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Posts Tagged ‘change’

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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We are living in very interesting times. Now, I have many children, and certainly do not like the idea of them having to pay for what has been happening in our country and suffer trying to find fellowship as hard as it’s getting now. I think that things are only going to get worse. I do believe, however, that I can prepare my children. The temptation is to shield them from the scary parts of the Bible, the scary events in life. Why would I want to tell them things that will make them nervous? I hated it when I was little, hearing about the tribulation and all of that. I actually believe I was taught in a wrong way anyway. So, I’m having to back up and just tell my children what the Bible teaches. First of all, there is no one they need to follow anywhere. Jesus will return on the clouds, and anyone who acts like he/she has special supernatural powers is NOT anyone worth following. They need only wait for Jesus and not believe anyone else trying to act like him whether calling themself Jesus or some other name. Secondly, even if they aren’t going to experience the tribulation with the mark of the beast etc, they will see persecution. It’s getting worse, and there is not going to be a place to run to like some have had in days past. America was where people ran. God may provide a hiding place if things get as bad as they can. However, if he tarries, we could, like the Jews in WW2, have to deal with great death and persecution. In fact, Christians around the world are going through it now. Our turn will come. I know this is scary for kids to hear, but it needs to be taught. I also tell them there may be and likely will be a time when they will have to stand up for their faith…and it may be that we parents have to make the hard decisions for them in the next few years. We may have to stand on our faith and say we cannot do this or that. We may also have to decide what battle to fight so as not to risk throwing our children into a bad situation. It will be difficult if things get as bad as they can, or even half as bad as they can. It’s important to share this and yet share also with confidence that God is always there and will get us through it. Victory is His even if we go to our deaths. I am sure that many parents aren’t even touching these subjects. I am also sure I’ve heard scary thoughts and worries before, but that this time it seems people are really either in complete denial of problems or they are giving strong and very grave warnings about the events just ahead. To deny there is going to be some drastic changes (and there already have been) and that we aren’t going to be in trouble as Christians right here in our brave homeland is to live in a fantasy land. Our children have to be prepared. It’s not love if they do not know how things can be, and aren’t ready for it. Thank God HE knows what is going on and is in charge, and is in control. This is a very sticky time we’re living in brothers and sisters. We should not neglect the responsibility we have to our children to make them ready.

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praying to be

I pray to be a Berean.  I also pray NOT to be a Jonah.  If God will convert and change the hearts, and there will be a turning to Christ and repentance, who am I to judge?  I am only to speak the truth in love and wait.  I beg God to protect me from bitterness and pride, and hope to care with all my heart for my former church.  If they change and never come to me and say, “thank you for showing us the truth and standing for the truth” I cannot be frustrated.  I hope actually to be forgotten by my former church, left behind, never mentioned again.  I hope that they will claim, if there is true repentance, that they were convicted by God.  What I did may have stirred them up, and pushed them further from God.  I do not want this, but cannot stay quiet when I see untruth.  So, I wait, but do not wait for wrath.  I wait and hope for change.  Honestly, I was hoping the church would fail and everyone would leave the pastor all by himself.  That is what I was hoping.  Now, I am hoping for God to work in the hearts of those attending, and hope for many more eyes to be opened.  If there is anyone who can convince and change the focus back on Christ, then I am for that whatever it takes for as long as it takes.

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I was on the steering committee of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) in it’s founding year at our old church about six years ago.  I recall being frustrated with the idea that speakers should not mention the Bible often, that talks should not be “preachy.”  I expressed concern about this, and was told women who came to MOPS might not be Christians so we don’t want to drive them away.  Even though I saw the point to a certain extent, I did not like the policy.  The elder woman who spoke often would inevitably share Christ though she always had to tame things down a notch.  She had been a strong Christian all her life, so it just came out no matter what she did.  Now, if you write for MOPS, their webpage warns to write things from a “biblical but not doctrinal perspective.”   “Please avoid Christian jargon and use biblical quotes sparingly.”  To me, this is a dead giveaway that MOPS, though it would seem to be a Christian organization, actually is an organization with some Christian beginnings, and some Christian themes…but it’s not actually Christian.  It’s trying to get away from Christ as the center just like many other churches and organizations are now doing.

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Oh, it’s been an interesting past few weeks.  A friend of mine reads my live journal, one of the only people in my life who knows about it.  I’ve left it open to her on purpose so she can decide to read or not.  Her life is full of problems right now, and introducing her to this issue in our church is painful to her.  Both my friend and her husband have been attacked on every side, I really mean it, every side.  Even his side  job, which is for Christians in an artsy organization that is supposed to be Christian is causing them serious trouble.  Their income is being challenged, their bodies, their minds, and their future.   She told me that she feels spiritually oppressed.  I believe they are under attack, and now I’m telling her our church is not what it should be.  This has to be hard for her, but she says she appreciates my discernment (I don’t think it’s really discernment on my part, more my eyes were opened for some reason I cannot explain), and yet she’s not sure we’re not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”  You see, emergent church is a giving place.  Social ills are confronted and a sincere attempt is made to deal with them.  If you were to read my LJ you’d see how many times my church has met our needs for financial issues, or times I’ve seen our church serve in amazing ways.  Our church is full of Christians who really do believe and follow God, and want to please Him.  So, that baby, the service part, is a true act of worship.  I believe that.  My friend is an artist as is her husband.  Emergent welcomes different modes of worship which include art.  I believe that is not a problem, as long as everything stays biblical.  I like the art in our church, the paintings people have created depicting worship, or Christ on the cross, the poems, the songs people have written, the dances presented.  I do feel these expressions of worship, as long as they fall in line with scripture, are wonderful. 

