“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:3
The Church of the Nazarene is caught in a serious crisis, even though those in leadership may not think so. The foundations are slowly being destroyed, and many leaders are ignoring the warnings; some are part of the problem; and only a few are sounding the alarm. I often see reports and updates that tell us that the church is healthy. Surely in some places things are going well, but there is a cancer slowly running through the church and eating away at its spiritual health, and that is being ignored too much. How foolish if a sick patient ignores the warning signs of a deadly disease! The following items of apostasy have been welcomed into our universities (in varying degrees of severity depending on the school) and many of our churches and districts:
Emergent church ideology (now more often dressed up as “missional”); contemplative spirituality or mysticism; spiritual formation; ecumenicalism and interfaith collaborations; Roman Catholic practices; environmental movement; social justice “gospel”; open theism; process theology; theistic evolution; and finally, what has led to all these things, which is the rejection of the inerrancy and authority of God’s word.
I believe that the Church of the Nazarene is moving in a direction that will at some point, perhaps in the not too distant future, put it on the same level as apostate mainline denominations such as the ELCA, the Episcopal Church, and the PCUSA. Those denominations have shared, amongst other meltdowns, an affinity for watering down the biblical message against homosexual sin, and accepting the LGBT lifestyle as a normal part of Christian living. We already are seeing signs of this viewpoint coming into some of our universities such as Point Loma and Southern Nazarene University, and even some weakness in official denomination papers (Pastoral Perspective on Homosexuality).
For those who are new to much of this, in December of 2008 I made my first contact with Tim Wirth. Tim and his friends Sue and Don Butler were instrumental in putting together the Emergent Church DVD, which was passed out to over 6,000 people at General Assembly 2009 in Orlando. Sometime during the early months of 2009, I had met other Nazarenes or former Nazarenes who were concerned about the direction the denomination was going due to the influence of the emerging church movement and unbiblical teachings in our universities. We organized ourselves and “invaded” the General Assembly to warn our fellow Nazarenes. It has been a real battle as we have been joined by many other Nazarenes, and even non-Nazarene friends, in sounding the warning and educating others to the dangers we all are facing throughout all denominations.
I believe that now after almost three years there has come a new turning point, from what I have seen, and what I am planning as far as my ministry goes. I may not necessarily be speaking for all concerned Nazarenes, and will not be presumptuous to think so. Most of what I will say here is shared by many others, although I do not claim to be “the voice” of the Concerned Nazarenes. And I also am taking the risk of losing more friends with what needs to be said today. I accept that risk, as long as I am being truthful in my assessment. From all I have seen, the Church of the Nazarene is near or at the forefront of all other traditionally orthodox denominations in bringing emergent ideology and other unbiblical practices and teachings to its people.
Response From Our National Leadership Has Failed
This to me has been the biggest red flag and the most troublesome indicator that the Nazarene denomination is headed for even more difficult times. And when I speak of difficult times, I only speak of one thing: that of spiritual matters. It has nothing to do with membership, or finances, or status in the world. Therefore, I have come to two main conclusions at this time regarding the Board of General Superintendents:
1. General Superintendent Dr. Jesse Middendorf is an active perhaps the most influential supporter of the emergent church agenda within the denomination. His son Jon Middendorf has also been a big influence, with his embrace of emergent ideology and ecumenical fellowship with the Roman Catholic church. From his support of Jon’s presentation at the 2009 General Assembly, to his collaboration with emergent church leaders such as New Age sympathesizer Leonard Sweet, it is clear that Dr. Middendorf has been one of the major catalysts in fostering the growth of emergent ideology, contemplative spirituality, and acceptance of Roman Catholic practices within the denomination. Some university leaders I have communicated with are also helping to usher in Roman Catholic practices, mysticism, and emergent ideology. Their oftentimes ambiguous or evasive answers, and their staunch defense of false teachers such as Tony Campolo and Mike King, reveals that they have little discernment and have been deceived, and even worse are now spreading that deception to others.
2. The Other General Superintendents. I do not have hard evidence of any of the other Generals being directly involved in promoting the emergent agenda, because they do not reveal much in their answers to me and others. However, there is another indicator, which is the apparent lack of leadership from them, and lack of meaningful, clear answers to specific questions. There are two possibilities, neither of which are good: the current leadership is either complicit with the emergent movement as Dr. Middendorf is, or at best they are aware of the problems and have made a conscious decision to ignore these serious threats to our church for the sake of, perhaps… staying united in one voice? If so, that does not match up with biblical principles, because staying united as leaders at the expense of ignoring biblical truth, and at the expense of shirking their responsibility to lead the church and give guidance and direction, is unacceptable.
