Church beware. If sent your youth to the Passion Conference in Atlanta (January 1-4), you’ll want to pay close attention to this warning from well-respected reporter and researcher Erin Benziger over at Do Not Be Surprised. Erin has done her homework on a very concerning movement called “Jesus Culture,” and I encourage you to dive into this report and understand why this group is leading believers astray. Here is her report, reprinted in full with permission:
Jesus Culture and Judah Smith to Join Piper, Moore, Chan and Others at Giglio’s Passion 2013
A new year means a fresh batch of conferences. And a fresh batch of conferences means a whole new crop of questionable decisions being made by the leaders and organizers of those gatherings.
To start off the 2013 conference season is Louie Giglio‘s Passion 2013. Held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, it will run from 1–4 January. Giglio aims this gathering specifically at young people, and according to the event’s website, last year saw “more than 40,000 students and leaders from around the world” at the US event. Today The Christian Post reports that 60,000 students are scheduled to attend this week’s event.
Passion targets the younger generation with such high-profile names as Beth Moore, John Piper, Francis Chan, rapper Lecrae and this year, pastor Judah Smith of The City Church in Seattle and popular Christian band, Jesus Culture.
Who Is Judah Smith?
Judah Smith has been profiled briefly here before when, in May of this year, Smith invited Word Faith teacher Brian Houston of Hillsong Church (who, incidentally, just preached weekend services at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church) to preach at The City Church. Oddly enough, New Calvinist pastor Mark Driscoll was excited about the invitation, even encouraging his Twitter followers to attend.
Judah Smith co-pastors his church with his wife, Chelsea, making the Reformed Driscoll’s endorsement even more perplexing. The presence of a pastrix at The City Church ought not surprise, though, when it is considered that this church was founded by Judah’s parents, pastor Wendell and pastrix Gini Smith:
The reader will note that, in the screenshot above, it states that Wendell and Gini Smith originally served under Dick Iverson at Bible Temple in Portland. According to C. Peter Wagner’s book Apostles Today: Biblical Government for Biblical Power, Iverson was the “founder of one of America’s foremost apostolic networks, Ministers Fellowship International, out of Portland, Oregon.” So it sounds as though The City Church has some rather colorful roots.
Who Is Jesus Culture?
Speaking of colorful, this leads to the concerning inclusion by Louie Giglio of the “Christian” music group, Jesus Culture. The group’s website tells us that it was spawned out of the youth group at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, California. For those who are unfamiliar with Johnson and Bethel, the following video shares some of the “signs and wonders” shenanigans that take place there, and also demonstrates some classic Bill Johnson Scripture-twisting:
Now, one could camp for quite awhile on some of the statements made by Johnson in that video, but since Johnson is not under discussion here, we’ll move on. The point is, of course, that this is the church that birthed the Jesus Culture phenomenon.
The entirety of Jesus Culture’s “About Us” page warrants a close examination, and will aid in understanding why Christians should be concerned that this band is being mainstreamed by men like Louie Giglio:
The choice of words in the paragraphs above is curiously alarming. The language surrounding a “new breed of revivalists” emerging is of particular interest, as such vocabulary is prominent within the New Apostolic Reformation movement.
Note also that the group claims direct revelation and instruction from the Lord Himself.
The members of Jesus Culture claim that the Lord spoke to them, revealing the characteristics of their movement (which noticeably does not include repentance or sanctification, only love and supernatural experience), commissioning them to “mobilize this new breed,” and in so doing issued a mandate to Jesus Culture that cannot be ignored. Taking this to its logical conclusion, then, to question the actions or words of Jesus Culture and its members is to question God Himself.
Examination of this website further reveals that the goal of this group is to lead people into an experience or an “encounter” with God. It seems that truth may be cast aside in favor of temporary and potentially deceiving experiences.
The Music of Jesus Culture
It behooves us, then, to see just how it is that the music of Jesus Culture may lull the professing Christian teenager into a so-called “encounter” with God. Below you will witness the group leading the crowd in a repetitive mantra, followed by some singing and what appears to be tongues-speaking. The clip will close with band member Kim Walker-Smith breaking into spontaneous prayer and declaration.
The repetition of the mantra “Jesus” at the beginning of the clip, while appearing to be spiritual, actually potentially could lead a person into an altered state of consciousness. Contemplative prayer, which is little more than a “Christianized” version of Eastern meditation, often encourages such a practice, as one seeks to journey inward to discover the “divine spark” within oneself. Yet, Scripture nowhere teaches this type of praise or prayer, but rather condemns the practices of pagan religions.
Also of note in the clip above is the apparent spontaneous breakout into tongues at approximately 2:30, following the singing of the line, “Heaven beckons to me.” The fact that these were nothing more than gibberish and were not a known language, as per the biblical definition of ‘tongues,’ ought to cause concern as well.
In watching and listening to Jesus Culture, it does not take long to realize that the focus of their music and teaching is all about an experience of “God’s love.” Yet, without acknowledging the righteous wrath of God, His love can never fully be understood or appreciated. Unfortunately, a warm-fuzzy feeling up and down one’s spine does not a true Christian make.
