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Posts Tagged ‘40 Days of Purpose’

We have visited one church enough times to begin to believe we may have found our church home. We’re still a bit careful, and don’t want to trust foolishly. Yesterday we were introduced to a couple who used to attend our former church. They actually were “disfellowshipped” and were the only family to ever have that happen in the church’s history. Because of them, we knew to walk carefully when we were presenting our information. This couple, I’ll say Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen, were VERY active in our former church. We actually sat very near to them every Sunday (you know how people get their favorite spots), but we don’t recall ever speaking with them directly. We knew them by face, and they knew us by face, but not by name. About four years ago Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen were in a small group or sunday school class and began to make “trouble.” It was mostly Mr. Watchmen because he’s naturally more bold, but as we spoke yesterday, I could tell Mrs. Watchmen shared his experience and feelings on the situations. Mr. Watchmen had noted compromise when it came to outright Biblical truths. People were allowed to be on the elder board of our former church though they were teaching things contrary to basic doctrine. He also noted problems with the Warrenite “40 Days” book and DVD series every small group was required to go through in our former church. Mr. Watchmen said he was actually asked to leave by an elder when his small group was having the supposed “open discussions” about the 40 Days materials because he was sharing his observations. We do not know all the details of the events in Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen’s situation at our former church, but from what we heard yesterday, they basically stood up and stated the truth and their problems with the mishandling of scripture and use of materials by Rick Warren, Rob Bell (Noomas in meetings at church) and other things. The core of it all was the emergent leanings, the unity at all cost rather than sticking with the truth in scripture, and the unwillingness of the leadership in church to deal with the problems. Everything was kept hush hush.

Our recollection of the entire issue was one meeting at the very end of a church service. It was mentioned that a man was having problems on doctrinal issues. He may have been right about doctrine, but his way of bringing things up was considered “unloving.” It was mentioned that he had been in meetings for over a year with the pastors, and he would not repent of his unloving attitude. It was mentioned the church had also been in contact with a pastor of a former church this couple attended, and Mr. Watchmen had caused similar problems elsewhere, so this was a pattern. We were told Mrs. Watchmen was not the one undergoing church discipline, she had not been a part of her husband’s actions. Then there was a vote. The church voted Mr. Watchmen out of membership. He was not allowed even to set foot in the church until he reconciled. We were to treat him kindly if we saw him, but were not to treat him as we would a member of the church. Mrs. Watchmen was still considered a member. My husband recalls we had to leave, so we did not participate in the vote. I know that if I did vote, I likely voted the man out of fellowship as I respected the elders and leadership. They stacked the case, did not allow the man to speak to the congregation, so we only heard one sanitized side of things. Some time later, it was presented to our congregation that Mr. Watchmen had gone through the reconciliation process. In speaking with them yesterday, it is clear the only reconciliation was that Mr. Watchmen said, “If I have been unloving, that was not my intention, I am sorry.” He says he told them he still recognized the doctrinal deviations were problems and would not claim otherwise. This is not a reconcilliation. Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen seem to still be feeling some hurt from this event long ago. In fact, Mrs. Watchmen says the feel shunned even to this day because leadership including pastors have refused to speak with them in public places when they run into one another. This actually happened recently, and over three years later, one of the pastors still wouldn’t speak to Mrs. Watchmen. Terrible.

When we shared our story, they said that we are an answer to their prayers. They still love the people who attend our former church and continue to pray for the people there. They completely understood our situation, and it seems we would have been headed for the same treatment had we not just left. I cannot imagine the way it would have felt to have been mentioned by name in my church and disfellowshipped in that way. It’s evident, based on our conversation yesterday, that what the pastors and leadership presented to the congregation about Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen was only part of the story and may even have been a twist of the truth (which is a lie). We know when the pastor mentioned us to the congregation (not by name) the story he shared about our meetings was definitely a twist of the information. He may have misunderstood us and our intentions, but at any rate, we were presented as people speaking “lies from the pit of hell.”

Sometimes misery loves company. I will say it was nice to find someone who knows from experience what it feels like to stand up and be slapped down for it.

