Archive for the ‘The Emerging Church’ Category
By Heather Clark
Christian News Network
GRANDVILLE, Mich. — Kent Dobson, who took over the leadership role at Mars Hill in 2012 after controversial author and speaker Rob Bell left the congregation he founded, has now also decided to step down, stating that “being a pastor is not who I am.”
“My place here has not felt right, like I was wearing someone else’s suit that didn’t quite fit and I tried to get it tailored and maybe I had shoulder pads from the 90’s or something. I don’t know,” he told the congregation on Sunday. “It just felt like it didn’t quite fit me so well.”
Dobson said that he feels restless and uncomfortable around “too much God talk.”
“I’ve felt restless, but I’ve always felt restless and a bit homeless when it comes to church and when it comes to God talk,” he explained. “When I hear too much God talk, I start to feel like (shudders) [it’s] too much religion. I don’t know; it gives me a restless feeling. A lot of times I feel like an outsider at my own party.” Click here to continue reading.
Faith Undone by Roger Oakland is back from press in its 12th printing. The book was released in 2007, and we believe it is still the most powerful and truthful book about the emerging church that has overtaken much of the Christian church. Below is a chapter by chapter synopsis of this book. If you have not read Faith Undone yet, we urge you to do so. And make sure your high school and college age children have read it. After you read this synopsis, you will understand why we say this. Some leaders of the emerging spirituality have tried to convince others that this movement is dead. But this emerging spirituality is anything but dead.
Faith Undone is available as a print book, an e-book, a PDF book, is in Spanish (La Fe Desachada), and is available in Kindle and Nook (as are all LT books and most booklets).
Faith Undone by Roger Oakland- Chapter by Chapter Synopsis:
1/A New Kind of Church
Leaders of the emerging church say drastic changes must take place because the church can no longer be effective with old ways and an old church. We need a new kind of Christianity if we are going to make a difference in people’s lives and the world around us. But just what is this new kind of Christianity?
Quote from chapter 1: A common technique to changing society (or the church) is to repeat an assertion over and over as fact; once people have heard a statement enough times, they come to believe it is true without questioning. They even parrot the statement in their own conversations, eager to appear in the know. Oh how we need to answer every assertion with, “Says who?” This book examines the underlying spiritual substance of the emerging church movement as Scripture tells us to do: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21).
2/The Birth of the Emerging Church
Contrary to what many believe, the current emerging church movement was not initiated by a group of disillusioned young people. In reality, the movement was largely the inspiration of a successful business guru whose ideas on an emerging church were catapulted into existence by other successful businessmen, and thus it became the influential religious force it is today. Backed by multi-million dollar corporations and entities, its very core has been influenced dramatically by those with mystical affinities.
Quote from chapter 2: While this chapter will lay out the origins of the emerging church, I do not wish to give the impression that this is merely a human endeavor. A distinct spiritual component to it implies a guiding force from the supernatural realm. This movement is very complex, and all of the underlying factors that played a role in its inception cannot be explained completely by just a short synopsis like this chapter. But my intent is that I can describe the framework in which this movement sprang and was able to gain the momentum it now enjoys.
3/A “New” Faith for the 21st Century
The Word of God is under attack. According to emerging church leaders, the Bible is not so much for truth and doctrine as it is for hopes, ideas, and participation. In other words, don’t use the Bible as a means of theology or absolute truth and standards by which to live; rather than the Bible molding the Christian’s life, let the Christian’s life mold the Bible.
Quote from chapter 3: In An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, [Will] Sampson writes:
A rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation was sola scriptura, Scripture alone. And while this doctrine may have arisen as a necessary corrective to abuses of church leadership in the Reformation period, it is in full effect today. Preachers speak of the Bible as an instruction book or as the only data necessary for spiritual living. But this diminishes some critical elements of theological knowledge. … Sola scriptura also tends to downplay the role of God’s Spirit in shaping the direction of the church.
Sampson says that people who fall into this category “do not take into account the subjectivity of human interpreters.” In other words, those men who penned Scripture may not have been that inspired after all. It could have been more a case of their point of view based on their own life experiences.
4/Riding the Emerging Church Wave
How far is this new kind of church willing to go to reach its objective? Emerging church proponents say there is a new wave taking place and we have to hop on. The wave is a Vintage Christianity, which in reality is an experience-based religion. Experiences must be implemented in order to attract both Christians and non-Christians alike; we must appeal to this postmodern generation with its hunger for experience, rituals, and mysticism.
Quote from chapter 4:The Bible says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God [i.e., an intellectual or cognitive approach]” (Romans 10:17). Not so in the emerging church. Faith comes by seeing images, touching icons, smelling incense, and hearing chants and liturgical recitations; then the “word” follows. Leonard Sweet calls it “EPIC culture: Experiential, Participatory, Image-Driven, Connected.” Post-moderns require such stimulation to experience God. Images of Jesus hanging on the cross are very common. So are icons of Mary and baby Jesus.
The emerging church embraces multi-sensory worship. Leaders of the emerging church say the ideas and beliefs of the early church fathers (100 AD to 600AD) are important and these teachings from the past will bring spiritual transformation and success to churches in the 21st century.
Quote from chapter 5: Stimulating images that provide spiritual experiences are an essential element of the emerging church. While many are bewildered why their churches are darkening their sanctuaries and setting up prayer stations with candles, incense and icons, the promoters of the emerging church movement say they know exactly what they are doing. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Fellowship explains:
Everything in the service needs to preach-architecture, lighting, songs, prayers, fellowship, the smell-it all preaches. All five senses must be engaged to experience God.
