By Roger Oakland
Understand the Times and Bryce Homes International
Before arriving in Kenya, I had decided to hold all reports until my arrival back home. There has been a change. I have now decided I cannot contain myself for that length of time in order to bring our supporters up to date. For the safety of our Kenyan brothers and sisters who are part of the Bryce Homes Kenya program and for ourselves, I will not be mentioning any names or locations. As you can understand, the world was in turmoil before we arrived. Now current events have catapulted fear to new and higher levels. Life around the world is not, and never will be, the same.
When I say we, this is to let our readers know that I am not alone. With me is a friend and a man from Canada who has a heart for missions. It is exciting for me when I see others I know catch the vision to reach out to widows and orphans. This is what the Bryce Homes Kenya program is all about.
Yesterday was another day in Kenya, but it was more than just another day. I have been travelling here since 2011. The program continues to expand each year as God provides for His family here through His family around the world. Perhaps what people in the western world fail to understand is the fact that more than half the population here in this location are either parentless or have only one parent or grandparent to care for them. Many live with elderly grandmothers who have nothing and already have trouble supporting themselves.
There are other problems related to culture that also play a factor. When women lose their husbands to AIDS (usually because of promiscuity), they are not only left without a breadwinner, the husband’s family threatens the young widow in an attempt to get her and the children off the family property. Barbaric acts take place according to tribal tradition, and often the government does nothing. We have had to deal with this situation on several occasions; it has become an ongoing process with new widows we take on.
Obviously, a foreigner from the west does not catch on to what is going on at first. Not claiming that I have any expertise in this area, I can tell you when I discover there is a problem, I will do everything with the strength God has given me to intervene for these widows. Click here to continue reading and for more information on the Bryce Homes Program.
Celebrating the Atonement and the Resurrection While Promoting Contemplative – A Profound Contradiction
In 1922, liberal pastor and theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick stated the following words in his sermon titled “Will the Fundamentalists Win?”:
“It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, preeminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration-that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the Atonement-that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner.”
Fosdick considered the doctrine of a blood atonement a “slaughterhouse religion”1
What this line of thinking is saying is that while Jesus’ going to the Cross should be looked at as an example of perfect servanthood and sacrifice ( the term servant leader is connected to this), the idea that God would send His Son to a violent death on the Cross is barbaric and would never happen. Thus, Fosdick (and those who adhere to this reasoning) rejects Christ as a substitute for our penalty of sin (“the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23).
In Roger Oakland’s book, Faith Undone, in the chapter titled “Slaughterhouse Religion” (see extract below), he shows where contemplatives and emerging church leaders hold to the same view. This is easy to understand how they could be like this when one understands the underlying panentheistic nature of contemplative prayer. In other words, contemplative mystics believe that man is divine (i.e., that God/divinity dwells in all creation – all humans in particularly). If man is divine, then he does not need to have anyone make atonement for him. A substitutionary death (taking a sinner’s place) on the Cross would not be necessary and in fact, would be an insult to man’s own divine nature. It would be humiliating. Like contemplative mystic monk Thomas Merton said (quoted by Leonard Sweet in Quantum Spirituality), if we really knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship one another. He and other contemplatives say that man’s biggest problem isn’t a sinful nature; no, it’s that he does not realize he is divine. Do all these pastors and professors who promote contemplative figures realize this is what they are really promoting?
During this time of the year, when most churches are holding Easter services (traditionally in honor of the death and resurrection of Jesus), how many of these same churches are clinging to contemplative/emerging spirituality without even comprehending what it really stands for (and some do realize it). If Jesus’ going to the Cross and shedding blood was merely an act of service and sacrifice, an example for others to follow, and was not actually a substitutionary payment for the sins of humanity, then why celebrate Easter and the resurrection? It would make no sense. Those churches who cling to contemplative/emergent ideologies and practices should consider this. While they cling to one (contemplative), they’re on the road to denying the other (the atonement) . . . even if they don’t realize it.
