Discernment, False Teachers

Shauna Niequist

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If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

 

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

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

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

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

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


Shauna Niequist
Not Recommended

Shauna, an author, speaker, and podcaster, is the daughter of Bill Hybels, former pastor of Willow Creek, where Shauna has preached the Sunday sermon on many occasions.

This information from my 2016 article on Shauna is from a pastor friend of mine who knows Shauna’s family personally:

“[Shauna is] the daughter of Bill Hybels, the founder and pastor of Willow Creek in Barrington, IL. Because of very personal experience with it, I will tell you that this stuff they peddle has proven to be the worst kind of Christianity, and probably a Matthew 23:14-15 type of situation, at least in my opinion.

Next, this post right here ought to really be enough.

She is a friend of Rachel Held Evans. She is touring with Jen Hatmaker, who is a complete mess. Really, there is no other way to describe her than secularism covered with some Bible words.

Aaron [Shauna’s husband] is a worship leader at Willow Creek. He began a HUGE movement with contemplative prayer a couple of years ago. Because of his music, he comes off as very spiritual and sound, but there is nothing inherently Christian about anything he says or does, really. Take a look at Aaron’s blog here, which will give you more insight. [Aaron has apparently removed the blog portion of his website. He is no longer with Willow Creek, and neither is Shauna.]

There is ZERO discernment with this family, they either promote or flock to whoever is popular, and they are all about using words that sound really great, but have no substance to them at all. They are on this big thing lately about “Holy Spaces”, which sounds great, but is so anti-biblical when you really think about it. You don’t create a space that is holy, only God can do that. Anyway…

This is the Willow Creek legacy, in a nutshell: their lack of sound doctrine, lack of Bible, lack of biblical discernment, and their false teaching and false gospel. Shauna and Aaron are simply products of what her dad has built, which is a huge gathering of people who neither know Christ, nor have reverence for His word.”

As I began re-researching Shauna to update this article on her, her most recent Facebook posts alluded to the fact that she hadn’t written anything in a while and that her family had gone through some “adjustments” and other issues. I was hoping this meant God had convicted her of past sin and false doctrine and was straightening out her theology. Unfortunately, a mere scroll back through the last several months of her Facebook posts demonstrates that Shauna remains a false teacher to avoid.

A few years ago, Shauna publicly congratulated Jen Hatmaker for affirming homosexuality.

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

And here’s Shauna recently affirming homosexuality herself.

“This is so beautiful,” says Shauna about this blasphemous article from female “preacher” and feminist Sarah Bessey. The purpose of the article is for Sarah to explain to a young woman (who is on the fence about the inclusion of practicing, unrepentant homosexuals into church membership and wrote to Sarah asking for advice) how she became affirming. In addition to shamelessly twisting and abusing the Scriptures throughout the article, Sarah has the unmitigated temerity to suggest that Jesus Christ, the sinless, perfect Son of God, had to be taught by the Syro-Phonecian woman about His privilege and His prejudice against Gentiles. And Shauna says, “This is so beautiful.”

Shauna continues to violate Scripture by preaching to men. Aaron says his wife is the “best preacher ever.”

She continues to yoke with, affirm, and maintain close friendships with, some of the most egregious false teachers out there, including Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle (The “Christian” mommy blogger who divorced her husband and “married” her lesbian partner, Abby. Shauna has recommended Glennon and spoken glowingly of her and Abby several times.), and the late Rachel Held Evans.

Here, Aaron says he and Shauna are helping Nichole Nordeman (homosexuality affirming, frequent associate of false teachers) fund her next album.

In addition to these (and so many more) glaringly unbiblical relationships, positions, and violations of Scripture, notably absent, or nearly so, from Shauna’s Facebook timeline is any meaningful mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible. Her post on “Holy Saturday” (the day before Easter) doesn’t even mention Jesus, the crucifixion, or the resurrection. And the benediction she wrote for her church’s Easter service barely does, in passing.

For a taste of Shauna’s theology, consider the following:

Shauna recently appeared on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday to promote her book, Present Over Perfect, “a path away from frantic pushing and proving, and toward your essential self.” She does not mention Christ, the gospel, or the Bible, and only mentions God in the most generic (“God loves me”) of terms. When explaining what was most helpful to her in overcoming her stress and anxiety, Shauna credits centering prayer, an unbiblical, mystical, New Age practice.

