Author's Note: The church is not a "thing."
It's an organism and not an organization. The church is a Living
Thing, having been given life by her Savior and Lord. The church is a Man
and at the same time, a Bride. It is a Body with living members,
each of whom is necessary to the health and function of the whole. Let's stop the depersonification, the reverse engineering of that which is
alive, breathes, feels, thinks, speaks into some kind of faceless,
heartless Automaton. Thanks for walking this way. Greg
are buzzwords inclusive to every stratum of society, every
organization, movement and conclave of man: There always have been.
Sadly, buzzwords and catchphrases seldom define anything with
clarity and accuracy.
nowhere is there as much potential abuse of “words”
than in the arena of spiritual life, eternity, “the church” and
years I have developed what I call “Austin’s Laws of Ministry.”
These are not exclusive to myself, but they are the important “laws”
I have observed over 38 years of walking with Jesus and of
ministering to people.
have two laws on my list. When I get smarter, I’ll add more, but for
now, these work for me. Law Number One is this: “People Aren’t
Stupid.” Law Number Two is: “Words Mean Things.”
Number Two that I want to bring into focus here. When
I was a pointy-headed theology student back in prehistoric times, my
professors were fond of repeating a sort of “mantra” to we students.
Over and over again until it was drilled into our mushy brains we
heard the command: “Define your terms.” In other words, “words mean
things” and we must be clear about how we use words and what
definition or meaning is assigned to them.
in point: Talk about “church” to any large group of people and ask
for individual meanings and understandings of the word. I’ve done
this exercise. It’s enlightening to discover how many disparate and
varied meanings a simple, single-syllable word can have.
we hear or use the term “Emerging Church”, we might rightly expect
to find a wide variation of meanings and understandings.
to be clear: When I personally speak of “Emerging Church” I am not
in any way, form, manner or fashion identifying with any certain,
tangible group of people. I am a follower of Jesus, not of any
organization, movement, fad, group, or classification of people.
care about vogue and popularity. I could care less about “jumping on
the bandwagon” of this movement or that movement. I refuse to be
categorized as “this” or “that” kind of Christian.
speak about “Emerging Church” I'm simply referring to the reality
that much of what we've been taught, much of what we do, much of
our church “practice” has been polluted, tainted, mutated from the
original template as revealed by Jesus Christ and His Apostles, and
recorded in the Word of God.
speak about “Emerging Church” I'm referring to the quest to
rediscover, to go back to the roots, the origins of spiritual
worship; to find an authentic expression of Christ’s Body in the
advocating a rejection of denominational differences, the traditions of man,
the expressions passed to us by the Roman Catholic Church or the
Lutheran Church or of anybody’s church except Jesus’ church. I know,
scoffers will wag their heads at my simplicity and perceived
naivety. But knowing that I appear naive, I’m still on the journey;
still searching out the authentic; still determined that I will see
a church against which the gates of hell will not prevail.
I speak of or represent “Emerging Church” I’m not talking about a
departure from classical, biblical, evangelical thought or doctrine.
I’m talking about a departure from the religious traditions that man
has laid on the skeleton of the church to create (in some instances)
the monster of religion that looms in our current society.
“Emerging Church” is simply “Authentic Church.” It’s the Church of
Jesus Christ and of the Apostles. It’s the true and straightforward
appearance of the Body of Christ in the earth, on a mission to bring
the earth to faith in Jesus.
was asked by a nice Roman Catholic lady, “Are you a Protestant?” My
response was, “No, I’m not a Protestant.” This confused my friend
who said, “But you’re not Catholic, so you must be Protestant.” I
like to have fun, but usually there’s a serious meaning in my humor
and I said to her “But I’m not protesting anything!” She then asked,
“Then what are you?” I said to her, and to you, “I’m a Christian; a
learner-follower of Jesus.”
point, Dear Reader is this: Don’t label me. Don’t try to “massage”
my words into some kind of cultish, weird aberration of
Christianity. There are “Christian Apologists” (so-called) who rub
their hands in glee and cackle like gloating conquerors if they can
morph someone’s words into their version of heresy or biblical
try to pigeon-hole me into your contrived lexicon of religious
whackos – I won’t fit there.
