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General Council of the Assemblies of God 2017 – Sin in the camp – Part II

The Church Growth philosophy initiated by Norman Vincent Peale, developed by Robert Schuller, and massively marketed through the organizations of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels now dominates the evangelical scene in North America and many other parts of the world. The movement’s philosophies, methods, and techniques are pervasive, unchallenged, and saturate the evangelical narrative being presented in substantially all denominations and fellowships. The Assemblies of God must be included in that number.

To understand the extent to which the Assemblies of God has fallen in step with the Church Growth orthodoxy, one need only look at the program for the General Council’s next biennial gathering to be held in early August 2017. The theme is “Influence Conference – Influence Your Community.”[1] To accomplish its agenda, the various breakout sessions contain a variety of subjects that would thrill the hearts of the most ardent promoters of the philosophies, methods, and techniques of the Church Growth movement.

Breaking the 200 Barrier, Breaking the 500 Barrier, Breaking the 1000 Barrier, Coaching Crisis, Coaching Forum, Coaching Teams, Coaching Transitions, Community Engagement, Contemporary Worship Voice, Creative Arts Administration, Developing Small Group Culture, Discipleship Pathway, Generosity, Intergenerational Worship, Leadership Development, Leveraging Technology to Build Spiritual Communication, Maximizing Church Space, Multi-Site/PAC, Self-Leadership, Service Planning, Team Building & Staffing, Urban Ministry, Vision Casting, Volunteerism.[2]

Such Church Growth indoctrination is leading to a declining and powerless church, and the Assemblies of God is not an exception. Compared to the previous ten years (1995-2005), the Assemblies of God has experienced significant declines over the last ten years (2005-2015) in conversion growth and Holy Spirit baptisms. Water baptisms were barely above breakeven, but Sunday morning church attendance increased almost 12%.[3]

Instead of mimicking Church Growth methods, techniques, and philosophies, the Assemblies should once again return to a right understanding and practice of New Testament Christianity which allowed it to become the largest fellowship of Pentecostal believers in the world during its first one hundred years of existence. The Assemblies must expose and expel the worldliness that has crept into its fellowship because of its association with the Church Growth movement and incorporation of its methods and practices. I would suggest a good place to begin is the implementation of the following list of teaching/training sessions at future General Council gatherings and in the various district meetings in the interim.

• Making room for the centrality and dominance of the Holy Spirit in worship/preaching services
• Revitalizing Sunday School and other Christian education initiatives
• Defending the Faith – Training our youth and young adults to counter the attacks on Christianity by a hostile secular/humanistic culture
• Preserving religious freedom
• Seeking revival
• Focusing on the fundamentals of Pentecost so important in the end times
• Understanding and combating the dangers of the New Age, cults, and worldliness in modern culture
• Preaching on prophesy, signs of the end times, the great apostasy, and nearness of the rapture
• The warfare of faith – Ephesians 6:12-18

But even more disheartening than the topics taught in the breakout sessions is the almost unbroken roster of Church Growth seeker-sensitive advocates invited to speak for both the General Council’s main sessions and the breakout training sessions. In addition to three General Council session speakers from the top leadership in the Assemblies, there are three other General Counsel session speakers not affiliated with the Assemblies of God. All are heads of mega churches and disciples of the Church Growth movement. A fourth General Council meeting speaker is Jason Frenn who is a missionary evangelist with the Assemblies, but he is also a good friend to and frequent speaker at some of the largest Church Growth seeker-sensitive churches in America.

Robert Morris – Gateway Church, Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex

The apparent keynote speaker at the GCAG 2017 is Robert Morris, senior pastor of the 36,000 member multi-campus Gateway Church.[4] Gateway closely follows the Church Growth movement’s formula, and Morris frequently speaks at many other seeker-sensitive mega churches such as Rick Warren’s purpose driven Saddleback Church. One is known by the company he keeps, and for Morris that company also includes Bill Hybels, Perry Noble, and Tim Ross, all speakers at Gateway Church’s 2012 Alpha Summit. Each man is an adherent of the Church Growth movement and its seeker-driven model of doing church.[5]

Bryan Koch – GT Church, Decatur, Illinois

Bryan Koch is the lead pastor of 3000 member GT Church. From a quick reading of the church’s website, it appears to follow the Church Growth seeker-sensitive model.[6]

