Posts Tagged ‘emergent church’

Leonard Sweet mentions Dan Kimball and says he’s his doctoral mentor.   I wonder how much this will/has influenced Dan Kimball?  This talk is all about coffee and not really saying anything about their relationship nor Dan’s beliefs…just a document of relationship.



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I recently discovered a declining church in our area has looked to my former church for some sort of help.  I listened to podcasts, and the meetings were very interesting.  The direction seems to be a slow take-over by my former church.  *If* this melding happens, the small 50 member church will be under the authority of the eldership of my former church.  They will also get a new name, and no one can answer for sure who will own the paid off property from this little church.  Another issue is that this little church with it’s long history, has a Christian school that appears to be doing pretty well. 

I found a podcast of a meeting also on my former church’s site, and combining all podcasts available (for transparency), I hear a few concerns.  First, a church is down to 50 and that is deemed a failure. This is now an emergency according to both parties (actually, there’s some 3rd party involved) and because of this, the small church must be lead by the larger church.   I hear on the podcasts that the small church is going to get 3 pastors, at least one from my former church, one from outside (I think…it’s different) and the 3rd may currently be in leadership of the small church.  I am not clear on this exactly, but there is not a vote or anything really (they mentioned a vote of affirmation…).  The smaller church is likely going to get a name change, and the arrangements for the school are going to change.  One woman was very foward in asking why this little church wasn’t contacting former members who had left for help or relying and waiting on God instead of going to a big church to come in and run things.  Others have asked why my former church elders have to be in authority rather than the pastors and leadership at their site.  The leadership of the smaller church keeps mentioning (in podcast) the pastor who will be teaching there not from my former church who they like but have not met…but like him because people who have met him like him.  Uh…okay. 

Seems my former church is bringing a team over???and so is the outside pastor guy no one has met from the little church.  So, there will be familes coming in and becoming a part of the whole thing. The three parts joined are to make decisions, but of course, my former church elders are really the ones with authority.

I really feel very bad for this little church.  What say does the congregation have?  The focus is so much on outreach to the community with growth as the hoped end.  However, I only heard the word “worship” mentioned by one woman talking about how the little church has family worship.  The mention of glory to God, focus on Christ, being bible centered is not a factor.  It’s all business.  Sad.

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We left our church because we saw emergent creeping in. We were unsure if we were on target at first, but now I have no doubt we were right. Sometimes it’s a conversation with friends still attending, sometimes we pop into someone who left months or years ago. At any rate, the things that some say were “lies from the pit of hell” that came from our mouths are ever more proving to have not been lies.

My advice, if you have any strange little feelings that your church is “off” on biblical teaching in any way is to go to the leadership and ask questions. Be wise in how you ask, think, study, pray, pray pray. Ask them what books they recommend. Ask them what speakers they are listening to. Ask them what conferences they plan to attend. Ask their opinion about different books. Ask them what they know about this or that topic. Ask their favorite passages in scripture. Ask, ask, ask. Then, you can begin to challenge. Challenge on what they say at the pulpit, challenge on what they read, who they listen to, who they quote. If a pastor is following Christ, they likely will appreciate information that is helpful. If not, you’re going to go through a bit of trial. Pray for your friends but don’t burn bridges with them. You never know who will see what you are seeing, and who else is asking. Things are not what they seem. You might think someone is against you, but unless you hear it from their lips…or from the lips of someone you trust…don’t assume they are in agreement with the wrong teachings in your church. If you can find an ally, grab hold of them. Always pray. Offer to pray for your pastors, and really do it. Offer to pray with others who have the same doubts you do. It’s possible God may spare your church from ruin. You never know. Do what is best.

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Different groups use a special set of terms to distinguish themselves, to create a culture, and to communicate specific messages to members. The terms used can unify members and exclude non-members. Many times this is normal and not considered to be unhealthy. People need to support one another in many groups, and having specific terms can allow for a certain trust in communication. I think specifically of nurses and doctors, they can share what information is needed with one another to pass on what is important about a patient without disclosing everything to listeners walking the halls of a hospital. Specific word choice is made in any group, it’s expected and even taken for granted. Sometimes though, there are code words used to initiate someone into a very unhealthy situation. Words are used to exclude the uninitiated because they will not accept what is being said until they have spent some time letting go of their protections. Words can be intentionally used that have double meanings, one meaning to those listening from the outside of the group but a completely different meaning to those inside the group. A manipulative group using language in this way is often a political group or a religious group with some sort of agenda. Somewhere, someone is meant to be fooled. Even those using the language with double meanings may be unaware they are being deceitful.

