Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So They Want You to Sign a Church Covenant?

Below is a comment I put on another blog that I really should have just posted over here on Detox but I didn't realize that till I clicked post comment and then saw how much I had written!  [Note to self:  I will have to watch that in the future, especially when I'm new to a blog and could probably turn people off by the length of the comment.]  After reading through my comment again I'm seeing it's part of our story that I want to keep - our story as in mine, my husband's, which in this case is linked with our dear friends' story - who left the vortex when we did.  Like FreeAtLast often says our friendship became the gold we took from that place.  [We still have gold there and in the spirit of no man left behind we are a prayer team now for those few we care deeply for to come to an epiphany of truth so they are free to grow up in the Lord.  Someday we hope to share our victory here - another part of the story yet to take place!]  Anyway, I thought I'd post the comment here as a reference.  It's in response to an article about signing a contract or covenant with your church which brought up memories of the lame documents we signed at the former church, which were mild compared to what is going on in churches now-a-days.   Click the link (above in red) for the article - it's very informative and I love the way Dee quotes the song Hotel California!  [It's amazing how songs - movies - stories - take on new meaning once you see what's really going on!]  She also begins and ends with a strong warning against signing contracts with churches:
Summary: Unless you have time, money, reputation and energy to burn:
  • Do not prospectively sign any clause, contract, covenant or membership agreement that limits your right to leave a church while you are under discipline.
  • Do not sign any clause, contract, covenant or membership agreement that mandates mediation instead of seeking legal protection by the courts.
  • Do not sign such an agreement which also mandate mediation by a pre-selected organization.
  • Do not sign any agreement that allows the pastors wide latitude in discussing your confidential conversations with others.
Ok, here's my comment (I'm editing the format to include paragraphs for easier reading and I've also added a few comments in italics that are not in the original):
Wow. This post is a definitive warning for the modern day Christian Liberty playbook. I can’t believe it has escalated to such extremes in the last decade. And we thought what we signed at our former church was wack! When our former pastor likened joining the church to a marriage ceremony we thought ‘how corny can you get?’ and we were ‘elders’ at the time – in title only of course, as a long trail of others were before us. (In that church to become an elder was the kiss of death in that it was the final attempt to bring change to a hopeless situation – and it also appealed to our spiritual egos or else we wouldn’t have said yes.)(We are embarrassed about this now.) Even though we had our eye on the back door we were still signing documents that said wine shouldn’t touch our lips and our allegiance is to the lead pastor of the ‘house’, among the long list of covenant stipulations. But if it had been 5 or 10 years earlier we would’ve agreed to even more – so I can see where people can find themselves ready and willing to sign covenants drawn up by their church leaders who are so revered and worshiped. We can become far to trusting and lazy in the sense we’d rather have someone do our thinking for us. It’s so embarrassingly humbling to admit that we fell for the whole pastor covering thing, but it’s part of our story so we can’t conveniently leave it out. (regretful sigh.) Looking back we see we only too willingly gave our pastor too much power. We didn’t realize at the time in doing so we had made him (and his family of nepotism) an idol. However, it was a bill of goods sold to us heavily from the pulpit on Sundays – extra meetings during the week – in conferences – until the church ate up our entire existence practically, which is where we begun to become disenchanted. Fortunately we had a few outside interests we were always fighting to get to and we lived in frustration half the time. 
When we finally REALLY woke up out of the fog of that strange hypnotic love affair with the former First Family (they have actually called themselves that!), we remembered we were born in America and we could actually choose to leave if we wanted – that we didn’t have to live like that anymore. Yes, we’d pay a price for getting out, but another life was an actually an option. It was such an epiphany. But it shouldn’t have been! 
How did we lose sight of the true gospel and of what it really is to live in a free country (free at least for now)? We have discussed this at length over the last 10 years – my good friend and processing partner calls it free talk therapy! ( I was referring to FreeAtLast!) Talking it through and reading blogs and books, as well as indepth study of the Bible in a non-church environment – (here I should've said in a multi-denominational setting) all part of the healing and hopefully will keep us on the road to spiritual health. We’ve concluded that part of why we fell for the pastor authority thing is we are victims to our own sub-culture. We had to go through another experience at yet another church that we thought was different than the first to realize more fully that it’s how the Christian church today does church. We found that even though the style of the pastor of Church 2 (8 years in attendance) had many differences than the former authoritarian Church 1 (20 years in attendance), underneath it was built on the same supposition that the pastor is the one in charge of the money and the elders are in name only. What they have in common is stunning. Questions asked are considered contrary or insubordinate. The pastor is building a kingdom he has no problem asking professionals to give to sacrificially in time and in money. Blatant Nepotism. (Here I should have said blatant at the first church and subtle at the second.) Vasts amount of money spent to build the lead pastor’s legacy and to live in plain sight in front of the poor among us as upper class Americans because to date the IRS is reluctant to investigate churches. (Here’s a couple NPR interviews on the subject although they are talking about TV evangelists and talk shows, it applies to any church set up as a 501c3:
How did we come to think the church is more powerful than the freedom our forefathers fought for? How on earth did we get to the place within the christian community where we forget we live in America where the vote still exists, at least outside the church; and why do we so willingly relinquish our ability to think critically and vote according to our own consciences to opportunistic leaders of a tax exempt organization that exists only by the enabling (give power, means, competence, or ability to; authorize) of the people who attend and give weekly donations?? Once we come to that conclusion as Americans who still have at least some freedom of choice, then we can, as my good friend often reminds me, vote with our feet. 
So we need to realize WE DON’T HAVE TO SIGN ANYTHING WE DON’T WANT TO SIGN. But first we need to look at why we are tempted to sign: 1) Just like the Israelite’s in the Old Testament, we are looking for a king because we are prone to idol worship 2) God calls himself Jealous for a reason – he didn’t intend for us to give our power to any member of the 5-fold ministry spoken of in the New Testament – an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor or a teacher; 3) It’s easier to let others make decisions for us but in the long run it’s much more labor intensive to extricate ourselves, so we may as well gird our loins at the beginning and do the work of ministry each day at the by listening to the Holy Spirit ourselves, thinking and researching for ourselves. Like my good friend often reminds me God wants us to be grown up Christians rather than being children to the pastors who call themselves fathers even though the Word of God specifically warns people not to call themselves fathers.
Bottom line – if church leadership is asking for your signature to a covenant they’ve drawn up, that is the red flag telling you to vote with your feet and get the heck out of there. It’s better to be in relationship with a few close friends seeking God than a roomful of unsuspecting people who feel comfortable listening to one man – and it’s usually a man lol – give his opinions on the Word of God every week. It may not be the high one has grown used to but the level of sanity is worth the sacrifice.
Ok – didn’t really plan to make this comment this long. But signing church covenants must be some kind of trigger!