"Youth groups destroy children's lives."
Fitch and others are part of what they call the "Emerging Church" or the "Emergent Church." The Emerging Churches are the descendants of the Zwickau Prophets, Thomas Muntzer and other Anabaptist movements.
Reading through their theological statements I don't find Fitch's claim surprising. I'm going to list their claims and teaching to show that they actually do not offer the youth or their elders any actual grace from God. Rather, they are focused on self-righteous social action and mutual self-approval. Fitch's church is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
While they confess salvation through faith alone in Christ they deny the Means of Grace and turn faith into a work done by man:
The Emergent Church On the Means of Grace:
From the "Statement of Faith" which Fitch subscribes to at Northern Seminary:
"The ordinances are two in number. Baptism is the immersion of the believer in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, following his confession of faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior; baptism symbolizes the death of the old life and the rising of the new. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial instituted by Christ to be kept by believers as a symbol of his atoning death, and of himself as the Bread of Life, the one through whom we have spiritual life and vitality."
So, according to Fitch and his associates: Baptism and the Lord's Supper are outward acts commanded by God where a Christian shows his or her sincerity and dedication to God and the Church. These "ordinances" are merely symbols, and do not convey God's grace, the Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness of sins. This is the standard Anabaptist position as it was taught by Thomas Muntzer during the Reformation.
The Emergent Church On Faith:
Also, from Northern Seminary's Statement of Faith:
"Humans are reconciled unto God only as they by faith appropriate for themselves the salvation provided in Christ."This statement implies that faith is a work done by the human as he or she uses "faith" to "appropriate" salvation. This kind of statement embraces decision theology and the notion of free will in spiritual matters. It is, however, vaguely enough stated that there will be members of this group on both sides of the issue. That is: those who believe God gave them faith by grace, and those who believe that they had to choose for themselves by their own reason before God would forgive them. This latter expression is Arminianism and (no matter how much Arminians might object--free will is still) Semipelagiansim.
The Emergent Church On Where God's Word Is Found:
Several statements of faith among the Emergent/ing Churches say similarly to this (from Life on the Vine):
4. The Old and New Testaments, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are a complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice.
....2 Peter 1:20–21, 2 Tim 3:15–16
However, in addition to this, the Emerging/ent Churches have no problem with following Thomas Muntzer's views on finding God's word outside of Scripture. David Finch wrote at his blog:
ONE SIMPLE ORIENTING QUESTION “What is God saying? How will I respond?”: Missional Discipleship
"As we have learned over and over again, this kind of “listening for God’ is often prone to sin and deception, and therefore requires the dynamic of the body of Christ for the truth to be discerned. The question itself “what is God saying?” is always addressed to the individual and the community at the same time. Never one without the other. It is necessary therefore to have in place the communal practices of worship, teaching, leadership, and discipleship as the context from within which we can discern some of life’s most confusing times. The communal processes of Matt 18 must be firmly ensconced in such a culture for this single orienting question not to into an individualistic “orgy” of ecstatic experiences. We must have a missional enScripturated culture to breed discernment. Together we have/learn the mind of Christ! (1 Cor 2.16)."So, for Finch, God's Word and the "Mind of Christ" are the Bible And......
Yes, this is inconsistent with the statement he made on the Scripture as "the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice."
(Well, actually, readers might have had a hard time following what Finch said. The Emergent Church and its teachers are so full of postmodernist philosophical expressions and arguments, vocabulary and neologisms that very often one cannot tell what they are really trying to say. Consider Romans 16:17-18: "17Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.")So, not only are the youth and their elders taught that faith is what they do, that the Means of Grace are what they do to demonstrate their faith and sincerity (as shown above), they are also directed to other sources than Scripture for God's truth.
The Purpose of Church in the Emerging Church:
Youthgroups are a sub-group and extension of the congregation. Why does the congregation get together?
Life on the Vine's website states the church's mission in gathering :
"Our goal is not to be a mega-body but an authentic body of Christ, through which God can work his wonders in the world. We hope that, by our living as the Spirit-filled Body of Christ, those who don’t know Jesus will find him in our midst."From another page at Life on the Vine:
, our liturgy honors the last 2,000 years of Christianity while adapting to the language and arts of our culture. As participants in the living story of God, we try not to be passive observers during worship but provide ample room to speak aloud and move our bodies as a response to the message. More than emotional arousal or intellectual critique, we seek spiritual formation, a life of submission to the Lordship of Christ.These statements describe the gathering and worship as the work of God's people for God and community. There is a strong emphasis on mission and social justice.