I remember when I spent time meeting with a Jehovah’s Witness for nearly two years. Most of the first several months was spent defining terms. Whenever I found myself in agreement with what the Jehovah’s Witness had to say, I would stop and ask for a clarification on the meaning of the words. Even the name Jesus meant something completely different, the Jehovah’s Witness meant the archangel Michael. I meant Jesus Christ, one of the three persons of the Trinity, both God and man at the same time. In college, when the Boston Movement was on campus, I would notice they spoke in a certain way. It was quite evident to anyone on the outside that something was not right, was not geniune in the presentation. In speaking with Mormons who came to my door, I had the same experience, I had to always listen carefully and ask questions. Again and again and again.

In my former church I learned to listen critically to what was being said. The words used were a bit of a tweaking on the words I was used to. Discipleship became spiritual disciplines. It didn’t mean the same thing. Missions became missional, this didn’t mean the same thing at all. Spiritual formation came from somewhere, and so did transformation. Holy other (and later I discovered it was really Wholly Other) and God consciousness all had their own meanings. Christ Follower is a code word, as is centered, journey, story, narrative, dna, be still, contemplate, meditate, peace, emerging, visionand on and on. All this language had not been clearly defined. It was all defined with other code words. People who “got it” and understood the deep things may have understood, but the regular attenders could nod along and have no idea. I started to pick up on this jargon and it was distracting. The noise and questions really began to get to me. I began to plug the words into Google to see where they were coming from. I ran smack into the contemplative and emergent authors. I ran also right into sites that were critical of such authors. I had my eyes opened. The things that caused a small voice inside me to whisper, “something’s wrong” started to make that voice grow louder until eventually it was screaming. People were being duped. They were being led very slowly into accepting something they had not been presented openly. My husband likes to liken our former church to a ship (especially since one pastor kept using this analogy). The ship was just moved a hair to begin with. At first, and for a while really, no one noticed. Time passed, and it became evident that we were not on course to get to where the lighthouse was shining. Sure, it looked like we’d land close, but not right on target. The further we went, the more we noticed we were getting off course. Many people still haven’t noticed, they keep looking at the stars or the water, never seeing the lighthouse…never realizing where the ship was heading. You know, I asked, my husband asked, we know others who asked specifically what direction the ship was headed. We weren’t told even after asking. One emergent youth minister who was actually recently let go from the church staff said, “that’s the problem with [the former church], none of the leadership appears to know where the ship is headed.” I think actually they DO know, they just aren’t telling. They are trying everything, and will eventually pare it all down. Those who see what’s going on and don’t like it fight for a while, but eventually they have to jump ship (or are forced off).

If you are asked to “be still” in church, make sure you are listening. Listen carefully to what is said exactly. Then take those words and research them. Find out what they mean. Check those words against the Bible.

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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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The last Sunday we attended our former church the “missional pastor” spoke. He’s the one we quoted in the letter, he’s the one who quoted emergent authors with no warnings. It’s been several months, and he has been out of the country being missions oriented. The church was also having a campaign to raise money, and also had special Christmas messages. So, when I saw he spoke, I really wanted to see what was up. Interesting, he had no more footnotes, no more citing authors. If you want to know his influences you have to ask (hoping he’d be honest) or try to figure it out for yourself somehow.

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We visited a family for a New Year’s party, and saw many people from our former church. The friends still attend, and know our stance, and don’t agree with us but want to remain friends. They have chosen NOT to cut us out and in fact have gone a long way to keep us in their lives. They run a float trip/camp in the summer and we have helped with this camp. Our kids are friends also. Of course, because they attend our former chruch the house was full of people from our former church. When the door was opened, the first people we saw were our former pastor and wife. It wasn’t the lead pastor, but it was the one who had been frequently quoting emergent and contemplatives in his sermons. They were actually on their way out as we were coming in, but I had intended to speak with them in a kind way. I am sure they would have been kind to us if given the time to do so. We also found out another couple left, we don’t know for sure why. It was awkward when I was speaking to three women, and one asked if we would come back ever. I said, “no.” I waited, and she said, “I am not going to ask why…don’t you hate it when people are always asking why you left?” I didn’t say anything as the woman beside her had left, and she was open as to why. I didn’t really pick at it at all. A the third woman said, “some people break ties with all friends from the former church and I think that is very immature, very!” I wish I could have said something, but was trying to be discreet for the moment knowing I could easily get worked into a very frustrating moment. I wanted to say, “it’s immature to break ties if it’s for spite, but sometimes the ties are broken for you.” I know that the lead pastor is not a man I would engage in conversation with more than a polite hello. He basically called us evil, and probably sees us as liars. The tie is cut because we stood up.

