Posts Tagged ‘youth specialties’

Revealing Quotes by Influential Contemplatives

These revealing quotes are from well-known figures who have significantly influenced the religious landscape in today’s culture. Sadly, they have helped to mislead millions with their promotion of contemplative prayer (a mystical, panentheistic-rooted practice).

Shalem Prayer Institute
“This mystical stream [contemplative prayer and other monastic traditions] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”—Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18.

Gerald May/Brother Lawrence
“. . . a little phrase that Love inspires,” letting a word, phrase or image repeat itself quietly deep inside us as we go through our daily activities.”—Gerald May, quoting Brother Lawrence – “Contemplative Spiritual Formation: Going Deeper”

Rick Warren
“With practice, you can develop the habit of praying silent ‘breath prayers'” – Rick Warren, from his book, The Purpose Driven Life (p. 299)

“[U]se ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath.”—Rick Warren,
Purpose Driven Life, p. 89.

Ken Blanchard
“Does Buddha have anything to offer non-Buddhists in the workplace? My answer is a wholehearted, ‘Yes.’—Ken Blanchard, co-author of the One Minute Manager, from the foreword and front cover of What Would Buddha Do in the Workplace?

Bruce Wilkinson
“We have promoted an unbiblical message that becoming born-again is the answer to everything. It’s not. It changes your eternity, but it doesn’t change your sexual behavior, for instance. The gospel does not always have the answer for modern-day dilemmas.” – JOY! magazine, the South African counterpart to Charisma, in April 2004

From Youth Specialties
“I built myself a prayer room—a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine monks. I meditated for hours on words, images, and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns…”—Mike Perschon, Youth Specialties Magazine, December 2004

“Choose a sacred word or phrase. Consistently use the same word throughout the prayer. Begin silently to repeat your sacred word or phrase.” – Mark Yaconelli, Youth Specialties National Pastor’s Convention (source)

Charisma Magazine
“Spiritual ecstasy. The third phase of contemplative prayer … a supernatural trance state …” – Charisma magazine, Oct. 2004

Brennan Manning
“Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there.” – Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, p. 197

Larry Crabb
“Brennan (Manning) is my friend, walking ahead of me on the path toward home. As I watch him from behind, I am drawn to more closely follow on the path…” – Larry Crabb, endorsement of Abba’s Child (source)

Henri Nouwen
“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” – Sabbatical Journey (the last book Nouwen wrote), p. 51, hardcover edition

“The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart.” – Way of the Heart, p. 81.

Ruth Haley Barton
“Ask for a simple prayer to express your willingness to meet God in the silence … a simple statement …such as “Here I am.” … Help yourself return to your original intent by repeating the prayer that you have chosen.” – Discipleship Journal, Vol. 113 1999

John Michael Talbot
“I began practicing meditation, specifically breath prayer, once again. I integrated the use of Tai Chi and yoga.” – John Michael Talbot, Interview with Christianity Today 10/22/2001

Shakti Gawain
“Its [visualization] effect is to dissolve our internal barriers to natural harmony and self realization.” – Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization, p. 6.

Richard Foster
“[Y]ou and I may have strong opinions on double predestination, supralapsarianism, and biblical inerrancy, but these should not be considered evangelical essentials.” – Streams of Living Water, Kindle location 3914

Matthew Fox
“We need to become aware of the Cosmic Christ, which means recognizing that every being has within it the light of Christ.” – Steve Turner interviewing Matthew Fox, “Natural Mystic?” (Nine O Clock Service, March 1995)

“Everyone is born a mystic and a lover who experiences the unity of things and all are called to keep this mystic or lover of life alive.” (source)

Beth Moore
“[I]f we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.” – from the Be Still DVD, an infomercial for contemplative prayer (source)

Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Soul
“What works for me is a combination of disciplines: I do yoga, tai chi which is a Chinese martial art and three kinds of meditation—vipasana, transcendental and mantra (sound) meditation.” – from Choosing to be Happy

Thomas Merton
“Isn’t it a pity that people are going into LSD to have spiritual experiences, when we have a tradition in the Church [contemplative prayer] which no one knows anything about?” (source)

