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Sometimes I get so discouraged.  What I thought was true turned out to be false.  Our former church was a place where I thought people were glorifying God.  I’m sure there are some people there who are true Christians, but the leadership is scary to me.  At least two of the pastors are not preaching Christ, the others go along with it.   The one who did speak up and worked to change things had been let go.  They want to be a spiritual formation/seeker friendly/and whatever the emergent thing is lite (not NOT emergent?).  They want what they are. 

I feel a bit helpless, and I guess I am.  I cannot save anyone myself, that’s God’s work.  He chooses whom He chooses.  I just hate seeing it happening, the sin of false teaching.

I have another problem, I have a new problem of trust.  I cannot feel completely like I can trust preachers.  I cannot trust church systems.  I want to be able to walk into a church and know they are okay, they are preaching truth.  I want to trust.  I feel some trust in the newer church (and we’ve been going for a year and 1/2 now).  However, I cannot commit to them in heart right now.  (I have seen a few things that are problems…not related to doctrine or teaching but on a side note…and it has to do more with safety than anything not teaching/preaching/faith).  I want to have a consistent place for my kids to go to worship.   I want to be involved.

What has happened to me is a coldness.  In our former church, it was all about community.  We had small groups, activities, we were busy.  We had adult conversation.  We socialized.  We did get frustrated, but we did enjoy being around the people.  In the newer church (to us) we aren’t yet feeling connected to the people.  It’s a good sermon, nice to see you, bye.  I want some family there if I’m going to stick.  We do have friends attending from the former church, but only a few we were close to.  I’m not young anymore, and I don’t like starting over.  I want long term friends.  I’m lonely.  Are we supposed to feel lonely in church? 

Part of it is our fault.  We don’t trust, we have busy lives with our kids.  We haven’t completely dug in to this church.  We’d just like to be invited over for a drink and cookies, some conversation, some connection.  People are friendly, but we aren’t their friends.

Our former church had the group thing down.  Small groups were an issue in that the bible study part was missing.  I think there is nothing wrong with socializing with your church friends and getting together into groups, but small group studies were how bad teaching was spread further.  Just getting together to socialize, well, that probably is actually a good thing.  Getting together to study a book that has nothing to do with the gospel but makes you think it does, now that is wrong.  We spent years trying to do bible study in these groups and were successful some of the time.  The church kept pulling us into this or that book though…manditory for the whole church.

I’m discouraged on several levels I guess.  I thought we would have feel more than superficial with friends at our newer church.  I am also discouraged looking at the churches around our area.  Many are into this seeker friendly/spiritual formation stuff.  I guess I kind of feel like I would if I were in Utah.  So many places preaching false doctrine.  So many “nice” people, but sooooo thirsty for companionship/fellowship and also for the true gospel to be preached.  At least I feel the preaching where we are is pretty good.  Eventually, we’ll get through the human stuff and make friends.  Right?

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Just today I saw 5 people in our current church from our former church.  These are new this Sunday.  One man was a die hard “not going to leave” and his wife was pushing hard to leave.  Letting go of two pastors, especially since they are viewed as solid, really put it over.  I wonder how many more have jumped ship?  Where we live there are hundreds of church options close enough to drive comfortably, so I can imagine if there were 5 in our church there could be many who have left.  It will be interesting to see what happens in our former missional/spiritual formation/emergent youth focused/ purpose driven church.

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I am going to go to church today to worship, learn, and fellowship.  Not at all interested in drama (meaning human disputes).  I pray for the Lord’s church and His people.  May we all wake fresh and new today in fellowship with Him.  I think I’d prefer to fellowship than to focus, wouldn’t you?

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We had a sporting event to attend today and we saw a couple who still attends our former church.  Immediately, we were asked if we heard about the pastors who have been let go.  We explained that we had (by social network no less…so many people have commented).  We don’t really know details, though we have picked up on some (see previous post).   We learned that people in the church, at least some of them, were given an email and told the pastors did not fit with the rest of the staff.  There had apparently been some sort of “communication difficulty.” 

What struck me immediately was the confusion and hurt expressed by our friends.  They were completely shocked and couldn’t understand why this had happened.  Why would a pastor of about 20 years suddenly not fit with the staff?  Why would a popular pastor who has been there for over 6 years be dropped for communication difficulties?  There is no moral failure, no sin issues on the part of the pastors let go.  No power plays.  I guess the email had a quote in it pertaining to the split between Paul and Barnabas.  Somewhere there was a fight, and our former church claims it to be biblical. 

What of the hurt of it’s members?  What of the issues in this church?   How can these leaders request everyone to not be divisive when they have forced two pastors out based on division? 

I pray for people who are still in my former church, may they open their eyes!  I pray for those who have been hurt by decisions of leadership in this church.    I think something stinks.

