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Posts Tagged ‘shift’

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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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 person we know embedded in our former church recently wrote online that he was disappointed with a meeting after asking for prayer days before, and his writings implied a similar situation to ours.  My husband basically sent messages back and forth to him, and it seems he may have similar issues we have had.  We have found that giving a little information and letting people discover the truth turns out better than plunking down the whole thing.  We have not told this person really anything that actually went on in our situation as he’s not normally in our circle.  In fact, if he knows we left it’s because of people talking.  This person is very visible in the church, so if he and his family were to begin complaining it would not be easy to ignore.  If they left, it would be obvious.  We are praying for thiem in this time, though we know only that there is something going on, and the man seems to acknowledge it’s important to “dig” when looking at a church, there’s not much more to it than that.  We can assume nothing.  It is my hope that this family is aware of the problems, is willing to confront, and willing to fight in God’s timing.  I pray it makes a difference, that someone will listen.  If it’s anything like our situation, they are likely being encouraged to stay by the same pastor who wanted us to stay and fight as long as we could.  Their kids are younger, so the issues with the youth ministry and camps is not there for them.  Pray for this particular family, that they will see the truth about our former church and will follow God’s leading for them.

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I cannot express how difficult it is to go to another church.  It feels like I’m disowning my own family, like I’m cutting myself off from them.  Given everything, if the pastors in our old church weren’t showing clear signs of being into contemplative prayer, of merging with the New Age, we’d still be there with the other problems we’re seeing.  I mean, if we were just using the P.E.A.C.E. plan as a model and it seemed the pastors were ignorant to the New Age only, it would be something we could work with.  Even better, if we were doing all the things like missions, serving the poor, concerned about orphans, and doing service projects in the community, that would be fine.  The church promotion and marketing can be a little much, but some of what our church was doing I don’t really see as wrong.  Sending out mailers, trying to attract the community to church, well, for me that seems logical if you are evangelical.  You want to get the world to come in and hear just in case you’re meant to plant a seed for the.  However, the message is tainted.  Just a dusting or arsenic, just enough to make the cake look like it has powdered sugar on it, in fact, it does have powdered sugar.  But it also has that little bit of poison.  I was sad today thinking of my church worshipping and the message being shared, and the pastors having an agenda to eventually teach the crowd how to pray in a contemplative way.  I am sad thinking about how lost our pastors are, how blind they are.   They can talk about god-consciousness just like New Age leaders.  They speak of silence, of Christ coursing through veins, of mission, of being “little christs.”  These things slip into their speech, and no one really hears it (I did, but I’d ask and many would say no and then I’d listen to sermons online later and it would be confirmed).  Today, people filled a church building (our old church), and people were missing the mark.  So we sat with strangers, my kids taught by strangers.  We heard the message, and I listened carefully to every word.  I watched as they prayed, did they have an agenda too?  Maybe, maybe they did, maybe they are doing God’s will or maybe not. 

I did share a bit of our story with the pastor, and he understood.  He knew that shift was going on all around our city.  Just a few weeks ago an older couple visited from our old church.  The pastor knew our church was merging.  He knew of other churches with this problem.  The offered to pray for us, they offered materials for free on the topic of the New Age merging with Christianity.  The pastor even had spoken with one of the many pastors from our church and gave him a book that was a good warning to show this shift.  Did this pastor read the book?  How did it impact him?  I don’t know. 

So we visit a new church, go to lunch.  The kids say it was cool, it was different.  The younger ones liked the new songs they learned, the older ones wished the music was better.  There were only 15 children 10 to toddler.  That is a change.  We are not done looking, but this church at least looks like one that has the gospel message clear.  They are studying the bible and read through the bible in their bible study groups each year.  This is good.  More churches, more people to meet.  I just wish our old church would change.  I’d rather be there.

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I realize leaving our church would seem the right thing to do given we have children.  We have enough children that we cannot be in all their classes.  However, we can be involved with the ones that are younger while training the older ones in discernment.  We have decided to not have our children in the midweek ministries and are thinking of dropping out of small group or switching groups.  We are likely to have our children attend a bible based local ministry during the week in a church closer to home.  They already know some of the children, and it may help ease transitions later. 

Staying in the church has allowed us to talk to a few people.  I believe I have shared my concerns with only four women.  One woman and her husband have decided to move their family out of our church, they just do not have time to fight a battle.  One woman is being careful and sees some problems but trusts the leadership so much she and her husband won’t see the big picture (you have to believe the new age movement is out there and is wrong before you can realize your church is entering into it), one woman is sticking it out coming from Pagitt’s church in the past.  Her goal is to try to be a positive influence within our church, she knows full well where it’s all headed and plans to keep her hands in the church so she can keep presenting the gospel to the people she’s come to love.  Another woman is dealing with so much in her life she can only handle so much of what I’ve shared with her.  She and her husband believe what is happening is bad in many ways, but also don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”  At first they were in denial (just as I had been at first).  Now, the wife is coming to see much of what I see.  She speaks to her friends in church without mentioning me.  She shares the concerns I have shown her, but only if she personally is concerned.  One of her friends works closely with leadership, so she’s been injecting questions and is actually hearing rumbles that discussions on some of the authors and outside pastors have been happening.  My husband has questioned two elders, and who knows if that has given them some pause to think.

So, staying and discussing with others has so far caused people we shared with to pay attention, and a few are openly expressing concerns to others within the church.  If I started excitedly sharing all my concerns to everyone, which is what I wanted to do in the first place, no one would have listened and I would have been labeled as the problem.  As it stands, people are thinking and questioning and talking.  This has gotten my set of concerns farther than I could have alone. One of my friends plans of speaking to a pastor soon, and this will help me gauge the heart of this man.  He is the one that seems the most reasonable, and also will tell my friend honestly if he sees anything she’s concerned about going on whether he thinks it’s a problem personally or not.

It’s taken years to move this ship, it’ll take years to move it back (or maybe even move it into a better direction).   What’s hard is knowing if we need to just leave, and when.

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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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