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Posts Tagged ‘pastor’

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

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There are two places I can see where a toxic church (abusive or has wrong teachings…or both can be outed.  First to others in the church through interaction between a person who realizes the church is toxic, and then in public through media or online. 

Most people, I believe, do not out a toxic church.  They may stay for family or for social reasons and not say anything to keep the peace.  Others do out the church to friends or family, but keep it pretty quiet.  Then there is someone like me, I’ve told some people that are not just family and close friends as time has gone on and am writing an anonymous blog.  Some friends who still attend my former church know my feelings and some of my reasons, but for the most part, people don’t know much about why we left that church.

Then there’s another group of people, bold people or maybe unwise, not sure.  They openly write the toxic church’s name out there in the public.  They name names not just situations.  They share it all.  Am I ready to do this?  I am not sure.

First, I must pray.  I must read scripture. I must seek counsel.  I must see what my husband thinks.  I must get organized.  I must decide.  Do I want to openly name our former church?  I’ve named a few associations, but not named them directly.  Do I want to name pastors?  I know my motives must not be for revenge or self promotion.  I also do not want to hurt someone (the pastor has a family and children…and the pastor need only to be accountable for what he’s done not smeared for assumptions or unfair conclusions). 

If I can help teach others without naming names, it may be better.  This church is likely similar in nature to a lot of churches.  I’ve had some people write me thinking I might be from their area after reading my posts, or they say their story is similar.  So the point can be made without bringing someone into the spot light of critique.

I just wonder when it’s time to be specific?

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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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Friends, say this, “I am a living stone” and “I am a priest”

Turn to your neighbor and say, “you are my priest.” 

Congratulations pastor, you just had a sexual predator, who is not one of God’s elect say he is a living stone and declare he is someone’s priest.  There’s also a thief, a liar, and a mother who beat her child just before service.  Even some out there are nice in our eyes, but are still sinners and have just said they are someone else’s priest.  Now, if that sexual predator has become regenerated and has turned from his wicked ways and is saved, that’s a different story.  However, making a mixed congregation repeat after you can be dangerous.  There may be a delusional person out there who now believes they are something they are not.  Scary.

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For some reason, my former church has sent out a blanket letter of “we miss you” and a link to a survey for those who have left.  At first it sounded like a sincere letter to us personally from one of the pastors, but it was evident quickly that it was just a letter they sent out to a list of emails from those who have left the church.  It threw me at first, and then I began to get a bit offended.   When we left, we really got very little contact from the pastors.  One did meet with us and continued contact as long as we wanted.  He was genuinely sad we left, but the rest dropped us fast.  In fact, we recently saw one of the pastors when we popped in on friends.  The pastor and his wife were friendly enough, but if we were truly missed, there was not an expression of that.  It was awkward for both couples, we talked and were nice but what can you say?  

The blanket letter comes after a few others have left, and I wonder if more have left than I realize.  The survey seeks to know why people have left and how the church can pray for you….and a few more things.  I kept feeling like it is a marketing tool when reading it.  It’s like when you choose not to use a service and they send a survey to find out why.  They don’t want to know how they’ve erred doctrinally, but want to know more logistics of things they can change.  At least that’s my take.  I could wish it were a fishing for truth….but I cannot help to feel there is a motive other than my dreams.

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I listened to a sermon by my former pastor and found it to be actually not that bad.  I could be happy that maybe he’s changing his ways, but I actually fear the flaw is more with me.  I am thinking I must not have it all down, I’m missing the wrong teaching in what he said.  Actually, it’s great if his sermon is better.  No wonder most of it was probably okay, he read the bible verse by verse and then preached on it…reading a few verses and describing the meanings.  I did have a few nit picky things I thought he could have worded differently, and depending on where he goes with it in the future, they could be problems. 

 He referenced “strangers” and “aliens” as refugees.  He kept saying that we (meaning who I’m not sure) are refugees and he prefers that though I couldn’t find the word in the text in the bible versions on bible gateway.  I guess I would prefer one from a good translation, but maybe he knows something about the Greek translation?  

He did do some illustrations he drew out, got off on a personal story…but this is minor and only bothers me because I don’t trust his teaching not because a preacher cannot share a personal story once in a while. 

