Roadmap for the Emergent Church

The title should read “Insurgent Church” for that is what is among us and has been ever since they first went out from us because they were not of us ( I John 2:19).

“’All the major religions of the western world went through massive internal upheavals during the last century [the 20th in the book], designed by the various church higher-ups to make the churches more appealing to the masses.  But the result was exactly the opposite.  Church attendance went on falling, so did vocations.  Only in smaller or more affluent communities were there any gains that may have lasted.  Now they blame education of the masses, they blame increased prosperity of the masses, they blame television, they blame slackened morals – you name it, they blame it.  There’s a bit of truth in it all.  But the chief blame lies within the churches themselves, for failing to be flexible, for changing outwardly while refusing to change inwardly, or for changing too late.  Many people had gained an awareness of their own intrinsic goodness, and maybe that came out of education, out of a broadening world.  People didn’t want to hear any more how evil they were, nor were their lives so grindingly poor that the prospect of living in paradise in the next life was all that kept them going in this one.  They had more, they wanted more, they felt entitled to more. In this life! Yet everyone betrayed them.  Their churches, by not even trying to understand what they needed.  Their governments, by curtailing their liberties, curbing their spending power, and subjecting them to all the nightmares of nuclear war threats.  That, incidentally, is where you’ll find if you dig, the only upsurges in church attendance – when the possibility of nuclear war increased.  But people shouldn’t have to turn to God out of fear!  They should turn to God as naturally as child turns to his mother’” (95-96)

“”I sat down with the poor wretch, and I talked.  I talked and I talked and I talked.  Trying to help him find the truth in understanding, and a God he could accept’” (168).

“’We agreed that we couldn’t put a religious [person] in this role [of new Messiah] because of two factors.  The first, that a brand of religion prejudices all those who don’t share that particular brand against the religious [person].  The second, that we are in the midst of a terminal failure of existing religions to grasp and hold the feelings and the minds of the people’” (172).

“’Most people are not convinced they’re wicked and won’t be convinced they’re wicked.  They live largely decent lives, and they’ve come to expect credit for that’” (174).

“’Organized churches are human institutions, and the best evidence for that is the fact that each and every one of them claims to be the only true church, the only God-guided church.  But the people for whom they exist these days are skeptical, and if they accept a church at all, it tends to be on their terms rather than the church’s’” (174).

“’If this man can offer the people a hope of divine purpose without railroading them into a formal religious persuasion they apparently don’t want, I can’t see the harm in it’” (266).

“’Find solace in God, though not necessarily in any formal religion’” (53).

The above quotes come from a novel by Colleen McCullough entitled A Creed for the Third Millennium.  If you recognize the author, it’s because she wrote The Thorn Bird: A popular novel of the 70s and a miniseries of the 80s by that name.  A Creed was written in 1985.  It’s a dystopian novel about the millennium we have recently begun.  It is prescient in that it saw the development of the outward church in 21st America.  It is prophesy after the fact in that dating, cohabitating, marrying the spirit of an age has always been the way of those who would redeem the times using the wisdom of men.

Go to any emergent churches website and you will find the spirit expressed in these quotes.  Institutional religion has wronged the people.  Doctrine divides; deeds unite.  We have to start from scratch.  Come to our church to talk about religion, God, Jesus, salvation, etc.  You’re opinion is as valid and as good as ours.  The sky isn’t falling; the church is and it’s time to panic, to try anything to get people into the pew, to pay the bills, to become successful.  They are “thinking outside the box” long, long after that expression had become cliché.

If our Lord remains the truth, and He does, if His Word remains sharp and living, and it does, then Matthew 9:36 is still true: there are still sheep out there harassed and helpless because they have no true shepherd.  The harvest is still plentiful and the labors are still few.  Rather than adopt the meliorist’s point of view adopt that of Matthew’s and pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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