Discernment, False Teachers

Shauna Niequist

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain 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.

This article is kept continuously updated as needed.

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.

Shauna Niequist
Not Recommended

Shauna, an author, speaker, and podcaster, is the daughter of Bill Hybels, former pastor of Willow Creek, where Shauna has preached the Sunday sermon on many occasions.

This information from my 2016 article on Shauna is from a pastor friend of mine who knows Shauna’s family personally:

“[Shauna is] the daughter of Bill Hybels, the founder and pastor of Willow Creek in Barrington, IL. Because of very personal experience with it, I will tell you that this stuff they peddle has proven to be the worst kind of Christianity, and probably a Matthew 23:14-15 type of situation, at least in my opinion.

Next, this post right here ought to really be enough.

She is a friend of Rachel Held Evans. She is touring with Jen Hatmaker, who is a complete mess. Really, there is no other way to describe her than secularism covered with some Bible words.

Aaron [Shauna’s husband] is a worship leader at Willow Creek. He began a HUGE movement with contemplative prayer a couple of years ago. Because of his music, he comes off as very spiritual and sound, but there is nothing inherently Christian about anything he says or does, really. Take a look at Aaron’s blog here, which will give you more insight. [Aaron has apparently removed the blog portion of his website. He is no longer with Willow Creek, and neither is Shauna.]

There is ZERO discernment with this family, they either promote or flock to whoever is popular, and they are all about using words that sound really great, but have no substance to them at all. They are on this big thing lately about “Holy Spaces”, which sounds great, but is so anti-biblical when you really think about it. You don’t create a space that is holy, only God can do that. Anyway…

This is the Willow Creek legacy, in a nutshell: their lack of sound doctrine, lack of Bible, lack of biblical discernment, and their false teaching and false gospel. Shauna and Aaron are simply products of what her dad has built, which is a huge gathering of people who neither know Christ, nor have reverence for His word.”

As I began re-researching Shauna to update this article on her, her most recent Facebook posts alluded to the fact that she hadn’t written anything in a while and that her family had gone through some “adjustments” and other issues. I was hoping this meant God had convicted her of past sin and false doctrine and was straightening out her theology. Unfortunately, a mere scroll back through the last several months of her Facebook posts demonstrates that Shauna remains a false teacher to avoid.

A few years ago, Shauna publicly congratulated Jen Hatmaker for affirming homosexuality.


And here’s Shauna recently affirming homosexuality herself.

“This is so beautiful,” says Shauna about this blasphemous article from female “preacher” and feminist Sarah Bessey. The purpose of the article is for Sarah to explain to a young woman (who is on the fence about the inclusion of practicing, unrepentant homosexuals into church membership and wrote to Sarah asking for advice) how she became affirming. In addition to shamelessly twisting and abusing the Scriptures throughout the article, Sarah has the unmitigated temerity to suggest that Jesus Christ, the sinless, perfect Son of God, had to be taught by the Syro-Phonecian woman about His privilege and His prejudice against Gentiles. And Shauna says, “This is so beautiful.”

Shauna continues to violate Scripture by preaching to men. Aaron says his wife is the “best preacher ever.”

She continues to yoke with, affirm, and maintain close friendships with, some of the most egregious false teachers out there, including Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle (The “Christian” mommy blogger who divorced her husband and “married” her lesbian partner, Abby. Shauna has recommended Glennon and spoken glowingly of her and Abby several times.), and the late Rachel Held Evans.

Here, Aaron says he and Shauna are helping Nichole Nordeman (homosexuality affirming, frequent associate of false teachers) fund her next album.

In addition to these (and so many more) glaringly unbiblical relationships, positions, and violations of Scripture, notably absent, or nearly so, from Shauna’s Facebook timeline is any meaningful mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible. Her post on “Holy Saturday” (the day before Easter) doesn’t even mention Jesus, the crucifixion, or the resurrection. And the benediction she wrote for her church’s Easter service barely does, in passing.

For a taste of Shauna’s theology, consider the following:

Shauna recently appeared on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday to promote her book, Present Over Perfect, “a path away from frantic pushing and proving, and toward your essential self.” She does not mention Christ, the gospel, or the Bible, and only mentions God in the most generic (“God loves me”) of terms. When explaining what was most helpful to her in overcoming her stress and anxiety, Shauna credits centering prayer, an unbiblical, mystical, New Age practice.