Fact is, there are true things he has said in sermons in the past, there have been good things.  However, when he is off, he is usually really off.

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Sometimes my husband and I still speak to each other about the events leading up to our leaving our former church.  We rehash and analyse what happened point by point.  We both came out with a point we had been thinking, and it’s an interesting problem. 

Our former lead pastor has some sort of anger issues, this is evident from his confrontational style.  He is not a good listener, and really bowled us over.  He prepared for the last meeting like a student debater who wanted to “win.”  Maybe it’s his style, maybe it’s all the others before us who have made him so defensive and even very offensive in stance.  This would be no surprise to anyone who knows him and has dealt with him.   Not saying he doesn’t have his good qualities, it’s just how he is.  This we suspected, and now know…our lead pastor is either power hungry or very manipulative or both. 

The point we’ve come to though is not about this pastor, it’s about the “good cop” pastor.  I’ve personally been puzzled about him.  He didn’t want us to leave, and enouraged us to write our letter, and met with us a few times.  I told him everything I thought at the time, and ran the letter through him.  He encouraged us to put more specifics in.  It seemed he was on our side, and he did honestly caution us that he was not the lone pastor in this church fighting a battle.  He saw some of the issues we did, but obviously didn’t agree with it all necessarily.  Yet he thought our approach was humble and we were a good couple to bring these issues to the forefront. 

This was all well and good, until closer to our meeting with the head pastor.  Good cop (who was kind all throughout) warned us to be “teachable.”  In our meeting with the lead pastor, his conclusion was that we were no longer teachable.  Okay, we knew they had been meeting, but the same words came out of both mouths.  When the whole thing was over, we didn’t contact the good cop pastor about it except just to say we had a terrible meeting.  He did not pry. 

It’s hard to covey why in this post, but we both came to the conclusion that we were kind of being used by the good cop pastor to bring up issues.  He did squarly differ than us in that he thought terminology was nothing important.  Examples he was not uncomfortable with were words like “spiritual formation” and “transformation.”  He also didn’t want us to attack anything from Warren or Hybels.  I believe he saw the fringe things that were new age in nature or emergent in flavor as a problem.  He recognized the problem with Youth Front and it’s contemplative/meditative prayer.  He even sent them a note and asked them to remove a link to meditative prayer on their website, which they did.

He also asked the youth pastors about youthfront, and they assured him they ran their camps not youth front.  This was a problem for me personally though, I think the issues at youth front are huge and being there, promoting camps there, and the fact that children growing up in our former church go to an emergent church influencing youth front.  He may have gotten the cosmetic problem put away, but there was no real confrontation.

We were hung up to dry and I feel, had time gone on with us in the house, we would have had to walk such a careful line.  If we spoke in any way that would have been seen aggressive, we would have been chastised.  If we would not compromise in the right areas, we would have been seen as divisive.  This good cop pastor had to bow to authority of the lead pastor, and this causes problems.  Of course it’s important to recognize authority, but if there are serious problems they need to be seriously confronted.  A couple like us felt on our own in this.  Even with the pastor that seemed to be with us a bit, we were in the dark about previous confrontations that were similar, and were kept from opening this up to the entire church leadership.  One particular assistant pastor also was protected in all this, and it was his sermon causing all our questions to begin with.

All the special politics, the way things are confronted and dealt with, it all seems like a strange corporation.  The mystery the whole time was “what is the best way to do this?”  We didn’t know who we were to go to, and what the “protocol” was.  What was the biblical way to do this?  Who should we have confronted?  We went to elders, and got unsatisfactory wishy washy answers to our questions.  Our investigations and the sermons confirmed our fears of emergent/new age influence and youth front was a real problem.  We finally just decided to quietly leave. 

The “good cop” pastor had to be informed as I did a small thing for the church and he was the one in charge of this.  He wanted to know why we were leaving and encouraged our letter.  This finally seemed like the right thing for a while.  I believe though, there is no real right way to confront error in this church.  Yes, there is a right biblical way to do things.  However, there is no way in this church to do it so that there is peace and the whole truth comes forth.  The lead pastor really pushed, and my own personal weakness got the best of me.  I excitedly told a former attender in public my reasons for leaving the church and was overheard.  This was reported to the lead pastor and a mess insued.  We were “spreading rumors” and according to the former lead “telling lies from the pit of hell.”  At least at that point we were no longer under the authority of the former church.  We had left. 