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Because we have many children and homeschool, a midday meeting with a pastor to ask questions is difficult for both my husband and me to attend.  I trust my husband though, so since we didn’t find a sitter, he went on alone.  This pastor is from a “church plant” of our former church.  Some members came from our former church willingly for the plant, and others may have been less than willing to plant.  In fact, a few have returned to our former church after the allotted planting time.  We came to this church despite my fears because one of the couples who fought for two years in our former church goes to this church.  They really have expressed that the pastor is very conservative and handles the word of God rightly and carefully.  We had to at least try this church.  It’s very small at this time.  One benefit of it’s newness and small size is that the children older than 8 are with parents in service.  They don’t have enough people to take the children out.  This church does appear to have a wishy washy music ministry, if you ask me.  I have been trained on this music for at least 8 years…if not more.   I do like some of it, and rightly so.  However, other times I am not so sure as it’s the 7-11 style music (seven words eleven times…).  Also, one day the music pastor randomly said, “let’s have a bit of silence” for no reason.  This has to be addressed if we are to attend this church seriously.

My husband let the pastor know up front our issues with the former church and even shared one email from someone in leadership to us.  He started at the beginning with the “Christ followers vs. Christian” videos and the guest speaker Steven Smith.  He spoke to him about emergent things leaking in, Youth Front connections, Missional, and on and on.  He spilled it all (if you’re newly reading my blog you’d have to go back).  He even talked about why we’re not comfortable with Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose. 

This pastor’s response was so helpful.  He first said that, as a former staff member of the church we recently left, he was having difficulties with what was happening before he left for this new plant.  He talked about discussions of “missional” themes, and revealed to us one of the pastors was also against it from the beginning stating…”what does that mean anyway, it’s not even a word!”  Knowing that pastor, I laugh because I could hear him saying it.  He also shared our concerns about someone using quotes from emergent leaders and then trying to say they weren’t influenced by it.  He says, “I don’t quote even respectable leaders like Martin Luther because there are aspects of his teachings I don’t agree with…so if you disagree with someone I quoted please come to me.”  He also said he didn’t understand why the former church treated us so badly when it comes to being Berean like.  He commented that this is important, we are to test the spirits and listen to preaching critically, and that it’s not bad to be discerning.  He said he hopes we can feel comfortable enough to be able to learn from sermons.  I think he sincerely hopes we are hearing truth at the church he preaches in, and that we will be learning not because we’ve turned off our discernment and are learning bad teaching.  For once, my husband says he felt a preacher was truly hearing him and he wasn’t getting a “company line.” 

I believe that if this church was on the Warren train, my husband couldn’t have opened up about this without the “company line.”  This man is still friends with people and some leadership of the former church.  However, he assured my husband that friendship didn’t mean this church is like our former church.  He says they did seperate themselves rather quickly.  In fact, they have never liked the “marketing” to young marrieds with children.  He says he hopes this church is seen as a welcome place for Christians in all stages of life from birth to elderly.  Really, we did attend a Sunday School Bible study class, and noticed how the older couples who are very conservative were asked questions and were respected in class. 

This pastor also commented that people are still joining who are from our former church (it was big enough that we cannot know everyone).  A couple joined a few weeks ago, they expressed that they have been frustrated with  our former church and should have come when the plant was started.  Very interesting to see the former church is still bleeding out the back door. 

I am still nervous about jumping into a church plant affiliated previously with our former church.  Everything in me wants to run 180 degrees in the other direction.  However, I think it’s worth a look and to really see if this church is different enough to actually still be orthodox/Biblical.  Since we have been visiting another church that appears to be very Biblically focused, Christ centered….it’s really still between two churches.

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http://cicministry.org/berean.php

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So many things swirl in my head since looking into Purpose Driven Life and Spiritual Transformation in our old church.  I’ve learned a great deal more than I ever wanted to know.  I was quite content with my church.  Still, I was noting that the small group model was failing our family (back when we were doing 40 days…they split our group).  We were not making the connections promised, and the growth we felt was stagnating.  But, we were not blaming the church and were blaming human relationships.  Of course, Christians are going to fail to be perfect, and therefore, it was human sin in small groups causing the problem.   Ahhh thinking about all the things that lead up to our leaving, all the dissatisfaction, the time we wasted thinking we were doing something good…all the warning signs…it just sits in my head and I cannot believe it. 

