Monday, August 16, 2010

Is a New Church Denominationalism Emerging? Part 2

When I first became an evangelical Christian back in the early 80's a large majority within evangelical churches believed the Word of God as the inerrant and infallible word of God to be received and believed. Today that is changing and that even among evangelical churches and many Christian Universities. I wonder how many today believe in a literal 6 day creation as the bible declares. Surprisingly more and more evangelicals seem to keep embracing evolution as biblically based and acceptable regardless of what the bible says.

One General Superintendent said the following when I wrote and complained about a professor who is teaching evolution at one of our Christian Universities. “The difficulty we face is that we must make place for a wide range of views regarding these matters within the Church of the Nazarene. We do insist on the authority of Scripture. While we may differ regarding some of the interpretations of creation and human origins, we must not differ in regard to the reliability of Scripture”.

I know one thing for certain this statement does not hold water to defend the faith well, if at all. I say that in all due respect. Granted it is just one small portion of a 3 page letter, but we cannot have such a wide spectrum on such a crucial issue as creation and the first 3 chapters of the bible. When our general leaders don’t want to declare clearly what a denomination believes in a certain area then we open wide the floodgate for multiple views that bring crisis and confusion and we will quickly be headed for trouble.

I ask why we do we have to make place for such a wide range of views regarding the interpretation of creation and human origins? This type of answer I believe is the beginning of more of the same in the post modern culture and it will likely get worse before the return of Christ.

Do you remember when believers actually carried the Word of God with them to church and bible studies? Christians used to actual follow along and let the word speak to them while it was being preached and taught. Folks back then made notes in their bibles and wrote things in the margins. Heaven and hell were real places (still are), people knew how to find passages in the bible and folks actually cared about doctrine and had opinions about what they believed the bible taught. Being born again was essential as well as being spirit filled while awaiting the return of Christ and believing the end of the age was soon.

The difference then was what distinct doctrines one might believe from the inerrant Word of God different from the other believers in other denominations. Doctrine mattered because it determined how you lived your life, raised your family and how you lived and died. Now doctrine almost seems to be the last concern on folk’s minds as we become shallow in the name of tolerance. Since we are a tolerant society of so many harmful and objective things in life, tolerating doctrine that is objectionable can also be tolerated in the name of unity, friendships and personal self satisfying preferences about any given church. The following reply from someone from my Part 1 post I found to be enlightening, transparent and confirming and allowed for reprint for my part 2 post.


You wrote: “It seems that the new denominationalism may very well be defined by who is biblical or not. Since emergent proponents seem to have slithered into churches of all denominations changing not only methodologies but also scripture meaning and theological understanding of the scriptures. It now becomes harder to find continuity through what denominations use to provide in sameness of doctrine, worship and even programs. Finding those who just simply believe the bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God alone seems to be a more important common denominator than what label the church has or the group it is associated with.”

As I thought about your email, I wandered back in my memory (I know, dangerous) to a time when my wife and I were looking for a church after being uprooted from my home church – where my dad was pastor. We were so theologically ignorant that we had a difficult time finding a church, for many of the same reasons you state. However, we did end up in a Christian & Missionary Alliance church.

After moving from that area to the Carolinas, we began our search again. We ended up at a church that could seat 6,600 people. It was non-denominational. After some pastoral changes there, which we were not in favor of, we left and went to another non-denominational church. This one was probably 500 to 1,000 members over multiple services. This church now holds five worship services over the weekend with thousands of members.

Again, we moved away from that area into a suburb of Charlotte. The only “big” churches in the area were Baptist. We went there because we needed a place for our teenage son to connect. What we looked for in a church was also different than what we would look for now. And that is where I believe the difference is found.

What drew us to these non-denominational churches? Programs for kids and teens, great preaching, and exciting worship. What kept us at these non-denominational churches? Nothing! There was no glue that kept us there. Eventually the glamour and excitement wore off. The lack of holiness preaching led to a lifestyle of “sinning in thought, word, and deed” on a daily basis. We were powerless!

For many, Church has become just another entertainment outlet. People don’t come to learn more than they do to socialize, be entertained, to be seen, to make themselves feel good about doing some social justice project, or to have their consciences eased in “thinking” that their kids and teens are well cared for. “Corporate church” is the norm now, and that ideology seems to be killing smaller, holiness-oriented churches. Add the “emergent movement” to this mix, and the local holiness church is impotent to defend itself against the tidal wave of feel-good theology. Denominations are imploding over internal issues. Non-denominational churches are temporarily thriving as people jettison their faithfulness to their denomination of choice. The “common denominators” that held denominations together are now being challenged by the rapid growth of non-denominational churches.

