Don’t let Eric Barger rock your church

By John Pierce

Experienced ministers know how the scenario goes. A relatively new member who has jumped into congregational life wants to share some “concerns” he has about the church.

At the appointed time, the pastor discovers this is really a test — with an agenda. Questions that did not originate with the questioner start to flow.

Questions like: “Do you believe in a literal hell, yes or no?” “Is that a Brian McLaren book on your shelf?”

“Why did you quote Nouwen and Merton last Sunday without telling the church they are dangerous?” “Have you attended a conference at which Leonard Sweet or Richard Foster spoke?”

“The word ‘missional’ was in the church newsletter this week; don’t you check for things like that?” “Are you aware that in the young adults class last Sunday, the teacher talked about social justice instead of the Gospel?”

“Why don’t you preach against evolution?” “Are you aware of Rick Warren’s universalist leanings?”

Recently, a long-term, effective pastor told me that his North Carolina congregation experienced two years of turmoil resulting from this kind of encounter. And the whole disruptive action was carried out by a foot soldier (and other recruits) of Eric Barger of “Take a Stand! Ministries” who is on a mission to straighten out all churches he deems errant.

Barger, based in Rowlett, Texas, proudly claims that his “ministry” exists to “see the church changed.”

He instructs his followers to look for the signs of “emergent” influence or liberalism in churches and to “conduct spiritual warfare” — by asking these kinds of questions, confronting leadership, warning other members of the dangers, and if all else fails, by fleeing! The problem, of course, is that those who import such trouble don’t flee soon enough.

Barger fits the typical profile of such aggressive, religious know-it-alls. He lived a hellish life of drugs and self-absorption for which he has found divine forgiveness — but loves to post photos and give full descriptions of such glorified experiences including his drug use and sexual exploits.

While faithful Christians were building congregations and carrying out their daily mission, and committed ministers where toiling in theological education and doing real-life ministry, Barger was abusing his mind and body. But following his dramatic conversion, presto!, he became an expert on all things Christian.

To borrow a great line from Fred Craddock, he acts like he’s walked around God and taken pictures. Now he is eager to use whatever wild accusations he can find to push his bizarre ideas of biblical truth on everyone else. So be warned.

My pastor friend said once the troublemaker and his recruits finally left, the church found some benefits from the experience that distracted them from a full focus on ministry. Primarily, the congregation now has a clearer identity, he said, one forged in response to the accusations and threats they encountered.

When I serve interim pastorates, urging the church to clarify and communicate its identity is my foremost task after preaching and consulting with leadership. Congregations sometimes are hesitant to clarify values, identity and mission due to the naïve idea that they can be the church for all people.

Such lack of a clearly stated identity and mission invites cocksure persons with little or no stock in the church to launch a personal agenda to be carried out at the congregation’s expense. And it is ALWAYS done with an abundance of self-righteousness and in the name of correcting the errant ways of the church.

Congregations need to find loving but clear ways of saying: “This is who we are. You are welcome here to worship and to share in this community of faith. You don’t even have to agree with us. We don’t all see everything in the same way either. But if you are uncomfortable with our church’s identity and mission, don’t come in here and try to change us to be like you. We can recommend churches in the area that suit you much better.”

Sadly, many congregations have had such disruptive experiences that can be traced to an outside preacher, teacher, author, agitator. Often the damage remains long after the “blessed subtraction” (a term I learned from the late Brantley Seymour of Roswell, Ga., in 1978) has fled.

So any preemptive measures — such as clarifying the church’s identity and enlisting leadership that appreciates the common good over personal agendas — should be taken.

Barger is just the latest clown in this show. Not the first; not the last.

His call to “spiritual warfare” is much more warfare than spiritual. It has all of the marks of strident fundamentalism that takes pride in leaving carnage in its path.

It has nothing to do with Jesus except a gross misuse of his name. Being gullible to those who poorly mask their hostilities and political agendas in religious language can make suckers out of the church.

