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Posts Tagged ‘small groups’

Sometimes I get so discouraged.  What I thought was true turned out to be false.  Our former church was a place where I thought people were glorifying God.  I’m sure there are some people there who are true Christians, but the leadership is scary to me.  At least two of the pastors are not preaching Christ, the others go along with it.   The one who did speak up and worked to change things had been let go.  They want to be a spiritual formation/seeker friendly/and whatever the emergent thing is lite (not NOT emergent?).  They want what they are. 

I feel a bit helpless, and I guess I am.  I cannot save anyone myself, that’s God’s work.  He chooses whom He chooses.  I just hate seeing it happening, the sin of false teaching.

I have another problem, I have a new problem of trust.  I cannot feel completely like I can trust preachers.  I cannot trust church systems.  I want to be able to walk into a church and know they are okay, they are preaching truth.  I want to trust.  I feel some trust in the newer church (and we’ve been going for a year and 1/2 now).  However, I cannot commit to them in heart right now.  (I have seen a few things that are problems…not related to doctrine or teaching but on a side note…and it has to do more with safety than anything not teaching/preaching/faith).  I want to have a consistent place for my kids to go to worship.   I want to be involved.

What has happened to me is a coldness.  In our former church, it was all about community.  We had small groups, activities, we were busy.  We had adult conversation.  We socialized.  We did get frustrated, but we did enjoy being around the people.  In the newer church (to us) we aren’t yet feeling connected to the people.  It’s a good sermon, nice to see you, bye.  I want some family there if I’m going to stick.  We do have friends attending from the former church, but only a few we were close to.  I’m not young anymore, and I don’t like starting over.  I want long term friends.  I’m lonely.  Are we supposed to feel lonely in church? 

Part of it is our fault.  We don’t trust, we have busy lives with our kids.  We haven’t completely dug in to this church.  We’d just like to be invited over for a drink and cookies, some conversation, some connection.  People are friendly, but we aren’t their friends.

Our former church had the group thing down.  Small groups were an issue in that the bible study part was missing.  I think there is nothing wrong with socializing with your church friends and getting together into groups, but small group studies were how bad teaching was spread further.  Just getting together to socialize, well, that probably is actually a good thing.  Getting together to study a book that has nothing to do with the gospel but makes you think it does, now that is wrong.  We spent years trying to do bible study in these groups and were successful some of the time.  The church kept pulling us into this or that book though…manditory for the whole church.

I’m discouraged on several levels I guess.  I thought we would have feel more than superficial with friends at our newer church.  I am also discouraged looking at the churches around our area.  Many are into this seeker friendly/spiritual formation stuff.  I guess I kind of feel like I would if I were in Utah.  So many places preaching false doctrine.  So many “nice” people, but sooooo thirsty for companionship/fellowship and also for the true gospel to be preached.  At least I feel the preaching where we are is pretty good.  Eventually, we’ll get through the human stuff and make friends.  Right?

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I recently discovered a declining church in our area has looked to my former church for some sort of help.  I listened to podcasts, and the meetings were very interesting.  The direction seems to be a slow take-over by my former church.  *If* this melding happens, the small 50 member church will be under the authority of the eldership of my former church.  They will also get a new name, and no one can answer for sure who will own the paid off property from this little church.  Another issue is that this little church with it’s long history, has a Christian school that appears to be doing pretty well. 

I found a podcast of a meeting also on my former church’s site, and combining all podcasts available (for transparency), I hear a few concerns.  First, a church is down to 50 and that is deemed a failure. This is now an emergency according to both parties (actually, there’s some 3rd party involved) and because of this, the small church must be lead by the larger church.   I hear on the podcasts that the small church is going to get 3 pastors, at least one from my former church, one from outside (I think…it’s different) and the 3rd may currently be in leadership of the small church.  I am not clear on this exactly, but there is not a vote or anything really (they mentioned a vote of affirmation…).  The smaller church is likely going to get a name change, and the arrangements for the school are going to change.  One woman was very foward in asking why this little church wasn’t contacting former members who had left for help or relying and waiting on God instead of going to a big church to come in and run things.  Others have asked why my former church elders have to be in authority rather than the pastors and leadership at their site.  The leadership of the smaller church keeps mentioning (in podcast) the pastor who will be teaching there not from my former church who they like but have not met…but like him because people who have met him like him.  Uh…okay. 

