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Archive for November, 2008

Moving on in this electronic world is hard.  It’s hard not to listen online, hard not to see people people online either.  We have chosen to leave our former church, but so far the issue hasn’t left us.  When I was overheard, this prompted a call to the pastor and a call to us (I assume it was me as I can think of where I would have been and who I was with…when I was speaking openly in public).  His statement is that the church has denounced emergent and is not headed in an emergent direction.  He says we base our information on a few sermons by a different pastor.  He also says they let go of one youth pastor, but though “we talked about Nooma videos he showed” (which we never did talk about and we weren’t aware) he wanted us to be discreet about that and thought we discussed that discreetness…uhmmmm.  We never had that conversation and thank you for proving our point.  Noomas in the youth is another sign of clear emergent leanings.  Oh, and the pastor says they let several staff members go because of financial reasons, not for the Noomas.  So they may have confronted emergent verbally, but do they see it in their staff?  Pastor claims “emergent” is dying.  Well, the terms may have changed, but the shift of churches is not dying. 

To his credit, his sermons do use scripture very much.  I don’t think Rick Warren is the same as Doug Pagitt.  I do not think Dallas Willard is the same as McLaren.  I do believe they are on a similar path, to change church and to focus on emergent youth OR on self and disciplines from Catholic mystics.  This may not be emergent.  I see other authors label it something else, contemplative something or other…maybe it’s contemplative spiritual disciplines.  To be clear, the church we attended hasn’t come out with contemplative prayer.  It has come out with spiritual formation.  This term alone links back to monks in caves hundreds of years ago.  These monks chanted and used breathing techniques as well as repetition to “meditate.”  Requirements of silence, fasting, and the like for a supposed deeper relationship with God are part of this spiritual discipline thing, as well as spiritual formation.  If the church has a spiritual formation pastor, and plans on lectio divina (as spoken by the pastor’s own mouth) and wants to follow the plans of Dallas Willard, and impliments “moments of silence” often, calls people to fast (not wrong to fast by the way, but it’s part of a larger picture here) then they are part of a movement that is not Biblical.  Focusing on this for spiritual transformation, methods and means not practiced by the disciples themselves.  I would say choosing to be disciplined is not a bad thing.  Saying you need it for deeper relationship with Christ is not accurate.  Discipline can make our Christian lives easier, can make memorization easier, and can help us to start our day in prayer.  Altering breathing, sitting in silence with no activity, these things are strange and unbibical in the context of trying to get closer to God.  Making an effort to give a sacrifice to God in our day is not wrong, as long as we realize our sacrifices are not worthy but God is gracious and merciful and can be pleased by us if we are humble and contrite (which cannot be manufactured).  Service is also a part of the spiritual formation movement.  Service in Christian life in itself is good.  However, service as a way to “get closer to God” is not.  I believe what is wrong with spiritual formation is it’s all flipped.  Service for others flows FROM the compassion we gain in Christ.  We are first made new creatures.  We have to recognize we still have a sin nature.  At any rate, our pastors from our former church were heavy into the spiritual formation books, mostly Dallas Willard. 

The one pastor who was most obvious in his sermons doesn’t make the head pastor bat an eye.  He sees no scary connections when Frost, Miller, and others are quoted.  He doesn’t even ruffle when he’s told about the “christ conciousness” or “christ coursing through my veins” or “you are little christs.”  He even defended the “little christ” comment.  He mentioned lectio divina, he defended Dallas Willard and suggested we read his books.  He defended the teaching by Steve Smith when he visited the church…the teaching that Lazarus had grave clothes and our grave clothes are life’s trials and burdens.  This teaching was strange, and bothered me a great deal and the pastor mentioned lectio divina after these stating, “it’s been around since the reformation.”  

Another pastor we spoke to said if our former church has denounced emergent doctrine and that was our complaint, we couldn’t leave then.  Well, we may not have brought out we don’t agree with following Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan and we may have only mentioned Dallas Willard, but our issue is with these things too.  We also feel, and it’s hard to define exactly, but that the lead pastor is manipulative and really makes me personally nervous.  Anyone who knew we were having a meeting with the man said, “good luck.”  He is intimidating.  This alone is a red flag of warning.  In general, people give the impression they don’t really feel safe with him or may feel he’s overbearing.  Don’t know if I can pin it down.  I know I personally have been friendly to him, he’s been friendly back.  He just seems much like a man trying to proove something.  I have met men like him, if I were in single land (before marriage) I would have known two things.  This man would never choose someone like me to date, and I would never choose him.  I feel like he’d be a guy who I would fight with.  I feel like I’d be expected to act a certain way in the home.  He’s not necessarily someone who oppresses women, don’t get me wrong.  I just get that feeling when around some men, that I wouldn’t mix with him.  Usually these guys are driven and goal oriented, intelligent.  However, they seem to be demanding and perfectionistic.  It’s not authority, it’s something else.  Now this is just speculation on my part…please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying he’s a bad man or anything, just most people don’t say he’s sweet. 

