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Posts Tagged ‘emerging’

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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We have attended a small Baptist church in the area over several weeks. It’s been interesting to see even the children carrying Bibles, but more than that, they are taking actual notes during sermons along with the adults. It’s a church that not only says it’s important to get into the Bible, the people appear to actually do it during service. The Sunday school lessons match, meaning that the children’s lessons and the adult lessons are on the same topic thereby allowing for discussion at home. The younger children do go to a seperate worship hour while the adults hear expository teaching, but this is children 8 and under. The rest of the children are in service, and this adds to family unity and truly gives the parents the power to teach back. In our former church, there were very few children in “big church” and the teenagers were seperated out into a place called “the warehouse.” The younger teens were there in the early hour I believe, and the older teens in the second hour of service. With many children in a family, it would be impossible to participate in the Sunday School type lessons and for the teens to get to go to their service and for families to really go to church together. The segregation is staggering to me since I’ve thought about it. Even women with newborns go “hide” in a cryroom to nurse. This is a nice service for these women, but the message is definitely that parents are within their rights to expect to not have children interrupting them in service. This means that children are not disciplined in church, and do not get the message with their parents. It also allows for teaching to occur that parents aren’t aware of. The Baptist church we attend now appears to have set in place a system that really gives parents the opportunity to know exactly what has been poured into their kids’ minds. It’s refreshing.

The music is maybe a little stiff for some in the church we’re currently attending. The choir director, or whatever his title is, stands directly behind the pulpit and directs the congregation through hymns and songs just as I recall choir directors doing in church when I was a child. There is unfortunately an overhead rather than song books, which means people are not gaining the benefit of seeing the actual music lines, which I find a shame. Otherwise, the music is orderly and worshipful. There’s no oversentimentality, no calls for raising hands, no whipping up the crowd. There’s no video distraction behind the words, no light show. There are instruments, a guitar, and the like, but the sound is not overpowering or rock. Some more modern songs are used, but very old hymns are also used. The focus is definitely not on singers, no matching outfits. Though there might be a few singers and instruments, it’s not a show. Not saying all our former church did during singing was wrong, but it’s just different. All the glitz is gone. There’s not an atmosphere created, so the emotions and worship is all on the individual and not on the music minister. I really did enjoy music at our former church, but again, it was more about the style than the substance in some cases. Our former pastor of music was very purposeful about choosing songs to go with the message and reading psalms out loud. He did think raising hands and extras were important, and he also liked to really challenge the church to pray and read the word. He refocused on the gospel often, which made the time rich. Most complaints by people attending our former church was that the “worship time” was too long and drawn out, just get me to the message already. Because the worship pastor didn’t get off into emergent or contemplative messages, and he brought in the gospel often, I clung to his speaking between songs and listened to his readings etc. when things were getting bad in the pulpit messages. The music minister of the church we’re now attending doesn’t add in so much fluff, but he does read scripture and presents music in a cut and dried way. I think a middle ground would be nice between the two but I have no complaints. I love singing more doctrine rich hymns, and each Sunday we get several and not just an adapted one or two mixed with repetative choruses.

When it comes to the actual preaching, the two churches are vastly different. The one we’re attending is expository and straight from the Bible. The former had themes based on books or on life application often. There was a rotation between a Bible string for weeks, and then a book for several weeks, and back and forth. Of course, there was a text read in every sermon, and the Bible or people from the Bible were referenced, but it was never really verse by verse (though the former church has been digging into Nehemiah for many weeks since we left using this for a campaign to raise money and to chide those who would not “get on the wall”…the amount of time in Nehemiah has been strange though and people who we speak to comment that it’s been great to really “get into the word” though they don’t really see the subtle move toward more submission, more commitment, more leader authority that I hear when I listen online). In contrast, the church we’re attending is spending many months in John. They add historical context, interpretation of the text, and life application from scripture and not from some author’s opinion. It’s rather refreshing to hear a message week after week from the Bible. Imagine going to church and knowing the message is coming straight from the Bible and not psychology or some such author. With our former church I was able to take sections of sermons and google, finding the sources for the sermons. In the church we’re attending now, the pastor prepares the lesson from scripture. I haven’t tried to google, but I suspect the books that agree would be sermons based upon that text that were also expository and weren’t used necessarily by the pastor to write the sermon.

