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In many cases, the pastors of the contemporary churches are sons of Lancaster’s leaders, staff, and teachers.
Any man can have a son or student who goes in a different direction philosophically, but that is not the case here. These contemporary works have not been publicly renounced by the fathers. In most cases, they have the express blessing of the (avowedly) non-contemporary fathers.
Further, these works are a product of the positivist philosophy that is taught at Lancaster. It is a New Evangelical philosophy: keep the message positive, avoid dealing with personalities, be known for what you are for, not for what you are against.
These works are a product of Lancaster’s despising of clear biblical warnings. The resulting ignorance leaves men and women liable to deception.
These works are a product of Paul Chappell’s habit of drinking at the fountain of dangerous waters and recommending that habit to others. By his own admission, Pastor Chappell has been drinking from the wells of many big-tent evangelicals, such as Chuck Swindoll, John Maxwell, Max Lucado, and John Piper, even Peter Drucker, one of the fathers of the emerging church. These are authors on Chappell’s own list of recommended books; not books he reads to critique, but books he reads for profit; not books he reads only in private, but books he recommends publicly on his Ministry 127 blog to influence church leaders.
Another name on Chappell’s list of recommended books is the late Eugene Peterson, one of the most dangerous authors of this generation. And the Peterson book Chappell lists promotes contemplative prayer, which is the most dangerous spiritual waters conceivable. Peterson, author of The Message, is a bridge to anywhere: Romanism, Orthodoxy, the one world church, even female gods (Peterson was a strong recommender of The Shack), universalism, and goddess theology. That is where the author Sue Monk Kidd ended up after beginning to dabble in contemplative prayer when she was a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher. (See “From Southern Baptist to Goddess Worship” at www.wayoflife.org.) Shame on any man who recommends that God’s people drink from these dangerous waters!
The contemporary church plants being established by Lancaster Baptist Church affiliates are also a product of the church’s commitment to the use of contemporary praise music. While Lancaster has toned down the rhythm and cleaned up the presentation of the music (e.g., singers standing still instead of dancing), the music has transformational power, nonetheless. CCM’s “lighten up, don’t be so strict, keep it positive, promote unity” philosophy has captured the hearts of many people at Lancaster, and many of the West Coast graduates are taking the use of CCM much farther than Lancaster probably intended it to go. When you let the camel put his nose in the tent, the result is predictable. (For documentation of Lancaster’s commitment to contemporary music see “Have I Exaggerated the Music Problem at Lancaster?”
EMERGING CHURCH MODEL
The contemporary churches being established by West Coast Baptist Church graduates and Lancaster Baptist Church affiliates are patterned after the model that I saw at an Emerging Church conference in San Diego in 2009, which I attended with press credentials. The conference was sponsored by Zondervan and InterVarsity Press, two of the largest and most influential Christian publishers. Their authors represent the mainstream of evangelicalism today as well as its cutting edge, from Bill Hybels and Rick Warren to Rob Bell and Brian McLaren. Christianity Today magazine was prominently represented at the conference. Andy Crouch, a senior editor, was one of the main speakers and led a praise and worship session. Other speakers included Bill Hybels, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Leighton Ford, Gordon Fee, Shane Claiborne, J.P. Moreland, John Ortberg, David Kinnaman, Scot McKnight, Alex McManus, Christopher Wright, and William Paul Young (author of The Shack). There were roughly 1,500 pastors and Christian workers in attendance. This is the emerging crowd that many young Independent Baptists are emulating.
The free eBook The Emerging Church Is Coming gives a firsthand account of this conference.
VERY SAD TO SEE THESE YOUNG MEN ON A WRONG PATH
It is very sad to me that these young men (the Matt Chappells and the Mark Rasmussen Jrs and the John Guys, etc.) are on a wrong path, a path that will lead to anywhere within the “broader church.” Only time will tell where they and their followers will end up.
They are young, talented, studious, zealous, visionary. They could be starting strong Bible churches that would stand and bear fruit and be a bright light in an evil day. They could be starting churches that are biblically stronger and wiser than any that have existed in my lifetime. That is what I want to see. That is what I am working for.