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Since leaving my former church ( a Purpose Driven/Missional/Spiritual Formation church) at least three pastors have been let go.   The stated reason for one was strictly financial.  Two have been let go because they are “not going in the same direction…and we should all be in the same boat.”  In the case of these two pastors, everyone was to trust the leadership on the decisions to let them go.  No one was supposed to talk about it because it might divide the church.   This is typical in this church, something happens and they must keep it all quiet.  If you talk about it you are being divisive.   The only statement on the forced resignations was that there was no moral failure of any kind, just they were going in different directions.

One of these pastors was a great comfort to my husband and to me when we were leaving our former church.  He prayed with us, listened to us, and encouraged us to communicate our concerns.   I believe he was one of the best leaders on the staff, and felt very comfortable (after a while) coming to him with questions about what the church was up to.  He actually acted when I spoke to him, even confronting a group the church was affiliated with that uses contemplative prayer WITH breathing exercises etc. just like meditation in eastern religions. 

I cannot speculate as to what these pastors did to cause them to be let go.  I have no clue and don’t expect to ever know.  The church leaders make these decisions and don’t think the people need to have explainations.  I just want to know, what is a justified reason for letting a pastor go? 

What gets me is that many people who have spoken about the forced resignations of these pastors is they claim, “It hurts to loose great pastors at our church but we just have to trust in God.”  Are they claiming God is at fault for the leadership decision?  Many are quoting scripture in their proclaimation that they will miss their dear brothers in Christ but believe God can be trusted.  It reminds me of when I had a miscarriage and people would say, “God has a plan, it’s a blessing in disguise because the baby was probably defective.”  This situation is different though in that the decisions being made are by men.  It’s not that God isn’t in control, but to label the actions of men as of God….well, sometimes men do something that he approves of…but there are many other times when they just flat out sin.  And it feels to me the leadership is using the “God card” to keep people from asking the right questions.  The ones making such statements are likely just putting their hands over their eyes…saying “God has a plan.”

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A few months back a little church in our area was about to be absorbed by my former church.  I had friends who used to attend there, and they were saddened by this possibility.  Because meetings were recorded online, I was able to hear the dealings and felt very uneasy about it.

The church being overtaken was seeking “help” from my former church.  They were loosing attendance.  From those I spoke to, the attendance went down when a new pastor came in and changed things.  This pastor also asked my former church for help. 

The deal was sweet for my former church.  It would be elder control of the church being helped…including possible economic advantage and control of paid off property to my former church.  There were to be three pastors of this church.  One from my former church, one from somewhere else that the congregation did not know (who the heck found this guy and who chose him?), and the current pastor of the helpee church. 

One wrinkle, the helpee church also had a school.  They were very worried for their school.  My former church was going to make the school a non-profit organization and I’m not even really sure what was to become of the school. 

My concerns of course were that this church was being taken over and run over by my former church without an awareness of the dangers.  My former church had many doctrinal problems in teaching, and this new takeover was going to make the congregation accountable to outside elders.  The school was going to be in the hands of these elders.  The little helpee church voted against this.  Yeah!

I just found out great news.  It seems the little church has gone to a very conservative Presbyterian church in the area and is merging the school with the Presbyterian school.  The Presby church is Reformed and strong.  It also appears there is no economic gain for the Presby church, the merge seems like a good thing.  I’m very happy to see such an expansion/merge occur in an area where many churches are networking that are like my former church…into Purpose Driven/Spiritual Formation/Missional stuff.  Most new church plants are the same stuff.  It’s nice to see a needy church that was nearly swallowed by a Spiritual Formation church actually link arms with a Reformed church NOT into seeker friendly garbage.

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(Okay, for the exact sermon click below…I’m sure you’ll find I missed or added something in my text)….

http://www.redeemer-pca.org/files/Redeemer/Sermons/826.2010-04-04%20-%20Matthew%2028.1-7%20%20selected%20passages%20-%20God%27s%20Greatest%20Statement%20-%20Felich.mp3

Though we’ve really enjoyed the church we attend, we decided to visit friends which put us in another church for Resurrection Sunday.  I spent most of the time in the nursing room since I have a new baby, and that did hinder my experience (as did my younger children when I did sit in the service).  We do enjoy our children, but I cannot listen with a toddler and 4 year old who have yet to learn to sit without pointing things out to me…and with a newborn it’s more difficult. 

The church was a nice Presbyterian church that claims it’s “Reformation roots.”  The pastor spoke about (and I’m paraphrasing so I may miss exactly how he titled it) the most important words God spoke that were recorded in the Bible.  He went from Genesis through the whole Bible pointing out many major statements with events such as the creation, sending Moses and the people to the promised land, promises to Abraham, David, and many others.  He quoted the prophets as they spoke about the promised Messiah.  He quoted the gospels as Mary and Joseph were told about Jesus, a baby soon to be born, and as Jesus was annouced to the shepherds.  Many moments in Jesus’ life were highlighted.  He even quoted “it is finished” stating that it was still NOT the most important statement.  No, the most important statement was “greetings” according to this pastor.  This is because it was the first thing Christ said after he was raised (he mentioned it’s also interpreted as “joy” or “be joyful”).  The reason this is most important is that without Christ raising from the dead, we have no hope and all that came before is in vain for sinners. 

