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Hand of God leedsacukWe’re nearing the end of a tumultuous decade, thank goodness.  On New Year’s Day 2010, we’ll be toasting the end to 10 years of mistakes — political, social and spiritual.  Or so we think.

Although we must have hope, we mustn’t be naïve.  So, please be aware that the next decade could be quite fraught for Christian traditionalists everywhere.  Yes, even in the United States — perhaps particularly there.

What will be the source of our persecution?  The emergent church, most probably.  This is no matter of speculation. The emergent movement intends to gain more influence over your beliefs and your non-emergent church. 

Rubbish, you say.  Well, before we look at the broader emergent church, here’s a story from a lady named Heidi Swander, whose evangelical church morphed into an emergent one.  She was part of a congregation-wide ‘townhall meeting’ at her church to select a new pastor.  She was already familiar with the emergent church outlook and had prepared questions for the latest candidate. She also knew that her church had an emergent church ‘watchdog’ to look out for this type of pastor.  So, she was confident the right person would get the job. 

Heidi recalls:

My two questions were on eschatology and the Emergent Church.  I don’t remember his exact answers.  I do remember them being vague and unsatisfying.

The congregation ended up voting this candidate in as their new senior pastor.  Change came quickly:

Within weeks of his start date …  The music — the one thing that is most readily noticed and a sensitive subject for any church — began to change.  Two on the pastoral staff left fairly suddenly.  The organist resigned.  The church services began to look different.  Social programs absent a clear plan for presenting the gospel began to emerge.

Still, as long as the sermons were good, things would be all right.  Or would they?

… the substance seemed elusive.  I found myself second-guessing everything he said.  Sometimes what he said and the way he said it sounded disrespectful of the Word of God.  He spoke positively about New Age advocate Oprah Winfrey.  He began to weave quotes and video clips from Emergent leaders into his messages. 

Surely, Heidi could let the elders know her thoughts?

He — and many of the elders — strongly urged the church to get on board with all that was happening, and eagerly promoted a questionable book we should read to help us in the transition.  And one elder blatantly recommended a book — two weeks in a row — by prominent Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen who is a father to the contemplative prayer movement.  My trust level was tanking.

Nouwen alert!

Next came an unusual adult education class:

… a friend of our new pastor, Terry Esau, would be speaking in my Sunday school class.  His subject?  ‘Breathing Lessons for Your Church’.  My heart sank.  I was in the middle of reading A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen — a warning primer on contemplative prayer, which is a foundational teaching of the Emergent Church

And so:

It was that day when I finally admitted to myself that I was losing my church … I thought I’d found a church home.  And then, disaster struck in the form of a new senior pastor who turned the church — and my world — on its head

Heidi and three other members of her congregation met with the pastor and a few elders, who said:

‘If there are those who are uncomfortable with the direction the church is headed, it may be wise for them to find another place to worship.’  It wasn’t directed at me, but I got the message.  They wouldn’t consider any pleas for caution, no matter how scripturally-based.

Heidi’s ‘inner fundamentalist‘ spoke to her and she was fortunate to find a new church family quickly.  Her new church is scripturally-based and even provides courses on discerning the errors of the emergent church. 

However, Catholics and mainline Protestants, now subject to Taizé liturgy, Lectio Divina, mood-altering son et lumière and relativist sermons might not find changing churches that easy.  In my area, the churches work together to make sure that people stay within their own congregations.  The church leaders actively discourage denomination-swapping on the part of the congregants.  Instead, they will counsel you to return to your church.  And they are likely to facilitate a meeting between you and your priest or minister to help effect that reconciliation, no matter how false.  So, if you don’t like your pastor or vicar, tough.  You’d be ill-advised even go to the next town for church.  You’d probably have to go to London where you could blend in with a more transient congregation. 

Something to think about. 

Tomorrow: What the emergent church has in mind for Christians everywhere and, no, not all will be welcome

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