Often, Christians who have been attending church all their lives find the changes their pastors are implementing disconcerting. They see the trend away from Bible teaching to multi-sensory stimulation.
6/When West Meets East
Contemplative spirituality (i.e., mysticism) is to the emerging church what the wind is to a sail boat. Without it, there is no momentum, and it is woven into the very fabric of the emerging church. In order to understand why this is so important, we must first understand the dynamics of contemplative spirituality.
Quote from chapter 6:Contemplative spirituality* is a vital element of the emerging church. One proponent defines it like this:
To help the mind become quiet, we can follow our breathing. Or we can repeat silently a chosen prayer phrase or a word.
That may sound beneficial at first glance, to quiet ourselves in the midst of a busy and hectic world. What Christian doesn’t want to be find rest and peace?
7/Monks, Mystics, and the Ancient Wisdom
The emerging church is embracing contemplative spirituality and what is called the ancient wisdom. While appearing to be Christian because of the altered terminology, in actuality, it is occult based and New Age.
Quote from chapter 7: Tony Campolo, professor emeritus of sociology of Eastern University in St. David’s, Pennsylvania, is founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education. His own testimony is an example of someone who has not only embraced mysticism, it is the avenue through which he considers himself born again. Campolo states:
In my case intimacy with Christ had developed gradually over the years, primarily through what Catholics call “centering prayer.” Each morning, as soon as I wake up, I take time-sometimes as much as a half hour-to center myself on Jesus. I say his name over and over again to drive back the 101 things that begin to clutter my mind the minute I open my eyes. Jesus is my mantra, as some would say.
8/The Second Coming of the Eucharistic Christ
The Roman Catholic Church has a plan to establish the Kingdom of God here on Earth and win the world to the Roman Catholic Jesus-the Eucharistic Christ. It is believed the “triumph of the Eucharist” will be accomplished when the world (including the separated brethren) come under the rule and reign of Rome and the Eucharistic Jesus. The presence of “Christ” in the Eucharist is the second coming, Roman Catholic style. The emerging church is a bridge to Rome.
Quote from chapter 8: To those who traditionally haven’t had much ritual in their lives (i.e., Protestants), the ambiance of the [Catholic] Mass would have great appeal because of it’s religious novelty-thus the interest in the Eucharist [Catholic communion service where the elements are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus] by those who promote contemplative spirituality. And for many Catholics, the Mass (where the Eucharist is presented), in and of itself, is not a mystical experience. However if the contemplative dimension is added, one actually can enter the mystical realm. On the surface this phenomenon seems complex, but once we begin to understand mysticism, it all makes sense. Within the contemplative prayer realm, the meditator is actually getting in touch with a spiritual power or force. Combining the tradition of the Eucharist, which appeals to many who are raised in the Catholic Church, with the relatively recent explosion of contemplative practice, the Catholic Church sees this as a way to recover its robust state it had in previous decades.
9/The Kingdom of God on Earth
The Bible says that Jesus Christ will establish His kingdom when He returns to Earth. But today a theology called Kingdom Now or Dominionism is permeating the walls of Christianity, and the emerging church movement is taking this heretical belief full speed into the next generation. With the idea that the church can establish the Kingdom of God before Christ returns and essentially turn our world into a Christian world, this belief system has literally changed the way countless Christians view the world and go about their Christian living. What most of them don’t realize is this Kingdom of God on Earth mindset is an all out effort by Satan to merge the religions of the world and thus negate the gospel message.
Quote from chapter 9: Most people, with any common sense and compassion, would like to see a planet without poverty, disease, and illiteracy. I thank God for all the organizations that are working to help the suffering, the sick, and the poor. Jesus made it very clear that we are to care for and reach out to those in need. However, working to bring about utopia on Earth through global and religious unity is futile. My saying that might make some people angry, and they may accuse me of being fatalistic. But nowhere in Scripture is the notion supported that there will be a kingdom without tears, pain, poverty, and suffering until Jesus Christ physically returns and establishes it Himself.
There is another question that needs to be considered: Can the kingdom of God be established by those who don’t know the King? In other words, can people of all religions and faiths who donâ€™t know Jesus as King and Lord be members of His kingdom?
Rick Warren believes that God has shown him not only the boundaries (or lack of them) of this coming global kingdom, but also the strategy to bring it about. Before Warren came up with the plan, he says he asked Jesus to show him how to reach the world.
10/The Undoing of Faith
The fruit of the emerging church includes: changes in views on sexuality, the desire by emerging leaders to stop identifying with Christianity, eradicating the gap between good and evil (the very goal of Satan’s religion, the New Age), and developing a new missiology which says keep your own religion, just add Jesus. This truly is the undoing of Christian faith.
Quote from chapter 10: It should be apparent what is occurring as the emerging church evangelization program unfolds. Walls that once separated biblical Christianity from pagan religious belief systems are being demolished. Instead of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ that saves sinners from hell, a new kind of gospel is being preached, and its preachers are wearing interspiritual robes of deception. Jesus proclaimed it is a narrow pathway that leads to heaven, and He is the only door through which to enter-but now the supposed pathway to God has been broadened to permit open access for the sake of establishing the kingdom.
11/A Slaughterhouse Religion?
If someone said that emerging church leaders don’t like the Cross, many would cry out, “Yes, they do. I’ve heard them talk about Jesus and the Cross.” But while this may be true, there is an underlying theme building momentum in the emerging church that says, “Jesus going to the Cross was an example of sacrifice and service that we should follow. But the idea that God would send His Son to a violent death for the sins of mankind-well that is not who God is. He would never do that!” This mindset negates the very atonement on which biblical Christianity rests.
