Circus church is wearing thin. After decades of dancing poodle shows, trapeze artists and crowd pleasing clown shows on Sunday morning, the popcorn has grown stale and the calliope music is starting to annoy. It was inevitable that the emptiness of Evangelicalism would at some point become apparent. That time is here. To fill the vacuum, we are now witnessing a new trend in Christian worship that is the hallmark of the new emerging churches. Hula praise dance troops are now out. Christian yoga and eastern style meditation are making its way in. Labyrinths are increasingly taking the place of basketball courts and gross-out games and jello wrestling at Christian youth lock-ins are being replaced with flickering candles and mantra prayers, according to youth ministry magazines like Youth Specialties.
It hasn't taken long for some of Evangelicalism's big names to jump on board this train to the East. A new DVD is being marketed by Fox Home Entertainment that features evangelical leaders like Beth Moore, (See Beth Moore's later statement here) Richard Foster, Max Lucado, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Jerry Root, Dr. Henry Cloud, and Ginny Owens , to name just a few. The name of the DVD is "Be Still and Know" and the subject of the video is how to practice contemplative prayer.
Contemplative prayer has been around for centuries and it is rooted firmly in Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Centuries ago, Christians in the Eastern hemisphere began to pick up these practices and incorporate them. Contemplative practices, or “disciplines” as they are called, include centering prayers and mantra meditation. Contemplative prayer is the act of going into the “Silence”. (The term is often capitalized because this is the Silence in which God is supposedly encountered.) It requires shutting your mind down by the use of a favorite word or phrase repeated over and over to shut off your thinking processes. Proponents of this practice claim that once your mind is shut down you will encounter God in the spirit realm. Unlike the meditation referred to by the Psalmist in Psalm 119:15 where he writes, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways”, this contemplative meditation requires the mind to be shut down to the point of silence. Into this silence God is supposed to speak. Rather than encounter God through His Word, Christians are now seeking something new and more “authentic” by using the Bible passages as mantras in an attempt to experience God in a whole new way. There is great danger here. A brief look at those who revived this practice in the 20th century will tell us why.
Joseph G. Sandman writes in America Magazine,
“Who could have predicted 25 years ago, when three Trappist monks from a monastery in Massachusetts introduced contemplative prayer to a group of “non-contemplatives,” that its popularity would grow so dramatically? Today, thousands of believers from a variety of Christian denominations in every state and in dozens of countries practice contemplative prayer daily. In addition, an international network of dedicated volunteers teaches it around the world.” (America Magazine, 9/9/00)
A meeting of monastic leaders from various world religions met in 1977 and that meeting laid the groundwork for the acceptance of contemplative spirituality many years later, not just by mainline Protestants but by evangelical Christians like Ginny Owens, Max Lucado, etc.
“In an atmosphere of meditative attentiveness more than a score of monks, nuns, and lay women and men interested in contemplative dialog with Eastern monasticism assembled Saturday evening, June 4, 1977, to begin an intensive experience looking toward the promotion of fruitful communication between adherents of Eastern and Western world religions. Sponsored by the Benedictine Secretariate Aide Inter-Monasteres, the meeting brought together persons of the most diverse backgrounds and interests for communal meditation and discussion with experts in the various Asian cultures and religious faiths.”
(Report on the Monastic Meeting at Persham, Vol. 1, 1977)
The purpose of this meeting was to talk about how contemplative spirituality could be spread. They took suggestions from their interfaith participants as to how they could best spread these mystical teachings. Here's an important line from the article which details some of the minutes of the meeting.
“Some suggestions: We need a list of experts, East and West; of monasteries; of useful publications. We need exchange of persons between East and West; visits to ashrams. How can we instruct our Christian monks in techniques and methods of Asian meditation, yoga, etc.?...Abbot Tholens pointed to some texts to be found in the New Testament which can serve as links to Yogic doctrines. Contact is most possible at the highest point of each religious tradition. This contact may be made in silence, but very really...We need to start where we are one, in the Spirit of God. Even as Christians, we must go beyond all thought.”
Twenty-nine years after this meeting, the dreams and hopes of a handful of apostate adherents to mystical union of world religions through contemplative prayer/meditation have come true. We now have mainstream pastors and leaders producing DVD's that teach other Christians how to embrace this same contemplative prayer. This is why we have Christian yoga classes, youth groups walking labyrinths and chanting for hours at a time, and emerging church leaders writing books on how to go into the Silence to encounter God. Read what Mike Perschon wrote in Youth Specialties magazine, a periodical read by youth group leaders across the country.
“I built myself a prayer room—a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine Monks. I meditated for hours on words, images and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns, the state in which dreams occur, while still awake and meditating. I made many journal entries of my thoughts, dreams and prayers. (Youth Specialties Article, Desert Youth Worker: Disciplines, Mystics and the Contemplative Life)
These are the leaders who are teaching our young people. Now, thanks to the new DVD being promoted in places like World Magazine and on Christian television, millions who follow the teachings of Beth Moore, Max Lucado, Dr. Henry Cloud and all the others are being taught that contemplative spirituality is a deeply meaningful way to pray and encounter God. After being contacted by many of her concerned supporters, Beth issued a statement on Wednesday, April 12, stating that she in no way supported Eastern mystical practices. She stated that she was told she would be participating in a DVD about prayer. (Beth has written a book about praying the Scriptures.) Unfortunately, Beth may not have realized that she would be on the DVD with hard core and long term supporters of contemplative spirituality like Richard Foster. Also on the DVD is Dr. Peter Kreeft who in his book, Ecumenical Jihad, describes an out-of-body experience in which he travels to heaven and sees Muhammed and Buddha. Christian leaders are human and will make mistakes, but when Beth Moore's name continues to be on the front of the DVD which will be purchased by tens of thousands of Christians, it demonstrates just how big the responsibility of leadership really is. Beth needs to issue her statement in a broader venue than just my weblog and she could begin by putting it on her website so that all can see that she stands against these practices in the church. All Christians in positions of influence need to be extremely careful today about what projects and fellow ministries they participate with. We are all accountable for those with whom we are yoked.
In conclusion, listen to what other contemplative leaders are saying.
“This mystical stream (contemplative prayer) is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.” Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18
“Those who have practiced Transcendental Meditation may be surprised to learn that Christianity has its own time-honored form of mantra meditation.. Reliance on a mantra centering device had a long history in the mystical canon of Christianity.” Ronald Miller, As Above, So Below, p. 52
“When I started on the path of witch, my teachers stressed to me the importance of meditation. Not only is it a skill that witches should learn to help with spells and rituals, but meditation all by itself is quite magickal.” (sic) Christopher Penczak
The church of Jesus Christ is facing spiritual seduction on an unprecedented scale. The Word of God is no longer viewed as sufficient and Christians are running after anything that will give them an exciting experience. Truth no longer matters, feelings do. Our children are being trained in pagan practices in their church youth groups. Major leaders are now willing to promote practices that 25 years ago were only being engaged in by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu monks. More than ever before, discernment is the need of the hour. May the Holy Spirit grant this discernment to the remnant of believers who stand against this tidal wave of error.
Distributed by www.ChristianWorldviewNetwork.com
© 2006 Ingrid Schlueter
Ingrid Schlueter has been producer and co-host of the Crosstalk Radio Talk Show on the VCY America Radio Network for 18 years. She is author of numerous articles on current issues and is a regular columnist for Wisconsin Christian News. She has also authored, Parent Police: The UN Wants Your Children. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://sliceoflaodicea.com
Other articles by Ingrid Schlueter: Thirty Small Singing Soldiers
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