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Posts Tagged ‘emergent’

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.

http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/FeedEnclosure/georgefox.edu.1952351666.01952351672.1947923694/enclosure.mp3

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I recieved this very good question and thought I would open it up to get some answers from people more experienced than I. 

“My question to you is…When we talk to friends about the situation with seeker sens/emergent etc….ie Rick warren etc. we are constantly told that we shouldn’t be bashing ministries that God is blessing. How can I argue with that?? What should be my answer???

Hope someone out there can answer this for me??”

My answer simply is that numbers in the pews (or whatever) and activity in a church is not proof of salvation.  Even acts of service is not proof of salvation.   A blessed ministry can have many attenders, or it can have very few.  A church may also not be blessed and can still be doing the right thing.  What about all those who followed God with faith in the past who experienced no growth, no following, and who were persecuted and tested?  What about Job…no blessing at one point in his life, in fact curses upon curses.  You just don’t know God’s will.  Your church may be full of people out there rebuilding their community.  How is that different than the local political action group who is out there getting jobs for people and feeding the hungry?  You know, if you offer free stuff people will come.  Will their hearts be changed?  Depends on if you are offering the message correctly, depends on if there is faith and if God is in it.  We don’t know God is in it because things look good (though as Christians we’re often guilty of making those claims).

Okay, I’m rambling a bit.  Anyone out there with a more coherant response to this one?

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For some reason, my former church has sent out a blanket letter of “we miss you” and a link to a survey for those who have left.  At first it sounded like a sincere letter to us personally from one of the pastors, but it was evident quickly that it was just a letter they sent out to a list of emails from those who have left the church.  It threw me at first, and then I began to get a bit offended.   When we left, we really got very little contact from the pastors.  One did meet with us and continued contact as long as we wanted.  He was genuinely sad we left, but the rest dropped us fast.  In fact, we recently saw one of the pastors when we popped in on friends.  The pastor and his wife were friendly enough, but if we were truly missed, there was not an expression of that.  It was awkward for both couples, we talked and were nice but what can you say?  

The blanket letter comes after a few others have left, and I wonder if more have left than I realize.  The survey seeks to know why people have left and how the church can pray for you….and a few more things.  I kept feeling like it is a marketing tool when reading it.  It’s like when you choose not to use a service and they send a survey to find out why.  They don’t want to know how they’ve erred doctrinally, but want to know more logistics of things they can change.  At least that’s my take.  I could wish it were a fishing for truth….but I cannot help to feel there is a motive other than my dreams.

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I listened to a sermon by my former pastor and found it to be actually not that bad.  I could be happy that maybe he’s changing his ways, but I actually fear the flaw is more with me.  I am thinking I must not have it all down, I’m missing the wrong teaching in what he said.  Actually, it’s great if his sermon is better.  No wonder most of it was probably okay, he read the bible verse by verse and then preached on it…reading a few verses and describing the meanings.  I did have a few nit picky things I thought he could have worded differently, and depending on where he goes with it in the future, they could be problems. 

 He referenced “strangers” and “aliens” as refugees.  He kept saying that we (meaning who I’m not sure) are refugees and he prefers that though I couldn’t find the word in the text in the bible versions on bible gateway.  I guess I would prefer one from a good translation, but maybe he knows something about the Greek translation?  

He did do some illustrations he drew out, got off on a personal story…but this is minor and only bothers me because I don’t trust his teaching not because a preacher cannot share a personal story once in a while. 

Fact is, there are true things he has said in sermons in the past, there have been good things.  However, when he is off, he is usually really off.

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I’ve had a few friends leave our former church.  They have seen emergent creep in, though it’s not been admitted and was adamantly denied.  The church is overt about spiritual formation though, there’s even a person on staff with a title containing the words spiritual formation. 

One of my friends is still trapped there, with a husband who doesn’t believe there’s a problem.  She’s being submissive to him, but is also not attending sermons any longer.  I believe she likely helps in different areas so as to avoid regular service.  God must have her there for a reason.  It’s very hard for her, to see things creeping in…or even openly being presented that aren’t biblical. 

