It seems that we have “another” movement afoot in Christian circles again. This time it is the If:Gathering, which is a woman’s conference led by Jenny Allen and Jen Hatmaker. The website even has Ann Voskamp listed among the leadership. If you read my post on Voskamp you would know why I have problems with this conference before we go any further into the details. But on the front end, I will say that this movement is just another misguided movement like so many others foisted upon the church in the past 30 years.
The emphasis of IF seems to be on women gathering and praying and then unleashing all those other women in our culture who are in bondage. Here is their mission statement:
Sounds good on the surface, but from what I can tell from their website, there is not much gospel there and they are actually offering another gospel all together. The other gospel is a form that comes from moral-therapeutic Deism where all the messages are centered upon telling their followers to pull themselves up by their panty hose and get out there to save the culture. It’s basically Oprah with Bible verses attached to it.
Their mission statement also shows part of the hypocrisy of the movement in that they seek to unleash the next generation of women, never realizing that they do not have the means to unleash anyone, albeit the next generation or this one. If we could unleash ourselves, we wouldn’t need Jesus. But then again, maybe that is why the gospel is so absent from the website (I did find one reference to Christ, and the Nicene Creed after being told it was there by a friend). It is hard to build a movement when the solution to the problem the movement addresses is more preaching of the gospel. The founders of movements never have a high view of the gospel or Scripture, despite their claims. They think they are the ones who have to bring about changes, build bridges and become mini-Messiahs.
You see the gospel shows us that because of our sin, we are in bondage, enslaved to sin, dead in our trespasses and at war with God. We need someone outside of ourselves to redeem us, make us born again and even work faith in us. We are merely recipients of God’s grace. Then, when we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone, then we are sanctified through the ordinary means of grace (preaching of God’s word, sacraments, prayer, discipline, in a true church led by elders/deacons, pastors/teachers). But you won’t find anything like that on their website, at least I didn’t.
These women are doing what so many have done before, they point out the deficiencies and disunity of the local church, and show that it is less than perfect, therefore we need their new and improved method of ministry to reach the women in our country that are trapped in bondage. It is only through the IF:Gathering that we have any hope, even though it should be Christ alone that is our hope.
Here is what Jenny Allen wrote on the website’s blog:
After moving to Austin in 2012, I felt I was thrown into discomfort. I became burdened in my longing to see more diversity, especially in the church. Everywhere I went I sensed disunity. I believe God was making me hyper sensitive. This separation is not only present in Austin. 90% of Christian churches are segregated. I began thinking about how this looked to those who are far from Christ. Are we credible witness’ to Gods’ love for diversity and all people? Everywhere I went the burden became more blatant. One day last year I was crying for God to move me to a city with more people who looked like me. I was crying for God to send me to a church that was more multi-cultural in style and philosophy. But then God showed me that moving or running would be easy. He reminded me that I was called to be a bridge here in Austin. With resistance, I told God I would be obedient, however, I could not be held accountable for what I didn’t know. Over the last year, God has done an incredible work in my heart that I can’t explain. He has opened doors and guided every step. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve only scratched the surface of what I believe He has called me to.
Wow! The use of the pronoun “I” was really abundant. Is this about Christ or Jenny Allen? And what god is telling her these things?
I hope some of my regular readers see the biggest problem. God has not called her to be a bridge or to save the people of Austin, the fine State of Texas, nor the world. God doesn’t call us to save the world. We can’t. We are not the gospel. We can’t save anyone. Only Christ can do that, and she is not calling for Christ to come save the women of culture, she is calling for women to save the women of culture.
All her superficial emotionalism sounds good on the surface. But this is not the gospel in that it’s not focused on what Christ has done on the cross in history. It is focused on what Jennie Allen is doing now and what she thinks more women should be doing so as to build up her ministry and popularity. More importantly, it is being done in the name of Christ, but outside the bounds which Christ has given us to move, live, and grow spiritually, namely inside the church. Yes, they give lip-service to the local church, but who are they actually submitting to?