“Fundamentalism can rise up at anytime,” my friend said. And he thanked me that his congregational leaders have a better understanding of who they are and how to identify and counter such assaults through reading Baptists Today.

 

 

27 Comments

  1. Tony,

    You said, "….don’t come in here and try to change us to be like you."

    I see, when the young, know it all, egotistical college graduate returns home to infiltrate the congregation that loved and nurtured him in the Christian faith with his newly discovered Christian agnosticism, he is doing them a great and wonderful service – bringing them into the 20th (or now 21st) century. But what is good for the agnostic is not for the Bible believer.

    ROFL – the hypocrisy of the theological left never ceases to stagger my mind! Were I a betting man I'd bet that "John Boy" Walton is your role model! ROFL!

  2. Oops! I meant, John, not Tony.

  3. Thanks for the article. The fact that two believers differ on something like whether or not God will burn someone alive forever has no effect whatever on their salvation or their standing before God. Most people change their minds about a lot of things as they get older, including what they were taught when they were young. I also resent the emphasis the “experts” place on their profound sinfulness antecedent to their conversions, thus implying a more believable or devout approach to faith. I was raised in a Christian home to eschew evil as I understood it (or my mom did…and she was right), and I’ll be forever grateful for that.

  4. Dear Pastor Pierce

    Your article began with some VERY good and legitimate questions which NEED to be answered.

    However, I notice they were completely ignored in favor of listing all the past sins (now under the Blood) of Mr. Barger and how much you dislike him – AND any similar corriective input from anyone (the sarcasm and unteachable spirit comes through I am so sorry to report).

    RE: the ministry which people like Mr. Barger are laboring to do, it seems to me there IS a place for implementing Jude's admonition to "earnestly CONTEND for the Faith which was ONCE delivered to the saints." And then we also have Jesus' despairing comment, "When the Son of Man returns, will He find (the) faith on the earth?" We are now living in those times Jesus warned would come in the last days, and there are people who deeply feel the Call from the LORD to hold on to the original "Faith" and to warn the sheep – as He Himself did – of Deception.

    I used to be a Baptist and my heart is broken with disbelief at what has become of the denomination. Please read the LORD's letter to this age in Rev.3:14-22, especially verse 22.

    This is sent in the caring love of Jesus – before Whom we will ALL stand and give an account one day very soon – especially the pastors, concerning what they have done with HIS sheep. Did the pastors / teachers / elders / evangelists WARN and PROTECT the flock from deceptions? Or did they run as hirelings, or worse, become false teachers that embraced the wrong teachings themselves and then allowed the church to be swallowed up by such?? We must tread carefully, reverently, and IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD, if we are called to minister to people in His Name.

    In sincere Christian concern,
    A. A. Bombach (Mr.)

    • Well said…

    • Well said. Thank you!

      • Mr. Pierce,
        I am so disappointed in your article. The sacastic, name-calling, hostile and accusatory tone that you maintained through out your article is shocking and embarrassing! Especially, coming from a proclaimed Christian and a Baptist Preacher for GOD. My GOD gifted discernment kicked in. I see your own “personal agenda” throughout your words.
        I will pray mightily that you are able to be rid of the terribly hateful and “how dare you question a preacher” behavior you have exhibited here. I am a Christian and saved child of GOD who has the responsibility to question, put a stop to and make a stand against any preacher, teacher, elder or deacon that teaches opinion and false doctrine; rather than the sound doctrine of my Lord’s precious Word.
        I am, for the record, a member of the Baptist Church.

  5. Eric Barger's Take A Stand Ministry should be defrocked of being a discernment ministry (whatever that is). I have had a few discussions with him (and with 25 plus years of ministry behind his bible belt) he felt his best course of action (even in defending civil religion) was to name call and attack. I have had other friends who have attempted to engage him only to receive the same.

    His "research" is based on wafer thin arguments, paranoia and fear. Words like "Missional" "social" are deemed dangerous and suspect. I have also attempted discussions with his disciples or followers who are equally theologically / historically naive & suspect about everything.

    It is best to steer clear of these types of ministries….and sadly the internet appears to breed them.