I’ve noticed some things about people leaving.  Some fight for a while.  One man we know was an elder and tried to change things there, eventually they had to leave.  The church was going in a direction they were not comfortable with.  Scripture was being mishandled, and they had issues with an elder who was being supported by the church that didn’t believe the literal interpretation of Genesis.  Others left because of this issue. 

When Rick Warren’s materials were presented church wide and manditory for small groups, some people fought or brought out issues with the materials.  The alterations of scripture, the use for whatever purpose suits Mr. Warren really bothered those paying attention.   They went through the system, talking to pastors or elders.  They eventually left, not many knew of most of their problems.  We’ve even been told they were led to believe they were basically alone in their assertions.  This has proven itself to not be true, more than one couple left because of the Rick Warren studies.

We left because we saw things tiptoeing emergent.  We really didn’t understand what emerging/emergent was, and to be honest, I am not sure I’d say now the church is emergent.  However, the youth program is tripping into emergent stuff all the time, and Rob Bell has been played in some small groups.  The church has not taken a stand against it, and because of this, they are basically saying they approve.  Some pastors’ and elders’ children leave and end up at an emergent church in the area.  If our former church is not emergent, they are friends with emergent with no apology.  A few recognized this as a problem and have left.

Those leaving all realize the same thing in the end.  The fight won’t get you anywhere.  It’s not that we shouldn’t fight at all, because there are times when God has let the fight occur and also let those fighting loose for a time.  Standing up is very hard.  At some point though, because we’re sick of starving, we all leave.  We seek out a church that focuses on the bible, and on Christ.  We look for a God centered rather than man centered gospel.

There seems to be no way to change this church.  Only God can do it, and we pray He will open more eyes.  I am thankful for the ones who have seen and have made their way out.

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     I remember a time when I would get together with people and study the bible. I recall doing this in college.  We did have social Navigator meetings, but we also were taught how to do bible studies with others.  We even were encouraged to read our bible daily.  They called it a quiet time.  We were to study the bible, and dig into the word.  Often there would be a workbook with questions for a guide, but it really was about looking at the text.  I had one of these yearly while in college, if I recall right.  I even led one, though I felt very ill prepared.  Still, we did study the bible, and did go through it.  When a challenging person I met in the dorms would say, “you have to be baptised in my church to be saved” I could often dig with the group for verses to counter this person.  We could prepare for our daily lives, and could be encouraged by the scriptures.

When I got married, we were friends with a seminary student.  We got our own little bible study together.  We studied John for a year, and it was a great time.  We brought in a few other young people, and a few were unsaved.  It was a great time of fellowship, and a great time of digging into the bible.  We continued to study with this couple and a few others until we moved away from each other across the country.

When we lived in Seattle, we attended a bible study group.  I don’t recall it being called “small group” but bible study.  We did find it a bit frustrating because we’d go through a guide book and often it would be very simplistic.  However, we did stick to the text.  We socialized, we supported each other in illness, job loss and in gain, miscarriage, one woman had a drug addicted spouse, in new babies, and in moves (many of us moved and helped each other).  We did study and talk about the bible, we never focused on a book that had bible verses in it, but instead did studies on books of the bible.  We might also do a topical study but it was all pointing back to a block of scripture.

We moved back to Kansas and found a church with the word “bible” in it’s name.  We got involved in a small group.  I still called them bible studies, because that’s what I thought of when we would get together with a group of people with pens and bibles.  We began with the simple books on books of the bible or a topic, all focused in studying the bible and what it said.  However, after a few years, we began to do topical study and it wasn’t really about the bible.  We’d study things like marriage, our personal gift inventory, finances, or how to witness effectively.  We’d take personality quizes, financial inventories, study our love languages, or our spiritual gifts.  We’d discuss these findings outloud in the group.  It was very self focused, and yet it was also a time when we’d reveal personal things in a group.  We’d have projects during the week which took time.

Always, my husband and I would fight for studying a book in the bible.  We felt so good one year because we were able to get into the book of Acts.  We kept trying to get back to that kind of thing.  It was so wonderful to just dig, to  hear scripture read aloud every week.  It was a growing time. 

