Discernment, False Teachers

Leaving Lysa: Why You Shouldn’t Be Following Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against false teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

leaving lysa

According to her web site, “Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times best-selling author of The Best Yes, Unglued, Made to Crave, and 16 other books.” She also blogs prolifically and speaks at numerous Christian women’s conferences.

Lysa is charming, friendly, and down to earth- the type of person I would probably want to be friends with if I knew her personally. We have several things in common: a big family (she has 5 kids, I have 6), women’s ministry, we’re even just a couple of months apart in age (which shocked me, since she looks so much younger!).

I first became familiar with Lysa a year or so ago when her name, articles, and memes of her quotes (and those of Proverbs 31 Ministries) began appearing in my news feed on Facebook. What I was seeing sounded good, and I hoped against hope that she was a doctrinally sound teacher of God’s word that I could recommend to my friends and readers. In fact, I resisted vetting her for a while because I was afraid of being disappointed by another popular Christian women’s author and teacher who seemed biblical on the surface but turned out not to be.

Sadly (and I genuinely mean that- I was sad), that is exactly what I found when I began to research Lysa TerKeurst at the request of several of my friends and readers. It’s my prayer that Lysa will repent of the areas in which she is acting against Scripture, learn biblical hermeneutics so she can rightly handle God’s word, and have a tremendous – doctrinally sound – impact on the thousands of women who love her so much. I would love nothing more than to give her a virtual “high five” and highly recommend her to others if she would do so.

Until such time, I regret that I must recommend that women not follow Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries (including the other women who write for and are leaders in this ministry) for the following reasons:

Preaching to men

Lysa unrepentantly preaches to and instructs men at church worship services (see below under “Unbiblical Training” for more links) and co-ed Christian conferences such as The Most Excellent Way to Lead and Catalyst in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12-14 (as well as the many other passages of Scripture that do not allow this). Without exception, every female Bible teacher I know of who unrepentantly instructs men also teaches other doctrinal error (usually Word of Faith or seeker driven false doctrine).

If a woman is supposedly knowledgeable enough about the Bible to be in the position of teaching and authoring, yet doesn’t understand or obey such a basic biblical truth, what does that say about the rest of her knowledge of the Bible? How can you trust that anything else she teaches you about the Bible is accurate and true?

In the past year or two (post-2015, when I originally wrote this article) it seems as though Lysa has at least decreased the number events she speaks at which are open to men. All of the events on her website (I can’t vouch for any which may not be listed on her website) for the latter half of 2018 seem to to be women’s events. If Lysa has intentionally made the decision to speak at fewer (or no) co-ed events, this is indeed a positive sign. I cannot, however, find any evidence that she has publicly announced this decision or repented for previously disobeying Scripture by preaching to men. Public sin requires public repentance.

Unbiblical Training

Lysa is a member of Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church (where she has preached the Sunday worship service – at her own church and others, including Perry Noble’s NewSpring Church – on several occasions), and has written articles and made videos supporting his false and eisegetical teaching.

If you are not familiar with either of these men, you should know that they both egregiously and narcissistically mishandle God’s word (click links above). Both of them support and agree with prosperity preachers such as T.D. Jakes (also a modalist), Joyce Meyer, Christine Caine, etc., and many of these have preached at their churches. Perry Noble is perhaps most famous for having AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” played during his Easter Sunday service a few years ago. He has been publicly rebuked by the president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention for unbiblical teaching. And, in 2016, was removed from the pastorate for alcoholism and his “posture toward marriage” (he and his wife have since divorced).

This is the type of false teaching Lysa supports and is being fed each time she attends her home church. The old adage, “You are what you eat,” is true in both the physical and the spiritual realm.

Partnering with false teachers

Lysa partners with false teachers in violation of Scripture.

•Lysa calls Christine Caine a “dear friend” and has partnered with her at conferences such as LifeWay Women Live. Christine Caine is a proponent of the false Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) doctrine, as a leader at Word of Faith “church,” Hillsong. Because this is “another gospel,” (Galatians 1:6-9), partnering with Caine is a violation of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Here, Lysa appears on the Jesus Calling podcast.

•Lysa has shared the stage at conferences with Beth Moore. Beth has written for Lysa’s blog and has recommended Lysa at her own blog.

•Lysa will partner with Lisa Harper for several upcoming conferences including LifeWay’s The Word Alive Israel TourLifeWay Women Live, and Women of Joy.

•Lysa spoke at the 2017 IF:Gathering conference.

•Lysa appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network (and features this fact on her website).

•Lysa partnered with Ann Voskamp and Bianca Olthoff at the 2017 Thrive Conference.

