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Posts Tagged ‘emerging’

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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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’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 I feel so flat about going to church.  My former church was the feel good kind.  We’d gone there for 8 years before leaving.  It was a church with a lot of fun for our kids, a lot of contact through small groups.  We had gotten to know people there.  We were so blind to most of the issues, and though we knew people had been leaving over the years, we chalked most of that up to inconvenience. 

We live in an area with churches everywhere, so it was often true that people just left for whatever reason.  Until we heard of one specific couple who left because of the direction the church was going in…we thought our personal fears of the church were possibly just thoughts we were having…strange things we had to figure out but not real issues.  It wasn’t until we thought strongly about leaving that we began to run into people who expressed strong issues with specific things we were seeing ourselves and had left.

So now, we’re in a new church.  It’s got a lot going for it, most especially the word of God is preached from the bible itself clearly every Sunday we’ve been there so far.  This church staff and pastors recognize the problems in churches with emergent(ing) and purpose driven…etc.  This is refreshing. 

However, at this point I still feel a great distance when in church.  There are so many times when it’s a chore to get myself ready to go to church.  Once there, the message is great.  Until I’m there though, I am not looking forward to it.  I cannot put my finger on why though.

One thing I have learned in this process of leaving a church with a focus on emergent youth (even if they aren’t officially an emergent church) and going to another church is that you cannot trust your emotions.  Emotions are not faith.  Faith is something else altogether.  I do not buy that action preceeds emotion every time, and I do not believe that just by doing something you can always shape your emotions…that they will follow.  Some people are depressed no matter h0w much faith they have, and how much they pray. I was hurt by the whole process of leaving our former church.  I found out that my judgement of things was off, my view had been blocked, I had been fooled.

I even at times look back and think about how we came to seeing the issues.  It was really quick, actually.  The wool was pulled away and I saw the former shining church for what it was.  It’s not just that, but I saw that there was this network of churches.  I also saw some of my favorite things were not at all what I thought.

I used to listen to Focus on the Family daily, and other radio programs through out the week.  Finding them involved in contemplative and compromise took away my grounding and habits.  So much of what I did before was built on popular protestant trends….all not bad if the focus of these things remained on Christ and the bible. 

It was a shock to my system.  I can imagine maybe it’s like the way a woman feels if she finds out her husband is not who she’s always thought he is.  The church, and parachurch organizations who have let contemplative, emergent, purpose driven, marketing, and more enter and take over have been serving another master.  This has caused a great deal of confusion for me over the last several months.

So, the new church has a lot to overcome.  They are dealing with a woman who has been sucking off the marrow a bit on the wrong things and has been starving for it.  It’s not that I didn’t get good things from our church, or we didn’t have friendships and support when needed.  That church is right in these areas.  I think though the sacrifice of biblical teaching (not just using the bible for a means to an end) is not worth any connections and community. 

So now, I’m disconnected and emotionally not where I wish I was in the new church, in my life these days.  It’s not about emotion, it’s about Christ and following Him.  It’s about training my children in the church that is presenting the truth.  Now, I just pray for trust if this is the place for us to commit as members.  Who cares about emotions, I want the real deal….

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I have discovered others who have become disenchanted with the direction their church is headed.  Frustrations are similar,  reactions too.  Solutions vary depending on the family and situation.

One woman left a baptist church that was seeker friendly and is seeking to understand all that is Lutheran.  She desires really the companionship and servant attitude in the Baptist church, but wants the systematic theology of the Lutheran church. 

Nazarenes are struggling as their churches have been infiltrated with seeker friendly and contemplative teachings.  This is very similar to my experience in non-denominational churches.

Some have noted the youth programs in their church are more for entertainment.  There may again be service as a focus, but the fruits don’t go beyond this in changed lives.  The youth group kids from church look like every other group of kids. 

So what is the solution?  Which church will best meet the needs of a person thirsting for a focus on Christ who recognizes a need to get into the bible?  I believe that answer is much more complicated than it might appear.  Just finding a church claiming to be a “people of the book” is not enough. 

I fear a big separation that will do no one any good in the long run.  I fear we’ll have the passion in service oriented congregations.  We’ll have the connectedness of the body in small group/seeker friendly congregations, and well have serious study in churches with liturgy.  I would like to see churches who value the bible as it should be.  I then would like to see the body of Christ in service to one another out of love.  I hope churches with serious bible study would also have fellowship with one another.  I hope there will be a passion to follow and worship, and a passion to support those who go beyond the local church to give the gospel to others beyond the walls of the church. 

I still carry the fear of being duped.  I see good things in my current church.  Pastors preach well and from the text, expository style.  People are serving one another.  There is a connectedness in the body (the pastor went out of his way to walk up to us in the hallway and ask about a family member he heard had health issues…we are very new to this church and people go out of their way to make sure we feel welcomed and remembered).  There are missionaries supported.  I’m just waiting for the honeymoon phase to end.

When will a program check out as tainted by contemplative?  When will I see the compromises?  Of course, I do not expect the church to be perfect.  However, I am still cautious.  I feel for those who haven’t yet found a church to scrutinize, however. 

We’ve seen good things in this church, many good things.  It’s horrible to keep trying churches and only seeing seeker friendly, contemplative, or emergent (or a mix of everything) tainting all.  I pray for brothers and sisters who don’t get any refreshing from the pulpit.

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It’s clear to me why those who want to change church focus on youth so hard to the exclusion of other groups really…because they really want to win over the future.  The trend in churches is to have seperate youth ministry, and to pull kids away from their parents.  This way, the pretrained youth workers can present whatever they want and change the kids first.  This is why so much training happens at Youth Front.  If you can get the youth ministers at churches to change, then you can change those churches.  Waiting out the old people who will leave or die means your philosophy of church wins.

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