Quote from chapter 11: In [Harry Emerson] Fosdick’s book, Dear Mr. Brown, he states:
Too many theories of the atonement assume that by one single high priestly act of self-sacrifice Christ saved the world.
Fosdick ends that statement with a pronounced-“No!” He insists, “These legalistic theories of the atonement are in my judgement a theological disgrace.”
12/A New Reformation?
Faith Undone shows that the nature of the emerging church’s new reformation is anything but new, and when it comes to pass could bear violence and persecution on those who defend the Bible as the true and literal Word of God. This is a heavy chapter that will zero in on what this new emerging reformation will look like.
Quote from chapter 12: Most likely, you have heard the term new reformation, or as some refer to it, postmodern reformation. Rick Warren talks about it, emerging church leaders discuss it, and New Agers for a long time have been saying, “We need a new reformation.” Referring often to the reformation that took place in the 16th century, these current reformation advocates believe that something as radically different as the early reformation must happen again. In fact, they believe that the church (and the world) will not survive without it. Statements like “We’ll do whatever it takes,” or “reinvent or die” often leave the lips of the new reformation evangelists. The passion and zeal to bring about the new reformation equals that of the early reformers.
13/Or An End-Time Deception
The Bible says that in the last days Satan will deceive the whole world with doctrines of demons and seducing spirits. The question must be asked, is the emerging church spirituality part of this great falling away? And just what are the earmarks of a church that has become part of this end-time deception?
Quote from chapter 13: There is no question about it, the world is in serious chaos, with poverty, sickness, and disease inflicting millions and millions of people. Suffering seems to be at an all time high level. Understandably, the world is looking for answers. Many religious leaders (including New Agers) believe we need a new reformation. Neale Donald Walsch, a prominent leader in the New Age, is one of those who has new reformation on his mind. He states:
We are suggesting that people become modern day Martin Luther’â€™s and take the five steps to peace and tack them up on church house doors, as Martin Luther did with his 95 theses in 1517 in Wittenburg, Germany, which started of course, the first Reformation. Our intention is to stimulate the second great Reformation of world religion. That is our intention, our goal and our purpose. We intend to, in fact, inspire the second great Reformation of world religion.
Comments like the one above are quite interesting because Walsch is not a Christian, but he speaks of a religious reformation that he is hoping to witness. But Walsch’s reformation does not include Jesus Christ. On his website Group of 1000, a statement explains what Walsch calls “the new spirituality”:
The New Spirituality is a global movement to create the space for humanity to experience its natural impulse toward the divine in a way which makes no one else wrong for the way in which they are doing it.
I realize that most Christians would probably laugh incredulously if someone told them they were heading toward the spirituality of Neale Donald Walsch. Most of them would see themselves as orthodox and biblically-based and certainly not as New Agers going toward some kind of new reformation that says everyone is God. But as I have tried to convey in this book, I believe the emerging church is the bridge between Christianity and this “new spirituality.” And the question that every Christian must ask themselves is, is this a bridge on which I am willing to walk and eventually cross?
For more information about Faith Undone, CLICK HERE
LTRP Note: Lighthouse Trails has had concerns about the direction Awana may be heading for a number of years. This letter (of which we substantiated the contents -see added links) below gives further reason to continue those concerns. Below this letter, you can see links to a few articles we have previously posted about Awana. Are we saying that everything in Awana is bad now and all children should be removed? No, but we are saying that parents need to be watching closely what their children are being taught at Awana; and Awana leaders need to use discernment as well. Unfortunately, as with most organizations we have researched, false teaching comes in through top leadership and does eventually affect an entire organization and its members (in this case children).
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
My family has been involved with the Awana ministry for almost 20 years both as “clubbers” and leaders.
Awana came out with new junior high curriculum. I reviewed one of the books and was not happy. The high school level curriculum too is in the process of being re-written with the help of a man named Josh Griffin. Josh Griffin is the high school pastor for Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Griffin is associated with Doug Fields who was a speaker for Youth Specialties, then went on to be a youth pastor for Saddleback before returning back to work for Youth Specialties. Both Fields and Griffin have written books together and share a blog.
In September, Awana sent out an e-mail invitation to the 2015 National Youth Convention put on by Youth Specialties. Awana had a booth there.
A link on the e-mail connects to a promotional video where you see many people including Tony Campolo. Also Mark Matlock, the director of Youth Specialties tells his audience, “Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but are co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church.”
This is chilling considering that the words co-creators and conspirators are words associated with the New Age.
Speakers of the conference included such emerging church personalities as Doug Fields, Dan Kimball, Tony Campolo, Mike King, Jim Burns, and Alan Hirsch. Josh Griffin was the M.C. for the worship sessions.
The convention also offered spiritual directors for one-on-one sessions.
It is truly sad to see Awana linking hands with the emerging church movement.
Lighthouse Trails Research articles on Awana:
Letter to the Editor: General Superintendent, Jo Anne Lyon, Leading Wesleyan Church Down Contemplative/Emergent Road
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
The Wesleyan church is being lead by Jo Anne Lyon, who has yoked the denomination with false teachers. I had been in a church that was taken over by the Wesleyan denomination. I later transferred my membership away from it. She has spoken in our church and she all but tripped over herself in bowing down in name dropping being in meetings with Rick Warren and Bono. She also was giving credit to the teachings of Richard Foster. She also has signed many documents with the usual suspects and their names on it – Rick Warren, Bill and Lynn Hybels, Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, and the like. She has equated being pro-environment/climate change with being pro-life. She is pushing the social gospel and spiritual formation.
Even if it were a man in the pulpit spewing this stuff, I would say it is unbiblical. Thought I would let you know to keep your eye on things.
