Celebrity Pastors, Discernment

Throwback Thursday ~ Stricter Judgment, Even for MY Favorite Teacher

Originally published September 29, 2017

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 Caine, 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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Doreen’s vision, Bible apps, ESV Women’s Study Bible, Women teaching on Zoom)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


Just a brief note to all of my readers to kick off this edition of The Mailbag. I really love and appreciate y’all. I don’t say that enough but I do – deeply. One of the things (among many) I appreciate is that upwards of 99.99999999% of you have read my e-mail/messages policy (linked in the first paragraph above) and the information at the Contact & Social Media tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page), and you have been extremely understanding and gracious when it comes to my limitations regarding answering individual e-mails/messages. Thank you!

But for the handful of folks out there who haven’t read and followed the directions at those links, may I just gently and lovingly say this: demanding that I answer your e-mail/message immediately, or sending me multiple copies of the same e-mail/message over the course of a few days isn’t going to work for me, or for you. If you have an emergency situation or one that needs an immediate answer, you need to contact your pastor or a mature brother or sister at your church for help.  That’s one of the functions of the local church.

I wish I could answer everyone’s questions right away, but as I’ve explained at the aforementioned links (which everyone seeking my e-mail address is asked to read before they e-mail me), I can’t. I get too much mail to be able to do that and have time to properly care for my family, home, and other responsibilities.

Thanks again for your understanding and grace, and keep sending me those e-mails/messages! I love hearing from y’all even if I’m not able to answer you personally.


I have some concerns about Doreen Virtue and the “vision” of Jesus she had that supposedly led her to Christ. I came out of the New Age movement and something just doesn’t “sit right” with me as a discerning Christian about that. And now, you and other Christians have endorsed her book? I’m just seeking the truth as I do with every other subject I research.

Seeking the truth and doing your research is awesome! That’s just the kind of thing I love to hear from my readers!

The thing about doing research is that you have to consider the source and make sure the sources you go to are reliable, trustworthy, and handle Scripture correctly. I’m sorry to say that many of the online “discernment” resources out there (including the ones you mentioned in your e-mail, but others as well) are not. Many of them exhibit zeal without knowledge, and some exhibit knowledge without love. (I know I have crossed these lines at times, myself, which I am sorry for. God is still working on me and growing me in that area.)

You and other discerning readers have surely noted the signs of these types of “ministries”: attacking doctrinally sound pastors and teachers, speaking/writing in a vicious, enraged, or biting tone, failing to provide in context and rightly handled evidence to support their assertions, reporting their opinions as fact, exaggerating or extrapolating from something a teacher said or did in order to make their case, and so on. It is just as much a part of discernment to examine “discernment” ministries as it is to examine the teachers they are critiquing.

Having never heard of her before, I first “met” Doreen Virtue when she and her co-host Melissa asked me to appear on their YouTube podcast to discuss the role of women in the church. Doreen and I kept in touch afterwards and have become good friends.

Doreen has thoroughly explained the issue you mentioned in her videos, her book, and to me and many others personally. As Doreen was coming out of the New Age movement and turning toward Christ, she had some sort of experience which she believed at the time was a vision of Jesus. She said at the time that this vision turned her further toward Christ.

As Doreen has continued to grow  she has progressively come to a biblical understanding of her experience, and now believes the vision was demonic activity that happened before she actually got saved. She does not believe she was saved by this vision, but by the preaching, teaching, and reading of the Word. Doreen hasn’t had any more experiences like this since she’s been saved, and she certainly doesn’t encourage this type of experience – quite the opposite, in fact. She speaks against it. As I’ve listened to Doreen’s videos, read her personal testimony in her book, and chatted with her privately, I can see how God has grown her in holiness and sound doctrine in the short time she’s been saved, as evidenced by the fruit she displays.

