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Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

Today my children participated in Awana Bible Quiz. They basically answered multiple choice questions about bible verses, definitions of words in particular verses, answers to questions in the Awana handbooks, and other similar questions. I have no problem with this as the kids do have to study their verses and memorize them to do well. We are involved in Awana partly because of the verse memorization, and because of the experiences the kids enjoy with others. It’s a Wednesday night thing, not a substitute for home bible study or church services. So far, I’ve not heard anything leaning contemplative at the meetings, I help with Awana myself so that I can see what’s going on. I know the Cubbies program is much like it has been for several years, but the books have been changing for the older kids. I have my children focus on the verses, and even then I’m not really worried about it as I’d rather have them learn from better versions of the bible itself. With that out of the way I’d like to share what bothered me about today.

After the quizing, there was a message from one of the missionary leader type Awana men. He told us about a book he read ( Annointed for Business). He then proceeded to describe four types of Christians. I was thinking right away that either you are a Christian or you’re not, kind of like being pregnant or not. There’s not “a little pregnant” just “early pregnant” and so was thinking it might be more like a discussion on signs of maturity or something. He began with level one. He actually called them “level one Christians.” These are the hypocrites, the two faced Christians. Okay, already I’m thinking the obvious, these are NOT Christians. He gave a scary story of a youth who committed suicide, and the kids who had once been in his youth group a few years earlier had teased him while there, so he stopped going. What might have occured had they not been two faced hypocrites as Christians? This boy might have stayed in youth group and maybe wouldn’t have killed himself. (Huh, so he could pick on another kid because youth group was supposed to make us better right?….or is it true that we’re all sinners…). Level two Christians are the Pharasees. That’s right, they are the letter of the law keepers. They come to God out of fear not love, they are holier than thou. I wonder if they think about reformed people when they mention this, or if they really mean the people who claim to be Christians but are actually very legalistic? Would this author include those who believe homosexuality is wrong? I would love to know exactly what was defined in the book because many times this area is where Christianity is attacked as being too traditional and the myth is used to steer people into “seeker friendly” churches. Hopefully this is not what was happening here, but I’ll never trust again without checking for myself. The third level Christian is alright, according to the leader and the author he quotes. This one is lead by the Holy Spirit and does many things in obedience not out of duty or obligation but out of love. These Christians are considered pretty good. This level is fine, but this leader mentioned there are ways that are bad, okay, better, and best. Level four Christians sound like the one this leader and the author want everyone to be. They are Christians who “transform” their environment. They are the ones that, in the workplace or school, cause everything to be better. They are the ones who, in his example, end up making everyone behave better because they are around. The leader shared that at one public school, an Awana group asked to use the school facilities for meetings. Although only 12 children were in the club, the teachers at the end of the school year thanked the Awana leader because the kids had behaved so well and had done better even on school work. The principal had resisted at first, but now admitted that this group had done something good. Even the peers of the Awana kids were acting better. Problems solved, right?

So, what’s wrong with this presentation? The fact is a false Christianity is presented. There are “levels” of Christians. There’s better and worse Christians. Is that how Jesus sees us? What of the persecuted Christians who make little to no impact on the evil culture around and are murdered? Remember Moses? Pharoah’s heart was hardened, the Israelite generation wasted what they knew of God from this experience. Was Moses considered faithful by God or not? Sure, it sounds good, it goes down easy. However, the bitterness sits in my stomach and makes me ill. The message was hollow. No one was saved by this message. This is the message that was given to children and parents in an attempt to motivate them to action. Was it the action God would have wanted from a leader? Also, who transforms us? Is it an Awana leader or is it the faith we have in Chirst and His grace and mercy because of His sacrifice for our sins? What has transformative power?
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On another note, the church that sponsors the Awana club our kids attend is one of our former church’s plants. I was speaking with a few leaders, and one who now also left our former church and attends the one we like (confusing enough yet?) came up to me and said he heard about a new thing Rick Warren was coming out with and he thought of me. Since we’d had these discussions before, I knew he is aware of how I feel about the program Rick Warren is selling. He then mentioned that’s why he was fed up with our former church, because of the “following of men’s books” instead of studying the Bible. One woman who attends this church plant said, “yeah, you know, I really like it when our pastor does a series from an actual book of the Bible. Last spring we did an 8 week series on [a book in the new testament] and I really learned a lot.” She went on to say she really only knows a lot about that one book of the Bible and would love to do more books in the Bible instead of books from authors. Wow. I hope this gets her to thinking. She’s probably a Christian who wants the real meat and not some false meat, huh?

