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In certain branches of the Christian family tree, it is taught that you must get community confirmation before you accept any insight from the Holy Spirit. This includes insights you get about Scripture, as well as directions you receive in life. In other words, you need to get fallen people at your church to confirm that God spoke to you before you act on what He said. Does this sound right to you? It shouldn’t. Whenever you come across any theory that tries to wedge some other being between you and God, there’s a problem. Under the Covenant that Christ established, there is no need for intercessors or mediators of any kind. Your relationship with God is a personal thing. What is said between the Holy Spirit and your spirit is private, privileged information, and you certainly don’t have to go sharing it with any pompous group at church.
Now if we cast the theory of community confirmation in the best possible light, we can see it as a sincere attempt to protect the flock. People who buy into this theory feel that someone in their group already has the “right” interpretation of Scripture, therefore we all ought to check our interpretations with what that person says to make sure we’re on track. It’s rather like grading tests in school—you get out the answer sheet and compare each student’s answers against the master sheet. Anytime someone fails to align with the answer sheet, they’re docked a point. In the same way, if you share some word God gave you last night and your community doesn’t like it, they tell you that you’re delusional and then they discourage you from acting on it. At best, they are trying to protect you from harm. At worst, they are trying to control you and play God in your life.
Now when it’s presented to you in a certain way, community confirmation can sound like a very positive safety net in your life. It can be especially attractive to those who are spiritually young and unconfident in their own walks with God. Having a community of older and wiser Christians looking out for you can sound quite appealing. But in reality, what is meant to be a protective buffer quickly turns into a growth barrier. After all, there is no individual human who has a complete grasp on truth. Everyone is walking around with theological blind spots and false assumptions about how God operates. When imperfect people get together, the imperfections only increase. Let’s see how this works with pictures. Let’s represent each false belief about God with a unique shape. For example, suppose I think that God would never contradict the Bible—that would be represented by a gold star. Then suppose I believe that any Christian can receive total physical healing if they just pray in faith—we’ll represent that with a blue triangle. Below, each shape represents a different false belief about God. I have my group and you have yours.
Now when you and I get together to start a new denomination, we want to make a list of core beliefs that all of the churches in our denomination must adhere to. Naturally, we want that list of beliefs to be true and correct. The problem is that neither of us have a perfect understanding of truth—we’re each carrying around a lot of false beliefs, and some of them are pretty major. But we don’t realize our beliefs are wrong yet, so we start to talk about doctrine together. It doesn’t take us long to realize that we have five beliefs in common, and a few that we differ on:
We quickly label our five shared beliefs as rock solid truths because we both agree, so how can we be wrong? Now we have to decide what to do about our differences. Now I have two false beliefs you’ve never heard of. Since they are new ideas to you, and because I sound so sure of myself, you quickly accept my two false beliefs as true, and we add them to our list of rock solid truths.
Now we talk about your three beliefs. I really disagree with the belief that is represented by a yellow square, and I manage to change your mind on this issue. So that belief is eliminated. But when it comes to the other two beliefs, you manage to convince me that your views are correct, so we add those two beliefs to our list of truths.
Okay, so now we have a total of 9 false beliefs that we now both agree on. When we first met each other, I only had 7 false beliefs and you only had 8. By getting together, we’ve actually increased the number of false beliefs between us. But we’re not done yet. We can’t start a denomination with just two people. You go out and get some of your friends to join us, and I go out and get some of mine. Each person we bring to the group brings another set of false beliefs with them which we then all argue about. Whenever we agree on a false belief, we all just feel that much more confident that the belief is true. Whenever we disagree, each side tries to convince the other side that their view is correct. After months of debate and lots of meetings, we have thirty people to start our new denomination with. We also have a list of core beliefs that our denomination stands on. Mixed into these core beliefs are many false beliefs which we are calling true. Here they are:
Yikes, what a mess! When you and I first met, I had 7 false beliefs and you had 8. Now the two of us are promoting a church that has 18 false beliefs, and no one even realizes how far off we are. Now in my heart, I don’t really agree with the brown plus sign or the cloud or the pink circle beliefs. But for the sake of unity, I went along with the group when they wanted to include these things in our set of core beliefs. And you secretly disagree with several of the beliefs as well, but you’re also going along for the sake of unity. Now our church is growing, and our elder board is making sure that anyone who teaches at our church only teaches ideas that line up with these 18 false beliefs. Does this sound like a healthy situation to you? Well, the reality is that there is no perfect church. But depending on what some of our false beliefs are, we could be leading people majorly astray. What if we’re teaching that anyone who doesn’t speak in tongues isn’t saved? What if we’re teaching that all addicts and perverts are going to Hell? What if we’re teaching that God hates certain ethnicities? There are real Christian churches who actually teach rot like this today, and if anyone tries to disagree, they are labeled as a heretic and given the boot.
