By Stephanie Schumacher
If you are a mother, then my guess is at some point you have heard of MOPS International. The acronym stands for Mothers of Preschoolers and the organization has been partnering with churches around the world for more than four decades. MOPS claims to create an environment where women can come to socialize, receive childcare, support one another, and be equipped to grow in their faith. According to their website:
MOPS International is committed to telling the truth of the saving work of Jesus Christ, of God’s grace to mankind, of the reality of the Trinity and the role of the Church in God’s plan for the world.
These are some of the reasons why I decided to join a group myself. My husband and I had just moved to a new city and the church we were attending was hosting a MOPS group, so for this mother of two it seemed to be the perfect fit. Since attending MOPS, I met a wonderful group of women who greatly blessed me by providing meals for my family after the birth of our second child, and who encouraged me in the many issues surrounding motherhood. I can say that I love the women who were in my group, and even if we have never met before, I feel the same affection for the countless other women all around the world that are part of this community.
Now based on what I’ve said so far, it may come as a shock to you that I am calling for every professing Christian who is a part of MOPS to stop associating with the organization, bring this to your pastor and elders, and remove it from your church.
I write those words with great sadness, as it brings me no joy to share what is outlined below. However, I do it out of love and concern as it has become painfully obvious that MOPS is openly promoting false teachings, teachers, and worst of all, failing to give the thousands of women who join MOPS each year what they need most — the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To understand why I am making such a bold claim, let’s focus on the core issue: the distortion of the gospel.
So, what does MOPS say the good news is? On an all leader call, June 22, 2016, the MOPS CEO Mandy Arioto explained the good news in the following way:
“Here’s the thing, we live amongst a generation of people of women of families who are famished physically and spiritually, families who are looking for something. But here’s the thing, people are so interested in finding hope that they have no idea what the good news is, and they haven’t found it amongst the followers of Jesus until now. We are people who are reclaiming the good news, who are walking out among the way of the one we follow, a man named Jesus, and bringing good news to hurting people. 8 million people are leaving the church every year and so we are taking serious responsibility for the fact that we need to be people who come bearing the good news, reclaiming the good news. And what is good news? Good news is friends when you are lonely, it is food when you are hungry, it is kindness with no strings attached, it is food when your baby is sick. Good news is Jesus. And it is the embarrassingly extravagant love of God.” (Minute 7:28)
That statement certainly is not the good news according to Scripture. So, what is the good news then? Let’s rewind for a moment and start with the bad news. The bad news is that we are all sinners in desperate need of a Savior. Our sin makes us enemies of God, as He is perfectly holy and perfectly just. These two characteristics require that His wrath be poured out against us and justice be served.
The true gospel, the actual good news is this: The life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. In God’s redemption plan, with Him being perfectly loving and full of mercy, He entered into His own creation by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to take on human flesh, being fully man and fully God, and live the sinless life we could not live. As a substitution for us, Jesus willingly went to the cross, took on the wrath of God, died, and was buried. Three days later He rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God, having conquered both sin and death.
If you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and put your trust in Him, you will be saved. Not by works or anything you can do; but only by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. When God looks at you, He will no longer see your sin; for you will be clothed in the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:23-25, ESV)
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world… and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2: 1-2, 3-5, 8-9, ESV)
Now you may be wondering, was Mandy’s explanation of the gospel taken out of context? Did she misspeak? My answer is a resounding no.
Her inaccurate explanation of the gospel is not limited to a single statement made on a conference call. The twisting of Scripture and the gospel message is a consistent theme throughout her books as well. One example of this comes from Mandy’s most recent book Have More Fun, where she quotes from Luke 2:10-11, and then summarizes it as “Good news, great joy, for all people. That is Jesus.” (Page 151) Although she mentions the birth of Jesus and the love of God, she withholds any of the foundational truths of the gospel itself, leaving you with a hollow human-centered message that is unable to save.
As the head of an organization that claims to promote and believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ, between her two books, a combined 378 pages, she never once delivers the true gospel.
Here is what she did take time to deliver.
MOPS encourages participants to buy Mandy’s books and includes them in the leader curriculum. In both Starry-Eyed and Have More Fun, her two books that have been published since her time as the MOPS CEO, she cites and endorses the work of false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing. For brevity sake I am going to focus on three.