Yes, I agree, there are a lot of divisions in the church. But I don’t accept the premise that this is a bad thing. Our unity in Christ with those outside of our denominations and local churches does not come from our agreement to theological principles, even those that are worth contending for. It comes from who we are “in Christ” regardless of the theological differences. This is not something the world is going to see at all. They neither have the spiritual ears or eyes for that kind of discernment.
By taking such a stand on having a multicultural gathering without differences, the leadership of IF have already fallen. What happens when the ladies from the Mormon church show up? What happens when a Muslim woman shows up, or a Jew, or a woman who practices witchcraft? The scripture indicates that we are not to have anything to do with darkness or those who deny the Deity of Christ. They have already removed the standard for standing for the truth in their commitment to multiculturalism. Why in the world anyone would be committed to that is beyond me.
I know on the surface women gathering together in prayer sounds great. But where is the standard for righteousness when you fail to begin with acknowledging a need for theological understanding? Without a standard, they really have no idea who it is they are praying to. I could not find anything on their web page that spelled out any true belief in Christ at all.
It also must be noted that they are calling women to live out their purpose. What is their purpose? What is the end goal? Who are they reaching the rest of the world for? They are so vague in their purpose it is befuddling.
People get excited by a lot of “movements” that have nothing to do with the triune God. Why do I say this? Because none of these movements are under the auspices of the church, with elders/deacons, pastors/teachers, men who have been called by God to lead and shepherd the church.
This is the fundamental problem I have with so many para-church organizations, movements, programs, even many Bible studies. They are done in name of Christ, calling us to things that we are not called to. In this case, the women are being called to become bridges, or agents of change. We are not agents of change. We are fallen sinners who, at best, have been redeemed by the One who does bring real change.
This is why it is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ that is so important. It is the gospel that brings about change, not movements that enable people to change. If IF wants to be truly helpful, then they need to bring in men called by God to preach the gospel, preaching the perfect Man, who lived the Perfect life, and died on the cross for His people. He rose again on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Preaching His word brings about true renewal, true spiritual life, true repentance, etc. All these movements, and I learned this with Promise Keepers, use a lot of Scripture and have lots of moral messages, but they lack the gospel because they lead their followers to believe that we are the ones making the change, bringing about change. We can change nothing. Can we cause someone to be born again? No, that is not what we can do. We didn’t bring about our initial birth, we cannot bring about our re-birth. That comes via the Spirit alone and is His work, not our work or within our ability.
Let me stress the need to return to the normal means of grace, the preaching of the word, sacraments, prayer, church discipline, and give up these new ideas (which are old heresies in new dresses), and stay true to the old paths ordained by God and recorded in Scripture.
Most of these women’s conferences fail because they rarely have true men of God preaching at them. On the IF:Gathering website, I did not see a single person listed on the “who we are” page that was qualified to preach God’s word. Sorry ladies, women are not qualified to preach God’s word, according to Scripture (not according to me), but according to God’s word: 1 Timothy 3, under the qualifications for elders. This is why so many women’s ministries are so off base to begin with. Qualified men should be preaching and teaching, not women.
The few videos I watched on the website were not very good examples of good Biblical teaching. They were uneducated at best. In one video Allen used the rebuilding of the walls in Nehemiah as her excuse for her ministry. How convenient. The book of Nehemiah has been abused for far too long for those looking for excuses to build a new building, movement or some such utter nonsense. The purpose of the book is to show God’s sovereign hand in bringing about redemption for His people, by reestablishing them in the land for the eventual arrival of the Messiah. But hey, if seems to work to help us build some fancy of ours, then let’s twist it for those purposes.
The videos there are full of emotionalism, with the soft music playing and the women sharing their deep passions for what they want. But they are void of the gospel and what Christ wants for women. He doesn’t want women leading the way to unleash other women from their perceived bondage. He wants women submitting to the leadership of the church, under godly preachers, who take them and the rest of their families through the word of God over a period of years.
Yes, there is the admonition for older women to teach the younger women (notice the women on the IF page can hardly be classified as “older” women). But when you look at what the “older women” are to teach the younger women, it has nothing to do with building bridges, unleashing the bondage of other women, or changing the world for the personal fulfillment of Jenny Allen, et al.
