Posted in theology

“If” then, and “If” now

By Elizabeth Prata

Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India, arriving in 1895 to Dohnavur, just 30 miles from India’s southern tip. Once in South India she began evangelizing women and learning the difficult Tamil language. She developed a special burden for the many children who were dedicated by their parents to temple life, which included prostitution, and committed herself to rescuing them. She would travel long distances on hot, dusty roads just to save one child. Over her years there she saved over 1000 children from a dissipated, amoral, and spiritually barren life.

She retired from active missionary life in 1931 due to ill health, but remained in country, writing, helping incoming female missionaries, and encouraging those around her until her death in 1951. Amy wrote nearly 40 books, and penned hymns and songs, too. She died in 1951, having expended her life in sacrificial love for her Savior and through her work with missions in a difficult, dusty, hot country. She served there for 55 years, without furlough. Above, Amy with children, source Wikimedia.

While serving in India, Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary. She asked Amy, “What is missionary life like?” Amy wrote back saying simply, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”

Dohnavur, India. Photo source

One of her writings was a short book about Calvary love in common life. Based on 1st Corinthians 13, it’s simply titled, If. It’s a little book with a huge understanding of what Calvary love means in our everyday lives. The book is a beloved classic, and quite powerful. The book is based on a series of If – Then statements. Here are a few excerpts:

Amy Carmichael’s If – Then statements encapsulating her life’s aim–

If I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting, “Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou has not received?” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can easily discuss the shortcomings of any; if I can speak in a casual way of a child’s misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I find myself taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cut to 80 years later. There is a different sort of woman now, the women who create ministries apart from any church. Whose aim is to raise up women to lead (not to serve? Not to die?). Who delight in promoting their ministry with softened photos of feminine tables on manicured lawns, laid with china and fresh cut flowers.

This is a different sort of woman from Amy Carmichael, whose life among the dusty-hot roads of Tamil Nadu meant hardship and sacrifice. These are more modern evangelical-ish women, laughing joyfully as they skip through shallow Bible studies and look forward to being the next generation of leaders. These women have an If-Then statement too. Here it is.

If God is real…then what?

I wonder what Amy would have thought about their IF-Then statement. Perhaps she had women like these in mind when she wrote:

We [Protestants] have had some who have gone back to the early ideal, and lived it out. But they have had to press through the solid weight of modern Christianity, a sort of piled up decorousness, comfortableness, utter negation of the Cross as lived, shocked surprise at the bare thought of that.

It’s good to look back and see where we were and look at now and see where we are. The incremental creep away from biblical living and Calvary loving is hard to detect unless one deliberately shocks the system with cold, hard facts like this comparison between Amy Carmichael’s If-Then statements of Calvary love, and the foundational premise of a ministry based on doubting that God is even real.

Paul wrote, Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1). We all have a choice in who to imitate.

amy
A South India street, circa 1900, from book Things as They Are, by Amy Wilson-Carmichael
Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

How fast does satan propagate false doctrines? THIS fast

Three years ago I published an essay discussing the new female-founded, social justice, discipling  organization called “IF:Gathering”. Jennie Allen , founder, decided to start a discipling organization which Allen revealed was based on a command from a voice from the sky. Her words.

Allen, along with Lindsey Nobles and several other women, started this ‘movement,’ as they describe it, to gather women for purposes of discussing their feelings about the Bible. This is accomplished outside of the auspices of the local church. Several participating IF:Leaders admit they actually abandoned their own ongoing church ministries to do form this non-church organization and focus on the global movement they hoped to incite. Their intentions are full of self-stated hubris. They plan to ‘disciple a generation’. They intend to ‘heal the nations’. They will ‘reconcile the world’. They will ‘unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose’. And so on. You can read about my concerns with the IF movement here, and here.

IF was born from a direct revelation given by a voice in the sky to Jennie Allen sometime in 2007. The movement perpetuates twisted hermeneutics, unbiblical lifestyles, social justice, and a warped view of the Gospel that is based on doubt. That’s the synopsis of concerns regarding IF:Gathering. That it is unhealthy is to say the least. Please read the previous essays for scriptural foundations supporting these concerns.

Today I want to shift focus and show you in pictures just how quickly satan propagates his false doctrines and unbiblical lifestyles.

The first IF:Gathering was held in February 2014. At this writing, exactly three years have passed since then. The movement has indeed caught on. Its activity is mostly hidden. If you haven’t heard about IF that’s because the gatherings are announced via social media and many of them are private. This activity is all going on out of sight for the most part (aside from the annual convention). Three years ago I’d posted a shocking map that showed how many of these public and private gatherings were taking place all around us. Here is the map showing IF:Gatherings three years ago when it began.

