“Later, Jehoshaphat king of Judah made an alliance with Ahaziah king of Israel, whose ways were wicked. He agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships. After these were built at Ezion Geber, Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy what you have made.” The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade.” (II Chron. 20:35-37)
I’m not normally a weepy kind of person. My wife displays her emotions more often than I do, as she sometimes recalls what had been before the last two years, and no longer is, since we got into this battle against false teachings. It’s especially sad when we ponder what some people’s actions have led to where my son still feels sad at times, wondering why did things have to happen like they did? (It’s tough giving answers to an eight year old. However, he is learning sound biblical truth from godly teachers at school, and sound Bible teaching at his new church). As I prepared this post, and as I thought about the Bible story of Jehoshaphat as it relates to it, I admit I got a little weepy this time. I fought back a tear or two, because of what this story says in relation to what is happening now in the Nazarene denomination.
So let’s look at II Chronicles chapter 20. At the end of the chapter, we see that it certainly went bad for Jehosaphat in his later years. But when you read the entire chapter, you really feel like weeping, because it was a different story at the beginning. What a contrast, as the people came to Jehoshaphat and said, “what do we do? Our enemy is strong, and a much larger army.” And Jehoshaphat showed his great trust in God, as he led his people in worship, and prayer, and told them to trust the Lord their God. Jahaziel son of Zechariah, had finished telling him, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” What an inspiration for the people as Jehoshaphat said to them, “Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” And so when you read the rest, you find that God truly did lead them to victory as He promised, when they trusted in Him only, and obeyed God. But sadly, Jehoshaphat’s reign shortly after he made an unholy alliance with a wicked king.
Are we making more unholy alliances?
Mike King is the President of YouthFront, and as I read his blog the other day, that question came to mind. Here is what he wrote:
“Back from five days in the Denver area. The first couple of days Chris Folmsbee and I met with the leadership of Renovare about partnership possibilities between Barefoot, Renovare and Youthfront. We had great and synergistic conversations. The Renovare team is awesome and I look forward to working with them closer. I think wonderful things will be coming from our ongoing dialogue and planning. Stay tuned. In addition to our time with Renovare it was life-giving to have extended time to scheme and dream with Folmsbee, we’ve always found it easy to generate ideas and new ways of thinking about ministry, resources, leadership development and formation.” (Mike King’s blog)
I agree completely with Mike King that he was scheming and dreaming. Mike King is the president of YouthFront, and just recently received a Master’s Degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary, although I don’t know if he is actually a Nazarene. YouthFront is a national youth ministry training organization based in Kansas City, and is known for promoting spiritual formation. YouthFront has already partnered with NTS in at least one endeavor, as indicated in this NTS webpage ad from 2008 offering a youth spirituality course. This is not a surprise for me anymore, but rather a painful expectation.
Chris Folmsbee is the director of Barefoot Ministries, a non-profit youth ministry training and publishing company located in Kansas City. According to Chris’s website, “Barefoot exists to help youth workers guide students into Christian formation for the mission of God.” I have written several articles on Barefoot ministries, and it is no secret that I and many other Nazarenes believe that this organization for youth is leading many youth down the wide path of spiritual destruction, not spiritual formation!
And the third part of this alliance is Renovare, an organization founded by Richard Foster, perhaps the most influential person today in leading many evangelicals directly to and over the cliffs, right into the abyss of spiritual formation (certainly a more palatable and innocent-sounding phrase than contemplative spirituality, or “Christianized transcendental meditation”, or maybe “occultic prayer practices.” I have also documented much of Richard Foster’s unbiblical practices and ideology, and it is maddening that he has such an influence in a denomination that preaches holiness and faithfulness to God’s written word, and long ago ironically moved away from experiential-based spirituality in rejecting the hyper-charismatic movement.
So let me be clear here. I am not writing here to warn Barefoot Ministries to be careful, and stay away from these other two. Oh no, it is quite clear that Barefoot Ministries, an official arm of the Nazarene Publishing House, has drunk nearly every last drop of the contemplative spirituality Kool-Aide. Therefore, I am writing this to warn Christian parents, concerned Nazarenes and other Christians, and youth especially, that you don’t need to get into these phony ritualistic practices that these three organizations are promoting. It is amazing how hard it is to even find a decent reference to such things as an exhortation to read the word of God for what it teaches us. Instead, we get the following nonsense which, to most undiscerning Christians “sounds good to me”, straight from Chris’s website:
Now, to the question at hand… Four thoughts come to my mind when asked the difference between reading Scripture and letting Scripture read us. The best way I know to answer this question is through my own life experience. These thoughts may not be true for you, but then again, they might be very true.