Have we forgotten how far God has brought us in holiness and the knowledge of the Word since we have been saved? Haven’t we all repented over dumb or unbiblical things we used to believe when we were unsaved or new Christians that we now look back on in shame? Why wouldn’t God do the same thing for Doreen? I mean, let’s remember that she was totally immersed in a demonic system her entire life until Christ saved her in her 50’s, and she has only been saved less than three years now. It’s completely understandable that God would have to undo all of that as He grows her. Where is our mercy, grace, and patience for babes in Christ?

If you feel confused regarding conflicting information about Doreen, I would encourage you not to listen to what others are saying about her (even me) and go straight to the horse’s mouth: watch Doreen’s videos – including her most recent concerning the “vision”: Unpacking Doreen’s vision with Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith – read her wonderful book, Deceived No More (which I was honored to write an endorsement for and highly recommend, and which she has already edited to clarify the part about the vision), follow her on Instagram or Facebook, and let her speak for herself. And if you make a good faith effort to do all of that and you still have a question, message her and ask.

If you’re honest, objective, and compare what Doreen says and does with rightly handled Scripture, I think you’ll find your answers.


I am a new Christian and am wondering if you know of a good Bible app? I have been using YouVersion, but today’s video featured Joyce Meyer, and I am unsure how I feel about it. 

Great question – and welcome to the family!

Readers, this is one of the reasons I recommend against YouVersion. You may recall from a previous Mailbag article that I explained that YouVersion was developed, and is maintained, by Craig Groeschel’s Life.Church. He has preached at Joyce Meyer’s women’s conference and is immersed in relationships and ministry partnerships with numerous other false teachers.

For Bible app recommendations, check out my article My Favorite Christian Apps. Since I wrote that article, another Bible app has come along that a lot of people seem to like, the Literal Word app. (Some of you may know that Pastor Gabriel Hughes is in the midst of recording the audio version of the NASB for that app. We’ll be hearing his dulcet tones before long!)


Would you recommend the ESV Women’s Study Bible? Some of the contributors are Jen Wilkin, Lauren Chandler, Ann Voskamp, Trillia Newbell, and Kristyn Getty.

I’m so glad you asked and brought this to my attention. I have been seeing the ads for that Bible, but I didn’t realize all of those people were contributors. I attempted to find a list of all of the contributors, but was unable to do so. So just going on these, I would say, no, I can’t recommend the ESV Women’s Study Bible.

In addition to the problems with Lauren Chandler, there are issues with Jen Wilkin, and Ann Voskamp is flat out a mystical false teacher.

I haven’t thoroughly researched Trillia Newbell, but just from seeing a few of her tweets from time to time on Twitter, I’m concerned that she might be leaning toward the woke/social justice movement. She’s also friendly with and supportive of Beth Moore (once tweeting “I thank God for you, too!” to Beth), Priscilla Shirer (here, here), and possibly other biblically problematic teachers, so, at the very least, there are a few red flags.

I’d recommend you invest in a much better study Bible, like the MacArthur Study Bible. You can also get the Faithlife Study Bible app for free. I use both of those regularly and they’re both very good.


Love the clarity of your writing! I am curious how you apply commands against women holding authority and teaching to online situations. Is it also sinful for a woman to teach Scripture over YouTube or Zoom? This seems to be a huge issue right now. Thanks! 

Super question, and thanks!

The reason this is a huge issue right now is that many churches have temporarily begun moving many of their regular “in person” activities to livestream, YouTube, Zoom, Skype, etc., due to COVID restrictions that prevent members from gathering together easily. Likewise, many Christian conferences have had to move to video because of gathering restrictions and difficulties.

All of that being the case, we need to follow the biblical principles we would be following if we were meeting face to face. A woman should not be preaching the Sunday sermon for your church just because it’s going to be on Facebook Live instead of people gathering face to face in the sanctuary. I’m not going to teach my co-ed Sunday School class just because we’re “meeting” together on Zoom instead of in our Sunday School room. A Christian conference should not have women preaching the main sessions if those sessions would be co-ed if the attendees were all in the room together.

If it is not something that would normally be a violation of Scripture, in the face to face gathering of the church – for example: a woman speaking at a women’s conference that had to be moved online, or a woman teaching a children’s Bible class on Zoom – then it’s perfectly fine to do it online.

