According to a September 19th Christianity Today blog article, the emerging church is dead. “An overused and corrupted term now sleeps with the fishes,” the article states. But is this even remotely true? Or rather could it be that the emerging church, or what we call the “merging” church, is morphing into its next “higher” level, and just as a butterfly would not want to be called a worm, neither do many in this evolving movement want to be called “the emerging church” any longer. However, unlike the beauty of a golden butterfly broken from its cocoon, the merging church does not share such grandeur. In reality, it is a dangerous pied piper leading millions over a deadly cliff of deception. And just as the “birth” of the emerging church was a well-thought out, highly-financed “dream” of millionaire corporations and futurists, so too will be its supposed “death” and rebirth. But don’t be fooled, the emerging church and the spirituality behind it is alive and kicking.
The Christianity Today posting claims that an “informant” from a publishing house told him that two years ago plans were in the making to drop the term “the emerging church” because “the term has become so polluted.” The writer says that emerging church leaders, like Dan Kimball, don’t want to use that term anymore. Kimball says the current emerging church has too many “theological strands” that he “strongly disagrees with.” Kimball’s 2003 book The Emerging Church (endorsed by Rick Warren and Brian McLaren, both who wrote forewords for the book) has been considered a signature book for the movement.
The writer of the CT article proclaims: “It seems my informant’s prophetic word has come to pass. The emerging church is dead–at least in nomenclature, if not in spirit.” But nothing could be further from the truth. And just as there has been a concerted effort by top New Age leaders over the last decade or so to drop the term “New Age” because of its negative exposure, so too emerging church leaders want to drop the name of their movement, and for the very same reason the New Agers are running from their term … not because, as Kimball suggests, it’s too hard to define the movement anymore theologically but rather because the movement has been exposed for what it really is by Bible believing Christians.
Lighthouse Trails will assume that those reading this special commentary have already read Roger Oakland’s expose of the emerging church, Faith Undone, and understand how the movement began with big corporation dollars and the idea of an emerging church from men like Peter Drucker as well as Bob Buford’s Leadership Network (of which contained the influence of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels and mystics of the past). For those who have not read Faith Undone, you can read about this in our article, “Bob Buford, Peter Drucker, and the Emerging Church.” In essence, the major manipulation of success-driven leaders, publishing companies, and corporations created the emerging church movement, and now perhaps a new spiritual move (a better one at that) will arise, with many calling it a move of God, when in truth it will merely line more pockets and continue to bring confusion and disillusionment to millions.
If the CT writer’s words are true and a publishing house informant told him the plan that the publishing industry has to drop the term emerging church, what will they replace it with? The New Age gurus have attempted to replace their term with “the New Spirituality.” To define this new spirituality, they use words and terms like awakening, emergence, oneness, God’s dream, transformation, new reformation, Kingdom of God on earth, global peace, expansive redemption, rethinking, co-creation, christ-consciousness, and imagination. But while these New Age leaders have moved away from the term “New Age,” replacing it with these other terms, it is important to note that the woman who coined the term “New Age,” Alice Bailey, used most of the terms above to define the New Age. These words do define the New Age.
With that in mind, what words and terms are the emerging church leaders using today? Here’s the list: awakening, emergence, oneness, God’s dream, transformation, new reformation, Kingdom of God on earth, global peace, expansive redemption, rethinking, co-creation, christ-consciousness, and imagination. We could show you example after example. Phyllis Tickle’s new book, The Great Emergence, Erwin McManus’ book Wide Awake and his website Awaken (formerly Awaken Humanity), Leonard Sweet’s “christ-consciousness,” Rob Bell’s co-creation, Rick Warren’s global peace and new reformation, Brian McLaren’s God’s Dream, and the list could go on and on.
Just as the New Age movement has had to rename itself in order to maintain societal acceptance so too the emerging church must put on a coat of different colors to maintain its welcome within the walls of Christianity. Those, like Roger Oakland, who have meticulously revealed the true nature of the emerging church, have forced its leaders (including the publishing houses and financiers) to play their hand.
