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Permit me to introduce the subject with three short stories:

  • An outreach training event was mobilized in a major US city and the speaker invited anyone with good ideas to present them to the audience. A man came forward and presented a reference book which he talked about as if he had just found it. His enthusiasm like a new convert swept through the audience. At the end of the presentation he let one word slip out and that was the giveaway: "If you buy this work and have any feedback, just write US." Closer investigation showed that he was promoting a product that he had produced, but by pitching it with certain neutrality he disarmed the audience ... until ...         
  • At a recent ecclesiastic assembly a motion was made for a certain item. It was composed of 6 elements, all which required considerable thought and reflection. When the six were put together, however, the entire package seemed innocuous on one hand, but somewhat suspicious on the other. Although high ranking ecclesiastical authorities said the motion was harmless, the audience was uneasy. They detected that something was afoot and were not buying the bill of goods.
  • A meeting of people concerned with approaches to a certain outreach methodology was close to finishing. The attendees were somewhat tired due to the length of the days and the amount of content to be analyzed. At this decisive point in the meeting, the organizers presented (as being universally helpful towards Christian unity) a critical document to which all of the attendees were to sign their agreement. One discerning man diplomatically returned his document to the conveners and left the room. 

So what was happening?

In all venues, Christians were present. In all venues, something was presented as harmless. In all venues, the attempt to win over the audience was present. We might call them “Trojan horse” situations, akin to the "gift" of the Trojan horse to the people of Troy to finally conquer them. This short piece is designed to help you to detect the gift of a "Trojan horse" in a Christian setting, likely where we least expect it. Granted, you might dismiss this as sheer cynicism, but a small dose of it would have saved the citizens of Troy.

How to spot a Trojan horse:

  1. A Trojan horse has one main objective and that is to win over a city or an audience. If you and others feel like someone is trying to win you over in ways that cause unease, think again.
  2. In Christian settings, people want to believe the best of the other, and so they may have their Trojan horse "detectors" turned down or turned off. This might be the worst time to turn them off.
  3. In the first story, the man who made the presentation has taken in a great deal of secular humanistic thinking which has influenced his methods. We might ask what kind of diet do the people who are presenting the Trojan horse "eat" and by extension, might the horse reflect this diet.
  4. The person who knows the ways of horses will instinctively spot if there is something just "a bit off" with the horse being presented. As in the first item, it was a slip of the tongue using the word "us" that was the giveaway. In the second instance, it was a few words at the end of the motion that were the giveaway. Always, even with Trojan horses, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We simply need to be able to hear it. 
  5. At times the "gift" of the horse will seem just a bit too generous and a bit too overdone. At other times, however, as in the second and third illustrations, the consequences of the motion were so downplayed that the horse came across as an innocent pony that could do no harm. That could be the most dangerous Trojan horse as only when it is full-grown will its intentions to conquer the city be known.
  6. The giver of the Trojan horse knows exactly what color, shape and nature of horse the audience will like. Never underestimate how the Greeks studied the citizens of Troy before they gave the horse. In their case, an appeal to civic pride was the ticket.  In the case of the first audience, the presenter used the appeal of adding more knowledge to the people who could then boast that they had "another tool in their toolbox." In the case of the second, appeals were based on need, urgency, spirituality and the threat of derailing the work of God. In the third, it was to encourage so-called "unity."  In short it was calculated how to cause the audience to want to accept the "gift" of the horse.
  7. The donor of a Trojan horse will also leverage the potential loss of status of those who might refuse the gift. In the first story those who would decline the gift of the resource could later be told that this was God's best gift to humankind, and now they had refused it. In the second case, the refusal of the gift could be equated with causing emotional pain, injustice, and showing favoritism.  In the third, the threat of disunity among Christians was held out and the man who walked out could be labelled as causing division. The horse donors know this quite well.
  8. Leveraging balance and neutrality. In the second illustration, the motion was carefully crafted to include six elements that somehow appeared balanced. In the first, the presenter came across at first as a neutral and objective. Both of these are designed to reduce the defenses of the recipients of the Trojan horse, as they are conveyed in smooth and soothing tones, perhaps not unlike the well-greased wheels of the horse that was rolled into the city of Troy. 
  9. The timing of giving the Trojan horse is critical. In the second and third illustrations, the conveners waited until the very last moment, when attendees were either tired or overwhelmed, to present their "gift." Just as when the Greeks knew that the people of Troy were tired after the long siege, they exploited the fatigue to their full advantage.  


In Christian settings, there is no shortage of the use of Trojan horses. This might come across as less than charitable, and yet the Holy Scriptures tell us to "test the spirits."

Always, Trojan horses are carefully designed "gifts" that are calculated to reduce defenses, increase reception, cause a welcome, and then to engage in a surprise take-over.

Could you spot a Trojan horse if it was gifted to you? What might you do?

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