"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Saturday, March 9, 2013

EMERGENT is REGURGITANT – Part Four: Loving Evangelism, Emergent Style

By James Fire

The following is a treatment of the article written by Heather Kirk-Davidoff as found in the book An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.

Mrs. Kirk-Davidoff is the Enabling Minister of the Kittamanqundi Community (an independent church) in Columbia, Maryland. She is married to Dan Kirk-Davidoff a climate scientist. Along with writing partner, Nancy Wood-Lyczak she has authored two books, Talking Faith (Chalice Press, 2004) and Dare to Dive In (Abingdon, 2006). She can be reached at kirkwood associates.

Mrs. Davidoff relates an experience at the beginning of her chapter of visiting a bar in an attempt to conduct some “relational evangelism” and encountered a young lady who entered into some casual conversation with her. They spoke of common every day things (work, boyfriend, music, etc.) until the young lady asked her if she saw the stage musical, Rent. Her favorite character in the play was a drum playing homeless gay man who spends most of the show dressed as a drag queen Santa Claus named Angel. She remarks about his love having so “much power in the lives of the other characters. And his love doesn’t stop affecting them even after he dies (of AIDS) . . . it’s like his love is made more perfect in his death.”

Davidoff then stated that some see Angel as a ‘Christ-figure’ and asked what she thought about that. The woman stated that she felt a lot closer to Angel than she did to Jesus.
Davidoff admits she went to the bar in the hopes of offering something to the people there, but to her delight and surprise she was “the one who received an invitation to know Jesus better and to follow him more bravely.”

This, she received as a result of this young lady relating her feelings of identity and love for a homosexual more than to Jesus. This is what she found encouraging and was ‘hooked’ into this sort of evangelism. Yet how did this experience help her to know Jesus better??

This brought about a transition as she led her church out to the community, rather than attempt to draw the youth behind the walls of her church in a kind of evangelism that “…wasn’t motivated by a desire to grow my church. I was motivated by my desire to be in relationship with people who were in many ways different from me. I wanted those relationships because they helped me to understand what Jesus was doing in the world and how I might follow him, even as he led me out of the church and into the bar.”

One must wonder how one can follow Jesus better by going to a bar or find spiritual instruction from the unregenerate that can relate to those portraying homosexuals better than to Jesus, the Risen Christ and the Word of God. Indeed, we are to go out among the world, mix with the people, interact with them, but for the purpose of offering what the world cannot give - everlasting hope, through the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ that transforms lives in the here and now, in preparation for the world that is to come!

While it is true that much of the church today is inverted or even perverted from what the LORD intended; many churches have become insular and isolated from the world and seeking only to draw in people in order to expand their ministry with a spiritually unhealthy perspective and motivation that only seeks its own betterment, rather than the betterment of souls that come to such places searching for truth. 

The primary focus of the church is to worship God, proclaim the Gospel, feed His sheep, make disciples who in turn go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel, allowing the LORD to add to the church daily “such as should be saved”. None of this involves building relationships with the lost at the expense of foregoing the biblical Gospel and as a result of such Gospel proclamation, behold sinners being transformed into saints and partake of that sort of relationship that is holy and godly fellowship.

Davidoff quotes Dallas Williard (contemplative prayer advocate and practitioner) in his book, The Divine Conspiracy: “When Christians focus on recruitment alone the ongoing nurture of relationships and practices in this life becomes nearly irrelevant.”

Davidoff had exchanged a ‘recruitment’ sort of attitude for the “cultivation of relationships” but both attitudes are wrong. We Christians are not to ‘recruit’ the lost as though we were inducting them into some society or organization. Rather, simply share the good news of Jesus Christ the Lamb Who was slain for the sins of the world, Who delivers all who come to Him from sin, death and hell. We witness the Spirit of God do His work of spiritual conversion, upon such a time these saved souls are not recruited, but redeemed, regenerated and baptized into the body of Christ which is not a society or an organization but a living entity: the church which the LORD founded upon Himself – the Rock (MATT 16:18). If the church ‘recruits’ then those recruited belongs to that church. If they are redeemed by the LORD Jesus Christ and His blood, then they belong TO HIM! Nor are we to cultivate relationships as an end of itself, and certainly not to better ourselves and, or our understanding of Jesus Christ, which is absurd.

