My husband asked an assistant pastor how to handle a suggested Nouwen book in our small group meeting. One of the first questions I heard from him was, “was it an unqualified recommendation?” In fairness, people do sometimes read and recommend books, but they don’t always agree with everything in the book or everything from that author. Unfortunately, this was actually qualified in that the book was recommended excitedly and whole heartedly. The man in our group shared several concepts openly and offered to let two women in the group be the next ones to read it after someone else outside the group finished his copy. I believe he even suggested that Christians should read it, and I am sure he said it was his favorite book. We shared some of our thoughts with the pastor, that the man seemed to really like the book and was sharing it. I did mention the comment the man made stating that the book opened an idea he hadn’t thought of, that Jesus himself was a “prodigal of the Father” because he left and came back. The pastor’s eyebrows twitched a little bit, and he shook his head, “no.”
The pastor’s advice was not to go all out after this man. He said that we should actually bring this to the attention of the small group leader. He suggested we share why we see problems with the author and that it’s not someone we’d recommend reading. He said that many don’t have the same level of discernment, and some don’t subscribe to the strange teachings but also don’t know the problems with an author’s entire body of work. He said to assume the best about a person at first, and just trust the leadership. However, he did say to keep paying attention and if this keeps coming up, to bring it back up again to the leader. It can also be brought up to the pastors in leadership of the church. He suggested further we truly befriend this man and if the opportunity arises, we can share with him carefully the problems with Nouwen and why we wouldn’t recommend it as a solid book for Christians to read.
This is a very big difference than what happened at our former church when we brought up books and teachings that were questionable. The pastor here acknowledged the teaching from Nouwen was bad (if it indeed was what we were saying it is…he’d never read it before). He mentioned how many people read popular authors, he has been given books from church members of such authors. He said how he has personally tactfully told people how the author is in error and he’d suggest they never recommend the book without some qualification. He personally had quoted authors from the pulpit he doesn’t agree with, but he says he intends to always qualify those quotes as true as far as he sees it but the author has other comments or ideas that are not in line with scripture. And reading works that are questionable can be a learning experience, but it must be qualified as such. He says he’s sometimes shocked at what members in our church recommend for reading on facebook or in person, saying that he often wants to say, “What? Haven’t you been hearing sound teaching in our church for years? Why would you recommend that book?”
At least he acknowledged us, and was kind. He did seem to be bothered by this problem and suggested a way to deal with it and not ignore it. He actually thinks the leader in our group likely hasn’t heard of Nouwen, and may have no clue about it. I find this to be a very good thing. It’s much different than the “oh, that author is recommended and used by many pastors…and we might not agree with everything he says but he has good intentions.” That was our former church, and that was unacceptable squashing. We weren’t told not to be divisive, but to proceed carefully.
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Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2011|
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We had a child dedication at church. I think it’s a great idea though don’t believe a church has to do these as an official ceremony. It’s just nice to say openly, “I dedicate this child to God.” I am puzzled as to why we’ve been here 2 years and never have had this type of ceremony. I wonder if the church is doing it for the first time? We have had all of our children dedicated, and it was one of my favorite services at church. What I do like about this church is how children are taught. In Sunday school, they learn directly from the bible and from the mouths of teachers. It’s a low tech church. The Sunday school teacher studies his/her curriculum, and then presents it to the children. The rooms are open with full glass windows as well as glass slits in the door, and you see the children sitting down to listen to the teacher. Often, a bible will be opened or the kids will be doing a craft. Coming from a church that used a lot of modern music, videos (like Veggie Tales) and switching activities fast, it’s nice to see a low key, slow paced, old fashioned Sunday school. The kids come home with either a fun craft or a coloring sheet depicting a biblical scene. You always know what they learned right away from the papers they bring out. And, to top it off, my kids can tell me what they learned hours later. The ones younger than 4th grade are all going through the old testament in the Sunday school hour and during a children’s church class (I think it’s up through 4th) they learn from the New I think (cannot recall the themes). The “middle” grades (5th and 6th) learn from a teacher that’s been there for years. He challenges them to study a book of the bible over the time they’re in the class and quizes them. He also gives them points for taking notes in the church service. They can actually win real cash, but even without being near winning, I see kids taking notes during service. I know mine do. And the older two aren’t even in his class anymore. One problem I do have is the oldest kiddo falls asleep during church. I need to figure out how to help him stay awake. We sometimes bring hard candy, which helps. Especially if it’s hot cinnamon or very strong peppermint. I have to admit, song time is slow and long and losses him pretty fast. (not during songs, but it puts him in that mode right away). He eagerly volunteers if they need someone to work with the kids because it’s torture to be poked every few minutes to wake up. And if he’s helping in the kids’ classes, he’s hearing the bible anyway, so I don’t mind at all. Wish we could get the music to be better paced. Not “modern” just different. One particular leader loves to play things really slowly and it makes me batty. I know a lot of old hymns, and he likes to play them twice as slow as they should be…always has too many measures between verses, and cuts out the chorus when it would help break things up. I do like singing all the verses of a hymn, this can be long, but it’s nice. If we’re going to do it though, pick up the pace! We use the overhead for the music (well, computer generated and it keeps the flow going) and I’d rather books because 1. we’re looking at the music and I miss seeing music on the page and 2. It breaks up the songs so you aren’t on a monotone ride that lulls you. I don’t think the long sets intend to put people’s minds into a suggestive state, but I do see a friends’ point (who visited twice I believe) that it can and does do that. We have one leader that is more like a choir director, and I’ve noted that though he’s not doing modern music, he is better at the pace and break ups of songs. It makes it so much nicer. I just think the one leader has stagnated in his ability and we’re all forced to listen to his style. It’s not that the songs need to change, but the quality of the music and the organization of the set needs to change BIG TIME. Have to think of HOW to bring this up tactfully. Don’t need a stage band, but do need some variety and up beat moments to keep people alert. Slow music is not more worshipful.
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We were tootling along just fine in our schedule at small group last night, when, as far as I’m concerned, a grenade was dropped. One man, prominent in our group, mentioned a book that he said, “is the best book I’ve ever read.” Uh oh. It’s not the Bible, so what could it be? A book on the prodigal son by Henri Nouwen. He’s reading it, and will pass it on to the eager next person in the group. Another woman wrote the title down. I sat there, quietly taking it in. Now I have to proceed carefully. The man is not a bible study leader nor pastor. He’s also not necessarily tainted because he likes this one book. I do think, however, that we need to figure out how to address this so I am carefully taking advice from people I respect. I will not go in guns blazing, but I do not believe we should ignore this. My husband was proud of me, I am usually blasting away when I see a problem. I’ve learned. There is wisdom in silence for a time while we gather information and carefully present the problems with Nouwen.
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