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IF:Gathering…is it a movement of God?

NOTICE: This is an older article.  I left here because there were comments attached.  Please read the booklet on IF:Gathering.  The link is on the front page of this blog.  There is an excerpt at the end of this article.

There is a relatively new fad in woman’s conferences call IF:Gathering. IF:Gathering was founded by Jennie Allen, one of the neo-Emergent leaders and a contributor to the Emergent Nines Conference. The new Emergent leaders view themselves as spiritual directors ordained by God to create a new Christianity. Thus, when I read that Allen and her associates (including contemplative heretic, Ann Voskamp,) are involved in a new conference, I wanted to know what they are up to. I read an article in Christianity Today about IF:Gathering that hints about their purpose. Christianity Today declared that the IF:Gathering for the first time has what CT calls a “vague premise.” That premise is, “If God is real, then what?” ( Christianity Today, “If a Brand-New Christian Women’s Conference Goes Viral, Then What?” February, 2014)  More about that question later.

CT also describes some of the activities of the event. “In between sessions, the mostly-young crowd discussed with each other their own sense of calling as well as hindrances such as fear and comparison.” (CT, Ibid) That’s the kind of stuff you see in a convention of young professionals attempting to take the business world by storm. It is amazingly dissimilar to individuals with a biblical calling.

I confess that I didn’t watch any of the conferences, and do not intend to. There isn’t enough time to watch or read everything that is inundating Christianity. It is an overwhelming deluge. However, CT told me everything I need to know to advise every true Christian to avoid them.

“IF focused distinctly on spiritual formation, with both inspirational and practical takeaways. Based on the directive in Hebrews 12 to ‘throw off everything that hinders’ and ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for us,’ dozens of speakers encouraged women to chase their calling.” (CT, Ibid)

Spiritual Formation is the vehicle used by the Emergent Movement to subtly inseminate Christianity with New Age heresy, especially Contemplative spirituality. Spiritual Formation is active with beguiling, religious demon spirits. It is extremely dangerous. I have witnessed a number of Christian leaders apostatize after submitting their souls to Spiritual Formation. I am certain that God did not send a hoard of authors and bloggers armed with demonic heresy to change Christianity. They are sent to persuade Christian women to throw off everything that hinders the works of darkness, especially truth, and to enter a new path that heads straight into apostasy.

Subsequently, I also researched the articles and blogs of some of the leaders. They use flowering, poetic phrases to describe and promote the conferences, but without exception give no clear biblical objective. They speak of equipping, unleashing, stepping into your giftedness, chasing your calling, and other “New Agey” sounding banalities. It leaves me with the feeling that they are more interested in crafting clever and quotable clichés than in laying out a biblical agenda. Many of the leaders and speakers, such as Jen Hatmaker, are gifted writers. It was Hatmaker that finally gave me the answer I was searching for; the stated vision of the IF:Gathering.

“We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.” (Jen Hatmaker; It’s Time: A New Movement for Our Generation, June 19, 2013), (I wonder what Christian women did in the past with only the Holy Spirit and God’s word to equip and enable them?)

Okay, but I still have questions. I understand the “gather” part, but isn’t the “equip” part the work of the Holy Spirit and the five leadership offices? Further, one can only be unleashed if one is on a leash. Do the women involved believe that the next generation is on a leash (biblical Christianity?)? Last, if the focus of their efforts is about the next generation, what about the present generation(s) of women that must necessarily be on leashes? Hatmaker confirms that it is the next generation they intend to influence.

“We have an audacious vision to disciple the next generation.” (Len Hatmaker)

Hatmaker quotes her friend, Sarah Bessy, author of “Jesus Feminist” who asks;
“If this is really the Gospel, if this is really the stuff we believe is going to change a generation or bring revival or renewal or whatever, then why aren稚 the doors wide open for the rest of us?” (In which I have All The Feelings about conferences; September 25, 2013), (Memo to Sarah Bussy: It’s not the Gospel.)

Hatmaker closed that blog with a statement to God; “Because if you are real, then we have no other hope.” (Jen Hatmaker, IF : Gathering – A New Table, October 14th, 2013) (Memo to Jen Hatmaker: God is real!)

