by Heidi Swander
Olive Tree Ministries
The two pastoral search committee members I spoke with assured me there would be no problem. Making certain that a new pastoral candidate was firmly grounded in Scripture, acutely aware of the Emergent Church, and stood squarely against it would be at the top of the list of attributes to look for in a new senior pastor. Hey — they said they even had an Emergent Church watchdog on the committee. What could go wrong? Plenty.
The day came when the committee recommended a candidate. To acquaint the congregation with him, the elders scheduled a number of “townhall meetings” so we could ask him questions. My two questions were on eschatology and the Emergent Church. I don’t remember his exact answers. I do remember them being vague and unsatisfying.
Nonetheless, in due course, the congregation voted and the vote was just short of unanimous. We officially “called” our new senior pastor.
Within weeks of his start date, sweeping changes took place in our church. I liken it to a bull in a china shop. The music — the one thing that is most readily noticed and a sensitive subject for any church — began to change. Two on the pastoral staff left fairly suddenly. The organist resigned. The church services began to look different. Social programs absent a clear plan for presenting the gospel began to emerge.
I tried to set these peripheral things aside and concentrate on his sermons. This was often difficult because the substance seemed elusive. I found myself second-guessing everything he said. Sometimes what he said and the way he said it sounded disrespectful of the Word of God. He spoke positively about New Age advocate Oprah Winfrey. He began to weave quotes and video clips from Emergent leaders into his messages. He — and many of the elders — strongly urged the church to get on board with all that was happening, and eagerly promoted a questionable book we should read to help us in the transition. And one elder blatantly recommended a book — two weeks in a row — by prominent Catholic mystic Henry Nouwen who is a father to the contemplative prayer movement. My trust level was tanking. Click here to read this entire testimonial.