The Gospel Coalition is The Emergent Church Repackaged

NOTE: The following is protected by federal copyright law and is an excerpt from the book Marxianity written by Brannon Howse and is not to be published online. The footnotes that document the content in this article are found in the book Marxianity or the eBook.


These people would rather believe in the theology of hope created by Moltmann than to accept a genuinely biblical worldview. Again, Bob DeWaay helps understand how the emergent church leaders, Brian McLaren, Doug Pageant, Tony Jones, and Rob Bell, have been influenced by Moltmann. He explains that:

[quote] Moltmann applied Hegel’s synthesis to theology and eschatology, deciding that, because incompatibles were evolving into new and better things, God could not possibly allow the world to end in judgement. Instead of judgment, Moltmann set aside Scripture to declare that the entire world in all of creation was heading toward paradise and progressively leaving evil behind. The emergent church, like many liberal mainstream churches, has rejected the idea of the return of Jesus Christ and his judgment of the world. Instead, they see it as their responsibility to build God’s kingdom through utopian ideals of the redistribution of wealth, the social gospel, disarmament and a world community committed to social justice and pluralism. [end quote]


Pluralism, of course, is the belief that all religions are equal.

So, this is largely what you get from the emergent church today. And why is it called the emergent church? Because of the thesis and antithesis fighting each other so that a new spiritual manifestation emerges to assure us that the world is not going to end in the cataclysmic judgment of God, but in the great utopia of the kingdom of God that we create through social justice transforming the world.

The Moltmann/Kierkegaard influence shows up in other connections between the church and “Christian” businessman Bob Buford. An April 14, 2014 Forbes magazine article entitled “Peter Drucker and Me” explains how Texas TV station owner Buford—before his death in April 2018—followed Drucker:

[quote] These Druckerian memories have surfaced thanks to the delightful Drucker and Me, a book by Bob Buford. A cable TV magnet turned philanthropist, Buford inherited his small family business in Tyler, Texas after his mother died in a fire. By his early 40s, Buford felt overwhelmed. He reached out to Drucker—that’d be Peter Drucker—for help. Drucker granted it. Before the initial visit, Drucker told Buford to write a long letter about what he wanted to accomplish. Buford soon learned that Drucker had no interest in talking about finances or operations. He wanted to hear all about Buford—his life, his dreams, his hopes. Drucker patiently drew from Buford what he called his quest for significance.


Known as the father of modern management, Drucker was an obvious choice as mentor by Bob Buford. Yet, Drucker didn’t want to talk just about business. He was concerned about Buford’s “quest for significance” which the Forbes articles describes this way:


Buford listened to Drucker. During the next 12 years his cable company grew more than 20 percent a year and expanded beyond Texas. By his mid-50s, Buford was more financially successful than he’d ever dreamed he’d be.…Drucker developed a theory. He believed that a vigorous nonprofit sector of churches, libraries and organizations, such as the Salvation Army, could do more than lift up human beings. They could also be buffers between private interest and public governance.


So, Drucker and Buford continued to meet. Drucker’s Socratic questions helped Buford define his quest for significance. Buford, a Christian, created an organization called The Leadership Network, under the auspices of which builders of new churches could learn about entrepreneurship and management. Drucker agreed to help. Thus did Drucker play a role in the megachurch boom of the 1980s and beyond.


One early member in the Leadership Network was Bill Hybels who had started Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago by going door to door and asking people what they liked and didn’t like in a church. Rick Warren, founder of the 20,000-plus member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California had also sought out Buford and Drucker. [end quote]


So, who came to Drucker first? Bob Buford. Then came Bill Hybels. Then Rick Warren. Why is this important? Because many people credit the megachurch, seeker-sensitive church model to Rick Warren, but Warren is not the father of the movement. Bob Buford and Peter Drucker are the movement’s true originators. Even Forbes recognizes that Rick Warren sought out Drucker and Buford.

Realize that the Leadership Network, started by Bob Buford through consultation with Peter Drucker, is based on Drucker’s thought, a man who loved Søren Kierkegaard. Drucker liked the writings of Søren Kierkegaard so much, in fact, that he taught himself to read Danish so he could study the yet unpublished writings of Søren Kierkegaard in the original language. (I have video of this inside Worldviewpedia, the Worldview Weekend resource accessible to members of our Situation Room. It houses many of my radio and TV shows, as well as all my books.)

Drucker did not claim to be a born-again Christian, and allows that the best thing he ever wrote was an essay on Søren Kierkegaard. In other writings, he praises Fabian socialist John Maynard Keynes as the greatest economist of all time—Keynes who extolled a mixture of socialism with capitalism.

So, are you getting an idea of the worldview of Peter Drucker through Keynesian economics and Søren Kierkegaard? Then, Bob Buford, the businessman, spends 12 years with him, and together they start the Leadership Network. Then Bill Hybels and Rick Warren show up wanting their tutelage, and the connection is solidified.

The Leadership Network gave birth to the church growth movement. I call it the communitarian church growth moment because Peter Drucker admitted he was a communitarian. They also ended up being the founders of the emergent church. A PBS article from July 15, 2005 establishes the connection through its interview with emergent church leader, Brian McLaren:


[quote] There was an organization called Leadership Network funded by an individual in Texas. Who would that be? Bob Buford. And Leadership Network was bringing together the leaders of the megachurches around the country. By the early and mid-90s they noticed, though, that the kinds of people they were coming to their events were getting a year older every year. And there wasn’t a group of younger people filling in. They were one of the first major organizations to notice this. [end quote]


Brian McLaren also wrote a book called New Kind of Christianity, in which he recounts that the emergent church was started by Bob Buford and Peter Drucker through the Leadership Network. 

