Emergent IF: Gathering Conference Coming to a Town Near You (Coming For Your Daughters and Granddaughters)!
[God] will take this hell on earth and someday show us how hell was building heaven.—Jennie Allen (founder of IF: Gathering)
Have you heard of the IF: Gathering? If you haven’t, you most likely will soon enough. The women’s movement started just a few years ago but is already making some big inroads into the evangelical scene. On the outer appearance, this looks like a legitimate Christian movement – the women who lead and speak at IF: Gathering are young and vibrant; they talk about Jesus, they go to church; some of them homeschool their kids—it all looks so Christian. But underneath this outer thin Christian layer lies an emergent atmosphere . . . and the target is your young evangelical daughters and granddaughters.
In a few days (February 2-3), IF: Gathering will be presenting their annual conference in Austin, Texas. The conference, called IF:2017 will also be live-streamed to many churches throughout America and Canada (and in some other countries as well). Lighthouse Trails has received a number of phone calls and e-mails by concerned parents and grandparents whose daughters and granddaughters are attending the conference, either in Austin or one of the sponsoring churches. Here is a link to the list of churches that will be holding the IF:2017 conference next week via live-stream. According to the IF website, there are over 2000 live-streamed events for this year’s event. If you multiply that by even just 150, that is nearly 300,000 women! When you go to the list, type in your zip code, see if there is a conference being held in your city or town, and if there is, start alerting those you know. Your friends may have daughters who are attending.
This year’s event will apparently not include IF speaker Jen Hatmaker who, we have learned, dropped out of IF last year for undisclosed reasons (recently she came out promoting gay marriage, and this got her into trouble with LifeWay Resources who dropped her books at that point). Speakers for this year’s event include Jennie Allen (IF’s founder), Ann VosKamp (author of One Thousand Gifts – see section in Cedric Fisher’s article below), Lysa Terkeurst, Jennie Yang, Jeanne Stevens (Co-Pastor with Husband of Soul City Church – http://jeannestevens.com/about/) – former staff member of Willow Creek and associated with Erwin McManus: ), and Jo Saxton. You may not be familiar with these names, but we encourage you to do your research and please read Cedric’s article so you might come to understand the underlying agenda of IF. As Cedric says, we don’t question the sincerity of these women, but we do question the direction they are heading spiritually. While her name doesn’t appear in this year’s line up, Melissa Greene is involved with IF as well (please see article below to learn about Greene’s beliefs and this video of her). Greene, a pastor, resonates with emergent leader Brian McLaren, and her church made headlines when it came out promoting same-sex marriage.
In May of 2015, Lighthouse Trails author, Cedric Fisher, wrote a booklet titled “ IF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering.” We are posting that booklet in its entirety below. If you scroll to the bottom of his article and hit the green Print button, it will format a nice PDF copy for you (you can buy it in booklet format too, but you’ll have to print it in order to have it in time before the conference). If you know a woman who is planning to attend the IF:Gathering conference next week, please print this article and give her a copy to read. Because the emergent “theology” is deceptive and spiritually dangerous, these young women need to be given a heads up.
Lest some say that Jennie Allen has cleaned up IF by not having Jen Hatmaker and Melissa Greene at this year’s event, keep in mind that Jennie Allen knew what these two friends believed when she invited them to be part of IF just a few years ago. How can we trust our daughters and granddaughters to someone who shows no discernment and who very likely will continue connecting with and inviting speakers who are of a similar emergent mindset.1 For example, Shauna Niequist (Bill and Lynn Hybels daughter) is involved with IF (they sell her book on their site, she contributes on the blog, and she is one of the speakers at IF:2017) and recently she gave her “blessing” to Jen Hatmaker’s acceptance of same-sex marriage and endorses Jesus Calling.
Once you read Cedric’s article below, we believe you will understand why we are so concerned about this movement. Writing this article reminds us of another article we wrote a number of years ago in 2008. It was titled “Brian McLaren’s Hope for the Future – The Minds of Your Grandchildren.” Since then, the emergent church has continued growing and indeed grabbing the minds of countless young people, many of them from Christian homes. We hope and pray parents and grandparents will do all they can to keep their own young people from going down that same path, this time via IF.
Don’t forget to check the list of places IF:2017 will be livestreaming to see if your town or city is hosting an IF conference.
IF IT IS OF GOD—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering
By Cedric H. Fisher
IF:Gathering came in like a storm, one of those winter events that seem to appear out of nowhere. No one saw it coming. A team of highly popular women—authors, bloggers, and speakers coming together—what a great idea. But it wasn’t novel. Professing Christians have been making pilgrimages for decades to high-energy conferences with a star list of speakers and singers. As with so many of these other conferences, IF purported to do the work of God. However, IF was unique in that it was mostly a digital event. It was greatly effective.
The IF:Gathering held its second event in February of 2015 and involved 1200 women at the physical location, with a possible 100,000 or more watching by 40,000 live links in more than 120 countries. The ongoing influence of IF after the conference has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of women all while flying under the radar of pastors and church leaders who may be accepting IF:Gathering at face value, not knowing anything about this group of high energy talented women leaders.
