Will the Next Billy Graham be a Mystic?

In a Chicago Sun-Times article, "Maverick minister taps new generation," the question is raised, Who will be the next Billy Graham? At first glance, someone like Rick Warren or Luis Palau (both of whom have been mentioned to take the place of Graham), might come to mind. But neither of those names was mentioned in the article. Instead, a popular emerging church leader, Rob Bell, was named as the possible replacement. While that may seem like a far-fetched notion to many, the article quotes emerging leader Brian McLaren as saying it "could very well be true."

Bell, a graduate of Wheaton College (the same as Billy Graham), is the producer for short films called Noomas. His newest film, called "Breathe," is currently in production:

"Each day we take around 26,000 breaths," Bell begins ... "Our breathing should come from our stomach, not our chest."

Doesn't sound like anything to be too alarmed about, right? Breathing ... we all do it to survive. But it may be time to take a serious look at Rob Bell's spirituality, especially in light of some seeing him as the next Billy Graham.

In a 2004 Christianity Today article titled Emergent Mystique, Bell (pastor of Mars Hill of Michigan) said, "We're rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life." What does Bell mean by "an Eastern religion"? It sounds a lot like Thomas Merton who, while he considered himself a Christian, said he was impregnated with Sufism (Islamic mysticism). As with most emergent and contemplative leaders, the Christianity of the Bible is not enough for them, and there is one main reason it isn't ... meditation. Since the Bible lacks any instruction on a self- induced mystical trance, other than condemning it in the Old Testament, contemplatives must turn to Eastern religious techniques adopted by Catholic mystics such as Thomas Merton or Basil Pennington, who have grasped onto Hindu style meditation or latched onto New Age mystics. You may think this is an outlandish statement, but on March 19th 2006, Bell did just that. He invited a Dominican sister from the Dominican Center (a 3 minute audio) at Marywood in Michigan to speak at a church service at Mars Hill. The Dominican Center is a "Spirituality center," which offers a wide variety of contemplative opportunities, including Reiki, a Spiritual Formation program, a Spiritual Director program, labyrinths, Celtic Spirituality, enneagrams 1 and much more.

For those who may not be familiar with Reiki, it is important to understand that the very word has a connotation that resonates with the idea of a spirit guide. In Japan, the word Reiki is the standard term for the occult (or ghost energy). In the Everything Reiki book, one Reiki master divulged:

During the Reiki attunement process, the avenue that is opened within the body to allow Reiki to flow through also opens up the psychic communication centers. This is why many Reiki practitioners report having verbalized channeled communications with the spirit world. (A Time of Departing, p.97)

Many in Wicca also have embraced Reiki.

If Rob Bell draws on a spiritual source that includes Reiki, the path ahead for Christianity could be very perilous. While it is unlikely that Rob Bell will become the next Billy Graham, if he or another contemplative/emerging leader were to gain the momentum and reputation that Billy Graham enjoyed for so many years, then contemplative spirituality would make greater inroads into Christendom than any could imagine. Can you picture a stadium filled with sixty thousand people, all meditating and chanting together, all going into the silence together, all being told that they already have divinity, they just have to realize that they too are Christ. It may seem like an improbable scenario to some, but to those who understand the huge implications of contemplative spirituality, its one that isn't too far down the road. Instead of singing "Just as I am" as people file to the front of the platform, they will be chanting the suggested words of Brennan Manning's guide, Beatrice Bruteau, I AM, I AM.

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1. What is an enneagram?

For more information on Reiki, see our research.

For detailed documentation and better understanding of contemplative spirituality, the New Age, Purpose Driven and the emerging church, please refer to A Time of Departing and Faith Undone.

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