By Nathan Jones
What are some of the warning signs that your church is going Emergent?
Dr. Reagan and I on our ministry's television show Christ in Prophecy had the pleasure of asking this question of Eric Barger of Take a Stand! Ministries. Eric is an authority on the cults, the New Age, and rock music today. From his past as a former drug addict and rock n' roll musician who was deeply involved in the New Age movement, Eric has emerged since he gave his life to Jesus Christ to become one of today's greatest defenders of Christianity in America. He joined us to talk about the greatest threat to the Church today — apostasy, particularly from the Emergent Church Movement.
Warning Signs Your Church is Emerging
Nathan Jones: We have a good friend of the ministry who lives in England and she's been in tears because her children are caught up in an Emergent Church. Like many other churches across the West, their church used to be a really solid Bible church, then all of the sudden one day they woke up and realized they'd gone emergent and her son wasn't really believing in the faith anymore.
Eric, what are some of the warning signs that your church is going Emergent? I'll bet you are going to say "missional."
Eric Barger: Missional would be one of them, yes.
First, let me encourage people who may have gone through that experience or who are currently going through it. Realize that you are not alone. There are so many people who have been divorced from church. Apostasy scatters the sheep. This apostasy can move either very slowly or very quickly into all different kinds of church denominations. We just can't pick on one denomination as being Emergent or leaning that way because there are way more than that.
I developed a little brochure entitled, "How to Spot the Emergent Church in Your Church." It gives some of those warning signs. Some would be that Emergent Christianity is experience over reason, spirituality over doctrine, images over words, feelings over truth, earthly justice over salvation, and social action over eternity.
I wrote that the Emergent Church Movement takes it name from the idea that the culture has changed and a new church must emerge in response to it. They are saying that the old way of Christianity doesn't work and so if we want anybody to come to our churches we've got to change the way that we do it.
It is our responsibility as true Christ followers to be faithful to the Gospel. It is God alone who saves people, though He gives us ingenuity and creativity to let people know that we are available to minister to them with the life-changing message of the Gospel. We can't afford to change the Gospel just because some say that the Post-Modern generation will never accept it. I believe this is one of the indications of the end times that there will be a rejection of Christianity.
I can understand where some of the Emergents are coming from, though I disagree with them when they say that we've got to change to reach the Post-Moderns. They don't realize that their philosophy is exactly one of the unfortunate symptoms that defines the apostasy of the very end days which we are living in today. The Gospel is supernatural. It's worked for 2,000 years.
Dr. Reagan: You preach the Gospel and people will be convicted of their sins. It seems to me that this universalism is an attempt to get around trying to really confront people with their sinfulness?
Eric Barger: This comes back to the whole Church Growth Movement that says that we want to stay away from things that are confrontational. We want to be light and fuzzy. We want people to only think good things and feel good things. It's seeker sensitive, but that's not the whole Gospel. Jesus is a God of love. He is also a God of justice. We've got to preach both.
We have to preach the whole Gospel to be effective, otherwise we preach what Paul called a "different Gospel." I encourage people to go and read the book of Jude and read Galatians 1. They clearly outline that this false doctrine is happening and believers in Christ we need to be contenders for the faith.
Dr. Reagan: This list of warning signs you just gave us is very interesting. One of them in there that jumped out at me was "images over words." What do you mean by that?
Eric Barger: They are into walking labyrinths. They teach meditation techniques. They sing in spiritual formations. The whole idea is contemplative mysticism. They want images to feel good about, just like the mystical church of the Middle Ages. It's physical over mental. This whole thing with the labyrinth, they would claim the labyrinth was something the church once used, but I'm asking for them to find it in the Bible for me.
Dr. Reagan: I know of one "evangelical" church where the pastor announced one week that he had put up card tables in the foyer and on each table was a Greek Orthodox icon. He told his congregation to go and kneel at the table and there would be instructions on how to pray to the icon. This is supposedly an evangelical church!
Eric Barger: We are hearing these accounts from all over the place. A medical doctor called me concerning what was going on in his former church of about 800 or 900 people. They had shrunk to about 200. He said that when you walked through the door on Sunday morning the smell of the incense just knocked you down. They had candles that light the hallway all the way to the altar. There you are to pick up a stone and take the stone back to your seat and meditate on it. He wanted people to focus on a stone, rather than the Word of God!
Since the Emergent Church teachings mean the abandonment of the Word of God to take up feelings and images instead, the adoption of these by your church should provide a strong warnings sign that it's about to go Emergent.