The Emerging Church should prepare for nastiness

The Emerging Church should prepare for nastiness

The Emerging Church should be prepared for a lot of heat in the next couple of years. For years the EC has existed under the radar but now articles and books are being written. Some are fair and some are not. To many the EC seems like another new hip trend to further distract people from things that really matter. That certainly isn’t my experience but I can see where people get that impression. Because the EC is so diverse almost any criticism will have some truth in it.

In certain situations we need to resist the urge to respond. There are some people that aren’t worth responding to. We should ask ourselves two questions. Is the person I’m talking to being helped by the conversation? Am I being helped by the conversation? If the answer is no on both counts let it go.

If the criticism is based solely on the critics interpreation of text (websites, articles, blogs, books) and they have haven’t first asked a real person “help me understand you”, chances are they aren’t motivated to understand. They just want to be understood.

Some criticism is destructive. There is no way to avoid this. Jesus said those who follow him will be persecuted. I’m not trying to paint the EC as Jesus’ movement and the rest of the church as the Pharisees. I think all movements and denominations are a mixed bag. However as soon anyone begins to question the status quo and real fruit arises from their ministry evil reacts. There is no honor in suffering for your own idiocy, but God does honor those who suffer for righteousness sake. If we want to be leaders in God’s kingdom we have to prepared to suffer, to be misrepresented and slandered.

  1. #1 by george on January 20, 2005 - 8:11 pm

    Here’s where I see your key statement in that post LT “God does honor those who suffer for righteousness sake.” I love that quote.

    Maybe one day you and I will meet and I can ask you “help me to understand you”

    I’ll admit most of what I know about the EC I have learned from blogs and the odd article. What I have learned from that, however, is that there does not seem to be much of an emphasis on that righteousness that you’ve just referred to.

    I am frequently amazed at how so many bloggers on the one hand talk so much about spiritual matters and with the same enthusiasm talk about all their worldly pursuits, in particular with repect to the music they listen to and the movies they watch. It seems so secular. I personally don’t understand professing Christians so wrapped up in secualr music and movies. Jesus said “By their fruit you will know them” Where’s the fruit in that?

    I also see how many seem to be more passionate about their liberal politics then they are about proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world.

    My two cents worth anyways

  2. #2 by Leighton Tebay on January 20, 2005 - 8:37 pm


    It is a cool because I found the whole concept in the bible, 1Peter 4:12-19.

    According to the scriptures the fruit of righteousness isn’t the lack of secular influence. Jesus ate with “tax collectors” and “sinners”. He openly fraternized with people the “righteous” folks rejected in those days.

    The fruit of righteousness is the character and power of Christ in our lives, enabling us to live like he did.

    You are right that many EC writers don’t talk that much about righteousness. They tend to talk about what bothers them more than anything. Many are over reacting to legalism etc… I really don’t see anything in different in the comments that you write. Abortion, gay marriage, abortion, gay marriage, abortion, gay marriage.

  3. #3 by george on January 20, 2005 - 9:57 pm

    Were not talking about abortion or gay marriage right now LT its about righteousness.

    “According to the scriptures the fruit of righteousness isn’t the lack of secular influence.”

    The secular influence is what begins to shape many professing Christians’ way of thinking, to the point where they become desensitized to the things of this world. To be in the world but not of the world, that is the call and the challenge. I want to be up to that challenge, how ’bout you?

    Where is the call to repentance from EC leaders?

  4. #4 by Marc on January 21, 2005 - 12:40 pm


    What do you think “being in the world” means? How can you be “in the world” without participating in it? The only conceivable way I could live in the way you seem to be implying is by sealing myself off in a luddite Christian commune.

    The truth of the matter is that the “righteous” people of Jesus’ day accused him of being a drunkard because of the people he chose to spend time with. We are human beings and we live in the world. We are in the world physically, we are not of it by the grace of God–which is a heart, mind and soul issue.

  5. #5 by Jacob on January 21, 2005 - 6:54 pm

    I am very interested to here this talk by the very respected JP Moreland.

    “Postmodernism. The ubiquity of the term has inoculated the church into thinking it is an inevitable, if not acceptable conclusion to one’s belief in relative truth. It’s creeping into the church under the guise of the “emergent church” and eroding the foundation of the faith. Dr. Moreland, with unflinching clarity, counters that it is an immoral and cowardly viewpoint to persons who love truth and knowledge. This presentation posits five confusions of which postmoderns are guilty, leaving you with the understanding you need to restore truth to its rightful place: undeniably objective.”

