Tom Sheepandgoats Rated R!
Atheists....the Next Generation!

Reining in the Parachurch

I knew he’d have a field day with this, but I didn’t know when that day would start. The ink wasn't dry on that September Kingdom Ministry when Vic Vomodog was peppering my blog with comments, haranguing me. It’s a good thing I can screen comments. Otherwise, he’d write on my blog more than I do.

“Did ya see it, Tommy? Hah, did ya? It’s right there in the question box, Tommy! Did ya see it?”

There was an article about some of our people grouping together to explore deeply this or that spiritual topic, delving where no one had delved before. They’d done extra research, released their own extra findings, to augment material coming from the existing JW organization. They’d held conferences, published books, and hosted web sites where collaborators from all over could contribute their own research. The faithful and discreet slave didn’t like the idea….didn’t like it at all, and strongly discouraged it. They cited a few scriptures, such as:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.      1 Cor 1:10

Might not independent research groups pose a danger to the unity Paul spoke of? In fact, there were some lone rangers back in the first century, which produced the following results:

For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.      vs. 11-15

Barfendogs likes the scriptures well enough, but not ones that get in his way. “It’s mind control, Tommy! A cult! ‘Don’t’ think for yourself; we’ll tell you what to think!’ That’s what they’re saying, Tommy! When’re you going to wake up?! When’re you going to free your head?! Better shut down this blog, Tommy, before they catch you! You‘re not allowed on the internet!” And I admit, even Tom Pearlsenswine seemed a little put out. He read the article over and over, grumbling as he read. I’m starting to worry about Pearlsenswine. You don’t think he’ll be the next to go bad, do you? With a name like Pearlsenswine, one never knows. He’s been engaged in top-secret Trinity research for years now. It seemed straightforwardand clear-cut at one time, but it just drags on and on.     (1 Jn 5:6,7)

Western society puts such a premium on independence, even to the point of belligerence, that any notion seen as “pulling in the reins” seems suspect, as if motivated by megalomania. But consider Ronald Sider’s observations about the evangelical community, a community which, he laments, makes a shambles of living the faith, though they do well at talking the faith. What causes does he identify?

Two are relevant. The first is today’s nirvana of independence, so prized by Barfendogs. It is anathema to the Christian congregation: “The notion - and practice - of an independent congregation with no structures of accountability to the larger body of Christ is simply heretical,” Sider writes in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. “How can an independent “Bible church” claim to be biblical when its very refusal to submit to a larger church structure of accountability defies the essence of a biblical understanding of being the church?     Pg 111

Doesn’t that dovetail with Watchtower’s discouragement of meetings, literature, or web sites which are not produced or organized under its own oversight?

The second is what Sider calls “parachurch” organizations, groups like the Billy Graham Crusade, the Youth for Christ, groups that transcend established church organization. They accomplish a lot of good, Sider feels, but they have no accountability, and thus provide an umbrella for the scandalous conduct Sider says is endemic in the evangelical community. “Frankly, I do not know how to solve this problem,” he admits.  Pg 112

The faithful and discreet slave does. But it takes guts to implement, and it earns them taunts and abuse from soreheads like Barfendogs. Are there even some evangelicals who join in with the catcalls?

So the Christian congregation adjusts to oversight from the parent Watchtower organization, which steps on the toes of a few (ouch!) whose motives not only are not bad but are often noble, yet whose unchecked projects might, over time, lead to the mess Mr. Sider describes. But now they are being checked. Nobody is saying not to do research. But there is a clear distinction regarding plain old research and organized efforts to augment the direction given congregations today. Even this (gulp) blog comes in for soul-searching. But at present, the author consoles himself that it’s contents do not match what is being discouraged. This blog is not a collaborating spot for Witnesses, there’s no “new truths” being unearthed, and posts that touch on religion are essentially no different than what the author might say in person were he to show up on your doorstep. (which he someday might do) Alas, there may be some overlap, however.


Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'



I didn't know about the "research groups." It concerns me to know that that sort of thing is happening and it is good that the Watchtower society is aware of it.

One thing that I have come to take for granted is the unity in the JW organization. If "new truths" are revealed by "research groups," then we start to appear divided when outsiders view us. That is not good.

Satan obviously knows that his time is almost up. It makes sense that such groups would be places for his influence to appear and also encouraged by the "spirit of the world." Imagine the victory he would feel by causing divisions in the congregation! A major portion of Satan's thinking with humans has always been independence from Jehovah, and it seems to me that this is another way to manifest that attitude among God's servants.

