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Posts Tagged ‘living in an emergent church’

Visited a local church this Sunday.  We’ve gone there before, they are a church “plant” of our old church.  I was assured they are independent of the old church.  We’ve gone before and not had too many issues with the sermons.  Since this church is closer to our home by twenty minutes, and services start later, we had an easy morning getting there on time.   It’s a smaller congregation, smaller town, so there’s less materialism in dress.  People do dress up, others are casual, but it’s not the same as the larger church we attended.  Not many had grey hair at the old church, not everyone is like this at this local church.  Songs were a mix of modern and hymn.  I’d say they are a comfortable place to worship, and the pastor is humble.  They do have some signs of having the same themes, but not nearly as strong as the old church.

Today was not good, however.  There was a guest speaker.  His sermon was essentially the Ortberg book.  He told the story of Peter, and yet focused on the other disciples saying they were “boat potatoes” and at least Peter got out of the boat.   Peter’s gift to Jesus was getting out of the boat.  He talked about how we need to reach this generation and they are leaving church because they’re bored, bored, bored.  And, wouldn’t it be awful if all we did every day was take care of our lawn, work, and die?  We need to not be afraid and take risks.  He used a the scripture with the parable of the talents from Matthew 25.  The man who didn’t reproduce the talents was afraid.  He said, he feared the world, life’s problems.    He began to talk excitedly saying something like this, “the man was afraid, this life has many problems, it’s risky out there…the economy’s bad, the gas prices are down…I’m safer at home.”  Okay, look that one up.  The man says he is afraid not because of what’s out in the world, not hiding at home doing nothing.  He hides what his master gave to him because of his fear of the master who was a hard man.  He was afraid of the risk because of the master’s reaction if he lost the talent all together.  The master sees him as lazy and wicked, which may also give insight that the man may have just wasted the time away, wasted the talent because he didn’t want to go and work. 

In the course of the sermon, this man mentioned Ortberg by using his book title (and I bet the perspective from the book, anyone know?).  He also knew Max Lucado, dropped that name right away.  He also mentioned a quote by Tony Campolo. 

My problems with the sermon were that the text was obviously twisted, if even slightly.  This man has obviously been paid to speak and should have his stories fit well with the text of scripture.  The call was partly to energize the youth because they are bored.  If youth are bored in churches that preach the truth, our job is NOT to entertain them, it’s to continue to teach the truth.  This theme was drilled into us by our old chruch, not at all interested in seeing that theme run it’s course again.  The basic message was that we need to get out and do something.  This man doesn’t want any one of us to regret our lives, we should have interesting stories to tell in our old age.  We should do something like go on missions trips, take risks.  Okay, but what if our entire lives are to be JUST raising our family, or being a school janitor?  There are plenty of people who do serve God but their lives aren’t full of large risks.  What of all the families and individuals throughout history that just did ordinary things like taught a Sunday school class?  What of the people who work meals on wheels or become a nurse?  What of those who are faithful to take their children to church and teach them well?  What if they don’t do anything out of the ordinary, but their grandchildren do because of their influence and faithful life?  I’m sure every life will have a human interest story to it, whether good or bad.  That is NOT the point of our lives.  I would rather be a nobody with a nothing story at the end of my life if my God is pleased with me, and says, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  A boring old life with menial labor and ordinary tasks is not a shame.  We are to do what God calls us to do, and if someone shares the gospel where they are planted, serves and gives when they can, and sees fruit from that, who is to say they are not doing it right?  These guys make it seem like we all have to be out doing something extraordinary to please God.  Usually, it’s a story good enough for a sermon or to quote in a book.  Who does this please?  God or men,  hmmm? 

So now the dilemma.  Do we return, do we share our concerns?   I say we meet with the pastor and bring up the concerns we have with the guest speaker. 

On another note, many people have contacted us from the old church wanting to meet…most are in leadership. They want to know why we left.  My husband has a meeting upcoming already.  We shall see what this accomplishes.  For a family the elder said would not be noticed if we left by the pastor in question, we sure are being noticed by several others.  What is wrong with this one pastor?  I believe he will know we’re gone.  Either way, it only matters if God wants him to notice.  Each meeting is another chance to tell someone the truth.  Hopefully something good will come from all these opportunities.  God willing.