By 2017, the gathering’s teachings have spread worldwide. Look how many gatherings are held locally now:

Map from IF:Local, 2/2017
Global map from IF:Local page

From Paraguay to Nova Scotia, from Rwanda to Thailand, From Australia to Denmark, there are IF:locals everywhere. It is a global force by now and it didn’t take satan long to do it.

This fact should primarily remind us that women are vulnerable to satan’s wiles. IF is a female movement through and through. The IF:Locals that are held are mainly held in homes, not churches. Many of them are private parties, so accountability and oversight is very much more difficult to ensure.

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, (2 Timothy 3:6)

 The sad fact of the IF:map fact should also bring to mind the verse where Paul tells us how fast false doctrine spreads. Paul said that false teachings are like gangrene. Gangrene is a fast-spreading condition that occurs when healthy body tissue dies because the disease obstructs blood to it! How apt as a metaphor for the healthy body of the church and its lifeblood from Jesus obstructed and infected by false teachings and teachers!!

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:16-17a).

Do you see the progression? There IS a progression.

Irreverent babble…
leads people into more and more ungodliness…
the talk spreads like gangrene…
gangrene infects even the healthy tissue.

As Barnes’ Notes explains of the effects of gangrene:

will spread over and consume the healthful parts. It will not merely destroy the parts immediately affected, but will extend into the surrounding healthy parts and destroy them also.

I know that some people find discernment work distasteful. They do not see the necessity of one of the important activities of how we defend the faith. I consider the importance of defending the faith by both exalting Jesus AND naming false doctrines and teachers. They do not like to name false teachers, they do not emphasize exercising the skill, or they simply overlook rooting it out, hoping it will go away. Many pastors never even preach on the importance of discernment from the pulpit, or if they do, they make aw shucks apologies. And sadly, many others do not practice it themselves.

I’ve seen many false doctrines and movements come and take root. I know you have too. However, in my experience, (which granted, isn’t lengthy, just 14 years in the faith), I have never seen a doctrine, movement, or pseudo-Christian ‘celebrity’ culture embed itself so fast. Whether that speaks to the low levels of discernment, the bloated pseudo-church, or the lateness of the times, the fact that it’s aimed at women, (or all of the above) I do not know. But this thing is wildfire and it is growing faster even than Charismania or prosperity Gospel. Its tentacles have gone deep.

Notably, in 2012, Pastor Jim Murphy of First Baptist Church of Johnson City, NY found to his dismay how quickly satan’s tentacles embedded themselves into his church when he overlooked some areas he knew he should address but simply hadn’t. Eventually he preached a powerful message to his congregation that took himself to task, and them too. He asked their forgiveness. Then he said,

Now is the time for clarity. No more messing around. No more experimentation. No more dabbling into these dangerous practices. Now is the time for clarity and that clarity comes through discernment: this ability to think Biblically. The ability to read a book and see what it is saying aside from the warm fuzzy you got from it. Discernment takes time and it takes work and shame on you for not taking the time and effort. Shame on you.

In that sermon, Pastor Murphy said that satan’s tentacles had spread so fast and deep, he was saddened and shocked. He took on the guilt himself, saying that he knew the Sunday School and the Church Library held some off-ideas but he didn’t address it because he was so busy and wrongly handed off total responsibility to underlings. He was wrong to do that he said, because false doctrine does not come in only at the pulpit. It comes in the small groups, the library, the women’s ministry. It takes vigilance to combat it.

Please listen to the sermon, it is so good and encouraging!

We see by the map that false doctrine comes through the para-church groups, gatherings, and conventions/conferences your women are participating in. Men, satan targeted Eve. It spreads fast. Don’t think for a moment that satan isn’t working through every means he can to get to your people. Stay strong.

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Romans 16:17)

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Further reading

Essay: The Five Tests of False Doctrine (Challies)

Essay: False Teachers and Deadly Doctrines(Challies)

Sermon: How to treat false teachers part 1(J. MacArthur)

Sermon: How to treat false teachers part 2(J. MacArthur)

Essay: The Danger in Women’s Ministries (Aimee Byrd)

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

If:Gathering: more information, including video claiming direct revelation

Three years ago I had an inquiry from a sister in the faith about the women of She Reads Truth and the IF:Gathering. In looking at these two organizations, which feature overlap of the ladies who participate in them, I discovered they adhere to a too-forward lifestyle, and teach an aberrant theology that’s unhealthy for women. A series resulted.

Three years later, the IF:Gathering and its women have only embedded themselves deeper into the faith and are tainting even more women with their brand of liberal theology, shaky hermeneutics, usurping lifestyles, and their idol of social justice.