M. Basil Pennington
“When we go to the center of our being and pass through that center into the very center of God we get in immediate touch with this divine creating energy … that the divine energy may have the freedom to forward the evolution of consciousness in us and through us, as a part of the whole, in the whole of the creation.” – An Invitation to Centering Prayer

Thomas Keating
“My acquaintance with eastern methods of meditation has convinced me that … there are ways of calming the mind in the spiritual disciplines of both the east and the west [and] many serious seekers of truth study the eastern religions.” – Open Mind, Open Heart, p. 29

Pope John Paul
“Pick out a word or two. Tell your children to sit quietly and repeat the word in their heads—not thinking about the word, just repeating it.” – Everyday Catholic newsletter, Nov. 2001

The Emerging Church
“The first time I introduced this, the kids came in, and I had a candle going and a little incense burning and some Gregorian chant music on the CD player” – Tony Jones, from interview with editor Jeff Bailey, Cutting Edge magazine, pp. 15-22.

“Some of the values of the emerging church are an emphasis on emotions, global outlook, a rise in the use of arts, and a rise in mysticism and spirituality.”—Josh Reich, Youth Specialties, “Creating Worship Gatherings for the Emerging Church” 

“We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.”– Rob Bell, “The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, Nov. 1, 2004

KIDS AT RISK: Letter to the Editor: AWANA Continuing Down the Emergent Road

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

A while back I alerted you to the fact that Awana was joining forces with Josh Griffin who was the youth pastor for Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Josh Griffin is also associated with Youth Specialties, an organization that promotes occult [contemplative] practices to youth.

Awana - Kids at Risk


Unfortunately, Awana is continuing down the emergent road. Here are some examples:

1. On February 22, 2017, Steve Kozak, the executive director of Awana YM, (Youth Ministries) wrote a blog post encouraging youth leaders to promote Lent. Lent is very popular among those in the emerging church. Wikipedia says “The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, and self-denial.”(1) Kozak in his blog said, “Teach your students to go without, so that they can experience an overflowing of Christ.”(2) Nowhere in the Bible is the practice of Lent mentioned.

2. On April 6, 2017, Awana YM held a youth leaders round table event at Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Community Church. Participants were Josh Griffin, Sean McDowell, Dr. Larry Acosta, Elizabeth Bjorling Prest, Steve Kozak, (Director of Awana Youth Ministries) and Ryan Guard, (Director of Student Impact at Willow Creek Community Church.)(3)

3. Awana is promoting several books that they feel youth group leaders should be reading. The following books are a compilation from two different blog posts. I am not familiar with all the authors, but I know many of these authors to be troubling.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen [recommended by Sean McDowell]
The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George G. Hunter
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
Bloom Where You’re Planted by H.B. London
Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields with a forward by Rick Warren, published by Youth Specialties/Zondervan
Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry By Doug Fields, published by Youth Specialties/Zondervan
Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries
Sticky Faith by Kara E. Powell, (Who spoke at the Youth Specialties National Convention) and co-authored by Chap Clark
Growing Young by Kara E. Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin
Leading With a Limp by Dan Allender
St. Augustine’s City of God (St. Augustine is very popular in the Emerging Church Movement)
Christian Origins of the Question of God (4 Volumes by N.T. Wright
The Holy Wild by Mark Buchanan(4)

Sincerely, L.F.

1. Lent- Wikipedia:
2. Awana YM Lent: More Than Giving Up by Steve Kozak, February 22,2017
3. Awana YM
4. Awana YM
(1)Books Youth Leaders Should Be Reading
April 7,2017;

(2)Must Have Books For Every Youth Leader by Steve Kozak July 20,1017

Related Information:

Letter to the Editor: AWANA Now Teaching Children to Hear the Voice of God

A History of AWANA’s Contemplative Track Record and the Implications of Their New CEO

Revisting Awana’s Move Toward Contemplative – And Another Look at “Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation

Letter to the Editor: Concerns By Awana Leader About Awana Linking Hands with the Emerging Church

LTRP Note: Lighthouse Trails has had concerns about the direction Awana may be heading for a number of years. This letter (of which we substantiated the contents -see added links) below gives further reason to continue those concerns. Below this letter, you can see links to a few articles we have previously posted about Awana. Are we saying that everything in Awana is bad now and all children should be removed? No, but we are saying that parents need to be watching closely what their children are being taught at Awana; and Awana leaders need to use discernment as well. Unfortunately, as with most organizations we have researched, false teaching comes in through top leadership and does eventually affect an entire organization and its members (in this case children).

