Sermons

Dale Johnson ~ An Intro. to Biblical Counseling

Image courtesy of ACBC.

This past Sunday at church, we had a guest speaker during the Sunday School hour. Since we’ll be hosting ACBC training soon, Dale Johnson, Executive Director of ACBC (the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) presented to us a very helpful, encouraging, and biblical introduction to the concept of biblical counseling and soul care.

If you’re not familiar with biblical counseling, the term might sound like it’s just another name for “Christian counseling” or a regular therapist who happens also to be a Christian. But both of those tend to use traditional secular psychological methods. Biblical counseling is a whole ‘nother animal. It’s more like what some have described as “deep dive discipleship,” or correctly applying the authoritative, sufficient Word of God to your problematic situation. You can learn more, find a certified biblical counselor near you, and find out about becoming a certified biblical counselor at the Biblical Counseling Resources tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

If you’re in, or can get to, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area this spring, and you’d like to attend the ACBC training sessions, click here. Other upcoming training sessions are being held soon in Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, and California. If none of those are close enough to you, contact ACBC for more information on training. We all counsel others every day. Why not make sure the counsel we give them is biblical?

Click here to listen to Soul Care by Dale Johnson

Mailbag

The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

Originally published November 12, 2018

In my recent article, 4 Ways We’re Getting Women’s Discipleship Wrong, and How We Can Get it Right!, one of the points I mentioned is that we’ve equated women’s discipleship with purchasing a celebrity Bible teacher’s DVD/workbook package and parking women in front of a TV instead of training older women in the local church to teach younger women straight from the Bible.

The idea that we have to use pre-fab studies instead of teaching straight from the Bible is so deeply embedded in our evangelical DNA that nearly every time I write an article or social media post saying we need to kick this habit and get back to straight Bible teaching, what some readers seem to hear is that we need to use doctrinally sound pre-fab studies. (And they proceed to recommend materials by the handful of doctrinally sound women authors who are out there.)

That’s not what I’m saying. I know there are (a few) doctrinally sound pre-fab studies out there. I’m saying we need to totally revamp the way we do women’s Bible study and detox ourselves from our addiction to studies written by authors outside of your local church, who don’t know the women of your church, and who aren’t there for the women of your church – even if those authors are doctrinally sound.

A variation of this question came up again (from a very kind sister who genuinely cares about the ladies in her church and the teaching they receive) in response to the aforementioned article. I share it here, along with my response, to a) help continue to hammer on the idea that we do not have to use canned studies, there’s another, better way, and b) to give you a few ideas of how to stop being so dependent on canned studies in your own church.

I have found some good DVD’s that have been a real encouragement and have fostered true growth in our women. [List of doctrinally sound DVD studies.] While direct teaching is wonderful sometimes the women who teach in our church find themselves in limiting life circumstances…I would love to hear of some DVD’s that you’d recommend, not as a daycare/babysitter for women, but that contain good teaching for times when we want to be in the Word but cannot take the time to adequately prepare.

I’m glad there have been some doctrinally sound DVDs you’ve been encouraged by, and, just to clarify, I’m not saying every DVD on the market features a false teacher (but the vast majority of them do).

I’m not trying to sound harsh, but I think you might have missed the point of section 3 [of the article]. The whole point is that we need to stop relying on pre-fab studies and teach/study straight from the Bible, and you’ve responded by asking me which DVDs I recommend. I don’t. I recommend teaching/studying straight from the Bible. (I’ve explained more here, if it would be of interest.) Your question kind of proves my point about how deeply ingrained the “canned” Bible study mindset runs. It’s not a question of whether or not there are doctrinally sound DVDs on the market, the issue is that we need to study the Bible itself, and we need teachers in the local church who are trained to teach straight from the Bible.

…good teaching for times when we want to be in the Word but cannot take the time to adequately prepare.

I’m not sure whom you’re referring to regarding not having time to prepare. If you’re talking about a teacher, she should step down if she doesn’t have time to adequately prepare. That’s part of being a teacher (I address that at length in the first article linked below section 3). If she can’t commit to preparing, she shouldn’t be teaching.