Here is just one of the stops coming up:
The Spiritual Formation Department Tour: GO + MAKE is coming to the Chesapeake District on Saturday, November 7, 2015. The event will be hosted by Calvary Wesleyan Church in Harrington, Delaware. https://www.wesleyan.org/3490/go-make
Saturday, November 7th is the date set for GO + MAKE a one-day, holistic, all-church discipleship training event for local church leaders plus a Generous Church Training event for lead pastors and spouses. Both events will be hosted by Calvary Wesleyan Church in Harrington, Delaware for the Chesapeake District and will run from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. Don’t miss this day of training and learning. These events are a great opportunity for you and your church congregants to be challenged and energized by our denominational leaders.
Rev. Jeremy Summers, Director of Spiritual Formation, previous to his current appointment, he served three Wesleyan churches in Indiana and Illinois. He has also studied at Indiana Wesleyan University, Asbury Theological Seminary, and currently at Fuller Theological Seminary. Jeremy is also the author of Awakening Grace: Spiritual Practices to Transform Your Soul, the Merge Discipleship Series, and The Way Forward.
Rev. Scott Simmons, Director of Youth Ministries for the Wesleyan denomination, has served in youth ministry for over 18 years. He is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church and a graduate of Bethany Bible College and Indiana Wesleyan University. Scott is committed to the Wesleyan youth movement, being involved with youth camps, student and adult leadership development and the Wesleyan youth conventions.
Rev. Kathy George, Director of Children’s Ministries for the Wesleyan denomination, has been a children’s ministry director for 28 years. She served at First Wesleyan Church in Chilllicothe, Ohio for 9 years, and is currently in her 19th year at Cypress Wesleyan in Columbus, Ohio. During her time at Cypress, she has seen the children’s ministry grow from 200 to over 1,000 participants. She loves sharing her passion for Children’s Ministries through her position in The Wesleyan Church.
The Generous Church Training for lead pastors and their spouses will be presented by The Generous Church Organization. Andy Stanley, Senior Pastor, North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia say of this event, “The Generous Church team are partners to churches striving to create cultures of generosity by reaching every steward. Creating culture starts with the leaders, and the team brings the vision, strategies, and tools to equip church leaders for this important yet challenging task.”
Back Up Research and Documentation from Lighthouse Trails:
- Dr. Jo Anne Lyon’s book The Ultimate Blessing: My Journey to Discovering God’s Presence is laden with quotes by and references to contemplative and or emergent figures such as Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Soren Kiekergaard, and Jurgen Moltmann.
- The Wesleyan Church website offers a book series on Lectio Divina (see LT article on What is Lectio Divina?)
- The “Consistent Life” Document (“An International Network for Peace, Justice, and Life”) is signed by several contemplative/emergent/New Spirituality figures including: Wendell Berry, Shane Claiborne, Richard Foster, Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Jean Vanier (trained Rick Warren’s spiritual director),and New Age teacher Wayne Teasdale.
- (2006) Wesleyan Goes Deeper into Contemplative
- List of 50 Top Contemplative-Promoting Organizations Adds 8 Runner Ups
To Lighthouse Trails:
In March 2015, we were at a small Calvary Chapel in ________________. Our pastor needed to relocate so we were without a regular pastor for many months.
Since we were unable to find a satisfactory Calvary Chapel pastor, we were extremely anxious as to what our next step should be. Someone knew of a C&MA [Christian & Missionary Alliance] District Superintendent who mentioned he could come talk to us as a congregation. When he came, he was extremely nice and personable and exuded confidence and kindness.
We were all extremely excited, and when we looked at their statement of beliefs we were relieved to find they were very close to Calvary Chapels. They soon provided us with a temporary pastor who would take over our congregation until we could be matched with the perfect pastor.
I had been attending this church for over four years and teaching a women’s Bible study for about three years. At different times during the Bible study, I taught on the emergent church and showed videos such as Wide is the Gate 1, 2, and 3 on the dangers of these emergent teachings. A lot of the women alienated themselves from me because I criticized Beth Moore and her teachings and Priscilla Shirer.
At some point, I began to see, through Lighthouse Trails, a few things on the Alliance and its ties with the emergent church and spiritual formation. As I really began to dig, I was horrified. I called four C&MA seminaries to ask them if they offered classes on Spiritual Formation. I was told very enthusiastically, yes they offered many classes in Spiritual Formation. When I called Simpson University, I was even told that if I wanted to dig deeper into that sort of thing, they recommended Bill Johnson’s [Bethel Church] School of the Supernatural.
I approached our three elders with all this information: two of the elders were very dismissive, saying I was just reading “ranting blogs” and that they knew C&MA to be a very reputable denomination. One elder and about four of the women were very interested and seem to be quite alarmed. They did their own research and agreed it was a scary situation.
Then this past Saturday, we all met in one of the women’s houses including the one elder and had a two-hour meeting discussing the situation and that something needed to change, that maybe we should develop a home church or at least take back our church.
Sunday came around and our new pastor called a meeting of our transition board, which mostly consists of myself and the other eight or nine people I had told. He had been informed that I had some problems with the Alliance and the emergent church, so he focused on me and was very kind and very nice and asked me what the problem was. When I told him what I had read, he said that the emergent church was very evil and that Alliance was aware of it and they were fighting it. When I asked him why they were teaching Spiritual Formation in their colleges and seminaries, he said they were educating students about the dangers of it. He then mentioned someone that he was friends with named Timothy Keller. I asked him did he think Timothy Keller was a good teacher and a good pastor, and he said absolutely. I then asked him how he could say that when Pastor Keller was bringing in the emergent church full blown into his Presbyterian Church?
