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Posts Tagged ‘leaving a church focusing on emergent youth’

Just this past Sunday a couple visited our church.  They still go to our former church (spiritual formation/transformation church).  We were once in a small group together, and we really enjoyed time with this couple.  They have two children who are getting old enough to go to the youth group.  I commend these parents, they are involved with their children and followed them to the youth group.  This is where they have discovered enough problems to begin a church search just to see what else is out there.  The complaints I have heard are that the message and all the activities don’t always make any sense.  Things are disjointed, and the gospel is not clearly being taught through the activities and fluff.   There are so many distractions.  Apparently, one Sunday, the youth minister was speaking and there was a video playing in the background.  It was people falling, crashing into things, and getting hurt.  The mother could see no reason for this, and thought it wasn’t funny at all.  The parents have also complained that the youth room is often littered with trash because these teens will not use proper manners and clean up after themselves.  I recall the youth didn’t go to their church time with bibles and the girls often wore inappropriate clothing.  Rarely, were teens ever in “big church” with the adults.  We are so happy we are no longer there, it sounds like it is as bad as I thought.

 

I am so giddy, and I have high hopes.  I love to see people leave that environment.  I spoke to my pastor when I saw them at church, and let him know our past with this couple.  He knows many people have left that church including our family.  He’s always seeing people visit from my former church.  He commented something like this, “you’d think they’d try to figure out what they are doing is wrong since they are bleeding out.”   Yeah, you’d think.

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We spotted one of the pastors who was recently asked to resign from our former church in the church we’ve been attending for a while.  His little family was with him, and I am praying so much for them.  This has to be a confusing time, has to be a hard time.  I pray God will lead them to the best place for them to heal and to worship.  I hope the pastor can also find a place to earn money so he can support his family.  I pray they trust God and don’t become lost in this whole process.

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Ever get the feeling someone has a button that makes this invisible hood around their head soundproofed?  I see it when I try to explain to someone the problems with Spiritual Formation style churches.  I also see it when I speak about problems with Rick Warren’s teachings.  Even if I’m sharing with someone who knows me, knows I left my former church, and begin to point out issues…I get the glazed over look and the sudden comment that they need to wash their cat.  I’m trying to decide which is scarier, a person who won’t see what’s right in front of them and avoids hearing anything critical OR a person who attacks you when you’re speaking the truth. 

People tend to do strange things in churches.  They let a lot of things slide.  Because a pastor preaches about unity, people will try to get along with severe error.  They will take a “wait and see” approach to something that is going on.  A pastor can say a situation calls for a halt on gossip, so then people are afraid to speak to each other about it.  They don’t seek counsel of other believers for fear of breaking confidentiality.  A culture of silence is created.  So when someone speaks boldly and tries to point directly to the problems, the sound proof hoods come out. 

When it happens to me, when someone puts on the hood I sigh.  I sigh and try my best to move on.  You cannot force someone to hear the truth.  I wait for a better opportunity with the person, wait a while to restate myself.  Maybe later a person will be ready to hear the truth.  I can only hope.

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I have speculated, even heard tell of people on staff or in leadership who have difficulties with things going on in our former church.  (A few have visited in our new church and it’s only speculation that they may be taking a break where they can be fed, so it’s unfair to assume they are actually having a problem with the former church).   When the focus gets off of Christ and on to seeker sensitive doctrines, or maybe veers into contemplative practices, or church is on a corporate style plan rather than into the bible, there may be staff/leadership disturbed by this problem.  What are they to do? 

We suspect two staff members and maybe a few in leadership positions are unhappy with things at our former church based on a few clues.  First, support when we were starting the process of questioning.  This/these people listened in a different way.  One even addressed our issues directly (not at the church but with an organization our former church is still involved in).  Change did occur because of this person’s actions.  We believe this person is stuck.  There’s family to think of, uprooting kids.  In some cases, people in leadership are paid (a minister or some other type person like church administrator, accountant, etc) and have issues with how things are going.  They may confront elders/pastors directly or show strong support for the ordinary members who express frustration with teachings and influences being brought into the church.  This alone can be risky.

Stay or go?  People in leadership/staff positions have much to think about when the church starts to get toxic.  Should they stay and continue to provide for their family if paid by the church?    Sometimes a person who serves in children’s ministry or in adult bible study…or especially a pastor, can teach truth in a bad environment.  Though they may not intend to be “warriors” they may in fact be used to protect and train some of the sheep who find themselves seeking for some spiritual truth in a bad environment. 

