Posts Tagged ‘mark yaconelli’

Question to the Editor: What’s Up with Lilly Endowment – Funding Pastoral Sabbaticals with a Contemplative Agenda

To Lighthouse Trails:

Eli Lilly, a major pharmaceutical company, in conjunction with Christian Theological Seminary (a liberal seminary in Indianapolis, IN) is funding pastoral sabbaticals.  It appears it is just a part of a national program.

Seems highly suspect to me.  I wouldn’t be looking twice except that I know a local  pastor applying for the grant. I find it very disturbing, but not necessarily surprising considering this church was already “purpose driven” several years back.

M. ___________



Dear M._______,

In 2007, Lighthouse Trails became aware of the Lilly Endowment grants that were being given to congregations and their pastors (the pastors then allowed to go on sabbaticals that had contemplative/emerging overtones). Since then, Lilly Endowment has turned over the administration of the Clergy Renewal Program to Christian Theological Seminary in Indiana (incidentally one of the schools on the Lighthouse Trails contemplative college list) but is still giving the grants. And today, just as was the case back in 2007, the Clergy Renewal Program has contemplative/emerging leanings. That’s actually an understatement. A look around the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs website will show ample evidence of these propensities. We are reposting below our 2007 article as you may find it helpful as it includes further documentation. Once again, another instance where Christian pastors have compromised the calling to walk in the truth of God’s Word and rather participate in a mystical paradigm shift.

In 2012, the Lilly Endowment gave 6.5 million dollars to clergy members through the National Clergy Renewal Program. According to one report:

One hundred and forty-seven congregations will receive up to $50,000 to enable their pastor to take a three- to four-month sabbatical to gain fresh perspective and renewed energy for the ministry.

And according to the Lilly Endowment document that lists the winners of the 2012 grants, pastors will:

. . .  seek to regain spiritual vitality through the ancient Christian practice of walking as pilgrims in several countries—the path of Jesus in Israel, the path of the Exodus, some or all of the 500-mile Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul in Greece, Turkey and Italy—and making retreats in Benedictine monasteries, walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, and living in sacred space on the Isle of Iona and other Celtic spiritual destinations.

Winners represent various denominations including Southern Baptist, Independent, Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Evangelical Free, and Mennonite. (Resource page that is provided by the Clergy Renewal Project – filled with many contemplative/emergent resources).

Below is the article we wrote in 2007. Still relevant today because Lilly continues to pour money into pastors lives to help them become more contemplative and more emergent. It is also still a relevant article because the Christian figures who participated in trying to thwart and diminish their critics (e.g. Lighthouse Trails) never recanted what they were doing and supporting.

“Emerging Church – A Move of God or a Well-Funded Enterprise?” – from 2007

The name keeps popping up – Lilly Endowment . Huge amounts of money being given in the form of grants to proponents of the emerging church. As Roger Oakland documents in his book, Faith Undone, Lilly gave $691,000 to the Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project (Mark Yaconelli) in 2001. Lilly had funded the beginning of that project in 1997 as well. Lilly also funded Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice, another emerging-type project with Diane Butler Bass . 1 New Age sympathizer Parker Palmer (friend and inspiration to emerging leader, Len Sweet) also enjoyed the benefits of Lilly Endowment grants.2

In an article titled “Social Change and Communitarian Systems,” it explains:

The Lilly Endowment “a private foundation…that supports community development, education and religion,” has also helped fund the [Peter] Drucker Foundation. But more recently, it has shown its support for Baptist leadership and pastoral training. Strangely enough, the two — Drucker’s communitarian vision for the “social sector” and seminary training in community-building — fit together….

This grant [$300,000] makes all the more sense in light of a new partnership between Golden Gate Seminary and Saddleback Church. The Baptist seminary will build a new branch on the Saddleback campus to train church leaders to use the digital data tracking technology needed to meet and monitor community needs around the world.3

In 1999, the now emerging/contemplative-promoting Bethel Seminary received $1.5 million from Lilly Endowment in a project created to identify “the next generation of Christian leaders.”4 Now, according to an article by emergent Tony Jones, in a more recent grant called Faithful Practices, Jones reaped benefits from Lilly.5 [Jones article no longer online.]