Consider also the statement of Dr. Ryan Bolge:
"What we've seen is that these Christ Followers who really want to make their faith real are doing it in a way that makes sense to the culture as well. And so, for those in the culture who have a favorable impression of Jesus, then this is a viable way for them to express their faith. Without necessarily the adoption of church practices that have accumulated over the past 2,000 years, that may or may not express faith in meaningful ways today. So these are faith communities that are very organic, very simple-- looking for ways to follow Jesus' example in this culture now."
Now, listen carefully in his video to the description of the Karaoke church following what I transcribed above. According to him, in the Emergent Church the "church" is what the people want it to be. There is no consideration for what Christ has said.
Christ gave us the Lord's Supper, Baptism, the Absolution, the Preaching and Reading of the Scriptures. These He told us to continue in until He returns. Note how this contrasts with the Emergent Churches' model of social contextualization and personal relevance.
So, the ultimate reason for a person to gather in the Emergent Churches is that the individual gets to shape what worship and faith ought to be.
What is there to offer the youth? All that the Emergent Churches are teaching them is to be selfish.
The Emergent Church on Prayer:
Scripture teaches that prayer is commanded by God and that He promises to hear our prayers. He hears our prayers because we have been brought to faith in Jesus Christ. But prayer does not motivate or make God do anything.
The Emergent Churches use prayer as a replacement for the Means of Grace.
From Life on the Vine's website:
"God works his wonders through prayer. Basic as it is, prayer is often a hard habit to form. That’s why the Vine provides ample room for making our requests known to God."And so the youth (and their elders) are directed away from the Means of Grace and toward their own struggles with God in prayer to find a way, that they might hear some answer from somewhere outside of Scripture that will satisfy them.
Finch's Church on Youth:
The LIfe on the Vine's website states:
YOUTH DISCIPLESHIP is a community of youth and adults imitating Jesus and being the Church. The goal is not to keep our youth merely safe, nice, and happy, but to be alive in Christ--to walk with Christ, to listen to Christ, and to look for and share Christ in the world.
But they have thrown out grace, the means of grace, and the real reason for gathering as church. What is left to teach the youth?
- Worship must suit your tastes or it is not "genuine" or "real."
- Your faith must be active and doing things in the community and you have to feel it to make your faith "real."
- You can't believe God's written Word when He says that the Lord's Supper is "given for you for the forgiveness of sins." You can't even believe Jesus when He says: "This is my body...This is my blood."
- You have to find your own way to God by the time you reach maturity before you can be Baptized. And God didn't really mean it when His apostle Peter wrote "Baptism does also now save us."
- Sermons should have some relevance to your own personal life and to society if they are to be of any value. Whether or not they are expositions of Scripture is not so important.
There are more rules that can be derived from their teachings. They also believe in the pre-millenial return of Christ. And unless their version of pre-millenialism is significantly different from others, that means they believe there is a second chance for people base on works righteousness.
So, honestly, without the Means of Grace, what do they have to offer the youth? How can they " be alive in Christ--to walk with Christ, to listen to Christ, and to look for and share Christ in the world" when the very things Christ has given to his church in the Word through which He comes to us and grants us the Holy Spirit are stripped from their youth? Indeed, even their congregations are stripped of these gifts. In this they are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim 3)11. The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is imminent and will be personal, visible, and premillennial. This is the believer's blessed hope and is a vital truth which is an incentive to holy living and faithful service.
They fit the shape of the Church of Sardis:
"These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you." (Rev 3)Last Comments:
No congregation or denomination will be perfect. Humanity is corrupted by its inheretance of original sin. But any individual or group that looks outside Scripture for life, salvation, justification, sanctification, or the will of God is doing exactly what Eve and Adam did with Satan's temptation: They wanted to please God by going outside His Word and command, outside His promise--which are found only in the Scriptures.
There is a similar problem in the ELS, WELS, LCMS and other small groups of conservative Lutherans. The temptation to become hip. Our congregations are bleeding youth mainly because the youth cannot tell the difference between the denomination they grew up in and any modern E-Free or non-denominational church. Becoming hip means removing instructional and useful distinctions in liturgy, presentation, and teaching itself.
I want my kids to feel strange when they have to go into one of these hip services. I want them to feel that it is wrong. This is so that they can automatically be on guard to listen to the teaching that takes place.
I don't know why Fitch made his claim about youthgroups. But his theology and religious philosopy could end nowhere else than the destruction of the faith of the youth and the other members of his congregation and their associations.