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The Shack – False doctrine

One of the great afflictions of the modern evangelical church in America is the absence of biblical knowledge by a large majority of professing Christians in the last decades of the twentieth century and to the present day. This pervasive ignorance of the Bible is consistent with the spirit of the age in which constant and thematic biblical preaching and teaching have substantially declined in many evangelical churches. The preaching of the message of the Bible has been dumbed down and therefore is made a husk without the life sustaining core from which the Christian finds spiritual nourishment. As a result a large segment of American Christianity does not have a solid grasp of the basic elements of the faith as taught in Scripture and confirmed by the doctrinal understandings of their faith. Writing in his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul spoke of the consequences for this remarkable lack of familiarity with the meat of the Word.

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?[1 Corinthians 3:1-3. NIV] [emphasis in original]

Not only was the Corinthian church worldly because a lack of the meat of the Word, the pastors and leaders of the Corinthian church had allowed many to come into the church who claimed to have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior but who had not given up their ungodly lifestyles and practices. These false Christians also were allowed to become a part of the ministry. Their ungodly practices and “incorrect presentation of biblical truth” were tolerated within the church. Donald Stamps wrote in his commentary on verse 3 that, “Among the greatest evidences of immaturity and worldliness among believers are disunity and the strong desire to idolize and follow human personalities rather than Christ.”[1] [emphasis added] Paul’s description of worldliness and immaturity in the Corinthian Church is the epitome of those evangelical churches in modern America that have embraced the Church Growth-seeker friendly model of doing church.

Paul links immaturity and worldliness in the church with human personalities whose message is not that of Christ. Peter called these personalities false prophets and false teachers.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.[2 Peter 2:1-3. NIV] [emphasis added]

In other words, false teachers will make merchandise of the Christian faith and the message of the Bible and thereby enrich themselves personally while at the same time enhancing their ministries. These false teachers are found not only in the pulpit but in various other ministries and pseudo-Christian organizations including writers and speakers. Christians must be aware that one of the main methods of these false teachers is to use “stories they have made up.”[2]

It is here we examine The Shack, one of those made up stories that has introduced destructive heresies, brought the truth of God’s Word into disrepute, and made merchandise of the faith of Christians with fabricated stories.

The Shack – Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity[3] was written by William P. Young. It has sold millions of copies and was made into a movie. The Shack is a made up story that unquestionably qualifies for all of Paul’s condemnations listed in 2 Peter 2:1-3. But there is another that has specifically brought The Shack and its author to account.

James B. De Young wrote Burning Down “The Shack” – How the “Christian” Bestseller is Deceiving Millions in 2010, three years after The Shack was published. De Young knew William Young well and observed the change in his beliefs that eventually found their way into The Shack. The back cover of Burning Down The Shack, states that De Young “…shows how spiritually flimsy The Shack truly is, and how its enticing yet false doctrine is stealthily cracking the foundations of countless Christians’ faith—rotting away their very concept of the true God.”[4]

This article will not attempt to add to De Young’s very capable critique of The Shack. I would encourage you to read Burning Down The Shack for yourself. However, for those of you who for various reasons cannot devote the time, I have included a link to the Nehemiah Institute for a review of De Young’s book and its critique of The Shack.

Dan Smithwick is the president and founder of the Nehemiah Institute whose primary work is in providing a unique worldview testing and training service to private schools, churches, homeschoolers, and other Christian ministries. Programs are designed for junior high through adult ages. Dan and I have been friends at a distance since we connected about eight years ago following the publication of my book Ye shall be as gods – Humanism and Christianity – The Battle for Supremacy in the American Cultural Vision. This last spring Dan wrote a review of De Young’s book and said that “Burning Down The Shack may be the most important book of the 21st century.” During a phone conversation shortly thereafter, Dan graciously allowed me to reprint his review in culturewarrior.net. Upon reflection, I think it is more appropriate that you read the review on the Institute’s website. You may access the website by clicking on the following link:

http://www.nehemiahinstitute.com/articles/index.php?action=show&id=43

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Donald C. Stamps, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:1-3,” The Full Life Study Bible, King James Version, ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990), p. 2148.
[2] Stamps, Commentary on 2 Peter 2:1-3, The Full Life Stud Bible, p. 2458.
[3] William P. Young, The Shack – Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity, (Newbury Park, California: Windblown Media, 2007).
[4] James B. De Young, Burning Down “The Shack, – How the “Christian” Bestseller is Deceiving Millions, (Washington, D.C.: WND Books, 2019), back cover.