And the money just keeps coming in. While many think that the emerging church must be a move of God because of its success and popularity, big funding could have a lot to do with it.

Some of the participants of the Faithful Practices project include Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward. All four are part of the emergent church and the shift toward the new spirituality that rejects biblical Christianity. Pagitt and Jones are the editors of the new release, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope; McLaren and Ward are contributing writers for the book. That book is reviewed in Emergent Manifesto: Emerging Church Coming Out of the Closet and also in Faith Undone. The Manifesto clearly shows the pantheistic/universalist/New Age element of the emerging church. But while the message of the emerging church is anything but biblical, with a little financial help from its friends, it doesn’t look like the emerging church is going to disappear anytime soon.

Lately, some emergent leaders have been posting articles on the Internet, complaining about their critics. Erwin McManus wrote a recent article titled, “Emerging Angle” where he referred to critics’ analyses as “violent attacks” and likens them to war violence. Dan Kimball, in a recent blog posting, calls emerging critics “little barking poodles” (showing a photo of a growling poodle with sharp fangs).6 And it is no secret that Rick Warren has done everything from accuse Lighthouse Trails of breaking into Saddleback’s server (telling us Federal agents are investigating us)7 to calling fundamentalist Christians a big enemy of the 21st century and likening them to Islamic terrorists.

What is ironic is that most of the “critics” of the emerging church are small, obscure ministries that have virtually no extra funding and operate on their mere love for the truth and the Gospel message. What’s more, emerging leaders outnumber their critics, have the support of mass media (both Christian and secular), and are published by the biggest Christian (and secular) publishing companies.

But in spite of the contrast between emergents (and their funding and support) and Bible-believing critics (and their lack of funding and support), critics have become a sore spot to emerging leaders to the point where they refer to us as “barking poodles,” enemies of society, and violent. Is it possible God is using the foolish things of the world to confound the wise? Is it possible that things are not always as they seem?

The critics of the emerging church are no great thing – we could be gone tomorrow, but that does not matter because what is a great thing is the God who has sent His Son as an atonement for sin (something often rejected by the emerging church), and offers salvation freely to those who receive Christ by faith through His grace. That is a great thing, and that is worth defending … and it is a message that can never be snuffed out. No amount of funding can destroy God’s truth.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written,

 How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:9-17)

New Lighthouse Trails Booklet: LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?

LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it? written by the editors at Lighthouse Trails is one of the new Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tracts and is an easy to understand explanation of the practice of lectio divina, a practice that is becoming increasing popular in evangelical/Protestant circles today. The booklet is 16 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. This is a great way to tell others about lectio divina and answer the question, should Christians practice it. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?, click here. There are also two bonus sections in the booklet: 1) “Some places you will find lectio divina “(listing over 30 Christian authors who are promoting lectio divina); 2) Is There Really a Different Way of Reading the Word of God? (see this section below)

Lectio Divina: What it is, What it is Not, and Should Christians Practice it?New Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract: “LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?”

LECTIO DIVINA—There’s a lot of talk about it today; umpteen books are published and more are on the way about lectio divina; and an increasing number of evangelical/Protestant figures are writing about it, endorsing it, and teaching it. Some people think lectio divina simply means to read a passage of Scripture slowly (or “praying the Scriptures”) then ponder or think on that Scripture. That can be a part of it. But if you ask mystics or contemplatives what it really entails (And who would know better than they?), they will tell you that lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-o di-veen-a) always includes taking a passage of Scripture (or other writings), reading it slowly, and repeating it as you work your way down to where you have just a word or small phrase from the passage that you are “meditating” on (repeating over and over). Basically, you are coming up with a mantra-like word or phrase that has been extracted from a passage of Scripture, which, according to contemplatives, if repeated for several minutes, will help you get rid of thoughts and distractions, so then, they say, you can hear the voice of God and feel His presence (going into the silence).