Below is an extract from Faith Undone on “Slaughterhouse Religion”:
“The Cross is Barbarity & a Slaughterhouse Religion – So Says Emerging Church Leaders”
by Roger Oakland
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (II Corinthians 5:21)
The heart and core of the Christian faith is based upon Jesus Christ’s shed blood at Calvary as the only acceptable substitutionary atonement for mankind’s sins. The Gospel message requires this foundation. The Bible says the wages of sin is death—thus every person alive should receive the penalty of spiritual death because none of us is without sin, since we are born with our sin nature intact. Satan hates the Gospel message. He understands what the Gospel means, and his agenda is to deceive mankind from understanding and believing so they can suffer eternally with him. While Scripture is very clear about the necessity of Christ’s death in order for us to be saved, some believe this would make God a blood-thirsty barbarian. Embedded within the structure of the emerging church is just such a belief.
Many in the emerging church movement would vehemently object if someone told them that emerging church leaders don’t like the Cross. They would jump up and say, “Yes, they do. I’ve heard them talk about Jesus and His going to the Cross. They say they love the Cross.”
Some emerging church leaders do say they love the Cross, but an underlying theme is gaining momentum among them. It says Jesus’ going to the Cross was an example of sacrifice and servanthood that we should follow; but the idea that God would send His Son to a violent death for the sins of mankind—well, that is not who God is. A loving God would never do that! Such a violent act would make Christianity a “slaughterhouse religion.”1 Liberal theologian and pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City, the late Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), believed that the doctrine of the atonement, where “Jesus suffered as a substitute for us” because of our sins, is a “precivilized barbarity.”2
In his book, The Modern Use of the Bible, Fosdick says that Jesus’ going to the Cross should be seen as an example of a life of service and sacrifice and not compared with “old animal sacrifices” and “made ‘a pious fraud’ played by God upon the devil.”3 In Fosdick’s book Dear Mr. Brown, he states:
Too many theories of the atonement assume that by one single high priestly act of self-sacrifice Christ saved the world.4
Fosdick ends that statement with a pronounced—“No!” He insists, “These legalistic theories of the atonement are in my judgment a theological disgrace.”5
Fosdick considered the idea that God would actually send His Son to die on a Cross to take our place to be the basis for a violent and bloody religion. He rejected the biblical message of an atonement and substitutionary sacrifice.
Fosdick was the pastor of Riverside Church of New York City from 1925 to 1946. While he has been long gone, his ideologies have remained intact and have drifted right into the emerging church. In October 2006, Riverside Church held the 5th Fosdick Convocation in honor of their former pastor. Two of the emerging church’s most influential teachers were there as speakers in honor of Fosdick—Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo.6 As I will show you, McLaren resonates with Fosdick’s view of the Cross.
False Advertising for God
In an interview, Brian McLaren questioned the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death, calling it “false advertising for God”:
[O]ne of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God. (emphasis added)7
What an extraordinary example of faith under attack and the consequences of thinking outside of the box. If McLaren is right, all those who have ever lived and believed in Christ’s atonement have been misled and wrong. McLaren has taken the freedom to reconstruct what faith means by distorting the Scriptures, or worse yet, saying the very opposite of what the inspired Word of God says. This is blasphemy! McLaren also states:
And I heard one well-known Christian leader, who—I won’t mention his name, just to protect his reputation. ‘Cause some people would use this against him. But I heard him say it like this: The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else.8
That God Does Not Exist
This idea of rejecting God’s judgment placed on Jesus Christ instead of us is not exclusive with Fosdick or McLaren. In fact, such rejection is integrated into the teachings of many others. In 1991, William Shannon (biographer of Catholic monk and mystic Thomas Merton) said:
This is a typical patriarchal notion of God. He is the God of Noah who sees people deep in sin, repents that He made them and resolves to destroy them. He is the God of the desert who sends snakes to bite His people because they murmured against Him. He is the God of David who practically decimates a people … He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger … This God does not exist.12