If the former “good cop” pastor was really with us, as I initially thought, I believe he would see the issues and would have to eventually make his exit or make a ruckus of some sort.  Last time I saw him, and it was at a play at our former church this past summer, he used some interesting phrases such as “journey” and “coversation.”  He very much seems to be in the Hybels/Warren style of it all.  Maybe I’m wrong, but he really seemed to be in it all.

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I 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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An elder recently told me my former pastor who used Donald Miller’s story theme in his sermon as well as using the same terms as Michael Frost while presenting missional lamented our critique of his sermon.  He commented that it was strange to have a critique like ours when he had finally used “contemporary authors.”  He also commented that he could buy into one idea of an author without becoming like them entirely…truth is truth.  In other words, he could buy into the idea of “story” taught by emergent leaders and yet not be emergent himself.  This may be so, but I don’t buy it.  He used terms in different sermons such as wholly other,  at one ment, god consciousness, and christ coursing through (his) veins.  Those terms were not all scripted, but some were boldly written into sermon notes.  I believe he has not only bought the story idea from Donald Miller, he has become a lot like Donald Miller.  He has himself become very much emergent (or whatever we can call them, I think New Age is probably the proper term).  He has likely had a mystical experience or several.  I cannot be certain, but I believe he didn’t just pick up that one single idea.

Suppose he did agree with this one concept of “story.”  I find it offensive enough by itself.  God is not writing a story when he deals in our lives.  We cannot “take the pen” and write our own story.  How crazy is this?  We are not part of a story, we are part of God’s creation and our lives are real if only a vapor.  What’s more, Christ is real and not a character in a play God created.  He’s not a even God acting in our world.  How ridiculous.  Christ died for our real sins, and we are made alive in Him for real if we have real faith which He gave to us as a gift.  It’s not just a story which we can write better if we would just try.  Our job is not writing some story, our life is meant to give glory to God.  We fall short every day, but by the grace of God and by His mercy, we are saved, forgiven.  We who repent and who rely on God for His salvation are not just characters, we are His people. 

Beyond this, suppose I read a book written by a Mormon.  I find something I like in the book.  Am I to quote this author from the pulpit without some sort of disclaimer?  Would it not be better to quote the Bible itself if the concept was true?  I believe it’s unwise for a leader in the church to go around quoting people without carefully considering who they are quoting and what that person believes.  Also, it’s important to clarify if you only “buy into” one part of their beliefs to the congregation.  If you are trying to distance yourself from the emergent church, it’s wise if you use emergent authors to state what is good in the quote you are using (it was actually most of a sermon) and to point out the error for the congregation.  Just my opinion.