Teaching false doctrine

As many other popular Christian teachers do these days, Lysa promotes the unbiblical practice of “listening prayer,” which is a form of contemplative prayer. Not only is this practice itself not mentioned or taught anywhere in Scripture, the mere suggestion that we need to be hearing – audibly or inaudibly – the voice of God during prayer flies in the face of clear biblical pronouncements that God’s word, and God’s word alone, is all we need and all we are to look to for the doctrine and practice of the Christian faith.

Lysa proves this out in her PDF entitled “How to Hear God’s Voice,” a piece pointing women toward her book, What Happens When Women Say Yes To God.

In the PDF, Lysa’s opening sentences say:

“Every day, God speaks to us. Sometimes He invites us to draw close and listen as He reveals Himself, His character, and His direction. Other times He calls us to participate in His purposes. Still other times He simply whispers to remind us of His amazing love for us.”

Where, chapter and verse, in context, does Scripture say this? Where does Scripture say we need to be hearing from God as the PDF goes on to talk about? It doesn’t.

Lysa goes on to say:

“God will never speak to us or tell us to do something that is contrary to His Word. But unless we know Scripture, we will not be able to discern whether what we are hearing is consistent or not with the Word.”

My question to Lysa would be, “Did God speak to you and tell you to preach to men, partner with false teachers, and promote false doctrine?” Because all of these things are “contrary to His word.” Either Lysa doesn’t know Scripture well enough to know that these things are not consistent with the Word, or she is not discerning enough while she is “listening to God’s voice” to know that these things are not consistent with the Word, neither of which speak in favor of heeding her teaching about listening prayer.

Furthermore, extra-biblical revelation is unnecessary. We already have God’s sure and certain Word in the Bible. We don’t need God to “speak” to us. He has already spoken – and had men write down – everything we need for living out the Christian life. All we have to do is study it. So, if God “speaks” something to us and it matches what the Bible says, we didn’t really need God to “speak” it. It was already in the Bible in the first place. And if God “speaks” something to us and it doesn’t match up with the Bible, we know it wasn’t God. Either way, we don’t need to be hearing voices. We only need to study God’s Word.

So we can see that “listening prayer” is both unbiblical, and – from Lysa’s own words and according to her own parameters – doesn’t even work for the person who is teaching it. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he gave them a very simple model. No guess work or instructions to listen to God’s voice. We would do well to follow His teaching.

Twisted Scripture

From the doctrinally sound reviews of her books, it seems Lysa’s main method of teaching is eisegesis. Her books contain a plethora of stories and personal experiences, which she uses to formulate her own spiritual principles, and then adds in portions of Scripture (often out of context) to support her ideas.

Another improper teaching method Lysa uses is to imagine how a character in the biblical text might have felt, or what might have been going on behind the scenes in a Bible story, present these imaginings as fact, and build doctrine off of them instead of just sticking to what the text actually says.

The proper method of teaching Scripture is exegesis. Exegesis is taking a passage of Scripture in context, and “leading out” of it- teaching what the passage says and means.

Lysa also tends to use inaccurate and unreliable paraphrases of Scripture in her books, such as The Message and The Voice. When we study God’s Word, we need to study God’s Word, not what somebody else thinks God’s Word says.

Here are several fair and doctrinally sound reviews of some of Lysa’s books. Most of them contain excerpts and quotes from the books demonstrating Lysa’s mishandling of Scripture and other theological issues.

Review of The Best Yes by Aimee Byrd

The Best Yes? at Housewife Theologian

Unglued at The Gospel Coalition

Review of Unglued at Wise in His Eyes

Book Review: Uninvited at A Beautiful Inheritance

A Review of Lysa TerKeurst’s Book: Uninvited by Lois Putnam

What Happens When Women Walk In Faith by Nana Dolce

 

Lysa does not strike me as someone who is consciously and intentionally trying to maliciously deceive women and lead them astray, but rather as a (sadly) typical evangelical woman – undiscerning, centered on feelings and personal experiences rather than fidelity to Scripture, and a woman who has – like countless others – received poor instruction in her church and has no idea how to rightly handle God’s Word. Unfortunately, Lysa has not heeded God’s warning in James 3:1 that she will be held to a higher standard than those other women because she has chosen to teach when she is not qualified to do so.

For the reasons outlined in this article, I regret I must recommend that women not follow, support, or receive teaching from Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries (including any writers or speakers affiliated with Proverbs 31 Ministries).


