We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Be a Circle Maker?

Since I buy books from Zondervan for our book table ministry, they will send catalogues and other stuff.  Last month included with the catalogue was a little booklet by Mark Batterson titled, Be A Circle Maker.
I had never heard of this author before but the title bothered me a bit.  I put the booklet in my “to read” pile and left it there until this past Saturday when I took it with me for something to read while my wife was having her drum lesson. (It took less time to read than I thought, and I ended up with time to look at the heresy in the library of the PCUSA church in which we meet!)
There was much that bothered me about this book, not the least of which were the many assertions by Batterson about what God thinks.   The very first paragraph of chapter 2 had this statement:  “God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers.  He is offended by anything less.  If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.”
Oh really? He gave no biblical support for this claim, which sounds much like some Word of Faith nonsense.  How about an example: Let’s say I have a performance where I want to do a really good job; is it impossible for me to do?  No.  So, if I pray that the Lord will help me to relax and concentrate so as to do a good job, is that insulting God?  I don’t see anything in Scripture which makes that claim.
Next we have this on p.20:  “There is nothing God loves more than keeping promises, answering prayer, performing miracles, and fulfilling dreams.  That is who He is.  That is what He does.”  This is a mighty presumptuous statement about knowing the mind of God.  Of course keeping promises is part of the attribute of God in which He cannot lie.  And He may answer prayer with “no.”  
Now, what about “performing miracles” or “fulfilling dreams”?  If God really loved nothing more than these, then why does God not perform miracles for everyone all over the world?  If God really loves nothing more than fulfilling dreams, then why are not all the dreams of His followers fulfilled?  Again, this sounds very much like the claims of the Word of Faith heresy.
Batterson follows this presumption at the bottom of p. 20, continuing to the top of p.21 with: “you are only one prayer away from a dream fulfilled, a promise kept, or a miracle performed.”  Questions: what about those Christians in Somalia dreaming of living in freedom and being out of poverty - do all they have to do is pray about it and then God will fulfill it?  What promise has God made to believers which require a prayer to fulfill? What if no matter how much you pray for a miracle God responds with “No”?  This teaching so reeks of Word of Faith!
As I progressed on page 21, I came across this little gem:  “Prayers are prophecies.”  Wait a minute - Run that pig by me again!  Yep, Batterson says, “Prayers are prophecies.”  Then he follows this with, “Ultimately, the transcript of your prayers becomes the script of your life.”  I wonder where Batterson finds this nonsense in Scripture!?!
Now what is amusing is that on the very next page Batterson says, “God is not a genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command.”  But didn’t he just say they were prophecies?  Hasn’t he said you are only one prayer from having a dream fulfilled?  Those statements certainly sound to me like he is saying God is a “genie in a bottle.”
Beginning on p.24 Batterson tells us of a “prayer walk” during which he claimed the promise God gave to Joshua about the land the people of Israel were about to inhabit.  He said he felt that, just as God had transferred to Joshua the promise which He had made to Moses, that God would transfer the promise to Batterson if Batterson “had enough faith to circle it.”  Therefore, Batterson took a long prayer walk around an area in Washington, DC, which was “the biggest prayer circle I’ve ever drawn” as he completed the 4.7 mile walk.  And now he has several campuses as part of his church.  (As an aside, he said his feet were sore after that walk - what, the guy isn’t used to walking!??!  Only 4.7 miles and  his feet are sore?!??!)
In Batterson’s end notes on this particular teaching, he states, “Notice that the promise was originally given to Moses.  The promise was transferred to Joshua.  In much the same way, all of God’s promises have been transferred to us via Jesus Christ.”
There is a really big problem with this statement.  First, the promise to Moses was for Israel, and Joshua just inherited the promise for Israel as their new leader.  Secondly, it is extremely poor teaching to say that “all of God’s promises have been transferred to us.”  There are many, many promises in the O.T. which were for specific people, for Israel as a Nation, etc.  Only if a promise was given which would include Christians can we claim the promise for ourselves.  Too often Christians abuse Scripture by claiming a promise for themselves which was never intended that way.  A few perfect examples are the horrible abuses of Jeremiah 29:112 Chronicles 7:14, and 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, all of which I’ve written on.

I think the main idea of this booklet, and the whole “prayer circle” teaching is summed up at the bottom of p.45 to the top of the next page:  “If you’ve never had a God-sized dream that scared you half to death, then you haven’t really come to life.  If you’ve never been overwhelmed by the impossibility of your plans, then your God is too small.  If your vision isn’t perplexingly impossible, then you need to expand the radiuses of your prayer circles.”  I don’t know about you, but I find this claim to be highly presumptuous.
While reading the booklet, I understood the idea of drawing a circle around things for which to pray as being figurative, but then I found this video while searching the ‘net to find information about Batterson.  In this video, he says “If you draw the circle, God will multiply the miracles in your life.”  So Batterson has decided that by drawing a circle around whatever it is you are praying for, then God will “multiply miracles in your life” - the “genie in the bottle” which Batterson decries!  Batterson does draw literal circles on the ground.  Then he contradicts himself by saying one must pray even when we don’t get the answer we want!!!  Wait a minute - I thought praying in a circle guaranteed your prayer would be answered!  After all, aren’t prayers “prophecies” - and don’t prophecies have to come true?

