By Elizabeth Prata
The false teachers and events draw many thousands of people. I was astounded in 2011, when attending a Beth Moore Living Proof Weekend event, 20,000 women filled the stadium. The pillars shook with thunderous applause when she walked out on stage. Yet the teaching was completely ‘Me-centered’. We didn’t learn about God when Moore ‘taught’ from Deuteronomy, we learned about Beth Moore.
Charismatic healing or prosperity events often fill huge amphitheaters, for example, the South Africa Mighty Men events Angus Buchan hosts or the Benny Hinn ‘healing’ events seen around the world
In the American southeast and now New York City, the Passion Conference’s cumulative effect is bad. The youth attendees are drawn to a large event with the tantalizing enticement of rock music, of experiencing rather than learning, separated from senior pastors, elders, and parents for several days, (parents/guardians are prohibited from attending, even if the student is 17 or 18 years of age) drenched in a fishbowl of adrenaline-fueled zeal, given half-truths to feed on, told by adored celebrity musicians and pastors they are a special generation, diverted their focus from service in church or campus to solving a global problem, encouraged to sacrifice their money, and oftentimes turned back to their home churches or campuses carrying new leaven.
I’ve received some questions about how to help a friend who attends them or whose friends are interested in why they are so popular. In my first days after my conversion, I thought Joel Osteen must be good because he was so popular. Not so. Here are some thoughts on how to think about the overflowing arenas of the false teacher’s events and what to say to a friend when countering them.
1. When ‘Christian’ things become wildly popular (a teacher, a ministry, a conference, a book) it needs more scrutiny than ever, because Jesus said that popularity can be a signal of falsity. It’s actually a “woe”. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets“. (Luke 6:26).
2. Though there might be a strongly doctrinal person or two at a conference or Christian-type event, there are false teachers and speakers at them too. At Passion, though John Piper speaks, there is also Louis Giglio, Christine Caine, Hillsong, Bethel Music, Elevation Music, Levi Lusko, etc. This fact of falsity has been demonstrated by me and many others. Here is a link to some essays about Passion Conference I’ve written, with more specific information as to why it’s false.
3. Where there are false teachers, there will be false practices. There are false practices taught at Passion (Lectio Divina, a Catholic Mystical practice, that having visions of Jesus is normal RE Kim Walker Smith, founding your faith on experience as the Passion tagline indicates, that hearing directly from God is normal as Giglio led, donation drives for social causes such as stamping out global slavery, global poverty, etc).
False practices are taught at other gatherings as well. Benny Hinn’s events supposedly heal the sick and lame, but healing by so-called apostles is expired. The healings were sign gifts in the early church that do not exist now. God still heals. However He doesn’t designate His people to directly heal any more. In Acts 2:43 and Acts 5:12 it’s made clear that all the miracles were performed by the hands of the apostles for the purpose of a sign that they were exclusively authenticated by God to show they were His designees. In Hebrews 2:3-4 we see that the healing gifts are linked to the apostles and the apostles as stated in Acts 1:21-22 must be someone who has witnessed the risen Christ and received his commission directly from Him.
4. Have a substitute conference/book/curriculum ready to offer the person… a credible ministry that you’d rather see them hooked up with, so they don’t wander off into another fire we need to snatch them out of as Jude mentions. Because they will 😉
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). God must be worshiped in the spirit but also in truth. If you are not worshiping God in truth, then you are not worshiping God in a way that pleases Him. So it’s important to examine everything we choose to absorb that claims to speak for His name.
2 Timothy 4:2-4 says that the end time (that we are in now) is a time when people will not endure sound teaching, reiterating the importance of examining everything. (1 Thessalonians 1:21)
Jude 1:3-4 says certain people creep in to the faith secretly and we might not even realize it at first, so no shame if a person has followed a false teacher for a while or hasn’t seen the leaven in their teaching. That’s why we’re a Body speaking truth to each other. Your friend remarking about these events isn’t trying to hurt your feelings or give you a downer, they are concerned for your mind and soul.
What to do: speak the truth in love- Ephesians 4:15- means not only speaking in a gentle way, though it often does, and humbly, that too, but it means speaking of the truths of God and worship of him in ways that snatch the unwary from the fire. (Jude 1:23). They will probably become upset or even angry. It doesn’t mean you didn’t speak gently enough. Even if you speak the most gently in the entire world, people will bristle at your statements that so-and-so should be avoided.
Finally, there’s a thing called ‘deception by investment’. A person has invested money (perhaps buying their books, paid for a conference) or time (spending time working at a ministry, promoting this person’s ministry) and ego (you’re telling me my decisions are wrong??) that usually puts a person’s guard and defenses up. They don’t want to disentangle from the investment they’ve made in this person/conference/ministry because it’s embarrassing to be wrong.
A little leaven spoils the whole lump, (Galatians 5:9) so do you want to be that person who brings a spoil into your church? Examine everything!
But if you start with scripture pointing to the importance of proper worship and His truths, that will be a foundation through which the Spirit works best. And, pray. 🙂