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I am writing my letter to a few pastors who lead our past church to explain why we are leaving.  It’s so very difficult.  It’s easy to write in an anonymous journal/blog, but is much more difficult when you know the people you are writing to will possibly not understand.  These pastors may see us a paranoid, crazy, weird, and downright wrong.  They may think we are judgemental.  They may only think they miscommunicated rather than that they need to repent and turn back to focus on glorifying God.  Since this deception is both subtle and layered, it’s very complicated to explain in a letter.  It may be the last communication we have with these pastors, and we love them dearly.  It’s important we say what we mean, we say what is true, and we say exactly what God wants us to say.  No pressure.

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A few things are very difficult in this time as our family looks into the shift our church.  First of all, there’s the grief because ministers and people we love are buying this.  Though I did have some things bother me, and I recall having a few crystal clear moments of “what the heck is going on here” I still was walking right along with this stuff.  As I read through sermons now, it’s clear where our church is heading (we’ve really pretty much arrived).  I was just so proud of my church and what they did for those who are in need, and for the missions aspect.  I still think doing is important.  I believe a church should meet the needs of others as a body, and should try to help people in poverty or who have had a disaster.  This is a good thing.  It’s not enough though.

I now feel a burden to either teach as many as possible what I know.  I have to learn to do this appropriately, but the way I am I want to sound it from the rooftops.  I have half a mind to walk about the church and drop fliers and place books in the library.  I thought of taking the sermons in the library and putting post its inside with warnings.  I just don’t want my people to go down in error like this.  It’s so hard.

Then there’ s the realization that this is so deep in the local metro area.  Oh my, with the camps and the other churches we partner with, and the church plants, and the conferences, and the local seminaries involved, this runs deep. If it’s not Rick Warren materials it’s Dallas Willard or Brian McLaren.  So many people are following this without realizing it.

I am struggling with the idea of doing things somewhat differently.  I have to now wonder if “small groups” are a bad thing.  We’ve always been involved in Bible study groups, but these small groups the last few years have not been about the Bible but about books and DVD driven lessons with skits, and service projects, and signing a group covenant and the like.  I wonder if I’ll ever be able to trust the “small group” model again. 

I have learned how immature I am.  I let this all slip by me.  I feel terrible about that.  I have been knocked down, the wind knocked out of me.  I love these people, my kids love these people.  They cannot all be lost, right?  I mean, we are still Christians, aren’t we all?  I know in whom I have believed, but who have all these others been believing in?  I was talking with a friend, and she just cannot imagine certain staff being involved, but I say they are the most likely involved.  The kindest, most wonderful people, and I realize now they are the ones who have fallen the hardest for Dallas Willard, and probably contemplative.  Our pastors spend a great many hours reading books, going to conferences, and all the missions projects.  When are they reading the Bible?  I am sure they are reading, but when? 

We had over 100 kids “come up” at our summer VBS type event this summer.  What is going to happen to them?  What kind of food will they be fed?  What’s going to happen to my children if and when we decide to get out of this church?

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Our church has planted several churches, a few in our local area and some overseas.  I have noticed that some of the people leaving our church just go to one of the church plants.  We attended one of them yesterday partially because we were running late and it is closer to our home.  It’s also that our church often doesn’t have children’s classes on Sunday when there is a holiday weekend.  The children complain when they don’t get to see their friends. 

I have to admit, the sermon was much more biblical and I felt the truth being preached.  It was over the armor of God, and only in a few places did I think I might want to recheck as there was a stretch.  One example was that the shield used in the times this was written were meant to be used corporately to create a sort of “wall” and so you need the community when fighting the devil, you don’t do it alone.  I really believe you can fight alone depending on if that’s God’s will…of course you have God.  In fact, like David used the sling and had God with him, he didn’t need corporate church to help.  Anyway, this was the one area otherwise, I felt it was very instructive and I felt fed.

The children said they understood what they learned in Sunday School, and it had been a long time since they understood the biblical point at our regular church.  That to me is sad.  They said, “well, it’s because they read straight from the bible instead of showing us those videos like they do at our church.”  They are even saying they’d like to go to this church instead if it wasn’t for their best friends who attend our church.  Huh.

The only problem with attending this church is that if the error in our church is as bad as I think it is, this local church plant is still impacted by it’s mother church.  The pastors from our church speak there often.  They also have a “catch phrase” that suggests contemplative as “Centered” is one of the main words.  Right now, it appears they mean “life Centered on Christ” and not contemplative, but still.  Also, in a previous post I wrote about YF camp.  This church mentioned a YF camp upcoming, so all the associations emergent and new age, though it’s a long line, are in this church as well. 

