Emergents and the Seven Churches of Revelation

“You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism, and not be an emergent Christian. In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.”

That’s how Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s book Why We’re Not Emergent (by two guys who should be) starts out. DeYoung and Kluck co-write the book in alternating chapters and each writes with an engaging, thoughtful, informed style. Like me, they are in the stereotypical demographic of emergents: young, white, male, middle class, etc. DeYoung is a pastor of a Reformed church across the street from Michigan State University, and Kluck has written for ESPN the Magazine, ESPN.com, and other media outlets.

Without defining the emergent movement here (which the authors do well, and you can figure out if you’re one here), I think the authors are successful in defining, interacting with, and critiquing the movement. I especially appreciated their candidness in voicing their concerns with emergent “pastors” like the ever-popular Rob Bell, whom evangelicals have fallen head over heels for without discerning the dangers of his teaching.

What I got most from this book is in the epilogue, the title of which I stole for this post. In it, DeYoung admonishes emergent churches to listen to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3: “Emergent leaders need to celebrate all the strengths and sun the weaknesses of the seven churches…and admit that Jesus’ prescription for health is more than community, authenticity, and inclusion.” Further, DeYoung shows that the seven churches are representative in that their strengths and weaknesses are also our strengths and weaknesses (not just emergents’ strengths and weaknesses). I’ll try to distill DeYoung’s thoughts briefly here.

-The church in Ephesus was orthodox, moral, hardworking, but loveless. To them and to us, Jesus says “Love.”

-The church in Smyrna was persecuted, afflicted, impoverished, but spiritually rich. To them and to us, Jesus says “Be faithful.”

-The church in Pergamum was passionate, bold, youthful, but compromising. To them and to us, Jesus says “Discern.”

-The church in Thyatira was warmhearted and loving, but over-tolerant of false teaching and immoral behavior. To them and to us, Jesus says “Think.”

-The church in Sardis was flashy, successful, of good repute, but shallow and spiritually dead. To them and to us, Jesus says “Wake up.”

-The church in Philadelphia was small, unimpressive, struggling, but faithful to the Word of God. To them and to us, Jesus says “Press on.”

-The church in Laodicea was influential, ritzy, affluent, but apathetic and spiritually poor [“lukewarm”]. To them and to us, Jesus says “Be earnest” [or zealous].

DeYoung describes how emergents pick on loveless Ephasus, but his “beef” with emergents is not their distaste for loveless Ephesus, but rather their blind eye to undiscerning, overtolerant Pergamum and Thyatira. His point is that emerging and non-emerging Christians need to pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses of all seven churches.

For example, while it’s easier for me to look at the plank in other church’s eye while ignoring the speck in my own, I need to look at myself and see the weaknesses of Ephesus and the lack of zeal characteristic of Laodicea. DeYoung goes on to say many good or challenging things in this chapter, but I won’t get into them here. I’d almost go so far as to say that the last chapter alone was worth the price of the book.

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2 thoughts on “Emergents and the Seven Churches of Revelation

  1. I also appreciated this book, and the humble approach of the authors as they critiqued the emergent movement but also validated the evangelical trends against which the emergents are reacting. You’re right that the epilogue summarizes well the attitude we ought to have – examining our own churches for discernment, zeal for the Word, love, etc. and understanding what can happen when the pendulum swings too far in any one direction – i.e. the seven churches, which may characterize any of us but for the grace of God.

  2. If it would fit in the budget of what you planned to spend on my Christmas present, I would love a copy of this book.Speaking generally, do you feel that the OPC has Ephesus tendencies? From your time in VA, where do you see the PCA?

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