April 1, 2014

SYMPOSIUM: Tony Jones and Me

This is Part 2 in an IRD Symposium on Millennials in the Church. Here is Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

Blogger, speaker and co-founder of the “emergent church” movement, Tony Jones (pictured above), is never shy of inflammatory things to say when it comes to the nexus of faith and culture. But in the wake of World Vision’s effective same-sex “marriage” endorsement, subsequently followed by their reaffirmation of traditional marriage, Jones made an exceptionally off base claim about Millenials like me.

According to Mr. Jones, young evangelicals are “looking for—even hoping for— some advance on the issue of rights and love and equality for GLBT persons. That is why we will keep them in the Christian faith.” He went on to declare, “What WV did yesterday…pushed scores of younger people out of the church and out of the faith.” As a young evangelical, I have to raise my hand and say whoa there Mr. Jones, you’ve pegged me/us all wrong.

Mr. Jones probably doesn’t realize how much influence he had over me during college. The emergent movement was still en vogue five years ago and I, like many others, swooned over the idea of coffee house sermons and yoga worship sessions. Thinking back, I realize now that the only reason why the emergent movement ever attracted me in the first place was because I was seeking approval.

The Religious Left has a savvy way of convincing Millenials that to be compassionate and authentic, one must conform to popular culture by being “missional.” For a while, I bought into this lie because I did not want to stand out. I certainly didn’t want to come across as uncompassionate. Caring for others was, and still remains, important to me. However, something deep within my relationship with Jesus Christ drastically changed. I grew up a little bit and read my Bible a lot more.

Turn to the book of Acts or I & II Timothy, and you quickly realize how counter-cultural the new Church in Jerusalem started out. Beaten, mocked, harassed and ostracized, early Christians like Peter, Barnabas, Stephen and eventually Paul opposed popular culture for the sake of Christ. In doing so, each furthered God’s kingdom and set awesome examples for every Believer to follow.

Each one of us is charged by Christ to tell everything about him. Re-read the Great Commission:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Emphasis added).” (Matthew 28:16-19)

Christ didn’t promise us that making disciples in his name would be easy or that discussing his commandments wouldn’t cause hurt feelings when renouncing a sinful lifestyle. Jesus never once said that following him would be easy, nor bring popularity or fame. He simply said go and teach them “all that I have commanded you.”

While it may be easier to reconstruct the Gospel narrative around our preferred lifestyles choices, it does not glorify God. Understandably, this distorted method of teaching Christianity sells more books, gets more blog hits and schedules more speaking gigs. But choosing adoration over God’s Truths is not only deceptive to their readership, but dangerous for the fate of their souls.

These days, you might say I’m Mr. Jones’ protégé gone wrong. Once dabbling in the Jones’ emergent movement, later I renounced his social gathering gospel to proclaim all of Christ’s commandments despite being marginalized by him and other Religious Left leaders. A 26 year old woman, I’m an evangelical culture warrior . Yet, I was not born into a cookie-cutter “fundamental” household, as Mr. Jones would likely assume.  Daily I defend absolute Truth, yet I continue to unconditionally love my friends — gay, straight, black, blue, male or female.

Mr. Jones is a gifted writer and well-intentioned spiritual thinker. But seemingly he has placed his embrace of chic insight to enhance his publicity above the sovereignty of God and 2,000 plus years of historical Christian teaching.

Dear, Mr. Jones:

It took some spiritual mentoring and much prayer, but I finally realized I didn’t need, nor could ever, appeal to a broken world and still follow Jesus.  So I’ll stick to orthodoxy, not your Theoblogy. Still, I pray you too come to place of recognizing God’s sovereign truth motivated by love above any innate desire for adoration or affirmation.


Chelsen Vicari


9 Responses to SYMPOSIUM: Tony Jones and Me

  1. Ron Henzel says:


    That was excellent!

  2. Chelsen Vicari says:


    I’m grateful for your compliment. Thank you.

  3. Greg says:

    Part of the problem is we have no definition of “evangelical” that’s even close to widely accepted. Just like Douthat’s recent NYT column about how nominal Christians are likely dragging down the social indicators like divorce rates among all Christians. You and Jones are probably talking about different groups.

  4. Steve says:

    This is an excellent article. It is very encouraging to know there are those in the younger generation who are willing to be counter-cultural even within the evangelical subculture itself, because of the convictions of their hearts that come from scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice, and you are standing on His word. I would encourage you in your work as we need more voices like yours! God Bless!

  5. Robert Clark says:

    I agree Chelsen. Glad you saw the truth.

  6. Harry Chronis says:

    I’m heartened by this, Chelsen. And I’m surrounded by not a few who, at your age and stage, are breathing the same air. But, please: learn to spell those blessed names correctly, won’t you? It’s Barnabas, and it’s Stephen – in English, at least.

  7. Andrew Orlovsky says:

    Good Article Chelsen,

    My story seems quite similar to yours. I did not grow up in an Evangelical home. I discovered the Emergent Church in 2005 not too long after being saved in college and was very intrigued at first. However,I lost respect for the movement as many of the leaders seemed too afraid to take positions on controversial topics. Ironically, Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, and Rob Bell are now taking concrete positions on homosexuality, hell, etc., just ones that are completely antithetical to historic Christian orthodoxy.

  8. Joe says:

    “…I didn’t need, nor could ever, appeal to a broken world and still follow Jesus.”

    Maybe that’s why He said the path to eternal life was narrow and that few find it.

  9. Matthew Abate says:

    I found this piece to be compelling and honest about what it means to count the cost with respect to following our Lord and his word.

    You stated this key sentence: “It took some spiritual mentoring and much prayer, but I finally realized I didn’t need, nor could ever, appeal to a broken world and still follow Jesus.”

    Eighteen months ago, I left a church in Southern California for embracing certain views that tossed out 2,000 years worth of solid doctrinal teaching. Like you, I sought counsel and the Lord and his word before leaving.

    I came to the same conclusion as you did. There is no way that I can fulfill my call to be an ambassador for Christ to a broken and hurting world while embracing a neutered gospel advocated by the likes of Tony Jones, Donald Miller, Brian McClaren, and Rob Bell.

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