Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

Revolution or Humility?


I am quite surprised that I am to be included in this amalgam of conversation.  Yet it is a privilege I will not delay in shrewdly abusing.  In the spirit of Luke 16 of course.  I wish to take note of a few contradictions in the previous posts.

Dogma number one: There is to be no Dogma.  The first delicious contradiction is of course nearly identical to the elitist double speak which has become a tactic of non-debate for the masses.  It goes something like this: you are old fashioned, and fearfully cling to your dogma whilst we ethereally float above such definitions in an unbound theoretical conversation.  For the moment the securing of such a utopia, requires this squelching of all debate for our ideas are simply superior.  Yet in time, when all are assimilated true peace and unity will be achieved.  We as Christians certainly don't want to be viewed as 'dogmatic' or 'unloving' or 'intolerant' or whatever other names they might hurl at us.  So, we put on a pensive face and attempt to sell out our ideals until common ground is reached, until we are again welcomed declawed into their 'conversation.' 

The call away from dogma is, of course, played out in the way we form our public worship.  It is no call away from liturgy it is simply a call to a chaotic liturgy.  We present a God of spontaneous chaos as if he were the God of scripture.  It is almost as if we expect God to each day present us with a different sun.  Or perhaps a different Son based on whatever, whim happens to be taking Him in that moment.  This of course is nothing new, 'a return to the early church'--that generic club with which most recent 'new' movements fein to beat back whatever issue they happen to dislike--address the same problem.  

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace as in all the other churches

I Corinthians 14:33

Dogma number two:  Sectarianism is bad so we are starting our own, whatever:  A call to unity whilst we readily hop onto the newest ride 'Emergent' and attempt to leave the denominations in our dust, simply another split.  Yet this time, we will refrain from using such a term and instead blame the establishment for forcing us out.   

This is simply a lack of respect for the recent historical way in which the Holy Spirit directs the Church.  Do we think the purest ideal of what the Church is supposed to be was given only to us at this moment?  The elderly establishment, faithfully taking their pews each week, deserve our respect.  Many of these church bodies are also faithfully pursuing huge missionary efforts in this country and abroad.  Whilst we sit and 'debate' on how we can stop offending the post-church fools amongst us. 

Or, perhaps we think that our times are so much different that we need something drastically new to meet these times.  The arrogance of novelty seems contained within the term 'emergent' itself.  While there is of course nothing new under the sun, the embracing of this 'emerge' exemplifies a dangerous trend of our time, our unwillingness to fight for what we believe in.  What of holding on to beliefs to the point of death?  I can think of nothing more characteristic of the early church.  Yet today the enemy convinces us to question ourselves to the point that no fight is necessary.  We find a happy medium and float along in our lukewarmness.

"I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance.  I know you don't tolerate evil people.  You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not.  You have discovered they are liars." -Rev. 2:2


"I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!"  Rev. 3:15,16

What is it that fuels us to feel so left out of the 'establishment' churches of our time?  With the creation of every maxim and the presentation of every truth, our evil hearts are at work insidiously corrupting and seeking self glory.  There was a time when Christ's call to self sacrifice was a potent weapon against the arrogance of the Pharisee.  Yet today we turn our little martyrdoms into a badge of honor, just as they did their prayers and offerings.  We have each become a slighted minority of one.  Little Hitler, whine about Mein Kampf.   Bill Clinton, feel my pain.  Obama, down with the struggle?  Politicians use their relation to our selfishness to promote their false gospels, we need to be careful lest we do the same.  

"Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.  Thought he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.  He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.  And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross".  -Philippians 2:5-8

Thought the false churches may provide many social services, food, water and shelter, these are not the answers to the ultimate problem here on earth.  The only thing that really matter is our hearts and the hearts of those we minister to.  