The Circle Maker – Take heed that no man deceive you – Part II

Because we are living at the end of the last days as foretold by Christ to His disciples, Christians must be especially vigilant to guard against false teachers and prophets. To guard against such, Christians must follow the example of the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:10-13. The Bereans were described as noble and honorable men and women who closely examined what they were taught in the light of the truth of God’s Word. We have attempted to follow the Berean’s example in this two part series in which we are examining the teachings of Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker. In Part I we found significant evidence that The Circle Maker has mixed the Word of God with fables, false doctrines, and false teaching. Part II will conclude our examination of The Circle Maker.

Misinterpreting the Bible

Batterson attempts to include in God’s promises for the church (which makes them eligible for circling) certain descriptive verses that teach as opposed to prescriptive verses that command us.[1] One example exposes Batterson’s error.

The legend of Honi the circle maker was like a revelation of the power of prayer…I started to circle everything and everyone in prayer. It gave me a new vocabulary, a new imagery, a new methodology…I drew particular inspiration from the march around Jericho when God delivered on a four-hundred-year-old promise by providing the first victory in the Promised Land. While the story doesn’t explicitly mention the people taking up positions of prayer, I have no doubt the Israelites were praying as they circled the city…The image of the Israelites circling Jericho for seven days is a moving picture of what drawing prayer circles looks like. It’s also the backdrop for this book.

It not only reveals the way God performed this particular miracle; it also establishes a pattern to follow. It challenges us to confidently circle the promises God has given to us…[2]

Batterson attempts to link Honi, circle making, and the march around Jericho, all of which is supposed to establish a pattern to follow by circling the promises of God. In other words, Batterson appropriates the biblical account of victory at Jericho as a pattern to follow which is circling the promises of God. Although the Battle of Jericho teaches subsequent generations, it does not command that similar actions are to be taken. The lesson taught is descriptive and teaches us that the Israelites succeeded in battle because of their belief in God and obedience to His Word. It is not a prescriptive pattern that Christians must literally follow by marching around property they claim for God or themselves, drawing circles in the sand, or circling promises in His Word. Batterson has misrepresented the meaning of scripture and twisted it to teach his false circle making theology to the millions who read his book.

There is much in the Old Testament that is both descriptive and prescriptive at the same time. One example is 2 Chronicles 7:14, sometimes called the revival verse. The back story is that God is speaking to Solomon who had built the First Temple in Jerusalem as a monument to God and as a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant. God is responding to Solomon’s prayer of consecration of the Temple.

…if my people who are called by my name 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 these words are not only a conditional promise to Israel but a command to “His people,” and that means His people then and all of His people called by His name down to the present day. 2 Chronicles 7:14 teaches His people that He is always faithful and just, but the verse also commands His people to humility, prayer, to seek His presence, and to turn from their wicked ways. The verse is both descriptive and prescriptive.

The mechanical god

In Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, I wrote a chapter titled “The Mechanical God” in which I examined the positive confession movement/prosperity gospel.

During the 1950s, certain ministers began to emphasize in their preaching and teaching that health, prosperity, and happiness were available to all Christians. This became known as the positive confession movement (sometimes called the prosperity gospel) and was birthed by Kenneth Hagin in his book How to write your own ticket with God.[3] This book became the foundation for the teachings and practices of the positive confession movement/prosperity gospel which spread into many evangelical churches in the last half of the twentieth century and now dominates a large segment of evangelicalism in America. The fundamental elements of this movement are found in Hagin’s book.

