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Posts Tagged ‘leaving a church focusing on emergent youth’

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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One thing I noticed when we were considering leaving our church was the difficulty in finding good counsel that we trusted. First we spoke to a few friends about our concerns. Because they didn’t see what we saw, at the time we knew they were not going to help and our observations were just burdens in their lives (they have since been great help…but at the time it was just us really). Then there were the elders. We spoke to at least two. One was a group shepherd (or leader of a few small groups including ours). He was really next in line on the church structure heirarchy. We told him we didn’t like this or that, and he basically gave us the “I understand this point” and “this is why the church does it this way.” One specific example was our issue with the videos from the “Christian no more” series being played in church as well as the term “Christ follower” replacing the word Christian. The elder said we wanted to give a more specific term and Christian had become such a negative term in society. We needed to reach people in a way that didn’t turn them off. This obviously was not going to be someone we could open up to about all our fears. He just explained them away in a very unsatisfactory manner. We then had a friend and mentor to my husband that was also an elder. We spoke to him, and shared frankly our problems. Initially, he suggested my husband become an elder which would be a process and would take time. Once an elder he could work to change things. My husband spoke to him off and on for a while. He didn’t think Rick Warren’s books were “deep” but that Warren had done such good work, we couldn’t NOT use his books. Eventually, we came completely clean about leaving and the fears of emergent with him. He just didn’t see it. We really couldn’t get clearly what was right to do from him. We were told to not speak with one particular pastor (the one who really seemed to be dropping New Age phrases left and right). He personally said this pastor had been his mentor and is the nicest and most wonderful man with a great plan for reaching the lost. We had spoken to other friends, small group co-leaders who did not think the web sites we were reading were legit. We eventually spoke with one pastor, he did encourage our letter and for us to be frank. He didn’t like my issue with terms used like transformation, spiritual formation. He thought the church still preached the gospel and had good things about it, but had gotten off focus somehow. He suggested we stay on and present things in a loving way as we appeared to him to be humble in all this. We let him know we’d think about it.

So from there, we tried to find people to trust. One couple was beginning to see our point, they could give us some advice (and had told us of the pastor and encouraged us to seek him out). We tried to walk with his counsel as we had no other options. I did speak to one woman who did seem to “get it” and had in fact come from Paggitt’s church and left because it had gone strange on her. Sadly, she’s very strange herself…and so hasn’t been a good friend to trust at all though she did see some of what we saw. We ended up finding a couple who left and were VERY strong in God’s word. They spoke to us openly and offered much comfort as he had been an elder and she was in ministry. They fought the church really for two years before leaving. Any other people we spoke to didn’t really get why we had to leave. My parents are nominal Lutherans. They were no help and thought we should stay in such a giving church. Many friends in the former church we emailed or shared with didn’t really see it. Even many people who did leave, didn’t actually leave for the reasons we did. They were of little help. We had very few safe places to land.

I came online for support mostly. People had been through the same things, articles warned of things that were actually happening to me step by step. I began venting first on my live journal, and lost some online contacts who thought I was self righteous, or didn’t see emergent as a bad thing. I had one live journal friend who encouraged me to write here on WordPress. I did, and began to get some feedback that helped.

Eventually, we made our leave of the church and began searching. I did speak to a friend who is older than I am…and wiser. Her suggestions were Presbyterian and Lutheran, and a few other random churches. For now we’ve landed in something Baptist that is aware of emergent/seeker friendly. It seems pretty much a haven for people who have left similar churches as ours. Some I’ve come into contact with online warn against Calvinist and Baptist churches, insist I should go Lutheran. I am so far not going that route. My childhood experience with Lutheran doesn’t do it for me. I don’t believe in infant baptism, and in no way think the bread and wine actually change into the flesh and blood of Christ. So, in some ways, I’m seen as less or not quite enlightened by some of these people. We’ve been dubbed trouble makers by our former pastor, so there’s no talking to him or really other pastoral staff from the former church. We probably could share a bit with the former pastor who did help us, but since he never did open up too much as to exactly what he’s doing, I do not know where he stands. I don’t know his final opinion of us. He is under submission to our former pastor.