Our new pastor then told me that the best way to fight these kind of things was to be relevant to the culture and to bring all these things in to the church and let the false teachers teach alongside the true teachers of the Gospel and that the Gospel would prevail. He said in a place like New York where Timothy Keller pastors, you have to be relevant to the population; and teaching things like yoga, contemplative prayer, and lectio divina was necessary to bring people in, and then you could present the Gospel, and they would be saved. When I told him that was not biblical that we were told to flee from false teachers and have nothing to do with them, he told me that was my interpretation of the Bible.
The new pastor then told me I was needed in the congregation because I had such an acute sense of discernment that he needed me in the church, Yeah Right! I told him I was sorry that with the name Alliance over the front door, I couldn’t, in good conscience, attend the church. His whole demeanor changed like a mask came over his face, and he said “OK, then I will be addressing your women’s Bible study Wednesday.” When I asked him why, he said, “I don’t want these women just left and abandoned. I told him I would be there Wednesday to say goodbye to finish the class. He then looked at me since I had stood up and looked around at the other people who were there and said, “we have things to discuss—you can go now.” I said OK and I left.
Even though all those people in that living room meeting 28 hours earlier had been against him, by the time he was done talking, they were all either neutral or on his side. Not one person said a word in defense of what I was saying.
All last night, I was disturbed. I was sad, and I felt lonely. Had I done the wrong thing? Was I sure this was what God wanted? I know that sounds silly looking at it from the outside, but it’s just the way it played out in my head. When I tried to call a couple of those people, they didn’t even want to talk to me. And then, I just happened to get in the mail a booklet from Lighthouse Trails that I had ordered about a week earlier called A Serious Look at Richard Foster’s “School” of Contemplative Prayer. I knew a lot of the information from previous researching, except where it mentioned Richard Rohr. It rang a bell, so I Googled his name with C&MA. I came up with so much information, and after reading that booklet, it was like the blinds fell off my eyes again. With a rush of relief, I suddenly knew I had done the right thing.
Thank you Lighthouse Trails for being there for the people like us that feel like a speck of sand on a huge beach trying to get our message out to the rest of the sand.
God bless you and again thank you, thank you, thank you.
Information on Richard Rohr:
Excerpt on Richard Rohr from Ray Yungen’s book on Richard Foster:
Without a doubt, Catholic priest Richard Rohr is one of the most prominent living proponents of contemplative prayer today. His organization, The Center for Contemplation and Action, is a bastion for contemplative spirituality. And like our other contemplative prayer “school” masters, he has been embraced by numerous popular evangelical authors. Richard Foster, for example, had Rohr on an advisory board for a 2010 book Foster edited titled 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Devotional Classics.22
Rohr has essentially become the new Thomas Merton to an entirely new generation of evangelical Christians. In an interview, Rohr said:
[O]ne of my publishers . . . told me that right now my single biggest demographic is young evangelicals—young evangelicals. Some of my books are rather heavy. I’m just amazed.23
Rohr’s statement is correct about young evangelicals. A case in point is an organization called IF: Gathering. The leaders of IF are dynamic energetic women who hold large conferences geared primarily toward young evangelical women. While these women may be sincere in what they are trying to do, they promote figures such as emergent leaders Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, as well as Richard Rohr. Lighthouse Trails has published a booklet on IF that I encourage you to read to understand the full scope of this growing women’s movement.24
To further understand the significance of this, Rohr is a prominent champion for the idea of a global religion that would unify the world. He says that “religion needs a new language.”25 And that language to bring about this one-world religion is mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer)! Rohr stated:
Right now there is an emergence . . . it’s coming from so many different traditions and sources and parts of the world. Maybe it’s an example of the globalization of spirituality.26
This view ties in perfectly with the emerging church’s perspective that is so popular among younger evangelicals today. It’s no wonder that Richard Rohr and emerging church leaders (such as Brian McLaren) are so supportive of each other and endorse each other’s books.
In echoing Merton and Nouwen, Rohr also advocates the concept of dharmakaya. This is the recurring theme of the “school” of contemplative prayer. Rohr states:
God’s hope for humanity is that one day we will all recognize that the divine dwelling place is all of creation. Christ comes again whenever we see that matter and spirit co-exist. This truly deserves to be called good news.27
To dispel any confusion about what Rohr is saying, he makes it clear in the same paragraph what he means by God dwelling in all creation. He uses a term that one finds throughout contemplative literature, which signifies that Christ is more of an energy than a personal being. Rohr explains the term “cosmic Christ,” telling readers that everything and everyone belongs to God’s kingdom.28 That’s even the name of one of his books, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.
In his 2011 book, Falling Upward, Rohr implies that we (humanity) are all an “immaculate conception.”29 If these things are true, then there was no need for Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for the sins of mankind. We would not need a Savior because we would already be divine ourselves. In truth, contemplative spirituality is the antithesis of the Gospel. That is why there are countless mystics who claim to know God (or Jesus) but will have nothing to do with the Cross. (for footnotes and source, click here)
George Barna and Frank Viola: Have No Problem with the “New Spirituality,” But Preaching, Pastors, and Pews Are Pagan
By Philip Gray
Free Lance Writer for Lighthouse Trails
In Pagan Christianity, Frank Viola and George Barna tell readers “Reading this book takes courage.” We couldn’t agree more, but not for the same reasons that Viola and Barna warn their readers. They tell us that it takes courage, not because of what the books says but because of what a Christian must do after he or she reads it (p. 253). We say it takes courage because of the misrepresentation the authors have given to Christianity and because the book is a smoke screen for the “new” spirituality.
