Thursday, December 20, 2012

FGBC Concerns Pt. 6: Model Ministry Trips (CE National)

TD Jakes “Model Ministry”?

Also recently, I wrote Ed Lewis about CE National's featured :”model church trips” happening this week (May 14-15,2011) to Bishop T.D. Jakes' church. Here;' the letter I wrote a few days ago and the response of Ed Lewis:

From: Steve Mitchell [] Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 10:56 AMTo:;; TKOB@cenational.orgSubject: Resent TD Jakes Concerns (Readable format)

Dear Ed Lewis, TK, and all at CE National,

Greetings from Steve Mitchell and sunny Roanoke. Friends, a few years ago I spoke with Ed about concerns I had over CE National's “model ministry” trips to Rob Bell's Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids. My concerns were largely dismissed and the 412 Commission went anyway to get taught and impacted by Rob Bell who has since gotten even more heretical in his teachings and has gone full egalitarian at his church with women in pastoral ministry. I had hoped that CE National as well as other groups withing the FGBC would refrain from trying to learn from people who had unbiblical aspects to their ministries but, here we are, with yet another scenario that I needed to talk with you about.

This time my concern is at new heights as I read that CE National is planning these “model ministry” trips to churches in Texas, most notable the Potter's House, which is home of Bishop T.D. Jakes. I read this on

Evidence indicates that T.D. Jakes is a “modalist” who denies the orthodox view of the Trinity which is a crucial doctrine of the faith. Please please read the following articles of concern about this man and his teachings.

Is this really a good choice for a “model ministry”? What exactly are we to learn from this church? He would be considered a heretic in the early church and even in today's among professing biblical Christians so I am somewhat mystified at the eagerness to take a trip to the Potter's House .

At least one other church on the list has a woman who bills herself as a “pastor” (Covenant Church of Carrollton Pastors Mike and Kathy Hayes) as did Mark Batterson's church that CE National also hailed as a “model ministry”. So help me understand how field trips to learn ministry methods at churches like Rob Bell's, Mark Batterson's, Erwin McManus, or, shockingly, Word-faith, modalist T.D. Jakes will in any way make the FGBC “more effective” or pleasing to God.

My friends, this has the appearance of the utmost lack of discernment and potential spiritual hazard written all over it. Please reconsider these destinations on your “model ministry” trips. The only things some of these churches are modeling is a path away from the biblical moorings that the FGBc was once known for and is rapidly forsaking in several key areas of the fellowship.

Please feel free to contact me on this matter at the provided e-mail and phone number. Please consider chatting with me about this because it is serious in light of our earlier discussions.

In Christ, Steve Mitchell Phone: 540-904-5420

Ed responded On Wed, 5/4/11,but I am unable to document a private email here. Suffice it to say that 
he took personal offense at my concerns and both thanked me for sharing those concerns and yet stated at the end of the letter: “Hope you understand that keeping things like this going (i.e. sharing concerns, personal dialogue, etc.) is fruitless and a “tool of Satan to keep us away from the task HE has given us.” if what I am doing is fruitless and (gasp) a “tool of Satan” then why thank me for my concerns?

I gave a final response:

