Thursday, November 15, 2007

...and this is the achilles heel of the emerging church

  • Do these images bother you?
  • Are they disturbing to you as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Do you think they an afront to His holy character; or fun?
  • What if T's like these were worn by... say... your pastor while he was preaching on Sunday?
  • Do these images bring glory and reverence to our Lord or mock Him?

IMHO, this is the number one issue bar none, coming from within the emerging/emergent church culture today. Contextualization of message, defining missional thinking, postmodern cultural relevance, open hand/close hand pragmatics, etc. are all secondary, and frankly child's play, compared to the issue of the lack of reverence that is coming from within the emerging/emergent church to the greater body of Christ.

The emerging/emergents primarily focus on the humanity of Christ; and they do so with such imbalance that they make Him out to be just one of the boys. Why? so that He can be more relatable and cool to a "jacked up" society. In doing so, they forget to chiefly honor Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. They fail to exalt Him as God in the Deity of Christ. Jesus, in incarnation, IS fully man - no question (John 1:14; Phil. 2:5-6; Heb. 4:15). But He is also, at the same time, fully God - two natures, one Person. And as such, He is perfectly holy in all respects; tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin! He is is sinless - able not to sin (posse non peccare); and impeccable - not able to sin (non posse peccare). He is God in human flesh; He is the Lord. And as John the Baptist so rightly declared that he was unworthy to even untie His shoe strings.

Beloved I come before you with tears today; not as one who has arrived in his own walk with the Lord, but one who knows his own sinful heart towards sin as well; and I am burdened, broken and deeply concerned about this issue of the lack of reverence in our worship that is literally affecting millions of believers in the Lord.

Some emerging-seeker sensible-ecumenical-culturally relevant-evangelical pastors within the emerging/emergent feel they need to use scatological, demeaning, crass language to describe our Lord in incarnation by continually referring to His bodily functions. Why? because if they didn’t - they think we're all too stupid to "get it." Some want to embellish the biblical account of our Lord's Virgin Birth with speculative talk that people in Bethlehem thought that Mary and Joseph were knocking boots in the back seat of a car on prom night to make "the story" of His birth more relatable to the culture. Why? because if they didn't - the preaching of the gospel of sola fide isn't powerful enough to regenerate lost people on its own; that nonbelievers just won't otherwise "get it."

This loss of reverence and the fear of the Lord in local church pulpit ministry is the hallmark personality of today's evangelical, ecumenical, emerging type of Christianity - which to me is no Christianity at all. Technique wins over truth; methodology is prime while message remains secondary; market driven research dominates while sound doctrine dissipates. To quote my friend Dr. James White: "what you save them with is what you save them to."

I'm sick of it beloved; and I for one say NO MORE!
No more cheap, irreverent, blasphemous caricature representations
of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Will you stand with me?

And we should boldly speak out in humble righteous indignation against this kind of spiritual tripe being propagated in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And anytime it raises its ugly head - no matter who may say it - call them to repentance. It is a dangerous thing to play politics with God beloved; to think it is a funny thing to come into the presence of a holy God, rather than a fearful thing. We can not sit back while others, whether liberal or pretending to be reformed, pervert His Word and treat the Lord Jesus Christ as some sort of caricature or cartoon for their amusement and theater.

He is holy; He is righteous; He is high and lifted up; He is seated at the right hand of the throse of God; He is Heaven's Dread Sovereign; He is Judge; He is the Alpha and Omega; He is our First Love; and He is not to be trifled with. Amen?

Don't tell us that the emerging church is pursuing humility, when their worship of the Lord is irreverent. Chris Rock is not the homiletics model for pulpit ministry for the man of God; and "smash-mouth exposition" has no place behind the sacred desk in the preaching of God's Word.

Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle John below as they describe their visions of the Lord. Then compare it with today's emerging/emergent "pastors." We need fall on our faces, we all need to repent for ever condoning or entertaining such juvenile antics in the name of Christ; and we all need to prayerfully seek to restore a high view of God and a reverence for Him once again in biblical ministry.

