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Posts Tagged ‘emergent’

I was recently contacted by someone who attends my former church but is not happy.  This person knows of us, and we’ve had conversations in the past…but long before our problems with the former church came up.  This person is exchanging online/email type contact and I am sharing much of my information and many web sites with.  Sadly, the rest of this person’s family does not see the problem, so for now this person is staying in the former church and serving where possible.  Funny how we’ve both come to the same conclusions completely independent of each other.  Of course, if you asked our former pastor, he’d say we are making connections that aren’t there and if we said the church was leaning emergent we’re telling “lies from the pit of hell.”  This person actually heard the pastor mention a couple (us) who was spreading rumors that the church is emergent or leaning emergent.  This person hasn’t listened to a sermon since that day.  I am praying….

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Today I saw a woman from our former church.  Last time I saw her we were about to leave the former church but did not share this information with her and her husband.  We were not openly plunking reasons out in the lobby of the church on that last day to everyone we saw though it was tempting and we wanted to so badly.  Well, our kids are both taking some standardized tests, so we had a little time to chat.  We both just talked about our children and lives.  She was about to leave (of course there were many mothers in this area too, some may or may not be going to our former church…you never know) but said to me, “where are you going to church?’  I told her, and she realized some others who went to our former church had made their way to this particular church.  She then commented that it sure seemed like a lot of people have left my former church (can I just say I leap a little inside when I hear this, but then recall that people leave for good reasons and bad reasons and for no reason at all).  She talked about how many reasons seemed like conflicts with individuals or specific personal issues.  She opened it up.  I did share a bit, that we really had been asked NOT to share why we left.  I did also say that it was the teaching that we struggled with.  I then backed up saying many elders and one pastor were great to us (which is true) but I was trying to soften the issues.  I then said that each family has to decide for themselves.  Also true, but again it’s a way to give her comfort for attending a church that needs a lot of redirection to get back on focus to Christ.  I hate when I lay it out there, and then don’t really do what I should which is stick 100% to what I said.  I do want to be careful, but sometimes I get asked why I left and out pops some right to the point statement that I can tell shocks.  Then I begin to soften it.    Uncomfortable.  I didn’t expect her actually to ask, so I really wasn’t prepared.

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In the “not NOT emergent church” we formerly attended, transformation was a BIG word and still is.  Transformation is tied to spiritual formation which is tied to work.  You must train yourself like an athelete would…to run the race and pass the baton and the whole thing.  You must be in community to transform.  Preferably, this means you are in a little clump type thing (called a life group/small group).  At any rate, you need others in order to transform.  Yes, no one changes on their own, no way.  You are to take all thoughts captive and work to become cleaner and cleaner.  Now, they don’t tie this to salvation really, it’s the process after salvation.  Studying the Bible, and memorizing scripture helps with this from what I recall.  Also, the idea was that story changed you.  Not sure how story transformed since Jesus used this all the time and many, many did NOT change.  Just listen to someone try to describe how story tranforms us and you’ll feel like you’re on the set of Oprah.

Today, in our newly found church…the pastor mentioned the word “transformation” and I gave myself a minute to listen because I wanted to hear him right.  He was speaking about the “new birth” and the discussion with Nicodemus that became a discourse.  The pastor put transformation in it’s proper context.  We are transformed when born again, by the water and the spirit (meaning we receive a new heart that is softened and not a stone AND we are cleansed spiritually internally).  The transformation comes but it is nothing of our doing.  In fact, we must believe to be saved but faith is a gift from God so even that is not our own.  So different than the concept of transformation we ever learned in our former congregation.

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I was checking out a friend’s dramatic interpretation of a woman from scripture which lead me to my former church web site and former pastor’s sermon.  I still obviously check things out there though we’ve been gone for over six months.  The pastor spent time discussing demons and Satan’s tactics both on the world and on the church.  At one point, in the online sermon he began speaking about how Satan uses division against the church.  If we hadn’t gone through what we did at this church, the comments would not have caught my attention.  I transcribed the following;

We also know that division is one of his key strategies.  Get the Christians fighting against themselves. 

“I am here to tell you as your pastor I am tired of people changing churches over trivial issues (uses music as the example).  And don’t expect me to come knocking on your door and begging you to stay…If you’ve got a trivial issue that isn’t relevant to the kingdom of darkness conflicting with the kingdom of light and you want to change churches over it have at it…people are going to hell and the church is spending all of it’s time battling over trivial stuff…reads(2 tim 2:23-26)  If you’ve got a legitimate concern and you’re hurting I’m there with you but if you’re just mad that you don’t think the church is just living up to your expectations why did God charge you not to be a part of the solution???  Why is it that when everybody looks at something that’s going on in the body they say well I need to change churches?  Why not say I see a need I see an area that’s what this Steven ministers are doing (as if this wasn’t already a plan in the church to get going…)…that’s a solution,  amen?  I want to encourage you if you see something that’s not right with the church roll up your sleeves ask Jesus how you can make it right and be in the battle don’t just transfer clubs.”

