The following was an email I sent to a sister in Christ at Mosaic Church in response to an email she sent me stating her concerns about what I was doing. This email was sent on June 15, 2007, a few days after I published my first article entitled, Erwin McManus Plays Dominoes with God’s Sovereignty. For her privacy and protection, I have chosen not to reveal her name in this article, only to refer to her as “sister” wherever her name was mentioned in my original email.

I submit this letter for these reasons. First, it is a general defense of my motives in all my writings concerning Erwin McManus. I am not writing because of personal bitterness toward Erwin. I have no ill-will or bad feelings toward him. He has done me no wrong. In fact, he has always kind and warm to me. It is not his character or personality, or his treatment of me that motivates me to write, but his teachings. And second, even though this letter was addressed to one sister in Christ, I am publishing it now as a general letter to all my beloved friends, all my brothers and sisters at Mosaic that I have come to know and love over the years. This letter and all the articles I write are for your sakes, that God would use my words to open your eyes to what is in plain sight. May God’s grace be upon you – Ron Foster, Apprising Ministries and Christian Research NetCorrespondent.

Dear Sister,

Linda read me your email earlier this week, and I wanted to sit down and write a response to you because you are so kind and thoughtful. I totally hear what you’re saying and appreciate how your conversation with Linda made you feel. I wanted to let you know that I prayed long and hard before deciding to write about Erwin’s teachings. I bear no ill feelings toward Erwin personally, nor do I believe he has wronged me in any personal way. It’s Erwin’s message that troubles me. Erwin is a public figure, a spiritual leader, an author, a speaker around the country and the world. He is an influential leader of other pastors and teachers, as well as having an influential impact on the Southern Baptist Convention, of which Mosaic is a part. And when someone speaks or writes publicly, those who are of the faith are called to lovingly scrutinize every word being said to see if it lines up with the Word of God. We are called to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). And, in Erwin’s case, this must be done publicly because his influence is far and wide. I know you did not mention this passage, but Matthew 18:15 does not apply here because it does not speak to public teachings. Rather, it deals with the inner-church discipline of sin. The need for witnesses in the context demonstrates evidence that there is a need to prove an offense has occurred. But when a person like Erwin has written books, preached sermons, given inspirational speeches, done interviews, etc., his teaching is already out there. And it needs to be tested against the Word of God.

I am really encouraged by what you wrote concerning doing all things in love. Know that I have nothing to gain by writing about Erwin’s teachings. In fact, I stand to lose a great deal. But my deep concern and grief over my friends at Mosaic, and my increasing love for the body of Christ who have fallen prey to false teachings and are being led away from sound doctrine and faith, is what compels me to write. I believe my motive is love for them. And I also have hopes that God will open Erwin’s eyes to see how he is both deceived and deceiving his flock, leading them to the very pits of hell with a man-exalting gospel.

You said that you were concerned because I would be speaking against another believer. Sister, the Bible makes it very clear that it is believers we need to hold accountable, not unbelievers. In fact, it is because Erwin professes to be a believer and represent Christ to the world that I must speak out against his false teaching. I have no reason to judge an unbeliever for their belief system. They are in spiritual darkness and cannot be expected to represent truth, though they may have pieces of it through God’s common grace and love. But Erwin claims to be a messenger of light. And, also, because he is a leader, it is even more imperative to warn others of his abuses of the Word of God. That is why Paul warns that not many should become teachers, for they will be judged more strictly for what they teach and the impact it makes on their students (James 3:1).

You wrote that what Erwin is teaching is within acceptable boundaries of God. My dear sister, diverging from biblical truth is never within acceptable boundaries of God. Paul writes in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” The Bible must be handled rightly and responsibly. 2 Tim 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” The Greek phrase there literally is “to cut aright,” meaning to teach correctly and directly. Erwin is not doing this. Erwin is “causing divisions and creating obstacles contrary to the doctrine you’ve been taught” (Ro 16:17). Erwin is moving people away from sound doctrine. And he is not merely doing this at Mosaic. He is also doing this at his ongoing speaking engagements and in his books which are being read by thousands of people across the world.

You wrote that his teaching is acceptable because God is allowing him to continue and bear fruit. But here’s my question: what do you mean by “fruit”? Do you mean that he is gaining more and more recognition and popularity as a leader, public speaker and influencer? Do you mean that more people are joining Mosaic? Do you mean that more people are being converted and baptized at Mosaic? For those who are genuinely receiving Christ and following Him in baptism, I rejoice! But I have had a chance to hear Erwin’s “gospel” several times over the internet in the last year, not to mention sitting under his teaching for seven years at Mosaic. His gospel is centered on the glory of man! Much as the medieval man-exalters thought the earth was the center of the solar system, so too has Erwin made man the center of his “theological” system. Just listen to his sermons. Listen to how he preaches. He’ll read a short scripture and then preach for 45-60 minutes on how it’s all about you! One would argue that he is trying to be relevant and “missional.” Yes, but at what cost? Sound doctrine cannot be sacrificed for cultural relevance. Sound doctrine is not optional.

Are people listening to and believing his teachings? Yes. Are more and more people joining Mosaic? Yes (I assume). Are more and more people being converted to this “gospel”? Yes. Is this what the Bible means by bearing good fruit? Not at all. I wasn’t going to include any quotes apart from the Bible here, but this one is just too apropos to leave out. It is from John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, circa 1746-48:

[Commentary on Matt 7:16] By “fruits” are meant, not so much their external works in life and conversation; for a false prophet may so behave, as not to be discovered thereby. So the Pharisees were outwardly righteous before men; and false teachers among Christians may have the form of godliness, and keep it up, though they are strangers to, and even deny the power of it: but their doctrines are here meant, and the effects of them. When doctrines are contrary to the perfections of God, repugnant to the Scriptures of truth, tend to depreciate the person and offices, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ, to lessen the glory of God’s grace, to exalt the creature, and to fill men’s minds with notions of the purity, self-sufficiency, and ability of human nature; when they are calculated to feed the pride and vanity of men, to get money, and gain applause, to serve their own interests, and gratify men’s lusts and passions, they may be easily discerned who they are, and from whence they come.

Erwin’s message is very appealing. Anyone who listens to his “me-centered” doctrines gets immediately hooked. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (Titus 1:3-4) His words tickle the ears but have no substance based on scripture. He offers his listeners a “divine opportunity” to have all their dreams come true. They don’t have to get all hung up on living holy lives or growing in righteousness (see 1 Pet 1:15-16; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim 3:16), both biblical mandates that Erwin dismisses as a religious obsession with sin that contributes to “passionless living.” No, they can be set free to run wild. Every Sunday, Erwin gives his message of “hope,” “hope” meaning that all of your dreams can be fulfilled if you give your heart to Jesus and let Him unleash the creative spirit within you. “Hope” means you are significant and highly exalted by God and get to be influenced by Him and influence Him toward a better future.

Sister, your email to Linda really touched me. I truly appreciate your love and concern for Linda, for our family and for my witness. But I am concerned with the spiritual welfare of thousands of listeners and readers who are being fed a bill of goods. Please consider what I have written here and what you find in my articles. Keep the faith but consider seeking out a more God-exalting fellowship than Mosaic.