The Emerging Church the rising generation: a maturing church?
By Jewel Grewe
Crossing the Jordan or returning to Egypt? Brian McLaren, an Emergent pastor says:
I’m worried that many of us think we’ve arrived: we’ve crossed the Jordan River and now we’re in the Promised Land. If we’ve made a crossing, it’s the Red Sea (or whatever), which does put Egypt behind us. But we’ve got a wide wilderness ahead of us, wilderness where our character will be tested and many of us will be tempted to go back to Egypt. We’re still quite a way from the Jordan River. We’ve made a beginning, but we’ve got a long way to go. And of course, once we get to the Jordan River, that’s an ending, but it’s also another beginning. ... I just want to make sure we learn what we need to learn crossing the wilderness.
Already there is a problem here. Why would an Emerging Church pastor and author use the analogy of the Children of Israel? God says:
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways (Psalm 95:10).
As a born-again child of God, my understanding of what is taught in scripture is based on the Truth that has set me free from wandering in the wilderness, or even the thought of “going back to Egypt”. True Christianity has proven beyond doubt the veracity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Reality of the Gospel
In response to a recent mailing from our ministry, a brother from Zimbabwe (a country that is presently going through great struggles) wrote:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8).
This gospel is Jesus Christ crucified. It is the message of what Jesus Christ has done for us at the cross of Calvary, in its entirety! The message of the cross is what He did at the cross, for us to God, (reconciliation, deliverance, redemption, atonement.), to and in us through His death, (our death to self, to sin, to the world, dying in Him, victory over sin and the world) and life to us in the Spirit of His resurrection (imparting a new life to us thus making us a new creation, living His life in us, giving us His Holy Spirit and empowering us and many gifts also, promises and love.)
But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23).
In reference to the present situation in Zimbabwe his comment was:
God Himself allows what He wills. What- ever He does it is for our good. Honestly, Zimbabwean Christians are privileged to have trials and problems around, because as I see it, God sends or allows them to build holiness. We have many scriptures that show us how to live in our present situation and I am embarrassed at our failure to do so.
You sympathised with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you your- selves had better and lasting possessions (Hebrews 10:34).
This is the attitude of the heart of a truly mature Christian. It is when one suffers the loss of all things that the Word of God becomes the sustenance of life. During times of drought, the roots go deep for water. During trials and tribulations, the Christian realises that he/she is helpless without the comfort of the everlasting arms underneath holding them up.
Yet the “emerging church” has the audacity to say the church really had it all wrong down through history and only now is coming to maturity.
Still in the Nursery
In reading books written by the “Emergent” authors, the same overwhelming feeling of hopelessness comes over me that I experience whilst sitting in a nursery full of crying babies and screaming toddlers. It is a dulling sense of confusion.
The “educated” Emergent teachers (change agents) are making grand plans to “reconstruct” the church into what they perceive it should be for the new generation. Quite quickly I came to the conclusion that these writers were sailing uncharted seas. They aren’t quite sure where their “plan” will take them, or even what their “plan” will look like when it is completed. The maturing of the church, as seen by the Emergent authors, is a messy mix of ideas, dialogues and conversations to discover how we can follow the “example” of Jesus.
The Herescope blog (published by the Discernment Research Group) is updated weekly and gives an excellent analysis of the genesis of the Emerging Church. It is not just a noisy nursery of little ones all clamouring for attention, but rather a deliberate and calculated plan to deconstruct the church, especially the Evangelical church. Out of the deconstruction, a transformation is supposed to be emerging like the Phoenix rising out of the ashes. The Phoenix is a mythical bird. At the end of its life it builds a nest of twigs that ignites. Both the bird and the nest are burned. Out of the ashes a new young bird arises. The new bird is almost immortal. This new Phoenix is combining the “best” of all religions and philosophies of man to usher in a New World Order. The world has become accustomed to the “change”. The church is being “processed” right along with the world.