After reading the list of IF speakers and researching information about them, I have become convinced that IF poses a significant risk to Christian women, who unwittingly are submitting themselves to IF’s speakers and teachers. The danger? It comes in the form of emergent ideology, spiritual formation, and contemplative spirituality (contemplative prayer is a mantra-like “prayer” practice that vitalizes the “progressive” “new” Christianity (i.e., the emerging church). Thus, I am compelled to report on my findings regarding IF.
How did IF:Gathering come about and is it ordained by God? These are questions every responsible Christian needs to ask concerning anything claiming to be a new move or revelation from God. Those questions are especially important during such a time as this, a time when the church is suffering from great deception and apostasy. Is IF influencing women to draw nearer to God or rather leading them onto a spiritually dangerous path to heresy?
IF’s Beginning—A Whisper from the Sky
The 2015 IF:Gathering did not end when the conference was over. It continues to function through the network established before the conference occurred. Its influence continues through local churches and individuals who hosted the event, through social media, available videos of the event, and the “IF:Table,”* all of which have the potential to reach countless more women and evolve into a major women’s movement. If that occurs, it will help set the agenda of how the future generation perceives and implements Christianity.
The first statement on their website under “Who We Are” is:
We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.1
The founder of IF:Gathering, Jennie Allen, is a bright and energetic, best-selling author, blogger, and popular speaker. She appears sincere and dedicated to ministering to people. She and her husband have been involved in ministry for a number of years. However, since she is the founder, we must consider her activity, her influences, and her statements about the birth of IF:Gathering.
Allen is a Bible teacher who had been teaching groups of girls and young women since high school. She studied at the University of Arkansas for three years, completed her B.S. in Communications at Carson Newman College in Tennessee, and graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Biblical Studies in 2005. It would be two years after her graduation from DTS when she had an experience that birthed IF: Gathering.
Allen signed a multi-project contract in 2011 with Thomas Nelson, which included a series of seven DVD-based Bible studies and two trade books. Her first study released in 2011, followed by another one released in 2012. Her first trade book was also released in 2012. Allen’s book Restless: Because You Were Made for More and the Restless video-based Bible study were released simultaneously in January 2014, a month before the first IF:Gathering.
Allen was also one of the speakers in the neo-emergent Nines Conference in 2014, which hosted a speaker lineup that included some of the main influences in the New Christianity movement.
How did the IF:Gathering originate? There are different and conflicting explanations given by Allen. The first account was presented by Allen in the initial IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas, 2014:
About 7 years ago, a voice from the sky—that doesn’t often speak to me—but that day there was this whisper. It was the middle of the night, actually. And it was “Gather and equip your generation.” And this was ridiculous, because honestly, I was a stay at home Mom, I didn’t know anybody that could help me with that job. And it was a completely ridiculous statement. So ridiculous that I just, for two days my bones hurt, and I didn’t know what to do with it. My bones hurt, for two days.
I thought, Okay God, what do you want me to do? Wisely my friend said, “Jennie, if it’s God,” cause it may not be. All voices from the sky are not always God, FYI. But, “if it’s God, then He’s going to give you everything you need to accomplish His purposes. So just wait.” And so I waited, and that was seven years ago, guys.2
Allen eventually came to believe it was God who whispered. She would wait several years for Him to put IF: Gathering together. However, a year after the account of IF’s birth that she gave in the 2014 conference, she posted another account on her blog:
Truth is, IF:Gathering began as more of a hunch than a vision.3
A month later, and one year after her first account, Allen gave another account of how the IF came about during the IF: Gathering February, 2015:
I mean, 7 years ago, 8 years ago now, I heard a voice that . . . well, okay, I didn’t. This is like all different theologies right now. Okay, just give me grace. I don’t know, but I’m just telling you, in the night I woke up, and I was overcome with these words, “Disciple a generation.”
But I sat on it. I put it in my back pocket and said, “Okay God, if you want to do something crazy like that, you’re gonna have to make it happen.”4
I read Allen’s book, Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked my God and My Soul, written a couple of years after her experience with the sky whisperer. In her book, Allen describes deep intimacy with God and willingness to obey Him completely. However, she does not mention anything about Sky Whisperer or his commission to organize the IF: Gathering. I find that puzzling. What better place to introduce and expound on such a life-changing intimate experience and surrender than in a book describing full surrender?
I’m willing to concede that there could be a good reason for the inconsistencies of her accounts as to how IF came about. But an individual whom God supernaturally calls to accomplish a significant work should give a credible and unambiguous account of that call. One could say, “I saw a need and did my best to meet it.” However, when one says, “I heard a voice from God,” a different standard is involved. The reason is because something that has a supernatural event as an origin will have a much greater weight of influence. It presents the individual as a special agent of God, just as any of the figures in the Bible whom God used to accomplish unprecedented purposes. It almost immunizes the revelation and the individual from critical examination.
