Friday, October 16, 2009

Misrepresentations Make My Blood Boil

Thank God for this periodic clearing of the cloudy mist when I feel the urge to speak up, speak out, into the clamorous sea of voices. Another detox friend and I were just discussing that there's alot of noise out there and the last thing we want is to add to the cluttered din. On the other hand, we must exercise our voices in order to be heard even if it is just for eventually. In between these times of freedom to speak out, there's alot of simmering going on, but I'm never compelled to say anything until enough angst accumulates into a serious perculation. What usually happens is I erupt and boil over if I don't give way to some form of communication. But then again, the erupting IS the communication so I guess this is catharthis.
It's usually brought on by some injustice recently within the church at large or by catching wind of another audacious happening at the infamous 'church' across town. It blows our minds that it somehow manages to keep going especially since their greatest 'fruit' seems to be using the ministry money to live an elitest lifestyle amongst their middle class tithers that gladly enable the mismanagement of money with their weekly tithe installments.

Ok, something that made my simmer perculate a bit yesterday was this. I got an email from a worship magazine that is hosting a one-day songwriting seminar called 'song discovery in the round' which would be fine if that is what it was going to be. What they are doing is hosting a group of well-known established Christian worship leaders who will teach on songwriting. They are borrowing from the concept of 'songwriters in the round' which is when a bunch of songwriters take turns singing their songs in public so they can be heard. As far as I can tell, it's just another teaching on how you should write your songs and make them just like ours so we will choose your songs. So why borrow this lovely music world concept and proceed to misrepresent what it is? It makes my blood boil when the church at large continues to elevate the hopes of the Unrecognized Gifted with false advertising. Oh, by the way, the one-day conference costs the aspiring song-writer $99 not to mention plane fare, meals and lodging it would cost to go. An afterthought: I wonder if they don't get enough attendance at the 3-day conferences they host so decided on the shortened version?

Another blood boiler I can't resist talking about since we are talking about false advertising:
A church that hosts what they call a "Town Hall Meeting" where the senior pastor bellows on for 78 minutes about all his plans to build an empire with no forum for questions or comments from anyone. That's a lecture not a town hall meeting. Isn't a town meeting supposed to be a platform for people in towns or organizations to voice their concerns with the opportunity to ask legitimate questions? I shouldn't be surprised by the bogusness of the town meeting title because this particular misrepresention is the brain child of KGW (k.g.dubbaya) pastor of the infamous church across town - yes, my former wac world. He was never too keen on questions asked in any forum. But to use this wonderful concept of a Town Hall Meeting and then twist it into his version of it makes my blood boil!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Orbitting the Son

Looking back on the years since we first began our detox from Wac-World, I think of how far we've come, how much burden and unnecessary expectation we've shed! Yet I still marvel when our eyes open to the existing layer that is about to come off.

Since it's an individual journey, each of us going at our own pace, the lights go on for us at differing times about various subjects. Today I had yet another epiphany about staying clear of being sucked back into Christian Culture. This leg of it has been a long-time coming, because I think from the beginning I was under the impression that my desire to be part of church in some way would return. It's caused me a little angst from time to time, when I've given it thought, because I wasn't seeing any signs that the Lord was leading me in that direction. Some folks say that getting involved is what brings desire or healing or whatever. But that isn't what the Lord has been asking me to do, so I'm not.

So the epiphany is that I'm finally really free to let go of any unecessary angst caused by my choosing not to donate any time or money to the church in any way. I've revelled in not needing the Christian Culture in my life since I've left the Vortex Church, but now I'm free from the subtle (and not-so-subtle) voice of the Church asking for help. It's just not my assignment and I can rest knowing that God isn't asking so I can shut that heartfelt plea from the pulpits, unless, of course, the Holy Spirit nudges me in that direction.