The PBS article notes McLaren’s reference to “those of us dealing in a more postmodern context.” They’re applying postmodernism to Christianity. Is that not strange? Applying subjective truth to Christianity? Cofounder and preaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Mark Driscoll also recalls the origination of the emerging church movement. An article of his in the Criswell Theological Review explains:


[quote] In the mid-1990s I was a young church planner trying to establish a church in the city of Seattle when I got a call to speak at my first conference. It was hosted by Leadership Network and focused on the subject of generation X. Out of that conference a small team was formed to continue conversing about postmodernism. [end quote]


Driscoll admits the Emergent Church founders applied postmodernism in their thinking. Driscoll goes on to talk all those who were involved:

[quote] By this time, Leadership Network hired Doug Pageant to lead them and organize the events. He began growing the team, and it soon included Brian McLaren. Pageant, McLaren and others, such as Chris Shay, Tony Jones, Dan Kimball and Andrew Jones, stayed together and continued speaking and writing together as friends. McLaren, a very gifted writer, rose to team leader in part because he had established a family and church which allowed him to devote a lot of time to the team. The team eventually morphed into what is known as emergent. [end quote]


This is how Germany ended up with a false dominant church that allowed for the killing of five million Jews and six million non-Jews while “German Christians” did nothing. The moral relativism of that day caused many to set aside absolute truth in order to create a unity that would allow them to work together to save their nation. Collective salvation was the goal, and if that required killing the Jews, the perceived source of all suffering and oppression, they were willing.

The Leadership Network website also reports on the organization’s history:

[quote] Before Bob Buford and Fred Smith cofounded Leadership Network in 1984, Buford consulted Drucker for advice. Buford has observed “Peter Drucker is the intellectual father of most all that guides my approach to philanthropy. I’ve long since ceased trying to determine what thoughts are mine and which come from Peter . . . He’s the brains, I’m the legs.” [end quote]


And here’s how the website articulates the organization’s purpose:


[quote] The mission of the Leadership Network is to accelerate the emergence of the twenty-first century church. This new paradigm is not centered in theology, but rather it is focused on structure, organization and the transition from an institutionally based church to a mission driven church. [end quote]


So, the emerging church is not about theology. It’s about philosophy—which is why most of today’s religious useful idiots are not theologians, but philosophers by training. Christianity Today weighed in on the connections in an article on April 18, 2018, the day Bob Buford died:


[quote] Buford did not just convene meetings, he funded the impact he desired. He did so selectively, however. Only choosing investments that would create exponential returns. For example, he and Colorado billionaire Phil Anchutz, financed the burning bush fund. They took their catalyzing passion and combined it with strategic investment. Leaders like Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Larry Osborne, Greg Surat, Neil Cole and others involved their churches and ministries. [end quote]


To bring this closer to the present, it’s important to look at the connections to the Gospel Coalition. In 2009, Jim Belcher wrote a book called Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional. It was endorsed by Tim Keller, founder of the Gospel Coalition. But it was also endorsed by Bob Buford, Emergent Church leader Tony Jones, and Colin Hansen, editorial director for the Gospel Coalition.


Formed in 2005, the Gospel Coalition now includes Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, Russell Moore, Mark Dever, David Platt, John Piper, and others, as well as co-founders Mark Driscoll and C. J. Mahaney. As a reflection of its influence, once ranked the Gospel Coalition website as one of the eighteen most visited Christian websites in America, impacting thousands of churches and millions of individuals. An October 1, 2009 article by Kevin DeYoung praises Deep Church:

[quote] Belcher understands the issues well and clearly rejects the worst of the emerging movement. His church sounds like a good church and Belcher, whom I’m never met, strikes me as an honest, thoughtful pastor. I agreed with much more in the book than I thought I would. As part of the PCA, Belcher is not only tied to the great tradition, but to the reformed Presbyterian tradition. As such, I imagine our theology is quite similar. We are on the same team. My agreements with him outnumber my disagreements. [end quote]


Others, such as participants in the Gospel Coalition, appear to have more agreement than disagreement with people like him as well. What’s so shocking and sad is that men such as John MacArthur share the platform with them year in and year out. For a decade or more, MacArthur has brought major council members of the Gospel Coalition to his Shepherd’s Conference. By doing so, MacArthur has opened another door to the religious Trojan horse.


It doesn’t bring me joy to report this, because I have often quoted MacArthur, and now, quite frankly, I feel stupid. I interviewed him on my radio program live—twice—and even had him speak for our 2015 Ozarks Worldview Weekend via Skype. I wish, though, that I had never endorsed his ministry in any way because of the problems I now see with MacArthur’s theology, eschatology, and the men to whom he has chosen to give theological cover. He’s aiding and abetting the emergent church.


The emergent church is about social justice and the social gospel. It’s about ecumenicalism, spiritual formation, yoga, contemplative prayer, mysticism, rejection and mocking of biblical prophecy. It promotes the unbiblical goal of building the kingdom of God on earth as well as cynicism towards conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists. And the Gospel Coalition today is promoting the same trash. It represents another way in which the left and right are merging. Some of these pastors, authors, and evangelical leaders opposed the emergent church and the church growth movement, but are now working with and promoting the Gospel Coalition.

You see how deceptive this is? That’s why it’s critical that you build your theology solidly around the word of God, not around men. Do your own homework, so you won’t be deceived.


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