Why James MacDonald Is Not Emerging (Part 2)

(Here is the remainder of James MacDonald's commentary on emerging culture. MacDonald is pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and its several satellite locations. He is also the featured preacher on the radio program Walk in the Word. )

4. Because the answer is Jesus, not cultural analysis.

Several times in the past few years we have baptized more than 200 adults in our church in a single weekend. When you listen to so many concurrent stories of conversion to Christ in such a short period of time, you get a clear picture of how it happens. "I was going along thinking I was ?too sexy for my shirt,' and God dropped a boulder on my life to break me down and get my attention." While the label on the boulder may change, the story does not. Bottom line: God uses the painful circumstances of life to soften human hearts and bring people to faith in Christ.

In the past few years we have analyzed our culture ad nauseum. Cultures don't come to Christ, individuals do and the fields are more ripe for harvest than ever before.

Our endless discussion of culture has become just an elitist substitute for rolling up our sleeves and getting the Good News to the people who are hurting right now! Baby Boomer, GenX, Postmodern, blah, blah, blah. The discussion itself is modernistic and we're just talking to ourselves. How about a more compassionate extension of our own life in Christ and please . . . a lot less perpetual babbling about culture, which even when rightly observed is not the answer, duh - Jesus is!

5. Because Jesus is the purpose for the party, not the surprise hiding in the closet of respectability.

If you have not traveled to the places in our world where the Gospel of Christ is spreading like wildfire, I covet that opportunity for you. What you find there is not careful connoisseurs of some Rodeo Drive Jesus, but flag-waving, flame-throwing, on-fire followers of Christ. The power of God's Spirit is moving because Jesus is experienced, adored and proclaimed in all of His transcendent glory.

Why do so many of the emerging church websites speak of God/Father and less overtly or not at all about Jesus Christ the Lord? Claiming to be postmodern we are still marketing Jesus and hiding Him in the closet of respectability until we feel like people are ready to handle Him. Jesus can't be handled and He doesn't need spin doctors. I know we're pretty fussy about music forms, but let's bring back an old chorus, This Little Light of Mine, and in case we've forgotten the answer to "hide it under a bushel?" is NO!

October 24, 2005

Displaying 1–10 of 23 comments


April 28, 2006  11:31am

I agree completely with Pastor James. The "Emerging Church" movement is actually such a wide group of people. You have men like Brian McLaren who is SO FAR OUT there he just freaks you out. To the other side where they are doing "emerging worship". The reason for their movement makes sense. The way a lot of the leaders in this movement are leaning though is way off. Jesus Christ must be kept first above all. The Word of God must NEVER be compromised. Sinfulness and repentance in many of these churches is left out. They are not preached in order that more may hear their "good news." But what is really happening is you have a lot of people that are just hearing how good God is ... how loving He is ... etc., which is true..but until you see how wicked the human heart is and our bent for sinfulness...you can not come to the cross and realize in truth what Christ Jesus did for you. Let's preach all of the Word...(even the things we don't like and those that offend) and trust that God knew what He was doing when He put it together...Praise King Jesus

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February 17, 2006  7:57am

Thank you Pastor James for telling it like it is, it seems that many claim they are doing just that, but it is far from the truth. I also have been disturbed by the Health/Wealth, Word Of Faith Movement. The Name It and Claim It "preachers" are promoting a heretical doctrine that does not line up with the Word Of GOD. Many well know individuals have written books, spoke and quoted the scriptures falsly and have become the modern day false teachers we have been warned in the bible about. What is going on in Africa is a tragedy, people who are coming to Christ for the first time should be told the gospel truth. But sadly they are led astray and fed with such blasphemous lies that Jesus death on the Cross did not completing the work of Salvation and that we are little gods ourselves. Your statement "zeal without knowledge" could not be more dead on true. GOD BLESS YOU Ed

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January 26, 2006  11:10am

What if James MacDonald is emergent after all! I know it sounds strange, but for all his resistance, he comes across as direct and struggling to hear the bible above the din of culture. What more is there? We're all pilgrims trying to do the same thing–wheter we like the title emergent or not. Considering the difficulties we have defining ourselves, we be better off without the labels. Tim

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January 04, 2006  4:32pm

Very interesting discussion, but for a lay person, I think that all Christians are getting TOO important via each new denomination, or movement. Didn't the early Church deal with "movements, heretics, etc. as well... Remember "What's new is really old and done again.. We just heard at Christmas "Jesus is the reason for the season", remember He's the reason for the Christians as well. Thanks

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November 22, 2005  2:33pm

Personally, I think Pastor MacDonald is spot on in his analysis. I appreciate the perspective of a man who has been around the block. Having been in youth ministry for the past 22 years, I can honestly say that this movement was not a surprise. Listening to the chatter always brings me back to the only comment my Mom ever made about sex that I bothered to remember. She would say, sighing heavily, "every generation thinks they are the ones that discovered sex, never realizing that they are here only because somebody before them was doing a satisfactory job". Pastor, thanks for going before us and fighting the good fight. I have read enough of your writings to know that you carry a few scars from previous battles. "This? It's only a flesh wound"! May God bless you greatly.

