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Posts Tagged ‘purpose driven life’

http://cicministry.org/berean.php

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The church is the Body of Christ.  So, how does this concept that “we’re focusing on the youth” or “we are trying to reach young families with children” fit in?  What about if someone is not on board with the changes and comments about it, should they be shown the door?  Somehow, this feels like a clique or club.  Church is where people in the Body belong.  So, if a church where someone who is a believer, saved by faith in Christ through His grace and mercy, no longer feels welcome and is told, “you can just go down the street” I argue the church they are attending is possibly no longer part of the body of Christ.  Shouldn’t people in the body feel welcome with other members of their own body?

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So many things swirl in my head since looking into Purpose Driven Life and Spiritual Transformation in our old church.  I’ve learned a great deal more than I ever wanted to know.  I was quite content with my church.  Still, I was noting that the small group model was failing our family (back when we were doing 40 days…they split our group).  We were not making the connections promised, and the growth we felt was stagnating.  But, we were not blaming the church and were blaming human relationships.  Of course, Christians are going to fail to be perfect, and therefore, it was human sin in small groups causing the problem.   Ahhh thinking about all the things that lead up to our leaving, all the dissatisfaction, the time we wasted thinking we were doing something good…all the warning signs…it just sits in my head and I cannot believe it. 

Now, as I wrote, I know more than I want to know.  I feel so inadequate, so duped.  I also feel so helpless, and am so aware of my sin and my weakness.  This thing is very BIG.  Very big.  Some days I think, “is all this we learned just a farce and was our old church really okay?  Are we exaggerating this?”  Then, I think back, remember, and look around at the Bible studying/humble/respected Christians that left before us.  I look at what our former church was clearly promoting, and I know at least one thing we’re right about, their focus is off of Christ and onto man.  They are into things we didn’t ever learn about in the past that this church is into.  The deception is so subtle.  Really, it’s hard to know the sheep from the wolves (except the overt ones).  Honestly, if someone came to me and said last year this time, “your church is into some things that are new age” I would have wondered what they were talking about.  In truth though, I am the type that would have not scoffed at them, and I would have researched.  I’ve learned though, when bringing up the issues with people who attend, we get those that trust us enough to research, those that cannot see it, those that don’t want to know, and those that deceive on accident, and those that do it on purpose. 

In speaking with an aunt, uncle, and cousin this weekend, I got more to think about.  My uncle’s very faithful Christian mother and father refuse to attend their Nazarene church any longer.  They objected to much of the things going on.  I think it was a “Purpose Driven” church.  The pastors brought in rock style music, and multimedia presentations.  When the elderly of the church…and more conservative came forward, they were basically told that there was no going back and the youth were being reached.  They tried to form their own church, but the Nazarene church wouldn’t allow it.  This faithful woman is distraught and cannot attend church anymore.  She’s also now dealing with a homebound husband at a time when she’d need the church the most.  They are in their 80’s.  The calousness shows the fruits well in this case.  It also shows how far reaching this problem of church shifting has become.  Long time solid members of churches are being cut off.  When they speak for truth, they are being ignored, abused, and shunned.  Fruits are showing themselves as rot. 

Looking at how the world has changed, makes me think it’s possible we’re ever closer to loosing freedoms as many have said we would when things came closer to the return of Christ.  It feels this way.  I know people have believed the world was at it’s end many times before.  At the same time, I do feel that if we turn to our Father in repentance things could turn around.  It’s really up to God’s will.

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Today we attended a church recommended by several we know.  The sermon was about spritual gifts.  The people we met said the sermon was unusual as it was a theme.  The pastor usually preached expository straight from the Bible, but people had so many questions about spiritual gifts, so he felt they needed some lessons on that.  He spoke of spiritual gifts as being given to believers for the glorification of Christ to be used in service to the body.   He still used scripture, and focused a great deal on exactly what was said and gave very few tangental stories or illustrations.  I noticed two families sitting in front of me.  It was a row full of girls.  The three directly in front of us each had their own Bibles, and were taking notes from the sermon.  When the final prayer was given and we were standing to go, I looked around and noticed that many children were carrying their own Bibles, it wasn’t just the adults.  This particular church has Sunday school first hour, then service with only the youngest being in nursery and “children’s church.”  I think anyone older 8 is in service.  I noted the Bibles when speaking to people said “welcome” to us.  They said that Sunday school classes encourage the kids to use the Bibles, and they also then bring them into the church service.  This doesn’t mean this church is on the right track for sure, but it is a good sign.  In our former church, many adults still carried their own Bibles, but kids didn’t and teens even didn’t.  When they announced new members in service, the ceremony included asking them why they came to this church.  The people each said one reason was the strong Biblical teaching.  The people who talked to us after church also said that this church offered expository Biblical teaching.  One couple has five girls, and had come from out of state.  They said they had been greatly concerned when they were “church shopping” with all that they were seeing in most churches.  Wow.  They asked us which church we had left, and we shared.  They said they had visited there.  I explained that it took a while for us to even see what was happening, and they said they understood.  Some of it is in the relationships that are hard to let go of, some of it is in the choice to be blind as you cannot believe people you trust would be saying what they are saying.