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

My family has been involved with the Awana ministry for almost 20 years both as “clubbers” and leaders.

Awana came out with new junior high curriculum. I reviewed one of the books and was not happy. The high school level curriculum too is in the process of being re-written with the help of a man named Josh Griffin. Josh Griffin is the high school pastor for Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Griffin is associated with Doug Fields who was a speaker for Youth Specialties, then went on to be a youth pastor for Saddleback before returning back to work for Youth Specialties. Both Fields and Griffin have written books together and share a blog.

In September, Awana sent out an e-mail invitation to the 2015 National Youth Convention put on by Youth Specialties. Awana had a booth there.

A link on the e-mail connects to a promotional video where you see many people including Tony Campolo. Also Mark Matlock, the director of Youth Specialties tells his audience, “Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but are co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church.”

This is chilling considering that the words co-creators and conspirators are words associated with the New Age.

Speakers of the conference included such emerging church personalities as Doug Fields, Dan Kimball, Tony Campolo, Mike King, Jim Burns, and Alan Hirsch. Josh Griffin was the M.C. for the worship sessions.

The convention also offered spiritual directors for one-on-one sessions.

It is truly sad to see Awana linking hands with the emerging church movement.



Lighthouse Trails Research articles on Awana:

(2012)Revisting Awana’s Move Toward Contemplative – And Another Look at “Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation

The Dangers of Spiritual Formation?—And Some Ways it is Influencing Your Children

(2006) Awana Club Now Featuring Book by Youth Specialties Speaker

(2007) Comments on the AWANA Summit Conference

John MacArthur Long-Standing Broadcast Favorably Quotes Dallas Willard – Why This is a Bad Move

This past weekend, Lighthouse Trails received the following letter from one of our readers:

To Lighthouse Trails: Please listen to the sermon dated August 21st [at Grace to You].  I was shocked when John MacArthur promoted Dallas Willard.  Has anyone else contacted you concerning this endorsement?

After receiving this letter, we  found the August 21st 2013 Grace to You sermon broadcast   (link removed but sermon still on Grace to You website) by John MacArthur, where MacArthur favorably quotes contemplative pioneer Dallas Willard (who passed away earlier this year). While researching this situation, we learned that this sermon was first aired in 1989. However, Grace to You (MacArthur’s ministry) has been presenting it for a number of years as part of a series called Faith Through the Fire.

While MacArthur’s original citing of Willard in this sermon took place many years ago,  the fact that it is still being offered at Grace to You in a sermon series and is being broadcast currently is cause for concern and is the reason we are writing this report. It is hard for us to understand why Grace to You would continue using this particular sermon, knowing how pervasive the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement is today in the evangelical Protestant church; and as we will show below, even John MacArthur acknowledges that Dallas Willard is a key figure in that movement.

We are well aware that many Christians have a strong sense of devotion toward John MacArthur and trust his opinions and teachings. It is not our intention to discredit him; however, as we have consistently done now for 11 years, we are compelled to issue a warning to believers and a challenge to Christian leaders. Are we suggesting that John MacArthur is a contemplative prayer advocate or part of the emerging church? Certainly not! Are we saying it is wrong to use a broadcast today where Dallas Willard is quoted in a positive manner, giving credence to the man and the movement? Yes, we are saying that is wrong. Willard is largely responsible, along with Richard Foster, for bringing the contemplative prayer movement to the forefront of evangelical Christianity.

Those reading this who wish to defend MacArthur and Grace to You, saying that there is no issue here because the original sermon was so long ago need to understand that if this sermon were sitting in some obscure  archive, stored away for no one to see, we wouldn’t be writing this today. But that is not the case. Grace to You is continuing to use a sermon that should have been discarded years ago , and it must be treated as if it were new material because that is how it is going to be looked at by those who heard the recent broadcast and also by those who buy the Faith Through Fire series.

The section of the August 21st sermon  begins at about the 17:35 minute mark of the broadcast. MacArthur begins by talking about the spiritual disciplines and how they are important for the believer’s life to battle crises and hard times in our lives. He then quotes Willard and says the quote is from Willard’s 1988 book The Spirit of the Disciplines.

