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Archive for July, 2008

There will be a leadership conference with online access for listening. 

 

Here’s the link:

http://www.calvarychapeljoco.com/index2.htm

 

 

P.A.L.  (Pastor’s and Leader’s) Conference
Location:  Calvary Chapel Johnson County
Dates: Thursday, August 7th, 6:30-9:00pm
           Friday, August 8th, 8am-8pm, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner
           Saturday, August 9th, 7am-1pm, with breakfast and lunch
           Sunday June 10th, 10am Service
Speaker & Author:  Ray Yungen ‘A Time of Departing’
Speaker & Author:  Warren Smith ‘Deceived on Purpose’
Pastor/Teacher: Xavier Ries, Calvary Chapel Pasadena
CLICK HERE for Daily Schedule
Cost:  Free will, Love offering

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I realize leaving our church would seem the right thing to do given we have children.  We have enough children that we cannot be in all their classes.  However, we can be involved with the ones that are younger while training the older ones in discernment.  We have decided to not have our children in the midweek ministries and are thinking of dropping out of small group or switching groups.  We are likely to have our children attend a bible based local ministry during the week in a church closer to home.  They already know some of the children, and it may help ease transitions later. 

Staying in the church has allowed us to talk to a few people.  I believe I have shared my concerns with only four women.  One woman and her husband have decided to move their family out of our church, they just do not have time to fight a battle.  One woman is being careful and sees some problems but trusts the leadership so much she and her husband won’t see the big picture (you have to believe the new age movement is out there and is wrong before you can realize your church is entering into it), one woman is sticking it out coming from Pagitt’s church in the past.  Her goal is to try to be a positive influence within our church, she knows full well where it’s all headed and plans to keep her hands in the church so she can keep presenting the gospel to the people she’s come to love.  Another woman is dealing with so much in her life she can only handle so much of what I’ve shared with her.  She and her husband believe what is happening is bad in many ways, but also don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”  At first they were in denial (just as I had been at first).  Now, the wife is coming to see much of what I see.  She speaks to her friends in church without mentioning me.  She shares the concerns I have shown her, but only if she personally is concerned.  One of her friends works closely with leadership, so she’s been injecting questions and is actually hearing rumbles that discussions on some of the authors and outside pastors have been happening.  My husband has questioned two elders, and who knows if that has given them some pause to think.

So, staying and discussing with others has so far caused people we shared with to pay attention, and a few are openly expressing concerns to others within the church.  If I started excitedly sharing all my concerns to everyone, which is what I wanted to do in the first place, no one would have listened and I would have been labeled as the problem.  As it stands, people are thinking and questioning and talking.  This has gotten my set of concerns farther than I could have alone. One of my friends plans of speaking to a pastor soon, and this will help me gauge the heart of this man.  He is the one that seems the most reasonable, and also will tell my friend honestly if he sees anything she’s concerned about going on whether he thinks it’s a problem personally or not.

It’s taken years to move this ship, it’ll take years to move it back (or maybe even move it into a better direction).   What’s hard is knowing if we need to just leave, and when.

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Metanarrative, God’s Story, Your Story, emergent, emerging, missional (and I REALLY like missions but recognize this phrase now as used too often to mean something else), our faith journey, bible police, authenticity, plugged in (okay, this can be used anywhere to mean getting involved, but I’m sick of it), small group (whatever happened to bible study people?), tranformational, spiritual formation, we’re so excited (every change is so exciting), we’ll explain it later when it gets up and rolling, you’ll look at this in a whole new way, I highly recommend this book (and it’s not ever the bible)…

There are so many over used phrases, I cannot list them all.  I am also finding there are many over used tactics.  An idea is pre-presented weeks before,  but only in little bits.  Later, it’s advertised with flashy posters or mail out cards.  Usually, whether it’s a sermon or a children’s ministry idea, you don’t really know what it’s about until you are in the middle of the event.  This makes me frustrated.  I’ve been asking our children’s pastor for months what is going to be replacing AWANA this fall and we’re just now getting that there will be some sort of skit night once a month to involve the evidently dumb and lazy family members that have the audacity to just drop their kids off for a program.  I have to decide if I want my family involved, but all I get is a vague, “we’ll tell you later.”  Why can’t they be UP FRONT as to what they are teaching to our children?  Why does it all have to be a big unveiling?  It’s irresponsible to send your kids to do something and not know what it is about at least generally.  I only know the intent is to present the PEACE plan to the parents and children on skit night, and then there will be teaching for the whole month somehow from this.  I know this because someone I spoke with may be planning some of it and shared it with me, not the pastor who is in charge, but the friend who has no idea what the whole program is about either. 

