Positive confessions, synergy, prayer contemplation, centering, connection, yoga, community, and ecstatic worship all share a common origin. They are all New Age practices and they are in a local church near you, largely due to the emergent church movement, uninformed evangelicals, and the growing ecumenical, kingdom-now philosophy of popular internet preachers.
Americans are Biblically illiterate and spiritually hungry, and the New Age movement stepped in to fill the vacuum decades ago with a smorgasbord of “new” mystical practices that have their roots in Eastern religions such as Hindu and Buddha, just as Marilyn Ferguson in her wildly popular book, The Aquarian Conspiracy, predicted. The methods are the same but the terms used to describe them have changed since its 1980 publication. Meditation is now contemplative prayer, chanting is now “breath prayers,” the Kundalini spirit is now the Holy Spirit, visions of God, now channeling.
Another dangerous occult practice that has entered the church is a form of Kundalini, a type of counterfeit Holy Spirit that the likes of poor Todd Bentley with his angel Emma from Morningside Ministries, housed in the old Jim and Tammy Baker compound, encountered along with those barking dog souls inside the Vineyard Church movement. Through the use of trance music or drumming, these well meaning and deluded Christians say they have experienced the supernatural, have feelings of ecstasy, and receive prophecies, dreams, and visions. No doubt they do.
Unfortunately, no where in the New Testament do we see the apostles having laughing “fits” or the Holy Spirit causing people to bark like dogs, gold dust raining down on worshipers, or worshipers going into ecstatic trances. In fact, God expressly prohibits His people from seeking these counterfeit spirits, and thus the experience. Do not be deceived, these Eastern mystical practices have their roots in pagan worship. “And after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.’ You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things.” (Det. 12:30-32)
The common denominator to all of these New Age pagan practices that have snaked their way into the church is “experience.” People are hungry for spiritual experience, yet they are so Biblically illiterate as to possess any discernment to test the spirits. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
One of the tenants of the Christian faith is that God’s word is divinely inspired. That there is an instructional book in which we can measure any experience, vision, or dream we may receive. The Bible is a written record of God’s character, nature, and will, and any spiritual experience you may have will not contradict God’s word.
Probably one of the most frightening practices sweeping the Protestant church is contemplative prayer, a Roman Catholic-based practice that is literally inviting ancient demon gods or familiar spirits into individuals and entire church congregations. Contemplative Outreach Ltd. defines contemplative prayer this way:
“Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.” The organization even provides some helpful directions for centering prayer practitioners:
- Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
- When engaged with your thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.
- At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
And evangelicals are hitching their wagon to this pagan Roman Catholic practice in droves. Beth Moore said, “A true lover of God once spoke about practicing God’s presence. To me, that’s such a part of contemplative prayer. That we are able to absorb the reality that as we commune with God through prayer that He is with us, that His spirit for those of us who are in Christ fills us, that we are drawn near to Him that our souls find rest in Him.” To the undiscerning ear it might be hard to catch what she is actually saying, which is a resounding endorsement of the pagan contemplative prayer practice.
Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason Ministries, who came out of the New Age movement, had this to say about the influence of the New Age:
“Powerful mystical experiences can be very convincing. They are nothing to underestimate in power or influence. If it was not for God’s hand of grace intervening that very week we would have been sucked into this spiritual vortex that had grabbed us for a ride. Instead we were set free by the truth and only the truth found in the word.”
Rick Warren shares his view on “practicing” God’s presence by instructing us to use what he calls, “breath prayers.” Warren advocates picking a phrase and repeating it over and over again throughout the day, much like the Roman Catholic practice of praying the rosary or chanting in witchcraft.
I have no doubt that Christians such as Moore and Warren are, in fact, experiencing something spiritual, it’s just not God. And these church leaders should know better. They are supposed to know how to rightly divide the word of truth.
Although my family was a good one, they were not Christians and I did not come from a background steeped in the Bible or a church background. After I accepted Jesus as the Lord of my life in my late teens, I was led by the Holy Spirit to read the Bible often, but I struggled with having no understanding of how to actually apply God’s word. There was no context in which I could really understand much of what God was revealing through his word. I didn’t understand ancient Hebrew customs and traditions, know any history, and knew next to nothing about the Old Testament or church history. It wasn’t until years later in my walk with God that I learned the power of how God hides his word in our heart and how the Holy Spirit will bring scriptures to mind in the circumstances of life to teach and guide us. He was my missing teacher who helped me to understand God’s word. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” (Isa. 28:10)
Fast forward years later where I went through a heartbreaking divorce, I consciously decided that, if God couldn’t take care of me, I could take care of myself. Because I didn’t truly understand man’s sin nature and how God respects people’s free will, I had blamed God for not protecting me from a horrible divorce. Why? I still didn’t fully understand God or His word. I had a lot of what I now call, magical thinking, much of which I had subconsciously picked up from listening to the popular and pervasive New Age gospel that tells us we can live our best life now.