While the section that MacArthur quoted from that book does not promote contemplative mystical practices, the point MacArthur is trying to make is actually the same point that contemplatives are trying to make: i.e., that we cannot truly be christlike without the spiritual disciplines in our lives. Certainly, MacArthur wouldn’t include the discipline of the silence like Willard does. For those who may not be able to access the August 21st sermon, here is the section of The Spirit of the Disciplines that MacArthur quoted:

The “on the spot” episodes [crises] are not the place where we can, even by the grace of God, redirect unchristlike but ingrained tendencies of action toward sudden Christlikeness. Our efforts to take control at that moment will fail so uniformly and so ingloriously that the whole project of following Christ will appear ridiculous to the watching world. We’ve all seen this happen.

Some decades ago there appeared a very successful Christian novel called In His Steps. The plot tells of a chain of tragic events that brings the minister of a prosperous church to realize how unlike Christ’s life his own life had become. The minister then leads his congregation in a vow not to do anything without first asking themselves the question, “What would Jesus do in this case?” As the content of the book makes clear, the author took this vow to be the same thing as intending to follow Jesus— to walk precisely “in his steps.” It is, of course, a novel, but even in real life we would count on significant changes in the lives of earnest Christians who took such a vow— just as it happens in that book. But there is a flaw in this thinking. . . [MacArthur skips a few paragraphs]

Asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?” when suddenly in the face of an important situation simply is not an adequate discipline or preparation to enable one to live as he lived. It no doubt will do some good and is certainly better than nothing at all, but that act alone is not sufficient to see us boldly and confidently through a crisis, and we could easily find ourselves driven to despair over the powerless tension it will put us through. (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 7-9)

MacArthur then tells his audience:

The secret of being ready for the crisis of having the yoke be easy and the burden be light is to learn how to live the Christian life all the time so that we have developed the habits, the resources, the responses, the timing, the strengths, the memory, the faith, the spiritual courage to handle it. That’s the issue. To behave like Jesus Christ is our goal. But to be able to do that is not the result of wishing. It’s the result of daily spiritual discipline.

In this article, we are not going to focus on the present-day Spiritual Formation theology of becoming “Christlike” through “spiritual disciplines” except to point to two chapters in Colossians:

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled  in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:  if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel . . . to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:  . . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:21-23,25-28, emphasis added)

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2: 8-10, emphasis added)

Paul concludes chapter 2 with a description of spiritual disciplines that were being used in that day (vs. 20-22), only to say that such things “have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body” (vs 23), but only serve to make men proud.

It is Christ in us (the born-again Christian believer) that perfects us, forms us, and changes us, not the spiritual disciplines of Dallas Willard, Thomas Merton, and Richard Foster! And bear in mind, when Willard (like Foster and Merton) speaks of the disciplines, he is including the “silence.” This silence that the contemplatives speak of is more than just an outer silence or quietness; it is meaning to silence the mind (put it in neutral so there are no thoughts). Willard states in The Spirit of the Disciplines:

In silence we close off our souls from “sounds,” whether those sounds be noise, music, or words. . . . Many people have never experienced silence and do not even know that they do not know what it is. . . . It is a powerful and essential discipline. Only silence will allow us life-transforming concentration upon God. (bold added, 1991, First HarperCollins Paperback Edition, p. 163-164).

Clearly, Willard is not talking about a quiet surrounding, as he says many have never experienced the silence. Everybody, at some time or another, has experienced being in a perfectly quiet environment.

The fact that MacArthur has supported his sermon on spiritual disciplines and Christlikeness with quotes from Dallas Willard (specifically from the most problematic book, The Spirit of the Disciplines), we feel a sense of duty to put forth this challenge.  The premise of the Spiritual Formation movement is not focused on the person of Jesus Christ, the born-again experience, or the life of Jesus Christ in the believer Who is the power behind true Christlikeness but rather is focused on the practice of spiritual disciplines. It is a very works-based belief system that zeros in on mystical practices.

