Are We Picking Fruit or Pulling Roots

by Mike Ratliff

During the latest escalation in the Truth War, it has been noticed by many of my good friends who watch these things that as we have brought into focus many of the things pertaining to outright heresy and the blending of pagan with Christian practices within the Emergents’ “ministries” as well as all those who are attempting to minister pragmatically, certain incriminating book references and articles on their blogs and websites have been taken down. Also, in discussion with other comrades in arms in the trenches it has come to the fore that even though it is good that we shine the truth from God’s Word in the dark corners of this movement, there are still hidden things that are actually the roots of all of the apostasy and heresy against which we contend. As we deal with the present evil, the even deeper evil behind it remains. 

I had two seizures in late August and early September last year. I was asleep and alone when I had the first one so I was not aware that I had actually had one. However, I woke up to some pretty serious symptoms that really got my attention.  My back and left shoulder felt like I had been run over by a truck. I had broken blood vessels causing little spots all over my upper body. I went to the doctor to have these symptoms looked at. They took blood tests to see if I had tick fever. They suggested that I consider physical therapy for my back and shoulder. However, looking back on that now, seeking to treat the symptoms of the seizure instead of the root cause of them was akin to shutting the gate after the horse had escaped. However, a few days later, my wife returned from her trip and witnessed me having a seizure in the kitchen. It was then as I experienced the worsening of back pain and shoulder pain and the reoccurrence of the broken blood vessels all over my upper body that my doctors and I put 2 and 2 together and realized that we had a seizure issue to treat primarily with those symptoms being secondary. This analogy came to me today as I prayed about how to address these concerns in the Truth War.

It was from my own Bible study, prayer, and discussions with others battling well in the Truth War that I came to see that the primary root cause of apostasy is unbelief. From this springs all sorts of pragmatic “solutions” by these people to create or recreate a form of Christianity that can function and exist outside of the Sovereignty of God being the primary source of direction and power. If you have not listened to the interview that Chris Rosebrough did the other day with Emergent Doug Pagitt, I suggest that you do as you keep what I have shared so far in this article in the forefront of your mind. Also, listen carefully to how often Pagitt mentions how the Leadership Network and he consistently recruited men who they considered innovators in how they ministered or whatever. Here is the link. Now, with that conversation fresh in your mind, watch the video at this link. From this I think we can boldly say that the fruit we have been picking is rooted in a cult that some in the Truth War have dubbed “The Innovation Cult.”

I would like to share with you my own experience in this cult taking over a church  in which I was a leader back in the 1990’s. The takeover happened this way. I had been elected as Deacon in the late 1980’s and became Chairman of the Deacon Board in 1992. Just a few weeks into my tenure as Chairman, our two pastors resigned. We were without a pastor for several months. We put together a pastor search committee and they visited several churches on Sunday’s and gave their report to the Church Council, which I was part of since I was Chairman of the Deacon Board. In late Spring, we had a pastor come to preach to our church “in view of a call.” He was about 15 years younger than me. I liked him. He was not a “Bible-Thumper,” but he could sure preach. In any case, he became our Pastor several weeks later.

From the mid-1980’s until our new Pastor started, we had a very mature Precept Ministries program. I was one of the leaders and the only one who had gone through the highest level of training, which involved learning how to exegete Scripture using Hebrew and Greek word studies as a major part of that. I had just started the last semester of teaching through Revelation when our new Pastor started. We had our own facilities like whiteboards, projectors, a VCR and television which we stored in our own store room. Our new pastor informed us that he was appropriating all of that “stuff” at the end of the semester and terminating any more Precept Ministry training and teaching.

One of our other leaders confronted him about this, telling him that that “stuff” was paid for by contributions from those who were part of the Precept Ministry. The Pastor told him that he considered it the wrong direction for our church body to go in getting that deep into the Word of God. He scoffed at the Greek and Hebrew studies that I had done saying the NIV was just fine for anybody. Besides, he wanted to use the TV and the other equipment on stage during Sunday morning worship. He was going to start showing clips from Hollywood movies as part of his “sermons.” Our TV was the monitor that his video person used. The big screen hanging down over the stage was where the “movie clips” were viewed. He had a state-of-the art sound system installed as well. It was LOUD. He did away with the Choir, the organ, and the piano. Instead, we had a rock band on stage every Sunday.

