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Archive for February, 2009

A few years ago at lunch, a friend of mine and I, were relating our concerns for our different churches.  It seemed we were both hearing the same things from the pulpits, though, her church sermons were ahead of what I was hearing by about six months.

We compared notes and found that we were both hearing the same packaged sermons, or packaged ideas of the 5 Signs of a Healthy Church….and Where Did the Church Measure Up on the five “healthy” signs. 

This sermon series was clearly being presented to begin to shift the congregation and church into a ‘seeker-sensitive’, market-driven mode.  After my church finished with this series, the pastor, still riding the same wave, presented some canned sermons from  an Andy Stanley series called The Foyer Environments.  This went on for weeks as well.  This was eventually followed with sermons on changing our focus to being on a journey with God and others.  The term Sunday School was changed to Journey Groups.  We were becoming “relevant” to the outside world.   This was followed with the Nazarene Publishing House’s small group study of  The Quest, by Frank Moore.  (The Quest is a 40 day study patterned after Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose.)  Our next emphasis was small groups.

Back to my friend:  She began confronting the leadership in her church on the topics and actually found several sermons from an online source that the pastor presented as his own.  Eventually, she and her family left after seeing the slide into the Warren/Hybels seeker-sensitive, market-driven phenomena.  

Our family left our church as well, only after trying for over 18 months to point out to the leadership that the Rick Warren/Bill Hybels/Andy Stanley strategy for growing a church was not the Biblical way to grow a church, or bring the people of the church into a mature faith.  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  Romans 10:17     (Emergent influences were beginning to enter in as well and overlap with the seeker format.  The Youth Group was having Rob Bell’s Nooma videos shown to them.)

It is so sad to see pastors run after the enticement of these mega-church deals at the expense of giving their congregations the solid food from God’s Word.  Gone are the days of expository preaching because it is not seeker-friendly and might offend an unbeliever….and besides, it takes lots of time to study God’s Word and exegete out solid teaching and application.    The early history of the Nazarene Church states that it was supposed to be a believer’s church.

If you have experienced this at your church, or are experiencing this same pattern at your church, the blame may not be with the universities, but the blame might be found with all the conferences that Saddleback, Willow Creek, and North Pointe Community offer during the year.  (I know my pastor and staff were/are fans of Andy Stanley’s Catalyst and Drive Conferences presented annually at North Pointe.  They would come back pumped and ready to implement the next market-driven ideas.)

I was astounded to come across a list of Nazarene churches who are listed as members of the Willow Creek Association.  It costs $249 a year to be a member, and you get all the sermon outlines, power point slides, music suggestions, etc….along with many other perks.  You can check the Membership Benefits at this link:  https://www.willowcreek.com/membership/member_benefits.asp

 

Here is a list of Nazarene churches (as of this date) that are members of Willow Creek:

  • Arkansas:  Bentonville COTN  –  Rogers First COTN
  • Arizona:  Crossroads Nazarene Church – Orangwood Nazarene Church – Oro Valley COTN – Tempe COTN
  • California:  Montrose COTN – New Life COTN – Oroville COTN – Porterville COTN
  • Florida:  Highland Park COTN – Venice COTN
  • Iowa:   Oakland COTN
  • Idaho:   Boise First COTN
  • Illinois:  College COTN – First COTN (Lemon) – First COTN (Ottawa) – Harvest Community COTN – Mt. Prospect International COTN – Rock Island First Nazarene
  • Indiana:  Grace Point COTN – Kokomo First COTN – Valparaiso Nazarene
  • Kansas:  Church of the Nazarene (Garnett)  – First COTN (Hutchinson) – Grace Community COTN
  • Massachusetts:  Beverly COTN
  • Maryland:  Bel Air COTN – Gaithersburg COTN – Hagerstown COTN
  • Michigan:  Brighton COTN – Central COTN – Clare COTN – First COTN (Jackson) – Mason First COTN – Orchard Ridge COTN – Richfield COTN – Warren Woods COTN
  • Missouri:  Harvester COTN – Webster Groves COTN
  • North Carolina:  Pineville COTN – Powerline COTN
  • New Jersey:  High Mountain COTN – New Hope Community COTN
  • New Mexico:  Holiday Park COTN
  • New York:  Bronx Bethany COTN – Calvary Community COTN – First COTN (Richmond Hill) – Fishkill COTN – Moisaic COTN – Trinity COTN – Valley Stream COTN
  • Ohio:  Beavercreek COTN – Bedford COTN – Dayspring Community COTN – Grove City COTN – Highpoint Nazarene – Lima Community COTN – Marion First COTN – Northwest COTN – Parkview COTN – Shepherd COTN – West Carrollton COTN
  • Oklahoma:  Bethany First COTN – Central COTN
  • Oregon:  Portland First COTN – Salem First COTN
  • Pennsylvania:  Ephrata COTN – First COTN (Allentown) – New Holland COTN – Selinsgrove COTN – Stillmeadow COTN
  • South Carolina:  Midland Valley COTN
  • Texas:  Texarkana First COTN
  • Virginia:  Southside Nazarene
  • Washington:  Kirkland COTN – Othello COTN – Puyallup Nazarene

