Discipleship Deliberation: January, 2012


Though I've been writing lots of other things, this is my first Discipleship Deliberation post since last November. We've been chugging along with home learning - and, of course, the rest of life - since then; I just haven't taken the time to post weekly updates. In fact, I've decided to aim for monthly updates this year, which is, perhaps, more realistic.

Thus, I bring you:

My January, 2012, Deliberation

The month in general ~

...was full. We celebrated a belated Christmas with my husband's family early in the month and my nephew's birthday with my family at the end. I served twice on worship team, and my husband traveled for a few days for his job in addition to being busy with our church situation and a somewhat similar circumstance with some folks connected to his ministry. For the fourth time in as many years, I hosted a receptive group of business people in order to share with them about home education. And, of course, we "did school;" in fact, we even accomplished all the bookwork I'd hoped to complete!

In our studies this month ~
We started our new science curriculum, the Answers in Genesis God's Design series, and are really enjoying it. I know from my own strong science background that it covers all the usual concepts quite well, with the added benefit of addressing them from a Scripturally-faithful perspective.

We also started K5 Learning, an online enrichment program I was asked to review. My review will be coming in a few weeks, but suffice it to say for now that we're enjoying it so much we intend to subscribe once our trial period ends.

And the girls started lessons with their new piano teacher, Mrs. Brown. I really like the materials Mrs. Brown is using with them (Faber), and the girls are responding really well to her instruction. I think they're even excited about the April recital.

What needs some tweaking ~
I need to figure out the best time to schedule piano practice each day. If I do it early in the day, I sometimes feel that our core academics get rushed. But, if I schedule it later, it's easy to let it slide for one reason or another. I want to put it in the afternoon even though I think it's probably best to keep it in the morning.

[One of the] best things[s] about the month ~
...was the resolution of the issue that plagued our church since October, 2011. The mediation team from our denomination came in on January 15 to share its recommendations, which the elders accepted in their entirety. My husband and I are not wholly pleased - specifically, it had been our hearts' desire that the two associate pastors whose unwarranted firings precipitated the crisis would be rehired, and they were not - but we understand the wisdom in the team having decided as it did and feel a peace about going forward with the church, at least for the time being.

Of course, things aren't suddenly all "peaches and cream." As a result of the recommendations, we currently only have a youth pastor (though we'll be meeting our two new "intentional interim pastors" this weekend), our friends whose jobs weren't restored are hurting, and we're seeing lots of internal strife within the congregation - which is equal parts sad, frustrating, and worrisome. But living in "limbo" for three months in regards to such a big part of our lives was really hard, so resolution of the original situation at least affords us all the opportunity to move forward. And an amazingly powerful sermon delivered by our youth pastor last Sunday (1/29/2012) reassured me that God will work everything out for His glory and our good.

My own discipleship ~
The day the team came to give its recommendations, the president of the denomination preached for us, emphasizing the balance between grace and truth. And that was a theme in my mind and heart for the rest of the month as my husband and I interacted with fellow church members who are feeling confused and upset by our present circumstances. In fact, he and I feel a responsibility to "preach" that message, since we personally experienced part of the issue from the inside a few years ago and chose to stay despite the pain.

So I've been trying to maintain the balance between grace and truth in my relationships with church friends and encouraging them to walk that tightrope as we seek to move forward. We can't pretend that serious errors weren't made, and we have to hold our leaders accountable for walking in truth now...but, by the same token, we have to acknowledge the deception they lived under for years and grant a period of grace to allow them to "prove" themselves now that everything has come into the Light.

Questions, comments, thoughts ~
Besides being the reason for our new science curriculum, the change to our "school calendar" hasn't yet resulted in any obvious alterations in our day-to-day functioning; we did bookwork through the month as we have every January. However, I really love the fact that we changed something to our liking instead of continuing to follow the practices of the "the system" just because "everyone else does it."

Something to share ~
Five-year old Anna did a great job with the phonics instruction we worked on through the fall, becoming a pro at decoding CVC and CVCC words, as well as easily picking up on many sight words. So the time came late in the month to pull out "the" book: First Steps, the first in the series of phonics readers I favor. I took this picture right after Anna read her first "real" story.


My online friend, Q, started a weekly home education-related link-up she calls Discipleship Deliberation, and I've enjoyed the format. If you'd like to join in, just visit Q at Napalm in the Morning to get her button, check for her most recent deliberation, review her guidelines, and link up.


God's Own Fool said...

Yep, I'm in the same boat as you with the church situation. The timing is also really tough for us, in a time when we could really use more consistency. As Kathy Koch illustrated, years ago, when speaking at a women's retreat in Door County...that we should remember how eagles "teach" their babies to fly. They simply dump these little creatures out of their nice warm nest, wait for them to learn to fly as they fall, and then do a power dive to rescue them before they hit the ground! Yeah, kind of feels like that right now...

thepennynanny said...