Therefore, I believe it is proper and reasonable to examine Jennie Allen’s statements concerning the origin of the IF: Gathering. The questions are: “Is Allen’s explanations of the origin of IF:Gathering convincing and does she provide viable and credible information that concludes IF: Gathering originated from God? One should prayerfully consider those questions and ultimately should ask: if it’s origin is in question and if it’s founder is involved in emergent conferences, can IF:Gathering produce good fruit? The next section concerning the speakers in IF:Gathering may help answer that last question.
For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. (Luke 6:43-44)
IF, The Speakers: Ambassadors of God or Emergent Collaborators
If Jeannie Allen did indeed hear supernaturally from God, and if God supernaturally equipped her to organize the IF:Gathering, we would expect good fruit from the conference and the speakers. We would not expect people who are influenced by emergent, New Age, and other aberrant authors and teachers. It is logical to expect that the speakers would be stellar Christian examples.
Space does not permit me to deal with all the conference speakers, so I have chosen several whom I believe need to be examined. They are listed in alphabetical order.
After reading portions of her book, Jesus Feminist, I get the impression Sarah Bessey believes that Christianity is stuck with the Woman Suffrage movement somewhere in the 1920s. She references radical feminist, social activist, and journalist Dorothy Day in her book and seems to draw from secular feminism. From that concept, she tries to invent a need for radical feminism in Christianity, presenting bizarre commentary on the Scriptures to back up her position. The following quote illustrates her view:
Many of the seminal social issues of our time—poverty, lack of education, human trafficking, war and torture, domestic abuse—can track their way to our theology of, or beliefs about, women, which has its roots in what we believe about the nature, purposes, and character of God.5
In the back of Jesus Feminist under “Further Reading,” Bessey offers a book titled How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, which includes essays from emerging church authors Tony Campolo, John Ortberg, and Bill and Lynne Hybels. Jesus Feminist also has endorsements in the book by Brian McLaren and Tony Jones. On her blog, she lists among her favorites A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren and Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.6 She also promotes The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen.7 There’s no question that Bessey resonates with the views of these men.
With such emergent and contemplative influences, how can good fruit be produced by this speaker?
Christine Caine claims Joyce Meyer as her “spiritual mother” and lists Word of Faith preacher Sheryl Brady as a dear friend calling her “flat out the best chick preacher of the word.”8 Caine has “preached” in seeker/emergent Steven Furtick’s mega church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The following is transcribed from Caine’s opening statement in Furtick’s church:
This place is a little bit like God, take this in context, in that like you are omnipresent. You are here. You are across the room. You are down the street. You are all over the worldwide web. It is like wherever you look, here we are and it is my honor and privilege to be here, I couldn’t wait.9
Caine also declared that her heart was “knitted” to Furtick. One whose heart is surrendered to God could not possibly be knitted to an individual such as Furtick. Journalist and researcher Jim Fletcher says this about Furtick:
Steven Furtick . . . mentored as he is by evangelical bigwigs like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, felt bold enough to post a YouTube video in which he sneeringly challenged what I’d call traditional Christians to basically get out of the way, because their time is past. Presumably, to Furtick, it’s the “new generation’s” time now, so step aside with your stodgy hymns and expositional preaching style. . . . Masked a bit by a pious nod toward humanitarian causes, the leadership of this group is quite nasty, albeit in subtle ways.10
Further, according to the itinerary on Christine Caine’s website, she will be speaking at NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) leader Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, California in August 2015 in the Bethel Women’s Conference. Why does this matter? It shows a pattern of being willing to associate with people and “minister” in churches that are teaching and promoting false and dangerous teachings.11
Melissa Greene is the pastor of worship and arts at GracePointe Church in Franklin, Tennessee. The church made national headlines in January of 2015 as senior pastor, Stan Mitchell, declared his church now accepts homosexual marriage.12
When I pull up Greene’s website, I immediately notice the picture of her sitting in a Yoga position. In a May 25th, 2014 message on her website titled “Worth,” Greene admits to reading emerging church pioneer Brian McLaren’s book, A Generous Orthodoxy (and McLaren spoke at GracePointe in the fall of 2014). Greene favorably quotes other prolific New Spirituality names: Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Frederick Buechner, Rob Bell, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Thomas Merton, Peter Gomes, Aldous Huxley—a list that reads like a veritable who’s who in emergent and contemplative heresy.
In “Worth,” Greene declares that, “Christianity is broad and diverse.”13 Considering that many of her influences accept all religions as being of God, there is no doubt to what she means when she states this. Greene also made the audacious statement: “The most devastating fear in people’s lives is the fear of God.”14 She attempts to validate her statement by taking verses out of context and misapplying them. What does God’s word declare?
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
For thousands of young Christian-professing women to submit to someone like Melissa Greene could have a detrimental effect.
In Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wreck Your Comfortable Christianity, she makes it clear that she is influenced by a number of New Age/New Spirituality individuals. She quotes Catholic priest and contemplative activist Richard Rohr and emergent leader Shane Claiborne. On her blog, she promotes the book, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson, a book that encourages readers to draw circles around specific things in order to have more answered prayers. Batterson was inspired with this idea by an ancient sage.
In Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, she reveals that her family takes part in a Roman Catholic ritual with mystical origins, the “Seven Sacred Pauses.”15 Hatmaker got her inspiration from Seven Sacred Pauses, a book by Macrina Wiederkehr who is a spiritual director in the contemplative prayer movement. In Wiederkehr’s retreats, seekers are guided through experiences of silence, contemplation and lectio divina (a contemplative practice where words and phrases from the Bible are repeated in mantra-like fashion). The “seven sacred pauses” are seven times a day to pause and pray, which Wiederkehr describes as “breathing spells for the soul.”
Consider Hatmaker’s statement concerning the preaching of God’s Word:
I have spent half my life listening to someone else talk about God. Because of this history, I’ve developed something of an immunity to sermons.16
This is eerily similar to the sentiment of Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees), who once, as a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher, expressed her dissatisfaction (and eventual rejection) of the preaching of God’s Word. That led Monk Kidd down a path away from the Christian faith and straight into the New Age. Today, she worships the goddess Sophia.
This disgruntlement of God’s Word is so prevalent among leaders of the emerging New Spirituality church. If not preaching, then what? Is it emotionally charged conventions and books with flowering, poetic phrases that open up to spit out a toxic drop of heresy? If Hatmaker is immune to preaching, she has rejected God’s method in favor of her own.
Ann VosKamp’s highly popular book, One Thousand Gifts, is peppered with favorable references to and quotes by various mystics, pantheists, and universalists. The following is a list of some of those influences:
Sarah Ban Breathnach, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Evelyn Underhill, Brennan Manning, Annie Dillard, Thomas Aquinas, Peter Kreeft, Walter Brueggemann, Francis de Sales, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Henri Nouwen, and Jean-Pierre de Caussade. She also quotes mystic Catholic nun Kathleen Norris on her blog.17
You may not have heard of all these names, but in my research, I have found that they all embrace a panentheistic mystical-based spirituality. For VosKamp to quote and reference so many authors in this category shows she is embracing and absorbing the spirituality of these figures.
In the last chapter of One Thousand Gifts, “The Joy of Intimacy,” Voskamp writes:
Mystical union. This, the highest degree of importance. God as Husband in sacred wedlock, bound together, body and soul, fed by His body, quenched by His blood . . . God, He has blessed—caressed. I could bless God—caress with thanks. It’s our making love. God makes love with grace upon grace, every moment a making of His love for us . . . couldn’t I make love to God, making every moment love for Him? To know Him the way Adam knew Eve. Spirit skin to spirit skin . . . The intercourse of soul with God is the very climax of joy . . . To enter into Christ and Christ enter into us—to cohabit.18
This is what contemplatives consider “intimacy” with God, as if God is more a lover or a boyfriend than the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings, and our beloved Savior. This is what millions of young Christian women are being introduced to.
The question is, are Sarah Bessey, Christine Cane, Melissa Greene, Jen Hatmaker, and Ann VosKamp really called from God as they profess to be? While I won’t question their sincerity, I must ask the questions: How can the IF:Gathering be ordained by God? How can Jennie Allen have supernaturally heard from God concerning her conference? And how could righteous God Almighty have sanctioned a movement that is so influenced by diabolical sources?
The IF:Gatherings promise great solutions, but in practice, they covertly chip away at biblical concepts of God, the Holy Spirit, and biblical Christianity. They are based on flawed concepts masked by alluring phrases. Like all other emerging church “coaches” and mentors, the IF leaders intend to solve the problem of what they insist is failed Christianity. They believe a replacement—New Christianity—is the solution.
Considering the influences of the speakers, the IF:Gatherings will lead to dangerous, alternate spirituality. The Conference overwhelms susceptible women with music, visuals, and emotional camaraderie. When their hearts are prepped and open, provocative questions are presented, and answers that conflict with God’s word are offered.
IF the Fruit is Good
When I was a worldling, I visited the notorious Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Fresh from the Oklahoma hills, I had never witnessed anything remotely like it. One thing that fascinated me most were the barkers. The barkers were men who stood outside of the many establishments attempting to coax passersby to enter them. They were so convincing. Their skills had been honed by trial and error. Bending to the persuasive and captivating power of their words, I entered one of those establishments. Once inside, I was shocked at the total absences of morals. Although it made my cheeks blush, and my moral upbringing urged me to leave, I was with a couple of friends and didn’t want to be considered a prude. So I stayed. The longer I stayed, the more I got used to the immorality. The more I got used to it, the more I wanted of it.
The speakers at the IF:Gathering are barkers. They are luring many professing Christian women with persuasive and captivating words. A repetitive error I noticed in the Conference was that a speaker would set up a straw man, and then mix the answer to it with Scripture. She would then insist that the conclusion was a valid point. An example was when Jen Hatmaker argued that we cannot possibly know all of God. She quoted a Scripture from Romans 11:33. Her conclusion was that because we cannot know God fully, it is not detrimental to faith to have doubt. However, faith does not depend on knowledge, but trust. Lack of knowledge should not make us doubt, but rather a lack of trust. This was a prevailing theme at IF.
Hatmaker also insisted that God set us free simply to set us free; that He set us free for us. Again, this does not agree with God’s Word:
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:20)
We were created for God’s purpose, to worship and serve Him. He set us free so we could belong to Him to honor and serve Him with all our hearts, mind, bodies, and spirits.