To be fair, his example had nothing to do with us.  We did not complain about music, or anything trivial.   Our fears were that our church was focused off Christ and on man’s methods, and that emergent was creeping.  This is not a trivial thing, a small disagreement.  Though it’s tempting to believe he could be speaking about us, it’s been a long time.  It’s more likely there are others commenting about issues now and maybe some have left without comment.  Still, he may be intending to speak to people just like us who are very alarmed and are thinking of leaving because they perceive the fight is going to be of no effect on the direction the church is taking.  Considering the issues I’ve heard a few have left for besides us, his comments are interesting.  He is “tired of people leaving” and “switching clubs.”  If he does have folks like us (or even us) in mind, we did not leave without some sort of fight.  We did not leave for trivial reasons.  We did try to be a part of the solution.  We are still working to be part of the solution by praying for our former church.  We also cannot watch our children be taught dangerous things while we try to rescue the church that will not listen.  We had to move on and find, not a club (as that is what small group can become) but a church and a place to hear scripture preached properly and where we can fellowship and worship.  Not a social club, not a small decision.  I can only guess whoever he is talking about and to (and this pastor has a habit of talking directly to a few people or about a few people) that they are not as petty as he makes this all sound.

 

On another note, he did not mention this outloud in his sermon but instead directed people to his notes…and the online notes contained a  high recommendation for two books both by Neil Anderson.  He told his congregation to read them because they are the “best books” he knows of on the subject of spiritual warfare.  They are Victory over Darkness and The Bondage Breaker.  Just from reading a few book reviews, it’s possible this author teaches that demons can posses Christians (they cannot) and he promotes the idea of demons over kingdoms and that people can be oppressed by “the spirit of bitterness” meaning a demon is bitterness and hangs out with a person which makes them bitter.  This is an odd ology to be sure.  What else can this pastor be into?  He already approves of seeker friendly stuff, has defended Lectio Divina and contemplative practices, claims to not be emergent as a church and yet sends his children to a camp run by emergence thinking people and allows people on that staff to be also on church staff, brushes off our concerns of New Age and emergent leaking into sermons, and now we’ve got this superstition.  Earlier, when we still attended, this pastor also referenced the Nephalim stating they were angels who mated with humans and he cited the “book of Moses.”  He’s certainly all over the place!  No wonder we could not get a clear handle on the direction of our former church. 

 

 

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We decided to leave, met with an elder, and later a pastor. The pastor suggested a letter we AGONIZED over writing. We shared our hearts and concerns boldy at the prodding of this pastor. The lead pastor responded, and didn’t agree. Initially he wanted to meet, then it seemed he didn’t. We weren’t sure. My husband really dreaded meeting with him, and many people actually said things like, “good luck with that” and “wow, well, we’ll be praying for you.” We did ask for advice of a few friends. This was a very hard time.

I felt we’d never find another place. We were used to this former church caring for us, it was one of their strengths. We are a large family on one income, and an elder had told us homeschooling and mom staying home was a good thing so just trust God. We really thought this was right (and still do). Sometimes, this meant our church helped us financially when things got tough, like when my husband lost two jobs and when I had a new baby, or when our furnace just quit in the middle of winter. We also had individual friends help us with emergency plumbing and car repair, and more furnace trouble. We only sought help when we’d exhausted our personal options. We were scared of making it on our own. We do know that things in the future could become hard for us financially. We do not expect others to pick up the bill. Now that time has passed and we’re chugging forward, we really feel we’ll be okay. What we have witnessed in our new church shows that people are loving, and we’ve already had an opportunity to serve.

In our new church, there is a family with serious issues. The mother, a wage earner, has cancer. Treatments are difficult and some haven’t worked as planned. Mom is sick, and often has to be hospitalized and kids have to stay away when they catch cold because of the compromised immune system. This new church has taken a stand from the pulpit. The father gives updates frequently. The church people provide meals for this family several times a week, housekeeping, laundry, and rides for the girls. There have been individuals who have gone to the hospital to sit with the mother and take her to the bathroom, etc. so that she’s not neglected by nursing staff. I do not know if any financial assistance has happened. Most of all, there is prayer. The congregation has been given purple bracelets, which remind each of us to pray for the family. There have been times when people sign up to pray for ten minute incriments in the day for this family. Completely surrounded, that’s what’s happening. The call in a bad economy with difficulty has been to look within the body and to step up and care for each other. What is awesome about this is that I do not believe the gospel is being dumbed down in order to get people to serve. There has been no cry that church as usual is weak, and we need to get off our duffs to prove ourselves. What has happened is a family has been lifted up and the true compassion of the church people has come out to meet the needs. We have been convicted to find our ways to help, and others are likely to be there too.

