(417) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: WHAT’S IN A WORD: “MISSIONS” (What is “Missional”)
“If everything is missions then nothing is missions.” [Stephen Neill]
Over the last decade (or so) especially, there has been various church growth trends and strategies affecting the direction of the church. A more recent trend, popularly called the “Emerging Church” (or “Emergent”) has taken hold churches of various backgrounds ranging from more liturgical to more independent to young adults and Millenials….etc. While these newer trends share many of the same characteristics, there is no one unified body of beliefs that identifies them. In many cases, it is not uncommon to find these groups starting out with noble goals of engaging a changing culture. In practical terms, this can include a goal of attracting those within a changing society by offering change in the way the church is conducted. Change can include a change of focus, emphasis, doctrine, roles, definitions, purpose…etc.
One aspect of this is seen today by how some utilize the word “missions“. Some today will attach a new meaning of the word to represent something different than either what the Bible clearly teaches or from a historical point of view from what the church has taught in the past.
The following is a sermon by Pastor Rock Dillaman from Allegheny Center Alliance Church on October 16, 2016. He looks at the word “mission” and shows how it’s meaning today is being changed by others within the church. What are the ramifications for doing this? Why is this issue important to the church today?
The sermon is titled – “What’s in a Word?”
The sermon video can be seen here on October 16, 2016 – http://www.acac.net/index.cfm/PageID/859/index.html#
Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
1. Words by themselves are just empty suitcases; their power comes from the meaning packed into them.
2. Satan continually seeks to corrupt the meaning of God’s words and distort God’s definitions.
3. Satan attacks the meaning of God’s words in the minds of God’s saints. We’re called to the continual renewing of our minds because our minds are continually under attack. (Romans 12:2)
4. Satan seeks to distort the meaning of the word “missions” so the church isn’t clear about its mission.
5. “Missions” is the activity of set apart messengers sent out to other cultures for the purpose of communicating God’s truth to people who’ve never heard it.
6. “If everything is missions then nothing is missions.” [Stephen Neill]
7. A specific task can be lost in a generalized command.
8. “Missions” needs to be specific or the specifics of mission may be lost altogether.
9. “Missions” involves people who have been set apart by the Holy Spirit.
10. “Missions” involves people who have been sent out beyond the immediate boundaries of the local church. It introduces God’s kingdom in places where it’s currently unknown. (Matthew 28:19,20; Acts 13:2-4)
11. Outreach is the church making an impact where it is. “Missions” is the church making an impact by going where it isn’t.
12. The work of mission is not only hindered by vague definitions; it’s hindered by false dichotomies.
(416) Emerging Trends in the Church Today: THE EVANGELICAL LEFT – JEN HATMAKER
The “Christian Left“, for lack of a better name, seems to be very handy in coming out against historic Evangelicalism. While not looking to specifically include politics in our discussion, it’s really a false dichotomy to exclude it outright because much of our faith get’s lived out every day in what we call – “politics”. This Presidential election appears to be no different with groups such as RED LETTER CHRISTIANS with TONY CAMPOLO and folks like JIM WALLIS, and JEN HATMAKER to name a few.
Common themes such as ABORTION and HOMOSEXUALITY/SAME-SEX MARRIAGE (and today, various other GENDER issues) are used to clobber Evangelical Christians during every election by both the secular society and other Christians (Progressives, Liberal, Left-Leaning, Emerging, Missional….etc.). I think it needs to be said very clearly that Christians should not retreat from the ABORTION, HOMOSEXUALITY/SAME-SEX MARRIAGE debate. If Evangelicals (and to differing degrees Roman Catholics) don’t raise these issues, NOBODY else will. This issues inolve important aspects of the life that God has given us. Scripture speaks clearly on the importance of families, life, relationship…..etc. Instead of cowering when Millenial Christians or Emerging Church Christians proudly criticize Evangelicals for holding to these views on these hot-button issues, we should remind folks of how important these issue are in God’s eyes. We should be more concerned with that as opposed to wanting favor from society by becoming more like society instead of changing society.
