Sunday, March 19, 2006

Gilbert Bilezikian going the “emerging” route?

In a post on the Pyromaniacs this last weekend, Phil Johnson (the original “Pyromaniac”) had this link to an article interviewing Gilbert Bilezikian who was stating that the Western church is on the brink of extinction. Bilezikian was cofounder along with Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church. He was stating that the biggest downfall was the lack of community among believers. According to Bilezikian, “After coming to Christ, our next step is to be involved in community.”

He goes on in the article to state that the church has been overtaken with individualism and the pursuit of material gain, breeding a sense of self-sufficiency. Having any meaningful family life is nearly impossible as everyone is pulled in different directions. He points to the issue of models of leadership that are more akin to that of a corporate CEO. These issues are among those that are contributing to making the church irrelevant.

Bilezikian then points to the fact that the New Testament church is to have a strong basis on community. He bemoans the fact that the church has become “institutionalized”. (He's beginning to sound like our “emerging” friends)

Bilezikian said that “The bane of the church is that it becomes worldly. Instead of imparting the Word and becoming an agent of change, it adopts the values of the world and integrates them into its structures and life."

But who encouraged the church in this direction? Isn’t the Willow Creek model just as he describes here? Isn’t he one of the “gurus” who helped formulate this strategy? Looking at the popular model that he helped create, I for one would not want to follow any newfangled concoction that he would recommend.

I would agree that the Bible certainly describes believers being in community with one another. I believe that this is clearly taught in Scripture. Believers looked out for the needs of one another and provided spiritual support and encouragement (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-37; Hebrews 10:24-25; Philippians 2:1-4)

But this community must be based on the truth of Scripture. The believers encouraged each other with the truth of God’s Word.

Bilezikian apparently is hopeful for the church, pointing “to a community movement which, he says, appeared at the end of the 20th century and has taken hold. These are churches in which lay people and clergy are raising basic questions about the identity of the Church, and about the definition of its workings.”

“It seems the Holy Spirit is operating a kind of quiet revival which is primarily aimed at recovering the dynamics of the Church of the Book of Acts, which results in renewed incentives for outreach in a pagan world.”

Gee, I wonder what “movement” he is referring to. He does not use the term “emerging”, but this certainly seems to be the movement he is describing. And it seems as if he is willing to jump from one popular bandwagon to another. I can appreciate the zeal to want to reach out to the pagan world, but we must be certain that this is carried out according to the truth of Scripture.

Since Bilezikian believes that “The bane of the church is that it becomes worldly" and "adopts the values of the world and integrates them into its structures and life“ , I wonder what he thinks the end result of this new movement will be?

It is good to raise questions about how the church should function, but let’s go back to Scripture and find out how the ministry should be carried out. Interpret the Bible in its normal historical-grammatical sense and find out what God’s definition of the church is.

I certainly appreciate the fact that the emerging church seeks to restore a sense of community in the church. If there is anything that is positive about the movement, the realization that community is important is a good thing. But deemphasizing or distorting the truth of Scripture creates a counterfeit sense of community, not a biblically based community. Long ago I felt that the church desperately needed a return to more of a sense of community. So many churches were just “program” driven. And I know of some churches that sensed that need as well. But they also understood that the community must center on biblical truth, not “deconstruct” it and refashion it according to our whims. So many of these churches set out to do just that; to create a community based on Scriptural accountability and discipleship according to the truth of Scripture.

As far as recovering the dynamics of the book of Acts, I wonder if the “emergent” types realize that those believers in Acts embraced the “apostles’ teaching” that was based on propositional truth that they so disdain? (Acts 2:42)

Yes, the church certainly needs to correct its thinking in certain areas, but there is no need to “reinvent” or “re-imagine” the church. And the last thing that we need is another popular movement to jump on board. It seems that everyone is desperately searching for that silver bullet to revitalize the church, eager to jump on the next purpose-driven frenzy. The fact is that there is no replacement for the solid teaching of God’s Word and a willingness to obey it. We don’t need another model to emulate or another way of doing church, but we just need to be the church according to God’s Word.


marc said...

Hi Eric,

Good post, but I would not be so quick to suggest that "Dr. B" in the so called emerging church camp. There are many folks who would not describe themselves as emerging who have been saying the same thing as Bilzekian for quite some time. I have concerns with the emerging movement too because many of them seem to play fast and loose with Scripture and doctrine. But I have been asking some of the same questions that many of them have been asking about the Church, and have felt the same yearn for deep community.

Further, you fail to mention that Bilzekian actually critiques Willowcreek. And you do not mention that he said that Willow Creek started out well but has become too corporate.

All in all though, I agree with you in the main and yearn for the same things you do brother.



JACK said...

I have high regards for Gilbert BILEZIKIAN and if he is taking the "emerging" route, I will have higher regrads. :)

- jack