I’m not liberal or emergent.

I preached a sermon a few weeks ago on the topic of Jesus. Pretty good topic. Two people were saved after the service, had several visitors and our church plant is growing. Sadly, the story doesn’t end there. After several unnamed critics saw the video podcast, they resorted to name calling and slander. While I normally never mention or give credence to these peeps, I had already planned preaching this sermon on the Emergent Church and Liberalism.

To show Biblically where I stand on the issue, and to cover the broad topic of the Emergent Church & the issues that separate us from false churches & movements that still claim to be Bible believing; and in preparation for my sermon on the topic, here is a short rebuttal and theologically sound answer to the claims that I am Emergent or Liberal.

Truth to be told, there is always someone more conservative or liberal than ourselves, so I stay out of spitting contest like these ones; but as the material your about to read is what we used this week for our small group handouts, I decided I would also post this here. Enjoy!

“Truth is not optional nor is it fuzzy. Truth comes directly from God and it is contained in the Bible. Everything must conform itself to the Scriptures or it will not stand at all.” -D.A. Carson 

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Basically, I am a cool, hip, relevant,  Iphone using,  jean wearing, goatee sporting, lovin’ Jesus and preachin’ the gospel church planter.

Nope…not liberal. Not Emergent.

You can be young (I am 27), passionate about Jesus Christ (totally sold-out), surrounded by diversity (Detroit), engaged in a postmodern world (culture), reared in evangelicalism (5th Generation Pastors’ Kid) and not be an Emergent Christian. In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.

The Emergent Church is a strong voice in Christian community. They’re talking about good things: caring for the poor, peace for all men, loving Jesus. They’re doing church a new way, not content to fit the mold. Again, all good. But there’s more to the movement than that. Much more. I am a guy, who demographically, should be all over this movement. But I am not. There are solid reasons why from both a theological and practical perspective not to be. Sadly, if you are different…you are labeled liberal. This is far from the truth. So here I go diagnosing the emerging church to help you see for yourself what it’s all about.

Matthew 16:15 “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The Church is not my church or your church…. it is God’s Church, it is Christ Church. Yet today, many call themselves the church, many call themselves the truth, many say they are Bible believers but obviously they are not. The Mormon church says they are the true church, they are not. The Catholic church & the Orthodox church says they are the true church, but what they preach contradicts what the Book says so they are not. We then come to todays era where many churches (many emergent churches) have left denominations and have proclaimed that they are the true church, but they have little or no beliefs so they can’t be the truth.

How does one today separate truth from falsehood and what truly is the right church?What determines what is truth and fallacy? What is liberal and what is conservative? Is it in a denomination? Is it in a building? Is by following a preacher or set of preachers? Bible college? etc. The answer is no.

The truth about the real church & truth is found alone in the Bible. 

To understand this issue I must explain some terms as groundwork. I am a Bible believing Christian. Theologians would categorize myself as an Evangelical or conservative evangelical because I believe the Bible is our highest authority. Evangelicalism is then the term used to describe all of Christendom or the broad family of God here in the world today. To be an evangelical you would ascribe to these beliefs:

Evangelical Beliefs

The need for personal conversion (or being “born again”)
Actively expressing and sharing the gospel
A high regard for Biblical Authority, especially Biblical Inherency
An emphasis on teachings that proclaim the saving death and subsequent resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

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The term evangelical has its etymological roots in the greek word for gospel or good news: ευαγγελιον (evangelion), from eu- “good” and angelion “message.” In that sense, to be evangelical would mean to be a believer in the gospel, and that it is the message of Jesus Christ. This faith that we preach and believe comes all the way from the time of Christ. There is a line or succession for the faith that we believe. By the time of the reformation theologians began to embrace the term evangelical as referring to “gospel truth”. Martin Luther referred to the evangelical church to distinguish Protestants and other Bible believers from Catholics.