I eventually made my way back to church life. I found a non-intimidating local “community church,” attended every Sunday, and got involved in a small group Bible study. Looking back, I can say I was disappointed almost immediately with the materials in small group. I was hungry to know everything about God and reignite my study of the Bible. I yearned for the meat of the word I had not learned in my childhood and that context that had been so sorely missing in my search for truth. What I got instead was a steady fare of ready made, upside-down, seeker-sensitive Rick Warren teaching.
I began to spiritually squirm when the church rolled out their “40 days of Purpose” study using Warren’s Purpose Driven Life book. I remember one particular lesson that set my alarm bells ringing. In this particular study, we were to choose a partner in the group to confess our most painful secrets to for the purpose of “healing” and under the guise of confessing our sins to one another. (James 5:16) It just didn’t line up with other scripture. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isa. 43:15-19). They were misusing the scripture of, “Confess your sins one to another….” for something I had already confessed to God about on bended knees.
Although it had been years since I had regularly read the Bible, I knew enough to know that Jesus was my great and high priest and that if I confessed my sins to the Father, He was just and faithful to forgive me. God had already forgiven my past sins the minute I had repented, I didn’t need to rehash what God had told me He had forgotten with a virtual stranger in a small group setting. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psa. 103:12)
Then there was the financial planning series between “Bible” studies and finally Warren’s “Daniel Plan” series. I hadn’t signed up for this. I had signed up for Bible study. If I wanted to know how to plan my financial life or eat healthy, there were plenty of secular materials available in the marketplace. What exactly was going on here?
I have shared all of this to say this: I thank God for my previous years of Bible literacy because without knowing what God’s word had to say about who He is and His plan and purpose for me, I would not have recognized that things in this new church were “off,” that what I was oftentimes hearing wasn’t lining up with scripture. I thank God for His word to me that I meditated on many years before, “With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you. Blessed are You, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes.…” (Psal. 119:11-12)
Leaving the seeker sensitive church was not difficult. Leaving the many fellow Christian friends I cared about was. Make no mistake, there is a reason these mega churches are actively seeking the “unchurched.” It is a purpose driven, business model built on numbers and it is straight from the pit of hell. It breaks my heart when I see these new unchurched “converts” being saturated with New Age philosophies, such as those used by Warren and his followers, rather than pastors teaching straight from God’s word.
Unlike many of their parents, millennials do not deny that the spiritual world exists. When they find spiritual experiences in the church, they naturally conclude that they are from God because they have not been taught about God or know anything about the Bible. And just how effective is a “decision” if you have not been preached the word, understand that you are a sinner, or understand that repentance is necessary to Christianity? But that is another article for another day.
Finally, there is Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker, that has been sweeping through mainline churches since its publication in 2011. Batterson teaches a method of prayer that instructs practitioners to draw a circle on the ground or in their Bible and is based on an old Jewish legend from the Talmud with a predictable new spin on the prosperity gospel, which teaches that Christians can receive whatever material blessing they want from God.
The Talmud is not God’s word and the so-called Jewish legend, Honi, that Batterson bases his work on is also not mentioned in the Bible. Worse, Batterson draws on circle making practices used in witchcraft. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1:8)
The prosperity gospel, which has led to so many broken lives when it inevitably fails to live up to what it teaches, is so rampant in the apostate church as to be a picture of the church Jesus spoke of in Revelation 3:17: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
Our God is not a sugar daddy or a lottery payout. These prosperity preachers are no more than wolves preying on converts. They are taking advantage of the many, many Americans who are living in dire straights in one of the worse economies this nation has experienced since the Great Depression.They are desperate for relief and the stress of trying to make ends meet and feed their families. The idea that you are to seek wealth from the Lord rather than the Lord Himself is not only onerous, it is truly a tragedy for those people who were genuinely seeking the Lord before becoming ensnared in this false gospel.
Ultimately, all of these New Age teachings fail to live up to their promise of drawing us closer to God because there is no power in a watered down gospel or New Age philosophies. The seeker-sensitive mega church preys on the worldly desires of wealth and success. It is harsh to say, but those pastors teaching this deceit really have but one desire—that the world accept them. They know that the bloodiness of the gospel doesn’t play well to modern ears and they are ashamed of the message. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Rom. 1:16)
Finally, let me be clear that I love the church. I love the remnant that refuses to follow worldly New Age practices and rightly divides the truth of God’s word. I want lost people to know the true power of the Holy God we serve and the power of His gospel. I want all new believers to know His word rather than be led astray by men who are hiding greed in their hearts or who twist God’s word to suit their own ends. I exhort every new believer to read your Bible. Even when it is difficult or you don’t grasp all God is saying, He will reveal Himself to you at the right time and under the right circumstances. Do not suspend your reasoning skills because you are emotionally reacting to a new pastor a new church. God tells us that we are to take every though captive and to search the scriptures to see if it is so. Reign well.