Readers, in case we’re tempted, let’s be sure we all keep in mind here that the goal in Christianity is not to see how close to the line of sin we can get without accidentally putting a toe over, or to find some loophole in God’s Word that lets us do what we want. The goal is to get as far away from the line of sin as possible, and to look – not for loopholes – but for ways we can better obey Christ.


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.

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.

Discernment, False Teachers, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 3

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

Volume 1     Volume 2

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. Below are some others I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on each of them.

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 the women and ministries listed below and have not had much of an opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I did involved 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).

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).

Jill Briscoe- Not recommended. “Jill has written more than 40 books, traveled on every continent teaching and encouraging, served on the boards of Christianity Today and World Relief, and now acts as Executive Editor of a magazine for women called Just Between Us. Jill can be heard regularly on the worldwide media ministry called Telling the Truth.”

When I began my research of Jill a few months ago, there was a “live chat” feature on her web site, Telling the Truth, and I had a lengthy exchange with a kind and polite representative of the ministry named Elizabeth who answered several questions for me. A couple of brief excerpts from our chat:

Jill is on the boards of Christianity Today and World Relief, and she is an executive editor of the women’s ministry “Just Between Us,” – so her doctrine would most likely line up with much of the doctrine of those organizations.

Christianity Today is such an “anything goes” theological train wreck that it’s often derisively dubbed Christianity Astray. I’m not saying Jill agrees with every article they publish, but, word to the wise, don’t ever tell people you’re trying to convince you’re doctrinally sound that your doctrine lines up with Christianity Today. Here’s the closest thing I could find to a statement of faith for World Relief. There is zero mention of the gospel or evangelism, but can you count how many times the word (social) “justice” is used? Just Between Us has a brief, if generic, statement of faith. What’s there (which is not much) is doctrinally sound, but a quick look at JBU’s Facebook page tells another story. Neither Lisa Harper nor Proverbs 31/Lysa TerKeurst are doctrinally sound, and we also learn that Jill will be a featured speaker at IF:Gathering’s IF:Lead conference.

Screenshot: 9/22/17

Some additional insight into Jill’s theology can be found in this excerpt from her book, God’s Front Door. Jill “writes several short dialogues with the Father” (in a “Jesus Calling-ish” style) to help readers cope with life issues large and small. It is unclear whether or not she also directs the reader to Scripture for help in dealing with life’s problems, but that is where Christians should find guidance, not in someone’s fictionalized dialogues with God.

[Jill] does speak to audiences which include men, though it is under the authority of the leadership of those churches and groups, and also under the authority of her husband, Stuart.

Elizabeth also e-mailed me a copy of the “form letter” e-mail Stuart sends out when questioned about Jill preaching to men. It’s too long to reprint here, but basically his stance is that 1 Timothy 2:12 was a prohibition that applied only to the theologically ignorant women of Paul’s day and is no longer applicable. In addition to that error, the Bible nowhere says women may preach to men if they’re doing so “under their husband’s/a pastor’s/a church’s authority”.

Finally, Jill spoke at 2017’s IF:Gathering alongside false teachers Jennie Allen, Rebekah Lyons, Shauna Niequist, Bianca Olthoff (below), Lysa TerKeurst, and Ann Voskamp, among others.

Lauren Chandler- Not recommended. Lauren’s primary claim to fame is that she is married to Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, author, and speaker. Lauren is an author, conference speaker, singer and songwriter, and sometimes leads worship at TVC. Because her speaking engagements are infrequent and she has only authored one book, information on her doctrine and teaching are sparse. I have no reason to believe her doctrine deviates significantly from Matt’s, which could be characterized as generally doctrinally sound Reformed Charismatic. I also have no reason to believe she preaches to men, as all of her speaking events I’ve been able to locate have either been women’s events or marriage conferences with her husband.