attempt to follow my professors’ edict and “define my terms” as I
write, but I also don’t want to muddy the waters with unnecessary
explanations. This means you’ll have to make certain basic
assumptions as you read: Assumptions such as when I talk about
“Christianity” or “Jesus” I’m talking about the spiritual truth
revealed in the Bible – and for you “King James Only” folks, I’m
talking about the truth revealed via the King James Bible. When I
talk about “Jesus” I mean God’s only begotten Son, Who was born of a
virgin, and Who lived a sinless life and died an atoning death and
Who arose from the grave on the third day and ascended into heaven
making a new and a living way whereby we might be redeemed and
restored in our souls, our spirits, to vital relationship with our
unless I give you a peculiar definition for any certain term or
statement, you may assume I’m coming from a classical, biblical,
evangelical, traditional, historical perspective. Goodness,
gracious, the length one must go these days to prevent being labeled
as a “this” or “that” kind of Christian! When I started this journey
thirty-four years ago I was asked, one day into my new life, “Are
you Pentecostal?” I’d never heard of the word “Pentecostal” but
thought, “Who knows, maybe I am, even though I don’t know what a
Pentecostal is” and so answered, “I don’t know.” I was then asked,
“Are you a charismatic?” Now I’d heard of “automatic”, “cinematic”,
“thematic” but I’d never heard of “charismatic” but again thought,
“Maybe I am and don’t know it” and I said again, “I don’t know.” My
by now frustrated inquisitor then asked in obvious frustration,
“Well, what are you?” And in my innocence (and trepidation) I
blurted, “I’m a Christian!” And thirty-four plus years later,
knowing now what a “Pentecostal” and a “Charismatic” is, I’d still
answer, with more conviction than then, “I’m a Christian.”
That’s what I am. I’m a Christian. On Saturday, May 18, 1971 at
about 9:00 in the morning I told Jesus I was sorry for all the sins,
all the rebellion, all the evil, all the foolish things I’d ever
done in my life. I repented – I turned and went another way; away
from myself and my wants towards God and His wants. I was changed;
transformed; born again; redeemed; saved when I prayed that prayer.
I was not a child that morning; I was twenty-one years old - Old
enough to legally purchase tobacco and alcohol and old enough to
vote for the President of the United States. I was considered an
“adult” by society’s judgment and was in my right mind when I had
that conversation with Jesus. In that moment I was forgiven of all
my sins. I was washed, purified and made whole by the Blood of
Jesus. I was ushered into a living relationship with a living
Savior. I was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the
Kingdom of Light. I became a Christian in that moment when Jesus
heard my contrition and my godly sorrow. I’ve been a Christian now
for thirty-four years and three months tomorrow.
what do I object in the myriad of internet hits one can discover in
a simple “Google” search for “Emerging Church?”
direct “copy and paste” quote from a website purporting to give the
reader clear and positive identification of anyone talking about the
icons, incense, chanting, candles, centering and
Without contemplative spirituality, the emerging church would be
nothing more than couches and candles.
“labyrinths, icons, incense, chanting, candles, centering and
contemplative prayer...”? In the vernacular, “do what?”
Now I’m sure somebody out there, some spiritual investigator, some
inquisitive mind, some experimenter of the realm of the spirit
adheres to such folly. I’ve seen enough weird and strange stuff in
my lifetime that I don’t doubt there are such folks floating around
the fringes of faith, but coupling this statement with the
conclusion that “Without
contemplative spirituality, the emerging church would be nothing
more than couches and candles”
is absurd at best and
entirely stupid and misleading at worst.
get your feelings hurt when I say that this kind of
judgment-without-the-facts statement is irresponsible and foolish
and harmful and just plain wrong. And if I just hurt your feelings,
please forgive me, I’m not mad at you, but I won’t retract my
attempt to define some terms here: “Contemplative Spirituality.”
There’s a great place to start, because prior to surfing the web,
looking at various treatises on the subject of the “Emerging Church”
I had never heard of “Contemplative Spirituality.” So let’s see if I
can get this straight: I’ll be back after I’ve read up on the
subject to get an understanding.
back. I’ve read a bunch of words about “Contemplative Spirituality”
and I’m ready to give you my results.
have no idea what the term “Contempative
Spirituality” means. It's beyond me and foreign to my faith and my
understanding of the practice of Christianity.
