The Christ in Prophecy Journal

What Does the Emergent Church Movement Believe?


Pinning down what the Emergent Church movement believes is kind of like trying to nail jell-o to the wall. Because the movement exists to break with all things Christian traditional and intellectual… well, ah, there you go — that’s exactly what they believe and why the movement exists.

All that breaking for the purpose of elevating experiential worship creates all sorts of different expressions, and therefore different offshoots of beliefs. Our friend at Olive Tree Ministries, Jan Markell, has written an article titled Will the Emergent Church Submerge Yours? based on her radio interview with Elwood McQuaid of Friends of Israel. Jan’s done a wonderful job of compiling the different offshoots into an overview of what the movement is attempting to embrace.

  1. Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.
  2. The centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.
  3. More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.
  4. The teaching that Jesus Christ will rule and reign in a literal millennial period is considered unbiblical and heretical.
  5. The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.
  6. The teaching that the book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past or is allegorical.
  7. An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.
  8. Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be reinvented in order to provide meaning for this generation.
  9. The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.
  10. While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.
  11. These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments (for Protestants), particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.
  12. There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church. (This will ultimately lead to the one world religion of Revelation.)
  13. Some “evangelical” Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.
  14. Some suggest there are many ways to God.
  15. Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave. If you are over age 50, your opinion will not even matter.

What pains me as a 30-something Baby Buster is that the movement began with some wonderfully talented preachers. My generation has benefited from Rob Bell’s Nooma series and Erwin McManus’ point-sinking illustrations. The loss of these and other preachers from the land of sound doctrine is painful, but goes to show how susceptible each and every one of us is to apostasy when we stray from the literal teachings of the Bible. And in this, despite all the “newness” the Emergent Church movement is trying to create, there truly is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9).

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. Nathan E. Jones

As the Internet Evangelist at Lamb & Lion Ministries, Nathan reaches out to the over 4.5 billion people accessible over the Internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He also co-hosts the ministry's television program Christ in Prophecy and podcast The Truth Will Set You Free.

8 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • I think I need some clarification…

    Doesn’t having candles and a liturgy cover just about any modern worship service?? What does it mean “contemplative” prayer? What do you mean “experiencing” the sacraments?

    I’m especially confused by:

    Some “evangelical” Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.

    I think it may just be how I’m reading it, but are you trying to say that Jesus is not present in the wafer at communion, that it’s all just symbolism??


  • Some of the Emergent Church practices mean returning to a Roman Catholic liturgy in worship and taking of the sacraments, like the Eucharist.

    Protestants believe that Jesus set communion up as a symbol of His sacrifice, and not as a continual sacrifice on His part. “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Romans 6:10 NIV) Since Jesus’ death was the final sacrifice for our sins, there is no need for Him to have to be repeatedly “sacrificed” in a Eucharist.

    Believers have something better that wafers and wine – the Holy Spirit.

  • this issue hit home with me recently when a few months ago i decided that I needed to step away from attending Church services where the ‘Presence of God’ was called down, so to speak, through an hour of musical worship before the actual Word of God was ever spoken by the Pastor

    as time went on in such Churches, my spirit kept feeling more unsettled – i didn’t feel i was gaining any spiritual maturity after many months of this style of worship while at the same time i started to feel like an addict that needed a ‘fix’ with these worship experiences consisting of self abandonment and a relinquishment of my normal everday mental faculties to experience a greater and greater degree of a some quasi-mystical experience of God

    i’m feeling much stronger spiritually now that i’ve stopped going to such services – i really want to meditate on God’s Word with my mental faculties intact and to abide in the power of that Word with a sound mind

    by the way, as an ex-Catholic, i can definitely attest to the false religious spirit that can give one a ‘spiritual high’ also in a eastern mystical sense — and to study the lives of some of the Catholic saints, one can see from their own testimony what great darkness can be part of this wayward spiritual path

  • Hello Nathan
    As this is an old post I doubt you will see this comment.
    My youngest son has totally turned his back on me, I am certain its because he was doing electrical work in a church where all this stuff was going on. The same has happened in another church and this time he is taking his family there with him, but still he will not speak to me. It is rare I see him yet he only lives across the road. I don't interfere in my sons marriages, but I did tell my youngest he was making a mistake – he didn't like it at all.. When we took all the presents over Christmas day, he wouldn't be in the same room as me. Now he is the same with his dad and sometimes with his old Nan.
    I am trying to believe, hoping and praying for my boy. There was a time when he would never leave my shadow and I know he loved me then. My husband doesn't want me to talk about it because he is hurting as well. All told, this has been going on for around 12 years progessively getting worse. I
    realise this is prophesied, but my goodness, it really hurts so much and my dreams are filled with it at night. I want Jesus to tap me on the shoulder to tell me it will all come right soon. I don't understand how so much love has changed into hate? Whatever I did in my parenting, I always asked the Lord, always – now this. it is very, very hard today. Perhaps
    writing this will help?

  • Thank you for sharing what is a difficult and emotionally trying experience, E.I. If a family relationship has soured it affects every area of one's life, doesn't it. Jesus said in Matt. 10:35 and Lk. 12:51-53 that acceptance of the Gospel would certainly divide a family.

    Does your son know Jesus as his Savior? Is what divides you the Gospel, or choices of places to worship, spouse or some other issue. If you and your son are saved and he is also your brother in Christ, then as Jesus commanded in Matt. 5:24 "First go and be reconciled to your brother".

    It might take repeated attempts to patch up hurt feelings, but the Lord wants the brethren to be at peace with each other, and you can achieve that by showing unrelenting attempts of agape love.

    The saying that "time heals all wounds" isn't quite true, for without humble love and time there can be no reconciliation.

    If he's not saved, continue to show selfless love anyway, and by your example he may see Christ in you and hopefully be won over to the Savior (1 Pet. 3 principle).

  • Thank you Nathan, I have been feeling dreadful and didn’t think you would notice this comment.

    Matt 5:24 I have tried and tried but I have been told not text or phone him and not to write either. He refuses to speak to me at all. His wife is embarrassed by it all and there is no bad feeling between us, or the children and I am always helping out with food and clothing.

    All my boy’s were saved as children, first with me then they ‘made sure’ with ‘Crusaders’ as young teens. I would dearly love to fellowship with them but they don’t like talking about their faith (typical Brits).

    The Church he is now attending, I introduced him to but later I left because of the odd teaching including ‘Alpha’, then he left later on his own. It is now ecumenical, purpose driven and emergent, his understanding of God’s Word is only basic as he hasn’t allowed me to guide him since he became an adult, so he is ripe to be ‘fleeced’ in many ways.

    I don’t want him to have to learn the hard way, but my hubby say’s I must let it happen. So that’s where I am, standing back and saying nothing while grieving and praying to understand.
    I must end! Thank you Nathan, may God bless you for allowing me to ‘talk’.
    Maranatha – please.

  • Dear Nathan,

    I read your comments with interest, but I have to tell you that you are in error at the last.

    The Bible says they went out from amoung us because there were never of us.

    The men you admit to reading and admiring and feeling sad for are not good, Godly Christian men that have erred into bad doctrine. They were Satan's men from the beginning – pretending to be children of our Lord.

    You have admitted to reading and admiring them, therefore I would suspect that even your evaluation of this new movement is tainted.

    This movement is clearly not from God, but promotes nothing new that hasn't been seen in one form or another since the beginning of written time.

    And the notion not to listen to anyone over 50, well this cult, spurred on by children, is a perfect example of why we don't let the young play with razor blades. Someone will get hurt.


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