I see the pattern emerging. It is about questions that begin with “IF”. “IF God is real” and “IF this is the Gospel,” “IF this is revival, renewal, or whatever”, etcetera. They are questions that lead into a deviant arena of discovery, an IF:Gathering. The purpose of asking doubt-based questions is to propose doubt-laced responses that supplant biblical answers. Consider how Hatmaker poses and then answers a fictitious problem of faith.
Hatmaker presents the straw man, “Faith does not always demand that God explains Himself.”

The fact is, faith never demands that God explains Himself. That is either the stuff of arrogance, ignorance, or mistrust, all of which is a lack of faith. What does one teach from such a premise? Hatmaker explains that faith does not erase doubt, insecurity, or fear, it just helps to overcome them. However, faith and doubt are so antithetical to each other that where one exists, the other does not exist. Faith eliminates doubt as light eliminates darkness. If faith cannot remove doubt, it is completely incapable of victory over it. Teaching that the existence of faith and doubt as both/and is eastern thought. God’s word is clear that the existence of faith and doubt are either/or. (Matthew 14:31 and James 1:6)

This does not surprise me given the New Age paganism of the Emergent Church Movement. Consider the ramifications of such a concept of faith. It makes one susceptible to doubt, which decreases faith. It also limits desire for the quality of faith that elimination of doubt requires. Hatmaker’s teaching is a concept of doubt never eliminated and pure faith never realized.
Christians lured into this defeatist concept will eventually be required to find other means of dealing with doubt. Doubt, like evil, refuses to remain dormant. It will come back as a malignant cancer. The individual will need more conferences, “equipping” and “unleashing”, which will eventually lead to more New Age solutions for Christianity’s “failures.” That foul stream will never run dry.

I conclude that Allen’s IF:Gathering is no different than the Drucker Leadership Network’s spinoff conferences. It will run its course and they will concoct an identical one with a new name. In fact, I hear that something called the Orange Conference is gearing up that targets the entire family. The Orange website lists Perry Noble as one of their speakers. Really? Perry Noble?

The IF:Gatherings are as other Emergent women’s conferences that promise great solutions, but in practice they covertly chip away at biblical concepts of God, the Holy Spirit, and biblical Christianity. They are based on flawed concepts masked by alluring phrases gushing and tumbling in a river of Spiritual Formation. With other events involving Emergent “coaches”, they intend to solve the problem of failed Christianity. They believe that new, replacement Christianity is the solution.

The new leaders of Emergent Christianity appear as shepherds, exuding confidence and charisma, porous with enticing words and quotable phrases, promising great benefits, but their Conference spiel is laced with heresy. They are false shepherds; hirelings and heretics, that are leading millions of professing Christians into great deception and the final apostasy. The IF:Gatherings are about ecumenism, alternate spirituality, and overwhelming susceptible women with music, visuals, and emotional camaraderie. When their hearts are prepared and open, the heretics pose very critical questions and provide answers that conflict with God’s word.

It is not about true Christianity. As one participant said, “I hear enough people telling me how to be a good Christian Mom. I don’t need that.” (Christianity Today; IBID) Yep, that’s not “New Agey” enough for IFs and ORANGEs.

IF:Gatherings are positing heresy in the women of this generation for the purpose of corrupting it and the next generation. If Hatmaker’s teaching on faith is any indication of their intent, then the present and next generations are in grave danger from the insidious attack.

IF it is of God: Answering the Questions of IF:Gathering

Since my first article I purchased and watched the If:Gathering.  Afterward, I wrote this booklet.  (Booket at Lighthouse Trails Research)

IF:Gathering came in like a storm, one of those winter events that seem to appear out of nowhere. No one saw it coming. A team of highly popular women—authors, bloggers, and speakers coming together—what a great idea. But it wasn’t novel. Professing Christians have been making pilgrimages for decades to high-energy conferences with a star list of speakers and singers. As with so many of these other conferences, IF purported to do the work of God. However, IF was unique in that it was mostly a digital event. It was greatly effective.

