What Do Emergents Believe? A Review

Recently a pastor friend of mine asked me the following, and I thought it would be good chance to give folks a short summary on the main characteristics or beliefs of an emergent thinker.

“How can someone know with 100% certainty that he/she is an emergent pastor? Is it a formal set of thoughts, or beliefs that make you one?  Or just because he/she doesn’t condemn something, does it mean that he/she condones it?”

Let me answer the last question first: “Or just because he/she doesn’t condemn something, does it mean that he/she condones it?” No, not at all.  And I would never ask that anyone condemn any movement, unless they themselves have come to the clear conclusion that I have, that it is a movement not of God, because of its basic ideology that is contrary to scripture.  Some people still cannot yet condemn it outright, because they just don’t know much about it, or only a little bit.  To those who have come to that conclusion, I am asking them to speak out against it, if they believe that these emergent practices contradict scripture and are threatening the salvation of our youth and others.

“How can someone know with 100% certainty that he/she is an emergent pastor? Is it a formal set of thoughts, or beliefs that make you one?” The ones that I know for sure are emergent, and and there are plenty that I have actually spent time talking with, going back and forth with them on the NazNet forum, or my own blog, hold certain values or belief systems, which they themselves articulate to me.  Not all share the exact same things, but in general, there are some things that they do.

I don’t think there is a formal, official setting down of emergent ideology which anyone can grab onto and read. I don’t know of a specific universally acknowledged “handbook” for emergent ideology and doctrine.  The ambiguity within the movement is one of the things they like- to keep it a moving target, so they cannot be pinned down completely, especially on doctrine.  That’s why they tend to play down biblical doctrine, for to articulate their beliefs in a very clear way would not be advantageous for them.  Brian McLaren is generally considered the “godfather” of the emergent movement.

In my two years of research, here are some of their attitudes and beliefs I have found that they have in common:

1. THE BIBLE IS NOT GOD’S FULLY INSPIRED WORD. This is the underlying and most critical and dangerous foundation of emergent thought today, in my opinion.  A belief that the Bible “contains” God’s word, but is not necessarily God’s word in total.  This has opened it up for people like Karl Giberson of ENC with his evolution teaching and rejection of biblical inerrancy, Tom Oord of NNU with his Open Theism teaching (God does not know the future), and Dennis Bratcher’s Process Theology (God learns from His mistakes).  These false teachings have led many emergents to accept, or at least hold to the possibility, that Adam perhaps was just a fable, and not a real person, or that there was not a worldwide flood, as the Bible says there was, or perhaps that Methuselah did not really live for 967 years, or that Jonah was not swallowed up by a large fish, and on and on.

(Instead, read Psalm 119 and learn about the power and authority of God’s word; God’s word is truth (John 17:17); it is eternal, and His commands are trustworthy, His laws are right, giving light and understanding; directing our footsteps, makes us wiser than our enemies, makes us blessed, strengthens us, sustains us.  Jesus said not even the smallest part of scripture can be broken. Hebrews 5:12 calls the written record the oracles of God.  Paul said that his words were the word of God (1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 5:20.  And finally, Revelations says in 22:18-19 that it is important not to add or subtract from the words of this prophesy (Revelation).  GOD’S WORD IS TRUTH!


2. THE BIBLE IS A MYSTERY. Popularized and expounded on often by Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others.  It is a fascination with the Bible as something that cannot be truly understood, because it is wrapped in mystery that is far too complex for Christians to ever know something with certainty. (This is the attempt to make all things relative, and to deny the authority, clarity, and infallibility of scripture, which I believe is at the core of the ideology of this movement.  Deny the clarity and infallibility of scripture, which lays the foundation for anything goes, and puts up a wall of “non-judgmentalism” for those who deny scripture’s reliability.  There are no absolutes, yet at the same time, they are saying that there is one absolute: “there are no absolutes!”  You will often see this uncertainty placed on even the most obvious passages of scripture, and they will insist that you are using your own “personal interpretation.”  For folks who insist the Bible is “mysterious to the core”, as Rob Bell puts it, they sure are certain of themselves.  How ironic!