The “Teaching” of Jesus Culture
Jesus Culture does more than simply play music, however. It seems that, at times, various members of the group also may preach or teach. Below is Jesus Culture member Kim Walker-Smith preaching to a large crowd at the Awakening 2011 event, and offering a rather detailed account of her own personal encounter with “Jesus.” This video is a bit lengthy, but the reader is urged to watch it in its entirety.
Kim Walker-Smith claims that she spoke with Jesus, that He cuddled her, and that she saw God the Father. And while she acknowledges that such visions are not regular occurrences, she nevertheless indicates that she’s had multiple encounters with Him. One wonders how many people sitting amongst that large crowd left disappointed that night that they had not “encountered” Jesus as Kim Walker-Smith claimed that she had. Walker-Smith’s recollection of the vision is natural, and seems to presume that everyone should experience such a thing. Yet, when face to face with God Almighty, how did Isaiah react?
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1–5)
And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face…(Ezekiel 1:26–28)
Moses, who we are told spoke to the Lord as a man speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11), was not even allowed to see Him in all of His glory!
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18–23)
Not one of these men, after a brief moment of awestruck fear, “fell into Jesus’ arms” as Walker-Smith claims that she did. Not one describes God the Father running around deliriously and laughing while Isaiah or Ezekiel danced around in a music box. So to Kim Walker-Smith’s claims above that she has spoken personally with Jesus Christ and God the Father, I would like to offer this challenge: Prove it. And while you’re at it, disprove this: God just spoke to me and told me that you are lying, Kim Walker-Smith. Don’t believe me? Well, who is to say that your experience was real and mine was not?
Christian, herein lies the grave danger of such claims of personal revelation and visitations from God. They cannot be proven and they are not Scriptural. If they are to be found in Scripture, they appear to be more indicative of the deceptive angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14–15) than anything else.
Parents, if your teenager is attending Passion 2013 this week, this is the type of so-called Christian leaders to whom they are being exposed. This is the type of music that will bombard their eardrums during these four days. If your impressionable teen is wandering in the crowd of Passion 2013, it is my prayer that you will pray mightily for his or her protection.
What Happened at Passion 2012?
As a reminder, last year’s Passion Conference saw the featured speakers lead the humongous crowd in a troubling display of “Lectio Divina-lite.” In the post, “Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence and What Really Went On at Passion 2012?” the topics of contemplative prayer and lectio divina were discussed more thoroughly. The following videos of Session 5 of the Passion 2012 conference also were shared in that article.
Here is popular New Calvinist preacher John Piper:
Here we see the SBC’s favorite female Bible teacher, Beth Moore:
And here is Passion founder Louie Giglio closing this session:
Of special note are the words spoken by Giglio at the close of this exercise:
How many of you heard the voice of God speak specifically, clearly, directly, and personally, to you? Can you just put a hand up? I’d like you to share it. Can you put a hand up for a minute?
Just want you to look around; that’s people saying, “God Almighty (pause) the Maker of heaven (pause) the one Who’s sitting on the only throne (pause) that’s not under threat (long pause, audience cheers)—He spoke to me. He spoke to me.”
“God spoke to me.” (long pause) Don’t let the voice of the darkness, tell you that you are not (pause) worth (pause) that God would not speak to you. (pause) Don’t let him tell you, you don’t matter. (pause) God spoke to you.
As was asked in last year’s reporting of this event: When did Protestant leaders begin to teach that we need the Bible “plus” anything? God has spoken. He has graciously, clearly, and perfectly spoken in His Word. We have no need to be still and wait for His audible voice outside of Scripture. He has not stuttered. He has not stammered. He has not whispered. If you want to hear from God Almighty, open your Bible and read.
Until Passion 2013 commences, there is no way to know if a similar exercise will be practiced again. A live stream of the event will be provided, and those who are concerned may want to take the time to watch some of the sessions.
It is important to note that this article is not attempting to throw anyone under the guilt-by-association bus. No one is saying that, because one of these individuals will be sharing the stage with another that they necessarily endorse that other person’s ministry. Of course, that does not speak to the wisdom of certain speakers choosing to participate in this event. What must be acknowledged, however, is that simply by extending an invitation to these individuals, Passion founder Louie Giglio is issuing an apparent endorsement of each one’s ministry. For those who maintain that Giglio is a conservative and trusted teacher, this poses a rather complicated problem.
Evangelicalism appears to be taking broader strides toward the wide road of destruction. Compromise is rampant as numbers take priority over fidelity to Scripture. These are not small issues, dear Christian. What we are witnessing is the mainstreaming of movements that once existed only on the fringe of the “Christian” community, such as Word Faith and dangerous, deceptive “charismatic chaos.” In the face of the visible church’s compromise, the true Christian must stand on God’s Word alone. To ground oneself upon anything else is to guarantee a certain, perhaps eternal, collapse.
Louie Giglio to Join Word Faith Lineup at 2012 Hillsong Conference
Beth Moore Preaches Sunday Service at Louie Giglio’s Passion City Church (Christian Research Network)
Beth Moore and John Piper Set for Passion 2013 with Louie Giglio (Apprising Ministries)