 

Shauna’s website markets Present Over Perfect as a “Bible study.” You can download the first two chapters of the book, and view the teaching video for the first session of the study. I did both.

Shauna writes engagingly, there’s no doubt about that, but the first two chapters of the book read like a memoir of someone who is aching to know God but hasn’t found him yet. Christian-y words like “God,” “sin,” “grace,” and “baptism,” are sprinkled through the narrative, but there’s a palpable disconnect between Shauna’s artistic usage of these words and her grasp and internalization of what they truly, biblically mean. It’s almost like “stolen valor” – a guy desperately wants to be a soldier, so he dresses and talks the part, but he has never served and isn’t actually in the military, yet he hopes doing all these things will fulfill his yearning to actually be a soldier.

And, keeping in mind that this is supposed to be a “Bible study,” there is nothing from or about the Bible in the first two chapters of this book. No verses. No discussion of passages or books of the Bible that will be studied in subsequent chapters. It is all about Shauna and her thoughts and experiences.

The teaching video is very much the same, minus most of the sprinkling of Christian-y words. There is no Bible in this “Bible study” video. It’s all about Shauna’s opinions and anecdotes from her personal life. (Sharp listeners will also note her mention of her “friend, Glennon,” the aforementioned Glennon Doyle.)

Here, Shauna reinforces the pernicious “church is optional” and “I don’t have to go to church; I can worship God anywhere,” mindset ravaging Christianity today.

In this benediction she wrote for her church in June 2019, Shauna waxes panentheistic: “May we walk through these doors and through this city intimately aware of the divinity all around us and within us and within each person we encounter.”

And in her 2017 blog article, Expanding the Way We Experience God:

Shauna commends, “a wide vision for how people connect with God,” including “poetry, silence, sitting by the ocean…centering prayer, truth-telling with my closest friends…” (rather than studying your Bible, prayer, faithfully serving and being taught Scripture at your local church, etc.). “The tools [for connecting with God] that have been meaningful along the way for me have been books, poetry, counseling, friendship, spiritual direction, the Enneagram, centering prayer.”

She again promotes the “church is optional” idea when she states, “Some seasons [of spiritual growth] require poetry, and others preaching,” and “…in late high school and early college, I needed a little distance from church life. And so instead of going to church, I went to the ocean.”

Shauna also believes in extra-biblical revelation: “So I’d settle myself on a rock [at the beach] and I’d listen for God’s voice, or at least the sense of His spirit.”

Southern Baptists should note that LifeWay, which purports not to carry authors who affirm homosexuality, at this time, carries four of Shauna’s five books.

Researching Shauna saddened me at every turn. Most of the false teachers I warn against proudly and brashly twist and defy God’s Word in order to build up their own kingdoms on earth of fame, fortune, and influence. That’s not the impression I get from Shauna, but rather of someone who acutely craves peace, purpose, and contentment, and is casting about for it everywhere except in the Christ of Scripture.

Is Shauna deeply steeped in sin and false doctrine? Yes. Should you and your church avoid her teaching and materials? Definitely. But there’s a subtle thread of sorrow and despair running through her writing that makes me want to hug her, sit and cry with her, and help her to embrace the truth of the gospel that will give her the peace she so desperately seeks after, the love of Christ that she’s looking for in all the wrong places, and the rest for her soul that only comes from intimately knowing as Savior the Jesus who is a stranger to her.

Discernment, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 1

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 2, Volume 3

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 listed below and have not had the 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). On a few of these, I have also enlisted the help of theologically sound friends who are more familiar with these women than I am.

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).

Photo courtesy of prayinglife.org.

Jennifer Kennedy Dean– Not recommended. Jennifer’s calendar of events includes a column titled “Women Only?” which implies that she does teach men (at this time she has one co-ed event listed). An April 17, 2016 Facebook post also mentions she will be speaking to inmates at a men’s prison who are using one of her book studies.

Jennifer’s web site features endorsements by Lysa TerKeurst and Beth Moore, but I did not find any other obvious partnerships or appearances between Jennifer and well-known false teachers.

