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Archive for June, 2008

Okay, we’re a church looking at “emergent youth” today.  Wonder what the focus will be tomorrow.  We just went through a series in Jude, and I noticed much talk was given to “scoffers” and those who we should watch out for.  I just wonder why we’re doing this.   It’s true, we do need to contend for the faith, but I find it ironic that’s our series topic when I feel I’m observing something I personally need to contend for.  And what’s with the idea of corporate church deciding what’s false or true, and one individual coming up with problems is “bible police?”  I worry this whole series is to set up the church people to be afraid to express their concerns.  I fear any thing I say will be seen as “spreading rumors” which is the biggest sin in a church that wants to control everyone. 

I go through feelings though of fear or doubt.  What if I’m reading paranoid people’s information and our church is really not going in a bad direction.  However, the things I’ve read fit with the things I’m seeing in reality.  Also, I’m noticing the pastor seems to be interpreting things ever so slightly different than I’ve heard, and in my heart I know he’s off just a little bit.  It’s the “did he really mean it that way” feeling all the time.  Well, I believe he did REALLY mean what he said, and if I’m right, then my alarm bells should be going off.

We sang at the end of service yesterday, cannot remember the song, but it made me cry.  I was able to think that our church needs to repent and turn to Christ, and this realization in looking all around, I began to pray for our church to open it’s eyes to the truth of what is happening.  I’m praying for the pastors, and the other leaders. 

I may have written this here already, but maybe not.  Our little weekly in house groups report to the church through the internet.  We write out our prayer requests, and what happened in the meeting, what we study.  We also mark who attended and who was gone.  This all goes somewhere, they don’t ask for information without having someone read it.  This means the idea, “what’s said in the group stays in the group” is not true and it’s very possible we can be monitored.  Ugh.

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http://cicministry.org/articles.php

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I have realized that the Rick Warrenites don’t necessarily identify themselves as emergent or emerging, they don’t like labels.  However, they are quick to point out labels of others.  I’ve read it, but not yet heard it openly in my church.  Those who oppose are called “wolves.”  I guess I am what Warrenites would call a wolf then.  I am not intending to be so.  But the truth is, whether they think I’m a wolf or goat matters not.  What matters is whether or not I’m doing the will of my Father in Heaven.  That is what I must focus on.

We have had a few events occur this week.  Our small group had the “group supervisors” (our church uses a different term) come to and lead a meeting.  We’re going through a touchy-feely marriage book, and so we spent an entire night discussing our selves and marriages in depth with each other.  One bible verse was mentioned by the wife of the supervisor…and I mentioned the model for marriage in that Christ is the head of the Body, and marriage is to be like this.  That’s it.  I think there is some value in looking at how your spouse needs to be loved, and we are to focus on our spouses, but I don’t find these exercises in small group to really do anything substantive in my marriage.  I just feel guilty for not doing the exercises well, enough, or for doing them quickly before the next small group meeting.  Sure, we might get a little for our marriage, but would we not do MUCH better in studying the bible and learning about Jesus?  Wouldn’t we benefit our marriages if we were close to God?

I learned, as the wife supervisor mentioned, our group is tracked by our weekly reports.  This is not just a report to the supervisor couple with our prayer requests (by the way, what is said in group is supposed to stay in group), but it’s a small report on the group topic and discussion as well as prayer requests that are put into some sort of church data base.  What is said in group goes into file if someone happens to write it down.  Yummy.  Big Brother Church?

My husband doesn’t have the time to study up on the Warrenite movement (as well as emergent church etc) and so relies on me for research and knowing.  He is however going by the most appropriate method and is the leader and head of the household.  So, he’s the one going to elders to discuss problems.  Unfortunely, his grasp of this all is a little patchy, so when he shares with an elder, he often is pulled a bit in their direciton.  He went to an elder mentor of his this week with a few concerns and questions.  The elder glossed over much of it, and then told my husband he would nominate him for elder.  What tactic is this?  I know this elder teddy bear giving man, but why on earth would a family as busy as mine, and who has not got their money in order (I mean it, we are poor budgeters) need to have an eldership thing?  We have small children, and I believe we’re too much in the season of raising our kids to go that direction.  At first it sounded great because the elder teddy bear giving man said, “you can best change things in this church as an elder.”  However, my husband is not ready to fight like that.  Not in there.  He’s not aware of the manipulative nuances.  I’m not a good one in face to face either.  I wilt, and shake, I either seem meek or downright crazy.  Besides, the elders are men, so I am not going to be one anyway.  However, I think this move is an attempt to boost an ego and to keep my husband in the church.  Telling him he’s a good enough leader to be considered an elder plays right into his fears and insecurities.  He’s afraid he’s not a good enough leader at work, and cares what this man thinks.  If this man, who seems to be such a wonderful leader, is saying my husband can lead it must be true.  I do believe my husband is a leader, a very calm and compassionate leader, he’s just not a fighter.  He’s also not yet got that foundation of biblical knowledge and doctrine down pat yet.  I think eldership for him is a few years off, and he has to commit to study first. 