We did see a few people we knew, they had come from our former church.  Many more we didn’t know.  It appears that there are many large families in this church, and many homeschool.  We have a larger family, but not the largest by far in this church.  One family we recognized as one member had been voted out of our congregation because, as we were told, he didn’t agree with doctrinal issues presented by an elder in our former church and he was unloving in his approach.  I have to wonder exactly what did happen then.  We trusted our elders and voted him out right along with most of the congregation.  That could have been us had we pressed…unless they really did approach things in the wrong way. 

Not sure this church will be our home.  If it were me alone I would say this is the church I want to attend.  However, my husband needs to have a big say.  The church we have attended for a few months is comfortable to him, and he believes we could have an impact there.  I am not so sure, I fear it’s just 10 years behind our former church and is really on the same path.  However, I am not certain as we haven’t interviewed the pastors.  So, it appears, unless something changes, we have two church possibilities.  One is a “Christ follower” style church with the “praise band” but so far with some expository teaching, and one we’ve attended only today that appears to rely almost soley on expository preaching.  The music also is hymns (unfortunately still on overhead, I believe we miss something when kids don’t see the actual music in hand…I wish that would change everywhere…maybe both overhead and music books?). 

I do have some hope though, this church we tried today may be on guard against the influences of the emergent and emerging church/Purpose Driven style/Seeker sensitive movement etc.

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I ran into a man who used to attend our former church at a basketball sign up for my children.  He and his family left maybe two or three years ago.  They used to help immensely with children’s ministry.  His wife is now very ill, so I feel for him in his new battle.  I did get to talking with him about church and asked him where he attends.  His first comment, after naming the church, was that they left because they felt the children’s ministry at our former church was way to entertainment oriented.  I know another couple that left about the time this one did, and that was the complaint.  I personally felt at the time that my kids were still getting Biblical learning in their classes.  I helped in classes, and at Awana.  With all combined, my kids were really learning a lot.  However, I do see the point about the entertainment focus.  It’s gotten worse.  I still felt that the leaders on the children’s side of things were trying hard to keep the gospel in there.  It really was slipping though, with videos and games filling time that had nothing really to do with anything.  There was a core story, and I did like it and the hands on teaching (like eating real food in class that they would have eaten in the region of the Biblical account…goat cheeses and whole olives with pits, figs, nuts, and the like…flat breads).  Some things were good, but it was evident that entertainment was the focus often.

This old member also mentioned that when they finally began going to another church, they realized how much the Bible teaching was lacking in the old church.  He mentioned the problem with small/life/house groups was that they were not being led by people with any true theological training.  If the pastor wasn’t preaching the true word (but was following some sort of schedule rotating topics/books/and themes) and was expecting learning to be going on in groups, it wasn’t that the seminarians were teaching.  Especially if small group/life group/home groups were actually also studying themes or books other than the Bible.  He mentioned that his “traditional” church now had traditional music and expository preaching word for word.  He said they spend months on a small section of the Bible.  Also, the kids have Sunday school in the first hour (everyone has this option including adults,  and older children stay with parents in church.  The people have family time in church rather than segregating children and youth out so heavily.  This is refreshing to him.  He said the former church was “too seeker friendly.”

Themes repeat when speaking to people who left or are considering leaving our former church.

1.  The Bible is not preached as much as people desire. 

2.  Dissatisfied with children’s ministry or youth ministry.  Mostly, the idea is that the kids are being bombarded with much entertainment and not with enough Biblical teaching.  One elder even complained that the youth don’t carry Bibles at all. 

3.  Desire for family to be able to be together rather than segregated in the church time.

4.  An identification that the church is following some sort of trend or plan, either seeker friendly,

     emergent, or just a direction change.

5.  A fear for their children’s future if they stay in our former church.

6.  Some who are not young families with children have noted a problem with their needs not being met.  Singles and older adults have actually asked and have been told the church is focusing on youth and young families.