By the time my year as Chairman of the Deacon Board was up, there were only a handful of us left. Most had confronted the Pastor about the changes he was making and were told to either conform or leave. During this time he had brought in a team of associate pastors who were all very young and “cool.” He and his team spent a week at Willow Creek in Chicago being “trained” then another week at Saddleback Valley for more training. After that, there were left only small pockets of people older than 40 still attending that church. The Pastor asked me to teach the target age group Sunday school class, which were late 20’s and early 30’s couples. That went pretty well as long as I taught from the books he selected for me to teach through by Max Lucado or some other “cool” writer. However, when I decided to teach through a book of the Bible for one semester, I was fired. He replaced me with one of his “cool” associate pastors and I was given my own age group to teach, which was a huge change. I was teaching and pastoring a couple of hundred people one Sunday and the next I was standing up in front of 5 or 6. I found it interesting that a couple of Sunday’s into this, I was approached by several of the men in the younger age class from which I had come. They wanted to know why I had left. No one had told them that it was the Pastor who had made that decision.

This sort of thing was continual in the last several months we were there. We had small groups meet in our home. Then that stopped and we went back to meeting at Church on Sunday nights, then we went back to small groups again. It was very strange how and why the Pastor and his team kept changing things. There was never any continuity. It played havoc with my own spiritual growth as well. Fortunately, in late 1999 I became the Database Administrator for the Bank I worked for. They moved us from the OKC area to the Tulsa Area and we were gone.

What we had experienced was the takeover of our church by an early version of “The Innovation Cult.” I look back on that time now and remember meetings with the staff and Pastor and all they wanted to talk about was the latest book by this or that author that I had never heard of, but I sure know whom they were talking about now. Most of our friends ended up going to several of the other churches in our area that had not been consumed by “The Innovation Cult.” I often wonder how they are doing now.

In any case, did you see any parallels in what I shared with what you saw in that video and with what you heard in that interview? When I watched that video today and then discussed it with some friends, it just clicked. I recognized what had happened. The focus is innovation. That means that change is constant. Didn’t Andy Stanley call that “The Principle of Momentum?” In any case, several years later when the church we were attending here in the KC area started showing all the signs of going Purpose Driven, we left before all of the “innovation” started.

What bothers me so much is that it is only now that I am seeing what I was dealing with back then. What is the root of this cult? It is unbelief and that always causes professing Christians to minister and walk pragmatically. “The Innovation Cult” is the container for the paradigm that has within it all versions of pragmatic ministry. This would include Purpose Driven and seeker-sensitive as well as the Emergent and quasi-emergent ministries like the Acts 29 Network.

Yes, we must continue to confront error in the Truth War, but it is very helpful to understand that we should really be going after the roots of this enemy rather than just picking its fruit.

Soli Deo Gloria!

18 thoughts on “Are We Picking Fruit or Pulling Roots

  1. That so-called ‘pastor’ was a ‘hireling’. The problem is when a ‘model’ of ‘church’ is set up ( ‘felt needs’ of humans for the sake of the flesh) and people are taught if they are a ‘part’ or ‘plugged in’ they are ‘church’. Christ purchased His true church but men set up illusions and models of ‘church’ and people are confused. New believers are taught that if they don’t ‘go to church’ they are not ‘real christians’. If they are not ‘plugged in and serving’ they are just ‘souring’. This divisive and false ‘visible church’ is where the most damage is done to new believers and unlearned or falsly taught believers. Same thing happend with the false illusion of the visible church of the Roman Catholic system: Must be ‘pluggged in’ (member) doing good works (not souring and being made rightouse thru them) and if you are not attending you are somehow apostate. When Jesus started His earthly ministery… the same types (religious outward appearances along with long robes, scrolls, positions, titles etc to prove themselves to men for power and gain) had done the same thing BUT Jesus’ disciples where taught and received a Spirtual (His Spirit entered them and still does) understanding of who God is and what His mission really was: not of this world, so the earthly minded don’t receive it, only those whom He alone has chosen will understand the spiritual rather than the natural/temporal/carnal. What we are at war with is nothing more than the most subtle ( insidious in operation ) beast in the garden, the enemy working through ( false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ ) using the human natural body and it’s sinful nature of pride for power, position, wealth and recognition by men.
    What do we do? What we are called to do:
    “… the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
    In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
    And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

    These men and women have been snared and taken captive and we are the ones who by grace have been set free so that we might reflect from our broken, earthen vessel the One who is able to set them free also by His devine will through the POWER of the Gospel alone!

