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Posts Tagged ‘warrenite church’

I’ve had a few friends leave our former church.  They have seen emergent creep in, though it’s not been admitted and was adamantly denied.  The church is overt about spiritual formation though, there’s even a person on staff with a title containing the words spiritual formation. 

One of my friends is still trapped there, with a husband who doesn’t believe there’s a problem.  She’s being submissive to him, but is also not attending sermons any longer.  I believe she likely helps in different areas so as to avoid regular service.  God must have her there for a reason.  It’s very hard for her, to see things creeping in…or even openly being presented that aren’t biblical. 

I’ve noticed some things about people leaving.  Some fight for a while.  One man we know was an elder and tried to change things there, eventually they had to leave.  The church was going in a direction they were not comfortable with.  Scripture was being mishandled, and they had issues with an elder who was being supported by the church that didn’t believe the literal interpretation of Genesis.  Others left because of this issue. 

When Rick Warren’s materials were presented church wide and manditory for small groups, some people fought or brought out issues with the materials.  The alterations of scripture, the use for whatever purpose suits Mr. Warren really bothered those paying attention.   They went through the system, talking to pastors or elders.  They eventually left, not many knew of most of their problems.  We’ve even been told they were led to believe they were basically alone in their assertions.  This has proven itself to not be true, more than one couple left because of the Rick Warren studies.

We left because we saw things tiptoeing emergent.  We really didn’t understand what emerging/emergent was, and to be honest, I am not sure I’d say now the church is emergent.  However, the youth program is tripping into emergent stuff all the time, and Rob Bell has been played in some small groups.  The church has not taken a stand against it, and because of this, they are basically saying they approve.  Some pastors’ and elders’ children leave and end up at an emergent church in the area.  If our former church is not emergent, they are friends with emergent with no apology.  A few recognized this as a problem and have left.

Those leaving all realize the same thing in the end.  The fight won’t get you anywhere.  It’s not that we shouldn’t fight at all, because there are times when God has let the fight occur and also let those fighting loose for a time.  Standing up is very hard.  At some point though, because we’re sick of starving, we all leave.  We seek out a church that focuses on the bible, and on Christ.  We look for a God centered rather than man centered gospel.

There seems to be no way to change this church.  Only God can do it, and we pray He will open more eyes.  I am thankful for the ones who have seen and have made their way out.

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     I remember a time when I would get together with people and study the bible. I recall doing this in college.  We did have social Navigator meetings, but we also were taught how to do bible studies with others.  We even were encouraged to read our bible daily.  They called it a quiet time.  We were to study the bible, and dig into the word.  Often there would be a workbook with questions for a guide, but it really was about looking at the text.  I had one of these yearly while in college, if I recall right.  I even led one, though I felt very ill prepared.  Still, we did study the bible, and did go through it.  When a challenging person I met in the dorms would say, “you have to be baptised in my church to be saved” I could often dig with the group for verses to counter this person.  We could prepare for our daily lives, and could be encouraged by the scriptures.

When I got married, we were friends with a seminary student.  We got our own little bible study together.  We studied John for a year, and it was a great time.  We brought in a few other young people, and a few were unsaved.  It was a great time of fellowship, and a great time of digging into the bible.  We continued to study with this couple and a few others until we moved away from each other across the country.

When we lived in Seattle, we attended a bible study group.  I don’t recall it being called “small group” but bible study.  We did find it a bit frustrating because we’d go through a guide book and often it would be very simplistic.  However, we did stick to the text.  We socialized, we supported each other in illness, job loss and in gain, miscarriage, one woman had a drug addicted spouse, in new babies, and in moves (many of us moved and helped each other).  We did study and talk about the bible, we never focused on a book that had bible verses in it, but instead did studies on books of the bible.  We might also do a topical study but it was all pointing back to a block of scripture.

We moved back to Kansas and found a church with the word “bible” in it’s name.  We got involved in a small group.  I still called them bible studies, because that’s what I thought of when we would get together with a group of people with pens and bibles.  We began with the simple books on books of the bible or a topic, all focused in studying the bible and what it said.  However, after a few years, we began to do topical study and it wasn’t really about the bible.  We’d study things like marriage, our personal gift inventory, finances, or how to witness effectively.  We’d take personality quizes, financial inventories, study our love languages, or our spiritual gifts.  We’d discuss these findings outloud in the group.  It was very self focused, and yet it was also a time when we’d reveal personal things in a group.  We’d have projects during the week which took time.

