Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Revoked Blessing of the Worship Band Tour

It still baffles me when I hear about the goings on at the former church and their affiliates - more directly the unexceptable behavior that the leadership inflicts upon supporters who choose (as free Americans) to attend there. Who is treated worse than anyone are those who have chosen to go on staff, again supportive people thinking they are there to serve the Lord by serving the church. Happily I am no longer there as a subserviant and stepfordized version of myself. Yet, I can't help shake my head when I hear about how people are still being treated there. Why people stay can only be attributed to timing and how much pain can they stand. Afterall, we finally left when the pain of staying became greater than the pain of leaving (wisely pointed out by my dear friend and fellow ship-jumper).

The latest bizarre, yet typical, behavior of former church is the episode of The Revoked Blessing of the Worship Band Tour. Like everything else associated with this church, it's a bit of a quagmire but hopefully I can explain without getting too muddled.

My former church's current primary worship team has been venturing out into the national Christian Community, one gig at a time, to share their brand of songs with a growing following. Since they have great music and noble hearts it's been exciting to see their youthful passion for worship expanding into new realms across the USA. Their manager is the frontman for another successful and thriving worship band who is sharing with them learned about touring. He also just happens to be the pastor's son of the largest church in our city that we have dubbed the Good Church because of its fruitfulness and effectiveness as a church. It's the best example we have seen so far and it's the church we've been attending to detox from the extreme weird world we were once held captive. So you can imagine our surprise when the boys from former church started hanging out with our pastor's son, even leading worship from time to time at the Good Church!

Pastor son/manager helped them set up Tour #1 and they went out with what they thought was the blessing of the leaders in their church. One of the band members told me that their pastors were actually really excited for them and gave them their blessing. I have to admit I was surprised because it's never been former church's style to let people go very far. But then again, as my friends and I discussed this, we realized former church may have thought they were hitching themselves to a rising star, so of course they'd give the blessing.

But now that has apparently changed. Shortly after The Band announced Tour #2, WacWorld Leadership is revoking their blessing and have kicked them off the worship team schedule. Not only that, the frontman for the band was actually employed on staff as a worship leader and they let him go. They actually said "We can't give you our blessing." (What is it about elite pastors who think they invoke blessing like the pope or someone? Shaking my head at that.) Of course, if you know the history of the former church, you know why this was done. But for those of you that don't know the pattern, I'll try to summarize.

It probably rankles that the band is getting notoriety but it isn't helping the church, or more importantly the leadpastor family. If everything you do is supposed to build up the senior pastor and his family (i.e. it's all about them), then you can't be someone successful in their midst if it doesn't ultimately point to them. In other words, the history has been that they tend to frown on success if it doesn't directly affect the church. Also, it must REALLY rankle that the boys play worship for services at the successful church the manager attends (The Good Church) because it is interpreted as non-loyal. If you are actually helping to build up what is considered a rival church, then you have to be cut off like a bad tree branch or something.

The boys seeming haven't realized until now what's really going on beneathe the surface of the lead family's slick, expensively cultivated exterior. They also may not be aware that there is a long line of people who have similar stories, yet with different details. But whether these young men want to admit they have been treated terribly or not, this is a story I felt compelled to put to pen because it shows us once again what happens when leaders have an elevated sense of their own importance.
Which is more Christ-like? Should we speak up about the lead pastor family's bad behavior or should we remain silent and let their actions go unchecked? Jesus spoke up about how he felt concerning the Pharisees treatment of the people who were bringing sacrificial gifts into the house of God and then keeping the best for themselves. He also had a strong reaction to the 'money changers' selling in the temple and raged through with a whip in hand! Then again, when He was on trial for His life he remained silent. If we are to follow his example, I guess we need to look at the circumstances of the situation, ask for guidance and go from there.

