CE National has until recently always stood as a shining example of safe and biblical youth ministry as least as far as I remember and have been able to observe. I personally believe and stand by the integrity and soundness in much of what they are currently doing and they are teaching biblical concepts to many young people in many cases. I can never downplay the impact of a few early BNYCs I was able to attend and those on staff with CE National have been gracious and loving friends to my family and myself.
Saying all that then adds to the sorrow I have in dealing with what some may call recent developments within the organization and its interaction with the CGM (Church Growth Movement) and emerging church. I need to share these concerns out of love for them and for the FGBC and for all who may be exposed to some unbiblical trends and teachings because of who CE National has chosen to recommend in the reaching, teaching, and releasing of our youth. There appear to be a few hidden reefs in what were formerly calm waters.
Earlier in 2007, I was increasingly troubled about some of the things BNYC (Brethren National Youth Conference) was featuring and the frequent mention in our fellowship of emerging teachers like McManus, Bell, and Doug Pagitt. It seemed that in so many articles, blogs and websites in the FGBC we were seeing the recommendations and endorsements of these and other teachers which again should cause any Bible-believing Christian great alarm and concern as it became increasingly more probable that our young people might be exposed to some of these dangerous areas of EC belief.
In the first week of February 2007, I was prompted to call CE National. I began to express my concerns and was treated with respect and a willing ear. I was assured that while many in the EC had error associated with their views regarding the authority and inspiration of scripture and a problem with false doctrine that CE Nat’l would never compromise the truth in order to reach young people. This was reaffirmed numerous times during our conversation.
We had a good talk but certain elements were a bit confusing. On one hand, I was assured the safety of where CE Nat’l and BNYC was going and the cautions being taken to ensure truth was upheld. I was also told that what these guys, the emergent leaders, were doing was working! Meaning that young people were flocking to these EC teachers in droves. I sensed a bit of desperation as the numbers thing came up and how the FGBC has been lagging behind the EC in terms of participation and effectiveness in reaching young people. The implication was that what some in the EC was doing was working and we’d better sort of look into their tactics so we can be relevant to young people. In this conversation, John MacArthur was even criticized as not being too concerned with evangelism and that, in the context of what we were discussing, we ought to be observing what some in the EC were implementing to reach out more effectively to this culture.
This utter yearning to appear relevant to the prevailing culture goes along with the CE National core values statement:
“Cultural Relevancy: One must constantly evaluate the culture he is trying to reach. While biblical truth never changes, methods must constantly change. (I Corinthians 9:19-27; Acts 17:17)” http://www.cenational.org/cenational/page3.asp?secondLevelLinkCode=about_41078&homePageLinkCode=about
We’ll save the critique of that for another sermon so back to our phone chat. I asked CE National whether this had definite elements of pragmatism, you know “whatever works to get ‘em in’ and of course, I was told “No” and assured once again that CE National and BNYC would cling to truth and the authority of God’s Word. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
A few times I brought up some specific teachings that were coming from Erwin McManus of the Mosaic Church and was told that of course CE National wouldn’t agree with them. But when I brought up the GBNAM decision to welcome the Mosaic Rialto church into our midst, this is a church that expressed some agreement with McManus’ Mosaic, I could get no response when I voiced the concern. I mentioned it three times by name and the voice on the other end of the line was strangely silent but then kept assuring me there was no need for concern.
We had a cordial goodbye and ended our call. But I was troubled inside as I sat and pondered why Mosaic Rialto wasn’t a concern given their affinity with McManus church of the same name. I went on-line the next morning and found out that this same CE Nat’l leader was slated to speak at Mosaic Rialto a few days later Sunday morning, Feb. 4, 2007. http://www.cenational.org/Publications/publicationsArticle.asp?IDNum=1421&eventCode).
In this same fateful phone conversation, I asked about Dave Livermore whom CE National was promoting as an “expert on the Emergent Church”:
The YouthNet Commission, CE National's youth cabinet, is encouraging youth pastors and workers to attend the National Youth Ministries Conference (NYMC) along with them. The conference, sponsored by Vision for Youth, includes Dr. Dave Livermore, a staff member at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and an expert on the Emergent Church, as a featured speaker. We're excited about this opportunity to learn and while we want to be cutting edge, we do not want to lose Truth. Join many of us at CE National, along with some of our National Institute students, at NYMC, January 8-11, 2007 in Sandusky, Ohio. For more information, contact CE National. (From their CE News web page).