One constant thing that made me cringe was the cavalier attitude that some of the speakers, especially Jennie Allen, exhibited toward God. At one point, Allen, says, “Darn it, darn it,” and goes off on a rant implying that God is stupid, mean, and that His plan is absurd. The rant came only minutes after she declared she was nearly overcome with reverential fear of God.19
In Melissa Greene’s “Worth” sermon, one comes away with the following conclusions:
Certainty is bad; Questions (and no answers) is good.
The old-fashioned faith of our parents and grandparents is outdated and irrelevant.
References to numerous mystics and emergents
The “text” (the Bible) is OK, but there is so much more to be grasped.
In the end, everyone is saved.20
As I mentioned earlier, Greene admits to reading Brian McLaren, and from the content of the “Worth” video, McLaren’s spirituality has become her own. The IF leaders hope to lead as many women as possible into the same direction as Jennie Allen declares:
While I wish I were a more confident, rebellious pioneer, God had to nearly force me to the wild, new path He had for IF. I am however compelled to call as many of you as possible to the roads less traveled because there are many wandering who may never make it up to the highway.21
[God] will take this hell on earth and someday show us how hell was building heaven.22—Jennie Allen
The IF conferences are full of emotional manipulation with videos of heartbreaking stories and impassioned pleas to do something; draw near to God, have more faith, win the lost, help the less fortunate, etc. At various points in the 2015 conference, a speaker would burst out in an impassioned plea to do something about the plight of humanity as if it were the fallback position when passion was otherwise lacking.
IF’s leaders insist that biblical Christianity has failed as a viable work of God and that God and they are bringing forth a cure—New Christianity.
I fear that IF’s excellent adventure is advertisement for a mass departure from God’s Word. Rather than having their faith built up, participants are encouraged to question “traditional” Christianity. And those who are giving the answers—the IF women—are unfortunately getting their information from emergents and mystics who present a different gospel and another Jesus.
It is addictive, this linguistic confection. The mind is overcome with giddiness. But is it of God? Or is it rather a “beautiful” seduction? I believe the latter is true.
To order copies of IF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering, click here.
* IF:Table is a dinner hosted by one person on the second Sunday of each month. It is described as six women, four questions, two hours (https://ifgathering.com/new-to-the-table/)
1. IF:Gathering website, “Who We Are”: https://ifgathering.com/who-we-are.
2. Jennie Allen, 2014 IF:Gathering: https://ifgathering.com/if-gathering-2014.
3. Jennie Allen’s blog, “How to Leave Normal”: https://ifgathering.com/2015/01/how-to-leave-normal, January 21, 2015.
4. Jennie Allen, IF: Gathering: https://ifgathering.com/2014/09/ifgathering-2015, February 2015.
5. Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women (New York, NY: Howard Books), p. 169.
6. Sarah Bessey’s blog: http://sarahbessey.com, December 30, 2008.
7. Ibid., July 17, 2008.
9. Christine Caine, Elevation Church, Code Orange Revival 2012, http://elevationchurch.org/sermons/codeorangerevival (some of her sermon can be watched at: http://www.god.tv/code-orange-revival/night-4-anything-is-possible-with-god).
10. Jim Fletcher, “‘Hip’ church gives biblical Christians new label: ‘Hater’” (WorldNetDaily, http://mobile.wnd.com/2014/12/hip-church-gives-biblical-christians-new-label-hater/#JEfipOHtSOZJfZeD.99).
11. Read John Lanagan’s article/booklet titled The New Age Implications of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson where it discusses Johnson’s propensity toward “quantum spirituality” (the belief that God is in everyone).
12. Elizabeth Dias, “Nashville Evangelical Church Comes Out for Marriage Equality” (Time Magazine, January 29, 2015; http://time.com/3687368/gracepointe-church-nashville-marriage-equality).
13. Melissa Greene, “Worth” (http://melissagreenemusic.com/tag/worth, May 25, 2014, watch video at: https://vimeo.com/97252399, 22:40 minutes to 22:47 minutes).
14. Ibid, 24:18 minutes to 24:25 minutes.
15. Jen Hatmaker, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2012, Digital Edition), Kindle location 3266.
16. Ibid., Kindle location 435.
17. Ann VosKamp, (http://www.aholyexperience.com/2006/11/memorizing-word).
18. Ann VosKamp, One Thousand Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), pp. 213, 216-217.
19. Jennie Allen, IF:Gathering; Session 1- 03.
20. Melissa Greene, “Worth,” op. cit.
21. Jennie Allen, “How to Leave Normal,” op. cit.
22. Jennie Allen, Restless: Because You Were Made for More (Nashville, TN: W Publishing, 2013), p. 74.
To order copies of IF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering, click here.