Basically, according to Pagan Christianity, if you are a Christian and you have been participating in any of the following activities, you have been practicing paganism:
1. Meeting in a building for church
2. Listening to a sermon
3. Having a pastor
4. Paying that pastor a salary
5. Sunday School lessons
6. Sitting in a pew (or balcony)
7. Using a pulpit
8. Using some sort of order to the church service, which includes taking an offering, having communion, giving announcements, and singing songs of worship.
9. Dressing up for church
10. Having a choir
11. Altar call
12. Evangelized to save a soul
After reading this list, how did you rate on that? How many of these activities are you guilty of? Did you go to church last Sunday? Did you put on your best outfit? Did you listen to a choir sing? Did that neighbor you bring respond to an altar call to give his life to Jesus Christ? Did you sit and listen to your pastor teach or preach the Word? Well, according to Pagan Christianity, if you did, you are more like a pagan than like a Christian. Of these activities, Barna and Viola say: “Such practices are foreign elements that God’s people picked up from their pagan neighbors” (p. xx).
The point of this review is not to defend all of these practices in and of themselves. The point is to show that this book is another subtle stab at traditional Christianity, a stab that attempts to make Christians feel guilty for just about everything they do that has to do with going to church . . . everything that is, that is external. This book has absolutely nothing to do with the heart condition of man, nothing to do with sin and repentance but is merely a smoke screen to cover up the real issues that are plaguing the church today. For whether one dresses up for church or not, whether one gives a sermon or not, whether one sings or not, whether one gives an offering or not, and whether one sits in a pew or not, the issue that God looks at is the condition of the heart and not the outward appearances. One can sit in a pew and have evil intent in his heart; another can sit in a pew and be a godly humble man of God. It’s not the pew that makes him one or the other.
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. John 7:24
[F]or the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
Pagan Christianity says that “the great bulk of first-century practices have been removed from the Christian landscape.” The book tells readers that “such practices are presently being restored on a small scale by those daring souls who have taken the terrifying step of leaving the safe camp of institutional Christianity” (p. xviii). But the book never really tells us what those practices are, except to continually say it is something spectacular that excludes the above activities and includes small groups of people who stand around in circles, embracing, and sharing with one another their various thoughts, feelings, songs, prayers, and ideas – according to Viola and Barna, that is what makes a person a good New Testament Christian (i.e., nobody’s wrong, everybody’s right, all opinions are good, and we don’t need pastors or teachers).
While there is certainly nothing wrong, in and of itself, for a group of people to stand in a circle and share with one another, it is not a guarantee that the group of people will be abiding in God’s will in their lives. And, in fact, if Viola’s and Barna’s recipe for proper Christian living is acted upon, that group of people in the circle is probably going to be in trouble because rather than having the Word of God taught to them or preached to them by those who are called into the office of teacher or pastor, they will be “dialoguing” with one another, asking a lot of questions, and never coming up with any answers (because the postmodern isn’t supposed to have any actual answers – having answers offends).
What is the real agenda of Pagan Christianity? Well, this much we can say, it sure isn’t to warn believers against true pagan practices and beliefs such as eastern-style meditation, walking through labyrinths, doing Yoga, focusing on the breath, rejecting the atonement, and so forth. In a day when spiritual deception is at an all time high, when growing numbers of Christian leaders, churches, schools, and organizations are falling into the trap of practicing, promoting, and embracing mysticism and other New Age practices (disguised with Christian terminology, by the way), it hardly seems appropriate and wise to tell Christians to stop sitting in pews, stop having sermons (and pastors for that matter), stop meeting in buildings, end all Sunday School lessons, and by all means stop dressing up on Sundays.
Perhaps what is most distressing about this book is that there is an underlying sentiment that the “preaching” and teaching of God’s Word is not a New Testament practice and should be done away with. Perhaps this is the real message of Pagan Christianity. Rather than have the Word presented and preached as if it is an authoritative source for believers, get rid of all the venues in which it is presented (church buildings, sermons, pastors, pews,pulpits, etc.) as such and turn it into something we can all debate, dispute, question, challenge and reinvent.
What we would call Pagan Christianity is a perfect example of “missing the point.” But with Frank Viola co-authoring a book with New Age sympathizer Leonard Sweet and George Barna, a Rick Warren look alike with a dominionist agenda, is that really any wonder that they have missed the point?
I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. Psalm 40:9
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. Isaiah 61:1
Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. Jonah 3:2
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17
Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: 2 Timothy 4:17
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 2 Timothy 4:2
Letter to the Editor From a Former Young Life Leader: Watered-Down Gospel, Contemplative Authors, & Emergent Leanings
In 2012, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled “Young Life’s History of Embracing Contemplative Authors Continues,” showing that the Christian youth organization, Young Life, was introducing Young Life leaders and kids to contemplative/emergent authors and speakers. The article we wrote talked about a meeting we had in 2002 with the Young Life director of training in Oregon, hoping to persuade him of the dangers of the contemplative prayer movement and hoping he would pass along the information to the leaders at the Young Life headquarters in Colorado, which he promised to do. As you can see in our 2012 article, as well as the letter below written by a former Young Life leader, Young Life has not discontinued its promotion of contemplative/emerging. The letter below is just one leader’s experience, but we believe it contains valuable insight into how an organization, which started with a sincere desire to help young people, can get off track by minimizing its focus on the Gospel and the Word of God in order to “reach kids.” As we have so often said, so many leaders in the church have set aside the true lasting power of the Gospel for limited powerless substitutes.
Dear Editors of Lighthouse Trails:
I have benefited greatly from the research on your website, helping me to understand the origins of false gospel movements in the Christian community.
