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Emerging Problems

In my last post I listed a number of ways that some followers of Christ are trying to do church differently than their parents’ generation.

But the pendulum of change often swings from one extreme to another and reactions can  result in over-correction.

For that reason, and because we’ve already acknowledged some of the problems that traditional evangelical churches struggle with, let’s take a look at some issues that can show up in emerging communities.

In reacting to the oversights or excesses of a parent church, emerging congregations can fall into opposite extremes:

  1. In an effort to not say more than the Bible says, there may be a tendency to say less.
  2. While affirming the wonder and mystery of God, some seem hesitant to emphasize what the Bible makes clear.
  3. In an attempt to live out Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan, some seem to be emphasizing social action at the expense of eternal issues.
  4. While talking about a life-long journey of faith some are not giving enough attention to the decision that begins the journey.
  5. In not wanting to push or exclude those struggling with doubts and personal issues, some seem  hesitant to warn about the dangers of indecision.
  6. While calling attention to the need for present kingdom living and attitudes, some are not giving enough attention to the hope of the King and Kingdom to come.
  7. In an effort to personally experience the way God can speak to us through the Bible, it’s possible to forget that all of the New and Old Testaments are inspired of God for our spiritual growth.
  8. While trying to focus on the Gospel accounts of God’s presence in Jesus, some are not giving enough attention to the stories behind the letters of Paul and the rest of Scripture.
  9. While emerging groups often emphasize both/and perspectives, they sometimes take an either/or (black or white) approach in their criticism of the traditional church.
  10. While trying to avoid judgmental and condemning attitudes, some have stopped quoting what Jesus said about a coming judgment.

On the basis of such over-reactions, some of us have been inclined to write off emerging churches just as we feel they have dismissed us.

Seems to me that, when that happens, we could be repeating the mistake of the disciple who said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us. “But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side (Luke 9:49-50).”

Yes, the young can sound dangerously sure of themselves even when we think they are walking on slippery slopes or thin ice. But we also may need to look in the mirror and realize that some of us have been known to pull the trigger of criticism before getting our facts straightor before checking our own pulse.

My guess is that if both sides were to listen carefully to one another, many if not most of us could be impressed with how much of what is really important we have in common– while learning something about ourselves in the process.


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20 Comments »

20 Responses to “Emerging Problems”

  1. dep7547 says:

    Sounds like a good brain-storming issue to me! This is not a new trend; however, the difficulty in addressing such issues is exactly the same as worldly warfare–no one wants to listen to compromise. In fact, perfectly sound ideas get tossed aside under the guise of “if you are not for me, you are against me.” To be honest, compromisers are frequently looked upon as being more dangerous than than the radically opposed idealists! I believe this is why Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
    We are all fallible. No one person or group has every single right answer. Literally, with all of our denominations, Christianity can be compared to a super-computer that needs some serious defragmentation. In other words, there are many Godly ideals out there that come with fragments of other ideals that have not been wholly examined by the congregations where they have originated from.
    For example, there are denominations who believe that if a person has not spoken in tongues, then that person has no manifestation of salvation. What about the many other gifts of the spirit that Paul mentioned? Have evangelists, ministers and teachers all lost their significance because they cannot demonstrate an ability to speak in tongues? This is only one issue among thousands of others that only Christ can bring into complete fulfilment of the scriptures. God bless him!

  2. fudd-99 says:

    This is very good. While compromise has on many occasions led to neither party getting full satisfaction and to greater problems down the road (The Missouri Compromise) (Neville Chamberlain’s compromise with Hitler), we as Christians need to decern when to stand and never, ever give an inch, and when to look at the big picture and say, “In the eternal view, it isn’t that important.”

    On a secular scale, this also applies to the current cultural war within our nation. Those organizations that uphold traditional values and oppose abortion are not the enemy in the cultural war. We (Christians) spend way too much time blasting each other and those church (I think of the Catholics and Mormans) groups that have some errors in their doctrine. Yes, I beleive they have serious problems doctrinally, but we should not waste our energy, money and words attacking them. In the cultural war that rages within our fine nation, they are our allies.

    God bless you all!

  3. carlj says:

    My pastor, Chuck Swindoll, delivered a sermon series entitled “Rebirthing the Church” last summer. It was very timely and covered the topic, Worship Wars. I encourage your readers to look into the CD set available through Stonebriar Community Church. Blessings.

  4. bob petitti says:

    Problems? There are no problems only solutions with the love of Jesus. We MUST use His LOVE to encourage togetherness as ODB suggest today. We are always looking for differences instead of our similarities which bring greater fullness in His LOVE. We are called to surrender and turn our cheek so that we may show our true LOVE which Jesus gave ALL! Shalom!

