There is a dramatically accelerating shift happening in the visible “Protestant” church, even in the last five ten years. It seems that there are three major movements that are swiftly moving to totally redefine Christianity (and ultimately bring it back into the “Roman” fold). I only have space to speak briefly of them here, although we need to be aware of these trends. They are well documented and I recommend a few websites and resources at the end of this book.
The Purpose Driven, Seeker friendly Church Growth movement: This movement was popularized by Rick Warren, who applied a market-driven church-growth strategy that was formulated based on ideas of C. Peter Wagner, Robert Schuller and a nonbeliever named Peter Drucker. Peter Drucker is known for management by objectives, or “total quality management” used in the corporate world.
Originally, the doctrine espoused by Warren was very orthodox. However in the Church Growth movement the problem is not with what they say but what they don’t say. This movement has been systematically working to “transform” the church and force believers into situations where they must “fellowship” with unbelievers. This has been going on for some time and has impacted thousands of churches from all persuasions. Churches have been pressured to transform themselves to be “seeker sensitive”, minimizing doctrine and other things that would offend unbelievers so that they will be comfortable.
Again, the agenda of this movement is to redefine the church to “meet the felt needs” of unbelievers. These are finding themselves quite at home in a Church that no longer preaches the Gospel but instead focuses on social programs and making people feel loved. According to the church growth advocates, the church is a place intended to give people a sense of “community”, a “focus for living”, and the “emotional benefit of personal significance.” This is a psychological focus rather than a spiritual one, which has nothing to do with the equipping of the saints for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Church Growth is managed through modern marketing techniques. Ideally, neighborhoods are blanketed with surveys to develop profiles of the local demographic, and a church model is created that specific caters to those tastes. In order to have the broadest appeal, messages deemed offensive to the demographic are not given. Styles of music and presentations are also transformed for the sake of appeal.
The scripture tells us that the “natural man receives not the things of the spirit of God for they are spiritually discerned.” The message of the cross is foolishness to the world, and rejected by the world, but to those being saved it is the power of God unto salvation. Growing the church by appealing to the natural man forces the message to be convoluted and stripped of its power, and brings unregenerate men into the church.
Fallen man is mystical and spiritual by nature. Therefore he seeks to have a spiritual component in his pursuit of self-fulfillment. He seeks to be religious, but does not want to be covered by the blood of Christ. These systems are very attractive to unbelievers because they meet this “felt need” without requiring for men to repent of their sins and be reconciled to God through faith in the redeeming blood Christ.
As a result of the seeker sensitive movement especially, multitudes have come into the Church who in some cases have never actually heard the gospel, are not at all familiar with basic bible doctrines, have never had their worldview challenged and assume that the Church should look and feel just like the world. Because of the institutional church’s marriage with the world and their “seeker friendly” agenda, the churches are increasingly filled with tares – almost to the extent that in many places the tares outnumber the wheat. The Church is embracing multitudes who do not believe the Bible should be taken literally, do not believe in the creation account, do not believe in substitutionary atonement, and do not believe in a literal coming kingdom.
Emergent: The Emergent Church can be a bit difficult to pin down. This is because they don’t like to identify themselves as a movement, and there are varieties of expression – various “streams” of emergent. It can be viewed be a logical “next step” of the church growth movement in transforming the visible church under the guise of meeting the needs of the culture. The purpose driven movement reached the “me” generation of consumers. The Emergent reaches the younger generation of postmodernists.
Postmodernist teachers in the emergent church are deconstructing biblical truth and denying fundamentals such as the inerrancy of God’s word, the creation account, the miracles and even the atonement from the pulpit. As Postmodernists, they believe that truth cannot be known and that it is prideful to assume to know it. They consider arrival at truth a “conversation”, where the process is more important than the goal. Some of them are professed “Christian atheists” that admit to a daily struggle to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that God is real. 1John 5 teaches Born again believers have the Spirit testifying in our spirit that Jesus is risen from the dead and God’s record concerning Him is true. This is what allows us to continue in the faith. We may doubt our salvation and right standing with God, and perhaps be sometimes demonically tormented with doubts about God himself. Being regenerated, the Spirit’s witness always brings us home. These teachers encourage a perpetual state of “questioning” that is en vogue and is considered to be a form of humility.
