The “majority rules” way of picking sides is not always smart. Especially when it comes to the things of God and matters of the kingdom. Often, as the majority rules, the majority fools.
We’ve all seen examples of this in the world, such as when kids side with the bully in a school yard fight, or when juries convict innocent men to life or death sentences who are later exonerated.
I saw this happen to a pastor once. Not in a court of law, mind you, and not quite on a school yard. But this pastor was wrongfully accused of being a “striker brawler” by the unanimous vote of his deacon board even though they knew he had never even threatened to hit anyone let alone actually hit anyone. All it took, apparently, was a grossly embellished story by one of the deacons who knew it would be his word against the pastor’s because there were no other known eyewitnesses to the incident. Couple that with the fact that this deacon always prided himself on his ability to talk anyone into the ground until they cried “Uncle!” — except the pastor, who knew it takes more than sheer quantity of words and cleverness to make good ministry decisions.
Despite the overwhelming lack of independent evidence, the deacon’s powers of persuasion worked on the other deacons. The pastor was quickly dismissed from his post and banned from the church with one day’s notice, without his back pay or severance pay, and without an opportunity to give his side of the story to the congregation.
Many of the church members and other collaborators with the ministry took the deacons’ unanimous vote as evidence enough of the pastor’s guilt. Most did not. Either way, the majority rules mentality caused a devastating church split. An eyewitness to the incident later revealed himself to the pastor to corroborate the pastor’s account. But it was too late.
As the majority ruled, the majority fooled.
This “majority fools” concept is of course not new. One of the best biblical examples is found in Numbers 13 and 14. God told Moses He was going to give a certain area of land to the people of Israel, but first He had him choose twelve men to go and spy things out. All twelve men came back agreeing it was a rich land, but the whopping majority of them doubted they could take it — and convinced all the people of the same. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, had faith to believe God would be with them to give them the victory. All the people picked the side of the majority, to the point that they even talked about stoning the two dissenters!
So, what happened? God got angry because of the people’s contempt and decided everyone of that generation would not ever enter the promised land except Joshua and Caleb and their families. The ten men who spread the bad report, causing the people to grumble and rebel against The Lord, were struck down with a plague. It was at that point that the people decided to go and try to take the land, but it was too late. God had already withdrawn His will for them to succeed and they were attacked and chased away by the enemy.
The most obvious and notorious example is that of the Passion of Jesus Christ. After being betrayed by one of His closest disciples, Jesus stood trial in a kangaroo court as the religious leaders presented false witnesses against Him. He was convicted, beaten and then scourged within an inch of His life. Worst of all, the same people who had just hailed Him as King during His Triumphant Entry were now zealous for His death! They mocked Him, spit on Him, struck Him repeatedly and cursed at Him as He carried His Cross all the way up the hill to Calvary. The crowds who were once praising Jesus, now wanted Him dead. Just like that.
I’m not using these stories to prophesy or even hint anything about what did, should or might happen to those deacons and the church members and collaborators who sided with them. All I’m pointing out is that, when it comes to matters of God’s Kingdom, in some form or another:
When the majority fools, destruction often follows.
Of course, the only way the majority fools is because people let the majority rule. Not that people want to be made fools. But people are either lazy enough to let the more vocal or prominent do their thinking for them; or they’re naive enough to think “majority rules” is a reliable way to tell right from wrong; or they have their own selfish ulterior motives.
Or, they just always automatically follow the crowd without a second thought.
That happens a lot among God’s people, especially today. Unsuspecting sheep blindly follow unsuspecting sheep who blindly follow the most popular “shepherds” — i.e., pastors, teachers, authors, life coaches, conference speakers and talk show personalities — who can then lead the sheep any way they want.
One pastor I admire described a spot-on parallel between God’s sheep (believers) and real sheep. In a flock of real sheep, the ones behind automatically follow the ones ahead. That’s why it’s easy to lead a whole flock to the slaughter, or at least to the shearing. Sheep are short-sighted and gullible because they by nature just follow each other without checking to see where they’re headed.
In addition, their wool is sheared because if it wasn’t, infection could spread quickly. Since sheep tend to stand and move tightly together in a filthy environment (they stand in their own and each other’s excrement), long wool attracts the filth and gets transferred easily from one sheep to the next. Keeping them clipped and periodically moving them forward helps protect the whole flock. Plus, sheep dogs, while often a scary annoyance to the sheep, are invaluable for protecting them from ravenous wolves and preventing the sheep in front from straying in the wrong direction where the whole flock will follow.
See how important the sheep are to the shepherd? That’s why there are all these efforts to keep them safe and healthy. They are invaluable even if they are vulnerable.
And that’s why, in the church, a good shepherd of God’s flock understands the level of responsibility his job holds to keep the sheep safe and healthy in light of their tendency to kind of go with the flow of the whole crowd. He recognizes the value but also the vulnerability of the sheep God puts in his care. So, he uses the purging and pruning and forward-moving (spiritual growth) effects of God’s Word, the Bible, to keep them free of “infection” so that it won’t spread to the whole flock. And he supplements his sermons with ministry tools used like sheep dogs — Bible studies, Bible reading programs, Christ-centered worship, counseling, Bible workshops, his own example, etc. — to help prevent the sheep from straying and to equip them against ravenous wolves.
Of course, some Christians will still be fools for the “majority rules” way of thinking in church. Despite even the best shepherd’s efforts, there will still be those sheep who stray and take some of their unsuspecting fellow sheep along with them. There will still be some sheep in the church who will get wooed by the wolves in sheep’s clothing who manipulate them with clever words, or “infect” them with false doctrine, or lure them with empty promises, or blind them with their bling, stadium-sized congregations and endorsements from celebrity demi-gods like Oprah.
Part of the solution is to remind the church that, even though we are indeed God’s precious sheep, we are still more than real sheep. (This may be obvious, but why don’t we act like it?) God has given each of us the mental, emotional and intellectual ability to think, to discern, to investigate and to make reasonable and fair decisions about matters of the Kingdom. He has given us the power to resist the mindless draw of the crowds and those who woo, lure and blind them. And He has given us the instructions for measuring right from wrong based on what His Word says and not on what the majority says. Because God’s Word is what really rules.
Please remember, the majority was wrong in the case of Joshua and Caleb versus their fellow spies; and the majority was wrong when they demanded Christ’s brutal crucifixion. Hold on to the truth that God’s Word rules over the majority — especially in this day and age when the majority of people around you, even some fellow believers, are becoming less and less tolerant of your strong faith in Christ and your reliance on the scriptures. (See the Why I’m Not Reluctant page.)
Let this be a regular refrain as you keep your focus on Jesus the Lord: When it comes to matters of His Kingdom, as the majority rules, the majority fools; and as it fools, it can lead to the fool’s destruction.
Please share your thoughts by commenting below. I will endeavor to respond as soon as I can.