In an interview with CP, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy said the RED LETTER CHRISTIANS movement’s interpretative reasoning was “destructive and dangerous because it implies the whole of Scripture is less than reliable and that modern individuals in one culture can singularly reinterpret or reject historic Christian ethical teaching without counsel of universal Church.”
“So a few words from Jesus supposedly mandate unlimited welfare state, opposition to military, gun abolition, etc.,” said Tooley. “Meanwhile, too often historic Church teachings about abortion on homosexuality are dismissed because Jesus did not specifically address it. But Jesus did talk about marriage – but evidently not enough to convince liberals. Jesus didn’t talk about incest but does that make incest ok? Of course not.
Another example of the Christian Left includes a recent interview between Christian author, public speaker and reality-TV personality JEN HATMAKER and Religion News Services discussing her perspective on the 2016 presidential election, included a discussion of her views on homosexuality, abortion, and Black Lives Matter with the implied connection to what so-called “Evangelicals” believe today.
Derryck Green of Juicy Ecumenism makes several good points in summarizing her views. Some of Green’s main points include several important observation about how those who associate with the Christian Left can characterize political discussions. It is important to realize these characteristics because many Christians (especially among young adults) fall for their reasoning without realizing the contradictions inherent to their points as well as the opposite view taken by most Evangelicals before them.
With regard to the Presidential election, Green identifies problems with both major party candidates. Green goes on to say that “there is very little internal disagreement about the moral conflict of supporting Hillary Clinton in light of her repeated and predictable tendency of systematic corruption and dishonesty. Many on the Christian Left have simply rationalized and compartmentalized Clinton’s unrestricted character flaws- not so much as the lesser of two evils (though there is some of that)- as a political and moral obligation to support her. By default, they also support other progressive social policies of the Left.”
In the interview with HATMAKER —it is not difficult to realize that there are many half-truths and straw man positions— Hatmaker began by addressing and glossing over Hillary Clinton’s wretched character, admitting that she’s still open to voting for Clinton come November. She criticizes Donald Trump’s behavior as unfit for the presidency.
But she quickly goes on to overgeneralize those who support Donald Trump – describing them as anti-Semitic, ethno-nationalists and white supremacists. This is just a regurgitation by those on the Left to denigrate those who support Trump and deceive those who are undecided. It’s not that there are those who support these beliefs within the Trump camp, but let’s remember that there are those who hold to many different kinds of controversial beliefs in both the Clinton and Grump camps. This election, more so than others, has seen an explosion of biased coverage and ad-hominem attacks by many – especially by those on the Left.
Green states that – “I think it’s a mistake to dismiss and unfairly generalize those, Christians included, who reject this kind of disgraceful racial populism, but still maintain support for Donald Trump.
Hatmaker then discussed her free-thinking views on gay marriage and LGBT community. For most of us, it’s not surprising what she believes with respect to this issue. She says,”
Any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends… Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family.
Green rightly concludes that it’s not about choosing whom to love. “That has never been the issue. People are free to choose whom to love without restriction. It’s about reinventing marriage as a social justice concept. Moreover, marriage isn’t a “civil right,” or a “liberty,” nor is it found in the Constitution. No one, gay or straight, had the “right” to marry until the Supreme Court created one specifically for gays and lesbians……And what about the civil rights of Christians who’ve experienced discrimination because of this newfound LGBTQIA “right”?”
Hatmaker follows that approach with the Supreme court. She wants the church to accommodate gay/lesbian Christians with special considerations but the contradiction arises that the church doesn’t treat other people and issues in the same fashion. For some reason, the church today has bought into either being convinced or being accommodating or being intimidated into catering to gay/lesbian issues. Should we as Christians excuse sin, twist our theology and blatantly go against God’s word and his design for marriage in order to exhibit religious compassion to the gay/lesbian community? “Like many other groups the church is defined by orthodoxy, designated by what it believes just as it’s defined by what it doesn’t.”