    Continue onward reflecting this Mike as his Spirit gives us the means to be able to do just that! They cannot reflect this same Spirit and will be made apparent on the Day of His judgement.
    Matthew 7:21-23 (King James Version)

    21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.


  2. Thanks for this Brent!

    I needed to hear that part about being plugged in… sigh. No matter where my wife and I try to go to be part of a Church, they want us to be “plugged-in” somewhere. We have even tried to be part of some small-groups, et cetera. However, I found that the focus of these groups to be mostly for those far less mature in the faith than us. We never really fit in. Also, they always emphasize works, doing good works, et cetera. What’s wrong with some serious Bible Study?

    Thanks for this and be blessed brother!


  3. Mike and Brent, I so appreciate both of your comments today. How often do we hear many of those terms, especially about being “plugged in?” And now, I will always see the word “unbelief” in my mind as I read and listen to those who have strayed off the narrow path.

    Many of us are very grateful for men and women who will speak the truth and encourage us as we all battle in this war for Truth! We need each other now more than ever! I know that I was hungry to find anyone who could discern the things that I had been seeing and hearing. Many are now realizing what disease has overtaken much of the church. Keep preaching it, Mike. God bless you!


  4. Hi Mike:-D

    Amen! Brent:-D

    The church I used to attend, had a similar ‘Coup’ but this was an attempt only. The ‘hireling’ as Brent put is so well, was also a young dynamic, new thinker – Purpose Driven. A wonderfully charismatic, very likeable person, which made it sooo easy for him to step in at the beginning the way he did. I really liked him until he began to make his agenda clear. The Lord gave a few of us a quiet discernment which left us standing like a cautious wall in the background who were not prepared to let him run rampant and we were often seen as the spoil-sports and waaaay too serious.

    I heard a word recently called “christiantainment’ and it seemed so apt… Like your church at the time, the fancy sound systems etc were heralded in and we ended up with chucking the hymns and bringing in karaoke christian DVDs which were suddenly in wherever you looked, much to our sadness. I am not saying that all modern Christian music is ‘off’, not by a long shot, but to remove all the richness and depth of the Spirit inspired hymns to replace it with emotionalism and never-ending repetitious words that so many of them have a lot of the time, was unimaginable.

    Hymns make people feel convicted. Uncomfortable. Depressed. So they get chucked. Yet when you know the Lord, they are uplifting and joyous and full of worship and understanding of where you stand in the Lord both with and without Him in His rightful place in your life. They comfort you and take you Godward like little else and fully focus you on Him and off yourself. The modern take on Christianity is to be made to feel great about yourself and your self-worth and self-confidence is king. Where Jesus never says a hard word to you, the Holy Spirit is there to make you feel awesome and God is the affable Dad in heaven and we are his ‘favourited’ king’s kids….. 😦 Just make sure you are “in with the programme ” and you are set for life.

    This type of behaviour seems to be more common than I ever first realised. It is like a disease and to me, has its foundation still in the “Yea, hath the Lord said?” scenario from the Garden. If doubt can be put into folks hearts that God is no longer doing it the way He has always done it or can be trusted in any small thing, then there is room for anything to take place in the carnality that is reigning. It takes courageous hearts fully in the Lord to make a stand in the light of the ‘popular new guy’ that is loved by the majority and has wooed them with his ‘awesome love and works’. Most often, you will be rejected and removed either by the YES crowd or the Lord will bring it about or in some cases like the one I was in, the Strength of the Lord was present and the popular guy was removed. Whichever it is, it will all be the Lord’s outcome anyway 😀

    To the Lord be all the glory!
    Bless you for this posting


  5. Prov.24
    [21] “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:”.
    This is from one of the “wisdom books” of the Bible, the King James (Authorized version) Text.
    It must be assumed that the people under discussion are monitoring this website, so I hope they take this Admonition from The Word Of God to heart.
    For too long, those “that are given to change” have operated without effective challenge to their methods, and the un-Biblical basis for their actions.
    My guess is that the church, as a whole, is unfamiliar with the above verse.
    Let’s now use this Biblical Instruction to withstand the “innovative” attack on The Church.


