Qualities of a Gospel-Driven Mission

The emergent movement is the clearest example today of what Paul calls in our text as an appeal that “[springs] from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive… with words of flattery,” all with the intention of pleasing man rather than God. It is not any different from the “seeker-sensitive” movement that caters to the “felt needs” of the people, the only difference being that the caterer offers a smorgasbord of “Christianity a La Carte.”

Psalm 89:26-37; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (text)

Like all passing fancies, the megachurch movement is slowly fading into the sunset. To keep their multi-million dollar budgets and professional staff, these megachurches are more and more mutating their message into the false gospel of health and wealth, known as the prosperity gospel. But even this prosperity gospel is losing its grip on the faithful, especially among the youth.

In the Philippines, these movements are brought in by foreign missionaries, particularly those coming from the West. For trends in the church, there seems to be a 5-10-year gap between the West and the Philippines. For example, the megachurch movement in the U.S. took off in the early 80s, while in the Philippines, a few megachurches emerged only in the 90s. It is more than mere coincidence that the megachurch and prosperity gospel movements both exploded on the evangelical scene at the same time. This is because the one feeds the other in a symbiotic relationship.

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However, by the late 1990s, evangelicals were increasingly disillusioned with the vanity and shallowness of the modernist megachurches with its Hollywood-style pomp, pop music and drama spectacles. A brand-new movement, called the “emergent” or “emerging” churches, appeared on the horizon and by the early 2000s, they were assimilating many of the Generation X or millennials, the generation after the Baby Boomers. Some of the more well-known emergent authors are Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, Peter Rollins, Spencer Burke, David Tomlinson, Leonard Sweet, Rob Bell, and Tony Jones.

What are these “emergent” churches? Having rejected the triviality of their parents’ megachurches and materialism and evangelicalism’s claims of absolute truth, these emergents now want to open their faith not only to Scriptures, but to all other traditions—even when they are conflicting—whether they are Christian, sub-Christian, or non-Christian. From the early church, they want ancient Gnosticism. From the medieval age, their menu includes mysticism, chants, incense, and empty prayers. From the current culture, their diet consists of hip-hop, U2, rap, and Starbucks culture. In short, it is “Designer Christianity.”

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