In Todays world, Evangelicalism is filled with different Evangelical Groups: 

Conservative or Classic Evangelicals: Theologically conservative, socially conservative, lifestyle conservative, economically conservative. John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrims Progress is an example of this. Modest, missionary, preacher, Jesus dude!

Fundamentalist Evangelicals: These guys reject liberal theology (good) but heavily focus on separation from the world to the extreme (bad). Extremes in almost every area. Ultra conservative branch of evangelicals.

Neo-Evangelicalism: A mood of positivism and non-militancy is characterized by this movement. The new generation of evangelicals set as their goals to abandon a militant Bible stance. Instead, they would pursue dialogue, intellectualism, non-judgmentalism, and appeasement. They further called for an increased application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas. Good Theologians are not happy with this new direction. John Macarthur has termed it “the apostasy within evangelicalism.”

Ecumenical Evangelicalism: They are concerned about social acceptance and intellectual respectability, and are trying too accommodate a perverse generation that needed correction by friending them instead of correcting them. This is the Billy Graham crusades with the Catholic priests at the altar side.

Post-Modern Evangelicalism (Emergent): These guys believe the movement transcends such “modernist” labels of “conservative” and “liberal,” calling the movement a “conversation” to emphasize it’s developing and decentralized nature, it’s vast range of standpoints, and it’s commitment to dialogue. (Lets all talk, no real truth to be sure of.) It’s guys in the back of a yugo on pot trying to answer the problems of the world.

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In our team, our family of evangelicals; however, there has been a split from good theology to liberalism. Many seeing the fundy’s acting all weird and such, run away from it all. I say no. Just because someone in your family does wrong everyone doesn’t go change their last name even though maybe you might want to. We still need to stand on good sound theological premise and be obedient to the Bible.

Here’s the deal today, the lines or lanes of the church are not always clearly marked. The lanes of evangelicals have become marred. So what my goal to do today is clearly mark them for you. I have friends & enemies in these lanes and I have some people I strongly disagree with in these lanes. I pray that as you see the differences you will be strengthened in your faith to obey God and continue to grow according to the Bible.

5 Big Lanes of the Church

Missional with No Seat Belt (Seeker Churches): Theses guys are interested in updating worship styles, preaching styles and church leadership structure as so to be relevant to the post modern culture of today. The problem is they don’t place much emphasis on doctrine or separation. They might have lady pastors, or even lean charismatic in many areas. I would disagree with them on those subjects. They’re goal is to reach people at any cost. This is the seeker movement. They are good guys, I love them, but disagree on some issues in the church with them. No drive by shootings on these guys, no we will not egg their house…they are alright. A little funky, but ok. Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Erin McMancus, & Dan Kimball are some examples.

House Church: These guys don’t like church or any of the forms of church. They are dissatisfied with church structure and organization so they have church at home. They seek informal, “organic church” forms. They overlook the Bible teaching of small groups during the week and all together on Sunday. Instead they want food, discussion, small cells…instead of preaching, church, Sunday worship. I love these guys but they are missing out on God’s baby-the church. They are running a bed and breakfast when God told us to 24/7 hospital. Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch just to name two popular guys in this lane. Most of these guys are just disgruntled christians overreacting to mega church trend.

Emergent or Liberal: These guys range from Liberal (on the theological fringe) to heresy. Some of these guys are questioning hell, the virgin birth, the authority of Scriptures, not sure about salvation alone in Christ. etc. Tony Jones, Doug Pagits, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Crefflo Dollar, Brian McLaren & Rob Bell. These guys mix false doctrine with truth and concoct heresy. They want to ask questions about the Bible. Now I am all for you asking questions when you are trying to learn. But theses guys are asking questions like the devil asked questions: “Hath God said?” Did God really say that? Did God mean this instead of that? Albert Mohler who is the president of the Souther Baptist Theological Seminary said of the Emergent Movement: “It simply refuses to answer the questions.”