I asked if being “an expert on the Emergent Church” meant Livermore knew a lot about it or was involved with it and I was told patently and repeatedly that he was concerned with the truth and was not involved in the EC himself. One look at his website and this was proven disingenuous.
On Dave Livermore’s Intersect website, one immediately sees an endorsement by the late Robert Webber, who is an author with emergent sympathies and wrote the book Ancient-Future Faith: (http://www.intersectcommunity.com/endorsements).
Dr. Livermore is described as a “Regular Speaker/Presenter at National Youth Workers Conventions, Youth Specialties” (definitely an EC-oriented group).
Livermore’s Partner/co-founder of Intersect is Steve Argue (http://www.intersectcommunity.com/who/steve) who is also billed as ‘Regular Speaker/Presenter at National Youth Workers Conventions, Youth Specialties”
Argue is a member of and is on the steering team for the Emergent West Michigan Cohort.
On his blog, Argue points people to attend an upcoming emergent gathering and that they will all be represented at the first annual Midwest Emergent Gathering, July 20-21 in the suburbs of Chicago, IL:
“Come learn from Tony Jones (Emergent Village), Denise Van Eck (Mars Hill Bible Church), Spencer Burke (theOoze.com), Nanette Sawyer ( Wicker Park Grace), Doug Pagitt (Solomon's Porch), and Alise Barrymore & James King (The Emmaus Community ).” (http://emergentwestmichigan.blogspot.com/ ). On the same blog, Argue also assures his readers that Doug Pagitt will be coming to hang out with them for a “conversation”.
Dave and Steve also offer EMERGE learning groups for deeper practice
Can it be accurately stated that Intersect is not leaning towards the EC?.
The question you will have to ask yourselves if you choose to hear the remainder of these concerns is merely ‘Should I be concerned?’ Is this a potentially dangerous spiritual development within CE National and could it be that some of our young people run the risk of being exposed to some dangerous teachings? Are we looking at the future possibility of being “reached, taught, and released” into a more emergent mysticism that is rooted in questionable teachings and unbiblical practices? Once again the evidence for concern will now be presented concerning CE National and then you must decide if these concerns are valid and warranted.
On Mar. 23,2006, CE National advertised their upcoming Remix 2006:
“What could bring over 75 pastors and church staff from across the country together in Southern California, besides the sunny weather? How about ReMix 2006, a weekend experience sponsored by CE National for pastors and church leaders to visit model churches. Attendees were encouraged to review church ministries first-hand, including those of Saddleback (Rick Warren), Mosaic (Erwin McManus), Rock Harbor (Todd Proctor), Grace Community Church (John MacArthur) and others, and look at refining ways to reach our changing culture with the Gospel.
Ministry is more caught than taught—and we caught it!” (Taken from: http://www.cenational.org/cenational/newsBlog/index.asp?IDNum=913 ).
What did they run the risk of catching or what could people glean from a teacher like Erwin McManus? These quotes can give us a pretty good idea of why this is not a good idea:
When reading his books one would be hard-pressed to miss the “new age” feel and flavor of some of McManus’ suggestions. He uses much of the same terminology found in numerous human potential, self-help circles and has connections in areas that make for suspicion.
A New Age affinity is seen in the recent meal he had with Jon Gordon, author of The 10-Minute Energy Solution and a fan of the new “new age” book and movie “The Secret”. Gordon and McManus discussed this phenomenon and seemed to really agree on some troubling things including the idea that we can be co-creators with God and unleash our potential. That’s the secret behind the secret apparently. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/mcmanussecret.htm
This idea of being “co-creators” with God is utter heresy, for only God can truly create anything. We use the sometimes applied misnomer concerning creativity to describe things we do but no one can truly create anything ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) or alongside God. This comes from the new age movement, The Secret, and occultic visualization theories, not from the Bible.
Dan Phillips writes:
“Like you, I've often said that this or that artist, writer, guitarist, is really "creative." But when we say that, we're always wrong.