These are questions some of us are wrestling with as word reaches us about the goings on at the Church of Questionable Conduct. Meanwhile, the boys in the band are just playing their songs, loving Jesus, loving people wherever they go and I hope they remain free to do just that. I'm sure they are better off not being under the strict jurisdiction and regiment of former church. This is going to be the best thing that could have happened for them and maybe someday they will see it as such and thank the Lord for his merciful intervention.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quest for the House of God

Jesus will always be the one I worship, my prophet of choice, Saviour, friend, teacher and guide. I would never pass over his living essence for a chunky piece of dead stone, no matter how peaceful and loving the idol-relic rhetoric comes across. It's just not a temptation for me, although I can see how it would be for some, depending on what they've gone through in the christian culture, and whether they feel completely deserted by God in their circumstances.

The spirit of Jesus is like the wind, or sometimes a gentle breeze, according to the need, who wafts in breathing new life with his presence. He's made himself real to me in so many ways throughout my lifetime, that there's no question of leaving him.

Leaving, or not engaging in, christian culture is a different story for me these days. Although I haven't entirely left its sphere, I have been content now to remain on the outer rim of it.

However, I have been wondering what to do about my affinity for the verses of Psalm 27:4-6 that say:

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high on a his tabernacle I will sing and make music to the Lord."

Is that only for people who want to spend time in church culture and be caught up in its orbit? I used to sing these words with more of the church in mind - serving there - my music supposedly being there. But time and circumstance has changed that.

When you feel the Lord has lifted you out of a certain sphere and placed you in another one that isn't by definition the church or its culture, where then is the house of God? I feel no affinity for serving in church, not because of bitterness and unforgiveness (some people automatically think that's the problem), but because I see now that the Lord has lifted me out. But I still feel a kinship for those verses that hold meaning for me even if I'm not sure of the meaning. Maybe the Lord has wanted the meaning redefined all along.

So I've been on a quest to find out what the house of God means to me now.
I know what it no longer can be for me. Especially when the Pastor at the Good Church periodically sounds too much like our former pastor at the Church of Questionable Conduct - that if you aren't doing your part (he calls it doing chores) at your local church you must be in rebellion to God. Like that's really motivating, thanks. I can't wait to jump in now and let you suck my energy bone dry so I have no time left to do my art which is the calling of my life. At the time of this blogpost it's not logistically going to work if I try to do both (just like it wasn't early on when I started this blog). And I don't sense the Lord asking me to lay down my art to walk back into the church to help with that particular family's chores. I've done that already for far too long and have suffered for it. If I do that now, how do I know THAT is not rebellion to what God wants me to do? Besides, if you go by the rebellion-to-God dogma, where is the longsuffering and patient love of God in that?

Jesus said that if two of his followers gather in his name, he is there in the midst. This may be one of the keys to the door of God's house. Where two or more of us encourage each other in faith and hope, pray for each other and with each other, that would be fulfilling the 2 most important commandments according to Jesus when he uttered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

Another thought that has come to mind in the reading Psalm 27 passage again, when I see "at his tabernacle I will sing and make music to the Lord." "At" makes me think of standing next to something, in this case it could be an altar. Wherever you build an altar for the Lord to worship him, wouldn't that be the place of his dwelling and therefore his house? Or how about under the shadow of His wing? When I sing to the Lord even by myself, I feel I've passed through a threshold, walked into a place of worship and communion. When I talk with the Lord wherever I am, I share with him the secrets of my soul, my needs and desires. In so doing, I hand my burden to him in faith that he's taken it since he's promised to shoulder it much better than I ever could. That's the kind of exchange pastors always tell you needs to happen when you go to church. It can happen anywhere though, not just in church services.

Perhaps the spirit of the Lord doesn't WANT to be walled up in a building where communal chores are necessary to keep its household running. Maybe he really IS like the wind that wants to blow where a place of desire and need exist, where it can do most good.

Not to say that can't happen in church too, because I know that's very valid for those who seek refuge in the churches. It was for me at one time. Still can be sometimes. The Lord is never one to turn anyone away, so my guess is he's in both types of houses. For those who like the idea of being part of a family where, sort of like children, they do their chores while the pastor-father oversees (and yes, does his chores too), that's great for them. But to assume we all need to be there when some of us have spread our wings and flown the nest, isn't that a bit presumptuous? That's like telling my adult children what they are doing out in the world beyond our home isn't as valid as coming back into the fold and helping us keep our household running.