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Nathan Woodward

November 17, 2005  1:36pm

James Macdonald's critiques would fit my experiences if he were talking about the "Seeker-sensitive" movement. If by "style," we mean the methods and approaches to communicating the gospel, then count me in as one who thinks "style" is just as (but not more) important as substance. I'd prefer to use the word "language" in its broadest sense. The problem is when a particular language for worship is held as the standard–whether that's adult-contemporary praise choruses and business casual, gospel hymns and suits, or poetry and blue jeans.

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Joseph Ostrander

November 01, 2005  6:16pm

As noble as the emergent ‘shift' appears to be, it is not without opposition. And not only from those outside the emerging circle. While such rancor can be construed as positive from those within the circle it is the opinion of this observer that it can become another "us vs. them" alignment that has plagued the Body of Christ since saints codified personal viewpoints. It may be a "kinder, gentler" realignment, but it's still resetting boundaries no matter how fuzzy one wants to draw the line. Now whether this is a good thing or just the common symptom of growing pains as the Body matures has yet to be determined. As welcoming & inclusive as it can be, emergent thought will not become the overwhelming expression of the Church Universal. It can only hope to render the lines of smaller circles more flexible or even erase some of them. I'm not advocating cookie-cutter Christianity. I'm saying the best efforts of the current emergent spokesmen/women will be a voice like one calling out in the wilderness. The response of those within the smaller circles or those with no circle affiliation can only be fanned by the Wind. In spite of all the controversy I'm drawn to emergent thought & heartily engage in the on-going conversation. It is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise limited menu model of the modern evangelical church. It's this vapid style of church expression that motivates me to emerge simply because the other options have become, well, too stale. That is why I would not be an enthusiastic part of Harvest Bible Chapel or any other church expression similar to it. Modern church culture or emerging church culture? I would choose the fresh-baked loaf over yesterday's batch. And not because day-old bread is not as wholesome or nutritious or even baked with inferior ingredients. For me it's simply not as fragrant. The emerging model will not look like the way it has been done before. It will indeed look different, taste different & smell different. Thank you Jesus! Christians emerging from mass-produced factory-made bread hunger for the smaller specialty bakery offerings down the street. Those comfortable with the flavor & texture of their modern church loaves will still be fed. And if the emerging expression happens to prefer lingering over their meal while engaging in thought-provoking conversation, I say bon appetit!

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james macdonald

October 28, 2005  5:35pm

Hey Bernie: I was actually talking about Romania and Vietnam. I would certainly never support a health/wealth message in Africa or anywhere. Do you doubt that God's Spirit is moving powerfully some places in the world? It's so interesting to observe and now experience the harsh, "you stink if you don't agree with me" tonality from some emerging guys who interact in a way so thoroughly consistent with what they are trying to get away from. I don't see any enemies on this site, do you? God help us all. james macdonald

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October 28, 2005  4:11pm

I disagree that most emergents are "biblically illiterate." I consider myself part of the Emerging Church and I have read the Bible countless times. Yet I don't claim to have all the answers. Does that make me biblically illiterate? No. I have questions that God will answer in His timing. James says that he has "yet to read anything from the emerging church of style or substance that is compelling to" [him], yet many emerging churches are reviving very scriptural traditions of prayer, meditation, fasting and litergy. To me these seem to be very substantial alternatives to the "Four Spiritual Laws" fire insurance faith of Western Christianity.

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james macdonald

October 28, 2005  1:07pm

For Michael Kruse: Let's don't let our points of disgreement in content or in manner serve as liscense to reject another person's perspective. One of things that most concerns me in the emerging church dialogue is the readiness to pick up the tonality fundamentalism, i.e. meaness etc. when addressing someone we disagree with. I tried to be engaging with my article and arresting with my word choice–forgive me where that came across as harsh. I am with you in much of the criticism of the western church, I just don't resonate with the solutions currently offered by emerging authors/speakers. That does not exclude me from the dialogue or mean that I don't seek to reflect some of the positive, Christ-like characteristics that are reflected in the leaders you have encountered. Please pray that I will. Bound together in Christ, James MacDonald

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