(UPDATE: Please see BSF Leader resigns; warns members about 2018 Study)
I remember the first time I “got” the Gospel. It was in a woman’s Bible study group called BSF, or Bible Study Fellowship. For the past 50 years and up until I left four years ago, BSF International has been solid (as far as I knew), offering a full year of weekly studies for men, women and youth, covering seven subjects: Genesis, Matthew, Life of Moses, Romans, John, History of Israel and the Minor Prophets, and The Acts of the Apostles. At the end of seven years, the studies start over.
I was part of BSF first in Minnesota, then Florida, and in Wisconsin. This was no coffee klatch. This was serious stuff. There was a dress code (no jeans). And there was a strict mandate at BSF: Absolutely NO outside books other than the Bible. I loved it, and wish I could still be a part of it. I even got to be a teacher in the children’s ministry one year – it was incredible. Before doing “discernment ministry” work on the radio in 2010, I was in training to be a small group discussion leader at my local BSF group. So imagine my sorrow to read the following note from a friend who lives in Oregon:
I am somewhat discouraged today after BSF. I love my teaching leader and group leader. They both seem so grounded, but last week our group leader shared with me a Jesus Calling excerpt, and today our Teaching Leader* read from God Calling! I spoke as gently as I could with my group leader about it last week and hoped she wouldn’t be offended. She said she took it as not the actual words of Jesus, but just that Sarah Young was inspired to “hear” his voice. It ended up in a pass but I told her I would send her some info.
(*Note: the teaching leader (TL) leads all of the small groups in a teaching/sermon session – a “large group” in the sanctuary – following the breakout small group meetings, lead by the group discussion leader.)
Please understand that in sharing this letter I am not here to throw BSF under the bus, nor am I warning anyone to stay away. Just the opposite. I want for this to be an easily-remedied situation. Perhaps it happened only in this one town. I hope that in sharing this letter, the folks at BSF headquarters will come to understand that the old mandate (no books but the Bible) was a very good rule. I hope that they will research why so many Christians are concerned with Jesus Calling, and its New Age inspiration, God Calling. (UPDATE: I also hope they will read the comments section below for additional insight.)
A good place to start is with author and researcher Warren B. Smith, a former New Ager and friend of ours who wrote about his concerns in the book, “Another Jesus” Calling: How False Christs are Entering the Church through Contemplative Prayer.”
Again, I love BSF and my heart is to warn these precious ladies to be discerning so as not to allow the little sheep to stumble.
If you are wondering why Jesus Calling has so many red flags, I will point you to the numerous articles and interviews we’ve shared, in hopes that you will do your own research and compare what you find in Jesus Calling to the real Jesus Christ, the Son of God in the Bible.
I live in Oregon and have attended BSF for several years. I have never heard in any of my classes or from the leader a quote from Jesus Calling or God Calling. I love the studies and have learned a lot from them.
I also attend BSF in Portland Oregon. This week and last week our leader read from Jesus Calling and mentioned God Calling. I do not agree with these books and wish BSF would go back to Bible only discussions.
Sounds like you attend the same study as my friend. If you would like, I can initiate a call or email to leadership there and share this story.
Very interesting and the concerns are well-founded. I attended BSF for the circuit and also taught in the children's program for three years. I left in 2010. I received wonderful teaching and training there and I am forever grateful to the Lord for my time there. However…..
The first red flag was when my teaching leader mentioned Brother Lawrence in our Sat AM training. I went to her later and mentioned the issues with following a mystic monk promoting "the silence". She indicated that he was mentioned in her training session. hhmmm! The second red flag was when the new director Susie Rowan quoted a verse in the quarterly magazine using the awful paraphrase…The Message. Also questionable books began to appear in the magazine, especially one from Dallas Willard. Ken Boa is also a mystical author.
It was that last year that I attended the leader's retreat in Portland, OR. I was alarmed at this retreat. The next year the new study was to be Revelation. We were instructed to find a solitary place with our study questions and wait till we received a special revelation. So we were being taught that we could receive special instruction outside of God's Word. Guess it was time for me leave because my page was left blank there…lol. That retreat helped me decide to leave leadership.
