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.