1. Accessibility or Authority. When I read the Scriptures, I go looking for something as if I am the authority on the text/subject. When I let the Scripture read me, I go into it with a soul that is open and accessible, able to be reached (for example, during the practice of lectio divina).
2. Practice or Principle. When I let Scripture read me, I am in search of a forming practice or a faith-shaping discipline that transforms me from the inside out. When I go to Scripture, I am often in search of a particular premise or principle. The former is much more difficult and requires more of my conscious effort.
3. Soak or Surface. When I let Scripture read me, it means that I am permeable, and I absorb the truth into my very being. Letting the truth soak into my soul opens up new dimensions of truth. Sometimes, when I read the Scriptures, I am simply searching for truth on the surface.
4. Mission or Myself. Usually when I read Scripture, I am tempted to read into the passage(s) what I need God to do for me or what God has done for me. A particular blessing, perhaps? On the other hand, when I let Scripture read me, I usually end up finding ways that God can use me for the sake of the world, as opposed to me using God.
It’s bad enough that Folmsbee recommends a book by Eugene Peterson, writer of the disastrous paraphrase of the Bible, The Message. But this is nothing more than a promotion of contemplative spirituality (note lectio divina that he mentions), and for him to suggest that “scripture can read us” is ridiculous, unless I am missing something from scripture, which he certainly did not reference in any way. Instead, we see that his focus is “my own life experience”, and then the pragmatic view of “These thoughts may not be true for you, but then again, they might be very true.” And what are these new dimensions of truth that he is talking about? Is not the truth found in Christ, and in scripture alone, guided by the Holy Spirit? That’s what’s wrong with these ideas, can’t you see? These new dimensions of truth are, I am almost certain, is a reference to the contemplative mind-emptying practices of the “new spirituality.” These people are simply doing it “their way”, just like Cain did, as I recall from a recent sermon I heard.
So the idea of these three groups making an alliance makes perfect sense to me, because they are all on the same page. From a Christian perspective, however, it is a destructive alliance that is a great danger to Christians and especially our youth, and one that should be avoided by all Bible-believing Christians. Yet, we seem to be continuing down this road, making more and more alliances with organizations that have a veneer of truth. And so I ask again, since there is some truth there, does that make it okay to join with them? Is there any more doubt as to where our denomination is heading, my friends? Are we fooling ourselves and thinking that these are just minor aberrations in the whole scheme of things?
What does it say to you, then, that NTS, our main seminary for training pastors for the future, is clearly holding hands with these groups, and promoting them? Remember NTS’s promotion of the Spiritual Formation Retreat just before General Assembly? Remember the Prayer Room at General Assembly with the Richard Foster book? Or the Richard Foster/Renovare event at Point Loma Nazarene University? Or Trevecca Nazarene University’s prayer labyrinth? Remember the promotion of contemplative practices on the NTS website, for pre-teens? Remember Northwest Nazarene’s shocking lecture by universalist/ Dr. Jay McDaniel? What about the books Barefoot Ministries promotes, as documented in this post, and in this one. Either our leadership is totally in the dark about these (and many more that I have not mentioned), or they know of it, and are saying nothing specific to the questions many have put to them.
How many of you have come to realize what spiritual formation really means? Is this the future you want for your children? For those who might be skeptics (and I know that some of you reading this are skeptics), are you okay with this new way of spirituality for your children, or grandchildren? If I have convinced you otherwise, from the past three years, as well as by others who have written on these subjects, what are you going to do about it?
For those who might want to say something and demand that the madness stops now for the sake of our youth, here is the phone number of Barefoot Ministries: 866-355-9933.
I agree with a sister in Christ, Beverly Turner, who has the same concern about this:
“I challenge you each to first do your home work about Richard Foster, Renovare and Mr. King. Then call and let your concerns be made both at 866-355-9933 (BareFoot Ministries) and also at the Office of the General Superintendents. This madness has to be stopped!
If ever the Church needed to be the Church and stand against evil, it is today. Yet we find ourselves with heretics who have made their way in among us and no one seems to have any power to stop them. The Church is on the same course as our Government, as they both head toward the One World Government and the One World Religion that Revelation 13 speaks of.”
I’ll be calling and writing them soon. Perhaps enough Christians doing this will get some attention. If you wish to address this concern to our General Superintendents, here is their email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s pray that the Church of the Nazarene does not end up writing the same chapter that was written for Jehosaphat. And let’s pray that we will not continue the awful silence in our churches even as apostasy continues to creep into the church.
“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 3,4