Very often when we read Scripture we do not enter emotionally into the story. As a result, we miss the very real human elements in exchanges like the one Paul had with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 as he gave them a charge which included:
Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. (Acts 20:31)
“Admonish everyone with tears.” Let that soak in for a moment. Why “with tears?” In this passage the Apostle Paul has given these leaders a grave responsibility. It may perhaps be the single greatest responsibility pastors and elders have, to guard the flock from spiritual predators. False teachers and false apostles would try to worm their way in from outside the church, while some others would rise up from within:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. (Acts 20:28-31)
Pastors and elders, like parents, have a responsibility to guard and protect those whom God has put in their charge. Our kids and grandchildren are not “ours”, but God has entrusted us with their care and protection. The Apostle Paul felt that responsibility deeply and was emotionally invested in the leaders and churches that God put into his charge. It was and is so important because spiritual carnage can be as hurtful and crippling as physical abuse. The world is a dangerous place, physically and spiritually.
Our job at MCOI and other apologetics ministries is to warn pastors and church leaders of spiritual dangers to their flocks from within and without. And the dangers are many. Some church leaders take their responsibility very seriously, but others are not guarding their flock from false teaching but simply going with the cultural flow. Even worse, sometimes the pastors and elders themselves become the purveyors of false teachings. Perhaps these leaders are well intentioned and have simply been deceived themselves, but they are in turn deceiving others (2 Timothy 3:13). Sadly, many seem to be impervious to correction.
In August of 2019, Marcia Montenegro at CANA (Christian Answers for the New Age) was apprised that Rivers Crossing Church in Mason, OH would be doing a nine week sermon series using the Enneagram, a pagan New Age system that is widely sweeping across the church body today. Marcia sent a kind email to the church alerting them to the false history and heretical theology of the Enneagram. Lead Pastor Paul Taylor responded:
Regardless of the Enneagram’s origin, we believe that God can work through this personality typing system to bring His truth to light. (emails on file)
God’s truth is not brought to light through pagan spiritual methods. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the Enneagram is helping people spiritually, emotionally, or “relationally.” On the contrary, there is every reason to know that it is not. Did Jesus, Paul or any biblical figure teach people the importance of coming to understand that they can get in touch with their original sinless self through the Enneagram? The snake in the garden is the only biblical “figure” we can think of who might push that idea.
The church series was launched with a full blown musical production of “The Enneagram Rhapsody.”
There is probably not a day that goes by in which we do not receive a telephone call, email, or Facebook message from someone who is confused, crushed, and frankly at a loss as to whom they can trust to stand for biblical truth. Often the story goes like this: they have gone to their pastor to talk about something he is teaching or is infiltrating the church that is unbiblical, only to be rebuffed, accused of being divisive, perhaps legalistic, and/or a spiritual child who must submit to the leader’s better judgment. In some cases, they are told they are free to leave, but if they do, they will never find a good Bible teaching church.
Just for the record, we are not big fans of weekly “pastor roasts,” and it is true that there can arise differences of opinion on non-essential spiritual doctrines that are not worthy of dissention. But there are essential doctrinal differences that must be addressed, and the teaching of the Enneagram certainly falls into that category. Of course, all such issues should be addressed with gentleness and respect. (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Pleas from laypeople for our help and guidance have increased lately as the Enneagram spreads throughout the Evangelical church in much the same way as Covid-19 has spread throughout the world.
Incredibly, numbers of pastors, elders, and high-profile evangelical leaders are not only turning a blind eye to destructive heresy but in several cases church leaders are insulting or punishing those who dare question.
In the past week, one individual contacted us who had been part of a NAR church. Eventually she discovered how unbiblical NAR teaching is and went in search of a Bible based church. Initially she believed she had found one. The pastor’s preaching seemed solid. The church was not large, and it felt like a family. There was, as it turned out, a fly in the ointment, however. The Enneagram seemed to be deeply integrated into the fabric of the church. Yoga was accepted and practiced. The church uses NAR music from Bethel Church, one of the major sources of false teaching she was fleeing from. In her attempts to understand the Enneagram, which was a new teaching to her, she came across “Marcia & Don with host, Doreen Virtue, ‘Why the Enneagram is a dangerous new age tool.’” She contacted Doreen looking for counsel and guidance. Doreen put her in touch with us. We spent quite a while on the phone, discussing ways to approach the subject that might convince the pastor to look at the information we have presented. It didn’t go well.
The pastor was quite militant, adamant he will not read any books, view any videos, or listen to any podcasts she might send him. Why? Because he will not change his views on it “now nor ever. He believes what he believes and that he is not wrong.” He went on to assert that he will never stop playing Bethel music, bringing up the Enneagram in his sermons, and has no problem allowing yoga into the church. He was clear that if she wanted to be part of the church she needs to overlook those “minor” details, abandon her “legalistic views,” and submit to his authority. He does not want her to “infect” the rest of the congregation. She took him up on his invitation to leave and we sent her recommendations of several Bible teaching churches we received from a friend who teaches at a seminary in her area.
“…completely engulfed by the enneagram. The church started back in September as a new church plant in Rochester. I attended the ‘newcomers’ class in January…..expected to learn about the history of how it started, the direction and vision……….the entire hour class was about the enneagram. nothing about the core values, leadership, principles……..it was all handouts on the enneagram and how to ‘find your gifts’ to be used in the church.”
It was relayed that the church has a Facebook team page where:
“people have been posting questions as they ‘get stuck’ and can’t figure out their ‘number’……the advice from our pastors? ‘just highlight everything in the books that sound like you…..to bring you closer to the light’”
“Closer to the light”? It seems Echo Church has also used the Enneagram numbers as a series. An example, “Mother’s Day – Enneagram Edition.” The individual who contacted Marcia is recommending our book, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret but based on how deeply rooted they are in this false teaching, it seems unlikely the church leadership will be receptive.
The biblical mandate for pastors and elders is simple and clear. Guard against spiritual predators and false teachings that would filter in from outside or rise up from within. And needless to say, leaders should not become false teachers either. Scripture does not allow for church leadership to incorporate New Age, occultism, Eastern mysticism, practices, etc, nor to regard them as “minor issues.” As our friend John Haller says, we need to “Practice Biblical Distancing” and teach the flock to do the same.Ω
© 2020, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.