Terra Nova Project — the vanguard for emergent postmodern evangelicalism

Brad Smith, President of Leadership Network, issued a 2001 report entitled, “What’s Next with Terra Nova Project: The Emergence of Terra Nova.” It is a significant report, not only for understanding the formation of the Emergent Church, but because it reveals how Bob Buford’s Leadership Network was intent on creating a vanguard movement that would transform evangelicalism. The Smith report which is critiqued below can no longer be found on the Internet. Only a small remnant of the original post can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/9ktsl.

To begin this report, Brad Smith detailed an “important change within the Young Leader Networks.” First he noted that the “national gathering of the Young Leader Networks” that had been planned for September 2001 in New Mexico had been postponed until the spring of 2002. The stated rationale for this change in plans was:

“The team that is putting this together is finding that an event based more on demonstration, rather than proclamation, is a very difficult task to pull off authentically. Add to that the challenge of a complex team of artists, church planters, urban leaders and theologians who are attempting to develop something that everyone can own and – we were not ready to do what we feel called to do by September.”

Underscoring Leadership Network’s commitment to finance and initiate an emerging youth leader movment, Smith noted:

“Leadership Network is more of a ‘cooperative’ than a stand-alone organization. Essentially, LN explores, prays and listens to discover the leaders who have the mantle of God upon them, allows them to design an experience that furthers their collective calling, and then provides the resources and leadership to make it real.”

The use of the term “mantle of God” is particularly interesting, given its association with the New Apostolic Reformation. The New Apostolic Reformation teaches that emerging apostolic leaders must be appointed and anointed by other leaders, forming a hierarchical chain-of-command structure, in which one
man’s “mantle” of “anointing” — which they claim possesses a spiritual power — is passed down to the next man. [See www.deceptioninthechurch.com for more information.]

The use of the term “authentically” is also quite interesting. The root word “authentic” carries a specific new meaning in corporate management and education reform circles. It has to do with behavior. Psycho-social research has shown that humans are more likely to change their values, opinions, beliefs and attitudes if they are put into a situation where they actually have to change their behavior, i.e., if they have to act on their beliefs. In this context, the phrase “develop something that everybody can own” means that a team of organizers was attempting to develop a situation in which the participants would be prodded into actually “owning” a new philosophy by “authentically” (real-life) participating in an activity that exemplified it. This technique can be manipulative and deceptive, especially for those who don’t understand how it works.

The Birth of the Terra Nova Project

Brad Smith continued with a description of how Young Leaders Network formed the Terra Nova Project (which formed the foundation of the Emergent Church) in which he acknowledges that the plan was kept “underground.”

“Finally, we are increasing getting questions about the new vision that was formed for the Young Leaders Network about a year ago called ‘Terra Nova Project.’ Below is a summary description of that vision which has been somewhat ‘underground’ as many network leaders have been forming it, but we’ve resisted putting it in a ‘linear’ document. . . . It is a long and exciting road ahead and we’d appreciate any help and participation in building on ‘new ground’ that you might feel called to provide.”

A lengthy report then followed which is entitled, “’Terra Nova’ Means ‘New Ground.’” In this report, Smith outlined the philosophical underpinnings of the creation of what has now become the Emergent Church. This report is of concern for a number of reasons. First, Leadership Network was founded by Bob Buford, and it served a purpose of diffusing the social philosophies of management guru Peter Drucker throughout evangelicaldom. Second, the plan below indicates that Leadership Network viewed its role to be a “change agent” organization from the outset, purposefully serving as a vehicle to facilitate post-modernism within evangelicaldom. Third, the connection between Rick Warren and Leadership Network cannot be underemphasized, as Warren’s Second Reformation looks very much like a hybrid of the emerging church that Leadership Network was working to create. Smith stated,

“You may have been aware of a new network called ‘Terra Nova Project’ or ‘New Ground’ that represents an emerging clean canvas for new creation carved out by the modern-postmodern wars. The postmodern-transition has primarily focused on postmodern words and definitions to counter modern words and definitions. By God’s calling and grace, Leadership Network was one of the first national organizations to platform postmodern leaders as early as 1994, and over the past seven years, we have watched mainstream publishers and conference providers, denominations and para-church ministries provide increasingly powerful vehicles for the postmodern message to be expressed.”

In the following paragraph Smith uses the term “tipping point,” which has to do with shifting a paradigm (worldview). In this comment, he acknowledges Leadership Network’s key role in shifting the rest of evangelicaldom into a postmodern mindset:

“. . . We believe the ‘tipping point’ has been reached and the message is one that cannot be re-caged. This expression of postmodernism will continue and Leadership Network will continue its role of supporting the efforts of other networks and organizations to further this message.”

Below, Smith once again reveals that Leadership Network wasn’t just going to talk about a new paradigm, they were going to DO it. The word “demonstration” used below is connected to the word “authentic” that we explained above. In other words, Leadership Network intended to create a real-life “actual demonstration” of this new, post-modern, theological paradigm shift.

“However, a new need is emerging. For years you have heard people at postmodern conferences PROCLAIM from the stage, “Postmodernism is not proclamation, but demonstration; not individualized, but communitarian; not information transfer, but relational transformation.” We all now know in words what we want to see in our own lives and ministries, but even the leading postmodern proclaimers express frustration at how long it takes for the actual demonstration of what they know is the future to be seen in their own lives and ministries. This is normal. It had happened at every point in history where a tectonic world-view change has occurred.” [All emphases in above quotations are added]

Note above the use of the term “communitarian.” This political-social philosophy was that a key tenet of Peter Drucker’s model for societal transformation. Communitarian was seen by Peter Drucker as a “third way,” an alternative to communism and fascism that would create a more utopian world. [See the “Pied Pipers of Purpose” monograph posted at http://www.discernment-ministries.org for more information on this point.]

Note also the term “relational transformation.” Social scientists and marketers know that human values and behaviors are much easier to shift when people are placed in a small group setting where the variables are controlled from the outside.

Do not miss the main point of these brief excerpts. The intent was to change theology, i.e., doctrine, for a new paradigm shift in evangelicalism.

The Truth:

“The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.” (Proverbs 12:26)

More on this topic tomorrow. . . .