Throughout the past two years, the Generals have written several official statements, including The Emergent Church. I have personally received responses from them. Others have received individual responses. All the words in these statements at best translate to a very generic, “we are against false teachings” position, but lacking substantive comments on anything or anyone specifically. The current editor of Holiness Today also has shown signs of being sympathetic to the emergent movement, and is known for having attacked Concerned Nazarenes more than once, but like the others, never being specific in his accusations (Ill Informed Critics? Part 1, and Part 2. So in effect, both the “silent” treatment tactic, and the attempts to attack our motives instead of biblically correcting us, seems to be the primary strategy of not only the leadership, but of those at the universities, as well as many at the District level. I have had personal disappointments with some of the top leaders in my district, who have not even so much as responded to my emails seeking to have a meeting to discuss my concerns. In my opinion, they too have shirked their responsibilities as leaders. There were promises to meet with me, but never followed up. Yet this “ignore them and they’ll go away” strategy simply exacerbates the situation, not just for me, but for others who at best have received polite form letters that are empty in substance.
The Universities Are Falling Apart
Some university presidents are either fully involved in spreading emergent heresy, or like some of the Generals, are not willing or are powerless to take serious action or speak out. Universities that have been severely compromised include:
Northwest Nazarene University , led by the open theism of Dr. Tom Oord (see also Open Theism and Christian Evolution at ENC), as well as its welcoming of heretical speakers such as Brian McLaren and Jay McDaniel, and the embracing of The Shack author William Paul Young recently.
Point Loma Nazarene University , with its promotion of contemplative spirituality and Richard Foster’s Renovaré seminars, compromising the biblical view of homosexuality (Homosexuality At Point Loma); inviting an Eastern Orthodox speaker to teach praying to icons, and welcoming false teachers such as Rob Bell to speak on campus and to pastors;
Trevecca Nazarene University , which has been promoting prayer labyrinths and contemplative mysticism for years, as well as retreats to a Roman Catholic monastery to teach contemplative mysticism to students. Their president, Dan Boone, changed the name of prayer labyrinth to prayer walk when this was exposed, but it does not matter. It is still an unbiblical practice. (See Are There Fundamentalist Nazarenes, And Are They Jihadists?, and Conversation With University President).
Nazarene Theological Seminary openly promotes contemplative mysticism; has a required course for pastors called Celtic Spirituality, an occultic version of “Christianity”; apparently is unapologetically involved in the interfaith movement; has a professor, Mike King, who spoke at the blasphemous Wildgoose Festival (Mike King and Friends Leading Youth To Spiritual Death). New president David Busic quoted heretical emergence Christianity proponent, Phylis Tickle, extensively in his inauguration message. There is more, as I have documented, but this is the school responsible for preparing our future pastors! This is shameful.
The other Nazarene schools have been compromised also in one way or another. Nazarene Bible College is teaching lectio divina, which is apparently standard fare now with books on that practice at the Nazarene Publishing House, which is sorely lacking in discernment with its promotion of the Catholic ritual of ashes to the forehead. At the very least they must be seriously scrutinized before sending your children there. The ones that I have mentioned, I would strongly recommend to stay away from at the moment, and do not send money to them until they repent of what they are doing.
There have been district superintendents who have shown the same display of politically correct responses to letters from concerned Nazarenes, and pastors who simply want to talk about “love” and maintaining “unity.” Yet, some of them could do something, they could speak out, and yet they choose to remain silent, some of it due to the fact that they have bought into the false teachings. Yet I thank God for those few pastors (including my own) and district leaders who have boldly taken a stand and rejected these false movements, and have declared it publicly and to their congregations. There are still pastors who are defending their flock at great cost at times and rejecting the emergent agenda of their districts. Some have been persecuted and lost their job, because of speaking out against emergent heresy.
People Are Leaving- Because of The Emergent Church
The leaders at some point will have to decide to be on one side or the other- and not walk the fence. Nazarenes are leaving the denomination because of its liberal attitude and welcoming embrace of emergent thinking and rejection of the Bible’s full authority. Of course, many are being attracted to the church because of its new emergent, post-modern thought- but at what cost? How many of those who have come into the church are truly born again? You will not have types of Nazarenes for too long. Make up your mind, state your position clearly, and let Nazarenes decided whether they will put up with the emergent (missional) church or not. But stop leading people on and making them wonder where you stand. The fact is, if you don’t speak against it, you ARE for it. If you want us to look like the Roman Catholic Church, you’ll see more of this, which was posted today:
“I can’t do it anymore, I am going to have to leave my church, when the associate pastor and others condone the teachings of the Catholic church it is time to leave!!! I just can’t take the associate pastor and others supporting the doctrine of the catholic church. How do I witness to a Catholic and then turn around and accept their false teaching? Pray for us.”