In a situation in which abuse of authority has taken place, it is important to respect the healing process God will guide others through. While you have chosen to stay, leaving, for others, might be necessary for full restoration. Ezekiel 34 speaks very clearly about the Lord Himself becoming a shepherd for the abused. For these sheep, they seek to ONLY hear the voice of God, because the voice and actions of leaders they trusted left them wounded. A time away from church to seek God's healing, hope and path, in His own tme, not dictated by man, is crucial for some , as God is concerned with each individual having life to the full. It is also good to note that for every story that has found the "light" there are many others who kept theirs inside, or took it with them when they left the church. Sharing these stories isn't gossip...it can be part of the process of healing....it's validation, particularly to those who expressed concerns and were dismissed or even silenced. It is good for you to stay if you feel called to stay, but please do remember it might not be God's call for all. I pray each person there finds the healing of God and the strength that comes with it, especially the offenders. We all give in to sin and most sin is triggered by a weakness or insecurity and their bondage is from the enemy as much as the sin of any other. For any church to stand, returning to thefirst love and the loving freedom of Jesus Christ,then allowing it to breathe and flood the church from floor to rafter, will be a healing balm. In prayer for you and His church.

Stacie said...

Hi Tina,

I'm looking forward to your review of K5! I'm glad your schooling is going well.

Many blessings and much peace to you and your church family.

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Pennynanny -
I posted a comment on your blog, but it came back to me as undeliverable so I don't know if it did, indeed, post. So I thought I'd post it here as well, in case you're following comments on this thread. I said:

Thanks so much for your insight about my church situation. You are so very right! In fact, my husband and I left a different church about 13 years ago
because something similar had happened, and we couldn't sit under the authority of the leaders there. And, in fact, up until last month (when our "resolution" came), we didn't know if the Lord would be leading us to stay or go...so I totally understand and respect the call to leave that some might feel. My only problem is with those who are staying but are not really willing to submit to the authority we gave to the mediation team. It's a small but vocal minority, and they are making waves because they
didn't get the outcome they wanted. If you sensed frustration in my comments, it's probably stemming from dealing with those folks - trying to
love them while also wanting to shake them a bit and say, "Stay and help or leave if you must. But don't stay to cause dissent."

thepennynanny said...

Dear Tina,
Thank you so much for sharing more information. I am sorry you had to endure this sitation a SECOND time. Are any churches healthy, I wonder out loud? Perhaps it's just the way the westernized churches operate, with a business model, rather than being based on callings from the Lord....I just don't know any more. Topic for another day, I suppose.

You do have a "benefit" that many don't, in that you have your experience to guide you. For many, the emotions and moral injury of abuse of authority takes a great amount of time to process and, to just accept things after such deception and manipultion is a challenge. One can wonder what to believe anymore.

Again, I appreciate you exlaining further. I will continue to pray for the health and strength of your fellowship. May God give you the ability to remain loving, gracious and brave as you face the future.

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Yes, our experience - and the reason we're sticking things out now (for the time being) - comes on two fronts:
1. At the other church where something similar happened (i.e., spiritual abuse by the senior pastor), the elders did nothing about it and refused to even consider the seriousness of the issues. In contrast, in our current situation, though there is much to hold the elders accountable for, the difference is that last month they publicly repented for their part in what happened (and actually all volunteered to resign and only didn't at the recommendation of the mediation team).
2. My husband was actually employed at the church several years ago and was among the first employees to experience the spiritual abuse. Of course, at the time, we had no idea it would be an on-going pattern; the pastor was so highly respected that we just thought it was somehow my husband's "fault" when he was dismissed. So we even stayed on as members since we thought the problem was with us. But the experience that gives us is knowing just how intimidating the senior pastor was in his interactions - and so we have some empathy for the position the elders have found themselves under all these years (i.e., being intimidated into going along with what the senior said). We're not excusing the elders, and we want to see them behave in a mature, healthy manner now that they're out from under the thumb of abuse - and we have hope that can happen with the guidance of the interim men being brought in. But, given their repentance and our personal knowledge of the kind of "work environment" in which they functioned, we're able to extend grace to give them a chance.

However, none of that means we condemn those who've felt they had to leave - now or beforehand. We, unfortunately, felt that condemnation when we left the first situation, and would not do that to others. I don't even want to condemn those who are remaining for now but are struggling to accept the authority of our elders and new interims. It's really hard to discover that one so trusted manipulated and intimidated so many - I still have a hard time with it myself because I trusted the senior pastor as an older brother - and I understand the anger (that often finds expression in trying to gain "control" and have things done "the right way"). I just hope that, if it's too hard to overcome, my brothers and sisters will seek fellowship elsewhere...or, if they want to stay here, they'll give things a chance to settle out for a while now that the cause of the problems is gone. Of course, we can't be "stepford Christians" and just blindly accept what any leader says...but I think that, if a person chooses to stay, they have to be willing to be part of the solution instead of just loudly pushing their own agendas on the side, if you know what I mean.

This whole thing has been quite a shock to us all. I don't think any of us thought we had a "perfect" church - we're not so naive. But we were so in the dark about the dysfunctions that brought this to a head, and then it all blew up so suddenly and viciously that I think we're all a little shell-shocked. But praise God that He has the strength to walk us out of it toward greater Christlikeness - both those who are trying to stay in this fellowship and those who've felt the need to start with new bodies. :^)

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