Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘church shopping’

John 20:31.  It’s a basic verse and my children ages 6, 8, 10, and 12 know it.  They learned it at Awana.  The pastor of a church we’re visiting spent a long sermon on this verse today.  This church is going to spend many months on the book of John.  He actually said about a year, but later said months…but still, coming from a church that has themes last 4-8 weeks maximum, this is worth note.  Anyway, this verse is one that defines our struggle with our former church a bit for us.  With that verse, I am taken back to a Sunday when Steve Smith was talking about Lazarus, and began saying that we come to Christ’s call and have grave clothes on us.  These grave clothes have to be removed by community in order for us to heal.  This was a big “aha” Sunday for us.  It was the early stages of questions, and so began my search for the direction our former church was heading.  Lazarus is recorded in John, and my husband and I believe the Steven Smith (as a guest speaker) was presenting the account of Lazarus incorrectly.  The Bible was being mishandled, and psychology injected.  It really sounded like a message Oprah might give.  When we went to our former pastor, we brought this speaker up.  He said he not only supported what Steven Smith said, but he had personally sent letters out recommending his book about Lazarus and the grave clothes.  Lovely.  We tried to explain how we felt the Bible was being mishandled, and the pastor countered that each miracle had a purpose for us.  We were supposed to understand something we could apply to our lives.  We were to, for example, dig deeper into why Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding.  This did not satisfy us as a proper explanation.  We asked two friends, and one a pastor himself the other a college professor said that the verse which explains the purpose for the signs and miracles recorded in John is written in the book itself.  They both quoted “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” 

Today, the pastor went through an overview of the purpose of John’s gospel using this verse as a starting point.  He explained clearly that the signs recorded were for showing Christ’s glory, his divinity, that he is the Messiah, and the Son of God.  The signs were an apologetic, a proof of God.  We are to believe and receive eternal life.  The second part of John was to show the suffereing of Christ.  Again, we are to believe.  No psychology.  The pastor even mentioned at the end of his sermon that nowadays people are preaching a lot of therapy, or as he put it, the Jesus they call people to believe in is not the real Jesus.  He listed several examples, one of which was the “theraputic Jesus.”  This is a generally quiet church, but I almost said, “Amen, brother!”  I heard that theraputic message big time at my former church.  It was an empty message.

A woman I don’t recall meeting is now a facebook friend, she’s still in my former church.  She has written much about emergent on her facebook, so another friend introduced us.  She has written a testimony she shared about small groups.  In her testimony, she mentions going to church alone and never feeling she was close to God.  She joined a small group, and presto, she was hungry for the Word.  Of course, this small group was actually studying Acts, studying the Bible.  She was also introduced to a study Bible with notes, so she was digging into commentary.  Now, she’s still at our former church and has no clue about me and why our family left.  I won’t tell her the obvious, but to me it’s obvious, the message she wasn’t getting at our former church caused her to feel far from God.  She joined a small group, and she found people she connected with.  She might actully be getting “fed” since it sounds like they are studying from the Bible.  She was praising her church in her note and testimony, but really, she is missing that the theraputic messages aren’t filling.  It’s the study of God’s word.  Also, she may be feeling good because she has friends, but she’s not being challenged about her sin.  I wonder if she’ll see it someday?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Christians are struggling out there.  Some are figuring out that their church is heading into the emergent church, or is following after Warren’s plans.  Some are being hurt for standing up in their churches and speaking out.  They are breaking away, and trying to find a place to worship and fellowship.  Some do find churches where they fit, churches where the pastor is preaching the gospel and is challening it’s members with the Bible.  Some are finding places where their children can grow.  Still others are heading into churches that will be the same church they left a few years down the line.  I see people who figured out our former church has real problems, but they don’t get the whole picture.  They go right into another church that is doing the same things at an earlier stage.  Some also have decided to give up on church.   I understand where they are.  It’s easy to give up completely.  I have thought about doing that myself.  People have let us down, leaders have taught wrongly.  We cannot trust ourselves to have proper discernment, after all, we’ve been fooled…some for years.  I can understand it, but I cannot do it.  It’s too important to meet together.  I believe the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, and led my family out of our former church.  He will lead us to the right church.  We just have to have faith.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Today we attended a church recommended by several we know.  The sermon was about spritual gifts.  The people we met said the sermon was unusual as it was a theme.  The pastor usually preached expository straight from the Bible, but people had so many questions about spiritual gifts, so he felt they needed some lessons on that.  He spoke of spiritual gifts as being given to believers for the glorification of Christ to be used in service to the body.   He still used scripture, and focused a great deal on exactly what was said and gave very few tangental stories or illustrations.  I noticed two families sitting in front of me.  It was a row full of girls.  The three directly in front of us each had their own Bibles, and were taking notes from the sermon.  When the final prayer was given and we were standing to go, I looked around and noticed that many children were carrying their own Bibles, it wasn’t just the adults.  This particular church has Sunday school first hour, then service with only the youngest being in nursery and “children’s church.”  I think anyone older 8 is in service.  I noted the Bibles when speaking to people said “welcome” to us.  They said that Sunday school classes encourage the kids to use the Bibles, and they also then bring them into the church service.  This doesn’t mean this church is on the right track for sure, but it is a good sign.  In our former church, many adults still carried their own Bibles, but kids didn’t and teens even didn’t.  When they announced new members in service, the ceremony included asking them why they came to this church.  The people each said one reason was the strong Biblical teaching.  The people who talked to us after church also said that this church offered expository Biblical teaching.  One couple has five girls, and had come from out of state.  They said they had been greatly concerned when they were “church shopping” with all that they were seeing in most churches.  Wow.  They asked us which church we had left, and we shared.  They said they had visited there.  I explained that it took a while for us to even see what was happening, and they said they understood.  Some of it is in the relationships that are hard to let go of, some of it is in the choice to be blind as you cannot believe people you trust would be saying what they are saying.

