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Posts Tagged ‘Warrenite’

Sometimes my husband and I still speak to each other about the events leading up to our leaving our former church.  We rehash and analyse what happened point by point.  We both came out with a point we had been thinking, and it’s an interesting problem. 

Our former lead pastor has some sort of anger issues, this is evident from his confrontational style.  He is not a good listener, and really bowled us over.  He prepared for the last meeting like a student debater who wanted to “win.”  Maybe it’s his style, maybe it’s all the others before us who have made him so defensive and even very offensive in stance.  This would be no surprise to anyone who knows him and has dealt with him.   Not saying he doesn’t have his good qualities, it’s just how he is.  This we suspected, and now know…our lead pastor is either power hungry or very manipulative or both. 

The point we’ve come to though is not about this pastor, it’s about the “good cop” pastor.  I’ve personally been puzzled about him.  He didn’t want us to leave, and enouraged us to write our letter, and met with us a few times.  I told him everything I thought at the time, and ran the letter through him.  He encouraged us to put more specifics in.  It seemed he was on our side, and he did honestly caution us that he was not the lone pastor in this church fighting a battle.  He saw some of the issues we did, but obviously didn’t agree with it all necessarily.  Yet he thought our approach was humble and we were a good couple to bring these issues to the forefront. 

This was all well and good, until closer to our meeting with the head pastor.  Good cop (who was kind all throughout) warned us to be “teachable.”  In our meeting with the lead pastor, his conclusion was that we were no longer teachable.  Okay, we knew they had been meeting, but the same words came out of both mouths.  When the whole thing was over, we didn’t contact the good cop pastor about it except just to say we had a terrible meeting.  He did not pry. 

It’s hard to covey why in this post, but we both came to the conclusion that we were kind of being used by the good cop pastor to bring up issues.  He did squarly differ than us in that he thought terminology was nothing important.  Examples he was not uncomfortable with were words like “spiritual formation” and “transformation.”  He also didn’t want us to attack anything from Warren or Hybels.  I believe he saw the fringe things that were new age in nature or emergent in flavor as a problem.  He recognized the problem with Youth Front and it’s contemplative/meditative prayer.  He even sent them a note and asked them to remove a link to meditative prayer on their website, which they did.

He also asked the youth pastors about youthfront, and they assured him they ran their camps not youth front.  This was a problem for me personally though, I think the issues at youth front are huge and being there, promoting camps there, and the fact that children growing up in our former church go to an emergent church influencing youth front.  He may have gotten the cosmetic problem put away, but there was no real confrontation.

We were hung up to dry and I feel, had time gone on with us in the house, we would have had to walk such a careful line.  If we spoke in any way that would have been seen aggressive, we would have been chastised.  If we would not compromise in the right areas, we would have been seen as divisive.  This good cop pastor had to bow to authority of the lead pastor, and this causes problems.  Of course it’s important to recognize authority, but if there are serious problems they need to be seriously confronted.  A couple like us felt on our own in this.  Even with the pastor that seemed to be with us a bit, we were in the dark about previous confrontations that were similar, and were kept from opening this up to the entire church leadership.  One particular assistant pastor also was protected in all this, and it was his sermon causing all our questions to begin with.

All the special politics, the way things are confronted and dealt with, it all seems like a strange corporation.  The mystery the whole time was “what is the best way to do this?”  We didn’t know who we were to go to, and what the “protocol” was.  What was the biblical way to do this?  Who should we have confronted?  We went to elders, and got unsatisfactory wishy washy answers to our questions.  Our investigations and the sermons confirmed our fears of emergent/new age influence and youth front was a real problem.  We finally just decided to quietly leave. 

The “good cop” pastor had to be informed as I did a small thing for the church and he was the one in charge of this.  He wanted to know why we were leaving and encouraged our letter.  This finally seemed like the right thing for a while.  I believe though, there is no real right way to confront error in this church.  Yes, there is a right biblical way to do things.  However, there is no way in this church to do it so that there is peace and the whole truth comes forth.  The lead pastor really pushed, and my own personal weakness got the best of me.  I excitedly told a former attender in public my reasons for leaving the church and was overheard.  This was reported to the lead pastor and a mess insued.  We were “spreading rumors” and according to the former lead “telling lies from the pit of hell.”  At least at that point we were no longer under the authority of the former church.  We had left. 