So now we move forward, speaking to people in our new congregation and keeping contact with a few friends in our former church. I write here, my husband and I talk to each other, and we just try to figure it all out. So many have no idea why we left. They’ll likely never know.

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Different groups use a special set of terms to distinguish themselves, to create a culture, and to communicate specific messages to members. The terms used can unify members and exclude non-members. Many times this is normal and not considered to be unhealthy. People need to support one another in many groups, and having specific terms can allow for a certain trust in communication. I think specifically of nurses and doctors, they can share what information is needed with one another to pass on what is important about a patient without disclosing everything to listeners walking the halls of a hospital. Specific word choice is made in any group, it’s expected and even taken for granted. Sometimes though, there are code words used to initiate someone into a very unhealthy situation. Words are used to exclude the uninitiated because they will not accept what is being said until they have spent some time letting go of their protections. Words can be intentionally used that have double meanings, one meaning to those listening from the outside of the group but a completely different meaning to those inside the group. A manipulative group using language in this way is often a political group or a religious group with some sort of agenda. Somewhere, someone is meant to be fooled. Even those using the language with double meanings may be unaware they are being deceitful.

I remember when I spent time meeting with a Jehovah’s Witness for nearly two years. Most of the first several months was spent defining terms. Whenever I found myself in agreement with what the Jehovah’s Witness had to say, I would stop and ask for a clarification on the meaning of the words. Even the name Jesus meant something completely different, the Jehovah’s Witness meant the archangel Michael. I meant Jesus Christ, one of the three persons of the Trinity, both God and man at the same time. In college, when the Boston Movement was on campus, I would notice they spoke in a certain way. It was quite evident to anyone on the outside that something was not right, was not geniune in the presentation. In speaking with Mormons who came to my door, I had the same experience, I had to always listen carefully and ask questions. Again and again and again.

In my former church I learned to listen critically to what was being said. The words used were a bit of a tweaking on the words I was used to. Discipleship became spiritual disciplines. It didn’t mean the same thing. Missions became missional, this didn’t mean the same thing at all. Spiritual formation came from somewhere, and so did transformation. Holy other (and later I discovered it was really Wholly Other) and God consciousness all had their own meanings. Christ Follower is a code word, as is centered, journey, story, narrative, dna, be still, contemplate, meditate, peace, emerging, visionand on and on. All this language had not been clearly defined. It was all defined with other code words. People who “got it” and understood the deep things may have understood, but the regular attenders could nod along and have no idea. I started to pick up on this jargon and it was distracting. The noise and questions really began to get to me. I began to plug the words into Google to see where they were coming from. I ran smack into the contemplative and emergent authors. I ran also right into sites that were critical of such authors. I had my eyes opened. The things that caused a small voice inside me to whisper, “something’s wrong” started to make that voice grow louder until eventually it was screaming. People were being duped. They were being led very slowly into accepting something they had not been presented openly. My husband likes to liken our former church to a ship (especially since one pastor kept using this analogy). The ship was just moved a hair to begin with. At first, and for a while really, no one noticed. Time passed, and it became evident that we were not on course to get to where the lighthouse was shining. Sure, it looked like we’d land close, but not right on target. The further we went, the more we noticed we were getting off course. Many people still haven’t noticed, they keep looking at the stars or the water, never seeing the lighthouse…never realizing where the ship was heading. You know, I asked, my husband asked, we know others who asked specifically what direction the ship was headed. We weren’t told even after asking. One emergent youth minister who was actually recently let go from the church staff said, “that’s the problem with [the former church], none of the leadership appears to know where the ship is headed.” I think actually they DO know, they just aren’t telling. They are trying everything, and will eventually pare it all down. Those who see what’s going on and don’t like it fight for a while, but eventually they have to jump ship (or are forced off).

If you are asked to “be still” in church, make sure you are listening. Listen carefully to what is said exactly. Then take those words and research them. Find out what they mean. Check those words against the Bible.