What would I have said to the pastor and his wife who we ran into at the party? I would have said, “we really love you and we miss you.” That’s really it.

We did enjoy seeing the music pastor and wife who just had their baby. I felt the privilage to see their newborn was a treat we may not deserve. That pastor was the one who encouraged us to tell the staff why we left, and read our letter before we submitted it. He wanted us to make sure our letter was strong on what we saw. He still remains in the church holding out hope for God to be glorified there. He has been working so hard. He made it clear he’s not seeing himself as some warrior there, so I think he goes as far as we did in terms of seeing the danger of spiritual formation. He may not yet be completely aware of the danger there. He clearly was aware though of the problem with emergent theology seeping in, and also seemed to understand the concept of man centered vs. Christ centered church. We pray for him and his family often. Hopefully, he will be able to do what is right in this situation. He sure has kept a cool head about him.

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This really sounds similar to what I have gone through. However, I think my former church is steps behind this and may have pulled back into the shell. They plan to be “not emergent” but I believe they will go with spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer full force one day.


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An elder recently told me my former pastor who used Donald Miller’s story theme in his sermon as well as using the same terms as Michael Frost while presenting missional lamented our critique of his sermon.  He commented that it was strange to have a critique like ours when he had finally used “contemporary authors.”  He also commented that he could buy into one idea of an author without becoming like them entirely…truth is truth.  In other words, he could buy into the idea of “story” taught by emergent leaders and yet not be emergent himself.  This may be so, but I don’t buy it.  He used terms in different sermons such as wholly other,  at one ment, god consciousness, and christ coursing through (his) veins.  Those terms were not all scripted, but some were boldly written into sermon notes.  I believe he has not only bought the story idea from Donald Miller, he has become a lot like Donald Miller.  He has himself become very much emergent (or whatever we can call them, I think New Age is probably the proper term).  He has likely had a mystical experience or several.  I cannot be certain, but I believe he didn’t just pick up that one single idea.

Suppose he did agree with this one concept of “story.”  I find it offensive enough by itself.  God is not writing a story when he deals in our lives.  We cannot “take the pen” and write our own story.  How crazy is this?  We are not part of a story, we are part of God’s creation and our lives are real if only a vapor.  What’s more, Christ is real and not a character in a play God created.  He’s not a even God acting in our world.  How ridiculous.  Christ died for our real sins, and we are made alive in Him for real if we have real faith which He gave to us as a gift.  It’s not just a story which we can write better if we would just try.  Our job is not writing some story, our life is meant to give glory to God.  We fall short every day, but by the grace of God and by His mercy, we are saved, forgiven.  We who repent and who rely on God for His salvation are not just characters, we are His people. 

Beyond this, suppose I read a book written by a Mormon.  I find something I like in the book.  Am I to quote this author from the pulpit without some sort of disclaimer?  Would it not be better to quote the Bible itself if the concept was true?  I believe it’s unwise for a leader in the church to go around quoting people without carefully considering who they are quoting and what that person believes.  Also, it’s important to clarify if you only “buy into” one part of their beliefs to the congregation.  If you are trying to distance yourself from the emergent church, it’s wise if you use emergent authors to state what is good in the quote you are using (it was actually most of a sermon) and to point out the error for the congregation.  Just my opinion.

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With the past week’s events, I wondered if the pastor of our former church would mention something in his sermon.  I thought it might be in his message, but not blunt.  Worse case scenerio in my mind was him mentioning us as spreading rumors and mentioning us by name.  I listened to the sermon online, and most of the sermon was about Nehemiah, his enemies, and rumors they were spreading to try to destroy his efforts.  He got almost finished, and he then mentioned our situation.  He mentioned a couple was spreading rumors that the church is emergent.  He told the church people if they hear it they are to confront it, and tell the person they are telling lies.  They are to tell them basically what they are spreading was “from the pit of hell.”  Yep.  So, without naming us, (cannot believe we were spared that), we were called liars and our words from hell.  I still don’t think we said the church is emergent, but had influences and leaning to that effect.  He did mention how the dots were “connected” from one quoted person in sermons to another.  

We are officially set free.  If someone asks why we left, we’ll tell them what we think, and let it go.  What do we have to loose now?   If we made a mistake, then why couldn’t we have been dealt with differently?  Now we have to NOT retaliate though we feel hurt and angry.  We need to pray for this church, the pastors, it’s flock.  I really do not know what else we can do at this point. 

If we’re so wrong, how come so many people have already left?

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