Author's Note: The church is not a "thing." It's an organism and not an organization. The church is a Living Thing, having been given life by her Savior and Lord. The church is a Man and at the same time, a Bride. It is a Body with living members, each of whom is necessary to the health and function of the whole.  Let's stop the depersonification, the  reverse engineering of that which is alive, breathes, feels, thinks, speaks into some kind of faceless, heartless Automaton.  Thanks for walking this way. Greg

There are buzzwords inclusive to every stratum of society, every organization, movement and conclave of man: There always have been. Sadly, buzzwords and catchphrases seldom define anything with clarity and accuracy.

Perhaps nowhere is there as much potential abuse of “words” than in the arena of spiritual life, eternity, “the church” and religion.

Over the years I have developed what I call “Austin’s Laws of Ministry.” These are not exclusive to myself, but they are the important “laws” I have observed over 38 years of walking with Jesus and of ministering to people.

I only have two laws on my list. When I get smarter, I’ll add more, but for now, these work for me. Law Number One is this: “People Aren’t Stupid.” Law Number Two is: “Words Mean Things.”

It’s Law Number Two that I want to bring into focus here. When I was a pointy-headed theology student back in prehistoric times, my professors were fond of repeating a sort of “mantra” to we students. Over and over again until it was drilled into our mushy brains we heard the command: “Define your terms.” In other words, “words mean things” and we must be clear about how we use words and what definition or meaning is assigned to them.

A case in point: Talk about “church” to any large group of people and ask for individual meanings and understandings of the word. I’ve done this exercise. It’s enlightening to discover how many disparate and varied meanings a simple, single-syllable word can have.

So when we hear or use the term “Emerging Church”, we might rightly expect to find a wide variation of meanings and understandings.

I want to be clear: When I personally speak of “Emerging Church” I am not in any way, form, manner or fashion identifying with any certain, tangible group of people. I am a follower of Jesus, not of any organization, movement, fad, group, or classification of people.

I don’t care about vogue and popularity. I could care less about “jumping on the bandwagon” of this movement or that movement. I refuse to be categorized as “this” or “that” kind of Christian.

When I speak about “Emerging Church” I'm simply referring to the reality that much of what we've been taught, much of what we do, much of our church “practice” has been polluted, tainted, mutated from the original template as revealed by Jesus Christ and His Apostles, and recorded in the Word of God.

When I speak about “Emerging Church” I'm referring to the quest to rediscover, to go back to the roots, the origins of spiritual worship; to find an authentic expression of Christ’s Body in the earth.

I am advocating a rejection of denominational differences, the traditions of man, the expressions passed to us by the Roman Catholic Church or the Lutheran Church or of anybody’s church except Jesus’ church. I know, scoffers will wag their heads at my simplicity and perceived naivety. But knowing that I appear naive, I’m still on the journey; still searching out the authentic; still determined that I will see a church against which the gates of hell will not prevail.

So when I speak of or represent “Emerging Church” I’m not talking about a departure from classical, biblical, evangelical thought or doctrine. I’m talking about a departure from the religious traditions that man has laid on the skeleton of the church to create (in some instances) the monster of religion that looms in our current society.

To me, “Emerging Church” is simply “Authentic Church.” It’s the Church of Jesus Christ and of the Apostles. It’s the true and straightforward appearance of the Body of Christ in the earth, on a mission to bring the earth to faith in Jesus.

I once was asked by a nice Roman Catholic lady, “Are you a Protestant?” My response was, “No, I’m not a Protestant.” This confused my friend who said, “But you’re not Catholic, so you must be Protestant.” I like to have fun, but usually there’s a serious meaning in my humor and I said to her “But I’m not protesting anything!” She then asked, “Then what are you?” I said to her, and to you, “I’m a Christian; a learner-follower of Jesus.”

The point, Dear Reader is this: Don’t label me. Don’t try to “massage” my words into some kind of cultish, weird aberration of Christianity. There are “Christian Apologists” (so-called) who rub their hands in glee and cackle like gloating conquerors if they can morph someone’s words into their version of heresy or biblical deviation.

Don’t try to pigeon-hole me into your contrived lexicon of religious whackos – I won’t fit there.