I am not sad that they are rejecting the traditional Independent Baptist model. It was never strong enough, never biblical enough, never spiritual enough, never wise enough, never serious enough. Having been an Independent Baptist since 1973, my observation is that the traditional Independent Baptist church, generally speaking, has been hasty about evangelism, careless in receiving members, biblically shallow, lacking in sound scholarship, weak in true discipline, externally-oriented about modesty, entertainment oriented in youth discipleship, soft in separation, overbearing in pastoral authority (demanding “unquestioning loyalty”), and lacking in a true body ministry (Ephesians 4:16).
But the solution to this problem is not to go down the path of the emerging church or contemporary Reformed theology, which is a path to end-time apostasy. The solution is to go back to the Bible alone and to reject every tradition and every pragmatic element that does not stand up to the light of God’s Word. The solution is to stop being man followers and to be Christ followers in reality, not in mere profession, and to establish churches that are thorough-going Bible churches that please Christ. The solution is not to establish modern churches, but to establish true pilgrim churches.
Sadly, that is not what we are seeing as the fruit of Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College.
Consider some examples, and please understand that this is not an exhaustive list:
ROCK HILL CHURCH, FONTANA, CALIFORNIA
In 2017, Paul Chappell's youngest son, Matt, started a contemporary work called Rock Hill Church in Fontana, California.
Paul ordained him for this work on April 25, 2016, and tweeted praise for the new work. In a blog at the founding of Rock Hill in early 2017, Paul Chappell tweeted, “Thankful to hear from our son Matt tonight how the Lord is already working as they are planting Rock Hill Baptist Church in Fontana, CA.”
When Paul talks about Matt’s work, he says he is starting Rock Hill Baptist Church, but the church's online material (rockhill.church), is listed as "copyright Rock Hill Church." The church sign at its meeting place says “RH Rockhill Church.” They are positioning themselves as a generic church.
In a blog dated September 15, 2017, Paul Chappell again recommended Matt’s work. He says that Matt “uses some methods I do not use” and he says, “I’ll not have these methods taught at WCBC” (“3 Priorities for Ministry Dads and Their Ministry Sons,” Paulchappell.com, Sep. 15 2017). So using Christian rock and preaching a Chuck Swindoll brand of “grace” and accepting immodest and unisex fashions are just “different methods.” That says a lot.
Rockhill Church uses full blown contemporary music, including Hillsong, and in typical emerging fashion, everything is dark. The room is dark for the worship service and it is dark for the preaching. It would be very difficult to look at your Bible and “search the Scriptures.”
Matt’s Instagram post for Feb. 18, 2017, featured a photo of his praise team singing Hillsong’s “Love So Great.”
The following ad published by Rock Hill uses full-blown rock and roll: www.instagram.com/p/BWGXI1iDtmo/
Matt’s messages are littered with motivational, positive-thinking, emerging language such as “leveraging a new beginning.” The messages are very light on sin and holiness and very heavy on grace, and it is not a Titus 2:11-15 grace. It is an emerging grace. It is a Chuck Swindoll grace. Matt's preaching is filled with non-critical references to the pop culture. In his first message at Rock Hill, Matt non-critically referenced a basketball star, rocker Taylor Swift, Steve Jobs, the Los Angeles Lakers, and a professional fisherman. What signal does that send to his listeners?
When Paul Chappell ordained Matt in 2016, he reminisced online about how that Matt surrendered to preach in the 7th grade and that he is the product of Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College. Consider the following excerpt:
“Last night was a highlight for Terrie and me and our church family as we had the ordination here for our youngest son, Matthew. ... I look back over the years since [Matt surrendered to preach], and I know that where Matt is today is the fruit of so many investments. It’s the fruit of every Sunday school teacher, Christian school teacher, youth worker, West Coast Baptist College faculty and staff, and the Lancaster Baptist Church deacons and church family who have loved our family and encouraged our children. ... It was my joy last night to preach Matt’s ordination service...”
We agree with what Pastor Chappell says here. Matt Chappell was prepared by Lancaster and West Coast. He is a product of the positivist philosophy that is taught at Lancaster. He is a product of the use of contemporary praise music. He is the product of Quick Prayerism.
The fruit of a New Evangelical stance is a never-ending progression of change. Each generation goes farther from the truth. The emerging church is simply the twenty-first century face of New Evangelicalism. It is the product of a natural and inescapable path of progression. See “Emerging Church: The 21st Century Face of New Evangelicalism.”