    • When it comes to the emergent church-you best be suspicous about it.

      There are two sources of information IU tell people about when asking about the emerging church.
      1. Modernism
      2. New Age movement.

      Am still trying to figure out how they dropped fundamentalism in with modernism when modernism was one the primary forces that saW the genesis of fundamentalism.

  6. It is so disheartening to read posts from leadership with the kind of attitudes displayed here. I have been a "born again believer" for over thirty years, I have seen these changes coming into the Church for quite some time now. If you gentlemen really understood the impact of the errors being presented to the Church you would repent, not only of what you yourselves are allowing to be promoted but you yourselves believe is acceptable. I hate to see anyone in leadership who puts themselves above others, your calling is to serve Christ and feed His sheep from His truth not the ideas of man. I am in total agreement with Pastor Pierce. I pray your hearts and understanding would be opened.

  7. Can anyone say : 2 Timothy 4:3
    "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear". I praise the Lord for men like Mr. Barger who will stand up to what is right. And yes, all who want to live Godly in Christ will be persecuted! Thanks for being faithful to Christ Eric!

    Don

    • I was kind of thinking the same thing.

  8. Eric Barger's Take A Stand Ministry is pointing out the lies and deceptions that are coming into the church, and the wolves in sheep's clothing, and calling us to guard the truth. It's the same things Paul warned about. The emergent church has become a new age cult, pulling many into Hell. He is calling the church to the fundamental truths of the faith, as seen in the Word of God. We shouldn't sacrifice doctrine and truth for the sake of "unity." Jesus came to bring a sword and divide people. His word divides good from evil, truth from error, and so on.

  9. After reading both sides of this argument, I thank God that Eric Barger is speaking at our church tomorrow. The OP failed to make his point, relying on character assassination rather than presenting scriptural proofs. Barger presents scriptural proofs. I am ashamed to have attended a Baptist seminary if this is the thinking of the leadership.

  10. Hello Al , Don & Dennis

    I would be more than willing to discuss the topic of Mr Barger's ministry in a private email if you wish ( I give permission to the moderator of this blog to pass it along in *private*)….as long as long as we are able to engage in an open, friendly discussion.

    I'm all for discernment, but it must be done with integrity, truth and love …and I wonder – does Eric even have a personal connection with the ministries he is even attacking? I do not believe the Bible mandates that outside the context of the local church a person must get in touch with another in order to disagree with their theology or their interpretation of facts. I would ad least advocate getting the details *right*.

    Having a bible, an interesting background story and access to the internet does not cut it as a "discernment ministry." I have to admit, when I was younger I used to gravitate towards ministries such as Take A Stand. The good news is that there is a wealth of well thought out Christ centred research on the internet if you are willing to look (and be stretched).

    again any friendly courteous private discussion is welcomed! (-;

    Best regards

  11. I have been acquainted with Mr Barger's ministry for some time (years) I think he is right on in all areas I have read and heard him speak on. As just another earth bound sinner, it is possible he was having "one of those days" when you had an encounter. I agree in sentiment with the above:Al, Dennis, Don and
    Mr Bombach. My correction in attitude and influence would be directed at you Mr Pierce. That stone throwing thing can really be a problem for glass house dwellers. Maybe if you had just mentioned the words or actions that bothered you and resisted using Eric's name. Grace begets grace. . . maybe

  12. Let’s read the book of: Isaiah,Jeremiah,Ezekiel,Daniel,Hosea,Joel,Amos,Obadiah,Jonah,Micah,Nahum,Habakkuk,Zephaniah,Haggai,Zechariah,andMalachi!!!!!!!!!
    ” He who judges himself, has no need of a judge”
    ” If you know to WARN and don’t, there blood is on you”
    THE WATCHMAN is a call of GOD, ignore him at your own peril
    King Ahab ignored the watchman, how did that turn out?

