August 25, 2013

The Emerging Church: How Do You Know When?

A recent communication from a long-time friend in my home state has once again brought to the surface a very serious issue.  The church where he had been a member for most of his life called a new pastor, who failed to inform the church of his intent to remake the church into the emerging-church model.  While only God knows his motive, the result became very public.  When those who had sacrificed, given, and served for years to create a healthy local assembly began asking questions, they were stiff armed.  As time passed, people who had comprised the heart of that church ministry were told to either fall in line with the new plan or leave.  In the end, yet another previously healthy congregation moved into the emerging-church tragedy.

We need to begin by agreeing that it is clearly dishonest for any man to accept the leadership of a church without being upfront about his intentions.  Even if it is a theological issue that needs to be corrected, he must be transparent.

The question is often asked, “How do you know when the emerging church is emerging in your church?”  It has happened to some of you and very soon is about to happen to others.  That is what this article is about.

A CLEAR VIEW OF THE EMERGING CHURCH
In reality, the emerging church is simply the road to the emergent church.  In the latter, because that movement is at home with heresy, a theology that is biblical is almost destroyed.  The emerging church is a fa├žade.  It looks good to those who are not settled in their theology, but it is fraught with doctrinal error.

No church has ever entered its clutches without having its theology compromised.

That cancer is covered by defenders of the movement by “complicating to confuse.”  What is needed instead is an approach that “simplifies to clarify.”

To avoid revealing the theological weaknesses of the emerging church, a liberal tool is used:  all conversation about it is steered toward culture and methodology rather than the dangers of doctrinal deviation.  Although many of their methods are not inherently evil, some are dangerous.  Methods, however, are not at the center of this problem; theology is.  The emerging church uses its methods, and the ensuing debate about them, to turn from truth.

Every church that has headed down the road of the emerging church has been lulled by the siren song of “methods.”

When the doctrinal compromise which has occurred is finally realized, by then it’s too late; it is but one more step to the emergent church where at first doctrine doesn’t matter, and finally it is hated.  It all begins with the mantra that “the Bible doesn’t speak to that.”  Methods do matter, and the Bible records the death of some who were not careful about this.  

THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION
If a church is leaning toward the emerging model, don’t expect to see much of a doctrinal shift from the pulpit; it is more subtle than that.  The attitude about the content of sermons, and even their length, may create some valid questions.  When the pulpit is removed from the “worship center,” members should begin to ask, “What is central here?”  Many churches helpfully place Bibles in the pews for anyone who may not have one, but that is, of course, no longer necessary if the Bible has become merely a fetish in man-centered worship.  Don’t waste your time judging any individual churches about each of these things; one single issue will only serve to create a question and not necessarily an answer.

A majority of the churches which are moving left have had a major shift in their style of worship.  I have pledged not to get in the middle of the “worship wars,” so I will be brief with this.  The concern with this topic is that much of the move in worship styles has left the true meaning of worship behind, a telltale sign of the emerging church.  Jesus made this plain to the Samaritan woman: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4:24).  How can we worship God when truth is left behind and when we sing lies?  How can we worship God when man, rather than God, is the center of a side show misnamed “worship?”

Music is one of the best indicators of the emerging church infection.  Some say that the Bible does not speak to this subject, but that is more of a confession than an observation.

If you walk blindfolded into a “worship” service and can’t tell whether you’re in a church or a nightclub or a rock concert or a bar, something is definitely wrong.

Showmanship and low-talented performances where you have no idea what the words even are that are being sung should leave you with questions.  Even over-used phrases that border on "vain repetition" should make us begin to ask some questions.

FINE TUNING
Any one of these things by itself might not be a condemnation, but taken as a whole they should set off the warning lights.  It is clear that every church which has made this transition gave the warning early on in the form of culture, methods, and worship changes.  One could not say that the leaders in every case knew what they were doing, but in the end they had to give up something theologically.  So…if you are asking, “Is this emerging in my church?” you’d better spend some time thinking about what is going on and asking some Bible questions.  If there is no one in your church who has the ability to understand a theology that is biblical, then ask someone who does. 