Last week I received two additional, separate inquiries from women who sent me material showing why they were concerned over the IF:Gathering women. I decided to post about this para-church/social justice/liberal organization once again. I am adding new information.

jennie1
Source and more below.

The title “IF:Gathering” comes from their motto, “If God is real, then what?” The purpose statement on their IRS forms is to equip women by having them share their feelings about Bible passages posted online. I’m not joking. Here’s their IRS tax form statement of purpose: (click to enlarge)

Did you notice the ‘like-hearted‘ community? The faith is not about feelings, but about what we know about Jesus. Like-minded.

In any case, these women teach other women, usually younger, based on a foundational question that doubts God’s existence. Their entire activity is one of simply hedging bets.

The ‘gathering’ part is actually brilliant. They purport to disciple women in gatherings at homes and other locales, sometimes churches. They know where to gather through social media, which is employed in a major way. That’s why their embeddedness and vigorous activity is hidden from view and thus their danger is not readily seen. There aren’t posters, advertisements, billboards, pamphlets. etc. There’s texts, social media whispers, person-to-person promotion, all of it done in a way that is more subterranean than any other generation’s activity.

IF:Gatherings are ongoing in living rooms and lawns by the thousands. There are A LOT OF GATHERINGS. Look. This map is three years old and their gatherings are only increasing in number:

The idea to disciple women is a good one. However, that is an activity that the church is responsible for. These gatherings take place outside of the auspices of the local church and its pastoral authority.

The gatherings were born from the mind of a young woman named Jennie Allen. At the first Gathering, she revealed that she had heard God whisper to her, and after a few years decided to step out from her church to enact this so-called God-whispered “vision to gather, equip, and unleash women to live out God’s calling on their lives.” She further wrote that she-

“together with a team of friends, formally established IF:Gathering. … Some of the first friends to believe in her vision put aside their own individual ministries to leverage their collective influence for the glory of God and the good of His Church.” (Source, source).

So they abandoned their local ministries to go online for the good of the global church? Exactly wrong. Here is Jennie Allen claiming direct revelation from God as the catalyst for IF.

Video is here, 2 min

They abandoned their ongoing locally accountable ministries, to follow a young woman who’d heard a whisper, in order to establish Bible studies about a God they doubted existed, in order to equip women to discuss feelings about the Bible, enact social justice, reconcile the world, heal the nations, and disciple a generation. Hmmm. I’m not being satirical. All the previous verbiage is from their own statements.

I live in a rural county in Georgia with a population of about 27,000 people spread through five towns in an area of over 286 square miles. My town itself is small, about 1,113 people, and it’s the largest town in the county. And this month there are not one, but two IF gatherings in my town. IF is everywhere, pastors, leaders, and ladies!

From the IF pastor’s packet: (speaking of the years 2013-2015)

In the first two years, our gatherings have reached more than a million women in 50 countries worldwide.

Rather than re-hash the information I’d first published three years ago, I’ll simply offer some new information. First I’ll list some bullet points of concern. Then I’ll post lists of speakers who are involved with IF. Lots of links throughout.

Basic concerns with IF:Gathering:

Founded on Direct Revelation: Founder Jennie Allen said she heard a whisper from God telling her to start a discipleship group. (source, also see above). Direct revelation is hazardous to one’s soul. If you test a direct, audible command from God against the Bible and it’s there, you do not need the audible command. If it is not there, it’s a lie and you don’t need it anyway.

Doubting God: The premise itself is based on study of a God those gathered doubt exist. IF God is real? Doubt is not noble. The Bible says doubt is a destroyer of life. (James 1:5-8).

Lack of male oversight and involvement: Jennie’s husband Zac says he provides theological oversight, but he is listed as working only 10 hours per week at the 501(c) 3 non-profit, and the only other males on the Governing Board are Larry Cotton, who is listed as working 1/hour week and Treasurer Jonathan Harper, who is also listed as a 1-hour a week. The 40-hour/weeks are put in by Jennie and Lindsey. It’s Jennie’s baby, she is listed as Principal Officer on the tax forms. It’s led by Lindsey Nobles who’s listed as CEO. In fact it operates as a para-church organization with little local accountability and pastoral oversight.

IF:Gathering IRS tax return year ending 2015. Source Guidestar

The IF:Gathering’s premise is flawed and so are its goals. Again, from their IRS form, it states that their goals are to foment a ‘global movement’ that ‘promotes healing around the world’. Is that what the Bible says women are to do? Unleash movements? These women are mothers. With children at home. The Bible tells us what we are to do: raise the kids, support the husband. Did even Jesus come to promote healing around the world? And just what IS “healing”, anyway? More on that just below.