"Worship the Lord with reverence; rejoice with trembling."
-Psalm 2:11

Is. 6:1 ¶ "In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Is. 6:2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.Is. 6:3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” Is. 6:4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Is. 6:5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Rev. 1:12 ¶ "Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; Rev. 1:13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. Rev. 1:14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. Rev. 1:15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. Rev. 1:16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. Rev. 1:17 ¶ When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, Rev. 1:18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades."


Connie said...

Oh my, how awful. I expect it from outside the church, but this is coming from "inside" the church ('church' used loosely in this case!).

But I suppose that's the main issue with the EMC--being 'in' the church but not 'of' the church!

Connie said...

Ooops! That should be the ECM, not the EMC.

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Preach it, brother!

Instead of saying things like, "Jesus is my homeboy!", we should be proclaiming the words of Isaiah...

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Of course, to be able to say those words, one first has to have encountered first hand the glory of the Lord!

SJ Camp said...

Exactly. We expect this from nonbelievers; but when pastors think it gives them greater footing with others within their church or to attract others to their church, then we most "sound the alarm!"

Thank you for your comment.

YES and amen!

Reverence always precedes humility. A right view of God produces a genuine humility (as Isaiah knew). Without, humility just becomes another work righteousness, a personality trait, rather than the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:21-23).

The fear of the Lord in our churches IS the missing ingredient. It is essential for worship, for holiness, for evangelism, for humility.

Thank you again dear brother!
Jer. 15:16

Carla Rolfe said...

I can't tell you how many times I've been disrespectfully dismissed for having monumental issues with irrevence among "pastors" in our day. I'm majoring on minors, they say. Nitpicking, divisive, judgemental, overly critical, harsh, blah blah blah.

The thing is, I've watched the treatment online of other folks who have the same issue, and they are treated exactly the same way. It's heartbreaking. It brings no glory to God whatsoever to strut around like this in the first place, and then to have others exuse it and mock those with serious concerns, is just unthinkable. This isn't holy living, this isn't being broken and undone before a holy God, and this isn't in any way, any kind of example I want my impressionable kids to see.

Thank you for posting on this. I know you're speaking for a lot of people that are reluctant to say it, outloud.

Season_in_His_refinery said...

You stated:

"I'm sick of it beloved; and I for one say NO MORE!
No more cheap, irreverent, blasphemous caricature representations
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
No More! Will you stand with me?"

Here I stand, brother.....I can do no other.

Jim from said...

Amen. Standing with you on this Steve Camp!

Only Look said...

Amen brother. This is troubling. God bless your stand here. This is nonesense. I dont know what in the world is going on but it certainley is not the spirit of the Lord. How can you read the book of revelation and come away wearing shirts like this. Nobodys hearts are breaking anymore. They are not greived over sin and so they cannot see how great our Saviour is.

cyd said...

"Nobodys hearts are breaking anymore." So true, Only Look.

Dear Steve:
Thank you for speaking on this. It's a great encouragement! I think we are heading for very dark days in this country.

"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." 1Cor.16:13&14


Turretinfan said...

I'm not sure whether to classify them as an affront to his holiness or to his dignity (I'm inclined to the latter), but they are certainly offensive.

God is God, we are not.


Grigs said...

A man who was willing to torture a type of Christ? If I recall Jesus was tortured and killed to save the world, he didn't torture and kill to save it.

SJ Camp said...

This is good discussion here beloved and thank you. Reverence is at the heart of the worship-centered life. It is not peripheral; it is essential.

One may be on a journey to humility and the refutation of pride (hopefully all of our testimony here); but without the primary focus being the reverence of God, the fear of the Lord and living in awe of who HE IS, it will be an effort in futility.


Thank you all for these comments.
Jer. 9:23-24

Scott said...

You say: "Don't tell us that the emerging church is pursuing humility, when their worship of the Lord is irreverent."

That is a very broad and poorly researched statement in my opinion. What is your definition of the "emerging church"? How about some specific examples with names and links to their teaching.

Much of what you are writing appears to fit Wickedpedia's definition of Yellow Journalism:

Yellow journalism is a pejorative reference to journalism that features scandal-mongering, sensationalism, jingoism or other unethical or unprofessional practices by news media organizations or journalists. It has been loosely defined as "not quite libel".