    It can be ordered at

  6. #6 by Randall on January 21, 2005 - 8:33 pm

    I think I’m ready for any nastiness, I’m wearing my lucky SpongeBob underwear!!

  7. #7 by Leighton Tebay on January 22, 2005 - 11:42 am


    I see the true values and beliefs of some elements the Emerging Church are mispresented. I don’t agree with the idea that if one doesn’t believe in self-evident knowable objective truth that they are a relativist. I believe in objective truth, I’m just not convinced we have as sure a grasp on it as we think we do. I think the 10 000 denominations within Christendom are testament to that fact.

    I believe wholeheartedly in universal truth, and that universal truth is knowable, but I don’t think we know it perfectly. There are some things about God and his relationship with us that are best left as mysteries. The apostle Paul is very clear that spiritual truth, wisdom and knowledge are imparted by God, therefore not solely discerned through objective analysis. The bible says our foundation is the person of Christ, not rational objective analysis.

    I also believe that truth should be spiritual discerned in community. The typical evangelical approach to truth leaves the individual as the interpreter is weak.

  8. #8 by Paul Johnston on January 22, 2005 - 12:22 pm

    I am better informed as to some of the concerns and persuits of the emergent church community by this last response then was I by the origional post. Thank you, Leighton.

    I have been reading/learning/stalking/squawking on your site for some time now and while I don’t always agree with you or neccessarily always understand your positions, I respect your spiritual integrity and intelligence. You challenge me to always thoughfully consider my perspectives and in so doing, discernment flowers. Thank you again.

    If you ever have the sigificant time required and feel obligated as a consequence of all my “kissing up” :), your perspective on what an emergent church community is and ought to be persuing would be of great interest to me. After all a wise man once said, ” ask a real person” so that I might better understand.


  9. #9 by george on January 22, 2005 - 1:48 pm

    “I also believe that truth should be spiritual discerned in community. The typical evangelical approach to truth leaves the individual as the interpreter is weak. ”

    What does that mean LT? Can I not discern Truth in my own relationship with Christ. I would say first and formost that is what it is all about, my own relationship with Christ. As that relationship is developed the discernment comes. He guides us by His Spirit and gives us the ability to discern. But it has to be on His terms, not ours. You can have all the community you want but if you are not being obedient to Him and His Word it won’t amount to much because He won’t be at work there.

    Its kind of like praying. If we desire to see God at work through our prayers we have to pray according to His Will. How can I know His will?

    Is some community going to tell me what his will is? No, of course not, he’s got His will all laid out for us in His Word. We need to be obedient to it and He will begin to work through us. Its the compromise that diminishes the effectiveness of our prayers. God’s power is not revealed in compromise.

    As we discern His Truth, His Spirit will guide us to a place of worship where we will see Him at work. That’s been my experience. And in my searching to see where He is at work it has become clear the difference between churches.

    Those that are centered around His Word is where the real fruit is seen. That’s where you can see God at work. In a place where people are in proper submission to God and His Word. Not trying to fit the Word with what we want or what the world is telling us but just doing what it says.

    There is so much noise out there but there is only one clear and compelling voice of Truth and that is Almighty God as He has revealed Himself to us in His Word.

  10. #10 by Leighton Tebay on January 22, 2005 - 5:08 pm


    You wrote “What does that mean LT? Can I not discern Truth in my own relationship with Christ”

    Ultimately no. One person by themselves cannot accurately discern truth as well as a community. Spiritual truth is not plainly observable through rational analysis. This theme is very common in the New Testament.

    I’d be curious to see the scriptural support for your position.

  11. #11 by george on January 22, 2005 - 8:41 pm

    John 14

    15″If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

    I know Him LT and I am so thankful. I know He resides within me and I go on in that confidence. Its because of that, that I seek community with other Christians at church and elsewhere.

  12. #12 by Leighton Tebay on January 22, 2005 - 9:53 pm


    I don’t see anything in that verse about truth being discerned by an individual. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and he helps us but the verse doesn’t say how.

    Consider some other scriptures

    1Cor 3

    “6 We speak wisdom, however, among them that are fullgrown: yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nought: 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory:”

    Eph 4

    “4:11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. 4:14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. 4:15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 4:16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.”

    I’m not saying God doesn’t impart truth to inviduals, he does, but the fullest revelation of God comes from being part of the body. Without the body we are tossed to and fro by every wind of teaching. Prayer of Jabez anyone?

  13. #13 by Leighton Tebay on January 22, 2005 - 10:15 pm


    Thank you for your kind words.

    I think it is fair to say that I really can’t speak for a group as diverse as the EC. I wear the label because it fits and I refuse to invent a new label (eg missional) just because it has less baggage. I imagine the “anabaptist” label would fit me much better and I’d say I exist well in both tribes.

    I can tell you what I believe we are pursuing as a house church. We enjoy koinonia. We come together, we eat, we laugh, read the scriptures and pray. It is pretty relaxed, low stress, and I’ve seen real change in the lives of the poeple involved. It is very accepting of those who are frustrated with church or have doubts. People aren’t afraid to be real. We just came through a difficult transition and haven’t formed formal ties with any other churches or denominations. We do have abundant informal ties.

    I want to explore what it means to be a church leader that has nothing to do with career. While I believe the scriptures are clear that paying people in ministry is ok, there are times when Paul thought it best not to take money from the congregation he worked with. When ministering to post-moderns I think it is wise to make your money elsewhere. The people are very suspicious of anyone who might want to turn them in to a project for their career.

    I’d like to see a church that measures success by what really matters. Is God truly glorified? How are we building the body of temple of God? Is it with precious stones or that which is easily consumed in fire? Are people becoming more like Christ? I’d like to see a church that cares more for the heart of God and the people around them, than their own comfort or career. Are people willing to suffer and sacrifice selflessly?

    I think such a ministry requires true servant leadership and that everyone feels they are equal in status in the church. Everyone feels a responsiblity and is encouraged to play the role they were called to or inspired to play. I could probably type for a long time on this subject.

    I like the “community hermeneutic” because it puts eveyrone on the same playing field, it keeps people engaged with the scriptures, and we mitigate some of the individualism rampant in evangelicalism today.

    I imagine this could turn in to a good thread. Any other questions or comments?

  14. #14 by Paul Johnston on January 23, 2005 - 9:11 am

    Thank you. Wow. There is so much of what I too feel from the Holy Spirit, in what you say.

    I am particularly encouraged by your persistent references, implicit in this response and many others, to discernment through the Holy Spirit. I agree as well that any Spirit directed community would always first seek to glorify God. In prayer, in song, in praise and ultimately and perhaps most difficultly in some measurable and self evident way within the community of God’s people.

    I must say, much like my own post Vatican 2, experience of the 70’s, I have deep concerns that emerging churches will evolve in to nothing more than humanistically centered self help and charity groups. Though, while offering some immediate respite from personal and collective malaise, they actually draw their followers away from Christ and teach human interdependance as being the first priority in life.

    I wish you well in your journey, Leighton. I will keep you in prayer that God will continue to use you to speak his word to his people. You have so much to offer. Praise God.

    Oh and I don’t intend to go very far either. There is much to learn and share here.

    Still Squawking.

  15. #15 by george on January 23, 2005 - 11:49 am

    I dont’ disagree with much of what you say there LT, I love the church and I do get built up and encouraged and taught there. I just got back from church and am feeling pumped as we now prepare to go tonight to an inner city mission we are helping out with in downtown Toronto. There is so much work to do as the body of Christ. There are so many hurting and lost people in the world who need to hear the Gospel. I am so thankful to be a part of Christ’s church and to be able to do my part to help Him in building His church and His kingdom. Its all because of Him.

    I love what you said about glorifying God, because that is what it is all about, that is why we exist.

    I’ll look forward to hearing your updates on your particular way of doing church. I love small groups, we at our church testify that we are a church of small groups as opposed to a church that has small groups. I see now how in small groups there can be such encouragement to build one another up in our walk with Christ. And to teach each other. Also to challenge each other and to bring people back who have maybe walked away form their commitment to Christ. And to bathe all that in prayer.

    I love the verses you quoted above. The Sunday for me as I go to church and am fed from God’s Word spurs me on in my faith for the week to come. Then during the week a lot of it is me and the Lord. As I continually go to Him he feeds my soul. Especially in my quiet time in His Word as I meditate on it and go to Him in prayer. It is so freeing and when He responds through the circumstances of my life it is such confirmation of how He communicates to us through His Word, through prayer, through the circumstances of life and through the Church. All by His Spirit.