Let’s start with a direct quote by Mandy in Starry-Eyed:
“One of my favorite books is The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by Celtic mystic John Philip Newell.” (Page 93)
Since she claims that this is one of her favorite books, I think it is reasonable to assume that she agrees with and supports the ideas in this book, including the following: the denial of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the denial that Jesus died as a substitute for our sin.
“…the cross has been so strongly linked with a particular doctrine of salvation. They [talking about Christians] have either been explicitly taught or given the impression that a price needed to be paid for God’s forgiveness, and that price was the death of Jesus. The teaching is often referred to as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Although a payment needed to be made, says the doctrine, we are not worthy to make the payment ourselves, so a substitute sacrifice was needed. Jesus died on our behalf to propitiate the anger of God.
One of the problems with this doctrine is that it runs counter to our deepest experiences of love. Who are the people who have most loved us in our lives amid our failures and betrayals? Could we imagine them ever requiring payment to forgive us? True love is free. Perhaps so much wrong has been done by this doctrine that the cross has become an irredeemable symbol for many, both within the Christian household and beyond. But I hope not. I hope it can be redeemed because, essentially, it is a symbol of the mystery at the heart of Christianity’s great gift to the world – the belief that love can reconcile all things.” (The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 107)
“What if we had realized long ago that the important thing is not getting the world to believe what we believe, getting others to subscribe to particular beliefs about Jesus? The important thing is inviting the world to believe with Jesus, to believe in the way of love… What matters is whether they believe in love. What matters is whether, with Jesus, we are following the way of love, for this is all we need. Love is all we need.”
(The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 116)
“The great offering of Christ to humanity was not about salvation from the world. It was about salvation of the world. Jesus showed a way of transformation from the injustices and violence that dominate the world of international relations and domestic affairs.” (The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 78)
Mandy also quotes from Rob Bell who is a well-known apostate. He rejects that the Bible is the inerrant, authoritative, only true Word of God, and similar to Newell, he does not believe that Jesus needed to die as an atonement for our sins.
“Did Jesus Have to Die? No. He didn’t. He was killed.” (What is the Bible?, Page 241)
“God didn’t need to kill someone to be ‘happy’ with humanity. What kind of God would that be? Awful. Horrific.” (What is the Bible?, Page 245)
“That’s what the Bible is. It wasn’t written by a third party somewhere in the sky who passively and objectively tells you what the plan is. It was written by real people in real places at real times doing their best to make sense of it all.” (What is the Bible?, Page 244)
“So one of the main points of the library of books [the Bible] that some refer to as the word of God is that there are lots of words of God and you can and should listen to them all? Exactly.” (What is the Bible?, Page 267)
In Have More Fun, Mandy quotes from Richard Rohr, who describes himself on his website as “a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition.” Rohr is a false teacher who has a completely heretical view on the gospel, sin, salvation, and Jesus Christ himself.
“The gospel for me, is Jesus’ announcement of the shape of reality, and the effect that it has is that it re-aligns you inside of the universe, not in the false-self but in the true-self.” (https://youtu.be/nVonW-cX-j0 Time Stamp 0:25)
“Sin and salvation are correlative terms. Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact, salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. That is how transformative divine love is. If this is not the pattern, what hope is there for 99.9 percent of the world? We eventually discover that the same passion which leads us away from God can also lead us back to God and to our true selves.” (Falling Upward, Page 60)
“As Christians do, to formally say Jesus is God is bad theology it is incorrect.” (https://youtu.be/MnTC4NNIACk Time Stamp 23:27)
Are you shocked? I was too, but it is impossible to deny the weight of the evidence. There is no way that an organization that is actually committed to telling the truth of the saving work of Jesus Christ can promote blatant falsehoods like these. The MOPS logo sits at the end of each one of Mandy’s books. As the CEO she speaks for the entire organization. Therefore, the only conclusion we can reach is that Mandy Arioto and MOPS are knowingly promoting a false gospel to mothers around the world.
Call to Action
The Bible has many warnings and commands concerning false teachers and false gospels, providing us with answers on what we are to do when faced with a situation such as this.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11, ESV)
Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. (2 John 1:9-11, ESV)
Now I am not a theologian; I am a mother of two. I don’t have a PhD and I can’t deliver an eloquent speech. But do you know what I can do? I can tell what is and what is not truth, because I know the Word of God, and therefore can recognize when someone is distorting it. And what does the Bible tell us to do when we encounter a gospel that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Writing to the Galatians Paul answered this exact question…
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:8-10, ESV)
In closing, my sincere hope is that the church (and you, believer) will turn away from MOPS International and start sharing with these moms the thing they need more than anything else – the only good news that we have – the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Check out Theology Gals Episode It’s Time to Say Goodbye to MOPS International
Stephanie Schumacher is a Christ follower, wife to the love of her life, and mother to 2 precious girls. She and her family reside in a small town in the Midwest.
