The ‘Emerging Church’ Further Considered
Not having heard much of the so called “emerging church” I did a search as you suggested. I now wish that I hadn’t! What a load of rubbish. How depressing! How far from NT Christianity it really is despite all claims that it is a rediscovery of biblical Christianity! Utter and complete nonsense!
One site spoke of the importance of having a thrift shop, indeed the writer referred to it as his church. He went on to state that he now found it difficult to “do” or go to church. Designated, specialist “emerging church” sites speak of worship involving the use of CDs, DVDs, videos, photography, televisions, incense, discussion, self-exploration and more besides. Indeed you name it and they will find a use for it! Surprisingly (no not really!) I found little mention of the central importance of the Word of God in worship being used to the humbling and educating of man and the shaping and guiding of his life. The result of his being confronted by the revealed glory, righteousness and expectation of the Almighty who, with the Lord Jesus Christ by virtue of his status as the accredited Son of God and his amazing and awesome work of atonement on the cross, is absolutely and unarguably worthy of all honour and exaltation.
As always on sites that claim new spiritual vision or a return to gospel fundamentals you will find much sentimental, new age, socialistic, philosophical, jargonised talk about social action and the power of unconditional love. Of course, the point is always missed that the enjoyment of God’s love is in fact very much conditional and vitally dependent on a man knowing repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What the New Testament calls the experience of being born again or from above. The point needs to be made that social action is not a bad thing. However, it does become a problem when another point is missed, as it regularly is, namely that soul saving is the only work ultimately of eternal value regardless of how good people feel about themselves having being either the perpetrators or recipients of social action! Doing good or receiving good is not the same as being good or being saved. Never has been and never will be, especially if the book of Romans and the Gospel teaching of Christ are to be believed.
As evangelism is popularly understood in our contemporary world it is all about making people feel good about themselves, helping them to realise their potential and to know that God will take them as they are with no conditions attached and thereafter with no expectations of their loyalty. Effectively if they choose to be in his family, to their own advantage in terms of becoming “happy” and contented people or as a condescending favour to him, he will allow them to live as free agents. Indeed, to regularly make and re-make him in their own image supposedly to make him more appealing and accessible to others! His church is also available, as they deem fit, for re-modelling according to their reading of the times and superior wisdom. This to ensure, consciously or otherwise, that it will always be a reflection of what the world wants it to be. That is, something doctrinally broad, neutral or more preferably ““ empty. A church soft, free of challenge, given to “high” inducing, feel-good, emotional and entertaining experiences shaped by modern and ephemeral world contaminated religious fashion. All imagined to be deep spiritual experiences. This same church will also be theologically all-encompassing, non-judgemental and completely accommodating of modern man and his self-absorption.
Biblical evangelism on the other hand is fundamentally all about the revealing and glorifying of God, the clear explaining of his law, the pointed detailing of the standards of perfection and righteousness he expects from men ““ and this to their being broken and humbled and left persuaded of their desperate need of a Saviour. The one without equal or match, who alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life – no other than Jesus Christ the exalted Son of God. Whom to know is to enjoy the high privilege and eternal blessing of being added to the number of the redeemed. Men and women for whom church is not a thrift shop where charity is done, or a theatre, workshop, or communal gathering where selfish pleasure is pursued but is rather the place, as taught by Scripture, where the warmth of worship fellowship is experienced, Christ is exalted, God is encountered and his voice sounds forth to the encouraging, directing, instructing, challenging, comforting and inspiring of his people. Church is not meant to be a place where people look around and smile at each other! Rather it is place where together they look up in worship, thankful that together in Christ it is theirs to know the smile of God as they honour him with their hearts and souls. Then there is cause to smile!