Oh, see, I’ve titled this “moving on” and I cannot move on.  That is my problem.  I have got to find a way to get this out of me, let it go.  How do you let go when you think a church is being led in the wrong direction?

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Southerland tells pastors, “You will be criticized. It might as well be for doing the right thing.”[xxxi] From what he writes, one must conclude that he really believes that making the church a community gathering place for religious consumers rather than a gathering of the “called out ones” is the right thing. He really believes he is like Nehemiah sent by God to rebuild Jerusalem. He really believes that people who hunger for gospel preaching and Bible teaching are the enemies of God’s vision. If your church has bought the Purpose Driven franchise, your pastor probably does too. It is a sad, harsh reality, but you have lost your church. It’s very unlikely that it will ever again be a gospel-centric church.”

The above quote is from Bob DeWaay quoting Southerland’s book, Transistioning, Leading Your Church Through Change  

It’s a Saddleback recommendation for pastors.    

Another paragraph sounds EXACTLY like our situation.

The vision includes the process of removing people who oppose becoming Purpose Driven. This book is very revealing.

“What Happened to My Church?”  Reading Southerland’s book will help people whose churches have changed from gospel preaching and Bible teaching churches to “seeker” churches understand what has happened to them. Southerland characterizes those who resist this transition as “leaders from hell” who are of the ilk of Sanballat who resisted Nehemiah.[ii] It is clear that Pastor Southerland is convinced that he is like Nehemiah on a mission from God (i.e. to convert the church to being a Purpose Driven seeker church) and that all who resist are misguided, have evil motives, or are just unwilling to change because of their being caught in traditions.”

 

Yes, we were considered the Sanballats.  The pastor even said to our friends in our former church that he “felt like Nehemiah” when he met with us.  He said he has his Ezra, probably someone telling him he’s right to attack as he has.  Yep, we are just in the way of power, in the way of change.  Love that scripture twisting, don’t you?

 

We are free and we pray more will follow us.  I pray actually that somehow God will give grace and mercy and will free the old “Bible” church of this movement.  It would take a miracle from God to do so.  When the pastor says, ‘jump” they jump.  At least they don’t use koolaid in communion. 

 

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My husband called an elder and left a message after we heard the sermon online.  Last night, he called back when my husband wasn’t home.  We discussed the open pulpit comment, and the elder was not comfortable with that at all.  I kept saying I could understand the pastor’s position in some ways (and I can) in that he wants to likely let the person who said something about overhearing know he means business as well as he thinks we’re wrong and wants to make it clear.  He did define emergent, said it was bad (yay) and said their church isn’t emergent.  Again, maybe not overall, but there still are connections that need to be dealt with.  I told the elder this.  I also mentioned that the connect the dots comment really was something said to us in a meeting, so I am not suprised it came out (we connected dots from one author to another to make a weak connection to emergent according to the pastor).  The conversation kept up and the elder ended up boiling down what he thinks the issue is…that we claimed in our letter that the church has shifted focus from Christ and from giving glory to God.  The elder said it was the only statment he felt we came up with that wasn’t okay to say.  This was a bold statement, I know.  However, my husband and I believe the church is focusing more on man and man’s methods than just on the plain thing of glorifying God.  Messages (even now) don’t have Christ as the focus, but on “kingdom building” or on fund raising for building the church.  Scripture is used as a means to some sort of end.  Yes, the thought is, we’re paying all this staff to preach the good news, we need audio visual because it’s better for our congregation and brings people in, this or that program will bring people in.  I could go on and on as to why they justify the way they do things.  The plain truth is the congregation (when we were there) was not being fed.   I stated this to the elder in so many words, and he stuck on the point that we wrote something in our letter we surely didn’t mean.  He’d been with the pastors overseas on short term missions, even speaking recently about this specific letter with the pastor who quoted the emergent leaders (not the one who mentioned us this weekend, but another).  The pastor said he couldn’t understand why the first time he mentioned contemporary authors someone began to pick that sermon apart.  Now he felt he couldn’t just quote anyone and had to watch every word because people were scrutinizing what he was saying.  (uh, aren’t we supposed to pay attention to what people say from the pulpit?).  He said he could easily quote from someone and embrace one idea without embracing all of emergent.  Yep, true.  Still…would we quote a Mormon from the pulpit because we agree with the ideas but don’t embrace all of the emergent?  No, we would not at least without some sort of disclaimer.  The elder kept coming back to the point that we needed to examine whether or not the church had Christ at the center.  His point was that it wasn’t actually church if Christ wasn’t at the center.  Yep, that’s why we left.  Using 40 Days of Purpose like it was something magical, following the P.E.A.C.E. plan, getting into Dallas Willard, doing children’s church with much video, much filler activity, focusing on seekers, and on and on. I told the elder I felt that though the scripture was used, and even now whole passages of Nehemiah are read outloud word for word and preached on, that scripture can be mishandled.  I brought up the speaker, Stephen Smith, who spoke of Lazarus and reworked it for a pop psychology purpose.  The elder commented, (and I laugh as I write this) that the speaker was off his rocker anyway.  What?  Why was he speaking from our pulpit then?  Why in our final meeting did the pastor say he would not have this man in the pulpit if he didn’t endorse his ideas.  In fact, the pastor had recommended his book and tried to personally promote it.  So I guess the elder and the pastor don’t see eye to eye on this speaker?  Who knew. 