 

We’re considering trying this family’s church.  If we can get organized, we may go next Sunday.  Many former members of our church go there.  I feel we need a support group for “former XYZ church members.”  Too bad we couldn’t have broken off all at once, and then we wouldn’t be scattered all over the churches within a 20 mile radius!

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One of the hardest things about figuring out that the church we attended for about 8 years was beginning to reveal emergent/missional thinking and also used Purpose Driven Life and Warren’s plans (not just as a passing fancy), has been realizing that I fell for it so easily.  If there’s so much wrong with the things leading our old church, why did I not see it?  I have been thinking about this and have come to a conclusion about myself.  Because I have many flaws as a Christian, I missed it.

First, I was not rooted in the Bible as I should have been.  There’s the concept I should have known, to be so familiar with God’s truth that when a lie comes our way, we recognize it.  I have always been lax when it comes to scripture memorization and also reading.  I should be reading daily, should be memorizing whole passages for context and not just one verse here or there.  In my selfishness, I choose not to do what would benefit me most.  Second, I was focused on life’s problems and not Christ.  This focus allowed me to be helped by church members emotionally.  I could be needy.  Being needy meant I told people of my worries so much, and they helped me through.  This is not always bad, to rely on Christians.  However, prayer is what I needed to be doing first of all.  When you are focusing on problems and worrying, you are not taking time to pay attention to the messages coming in.  Third, and this is a biggie in our lives.  I am worldly.  Yes, I said it.  I watch television and listen to secular radio often.  I read things on the internet in excess (like news, and I have a particular focus on pregnancy, babies, nurse blogs, etc.).  I just love to entertain myself with things that do nothing for me…and may actually be harmful to me.  I am somewhat conformed to the image of this world as an American in the culture.  It then means that when my church does things that are just normal for the culture but not right for the church, I don’t notice.  I’ve been desensitized.  I settled for a life less worthy of the calling to which I have been called.  Worse yet, I have exposed my kids to far more than I should have already, though we do have some restraint, it’ s no where near enough.  Finally, (though there probably is more I will learn about myself in the future that is ugly and I would not like to know), I have not been a Berean style Christian.  I went through the 40 Days of Purpose, 40 Days of Community and didn’t once ever mention to someone else how the scriptures were being used in a loose way.  I did make fun of Warren’s shirts, noted our pastors wore them to be funny.  I did feel annoyed that my small group was split for this thing, and was annoyed that we were watching dumb videos and repeating things over and over as if we couldn’t “get it” any other way.  What should have bothered me was the way Warren uses scripture.  I noticed he uses many translations and actually recall thinking that could be convenient for him.  He could easily get what he wanted out of one translation or the other…he could chop a verse in half and make it say what he wanted it to say.  I even thought about looking up the verses in context but in the end, didn’t do it.  I went right through these campaigns not really putting much thought into them.  I did write my own notes, did study and read Warren’s books and the Bible at the same time.  I just didn’t go much further.  This is because I trusted my pastors, and thought they surely had enough wisdom to warn us if there was a problem with these books.  In short, I didn’t do the homework I should have done.  I swallowed 40 Days like it was candy. 

What woke me up?  A turbulent time in our small group showed me that the church just handed teaching and leadership to people unprepared.  It also got us out of using our small group for support.  We then listened to the messages at church with a new hope, with a hope that we could get spiritually fed there.  When we didn’t get that food, I personally began to notice what actually was being said.  Speakers were saying strange things and taking verses out of context or applying meanings to them that the narratives weren’t meant for (like that Lazarus had graveclothes on and those wrappings are like our hang ups and worries in our lives…what?).  Pastors were using the same buzz words, but I didn’t know what they meant.  It made me think of my conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.  I would always have to recheck for what they meant, not what I thought they meant.  I began to research also online, and found critics of some of the same things that were happening in our church from people in churches all across the country.  When one pastor began quoting emergent church leaders profusely, and when he was saying things like “god consciousness,” and “we are little Christs,” I knew we were in big trouble.  These quotes did more than wake me up, but alarmed me.

So how will I live differently?  I have to get back to basics, which is study the Word of God, pray, repent, and humbly turn to Christ.  As a mom I need to focus on teaching my children.  I need to work on what influences I allow in our home, television, radio, and more.  I need to also pray for believers to be more careful, more watchful, more critical. 

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus look full in His wonderful face…and the cares of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His mercy and grace…”

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I found an interesting book review online for Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life.

http://www.letusreason.org/bookr12.htm

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