October 21, 2014

None dare Call It Marketing: Lifeway, Beth Moore and the conspiracy to take over your church

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: I don’t have a problem with Beth Moore, so don’t write me and give me grief like I do. Everything I’ve read, everything I’ve heard seems excellent, Christ-centered, full of the Gospel and Biblical. Compared to any other celebrity Bible teacher I might see or hear, Beth Moore is the top of the chart. I wish, hope and pray for the very best for her.

OK. Everyone relaxed?

But I’ve got some questions. Questions about how Christian publishers, and Lifeway in particular, promotes someone like Beth Moore as a teacher and leader for the whole church, and for my church. Questions about why we ought to accept Lifeway’s selection and promotion of Moore and other celebrity Bible teachers. Questions about the real agenda of Lifeway, and whether we’ve taken stock of that agenda- and its effects- in our churches.

If you don’t want to think, or ask questions, just pass on this post. But if you are getting tired of being told by the money changers in the temple who the spiritual leaders of the church ought to be, read on.

If a visit to a Christian bookstore is a dependable guide, Beth Moore is the leading Bible teacher in America these days. Her books- 14 are sold in her web store- are best-sellers. Her curriculum dominates Lifeway’s offerings. Though Moore says her mission is to women, it doesn’t take a keen eye to see that Beth Moore’s books and curriculum are being read and used by everyone.

Lifeway’s promotion of Moore has been impressive. Books by Moore are produced so fast that any year is likely to see three or four titles. Lifeway knows that “when you’re hot, you’re hot,” and they intend to hit the market again and again with Moore’s work until she is the preiminent Bible teacher in America.

Because Moore is a solidly orthodox evangelical (in the Arminian, revivalistic, Southern Baptist tradition), her influence is far more positive than someone like Joyce Meyer. Moore seems to be following in the footsteps of the classy, excellent ministry of Kay Arthur, though Arthur’s books- with few exceptions- were never promoted by a major publisher to anywhere near the extent of Moore’s books.

So, now that I have introduced the main character, I basically have one point to make, but that point is somewhat complex. It goes back to the issue of the local church, the leadership of the church and the role of that ministry in the life of Christian. Follow me please.

The Christian is not a lone ranger. He or she is called to discipleship and community in the local church. In the local church, the ministry is set aside (“ordained” if you will) for the purpose of preaching, teaching and ministering the faith to the local body (and the community.) Preaching the Bible, teaching the Bible, and applying the Bible are the jobs of the ministry of the local church. Pastors, teachers and elders are called and commissioned to do this, and it is important. The Christian is called to be attentive to this teaching, to expect it and to interact with it.

Now, if you know me, you know that I believe the church in the New Testament is basically small enough to be described in family terms. I don’t think the NT speaks much with megachurches in mind, and that is doubly true for the pastoral/teaching ministry. The ministry is a small church project in the New Testament, and preaching, teaching and application are usually described in a small church environment, not in a domed stadium. That ministry happens primarily with people the pastor/teacher knows, loves and personally cares about.

The idea of a celebrity Bible teacher, a teacher who teaches thousands and thousands of people through media, isn’t antithetical to the Bible’s presentation of discipleship, but it certainly isn’t normative. It’s not what the Bible has in mind. And one of the reasons is this: The ministry of the “celebrity” Bible teacher tends to undermine the ministry of the local church pastor.

I can hear the cat calls about that last paragraph all the way up here in the hollers of Kentucky, but it’s true. Not by the intention of Beth Moore or most of the celebrity teachers (though Rick Warren apparently is unapologetic about the fact that he knows what is best for your church). They may give a great speech about supporting the local church, but let me illustrate the results.

Rick Warren or Pastor Bud Boring? Who is God really speaking through? Beth Moore or Pastor Bob Boring? Who is hearing exciting truths from God to transform my life and family? John Piper or Pastor Bill Boring? Who is the one God has gifted to teach me the Gospel week to week?

Who is dull, ordinary and probably a loser? Who is bright, beautiful and spiritual? Who has God really chosen and called and gifted, as evidenced by book sales and crowds? Who can’t get 30 people to show up on Sunday night?

It’s a problem. It’s a problem with any media ministry, and it’s a problem with mass produced ministry materials or media created success. It’s been a problem ever since we had the first Christian books, but it’s not been anywhere near the problem that it is now, with Christian publishers promoting Warren and Moore with all their resources. Now we have an authority issue: a situation where those outside the church are functioning like a college of cardinals providing us with those who hear from God and teach His Word.