The reason I would not recommend you follow Lauren Chandler is her lack of discernment in partnering with and being influenced by false teachers. As worship leader at TVC, Lauren has selected music by Bethel and Israel Houghton (Joel Osteen’s former worship leader). She has guest blogged for Priscilla ShirerHere, she publicly declares her desire to meet Christine Caine, which is something she will be able to cross off her bucket list later this week when she appears alongside her (as well as false teachers Ann Voskamp, Bianca Olthoff {below}, Jennie Allen, Rebekah Lyons, and female “pastor” Jeanne Stevens) at IF: Gathering 2018. In fact, Lauren has become an annual fixture at IF:Gathering (2013-2017).

In addition to appearing with Ann Voskamp at various IF: Gatherings, Lauren proudly appeared with her (as well as Rebekah Lyons and another female “pastor”) at this 2014 conference. Ann Voskamp wrote the foreword for Lauren’s book, an endorsement for Lauren’s book, and wrote about their friendship on her blog. In this interview, Lauren lists Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts as one of the three books that has “most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel”.

Beth Moore is another major influence on Lauren. Lauren participates in small group Beth Moore “Bible” studies. Last summer, LifeWay Women partnered Beth and Lauren in a joint summer Bible study event. In the video promo, Beth speaks about her personal friendship with Lauren (which is evident in their Twitter interactions) and Matt and the time their families have spent together. Beth wrote an endorsement for Lauren’s book. In this interview, when asked, “Who is a great female leader or writer that you look up to/read?” Lauren answered, “I truly love Beth Moore…”.

When false teachers have this much influence on someone’s teaching and ministry, she is not someone you should be following or receiving teaching from.

Tony Evans- Not recommended. Tony Evans has been the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship for over forty years. He has authored over 100 books, hosts a daily radio program, The Alternative with Tony Evans, and serves as chaplain to the Dallas Mavericks.

But in women’s ministry circles, he’s probably best known as false teacher Priscilla Shirer’s dad. Tony contributed to the new edition of Priscilla’s book Discerning the Voice of God, which teaches the unbiblical doctrine of extra-biblical revelation, and Priscilla wrote the foreword for his book, Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfarewhich contains some of Tony’s unbiblical views of spiritual warfare. Tony also seems to hold to inclusivism.

Tony has written a number of devotions for Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 Ministries. He allowed Christine Caine to serve as keynote speaker at his church’s Desperate for Jesus 2017 women’s conference and he participated in a panel discussion that included her. Tony allowed Beth Moore to speak at Desperate for Jesus 2010, and later invited her back to speak again.

Rachel Hollis- Not recommended. Rachel is a self-made lifestyle blogger, podcaster, and author. Aside from calling herself a Christian and scattering references to “faith” and God through her writing like a few sprinkles on a poisonous cupcake, Rachel is, at best, extraordinarily biblically ignorant, and, at worst, not saved. Her “theology” is basically anything goes (any religion, any sin you want to participate in {except the ones she doesn’t like, like “judging”}, any dream you want to pursue, etc.), no gospel, entrepreneurial self-help. The best way to grasp her self-idolizing teaching is to read these excellent, doctrinally sound reviews of her best-selling “Christian” book (it’s marketed in the Christian genre and published by a Christian publisher) Girl, Wash Your Face by RebekahAlisaElizabeth, Summer (Part 1, 2, 3), and Challies, and listen to the Girl, Check Your Theology episode of Theology Gals. You can also check out reviews of Rachel’s second book, Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Theology Gals and Jen Oshman. These godly ladies (and gentleman) do a praiseworthy job of comparing Rachel’s ideas with Scripture and demonstrating the multiple ways Rachel’s books, and her ideology, are decidedly not biblical.

In addition to the multiple, egregious theological errors Rachel teaches…

Rachel and her husband host a weekend couple’s conference called Rise Together. You’ll notice I didn’t say “marriage conference”. That’s because it is open to “everyone in a romantic relationship” including unmarried couples and couples of “every orientation” (read: homosexual). Fortunately, the $1795 per couple price tag for tickets will deter many from attending.