Saying the emerging church is irreverent could certainly be defined as sensationalistic and not quite libel.

SJ Camp said...

Thank you for your comment. A few comments and questions:

1. Are you Emergent?
2. If so, what thread of the ECM to embrace?
3. I don't do research by Wikipedia - I read the books, listen to the podcasts; surf their own webistes; visit their churches; and dialogue with their leadership either by email or phone.
4. There is not one emerging church I know of that doesn't approach the teaching of God's Word - the pulpit or sacred desk - in a cavalier or casual manner.

The issue comes down to honoring the Lord Jesus Christ in worship as to He is and how He has reverenced Himself.

Read "A New Kind of Christian" or "A Generous Orthodoxy" by Brian McLaren; read anything by Spencer Burke (including THE OOZE; listen to even more conservatives like Mark Driscoll, etc. and you will see what I am talking about.

NOTE:(Conservatives within the emerging church camp like Driscoll are NOT on the same page theologically with men like Burke, McLaren, Jones, Pagitt, etc. Those men, by all accounts, are heretical in their doctrine on various essentials of the faith. Contrary to Mark who is clearly orthodox on most of the essentials.)


Scott said...

No Steve I do not consider myself emerging or emergent but our church plant is not traditional either. The problem I am seeing is that anything that doesn't look exactly like what Americans perceive as the traditional church gets labeled as emergent. Your own article seems to link the images on this page with the emergent movement yet you offer no evidence that any emergent leader has ever used these images. That is why I feel that this type of writing borders on libel. You didn't provide any evidence linking the emergent church to the images you used and then made the leap to say that all emergent types are irreverent based on the non factual information you posted.

I'm not trying to pick on you; I am growing weary of seeing labels like emergent and emerging tossed about with so little concern for the damage it may cause to those who are being mislabeled.

SJ Camp said...

You said, "Your own article seems to link the images on this page with the emergent movement yet you offer no evidence that any emergent leader has ever used these images. That is why I feel that this type of writing borders on libel."

1. In the introductory questions, I posited a question that says, "What if T's like these were worn by... say... your pastor while he was preaching on Sunday?"

Notice the phrase "like these.." I simply said what if there were images of the Lord like say there are on these T-Shirts worn by your pastor on Sunday morning?

That's all--it was by way of example.

2. The first image IS an image that Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church developed for the promotion of his new book, "Vintage Jesus"; AND yes, Mark does wear T-Shirts "like these" continually that portray the Lord Jesus Christ in mocking, cartoonish, demeaning ways. You may go to the Mars Hill website and watch the vodcast from two weeks on Phil. 2:1-11. And then tell me, what do you think of the image portrayed by the T-shirt he is wearing? Or better yet, go to his vodcast series from last year called, Vintage Jesus, and see him wear a new T-Shirt "like these" every week for that entire series.

3. There is no libel here.

Grace and peace,

Scott said...

Good information Steve and thanks for documenting what you are saying.

Since you bring up Driscoll do you think all emergent/emerging churches have pastors who curse and wear cartoon T-shirts that mock Jesus? Again I am concerned with painting with too broad a brush.

I guess it may be helpful to know what you define as an emergent /emerging church. Perhaps you have already done so? If so please post a link, I'd like to see your definition.

Good responses so far Steve, thanks for being willing to engage in conversation..,

Hayden said...


I do not disagree with you on this one. Here are a couple of points though that should be clarified:

1.) Mark Driscoll was wearing the shirts for a stated purpose during the Vintage Jesus series. Do you remember what it was? (i disagree with his premise as well)
2.) Is there any difference between what Mark was wearing in the Vintage Jesus Series and what he wore recently in the Philippians 2:1-11 series? (Hint, the shirt was under a what?)

Could we pray that this is a sign of progress for Mark?

Steve, I come from the solidly 'on your side' of the camp here on this issue. Plus I am a TMS grad.

One thing that I would ask is, "what is your motivation for posting these articles over the past week on Mark Driscoll?" Is this because some are happy about what Mark said in The Rebel's Guide to Joy in Humility, and you want to warn them about him?