At first, I said to go for it if it happens, thinking in my own plans that we could fight through that platform.  Now, after consideration, prayer, and listening to the promptings I believe God is actually giving, and asking a trusted friend in our church, I think the eldership would be a bad thing at this time for our family.  It would take valuable training time away from our kids.  It would push my husband right into the Warrenite philosophy as he’d have to read those books they read.  He’s not got my warning bells.  He relies on my discernement a lot, and I cannot be at elder meetings. 

Difficult times are ahead, I can tell. 

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Whew.  So my children, three of them, heard the teacher say “be still and sit very quietly and think of all the good things God has given you.”  They all claim they were asked to shut their eyes, that this was read off a paper.  They also said it went on for five minutes at the time when they give offering.  I told this to a friend who took charge and talked with the teacher who said she did not read it off the paper, and she did this on her own accord.  She says she asked the children to pray silently and not to “keep thinking” while being still.  So, now my friend thinks I’ve focused on this issue too much and my kids are hyper sensitive.  My kids, by the way, all three of them, warned those who were around them that this seemed a lot like meditation and they didn’t like it.  Soon, I’m sure, we may be hearing from parents of these kids. 

So, did it happen the way my three little children ages 11, 9, and 8 describe, or did it happen the way the teacher said it did to my friend?  I don’t know.  I love this teacher by the way, we’ve had discussions, and I’ve witnessed her teach many times as I’ve been right there.  She’s always right on as far as I remember.  Maybe this was an honest mistake??? Not sure.  All I know is that if my boys came to me with this story I might think they could have missed a detail.  My daughter on the other hand is usually very careful to try to tell things as accurately as possible.  No, she’s not perfect, but she is one I trust.  They assure me prayer was not mentioned, there was no “amen” outloud.  The kids may have been asked to pray silently, but my three children all missed that command.  They brought the subject up to me because I had asked them to tell me what happened if they were ever told to sit quietly or “be still.”  I know my children were paying attention. 

Onto other fronts, my husband brought up some issues with an elder (he considers this man to be a mentor). This elder is a giver, a big teddy bear of a guy.  My husband was told today the same kinds of lines we’ve heard from the other elder.  He didn’t perceive the “bible police” statement to mean anything but to be loving when confronting others.  He says the P.E.A.C.E. plan of Warren’s is a method our church is using to make efforts more effective.  We are to “give hope” also and to serve the needy physically not just spiritually.  He then said to my husband that he would be recommending him for elder as “if you want change, you can do it most effectively in this church as an elder.”  Not sure what to make of that.

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I wrote this elsewhere, but wanted to give more of a picture of what happened today in church.

I was quite upset today when the pastor talked about contending for the faith from Jude and then said, “but don’t be Bible police” and said it was for a community to contend, not the individual. What does that mean? And then to say the church is just one generation away from death (he had the crowd answer “how many generations are we away from a dead church?” and there were people out there who yelled, ONE, and then he said, “do you believe it?” and  just about everyone said, “yes.”) but to not recall that the Bible teaches there is always a remnant saved by grace…denies how God has planned things and is in control. We are teaching our children, and the church is not about to die for lack of teaching, there are parents who are teaching their children. Noah was a remnant, and in bad times in many countries with atheist governments, there is still a remnant of hidden believers. It all just sounded like the pastor expected us not to think without consulting the group, and that we were to believe that the next generation is lost. Sure, we need to teach the children, but what does this mean and are we teaching them Biblically? How do we know if they separate the children from the parents in children’s ministry and youth groups?My kids told me today they did have a time when they were told to “be still” and think of all the things God has done for them. They were to be still, be quiet, and close their eyes, and think. They did this for about five minutes according to my kids, and no one offered a prayer at this time, it was just a time to think. I find this to be very subtle and yet disturbing. Why be still? Why not spend time thanking God for the things he’s done? 

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Sadly, I did not record this in my live journal when it happened, but our pastor did pray a very strange way once.  He had us pretend to hold onto our burdens (or was it distractions?) tightly.  We were then to release them at a certain point in the prayer, actually physically do it.  I was very uncomfortable with this.  I found a similar reference to it in an online book linked here… 

http://reinventingjesuschrist.com/ 

Here’s the similar event….

“In his book The Servant Leader, Blanchard and his co-author Phil Hodges placed great emphasis on the need for “solitude” and “silence” in order to “quietly receive what God reveals to you.” Invoking the cross and Psalm 46:10, they advised their readers to “Be still” and to move into the same meditative state of mind I practiced in the New Age.

If you are seated in a comfortable position, place your hands on your knees in a down position. If walking, visualize yourself in this position. In harmony with the position of your hands, mentally put down everything you are concerned about or expending energy in trying to manage or control at the foot of the cross. Be specific—name each burden as you put it down.

When you have exhausted your list, take a couple of deep breaths and turn your hands, physically and mentally, into an up position and quietly receive what God reveals to you.

Have no expectations or agenda for this time with God. Let it be His to fill.”

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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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