…you can receive anything in the present tense, such as salvation, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, healing for your body, spiritual victory, or finances. Anything the Bible promises you now, you can receive now by taking these four steps…

Step 1: Say it…In my vision, Jesus said, “Positive or negative, it is up to the individual. According to what the individual says, that shall he receive.”…

Step 2: Do it…Jesus dictated to me during my vision. “Your action defeats you or puts you over. According to your action, you receive or you are kept from receiving.”…

Step 3: Receive it…It is like plugging into an electrical outlet. If we can learn to plug into this supernatural power, we can put it to work for us, and we can be healed…

Step 4: Tell it…Jesus said to me, “Tell it so others may believe.”…

…You said if anybody anywhere would take these four steps, they would receive from you anything they wanted.[4] [emphasis in original]

Several statements in Batterson’s book, and especially the first three chapters, are uncomfortably close if not identical to certain aspects of the philosophies of Hagin and the positive confession movement/prosperity gospel. The following quotes are just a few examples from The Circle Maker that show striking similarities between circle making prayers and the positive confession movement.

God is still looking for circle makers. And the timeless truth secreted within this ancient legend is as true now as it was then: Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.[5] [emphasis in original]

There is nothing God loves more than keeping promises, answering prayers, performing miracles, and fulfilling dreams. That is who He is. That is what He does. And the bigger the circle we draw, the better, because God gets more glory.[6] [emphasis in original]

God is for you. If you don’t believe that, then you’ll pray small timid prayers; if you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers…Prayers are prophecies. And one way or another, your small timid prayers or big audacious prayers will change the trajectory of your life and turn you into two totally different people.[7] [emphasis in original]

Sure, you can apply some of the principles you learn in The Circle Maker, and they may help you get what you want, but getting what you want isn’t the goal; the goal is glorifying God by drawing circles around the promises, miracles, and dreams He wants for you.[8]

You’ve got to define the promises God wants you to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for, and the dreams God wants you to pursue. Then you need to keep circling until God gives you what He wants and He wills. That’s the goal.[9]

If faith is being sure of what we hope for, then being unsure of what we hope for is the antithesis of faith, isn’t it? Well-developed faith results in well-defined prayers, and well-defined prayers result in a well-lived life.[10]

Don’t just read the Bible. Start circling the promises. Don’t just make a wish. Write down a list of God-glorifying life goals. Don’t just pray. Keep a prayer journal. Define your dream. Claim your promise. Spell your miracle.[11]

These pronouncements are filled with false doctrine; irrational and illogical statements; presumptions as to knowing God’s mind, motives, and personality apart from what is revealed in the scriptures; and much more.

Witchcraft

Paul warned about the invasion of witchcraft in the church in the latter days. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” [1 Timothy 4:1. KJV]

Solitary Witch by Silver Ravenwolf is one of the most popular witchcraft books ever written. She wrote that circlecasting is a well-known and ancient practice in witchcraft and Wicca to cast spells and connect with the demonic realm by the drawing of a “magick circle.” It is an occult method of prayer which is mimicked in the practices of The Circle Maker.[12]

Like Batterson, Ravenwolf also lays claim to the story of Honi “which gives us important clues as to how magick works and why, 2,000 years later, we continue to use the magick circle.” Ravenwolf is not sure if Honi was just an old magician or part of the priesthood. She explains the appearance of the old magician’s story in Jewish literature. Ravenwolf argues that the story of Honi’s miracle was too dangerous to be left outside the current Jewish religious structures of the day. Therefore, Jewish religious leaders incorporated Honi’s story through many successive renderings until it became a part of the oral traditions of the Jewish rabbis.[13]
______

In an article written in the Huffington Post shortly after publication of The Circle Maker, Batterson claimed that his prayer circle methodology was “a New Way to Pray.” But he assures us that, “…while the prayer theology in the book is as ancient as Scripture itself, I do offer readers a new methodology. Drawing prayer circles. There is nothing magical about it. It’s just a practical mechanism to help people pray with more focus, more faith.”[14] This is an astounding admission! Batterson explicitly states that his prayer theology is as old as the scripture itself. The undeniable implication is that Batterson’s prayer theology is separate from scripture. Although Batterson’s prayer theology may be as old as scripture, he also reiterates that his circle making methodology of prayer is new.

The Seduction of Christianity was published in 1985 by Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon. The authors stated that it is absolutely necessary for teachings about theological practices and experiences to be judged in light of what the Bible says.