So if people aren’t perfect, and if they get even less perfect when they come together in groups, where is the hope? What can save us from ourselves? Only God can. Susie is new to the faith and she comes to visit our church on a Sunday morning. Something she hears in the sermon doesn’t sit well with her at all. She goes home, prays about it, and the Lord shows her a more correct interpretation of that passage of Scripture. But when she brings up what He said during midweek Bible study class, she is immediately shot down by the community, because the community has been brainwashed to defend our 18 false beliefs. No one is thinking for themselves anymore. No one is leaving room for the Holy Spirit to show us the errors of our ways. Oh sure, we say that we’re open to growing, and we admit that we don’t have it all figured out. But once we tell Susie that she must get community confirmation before she believes anything she thinks God told her, are we going to be helping Susie in her walk? No, we’re going to be holding her back and insisting that she acquire the same blind spots that we have.
The problem with community confirmation is that it’s always a hundred to one. The person with the new idea is vastly outnumbered by a group of people who are all depending on each other for affirmation in life. Why would the large group be willing to fracture over one non-conformist? It’s much easier to pressure the individual to change than it is to deal with a massive fracture of the main group. Community confirmation sets us up to fail and encourages closed minds. Even when we want to believe that the leaders in our midst are mature individuals who are actually open to God leading them in a new direction, in reality, this isn’t how things work. Churches cling to the rigid theology that their parent denomination has already decided on, and the community just becomes a bunch of drones who repeat whatever is programmed into them from the pulpit. You don’t want any part of this nonsense.
As is often the case, the spiritual safeguards we invent for ourselves only set us up to reject God in our midst. How can anyone who’s actually read the Bible think that community confirmation is a good idea? How well did Mary’s community support her when she turned up pregnant with Jesus? If rebel Joseph hadn’t acted immediately on his dream and dared to stand against the whole community, Mary would have been stoned to death. Ah, but what if Joseph had told the community about his dream first and asked for their confirmation before acting on it? Would he have obeyed God? Of course not. The community would have handed him a rock and told him to throw it at Mary’s head.
When it comes to obeying God in tough assignments, communities of believers have proven to be quite worthless. When the prophet Ezekiel came home from receiving a prophetic message from Yahweh, his community assaulted him and tied him up in his house. As Moses followed the orders he received directly from Yahweh, his community kept threatening to murder him. As we look through the few records God has preserved for us, we quickly learn that if we’re going to please God in life, we have to throw out the concept of community confirmation. We can’t tell God Almighty to suspend His plans until we have a chance to discuss His orders with our community. People don’t get to approve of God. People don’t get to tell the Holy Spirit that He was wrong in something He said. Oh, but we want to. Our pride lusts after the idea that we could somehow control our Creator, and this is why we invent so many stupid rules in our little church clubs.
The Church has always felt extremely threatened by loner Christians, and this is why she works so hard to undermine your confidence in your Shepherd. You’re taught that it’s a terribly dangerous thing to try and make it in life with “just” the Holy Spirit. No, you simply can’t trust the God who dwells inside you—you have to be in constant fellowship with other fallen human beings if you want to really grow in the faith. The Church wants you to replace God with the Bible, because then she has a much easier time of controlling you. She’ll tell you that God would never contradict written Scriptures…even though we find examples of Him doing exactly that in the very Scriptures she is using to prove that He wouldn’t. In short, the Church is an idiot. Her unceasing rebellion against God has blinded her from truth and given her an intense animosity towards the One who saved her. Just as the zealous Jews of Jesus’ day drove Him out of their community, so also countless Christian communities today work hard to ban the Holy Spirit from moving in their midst. We don’t really want to mature, we just want to use God as an excuse to get together and socialize. Our sermons are shallow, our midweek studies are watered down milk. We don’t really want God, we just want Him to save us from Hell and then leave us alone to play religion in our own way.
If you are serious about honoring God in life, you can’t let the Church and her rebellious attitudes get in your way. There’s nothing wrong with sharing insights God has given you and even asking others for feedback. But at the end of the day, you are going to be accountable to God for how you responded to what He told you to do. God is your Shepherd in life. God is your King, your Spiritual Mentor, your Pastor, and your Bible Teacher. You don’t look to people or the Bible to tell you if God was right—you look to God to tell you if people were right and you look to God to tell you how to interpret the Bible. Don’t let the Church sell you a backwards system here, because the Church’s methods are garbage. She is always trying to drive you away from your Shepherd by wedging people, objects, and meaningless rituals between you and Him. As a Christian, you have God Almighty dwelling inside of you. Anyone who tells you that God can’t be totally trusted to guide and protect you in life is a fool. Any doctrine which drives you to view God as lacking or untrustworthy in any way is a bunch of rot and you need to reject it. Whenever you try and put anything between you and God, that thing will become a major stumbling block in your relationship with Him. So the next time you think you might have heard from God but you’re not quite sure, ask HIM for confirmation. Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—THEY are your community, and Their confirmation is the only confirmation you should be seeking in life.
Fellowship In Perspective