If you’re talking about students in a Bible study class- if they have time to watch a DVD, they could spend that same time period reading and discussing a passage out of the Bible.

Again, I don’t mean to sound unkind or anything like that, and I do appreciate your question, but we really need to get away from the pre-packaged studies and simply pick up the Bible itself and study it.

Thanks for your response. I guess I didn’t clarify that I was wondering if there were studies that you’d recommend during times when the teachers we have don’t have time to properly develop a lesson. Your post just spurred that question in my mind though I know that wasn’t your intent. It takes me an average of six hours to prepare to teach a lesson and if I’m in a temporary place of not having time to adequately study for a couple of months we like to continue learning even if it is just from a sound teacher via DVD. Being from a smaller church in a depressed area where women are expected to work, it can be difficult to always have an available teacher. But the women do minister to each other in a word based way.

I definitely understand that women’s ministry is not done biblically in many cases. Your posts contain lots of good info. Thanks for what you do! 

Thanks for understanding. Here are a few things I’d recommend instead of falling back on a DVD.

1. Get one or two more women trained to teach, and have a rotation of teachers. That takes the burden off of one person and is also helpful if you get sick, go out of town, have an emergency, etc. It would also give each teacher a longer time period between lessons she has to teach, so she would have more time to prepare. It might not be the easiest thing in the world to get that in place, but prioritizing Christ and His ways rarely is. He never promised us easy, but He did promise to help us. Ask for His help and have your class pray about the situation, too.

2. If there’s some sort of out of the ordinary, rare emergency that has kept you from preparing, simply go in to class, read the passage together, and discuss it verse by verse.

3. If it’s been impossible to prepare, turn that class period into a prayer meeting. Frankly, it would be beneficial as we need far more small group prayer meetings in the church. You might even want to purposely schedule your class that way, say, lessons for three weeks, prayer meeting on the fourth week, or something like that.

4. Make use of my studies at the Bible Studies tab at the top of this page. If you need a “one and done” type of lesson in a pinch, look under “Wednesday’s Word” toward the bottom of the page. Read the passage with the class and use the questions for discussion. All of my studies are free to download, print out, and distribute.

These are the kinds of things teachers have done for centuries until DVD players were invented. There’s really no reason to ever have to fall back on a DVD. Like I said, if you can watch a DVD, you can read a passage of Scripture and discuss it.

Additional Resources

The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

Bible Study

Bible Studies


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.

Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Is It Really All Our Fault?

Originally published July 15, 2016

all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.

Discernment

Celebrate Recovery

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers or ministries, 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, Bible teachers, ministries, and evangelical fads and trends, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found in the blue menu bar at the top of this page at my Popular False Teachers tab. The ministry below is one I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on it.

Below are the biblical criteria I use when deciding whether or not to recommend a teacher, ministry, etc.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, author, or ministry, he/she/it 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). A ministry or trend cannot allow or encourage any of these things.

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

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

I recommend against any teacher, ministry, or evangelical trend that violates one or more of these biblical tenets.

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


Celebrate Recovery
Not Recommended

Celebrate Recovery (CR) was created by John Baker, a member of false teacher Rick Warren’s Saddleback “Church”. It was “born out of the heart of Saddleback Church” with Rick’s approval and under his oversight, and, as you might expect, is fraught with unbiblical issues at nearly every turn. In the U.S. and abroad, over 35,000 churches and many secular organizations and businesses now offer Celebrate Recovery programs, and over 5 million people have completed CRs “Step Study” program.

CR is open to professing Christians as well as the lost (in the CR program at Saddleback, non-Christians make up over 70% of CR participants – see below), and is modeled after secular 12 step programs (ex: Alcoholics Anonymous). Adapting worldly means and methods for use in the church (though characteristic of Saddleback) is not biblical. The biblical means for helping a lost person deal with addiction is to call him to repent and believe the gospel, and, if he gets saved, disciple him in obedience to God’s Word. The biblical means for helping a saved person who is committing the sin of drunkenness is to follow the steps of church discipline (beginning with a one on one call to repentance and restoration) commanded in Matthew 18, and if he repents, disciple him in obedience to God’s Word.