If there is not clear teaching in the Bible to support a practice, it should not be adopted by the church today, regardless of how beautiful and seemingly miraculous the experiences are that it produces. Unfortunately, to an alarming degree, the Scriptures are no longer looked upon as the full and sufficient guide given by the Holy Spirit for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).”[15] [emphasis in original]

The church does not need some ancient theology separate from God’s Word nor some new methodology to make it better. The inerrant Word of God is sufficient. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” [Proverbs 30:6. KJV]
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Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of they coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many…And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. [Matthew 24:3b, 4-5, 11. KJV]

As the end of the age approaches false teachers and preachers will be very common within the church, and their false teachings and will be widely practiced and deceive many who claim to follow Christ. Donald Stamps in his commentary on false teachers states that, “There are a number of ‘Christian’ writers, missionaries, pastors, evangelists, teachers, musicians, and other church leaders and workers who are not what they claim or appear to be.” They can fool even godly people because they appear to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, present messages based on high moral and spiritual standards, and have a concern for the spiritually lost.[16]

These false teachers will gain great influence in the church during the last days, and those who are faithful to Christ and the truth and standards of God’s Word will be in the minority. We know that the church age is in its very last days spoken of by Christ because of the great prevalence of false teachers in the church. As Christ told His disciples to “take heed,” so too must the modern-day church discern, test, and expose false teachers and false prophets. Stamps gives direction in this matter. This church should use discernment in their examination and testing of a teacher’s and prophet’s character, motives, fruit of their lives and message, reliance on God’s Word, and integrity. Even with such discernment and testing, there will still be false teachers and prophets who escape detection by the faithful until God exposes their true natures.[17]

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] “The Circle Maker Heresy – Witchcraft in the Church,” Beginning and End, September 12, 2012, updated September 24, 2015. http://beginningandend.com/the-circle-maker-heresy-witchcraft-in-the-church/ (accessed August 22, 2017).
[2] Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011, 2016), pp. 22-23.
[3] Larry G. Johnson, Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, (Owasso, Oklahoma: Anvil House Publishers, 2011), p. 117.
[4]Kenneth E. Hagin, How To Write Your Own Ticket With God, Kindle Cloud Reader, (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1979).
[5] Batterson, The Circle Maker, p. 15.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., pp. 15-16.
[8] Ibid., p. 16.
[9] Ibid., p. 24.
[10] Ibid., p. 25.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Silver Ravenwolf, Solitary Witch, (St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003), p. 6.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Mark Batterson, “‘The Circle Maker’ – A New Way to Pray,” Huffington Post, March 24, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-batterson/a-new-way-to-pray-circle-maker_b_1349526.html
(accessed August 23, 2017).
[15] Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1985, p. 179.
[16] Donald C. Stamps, “False Teachers,” The Full Life Study Bible, King James Version, ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990),p. 1807.
[17] Ibid., p. 1808.

The Circle Maker – Take heed that no man deceive you – Part I

Mark Batterson is a colorful and imaginative writer and pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. Batterson is the author of The Circle Maker, a bestselling book that promotes the practice of praying in circles that has become widely accepted in American 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. Whether walking or drawing circles, circle makers are to pray for those things they have circled and in that way claim them for the Lord.

Batterson’s idea of prayer circles came from a story of the life of Honi Ha-Ma’agel, a Jewish scholar who supposedly lived in the first century B.C. During one year in Honi’s life in the land of Israel it was well into winter and God had not sent rain. 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.[1] From this story Batterson conceived the idea of prayer circles, but Batterson’s prayer circles are drawn from a tradition not found in the Bible.

For discerning Christians, the most troubling portions of the book are found in the first three chapters. It is here that Batterson’s words appear to apply a one-size-fits-all technique to that facet of prayer in which one asks God to supply various needs and wants. It is only in the occasional “fine print” found in the remaining chapters that Batterson attempts to explain and refine the circle making technique of prayer which (at least partially) diminishes the hyperboles and false theology introduced in those first three chapters.

The problem is that the first three chapters are the attention-getting headlines while the occasional mitigating explanations, corrections, and retractions are relegated to the back chapters of the book. Because a majority of professing Christians in this modern, attention-deficit age are biblically illiterate or have embraced apostasy altogether, they are satisfied with Batterson’s bait which tickles their ears while ignoring the meat of the word. Once hooked, they readily embrace the concept of circle making prayers but have little time or desire to plumb the depths and understand the nuances of what the Bible has to say about prayer.