Herescope (1-18-06) gives an overview of the history. In 1962 a book was published jointly by the National Training Laboratory (NTL) (established 1947) and the National Education Association (NAE) entitled Five Issues in Training. This book addressed the process of unfreezing, changing and refreezing attitudes to bring about change.
• UNFREEZE old attitudes, beliefs, opinions, values, and mindsets. This means that traditional theology and doctrine must be broken down. Very persuasive arguments, coercion, questioning, peer pressure and indoctrination are used to facilitate this process.
• CHANGE the mind. This means altering one’s opinions, beliefs, values, philosophies and theologies, call into question the validity or meaning of the old way. . . sell a person on the ‘new’ way as better, more productive, more effective, etc. At this point it is very important to disparage the old way so that the new way looks bright and promising.
• REFREEZE to the new way. Establish it so that it takes over control of the person. Now there are new beliefs, opinions, values, attitudes and behaviours that have taken root and gained a foothold. This is the new paradigm, a new ‘transformation’. Psycho- social research shows that the new beliefs are more fully integrated when someone signs a covenant or has to put the new beliefs into action (take measurable steps to reach a goal).
By this process “Change Agents” were created. This process is now being used in education, theology, medicine, business and government. Retreats were a common method used, but now it has morphed into “leadership training seminars, conferences and workshops” (National Training Labs). The sessions are designed to produce more change agents. Within the church, the training is for the purpose of a global church transformation.This processing has been going on for at least three decades. Ken Blanchard, Warren Bennis and Willis Harmon are three well-known names with strong interconnections within the evangelical community, especially through workshops, seminars and books that bring the corporate business model into the church, and that can be directly linked to the process.
Bob Buford has had extensive influence through his Leadership Network. This network was Peter Drucker’s main outreach into the private sector, which he considered to be the third leg of the societal “stool”(This is an analogy that Rick Warren makes much of in his Purpose Driven ideas e.g. there are three legs to his welfare work—business, government and the Church.) which needed transformation. Rick Warren and Bill Hybels became actively involved with the Leadership Network and thus it gained widespread respectability and influence.
The youth were especially targeted by Leadership Network. In 2001 the Young Leader Networks were hosting working labs where they were teaching them how to “act as a transforming presence” in the Christian experience. Leadership Network also formed the Terra Nova Project. This project was considered to be the vanguard movement to transform evangelicalism.
An Underground Movement?
Terra Nova means “New Ground” or “New Earth”. Brad Smith acknowledged that the plan was kept “underground” as it was being formulated. In his report he outlined the philosophical underpinnings of the creation of what has now become the Emergent Church. This report is of concern for a number of reasons.
First, Leadership Network was founded by Bob Buford, and it served a purpose of diffusing the social philosophies of management guru Peter Drucker throughout evangelicaldom. Second, the plan below indicates that Leadership Network viewed its role to be a “change agent” organisation from the outset, purposefully serving as a vehicle to facilitate post-modernism within evangelicaldom. Third, the connection between Rick Warren and
Leadership Network cannot be underestimated as Warren’s “Second Reformation” looks very much like a hybrid of the emerging church movement that Leadership Network was working to create. Smith states: ....Leadership Network was one of the first national organisations to platform post- modern leaders as early as 1994, and over the past seven years, we have watched mainstream publishers and conference providers, denominations and para-church ministries provide increasingly powerful vehicles for the post-modern message to be expressed.
In the following paragraph Smith uses the term “tipping point,” which has to do with shifting a paradigm (worldview). In this comment, he acknowledges Leadership Network’s key role in shifting the rest of evangelicaldom into a post-modern mindset:
...We believe the ‘tipping point’ has been reached and the message is one that can- not be re-caged. The expression of post- modernism will continue and Leadership Network will continue its role of supporting the efforts of other networks and organisa- tions to further this message.”
One of the key leaders of the Emergent Church movement created by Leadership Network is Brian McLaren. He is travelling around the USA at the present time (2008) holding conferences based on his new book titled Everything Must Change. “Change” seems to be the key word. (It is interesting to note that it has also become a mantra in the present political campaign in the USA.) There are always structures and individuals who need to change. However, the God of the Bible says:
For I am the Lord, I do not change; ... (Malachi 3:6).
