Emergent Church Movement

Is Your Church in a State of 'Emergent-cy'?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
A pastor relates his experience with perils of the Emergent Church Movement in a reputedly conservative denomination.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

A pastor relates his "up close and personal" experience with the deadly effects of the Emergent Church Movement in a reputedly conservative denomination.

With the kind permission of a pastor from the southern United States, we are reproducing a chilling e-mail we received from him. He related his face-to-face encounter with the influence of the Emergent Church Movement in a denomination that once stood firm for the Word of God. He had little idea just how bad things were until he went to a pastors' retreat. He was actually laughed at by other pastors when he stood on the authority of the Bible. Here is what happened:

I went to this gathering for two reasons. The main purpose was a pastors' retreat. But while I was there, I was also going to be examined for transfer of my ministerial credentials into this denomination. I was ordained in [another church] thirty years ago, but I've been filling the vacant pulpit of [one of this denomination's churches] for over a year. The examination before the retreat was part of the process of making my relationship with this denomination, and the local church I'm serving in, official and permanent.

My experiences in both the examination and the retreat were unsettling, but the final outcome strengthened my resolve to remain loyal to the Bible, and reject what unfolded before my eyes. I saw the influences of the Emergent Church Movement in action.

Doctrine: Go Along to Get Along

First let me tell you about the examination session. I began to know there was trouble when my examiners asked my position on two issues. The first was baptism. It became apparent that at least some of my examiners believe that baptism either removes Adamic original sin (which is the Roman Catholic doctrine), or actually regenerates and justifies the one who is baptized. Or perhaps both. As our discussion went on, and I stated my opposition to these views based on Scripture, the atmosphere became increasingly uncomfortable.

The second issue was the question of women as pastors. As soon as I stated that the Bible does not permit it, some of the more "open minded brethren" assumed that I was denying that God allows women to do any kind of ministering in the church. The irony was that they kept proclaiming how diverse they were. They allowed all viewpoints on the issue, they said, and I should as well. But it was clear that there was one viewpoint they would not allow: mine, or I should say, the Bible's.

I left this session with a high degree of discomfort, but I think my examiners figured I would eventually come around to their inclusive views. But I knew I would not, and could not.

During the examination, something became clear: The leaders of this denomination say the Bible is their authority, but they have a problem. They believe the Bible should be interpreted through the lens of the culture. Their philosophy is the thinking of the Emergent Church Movement. Yet at the same time, these people believe there are things in the culture that are wrong. I guess they need Oprah and Dr. Phil to sort it out for them.

The pastors' retreat that followed served to confirm this. I had hoped for some solid spiritual food during those meetings, but the menu was quite different.

The "Gospel" is a Conversation

The main speaker kept using the term "The Conversation". This is a favorite term of the Emergent Church. Like most Emergents, this man believes that the "gospel is a conversation". He doesn't mean that we share the true Gospel in conversations with people. Rather, he believes that the "gospel", or any truth for that matter, is arrived at by people getting together to give their input. And when they have come to a consensus of opinion, that is the "gospel" for them. But then that group will have a conversation with another group, and they will come to a consensus of opinion, and so on and so on. Thus the "gospel" evolves with the times. It's Emergent. It's not, "Let's see what God said in His Word." It's more like, "Well, right now I feel like God is (fill in the blank)."

Since the pastors in this group were all from the Bible Belt, there was still a lot of Bible referred to and quoted. However, those Bible verses were not central to what was being said. They were just added for flavoring.

Pastors Laugh at God's Messenger

Later in the retreat, we were given the task of breaking up into five groups. Each group was to have a part in a "Creative Worship Service." The group to which I was assigned was to provide music, poetry, and drama. Another group was to come up with "thought-provoking words" to announce. Another was to come up with pictures to be displayed in PowerPoint. Another was to collect items from nature for people to hold during the service so that they could "experience God" through the "feel" of the objects.

I was given a part in the drama segment. At first I thought it might not be too bad. The setting for the drama was going to be a seminary classroom. The teacher would ask the students to explain Bible passages that he would give them. The problem was that as this part of the "Creative Worship Service" unfolded, the man playing the part of the teacher treated the thing as a comedy. His role, it turned out, was to play an out-of-touch "old school" teacher, who doesn't realize that everything has changed: The young folks are smarter than any generation before them, and we've all been "doing church" the wrong way up till now.

I was to play the part of one of the students in the seminary class. When it came my turn, I was to give the explanation of 2 Timothy 4:1 and following: "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and at His kingdom; Preach the Word; Be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts they shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears," and so on.

So I began to give an exposition of it. The people in this pastors' retreat thought I was doing a parody of a "fundamentalist", and they were roaring with laughter. The problem was, I wasn't being funny. I was teaching the Bible the way I have for the past thirty years.

Well, even though I didn't walk out physically right at that point, I did walk out spiritually. I don't want this denomination's credentials. I'll stay at my present pulpit and continue to preach the Word as the Lord enables me, while I seek His leading about the next steps. But I'm saying no to a denomination that says I'm totally out of touch with the times because I believe the Bible should be the sole authority in worship and life, not man's latest "emergent" thinking.

I praise God that this brother is standing for the truth, even if it means standing alone. Please pray for him. I understand he's now pursuing affiliation with another church body that still stands firmly on the sole authority of Scripture, and rejects the Emergent nonsense. No doubt his exposition of the 2nd Timothy passage serves as the condemnation of those who thought it was all so funny. I pray that some of them will be convicted by it in retrospect, and will repent.

Many Christians Have No Idea What's Going On

Based on similar reports from an ever-growing number of pastors and church leaders, I can tell you that this man's experience is increasingly common.

Many Evangelical and Reformed church members, and even pastors and church leaders, don't know what's going on behind closed doors in their own circles - in seminary classrooms, pastors' retreats and workshops, presbytery meetings, and other venues all over the United States and on the mission fields of the world. But these things are happening. I believe we need to recognize it for what it is, and call it exactly what it is: It is an active, conscious conspiracy against the Gospel of Christ, and against the sole authority of the Bible in the church.

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).

In fact, the Evangelical church itself has become a great mission field. Increasingly, it is in a state of "Emergent-cy". Your church or denomination may well be.

Some pastors and church leaders know these things are happening, but they're looking the other way in the name of "tolerance" or "diversity". The Bible says they are unfaithful watchmen, who bear heavy responsibility for the souls they fail to warn (Ezekiel 33:1-11).

Many times in The Profitable Word we've identified the danger signals from God's Word. It is believers' responsibility to heed them. The Apostle Paul's warning to the Ephesian elders is also God's warning to Christians today:

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:29-32).


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