Rachel and (feminist, pro-homosexuality) Jen Hatmaker are friends. Jen is the author of Rachel’s favorite book: “…this book really did fundamentally change the way I view the world around me and the way I choose to live my life.” Jen has appeared at Rachel’s Rise Conference, Rachel has appeared on Jen’s podcast (in which Jen promoted Rachel’s book), and they’ve connected on a number of other occasions and projects. After getting a feel for Rachel’s “theology”, I thought, “I’ll bet she’s a pretty big Oprah fan.” Yep, that too.

Unless you’re someone who’s a student of discernment and you need a lot of practice (like, a LOT) comparing unbiblical ideas to Scripture, I would recommend you stay far, far away from Rachel Hollis and her materials.

Chrystal Evans Hurst- Not recommended. “Chrystal is a gifted writer, speaker, and worship leader….the eldest child of Dr. Tony and Lois Evans…Chrystal has recently co-authored a book, Kingdom Woman: Embracing Your Purpose, Power, and Possibilities, with her dad.” Tony Evans (see above) is not someone a doctrinally sound woman would co-author a book with. Priscilla Shirer, Chrystal’s sister, wrote the foreword for Chrystal and Tony’s book as well as Chrystal’s first book, She’s Still There. It would seem that Chrystal approves of Priscilla’s and Tony’s unbiblical theology and they approve of hers (which, logically, would mean her theology either agrees with or doesn’t significantly contradict theirs).

Besides Priscilla, Chrystal has numerous ties to false teachers: Chrystal was a featured speaker at Lysa TerKeurst’s conference, She Speaks 2017, is a staff speaker for Lysa’s Proverbs 31 Ministries, and has written several devotions for the Proverbs 31 web site. Chrystal and Christine Caine were the featured speakers at Desperate for Jesus 2017 at Chrystal’s home church (Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, pastored by her father). Here and here, Chrystal recommends a Joyce Meyer book. Lisa Harper was a recent guest on Chrystal’s podcast. Chrystal was a featured guest on the Jesus Calling podcast. Chrystal has positively retweeted Jen Hatmaker (who is pro-homosexuality).

Brenda Leavenworth- Not recommended, however, not having evidence to the contrary, I do not believe Brenda is a false teacher. “Brenda is the Women’s Ministry Director at Reliance Church,” which is a Calvary Chapel church. She is the author of Far Above Rubies, a study of biblical womanhood from Proverbs 31 and supplementary series of workshops on cooking, hospitality, organization, etc., corresponding to each chapter of the study. Brenda also “teaches courses in Proverbs 31 and Women’s Ministry for the Calvary Chapel Bible College.”

I appreciate that Brenda seems to be very involved in her home church, prioritizing ministry there over outside ministry. Reliance Church’s statement of faith, as stated on their web site, seems to be doctrinally sound. I’m also intrigued by the concept of the Far Above Rubies study/workshops, and would be interested in reading/attending it myself.

I did not find any personal or speaking event connections between Brenda and any known false teachers, nor do I see any online evidence that she teaches men. Besides the fact that I haven’t had the opportunity to read or listen to her teaching, the two red flags holding me back from endorsing her are:

The current Calvary Chapel conflict. For years, Calvary Chapel has generally had a reputation for being a doctrinally sound mini-denomination. However, over the last few years, several of its member churches have cut ties with CC due to decisions by those in CC leadership to move toward less doctrinally sound teachings and practices than they have previously upheld. I have no idea whether or not Brenda is in agreement with any or all of these decisions made by CC leadership, but the fact remains that she teaches at the CC college and is an active member of a CC church. You can read more about the issues with Calvary Chapel here.

Vetting of resources. The women’s ministry resources page of Reliance Church’s website recommends resources by Francis Chan, Lysa TerKeurst, John Maxwell, and Hillsong. Sometimes people are unaware of the doctrinal problems with the resources and teachers they recommend, and this may be the case with Brenda, but teachers and leaders are held to a higher standard. It is not biblically appropriate for those in positions of leadership to recommend materials by people who teach or behave in ways contrary to Scripture, and I cannot recommend someone who does.

