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?