Discernment

Jennie Allen and IF:Gathering

You are seeing this article as a part of Project Breakdown.


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.


Jennie Allen / IF:Gathering
Not Recommended

Jennie Allen is “a Bible teacher, author, and the founder and visionary of IF:Gathering,” an annual conference for women. She also blogs, hosts the Made for This podcast, and speaks at IF:Gathering and other events.

The IF:Gathering conference organization (now including IF:Pray, IF:Lead, IF:Equip, IF:Table, IF:Local, IF:TV, and Discipleship Collective), around which most of Jennie’s ministry centers, was “inspired by the question, ‘If God is real…then what?‘.” If God is real– is a troubling premise for an ostensibly Christian ministry. The Christian existence does not center around the pablum possibility that God is real, but on the rock-solid, stake your life and your eternity on it certainty that He is not only real but the Creator of, and Sovereign over, the universe, and the only hope of salvation for sinners. If God is real…then what? as the foundation of a Christian ministry is somewhat akin to If 1+1=2, then what? as the foundational concept of a Mensa-esque organization for the top mathematical minds in the world.

As to the “…then what?” part of the equation, Jennie’s and IF’s solution is woefully unbiblical. Jennie has an established history of embracing and partnering in ministry with false teachers, female “pastors,” and women who preach to men. Just a few of the many available examples:

Some of the guests on Jennie’s podcast have included Priscilla Shirer and Chrystal Evans Hurst (ep. 08), Beth Moore (ep. 04), Christine Caine (ep. 09), and “diversity expert” and Black Lives Matter supporter, LaTasha Morrison (multiple episodes).

Since the launch of IF:Gathering in 2014, Jennie has habitually featured false and biblically problematic teachers and female preachers/pastors as speakers and as part of IF’s leadership team:

Speakers featured at IF:Gathering over the years (many of them appearing multiple times) have included: Jen Hatmaker (here, in 2015), female “pastor” and homosexuality advocate Melissa Greene,  Ann Voskamp, Bianca Olthoff, Rebekah Lyons, Lysa TerKeurst, Jill Briscoe, Shauna Niequist, Angie Smith, Kay Warren (Rick Warren’s wife), female “pastor” Jenni Catron, Christine Caine, female “preacher” and author of Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey

female “co-pastor” Keisha Polonio, female “pastor” Jeanne Stevens…

Lauren Chandler, female “pastor” Layla de la Garza, Beth Moore, and others. (2020)

My guess is that all of the women who have spoken at IF have no qualms about preaching to men, and there may also be more female “pastors” in the bunch, but I was unable to research each of them, so I will just say, a large number of the women who have spoken at IF disobey God’s Word by preaching to men and/or “pastoring”.

In addition to Beth Moore speaking at IF:Gathering 2020 (and scheduled to speak at IF:Lead 2020), Jennie’s partnerships and displays of affinity with her are far too numerous to list (just Google Jennie Allen Beth Moore, and you’ll see what I mean) and have been going on for years. A couple of recent examples:

A webinar with Beth Moore:

An IF:Gathering video with Beth Moore:

 

Mutual admiration on Twitter: 

 

And here’s Jennie at a meeting “with twenty women leaders [including Bianca Olthoff] under the wisdom of Christine Caine and Joyce Meyer.”

 

Jennie has worked with and has been a featured speaker several times (including 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2020) at the Catalyst conference, which is not only co-ed (so Jennie is teaching/preaching to men) but is also plagued by doctrinal problems and has featured a plethora of false teachers including founder Andy Stanley, Brian Houston, female “pastor” Charlotte Gambill, Brandon and Jen Hatmaker, and Rebekah Lyons among many others.

I can’t seem to locate a statement of faith for Jennie or what church she currently attends, so you’ll have to infer what she believes by reading her books and blog, but I have learned a few specifics about her theology. Jennie is a proponent of the unbiblical Enneagram. Jennie believes in extra-biblical revelation, and started IF:Gathering because “a voice from the sky” told her to. Jennie often focuses on “dreaming” (in the sense of future goals or creative aspirations), a concept foreign to Scripture. I downloaded her “Dream Guide” for 2019 and found some of her statements troubling:

 It really is as simple as this. Do the best you can in this world and as you’re going, love God and give Him away to people.