There are said to be four steps in lectio divina. These four steps are:

Reading (lectio)—Slowly begin reading a biblical passage as if it were a long awaited love letter addressed to you. Approach it reverentially and expectantly, in a way that savors each word and phrase. Read the passage until you hear a word or phrase that touches you, resonates, attracts, or even disturbs you.

Reflecting (meditatio)—Ponder this word or phrase for a few minutes. Let it sink in slowly and deeply until you are resting in it. Listen for what the word or phrase is saying to you at this moment in your life, what it may be offering to you, what it may be demanding of you.

Expressing (oratio)—If you are a praying person, when you are ready, openly and honestly express to God the prayers that arise spontaneously within you from your experience of this word or phrase. These may be prayers of thanksgiving, petition, intercession, lament, or praise. If prayer is not part of your journey you could write down the thoughts that have come your way.

Resting (contemplatio)—Allow yourself to simply rest silently for a time in the stillness of your heart remaining open to the quiet fullness of God’s love and peace. This is like the silence of communion between the mother holding her sleeping infant child or between lovers whose communication with each other passes beyond words.1

Catholic priest and contemplative mysticism pioneer Thomas Keating explains what lectio divina is not in an article he has written titled “The Classical Monastic Practice of Lectio Divina.” He explains that lectio divina is not traditional Bible study, not reading the Scriptures for understanding and edification, and not praying the Scriptures (though praying the Scriptures can be a form of lectio divina when a word or phrase is taken from the Scriptures to focus on for the purpose of going into “God’s presence”).2 Keating says that lectio divina is an introduction into the more intense practices—contemplative prayer and centering prayer.

While some people think lectio divina is just reading Scripture slowly (and what’s wrong with that), it is the focusing on and repeating a word or small phrase to facilitate going into the “silence” that is the real danger. There is certainly nothing wrong with reading Scripture carefully and thoughtfully. Thoughtfully, we say. In eastern-style meditation (and in contemplative prayer) thoughts are the enemy. Eastern-style mystic Anthony De Mello describes this problem with thoughts in his book Sadhana: A Way to God:

To silence the mind is an extremely difficult task. How hard it is to keep the mind from thinking, thinking, thinking, forever thinking, forever producing thoughts in a never ending stream. Our Hindu masters in India have a saying: one thorn is removed by another. By this they mean that you will be wise to use one thought to rid yourself of all the other thoughts that crowd into your mind. One thought, one image, one phrase or sentence or word that your mind can be made to fasten on.3

Spiritual director Jan Johnson in her book, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer also believes that thoughts get in the way, and the mind must be stilled:

Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.4

Mark Yaconelli, author of Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus, has this to say about lectio divina. Keep in mind that Yaconelli’s materials are used in evangelical/Protestant settings (e.g., colleges, seminaries, youth groups):

In order to practice lectio divina, select a time and place that is peaceful and in which you may be alert and prayer fully attentive. Dispose yourself for prayer in whatever way is natural for you. This may be a spoken prayer to God to open you more fully to the Spirit, a gentle relaxation process that focuses on breathing, singing or chanting, or simply a few minutes of silence to empty yourself of thoughts, images, and emotions.5

Research analyst Ray Yungen explains this silence that contemplative mystics seek:

When [Richard] Foster speaks of the silence, he does not mean external silence. In his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster recommends the practice of breath prayer6—picking a single word or short phrase and repeating it in conjunction with the breath. This is classic contemplative mysticism. . . . In Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, [Foster] ties in a quote by one mystic who advised, “You must bind the mind with one thought”7 . . . I once related Foster’s breath prayer method to a former New Age devotee who is now a Christian. She affirmed this connection when she remarked with astonishment, “That’s what I did when I was into ashtanga yoga!”8

With lectio divina, the word or phrase one repeats eventually can lose its meaning, and this repetitive sound can start to put the practitioner into an altered mind state. Yungen tells us that:

Keeping the mind riveted on only one thought is unnatural and adverse to true reflection and prayer. Simple logic tells us the repeating of words has no rational value. For instance, if someone called you on the phone and just said your name or one phrase over and over, would that be something you found edifying? Of course not; you would hang up on him or her. Why would God feel otherwise? And if God’s presence is lacking, what is this presence that appears as light during meditation and infuses a counterfeit sense of divinity within?9