So in other words, according to Fosdick, McLaren, and Shannon, Jesus should be seen as a model of sacrifice to follow in our own lives, but to view God the Father as a judge against sin is not a proper view of God. Those who reject the atonement realize the greatest threat to their heretical views is those who take the Scriptures literally and seriously. Fosdick explains:
Were you to talk to that fundamentalist preacher, he doubtless would insist that you must believe in the “substitutionary” theory of atonement—namely, that Jesus suffered as a substitute for us the punishment due us for our sins. But can you imagine a modern courtroom in a civilized country where an innocent man would be deliberately punished for another man’s crime? … [S]ubstitutionary atonement … came a long way down in history in many a penal system. But now it is a precivilized barbarity; no secular court would tolerate the idea for a moment; only in certain belated theologies is it retained as an explanation of our Lord’s death … Christ’s sacrificial life and death are too sacred to be so misrepresented.13
This is another perfect example of how the emerging church turns doctrine it doesn’t understand into a mockery against Scripture and God’s plan of salvation. God’s ways are not our ways and to expect them to line up with our own human reasoning is ludicrous:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Former Catholic priest Brennan Manning has been a major influence in emerging spirituality. In his 2003 book Above All (foreword by singer Michael W. Smith)he quotes William Shannon almost word for word, regarding the atonement:
[T]he god whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger … the god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist.14
Dying for the Sins of the World
Marcus Borg [was] Distinguished Professor in Religion and Culture and Hundere Endowed Chair in Religious Studies at Oregon State University. He is a lecturer and the author of several books, some of which are Jesus and Buddha, The God We Never Knew, and Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But not Literally. While most would not consider him an emerging church leader, his thinking has greatly influenced the movement and its leaders. Brian McLaren says he has “high regard”15 for Borg; the two of them participated in a summer seminar series at an interspiritual center in Portland, Oregon, in 2006.16 Rob Bell references and praises him in Bell’s popular book Velvet Elvis.17 Walter Brueggemann, a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary and one of the contributors for Richard Foster’s Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible, considers Borg an essential part of the emerging spirituality. Brueggemann states:
Marcus Borg is a key force in the emerging “new paradigm” of Christian faith.18
Borg explains in his book The God We Never Knew that his views on God, the Bible, and Christianity were transformed while he was in seminary:
I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product, the product of two ancient communities, biblical Israel and early Christianity. As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God.… I realized that whatever “divine revelation” and the “inspiration of the Bible” meant (if they meant anything), they did not mean that the Bible was a divine product with divine authority.19
This attitude would certainly explain how Borg could say:
Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world.20
If what Borg is saying is true, then we would have to throw out John 3:16 which says God so loved the world He gave His only Son, and we would have to dismiss the theme of a blood offering that is prevalent throughout all of Scripture. In the Old Testament, it is clear:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)
But Borg rejects this emphasis:
To think that the central meaning of Easter [resurrection] depends upon something spectacular happening to Jesus’ corpse misses the point of the Easter message and risks trivializing the story. To link Easter primarily to our hope for an afterlife, as if our post-death existence depends upon God having transformed the corpse of Jesus, is to reduce the story to a politically-domesticated yearning for our survival beyond death.21
What is behind this mindset? Listen to one New Ager describe what underlies this line of thought:
Jesus was an historical person, a human becoming Christ, the Christos, is an eternal transpersonal condition of being. Jesus did not say that this higher state of consciousness realized in him was his alone for all time. Nor did he call us to worship him. Rather, he called us to follow him, to follow in his steps, to learn from him, from his example.22
Harry Fosdick would resonate with this. When he says, “Christ’s sacrificial life and death are too sacred to be so misrepresented,” he means that Christ is an example to be followed, not an innocent sacrifice for our guilt and thus worthy of praise and worship. Satan wants desperately to be worshiped and adored as God. He hates all that Jesus’ death stands for. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, purchased with His own blood the lives of those written in the Book of Life.
