Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Emergent Church" Emerging Into Your Church?

Found an excellent essay today which asks the question, How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging in Your Church.

It is no coincidence that I saw some of the exact things mentioned in that article at my former church. It was really sad when our family finally realized that what we saw as "going wrong" at the church has turned out to have happened as a result of the Emergent church movement that has been sweeping the country.

Our family recognized that something wasn't quite right with the "new direction" that our former church decided to take. Ironically, it appears to have started to happen during a time when we thought that sound, biblical doctrine would absolutely continue. It was during the year when Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ came out and the book, The Purpose-Driven Life was chosen as a church-wide Bible study topic. Shortly thereafter, our former church tried to copy the methods and techniques of the "Purpose" book author's church. As a result, they made some unwarranted and drastic changes regarding how a previous land purchase was to be used. It was our "uh oh" moment. It only spiraled downward from there.

I don't want to bash our former church. I have so many great and wonderful cherished memories from there. However, something in each of our spirits was telling us not to stay. Must have been the Holy Spirit's leading.

Back to the essay. The following excerpt briefly explains why the "Emergent church" direction is not the correct way to go and why your "spiritual antenna" should go up if your particular church is showing signs of skewing off in the wrong direction.


One of the main indicators that something has changed can be seen in the way the future is perceived. Rather than urgently proclaiming the gospel according to the Scriptures and believing the time to do so is short, the emphasis has now shifted. No longer are “signs of the times” significant. The battle cry is very different. A major emphasis among evangelicals is the idea that the world can be radically improved through social programs.

This concept, while on the surface may sound very good, has some serious biblical implications. According to the Scriptures, there will be no kingdom of God until the King arrives. All the human effort man can muster up will fall short of bringing utopia. In fact, according to the Scriptures, fallen man will lead us further down the road to a society of despair and lawlessness just like it was in the days of Noah.

Thus, this purpose-driven view of establishing global utopia may be a plan, but it is “driven” by humanistic reasoning and not led by the Holy Spirit. While it is of course good to do good unto others, all the goodness that we can do will not be good enough. Pastors and church leaders who get involved in such man-driven programs can usually be identified by certain characteristics:

* Sound biblical doctrine is dangerous and divisive, and the experiential (i.e.,mystical) is given a greater role than doctrine.
* Bible prophecy is no longer taught and is considered a waste of time
* Israel becomes less and less important and has no biblical significance
* Eventually the promises for Israel are applied to the church and not Israel (Replacement Theology).
* Bible study is replaced by studying someone’s book and his methods
* Church health is evaluated on the quantity of people who attend.
* The truth of God’s Word becomes less and less important
* God’s Word, especially concepts like hell, sin and repentance, is eventually downplayed so the unbeliever is not offended.

Spiritual Formation and Transformation

Much of what I have described provides the formula for a dumbing-down of Christianity that paves the way for an apostasy that will only intensify in the future. This trend away from the authority of God’s Word to the reinvented form of Christianity has overcome all evangelical denominations like an avalanche. Few Bible teachers saw this avalanche coming. Now that it is underway, few realize it has even happened.
(bold mine)

Some may have the attitude, "Ah...it's not so bad." But the following quotes tell us how important proper discernment is today. The closer we get to the end times (which history and Biblical prophecy indicate that it's getting closer and closer each and every day... though, of course, we know not the hour nor day) the more important knowing the absolute truth as revealed in the Scriptures will be to avoid heresy and apostasy.


“A half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.” - J. I. Packer

“Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather, it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

–Charles Spurgeon


I would encourage you to read the entire essay at the link above.

In conclusion, the author shares the warning signs:

Signs the Emerging Church is Emerging

There are specific warning signs that are symptomatic that a church may be headed down the emergent/contemplative road. In some cases a pastor may not be aware that he is on this road nor understand where the road ends up.

Here are some of the warning signs:

* Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.
* The centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.
* More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.
* The teaching that Jesus Christ will rule and reign in a literal millennial period is considered unbiblical and heretical.
* The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.
* The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past
* An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.
* Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be reinvented in order to provide meaning for this generation.
* The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.
* While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.
These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.
* There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
* Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. * They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.
* There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.
* Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.

What does the Future Hold?

If the Emerging Church continues unfolding at the present pace, mainstream evangelical Christianity will be reinvented and the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures will be considered too narrow and too restrictive. In other words, the narrow way to heaven that Jesus proclaimed will eventually be abandoned for a wider way that embraces pagan experiential practices. I call this reinvented, re-imagined form of Christianity that is unfolding—“Christian Babylonianism”.

This new form of Christianity will replace biblical faith with a faith that says man can establish the kingdom of God here on earth. The Word will continue to become secondary to a system of works driven by experiences.

An ecumenical pattern towards unity with Rome will become more apparent. Those who refuse to embrace this direction will be considered spiritual oddballs that need to be reprimanded. Those who stand up for biblical faith will be considered the obstructions to the one world spirituality that is promoted as the answer for peace.