I feel I’m being yanked along, and the plan is to get my children following along first so I cannot be free…

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Rick Warren’s Saddleback church will be hosting a forum between Obama and McCain mid-August.  I’m on an email list from FRC Action which reports the ” ‘main areas of focus’-AIDS, poverty, human rights and the environment.”  Huh, not gay marriage, not abortion, not faith based initiatives, not abstinence education?  I agree, we should care about those who are ill with disease, and those in poverty or who have been abused.  We should be good stewards of God’s creation, but come on, these issues sure sound loaded and don’t answer the concerns of many Christians.

The first images of McCain and Obama in opposition on stage (though this moment on stage together will be brief) will not be with a journalist and moderator the likes of Tim Russert, but will be with a mega-church pastor, specifically, Rick Warren.  I cannot help but think Rick Warren is pushing his own agenda here, something has got to be in this for him.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Is the media ready to accept Warren in this particular role? 

Personally, I believe something stinks here.

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Heard another pastor on the radio this week, and he was speaking about having a “purpose driven life.”  Ugh.  You know what, I am about sick of this theme!  I think it’s all backwards.  Instead of trying to figure out our gifts, plug in to a small group, and figure out God’s purpose for us (all this is focused on me finding my  gifts, me plugging in to a small group, and me figuring out God’s purpose for me) we should be turning our eyes upon Jesus, focusing on Him and not on me or anyone else’s idea of what we should do.  Yet another pastor is pointing Christians (and he was speaking to those already claiming to be Christians) to themselves, to spend time on figuring their thing out so they could follow some sort of purpose (supposedly God’s purpose).  Now, I want to know, you out there who are seeking God’s purpose for your life, what exactly is this purpose?  How did you begin to search it out?  What was the thing that got you searching for God’s purpose to drive your life? 

I’ll tell you how I have come to where I am in my life.  In my sinful self, nowhere.  I am nothing.  My Jesus, He’s everything.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and I believe whether I am a janitor or the most famous writer and missionary, what I need to keep doing is keep seeking Christ Jesus.  God does have something in my life for me to do, but it’s up to Him to show me.  I can make my plans, but He is to direct my steps.  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever.”  Period.

C’mon, pastors, quit following a plan written by a man in a book.  Lift your heads from that book and turn your eyes upon Jesus.

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It’s a race across America, a prize awaits at the end.    You have trained for this race, others have more preparation ahead of time, and all have the same destination but some have started closer to the end.  This is not seen as a bad thing, it’s just to be expected in the race.  You have all been taught the destination.  You see other runners running in all different directions as you travel across the country, and this puzzles you.  All runners get to run in groups, some are leaders, some are followers.  Most, if they are given enough time become leaders at certain points.  It’s possible for one to follow a leader,and another to follow that one.  You have a main map that’s been given to you, it’s original writing is French, but it’s been translated for you.  Sometimes you have to really study the map to apply what it says to your race and you might get off the path at times, but generally if you keep your focus on the prize you can get yourself back on the path.  You finally settle with a group of great people with some really wonderful leaders.  The race is never easy, but it becomes more enjoyable.  If something happens, this group of people helps one another.  You do take time out on the race every week to talk about the prize, and listen to leaders that are helping to coach you to your destination.  Some groups of people have great leaders and coaches who really give them sound advice for the journey.  You have come to anticipate what road signs you will see, and how you will run to avoid injury, and what food you will take in for nutrition, and how much water you will consume in order to stay properly hydrated. 

One day, you notice some of the towns are a bit different.  Your leaders/coaches assure you that you’ve only changed a little bit on focus as many people are dropping out of the race. Oddly, it’s the young people they are worried about, not the older ones who’ve been running the race for a while.  You begin stretching differently, some of the food is really great…cake, fluffy things, fast food, you know, stuff that will keep the younger ones involved and keep their eyes focused on the path.  It’s important that we in our group stay on the path together.  It’s also important that we add as many to the path even if they are not going to be prepared in the way we were earlier.  You notice some of the members are concerned with sights along the side of the race, and go off to spend time working over here or there.  The road might look like it’s in need of repair, so they go and fix it.  After all, it’s important that the road be smooth for others coming along the path.  Some plant flowers or put beautiful rocks along the way.  Others prepare the food for the younger runners.  Some spend great amounts of time with people not in the race.  They have been given little maps by the leaders written by others.  The maps don’t look exactly like the first map, but they seem close enough.  These group members begin to hand out these maps, they don’t take much training to hand out and a few join the race. 

