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What could be wrong with learning to “hear God’s voice”?

praying womanWhat could be wrong with learning to “hear God’s voice”?

Recently I heard about a Christian youth conference in Anchorage, Alaska, called Fusion, that drew more than 800 teenagers and church youth workers from across the state. In addition to performances by nationally known music artists, the conference featured “training classes” on a variety of topics to help students grow in their faith. Two of these classes promised to teach them “how to hear God’s voice.” This concerned me because I know this is a common New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) teaching used to initiate people into their worldview.

The problem with learning to hear God’s voice, in the NAR manner, is that people are being taught to turn to a subjective impression instead of the objective truth of God’s Word. As an example of this type of teaching, I share this link to an audio recording of a talk titled “Hearing God’s Voice.” It was given recently at Tree of Life Church in Palmer, Alaska, and is representative of similar talks being given at churches throughout the nation.

During this particular talk, the speaker, Shannon Johnson, leads attendees in a series of “activation” exercises–i.e., activities designed to help individuals learn how to hear God speak to them directly. The audio is lengthy, so I’ve noted time stamps where specific teachings begin alongside my comments about those teachings. I didn’t list everything I’m concerned about, but just brief highlights. There’s a lot more that’s disturbing in this audio than I will mention here.

God the ‘chatterbox’

00:00 Johnson starts out by directing her audience to doodle on the table they’re seated at to or write on a piece of paper what they hear God saying to them. Sharpies, crayons, and markers are provided for this purpose.

06:56 Johnson explains that the key to a relationship with God is talking with him, and especially listening to him. This is because he loves them and desires to talk with them. In fact, God talks so much, according to Johnson, that her favorite name for him is “Mr. Chatterbox.” Ways he speaks, in addition to Scripture, include audibly and through dreams, colors, music, the senses of taste and smell, “words of knowledge,” and “prophetic words.”

God the Beatles fan

17:35 Johnson tells about a time God spoke to her by singing a Beatles song to her–the song “Revolution.” Through this song he spoke to her about a “love revolution” and how he  is “awakening” the bride of Christ (the church). (The “awakening of the Bride” refers to a popular NAR teaching.) She claims that at the very moment she was singing this Beatles song, she received a text message from a friend saying, “I was praying for you and God was singing the Beatles over you. He was singing words from a Beatles song, ‘love, love, love’ (the harmony from Love is All You Need).” Johnson jokes that God is a Beatles fan.

20:00 Johnson cautions her audience that they need to learn to discern what is truly God’s voice and what is merely their own voice because their own voice “can sometimes be a little selfish.” But her word of caution is undermined by a heavy self-interest throughout the rest of her talk.

20:15 She tells people to practice hearing from God through journaling and through prophesying to their friends. She emphasizes over and over that they’ll get it wrong but, no worries, “God doesn’t care at all”  because he’s excited that they’re seeking him.

24:05 Johnson prepares her audience to begin the activation exercises by telling them to repeat the words, “I’m open” (expressing a willingness to hear what God wants to say to them). She then tells them to ask God a series of questions and record his responses to those questions. She says they should record the first thought that pops into their head, or the first emotion they feel, or first smell they experience–even if they feel ridiculous doing so. She says not to dismiss these things because God speaks through them. The questions she tells them to ask God include “What is your favorite thing about me?” and “Tell me a time when you were most proud of me.”

God the television buff

41:00 Johnson shares times God spoke to her and her husband through television programs. For example, one time God revealed to an acquaintance that she is like one of the main characters in Parks and Recreation.

46:50 Johnson tells the audience to put into practice what they have learned by prophesying to the person sitting to the right of them. To aid them, she tells them to ask God to highlight one of the objects sitting on the table in front of them, such as chewing gum, and, through the object, to bring something to mind that will encourage that person.

Editing God

Before the practice session begins, Johnson lays some ground rules: Don’t say anything weird and don’t say anything negative. I find her “no weirdness” rule to be odd in light of her own her own earlier admission that the thoughts that pop into their head while they’re prophesying might seem ridiculous to them. And I find her “no negativity” rule to be equally odd. Regarding this rule, she says that if God, for some reason, says something negative about the person they’re prophesying to they should keep it to themselves or ask God to put a positive spin on it. So, she’s teaching people to edit God?

Just go with it

A couple last observations. First, throughout her talk, Johnson acknowledges that people in the room might feel uncomfortable with things she’s telling them to do, but advises them to just go along with it. Her pressure to do things that make them feel uncomfortable is alarming, but common in the NAR. People need to be aware of it. Second, Johnson’s lengthy teaching is remarkably devoid of Scripture. Though she references a verse here or there to assure her audience that God cares about them, she never grounds her teachings and practices about how to hear God’s voice in the Bible. This is a glaring omission.

The question of whether God still speaks today is relevant and a good one for me to address in another post. But what I want to point out here is that the way people in the NAR are being taught to hear God’s voice is nowhere in line with the Bible.


Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

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20 Responses to “What could be wrong with learning to “hear God’s voice”?”

  1. Friend in Christ Says:

    Thank you, Holly, for keeping us all aware of what is going out in the church.  Your insight is helping to train us on what to look for and how to respond to the growing apostasy.  Keep up the good work!

  2. Jeff Says:

    These NAR conferences are like a potpourri of heresy, peppered with occult practices. I’m looking forward to what you’ve seen in the scriptures related to hearing God’s voice.