“Do the best you can in this world”? Where does the Bible say that? “And as you’re going, love God”? Like it’s an afterthought or an accessory to your life of “doing the best you can”? No. It really is as simple as this: Repent and believe the gospel, and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

When we create and thrive for the good of others, you’re participating in God’s redemptive work of making the world better. 

Again, the Bible doesn’t teach this anywhere. “God’s redemptive work” is not “making the world better.” The Bible clearly says that “the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants,” and, “the world is passing away along with its desires.” Furthermore, “God’s redemptive work” is to save people. That’s the entire point of the whole Bible. His redemptive work was completed in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to save sinners. And if you want to “participate in God’s redemptive work,” you don’t “create and thrive” (whatever that means) “for the good of others,” you share the gospel with them and disciple them as we’re commanded to in the Great Commission.

..this is our goal, to create beauty out of chaos and thrive.

Also not in the Bible anywhere. Also not our goal. As Christians, our goal is to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, pursue holiness, and carry out the Great Commission. All of which are in the Bible.

Dreaming is an incredible privilege. It is a stewardship of the opportunities God has put in front of us.

Not to sound like a broken record, but, again, none of this is in the Bible, and the second sentence doesn’t even make logical sense. To “steward” something is to use it wisely and for a godly purpose. To do something with it to the glory of God. Sitting around “dreaming” isn’t doing anything. In fact, since “dreaming” isn’t something we’re instructed to do in Scripture, it’s actually squandering the “opportunities God has put in front of us” – opportunities like sharing the gospel, serving others, studying our Bibles, prayer, worship, etc. – which are things Scripture instructs us to do, in favor of sitting around relying on our dreams.

At the end of the “Dream Guide” are several “conversation card” questions about how you can improve yourself in the coming year. One of them is pretty good: “How could you better plug into and serve the local church?”. The rest are fairly narcissistic, and there’s nothing about studying Scripture, growing in holiness, prayer, or repenting of sin. Additionally Jennie quotes only one passage of Scripture in the entire booklet, and she quotes it from The Message, one of the worst versions (it’s a paraphrase, not a translation) of the Bible out there.

And regarding “being a strong woman in the church,” while Jennie mostly stays vague and neutral, she does touch on a few biblical concepts:

18:35- “What my husband heard from me was: My wife has strong gifts and a strong passion for God, and she wants to serve Him, and she’s not because of me.” As if she couldn’t passionately serve God with her gifts by being a godly wife and serving and submitting to her husband.

22:31- “I know that the obvious question that everybody wants to know the answer of is ‘What about roles and positions in the church?’…But I think we oftentimes get so distracted by that…that we are missing all the work that God has for us. And, you know, my view on that is every local church is going to have a different opinion about that…So wherever you go, Scripture just says, ‘Don’t be divisive,’…but the bigger issue to me is the way we view each other, the way we value each other…” Notice Jennie uses no Scripture to answer the “obvious question” everybody wants to know the answer to, she only gives her personal opinion that we are getting “distracted” by this legitimate, biblical question, and that the bigger issue – to her – is not what the Bible says about the role of women in the church, but “the way we value each other”. It’s a problem that “every local church is going to have a different opinion” about the role of women in the church because there is only one position on that issue that’s biblical. The local church doesn’t get to have an opinion on that issue, the issue is decided by Scripture and the church is to submit to and uphold Scripture’s teaching on it. Furthermore, Scripture does not just say, “Don’t be divisive.” Scripture is abundantly clear what the role of women in the church is to be, and both individual women and church leaders are to obey it.

The fact that Jennie consistently and unrepentantly platforms female “pastors” and women who preach to men at IF speaks much more clearly about her personal (and unbiblical) opinion on the role of women in the church than her finessing answer here.