Yungen exhorts believers that: “the goal of prayer should not be to bind the mind with a word or phrase in order to induce a mystical trance but rather to use the mind to glory in the grace of God. This was the apostle Paul’s counsel to the various churches: ‘Study to shew thyself approved’ (2 Tim. 2:15) and ‘we pray always’ (2 Thessalonians 1:11) as in talking to God with both heart and mind.”10

In order to help those you care about stay clear of contemplative spirituality and spiritual deception, it is important for you to understand how lectio divina plays a significant role in leading people toward full blown meditative practices. And we propose that this “presence” that is reached during the “silent” altered states of consciousness from saying a word or phrase over and over (or focusing on the breath or an object) is not God’s presence. God has instructed us in the Bible not to perform “special kinds of process[es]” or “formula[s],”11 as Thomas Keating calls lectio divina, to induce mystical experiences (see Deuteronomy 18:9-11); thus, we believe ample warning about lectio divina is warranted.

In conclusion, lectio divina is a bridge to eastern-style meditation. If indeed, this is true, then it will lead Christians away from the message of the Cross and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and thus Christians should not practice lectio divina. Do you know where practices such as lectio divina took Thomas Keating in his spirituality? When you read the statement by him below, you can see the answer to this:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible.

Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences.12

1. Taken from:
2. Thomas Keating, “The Classical Monastic Practice of Lectio Divina”  (
3. Anthony de Mello, Sadhana: A Way to God (St. Louis, the Institute of Jesuit Resources, 1978), p. 28.
4. Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), p. 16.
5. Mark Yaconelli,
6. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1992), p. 122.
7. Ibid., p. 124.
8. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2006), p. 75.
9. Ibid., p. 76.
10. Ibid., p. 75.
11. Keating, “The Classical Monastic Practice of Lectio Divina,” op. cit.
12. M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Pub., 1978), pp. 5-6.
To order copies of LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?, click here.


Q & A

QUESTION: I live in South Africa and even here, the Dutch Reformed church is doing the contemplative route. Some writers have even written some books on the subject in which they actually encourage their members to explore that route! I put an enquiry to one of the blokes on this subject and he explained as follows:

In the years after Christ ascended to heaven, there were actually two ways of reading the Bible . . .

The school of Antioch read it as a historic/grammatical narrative and the school of Alexandria took the more ‘spiritual’ route of reading.

Both ways are/were apparently valid.

The Antioch model ensured that God’s Word was read with intellectual integrity and the Alexandrian model ensured that it was read as God’s Word (i.e. meditative and contemplative reading).

From the 12th century onwards, universities then created a platform on which the Word could be challenged or critiqued which led to the questioning of the “Godly Dimensions” thereof . . . lectio divina was then neglected; and by now starting the lectio divina method, the idea is to reclaim the ‘Godly Dimensions” of the Word!!”

Question? How could we as children of God ever have missed this (tongue in cheek), and is there really a different way of reading the Word? God’s Word is His Word, and we read it as it stands, right, with recognition of the metaphors that [are] used? (maybe I am missing something). Your comments on this will be appreciated, since people just accept this and follow it as if it is fine! If one does challenge them on this, he or she is [said to be] in the wilderness and should wake up and smell the roses [they say] . . .

ANSWER: The contemplative prayer (i.e., spiritual formation) movement has found its way into virtually every Christian denomination throughout the world.

In your question, you ask, “how could we as children of God ever have missed this . . . ?” That’s a good question. If lectio divina and other contemplative practices were so utterly vital to sustain our relationship with Christ (some Christian leaders state we must have the “stillness” to really know God), how is it that nowhere in the Bible is there any indication at all that we are to use God’s word as a tool to go into a state of silence to reach “‘Godly dimensions’ of the Word.”