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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 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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John 20:31.  It’s a basic verse and my children ages 6, 8, 10, and 12 know it.  They learned it at Awana.  The pastor of a church we’re visiting spent a long sermon on this verse today.  This church is going to spend many months on the book of John.  He actually said about a year, but later said months…but still, coming from a church that has themes last 4-8 weeks maximum, this is worth note.  Anyway, this verse is one that defines our struggle with our former church a bit for us.  With that verse, I am taken back to a Sunday when Steve Smith was talking about Lazarus, and began saying that we come to Christ’s call and have grave clothes on us.  These grave clothes have to be removed by community in order for us to heal.  This was a big “aha” Sunday for us.  It was the early stages of questions, and so began my search for the direction our former church was heading.  Lazarus is recorded in John, and my husband and I believe the Steven Smith (as a guest speaker) was presenting the account of Lazarus incorrectly.  The Bible was being mishandled, and psychology injected.  It really sounded like a message Oprah might give.  When we went to our former pastor, we brought this speaker up.  He said he not only supported what Steven Smith said, but he had personally sent letters out recommending his book about Lazarus and the grave clothes.  Lovely.  We tried to explain how we felt the Bible was being mishandled, and the pastor countered that each miracle had a purpose for us.  We were supposed to understand something we could apply to our lives.  We were to, for example, dig deeper into why Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding.  This did not satisfy us as a proper explanation.  We asked two friends, and one a pastor himself the other a college professor said that the verse which explains the purpose for the signs and miracles recorded in John is written in the book itself.  They both quoted “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” 

Today, the pastor went through an overview of the purpose of John’s gospel using this verse as a starting point.  He explained clearly that the signs recorded were for showing Christ’s glory, his divinity, that he is the Messiah, and the Son of God.  The signs were an apologetic, a proof of God.  We are to believe and receive eternal life.  The second part of John was to show the suffereing of Christ.  Again, we are to believe.  No psychology.  The pastor even mentioned at the end of his sermon that nowadays people are preaching a lot of therapy, or as he put it, the Jesus they call people to believe in is not the real Jesus.  He listed several examples, one of which was the “theraputic Jesus.”  This is a generally quiet church, but I almost said, “Amen, brother!”  I heard that theraputic message big time at my former church.  It was an empty message.

A woman I don’t recall meeting is now a facebook friend, she’s still in my former church.  She has written much about emergent on her facebook, so another friend introduced us.  She has written a testimony she shared about small groups.  In her testimony, she mentions going to church alone and never feeling she was close to God.  She joined a small group, and presto, she was hungry for the Word.  Of course, this small group was actually studying Acts, studying the Bible.  She was also introduced to a study Bible with notes, so she was digging into commentary.  Now, she’s still at our former church and has no clue about me and why our family left.  I won’t tell her the obvious, but to me it’s obvious, the message she wasn’t getting at our former church caused her to feel far from God.  She joined a small group, and she found people she connected with.  She might actully be getting “fed” since it sounds like they are studying from the Bible.  She was praising her church in her note and testimony, but really, she is missing that the theraputic messages aren’t filling.  It’s the study of God’s word.  Also, she may be feeling good because she has friends, but she’s not being challenged about her sin.  I wonder if she’ll see it someday?

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Christians are struggling out there.  Some are figuring out that their church is heading into the emergent church, or is following after Warren’s plans.  Some are being hurt for standing up in their churches and speaking out.  They are breaking away, and trying to find a place to worship and fellowship.  Some do find churches where they fit, churches where the pastor is preaching the gospel and is challening it’s members with the Bible.  Some are finding places where their children can grow.  Still others are heading into churches that will be the same church they left a few years down the line.  I see people who figured out our former church has real problems, but they don’t get the whole picture.  They go right into another church that is doing the same things at an earlier stage.  Some also have decided to give up on church.   I understand where they are.  It’s easy to give up completely.  I have thought about doing that myself.  People have let us down, leaders have taught wrongly.  We cannot trust ourselves to have proper discernment, after all, we’ve been fooled…some for years.  I can understand it, but I cannot do it.  It’s too important to meet together.  I believe the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, and led my family out of our former church.  He will lead us to the right church.  We just have to have faith.

