And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east. (Ezekiel 8:16)

Using Evangelical Youth As Spiritual Guinea Pigs

Apprising Ministries continues doing what we can to alert spiritually obtuse pretending to be Protestant evangelicals to the grave dangers and deceptions of embracing Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM).

This is currently being perpetrated e.g. by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, along with his friend and spiritual twin SBC minister Dallas Willard, as so-called Spiritual Formation (SF). Why do I bring this up; simple, because CSM is nothing more than refried Roman Catholic mysticism with its pietism and asceticism romanticized for those who are ignorant of Church history.

With this in mind I will also tell you again, plainly, that this spurious CSM found its way into mainstream evangelicalism through its foolish embrace of the sinfully ecumenical Emerging Church aka the Emergent Church, a neo-liberal cult now operating within it.

In his book Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations Emerging Church leader Dan Kimball, who specializes in methodologies to reach the so-called emerging generations, informs us of the strategies they used to implant themselves into the Young Adult and Youth ministries of unsuspecting evangelical churches as early as the late ’90s:

The staff at one church in rural Oklahoma…fully believed they needed to start making changes in the way they worshipped in order to be in line with the emerging culture and emerging generations… These staff members were afraid, however, to try anything too radical. After all, they served in a very conservative Baptist church…

they started by slowly adding a few things to their youth meetings. They corporately read ancient creeds and prayers. The lit candles and had times of silent prayer. They allowed the youth to paint during a worship time. They practiced lectio divina or “sacred reading,” the ancient practice of prayerful meditation on Scripture. Not all at once, but little by little they added these elements of worship to their existing meetings…

It was a huge step for them…the staff are planning to have monthly emerging worship gathering for youth (and adults of any age who want to come)… Eventually the church wants to turn the monthly worship gathering into a weekly one.[1]

You will also want to know that we’re told, at least at the time of his writing the above, that Dan Kimball “serves on the emergentYS [Youth Specialties] board and is a frequent speaker at Youth Specialties’ events.”[2] We also know that last year in his post Atlanta – Origins Listening Session this Friday and Youth Specialties over at his personal blog Kimball was still singing the praises of YS:

(Online source)

The reason I mention this concerning YS is because it’s well known that YS has long promoted spurious CSM, which is confirmed e.g. by Tony Jones, one third of the unholy Emerging Church trinity of apostates along with Living Spiritual Teacher and EC guru Brian McLaren, as well as with universalist Emerging Church pastor Doug Pagitt—where Jones is the progressive “theologian in residence.” In Tony Jones Traces The Corruption Of Youth Specialties I pointed you to An Open Letter to YouthWorks  where Jones gives a bit of history concerning YS:

Let me join the chorus of voices welcoming Tic Long back to Youth Specialties, now part of the YouthWorks world.  Tic was nothing but gracious to me over my ten years of speaking at the National Youth Workers Convention, even though I know that some of my content resulted in him and the YS staff getting grief…

The last time I saw Mike Yaconelli was memorable for me.  I wasn’t in Yac’s inner circle, but he was always extremely kind to me.  He was in Minneapolis to speak at an event for Youth Leadership in 2003, the same year he died.  He let Doug Pagitt and me know that he’d be in town and that he’d like to treat us to a beer and a cigar.  So we took him up on his offer and met on Saturday afternoon at the Calhoun Beach Club — I could go there today and show you the table at which we sat; that’s how well I remember it.

At the time, YS was publishing books by emergent authors, an arrangement created by then-publisher, Mark Oestreicher.  Yac was taking some heat for that, particularly from the old guard at YS — some of the long-time speakers and authors.  Doug and I had heard that, and Yac confirmed it.  He said that his son, Mark’s, work on contemplative spirituality was also irksome to some of YS’s more conservative constituency.

But then — and I remember it like it was yesterday — he said, “YS has always been about pushing boundaries.  That’s why we started it.  It was never really about youth ministry; it was always about radicalizing the church for Jesus.  It just seemed to us that youth ministry was the way to do that.”

He continued, “I’ve been afraid that we’re losing our edge, becoming too mainstream.  So, you know what, if YS goes down in flames because of what you guys write, that’s great!  At least we’ll be true to ourselves.”

That sentiment, I think, was the impetus for Marko publishing my books and Tic inviting me to the NYWC.  They got some angry mail for that — I remember one letter from a church’s board of elders telling Yac that YS was apostate because they let me speak — but I hope it was worth it… (Online source, bold his)

As you can see, YS has been spiritually corrupt for years. This is important background as I point you now to Baptist layman follows unlikely path to spiritual-formation ministry where we’re told about:

A Baptist layman with an engineering background might not seem a logical choice to lead a spiritual-formation ministry run by United Methodists. Not surprisingly, the path that led Johnny Sears to Upper Room Ministries in Nashville, Tenn., took some unexpected turns.

Sears, 35, took over July 26 as director of Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation— an ecumenical program for holistic spirituality. Academy participants meet for five days of communal prayer, study and solitude eight times over the course of two years. (Online source)

Translation: The paticipants learn about CSM, which flowered within the antibiblical monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism, and its main vehicle of a type of meditation in an altered state of consciousness called Contemplative/Centering Prayer. Notice below that Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic spirituality is part of the Upper Room curriculum:

(Online source)

Rebuilding The High Places Of Baal To Offer Up Their Sons And Daughters To Molech

Johnny Sears, the main subject of the ABP article above, follows the typical path as to how CSM has slithered into mainstream evangelical churches, youth ministry:

Sears grew up attending a Baptist church in rural Kentucky. After graduating from college, he got a job in product design with Lexmark International in Lexington, Ky. He and his wife, Becky, moved to nearby Midway, Ky., and became involved in Midway Baptist Church.