  5. macsisson22 says:

    It seems to me that denominational divisions have been a part of the emerging church for over 2000 years, and, I believe, for good reason. I have read through the bible many times and have attended services in various denominations. Can you guess what I have found in every gathering of people; emerging, contemporary, traditional, etc.?
    The bible is a book about real people and all (except One) of the men and women in the scriptures had real problems, all derived from one real problem, (a subject neglected in much of the Christian conversation and song these days) SIN! I agree with those who say that we should not emphasize one sin above another. We should deal with them all, “speaking the truth in love”, and helping each other to work through our issues; hence we fellowship with those of like faith.
    I get the sense from some of the things listed and mentioned in this and the previous blog on this subject that the Church has become too judgmental. We are not to be the judge, jury, and executioner. But are we not, as Christ commanded the Pharisees to “judge according to righteous judgment”? Are we not as Paul exhorted the Corinthians to “judge those within the church”? Or should we march to the mantra of the multitudes singing scripture out of context and make no judgment at all? Let God be true and every man a liar.
    We are sanctified by truth, His word is truth; and it tells me that the only remedy for sin is the blood of Jesus Christ, not our particular flavor of worship. Bloodless sacrifice merits nothing!

  6. SFDBWV says:

    Have read the last and this post with interest. I am fortunate not to live in a high populated area. Our churches here are traditional by most people’s standard,and small. People’s reasons for going vary as widely as the personalities of each individual. I must admit I don’t know of any that go to be entertained.

    The Bible tells us that at the very beginning there were divisions amongst believers. I would imagine they were as passonate and heated as they are today. “self” enters the church equation. People are the same today as they were 2 thousand years ago. “self” thinking people believe they know what is best for themselves and everyone else.
    God annoints and empowers people to be active parts of HIS body the Church. The fruits of the Spirit are the evidence of success.

    Reinventing Church is a very dangerous activity.

    I always liked listening to Billy Graham. His message never changed.

    Christ cannot be sugarcoated in order to entice anyone to come to him. The change that has to emerge within a person has to come from a repentant heart for forgiveness and a real need for a savior. Someone solid to hold onto.

    It is the responsibility of parents to raise up their children from babies to know the Word of God. To be indoctrinated into traditions of worship, and praise. Not for the churches to change because of the failure of parents.

    I agree this is a very different world than even when I was a child. But Christ is the same, present the same Christ and you will not fail.

  7. rokdude5 says:

    I, too, believe in the fundamentals of Scripture. I still do. One day, however, my son “came out of the closet.” I pray that in his life, he will become at least just celibate and find a church that will take him as he is and hopefully with the help of the Holy Spirit change his ways.

    To me, church isnt just a place of pageantry but a place of healing – of all of our shortcomings.

    Funny, I see Jesus very sugarcoated for I cant think of anyone “sweeter” than Him though if we truly love Him, we must follow His Commandments. John 14:15

    Like I said before, as long as a “new” churches follow doctrines laid in Scriptures then who am I to judge or should we return to the days of robes, candles and Gregorian chants?
    (Poohpity – thanks for your kind words.)

  8. Mart De Haan says:

    rokdude5, I’m sure that many of us could say that by such pain and love our hearts are softened to our desperate need for the mercy and grace of God.

  9. SFDBWV says:

    I would like to ponder a question. to all. What about people who don’t attend a church in the “traditional” sense? But rather have small gatherings of 4 or 6 or even less, in their home. For worship for praise for bible study. For fellowship. Would you consider that attending church?

    Do you think attending church matters?

    I am truly interested in hearing your thoughts. As I have seen many people fall away from church but not their faith.

  10. drkennyg says:

    The church in America seems to be in moral decline. I think that we all need to go to our own church and look for the truth of God’s Word. If a church does not offer that and instead gives a watered down version or worse an incorrect version of the Gospel we should move on until we find it. I think it is fine for small groups to get together to worship as Christians. But you must not stray from the Truth and keep Christ first. The church in China, for example, continues to grow by missionary work and a people who have never known the Bible or the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have continued to spread in that very large country. Many are persecuted for this but didn’t Jesus tell us that we would be hated just as He was hated?

  11. daisymarygoldr says:

    Truth is one: one unchanging God, one Christ, one Spirit, one mind and one body. If the parental generation has obeyed the one and only Word of God and has followed the one and only way of the cross, where, how and why should the successive filial generations differ???