That CR adapts worldly means and methods is abundantly evident below in the video introduction to CR (found on the CR website’s What is Celebrate Recovery? page):

  • Notice Johnny Baker (son of founder John Baker) and his wife Jeni start with the typical AA introduction: Johnny: “Hi, I’m Johnny and (rather than “and I’m an alcoholic”) I struggle with…” Jeni: “Hi Johnny!”.
  • Rather than finding their identity in Christ who has graciously saved them out of their sin, they identity themselves by their pet sins and/or problems. This teaches people to see themselves (and presents them to others) as helpless and non-responsible victims rather than victors through Christ.
  • The terms they use to identify themselves are secular and psychologized (“addiction” “co-dependency” “adult child of family dysfunction”) rather than biblical (the sin of drunkenness, fear/idolatry of man, and sinful family relationships, bitterness, unforgiveness, or whatever “adult child of family dysfunction” actually means. Jeni defines this term at the 5:30 mark as growing up in a “dysfunctional family that caused hurt in your life…which I think we pretty much all have.” That definition doesn’t do much to clear things up).
  • In the caption “PastorS of Celebrate Recovery” there are two biblical issues: First, Celebrate Recovery is not a church, it’s a parachurch ministry (if it’s functioning as a church, that brings us to three biblical issues with this caption). Biblically, only churches have pastors. If what is meant by “pastors” is that they are “directors” of CR divisions (as the CR website’s Our Team page says) then that is what the caption should say rather than adulterating a biblical term which has a specific meaning.

    Second, Scripture expressly forbids women from serving as pastors.

    And all of that is in the first nine seconds of this 21 minute video.

Another issue made plain in the video is that Celebrate Recovery teaches a false gospel:

At 3:24ff, speaking to lost people, Johnny gives an incomplete (and partially false) presentation of the gospel as a means of differentiating secular recovery programs from CR. Notice the number of times he says “We believe…” instead of “the Bible says…” or simply stating the terms of the gospel as irrefutable fact. This leaves room for lost people to infer, “These are their beliefs, but they don’t have to be mine.”

The facts Johnny states about Jesus’ life and that He sent the Holy Spirit are technically correct, but what’s missing? Repentance and faith. No mention is made of personal repentance of sin or placing one’s faith in Christ – as the Bible defines it – anywhere in this video. In this particular segment, Johnny skips directly from “Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sin, rose again, and lives now,” to “He sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of us.” That is a false gospel. The indwelling Holy Spirit is a sign, seal, and guarantee of our salvation, and salvation does not take place without the repentance of sin and placing one’s faith in Christ.

Johnny goes on to say that “that [the indwelling Holy Spirit] is what gives us the power to find healing from our hurts, hang-ups, and habits”. But the lost people he’s talking to do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help them because they’re still lost, because CR’s “gospel” doesn’t call them to repent and believe.

Further evidence of CR’s false gospel can be found near the end of the video. At 20:11ff, Johnny quotes Romans 3:23, and then proceeds to define sin as “mistakes”. That’s unbiblical. A “mistake” is accidentally calling your son by your daughter’s name, or taking the wrong exit off the interstate, or forgetting to carry the one. Mistakes are, by definition, unintentional and usually morally neutral. Sin is always immoral and frequently intentional. We are born with a sinful nature, but we also choose to sin.

Johnny further describes sin as “hurting other people” and “other people hurting us,” and that’s partially true, but that’s where he stops. Again, this is unbiblical. Sin is primarily rebellion against God. God taught us this way back in Psalm 51 where David, repenting of his sin with Bathsheba said, “Against You [God], You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” God is the first, last, and ultimate object of our sin.

