Archive | May 2016

(409) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: HILLSONG’S NAKED COWBOY

(409) HILLSONG’S ‘NAKED COWBOY’ AT WOMEN’S CONFERENCE

Hillsong NYC Youth Leader Appears as ‘Naked Cowboy’ Reportedly for Women’s Conference

NEW YORK — Concerns are being raised after the youth leader at Hillsong NYC appeared as the “naked cowboy” at a recent women’s conference.

Hillsong’s Colour Conference was held on May 6 and 7 in Madison Square Garden with ticket prices set at $209.50 a person in advance and $219.50 at the door.

“Colour seeks to ‘gather, equip and mobilize’ women of all age, background and culture in the belief that together we can and will make the world a better place,” a description of the event reads. “Our team labor to create an atmosphere that will refresh heart and soul, and inspire transformation. Our desire is that worship, creativity and the presentation of God’s Word (the Bible) will honor the King of heaven and cause faith to rise, enabling the enormous potential within to become reality.”

 

But online video footage of the event shows members of Hillsong NYC engaging in patriotic shout-outs and performing the song “New York, New York” surrounded by firemen, a costumed statue of liberty, Broadway dancers—and a look-alike of the city’s notorious “Naked Cowboy.”

 

The “Naked Cowboy,” dressed in only his underwear and a cowboy hat, moves to the front of the stage at one point and blows kisses to the cheering, flag-waving crowd. Hillsong NYC leader Carl Lentz is believed to be seen in the footage, as well as Bobbie Houston and her son Ben Houston, who leads Hillsong Los Angeles.

At first, the identity of the “Naked Cowboy” was a mystery to outsiders who viewed the online footage, but one Instagram user named Kelly Amber soon posted a snapshot of the event online, writing “light and shade #colour conf.” She also tagged Ben Houston and Hillsong NYC youth leader Diego Simila in the photograph.

Followers began chiming in, “Is that Diego with his shirt off?” “His shirt wasn’t the only thing missing!

Simila has served as the youth leader at Hillsong NYC since 2010. A former model, Simila sports his last name tattooed in large script across his chest, which can be seen in the video footage.

According to an online video featuring Simila preaching at LifePointe Church in Olathe, Kansas last year, Simila was formerly a part of a boy band in California, but believed that God had called him to leave it all and attend Bible college at Hillsong Sydney. After graduating, he moved back to California where he worked as a model, until he then felt led to move to New York City.

“He lived homeless there for about three weeks and he was just jumping from couch to couch. But he was faithful, and all of a sudden in a short, short time, he winds up being asked, being told to be the Youth Pastor of Hillsong New York City, started in 2010,” LifePointe leader Patrick Norris explains to the congregation.

But some find it inappropriate to have a youth minister appear as the “naked cowboy” and parade himself in his underwear at a women’s conference presented by a professing Christian church.

“I usually don’t expect to see a near-naked cowboy gyrating from the stage of a Christian women’s conference. Nor would I see and hear thousands of Christian females applauding and squealing in delight, and spurring on the performance. Indeed if I were of the world, I’d expect these sights and sounds to come from a giant bachelorette party at a strip club,” wrote Amy Spreeman of Berean Research.

Hillsong continues to astound by their complete and utter disregard for how scripture instructs Christians to conduct their lives in this present evil age,” also commented the blog Pirate Christian. “First they brought us sleezy Silent Night. Then they had the sexual pervert Austin Powers appear at their women’s conference in London and now they’ve had The Naked Cowboy appear at their women’s conference in New York. We fear to see what they have in store for their next conference.”

Hillsong’s contact information is not posted online and therefore none could be reached for comment.

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(408) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY – THE DYING ART OF THINKING

The Dying Art of Thinking

Initially, I considered not posting this article written in 1992 by Ravi Zacharias because of how contemporary Christianity is using similar terminology but with different meaning and purposes in mind – e.g. here are few examples referred to in the article in a context that may be far different in how they are used today among Christians –

  • CONTEMPLATIVE  – this concept today has little to do with thinking and engaging the mind from God’s word (see SILENCE).
  • CHRISTIAN BOOKS – reading books from the CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE can do more harm and challenge Christians to move in a direction away from critical thinking – such as the inclusion of mystical practices from ancient Roman Catholicism (e.g. Desert Fathers) and Eastern Mysticism;
  • SILENCE – a form of mysticism is being promoted within Christianity, even by Evangelicals today which has more to do with disengaging your mind from distracting thoughts and instead using practices such as mantras to focus on clearing out your mind so that you are open to whatever concept enters into your mind –  wherever that thought may come from.  

