2009 National Youth Workers Convention Should be Avoided

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The 2009 National Youth Workers Convention will take place this coming Fall in three major US cities. The conference is presented annually by Youth Specialties. As we have stated before, this is one youth worker convention that should be avoided. Attendees will receive a hearty dose of contemplative/emerging spirituality. Books, DVDs, seminars, and more will strongly radiate this theme. In addition, many of the speakers are in this camp. Sadly, youth workers receiving training at the convention will take back to their youth groups the things they have learned.

This year’s speakers include a number of pro-contemplative and/or emerging writers/leaders: Duffy and Maggie Robbins, Mark Ostreicher (YS pres), Dan Kimball, Jim Burns, Scot McKnight. Sean McDowell (Josh McDowell’s son) is also on the schedule. On a convention brochure, others listed include Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz), Andy Stanley, Francis Chan, and the David Crowder Band.

Youth Specialties has been a major catalyst for the emerging church movement. Their conventions have been the main venue for getting their message out. Any Christian leader, pastor, or author speaking at this conference should understand that being there is more than just guilt by association. It is guilt by promotion. Thus, those speakers who might not necessarily be classified as contemplative/emerging are still playing a significant role in promoting this unbiblical spirituality.

If you have a teen who participates in a church youth group, please contact your pastor and find out if your youth pastor or youth leader will be attending the 2009 National Youth Worker’s Convention. If you find out that he or she is, we would be happy to send your senior pastor a complimentary copy of A Time of Departing or Faith Undone. Hopefully, he can learn why he should keep contemplative/emerging spirituality out of his youth group and why his youth leaders should not attend the National Youth Workers Convention.

For those who may be skeptical of what we are saying, please consider the spiritual persuasions of three of the conference speakers. First Duffy and Maggie Robbins. In their book, Enjoy the Silence, the Robbins give detailed instructions on the practice of lectio divina where a word or phrase is singled out of a Scripture then used to rid one’s self of thoughts and distractions. This would make sense when one knows that Maggie Robbins was trained at the pro-contemplative, pro-eastern-style mediation: Kairos School of Spiritual Formation. A supplemental reading list for Kairos School includes the following authors: David Steindl-Rast, Thomas Keating and Morton Kelsey, all of whom are interspiritual mystics.

And consider Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz). Miller shares the same spiritual outlook as other emerging leaders (even in Blue Like Jazz, which has sold over a million copies and has gained enormous influence in the evangelical church). That is why atonement-denier Brian McLaren said there is “no better book than Blue Like Jazz to introduce Christian spirituality.” McLaren said this about Miller because he recognizes Miller as a soul mate of emerging spirituality.

The following quote by Miller (in BLJ) reveals much about his spiritual propensities: “For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained (p. 115).”

When Miller says that “Christian spirituality” cannot be explained, he means that solid, unchangeable biblical doctrine and theology do not exist. When Miller says “Christian spirituality” can only be “experienced,” this is referring to mysticism. That can be substantiated when Miller says: “You cannot be a Christian without being a mystic” (p. 202). He has echoed mystic Karl Rahner’s words who said the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all. Some may say that Miller is merely defending ideas like the trinity or eternity (which he refers to in BLJ) as being mystical. But putting in context Miller’s statement above, he is actually defending “Christian writers” who embrace “mysticism.” These are two different things. When the “Christian” mystics speak of mysticism, they are referring to altered states of consciousness (the silence) reached during mantric-style meditation. And while Miller doesn’t mention contemplative or mantras in his books, he helps condition people to see mysticism as a legitimate and valuable practice.

For those who may be skeptical regarding Miller’s view on mysticism, in his later book Searching for God Knows What in the acknowledgements, Miller thanks New Age meditation advocate Daniel Goleman. Goleman (author of The Meditative Mind) writes favorably about mantra meditation and Buddhism. He was the editor for a book titled Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health.

Miller backs up his dismissal of doctrine and theology (an earmark of emerging church leaders) when he says he has “climb[ed] outside my pat answers [doctrine],” and says “Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid” (p. 205). That might sound acceptable to many people today in our feel-good, redefining society, but it is the “pat answers” and the “chart” that the Bible has given us so we can understand God, life, and salvation. Miller reiterates his rejection of immoveable doctrine by concluding:

“At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow.”

A million to one is very low odds that “any” of our theology is right. What about the theology of the atonement? Is our chance of understanding that a million to one? What about the theology of Jesus Christ’s return? Can we possibly know whether or not He is coming back? And what about the theology of biblical inerrancy? Can we even trust the Bible? With the odds Miller suggests, no, we can trust nothing about God’s Word at all.

Keep in mind that the underlying message that these emerging type leaders carry is uncertainty. And it is in that ground of uncertainty and the exalting of doubt where nothing can be determined. Thomas Merton said this letting go of solid doctrinal belief was necessary if the world’s religions would ever be able to come together (an aspiration of Merton’s). Once uncertainty is established, mysticism is the vehicle where all becomes one, they say.