The IF:Gathering held its second event in February of 2015 and involved 1200 women at the physical location, with a possible 100,000 or more watching by 40,000 live links in more than 120 countries. The ongoing influence of IF after the conference has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of women all while flying under the radar of pastors and church leaders who may be accepting IF:Gathering at face value, not knowing anything about this group of high energy talented women leaders.

After reading the list of IF speakers and researching information about them, I have become convinced that IF poses a significant risk to Christian women, who unwittingly are submitting themselves to IF’s speakers and teachers. The danger? It comes in the form of emergent ideology, spiritual formation, and contemplative spirituality (contemplative prayer is a mantra-like “prayer” practice that vitalizes the “progressive” “new” Christianity (i.e., the emerging church). Thus, I am compelled to report on my findings regarding IF.

How did IF:Gathering come about and is it ordained by God? These are questions every responsible Christian needs to ask concerning anything claiming to be a new move or revelation from God. Those questions are especially important during such a time as this, a time when the church is suffering from great deception and apostasy. Is IF influencing women to draw nearer to God or rather leading them onto a spiritually dangerous path to heresy?

IF’s Beginning—A Whisper from the Sky

The 2015 IF:Gathering did not end when the conference was over. It continues to function through the network established before the conference occurred. Its influence continues through local churches and individuals who hosted the event, through social media, available videos of the event, and the “IF:Table,”* all of which have the potential to reach countless more women and evolve into a major women’s movement. If that occurs, it will help set the agenda of how the future generation perceives and implements Christianity.

The first statement on their website under “Who We Are” is:  We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.1

The founder of IF:Gathering, Jennie Allen, is a bright and energetic, best-selling author, blogger, and popular speaker. She appears sincere and dedicated to ministering to people. She and her husband have been involved in ministry for a number of years. However, since she is the founder, we must consider her activity, her influences, and her statements about the birth of IF:Gathering.

Allen is a Bible teacher who had been teaching groups of girls and young women since high school. She studied at the University of Arkansas for three years, completed her B.S. in Communications at Carson Newman College in Tennessee, and graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Biblical Studies in 2005. It would be two years after her graduation from DTS when she had an experience that birthed IF: Gathering.

Allen signed a multi-project contract in 2011 with Thomas Nelson, which included a series of seven DVD-based Bible studies and two trade books. Her first study released in 2011, followed by another one released in 2012. Her first trade book was also released in 2012. Allen’s book Restless: Because You Were Made for More and the Restless video-based Bible study were released simultaneously in January 2014, a month before the first IF:Gathering.

Allen was also one of the speakers in the neo-emergent Nines Conference in 2014, which hosted a speaker lineup that included some of the main influences in the New Christianity movement.

How did the IF:Gathering originate? There are different and conflicting explanations given by Allen. The first account was presented by Allen in the initial IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas, 2014:

About 7 years ago, a voice from the sky—that doesn’t often speak to me—but that day there was this whisper. It was the middle of the night, actually. And it was “Gather and equip your generation.” And this was ridiculous, because honestly, I was a stay at home Mom, I didn’t know anybody that could help me with that job. And it was a completely ridiculous statement. So ridiculous that I just, for two days my bones hurt, and I didn’t know what to do with it. My bones hurt, for two days.

I thought, Okay God, what do you want me to do? Wisely my friend said, “Jennie, if it’s God,” cause it may not be. All voices from the sky are not always God, FYI. But, “if it’s God, then He’s going to give you everything you need to accomplish His purposes. So just wait.” And so I waited, and that was seven years ago, guys.2

Allen eventually came to believe it was God who whispered. She would wait several years for Him to put IF: Gathering together. However, a year after the account of IF’s birth that she gave in the 2014 conference, she posted another account on her blog:

Truth is, IF:Gathering began as more of a hunch than a vision.3

A month later, and one year after her first account, Allen gave another account of how the IF came about during the IF: Gathering February, 2015:

I mean, 7 years ago, 8 years ago now, I heard a voice that . . . well, okay, I didn’t. This is like all different theologies right now. Okay, just give me grace. I don’t know, but I’m just telling you, in the night I woke up, and I was overcome with these words, “Disciple a generation.”