No human being has ever, strictly, created anything. That is, we've never brought anything brand-new into being ex nihilo. At our very best, we're re-creative. We may rearrange some molecules or tonalities in an inventive or fresh way. But even there, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).” http://teampyro.blogspot.com/search/label/creation
God’s Word reminds us:
The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens; by His knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew (Proverbs 3:19-20)
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; He puts the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood firm (Psalm 33:6-9)
No we are not really able to create anything and to assume and teach such is heresy. You can’t help but notice the almost constant use of “creativity” and the human potential jargon in McManus’ writings and projects. In the Foreword of his book, Seizing Your Divine Moment (Re-released as Chasing Daylight), McManus even refers to the Holy Spirit with a new title not found in Scripture, “The Spirit of Creativity” and signs his own name as the unleasher of that Spirit. We need to be careful here.
In his book, The Barbarian Way, he also urges us to get “primal and untamed” with our faith and to forge ahead in barbaric power. After all, “there’s a future to be created, a humanity to be liberated.” (p. 138). Who’s really doing the creating? Is it really a partnership venture or is God alone the rightful Creator.
The following is taken from McManus' website, Awaken.org:
“Awaken is a collaboration between a team of dreamers and innovators who specialize in the field of developing and unleashing personal and organizational creativity. Awaken is committed to creating environments that expand imagination and unleash creativity. Convinced that the world is changed by dreamers and visionaries, Awaken serves humanity through its commitment to maximize the creative potential in every individual and organization. Awaken emerges out of the unique ministry of Mosaic and reflects Mosaic’s commitment to creativity, uniqueness, innovation and diversity.”
Again, these things resonate with many in the New Age and definitely within the postmodern mindset.
McManus also writes about God as though He were a dreamer of sorts and has “great dreams for all of us”. On a video clip from GodTube, McManus teaches:
“Look; God actually dreams about you. You were in the imagination of God before you were ever created. And if God created you out of His imagination, can you imagine the life you are supposed to be living, if you just live the life He dreams for you?” http://www.apprising.org/archives/2007/07/the_uprising_of.html
There is no Biblical support for God having dreams for you or being a dreamer and we must be careful how we speak and teach about His nature and Character. We must not go beyond what is written for us. This is one of many examples of McManus’ use of language that’s “outside the box” and unwarranted in its implications.
And if this quote isn’t tripping the line, I don’t know what is:
Erwin McManus (Commenting on his latest book, Soul Cravings) :
“ Sure... Soul Cravings isn’t a new idea. This is something I’ve been journeying through for 30 years. I’ve been waiting for the day I could write it. Soul Cravings, to me, is very much a human story. It’s the story of finding God inside of yourself... I'm going, “No the real evidence isn’t in the objective world, but it's in the subjective world... There’s a universe inside of us more powerful and more clarifying than the universe outside of us.”
It’s this type of rhetoric that makes many of his concepts so dangerous and something that our youth or ministries should beware of “catching”, CE National included.
On his website http://theoriginsproject.org/ McManus depicts these “five elements”:
WIND: Commission: Mission is why the church exists: People matter most.
WATER: Community: Love is the context for all mission: Love permeates everything.
WOOD: Connection: Structure must always submit to spirit: Passion fuels action.
FIRE: Communion: Relevance to culture is not optional: Relevance communicates truth.
EARTH: Character: Creativity is a natural result of spirituality. Character creates change.
He depicts these elements, adds a few Christian words to them and reintroduces them as though they were not based entirely in pagan thought (The five elements are said to be symbols of the “five manifested planes of nature in grades of spirit-matter.” http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/006/discernment/11-17-erwin-mcmanus.htm
McManus’ own view of the church and culture is the same all-to-prevalent “change or die’ nonsense that the Church Growth Movement bangs on about:
"The church must acclimate to a changing world, or she will destine herself to irrelevance or even extinction. What this means for the pastor as spiritual environmentalist is that he must understand the changing environment in which the church has been called to serve. One of those dramatic changes in our environment is the shift from words to images. To do church in a way that is entirely text driven is the kiss of death.”(Erwin McManus, “An Unstoppable Force,” p.17)
In an interview with FreshMinistry, McManus was asked: “What advice would you give preachers that want to minister in the postmodern age?” He replied:
“First, The sermons that are changing the world are the ones where the pastor is real – sharing his journey with the congregation. Second, stop preaching sermons and start telling stories. Third, break though the pressure to be a great preacher and become a great leader.” http://www.discernmentministries.org/NLMarchApril_2005.htm
The apostle Paul does not command Timothy to “tell stories” but to “preach the Word!”