You’ll probably also notice that even though Johnny uses the word “sin” a few times, he never speaks in biblical terms about everyone’s need to repent of their sin. Rather the terminology he uses is “hurts, hang-ups, and habits” (instead of “sin”) and “healing from your hurts” (instead of “repentance”). This likely stems from the idea in secular recovery groups like AA that alcoholism is a “disease” you need to “heal” and “recover” from like the flu or the chicken pox.

This medical model of sin is completely unbiblical because it removes personal culpability and responsibility for sin, i.e. you can’t help “catching” alcoholism (the sin of drunkenness) any more than you can help catching the flu. Nowhere does Scripture suggest that we need to “heal” and “recover” from sin. Jesus commands us to repent.

Sin is breaking God’s law and rebelling against the holy God of the universe. That’s not the same thing as a “mistake” or “hurting/being hurt by others” or “hurts, hang-ups, and habits”. And we don’t need to “heal” from our sin, we need to repent of it, forsake it, and mortify it.

Finally, Johnny (probably not even realizing he’s doing so) substitutes CR for the biblical gospel. Follow what he’s saying:

All have sinned >> sin = mistakes/hurting others/others hurting us >> we’ve all made mistakes/hurt others/others have hurt us >> “that means all of us qualify for Celebrate Recovery”

Whereas the Bible says:

All have sinned >> sin = rebellion against God >>
we all qualify for the gospel

Celebrate Recovery is not the gospel, nor a substitute for the gospel, for drunkards or drug addicts or anyone else. The gospel is the gospel. And the gospel is what we all need.

Another dangerous and unbiblical component of this concept of “sin is hurting others” is that the CR “gospel” conflates sinning against others with being sinned against under the banner of “hurts”. There is an enormous difference between a man getting drunk and beating his wife half to death and a wife who has been beaten half to death by her drunkard husband.

The Bible puts those two people in two different categories and addresses them discretely and justly. The man has sinned. The wife has been sinned against. The man needs to be brought to justice and repent. The wife needs to be cared for, helped to heal, and ultimately, to forgive.

CR throws both the husband and the wife into the same category because it doesn’t have a biblical definition of sin. The husband needs to “heal” and “recover” from his “addiction” and whatever “hurts” led him to “hurt someone else”. The wife needs to “heal” from being hurt by someone else. Treating the one who sinned and the one sinned against as though they’re the same by placing them in the same “recovery” program is damaging to both because it teaches the sinner he’s not responsible for his actions and has no need to repent, and it teaches the one sinned against that she’s no different from the one who sinned against her.

Now let’s take a look at some of the unbiblical 8 Principles and 12 Steps of the Celebrate Recovery program:

It’s a little confusing as to why CR has both 12 Steps and 8 Principles of recovery, but if I’m understanding it correctly, CR’s 12 Steps are designed to be sort of a bridge to assimilate people already familiar with the 12 steps of secular recovery groups (such as AA) into CR. CR’s 12 Steps are almost identical to the secular 12 steps. (The most noticeable difference is that the phrase “God, as we understand Him” has been changed to simply, “God”.)

The 8 Principles are CR’s own so-called “Christ centered” version of the secular 12 steps, supposedly based on the Beatitudes, and following the acrostic “R-E-C-O-V-E-R-Y”. But the ideas in the 8 Principles are very similar to the ideas in the secular 12 steps. So similar, in fact that each Principle is followed by a notation as to which of the 12 steps it corresponds to. For example, Principle 5 (“V” in the acrostic) corresponds to steps 6 and 7 of the secular 12 steps. And, although it should go without saying, the Beatitudes aren’t about hurts, addictions, or recovery.

So, on the macro-level, CR has taken a worldly philosophy and attempted to “Christianize” it slightly in order to appeal to the lost, which, again is typical of the way Saddleback – the original seeker driven “church” – tends to operate, and which, as I mentioned earlier, is unbiblical.

But what about the micro-level of the individual Principles?