But I sat on it. I put it in my back pocket and said, “Okay God, if you want to do something crazy like that, you’re gonna have to make it happen.”4

I read Allen’s book, Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked my God and My Soul, written a couple of years after her experience with the sky whisperer. In her book, Allen describes deep intimacy with God and willingness to obey Him completely. However, she does not mention anything about Sky Whisperer or his commission to organize the IF: Gathering. I find that puzzling. What better place to introduce and expound on such a life-changing intimate experience and surrender than in a book describing full surrender?

I’m willing to concede that there could be a good reason for the inconsistencies of her accounts as to how IF came about. But an individual whom God supernaturally calls to accomplish a significant work should give a credible and unambiguous account of that call. One could say, “I saw a need and did my best to meet it.” However, when one says, “I heard a voice from God,” a different standard is involved. The reason is because something that has a supernatural event as an origin will have a much greater weight of influence. It presents the individual as a special agent of God, just as any of the figures in the Bible whom God used to accomplish unprecedented purposes. It almost immunizes the revelation and the individual from critical examination.

Therefore, I believe it is proper and reasonable to examine Jennie Allen’s statements concerning the origin of the IF: Gathering. The questions are: “Is Allen’s explanations of the origin of IF:Gathering convincing and does she provide viable and credible information that concludes IF: Gathering originated from God? One should prayerfully consider those questions and ultimately should ask: if it’s origin is in question and if it’s founder is involved in emergent conferences, can IF:Gathering produce good fruit? The next section concerning the speakers in IF:Gathering may help answer that last question.

For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. (Luke 6:43-44)

(Read more at Lighthouse Trails Research)

COVID-19 and the First Amendment

First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

While I do not criticize churches from closing physical meetings because of concerns about COVID-19, I am deeply concerned about churches closing their meetings in response to a Government mandate. Some Believers are passionate about their faith and God’s ability to protect them. Other ones may be skittish about contracting COVID-19. The skittish one and everyone with symptoms can remain at home. But when it comes to faith, the Government does not have to right to determine what measure of faith we have or how we should demonstrate that faith by mandating we cannot assemble.

Some lawyers opine, such as Richard Hammer of the Assemblies of God, that the churches must ignore their trust in God’s protection and close or face litigation and possibly forced closings by law enforcement. Other ones declare that it is a violation of the First Amendment. I agree with the latter group.

To even mandate that business should close there must be a provable compelling reason. There is a compelling reason to believe that the COVID-19 crisis is media-hyped and fear-driven. On paper, the stats and other essential information concerning COVID-19, do not add up to a crisis. Compared to a normal flu season, COPID-19 is not likely to affect a large number of people as the flu virus. In the majority of affected individuals, it has not proven any more deadly than the flu. Continue reading

To all my Safe Friends

I once was an associate to a popular pastor in a large church. A big mistake that I never repeated. However, I learned a lot about “playing it safe.” The game has several rules that I broke and continue to break today. The reason is that God did not call anyone to “play it safe.”

Nevertheless, “playing it safe” is considered a necessary paradigm to advance one’s career. About the career thingy, I’m not interested in that either. One of my friends disinvited me as a speaker for a large event because he believed one of my beliefs would create a problem. He remarked that he did not want to build someone’s career that he might not agree with. I thought, “I don’t have one of those (career).”

To someone who is called by God unto a position, he or she does not seek a career or a carefully crafted image to protect by compromise or “wise diplomacy.” Certainly, there is room for tact, and we should not be perceived as scurrilous and carnal individuals. But Christ made Himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:7). He certainly did not become a man of ill repute but took on the form of a servant.

That is what a man or woman of God is—a servant, not only to people but to God. That is not “playing it safe.” They put their lives in the crosshairs of gossip hunters, pointy fingers, tongues on fire with bile and bitterness, and nowadays, weaponized Social Media. Our “safe space” can only be accessed on our knees. Otherwise, we do not have a “safe” place on the frontline of God’s will. Continue reading

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