The link to check for church membership into the Willow Creek Association is here:  http://www.willowcreek.com/wca_info/find_a_church/ProfileSearch.asp 

 

Perhaps if  Willow Creek had been around during the days of John Wesley, he would have had  time to learn to golf and not spend so much time reading and studying God’s Word, compose convicting sermons, and check up on the spiritual growth of  the membership in his churches.   I wonder if he would have followed the methods of some of the secular worlds finest business leaders?  (See who the line up is for the next Leadership Summit.)   http://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership/2009/

 

In closing, if your church belongs to the WCA of churches, and/or your staff people go to seminars at Saddleback/Willow Creek/North Pointe,  then no doubt, your church is being influenced with business strategies and also emergent influences….and whatever the next big new whiz bang fad to appear on the scene will be.

God has His own methods for drawing people unto Him.  His Word.  Get into it.  Study it.  Preach from it.

2 Timothy 3:16    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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Mid-America Nazarene University has welcomed the following individuals to their chapel pulpits.  These people represent various emergent, liberal, social gospel, and promote spiritual ‘new age’ views and centering techniques which tear at the fabic of Biblical doctrines.  I suggest that you do the research and find out what these people are presenting to your students (undebated).

To welcome these liberal speakers into the universities (undebated), is to place a stamp of approval and endorsement on what they have to teach our students, and on what they have written.

I have provided a link to Lighthouse Trails Research on my blog.  This is a trusted site that has done exhaustive research on all these individuals.  Type their names into the Lighthouse Trails Search box.

 

2005  Chapel Schedule

November 30 – Brian McLaren*

2006  Chapel Schedule

October 12 – Leonard Sweet

2007  Chapel Schedule

January 26 – Tony Campolo

April 20 – Mike King*

September 21 – Tony Jones

 

*Reformed Nazarene has posted some information on Brian McLaren.  Visit Reformed Nazarene’s blog site and read the post dated February 20, 2009.

*Mike King was also a guest speaker at the Nazarene M7 Conference in February 2007.  He spoke on Emerging Spirituality.

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The following link will take you to Light House Trails Research.  They have recently published a report about Trevecca Nazarene University’s promotion of contemplative spirituality on campus.

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=618

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Point Loma Nazarene University has welcomed the following individuals to their chapel pulpits.  These people represent various emergent, liberal, social gospel, and promote spiritual ‘new age’ views, and tear at the fabric of  Biblical doctrines.    I suggest you do the research and find out what these people are presenting to your students (undebated). 

To welcome these liberal speakers into the universities (undebated), is to place a stamp of approval and endorsement on what they have to teach our students, and on what they have written.

I have provided a link  on my blog to Lighthouse Trails Research.  This is a trusted site that has done exhaustive research on all these individuals.   Type their names into the Lighthouse Trails Research Search box.

2006 Chapel Schedule

February 10 – Donald Miller

2007  Chapel Schedule 

February 21 – Anne Lamott

March 14 – Donald Miller

March 23 – Tony Campolo

2009 Chapel Schedule

February 06 – Brian McLaren*

 

*Reformed Nazarene has posted some additional material regarding Brian McLaren.  Visit Reformed Nazarene’s blog site, read the post dated February 20, 2009.

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I admire the American Family Association for its efforts to hold advertisers accountable for the television shows that they sponsor.  The AFA has had many successes over the years calling for boycotts of businesses that support programs that devalue and  denigrate conservative, Biblical values.  There is no question that the smut that has been served up on a platter to society through television has had a negative effect on families and our nation.

Perhaps those who are involved in the Nazarene church today, but feel frustrated for not being heard regarding the liberal influences of the emergent church movement on the university campuses might consider the same tactics as AFA.

If churches refuse to pay their budgets to the universities assigned to their district because of the liberal speakers allowed in to chapel schedules, and liberal professors/speakers allowed in to teach in special workshops or lecture series,  chances are good that these churches will make an impact and get the attention of  those who are supposed to be guarding the gate.

I think back to the actions of a few who became a mighty voice when Olivet had on its staff a professor who was teaching that evolution was compatible with Scripture.  The President had him removed.  Below is an excerpt from The American Association of University Professors report dated Jan. 15, 2009.