The Bible says, “without the shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22), and also, “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Are we to reject these Scriptures and other ones as well that speak of the atonement because it doesn’t sound logical? Scripture tells us that the carnal mind is at enmity with God. We need to recognize that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is our final authority, and we must adhere to the truth of its teachings.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.… And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. (I John 4:10, 14)
In 2011, Roger Oakland introduced Lighthouse Trails to Trevor Baker and his music, and we’ve been listening to him ever since. Trevor sings about many of the things Lighthouse Trails writes about, and it doesn’t take too long listening to Trevor to know he’s a man after God’s own heart. We asked Trevor if he could write a little something to our readers to tell them about himself. Here is what he had to say:
Twenty years ago, when the Lord first began giving me songs, I remember the struggle that went on within my heart. Lord, why am I always writing about the ugly side of religion and how people should run from the many spiritual gurus, both new and old, that seem to be untouchable and unquestionable kings and queens of the day?
These rulers of the people speak partial truths to keep the money flowing in to prop up their man-made ministries where “self ” rules the day and Christianity is a business and an ego maker rather than what Jesus intended.
Jesus upset the tables of the money changers in the temple and then prayed, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25).
So I have realized through the years that warning people about the big dogs that rule the religious landscape has left me with few friends. The thing I can’t escape though is the unmistakable peace I sense when God gives me a song and the tears I see in concerts of those rejected by the social religiosity of the day—misfits that have never been welcome throughout history.
My message is simple, go to the garden alone and walk and talk with Jesus, as the old hymn put it. A broken and contrite spirit He will not leave in distress in a church age that has lost its bearings. Jesus said we can come to him and cast our burdens on Him, and He will direct our steps through the religious mine fields and give us rest.
Most today, it seems, would rather line up to hear all of the religious superstars instead of going to the garden alone to receive real nourishment from the Lord. This, I believe, is one of the biggest contributing factors to the bankrupt society we see today.
While Lighthouse Trails does carry most of Trevor’s music CDs and DVDs, those who cannot afford these materials should visit Trevor’s website where you can get his CDs on a donation basis. Visit www.trevorbaker.ca where you can also listen to 30-second clips of all his songs. Trevor lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with his wife Jennifer. They have two grown daughters and two granddaughters. Trevor travels extensively around North America singing at churches and conferences. You can contact him through his website if you would like him to sing at your church or group. See video below to watch Trevor in concert from five years ago.
Listen to 30 second song clips from the CD, It’s All In Place (see lyrics to title song below).
It’s All In Place
© Trevor Baker 2010
If we didn’t see it coming we do now
It was quiet for some time
But now it’s loud
Like a train you faintly heard
So far away
The picture’s getting clearer
The house of God
Where steeples used to ring
Has morphed into
A strange peculiar thing
The Lord said all these things
Would come to pass
But who knew it would happen
Quite this fast
Friends we knew
Who were so strong before
Now stand in line
At each new open door
Not questioning the outcome
Or the source
They can’t be deterred from heading
Down this course
The feelings this drums up
Can’t be described
Some days all you want to do is hide
I’ve been through my Bible
With a fine toothed comb
And all the signs are sayin’
Soon we’re goin’ home
We’re going home
The signs are all in place
It’s moving quickly now
It’s picking up the pace
We’re going home
It’s time to grab your coat
The chances of the days extending
They say that where there’s smoke
There’s always fire
You can tell the end
By what has happened prior
The Bible’s clear
On how things will unfold
And all these things
Have clearly been foretold
If the days were not cut short
None would be saved
And there’s little said
About the free and brave
The proud have all been given
Only the broken and the humble
Hear His voice
And they’re going home
The signs are all in place
It’s moving quickly now
It’s picking up the pace
They’re going home
The ark’s about to float
Fulfilling every word
That Jesus spoke
It’s countless all the names
That will be scratched
All because they lived
With strings attached
But we’re going home
The signs are all in place
It’s moving quickly now
It’s picking up the pace
We’re going home
It’s time to grab your coat
The chances of the days extending
To Lighthouse Trails:
Years ago when researching church-related websites, I used to be able to detect quickly whether they were linked to the apostasy network or not due to some association.
