The two leaders always had a tenuous alliance with each other.  They were both leaders with a sizable following and with great influence, and neither fully trusted the other, but their shared religious history and ambition for power and influence kept them working in collusion to expand their kingdoms. 

So the two “Kings” called a summit where they conferenced.  “Abe”, the first leader, said to “Josh” the second, “Let us partner together, and our combined strength can be marshalled to extend our influence into the surrounding kingdoms”.  Josh thought it a great idea and assured Abe that his network and followers, would support the venture, “But first, let us seek to hear from God, and see what He thinks”.  Abe had already decided that it was a good idea, even if it wasn’t a “God” idea, but in order to appear to be inclusive of the other leader’s suggestion, he summoned his team of company prophets.  All 400 of them.  Why so many?  The shear number of voices, all giving confirmation, must have been an overwhelming sign of the spirituality and rightness of the leader, and confirmation that He was God’s man.  After all, a consensus of 400 prophets must certainly be of profit to “the kingdom”.  So Abe called his prophets, all 400 of them, and asked (more like, declared; he was the leader after all, and had already decided), “Shall we combine forces and extend my, uhh, our kingdom?”  The prophets (who do not profit) all said “You betcha’, if God be for ya who can be against ya and stuff, praise God”, and other such spiritual sounding catch phrases. 

Now Josh wasn’t impressed by all this pretence, and though he was as much in collusion as Abe, he sincerely wanted a true word from God, no matter how it contradicted their plans.  After all, he was a pragmatist, not a fool! 

“Isn’t there a true prophet of the Lord around here instead of a bunch of yes men?”  At this comment, Abe began growing a bit agitated.  Josh was his invited guest, “The least he could do is show a little respect in honor of my authority” he thought to himself.  But he needed Josh, so he found it expedient to defer to his wishes.  “There is another guy, but he’s a lone ranger, and doesn’t know how to submit to authority (submission and authority were big issues for Abe).  He doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group, and is always negative and critical of my directives, not to mention my company of prophets.  He’s always talking about orthodoxy (right doctrine), orthopraxy (righteous acts), and orthocardia (pure and righteous heart/desires).  We don’t need all that intellectual theological stuff!  Always talking about idols of the heart and repenting of this or that.  It’s a downer, we don’t need that negativity.  And he has issues with authority.  Oh, did I say that already?” 

Nevertheless, Abe turned to his associate and said, “Email Mikey!”  And for added affect, “And bring him to me!”  When Mikey arrived, the associate coached him as to what kind of “word” he was to give in keeping with the spirit of the other prophets.  “The leaders are all in agreement (at least none have spoken up in disagreement), the prophets have all offered similar opinions, and this venture is going to happen anyway, it’s already in motion.  So, don’t be presumptuous; let your word be in harmony with the rest of the group so that there will be unity.  Don’t be divisive! “

“You must be trippin’!”, said Mikey.  “That’s not how I roll.  I’m just a mouthpiece.  A messenger just like you!  What the Lord speaks, that’s what I’ll say, and I won’t be flippin’ and twistin’ it to appease anyone.”

Always the non-conformist”, the associate groaned to himself.

“Mikey, should we go into ‘battle’ and extend our territory?”, Abe asked (he had already made up his mind; he was the leader after all).

“You betcha”, he said wearily, like one who has played this game way too many times.  “If you go into “battle”, or pursue this course of action, or venture, or whatever you’re callin’ it, God will give you good success…”, and in his best Monty Python rendition, “and there will be much rejoicing, Hooraaaayyy!” 

Abe got the intended message.  “How many times have we gone through this?  Tell me what you really think!  What do you hear?!  We want the truth!!” 

Mikey’s first impulse was to assume the most militaristic posture he could muster and shout back, “You Can’t Handle The Truth!”, but thought better of it.  However, because Mikey recognized and honored true authority (the position, if not the man), he did what all true servants of the Lord do: he submitted by speaking the truth as the Lord had spoken!  “The Lord showed me all your people scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no leader.  Let every man withdraw to his own house'”.  

“Aaaand there you go”, said Abe.  “Always so critical and negative!” 

Mikey continued delivering the word of the Lord.  It was plain that Abe and Josh’s venture was to end in disaster, that is if Mikey’s word was true.  When Mikey finished, Abe’s senior or “master” prophet, slapped him in the face, and scorned the word he had given.  “Who do you think you are?  When did God leave us to speak through you?”  Mikey had accused him of being deceived and of lying to himself and others, and that was when the “senior” prophet slapped him in the mouth.  Abe, then had Mikey disciplined for insubordination, and once again placed him on ministerial probation.  This would send a message to any of the other prophets in case they were ever tempted to risk humiliation by speaking the truth and contradicting the group and their leader.  Mikey would be restricted from public ministry until he either got with the program, or his word was proven false.  But he wouldn’t.  And it wasn’t.  His word, just like this story, was true, and the word of the Lord came to pass just as Mikey said it would.  In the end, the 400 prophets Abe gathered to himself did not profit him.  Not only did he lose the honor and power he so coveted; he also lost his life.  

If you haven’t already figured it out, yes, this is a true tale, although I have taken some dramatic license in the telling of it.  It is the historical record, found in 1Kings 22:1-39, of Israel’s Kings Ahab (Abe) and Jehoshaphat (Josh), and the Lord’s prophet Micaiah (Mikey), and his encounter with Ahab’s company of prophets.  These prophets did not profit the king or his subjects because they were all ensnared by groupthink.  All of the Eight symptoms mentioned in my previous post, Groupthink Part 1: Harmony or Conformity, can be found in their story.  And it ends disastrously.  Please find the time to read this cautionary tale.  The telling of it gives a vivid example of the dangers of groupthink, whether it’s regarding a nation with a leader like Ahab, determined to go to war and the religious leaders who rally around him, or a church leader with a team of members or company of “prophets” who do not have the courage to speak the truth in love for fear of reprisal, or who perhaps choose not to do so in hope of personal reward, or promotion. 

On that note, I’ll leave you with these words from A.W. Tozer: 

“God has always had His specialists whose chief concern has been the moral breakdown, the decline in the spiritual health of the nation or the church. Such men were Elijah, Jeremiah, Malachi and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove, rebuke and exhort in the name of God and righteousness… Such a man was likely to be drastic, radical, possibly at times violent, and the curious crowd that gathered to watch him work soon branded him as extreme, fanatical, negative. And in a sense they were right. He was single-minded, severe, fearless, and these were the qualities the circumstances demanded. He shocked some, frightened others and alienated not a few, but he knew who had called him and what he was sent to do. His ministry was geared to the emergency, and that fact marked him out as different, a man apart.”

Indeed.

Ron

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