Sadly though the modern/liberal/soft evangelical/emerging church is an easy target for the devil to hurl his incessant assaults and attacks at without fear of reprisal. He moves against a church that has no spiritual backbone and lacks anything worthy of being described as historical Biblical orthodoxy or Holy Spirit taught spiritual discernment. He moves with evil intent against an increasingly soft, weak, scared, ineffectual and gullible church. Of a kind that wants to be a “comfort” to the world with the goal of winning its love and enjoying its admiration. It is a mission that has more to do with the seeking of worldly status and prestige among the worldly, rather than, heaven forbid, being a strong, unyielding and unswerving challenge to a spiritually destitute, decaying, dark, desperate, devilish and dying world. One that needs to hear a GOSPEL voice sounding loudly and clearly above the cacophonous noise of: pop psychology ““ new age drivel ““ liberal lunacy ““ effete evangelicalism ““ “emerging church” gobbledegook ““ self-esteem navel contemplation. A voice honest and true, pertinent and provocative, lovingly determined to leave man in no doubt of his predicament. Namely, that he is a doomed sinner who will one day, whether he believes it or not, be on the receiving end of the terrifyingly holy and awesomely righteous judging power of the Lord God Almighty. Sinful man needs to encounter not a church that wants to befriend him, or accommodate the ways of his life alien to and contradictory of the standards of God, but rather one with such a direct and unapologetic voice as will trouble him by giving focus to the spiritual facts of life. He is dead in sin and his only hope, yes his ONLY hope, is Jesus Christ. How does Peter make the point in Acts4:12? He declares, “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Such teaching is as unpopular today as it was in the Lord’s own day. Remember it got him crucified! Yes, but as it impacted for spiritual good on the lives of men and women it also turned the world upside down to the gain of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and the increase of the kingdom and glory of God! Sadly, today, many have foolishly and sinfully tinkered and tampered with the Word of God, with the result that the church and Christianity have both been turned upside down!
All of the above is certainly a reminder to me as to the continuing need of the hour. Preachers must not lose their Bible focus or begin to imagine themselves surplus to requirements in the modern church. One with a hunger for novelty, accepting of frivolity, enamoured by method, keen on anything new, and all this with a foolish and undiscerning interest in such theology as adulterates and tarnishes the plainest meaning of the Word of God. Preachers must rise to the challenge of the moment. They must rightly divide the Word of God, studying it, pouring over it, praying it into their souls till they are captivated by its meaning and message. Then they must prove themselves to be good workmen as they stand and preach the Word of God, and do so, as convinced heralds, with an authority owned of God. Their words plain and clear yet simultaneously profound and mysterious, empty of the slightest hint of apology. Preachers do not apologise for the Word of God. Rather they declare it with all the passion of their being, all the focus of their intellect, all the hope of their hearts trusting that it will impact for good to the saving and edifying of souls. Men who preach like this do so knowing that those who belong to the world will have no liking for their ministry. However, to their encouragement, they also know that to men and women who are saved, and to those who are being saved by the ministry of grace pressing upon their lives, theirs will be a ministry valued, honoured and supported.
The need of the hour is for preachers and their people who love the Word of God and live by it to go on doing so regardless of how often they are insulted or caricatured as being spiritual dinosaurs. Our world needs to be confronted by a church that has been shaped not by modern thinking, or by spiritual gimmick, but by the mind and will of God. This to be the true emerging church – dynamic, direct and dogmatic! God’s church is one that has been emerging from the darkness of this world since the cross atoning work of Jesus Christ. The emerging church is free of gimmick and owes nothing to methods that place the preaching and studying of God’s Word on the periphery of Christian experience. The true emerging church is the body of Christ constituted by men and women who have been saved by grace through faith having been on the receiving end of the ministry of the Spirit whose responsibility it is to power the preaching, and sharing, of the Word of God to the redeeming of souls and the glorifying of God.
Thank God for the existence of the true, Bible believing – Bible honouring – Bible obeying – Bible proclaiming, emerging church. It may find itself mocked, scorned, ridiculed, even sidelined by those who think they know better than all of our Christian forefathers put together. By implication misguided people whose big mistake was Biblical orthodoxy and the belief that men need to be saved from their sins if they are ever to know peace with God and the promise of life eternal. Nevertheless, it is the church that holds to God’s ways and Word that will know safe arrival on the shores of the heavenly kingdom.
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