It is a godd thing for people to be careful, especially those who are personally fighting to keep pride from taking over their thinking (which is hard to do).

tom sheepandgoats

The tricky part is that these are loyal, decent brothers, for the most part. Their goal is not to contradict or undermine, but to reinforce. They're "idea" people with a scholarly bent who have made the truth their life and want to bring their own talents to bear. It's easy to sympathize with. But there is potential danger to Christian unity in that direction, and so the article in question points that out. It's not even a prohibition, frankly, but a statement that the organization does not "endorse" such activities. Thus it's a reminder, a discipline of sorts, that allows everyone to examine their motives and employ their conscience, not just the ones engaged such, but also the rest of the congregation.

The unity of Jehovah's Witnesses is a very good thing. Does anyone else have it to our degree? Both scriptures and history demonstrate that it is easily disrupted. Therefore, it is worth safeguarding.


Tom, this is something that I just fail to understand. First off, I can't imagine what 1 Corinthians 1:10 has to do with, for example, publishing a book in defense of your beliefs outside of the WT. Is such a thing really in conflict with the true context of the passage?

Furthermore, with the Billy Graham crusades and all that, you seemed to be arguing that such feats are without accountability. I'd agree. A lot of these "mega-churches" are the same way with guys like Rick Warren and Joel Olsteen. They have an incorrect view of church government and, to my knowledge, have no accountability to the elders in the congregation. And this is the point. The church structure is deacons and elders. And thats as high as it goes (unless you believe in modern day apostles, which I don't think you do). Where does the Bible tell us to appeal to an authoritarian heirarchy that is above the elders of the local church?

tom sheepandgoats

[I deleted two paragraphs of the above comment, primarily because it mentions a specific individual and his upcoming book. In doing so, I don't think I harmed the overall thrust of the argument]

Who was Paul? Certainly not an elder or deacon in any local church. He visited congregation after congregation, and it's clear he had authority among them. Who corresponds to him today?

Of course, he was not a one-man show. He represented something. What did he represent and who corresponds to that today?

When there was dissension in the congregations (over circumcism) all agreed to present the matter to "the apostles and elders" in Jerusalem for resolution. (Acts chapter 15) A governing agency of sorts. Not just made up of the apostles, so that when they died governing would die with them, but the "apostles and elders." They heard witnesses, considered scripture, weighed how ones were receiving holy spirit without circumsism as a precondition, and they made a decision. That decision, and others, were conveyed to all the congregations, with the result of making them "firm in the faith." (Acts 16:4-5)

Jehovah's Witnesses have a governing body today which corresponds to the "apostles and elders" in Jerusalem. Matters arose back then requiring central direction to keep all the congregations on the same page. The same situation exists today.

We're not the only ones ever to have thought of that. To quote again Ronald Sider in this post: “The notion - and practice - of an independent congregation with no structures of accountability to the larger body of Christ is simply heretical....How can an independent “Bible church” claim to be biblical when its very refusal to submit to a larger church structure of accountability defies the essence of a biblical understanding of being the church?"

Furthermore, "publishing a book in defense of your beliefs outside of the WT" isn't really what that KM article was about. Such a book sounds more in line with a personal narrative, not the unearthing of new teachings for the benefit of the rest the congregation.


Interesting. I guess I’d never thought about ‘Jehovah’s Witness' organizations outside of the direct control of the Watchtower Society. I’d be curious to give one or two of them a look, if you’d be willing to provide some names, just to see what’s going on in that area. I myself have some involvement with an LDS organization called Sunstone, which publishes and intellectually bent periodical on issues and idea’s running the broad spectrum of Mormonism, as well as hosting academic forums. Again as seems to be the case with the non-official JW organizations you mentioned, many mainstream members of my faith look upon Sunstone and its like with a degree of suspicion. This is natural in a body that places great value on an organizationally prescribed unity, it can be difficult to strike a balance between individual religious questing and the doctrinal unity of the greater church. None-the-less I think it’s a challenge well worth engaging in, both personal and communal religious experience are important, and none should be allowed to drown out the other.

tom sheepandgoats

Nate, I honestly don't know of any. I don't believe any of them are far enough along to be called "organizations," certainly not to the point of naming themselves.

To be sure, if I did know of any, I probably wouldn't publish them, as I myself would want to cooperate with the counsel given. I don't consider myself above it all. But, as it is, I don's know of any such groups.

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