May 5, 2011:
Dear Ed,
Thank you for your response and I mean that. I am glad you took the time to read my concerns and let me say at the outset, I will no longer trouble you with my concerns about what CE National does and that includes any phone calls or email. If this be our final letter between us, I just wanted to clarify some important features of what I wrote about.
First, let me apologize for offending you by sharing my concerns. I had no intention of any kind of personal attack and gave no personal assessment of your Christian life. I apologize for any tonal issues, i.e. that I “sound” angry as I wrote this latest email but let me assure you, any indignation is not directed to you as a person. I merely addressed you and TK as representatives that lead CE National but again my intention was not to slam your personal walks or works for Christ.
Second, I am concerned because of the prevalence of unbiblical trends entering this fellowship. You have known for years where I stood on my Rob Bell concerns and now you know why I was alarmed about T.D. Jakes. I also assumed too much. I thought, especially after our earlier talk about the 412 Commission going to Bell's church, that you looked into the churches CE National selects for their “model ministry” trips. It would never occur to me that you weren't aware of TD Jakes and his ministry.
Thank you for clarifying what “model ministry” means more fully. I hope you can see that when something is hailed as a model it means that it is exemplary in some way and that we should be open to emulation which is a concept fraught with potential spiritual danger when one takes into account false teaching and the fact that CE National has no knowledge of what is actually being taught before they take people there.
I believe that taking young people into these places is a bit more serious than taking pastors and leaders there, although I think the potential damage can occur albeit in different degrees and spheres.
I appreciate your zeal to learn from other churches except that I know, for example, what Bell and Jakes have and are currently teaching. When you hear that the leaders of an organization do not know the danger, you get concerned. Thats the place I'm writing from, bro. I am sorry that was eclipsed by my phraseology.
I'll address my comment that was probably most problematic: I wrote: “The only things some of these churches are modeling is a path away from the biblical moorings that the FGBc was once known for and is rapidly forsaking in several key areas of the fellowship.”
You took this as a personal slam and assessment of your direction. Read it closely. It is a reference to the unbiblical nature of the actual ministries that are being hailed as “models' and yes, I have misunderstood what was meant by that term at least a little and this statement is too reactionary. Forgive me for my tone and wording but the concern is there. “The several key areas” phrase involves what I know as a widespread influx of concerning teachings among us as a fellowship.
My last point is for your consideration. Perhaps the purpose of these trips is not to get taught their theology or doctrines but, inevitably, some of that is “caught' and the potential of that is great with youth. At 412 Commission time, the young people were definitely taught things and error can be infectious in a spiritual sense. This is my main reserve about the practice of hailing some of these ministries as “model”. They are impacting this culture but with what? A mixture of truth and error.
Granted, as you pointed out, we all struggle with this in our ministries and we have books on our shelves with heresy and aberration. But let me assure you, the teaching of modalism, the questioning of the essentiality of the virgin birth or universalism is a far more serious content than different views on baptism or eschatology.
Once more, here's my evidence as cited by CE national articles for why I believe that these trips may be modeling and teaching more than one might think:

On Mar. 23,2006, CE National advertised their upcoming Remix 2006:

What could bring over 75 pastors and church staff from across the country together in Southern California, besides the sunny weather? How about ReMix 2006, a weekend experience sponsored by CE National for pastors and church leaders to visit model churches. Attendees were encouraged to review church ministries first-hand, including those of Saddleback (Rick Warren), Mosaic (Erwin McManus), Rock Harbor (Todd Proctor), Grace Community Church (John MacArthur) and others, and look at refining ways to reach our changing culture with the Gospel.

Ministry is more caught than taught—and we caught it!” (Taken from: ).
It is clear that the participants are exposed to teaching at these visits;
in 2008: 1 Timothy 4:12 gives an amazing charge to young adults "...set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." The 412 Commission is an exciting program designed to nurture young leaders in an effective discipling environment.

Jeff Bogue hails it as a wondrous opportunity for ministry and training, even looking at model ministries as various churches are visited. What could possibly be a problem here?
Consider this entry by a girl who participated on this 412 commission and what she has to say concerning the influential teaching she received at her visit to Bell's Mars Hill:

CE News Online Email | See Previous Issue

412 Commission Semester Wrap-Up:

School started and with it we realized how exciting and stretching ministry can be. Along with Liberty classes, we had in-depth studies on books of the Bible, leadership, and a book of various topics that we read together as a team. Through Mike’s teaching, along with Rob Bell, our view of God was blown out of the box we had it in.”
And in 2010:
One of the unique parts of this board is that at least one time per year, the directors meet at a "model ministry" to observe and learn about new ministry ideas, philosophies, and strategies.”