Leslie Ludy- Cautiously and tentatively recommended pending further information (please see remarks by “Leslie A” in the comments section). “Leslie Ludy is a bestselling author and speaker with a passion for helping women become set apart for Christ. She and her husband, Eric, are the authors of twenty-one books…Leslie is the director of Set Apart Girl and Set Apart Motherhood.” She also spearheads an annual women’s conference, writes and oversees Set Apart Girl magazine, and hosts a weekly podcast.

I’ve put a bit more time than usual into researching Leslie, because, while there have been a few vague questions raised about her here and there, I find her to be generally doctrinally sound, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something. As far as I can tell, Leslie ministers and speaks only to audiences of women. I have found no connections between her and any known false teachers. I have read several of Leslie’s articles (I especially appreciated this one), have listened to two or three dozen of her podcasts, and have read through the doctrinal statements on the various websites she and her husband, Eric, run. Though there are a few points of theology on which I do not necessarily agree with the Ludys, I have not, at this point, found anything I would classify as false doctrine or anything that would suggest I should warn women away from Leslie.

Bianca Olthoff- Not recommended. Bianca works as “Chief Storyteller” for the A21 Campaign, false teacher Christine Caine’s human trafficking organization. A perusal of her calendar page shows her speaking at Pray, Love, Lead at Saddleback (Rick Warren’s “church”), IF Gathering, Thrive (Lysa TerKeurst & Ann Voskamp), Bethel- Redding, Elevation (Steven Furtick), and numerous other conferences with false teachers and female “pastors,” at least one of which is being held at a “church” pastored by a woman. Bianca believes she receives extra-biblical revelation from God about people at her conferences needing healing. She also has several Sunday speaking engagements at churches, some of which, undoubtedly, will have her preaching to men. (This video indicates she is preaching the Sunday sermon, which means she’s preaching to men, and here she admits to teaching God’s word to men.)

Wellspring Group- Not enough online information for a recommendation or warning. Wellspring Group is a parachurch workshop ministry. According to their website, “We long to see lives, marriages, families and churches transformed so broadly and radically that it actually changes the leadership culture of the church, both here in North America and also around the world. We dream of… Overflowing Transformation.” I did not see anything overtly unbiblical on Wellspring’s web site, and many of their objectives and descriptions of their teachings sound biblical and gospel-centered. I did not discover any ties between Wellspring and known false teachers. However, I did note several red flag-raising buzzwords on the site which gave me pause.

One of these buzzwords was “spiritual formation.” Some churches and ministries innocently, and ignorantly, use the term “spiritual formation” as a trendy new synonym for the word “discipleship,” and their “spiritual formation” classes are just as doctrinally sound as if they called them “discipleship” classes. If this is the way in which Wellspring is using the term, that’s not a problem, other than the confusion it causes. The confusion comes in because of the unbiblical spiritual formation movement, which centers around mysticism, works righteousness, contemplative prayer, and other unbiblical doctrines and practices. If Wellspring incorporates these things into its workshops, I definitely do not recommend it.

If you have the opportunity to attend a Wellspring workshop, I would urge you to proceed with caution and – as with any other Christian event or teacher – be a good Berean and compare everything you hear to Scripture.

Update: After reading this article, one of my readers who has personal experience with Wellspring Group wrote in and shared her thoughts. If everything she says is accurate, I certainly would never recommend Wellspring Group. You can read her review of the program here.

Jen Wilkin- Cautiously partially recommended. Jen is a women’s Bible study author, blogger, and conference speaker, and is on staff on the executive team of The Village Church. To my knowledge all of Jen’s books and Bible study materials are doctrinally sound (though I have not personally read any of them), but I have some concerns about her in other areas. That said, I definitely do not consider Jen to be a false teacher. I’ve published a review of Jen’s book, Women of the Wordand here is a reader’s take on her book 1 Peter: A Living Hope in Christ:

“…in the foreword Jen wrote, ‘a paraphrase, such as the NLT or The Message, can be useful but should be regarded as a commentary rather than a translation.’ However, aside from that, I have found no other problems with the book at all. It is an eight week long study of 1 Peter based on the method of Bible study that she writes about in Women of the Word. My favorite thing about this study is that it causes us to focus on what the text is telling us about God. I love how Jen Wilkin is teaching women to study the Bible properly. I wish she would be more discerning about who and what she endorses though. There are so few women who bring us solid teaching and discernment.”

