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Written by: C. W. Booth

October 6, 2006

Emergent Church, Youth Bias, and a Return to the 70s Jesus Movement

This morning I watched a video soliciting Christians to become involved in a church planting ministry.  Virtually the entire one hour on the DVD was dedicated to explaining what the Emerging Church was, why it is a "better" form of worship, and how to assist in planting a new Emerging Church via the ministry board which produced the video.

There is much I need to study on the Emerging Church.  Next year I am scheduled to do in depth formal study in this arena.

Until then, my view of the Emerging Church is colored by such presentations as I just witnessed, videos published by Emerging Churches (such as the Mars Hill NOOMA video series), and the books and blogs written by those in or sympathetic with the Emerging Church movement.

Permit me to preface my next few comments with:  I know it is unfair to characterize entire movements by a few small examples, stereo-typing can lead to inaccuracies, and I have not yet seen all there is to see with regard to the Emerging Churches, possibly leading me to a false understanding.

So far, it seems the Emerging Church movement is biased toward the young.  Christian Rock dominates the music stylings of the Emergent Church (though it is not exclusively rock), lending itself to the preferences of the under thirty crowd.  In fact, each church highlighted in the DVD emphasized that they built their church around the music / performance ministry first and foremost.  Children's ministries are heavily media oriented, with children likening Children's Church to a day at an amusement park--one pastor said, "Postmodern children hear with their eyes and think with their feelings." 

Each church profiled in the video had an average congregation age of 24 years old.  This movement reminds me of my own youth when we youngsters (the Jesus Freaks and the children of the Jesus Movement) pompously and naively rallied around the banner that we would win the world for Christ, and that without the help of the traditional church establishment.  There is nothing new under the sun after all.

In all the videos I have watched and blogs I have read coming out of the Emergent Church movement (dare I call it a movement without offering offense?) I am struck by the number of times I heard expressions similar to: "It's not about religion anymore, it's only about Jesus," and, "keeping the message pure is the main thing."  Oddly, only one of the "preachers" in the video I watched this morning was actually using a Bible from which to preach his sermon, the others were moralizing "off the cuff."  How is Jesus "the only thing" when the only authoritative source for knowing anything about Jesus is the Bible which was unseen and largely unused?  And what message is being kept pure if not the message that comes from the actual text of the ever-absent Scripture?

What I fear in this media-centric, if-you-play-rock-music-they-will-come, approach to church is that the seats will be packed with young professionals who twenty years from now will be just as "unchurched" as the present generation, never having learned how to study or exegete Scripture.  And when the entertaining element of performance churches begins to fade to commonplace in their experience, the no-longer-young congregants will fade back into the secular community, pleased with their emotional experiences but lacking any depth of faith. 

Sure, I know this may be an improper perception I have, or even an over reaction to what I have been seeing and reading from the Emergent Church.  Yet, the very fact that children who "hear with their eyes and think with their feelings" are having their media-addictions confirmed and reinforced in church instead of the church teaching them how to properly use their faculties to genuinely see (and read) the text of Scripture and how to think with their brains (instead of their feelings) to accurately interpret Bible passages, demonstrates we simply are no longer growing disciples who are workmen unashamed of the Word.

Being "Christians" is more than conforming to a younger style of pop religion, or uttering slogans about "being real for Jesus."   Just as being "Christians" is more than enduring slowly played hymns blasted on pipe organs to appease the hard-of-hearing, or mindlessly reciting ancient creeds written in obsolete dialects of English.  Being "Christians" means making disciples who know how to be Christians because they know how to read, interpret, and obey God's commandments.

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)


[Note: the above essay was originally posted as a blog entry which I wrote and put online October 6, 2006. As such, it was subject to public commentary as is customary with blogging. As a practical matter, I normally delete the comments entered on the blog site when building this essay archive. If you wish to read the comments posted by others about the essays, you are invited to go online, read them, or post your own comments.

However, on a few occasions the comments and perhaps my own responses to the comments, are so core to understanding the essay, or the implications of the essay, that I have chosen to incorporate them, as I have done below.]

