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Posts Tagged ‘missional’

Since leaving my former church ( a Purpose Driven/Missional/Spiritual Formation church) at least three pastors have been let go.   The stated reason for one was strictly financial.  Two have been let go because they are “not going in the same direction…and we should all be in the same boat.”  In the case of these two pastors, everyone was to trust the leadership on the decisions to let them go.  No one was supposed to talk about it because it might divide the church.   This is typical in this church, something happens and they must keep it all quiet.  If you talk about it you are being divisive.   The only statement on the forced resignations was that there was no moral failure of any kind, just they were going in different directions.

One of these pastors was a great comfort to my husband and to me when we were leaving our former church.  He prayed with us, listened to us, and encouraged us to communicate our concerns.   I believe he was one of the best leaders on the staff, and felt very comfortable (after a while) coming to him with questions about what the church was up to.  He actually acted when I spoke to him, even confronting a group the church was affiliated with that uses contemplative prayer WITH breathing exercises etc. just like meditation in eastern religions. 

I cannot speculate as to what these pastors did to cause them to be let go.  I have no clue and don’t expect to ever know.  The church leaders make these decisions and don’t think the people need to have explainations.  I just want to know, what is a justified reason for letting a pastor go? 

What gets me is that many people who have spoken about the forced resignations of these pastors is they claim, “It hurts to loose great pastors at our church but we just have to trust in God.”  Are they claiming God is at fault for the leadership decision?  Many are quoting scripture in their proclaimation that they will miss their dear brothers in Christ but believe God can be trusted.  It reminds me of when I had a miscarriage and people would say, “God has a plan, it’s a blessing in disguise because the baby was probably defective.”  This situation is different though in that the decisions being made are by men.  It’s not that God isn’t in control, but to label the actions of men as of God….well, sometimes men do something that he approves of…but there are many other times when they just flat out sin.  And it feels to me the leadership is using the “God card” to keep people from asking the right questions.  The ones making such statements are likely just putting their hands over their eyes…saying “God has a plan.”

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A few months back a little church in our area was about to be absorbed by my former church.  I had friends who used to attend there, and they were saddened by this possibility.  Because meetings were recorded online, I was able to hear the dealings and felt very uneasy about it.

The church being overtaken was seeking “help” from my former church.  They were loosing attendance.  From those I spoke to, the attendance went down when a new pastor came in and changed things.  This pastor also asked my former church for help. 

The deal was sweet for my former church.  It would be elder control of the church being helped…including possible economic advantage and control of paid off property to my former church.  There were to be three pastors of this church.  One from my former church, one from somewhere else that the congregation did not know (who the heck found this guy and who chose him?), and the current pastor of the helpee church. 

One wrinkle, the helpee church also had a school.  They were very worried for their school.  My former church was going to make the school a non-profit organization and I’m not even really sure what was to become of the school. 

My concerns of course were that this church was being taken over and run over by my former church without an awareness of the dangers.  My former church had many doctrinal problems in teaching, and this new takeover was going to make the congregation accountable to outside elders.  The school was going to be in the hands of these elders.  The little helpee church voted against this.  Yeah!

I just found out great news.  It seems the little church has gone to a very conservative Presbyterian church in the area and is merging the school with the Presbyterian school.  The Presby church is Reformed and strong.  It also appears there is no economic gain for the Presby church, the merge seems like a good thing.  I’m very happy to see such an expansion/merge occur in an area where many churches are networking that are like my former church…into Purpose Driven/Spiritual Formation/Missional stuff.  Most new church plants are the same stuff.  It’s nice to see a needy church that was nearly swallowed by a Spiritual Formation church actually link arms with a Reformed church NOT into seeker friendly garbage.

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Our new church has worked out well so far.  Our family, having come from a “missional” and “transformational” church with a pastor who is angry when challenged has needed to heal.  We’ve really enjoyed coming to church just to hear the bible preached.  The church we attend preaches straight through on most every Sunday.  We’ve needed this.  No pressure to join a small group every week, no projects and slick presentations.  No recycling of themes just in case we’re too dumb to get the message.  It’s all about the bible, all about study. 