  3. Hopeful Says:

    Hi Holly, Thank you for your important insight and knowledge regarding this matter…. It is so important to stay informed and know what to look for regarding these false teachings…

  4. Rae Says:

    Interesting that Noah, Abraham, Moses, and all the Old Testament Prophets didn’t need a course in “Hearing God’s Voice.” Nor did the Apostle Paul. They didn’t have to go through practice sessions with “activation” exercises. When God really speaks, there is no doubt about Who is doing the speaking. Hebrews 1:1-2 clearly states that in these last days, God has spoken to us through His Son. (Notice the past tense in “has spoken.”) Indeed Christ has spoken through the Gospels and the Apostles’ teachings in the New Testament about the Faith that was once for all delivered. God does speak in these last days through the completed canon of Scripture. Therein lies wonderful truth, encouragement, precious promises, and life everlasting. One must be very cautious of what has been written in this article for the enemy can take full advantage of such a situation.

  5. Leland Nash Says:

    This is not a new Apostolic Reformation but rather casual collateral damage from baby boomers (many from the Jesus People movement).  I think largely arises in a lack of convinced belief in: 1) the Holiness (otherliness) of God, 2) the lowly state and depravity of man  3) the Solas of the historical reformation  (which quite frankly, much of today’s  evangelicals tossed out the door when wandering down the path of decision theology).  The invisible church in Alaska (i.e. ecclesiastic of true Christ believers) needs itself a major reformation)- esp. in FBX!

  6. Leland Nash Says:

    (In fact, those promoting this new ‘Apostolic Reformation’  may well be what the reformers of the historical reformation referred to as “Enthusiasts”, which was NOT a term of endearment- see http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=1191).

  7. Dave Says:

    Thank you Holly for this article and for your research and writing on NAR and their non-Biblical teaching. It’s amazing how mainstream NAR, and related groups, are becoming. The lack of discernment is a result of a lack of devotion to and spending time in God’s Word. Please keep up the excellent and important to the Kingdom work.

  8. Hope Wingo Says:
  9. ccinsc Says:

    I find the encouragement about “no worries” regarding false prophecies to be particularly alarming. Can there be anything more damning about the movement then the conditioning of its followers to unquestioningly accept the inevitable unfulfilled ‘prophecies’ and their associated letdowns?

  10. Lynne Says:

    Her irreverence in calling the Lord a Mr. Chatterbox and saying that God sang her a Beatles song clearly reveals what voice she is hearing. This is so deceptive and she is following “another Jesus” leading many over the cliff with her.

  11. Scott Says:

    Hi Holly I spoke with you about week or so ago about a book recommendation about whether God still speaks today. I had a yahoo email account in which I cannot access anymore so I had to open up a Gmail account. I had your book recommendation in my yahoo email–Could you please give me that book recommendatiin again? Sorry for any inconvenience!  Thank you

  12. Holly Says:

    Scott, it’s no inconvenience. The book is about how to find God’s will, and it’s called Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen. It’s only $1.99 right now on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Decision-Making-Will-God-Alternative-ebook/dp/B002RLBKEA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

  13. Scott Says:

    Thanks again! Goodday!

  14. Becky Says:

    ‘Hearing God’s voice’ is an ongoing topic in ywam as well. Even though I work with this organization, I have my questions about it…

  15. curt bond Says:

    Yea! Hearing God is very important,but we have teachers that are seducing the body of Christ. I hear it all the time: God said this and God said that, and told me to were red socks , and my whole day he talked with me about everything. Who is he? The devil is smart, and knows how to deceive. I’m sorry, but I do hear HIS voice, and most of the time, I cry when HE chooses to talk with me.  He doesn’t talk like men, or the devils, or even holy angels, HE has HIS own way, and if you know HIM, you will know HIS voice. The bible instructs our way, to know HIM, so learn the way by being with HIM, not someone trying to activate you. New Age thinking has come into the church, realize it, and reject it. I was at a meeting where the leader had the people ‘chanting the scriptures’, this I publicly rebuked as new age thinking, we are not to chant anything, but to give thanks for all we have, instead. Grow up church! Discern the face of the enemy!  Stop the false prophets and pastors now! Learn of God, by spending time with HIM in praise, worship, songs, prayer, the Word, and quality fellowship!

  16. John P. Says:

    Holly you have my respect for exposing these false teachers, and for wading into this cesspool of so-called bible teachers and leaders in the Health & Wealth, raising the dead, tongues and NAR stupidity. 
    Shannon Johnson is typical of this craziness.  This woman and other speakers like her will never listen to anyone who rightly rebukes their error, no matter how strongly you’ve proved to them their error.  And I think it’s the same for those deluded followers of people like her.  

  17. David A Says:

    Shawn Bolz seems to be taking center stage among the NAR folks.   Just curious about him , his background,  and is there anyone else who sees his prophecies as largely Facebook digging.     Notice there is never any negative comments, nor comments outside what is already publicly known.    People are eating it up,   and he is selling books in the process.

  18. Richard Gault Says:

    This is a seriously deluded unchristian heresy hunting website. It is demonic and not Christian love at all. I pray it goes away…..

  19. Stephanie Says:

    Mr. Gault, can you tell me what, to you, is truth? What, in your opinion, isn’t “demonic unchristianity”? What is wrong with “it” (I’m guessing you’re talking about this website)?


  20. Frank Gill Says:

    Hi Holly!
    I just want to say that ALL YWAM (Youth With A Missin) bases in their three months Dicipleship Training School (DTS), have: “Learn to hear Gods voice” as a topic.

    My wife and I took a DTS 20 years ago and was at that time 100% for this organization, but now unfortunately, because of a lot of unbiblical teaching, we warn people to stay away from YWAM.


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