The Modern Emerging Church

Imagine yourself new in town and looking for a church. Maybe your job moved you, or some other life-changing event is the cause. You are hoping for a church like the one you left but know that it would not be right to judge a potential new church by the one you left. Sunday morning comes and you find yourself walking into the sanctuary of what you hope to be a suitable church for your family.

Immediately you are astonished by the size and endless rows of seating. You see people flowing in from several entrances along the back of the sanctuary. An usher approaches and welcomes you. He leads you to a row of seats some twenty rows back from an elevated platform. Soon the lights begin to slowly dim until the sanctuary is dark. Behind the platform low level backlighting comes on and you see several figures begin to appear as they are lifted from below. The stage is suddenly illuminated by bright stage lights as around the perimeter sparks fly straight up like roman candles. Smoke machines push a thin layer across the stage as the lights change to a flashing multicolored display.

Over the next thirty-five minutes you are treated to a concert that touches several genres and highlights the talents of the performers. As the last song ends, the lights dim, and you notice something pass by overhead. It is a camera being moved remotely on a thin cable that allows it to capture the stage from different angles. From the right side of the stage a figure appears and at once a spotlight is focused on and follows him as approaches the center of the stage. After a quick twenty-minute sermon, you find the service ending and the people quickly shuffling out in hopes of beating the Baptists to the restaurants.

Sound a little extreme? It was extremely shallow! I was the “you’ in the above account. Before I continue, I want to make something clear. We should never judge another person’s work, call, or ministry solely based on our own. Nor should we depend on what we like, or what we think. None of us I am sure were consulted with by the Lord before calling someone into an office (Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist), nor were we invited to be present when the Lord gave them instructions.

But what about the mindset that says that church is too scriptural, too traditional, that it needs to be updated? What about churches that do away with the narrow thinking of discipleship and replace it with a more modern, contemporary sensual need focus? Or what about churches that have replaced worshipping and serving our Mighty God, with looking to grow in numbers by pleasing the crowds. Those that would defend the above practices might say that with the change to our culture, the church needs to become more relevant and more accepting. That churches should be less challenging and less focused on growing and conforming its people to an image that they interpret as a suggestion by an Apostle over two-thousand years ago. These things we are seeing today are not new, but just look a little different than in earlier times.

While we could go back and see that the Apostles faced these same problems when taking the gospel to the gentile cultures. The ink had not dried from Tertius’s writing of Paul’s words and contrary ideas were being presented and practiced. For Paul, Timothy, Peter and Apollos it was getting the world out of the growing church, for us today it is keeping the world from coming back in. All we need to do is go back thirty, forty years and see the influence of the world creeping into the church in America.

Then Judaism was trying to hold new believers in legalism, today we see religion doing the same in their grace+ doctrine. On the other side of the ditch, others were saying that God’s grace was enough, and it did not matter if a believer continued to live ungodly. (Jude 1:4) Today we call this easy believism. I have experienced both, and both are still prevalent today, but since the early eighties it has seemed that the easy greasy grace has out distanced the strict rigidity of legalism. It has become clear that our culture that wants free, easy, and fast has influenced how some ministries have compromised in their operation.

We began to hear terms like “Seeker Sensitive”, and “The Emergent Church.” Among some churches there was a shift from teaching all the Word, to only that which doesn’t offend or challenge. Discipling of new believers to maturity, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ has been replaced with dirty worm pilgrimaging programs to get us through until this life is over. In a few churches and thankfully it is just a few, Pastors are leaving the counsel of elders for the strategy meetings with the young, hip and happening. With the focus now on branding and building (numerically) the church, ministry staff meetings now look more like corporate board meetings.

Then there is a new gimmick that is beginning to gain popularity and that is the use of holograms. Pastors of a few churches use holograms to project themselves at the pulpit of several church campuses simultaneously. The Bible uses the imagery of a father, and of a shepherd when referring to Pastors in the local church. Our English word Pastor comes from the Latin word that means shepherd, and both images show that close relationship is necessary. Sheep don’t survive long without the shepherd right there with them. And how can a father love, lead, and instruct a family when he is not present? For those that believe that they have direction from the Lord to do this, would they be okay with their congregation using holograms to project themselves into the seats?

I want to close this article with some thoughts that I believe that the Word will bear up. One is that each of us of are called to follow Him, to do what He tells us to do. Those called to ministry should not judge or compare themselves to others. YOU DO YOU! (John 21:22) For the rest of us Word hungry, Spirit led, Jesus loving pew dwellers, seek the Lord’s guidance for where He wants you to be. He wants to grow you up to be like Him. Finally, every believer, whether in the pulpit or in the pew, should be seeking opportunities to proclaim to the world a life changing gospel, not allowing the world to enter and offer church changing ideas.