My questions:

Who ordained Beth Moore to teach the folks at my church? When did we set her aside to be a teacher in our congregation?
Who selected her as a Bible teacher we must all hear and believe?
Who decided that Beth Moore was anointed and gifted to teach the Bible to the Christians at our church?
How do I know that all the things Lifeway says about God choosing Beth are true?
What is Lifeway’s bottom line? (Answer: Money.)
What is the right response to the fact that Beth Moore- and not pastor Bob Boring- is the primary Bible teacher to thousands of women and men in SBC churches?
How should Rev. Boring respond when congregation members want him to preach like Warren and teach like Moore? Who is discerning the agenda and direction of the church now?
Who gave Lifeway, or the SBC, the authority to talk to churches about what they should be doing, who they should be listening to, and most importantly, what God is saying to the church?
Can anyone deny that the promotion of celebrity Bible teachers tends to promote lone ranger Christians who would rather stay home and listen to Pastor Piper than go to church and listen to Rev. Boring?

I’m not going to ask why I should believe the glowing celebrity bio on Beth’s web site, or where Beth learned her theology or to whom Beth is accountable. I know there are good answers to these questsions, and it’s not as important as the question of where Lifeway and other publishers got their authority to choose our teachers and promote those teachers as God’s choice for my church?

What I will ask, however, is whether my fellow Christians have the courage to admit that Beth Moore and Rick Warren and the next publishing superstars are, in large part, promoted by Lifeway for profits? Not chosen by God, but chosen by Lifeway and other publishers for potential book sales? Lifeway would say chosen and pormoted for the good of my church. Well, if it’s profitable. If you can’t see that, you’re naive.

Standing on her own, without Lifeway or a major publisher, Beth Moore has a ministry under the oversight of elders in a local church. As a celebrity promoted by Lifeway, she is pushed into evangelicalism with the authority of marketing and the agenda of profit.

She’s convinced me she is the real deal. I’d be happy for her to teach in my church. I’m also convinced that Lifeway isn’t the Vatican, that most churches never gave Lifeway the keys to the building in order to bring in whomever they choose, and that local pastors are seen by Lifeway as promoters of products, not ministers to be supported.

I’m distressed that Christian media’s capitalistic agenda has become the source of an unquestioned spiritual authority in so many churches. Beth Moore is not a problem, but the questions are still real. Rick Warren’s success is a problem, in my opinion, and while I have no idea who will be next in line, I have a feeling that the same people who created Benny Hinn and T.D. Jakes and most of CCM don’t have the best interests of the church and the Gospel at heart.

Comments

  1. Brian Hamrick says:

    Wow. Once again, Michael, you have hit the nail on the proverbial head.

    As a Southern Baptist and a recovering purpose-driven guy, I thank you.

    It’s so sad to see the gospel become a “market concept” rather than God’s message.

    Great job of respecting Mrs. Moore’s positive ministry while critiquing the problems with this whole approach vis-a-vis Lifeway and other Christian publishing houses.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with this. And something I’d like to add is this. There is tremendous benefit LOST when we simply import Bible study or teaching. I’ve led/taught Bible studies for years (although I’m currently in a season on NOT doing that) and I know that the person who always learned most from the Bible studies I led was me. The process of engaging with scripture in order to teach it, the wrestling, the sweating, the mulling, the whole process of learning it deeply enough to teach, was invaluable. Unquestionably I learned more from that process than anyone ever learned from my teaching!

    When we import Beth Moore, Rick Warren, or any other “expert” we give away the opportunity to do the hard work ourselves. Like any kind of physical training, the hard work makes us stronger. It’s kind of scary to think of church leadership becoming pale and flabby and weak because it never has to work to apprehend the truth. Pre-digested food is, no doubt, easier to swallow and easier to digest, but YECCCHHHHHHHH!

  3. Barb

    Fine point. There’s some other things I could have included but choose not to.

    1) Call me an elitist, but I want the primary teachers to be educated IF POSSIBLE. I can’t find Beth’s resume on her site, I see that she uses a lot of greek/english study tool, and that inclines to say she is self-taught. NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. So was Spurgeon. But as I said, I am of the opinion that if a teacher is going to teach the whole church, we should expect enough education as is pragmatically possible

    2) Exactly what is the SBC up to in saying women can’t do jack in “ordained” ministry, but then Beth Moore is doing more authoritative teaching than 90% of the pastors and teachers in the SBC? What is that about?

    I have no issue with women ministers personally, but the SBC looks bizarre passing resolutions, then here comes a pic of Beth Moore standing behind a pulpit preaching like Billy Graham.

    My head hurts.

  4. JeffRock says:

    Barb, as a current S/S teacher I can agree with you 100%

    Michael, speaking of Billy Graham, his daughter Anne Graham Lotz is another the convention seems to have a double standard with regarding “preaching”.

    I personally think part of the problem lies with the SBC’s purging of anything/everything that doesn’t conform to the BFAM 2000K. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but all of our literature coming from Nashville has to pass the test of the faith and message. Look on the inside of your Sunday School books to see the disclaimer.

    I was in a large Lifeway store a couple of weeks ago for the first time in a while to redeem a gift certificate. I was absolutely embarrassed and saddened by the book selection. There was a whole aisle, literally, of PDL paraphernalia(sp?). And yet there was only 6 (count them, 6) books by Lewis of which 3 were Mere Christianity. There was one book by Ravi, and and 3 by Yancey. No Augustine, no Chesterton, no any one not firmly in the SBC. I wound up using my certificate on a NT survey textbook I found in an out of the way corner with an inch of dust on it.