I’ve heard several positive reviews of Jen’s books from other trusted and discerning friends as well.

I’ve looked through all of Jen’s speaking engagements listed for spring 2018. All appear to be women’s conferences or events, and her speaking engagement request form says she is a “teacher who helps women…”. None of the events listed on her blog have her appearing with any false teachers, but she is scheduled to speak at the Abundance conference in November 2018 alongside Lisa Harper, Rachael Myers, and Amanda Bible Williams. Which leads into to my concerns about Jen.

In addition to the sharing the stage with these problematic teachers, I’m concerned about some connections Jen has with Beth Moore and other false teachers. In 2013, Jen wrote a blog post entitled, The Next Beth Moore in which she spoke glowingly of Beth, her teaching, and one of her books. She has also had a couple of friendly interactions with Beth on Twitter. Jen has appeared on the IF: Gathering podcast with Jennie Allen (to discuss and promote Women of the Word). She wrote a devotional for Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 blog. I want to stress that these things have been few and far between, and it is possible, to some degree, that Jen isn’t aware of the doctrinal problems with these women or that she simply made a few unwise associations as we all do from time to time.

In the same way the influence Steven Furtick has on Lysa TerKeurst as her pastor is worrisome, I’ve been seeing some things over the past few years with Jen’s pastor, Matt Chandler, and his wife, Lauren (with whom Jen sometimes appears at conferences), that have given me pause. Jen is pastored by Matt, and as a ministry leader and staff member at The Village Church, she works under his direction and influence. Over the past few years, Matt has publicly praised false teachers like Ann Voskamp, Beth Moore, and Jesus Culture. He recently raised some questions about the extent of his continuationism by playing this video prior to a sermon. He allows Bethel and Israel Houghton (Joel Osteen’s former worship leader) music to be used for worship at his church. Matt allows his wife, a worship leader at TVC, to select this music, and to yoke with and be influenced by numerous false teachers (see section on Lauren Chandler above). Again, this is something to weigh when considering Jen, but weigh carefully. While it is probable that she is being influenced by Matt and Lauren and their associations, it is quite possible she could be expressing her concerns to them about these associations behind the scenes.

Finally, there have been questions about exactly where Jen stands on the biblical role of women in the church. That she presents herself as, and is known as, a strong complementarian is very clear. She has stated equally clearly that women are not to hold the office of pastor. But beyond that, in listening to and reading her articles and interviews about the importance of women leading in the church, I’m not really clear on what positions of church leadership she thinks are and are not biblical for women. For example: May a woman guest preach the Sunday sermon as long as she is not the pastor of that church? Teach co-ed adult Sunday School? Preach sermons to mixed audiences at conferences? Perhaps she has been very clear about these types of things somewhere and I have just missed it. I’m not saying she has an unbiblical stance on these issues, I’m just saying I’m unclear as to what her stance is. I have attempted to contact Jen about this issue and other questions, but have not received a response.

In summary, my recommendation on Jen right now is that, as far as I know, her books, articles, Bible study materials, and any of her speaking engagements that don’t include doctrinally unsound teachers, are biblical and trustworthy. Just don’t assume everyone she associates with socially or in ministry is doctrinally sound and someone you should receive teaching from.


I truly regret that I’m unable to give a wholehearted endorsement to all of these women and ministries. I’m sure they’re all perfectly nice people who, in their own hearts, have only the best of intentions, but Christian leaders and teachers have a grave responsibility to Christ and to their listeners to teach sound doctrine and walk in obedience to Scripture. Please understand that this is not a personal attack on any of these women or ministries, only answers to readers’ questions about whether or not I recommend them and their materials.


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.