3. EMBRACING OF ANCIENT RITUALS, PAGAN PRACTICES, AND MYSTICS. Emergents have a love for bringing in ancient Roman Catholic practices and pagan rituals; use of candles, icons, and other “props” to help us get closer to God; prayer labyrinths, lectio divina, prayer stations, and such.  They also embrace the writings of such obvious heretics as Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, both Catholic mystics who embraced universalism and other religions.  This is a core part of emergent ideology, and emergents will either defend it completely, or they will dance around the questions and refuse to condemn these pagan practices or their love for these mystics and their writings.  In a previous post, I stated that concerned Christians will be totally upfront about what they believe, and what they clearly condemn as unbiblical; not so with emergents.  They tend to dance around the questions, and will not clearly state that, for instance, a prayer labyrinth has no business whatsoever in a Christian church, because it is unbiblical.  These practices all are an attack on the sufficiency of scripture for Christians; instead, nothing else is needed.  The Bible is all we need to live our Christian life, and there is no need to use these things to enhance it.  That is an insult to the sufficiency of simply placing our faith in Christ and His death on the cross.

4. POST-MODERN/CULTURAL ACCOMMODATION. Emergents are fascinated with the idea that we need to adjust the Bible to the culture in a post-modern world.  Instead of focusing on the unchanging truth of the gospel and how it has done its job through the Holy Spirit, for over 2,000 years, they are obsessed with “community”, and “missional”, and all sorts of other phrases which emphasize the attempt to “become relevant” to the post-modern culture.  Trust me, missional no longer means what it used to mean.  Those of us who oppose this ideology say to them, the Bible is always and will ever be relevant to he culture; we should not compromise it, and we should not doubt that the gospel “once given to the saints”, will do its work through the Holy Spirit, in this culture, or other cultures to come.  Besides, does anyone think that post-modernism will last forever?  When the next fad culture comes along, what do we do then?  Change again? Their basic stance is this, which Brian McLaren holds to: in 2,000 years, we have got it all wrong, and we need to start all over again.  Thus, his book and it’s title, “A New Kind of Christianity”, says it all.  But scripture says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”   Romans 1:16

5. SOCIAL GOSPEL/SOCIAL JUSTICE. An unhealthy fascination with the social gospel, or with social justice, and environmental concerns, and a Kingdom of God on earth mentality, that we ourselves can right all the evils and wrongs of the world if we work together with anyone, and any religion. I believe in helping the poor, the downtrodden, etc., but too many times emergents de-emphasize the primary goal (preaching the gospel to the unsaved) at the expense of cleaning the sidewalks of the neighborhoods, without ever reaching any unsaved with the message.  We are ignoring the fact that the real Kingdom of God will not be finally established until Christ returns in His glory, to judge the world.

6. DOWNPLAYING OF DOCTRINE. A downplaying of biblical doctrine, including but not limited to the following: the importance of right doctrine; the coming judgment of the world and Christ’s return; the existence and reality of a literal hell; the denial that there will be eternal punishment for those who reject Christ; separation from the world while being in the world.  Yet over and over, scripture emphasizes the importance of right doctrine (1 Tim 4:16; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; Acts 20:28-31; Jude 1:3)

7. SYNCRETISM OR BLENDING WITH OTHER RELIGIONS. Many also seem to show a very close affinity to a universalistic view of salvation, such as McLaren and others, who either don’t answer the question, or who say that probably Hindus and Buddhists will make it to heaven, even if they have not repented and accepted Christ.  I have seen this kind of thinking,or hinting of it, on the NazNet forum, which is an unofficial Nazarene discussion website.  Not all emergents think like this, but many do, and this is a dangerous move towards acceptance of universalism and relativism right in the evangelical church today.  (See John 14:6)

8. DISTORTION OR REJECTION OF JUDGING. Emergents will over and over again emphasize love and friendship, and will reject judgmentalism, as if you can only have one or the other.  Remember when Paul rebuked Peter publicly for a seemingly minor problem, and in public?  I do believe Paul did that out of love, and as well as his criticism and rebuke of various churches that he wrote to.  Paul loved these folks, and it was out of love for them that he exposed their errors so that they could then turn from those errors, and follow right doctrine.  Do not ever let anyone tell you that you as an individual Christian cannot judge a set of beliefs or someone’s doctrine or practice.  That is called discernment, and without it, we cannot do they work of defending the true faith.  Emergents reject this because if they accepted it, it would more clearly expose their false teachings and bring them to the light. (For a solid teaching on judging, see Yomi’s lesson Judge Not? on my blog, as well as this post, Is It Right?, on Tim Wirth’s blog.