not interested in either “Contemplative Spirituality” or
“...labyrinths, icons, incense, chanting, candles, centering and
contemplative prayer...” I’m interested in knowing Him (Jesus) “in
the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His
don’t like the tone of those who seem to want to attack anybody they
don’t like. I never read about Jesus attacking anybody. Oh, He
identified people according to their spirits, but He never lashed out, attacked or
accused anybody. He loved even His enemies and His opponents and
would have gladly forgiven them their sins and befriended them if
only they would have allowed Him to do so. Oh, I want to be like
having studied about “Contemplative Spirituality” and all the
supposed evils of the “Emerging Church” I’ve concluded that while
there are some strange ideas floating around the spiritual
atmosphere of The Church, neither I nor anybody I know in the “Emerging Church”
camp is part of that strangeness. We’re just, as I indicated
earlier, “Followers of Jesus” but we are also, and as importantly
“Rejecters of Religion.” We hate religion. We hate man-made attempts
to get to God. We despise the forms, functions and programs of
man-made spirituality, “church”, religion, call it what you will.
think that as a reaction to the man-made religion and religious
traditions of men that we've experienced in the past several hundred
years, it's normal and expected that exploration of other "ways" of
practicing our faith would occur. Whenever one explores unknown
territory, there is the occasional foray down dead-end paths,
worthless trails and into confusing terrain. Henry Ford wasn't
judged by his first attempts at building an automobile, but by the
finished product after years of trial and error. Could we please
wait to pass judgment on the burgeoning "Emerging Church" movement
until sufficient light is shed on the subject and we can see at
least a "Model A" appear?
6) As I
was taught in college, in theology and in church practice, just as
in every discipline of life, one must learn to “eat the meat and
spit out the bones” of every teaching, posit or theory. It is a
glutton and a child who swallows everything set before him. It is a
sign of maturity when a person “tries the spirits” and will “taste
and see that the Lord is good.” We must be like the Bereans, who
were commended because they received the word with all readiness
of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things
were so (Acts 17:11). I'd prefer to measure Emerging Church
theology, practice and understanding against the Scriptures rather
than against contemporary detractors and antagonists.
are we, the people of g2k? Who am I? We are seekers of genuine,
authentic, true New Testament, even “primitive” Christianity. We
want to know the God of the Bible through His Son by the power of
His Spirit. We want to worship in “spirit and in truth” and we’ve
discovered that so much of what passes for Christianity is in
reality a deviation from the original truths given us by Jesus and
by the Apostles. We reject this man-made stuff with all the vigor
and strength we possess.
aren’t followers of Saddleback or Willow Creek or Brian McClaren or
The Ooze or any other label, group, personality, element or sect. We are
followers of a Solitary Man, named: Jesus. Of Nazareth. Of Heaven.
Of the Right Hand of the Father.
another statement taken from the same website quoted above, “The
Emerging Church is emerging, but not with the gospel of Jesus
Christ.” Wow! What a statement! Now, I’m certain that certain
elements, certain people who align themselves with the term
“Emerging Church” may be devoid of a comprehension or adherence to
the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God, but to
paint all “Emerging Church” folks with the same broad brush is like
meeting the Green River Killer, discovering that he possesses
citizenship in the United States and determining, “Americans are all
serial killers.” Such a determination defies simple logic. The same
mistake is being made by applying judgments against everyone who
uses the term “Emerging Church.”
in my appraisal, I’ve said enough about the detractors, would-be
experts and so-called Apologists who seem to be against nearly
anything that isn’t just like them. I’ve got other things to do –
such as live out the gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ and to
discover the Church He Himself promised He would build. A church
made “not with hands” a church of His design, architecture and
purpose, without the dictates, demands and interpretations of man.
my way through the “labyrinth” of religion, religiosity and
religious men to find the Jesus of the Bible and the church of His
design is enough for one man’s life work, I would think.
an “Emerging Church” guy, determined not to become a spiritual moth
attracted to some false light, but to be a lover of God and a friend
of Jesus and of Publicans and Sinners alike, and to point as many
souls as possible to the heaven God has prepared for all those “who
love His appearing.”
world of deceptive voices and of seducing spirits, please know there
is a sure way, a true path, and that Jesus’ sheep know His voice.
Don’t live in fear. Don’t tremble with trepidation that you are
being deceived. Talk to Jesus; the Jesus of the Bible. Tell Him the
desire of your heart. Follow Him as His word is revealed to you and
as the Holy Spirit guides you into all truth. And an highway
shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of
holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for
those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein
Blessings to you on your journey! May you find that authentic
and true representation of Jesus in the earth and in your own heart.
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