Hatmaker goes on to explain her understanding of what it means to be pro-life. Oh boy, hang on to your hats.
She states that “…my pro-life ethic has infinitely expanded from just simply being anti-abortion… pro-life includes the life of the struggling single mom who decides to have that kid and they’re poor. It means being pro-refugee. It means being pro-Muslim. My pro-life ethic… has expanded.” (ya think?)
“There’s something incredibly disingenuous about a Christian community that screams about abortion, but then refuses to support the very programs that are going to stabilize vulnerable, economically fragile families that decide to keep their kids. Some Christians want the baby born, but then don’t want to help the mama raise that baby.” (really?)
Green rightly concludes that Hatmaker is using caricatures that are commonly used as an artificial talking point of the Left to deliberately malign Christians unfairly. This discredits her. She uses the artificial talking points from the left.
Hatmaker uses the superficial talking points of the Left to malign and deride fellow religious pro-lifers. It’s inappropriate, especially for a Christian. Green asks – “Additionally, what pro-lifer/anti-abortion Christian is against helping poor single moms? Or supporting programs to help those in need (rather than grifters who seek personal gain through exploitation)? Jen Hatmaker lied about pro-life anti-abortion Christians presumably because they disagree with an expansive and corrupt welfare state that encourages dependency and compromises human dignity.”
Greem states – “A question raised is what does being “pro-refugee” mean? Sounds good, but it doesn’t mean anything because Hatmaker doesn’t define it in real terms. Same with her being “pro-Muslim”? What does that mean, exactly? Supporting all Muslims, even the ones who believe it’s Allah’s will to maim and kill nonbelievers and all those who refuse to submit to specific religious convictions?”
Hatmaker finishes by highlighting her racial justice cred, saying she supports Black Lives Matter based on “evidence and documented research.” She also voices concern over the potential (inevitable) treatment of her adopted black son by police in the future.
Green concludes –
“The church is AWOL on racial unity and reconciliation and it has outsourced its moral obligation to lead onto racial and social justice warriors. But no Christian should support Black Lives Matter. Period. It’s a movement methodically based on lies and deliberately diverts attention away from more pressing issues that would actually establish that black lives matter.” As for evidence and research, both completely undermine the foundation Black Lives Matter is built on. And she would know this if she actually looked it up rather than trying to be right on all the right issues.
These positions are intellectually dishonest and intensely foolish. I’m not sure what happened to Jen Hatmaker but this exemplifies the shameful quality of thought on the Religious Left. Religious Progressives should follow the lead of their evangelical brethren and divorce themselves from progressive politics to salvage what’s left of their credibility.”
There is much disagreement today in both the political arena and within Evangelicalism. We can’t ignore the political issues at our doorstep with our responsibility to participate in our free country that his contributed so much to spreading the Gospel around the world. But the heart of these issues of contention are spiritual and not just political. As some move away from the Great Commission to carry out their version of what is basically the “social Gospel”, we risk moving away from one of the last command given by Jesus while on the earth. His commandment was given to Christians in the NT Church – “go out and make disciples”. Moving away from what Jesus commanded us to do can happen by denigrating the authority of God’s word. Once we do that, it doesn’t matter what the issue is, the church will continue to slide further away from God, the further we move away from God’s word.
The New Age & Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer (IHOP), Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)…..etc.
These are names that I am hearing more and more frequently. To be honest, the first picture that comes to my mind when I hear the word IHOP is PANCAKES. But, as much as I love pancakes, that is not the topic we are talking about here. Specifically, IHOP is the International House of Prayer.