Yet, I remain optimistic. I personally believe it is in these times that we must remain firm to the message of heart-holiness and to preach it all the more. It is, I believe, the pathway through which God builds his church. Why? Because heart-holiness is centered on the love of God that fills us. Programs will come and go, new and faddish tools will excite people for a time, but in the end it is one-on-one relationships built on the love of Christ that will prevail. These relationships will carry the day when all of the glitz and glamour fade.

Relationships are key to weathering the storms that are here and now and the ones yet on the horizon. If the community of faith is not building relationships, then it will cease to exist or at least cease to impact the community in which it resides. We may not now impact thousands of lives every weekend, but the ones which God has given to our care will be best served by our confidence in the message of heart-holiness”.

Today is a different day for sure. People shop for churches like a new car, verses praying about what God wants them to do and where to serve others. When did looking for a church based on what a church believed stop? Since we are a consumer culture, folks look for programs, music, comfortable size congregations, service time options, friends, and a great communicator in a pastor and then maybe doctrine.

Many do not realize it yet, but there is a new agenda (doctrine) moving through all religious circles today including the evangelical church. It is being formed by governments, government controlled educational systems, media, political leaders and social reformers. It's a Social Gospel that uses buzz words like social justice, living justice, emergent, emerging, missional, compassion, green, environmentalism, mystic, ancient faith, paths, relational tithe, prophetic Imagination etc.

Its agenda is to transform and save the world and redeem the earth and its people collectively. Many new words within Evangelical Christianity are popping up through sermons, books and publishing house curriculum. Deconstruction and reconstruction of words and terms are happening all in the name of post modernism and emerging relativism. This is happening on many fronts beyond just religion as well, but especially there as many claim we are on the dawn of a new reformation and the revolution is coming into a new global environment. Truly a one world government agenda will require the cooperation and convergence of many groups around the world including all religious sects to come together in some form of harmony.

Recently I was reviewing a new National Geographic magazine called “Water”. The whole magazine was about how people use water and how much they use, waste and pollute. It mentioned how hard some tribes and people in different lands can’t get water. If you looked at the magazine as a whole it has an agenda. The agenda is propagating the fear of lack based on projections of the world’s population growth. It is written in such a way to cause the reader to see the world and its people and water supplies from a one world perspective to solve problems and its forthcoming programs.

I am not trying to be insensitive to people groups of other nations and lands who have water problems. It’s just that each country, each area, each location needs to work and seek solutions as it can. However, a one world government and its perspective is being painted now to condition a generation in their youth to look at everything as a whole and the best way to get folks to look that way is through all the religions of the world getting on the same page by way of teaching a social agenda for solutions.

Within Christianity this agenda is painted as a “Emergent Church” or “new gospel” or a “Social Gospel” where people are presented to solve the bigger picture as a whole. In the past the emphasis has always been on transforming the individual and now it is about transforming the society or a community as the whole. Jesus and the Gospel writers warned about what would happen in the last days before the return of Christ. They warned there would be false Christ, false teachers and false prophets. They would be ever learning and never attaining the truth. They would slip in among the believers like wolves in sleeps clothing.

So what does this have to do with a new denominationalism? Today it is all about the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL. Folks will need to ask themselves in these last days, is the church they attend a bible believing and proclaiming church? They will have to discern the spirit of the church and look past programs, music, buildings, locations and personalities and look for bible believing people with the true gospel and beware of this new social gospel.

If church leaders are solid then they will stick to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If they are whitewashed with “another gospel” agenda then you will still find truth here and there, but it is likely polluted with a different agenda as well. The new agenda is all about transforming the culture, the community, the environment and the planet and helping folks along the way get help for their problems. It's a warped kingdom now position that many believe will eventually help usher in the Savior. The great commission has always been and always will be about going and making disciples. Yes we are to do deeds of kindness along the way by visiting the sick, those in jail and giving a cup of cold water in Jesus name. But we do it all with the soul and repentance in mind and not just for the acts of compassion alone as the end result of fulfillment.

Finding a church where the Cross of Christ is lifted up and Jesus is proclaimed and the blood of Christ is pleaded and prayed over folks may soon be a forgotten gospel among a shrinking remnant if the masses of professing Christians do not discern the times with the Word of God.

