Dangerous Encounters in the Mainstream Christian Church
Having been immersed in the New Age and Occult worlds for several dark years of my life, I have become increasingly concerned about how certain familiar philosophies have inched their way into the mainstream Christian church. While not all congregations are complicit in such behavior, many have fallen victim to new age practices in the church which confuse and deceive the faithful.
After my dramatic conversion to Christianity, I wasn’t sure what my next step should be. I didn’t have a frame of reference as to how to proceed after such a life changing experience. As I’ve related before, the Lord spoke to me in the midst of a panic attack and told me to “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6), a verse I’d never heard prior to that moment. I gave my heart to Jesus right then and there. But, I wasn’t certain what to do next. I decided it would be appropriate for me to find a church to attend. Because…. that’s what Christians do!
I grew up Lutheran, but decided that I would explore outside that denomination for a while. Not knowing yet what to look for, I determined that the first service I’d attend since my transformative experience would be the local Presbyterian Church. This was a calculated decision because although I wanted to try something new, I imagined that the Presbyterian denomination would be safely within my wheelhouse, and wouldn’t be too intimidating. Also, it was the only church that had a service after 10 a.m. Baby steps.
On Sunday morning, I pulled into the packed parking lot. I saw lots of nice looking families of all ages, so I figured that I’d be able to easily blend in. Walking through the front doors, I felt that familiar sense of community that I remembered from my youth. Entering the actual sanctuary was a different story. The first thing I noticed was that there was a round table in the center of the room and all of the chairs were arranged in a circle around the table. The table had a number of items on it.
Once everyone was seated, the pastor entered the room. She had a long flowing dress on with a vibrant floral pattern. She was bedecked in turquoise and silver jewelry, and her entire appearance reminded me of one who used to be a hippie, and later became a professor. You know the type.
She approached the round table and picked up a shiny brass bowl. She started to hit the bowl with a spoon, and the sound chimed and echoed throughout the room. She then made a statement to the effect of, “Let the chiming of the singing bowl indicate that the service is about to begin.” Red flag numero uno.
As the service went on, I noticed that there was not a whole lot of scripture being shared. I’d come to church hoping that I’d learn more about the Bible and draw nearer to God in fellowship with other believers. Instead, she spent most of the service discussing a secular author’s approach to finding “Inner Peace.” Inside our bulletins, there were 10 steps to finding inner tranquility, and none of them mentioned Jesus. At the end of the service, the singing bowl chimed again, and we were invited to take a walk through a “prayer labyrinth” wherein we were told to ruminate on any current troubles we were facing.
I knew this wasn’t right. I had just come out of a New Age belief system, and here I was seeing these same principles being employed within a Christian Church. While I had already found the peace that surpasses all understanding through Jesus, this pastor was advising that we use techniques like meditation and visualization to achieve a state of inner peace. It was all so steeped in Eastern mysticism, and I was quite perplexed. Had I missed something in the years that I’d been away from church?
The “Prayer Labyrinth” was particularly disturbing to me. Upon further research, I found that the labyrinth and its stated purpose were provided to the church by a company called Verditas. Their guidelines for walking the labyrinth are as follows:
“Generally there are three stages to the walk: releasing on the way in, receiving in the center and returning when you follow the return path back out of the labyrinth. Symbolically, and sometimes actually, you are taking back out into the world that which you have received. “
The company is clearly steeped in New Age practices, as evidenced by the following information, again from their website:
”The word “Veriditas” originated with Hildegard of Bingen and means “the greening power of life”.
Our mission is to connect people to the labyrinth. Walking the labyrinth is a spiritual practice that quiets the mind, opens the heart, and grounds the body. Our vision is that the labyrinth experience nurtures the invisible web of connections between individual destiny and service to others, the global community and the planet. “
Of course, most of us who have been ensconced in New Age/Occult practices recognize that terms like “invisible web of connections” and “grounding the body” are part and parcel with that level of universal enlightenment to which New Agers claim to have access. Further, this Presbyterian Church’s own website does nothing to diminish the link it has to those philosophies. They inject Christian friendly terminology, but the result is the same. From the First Presbyterian site:
“Some who walk the labyrinth think of the walk as three parts to a spiritual journey. The walk from the entrance to the center is purgation, a laying aside of those things which trouble or burden our lives. Along the path we shed the things of the world. In the center we find illumination as we encounter the truth of God and learn more about our true selves. On the return path, we experience union with God and integrate what we have found in the center into the lives we take up as we return to the world.”
How any Bible believing minister of the Gospel could allow such clearly pagan symbolism and practice into their church simply baffles my mind. I suppose there is the chance that they are simply ignorant to the esoteric implications of the labyrinth and things like it, but that really is no excuse. For those who are saved, we’re taught, “And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all the things.” (1 John 2:20), which to my understanding indicates that if we rely upon the Holy Spirit for discernment and we dedicate ourselves to the study of the Word, we will arrive at the truth and receive the knowledge that should drive us away from unholy practices.
