Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Anabaptists and the Emergent Church Movement--An Introduction

  The Emergent Church Movement is here to stay, and it's inching its way into the far corners of Christianity. It's not too picky. It can join hands with liberals as well as conservatives, progressives as well as traditionalists; Pentecostals, Catholic, Baptists, Quakers, Neo-Gnostics, Mormons, Anabaptists, you name it. In fact, while it attempts to join together all Christian denominations, it also works toward harmony between world religions—Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, etc.

  You don't need to discard your traditional forms and cultural norms. You see, you can be emergent, or ecumenical, or a contemplative mystic, and appear to be a traditional Anabaptist in good standing with the church, and in harmony with all the dress codes and behavioral standards. Anyone willing to do it can dress up according to the stiffest rules a church may have, whether he's an "insider" or an "outsider" coming in.

New Ager, Deepak Chopra

  The emergent program of change breeds syncretism, a merging of opposite principles or practices—the Mix. It's the gradual blending of truth and untruth, paganism and God's Word, true prayer and contemplative prayer, Church and marketing, anything with anything. It's a sort of "Yin and Yang", an attempt to balance two extremes through the dialectic process.

  The emergent mindset that everyone's opinion needs to be affirmed has a cozy little niche in small Bible studies and Sunday School classes. Be careful. Our halls and study rooms had teachers, who conducted didactic Bible studies. Now we have discussion leaders. And much too often, the time gets gobbled up by shallow exchanges of personal opinions—"How do you feel about this verse?" "What do you think Jesus meant?" At times, it seems we've taken Sunday dinner talk into the church study hour. And then we wonder what to say to each other at Sunday dinners! It's an environment where objective voices increasingly seem to come across as "rude" or "proud", as they are seen to spoil "good feelings" and disrupt "good discussion". A person who claims to know something for sure is simply a narrow-minded fuddy-duddy.

  Michael Kruger hints at this glorification of subjectivity in a recent post, "Are Christians Arrogant? Rethinking the Definition of Humility": 

  "Over the years, the definition of humility has undergone a gradual but nonetheless profound change. Especially in the intellectual community. In the modern day, humility has basically become synonymous with another word: uncertainty.
  "To be uncertain is to be humble. To be certain is to be arrogant. Thus the cardinal sin in the intellectual world is to claim to know anything for sure." (

  There's a reason for all this. Emergent philosophy is not Truth-based, but relationship-based. While "truth" is said to have first priority, relationship is king, and Truth is disposable when relationship is under threat. "Let's agree to disagree" and "all opinions are equal" are a couple of pet phrases used when someone brings to the table truth too painful to accept and too perilous to the relationship. A couple of other phrases used as pretexts are "we don't want to worship a book" and "we need to follow the spirit of the law, not the letter that killeth". Certainly, we don't worship the Bible, neither do we live by the "letter that killeth", the Mosaic Law (2 Corinthians 3). But when we justify disobedience to the New Testament commandments, we are certainly not following the spirit of the New Testament. Satan uses truth as a tool, and he will use pretexts half-dunked in truth to rob your heart of integrity and Truth. 

  The emergent movement, through the agency of Church Growth principles and Total Quality Management, seeks to fulfill "felt needs", rather than preach the truth of the Gospel. It operates under pretexts such as "listening" to people, "caring" for the hurting, and teaching how to "lead like Jesus", while stealing disciples from Christ. Peter Drucker, known as "the founder of modern management" has played an important role in the shaping of Leadership Network. He admits "that the large congregations are basing their changes upon what the 'nonchurchgoers' want to get out of going to church, rather than preaching the Word of God" (quoted by Dr. Robert Kenck in Diaprax and the Church—an Analysis of the Church Growth Movement, p. 32). Dean Gotcher rightly declares: "When we seek and develop the approval of many by extrapolating from God's word only those verses or portions of verses which appear to justify social-personal harmony, and overlook scripture, which might cause social-personal disharmony, we steal from God the soul He seeks and we keep it for ourselves." (The Church Growth, Emerging Church—Diaprax Agenda). 