As a professional musician, singer, and recording artist, Cedric Fisher was deeply immersed in the darkness of the secular music business and its trappings. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol. There was no thought of God in his life, but he dabbled in I Ching, Transcendental Meditation, believed strongly in reincarnation, witches and wizards, gods, and experienced demonic activities, including levitation and apparitions. In 1978, while playing a gig in Lubbock, Texas, he decided to purchase a Bible. Early in the morning after the gig, he started reading it. Not wanting to read such a large book without knowing whether it would be interesting, he began reading the last chapter. After reading Revelation 3:20, he kneeled by the bed and prayed. He was gloriously saved and instantly delivered of addiction and the torment that had driven him to it!
Today Cedric is an ordained minister and the director of Truthkeepers, a web-based ministry warning about spiritual deception in the church. He and his wife, Cheryl, live on the East Coast where he pastors a small house church that he pioneered. His past experience helps him to identify diabolical darkness that masquerades as Christianity today. Cedric believes God has called him to not only prepare believers to be equipped to avoid deception and apostasy but also to expose the heresies that have inundated modern Christianity.
Since early 2016, Lighthouse Trails has been sending out short letters and topical booklets that we publish to dozens of Christian leaders in America. Thus far, we have received a few responses, usually short notes from the ministry office thanking us for sending the materials. This week, we received an e-mail from Chuck Swindoll’s ministry telling us to remove him from our list and to no longer send him materials. The e-mail stated:
Please remove Chuck Swindoll and Insight for Living Ministries at PO Box 5000, Frisco, Texas 75034, from Lighthouse Trails Publishing’s mailing list.
As a not-for-profit ministry, we strive to use every penny wisely and imagine that you do too. Because of the time and effort required to process the huge amount of correspondence we receive, we respectfully request that you remove our organization from your mailing list. This may also help you save some printing and postage costs. Thank you for taking the time to update your records. We sincerely appreciate your prompt assistance with this matter.
While we do not want to be presumptuous in thinking that busy successful Christian leaders would even want to give Lighthouse Trails a moment of their time, we do find it disconcerting (though not really surprising) that Chuck Swindoll has refused our booklets. Swindoll is discussed in Lighthouse Trails articles partly because of a book he wrote titled So You Want to Be Like Christ: Eight Essential Disciplines to Get You There (see Ray Yungen’s article below). It’s a sad state of affairs when leaders have the time to read Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa, Richard Foster, and Dallas Willard, and other contemplative authors but not enough time to read material that questions the contemplative prayer movement.
Nevertheless, at their request, we will remove Chuck Swindoll’s name from our leader’s list. But this does not remove him or other Christian leaders from being responsible for what they are doing and teaching or from having to answer one day to the one Who judges all things.
We told Chuck Swindoll’s office that we would let our readers know of its request.
So You Want to Be Like Christ
by Ray Yungen
Charles (Chuck) Swindoll has a popular radio program called Insight for Living. In a September 2005 radio broadcast, Swindoll favorably quoted Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster. But it wasn’t until I saw Swindoll’s 2005 book So You Want To Be Like Christ: Eight Essentials to Get You There that I realized Swindoll had been influenced by contemplative authors. In the book, Swindoll quotes Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen, as well as Eugene Peterson and Dallas Willard. He states that he “sensed a genuine need … for the cultivation of intimacy with the Almighty.”1 He says, “There is a deep longing among Christians and non-Christians”2 for intimacy with God and that intimacy with God should be our goal, and “discipline is the means to that end.”3 Chapter three of Swindoll’s book is called “Silence and Solitude.” In it, he tells readers there are “secrets … that will deepen our intimacy with God,”4 so we can see “what others miss.”5 As he attempts to explain what these secrets are, he refers to the Scripture so often quoted by contemplatives, Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” He goes on to say:
As we continue our journey toward intimacy with the Almighty, Psalm 46:10 calls us to the discipline of silence…. What happens when you and I commit ourselves to periods of absolute, uninterrupted silence?6
Swindoll refers to an interview between Mother Teresa (a contemplative and interspiritualist) and former anchorman Dan Rather where she explains to Rather the concept of the silence. Swindoll then exhorts his readers to “discover its secrets for yourself.”7 Yet he avoids describing the actual method of contemplative prayer, saying, “You’re on your own with this one,” referring to it as “the mystery of godliness”8 (which actually is a reference in the Bible to the deity of Jesus Christ, not the silence, I Timothy 3:16). He brings the proverbial horse right to the water by favorably quoting [Richard] Foster, Nouwen, and [Dallas] Willard throughout the book.
Swindoll goes so far as to imply that without the silence we cannot really know God, [stating]:
Sustained periods of quietness are essential in order for that [becoming like Christ] to happen … I encourage you to experience this for yourself.9
He finally quotes from Henri Nouwen’s, The Way of the Heart and then reflects, “I do not believe anyone can ever become a deep person [intimate with God] without stillness and silence.”10
This is really quite a misleading statement. It is not the silence that draws us closer to God and allows us to become a “deep person” as Swindoll and the contemplatives insist. Scripture clearly teaches that it is only through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ that we can gain access to Him. We cannot add or take away from that. When we are born again, we are as united to Him as we will ever be. Atonement by the blood is the only direct and truly genuine means of meeting with God. The Old Testament speaks of the “mercy seat” wherein the Lord says “there I will meet with you” (Exodus 25:22). How awesome! A Holy God meets with man, but only when there is blood to atone for man. Hebrews 10:19-22, a clear reference to the Old Testament passage says that Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, is the fulfillment. When Jesus died, the curtain was torn apart, signifying that now in Christ (the new covenant), the Holy Place, God’s presence is open to ALL who believe. We do not need to go into a meditative, self-induced state [as Nouwen suggests in his writings] to be in God’s presence.