It has been nearly five years since I resigned from working for a popular, global youth ministry. Because of its popularity, it has been difficult for me to discuss my experience and found few who want to hear the reality. I want to share my story in hope of helping someone else who might be struggling, as I did.
My husband and I discovered Young Life in our late twenties when we moved to a smaller town. After going through the “40 Days of Purpose” book with our church, we were determined to find a place of service where our gifts could be used for God. I had a college degree in public health with an emphasis in adolescence and had worked in several youth organizations to prevent kids from using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. I sincerely thought that as a Christian, if I were serious about helping kids, with Jesus as the only real solution instead of a band-aid fix from a state program, then I should go all-in. I would forsake my public health career to serve the Lord in ministry.
My husband jumped in to volunteer as a leader, and I took a part-time job as an office administrator for the local Young Life chapter. We quickly became absorbed into the culture of this ministry of warm and generous Christians.
“Incarnational Evangelism” is the term I began reading and learning about as I immersed myself into the culture. It’s difficult to describe the fast-paced, messy, impulsive, do-whatever-it-takes-to-love-kids by serving them to Christ environment I dove into. Every week at club, we would try to lure the kids with a media-rich, party atmosphere and then a short gospel message, attempting to convince them that Jesus was what they needed. There was also great pressure to get them to camp at the end of the year because surely their eyes would be opened if we prayed hard enough and loved hard enough too. There at camp, away from hometown distractions, they would hear the gospel a little every night followed up by a cabin discussion. Through our example of loving them, the hope was that the Holy Spirit would work on hearts, and they would see Christ and realize He is “better than beer” and would fulfill them, giving them an abundant life. And, if they rejected the gospel, that was okay, because we would love them anyway. We did not realize we had created in our selves a kind of pseudo-martyr philosophy.
It wasn’t long into my time there before I thought I would make this my career. I eventually moved up from office administrator and volunteer leader to part-time, career, middle-school program director. I remember adopting this different perspective of serving Christ and sharing the gospel without ever having to talk about hell, God’s judgement, or that no one is righteous by his own works. Despite Young Life’s Statement of Faith in which I agreed and signed onto, it was the philosophy of incarnational evangelism and its focus on love and grace that became more dominant (largely due to the books and spiritual formation training I was given). I actually started to believe that I could reject the notion I had from reading the Bible, that I’d really have to suffer rejection like Jesus did in order to share the gospel. I remember thinking, this mighty, positive, well-funded, popular, contagiously exciting and loving community of people, adventure, and rewards, would be my new avenue to a lifetime of serving God! This was a pseudo-servant attitude of sacrifice that I was developing; later it would come crashing down.
In my town, Young Life had a very positive image with many leaders in the community who personally supported it monthly. The director of the program was hard working, charismatic, and seemed to know everyone and was liked by everyone. Later, I realized what a conflict of interest this was as the pressure to maintain your program funding sources required you to cultivate a sterling image in the community. This came at the cost of sharing the true gospel, which proclaims that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and salvation found in the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Rejecting that puts you in violation of the Law and under eternal judgment. The social pressure to draw wealthy supporters causes directors to keep the message warm and fuzzy but frighteningly devoid of the truth and meat of the gospel. Our focus was off-center from the truth of the whole gospel. Instead, the focus became serving our community by reaching out to lost kids and helping them get through this difficult time in their life by loving them and spending time with them. I became another program builder, promoter, fundraiser, and half-truth teller in a branded YL shirt with a smiley face.
Frantically running from one activity to the next, all the while praying and wanting people to come to Christ but with very little lasting fruit, I became disturbed. In the schools, I would do what is known as “contact work.” I spent time volunteering in various ways, often as mundane as crowd control at lunch time, for example. This would permit you to visit with students, making contact so that eventually the kids would see you as a friendly face. Then, in time and through word of mouth, kids would come to club where a snippet of the gospel was mingled with exhilarating games, crazy stunts or skits so that kids were entertained and able to listen to you tell the most important part of why we get together: Jesus.
We bent over backward to serve kids to Christ. Feeding, entertaining, listening, and driving them to and fro, leading them by fun experiences and hopefully meaningful conversations that would discuss Christ, but honestly it didn’t come up as often as I would like. Often, kids learned that they could just smile and tell us what we wanted to hear in order to get what they wanted or needed that day. Some would want to meet and study the Bible, but the truths from Scripture just never seemed to take effect in their lives. I’ll never forget one encounter with some girls who were regular attenders and classic examples of shallow soil. They told me they knew that every question asked in small group discussion could be easily answered. All you had to say was either, “Pray more, or read the bible more.”
Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely loved and prayed for the kids I ministered to, but I was so ineffective at leading them to Christ, I felt like a poser. I wanted them to know the Lord like I did, but I was cut off from sharing the gospel or talking about it at school where I was spending my time. Kids would ask me, “Why are you here?” I couldn’t tell them it was to share Jesus because I would get thrown out of that public school because the understanding we had made with the administrators was, that we were there to assist them and be a positive adult role models, not evangelizing kids in the hallways. As a program leader, I walked a fine line not wanting to upset relationships in the community that took a long time to build. I just had to say, “It’s because I care about kids, and that’s why I’m here.” Kids who had been to camp before with me would say, “This is the lady that took me to camp.” I became just a gateway to a cool summer camp that was like a resort for exclusive young people who got into the “club.” Not just anyone can go to a Young Life camp, you have to come with a leader from a Young Life area group.
The founder of Young Life, Jim Rayburn, taught that if you can “win the right to be heard” in a kid’s life, then they will automatically want to hear the gospel and likely want Christ to change their life too. In addition, if you are as compelling in Christ, like Jim Rayburn was purported to be, then flocks of kids will come to hear the gospel. He taught that when they know that you care, they’ll listen to whatever you have to say because that’s all that a kid these days is looking for.