I also began by email to ask about another of our church plants since some members have left our church with their concerns but went to this new church plant.  I wrote asking if they had used “Purpose Driven” materials.  The woman I wrote accidentally forwarded the email because she used the CC to pull up the pastor’s address to give to me.  We may well find out the associations between church plant pastors.  If we are questioned in our own church, we’ll know they communicate and we can avoid this newer church plant.  For our friends, it’s my hope that the newer plants aren’t following their “mother.”

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Sadly, I did not record this in my live journal when it happened, but our pastor did pray a very strange way once.  He had us pretend to hold onto our burdens (or was it distractions?) tightly.  We were then to release them at a certain point in the prayer, actually physically do it.  I was very uncomfortable with this.  I found a similar reference to it in an online book linked here… 

http://reinventingjesuschrist.com/ 

Here’s the similar event….

“In his book The Servant Leader, Blanchard and his co-author Phil Hodges placed great emphasis on the need for “solitude” and “silence” in order to “quietly receive what God reveals to you.” Invoking the cross and Psalm 46:10, they advised their readers to “Be still” and to move into the same meditative state of mind I practiced in the New Age.

If you are seated in a comfortable position, place your hands on your knees in a down position. If walking, visualize yourself in this position. In harmony with the position of your hands, mentally put down everything you are concerned about or expending energy in trying to manage or control at the foot of the cross. Be specific—name each burden as you put it down.

When you have exhausted your list, take a couple of deep breaths and turn your hands, physically and mentally, into an up position and quietly receive what God reveals to you.

Have no expectations or agenda for this time with God. Let it be His to fill.”

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Oh, it’s been an interesting past few weeks.  A friend of mine reads my live journal, one of the only people in my life who knows about it.  I’ve left it open to her on purpose so she can decide to read or not.  Her life is full of problems right now, and introducing her to this issue in our church is painful to her.  Both my friend and her husband have been attacked on every side, I really mean it, every side.  Even his side  job, which is for Christians in an artsy organization that is supposed to be Christian is causing them serious trouble.  Their income is being challenged, their bodies, their minds, and their future.   She told me that she feels spiritually oppressed.  I believe they are under attack, and now I’m telling her our church is not what it should be.  This has to be hard for her, but she says she appreciates my discernment (I don’t think it’s really discernment on my part, more my eyes were opened for some reason I cannot explain), and yet she’s not sure we’re not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”  You see, emergent church is a giving place.  Social ills are confronted and a sincere attempt is made to deal with them.  If you were to read my LJ you’d see how many times my church has met our needs for financial issues, or times I’ve seen our church serve in amazing ways.  Our church is full of Christians who really do believe and follow God, and want to please Him.  So, that baby, the service part, is a true act of worship.  I believe that.  My friend is an artist as is her husband.  Emergent welcomes different modes of worship which include art.  I believe that is not a problem, as long as everything stays biblical.  I like the art in our church, the paintings people have created depicting worship, or Christ on the cross, the poems, the songs people have written, the dances presented.  I do feel these expressions of worship, as long as they fall in line with scripture, are wonderful. 

My friend brought her husband into a room during service last week to speak with my husband and me.  She wanted to have me explain my stance, what I was seeing that was bothering me, and she wanted her husband there to hear it.  They are both very intelligent people, and when she cannot understand something he can really fill it in for her.  We spent the entire hour talking about what I think the pastors mean by spiritual transformation, how our church is offering bible study books (or just books) by authors who are emergent and support contemplative prayer and spiritual disciplines from mystic catholicism, sermons, speakers, links our church has with a local openly emergent congregation, youth, couples who have left and why, what contemplative prayer is…what labyrinths are (our church doesn’t do this but the other linked church does and this couple’s seen it happen because they’ve attended the other church before).  We discussed which pastors (and we have many, is this a problem in itself) might be more willing to speak about our church issues honestly. 

My friend and her husband don’t know for themselves if everything I’m concerned about is actually a problem.  They are confused a bit, and want to investigate for themselves.  My friend trusts me, but also trusts others who have not had an issue at all with where the church is headed. 