That eliminated a lot of churches from my list of places to check out. Well, just recently I noticed across the board that for the most part they all seemed to have cleaned up their act and covered their tracks pretty well. But, the apostasy is still in full swing and growing; all you need to do is look at what lurks beneath the surface. There was a post recently on Lighthouse Trails about how you had to be at a conference (with Chan) and then you heard what they said with Catholic mystics, but it wasn’t on the website. That is what I have been noticing too. Anyway, many churches that advertise to be so “biblical” and such are just as bad. I live in San Diego, and there are a lot of churches to check into.
It used to be on a church website somehow—some slide, or announcement, etc.—but then later it was hidden in the links, or the church bulletin, or the women’s ministry where a Beth Moore book was listed. Now in the bulletin, when it is a Beth Moore book, they only label the study with a title or theme name. But when I Google that name, I get a book title by Beth Moore. They are hiding it deliberately. Another place I see things is on a church’s Facebook page. The latest example was a church claiming to be “oh so biblical” like that, and sure enough, they advertised the women’s retreat; I looked up the link from the bulletin (the name of it), and there wasn’t too much there. I went to the Facebook page and ta-da! All this New Agey, contemplativey, all about “you, yourself, and you” stuff, and several “any- gal-USA” ladies in cutsie getups. Well, I scrolled down past some other obviously erroneous quotes…. till I get to… a quote by…. Pope Francis! It was like Woah!!!!!! There it was, like nothing, just another cream puff sitting there in a line up of cotton-candy quotes. The next rung in the bridge to that one-world religion has been laid. It’s one of those “do goody” quotes that make the gullible swoon.
In case you are interested… the site is: www.belongtour.com [LTRP note: One of the speakers for the Belong Tour is Jen Hatmaker, one of the IF movement speakers. You can read about that movement and Hatmaker here in an article by Cedric Fisher. IF is a very emergent group that is targeting young Christian women.]
I try to warn as many as I can just in case some will listen.
God bless, L. _______
In recent years, a type of meditation known as mindfulness has made a surprising showing. Based on current trends, it has the potential to eclipse even Yoga in popularity. You will now find it everywhere that people are seeking therapeutic approaches to ailments or disorders. True to its Buddhist roots, mindfulness involves focusing on the breath to stop the normal flow of thought. In effect, it acts the same way as a mantra; and as with Yoga, it is presented as something to cure society’s ills.—Ray Yungen
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
Thank you for your weekly newsletters. Today I was reading through your March 15th newsletter articles about meditation and about Christian colleges. . . . Messiah College [is now ] promoting “mindfulness.”
From the latest Messiah College Newsletter for employees:
Please celebrate the March publication of a new article on the use of a mindfulness group to help counseling students in Counselor Education and Supervision by Graduate Counseling Program Senior Lecturer, Lynn Bohecker. This article was the result of a study using grounded theory methodology and can be located by using the following citation: Bohecker, L, Vereen, L.G., Wells, P. C., Wathen, C. C. (2016). A Mindfulness Experiential Small Group to Help Students Tolerate Ambiguity. Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision, 55(1), 16-30.
Lynn Bohecker is a Senior Lecturer in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling at Messiah College.
Also, in our local public school district are examples of the same thing:
“Mindfulness” is being promoted in both secular and “Christian” education.
Take care, ____________
Messiah College, in Pennsylvania, was founded in 1909 by the Brethren in Christ Church. It is one of the Christian colleges listed on the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative Colleges list (a growing list of Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities that are incorporating Spiritual Formation into the lives of students). Here are a few examples (in addition to the one above) to show how Messiah College is a major proponent of contemplative spirituality:
- A resource list that has a who’s who of contemplative authors and New Age sympathizers: http://www.messiah.edu/documents/college_ministries/Contemplative%20Description%20and%20Resources.pdf
- A resource list for “Activists”: http://www.messiah.edu/documents/college_ministries/Activist%20Description%20and%20Resources.pdf
- An off-campus program promoted by Messiah from 2014:http://www.messiah.edu/documents/off-campus-programs/OECourseCatalog2014.pdf
For over a decade now, Lighthouse Trails editors have been concerned about the direction that the AWANA children’s club is heading. Today, in this report, we want to first give an overview of our past decade of reporting on AWANA, and then we want to share some new information that should concern every parent and grandparent who has a child or grandchild in AWANA.