Jesus replied, "The truth is, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign.  But you shouldn't be so concerned about perishable things like food.  Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I the Son of Man, can give you.  For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose." -John 6:26,27

"Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' "  -Matthew 7:22,23

Aside from the fun of pointing out these contradictions there is a problem much more serious. For not only do these contradictions point out your association with the tenants of 'revolution' you have used the very term.  A term which, given the mass killings and chaos of Robespierre and Lenin, I will have no part of.  Now this is no mere criticism of a few sets of circumstances in which a beautiful ideal failed to be adequately realized.  Instead the failure of the revolutionary philosophy is ultimate and fatal.  The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars it ushered in were responsible for the deaths of over one million people.  The Bolshevik Revolution and the successive USSR is responsible for an estimated twenty million deaths.  The thirst for chaos which dwelt in the heart of these men was a novelty which we have yet to get over.  Though we wouldn't claim to want the overthrow of an entire country, our evil hearts want something of a similar nature.  We want just enough evil to be titillated, but it is still evil.  

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. -Proverbs 14:12; 16:25

We are again faced with the age old problem, who is our authority?  The word of God, or some amalgam of our evil desires and the philosophy of this world.  The word of God gives us the solutions of repentance and sanctification.  Perhaps the best agent of our sanctification is the humility of taking our place in the churches with which we find fault.  The world offers another solution, one which simply ends in death.


No subject is taboo, your insight is always valued. Whatever we call it...emerging, emergent, postmodern, open theology...ect all has it’s share of dogma. The problem with the term “dogma” is it equates to “bigotry.” We all have our presuppositions, suppositions, and absolute truth. (I have no doubt the Earth is round, please don’t waste my time otherwise.) I believe in Christ’s atonement as much as I believe the Earth is round, but in talking to someone else, I must be sensitive. For example, I must show the love of Christ rather than only proclaiming it. I’ve dealt with a lot of Dutch Reform thought, and their definition of what order in worship, it’s extremely different than, Grace Bible, and Grace Bible’s definition is much different that Gallatin Valley Presbyterian and so on... Definitions are hard, because we all define things differently.

Hebrews 12:28
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.

More to come later. Great post, keep up the good work!


Nick, you are always welcome in our “amalgam of conversation.” As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. We appreciate your thoughts and we value your insight--when I first read the title of your post, I knew this was going to be a good one!

I would first like to point out the false dichotomy that you put forth in the title of the post. You seem to believe that we want a revolution just for the sake of being rebellious. What we are after is a Revolution of Hope, “one that offers good news for both the living and dying, that speaks both of God’s grace at work both in this life and the life to come, that speaks both to individuals and to societies and to the planet as a whole.”

This kind of revolution is not contradictory to humility. This kind of revolution has no more to do with the Bolshevik Revolution than this Emerging kind of Church has to do with the post-emergent herbicides that I use in my business. You should know better than to make this kind of hasty generalization. This revolution we talk of comes from humility. I’d rather not argue about semantics but if you have a problem with the word “revolution,” I think that’s just plain silly. If we use the word “reformation,” would that sound more appealing? Nevertheless, through humility to the Word of God and to ourselves, we have to admit that we can always do things a little bit better, no matter how good we think we are. Always reforming, like Martin Luther said. If we don’t, we risk not performing at our full potential as Christ’s servants to the power of a personal paradigm.

Brian McLaren states, "More and more Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who have recently dropped out of church, Christianity is a failed religion. Why? Because it has specialized in dealing with 'spiritual needs' to the exclusion of physical and social needs. It has focused on 'me' and 'my eternal destiny,' but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, poverty, and dysfunction."
I don’t agree with McLaren on everything (especially with his endorsement of Oboma for president), but he does have a valid point when he says that we could be doing things better as American Christians. From my personal studies, I believe much of the present problems Brian mentioned here stems from the modern Church’s association with Christian Zionism and flawed eschatology. Inarguably, what we believe about the future determines how we live in the present.

If Revolution is change, then Humility is the catalyst for change. If everything was perfect, why change anything, right? Are we perfect? It has now become obvious that we might be talking about different kinds of humility. I think you’re referring to directing humility to the traditional Church and I am referring to directing humility to self (while we both admit humility to the Word of God). Both are noble characteristics, but when it comes down to it, are you going to “fight for what we believe in,” (simply because that is what our Church believes and that’s final) or admit we can do things better and then “fight for what we believe in…holding on to beliefs to the point of death.” Don’t confuse the issue by calling us arrogant and lukewarm when we’re really not that different.