Needless to say, I did not return to that church, and I sought fellowship elsewhere. I “church shopped” for quite some time, and eventually decided to try a church that was a bit more charismatic. I had come to a place where I believed in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and longed to be in a place where such gifts were freely received. I found a church that seemed to fit that criteria and eagerly attended.
The service I joined was one being lead by a guest speaker from South Africa. His sermon was quite exciting, and the congregation was exuberant. I felt that perhaps I had finally come to a place that would lead me to a deeper connection with the Lord. In retrospect, I believe that much of the sermon was about personal anecdotes from the speaker’s own worldwide ministry, and there was a lack of scriptural support for his stories.
At the end of the service, anyone who wished to receive prayer and to be baptized by the Holy Spirit was invited to the altar. I eagerly approached. As the minister walked down the row of worshipers, he was whispering to them and a commotion began to rise to my left. My eyes were closed so I didn’t quite know what was happening. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my forehead as the preacher gripped me and began to whisper.
He said, “Speak.” I was unsure of what to do. He said louder, “Speak! Speak in tongues!” I wasn’t about to force a false experience so I stood there and prayerfully waited for something to happen. At this point the preacher was squeezing my head so tightly that it hurt, and I started to cry. He said, “Just open your mouth and start speaking words that don’t make any sense to you. You might feel like you’re faking it, but you’re not.”
I started to pull away a bit to relieve the pain I was experiencing, but he gripped me harder and started to push me. At that point I felt hands behind me as well. I opened my eyes and saw that a good deal of the folks to my left had tipped over and appeared to be either passed out or in an altered state.
Now, as I said, I believe in the Gifts, but I cannot reconcile a preacher trying to force them to manifest. I also do not believe that a gift such as tongues will “feel fake” if it is truly Spirit given. Again, I felt that something was deeply wrong.
I attended yet another church that seemed quite a bit more balanced between scripture and experiential moments, but I soon learned that they were promoting Holy Yoga and Christian meditation. I don’t find anything wrong with going into one’s prayer closet and spending time reflecting alone with God, but this isn’t what was being promoted. Christian meditation encourages the mind to be utterly cleared to allow for “higher levels of awareness”.
The problem with emptying one’s mind entirely is that you open yourself up to forces that have been eagerly awaiting the chance to get inside. Beyond that, the “clearing of the mind” as called for in meditation and even yoga creates an environment in which our critical senses and capabilities are compromised, which can lead us to making unwise choices and even open us up to deception.
An article from Christianity Today said it quite well:
”No amount of chanting, breathing, visualizing, or physical contortions will melt away the sin that separates us from the Lord of the cosmos—however “peaceful” these practices may feel. Moreover, Paul warns that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). “Pleasant” experiences may be portals to peril. Even yoga teachers warn that yoga may open one up to spiritual and physical maladies.
The answer to our plight is not found in some “higher level of consciousness” (really a deceptive state of mind), but in placing our faith in the unmatched achievements of Jesus Christ on our behalf. If it were possible to find enlightenment within, God would not have sent “his one and only Son” (John 3:16) to die on the Cross for our sins in order to give us new life and hope for eternity through Christ’s resurrection. We cannot raise ourselves from the dead.”
I decided that perhaps I should just focus on home study until I found a place that I felt more comfortable. Through my research I discovered that much of the face of mainstream Christianity had the mark of New Age occultism all over it. I saw preachers telling folks to “Name it and claim it”, which was basically identical to the practice set forth in New Age blockbusters like “The Secret”. The concept of designing your own reality based upon the words that you say is no different than a magical incantation. It takes the “Thy Will be Done” out of the equation and changes it to “My will be done.” I discuss this “Law of Attraction” in depth here: Law of Attraction: A New Age Practice in the Modern Christian Church
I believe that our Father in Heaven is merciful. I believe the world that He created is magnificent and supernatural. I believe in miracles and I believe in the power of prayer. But I think that too many of our churches are dabbling in practices that lead to dangerous dealings with darkness, and they are adding practices and philosophies to worship that are clearly not part of a Biblical lifestyle.
I do not regret any of these experiences. I’m grateful to be able to say that I’ve seen these things in vivid detail, so that I can warn others about the danger of new age practices in the church. I am saddened by the deception, but filled with peace that comes from recognizing the Truth.
P.S. I do think I’ve finally found a church that is a good fit. The answer to where I’ve ended up might surprise you. I’ll address that in the next article 😉
“Now to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21
New Age Practices in the Church
**This article was originally written for the Power, Prophecy, and the Supernatural Newsletter, but I’ve since revised and updated it for this site. I felt the information was too important to not be made accessible for all of my readers.