Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Imprecatory prayers, Woman leading co-ed small group, LifeWay litmus test…)

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 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!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


I tried subscribing to your blog using the email subscription box, but I wasn’t able to. Here’s my email address. Can you do it for me?

First of all, thank you so much to all of you who subscribe (or are trying to) to the blog via email. I really appreciate it.

I’ve received this question from two or three of y’all over the past couple of weeks, so I reached out to WordPress (my blog host) just to make sure there wasn’t anything technologically wrong. They checked things on their end and said everything seemed to be working fine, and indicated that a number of people had been successful in subscribing to the blog via email in recent days. So, after chatting with the customer service guy for a few minutes here are some suggestions we came up with if you’re having trouble subscribing via email:

  • Unfortunately, I cannot subscribe to the blog for you. You have to do it yourself, so sending me your email address and asking me to subscribe for you won’t work.
  • Try using a different device. For example, if you’re trying to subscribe on your phone, switch to your computer, or try using a friend’s phone.
  • Try clearing your browser cache
  • Make sure you’re typing in your email address correctly- no typos – and into the correct box (the one that says “enter your email address”).
  • If all else fails, ask a friend who’s there with you to help.
  • If nothing works, you can always follow me on social media. I post my blog articles on my social media accounts every day.

Is it OK for Christians to pray imprecatory prayers against evil people?

I’m going to say “yes,” but with some New Testament provisos:

Examine your heart first. What is motivating you to want to pray an imprecatory prayer against this person? Do you hate her? Want revenge? Are you jealous of her? If the motive of your heart is ungodly, you need to deal with that first. You should not enter into any sort of prayer about anything if your motives are sinful (unless, of course, you’re praying that God will change your motives!)

Just as God’s greatest desire for you was for you to repent and be forgiven in Christ, that should be your greatest desire for others. Do you desire, from the heart, that God would save this person, or do you find yourself hoping God will hurt her or send her to Hell? Again, examine the motives of your heart.

It’s never wrong to ask God to stop someone from sinning or to protect you or others from that person’s sin. (Which is not the same as an imprecatory prayer).

Is the person you want to pray the imprecatory prayer against someone you know personally? If so, a better prayer would be to ask God to help you love her, forgive her, and give you opportunities to be a godly influence on her.

Is the person you want to pray the imprecatory prayer against someone you don’t know and have virtually no access to such as a well known false teacher or an evil governmental leader? This is probably the best fit for praying what we would think of as an imprecatory prayer. When I pray for false teachers, here’s what that prayer generally sounds like:

Dear Lord- I pray for Teacher X. Would you please pour out your grace and mercy on her, give her the gift of repentance, and graciously save her? However, You know all things, and you know whether or not she will be saved. If You know she will not bow the knee to Christ, I am asking You to please remove her from all positions and relationships of influence she has. Even though I know that You may be using her as an instrument of judgment against those who want their itching ears scratched, I am asking you to show mercy – to her, to them, and to the visible church – by sitting her down and shutting her up. But whatever You decide, I trust You.

Some people would probably say that’s not really an imprecatory prayer, and I might agree with them, but, to me, that’s what an imprecatory prayer sounds like when run through a New Testament filter.


We have a co-ed small group in our home which my husband leads, however due to work, sometimes he is gone. There isn’t another person who feels comfortable enough to lead so I usually just keep us on track by getting us through our questions which are based on Sunday’s sermon. So, does this mean that when my husband is gone, we should cancel our Small Group?

Though it is very servant-hearted and loving toward your husband and church for you to be willing, you should not be leading the group when your husband is gone. There would be nothing wrong with reading aloud some questions you’ve been provided if that’s all it was, but I would assume the leader has to at least provide some biblical guidance. What if someone answers a question with false doctrine that needs to be biblically corrected? What if no one can answer the question and answering it yourself requires you to teach Scripture to the group? That’s going to put you in the position of possibly violating Scripture and/or your conscience by teaching the Bible to a mixed group. That’s not fair to you or to the group.