I’ve also found an ally, a friend in our church who has been alarmed for a while now but has prayed and decided to stay.  She is the first person who attends our church (besides my husband) I came to openly with what I finally could see for myself, it was a sudden draw to her that gave me the guts to take a risk and say something.  I believe it was the hand of God really that brought us together.  She was in Minnesota in a very large megachurch she says was one of the founders of this emergent stuff (is it Paggitt???she’s never said).  Anyway, she said she watched it change for five years.  One day, while singing in choir before about 15,000 she suddenly felt things weren’t right.  She said she actually felt that God was impressing upon her to listen, and she did.  For five years she saw the church change little by little.  She describes what happened was “double talk.”  They’d say one thing, but mean another.  Candles, artwork, and other things began to come into the church.  A shift occured right before her eyes.  She tried talking to people but no one was seeing it.  She has been there, done that, and now is seeing the beginnings of it in our church.  She’s a single woman, and as such, has no power in our church.  She’s brought some things to leaders and has had some struggles.   She is often marginalized as a person who is either too legalistic, weak, emotionally unstable…etc.  She is a very energetic person, very talky (I like talky, I’m talky), and serves in every capacity possible.  She also is not afraid to speak the truth, and sometimes is perceived as being too blunt.  I think she may need to work on her approach, but for the most part, I find her to be a refreshing change to the games people play.  No games with this woman, let me tell you.  Of course, I know she and I will tangle someday…I’m sure, but that’s for another day.  Anyway, she and I are united in one thing, we must pray for our church.  She believes we need people to come to the leadership who have been through different things and can bring their experience to the leadership.  For instance, in trying something new the church was goign to have two services.  In one, I guess some ex-catholics said, “why are we doing this?  What we are doing is what we came out of.”  That service style was dropped.  She hopes for some people who came out of the “new age” movement or eastern religions to notice and to bring up to leadership how this or that parallels with eastern mysticism. 

So far, we’ve not had out right contemplative prayer, we’ve not had mantras.  I think we’re slowly being brought to a point where we’ll be open to this.  Sermons are using other religions and gods as illustrative story points.  The pastors are asking us to do things when we pray corporately like imagine our problems in our hands and hold them tightly and then we open them to “give them to God.”  I hear pastors say things like, “I want you to listen to the reading of the scriptures, and if you do this by reading along, looking ahead, staring into a light, whatever you do to pay attention is fine.”  Literally, our pastor did say “staring into a light” when referring to paying attention to the reading of the word.  More and more, pastors refer to emergent youth or postmodern youth in sermons.  They have in the past given us lists of statistics of how many youth leave the church when they grow older, and they paint a very scary picture for the parents.  The answer so far given to keep the church from dying has been to reach the youth. 

Children and youth are seperated out, not many bring their kids to adult church.   Really the only way to know what they are really being taught is to be a helper.  It’s so tempting to just give the kids over (which if you trust your church is not usually a problem).   I look at the curriculums online and have discovered our curriculum is linked to Saddleback/Willow Creek.  Papers kids bring home do not really share what is going on, it’s hard to know from them what exactly is being taught.  When Awana was over, I asked what the Wednesday night activities would be…here’s the response from our children’s pastor…

We’ve had a plan from the beginning … we wouldn’t have ended Awana without something we thought would better accomplish our ministry goals with kids and better enable us to partner with parents.  We are focusing on summer Sunday morning ministry and summer camp right now.  We will begin rolling out our new Wednesday night ministry program sometime in June.

So far, we’ve not heard what the programs will be.  Whatever changes are made, the parents have had no say, no idea what’s going on.  Things are being implimented and we are not being asked.  We’re on this ride, and are expected to just ride with very little information as to where we are going.  Living in our church means we cannot sleep, we have to watch carefully.  I feel that if the church could be honest about the direction, the leadership would be open and tell us everything at once.  Because they know they have to do it slowly, this is why we’ve been seeing changes but been given no clue to the direction.  Or, we’ve been given clues in “code” words, but we’re not hearing them and understanding them because we’re behind the curve. 

Living in our church means you see people leave with no warning and you don’t know why.  It means there are lots of great programs going on.  It means you feel empty but you don’t know why.  It means you can talk to people but often no one else knows what is going on.  It means you feel that if you bring things to the leadership you might be in trouble, but you don’t know why you feel this way.  Living in our church means you can see a ladder like in corporate American business, but you don’t really believe it ‘s there.  Living in our church means you don’t know that everthing that seems random is actually linked.  Every program is linked.  Every mission trip is linked.  Connect the dots, follow the lines.  Emergent Youth…it’s a loaded phrase and no one realizes it.

 

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