Addendum

Before I address these two issues, I want to make crystal clear that they have nothing to do with why you should not receive teaching from Lysa or Proverbs 31 Ministries. Nothing. Furthermore, I am not, in any way saying that these things are her fault or any sort of punishment from God for any of her past behavior or teaching. Conversely, though these have have been terrible and painful situations in Lysa’s life that we can only sympathize with, they do not excuse her unbiblical teaching or other wrong behavior. But, as God is rich in grace and mercy, it is my prayer that He is using these circumstances in her life to do His good work in her heart.

The only reason I address these issues here is because they are major events in Lysa’s life, and to leave them out would give the impression I was not aware of them. Additionally, I would invite you to take a moment to pray that God would comfort and heal Lysa and her family. And, finally – if you read the subsequent information and feel any sense of glee over Lysa’s hardships, I rebuke you in the strongest of terms. You are in sin and you need to repent. Christians do not celebrate the pain of others, we pray and demonstrate compassion.

Lysa’s marriage:

In June 2017, Lysa announced that she was pursuing a divorce from her husband of 25 years due to his multiple and persistent infidelities and substance abuse.

While some criticized Lysa for giving specific details of her husband’s failures in her announcement, I believe she did the right thing in order to demonstrate that she was pursuing the divorce for biblical reasons (ongoing unrepentant adultery) – not only to protect her own reputation, but to make sure her followers understood that divorce is not something that should be pursued lightly or for unbiblical reasons.

My only concern with her announcement are her statements: “God has now revealed to me that I have done all I can…” and “…I have decided that Art has abandoned our marriage.” Though she may not mean anything unbiblical by these statements, I’m concerned that, coupled with her feelings/personal experience-based approach to teaching Scripture and her promotion of extra-biblical revelation, a follower could easily be led to say, “I’ve decided that my husband has abandoned our marriage and God has revealed to me that I’ve done all I can,” even if that reader does not have biblical grounds for divorce. (Again, this is why Lysa’s teaching of extra-biblical revelation is problematic and dangerous.)

On June 17, 2018, Lysa posted a positive-sounding, yet somewhat indefinite message to her Facebook followers:

Although Lysa doesn’t seem to have elaborated on her family situation beyond this one comment, there has been speculation that she and her husband have reunited. Certainly, this would be wonderful news.

In December 2018, Lysa announced that she and her husband had reunited with a renewal of their wedding vows. I rejoice to know that God has blessed her and her family with this reconciliation.

Lysa’s health:

In October 2017, Lysa publicly announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would be pursuing treatment. In November 2017, Lysa underwent a successful double mastectomy. Her doctors subsequently declared her to be cancer free. It is good and right to rejoice in her healing and to hope she remains in remission.


Additional Resources:

Disclaimer: The specific links below are provided and endorsed as evidence pertaining to this article only. I do not endorse any of these sites in so far as any of them might deviate from Scripture or conflict with my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs at the top of this page.

Steven Furtick, Lysa TerKeurst, and Code Orange by The Wartburg Watch

Lysa TerKeurst, Proverbs 31 Ministries, and Two-Way Conversations with God by Jono Martin

Need help exchanging “whispers with God”? at Berean Research

Lysa TerKeurst Is Coming to Athens at The End Time

Lysa TerKeurst- Some Helpful Articles at Truth in Word Publishing

One more reason to avoid Lysa TerKeurst of Elevation Church at The End Time

Listening to God by Lysa TerKeurst

A Few Questions for Lysa Terkeurst at Where Ordinary Life Meets Divine Truth

45 thoughts on “Leaving Lysa: Why You Shouldn’t Be Following Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries”

  1. I do not follow the Prov 31 ministries but several of the women from my church do … I see their sharing of articles on FB. I’ve not done the research on them but I do thank you for doing the work and posting your findings. This is sad and I will lift the org in prayer. God has blessed many of these women with a platform to share the Gospel (rightly) and they are not. For that they must give an answer, not to me but to God Himself. May they come to know the truth. Thank you for a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In one of her newer books, she openly promotes the mystic Henry Blackaby and teaches women how to hear from God. And no, she doesn’t mean by reading Scripture.
    I also have a hard time with women who have a full time career (leaving their homes and children behind) teaching other women to be Proverbs 31 wives. Somehow, that just doesn’t work 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jessica- Would you happen to have a link to a resource that mentions the mysticism/hearing from God?

      I, too, am concerned that we as Christian women make sure we are serving our husbands and children first before anything else we do. I know I often fail at that, even as a stay at home mom. Sounds weird, but it’s true :0)

      Like

      1. She quotes Mr Blackaby in her 2009 book several times “Becoming more than a good bible girl” here
        https://books.google.com/books?id=PEkNGa3-MnkC&printsec=frontcover&
        dq=terkeurst&hl=en&sa=X&
        ved=0CDIQ6AEwAmoVChMI_9yaw82FxwIVhBeSCh2IfQw6#v=
        snippet&q=blackaby&f=false

        but from the limited previews in google search results, it is difficult to tell if it is positively or negatively. Blackaby is not mentioned in her immediately recent books The Best Yes, Unglued or Unglued Devotional, as far as a search on Google books goes.

