"My Sister in the faith is reading a heretical book/studying heretical material. How do I tell her?"

A sister in the faith asked me that question in the title the other day. I responded in the comments but now I'm making a stand-alone piece. These are my experiences and advice, but are based on my understanding of scripture. I it helps any sister. If you have had experience in helping a sister in the faith turn away from using poor, unedifying materials, please chime in. This essay isn't the be-all and end-all, just a starting point.

I know that when I go to church and see a sister in the faith carrying a book by Ann Voskamp, or attending a Beth Moore study, my stomach clenches and my heart drops. Then, I worry. I know that heretical materials have just enough truth to seem good but so much heresy it will soon pollute my sister's thinking. False teaching is meant to destroy, and my sister is in its cross-hairs. This is not something we can ignore.

But how to tell her? It’s uncomfortable and difficult to do. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings yet it must be done because false teaching is a blight on the name of Jesus. In addition, we will have to answer for our failure to act in love. James 4:17 says,

"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."

We also know that in these dark days where the truth is not exalted, that we will more than likely be labeled as a troublemaker. I have had this experience myself. Of course we seek to be diplomatic in these kind of conversations, so take care that we are speaking the truth gently and not roughly. But no matter how gentle and diplomatic you are, there is a good chance the person will take offense. Since there are so many false converts these days, there's also a good chance they will subsequently label you as critical, intolerant, and trouble with a capital T.

In addition, we have the problem of deception by investment. (Term coined by Glenn Chatfield). This means that people who follow false teachers are invested in them. They have spent money on their books or devotionals, they have perhaps attended a meeting or conference. Thus, they are invested financially, emotionally, and time-wise. They've been seen and heard letting their chips fall in the side of what you're telling them is a false teacher. Puncturing that will pierce pride because you're piercing their very selves. They will want to be defensive. No one likes a conversation like that.

So with these things in mind, here is a teaching called The Gentle Art of Correction based on 2 Timothy 2:23-26. It is aimed at pastors and leaders but its principles are good for ladies too. :)

So, how? I take two examples from the bible. In the first example, Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside to instruct him (Acts 18:24-28). Apollos was a believer, hadn’t sinned, but needed to have the full counsel of God given to him before he went too much further in preaching like he’d been doing. The duo did not embarrass him by correcting him in public, but took him aside and to Apollos’ credit, he sat at their feet and learned.

Secondly, in Matthew 18:15-20 it describes what to do when someone in church sins against you. And isn’t following a false teacher a sin? There is flesh involved. So in the case of Mt 18:15, even though the verse says ‘if a brother sins against you’ and technically they have not sinned against you personally but against Jesus as the Head of the Church, the restoration began in private.

I think that the spirit of the Acts and Matthew verses tell us that the first step is to go to the sister you want to talk with quietly in private. So that is what I do.

What I've done is something like this: “I see you are carrying a new Joyce Meyer book. I have learned some things about her that I think are important for you know. Are you open to me putting my thoughts down on paper and sharing it with you later?” That way they do not feel sandbagged or cornered. If they say "No, thanks, I really like Joyce Meyer," then pray for them. The Spirit might help them change their mind, and they might return to you later and ask for that information. Sometimes a nudge takes a while.

In another case the opportunity just seemed right and presented itself when it came up in a conversation. I gently and with tears, pleaded for the woman to turn from her false doctrine. She was a good listener and at the end asked me to offer her some biblical advice on it. I did so the next time we were together, I gave her a paper. I believe the 2nd situation came about because I had been praying over the issue and asked the Lord to make a way for me to bring it up. Prayer is always an important component of these conversations, before, during and after.

Since emotions run high in these situations I’ve found it helpful to have written the bible verses and issues down on paper so they can look at it later. It also guards against being misquoted. Third, it helps me maintain my focus. In these kinds of talks with sisters, since women are emotional, we tend to stray to the emotional side of the conversation. Having the verses written down helps keep the focus on Jesus. It is the Word that changes minds, not our tears, and not our persuasion.

Other pastors I listen to said they have asked to person to coffee at a later time some they could discuss it. This works too.

If you are considering approaching a sister who has strayed into false territory in lockstep with a false teacher, I encourage you to read the Bible.org link above, and to pray. Ultimately the battle is the Lord's and the battle is spiritual. The dear sister we wish to approach is not the enemy but the spirit behind her favored book or curriculum is the enemy.

As you pray, the Lord will open your mind as to what He wants you to do in any given situation. And don’t be startled if the person gets huffy or angry. The more genuine a sister is, the more they may get embarrassed thinking that they have been spotted doing something wrong by carrying this book or touting that teacher, because they truly love the Lord. If they do indeed truly love the Lord, they will calm down and thank you for it later.

If they don’t, then you have a clean conscience before Jesus because you tried. Continuing to pray for them will help soften any disharmony in your own heart you may feel after the encounter. :)


Further Reading

Responding with Grace: When Emotionalism Trumps Discernment

Nine Reasons Discerning Women are Leaving Your Church


  1. A friend from high school invited me to a Beth Moore event, and I later tried to explain why I no longer held Beth in high esteem. She replied with "Well this is just a little sad," and went on, implying I was diminishing her beliefs in some way. I just felt I had to say something.....