  Brian McLaren, the kingpin of the emergent church movement, says this about doctrine: "[We] need to move beyond our deadlock, our polarization, our binary, either/or thinking regarding faith and reason, religion and science, matter and spirit... We need a fusion of the sacred and the secular (as quoted in "Brian McLaren's Hope for the Future - The Minds of Your Grandchildren" by Lighthouse Trails). It's the outworking of postmodern thinking in the church, and the cornerstone of the ecumenical program of the apostate church of the last days.

Emergent church leader, Brian McLaren

  The Submerging Church quotes Roger Oakland:   

  "Rick Warren and others say we need to pay attention to the emerging church. Things are changing, they say and the 'emerging church' has the answers for our generation. But what will the emerging church emerge into? Could it be a form of Christianity that embraces experience rather than God's Word?"

  Emergent dynamics don't work like dynamite. They're not an explosion of change. They don't transform you and your church from one day to the next. It's a slow process of seduction. It's transformational but not instantaneous. It's designed to be that way.

  To be sure, emergent philosophy will not barge into Anabaptist churches by its mainstream name. It will saunter in under the cloak of seemingly innocent rubrics such as "missional church", "transformational leadership", "spiritual disciplines", "listening prayer", "contemplative prayer", and even "mindfulness". These are the "feigned words" of the false teachers the Bible warns us about in 2 Peter 2. Emergent facilitators use vague and emasculated terms to please both "traditional" people and "transformational" people. They love using soft or conservative terminology because they can hide their agenda. And they're effective in "privily" bringing in "damnable heresies". These things install themselves very nicely onto existing church platforms such as group Bible studies and Sunday School classes. They tend to make para-church organizations such as mission and ministry training centers, Bible schools and colleges, and Christian Schools its first targets. The best candidates to usher in emergent ideas are those who are within, or those who have once been within. Don't believe them. Believe the Bible.

  Ken Blanchard's popular leadership training program, Lead Like Jesus (LLJ), of which Luke Kuepfer is representative and trainer, uses the above-mentioned platforms to lay the groundwork for emergent change agents to begin their change process within our Anabaptists circles. The LLJ website states:

  "Lead Like Jesus' newest resource, Igniting Influence: Empowering Young Leaders to Lead Like Jesus, invites emerging leaders to join a long-lasting and widespread movement for good... Igniting Influence is a series of 12 leadership lessons well-suited for emerging leaders, anywhere from high school seniors to Millennials in the workforce" (emphasis mine; source).

  Ken Blanchard, also a New Age advocate, has intimate links with Rick Warren, as they have teamed up under the Lead Like Jesus program. Who is Ken Blanchard? What does he believe? What does he have to offer Anabaptists through LLJ?

  Ken Blanchard has written endorsements for many non-Christian books that promote Buddhism, Zen practices, Yoga, Hindu spiritual principles, and other pagan philosophies. What sort of biblical leadership insights would a teacher with such impaired discernment have for Christian believers?

  Quoting from Lighthouse Trails, a website makes the following commentary:

  "While Rick Warren is gearing up to train a billion people, unbeknownst to many he has also been teamed up with New Age and contemplative promoter, Ken Blanchard, for some time now. According to a new biography on Rick Warren, A Life with Purpose written by George Mair, Rick Warren has solicited the services of Ken Blanchard to aid him in training leaders: 'Rick taps the best and most famous to help train church leaders to be like Jesus. He has hired Ken come to Saddleback to help train people how to be effective leaders' (p. 193). There is countless evidence to show that Blanchard sits on the New Age/mystical/contemplative bandwagon. Ken Blanchard believes in the benefits and use of mantra meditation, yoga and has no trouble borrowing from Buddhism. Blanchard wrote the foreword to Jim Ballard's books Mind Like Water and What Would Buddha Do At Work? He is on the front cover of Corporate Mystic and the back cover of Deepak Chopra's Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and wrote the Foreword to Ellen Ladd's (clairvoyant) book, Death and Letting Go. Blanchard makes no apology when he says much  can be gained from Buddhism. He and his wife both encourage the practice of yoga (p. 11) and mantra meditation. Ken Blanchard, Rick Warren, and Bill Hybels (Willow Creek) have become team players at the Lead Like Jesus conferences, which take place across North America. The three also have an audio set they co-authored together" (emphasis mine).