My hope is that the house of God dwells within us, wherever we may be, as we seek his face and he touches our lives. Like that beautiful painting of the finger of God touching the finger of man, both reaching to one another in need and desire, the Spirit of God gives sustenance and breath to help us keep on living, enabling us to follow the path of destiny he's given us without fear and distraction. Walking in harmony and communion with him is his house because he is our father, teacher, saviour and friend. That seems right to me, but since this is a quest, I'm open to adjusting anything out of harmony with the scriptures.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Travel Money

Where DO they get the money to travel so much? Orlando in May, Colorado in June and now they are in Hawaii. Cant wait to see what August thru December brings. It must be nice to jet set all around the world and have a travel calendar filled to overflowing.

Here are a few of the pastor girls tweets:
[Went to church outside in my swimsuit.. What?! Maui is where I be.. Embracing the aloha spirit. via Twitter for iPhone ]

[sitting under a huge palm tree looking over the ocean in Maui! via UberTwitter ]

[Just got back from a spa, and am now officially relaxed! via UberTwitter ]

[Last day in Maui.. We've done a whole lot of nothing and I've loved every second. Pool, eat, read, beach, spa, eat, repeat.. via Twitter for iPhone ]

Again, not that pastors shouldn't take vacations but, really, when the rest of us are trying to make house and car payments, and travel has to take a back seat, are we supposed to believe God loves and favors them more because they charged 210 per person at their youth camp and the offerings were so dang good their reward is a week of in Maui?

Again, do the families that lost their houses over there at vortex church ever ask these kinds of questions? (They lost their homes because of bad advice given by the senior pastor who elevated a scammer guy into leadership who scammed these families out of money taken from the equity in their homes. He is now a wanted man in 3 different states!) (BTW, why didn't the pastors all lose their houses too??)
So, do they merely believe God blesses his anointed with abundance while the rest of the congregation suffers? Don't they wonder just a little bit where the travel money comes from? Aren't they curious to know whether their tithes and offerings (which was essentially their money before they gave to "God") are funding all the foo foo fluff that so easily hides under the big broad category tabbed "ministry".

Fine. If God wants them to get away with it scott free in this life, so be it. Is it too much to ask for justice in this life? Not so much that we can see them 'get their just desserts' but so God will validate that he is watching and isn't happy with this sort of thing. If nothing else, they will have to give an accurate account for it someday even if it's only in the hereafter at the Day of Judgement. Wouldn't want to be in their shoes then.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

High Rolling at The Vortex Church

Yum. Just downed a happy meal at MickeyD's tonight. Since the economic downturn we've been cutting costs in creative ways like many Americans. Occasionally splurging is a must, though, to keep the sanity and fun in your life. Thus the economy meal. (And dont forget, there's always the Number 12 at Polo Ray: $2.99 buys more than you can eat, or make it a platter for an extra $1.25. Just add ice water at no charge and your meal is complete.)

It's amazing, though, that our former Vortex Church doesn't seem to be affected by the economic dip, or at least it hasn't seemed to affect the senior pastor family. In fact, vacations to expensive theme parks clear across the country are being twittered about by their entire family as I blog. "Entire family" in this case means most of the Vortex staff which is senior pastor and wife, sons, daughters, and spouses. These people always vacation together which is a little weird anyway. How do you ever really take a break if your entire clan is in tow?

That's just rich isn't it? When the rest of us are driving shorter distances in these hard times or even cutting out vacations altogether for a staycation, this family manages to ride high on the tithes of the undiscerning (who believe that their tithes and offerings are furthering the work of the ministry which is supposed to help the cause of Christ). Instead, they feel free to spend the money on themselves. But that's nothing new. Actually, it's one of the primary reasons we left. Somehow the leadership (and the people who stay there with them) truly believe that there's nothing wrong with spending tithe money in extravagent ways.