Prayers centered around circle making often become a convenient shortcut, a magical “open sesame” that must unfailingly bring about a desired end. This error is compounded when
abbreviated editions and children’s versions of The Circle Maker are used because they do not even contain the occasional back-of-the-book “fine print” necessary to amend a few of the many hyperboles and false doctrines found therein. For many circle makers, prayers that require drawing circles become little more than a talisman drawn to bring good fortune.

The Apostle Paul specifically warned Timothy against teachers promoting false doctrines and legends.

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. [1Timothy 1:3-7. KJV] [emphasis added]

Fables

Paul said Christians must not give heed to fables, but this is exactly what Batterson is doing by linking Honi and circle making prayers with the Bible. However, Honi and circle making prayers do not appear in the Bible.

Batterson discovered the story of Honi in The Book of Legends contained in the Talmud and Midrash. These teachings of Jewish rabbis were passed down orally from generation to generation. The Talmud has two basic components: the Mishnah which is a compendium of Judaism’s Oral Law first written about AD 200; and the Gemara first written about AD 500 and which is a rabbinical discussion of the Mishnah and related writings and the Midrashwhich is a compilation of Jewish oral tradition and commentaries on the Mosaic Law.”[2] Thus, we see that the legend of Honi first appeared in written form about 500 to 600 years after the events in the story of Honi were supposed to have occurred.

Paul explains why men turn from sound doctrine to embrace fables taught by false teachers.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. [2 Timothy 4:34. KJV]

False doctrine and false teaching

One example of false doctrine is found where Batterson quotes a pastor of one of the largest churches in Seoul, Korea. The pastor said, “God does not answer vague prayers.” According to Batterson, he was so convicted by this statement that it changed the way he prayed.[3] But the Korean pastor’s statement is blatantly teaching a false doctrine which is disputed by two accounts in the New Testament.

First, a sincere prayer from one of God’s children will not be rejected just because of its lack of precision in verbalizing their prayers. God knows the heart of His children even when they can’t articulate their needs with clarity. Our prayers are a matter of faith and not just words. We need only look to Matthew’s gospel for the example of the woman with an issue of blood.

And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. [Matthew 9:20-22. KJV]

We find a second example in the book of Romans when the Apostle spoke of praying in the Spirit about things we know not.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. [Romans 8:26. KJV]

These two prayers were beyond being vague to the point of silence or groanings which cannot be uttered. But if we accept the Korean pastor’s dismissive rebuke, those two prayers would not have been answered because they lack definition and clarity. Yet, Matthew gospel says, “…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. [Matthew 6:8. KJV]

Even though Batterson agrees with the Korean pastor’s position on vague prayers on page 27 of The Circle Maker, he totally contradicts himself on page 85.

The viability of our prayers is not contingent on scrabbling the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet into the right combinations like abracadabra. God already knows the last punctuation mark before we pronounce the first syllable. The viability of our prayers has more to do with intensity than vocabulary.[4]

Batterson’s statements and claims such as these reflect the carelessness, hyperbole, poetic license, misinterpretation of the meaning of scripture, and outright biblical error that is prevalent throughout The Circle Maker.

In a second example, Batterson’s false teaching even extends to imparting various character traits, motives, and desires to God that He apparently forgot to include in the Bible.

God must love the game of chicken because He plays it with us all the time. He has a habit of waiting until the very last moment to answer our prayer to see if we will chicken out or pray through.[5] [emphasis in original]

Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.[6] [emphasis in original]

And He [Jesus] must have felt a special closeness to his father when He hiked mountains and walked beaches. He gravitated to those places because proximity is an important part of prayer, but it goes beyond geography; I think it also has to do with genealogy.[7]

A third example of Batterson’s false teaching includes changing the words and meaning of scripture.

I’m sure Honi the circle maker prayed in a lot of different ways at a lot of different times…But when he needed to pray through, he drew a circle and dropped to his knees. His inspiration for the prayer circle was Habakkuk. He simply did what the prophet Habakkuk had done: “I will stand upon my watch, and station me within a circle.”[8] [emphasis added]

Batterson is referring to Habakkuk 2:1 which was supposed to be Honi’s inspiration for the prayer circle.