    The current mentality in the SBC leadership is painting itself into a corner when it comes to who receives approval for endorsement and who doesn’t.

  5. Who are you and how can you articulate my personal thoughts and concerns so well?

    I have been quite concerned about the development of the “Church of Warren” over the past year or so. As a writer, I have a disdain for publishing industry for the very reasons you speak of here. Thanks for such a positive and thought provoking commentary on what I believe to be critical issues. I typically don’t read Blogs because most of them contain only facile, superficial and banal information — not worth wasting precious reading time over. Your essay is worth consideration by the church — and I will pass it along to others.

    I am quite glad to have happened upon you …

  6. Bro. Clyde Dearman says:

    Greetings in the Name of Jesus,

    I could not agree with you MORE! This is a problem (dictating through marketing to our churches) that very few of us can see because very few of us are looking! Most pastors are just happy if they make a salary and get a retirement. I grew up in the baptist faith and know the we have sound doctrine, however, what is going on spiritually (greed, Nicolaitanism, and severe blindness will lead to much worse) with many today is way different from when my grandfather pastored his church for over 50 years. Except for some doctrinal beliefs we are not unlike an older denomination based in Rome. It really is sad to see and I fear it will only get worse with mass contol and mammon ruling behind the scenes.

    When the “tree” gets so big that the fruit begins to fall to you though you did not ask for it nor want it, you better judge the tree before you eat of it:
    The Lord likened His kingdom to a humble herb that eventually would morph into a tree and cast a shadow in the garden and give a resting place for the “fowls” of the devil to drop their fruit out to the masses waiting to be fed below.
    We may not be there yet brother, but we may be in for a ride:

    Mat 13:31-32 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

    AND WHO ARE THE BIRDS OF THE AIR?
    Mat 13:4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
    Mat 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

    Still, I pray and mourn.

    Grace and peace,
    Bro. Clyde

  7. Michael C. says:

    Since when did Paul have to sell tickets in order for people to hear the Word of God??? I find it “strange” that to preach the word of God, you have to “sell” the invitation. God’s grace and message is free to all. The price is already paid for. But I do agree donations are the thing, nothing wrong with taking up a gift offering to pay for the ministry, rentals and travels. But I don’t believe that we should sell tickets to an event that is supposed to be based upon the Word of God. OR IS IT THE WORD OF GOD THEY PREACH??? Is it succomed with Man’s Psycho teachings??? Rick Warren has alot of Psycho teachings in his book, plus alot of Scripture…

    I yearn for a church that is just Sola Scriptura…Too bad there is few and far between…

  8. Michael,
    There is a growing segment out there in Evangelicalism that seeks to dismantle the church structure as we know it. They seek to establish a system where there are city churches that report up to one head apostle, who in turn reports to regional apostles, who ultimately report up to the super apostles. They believe that this structure must be in place so that their army of super-annointed people can bring the entire world under *their* dominion, which they will then hand over to Christ (more like anti-christ) upon his return. I believe this is what’s behind the frantic belief that Christians must take political control of this country.

    It is popular with many charismatic and evangelical leaders, and the megapurposedrivenchurchgrowth movement has ties to it. It has roots in a rogue theology that was rejected by the Pentecostals back in the 30’s called “Manifest Sons of God”. Now it’s back and is insidiously growing, yet many people don’t realize that their leaders subscribe to it.

    The whole thing is called the “New Apostolic Reformation”, yet it sounds more like a return to the papacy. Here are a couple of links:
    http://www.cephasministry.com/joels_army_global_impact.html#anchor451
    http://www.globalharvestministries.org/index.asp?action=apostolic

  9. Michael,
    Very good article about “celebrity” high-profile Bible teachers..Excellent. You will probably be flagged as being “unloving” or something because of this expose. But we certainly need more genuine DISCERNMENT in evangelicalism these days.

    Regarding these celebrity-type instructors themselves, their own arrogance will probably bring them down eventually.

  10. Wow, this guy. I made a comment that was contrary to his own opinion and so he decides to delete it. Way to promote yourself…..only wanting to listen for praise, instead of giving praise to God. If God was looking in your mind, he would have promoted you in his ministry long time ago, but He knows what’s in your heart.

  11. Lucille Graves says:

    Michael,

    I understand your reservations about allowing an unordained woman to take over the minds and hearts of poor lost or wandering sheep in our local churches. Do you believe God is sovereign? Do you believe he puts the “powers that be” in their positions?

    If the local preachers and teachers had not gone to sleep on their jobs there would not be a gap for Beth Moore to fill.
    I have done two of her studies and have found them excellent and fully grounded in the truth of the Word. She is out to inspire others to action. To get rid of the mediocrity and the contentions that have our churches bound and tied. If each of the women participating in her studies takes it home and takes it to heart, then acts upon what she learned, the churches in America should soon start to burst at the seams.

