Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Prosperity gospel, Friendship, Christian colleges, Calvary Chapel, Non-denoms, “Unspoken”)

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.


What is the prosperity gospel? Thanks!

It’s a theological framework that sounds Christian-ish, but it’s really not. There are a lot of unbiblical tenets of the prosperity gospel (more formally called Word of Faith heresy, less formally called “name it and claim it / blab it and grab it”) but the two you’re most likely to be familiar with are:

  • “It’s never God’s will for you to be sick, poor, or unsuccessful. If you are, that’s your fault for not having enough faith. If you just have enough faith, God is obligated to give you whatever you ask him for.”
  • From televangelists: “‘Sow a seed’ (i.e. “send me money”) into my ministry and God will bless you. The more you send, the more material stuff God will bless you with.”

Most “churches” and evangelical celebrities that espouse the prosperity gospel these days are also into New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) heresy. The easiest way to explain the NAR is that it takes the prosperity gospel and adds on weird (and unbiblical) “signs and wonders” such as faith healing, supernatural visions, “trips to heaven,” false prophecy and so on. Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are examples of prosperity gospel heretics who are not also NAR. Bethel “Church” and Todd White are examples of combined prosperity gospel and NAR heresy.

Here are some resources you may find helpful:

What does the Bible say about the prosperity gospel? at Got Questions

God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel by Costi Hinn

The Mailbag: What is the New Apostolic Reformation?


I have a question regarding friendship. I have a friend/co-worker who is unrepentantly continuing a sinful behavior. I have tried to lovingly several times to point her back to Jesus as she is Christian. Her behavior happens to be quite triggering for me and my husband isn’t a particular fan of her as well. My question is, am I wrong for not wanting to continue the friendship? And if not, how do I do this in a loving, Christ-like way since we work together?

Wow, usually when you confront someone in her sin, the question of whether or not to remain friends takes care of itself, because the confront-ee isn’t too fond of the confront-or any longer. You must have found a wonderfully loving and gentle way to talk to her – great job!

The first thing we would need to clear up is what you mean by “friend”. To me, a friend is someone you choose to spend time with socially because you enjoy that person’s company. You have lunch together, go to the movies together, visit each others’ homes, etc. That’s not the same as being friendly with people you have no choice about being around. You’re probably friendly with your next door neighbor, your co-workers, and the people at your church, but you don’t make any effort to spend time socially with most of those people outside of those particular venues. (For more clarity, you might enjoy reading my article How Can We Be Friends? in which I discuss different levels of friendship.)

There’s nothing in the Bible that says you have to be friends with any specific person. In fact, the Bible speaks more about not developing or maintaining close relationships with people who are ungodly influences. (Here are just a few that came to mind.) But the Bible does instruct us to be kind and loving to those we come in contact with. In other words – going back to the difference between being friends and being friendly – you do not have to be friends with this person, but you do have to be friendly (kind and loving) toward her when you run into her at work.

If you are friends, which of you normally initiates your get-togethers? If it’s you, or if it’s about 50-50, you can gradually back off of inviting her to spend time time together, get busier with other plans (actual plans – don’t lie), and so on, and the friendship may dissolve organically.

If it’s her, or if you just want to be more direct, you can sit her down and kindly and gently explain that, while you enjoy your friendly working relationship with her, you won’t be able to spend time with her outside of work any more. Then explain the biblical reason why (spending time with her tempts you to sin, your husband doesn’t approve of the friendship and you need to respect his wishes, 1 Corinthians 5:11‘s admonition not to associate with professing Christians who persist in sin, etc.). If she’s actually a Christian, she ought to understand, and hopefully, losing a friend will provide her with additional incentive to repent.


My daughter will be heading to college next year. Do you have any Christian college recommendations? She visited one today and the Baptist church on campus that they use for their chapel has a woman pastor. The school also has a LGBT group for alumni, students and faculty. So sad. She is spiritually tired from high school and looking for an uplifting school that values both education and true spiritually.

I wish I had better news for you, but I think you’re going to find problems like that, as well as false doctrine being taught and promoted inside and outside the classroom, at the majority of Christian colleges you consider.

The only Christian college I’m familiar with that I would be comfortable recommending is The Master’s University (TMU is separate from The Master’s Seminary. TMU is a regular Christian college that admits both men and women. TMS is solely focused on preparing men for the pastorate and does not admit women.)

Readers, you’re welcome to make other recommendations in the comments. I would just urge anyone considering those recommendations to carefully vet any college that is mentioned.


I really want to know what is wrong with Calvary Chapel doctrines?

I think the only place on the blog I’ve mentioned anything about Calvary Chapel is on my Reader Recommended Churches resource. And on that page, the only thing I’ve mentioned is that I don’t accept recommendations for Calvary Chapel churches (among others) for doctrinal reasons.