Always, my husband and I would fight for studying a book in the bible.  We felt so good one year because we were able to get into the book of Acts.  We kept trying to get back to that kind of thing.  It was so wonderful to just dig, to  hear scripture read aloud every week.  It was a growing time. 

Small group for us was really mostly about the friendship.  We did have great relationships, and I believe our friends in those groups were mostly Christians who really desired to study God’s word and fellowship in Christian brotherhood.  We wanted to pray for one another, that was always a point that showed really what the groups were about for the people in them, the prayer support.  That’s where the caring came in.  People also did things to help each other in times of need.  There was nothing wrong with this, in fact it was one wonderful aspect of the groups that made up for all the books we went through.

The group would often get together and decide what we were studying.  This is how we ended up eventually pushing for bible study in the actual bible.  It became the desire of the leaders of our group (we eventually became leaders…with another couple).  We wanted to get into the meat.  However, there was always a pull to books like “The Five Love Languages.”  I was even one who suggested we do Max Lucado studies, partly because I felt these books got you into the text. 

One thing kept happening that was annoying to us personally, and I believe maybe others in the group though I cannot be sure.  The church would, at least once a year, have a series.  Usually it was a Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, or some other book.  It was not biblically focused although it did contain bible verses.  This series would run along side sermons.  I believe once there was no book, but the pastors had a topical study with their own studyguide for the group (though I believe this wasn’t manditory).  The manditory church wide study also involved a DVD…easy to pop in, easy to run right through. 

The group would meet, go through the DVD, discuss it, have a prayer and snack time.  These were very simplistic, and annoying.  I never objected outright, I found though we made comments at times during the DVD to keep ourselves entertained because we were bored.  One time my husband lead this and did feel some sense of accomplishment, he’d not lead the group alone before.  We did still get annoyed with the book and DVD though, it just was not very deep in biblical information.  It was more poor entertainment than anything.  The most entertainment we got actually, was making fun of the DVD in subtle ways. We usually also spiced up these times with personal testimonies and other activities rather than just plugging along in the book and DVD.

I recall getting less and less satisfaction from small group.  Not from our friends, but from the bible study part.  There were people in the group also who said they really desired to study in a book of the bible rather than in these men’s books.  We recalled our time studying Acts, and the comment was that it was a great year. 

So, what happened?  I believe churches in this trend of church wide study of books by men, and even topical study books, are in a cycle of immaturity.  These  churches have leaders who want to reach the seeker, and are refusing to even call themselves Christians but want to be Christ followers instead.  They’ve substituted men’s wisdom (which is foolishness) for God’s word.  They’ve substituted a focus on the living Savior for a focus within the man. 

It’s all about five steps, or if that gets old, about finding the mystery.  I almost feel these churches actually run in some sort of cycle.  First they entertain you, then they talk about how entertainment shouldn’t be what we’re about.  You feel guilty because you realize you’ve been entertained, and you agree, more should be happening.  So you are told you need to find your spiritual gift, and another small group theme begins.  Later you’re told it’s easy to become selfish or self foucsed in sermons, that we focus too much on busy life and on ourselves, then you’re challeneged to find your purpose, and another church wide study begins on Purpose Driven or whatever.  Then you go along happy for a while, and you’re told you need to reach out to your neighbor, and Hybels study comes along when you learn how to witness.

The next step in the cycle is discussing the youth, and how we’re missing them.  We’re also studying too much.  Youth like action, boom…you’re out picking up trash in a park or painting a school yard in service.  Eventually, you begin working on going deeper in your relationship.  You need to get closer to God, so we’ll discuss spiritual disciplines.  There you go, you’re deep.

Far, far away is the church life you had to begin with.  Sunday school with bible study, or some midweek bible study is impossible.  No longer offered at church.  Sure, you might get your group to go along with studying a book of the bible, but likely not for long.  People hear how good so and so’s book is, and they suggest it.  If you become the leader, which is encouraged, you need to let the group decide what to study until the church leadership decided to invade with an all church study.

Where did bible study go?

