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Yesterday, I published a new discernment article which included Wellspring Group. I did not find enough information online to be able to make a recommendation on whether or not this ministry is doctrinally sound. I subsequently heard from a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) who has had some personal experience with this organization and agreed to share her thoughts. Though I have no reason to doubt her word, neither can I vouch for her as I do not know her personally. This information is provided for your consideration, and to give you some things to watch for, should your church decide to take part in this program.
Objections to the Wellspring Process and Theology
Questionable interpretation of Scripture to fit the Wellspring model and process.
Proverbs 4:23 is the key verse for the Wellspring process of living wholeheartedly. The NIV translation is used, which says “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The whole Wellspring “process” focuses on needing to understand our heart, that God is found in the deepest desires of our heart. This concept is not found anywhere in Scripture.
The Bible doesn’t describe God as being at the depth of our desires (in fact Jeremiah (17:9) said the heart is wicked and deceitful above all things, and beyond cure, and who can understand it?)
We are to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Luke 10:27), which indicates our whole being, not four different levels of our heart.
The NASB reads, “Watch over your hearts with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” When reading over Proverbs 4 in context we see that wisdom is the focus, not the desires of our heart. Wisdom is the thing we need to guard because from wisdom comes [abundant] life.
Verse 23 has to be pulled out of context to fit the Wellspring concept. The heart becomes the focus (and then an entire “process” is built from that assumption) when wisdom is real the focus of the passage. The Bible indicates that wisdom is what will provide the abundant life for us, not a deep and exhaustive understanding of our heart and its desires.
The manual says, “Follow your desires deep enough and you will find God and the image of God in you.” Where is this found in Scripture?
Hebrews 12:1 describes the “cloud of witnesses” and is understood by participants as people who have died who are watching us, as well as our “domain” – the community of people we are in contact with in our life. Biblically, the cloud of witnesses is not a group of people in Heaven watching us, they are believers who have passed on who witnessed the truths of Scripture and Jesus. Hebrews 11:39-40 describes who these people are. (How this plays out in the Wellspring process is described below under the Fellowship concept.
The cloud of witnesses is the group of people listed in Hebrews 11, “the great Hall of Faith”. The author of Hebrews ends chapter 11 with his main point for listing them, “they gained approval through their faith and didn’t receive what was promised because God provided something better.”
Chapter 12 begins with “Therefore”, i.e. because God provided something better than fulfilling the promises He made to these people during their lifetime, we “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and run with endurance the race set before us.”
The point of 12:1 is not that the cloud of witnesses will protect us and whisper to us and propel us into God’s story. The manual includes, “Praying the Four Realities” citing, “I see the Communion of Saints surrounding me and cheering me on to persevere all the way to the final Consummation.” Biblically they are not a group of people cheering us on, their lives left us a legacy to be followed.
The “Fellowship” concept.
The Fellowship is described as consisting of the Trinity, the Body of Christ, the Word of God in Scripture and the Communion of Saints (the cloud of witnesses). A circular drawing in the manual indicates that all four parts of the Fellowship are equal. Supposedly this “Fellowship desires to protect you.”
The communion of saints, whether defined as Wellspring does or as the Bible does, ARE NOT equal with the Trinity.
The Battle for Your Heart manual describes this Fellowship as one entity, having characteristics of personality:
“The Fellowship is pursuing you.”
It is suggested that we interact with this “entity”, “Above all else, do whatever it takes to cooperate with the Fellowship that desires to protect you.”
This entity supposedly motivates us, “The Fellowship not only desires to protect you but also to propel you into your part of the Story as an intimate ally.”
This entity supposedly talks to us – members are asked after viewing a clip from the movie Bagger Vance, “What do you hear the Fellowship whispering to you through this scene?” Later in the manual the same question is asked after viewing a clip from Good will Hunting. (If by “whisper” they merely means “teach” then why doesn’t he use the word teach? Why make it creepy?)
The Fellowship supposedly “walks with us” – on the website under a description of the Women’s program it says this, “It’s a rigorous, demanding experience that opens up your whole hearts, gives you clear path to change and connects you to The Fellowship that will walk with you into your part of God’s Larger Story.”
Participants are told that The Fellowship through God’s voice will give you a new name – this is a misconstruing of Revelation 2:17. Jesus will give us a new name after He returns. This indicates that we can receive personal revelation from Jesus, which is not Scriptural.
The manual states “The only way you can win that Battle (for your heart) and live in your part of the Story that is yours and yours alone is through intimately engaging with the Fellowship that desires to protect you and propel you into that Story.”
Again, this is not Scriptural. That statement follows this one, “only through your heart can you discover and live in your part of God’s Story.” Wellspring has missed the emphasis of the Bible – that we are to understand God by studying Scripture (not our heart) and then to think and behave by following Jesus’ example and the illustrations presented by the lives of people who did what pleased God.