There are two doctrinal reasons I’ve chosen not to add Calvary Chapel churches to the list:

  1. The Calvary Chapel statement of faith clearly states that its churches believe and practice continuationism, and I don’t list continuationist churches. While I don’t believe otherwise doctrinally sound continuationist churches and Christians are heretics or false teachers, I also don’t believe this view is a correct handling of Scripture. Additionally, in my experience, continuationist churches are far more likely to fall into other doctrinal error and yoke with false teachers than cessationist churches are (not that cessationism guarantees a perfect church).
  2. Several years ago, there was a split in the Calvary Chapel denomination. I don’t remember all the details, I just recall that the churches on one side of the disagreement went in a doctrinally unsound direction, and the churches on the other side maintained biblical fidelity, but both sides kept the name Calvary Chapel. Since I vet every church that’s submitted for inclusion on the list, it would be extraordinarily difficult and time consuming to try to find out which side of the split a particular Calvary Chapel church ended up on.

Is a non-denominational church any good?

There are good non-denominational churches and bad non-denominational churches just like there are good denominational churches and bad denominational churches. It really depends on the individual church and their practices and teachings.

It’s important to carefully vet any churches you’re considering joining on an individual basis. Need a little help? Check out the “What to look for in a church” section of the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.


Are unspoken prayer requests supported biblically? I Googled it and many sites said no. Even though I need prayers from my Sunday school class I always pass because I don’t want to say why and I don’t know if unspoken prayer requests are biblical.

For any readers who are new to Christian-ese, an unspoken prayer request is when a Christian is asking others to pray for her, but doesn’t want to disclose the details due to sensitive information, embarrassment, privacy, etc., so she just says, “I have an unspoken prayer request,” or “Unspoken.”

While I really can’t think of anything in Scripture that prohibits or even discourages this, I would personally encourage anyone asking for prayer to at least give the people she’s asking some sort of direction. You don’t have to (and in many cases, shouldn’t) give private details, but you could say something like: I can’t give all the details, but please pray for me about: a problem I’m having at work, or a situation with a friend, or a difficult decision I have to make, or a sin I’m struggling against, or I have a challenging week coming up.


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.

False Doctrine, False Teachers

Throwback Thursday ~ Hillsong’s Theology of Music and Worship

Originally published October 25, 2016c3banner1_fftf

Does your church use Hillsong music? Do you buy their songs or listen to them on the radio? Ever really sat down and compared the words you’re singing or hearing to Scripture?

If not, this episode of Fighting for the Faith will be eye-opening. Listen in as Chris Rosebrough, Steve Kozar, and Amy Spreeman examine the lyrics of several popular Hillsong anthems for biblical theology. They’ll also give you a behind the scenes look at what goes into planning a Hillsong-esque worship set. And you’ll hear from Geoff Bullock, one of the “founding fathers” of Hillsong music, about why he left Hillsong and his regrets about the songs he wrote while there. Hear more of Geoff’s story here and below:

 

Click below to listen to this fascinating episode of Fighting for the Faith:

Heresy Hiding in Plain Sight

False Doctrine, Word of Faith Movement

Throwback Thursday ~ I Beg Your Pardon? I Never Promised you a Rose Garden.

Originally published February 5, 2009

I once heard a pastor say that a gospel that doesn’t work everywhere is a gospel that doesn’t work anywhere. He was referring to the so-called “prosperity gospel” that seems to be gaining momentum in the U.S.

If you’re not familiar with this movement, the basic idea is that, if you just have enough faith and/or sow enough seed (i.e. send money to a certain “ministry”) God will bless you with wealth, new cars, new houses, etc. It must work, right? The pastors who push this “name it and claim it” (or as someone I know puts it: “blab it and grab it”) crack “gospel” certainly seem to be doing well financially.

The problem is, it doesn’t work for everyone. How did it work for Paul? What about John? Stephen? Peter and the other apostles? Certainly, they were faithful and gave everything for the cause of Christ, and what did it get them while they were here? What about Christians in India, China, parts of Africa, parts of the Middle East, and many other places today? They are being tortured, imprisoned and even killed for following Christ. Where is their health, wealth, and prosperity?

The fact is, God has not called us to a life of ease. He has not called us to life at all, but to death. Death to self, death to pride, death to greed:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Luke 9:23

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:12-13

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Matthew 6:24

God never promised us a rose garden. He promised us that if we follow Christ, we will be persecuted and hated. Wow, just when you thought witnessing couldn’t get any harder! What a selling point for Christianity! But this is what our brothers and sisters across the globe face every day. Many of them, when they make a commitment to follow Christ, are signing their own death warrants.

What God has promised is so much better than material wealth. He has promised that when we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). When we truly do delight ourselves in the Lord, the desires of our hearts will mirror the desires of His heart. We won’t crave fleshly things like wealth, but holiness, compassion, justice, and a closer relationship with Him. He hasn’t promised us material rewards here, but hereafter.

Discernment, False Doctrine

Jesus Loves Me: The “Contending for the Faith” Version

Every now and then I do a little creative writing. I posted this to Facebook on Sunday, and people seemed to like it, so I thought I’d share it here for those who aren’t on social media.

Discernment, False Teachers

Throwback Thursday ~ You Might Be Apostate

Originally published June 3, 2016

might be apostate

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy hit the big time several years ago with his “You Might Be a Redneck” one-liners. He frequently introduced the bit by saying, “I’ve found that there are rednecks all over, but sometimes people don’t know they’re rednecks. So, I came up with this little test…” and continued with such gems as:

“If you’ve ever had to carry a bucket of paint to the top of a water tower to defend your sister’s honor, you might be a redneck.”