  13. okay what brought me to the site was I was listening to the guy talking about the Baptist so I was looking up his name to see what was going on I came to your site the big difference between your site and his site he quoted scripture never once did I see any quote from Scripture in this a fight please comment

  14. I agree with what I see as a majority… Eric is calling churches to stand up for truth.. I found this article somewhat negative and felt it was more of a bashing itself for what this particular pastor feels negative about Eric. Not sure what the point was really of this article except to get his personal feelings down in print. Guess that’s what we are all doing..

  15. But who checks up on Eric Barger?

  16. I am reluctant to comment since I am not a SWTS grad and don’t have a masters or p.h.d., but, I will and let the ‘chips fall where they may’.

    But I must ask, “What makes you so angry”? Why is following your calling and doing your ministry not enough? Why is attacking this fellow (Eric Barger) aggressively so important? You seem like a well educated, accomplished, servant of God, busy doing His Work.

    You quote Barger therein naming Brian McLaren (homosexual marriage advocate – emergent guru), Nouwen and Merton and Warren, new age, universalist, etc.?

    Has he invaded your church? Attacked you? Seems ‘thou dost protest too much’.

    Sometimes it is indicative, that when someone takes time to ‘discover’ a guy like Barger and spend valuable time attacking him, they have another problem. It’s just weird. But, living in ivory towers can contribute to strange behavior.

    BTW, I don’t know anything about Barger except what I have read in a short time, today. A few facebook acquaintances mentioned him which led me to this page. You have given him press he probably doesn’t deserve but may benefit from?

    Anyway, what I wanted to know is do you read and follow Nouwen and Merton? Do you follow Brian McLaren or Rob Bell or Tony Jones?

  17. While I have never heard of Eric Barger, I have read extensively about the New Agers, Nouwen and Merton, Rick Warren who worships and calls for us to worship the pope, or at least with him and the heretic Brian McClaren. If you aren’t concerned about theteachings of these people then I can praise God I’m not part of your flock.

  18. It is becoming so difficult to tell the real from the false and time will make it harder. I try to study and compare what the world says with what the bible tells us about how we are to not just follow Jesus, but to emulate His ways as much as we are able with the help of the Holy Spirit. I try to stay away from some of the pastors that speak of obtaining riches now by good works???? I praise my God nightly for watching over me and thank the Holy Spirit for directing me in the way I am to go and the words He gives me to speak. I am not looking for riches or gifts just because it would be nice. I am thankful for the blessings I receive from my Lord and do not pray for “things”. I do pray for others, for strength for nations and their leaders because I believe this is the way God desires us as His children to behave. I make every effort to give back in response to all the blessings God as given me in this life and believe that our rewards will be received in the Kingdom with our Lord Jesus.

  19. “BIBLE BELIEVING FOLLOWER OF CHRIST”
    ERIC BARGER HAS DEVOTED HIS LIFE TO DEFENDING THE FAITH, BOLDLY, AND WITH A SOLID HEART FOR THE LOST AND MISLEAD.
    HIS MINISTRY HIS CALLED “TAKE A STAND”! (NOT “LAY DOWN AND REMAIN QUIET”)
    JOHN YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTIONS IS A REMINDER OF HOW SOON JESUS IS TO RETURN– ALOT OF CHURCHES NEED TO BE ROCKED! II TIMOTHY 4: 3-4

    Baruch Haba B’shem Adonai !!!!

    ERIC IF THIS FINDS YOU……. I KNOW YOUR DOING GODS WILL, APOSTLE PAUL DID IT, NOW YOU.
    II TIMOTHY 3:5

  20. I am not sure what you would have said had you lived in Paul the Apostle’s time after his conversion. You probably would have called him something to the effect of what you call(ed) Eric Barger. People did fear Paul initially. I always say, if something is not of God, it will not stand, but if it is, it shall stand no matter what we say or do.

  21. “Is that a Brian McLaren book on your shelf?”

    If I asked my pastor that, his answer better be something along the lines of, “I have sene the influence of this false teacher and I need to be able to counter his teachings so I needed to read them for myself.”. If he says anything defending the book or the writer, I’m leaving that church. Ditto most of the other examples in the post.

  22. Seen, not sene.

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