I cannot see your heart, but my perception is that you are on a 'crusade' against Mark. Here is an example, I was talking to a fellow TMS grad about Mark D. and said that some people were skeptical about him. he said, "Oh, you mean like Steve Camp is? He has been on many blogs denouncing Mark for a long time" Neither of us are 'in the tank' for Mark but we both had the same perception.

Please brother, be careful that this is not what you are know for. By the way, great article on the cross at the top of the page.

SJ Camp said...


Thank you for your comment here brother and a few thoughts for you.

1. I am not on a personal crusade against Mark at all. In fact, I have posted equally about positive things that I do appreciate about his ministry on other blogs too. They don't seem to get the pass around attention that a more concerned post would have. Please forgive me if you didn't sense a Christlike burden over this issue from my posts; I thought I had communicated that effectively, but I will let you be the judge of that.

2. The issue is singular and weighty to me: it is a question of reverence for the Lord in ministry. Remember Mark is a pastor... And I cannot find any Scripture that gives any pastor the license that he is taking with the name and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It doesn't matter wether he has a jacket on or not - he drew attention to the shirt and thought it was "funny." I don't think portraying our Lord Jesus as a rap scratcher between two turn tables is honoring to Christ at all. I would expect Robin Williams or Jim Carey to wear a T like that, but not a man of God called to preach the Word and charged with a holy calling as Paul mentions in 2 Tim. 4:1 - would you?

3. The Vintage Jesus shirts were just as offensive to me regardless the motivation or pragmatic reasoning given. There is NO justification for a pastor to embrace how the Lord is represented on those shirts by wearing them as he preaches. It adds nothing to the preaching of God's Word, and in fact, detracts from it.

4. I prayerfully and by God's grace want to be known as a brother in Christ who is willing to stand for the truth of God's Word and proclaim the gospel and sound doctrine absent of politics and self-preservation (Acts 20 24).

5. I am trying to apply the command of Paul in 1 Thess. 5 to "test all things and cling to that which is good." Any of us in public ministry must be open to having our articles, songs, sermons, or ministry methods tested and evaluated in light of Scripture and done so in the same arena that they are propagated - just as you have done here on my blog and for which I am most grateful. You say that we are on the same page on the core belief of these things for which I am also very grateful.

Question: have you gotten on any blogs lately that positively embrace Mark's practice of these things and lovingly with humility challenged them with the Word of God? If not, why not?

6. Lastly, the blogosphere is a wonderful place for this kind of interaction and discussion to take place. "Provoking one another to love and good works" I believe is an essential part of our daily sanctification in ministry. Again, this comes down to one key issue for me: the reverence of the Lord in ministry; and I don't believe anyone biblically would say that these kinds of methods bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I appreciate your thoughts here brother and let me know your follow up thoughts on this as well. My heart is broken and burdened that the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ is approached and dismissed with such frivolity these days.

I ask your forgiveness if I didn't better communicate that concern here at COT and on other blogs.

Grace and peace,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

The Norrises said...


Thanks for the thorough response. I do have some of the same concerns but have noticed in the past year, what I see is a change in Mark Driscoll's preaching style. He seems to be less 'smash mouth' and more 'pursuing humility'. I have listened to his series on Philippians and have been blessed immensely. I am cautiously optimistic that he is 'moving in the right direction'.

As to your question. Steve, I must admit that I do not frequent too many blog. I read a select few being a husband, father of two children 9under 3), and pastor. I really do not go to 'emergent' blogs because there tends not to be much 'conversation' going on.

The only concern that I have is that you do not become labeled as a crusader on this issue. I stopped reading a blog that I liked because I believe the authors became 'bombastic' and 'obsessed' with eschatology. They lost sight of the big picture in my eyes.

Steve, I know you are a passionate man. I know that you love the Lord. We also know that Mark Driscoll is a passionate man that loves the Lord. It is good to warn people about things that you think are not biblical, but remember Driscoll is a brother. (That does not mean that you do not address issues, it just tempers how we do it)

Hayden (I accidentally posted this using my wife's account, sorry :)

PS Did Driscoll wear any of the t-shirt designs that you posted on this post?

SJ Camp said...

Thank you again for your thoughtful response.