Here are some things I would suggest:

  • If your husband can change his work schedule around or change the date or time of the small group meeting so he doesn’t have to be absent (at all or as much), that would be helpful.
  • Your husband should talk things over with your pastor and ask him for suggestions of other men (outside the group) who can lead when he has to be gone.
  • I’m sorry, but there’s no other way to say this (and please understand, this is not directed at you, personally, but a general statement about so many churches these days). The men in your group need to man up. I’m sorry they feel uncomfortable, but that has never been a biblical excuse for men failing to do what God has called them to do – lead. Barak felt uncomfortable doing what God had called him to do, and look how that turned out. Godly men manage to find a way to do things that make them uncomfortable all the time out of obedience to Christ. Your husband can mentor them, the pastor can train them, whatever. They all need to get together, figure it out, and step up. This shouldn’t be something you even need to worry about. It’s not your burden to carry, it’s theirs.

    And besides that, you’re uncomfortable too, aren’t you? At least uncomfortable enough to write and ask me whether or not you should be doing this or if the meeting should be canceled. So you – a woman – feel uncomfortable about doing something you shouldn’t be doing but you have to do it anyway, but these men feel uncomfortable about doing something they should be doing – leading – and they don’t have to do it because they feel uncomfortable? Does that sound biblical? Or even fair?

Perhaps it’s time for evangelical pastors and elders to start giving some thought to what is going on in the culture of their churches that makes men comfortable slacking off and shoving their God-given responsibilities off onto the shoulders of women.

So no, it shouldn’t come down to you leading or canceling the meeting all together. The best and healthiest thing that could happen here is for the men to step up and lead.

Additional Resources:

Adam 3.0: Meanwhile, Back in the Garden, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

The Mailbag: I Have to Preach Because No Man Will Step Up


I’ve discovered your podcast and started listening to the one on how to study the Bible. You speak of LifeWay in it. Am I to avoid ANY and all books and authors they sell/endorse on their website? Like Mr. X Preacher and Mr. Y Author? I have a library full of books listed on LifeWay!

Thank you so much for listening in to A Word Fitly Spoken!

I’m sorry, but I think you may have misunderstood what I said on our How to Study the Bible – And How Not To! episode.

We started off the episode by discussing how not to study the Bible, and one of our first points was that you should not use “Bible” studies authored by false teachers. I gave a list of some of the best selling women’s “Bible” study authors to avoid (Beth Moore, Lysa TerKeurst, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, etc.), and then I followed that up by saying this:

And I’m going to add one more. This is actually the first time I’m publicly saying this, and as a Southern Baptist, it pains me to say it, but if you need a quick way to rule someone out without doing hours of research on an author you’re not familiar with, I would avoid any author or conference speaker promoted by LifeWay Women – that’s the women’s division of LifeWay.

Now hear me, I’m not saying that every woman in LifeWay Women’s stable of women’s Bible study authors is necessarily unbiblical or a false teacher, but the majority of them are – certainly enough that I feel comfortable saying you could use their endorsement as a litmus test of who to avoid.

I was specifically talking about authors and conference speakers endorsed and promoted by LifeWay Women (the women’s division of LifeWay). I wasn’t talking about LifeWay in general, and I wasn’t saying that every single author you can find in LifeWay’s online store is a false teacher.

What I was trying to get across is this: Say you’ve heard of a new women’s Bible study by Jane Doe. You’ve never heard of her and don’t know anything about her, but you’ve heard other women raving about her. You’re wondering, “Is Jane Doe doctrinally sound?”.

I’m saying if you go to the LifeWay Women website and you see Jane’s picture plastered all over the place as their latest and greatest author and conference speaker, she’s probably not doctrinally sound, and if you don’t have time to read the book and compare all of her teachings to Scripture, you can take their endorsement of her as a signal that you should probably avoid her.

A brief note on the two particular men you mentioned. I would not recommend either of them – not because their materials are sold by LifeWay, but because there are theological issues with both of them. If you want to listen to or read some godly pastors and authors who rightly handle Scripture and will help you grow properly in Christ, please check out the Recommended Bible Teachers tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. (If you need the list narrowed down a little, I would recommend starting with John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, Gabriel Hughes, or Josh Buice).


I’m trying to remember the name of a recent release book that warns of singing the Hillsong/Bethel songs in church but I’m drawing a blank! Can you help me? I thought Costi Hinn wrote it but he just helped promote it maybe?

I personally haven’t read any recent books that I recall mentioning this (lots of blog articles, videos, podcasts, etc., but not books).

It is possible that Costi mentioned this in one or both of his books, Defining Deception or God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel (both of which I would highly recommend). I’ve read both, but it’s been a couple of years, so I don’t remember whether or not he specifically mentioned churches using Hillsong, Bethel, etc., music in either of them. I know he has mentioned it several times on his blog and podcast.