Some of these practices today stray far from what the Bible teaches us to practice in areas of prayer, spirituality, edification…etc.  That said, when understanding the context of the article and realizing these differences, Ravi Zacharias identifies several gems that we all would do well to follow through with.

The Dying Art of Thinking
by Ravi Zacharias

The 17th-century French philosopher Rene Descartes (pronounced Day-Kart) is best known for his dictum, “I think, therefore, I am.” A cynic may well quip that Descartes actually put des cart before des horse, because all he could have legitimately deduced was, “I think, therefore, thinking exists.” I do not intend to defend or counter Cartesian philosophy; I only wish to underscore that thinking has much to do with life and certainty.

One of the tragic casualties of our age has been that of the CONTEMPLATIVE life—a life that thinks, thinks things through, and more particularly, thinks God’s thoughts after Him.

A person sitting at his desk and staring out of the window would never be assumed to be working. No! Thinking is not equated with work. Yet, had Newton under his tree, or Archimedes in his bathtub bought into that prejudice, some natural laws would still be up in the air, or buried under an immovable rock. Pascal’s Pensees, a work that has inspired millions, would have never been penned.

The Bible places supreme value in the thought life. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” Solomon wrote. Jesus asserted that sin’s gravity lay in the idea itself, not just the act. Paul admonished the church at Philippi to have the mind of Christ, and to the same people he wrote, “Whatever is true . . . pure . . . if there be any virtue . . . think on these things.”

The follower of Christ must demonstrate to the world what it is not just to think, but to think justly. But how does one manage this in a culture where progress is determined by pace and defined by quantity?

What is even more destructive is that the greatest demand comes from neither speed nor quantity, but rather from the assumption that silence is inimical to life.

The radio in the car, music in the elevator, and the symphony entertaining the “on hold” callers add up as impediments to personal reflection. In effect, the mind is denied the privilege of living with itself even briefly, and is crowded with outside impulses to cope with aloneness.

Aldous Huxley’s indictment, “Most of one’s life . . . is one prolonged effort to prevent thinking”, seems frightfully true. The price paid for this scenario has been devastating. T. S. Eliot observed:

“Where is the life we have lost in the living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information ?

The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries

bring us farther from God and nearer to dust.”

Is there a remedy? May I make some suggestions for personal and corporate benefit?

Study God’s Word

NOTHING ranks higher for mental discipline than a planned and systematic study of God’s Word, from whence life’s parameters and values are planted in the mind. Paul, who loved his books and parchments, affirmed the priority of Scripture: “Do not go beyond what is written.” Psalm 119 promises that God’s statutes keep us from being double-minded.

Read Great Books

The English-speaking world is endowed with a wealth of books. But much contemporary literature comes perilously close to a promiscuous religion with an appeal for the “feel better” syndrome, rather than the impetus to “go deeper.”

Read authors who stretch you and introduce you to other writings as well. Great writers stimulate your capacity to think beyond their ideas, spawning fresh insights and extensions of your own. Good reading is indispensable to impartation of truth. An expenditure of words without the income of ideas leads to conceptual bankruptcy.

Challenge the Mind

The church as a whole, and the pulpit in particular, must challenge the mind of this generation, else we betray our trust. The average young person today actually surrenders the intellect to the world, presuming Christianity to be bereft of it. Many a pulpit has succumbed to the lie that anything intellectual cannot be spiritual or exciting.

Thankfully there are exceptions. When living in England, our family attended a church pastored by Roy Clements, one of the finest preachers in the western world. Every Sunday at two morning services he preached a one-hour sermon to a packed auditorium.