If indeed such practices were vital for the Christian believer, surely Jesus Christ or the apostles (especially the apostle Paul) would have explicitly instructed us on this. In Ephesians 2, we are told that the “saints” (i.e., “the household of God”) are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone,” and that it is through Christ that we become a “holy temple in the Lord . . . for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (vs. 19-22). But the contemplative prayer movement says we must draw from the ancient Catholic mystics and desert fathers in order for us to become all that Christ desires for us. Basically, the foundation that was laid out in Scripture (which is the Gospel) with Christ as the chief corner stone (the sacrificial Lamb for our salvation) was not enough, but the foundation of the ancient mystics is laid down instead. As Ray Yungen points out, one mysticism proponent admits that the practices these earliest monks drew from were so strongly similar “to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East” that “the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery”1

With lectio divina (as with other contemplative practices), the Word of God is used as a tool to perform a ritual that will bring on a mystical experience. We contend that it is a misuse of Scripture where God’s word is actually used in a way contrary to God’s intent and purposes. A word or phrase from a passage of Scripture is turned into a mantra-like practice, where it is repeated over and over. No longer do the words have the meaning intended by the authors (the apostles and prophets inspired by the Holy Spirit) but rather an experience to “feel” closer to God is sought.

The contemplative says we must seek after a “deeper” relationship with God. But for the born-again believer who has been united with Christ through faith by His grace and “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30), a method or ritual is not needed to draw near to the Lord for He is already in our hearts established and “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and being in the body of Christ is all that is necessary to fulfill your relationship needs for God. There is no esoteric tradition that will give you more of the Holy Spirit.

In answer to the question, no, we as believers did not miss anything. Contemplatives such as Richard Foster say that Christians are missing something, that our lives are empty and lacking in vitality, and thus we need, they say, these meditation techniques. But if we truly do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, if we have allowed Him to be Lord and Savior of our lives, then He promises to live in our hearts and commune with us. Surely, if we needed to repeat words and phrases over and over in order to have that fellowship with Christ, He would, at some point, have told us in His Word and laid out these contemplative instructions. But rather, the Word tells us that His “grace and peace” have been given to us “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” and that His “divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” and that through “exceeding great and precious promises” we can be “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:2-4).

The biblical way to draw near to God is one in which we acknowledge the work has already been done at the Cross and is offered to “whosoever believeth,” with a free and clear invitation of communion with God, a communion that is ours for the asking. The contemplative way to “draw near to God” is riddled with man’s efforts, mystical eastern practices, altered states of consciousness, an eventual change in attitude toward the atonement, an exaltation of man (as having divinity), and a growing view that the Bible is more of a ritualistic tool and a poetic piece of literature rather than an authority (unchanging, solid, and trustworthy) for our spiritual lives. Just look at the views of the emerging church (which is propelled by contemplative prayer) to see the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality. Or consider what the occult prophetess Alice Bailey said:

It is, of course, easy to find many passages which link the way of the Christian Knower with that of his brother in the East. They bear witness to the same efficacy [efficiency] of method.2

Or the words of Thomas Merton’s biographer and advocate, William Shannon:

If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East.3

Simply put, what these quotes reveal is that these “dimensions” of God are not really dimensions of God at all, but pathways to the mystical occult practices and teachings of the East. Ironically, lectio divina will lead practitioners away from the very thing it claims to embrace: the Word of God.

When we use the Bible, let us use it in the way it is intended. As Paul succinctly puts it, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Now, if one would like to use the Word of God as a “tool,” the Bible offers its own suggestions:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

And take . . . the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

By its own claims, the Bible is useful for gaining understanding and receiving instruction, but never is it offered as a hypnotic tool or as a mind-altering device. Now, while lectio divina is promoted as a devotional technique, the methods employed ultimately lead one to the “silence.” Thus, as believers, let us reject this practice, and let us cling to and “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

1. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind (Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher/Putnam Inc., 1988), p.53.
2. Alice Bailey, From Intellect to Intuition (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing Co., 1987, 13th printing), p. 193, as cited from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 28.
3. William Shannon, Silent Lamp, The Thomas Merton Story (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), p. 281.

To order copies of LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?, click here.

