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Do we suffer from group think?

February 25, 2007

I have been talking with a friend this week about group think. It is defined by Irving Janis, someone who did extensive research on this topic, as “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”

At church today during worship we were encouraged to shout during a specific song. I am a pretty quiet person and shouting is not my way of showing support, enthusiasm, or passion. It definitely is not something I do to show my love for God, but I can respect that this is an action that others find some value in. As I stood watching and listening to others I wondered how group think applies to Christianity and our churches. Group think isn’t by nature bad, but it may cause groups to make hasty or irrational decisions, and it can be a characteristic of groups that adhere to a certain set of beliefs without questioning those beliefs.

Sometimes I hear or observe Christians expressing there is one way to approach God or have a relationship with Christ. I don’t know where that idea comes from because I see just the opposite in God’s word. I believe God has made us all different and unique and therefore there are various ways we can pursue, follow, or approach relationship with Christ. We should choose those methods that work best for us rather than joining in with others in a manner where group think is in control. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
• Zaccheus – While he desired for more, just seeing Christ was enough and was better than missing out completely.
• Woman who had bled for years – She only wanted to touch, not be seen or recognized, and she did not say a word. She had tremendous respect for the power Christ carried.
• Jairus – He fell at Christ’s feet, pleading for him to come heal his daughter.
• Canaanite woman – She believed that Christ only had to say her daughter was healed. She had great faith that Christ would do what he said.
• Men who lowered their friend through a roof so he could be healed – These men would do anything to get to Christ. They knew the source of power and healing and didn’t want to wait.
• Disciples – They were willing to give up their way of life to follow Christ

How do you follow Christ? Are you only doing what others tell you to, or are you finding the best way for you to follow Christ? God doesn’t tell us how to come, he just wants us to come and share life with him. Find the way to do that which fits you best.

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