Ms. Rowan also stood on that stage and said that as she left Kansas City for her new appointment, the people there laid hands on her and all prayed in tongues over her. This is totally unscriptural. It was an indicator that a charismatic influence was to come upon BSF, and it has.
It used to be that discussion leaders or children's leaders could not exhibit or use tongues. While I was there, a children's leader was asked to step down because she joined a church that spoke in tongues. That was changed the last year I was there.
It is also interesting to hear that a group discussion leader shared a passage from a book. I attended many training sessions and the time they had was VERY structured and they were told they could not teach….A discussion leader was only to facilitate the answering of the questions, . They could not teach. If the answer the participant was wrong they were to go another person to encourage a correct answer. So to bring outside material into the discussion time is really outside of the old format.
I encourage those to be bold and contact leadership with your concerns.
I no longer attend BSF because I now homeschool our children. The last year I spent at BSF was very discouraging for me. It has (or maybe always did) embraced ecumenicalism. I had to hear in our small study group 'pray the blood of Jesus over. it', or 'pray to mary – it works!'. I will never return to BSF because it seems they have lost their way. Now to hear the promotion of Sara Young books solidifies my position.
I am in BSF right now in MN studying The Life of Moses and I know my teaching leader personally. I don't think she would quote from anything other than the Bible. BSF headquarters needs to know about this rogue class in Oregon!
So glad to hear it, Linda! I am hoping this is an isolated case that BSF can address swiftly and directly.
I began taking my 3 yr old grandson to BSF in San Diego County, this year. I have attended off and on for over 30 years, been a discussion leader for several years. It used to be that the first time you went to orientation they would tell you not to discuss other books, only the Bible, not to consult commentaries, not to quote other speakers, pastors etc. This changed about 3 years ago. They stopped saying that and it became a mess in discussion groups. I will always speak up and remind my group about the "guidelines", even though I'm not the leader.
Also this year I received a Childrens Home Training listen that read like a primer for Contemplative Prayer. Here is just one quote: "BSF is trying to help you teach your child to think on the things of God, to speak silently in his heart, and to listen for the voice of God." I spoke to the Children's Leader and she assured me that they did not do that during their quiet time. I spoke to the Teaching Leader and she was shocked that I did not believe that God speaks to us!!! I emailed the Children's Director in San Antonio. I got a phone call the next day from her secretary asking about my concerns, which I shared with her. I never heard back from anyone. I even wrote to one of the Board of Directors…no answer.
BSF will always hold a special place in my heart, but they too, are caving to the world. No more guidelines, no more raising hands, too many questions about our feelings and creeping New Age in the lectures. Deception seems to be everywhere.
Debra, thank you for sharing. What can we do? I believe two things: 1: We first must pray that this organization would not succumb tot he world, and to do the things they did at first – repenting and turning back if and when they have slipped. Second, we can continue to contend for the faith and share publicly these instances where a course correction is needed. Sometimes it is a chorus of voices rather tha just one that will afect change. I would not like to see us ever get to a point where we would need to mark and avoid.
Yes we must pray! I have approached many women I know, whom I consider mature Christians about Jesus Calling. One was a lifelong missionary, another a long time staff memeber at our local megachurch. Only one of my friends agreed with me, all the rest defended it. They refused to even read Biblical arguments against it. I have been called a hater. I was even blocked from commenting on Lifeway FB page, because I presented evidence of Beth Moore's false teaching and links where women could read for themselves the proof. I don't back down. The church and parachurch organizations are being deceived by New Age gobblygook! It is a sign of the end times when "even the elect will be deceived."
I, too, hope it is just a small segment of this ministry that is affected and hopefully, once it is out in the open and addressed, those recommending books like Jesus Calling will repent and get back to teaching the biblical truth only.
But this is just another indication of how contemplative spirituality is growing like a cancer in the Christian community, turning up everywhere, even in the most trusted, unexpected places. It comes in quietly, softly, under the radar of many if they are not on guard and informed. It can sound so comforting and spiritual, but it is Hinduism and it is dangerous.