Goals are postmodern and extra-biblical: As Tim Challies said, the words reconciliation and healing have a different meaning to the postmodernist liberal than they do to the Christian fundamentalist:

“…perverts the Biblical meaning of “reconciliation.” The Bible does not use this word arbitrarily, but speaks of the reconciliation of man to God and how this can be accomplished. It speaks of redemption! Salvation! Our ministry of reconciliation is not relational healing of myself to my neighbor (right and good as that may be), but the far more important relational healing of a sinful man to a holy God.

The ‘reconciliation’ the IF-ladies mean is the latter, promoting relational healing. Hence their emphasis on feelings and their activity of social justice.

Very good critique from Lighthouse Trails on IF:Gathering. Please read.

Emergent IF: Gathering Conference Coming to a Town Near You (Coming For Your Daughters and Granddaughters)!


Who is involved with IF?

Ann Voskamp. Does she even know how to use the English language anymore? Below is a recent tweet. I thought teachers were supposed to be ‘able to teach’. (2 Timothy 2:24). Being able to teach presumes a facility with the language so as to communicate truths in a way that will edify the hearer. Voskamp’s gone beyond #babble all the way to to #Babel.

The remaining list of IF speakers and participants was sent to me by a concerned sister, which I appreciate. I am familiar with many of the women, and I’m unfamiliar with several. I’ve used the links sent to me and also added links and statements from their own bios where applicable. As always, do your diligence and research yourself.

Jenny Yang (self-described “visionary who works on behalf of refugees as the Vice President of Advocacy & Policy at World Relief.” AKA social justice).

Ann Voskamp (concern, concern, concern, concern)

Lysa Terkeurst (concern, concern, concern, concern)

Jeanne Stevens: self-described teacher who urges women to “take any opportunity to encourage people to live boldly from the fullest part of themselves”. Rather than die to self and live in the strength of the Spirit?  Jeanne is also a Female Pastor -Co-Pastor of Soul City Church with her husband.

Jennie Allen (concern, concern, concern, concern)

B. David Smith: (“B. David loves helping people cultivate their artistic potential and use their gifts, voice, and lifestyle to create God encounters”. What does that even mean?)

Tann Smith (Singer at Andy Stanley’s North Point Church. Need I say more.)

Angie Smith (“Her greatest passion is to make the Bible feel accessible and relevant”. Again with feeling the Bible and not studying/knowing/believing)

Roce Anog (“helps people who don’t speak the majority language to express their worship to God with the use of music, art, dance, storytelling, and food”. So she helps people learn about God through dancing and food? Nope. 1 Corinthians 8 has something to say about that.)

Amena Brown (poetess, which is cool. vision-caster, not cool. Friend to Louie Giglio and Passion conference. Uncool.)

Jo Saxton (Female Pastor. A director of yet another ‘movement’ whose goal is “to CHANGE the world by putting DISCIPLESHIP and MISSION back into the hands of everyday people.” Emphasis theirs. I guess ordinary people haven’t been living and dying for the Gospel these last 2000 years.

Keisha Polonio (helps leaders of Tampa’s microchurches)

Bianca Olthoff (author, Bible teacher)

Christy Nockels (singer)

Shelley Giglio (wife of Louie Giglio)

Esther Havens (photographer)

Lindsey Nobles (CEO & strategist of IF:Gathering)

Shauna Niequist:  (Congratulated Jen Hatmaker for affirming homosexuality,  other concerns)

Ellie Holcomb (singer)

Andrews Lage (singer)

Latasha Morrison (“justice fighter, a bridge builder and a champion of people. Through the work of her non-profit Be the Bridge, she is fostering healthy dialogue around the topic of race.” Just like Lydia, Esther, Mary and the Proverbs 31 woman. Oh wait.)

Kate Merrick (writer)

Rebekah Lyons (wife of Gabe Lyons)

Vivian Mabuni (Campus Crusade for Christ worker)

Britt Merrick (pastor, surfer, founder of Reality Churches (multi-campus)

I hope any of this information helps you. IF gatherings are occurring every day in living rooms and lawns near you. No town is too small, too rural, too citified or too sophisticated to host an IF:table. The brand of Christianity the women promote is far from the Bible’s due to their emphasis on social causes, feminist living (i.e, gallivanting off to Africa while the kids languish at home), doubting God, and discussing their feelings. I pray you protect your daughters and granddaughters from any and all IF activities.

IF God is real, then what? IF:Gathering
Hath God said? Satan, Genesis 3:3