    Now, if the parents admit that we have made a mistake in following the Lord, then of course it is something to be happy about…that our children are not committing the same errors. So, you should not expect a unanimous agreement to your suggestion of applauding, encouraging and learning from our kids…that’s a shame:( because we should be the ones to teach them about the truth. Unless, someone claims to have learned the regular physical life activities like eating, walking, talking etc from their children! This whole concept sounds really weird and strange to my ears…

    SFDBWV, good Q…and drkennyg, good answer about small groups! Don’t know about “falling away from church” and not sure if it is good or even the right thing to do…
    Personally, I know several people living in pagan countries that have accepted Jesus Christ but are unable to share their newfound faith and joy with their families for fear of persecution and rejection…especially women who get badly beaten by their heartless husbands. They can never think of attending a church but are allowed to have Christian women friends who visit them when the men are away at work…they get together one-on-one or in a group to study the Bible and pray. These are called “secret believers”…and they do belong to the universal, invisible Church that is not made with hands!

  12. SLAIR132 says:

    this is what I believe, read the word,pray the word and do very best to live the word.Keep tring to do your best, never stopping. Keep right on praying without stopping always talking to the Father and be very attentive to listen for His voice. One thing that is very important is not to let todays culture of things and of changing times change you and or the way GOD wants things to be done.

  13. Your Love Inspires says:

    I think we the church should start off with the basics… integrity, honesty, genuine Christ like love for the lost, knowing when to say we are sorry for wrongs committed to others through our self centeredness which is often times cloaked in self righteousness… my God, the list goes on. I believe a Christ centered witness is worth any “new and improved” idea on how to present The Gospel. Jesus smiles when He is raised up as people notice the fruit of His Spirit in our walk and ask that wonderful question… “Are you a Christian.”

  14. rokdude5 says:

    Mart, Thanks for your kind thoughts.

    SFDBWV, I do think if able to, attending church matters. I dont think there is some prescribed quorum or program but for me, I may think all is well of myself if I dont hear someone point out my shortcomings.

    My wife has a problem with “organized religion”. I recently found out that my pastor at one time had a problems with “organized religion” as well. Now Im wondering who doesnt? As long as I go to worship, hear the Word with sound doctrine, then Im going to church – not because I have to but because I want to.

  15. Ted M. Gossard says:

    Mart,
    Thanks for another helpful post on this. Yes, and I think they’re learning and responding to critiques from people like you who take the time to listen to them and be friends with them, in Jesus.

    We all carry with us problems, and yes, I see the pendulum swing in myself at times, in reaction to what I see to be wrong. So we must seek to stay grounded in Scripture and in Jesus in the fellowship of the church, of course.

  16. scottn says:

    Hey Mart,

    Last Sunday I attended a mega church that was preaching an “I am sorry” theme. The church reported, “Research says the majority of people now view Christianity as hypocritical, intolerant and even hateful. How did the Church get such a bad reputation?”

    I wrote a poem in response to my feelings.

    I’m sorry

    I have done it again
    I am guilty
    They accuse me
    Are they right?

    It’s not the first
    Like they said (Barna)
    It’s not the last
    Like He said.

    Why do we agonize?
    Listen to what He said
    Not what she said
    Will we ever make them happy?

    He couldn’t

    Scott

  17. fhdsmd123 says:

    I had never heard of the emerging church until an old pastor friend of mine brought it to my attention. He warned me of how dangeros this movement was becoming. I explored this “movement” on the internet and found many errors in thier beliefs. As stated by a writer earlier, they are very generic in the Gospel and their doctrines. But worst of all is the thought that the our God and the death, burial and rising of our Lord Jesus Christ is not the sole means to eternity in Heaven. Other forms of belief are acceptable if they point to the “right” direction.

  18. Mart De Haan says:

    Cookie, I appreciate your concern. It is dangerous to approve of anything that the Lord disapproves of. But much of what is said about some “emerging” or “traditional evangelical” churches is only true of some and not all.

    What if we called attention to books and internet sites that claim that “traditional evangelical churches” are guilty of every mistake of the Pharisees that Jesus lamented with the “woes” of Matthew 23:13-29? What if we could also show that these books really are identifying some dangerous issues in some “traditional evangelical” churches? Would we then be justified in supporting a rumor mill that all “traditional evangelical” churches are dangerous and to be condemned as a movement?

    Even if we could make the case that there might be a lot of truth to the idea that there are some things within every “traditional evangelical” church that deserve a “woe” of warning? Would we overlook all of the good that many traditional evangelical churches are trying to do?

    The issue is that the movement of what are calling “emerging churches” is very broad and like “traditional evangelical churches” cannot be characterized as all good or all bad.

    My point is that in confronting the mistakes of any person or group we need to do so with self-reflection, truth, and grace.

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