I agree with Rosinavoz. The most steadfast ministries are falling like dominoes. No one is immune to the apostasy, it creeps in like a thick fog engulfing every church steeple one by one unless all the sheep are on guard. We must be on guard and vigilant all the time about everything and especially nowadays avoid any extra books. Most don't even know the word well and then they delve into someone else's book. Be on guard. There are many discernment books like the ones mentioned above that are good sources, and the internet also.
If it's already crept in I would be very surprised if this organization survives the coming onslaught of unbiblical practices and ecumenism. After all, 90% of the professing evangelical church is slowly caving and many of the women of BSF no doubt come out of these compromising churches; and they don't see any problem with these things in their church so it's just a matter of time. I hope people will take a stand, but unfortunately "relationships" are beginning to outweigh the Truth in many churches and "consensus" is becoming their main goal. Also, the vast majority of Christians would not even recognize words such as ecumenical or transcendental meditation, and they would see no problem at all with contemplative prayer or going into the silence. That's how it's getting in….ignorance.
You are so right toni. It is so sad to see solid groups like BSF fall into the new age. But, I agree, it will only get worse as the church universal deteriorates.
I attend BSF in Texas. I have very much enjoyed our leader's teaching. She studies very well and quotes solid Bible teachers. She has made a few comments, however, in the past that sounded like she ascribed to contemplative "prayer" that seems to be growing in popularity in evangelicalism.
Having said that, one of the ladies in my small group said a few weeks ago that the leader must read Jesus Calling because she had quoted from it several times over this year. She only knew this because this lady loves Jesus Calling and reads it every day. I must say, I was not surprised. It seems to be exceptionally rare to find a lady who doesn't adore that book these days.
For some reason the comment I wrote yesterday didn't post so trying again. I've been participating in BSF on and off for 27 years and rejoined last year after taking several years off. The Lord has used BSF (& Precept Bible studies) to grow me as a believer in ways that I didn't grow just by attending church, reading my Bible and doing easy Bible studies. I "love" BSF but have real concerns about the direction they seem to be going. Some of the new, relaxed rules are good but I'm wary of many of the changes. When I was a CL many years ago, Christians who attended churches that spoke in tongues were not allowed in leadership but this year my GL definitely attends such a church. The lessons in the Moses study this year don't seem to be as deep or comprehensive as they were when I first did Moses 20 years ago; there are no more "challenge" or "personal" questions but plenty of "what does this passage mean to you" type questions. And the guidelines to help keep the group discussions on topic are apparently now nonexistent, with members even bringing other (Christian) books & DVDs to exchange during class, print-outs from their favorite devotionals (not "Jesus Calling" yet but…). One member answered a question recently by comparing the words Nazi & Nazarite and her opinion was basically that the word Nazi was used to put down something good from God. And the GL gushed over what a profound thought it was with out thinking about the fact that the words are not related at all.
I still plan to attend the new study of Revelation next year and am praying that having so many BSF graduates return for it as well, will help BSF get back on track and stay true to their original calling to serve the Lord and His church as a para-church organization.
Wow, this is really interesting. I just rejoined BSF a year ago after a 16 year hiatus. I definitely see differences and their new leaning toward an openness to other (possibly New Age ?) ideas. Thanks for sharing.
This is so sad! No one loves the written word anymore. It just isn't good enough. Below is an article explaining exactly why it is more than good enough….
I have been attending BSF in South Carolina for 8 years now. Thankfully, I have never seen some of the things described in the comments above. Our teaching leader is a solid Christian woman who has not used any of those materials. We are not allowed to bring in or discuss any other books, and we stick with only the Bible, except on very rare occasions when a new member will say they saw something in their study Bible that helped them answer a question. It may be because I live in a very conservative state, and in the most conservative area in that state.
I do hope the leadership reads these comments and brings back the groups to their original intent.
I attend BSF in Oregon and I don't think Debra's experience in San Diego reflects a change in BSF leadership and guidelines. (She said "It used to be that the first time you went to orientation they would tell you not to discuss other books, only the Bible, not to consult commentaries, not to quote other speakers, pastors etc. This changed about 3 years ago. They stopped saying that and it became a mess in discussion groups.". ) The BSF I attend still upholds the Bible as the ultimate authority and says we are not to bring in outside books, quotes, etc. Our teaching leader only quotes the Bible.