It was just over ten years ago, in Feb of 2006, that we posted our first article about AWANA after having contacted them about our concerns. That article talked about connections AWANA had with Willow Creek (for documentation on Willow Creek, see links at the end of this article). In that article, we stated:
Awana Clubs has been a respected and trusted Christian organization for many years. Countless children have been Cubbies and Sparkies and have memorized Scripture through the program.
With so much of the church heading into the contemplative/emergent camp, also known as the spiritual formation movement, what a tragedy it would be to see Awana being sucked into this also. Few things are stable these days … is Awana the next to cave in?
As 2006 moved forward, our concerns heightened as AWANA continued promoting contemplative materials and the Spiritual Formation movement and showed no signs of breaking away from Willow Creek.
In 2007 and 2008, we posted a number of other articles documenting the organization’s move into the “new” emerging spirituality. Two phone calls from us and sending printed materials had no apparent effect. And as one of our articles stated, “Today, we received another email [from AWANA] backing up their insistence that nothing is amiss.”1In one article we wrote in 2007, we explained:
Awana is showing signs that it is becoming a full-blown contemplative organization. First of all, through Awana’s prison project, the organization is incorporating New Age sympathizer Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus Encounter program. On July 13th, we spoke with Lyndon Azcuna, Awana Cross Cultural Ministries director, who told us he was a Lead Like Jesus facilitator. Azcuna works in the main headquarters office of Awana. He said that the project was using Ken Blanchard’s materials. When we explained to him that Blanchard promoted the New Age and mystical meditation, he said that the program did not have these elements.
However, the Lead Like Jesus Encounter is largely based on Blanchard’s book, Lead Like Jesus, and that book does include contemplative elements. For instance, in the chapter called “The Habits of a Servant Leader” a palms-up, palms-down exercise is described (something Richard Foster has encouraged)(p. 158). The book gives a typical instruction on contemplative:
“Before we send people off for their period of solitude, we have them recite with us Psalm 46:10 in this way: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be…. When people return from their time of solitude, they have big smiles on their faces. While many of them found it difficult to quiet their mind, they say it was a powerful experience. The reality is most of us spend little if any time in solitude. Yet if we don’t, how can God have a chance to talk with us?”
For Awana to include Ken Blanchard’s teachings into its organization, shows that the situation is quite serious.
In that same article in 2007, we announced the release of a book, partly authored by two AWANA leades (at that time), called Children’s Perspectives on Spiritual Formation. We stated:
[T]here is something even more disquieting with regard to Awana and their slide into contemplative – a book that is recommended by Awana and also carried by the Awana store: Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation. A description of the book is as follows:
“In childrens ministry, models, methods, and materials abound. How do you decide what direction you want your ministry to children to take? Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation allows you to examine the four prominent points-of-view in the church today. You will then be able to make a more informed decision on the way in which your ministry should take.”
The book offers four different views on how to transform children. One author, Scottie May, a professor at Wheaton, writes the section titled, “Contemplative-Reflective Model.” May gives a hearty promotion of centering prayer, the Jesus prayer, Christ candles, the Catholic Eucharist and an strong endorsement for contemplative spirituality ala Thomas Merton, whom she favorably quotes in the book. Two Awana staff writers respond in the book to May’s contemplative approach and give it a thumbs up with only minor cautions. But overall they believe that contemplative is a valid approach for all Christians, including children. Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation is giving a green light to Awana leaders around the world to practice contemplative prayer.