Principle R1, the first half of V, and E2 aren’t bad. It would be better if CR actually cited and explained the Scriptures that teach these concepts and used biblical terminology, but overall these small snippets of the 8 principles are mostly aligned with Scripture. 2.5 principles. Out of 8.

Principle E1 is problematic:

Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover.

Believing that God exists, that you matter to Him, and that He’s powerful is not the same thing as being born again by repentance and faith in Christ. Not by a long shot. The Egyptians at the Red Sea believed in God’s existence and power. The prophets of Baal all believed in God’s existence and power (right before Elijah slaughtered them all). And they definitely mattered to God, just not in a good way.

The issue here is that the unbeliever is not indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit to resist and flee from sin. It’s not that God isn’t powerful, it’s that as an unbeliever you don’t have access to, or a right to that power.

Principle C is another big nope:

Consciously choose to commit all my life and will
to Christ’s care and control.

Biblically, there’s no such animal. As an unbeliever, you cannot just make a fleshly decision of the will to commit all of your life and will to Christ’s care and control. It cannot be done without repentance, faith, and regeneration in response to the biblical gospel.

Principle O:

Openly examine and confess my faults to myself,
to God, and to someone I trust.

Sins. “Sins” is the word you’re looking for, not faults. Faults are not equivalent to sins. “Confess your sins to one another,” is what the Bible says. And while confession is a good thing, it’s not the same thing as repentance. A murderer can confess his crime, but feel completely justified in having done it, and be perfectly willing to do it again if given the chance. Repentance is grieving from the heart that you have sinned against a holy God, wishing you had never done it, and striving never to do it again. Also, look who comes first here in this line of confession – not God, but self.

The second half of principle V

Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.

As I said above, the first half isn’t bad. The second half isn’t going to work for lost people because it doesn’t biblically identify their problem, which is sin, not “character defects”. And God is not going to remove their sin without repentance and faith in Christ. And if they’re trying to circumvent repentance, faith, and the biblical gospel in order to steal what they want from God, they’re not asking “humbly,” they’re asking pridefully.

Principle R2 is great if you’re saved, since all Christians are supposed to be doing these things anyway…

Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.

But not so great if you’re in the majority of CR participants who are lost. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:14 (emphasis, mine) tells us. And a lost person cannot “gain the power to follow His will” without the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Principle Y takes us back into false gospel territory:

Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others,
both by my example and my words.

Hold the phone, Henrietta. “This Good News” – capital G, capital N? What “Good News”? The “Good News” of Celebrate Recovery? That is out and out heresy. (And God doesn’t “use” people to bring heresy to others except as a judgment against them.) The only capital G, capital N “Good News” is the Good News of the biblical gospel, which CR has repeatedly failed to present and instead has substituted its own false gospel which is devoid of sin, faith, and repentance.

A final point to consider, and not a minor one, is the fact that Celebrate Recovery is embraced by the world. Contrary to what the powers that be at CR think, that is not a good thing. From the History of Celebrate Recovery page on the CR website:

“Celebrate Recovery is the number one outreach ministry at Saddleback Church, with over 70 percent of its members now coming from outside the church….Celebrate Recovery is not just growing in churches, but in recovery houses, rescue missions, universities, and prisons around the world. New Mexico was the first state to adopt Celebrate Recovery into its state prison system and now has Celebrate Recovery pods in all its state prisons. In August 2004, Celebrate Recovery was announced as California’s state-approved substance abuse program for prisons...We are part of a movement that God is blessing.”

God does not “bless” heresy and worldliness. And if we’re walking in obedience to Scripture and preaching and teaching the true biblical gospel the world will hate us, not love us. I’ll just let Scripture speak to those points:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me [Jesus] before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 1 John 3:13

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 1 John 4:5

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:6-10

These findings barely scratch the surface of Celebrate Recovery’s means, methods, and philosophy, but I think Christians who value sound doctrine will agree that this information is more than sufficient to warn people away from this unbiblical “ministry”.