Many pulpits have become nothing more than a Jesus flavored self help pep talk with scriptures peppered in here and there to flavor there topical messages of the hour. Rarely do we here of people mourning over their sins and confessing unto true repentance. Many of our churches have become centers of entertainment verses a holiness people of worship with a fresh anointing from on high with power. Sermons are becoming more illustrated with the latest skits and movie clips to identify with the culture than introducing the lost culture to the Gospel of Jesus Christ with His timeless relevant truth that still speaks through the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe we must use multimedia as a tool that this present generally relates to, but not so much that we do not rely solely on the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately I perceive that a New Denominationalism will not be about which doctrine you believe as much as which Gospel you receive. That may be a new thought to many, but it certainly was not to the early apostles. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that, which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed”. Now those are some stern words for us as well and especially the clergy who will answer for what we do with the Word of God in teaching and proclaiming.

Doctrine is important and far from secondary, but the shift that is emerging today is a shift from proclaiming a personal message of hope and holiness to transform lives to a message of cultural redemption and mandates to save the world as a whole. “Another Gospel” is the self help message that conveys all that God wants to do for you.

People need to know the true gospel from "another gospel" or they may be sweep away into the cultural vortex of social reform at the expense of their own souls.

I never dreamed 20 years ago when Jesus said in Luke 18:8 "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" how this could be possible. With multimedia with its repetitive emotional impact ability deception seems far easier in the hands of the misguided, deceived and wicked than I ever could have imagined.

What does this imply about the final days before His appearing? If you find yourself looking for a church in the future you should seek God's divine guidance and throw all the marketing mandates out the window. Listen to the voice of God with your bible in one hand while maintaining a careful listening ear to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. He promised to lead His people into all truth and He who saves is faithful to the end.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Is a New Church Denominationalism Emerging? Part 1

A New Denominationalism!

A few weeks ago I attended a two day conference at Northland a church distributed in longwood, FL. I was at a Dave Ramsey sponsored conference called Momentum. At the conference there were about 50 in attendance. It was truly a great conference. I was the only one there along with a layman from my church that was from a Church of the Nazarene. Many were from different denominations and many others from non-denominational ministries.

At lunch I meet a pastor from a local church that runs 1500 between two campuses (churches). He and I discovered we both had the same theological understanding of the scriptures (Wesleyan / Armenian). Earlier I asked someone working at the conference questions about the host pastor and found out he was Methodist in his earlier training days even though he was now an independent pastor of a church running around 10,000 distributed. When a denomination name is drop It becomes a source of identity or at least it use too.

While having lunch on the second day the other pastor and I spoke about what we believed and talked about the host church and its beliefs as much as we thought we knew. Since the host church was independent then the theological belief system about the church we presumed were initially determined by the senior pastor. At least in its original formative years we would assume.

After the conference the gentleman from my church and I decided we wanted to experience a worship service at Northland. We ended up attending their Monday night worship service and it was packed. As I sat there having never heard the pastor speak before or even read about what Northland believed I wondered why all these people came here and what drew them. Was it the music, the pastor, the location, the programs or a combination of several, or could it be doctrinal clarity?

I could not determine what their doctrine was by association with a denomination because they were independent. The message was biblically sound, but his style was very different( more teacher )from how I preach and it ended without a clear invitation. People were invited to pray up front, but no specific “place” to really connect and pray was defined. I never observed anyone carrying a bible to church and nobody looked in their own bible while the scriptures were being listed on the screens from what I could tell. Searching the scriptures was not encouraged or even time given for folks to follow along if they had their own bibles. The chairs were like those of a movie theater and there were no books or bibles anywhere accept in the bookstore for purchase. To give a donation, you had to do such on your own in the foyer by credit card, check or cash.

I felt comfortable as if was at a hotel or mall, but it never really felt like a church in so many other familiar ways that I am use to. It was not that I was against it, but it just felt like any other modern everyday cultural building so that it felt normal.

So I ask, is Church supposed to feel culturally normal? Some would say yes and others no. I see Jesus as someone who leads folks to be counter cultural in so many ways and since our culture is far less Christian than 50 or more years ago I got to wonder where we are headed as the church both theologically and practically in the developed world.