In 2007, we wrote an article titled “Awana Revisited: Is it or is it not promoting contemplative spirituality?” that examined in more detail the book (Children’s Perspectives on Spiritual Formation) that was still being promoted by AWANA. Here are a couple quotes from that book written by the two AWANA leaders:
Page 82: “In his excellent overview, Streams of Living Water, Richard Foster outlines six different spiritual traditions that present within the Christian faith. They are the contemplative tradition, the holiness tradition, the charismatic tradition, the social justice tradition, the evangelical tradition, and the incarnational tradition. Each of these has played an important part in the larger history of the Christian church…. Each of these traditions has made significant contributions to Christian spirituality and each has weaknesses when isolated from other traditions. (bold added)
P. 83-84: “While we believe that the Contemplative-Reflective Model highlights some significant needs in children’s spiritual formation, we should see it as an addition to the base provided for us in the Scriptures….We share agreement with the Contemplative-Reflective Model in a number of areas … we have much to learn from the Contemplative-Reflective Model. Many of our children’s programs are far from reverential, and the constant barrage of impulses does not seem to help in developing this interior life [this is the mystical contemplative life that Teresa of Avila practiced].” (bold added)
Our response in 2007 to these and other comments from the book was:
If the Awana writers in this book are trying to persuade readers that they do not promote contemplative spirituality, they have done a terrible job in expressing this. On the contrary, they have given minor cautions and major affirmations. They conclude with: “Given this framework, the Contemplative-Reflective Model becomes, at best, an important tool in helping provide a balanced development of the Christian spiritual life” (p. 87). While Carson and Crupper [the two AWANA leaders] point out some of the flaws in the Contemplative-Reflective Model, they make it clear that there is much good in it. Their response to contemplative spirituality leaves one message to readers: contemplative has some problems but if incorporated with other spiritual traditions, it has great value. And it is this attitude that is going to take Awana down a slippery slope of deception, unless they truly come to understand the underlying dangers of contemplative and then make every effort to rid Awana of its influence. (bold added)
In 2012, we contacted the publisher of Children’s Perspectives in Spiritual Formation and learned that the book was still in active print. Sadly, AWANA leadership had decided that the contemplative approach was valid.
In November of 2015, we posted a letter to the editor titled “Concerns By Awana Leader About Awana Linking Hands with the Emerging Church.” The letter from one of our readers who was a former AWANA leader, stated:
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
My family has been involved with the Awana ministry for almost 20 years both as “clubbers” and leaders.
Awana came out with new junior high curriculum. I reviewed one of the books and was not happy. The high school level curriculum too is in the process of being re-written with the help of a man named Josh Griffin. Josh Griffin is the high school pastor for Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Griffin is associated with Doug Fields who was a speaker for Youth Specialties, then went on to be a youth pastor for Saddleback before returning back to work for Youth Specialties. Both Fields and Griffin have written books together and share a blog.
In September, Awana sent out an e-mail invitation to the 2015 National Youth Convention put on by Youth Specialties. Awana had a booth there.
A link on the e-mail connects to a promotional video where you see many people including Tony Campolo. Also Mark Matlock, the director of Youth Specialties tells his audience, “Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but are co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church.”
This is chilling considering that the words co-creators and conspirators are words associated with the New Age.
Speakers of the conference included such emerging church personalities as Doug Fields, Dan Kimball, Tony Campolo, Mike King, Jim Burns, and Alan Hirsch. Josh Griffin was the M.C. for the worship sessions.
The convention also offered spiritual directors for one-on-one sessions.
It is truly sad to see Awana linking hands with the emerging church movement.
This brings us to the present, 2016. On March 9th of this year, a press release came out announcing the retirement of long-time AWANA president Jack Eggar who was being replaced by an interim president and CEO, Valerie Bell. Bell is a member of Willow Creek (and her husband is a Vice President of Willow Creek Association). The fact alone that AWANA has selected someone from Willow Creek to lead AWANA should be enough to show that AWANA has at least in part absorbed the spirituality of Willow Creek, which is the spirituality of the emerging church (and that is NOT guilt by association). But the selection of Valerie Bell has even deeper roots in the “new” spirituality.
