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.