We had been learning about God for a while, and felt we were okay in this church over the years.  At some point we realized that some of what filled us was small group because we had Bible study there.  We  had friendships that filled us, and kept us feeling like we were being fed.  Church was our social place, and there is nothing wrong with socializing with believers.  I believe the other believers did help us and we learned from them.  We took from messages what we wanted to and we left the rest sit.  If you are a Christian, you can grow on a little and you can grow on what you do on your own.  However, and this is key, people who are in other churches who have left our former church tell us that they didn’t realize how much they weren’t growing until they went elsewhere and found themselves actually fed and actually growing more than they would have.  One family left our former church because they worked in children’s ministry.  They didn’t like what they were seeing for their children, they couldn’t settle anymore.  They left, and a byproduct of leaving was that they grew at their new church.  It wasn’t just their children, they weren’t being taught enough, fed enough. 

Everytime I begin to wonder if we’re crazy, I sit down and think about it.  No, we’re not crazy.  We saw what we saw.  The reaction of the pastor was almost word for word what we read would happen in a church affiliated with Rick Warren.  The pastor’s reaction to us shows us a LOT.  The elder (we love this man) who is very sincere still is putting almost all of this on us, we are in error (not sinning according to him, not needing to confess a sin).  He believes we need to revisit this in time, and somehow work it out with the church and the pastor.  This probably means we will have to recant on what we said, give in.  Mean time, the church leadership had to deal with us, and now they have to deal with what is left since we are gone, since we spoke up.  They have to either dismiss us or agree and then open that can of worms for themselves.  One friend who left before we did said that at least they didn’t ignore our concerns as they did his (for TWO years).  The pastor mentioned it from the pulpit, and he’s likely to get more questions from it then he ever would have.  Maybe some others will investigate.  I can almost bet some out there will too.  This isn’t the end of this topic for our former church.  They will have to deal with this until God lets them go. 

And still, I’m thankful for being confronted on gossip or on my attitude when speaking about our former church.  I need to be truthful, and need to also be loving.  I do not have to love what has happened, but I do need to pray for the church, the pastors, and need to pray for the flock there.  I need to, when speaking, not feel proud of my self like I am anything.  I am nothing.  I was in it, I nodded and let it go when I could have spoken up earlier.  I wasn’t responsible and in the Word enough.  I didn’t have enough nor use discernment wisely.  I believe I was selfish and that’s why I didn’t see.  The drama is not something to relish in, to focus on.  The time is always fresh for focusing on Christ, and next on my family.

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With the past week’s events, I wondered if the pastor of our former church would mention something in his sermon.  I thought it might be in his message, but not blunt.  Worse case scenerio in my mind was him mentioning us as spreading rumors and mentioning us by name.  I listened to the sermon online, and most of the sermon was about Nehemiah, his enemies, and rumors they were spreading to try to destroy his efforts.  He got almost finished, and he then mentioned our situation.  He mentioned a couple was spreading rumors that the church is emergent.  He told the church people if they hear it they are to confront it, and tell the person they are telling lies.  They are to tell them basically what they are spreading was “from the pit of hell.”  Yep.  So, without naming us, (cannot believe we were spared that), we were called liars and our words from hell.  I still don’t think we said the church is emergent, but had influences and leaning to that effect.  He did mention how the dots were “connected” from one quoted person in sermons to another.  

We are officially set free.  If someone asks why we left, we’ll tell them what we think, and let it go.  What do we have to loose now?   If we made a mistake, then why couldn’t we have been dealt with differently?  Now we have to NOT retaliate though we feel hurt and angry.  We need to pray for this church, the pastors, it’s flock.  I really do not know what else we can do at this point. 

If we’re so wrong, how come so many people have already left?

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My husband and I have been speaking with a friend who sees exactly what we see in terms of emergent/seeker friendly/contemplatives/Warrenite/Hybels and others as a problem.  He also asks some good questions. “When and why might it be necessary to completely disassociate with particular groups?   Or when could one still associate to some degree, but with discernment?”

Any thoughts?

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Link to Paul Washer teaching…

 

http://bloodtippedears.blogspot.com/2008/11/paul-washer-study-of-1-timothy-46-16.html

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You preach

twistify

lull

woo

in the name

of who?

You share

distort

meet

pray

bemoan

all that your

congregation

will not

do

not enough

go

not enough

do

you breath in

sit silently

breathe out

you read

read

read

all that men

can write

it seeps

I weep

for my

children

and so I say

I must leave

because

you have shifted

deeper

into

the desert

I am thirsty

and you

are offended

by my parched

tongue

giving warning

as I leave

the door

won’t hit me

my pearls

trampled

behind me.

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