I'm not so proud to think I don't need other brothers and sisters who love Jesus in my life. It's just become vital that their orbit is somewhat similar to mine in order to be uplifted and to uplift. But for the most part I am no longer active in a church and don't plan to begin any time soon. I do go to church on the weekend unless I can't. But even at the Good Church, the undercurrent the culture is there so I try to avoid the clash that happens when I run into it. (My detox cronies and I share stories of all the close calls we've encountered each week - there's always SOMETHING! ) One thing is certain, it continues to go on without me, it hasn't really missed me and doesn't need me in order to continue. I am not a missing limb or finger. I am not grieving the Holy Spirit by not giving my time to something I'm not assigned to. I am free to orbit Jesus, the Son, in the way he's designed me to orbit and that means outside the 4 walls of the churches in my town.

I guess I had been waiting, in the back of my mind, to want to get involved in some miniscule way when my detoxing stage comes to a close. But that's just not going to happen. All along I've had the thought that I needed to get better then my desire would change. But now that I am no longer as sick, tell me why I would want to return to the activity that made me sick in the first place? This stage in my recovery demands that I pace myself to stay sane and healthy so I'm free to pursue the one thing I do know I'm supposed to work on and that's my music.
In my case, being a musician, the doors have continued to open outside the church. My music isn't highly favored in the christian community anyway, although there are some christians that do like it. Oh, and speaking of, let me underline an undeniable factor here: If you don't play worship music most christians aren't really interested. No news there, I've known that for a long time, have suffered through requests at gigs for worship songs, and even had someone ask me if her friend could play a set of worship tunes (at a non-church venue) so their group could worship. I mean, isn't that what your church is for? Why does everything have to be turned into a church worship service? It was an audacious request and made me roll my eyes, but it really pissed the venue owner off when he found out the group had even asked that. He said "What the Hell?! I hired you to play tonight not some church girl." Well, that's his language and I totally understood his sentiment. Just another way for him to see what weirdos exist in churches these days--and, unfortunately, he associates that weirdness with Jesus, who isn't like that at all. I admit, that little religious group slimed me big time, made me feel like dirt, like I wasn't doing enough for God and all that. Actually, it felt like an attack from the devil. But later the Spirit reminded me "he who has an ear, let him hear" and in so many words reassured me that the little religious group just didn't have the ear to hear what I had to give that night.

Don't get me wrong, I got over it and yes, I've forgiven the WooWoo Sisters. I've had worse things happen gigging around town. Since I'm on the subject, one time I was quickly unloading my gear outside a downtown venue where buses usually pick folks up. This maniac guy charges over to me and starts yelling in my face (he obviously had a mental disorder) -- and this was right before I had to play for 3 hours for the local Gallery Walk. The bus driver came over and kindly smoothed manic guy's ruffled feathers pointing out that I had my flashers on and was only unloading and that I was planning to then leave and park my car. Anyway, that was disconcerting, but I got through it. I prayed for peace while I was setting up and God graciously gave it to me. Another time I played outside at a venue where local drumming was going on a few doors down so people really couldn't hear my music. I silently conferred with Jesus and the drummers eventually moved down the street so I got through that too and got paid that night. All this to say, I'm accustomed to weird stuff happening from time to time - you have to be ready for anything and roll with the punches. So the slime from the Christian sisters who wanted to worship didn't do me in, but it was part of my turning point in realizing that Christian Culture has truly taken on a life of its own with an undeniable demand that everyone look and act and sound the same to be acceptable.

Speaking of acceptable, you know that scripture that says that we are accepted in the beloved? I always thought that to mean that we can find acceptance in the church, when in reality the Beloved is Jesus, not his church. There can be acceptance in different church groups, but to expect it only leads to disappointment. What we CAN expect is that we really aren't accepted unless we echo the flavors of the particular church we are in.

This is the clarity that came to me today: I am totally on the right track of where I need to be right now. I listen to the Holy Spirit and sense his direction for my life and he freely lets me know the next step when I need to know it. Christian Culture, a treadmill I hopped off of a few years ago, which was again by his leading, will continue to spin endlessly without me! People in churches don't care I'm not there to join them, although it may rankle whoever is working so hard in the latest program. And that's only because there are those of us who have other things to do with our time so they aren't going to get the help they need. They certainly don't care about those of us who aren't signing up on their lists. I have a hunch if they knew what I was thinking, they'd agree I should just keep my distance ;-)

So now just to remember that those of us not stuck in churches have been given assignments that are just as vital to the Kingdom of God as those who are in the churches doing what God's given them to do. Those who are feeding and clothing the poor, more power to them. I can donate food to the food bank and my clothes to the thrift store but that's about as giving as I'm going to be able to be. Personally, I've got music to play and people to meet that would never hear me and talk with me if I was stuck in the church.