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I found this interview to be somewhat revealing.
http://www.renovare.org/invitation_christian_disciplines_and_grace.htm

I see the thought is that we can do something to grow in grace, that we can get somewhere to grace in spiritual disciplines. The claim is “the Christian disciplines as avenues to grace…” I thought Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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Moving on in this electronic world is hard.  It’s hard not to listen online, hard not to see people people online either.  We have chosen to leave our former church, but so far the issue hasn’t left us.  When I was overheard, this prompted a call to the pastor and a call to us (I assume it was me as I can think of where I would have been and who I was with…when I was speaking openly in public).  His statement is that the church has denounced emergent and is not headed in an emergent direction.  He says we base our information on a few sermons by a different pastor.  He also says they let go of one youth pastor, but though “we talked about Nooma videos he showed” (which we never did talk about and we weren’t aware) he wanted us to be discreet about that and thought we discussed that discreetness…uhmmmm.  We never had that conversation and thank you for proving our point.  Noomas in the youth is another sign of clear emergent leanings.  Oh, and the pastor says they let several staff members go because of financial reasons, not for the Noomas.  So they may have confronted emergent verbally, but do they see it in their staff?  Pastor claims “emergent” is dying.  Well, the terms may have changed, but the shift of churches is not dying. 

To his credit, his sermons do use scripture very much.  I don’t think Rick Warren is the same as Doug Pagitt.  I do not think Dallas Willard is the same as McLaren.  I do believe they are on a similar path, to change church and to focus on emergent youth OR on self and disciplines from Catholic mystics.  This may not be emergent.  I see other authors label it something else, contemplative something or other…maybe it’s contemplative spiritual disciplines.  To be clear, the church we attended hasn’t come out with contemplative prayer.  It has come out with spiritual formation.  This term alone links back to monks in caves hundreds of years ago.  These monks chanted and used breathing techniques as well as repetition to “meditate.”  Requirements of silence, fasting, and the like for a supposed deeper relationship with God are part of this spiritual discipline thing, as well as spiritual formation.  If the church has a spiritual formation pastor, and plans on lectio divina (as spoken by the pastor’s own mouth) and wants to follow the plans of Dallas Willard, and impliments “moments of silence” often, calls people to fast (not wrong to fast by the way, but it’s part of a larger picture here) then they are part of a movement that is not Biblical.  Focusing on this for spiritual transformation, methods and means not practiced by the disciples themselves.  I would say choosing to be disciplined is not a bad thing.  Saying you need it for deeper relationship with Christ is not accurate.  Discipline can make our Christian lives easier, can make memorization easier, and can help us to start our day in prayer.  Altering breathing, sitting in silence with no activity, these things are strange and unbibical in the context of trying to get closer to God.  Making an effort to give a sacrifice to God in our day is not wrong, as long as we realize our sacrifices are not worthy but God is gracious and merciful and can be pleased by us if we are humble and contrite (which cannot be manufactured).  Service is also a part of the spiritual formation movement.  Service in Christian life in itself is good.  However, service as a way to “get closer to God” is not.  I believe what is wrong with spiritual formation is it’s all flipped.  Service for others flows FROM the compassion we gain in Christ.  We are first made new creatures.  We have to recognize we still have a sin nature.  At any rate, our pastors from our former church were heavy into the spiritual formation books, mostly Dallas Willard. 

The one pastor who was most obvious in his sermons doesn’t make the head pastor bat an eye.  He sees no scary connections when Frost, Miller, and others are quoted.  He doesn’t even ruffle when he’s told about the “christ conciousness” or “christ coursing through my veins” or “you are little christs.”  He even defended the “little christ” comment.  He mentioned lectio divina, he defended Dallas Willard and suggested we read his books.  He defended the teaching by Steve Smith when he visited the church…the teaching that Lazarus had grave clothes and our grave clothes are life’s trials and burdens.  This teaching was strange, and bothered me a great deal and the pastor mentioned lectio divina after these stating, “it’s been around since the reformation.”  

Another pastor we spoke to said if our former church has denounced emergent doctrine and that was our complaint, we couldn’t leave then.  Well, we may not have brought out we don’t agree with following Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan and we may have only mentioned Dallas Willard, but our issue is with these things too.  We also feel, and it’s hard to define exactly, but that the lead pastor is manipulative and really makes me personally nervous.  Anyone who knew we were having a meeting with the man said, “good luck.”  He is intimidating.  This alone is a red flag of warning.  In general, people give the impression they don’t really feel safe with him or may feel he’s overbearing.  Don’t know if I can pin it down.  I know I personally have been friendly to him, he’s been friendly back.  He just seems much like a man trying to proove something.  I have met men like him, if I were in single land (before marriage) I would have known two things.  This man would never choose someone like me to date, and I would never choose him.  I feel like he’d be a guy who I would fight with.  I feel like I’d be expected to act a certain way in the home.  He’s not necessarily someone who oppresses women, don’t get me wrong.  I just get that feeling when around some men, that I wouldn’t mix with him.  Usually these guys are driven and goal oriented, intelligent.  However, they seem to be demanding and perfectionistic.  It’s not authority, it’s something else.  Now this is just speculation on my part…please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying he’s a bad man or anything, just most people don’t say he’s sweet. 