The Top 50 “Christian” Contemplative Books – A “NOT RECOMMENDED Reading List” and 25 Christian “Bridgers” to Them

LTRP Note: Ray Yungen and the editors at Lighthouse Trails have put together our Top 50 “Christian” Contemplative Books  – A “Not Recommended Reading List.” If your pastor, your professor, your children, or your friends are reading any of these books, then they are being led down a path that will take them toward a mystical, panentheistic spirituality where only deception  lies in wait. And keep in mind, if they are reading other books that are pointing to the books and authors below, this may ultimately have the same results.

Take this test to see how integrated the pro-contemplative authors below have become in the church: Pick a favorite author or teacher you follow, and ask yourself: “Does this person promote, embrace, or emulate any of the authors below?” (For example: Dallas Willard (a favorite in Christian colleges) promotes and emulates a number of the names below; Beth Moore (the top women’s Bible study teacher) strongly embraces Brennan Manning; Mark Driscoll finds much favor with Richard Foster; Dan Kimball resonates with Henri Nouwen, to name one. In fact, we have put together a list of the top 25 Christian leaders who embrace, emulate, and/or promote the authors named below. We call these 25 leaders “bridgers” because they are bridging the gap between contemplative mysticism (i.e., eastern mysticism) and the church. You can see that list of 25 below our top 50 books. Don’t get us wrong when we name just 25; there are many more than that (including lots of new upstarts), but these 25 are who we would consider the most influential and prolific today.

The Top 50 “Christian” Contemplative Books – A “NOT RECOMMENDED Reading List”

1. A World Waiting to Be Born by M. Scott Peck
2. Awakened Heart by Gerald May
3. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
4. Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault
5. Centering Prayer by Basil Pennington
6. Chicken Soup for the Soul books by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
7. Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
8. Contemplative Youth Ministry by Mark Yaconelli
9. Emergence, the Rebirth of the Sacred by David Spangler
10. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero
11. Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer by Richard Rohr
12. Finding God by Ken Kaisch
13. God’s Joyful Surprise by Sue Monk Kidd
14. Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton
15. Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality by Philip St. Romain
16. Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard
17. Naked Spirituality by Brian McLaren
18. Open Heart, Open Mind by Thomas Keating
19. Original Blessing by Matthew Fox
20. Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
21. Reimagining Christianity by Alan Jones
22. Sabbatical Journey by Henri Nouwen
23. Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas
24. Sacred Way, The by Tony Jones
25. Seeds of Peace by William Shannon
26. Setting the Gospel Free by Brian C. Taylor
27. Silence on Fire by William Shannon
28. Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson
29. Spiritual Classics by Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin
30. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
31. Spiritual Friend by Tilden Edwards
32. The Big Book of Christian Mysticism by Carl McColman
33. The Cloud of Unknowing by Anonymous Monk
34. The Coming of the Cosmic Christe by Matthew Fox
35. The Healing Light by Agnes Sanford
36. The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg
37. The Jesus We Never Knew by Marcus Borg
38. The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg
39. The Mission of Mysticism by Richard Kirby
40. The Mystic Heart by Wayne Teasdale
41. The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
42. The Other Side of Silence by Morton Kelsey
43. The Papa Prayer: The Prayer You’ve Never Prayed by Larry Crabb
44. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
45. The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning
46. The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen
47. The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice by Tony Campolo
48. The Soul at Rest by Tricia Rhodes
49. When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd
50. When the Soul Listens by Jan Johnson

Top 25 Christian Leaders Who Embrace, Emulate, and/or Promote Contemplative Mystics

1. Ann Voskamp
2. Anne Lamott
3. Beth Moore
4. Bill Hull
5. Bill Hybels
6. Calvin Miller
7. Dallas Willard
8. Dan Kimball
9. David Benner
10. Donald Miller
11. Doug Pagitt
12. Eugene Peterson
13. J.P. Moreland
14. Jim Wallis
15. John Eldredge
16. Ken Boa
17. Keri Wyatt Kent
18. Leonard Sweet
19. Mark Driscoll
20. Mike Bickle
21. Philip Yancey
22. Rob Bell
23. Robert Webber
24. Shane Claiborne
25. Walter Brueggemann

BOOK WATCH: Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus with your Students

Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus (Youth Specialties)If your church’s youth pastor is using this book to get ideas on how to run a Christian youth group, he will end up getting a heavy dose of contemplative spirituality, which unfortunately and most likely will be passed on to the kids in the group. When we spoke with the book’s author, Mark Yaconelli, via email in 2003, and asked him if he taught a type of prayer that required the repeating of a word or phrase, he acknowledged that yes, this was indeed what he taught.