“If your wife has ever said, ‘Honey, come get this transmission out of the tub so I can take a bath!’ you might be a redneck.”

“If you’ve ever been accused of lying through your tooth, you might be a redneck.”

It was a routine that a lot of us in the South found hilarious because we knew someone who fit nearly every one of Jeff’s jabs.

Like rednecks, there are apostate false teachers all over the place out there, only a lot of them (and their disciples) don’t know they’re false teachers. And the fruit of their lives is far wackier than anything a redneck has ever dreamed up. That fruit doesn’t make them false teachers, but it sure is a sign that we’d better examine the root of doctrine from which the fruit sprang.

So if any of the preachers and teachers you’re following have ever said or done the following things (or something even crazier), watch out, because they Might Be Apostate.

HoNuthaLevelIf you’re a middle aged pastor who makes embarrassing rap videos, who publicly extols the virtues of Spanx for men (even though it gives you gas) and who calls himself a Ferrari you might be apostate.

If you feature a Naked Cowboy impersonater (aka- your youth “pastor”) at your “Christian” women’s conference, you might be apostate.

If you’ve ever purposefully applied the pronoun “herself” to God, you might be apostate.

If you celebrated your 35th birthday by preaching at the “church” of your mentor, T.D. Jakes, and placing a $35,000 check in his offering wheelbarrow, you might be apostate.

If God has ever told you to go up to a stranger in the airport and ask if you can brush his hair, you might be apostate.

If you’ve ever given your congregation a sob story about needing a new $70 million Gulfstream jet, because the old one is worn out, you might be apostate.

If you think of the Holy Spirit as the “sneaky,” “silly,” “funny,” “blue genie from Aladdin,” you might be apostate.

If you’re a woman who thinks God is OK with you preaching to men despite what His word clearly says to the contrary, you might be apostate.

If you’ve ever said, regarding your church’s worship service, “I probably wouldn’t have a stripper on stage…” but leave the door open to the idea because “God told Isaiah to walk around naked for three years,” you might be apostate.

Benny Hinn at Maple Leaf Gardens on Sept. 28, 1992 photos by Tony Bock/Toronto Star and handout photo.

If you think smacking people in the face with your Nehru jacket is a ministry of the Holy Spirit, you might be apostate.

If you’ve ever typed a Facebook status in tongues, you might be apostate.

If you say you’re a trinitarian, but think the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three “manifestations” of God rather than three Persons, you ARE apostate.

If you think Proverbs 21:9 means you should camp out on your roof in a quest for biblical womanhood, you might be apostate.

If your senior pastor father sexually abused boys at your church and paid them off to keep them quiet and you, as the subsequent pastor, knew about it but didn’t speak up, you might be apostate.

If you officiated at your homosexual son’s “wedding,” you might be apostate.

If you’re a pastor who thinks expository preaching is “cheating” because it’s “too easy” and that “it’s not the way you grow people” AND that we shouldn’t say “the Bible says…” AND that parents who take their children to a small church instead of a mega church are “stinkin’ selfish,” AND that we shouldn’t use the Bible to convince the lost of their need for Christ, you might be apostate.

If you’re Oprah’s idea of an awesome pastor, you might be apostate.

downloadIf your preaching, ministry, and theology have ever been publicly rebuked by John Macarthur, Paul Washer and Steve Lawson, you might be apostate.

If you partnered with a Roman Catholic mystic with a degree in spiritual psychology to make a completely unbiblical movie about the Bible featuring ninja angels and Mary Magdalene bossing the disciples around, you might be apostate.

If you and your 80s rock star third husband stand in the pulpit and tell people to watch porn to improve their sex life, you might be apostate.

If a feature of your “worship service” is people laughing uncontrollably or barking like dogs, you might be apostate.

If you’ve ever decided to “p*ss off the religious people” on Easter Sunday by playing AC/DC’s Highway to Hell to open the service, you might be apostate.

If you’ve written a book entitled “I Am” and it’s about positive confession rather than Jehovah, you might be apostate.

If you think you have the power to control the weather by the words you speak, you might be apostate.

Joyce-Meyer-600x450If you think that between the cross and the resurrection Jesus went to Hell and that Satan and the demons jumped up and down on His back, you might be apostate.

If the top three “pastors” you encourage people to follow on Twitter are T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen, you might be apostate.

If a currently practicing homosexual couple wants to serve in leadership at your church and your only problem with it is that one of them isn’t yet divorced from his wife, you might be apostate.

If you’ve ever been accused of having an affair with Benny Hinn, you might be apostate.

If, a hundred years ago, your worship leaders might have been carted off to the funny farm or treated to an exorcism for conducting themselves like this, you might be apostate.

And, if you’re about to write a comment rebuking me for marking false teachers to avoid and exposing unfruitful works of darkness because Jesus would never do such a thing then you don’t know your Bible.

And you just might be apostate.