The best way to be prepared for what is coming is to gain an understanding of what is happening now. While there are not many who seem to discern the trend underway, there are some. Without the Bible and the Holy Spirit as our guide, the darkness that is coming would be overwhelming. However, the light of God’s Word penetrates the darkness and there are those who are being delivered from deception and see what is taking place.

I am convinced we are seeing apostasy underway, exactly as the Scriptures have forewarned. This means that this current trend is not likely to disappear. We must continue to proclaim the truth in the midst of deception with love. As Paul instructed Timothy:

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will (2 Timothy 2: 24-26).

There are still pastors and churches who are dedicated to proclaiming the truth. Find out where they are and support them. If you are in a location where this does not seem to be possible, seek out materials that are available from solid Bible-based Christian ministries and hold Bible studies in your own home.

And keep looking up! Jesus is coming soon.


HT: Understanding the Times.org

7 comments:

Steve K. said...

Hi Christine,

Thanks for sharing your concerns about the emerging church. I don't, however, believe it's the great apostasy that you seem to believe it is. I wonder if you've ever really talked with or interacted with anyone in the emerging church movement (i.e., someone like myself who considers themselves a part of it). "Purpose-driven" churches are not (I would say) a part of the emerging church, for example, although many people (like those at UnderstandingtheTimes.com) tend to lump "purpose-driven" in with "emerging" and say it's all bad. I think that's painting things with a very broad brush. I'd just encourage you to dig a little deeper before you write everything "emerging" off as heretical.

Thanks for listening,
Steve K.

Dan said...

hello,

I agree with Steve, as the author of the article is pretty guilty of extreme generalizations and is describing an "emerging church" that doesn't exist in reality.

Yes, there are things to always watch out for, in any movement. Always be watching for what doctrines are taught and what is happening in that regard. But I would encourage you to do some research than taking that source as an authority on this.

here are two blog postings about this you may want to read which describe how these inaccurate generalizations are happening:

http://www.dankimball.com/vintage_faith/2007/04/more_ephesians_.html


http://www.dankimball.com/vintage_faith/2006/12/saddened_by_joh.html

and also the distinction of "emerging" vs. "emergent" which the author did not mention either is described here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcbnGXSYxuI

here is also a mom who was concerned like you are, until she actually did research herself to find out what she was hearing about wasn't accurate, that you may want to read:

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=78788830&blogID=279791234



Thank you. May God bless you journey is looking into the truth of this.

Merwin said...

* More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.


Hmmm.

This point, as did many others, troubles me. Where does the great commission fit into this? "Go forth AND MAKE disciples..."

As the two previous comment-ers have pointed out, the author is using very broad generalizations applied to a wide array of situations. The author may have a point somewhere in there. But I discern a heck of a lot of opinion in his writing. I would encourage caution before accepting anything anyone says without proper investigation.

I read the Purpose Driven Life. As did my Church Bible Fellowship class. Were we wrong? We spent a year on this book and compared it SIDE BY SIDE with scripture. That is to say, Warren has many great points, but we did not agree with everything he presented. Now we are reading "Jesus Christ Disciple maker" by Bill Hull. Are we heretics? Again, we are reading this project alongside the scripture and referencing those passages that Hull sites. Would we be included in this "emergent apostasy?"

This one is on dangerous ground. Be cautious.

Christinewjc said...

Hi Steve K,

Welcome to Talkwisdom! And, thanks for your input and sharing your concerns.

If you have the time, perhaps you could read some of my previous blogposts about the "PDL" book and the direction that Rick Warren is taking (and showing to others) via his book, training materials and formation of/policies/direction of his church.

I originally loved the "PDL" book. In fact you will notice in this post that I went through several "stages," so to speak, before I realized some of the dangers in Warren's "movement."

I'm no expert on the terms "emergent" vs. "emerging" church doctrine. I will continue to read about both in order to be more informed. However, after 20 years of studying Scripture I can discern truth from error as well as truth from "almost truth" (or half-truths)that are being introduced into Christianity at an alarming rate these days.

Of course, I don't "know it all." No one does, in fact. But what God has revealed through the Person of Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible, gives me all that I need to know right now. Bible study utilizing the tried and true tools of proper exegesis, hermenuetics, Sola Scriptura, and Scripture interprets Scripture, is definitely needed these days in order for believers to discern truth from error and in so doing, enabling believers to avoid heresy and apostasy.

Here are some additional blogpost links about Rick Warren:

Opportunity To Preach Or N. Korea Propaganda Stunt?

More Rick Warren Bad News

Many Now Recognizing the Heresy of Warren

The Most Important Question Answered

Spiked Stories of 2006 (Note: Scroll down to #9 about Warren.)

Make Your Own Jesus

I realize that I have given you a lot of reading to do. But it may help you (and Dan and Merwin) to see where I am coming from and why.

Steve K wrote: "I'd just encourage you to dig a little deeper before you write everything "emerging" off as heretical."

That is certainly really good advice. When confronted with any issue or topic these days, I think it is vitally important to dig deep to ultimately get to the truth of the matter. That is the correct biblical position to take on any subject.

