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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

Just checked in on children’s ministry at my former church. The curriculum I helped teach just a few years ago is either getting progressively worse, or it was edited by the church and they aren’t doing it exactly as published on the web site…or I was blind to the weirdness. The last Sunday’s lesson included having the children relax, they could even recline on the floor and take off their shoes. The “shepherd” was to light candles and play a CD of “God So Loved the World” by Jackie Velasquez. We never did this. I recall playing the song and helping the children memorize the verse, but did not light candles and encourage the kids to lie on the floor. I am disturbed by the suggestion that “there is no right answer” to questions. Below is a cut and paste of the questions from the curriculum:

◆ How How much does God love you?
◆ Can you think of someone you love enough to sacrifice something for them?
◆ What is eternal life?
◆ What does Jesus tell us to do so we can live with him in heaven forever after
we die?
◆ What does it mean to believe in Jesus?

There is no right answer to “what does it mean to believe in Jesus?” Okay, so why spend the time talking about this? “What is eternal life” doesn’t have a right answer? Come on people. This is just downright foolish talk.

The suggestion for “large group worship” is to use wind chimes for a call to worship. When has this been a practice in church? I do not have a problem with candles and bells being used as I don’t think this is a sin. I do, however, think it’s not just for getting attention or for making the room pretty. There is a specific agenda, and it involves a specific mindset in teaching. The children are being prepped for meditation. They are being preened for contemplative prayer. I do know that bells are often used in eastern religious experiences. Not sure if it’s been so in Catholic churches. I just find it unfair that the parents are told this is “spiritual formation” and are not given an honest picture of what that means and where it’s going.

 The curriculum comes with this at the bottom:

Copyright © Vickie Bare. Printed

Workshop Zone® Rotation Sunday School Curriculum by Cook Communications

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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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A national conference for youthworkers is holding special sessions to “connect with God.”  These include the following:

  • Liturgical Prayer Services
  • Prayer of Examen (I believe this is Ignatius Prayer…again with the breathing)
  • Stations of the Cross
  • Centering Prayer (also called contemplative prayer which involves breathing exercises)
  • Icons
  • Lectio Divina (which includes repeating a word or phrase over and over again

Youth workers all over the country are promised a great deal at this conference.

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I have a link to a prayer site by the youth camp corporation or organization I am concerned about lately.  This certainly doesn’t seem right to me…

http://www.sacredgateway.org/02_default.asp 

If you click through the “prayer guide” a window pops up that tells a definition of God, then has breathing exercises and the like.  This is NOT prayer, but clearly some other practice as it doesn’t even pretend to have a person focus on God but themselves, the sounds around, etc. 

The thing is, the leaders would claim this IS prayer, and this is how to get close to God.  I don’t get it at all…

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My recent experience with a church focusing on Emergent youth with adult leadership reading Dallas Willard and others has taught me a great deal about this current movement toward meditation in the church.  It is not the same thing as meditation mentioned in the Bible.  First of all, the Bible outright says to meditate on scripture with no lead up or revelation.  In our recent church, we were seeing no outright and open sermons on meditation.  The pastors have not openly discussed the practice.  They have been slowly presenting silence into prayer at church, and have a sign outside the sanctuary requesting silence as people come into the service. The children have been asked to sit silently and think what God has done for them for a period of five minutes or more. Nothing wrong with silence.   Nothing wrong with thinking on God.  However, this is modeled and it’s not explained where it’s leading.   Funny thing too, I’ve noticed pastors saying words like contemplate in ordinary speaking, for example, “as I began to contemplate” so that it’s a word already being used but not in the way it will be in the future.  Of course, mantra meditative prayer is not just walking in alone.  It’s hidden in “spiritual formation” or “spiritual disciplines.”  It’s just one part of a list of disciplines including solitude, silence, frugality, and others.  Each of these are being slowly introduced too.  I really have little problem with people chosing to live a life of frugality, or to be celebate.  If that’s someone’s choice and sacrifice to God, I cannot argue.  However, even these things are being presented slowly and if quotes from the authors are representative, these disciplines are seen as a way to become closer to God and from what I’ve read…they are required for growth.  Eventually, meditation and lectio divina fit into this requirement. 

 Because of the authors promoted by our pastors, like Willard, Miller, Warren, Frost, Steven Smith, etc, it’s evident the church is headed toward contemplative prayer.  Some of these authors have referenced or acknowledged other authors who are into mysticism.  Those acknowledgements can send people reading other books, which eventually lead to people who promote New Age meditation or Buddist/Hindu meditation.  Follow the fruit to the root, and you will see that this current use of meditation has no place in Christian life.  Go ahead, spend time with God and read your Bible, go for a walk and talk to God or think on the scriptures you read in the morning.  But don’t buy into the idea you should basically “do nothing” and empty your thoughts.   If you find yourself repeating a small snatch of a phrase many times in prayer, consider that there are people from other religions doing the exact thing, and they believe in many gods…or even claim to believe in no god.

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Anyone have this feeling?  I wish I was wrong.  I wish I didn’t know what I was talking about.  I am really getting frustrated thinking about how many churches are falling for this falsehood.  All this interconnection.  The Bible says you’ll know them by their fruits.  Wonder if it also applies that you’ll know them by their roots?  (I do not want to write something new into the Bible, so don’t take “know them by their roots” as a Biblical statement…).  Trace the fruit.  You hear your pastor say something about “just say a word while in prayer, say it over and over again but not at all in an eastern meditative way…” during a sermon.  So, you begin to wonder where this is coming from.  I mean, your church went through the 40 days series (is it three books now???) and religiously uses Hybels materials in small group.  Your women go to Beth Moore conferences, and you note your pastor mentions new names.  Campolo, Willard, Donald Miller…every week a new author.  Follow the vines. 

My old pastor positively quotes Donald Miller and in fact used his material for a recent sermon.  www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com has an article that shows what Donald Miller’s roots go down to.  I quote from their page…

“In Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller, in the Acknowledgements, Miller thanks New Age meditation proponent Daniel Goleman, who writes books about mantra meditation, Buddhism. He was the editor for Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health

“For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained.” Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, p. 115 See The New Missiology

Following to the root shows that the plant is not wheat but weeds.  Ugh.

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