Now, as I wrote, I know more than I want to know.  I feel so inadequate, so duped.  I also feel so helpless, and am so aware of my sin and my weakness.  This thing is very BIG.  Very big.  Some days I think, “is all this we learned just a farce and was our old church really okay?  Are we exaggerating this?”  Then, I think back, remember, and look around at the Bible studying/humble/respected Christians that left before us.  I look at what our former church was clearly promoting, and I know at least one thing we’re right about, their focus is off of Christ and onto man.  They are into things we didn’t ever learn about in the past that this church is into.  The deception is so subtle.  Really, it’s hard to know the sheep from the wolves (except the overt ones).  Honestly, if someone came to me and said last year this time, “your church is into some things that are new age” I would have wondered what they were talking about.  In truth though, I am the type that would have not scoffed at them, and I would have researched.  I’ve learned though, when bringing up the issues with people who attend, we get those that trust us enough to research, those that cannot see it, those that don’t want to know, and those that deceive on accident, and those that do it on purpose. 

In speaking with an aunt, uncle, and cousin this weekend, I got more to think about.  My uncle’s very faithful Christian mother and father refuse to attend their Nazarene church any longer.  They objected to much of the things going on.  I think it was a “Purpose Driven” church.  The pastors brought in rock style music, and multimedia presentations.  When the elderly of the church…and more conservative came forward, they were basically told that there was no going back and the youth were being reached.  They tried to form their own church, but the Nazarene church wouldn’t allow it.  This faithful woman is distraught and cannot attend church anymore.  She’s also now dealing with a homebound husband at a time when she’d need the church the most.  They are in their 80’s.  The calousness shows the fruits well in this case.  It also shows how far reaching this problem of church shifting has become.  Long time solid members of churches are being cut off.  When they speak for truth, they are being ignored, abused, and shunned.  Fruits are showing themselves as rot. 

Looking at how the world has changed, makes me think it’s possible we’re ever closer to loosing freedoms as many have said we would when things came closer to the return of Christ.  It feels this way.  I know people have believed the world was at it’s end many times before.  At the same time, I do feel that if we turn to our Father in repentance things could turn around.  It’s really up to God’s will.

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One of the hardest things about figuring out that the church we attended for about 8 years was beginning to reveal emergent/missional thinking and also used Purpose Driven Life and Warren’s plans (not just as a passing fancy), has been realizing that I fell for it so easily.  If there’s so much wrong with the things leading our old church, why did I not see it?  I have been thinking about this and have come to a conclusion about myself.  Because I have many flaws as a Christian, I missed it.

First, I was not rooted in the Bible as I should have been.  There’s the concept I should have known, to be so familiar with God’s truth that when a lie comes our way, we recognize it.  I have always been lax when it comes to scripture memorization and also reading.  I should be reading daily, should be memorizing whole passages for context and not just one verse here or there.  In my selfishness, I choose not to do what would benefit me most.  Second, I was focused on life’s problems and not Christ.  This focus allowed me to be helped by church members emotionally.  I could be needy.  Being needy meant I told people of my worries so much, and they helped me through.  This is not always bad, to rely on Christians.  However, prayer is what I needed to be doing first of all.  When you are focusing on problems and worrying, you are not taking time to pay attention to the messages coming in.  Third, and this is a biggie in our lives.  I am worldly.  Yes, I said it.  I watch television and listen to secular radio often.  I read things on the internet in excess (like news, and I have a particular focus on pregnancy, babies, nurse blogs, etc.).  I just love to entertain myself with things that do nothing for me…and may actually be harmful to me.  I am somewhat conformed to the image of this world as an American in the culture.  It then means that when my church does things that are just normal for the culture but not right for the church, I don’t notice.  I’ve been desensitized.  I settled for a life less worthy of the calling to which I have been called.  Worse yet, I have exposed my kids to far more than I should have already, though we do have some restraint, it’ s no where near enough.  Finally, (though there probably is more I will learn about myself in the future that is ugly and I would not like to know), I have not been a Berean style Christian.  I went through the 40 Days of Purpose, 40 Days of Community and didn’t once ever mention to someone else how the scriptures were being used in a loose way.  I did make fun of Warren’s shirts, noted our pastors wore them to be funny.  I did feel annoyed that my small group was split for this thing, and was annoyed that we were watching dumb videos and repeating things over and over as if we couldn’t “get it” any other way.  What should have bothered me was the way Warren uses scripture.  I noticed he uses many translations and actually recall thinking that could be convenient for him.  He could easily get what he wanted out of one translation or the other…he could chop a verse in half and make it say what he wanted it to say.  I even thought about looking up the verses in context but in the end, didn’t do it.  I went right through these campaigns not really putting much thought into them.  I did write my own notes, did study and read Warren’s books and the Bible at the same time.  I just didn’t go much further.  This is because I trusted my pastors, and thought they surely had enough wisdom to warn us if there was a problem with these books.  In short, I didn’t do the homework I should have done.  I swallowed 40 Days like it was candy. 

