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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.
Sheila is a women’s Bible study and children’s book author, speaker, and singer. Formerly a co-host of The 700 Club for several years, she now co-hosts Life Today with James Robison. Life Today routinely features false teachers as guests, including Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Kim Walker-Smith (Jesus Culture), and Beth Moore, among others.
Sheila habitually yokes in ministry and fraternizes with false and problematic teachers in other venues as well. Space does not permit me to list every incidence of Sheila doing so, but the following examples are representative.
In 2014, Sheila joined Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Victoria Osteen, and Lisa Harper for the Unwrap the Bible conference at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood “Church.”
Sheila is a contributor at Hillsong’s web site, spoke at Hillsong’s 2015 and 2018 Colour Conference, and has preached the Sunday sermon at Hillsong, saying, “I love pastors Brian and Bobbie [Houston] so much…”.
She gave an enthusiastic Instagram recommendation of an event at which Bobbie Houston, Christine Caine, and Sarah Jakes Roberts (T.D. Jakes’ daughter) were the featured speakers.
Sheila is one of the Women of Joy stable of speakers, which also includes Lysa TerKeurst, Lisa Bevere, Margaret Feinberg, Bianca Olthoff, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Christine Caine, Lisa Harper, Jennie Allen, Angie Smith, Karen Kingsbury, and Jennifer Rothschild. Sheila regularly speaks at WOJ conferences with these speakers.
Jennifer Rothschild’s Fresh Grounded Faith conference organization also counts Sheila as one of its featured speakers alongside Lysa TerKeurst, Angie Smith, Karen Kingsbury, and Ann Voskamp.
Sheila regularly and unrepentantly preaches to men including her aforementioned Sunday sermon at Hillsong, the Sunday sermon at another Hillsong campus, the Sunday sermon at Rick Warren’s Saddleback, a pastor’s conference she mentions in this video, the Sunday sermon at James River Church (which is co-“pastored” by a woman), the Sunday Sermon at NewHope Baptist Church, the Sunday Sermons at Emmanuel CC, and the Sunday Sermon at Transformation Church (also co-“pastored” by a woman), just to cite a few examples.
Interestingly, none of these events at which Sheila is preaching the Sunday morning sermon or otherwise preaching to or teaching men/co-ed audiences was listed on the calendar of events at Sheila’s website. She only lists women’s events she’ll be speaking at. As I continue to research evangelical women speakers, I’m seeing this trending more and more. Many only list on their websites women’s events they’re speaking at, and don’t list the events where they’ll be preaching the Sunday sermon or speaking at co-ed events. It is only speculation on my part, so I’m not making accusations or assumptions, but as I keep seeing this happen, I can’t help but wonder if it is to hide the fact that they are preaching to men in order to maintain a semblance of being doctrinally sound, and to avoid reproof for this sin.
In addition to yoking with false teachers and preaching to men, I noticed a few other things while researching Sheila.
There is no clear statement of faith or gospel presentation on Sheila’s website, but the home page of her website greets the reader in bold print with GOD IS FOR YOU (which she says is “her message”). Underneath, a caption says,
“Your destiny isn’t determined by your history. No matter what you’ve gone through or where you’ve been, God is inviting you to take the next step.”
Below this caption are two clickable buttons, “About Sheila,” (which, as you might guess, links to a page with Sheila’s bio), and “Start Again.”
“God is for you!”, the subsequent caption, and “start again” might cause the reader to think that clicking the “Start Again” button will lead to a page outlining the plan of salvation, but it doesn’t. It links to the About page of Sheila’s site which gives eight steps to…I’m not sure what. It is definitely not the gospel. Nothing is mentioned about sin, repentance, faith in Christ for salvation, the cross, the resurrection, or anything else you might expect in a gospel presentation. Also, there isn’t a single Scripture cited.