The only other book that keeps coming to mind is Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel by Kate Bowler. It’s not really recent, and I only read part of it when it first came out (2013), so I don’t know if she deals with that subject or not. But it keeps coming to mind, so I thought I’d mention it. (And if nothing else, it’s a very good reference book.)

Readers, any ideas which book (not online articles, podcasts, videos, etc. – BOOK) this sister might be thinking about?
Comment below.


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.

Discernment

Anne Graham Lotz

You are seeing this post as 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.


This article is kept continuously updated as needed.

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.


Anne Graham Lotz
Not Recommended

Perhaps best known for being Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz “speaks around the globe…Her Just Give Me Jesus revivals have been held in more than 30 cities in 12 different countries, to hundreds of thousands of attendees.” She is the founder and president of AnGeL Ministries, her speaking, publishing, events, etc., organization.

While the core of Anne Graham Lotz’s teaching historically hasn’t been radically off base, biblically, (i.e. she’s not blatantly teaching Word of Faith, NAR, or other heretical doctrine), she handles Scripture poorly, and there are too many red flags about her teaching and behavior to regard her as a trustworthy teacher of God’s word.

“Called ‘the best preacher in the family’ by her father, Billy Graham…” This opening sentence of her website is how Anne Graham Lotz has chosen to introduce herself to the world: as a female “preacher.” We could take this as a cute, antiquated father-daughter endearment if Anne did not, in fact, preach to men. However, she has no qualms about doing so herself and encouraging other women to do so, habitually violating this prohibition of Scripture. Just a few brief examples of the myriad available:

I Saw the Lord (Men clearly present in the audience at 7:29)

Vision of His Glory (Men clearly present in the audience at 3:36)

Preaching the Sunday sermon at Maranatha Chapel, 2/9/20. At 1:04, Anne says, “I’m very grateful for Pastor Ray giving me this opportunity…and for a pastor to give up his pulpit…I want to say thank you to him for that, and also for the statement that he makes concerning women in ministry…the fact that he would allow me to stand in his pulpit on a Sunday morning and speak to his congregation…so if you’re a woman in ministry, be encouraged.”

Preaching the Sunday sermon at Bridgeway Community Church, 2/16/20. At 0:40, Anne says: “I want to thank Pastor Anderson for his affirmation, his support, his encouragement, of women in ministry…To be in a church, on a Sunday morning, and for a pastor to give up his pulpit to me is a rare privilege.”. Two Sundays in a row. A nearly verbatim spiel. Not that “rare,” apparently.

Anne also yokes with numerous false teachers.

Priscilla Shirer and New Apostolic Reformation “pastor” Samuel Rodriguez have both written endorsements for one of Anne’s books. Rick Warren and Beth Moore have each written forewords for Anne’s books.

Anne has written several devotions for Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 website.

Anne calls false prophet and rabbi Jonathan Cahn her “friend” and publicly allies with him, spiritually.

Anne also participated in The Return, a September 2020 prayer and revival event organized by Cahn. Additionally, Anne sits on the board of advisors of The Return with Cahn and false teachers Pat Robertson, “Bishop” Harry Jackson, Robert Morris, Marcus Lamb, and John Kilpatrick, as well as Steve Strang– publisher/founder of Charisma Magazine, and Gordon Robertson- CEO of CBN.

Also participating in The Return1 were Che Ahn and Cindy Jacobs – “apostles” and major players in the New Apostolic Reformation, and Michael Brown, who often functions as an apologist for NAR (and other) false teachers on his radio program.

Again, Anne sits on the board of advisors for this event / organization. She cannot be ignorant as to who these people are and what they teach.

On the same day as The Return, Anne also delivered one of the featured prayers at her brother, Franklin Graham’s, Prayer March 2020. (It is unclear to me if, or how, these two events were connected.) Also featured at this event were numerous heretics and false teachers, including TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), Matt and Laurie Crouch (heads of TBN), Jonathan CahnJentzen FranklinRobert Morris, and Paula White.

Anne has appeared on disgraced televangelist and false prophet Jim Bakker’s show:

Anne participated in, promoted, and was a featured speaker at the 2020 Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast, an ecumenical event touted as a time for Jews and Christians to pray together in unity. (Christians are not to yoke with any unbeliever who denies Christ as the Messiah, including Jews.)