This was the illusion of what has become modern youth ministry. It was productive in activities, busyness, and massive effort while producing metric data of campers and club attendees. You show this to your donor list of business leaders, and they are proud to support it. But on the other side of the same coin, it was absolutely fruitless in converting hearts to Christ and saving lives from a slavery of sin. So afraid of losing our hip, entertaining youth haven with the community, we often missed the opportunity to share the whole gospel truth. This is where I started noticing that I was not being faithful to Christ. We were not teaching of God’s righteousness or need to repent of sin in accordance with God’s Word. I was promoting another gospel of love and grace, and I was living a lie to these kids.
At camp, there was a ceremony at the end of the week for kids who made commitments to Christ. These commitments were by way of a leader so they could be corroborated. Some were legitimate, some were merely caught up in the emotion of the week or trying to garner favor from leaders or other campers, perhaps. The ceremony entailed throwing a rock in the pond symbolizing their old life, then putting another rock on a pile symbolizing their new life. From that moment on, they were supposed to enjoy reading the free Bible they were given, remembering they were new creations in Christ; you were forgiven and free. In reality, these kids were exhausted, sunburned and barely understood their emotions, thoughts or what they had actually committed to. The ceremony was as good as it got when it came to follow up. The kids were being released into the wild soon and with that, the rush of emotions from their time “on the mountain” would end. Often, so would their new found faith as well.
I tried so hard in following up with kids when we got home. Often kids went from their “camp high” back to life, and didn’t want to get together and study the Bible with me. And honestly, why would they?! There is a saying that I heard later, that “What you lead them by, you lead them to.” We were leading the kids to Jesus by fun, emotional attachment to leaders, experiences, but not by the Word of God. I was convicted when I read scripture teaching “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). In my time at Young Life, the scripture “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7), was not something we truly esteemed. We did not use it to lead kids to Christ, clearly and from the beginning. It was as if I was ashamed of the gospel.
After praying and trying to work out a time to connect with kids upon returning from camp, it was time for the hectic cycle to begin again. Time to get back to club/camp promotion (there were short Fall and Winter camps also), fundraising golf tournaments, the annual auction, and of course, contact work to get a new crop of kids to the next fun activity where they just might hear about Jesus. When I would become depleted during these times, questioning whether this was really working, I would look at the smiley face postcards of myself and other leaders with kids that we would send to donors. Maybe watch an inspirational video from the Young Life national office to pump me up about how faithful we were to Christ. All this to assuage my disturbed conscience as I gradually understood how far from the gospel we were. We also attended mandatory, regional Young Life staff meetings and trainings, which also helped numb the conscience and wrestling of my mind with the Holy Spirit’s convictions that something was not right.
However, the spiritual food we received at these trainings was a heavy dose of flattery, “understanding youth culture,” and spiritual formation teaching. I was given free gifts of books by contemplative and emerging church authors, Young Life-branded clothing, and my very own Message/NIV parallel Bible. We were led through lectio-divina exercises, silence, fasting, prayer, coupled with great food and fun play times with other staff. To help us feel valued these often took place at the beach or a donor’s nice home. I loved these times of get away and retreat; they made me feel special and important, but they didn’t answer some of the nagging problems with the fruitlessness I was seeing as a result of our great efforts to win kids to Christ. We were not trained in how to share the gospel, basic apologetics, like refuting arguments of evolution or inerrancy of Scripture. The intern training program and staff trainings I went to did not handle that information, but it was reserved for those who went to seminary classes through Young life. It wasn’t until after I left Young Life that I realized the reasons for that lack of training were likely due to how controversial these issues had become in the church. As many differing and more liberal interpretations of Scripture were being taught, we seemed to shrink away from specific views on doctrine. What I learned instead through the staff training was that it was better to keep a “good vibe going” through self-help focused spirituality and experiencing “God’s love” through the staff community.
I was conflicted and really dying on the inside, surely grieving the Holy Spirit. After several episodes of spiritual abuse with my direct supervisor that led me to seek a counselor for anxiety, I realized something was very wrong. I believed the Word of God to be my source of strength and clarity. Yet I was so confused how to reconcile what I was reading with what I was doing in ministry. The two seemed worlds apart, and no one else involved in the ministry seemed to see it. I was getting depressed and barely able to keep going in my work. In one of many prayer times with the Lord, at the end of my rope, I cried out to the Lord. My heart truly wanted to bring Him glory with my life. I repented of seeking a group of people promoting another Jesus, another gospel instead of being true to His word. God woke me up and revealed once again to me through Scripture how dangerously involved I had become in promoting a false gospel. I had been listening to false teaching and in love with the group experience instead of in love with Him and His Word. I learned that you cannot separate God from His Word.
Through my time in Young Life, I was exposed to the teachings of: The Message and Eugene Peterson, Brother Lawrence, Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, Brennan Manning, Richard Foster, Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, Jesus Calling and Sarah Young, Henry Nouwen, William P. Young, Upper Room Book’s “Guide To Prayer,” John Piper, Phillip Yancey, Chris Lowney (Jesuit Leadership), Stephen Covey, Donald Miller, Peter Scazzero and more. After five years of ministry, I resigned from Young Life, and the Lord has been very good to me and my family. I don’t doubt that other leaders may have had a better and more honest-to-Scripture experience in this ministry, but this was mine and why I had to leave.
Jennifer Roberts (pen name to protect her privacy and her family)
For resources from Lighthouse Trails that deal with protecting children and youth people, click here.