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      2. The book that I was just talking about came out in 2013, so it is fairly new.
        If I didn’t recycle it in my pre-moving book purge last year I have a copy of “More than a Good Bible Study Girl” somewhere. I can take a look.

        Like

      3. The book is “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God.” I was given a copy of it at MOPS.
        In the first section she talks about how she was inspired by reading “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby (http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue99.htm) and “Victory Over the Darkness” by Neil T Anderson (http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue21.htm).

        Then in Day two she takes John 10:3,4 and rather than teaching what it is (the effectual call) she claims that that means we should be listening for God’s voice. She does follow that up by saying that we have to make sure what we are hearing lines up with Scripture, but then she goes back to those verses and puts her own words in brackets:

        The gatekeeper [Jesus] opens the gate [a way for us to have direct communication with God] for him, and the sheep [you and I] listen to his voice. He [God] calls his own sheep by name [speaks to us personally] and leads them out [providing us with direction]. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice [they know his voice because the spend time with him]

        In context John 10 is clearly dealing with salvation, not personal messages from God.

        I honestly only made it through the first three days of it and was just too disgusted to read anymore.

        I just looked around for a critique of the book, but apparently no one else has seen the issues with this.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Ugh! – I just flipped ahead in the book and she takes John 15:4 and claims that that means we have to “enter the secret place and make the choice to be with God.”

        John 15:4 is:
        Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.

        And that’s only day 5 of the devotional.

        Like

  3. Thank you for this info Michelle, I had just read your other post “Nine Reasons …” , mentioned at the start of this one, yesterday and then this appeared in my facebook feed today. I have tried to tell others how I feel – very similar to yourself – but often get told I may be just a bit legalistic or too demanding of perfection, so this has all been very encouraging for me.

    Like

    1. Sandra, believe me, I know it’s hard. I’ve been called names, verbally attacked, and condescendingly patted on the head and told I don’t know what I’m talking about while the person twists Scripture to do so. If it is any encouragement, I received dozens of comments and messages about this article, and only one of them (from an admitted non-Christian) was negative (and even she didn’t dispute the theological content of the article). It was very encouraging to me to hear from people thanking me and saying they would share the information with their friends. The word is getting out! There are lots of women out there who want to worship the Lord in spirit and in TRUTH! :0)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for all this ladies!

    When I was a “newborn” Christian I read some of Lysa’s writings and yes, it “sounded good” to my untrained in truth ears but as I grew in the Truth, these things just seemed awfully strange and didn’t sit right with me; things that were written were way to “mushy” and “feel good” so I got rid of her stuff and have not followed her since.

    Sadly I know of many women in my area who do follow her (and Beth Moore) and “love their ministries.” It’s hard to point out erroneous teachings & ways to others who are following these women and taking their words to heart.

    I appreciate all the “leg-work” and the links on here, I am going to spend time looking into them!

    Like

    1. You’re welcome, Jen. I appreciate that you’ve made the effort to share with your friends the importance of following sound teachers. I know that can be scary and hard. Here is my article on Beth Moore if you should ever need it: (http://michellelesleybooks.com/2014/08/14/updated-five-reasons-its-time-to-start-exercising-moore-discernment/) I will also have an article similar to this one coming out on Priscilla Shirer some time in the foreseeable future.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Speaking of Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer, my first impulse is to avoid the newest movie from the Kendrick brothers because those two are prominently featured, or so it seems. Do you know how much their teachings are incorporated into the movie?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Shame on you for publicly berating a Christian leader who has done much to teach and support women in many areas of living. I wonder if you’ve tried to talk to her or her pastor. I truly doubt it.

    Liked by 25 people

    1. Shame on me for publicly berating a Christian leader who has done much to teach and support women in many areas of living? Isn’t that EXACTLY what you just did to me?

      “I wonder if you’ve tried to talk to her or her pastor. I truly doubt it.”

      Did you try to talk to me before publicly berating me? No. Did you try to talk to my pastor? How could you? You don’t even know who my pastor is.

      So, measuring it back to you in the same measure you measured it out to me (Matthew 7:2), shame on you. And furthermore, shame on you for trying to correct someone without even knowing what the Scripture says that you’re trying to use for correction. Go back and actually STUDY the Matthew 18 passage you’re attempting to use. If you do, you’ll find that that passage doesn’t apply here. She has spoken and written in the public forum, and so have I. Perhaps if you weren’t sitting under the teaching of people like Lysa TerKeurst you’d know that.

