How should we go about leaving churches when they become ungodly (specifically, postmodern – Emerging/Emergent/Emergence)?
First, let’s take a look at apostate churches, churches where “Ichabod has been written above the door.” Literally, Ichabod means “the glory has departed.” We could apply the title to the seven churches of Revelation. History tells us that all seven of the churches eventually died out; apparently they did not heed the warnings of our Lord Jesus Christ in His words to John the Revelator.
Daniel Valles writes in How To Spot An Ichabod Church:
Ichabod is the infamous name found in I Samuel 4:21, where a mother chose this name for her newborn, marking the day that the ark of God was taken from Israel. The word Ichabod has the idea of ‘no glory’, but it is more commonly used in the sense that this mother used it in: The glory of God has departed… Metaphorically and proverbially, the term Ichabod is often used to describe a church or ministry work where God is no longer at work. In a sense, Ichabod could be written over the church doors; yet, sadly, most people do not notice when God leaves or is absent. Just like Judas was able to fool the other disciples with his testimony and outward piousness, so that none suspected him of betraying Christ, so many dead church works and ministries continue on, cleverly hiding the fact that they have been cut off at the roots. Yes, the rose is still blooming, and may still smell and look appealing, but the life force behind those blessings is gone, and it is only a matter of time till the death pall overtakes it.
II Timothy 3:5 warns us that in the last days, there will be many who have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” In this verse, the Apostle Paul warns young Timothy to not go by appearance, but to use discernment instead. Jesus Christ, Himself, warned all of His disciples, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” – John 7:24.
The Emerging, Emergent, and Emergence movements fit the description of apostate “Ichabod” churches. Each movement has its own unique traits:
* Emerging churches – postmodern; usually evangelical churches, they still hold to some orthodox biblical doctrines
* Emergent churches/gatherings – postmodern; they emphasize liberal/ mainline teachings
* Emergence churches/gatherings – postmodern; emphasize New Age-ish/ interfaith teachings.
In this blog, I am using the terms Emerging, Emergent, and Emergence interchangeably, since the three movements overlap each other. Also, Emerging churches tend to become Emergent churches as more and more concerned, biblically sound church members decide to leave or are coerced to leave. And, as Ken Silva points out, Emergent churches/gatherings are morphing into Emergence churches/ gatherings. How scary – and tragic – that Emerging evangelicals are headed down the slippery slope to New Age-ish/interfaith teachings.
Richard Foster’s Spiritual Formation is a taught in all three of these movements: Emerging, Emergent, and Emergence. The most appealing – and dangerous – aspect of Spiritual Formation is the spiritual discipline of occultish contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality.
But to the point of my post. Suppose your church is becoming Emerging/Emergent/ Emergence – what do you do now?
I will start by telling of my own experience. As mentioned in previous posts, I spent my early childhood in an “old fashioned” King James Bible church that had hymns, altar calls, and services several times on Sunday plus regular Wednesday night prayer meetings. And this wonderful church was NOT a Baptist church! Many denominations at the time held to these biblically sound doctrines and practices.
I grew up in the Ohio Yearly Meeting (Gurneyite). It was later renamed to EFC-ER, a Region in the EFCI of which the EFC-NA is a part. (I know, I know, it’s confusing.) This denomination has traditionally separated itself from liberal Quaker denominations. Unfortunately, this separation no longer seems to be the norm. More and more Evangelical Friends are associating with liberal Quaker groups (and/or more liberal Yearly Meetings within the EFCI) under the Emergent umbrella of “Converging Friends.”
If you belong to a church (in the EFCI or elsewhere) which is pushing Emerging/Emergent/Emergence teachings, I would plead with you, please, please, please take the following steps immediately, in sequence:
1) Be tactful. Do not talk or blog about your pastor behind his back. If you do talk or blog about this issue, do not mention the church or pastor by name until you have taken steps #2 through #4 below.
2) Approach the pastor directly and privately with your concerns about his errant teachings.
3) If the pastor refuses to listen (and refuses to drop his heretical teachings) find some other biblically sound, wise souls in your congregation (preferably elders or deacons or board members) and again approach your pastor, together.
4) If all else fails, and your pastor/elders/deacons/board still refuse to listen, leave the church. This is especially important if you are married and/or have children. The man is to be the spiritual head of the home. What you believe/where you attend will have a huge impact on the beliefs of your wife and children.