Really, I think the inspirational Pastor Michael basically covered everything else I was thinking in his detailed response. I know you probably didn’t sincerely mean everything you said in your post, I think you might be rushing judgment a little. Maybe some preconceived premonitions of what the Emerging Church is (due to semantics and rumors) has left you very skeptical. I like your attitude and I know you are a truth-seeker. Don’t stop “asking why,” buddy!



This morning I read the chronicle story about your ministry, for which I applaud you: we as Christians simply must get outside the walls of the church in order to be the presence of Christ in the world.

The Emerging Church is all about moving beyond politics and labels (including liberal and conservative, politically as well as theologically). I gather that you guys do not take this approach, however? I am a bit surprised that you mock Clinton and Obama (putting them alongside Hitler is a bit over the top; Hitler considered himself a conservative Christian, and believed in the same things today's Religious Right does - pro-"family values," anti-homosexuality, anti "liberal" elites and university types - which is why so many German Christians supported the Nazi Party in the early years).

Also, while you seen to disparage churches and Christians that focus on Matthew 25, the passage is clear: meeting people's needs on earth is a salvation issue. Indeed, if we are honest with the Bible (and most Christians are not), Jesus paints a multi-faceted portrait of salvation, and nowhere in that masterpiece is the early 20th century "Romans Road" formula.

In fact, much of what modern popular Christianity holds as faith essentials has nothing to do with the Bible, and a lot to do with self-justification.

The question is, will we move beyond self-justification and be honest with the Bible and unafraid of Christ and his teachings. If not, why should the younger generations bother to listen?

Bruce Gourley
Church Historian

Hello Bruce! Welcome to our blog!

I agree that we need to move beyond politics and labels. I don't think anyone here would disagree with you on that. Personally, I'm a little weary of discussing politics because it seems all the major candidates are the same, if you know what I mean? (I'm a Ron Paul guy)

I also agree with you on your assessment of Matthew 25 and the importance of meeting people's needs on earth. That is why I quoted McLaren in my last comment to Nick, "It [modern Christianity] has focused on 'me' and 'my eternal destiny,' but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, poverty, and dysfunction." I'm not sure who Nick was actually referring to by the "false churches" only meeting people's needs on earth comment--maybe he needs to clarify that point.

These are important issues that the younger generation has grown more keenly aware of.

Thank you for your comments,


Once you meet Nick, you'll know we don't all think alike. :)
Everything on this blog is a conversation. Can you join us Thursday morning?


Everyone wants to save the world, no one wants to help mother with the dishes. -PJ O'Rourke

Throwing money and time at all these big problems out there is easy. It requires little thought or future responsibility. On our march to these crusades we can justify any number of sins and wreak all manner of havoc. The revolutions I mentioned are responsible for more poverty and injustice than any other one factor ever. They foolishly overthrew their political establishments in search of their perfect world. They thought the problem was out there, it was this or that government, this or that people group. Little has changed today, as we blame this or that religious establishment.

What is much more difficult, and far more profitable, is to daily take up your cross. The greatest action one can take in the battle for redemption on this earth, is to rule ones own self.

For,If you can't rule the self, what gives you the right to rule anything else? I Timothy 3

The church today does focus on you, on your sin and what must be done about it. It is this 'emerge' which seeks to reach every slighted me, to adapt our worship to suite each me. This is a far different thing from having a heart for the lost. It is allowing the lost to write your theology.

Hey Bruce,

I'm pretty sure you want to rethink this statement:

"The Emerging Church is all about moving beyond politics and labels (including liberal and conservative, politically as well as theologically)."

So by taking on the label of 'Emerging Church' you plan to move beyond labels? or perhaps by this time you have moved beyond words to a higher plane. I'm sure I would have to be some sort of elitist to understand. :)

I placed Hitler, Clinton, and Obama together in an appropriate context. Just as you did when you pointed out that Hitler also considered himself a conservative Christian. But that hardly has anything to do with the fact that Hitler and todays Religious Right are very close. Suicide and martyrdom are also very close, yet one is the ultimate evil and the other the ultimate good.