The AAUP report on Olivet Nazarene focuses on its May 2007 decision to suspend Richard Colling, a tenured professor of biology, from his usual responsibility of teaching a general biology class for nonmajors. The report concludes that the university took Mr. Colling out of the classroom and prohibited a book he had written from being used on the campus in response to objections by members of the Church of the Nazarene to his efforts to argue that belief in evolution is compatible with belief in God as creator.

The report says the university administration “placed a higher value on what the president calls constituent relations’ than on the principles of academic freedom to which the university itself claims to subscribe.”

By the way, I’m all for academic freedom, but when a professor teaches material that does not align with the beliefs of the institution, then it’s time to part ways.  Academic freedom would allow for the opposing view to be presented, but not in lew of the institutions stated beliefs  and stance on the topic.  The institutions beliefs must be upheld, respected, and not undermined.  That’s why parents invest thousands of dollars in their child’s education because they believe their values and beliefs will be held in ‘trust’.

If as a congregant, your church is not willing to withhold paying its budget to the universities, then perhaps you can redirect your giving directly to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries or World Missions to support a missionary of your choosing.  You should let your pastor and board know that until you see that the university assigned to your district is no longer allowing liberal speakers to present their views unopposed, and you no longer see contemplative prayer techniques and practices promoted on campus, you will send your full financial giving and support directly to NCM  or World Missions in support of a missionary.

If we had decided to stay in the Nazarene church, this is what we would have done.  We had to think of our two youngest children though, and get them into a youth group that taught directly out of the Bible and held a high view of the diety of Christ.

I pray that the people who are concerned about the church will not be afraid to take a stand.  Now is the time to act, before budgets are paid.

 

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In  the fall of 2006 I traveled to Mount Vernon Nazarene University to visit my daughter and to check on some concerns on the campus.

I arrived in time to join her in chapel.  The school had welcomed Tony Campolo to the pulpit.  He was a very entertaining and engaging speaker, however, the more he talked, the more my countenance changed.  One of the main points of his talk focused on raising the minimum wage.  He was  pressing the voting student body to vote for an increase  in the federal minimum wage because it would help solve or address the abortion issue in the inner city.  His reasoning was that poor women who find themselves pregnant choose abortion because they cannot afford to care for their children, so if we/they would vote to increase wages, then it would make a difference between women choosing life or death for their unborn children.

I was appalled at his logic.  I turned to my daughter and said, “Perhaps the abortion problem is more of a sin issue, and not a miniumum wage issue.  If we address the SIN issue and present the whole gospel, the full counsel of God, perhaps the behavior and hearts of men and women would change and there would be less out of wedlock pregnancies.  Raising the minimum wage never changed peoples lives for the good, but the gospel is life-changing!”

Never in his talk did he address presenting the gospel to the poor people he worked with as a way of changing their life, other than to say that during VBS they presented the gospel to the inner city children.  That’s what is so desparately needed today.  People do not understand sin and the tragic consequences it has on all of our lives!  People are not put under conviction anymore, having their hearts quickened, or troubled to the point where they clearly see that they have transgressed against God and deserve death.  If people understand this first, then they can fully appreciate and appropriate the grace that God offers for repentence of sin.  No one appreciates a free gift unless they understand the sacrifice first.

Tony went on to spew more liberal ideas to the student body.  He stated that he was neither democrat or republican, but I didn’t believe that statement, since on his website he had a link to the Democratic Party website (which is no longer there).  He promoted Eastern University in Pennsylvania and their program of doing good works in the inner city.  He challenged the students to take part in their social work programs (again sans the gospel).  He used guilt tactics to get them to sign up to sponsor a child for $30 a month through Compassion International.  Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with donating to help children, but he was talking to students, who for the most part, had no incomes yet.     My daughter’s fiance was taken in by feelings of guilt, so he signed up to sponsor and child, which he couldn’t afford, and later ended up bouncing a couple of checks. 

He ended his lecture by telling the students about centering prayer….something he says he does every morning before getting out of bed.   He told them they need to practice centering prayer.  He told them that in the morning he wakes up and before he gets up he says ,”Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”…..over and over again….like a mantra.  He says he just focuses on Jesus and that helps him stay centered all day.  Again appalled, I turned to my daughter and said, “That is not how Jesus taught or told us to pray.  He told us not to practice vain repetitions as the pagans did, repeating things over and over so that they might be heard. Jesus gave us a model for prayer through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer.  He also gave us his Words to read, think upon and keep in our hearts.”  

Unfortunately, Tony was permitted to come on campus and present his liberal ideas, social gospel, and present a  contemplative (new age) prayer technique unchallenged.  By allowing these type of speakers on the campuses, the Nazarene universities give their ideas a stamp of approval and endorsement.  Students walk away considering the liberal ideologies, read the speakers books, and soon begin to adapt those same philosopies. 