What will be the next move and what will be the implications? The CT article says that “news has been leaking about a new network being formed by Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, and Scot McKnight among others.” Dan Kimball and Erwin McManus HAVE been sharing some of the same platforms lately. At Robert Schuller’s 2008 Rethink conference, the two were there as speakers. At McManus’ Awaken 2008 conference, Kimball accepted McManus’ invitation to be a speaker there. Incidentally, as we stated in a a news brief about that event, one of the speakers at Awaken 2008, has promoted New Age leader and Oprah favorite, Eckhart Tolle. But in light of the marked similarities between the New Age and the emerging church, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. As for a new network, Dan Kimball talked about Awaken on his own website after the event was over. On that post, Kimball stated: [W]e have been dreaming and meeting about forging a relational and intentional network/alliance.” Kimball was also with McManus at LeadNow08, another of many emerging-type conferences taking place across North America today. It will be interesting to see this new “network/alliance” – very likely we can expect to see the emergence of this dream of the awakening of humanity for the purposes of global peace brought about through a new reformation to establish the kingdom of God here on earth. Mysticism will be the vehicle to bring it about.
When the emerging church came on the scene in the late 1990s, it was able to enjoy several years of movement with virtually no criticism. Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Mark Driscoll, and the other formative men wrote book after book, did event after event and quickly gained momentum and by the way, lots of media coverage, so much so that in 2005 Brian McLaren was named as one of Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Evangelical Leaders, an entitlement that took some of the winners decades of ministry to obtain. But then books, like A Time of Departing which identifies the mystical elements of the emerging church, and Faith Undone, which shows the anti-biblical nature of the movement, came out and many people started understanding that the emerging church was an interspiritual, universalist body that was against the atonement of Jesus Christ and perpetuated a growing hostility toward the bride of Christ (the body of born-again believers). It all became just too obvious; and thus a natural response is to say, that movement has become corrupted; we are moving on to something else.
Clearly, Erwin McManus is going to be one of the leaders in this revised, evolved merging church. Where is he going to lead it? In a trailer for his summer 2008 book, Wide Awake, McManus says “It’s amazing how a dream can have the power to change an entire planet … What would happen if all of us began to discover our god-given dreams? What would happen if all of us began to live wide awake? … If all of us began to live wide awake … the world would never be the same again.” How can “all of us” (all humanity is what he means) live wide awake when the Bible says that in the days before Christ’s return there will be a great falling away, and where it says that nations will turn against God and where it says an anti-christ will cause multitudes to bow down and worship him? Why is McManus suggesting that all humans can be wide awake? And to what are they awakening? The Bible says that in the last days Satan will deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9). But perhaps McManus would agree with New Ager Barbara Marx Hubbard who says if enough people come together, then Revelation’s predictions can be avoided. This notion is what New Agers term Armageddon Alternative. In Warren Smith’s stunning expose’ of the New Spirituality, he describes this “alternative” to Armageddon and the implications it carries.1
While it appears that emerging is going to do another split (remember when Mark Driscoll (and others) divided the movement into a few different groups: revisionist, reformed, and relevant), the point to keep in mind is that it is still emerging spirituality. And such spirituality embraces mysticism, attempts to bring about a global kingdom on earth, and believes humanity can awaken to its own divinity and oneness. Those are the earmarks of the emerging church – calling it any other name changes it no more than calling the New Age a new name makes it something else. As the saying goes, “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” In this case, apostasy by any other name is still apostasy.
When Erwin McManus said a few years ago it was his “goal to destroy Christianity,”2 it didn’t seem to bother Christian leaders. In fact, after that, respected and popular teacher David Jeremiah touted McManus and said he wanted to use McManus to help his church go through a major paradigm shift.3 Well, we are witnessing a paradigm shift – actually, we are already through the shift, and now the devil is scurrying about to maintain the momentum … and secrecy of his true plans. Darkness hates the light. Emerging, New Age spirituality is nothing new.
Thankfully, while spiritual darkness and deception seem to be overtaking the world like never before, we know that Jesus is the ultimate Victor. As believers, let us pray that many who are still in darkness will be able to hear the true Gospel, believe on it, and be saved. As the emerging church presents “another Jesus” and “another gospel” (II Corinthians 11:4), may the Lord give discernment and courage to those who belong to the One who said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) and “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). The kingdom of this world is in darkness – it is not one we should hope to aspire to. But He has promised to bring us into His kingdom when we place our trust in Jesus Christ (by grace through faith), “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).