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Thoughts on the “Emerging Church” Debate

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Thoughts on the “Emerging Church” Debate

I have been researching the various labels and debates on what has been going on with the church specifically the move to smaller more personal settings and expressions of spirituality from the traditional big building with a cross and a preacher.  (I used the term “Emerging Church” here because it seems to best encompass what I am discussing, but with all of the various definitions out there I have to admit that it may not be exactly what I am discussing – but it’s close enough)

I have found a lot of the information quite interesting and those who are opposed to this move as very logical and thought out but a little light on the Biblical premise for insisting that the box church with a preacher/pastor in front.  The summary of the rhetoric is that anyone suggesting anything else than a big building with a cross and a seminary trained theologian up front as a model is some evil being or group set on destroying the church.

The part that I find interesting is the amount of insistence that any movement that does not insist on a seminary trained leader and a building is this nefarious church of heretics that is a week or two away from drinking the poisoned Kool-Aid. I am baffled by the rhetoric applied to this and the amount of theological debate dedicated to proving that building with the theologian in front wrestling the crowd of onlookers into spiritual transformation is the only way to God.

The first thing that I have to say to all of that (as I have stated in my past few posts) is that there is no Biblical conversation in the New Testament pro or con about the box church with the theological professor in front.  That means that it is probably fine Biblically, but there is definitely NO argument for saying it is the only way to be a church or a believer.

That being said, I think it is pretty presumptuous to state or even imply that anything else cannot be the work of God, even if these churches drift into areas that are not God’s will (like for example telling people that a church has to be a building with some trained Biblical expert up front when the Bible does not say that).

The truth is that the churches that the first Apostles planted drifted into corporate areas of sin (they drifted off course as a group) and Paul and others would come later or send letters to call them to correction.  What the original Apostles did not do with Bible believing churches was travel around preaching how those who were not perfect were heretics and putting them down.  Paul sent letters (to that church) and sent it with a person who could communicate the message clearly and help bring the change about if invited to.

Maybe, that is the most we should do and leave other types of movements to grow and see what happens.  If it is somehow evil, it will come out.  If some people are drawn to something that is evil, I should tell them (in a way that might attract them and possibly help them see the right way) and then let the Holy Spirit do His work.  Huge arguments and trying to verbally wrestle people into changes is to try to do the work of the Holy Spirit as if I am taking God’s place.

Matthew 13:24-30 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)  –  24 Jesus used another illustration. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who planted good seed in his field. 25 But while people were asleep, his enemy planted weeds in the wheat field and went away. 26 When the wheat came up and formed kernels, weeds appeared.

27 “The owner’s workers came to him and asked, ‘Sir, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’

28 “He told them, ‘An enemy did this.’

“His workers asked him, ‘Do you want us to pull out the weeds?’

29 “He replied, ‘No. If you pull out the weeds, you may pull out the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. When the grain is cut, I will tell the workers to gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to be burned. But I’ll have them bring the wheat into my barn.’”

It is also possible, as with all movements, that there are both strong, faithful lovers of Christ in deep personal relationship with God as well as radical wing-nuts with really strange views involved.  One of my spiritual mentors says it like this:  “Every tree has its fruits and nuts.”  In this day and age the wing-nuts seem to monopolize all of the airtime and that’s the perception an outsider of any group may get because of this.

If you are not the target group of a particular style of seeking God however, the presumption that it must somehow be evil by design is a judgment you cannot make.

I have to wonder if this move away from the box church model is from God and the people in this box church model are doing so much to resist it and put it down at every turn are they not actually at risk of actually doing the devils work.

People who are versed in the Bible and use it to try and stop the works of Christ are not completely unheard of you know:

Matthew 4:1-11 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)  –  4 Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 Jesus did not eat anything for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end of that time, he was hungry.

3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “Scripture says, ‘A person cannot live on bread alone but on every word that God speaks.’”

5 Then the devil took him into the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple. 6 He said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, jump! Scripture says, ‘He will put his angels in charge of you. They will carry you in their hands so that you never hit your foot against a rock.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again, Scripture says, ‘Never tempt the Lord your God.’”[a]

8 Once more the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms in the world and their glory. 9 The devil said to him, “I will give you all this if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! Scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came to take care of him.

I suppose what I am saying to the box church theological contingent that is desperately trying to prove something that is not spoken of in scripture is to just “lighten up” and let God work.  You can talk about your thoughts and challenges with the model, but you cannot browbeat people by huge reaches with Bible verses and try to manipulate true seekers of God into conforming to a model that may not fit what God has called them to do.

Honest and loving conversation is necessary for growth.  All of this stretching of the truth and arm-twisting with forceful rhetoric etc. is manipulation and runs the risk of placing many of us firmly on the side of satan resisting the next move of God. 

Acts 5:29-42 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)  –  29 Peter and the other apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than people. 30 You murdered Jesus by hanging him on a cross. But the God of our ancestors brought him back to life. 31 God used his power to give Jesus the highest position as leader and savior. He did this to lead the people of Israel to him, to change the way they think and act, and to forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When the men on the council heard this, they became furious and wanted to execute the apostles. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood up. He was a highly respected expert in Moses’ Teachings. He ordered that the apostles should be taken outside for a little while.

35 Then he said to the council, “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you do with these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared. He claimed that he was important, and about four hundred men joined him. He was killed, and all his followers were scattered. The whole movement was a failure.

37 “After that man, at the time of the census, Judas from Galilee appeared and led people in a revolt. He, too, died, and all his followers were scattered.

38 “We should keep away from these men for now. We should leave them alone. I can guarantee that if the plan they put into action is of human origin, it will fail. 39 However, if it’s from God, you won’t be able to stop them. You may even discover that you’re fighting against God.”

40 The council took his advice. They called the apostles, beat them, ordered them not to speak about the one named Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the council room. They were happy to have been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for speaking about Jesus. 42 Every day in the temple courtyard and from house to house, they refused to stop teaching and telling the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah.

This “Gamaliel” character, who is arguably considered one of the greatest Jewish theologians of all time and was educated by one of the very top Jewish theologians of all time had enough wisdom to understand this concept. 

We all have to ask ourselves when confronted with such ideas, are we really being a positive part of God’s plan or have I become a part of the trials and temptations that will still result in God’s will, but put me on the wrong side of the results.

All of us need to remember a simple concept:

Acts 5:39 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)  –  39 … if it’s from God, you won’t be able to stop them. You may even discover that you’re fighting against God.”



  1. […] Easter ← Thoughts on the “Emerging Church” Debate […]

  2. […] previous posts (ex., The Church of Only What is Needed?, The Church of Only What is Needed? PART 2, Thoughts on the “Emerging Church” Debate), but this is another good reason to at least look at the new ideas emerging throughout […]

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