I am finding it interesting that every time we bring up the new age/emergent or contemplative prayer issues with certain people in our former church we often get denial. Then we get the comments about how “it’s your perception that matters” and “you have to do what’s best for your family.” Interpret these statements as “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” because that is what is meant. People don’t like conflict, it’s evident that our former church leaders don’t want to think about conflict. Many don’t want to think about the truth either. They won’t do the basic research, or they’ll trust internally the comments of others and won’t look it up for themselves. I found it so frustrating when I was first realizing things were going on, I would ask around. I felt I got flimsy answers. People trust the elders and pastors and believe they will have looked into this. Though the emergent church is in our area, some of the pastors’ and elders’ children attend an openly emergent church…and the youthcamp has an emergent church leader/author getting known nationally, and the church has people on staff at both places, most didn’t even know what emergent church is. Pastors and leaders strongly deny a problem. We have never been so bold as to say outright the former church is emergent, but have pointed out the elements.
Some saw the elements emergent. However, we were cautioned not to worry about Rick Warren/Hybels as they certainly weren’t the same. You know, it’s true, they aren’t the same. One elder did say things are on a continuum, and I believe that may be the case with Warren/Hybels and the seeker friendly stuff. They are like marijuana, Rob Bell is meth. I think Dallas Willard is in there somewhere, maybe speed? Some authors are ecstasy. I don’t know the true effects of drugs to make this analogy work well. However, either way, these different authors and leaders can lead one to another. I think actually once you go down the path a bit with these guys, it’s harder to go back to the lighter ones. In fact, I am sure Bell and Warren actually don’t agree with one another and may dislike each other’s church models. They have something in common though. It’s contemplative prayer, it’s deconstructing church as it was and reconstructing it differently. It’s mishandling of scripture as means to an end. This is the common ground. This is the genius of deception. No one realizes where a 40 Days of Purpose campaign can go in the long run, in five years or so. No one knows that their pastor has been trained how to deal with resisters. No one realizes their suggestions will come off as sin (because resisting change is one of the things thou shalt not).
Our former pastor denies the church is emergent and they’ve even spoken out against it. Okay, but as one friend pointed out, they’re “not NOT emergent.” They are influenced by things emergent. Noomas in small group, the youth camp, the leaders’ children going to an emergent church, the preaching from some pastors with blatant quotes of emergent leaders all point to the influence. We were so blind to it, but thats because in our small group we tried to run it like a Bible study. That’s because we worked with out kids in Awana and Sunday School classes and we taught them the gospel and the truth of the accounts given. It’s also because we didn’t realize the language used in sermons has a double meaning. We were being deceived even if it wasn’t intentional. The pastors slowly present things to get the church further down the path to contemplative prayer (watch out, I think it’s coming to many of your churches out there). It’s so slow, so subtle. If you are having silence without a call to prayer, your church may already be in it. We were at first being deceived, and then the questions came to our minds. Later we were in denial. Once we could no longer be in denial, we knew we had to decide. Stay or go. Also, how were we to function if we stayed? We told some, we decided it would be wrong to keep our mouths shut. We prayed, we spoke to elders. We got resistance to change. Finally, we decided to go and spoke to one pastor and he saw the emergent (but not the Hybels/Warren issues as a problem). He suggested the letter, and suggested the open and frank way we wrote it. He didn’t want us to leave, he wanted to fix the church through our loving confrontation of the issues. We sure tried. However, the pitbull pastor wouldn’t hear it. He did hear some things, but mostly, he heard us attack him.
So, now we are free. It’s so tempting to believe we can change things. Change can only come if hearts are soft. God knows what He is doing. We prayed, we did what we thought we were led to do. After that, it’s not up to us.