Shauna’s website markets Present Over Perfect as a “Bible study.” You can download the first two chapters of the book, and view the teaching video for the first session of the study. I did both.

Shauna writes engagingly, there’s no doubt about that, but the first two chapters of the book read like a memoir of someone who is aching to know God but hasn’t found him yet. Christian-y words like “God,” “sin,” “grace,” and “baptism,” are sprinkled through the narrative, but there’s a palpable disconnect between Shauna’s artistic usage of these words and her grasp and internalization of what they truly, biblically mean. It’s almost like “stolen valor” – a guy desperately wants to be a soldier, so he dresses and talks the part, but he has never served and isn’t actually in the military, yet he hopes doing all these things will fulfill his yearning to actually be a soldier.

And, keeping in mind that this is supposed to be a “Bible study,” there is nothing from or about the Bible in the first two chapters of this book. No verses. No discussion of passages or books of the Bible that will be studied in subsequent chapters. It is all about Shauna and her thoughts and experiences.

The teaching video is very much the same, minus most of the sprinkling of Christian-y words. There is no Bible in this “Bible study” video. It’s all about Shauna’s opinions and anecdotes from her personal life. (Sharp listeners will also note her mention of her “friend, Glennon,” the aforementioned Glennon Doyle.)

Here, Shauna reinforces the pernicious “church is optional” and “I don’t have to go to church; I can worship God anywhere,” mindset ravaging Christianity today.

In this benediction she wrote for her church in June 2019, Shauna waxes panentheistic: “May we walk through these doors and through this city intimately aware of the divinity all around us and within us and within each person we encounter.”

And in her 2017 blog article, Expanding the Way We Experience God:

Shauna commends, “a wide vision for how people connect with God,” including “poetry, silence, sitting by the ocean…centering prayer, truth-telling with my closest friends…” (rather than studying your Bible, prayer, faithfully serving and being taught Scripture at your local church, etc.). “The tools [for connecting with God] that have been meaningful along the way for me have been books, poetry, counseling, friendship, spiritual direction, the Enneagram, centering prayer.”

She again promotes the “church is optional” idea when she states, “Some seasons [of spiritual growth] require poetry, and others preaching,” and “…in late high school and early college, I needed a little distance from church life. And so instead of going to church, I went to the ocean.”

Shauna also believes in extra-biblical revelation: “So I’d settle myself on a rock [at the beach] and I’d listen for God’s voice, or at least the sense of His spirit.”

Southern Baptists should note that LifeWay, which purports not to carry authors who affirm homosexuality, at this time, carries four of Shauna’s five books.

Researching Shauna saddened me at every turn. Most of the false teachers I warn against proudly and brashly twist and defy God’s Word in order to build up their own kingdoms on earth of fame, fortune, and influence. That’s not the impression I get from Shauna, but rather of someone who acutely craves peace, purpose, and contentment, and is casting about for it everywhere except in the Christ of Scripture.

Is Shauna deeply steeped in sin and false doctrine? Yes. Should you and your church avoid her teaching and materials? Definitely. But there’s a subtle thread of sorrow and despair running through her writing that makes me want to hug her, sit and cry with her, and help her to embrace the truth of the gospel that will give her the peace she so desperately seeks after, the love of Christ that she’s looking for in all the wrong places, and the rest for her soul that only comes from intimately knowing as Savior the Jesus who is a stranger to her.

17 thoughts on “Shauna Niequist”

  1. Thank you so much for this, and for all of your articles on false teachers. It is so helpful to be able to have articles to refer people to when they bring these names up. I had never heard of Shauna until recently on the internet somewhere, but I’m sure I will come across someone who will bring up her name as someone they follow and like, and I’ll have this info to share. I pray God opens her eyes to the truth. Thank you again for all of your efforts and time that go into researching. God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you. I am In the process of unlearning so much. I have narrowed my sources down to a handful. The Bible, your blog, Alistair Begg, John MacArthur and the ladies from histlebend Ministries along with my new church family. Sound doctrine and teaching ina PCA church


  3. I wonder how a person thrives habitually critiquing and fault finding….always looking for everyone’s splinter.🤔
    “Judge and Jury of the World Ministries” doesn’t sound very fruit bearing. It does however sound very Pharisee and Sadducee styled.


    1. I wonder how a person who claims to be a Christian (I’m assuming) can be so rude, unbiblically judgmental, and falsely accusatory to a sister in Christ. I don’t remember any of those things being Fruits of the Spirit.