Matthew 25 is simple and it does speak for itself. The only problem is when we get to Matthew 26

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.
The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”
But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

But, but, she didn't help the poor! You mean there is something more fundamental than helping the poor?

I'm not sure what you mean by the 'Romans Road formula', or 'modern popular Christianity.' I am guessing those are labels.

Oh, and I am the younger generation, so you might want to be careful or I might stop listening :)

Nicholas Turner
Non-Degreed Simpleton

Hi Bruce,

Welcome to our blog! Another Baptist joins the fray :-)

I agree that Christianity should ultimately transcend man-centered political categories. I have difficulty seeing the message of Jesus as either exclusively liberal or exclusively conservative; ultimately, the gospel is a "new thing" God has brought into the world, and it simply won't fit into the "old wineskins" of American political categories. Its values are not the values of the world, but the values of God's Kingdom. That is one of the reasons that the world is scandalized by Christ and His message.

In my walk with Christ, I have been challenged to move beyond the notion that Christian faith is simply a free ticket into heaven, and to embrace a more comprehensive view of the gospel as a message of personal and global transformation. As a group, we are trying to rediscover what it means to be an effective community of Christian disciples.

Would you be up for a cup of coffee on Thursday, Bruce? We meet at 7:00 am at Wild Joe's downtown. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Christianity in person.

In His Peace,
Pastor Michael

"Everyone wants to save the world, no one wants to help mother with the dishes. -PJ O'Rourke"

To which I would reply: begin saving the world by helping mom do the dishes. I have long held that true change begins at the personal level. In John 3, Jesus says that we must be "born again" to "enter the Kingdom." If we want to see the world impacted by God's Kingdom, then we need to begin by letting God transform us as individuals. Our communities are defined by the people who comprise them, and we cannot expect God to change our communities without first changing the hearts and minds of the people who live in them. As God works in our hearts to conform us to the image of His Son, there is a natural overflow of His goodness into our daily lives, and that produces external change in our communities.

"Little has changed today, as we blame this or that religious establishment."

I'm curious, Nick - what are your thoughts on the Protestant Reformation?

"What is much more difficult, and far more profitable, is to daily take up your cross. The greatest action one can take in the battle for redemption on this earth, is to rule ones own self."

I agree, except that I would say that the best thing *we* can do is to simply get out of the way and let God rule us.

"The church today does focus on you, on your sin and what must be done about it. It is this 'emerge' which seeks to reach every slighted me, to adapt our worship to suite each me. This is a far different thing from having a heart for the lost. It is allowing the lost to write your theology."

I just don't see it that. I think you are beginning with the assumption that the contemporary church has its worship and theology "right," and that any challenge to the current status quo of American religion must come from "the lost." I see the emerging church movement as being more of a conversation among Christians, as we take a step back from our traditions and ask ourselves how we can be a more effective community in Christ. We're asking how we can improve our ministries so that we look more like the Jesus of the Bible, and less like the Jesus of contemporary American culture. In spite of all of the criticism, I still see the emerging church as a fairly "puritanical" movement - as a return to Scripture, rather than a move away from it.

Nick, Ryan, Uncle Jesse and Pastor Michael --

Thanks for the invite to join you guys for coffee this Thursday AM. I appreciate the dialogue you are fostering. While this week is a bit iffy, if I am not able to be there, I will drop by at some point in the coming weeks.

For now, I leave you guys with this thought. Jesus' definitions (yes, plural) of salvation (that is, being made right with God; for starters, see John 3:16, Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Rich Young Man; there are many others) are at least as much earthly-focused as heavenly-focused (and eternal life has as much to do with the now as the future). Jesus gives us no magic prayer, doctrinal checklist, or verbal formula that will make us right with God. Liberal and conservative mean nothing in terms of genuine faith, nor does theological correctness or political persuasion (and, in my opinion, if the Emergent/Emerging - take your pick - church makes a lasting impact upon Christianity, it will be because the movement transcends all of these historical hangups).


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