There recently was a reminder that we cannot just be hearers only though, but doers, and there are churches being planted.  There are missionaries to support.  Most of all, there are needs in the body, and that seems to be the biggest way service is done.  Prayer is very important too, with prayers in service several times, several times a week we get a prayer/praise email with real messages from the body.  This little church takes prayer very seriously.

Verse by verse, it’s a theme that goes beyond the pulpit.  We’re still in John, it’s been over a year, and we’re not halfway through yet in the weekly services.  In bible study we’re going through Revelation.  The pastor teaching this has been doing it for weeks and we’re still on the very first verses.  It’s refreshing, some may think it’s boring, but to me it’s great to get all the background.  We don’t attend on Sunday night, it is a service for the body.  They get together for a lesson in proverbs.  Next they divide into groups such as teens, a bible club for the younger children, and something for the adults.  I know special choirs practice also on Sunday night.  I also know something goes on Wednesday night, we haven’t investigated.  There are also small groups meeting everywhere.  There is also a class in the week called the “bible institute” and I believe it’s a very in depth class in the bible but also possibly including church history.  I’m a bit fuzzy though it’s brought up every once in a while. 

This church is also a place for Deaf people.  There is an interpreter for everything in the service, actually there are several.  They trade off, and will interpret every word spoken from the pulpit.  If needed in a bible study, they are there too.  If a song is played with no words, the words of the song are still up on the screen in front or a bible passage is printed. 

I believe some time our next step needs to be getting into more in this church.  We have avoided small group.  Part of this is because our schedule is busy, however, it’s always been busy before and at our former churches (since we began as married people) we’ve always been in a small group.  However, I recall the important thing to me was not the fellowship alone, but bible study.  I do think that was a need in the churches I attended before.  I did need the fellowship and friendships before, but small group was where I tried my hardest to push bible study.  I know now I did this because I needed to be fed somewhere, I wasn’t getting it from the pulpit like I should (not that missional/transformational churches don’t ever preach from the bible, they do and you can get SOME food there…but not nearly what I needed to grow).  The church we attend now has a pulpit rich in “spiritual food.”  Rich.  So, I believe small group can actually be more of a social time, a time to be in fellowship, to serve one another and be served.  We probably should seek this out next fall, and arrange our lives for it.  We should find a group that includes kids, our kids need to get to know others in the church.  I have a sneaky feeling though, that small group in this church is not like what I’ve experienced since we got a few friends together years ago and went verse by verse through John every week on our own.  One was a seminary student, and we just really studied the bible…evangelized to friends we brougth with us who weren’t Christians, and enjoyed one another.  No book themes, no marketing, no projects, just study.

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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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Because these are promoted by my former church, I am suspicious of Perspectives classes.  I have no firsthand knowledge of these classes.  A friend of mine is taking them, and has mentioned a point or two made in them.  She has said it’s opened her eyes to the way Christians have reached cultures.  Usually, they have gone in and asked the culture to change rather than being like Paul and changing to fit the culture.  I guess I’d have to wonder if this is actually what Paul did.  She talked of how Christians go in and might expect people to dress a certain way or worship in a certain way that is not part of their culture.   Maybe it’s just a cultural thing rather than a Christian thing.  I personally think there is a point to this in that American or European Chrisitans can go in and become missionaries without actually serving the people they are in mission with.  I really would have to wonder what exactly is the best thing for missionaries to do.  It’s good to get to know people, share the faith and talk with them.  Translation of the Bible is very important also.  Still, I’m careful of comments suggesting Christians are bad in this way or that way.  Yes, we have sinned, we have done things the wrong way at times.  However, ancestor bashing is beginning to frustrate me and is often a sign of the agenda to deny our heritage outright.  Rethink, revise, rewrite, cut down the past…etc.

