Holy Spirit…or Peer Pressure?

Someone recently told about a gospel meeting where a worker shared that a man who had been coming to meeting for about a year was showing signs of “spiritual growth.” This was being measured by the fact that he had stopped wearing a ball cap to meeting, and “no one even told him he should not wear it.” They based a judgement of spiritual growth on someone conforming with an unwritten rule without being told.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this thing we called the “leading of the spirit” or the quickening of our spiritual conscience.” I’m not going to say that those things don’t exist. I deeply believe in God and have felt his hand in my life and don’t want to belittle that for someone else. HOWEVER, there is a difference between being led by God and peer pressure or simply the desire to fit in and get along.

Some people are more swayed by peer pressure than others. And some have a strong need to belong and fit in while others have a strong sense of self and don’t feel the need to conform to the crowd around them. I am not judging one trait over another—both can be genuinely good people. Although, it could be argued that the person with the strong sense of self will stand more true, if that’s where their inclinations are.

At any rate, people who are the “fit in” types will slowly take on the characteristics of those around them like a chameleon. At the same time, the independent folks are likely to stand out as different.

We have mistaken these characteristics as spiritual growth or the lack of it. Over time, the 2×2 church has become heavily weighted with the “fit in and get along” personality types. Those who are less likely to question and more likely to fit into the external appearances of the others. They even take on the same tone and cadence of speech. Their prayers and testimonies begin to blend in.

Of course, the more independent ones are viewed as less faithful. Sometimes they stay because they have close family ties, but they often lose out because they get tired of being treated differently. While the “fit in” group becomes absolutely convinced that they somehow have a higher spiritual calling because of their bond.

But it is no more a spiritual calling than another conformant minded group bonding over their ghetto vocabulary, saggy pants, fat reefers and their disdain for the rule of law. They just look different and conform to a more wholesome appearing version. There are endless examples of groups of people who jell together and conform to fit in. Think about any of the stereotypical high school cliques. But in the end, they are just groups of people who are comfortable with their tribe and feel a strong sense of belonging there.

The ole boy coming to gospel meetings quit wearing his ball cap because he wanted to fit in and didn’t want people looking at him funny. Simple as that. I’m pretty sure God could care less about his ball cap, even if it didn’t say Astros on it.

Joe Trapp
April 16, 2024