Kendall and Starla Bridges – Freedom Church, Carollton, Texas

Kendall and Starla Bridges pastor Freedom Church. The second line of the church’s mission statement says, “The Vision of Freedom Church is to be a church of influence. A church that cannot be ignored by its community.” [emphasis added] This fits in nicely with The General Council’s 2017 theme of “Influence Conference – Influence Your Community.” The church’s website also reflects trademark seeker-sensitive elements such as contemporary music with full band, rock concert styled lighting, casual dress (“blue jeans were made in heaven”), and tightly scripted “70 minute services from start to finish.”[7] No time there for the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Jason Frenn – Assemblies of God World Missions missionary evangelist

The fourth General Council speaker comes from inside the Assemblies of God. Frenn appears to be quite comfortable ministering at seeker-sensitive churches. Since his first appearance in 2009, Frenn has spoken many times on Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power broadcasts from Chrystal Cathedral prior to its demise.[8] Frenn also has spoken at Warren’s Saddleback Church.

In addition to General Council speakers, there are a number of well-known speakers for various breakout and other sessions to be held during the General Council gathering. Three are particularly disturbing.

Rick Warren – Saddleback Church, Orange County, California

Space does not allow discussion of the list of offenses committed against the Church of Jesus Christ by Rick Warren. Much of the last two-thirds of Evangelical Winter was devoted to detailing the apostasy caused by the Church Growth movement’s Warren, Hybels, and their predecessors Peale and Schuller. Warren and like-minded church leaders have enormously advanced the anti-biblical, humanistic, and New Age friendly Church Growth movement; made friends with and legitimized false religions; introduced heresies and false doctrines into the church; and led the American evangelical church into a death spiral of powerlessness and apostasy. It is utterly appalling that the leadership of the once venerable Assemblies of God have allowed Warren to address the Assemblies not once but numerous times including the upcoming General Council in 2017.

Mark Batterson – National Community Church, Washington, D.C.

Batterson is the author of The Circle Maker, a bestselling book that is rapidly invading many evangelical churches and which has inspired the practice of prayer circles. Praying in circles is has become all the rage in many Evangelical churches. People are taught to draw circles around the things they want, or even to walk in circles around the things they are sure the Lord ought to grant them. In either case, they are to pray around those things and in that way to claim them for the Lord. Batterson bases his prayer technique on a story of the life of Honi Ha-Ma’agel, a Jewish scholar who lived in the first century B.C. On one occasion according to the Talmud, it was well into winter and God had not sent rain to the land of Israel. Honi drew a circle in the dust, stood inside it, and informed God that he would not move until it rained. God responded to Honi’s demands and sent rain. From this story Batterson conceived the idea of praying in circles. But Batterson’s prayer circles are drawn from a tradition not found in the Bible. Prayer circles are anti-biblical because they violate those principles of prayer that are found in the Bible. Batterson has substituted fables about prayer for sound biblical doctrine.[9] What possible thing of value could Batterson teach those attending the 2017 General Council?

Priscilla Shirer – Author, speaker, actressS

Shier credits Jan Johnson with speaking “wisdom into my life that was extremely pivotal in my life—personally and in ministry.” Johnson professes to be an evangelical Christian but writes about, endorses, and promotes the practice of contemplative prayer. She says, “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.” However, contemplative prayer practices closely mimic New Age and Eastern meditation techniques and can quickly lead to putting the mind into a neutral, altered state. Those practicing contemplative prayer are encouraged to achieve inner stillness through meditative, mantra-style practices such as taking a word or syllable and repeating it over and over. Johnson states that, “The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us…to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.” In her books and writings Johnson frequently quotes various contemplative prayer teachers, New Age sympathizers, and mystics. Although Shier has written a book on how to discern the voice of God, one questions her own discernment when she engages in and advocates the practice of contemplative prayer that is closely associated with New Age and Eastern meditation practices.[10] Can the General Council not see the dangers of such speakers who teach false doctrine and anti-biblical practices at its biennial assembly?

Influencing the world but seeking the world’s wisdom

The evangelical church is also told that it should learn from those outside the church on how better to minister to the world. It is interesting to note that the same week that keynote speaker Robert Morris will be addressing those assembled at the General Council in Anaheim, his Gateway Church in Dallas will be participating in Bill Hybel’s annual Global Leadership Summit whose theme is “Everyone has Influence” and which features twelve speakers of which only two purport to be ministers of the gospel. [emphasis added] If Hybel’s prior conferences are an indication, the profession of Christianity is certainly not a requirement to be a member of Hybel’s panel of speakers. [For a list of Hybels’ 2016 conference speakers, see “Take Heed that no man deceive you – Part V.”][11] It is apparent that the leadership of the Assemblies of God wholeheartedly agrees with Hybels that the church can learn much about doing God’s work by listening to the wisdom of worldly leaders. This is indisputably confirmed by our examination of the agenda for the General Council of the Assemblies of God 2017.