In closing, I appreciate what you do personally for the Lord and for your willingness to respond. I am concerned though about the admission that CE National is unaware of some of the elements of the ministries that I share my concerns about. I will trouble you no longer with these concerns as I believe you lament the 'lack of trust”i appear to be displaying concerning your discernment and direction of CE National. I am a little bit stymied at how one is even able to share concerns with others who have been in ministry forty years or more in this fellowship. My observation is that there is no genuine forum in the fGBC to discuss these issues and so my writing to people seems radical and out-of-line. I am being misunderstood in for my attempts to share my concerns in these areas.

Ed, please understand that I am concerned and that is all. I love you in the Lord and have no personal animosity towards you. I am and always have been at peace with you in my heart and as a person. I regret that we cannot continue dialoguing on these things. Thank you for writing back.

In Christ, Steve

So there you have it. This is my final attempt to ever trouble CE National again and as far as I know, this weekend's visit to these model churches will continue unhindered and I can only imagine what will be next. Probably more model ministry trips, more contemplative promotion, lessening discernment, censorship of those who disagree and oh yeah, upcoming conference will feature yet another Hindu temple trip to be conducted on the same day as we present Daniel Pierce and the Greensboro church plant.

FGBC Concerns Pt. 5: Contemplative Concerns (Women of Grace, USA)

Present-Day Problems: Contemplative Concerns

This brings us up to the present-day: Women of Grace USA promoted contemplative mystic Ruth Haley-Barton at last year's Leadership summit which resulted in the refusal of several women from an Ohio church that did not go because this teacher was the featured resource. dr. Christy Hill, who teaches “spiritual Formation” at Grace was also featured as a speaker at one of these events. Women of Grace has been confronted by not just me but even after concerns have been shared, they are AGAIN promoting Ruth Haley-Barton at the upcoming summit this October. Read my email recently written to Women of Grace and watch the Haley-Barton clips and links I include:

Sent April 29, 2011:

Dear Leaders of Women of Grace USA,

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. My name is Steve Mitchell and I pastor Garden City grace Brethren Church in Roanoke, VA. I also run a discernment ministry called Power To Stand Ministries. I am writing you in regards to the fact that Ruth Haley Barton was a featured resource for last year's Women's Leadership Summit in October 2010:

Led by Chery Boehm, sessions focus on being aware of your needs as you lead, keeping your soul while learning to live within limits both personally and in community, and the spiritual rhythms of life (especially in leadership). Much of the discussion is based on the book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership — Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton.”

I have been studying the contemplative/spiritual formation movement for some time and have noticed that Ruth Haley Barton is a major proponent of some very concerning doctrines related to this phenomenon. I have also watched as many of these teachings seem to be coming into the FGBC like never before. Featuring the teachings of Barton at last year's summit was a great cause for concern among some of us who know what she and the Transforming Center she directs are currently promoting and teaching and wanted to make sure you were aware of some of these concepts.

I am prompted to write this letter in an effort to share these concerns because of the fact that it appears that the upcoming 2011 Summit will again feature Ruth Haley Barton or at the very least seems influenced by her books. My concerns center around the fact that the web page for the 2011 summit features a quote from her and a few of the sessions seem to have borrowed from her book titles (

Please receive this letter and the concerns shared here with an open heart of love and in the charity in which it is written. I have atempted to outline a few things that show my concern with Ruth Haley Barton and the teachings and teachers she promotes. What follows are some evudences for why I am concerned.

Ruth Haley Barton Teaches on Youtube:

She refers to herself as a “pastor” in this clip and her website confirms that she has served on the pastoral staff of several churches including Willow Creek. Barton then says participants in this retreat will go into the “great silence” together. There's also a lot of terminology about solitude leading from the transforming self.

All of this is undoubtedly contemplative as per the new movements and are unbiblical in their scope and extremes. Here are a few articles on silence, solitude, and the contemplative movement:

The link on her YouTube clip is which leads to her ministry at The Transforming Center and features a description of the same contemplative concepts and a quote from contemplative mystic Henri Nouwen. Please read the following articles on why Nouwen is such a concern:

we are treated to a variety of clips in which she explains her personal experience and need for the solitude and silence. I concede that much of what she shares in these clips about solitude and silence is correct, generally speaking. The subtle problems are that her mention of “THE silence” as opposed to “silence” carry with it some mystical connections. Also, one also wonders why, if she is able to so clearly hear from God in these moments stolen away from the busyness, why does He never seem to reveal to her that her assumption of the role of a “pastor” is unbiblical. She does not meet the qualification of being a “one-woman man”(1 Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:6) and doesn’t seem to pay much regard to the fact that God's Word doesn't allow for women to be in that role. Look at the endorsements of who she considers spiritual authorities on the disciplines and there is continuing concern.