While Bell has some disconcerting resource links on her website, the one that stands out the most is Hungry Souls, the website of David and Karen Mains. For a number of years, the Mains have had affinity with New Age concepts and teachings as has been brought out by a number of different discernment ministries (you can do a search on the Internet and see this for yourself). For example, a 2005 article by pastor, researcher, and author Gary Gilley reveals that in a book written by Mains, Lonely No More, Mains “chronicled her journey into Jungian psychology, visualization and the occult.” Gilley stated, “The spiritual path that Karen Mains describes in Lonely No More can easily be found in most occult spiritual transformation books.” That book, Lonely No More remains available today on Amazon as a Kindle book.
In a more recent book of Mains, The God Hunt, in a Further Reading section in the back, a number of contemplative/new spirituality authors are listed including Tilden Edwards (co-founder of the panentheistic Shalem Prayer Institute in Washington, DC), emerging church leader, the late Phyllis Tickle, and contemplatives Esther de Waal and Kathleen Norris.
Furthermore, on Karen Mains’ site in an article titled “The Practice of Silence,” she says, “I became convinced that no deep spiritual growth could occur in my life without the practice of silence that allows us to develop the capacity of holy listening.” This “holy listening” and the “practice of silence,” of course, is contemplative prayer.
There is no question that Bell and Mains share a spiritual affinity. In 2008, they traveled to France together and lead a group in a 10-day “pilgrimage.” Promotional advertising for the trip said:
We will teach you how to “read” great art and then how to use those same viewing exercises to develop a contemplative prayer practice for the soul.
Among various teachings and practices included in the trip was instruction in the contemplative practice, Lectio Divina.
In addition to promoting David and Karen Mains, Valerie Bell shares her own views on contemplative spirituality on her website. On a page with the subtitle Soul Care (another way of saying contemplative), it says:
Valerie has a strong interest in soul-care as a way to find spiritual well-being and relationship with a loving God. Her approach invites people to learn spiritual practices that can sustain them through the most difficult life challenges. Her book, A Well-Tended Soul, describes the nuances of that inner journey and is a core resource to her spiritual formation seminars. (bold added)
There is no question that AWANA is becoming a whole-hearted emerging/contemplative organization, and children in the program will eventually feel the effects. Unfortunately, deception can often be slow and subtle so parents may not realize their AWANA Cubbies and Sparkies are being influenced, a little more week after week through the AWANA curriculum. While we still believe there are AWANA local teachers who love the Lord and are trying to present a biblical view, the handwriting has been on the wall for over a decade, and it’s getting easier to read all the time.
Lighthouse Trails Articles on Willow Creek:
To: Lighthouse Trails Publishing
Greetings! I want to express my gratitude to you for mailing these booklets to me, by Warren Smith! I am really, enjoying them, but you’ll never know just what a great tool these are to me. I am in Administrative Segregation because when I was younger and before I came to my Lord Jesus, I was associated with a prison gang. So, they put me here. I am locked-up for 23 hours every day with one hour of recreation and a shower, a day. This is why these booklets are great tools for me because I do my best to warn as many people as I can of false doctrine, especially new believers and it’s difficult for me because I can’t move around as much as I would like to. I can pass these booklets around, though. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
I have purchased a few of Warren Smith’s books, also, and pass those around as well. The reason that I am more grateful than you can imagine is because, the majority of Christians I have met here are either new believers and have no discernment or they have been Christians for years and know about false doctrine, but do not warn others because, supposedly, they don’t want to cause division in the Body of Christ. Like I told them. That is a cop-out. The reason they don’t warn others is because they don’t want confrontation, nor do they want the backlash that comes along with pointing out false doctrine. I don’t like it much, either, but God has given me a love for souls and, an urgency to warn people to get right with Him. God bless you all and keep up the good work that you all do.
In the Peace of Christ,
Jeremiah 6:16, 9:23-24