The Word of God does not change. McLaren is specifically speaking about “change” in relation to the church. Of deep concern is that he calls for a “deconstructive phase”. By “deconstruction” he means getting rid of the old “conventional” orthodoxy and bringing in a new “emerging” spirituality about the sacredness of the Earth, saving the planet, environmentalism, peace, justice, population control, etc.
From Brian McLaren’s Blog:
The post-modern transition is well un- derway, but it’s still a process. The early deconstructive phase of the post-modern transition is evolving into a more construc- tive and creative phase, exemplified (for me) by thinkers and writers like Wendell Berry and Ken Wilber in the culture at large, plus a number of us writing specifically for the Christian community. (Of course, some folks are still fighting against the earliest phases, not realising that the ‘battle lines’ keep moving. But I shouldn’t use battle im- agery, because I don’t see it that way.) For all the work we’ve done and all the progress we’ve made, we still have so far to go.
Amazingly, the direction the church is supposed to take is based on the spiritual culture of authors who have written books that are not Christian:
Wendell Berry (according to Wikipedia): Berry’s publisher and editor of 30 years, Jack Shoemaker, is an ordained Buddhist who also publishes many Buddhist works, including Taking the Path of Zen, by Robert Baker Aitken, in which Aitken thanks Wendell Berry for reviewing the manuscript and making comments. Berry is a fellow of Britain’s Temenos Academy, a learned society devoted to the ecclesiastical understanding of all faiths and spiritual pursuits; Berry publishes frequently in the annual Temenos Academy Review, funded by the Prince of Wales.
Ken Wilbur (according to Wikipedia) is an American author who writes on psychology, philosophy, mysticism, ecology, and spiritual evolution. He has been described as New Age , although he is critical of the New Age movement in his books. His work formulates what he calls an “integral theory of consciousness.” He is a leading proponent of the integral movement and founded the Integral Institute in 1998. While Wilber has practised Buddhist meditation methods, and the beliefs of Madhyamika Buddhism, particularly as articulated in the philosophy of Nagarjuna, underpin his work,  Wilber does not self-identify as a Buddhist.
Be prepared for a total makeover of Christianity by these Emergent leaders. Brian McLaren is calling for a DeepShift to a total transformation of church and society in the world. The emerging church leaders actually invent new doctrines and/or come up with new meanings for biblical terms. They do not believe in the absolute truth of the Scriptures. They also believe it is possible to take psychological, philosophical or religious ideas and mix them into Christianity to create a new post-modern “apologetic” which will result in a “New” or “Second Reformation.”
According to McLaren’s new theology,
Jesus’ message is not actually about escaping this troubled world for heaven’s blissful shores, as is popularly assumed, but instead is about God’s will being done on this troubled earth as it is in heaven (Everything Must Change, p4).
McLaren claims to have a more “vibrant form of the Christian faith that is holistic, integral, and balanced” (p34). This is the “emerging view” in which “you will participate in the transformation of the world” by “participating in his [Jesus’] ongoing work of personal and global transformation and liberation from evil and injustice” (pp.79-80). This is otherwise known as Dominionism, the belief that man can build the kingdom of God on earth.
All of this emergent theology (“New Spirituality”) stands in sharp contrast to biblical Christianity, which can be summed up in this scripture”
And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’. And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say also to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:16-18).
This is a full confession of the doctrine that is the very foundation of the Gospel upon which the church was established.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to ward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. Which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come: And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body the fullness of him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:17-23).
When Christ ascended “far above all heavens” in order to “FILL all things” (it would be impossible to even start to comprehend what that means),
He gave some to be apostles; and some prophets some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11-13).
We can have full confidence in this wonderful Saviour who fulfilled the work that He was sent from God to accomplish in this sinful world. Our completeness is in Him.