If the former “good cop” pastor was really with us, as I initially thought, I believe he would see the issues and would have to eventually make his exit or make a ruckus of some sort.  Last time I saw him, and it was at a play at our former church this past summer, he used some interesting phrases such as “journey” and “coversation.”  He very much seems to be in the Hybels/Warren style of it all.  Maybe I’m wrong, but he really seemed to be in it all.

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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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We have attended a small Baptist church in the area over several weeks. It’s been interesting to see even the children carrying Bibles, but more than that, they are taking actual notes during sermons along with the adults. It’s a church that not only says it’s important to get into the Bible, the people appear to actually do it during service. The Sunday school lessons match, meaning that the children’s lessons and the adult lessons are on the same topic thereby allowing for discussion at home. The younger children do go to a seperate worship hour while the adults hear expository teaching, but this is children 8 and under. The rest of the children are in service, and this adds to family unity and truly gives the parents the power to teach back. In our former church, there were very few children in “big church” and the teenagers were seperated out into a place called “the warehouse.” The younger teens were there in the early hour I believe, and the older teens in the second hour of service. With many children in a family, it would be impossible to participate in the Sunday School type lessons and for the teens to get to go to their service and for families to really go to church together. The segregation is staggering to me since I’ve thought about it. Even women with newborns go “hide” in a cryroom to nurse. This is a nice service for these women, but the message is definitely that parents are within their rights to expect to not have children interrupting them in service. This means that children are not disciplined in church, and do not get the message with their parents. It also allows for teaching to occur that parents aren’t aware of. The Baptist church we attend now appears to have set in place a system that really gives parents the opportunity to know exactly what has been poured into their kids’ minds. It’s refreshing.

The music is maybe a little stiff for some in the church we’re currently attending. The choir director, or whatever his title is, stands directly behind the pulpit and directs the congregation through hymns and songs just as I recall choir directors doing in church when I was a child. There is unfortunately an overhead rather than song books, which means people are not gaining the benefit of seeing the actual music lines, which I find a shame. Otherwise, the music is orderly and worshipful. There’s no oversentimentality, no calls for raising hands, no whipping up the crowd. There’s no video distraction behind the words, no light show. There are instruments, a guitar, and the like, but the sound is not overpowering or rock. Some more modern songs are used, but very old hymns are also used. The focus is definitely not on singers, no matching outfits. Though there might be a few singers and instruments, it’s not a show. Not saying all our former church did during singing was wrong, but it’s just different. All the glitz is gone. There’s not an atmosphere created, so the emotions and worship is all on the individual and not on the music minister. I really did enjoy music at our former church, but again, it was more about the style than the substance in some cases. Our former pastor of music was very purposeful about choosing songs to go with the message and reading psalms out loud. He did think raising hands and extras were important, and he also liked to really challenge the church to pray and read the word. He refocused on the gospel often, which made the time rich. Most complaints by people attending our former church was that the “worship time” was too long and drawn out, just get me to the message already. Because the worship pastor didn’t get off into emergent or contemplative messages, and he brought in the gospel often, I clung to his speaking between songs and listened to his readings etc. when things were getting bad in the pulpit messages. The music minister of the church we’re now attending doesn’t add in so much fluff, but he does read scripture and presents music in a cut and dried way. I think a middle ground would be nice between the two but I have no complaints. I love singing more doctrine rich hymns, and each Sunday we get several and not just an adapted one or two mixed with repetative choruses.

When it comes to the actual preaching, the two churches are vastly different. The one we’re attending is expository and straight from the Bible. The former had themes based on books or on life application often. There was a rotation between a Bible string for weeks, and then a book for several weeks, and back and forth. Of course, there was a text read in every sermon, and the Bible or people from the Bible were referenced, but it was never really verse by verse (though the former church has been digging into Nehemiah for many weeks since we left using this for a campaign to raise money and to chide those who would not “get on the wall”…the amount of time in Nehemiah has been strange though and people who we speak to comment that it’s been great to really “get into the word” though they don’t really see the subtle move toward more submission, more commitment, more leader authority that I hear when I listen online). In contrast, the church we’re attending is spending many months in John. They add historical context, interpretation of the text, and life application from scripture and not from some author’s opinion. It’s rather refreshing to hear a message week after week from the Bible. Imagine going to church and knowing the message is coming straight from the Bible and not psychology or some such author. With our former church I was able to take sections of sermons and google, finding the sources for the sermons. In the church we’re attending now, the pastor prepares the lesson from scripture. I haven’t tried to google, but I suspect the books that agree would be sermons based upon that text that were also expository and weren’t used necessarily by the pastor to write the sermon.