I’ll attempt to follow my professors’ edict and “define my terms” as I write, but I also don’t want to muddy the waters with unnecessary explanations. This means you’ll have to make certain basic assumptions as you read: Assumptions such as when I talk about “Christianity” or “Jesus” I’m talking about the spiritual truth revealed in the Bible – and for you “King James Only” folks, I’m talking about the truth revealed via the King James Bible. When I talk about “Jesus” I mean God’s only begotten Son, Who was born of a virgin, and Who lived a sinless life and died an atoning death and Who arose from the grave on the third day and ascended into heaven making a new and a living way whereby we might be redeemed and restored in our souls, our spirits, to vital relationship with our Creator-God.

So, unless I give you a peculiar definition for any certain term or statement, you may assume I’m coming from a classical, biblical, evangelical, traditional, historical perspective. Goodness, gracious, the length one must go these days to prevent being labeled as a “this” or “that” kind of Christian! When I started this journey thirty-four years ago I was asked, one day into my new life, “Are you Pentecostal?” I’d never heard of the word “Pentecostal” but thought, “Who knows, maybe I am, even though I don’t know what a Pentecostal is” and so answered, “I don’t know.” I was then asked, “Are you a charismatic?” Now I’d heard of “automatic”, “cinematic”, “thematic” but I’d never heard of “charismatic” but again thought, “Maybe I am and don’t know it” and I said again, “I don’t know.” My by now frustrated inquisitor then asked in obvious frustration, “Well, what are you?” And in my innocence (and trepidation) I blurted, “I’m a Christian!” And thirty-four plus years later, knowing now what a “Pentecostal” and a “Charismatic” is, I’d still answer, with more conviction than then, “I’m a Christian.”

Got it? That’s what I am. I’m a Christian. On Saturday, May 18, 1971 at about 9:00 in the morning I told Jesus I was sorry for all the sins, all the rebellion, all the evil, all the foolish things I’d ever done in my life. I repented – I turned and went another way; away from myself and my wants towards God and His wants. I was changed; transformed; born again; redeemed; saved when I prayed that prayer. I was not a child that morning; I was twenty-one years old - Old enough to legally purchase tobacco and alcohol and old enough to vote for the President of the United States. I was considered an “adult” by society’s judgment and was in my right mind when I had that conversation with Jesus. In that moment I was forgiven of all my sins. I was washed, purified and made whole by the Blood of Jesus. I was ushered into a living relationship with a living Savior. I was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. I became a Christian in that moment when Jesus heard my contrition and my godly sorrow. I’ve been a Christian now for thirty-four years and three months tomorrow.

So to what do I object in the myriad of internet hits one can discover in a simple “Google” search for “Emerging Church?”

Here’s a direct “copy and paste” quote from a website purporting to give the reader clear and positive identification of anyone talking about the “Emerging Church.” ...labyrinths, icons, incense, chanting, candles, centering and contemplative prayer... Without contemplative spirituality, the emerging church would be nothing more than couches and candles.

What? WHAT? “labyrinths, icons, incense, chanting, candles, centering and contemplative prayer...”? In the vernacular, “do what?”

Now I’m sure somebody out there, some spiritual investigator, some inquisitive mind, some experimenter of the realm of the spirit adheres to such folly. I’ve seen enough weird and strange stuff in my lifetime that I don’t doubt there are such folks floating around the fringes of faith, but coupling this statement with the conclusion that  “Without contemplative spirituality, the emerging church would be nothing more than couches and candles” is absurd at best and entirely stupid and misleading at worst.

Don’t get your feelings hurt when I say that this kind of judgment-without-the-facts statement is irresponsible and foolish and harmful and just plain wrong. And if I just hurt your feelings, please forgive me, I’m not mad at you, but I won’t retract my observation.

Let’s attempt to define some terms here: “Contemplative Spirituality.” There’s a great place to start, because prior to surfing the web, looking at various treatises on the subject of the “Emerging Church” I had never heard of “Contemplative Spirituality.” So let’s see if I can get this straight: I’ll be back after I’ve read up on the subject to get an understanding.

OK, I’m back. I’ve read a bunch of words about “Contemplative Spirituality” and I’m ready to give you my results.

1) I have no idea what the term “Contempative Spirituality” means. It's beyond me and foreign to my faith and my understanding of the practice of Christianity.

2) I’m not interested in either “Contemplative Spirituality” or “...labyrinths, icons, incense, chanting, candles, centering and contemplative prayer...” I’m interested in knowing Him (Jesus) “in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His suffering.”