Do these facts have any bearing on whether or not it is wise to promote the ministry of Ruth Haley Barton to the women of our fellowship?

On this same YouTube channel we are introduced to clips about the “Transforming Community” which is a two-year spiritual retreat for pastors and those in leadership where they can get away and become contemplative about their ministries. We see the testimony of Rev. Melanie Hammond Clark who is co-pastor of a Presbyterian church ( ). Women in the elder or pastoral role seems encouraged by Barton's ministry and why wouldn't they be because she is vocal about her own role as a pastor?

In her latest YouTube clips Barton is talking about her new book Sacred Rhythms and claims:
Ruth Haley Barton provides teaching and spiritual direction that will introduce spiritual formation to your congregation through guided experiences in the spiritual disciplines.”

Many will be introduced to a variety of sketchy teachers and influences in the contemplative movement that she draws from and points others to.

The Sacred Rhythms (also called “spiritual rhythms”) curriculum has an extremely ecumenical flavor to it as Barton reveals:

The idea of a 'rule of life' originated with spiritual leaders like St. Augustine, St. Benedict, and Teresa of Avila. These spiritual leaders crafted a way of life as a guide for monks and nuns who were living together in community... So as we begin this journey together, it's helpful to know that these disciplines are ones that spiritual seekers down through the centuries have practiced in order to keep themselves open to the transforming presence of God.”

Monks and nuns”? Teresa of Avila? She practiced mysticism and experienced ecstasy and was even said to have levitated at times in her life. She also claimed visions of Mary and Jesus and believed in holy water. ( )

Is this promotion safe and healthy for our women? Are these Roman Catholic mystics who we should be looking to emulate their practices?

Make no mistake, “Pastor” Barton wants people not only to learn these “disciplines” but she herself will be your guide:

Each session will include teaching and discussion about a particular discipline, and then I will guide you in actually experiencing that discipline.” ( ).

Again keep in mind that the evidence and endorsements indicate this to be the mixture of truth and error found in the spiritual formation movement that is so prevalent today. On the web page dedicated to her new book ( )Barton features a quote by mystic Henri Nouwen. She is at the forefront of introducing these practices and doctrines to many men and women today and sadly it appears that she has found an audience in our own fellowship as well.

The Transforming Center ( )

This is the center of Ruth Haley Barton's ministry and is located at The Loretto Center which is a convent (, a fact that I find very telling concerning her ecumenical proclivities. This convent also features a mystical labyrinth visitors can walk ( )

On their What We Do page we read :

Our Mission
We seek to strengthen the souls of pastors and leaders, equipping them to guide their churches and organizations to become spiritually transforming communities that discern and do the will of God in their settings. ( )

While this is an admirable statement one wonders how a woman who considers herself a pastor and points people to catholic mysticism from a convent can honestly speak of discernment and godly direction. This seems inconsistent on a massive scale and any biblical Christian should have “red flags” of discernment because of how unbiblical this scenario is at the outset.

On the About Us page we learn that Ruth Haley Barton “received her training in spiritual direction through the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation (Bethesda, MD) under the guidance of Tilden Edwards, Rosemary Dougherty and Gerald May.” ( )

The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation ( )

At Shalem, we honor each individual spiritual path and welcome anyone who would seek to learn from the contemplative way.” ( Ibid.).

On the page where staff members feature their articles one can clearly see the contemplative direction of the institute ( ). Staff member Richard Rohr is a panentheist that promotes the “Cosmic Christ”

With influences like these, we must be extremely cautious of Barton as a student from this institute.

