It’s been a few weeks since we’ve examined another speaker for the upcoming Code Orange Revival, hosted by young, Seeker-Driven pastor Steven Furtick. With this event, Furtick aspires to gather a group of leaders together in order to cause an “eruption” of God’s power and movement. The speaker lineup for this volcanic event is quite extensive, so we are examining them one by one. In previous posts, we’ve looked at LifeChurch.tv visionary Craig Groeschel, prosperity preacher Jentezen Franklin, and Hillsong darling Christine Caine. In the most recent post, we visited speaker and entertainer Israel Houghton, who is a worship leader at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. We saw Houghton’s obvious involvement with the Word-Faith movement, a theme that seems to be dominant in this particular cast of characters.
Enter Stovall Weems, the lead pastor of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, FL. Weems is also the leader of Awakening, no doubt named accordingly in order to coincide with his book of the same title (note of interest: the forward to this book was written by fellow Code Orange speaker Craig Groeschel. Birds of a feather?). The Awakening campaign is marketed as, “21 Days of Prayer, Fasting, and Personal Devotion: Positioning Our Churches and Leaders for Maximum Effectiveness.” 2011 marked the third year for the Awakening movement, and it was heartily endorsed by leaders such as Rick Warren and Brian Houston (Hillsong) as they shared their thoughts in a video introduction for those participating in Awakening 2011. But perhaps more interesting than that is Weems’ reason for his choice of 21 days for this movement:
Pastor Weems, who has fasted periodically for over 20 years, chose 21 days for the Awakening because that is the number of days Daniel fasted when he was under the rule of Babylonian kings. He also made reference to the fact that according to psychologists and doctors, 21 days is the ideal time to start a new habit and cast aside old ones. Weems reminded Christians that both prayer and fasting are needed and are powerful weapons in the life of a believer. (Online Source)
I often wonder if Daniel ever suspected that so-called pastors would twist so many bad ideas and programs out of his wonderful account? But I digress…
In the video below, Weems shares a little about the book, Awakening:
“This will be your best year ever if it is your best year spiritually.” Sounds like the magic word here is: LAW. Be sure that you do, so that you can be sure that you’ll get. So, by reading this book, and learning the “crucial keys” that Stovall Weems has “unpacked,” my spiritual life will suddenly plop into place and “everything else in my life will work out?” (This is what Weems is claiming at around the :50 mark). Is it safe to assume, then, that Weems has never read about the persecution and trials of Paul’s life, to use just one example? From all worldly, outside observations, it certainly never seemed that things in Paul’s life had “worked out,” yet I doubt anyone would accuse him of not having the “spiritual component” of his life up to par.
In the video above, Weems also claims that this book will bring about a “real, authentic awakening with God, where you can experience the power and passion that God intends for you to have in your relationship with Him.” Really? Wow. It’s a shame that the church had to wait so long to gain this treasure. It would also be interesting to hear a definition of what is considered a “real, authentic awakening with God,” because it sounds like nothing more than gibberish. What does the Bible speak about? It speaks about a God who saves wretched, wicked sinners from His wrath and judgment. And it speaks of the sufficiency of itself. Yes, oddly enough, Scripture gives no indication whatsoever that Christians need a new book to teach them how to “awaken” their relationship with God.
At the conclusion of this video, Weems states that this book will teach readers a “whole new approach to prayer, fasting and personal devotion that will position you to experience God like never before.” First of all, we should not be seeking to experience God outside of His saving, regenerating and sanctifying work. To seek a mystical experience is to rely upon subjective emotions and is at best unwise and at worst dangerous. Additionally, why do believers need a “whole new approach?” What’s wrong with the old approach…you know, the one in the Bible? God doesn’t need Stovall Weems to help Him out here. The Bible is sufficient.
The opening chapter of Weems’ book seems to betray his adherence to the separation of “accepting” Jesus as Savior and acknowledging Jesus as Lord. However, let’s lay aside that debate for a moment and look at
another claim he makes on page 11 of his book:
At that instant I heard the Holy Spirit’s voice in my heart. … In that moment, at that campus meeting, the lights turned on for me. I knew I head heard the voice of God. Up to this point God had spoken to me through promptings, tugging on my heart, or thoughts inspired by the Holy Spirit. But this…this was different. This was a voice I heard deep inside of me, and with it I felt a rush of energy in my mind and heart. (Online Source)
These few sentences bring up so many questions…and so many concerns! What does the Holy Spirit sound like? How did Stovall Weems know that the “promptings” and “tuggings” and thoughts were truly of God? How did he know that this “rush of energy” he experienced was “God” speaking to him and not just a side effect of too much Mountain Dew? It seems from this story that Stovall Weems is a man who relies upon and is led by his emotions and his experiences, neither of which are reliable. There’s much else to be concerned about in Weems’ book Awakening, but in the interest of space, we’ll move on.
