I have seen a poster for Breakforth 2010 in two different churches now in the last little while, as well as have seen it advertised elsewhere across the internet. For those who don’t know what it is, it bills itself as the “largest equipping and renewal conference in North America” with about 15,000 people attending. It all goes down on January 29-31, 2010 and what it essentially is is a massive conference that teaches people and has workshops on every areas of the Christian life and church ministries that you can imagine, with a noticeably more heavy emphasis on the arts. I know that’s broad and general, but it’s not so much important to know what specific workshops will be taking place as much as it is to know “who” will be involved and will be speaking at this event. To list off some of the bigger names in speakers and musicians that will be included in the line-up: Anne Graham Lotz, Lee Strobel, Fancies Chan, Newsboys, Michael W. Smith, Frank Peretti, Sean McDowell, Fred Stoeker, Joel Rosenberg, Shannon Ethridge, Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, and a host of others. There’s almost 200 different sessions you can go to, so it’s pretty packed. And that’s all well and good. There are several people there that I wouldn’t mind attending, especially Graham ,Strobel, Keaggy, and Stonehill.
But a few names really stood out to me as soon as I saw the poster and then later on as I did some more reading: William P. Young and Leonard Sweet, and to a lesser extent Alan Roxburgh, David Fitch, and Brad Jersak. The first two in particular really got my attention as they also reveived top billing. The former is the author of the infamous “The Shack,” and the latter is the founder and president of SpiritVenture Ministries. Why did this get my attention? For a simple reason- they’re both raging heretics.
These men are not Christians in any sense of the word but rather in fact have launched destructive assaults against the faith, some more direct than others. Sweet is a panentheistic, mystical, emergent new-ager whose books, while not all bad, advance Eastern mysticism disguised as Christian spirituality. The other three in particular all have close ties to the egregiously ecumenical emerging church, which is actually a de-formation and deconstruction of the Christian faith and is now morphing into a different kind of animal, apostate emergence Christianity. They may still regain some degree of orthodoxy, but at the very least their teachings are very, very aberrant. I’ve read some of their books, lectures, interviews, and blogs, and it’s bad. As for William P. Young, the man is not a Christian brother to anyone but rather is a universalist whose book “The Shack” contains no fewer than 10 major distortions or heresies of the Christian faith.
And so I ask myself, why does this conference exist? I don’t doubt that there will be some good stuff there, some solid teaching, and probably some good worship. I don’t see how there can’t be some great stuff there as there are some great speakers. I’m not familiar with the theological beliefs of these artists, so can’t really comment on that, but what fails me is how does one in good conscience share the stage at a Christian conference with men who don’t even share the faith? I’ll grant that Roxburgh, Fitch, and Jersak are possibly negligible in the grand scheme of things, though I would have my discernment cap on as I listen to them as they have some very bad ideas. But Leonard Sweet? We don’t need new-age occultism repackaged as spiritual formation. William P. Young? He comes across as really nice, and from all the interviews I’ve seen with him he strikes me as a very kind and gracious man. But that does not change the fact that the man is an enemy of the gospel and ought to be silenced and forbidden from teaching anything at a Christian conference. In fact the man should be run out of the conference, and the main organizer should take the stage and issue a public apology to everyone attending and explain to them why they are kicking him out and denouncing him, and then and pull a mea culpa for ever having thought it was a good idea to invite him.
As it were, I’m not necessarily knocking the other speakers who are attending this event. I’m sure that some of they may not have known who all else was involved in this, or perhaps they just don’t know much about the other headliners and guest speakers. It’s possible that they just don’t see it or don’t understand it. Which is not to say that it’s an excuse, as many of these people are solid and ought to know better, display some wisdom, and do some research on who they are partnering with, but I understand that’s not always possible. I’m also not blaming the people who go to this event. Perhaps they don’t know who these men are. Or perhaps they do know but have no intention of attending his sessions and are rather going for other reasons and other sessions. Kind of like swallowing the meat and spitting out the bones. I’m not convinced that it’s the wisest thing to do, as you are still supporting such a conference, but I do get it. I myself would not attend this, as I don’t see why I would want to attend a conference where light partners with dark, and I have other sources where I could get just as much out of [though I would love to hear that Stonehill and Keaggy acoustic set]. I’m sure that many people could attend this and get a lot out of it, and it’s possible that William Young, Leonard Sweet, Alan Roxburgh, David Fitch, or Brad Jersak won’t even say anything out of line. But I’m not convinced it’s a good idea to pay hundreds of dollars for conference tickets, food, gas, and hotels in support of this thing, even if you do have the wisdom to parse their words [which not all people do]. This sort of thing ought not to be encouraged, and they should be getting phone calls and emails expressing deep concern for the content of such a conference and the direction they’re heading. Although, looking back, this conference does have a history of lining up other shady speakers, so I probably shouldn’t be too surprised, but it still bothers me. I can’t help but believe this is a tacit approval of the men and of the message, and I would hate to have people leaving this conference thinking that these speakers are good to go and are faithful to the gospel of Christ.
edit #1. I’ll be updating this when I get a response, but I did call the organizers and spoke with a woman about their choice to have William P. Young there. She directed me to leave a message with someone who could help me, which I did. She also kindly explained to me that they knew he was controversial, but that there was a high demand to have him there. She said that as way to balance this, they have him speaking on the last day in two major electives, and in that way people can just stay for the first two days or bypass him completely, and that unlike the other headliners he would not be speaking to the main assembly at any given time.