Small group for us was really mostly about the friendship.  We did have great relationships, and I believe our friends in those groups were mostly Christians who really desired to study God’s word and fellowship in Christian brotherhood.  We wanted to pray for one another, that was always a point that showed really what the groups were about for the people in them, the prayer support.  That’s where the caring came in.  People also did things to help each other in times of need.  There was nothing wrong with this, in fact it was one wonderful aspect of the groups that made up for all the books we went through.

The group would often get together and decide what we were studying.  This is how we ended up eventually pushing for bible study in the actual bible.  It became the desire of the leaders of our group (we eventually became leaders…with another couple).  We wanted to get into the meat.  However, there was always a pull to books like “The Five Love Languages.”  I was even one who suggested we do Max Lucado studies, partly because I felt these books got you into the text. 

One thing kept happening that was annoying to us personally, and I believe maybe others in the group though I cannot be sure.  The church would, at least once a year, have a series.  Usually it was a Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, or some other book.  It was not biblically focused although it did contain bible verses.  This series would run along side sermons.  I believe once there was no book, but the pastors had a topical study with their own studyguide for the group (though I believe this wasn’t manditory).  The manditory church wide study also involved a DVD…easy to pop in, easy to run right through. 

The group would meet, go through the DVD, discuss it, have a prayer and snack time.  These were very simplistic, and annoying.  I never objected outright, I found though we made comments at times during the DVD to keep ourselves entertained because we were bored.  One time my husband lead this and did feel some sense of accomplishment, he’d not lead the group alone before.  We did still get annoyed with the book and DVD though, it just was not very deep in biblical information.  It was more poor entertainment than anything.  The most entertainment we got actually, was making fun of the DVD in subtle ways. We usually also spiced up these times with personal testimonies and other activities rather than just plugging along in the book and DVD.

I recall getting less and less satisfaction from small group.  Not from our friends, but from the bible study part.  There were people in the group also who said they really desired to study in a book of the bible rather than in these men’s books.  We recalled our time studying Acts, and the comment was that it was a great year. 

So, what happened?  I believe churches in this trend of church wide study of books by men, and even topical study books, are in a cycle of immaturity.  These  churches have leaders who want to reach the seeker, and are refusing to even call themselves Christians but want to be Christ followers instead.  They’ve substituted men’s wisdom (which is foolishness) for God’s word.  They’ve substituted a focus on the living Savior for a focus within the man. 

It’s all about five steps, or if that gets old, about finding the mystery.  I almost feel these churches actually run in some sort of cycle.  First they entertain you, then they talk about how entertainment shouldn’t be what we’re about.  You feel guilty because you realize you’ve been entertained, and you agree, more should be happening.  So you are told you need to find your spiritual gift, and another small group theme begins.  Later you’re told it’s easy to become selfish or self foucsed in sermons, that we focus too much on busy life and on ourselves, then you’re challeneged to find your purpose, and another church wide study begins on Purpose Driven or whatever.  Then you go along happy for a while, and you’re told you need to reach out to your neighbor, and Hybels study comes along when you learn how to witness.

The next step in the cycle is discussing the youth, and how we’re missing them.  We’re also studying too much.  Youth like action, boom…you’re out picking up trash in a park or painting a school yard in service.  Eventually, you begin working on going deeper in your relationship.  You need to get closer to God, so we’ll discuss spiritual disciplines.  There you go, you’re deep.

Far, far away is the church life you had to begin with.  Sunday school with bible study, or some midweek bible study is impossible.  No longer offered at church.  Sure, you might get your group to go along with studying a book of the bible, but likely not for long.  People hear how good so and so’s book is, and they suggest it.  If you become the leader, which is encouraged, you need to let the group decide what to study until the church leadership decided to invade with an all church study.

Where did bible study go?

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Sometimes my husband and I still speak to each other about the events leading up to our leaving our former church.  We rehash and analyse what happened point by point.  We both came out with a point we had been thinking, and it’s an interesting problem. 

Our former lead pastor has some sort of anger issues, this is evident from his confrontational style.  He is not a good listener, and really bowled us over.  He prepared for the last meeting like a student debater who wanted to “win.”  Maybe it’s his style, maybe it’s all the others before us who have made him so defensive and even very offensive in stance.  This would be no surprise to anyone who knows him and has dealt with him.   Not saying he doesn’t have his good qualities, it’s just how he is.  This we suspected, and now know…our lead pastor is either power hungry or very manipulative or both. 