What woke me up?  A turbulent time in our small group showed me that the church just handed teaching and leadership to people unprepared.  It also got us out of using our small group for support.  We then listened to the messages at church with a new hope, with a hope that we could get spiritually fed there.  When we didn’t get that food, I personally began to notice what actually was being said.  Speakers were saying strange things and taking verses out of context or applying meanings to them that the narratives weren’t meant for (like that Lazarus had graveclothes on and those wrappings are like our hang ups and worries in our lives…what?).  Pastors were using the same buzz words, but I didn’t know what they meant.  It made me think of my conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.  I would always have to recheck for what they meant, not what I thought they meant.  I began to research also online, and found critics of some of the same things that were happening in our church from people in churches all across the country.  When one pastor began quoting emergent church leaders profusely, and when he was saying things like “god consciousness,” and “we are little Christs,” I knew we were in big trouble.  These quotes did more than wake me up, but alarmed me.

So how will I live differently?  I have to get back to basics, which is study the Word of God, pray, repent, and humbly turn to Christ.  As a mom I need to focus on teaching my children.  I need to work on what influences I allow in our home, television, radio, and more.  I need to also pray for believers to be more careful, more watchful, more critical. 

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus look full in His wonderful face…and the cares of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His mercy and grace…”

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I will post more on this later, but suffice it to say we are no longer going to the church of our membership.  We entered membership in one church, and it is no longer the same.  It feels like I’ve rejected my very family.  I saw the old lead pastor who is now a pastor of a different department after his sermon and just told him, “I love you…you’ll understand more later, but I love you.”  He told me he’d pray for me.  It puzzled him, I know it.  Now I pray for him.  It’s like I’m disowning my own father when I leave this man, in a way.  I mean, he doens’t know me very well because of our big church, and I don’t know him well either.  However, my affection for him was as that of a father or dear uncle.  He just is a precious man who is now bringing the New Age movement right into our church through “missional” and Rick Warren, and Dallas Willard.  He sincerely, along with other leaders, felt that our churched people, our knowledgeable Christians were getting too comfortable and not serving.  Therefore, they sought a new plan.  They found missional, they found 40 Days of Purpose, they were sold a lie.  Now they have to live in it and it’s going to be hard to unstick the barnacles that go with it.

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Heard another pastor on the radio this week, and he was speaking about having a “purpose driven life.”  Ugh.  You know what, I am about sick of this theme!  I think it’s all backwards.  Instead of trying to figure out our gifts, plug in to a small group, and figure out God’s purpose for us (all this is focused on me finding my  gifts, me plugging in to a small group, and me figuring out God’s purpose for me) we should be turning our eyes upon Jesus, focusing on Him and not on me or anyone else’s idea of what we should do.  Yet another pastor is pointing Christians (and he was speaking to those already claiming to be Christians) to themselves, to spend time on figuring their thing out so they could follow some sort of purpose (supposedly God’s purpose).  Now, I want to know, you out there who are seeking God’s purpose for your life, what exactly is this purpose?  How did you begin to search it out?  What was the thing that got you searching for God’s purpose to drive your life? 

I’ll tell you how I have come to where I am in my life.  In my sinful self, nowhere.  I am nothing.  My Jesus, He’s everything.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and I believe whether I am a janitor or the most famous writer and missionary, what I need to keep doing is keep seeking Christ Jesus.  God does have something in my life for me to do, but it’s up to Him to show me.  I can make my plans, but He is to direct my steps.  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever.”  Period.

C’mon, pastors, quit following a plan written by a man in a book.  Lift your heads from that book and turn your eyes upon Jesus.

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