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Posts Tagged ‘Awana’

Before we left our former church I began to feel frozen.  I learned all this information about spiritual formation, emergent, purpose driven and the P.E.A.C.E. plan (which was presented to our congregation several times).  I began to understand all the things we did in our church that we felt good for doing were related to some author’s plans.  Every philosophy, the way we taught our children on Sunday mornings, the way we studied in small groups, the service projects we did, the way scriptures had been presented and often interpreted, were run through a filter of the strategies/plans/vision of our former church.  Our thinking on missions, service to others, finances, parenting, had all been shaped by this church.  We also had been big supporters of groups such as Focus on the Family which has since been stepping into “spiritual formation.”  I thought at first that our former church had “just changed.”  Because they have sermon notes saved online, I realized that this was not the case.  The changes have been in place at least since 2002.  We’ve only been there since 2000, but the sermons are not recorded online, so I’m not sure how much deviation there is from those first days.  At any rate, we didn’t notice issues until 2008.  That’s 7 years at least of this spiritual formation/purpose driven/seeker friendly/tip toe emergent stuff getting on us.  Rubbing this stink off has been a challenge.  It’s got to be in our thinking, in our reasons why.  So now, I am frozen.  Christians are to share the gospel, make disciples.  But how?  Even before I went to our former church, I learned the “quick and dirty” gospel.  “All have sinned” and “for God so loved the World” and “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and recieve him (because  a gift cannot be opened until recieved) and pray for forgiveness.  Say this prayer and boom, you are saved.  So now, I have to reevaluate.  I actually think my salvation wasn’t based on this, I did have an understanding that I was chosen by God and grace and mercy had nothing to do with a scripted prayer.  I’m confident in my salvation, sure of my guilt of sin, and know that I am only saved by the grace and mercy of Christ who died for me.  I really have always loved to read and dig into my bible, and loved to figure out exactly what scripture truly says and means.  This hasn’t changed, so reading my bible still gives me comfort.  Praying has been difficult for me lately though, knowing talk and teaching had been leading to possible contemplative style in our former church.  I talk to God directly, always  have.  I do not use any techniques like Lectio Divina as we hadn’t been lead through that yet.  Still, I struggle.  I have always thought that going off by myself and writing in a prayer journal is good (I would just write requests mostly in the journal, who I was praying for).  I would read scripture and summarize a bit for my own recall, then list my requests and people I’m praying for.  I also used to walk the neighborhood praying for people in the homes, for God to work in our city and eventually our nation.  I do long to be alone when praying, to be in nature, do actually find quiet to help out sometimes when I pray.  I do NOT empty my mind, believe you have to have solitude as a discipline.  But who hasn’t enjoyed praying outside in the early morning all alone while looking at something spectacular God has created?  Iwould not mistake this “feeling” for closeness to God or purity in Christian life, however, there is something nice about it.  However, I have been very cautious about what I do in prayer.   I no longer feel comfortable just praying.  I have to stop and think, “am I doing this wrong?”  Doing prayer wrong?  Yes, it’s possible to pray incorrectly, very possible.  Still, before I was just praying and not worrying about it all the time.  Same with service.  Before, I felt great helping clean up a school yard as part of a church project, or filling a box of toys for a child’s Christmas gift.  I realized that some service projects would not really be directly presenting the gospel, but it didn’t seem so bad.  Now, I wonder how much I would be part of some big agenda to “be a change agent.”  I don’t want to just sign up and have a wrong motive or give in the way God doesn’t prescribe.  So, I am frozen.  Which organizations aren’t tainted with the current emergent/new age/change the world through good works teachings?  Bell ringing for the Salvation Army?  Maybe not so good…they have some contemplative stuff on their web page.  Many old trusted places to serve or give seem to be turning contemplative.  What organizations can I have my children involved in?  We did Awana this year, and yet I saw some of their training for parents is “spiritual formation” style.  Though my kids have learned the verses, I fear eventually the teaching may grow suspect.  I have listened to the Cubbies teaching week after week, and so far have no problems with it.  Still, we’re thinking of stopping Awana.  We’d like to be involved in the church we choose to join, and are likely to find ways to teach verses without all that Awana brings (busy time).  Everywhere I go in Christian life, I feel frozen.  At least I know one thing, if I crack open my bible, I can trust scripture.  It’s the commentaries I worry about…

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Today my children participated in Awana Bible Quiz. They basically answered multiple choice questions about bible verses, definitions of words in particular verses, answers to questions in the Awana handbooks, and other similar questions. I have no problem with this as the kids do have to study their verses and memorize them to do well. We are involved in Awana partly because of the verse memorization, and because of the experiences the kids enjoy with others. It’s a Wednesday night thing, not a substitute for home bible study or church services. So far, I’ve not heard anything leaning contemplative at the meetings, I help with Awana myself so that I can see what’s going on. I know the Cubbies program is much like it has been for several years, but the books have been changing for the older kids. I have my children focus on the verses, and even then I’m not really worried about it as I’d rather have them learn from better versions of the bible itself. With that out of the way I’d like to share what bothered me about today.