Comments to the October 6, 2006 post entitled: Emergent Church, Youth Bias, and a Return to the 70s Jesus Movement

Begin Comment 1:

I look forward to your in depth study next year on the subject. Yet, I struggle with this myself and the motions and words spoken in ways lacking the sincerity in depth of the relationship of Jesus being on a narrow road instead of the wide path of destruction. It is like turning the church into a media blitz of the world and being run like a business with promotion concepts of the world to draw people into the building. In ways, it is like lack of respect in ways of our elders and disreguarding any wisdom learned from older and wiser Christains. It seems like a easier feel good, warm fuzzy instead of depth in study and discipline as a soldier of Jesus Christ when times do get tough. What happens to faith under fire? When I go into a church building that reminds me of bar type atmosphere complete with a meat market feel as I walk through the building, it is expected in a bar but not in the house of God!

Yes, I'm struggling with this concept in some ways but still want people to come to God. People in the 20's are not going to church due to watching people as teenagers like their parents not being real christains at home 6 days a week with an act on Sundays. As a youth these teenagers did not see real and sincere faith at that time while it was a media blitz then to at times. Youth groups can entertain kids with all the activities. If the 20's age group saw sincere faith in churches as a youth they would still be in church instead of in the world. Yet, the new thought is to make the church like the world so the 20's will be comfortable there! Youth leaders seek and reward popularity with goal of numbers verses sincerity and deeply investing in lives of the youth. Did the youth leaders even have the needed depth to lead the youth?

In ways this is like abortion issue. The issue comes years before in forming the ideas of conduct instead of the result of the dealing with consquenses of the conduct.  It is like the one world church is marching closer and closer with this movement. People are being entertained instead of being encouraged to dig? They will lap up whatever feels good to listen to but will the have the sincere personal relationship with Jesus Christ to have the discernment to as they listen? Emotional highs brought on by music are not lasting when a person comes under fire in the faith!

Comment One Posted 10/6/2006 at 3:55 PM by Whatisfaith

Begin Comment 2:

Dear Whatisfaith:thank you for your comments.

I fear we ignore or misunderstand the parpable Jesus delivered about the seed planted on rocky soil--people do come, they seem to be saved because they have all the right joy and emotions, but when their faith is hard tested, they fall away because they have no firm root.  Yet, emerging churches claim that trying to give their folks the firm root is unattractive (or as I have read them comment over and over, "it's boring").

That's it!!!!!! Yes, learning how to be grounded with a firm root of faith IS boring, to those who have not yet really converted. To those who are saved, in-depth study of the Bible is exciting and meaningful. Hmm....have to think about that some more.

Comment Two Posted 10/7/2006 at 12:19 PM by C. W. Booth

Begin Comment 3:

So true, i am from an "emerging church", and i feel that it doesnt make it better for Christians to grow, but hinders their growth, not soaking themselves with the Word of God. And more i read the Bible and historical studies, i have became what i am today, and i thank the Lord for letting me see the truth.

Comment Three Posted 10/8/2006 at 1:52 AM by sola_christus

Begin Comment 4:

You bring up a number of valid points. It is hard to pinpoint the Emergent Church b/c it does not fall under any leadership or goverance. Some of those quotations that you cite are absolutely frightening to hear from anyone associated with a church at all.  We will never out-cool the world.  There is no reason to make the gospel more appealing because 1) the gospel, understood properly, is categorically offensive to a fallen person, and 2) God will save who He wants to save regardless.  When he get into the mentality of "better preaching/evangelism/outreach/church = more converts to Christ", we are really falling into works-based salvation.  Not that one is saved by their own works, but saved by another's (the evangelist/paster/etc) works!  Slippery, slippery slope.

Comment Four Posted 10/10/2006 at 9:12 PM by vermont_front_porth

Begin Comment 5:

There is power in the name of Jesus itself that draws a heart and convicts a heart to change. World media blitz concepts may create warm fuzzy and pressure to go through motions. It is the power of Jesus name that creates the true change of heart.