Not that a family shouldn't take a break and make memories together. But come on. Doesn't ANYONE see that something is amiss here? Apparently not, because the entitlement behavior is still going on how many years later? They don't seem to be cutting back at all when the rest of us have to. They still eat often at fine restaurants (no MacDonald's for them), still live in their posh houses (and there's something fishy in the way they all got those houses) and they fly across the country monthly whether it be for what they call ministry or for a family vacation. (But they need those vacations because they are working so hard you know, trying to think of new and creative offering ideas to keep their good thing going).

I know it makes me sound bitter and jealous. Under normal circumstances I'd wish anyone the prosperity they seem to enjoy. And if they were owners of a company making lots of money, and as long as it were ethical unlike Enron, I'd have no qualms with their high end tastes. But when did pastors become entitled to lux living as if they were CEOs of big money-making companies? They are living off offering money. If so, then they should live within their church's means not like Benny Hinn or something.

It hardly seems fair that the economic crisis doesn't seem to touch them like it does the rest of us. I suppose if we had a personal tithe stash coming to us every week, we'd be flying across the country on vacation too. Is it because they are more privileged than the rest of us? Does God have a special affinity for them as his select anointed? Were they born into royalty? Why are they privileged then? The bottom line is they have somehow convinced enough people that they are deserving of money that doesn't belong to them. They lead people to believe it's for ministry purposes -- money they and their followers think they are entitled to dip into. Remember, as a church they have 501 3 C status which means they don't have to pay taxes on that money. That's a whole different topic. Related yes, but I can't even go there now.

How long is God going to look on while people in this church have lost their houses (something's fishy there too) yet they loyally give their tithe money every Sunday so the senior family can live in their high end homes? I can't help but wonder if God's silence is condoning their behavior? When I think again, I know it's not but it's certainly a diabolical thought that crosses the minds of those who have been used by them and tossed aside and forgotten. Reminds me of a few Psalms we've all come across, thinking 'Wow, David sure has an attitude here' -- apparently with good reason. If David, a man after God's own heart, felt free to ask God these kinds of questions, maybe my question here isn't so out of line. How long Oh Lord . . .

The whole disparity is so eerily familiar. Wasn't it the Pharasees in the New Testament who were eating the best cuts of meat provided by the poor people (those weren't free-will offerings, they were mandatory) as they walked around in their fine robes and lived in the best houses? Oh, and they were really into public prayer too - so eloquent(blah blah blah)and spiritual(such bloviaters). But whose prayers did God esteem?

If pastors want to truly relate to the average person in their congregation for the sake of the Gospel, shouldn't they at least try to live a balanced lifestyle, which may also entail living within a balanced means, and take an average salary (so they are neither tempted to steal or become so greedy they forget God)? That would mean they would be numbered among the middle class instead of the elite though, and for some pastors that could be a problem. When you think about it, Jesus wasn't even considered middle class and he managed to get the true work of the gospel accomplished. If it worked for him to remain lowly, why do we think we'd need to be any different?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Taking My Spiritual Temperature

I thought to check in since I've recently taken my spiritual temperature, which most of us do from time to time, especially at the beginning of each year, just to make sure we aren't straying from Jesus - 'examine yourself', the Bible encourages. But in taking my own temperature, I think it's only fair to wisely take stalk in what's going on around me - it's part of being prudent - because as we are all observing lately, the body of Christ isn't exemplifying what the Bible specifies in many areas. That has a bearing on what I decide about where I fit or don't fit etc. No one else is able to decide that for me. Not even a pastor.

(NOTE: As the writer of Detox Church Group I can only tell you where I'm at. My detox friends seem to be in a similar place, but it wouldn't be fair to speak for them since they each have the intelligence and writing gifts to speak for themselves.)

I still find I need to know Jesus is near, hear his voice, and am gladly open to the input of the Holy Spirit. I still find the Bible is a source of comfort, direction and strength, although there are some passages I have to put off for later when I'm ready. The Holy Spirit has a timing about reteaching what I learned from the old church and I've found if I wait till I'm ready, it's redone in such a thorough and profound way!