So, what has happened since we left our church? We found out who our true friends were there, and we have found new friends in a new church. No, the new church is not perfect. I will continue to pray for our former church as brothers and sisters in Christ fight the battle there whether they know it or not. I will pray for our new church, that the staff leadership stand guard and keep themselves focused on Christ and the scriptures. I believe we have found that God does have his people in the positions they are in for a reason. We were so blind, we’ve learned to pay more attention. We’ve learned to watch out better for our kids. We’ve learned to speak up after careful consideration and prayer. We’ve learned to be firm. We’ve seen we sometimes cannot trust those we think we can.

Now we move forward. It’s actually been good NOT to be in a small group. We have more family time. Our children need to spend time in our church for sure, but we should be building the relationships at home too. We have examined our beliefs, and it’s been hard but good.

On a side note, some we thought were “shunning” us actually have responded lately. It seems life just threw them some hard days and they weren’t checking email. This is not the pastors who haven’t answered email…just the few members. So, it wasn’t all what it seemed to us. Sure, we do have one individual who is being very weird, but I think she’d be that way anyway. Some of the other couples have not been so cold as we thought.

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What exactly is this guy saying?

http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/03/re-thinking-mission-in-youth-m.html

I see that the attempt has been made (and it has happened in many places) to deconstruct church. Now he’s feeling stagnation? He cannot tell, are they reconstructing now? What in the world is the narrative? I am so tired of hearing about “story” when referencing God’s word and the actual account of events in the Bible. I think “story” or “narrative” are sloppy ways to describe the events in the Bible when used as many use them lately. Am I just splitting hairs here? And then the quote near the end of the entry…

“Chris Wright in his book,The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative , refers to as our mission. There, Wright defines it as “our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation” (page23). Perhaps this ought to be the bold, bright font placed strategically on our dashboard as the thing we are “trying to do in the first place.”

I just have to say, “huh?” Sometimes people are so deep they loose me, and maybe so deep they drown in their own magnificent depth. Isn’t our “mission” given us by God to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, ” and “Love your neighbor as yourself’ and even “go into all the world and preach the good news” (it’s late, please forgive these partial quotes of scripture, I should do better…

At any rate, anything unclear and rambly looses me right away. Is that definition of mission just a bit weird or fuzzy to you? If you know a bit about the way things are going, sadly, the fuzzy is focused and seems to be leading somewhere. It would be to much to say where…

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For the short term, it seems the former church has changed a bit. They did spend an awful long time in Nehemiah. Now they’re working on themes of people in the passion story (using scriptures as they did before with a sermon series in a theme for about 6 weeks). However, the missional pastor is the one who has made a slight change. His sermons were previously padded with quotes from Donald Miller, Michael Frost, Warren, possibly Ortberg and others contemplative/emergent/seeker friendly. Listening to a recent sermon on the church web page made me smile. He made sure he quoted C.S. Lewis right away, and then went on to quote Piper. It was a great Piper quote too. It placed the purpose of the church not on missions, but on worship of God. No weird statements of “Christ coursing through your veins” or talking about the “Wholly Other.” It’s an improvement. How come it seems to me they are trying to reassure those left behind that they aren’t into the emergent authors? Real change would be a phone call saying “thank you” for us pointing out the problems. It would take a lot of humility for that one!

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As sinister as it sounds, I think this whole thing was planned somewhere. Maybe instead of shots of alcohol there were lattes, instead of cigarettes maybe doughnuts. Whatever the environment, there was an underground behind the scenes meeting. It just feels that way. When you look at churches today it’s a pattern, a very organized ride through a funhouse that starts out slow at first but slides dramatically toward some sort of end goal.

The biggest and easiest way these planners appear to change church into what it’s fast becoming is to find a weak spot in doctrine or behavior and attack. Yes it’s true, we have our areas in each and every protestant denomination where we are sticklers and maybe we shouldn’t be. We make the non-essentials essential. Or maybe it’s our sin or pride that’s picked on. We have flaws. Maybe it’s that the culture of a church ends up with people always wearing long skirts and suits, or maybe we insist on having only three songs before the sermon begins. It’s an order, or a habit, or another non-essential. Everyone sins, and so do church members. This is easy to pick on, because there is no way we can deny there are liars, cheaters, prideful, and on and on in the church. It’s true, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. So, the people in the bright office or coffee shop, or whatever, got together and decided to start there. Pick, pick, pick. Yes, we must take surveys; we must decide what’s wrong with church today. We must note that our youth don’t want to be around the older generation (because this is somehow different than in the past?). We must make church relevant.