Many Evangelical leaders are tripping over themselves to associate with major youth events which are very popular in the Christian world. These mass youth rallies were developed over the course of several decades by Mike Bickle’s IHOP (International House of Prayer) movement, which is interconnected to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). IHOP and the NAR share both personnel and doctrine, with roots that go back into the Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God. In a previous posting, I shared the “Naked Cowboy” which displayed a questionable performance by the worship team Hillsong which shares similar paths with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
My goal is to do a series of posts on these groups. For now, I just want to highlight a common issue of New Age teaching that is creeping into churches such as Bethel Church. I want to refrain from passing judgment on other areas relating to signs and wonders, spiritual gifts….etc., but focus on the influence of the New Age on people like Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, NAR...etc. It is important to understand their teachings with these New Age influences are being used by many churches across the country. In addition to my comments, several sources will be used including several footnotes in this posting from the article by “The New Age Propensities of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson” by John Lanagan. I also want to stress that my main concern is the mixing of New Age in with Christian teaching which I would think is a major problem with these groups – a problem that you and I should be concerned about. While you can draw your own conclusions, I am not trying to say all is bad fruit from these groups. I haven’t done enough research to make that decision – there are plenty of other organizations that do that type of thing if you are interested.
Let’s start with some background. In Redding, California, Bethel Church has become one of the largest evangelical churches in North America. Many people from around the world travel to Redding to attend the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, and C. Peter Wagner (“founder” of the New Apostolic Reformation movement) has called Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson, an “apostle.” This article combines several articles along with comments from me –
Given that title with claims on the church website that Bethel has a “global impact as a revival resource and equipping center,” it is expedient and responsible to examine Johnson and determine if he is indeed an apostle sent from God to the body of Christ.
The Physics of Heaven, a recent book Bill Johnson contributed to, and his personal assistant co-authored, reveals a very different picture than that of the apostles described in the Bible. It appears that rather than an apostle of God, Bill Johnson may be poised to serve as the vehicle that carries the New Age and quantum spirituality deep into the Body of Christ.
At that time I could not find a single Christian leader who shared a similar interest in finding out if there were truths hidden in the New Age. Now we are beginning to hear more and more revelation that is in line with what New Agers have been saying all along and we are hearing more and more teaching about Christians “taking back truths” from the New Age that really belong to citizens of the Kingdom of God.1—Ellyn Davis, co-author, The Physics of Heaven
Being drawn to New Age ideas is not something new to Bethel’s leader. In a 2006 book titled Dreaming with God, Johnson writes, when referring to a practice associated with the New Age:
Many prominent pastors and conference speakers add fuel to the fire of fear by assuming that because the New Age promotes it, its origins must be from the devil. I find that form of reasoning weak at best. If we follow that line of thought we will continue to give the devil the tools that God has given us for success in life and ministry.3
Stop and think about what is being said here: “the tools that God has given us” somehow ended up in the New Age? How did that happen? And which tools is he talking about? Why would a professing Christian say something like this? New Age teaching is in total opposition to the Word of God. To suggest that New Age practices are really just hijacked Christian truths is utterly absurd.
Research analyst Ray Yungen explains the basis of New Age thought:
Everything that exists, seen or unseen, is made up of energy—tiny particles of vibrating energy, atoms, molecules, protons, etc. All is energy. That energy, they believe, is God, and therefore, all is God. They believe that since we are all part of this “God-energy,” then we, too, are God. God is not seen as a Being that dwells in heaven, but as the universe itself.4
I’ve heard Dr. Oz talk about these energies on his television show as he combines New Age with Eastern Mysticism while his audience ingests his reasoning because he is a medical doctor. Bill Johnson and Bethel Church exert significant influence in the body of Christ. And whatever path Bethel and its leaders travel is the path on which many will follow. We need to pay attention to what is happening here, using discernment and godly wisdom.
In addition to Johnson’s own contribution to the book (one full chapter), his personal assistant, Judy Franklin, is a co-author; and the foreword of The Physics of Heaven is written by Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate leader at Bethel. Vallotton lauds the contributors as “seers.”5 Banning Liebscher, Director of Bethel’s Jesus Culture, adds his praise.6 Bill Johnson’s wife, Beni Johnson, also has a chapter in the book. With all that, The Physics of Heaven undeniably has the approval of Bethel’s leaders.