They openly state that there is the need of a new paradigm shift that will produce a new kind of Christian, and that the Word no longer has the answers for this postmodern generation. Once again the approach is “seeker friendly” – how do we “reach” this generation? The message of the gospel is not acceptable so new methods must be found.
They tend to be very intellectually oriented and consider themselves to be “forward” and “progressive” in their thinking. However in practice they are moving backwards toward a more medieval expression.They speak of a “New Spirituality” which they like to call “ancient / future”. They say it is the future of Christianity, but admit it is ancient in its roots. When they say ancient, they don’t mean early church – prophetic/apostolic (biblical) . They are really referring to mysticism / asceticism, such as the spirituality of the “Desert fathers” – second and third century mystics that were influenced by the pagan mysteries in Egypt and were highly heretical. They are tending to call this “contemplative Spirituality”.
Emergent expression is in many cases very sensory oriented. They believe that the ancient practices of the medieval church including the use of icons and images, prayer beads and other ceremonial practices- fused with modern media technologies –, are better suited to a “sight and sound” generation.
A few quotes from leaders who identify as Emergent:
Duane Cottrell says “The fact is that contemplative spirituality will play a huge part in the Church of the future, and candles are just the beginning.”
“Some of the values of the emerging church are an emphasis on emotions, global outlook, a rise in the use of arts, and a rise in mysticism and spirituality.”—Josh ReichCreating Worship Gatherings for the Emerging Church
“I stopped reading from the approved evangelical reading list and began to distance myself from the evangelical agenda. I discovered new authors and new voices at the bookstore-Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and St. Teresa of Avila. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Contemplative spirituality seemed to open up a whole new way for me to understand and experience God. I was deeply moved by works like The Cloud of Unknowing, The Dark Night of the Soul and the Early Writings of the Desert Fathers.” —Spencer Burke, The Ooze
“So we must stop looking for some objective Truth that is available when we delve into the text of the Bible.” –Tony Jones
New Apostolic Reformation: In the Charismatic Churches, Dominionistic New Apostolic “apostles and prophets” are rising up and declaring that they’re going to lead the church into perfection. Like the Emergents, they also are calling for a paradigm shift, and a new “reformation” in Christianity. Their views are extreme. One of their main beliefs is that when the bride of Christ “realizes” who she is in Christ, she is going to be transformed. There is something to be said about acknowledging the facts regarding our position in Christ as it relates to our approach to God. However, in their view, there is a “realization” or an “inward knowing” that can be achieved that will bring the “reality” of our position into “manifestation.” This is basically Gnosticism – where inward knowledge leads to salvation as an attainment. When this occurs, they believe they will manifest powers greater than anything see on earth before, including the miracles of Moses. They’re even going so far as to say that they will be a transformed “army”, manifested as the Sons of God on earth, walking amongst us as glorified immortals and leading the Church. They believe this group will call down the judgements in the tribulation, executing the judgement of God and ultimately establishing of the kingdom of God on earth. In the NAR, practices forbidden in the Bible, such as witchcraft, divination, dealing with familiar spirits and even in some cases necromancy are being brought in and given Biblical sounding justifications and cloaked in Christian sounding terminology. They bring new revelations to the table delivered to them supposedly by Angels and visitations with Christ Himself. These also show much interest in the Mystical practices of the hermit fathers of the 2nd and 3rd century.