She has also studied the Enneagram with Russ Hudson of the Enneagram Institute.” (

Finally, even without reading all her books, barton reveals her influences on the Transforming Center website with featured quotes by Henri Nouwen ( ), John of the Cross ( ) and Fr. Thomas Keating

She writes in Rest for The Soul:
The concept of the true self and the false self is a consistent theme not only in Scripture but also in the writings of the church fathers and mothers. Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen (particularly Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart) and Father Thomas Keating are contemporary authors who have shaped my understanding of this aspect of the spiritual life.” (141)

Church mothers”?”True/false self” doctrines? I think her influences and faulty beliefs are very evident here.
For further reading on Ruth Haley Barton concerns:
Refutation of Barton's “True self” doctrine:


Dearest Women of Grace leaders and teachers of the women of the FGBC, I submit to you the above information with a heart of love and concern. I believe the evidence clearly shows that the teachings and ministry of Ruth Haley Barton is not only incompatible with a biblical understanding of doctrine and practice in many areas but also a potential and actual spiritual danger as she is introducing many to an ecumenical, mystical, and unbiblical worldview, all under the guise of being a discerning spiritual director (whatever that is). The sad reality is that many have no idea about the danger of spiritual deception and I fear that many will be sucked in to an unbiblical understanding of God and spirituality through Barton and her connections.

Could I please ask you, in loving sincerity, to reconsider promoting Barton's ministry and materials to the women of the FGBC given the above obvious incompatibilities with biblical teaching and safe ministry? Is there any other alternative that the women of the FGBC could embrace and be taught at the upcoming summit? As it stands I could not recommend any women in our church or district to attend this summit and I am not alone in this area and this truly saddens me.

I realize that this is a lot to process and I want to make myself available to meet with you any time, in fact I am pleading with you to contact me when it is convenient. I am in Roanoke and am completely and utterly willing to chat at length if need be about my concerns for the good health of our fellowship and the cause of Christ.

Please contact me at 540-904-5420 or email me at . I would love to hear from any and all who would be willing to meet with me from WGUSA in a spirit of charity and open dialogue. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

In Christ, Pastor Steve Mitchell Garden City GBC

I received a response that stated that they would pray for discernment and leading as to whether to continue to feature Ruth Haley-Barton at the upcoming Oct. 2011 summit. I don’t know why anyone would have to pray about featuring the dangerous teachings of a woman who has demonstrated lack of discernment, usurps a 'pastoral role, and has a proclivity for catholic contemplative mysticism. A real problem here...

FGBC Concerns Pt. 4: The Temple Visit Troubles

The Temple Visit Troubles

At this point I took a bit of a hiatus. Things were still being promoted and I just couldn’t keep up with it. Many were thanking me for my stands and I went to India for three weeks in 2009 to teach and discern whether or not the Lord was calling me to move there full time. He wasn't, but while there I read of GBIM's (Jay Bell's) revived initiative of taking teens in to Hindu temples, Sikh temples, and Muslim mosques. I had already first commented about this is 2006 when teens were being taken there at Momentum conference. I had been in several meetings with Jay Bell about this when I went to Winona Lake to see my folks. Bell also told me that I was out of line for criticizing this and that I would not stop it. Needless to say, because of my involvement with India as a missionary, my knowledge of Hinduism and Islam, knowledge that this practice potentially could and does stumble some Indian believers, and being married to an Indian woman who was taken to these temples as a little child I knew something needed to be said so I wrote these articles from India and posted them on my blog in 2009:

In July 2010, my wife Supriya wrote this article after a meeting with Jay Bell. This article has literally been viewed GLOBALLY because it was featured on a very famous discernment website (

I was pre-approved by Tom Avey to write on this subject but when I did my blog was pulled from the FGBC website. Despite a follow-up conversation in which I was told that certain people were upset with what I had written my blog remains taken off the FGBC site to this day. It is evident that certain folks associated with doing this practice do not want dissent among the FGBC on this but many have contacted me privately agreeing with the concerns they read about the short time they were available to be read on the FGBC website.