27:21- The interviewer asks Jennie, “What does submission mean?” Her response is much too long to quote, so I’ll summarize. The first words out of Jennie’s mouth are, “That word? To me?” She then proceeds to give a not altogether unbiblical answer about how she loves submission, but it is mainly her opinion and personal experience with her own husband, not Scripture, and primarily centers around the fact that if she brings something to her husband for a decision and he decides unbiblically, he will have to answer to God for it, not her, and that she will have no accountability to God for any sin she might commit in the process. “It’s gonna be awesome!” she chortles, as the audience laughs along, as though there’s something funny about her husband standing before God and giving an account for his decision, and her blaming him for it. Jennie then pivots to describing how “that word [submit] has been used like a pistol to [many women’s] heads” and says “so the fact that that word has a bad rap makes sense to me…Here’s the problem, guys, we’re divided, but there’s reasons on it for both sides.” She seems to be saying that submitting or not submitting is not based on Scripture’s commands, but on personal experiences and situations, and that both submitting and refusing to submit are equally valid choices depending on our own experiences, feelings, and opinions. (And, no, I am not saying women should “submit” to being abused. That’s not the biblical definition of submission.)

 

Jennie seems like a lovely, genuinely caring person, and earnest when she speaks and writes, but none of those things qualify someone to teach Scripture. And in this case, Jennie is disqualified by her errant theology and unbiblical practices. I regret that I’m forced to recommend that you not receive teaching from Jennie Allen, her materials and conferences, or anyone connected to the IF organization.


Additional Resources:

IF:Gathering:

Important questions for church leaders at Berean Research

Almost: Our Encouragement and Concern with the IF:Gathering and
Almost: an addendum since releasing this episode at Sheologians

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 3, the IF:Gathering at The End Time

If:Gathering: more information, including video claiming direct revelation at The End Time

IF:Gathering – updated review four years later at The End Time

If:Gathering: more information at The End Time

Book Reviews:

Restless: Because You Were Made for More at Wise in His Eyes

A Review of Jennie Allen’s “Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul”

Other:

Review of Jennie Allen/Beth Moore webinar, and the ‘big announcement’ revealed at The End Time

Discernment

The Mailbag: Do You Recommend Angie Smith (“Seamless”)?

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

mailbag

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.

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.

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).

 

Angie Smith– Not recommended. Wife of Todd Smith of the Christian music group, Selah, Angie started out as a blogger, then blossomed into a Christian author and speaker. Her best known book to date is a women’s study: Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story. 

While all of Angie’s currently scheduled speaking engagements appear to be for women’s events, she has preached at least one Sunday morning sermon (to a congregation of men and women)- at Cross Point Church.

Angie is on the leadership team of Jennie Allen’s IF:Gathering conference (along with false teachers Jen Hatmaker, Ann VoskampRebekah Lyons, Bianca Olthoff, and Christine Caine), has been a featured speaker at IF several times, and is scheduled to speak again at IF:Gathering 2019. Angie’s first speaking engagement of 2019 is at a Methodist “church” at which nearly all the ministerial staff are women, including the senior and associate “pastors”. She’s speaking at three Women of Joy conferences alongside false teachers Sheila Walsh and Lisa Harper. Angie partnered with Lysa TerKeurst to offer an online version of her study, Seamless, through the Proverbs 31 website. Angie partnered with Christine Caine for the Women of Faith Conference, and has appeared on Priscilla Shirer’s The Chat.

It’s humorously played up, but Angie’s devotion to Beth Moore is a bit over the top. She calls herself “a little bit of a crazy stalker fan supporter of Beth Moore” and says her “favorite Bible teachers are Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer,” adding, “I’m pretty sure they will both have special chairs very near to Jesus in heaven,” and “I have a little area of my house devoted to Beth Moore. Okay, that’s a lie too, but if it wasn’t idol worship, I probably would. At least a little candle or something? framed pictures? A life-sized cardboard cutout? Such a delicate balance between admiration and a restraining order…”

Space doesn’t permit me to list all the times Angie has partnered with false teachers nor all the false teachers she has partnered with. As I’ve previously mentioned, not only does surrounding yourself with false teachers influence your doctrine, it is impossible to be endorsed by so many false teachers unless your doctrine is acceptable to them, and they do not put up with sound doctrine.

