Meditation, visualization, spirit guides, contemplative prayer, fortune telling, zodiac signs. Most Christians would associate these kinds of practices with an increasingly popular religion in the United States called New Age. However, these practices that have long been associated with New Age spirituality, are creeping into the Christian church.
One of the primary reasons for this is because instead of warning their flocks of the dangers associated with this type of spirituality, pastors are embracing and even teaching it to their congregations.
It may be hard for some Christians to comprehend how this is possible. But considering Bible illiteracy is at a crisis point in the United States, deception is running rampant. And when a pastor and other church leaders are themselves deceived, they pass on the false teachings to their all-too-trusting and Bible-illiterate congregation.
This New Age infiltration isn’t just about Bishop T.D. Jake’s wife, Serita, encouraging conference participants at The Potter’s House of Dallas to engage in yoga exercises. It’s much more than that.
Take for instance, mega-pastor Rick Warren who in 2005 topped Time magazine’s list of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. Pastor Warren’s sphere of influence includes over 20,000 members of one of the largest megachurches in the country.
His sphere of influence also includes the millions of people who have read his book, The Purpose Driven Life. (The book came out in 2002 and by 2007 it had sold over 30 million copies). Besides being criticized for taking scripture out of context to promote his agenda, the book has also been criticized for containing New Age elements.
The New Age Deception of Pastor Rick Warren
According to Warren B. Smith, author of Deceived on Purpose: the New Age implications of the Purpose Driven movement, “Out of the fifteen different Bible versions Rick Warren uses, he chooses to cite Ephesians 4:6 from a new translation that erroneously conveys the panentheistic New Age teaching that God is “in” everything. According to New Age leaders, this teaching is foundational to the New Age/New Spirituality.”
The Purpose Driven Life also quotes Dr. Bernie Siegel, a popular New Age author who says he has an angel mystic named George, who guides him, and who people can see standing in front of him when he gives a lecture. Along with Dr. Siegel, Warren also quotes Aldous Huxley, a famous New Ager who coined the phrase, “perennial philosophy,” which is an idea that states absolute truth can be found in many traditions.
In more recent years, Pastor Warren has joined forces with the likes of Dr. Mehmet Oz, a practitioner of transcendental meditation. His wife, Lisa Oz, is a certified Reiki master. Reiki is a new age healing technique used to manipulate energy. Dr. Oz contributed to Warren’s book, The Daniel Plan. Other contributors included Dr. Daniel Aman and Dr. Mark Hyman, both known to use New Age concepts.
Pastor Warren, who claims to receive extra-biblical revelations through subconscious dreams, is also known to take part in and teach an Eastern style of mantra prayer called breath prayers. According to Warren, you can “use ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath.”
The New Age Teachings of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church
Besides Saddleback, another extremely popular church with New Age tendencies is Bethel Church in Redding, California. Pastor Bill Johnson leads the pack at Bethel, where he and his wife, Beni have been criticized for their New Age teachings that they pass off as Christianity.
Bill and Beni Johnson also co-founded the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, where students take part in soaking prayer (another type of contemplative prayer), visualization and guided imagery, and spirit travel, all of which are New Age practices.
In response to his critics Johnson says, “Many prominent pastors and conference speakers add fuel to the fire of fear by assuming that because the New Age promotes it, its origins must be from the devil. I find that form of reasoning weak at best. If we follow that line of thought, we will continue to give the devil the tools that God has given us for success in life and ministry.”
Along with her husband, Beni Johnson is widely known for embracing and teaching New Age practices. On a blog post titled, “Let’s Get Grounded!” Beni promotes the idea of becoming connected to the earth by practicing a New Age technique called grounding. She and other attendees of Bethel Church have also been seen on social media practicing grave sucking, which is used as a way to soak up the anointing of deceased preachers.
Beware of Other Pastors with New Age Tendencies
Others pastors Christians need to look out for include Shawn Bolz and John Ortberg. Bolz is the founding pastor of Expression58 Christian Ministries and is best known for teaching fortune telling techniques, disguised as prophetic training. Ortberg teaches on contemplative spirituality and has been linked to Tilden Edwards, founder of the Shalem Institute which states they are “grounded in Christian contemplative spirituality yet draws on the wisdom of many religious traditions.”
Sadly instead of rejecting New Age practices, these pastors not only embrace them but teach them to their flocks. Matt Slick, founder and president of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), says, “The Bible opposes almost all the tenets of the New Age Movement. As Christians, we should be watchful to recognize what is false and teach what is true.”