Fundies (Fundamentalist): These guys mean well. They love Jesus and are really serious about it! I love and know alot of fundies. I used to be one. A fundy is someone that takes themselves more serious than God. They are very pharisaical, very rules based and no fun at all. These are guys in Bible college that got a wedgy and didn’t get the joke. They add things to Bible and ignore other things in the Bible. I know Fundies that preach against all forms of dancing, but the Bible has dancing in it. Fundies would say because there is wickedness on tv…don’t own a tv, dont go to movies, don’t listen to any music but Christian hymns, don’t ever and I mean ever disagree with me or else you are just a liberal. There are some ok fundies and some crazy fundies and some ridiculous fundies. Some bad fundies would be those that preach against interracial marriages and against adoption. Others would include those that preach that to go heaven you have to be saved out a KJV bible and baptized in a Baptist Church.  These guys are nuts over little things that the Bible says nothing against: service times, Bible versions, clothing style, cultural music, church names, ladies in pants. etc. Some in this group go as far as to boycott companies, preach sermons & have conferences that blast other churches. The list is long here: Jack Hyles, BJU, Peter Ruckman, Bible Briders & J. Frank Norris just to name a few.

And lastly there is Missional Reformed, it is last and it is my lane so it must be right. 🙂

Missional Reformed: Classic, Conservative, theologically fundamental, Orthodox, Bible highest authority guys. We use different methods to reach lots of people with the same message. The message never changes but the methods do. We love the protestant reformation, we love Baptist and Baptistic history & distinctives. We love the cry of the reformers “semper reformanda” (always reforming!). We love the 5 solas. We love the gospel! Conservative on doctrine, open to new ideas and new styles to reach others, but passionate about truth.

We love guys like Polycarp, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Moody, Spurgeon, Packer, the young Billy Graham, Ed Stetzer, Tim Keller, John Piper, John Macauther, Mark Driscoll & Matt Chandler just to name a few. We love the puritans like Jonathan Edwards to whom I was named after. Who you are named after tells you what team your on.

This group leans baptistic, has guys that are Baptist, Independent Baptist, some Southern Baptist, Reformed, and Bible churches. These guys are all about reaching the World, but doing by the Book. We might disagree on some things, but we are on the same team and we will pinch hit for each other.

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In conclusion: Acts 2:42 says “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” and Acts 5:42 says  “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

According to this verse, the purposes/activities of the church should be 1) teaching Biblical doctrine, 2) providing a place of fellowship for believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, and 4) praying.

We see the mission for the church to evangelize in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

My mission is to please the Lord and lift Him high. I don’t pretend to know everything, but what the Bible says so clearly…we should not debate and that is exactly what the Emergent Movement is about. Likewise, what is not in the Bible should not be proclaimed as truth (the only method/way) as many fundies have done in recent days.

Let us be all for Christ and obedient to Him. Bible centered, Gospel preaching and Christ honoring!

I’m not liberal or emergent.

let the redeemed speak louder,

pastor jon

“Mark you, in proportion as the modern theology is preached the vice of this generation increases. To a great degree I attribute the looseness of the age to the laxity of the doctrine preached by its teachers. From the pulpit they have taught the people that sin is a trifle. From the pulpit these traitors to God and to his Christ have taught the people that there is no hell to be feared. A little, little hell, perhaps, there may be; but just punishment for sin is made nothing of. The precious atoning sacrifice of Christ has been derided and misrepresented by those who were pledged to preach it. They have given the people the name of the gospel, but the gospel itself has evaporated in their hands.

From hundreds of pulpits the gospel is as clean gone as the dodo from its old haunts; and still the preachers take the position and name of Christ’s ministers. Well, and what comes of it? Why, their congregations grow thinner and thinner; and so it must be. Jesus says, “Follow me, I will make you fishers of men;” but if you go in your own way, with your own net, you will make nothing of it, and the Lord promises you no help in it.