You recall you were racing from New York to Los Angeles.  The prize is your focus, you want to stay focused on the prize.  As you continue the race, your leaders/coaches continue to mention cities along the way, and they seem to be going off the path to Los Angeles.  Why are you in Texas this week?  Hmmm, now you’re in Kentucky, now Missouri, now Ohio.  Some days, you’re really hungry and thirsty.  You see the normal meals offered, no vegetables, no fruits, no carbohydrates with nutrition…only fast food and sweet beverages and sodas.  You’re feeling sick.  New members are getting fat, walking, eating, and following the leaders/coaches around.  Some are doing such nice projects, fixing bikes for people who bike ride, changing engines for those with cars, some are map makers, some are building houses.  All have many goals in mind.  All assure you they are also looking at the prize, and besides, they are helping people.  You know you are supposed to be going for the prize, and you do have a few friends you’ve invited to come with you.  You wanted to offer them the prize you seek, so you let them in on what you were doing.  Some have been with you a while, others you have just recently asked to come along. 

You’ve begun to notice something new.  Some people seem to be leaving the path you’re on.  They jump in with new leaders.  These are the seasoned marathon runners.  Some have taught you great stretches, others you’ve learned about proper nutrition.  A few you’ve seen speaking with the leaders/coaches trying to convince them to take a different turn at the next fork in the road or to go back to a healthier diet.  You’ve run across a few on the path and you’ve asked them questions.  They have given you clues that your leaders/coaches may be on the wrong path.  You’re not sure.  You wait and see. 

One day you realize you are getting colder.  Why is this?  Some of the signs you have read are in a different language.  It is French!  Well, but it’s weird, why would there be so much French?  Your leaders assure you that since the map was first in French, you must be getting closer to the right area and to the prize.  What?  They interpret the French for you.  They also tell stories about the places you’ll go on the path, and about the area.  It sure sounds different than what you had learned as a child about the race, about the path, and about the prize.  They begin to tell you what physical exercises and breathing techniques you need to do to optimize your success in the race.  Some of the stretches are intended to discipline your body.  Your goal is to make your body be in great shape.  You must run in different ways also, sometimes stepping with long strides, other times taking baby steps.  It’s all getting confusing, every day it’s something different. 

Suddenly, you come across a traveler.  This traveler began the race in a different place than you, and is traveling on the race going south.  Funny, you’re going north.  How can you be in the same race?  You take their map, wow!  It looks the same as the first map with translations that let you know clearly where you are.  You study the map, and some of the notes from the traveler.  Other travelers come along.  You begin to question your leaders/coaches based on the information you’ve learned from the travelers.  The leaders offer reassurance, you are on the right path.  You want to help the youth stay in the race, right?  Well, this is what we have to do for them.  Besides, we’re on a mission also to gather these people up from here.  We have many projects to do in order to attract more to the race.  You feel weaker in this race, unfed, out of shape.  You get involved in projects, you really try your new stretches.  You are assured you will be closer to the prize if you do these things in the right way and in the right order.  You notice a criticism of people who do it the way you once thought, a criticism of those who look like the travelers you met.  You still continue to look at the map from these travelers, however, and the notes.  One day it hits you, you are likely on the wrong path.  Wow, you cannot believe it, you are in Canada!  Your leaders have not been calling you runners for a long time, they’ve been saying you are prize catchers.  You now can see it more clearly, and cannot believe you’ve been dragged all the way up here.  Getting back on the path is going to be painful.  Now what do you do?  Do you try to tell all your friends and the leaders/coaches?  Do you join a group of travelers running toward the south east?  You are torn, believing this group you’ve been running with can get back.  They all mean well, they’re all great.  You love them so much.  Now it’s a matter of time, but only a short time as you have to decide what to do.  Your children, after all, have been following you and copying you this whole way.  Whatever you decide, it has to be with your eyes on the prize.

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I think people would say numbers at church are good, that this might be a fruit of labor.  Also, it might be programs, yes, our church has many programs to meet the needs.  It might also be how much outreach we do.  If we’re in India, Mexico, New Orleans, Africa, and in the other regions of our local metroplex, then we’re producing good fruit.  If we have above 80% of our people in small groups, 75% of our  children who have “made decisions for Christ” and have 100% of all members baptized, this is good fruit too, right?  If we retain 90% of our youth into college, we’ve made good fruit.  All of this is supposed to measure good fruit, prove that our purpose driven thing is good (our church doesn’t have these numbers by the way, I’m making them up).  Being missional, believing in missional, having everyone march in lock step behind the wonderful pastors who read all these wonderful books, and raising our hands when we sing, this is all good right?  If we all practice spiritual disciplines and fast for 40 days, pray in silence, and practice solitude, we’ll have the good fruit of a deeper faith, deeper experience, deeper…better, my life as a Christ follower is better than your life as a Christ follower because I have taken up this author’s beliefs or this movement’s beliefs, I’ve joined the revivial/reformation/transformation…so I’m better, right?  These fruits are what we want, right?

