Chickenized Church

Chickenized Church

Chickenized Church

What is chickenization?

*Please note, capital C “Church” refers to believers everywhere and anywhere, including those who are members of the institutional, lower-case c “church.” The lower-case c “church” is a local congregation of believers.

Indications that your church may have subjected you to chickenization:

  • Loss of control — As a follower of Christ, you want to… well… follow Christ, but people with spiritual “authority” have a problem with the direction you are moving. They are warning you to change your thinking, or threatening you with a loss of status, position, or preventing you from participating in a meaningful way in your normal church activities in an attempt to redirect you.
  • Loss of prosperity — Jesus never promised material prosperity (Luke 21:12, Matthew 10: 21, 22), but a spiritual kind of prosperity (Matthew 6:20, 21) as we live in the presence of God. What kind of spiritual harvest is the field of your heart producing? — and I’m not talking about one off season here or there, I’m talking about the overall pattern. Love, joy, peace, patience, and the like, or is it the opposite? Are you overflowing with the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” or do you feel spiritually starved?
  • Concentration of decision-making — Does the pastor and a small group of elders or leaders make important or controversial decisions (for example, what you must believe in order to be considered a member, whether certain behaviors are acceptable, significant financial decisions, etc.) without first allowing an opportunity for the congregation to debate the pros and cons complete with adequate time for opposition and rebuttal? When there is continued disagreement about a decision, do the pastor and the elders or leaders get the final say, or does the entire congregation vote?
  • Concentration of power — If people in the congregation have a problem with the way things are done, is there some way to go about changing it without being labeled a troublemaker? Do people with authority create opportunities for congregants to publicly challenge their decisions without fear of retribution?

Imagine that your church is a group of five or ten or fifteen people who get together around a table or a camp fire or a living room. More than likely, because of social norms (and common courtesy, I might add), you won’t find one person doing all the talking every week and you won’t find people being told they are not allowed to talk unless they are agreeing with the one who does all the talking. The reasons for this are numerous, but I think there are two main reasons.

  1. In a more intimate setting, there is more transparency. A pastor or elder who would have no trouble at all saying the five ugly words, “You are not welcome here,” might think long and hard about saying those words in front of five or ten witnesses who have ample motive and opportunity to voice their disapproval. In a setting where decision-making and power are not in the hands of the average believer, there is very little or no opportunity at all to publicly voice disapproval without causing a scene.
  2. There are no salaries involved. People don’t have to worry about losing their jobs should they reexamine traditional beliefs or challenge the status quo. They are free to follow Christ wherever He leads and simultaneously feed and shelter their children.

Theoretically, I suppose, you could have numbers one and two above with a larger congregation, if the Chickenizers were to give up their power. It’s far-fetched, yet possible to have an open-mic type of church, where people take turns talking, and every important decision is made in the light of day, and words like “You are not welcome here,” are spoken before dozens or hundreds of witnesses who must agree or disagree with a clear conscience before God. Does that sound scary? It should, because it is radically different than the sharecropping model we are so used to.

If you are a pastor reading this blog, I dare you to have an open mic night, and I dare you to invite me.

PS. This post (on my Facebook page) was liked by a pastor… for about two minutes. His like is gone now. LOL


  • Mary Vanderplas August 9, 2017 at 6:47 am

    I like your comparison between big agriculture and big ecclesia and the stifling effects of the top-down system on the people on the farm and the people in the pews. I like what you say by way of describing how chickenization looks in the church, though I think that loss of prosperity would likely be experienced not just in terms of not growing spiritually as individuals but also as not flourishing and producing fruit as a congregation. I think your alternative model of Christian community in which power is shared and everyone has a voice is right on. Whether or not such a model of shared leadership and equality would work in the setting of larger group would depend, I agree, on the willingness of the powers that be in these settings to relinquish control and try new forms of life together.

    I would add that the sense of powerlessness that comes from being controlled under this system breeds resentment. (Check out The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, by Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist. While not specifically about agriculture and the effects of big agriculture on people on the farm, it addresses the feelings that rural Americans have generally of not getting their fair share and of being ignored and disrespected – feelings that certainly are part of what’s involved in chickenization.)

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