The Toledo UBF “message quality” dropped significantly this past Sunday.
The first thought that came to mind after reading this message was… I can’t remember. The thoughts presented here are so vague that I fail to grasp any meaningful teaching. The messenger seems to be performing as a cheerleader, trying really hard to rally the troops and generate some sort of „amen“. This is doubly discouraging because the bible text has some rather extraordinary teaching.
The message can be downloaded here: Christ in You, the Hope of Glory
TITLE AND SCRIPTURE:
“Christ in You, the Hope of Glory”
Dictation of ideas. One of my pet-peeves with ubf messages is that they just throw out thoughts without thinking or allowing the audience to think for themselves. The shallow introduction of this message gives us a classic example of this. The first sentence of this message declares: “The main theme of Colossians is the supremacy of Christ.” Ok Christ is supreme. But what does that mean? How do we know that the “main theme” of Colossians is about supremacy? We are only on chapter 1. Where is the reasoning ability that we all possess?
Gnosticism? Right away this message takes a swing at the terrible Gnostics. If we want a one paragraph definition of Gnosticism, I would suggest quoting someone like N.T. Wright perhaps, instead of sharing your own basically correct ideas about Gnosticism.
“Paul wrote to the church there around 60 AD because of gnostic influences. The Gnostics taught that the God of the Old Testament was different from that of the New. They taught the duality of spirit and material; spirit was good but material bad. This led to the disintegration of the integrity of a Christian´s life. Followers tended to become legalists or hedonists. Gnostics pretended to have the real truth of Christ.”
So if someone was to speak a lot about order and discipline in a legalistic way, they might be a gnostic? If someone was to share a message that emphasized getting rid of material possessions in order to know Christ better, to imply that watching TV was bad and present a message that spoke of future hope in glory for our souls, that might be a gnostic-influenced message? Perhaps we should keep reading this message and see if anything gnostic-sounding shows up. (Hint: it does but I won’t go into detail about it in this review).
Thought stopping. The shallow introduction continues:
“Why were Christians tempted to follow Gnostic ways? Perhaps it was because the church was a little weak being founded by Epaphras rather than Paul. Perhaps it was their depressed economy? Maybe the answer is revealed in Paul’s emphasis on Christ? Paul urges them to focus on faith in Christ. Like the Colossians we often feel week, tired, and even bored with our Christian lives. We think we need a new teaching. Christ wants us to live dynamic Christian lives full of power, excitement, expectation as well as influence. Christ shows us it is possible even in a Roman prison. Through this passage, let’s learn how to live a joyful, and meaningful life in Christ.”
This paragraph is a classic red flag, called “thought stopping”. The messenger asks questions that confuse the listeners. I would ask, “Why are we asking these questions?” We don’t really know but our thoughts are stopped as the messenger gives his own answers.
After asking some vague questions, the messenger then ties our minds to some supposed problem: “Like the Colossians we often feel week, tired, and even bored with our Christian lives.” Really? The Colossians felt weak, tired and bored? I don’t feel that way, but my mind is stopped from recalling my own reality and this problematic reality is inserted in place. In this way, ubf messages often spin a web of fantasy, and ubf members often live in a state disconnected from reality.
The last sentence in the introduction is a classic ubf thought-stopping technique. The messenger tells us the “one word” that we must learn “how to live a joyful and meaningful life in Christ”. The trick is that you don’t even have to ever answer “how” or explain “how”. When someone asks you “What did you learn from this message?” (and in ubf someone will ask you this question), your mind is trained already to just say “I learned how to live a joyful and meaningful life in Christ!” The other person will normally just say “Amen!”. But neither of you would be able to actually explain and reason through what that joyful and meaningful life entails.
Shallow text analysis. The message continues with some of the most shallow analysis of biblical text I’ve read lately. Why do ubf messages always analyze the text with their own ideas? Maybe that is why their life is so boring…Yet the messenger plows onward with the rah-rah chants of a cheerleader.
Cognitive dissonance. Merriam-Webster defines cognitive dissonance as “psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.” That is really the best way to sum up this message. Instead of clearly articulating the hope that the gospel gives us, this message presents mystery at every turn. Yes this passage does mention a mystery, but a messenger can’t just throw anything he doesn’t understand into the “mystery bucket.”
Completely missing the point. The message claims that Paul avoided arguments with people. And that Paul just “spoke positively for Christ”. Really? Are we talking about the man from Tarsus or about the man from Toledo giving this message? Why are we talking about arguments anyways? I think the messenger is perhaps infatuated with Colossians 2:4 and misunderstands the point.
“Paul did not argue against the Gnostics or the Colossians, but spoke positively for Christ. Paul focused more on Christ and less on himself and his situation. Christian’s understanding of Christ begins with trusting that Jesus died for our sins and that we have eternal life in heaven, but does not end there. God wants us to continually grow deeper in Christ daily as more and more of our lives, our thinking, and all we do become engaged with Jesus.”
