What is the Emergent Church? What Do They Believe?

by Jack Wellman on June 17, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

What is the emergent church and why do they call it this?  What danger is there in being in an emergent church?  What are signs that your church is becoming an emergent church?

What Does Emergent Mean?

The definition of the word emergent might help us to understand what exactly the emergent church is.  The dictionary defines emergent as:  newly appearing, arising, and occurring, especially for the first time.  It could be called arising unexpectedly or suddenly.  Like a plant that is emerging, so also the emergent church has roots below the surface that no one sees.  They have been growing for some time but most people were not aware of them.  Like an emerging plant, it comes up slowly but surely.  Even a tiny plant that emerges in your driveway can damage concrete and cause upheaval in the yard.  So too is the risk of an emergent church in an existing one or one that springs up by itself and independently.

What is the Emergent Church?

The emergent church is a recent event that now threatens to spread into the entire world and has even been infiltrating Bible-believing churches.  This movement started in the late 20th and early 21st century and its popularity is skyrocketing.  The emergent church is crossing many forbidden theological boundaries that have previously not been breached.   The emergent members desire to live their faith as a “post modern” society and at times are hard to distinguish from the pluralistic, secular (worldly) society in which it exists.  Most of its members are unsatisfied with what they term “organized religion” and the “institutional” church and are trying to reinvent the church from within.  The danger of this is that biblical models for church discipline, church government, the sacraments, and church offices are being ignored with the wider implications being the allowance for ongoing, unrepentant sin to exist within the Body of Christ, the church.  This has serious implications because Paul and the other apostles taught that church discipline for openly sinning and unrepentant members hurts the Body of Christ and weakens the witness of the church.

The emergent church is pro-active in its desire to change and influence society.  This may include using political power to bring in the “Kingdom,” create or work from a platform of social activism, and trying to overcome the public and private system that is presently held in society. The “world biblical view” in missions and presenting the gospel is to emphasize the love of God as one of the primary attributes of God.  It is not quite the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, but it often is the gospel stripped of its need for the necessity of a Savior because they frequently fail to mention sin, repentance, confession, church discipline, and fruits showing regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

Emergent Church Theology

It is hard to define the emergent church’s theology because it varies from church to church.  What concerns me is the neglect or absence of the sacraments.  That is, the Lord’s Supper is often missing in these churches even though Jesus said in Luke 22:17-19, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves;  for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  Jesus is not hoping that the church will observe and partake of the Lord’s Supper but this is an imperative command.

Paul likewise repeated the importance of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Paul made an important statement in the last verse saying that when we “eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” In other words, we are commanded to do this and that when we do, we are actually proclaiming His death up until the time that “He comes.”

The emergent church is pro-active in its desire to change and influence society.

The emergent church is pro-active in its desire to change and influence society.

One of the dangers of the emergent church’s theology is its teachings that we can not nail down exclusive truth regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality and other doctrines in the Bible.  Even the inerrancy of the Word of God, the Bible, is not upheld at many (though not all) emergent churches.  Certainly not all emergent churches are like this but many are concerned with reaching people with postmodern methods in their worship services.  In John MacArthur’s book, “The Truth War” he writes that “Churches today are filled with people like that. They drift from church to church. They are often more concerned about whether they like the music than they are about whether they are hearing the truth. They are usually absorbed in religion for self-centered reasons. They want a better life. They are ‘recovering’ sinners looking for fellowship. They are therefore susceptible to anyone who promises to meet their ‘felt needs.’ They are the first-line victims of false religion” (p. 182).

A seeker-sensitive mentality of making church comfortable is contrary to the teaching of the Bible.  The Word is said to be a sword and it cuts to the bone and marrow of the human soul, exposing the sinfulness of mankind and as has been said, it comforts the afflicted but afflicts the comfortable.  Anytime repentance, confession of sin, the sacraments, and other essential doctrines are left out of a church’s teachings, the sword has either been dulled or taken out of the hands of the teachers/pastors.

Conclusion

Do we really need to reinvent the church?  Jesus said the gates of hell (or death) will not prevail against His church.  If we are to believe that Jesus said this, then we should not be preoccupied to make church more conformable with the culture.  The “feel good” church is contrary to believers seeing themselves as still being sinners, even though justified (2 Corinthians 5:21) and having the need for daily repentance and that we are not okay but we are still in the process of being sanctified and dying daily to self.  Again I repeat that not all emergent churches are in error.  Many are sincere but sincerity  is never a guarantee against error.  A person or church can be sincere but still be sincerely wrong.  Ignorance is no excuse.  Just ask any law enforcement personnel.  Truth matters.  At least it does to God for Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6a) because “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Looking for a good church? Take a look at this article for guidelines:

How to Choose a Church

Resources – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. MacArthur, John.  The Truth War.  Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers.  2007. Print.



