Concerning Small Groups

In the past decade or so, a number of small group religious movement have been birthed. There's Hybel's Willowcreek thing, Catholic Cursillo, Baptist Tres Dias and Experiencing God, Vineyard's Reset thing and, I am certain, a number of other movements that, in spite of what they say, weaken participants' grasp on Scripture. I visited a Vineyard Reset page. What little I read there was more of the same.

What follows is my response to a question that I received in December of 1996. I think that it still is valid today.

The Question: Our common enemy is very crafty we have to be vigilant lest we fall into his many snares. I'm struggling with one now called experiencing god looks good on the out side but seems to be drawing people away from scripture can you shed some light on this?

The Response: I am certainly no expert on the Southern Baptist Convention's Experiencing God program, but I will share with you a few things I have learned about the movement. You are right to be concerned.

The Experiencing God program originated in a workbook, written by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, called "Experiencing God, Knowing and Doing the Will of God." It is another of those 12-step programs and involves cult-like manipulation and mind control techniques.

The program mirrors New Age thinking in many areas. For example, the authors of the workbook promise that, so long as you follow God's will, you never will experience a "sense of emptiness or lack of purpose." This is mindful of New Age promises one will never suffer anything once he has "arrived." In other words, staying in God's will is a feel-good thing. Now, the Bible tells us over and again that suffering is to be expected in a Christian's life. Surely, Jesus Himself, Who surely always was centered in God's will, suffered emotionally and physically. We who follow Christ know we are called to share in His sufferings. And we also know we will be comforted by God. Paul was greatly troubled by developments in the Corinthian church and elsewhere, yet he did not doubt his standing in God's will or the fact God would comfort him. He assures us God comforts us in all our tribulations. Does the Experiencing God teaching hold up in light of God's Word?

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

The world abounds with people willing to adjudge a person as being unsaved or living outside of God's will when he experiences feelings of emptiness or lack of purpose. Was Job out of God's will? His friends said he was and that he was to blame for all that was going wrong in his life. Yet Scripture tells us Job was "blameless and upright." (Job 1:1). Job's faith did not waiver when things were going REALLY badly for him, for he knew that God was in control and his circumstances were results of the will of God.

On page 19 of the handbook, the authors assure the reader that, "With God working through me, I can do anything God can do." That also smacks of New Age philosophy. The truth is, God gave us limited powers over His creation. We cannot do "anything God can do." We are humans and he is God. We cannot create planets, or living creatures from dirt. This teaching is heresy.

On page 84 of the handbook, we are told "Aided by the Spirit, we can understand all things." If that were true, we would be omniscient. Can man know all things/ Doesn't this sound an awful lot like the serpent whispering in Eve's ear in Genesis 3? And we all know what resulted from Eve's listening to the snake when it told her if she ate of the forbidden fruit she would "be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:5)

Experiencing God assures us that, if we are in His will, God will speak to us as clearly as He spoke to Moses. If you don't hear Him speak, your relationship is faulty. This also runs counter to Scripture. Read, in Numbers 12:2-11, how Aaron and Miriam riled God by their boasting they had heard Him speak as clearly as He had to Moses. Sure, Miriam was a prophet and Aaron also was inspired by God, but He did not talk "mouth to mouth" with them as did Moses. God was angered and brought down wrath on Miriam.

How well we hear God has nothing to do with our ability to listen. God alone determines how clearly He will communicate to His creation. By assuring us that by maintaining a right relationship with God we will hear Him clearly speak ignores God's will. He may determine not to speak to us, even if we are "right with God."

These are only a few examples of how the Experiencing God movement distorts Scripture. The workbook teaches many other heresies. Do not be deceived by the fact the Southern Baptist Convention endorses this program. It also is endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Christ, both of which teach and follow a different gospel than that taught by Jesus Christ.

This is but a superficial look at the Experiencing God movement. I urge you to read the excellent study by Drs. Couch and Penney on Doctrines Which Cannot Be Compromised, and then the very detailed analyses of the Experiencing God movement here and here

Your ultimate source of truth is the Bible. I urge you to check out the claims of the Experiencing God authors against the Word of God. If they do not match perfectly, then they are false and heretical claims.

I wrote something about the Baptist Tres Dias movement, which is a knock-off of Catholicism's Cursillo movement. You can read about the goal of Cursillo here.

To my way of thinking, all of these small group movements have the fundamental purpose of focusing participants inwardly and not on God. In other words, while they may bring people together and use all the right words, they at the same time turn their attention from God, which tells me that they are NOT Christian.

One might gather with others to sing God's praises and to glorify Him, but when you cut away all the entertainment, we still must deal with God on a one-to-One basis. Marching in lock-step with others and chanting Kumbaya is not worship, at least not worship of the Lord God Almighty. It is California camping on the beach.

Did not Jesus, our Lord and Savior, tell us to

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Matthew 6:5-8

Home | Christian Living | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum
(C) 1994-2009 Ron Loeffler