  You may ask why in the world I care about all this. 

  I would like to ask why aren't our leaders telling us these things? This stuff is all over the place. Why aren't they warning us about it?

  I am dismayed at the things I've seen during the last few years. Satan is truly burning the midnight oil to finish us off. He's destroyed so many churches out there. What makes me think he won't set his cross-hairs on mine? What makes you think your church is safe?

  I just can't be silent. I cannot watch what's happening to other churches and our churches, and say nothing. As miserable a watchman as I am, I have seen something, and cannot keep it to myself. Will God not require of me the blood of my brothers and sisters if I don't report what I know? Will I one day be justified before God's holy throne in saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

  What I shared in this post is just a sampling of all the stuff that's out there. It's so hard to summarize. Please, look for yourself. Satan is ready to take advantage of our ignorance, but we can be like the Apostle Paul and not be ignorant of his ploys (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Walk by faith, and take care!


  1. Absolutely spot on! We need more voices coming out of our Anabaptist circles who are willing to warn us of what they see is coming . . . and already here. Thank you!

    1. Yes, it seems that the tradition of being the "quiet in the land" is very alive and well today!

  2. Finally, someone else sees it too! This false thinking has been creeping in for years. There is something unsettling in the soul when you are around that type of thinking. I believe that "unsettleness" is the Holy Spirit's warning. We need more teaching on this.

    1. I agree Mike. But don't you think we've trained ourselves to ignore this unsettling feeling? It's negative and unpleasant. It's called discernment (di-scern - sift apart). Discernment implies separation—first, separation of right and wrong, and eventually, separation from those who insist to walk in the wrong.

  3. Wow!! This is interesting. I have noticed a push towards this but had no clue what it truly was all about. Now I know and find it completely unsettling and disturbing. Thank you so much for this information.

    1. Yes, it's disturbing. Like the title says, it's just an introduction, a small sample of a big black ocean. It just scrapes a bit of snow off the tip of the emerging iceberg.

  4. Thank you for this information. This is an eye opening
    for all fo us believers in Jesus Christ.

  5. You're on a witch hunt... You indict those who want to Lead like Jesus? I don't even want to know who else we should lead like if we're not supposed to lead like Jesus.
    You insinuate that worshipping the book is what we're supposed to be doing and we should be following the letter of the law? Also, putting truth and relationships at odds with each other is phariseeism at it's best. You represent everything that is driving young people away from church and you're so arrogant that you think it's their problem. In the illusion of defending the gospel you obscure it with legalism and spiritual pride. May God have mercy on your soul!

    1. If you want to lead like Jesus you would share Jesus' view of scripture - that it is God speaking to us and we are accountable to it (Matt 19:4-6, 22:29-32). You are presenting a false dichotomy. The scriptures are God breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17) and men speaking from God (2 Peter 1:16-17) and so they carry all the authority of God by their very nature. Nobody here is promoting legalism, If you do not submit to scripture, you are not submitting to Christ.

    2. I do share Jesus' view of the scripture. I don't worship a book though. I can't tell if you are intentionally misunderstanding me or unintentionally. I guess this is why social media is a bad forum to have a productive conversation. We could keep trying to make our point but I'm not optimistic about it working out well.

    3. Go ahead and make your case for why truth and relationships should be separated.... Do you really want an answer to your last question?