In days past denominations helped you identity who believed the same doctrines, had similar styles of worship, etc, etc. In this post modern society I am not sure those same rules apply anymore or at least less frequently now then in the past. I suppose with the internet many people can check out a church well before deciding to attend an actual service. A few years ago while on vacation our family was trying to decide where to attend a local church service. Since there were not any Nazarene churches close to us I began a search online. It was very hard to decide on a church since we were looking for a holiness theologically based church over style of worship or programs.

Most of the churches were either too far left denominationally (theologically) for us to want to attend, so I started searching for the non categorized churches (non denominational). I finally found one church that seemed interesting, but very little about their doctrine was listed. We ventured out and worshipped in a building that was a former theater turned into church. The worship music was good and the preacher was good. After the service they offered a free CD to visitors of the message. On the way out I introduced myself to the pastor and mentioned I was a pastor as well who was on vacation. When I asked him what his theological background was he refused to answer directly. He kept saying we are non denominational. I told him I understood that, but just wanted to know where he stood theologically as either Calvinist or Wesley Armenian or maybe something other.

He did not answer me directly and kept saying no doctrinal position on such. I thanked him and walked to the car. My wife and I spoke about how he took a position by not declaring one through his refusal to state what he believed. Doctrine is so crucial because eventually it does carry over in our belief system at some level of growth within the church life of any church.

It seems that the new denominationalism may very well be defined by who is biblical or not. Since emergent proponents seem to have slithered into churches of all denominations changing not only methodologies but also scripture meaning and theological understanding of the scriptures. It now becomes harder to find continuity through what denominations use to provide in sameness of doctrine, worship and even programs. Finding those who just simply believe the bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God alone seems to be a more important common denominator than what label the church has or the group it is associated with.

Part 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why is The House Studio promoting Shane Claiborne and Relational Tithing?

      Many within the Church of the Nazarene may not be aware yet but there is a new Publishing arm of NPH. I have not read all the books, but I have read one so far and to be quite honest that was more than enough if that is the taste of books to come. After reviewing the titles and some of the content of the other few books I can see a theme coming forward and it is not holiness of heart and life. The House Studio is building there “House” foundation on sand as a message of a social gospel is emerging.
                 Recently I discovered two more books on their website by the name of “Economy of Love”. Subtitle is, Creating a Community of Enough by Relational Tithe; video sessions with Shane Claiborne.

Having been aware that Shane is a social gospel advocate who runs with the social liberal left emergent crowd, I was just blown away that NPH is allowing these type of heretical authors and messages to come forward.

Why I am so alarmed? I wish I did not have to write what I am about to write, but biblical justice must be expressed by someone who sees a fire burning in “The House”. Shane Claiborne is misguiding from the original intent of many scriptures and stories to support his own personal agenda to end poverty.  If this book and video material is taught to a fairly substantial amount of people in our churches many more problems will be forthcoming and eventually the message of Holiness with be a twisted social gospel only fitting well into the landscape of a social form government. 

    Those who are running The House Studio are either blind, ignorant, deceived or aligned with a different gospel other than that which NPH was built on. Shane Claiborne is so confused and biblically misguided it is amazing that the Nazarene church would even associate with his name let alone his videos.

One of Shane’s quotes is “rebirth demands redistribution”. This just does not settle well with my spirit or the biblical teaching of tithes or offerings.  Since the term ‘Relational Tithe’ is not in the bible as well it being a new term to me, I had to go research what it meant and found a video by Shane describing it.

Please watch his video for yourself with a bible in one hand and your finger on the pause button and really listen to what this yahoo is really teaching the next generation. If ‘The House Studio’ is trying to cause a revolution with provocative speakers and writers like Shane Claiborne then they have a mission accomplished with me.  If I and our local churches were to adopt Shane’s anti biblical philosophy of ‘relational tithing’ along with the entire denomination then headquarters will shut down soon for lack of funds.

Shane says, “100% of the tithe goes directly to meet the needs of those relationally connected”.   This is biblical incorrect. The tithe was originally designated to go to the priest:

 "Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our [grain] offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. Nehemiah 10:37

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3:10

And unto the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, even the service of the tent of meeting. Numbers 18:21

Shane also teaches that the early church eliminated poverty using the text Acts 4:32-35
The truth is that that scripture was referencing the body of Christ sharing as needs arouse among the brotherhood in the church and not the entire population of all people around them as Shane implies.

“Once we really discovered how to love our neighbor as our self capitalism as we know it won’t be possible and Marxism won’t be necessary”.  Shane Claiborne.

Shocked again by the another  liberal release coming from “The House Studio”.