When people stand for membership, and we’ve witnessed this a few times, they have stated they tried churches in the area or attended for years and found them “less than Biblical” or found this particular church to be genuinely focused on God’s word in the Bible. The hunger for the gospel makes a difference to the people in the congregation, many have left our former church and others like it. We are among people who value the Bible as we do. This gives me hope.

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You preach

twistify

lull

woo

in the name

of who?

You share

distort

meet

pray

bemoan

all that your

congregation

will not

do

not enough

go

not enough

do

you breath in

sit silently

breathe out

you read

read

read

all that men

can write

it seeps

I weep

for my

children

and so I say

I must leave

because

you have shifted

deeper

into

the desert

I am thirsty

and you

are offended

by my parched

tongue

giving warning

as I leave

the door

won’t hit me

my pearls

trampled

behind me.

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It’s not the end of the world, the pastor today in the church we’ve been attending mentions that his interpretation is not what matters of this text.  I am sorry, I’m being lazy right now and don’t know what text off the top of my head.  At any rate, he mentioned the part of the text (Peter) where it’s mentioned Jesus went to the spirits in prison during his 3 days in the grave bodily.  He speculated that had to do with the demons that possesed the people who mated with women in the times of Noah.  Okay, anyone ever hear of this?  Our former church pastor mentioned the Nephilim and how they were evil angels on earth, and now this pastor says the Nephalim are demon possessed and Jesus went and spoke to them during the three days he was in the grave.  Anyone?  Where are these things coming from?  I’ve NEVER heard that Jesus was speaking to demons, and these were the Nephilim (a demon possesed people during the time of Noah).  What?  The pastor did point out that this thing in the text is not something he knows for sure and others have different opinions, and don’t get caught up in this and please don’t miss the important points made by Peter for us otherwise.  Oh, so now I wonder if the points made were worth my time (by the pastor not by Peter).  I have to reread and see what was said.  He did say he doesn’t like to do a verse by verse analysis because that’s saved for Sunday morning bible study group and “life group” time.  He likes to do overview lessons on Sunday morning sermon time.  Huh. 

We also had a time of silence during the song set.  Not prayer, just silence.  Why again?  Lovely.  I hate to do this to my husband, but I am on my guard and I’m prepared to leave this one too.  He likes the people and so do I, some we know left our former church.  They support us as they had similar issues to us (but again, so many issues allow for differences).  I am just so tired and I feel we only now just started the battle.  Ugh.  God knows what he is doing, and we have to trust him and not give in so easily.  Of course, I haven’t given the new to me pastor a chance yet.  If he hears from our former pastor, he may boot us (if he’s Warrenite anyway).  If he’s Willard’s disciple, he’ll likely do the same…but in a kind and loving way.  Of course, maybe I should be trusting?  I don’t know.  I have a hard time turning off skepticism.  I really do.

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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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If you are in a church claiming to be using Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan or claiming a missional organizational stance, then see if this description sounds at all familiar.

“Disciples Initiated disciples have no interest in anything but the vision, the Plan and its direction and materializing on earth. Accepted disciples are learning this and in the meantime have to react to the vision in what might be called a second hand manner; they are occupied with the Plan and with the distribution of the forces which will materialize it. A disciple becomes an Accepted Disciple when he starts climbing towards the vision, towards the mountaintop; he can also register consciously what he has seen and then begin to do something towards materializing it. Newly accepted disciples (who are only learning to cooperate) are valuable as “agents for experiment.” According to their reaction to the imparted truths and Plan, according to their ability to sense the need and to bring the need and the medium of release into relation and according to their capacity to work with the world disciples (who are definitely responsible to the master of the Ashram for some aspect of the Plan) will be the success of the effort in the outer world.”

 

This comes from the glossary of www.soulout.org.  This is not a Christian site.

 

 

Sounds to me a LOT like what is going on in mergent Borglike churches.  Assimilate or die, resistance is futile?  I hope not! 

Of course, I was told by an elder in our old church that everything is on a continuum, and our church is on the spectrum somewhere.  No church is perfect.  Any thoughts on this.

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