Some of Jennifer’s wording in quotes from her books and book descriptions give me pause because they sound similar to some of the phraseology false teachers use. However, I want to stress that I did not find any quotes in my quick check of Jennifer that seemed overtly unbiblical. She does favorably quote The Message and does not seem to understand that it is a paraphrase, not a translation, which does concern me since she is a Bible study author. I would need to examine her books and teaching more closely to get a better grip on where she’s coming from doctrinally.

12046903_1052179321495503_6933066421813121772_nLisa Harper– Not recommended. Lisa is a contributing writer at Proverbs 31. She has partnered with Christine Caine, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Bevere, and Victoria Osteen in at least one conference at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood. Lisa is also connected to IF: Gathering. Lisa considers Sheila Walsh (see below) a friend. And, she seems to think Joyce Meyer, Christine Caine, and Priscilla Shirer are kosher.

Photo courtesy of karenkingsbury.com

Karen Kingsbury– Recommended only for discerning, mature Christians. Karen Kingsbury is in a bit of a different category since she is a fiction writer. I asked about her in a group of theologically sound women I’m a member of. Here’s what they said:

“Her books are very “evanjellyfish.” Lots of personal words from God. Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted and misapplied several times per book. Ask Jesus into your heart. All the usual stuff.”

“There are absolutely problems with KK’s theology. Her latest series is about angels sent by God to earth to direct the lives of four chosen people and keep them alive so that one of the couples can bear a child named Dallas Garner who will turn the hearts of people back to God.”

“I actually saw The Bridge Part 1 and 2 on Hallmark that is based on her books. I would no way look to her for theology, but the movies were decent for a Christmas feel good movie. But that’s as far as I’d ever go with her stuff.”

“I really enjoyed the Baxter family series. As fiction. Not for theology. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes quite a bit at those parts. But – it’s fiction. I don’t hold fiction to the same standard that I would a theological book.”

“The angels series is way out there and could lead to very bad theology. If you read those books, you might want to compare it with a study of angels in Scripture.”

I would echo the respondent who said she does not hold fiction to the same level of doctrinal purity as non-fiction Bible studies, Christian living, or theology books. If you are a new Christian or not very knowledgeable of the Bible, it would probably be a good idea for to stay away from Karen Kingsbury books until you’re more mature in Christ and can spot and reject the theological problems in the books.

Photo courtesy of twitter.com/rebekahlyons

Rebekah Lyons– Not recommended. Rebekah and her husband Gabe (who previously helped co-found the Catalyst conference, which has featured false teachers Beth Moore and Christine Caine) are the founders of “Q,” an organization which attempts to join Christians with secular cultural and governmental leaders as well as other non-Christians, including Muslims, in order to make a Christian impact on culture through “The 7 Channels of Cultural Influence.” These “7 Channels” are identical to the seven mountains found in the Seven Mountain Mandate of the New Apostolic Reformation’s false teaching of Dominionism. Scripture does not tell us to partner with non-Christians to impact culture, in fact, it explicitly tells us not to.

Rebekah has appeared at IF: Gathering. The transcript of her speech is Ann Voskamp-esque sloppy theology at best, emergent at worst. Rebekah also appeared at Q with IF: Gathering founder Jennie Allen speaking on Women in the Church. You’ll notice that Gabe commends IF for not “getting into doctrine” when it comes to women’s roles in the church, and virtually no Scripture is cited in the entire talk, only opinions (there was so much double speak in the video that I was unable to glean anything else of substance).

Among other topics, including marijuana and robots, Q Denver 2016 will feature speaker Melinda Selmys, a Catholic blogger and author who wiil share “My Struggle with Gender Dysphoria.” She “encourages faith communities to provide trans people with the social, emotional, and spiritual support that they need in order to heal.”

Photo courtesy of raechelmyers.com

Raechel Myers– Not recommended (nor anyone associated with She Reads Truth). Check out this resource and this one. Elizabeth Prata, author of these two resources adds:

“I had direct interaction with Raechel Myers regarding the concerns I’d written about. She falls far below the ‘unrepentant … false doctrine’ benchmark. As an elder woman attempting to teach her, the younger, sound doctrine and to be self-controlled (Titus 2:2, 4-5) she not only was unrepentant but she was very angry and decidedly UNcontrolled. She would not listen one bit and so, she did not hear. The entire scene made me very sad for all the IF:Gathering women, because they are intelligent and have energy, verve, and dedication. If they’d put all that in the right direction they all could have been role model women and wives for the glory of Jesus.”

snShauna Niequist– Not recommended. In addition to regularly preaching the Sunday sermon at Willow Creek, this information is from a friend who knows Shauna’s family personally:

“[Shauna is] the daughter of Bill Hybels, the founder and pastor of Willow Creek in Barrington, IL. Because of very personal experience with it, I will tell you that this stuff they peddle has proven to be the worst kind of Christianity, and probably a Matthew 23:14-15 type of situation, at least in my opinion.