 I rather enjoyed what I did hear of the sermon and most especially that I was challenged to think.  No new information was presented, but highlights from across time were brougth forth in an interesting sermon on Resurrection Sunday without special tricks.  No one was offered a show, there was no fancy song and dance, no skits, no entertainment.  Just a sermon preached from the Bible. 

I am sure it was a stark contrast to the seeker friendly message that was presented in many churches, after all, Easter Sunday pulls in the generally unchurched.  Of course we want to make the message interesting to these people, but as a friend of mine pointed out, the messages at church on a Sunday morning are for believers.  They can be accessible to non-believers, but they are for building up the body.

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I ran across a woman who went to another church in our area. She and her husband began to get uncomfortable with small group studies, and also with some of their church teachings. They thought, after their eyes were opened to the misuse of the bible in these studies and in teachings from the pulpit, that discussing it in small group would be a good idea. From what the woman said, they were not trying to cause division but were attempting to point out errors as they had great faith in their church leadership. They brought things up to the leadership, as well as continuing to share their fears with the group. They were shocked the day they were asked to leave their church.

She said that in their next church it was five years before they really could trust enough to serve. They had been shunned by many in their former church, many who had been good friends before the issues were brought up. Some later did apologize to them, and some have left over time.

We had a different experience in that we did not share our issues with many people. We did tell some things to a few friends, and we’ve known a very small number who have left. We do feel though, had we been open to our small group or to more of the leadership we would eventually have been asked to be quiet or leave.

Being shunned hurts. When a person begins to understand how leadership teaches from men’s work rather than from the bible, or uses many methods rather than relying on God’s word and the Holy Spirit, it’s a hard thing to decide what to do. Do you share with others? Will you find someone who understands what your are saying? Will you be accused of being divisive? Will you be asked to leave?

I believe it’s of utmost importance that each person who encounters poor or bad teaching pray first. Spend time thinking how to handle things. Then, don’t worry about the consequences to you so much as what will your voice in this accomplish? Is it about getting even? If it’s about you and your pride, you really have to pause. If it’s about trying to restore people to truth and good doctrine, and you are hoping to help others in the long run, then move forward in wisdom. There are times for open mouths, and times for closed mouths.

We weren’t perfect as we proceeded, but we did try very hard to do the right thing. Looking back, I can see areas we could have improved upon BUT in the long run, I believe we did the right thing overall.

I feel for this woman I met who has gone through such pain in her former church. I pray for other men and women out there just trying to point out the errors and do the right thing.

It happens to pastors too.  This article is a great resource. 

http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/nazarene-pastor-fired-for-fighting-emergent-ideology/

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 (Acts 11 from Bible Gateway NIV version)  19Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. 27During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Why would I want to disassociate myself with the term “Christian?”  These disciples did everything I would hope to do as a believer in Christ, a disciple.  They preached and shared the gospel, they took care of those in need within the body, they spent time hearing good teaching, they supported each other. Moreover, they had the Holy Spirit, they had faith. They are the ones called Christian, what gives people the idea that those persecuting them were the ones who labeled them as such?  Maybe it was the name given by Romans…but it has stuck for a reason. 

It seems to me the seeker friendly style churches miss something when they refuse to use the name Christian.  They say they want to have numbers added to them, they want to meet the needs of others and serve in love, and yet don’t call themselves Christian?  Those who were called Christian in Antioch had it right, so I’d rather associate with them and not rename myself just to make those around me who don’t believe in Christ more comfortable. 

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A dear woman from our church is dying.  She has leukemia and has fought with every medical treatment possible.  About a year ago things looked bad.  They thought she was going to be dead before Mother’s Day, but she rebounded.  God blessed her with time, and she had ups and downs for months.  Little by little hope would grow for her life to be cancer free…but that hope is now dashed.  Tests show cancer is back, so now she’s living the long goodbye.  She has been an example of faith in the midst of trial, illness, and death on the door.  Her family, especially her husband, has been beaten but has always turned to Christ.  The church has been circling round this family, serving and praying.  They have been strengthened in weakness, and their faith is not broken no matter the terrible circumstances.  This time is no different, this news has not changed things.  Yes, this mommy is dying.  Yes this family is in pain, and they want to beg God for a miracle.  However, they are taking God’s will and are hoping to glorify God in life and in death.  It’s a hard thing to do, but so much grace comes from this life end testimony.  This mother, wife, and friend of many points to Christ.  She doesn’t try to be some sort of strong witness, she just turns to Christ.  The husband, daddy, and friend of many points also to Christ.  He leans on Christ and His church.  He begs for prayer, he also always says, “but God’s will be done.”   This little family just wants to walk in God’s will no matter the cost.

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