    Have a great week.

    I know we have had and no doubt will continue to have our differences and our clashes, but if you tell me that you are all about glorifying God in all you do, I will for now take you at your word. I’ll be praying for you and your group.

  16. #16 by george on January 23, 2005 - 12:15 pm

    Sorry LT just one more thing. You mentioned the Prayer of Jabez and I’m guessing kind of sarcastically. I just wanted to say that if we were to pray that prayer it all depends on the condition of our heart as to how it might be effective. Your probably skeptical because you might think its all about the commercialization and marketing of Chritianity.

    I can testify about that particular prayer. When God changed my life in Spet of 2001 it was one of the first books I read. I used the prayer a number of times, and still do, and its been incredible how God has then opened the doors for me to witness to people. “enlarge my territory”

    A couple of times really stand out and as I look back now I see so clearly how God has used that prayer to minister to me and then open doors for me to reach out to other people. Without a doubt, circumstances brought about by God and in response to my praying that prayer. I would say its all about the intentions of our heart. He knows it all.

    I just really wanted to mention this as you and other have metioned this prayer before and have been so critical and I’m not sure I understand why. Its all about our hearts.

    Again all that is not anyhting I’ve done but everything about what God has done in my life.

  17. #17 by Leighton Tebay on January 23, 2005 - 3:02 pm


    The reference to the Prayer of Jabez was an example of how the church is buffeted by every wind of teaching or doctrine.

    I don’t agree with your take on Jabez. It is based on your personal experience and not on the objective, rational, immutable, clearly discernable word of God 😉

    Pretty much everyone I know in the Jabez cult reinterpretates their life experience so the prayer works. I prayed the prayer and I had this opportunity, or got this money, or got this blessing.

  18. #18 by Marc Vandersluys on January 23, 2005 - 8:21 pm

    George, I’m interested in how you distinguish your church from Leighton’s. I’m also interested in why, if we can interpret scripture and worship on our own why we bother going to church.

  19. #19 by george on January 23, 2005 - 10:52 pm

    Our differences continue LT. I don’t see how the Prayer of Jabez is an example of what you are suggesting. It is in God’s Word. Jabez cult?

    Not sure what you mean by that.

    I’ll maintain God sees the intention of our heart as we come to Him in prayer and be it the Jabez prayer or any type of prayer He responds to our honesty and genuine communication with Him, free of compromise, or things going on in our lives that would hinder Him from responding.

    Again it comes down to being in His will and praying according to His will.

    Marc my church is different from Lts as I am in a non denominational larger type church and LT is talking about his house church. I think that’s a great thing also and pray that God would bless it and it might grow.

    When I think about our society and effective ways of ministering to people I see more benefits and opportunities within a larger setting. The different types of ministries possible are of course greatly enhanced.

    For example I went to the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York last summer and was amazed to hear how they have a special ministry for sexually abused children. They had a special offering that Sunday for that ministry so they could take a bunch of those children to a camp in upstate New York. How great is that? Obviously a small house church wouldn’t be able to provide ministry like that. As a police officer I have worked numerous child abuse and child sexual abuse cases and I was amazed to hear about that ministry. In New York you have secular child welfare agencies coming to the Brooklyn Tabernacle with kids that desperately need to be loved and cared for.

    That’s just one example there could be so much more. When I think about the inner city and the possibilities I get so excited about what God would do through a bunch of deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who truly desire to be His hands and feet to bring about revival and transformation to a community, town, city, province and country. That’s what we as Christ’s body need to join together in doing.

  20. #20 by Marc Alton-Cooper on January 24, 2005 - 6:43 am

    Interesting comments. Biblical quotes – i’d try too steer away from using the bible to ‘proove’ anything because as we all know that a line from the bible can be used to prove anything (and has been).

    The emerging church is (in my opinion) growing out of the modern evangelical church. A thirst for a ‘deeper ecclesiology’ has, I believe been one of the factors that has strated this off.

    But the emerging church is many things to many people. We will no doubt have much criticism and the answers will be ‘yes and no’.

    Whilst spongebob underwear may be good (and I have no idea what that is) lets give room for opinion in the wider church.

  21. #21 by Bene Diction on January 24, 2005 - 9:41 pm

    Here are solid apologetics on the Prayer of Jabez marketing pro and con.

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