Now that we see that Weems is drawing his Awakening plan from his own emotional experiences, we must ask, what is this “personal devotion” that’s involved? It’s a program that Weems and Celebration Church call S.O.A.P.:
Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. On the surface it appears weak, but perhaps not as overtly dangerous as, say, a blatant teaching of contemplative prayer. However, when we see that churches like New Hope in Oahu, led by Elephant Room 2 participant Wayne Cordeiro, are also employing this method, then we have reason to pause and proceed with caution. Let’s look briefly at this journaling method:
Here’s what you do: Very simply, carve out a quiet time each day. During this time, go through your daily reading this way:
1. S for Scripture: Take time reading and allow God to speak to you. Highlight, underline or place a mark in the margin of your bible next to the scriptures that stand out. When you are done, reread the verses you marked, look for one that particularly spoke to you that day, and write it in your journal.
Allow God to speak to you? How will He do this? Presumably this is merely a reference to reading His Word, but if so, then the language here ought to be cleaned up. Based upon Weems’ personal testimony noted above, however, we have reason to suspect that he is calling the participant to literally wait to hear from God. This instruction also leaves it wide open for one to engage in a game of “popcorn” with his or her Bible, reading whatever verses strikes one’s fancy at the moment rather than studying an entire passage in context. This failure to study the Scripture in context will lead to poor and likely incorrect interpretation and understanding of the text. Dangerous indeed.
2. O for Observation: What do you think God is saying to you in this scripture? Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal Jesus to you. Paraphrase and write this scripture down in your own words in your journal.
Hear me on this one: It doesn’t matter what you think God is saying to you! What matters is what God is objectively saying in the text.
3. A for Application: Personalize what you have read by asking yourself how it applies to your life right n. Perhaps it is instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise or corrections for a particular area of your life. Write how this scripture can apply to you today.
Again, if studying the Scripture out of context, this step can and will lead to problems.
4. P for Prayer: This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this scripture, or it may be a greater insight on what He may be revealing to you. Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say!
(Online Source, emphasis mine)
Again, how are we listening for God? Are we listening to a “still, small voice,” or perhaps a warm fuzzy feeling? Clarification surrounding these types of statements is necessary.
Stovall Weems doesn’t just write books that lend themselves to clever marketing techniques, however. He apparently is also a vision caster, and he recently shared some tips on his blog on how to cast vision effectively:
In order for vision to be caught, owned, and carried by your church, there has to be an effective transfer of vision. That transfer takes place most effectively by first sharing the purpose behind the vision and how the vision is a solution to a problem.
If you are trying to mobilize people they need to see how it relates to their purpose, and how the vision is a solution to a problem. (Online Source)
So pastors don’t just cast vision, the church members must catch, own and carry it as well. Is a church’s “vision” contagious, like a virus? I think I can safely speak for many others when I say that I am still waiting for someone to offer up Scriptural support to validate the whole idea of “vision casting,” because it simply is not there. Yet, vision casting is to be expected from these types of teachers. After all, when a pastor has received a “vision” from God, the congregation cannot question it, lest they question God.
These insights into the ministry of Pastor Stovall Weems allow for few surprises as to who his friends may be, and it seems that Weems most definitely runs with a predictable crowd. Perhaps his most, ahem…profitable friend would be “Pastor” Robert Morris. Without taking the time to profile Morris here, let me just point you to this episode, this episode, and this episode of Fighting for the Faith. In a nutshell, Morris readily preaches that if you are not tithing, then your money is cursed. Yes, cursed. He recently shilled this Word-Faith nonsense at Rick Warren’s church, and did so even more recently at Stovall Weems’ Celebration Church in Jacksonville. Morris’s teaching is so embedded at Celebration Church that they have actually continued “The Blessed Life” sermon series and “Life Groups,” based off of the book The Blessed Life: The Simple Secret of Achieving Guaranteed Financial Results by Robert Morris.
This post could go on (for instance, I could subject you to this rap video featuring Stovall Weems), but I pray the point has been made. There seems to be a theme developing here among the scheduled speakers for Steven Furtick’s Code Orange Revival. That is the theme of the heretical Word-Faith movement, and it ought to cause one to begin to question seriously just what kind of “eruption” is going to take place next year. The reader would do well to remember that also among Furtick’s list of scheduled speakers are the “young, restless and reformed” Acts 29 pastor and Gospel Coalition council member Matt Chandler (who has also recently been announced as a speaker at Perry Noble’s 2012 Leadership Conference), as well as fellow Gospel Coalition council member James MacDonald of Walk in the Word and Harvest Bible Chapel fame (who has invited Oneness Pentecostal and Word-Faith heretic T.D. Jakes to participate in next year’s Elephant Room 2 conference). Again we ask, especially of these two supposedly conservative and reformed pastors: Why? Why would you agree time and again to share a stage and a platform with men and women who preach not just a weak gospel, but a false one? The members of your local and extended flocks deserve an explanation from the men they no doubt trust and
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)