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Because we have many children and homeschool, a midday meeting with a pastor to ask questions is difficult for both my husband and me to attend.  I trust my husband though, so since we didn’t find a sitter, he went on alone.  This pastor is from a “church plant” of our former church.  Some members came from our former church willingly for the plant, and others may have been less than willing to plant.  In fact, a few have returned to our former church after the allotted planting time.  We came to this church despite my fears because one of the couples who fought for two years in our former church goes to this church.  They really have expressed that the pastor is very conservative and handles the word of God rightly and carefully.  We had to at least try this church.  It’s very small at this time.  One benefit of it’s newness and small size is that the children older than 8 are with parents in service.  They don’t have enough people to take the children out.  This church does appear to have a wishy washy music ministry, if you ask me.  I have been trained on this music for at least 8 years…if not more.   I do like some of it, and rightly so.  However, other times I am not so sure as it’s the 7-11 style music (seven words eleven times…).  Also, one day the music pastor randomly said, “let’s have a bit of silence” for no reason.  This has to be addressed if we are to attend this church seriously.

My husband let the pastor know up front our issues with the former church and even shared one email from someone in leadership to us.  He started at the beginning with the “Christ followers vs. Christian” videos and the guest speaker Steven Smith.  He spoke to him about emergent things leaking in, Youth Front connections, Missional, and on and on.  He spilled it all (if you’re newly reading my blog you’d have to go back).  He even talked about why we’re not comfortable with Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose. 

This pastor’s response was so helpful.  He first said that, as a former staff member of the church we recently left, he was having difficulties with what was happening before he left for this new plant.  He talked about discussions of “missional” themes, and revealed to us one of the pastors was also against it from the beginning stating…”what does that mean anyway, it’s not even a word!”  Knowing that pastor, I laugh because I could hear him saying it.  He also shared our concerns about someone using quotes from emergent leaders and then trying to say they weren’t influenced by it.  He says, “I don’t quote even respectable leaders like Martin Luther because there are aspects of his teachings I don’t agree with…so if you disagree with someone I quoted please come to me.”  He also said he didn’t understand why the former church treated us so badly when it comes to being Berean like.  He commented that this is important, we are to test the spirits and listen to preaching critically, and that it’s not bad to be discerning.  He said he hopes we can feel comfortable enough to be able to learn from sermons.  I think he sincerely hopes we are hearing truth at the church he preaches in, and that we will be learning not because we’ve turned off our discernment and are learning bad teaching.  For once, my husband says he felt a preacher was truly hearing him and he wasn’t getting a “company line.” 

I believe that if this church was on the Warren train, my husband couldn’t have opened up about this without the “company line.”  This man is still friends with people and some leadership of the former church.  However, he assured my husband that friendship didn’t mean this church is like our former church.  He says they did seperate themselves rather quickly.  In fact, they have never liked the “marketing” to young marrieds with children.  He says he hopes this church is seen as a welcome place for Christians in all stages of life from birth to elderly.  Really, we did attend a Sunday School Bible study class, and noticed how the older couples who are very conservative were asked questions and were respected in class. 

This pastor also commented that people are still joining who are from our former church (it was big enough that we cannot know everyone).  A couple joined a few weeks ago, they expressed that they have been frustrated with  our former church and should have come when the plant was started.  Very interesting to see the former church is still bleeding out the back door. 

I am still nervous about jumping into a church plant affiliated previously with our former church.  Everything in me wants to run 180 degrees in the other direction.  However, I think it’s worth a look and to really see if this church is different enough to actually still be orthodox/Biblical.  Since we have been visiting another church that appears to be very Biblically focused, Christ centered….it’s really still between two churches.

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This really sounds similar to what I have gone through. However, I think my former church is steps behind this and may have pulled back into the shell. They plan to be “not emergent” but I believe they will go with spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer full force one day.

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs019/1101818841456/archive/1102354700732.html

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