Influence from Within
The greatest tragedy is that most of the Emerging Church leaders come from conservative and fundamentalist backgrounds. They are influencing every major denomination from within. Quoting from the booklet (pubished by Calvary Chapel) From Which Well Are You Drinking, J. David Winscott says the following:
For Brian McLaren the substitutionary atonement doesn’t address the question of why, if God wants to forgive us, he doesn’t just do it. McLaren asks, how can punish- ing an innocent person make things better? ‘That just sounds like one more injustice in the cosmic equation. It sounds like divine child abuse.’ (The Story We Find Ourselves In, p.102).
In thinking about the larger context, it certainly does seem that there is an all-out attack on the church. We know that this is nothing new. Satan has been doing that ever since the church was instituted. Christians, now is the time to be watchmen! Yes, it is a time of purifying for the Body of Christ. Our encouragement lies in that:
When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19b).
Throughout history, true believers have persevered through impossible circumstances, and were able to stand true to the faith that was once delivered to the saints. So, why is this generation different? Why must the glorious Truth be changed for an “emerging” church and a “New Breed” of Christian?
In 1894, William Hooker invented the first mousetrap. The design has stayed the same for over 110 years because it works. As many traps that have been designed since, none has proven to be so functional as the one Mr Hooker built.
When Christ established the church upon the foundation of Himself and the apostles, He declared that the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against it. He provided the only way of salvation—through the shedding of His blood. There is no way to improve upon the work that Christ accomplished at Calvary. The outworking of the life of Christ in the believer is that they become the “lights” in the world to shine in the darkness.
At the turn of the 19th century the church was being “infected” with modernism and worldly philosophies. In response there were a number of General Assemblies and Bible Conferences which formulated the American fundamentalist beliefs in response to modernism, which were the following:
1. The Inerrancy of the Scriptures;
2. The virgin birth and the deity of Jesus (Is. 7:14);
3. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement through God’s grace and human faith (Hebrews 9);
4. The bodily resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28); and 5. The authenticity of Christ’s miracles.
Out of this response, Fundamentalism was born. Mention that word today and you will receive a wry look. Somehow it brings to mind an image of a “mean-spirited” and “hateful” sort of person that is ready to go to war with anyone who disagrees with him. Unfortunately the press and media have played upon this image. “Extremists” have gone off the “deep end,” as well as “legalists”. And all “fundamentalists” are lumped together. For example, if you embark upon any criticisms of McLaren’s new book, especially if your criticisms are based on traditional biblical theology, you have already been caricatured, castigated, ridiculed and mocked. You are part of a bad old “suicide machine” metaphor that is destroying planetary peace, damaging the earth’s ecosystem, creating “global dysfunctions” and contributing to “systemic injustice” (p34)—all caused by your dangerously antiquated “conventional” theological “framing story.” You are likely to be “tense, judgmental, imbalanced, reactionary, negative, and hypocritical” (p33). You are part of a failed religion “that has specialised in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant social injustices in this life”. You have also neglected to “address the dominant societal and global realities” of “systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis,” etc (p33).
Out of respect for the intent of those who took a stand in 1910, it is honourable to say that a true Fundamentalist is one who is
...not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; (Romans 1:16).
As we look back to that time, we now recognise that a new “paradigm” has entered the church. The strange thing is that not many leaders discuss it or even understand what is happening. In spite of the proliferation of knowledge, the understanding of those in authority has become dull. Jesus said on a number of occasions, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Emerging/Emergent Church Movement has come on the scene in the last few years. In trying to understand what is happening, it is important to keep the veracity of scripture in mind. In a book Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches by Robert Webber, a long-time leader in the emerging church movement who has called for a return to the liturgical rites of Catholicism, the introduction was of interest. Webber draws on sociologists (William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny) to determine the four cycles of how people change. The cycles from this book are the following:
• The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.
• The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.
• The Third Turning is an Unravelling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
• The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.” (p10)
Webber then proceeds to draw the analogy with the Evangelical church after it broke away from fundamentalism in the first part of the last century. He says, in brief:
• The First Turning – High Evangelicals (1946-1964) ...influential leaders called for engagement with philosophy and the intel- lectual ideas of the day, to the recovery of a robust involvement with social issues, and to a new form of ecumenical co-operation .. new names were in the limelight – Billy Graham, Carl F.H. Henry; new institutions were born – Fuller Seminary, the National Association of Evangelicals, Christianity Today.”...