The point we’ve come to though is not about this pastor, it’s about the “good cop” pastor.  I’ve personally been puzzled about him.  He didn’t want us to leave, and enouraged us to write our letter, and met with us a few times.  I told him everything I thought at the time, and ran the letter through him.  He encouraged us to put more specifics in.  It seemed he was on our side, and he did honestly caution us that he was not the lone pastor in this church fighting a battle.  He saw some of the issues we did, but obviously didn’t agree with it all necessarily.  Yet he thought our approach was humble and we were a good couple to bring these issues to the forefront. 

This was all well and good, until closer to our meeting with the head pastor.  Good cop (who was kind all throughout) warned us to be “teachable.”  In our meeting with the lead pastor, his conclusion was that we were no longer teachable.  Okay, we knew they had been meeting, but the same words came out of both mouths.  When the whole thing was over, we didn’t contact the good cop pastor about it except just to say we had a terrible meeting.  He did not pry. 

It’s hard to covey why in this post, but we both came to the conclusion that we were kind of being used by the good cop pastor to bring up issues.  He did squarly differ than us in that he thought terminology was nothing important.  Examples he was not uncomfortable with were words like “spiritual formation” and “transformation.”  He also didn’t want us to attack anything from Warren or Hybels.  I believe he saw the fringe things that were new age in nature or emergent in flavor as a problem.  He recognized the problem with Youth Front and it’s contemplative/meditative prayer.  He even sent them a note and asked them to remove a link to meditative prayer on their website, which they did.

He also asked the youth pastors about youthfront, and they assured him they ran their camps not youth front.  This was a problem for me personally though, I think the issues at youth front are huge and being there, promoting camps there, and the fact that children growing up in our former church go to an emergent church influencing youth front.  He may have gotten the cosmetic problem put away, but there was no real confrontation.

We were hung up to dry and I feel, had time gone on with us in the house, we would have had to walk such a careful line.  If we spoke in any way that would have been seen aggressive, we would have been chastised.  If we would not compromise in the right areas, we would have been seen as divisive.  This good cop pastor had to bow to authority of the lead pastor, and this causes problems.  Of course it’s important to recognize authority, but if there are serious problems they need to be seriously confronted.  A couple like us felt on our own in this.  Even with the pastor that seemed to be with us a bit, we were in the dark about previous confrontations that were similar, and were kept from opening this up to the entire church leadership.  One particular assistant pastor also was protected in all this, and it was his sermon causing all our questions to begin with.

All the special politics, the way things are confronted and dealt with, it all seems like a strange corporation.  The mystery the whole time was “what is the best way to do this?”  We didn’t know who we were to go to, and what the “protocol” was.  What was the biblical way to do this?  Who should we have confronted?  We went to elders, and got unsatisfactory wishy washy answers to our questions.  Our investigations and the sermons confirmed our fears of emergent/new age influence and youth front was a real problem.  We finally just decided to quietly leave. 

The “good cop” pastor had to be informed as I did a small thing for the church and he was the one in charge of this.  He wanted to know why we were leaving and encouraged our letter.  This finally seemed like the right thing for a while.  I believe though, there is no real right way to confront error in this church.  Yes, there is a right biblical way to do things.  However, there is no way in this church to do it so that there is peace and the whole truth comes forth.  The lead pastor really pushed, and my own personal weakness got the best of me.  I excitedly told a former attender in public my reasons for leaving the church and was overheard.  This was reported to the lead pastor and a mess insued.  We were “spreading rumors” and according to the former lead “telling lies from the pit of hell.”  At least at that point we were no longer under the authority of the former church.  We had left. 

If the former “good cop” pastor was really with us, as I initially thought, I believe he would see the issues and would have to eventually make his exit or make a ruckus of some sort.  Last time I saw him, and it was at a play at our former church this past summer, he used some interesting phrases such as “journey” and “coversation.”  He very much seems to be in the Hybels/Warren style of it all.  Maybe I’m wrong, but he really seemed to be in it all.

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