So what did they do? They created a specific order of implementation to break down the church and build it up again. First it was “show the church elders and leader the problem.” Then have meetings. Then plan a vision, and then change things in structure so each church would be hard to change back once it all began. Next, create panic in the church. Present the evidence of problems. Bring in humor, make people laugh at themselves but make it seem like they are laughing at someone else. Make people ashamed of who they are and what they were. Continue with the crisis, especially use their children. Redefine things. Make people feel out of the loop if they don’t know what is being said. Offer a way for them to stay in the loop. Get them into small groups of people so they will be accountable to catch up on the church agenda. Be “seeker friendly.”
When seeker friendly draws people, begin complaining that people are shallow. Separate the youth from the adults. Make sure the youth think adults are dumb for the way they’ve “done church” and introduce the more progressive things there. Eventually, the youth will begin to share with their parents. Introduce fluff in small groups. Sermons must run on cycles with some name dropping and books being used. When you don’t want to say it, bring in a speaker. They add some sort of credence to the changes coming in. Don’t forget to lather, rinse, repeat…or in other words, recycle phrases you’re trying to drill in. Keep new words and visions coming.

When people get restless, get back to the Bible. Of course, use texts for your own desires. We have to keep the people off kilter. Unless they really take the time to research, they will never notice how the texts are taken out of context. When seeker friendly church feels fake, and eventually it will, introduce serving. Sure, churches have always been serving as it’s part of Christian life, but make sure you pretend it’s not anymore a part of life. Since you’ve been seeker focused, youth focused, you’ll have plenty of evidence that your church hasn’t been serving others only selves. You’ve been having carnivals and laser light shows, marriage seminars with comedy, and dinner theater. It’s been a fun time. Now it’s time to get real and serve others. Play videos and heart wrenching stories.

Serving for no reason is not enough. Now we must reach the people with the good news. Introduce “missional” and pretend it means “missions.” Have all sorts of missionary programs, and speakers, and books. (Oh yes, all along there is a new book for everything). Keep people unaware of the next stage. Don’t let the youth get away from you in this. Send them on missions trips with their edgy youth group and focus on social needs in this. Free the slaves of the world, feed the hungry, help the sick…and share the new message with people all over the world.

Church at this time will seem overdone, very busy. You’ll still have the seeker friendly stuff going, the praxis church, the focus on youth. They’ll be programs for everything. Now it’s time to get back to basics, simple church. By now people who are resisters will be flying out the back door. Let them go, and chastise openly if they squeak as they go. Let the congregation know you are in no way an emergent/seeker friendly church or whatever trend that is annoying to those leaving. Squelch all rumors. Spend time in a book of the Bible (hey, Nehemiah’s good, or Exodus) when wanting to prove you are still biblically focused.

As to simple church, make drastic changes to prove you are paring down. Get the children in small groups, make Sunday morning touchy feely for the kids, hands on. Keep youth group the same now since you’ve got them into all the fun activities and service needed and no one is carrying a Bible anyway. No way you could, too much to do.

All along, introduce the next phase. You have already been bringing in key phrases, and defining them vaguely. These definitions must use old Christian jargon and bring in new concepts. No word should stick out too much, but should be just a little stretch. “Transformation,” “spiritual journey,” and “spiritual disciplines’ will replace other terms, and will actually mean something different. Focus on the metanarrative, and on story. In this time you can mention all different authors, and recommend books to your elders and mens groups. Get the women into studies, retreats, and the like all teaching the same themes. Always have the lighter stuff for some, and the mystical deeper things for the others. Begin introducing moments of silence, speaking on fasting, solitude, and the like. The next stage is the Spiritual Formation.

I imagine this group has even more planned; this is where we got off the ride at our former church. Many wouldn’t even realize it was that far, but it’s the pattern we saw. Reading blogs, talking with Christians, and visiting other churches has shown me there is a pattern, a plan. Churches members are given tickets to this ride, and are taken through it. Now, some churches begin later down the line. They are already emergent (or whatever term it will be in the future). They detest the earlier stage churches and seem so opposed to one another. Each can claim to not be what the other is. This is so very convenient when critics come to play.

Create a vacuum, fill the void. What a wild ride!

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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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