I found an excellent analysis of this video at "Pilgrim's Light Ministries."   It would be well worth your reading to be informed on such unbiblical teachings.
So I have one BIG question:  Where do we find this teaching in the Bible; where do we find people drawing mystical circles and God “multiplying miracles” for people doing so?
I had never heard of Mark Batterson previous to receiving this booklet, so I “googled” him and discovered that he is just another “seeker-sensitive/purpose-driven” pastor of a mega church with several campuses.  An excellent example of a report from Apprising Ministries examines how Batterson responds to his critics.   The post also demonstrates that Batterson’s poor hermeneutical approach to Scripture is not new.  
Only in this westernized, wealthy, hedonistic culture will you find people teaching all these gimmicks about prayer (remember the “Prayer of Jabez”?).  While Christians in the Islamic world are being martyred on a daily basis, pastors like Mark Batterson sell gimmicks to gullible Christians who think God just has to be manipulated in the right way.

26 comments:

EBenz said...

Excellent article, Glenn! Thanks for taking the time to provide such detail. I've been frustrated by Batterson's "Circlemaker" business since it started. Fun fact: he bases this whole thing on a story in the Talmud about a man called Honi, the CircleMaker. You know, because the Bible just doesn't give us quite everything we need.

Sad.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Erin,

Yeah, he tells the story as a prologue to the teaching he follows it with. Gimmicks, gimmicks, gimmicks. Without them, these "seeker sensitive" types would have very few followers.

EBenz said...

Well, anything to keep them interested! That stale old Bible is so boring sometimes....

Jack Morrow said...

Mr. Batterson, if I'm not mistaken, is the one who took the obscure Old Testament account of Benaiah killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day (II Samuel 23:20, I Chronicles 11:22), out of its historical narrative context and built a whole doctrine on it about living out your dreams.

I've heard this message used (without credit) by others, including Gary Lamb.

Diane Schultz said...

The only circle I'm in is on Google+. I hope you chucked that book in File 13 when you were done reading it. Thanks for the article!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Jack,

I haven't heard of that one, and I didn't see any reference to it on the 'net, so I missed it. Doesn't surprise me at all; once these seeker-sensitive types get on a roll, hermeneutics are a blockade to smash.

Diane,
Actually, I kept it and put it in a big tub in the basement where I collect books I have written about either on my blog or in other venues. I keep them in case anyone ever has a problem with what I've cited - I want the original reference source!

Clint Baker said...

Thank you for your review, very in formative!

Committed Christian said...

The nonsense in the church keeps piling up!

Texan_as_ever said...

Yes lets just slam a great preacher. Good job, very impressive, way to encourage buddy. You seem to miss the part where he says not all prayers come true, he is not 'preaching miracles always happen if we ask'. He clearly states miracles will happen if it is according to God's will and if we work with God to achieve whatever that may be. Stop taking quotes out of context. Honestly, I'm saddened to see another "encouraging" christian "resonse". Maybe instead of slamming everything you think is controversial, you should focus on being more loving and more open minded. "Slow to speak, quick to pray" .... focus on that please

Texan_as_ever said...

I also think it is dumb how you only approve comments that are in your favor... That is very dangerous, who is say to you are always right?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Texan,

Firstly, I did not “slam” a “great preacher.” Exposing bad, and even false teachings, is not “slamming” anyone. And whether or not Batterson is a “great preacher” is certainly a matter of subjective opinion. I don’t think a “great preacher” would teach such unbiblical nonsense, nor would a “great preacher” be involved in a seeker-sensitive establishment, nor would a “great preacher” have such a poor hermeneutical approach, nor would a “great preacher” be antagonistic towards his critics.

I didn’t “miss the part” about not all prayers coming true - I even pointed out his inconsistency of saying God isn’t a “genie in a bottle” while at the same time implying that his formula works every time!

Every quote I posted was certainly in the context in which it was written. If you can demonstrate otherwise, please do so.

I do not “slam” “everything [I] think is controversial,” rather I expose false teaching when I come across it. I think if you would spend some time in the Word you would see Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and Jude all “slamming” false teachings and false teachers. It is certainly not unloving to do so, and in fact it shows more love for the Church than ignoring false teaching and thereby not warning the flock about something in which they can become entangled!

