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Source: (consider it) Thread: What is wrong with this church, in its own terms?
c52
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I belong to a conservative evangelical Anglican church. It believes that prayer is talking to God (full stop). It appears to believe that the journey of faith stops at the moment of conversion. After conversion the believer's job is to listen to sermons and attend bible studies and prayer meetings, while volunteering for some of the tasks in the church.

In recent sermons we have been told that "be filled with the Spirit" means that all Christians are filled with the Spirit (so there's no need to think about that, it's just a fact of life); and that the fate of the tares in the parable of the wheat and tares ("first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned") is a "clear illustration of everlasting torment".

I would have welcomed a discussion on what a passive imperative means as opposed to an active indicative, and how parables are not meant to satisfy our intellectual curiosity but to appeal to our consciences and wills (to quote from memory CS Lewis). Or if they'd said, we believe in everlasting torment but Jesus seems to be using annihilation in this case.

If I read about streams of living water in the Bible, my thoughts turn to prayer, but our church takes it as a correct, factual description of all Christians.

I am reminded of a lugubrious and defensive preacher who preached on joy. His 30 minutes could be summarised as (a) the Bible says Christians are joyful; (b) I'm a Christian, so (c) if you want to know what joy is, look at me.

(This is my first post and I need to say that I am as weak at seeing what is in the Bible as our preachers were in those two examples; you may find I don't grasp your responses for days if at all.)

I am myself firmly in the camp of "the grass is greener" in any church other than the one I attend. I'm disinclined to criticise clergy because there's probably half a congregation delighted to do that. I would like to see a bit less complacency.

Is this all normal for a conservative evangelical church, or is there some point in hoping for change? Or am I quite mistaken in my discontent?

Posts: 4 | From: Surrey, UK | Registered: Apr 2017  |  IP: Logged
romanesque
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quote:
Originally posted by c52:

I am reminded of a lugubrious and defensive preacher who preached on joy. His 30 minutes could be summarised as (a) the Bible says Christians are joyful; (b) I'm a Christian, so (c) if you want to know what joy is, look at me.


Lol! A far from uncommon pastoral stereotype, sadly.
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Aijalon
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I want to say I really enjoyed your post. I guess maybe I'm just natural at being Joyful, being a Christian and all that..... [Cool]

I'm afraid to say it might be normal - what you're experiencing. You have come to your "senses" so to speak, or have been in-your-senses for a while, while those around you don't seem to understand.

I am new here and may not relate with the UK tone of things 100%. I would simply say that in my deep dive into the Bible that I had to do kind of on my own, I find that the Church is fully now into the Laodicean mindset.

Eschatologically I do believe that the Laodicean church age is a period in which we are now prophetically living through. For me that gives me a sense of purpose in the hopelessness of Church activities today.... it's all part of the suffering - the great tribulation. Enjoy! Er, no. I mean, Overcome!

Welcome, and see you 'round.

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God gave you free will so you could give it back.

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Doc Tor
Deepest Red
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Hello, and welcome to the Ship!

You'll find that there are several ex-con evos on board - I'm not sure if I count, because even though I attended a con evo church for the better part of 30 years, I retained a core of dangerous liberalism which finally saw me leave some 5-6 years ago (for another church, as opposed to none).

You'll also find that many of us will try and fail to be fair to our former congregations. We have scars, and they itch, and we get some relief from scratching them in public (ewww).

In answer to your question: yes. I think it is fairly typical of conservative evangelicalism to concentrate either solely or mainly on the moment of conversion, rather than on a growing discipleship. Or if that they do, it tends to major on toeing the party line rather than an exploration of faith.

Ultimately, I found the teaching shallow - broad, but not deep, and the rules-based orthopraxy stifling. Some people prefer it like that. I suppose it did, for a long time. I can only apologise for the damage I did while I was there, and vow not to repeat it.

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Forward the New Republic

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c52
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Thank you. Before I look up Laodicean, I have some errands to run and a shower of rain to brave.
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Gamaliel
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A Shipmate called Dyfrig, whom I've not seen here for a while although he still posts occasionally, once said something​ very wise on these boards that stuck with me.

He wrote how he'd observed to a now deceased but leading and famous conservative evangelical Anglican, that evangelicalism is a good place to start - but a poor place to end up.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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keibat
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Doc Tor wrote, in response to c52:
quote:
In answer to your question: yes. I think it is fairly typical of conservative evangelicalism to concentrate either solely or mainly on the moment of conversion, rather than on a growing discipleship.
But this is surely tied up with the idea of being Born Again as a once-for-all experience. I remember a friend being accosted and asked: Have you been Saved?, to which he replied: Yes, when I was baptized. And then: Do you know Jesus? – Yes, every time I receive the Eucharist.