Next, this post right here ought to really be enough.

She is a friend of Rachel Held Evans. She is touring with Jen Hatmaker, who is a complete mess. Really, there is no other way to describe her than secularism covered with some bible words.

Aaron [Shauna’s husband] is a worship leader at Willow Creek. He began a HUGE movement with contemplative prayer a couple of years ago. Because of his music, he comes off as very spiritual and sound, but there is nothing inherently Christian about anything he says or does, really. Take a look at Aaron’s blog here, which will give you more insight.

There is ZERO discernment with this family, they either promote or flock to whoever is popular, and they are all about using words that sound really great, but have no substance to them at all. They are on this big thing lately about “Holy Spaces”, which sounds great, but is so anti-biblical when you really think about it. You don’t create a space that is holy, only God can do that. Anyway…

This is the Willow Creek legacy, in a nutshell: their lack of sound doctrine, lack of bible, lack of biblical discernment, and their false teaching and false gospel. Shauna, and Aaron, are simply products of what her dad has built, which is a huge gathering of people who neither know Christ, nor have reverence for His word.”

Shauna also publicly congratulated Jen Hatmaker for affirming homosexuality.

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

jrJennifer Rothschild– Not recommended. Although a dear, godly, discerning friend heard her speak several years ago and recounted to me that Jennifer handled God’s word correctly and taught the biblical gospel at the conference she attended, a brief perusal of Jennifer’s blog raises too many red flags for me to recommend her at this time. Perhaps Jennifer is slipping in her discernment.

Jennifer has several endorsements from the likes of Beth Moore and Lysa TerKeurst prominently displayed on her web site, says she “loves James and Betty Robison,” and speaks 25- 30 times per year “to groups – mostly women,” (implying that she does teach men). She also calls Ann Voskamp a “dear, dear friend” in the introduction to a guest post Ann wrote for Jennifer’s blog, and will appear with Ann (again) at an upcoming event.

susiesquare-300x300Susie Shellenberger– Not recommended. According to her website Susie is  “an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene” (The office of elder is expressly limited to men in Scripture.) and spent several years serving as a youth pastor.

In the About Susie’s Speaking and Schedule sections of her website, several events which are usually co-ed (such as church revivals and college chapels) are suggested as events at which she might speak. “People” and “audiences,” rather than “women,” are the terms used for her listeners at these venues, implying that she teaches men.

Most of Susie’s books are for or about teens, and, while I haven’t read any of them, some of the titles and descriptions seem a bit troubling:

Masterpiece: 18 Encounters with Jesus that Prove it’s All About You (Even Rick Warren knows “It’s not about you.”)

Girl Talk With God: It’s Actually About Talking With Him and Listening to Him Talk Back (God speaks to us through His word, not an audible voice.)

Secret Power to Faith, Family, and Getting a Guy: A Personal Bible Study on the Book of Ruth (The book of Ruth is not “a Cinderella story” as the description purports, nor God’s instructions on how to get a boyfriend.)

headshot_newSheila Walsh– Not recommended. Sheila was a co-host of The 700 Club for several years, and recently announced she’s joining the leadership team of Life Today (James Robison). She has appeared at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood alongside false teachers Beth Moore, Prisicilla Shirer, Christine Caine, and Victoria Osteen, and is a contributor at Hillsong’s web site. She gave an enthusiastic Instagram recommendation of an event at which Bobbie Houston (Hillsong), Christine Caine, and Sarah Jakes Roberts (T.D. Jakes’ daughter) are the featured speakers. I also skimmed this interview with Sheila and found some of her answers troubling, particularly the one towards the end where the interviewer asks her about “people of other faiths who sincerely love God.”

awAmanda Bible Williams– Not recommended (nor anyone associated with She Reads Truth). Check out this resource and this one.

 

 

I truly regret that I’m unable to give a wholehearted endorsement to any of these women. 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, 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.