I wasn’t born yesterday, and I have already heard time and again the defense of the emerging church arguments, so if you have input, please make it theological - not philosophical.


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address, Shepherdstaff2@juno.com

8 comments:

  1. Hey Lou,

    Most churches in my area have the members vote on things like who the new Pastor will be.... they see the man (or woman these days... shudder) preach one, maybe twice, and they vote.

    Perhaps in days long past the members were taught in the Word well enough that they could make some sort of reasonable decision, or at least know what questions to ask the man.

    Today however, many "members" of churches can't tell you what the Gospel is, have doctrines gained from CCM and psychology instead of the Word, and could not care less what the man actually believes and will preach.

    These are terrible times. Yet I say "Even so Lord COME!!"

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  2. Lou, thanks for sharing this. Our former church in the Midwest is headed in the direction of the Emergent church. It has a long history of conservative fundamentalism. In the last few years the pastor has been reading a lot of New Calvinist books including those of the Emergent Church movement. He became greatly influenced by their false doctrines. He started shifting his thinking in music and standards and the pulpit became a soapbox for mocking fundamentalism. He called us Pharisees and fake Christians and has convinced his staff this is the leading of the Holy Spirit. About 1/3 of the congregation has left and others, not so discerning, will follow. Why are these delusional pastors hijacking good churches? I believe these are the end times and Satan is hard at work planting seeds of doubt.

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  3. Gentlemen/All:

    If you want to read the most comprehensive review and analysis of, and the answer to the New Calvinism you must read the works by Don Congdon. New Calvinism is destructive to the church of Jesus Christ. His new book is titled, New Calvinism & the Millennial Generation: The Perfect Storm

    Brother Congdon has written,

    New Calvinism is a system of theology that combines: Reformed, Covenant, Puritan, and Augustinian theologies with present day, Post-Modern culture in an attempt to make Christianity seem more relevant to today’s Christian. Recognizing that churches are declining in numbers, fewer people are being saved, and that many Christians are carnal, not leading holy lives, concerned Christian leaders are looking back to the earlier days of the church for a solution. One solution they are turning to is New Calvinism. They are re-thinking and re-invigorating their teachings in order to make it relevant to our generation of Christianity.

    1) Relevant is a key goal of New Calvinism.
    2) Adherents to New Calvinism believe that the answer lies in reaching out and building bridges between all segments of Christianity.
    3) According to the teachings of New Calvinism, the spiritual gifts of signs and wonders are valid for the church today.
    4) New Calvinism seeks to create and redeem culture.
    5) New Calvinism unites with Worldliness.


    LM

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  4. Thanks Lou for the reposting of Dr. Nuttall's article. As you note here in your comments, this resurgence of Calvinism/RT/CT many have tried that avenue to make sense of the world today instead of actually reading the Word of God and seeing that the worsening of our world was foretold and that there would be less and less response to the message of the Gospel (Matthew 24 for starters, verse 12 states, "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."). Those that imbibe in the resurgence are only fooling themselves. They are not presenting a relevant message but are bringing the world into the church which will be their demise. With this "idea" running rampant, more and more churches who are imbibing are actually become less and less relevant because there is no difference between them that the rest of the world.
    The trumpet will sound and a shout will be heard, the believers, both dead and living, will be taken up to meet the Lord in the air. That day seems to be very near indeed and so I too echo those words, Even so come, Lord Jesus

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    Replies
    1. Amen! Until He returns, each believer needs to take his stand on his "part of the wall" with sword in one hand and trowel in the other. What a day we live in...such disturbing choices being made even among conservative people, yet exciting to think that the Lord could come for us any time!
      Dana Everson

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  5. Site Publisher Note:

    Some of those who wish to comment here are not familiar with some of my personal moderating principles. One is that I will not post any comments that include links to sites that I feel promotes doctrine, practices or principles that are anti-thetical to the Scriptures and to the message(s) of this blog. Among the sites that I will not allow links to, but is not limited to 9Marks, Desiring God, T4G, and virtually every blog that belongs to the so-called “conservative” evangelical movement. Furthermore, I rarely allow for much debate here. I, and those who contribute here, have a point of view to share. We are exposing problems within and providing answers to a wide variety of doctrinal and practical problems infecting the church of Jesus Christ. We are not looking for protracted debates.