    If pastors can be inspired to dig deeper into the Bible by a congregation that demands to hear the word (and we must be pretty hungry for it if the number of women turning out to hear Beth Moore is any indication) and if that word does not return void, then we can only be assured that it will bear fruit. What happened to the Jews when they became self-righteous and Pharisaical? God gave his word out to the the Gentiles and grafted them in. Who knows but what he is doing the same thing with the women in the church because the men have lost their zeal? Beth Moore is human and she may fall prey to pride and greed like so many do. Even if that happens the truth that she has taught will still stand. If she is reading her Bible and praying as she teaches others to do she will not fall victim to those things and we will not idolize the messenger in place of the message.

    We have all become lazy and ready to let someone else do the work. We can see the truth of this everytime we go out to buy anything. Almost nothing is made in America anymore. Americans only want the cushy well-paid jobs.

    Whether Lifeway is only in it for the money is not really our concern if the product is good. Judas was only in it for the money, as well, but look how the world benefited from the transaction of that forty pieces of silver! Who gave Christ the authority to teach in the temple? Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Not that I equate Beth with Christ, I’m just saying that God can do whatever he wants to do, and He often seems to use the ones we humans would think the most unlikely.

  12. Michael – Beth Moore, Lifeway, PDL, 40 DOP have taken over my church – we are becoming the Stepford Congregation. We worship at the altar of seeker sensitivity (correction, we no longer have an altar, we have a stage and thus we have performances, not preaching).

    The Women’s ministry has turned into on big shopping trip via the Women of Faith conference. More people turn up for the scrapbook night (aka Creative Memories sales night) than the prayer meeting and missions is a dirty word. Anyone notice how PDC and PDL both run out of steam at Acts 1:8 ?

    We are reaching the end of this year’s 40 DOP and now it seems Uncle Rick wants to sell us a pocket book containing the first 7 chapters of the book he’s already sold us -just in case we forget the mantra, ‘its not about me’. Well he got that one right.

    If I sound jaded and cynical it is because I am. I am worn down with trying to get responses to Outreach and Mission from a group of people who think it really is someone else’s job. That’s how well PDL explains the concept of Christ’s Commission.

    Sadly I believe we have, unfortunately, the church we deserve brought about by our own inability to keep it real and keep it focused on the Word of God.

  13. Jane Roberts says:

    Dear Micheal,
    I just “found” your website and find it such a breath of fresh air and spiritual encouragement. >> of gratitude. And I totally agree with your comments about the whole money making marketing thing and it concerns me.
    Was at a womens’ bible study yesterday and the ladies were so excited about seeing Beth Moore in person…like it was Jesus in the flesh they were meeting…it’s so weird to me. This is a convention they are going to. Happen to think Beth Moore’s studies (I’ve done 3 or more) are great (though I certainly don’t agree with all of her conclusions) and I envy her hair, clothes, figure, nails, etc. (I’m shallow, so what…)
    This may sound really out there, but I think there is another reason – besides great marketing – that her studies are popular with many woman. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She just has a way – a slant – that reaches out to other woman and men who have gone throught similar experiences (I think). Same with Joyce Meyers. More than 1/3 of girls over the age of 13 have been molested in the US – or so I keep reading…and that’s a conservative estimate. Abuse permeates the Church, but we don’t talk about it(much) or recognize the impact.
    Jane Roberts

  14. Ryan Davidsen says:

    Michael,

    I agree with almost eveyrting you have to say about Lifeway and Moore et al. But have I misunderstood your thoughts about the local church?

    You make it sound as if the purpose of the local church is to show up and hang on the pastors every word! As if it was all about you! True many turn their back on the local church because they feel they get better teaching from celebrity radio and book personalities, but you are perpetuating the same myth – that the world is full of a few ordained teachers and a whole lot of people whose higher purpose is to sit still and listen to y’all tell them how its done. Not so – the local church isnt about the pastors and shouldnt revolve around a sermon – it certainly didnt in the NT.

    Is this particular rant motivated by a jealous desire to be your own mini-celebrity? adored and worshiped by your own local fans?

    Again – I agree completely on the celebrities and publishers – but lets not simply scale the problem down to our local church or turn it into a credentials-centric witch hunt. Let the people read! and let them participate in a local church where the pastor doesnt feel threatened by other teachers but encourages his parishoners in their desire to pusue a relationship with God with all their heart mind and soul.

    Do you really feel the need to be your own little pope?

  15. I always enjoy reading comments by people who have to call me names to make their point.

    >Is this particular rant motivated by a jealous desire to be your own mini-celebrity? adored and worshiped by your own local fans?…..your own mini-pope.

    Since you obviously didn’t read the article, but skimmed it, I don’t know it you will read this comment.

    For 7 years, I’ve preached to about 10-20 people. Tops. You can ask them if I am a mini-celebrity, mini-pope or need to be “worshipped” by “fans.”

    btw- for the “worshipped” comment, I am giving myself permission to call you a jerk. Thanks.