So what does The Physics of Heaven reveal?
The Next Move of God?
Ellyn Davis, one of the authors of The Physics of Heaven, says this:
[The contributors of the book] all agree that the next move of God will cause a shift at the deepest level of who we are—perhaps the very “vibrational level” that the New Age movement has been exploring. They also all agree that there are precious truths hidden in the New Age that belong to us as Christians and need to be extracted from the worthless.7
Contributor Jonathan Welton adds:
I have found throughout Scripture at least 75 examples of things that the New Age has counterfeited, such as having a spirit guide, trances, meditation, auras, power objects, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and more. These actually belong to the church, but they have been stolen and cleverly repackaged.8
We need to begin to use [New Age] counterfeits as signposts. Every time a counterfeit shows up, take it as the Lord presenting you with an opportunity to reclaim . . . the Church’s stolen property.9
This is like taking a bottle with a “Poison!” warning on it and re-labeling it, “Honey.” Contemplative prayer, which is essentially Eastern/New Age meditation disguised with Christian terminology, entered the church in just this manner.
Co-author Ellyn Davis asserts:
It wasn’t that I wanted to become a New Ager, I just wanted to find out if maybe they had uncovered some truths the church hadn’t.10
Davis then attempts to justify her position by claiming much of what she found “embodied biblical principles” and “could be backed up by Scripture.”11
In contrast to such a mindset, Scripture exhorts us:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Ephesians 5:11)
Compare Davis’ desire to sample New Age wisdom with the resolve of the newly saved Christians in Acts 19: These saints separated themselves from the occult; they did not peruse their occultic literature one last time in case there were some “truths” there. The unholy books were gathered and set on fire:
Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19)
The action taken by these bold new believers caused the Gospel to spread.
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. (Acts 19:20)
Lacking basic discernment about involvement with the New Age, co-author Davis, the Bethel Redding contingent, and the other contributors have rendered a great disservice to the Body of Christ. The Bethel contributors, in particular, can potentially do the most damage because of their popularity and high visibility.
Bill Johnson’s view of Scripture may give us a clue as to how he ended up being attracted to extra-biblical leanings. According to Johnson:
Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know.12
This is dangerous thinking. The Bible is our map. To go “beyond what we know” is to go beyond the parameters of Scripture.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:103-105)
The Physics of Heaven, whether intentionally or unintentionally, serves to illustrate how the false church will form—or, more accurately, how it is forming. New Age practices will increasingly be welcomed into the Body of Christ. These practices will be presented as redeemed or Christian in origin. The church will be subverted—turned toward Eastern/New Age/Quantum mysticism. Language, terms, and trappings may even remain essentially “Christian”—but acceptance of the biblical Christ will diminish.
1. Ellyn Davis, The Physics of Heaven (Crossville, TN: Double Portion Publishing, Kindle Edition, 2013), Kindle location: 405.
2. Bethel Redding website, http://bethelredding.com/about.
3. Bill Johnson, Dreaming With God: Secrets to Redesigning Your World Through God’s Creative Flow (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2006), p. 86.
4. Ray Yungen, For Many Shall Come In My Name (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007), p. 17.
5. Kris Vallotton, The Physics of Heaven, op. cit., Kindle location: 96.
6. Ibid., Banning Liebscher, Kindle location: 85.
7. Ibid., Ellyn Davis, Kindle location: 447.
8. Ibid., Jonathan Welton, Kindle location: 808.
10. Ibid., Ellyn Davis, Kindle location: 392.
12. Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles(Shippensburg, PA., Destiny Image Publishers Inc., 2003, Kindle edition), p. 1113.
13. Kenosis, Christology, and Bill Johnson, Crosswise Blog, http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/kenosis-christology-and-bill-johnson-part-ii.