Book Reviews, Guest Posts

Guest Post: A Review of Jennie Allen’s “Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul”

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

A Review of Jennie Allen’s
Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul

by Carol Coppens

Many years ago, when I was in the 6th grade, I was taught that when doing a book report, even if I didn’t like the book, I should try to say something good about it. That was fine teaching at the time and I think it has made me a better writer, this trying to see both sides. I’m not in school any longer though and these days, I’m bound less by trying to see the good and more to pointing out the multiple errors of books like Anything. If you’re a Jennie Allen fan, you won’t like what I have to say but I can’t stay silent.

Anything is a poorly written book. It’s an irreverent book. It’s a book that will never help any woman discover the totality of God’s plan of redemption, His sovereignty, His wrath which rests on the unregenerate, nor His holy fury at those who presume to speak for Him. This is not a book that will help you to dive deep into the character of God and to know Him better but instead, Jennie’s book is a tedious, self absorbed, experience driven, hermeneutically unsound, over-stepper of scriptural boundaries, mish-mash of emotionalism and repetitive “wrecked-ness”. Here are some of the specific faults that I see.

Even in these days of relativity, where the only rule that seems to apply is that there are to be no rules at all, there are still a few that are necessary. One of the rules of basic English grammar is, if you’re going to use an adjective (remember that word from English class?) you’d better do your homework and find out exactly what that word means, in the context in which you plan to use it.

The word reckless is used multiple times in this book. Jennie describes childlike faith as living “simply, recklessly.” On pg. 97, she writes that she and her husband, “now lay in the hands of a reckless, invisible God.” Page 143 tells of her realization that people are going to think they are foolish for adopting, saying, “that goes with almost any act of recklessness, even reckless love.” Maybe she thought the word sounded powerful and kind of daring when she penned it but the definition of reckless is “without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.”

Describe human beings as reckless as much as you like, because we all certainly can be, but when a writer uses the word reckless to describe almighty God, that person has crossed over into blasphemy and I would shudder to think that I had written such a thing about the God I will eventually have to give an account to. Some of the other words she uses to describe God are, “unsafe”, “wildly unpredictable”, “radical”, “ridiculously radical” and she also writes that “God is still not very practical.” Exactly where are the chapters and verses for these descriptions of God, Jennie?

In many places, Jennie adds words to Scripture that are not there. Space hinders me from listing them all, so one example will have to do. On page 184, she speaks for Jesus and writes, “as if he were letting us in on the secret, Jesus whispered back to his father, this will all be worth it. Wait till they are with us and see our glory. Just wait till all of this work and suffering and pouring out is over and we are in heaven together forever. Just wait.”

This conversation is, of course, recorded nowhere in Scripture but the words “do not exceed what is written”, definitely are. Jennie would do well to read and meditate deeply on that verse in 1 Corinthians 4. When we imagine that God is speaking to us apart from Scripture, we can easily be led to enter very dangerous territory.

An example of her flawed interpretations of Scripture is on page 37. Jennie quotes Hosea 2:14-17 but then she blatantly misinterprets God’s promise to restore Israel to Himself, as a “dramatic metaphor” about those of us who chase other loves. I say, leave Biblical interpreting to those who know about these things, Jennie. If you think that you’ve been given a new interpretation of these verses that no other person has ever had before, you’re just plain wrong. God was promising restoration to Israel in these verses and nothing else.

She also does emotional and hermeneutical callisthenics with God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (pgs. 69-70). Jennie’s theory is that God was punishing Abraham for his overwhelming love for his son that, according to her, had usurped God as Abraham’s first love. If she had thoughtfully studied these Bible passages or, if she truly understood God’s plan to ultimately save His elect, she would know that the sacrifice of Isaac and the ram God substituted for the boy, was a shadow of God’s own sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ on the cross. There is no excuse for such lazy interpretation of the sacred Scriptures. In these current times, the proliferation of false and misleading doctrine abounds. Having the correct interpretation of Scripture is of paramount importance because our eternal futures depend on understanding correctly, what God is saying to us.