As already noted, any man can have a son or student who goes in a different direction philosophically, but that is not the case here.
COASTLINE BAPTIST CHURCH, OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA
Coastline is pastored by Paul Chappell’s brother, Steve. It is closely associated with Lancaster. Paul’s son, Matt, spent a few years there as youth pastor before he started Rockhill.
Coastline is a full-blown contemporary church. Robert Bakss, a rock & roll pastor with an emerging philosophy who has caused a lot of confusion in Australian Independent Baptist churches, spoke at Coastline on February 5, 2017. Bakss’ book Worship Wars is a full-blown defense of contemporary worship music and the use of rock & roll. Bakss even claims that the stance against contemporary worship music is of the devil. See Baptist Church on a Slippery Slope, available as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org. On Coastline’s website the staff list their favorite super heroes. They listed Wolverine, Captain America, Batman, Spiderman, and Wonderwoman. That is a huge green light for church youth to immerse themselves in worldly, sensual things that are forbidden by God’s Word. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
In June 2019, Paul Chappell spoke at Coastline.
LOS ANGELES BAPTIST CHURCH, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
The church’s web site under “Our History” says it was founded at the direction of Paul Chappell. Los Angeles Baptist has followed Lancaster’s example of despising “warnings” and thus being ignorant of many important issues facing God’s people today. It has also followed Lancaster’s example of using “adapted” contemporary worship music.
Not surprisingly, last year, the pastor’s daughter, who graduated from West Coast with a BA in missions, raised nearly $18,000 to join World Race on an 11-month backpacking “missions trip” in multiple countries. The backpacking teams are called “squads.” The endeavor was promoted by her pastor father. She told the congregation that while working on a presentation for the church’s mission day, World Race caught her attention and she felt that God was calling her to this. It should be obvious, though, that the voice she heard is not God’s. World Race is extremely ecumenical. Its belief statement says, “We emphasize interdenominationalism and unity of the body of Christ, as such we are ministers of reconciliation. We seek to bring pastors and churches together in ministry.” Thus, World Race squads are seen as instruments for ecumenical unity. Christian rock music is at the heart of World Race. It is also committed to contemplative prayer. (See the free eBook Evangelicals and Contemplative Prayer, www.wayoflife.org.) The emphasis is more on “kingdom building” than preaching the gospel. In fact, the gospel is not mentioned in World Race’s belief statement. There is also no mention of repentance, the imminent return of Christ, biblical separation, end-time apostasy, defense of the faith, and other teachings of Scripture that are essential to the times in which we live. There are no warnings of such things as Roman Catholicism, theological liberalism, Pentecostalism, Charismaticism, and the deep compromise of evangelicalism. Because of its ecumenical, positivist, “judge not” philosophy, World Race is a bridge to anything and everything. It’s one thing for a pastor’s child to depart from what he or she has been taught; it is quite another thing for a pastor to support and promote a child that has gone in an unscriptural direction.
GRACE GATHERING, SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
Grace Gathering was founded by Todd Weaver, a graduate of West Coast Baptist College and the son of Toby Weaver who is listed on the staff page of West Coast.
The church’s goal is to “partner with God to build to advance his kingdom.” It’s more about kingdom building than gospel preaching and discipleship. Grace Gathering believes “that God hasn’t given up on the world and is working through people to bring about His renewal of all things.”
Everything is very emerging at Grace Gatherings. Instead of a statement of faith, they have a “Theology Narrative.” Instead of the Bible being infallibly inspired by God, it is an “authoritative narrative.” For salvation, there is no mention of Christ’s blood, repentance ,or born again, just the “the Spirit of God affirms as children of God all those who trust Jesus.”
They don’t do missionary work; they do “holistic,” “missional” work. They say the church’s work is to “usher in the kingdom of God” and “partner with God to build to advance his kingdom.” The church, they say, “is a global and local expression of living out the way of Jesus through love, peace, sacrifice, and healing as we embody the resurrected Christ, who lives in and through us, to a broken and hurting world.” Grace Gathering is “participating in God’s movement to rescue and restore His good creation.” That is an emerging philosophy, and the church’s “theology narrative” uses emerging terms such as “narrative,” “missional,” “relational,” “fractured,” “marginalized.” Grace Gathering teaches that Christians are to “serve, care for, and cultivate the earth.”