So this is a short description of some things to watch out for if you wonder whether a pastor or other Christian may be emergent.  Keep in mind that they will not generally shout it out, but instead will hide their ideology as much as possible and are very subtle in their teaching.  You must be grounded in the word of God, or you could be deceived by fine sounding language and arguments.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Col. 2:8

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”  1 John 4:1

May the Lord help us all to stay true to the gospel “once for all entrusted to the saints”.  May He give us the courage to help and witness to someone who may be falling captive to these false doctrines.  It is our responsibility as faithful Christians, to follow the whole counsel of God.

Thanks to Pyro-Maniacs for the posters.  Also, check out their blog at Team Pyro.

Reflections on The Generals’ Position Statement On Emerging Church

FOLLOWUP: The following are comments by a couple of contributors that came in during the past few days, regarding the letter that the General Superintendents are recommending to D.S.’s to use to explain the Generals’ position on the the emergent church.  (original link here)

Jerry: The first important thing to note is that the GS’s are communicating more about the EC.  This can only mean that the work Tim Wirth, Manny Silva and others are doing in exposing the EC is paying off and that more Nazarenes are becoming aware of the EC and are speaking out against it.

Manny: I mention this comment from Jerry not to toot anyone’s horn, but to also point out that there is much more “behind the scenes” work being done to bring these important issues to the forefront.  For every blog we have out there, there are many more concerned Nazarenes engaging and challenging Emergent pastors and other leadership, educating other Nazarenes to the problem, sending letters, and praying.  My late father-in-law was an example of a pastor who respected authority, but never backed down on biblical principles, and instead, challenged anyone who was promoting ill-conceived ideas, methods, or books, that ran contrary to our traditional doctrines of Nazarene holiness and biblical standards.  Respect authority, yes.  Bow down to authority and never dare to question them?  Never.

Comments on some key quotes:

QUOTE #1

“Finally, let me mention the “Everything Must Change” conference.   McLaren’s book Everything Must Change and conference named after it is simply a rehashing of old classic liberalism and “realized eschatology” from around the turn of the 20th century with a green twist.  The Church of the Nazarene does not embrace that position; but we must engage it. We must be in conversation with it if we are to remain an influential force in our culture for Christ.  Otherwise, we will simply slink into the obscure corner of historic irrelevance; congratulating ourselves on our holiness, while the world disintegrates around us.”

Gary: This rationalization that we must engage this view to better promote the Gospel is absurd. Being aware is one thing, but embracing and giving such a view a platform to promote it is entirely different. There are many things in life that I would make my children aware of, but would not encourage them to participate in “to fully understand” the potential dangers it holds. The Church of the Nazarene needs to not only make a statement but they need to adhere to it and hold those within its influence accountable to be consistent with their ministries. We are making blanket statements dispelling our association with the Emergent Church while we plant, license and foster churches [and universities] directly tied and encouraging involvement in the Emergent Church. Doesn’t this seem to be a significant contradiction?

Jerry: I’m guessing the “troubled pastor” was upset because Northwest Nazarene University hosted the conference.  That’s an interesting way of “engaging” a position you don’t embrace:  invite the people who hold that position to tout it from your campus!  Mr. McLaren’s advertisement for the book and the conference can be seen on YouTube. [Also see Eric Barger's YouTube description of this seminar at NNU, which he attended on all three days].

It is clear that the Emergent church not just the Emerging church has been influential in the Church of the Nazarene.  Any attempt to say otherwise is naive at best and dishonest at worst.  Those who are concerned about the Emergent church have very good reason.  The General Superintendents should explain why, unorthodox as it is, it is being allowed to influence the future leaders of our church.

Manny: Instead of “engaging” them, I suggest that we follow this biblical command: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Eph. 5:11


QUOTE #2

“The Church of the Nazarene must remain vigilant that we neither compromise our message of holiness; nor ignore the cultural challenges around us.”

Manny: Compromise happens when we stand by and continue to allow McLaren, and a whole host of others (Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton) to be good resources via lecture or chapel sermons, or via the books they have written, to be fed to our youth on the college campuses.  Would you allow your child to be slowly fed a small dose of poison every day?  In the end, it just might kill him.
Note Leonard Sweet, who is scheduled to speak at several PALCONS this year for pastors.  If the Emergent Church is not a Nazarene “thing”, why is a New Age sympathizer like Sweet speaking to Nazarene pastors frequently?  Again, we ought to separate ourselves from false teachers, not engage them, and certainly never bring them in as good resources!


