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!