What we primarily want to discuss in this article is Dallas Willard and his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines. We think when you see the evidence, you will agree that Dallas Willard should not be favorably quoted. If you have been reading Lighthouse Trails for some time, you may know that we have discussed this book on a number of occasions. The book is filled with references to and quotes by numerous contemplative figures including universalists and interspiritualists (e.g., Nouwen, Merton, Meister Eckhart, George Fox) as well as some names that would fall in the New Age/New Spirituality camp (e.g., Agnes Sanford and M. Scott Peck). And in the bibliography, there is The Cloud of Unknowing, the Desert Fathers, atonement denier Harry Fosdick, Ignatius of Loyola, Carl Jung, the mystic philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (whom MacArthur also quotes in the sermon and is addressed in Faith Undone), Evelyn Underhill, and Teresa of Avila. All of these names are in Willard’s book for one reason only – because he resonates with their spiritual viewpoints. And while The Spirit of the Disciplines was released back in the late 80s, Willard has maintained his affinity with most of these figures.  On Willard’s website, he recommends many of them as viable resources for spiritual growth. That list of recommended reading has been on his website for many years and remains there today even after his death.

In 2011, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled, The “New” Emerging Theology Breeds Atheism in a Generation of Young People.   The article told about a young man who after sitting under Dallas Willard for 4 years at university declared himself an atheist. We asked the question, how could this happen? How could a young man raised in a solid Christian home change his views so drastically? It happened, and it is happening to countless young people who are sitting under the feet of bridgers – people like Dallas Willard who point their protégées to panentheists, universalists, and mystics. Another young man whom we came across who was looking for answers, found them by turning to Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. Listen to what he found:

I bumped into the classic spiritual disciplines while taking a course called “Dynamics of Christian Life” in my second year of Bible school. One of our textbooks was The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. The course and textbook only touched on the actual disciplines, but the concept captivated me. The following spring, I found a copy of Richard Foster’s spiritual classic Celebration of Discipline in a used bookstore. Opening it and discovering each discipline [including the contemplative] detailed chapter by chapter, I felt a profound sense of joy and excitement. I’d found a real treasure.

Later, this young man became a free lance writer for the emergent organization, Youth Specialties. Listen to where the spirituality of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster led him:

I built myself a prayer room – a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine monks. I meditated for hours on words, images, and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns, the state in which dreams occur, while still awake and meditating. – “Disciplines, Mystics and the Contemplative Life” by Mike Perschon

For those not familiar with what the “alpha brain patterns” are, here are two descriptions:

“Mystical states of consciousness happen in the alpha state … The Alpha State also occurs voluntarily during light hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback, day dreaming, hypnogogic and hypnapompic states.” Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D. (source)

“Alpha is the springboard for all psychic and magical workings. It is the heart of witchcraft.”  Laurie Cabot, Power Of The Witch (p. 183)

And from Richard Foster himself:

“If you feel we live in a purely physical universe, you will view meditation as a good way to obtain a consistent alpha brain wave pattern.” Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline (1998 ed., p. 22)

The point here is that Dallas Willard has been a pied piper to countless people, leading them straight into the arms of mystical spirituality. What happened to Perschon and others like him is tragic. And we just cannot fathom the idea that not only will Willard’s influence continue on long after he has been gone from this planet but Christian leaders who should understand the dynamics of this movement will continue promoting him.

And one last issue on Dallas Willard we need to bring up, that of Sue Monk Kidd (discussed in A Time of Departing), whose endorsement sits on the back cover of The Spirit of the Disciplines. That endorsement enthusiastically proclaims:

A profound call to discipleship based on spiritual disciplines [that] awakens us to a forgotten truth, that the transformation to Christ-likeness is realized through taking on the ‘easy yoke’ of the disciplines.” — Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

It is in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter that Monk Kidd says God is in everything, including human waste!

Deity means that divinity will no longer be only heavenly . . .  It will also be right here, right now, in me, in the earth, in this river, in excrement and roses alike. (p. 160)

Sue Monk Kidd was once a Sunday school teacher in a conservative Southern Baptist church. She began reading Thomas Merton, started practicing contemplative prayer, and lo and behold, today she is a goddess worshiper who rejects and dismisses the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And herein lies our concern. And it’s been our concern for over a decade now. If Christian leaders point people to contemplative teachers like Dallas Willard, they are inadvertently pointing them to Thomas Merton and a myriad of other panenthestic figures. That is the plain truth!