If you aren’t a Christian and you need help with any sort of addiction or other problem, let me give you step 1 of Jesus’ program for addressing that: Repent and believe the gospel. Once you’re saved (or if you’re already saved as you’re reading this), find a doctrinally sound church, make an appointment with your pastor, and ask him to point you to someone who can disciple you in obedience to God’s Word. (If you absolutely can’t find a doctrinally sound church in your area, you could seek out an ACBC certified biblical counselor.)

The question is not, “Does Celebrate Recovery ‘work’?”. That’s pragmatism. The question is, “Is Celebrate Recovery biblical?”. And the answer to that question is a resounding no. Celebrate Recovery’s very foundations are unbiblical, and Jesus stressed just how crucial biblical foundations are:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Matthew 7:24-27

Additional Resources

An Analysis of Celebrate Recovery Addictions Program Part 1 and Part 2 at The Cripplegate

I am not thoroughly familiar with the websites below. I do not endorse anything on these sites that deviates from Scripture or conflicts with my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

A Way Which Seemeth Right at The Berean Call (This link is not a blanket endorsement of this blog or author, only this particular article.)

Is Celebrate Recovery Biblical? by Chad Prigmore

Bible Study, Church

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

Originally published November 11, 2016

mcbible-study

“Why can’t we just be taught a book of the Bible?” I heard this again today from a Christian woman hungry for her church to teach her the truth of God’s word. It’s a cry being raised by women from all over, scrounging through the dumpster of “Bible” teaching their church currently offers, searching for something – anything – that will nourish their hearts, minds, and souls with biblical truth so that they might actually be able to grow in Christ.

What’s going on here, church? Pastors? Women’s ministries? Why are godly women starving for the word of God at their own churches? This is a problem. And it’s not a small one. And it’s not going away. It’s getting worse.

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My family is a one income family. My husband works hard to provide for us, and we’ve made a lot of (completely worthwhile) sacrifices so I can stay home and raise and home school our children. One of those sacrifices is that we rarely get to eat out, even at a fast food restaurant. That means I cook. A lot. Fortunately, I happen to enjoy cooking, but it does take several hours of work a week. And sometimes, at the end of a long day, I’m tired and not particularly in the mood to spend a couple of hours on my feet chopping and mixing and sautéeing and stirring and roasting. I’d much rather chuck it and have my husband pick up McDonald’s on his way home. In fact, if we could afford it, and I couldn’t cook, and I thought it was healthy, my family would probably eat fast food for supper three or four times a week. I like fast food. My kids LOVE fast food. And why do all that work if you don’t have to and there’s an easier option, right?

But that’s no way to feed a family. It makes people obese and can lead to all kinds of other physical problems like heart disease, hypertension, and digestive ailments because the majority of fast food is high in the bad stuff (cholesterol, sodium, fat) and low in the good stuff (fiber, vitamins, minerals). Not to mention that having other people do the work God has assigned me is the lazy way out.

Yet while it’s easy to see how detrimental and unhealthy it is to feed a family a regular fare of fast food in the physical realm, this is exactly what most churches are doing in the spiritual realm when it comes to their Bible study menu.

“My pastor asked me to teach a women’s Bible study class. What’s a good book to use?”
“Why don’t you just teach them a book of the Bible?”
“Oh, I don’t feel equipped to do that.”

“Our Sunday School class is looking for a new curriculum. Any suggestions?”
“How about just working through a book of the Bible?”
“Our teacher works a lot of hours and doesn’t really have the time to study and prepare like that.”

screenshot-2016-11-10-at-12-31-44-pm-editedI hear this kind of thing over and over and over again. Churches aren’t even attempting to train people to properly teach the Bible, and Bible study “teachers,” (often through no fault of their own) either don’t know they need to be trained, or don’t have training available to them, or they’re unwilling or unable to put in the time and effort to be trained and to prepare lessons.

We have classes that need teachers, so we take whoever is available and willing, and we stick them in front of a group of people, hand them a take out bag of McBible Studies written by the celebrity Christian du jour and say, “Here. Feed the church family.”