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”(2 Timothy 4:1-4; ESV)
McManus or the Bible? You decide.
On that note, as well, Mr. McManus seems to be distancing himself more and more from using the term “Christian” and says these horrendous statements in that regard:
“My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ,” McManus, author of a new book called “The Barbarian Way,” said in a telephone interview. “Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right.”
Wow! That is despicable. Especially given that the Bible says:
“Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Peter 4:15-16, NASB)
So if Peter could use that term, why shouldn’t we? Thus far we have at least two instances where McManus pits his own words and terminology against Paul and Peter. I cant for the life of me figure out why anyone would so recklessly affirm that they might consider themselves an “anti-Christian.”
My contention is that this is no time or place for folks to make awful statements like that and use “shock-jock” rhetoric to try to advance their faulty ideas of ministry to postmoderns. Using inappropriate, inflammatory, or obscure terminology is just as bad and misrepresentative as profanity in the pulpit.
Another major concern about McManus is that he seeks to bring the church back into what he calls a “core mysticism” and he uses the analogy of the Celtic barbarians to show us what that might look like in The Barbarian Way. McManus wraps the book up by telling readers:
"We need to find the courage and freedom to be ourselves. We need to let ourselves become the unique individuals that God created us to be. His exhortation is, 'When an opponent beheads one barbarian, he better be prepared, for we will return in force....We need to move together as God's people, a barbarian tribe .... There's a future to be created.'"http://lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/index.php?p=209&more=1&c=1
Erwin McManus makes his own claim for mysticism in The Barbarian Way when he says we need to exchange reason (doctrine) for mysticism and suggests we need to be "Mystic Warriors." In an interview with Relevant Magazine, McManus explains what is the "core" of The Barbarian Way:
“The Barbarian Way was, in some sense, trying to create a volatile fuel to get people to step out and act. It's pretty hard to get a whole group of people moving together as individuals who are stepping into a more mystical, faith-oriented, dynamic kind of experience with Christ. So, I think Barbarian Way was my attempt to say, 'Look, underneath what looks like invention, innovation and creativity is really a core mysticism that hears from God, and what is fueling this is something really ancient.' That's what was really the core of The Barbarian Way “(ibid.).
“We [Mosaic] are deeply and unashamedly mystical. We’re really about connecting on a deeply mystical level with the Creator of the universe. Seeing the invisible, hearing the inaudible and living a life that cannot be explained.” http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god_article.php?id=6989
The Celts were mystic and ancient but that’s no reason to make the strained analogy that we should be barbaric Christians or live dangerously. As in his book, McManus may think it fine to give his son permission to jump off the second story of his house, but has no such license to re-imagine the Christian faith and retell it with barbarians as his framework.
Sadly, however predictably, the horrid barbarian analogy comes apart:
“The civilized build shelters and invite God to stay with them; barbarians move with God wherever He chooses to go. The civilized Christian has a routine; the barbarian disciple has a mission. The civilized believer knows the letter of the law [e.g. like all men aren’t already forgiven]; the barbarian disciple lives the spirit of the law.
The civilized love tradition; the barbarian spirit loves challenges [e.g. following his own personal agenda]. The civilized are satisfied with ritual; barbarians live and thrive in the mystical. For the civilized disciple, religion provides stability and certainty; for the barbarian, a life in God is one of risk and mystery.” (The Barbarian Way p.78, 79).
McManus is here engaging in what has become a pervasive polemic by many in these “new measure ministries” against their critics. If I am opposed to living like a “mystic warrior” because of all of the unbiblical implications of that strained analogy then I am branded as “civilized”, “domesticated”, well, basically a dead religious adherent. Is McManus right, or could it be that using the analogy of pagan Celtic warriors is a pretty bad idea in the first place? You decide.
Men would come and teach things like this as the Bible warns and we ought not to be taken unawares. We certainly ought never to introduce our youth to this danger but for some reason CE National thought it to be a good idea to take people to Mosaic and Saddleback.