QUOTE #3

“There are some misunderstandings which have grown from using the terms “emerging” and “emergent” interchangeably. They are not the same. The Emergent Church finds its roots in the Emergent Village which is an intellectual and philosophical network made up of writers and thinkers such as Brian McLaren, Toney Jones, Doug Pagitt and others.  These individuals are unorthodox in many of their theological positions and are all over the map in methodology. They are far from being unified as a movement.”

Jerry: First, that these men are not unified as a movement is irrelevant, and the argument could be made that they are very much unified considering that Tony Jones is the “theologian in residence” at Solomon’s Porch (the church Doug Pagitt founded), and Brian McLaren and Tony Jones have worked closely on several occasions.  Second, Brian McLaren has spoken at Point Loma Nazarene University, Northwest Nazarene University, and Mid-America Nazarene University.  Three of his books are currently listed as textbooks at Northwest Nazarene University.  Tony Jones has lectured at Olivet Nazarene University, Mid-America Nazarene University, and Mt. Vernon Nazarene University.

So my first questions to the Board of General Superintendents are:

Are you OK with unorthodox speakers coming to our universities to influence our students?

Are you OK with their writings being used as text in Nazarene University classrooms?

QUOTE #4

“We think it’s clear from the above statement that the General Superintendents are not about to lead the Church of the Nazarene in embracing the Emergent Church.”

Manny: Perhaps they are not going to lead the Church in embracing the Emergent Church.  But what does it say if many of us continue to have the perception that they may be simply standing by while allowing it to happen?  There is good reason for that by the way, if that is what it looks like, for there has not yet been a definitive statement on these issues since General Assembly.  Perhaps there is more study going on by the leadership, but many of us have clearly seen what is happening, and many Nazarenes have left the church, or some have separated officially from the church as this letter mentions.  How much more fire will there have to be in the house, before the “parents” start telling the children, “get out?”  And can we get rid of, once and for all, of all the things that are causing the fire, so that it won’t occur again?


QUOTE #5

“Emerging Churches, on the other hand, are churches that recognize the non-negotiable elements of our historic faith while adapting their methodologies for a rapidly changing culture.

quoting the largely “unorthodox” Doug Pagitt:

“The underlying struggle to contextualize the Christian faith in new cultural situations—to make sure that it is proclaimed and lived in both a culturally relevant and biblically coherent manner—is of crucial importance. ― “The gospel of Jesus has always found its ways in new cultural settings, and not only by changing its methods, but also making adjustments to the message …” (bold text mine)

Jerry: It would seem that these Nazarene leaders think its ok to “mess with the message” along with changing their methodology.  Which raises the question:  How can something be biblically coherent if it has been “adjusted” from what the Bible says?  By the way, the white paper also quotes Brian McLaren and cites some of Tony Jones’ work.  The entire white paper may be found at: http://ragingbhull.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/emerging-nazarenes-white-paper/ .

A final thought by Gary to conclude:

“I do not judge the church or its leadership with regards to their spiritual condition. It is clear however that [some] have initiated, planted and conducted their ministry as they embrace the Emergent Church. They have both past and present involvement with the leaders of the Emergent Church (even as indicated by the letter authored by a District Superintendent and substantiated by the statement from the Board of General Superintendents) and support other organizations (communities) that also fully embrace the Emergent Church.

While I respect their right to serve the Lord in ways they deem suitable, it is not appropriate to discount or ignore the beliefs, doctrines and directions of the Nazarene Village (as they reference the church) while they pursue opposing directions of ministry. The common “unwritten rule” of ministry for associates has been, “If you can’t support your pastor you should resign and find another place to serve instead of causing issues within that local church” and I think the principle is a good one. In this case, the local church should function in similarity as to the associate. The local church subjects itself fundamentally to the doctrines and directions of the larger, global church. The local church should support in word and deed the core doctrines, directions and beliefs of the church they belong to and that support can and should be measurable. When inconsistencies are discovered they should be corrected, not merely dismissed as “just another way of looking at it.” The responsibility of the church is to hold its ministries accountable for adhering to the doctrines and beliefs accordingly and likewise the local church and its leadership should be in harmony with the same.

It is a simple issue of integrity. If a pastor deems that the Church of the Nazarene is drastically different from his or her views and feels obligated to live and lead according to their beliefs, disregarding the position of the church, they should tender their resignation and cease receiving support from the church (financially speaking.) To accept financial support from an organization and disregard its doctrine by teaching or leading opposing doctrines (where core values are concerned, not “pre trib versus post trib”) is to be hypocritical.”