Cambridge, being rife with skepticism, demanded a meticulous defense of each sermon text from the assaults of liberalism. An introduction of a technical nature would take up to 15 minutes of his time before he entered into the heart of his message.

I mention this to say one thing. When we were leaving Cambridge, Nathan, who was nine years old, declared the preaching of Roy Clements to be one of his fondest memories. Even as a little boy he had learned that when the mind is rightly approached, it filters down to the heart. The matter I share here has far-reaching implications. We do a disservice to our youth by not crediting them with the capacity to think. We cannot leave this uncorrected.

This is our first issue of Just Thinking. It is our hope that this newsletter will challenge your mind and stir your heart. After all, it is not that I think, therefore, I am, but rather, the Great I Am has asked us to think, and therefore, we must. And we must serve Him with all our minds.

(407) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY – SEMINARIES & SYNCRETISM

EASTERN MYSTICISM & THEIR INFLUENCE ON SEMINARIES – MINDFULNESS & BIOLA UNIVERSITY.
http://cct.biola.edu/resources/is-mindfulness-buddhist-or-christian/

By now, one quickly sees a common theme resonating throughout this blog involving the influence of Mysticism on the Evangelical church in the United States.  Both Eastern Mysticism and ancient Roman Catholic Mysticism are common topics that are discussed. Much of the influence comes from authors and teachers who write popular best-selling Christian books that you can purchase at your local Christian bookstore.  Influence also comes from the pulpit of the church – yes, Evangelical churches are becoming inundated with these trends and concepts are being interwoven into traditional biblical practices while being labeled with titles sounding very “Christian” or “religious” or just beneficial to your spiritual walk – i.e. syncretism.

What is syncretism?

American Heritage Dictionary, syncretism is “the reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief.” This is most evident in the areas of philosophy and religion, and usually results in a new teaching or belief system.

Gotquestions.org states that obviously, this cannot be reconciled to biblical Christianity –

Religious syncretism often takes place when foreign beliefs are introduced to an indigenous belief system and the teachings are blended. The new, heterogeneous religion then takes a shape of its own. This has been seen most clearly in Roman Catholic missionary history. Take, for example, the Roman Catholic Church’s proselytizing of animistic South America. Threatened with the fear of death, natives were baptized into the church by the tens of thousands without any preaching of the Gospel whatsoever. Former temples were razed, with Catholic shrines and chapels built on the same spot. Natives were allowed to substitute praying to saints instead of gods of water, earth and air, and replaced their former idols with new images of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, the animistic religion the natives had formerly practiced was never fully replaced—it was adapted into Catholic teachings, and this new belief system was allowed to flourish.

=> More recently, religious syncretism can be seen in such religious systems as the New Age, Hinduism,Unitarianism, and Christian Science. These religions are a blending of multiple different belief systems, and are continually evolving as the philosophies of mankind rise and fall in popularity.

Therein lies the problem, for syncretism relies on the whim of man, not the standard of Scripture. The Bible makes it very clear what true religion is. Think on just a few things stated in Scripture: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37); “Jesus replied, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6); “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31-32); and “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Religious syncretism is simply not compatible with true Christianity. In fact, any modification to biblical law and principle for the sake of a “better” religion is heresy (Revelation 22:18-19).

Here is an even bigger problem.  Syncretic practices are seeping into the Evangelical Church with increasing frequency and it is occurring from both a top-down and a bottom-up perspective. This snowball effect is resulting in widespread acceptance of practices that years ago would have been rejected outright by Evangelical Churches.

Let’s look at one example of these practices taking hold in the church today.  The Buddhist concept of MINDFULNESS.  We introduce it here and will go into more details in future postings.


Mindfulness
is a term used to describe a meditative state in which people direct their attention inward to become more self-aware. Mindfulness is self-examination of one’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and emotions with no judgment of their being right or wrong. The goal of meditative mindfulness is to identify thoughts and feelings about a particular issue, to live in the moment, and to accept oneself completely. When this goal has been reached, the person is said to have entered a state of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is rooted in BUDDHISM, as promoters of mindfulness readily admit, although it is often adapted for secular purposes. The ideology behind mindfulness is to achieve STILLNESS and balance of the mind.

