A DESIGNER DELIVERANCE?
In the emerging church, "Everything Must Change."1
So everything—and I do mean "everything"—has gone out of style! The
"old-fashioned" notions of "getting religion"—including repentance,
redemption, deliverance, salvation, and being "born again"—belong to
the past. Emerging leaders may talk on and on about the "conversion"
of the church but they rarely talk about the conversion of the
Yet, who can blame them?
Increasingly, our salvation "system" reflects the
triumph of man, where "scoring" feeds the hungry pride of those who
"do the saving." Prepackaged programs, for example, control the
conversions while cookie-cutter salvations secure the quantities.
Never mind that man has never saved anyone. And, never mind that God
has already done the saving.
Yet, this "system" has become a means to an end.
"If it works, do it." Some clergy, for example, win more converts by
fear than by joy. That is, they win more converts by sin than by
grace. Other clergy promote an easily marketed "benefit plan" that
guarantees health and wealth, and prevents suffering and sorrow.
Whatever the strategy, these clergy always throw
in a few "extra" rules. They insist that the "unsaved" must "do what
it takes" to become a Christian. And "doing what it takes" means the
"lost" must lift themselves to heaven with the right "bootstraps."
So new recruits must hear a tedious recital of cultural mores,
morals, and manners. And they must hear a repeated litany of precise
taboos, conventions, and virtues.
Then—after it’s all over—the "saved" usually live
no differently than the "unsaved." They may be "converts," but they
are seldom "disciples."
"Salvations in the Sauna"
A far different ploy, however, arises from the
more "sophisticated"—or "educated"—clergy. Those "in the know" have
reduced salvation to a "thinking man’s religion"—salvation by
information—deliverance by data. These "keepers of the creeds"
invoke centuries of rhetoric in winning reasoned agreement with
their proposed ideas about God.
Of course, "knowing" something was never the same
as living it. And, regardless of the "method," manipulation for a
divine end always proves a contradiction.
So we see why many emerging church leaders avoid
the whole salvation issue! In its place, they offer a "relaxed"
repentance, a "designer" deliverance, a "cool" salvation, a
"multiple choice" belief. . . . In other words, "Just hang out with
us and enjoy ‘salvation in the sauna’."
Such confused conversions totally ignore hidden
dishonesties, messed up lives, and single-minded selfishness. (We
used to call this "sin," but most emerging leaders are too
"sophisticated" for that.) And the notion of being spiritually
dead—though mentally alert—does not cross their minds. In fact,
"It’s not even a possibility."
While we’re at it, don’t mention the word "evil."
Such a notion is "a naive holdover from primitive mentalities."
Today’s "enlightened" leaders now classify this ancient term as a
mere "absence of good" or—in worst cases—a "temporary illness."
Such indifference to our spiritual deformities
makes "goodness" meaningless. It makes profoundly changed hearts and
the integrity that flows from changed hearts not worth talking
about. And, today’s emerging leaders might as well forget the
Gospel. After all, Jesus called his followers to change themselves
first. . . .
. . . then the world.
A New "Altar Call"
Yet, the Lord of History has changed history, so
"changing the world" must take place within a changed world. For
example, no one in today’s world—including the Holy Spirit—likes
steamroller religion, in-your-face salvations, or hit-and-run
evangelism. No one knowingly suffers manipulators, con artists, or
"any-means-to-an-end" evangelists. And no one honestly prefers the
rhetoric, jargon, and formulas of antiquated institutions.
In short, the world has refused loveless
Christianity. The unchurched, for example, have refused the big egos
behind "big evangelism." And, the discerning have refused "quantity"
as a deceitful substitute for "quality."
So emerging church leaders must seek a new "altar
call," a new "salvation," a new "evangelism"—a new honesty, a new
authenticity, a new reverence for the Mystery—a new caring, a new
belonging, and a new journeying. . . .
. . . yes, it’s a journeying, a maturing, a
growing. It’s not just a one-time event!
The new evangelism will look more like "planting"
and "watering," mentoring and modeling through endless stages of
growth. The goal, in other words, is not salvation. The goal is
discipleship. Jesus said, "Watch me, then you do it." And, finally,
"Go teach others."
What’s our problem?
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
1. "Everything Must Change" is the title of a
book by Brian McLaren, a leading spokesman for the "emerging church"
movement. I appreciate his friendship and respect his concerns. None
of us, however, remains totally free from "Designer Deliverance," so
I believe Brian will always welcome mutual accountability in our
efforts to help a desperate world.