Anne has poor hermeneutics and often mishandles Scripture. In her excellent analysis, Anne Graham Lotz and Her Narcissistic Interpretation of the Transfiguration, Erin Benziger carefully and biblically walks us through Anne’s eisegesis and allegorization of the story of the Transfiguration.

In a video tease for her book, The Daniel Prayer, Anne completely ignores the context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 and claims it as God’s promise to America. 

The following year, as chair of the 2017 National Day of Prayer Task Force, Anne mishandled the same passage the same way, combined it with a mishandling of Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9, and claimed that these passages are God’s promise to “heal” America’s moral ills if we will just pray hard enough. Neither of these passages are about, nor apply to the secular nation of America. They both pertain to God’s covenant people, Old Testament Israel, at a very specific point in history.

This is indicative of Anne’s general hermeneutic when it comes to anything having to do with politics, America, social issues, foreign relations, etc. Her standard practice is to eisegete all of those things into Old Testament Scripture, taking God’s warnings to Israel as though they were literal warnings to America, and claiming God’s promises to Israel as literal promises to America. This is not rightly handling God’s Word.

Anne’s teaching on extra-biblical revelation (i.e. “hearing God’s voice”) is muddled at best. At times, such as in this excerpt from her teaching video Journey to Jesus Part 1: How to Study the Bible

…she correctly emphasizes that God speaks through His Word, yet in this same video (and other venues such as this article at Decision Magazine, How to Know God’s Voice) she also seems to teach extra-biblical revelation by saying we can mistake other people’s voices for the voice of God, that some people aren’t hearing God speak, and continually using phrases like “listening for God’s voice.”

In her article, Preprayer 2016 Anne explains and endorses unbiblical “circle-making” prayer. Similar to Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker, Anne re-tells the story of Honi the circle-maker, then says:

As I look ahead into 2016, I feel compelled to draw a circle around this city, this state, this nation… and pray!  Until God answers. Do the same. Please.  On this first day of the New Year, draw your own circle.  Then pray for everything that’s inside of it.

As we might expect, with her numerous ties to false prophets and New Apostolic Reformation heretics, Ann has begun to dabble in NAR-esque prophesying.

In his July 7, 2014 episode of Fighting for the Faith, Chris Rosebrough deftly analyzes a message Anne says God gave her for the United States.

In the Charisma News article Anne Graham Lotz Gives Prophetic Warning About 2016, Anne predicts “As I look ahead into 2016, I believe our national and global situation will get worse,” and “I have been repeatedly warned in my spirit that the enemy is advancing. It’s something that I know.”

Anne seems to be a lovely and caring person, not to mention very patriotic. I know she’s a sentimental favorite to many because of her father. Those are all endearing qualities. But we must put feelings and nostalgia aside when we evaluate whether or not someone is qualified to teach. James 3:1 is clear that teachers will be judged more strictly, not given a pass because they’re nice people or related to a beloved spiritual figure. Anne consistently mishandles Scripture, yokes in ministry with heretics and false teachers, and preaches to men, encouraging other women to do the same. She is not a trustworthy teacher, and I recommend that you not follow or receive teaching from her.


Additional Resources:

Anne Graham Lotz at Berean Research


1If you closely follow conservative politics, you may wish to examine the list of names of the participants in The Return.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Church Roles and Ambiguous Anatomy

 

I’m curious to know if someone who is medically intersex should be considered a man or a woman for the purposes of appropriate church roles. I’m not sure if the Bible addresses that or not. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Intersex is a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries). The older term for this condition is hermaphroditism.” In other words, a person could have XX chromosomes (genetically female) and ovaries, yet the external genitalia appears male (i.e. penis instead of vagina), or vice versa for a genetic (XY) male. There are also some other genetic anomalies that result in intersex, and a wide variety of genital anomalies not related to sexual identity that fall under the category of “intersex”.

(And just so we’re all on the same page here, “medically intersex” refers to a congenital abnormality– a birth defect. It does not mean, nor does the reader who sent in this question mean, a physically/genetically normal man or woman who has decided to mutilate his/her body with surgery to appear to be the opposite sex. That’s different. Also, the reader who sent in the question is not asking whether or not a medically intersex person may be saved or may be a church member. She is only asking how the biblical roles for men and women in the church {i.e. preaching/teaching/leadership roles} apply to a medically intersex person, so that is the question I’m answering.)