When people stand for membership, and we’ve witnessed this a few times, they have stated they tried churches in the area or attended for years and found them “less than Biblical” or found this particular church to be genuinely focused on God’s word in the Bible. The hunger for the gospel makes a difference to the people in the congregation, many have left our former church and others like it. We are among people who value the Bible as we do. This gives me hope.

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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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Moving on in this electronic world is hard.  It’s hard not to listen online, hard not to see people people online either.  We have chosen to leave our former church, but so far the issue hasn’t left us.  When I was overheard, this prompted a call to the pastor and a call to us (I assume it was me as I can think of where I would have been and who I was with…when I was speaking openly in public).  His statement is that the church has denounced emergent and is not headed in an emergent direction.  He says we base our information on a few sermons by a different pastor.  He also says they let go of one youth pastor, but though “we talked about Nooma videos he showed” (which we never did talk about and we weren’t aware) he wanted us to be discreet about that and thought we discussed that discreetness…uhmmmm.  We never had that conversation and thank you for proving our point.  Noomas in the youth is another sign of clear emergent leanings.  Oh, and the pastor says they let several staff members go because of financial reasons, not for the Noomas.  So they may have confronted emergent verbally, but do they see it in their staff?  Pastor claims “emergent” is dying.  Well, the terms may have changed, but the shift of churches is not dying. 

To his credit, his sermons do use scripture very much.  I don’t think Rick Warren is the same as Doug Pagitt.  I do not think Dallas Willard is the same as McLaren.  I do believe they are on a similar path, to change church and to focus on emergent youth OR on self and disciplines from Catholic mystics.  This may not be emergent.  I see other authors label it something else, contemplative something or other…maybe it’s contemplative spiritual disciplines.  To be clear, the church we attended hasn’t come out with contemplative prayer.  It has come out with spiritual formation.  This term alone links back to monks in caves hundreds of years ago.  These monks chanted and used breathing techniques as well as repetition to “meditate.”  Requirements of silence, fasting, and the like for a supposed deeper relationship with God are part of this spiritual discipline thing, as well as spiritual formation.  If the church has a spiritual formation pastor, and plans on lectio divina (as spoken by the pastor’s own mouth) and wants to follow the plans of Dallas Willard, and impliments “moments of silence” often, calls people to fast (not wrong to fast by the way, but it’s part of a larger picture here) then they are part of a movement that is not Biblical.  Focusing on this for spiritual transformation, methods and means not practiced by the disciples themselves.  I would say choosing to be disciplined is not a bad thing.  Saying you need it for deeper relationship with Christ is not accurate.  Discipline can make our Christian lives easier, can make memorization easier, and can help us to start our day in prayer.  Altering breathing, sitting in silence with no activity, these things are strange and unbibical in the context of trying to get closer to God.  Making an effort to give a sacrifice to God in our day is not wrong, as long as we realize our sacrifices are not worthy but God is gracious and merciful and can be pleased by us if we are humble and contrite (which cannot be manufactured).  Service is also a part of the spiritual formation movement.  Service in Christian life in itself is good.  However, service as a way to “get closer to God” is not.  I believe what is wrong with spiritual formation is it’s all flipped.  Service for others flows FROM the compassion we gain in Christ.  We are first made new creatures.  We have to recognize we still have a sin nature.  At any rate, our pastors from our former church were heavy into the spiritual formation books, mostly Dallas Willard. 

The one pastor who was most obvious in his sermons doesn’t make the head pastor bat an eye.  He sees no scary connections when Frost, Miller, and others are quoted.  He doesn’t even ruffle when he’s told about the “christ conciousness” or “christ coursing through my veins” or “you are little christs.”  He even defended the “little christ” comment.  He mentioned lectio divina, he defended Dallas Willard and suggested we read his books.  He defended the teaching by Steve Smith when he visited the church…the teaching that Lazarus had grave clothes and our grave clothes are life’s trials and burdens.  This teaching was strange, and bothered me a great deal and the pastor mentioned lectio divina after these stating, “it’s been around since the reformation.”  