But it does sound as tho' it's time for c52 to move on to pastures new – tho' there is surely also no church/ parish/ congregation/ meeting/ housegroup in the Church Militant which does not have its share of superficiality.

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keibat from the finnish north and the lincs east rim

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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The comment which comes to my mind, is that for some conversion is a life long process.
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Martin60
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c52 [Overused] You're not alone! Well you are actually ... Stay dry.

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Love wins

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Lyda*Rose

Ship's broken porthole
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I've come to the conclusion that there are two parts to the Christian life and many people see only one: salvation. Salvation is a great and wonderful thing, a thing of free grace which we in no way earn, and it throws out fear. But the other part is sanctification, the saved you growing into the person God wants you to be. This is where all that Bible reading, fellowship, and empowerment by the Spirit help you know what God wants and help you practice your faith by understanding it more clearly and doing good works. "Works" do not save you, but done in the right spirit, they strengthen your bond with the Godhead and with your fellow humans.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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c52
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quote:
Eschatologically I do believe that the Laodicean church age is a period in which we are now prophetically living through. For me that gives me a sense of purpose in the hopelessness of Church activities today.... it's all part of the suffering - the great tribulation. Enjoy! Er, no. I mean, Overcome!
I am delighted by that paragraph by Aijalon and I'm sure I shall savour it for a time to come. Dear brothers and sisters, pray for me that I do not repeat it to anyone who would not like it equally.

I doubt I would leave this church, though I could imagine having divided loyalties with another local church or one in London. I just know that if I were in a liberal/high/charismatic church it would not be sufficiently con-evo for me, just as this church is not sufficiently liberal/high/charismatic.

I actually believe the clergy and other leaders are quite mature Christians who have got where they are now by conventional devotional means; yet they don't seem to be aware of it. Maybe they think they have no experiences to share. Maybe they think that all they've done is study the Bible when in fact they have responded to it with deep sighs and tears, joy and energy.

The minimum I require of any preacher is that they demonstrate that on some level they share my humanity, possibly by telling a joke (scores 1%) or talking about funny things or difficulties in their life and discipleship, but it seems it's anathema to be a person after the first few sentences of a sermon. "LIGHTEN UP," I want to shout. Ideally a preacher would talk a bit about their own relationship with the passage in question, how they have misunderstood it/disobeyed it/still are challenged by it/rejoice in it every day.

I write that, and yet when one preacher was going on about how God has planned every little detail of her life in His Book, I want to ask her if God has planned exactly which grains of rice she will consume in her Rice Krispies for breakfast the next morning, and which order she will eat them in. Also if God has planned which sins she is going to commit.

So not every sharing of personal faith is welcome to me.

I reckon part of the value of a church is to make us feel uncomfortable. But only in certain ways.

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Gamaliel
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I can understand your dilemma. I've stuck around in churches where I no longer 'fit' and arguably, I'd find it hard to fit in most places ...

It's not for me to say but I'd only move on as and when things became intolerable and it proves impossible for you to remain.

I do doubt that your clergy 'run deep with God' and I'm sure that underneath their self-imposed strait-jackets there's a warm and attractive faith and spirituality trying to get out ...

Ultimately, I find there's that divine spark in all settings, however dimly it might appear at times.

Take care, take courage and continue to explore. May the Lord guide your steps.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by c52:
I belong to a conservative evangelical Anglican church. It believes that prayer is talking to God (full stop). It appears to believe that the journey of faith stops at the moment of conversion. [...]

If I read about streams of living water in the Bible, my thoughts turn to prayer, but our church takes it as a correct, factual description of all Christians.

[...]

I am myself firmly in the camp of "the grass is greener" in any church other than the one I attend. I'm disinclined to criticise clergy because there's probably half a congregation delighted to do that. I would like to see a bit less complacency.

The church you attend has its own fairly particular approach to the Bible and to the life of the church. If its members are happy with that, then then there's nothing wrong with it 'in its own terms'.

But it sounds as if you want a more intellectual, exploratory approach to the faith than your church community is able to provide.

I'm not sure if there's much point in fighting against the culture of a church. IME that just causes frustration. But if there are other people in the congregation who feel the same as you do then perhaps you could gather together for your own regular discussion group, if that's allowed. Alternatively, you could start or join an ecumenical group.

As for the grass being greener elsewhere, the moderate, non-evangelical clergy do tend to preach a more relaxed message about how texts can be interpreted. However, their churches don't necessarily provide many opportunities for members to share what they think a bible passage means.

I've belonged mostly to moderate, mainstream churches, and it's often the case that if you want to explore various theological ideas you have to do that by yourself. In some places, though, there are reading or discussion groups.