We did see a few people we knew, they had come from our former church.  Many more we didn’t know.  It appears that there are many large families in this church, and many homeschool.  We have a larger family, but not the largest by far in this church.  One family we recognized as one member had been voted out of our congregation because, as we were told, he didn’t agree with doctrinal issues presented by an elder in our former church and he was unloving in his approach.  I have to wonder exactly what did happen then.  We trusted our elders and voted him out right along with most of the congregation.  That could have been us had we pressed…unless they really did approach things in the wrong way. 

Not sure this church will be our home.  If it were me alone I would say this is the church I want to attend.  However, my husband needs to have a big say.  The church we have attended for a few months is comfortable to him, and he believes we could have an impact there.  I am not so sure, I fear it’s just 10 years behind our former church and is really on the same path.  However, I am not certain as we haven’t interviewed the pastors.  So, it appears, unless something changes, we have two church possibilities.  One is a “Christ follower” style church with the “praise band” but so far with some expository teaching, and one we’ve attended only today that appears to rely almost soley on expository preaching.  The music also is hymns (unfortunately still on overhead, I believe we miss something when kids don’t see the actual music in hand…I wish that would change everywhere…maybe both overhead and music books?). 

I do have some hope though, this church we tried today may be on guard against the influences of the emergent and emerging church/Purpose Driven style/Seeker sensitive movement etc.

Read Full Post »

Visited a local church this Sunday.  We’ve gone there before, they are a church “plant” of our old church.  I was assured they are independent of the old church.  We’ve gone before and not had too many issues with the sermons.  Since this church is closer to our home by twenty minutes, and services start later, we had an easy morning getting there on time.   It’s a smaller congregation, smaller town, so there’s less materialism in dress.  People do dress up, others are casual, but it’s not the same as the larger church we attended.  Not many had grey hair at the old church, not everyone is like this at this local church.  Songs were a mix of modern and hymn.  I’d say they are a comfortable place to worship, and the pastor is humble.  They do have some signs of having the same themes, but not nearly as strong as the old church.

Today was not good, however.  There was a guest speaker.  His sermon was essentially the Ortberg book.  He told the story of Peter, and yet focused on the other disciples saying they were “boat potatoes” and at least Peter got out of the boat.   Peter’s gift to Jesus was getting out of the boat.  He talked about how we need to reach this generation and they are leaving church because they’re bored, bored, bored.  And, wouldn’t it be awful if all we did every day was take care of our lawn, work, and die?  We need to not be afraid and take risks.  He used a the scripture with the parable of the talents from Matthew 25.  The man who didn’t reproduce the talents was afraid.  He said, he feared the world, life’s problems.    He began to talk excitedly saying something like this, “the man was afraid, this life has many problems, it’s risky out there…the economy’s bad, the gas prices are down…I’m safer at home.”  Okay, look that one up.  The man says he is afraid not because of what’s out in the world, not hiding at home doing nothing.  He hides what his master gave to him because of his fear of the master who was a hard man.  He was afraid of the risk because of the master’s reaction if he lost the talent all together.  The master sees him as lazy and wicked, which may also give insight that the man may have just wasted the time away, wasted the talent because he didn’t want to go and work. 

In the course of the sermon, this man mentioned Ortberg by using his book title (and I bet the perspective from the book, anyone know?).  He also knew Max Lucado, dropped that name right away.  He also mentioned a quote by Tony Campolo. 