5) Once you have truly done all you can do in your local church – and have left it – you are at liberty to speak out and blog in every way possible against Spiritual Formation and Emerging/Emergent/Emergence teachings. Without a doubt, you will lose many friends in your former church(es). But it is worth it, to rescue even one soul from these heretical teachings.
Note – Emerging/Emergents often accuse biblically sound, “fundamentalist” Christians of being divisive, hateful, etc. The reality is, they are totally avoiding the real issue. The real issue is, Emerging/Emergents are infiltrating colleges, seminaries, youth groups and churches, spreading their false teachings. Our “divisive” reaction is merely a defense of the biblically sound teachings of our born again denominational heritage, and a defense of The Fundamentals of 1910-1915.
You need to speak out or blog about your former church and/or denomination. I know this is a hard step, but the Bible commands us to confront, rebuke and expose false teachers; I have addressed this in several other blogs – click here for one of them. Unfortunately, most biblically sound Christians who leave an apostate church or denomination never speak out against its heretical teachings.
If your former church is the only church involved with Emerging/Emergent/Emergence teachings, you can ask your denominational leaders for help in confronting its pastor. This is important, to keep the teachings from spreading to other churches in the denomination.
It is more likely that the denomination is already infiltrated with Emerging/Emergent/Emergence teachings. And it is very likely that these teachings are being openly encouraged by the denomination’s highest officials (such is the case with the Nazarene Church denomination). In this case, you need to speak out and blog about the denomination, encouraging every member to leave the denomination immediately. These people need to find a truly Bible believing denomination elsewhere – again, for the sake of their families.
In my mind, there is nothing wrong with confronting your former denomination. This is like an ex-Catholic confronting Catholicism, or an ex-Mormon confronting Mormonism, or an ex-Jehovah’s Witness confronting the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Emerging/Emergent/ Emergence movements are no different from cults. In fact, they are becoming more and more cultic, more and more New Age-ish, less and less “Christian.”
6) For encouragement in your endeavors, you need to befriend other born again, biblically sound Christians who are concerned about the Emerging/Emergent/Emergence movements. If you are reading this post, you probably already have a network of friends (on Facebook and elsewhere) that are supportive of you in opposing these heresies.
7) Now that you are a man or woman without a church home, you need to look for a local church or Christian fellowship – even if it is a gathering of only a few individuals. (To paraphrase, as Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst.”) You will be hard pressed to find a local evangelical church that is not getting sucked into Emerging/Emergent/Emergence teachings. But believe it or not, there still are biblically sound churches out there – don’t give up looking. Perhaps a theologically conservative, independent church that does not label itself as “evangelical” – the label “evangelical” has become practically synonymous with “Emerging.” Here are some of the traits I look for in a pastor:
* He has a biblically sound doctrinal statement for his church – and sticks to its teachings.
* He places utmost priority on the gospel message – the preaching of salvation through the atonement of our Saviour Jesus Christ. (I call this the preaching of The Blood and The Cross). Any pastor who does not place utmost priority on this is not worthy to call himself a man of God.
* He uses the King James Version (and the Masoretic Old Testament and the Textus Receptus New Testament). There will be many who disagree with me on this, but in these times of widespread heresy, I believe we need a sure foundation in God’s Word.
* He places high priority on witnessing and evangelism.
* He is not afraid to name names and confront false teachers – in every movement including the Emerging/Emergent/Emergence movements.
* He is not afraid to separate himself from Emerging/Emergent/Emergence individuals, or Catholics, or theological liberals, or interfaith proponents, or any other so-called Christians compromising God’s Word. And he encourages his church members to separate themselves from such individuals.
One final note for now. Although I do not consider myself a dispensationalist, there is much we can learn from IFB (Independent Fundamentalist Baptists). Their teachings on “primary separation” and “secondary separation” come to mind. Although this teaching seems harsh, I believe it is through these separation teachings that IFBs have, for the most part, avoided getting sucked into the Emerging/Emergent/Emergence movements.
One of the IFB writers I greatly admire is David Cloud. There will be those who disagree with me, but personally I believe he is a very balanced, discerning, biblically sound Baptist. He has written a great deal on various heresies, including the Emerging/Emergent/Emergence movements. Here is his website:
Here is another great blog on the subject of leaving your heretical Emerging/Emergent church. The blog was written by Manny Silva: