By Ron Foster

In a recent article, Erwin McManus shared in pretty straight-forward fashion that his position (as outlined in Mosaic’s list of core convictions) is that “the Scriptures are God’s authoritative Word to us.” [1] Erwin, no doubt, holds the Scriptures in high esteem. But how he interprets and teaches them, and how he trains others to teach them, reveals a lot more about his true convictions and what he really means when he uses the word “authoritative.” Is Scripture objective truth or is it open to a vast array of interpretations based on personal observations, opinions and circumstances?

How We Were Trained to Lead Mosaic Small Groups

I remember a conversation I had with a top leader on Erwin’s (paid) staff [2] when I first came to Mosaic. I had become a small group leader recently and was asking his advice on how to teach the Bible in a Mosaic small group. I told him how important it was for me in the past to thoroughly prepare the lesson, prayerfully studying the passage(s) of Scripture beforehand. He interrupted me and told me something that changed my “teaching” approach for years to come. He said, in so many words, “Don’t waste your time preparing a lesson. It’s better to be unprepared because then the discussion can be open. Everyone gets to figure out together what the text means and how it applies to them personally, and everyone benefits from that sharing experience. If you really want your group to grow, let them figure out what the Scriptures mean all on their own. You’re only doing them harm if you come to your group knowing more than they do.”

I wish I had had the discernment at the time to ignore that counsel, but I didn’t. And for the next five years or so, every discussion I “facilitated” amounted to reading a Scripture passage, then having everyone discuss what they thought it meant. It was a pooling of ignorance, mine included. Oh, did I mention that Mosaic leadership assumes unbelievers attend and participate in small group discussions?

There were times I felt guilty for stepping in and correcting an obviously faulty interpretation of Scripture, like I might be impeding the spiritual growth of the group. The guilt came because we were trained to help our groups learn to freely interpret the Bible from their own point of view, not as objective truth. Here were a few questions our leaders gave us to help us facilitate Bible discussions: “What are your observations about the passage? “What does it mean to you?” “What is one way you are going to apply what you learned?” (By the way, that last question is great if you actually know what the passage means!)

What Do You Mean When You Say “Authoritative”?

Now one might argue, “Well, that was a leader at Mosaic who gave you that advice, not Erwin himself.” Well, first of all, that leader previously mentioned conducted several small group leader training seminars under Erwin’s guidance. And second, Erwin himself said the same thing at many of our leadership seminars. He told us, “Never do anything a one-week old Christian couldn’t do.” Well, most one-week old Christians don’t know how to study their Bibles, use commentaries, use the context of the passage to discover its meaning, go back to the original language (I’m still learning to do that), investigate the author’s intent, etc., all while praying in the Spirit for wisdom. That’s why God appoints some as teachers, isn’t it? And so it followed, according to Erwin, that as a small group leader, I wasn’t supposed to be doing any of these things either. And this philosophy was to be applied to casting vision for our groups, raising up apprentices/new leadership, and facilitating Bible “discussions.”

Since I left Mosaic, I’ve had the opportunity to step back and reflect on all of this. Here are some conclusions I’ve reached. Mosaic is a community so full of ministry and evangelism potential, with a youthful, pioneering spirit and a decent understanding of the postmodern paradigm that permeates our culture. Mosaic is in a unique and strategic position to impact that very culture, being in Los Angeles, which some regard as the heart of American postmodernism. And there are some faithful followers of Christ at Mosaic who have a genuine passion to obey the Great Commission and share the gospel with this lost culture. And Erwin’s strategy is to build a “followers of Jesus” culture within the unchurched culture so that Mosaic can influence the culture. It sounds great at first glance. But how exactly is he obeying the Great Commission when, at the same time, he is training his leaders to disregard the authority of Scripture? Doesn’t the second half of Jesus’s command say, “…teaching them to obey all I have commanded you?” Small groups are the heartbeat of Mosaic, pretty much the “discipleship” and training program of the church. And when small group leaders are trained to facilitate their groups in such a way as to undercut the authority of Scripture (by leading already subjective thinkers into deeper subjectivity concerning objective Truth), how exactly does that line up with Jesus’s words? Answer: it doesn’t. No, that approach only makes sense if you place little or no value on Scriptural authority, and it contradicts Erwin’s previous statement regarding his (and Mosaic’s) conviction about the authority of Scripture.

We live in a day and age when postmodern “scholars” say no one can know for certain what truth is. “Your truth is your truth, my truth is my truth,” and so on. That’s to be expected from an unregenerate culture living in spiritual darkness, (and that is why we must take Light into that darkness). But Erwin is a professed Christian and a pastor. He is gaining increasing prominence as a spokesperson and spiritual/cultural leader, and he has authored several books that are influencing many churches, Christian organizations and individuals in the U.S. and throughout the world toward a new paradigm of ministry. When challenged openly, Erwin is quick to defend himself by making “orthodox” statements like, “the Scriptures are God’s authoritative word to us.” But then he turns around and train his leaders to perpetuate the unregenerate mind of the culture in their own circles of church leadership, telling their followers that the Word of God is God’s word “to us” and for us, and is all about us; that it means, more or less, whatever you think it means. The contradiction should be screamingly apparent to anyone reading this! Scripture, according to Erwin’s definition of “authoritative,” doesn’t sound authoritative at all.


[1] Erwin’s article to which I am referring can be found at:

[2] Mosaic refers to all their members as “staff,” so I am distinguishing this leader as one who was on paid staff, i.e. an equipper, trainer and leader of leaders.

Reprinted by permission. This article also appears at Christian Worldview Network with a feedback section.