      Liked by 9 people

  6. Thanks Michelle! I pray that the information you have here will help a lot of people to be more discerning about the teachers they choose to follow. This is a blog to follow. This is a post to bookmark.

    Thank you for your ministry.

    Like

  7. Interesting. Not sure I’m understanding one of your arguments. I haven’t read all of her books, but I’m pretty sure having a relationship with Jesus means going to Him in prayer and him working in you and through you…which would be through prayer, meditation on his word and in worship. He does speak to us. I believe when we’re in God’s word and in communication with Him then he does speak to us in the way that he can help us have a Godly perspective on situations and relationships. If I look at just God’s word and don’t ask him to speak to me THROUGH His word and work in me, then I wouldn’t understand how a lot of the Bible would apply to my life.

    I think possibly you are going to the extreme opposite of her on this point and it’s a misunderstanding. I really believe she means listening to God as he speaks to you through His word. She can be a bit sugary in her delivery, but I never doubted that is wasn’t 100% backed up by God’s truth. I don’t think she’s suggesting just listening for God to speak and NOT be in His word. How do you pray? Do you just speak to Him? I don’t think I would know how to find the answer to some of my questions without going to His word and then Him! I wish I could take everything I read in the Bible and know exactly what it means to me. I’m grateful when God can somehow make it clear for me. No, I’ve never heard His voice, but He works in my life every time I seek Him.

    Again….I haven’t read all of her books or researched it like you have. Might be my misunderstanding.

    Have you spoken or written to Lysa with your concerns? I think that would be a great way for a fellow Christian to deal with this.

    Liked by 14 people

    1. Yes, God definitely speaks to us through His word. Before I pick up my Bible to study it, I usually pray and ask God to “speak to me” through His word- to reveal my sin, to help me understand and rightly apply the passage, to get to know Him better, etc. That’s not what Lysa is talking about. I know, because I used to practice what she’s teaching in the PDF I linked to.

      Lysa isn’t talking about God teaching us or revealing Himself to us as we read His word. She’s talking about having an idea pop into your head while you’re praying (most people who teach this don’t limit it strictly to prayer time, it applies to any thought that pops into your head any time) and thinking, “Hmm…I wonder if this is God speaking to me.” We can’t rely on “impressions” or “voices” from God to be biblical. Remember what Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The only foolproof way we can trust that we’re hearing from God is to open His word and read it.

      As for going to Lysa personally, I assume you’re referencing Matthew 18:15-20, which does not apply to publicly refuting public false teaching. Here’s a great resource on the proper application of that passage if you’d like to learn more: http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/editorial-on-abusing-matthew-18.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. So do you not post all comments ? I don’t see mine here and I’m thinking it went through because I’m now getting your emails.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I was forwarded this article as I have followed and been a part of Bible studies through P31.

    I am interested in your opinion of Kay Arthur. She is a strong Bible teacher and has many men in her Bible studies. We have used a couple of her studies in our Bible study classes. We are a line upon line, verse upon verse Bible teaching church. As far as I know, she does not teach at Sunday services.

    Like

  10. Listen to you all so eagerly gang up and take pride in tearing another woman down in a public forum. What you so righteously feel you must express could have easily and certainly more “biblically” been done in a more appropriate format. You’re the exact reason so many women (and men) follow and admire her and turn away from the judging, finger pointing, and the self-riteous believers.

    Liked by 18 people

    1. My goodness, Angela. Listen to you so eagerly taking pride in tearing down other women in a public forum. What you so righteously feel you must express could have easily and certainly more “biblically” been done in a more appropriate format. (Matthew 7:3-5)

      Could you please point me or any of the commenters to whom you’re referring to the Scriptures any of us have violated here? I’m sure any of us who have sinned would be grateful and would be glad to publicly repent.

      Also, unsubstantiated accusations and opinions are for little girls, not grown up Christian women. Could you please show us from the Bible, chapter and verse, that Lysa is not violating Scripture and teaching false doctrine as I’ve outlined? If you can show me from Scripture that I’m wrong, I will be glad to humbly and publicly repent.

      If you can’t back up your opinions and accusations with rightly handled Scripture, maybe you should consider the fact that Lysa isn’t doing a very good job of teaching you the Bible. Might I suggest one of these ladies instead? http://michellelesleybooks.com/2015/09/04/10-biblically-sound-blogs-and-podcasts-by-christian-women/

      Liked by 4 people

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