Some may say that Swindoll is only referring to a quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of life when he speaks of silence. If that were the case, then why does he differentiate between silence and solitude? He refers to solitude as getting away from it all, an external quietness, and makes it clear that silence is an internal stillness like Henri Nouwen described in The Way of the Heart.
While at this point, Swindoll does not actually teach mantras or altered states, his promotion and extensive quoting of contemplatives gives every indication that he is moving toward the contemplative camp. Typically, those who begin following the teachings of the authors I have warned about, and begin promoting the silence, continue steadily on a downward spiral into outright mysticism and deception. It is vital to understand that Nouwen’s book The Way of the Heart is a virtual primer on the practice of contemplative prayer. For instance, in the 2005 radio broadcast, Swindoll read a portion of The Way of the Heart where Nouwen makes reference to the silence of the mind contrasting it with regular silence as in not speaking. (This has been an excerpt from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., pp. 190-192)
QUOTES FROM SWINDOLL’S BOOK:
“So you want to be like Christ? Me too. But that kind of godliness won’t just happen … Disciplining ourselves will require the same kind of focused thinking and living that our Master modeled.” Introduction
“Let’s commit ourselves to these eight spiritual disciplines.” Introduction
“Henri Nouwen … longed to get away from all those words … So how do we pull it off? How, in a world bent on distracting us from growing deeper? … How do you and I become more godly? … The word is discipline. The secret lies in our returning to the spiritual disciplines.” p. 9, 10.
“I have sensed a genuine need–in my own life–for the cultivation of intimacy with the Almighty…. God requires spiritual disciplines … essential in our pursuit of godliness. … I came across Dallas Willard’s excellent work The Spirit of the Disciplines.” p. 12
“Richard Foster’s meaningful work Celebration of Discipline …” p. 15
“Discipline. This is the means for having intimacy with God. … Discipline is control gained by enforced obedience. It is the deliberate cultivation of inner order. So how are intimacy and discipline connected? … Discipline is the means to that end.” p. 21
In September 2005, Lighthouse Trails was informed that Chuck Swindoll was favorably quoting Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster on his Insight For Living program. We contacted Insight for Living and spoke with Pastor Graham Lyons. We shared our concerns, then later sent A Time of Departing to him and also a copy to Chuck Swindoll.
In a letter dated 10/3/05 from Pastor Lyons, we were told, “With his schedule I doubt he will read it.” We are sorry that Chuck Swindoll has time to read Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster but no time to read A Time of Departing, especially in light of the fact that thousands of people will read Chuck Swindoll’s book, listen to his broadcasts, and now believe that the contemplative authors are acceptable and good.
1.Charles Swindoll, So You Want To Be Like Christ? (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, a div. of Thomas Nelson, 2005), p. 12.
2. Ibid., p. 14.
3. Ibid., p. 21.
4. Ibid., p. 55.
6. Ibid., p. 61.
7. Ibid., p. 62.
9. Ibid., p. 63.
10. Ibid., p. 65.
Letter to the Editor: Chakra Article in Orange County Newspaper Brings to Remembrance Ray Yungen’s Work
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I came across this article [see below] in the travel section of our local newspaper the Orange County Register, dated January 1, 2017. The mention of the “seven chakra garden” was what prompted me to send this to you. It also made me want to mention some things about your dear departed friend, Ray Yungen, who taught on this very subject. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, and yet of all the speakers I’ve heard he was the one I’d hoped to meet and talk to. It must be so very, very hard for you losing him! I only saw his conference appearances on line [YouTube] a few times, and he just was fantastic in every way. He came across as very balanced, stable, likable, knowledgeable, wise and with a fun sense of humor! The way he wrote and the way he spoke he seemed to be such a clear thinker, it is such a delight to read his works. I admired him so much. I have been reading your online newsletters that I missed through the year. I just read one by Ray in June of 2009 regarding the Desert Fathers—excellent! So I thought writing to you and thus keeping his memory alive was a positive thing to do . . . I hope this is so!
Warmest regards to you in very cold Montana!
I am blessed to have read this book, it’s refreshing. It is so good to hear the truth being told. This man, Roger Oakland, is the watchmen on the wall, and he is crying out, “WAKE UP AMERICA, BEFORE ITS TO LATE.” It is rare that I can read a book and say that I agree 100% with everything that has been said here, but that is precisely the case. I told my congregation that if I could write a book, this is the book I would write. So praise the Lord for the truth. Absolutely a necessity for the discerning Christian. Pastor John Sutherland Calvary Chapel Spring Creek.
Caryl Matrisciana’s memorial was held January 14th at Calvary Chapel Cypress with Pastor Chris Quintana. The following video is the service. It begins at about the 9 minute mark.