But because “intersex” has become something of a catch-all term for a so many genetic defects related to chromosomal abnormalities and/or internal reproductive organ abnormalities and/or external genital abnormalities, it’s nearly impossible to answer a question like, “How common is medical intersex?”. But even the (now defunct) Intersex Society of North America (an advocacy group, which we can probably safely surmise would be fairly liberal/over-generalized in its statistics) estimates that only .05-.07% (half of 1%) of babies at birth have genitalia so ambiguous that they require a consult by a sex specialist, and far fewer end up needing surgery to correct these anomalies.

Now, keep in mind that, as I said, that .05-.07% is the total estimate for a wide variety of reproductive and genital anomalies, many of which do not affect sexual identity. So the number of people who are genetically female with male genitals or genetically male with female genitals (what the reader who sent in this question is referring to) is only a fraction of that .05-.07%. In other words, it’s an extremely rare condition.

So, take that very tiny number of people and add on the qualifiers for this reader’s question. The medically intersex person has to get through the narrow gate of salvation (because unsaved people don’t have “church roles,” as they’re not part of the church, and, naturally, shouldn’t be serving or leading in the church in any way whatsoever). Now your numbers have gone from tiny to tinier. Now, whittle those numbers down even further: the person not only has to be saved, but has to have a doctrinally sound understanding of the roles of men and women in the church, the person has to desire a position of leadership or servanthood in which the biblical role of men/women is an issue (for most positions in the church, it generally isn’t), the person has to be otherwise biblically qualified to serve in that role (e.g. above reproach, sober-minded, etc.), and the person has to find and become a member of a doctrinally sound church that actually follows the Bible’s teachings on the roles of men and women in the church.

Now your numbers have gone from “tinier” to, “Get me the strongest electron microscope in existence.” Statistically speaking, this is never going to be an issue in any doctrinally sound church.

But it’s interesting to think about.

There isn’t a Bible passage that describes medical intersex and whether or not a person so afflicted may or may not serve in the role of pastor, elder, deacon, preaching to/teaching Scripture to men, holding authority over men, or older women teaching the younger women (the church roles assigned to either only males or only females).

The closest the Bible comes to addressing this issue is in Leviticus 21:16-23, which says that a man with crushed testicles may not serve as a priest in the temple. However, this passage does not apply to the question at hand for a couple of reasons, which are abundantly clear if you read the passage in context.

First of all, “crushed testicles” is only one condition in a litany of other physical abnormalities which disqualified a man (only men could serve as priests) from the priesthood. And the reason for this had nothing to do with sexual identity. The reason men with physical “blemishes” couldn’t be priests was basically the same reason that when you brought an animal for sacrifice, it had to be perfect, free of any physical defect: It symbolically pointed ahead to the perfection of Christ. Christ was not only the unblemished Lamb of God, our perfect sacrifice, He is also our perfect high priest. That’s why both the Old Testament sacrifice and priest had to be “without blemish”.

Second, although there are some similarities between the Old Testament temple and the New Testament church, they are two distinctly different entities with different qualifications for leadership. This is easy to see if you compare some of the requirements for the Old Testament priesthood with the requirements for pastors of New Testament churches. Other than the fact that the pastorate is restricted to men, there are no physical requirements for pastors. Certainly we would not say that a man who is blind or has psoriasis is disqualified from being a pastor strictly on the basis of those conditions, would we? Yet these men (and others with all types of physical “blemishes,” including crushed testicles) were disqualified from the priesthood.

So, having no direct biblical passages to go on, here are a few thoughts…

  • Such a unique situation that isn’t directly addressed by Scripture will need to dealt with on a case by case basis by the pastor, elders, and church leadership.
  • The medically intersex person who meets all of the qualifiers I outlined above should set up an appointment with his/her pastor, explain the medical condition, explain whether he/she has been living as a man or a woman, and why, and get pastoral counsel on which positions of service or leadership would be appropriate.
  • I would think it would be helpful for the medically intersex person’s current pastor to contact his/her former pastor for insight on how the situation was handled at his/her previous church. The current pastor might end up making different decisions than the previous pastor, but getting the benefit of the previous pastor’s experience would seem to me to be beneficial.
  • The medically intersex person seeking to serve the church has probably already established an identity (dressing, behaving, considers him/herself as, presenting as) as a man or a woman in his/her daily life. Taking that into consideration and weighing all of the other factors and details, church leadership may prayerfully consider it appropriate to let this person function in the church as the sex he/she identifies as. In other words, if the person has established an identity as a woman (she considers herself a woman, dresses/acts like a woman, her family, friends, and others consider her to be a woman, etc.), it could be an appropriate decision to allow her to function as a woman in the church, following the Bible’s role for women in the church.
  • Another appropriate decision the church leadership might make would be to err on the side of caution and help the medically intersex person find a place of service that is not impacted by the Bible’s parameters for men and women in the church. Here and here are a couple of good jumping off points.