If you read through the links above, you will see that I still think that Rick Warren's book can be beneficial to seasoned believers. However, because the book is sadly lacking in emphasizing the Cross of Jesus Christ, need for repentance for sin, and preaching that vital part of the gospel to others, I would recommend that people read "The Way of the Master" first (especially if they are not believers yet).

The following are two excellent blogposts done by another Christian who is concerned about the "Emergent Church Movement." Notice some of the comments by Christians who have seen their churches fall prey to it.

1. On What I Think About the Emergent Church Movement

2. The Emergent Church, Community and Comedy

Christinewjc said...

Hi Dan,

Welcome to Talkwisdom!

I can slightly agree with your first statement. Not all "emerging" churches are moving away (IMHO)from the true gospel of Christ in quite the same way. However, I do see many denominations in conflict today because of traditional vs. post-modernistic thinking. The current gay christian movement is just one example. [Note: an excellent blog filled with articles, resources, and links about that growing heresy is GAY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT WATCH]

There are so many "offshoots" going on today that it can be difficult to list them all within the "emergent" crowd. None-the-less, the skewing away from the absolute truth of the Bible (especially on social/sexual issues) appears to be a huge part of the reason(s) for these various heretical movements.

I will take a look at the links you have posted. I hope that you will consider reading the links that I posted in my comment to Steve K. Perhaps we can continue to have a lively discussion about it all!

Christinewjc said...

Hi Merwin,

The blog article: * More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.


You replied: "Hmmm.

This point, as did many others, troubles me. Where does the great commission fit into this? "Go forth AND MAKE disciples..."


I can understand your concern over that statement. Of course, I can't be 100% certain what the writer meant. One possibility may be that he meant "building a bigger, better church" rather than winnings souls for Christ for all eternity seems to be the goal of many churches these days. They may not be so concerned with saving souls as they are with the more "temporal" focus of filling the church pews with people.

Like I said, I can't read the guy's mind. But, because many churches are de-emphasizing (or, in some cases not even discussing) the Cross of Christ, End Times prophecy, the book of Revelation, and the coming Judgment; I can then see his point.

These days, it's the "touchy-feely," "don't offend anybody," moral relativism," "entertain the masses," "diminish the need to tell people that they are sinners in need of the Savior" type of movements that ultimately ignore the Great Commission command of Jesus Christ. They want to talk about the grace of God without telling the truth of Christ's sacrificial death at the cross for their sins. Some, especially like to "pick and choose" which sins they want (or perceive the need) to repent of.

Merwin wrote: "I read the Purpose Driven Life. As did my Church Bible Fellowship class. Were we wrong? We spent a year on this book and compared it SIDE BY SIDE with scripture. That is to say, Warren has many great points, but we did not agree with everything he presented. Now we are reading "Jesus Christ Disciple maker" by Bill Hull. Are we heretics? Again, we are reading this project alongside the scripture and referencing those passages that Hull sites. Would we be included in this "emergent apostasy?"

If you will read the links I provided in my comment to Steve K., you will notice that I have read (and did a Bible study) on the "PDL" book 5 times! Note what I said to Steve:

If you read through the links above, you will see that I still think that Rick Warren's book can be beneficial to seasoned believers. However, because the book is sadly lacking in emphasizing the Cross of Jesus Christ, need for repentance for sin, and preaching that vital part of the gospel to others, I would recommend that people read "The Way of the Master" first (especially if they are not believers yet).

I'm not familiar with Bill Hull or his book. Sounds like a good topic! If I were to read it, would evaluate it based on how accurately he shares the Scriptures in his book.

Merwin said...

"These days, it's the "touchy-feely," "don't offend anybody," moral relativism," "entertain the masses," "diminish the need to tell people that they are sinners in need of the Savior" type of movements that ultimately ignore the Great Commission command of Jesus Christ. They want to talk about the grace of God without telling the truth of Christ's sacrificial death at the cross for their sins. Some, especially like to "pick and choose" which sins they want (or perceive the need) to repent of."

IF this is the point the author is trying to convey, I would agree with his stance, but pray for his delivery.

I absolutely uphold the institution , and need for, the cross. Christianity without the cross is "Christianity" without Christ. However, the author's tone and a good number of statements seemed to lend itself more to putting under fire any attempt to make the gospel more approachable... let me be more clear on that.

Many times we evangelize using so much Church lingo that the person we are speaking too can barely keep up. In Warren's book, his sole purpose was to lay the foundations of God's love in "layman's terms." I understand your point of it not specifically admonishing the cross as its sole purpose. To a degree I agree with you. But Warren was trying to lay out the case of God's desire for us to return to that which he created all of us to be, without losing his audience in the process of Christian "speak." To this end I do not fault him.

Now fast forward a book or two, and I have read no others by Warren, if he as an author continues down the road and further lacks any mention of the sacrifice Jesus made for us all, then he is in error.

It is interesting that we took away different ideas for whom the book would best serve. I think the large underlying point that is made is no book will ever do a better job than THE book at getting the complete message across.

Thank you for your thorough research and willingness to share what you find. It makes for great food for thought and reading. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. for they will be satisfied.