Perhaps you should be less “open minded” about false teachings, and be a wee bit more objective about what you are taught and compare it with the Word of God, in which you will find nothing about prayer circles or any other prayer method developed by man.

As far as your quote James 1:19, your out of context use of the passage demonstrates the results of learning from a teacher who misuses Scripture.

As for your claim about my comments, I would suggest that before you make such false accusations that you actually read comments posted on articles I write. My comment policy states that comments with links to inappropriate sites will not be posted with said links. I still post the comments.

Boo said...

I have a question of clarification? I have just started reading this book, thus my judgment about it's teaching is not yet defined. I want to know what a seeker-sensitive establishment is?

Please clarify?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Boo,

Seeker-Sensitive and Market-driven are someone synonymous. They idea is to see what the market wants, how to get people into the church. Plenty of programs, and entertainment-oriented worship, try not to offend people by talking about sins, talk about how wonderful everyone is, yada yada yada.

It's all about you and little about God. Which is really what this "Circle Maker" nonsense is.

Boo said...

Thank you for the clarification. Our church has always been a seeker friendly. Bible relevant church. Our Pastor has never been afraid to step on toes. His statement has always been that we have to hear all of the word not just what makes us feel good. I have only read the "sample" portion on my nook and started doing research because I was unfamiliar with the story and wanted to make sure I was not missing something from the word. In the sample selection it does not give scripture reference and in my research I found the same website you stated about witchcraft. I appreciate your opinion about the book. I don't want to read "Christian" literature without foundation. If I wanted to do that I would read "Chicken Soup for the Soul" It is feel good stuff but not Bible Based. At least I have a better foundation to which to continue reading if I so choose.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I'd say two of the best known large market-driven/seeker-sensitive churches are Willow Creek and Saddleback. Many cities have large churches imitating them.

Live the light said...

Hi Glenn,
Have you ever reached out to Mark personally to talk about your feelings? I have heard him speak several times in different pastor's training settings and he is great! I have been very inspired by his book and have seen God do some great things in the church and my family because I've been more focused on seeking Him and crying out for His grace and mercy in my life and church. I would think that he would gladly chat with you one on one and field your comments / concerns about his theological stance on these issues. I do find your comments a bit harsh because I believe Mark is truly doing his best to serve the church and be used by God. I would really suggest contacting him and having a conversation....God bless you man!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Live the Light,

Of course I have not bothered to attempt communications with Mark; such a thing is not necessary for analyzing one’s teachings.

Mark may very well have some good teachings, but that doesn’t mean he should get a pass when coming up with New Age type teachings such as the circle, nor should he get a pass with poor hermeneutics, nor should he get a pass for condemning his critics.

Why be so inspired by this book which is not based on the Bible, and which is even unbiblical, when you get better inspiration from the Bible itself without all the false teachings of this book?

I also don’t have a lot of respect for seeker-sensitive pastors and their methodology for making huge congregations of nominal believers.

You say my comments were harsh, but I would submit that compared to comments about false teaching in the Bible I was very, very mild.

A person who considers himself beyond correction, as demonstrated by the article I linked to, and who is making tons of money off his “circle” nonsense, is not going to bother with having a conversation with a blogger such as me. And on the off chance that he would, I sincerely doubt that he would accept anything I had to say.

Anonymous said...

Here is an excellent link that will show you quickly why we should stay away from the teaching of drawing chalk or dirt circles to pray in.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_circle

We should avoid the appearance of evil, and the three chalk circles on the cover of the book are too similar to the magick circle used in witchcraft for my comfort. Plus, where is the Scripture from the Holy Bible that talks about circles?

We should be wise and check all teachings against the Word of God.

Pete said...

I've heard the "Seeker Sensitive" angst for years now. Many times when someone labels another church as "seeker sensitive" it is hidden jealousy. I.e. "those churches are large so they must be doing something heretical." Which the amusing thing is the people against the large churches usually have smaller-cult-ish churches made up of their own buddies who are out of touch with lost people. I say this only becuase I used to be against "seeker sensitive" churches becuase that is what my Bible College taught. To hate Willow Creek. Yet, I was at Willow about 3 weeks ago on and the worship was AMAZINGLY Christ centered and the preaching was going through the book of Mark and was one of the most amazing sermons on Jesus as the ONE AND ONLY Messiah that I had heard in my entire life. Keeping in mind I grew up in church, youth camps, Bible college and now 5 years in the ministry. I'm not downing opinions, people are free to have them, yet the opinion makers usually have never attended these churches firsthand to evaluate, or they watch a 5 minute YouTube video about "Why Pastor Y, and Church X are from satan"

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Pete,

Hidden jealousy?!? You’ve got to be kidding. “Seeker-sensitive” is all about using the worldly gimmicks to get people to church. Of course there will be some good parts, especially if you have a half-way decent pastor (unlike Rick Warren). But when your church is known for its programs and entertainment focus, with the coffee bars and rock-and-roll shows, I can see where Jesus would be turning over the tables! There are large churches who are solid (John MacArthur’s, e.g.) so size isn’t the issue.