3) I don’t like the tone of those who seem to want to attack anybody they don’t like. I never read about Jesus attacking anybody. Oh, He identified people according to their spirits, but He never lashed out, attacked or accused anybody. He loved even His enemies and His opponents and would have gladly forgiven them their sins and befriended them if only they would have allowed Him to do so. Oh, I want to be like Jesus.

4) After having studied about “Contemplative Spirituality” and all the supposed evils of the “Emerging Church” I’ve concluded that while there are some strange ideas floating around the spiritual atmosphere of The Church, neither I nor anybody I know in the “Emerging Church” camp is part of that strangeness. We’re just, as I indicated earlier, “Followers of Jesus” but we are also, and as importantly “Rejecters of Religion.” We hate religion. We hate man-made attempts to get to God. We despise the forms, functions and programs of man-made spirituality, “church”, religion, call it what you will.

5) I think that as a reaction to the man-made religion and religious traditions of men that we've experienced in the past several hundred years, it's normal and expected that exploration of other "ways" of practicing our faith would occur. Whenever one explores unknown territory, there is the occasional foray down dead-end paths, worthless trails and into confusing terrain. Henry Ford wasn't judged by his first attempts at building an automobile, but by the finished product after years of trial and error. Could we please wait to pass judgment on the burgeoning "Emerging Church" movement until sufficient light is shed on the subject and we can see at least a "Model A" appear?

6) As I was taught in college, in theology and in church practice, just as in every discipline of life, one must learn to “eat the meat and spit out the bones” of every teaching, posit or theory. It is a glutton and a child who swallows everything set before him. It is a sign of maturity when a person “tries the spirits” and will “taste and see that the Lord is good.” We must be like the Bereans, who were commended because they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11). I'd prefer to measure Emerging Church theology, practice and understanding against the Scriptures rather than against contemporary detractors and antagonists.

So who are we, the people of g2k? Who am I? We are seekers of genuine, authentic, true New Testament, even “primitive” Christianity. We want to know the God of the Bible through His Son by the power of His Spirit. We want to worship in “spirit and in truth” and we’ve discovered that so much of what passes for Christianity is in reality a deviation from the original truths given us by Jesus and by the Apostles. We reject this man-made stuff with all the vigor and strength we possess.

We aren’t followers of Saddleback or Willow Creek or Brian McClaren or The Ooze or any other label, group, personality, element or sect. We are followers of a Solitary Man, named: Jesus. Of Nazareth. Of Heaven. Of the Right Hand of the Father.

Here’s another statement taken from the same website quoted above, “The Emerging Church is emerging, but not with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Wow! What a statement! Now, I’m certain that certain elements, certain people who align themselves with the term “Emerging Church” may be devoid of a comprehension or adherence to the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God, but to paint all “Emerging Church” folks with the same broad brush is like meeting the Green River Killer, discovering that he possesses citizenship in the United States and determining, “Americans are all serial killers.” Such a determination defies simple logic. The same mistake is being made by applying judgments against everyone who uses the term “Emerging Church.”

And now, in my appraisal, I’ve said enough about the detractors, would-be experts and so-called Apologists who seem to be against nearly anything that isn’t just like them. I’ve got other things to do – such as live out the gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ and to discover the Church He Himself promised He would build. A church made “not with hands” a church of His design, architecture and purpose, without the dictates, demands and interpretations of man.

Working my way through the “labyrinth” of religion, religiosity and religious men to find the Jesus of the Bible and the church of His design is enough for one man’s life work, I would think.

So, I’m an “Emerging Church” guy, determined not to become a spiritual moth attracted to some false light, but to be a lover of God and a friend of Jesus and of Publicans and Sinners alike, and to point as many souls as possible to the heaven God has prepared for all those “who love His appearing.”

In this world of deceptive voices and of seducing spirits, please know there is a sure way, a true path, and that Jesus’ sheep know His voice. Don’t live in fear. Don’t tremble with trepidation that you are being deceived. Talk to Jesus; the Jesus of the Bible. Tell Him the desire of your heart. Follow Him as His word is revealed to you and as the Holy Spirit guides you into all truth. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein (Is. 35:8).

Blessings to you on your journey! May you find that authentic and true representation of Jesus in the earth and in your own heart.

In His Grace,

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