Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 11, 1968

Mass Psychology In The Church

Robert C. Welch

The churches of Christ are undergoing an evolutionary process in mass psychology. It ought not so to be. A system of mass and self hypnosis is developing as a means of motivating people in worship and in evangelistic meetings in particular. This does not concern the use of this means of mental control in health and private practice. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. If men are not moved to do the will of God by instruction, admonition and exhortation from the word of God it is not genuine conversion and motivation, and the preacher has gone beyond scriptural authorization in attempting some other means of inducing obedience.

Recent reports have come of a preacher engaged in a meeting where the audience was encouraged to repeat in unison catch words and phrases in the course of his speech. This is not to be confused with the use of dignified responsive readings which many religious peoples have practiced as a counterpart of congregational singing. Instead, this was a raucous shouting of the words, with each one seeking to get louder than the other, producing the effect of working the crowd into a frenzy, or emotional binge. For example, he took the great commission and upon his speaking the word go, all the audience would shout back, "GO"! and so it went through the entire commission. When preaching on the relationship of the law to the gospel, when he would state the fact that in Christ the law was abolished, the crowd would shout, "ABOLISHED"! That is stirring them up emotionally and producing hypnotic effects rather than rational, reasonable response to the gospel.

How much of this is being done this writer does not know. But he knew several years ago that it was coming; for the children were being taught such unruly, boisterous, irrational action in the special classes which they had before the adults as a prelude to the regular worship and lessons. They were encouraged to clap their hands, "stomp" their feet, and "holler" in their class response. This was called "action songs," and other such names. they labored under the completely false impression that children do not enjoy singing the sweet songs of Israel which the adults use, but that they must use some little silly tune with equally silly or meaningless words. That generation of children has grown up in age but not in emotion. They are now wanting to use the same methods in the regular worship and evangelistic "campaigns." It is no wonder that we are now hearing of many Christians taking up the doctrines and antics of the "holiness" cults.

In the past many of the denominations used audience response to work up revival enthusiasm. Often at its highest pitch it became mass hysteria, with all the shouting, swooning, agonizing praying and crying which brought results from some of the most hardened. Such is the power of mass psychology and hypnosis. They did not hold out, of course, because when the hypnotic state passed they had no idea what had come over them. About all of this has disappeared from the denominations except with the "holiness" cults. But the practice is growing among brethren who once denounced it for what it was. Apparently it is done merely because of the desire to count numbers of responses.

The gospel has not lost its power, brethren. Too many of us are losing their trust in it as the power of God unto salvation. As they learn the ways of men, too many of us are trusting in those ways instead of placing our trust in the Lord and his way. We need to be working for real conversions instead of working for the superficial gaining of great numbers. You think that this generation of educated preachers of the gospel have learned to use the psychology they studied in school. Those old time denominational revivalists knew it and practiced mass psychology long before it got into the school curriculum for the preacher. Go back, pick up your Bible, and go forth preaching it.