McManus not only promotes some in the emerging church movement but lends his support of open theist Greg Boyd as well. Here’s an important warning about that by Jim Brown (not the FGBC pastor):
“I warned that Erwin McManus, a leader of the Emergent Church movement was headlining “Student Life” events across the U-S. McManus has endorsed a book promoting open theism, a theology which calls into question the sovereignty of God, denies His omniscience, and is gaining a foothold in many “evangelical” seminaries today. That alone, I believe, should concern parents, youth pastors and churches that are sending their teenagers to attend conferences led by the Los Angeles pastor and author.” http://www.apprising.org/archives/2007/08/darwining_down.html
For more on open theism, read Gary Gilley’s excellent article: http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/articles/read_articles.asp?ID=69
McManus will be sharing the stage with Robert Schuller at an upcoming conference (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/index.php)
And as we will unfortunately see in the remainder of this message CE National and those affiliated seem to have an ongoing connection to the ministry of Erwin McManus.
For further study on McManus and his teachings: http://www.apprising.org/archives/erwin_mcmanus/index.html and http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/erwinmcmanus.htm
The case has been made for the danger of looking towards Erwin McManus or Mosaic for our philosophy of ministry or for the purpose of exposing our young people to him as a mentor or somebody to be emulated. CE National needs to stop the mystic madness, here.
FF to Nov. 06, CE Nat’l sponsors a forum: 11/19/2006
Young Adult Forum Coming to CE National
A Young Adult Forum will be held at CE National on December 1-3. This event will bring together those who are young adults as well as those who work with this age group. There will be discussions with Mark Soto and forum leader, Bob Hetzler, relating to the Emerging Church.
CE National asked Dr. Mark Soto (pictured), Professor of Biblical Studies at Grace College and Seminary, to come to a Young Adult Forum they hosted. He spoke on the problems of the Emergent Church. There are issues in the emergent movement about which any leader must become aware. Some people in the emergent movement have gone much too far. You will see this in the research from Dr. Mark Soto. Please pray for church leaders that they will be balanced in teaching the whole counsel of God and in being culturally relevant. http://www.cenational.org/cenational/newsBlog/results.asp?searchText=Emerging+church
I am glad that Dr. Soto brought to light many of the concerning elements in the EC. Read his pdf file and the downright disturbing quotes by prominent EC leaders and you’ll hopefully agree with those concerns. It’s really a battle cry that I wish would have been heeded to a greater extent on behalf of CE National. But make no mistake; some working in this organization definitely have affinities and proclivities towards the Emerging Church. I’m afraid the perceived pressure to be so “relevant” to our shifting culture is affecting the discernment level of many in the church including some in CE National.
On January 3, 2007 CE National asks “The Emergent Church--Friend or Foe?” In this forum, there seems to be less of a counter stance towards the EC and more of a collaborative element of support. By that I mean that featured speaker Dave Livermore seems to be an emergent believer himself, at least that’s the appearance of his Intersect website:
The Emergent Church Continues to be a Growing Topic of Discussion.
Among today’s society some churches give us ideas to help us reach and disciple people, while other churches are losing the Truth of the Word. David Livermore is addressing this at the National Youth Workers Conference that many Grace Brethren youth workers will attend in Sandusky, Ohio, in January. Dr. Livermore is from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in Michigan.
If you recall in my earlier recount of the phone conversation with CE National about Livermore, I was assured that he was not in the EC but was merely an expert about these things. Once again, this seems disingenuous given the content of his Intersect website as I showed earlier.
On a final forum note, CE National issued a few concerns about the “weaknesses” in the EC and warned believers to be discerning:
“There are also weaknesses in the “emergent” church. Some churches are “emerging” but some are part of a growing movement of “emergent” churches. (Note the difference between emerging and emergent.) In an attempt to be cutting-edge, some are “throwing out the baby with the bath water.” Believers and church leaders must always teach the “whole counsel of God.” Truth is the basis for our faith. While methods and trends change, we must never lose truth. The purpose statement of CE National itself says we must be both biblically accurate and culturally relevant. While we want to be culturally relevant, if we “water down” the truth of the Word, we’ve lost the battle.
Amen, brothers. I testify to the truth of that statement. I guess I would need then to express this: I understand and am happy that they express some concern but then where is the clear stand against the false doctrines of the EC in practice as well as preaching? What does the “whole counsel of God” say concerning false teachers in the church? Is there biblical confrontation being exercised in CE National? Is there separation from false doctrine and warning to others about the evil deeds of those who teach false things? Are our young people being taught clearly the danger of mixing truth with error? This brings us to the next section and I’m afraid the answers to these questions are all too clear.