If you read this blog at all, you will see that very little time is spent on issues like this--especially concerning Mark Driscoll.

Most of it is spent on proclaiming sound doctrine and the gospel. BUT, when from time to time, people are publicly lowering a high view of God and treating as a play thing the character, ministry and name of our Lord Jesus Christ, then brother we must speak out... amen?

You asked if Mark wore T-Shirts with these images on them... No; the ones he wore were worse than these. These were examples of what the trend is out there. However, the first image is his design where Jesus is depicted as a cartoon figure used to promote his upcoming book. Crossway should be ashamed.

Grace and peace to you,
Col. 1:9-14

SJ Camp said...

To All:

Here is a recent quote by Mark when ministering last week in Scotland. He said, "No one can say they are perfect. Lust counts as adultery and anger counts as murder. People want righteousness, which is why hard firm religions attract people. When you go to the bathroom, that's about how impressed I am with your righteousness. Our righteousness is described by the Bible as human excrement and menstrual rags."

I have bolded a key phrase in this...

Do any of you think this is acceptable speech in the sight of God and man when preaching the gospel?

Hayden said...


That doesn't bother me. If you hadn't bolded the phrase you did, I would have focused on the last sentence, which we know is the focus of the paragraph.

I love Steve Lawson, the pastor whose ministry I was saved under, and I once heard him say something to the effect of "Too many preachers call themselves expository preachers, and are not. They may call that expository preaching, but I think it is 'suppository' preaching." I heard Dr. Lawson say alot of 'in your face' things in the 2 years under his ministry. (I will admit he is not as brash as Mark Driscoll) I even believe he brought up the same point that paragraph ended with.

By the way, I have been reading your blog for some time and have found much to like about it. I just do not often get the time to comment. I have an 'article of the week' outside of my door and would love to make your article "The Cross is a Radical Thing" next week's article if that is ok with you?

SJ Camp said...

You have my permission to use any of the articles here for your church to the glory of the Lord.

As to Mark's quote: it was out of character for a pastor to use this kind of speech. What preceded and followed was more than sufficient, honoring, and biblical. Why continually cross the line into this kind of speech.

I don't have virgin ears nor lips; but again brother, this is a pastor in the pulpit speaking like this. (BTW: Steve Lawsen's words do not offend me)

Thanks for this interchange of ideas... I do appreciate you greatly taking the time here.

Grace and peace,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

kwilson said...

Sad but oh so true. But the cases you show are the obvious ones that are easy to see. The reality is unfortunately much more insidious. In many, many evangelical churches this lack of 'fear and trembling' slides in quietly, but nonetheless completely. Foundational teaching and preaching are sidelined to accommodate growth programs and the seeker friendly requirements to make the Gospel and church attractive to the community. What is lost, of course, are the only things that actually matter.

cowboyGeek said...

Hey Steve.

I know this is an old post, but I have some current observations.

You and I grew up in the same church, and I'm pretty sure your mom was my Sunday School teacher. I know I delivered papers to her house, and appreciated the tips, and remember her driveway and walk were ALWAYS shoveled. My point here is to acknowledge that our roots are very similar.

I also recall how your music, popular when I was in high school in the late 70s and early 80s, was considered unduly casual and, to some, offensive. My parents were probably in that crowd.

I now live in the Pacific Northwest. I don't attend Mars Hill, but I listen to Mark Driscoll's sermons every week. I moved here from Wheaton, and I love it here. But it is different. It's not just the land and weather, either. It's the culture.

And that's what I'm getting at. I think your dismay at this is more cultural than doctrinal, scriptural, moral, or what have you. You acknowledge that Mark's doctrine is predominantly sound, and you appear to have the same heroes. That's the real issue. The rest is wrapping. Mars Hill is not designed for Florida. It's for Seattle,
and Jesus is changing lives at Mars Hill.

So here's the question I have for you: If a guy, a pastor even, wears a shirt like Mark's on the streets of Seattle, and someone walks up and says "Dude, what's with the T-shirt?" and it's a conversation that produces an eventual Jesus follower, are you still offended by it? Is Jesus offended by it?

Sometimes this stuff is jarring. But I'm not convinced Jesus is as offended as we are.

All for Jesus,