While it is also very true that Christians who have an ‘agenda’ of making conversions (recruitment of prospective church members) are far less passionate and caring for lost souls than they ought to be; they are merely looking to make more ‘notches in their belts’ or as is quoted by Davidoff in the 1999 film, The Big Kahuna: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or ‘How to Make Money in Real Estate with No Money Down’ . . . Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not a conversation anymore, it’s a pitch. And you’re not a human being any more, you’re a marketing rep.”

I was once a witness of a professing believer who was sharing the Gospel in the form of the Four Spiritual Laws with a gentleman downtown. The Christian rattled off the four laws and accompanying Scriptures in an almost monotonous drone, reciting by rote this method of evangelism that he was taught, with barely a glace at the one he was speaking...at.

The man hearing him even said, “Wow, you got this thing down cold, don’t you?” Cold is the word I would have used as well. Emergents have a certain legitimate complaint about evangelical ‘recruitment’ (to build their own church-kingdom?) and the dispassionate demeanor of some who don’t at all seem interested in people but in their own purpose, however it must be understood that simply because the Gospel and the preaching of the Cross has been done inappropriately, that doesn't at all mean that it needs to be replaced by a relational gospel that’s all about conversation rather than conversion.

Conversations do nothing for the eternal soul that is under God’s condemnation because they have violated His Law. The conversion of the soul is brought about by the Word of God itself and the faithful preaching of it!

PSALM 19:7-8
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes

She contends that “developing relationships with the people in their church and with their neighbors – and they find that their church grows without their even trying.” Yet one must ask, ‘Is this a healthy growth?’ In today’s church growth movement what we observe is not the transformation of the world into believers, but believers (so-called) being conformed to the world – a phenomena that is entirely contrary to biblical doctrine such as found in ROM 12:1-2!

Davidoff states: “…the evangelism practices that [evangelicals] were taught no longer worked because they were grounded in assumptions that did not fit their current settings.” So, the Gospel as its been preached for 2000 years is no longer applicable universally to all cultures, peoples, places and times as was practiced in the Scriptures and Christians? Are people no longer sinners? Are they no longer separated from a holy God and destined for hell? Are they now no longer under God’s judgment for sins committed against His Holy Law? Is there now no longer any need for repentance from sin? Surrendering all of one's life to the LORDship of Jesus Christ?

“. . . we want to build relationships with other human beings. Because of that, we’re willing to give up just about everything we’ve ever learned about how to grow a church or spread the gospel,” says Davidoff.

Yet the LORD Jesus Christ is the One Who grows the church – not the church (ACTS 2:47). “But we won’t give up on relationship,” says Davidoff, “We want to be loved, to be known and understood. But what’s more, we want to know other people.”

It’s certainly vital that the church and its members have relationship and that the world sees that the love we have for one another is actually inhuman, and rather of divine origin, and because of such they will attest to the truth that we are “of God” (JOHN 13:34-35; 1 JOHN 4:12). That such love must be shown to the lost of this world, and never a greater demonstration can be made to express this love than the proclamation of the Gospel! What is most crucial is not that we know others or that they know us in relationship, but that they know God and that He knows them!

On that fateful Day of Judgment (that is certainly coming!) the scathing, damning words of the LORD Jesus Christ Himself against those that are truly not His are:

LUKE 13:24-28a
24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. . .

See also 1 COR 8:3; GAL 4:9; 1 JOHN 2:14.

“. . . our relationships with others give us the most insight into who God is and where God is leading us,” explains Davidoff. Oh really? When it comes to insight as to Who God is, and understanding the will of God and where He is leading us, looking to others (particularly the lost sinner who is blind to God and without spiritual understanding of Who God is) for revelation knowledge would be laughable if it weren’t so very tragic!

The greatest and only revelation as to Who God is, is in the recorded Scripture of God’s Holy Word and if we want to know the will of God, we need not go any further or to any other source whatsoever in order to acquire these precious truths. Yet for Davidoff, such insight and “connections” can easily be gained by “huddled bunches at the back of the bar [praying]; at the monastery, the yoga class, the silent retreat (another name for spiritual formation practices) . . .”