Also, the staff/leader may need to confirm what is really going on before deciding to take a stand and step out.  It’s not something to be taken lightly if their role is visible in the church.  It’s easy to fall into tempation, easy to assume too much, easy to leave in a way that does not honor Christ.  There are ways to leave without causing more harm than good.  I believe each situation is unique and requires much prayer and discussion/counsel.  Some may slip quietly out the back door of the church, others may resign and make an announcement at the pulpit (especially asking for forgiveness if they were involved in introducing bad teaching initially).  It all depends on God’s will what would be best to do.

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In speaking with those who have left, I am consistently hearing that our former pastor was confrontational to anyone who spoke up. Now, those who left that I know well enough are all very kind people who think very carefully on their faith. They are either hurt or are trying hard to avoid bitterness because of how this pastor dealt with them. I am wondering if this will come out in the survey? If you are looking at the fruit in our former church, you will see a rotten temper with our former pastor, that is for sure. So, if you “go deeper” with spiritual formation, this is what you get? If it were just us, I’d say it’s possible we made some mistake and maybe we rubbed him the wrong way or we perceive his behavior wrongly. However, it’s MANY meek people who just had to speak up who are expressing a distaste for this former pastor’s attitude.

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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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I have to say, that on this Father’s Day, I appreciate my husband.  Yes, I appreciate him for his way as a father.  He is a provider, his salary is it for money in this house besides those who have helped out of the kindness of their hearts in times of need.  He works tirelessly for us. 

He reads to his children, prays with them, plays with them, eats with them AT THE TABLE.  He coaches their ball teams and shows up at games he’s not coaching.  He disciplines them when needed, but is not agressive in any way.  He shows them how he loves me often, and the respect and love he gives me is a model for how they should treat me.  He will take no disrespect for me from the 12 year old nor will he even let the 21 month old hit me in the midst of her tantrums. 

Most of all, he loves God.  He lets his kids know he is a saved sinner.  He apologizes when he’s wrong, and expects much out of himself in behavior.  He never looks at another woman, never.  I mean never.  He won’t be caught doing this, and he has made sure his computer is clean.  I am not saying he is perfect, but he works hard at purity.  If he has ever faltered, he’s actually asked for my help in this area.  He teaches his daughters to be modest and his boys to respect girls.  He also expects the boys to someday only choose modest girls. 

In my battles with false doctrine, my husband has backed me up.  He knows that if I take the time to point it out to him, it must be really bothering me.  He knows to trust me.  He will tell me honestly if he doesn’t see what I see, but he will definitely listen to me and give me the chance to prove what I see. 

I tend to wait for his lead when it comes to action because I know that I am very emotional about doctrinal issues and if I am wrong, I will go headlong into the wall so fast.  He is more even keeled, so I wait on him.  Every time I have been like a caged animal with anxiety of doctrine and twisting of scripture, my husband has been there to hear it and back me up. 

He is the one who decided when to leave our former church.  He spoke to the elders, it was that kind of church…better for him to speak to the elders than me (at least that’s what we felt…may not be but it felt this way).  He trusted when a pastor spoke to me and suggested writing a letter, he agreed with me this pastor’s intentions were probably good.  When things  didn’t change and only got worse, my husband didn’t allow the lead pastor (different than the one suggesting our final letter) to speak to me and attack me.  He spoke directly to the pastor and defended me.  He also didn’t just “back me up” but also put himself on the line, he believed the church was not right and he made himself be the responsible one. 

If he hadn’t been with me on this, hadn’t listened to me initially and then commented that he too had been feeling uncomfortable with the sermons, I don’t know what I would have done.  He led, he prayed, he sought counsel, he initiated.  In short, he got our family out when it was the best time.  If we were still in that church I would be sinning, I know it.  I would be going crazy,  confronting people, stepping on toes, fighting with my husband, and being generally snarky in church.  I would likely pout.  It would not be pretty.  It would not be the way a woman is supposed to be.  Being stuck in a church knowing my children would be taught a man centered gospel with a focus on Rick Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan would make me crawl out of my skin, no matter how nice the people are there.   Thank God for my husband!

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