I decided to go YouTube on this subject and we posted this statement as well as a full sermon I delivered at Garden City GBC on our YouTube site:

watch everything on this site if you have time. I haven't yet posted Part 2 of that sermon but will shortly.

FGBC Concerns Pt. 3: Emergent VS. FGBC Statement of Faith

Emergent VS. FGBC Statement of Faith

In Feb. 2008, Dr. Terry Hofecker requested that I submit a paper that dealt with the specific impact the emergent teachings were having on our fellowship. The angle was good in that he wanted me to show whether or not emergent theology and practice was compatible with our fellowship’s statement of faith. This paper was supposed to be submitted to a forum for discussion at national conference and anyone could challenge or rebut me but none of that ever happened. In 2009 I decided to post the paper on my blog and here it is:

In April 2008, I published a short update on Willow Creek and their involvement with the emergent. This did not go over well with many in the FGBC because they were and some still are promoting Hybels and his leadership summits as viable training opportunities for our pastors. Here's the article:

FGBC Concerns Pt. 2: CE National Concerns

CE National Concerns

I continued in 2007 to have correspondences and meetings with several in the FGBC resulting from the impact of the above sermon. I started kind of monitoring our FGBC websites and ministries and actually reading about the conference speakers, recommended resources and articles and couldn't believe how much emergent stuff was being endorsed and promoted by many in our fellowship. CE National was probably the biggest bringer of some very concerning stuff. After a lengthy talk with Ed Lewis, who was a dear brother and a role model for me as a teen, I was basically told that I was right in my concerns but at the same time completely out of line with sharing them. I was told to go ahead and speak out if I felt led to, so I did and Sept. 2007 brought this series of articles:
CE national: Concerning the Emerging/ent Church”
(I also have an mp3 of this series on CD if you want to listen)

These articles caused a small firestorm in that many people were angered that I would dare “attack” Ed Lewis as director of CE National. However, as you can read these are not personal attacks and as I said, Ed basically said go ahead and warn people if I felt that the direction of CE National was anything to be concerned about. So I did.

My initial call to Ed Lewis happened when I read that CE National was taking teens to Rob Bell's church as a “model ministry”. It had already happened and as I read about it online I needed to contact Ed. This is again when I was told that CE National “doesn't draw their lines the same places I do” and that if I felt the need to speak out on stuff to go ahead. So this article was published in Jan. 2008:

FGBC Concerns Pt. 1: Early Rumblings

Early Rumblings

In 2006, I moved here to Roanoke and within days was asked by this district why I had concerns with Rick Warren and the Purpose-Driven teachings. Hope Community was also promoting Willow Creek materials and teachings and I kind of took a stand that wasn't received well. Here is a sample of an early email I sent out to the Blue Ridge district:

Dear Pastors of the Blue Ridge FGBC District, June 14, 2006

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is Pastor Steve Mitchell of the Garden City Grace Brethren Church. I want to first express great gratitude to all of you who have welcomed me into this group upon my arrival in Virginia about four months ago. I have truly had some awesome fellowship and fun with many of you and have enjoyed, for the most part, the three ministeriums that I have been able to be a part of.

What I am about to say, however, concerns what appears to be a pervasive part that bars me from being able to have any future involvement with this district unless a big change would take place. I want to lay out several concerns I have as a result of witnessing some things on last month’s visit to Hope Community in NC and I need to preface these concerns by assuring you all that there is no personal problem with anyone but these issues are grave enough to necessitate the writing of this letter.

I have taken many stands in the last few years concerning the ever-growing acceptance of the Purpose-Driven paradigms and philosophies of the Church Growth Movement as found in the materials and practices of Willow Creek, Saddleback, and Neil Cole’s ministry to name a few. The FGBC has truly been open to the influx of ministry philosophies and so-called “church growth experts” that are bringing a patently different set of views to the table concerning how we should be shepherding in the flocks we minister to. Key leaders in Winona Lake, from CE National and GBIM, as well as the conference planners and FGBC newsletter contributors have given glowing endorsements of Rick Warren, Hybels, and recently emergent church teachers, Erwin McManus…We’ve even got a FGBC affiliated merger church with his Mosaic International group as well as a recent partnership between a GBC and Saddleback. This is also not to mention a growing number of Grace Brethren churches who have joined and are being urged to join Willow Creek Association.