The sentence that stands out to me in the quote above is this: “Paul focused more on Christ and less on himself and his situation”. Really? In this Colossians passage? You mean the one that starts with “I rejoice in my sufferings.” Paul talks a lot about himself and his real situation in this passage. We cannot avoid talking about our present reality. Granted, Paul did not go into gory details about his time in jail, but Paul did not hide his afflictions.
More ubf-only examples. Apparently there is no quality example of faith outside of ubf, because week after week the Toledo messengers only present inside references. This is a red flag of cult control that just won’t go away: “For example, M. Samuel H. and Oki Lee amazed me because at seventy years old they are pioneering Zimbabwe! How mysterious and exciting is that?”
Future glory cheer. I’ll just quote this one:
“Christ in us means that this power, ability, creativity and potential are very real. The implications of Christ in us are endless, profound, and deep. Think about it, what are you becoming in eternity? Paul calls this, “The hope of glory.” We have “The hope of glory!” We have the great hope to be glorious, like Christ! We have this hope for ourselves and for others and it is a glorious hope! When we have hope, we have something great to look forward to! Because Christ is in us we have great mystery, excitement, and anticipation. Also, the riches of the knowledge of Christ are not just for a select few. He freely makes them available to all. God wants to bless us all richly with all the knowledge of Christ!…. With the miracle of Christ in us, we already have all of the riches and mystery that life can offer. We do not need new or strange teachings. The mystery of Christ is endlessly exciting because we have the hope of glory! “
Engage with others…but only new people. Again I just quote this horrible ubf philosophy of ignoring building relationships with “old junk sheep” (or people who left) and seeking new recruits whom we barely know:
“Second, when Paul engaged himself deeply with Christ, he could engage with others. Look at verses 28, and 29, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” The excitement and joy Paul felt in Christ bubbled up and overflowed to others. He wanted to share about Christ with others, even the Colossians whom he barely knew. He boldly invited others to know Christ as he knew him. He in turn encouraged them to also share Christ.”
Switching terms. So here is another red flag of cult mind control, called switching terms. This is sometimes called re-definition of words. Please read the following message quote slowly. Notice the red flags. Notice how horribly damaging this thinking is to a Christian community, a community already hurt deeply.
“Look at verse 28, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” He encouraged them to renew their commitment to knowing and growing in Christ and in helping others to do the same. These are the very things the Colossians needed to do to restore the joy, mystery and vitality to their faith. They did not need a new teaching. They only needed to return to a life of growing in Christ and in reaching out to others. Constant personal or corporate introspection leads to despair, while encouraging others is an excellent way to encourage ourselves! God wanted them to focus on Christ and others instead of themselves.”
The message quotes verse 28 which mentions several actions (proclaim, warn, teach, present). But what does the message say about these words? The message says “renew their commitment…helping others to do the same.”
It is difficult to review any more of this horrid message without using swear words. The rest of this message is more of the same…
Order, discipline and no TV! The whole second part of this message focuses on order and discipline.
II. “Good Order and the Firmness of Your Faith in Christ.” (2:4,5) I believe Paul talks more of his prayer for the Colossians than their reality. Paul hints about discipline. Some versions of the Bible use the word “order” while others use “discipline.” Both “order” and “discipline” are good words. “Order” and “Discipline” seem like bad words because we associate them with rigidity, confinement, and a lack of creativity and spontaneity. However, the opposite is true; having order and discipline in our lives frees us to focus on things we need to take care of. Order and discipline give us freedom. We have time and energy to cultivate our relationship with Christ, our inner lives and relationships with others. Discipline and order in every area of our lives is a blessing whether it be spiritually, emotionally, in our thought life, academically, professionally, relationally, monetarily and even physically. They do not confine us but free us to focus on what we really want to do. Discipline and order is a gift from God.”
“You are all marvelously disciplined people or you would be home sleeping or watching TV. But no matter how old we are we can continue to grow in disciplining new areas of our lives bringing them under Christ’s control. That in itself is mysterious and exciting. “
“It begins with faith in Christ, but practically speaking how can we order and discipline our lives so that we can be free to pursue real spiritual growth and have time to reach out to those around us?”
“My first thought is to simplify our lives.”
“Second, find order in one thing.”
“Third, learn from others. Jesus is the perfect example but we can learn from others. Find someone who is more disciplined in an area you want to do better in and watch what they do. We are all disciplined in some area. For example, M. Sarah Hong is awesomely disciplined in daily bread and prayer. Ruth Kille is wonderfully disciplined in keeping track of money and making time to help others. Russell Kille is a master at organizing just about anything including computer networks, conferences, and even offices.. S. Jim Paul is very disciplined in his responses to others. I learn a lot from them all. I believe God wants us to humbly teach and help each other.”
This message only has value in serving as a classic example of cultic mind control and traditional UBF messenger tactics. The message amounts to shallow analysis that presents pseudo-truth with harmful thought-stopping techniques with cheerleader gusto.