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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Chevelle June 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

I know of these churches. I really don’t see how one think that they can live by the Bible and live according to secular standards. As the saved, we are free from that, yet, these churches seem to want to put themselves right back into it. You know, I didn’t know the desire to fit in could be so strong that you would give up your salvation, try to change, twist, wring out the only truth there is in the world and trade for lies and feel good. Its as if, this society only wants gratification, not salvation. Man, but every time I see something like this, it strengthens my faith so much more. Because the Bible already warns and tells us of it and we can use the Bible to discern the truth and these so called “emerging churches”. The people who join or want to live in these churches will only trade the truth for a lie. I must pray that many will be saved from this and go on to find salvation in Jesus Christ, not in the twisting of the scriptures. I hope that everyone seeks a church that will help them grow to understand and accept the hard truths of the Bible, not confuse them about the VERY CLEAR meaning of some scriptures and falsely lead them down the wrong path. Thank you for this article Jack.

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Jack Wellman June 17, 2013 at 10:58 am

Thank you so much Chevelle. I believe that we are trying to market the church and not depend upon God the Holy Spirit. God draws people to Christ (John 6:44) so do we really need to have seeker-friendly churches and doctrine to “help” God? Would God need any help at all? Ridiculous, yes. Job was chastised for seeing a God as insufficient and boy did God let Him have it! Let God be God and trust in Him. People are saved and it is not OUR responsibility. It is THEIR response to HIS ability although it is our responsibility to share the gospel. Thanks for the encouragement.

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Chevelle June 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
-Romans 12:1-2
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible and I truly believe that it applies here. And I like the last quote there, it really clears up what you are supposed to be doing. Hopefully these churches realize that and aren’t trying to please people by not delivering the whole truth of the gospel. I don’t know if all of them are like that, but everytime I think of “seeker friendly” churches it makes me cringe…

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Jack June 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

Hi, Pastor Jack! I have a question, who were the Nephilim? THanks, Jack :D

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Jack Wellman June 17, 2013 at 11:02 am

Let’s read what you are referring to Jack:

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 2that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. 3Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Gen. 6:1-4).

There is debate over exactly who the Nephilim in Genesis 6 are. Some people believe that the Nephilim are the offspring of sexual relations between fallen angels and human women. Jude 6 is often referenced as additional support when addressing the angelic realm who “…did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode…” (Jude 1:6). Others believe the Nephilim were giants (Nephilim means giants), men of great physical stature. Of course, this is also believed by some people who suspect that the offspring of the fallen angels and the women were those giants. They say this would explain their large size, but this is conjecture. Still others hold that the Nephilim are the descendents of Seth.

The range of options is varied. Consider this:

Many have suggested that the sons of God were the godly line of Seth and the daughters of men were the Cainites. But this does not do justice to the terminology or the context. Others view the ‘sons of God’ as angels (as in Job 1:6), who cohabited with women on earth. This, however, conflicts with Matt. 22:30.”

The term [Nephilim, Giants] in Hebrew implies not so much the idea of great stature as of reckless ferocity, impious and daring characters, who spread devastation and carnage far and wide.

The improper mating of heavenly beings and earthly women is an attack on the boundaries that are meant to separate the heavenly and earthly realms. It thus threatens the integrity of creation as God intended it.

As you can see, commentaries are divided on who exactly the Nephilim really are. Therefore, we can make no definite statement on who the Nephilim really were.

Personally, I believe what the Hebrew implies.

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Robert June 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Great article Jack,
While I am careful not to judge the motives behind the Emergent movement, I will say that I am convinced from what I’ve read (their own authors) that they are extremely liberal, oftentimes unbiblical, in their theology. Many Emergent authors deny, even attack, fundamental (biblical) doctrines long held by the orthodox church. Thank you for this article, Jack.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jack Wellman June 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Thank you my brother. Well said. I now wish I had included your words of wisdom more specifically as you stated them. Thank you. Praying for you, our neighbors to our south, knowing this must have been and still is hard. I thank God for you Robert.

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Patricia Schneider June 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Thanks bunches for this article, Pastor Jack! Was uninformed about these “Emergent Churches.” Thankful to God that hubby Gary & I DON’T belong to such a Church, but to one which believes and teaches God’s Word!
Always, your sister in Christ, Jesus….Patty

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Jack Wellman June 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm

The only thing you will catch me emerging from is my prayer closet! LOL

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Troy June 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Wow. Such corruption and deception going on. I pray our brothers and sisters don’t fall into this. A shame

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Jack Wellman June 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Amen Troy….why do we need “another gospel” when we have a perfect one already! That of repentance, confession of sin, growing in grace and knowledge, of obedience to Christ, of Christ’s work on the cross at Calvary, of the need for forgiveness for God’s wrath to be removed and placed on Christ…..thanks Troy. Yes, it is a shame. It’s like they think the emergent church needs to help God the Holy Spirit in drawing people to Christ and saving them!

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kris June 19, 2013 at 12:32 am

This was a very well expressed exposition of the Emergent movement . I truly am thankful for the way you explained what to many is rather difficult to nail down.

I have several books that do a pretty good job of also comparing the Modern, Post Modern and Post Christian distinctives for those who are interested in learning a bit more ….The Death of Truth by Dennis McCallum is very readable and clear.

Also a sight to learn more about the infusion of the Emergent Church, the Contemplative Movement and various elements of the occult and eastern religious practices in more depth by those who have ‘been there , done that , and now are exposing it as they have become IN Christ is

Lighthouse Trails Ministry …

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/newsletters/2013/newsletters20130617.htm

Topics this months enews…more exposes on the increasing trends in many churches today.

Hope you find this informative.

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