Brothers, I have been studying these ministries and teachings for at least 5- 6 years and work with the Apologetic Coordination Team which is a coalition of discernment ministries who have taken great stands against the unbiblical pitfalls of these paradigms and their looking to the world for guidance in how to transform today’s church into the pragmatic ministry machine that in some cases and far too often waters down and dilutes the Word and the Gospel message, trading a biblical polemic And bold proclamation of the Good news with a seeker-sensitive, market savvy spiel that produces, in far too many instances, shallow converts who hear consumer-driven sermonettes and engage in endless activities to satiate their appetites for entertainment.

My father and I have spoken with the top leaders in our fellowship and have written letters outlining some specific concerns and yet have been downplayed and averted by many who used to be good friends. My father has been a FGBC pastor for almost 30 years and has also taken considerable flack for speaking out against some of the unbiblical aspects of these ministries the FGBC seems to be increasingly looking towards for guidance in ministry.

Case in point, sadly, was what I witnessed at Hope Community this past ministerium. Walking into the foyer and seeing the Willow Creek Association’s Leadership Summit banner was disheartening to say the least. Hearing a pastoral plug for the purpose driven worship seminar he had just attended and then watching the intro video for the summit was equally distressing. There was Bill Hybels, and an Indian business and consultant, and Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope church from my island home of Oahu, Hawaii. Trust me gentleman, you don’t need to attend anything that guy teaches in that he is the epitome of seeker sensitive sermonette ministry on our island. His church has been involved with a dangerous therapy program called Cleansing Stream, he routinely speaks with Hawaii’s worst false teachers, and puts out a program that encourages people to go to all manner off false churches including some with women pastors! Then the crown jewel speaker that almost caused me to stand up and say “What’s going on here?” BONO from U2!!

This guy doesn’t claim to be a Christian, indeed denies that belief and with colorful language. Hey brothers all I’m saying is that it should speak loud and clear to us when the attending associate pastor at Hope made the disclaimer at the end of the video clip. He said something to the effect that of course Bono will have an edited segment due to his propensity for profanity! Should that not tell us something? Does this guy qualify to be a biblical leader who pastors need to listen to? Yet this was chuckled at when mentioned.

I believe that on further investigation into what the Willow Creek Association, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and other current fascinations of the FGBC actually teach, it becomes all too clear that our fellowship, our ministerium, our district and the individual congregations and ministries of any who would begin down this road will inevitably end up like the thousands of others who have swallowed these principles and endorsed these men. The Word of God will certainly not be the focal point and our individual flocks might even degenerate to the point that they would think a rock star training them would be a good idea.

I am making this stand on my own at this point. I do however counsel everyone to read Pastor Vic Young’s Oxford paper and heed the timely and profound warning therein. It eloquently lays out concerns that I happen to share with him and I urge everyone to take it to heart. His paper has its finger on the pulse of this issue. Well Done!

Please understand once again that this is no personal attack or grievance based on any bone to pick with anyone. I have just observed the effects of this same phenomenon literally all over the world in my missionary travels and as I stand internationally with a growing coalition of men and women who have stood on the Word of God, weighed these winds of doctrine, and found them severely wanting. I am currently at the point of exhorting any pastor, leader, layperson, Christian to repent from what Willow Creek and others are spreading and asking us to be a part of.

No, I will never send my fellow ministers to the Leadership Summit where the truth and the very fiber of biblical ministry is so compromised. I must also refrain from involvement in this ministerium until and unless there is really a stand taken in the face of this. Following the Church Growth Movement into the Emerging Church is dishonoring to our Lord and the high calling of being a pastor. Until my fellow pastors in this district will stand and say enough, then I bid you adieu with heavy heart. I have made too many stands in this area and have many people waiting to see if I will bend or compromise. For the sake of Christ and the Word, my family and ministry partners, and the saints of Garden City GBC, I cannot just attend these ministeriums and say nothing, nor can I continue to support what’s going on as long as good men are remaining silent on this issue.