I think where we all get side tracked is simply this. We try and make a place for everyone. The fact remains (as shown in the statement by the BofG’s) that the Church of the Nazarene is not an Emergent Church nor do we embrace or endorse this organization or its leaders. That means we should also not allow a local church, pastor, evangelist, DS, GS, NPH (or affiliates) or Nazarene College, professor or administrator to promote the Emergent Church, period. It is that simple. You cannot be a supporter of the Emergent Church and also be a supporter of the Church of the Nazarene as they are not the same.

And while I am typing…all this dialogue about being missional and caring for the poor, etc. This IS NOT a new concept or movement. This is not a post modern revelation. Perhaps if we could quote Scripture better and faster than the most recent author or latest quote from a monk from hundreds of years ago, we would recognize this simple truth. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (lost souls, bound for the real place called hell) not trees! Be a good citizen, yes! Don’t litter, don’t be wasteful, etc. but remember that is not why Christ died and that is not the mandate for God’s church. The body of Christ’s mission is not to be a eco-friendly organization rivaling the Peace Corps and we are not the Rotary Club. Not knocking either one, just reminding us that is not the role of the church.

I better stop before I really get to preaching!

Love in Christ,

Gary

(*Thanks to my contributors for their commentary.)

General Superintendents: An Emergent Position Statement?

Recently, the Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene addressed various district superintendents (not sure if it was all) with a letter that referenced the Emergent/Emerging Church issue.  As you will see in the letter, they provided a document (it follows the letter) to the DS’s, that the generals recommended the D.S.’s use as a means of explaining the generals’s position to others who might inquire about the emergent church.  Some of us have had some time to think about this document and what it says and/or might mean.  There are certainly some good things in it, yet some of the content is also troubling.  I will not comment on either today, but simply let you read the letter and the document, and will post some remarks in a few days.  Feel free to respond to me with your own thoughts on these letters.

ORIGINAL LETTER TO THE DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENTS:

May 4, 2010

District Superintendents

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As you are aware, there is much conversation among Nazarenes throughout the United States and Canada regarding the “Emergent/Emerging Church.” There has been at least one minister who has chosen to leave the Church of the Nazarene because of what he perceived to be our involvement in the emergent movement.

We recently received a copy of a letter that was sent from a district advisory board to one troubled pastor. We believe this is a well-written, well-thought-out letter that states our doctrine very clearly and succinctly and upholds everything that our denomination has stood for since its founding over 100 years ago.

We want you to have this letter as a means of explaining our position to others. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at any time.

Board of General Superintendents

Dr. J. K. Warrick
Dr. Jerry D. Porter
Dr. Jesse C. Middendorf
Dr. Eugénio R. Duarte
Dr. David W. Graves
Dr. Stan A. Toler

THE ACTUAL LETTER SENT BY A DISTRICT ADVISORY BOARD TO A PASTOR WHOSE CHURCH DECIDED TO SEPARATE FROM THE CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE (WITH NAMES REMOVED):

Dear

Your recent resignation of ministerial credentials in the Church of the Nazarene has raised the question as to whether or not the denomination is accepting and promoting heresy through embracing the “emergent/emerging” church movement.

It’s always legitimate to examine the direction of a church, especially in a day such as ours with the destabilization of society’s institutions, growing cultural diversity, and new challenges to missional outreach. However, after examining your concerns, we do not believe the Church of the Nazarene is engaging in heresy, nor embracing the “emergent church” movement.

There are some misunderstandings which have grown from using the terms “emerging” and “emergent” interchangeably.  They are not the same.  The Emergent Church finds its roots in the Emergent Village which is an intellectual and philosophical network made up of writers and thinkers such as Brian McLaren, Toney Jones, Doug Pagitt and others.

These individuals are unorthodox in many of their theological positions and are all over the map in methodology.  They are far from being unified as a movement.  The General Superintendents have issued the following statement regarding the Emergent Church;

Sadly some in the Emergent Church have messed with the message. They have started down the road of compromise, eliminating the ‘useless baggage’ of specific scripturally based religious convictions.  Such misguided attempts to eliminate critical theological content may lighten the load of some churches. It may even create a temporary euphoria of false freedom. In the end, however, these choices will prove to be liabilities.