My problems with the sermon were that the text was obviously twisted, if even slightly.  This man has obviously been paid to speak and should have his stories fit well with the text of scripture.  The call was partly to energize the youth because they are bored.  If youth are bored in churches that preach the truth, our job is NOT to entertain them, it’s to continue to teach the truth.  This theme was drilled into us by our old chruch, not at all interested in seeing that theme run it’s course again.  The basic message was that we need to get out and do something.  This man doesn’t want any one of us to regret our lives, we should have interesting stories to tell in our old age.  We should do something like go on missions trips, take risks.  Okay, but what if our entire lives are to be JUST raising our family, or being a school janitor?  There are plenty of people who do serve God but their lives aren’t full of large risks.  What of all the families and individuals throughout history that just did ordinary things like taught a Sunday school class?  What of the people who work meals on wheels or become a nurse?  What of those who are faithful to take their children to church and teach them well?  What if they don’t do anything out of the ordinary, but their grandchildren do because of their influence and faithful life?  I’m sure every life will have a human interest story to it, whether good or bad.  That is NOT the point of our lives.  I would rather be a nobody with a nothing story at the end of my life if my God is pleased with me, and says, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  A boring old life with menial labor and ordinary tasks is not a shame.  We are to do what God calls us to do, and if someone shares the gospel where they are planted, serves and gives when they can, and sees fruit from that, who is to say they are not doing it right?  These guys make it seem like we all have to be out doing something extraordinary to please God.  Usually, it’s a story good enough for a sermon or to quote in a book.  Who does this please?  God or men,  hmmm? 

So now the dilemma.  Do we return, do we share our concerns?   I say we meet with the pastor and bring up the concerns we have with the guest speaker. 

On another note, many people have contacted us from the old church wanting to meet…most are in leadership. They want to know why we left.  My husband has a meeting upcoming already.  We shall see what this accomplishes.  For a family the elder said would not be noticed if we left by the pastor in question, we sure are being noticed by several others.  What is wrong with this one pastor?  I believe he will know we’re gone.  Either way, it only matters if God wants him to notice.  Each meeting is another chance to tell someone the truth.  Hopefully something good will come from all these opportunities.  God willing.

Read Full Post »

I cannot express how difficult it is to go to another church.  It feels like I’m disowning my own family, like I’m cutting myself off from them.  Given everything, if the pastors in our old church weren’t showing clear signs of being into contemplative prayer, of merging with the New Age, we’d still be there with the other problems we’re seeing.  I mean, if we were just using the P.E.A.C.E. plan as a model and it seemed the pastors were ignorant to the New Age only, it would be something we could work with.  Even better, if we were doing all the things like missions, serving the poor, concerned about orphans, and doing service projects in the community, that would be fine.  The church promotion and marketing can be a little much, but some of what our church was doing I don’t really see as wrong.  Sending out mailers, trying to attract the community to church, well, for me that seems logical if you are evangelical.  You want to get the world to come in and hear just in case you’re meant to plant a seed for the.  However, the message is tainted.  Just a dusting or arsenic, just enough to make the cake look like it has powdered sugar on it, in fact, it does have powdered sugar.  But it also has that little bit of poison.  I was sad today thinking of my church worshipping and the message being shared, and the pastors having an agenda to eventually teach the crowd how to pray in a contemplative way.  I am sad thinking about how lost our pastors are, how blind they are.   They can talk about god-consciousness just like New Age leaders.  They speak of silence, of Christ coursing through veins, of mission, of being “little christs.”  These things slip into their speech, and no one really hears it (I did, but I’d ask and many would say no and then I’d listen to sermons online later and it would be confirmed).  Today, people filled a church building (our old church), and people were missing the mark.  So we sat with strangers, my kids taught by strangers.  We heard the message, and I listened carefully to every word.  I watched as they prayed, did they have an agenda too?  Maybe, maybe they did, maybe they are doing God’s will or maybe not. 

I did share a bit of our story with the pastor, and he understood.  He knew that shift was going on all around our city.  Just a few weeks ago an older couple visited from our old church.  The pastor knew our church was merging.  He knew of other churches with this problem.  The offered to pray for us, they offered materials for free on the topic of the New Age merging with Christianity.  The pastor even had spoken with one of the many pastors from our church and gave him a book that was a good warning to show this shift.  Did this pastor read the book?  How did it impact him?  I don’t know. 

So we visit a new church, go to lunch.  The kids say it was cool, it was different.  The younger ones liked the new songs they learned, the older ones wished the music was better.  There were only 15 children 10 to toddler.  That is a change.  We are not done looking, but this church at least looks like one that has the gospel message clear.  They are studying the bible and read through the bible in their bible study groups each year.  This is good.  More churches, more people to meet.  I just wish our old church would change.  I’d rather be there.

Read Full Post »