Listen to Paul’s words to Titus on what the “older women” are to teach the “younger women:” “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
Paul’s words actually sound contrary to the stated purposes of the women at IF. Should they not focus on making better homes for their husbands and families, instead of saving the world? Apparently the women of our day are not satisfied being homemakers, they want to be in the world, dressed like men, taking charge for the kingdom. Never mind what God’s word says.
Now I have been dealing a bit with the premise that since these gatherings are so peaceful, that they must be movements of God. I reject this premise for two reasons. The first reason was that just because you have gathered a bunch of women in one place, with your Bibles, and some prayer tacked on to everything you do, does not mean that this is something God is doing.
Secondly, I reject the premise that since there is no fighting or bickering at these events that this is proof that it is a work of God. In fact, I would say that the peace they are experiencing is a clear sign that it is not of God. Remember our foe Satan is not going to cause a stink when people get together in the name of God but the gospel is absent. He is quite content to leave those groups completely alone, hence the so-called peace. Satan loves moralism and panty-hose theology. He loves it because it fools people into thinking they are bound for the kingdom when they are not.
If we are given over to the premise that division is a bad thing, then we show we fail to understand how God works inside the body of Christ. After all, He came for the purposes of dividing one against the other (Luke 12:49-53) in calling out His elect from the world. But more importantly, it was through conflict and division that God brought about the New Testament. Just about every book of the New Testament came about because of conflict, division and strife. While those things seem bad to us, God uses them to purify His body.
We also have much of our understanding of who God is, a triune God, who saves through the God-Man Jesus Christ, because of conflict that came about in the early days of the church.
My point is that the seeming lack of conflict in these gatherings as an indication of God’s blessing upon it is superficial at best.
I do recognize the need of women to gather and be together, and I do recognize Jenny Allen’s desire to be significant according to the standards of the world. But the women of the church need to remember to submit themselves to their husbands, fathers and elders of the church for guidance, leadership and instruction. Their gathering together should never be outside the oversight and protection of the God-ordained authorities in their lives, remembering that “…Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14).
Also, I’m not fundamentally opposed to attending conferences. I would not have a problem with the women gathering together and going to a Ligonier conference, where true biblical teaching is taking place by those qualified to teach and lead in the church. But do we need another Promise Keepers?
No, we don’t. We have the church. We have the pastors/teachers that God has called and given to the church as a gift to teach and preach to our women and men and children in the church. These women should quit with their divisive tactics of separating the women from the church for their conferences.
I really don’t mind women getting together and praying. That is a good thing. But why must these emergent types feel the need to turn such a wonderful thing into an industry, with conferences, T-shirts, mugs, etc.? Why do they feel the need to go national? If they were really committed to Christ, would not their initial group be enough? Or, do they love the fame, money and power they feel they have by doing so?
And what do their husbands and pastors think of them going to these conferences? Do the women who go actually seek the council of their pastors before doing so? Or are they so independent-minded that they think they don’t need the wisdom of the elders in their lives? That is utter foolishness to think in such a way.
If the defenders of this movement think that I’m wrong, please show me you understand the gospel before you attack me for what I have written. I would guess that most of the women involved could not clearly articulate the gospel. And if they don’t have the gospel, they are not the church.
One final thought, would it not be great if the women who attend these conferences would just gather in their home church and pray for those ministries that are God ordained instead of propping up this new movement which will eventually fade like so many others? We are called to be in the church. We are not called to prop up these para-church organizations that are so fundamentally off base. In doing so, we waste resources that could be better used for strengthening Christ’s body.
Yes, gather. Gather to pray for your pastor and family. Pray for your elders and their families. Pray for the sick in the body, pray for your lost neighbors to come to know Christ through the ordinary means of grace. Pray for those who want more, to be satisfied with the family God has given them and work on those relationships. Pray also that you see the foolishness of movements. God has not called us to movements. He has called us to be the body of Christ.
For more on this, read C.H. Fisher’s post asking if IF is a movement of God?
The SolaSisters also have information about the problems with IF on their FB page.