So how come I felt unfed?  Do I need to be a “self feeder.”  Is that what Jesus wants for His followers, to be self feeders?  Though Rich Mullins spoke with Manning and did practice silence, and very well may have begun the mystic Christianity (I’m not sure how far he went into this) I keep thinking of his line, “I know that the thirsty listen, and down to the waters come…”  I’m in my church and I’m thirsty.  I’ve confessed my faith in Christ since I was about 7 years old, I’ve matured some.  Yes, I am not where I want to be, but I am no longer a baby in Christ, I do not need the foundations to be laid again, I’m past that.  However, I do need the pastor to have the foundations under his mission, under his ministry, under his words, under his purposes for our church.  Our pastor is starting with the premise that we have to fix what is wrong with our wealthy American local church.  We haven’t been doing enough, so we need to stretch.  We need to reach out, we need to give.  He even says it’s a myth we’re going to stop feeding the mature believers.  Then how come I feel so unfed there?  How come I can read for myself and feel fed, but AT church I often am trying to figure out how what the pastor says applies? 

So, if our numbers are up, or the mission is so good, how come the church is becoming divided and the mature Christians are leaving?  Some might say it’s because they are closed minded or want their own power.  Well, from what I’ve seen, those who have left have not at all been powerful.  They’ve not been unwilling to serve, or unwilling to give.  They usually leave with a statement on their lips, “I was feeling that I needed more biblical study here…” or, “my children are coming up in the youth ministry, and I don’t like the direction they are going, the focus is less on the bible than I wanted.” 

So, this is the fruit in our church…many youth going on mission trips and having the experience of their lives, many members “connected” in a small group with studies like “Walk Across the Room” by Hybells or “Five Love Languages” or some other such counseling style book.  We’ve got a church full of leaders that can easily “facilitate” a small group and pop in a DVD driven series from any number of books.  We serve in the community in really great ways, but some of them amount to just picking up trash.  We really do have some good things though like food pantry giving, or building homes.  We’ve got partnerships with churches in other areas where we help build homes and churches in those communities, this is practical and good.  But, we have many other projects we do that don’t relate to Christianity in any way.  We bring the local community in for dinner theater and carnival type activities.  At least at the carnival, there is no mention of Christ anywhere.  It sure is entertaining though. 

Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

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A few things are very difficult in this time as our family looks into the shift our church.  First of all, there’s the grief because ministers and people we love are buying this.  Though I did have some things bother me, and I recall having a few crystal clear moments of “what the heck is going on here” I still was walking right along with this stuff.  As I read through sermons now, it’s clear where our church is heading (we’ve really pretty much arrived).  I was just so proud of my church and what they did for those who are in need, and for the missions aspect.  I still think doing is important.  I believe a church should meet the needs of others as a body, and should try to help people in poverty or who have had a disaster.  This is a good thing.  It’s not enough though.

I now feel a burden to either teach as many as possible what I know.  I have to learn to do this appropriately, but the way I am I want to sound it from the rooftops.  I have half a mind to walk about the church and drop fliers and place books in the library.  I thought of taking the sermons in the library and putting post its inside with warnings.  I just don’t want my people to go down in error like this.  It’s so hard.

Then there’ s the realization that this is so deep in the local metro area.  Oh my, with the camps and the other churches we partner with, and the church plants, and the conferences, and the local seminaries involved, this runs deep. If it’s not Rick Warren materials it’s Dallas Willard or Brian McLaren.  So many people are following this without realizing it.

I am struggling with the idea of doing things somewhat differently.  I have to now wonder if “small groups” are a bad thing.  We’ve always been involved in Bible study groups, but these small groups the last few years have not been about the Bible but about books and DVD driven lessons with skits, and service projects, and signing a group covenant and the like.  I wonder if I’ll ever be able to trust the “small group” model again. 

I have learned how immature I am.  I let this all slip by me.  I feel terrible about that.  I have been knocked down, the wind knocked out of me.  I love these people, my kids love these people.  They cannot all be lost, right?  I mean, we are still Christians, aren’t we all?  I know in whom I have believed, but who have all these others been believing in?  I was talking with a friend, and she just cannot imagine certain staff being involved, but I say they are the most likely involved.  The kindest, most wonderful people, and I realize now they are the ones who have fallen the hardest for Dallas Willard, and probably contemplative.  Our pastors spend a great many hours reading books, going to conferences, and all the missions projects.  When are they reading the Bible?  I am sure they are reading, but when? 