My advice to any parents who are looking at a Chrisitan university to send their student to is this: 

  •   Go to the school’s website and check out who they bring in as chapel  speakers.
  •   Also check to see who they bring in for special workshops and lecture series.
  •   Check out what books are recommended reading
  •   Check out what books are required reading for classes
  •   See if they have a Spiritual Formation Director (this is usually a red flag, run!) 
  •   See if they promote contemplative spiritual practices or retreats to monasteries.

Be careful where you decide to send your student.  When you invest your hard earned money at a higher place of learning, you want to make sure that there are people who will be faithful to guard the sheep gate.  Sadly, liberalism has come in under the radar and is well entrenched.

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Feed My Sheep

 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”  He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”  He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

   He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”  He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”  He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

   He said to him the tird time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”  And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”        John 21:15-17 (NKJV)

   The instruction seems clear.  Jesus was commanding Peter, who loved the Lord with all his heart, to focus on feeding and caring for His young believers (lambs), older believers (sheep), and to look out for their welfare and protection (tend).   The primary means for feeding and tending the lambs and sheep was to be through the Word of God.

  That instruction has not changed for our shepherds today.  The pastors are to feed and tend believers (His lambs, His sheep)  through the Word of God. 

   Unfortunately, the trend has changed, and pastors have picked up too many leadership how-to books, and attended too many “how to be a large, relevant church” conference or seminar.  Many of these shepherds truly love the Lord, just like Peter….but, have lost the understanding of who their congregation is supposed to be comprised of (believers not unbelievers) and what they are supposed to do with their congregation (feed and tend via the Word of God).

   The push to be relevant and to create certain atmospheres that would appeal to the unregenerate have truly compromised, watered-down, and dumbed-down the “food” for the believers in these congregations. 

    The Word of God is not the primary food anymore to bring the sheep into maturity and to protect them from the world’s influence.  Instead, congregations of believers and unbelievers sit through life-enhancement gospel messages.  “Ask Jesus into your heart and He will make your life better.”  I’ve heard that over and over.  Tell that to someone who has to meet in secret with other believers in a communist or muslim country.  

   The history of the Nazarene church was that it would be a believer’s church and that the believer’s would be discipled and exhorted through His Word to go out and witness to others and the marginalized in society.  They were to do good works but also share the gospel.    Today the trend in Nazarene churches is to be “missional” which means to do good works, live among the people, but not necessarily share the gospel or written Word of God.  Some may argue with me about “missional”….but, primarily it means living among the people, witnessing by action, not by words, do good works, and getting people to think well of you.

   What is the gospel?  We are sinners in need of a Savior.  We have transgressed His laws and will have no fellowship with Him in eternity, but deserve hell.  However, God sent His Son to be born, live, suffer and die on the cross, shed His innocent blood on our behalf, and have victory over death and the grave so that we could have our fine paid and put our faith and trust in Him when we repented of our sins.     When was the last time you heard all of that in a Nazarene church?  (Note:  I realize there are some Nazarene churches that haven’t bought into the whole seeker or emergent ideologies, but they are few and far between.) 

  When we left the Nazarene church which we had been a part of for 24 years, we had left empty and starving to be fed.  In fact, I remember going to Sunday School class on our last Sunday at that church, and the class leader spent the whole time making light of, and jokes about, potentially changing the class name.   We never had a lesson….but it didn’t matter I suppose, because we were taught primarily from books written from authors, rarely did we go through a book of the Bible.  Learning from books written by authors seemed to be how 50 percent of the Sunday School classes were taught.  (Correction:  they are no longer called Sunday School classes, but Journey Groups, more on that at a later date.) 

   God guided us to a Baptist church near our home.  We were astonished how much we learned week after week.  The Bible was opened and taught in Sunday School class, taught from the pulpit, and was the primary focus in ALL the ministries from the very youngest (lambs) to the oldest (sheep).    It is a church that disciples the believer’s and exhorts them to witness to others.  It is an equipping church and provides teaching on ‘how to witness’.  It is a church that teaches with conviction and is not afraid to address issues of sin.  It is a church that reaches out to the marginalized and buses young people to church every Sunday morning to hear the Word of God taught in Sunday School class.  It is a church that offers several Vacation Bible School’s in various neighborhoods, and school parking lots, not just in their nice building.  It is a church that allows missionaries to speak frequently to the congregation about their work.  It is a church that not only feeds the believers, but, equips them to do good works and share the gospel.   My family is growing in the Lord now.  I have seen good changes taken place with my youngest children and my spouse.  It’s the Word of God and the conviction that it places on our heart that is helping us grow in holiness. 

   I pray for the Nazarene denomination on a daily basis.  I pray for the leadership to open its eyes and to stand and do what is right.   I pray for the university presidents to clean house of all the liberal teachers and speakers they have allowed to prey on the lambs.

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