  6. I was asked to teach a class at our church after I retired, and I began to teach through entire books of the Bible, the feasts, and other Bible truths. The class went from 8 to over 100 members. The pastor had to resign because of immorality, and the church hired another man. After one year he demanded that everyone teach from Rick Warren’s material and after I insisted that my class be an exception I was asked to step down.

    The western church is consumed with itself and has little stomach for more of Jesus. The emergent movement continues to spiral downward, and the seeker/purpose/etc. types continue to enjoy a shallow party. Much of the church is enamored with politics and causes. Without a massive revival things will only get worse, but we cannot be content with just avoiding those errors. We must continue to seek Christ and His glory in our personal lives and in our local assemblies.


  7. Hi Mike,
    Wow, Mike, I guess you really have experienced all that you are teaching!:-) What a Perfect God we serve. How you must rejoice to have been given this ability to serve your brothers and sisters in this way, for this time, when we all need this help!
    I know what you mean about small groups. We also tried that 2 years ago because it was kind of expected that you join in. I had only been a Christian for 2 years. The first hour of the time was spent eating and talking about anything and everything and then the last 45 minutes was spent discussing either the previous Sunday’s sermon, watching a DVD or whatever. Lots of opinions. No real bible teaching or teacher for that matter…just a leader or facilitator. I hated it. I wanted to talk about Jesus and no one else did. We went about 3 more times and quit and haven’t been back. It seemed a more social activity and that was not what we were interested in. Talk about feeling like you don’t fit in!
    That also happens with my women’s bible study group. Any serious soul searching or talk of Christ, if even anyone brings up such a topic in discussion, gets a glance or two and then on to something “lighter.” But, I go and make sure it does get brought up…even if only tolerated for a moment or two.
    Wonderful comment, as always, Steph, and also by you, Brent.
    Mike, your article shows us this…that faith is God’s gift to man and not something we can expect to find in ourselves. People want a god they can see and feel. Nothing new there.
    Blessed are those who do not see, yet believe!
    Bless you and enjoy your break.


  8. Amen, thanks for sharing that Diane. Yes, I am preparing to hit the road. I will be back late Sunday. I do need the rest, but I know that God will use that to get me ready to reenter the war with renewed focus, energy, and an even firmer commitment to Christ and the message of His Cross.


  9. Use caution if you are heading SW…I have relatives in Tulsa and watch that part of the country and also the KC area as my husband and son travel a lot to those areas with their wrestling.
    Anyway, heard yesterday there are supposed to be icy storms across the area.


  10. Yes, that is why we are leaving today instead of tomorrow. The day it all hits we should be there. The day we come home it should be cleared out. Please pray for a safe trip.


  11. Wow, Mike. Your account sounds all too familiar. The only unpardonable sin in the 21st century church is to complain about the use of modern style! Seen it and been there.

    I fear God may allow mankind to expose his wonton deeds and I believe it is happening. You are deadly accurate with your supposition that the root is unbelief. How could a believing person become a pragmatist? The Bible does not support pragamatism at all and vice-versa.

    Carry on.