    If you feel that pastoral preaching has no real place in the church, fine. I would recommend you check out the reformation, and tell Mr. Luther he needs to check in with you and get that straightned out.

    The piece says that local church leaders are being replaced by the cult of celebrity teachers created wholly and entirely by publishers. Why does that piss you off so badly? I am for smaller churches with real relationships. Seems you would be in my corner.

    But your personal insults are totally outlandish and immature, so frankly I don’t care what you think.

  16. Ryan Davidsen says:

    Alright. I came off like a jerk and I apologize. I didnÂ’t start with my disclaimer about how much I truly respect what you have to say and absolutely cherish this blog and the iMonk site. (I know – with fans like these who needs enemies.)

    So first off is the public apology. I understand my words sounded like a personal attack. ThatÂ’s not fair.

    You stated “I am for smaller churches with real relationships. Seems you would be in my corner.” and I am in your corner on that one 100% and I appreciate you sharing a little bit where you are coming from in that regard.

    My comment is simple and is highly motivated by my close relationships with several pastors. I see in many of them and thought I saw in your article a need by local pastors to live up to a ridiculous standard that is just as perpetuated by themselves as their congregants to be this single source of knowledge, wisdom, and truth. Pastors should be well educated and able to teach – but I think many lose sight of the relational and shepherding aspects of their role to chase mini-stardom as if their local approval ratings were an indication of God’s blessing. I am concerned from my own experience that many pastors (perhaps not you) have constructed their role in such a way as to expect the entire local church to revolve around them. This is unhealthy and unfair to everyone (especially themselves).

    No matter how many books people will read I sincerely believe they will (eventually) realize there is no substition for active relationships with leaders that care about them and serve them. (No matter how uncool or un-purpose driven they may appear)

  17. And I withdraw the curse I put upon you for a $50 pledge at TBN :-)

    Let’s put away all the jerky mega-church super-sized egos versions of the pastor for a moment, and let’s think about Joe Average pastor. Go to a Baptist Associational meeting and pick out the guys in the one horse country churches. The guys without health insurance and perks. The regular shmucks.

    I think Hebrews 13 is clear. I am to respect that guy (or guys, if a plurality of local elders.) AndI am to honor the fact that he is called to shepherd me. Tell me the truth. Urge me to holiness and heaven. He prays over me at the hospital. He is my pastor. My preacher.

    OK. He isn’t Lucado or Warren or Beth Moore. But they aren’t MY PASTORS. They are ways for Lifeway and Zondervan to GET RICH. Their feigned concern for my church is immersed in their role as authors of yet another $24.95 best seller.

    My shelves are full of books. I recommend John Piper like I was getting a Commission. But he’s not my pastor. He’s not the guy who shows up at my church, and my house, and my mom’s funeral and my kid’s hospital bed.

    I just want to point out the agenda of the marketteers and plead for the genuine ministry to be valued.

  18. L. A. Mellinger says:

    Michael–

    I understand that you are trying to make Christians aware of the agenda of the marketers. How can we be certain that they have one? Of course there is the profit motive, unavoidable in business, but why should we assume that they are trying to ‘take over our church’? How is it that we as Christians presume to know the motives of others at all? They may be our brothers or sisters in Christ! Do the corporations themselves have motives, or do the motives inhere in the persons? We all know of churches where the shepherds are not really caring for the sheep. Thus, I am more inclined to praise God that the sheep are being fed somewhere, rather than not at all, than I am to impugn what I believe could be the motives of those who publish Christian literature.

    But let us be careful not to presume that just because an author is successful by this world’s standards, he or she must have “feigned concern for my church.” I speak as one who honestly believes myself to be concerned for the Church (with a capital ‘C’), as well as for local bodies of believers. If I were to write a book, and it were to be published and promoted and make a mint of money for some publishing house, does that automatically mean that my motives were impure? Does that also mean that my ministry to the body is not genuine? In both cases, I hope not.

    Also, please note that Jesus never pastored a church in the traditional sense. Nevertheless, His message obviously was designed for a wider audience than his ‘small group’ of disciples, or even the ‘mega-church’ that followed Him around and listened to His teaching. Is it possible that God could be using authors like Beth Moore to speak a message to the larger Church?

    Now, let’s spend a few minutes placing some of the blame where it belongs for the phenomenon you decry—back on you, and on me. After all, Lifeway can publish whatever it wants, promote whomever it wants, and attach as much Christian paraphernalia to the ‘phenomenon du jour’ as it wants. In the end, however, we are the ones who spend our resources to purchase these books and read these authors and meditate on the ‘thought for the day’ calendars. You may accuse the publishers of pressing their agenda…but we are the ones who are buying the products and urging them on our friends. Perhaps the larger question is why we Christians are so eager to follow the latest ‘phenomenon du jour’.