Frankly, we are surprised that the sermon by John MacArthur promoting Dallas Willard is still in active circulation and that Grace to You recently aired it. It seems so out of character. Especially when you consider what MacArthur said in an interview two years ago. In the interview, MacArthur was asked what he thought about the contemplative prayer movement to which he replied, “That’s just a lot of bunk. . . .  I don’t even know what they’re doing, and I don’t know what they come up with but all of that mystic stuff, Dallas Willard and others like him, confuse people because they use the name of Jesus and they talk about God and they use Bible verses.” So clearly, MacArthur sees Willard as part of this heretical movement. Lighthouse Trails hopes this is just a mistake.

One last concern here. In the interview above, MacArthur states that he doesn’t “even know what they’re doing” in reference to the contemplatives. We wonder if perhaps MacArthur doesn’t fully understand this movement and its occult nature. Many people see the New Age, contemplative, mysticism etc. as something not to be too worried about and that it is frivolous and nonsensical (in other words, just the product of one’s imagination) but really, it is much more profoundly dangerous than that. As Laurie Cabot says, it is the heart of witchcraft.  The Bible says there is a spiritual realm that is operated by Satan and his demons. However, many proclaiming Christians don’t believe that, and thus it is very difficult to persuade them that things like Yoga, Reiki, meditation, and contemplative prayer are indeed dangerous. But we are warned many times in Scripture about this evil spiritual realm. We are also told in Revelation that someday Satan will deceive the whole world (that’s a pretty wide scale deception!), and the vast populations repented not of their sorceries (Revelation 9:21).

These are serious times – they are perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1) – and Christian leaders and pastors need to be encouraged and exhorted to make no compromises when it comes to the Gospel.

To wrap this up, some may defend what John MacArthur did by saying that what he quoted in Willard’s book was harmless and benign. But when someone, especially someone like MacArthur who is followed by so many, quotes or references favorably a figure whose main teaching and emphasis is unbiblical, it negatively impacts resistance to the deception more fully developed in a literary work.  People start to have second thoughts. If MacArthur quotes from this book, some may say, then maybe it’s not that bad.

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. . . . be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. . . . give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. . . . Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Timothy 4: 6, 12-13, 16)

Follow up to this article, click here.

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.

50 Top Organizations With a Significant Role in Bringing Contemplative Spirituality to the Church

From 10 years of research at Lighthouse Trails Research Project, we have found the following fifty organizations to have had a significant role in bringing contemplative spirituality into the evangelical/Protestant church. If you do not know or understand the implications of this, we urge you to educate yourself as soon as possible.

Note: We have not listed any colleges or seminaries in this list. To see our list of contemplative promoting schools, click here. This list below is in conjunction with our recent list of Christian leaders: 100 Top Contemplative Proponents Evangelical Christians Turn To Today.

1.  Acts 29 Network

2. American Association of Christian Counselors

3.  American Bible Society 

4.  Association for Biblical Higher Learning

5.  Association of Theological Schools (ATS)

6.  Baker Books (Emersion)


8. Boundless Webzine (FOF)

9.  Breakforth (Canada)

10.  Center for Action and Contemplation

11.  Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL)

12.  Christian Missionary Alliance

13.  Christianity Today

14. Emergent Village

15. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

16.  Focus on the Family

17.  Group Magazine

18. Henri Nouwen Society

19.  IHOP-KC

20.  Intervarsity Press

21.  Kairos School of Spiritual Formation

22.  Conversations Journal

23. Leadership Network

24.  Lifeway Resources

25.  Mennonite Brethren

26.  Mennonite Church, USA

27. Metamorpha

28.  National Worship Conference

29. NavPress

30.  New Church Specialties

31. Presbyterian Church USA

32.  Relevant Magazine

33.  Renovare

34. Robert E. Webber Institute for Spiritual Studies

35. Saddleback Church

36.  Sojourners

37.  Spiritual Directors International

38.  Teen Mania

39.  The Church of the Nazarene

40. The Ooze

41. The Purpose Driven Movement

42.  The Upper Room

43. Thomas Nelson Publishers

44.  Transforming Center

45.  Wesleyan Church

46.  Willow Creek Association

47.  Worship Leader Magazine

48.  Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project

49. Youth Specialties

50. Zondervan

Note: You can get information on any of these organizations using our search engines on both our blog and research site. 

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