From a Lighthouse Trails Reader:
Saturdays are good because I pick up Joan [not real name], a family member and go early to the Farmers Market. I went into the house, and Joan, who is close to 50 years old, excitedly showed me some Disney character socks she purchased for her friends and herself. They depicted the Evil Queen and two other Characters from that movie. We got in the car, and I noticed she had on her Evil Queen shoes and socks. The conversation goes to Christmas gifts, and she said her 11-year-old son says he wants an X Box so he can play games.
I now had to step in and talk about all the dangers of the current games where the characters have super powers and they are always killing off someone. Joan is in the choir at a Methodist church, and I did go once when the great-grandsons were baptized. The candles, the altar, the flowing robe of the minister, were very much a presence. The bulletin announced a new class given by a lady about finding new thought and prayer life through the mystics.
I tried to tell Joan about the evil behind the games and many other things in this day and age. I told her of the dangers and how they could affect young minds. I reiterated a happening the day before when I was walking around a small lake in our area in which some little kids came up behind me on their scooters. The smallest, about 6 years old, was saying, “Yea, I’m going to grab her and pull her hair out and then throw her into the fire” and other things along that line. Then they both got off their scooters because some ducks were close by and they chased them and yelled at them until they went into the lake. Those kids probably learned the scenario from some of their evil promoting games. I stated that this kind of thing was going to happen in the end times. She agreed that some games were bad and some characters in movies were promoting evil and
had bad super powers and weren’t like real people but that the evil queen she likes from the Disney movie was portrayed as a real person with some powers. But she wasn’t all bad.
Then the topic changed, and Joan told me she was so excited because the Gilmore Girls was on Netflix now. I had never heard of it or watched it, and she said that I’d love it, and I said I’d try it. Well, later I turned it on, and it was full of promiscuity, sexual innuendos, sexual relations discussed with ease, and unmarried people living together. It was all portrayed as if it was all normal every day living. I turned it off.
Then on my doorstep, I received an invitation to a Ladies Bible Study lunch that was happening next month. The leader, who claims she is an ordained minister, also does visitation at a local hospital as a volunteer. She wears a black shirt with the inverted collar and a long black skirt. A LARGE gold cross hangs from her neck. I had confronted her once before on her outfit, and she stated that people and men in particular respected the collar.
I received a text from a friend who goes to the Calvary Chapel church at the conference center, and she said I should come to church. I have told her repeatedly that it is becoming part of the apostasy. I had asked the pastor a year ago his views on Christian Yoga, and he wouldn’t answer even after I gave him literature on the topic. I see him now about once a week at a local elementary school. We exchange pleasantries. He said I could come back, and I told him that he hadn’t answered me on where he stands on Yoga and further more as an employee of the Conference Center, Brian Brodersen, who is his boss, is definitely going in the wrong direction. He finally e-mailed me his answer in which he stated he didn’t know about Brian Brodersen’s directions for the church or his joining up with Rick Warren or the Pope, but he would check it out. As for Yoga, he is “wary” of it.
I had one sane interaction toward the end of the day. A lady friend and I on the same page share the Lord with each other and some of our friends, and we pray they will listen before it is too late. We agreed that most people are content to live in the “Bubble” of life that goes on and they have their cocktail parties with the “plastic” people who tell jokes, talk about their shopping sprees, and live for the next day to do it again.
Enough of the insanity. I went to bed and continued reading a book by Dave Hunt Urgent Call for a Serious Faith. That is the answer.
We need to hold fast to Jesus. He is our life line. He is our Savior.
A Sister in California
Letter to the Editor: Mixed Bag of Speakers at Assemblies of God General Conference to Include Rick Warren, Priscilla Shirer, Circle-Making Mark Batterson
Dear LHT editors:
My parents attend an Assemblies of God church, and I try to keep up to date on what is going on. I left the denomination years ago, but they are struggling to stay. I just looked up the events for 2017 and wasn’t too shocked to find good old Rick Warren as a speaker as well as Mark Batterson (The Circle Maker) and others who I am not familiar with, but who seem to be part of the large megachurch mindset. Here is the link: General Council 2017 | Anaheim, CA
Also if possible if you could add Joanna Weaver to your list of books to stay away from. I am so grieved that churches just don’t want to listen. They refuse to expose error and embrace false teachers through books. They pick out the nuggets. It doesn’t matter if the author got her info from mystics, contemplatives, and flat out heretics from the NAR movement. :(
God bless you all and we will be praying for your ministry.
LTRP Comments: Dr. George Wood, who is the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God church, is one of the leaders Lighthouse Trails is sending booklets to a few times a year.1 Thus far, he has received 5 booklets from LT: 10 Scriptural Reasons Jesus Calling is a Dangerous Book, 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer, Rick Warren’s Dangerous Ecumenical Pathway to Rome, Setting Aside the Power of the Gospel for a Powerless Substitute, and Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation (And Important Reasons Why it Shouldn’t). On December 22, 2016, Lighthouse Trails editors received a short letter from Dr. Wood acknowledging receipt of the last two. It is our hope he will read the booklets and consider the information provided in them. As with many other denominations today, the Assemblies of God is heavily promoting contemplative spirituality.