“And it is often through learning to love each other that we find ourselves opening to God in new and deeper ways,” says Davidoff. Yet my Bible states that:

1 JOHN 1:6-8
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us

We come to know God more when we learn to die to self and identify with the Cross of Christ:

MATTHEW 11:28-30
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light

MATTHEW 16:24-25
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus

“What if our churches took on the practice of building relationships seriously? What if we not only cultivated Christian fellowship through worship and small groups but also held as a high priority the building of relationships with people who are not part of our church, even people who are very different from us? Far from becoming irrelevant, churches would become essential training grounds for a whole new breed of Christians who want to grow in their understanding of this spiritual path,” Davidoff states.

What sort of relational fellowship with unbelievers (those who are not part of the church of Jesus Christ via the spiritual rebirth as stated in JOHN 3:3-5) is the saint, the follower of Jesus Christ encouraged to have in the Scriptures? Obviously we are to have some form of relationship with those not yet saved in order to deliver the Gospel, but this relationship may be superficial, in fact we can deliver the Gospel to total strangers and have godly results. Yet as far as “building relationships” with unbelievers, the Scripture states clearly:

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

1 JOHN 1:5-7
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin

This is not at all to say that we should be aloof to people, to have a cool and dispassionate demeanor. On the contrary, Christians should, above all people, have the deepest compassion, fervency and empathy for others - for our LORD Jesus Christ does, and we are His disciples! However, we are not to be influenced in any ungodly way by the lost, nor are we to adopt their lifestyles in order to 'connect' with them. We have what they desperately need - not vice versa. 
But Davidoff claims that by adopting this sort of relational style of ministry, churches would become “essential training grounds for a whole new breed of Christian. . .”

A rather peculiar notion since Christians are not trained by relationships with the spiritually lost. A whole new breed of Christians being trained by such methods will be ineffective at bringing anyone to the LORD for salvation; rather we are bred (born in fact to new life) by the Holy Spirit of God, the author of life eternal (JOHN 4:14; 6:27,63; 10:28; 17:2-3; ROM 6:3-5; 8:10; 1 JOHN 5:11-12) and the sort of training we undergo is by way of discipleship, i.e., spiritual boot camp as it were. And the church certainly is in dire need of returning Back to Basics!

In summary, Heather Kirk Davidoff’s concise treatment of Loving Evangelism, Emergent Style is heavy on relationship and light – almost non-existent – on the Gospel and a Jesus-centered theology, replacing it rather with a social gospel.

The question I’ve asked in reading this treatment is:

Which will portray Jesus more accurately:

1) As we ‘find Him’ in relationships with the lost? or
2) As we learn about Him and of Him as revealed in Scriptures and pass this knowledge on to others?

It seems a consistent habit of the Emergent Church Movement to put the proverbial cart before the horse – they use relationship with others to lead to discovering their Jesus; whereas as we Christians learn and share Jesus from the Bible and see people respond to the Gospel, a relationship is established by the Spirit in “adding to the church daily those that should be saved” and we discover new-born brethren who likewise walk in the Light as He is our Light, the Light of the world – and then, and only then can we have fellowship one with another!

It is rightfully noted that as followers of the Way: Jesus Christ Himself, that we not view the lost as prospective ‘recruits’ to build our own church-kingdoms (Our commission is to seek first the Kingdom of God, not our own fiefdoms in local churches) but rather to echo the heart of God and His love for these lost souls and touch their lives with the grace with which our LORD had touched ours!

Evangelism, of course is all about the heralding of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, and everywhere in Scripture, this proclamation is accomplished by very ‘non-Emergent’ means!
It is the ministering of the Truth to those who don’t know it and cannot begin to understand it apart from the Spirit of God! It is the giving of the Gospel of salvation which is something contrary to religious pride and greed to acquire ‘heavenly blessings’ by human efforts. It is the death of self, and new life in Christ Jesus the LORD of Glory and the WORD made flesh!

ISAIAH 61:1-2a
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD . . .

MATTHEW 4:22-24
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. 23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

ROMANS 10:15
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

ROMANS 16:24-26
24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. 25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith

It is in these days a foregone observation that there are a multiplicity of ‘gospels’ out there, but the admonition from Scripture boldly states:

3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ

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