As “out there” as this sounds, this has been mainstreamed in the Charismatic church. The Assemblies of God condemned the “manifested sons of God” theology as aberrant many years ago. Each time it has been rejected, it’s been renamed and brought back in, sometimes as the Latter Rain, other times as the “Third Wave” or Joel’s Army or Bridal Theology, or a number of other names. The theology surrounding it has become more sophisticated and more systematic as the years have gone one. It’s prophets have been the chief vehicles through which a series of well known “revivals” happened in the Charismatic Churches, such as Toronto, Brownsville and Lakeland. These spiritual moves were characterized by strange supernatural manifestations, very similar to the kundalini manifestations seen in East. In this movement these manifestations have continued and gotten even stranger. It is common in some settings to have manifestations of gold dust, oil appearing on people’s skin, and strangely, feathers materializing. These are all manifestations in line with what the Gurus such as Sai Baba were able to produce for their followers in India. They have nothing to do with the Gospel or anything remotely Biblical, but they are accepted by many Charismatics as the Holy Spirit. These “Prophets” speak forth the boldeset and most outlandish things in Christ’s name. They encourage interaction with Angels, and use a lot of terminology that is found in the New Age and the occult. They speak of “portals” in the heavens, regions having spiritual properties, receiving anointings from dead people, and many other occultic concepts. They use allegorized Old Testament passages to dress these things up in a “Biblical” veneer.
Peter Wagner,The lead “apostle” of this movement, who coined the term “new apostolic reformation” was also one of the founding thinkers of the purpose driven movement. I’ll say this a few times throughout these sections – when the connections are explored it becomes clear that there is a network among these leaders and although they seem to be going in very different directions, they’re really just seeming to go in these directions to cast a wider net. All of them have global ambitions regarding the transformation of the church.
Our theological bedrock is what has been known as Dominion Theology. This means that our divine mandate is to do whatever is necessary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to retake the dominion of God’s creation which Adam forfeited to Satan in the Garden of Eden. It is nothing less than seeing God’s kingdom coming and His will being done here on earth as it is in heaven. – Peter Wagner (one of the foremost “leaders” of the movement, who coined the term New Apostolic Reformation.
The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit that is changing the shape of Christianity globally. It is truly a new day! The Church is changing. New names! New methods! New worship expressions! The Lord is establishing the foundations of the Church for the new millennium. This foundation is built upon apostles and prophets. Apostles execute and establish God’s plan on the earth. – Peter WagnerBook: by Hughie Seaborn entitled: Jumping On The Bandwagon Published: 1999.
Since 2001, the body of Christ has been in the second Apostolic age. The apostolic/prophetic government of the church is now in place … We began to build our base by locating and identifying with the intercessory prayer movements. This time however we feel that God wants to start governmentally, connecting with apostles of the region. God has already raised up for us a key apostle in one of the strategic nations of the Middle East, and other apostles are already coming on board. Once we have the apostles in place, we will then bring the intercessors and prophets into the inner circle and we will end up with the spiritual core we need to move ahead for retaking the dominion that is rightfully ours.Sourced from an article: Global Link newsletter Global Harvest Ministries by . Dated: 1st November 2001
“the last enemy to be conquered is death. Who will conquer it? A mature Church will come forth with the kind of authority and power that will be able to stand in the very face of Satan. When the Church reaches that level of maturity, God will be able to say, ‘This generation of the Church does not need to die. She has reached a place of maturity. I will translate her because her maturity pleases Me.’“ Earl Paulk a influential “Kingdom Now” pastor
In both of the above movements (Emergent and NAR) it can be demonstrated that networks of people posing as “ministers of righteousness” are deliberately bringing the esoteric mysteries of the Satanic Babylonian (“New Age”) spirituality into the church, dressed in the guise of Christian terminology. We will discuss this a little more in a couple of chapters.
These are major trends in protestant Christianity today. In fact, as you dig into them you will discover that they are the major trends. They seem to be very different on the surface. However, it can be demonstrated that they are led by a network of people ware in league and in deliberate coordination with each other. Space does not allow for it here.
If you do not believe that decades of this influx has had a difference on the Evangelical church, consider George Barna’s report. He is probably the most respected statistician who records trends in Christianity. He says that only 17% of Christians have a Biblical worldview, and at least 30% of those who call themselves Christians believe that anyone who prays is praying to the same God, regardless what name they call upon! In this kind of environment, someone passionate for biblical truth is eventually most unwelcome.
