Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Special Alert: Awana Embraces Contemplative Spirituality!

Source: Lighthouse Trails

In February of 2006, Lighthouse Trails issued a report titled "Awana: Are They Heading Toward Contemplative/Emergent?" The concerns were over the organization's connection with Willow Creek, with Awana's interest in Spiritual Formation and with a recommended ministry list that included a number of contemplative/emergent organizations, including Youth Specialties.1

A year and a half later, Awana is showing signs that it is becoming a full-blown contemplative organization. First of all, through Awana's prison project, the organization is incorporating New Age sympathizer Ken Blanchard's Lead Like Jesus Encounter program. On July 13th, we spoke with Lyndon Azcuna, Awana Cross Cultural Ministries director, who told us he was a Lead Like Jesus facilitator. Azcuna works in the main headquarters office of Awana. He said that the project was using Ken Blanchard's materials. When we explained to him that Blanchard promoted the New Age and mystical meditation, he said that the program did not have these elements.

However, the Lead Like Jesus Encounter is largely based on Blanchard's book, Lead Like Jesus, and that book does include contemplative elements. For instance, in the chapter called "The Habits of a Servant Leader" a palms-up, palms-down exercise is described (something Richard Foster has encouraged)(p. 158). The book gives a typical instruction on contemplative:
Before we send people off for their period of solitude, we have them recite with us Psalm 46:10 in this way: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.... When people return from their time of solitude, they have big smiles on their faces. While many of them found it difficult to quiet their mind, they say it was a powerful experience. The reality is most of us spend little if any time in solitude. Yet if we don't, how can God have a chance to talk with us?
For Awana to include Ken Blanchard's teachings into its organization, shows that the situation is quite serious. Blanchard has been promoting eastern-style meditators for over twenty years, and to this day is still doing so. In addition, he is a board member for the occultic Hoffman [Quadrinity] Institute. Blanchard participated in the Hoffman Process and said it made his spirituality come alive. We believe this experience he had through Hoffman is similar to what Blanchard refers to in his Lead Like Jesus book, when he says people who "quiet their mind[s]" during the Lead Like Jesus Encounter have "powerful experience[s]." This means that now children and families in Awana could possibly wind up with the same experience.

Blanchard, who has been a professing Christian since the 1980s, wrote the foreword for a 2001 book titled What Would Buddha Do at Work?. In the book, Blanchard said:
"Buddha points to the path and invites us to begin our journey to enlightenment. I ... invite you to begin your journey to enlightened work."
Blanchard has made numerous other similar statements about other books. After a 2005 report exposed his connection with Rick Warren (see below), Blanchard placed a statement on a page of his website for a short time that said some of his previous endorsements had been wrong. However, since that time, the endorsements have continued, including his connection with Hoffman Institute. One example of his continued endorsement of meditation practices is his back-cover statement on Jon Gordon's 2006 book, 10-Minute Energy Solution, in which Gordon makes several favorable references to eastern-style meditators and the practice itself (see ATOD, pp. 164-165). Another example is Blanchard's June 2006 endorsement of Thom Crum's book, Three Deep Breaths.

Amazingly, in the book that inspired the Lead Like Jesus Encounter that Awana is using, Blanchard acknowledges Norman Vincent Peale's role in his spiritual walk. According to Ray Yungen (For Many Shall Come in My Name - p. 47), Peale had strong New Thought connections. This could partly explain Blanchard's leanings toward the New Age.

While Awana's decision to include Ken Blanchard's materials into their program is enough evidence to show that the organization is quickly changing, we must now report that there is something even more disquieting with regard to Awana and their slide into contemplative - a book that is recommended by Awana and also carried by the Awana store: Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation. A description of the book is as follows:
In childrens ministry, models, methods, and materials abound. How do you decide what direction you want your ministry to children to take? Perspectives on Childrens Spiritual Formation allows you to examine the four prominent points-of-view in the church today. You will then be able to make a more informed decision on the way in which your ministry should take.
The book offers four different views on how to transform children. One author, Scottie May, a professor at Wheaton, writes the section titled, "Contemplative-Reflective Model." May gives a hearty promotion of centering prayer, the Jesus prayer, Christ candles, the Catholic Eucharist and an strong endorsement for contemplative spirituality ala Thomas Merton, whom he favorably quotes in the book. Two Awana staff writers respond in the book to May's contemplative approach and give it a thumbs up with only minor cautions. But overall they believe that contemplative is a valid approach for all Christians, including children. Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation is giving a green light to Awana leaders around the world to practice contemplative prayer.

Some people may not understand why we write this report about Awana. After all, they have done some wonderful things for children. But that is the very reason we do issue this report - we do not want to see Awana sell out to the fast growing apostasy of contemplative spirituality and the New Age; and because we care about children, we speak up. With more and more public schools teaching kids to meditate and do yoga, and with more and more Christian schools bringing in emerging leaders like Rob Bell (through his Noomas and his book Velvet Elvis), millions of children are now placed in harm's way by learning meditative techniques that will possibly take them into altered states and demonic realms. We hope Awana leadership will reconsider their position on contemplative/spiritual formation for the sake of children and their parents. And if you have children in the program, please use extreme caution in light of these new developments.