Are you beginning to understand the direction the Church Growth movement’s leadership is taking the evangelical church? It’s all about influencing the world. We are told that the church can influence the world if we will only bend a little, make a few compromises, and show some tolerance for another point of view. As Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Church, “Sometimes you need to give the unbeliever some slack in order to reel them in.”[12] “Slack” in the seeker-sensitive model of doing church means attempting to entice the sinner through the church’s doors with whatever bait works and then focusing on meeting his or her felt needs.

According to the Church Growth narrative, the church can and must influence the world. But its version of influence is wrapped in accommodation, tolerance, and worldliness, not in the work of the Holy Spirit and a faithful presentation of the powerful soul-saving Word of God. Consequently, the world has influenced the church which has led to spiritual poverty and powerlessness. Therefore, a large number of evangelicalism’s local churches, denominations, and fellowships have become frail vessels depleted of their spiritual vitality within and have lost power to speak truth to the larger culture without. This quest for influence with the world is also occurring in the Assemblies of God. This has brought sin into the camp, and its leadership must recognize the source and take decisive action to expose and banish it from the fellowship.

What is the only remedy for this great tragedy besetting the evangelical church in America and Western civilization? It is a revived church. For those Christians of our day who are in anguish at the sad spiritual and moral condition of the church and the nation, there is perhaps no verse that is relied upon more than 2 Chronicles 7:14 when seeking revival and restoration. It is often called the revival verse.

…if my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. [2 Chronicles 7:14. KJV]

Notice that there are four conditions that must occur before revival will happen: humility, prayer, seeking God’s face (presence), and turning from sin.

Here we must return to the story of Joshua and the Israelites following their defeat at Ai. What did Joshua do following defeat? He humbled himself, prayed, and sought the return of God’s presence among the Israelites. Was that enough? No, the fourth requirement for revival and restoration was still missing. They had not turned from their wicked ways and were accursed because sin still resided in the camp, and God’s presence and blessing was not restored until the sin in the camp was removed.

While many in the church are dabbling with other gospels and seeking other Jesuses, there is a faithful remnant that is hungering for revival of the church in America. But God’s power and presence will not return until all four of His requirements for revival are met. This compels those seeking revival to recognize, expose, and expel sin residing in the camp. To do so the church must have bold preachers and lay men and women full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit, and who have humbled themselves, are praying for revival, are seeking the face of God, and who confront sin within the church while at the same time preaching the uncompromised message of Jesus Christ to a hurting, lost, and hell-bound world. Our only hope is for the Holy Spirit to be poured out afresh on all of His people who love Him and obey his commandments.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Influence Conference – Influencing Your Community, General Council of the Assemblies of God 2017. http://generalcouncil.ag.org/(accessed July 19, 2017).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Larry G. Johnson, “The Assemblies of God 2007 and 10 years later – Part I,” culturewarrior.net, March 10, 2017.

The Assemblies of God 2007 and 10 years later – Part I


[4] Gateway Church. http://gatewaypeople.com/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[5] Ken Silva, “Robert Morris teams up with Hybels, Noble, and Word Faith preacher Tim Ross,” Apprising Ministries, February 26, 2012. http://apprising.org/2012/02/26/robert-morris-teams-up-with-hybels-noble-and-word-faith-preacher-tim-ross/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[6] GT Church. https://www.gtchurch.com/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[7] Freedom Church.https://findfreedom.church/our-mission/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[8] “Jason Frenn speaking at Saddleback Church,” YouTube, October 11, 2012.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61IX9mfmd9Q (accessed July 22, 2017).
[9] Tim Challies, “Don’t Pray in Circles,” Challies, January 10, 2014. https://www.challies.com/christian-living/dont-pray-in-circles/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[10] LT Editors, “What your church needs to know before doing a Priscilla Shirer Study,” Lighthouse Trails Research Journal, Vol. 5-No. 4, (July-August 2017), 8-9.
[11] Larry G. Johnson, “Take heed that no man deceive you – Part V,” culturewarrior.net, October 7, 2016. http://www.culturewarrior.net/2016/10/07/take-heed-that-no-man-deceive-you-part-v/
[12] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), p. 216.

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Comments (2)

  1. Chris R. Branstetter

    Ouch! Part Two..

  2. Great information. Lucky me I found your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve saved it for later!

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