The Lord’s directions make himself our leader and example. It is, “Follow me, follow me. Preach my gospel. Preach what I preached. Teach what I taught, and keep to that.” With that blessed servility which becomes one whose ambition it is to be a copyist, and never to be an original, copy Christ even in jots and tittles. Do this, and he will make you fishers of men; but if you do not do this, you shall fish in vain.” -C.H. Spurgeon

Books I read and recommend about the subject & used for this subject:

“Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe” by Driscoll & Breshears

“Moody’s Handbook of Theology”

“Faith Undone” by Roger Oakland

“Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be” by DeYoung & Kluck

“Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications”  by  D. A. Carson

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10 Comments

Filed under Theological Articles

10 responses to “I’m not liberal or emergent.

  1. taylorhersh

    Interesting post. I had always thought of myself as a fundamentalist but after some recent associations made with some who would call themselves fundamentalist I am not so sure about that label. I guess I am at the point now where labels are just dangerous. Thanks for your thoughts and the time you put into this post.

  2. Neil

    Best line in your post: “Let us be all for Christ and obedient to Him. Bible centered, Gospel preaching and Christ honoring!”

    I am not much for movements, or labeling our brand as IFB. Although I do see where some themes are Biblical. I believe the practical and important emphasis Jesus place on people were saved or unsaved, righteous or unrighteous. I do not concern myself with anything else.

    Some movements are no better than the Pharisees movements of the past. These have always added to the Law. For example the Pharisees knew it was unlawful for a man to travel from his home on the Sabbath, but they instituted their own rules that said they could walk ten steps from their property or take a bag a dirt with them when they travel and sprinkle it under their feet every ten feet to be home again. Fundamentalists have taken the law of modesty and placed ultra conservative ideals to it that some preachers have called for no facial hair on men, and hair bonnets on women.

    We need to make sure we never change Biblical principles, but if it is just a personal preference it can be changed. Enough said.

  3. James Washburn

    I love you bro but Matt Chandler is cautiously Charasmatic reformed as he himself put it, as I now am. Like the article disagree with some of it on Emerging Church but overall good stuff. Leave some denominational “labels” off which would personally make me happy but that’s where I stand, you dont have to:) i know for a fact you are not a liberal, you are normal, and following Jesus example in the middle of culture. Good article to get minds thinking. Thinking puts us out of our comfort zone where many don’t like to be. Keep following Jesus and who cares what the scorners think! God bless!

  4. James Washburn

    Just so you know I’m for you and change!!

  5. I would never have considered you liberal or emergent until you mentioned you use and iphone and sport a ghotee! I will personally purchase you an Android, a razor, and a KJV Bible in hope to bring you back to the fundamentals. In the meantime I’ll pray hard for you to repent.

    Ha! Jon, you know that I too am a PK and my philosophies different from some of the dogmatism of my upbringing. I have sat at tables, had phone calls, and chatted online for hours over philosophies and methods in which I differed with people about. In the end I found it strange that both parties; I and the other, were actively serving Jesus Christ, bringing people to repentance, and nurturing disciples, yet we still found things to disagree on. It was at that point that I wondered what “fundamentals” are the “fundamentalists” holding to? I do consider myself a “fundamentalist” because I stand on the unshakable truth of Jesus Christ being the way, the truth, and the life; but, I don’t call myself a fundamentalist because of the cloud created around those that do… a cloud which screams dogmatic and irrelevant. This does not mean I call myself emergent or liberal… I call myself a Christian.. a Christ Follower.

    You will never make every person happy. The greatest question for you to ask is “Am I making Jesus happy?” If that answer is yes, then let the pharisees say what they want to say, truth will rise in the end.

  6. Thanks for the comments & emails so far. The point I want to make clear is the reason for the article itself….a liberal or an emergent church is someone that is leaving the doctrine or straying from Biblical truth. A liberal is not someone that dresses different or has a band.

    Many blessings to all. Thanks for the kind words & let’s lift Jesus high!

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