The Presence Conference: Peddling The Gospel of Selfishness
If, instead of knowing them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-16), as Christ told us, false teachers were known by colors, it might seem an easier task. Indeed, if false teaching, charlatanry, and heresy were colors, you could say that Phil Pringle & C3 Church’s Presence Conference looks a lot like Walt Disney has vomited a Technicolor warning label across it. This “Christian” conference is a veritable kaleidoscope of diabolically-influenced deception coalescing around the theme that God exists to make your dreams come true.
Headlined by “prophet” and recognized New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) apostle Phil Pringle, the upcoming Sydney conference also includes others who have hit pay-dirt glory on the culturally-relevant, seeker-sensitive, charismaniacal, “God wouldn’t know what to do without YOU” conference circuit. Joining prosperity proponent Pringle are Steven “Narcissim is godly” Furtick, who touts his “God sinned for love” line in the pre-conference sizzle video (See it below), and the femme fatale of the faithless, Lisa Bevere, a featured feminist who’s ministry efforts equate to a pre-eviction, Eden-living Eve screaming at Adam for another bite of the apple cuz women can be false prophets too.
Rounding out the April offering of feel-good false “Christianity” is Paul “There is greatness in everyone” Scanlon; the “legendary” Martin Smith, described in his conference break-out session as “one of the globe’s most renowned worshippers;” and Robert Madu, a Texan who is quoted as saying, “Creativity is the moment you exhale that which God had breathed inside you.” Creativity, especially lauded by post-modernists when utilized for emotions-evoking experiences, remains, however, NOT a gift of the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-23 for details)
What’s the Presence Conference all about? Besides, of course, getting your $199 registration fee? (only $119 for kids and youth, only $60 if you’re volunteering)
It’s about … “The Experience.”
If you can’t already discern the post-modern, culturally-relevant, Gospel-excluding, “it’s what you feel not what you know” problem this “Christian” conference presents, just wait! There’s more “we are the world,” unbiblical hipster hogwash ahead.
“Presence Conference is an experience.”
Yeah, well, if you’re the grace-gifted recipient of Spirit-spurred salvation and Spirit-maintained sanctification, you’ve already been blessed with “presence.” Plus, if you’re truly regenerate, the “lead you to Truth” Spirit of God abiding within you will prompt you to bristle against the notion that you could dare attend an event predicated on giving you just an “experience” sans a heavy focus on Scripture. The Holy Spirit’s primary work in the believer’s life isn’t to deliver whiz-bang warm fuzzies, but to illuminate God’s saving, sanctifying, propositional Truth. It’s an important safety tip, especially if you’re being tempted to attend this “God worships you” gala of Scripture-twisting narcissism. Notably, the conference website appeals to esoteric spirituality, not to God’s Word.
“It’s effective ministry, leadership training and empowerment for every believer.”
Umm, no. No, it isn’t. Well … unless you consider working on behalf of the enemy of Christ by preaching a culturally-embraceable false gospel with a false Jesus a “ministry,” then maybe. But, this conference’s effectiveness isn’t measured in terms authentic Christians will recognize, such as the effectiveness of “pressing on towards the prize.” (Philippians 3:14) That’s accomplished only by fixating on one of the big goals of the Christian life, “This is the will of God: your sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) And how does this sanctification occur? Jesus gave us the clear answer in His prayer to the Father for us (“us” being “those you have given me”) … “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
In case you didn’t know, the enemy has his ministers, too. An apostle pointed out that Satan even has his own minion theology that he is impishly eager to spread within the church. Paul said, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1, NASB).
One of the most virulent doctrines of demons playing out both in the culture at large and in the falsely called “church,” is the demonic doctrine of “experience.” (It’s why “churches” have fog machines, mood lighting, and orchestrated Hollywood-like theatrics. It’s far easier to entertain than to do the Biblically obedient thing and “teach sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1) This teaching sacrifices on the altar of man-centered pride God’s propositional, Biblical Truth and the preaching/teaching of it to opt instead for the feel-good, achieve your dreams, “God lives for you” false gospel. At the Presence Conference, like so many other contemporary “Christian” conferences, Truth is eagerly exchanged for a lie. Slay the truth! Just make me feel spiritual!
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” Romans 1:25
“Leadership training?” Yeah, there’s prolly a hierarchy of netherworld minions busy at work for “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19) so, from the enemy’s standpoint, training them is important. But “empowerment?” Authentic believers aren’t all that worried about empowerment. Rather it’s obedience that really drives us, and the power we need to do that doesn’t come from a conference. Rather it’s accomplished by the Holy Spirit who compels us by His Word, conforming us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) by the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2), not by the excitements of our emotions.
“It is about you meeting with God and God meeting with you.”
Okay, now we’re down to the nefarious nitty-gritty. These Pringle-led charlatans presume that they can orchestrate a meeting between you and the Sovereign God of the universe, Who, evidently, is at their beck and conference call. That meeting will be held in Sydney, Australia on April 10-13. God will meet with you, pending approval of your Secured Credit Card transaction of $199.
“If there is one thing we are longing for, it is the power of the Holy Spirit. If there is one thing He is longing for, it is to spend time with you.”
“Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit and I’ll show you a person not filled by the Holy Spirit.” John MacArthur
Well, it’s probably smart to stand with John MacArthur on this. And it certainly applies here. The genuine believer is indwelt by the Spirit, to be sure, but it is that indwelling that – paradoxical though it may seem – directs the believer’s focus to Christ, not to the Holy Spirit. Yet it makes perfect Biblical sense, of course, for not only is the Spirit’s ministry to “convict of sin and righteousness and judgment,” (John 14:8) but also to bring and illuminate the Truth of Christ to us. (John 14:26) Charlatans and charismaniacs may focus on the Spirit, but He leads the truly regenerate to the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
The Holy Spirit – of all the things He wants – “spending time with you” is what He’s really “longing for?” Right. If that’s the case, then how come somebody’s gotta pay 200 bucks to give God what He wants? Since He’s God, seems logical that 1) He doesn’t need the money and B) I’m not all that hard to find. The sovereign, omnipresent, all-powerful, omniscient God prolly knows where I am. We ain’t gotta meet in Sydney.
No, this is fallacious folderol from faux faith charlatans. Garbed in Holy Ghost lingo to appear spiritual, the huckster-heavy stage of the Presence Conference is guided by those with a desire (deceiving and being deceived; see 2 Timothy 3:13) to defraud the naive (Romans `6:18) in the name of Christ, to continue the inflation of their already swollen egos, and, certainly, to manifest the miracle of getting YOUR money in THEIR pockets.
(Brief segway here: How long before Furtick’s ego finally explodes, Hindenburg-like, from the inflamed overuse of the suction-powered, black-hole whirlpool that is his trademark, narcissistic event horizon? You can just hear some forlorn, shocked broadcaster covering the event, muttering across crackling airwaves his “live-on-the-scene” observation of Furtick’s final blow … “Oh, the paganity!” as the false teacher’s pustulous ego finally bursts. Furtick’s “church,” btw, is one of the fastest-growing in the Southern Baptist Convention, which ought to cause one to ponder Groucho Marx’s quip: “I don’t want to be a member of any club that will accept people like me as a member.”)
About the money, though, the “apostle” Pringle once remarked – after suggesting that “maybe I’m Elijah” – about holding the cash back from the Almighty and, coincidentally, His “prophets:”
“And God sends prophets into our lives. He sends messages and ministers and people of God into our lives to unlock a miracle on the inside of us. But it always takes a decision of the will and step of faith to actually bring that out. And that’s what I am – maybe in your life today. Maybe I’m Elijah saying, ‘First take God’s portion and give it to Him. Don’t hold back.” (Source)
You might ask, after bellying up to the Presence Conference soothsayer bar with your 200 dollar “decision of the will and step of faith” – believing that the Holy Spirit, acting like some cosmic pay-to-play, rent-by-the-conference-hour deity – why does God wanna hang with me so badly anyway? And, of course, the reflex answer intended to scratch itching, unregenerate, post-modern ears (2 Timothy 4:3) is quickly whipped out …
“To breathe life into your dreams.”
Ah, and here we are presented with full-blown, unbiblical, gospel harlotry disguised in appealing, subjective, post-modern attire like a slick Madison Avenue ad. The Holy Spirit lives to make your dreams come true. What a God! If a bonafide apostle were here, these greedy for gain hucksters (2 Peter 2:3) would doubtlessly elicit a rebuke that includes the word “emasculate.” (Galatians 5:12) But, since the Word of God is “living,” (Hebrews 4:12) we may appropriate that apostolic rebuke towards the Presence Conference and its featured stage-stomping “voices.”
This is the prosperity gospel. While its language and method are more veiled than, say, Gloria Copeland’s … “Give $10 and receive $1,000; give $1,000 and receive $100,000,” adding that “Mark 10:30 is a very good deal,” (from God’s Will Is Prosperity, 2012) … the Presence Conference offers a spiritual encounter, an experience, that it promises to deliver. This encounter, presumably when properly apprehended by the attendee, is the Holy Spirit breathing life into your dreams. “The worship experience shifts you in moments of awe; every session brings healing and lifts you to your best life.”
But the Osteen-ish phrase, “lifting you to your best life,” is nothing more than language from the false gospel of selfishness bedecked in subjective emotionalism. Such is not the focus of God or the ministry mission of the Holy Spirit. As Dr. Abner Chou wrote in his “Nothing But The Truth” chapter in the recently released book Right Thinking In A Church Gone Astray, “The shift from truth to sentiment has allowed a flood of false teaching and worldly philosophy to enter the church.” The emphasis of feel-good prosperity proferred by the Presence Conference is intrinsically anti-truth.
“The church has jettisoned Scripture for worldly thinking and, as a result, it has become shallow. It offers nothing different than the sentiment of the world because it, in fact, is no different than the world. The church, disconnected from biblical truth, inevitably assimilates into the world and disappears.” Abner Chou
Subsequent to repenting and believing the True Gospel, the prosperity peddlers of the Presence Conference, would do well – along with the rest of us – to consider the sage, convicting words of Charles Spurgeon.
“It is of the utmost importance to us to be kept humble. Consciousness of self-importance is a hateful delusion, but one into which we fall as naturally as weeds grow on a dunghill. We cannot be used of the Lord but that we also dream of personal greatness, we think ourselves almost indispensible to the church, pillars of the cause, and foundations of the temple of God. We are nothings and nobodies … He can easily do without us. If this be the practical lesson, the rough schooling may be easily endured for assuredly it is beyond all things desirable that self should be kept low and the Lord alone be magnified.” (Emphasis added)
Make a note. If you are a regenerate, authentic disciple of Jesus Christ, you don’t need to frolic with charlatans in order to be in the presence of God. His Spirit indwells you. You will see the effects He has in you by your growth in holiness, by the ever-increasing possession of Spirit-produced fruits in your life, and by the continuing growth of your understanding of His Word.
God is everywhere … and He will certainly be at this “Christian” conference but … given its gospel of selfishness, it’s very likely He won’t be real happy. Safely skip this (and most other) “Christian” conference.
Instead … do as Christ said …“abide in my word” (John 8:31) – He is always to be found there …
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]