I will stand upon my watch and set me upon the tower and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. [Habakkuk 2:1. KJV]

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. [Habakkuk 2:1. NIV]

Habakkuk was a prophet who was questioning God about how he could use Babylon, a nation more wicked than Judah, to execute His judgement. Habakkuk stood at his watch station awaiting God’s answer and to consider his response.[9] When we examine these and other translations, there is no mention of a circle or Habakkuk dropping to his knees and praying through. These are merely fabrications and embellishments used to support the false doctrine of prayer circles.
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In Part I, we have found significant evidence that the Word of God has been mixed with fables and false doctrines in The Circle Maker. In Part II, we will examine evidence of misinterpretation of the scriptures, positive confession/prosperity gospel philosophies, and witchcraft in the teachings of The Circle Maker.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011, 2016), pp. 11-13.
[2] “Torah versus Talmud?” Ask the Rabbi, http://www.aish.com/atr/Torah_versus_Talmud.html (accessed August 23, 2017).
[3] Batterson, The Circle Maker, p. 27.
[4] Ibid., p. 85.
[5] Ibid., p. 111.
[6]Ibid, p. 15.
[7] Ibid., p. 158.
[8] Ibid., p. 159.
[9] Donald C. Stamps, Commentary on Habakkuk 1:1-17, 2:1, The Full Life Study Bible, King James Version, ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990), p. 1608.

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.

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

I have loved and been a part of the Assemblies of God for seven decades. In recent years I have watched as the Assemblies have followed the downward path chosen by numerous other evangelical denominations, fellowships, and churches. This is the path of accommodation and tolerance of sin and worldliness in their midst. It is one thing to privately believe there is sin in one’s camp, but to say this publicly is a much more serious matter. Many critics will argue that such a public declaration causes division and strife, but the Bible is plain with regard to sin, both in and outside of the church. Paul warned the church, “And have no fellowship with the unfaithful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” [Ephesians 5:11. KJV] To reprove means to scold or correct, usually gently or with kindly intent. It is with kindly intent that I make this matter public.

In Part I we will examine the modern deception and seduction of the church that coincides with the end-times event called the great apostasy or falling away. In Part II we will consider the direction of the Assemblies of God in light of our discussion in Part I.

Separation of God’s people

God’s solution for the church in dealing with sin has always been separation.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” [Ephesians 6:14-18. NIV]

In the Old Testament, God demanded complete separation of the Israelites from other nations because their “corrupt lifestyles and religious practices would influence his people to rebel against him and abandon their faith in him.” When the Israelites cross the Jordan to possess the promised land, God commanded the complete destruction of all of the Canaanites and even their animals.[1] The complete destruction was necessary to guard the Israelites from the overwhelming wickedness of the Canaanite peoples. “God knew that if those ungodly nations had been allowed to remain in the land, they would have influenced the Israelites to adopt their immoral practices of worship, follow their false gods, and commit all kinds of other sins that were common to the people of Canaan.”[2]

Following their first victory at Jericho, the Israelites marched on Ai, but the men of Ai routed the Israelites and killed thirty-six of their number. When Joshua saw what had happened, he tore his clothes, fell face down, and was greatly grieved, especially at the dread of God’s displeasure. [See Joshua 7:6-9]

And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them…Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. [Joshua 7:10, 11a, 12. KJV]

God was telling Joshua and the Israelites that there was sin in the camp, they were defeated because of it, and he would not be among them until the sin was removed. Achan’s theft of gold and silver and the consequences thereof was a warning to the Israelites. God’s people cannot commit or allow sin to continue in their midst. Sin that is allowed to remain and fester in the church will compromise God’s blessing or cause it to be lost altogether. God will not bless His people if sin is not removed from their midst, either individually or as a group. Just as the sin of Adam and Eve affected all of mankind, the sin of one or a few in the camp affects not only those who are guilty, but the entire camp suffers as well if sin is allowed to remain. May we liken the camp to the family, the local church, a denomination or fellowship, or perhaps the entire body of Christ dwelling within a nation?