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We have visited one church enough times to begin to believe we may have found our church home. We’re still a bit careful, and don’t want to trust foolishly. Yesterday we were introduced to a couple who used to attend our former church. They actually were “disfellowshipped” and were the only family to ever have that happen in the church’s history. Because of them, we knew to walk carefully when we were presenting our information. This couple, I’ll say Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen, were VERY active in our former church. We actually sat very near to them every Sunday (you know how people get their favorite spots), but we don’t recall ever speaking with them directly. We knew them by face, and they knew us by face, but not by name. About four years ago Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen were in a small group or sunday school class and began to make “trouble.” It was mostly Mr. Watchmen because he’s naturally more bold, but as we spoke yesterday, I could tell Mrs. Watchmen shared his experience and feelings on the situations. Mr. Watchmen had noted compromise when it came to outright Biblical truths. People were allowed to be on the elder board of our former church though they were teaching things contrary to basic doctrine. He also noted problems with the Warrenite “40 Days” book and DVD series every small group was required to go through in our former church. Mr. Watchmen said he was actually asked to leave by an elder when his small group was having the supposed “open discussions” about the 40 Days materials because he was sharing his observations. We do not know all the details of the events in Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen’s situation at our former church, but from what we heard yesterday, they basically stood up and stated the truth and their problems with the mishandling of scripture and use of materials by Rick Warren, Rob Bell (Noomas in meetings at church) and other things. The core of it all was the emergent leanings, the unity at all cost rather than sticking with the truth in scripture, and the unwillingness of the leadership in church to deal with the problems. Everything was kept hush hush.

Our recollection of the entire issue was one meeting at the very end of a church service. It was mentioned that a man was having problems on doctrinal issues. He may have been right about doctrine, but his way of bringing things up was considered “unloving.” It was mentioned that he had been in meetings for over a year with the pastors, and he would not repent of his unloving attitude. It was mentioned the church had also been in contact with a pastor of a former church this couple attended, and Mr. Watchmen had caused similar problems elsewhere, so this was a pattern. We were told Mrs. Watchmen was not the one undergoing church discipline, she had not been a part of her husband’s actions. Then there was a vote. The church voted Mr. Watchmen out of membership. He was not allowed even to set foot in the church until he reconciled. We were to treat him kindly if we saw him, but were not to treat him as we would a member of the church. Mrs. Watchmen was still considered a member. My husband recalls we had to leave, so we did not participate in the vote. I know that if I did vote, I likely voted the man out of fellowship as I respected the elders and leadership. They stacked the case, did not allow the man to speak to the congregation, so we only heard one sanitized side of things. Some time later, it was presented to our congregation that Mr. Watchmen had gone through the reconciliation process. In speaking with them yesterday, it is clear the only reconciliation was that Mr. Watchmen said, “If I have been unloving, that was not my intention, I am sorry.” He says he told them he still recognized the doctrinal deviations were problems and would not claim otherwise. This is not a reconcilliation. Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen seem to still be feeling some hurt from this event long ago. In fact, Mrs. Watchmen says the feel shunned even to this day because leadership including pastors have refused to speak with them in public places when they run into one another. This actually happened recently, and over three years later, one of the pastors still wouldn’t speak to Mrs. Watchmen. Terrible.

When we shared our story, they said that we are an answer to their prayers. They still love the people who attend our former church and continue to pray for the people there. They completely understood our situation, and it seems we would have been headed for the same treatment had we not just left. I cannot imagine the way it would have felt to have been mentioned by name in my church and disfellowshipped in that way. It’s evident, based on our conversation yesterday, that what the pastors and leadership presented to the congregation about Mr. and Mrs. Watchmen was only part of the story and may even have been a twist of the truth (which is a lie). We know when the pastor mentioned us to the congregation (not by name) the story he shared about our meetings was definitely a twist of the information. He may have misunderstood us and our intentions, but at any rate, we were presented as people speaking “lies from the pit of hell.”

Sometimes misery loves company. I will say it was nice to find someone who knows from experience what it feels like to stand up and be slapped down for it.

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With the past week’s events, I wondered if the pastor of our former church would mention something in his sermon.  I thought it might be in his message, but not blunt.  Worse case scenerio in my mind was him mentioning us as spreading rumors and mentioning us by name.  I listened to the sermon online, and most of the sermon was about Nehemiah, his enemies, and rumors they were spreading to try to destroy his efforts.  He got almost finished, and he then mentioned our situation.  He mentioned a couple was spreading rumors that the church is emergent.  He told the church people if they hear it they are to confront it, and tell the person they are telling lies.  They are to tell them basically what they are spreading was “from the pit of hell.”  Yep.  So, without naming us, (cannot believe we were spared that), we were called liars and our words from hell.  I still don’t think we said the church is emergent, but had influences and leaning to that effect.  He did mention how the dots were “connected” from one quoted person in sermons to another.  

We are officially set free.  If someone asks why we left, we’ll tell them what we think, and let it go.  What do we have to loose now?   If we made a mistake, then why couldn’t we have been dealt with differently?  Now we have to NOT retaliate though we feel hurt and angry.  We need to pray for this church, the pastors, it’s flock.  I really do not know what else we can do at this point. 

If we’re so wrong, how come so many people have already left?

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