Another point my friend brought up is that many groups that have torn apart the moral laws in America have a plan (like on the abortion issue or marriage).  They had a plan 15 years ago, and now their implemented plan is taking shape.  Christians should have a plan and a vision, according to what she’s being taught in Perspectives.  I’m not sure where they get this in the Bible.  Should we be doing something  just because the enemy does?  I mean, really, shouldn’t our 15 year plan be to study the scriptures, Love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds and love our neighbor as ourselves, and go and make disciples?  That sounds like plenty to me.

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I don’t know why, but I still feel a very soft spot in my heart for one particular pastor on staff at my former church. He was like an uncle or something in my mind. I had the utmost respect for him, he was very humble when he spoke. He came across with such compassion. I felt the challenge to act our our faith was a genuine call to do good works to please God. I really do. I do not feel he had a bad intention in his body. He did rely heavily on Rick Warren’s material for much of what he presented in the plan for the church, and knowing what I do now about how scripture was not rightly handled by Rick Warren, I am sad. I know this former pastor saw all these wonderful opportunities to plant churches all over the world. He really has the touch with people. Really does. However, he is in error in endorsing and even promoting Warren’s work. Warren definitely does use the most convenient interpretation of scripture to make his cases, and misquotes or chops scripture up to take his readers where he wants to. Don’t agree with this, and so I believe a great man who is a pastor that has a natural draw is leading people to follow Warren’s plans and could be used more effectively somewhere else…if only he saw the problem. I think a man who doesn’t like conflict (at least it seems so) would never listen to someone who has created it by being bold (namely, well, me). I also think he would never be convinced by online Discernment Ministry. He would need something I am not exactly aware of to convince him of his error. Also, he was starting to bring out some of the bigger guns before we left, and delving deep into missional. Getting sort of dreamy with his speaking. He had a medical problem on a missions trip which affected his brain, so people who think he’s said things in a strange way blame his “trippy” speaking on that. I doubt the medical issues have anything to do with it.

I do think that Paul Washer and others bring up some very good points in that we are NOT worthy at all, we are such terrible sinners. My former pastor, who I have cried over, made similar points in that he would challenge people to get off their seats and actually serve others in the name of Christ. I think we can agree as Christians in the need to always be willing to serve. Just don’t forget to share the gospel and point to Christ in your service. It’s a dramatic testimony to say to someone, “I am a selfish sinner, and therefore would not ever serve you…but Christ loved me and died for my sins….I need Him. Because He saved me I now can love and serve. Sure, I might have served before, maybe. But I now serve because I was served, love because I am loved. I do unto others because of my Savior. It’s a complete message when we serve and share that because of Christ I can serve in love.

I wonder if I will go too far in my critique of my former church? I believe it’s possible I will sin in pride (or have) and in anger. I believe I can be neutralized because of my focus on the sin of leadership. I don’t think everyone should stop watching, or even that I should stop. I just need to always keep things in perspective. If not for Christ, I would be nothing. I am nothing. I am a wretch and even in being right about something, I can easily fall into my wretched ways. Easily.

I really do love my former pastor and if I am right about what I have seen, I wish he would see it for himself. He is the one man that if he did see it, would openly speak from the pulpit and ask his congregation for forgiveness. If he did speak, many would open their eyes and repent.

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The last Sunday we attended our former church the “missional pastor” spoke. He’s the one we quoted in the letter, he’s the one who quoted emergent authors with no warnings. It’s been several months, and he has been out of the country being missions oriented. The church was also having a campaign to raise money, and also had special Christmas messages. So, when I saw he spoke, I really wanted to see what was up. Interesting, he had no more footnotes, no more citing authors. If you want to know his influences you have to ask (hoping he’d be honest) or try to figure it out for yourself somehow.