If the medically intersex person and his/her church leadership prayerfully come together seeking wisdom from the Lord, and trying to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, there is one biblical certainty about this situation: they can trust Him to direct their path.


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.

Discernment

Jennie Allen and IF:Gathering

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.


This article is kept continuously updated as needed.

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

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Paul’s gospel, National repentance, Pastor search committee, Pastor’s wife teaching men)

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


Didn’t the risen Christ give Paul the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith? Paul called it “my gospel”? Is the Great Commission the same as Paul’s gospel? Thanks!

Not exactly, but it’s great that you’re noticing those little details as you study God’s Word!

“Paul’s” gospel…

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 2 Timothy 2:8

…is the biblical gospel of salvation that Paul preached – the good news of what Christ did to save sinners through His death, burial, and resurrection – and the call to repentance and belief.

The Great Commission…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

…is the church’s (and individual Christians’) “marching orders” to share that gospel with sinners and disciple them to maturity in Christ. It is God’s main purpose for the church.

So, in a nutshell, the gospel is what Christ did. The Great Commission is what we’re supposed to do with the gospel.


I got into quite the discussion with people today who feel that prayers of repentance for our national sins are not only unnecessary, but an affront to them because THEY did nothing wrong. I cited Daniel who prayed prayers of repentance for his nation, though he led a righteous life. They got all confused with Old Testament sacrificial law and that Christ was the ultimate sacrifice so we only need repent of our OWN sins. Could you address this, please?

Well…depending on exactly what they were saying, they may have been at least partly right. We can certainly pray that God will lead individuals in our nation to repent of whatever sins they may have committed, but we cannot repent on behalf of another person or of a nation. God does not hold us responsible for the sins of others, and we cannot repent for the sins of others. (see Ezekiel 18).

If you’re referring to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9, if you’ll read very carefully, you’ll notice he is confessing the sin of his people, lamenting over the sin of his people, and asking God to pour out His mercy on his people despite their sin, but he is not repenting on their behalf.

It is impossible to repent for someone else’s (let alone a whole nation’s) sin because repenting is more than:

  • confessing that sin has occurred,
  • admitting that someone is guilty for having committed that sin,
  • feeling sorrowful over sin,
  • asking forgiveness for sin, or
  • asking God to be merciful toward the sinner.

Repentance means to turn away from your sin, to forsake it, to stop doing it because you want to obey God instead. Although I’m sure he wished he could have, Daniel could not turn away from someone else’s (the nation of Israel’s) sin. And, he specifically says in verse 13: “we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities”.

Another thing to remember is that Daniel is interceding for God’s covenant people. They belonged to Him. They had agreed to follow Him. America is not in a covenant relationship with God. For a Christian today, interceding for the church and praying that God would lead Christians to repentance would be more analogous to what Daniel was doing.


We lost our pastor almost a year ago and are struggling to find a new one. Do you have any suggestions of where we could send the information about our church and the position in hopes of finding a suitable candidate?

I would suggest sending your information to:

The Master’s Seminary’s Pastor Search page

Founders Ministries Minister Search page

Expositors Seminary

I hope you’ll find a wonderful, godly pastor very soon!

Now, although this might not be possible for your particular church, I would like to throw something out there for the consideration of any pastor or church member who might be reading this. The most biblical model of leadership for the local church is that it be led by a plurality of elders.¹ For that primary reason, I would encourage every church that doesn’t already have this leadership structure in place to look into it and give strong, prayerful consideration to transitioning into leadership by a plurality of elders.