    Thanks for your attention.


    LM

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  6. To All:

    In recent years there has been a great deal of attention focused on the New Calvinism. This “New Calvinism” is a serious threat to the Church of Jesus Christ. Many of the star personalities, the so-called “conservative” evangelicals have been at the forefront of advocating this movement and its devastating effects.

    For the most comprehensive review and analysis of, and the answer to the New Calvinism you must read the works by Don Congdon. You can find them at his website, Congdon Ministries International in the bookstore. Previously he wrote and we featured here New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel.

    For those who are genuinely saved but have fallen under the teaching of New Calvinism, there is also concern. They, along with unsaved New Calvinists, are being led down a path that quite possibly is leading to a re-unification of Protestant churches with Roman Catholicism. Eventually, this union will spawn the worldwide religion described in Revelation…. John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, and other New Calvinist leaders influence these young adults through their speaking, writing, and Internet blogs. They also encourage their followers to read the writings of past authority figures such as Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and John Owens, as well as other influential Reformers or Puritans. While some of these writings provide useful spiritual insight, they also contain false biblical teaching. It is these and other writings that encourage mysticism, signs and wonders, and a continual looking back to the cross. Instead of complacent Christianity, New Calvinism seems to offer a sense of passion that is experienced through meditation on the majesty of God and the cross.

    Don Congdon’s new book is titled, New Calvinism & the Millennial Generation: The Perfect Storm.

    New Calvinism is a system of theology that combines: Reformed, Covenant, Puritan, and Augustinian theologies with present day, Post-Modern culture in an attempt to make Christianity seem more relevant to today’s Christian. Recognizing that churches are declining in numbers, fewer people are being saved, and that many Christians are carnal, not leading holy lives, concerned Christian leaders are looking back to the earlier days of the church for a solution. One solution they are turning to is New Calvinism. They are re-thinking and re-invigorating their teachings in order to make it relevant to our generation of Christianity.
    1) Relevant is a key goal of New Calvinism.
    2) Adherents to New Calvinism believe that the answer lies in reaching out and building bridges between all segments of Christianity.
    3) According to the teachings of New Calvinism, the spiritual gifts of signs and wonders are valid for the church today.
    4) New Calvinism seeks to create and redeem culture.
    5) New Calvinism unites with Worldliness.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Related Reading is Dr. Peter Masters, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness

    The new Calvinists constantly extol the Puritans, but they do not want to worship or live as they did. One of the vaunted new conferences is called Resolved, after Jonathan Edwards’ famous youthful Resolutions (seventy searching undertakings). But the culture of this conference would unquestionably have met with the outright condemnation of that great theologian.

    C J Mahaney is a preacher highly applauded in this book. Charismatic in belief and practice, he appears to be wholly accepted by the other big names who feature at the ‘new Calvinist’ conferences, such as John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler. Evidently an extremely personable, friendly man, C J Mahaney is the founder of a group of churches blending Calvinism with charismatic ideas, and is reputed to have influenced many Calvinists to throw aside cessationist views.

    The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.

    Why have the leading preachers servicing this movement compromised so readily? They have not been threatened by a Soviet regime. No one has held a gun to their heads. This is a shameful capitulation, and we must earnestly pray that what they have encouraged will not take over Calvinism and ruin a generation of reachable Christian young people.

    A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.

    ReplyDelete