No More Letters
At this point, I will no longer be sending letters to the General Superintendents pleading with them for an answer to serious questions. Their “answers” from the past two years have been inadequate and cryptic at best, and now I see them as part of the problem unless proven otherwise, not part of any solution to the problems in the church. If the Lord moves them to action, and the Holy Spirit convicts them, they will finally start showing the leadership that seems to be lacking now, and provide badly needed spiritual guidance to several million Nazarenes. They have the potential to send a loud and clear message to the apostates that have taken over our churches, our universities, and that are deceiving so many young people today. But the days of asking them questions are over, and from now on I will be exposing them for their silence until they give us a straight answer. If they cannot do their job, perhaps they need to resign, and find another occupation with less responsibility. Here’s some food for thought expressed recently by a Nazarene pastor:
“I wonder how much of the emergent church stuff in our leaders and local congregations comes from the fact that we have failed to “guard the doctrine” (study the Scriptures) and are living in a “fly by the seat of our pants” theology. How much of it is because we have innocently tried to be “all things to all people” and there is really a heart to win the lost for Christ, but we no longer know how to or feel comfortable with the mission because we’re not IN THE LIVING WORD. So all sorts of other avenues are presented to be an attraction to people. How many of our leaders have just been running a giant organization too long to even be aware of what is happening or willing to put a face on it and call it for what it is? Maybe they’re still reeling from the fact that satan has shoved his foot in the door right under their noses and they don’t want to scare people away by pointing him out.”
Some may say, you are not being fair, Manny. Who are you to question leaders of such stature? Perhaps they are working diligently “behind the scenes” to fix the problems. But that’s not how strong leadership works. Strong leadership will instill confidence and trust from the people. The fruits of their actions, or perhaps “non-actions”, have borne nothing but more uncertainty for Bible believers, while allowing the apostates to continue solidifying their foothold on our institutions and many of our churches and districts around the world. If the great apostle Paul demanded accountability and commended the Bereans for verifying his teachings, why should we not hold our General Superintendents, college presidents, district superintendents, and pastors to the same high biblical standards?
Follow Our Example
One of my biggest disappointments has been seeing so many longtime Christians, many of them close family and friends, ignore what is going on, as if it will go away. It is time now for pastors and laypeople alike who are sitting on the sidelines and do not agree with the false teachings, to stand up and be counted. I do not claim to come close to emulating the apostle Paul, yet I am compelled to ask many of you to now do something. I ask that you do as I do, just as Paul asked many years ago, simply because what we are doing here is biblically justified and even mandated- no exceptions. Admitting that we are imperfect, I ask those who have been on the sidelines to follow my example and that of many Nazarenes who have put themselves on the line, risking reputation and even years of friendships, all for the sake of Jesus Christ and the truth of His word. Perhaps you can do some research and educate others. Perhaps you can write or call your district superintendents and ask where they stand, and then continue to pressure them for answers. Perhaps you will need to confront your own pastor, or a friend in your church. Perhaps you as a pastor must teach your congregation to be better Bereans. It will not be easy. That’s what I had to do. It cost us plenty, but honoring Christ is the only honest option for us.
For those who are feeling the threat of false teachings coming into your church, you are not alone. Need advice and support, a free DVD, or other resources? Please contact me or join us at our Concerned Nazarene FaceBook page.)
Addendum: Things To Prayerfully Consider
1. Consider specifically assigning your tithe ONLY to certain local church expenses, so that there is less chance it will be sent to the General Church budget.
2. If you are in a church that is promoting emergent ideology, withhold your tithe in some type of escrow until leadership is removed or repentance comes about.
3. Write to one or more of the General Superintendents and express your concerns about the direction of the denomination.
4. Write or call your District Superintendent, and ask him as to where he stands on the emergent church movement.
5. Talk to your pastor and find out exactly what he believes, especially if you suspect he may be trying to bring in “strange” practices, or if his sermons sound different and “odd” lately. You may want to start by asking if he believes in the full inerrancy of scripture, not “only in matters of salvation.”
6. If your pastor is firmly against the emergent church, give him your unwavering support; pray for him and his spouse; encourage the congregation to stand with him 100%.
7. Write to one or more of the universities or seminaries, especially if you are an alumnus, and express your concerns and ask for the leadership to explain where they stand. Do not settle for generalities, but press for specific responses to specific issues.
8. If you donate regularly to one of our universities, consider stopping the sending of any money to them, and write and let them know they will no longer get any funds until they get their act together and clean house.
9. Pray daily, especially for the safety and protection of our students at the schools, who are being exposed to dangerous heretical teachings, or who are being ridiculed by theology professors for standing for biblical truth
10. Consider the possibility that you may have to be divorced from your church. But is there any price that cannot be paid for standing for God’s truth, and being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ?
11. Flee. If all else fails, and you and your family are threatened by unbiblical teachings, you must protect them. Leave, and find a good solid Bible believing Nazarene church, and if that fails, find a good Bible believing church. Your allegiance is to Jesus Christ, not any denomination.
12. Ultimately, you may have to leave the denomination. That is your call, in your time, based on your circumstances, and only through prayerful consideration.
(How Do We Discern?- Michael Youssef)