However, secondarily, there are practical benefits to your church being led by a plurality of elders, and avoiding being “pastorless” is a huge one. My own church recently welcomed a new pastor after being without one for two full years. That two years was a struggle. The interim pastor was a stranger to us and we were strangers to him. He did not know the ins and outs of life at our church or the strengths and weaknesses of our church. As affable as our interim pastor was, it was always in the back of everyone’s mind that he was temporary. This was not our pastor and everyone knew it. And then there were some other issues that arose during his tenure that awaited the new pastor’s arrival.

When a church is led by a plurality of elders, many of these issues can be avoided or lessened. When a lead teaching elder dies, moves, or steps down for whatever reason, there is, ideally, already another elder available to step in and take over. This elder already knows the church and the people and they know him. There’s no need to assemble and train a pastor search committee, launch a nationwide search, wait on resumes to arrive, interview candidates, present them to the church for a vote, and then hire a stranger about whom you know virtually nothing except what’s on his resume and whatever he says in his interview. The transition from elder to elder is smoother and immediate with little upheaval and relational trauma to the church body.

Just something to think about.

¹I’m not saying that churches which aren’t elder-led are apostate or intrinsically sinful, I’m just saying that if you want to get as close to the biblical model as possible, go with a plurality of elders.

I am a relatively new (about one year old –  but growing in discernment!) Christian, and I attend a small Baptist church of about 15 people in the remote area in which I live. The pastor’s wife leads both men and women in a “Bible” study group using popular (biblically questionable at best, such as Max Lucado) books instead of reading Scripture. I choose not to attend these studies, but because the church is so small, my absence is obvious and noticed. People comment that they have not seen me at “Bible” study. 

Everything else that happens in the church, the sermons, worship, prayer, are all on point biblically, thus far. My pastor is a godly man as far as I can tell, so my only issue to date is these co-ed, led by a woman, “not-Bible” studies. Should I take my concerns to my pastor? I’m already on a bit of shaky ground with the pastor’s wife. I’m reluctant to upset the apple cart any more. However, if the right thing to do is to address it and deal with potential consequences (shunning, whatever) then I want to do the right thing by my Lord and Savior. How would you guide me in this situation?

I know this is a really difficult situation to be in and I’m sorry it’s making you uncomfortable at church. Yes, when we see sin in the camp, we must speak up, so you should begin preparing to address this situation. Normally, I encourage women to go to the person most directly in charge of the issue first, which in this case would be the pastor’s wife, but I’m guessing that if you’re on “shaky ground” with her it’s because you’ve already tried to address this with her. The next step is to go to the pastor.

I would encourage you to spend a little time studying through the book of Esther, realizing that she was in a somewhat similar situation to yours: God revealed to her an ungodly situation that would harm His people, and she – at great personal risk – had to go to the man in charge and implore him to right the situation, not knowing how he would respond. It could be that God has specifically placed you in this church “for such a time as this”.

Notice that Esther asked that her people be gathered to pray for her. If you have any like-minded friends or loved ones who will pray with you as you prepare your heart to talk to your pastor, that would be beneficial. I have already prayed for you, and I am asking everyone reading this to stop and take a moment to pray for you as well.

If the pastor tells you you’re wrong or doesn’t rectify the situation, and there’s another, better church you could join, even if it’s not as convenient as this one, prayerfully consider moving your membership there. If, as you said, everything else at your current church really is doctrinally sound, and you have no other options for a doctrinally sound church to attend that’s within achievable driving distance of your house, my counsel to you would be to stay at this church, continue not to attend the “not-Bible” study, and fervently pray for God to change the hearts of your pastor and his wife.

If you stay and people continue to say, “We missed you at ‘Bible’ study!” all you have to say is, “Thank you!” or “It’s nice to be missed,” or something like that. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I say, “I missed you at _____,” to someone, it’s not a demand to know why she wasn’t there, it’s to let her know that I love her and missed fellowshipping with her. Hopefully, that’s all your fellow church members mean by saying that. If a nosy Nelly asks why you weren’t there, keep in mind that you’re not required to give her that information just because she asked. You can say something like, “I have a conflict and can’t attend,” which is truthful (you have a biblical conflict and can’t, in good conscience, attend), yet gives no one the opportunity to say that you were gossiping or trying to stir up division in the church. If she continues to pry, look her dead in the eye and keep repeating, “I have a conflict and can’t attend” until she comes to her senses and realizes it’s none of her business why you weren’t there.

Here are some resources I hope will help you:

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

Searching for a new church?


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.