On page 102, Jennie asks “so how do we actually let God change us?” Finally, I thought, a good solid question after having read page after page of drivel. Can an explanation of justification and sanctification be far behind? Sadly, they weren’t even hinted at and she goes on to tell a rather horrific (as a mother I cringed) story of telling her two oldest children to climb up a cliff and jump off! For Jennie, jumping is the key. Either “jump or crawl down” and “the more we jump and see our God come alive around us, the more we jump without fear – and the bigger the cliffs get”, she says. As the Peanuts character Charlie Brown was known to exclaim, good grief!

In the final analysis, the biggest problem I had with this book (and I slogged through it twice) was my knowing that, from the time of her “vision” in the night that Jennie feels was definitely from God, the wheels of the IF: Gatherings began to turn. For those readers who still might be unfamiliar with IF, they are para-church organization, begun by Jennie, that has no scriptural basis or authority. The gatherings happen outside of the local churches and their oversight, supposedly to accomplish something, ie. discipling women, that only churches are charged to do, in Scripture. In this case, the ends do not justify the means.

Because all the women involved in IF cannot possibly be born again, spirit filled, doctrinally sound, mature women with the spiritual gift of teaching, the possibilities for unscriptural philosophies and practices entering in to local churches, families and society at large, are enormous. I see this movement as no less than a calculated move of Satan against women, a frontal attack on the sufficiency of Scripture and a throwing off of the direct commands of God, in His Word, for both married and single women. Jennie Allen might believe that her “call” to begin IF was of God, but I do not.

So, at the end of the day, would I recommend this book to anyone? Absolutely not! What I do recommend instead is simply this – read your Bible, always praying that God will illuminate your mind with His truth. Get involved with a biblically solid church and pray for God to open doors for you to serve there. There is no substitute for a godly, biblically saturated, discerning Christian woman and one only gets that way by hard work and study. The Scriptures do not open themselves to the slothful. When a woman is mature in Christ and can properly discern truth from error then and only then it will come to pass that the writings of the Jennie Allens of this world will be seen for what they truly are, rubbish.

With a grateful nod to my 6th grade English teacher, I suppose I could say one good thing about this book and that is, that it wasn’t any longer.


Carol and her husband Mike live in a small town, on the shores of Lake Erie, in Ontario, Canada. She was 49 years old when Christ called her to be His disciple. A love for the pure truth of God’s Word fuels her passion to expose false teaching and especially that kind which has women as its primary target.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THose WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANYone YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.
Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ February 27, 2018

Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

Sheologians posted a great episode: Almost: Our Encouragement & Concern with the IF:Gathering. They explained some of the things that attract women to this conference as well as the theological problems with it. They have also published a follow up blog post, Almost: an addendum since releasing this episode. I’ve added both to my resources on IF at the Popular False Teachers tab at the top of this page.

 

Tim Challies simply and handily explains 2 Timothy 3:6-7 in this 2016 article, Capturing Weak Women.

 

 

Women’s Hope Project recently started a new Bible study on Galatians on their podcast. A free study guide is available.

 

 

 

All main sessions, breakout sessions, and Spanish sessions of the 2018 G3 Conference: Knowing God- A Biblical Understanding of Discipleship have been uploaded to the G3 app, so download the app to access some awesome teaching. All of the sessions were phenomenal, but if you only have time for a few, I’d recommend starting with the (three) Martha Peace and (two) Justin Peters breakout sessions. You can also register for next year’s conference on missions and get the early registration rate.

 

Do you enjoy writing? Even if you don’t, I think you’ll like these 7 Writing Tips from Charles Spurgeon.

 

Celebrity Pastors, Discernment

Stricter Judgment, Even for MY Favorite Teacher

It’s a funny thing that it’s so easy for us to see the far away faults and foibles of others, but the ones in our own hearts – the sins and hypocrisy we know most intimately – are constantly in our spiritual blind spot. Jesus understood this all too well and admonished us to make sure our own hands are clean before taking the tweezers to the mote in a sister’s eye.