Exclusivity – which is bound to cause division among people, between the Wellspringers and the nonWellspringers who don’t understand the lingo and are not “living out of their whole heart”.
They indicate that the deeper life is only found through Wellspring. The creator of Wellspringclaims that rarely do people learn to live out of their “whole heart” without the Wellspring process. This quote is found on the website under the Process for Women, “There is something in the life of every woman that fuels her deepest desires – for relationship, for value, for connecting with her destiny. The Bible calls this hidden source of life a wellspring. Few find it. But for those who do, a world of change is possible. The Battle for the Heart process helps you discover this wellspring in your own life.”
Wellspring alone. People are encouraged not to do any other small groups besides Wellspring – on the website under FAQs there is a question, “Can I participate in this process and another small group at the same time?” The answer says that’s up to them but “many find that they need to back off of another group for a year in order to fully engage in the Battle for the Heart process.” So does that mean no other Bible study is needed? That should send up warning flags. It has been observed that many of the participants drop out of Bible studies in order devote all their time to studying the Wellspring concepts, which is NOT a Bible study.
Wellspring has the secret. (Very gnostic) The manual states that “unless you understand the context of this Story (God’s Larger Story) and where you are in it, you will be confused, disoriented, effectively taken out of the battle.” The booklet doesn’t describe what this Larger Story is, so obviously you have to attend the retreat to gain this information if you don’t want to be confused, disoriented, etc. The Larger Story is described in the workbook as something you can only find by living “wholeheartedly” out of the four levels of your heart. And unless you learn the Wellspring process you won’t be able to do that.
The manual states, “We can only be fully human as we experience the redemptive love of Christ at all four levels of our hearts and then express that love from all four levels of our hearts.” Unless you take the WS courses you won’t know what the four levels are because they are not taught in the Bible.
Completely new vocabulary. This can cause two groups at church – those who understand the vocabulary and those who do not. Throughout the entire booklet there is new vocabulary that no one will understand unless they go to the retreat. There isn’t enough information in the booklet to define this vocabulary and it is used very differently from biblical language.
God’s Larger Story. What is larger than the story of redemption through Jesus and learning to live according to His commands and by His example? You have to attend the retreat to find out what this larger story is and how you fit into it.
Implication that a church is insufficient without the inculcation Wellspring process.
People are encouraged on the website to get their churches involved as partners with Wellspring after they attend all four retreats.
Under the FAQs the question is asked, “Why consider the Battle for the Heart Community Process?” The answer shows the reader their absolute need for this process (that can’t be found anywhere else but Wellspring), “When leaders are not living from their whole hearts (defined biblically as their thoughts feelings, desires and choices), their lives suffer, their relationships suffer, and their service in the body of Christ is hindered.” Then several examples are listed of what this looks like:
“People will talk about the love of God, but don’t experience that love in a way that results in significant, sustained change.”
“Achieve objectives, but often with significant collateral relational damage.”
“Unconsciously seek approval from God through performance instead of
performance flowing out of love for God and being loved by God.”
“Live in marriages where they are committed to their spouses, but there is little true intimacy, and they become “roommates on the way to heaven.”
“Become unable to effectively experience and express their own emotions and desires or effectively experience the desires and emotions of those they love the most.”
While some of those statements may be true in some people’s lives, Wellspring is not the only place to find healing in these areas, yet the website indicates that “few find it” aside from learning and following the Wellspring concepts. The Word of God is what changes us, “For the Word of God is living and active…” Hebrews 4:12a ESV.
Implied insufficiency of Scripture.
Film clips are used during the courses to illustrate the four levels of the heart and the elevator model of the heart. The manual states, “To assist you in getting in touch with all four levels of your heart we will ask questions after film clips and in your team meetings designed to help you go down the elevator.”
This is a huge red flag – The films they show clips of are made by Hollywood and rarely based on Scriptural principles. While they can have good illustrations about life, they should not be substituted for the Word of God when we are trying to grow closer to God.
The manual states that connecting on all four levels is really only possible with other Wellspring attendants, as implied in the manual, “Knowing your own heart at all four levels is the foundation for effectively connecting with others at all four levels of their heart.”
Again, this is secret knowledge that only those that attend Wellspring will gain, implying that the Bible alone is not sufficient for learning how to effectively connect with others.
The Bible is not the only source of Wellspring ideas, the manual states that “The Battle for the Heart draws upon ancient spiritual disciplines, such as reflective reading of Scripture, contemplative prayer and the power of intimate fellowship, and places them in an organic structure.”
The website at one time recommended reading books by John Eldridge’s and David Benner, who are both followers of “mystic” Christianity.
Overall, the Wellspring program encourages an unhealthy focus on self. Supposedly we find God from intense introspection, understanding an unbliblical concept of our heart and its four levels, searching within our deepest desires and through watching movie clips to gain insight. All of that is NOT what Scripture teaches.