That's my path, and yours is just as unique and vital. I'd be interested to hear what path God has given you to walk (or fly) down (or up)! I'd love to share your story with my other detoxing orbiters! We are hungry to hear what He's up to in the lives of those who are bravely flying beyond the status quo! Whatever your story is, I hope you are free to follow your heart and the voice of the HS. If you find you arent' fitting in to Christian Culture (or is that Xtian Couture?), don't despair, it's actually a good thing!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Detox Timeline VS Christian Subculture Expectation!

NOTE: The discussions referred to here are usually a checking-in time seeing what each of us is going through and how we are feeling lately. We each come to our own conclusions and then compare notes. So our little ‘group’ isn’t another version of group-think, which is KEY in understanding where we are coming from. Our quest is to discover our own path in God and we have all concluded, separately, that individualism or the independent spirit, isn’t the evil that it was preached to be in our old church world.

We were in discussion yesterday about why it takes some people longer to detox than others. The obvious would be it depends on how long a person was connected to the former toxic life and how deeply they got involved in that organization. We were involved and closely associated for years so it stands to reason it may take us longer to get rid of the toxic affect of being there than a person who was just there for 2 years and had the good sense to leave early. Also, it depends on what the former world is like.

Friend One had a great analogy about just how deep the toxicity infiltrated our belief system suggesting that the type of Christianity we were shooting up was like a pure cut of cocaine or heroin. Therefore, it stands to reason that getting clean from that brand of drug is more dramatic and takes longer. How many drug addicts leave detox too soon only to find themselves back in the same gutter of addiction, not clean, not cured, and worse than ever? Why would we be any different?

Case in point, many of the other people we know who have left former church world are right back at it, honing their religious addictions in a different environment yet serving another spiritual tyrant! It stuns us that they can even consider attending churches like after what they endured in our old church world, but they not only attend a similar church, their entire lives are consumed with it, once again. But they are ones who didn't take the time to detox at all. They thought the answer for their healing was to jump into a similar situation right away. Sadly, they are the ones we feel the worst judgment from when we’ve felt it in our hearts to take a chance and go to coffee with them (in the hope we could be of some help to them). The Group-Think Group-Speak is all OVER them! It's painful to witness. Yet, they think we are rebels and buried in our offenses. We think they are Stepfordized and totally without a clue. So I guess our feelings toward one another are mutual.

Anyway, back to the detox timeline issue. Yes, it can be exasperating to feel you are through with the detox process only to realize that you are in another round of it. The question hovers “Shouldn’t we be done with this by now?” It’s not only our own voices asking us this but the judgment of Christian culture today telling us we should be busy doing some form of church work cuz ‘Don’t you know by now that fastest way to healing is to get involved?’ Only after you’ve gone through the magical prayer line of course! If you do THAT first, you will WANT to get involved. Hmmm. Red Flag. What brand of kool-aid are you serving?

It isn’t easy swimming upstream from what feels like an entire culture, even if it is a subculture. But there’s no turning back. Now that we know what we know, how can we submit ourselves to the same organizational pressures we endured before? And we all agreed yesterday that we are still happier people in Detox Mode than we’d be if we were spinning around in the Church-Work Hamster Wheel Mode!