I honestly don’t understand if this is supposed to be aimed at lost people or saved people (Maybe she’s addressing backslidden Christians? I can’t tell.), but either way, it’s not about what Christ did to save us or how He sanctifies us, it’s a works-righteousness litany of all the things you have to do to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and “start again” (whatever that means). And it lists all these things you need to do (“we have to change the way we think,” “step out in faith,” “rise above disappointment,” etc.) but it doesn’t explain how to do them. There’s no mention of repentance, placing your faith in Christ for salvation, studying your Bible, prayer, or joining with a doctrinally sound local church. She mentions “the hope we have in Him” but doesn’t explain what that hope is or how to get it, which, in a sad irony, leaves the reader hopeless.
What’s more, there is Christian-ish vernacular that lost people are not going to understand: “Walk with Him in the garden,” “Christ redeems every drop of our suffering,” “find your hiding place under the shelter of God’s wings”…I’m not sure I even totally understand what she means by all of these things.
And the entire “God is for you,” posture of Sheila’s message, writing, and speaking give the sense that God’s main function is to be your magic Band-Aid to make all your owies go away. Certainly, God loves us, helps us, comforts us, and wants what’s best for us, but God isn’t for us – to serve our every desire and salve our every hurt. We were made for Him – to glorify, honor, and serve Him.
Sheila’s blog posts – though they are blog posts not Bible studies – reflect the current trend in women’s “Bible” study: personal stories from the author’s life with a few Bible verses sprinkled in here and there. Perhaps most of the Bible study books Sheila writes are in a different format and focus on the proper exegesis of Scripture (as I said, these are blog posts, not Bible studies), but if she writes all of her Bible studies in the same way and style in which she writes her blog posts, they should be avoided in favor of studying the actual Bible.
I have not had the opportunity to read all Sheila has written, but if the introduction and first chapter of her most recent book, It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, which is marketed as a “Bible study,” are indicative of the way she writes these studies, the style is, indeed, very similar to her blog posts: personal stories with a few Bible verses (some from the completely unreliable paraphrase The Message) sprinkled in. (And the endorsement page of this book reads like a laundry list of contemporary false and problematic teachers such as: Lisa Bevere, Ann Voskamp, Christine Caine, Jennie Allen, Lisa Harper, Roma Downey, Bobbie Houston, and Karen Kingsbury.)
Furthermore, echoing her website’s ambiguous eight steps to…something, the first part of It’s Okay seems to muddle the line between saved and unsaved, sinner and saint. The thrust of this opening material and the theme of the book seem to be: “God’s love for you isn’t dependent on your striving for perfect behavior,” which is absolutely true, and something many Christian women need to grasp. However, in the midst of this “it’s okay to stop striving for perfection and rest in God’s love for you” talk, she refers back to the Fall:
The story continues in verse 10, when God asks Adam where he is: “He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.'”
There you have it!
…and we’ve been doing it ever since.¹
While a Christian striving for perfection rooted in fear of losing God’s love and a lost person’s willful disobedience may both be displeasing to God, they are not the same thing and should not be conflated in this way. It is right and good for a sinner to feel shame and guilt for rebelling against God, because she is guilty, she is covered with shame, until she repents and trusts Christ as Savior. But this is a completely different animal from someone who has already had the guilt and shame of all of her sin (including any lack of trust in God’s love for her) washed away by the blood of Christ, and who is striving to please Him, albeit imperfectly. It is concerning that Sheila does not clearly differentiate between the two.
Southern Baptists should be aware that, despite the fact that Sheila unrepentantly preaches to men, yokes with false teachers, and seems to be somewhat ambiguous on the gospel, LifeWay does carry her materials.
Sheila is a charming woman who lavishes great passion and love on her audiences, but, unfortunately, I cannot recommend her to you as a biblically trustworthy teacher you should follow.
¹From chapter 1 of It’s Okay Not to Be Okay. Taken from Amazon’s free Kindle excerpt of the book, which has no page numbers. This quote looks to be a page or two before the end of the chapter.