But the proponents of modernized Christianity argue that we live under the new covenant and reject God’s Old Testament demands of separation of the church from the world because they believe such separation is not consistent with God’s love, righteousness, justice, and hatred of evil found throughout the Bible. They believe the Old Testament standard of separation inhibits modernized Christianity’s efforts at influencing the world which they view as necessary to fulfill the great commission in these modern times. However, Donald Stamps wrote in his commentary that, “Deuteronomy 20:18 expresses the lasting Biblical principle that God’s people must separate themselves from ungodly behavior and resist the evil influences of worldly cultures.” [emphasis added] Although Christians are living under the new covenant, the destruction of the generation of the Canaanites is a prophetic symbol pointing to God’s final judgement on the unrighteous and all worldly powers.[3]

In the New Testament God still requires His people to remain separate from the world. But the separation is not from nations but separation (1) from world systems (by which is meant the “beliefs, lifestyles, and God-defying ways of doing things”), (2) from those in the church who are disobedient and defiant toward God and refuse to turn from their own ways, and (3) “from false teachers, churches, or religious systems that promote ungodly beliefs and deny the truth of God’s Word as revealed in the Bible.”[4]

Modernized Christianity and the loss of separation from the world

What is this modernized Christianity that has not only allowed but invited sin in the camp? Once again I must return to A. W. Tozer’s scathing condemnation of the loss of separation between the world and many evangelical churches, denominations, and fellowships in America.

The Christian faith, based upon the New Testament, teaches the complete antithesis between the Church and the world…It is no more than a religious platitude to say that the trouble with us today is that we have tried to bridge the gulf between two opposites, the world and the Church, and have performed an illicit marriage for which there is no biblical authority. Actually, there is no real union…When the Church joins up with the world, it is the true Church no longer but only a pitiful hybrid thing, an object of smiling contempt to the world and an abomination to the Lord…

Christianity is so entangled with the spirit of the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere. The world is whitewashed just enough to pass inspection by blind men posing as believers, and those same believers are everlastingly seeking to gain acceptance with the world. By mutual concessions men who call themselves Christians manage to get on with men who have for the things of God nothing but contempt.[5]

In 1985, Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon wrote The Seduction of Christianity – Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days[6] which attempted “to identify the worldly ‘folly’ being embraced by today’s church not merely as immorality but as an even more seductive and destructive form of worldliness: the cultivation of occult powers attributable to human potential and its concomitant evil—the idolatrous deification of self.” [emphasis added] Hunt pointed out in his subsequent book that this seduction was prophesied by Christ and His apostles. Its fulfillment would be the greatest apostasy and deception in history, and it would occur in the last days just prior to His second coming. The greatest danger faced by the church in those last days was not persecution but seduction. The book caused a firestorm of controversy. Some called it the most important Christian book in decades while others called it the most divisive and destructive.[7]

Restated, this modernized Christianity is the cultivation of New Age and elements of Eastern religions through the human potential movement and deification of self through Christian humanism. These two forces began merging in the 1950s and became known as the Church Growth movement by the 1970s.

The substitution of man’s efforts to replace the redeeming work of the cross appears to be one of the great failings of the Church Growth movement and its seeker-sensitive churches. Paul’s second and final letter to Timothy warned of what many churches would be like the last days, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” [2 Timothy, 3:5. KJV] Three hundred years ago Matthew Henry wrote of Paul’s warning. “In the last days would come perilous times, not so much on account of persecution from without as on account of corruptions within…A form of godliness is a very different thing from the power of it; men may have the one and be wholly destitute of the other.”[8] [emphasis added] This is an apt description of much of the Church Growth movement and its many seeker-sensitive churches.

