She held the small booklet in front of my face and shook it as she spoke emphatically. Her tone was angry, but not quite to the volume of yelling. "How dare you hand this out! How dare you ask women to study this book! I will NOT be attending, and I doubt any of the other women will!"
At 21 years old, I had never come face to face with a "subterranean" before. This was my first encounter. Subterraneans work below the surface, have a destructive impact on the church body and may appear on the surface as your biggest supporter. I didn't have a clue about "subterraneans" when I was growing up; in fact, I was so naïve when I became a pastor's wife that I was still under the delusion that most people in church were Christians.
I believed that Christians usually acted like Jesus. I had a lot to learn.
The dangerous booklet I passed out was Dawson Trotman's Born to Reproduce. (You can read it yourself here.) It was a simple booklet on evangelism and discipleship. It's been a helpful resource for about six decades. She didn't tell me why she opposed the booklet, and I didn't ask her.
I just stood there with my mouth open, dumbfounded and silent.
This poor woman kept to her word and never attended any of the Bible studies, even when I used more "acceptable" literature. It was a small church, and my husband was the pastor and sole staff member. Traditionally, the church had been deacon-board-led rather than elder-led, and her husband was chairman of the board of deacons. She is no longer living, and I've not had contact with her since we left that church in the early 1980s, but I hope that she didn't continue in life as bitter and unhappy as she appeared to be when I knew her.
Bitterness is often a characteristic of the "subterranean." If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a look at my brief description below. This profile isn't complete, but these are some marks of the "subterranean."
Marks of a "Subterranean":
- Has rigid and narrow parameters for what is acceptable
- Has "control issues"—if things vary from their acceptable parameters, they will inflict some form of emotional punishment.
- Grabs for positions of authority
- Can appear "spiritual" and usually functions in several positions in the church body
- Views their area of responsibility as a position of unquestionable authority
- Needs to be "in the know" and makes sure they are aware (and approving) of all discussions and decisions
- Works behind the scenes (and at times publicly) to influence others when disagreeing with church leadership
- Manipulates and pressures others to comply with their agenda
- Uses the tongue to divide when a coalition forms that is not under their influence
- Is not easily detected; may be the individual you least expect
What Should We Do About "Subterraneans?"
We must guard our own hearts and minds—knowing that we can be deceived or indulge in sinful suspicions and destructive paranoia. We can react in unrighteous anger and are susceptible to the same sins as the "subterranean," so we must continually remind ourselves that we are in a spiritual battle and are not at war with any individuals; our battle is with spiritual forces:
"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).
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