  12. Thank you… we are un-churched right now. It has become so hard to find a decent Church that it has become discouraging. We most recently attened a Calvary Chapel which was ok but was a 45 minute drive. I became involved in the worship team which meant I had to be there 1.5 hours early on Sunday AM, this became a family problem. In the meantime I had began reading Puritan and other reformed authors such as Walter Marshall, Thomas Watson (whose writing I love), the congregationalist John Owen, and the contemporary author Terry L. Johnson. I also have been getting Tabletalk magazine for a couple of years… God is good! I also subscribe to Modern Reformation but these guys tend to talk a little over my head sometimes, at least I learn some new words! Laff.
    Needless to say I have become reformed in my theology and have come to se the grave importance of sound theology in the Church…. BUT, when I visit Churches I usually find entertainment and unsound theology. Most people know well the verse where Jesus said that “whoever comes to me I will in no wise cast out”, but they have no idea of the first part of the verse that says, “all whom my Father calls will come to me and..”. God truly is sovereign and no doubt we gather at a Church meeting to receive from Him through the preaching of His word and through the sacraments.
    I was raised in a very proper south Georgia 1st Baptist Church (1950s) where all the men stood out front before service, talked, smoked, and jangled the change in their suit pockets. I was called there and became a believer but I didn’t grow. I was SO excited at what had happened to me. I was 8 or 10 yrs old. I got in the car and was so excited.. .I said “Let’s go celebrate”!! My mother jumped straight down my throat and told me that this was SERIOUS, not something to celebrate… so… I became very worldly but the Lord was faithful to my simple faith that He had saved me. He truly did.
    In my early 20s I went to a David Wilkerson meeting and got involved with an AG church. Then I started on a spiritual roller coaster where I would try really hard to be righteous, fail, leave, repent, come back, try really hard again, fail, leave, come back… etc etc until finally I didn’t come back for a long time.
    In reading Walter Marshall’s book, “The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification” along with Terry L. Johnston’s book “When Grace Comes Home” it finally began to make some sense to me. I still struggle with my role and God’s role in my sanctification but have come to understand that while He is sovereign and both justification and sanctification and the other parts of salvation are His work… he will not live my life for me. My part is to repent and obey, to walk in the Spirit… but my doing these things do not make me more holy nor do they determine my fate… they simply make the Christian life worth living I either have joy or I don’t. Nothing is more miserable than being a Christian who is trying either to be righteous in the flesh or who has become discouraged and is wallowing in it.
    I have become more of a believer through His grace. I believe the whole Bible. It does not have to make sense to me, I study and try to understand everything but I believe God’s word over my own understanding.
    You are correct all these Church problems are rooted in unbelief. I think all Christian problems are rooted in unbelief. We can never submit to obey God until we believe that we are really justified. We will never overcome sin until we believe that we are really forgiven and are sanctified, even though we are still working it out, we are already perfected in Christ. We are secure in Him. The Church is so full of unbelief. We cannot love and obey God if we think in the back of our mind that He might actually be our enemy, that He might be mad at us. We have to believe what He says.
    I go to the forums at and am usually appalled at what people believe and don’t believe… at the opinions Christians spout… Christians!! I don’t believe that a Christian has a right to an opinion. If we are citizens of Heaven, if this world is not our home, if we have a King in another world, then we are ambassadors and an ambassador has no right to an opinion, an ambassador can only represent the position of his or her King.
    The world is full of ignorant people who think that they know everything and the Church somehow has a desire to be like the world, Christians don’t want to offend anyone but Christ is a rock of offense! How can a Christian possibly be non offensive to the world??
    Now we have “carnal Christians”, I don’t think that this catagory of Christian has been around for very long.
    You know, I am sorry to ramble on. Maybe I am talking some things out. Our local Presbyterian Church is of the more liberal sort or I would be going there. Please pray that the Lord will help us find a proper Church to be a part of… We have visited two churches lately, at the first one the “worship band” played part of “Smoke on the Water” as people were being seated and a woman in the front jumped up with “devil horn” hands (a fist with the pinky and index finger raised). The sermon didn’t mention Jesus at all, but the whole message was this: invite someone to come with you next week…!!! We didn’t go back.
    Then we visited another church that was a bit like the one that you described with clips from movies etc and a rock band… and a heavy push for everyone to join a “small group”. We tried a small group once and frankly did not like it, they met at our house and would not leave. Twice I had to tell them that it was past our bedtime.
    To top it all off, our younger daughter sent us an email yesterday from Germany saying that she is a homosexual… we will let the Lord handle that, and He will.
    All things work together for the good for those who are called, for those who love the Lord.
    I will save this site and will visit and download some podcasts.
    Thank you!


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