This loss of power began as some leaders of the church first opened the door to the New Age/New Spirituality. It began in the 1950s with the theology of Norman Vincent Peale and was conveyed through his hugely popular book The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale preached a unique blend of humanistic psychology and occult beliefs and practices of the New Age, all wrapped in a façade which he called “practical Christianity.” His theology became the foundation for the therapeutic gospel of the seeker-sensitive Church Growth movement. Peale’s practical Christian living was indisputably New Age, a Christianized version of New Thought taught in the occultic writings of Florence Scovel Shinn during the early part of the twentieth century.[9]

Robert Schuller was perhaps Peale’s greatest admirer and practitioner of Peale’s methods. Peale’s “positive thinking” became Schuller’s “possibility thinking.” Schuller’s connections with various New Age spokesmen and promoters were well known before the 1980s. One example was Schuller’s long and much-publicized association with prominent psychiatrist Gerald Jampolsky, a well-known teacher and practitioner of the New Age based “A Course in Miracles.” Schuller is widely considered to be the father of the Church Growth phenomenon and the first “megachurch” and “seeker-friendly” church pastor. To spread the Church Growth philosophy, Schuller established the Institute for Successful Church Leadership, and Rick Warren and Bill Hybels were early graduates of Schuller’s school.[10]

Without doubt, Warren and Hybels are responsible for the vast expansion of the Church Growth movement and its Philistine philosophies and methods throughout evangelical churches in America and other parts of the world since the 1980s. Much of the great apostasy that blankets the church has arisen from the teachings of the Church Growth movement. The following is the essence of the Church Growth movement’s apostasy which I described in Evangelical Winter.

The cross upon which the Son of God was crucified stands at the crossroads of history and the story of mankind. Its stark and demanding message is an irritant in the soul of sinful man. For many its message is too confrontational, an agitant, inconvenient, an offense, something to be mocked or shunned. In modern times the way in which the cross is perceived by many who profess allegiance to Christ has also changed. The message of the cross has been muted if not altogether silenced to minimize its offensiveness in churches filled with people trying to decide if Christianity is right for them. Others have rewritten its message to smooth its abrasiveness and soften its demands by making it a thing of comfort and beauty instead of and instrument of death to self and hope of life eternal. The old message, having been modernized and adapted, seamlessly blends with the world’s fascination with humanistic concepts of self-esteem instead of the reality of the fallen nature of man. The new cross at its core rests on ego and selfishness and is the great enemy of the old cross of Christ.[11]

The deceived church seeks influence with the world

The dominant opinion that has captured most of modernized Christianity in the West is that the Church Growth movement and its modern seeker-sensitive methods of evangelism will usher the church into a new day of Christian influence with the people and affairs of the world. Six decades ago Tozer used the following terms to describe the church’s entanglement with the world: “joining up with the world…seeking to gain acceptance…mutual concessions…getting on with men.” Modern evangelicals have changed the terminology but it still speaks of its entanglement with the world: seeker-sensitive, modern methods of evangelism, attractional, ecumenical, peace, accommodation, tolerance, and unity. But the evangelical church’s quest for a new day of Christian influence with the world is nothing more than an age-old seductive and destructive form of worldliness in the church.

I do not remember the source, but I recall that many years ago Dave Hunt also wrote that he believed there would be a few denominations and fellowships that were not likely to fall to the deceptions and seductions of the enemy during the apostasy of the last days. Among those he included the Assemblies of God. It grieves me to say that I believe Hunt has been proven wrong about the Assemblies of God, particularly over the last decade or so. It would appear that the Assemblies of God is also unashamedly carrying the Church Growth movement’s banner of seeking influence with the world. This is confirmed by the theme of the General Council of the Assemblies of God’s 2017 biennial gathering titled “Influence Conference – Influencing Your Community.” The sin in the camp of the Assemblies of God will be examined in Part II.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Donald Stamps, Commentary – Spiritual Separation for Believers, The Full Life Study Bible – King James Version – New Testament, Gen. Ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990), p. 2210.
[2] Stamps, Commentary – The Destruction of the Canaanites, The Full Life Study Bible, p. 374.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Stamps, Commentary – Spiritual Separation for Believers, The Full Life Study Bible, p. 2210.
[5] A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man, (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: WingSpread Publishers, 1950, 1978), pp. 115-116.
[6] Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity – Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1985).
[7] Dave Hunt, Beyond Seduction – A Return to Biblical Christianity, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1987), p. 1)
[8] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), pp. 1896-1897.
[9] Larry G. Johnson, Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, (Owasso, Oklahoma: Anvil House Publishers, 2016), pp. 125, 137.
[10] Ibid., pp. 148, 157.
[11] Ibid., p. 274.