Comment Five Posted 10/12/2006 at 10:04 AM by Whatisfaith

Begin Comment 6:

Dear Vermont-front-porch,

I never thought of it that way...a works-of-the-preacher based salvation is still works based salvation.  It is God who calls (Gk. 'invites') with a call that cannot be denied and cannot be regretted, it is not man who calls.

Of course, it is man who repeats the call.  But that is a different post.  Thanks for the comment.

Comment Six Posted 10/12/2006 at 11:53 AM by C. W. Booth

Begin Comment 7:

Mr. Booth, good topic and good thoughts! There has to be an objective anchor (the Word) or anything at all can happen. Plus, it seems more than a little narcissistic (we're better cause we're young.)

Sola c: so glad to hear from an ex-EC-er! I've subscribed to an EC blogring to try to understand the movement better. I'd like to hear more of your observations.

Comment Seven Posted 10/14/2006 at 11:49 PM by MrsDarcy

October 8, 2006

When I Awake -- Psalm 17:15

As a child of ten, I dreamt, read, and planned to go fishing.  Never did I actually go until at age 21 my father-in-law took me for the first time.  He was an avid fisherman in a house full of angling haters.  I instantly fell in love with fishing--it exceeded my every expectation which I had built up about it in my mind since I was ten.

My father-in-law and I hit it off pretty well.  He finally had the fellow fishing addict in his family which he had lacked for so many years.  I finally had a fishing mentor, and savored each trip.

Sadly, my father-in-law was not a Christian.  We talked, even argued, about religion, salvation, and repentance.  He always had a reason for rejecting all that I said (not good reasons, but reasons), then we went back to sleep in our sleeping bags, arose the next morning, and went fishing with a fervor that only two people can do who share a joint passion.  In private, my wife and I have been praying for his salvation for nearly thirty years.

Sometimes, usually during non-fishing holiday events, we played board games and talked, often about fishing.  And other times, we had disagreements about things like how to raise children (here I had the edge since I was married to his daughter and knew where he had made mistakes--hah!).  Then we would set another fishing trip date and discuss lure selections. 

Many years ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  His doctor said, "You're already an old man, you will die of old age long before this thing gets you. Just leave it alone."  He left it untreated.  About two years ago, the cancer erupted with a vengeance.  He has spent two painful years preparing to die.  In the past few months, he has been largely unable to hold a conversation due to the intense pain and amount of morphine that had to be used, though on a few occasions my wife said he had made some comments about religion and Jesus, though she was uncertain just what he was trying to say.  Communication became little more than a nod or a hand squeeze. 

Today, he passed away.  A pastor stopped by his room.  He said he had been meeting weekly with my father-in-law for a few months.  He said a couple months ago he was lucid enough to pray for salvation, and did so.  He even agreed to take communion (even now I admit I am shedding a few tears).  Praise God!!!!!  Thirty years.  How faithful is our God!?

One of my only regrets is that I did not get to know my father-in-law on a spiritual level.  The fishing was great, the World War II stories he told were great, his childhood memories were interesting (at least the first five times one heard them), but I so longed to have discussions with him as one believer to another about the Scriptures, about Christ, about how the Bible applied to life.  Perhaps I was not persuasive enough over the years, or perhaps I did not often enough witness, I don't know.  Yet, he professed Christ on his death bed and in this I rejoice, but oh, to have been able to share our spiritual lives along with fishing would have been sublime.

As the sun begins to set this Fall evening, I am reminded of Psalm 17.  David appeals to God to keep him pure in the sight of the Lord, even while the wicked appear to prosper all around him in their abundance of this world with their riches and many children.  David comes to the realization that they will lose all their riches when they die.  Then David remarks that the riches of this world will not satisfy him, rather, the only thing that will satisfy him is when he too dies and awakens in heaven in the presence of God for eternity. 

My father-in-law has likely already awaken to see God's likeness in perfect righteousness.