Another pastor we spoke to said if our former church has denounced emergent doctrine and that was our complaint, we couldn’t leave then.  Well, we may not have brought out we don’t agree with following Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan and we may have only mentioned Dallas Willard, but our issue is with these things too.  We also feel, and it’s hard to define exactly, but that the lead pastor is manipulative and really makes me personally nervous.  Anyone who knew we were having a meeting with the man said, “good luck.”  He is intimidating.  This alone is a red flag of warning.  In general, people give the impression they don’t really feel safe with him or may feel he’s overbearing.  Don’t know if I can pin it down.  I know I personally have been friendly to him, he’s been friendly back.  He just seems much like a man trying to proove something.  I have met men like him, if I were in single land (before marriage) I would have known two things.  This man would never choose someone like me to date, and I would never choose him.  I feel like he’d be a guy who I would fight with.  I feel like I’d be expected to act a certain way in the home.  He’s not necessarily someone who oppresses women, don’t get me wrong.  I just get that feeling when around some men, that I wouldn’t mix with him.  Usually these guys are driven and goal oriented, intelligent.  However, they seem to be demanding and perfectionistic.  It’s not authority, it’s something else.  Now this is just speculation on my part…please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying he’s a bad man or anything, just most people don’t say he’s sweet. 

Oh, see, I’ve titled this “moving on” and I cannot move on.  That is my problem.  I have got to find a way to get this out of me, let it go.  How do you let go when you think a church is being led in the wrong direction?

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My husband called an elder and left a message after we heard the sermon online.  Last night, he called back when my husband wasn’t home.  We discussed the open pulpit comment, and the elder was not comfortable with that at all.  I kept saying I could understand the pastor’s position in some ways (and I can) in that he wants to likely let the person who said something about overhearing know he means business as well as he thinks we’re wrong and wants to make it clear.  He did define emergent, said it was bad (yay) and said their church isn’t emergent.  Again, maybe not overall, but there still are connections that need to be dealt with.  I told the elder this.  I also mentioned that the connect the dots comment really was something said to us in a meeting, so I am not suprised it came out (we connected dots from one author to another to make a weak connection to emergent according to the pastor).  The conversation kept up and the elder ended up boiling down what he thinks the issue is…that we claimed in our letter that the church has shifted focus from Christ and from giving glory to God.  The elder said it was the only statment he felt we came up with that wasn’t okay to say.  This was a bold statement, I know.  However, my husband and I believe the church is focusing more on man and man’s methods than just on the plain thing of glorifying God.  Messages (even now) don’t have Christ as the focus, but on “kingdom building” or on fund raising for building the church.  Scripture is used as a means to some sort of end.  Yes, the thought is, we’re paying all this staff to preach the good news, we need audio visual because it’s better for our congregation and brings people in, this or that program will bring people in.  I could go on and on as to why they justify the way they do things.  The plain truth is the congregation (when we were there) was not being fed.   I stated this to the elder in so many words, and he stuck on the point that we wrote something in our letter we surely didn’t mean.  He’d been with the pastors overseas on short term missions, even speaking recently about this specific letter with the pastor who quoted the emergent leaders (not the one who mentioned us this weekend, but another).  The pastor said he couldn’t understand why the first time he mentioned contemporary authors someone began to pick that sermon apart.  Now he felt he couldn’t just quote anyone and had to watch every word because people were scrutinizing what he was saying.  (uh, aren’t we supposed to pay attention to what people say from the pulpit?).  He said he could easily quote from someone and embrace one idea without embracing all of emergent.  Yep, true.  Still…would we quote a Mormon from the pulpit because we agree with the ideas but don’t embrace all of the emergent?  No, we would not at least without some sort of disclaimer.  The elder kept coming back to the point that we needed to examine whether or not the church had Christ at the center.  His point was that it wasn’t actually church if Christ wasn’t at the center.  Yep, that’s why we left.  Using 40 Days of Purpose like it was something magical, following the P.E.A.C.E. plan, getting into Dallas Willard, doing children’s church with much video, much filler activity, focusing on seekers, and on and on. I told the elder I felt that though the scripture was used, and even now whole passages of Nehemiah are read outloud word for word and preached on, that scripture can be mishandled.  I brought up the speaker, Stephen Smith, who spoke of Lazarus and reworked it for a pop psychology purpose.  The elder commented, (and I laugh as I write this) that the speaker was off his rocker anyway.  What?  Why was he speaking from our pulpit then?  Why in our final meeting did the pastor say he would not have this man in the pulpit if he didn’t endorse his ideas.  In fact, the pastor had recommended his book and tried to personally promote it.  So I guess the elder and the pastor don’t see eye to eye on this speaker?  Who knew. 