Some in the Emergent Church have substituted the solid rock of Biblical Authority for the shifting sands of human reasoning. Dismissing the supernatural attributes of God as mere holdovers from older times leaves the Church with an impoverished understanding of God. The subtle seduction of other narratives infiltrates the very heart of the Gospel message, leaving it weakened in the face of great challenge.”

We think it’s clear from the above statement that the General Superintendents are not about to lead the Church of the Nazarene in embracing the Emergent Church.

Emerging Churches, on the other hand, are churches that recognize the non-negotiable elements of our historic faith while adapting their methodologies for a rapidly changing culture.  We believe the Church can and must remain steadfastly committed to the faith of the Bible and the theological statements of the Church of the Nazarene; while redemptively speaking to the culture. The preservation of orthodoxy does not militate against the options of new and innovative methods of making Christlike disciples.

You  spoke of the Church adopting “Catholic practices” such as lectio divina, contemplative prayer and meditation to “produce transcendental experiences”.  Lectio Divina means “divine reading”.  It is an ancient method of allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to you, direct and teach you while you are engaging in Bible study and prayer  (John 14:26).

In the opening pages of Nazarene Publishing House’s Lectio Divina Bible Studies, we read the following steps and desired outcomes of this method:

1) a time of quieting oneself prior to reading the word
2) focusing the mind on the central theme of the text
3) carefully reading the passage of scripture
4) explore the meaning of the Bible passage
5) yielding yourself to God’s will
6) expressing praise, thanksgiving, confession or agreement with God
7) resolving to act on the message of the scripture

Instead of being something negative, we believe the above steps and desired outcomes will greatly aid our people in becoming Christlike disciples.

You also raised the concern regarding silence and meditation as Catholic practices.  The scripture advises us “to be still and know that I am God”. (Psalm 46:10).  The Hebrew word for meditate, “hagah “, is used 25 times in the Old Testament.  The word means to “muse” or “to quietly think about”. We are told to meditate on:

1)   the scripture (Joshua 1:8)
2)   the person of God (Psalm 63:6)
3)   the works of God ( Psalm 77:12)
4)   and on God’s precepts and statutes ( Psalm 119:23, 48)

We are not blanking out our minds and chanting some transcendental meditation mantra. Meditation in the Judeo-Christian tradition is radically different from that practice. Christian meditation involves a focus on God and His Word, and quieting ourselves while engaging in this devotional discipline.

You wrote about the pastor/missionary being fired allegedly for speaking out about the emergent church movement. We only get one side of the story from the article.  Legal issues prevent the discussion of personnel matters in an open forum so we really don’t know the whole story.

Finally, let me mention the “Everything Must Change” conference.   McLaren’s book Everything Must Change and conference named after it is simply a rehashing of old classic liberalism and “realized eschatology” from around the turn of the 20th century with a green twist.  The Church of the Nazarene does not embrace that position; but we must engage it. We must be in conversation with it if we are to remain an influential force in our culture for Christ.  Otherwise, we will simply slink into the obscure corner of historic irrelevance; congratulating ourselves on our holiness, while the world disintegrates around us.  The Church of the Nazarene must remain vigilant that we neither compromise our message of holiness; nor ignore the cultural challenges around us.

We regret the decision you made to leave us; but we wish you well in your new venture.

In Christ’s Service

END OF DOCUMENT

Lighthouse of Holiness Committed To The Gospel

Below is a prayer email from Pastor Joe Staniforth of “Lighthouse of Holiness.”  This ministry is committed to God’s inerrant Word, His message of salvation and holiness, and taking that message to the streets.  You can visit them at their Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/groups/lighthouseofholiness/

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!  As there are those who have recently joined our prayer support, we would like to restate the vision that the Lord has given us.
Young children do crafts in a park.
Lighthouse of Holiness (previously “Lighthouse Ministries”) is a ministry that is committed to the Great Commission: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)  For this reason, we have been involved in taking the Word out onto the streets and equipping others to do the same.  Furthermore, we are convinced that the church needs to return to preaching the full counsel of the Word.  In simple words, if it says it, preach it.

It has grieved us to see that many houses of worship have become a cross between a superstore and an activity center.  Like the superstore, they use all types of commercial gimmicks to attract people into their midst – e.g. slogans, bake sales, beautifully constructed buildings and a consumer-friendly atmosphere – instead of simply following the commandment to go out.  When the crowds come, they attempt to keep them there with plenty of fun activities.  In turn, the Word is watered down, as such teachings as sin, judgment and repentance are omitted or redefined, for fear of losing members (I Ti. 4:3-4).