    4. Floyd, thanks for pointing out that obscure part of my post, where I mention the use of "worshiping the book" and "the spirit and the letter of the law". Rest assured, the Bible says: "we are delivered from the law...that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" (Rom. 7:6), and also, "[God] made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit". And so, I believe this without question. Christian believers do not follow the letter written on “tables of stone” (Old Covenant), but "serve in newness of spirit" (Rom 7:6) and live by the law of the Spirit (New Covenant; Rom. 8:2). In fact, Jesus said: “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

      What I meant was that some people seem to use these expressions as a way to make Truth sound ambivalent, and as pretexts to disobey Christ’s commandments or justify others who do so. And I suppose a person could set his/her Bible up behind a glass plate, and bow down to worship ink and paper, as some do with the virgin Mary. I don’t remember ever meeting an idolater like that yet. Loving God’s words is quite different than worshipping a book. That’s a distinction we need to make. I love God’s Word, but I don’t worship script, just as you don’t worship electromagnetic waves when accepting instructions from your boss by phone. Jesus’ will and the written words He inspired are one and the same (1 Cor. 11:23 and others).

      I did make a few changes to the post to make this a little clearer.

      Maybe you have forgotten, but the Bible does place Truth above relationships. I don’t have the time here to give you all the references and examples. I encourage you to take some time and look for them. But for example, when the Bible says that bad company ruins good manners (1 Cor. 15:33), it is saying that some relationships are unhealthy for our spiritual health, and the implication is to avoid them or limit them. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
      (Amos 3:3). Truth determines our level of relationship.

      Another example would be in a case of divorce and remarriage. When a couple living in an adulterous marriage come to the Lord, and find the Truth about adultery (Mk. 10:11; Rom. 7:2), they know their married relationship must be terminated. Truth creates a rupture in their relationship, because Truth is king and relationship is servant. This certainly does not mean that they may never speak to each other again in a non-romantic way, but it does mean that this relationship will abide according to God’s terms and not human terms.

      Another one: First John 1:7 explains that we have fellowship (communion, deep close relationship) with each other if we walk in the light. Therefore, if we do not walk in the light, we do not have a deep and close relationship with each other. You see again, God’s Word (light; Ps. 119:105) is king, relationship is subservient.

      And finally: 2 Thess. 3:14-15 says that if someone disobeys what is written in this letter, we are to identify him and “have no company with him”. Truth is king; relationship is subservient. This does not mean one cannot speak to the man, because it says: “Count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother”. But the teaching is clear. There is to be no close relationship with that person until he repents.

      And one last thing. We lead as Jesus would want us to lead when we love Him and obey His commandments. We don’t lead like Jesus when we extrapolate from Scripture only those things that bring earthly gain (much money and many friends). We take everything that Jesus taught us to do, not just those things which line up with the way the world promotes peace and relationships (“live and let live”; Jn. 14:27).

  6. Floyd, You stated "putting truth and relationships at odds with each other is phariseeism at it's best." My question for you is, by what standard is your claim true? If someone "says" it does that automatically equal truth? You have made some serious accusations without any basis to justify that those claims are true. So why should we use your standard to determine truth? (John 14:6) When Jesus is the standard of truth. In fact Jesus rebukes the pharisee's in (Matt 22:29) because they didn't know the scriptures or the power of God. Jesus also rebuked the pharisee's for judging others by there own standards rather than the word of God. In light of that who would you say is the Pharisee here?

  7. Disclosure: My understanding of the emergent church is heavily influenced by Phyllis Tickle's book "The Great Emergence". I highly recommend it to anyone who seeks to better understand the emergent church.
    Early in the article, you seemed to be mixing the terms emergent and ecumenical. I believe that the emergent church is not the same entity as the ecumenical church. I also suggest that the emergent church is rejecting the errors of the modernist church (such as systematic theologies, fundamentalism, reductionism, individualism, and cultural supremacy) and cultivating values that mesh with premodern and postmodern churches (such as community, collaboration, and mutual respect). This is not necessarily bad.
    We may see Christianity through the lens of Western civilization, but Christianity was birthed in an Eastern culture. Perhaps we should study Christianity through the eyes of other (non-Western) cultures before we throw away styles of prayer and worship that were not birthed in Europe.
    When we focus on following the Person of Jesus instead of (but not in opposition to) adhering to creeds it becomes messy. This is to be expected, because relationships are inherently messy. Formulas don't necessarily work in a relationship (example: the Christian doctrine of grace). I think there's room for some both-and statements within a church governed by absolute truth.
    Perhaps it would be appropriate to examine the specific errors you see in the emergent church instead of implicating guilt by association. If guilt by association is true, we are all condemned.