Seems my former church is bringing a team over???and so is the outside pastor guy no one has met from the little church.  So, there will be familes coming in and becoming a part of the whole thing. The three parts joined are to make decisions, but of course, my former church elders are really the ones with authority.

I really feel very bad for this little church.  What say does the congregation have?  The focus is so much on outreach to the community with growth as the hoped end.  However, I only heard the word “worship” mentioned by one woman talking about how the little church has family worship.  The mention of glory to God, focus on Christ, being bible centered is not a factor.  It’s all business.  Sad.

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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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I think people would say numbers at church are good, that this might be a fruit of labor.  Also, it might be programs, yes, our church has many programs to meet the needs.  It might also be how much outreach we do.  If we’re in India, Mexico, New Orleans, Africa, and in the other regions of our local metroplex, then we’re producing good fruit.  If we have above 80% of our people in small groups, 75% of our  children who have “made decisions for Christ” and have 100% of all members baptized, this is good fruit too, right?  If we retain 90% of our youth into college, we’ve made good fruit.  All of this is supposed to measure good fruit, prove that our purpose driven thing is good (our church doesn’t have these numbers by the way, I’m making them up).  Being missional, believing in missional, having everyone march in lock step behind the wonderful pastors who read all these wonderful books, and raising our hands when we sing, this is all good right?  If we all practice spiritual disciplines and fast for 40 days, pray in silence, and practice solitude, we’ll have the good fruit of a deeper faith, deeper experience, deeper…better, my life as a Christ follower is better than your life as a Christ follower because I have taken up this author’s beliefs or this movement’s beliefs, I’ve joined the revivial/reformation/transformation…so I’m better, right?  These fruits are what we want, right?

So how come I felt unfed?  Do I need to be a “self feeder.”  Is that what Jesus wants for His followers, to be self feeders?  Though Rich Mullins spoke with Manning and did practice silence, and very well may have begun the mystic Christianity (I’m not sure how far he went into this) I keep thinking of his line, “I know that the thirsty listen, and down to the waters come…”  I’m in my church and I’m thirsty.  I’ve confessed my faith in Christ since I was about 7 years old, I’ve matured some.  Yes, I am not where I want to be, but I am no longer a baby in Christ, I do not need the foundations to be laid again, I’m past that.  However, I do need the pastor to have the foundations under his mission, under his ministry, under his words, under his purposes for our church.  Our pastor is starting with the premise that we have to fix what is wrong with our wealthy American local church.  We haven’t been doing enough, so we need to stretch.  We need to reach out, we need to give.  He even says it’s a myth we’re going to stop feeding the mature believers.  Then how come I feel so unfed there?  How come I can read for myself and feel fed, but AT church I often am trying to figure out how what the pastor says applies? 

So, if our numbers are up, or the mission is so good, how come the church is becoming divided and the mature Christians are leaving?  Some might say it’s because they are closed minded or want their own power.  Well, from what I’ve seen, those who have left have not at all been powerful.  They’ve not been unwilling to serve, or unwilling to give.  They usually leave with a statement on their lips, “I was feeling that I needed more biblical study here…” or, “my children are coming up in the youth ministry, and I don’t like the direction they are going, the focus is less on the bible than I wanted.” 

So, this is the fruit in our church…many youth going on mission trips and having the experience of their lives, many members “connected” in a small group with studies like “Walk Across the Room” by Hybells or “Five Love Languages” or some other such counseling style book.  We’ve got a church full of leaders that can easily “facilitate” a small group and pop in a DVD driven series from any number of books.  We serve in the community in really great ways, but some of them amount to just picking up trash.  We really do have some good things though like food pantry giving, or building homes.  We’ve got partnerships with churches in other areas where we help build homes and churches in those communities, this is practical and good.  But, we have many other projects we do that don’t relate to Christianity in any way.  We bring the local community in for dinner theater and carnival type activities.  At least at the carnival, there is no mention of Christ anywhere.  It sure is entertaining though. 

Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

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