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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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I actually believe our former pastor may mention our names at least in an elder meeting.  Because one of us was overheard talking about the church, I just wonder what will come of it?  During the call, my husband shared that he cannot possibly stop telling people who ask why we left the church honestly what he thinks.  The pastor then said something like, “so likewise, I can share about you spreading rumors and saying things we don’t agree with.”  My husband said he didn’t care what they say.   It may have not been that harsh, really, from the pastor.  It was what I thought my husband said, but it was along those lines.  At any rate, I wonder if there will be some sort of larger group that will hear about this?  At any rate, it is what it is. 

I don’t believe we ever said the former church was 100% emergent.  I do believe we said there were emergent phrases and authors popping up in sermons, and that the youth camp was emergent.  The type of prayer has been mentioned as a problem to pastors, one even contacted the youth camp to get the example of prayer off the web site stating it’s not Biblical.  Last time I checked, it’s still there.   The pastor told my husband about Noomas being shown to the youth…and this was not something we’d ever heard.  It was in the context of, “I thought we agreed to be discreed about [minister X] and the Noomas.”  Huh.  So, though it wasn’t my husband who had this discussion, and I don’t recall us talking about minister X, someone has AND at least one Nooma has been shown to youth somewhere, somehow through this church.  Yet there is denial of emergent creeping in?  The pastor still was frustrated that we made connections based on who was quoted in sermons.  Okay, truthfully, it wasn’t just quotes.  A sermon was framed right from Donald Miller’s stuff.  I heard a podcast and the idea came directly from the podcast of Miller’s.  Even if only one pastor on staff was saying this stuff, it shows he is into emergent teaching and he promoted it right from the pulpit.  To NOT address this is wrong.  So, yeah, since that pastor is still on staff, there is an emergent element in our former church. 

One thing that has been true of our former church is they have been on the Warren P.E.A.C.E. plan.  So, I guess we can call them what?  Seeker friendly?  The pastors all read Dallas Willard and many recommended his works to me to read.  So, we can call the church what?  Contemplative/Spiritual Formation influenced?  The church itself uses terms like “Bible based” and “Missional.”  So, it’s an emergent/contemplative/Spirtual Formation/Missional/Bible influence church.  ECSFMBIC

Of course, we’re supposed to never say this church is emergent because that movement is dying, according to what the former pastor said.  Huh.  Bet there was a day when someone thought the Mormon church was dying too when it was in it’s early years.  Of course, renaming yourself or infiltrating churches through the back door, and many times through the front, doesn’t make you a “church” so much as it makes the churches you.  But, no, pastor…it’s not dying.  It’s doing what it has been made to do, it’s evolving.

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Today, I walked my neighborhood for some political campaigning.  One candidate helped me a lot with a bill (it became a law) and I’m happy to help him out (even if it’s hard lugging around my  children while I do it).  I came across a neighbor friend who is also a minister at our old church from the youth side.  We have no beef with him as we don’t really know what he’s preached or taught the teens, we don’t yet have a teen.  We do not know for sure what’s up on the youth side, have heard rumors of Rob Bell and Nooma (not that they played the Noomas, but that the minister/pastor types have read them and maybe promote).  We cannot rely on rumor though.  We know some have left the church based on their experience on the youth side…or what they think about it.  We’re not sure what people really know, what they think they know.  We just know that we like this minister, he’s a great guy, his wife is great.  Still, knowing we recently left the church, knocking on his door did make me wonder how it would go.  I don’t know, I think we were both awkward.  I told him we had a meeting with the lead pastor coming up and he gave me the “good luck” kind of response I’ve gotten from a few, and the comments were that meetings of this sort with him can be interesting.  He did give me a sort of heads up that he had spoken with my husband, and the pastor had listed us as a family who left the church.  He said he gave the pastor one brief comment my husband made which was the problem of not knowing where the ship was going.  We were on a path going somewhere, but there was not a clear indication where and when we had asked about where we got similar answers that people really didn’t know for sure.  That’s a true statement, we did have an issue with the fact that our church seemed to be going somewhere, and we didn’t know where exactly.  I think we’re getting a better picture of where now.  The movement appears to be further away from glorifying God, away from the focus on Christ and his word.  That’s really enough to make us want to go…period.

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