    I, too, sometimes wonder about and weep over the current state of the Church in North America as I see it from my little corner of the continent. When He comes, will He find faith on the earth? What can the “Joe Average” pastors—and the “Joe Average” parishioners, as well—do to ensure that He will? May we ask that question and then follow His leading, whether to do a Beth Moore study, or to take seriously our pastors’ sermons on Sundays, or to pray that His will be done at Lifeway, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts.

  19. I appreciate the comments LA.

    Let me say first of all that any serious reading of that piece will not yield a comment suggesting I see Beth Moore as a problem. I went out of my way to say otherwise.

    The Christian publishing business is highly diverse. You are correct that the evangelical consumer (Which is certainly one word these days) is partially at fault for “voting with dollars.” But I have to ask you to consider just a few things that you’ve overlooked.

    Most of the large Christian publishers are owned by secular corporations. Do I need to ask what is the motive of those corporations? It’s to make a profit. Period. The largest Christian publishing concerns- and certainly those that have bought us the worst kinds of Tetzeling- are Chrsitian fronts for secular corporations, and their motive and ethics will have nothing to do with Jesus unless it turns a profit. I don’t need any insight for that. And Lifeway, while owned by the SBC, isn’t a charity. It’s a business, and business ethics will prevail in what they do. They want to make millions. And there isn’t anything wrong with that per se, but it is what it is.

    Secondly, do you really mean that a product like the “Prayer of Jabez” was the result of grassroots consumer response? Good grief! This stuff is rammed down our evangelical throats by marketing strategies that tell us point blank “God gave this message to Wilkerson and it will change your life.” How did Purpose Driven Life sell half a million copies before it was shipped? Is every Beth Moore book that great? About 70% of my sermons are average, some suck and occasionally I have a good one. But not the big dogs of Christian publishing…it’s ALL good.

    I would also ask you to read another piece I penned dealing with how these products are then tied to our spirituality. Evangelicals are told that buying things is proof they are good Christians. Listening to CCM, reading Christian books, going to concerts and conferences—-THIS is discipleship in America. Evangelicals have become a NICHE MARKET for WHO? The marketeers.

    http://www.michaelspencer.us/archives/2004/08/000087.html There is the piece. Again, thanks for reading and responding.

  20. I was so amazed that there were other people having trouble with Beth Moore studies. We started off doing these studies, and I believe that our ladies Bilbe class completed 4 to 5 studies before her teachings turned into a love and worship of her instead of God’s word. Our class was growing so close and we were truly “in God’s word”, we thought. Our elders decided to not give their approval for our next round, and that’s when it happened!! We felt there was nothing that could compare to her studies and despite our elders advise to give it a break and do something else, the class spilt and our closeness decreased and now some have left our congregation and gone where Beth Moore studies are still being taught. It has broken my heart and caused friendships to part. Once I realized that what was happening to the women and to me in our class, I put all her studies and books up and out of sight and went to my precious Savior in prayer.

  21. Michael says:

    Michael,
    I don’t have a problem with well known teachers, whose books sell well in the ‘Lifeways’ out there, if they are Biblical. However, I have not noticed Lifeway using a lot of discernment in this regard. If you look through their ads, one sees a plethora of Christian ‘stuff’ (trinkets, toys, what-nots, jewelry, CDs, fiction…), mixed with the books that they are promoting. However, I’m not sure that profit is the only motive. Notice, that I say “only”, as I do agree that it is a major factor. It seems that they promote so much of the Purpose-Driven, Jabez/Dream Giver, business/theraputic, mysticism, and shallow teaching, that I wonder if they have a goal of helping to mold us all into the “new paradigm/emergent/post modern/mystic/ecumenical” (to use some of the buzz words) christian. I agree, they don’t have the best interest of the church/gospel at heart. Unfortunately, the American “Christian” population seems to go for this type of writing/teaching. I disagree with you on one point. I do have a problem with Beth Moore, because she is Arminian, revivalistic (“Southern Baptist” is somewhat redundant after the first two terms), and three more things that you didn’t mention. One, she is somewhat mystical, not in the classic sense, but in the Pentecostal/Charistmatic sense. I read one of her stories where God speaks to her in her mind. She says it was as strong as any audible spoken word she had ever heard (He was telling her to brush an old man’s hair). In this same story, she says “Jesus… he can be a bossy thing”. I don’t appreciate her overly familiar, flippant way of describing our Lord. Second, I believe she is very ecumenical in her associations, and third, she doesn’t seem to have a problem with having a teaching position over men within the Church. I have not read any of her Bible Studies, so I can’t address any of her teachings in particular. In the one video I saw (part of a Bible Study series) she talked a lot, but it was very difficult to identify any doctrinal points that she actually made. I hope she is having a positive influence, but I’m not sure. I agree that we shouldn’t substitute a favorite ‘teacher/preacher’, for a local congregation with a pastor who knows us. Rick Warren’s success is definitely a problem! Thanks.

  22. Pronounce says:

    Lots of good comments by all. Though I have to say I think the one I agreed with most was L. A. Mellinger’s post.

