One thing I noticed when we were considering leaving our church was the difficulty in finding good counsel that we trusted. First we spoke to a few friends about our concerns. Because they didn’t see what we saw, at the time we knew they were not going to help and our observations were just burdens in their lives (they have since been great help…but at the time it was just us really). Then there were the elders. We spoke to at least two. One was a group shepherd (or leader of a few small groups including ours). He was really next in line on the church structure heirarchy. We told him we didn’t like this or that, and he basically gave us the “I understand this point” and “this is why the church does it this way.” One specific example was our issue with the videos from the “Christian no more” series being played in church as well as the term “Christ follower” replacing the word Christian. The elder said we wanted to give a more specific term and Christian had become such a negative term in society. We needed to reach people in a way that didn’t turn them off. This obviously was not going to be someone we could open up to about all our fears. He just explained them away in a very unsatisfactory manner. We then had a friend and mentor to my husband that was also an elder. We spoke to him, and shared frankly our problems. Initially, he suggested my husband become an elder which would be a process and would take time. Once an elder he could work to change things. My husband spoke to him off and on for a while. He didn’t think Rick Warren’s books were “deep” but that Warren had done such good work, we couldn’t NOT use his books. Eventually, we came completely clean about leaving and the fears of emergent with him. He just didn’t see it. We really couldn’t get clearly what was right to do from him. We were told to not speak with one particular pastor (the one who really seemed to be dropping New Age phrases left and right). He personally said this pastor had been his mentor and is the nicest and most wonderful man with a great plan for reaching the lost. We had spoken to other friends, small group co-leaders who did not think the web sites we were reading were legit. We eventually spoke with one pastor, he did encourage our letter and for us to be frank. He didn’t like my issue with terms used like transformation, spiritual formation. He thought the church still preached the gospel and had good things about it, but had gotten off focus somehow. He suggested we stay on and present things in a loving way as we appeared to him to be humble in all this. We let him know we’d think about it.
So from there, we tried to find people to trust. One couple was beginning to see our point, they could give us some advice (and had told us of the pastor and encouraged us to seek him out). We tried to walk with his counsel as we had no other options. I did speak to one woman who did seem to “get it” and had in fact come from Paggitt’s church and left because it had gone strange on her. Sadly, she’s very strange herself…and so hasn’t been a good friend to trust at all though she did see some of what we saw. We ended up finding a couple who left and were VERY strong in God’s word. They spoke to us openly and offered much comfort as he had been an elder and she was in ministry. They fought the church really for two years before leaving. Any other people we spoke to didn’t really get why we had to leave. My parents are nominal Lutherans. They were no help and thought we should stay in such a giving church. Many friends in the former church we emailed or shared with didn’t really see it. Even many people who did leave, didn’t actually leave for the reasons we did. They were of little help. We had very few safe places to land.
I came online for support mostly. People had been through the same things, articles warned of things that were actually happening to me step by step. I began venting first on my live journal, and lost some online contacts who thought I was self righteous, or didn’t see emergent as a bad thing. I had one live journal friend who encouraged me to write here on WordPress. I did, and began to get some feedback that helped.
Eventually, we made our leave of the church and began searching. I did speak to a friend who is older than I am…and wiser. Her suggestions were Presbyterian and Lutheran, and a few other random churches. For now we’ve landed in something Baptist that is aware of emergent/seeker friendly. It seems pretty much a haven for people who have left similar churches as ours. Some I’ve come into contact with online warn against Calvinist and Baptist churches, insist I should go Lutheran. I am so far not going that route. My childhood experience with Lutheran doesn’t do it for me. I don’t believe in infant baptism, and in no way think the bread and wine actually change into the flesh and blood of Christ. So, in some ways, I’m seen as less or not quite enlightened by some of these people. We’ve been dubbed trouble makers by our former pastor, so there’s no talking to him or really other pastoral staff from the former church. We probably could share a bit with the former pastor who did help us, but since he never did open up too much as to exactly what he’s doing, I do not know where he stands. I don’t know his final opinion of us. He is under submission to our former pastor.
So now we move forward, speaking to people in our new congregation and keeping contact with a few friends in our former church. I write here, my husband and I talk to each other, and we just try to figure it all out. So many have no idea why we left. They’ll likely never know.