You’ve never heard of the Four S Club? I’ll bet you have. They are the Secret Society of Superior Saints – the folks who have a hidden or secret knowledge that none of the rest of us poor schlubs know that makes them better than we are. Oh, they know that all who have faith in Christ are saints, redeemed, heaven-bound – they are not gospel-denying heretics after all. They just know something that makes them a little more saintly, a little more redeemed. They have a wisdom that the rest of us just don’t have.
- Maybe it is some insight into the inner workings of the spiritual realm – they know where the territorial and generational demons lurk.
- Maybe it is a rubric for interpreting the Bible – some sort of Bible Code embedded in the text, insight into OT law and Jewish matters, or wisdom gleaned from some other ancient source.
- Maybe they have discovered some ancient linguistic secret that brings all truth to light, answers all questions and solves all of life’s mysteries.
- Maybe it is a deuterocanonical or apocryphal book that has given them the upper edge.
- Maybe it is their intellect and personal insight, or perhaps a doctrinal “discovery” that they wish to share with the rest of us.
- Maybe it is a “gift” for interpreting prophetic scriptures that helps them understand all current affairs in the light of biblical prophecy.
- Maybe it is a commitment to the “proper” translation of the Bible – the English Version authorized by Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail.
- Maybe it is a dream or a vision that they assert as authoritative revelation.
- Maybe they have learned a key, a secret to the Christian life that would change all of our lives if only we would listen.
It can be any number of things. But they all have this in common. They have something we don’t have that makes them more than we are, and they want to share it with us. Members of the Four S Club can be annoying, even divisive in a church.
- They are arrogant – they know what no one else knows and appoint themselves as resident experts in the church. They know more than you and they don’t mind telling you so.
- They are divisive – as resident experts, they often undermine the leadership in the church. They will not submit to the fellowship of the church, but in their self-appointed superiority they often gather a small group of followers around them and sow discord.
- They are usually unstable – in my experience, one thing the members of the Four S Club have in common is emotional instability. Spiritually healthy people do not develop unhealthy obsessions with these kinds of “truths.” I’m not saying they are mentally ill (though sometimes, I have wondered), but I think there
- They have an intense desire to be unique – they are not content to be part of the church, part of the kingdom. They must have a unique place in it, a superior place. They have to have the secret, be part of the spiritual elite. I remember one young lady in a previous church who went from one spiritual secret to another, until she finally left the church. It was sad, but she could never be content with just being one of God’s sheep, part of God’s flock. She had to be munching in the best pastures and telling others how much better that feed was than theirs!
So, how do we handle these folks? What do we do when members of the Four S Club invade our churches?
Suggestions for Responding to Four S Clubbers
The good news (bad news?) is that this is nothing new. The Four S Club was alive and well in the early church. Paul spoke about them fairly frequently and Peter joined in the discussion as well. Look at Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus in the Pastoral Epistles.
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 1 Timothy 1:3–4
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness. 1 Timothy 4:7
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:3–5
It seems Paul might have been addressing the same situation a few verses earlier when he said this:
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:6–7
Peter also addressed the problem.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16
There is wisdom in these passages that we can glean.
1) Minister to them!
My experience is that people who seek the unique, the superior, the spiritually elite, are generally hurting people. They have some emotional or spiritual needs that lead them into joining the Four S Club. They often need acceptance and love, though they tend to turn off those who would give it to them. But we are called to lay down our lives for others. Try to help them. Brothers, it is our job to feed the sheep and lead the sheep – even the obnoxious and annoying ones.
Paul seems to distinguish between the perpetrators of error and those deceived by it. When one is deceived, we must be gentle. However…
2) When they start hurting the Body, take a stand.
There was a lady in my last church who was into “spiritual warfare.” What they meant was that she believed she had insight into which members of the church “had demons” and which did not. This knowledge gave her superiority and control. I talked with her and prayed with her, and sometimes I thought we were making progress. But then she started causing problems. She started spiritually assaulting women in the church, demanding that they let her get rid of the demons they were hauling around day by day. One day, she invited another single lady to lunch after church, at her house about 12 miles from the church. After lunch, she began to assert that the other lady had demons that needed to be confronted. This poor lady was 12 miles from her car, which was at church, and could not get away.
We had a talk soon after that. I told her that she was welcome in our church, but her false teaching and this habit of imposing her “spiritual insights” on others was no longer welcome. She promptly left the church.
In fact, Paul made it clear in his instruction to Titus that we would not let such folks damage the church.
Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. Titus 1:13–14
He is talking about those who set themselves up in the church to lead others astray. Someone who struggles with the issue is one thing. But someone who leads others astray must be opposed.
3) Members of the Four S Club do not make good leaders.
They are terrible followers, but make even worse leaders. One of the qualifications for leadership in the church is being sober minded. One who is enraptured by arcane and useless knowledge, who gets out of balance on spiritual things, such a person is not qualified to be a leader. The church that allows someone like that to lead, to teach, to take the reigns in ministries, will generally regret it later. Do not let these people lead!
4) Four S-proof your church by sound, solid Bible teaching.
In every passage in which Paul addresses these unhealthy myths, he also gives an instruction toward godly living and sound doctrine. When the pulpit is weak, the people are more easily led astray. When the truth is proclaimed week after week from the pulpit, that solid truth seems to immunize many of the folks from following these silly myths.
I believe the most important discipleship program in the body of Christ is sound, biblical preaching on a weekly basis. “The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to do the work of God in the people of God.” (That is my ministry motto.)
5) Most of all, DON’T JOIN the Four S Club yourself.
There are pastors who become part of this unfortunate group. People need the whole counsel of God, not just lectures on biblical prophecy or your latest spiritual discovery or your hobby horse of the month. They need to be led by sober-minded, godly men who will stay away from the silly myths and just proclaim the solid truth. Balance is not a bad thing in ministry.
Maybe you have some experience or wisdom in dealing with the Four S Club. Now, it’s your turn.