    Our church will be addressing the issue of ordaining women soon. And so I picked up on your comments about Beth Moore in relation to ordaining women. Whatever one’s opinion of Beth Moore and her writing is I can honestly say that in comparison I’m not doing nearly as much to seek God’s will as she has testified to in her writing. I won’t defend her, nor can I condemn her in good conscious.

    IÂ’m reminded of Frank Harbor’s comment where he said those who complain the most are the least active in ministry. So I figure that maybe the busy ones are consumed with the needs of others more then consuming things for them selves. Then when I think of this I recall JesusÂ’ words in Matthew 7:1-5. Less I set myself up as a judge of another I should critically look at my own life and humbly seek the Holy SpiritÂ’s direction for my own life and ministry.

    If Beth Moore, as she indicates on her Web site, believes that she was designed by God to preach and write what she has gained from her love of GodÂ’s Word, then I guess I have to decide for myself if what she says is biblical or not. Maybe she is a liar, or maybe she is deceived, if either of these were true then it falls to me to seek Truth and make up my mind. Am I qualified to do so? Have I done what is necessary to seek GodÂ’s will on this issue? My answer would have to be, “No.” Where as my wife has done several of Mrs. MooreÂ’s studies, I’ve only been exposed to LifewayÂ’s Masterworks Bible study lesson plan, and in that study I thought her insights were right on target. I will need to do more study if IÂ’m to offer an informed opinion (judgement) of her writing.

    IÂ’ve read Rick WarrensÂ’ books. Lots of good doctrine in there for the baby Christian. IÂ’ve seen some bad things come of it, but the bad I saw was not due to some apostasy of his, but the miss handling of his books by the churches in which they were used.

    The love of money is the root of all evil. If Lifeway, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Rev. Bob Boring, or church member Bro. Complacent is captured by the things of this world, then there is a just and fair Judge that will weigh their heart upon that Glorious and Dreadful Day. Which of us will love our brother and sister in Christ enough to go to them humbly and counsel them in their sin, as it says in James?

    OK, so my point is I think people like to blame others for their failings and issues; “We’re a society of victims”, seems to be the cultural thought. We’re a capitalistic society of consumers, which I believe breeds sellers, which breeds marketers.

    Instead of decrying TV donÂ’t own one. Instead of decrying books, donÂ’t read them. Instead of decrying the Internet donÂ’t be online. Instead of decrying the decay of our society spend time offering the anti-decaying power of Jesus to your neighbors. Sure you might be laughed at for doing this, or maybe those at work and church might think you strange, but when has being a Christian been normal in societyÂ’s eyes?

    I think St. PaulÂ’s words sum up my thoughts best when he said, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”

    For me Michael SpencerÂ’s words like an arrow by- pass Beth Moore, glance off Rick Warren, ricochet off of Lifeway, and strike deeply into the heart of the problem with AmericaÂ’s church today.

  23. Sir,

    While I do believe there is tremendous danger in looking so hard to be “moved” or “wowed” by a speaker that you either a) fail to hear God speak unless it’s by a truly gifted speaker; or b) look and listen more for style than substance; still, the answer as to who “chose” Beth Moore seems to be self-evident; the Holy Spirit when He gifted her with the ability to teach, edify, and clarify God’s Word so it could be used fully and completely by His people.

    The fact that the NT church did not originally plan on a teacher that could reach thousands is disingenuous, after all, the Gutenberg’s press had not been invented yet either…should we therefore go back to monks in a room hand copying pages? Artful to be sure, but hardly efficient. One uses the tools one has available, whether that be Gutenberg’s printer or the internet.

    If Rick Warren, or anyone else gives you the impression that they “know what’s best for your church” I would, with all due respect, point out that it is NOT after all YOUR church! It is in fact, the Bride of Christ. Therefore, it’s HIS church. And if God has given a message that is for his church, than it applies to all who call him Lord; just as each of Paul’s letters is useful for instruction and correction, regardless of the original addressee. If you have a Biblical difference of opinion with Pastor Warren, or any other preacher, there are guidelines for how to handle this…as a matter of fact I would have preferred to send this you personally, but do not see that option.

    As it is, instead of trying to edify the Body, encourage fellow brothers and sisters, and most of all, communicate a clear message of the Gospel, which is the ONE thing the unbeliever really does need to hear, we are left with folks complaining about various preachers, not because of their theology, but because they are too popular.

    Can this be a problem? Yes, of course. It is always a temptation to worship the gifted teacher one can see and hear, and not the author of the words coming out of his/her mouth. That is why Paul acknowledged the Bereans. While cautioning your flock, who I am sure you care for deeply, against the human nature to put people we admire on a pedestal is certainly a worthy expenditure of your time and energy; to go as far as you do sounds more like bitterness over how the Holy Spirit has chosen to hand out His gifts! How very sad. And what message do you think you are sending to the lost who are now distracted by still more infighting and biting within our ranks…all while people die and go to hell all around us. And our energy is spent wondering if some people we acknowledge are good, gifted teachers are being over-exposed in the local Christian book store. I read this, and I weep. God’s children are dying. How should we be spending our time here? Praying that you read this with spirit it was intended; for I truly do not believe your intent is evil; but the end result troubles me greatly.