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.  (Psalms 17:15)

October 15, 2006

Scriptures for a Christian Funeral

My wife and I assembled the following passages of Scripture, which we were privileged to read at her father's funeral service yesterday.  In keeping with the tradition of the apostles, we did as they did and paraphrased a few of the words and phrases of Bible passages to ensure the meaning of the passage (in isolation from its full context) will be properly understood when read aloud.

The goal we had in mind was: identify God as Sovereign and Creator of the universe, man's place is the creature cared for by God, it is acceptable to mourn our losses, and God redeems sinful man at His choice and in His time.

We would be pleased if anyone feels they would like to use this or a list based on it in a similar service.

Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, [The Lord]--The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26) reader 1

"Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7) reader 2

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.    (Psalms 139:13) reader 1

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not [that first day made]. (Psalms 139:16) reader 2

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.       (Psalms 73:28) reader 1

The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. (Psalms 145:9-13) reader 2

He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever. (Psalms 111:9-10) reader 1

"I know that [God] can do all things, And that no purpose of [His] can be thwarted. . God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,       ((Job 42:2, 2 Timothy 1:8-9)  reader 2

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is [an appointed] time for every event under heaven-- [an appointed] time to give birth and [an appointed] time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4) reader 1

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I [am taken home to You.] (Psalms 17:15) reader 2

"Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation." (Isaiah 12:2) reader 1

October 20, 2006

Called, but also, Called

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling (Ephesians 4:4)

 "You were called in one hope of your calling."  It may be overreaching the Greek language to draw conclusions about the word "called" as used twice in this passage, on the other hand, perhaps not.  The second word "calling" means "an invitation," just a generalized form of "hey, would you like to come join us?" 

 The first "called" in Ephesians 4:4 is a bit different.  It seems to mean (in the Greek) "hey you, the guy named Mr. Booth, you have been summoned by name to join."  It is a specific bid to a person, a summons to draw someone out intentionally.

 So, it may be acceptable to think of Ephesians 4:4 in a paraphrase as:

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were summoned by name in one hope of your invitation to join the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:4 paraphrased)

 Of course, the calling (summons) is more than a mere invitation, for it was also His plan to choose His followers by name before the world was even created.  "Calling," "invitation," or "choosing," praise God He has issued the summons!

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love (Ephesians 1:4)

 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:8)

October 25, 2006

Marriage at Its Most Basic

This afternoon, I was reminded of the need for both understanding and reinforcing the fundamentals of marriage theology.  In Scripture the primary doctrine of marriage is rather plainly stated. The exceptions to the primary doctrine are really what cause so much confusion and discussion. 

This is similar to the phenomenon in the computer programming world: 10% of a program's code handles the ordinary and primary intended function, 90% of the code handles all the potential exceptions to the primary function.  For example, a cell phone is programmed to dial a number, allow you to talk, and end the call when it is completed.  However, it must also be programmed to handle a busy signal, a missed call, a dropped call, and an entire host of other secondary functions not directly related to simply talking.  The exceptions take more effort to define than the primary function.

So here is my attempt to reinforce what is more directly said about marriage law in God's Word.  Or, stated another way, the primary directives about marriage are:

What:: Marriage is a verbal contract (covenant) entered into voluntarily
Who: by only one man and only one woman
How Long: for life (until one person dies)

Regarding all the potential exceptions that are invoked when the above primary understanding is broken, there is generally only one that must be fully embraced.  No matter what marriage doctrine or laws a person has violated, he must adhere to this tenet of biblical marriage:

If you are presently married, regardless of your past marital situations, remain in your present marital state for life.

Rather than attempt to "prove" these comments in a blog, permit me to humbly invite you to read some articles I have written which directly address a plethora of the "exceptions."

A book-length article on marriage, divorce, and remarriage: http://thefaithfulword.org/divbkintro.html

An article on whether it is proper to divorce a second wife in order to return to an original wife:  http://thefaithfulword.org/divorcesecondwife.html

Assorted questions and answers on marriage, divorce, and remarriage:  http://thefaithfulword.org/divfaqs.html

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