As for Willow Creek, I spent 17 years in the Chicago area and met a lot of Willow Creek Christians - very immature in their walk, but boy did they feel good about church! I don’t get my information from whiners and complainers, or silly YouTube videos. I read the material by the pastors of these churches, and I study good material from solid Christian apologists.

This article about Batterson’s teachings demonstrates why people come to his type of mega-church - it’s all about self and feeling good about being “religious.”

Lisa J said...

I have several concerns about this article. My biggest concern, however, isn't that he complains Batterson is writing heresy. My biggest concern in this article are the personal attacks against someone for whom you claim you know nothing about.

I believe your article would be more credible if you truly understood Batterson's heart and wrote this critique without attacking a man personally.

Furthermore, you not only desacrated a person, but categorized and presumed that this "mega-church" has been idolized for its programs and seeker sensitivism.

I don't agree with programs and seeker sensitive churches either, but that doesn't mean that God still doesn't work and change lives with them.

If I were you, I'd try reading the book again...and read the book for the purpose that he intended...praying circles means praying without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians?) and praying as David did... with humility, focusing on the dreams God gave him.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Lisa,

Could you demonstrate what “personal attacks” I made against Batterson? I have exposed his teachings as being unbiblical, but have said nothing about him as a person. The closest I got was stating what type of a preacher he is - “just another “seeker-sensitive/purpose-driven” pastor of a mega church with several campuses.” And that statement is based on his teaching and not on him as a person.

Do I need to understand a person’s heart to point out the errors in his teaching? No place in the Bible will you find that as a necessary ingredient for exposing false teachers or teachings.

You say I “desacrated” (I believe you meant “desecrated”) Mr. Batterson, but that word means one of two things: to violate the sanctity of, or to treat disrespectfully, irreverently, or outrageously. I certainly didn’t violate his sanctity, nor did I treat Mr. Batterson in anyway disrespectfully, irreverently or outrageously. I only addressed his teachings. Perhaps you should cut down on the hyperbole when attack those of us who dare to expose false teachings.

I didn’t “presume” anything about Batterson’s mega-church - I examined the web sites. Nor did I even mention people idolizing it.

If you WERE me, you wouldn’t waste your time reading that book again, because I learned all I could from it the first time through. So, when Paul said to “pray without ceasing,” he meant to draw circles around things to pray for? This is exactly what I’m talking about with the teaching of Batterson - you have learned a hermeneutic which says you can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say.

I’d suggest you read better materials from better teachers so that you can learn to properly discern good teaching from the bad.

larry lommel said...

Is it unbiblical to expect God to answer our prayers in the affirmative, or even better than we asked (this would apply to a "NO" answer)? We have insulted God - and worse - but it was our sins that were laid on Jesus - not our small or weak prayers.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Larry,

No, it is not unbiblical to expect affirmative answers to our prayers. What is unbiblical is the nature of the prayers spoken of in this book.

Look at the claims:
If our prayers aren’t impossible, then they are insulting to God. Where do you see that in the Bible?

God loves answering prayers more than anything else. Where is that in the Bible?

We are only one prayer away from an affirmative response - but what about those who never get an affirmative response?

“Prayers are prophecies.” Find that one in the Bible.

“God’s promises have been transferred to us via Jesus Christ.” Show me from Scripture.

The whole teaching of this book is wrong. You said, “We have insulted God - and worse...”

In what way do you mean we have insulted God? By our prayers or by our sin? I may be wrong, but I don’t think we insult God unless we blaspheme him. Sin isn’t an insult - it is rebellion.

Richelle said...

Glenn,

I am comforted when I see blogs like yours, and answers like the ones you've provided. More and more I believe the discerning Christians who doggedly cling to the word of God will start to feel like Jeremiahs in this world full of itching ears.

I have not read the book, but have read enough of the quotes to decide to stay far away. I too am wholeheartedly against this seeker sensitive habit of the church, so I am prepared to view with a critical eye books such as the Circle Maker. However, for those who are not, they need only compare the writings of the critics of these teachings, to its defenders. Every critic of this book outlines quotes, and refutes them with scripture. While the vast majority of Batterson's defenders point to his personality, or attack the critic personally. That alone should alarm Christians, and open their eyes to the FRUIT of these divisive bookselling tactics.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Richelle,

Thank you for your comment.

Comparing what these guys say to what Scripture says is the most important thing. Christians need to know that there are too many minefields of feel-good teachings which take them away from what the Bible says. The sad thing is that personality is what sells the books.