Here are a few points that we discussed as we take measure of where we are in the timeline of detox as of yesterday:

  1. Perhaps it’s time to let go of the hope that other Christians will understand us. Guessing from their deer-in-the-headlight stares, they may never grasp what we went through and why we need to detox and heal from it. Being misunderstood by our brethren is certainly nothing new. None of us felt understood in the old church and were each treated like we were slightly daft anyway.
  2. Perhaps we may never fit into a church world environment again in this life. Perhaps it’s ok to remain on the outskirts, attending church when we have the spiritual strength to go, for the reasons the Bible intended.
  3. Old Friends still immersed in Christian Culture in their respective churches who were once reticently patient with us, are now judgmental of how long it's taking us to get back in the flow of things. Earlier they at least displayed a . Is it time to just let those friendships go and then if they ever need us later we are here for them? So, not a bridge burning thing, just a quiet fading from their view...completely...?
  4. We are each more fruitful in our various endeavors than we ever were before and we are each connected to the world we live in more than ever. We actually now have time for this. If we ‘get involved’ in church activity of any kind, will that be the time suck it has always been? We fear it is so.
  5. Why DOES the church want to take over our lives? Can we just live for Jesus simply and in truth without getting sucked into the subculture Christians have created? We think yes to living simply for Jesus and no to not getting sucked into the vortex. At this point in Church history, church has subtley taken the place of Jesus, dethroning him in a round-about way.
  6. Bottom line: Follow your heart, listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, and learn to build your OWN life up. No one else is going to do that for you. You aren't going to get this from a church leader no matter how nice he/she is. Church leaders care more about their own world, and less about you unless YOU bring something of value to THEIR table. It's a harsh reality but one that needs to be seen for what it is. It's just the nature of the beast it has become.

Could it be that the Lord isn't too happy with what the American Church has become and He could be changing the entire fellowship dynamic from a mega disneyland environment to millions of smaller-group settings? What do you think? We don't pretend to know the answer, we are just mulling it all over. We'd love to hear from you, our Fellow Detoxing and Non-Detoxing Bloggers!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pilgrim, Make Progress: Follow The Trail

We call ourselves, loosely, Detox Church Group, because we are seeking healing from our experiences of too many years in the former controlling church. Our group fluctuates from 3 to 7 (until others want to associate with us!) depending on how out the other 4 really are. Not that we are judging them, it's just that they fade away for awhile when they think we have fallen off the path of truth - that is, the path they've perceived as truth - and go back to the trappings we have already detoxed from!

Like all of us, the 4 understand what went wrong in the cult-like church we all fled. But when we are revolted by the old lifestyle, we are surprised to find they are still interested in certain aspects of it. For instance, one of them may mention gold teeth and a desire to go to certain conferences in the south. Another may mention how we should all be reading the latest greatest anointed Christian pop culture book every one is reading. In essence, they are free from the old church but they still yearn for the trappings of the old world. The Israelites in their desert days longing for Egypt comes to mind - not to sound puffed up or dramatic or anything. It's funny, though, how they resurface after they learn, once again, the fluff just doesn't satisfy like it did in the old days. Our arms are open to them and we are learning to stay focused and patient just as we hope others and the Lord will be with us.

In fairness to our meandering 4, we admit how this hyperactive prophetic culture calls to you. It's like a fix you can't get anywhere else - the hyped-up Charismatic worship services culminating in a call to the altar where a treasure trove of personal prophecies awaits you. No wonder undiscerning people trample each other to get there first and stand in line clamoring for the most anointed (popular) one to pray and prophesy over them. (Can't just be one of those measly deacons now can it?!) I'm sure any of us, who have abandoned our respective corporate ships, all have embarrassing stories we could pull out to amuse ourselves with! (If you have one, do tell! in the comment section!)

One thing has become certain, if you are still secretly hoping for gold dust and feathers and personal words spoken over you by other people, then you are not quite free of the addictive hold this culture has had on your soul.

Over the past few years we've slowly come to terms with the fact that what went wrong in the old church goes beyond the dysfunctions of the senior pastor family, although their audacious behavior certainly plays a large part in their malfunctioning world over there. It goes beyond the influence of those who do their bidding, enabling the sherade as well. Once you realize that the problem isn't just with the leaders themselves but instead with the foundation of why they were able to rise to their respective heights in the first place, you then move into another phase beyond detoxing into the restorative health of your faith. You begin to see that the Lord didn't merely deliver you from people who didn't have your best interest in mind, but from a convoluted way of life that held you back from true fruitfulness. When Jesus said that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free he must have foreseen all the religious jive that would ultimately ensnare his followers. He wasn't fond of Pharisaical doctrines then and I'm sure he's adamently against them now. Once you discern truth, then you are free of the complicated rigmarole that keeps you from living simply before the Lord, being led by his spirit every day, to actually be the earthen vessel of clay touching those around you.

