Oh, it’s been an interesting past few weeks. A friend of mine reads my live journal, one of the only people in my life who knows about it. I’ve left it open to her on purpose so she can decide to read or not. Her life is full of problems right now, and introducing her to this issue in our church is painful to her. Both my friend and her husband have been attacked on every side, I really mean it, every side. Even his side job, which is for Christians in an artsy organization that is supposed to be Christian is causing them serious trouble. Their income is being challenged, their bodies, their minds, and their future. She told me that she feels spiritually oppressed. I believe they are under attack, and now I’m telling her our church is not what it should be. This has to be hard for her, but she says she appreciates my discernment (I don’t think it’s really discernment on my part, more my eyes were opened for some reason I cannot explain), and yet she’s not sure we’re not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” You see, emergent church is a giving place. Social ills are confronted and a sincere attempt is made to deal with them. If you were to read my LJ you’d see how many times my church has met our needs for financial issues, or times I’ve seen our church serve in amazing ways. Our church is full of Christians who really do believe and follow God, and want to please Him. So, that baby, the service part, is a true act of worship. I believe that. My friend is an artist as is her husband. Emergent welcomes different modes of worship which include art. I believe that is not a problem, as long as everything stays biblical. I like the art in our church, the paintings people have created depicting worship, or Christ on the cross, the poems, the songs people have written, the dances presented. I do feel these expressions of worship, as long as they fall in line with scripture, are wonderful.
My friend brought her husband into a room during service last week to speak with my husband and me. She wanted to have me explain my stance, what I was seeing that was bothering me, and she wanted her husband there to hear it. They are both very intelligent people, and when she cannot understand something he can really fill it in for her. We spent the entire hour talking about what I think the pastors mean by spiritual transformation, how our church is offering bible study books (or just books) by authors who are emergent and support contemplative prayer and spiritual disciplines from mystic catholicism, sermons, speakers, links our church has with a local openly emergent congregation, youth, couples who have left and why, what contemplative prayer is…what labyrinths are (our church doesn’t do this but the other linked church does and this couple’s seen it happen because they’ve attended the other church before). We discussed which pastors (and we have many, is this a problem in itself) might be more willing to speak about our church issues honestly.
My friend and her husband don’t know for themselves if everything I’m concerned about is actually a problem. They are confused a bit, and want to investigate for themselves. My friend trusts me, but also trusts others who have not had an issue at all with where the church is headed.
I’ve also found an ally, a friend in our church who has been alarmed for a while now but has prayed and decided to stay. She is the first person who attends our church (besides my husband) I came to openly with what I finally could see for myself, it was a sudden draw to her that gave me the guts to take a risk and say something. I believe it was the hand of God really that brought us together. She was in Minnesota in a very large megachurch she says was one of the founders of this emergent stuff (is it Paggitt???she’s never said). Anyway, she said she watched it change for five years. One day, while singing in choir before about 15,000 she suddenly felt things weren’t right. She said she actually felt that God was impressing upon her to listen, and she did. For five years she saw the church change little by little. She describes what happened was “double talk.” They’d say one thing, but mean another. Candles, artwork, and other things began to come into the church. A shift occured right before her eyes. She tried talking to people but no one was seeing it. She has been there, done that, and now is seeing the beginnings of it in our church. She’s a single woman, and as such, has no power in our church. She’s brought some things to leaders and has had some struggles. She is often marginalized as a person who is either too legalistic, weak, emotionally unstable…etc. She is a very energetic person, very talky (I like talky, I’m talky), and serves in every capacity possible. She also is not afraid to speak the truth, and sometimes is perceived as being too blunt. I think she may need to work on her approach, but for the most part, I find her to be a refreshing change to the games people play. No games with this woman, let me tell you. Of course, I know she and I will tangle someday…I’m sure, but that’s for another day. Anyway, she and I are united in one thing, we must pray for our church. She believes we need people to come to the leadership who have been through different things and can bring their experience to the leadership. For instance, in trying something new the church was goign to have two services. In one, I guess some ex-catholics said, “why are we doing this? What we are doing is what we came out of.” That service style was dropped. She hopes for some people who came out of the “new age” movement or eastern religions to notice and to bring up to leadership how this or that parallels with eastern mysticism.
So far, we’ve not had out right contemplative prayer, we’ve not had mantras. I think we’re slowly being brought to a point where we’ll be open to this. Sermons are using other religions and gods as illustrative story points. The pastors are asking us to do things when we pray corporately like imagine our problems in our hands and hold them tightly and then we open them to “give them to God.” I hear pastors say things like, “I want you to listen to the reading of the scriptures, and if you do this by reading along, looking ahead, staring into a light, whatever you do to pay attention is fine.” Literally, our pastor did say “staring into a light” when referring to paying attention to the reading of the word. More and more, pastors refer to emergent youth or postmodern youth in sermons. They have in the past given us lists of statistics of how many youth leave the church when they grow older, and they paint a very scary picture for the parents. The answer so far given to keep the church from dying has been to reach the youth.
Children and youth are seperated out, not many bring their kids to adult church. Really the only way to know what they are really being taught is to be a helper. It’s so tempting to just give the kids over (which if you trust your church is not usually a problem). I look at the curriculums online and have discovered our curriculum is linked to Saddleback/Willow Creek. Papers kids bring home do not really share what is going on, it’s hard to know from them what exactly is being taught. When Awana was over, I asked what the Wednesday night activities would be…here’s the response from our children’s pastor…
We’ve had a plan from the beginning … we wouldn’t have ended Awana without something we thought would better accomplish our ministry goals with kids and better enable us to partner with parents. We are focusing on summer Sunday morning ministry and summer camp right now. We will begin rolling out our new Wednesday night ministry program sometime in June.
So far, we’ve not heard what the programs will be. Whatever changes are made, the parents have had no say, no idea what’s going on. Things are being implimented and we are not being asked. We’re on this ride, and are expected to just ride with very little information as to where we are going. Living in our church means we cannot sleep, we have to watch carefully. I feel that if the church could be honest about the direction, the leadership would be open and tell us everything at once. Because they know they have to do it slowly, this is why we’ve been seeing changes but been given no clue to the direction. Or, we’ve been given clues in “code” words, but we’re not hearing them and understanding them because we’re behind the curve.
Living in our church means you see people leave with no warning and you don’t know why. It means there are lots of great programs going on. It means you feel empty but you don’t know why. It means you can talk to people but often no one else knows what is going on. It means you feel that if you bring things to the leadership you might be in trouble, but you don’t know why you feel this way. Living in our church means you can see a ladder like in corporate American business, but you don’t really believe it ‘s there. Living in our church means you don’t know that everthing that seems random is actually linked. Every program is linked. Every mission trip is linked. Connect the dots, follow the lines. Emergent Youth…it’s a loaded phrase and no one realizes it.
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