Dear Lighthouse Trails Editors,
I recently found your website and have been glued to it everyday, reading all the articles. I admit, I have been in the dark about a lot of the information I’ve read thus far. My husband and I recently left our little country church in rural ________ about 6 months ago. The pastor there is practicing “Spiritual Formation.” He began as a co-pastor, but when the other pastor had to resign due to health reasons, it became evident something wasn’t quite right ever since the co-pastor assumed the position of lead pastor.
On the surface, everything seemed OK, but then we noticed some of the deacons resigned and left church. Some of these folks were friends, whom we had been in Bible studies with, small groups etc. At first, we thought they left because the pastor left. But there was something else we just couldn’t put our finger on. It was Good Friday, and we went to church that evening to be reminded of what Good Friday was really about and what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. Instead, the pastor asked the church a question, something like: “What does Jesus look like to you.”
I have never been at a loss for words and never shy about sharing my testimony. But this was an odd question. As folks around the room shared, I thought to myself, this makes no sense. Awaiting for him to get to the Good Friday message, he ended the service with, “that was great! You were the service tonight!”
After that first “flag,” another one popped up when the pastor introduced “Breath Prayers,” going into the silence, emptying your mind, etc. I thought this sounded a lot like “vain repetitions” to me, and this is not quite right. In my years of sitting under expository preachers, I had never heard the term “breath prayers.”
Attendance was continuing to dwindle; we started to make some phone calls to the deacons who resigned. As our calls were returned one by one, the common thread was the pastor wanted them to read a book by Ruth Haley Barton. I am not sure which one it was, but from what we were told by these deacons, they thought it bordered on occultism.
One friend clarified what the problem was: She told us to look up Spiritual Formation and Ruth Haley Barton. Keeping in mind, the pastor, after being asked to leave a pastoral position at a local multi-site community church, opened his own Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation locally.
So we Googled “Spiritual Formation” and Ruth Haley Barton. The pieces of the puzzle came together quickly. I was referred to your website by a friend and and our eyes were opened, WIDE! The deacons addressed their concerns to the pastor. They felt it was like talking in circles with him. We phoned one of the current sitting deacons and explained the information we researched on Spiritual Formation, etc. He said they [he and the other sitting deacons] read the book by Ruth Haley Barton and loved it. We then told them we will not be attending the church anymore.
We received a phone call from the pastor on a Saturday evening; he was away leading an “SF retreat” and said he “heard” we had a problem. We explained our new found wisdom and told him we did not like his links to Roman Catholicism, Eastern Mysticism, Universalism etc.. that it was not biblical and was occultic. He asked us for a meeting. At first, we agreed but then he asked us not to speak to anyone about our findings before meeting with us. We told him we would not be silent and would share this new-found information with as many as we could. We stand on the Solid Rock, and we know the Truth!
He phoned my husband during the week and left a voice mail to meet. We waited to return the call as we needed time to think and pray about this meeting. A few days later, he called again, and we declined the meeting. After a few more calls to godly folks who had left the church who had tried themselves to convince the pastor of his erroneous ways, we thought our meeting would also be in vain and more like casting pearls before swine.
I have been sharing your articles on my Facebook, and some “church friends” e-mailed me and told me I was being divisive and stirring up strife. We wrote a letter to the current sitting deacons, stating our reasons for leaving and to withdraw our names from the membership. They responded with a letter that the pastor was teaching and practicing “Christian” Spiritual Formation, which is not the same as Spiritual Formation, and we were wrong in our assumptions.
We have been searching for another church in our area. Now that we are on our toes and know what to look for, it has become quite difficult to find a good church home. We are in an area with many churches including many Baptist and community churches and a large Baptist College nearby. Knowing what we know now about SF and Emergent, Contemplative etc., it has proven difficult to settle down anywhere. It’s like choosing the lesser of the evils. One multi-site church is seeker sensitive and Purpose Driven and offers Karate and Yoga. In the other community church, in the next county over, you are in a rock concert during worship, the lights down and the band on the stage singing “to” you not with you.
Anyway, that’s where we are at. I was thinking and praying about doing a Bible study on the Emergent church and SF and Contemplative. Folks in our area have not heard of this. We didn’t until six months ago, and it’s been a revelation. There is only a few of us here who are aware of this movement slithering into our local churches.
In Christ Jesus,
A concerned couple