Several months ago, I was praying some distance away from what appeared to be a church.  It had all the semblance of your typical house of worship – a steeple, stain glass windows and plenty of room for a sanctuary.   When I took a closer look, I noted that the sign on the front had been changed.  It now read: “Humble Activity Center.”  To my horror, I began to realize that this is what many churches have become – centers full of godless activity:  A place where so many have fun, but so few are changed into the glorious image of God.  When you water down the Word, souls are no longer washed by it (Eph. 5:26). Just that morning, I had been reading these words from the prophet Isaiah: “Oh my people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.” (Is. 3:12)

Christ intended that a church be more like a lighthouse than an activity center or superstore.  For the lighthouse, it is imperative that the light must go out into the darkness.  The lives of all those that sail the seas at night depend on it. The church has been commissioned, not to attract people in or to entertain them, but to go out into the darkness and rescue souls from the grip of sin and hell  Brothers and sisters, if we hide the light of God’s Word with commercialism and “commotionalism,” then that light will be snuffed out (Mat. 5:15). In other words, the church will lose its witness to a hell-bound world.

Teaching the Word in an apartment complex.
Since becoming independent, the Lord has blessed our ministry in many ways.  Just this last month, the Lord opened up several doors into the community. Just across the road from us in Brownsville, TX, there is a trailer park that resembles some of the poorer suburbs in Mexico.  After witnessing there for a few months, the Lord has opened up a building on the premises. We now meet with kids each week, and teach the Word.  Also, we have been given access to an apartment complex close by.  Praise His holy name!  God has been answering your prayers!
Lighthouse of Holiness is also committed to training young people to do evangelism.  Last month, we began to partner with a holiness church that shares our vision for street evangelism – “Victoria en Jesus.”  I have already had the privilege of leading some of their youth out onto the streets.  It was a joy to witness young people handing out tracts in the downtown areas.  One young man was even preaching to immigrants from across the border.  Praise the Lord!
We are sad to report that the situation in the border city of Matamoros, Mexico (just across the Rio Grande) has grown worse.  Slowly, the cartel (the Mexican mafia) has begun to take over the city.  We hear reports almost every day of atrocities that are taking place.  We have not crossed the border for over a month.  However, we are still supporting our brothers and sisters with necessary supplies.  Please pray for the new church in Matamoros, and the two soup kitchens of which our ministry is a part.  Pray that the gospel message will not be hindered, and that the Lord’s protection will be upon the churches.

Trailer Park
Finally, we are praying about starting a school of evangelism.  Lighthouse of Holiness would like to begin to train men and women who have a divine call to preach.  Many Christian colleges and universities in the Western World are becoming humanistic in their understanding of God’s holy Word.  Emergent/emerging ideology and other teachings of man have been given full rein on these once hallowed campuses. Furthermore, the doctrine of holiness, which many of us hold dear, has been compromised.  Though we grieve over these issues, we must endeavor, once again, to raise the banner of “Holiness unto the Lord.” For this reason, we have changed our name from “Lighthouse Ministries” to the “Lighthouse of Holiness.”  Please pray that the Lord will give both the wisdom and the grace that we will need.
Thank you for all your prayers!  We are grateful for all of your support!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Joe Staniforth
Missionary Evangelist

Who Is A Concerned Nazarene or Christian?

Many people who support the emergent church movement seem to be concerned  (no pun intended) about numbers, regarding our opposition to their movement.  Some of these folks tend to dismiss Concerned Nazarenes as a very small group comprised of “disgruntled” Nazarenes like Manny Silva, or perhaps my friend Tim Wirth, and maybe just a few other friends which perhaps amounts to a small handful of crazies.  I think that is a serious mistake if they think so, and perhaps comes from a wish for it to be so.

Often a criticism of emergent opposition is that we have not had enough years of theological training and education, so how can we truly understand biblical doctrine and therefore criticize emergent ideology? One problem with this logic is this: I admit that my best claim to formal theological training is two semesters of New Testament Greek and a few other courses, but what about those who oppose emergent ideology, and who have the equivalent or higher in formal theological education as many emergent pastors have?  How does an emergent answer an elder in the Nazarene church who believes as I do, that most of emergent ideology is based on Satan’s game plan of deception, and not rooted in the word of God?