The choice is ours. Do we want to hole up at conferences for the rest of our lives listening to preachers bloviate, waiting in healing lines, often paying money for personal prophecy or do we want to spend our time more wisely seeking to make a difference in our own communities? Just add up all the expenses - airfare, lodging, food, books, CDs, offerings and time spent away from work - you do the math! Seems like the choice to remove ourselves from the hype would be a no-brainer, but in reality people are swayed easily by mass hysteria.

How do you begin to disentangle yourself from the addiction of a celebrity-ridden Christian culture that is constantly reminding you what you are missing? Hey, even Dutch Sheets, who we once regarded as real and wise, is constantly downloading the latest word from God how to be vertically alligned and advertising for his upcoming prophetic conference!

The answer is to put your shoulder to the stone of prayerful research.

Thanks to scholarly types who like to research a matter to its very depths (what a gift!), there's a wealth of information surfacing about how the (especially Mega Charismatic type) Church morphed into what it is today. For instance, how did we become prosperity driven, celebrity obsessed, ruled by king-like authoritarian pastors? Pastors who are supposed to be leading the sheep as compassionate shepherds, instead drive the flock with an elitist sense of entitlement. This, of course, is spurred on by the shameless worship of their supporters who enable them to make a living off the tithes and offerings i.e. their hard-earned money that they should be investing where it counts most.

On the helpful informative site called Let Us Reason we discover that the roots of this elitist attitude has to do with the Latter Rain theology which has its roots in Gnosticism [ definition: certain sects among the early Christians who claimed to have superior knowledge of spiritual matters, and explained the world as created by powers or agencies arising as emanations from the Godhead] and a dominionistic philosophy that suggests we Christians are going to inherit (take over) the world to rule and reign before Christ returns. There's also an informative article on Deception Bytes called Why Latter Rain and Dominion Theology is a Lie that explains it in a nutshell. Also Mishel's personal account of her years involved in Rick Joyner's ministry gives telling insight to why this culture has veered insanely off God's original intent for His Church.

I guess my inspiration to write tonight is coming from a place of encouragement - to spur you on to dig in and learn for yourself. We've discussed amongst ourselves that to truly learn you need to want to learn. My partner often quotes "When the student is ready the teacher will appear." When you do dig, and if you come across articles that are long, print them and read them later if you want to spend less time at your computer. I love doing that because then you are free to find other articles while you are in finding mode (and it's easier on the eyes at night). Plus they can be copied and handed out to those like our Meandering Four who need a little eye opening when they seem ready to receive.

So, let the Holy Spirit map out a trail of truth for you, one step at a time. When and if you feel like you are standing at the foot of an insurmountable mountain, simply step aside for awhile till the energy to be a seeker returns. When it comes to getting your own faith back, there's all the time in the world and you should take as much time as you need. There is no hurry - you won't be left out - you won't be left behind. Your path is YOUR path and your timeline is in the Lord's hands. What is the Holy Spirit telling YOU in the still quiet of your heart? If you are ready then what are you waiting for? Others have mined the gold and all you have to do is search and read. There's lots of great information online, as you are discovering already, and you can find out more than you want to know about any topic!

Once you gather the info take it a step further and think about the fruit of these Latter Rain ministries. Define fruit. Discern between what's a bunch of hyped-up fluff that's merely keeping a ministry machine running and what is actually what James calls true religion in chapter 1 verses 26-27: Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

It pays to stay on the trail of truth - it's truly a narrow way - and searching the way we are pointing goes against the flow of the mainstream Christian pop culture right now. But hang in there. The more garbleygook that comes off from that culture, the more true compassion for our fellow men we are going to have and the more fruit that each of us, with the leading and help of the Holy Spirit, will be able to see in our own lives.