      Phyllis, you do realize you’re “critiquing and fault finding” me and “looking for [my] splinter” and starting your own chapter of “Judge and Jury of the World Ministries,” and not bearing good fruit and sounding very Pharisee/Sadducee-styled yourself, right? Do you see the hypocrisy you’re engaging in? Maybe give Matthew 7:1-5 a read. And then move on to the rest of Matthew 7 where Jesus instructs us about false teachers. And Matthew 23 where Jesus publicly calls out the false teachers of His day much more harshly than I have warned against Shauna here. And then read your New Testament taking note of all the passages that deal with false teachers/false doctrine (it won’t be difficult – every book of the NT except Philemon denounces these in some way). Romans 16:17-18, 2 John 9-11, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Titus 1:9, 3:10-11 are good ones to study.

      Just because something rubs your sensibilities the wrong way doesn’t mean it’s wrong or unbiblical. If you want to accuse me of something, bring rightly handled, in context Scripture, not your personal feelings and opinions. If you can do that, I’ll gladly repent and retract anything I’ve said that’s unbiblical. But I won’t give you a platform to sin by publishing any further abusive comments from you. I’ve already made an exception to my comments policy (see the Welcome tab at the top of this page) and the disclaimer at the beginning of this article by publishing and responding to this comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I truly don’t understand all the people who profess to be Christians these days who think like Phyllis, and don’t seem to know what the Bible says about false teachers and warnings against them. I’m pretty sure nobody wants to be having to do this and wishes that false teachers didn’t exist, but they do and Michelle, you always write these warnings in such a gracious and humble and loving way, and I reeeeeeeealy appreciate you doing that. I can only think that the ones who turn a deaf ear to hearing the truth about false teachers/teachings are the ones that are now in the ‘movement’ of “tolerate everything and everyone (except those who stick to the Word), never tell anyone the truth about what scripture says, accept everyone into the fold no matter what they are teaching and no matter if they are unrepentant in their sin”. It’s just so hard for me to understand how someone who truly has been born again can think that false teaching should be ignored – because the Bible is so clear about NOT ignoring it. Thanks, Michelle, for being willing to write these hard things.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You are welcome, Susan. It is my pleasure to serve you in Christ. :0)

        I would encourage Phyllis and anyone else who shares her perspective to do as 2 Corinthians 13:5 says and carefully examine their hearts against Scripture to determine whether or not they are truly saved. That’s not meant to be an insult. It’s a plea and a dire warning drawn from what God Himself says in black and white Scripture.

        God has made it abundantly clear in John 10 that people who are genuinely saved will not follow the voice of strangers (false teachers), but will follow what Jesus says in His written Word. First John says over and over that true Christians will not twist and fight against God’s written Word, but will love, embrace, and obey it. People who consistently find themselves following and defending false teachers, and are consistently at odds with God’s written Word are in grave spiritual danger and are most likely not saved. That’s not me saying that. That’s God saying that in His Word.

        For Phyllis or anyone reading this who has been following/defending false teachers and you’re now concerned that you might not be saved, that’s actually a good thing. It means God has not yet given you over to a hardened heart that continues to reject Him. If you need a little help examining your heart and life against Scripture to determine whether or not you’re saved, my study of 1 John: Am I Really Saved? may be of some help.


  4. Thank you so much for this, Michelle! Your personal note at the end of this particular post was so inspiring to me.
    I have definitely heard of Shauna before and am glad to be armed with this information. Please do not quit compiling this content for the glory of God and the edification of His saints!


  5. Thank you for this research, Michelle-I was just gifted the book, “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist, and within the first couple chapters, I noticed she referenced the idea of ambiguous sexuality, and did not capitalize the Lord’s pronouns, “He, His, Him, etc.” I felt immediately that something was off-thank you for the confirmation.


    1. Hi Virginia- Thanks for the heads up.

      Just FYI- I wouldn’t read anything into whether or not a teacher capitalizes the pronouns for God. It’s not an indicator of whether or not someone is a false teacher. I capitalize them because that’s what I was taught in English class in school when I was growing up. Now, editorial style has shifted and the grammar powers that be who set the standards for professional writing have decided it’s acceptable to capitalize or not capitalize. There are some Bible translations that don’t capitalize either, and many other languages don’t capitalize their pronouns for God. It’s really an issue of preference and literary style, not doctrine.


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