A Lighthouse Trails reader
My hope is that this might benefit someone, if not in the writing of it, but in the responses it might receive. Telling myself always in all that I do, I try to do for the Glory of God.
The need to unburden is great. I cry over the lost joy I had in going to church, and I’ve stopped attending. I feel the pull to go back, if anything to be a witness to what is transpiring since to my shame there seems to be little I can do to change the direction my church is heading in. Yet I can’t stop trying!
It began three years ago when a lady who attends my church and temporarily worked where I do, wanted to know if I had ever heard of the book called Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. She read it and was concerned with the contents. It was being taught in the youth group which her daughter was a part of. She asked me to see what I could find out about the book and the author. I had never heard of the book or the author, but figured that I should be able to Google it and find what I needed without actually having to read the book. Little did I know what I was in for! I’m sure many of you if not all of you have been equally surprised to find that there is an abundance of material in this arena. Sadly, most of it is positive on the subject, and increasingly the norm in Christian circles. On one of my searches I came across Lighthouse Trails! Boy were my eyes opened and of cause I will be forever grateful for those at Lighthouse Trails and those who have stayed faithful to the Word of God. I can now include this blog [the LT Forum] in that blessing as well.
I never realized that any movement of this size touching all areas of society and more importantly the church could exist so under cover! The words Emergent Church, Spiritual Formation, Centering Prayer, Labyrinth, etc… They weren’t even a part of my vocabulary at the time. I thought Labyrinth was a movie! Now I can hear terms from unexpected places that brings my heart to my throat and my mind starts to scream, please God no!!!!!! Even as I write this my eyes tear for this deception that is sinking its claws into not only my church, but countless others.
From Lighthouse Trails I ordered the book by Ray Yungen For Many Shall Come In My Name. This is where I first was introduced to the concept or should I say the term Centering Prayer. The subject matter so moved me that I ordered 10 copies and provided it to my pastor to distribute it to the ministry team at church. Thinking maybe they were unaware of the direction the church was moving in. Looking back I never realized how naïve I was! How unprepared! I believed that the books would be read and I would receive some type of response. Negative! Upon giving the Pastor the book and its copies, the reaction was not what I hoped for. He looked at the back and said that it had no supporting commentaries on the back. Looking inside, he said it looks like he’s probably a Baptist. Getting over the shock of that statement, or should I say trying not to show how much that statement shocked me, I told him that the supporting commentaries might get me to read the book, but it would be the contents that would make or break the book for me. He thanked me and took the books with a promise of getting back to me.
The church is of good size. It has about 800 or more members with easily 1000 to 1500 attending two services on any given Sunday. The Easter program will have up to 8,000 going through its doors in less than a week. Since it was around this time I had given him the books, I didn’t anticipate him getting back to me promptly. I was also hopeful that the ministry team would also provide him feedback. Time passed and not a word. As days, weeks, and months passed I started to believe nothing was going to come of opening this dialogue with my pastor. After some time I attempted to reconnect with him by e-mail in order to set up a meeting between us. I’d say about six months later.
With his initial reaction in receiving the books, and with the passing of time, my hope that anything positive would come of this, started to dwindle. During the wait I continued to research online and started to compile quotes and references garnered from different sites into a binder. There is so much material! I’m not ashamed to say, I was overwhelmed. The subjects seemed to cross over into each other. An example of this is a chart showing the connectivity between individuals that was so intertwined, that a Rubik’s Cube would have been easier to figure out than this chart!
I asked myself how to put this data into a form whereby whoever I gave it to could research through it and not be overwhelmed as I had been. Trying to provide something that was compact, researchable, and most importantly supported by scripture was what I aimed for. Listing by author instead of by subject seemed the best way to go. I decided if I went the other way, I’d have to have a binder for each subject!