That’s a problem in and of itself, first and foremost, because relying solely on pre-fab studies due to the fact that no one is trained to instruct the people of your church in the word of God isn’t biblical. The Bible says that pastors, elders, and teachers in the local church body should be “able to teach.” Not facilitate. Not read aloud what someone else wrote. Not “able to work a DVD player.” Teach.

But recruiting “teachers” who are unskilled in handling God’s word to lead a pre-packaged study often morphs into another dangerous problem, especially in the area of women’s Bible study: importing false doctrine into your church. Here’s a list of LifeWay’s top selling books for 2015. Every single non-fiction book on this list that’s likely to be used for a women’s group or individual Bible study (seven of the twelve by my count- which is a staggering proportion considering LifeWay also sells men’s studies, theology books, training manuals, “Christian living” books, and a wide variety of other non-fiction topics, but I digress) is written by a false teacher. Every. single.one.

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In my research of women’s Bible study authors and teachers, I estimate that approximately ninety-five per cent of the the female authors and teachers on the shelves at your local Christian retailer are false teachers. That goes way beyond a biblical “diet” laden with cholesterol and fat. Now, we’re talking about spiritual food tainted with E.coli. If you’ve got a woman in your church who’s facilitating a class using materials by one of these false teachers because she’s not competent enough in God’s word to teach the Bible, how in the world is she going to be able to catch and correct the false doctrine these Christian celebrities are teaching her class?

The answer is: she’s not. In fact, her awareness of her own incompetence in Scripture and her assumption that the Christian celebrity knows what she’s talking about (Because, after all, she’s a celebrity and LifeWay sells her materials, so she must know what she’s talking about, right?) will have the exact opposite effect. She will downplay and keep quiet about any nagging doubts – assuming she knows her Bible well enough to even have those doubts – in her own mind that the Christian celebrity is teaching things contrary to sound doctrine, and she will affirm the false doctrine that’s being taught. Then, this harmful bacteria of false doctrine will spread from woman to woman and class to class, and discerning women, knowing that the kitchen is contaminated, will grow emaciated from a lack of clean cuisine to feed on. We end up with a church full of “Bible” study and Sunday School classes that teach fluff and false doctrine instead of the unadulterated word of God. To borrow from Coleridge: “Food, food, every where, nor any bite to eat.” We’ve got a famine of God’s word, right in His very own house.

 

Church, pastors, women’s ministries- we’ve got to put a stop to this. People teaching Sunday School, Bible study classes, and, particularly, women’s Bible study classes must be trained in basic hermeneutics, the competent handling of God’s word in context, and the ability to teach sound doctrine as well as to refute the false. Do we not believe Scripture, or somehow think our church is exempt from it, when it says:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

or

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1

Where is our fear of God and our obedience to His word? We would never think of letting an untrained, incompetent teacher teach our children math or science in school when all that’s at stake is their academic education. Why are we satisfied to let untrained people teach the Bible at church when people’s eternities are at stake?

It doesn’t take years of seminary training. I never went to culinary school, but I’m still able to cook and feed my family a healthy diet because of what I’ve learned from others. Pastors can train teachers. Skilled Bible teachers can train others to teach. There are even great materials (like this one that was used in a training session I participated in last year) that can help as you teach people how to teach the Bible.

A doctrinally sound book study can be a fun, interesting, or useful supplement to the regular, straight teaching of Scripture in a Bible study class, but even these shouldn’t be used in place of training teachers. The best theologian out there isn’t a living and active member of that class. He doesn’t know the strengths and weaknesses of the class’s theology. He can’t address their current struggles and questions. He doesn’t love them, care about them, pray for them, and labor in the Word for them.

Only real life, trained, biblically competent teachers can do those things. They are vital and they are irreplaceable.

So let’s quit shoving Happy Meals into the hands of women who are starving for the pure milk and meat of God’s word. Let’s offer some cooking classes and set the table so the members of our churches can sit down to a healthy, home cooked diet of nourishing food that will help them grow to spiritual maturity in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And, now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go start supper.