We had over 100 kids “come up” at our summer VBS type event this summer.  What is going to happen to them?  What kind of food will they be fed?  What’s going to happen to my children if and when we decide to get out of this church?

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Our church has planted several churches, a few in our local area and some overseas.  I have noticed that some of the people leaving our church just go to one of the church plants.  We attended one of them yesterday partially because we were running late and it is closer to our home.  It’s also that our church often doesn’t have children’s classes on Sunday when there is a holiday weekend.  The children complain when they don’t get to see their friends. 

I have to admit, the sermon was much more biblical and I felt the truth being preached.  It was over the armor of God, and only in a few places did I think I might want to recheck as there was a stretch.  One example was that the shield used in the times this was written were meant to be used corporately to create a sort of “wall” and so you need the community when fighting the devil, you don’t do it alone.  I really believe you can fight alone depending on if that’s God’s will…of course you have God.  In fact, like David used the sling and had God with him, he didn’t need corporate church to help.  Anyway, this was the one area otherwise, I felt it was very instructive and I felt fed.

The children said they understood what they learned in Sunday School, and it had been a long time since they understood the biblical point at our regular church.  That to me is sad.  They said, “well, it’s because they read straight from the bible instead of showing us those videos like they do at our church.”  They are even saying they’d like to go to this church instead if it wasn’t for their best friends who attend our church.  Huh.

The only problem with attending this church is that if the error in our church is as bad as I think it is, this local church plant is still impacted by it’s mother church.  The pastors from our church speak there often.  They also have a “catch phrase” that suggests contemplative as “Centered” is one of the main words.  Right now, it appears they mean “life Centered on Christ” and not contemplative, but still.  Also, in a previous post I wrote about YF camp.  This church mentioned a YF camp upcoming, so all the associations emergent and new age, though it’s a long line, are in this church as well. 

I also began by email to ask about another of our church plants since some members have left our church with their concerns but went to this new church plant.  I wrote asking if they had used “Purpose Driven” materials.  The woman I wrote accidentally forwarded the email because she used the CC to pull up the pastor’s address to give to me.  We may well find out the associations between church plant pastors.  If we are questioned in our own church, we’ll know they communicate and we can avoid this newer church plant.  For our friends, it’s my hope that the newer plants aren’t following their “mother.”

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Every time we have a campaign in our church to go through another book, each person in the small groups buys a book.  If we cannot afford a book, someone else will buy it for us.  Most of these campaigns are for the teaching impaired, and therefore, there has to be a DVD purchased for each small group.  I guess tithes pay for this?  There are often slick ad campaigns before a series in which the entire church will follow the same theme.  There might be postcards mailed out, which can be mailed for free but still cost money to purchase from the organization selling them.  There might be posters in church ahead of time, again, there is a fee for such things.  Besides our church wide campaigns and books, there are many small group study books on just about any topic.  Some again are “DVD” driven.  At different times during the year our church has speakers who promote their books or music CD’s.  These speakers, I’m learning through my searches, are tied in with contemplative prayer or other topics of concern to me.  They do not speak for free, they are paid with funds taken from our offering.  And then there are the conferences, training sessions, and seminars.  Nothing is free, and if you get a “scholarship” that money comes from the general fund.  Oh, and the missions trips!  That’s right, how could those be linked in any way to an agenda for emergent church?  Well, in my reading and searching I found various links to a local emergent church and youth program/camp.  This camp I’ll call YF has several missions destination sites they are in charge of.  So, we often pay to send kids on missions trips through YF, and also send kids to the local YF camps around our area.  This YF camp is run by a man who is on the board and I think, from what I have read, helps pastor the local emergent church.  (This church has Brian McLaren speak, and is currently having Pagit and his roadshow come to their “church basement”).  So, our church funds all these missions trips, our youth goes by droves to several locations all affiliated with YF, we also have kids going to YF camps.  Our money goes to this emergent church through YF.  Essentially, many books we buy, speakers we fund, trips that are taken, and even our children’s curriculums are supporting emerging trendy churches or seeker friendly large megachurches, or publishing houses that are “in the back pocket” of these emergent/seeker friendly church leaders (or is it the leaders are in the back pocket of the publishing companies, not sure).  All this money, and we church members are paying it.  If you don’t like the direction of YOUR pupose driven, willow creek small grouping, emergent contemplative praying, Harp and Bowling, transformational, missional, spritual formating church, you need to quit buying the books, paying for the conferences, and you need to pay your tithe to God elsewhere.  Of course, you can always do what they are waiting for the challengers to do anyway and speak with your feet!

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