Check out an interesting post at Believing Thomas that lists the actions and thought processes of people involved in "group think." Often the legalistic tribes of the COC approach the concept of being a church the same way.
Of the symptoms indicative of "group think" (a term coined by the psychologist Irving Janis) a couple thoughts on his list fit comfortably in some churches:
7. "Direct pressure on dissenters to conform": Unless you believe and practice the way we do your wrong, and unless you conform to our precise understanding of scripture your not acceptable to God, and not recognized as a Christian by our group. Seems like something I have heard before!
8. "Self-appointed 'mindguards' protect the group from negative information": In a few of these groups only the King James Version is the only authorized and acceptable Bible Christians should read. Any book written by someone not sharing the groups particular belief system is suspect, and shouldn't be read because it only confuses us with false information.
Some symptoms of decisions affected by group think according to Janis:
1. "Incomplete survey of alternatives": You probably know of churches that refuse to even consider alternatives to their paternalistic and traditional practices. Can you imagine one of these churches considering the alternative of allowing a woman to stand up in front of the congregation and participate in the process of passing the communion to other Christians-even if she didn't speak a word!
3. "Failure to re-appraise initially rejected alternatives": Once an alternative has been dismissed by some churches it takes an act of congress for them to rethink their position. Old traditional methods are the only acceptable practices-if it was good enough for Grandpa Jones it's good enough for me!
Christians involved in a "group think" (my-way-or-the-highway) church wouldn't even realize the listed symptoms applied to them. While Janis may not intend his findings to be exclusive to church groups, his study certainly seems to apply to some churches where I was a member.