Contemplative Youth Ministry is published by Youth Specialties and Zondervan, leaders in contemplative/emerging book publishing and has a foreword by Anne Lamott. In an article titled “Ancient-Future Youth Ministry” written by Yaconelli, he states the following: “It’s Sunday just after 5 p.m. in the youth room at Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church in San Anselmo, California. Seven adults are sitting around a “Christ-candle” in the youth room. There’s no talking, no laughter. For 10 minutes, the only noise is the sound of their breathing.” … (Read more …)

For further information:
A review of this book.
Research on Mark Yaconelli and The Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project.

Ancient Practices for Youth Will Help Unite World Religions

By Ray Yungen

The cover of the July/August 1999 issue of Group Magazine, a leading resource magazine for Christian youth leaders, featured a teenage girl, eyes shut, doing contemplative prayer. The article, “Ancient-Future Youth Ministry” begins by declaring:

It’s Sunday just after 5 p.m. . . . Seven adults are sitting around a “Christ-candle” in the youth room. There is no talking, no laughter. For 10 minutes, the only noise is the sound of their breathing . . . now it’s 7 p.m.—one hour into the night’s youth group gathering. There are 18 senior highers and five adults sitting in a candlelit sanctuary. A gold cross stands on a table. . . . They’re chanting the “Jesus Prayer,” an ancient meditative practice.1

The article discusses two Christian organizations, Youth Specialties and San Francisco Theological Seminary (Presbyterian Church, USA), which teamed together in 1996 to develop an approach to youth ministry that incorporates contemplative practices.2 Mark Yaconelli, son of the former director of Youth Specialties, the late Mike Yaconelli, was hired to direct the project, which was called the Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project. The article is very open to the fact that sacred word repetition was at the heart of this project. These two organizations sponsored the project in sixteen churches of various denominations. The article reveals that, in all sixteen test congregations, middle school and senior high youth “were eager to learn contemplative spiritual practices.”3 One of the church’s associate pastors even went so far as to say, “We shouldn’t be surprised it’s working so well. It’s kind of a no-brainer. If you make the space, the spirit will come.”4 According to the project’s mission statement, this model will soon be “made immediately available to youth ministries nationwide.”5

Just how widespread did this become? In 1997, the Project received a grant from the Lilly Endowment to test a “spiritual formation model.” Furthermore:

Youth ministry leaders were trained to meet regularly for faith sharing, contemplative prayer, and communal discernment . . . communities were then encouraged to begin forming young people in contemplative understanding through silence, solitude, and a variety of contemplative exercises. . . .

Spiritual formation tracks, based on the experience of the Project, were implemented at youth ministry conventions and conferences. . . . National news services such as the Wall Street Journal, Knight Rider News Service, CBS radio and ABC World News Tonight all ran stories on various aspects of the Project.6

Since this project began, Youth Specialties has become a driving force, having a major impact upon evangelical youth work throughout North America, hosting several annual events including the National Youth Workers Convention, the CORE, and the National Pastors Convention. (*Starting with the National Pastors Convention 2006, Zondervan Publishing became the new host.) Course titles for the conferences include, “Creating Sacred Spaces,” “Emerging Worship,” and “God Encounters: Spiritual Exercises That Transform Students.” In addition, each year Youth Specialties holds over 100 seminars that reach thousands of youth workers worldwide—all with its current teachings on spirituality.