    Blessings to you and yours. Kenneth. *begins following the blog via RSS*

  8. Thanks for the book recommendation Kenneth! I haven't read it yet, but would like to.

    I am sorry if the article appears to confuse emergent and ecumenical, because I agree with you—the ecumenical movement is not the exact same thing as the emergent movement.

    What I would like to bring out is that I don't believe the emergent church can exist without ecumenism. One may be ecumenical without being full-blown emergent (though perhaps not for long), but the emergent movement is ecumenical by nature, and it takes it even further. It also brings together other non-Christian religions into the mix.

    David Cloud in his book "What Is the Emerging Church?" states that Phyllis Tickle "says the emerging church is blending the four major streams of American Christianity: Evangelicalism, Charismaticism, mainline liberal Protestantism, and liturgicalism (Catholicism, Orthodoxy)”. And then quotes her: "Where the quadrants meet in the center there's a vortex like a whirlpool and they are blending". To me that speaks of ecumenism within Christian denominations (the outworking of the collaboration aspect you mentioned).

    Something else you suggested was to look at specific errors within the emergent church instead of implicating guilt by association. Lord willing, I intend to do that. I really felt like this article was extremely vague and superficial, and I knew I would run the risk of missing some aspects of the movement, and possibly give more space to others. (That's why I called it an "Introduction"). However, I think it would be unwise to presume that the emergent movement will not touch conservative Anabaptism as such, and that it will not affect it in similar ways as other denominations. I believe Emergence Christianity follows a dialectic process of change (diaprax) that works in any setting. The purpose of this article was to raise awareness that Anabaptist are indeed becoming "guilty by associating" with some unscriptural elements of the emergent movement. It's sad, but I'm convinced it's true.

    From my own studies, I believe your commentary on what the emergent church rejects and promotes is accurate, though I may disagree with your view of what is helpful to the church, and what is not. I'm sure I will be expanding on that in later posts.

    Thank you for posting your observations. I may do some minor editing to the article in order to clarify some of these things.

  9. Thank you for your reply.
    I look forward to your further posts on the emergent church. I would suggest attempting to look at it from an Anabaptist standpoint. Fundamentalist Baptist sources may be biased in their own favor (and they probably dislike some of our doctrines as well). Our Anabaptist heritage emphasises the brotherhood ("No man is in Christ apart from his brother") and the teachings of Christ. Will these emphases influence our perception of the emergent church? I'd love to take the time to study out the answer to that question.

    A short rant on ecumenicism. The question of ecumenicism is not how to avoid it, but how much to allow. Our hymnbooks are ecumenical in that they draw from many Christian traditions. This is not a condemnation; this is an observation. I agree that we can't minimize or discard doctrine in the name of unity. We absolutely must recognize the truth and errors as evidenced in other groups. However, unless we believe ourselves to be the "One True Church" there will be some reciprocation across denominational and conference lines.

    From what I recall, Phyllis Tickle further suggested that the outside edges of Christianity that avoid the whirlpool are the necessary ballast that adds stability and definition to Christianity as a whole. I should reread that book, especially now that I've studied Anabaptism more.

    I'm looking forward to your further studies of the emergent church. Blessings.

  10. Floyd, I'm having a hard time seeing humility and a Christlike spirit in what you have written.

  11. I realize this is an old post but I still want to comment. We attend a Baptist church but I'm very much Anabaptist in my doctrinal beliefs. Going to an Anabaptist church for my sake wouldn't work because then it would show I'm not in submission to my husband. Thankfully we get to visit an Conservative Mennonite fellowship once in awhile and have made life long friends. All that to say, I enjoyed your article and you are so right in what you wrote. Thank you!


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