One will look in vain in the church’s “theology narrative” for a statement on God’s eternal judgment of the unsaved in the lake of fire. There appears to be a strong element of universalism. Their “community works” projects include the New Agey Alcoholics Anonymous with its emphasis on a “higher power” rather than the God of Scripture.
Grace Gathering describes itself as “a people that “respect differences of opinion and encourage dialogue.”
It sounds like Weaver has been influenced by men such as Rob Bell, Robert Webber, and Brian McLaren. In fact, Grace Gathering’s web site says they are “a people that trust that Love Wins in the end.” That’s the title of Rob Bell’s book promoting universalism.
But Lancaster/West Coast’s “do not criticize” philosophy doesn’t allow for church members and students to be properly educated and warned of such men and their heresies. And many bridges are built from the church and student body to evangelicalism and beyond by such things as contemporary worship music.
On March 23, 2019, Toby Weaver tweeted, “Sure proud of Todd.”
NEW LIFE BAPTIST CHAPEL, RANCHO VISTA, CALIFORNIA
New Life is a satellite of Lancaster Baptist Church and is listed at the ministry section of Lancaster’s web site under “New Life Baptist Campuses” (www.lancasterbaptist.org/).
New Life’s web site is very hip and emerging, and the church features a contemporary praise team and a contemporary style P&W stage.
Other New Life Baptist Chapel campuses in California are in Rosamond, Mojave, Castaic, and Taft.
None of them mention or even hint at repentance in their gospel presentations.
AMBASSADOR BAPTIST CHURCH, FRESNO, CALIFORNIA
Ambassador Baptist Church (also known as Fresno Church) was pastored by Mark Irmler until it was turned over to his son, Joshua, in 2007. Mark has taught at West Coast and is promoted on Paul Chappell’s Ministry 127 blog. Joshua is a West Coast graduate. On May 9, 2018, Josh tweeted, “Hard to believe it was exactly 15 years ago that I graduated from West Coast Baptist College. Thankful to Dr. Paul Chappell for his testimony and leadership.”
In November 2016, Josh spoke at Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast. On November 4, he tweeted, “I really enjoyed my time in Lancaster. Thankful for the invitation by Paul Chappell to speak today.”
In March 2016, Stephen Chappell spoke at Fresno Church.
Under Joshua’s leadership, Fresno Church has a full-blown contemporary praise program and philosophy. In 2017 they used Rick Warren’s 40 Days in the Word program.
SOUTHRIDGE CHURCH, SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
Southridge Church was founded by Micaiah Irmler, brother of Joshua Irmler of Fresno Church. It is a full-blown rocking, contemporary church.
On October 24, 2018, Josh Irmler tweeted, “Had a great time getting to hear my brother, Micaiah, speak at the California SBC Convention. He’s doing an incredible job launching Southridge Church in San Jose. I’m excited about his future!”
CITYPOINT BAPTIST CHURCH, TEMPE, ARIZONA
The most recent in a steady stream of cool, contemporary churches produced by graduates of West Coast Baptist College and affiliates of Lancaster Baptist Church is CityPoint Baptist Church of Tempe, Arizona, founded by John Guy. It is a full-blown CCM church with the darkened auditorium and the skinny-jeans-clad teacher who aims to satisfy “the felt needs” of modern people rather than “preach the Word, reprove, rebuke, exhort.”
CityPoint’s John Guy was an assistant pastor at Lancaster and helped lead the worship. He spoke at Lancaster’s Majesty Music Conference in March 2018. One of the staff members at CityPoint is Mark Rasmussen, Jr., son of Mark Rasmussen, Vice President of West Coast Baptist College. Mark Jr. had a prominent role in the music ministry at Lancaster in former years, and he has been at the forefront of pushing the envelope of music and philosophy.
When has Pastor Paul Chappell publicly renounced the many contemporary West Coast graduates, including his own son Matt of Rock Hill Church, that are leading people astray?
For more about the emerging church see the free 55-page eBook The Emerging Church Is Coming, and for a more thorough study, see the 440-page What Is the Emerging Church? Both are available at www.wayoflife.org.
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