Be aware that almost all churches, regardless of theology, are keen for compliant volunteers to fill various roles in the church!

[ 07. June 2017, 14:10: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Aijalon
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Leaving the church is a tough call, I would suggest it will be harder staying around with the history you have with those in the church with you, and holding back what you want to truly say.

In time, wherever you may be, you will begin to release what you want to say from and through the Holy Spirit as you grow closer to God and realize how to credit what you say as either "from you" or "from God" and begin to prophesy correctly to your friends, or express the hope and joy that is welling inside you more clearly.

Soon you will probably begin to know if God wants you to stay and minister secretively, or in some other way more openly, but I would suggest that if you are suppressing yourself too much out of frustration, fear, or even protection of others' feelings, then you may be letting all the fruit of the spirit you have just rot. Spiritual gifts are for sharing. If you cannot share yours, go where the spirit leads.

[Smile]

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God gave you free will so you could give it back.

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angelfish
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It's quite normal to feel a little at odds with what is said in your church, I think. If all you hear is what you expect or want to hear then you are probably in danger of missing out on something.

Have you tried speaking to one of your leaders about the way you feel? You might find yourself having an interesting discussion.

It strikes me that often, preachers want to avoid causing confusion in the congregation so will take a strong line on a matter, when in reality they are aware of various different interpretations and possibilities. Perhaps they want to avoid confusion in themselves as much as in others.

It interests me that you describe your church as conservative, yet there is a female preacher - is it really as conservative as all that?

In my opinion, the church you attend should not be the one source of Christian / theological input in your life, although it's important in my view to be committed to serving a particular congregation/community. Maybe look for midweek discussion groups run by other churches, retreats, conferences, occasional services elsewhere to vary your diet and have a chance to explore a little more. It might even make you better equipped to serve the community you worship with regularly.

Also you could try praying (not talking to God but asking Him to speak to you) about what He wants you to do in regard to this church.

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"As God is my witness, I WILL kick Bishop Brennan up the arse!"

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c52
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There are many around who are somewhat dissatisfied, or at least pleased sometimes to have a little bit of second-hand input from a different flavour of Christianity. So as long as I am reasonably wise my contributions are welcome.

Unfortunately I have a distinct ability to put my foot in my mouth, or not to think at all.

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DaleMaily
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

Be aware that almost all churches, regardless of theology, are keen for compliant volunteers to fill various roles in the church!

I'm convinced that God has blessed my vicar with Jedi (or Demon Headmaster depending on your children's TV preferences) powers to get the congregation to volunteer for all manner of things, and the only seemingly valid excuse is having a child to look after! It's still worth it though [Smile]

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The more I get to know the less I find that I understand.

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irreverend tod
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My church houses a wide variety of theological positions - as befits a small rural parish - so we meet together for worship and break out into other groups at other times during the week. We do share our ideas and new experiences with each other and do so in the expectation of being civil about the most divisively differing ideas. In our case this is mainly due to being a much smaller sister church where the rector is sort of imposed on us and we hang together to prevent us being forced into high Anglo Catholicism.
I think to only way you get a church that entirely suits is to set up your own...and thereby hangs another thread. If you find the church you are a member of the best fit available it is better to stay and be in community. That said a small and slightly subversive grouping within never hurts as long as it realizes it's potential for major fracture.

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Diocesan Arsonist and Lead thief to the Church of England.

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Gamaliel
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Being involved in any form of church involves a degree of compromise, just as any other relationship / membership of a group of any kind does ...

There's the old adage about if you find a perfect church, don't join as you'll only spoil it.

In response to the title of the OP, I'd agree with with SvitlanaV2's point that there's nothing wrong with the church in 'It's own terms' - as it is aiming to act consistently with its tradition and ethos.

The question isn't about the church, but about you. Do you still fit that particular model or ethos?

Only you can answer that one.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering how you can 'ask' God to 'speak' to you and tell you what he wants you to do in this particular church without talking to him. How do you ask without speaking? Do you beam thoughts Godwards?

I have to say that I rather suspect that the Almighty is more interested in what we do the rest of the time rather than what we do or don't do for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning or mid-week ...

I find it hard to get exercised about what does or doesn't go on in church these days - I have heard enough sermons to last a lifetime ... I tend to be more interested in liturgy and sacrament these days - if the sermon's alright then that's a bonus. If it isn't I simply let my mind wander.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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wabale
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quote:
Originally posted by c52:

Is this all normal for a conservative evangelical church, or is there some point in hoping for change? Or am I quite mistaken in my discontent?