    In Christ Alone,

    mary

  24. “Most pastors are just happy if they make a salary and get a retirement”

    I have to say that as a pk and as a pastor’s wife I have personally seen very few of these. Many pastors shop at goodwill and retirement, what is that???? Not to mention, health insurance, dental and what about putting kids through colllege?

    The majority of churches in America are small and not able to do much in the finances department. And if you want to make a retirement and a salary, ministry is the last career you go into.

    I totally agree with Pronuounce.

    I cannot begin to tell you how weary I am of listening to believers blame and judge and carry on about others who have gone for it in ministry…put their hearts and souls and sometimes their blood on the line and then the Christian’s surround them to do them in when they are successful.

    I came across this thread inadvertantly, but just had to post.

    On the other end, as a person in ministry, barely making enough to feed and clothe my children but thrilled with the privelige to be serving the Lord full time (and SBC by the way), I see too many Christians who are apathetically sitting in the critics chair…and it smacks of Phariseeism to me.

    If you don’t like the study, do something different….hey write your own!!! If you don’t like the marketing, don’t shop there. And if you don’t think your leadership is leading well, get involved and become the leader God wants you to be. But get out of the chair and do something constructive and worthwhile for the Lord.

    Pulling no punches, but speaking in love from the heart…..JW

  25. who are we? americans. we are filthy rich. if you have enough food to eat you are envied. we need ministries that teach us about knowledge like beth more, prophecy like john hagee, spiritual gifts anyone? dont wanna go there people will have a fit. we also need people feeding those who envy us. why? because we love them, and more importantly jesus loves them. so get out your wallets and support these ministries and stop your yappin! god bless.

  26. I work as a Sales Rep for a company that has obscene products in one catalog and “Jesus Loves You” products in another. If there is money to be made the merchants are in it. Merchandise has nothing to do with the spirit behind the manufacturer.

    There are no experts or professionals in the ministry. There are guides. It all comes down to individual responsibility. To study with several teachers at a time. Beth Moore stresses that we should be studying not just with you her but with several others. I agree that she is in danger of becoming an idol. But, it is the people who create idols not the person being idolized.

    I am thankful for all who agree to step out and proclaim the word. These teachers are appealing to the church not the lost. I witness on a daily basis on my sales route. The unbeliever doesn’t know who Beth Moore is. Most people would never buy a book or go to a seminar. But, they see Jesus when I show up at their funerals, sick beds, give great service, listen to their problems. That is the real work of the ministry. Being among people who need hope and healing and the gift of salvation.

    I enjoyed the comments. I pray that each one get busy with the call that is on their life for that is the only call for which you will have to give an answer.

  27. Well, the minister at my church is Max Lucado. He was educated in the church of Christ, became a minister and a missionary and then the minister of the church in San Antonio. So that is the answer for him. Is that OK with you? It’s OK with us. I buy his books for other people but not too often for myself because I prefer his sermons.
    We all have to examine the teachings of everyone we hear- celebrity teachers or not. I get a lot out of Beth Moore and do not mistake her for one of my elders.

  28. OK, I appreciate all the comments on this site. I like Beth Moore but I always put any biblical teaching through my at-home bible strainer. The Holy Spirit is my teacher and he didn’t go to college. I don’t worry about the marketing, the money, etc. Those are God’s concerns. I do worry about our churches today though. We’ve moved quite a bit and what we have found is that churches think they are a building, a structure. They talk alot to people (each Sunday) and a society with great emptiness. They talk about attendance, tithes, programs, form of worship, etc.

    The church is invisible because the Bride is invisible. As believers, we are the church. The best form of worship we (as believers) have is the next decision we make because it reflects who God is in our lives. The reason the Bride is invisible is because we are invisible. Look at the scripture, Jesus went to the street, the workplace, the temple, As the Bride, we have to quit talking and act. We have to encourage each other with faith and good works. We have to go out into the world. It is OUR mission field, and guess what, we’ve been called, we’ve been equipped. We have to be discipled and disciple. Each day as we (Believers, the Bride) come in contact with folks, our concern should be souls. Our lives should be so different that people are drawn to it and they want to come…. to be changed…

    Let’s work together. Let’s Love well, Live well, and be Well to His Glory!

  29. Angela Iles says:

    How could any one who says that they are christian be against Beth Moore? she is one of the FEW christians who say what is true and what needs to be heard. If she is a christan then she is ordained by God to tell people the messages. the bible commands us to go and spread the word of God and the bible mentions nothing about being ordained first.

  30. Petronella says:

    I just want to say: Let the FRUIT of Beth’s teachings be the judge… ladies in our denomination fell head over heels in love with God’s Word while doing her studies……need I say more?