After the quizing, there was a message from one of the missionary leader type Awana men. He told us about a book he read ( Annointed for Business). He then proceeded to describe four types of Christians. I was thinking right away that either you are a Christian or you’re not, kind of like being pregnant or not. There’s not “a little pregnant” just “early pregnant” and so was thinking it might be more like a discussion on signs of maturity or something. He began with level one. He actually called them “level one Christians.” These are the hypocrites, the two faced Christians. Okay, already I’m thinking the obvious, these are NOT Christians. He gave a scary story of a youth who committed suicide, and the kids who had once been in his youth group a few years earlier had teased him while there, so he stopped going. What might have occured had they not been two faced hypocrites as Christians? This boy might have stayed in youth group and maybe wouldn’t have killed himself. (Huh, so he could pick on another kid because youth group was supposed to make us better right?….or is it true that we’re all sinners…). Level two Christians are the Pharasees. That’s right, they are the letter of the law keepers. They come to God out of fear not love, they are holier than thou. I wonder if they think about reformed people when they mention this, or if they really mean the people who claim to be Christians but are actually very legalistic? Would this author include those who believe homosexuality is wrong? I would love to know exactly what was defined in the book because many times this area is where Christianity is attacked as being too traditional and the myth is used to steer people into “seeker friendly” churches. Hopefully this is not what was happening here, but I’ll never trust again without checking for myself. The third level Christian is alright, according to the leader and the author he quotes. This one is lead by the Holy Spirit and does many things in obedience not out of duty or obligation but out of love. These Christians are considered pretty good. This level is fine, but this leader mentioned there are ways that are bad, okay, better, and best. Level four Christians sound like the one this leader and the author want everyone to be. They are Christians who “transform” their environment. They are the ones that, in the workplace or school, cause everything to be better. They are the ones who, in his example, end up making everyone behave better because they are around. The leader shared that at one public school, an Awana group asked to use the school facilities for meetings. Although only 12 children were in the club, the teachers at the end of the school year thanked the Awana leader because the kids had behaved so well and had done better even on school work. The principal had resisted at first, but now admitted that this group had done something good. Even the peers of the Awana kids were acting better. Problems solved, right?

So, what’s wrong with this presentation? The fact is a false Christianity is presented. There are “levels” of Christians. There’s better and worse Christians. Is that how Jesus sees us? What of the persecuted Christians who make little to no impact on the evil culture around and are murdered? Remember Moses? Pharoah’s heart was hardened, the Israelite generation wasted what they knew of God from this experience. Was Moses considered faithful by God or not? Sure, it sounds good, it goes down easy. However, the bitterness sits in my stomach and makes me ill. The message was hollow. No one was saved by this message. This is the message that was given to children and parents in an attempt to motivate them to action. Was it the action God would have wanted from a leader? Also, who transforms us? Is it an Awana leader or is it the faith we have in Chirst and His grace and mercy because of His sacrifice for our sins? What has transformative power?
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On another note, the church that sponsors the Awana club our kids attend is one of our former church’s plants. I was speaking with a few leaders, and one who now also left our former church and attends the one we like (confusing enough yet?) came up to me and said he heard about a new thing Rick Warren was coming out with and he thought of me. Since we’d had these discussions before, I knew he is aware of how I feel about the program Rick Warren is selling. He then mentioned that’s why he was fed up with our former church, because of the “following of men’s books” instead of studying the Bible. One woman who attends this church plant said, “yeah, you know, I really like it when our pastor does a series from an actual book of the Bible. Last spring we did an 8 week series on [a book in the new testament] and I really learned a lot.” She went on to say she really only knows a lot about that one book of the Bible and would love to do more books in the Bible instead of books from authors. Wow. I hope this gets her to thinking. She’s probably a Christian who wants the real meat and not some false meat, huh?

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“Great is our Lord and mighty in power…”  is from Psalm 147:5.  This is a verse my five year old is learning through the Awana program.  My older children have all gone through this program, and have had to learn each verse for the Sparks code.  P is for power, and this verse fits.  However, is it a dumbing down, though the verse does speak of God’s mighty power? 

Here’s the “old” verse for P.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16. 

I have this version memorized due to the times I worked with them on the verse and listened to the music.  What I notice about this little change (the rest of the code is the same) is that it speaks of the gospel.  This gospel of Christ is His good news, and taking this verse out certainly seems odd.  I realize it’s a longer verse, and they’re trying to make the verses easier.  Sadly, in making things easier, we’re missing out on some of the message they were getting.  In fact, it’s quite frustrating to me.  Our kids did struggle because I am so busy I don’t work with the younger ones as much as I did, however, even getting what we did (which was all of the verses in SPARKS…but not always all the activities), I found it to be a great way to get the Word in.  I hope my little ones don’t miss out on John 1:1-4 and Psalm 23.  I will just have to pull out the old Sparks tapes. 

I have been working harder to read the Bible out loud in my home.  We read Proverbs during the school day, since there are 31 we can have one chapter each day of the month.  I want to read through many books.  My struggle is the older/younger combination.  We were given an easier version of the NIV, but I am so uncomfortable with it and find it dissatisfying to read.  My oldest actually likes the KJV, but the younger ones are so lost listening to that.  I generally read NASB or NIV.  Not sure what version is best for the family.  I want to keep the Word of God in our daily life.  I also want to teach it correctly so that when they hear error, they will know it.

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