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My husband called an elder and left a message after we heard the sermon online.  Last night, he called back when my husband wasn’t home.  We discussed the open pulpit comment, and the elder was not comfortable with that at all.  I kept saying I could understand the pastor’s position in some ways (and I can) in that he wants to likely let the person who said something about overhearing know he means business as well as he thinks we’re wrong and wants to make it clear.  He did define emergent, said it was bad (yay) and said their church isn’t emergent.  Again, maybe not overall, but there still are connections that need to be dealt with.  I told the elder this.  I also mentioned that the connect the dots comment really was something said to us in a meeting, so I am not suprised it came out (we connected dots from one author to another to make a weak connection to emergent according to the pastor).  The conversation kept up and the elder ended up boiling down what he thinks the issue is…that we claimed in our letter that the church has shifted focus from Christ and from giving glory to God.  The elder said it was the only statment he felt we came up with that wasn’t okay to say.  This was a bold statement, I know.  However, my husband and I believe the church is focusing more on man and man’s methods than just on the plain thing of glorifying God.  Messages (even now) don’t have Christ as the focus, but on “kingdom building” or on fund raising for building the church.  Scripture is used as a means to some sort of end.  Yes, the thought is, we’re paying all this staff to preach the good news, we need audio visual because it’s better for our congregation and brings people in, this or that program will bring people in.  I could go on and on as to why they justify the way they do things.  The plain truth is the congregation (when we were there) was not being fed.   I stated this to the elder in so many words, and he stuck on the point that we wrote something in our letter we surely didn’t mean.  He’d been with the pastors overseas on short term missions, even speaking recently about this specific letter with the pastor who quoted the emergent leaders (not the one who mentioned us this weekend, but another).  The pastor said he couldn’t understand why the first time he mentioned contemporary authors someone began to pick that sermon apart.  Now he felt he couldn’t just quote anyone and had to watch every word because people were scrutinizing what he was saying.  (uh, aren’t we supposed to pay attention to what people say from the pulpit?).  He said he could easily quote from someone and embrace one idea without embracing all of emergent.  Yep, true.  Still…would we quote a Mormon from the pulpit because we agree with the ideas but don’t embrace all of the emergent?  No, we would not at least without some sort of disclaimer.  The elder kept coming back to the point that we needed to examine whether or not the church had Christ at the center.  His point was that it wasn’t actually church if Christ wasn’t at the center.  Yep, that’s why we left.  Using 40 Days of Purpose like it was something magical, following the P.E.A.C.E. plan, getting into Dallas Willard, doing children’s church with much video, much filler activity, focusing on seekers, and on and on. I told the elder I felt that though the scripture was used, and even now whole passages of Nehemiah are read outloud word for word and preached on, that scripture can be mishandled.  I brought up the speaker, Stephen Smith, who spoke of Lazarus and reworked it for a pop psychology purpose.  The elder commented, (and I laugh as I write this) that the speaker was off his rocker anyway.  What?  Why was he speaking from our pulpit then?  Why in our final meeting did the pastor say he would not have this man in the pulpit if he didn’t endorse his ideas.  In fact, the pastor had recommended his book and tried to personally promote it.  So I guess the elder and the pastor don’t see eye to eye on this speaker?  Who knew. 

We had been learning about God for a while, and felt we were okay in this church over the years.  At some point we realized that some of what filled us was small group because we had Bible study there.  We  had friendships that filled us, and kept us feeling like we were being fed.  Church was our social place, and there is nothing wrong with socializing with believers.  I believe the other believers did help us and we learned from them.  We took from messages what we wanted to and we left the rest sit.  If you are a Christian, you can grow on a little and you can grow on what you do on your own.  However, and this is key, people who are in other churches who have left our former church tell us that they didn’t realize how much they weren’t growing until they went elsewhere and found themselves actually fed and actually growing more than they would have.  One family left our former church because they worked in children’s ministry.  They didn’t like what they were seeing for their children, they couldn’t settle anymore.  They left, and a byproduct of leaving was that they grew at their new church.  It wasn’t just their children, they weren’t being taught enough, fed enough. 

Everytime I begin to wonder if we’re crazy, I sit down and think about it.  No, we’re not crazy.  We saw what we saw.  The reaction of the pastor was almost word for word what we read would happen in a church affiliated with Rick Warren.  The pastor’s reaction to us shows us a LOT.  The elder (we love this man) who is very sincere still is putting almost all of this on us, we are in error (not sinning according to him, not needing to confess a sin).  He believes we need to revisit this in time, and somehow work it out with the church and the pastor.  This probably means we will have to recant on what we said, give in.  Mean time, the church leadership had to deal with us, and now they have to deal with what is left since we are gone, since we spoke up.  They have to either dismiss us or agree and then open that can of worms for themselves.  One friend who left before we did said that at least they didn’t ignore our concerns as they did his (for TWO years).  The pastor mentioned it from the pulpit, and he’s likely to get more questions from it then he ever would have.  Maybe some others will investigate.  I can almost bet some out there will too.  This isn’t the end of this topic for our former church.  They will have to deal with this until God lets them go. 

And still, I’m thankful for being confronted on gossip or on my attitude when speaking about our former church.  I need to be truthful, and need to also be loving.  I do not have to love what has happened, but I do need to pray for the church, the pastors, and need to pray for the flock there.  I need to, when speaking, not feel proud of my self like I am anything.  I am nothing.  I was in it, I nodded and let it go when I could have spoken up earlier.  I wasn’t responsible and in the Word enough.  I didn’t have enough nor use discernment wisely.  I believe I was selfish and that’s why I didn’t see.  The drama is not something to relish in, to focus on.  The time is always fresh for focusing on Christ, and next on my family.

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