• The Second Turning – Awakening Evan- gelicals (1964-1984) ....Attention shifted from institutions to self. A shift away from scientific theology and apologetics – inter- est became Christ and culture. . . spread of existential philosophy. New focus on experience (essentially the experience of self)....
• The Third Turning – Explosion of Evangelical Pragmatism (1984-2004) This was a new face – absorbed the relational evangelicals of the awakening period. Theology became a non-issue and irrelevant. The divorce be- tween theology and practice was complete. “Meeting the Needs” became the important “force” of this time. It was noted by a lack of theological vision for ministry.
• The Fourth Turning: The Emerging Church and the Younger Evangelical Leaders (2004- ) New crisis—fuelled by the emergence of a post-modern, post-Christian, neo-pagan culture and the global war on terrorism. The new leaders find themselves out of sync with traditional evangelicals (scien- tific theology) and the pragmatism of mega- evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has formed an identity marked by new insights, new concerns and new patterns of theological applications, worship, spirituality and min- istry. . . .so the new group of evangelicals will take the church beyond the unhappy split between traditional theology on one hand and pragmatic practice on the other. (Condensed from pages 11-16).
The Emergent church leaders are proliferating like rabbits. Their books are flooding the bookstores. The desire for “spirituality” by whatever means has become the mantra for gaining access to God. Confusion abounds. Experience has become the measurement of the New Spirituality. Somehow direct access to God is “supposedly” accomplished whether it be by walking the labyrinth, Taize, “Christian Yoga,” Meditation, Contemplative Prayer, journaling, candles, incense and icons, etc.. Most of the emergent leaders hold to various forms of eastern mysticism, and are rapidly gaining ground by integrating and infusing these doctrines into the church. Much of their theology is based on an evolutionary view of man.
Since fundamental biblical theology is not important, any scriptural injunctions are irrelevant in their mind. Any path that bypasses the cross of Christ can lead one to God in their thinking. It is all part of a grand new ecumenism.
Emergent leaders de-emphasise the Word of God, the literal Truth found in the scriptures. They emphasise “stories” and “metaphors” and “images” rather than propositional statements of truth. They do not believe in heaven and hell, and they do not believe in a coming Judgment Day. They do not take stands against moral issues such as homosexuality and abortion.
The booklet From Which Well Are You Drinking? sums up the emerging church movement:
“The Emerging Church leaders have been drinking at a variety of wells. These wells have been filled from their source with humanism and secularism. Philosophi- cal pollution has created theological and biblical error and confusion. Paradigms, rules of reality, philosophies have been concocted by the creature (man) who is in rebellion against his Creator God who has revealed Himself in the written Word and the living Word, Jesus Christ who is our Lord and Saviour.
The apostle Paul encountered philo- sophical and theological relativism and idolatry on Mars’ Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). Unchecked by the truth and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, relativism, humanism and secularism always leads to idolatry and there is nothing new under the sun” (p37).
A Word to the Church
Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that doesn’t need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth ... (2 Timothy 2:15).
This is as vital for the Christian today as it has been since the day it was penned by Paul the apostle. Sadly, today the truth of God is being changed into a “lie”. Are we living in the time that:
And for this reason God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie: (2 Thessalonians 2:11)?
You judge for yourself.
About the Author
David & Jewel Grewe
direct Discernment Ministries, a well-known watchman ministry based in West Lafayette, Indiana USA. Jewel has had a newsletter for 18 years which she and her late husband Travers van der Merwe started writing together. After his death in 1995, she continued with the ministry together with the Discernment Research Group. They write extensively about the New Apostolic Reformation, Purpose Driven church and the Emergent church which incoroporates the New Spirituality that is making inroads throughout the world. Their book, booklets and articles are available on the website: www.discernment.ministries.org