Thursday 27 December 2012


Herd mentality exists not only in wildlife reserves and the financial markets but also in the spiritual realm.

Maasai Mara in Kenya is one of Africa’s most well-known wildlife reserves. Every year more than a million animals, mainly wildebeest, migrate across the plain. If you are on a safari tour, this great animal migration is truly a magnificent sight to behold.

Some of the wildebeests fall prey to waiting crocodiles as they cross the river. Once they reach the other side, the wildebeests are pounced upon by lions and leopards.

But the seemingly unending stream of wildebeests thunders across the plain, making their way to the river crossing – instinctively seized by herd mentality. After all, it’s a matter of the survival of the fittest, never mind the high attrition rate.


Man – though much higher than animals in the order of creation – is not exempt from the influence of herd mentality. We also tend to think and behave along similar lines: ‘Follow the leader’, ‘There’s safety in numbers’. What are we to going to do if we do not join the crowd?

When there is a bull run in the stock market, we find people from all walks of life – including housewives, petty traders and hawkers – beating a path to various stock broking firms, all wanting a piece of the action. They think good times will continue to roll. Experts opine that when such euphoria reigns, it’s time to be cautious; it may even be a signal to sell and take profit on our portfolio of shares.

Herd mentality exists not only in wildlife reserves and the financial markets but also in the spiritual realm.

If we just follow the * majority, not questioning the validity of our beliefs, we may be heading towards destruction. Let us not be lulled by a sense of complacency that, since we are on the side of the majority, we are safe. Sincerity is not enough. It can be very costly at the end of the road. 

For broad and easy is the way that leads to destruction. But narrow and difficult is the way that leads to life:

“You can enter true life only through the narrow gate. The gate to hell is very wide, and there is plenty of room on the road that leads there. Many people go that way. But the gate that opens the way to true life is narrow. And the road that leads there is hard to follow. Only a few people find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

One of the main reasons why false doctrine is able to thrive is this: Believers are not willing to go back to the basics – have an inquiring mind and study the Bible for themselves. They would rather listen to some well-known preacher dish out selected portions of the scripture highlighting a particular doctrinal slant.

We need to test every teaching to see how it lines up against scripture.

It is better for us to go back to the Bible – back to the basics, back to the source, like the Berean believers. We need to search the scriptures for ourselves, rather than get it “second-hand” through an illustrious personality or teacher.

The Bereans were cited as good examples because they questioned what they were taught – even Paul’s teaching – scrutinising it against the scriptures.

“And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11). (Some versions substitute the word ‘open-minded’ with ‘noble’).

Indeed, a lack of openness is another major stumbling block to arriving at the truth. If we already have fixed ideas, allowing ourselves to be exposed only to a particular viewpoint, nothing will be able to change us – unless we are receptive to new ideas.

The mind is like a parachute. It works only when it is open.

The first to put forth his case seems right, until someone else steps forward and cross-examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). That’s why, in a court of law, both the prosecution and the defense attorneys are allowed to present their case for a balanced view before sound judgment can be reached.

When we select portions of scripture which are attractive and agreeable to us, we are distorting the truth.



 *   Shaky presumptions:
The following statements also reflect flawed thinking:
Hey, this great leader holds this viewpoint. It is safer to be on the side of this respected leader. Surely he can’t be wrong.

We have believed in this doctrine all along. It’s our tradition to do this in our church.    Let’s not rock the boat. 

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