Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Word association – Emergent verses Biblical Holiness
I am not advocating a new denomination or a new group but I see the makings of one in progress by default. In January 2009 within a month of settling into my new home and pastorate in FL I received a packet mailed to: All Florida Pastors. Since it was not personal I was not in a hurry to open it, but because it was not junk mail I was not inclined to just throw it away since it had a steep price tag for postage on it. I thought, someone has something to say to send and spend this kind of money to all the Nazarene Pastors in Florida. So one night I opened it up and started reading this well thought out research. At first when I read the adverse comments about Rick Warren and his book “The Purpose Driven Church, I was inclined to shut it down, but I continued to read along anyway. After I finished the packet I was challenged to research and verify for myself that the info about the Emergent church move was true and more widespread than one might realize.
Since I hunger for the truth and desire to follow God in holiness and all His ways, I began doing exactly that: RESEARCH. The more I read the more alarmed I was and dismayed at how I had missed so much of what was happening within Evangelical Christianity in North America and within the Church of the Nazarene. Now some 18 months later I am far more keenly aware of not taking teachings for granted because others I trust say so. I try not to be a skeptic on everything that is said or written either. I truly do measure more diligently then ever all things against the Word of God. I am ashamed to say, but I will confess that I was truly buying into things as a postmodernist without balancing it out with the Word of God.
I am thankful for the folks who spent the time and energy researching the Emergent Church movement because it helped touch this pastor's heart, and God used it to awaken me to the deception that is happening in the church on multiple fronts with regards to doctrine and teachings. Finding a balance without becoming an alarmist or extremist is such a delicate balance as well.
As I reflect on the beginnings of the Church of the Nazarene I can see how God drew conservative holiness people together from different groups and parts of the country and other denominations to those who were like minded with His passion and purpose. Then within a short time The Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene was born and named such as it merged two large groups. Within a few short years controversy arose within the modern church of that day on the use and misuse of the gift of tongues. Before they knew it they had to define themselves as Nazarenes more clearly by in 1917 by dropping the name "Pentecostal" because it had become so strongly associated with those who said one HAD TO speak with tongues as an evidence of the Holy Spirit and being entirely sanctified believers. The word Pentecost or Pentecostal was never evil or bad, but the word association became more associated with a false understanding of the gifts of the Spirit, so much so that a change was made necessary.So today Emergent is associated in the same controversial manner.
So here we are as a denomination that has crossed the great barrier of 100 years of age as a group. We are 2 million members strong in 157 counties of the world with (officially) 47 Nazarene’s who have died for their faith as modern day martyrs. God is pouring out His Spirit and anointing preachers and workers around the world for some of the greatest harvests in the entire world. The mission is still great before us all and yet the Church of the Nazarene is being infected with distractions away from the focus of the great commission, and mostly so in the more civilized world and the strongest economic hub of the Church of the Nazarene (North America). A younger generation is growing up in our midst who are being polluted by the current liberal culture and mindset with another word association in the wrong path yet again. I find so many who embrace the new thinking called Emergent. Emergent is not a new word, but by association with many liberal thinkers, philosophies and writers it has indeed become associated with the liberal agenda more than a conservative holiness one. Likewise there are many words being used and redefined in ways of bringing about the deconstruction of the Church. My wife received her masters’ degree in social work back in the late 80’s. Her minor was in "social justice". Those two buzz words together, “social Justice”, are not new today at all, but yet amongst liberal thinkers and even within the political landscape it is being used and redefined and associated with a range from social work and environmentalism, to socialism.
I still embrace the Church of the Nazarene and still believe in the her biblical teaching of Holiness. I am concerned about what many are turning to and accepting as gospel , and especially so because of the new redefining of former terms and words in this post modern day. When I hear certain terms I try not to jump to conclusions but it is difficult. Those words and terms include, Emergent Church, emerging, Social Justice, post modernism, social restoration, mysticism, spiritual formation, meditation, among others that are being redefined today. It seems that when I read about and hear these words it does end up being a liberal or compromising situation and I either confront it with biblical truth or I need to withdraw and run the other way.
Trevecca Nazarene University last year added a Social Justice major that really concerns me. Not because serving justice to society is wrong, but because of the new association the terms mean in post modernism. Who are they attracting or will attract with that major? Will the liberal post modernist start enrolling? Or will Nazarene parents who are educating themselves and aware of the new word association run in another direction with their tuition money because they perceive a more liberal university than they desire? Personally I think TNU is hurting themselves to choice that term in the heat of the battle of word means and associations if they want to be associated as a conservative Biblical holiness university.
In these last days word association and terminology is vital and we need to be constantly clear with what we mean when we label and use terms so that we associate with biblical holiness and not the modern deconstruction of the holiness church and the ever increasing heretical liberalism.
As much as the early Nazarenes probably despised having to drop the name Pentecost from their official name in order to preserve biblical holiness in those early days, we Nazarenes may need to separate or re-associate a clearer term to progress and press forward with that ever lasting message of Holiness. Around the world these issues might seem trite and divisive and even the discussion might seem like a waste of time, but in the civilized world being clear about who we are and who we are not will be vastly important to who we will continue to be. If we are not clear we could easily end up in the mainline denominational camp that is the fastest declining segment of Christianity in the world. As it is now only 4% of Generation Y (under30) can even be found in churches each week in the U.S. The Emergent movement may be trying to become all things to a younger generation to win them, but winning them to a deconstructed church and Bible will gain us nothing for eternity.
So what terms we use and label ourselves with, and our ministries and efforts including in our colleges and universities, will truly determine who we will attract and become. May God grant us wisdom with the jargon we use and define ourselves. If this even means dropping terms and names such as “Pentecostal”, by all means let us do so that we might win the lost and preserve the message of holiness in these last days.