    1. Hi Robin,

      That is exactly right, we do diminish their beliefs. That's because "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ," 2 Cor 10:5

      You could ask her if she believes that a bible teacher should teach from her visions from "Jesus" or from the Bible. Hopefully she will say 'the Bible." And then show her that Moore teaches from her visions (discussed here http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2013/06/examining-beth-moores-statement-bride.html)

      Or can ask her if she believes that Catholics are just another Christian denomination or are a false religion, and say that Moore believes Catholics are part of the faith, as seen in one of her teachings. Or just run off some of the statements she has made and where Rev Matt Slick has countered them at Carm.org and give it to her with the plea just to pray about it and ask the Lord to show her the truth, whatever it might be...

  2. This was an encouraging post, especially the reminder to pray. It is important to be gentle and loving and patient. My husband reminds me that I was that person, too, just a couple of years ago--walking out of the Family Christian bookstore with the Jesus Calling or whatever. I also need to be sure that my spirit is one of love and caring for the person and not just trying to be right.

    I do have an example of deception by investment. When my kids were in a private Christian school (and I am tempted to put quotes around that word) the required reading for the summer was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. I questioned the selection because it had sexual content and my son wasn't even yet a teen but mostly my problem with it was that it was written by a Mormon and we were sending our kids to a Christian school. I could think of 66 books that would have been better than that one right off the bat...but anyway, they kept pushing it for the school and had big kid and little kid versions for all of the kids plus posters...basically they had bought the curriculum so that was the end of that. I made him read Pilgrim's Progress instead and do a book report on that instead, haha.


  3. Actually, I didn't coin the term "deception by investment." I borrowed it from Pastor G. Richard Fisher, who is on the board of Directors of Personal Freedom Outreach apologetics ministry (www.pfo.org). I'm not sure now because it's been so many years, but I believe he was describing Beth Moore followers. They've done five articles in their journals on Moore's books, and that set is one of their best sellers! http://www.pfo.org/Beth_Moore.htm

    1. Thank you Glenn. I wanted to be sure to give credit where credit was due. Thanks for letting us know the origin of the term. :)

    2. I've heard the term used in the context of getting the true gospel to young Mormons before they go on their mission, because after that they are too invested and will usually reject the gospel just because they have spent so much time and effort on their mission.

  4. I was midway through a Beth Moore "James" study years ago when Moore said something that sent me on a path of questioning her. Back then there wasn't as much to read as there is now, but Elizabeth's materials were hugely helpful. As were the articles about Moore in publications from Personal Freedom Outreach (there were 5).
    Later on when my home church announced it was beginning a Beth Moore study, I decided to seek out the woman leader and tell her my concerns. She agreed to read some materials about Moore that I would provide, so I copied the PFO articles and passed them on. Another time, I shared this website with a pastor in another city whose church ran Beth Moore studies, and he was truly surprised to hear that people had concerns about her. I have also given PFO's article on "Jesus Calling" to another sister who was interested in the book. I think reasoned arguments in published materials by good authors can lend great credibility to our words.
    Chris in NC

  5. Melissa,
    I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People a few years ago. Parts of it does sound Christian. But then I discovered the author was Mormon which made me question it.
    What was more disurbing to me was after I read the book I realize the pastor of the church I used to attend had read it and used parts of it as illustrations in his talks.
    We must be vigilant. Good call on Pilgrims Progress

  6. You should also be prepared to lose the friendship, unfortunately. I had two friends get caught up in enneagrams, and when I explained how they are not biblical, helpful, edifying, etc., I was told I was a Pharisee, close minded, and judgmental. Those women don't want to be my friend anymore, and are deep into the web of mystical new age "Christianity." I do have a clear conscience, but it was painful :(

  7. Hello,

    Thank you for linking to my post above (Responding With Grace: When Emotionalism Trumps Discernment). If you are interested, I just published Part 2 of that post, and you can find that link here: http://bit.ly/1T4cIGP

  8. Rachel 3:30pm took the words right out of my mouth. I addressed a different error, but with same results.


  9. Thank you for this expanded answer to my comment on a previous post. It is sad that so many women are being deceived. I remain thankful that God pulled my late husband and I out of our previous church because I know that the women there have been studying some questionable materials. It happens in my current church, too, but since it's a large church, I am not as aware of it.

  10. Thanks for this. It is a topic close to my heart right now which hasn't gone well. I wondered if you had heard of, or indeed written any articles on, Doug Addison? I came across him a few months ago through a facebook friend, and was appalled to realise he has a "ministry" of tattoo interpretation which has thousands of followers and no one seems to bat an eyelid about. He posts what appear to be daily horoscopes - very vague comments that his followers lap up without hesitation and I have to say it's so far from biblical truth it makes me beyond frustrated.

  11. How should we respond to a pastor who is reading a heretical book? I don't want to be disrespectful, and I am pretty non-confrontational, but I am deeply concerned.


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