Roger Olson is, in a cyber sense, the friend of a friend. He is the real deal. I first become acquainted with him when I read The Spectrum of Evangelicalism. Since then I have read his blog from time to time. My friend recently blogged about one of Olson's posts, ”Totalistic, Aberrational, Christian Organization.” T.A.C.O. (here).
The churches and ministries that Olson describes are sometimes admired for "for their dedication, intensity and outreach." Yet these virtues are maintained by, or corrupted by behaviors that coalesce around power--leaders trying to seize and/or maintain power, or boards trying to take power from a leader, etc. In these power struggles the people in the pew become pawns in battle, or worse fuel for the fire. (At least that's my summary . I encourage you to read the article.) In forty+ years of ministry I've been tempted to be T.A.C.O.. Convinced of my righteousness and the utter necessity of seeing my agenda adopted, I became more interested in winning than in caring. (It is another topic, but it needs to be said that not all battles are bad. In fact a case can be made that it is sinful to allow evil to stand, when it is in our power to mount a realistic opposition to it, but, as I say, that is another topic.) More often I have been accused of serving T.A.C.O.s. Sometimes those accusations came from those who were guilty. Yep, it's complicated.
A short time later Olson gave expression to the other extreme. He describes "Precious Moments Christianity" as the opposite danger to T.A.C.O.ism. "They specialize so much in comforting the afflicted that they lose Christianity’s prophetic cutting edge. I call their brand of Christianity “Precious Moments Christianity” because they present the gospel as all comfort and calm, sweetness and light, with no conviction or accountability."
I think it was Warren Wiersbe who pronounced, "Blessed are the balanced."
Those of us in leadership roles need to be self-aware. There is no doubt that Satan is aware of our tendencies. I figure that somewhere in, to get Lewis-ish for a moment, the "lower-archy" there must be a demon with a database (Anyone want to argue about the hellishness of computers?). Among the other characteristics there must be a column that identifies every ministry leader as either T.A.C.O. prone, or subject to the Precious Moments syndrome.
By God's grace let's make that imps existence more unpleasant.
Here are a couple of observations. I would appreciate yours.
- When I react--especially in anger--I am apt to be T.A.C.O.-ish.
- Weariness leads to P.M.
- It may be trite, but the "Jesus, Others, You" acronym that we teach children is not a bad thumbnail measurement tool.
- If our ministries are doing what God wants done, then doing ministry will not conflict with growing in the Lord, and enjoying Him. T.A.C.O.-ish ministry robs joy. P.M. style organizations tend to do little, but doing it feels good.
- (fill in)
As I said, let's give the database demon a hard time.
"I don't get it your Undership. These P.M.s are becoming downright warlike, and these T.A.C.O.s are caring about their comrades. I'm proposing a new designation--"Enemy operatives to be feared."
Andy Naselli has some worthwhile things to say about a related subject, legalism. Here is a post. Click the links to follow his thoughts.