Often, it’s not that we’re ignoring the plank that’s obscuring our vision, we’re just not even aware that it’s there. When I evaluate my own heart to confess my sins to the Lord, the ones that weigh heaviest on my spirit are not those that I know I’ve committed and need to repent of, it’s the ones I’m sure are lurking somewhere… but I can’t quite put my finger on them.

One of the subtle hypocrisies theologically orthodox, blameless and upright, discerning Christians can have trouble seeing in ourselves is our failure to hold our favorite pastors and teachers to the same biblical standards we apply to other pastors and teachers.

We correctly criticize Steven Furtick and Beth Moore for palling around with the likes of Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes, but when Lauren Chandler speaks at IF:Gathering several years in a row, co-hosts a summer Bible study with Beth Moore, and publicly declares her desire to meet Christine Caine¹, suddenly, it’s “touch not mine anointed” just because she’s married to our darling Matt?

What if John MacArthur decided it would be a good idea to invite Joel Osteen to speak at ShepCon next year?

Or R.C. Sproul annually celebrated Reformation Day by getting snockered at a local pub?

Or you found out Alistair Begg’s style of “shepherding” was to intimidate his staff and church members through outbursts of rage?

Would you make excuses for them? Sweep this stuff under the rug and continue to listen to their sermons and read their books without batting an eye?

Pastors and teachers don’t get a pass on sin just because they’re Reformed, or discerning, or have a virtually unblemished record of doctrinal soundness, or because they’re “one of the good guys.” If they’re called to account, and they repent and strive toward holiness, hallelujah! That’s what God requires of all Christians – that we walk before Him blamelessly and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. But if they unrepentantly persist in sin despite biblical correction, there’s a problem there- with their own hearts, and with ours, if we knowingly turn a blind eye to their willful disobedience just because they’re our favorites.

God makes it clear throughout His Word that pastors, teachers, and others in positions of spiritual leadership bear a grave responsibility to set a godly example for those who look to them for teaching and guidance. And, in certain ways, God requires a higher standard for those in spiritual leadership than He requires of Christians He has not called to lead.

…No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them…
Leviticus 21

…And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the Lord has kindled. And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses…
Leviticus 10:1-11

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8

not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
1 Peter 5:3

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Philippians 3:17

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Luke 12:45-48

you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 
Romans 2:21-23

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

As the passages above allude to, sound doctrine, while crucial, is not God’s only requirement for pastors and teachers. They are also required to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine (not befriend them or join them on the conference dais). And Paul outlines the numerous behavioral requirements for pastors, elders, and deacons not once but twice, even going so far as to say that deacons must “prove themselves blameless” and that “an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.” Right theology does not excuse wrong behavior.

Why, then, when God’s standards for those who lead are so high, are we quick to sweep aside unrepentant wrongdoing by the teachers we hold most dear, sometimes even holding them to lower standards than we would hold ourselves? “I would never preach to men, but I’ll give Teacher X a pass on it.” “There’s no way I’d partner with a false teacher, but it’s not a big deal that Preacher Y does it.”

The Jesus who says “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” who says that even one sin is one sin too many, is not a God who is OK with His people glossing over disobedience. God wants sin dealt with, repented of, and forsaken, especially in those who lead, because receiving correction and repenting of sin sets a rare and phenomenal biblical example for Christians to follow.

Do we go off the deep end and reject a trustworthy teacher the first time she does something a little iffy? Of course not. But should we step back, keep a closer, more objective eye on her and her trajectory as time goes by to see if she corrects her course? Yes. Should we stop following her if she continues to dive deeper and deeper into sin with no signs of turning around? Even if she’s always been doctrinally sound? Even if she’s complementarian? Even if she attends a church with a good theological reputation? Even if we’ve enjoyed all of her books thus far? Definitely.

Let’s shed some light on those blind spots our favorite teachers occupy and let our highest loyalty be to Christ, His Word, and His standards for leadership.


¹Information on these and other false teachers can be found at the Popular False Teachers tab at the top of this page.