When the church’s part-time youth ministry job became vacant, Sears felt a tug he couldn’t shake. He took the job and did it for three years. Not envisioning himself as a pastor, Sears wrestled with what he perceived as a call to ministry.

The process led him to enroll part time at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky [BSK], a theological-education partner of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. (Online source)

You should know that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) “was officially constituted in May 1991” by people who broke away from the ostensibly conservative SBC after “more than 10 years of public controversy between conservative and moderate members of the Southern Baptist Convention.”[3] So BSK is affiliated with the rather liberal CBF, and it turns out that Sears studied under E. Glenn Hinson:

The first course he took was “Ministry as Spiritual Guidance,” taught by Glenn Hinson, senior professor of church history and spirituality. Hinson is a pioneer in Baptist spirituality studies who taught previously at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in a career spanning 50 years. (Online source, emphasis mine) 

And that’s not all professor Hinson has been up to:

(Online source)

There we see the fetid fruit of spurious CSM; an unbiblical and sinful, ecumenicism. Now notice Sears learned about it from the aforementioned Youth Specialties:

Sears didn’t know who Hinson was, but he had already been introduced to the concept of spiritual direction at a retreat offered by Youth Specialties. He enlisted Rick Landon, director of Lexington’s Interfaith Counseling Center and an adjunct professor at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, as his spiritual guide. Hinson and Landon both became mentors to Sears. Taking note of the student’s interest in contemplative spirituality, they steered him toward the Academy for Spiritual Formation.

Sears dropped out of seminary to join the academy’s 25th session in 2006-2007, using vacation time he had built up working at Lexmark. Sears recalled in an interview that Hinson, who had been involved in the academy since its beginning and served on its faculty, told him at the time the experience would change his life. (Online source)

Next we follow the sad slide of Sears, which sadly, will also be true of many more young adults introduced to this rehashed Roman Catholic mysticism by the Emerging Church; some of whom you may even know. Notice that he is 35 and ”grew up attending a Baptist church,” which when Sears was in his early 20′s, quite likely followed the pattern alluded to by Dan Kimball above. In any event, we are looking at a perfect example of what has happened to more people who grew up within mainstream evangelicalism than we would ever wish to know.

CSM guru Hinson steers his promising pupil further away from the proper Christian spirituality of sola Scriptura, and deeper into CSM, until finally he ends up at the feet of highly revered CSM golden Buddha Thomas Merton. I’ve told you before that Merton would have forgotten more about this stupid approach to Christian spirituality than Foster, Willard, Hinson etc., will ever know. And tragically, Merton’s own disgusting idolatry becomes quite evident in Thomas Merton And The Buddhas; the truth is, his devotion to the practice of CSM made Merton more like the Buddha than the Christ.

Yet we’re told that after receiving the deception inherent within CSM Sears no longer felt it necessary for seminary study:

Sears said he fully intended to return to seminary, but during his time in the academy his view of calling began to change. “By the time it was all over I had really been able to claim that I did have a vocation in ministry but it didn’t have to be professional,” he explained. “It didn’t have to be a paid thing. I had a ministry as a layperson.”

He continued to attend seminary classes, but since he no longer needed a degree he audited them. He got an opportunity to lead a retreat at what is now called the Merton Institute for Contemplative Living. (Online source)

My point isn’t to praise seminary but to illustrate that more formal study was set aside for so-called “contemplative” experience-oriented teaching, which apparently Sears took to very well:

Jerry Haas, the academy’s former director, invited Sears to be part of leadership teams for events sponsored by Upper Room. The ecumenical division of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Discipleship was founded in 1935. Sears led retreats at his church and earned a reputation as a “go-to guy” for spirituality. He also became proactive about taking his “ministry of presence” into the workplace.

‘It kind of shifted from this idea of me trying to make my way and trying to find a calling to just being attentive to what was calling me,” Sears said. (Online source)

While in the end, only those to whom God will give eyes to see will understand what I’ve warned you about here, I’ll still tell you that we need to be praying God will grant Johnny Sears repentance for his sin of personal sovereignty, i.e. pride, in doing what he “feels” as opposed to humbling himself to the final authority of God’s Word. How many more times do you have to see this same sordid regression back into the exact same spiritual bondage of centered on the self spirituality of apostate Roman Catholicism before it registers that it is counterfeit?

It’s common sense; and certainly Satan knows: The closer to the counterfeit to the original, the more deceptive it will be. It’s simply beyond question that this spiritual monk-ee business was never part of the Western visible church; don’t believe me, then listen to Thomas Merton as he tells us that the:

original, primitive meaning of spiritual direction suggests a particular need connected with a special ascetic task, a peculiar vocation for which a professional formation is required. In other words, spiritual direction is a monastic concept. It is a practice which was unnecessary until men withdrew from the Christian community in order to live as solitaries in the desert.[4]

No way around it; CSM originates with apostate hermits in the Eastern desert and then finds its way into the monastic traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, where it would flower and then spread its evil spores until it so corrupted the Church of Rome, that Jesus would send His Reformers to bring His Church back to His Word in the Bible.

If you seriously think Jesus is pleased to see people who claim to be his followers leading others right back into the type of spirituality that would so delude the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church they would anathematize His Gospel, and also to give orders to have His genuine children brutally murdered, you better think again; that is, while you still can:

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)


[1] Dan Kimball, Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations [Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2004], 102.  

[2] Ibid., back cover.

[3], accessed 1/8/11.

[4] Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction And Meditation [Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1960], 11, emphasis mine.

See also: