Discernment, False Teachers

Shauna Niequist

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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.

 

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.

screenshot-2016-10-29-at-5-00-58-pm

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.

Mailbag, Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: What is Contemplative Prayer?

Originally published August 1, 2016

mailbag

 

What is contemplative prayer, and is it biblical?

Contemplative prayer, often called centering prayer, (and connected to sozo prayer and soaking prayer) is very much like a “Christianized” transcendental meditation (similar to New Age or Buddhist meditation). You are supposed to sit quietly, empty your mind, and repeat a biblical word or phrase over and over until you begin “hearing from God.”

Is this a biblical form of prayer? No, and it is also very dangerous. Many who have come out of this practice and churches or organizations which promote it (the International House of Prayer, or IHOP, and Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, are major proponents) report that contemplative prayer is much like being hypnotized and that it was an open door for demonic opression and even possession.

Our beliefs and worship practices are to be drawn from Scripture, and nowhere in Scripture are we told to pray like this. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He did not tell them to empty their minds and repeat a mantra. He said,

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
Matthew 6:7-13

Jesus taught us to talk to God using intelligible words, worshiping Him, repenting and seeking His forgiveness, and asking Him to provide for our needs. It is not His desire that we mimic a pagan form of meditation.


Additional Resources:

What is Contemplative Prayer? at Got Questions

What is Centering Prayer? at Got Questions

Contemplative Prayer at Berean Research

The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer at Sola Sisters

IHOP is Dangerous: Stephanie’s Testimony


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag, New Apostolic Reformation

The Mailbag: What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

mailbag

 

I keep seeing you and other discerning Christians mentioning the “NAR” or “New Apostolic Reformation.” Is that some sort of new church denomination? Is it bad? What is it, and what do they believe?

This is one of those questions that others have answered so much better than I could ever hope to, so I’m going to give a brief synopsis and then urge you to study the articles and videos in the “Additional Resources” section.

Yes, the NAR is bad. Extremely bad. In my opinion, it is the worst form of false doctrine in the United States today because so many people think it is biblical Christianity and unknowingly import it into reasonably doctrinally sound churches. I mean, I’ve never heard of Anytown Baptist Church teaching (as Christianity) that Mohammed was a prophet or that God lives next door to the planet Kolob, but you’ll certainly see NAR beliefs and practices like dominionism, unbiblical manifestations of the “Holy Spirit” and NAR prayer practices gradually creeping into many average evangelical churches.

The NAR is not a denomination in the way we would typically think of, say, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), etc. There’s no headquarters building, no national president or leadership structure, no official creed or statement of beliefs, no membership criteria for admitting or dismissing churches. It’s more of a movement or a “denomination by imitation.” Pastors and/or church members of non-NAR churches generally discover an NAR church, book, or personality, decide they like what they see, and begin importing NAR beliefs and practices into their own church.

What are those beliefs and practices? Since there’s no official NAR creed or statement of faith, beliefs and practices can vary from church to church, but, loosely speaking, what it looks like externally is that the NAR takes the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) heresy and kicks it up a notch with outlandish “supernatural” manifestations, blasphemously attributed to the Holy Spirit, such as: holy laughterstrange “anointings,” glory clouds of gold dust, tremoring, false prophecy, grave sucking, raising the dead, trips to Heaven, and being “drunk in the Spirit.”

The NAR is also largely responsible for many of the corrupt teachings on prayer that have become popular in recent years, such as: contemplative/centering prayer (which we see creeping into churches through the teachings of Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa TerKeurst, Christine Caine, and others), lectio divina, Sozo prayer, healing rooms, and soaking prayer, as well as the false teaching of dominionism and the restoration of the church offices of apostle and prophet.

A Few NAR Organizations and Personalities
Bethel Church (Redding, CA.) led by Bill Johnson
Jesus Culture (an arm of Bethel) led by Kim Walker Smith
International House of Prayer (Kansas City, MO) led by Mike Bickel

(You could sort of call these three entities “Ground Zero” for the NAR. Much of what is believed and practiced in NAR churches trickles down in some form from these organizations.)

Kenneth Hagin
Dutch Sheets
Ken and Gloria Copeland
Todd Bentley
Patricia King
Wendy Alec (GodTV)
Jennifer LeClaire (Charisma Magazine)
Beni Johnson
Cindy Jacobs
Rick Joyner
Amanda Wells
Rod Parsley
Jen Johnson
Kris Valloton
Heidi Baker

Two of the main ways NAR false doctrine begins infiltrating otherwise healthy churches is through the music ministry and the women’s ministry. Many churches use Jesus Culture music, Bethel music (or other music by NAR musicians) in their worship services, which can introduce church members to the band, and, subsequently, to their false doctrine. Examine the materials your women’s ministry is using and the conferences they’re attending. It’s likely that the authors and teachers your women’s ministry follows are either proponents of NAR false doctrine, partnering with proponents of NAR false doctrine, or at least being influenced by proponents of NAR false doctrine.

The New Apostolic Reformation is heresy and has no place in a Christian church in any way, shape, or form. Stay far away from it.


Additional Resources:

New Apostolic Reformation by Apologetics Index

New Apostolic Reformation by Berean Research

What is the New Apostolic Reformation? by Sola Sisters

False Spirits Invade the Church: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3  A Documentary by Andrew Strom

The Six Hallmarks of a NAR Church by Berean Examiner

The New Apostolic Reformation Cornucopia of False Doctrine, Dominionism, Charismania and Deception by Messed Up Church

Popular False Teachers see links for “International House of Prayer (IHOP)” and “Jesus Culture/Bethel Music/Bethel Church (Redding, CA)/Bill Johnson” and

Drunk in the Spirit by Todd Friel

What is the International House of Prayer? (IHOP) by Got Questions

The Dangers of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) by CARM

Love and Death in the International House of Prayer by Rolling Stone

Leaving the NAR Church testimony series by Amy Spreeman


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag, Prayer

The Mailbag: What is Contemplative Prayer?

mailbag

 

What is contemplative prayer, and is it biblical?

Contemplative prayer, often called centering prayer, (and connected to sozo prayer and soaking prayer) is very much like a “Christianized” transcendental meditation (similar to New Age or Buddhist meditation). You are supposed to sit quietly, empty your mind, and repeat a biblical word or phrase over and over until you begin “hearing from God.”

Is this a biblical form of prayer? No, and it is also very dangerous. Many who have come out of this practice and churches or organizations which promote it (the International House of Prayer, or IHOP, and Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, are major proponents) report that contemplative prayer is much like being hypnotized and that it was an open door for demonic opression and even possession.

Our beliefs and worship practices are to be drawn from Scripture, and nowhere in Scripture are we told to pray like this. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He did not tell them to empty their minds and repeat a mantra. He said,

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
Matthew 6:7-13

Jesus taught us to talk to God using intelligible words, worshiping Him, repenting and seeking His forgiveness, and asking Him to provide for our needs. It is not His desire that we mimic a pagan form of meditation.


Additional Resources:

What is Contemplative Prayer? at Got Questions

What is Centering Prayer? at Got Questions

Contemplative Prayer at Berean Research

The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer at Sola Sisters

IHOP is Dangerous: Stephanie’s Testimony


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.