Man’s efforts to calm the mind and rid the life of stressors—through mindfulness or other NEW AGE techniques—are an attempt to manufacture peace. From a biblical perspective, we know that only Jesus gives the peace that can exist in all circumstances (John 14:27; Philippians 4:7). No human can control emotions or thoughts on his or her own because we are born slaves to a sinful nature (Romans 6:17–23). Only through the power of the Holy Spirit who sets our minds free to think truthfully can we know true peace. If we want to practice being more aware or insightful, there are much better options than mindfulness techniques, such as Bible study and prayers for insight.

When Christians think biblically, they see things defined through the lens of Scripture. The word mindful, which means “attentive,” is not describing anything inherently wrong. Christians can be mindful of Christ by taking every thought captive for Christ and renewing their minds with the truth (2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2). But mindfulness, as promoted in PSYCHOLOGY and used as a MEDITATION technique, is not biblical. (gotquestions.org)

How can these practices originating from Buddhist practices seep into the Evangelical Church today? You are probably thinking that this is an extreme view. Surely, pastors, seminary professors, leaders…etc., would not go down this path? Right?

Well, as bad as following after Buddhist practices are, potentially more dangerous is the fact that many pastors and seminaries are openly teaching these practices to your next group of leaders in the church resulting in an implied endorsement of something that is resulting in the church being desensitized to the central issue of accepting these syncretic practices.  There are several reasons that this is occurring today – one of them is the popularity among younger Christians (e.g. “Emerging Church”) who are seeking after new and different ways to follow after God.  Unfortunately, many times, this carries with it baggage that includes Eastern Mysticism .  It is being blended in with Christian-sounding practices giving the appearance of endorsement by the church, seminaries, instructors, pastors…..etc.

Let’s look at a well-known theological conservative evangelical seminary – BIOLA University with its TALBOT School of Theology.

As many will attest, Talbot has a 60-year heritage of biblical fidelity.  The seminary couples solid evangelical scholarship with intentional character development to prepare students for a lifetime of relevant, effective ministry. The seminary’s six master’s degree programs and three doctoral degree programs are led by a faculty of nationally renowned, widely-published and actively engaged ministry leaders.

A program within the seminary is called the Institute for Spiritual Formation.  Yes, Spiritual Formation – one of many warning signs should go up.  They offer master’s programs in Spiritual Formation & Soul Care and as they state on their website, they are dedicated to deepening the life of prayer and openness of the heart to God.

Another area of study is Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought. This exists to reconnect Christian Scholarship with the Church and the Academy. The Center offers scholars from a variety of Christian perspectives a unique opportunity to work collaboratively on a selected theme. Together, they develop their ideas, refine their thinking, and examine important cultural issues in a way that is informed by Scripture. Ultimately, the collaborative work will result in scholarly and popular-level materials, providing the broader culture with thoughtful and carefully articulated Christian perspectives on current events, ethical concerns, and social trends.

This short video gives you a taste of what is being taught in the area of MINDFULNESS.  It is by Research Psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz who attempts to answer the question is mindfulness Buddhist or Christian?

Take a look at this 4 minute video and see what you think –

http://cct.biola.edu/resources/is-mindfulness-buddhist-or-christian/

What did you think – were you convinced?  Does he say anything of value or is he correct in what he says?  There maybe some items that are but overall do you see how Schwartz is trying to combine the Christian concepts with Buddhist practice of Mindfulness?  Marcia Montenegro states that

……in this video, he re-defines Mindfulness as a way to recognize if your state of mind is “wholesome or unwholesome.” Wrong!! No! Mindfulness is a process of detachment in order to get closer to enlightenment and liberation!

To summarize, the Evangelical Church today is being exposed to mystical beliefs from outside the faith in more ways than ever before.  We have seen how these beliefs are coming into the church from exposure to teachings being promoted by Christian authors.  As this posting shows, it is also being taught to the next generation of leaders, teachers, authors, professors, and pastors through seminaries.  That is very concerning because it obviously presents an image of these syncretic practices being widely and quickly disseminated without discernment to Christians throughout the church. Welcome to today’s emerging trends in the church!