With a starting point of Rob Bell, through Philip Yancy and still finding more, the meeting that I had been dreading to have finally occurred. More than half a year had passed. By then I had put together a binder with 24 different authors, preachers, teachers, in a little over a hundred pages. I had left out much because some of the information did not have direct references I could locate, while others had none at all. The reason for this was if I were to provide the binder to someone, I didn’t want it to be unsupported, allowing the person to treat it as gossip or someone being spitefulness. My intention was not to present my Pastor with the binder at our next meeting because the meeting had to deal with the book by Ray Yungen. My wife warned me that it wouldn’t be right to come out of the clear blue sky with this binder or “blind side” him with it. I told her that I was taking it with me, but would allow the Holy Spirit to move me on whether I would give the binder to Pastor. If the Holy Spirit provided the opportunity then I would use the binder, if not then I would hold on to it for another time. Not being a theologian and feeling extremely worried about the meeting I prayed myself up and turned it over to God. Continuing to tell myself, “His will not mine.”
This is how naïve I was and to some extent still am. Even though he had neither provided the books to the ministry team and only scanned the book himself. I believed the meeting went well. In the meeting he mentioned that a couple of ladies had brought similar observations to his attention, and even stated that should he find out what was being said was true, he would have the churches article of faith change to reflect that it would not accept such doctrine! Strong words! Joyful words to my ears! This I believe is where the Holy Spirit took over. Amazing!!!! Right after stating what he would do, he told me that he had told the ladies that they would need documentation on the subject matter before he would address it. I guess the book wasn’t enough. We do serve an amazing God my brothers and sisters! Here I was sitting with this binder in my briefcase! I looked at him and said “it just so happens I have a binder containing such information” and pulled out the binder and handed it to him. When I pulled out the binder, I don’t know if he was pleased or not, but he was definitely surprised. At that moment I felt such a filling of joy that I could have run a marathon with the energy I felt!!!! Being an admin person, I attempted to make it presentable and easy to utilize. Even had a table of contents listing each author with the name of the documents reflected under each one. He told me he would look into it once the Easter play was done. My hope was running high!
Sadly, another meeting between us has never happened. It has been two years and the binder has made its way into the associate pastor’s hands a half year after providing the binder to the pastor. The associate pastor told me he didn’t know what to do with it; I told him he should return it to the pastor. I’m assuming he did. I haven’t mentioned things like psychedelic lights occurring during one praise and worship service (I complained and it hasn’t happened again. At least not while I was still going regularly). On stage with the men’s choir and hearing an individual who is now titled the Director of Spiritual Formation say on communion “it’s worthy to be worshipped”! I used to be Catholic and in a Catholic Church I would not have been surprised to hear this! But in [an Evangelical] Church? No Way!!! It hit me so hard, I wanted to do like scripture mentions when people start to mourn. I wanted to rip my shirt, pour ashes on myself and run out of the place screaming! However, this happened during the first service and there was another service to go! My hope was that somehow I had misheard what he had said (I have a hearing problem called Tinnitus. For anyone who believes in the “silencing” of their mind to commune with God, I’d welcome the discussion). He did not repeat it during the second service, but the seed was planted in my mind. I still believe the comment was said. Small groups have become the norm covering Spiritual Formation books. Even on Facebook I see the Associate Pastor and Director of SF providing links or quotes from Emergent/SF individuals and associated sites. I’ve taken a worship class that would make for another example but the details of it would lengthen this post even more than it already is.
I’ve done nothing since then in addressing this with my Pastor. I feel like a very poor servant for our Lord. To be honest I’m torn between completely severing ties with the church and continuing to go. I love the people in this church. If I was a teacher I’d ask to be allowed to teach a class on the subject. I’m not. My knowledge base is poor and my skills in this area even worse.
I’m praying on once again opening dialogue with my Pastor (by e-mail) and asking bluntly if the church is Emergent and/or Universalist. I don’t know if he’s rationalized the changes or truly doesn’t see the danger involved, but his ministry staff is all for it, and sadly even his wife (Creative Arts Ministry Director). My heart goes out to him and yet I have this need to have him say yes, so I can move on. I know this is not right, yet I can’t seem to help myself. God continues to show me that this is not going away.
Since I’ve been typing this post, I’ve sent out the e-mail posing the question above. His reply was an empathically typed “NO”!
I’ve posted this here in hope and prayer that I might receive suggestions from others who have been in the same boat, or who are more knowledgeable in scripture on what to do next. I’ve even had the thought to provide this post to him as well. I don’t know. My Brothers & Sisters in Christ, if you all can provide any help it would be appreciated. Even more importantly, your prayers would be welcomed.
A Believer in Christ Jesus who is my Lord and Savior. One who cries not only for the church but for this country as well.