We had been learning about God for a while, and felt we were okay in this church over the years.  At some point we realized that some of what filled us was small group because we had Bible study there.  We  had friendships that filled us, and kept us feeling like we were being fed.  Church was our social place, and there is nothing wrong with socializing with believers.  I believe the other believers did help us and we learned from them.  We took from messages what we wanted to and we left the rest sit.  If you are a Christian, you can grow on a little and you can grow on what you do on your own.  However, and this is key, people who are in other churches who have left our former church tell us that they didn’t realize how much they weren’t growing until they went elsewhere and found themselves actually fed and actually growing more than they would have.  One family left our former church because they worked in children’s ministry.  They didn’t like what they were seeing for their children, they couldn’t settle anymore.  They left, and a byproduct of leaving was that they grew at their new church.  It wasn’t just their children, they weren’t being taught enough, fed enough. 

Everytime I begin to wonder if we’re crazy, I sit down and think about it.  No, we’re not crazy.  We saw what we saw.  The reaction of the pastor was almost word for word what we read would happen in a church affiliated with Rick Warren.  The pastor’s reaction to us shows us a LOT.  The elder (we love this man) who is very sincere still is putting almost all of this on us, we are in error (not sinning according to him, not needing to confess a sin).  He believes we need to revisit this in time, and somehow work it out with the church and the pastor.  This probably means we will have to recant on what we said, give in.  Mean time, the church leadership had to deal with us, and now they have to deal with what is left since we are gone, since we spoke up.  They have to either dismiss us or agree and then open that can of worms for themselves.  One friend who left before we did said that at least they didn’t ignore our concerns as they did his (for TWO years).  The pastor mentioned it from the pulpit, and he’s likely to get more questions from it then he ever would have.  Maybe some others will investigate.  I can almost bet some out there will too.  This isn’t the end of this topic for our former church.  They will have to deal with this until God lets them go. 

And still, I’m thankful for being confronted on gossip or on my attitude when speaking about our former church.  I need to be truthful, and need to also be loving.  I do not have to love what has happened, but I do need to pray for the church, the pastors, and need to pray for the flock there.  I need to, when speaking, not feel proud of my self like I am anything.  I am nothing.  I was in it, I nodded and let it go when I could have spoken up earlier.  I wasn’t responsible and in the Word enough.  I didn’t have enough nor use discernment wisely.  I believe I was selfish and that’s why I didn’t see.  The drama is not something to relish in, to focus on.  The time is always fresh for focusing on Christ, and next on my family.

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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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You preach

twistify

lull

woo

in the name

of who?

You share

distort

meet

pray

bemoan

all that your

congregation

will not

do

not enough

go

not enough

do

you breath in

sit silently

breathe out

you read

read

read

all that men

can write

it seeps

I weep

for my

children

and so I say

I must leave

because

you have shifted

deeper

into

the desert

I am thirsty

and you

are offended

by my parched

tongue

giving warning

as I leave

the door

won’t hit me

my pearls

trampled

behind me.

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I know it’s wise to hold my tongue….and I am learning this ever more.

We were contacted by a former pastor.  Someone overheard one of us (or both) sharing with someone else about the church issues and what we believe about our former church.  He is unhappy, and I can understand his position.  I believe he is going to think we’re spreading rumors.  We mostly talk with former members, once they realize we too have left, the flood gates open on both sides.  It has happened that we have done this in a place where there might be connections.  So now it’s possible we are just shooting our cause in the foot.  I think we need to find a healthy church and pastor for counsel.  I feel I am willing to apologize for talking inappropriately.  I do feel we have shared when asked, and have been transparent with people.  However, it’s possible that may have slipped into the rumor area (I shouldn’t say we as my husband isn’t as bad about this as I am).  We have said to people who have asked and still attend that they need to research, and we share much less.  For example, we might say we left because of the direction the church is going and things we heard in the sermons.  We don’t feel all sermons rightly handle the word of God.  We encourage people to pay attention.  When someone has already left says, “you know, when we heard a sermon in the early weeks of attending we realized it was a mystical type sermon and that put us on guard right away,”  a floodgate can open up. 

The pastor mentioned people and things in his conversation that we were not even aware of, meaning that he’s had other people complaining.  We have mentioned only what we had contact with.  He mentioned one person in particular who was in a teaching position and our supposed conversations about that person, and we certainly don’t recall ever mentioning that person to him.  If we did mention that person, it was in passing and not that we had a problem with this teacher. 

On another note, we’re aware that some staff was let go at our former church.  The only thing we’ve been told is it was financial.  We’re not sure that’s true, and we wouldn’t say anothing about it as we have no clue.

So now we need to back up and look at our own behavior.  It can be an excuse for the church to ignore their own issues.

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