Mike Yaconelli’s attraction to and acceptance of contemplative prayer was very similar to the story of Sue Monk Kidd. In his book, Dangerous Wonder, Yaconelli relates how lost he had felt after twenty-five years of ministry. In his “desperation,” he picked up a book by Henri Nouwen (In the Name of Jesus) and said he heard the “voice of Jesus . . . hiding in the pages of Henri’s book” and found himself wanting “to start listening again to the voice of Jesus.”7

In Nouwen’s book, we can find the method that led to Yaconelli’s claim to a newfound voice of Jesus:

Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them . . . For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required.8

Nouwen believed that wisdom and courage were found in that place of silence, when in reality they are found in God’s Word. Yaconelli took Nouwen’s admonition to heart and began promoting that prayer method through his own organization.

If this mystical paradigm shift comes to complete fruition, what will the Christian of the future be like? If Christians develop into the spiritual likeness of Henri Nouwen, we will find them meditating with Buddhists as Nouwen did—which he called “dialogue of the heart.”9 We will also find them listening to tapes on the seven chakras10 (which Reiki is based on) as Nouwen did, and above all we will find them wanting to help people “claim his or her own way to God”11 (universalism) as Nouwen did. Nouwen wrote that his solitude and the solitude of his Buddhist friends would “greet each other and support each other.”12 In this one statement lies the fundamental flaw of the contemplative prayer movement—spiritual adultery.

Buddhism proclaims there is nothing outside of yourself needed for salvation. One Buddhist teacher wrote, “The Buddhist approach states that what is ultimately required for human fulfillment is a perfection of being that is found in who we already are.”13 A Christian is one who looks to Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, so to honor the Buddhist approach is to deny the One who gave Himself for us. It is logically impossible to claim Christianity and Buddhism as both being true, because each promotes an opposite basis for salvation. Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9). You cannot love and follow the teachings of both Buddha and Jesus—for in reality the choice is either trusting in a self-deity or trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The only way Nouwen’s contemplative prayer could support the Buddhist view is if it shares the same mysticism, which is the point I am trying to prove in this book. I believe the facts speak for themselves. Once this becomes clear, it is easy to see also that this is the same mysticism many seek to emblazon on the heart of evangelical Christianity.

The question may arise—how can credible Christian organizations justify and condone meditative practices that clearly resemble Eastern meditation? As pointed out earlier in this book, Christian terminology surrounds these practices. It only takes a few popular Christian leaders with national profiles to embrace a teaching that sounds Christian to bring about big changes in the church. Moreover, we have many trusting Christians who do not use the Scriptures to test the claims of others. Building an entire prayer method around an out-of-context verse or two is presumptuous, at best. Now more than ever, it is critical that Christians devote themselves to serious Bible study and discernment regarding this issue.

In the spiritual climate of today, a unifying mystical prayer practice fits the paradigm necessary to unite the various world religions—the contemplative prayer movement is such a practice! I believe this movement is taking many on a downward spiral that could lead to the great apostasy. For this to happen, as the Bible says, there will be “seducing spirits” who design a spirituality nearly indistinguishable from the truth. Every Christian must therefore discern whether or not the contemplative prayer movement is a deeper way of walking with God or a deception that undermines the very Gospel itself.
Contemplative prayer stands on the threshold of exploding worldwide; it already has found acceptance in every culture and has even found its way into the writings of prominent, trusted evangelical leaders. (From A Time of Departing, chapter 9)

Related Article:

Please Contemplate This by The Berean Call (T.A. McMahon)

1. Mark Yaconelli, “Ancient Future Youth Ministry” (Group Magazine, July/August 1999, /ancient_future_article.html, accessed 2/2006), pp. 33-34.
2. The Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project (history page,
3. Mark Yaconelli, “Ancient Future Youth Ministry,” p. 39.
4. Ibid., p. 39
5. Ibid.
6. The Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project.
7. Michael Yaconelli, Dangerous Wonder (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003, revised edition), p. 16.
8. Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus.
9. Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, p.20.
10. Ibid., p. 20.
11. Ibid., p. 51.
12. Ibid., p. 20.
13. Reginald A. Ray, “Understanding Buddhism: Religion Without God” (Shambhala Sun Magazine, July 2001,, p. 25.

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