Let us leave you with this sobering thought: Sue Monk Kidd was at one time a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher. She was led down the road to apostasy (i.e., worshiping the goddess Sophia) through the practice of contemplative prayer after someone handed her a book by Thomas Merton, the same Thomas Merton who is endorsed and quoted in the Awana book, Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation.


Anonymous said...

Please explain why you describe the Hoffman [Quadrinity] Institute as occultic?

My experience was very positive and was a method for me to learn about my feelings and move forward with my life in a positive manner.

There was nothing secretive about the process or the experience.

BONNIE said...

Dear Anonymous, I did not write this article myself, it was written by the editors at Lighthouse Trails on their website, and I have reposted it on mine.

I have not done enough research on the Hoffman Institute to give you an adequate answer. From what I understand they are borrowing techniques from the occult for their program. For more information I suggest you go directly to the the Lighthouse Trails website (click on the link to it at the beginning of the post, where it says "Source: Lighthouse Trails"), and once there, insert the words "Hoffman Qaudrinity" or "Ken Blanchard" into their search engine. It should provide you with the information you are requesting.

I believe it is important for a person to understand the spiritual background of these programs to gain a proper understanding of how it can affect their life. Positive feelings about something, and even a positive outcome, does not necessarily mean that the technique is one a Christian can endorse or become involved in. Even though there may seem to be some positive benefits in the short-term, I think the long-term spiritual effects could have serious repercussions to a person's spiritual life in a negative manner. In this age of great spiritual deception it is important to test all things against what we have been given in Scripture to see if they line up with it.

I trust you will find the research on the Lighthouse Trails website beneficial. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

BONNIE said...

Dear Anonymous, here is a question for you to think about: is there anyone better to teach us about ourselves than the Holy Spirit? He uses the written Word to teach us and then empowers us to change in the direction we need to go.

Hebrews 4:12 says,"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

2 Peter 1:2-4 says, "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

I can personally attest to the power of God's Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life in areas that needed changing. For example, I had a serious problem with mishandled anger for many years, and it was the Holy Spirit that convicted me that this was wrong. I went to my Bible and copied out every verse on anger by hand and committed many of them to memory. In this way my mind was renewed and the Holy Spirit used the Word to bring both conviction, repentance and a lasting change in my life. Before this, I had read many books on handling anger, and although they helped me to have a better intellectual understanding about it, they did not have within them the power to create the a permanent godly change within me, changing my very heart. The true power to grow and change in a manner that is biblical comes from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and cooperation with the Holy Spirit who indwells the beleiver. We are told not to quench the Holy Spirit(I Thess. 5:19), the reason being that He is the agent of change in a believer's life. If we are not cooperating with the Holy Spirit, any change that occurs is only temporary and may lead us down a path of spiritual deception.

Who could be a better teacher and counselor than the Holy Spirit, and what better texbook than the Bible to help us move forward in our lives!

carla said...

This is for Anonymous:

The following is also from Lighthouse Trails Research:

Ken Blanchard is on the Board of Advisors of an organization called the Hoffman Institute (home of the Hoffman Quadrinity Process). For those of you who may wonder what exactly the Hoffman Quadrinity Process is, we turn our attention now to a 2003 book named, The Hoffman Process written by Tim Laurence, the present director of The Hoffman Institute. I don't even think words can fully describe the disturbing anti-biblical message in this book. But to see Ken Blanchard's name on the inside endorsement page nestled in between Sonia Choquette (a third generation psychic), Margot Anand (a tantric/mystic sex teacher), and staunch New Ager, Joan Borysenko, is an utter disgrace.

In both the book and the Hoffman Institute web site, Ken Blanchard states, after having taken the course himself, that: "The Hoffman Process brings forth spiritual leadership in a person. It made my spirituality come alive." (emphasis added)

Let's look at a few quotes in Tim Laurence's book to gain a perspective on the spirituality of the Hoffman Process.

* "'I asked my friends up above. They always have the right answer," he replied, referring to his spirit guides that, as a psychic healer, he often consulted."-Tim Laurence, speaking about the Hoffman Process founder, Bob Hoffman, p.15.

* "Many traditions around the world focus on the breath as a link to the divine. -- Indeed, it is used as the focus of the Buddhist practice called Vipassana, or 'insight meditation.'" (Also see pages 89 and 299 of Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life for his explanation of breath prayers.)

* "You can use a short meditation to remind yourself of this connection to all others in this world of ours. - As you breathe, feel that breath coming from your core essence." p. 207.

* "When you are open to life, you start noticing the divine in everything." p. 209.

This is just a very small number of the many similar quotes throughout The Hoffman Process.

~end of LTR quote

By the way, in my own research I have come across several New Age retreat centers that use the Hoffman Q Process. Interestingly, they also offer a mixture of sessions such as Reiki and energy healing, drumming and chanting, to name a few. These are not Christian practices. Any energy source or spiritual power that is not from the God of the Bible comes from the powers of darkness, and is very dangerous.