One of the sneakiest game plans that emergent pastors follow, is to not let on that they are emergent!  Why is that?  Why can’t a pastor or elder who, in private conversation with me perhaps, will admit to supporting all that the EC has to offer; why can’t he also admit that to his congregation?  Why can’t he go on a full fledged campaign to trumpet the virtues of emergent ideology? Why is it that there seems to be a stealth campaign amongst many pastors to hide their true emergent leanings to the flock that they are responsible for feeding the word of God?

I believe the fact of the matter is that, concerned Nazarenes (or Christians) will be totally upfront about what they are for or against, regardless of criticism.  But unless a congregation is fully, or almost fully emergent, there is a lack of candor, and a deliberate attempt to hide the full emergent agenda.  Unless arm-twisting is done, there will be no statements such as “sure, I’m an emergent pastor, and proud of it.  Here is what exactly I support and promote.”  And if there is an upfront admission by an emergent pastor, perhaps it’s because they would rather see anyone who is opposed to their ideology, leave so they can more easily and cleanly continue with their agenda, unopposed, in their emergent style church.

I’ve spoken with more and more people who are part of a church which they have discovered has a pastor who is slowly trying to introduce the emergent agenda.  They have asked me what they should do, and of course, every situation is different.  But I have shared from my experiences and have advised them to work as well as they can to ask questions and get answers.  I have warned them that many emergent pastors will respond in a very negative way to questions from members. They could very well be demonized if they stubbornly insist on getting clear answers.  They could end up being shunned and eventually will be labeled  troublemakers who are trying to divide a church or denomination.  The fact is, all they are standing for, unashamedly, is for biblical truth and and the upholding of biblical doctrine, which most emergents think has very little importance now in this post-modern era.  (Read 2 Tim. 3:16 to see Paul’s emphasis on doctrine’s importance, among other scripture).

Yet I am reminded from a sermon by Pastor Tony a while ago, of this scripture in 1 Peter:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:1-3

This tells me that a pastor should not be rebuffing questions from members who are concerned, but should be completely upfront and honest if a concerned member is asking about something.  A pastor should not in any way try to demonize someone who has tried to get answers to serious theological inquiries, but instead, he give straight and clear answers, and hopefully, answers based on the word of God.  A pastor who is responsible (and a very serious responsibility at that) for feeding his flock the whole counsel of God, should do just that!  These situations should be teaching moments, not moments of telling a member to go away and stop asking questions.  Does that sound vaguely familiar to any of you in your situation?  If so, take care and be warned that things might not get easier at all, if you question a pastor you think might be emergent.

Finally, another accusation from emergents, which is totally unfounded biblically, is that we should not ever judge, except for the essentials.  First of all, what are the essentials anyway?  Correct me if I’m wrong, but to me, essentials are whatever we are CLEARLY commanded in the scriptures to do, and not necessarily a short list of our primary doctrinal belief statements.  A clear command in scripture is NOT optional.  If you disobey in one area, you have disobeyed in all, the scriptures say.  And of course, judgmentalism is not something emergents like, yet we are commanded over and over again in the scriptures, on how and when to judge, NOT that we should never judge.  I don’t have a theology degree, yet I understand that.  Why do emergent pastors not understand that?  Is it perhaps because when they say “do not judge”, they deflect from any scrutiny of their doctrine?

So concerned Nazarenes (Christians) are not a small fringe group comprised of nutcases such as Manny Silva.  There is growing opposition as more pastors, evangelists and other leadership, and plain old laypeople, start finding out about this cancer that has snuck into our universities and churches.  Concerned Nazarenes are also totally upfront about their agenda, and are not embarrassed to say it. And, concerned Nazarenes (Christians) are judgmental, but as we are commanded in scripture, to “test the spirits”, to discern what is right and wrong doctrine, to know the fruits of those who are false teachers.

As the opposition grows to this “not of God movement”, I am making a plea to any pastor who is opposed to this movement.  I ask that you join us clearly in this opposition.  I ask that you join those who have risked their pastorates for the sake of truth.  I ask that if you truly know that these practices and ideologies being promoted by the emergents is not of God, to speak out against it.  It is scriptural to do this, and it is clearly commanded by the Lord, and the apostles, that we do this.  We owe it to the young babes in Christ who are still feeding on the milk, but who in their immaturity can be swept away by “almost the truth.”

It would be a big mistake if the emergent crowd continues to believe we are going away.  We are not, and we will hold your feet to the fire, as we continue to inform more Nazarenes and other Christians of the dangers of this false movement.