On some level all three groups thrive because of a rejection of God’s word.
- The Emergent church They are following the path of higher criticism that devastated the old denominations. They question whether the word can be taken literally, whether it is true at all. They teach that you can interpret it as you wish and derive your own meaning from it.
- The Purpose Driven The movement claims to be biblical, but everything they are doing is contrary to what the Bible reveals about the nature of man and the nature of the church.
- The New Apostolic ReformationThey says they believe the Bible is the word of God. They use lots of scripture and most of their messages are full of Bible passages. However they have developed their own eschatology that directly contradicts the prophetic picture in God’s word. They allegorize most of the promises that belong to Israel and try to put them on the Church and through that method develop their theologies. Of the three groups, these seem to have the greatest demonstrations of supernatural phenomena. Many of their leaders claim to have received their doctrine directly from visitations with Jesus and claim to regularly interact with angels. Again, however, the teachings and revelations are aberrant and not at all accurate according to the full counsel of God’s word.
The three groups favor experience over the truth of God’s word. Rather than walking by faith in the facts revealed in the objective word, they encourage that we need to “know God, not just know about God.” That sounds good. However, it’s a control tactic used to squelch those who are looking at their Bible and finding that their church’s teachings contradict it.
The three groups are calling for unity on a world wide scale at the expense of doctrine. These groups are now beginning to “converge” and cross-pollinate in large conferences, teaching that we must all put aside our “differences” and come together as one for the cause of peace and unity.
The three groups have a dominionist agenda, believing it is the Church’s job to establish the kingdom of God on earth. Again, the scripture teaches that the kingdom comes when the king comes. Ultimately dominionism is anti-Christ (in the place of Christ) because it takes the works of Christ at His coming and envisions the Church doing them instead.
The three groups are conditioning their people for, if not directly calling for reconciliation with Rome.
Not really groups but trends:
I should point out that I am speaking of these three things as “groups” and “movements”, but it might be better to say they are trends. There are known leaders that identify with these three trends – who are in a sense its spokesmen. These trends for the most part have infiltrated existing churches in various ways rather than becoming a “denomination.” There is no “emergent” denomination, or purpose driven, or even an NAR denomination. There are churches that are influenced by these ideas and trends in varying degrees. It’s simpler to call them movements, and they can be identified as such because they each have their conferences and spokesman. There is more and more bleed-over between them because of the “cross pollenization” happening due to their ecumenical agrendas.
Space does not allow in this short book for identifying the writers, books, speakers and conferences that are the sources of these trend. Some resources will be provided in the back of the book. Also, these are not the only negative trends impacting the church. I focus on them because they seem to be the major trends that are impacting the widest number of protestant churches in the fastest and most transformative ways.
All of this is producing a giant upheaval in Christianity and forcing churches to rethink and refashion themselves to keep up with the fast moving trends of transformation. The leaders of these movements are telling the Body of Christ that they must either “change or die” (meaning become totally irrelevant).
Leading to Rome
At the very top the major spokesmen (leaders) of these three movements (Emergent, Purpose Driven and New Apostolic) are after ecumenical unity. They are openly announcing that the reformation is over, and that we need to be reconciled to Rome. They are actively seeking to bring about a worldwide ecumenical unity which they say will be the catalyst for the greatest revival in the history of the world. Meanwhile the Roman Catholic Church is seeking to be the headquarters of all the major religions of the world and has never lost her drive for ecclesial power.
Once you become aware of these agendas and movements, you discover that it’s difficult to find a church that is not being impacted by them. There are many good fundamental, Bible believing churches in our nation and if you have not been touched by these things, consider that you are blessed. For those who are struggling to find a church in your area that is not impacted by these things, be encouraged that it is indeed a sign of His coming. When the disciples came together to ask the Lord what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age, the first thing he said was “take heed that no one deceive you”.
Mat 24: 4-5 Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Mat 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. The Lord says “behold I have told you before”. While the changes that are underway are unsettling, we should not be surprised and we should be comforted that the scripture anticipates this situation we find ourselves in. The Lord is still on His Throne.