Oh, see, I’ve titled this “moving on” and I cannot move on.  That is my problem.  I have got to find a way to get this out of me, let it go.  How do you let go when you think a church is being led in the wrong direction?

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“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Steve Smith lists Dallas Willard as a mentor, and he spoke once at our church.  His book, “The Lazarus Life” was promoted.  Our former pastor mentioned that he wrote letters to others recommending this book.  When speaking many months ago in our former church, Smith spoke of the story of Lazarus in John and claimed we could learn from this event.  Lazarus came from the grave with smelly, awful, binding grave clothes.  Our grave clothes are the events and burdens in our lives.  To be free, we have to take off these grave clothes.  When I heard the description by Smith, how he was using this text, I said, “what?”  I began to search the internet for information on Steve Smith.  I discovered a podcast and listened, and he listed Dallas Willard as his mentor.  Then I searched further.  Eventually, someone posted information on their blog that lead to a link on a sight that had information about writers among them, Dallas Willard.  So, when speaking to our former pastor, I had to mention Steve Smith and his book, and the presentation from the pulpit.  I questioned the use of the account of Lazarus in this way.  (The pastor, when I first asked about Smith before I shared the problem with the Lazarus account and it’s handling jumped in with…”Oh, his mentioning Lectio Divina…you know that was used in the reformation, don’t you).  Once the pastor realized I didn’t like the use of the text in this way, he said that the miracles in John were meant to be used as lessons for life.  I said, “like parables” and he said, “yes, but differently as they were true events.”  I am glad he acknowledged the true event occured or we would have a different problem altogether.  He then began saying that each miracle had important things we could apply like for example, why did Jesus use pots with water for ceremonial cleaning and then turn it to wine?  Doesn’t that have some sort of meaning?  Why all the detail?  He said that in the old testament there were stories used by Jesus that are archetypes with meaning such as the Exodus.  I agree, there are some things that appear to have more meaning, or that clearly do.  However, this is not what Steve Smith was doing, using the Lazarus story to say we need transformation and spiritual formation to take off our grave clothes.  I told the pastor I got out of the Lazarus account that Jesus has the power over death, we can be brought to life by Him. 

The verse I quoted above was given to me by two people today.  One, a friend who is a pastor living several states away immediately quoted that when I asked him about the purpose of the miracles in John.  He said, “that one is an easy one, we had to list the purpose of each book of the Bible in seminary, and in John, it was the easiest as it’s stated clearly.”  Another friend, used to attend our former church, and I asked him, he quoted that very same verse.  In fact, he began to quote it and I could also sing it as it is an Awana verse my children have memorized.  The point of the miracles is not so we can add a psychological analysis to our lives through poetic interpretation of the text.  The point is that we are to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we can have eternal life.  It’s that simple.

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Every time we have a campaign in our church to go through another book, each person in the small groups buys a book.  If we cannot afford a book, someone else will buy it for us.  Most of these campaigns are for the teaching impaired, and therefore, there has to be a DVD purchased for each small group.  I guess tithes pay for this?  There are often slick ad campaigns before a series in which the entire church will follow the same theme.  There might be postcards mailed out, which can be mailed for free but still cost money to purchase from the organization selling them.  There might be posters in church ahead of time, again, there is a fee for such things.  Besides our church wide campaigns and books, there are many small group study books on just about any topic.  Some again are “DVD” driven.  At different times during the year our church has speakers who promote their books or music CD’s.  These speakers, I’m learning through my searches, are tied in with contemplative prayer or other topics of concern to me.  They do not speak for free, they are paid with funds taken from our offering.  And then there are the conferences, training sessions, and seminars.  Nothing is free, and if you get a “scholarship” that money comes from the general fund.  Oh, and the missions trips!  That’s right, how could those be linked in any way to an agenda for emergent church?  Well, in my reading and searching I found various links to a local emergent church and youth program/camp.  This camp I’ll call YF has several missions destination sites they are in charge of.  So, we often pay to send kids on missions trips through YF, and also send kids to the local YF camps around our area.  This YF camp is run by a man who is on the board and I think, from what I have read, helps pastor the local emergent church.  (This church has Brian McLaren speak, and is currently having Pagit and his roadshow come to their “church basement”).  So, our church funds all these missions trips, our youth goes by droves to several locations all affiliated with YF, we also have kids going to YF camps.  Our money goes to this emergent church through YF.  Essentially, many books we buy, speakers we fund, trips that are taken, and even our children’s curriculums are supporting emerging trendy churches or seeker friendly large megachurches, or publishing houses that are “in the back pocket” of these emergent/seeker friendly church leaders (or is it the leaders are in the back pocket of the publishing companies, not sure).  All this money, and we church members are paying it.  If you don’t like the direction of YOUR pupose driven, willow creek small grouping, emergent contemplative praying, Harp and Bowling, transformational, missional, spritual formating church, you need to quit buying the books, paying for the conferences, and you need to pay your tithe to God elsewhere.  Of course, you can always do what they are waiting for the challengers to do anyway and speak with your feet!

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