get a chance."

Listening is "Seeking to fully understand what their position is and why... to the point that I can describe it all back to them in terms they accept as fair and accurate."

Which is why we don't want to do it. We want to win our case, so our listening takes the form of overcoming objections instead of trying to understand another perspective. Even if our POV is correct, is it any skin off our nose to just listen to what someone else is thinking and feeling? Or take into consideration their knowledge and experience> Isn't that how we show compassion and longsuffering- or better yet- wisdom?

It's more often SOP (and intensely gratifying to our flesh) to declare someone as stubborn or stupid or self-important and write them off. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes. The irony is that even from a pragmatic standpoint, "winning" is more likely when counterarguments are (a) well received and (b) well targeted. So listening serves both. The paradox/irony/whatever is that we can't really fine tune counterarguments until we've let go of arguing enough to really listen. (And then a % of the time it turns out we don't want to counterargue after all!)

So yeah... it's less fun! But better.

"Swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath"
 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Mark_Smith wrote:

Hypothetical. You are a member of XYZ Bible Church. XYZ deacon board votes for a building program that is questionable as far as affording. After much discussion, the papers are signed. The mortgage papers are in hand. You opposed the building program and argued against it.

Do you keep complaining about the building project?

When it fails do you announce to the church that you had predicted this. If only they had listened to you? 

I don't think you guys actually disagree about this. Mostly tripping over how you're saying it. Might be good to see if you can list the points of agreement then see what's left... if anything.

Bert Perry's picture

One big question is where coercion comes into Mark's example of the building program--or for that matter, where it came into the bathroom situation.  I've personally been the guy running the numbers on budgets, building programs, and the like, and have been fortunate enough to have leadership that got the message, but if not, where does coercion come in?

Think about that one for a minute in light of the old lawyers' adage: "if the facts are on your side, pound the facts.  If the law, pound the law.  If neither, pound the table."  Coercion is, more or less, pounding the table. It's a last resort when facts and law (say Scripture) are not making the case-a great legitimate use being when someone refuses to repent of sin, per Matthew 18.

In the case of the loo, I think the "theological jujitsu" perspective would be to say "hey, you seem to care about this a lot--I'm no great judge of colors, so would you like to get a couple of other people and work to update the interior decorating?"  The coercion perspective is "take it or leave."

In the case of the building, the "theological jujitsu" perspective (using a person's strength to get what you want) would be "let's assume you're right--what might we do to reduce the impact in this case?"  As things played out, one might even put that guy on the deacon board or finance committee so people wouldn't have to wait for his insights.  His viewpoints, if correct, would be valuable in the "port-mortem" analysis.

Or one could go the coercion route and lose all that by saying "my way or the highway".  

And really, that's where my perspective is coming from; when I hear that one ought to accept it or leave, most of the time it's been someone in the "my way or the highway" crowd, a warning sign that "theology will not be practiced here", more or less.  I hope that's not your experience, Mark, but there are an awful lot of people out there that will say almost precisely the same thing.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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