When two or three Evangelicals get together there are probably more possibilities for argument than there are with other kinds of churchmanship: look, for example, at how many different kinds of evangelical churches there are! Anglican Evangelicals therefore come in all varieties, so I think I can safely say what happens at your church, C52, can’t possibly be ‘normal’. What is important, I think, is to find a church, any church, where you can contribute, not be too irritated by the sermons, and feeling you are growing in faith and not standing still. I have belonged to the same Conservative Evangelical Church for 40 years. It’s the village church, which makes it peculiar in a different way (and very, very difficult to leave!) Next Sunday I see I’m preaching on Matthew 28 and ‘making disciples’: with great respect (yes honestly) to other Christian tribes I do think that’s one thing Evangelicals got right, in theory if not in practice: some people do need to be converted!
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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by c52:
I belong to a conservative evangelical Anglican church. It believes that prayer is talking to God (full stop). It appears to believe that the journey of faith stops at the moment of conversion. After conversion the believer's job is to listen to sermons and attend bible studies and prayer meetings, while volunteering for some of the tasks in the church.

In recent sermons we have been told that "be filled with the Spirit" means that all Christians are filled with the Spirit (so there's no need to think about that, it's just a fact of life); and that the fate of the tares in the parable of the wheat and tares ("first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned") is a "clear illustration of everlasting torment".

I would have welcomed a discussion on what a passive imperative means as opposed to an active indicative, and how parables are not meant to satisfy our intellectual curiosity but to appeal to our consciences and wills (to quote from memory CS Lewis). Or if they'd said, we believe in everlasting torment but Jesus seems to be using annihilation in this case.

If I read about streams of living water in the Bible, my thoughts turn to prayer, but our church takes it as a correct, factual description of all Christians.

I am reminded of a lugubrious and defensive preacher who preached on joy. His 30 minutes could be summarised as (a) the Bible says Christians are joyful; (b) I'm a Christian, so (c) if you want to know what joy is, look at me.

(This is my first post and I need to say that I am as weak at seeing what is in the Bible as our preachers were in those two examples; you may find I don't grasp your responses for days if at all.)

I am myself firmly in the camp of "the grass is greener" in any church other than the one I attend. I'm disinclined to criticise clergy because there's probably half a congregation delighted to do that. I would like to see a bit less complacency.

Is this all normal for a conservative evangelical church, or is there some point in hoping for change? Or am I quite mistaken in my discontent?

I am reminded of a man I once worked with who had the most amazing ability to miscommunicate ANYTHING you said to him. It was his super-power. If you told him you were going to lunch, he would without fail tell any higher up who came looking for you that you were out of the office (leading them to think you were gone for the day without permission). If you went to see a doctor for a checkup, he would tell them you were in the hospital (technically true, since the doctor's office was located there) and people would assume you were admitted for heart surgery or something. Your church leaders may be communicators of a similar type.

These words "the believer's job is to listen to sermons and attend bible studies and prayer meetings, while volunteering for some of the tasks in the church" are not false. They just fail to tell most of the truth. They also miss out all the excitement.

It's also true that "all Christians are filled with the Spirit" and "it's just a fact of life"--the error comes in the word "just", which suggests that the matter is not worth further thought and is in fact utterly boring. Which is ridiculous.

The droning dreary "look at me, I'm full of joy" thing is another example.

Which is all to say that none of this invalidates the Christian faith or the Spirit-filledness or the value of your current church--

my old supervisor was pure gold, under his frustrating exterior--

but hey, if it's not working for you and you've given it a good try, it's probably time to start visiting other churches. While of course praying for the one you're in.

You probably want to be cautious about judging your current church--or I should say, I ought to be cautious--because I've been deeply surprised before. You get some person who looks like they haven't moved an inch forward in 50 years of Christian faith, and lo and behold, they turn up ministering at the homeless shelter! washing feet and clipping toenails, no less! and you had no idea at all...

[Hot and Hormonal] [Hot and Hormonal] [Hot and Hormonal]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 20059 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Aijalon
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# 18777

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quote:
Originally posted by c52:
There are many around who are somewhat dissatisfied, or at least pleased sometimes to have a little bit of second-hand input from a different flavour of Christianity. So as long as I am reasonably wise my contributions are welcome.

Unfortunately I have a distinct ability to put my foot in my mouth, or not to think at all.

So you are probably an extrovert. [Smile] Good, now use that to encourage people. Sounds like you can fit in anywhere. *thumbs up*

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God gave you free will so you could give it back.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by c52:
I belong to a conservative evangelical Anglican church. It believes that prayer is talking to God (full stop).

Does it also say what it believes happens to those words after they are thought and/or spoken?
Interesting thread. (I'm an atheist, by the way.)

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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