I find I'm still no closer to becoming involved in the Christian Culture than I was the last time I posted and still feel quite content to keep it at arms length. I know this must come across as anti-Christian which I'm not, but I am leary of many Christians. There are many reasons for that, which you have read about here on this blog.

I still like to listen to the Good Preacher speak at the Good Church, whether on local tv or in the foyer, but still feel no affinity to the Good Church itself as in taking ownership and doing stuff there. Because if I did stuff there it would only be out of obligatory christian expectation. That expectation doesn't seem to come from the pastor or his sweet wife, but the vibe is there in others. Still, I'm thrilled The Good Church exists and feel free to come and go. I'm still aware that no one misses me just like I don't miss them. The first few years I was there, I'd friend-request some of the worship team from the Good Church on MySpace, and later on Twitter, and I was virtually ignored every time. So, obviously the interest just isn't there. I thought "Ok, guess I'm not interested in you either!" Then I thought "How freeing is that?!" So, I guess I have learned, once again, what a closed door feels like, and it is closed (for me) at the Good Church. And I'm ok with that especially since the Lord has opened other musical doors for me outside the church. (Lest you think I'm merely too lazy to get involved at church, my time is taken with all it takes to do what I do. Otherwise, maybe God would have me do the work there. It's just not my path.)

As I check the spiritual temp of the Christian Culture from where I stand, locally and online, I still get the vibe that to be a spiritual person you must be 'plugged in' and involved at a church, must have a pastor you are under, and that speaking out or asking questions that beg to be asked still equates unforgiveness. I feel this even at The Good Church. Yet, I'm so impressed how this church reaches out to the lost, the addicted, and to the poor on a regular basis - it's amazing and commendable. But there is still a culture threshhold that one must cross to feel at home there. Like anywhere else, you must look and sound similar to what's going on there to 'fit in'. Maybe that is just group mentality no matter where you go, not just in churches. At least it's not controlling and legalistic like some places I know. So, since I have a choice, I'd just rather not have to fit in.

The hard part about taking the Bible at its word is you want to duplicate what it says, like about the kind of culture we should be, but that doesn't seem to exist here on earth. Even so, everybody seems to be looking for it. At least we know that in Heaven IT will be there and it will be what we were longing for on earth.

What is God doing with the body of Christ at large concerning this culture thing? This group mentality seems to be everywhere. Speaking, and acting on, the party line has never been so prevelant. But is God just leaving us to our own devices or is he in the process of intervening in a slow patient way? As it stands now, much of the church seems so separate from the rest of the world and is becoming more and more unrelateable?

If God wanted to sift the church from group think/group speak, how would he do it?

Does he desire to bring the culture down to a size we can fit in--like a bunch of little groups? Maybe we aren't supposed to even form little groups. Maybe just have friends who help each other without calling ourselves anything.

If you were God and trying to change a culture (without destroying the whole thing in one fatal sweep) that had morphed into something that no longer reflected your original goal, how would you dismantel it and how long would it take?

We've all observed how the Lord, in his mercy, seems to take a long time to do anything because he doesn't want to lose anyone in the process, so it wouldn't happen over night. Apart from the rapture which will happen overnight, so to speak, would you just call people out from the morphed failed project and start anew? I don't know, I'm just thinking, just wondering what HE thinks of all this. (I'm sure there are a bunch of prophetic types who think they know what he thinks, but I'm really only interested in what he thinks, not in what they think. That said, I am open to discussion - just not 'thus sayeth the Lord prophetic words' on the subject, if you get my drift! )

So, just checking in to say I'm still a Christian but still gun-shy of many who bear the name and have become very careful of my interactions and conversations with them. At the same time, I realize I have to be careful to remain open to each individual the Holy Spirit may bring my way and regard that person as valuable to the Lord and to myself. And to pray for patience and humility. . ."But for the grace of God go I." Because I was there on that merry-go-round at one time too.