How to Tell if Your Church is Becoming Emergent . . . Even If They Say It’s Not

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LTRP Note: The emerging church (or the merging church as we often call it) is growing, but many believe it is a passing fad, one that is nearing its end. In fact, lately some emerging church leaders are saying they don’t want to use the term anymore. But as we pointed out in our recent article, “Some Say the Emerging Church is Dead – the Truth Behind the Story,” even if the term is put to rest by the leaders of the movement, the emerging church is anything but dead. Lighthouse Trails hears from many people who are trying to figure out whether their churches are going emergent. Church leadership often says “No, we are not emergent.” But tell tale signs would indicate otherwise. The following list by Roger Oakland may help those who are trying to determine whether their church is becoming emergent.

Signs the Emerging Church is Emerging
by Roger Oakland

There are specific warning signs that are symptomatic that a church may be headed down the emergent/contemplative road. In some cases a pastor may not be aware that he is on this road nor understand where the road ends up.

Here are some of the warning signs:

Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.

The centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.

More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.

The teaching that Jesus Christ will rule and reign in a literal millennial period is considered unbiblical and heretical.

The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.

The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past.

An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.

Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be reinvented in order to provide meaning for this generation.

The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future†or “vintage Christianity†claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.

While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.

These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.
There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers†saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.

There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.

Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave. (This list is taken from Roger’s article on how to tell if your church is becoming emerging. Click here to read the article.

In addition to the signs above, and as Roger points out in his book Faith Undone, if a church is incorporating the materials of Purpose Driven or/and Willow Creek, then they are putting themselves at risk of becoming emerging. Willow Creek and Rick Warren are two of the strongest advocates for emerging/contemplative spirituality.

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One Comment

  1. LeeElizabeth

    I had to make the difficult choice to leave a church not because I believe it is emergent but because I see it taking on certain characteristics that are concerning: pastor rarely preached from the Old testament, rarely teaches Bible prophecy, is purchasing a new church building to grow a church of young couples with small children at the expense of neglecting its widows, orphans and elderly, there is no outreach into the community, pastor preached how we should all do more but isn’t really leading by example, sometimes quoted sources like Rick Warren in his sermons, just to name a few issues I had that influenced my decision to leave

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