So now what? Well, I just had to share this concern with you. I am including an extensive collection of articles from others and myself in the ACT Team I represent. Careful reading of these materials will fortify and explain my concerns and why I believe that the FGBC should have no involvement with these groups whatsoever.

I am also free to talk to any of you as I have a great deal of affection for those of you I’ve met. I want to dialogue on these matters and I am also available to do seminars of any length for you and your congregation. Its important I believe to get familiar with what’s really being taught and to know the biblical teachings concerning ministry and pasturing. If anyone wants to learn from Bono, buy his albums but don’t take his words to heart as to what real leadership is.

I love you all and hope to hear from you,

Pastor Steve Mitchell Garden City GBC 2 Tim. 3:16-17

Contact me at office: 540-427-0103
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Online articles for study and consideration:

This letter and following correspondences resulted in me being put “on trial” alongside of Pastor Vic Young at Camp Tuk-A-Way the month after I wrote this. I had several other correspondences with folks at Hope community after this and it was agreed that we disagree. Vic Young departed from this district about two months after this meeting because guys from Hope wanted to play videos from the Willow Creek summit at our ministerium meetings. I stayed in this district to continue to try and share my concerns which were also privately held by most of the pastors that currently sit around the table at our ministerium today.

At this Tuk-A-way meeting I gave each pastor a CD of a two-hour 45-minute spoken sermon about my concerns regarding Rick Warren, Willow Creek, and the new phenomenon (at the time) called the “emerging church” or “emergent” teachings. Here is the transcript of this sermon and I can send you a CD if you want but this is the first and most seminal treatment of my concerns at the time. To date, over 10,000 hits are on this sermon online and this article started the whole rumblings about me in the fellowship. I've also had lots of agreement and favorable response:

this sermon was posted December 2006 and went web-wide. It was available on mp3 but I cant find it now. If you are interested I can give you a copy on CD but above is the transcript and boy did it hit some nerves but I hope you can read this concern.

Concerns Return December 2012

Greetings folks. it's the Eve of December 21st and I am writing after a long hiatus of prayer and consideration.The information I am going to feature for the next several blog posts is of great import regarding the direction our fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches seems to be heading.

I must emphasize that I love this fellowship and have many friends who have heard me over the years as I have attempted to lovingly share my concerns about troubling trends and themes that seem to be gaining prevalence among us. I have had many phone conversations, email exchanges, and a few sit-down meals where I have attempted to share my heart and the uneasiness I continue to have in the face of what I have been documenting and uncovering from our publications, blogs, and online sermons.

What follows is a history of some of the stands I have taken in the face of potential and actual spiritually hazardous teachings and endorsements. In truth, these entries only scratch the surface of how pervasive and deep some of these teachings have embedded within the fabric of the FGBC. I realize that some of you have no interest in the FGBC but I want to remind many of you that I have been in and involved with this fellowship of churches all my life and currently pastor a Grace Brethren Church in Roanoke, Virginia.

Please read on in this collection of multiple entries that chronicles some of my early concerns as well as current dangers or potential dangers being promoted and entertained among us. Two final caveats and an explanation:

1) I mean no disrespect or malice towards those cited and I believe that every one has the right to promote and read what they want to in the privacy of their own home. I am also not trying to legislate anyone's liberty but I believe that we are to expose dangerous doctrine and practice after biblically testing all things.I have spoken or written to almost every person I mention.

 2) My attempts to confront and deal with some of these things is done from a heart of genuine concern for the people and ministries affected by emergent, seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, spiritual formation-driven, and contemplative errors that are being embraced by more and more in our fellowship.

My invitation to you is to read these concerns and feel free to contact me. Comment here if you wish or write or call me personally to discuss these matters. Realize that releasing these things on this blog comes after many attempts to have dialogue and discussion among us about these things. the first entry follows and then every several days hence I will add another entry.