My friend brought her husband into a room during service last week to speak with my husband and me.  She wanted to have me explain my stance, what I was seeing that was bothering me, and she wanted her husband there to hear it.  They are both very intelligent people, and when she cannot understand something he can really fill it in for her.  We spent the entire hour talking about what I think the pastors mean by spiritual transformation, how our church is offering bible study books (or just books) by authors who are emergent and support contemplative prayer and spiritual disciplines from mystic catholicism, sermons, speakers, links our church has with a local openly emergent congregation, youth, couples who have left and why, what contemplative prayer is…what labyrinths are (our church doesn’t do this but the other linked church does and this couple’s seen it happen because they’ve attended the other church before).  We discussed which pastors (and we have many, is this a problem in itself) might be more willing to speak about our church issues honestly. 

My friend and her husband don’t know for themselves if everything I’m concerned about is actually a problem.  They are confused a bit, and want to investigate for themselves.  My friend trusts me, but also trusts others who have not had an issue at all with where the church is headed. 

I’ve also found an ally, a friend in our church who has been alarmed for a while now but has prayed and decided to stay.  She is the first person who attends our church (besides my husband) I came to openly with what I finally could see for myself, it was a sudden draw to her that gave me the guts to take a risk and say something.  I believe it was the hand of God really that brought us together.  She was in Minnesota in a very large megachurch she says was one of the founders of this emergent stuff (is it Paggitt???she’s never said).  Anyway, she said she watched it change for five years.  One day, while singing in choir before about 15,000 she suddenly felt things weren’t right.  She said she actually felt that God was impressing upon her to listen, and she did.  For five years she saw the church change little by little.  She describes what happened was “double talk.”  They’d say one thing, but mean another.  Candles, artwork, and other things began to come into the church.  A shift occured right before her eyes.  She tried talking to people but no one was seeing it.  She has been there, done that, and now is seeing the beginnings of it in our church.  She’s a single woman, and as such, has no power in our church.  She’s brought some things to leaders and has had some struggles.   She is often marginalized as a person who is either too legalistic, weak, emotionally unstable…etc.  She is a very energetic person, very talky (I like talky, I’m talky), and serves in every capacity possible.  She also is not afraid to speak the truth, and sometimes is perceived as being too blunt.  I think she may need to work on her approach, but for the most part, I find her to be a refreshing change to the games people play.  No games with this woman, let me tell you.  Of course, I know she and I will tangle someday…I’m sure, but that’s for another day.  Anyway, she and I are united in one thing, we must pray for our church.  She believes we need people to come to the leadership who have been through different things and can bring their experience to the leadership.  For instance, in trying something new the church was goign to have two services.  In one, I guess some ex-catholics said, “why are we doing this?  What we are doing is what we came out of.”  That service style was dropped.  She hopes for some people who came out of the “new age” movement or eastern religions to notice and to bring up to leadership how this or that parallels with eastern mysticism. 

So far, we’ve not had out right contemplative prayer, we’ve not had mantras.  I think we’re slowly being brought to a point where we’ll be open to this.  Sermons are using other religions and gods as illustrative story points.  The pastors are asking us to do things when we pray corporately like imagine our problems in our hands and hold them tightly and then we open them to “give them to God.”  I hear pastors say things like, “I want you to listen to the reading of the scriptures, and if you do this by reading along, looking ahead, staring into a light, whatever you do to pay attention is fine.”  Literally, our pastor did say “staring into a light” when referring to paying attention to the reading of the word.  More and more, pastors refer to emergent youth or postmodern youth in sermons.  They have in the past given us lists of statistics of how many youth leave the church when they grow older, and they paint a very scary picture for the parents.  The answer so far given to keep the church from dying has been to reach the youth. 

Children and youth are seperated out, not many bring their kids to adult church.   Really the only way to know what they are really being taught is to be a helper.  It’s so tempting to just give the kids over (which if you trust your church is not usually a problem).   I look at the curriculums online and have discovered our curriculum is linked to Saddleback/Willow Creek.  Papers kids bring home do not really share what is going on, it’s hard to know from them what exactly is being taught.  When Awana was over, I asked what the Wednesday night activities would be…here’s the response from our children’s pastor…

We’ve had a plan from the beginning … we wouldn’t have ended Awana without something we thought would better accomplish our ministry goals with kids and better enable us to partner with parents.  We are focusing on summer Sunday morning ministry and summer camp right now.  We will begin rolling out our new Wednesday night ministry program sometime in June.

So far, we’ve not heard what the programs will be.  Whatever changes are made, the parents have had no say, no idea what’s going on.  Things are being implimented and we are not being asked.  We’re on this ride, and are expected to just ride with very little information as to where we are going.  Living in our church means we cannot sleep, we have to watch carefully.  I feel that if the church could be honest about the direction, the leadership would be open and tell us everything at once.  Because they know they have to do it slowly, this is why we’ve been seeing changes but been given no clue to the direction.  Or, we’ve been given clues in “code” words, but we’re not hearing them and understanding them because we’re behind the curve. 

Living in our church means you see people leave with no warning and you don’t know why.  It means there are lots of great programs going on.  It means you feel empty but you don’t know why.  It means you can talk to people but often no one else knows what is going on.  It means you feel that if you bring things to the leadership you might be in trouble, but you don’t know why you feel this way.  Living in our church means you can see a ladder like in corporate American business, but you don’t really believe it ‘s there.  Living in our church means you don’t know that everthing that seems random is actually linked.  Every program is linked.  Every mission trip is linked.  Connect the dots, follow the lines.  Emergent Youth…it’s a loaded phrase and no one realizes it.

 

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