All correspondence should go to firstname.lastname@example.org
When I started having children I was going to do everything right as a mom and my children were all going to grow up and live committed Christian lives. That was the plan at least. So many things didn’t turn out the way I planned, but the Lord has used some of those difficult things in my life.
My oldest son Jonathan was an intelligent and determined kid from the time he was quite young. He was an early talker and once he started, he never stopped. He’s almost 21 now and we’re still listening. He always loved to sing the Psalms and hymns. Before he was three he could sing through all verses of his favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. On Sunday evenings when our church would take hymn requests, his hand was the first up. He had many favorites, oftentimes it was whatever hymn we’d been working on in family worship.
As a little kid he loved playing pretend church. He received a children’s microphone and mic stand for his fourth birthday. He would set it up in front of the fireplace and say, “We’re doing church now.” He’d get frustrated with his little brothers when they wouldn’t sit still while he led music and preached a mini sermon. It wasn’t just the playing though; he liked to talk about the Lord and things from Scripture and discuss what he was learning from the children’s catechism.
At four-and-a-half years old he came to me and said, “Mommy, if Jesus paid for all my sins, why did he only die on the cross once?” I tried explaining but he looked at me puzzled and said, “Can you call Pastor now and get the right answer?” He wasn’t satisfied with Pastor’s answer either, declaring it was “too much.” When an OPC Pastor friend was visiting, he gave Jonathan an answer that made sense to him and that he finally understood. These were the sorts of things he was thinking about and trying to understand at an early age.
I was encouraged from the time he was young that he was thinking through things of the Christian faith. During family worship he was excited to learn, loved to ask and answer questions and prayed fervently. He was determined to memorize the Children’s Catechism and had all 145 answers memorized by the time he was six-and-a-half. We sometimes even wondered if he would be a pastor one day. As he got older he became increasingly passionate about the Christian faith. He was unashamed and would talk to anyone who would listen. By middle school he was learning more about apologetics and reading various Christian books. We continued to have these amazing conversations with him about the faith. We were convinced he had truly trusted in Christ.
Then everything changed.
I really can’t tell you exactly when, but sometime in high school he began questioning things. Our family had entered into a difficult season. I became very sick and was in and out of the hospital, and I knew he feared losing me. It changed our lives in many ways. He observed me in excruciating pain and physical misery. We also suffered several losses close together. My children have been to more funerals than some adults. He witnessed the difficult and untimely deaths of several people close to us, both family and friends, including the suicide of a family member. We became well acquainted with the horrors of cancer and other life threatening ailments. He saw the suffering of many and he himself was suffering, as he had begun to struggle with depression and anxiety. And then he revealed something I’d began to suspect. One day he said something to me I’ll never forget. “I can’t believe in a God who allows those who love Him to suffer so much.”
I was crushed. What had I done wrong? Did he not see me trusting Christ in the midst of suffering? Had he not been listening when I shared of my comfort in Christ through this difficult season? What could I do to get him to understand? It’s been a few years since that day, when my mother’s heart broke. The Lord has used this in my life in so many ways and I’ve learned many things.
- The importance of grace in our parenting
Around the time I first found out he was questioning things, I knew it wouldn’t be long, a few short years, before he’d be 18 and possibly out of our home. I asked myself a question: “What is the most important thing I want my children to understand before they leave home?” The gospel was that thing, but how was I going to do that? I’d already been preaching the gospel to him since he was a baby.
It was around that same time that I had a conversation with someone I’d attended church with as a teenager. We had reconnected after many years. I learned he had left the church and so I asked him “why?” He answered, “I was never good enough for my parents. How was I ever going to be good enough for God?”
His answer shocked me because the church he and I attended was excellent about preaching the gospel of justification by faith alone. It made no sense to me how he obviously didn’t understand the gospel at all. I did a lot of research and spoke with several people about it and became convinced that we as parents can help or hurt our children’s understanding of the gospel by our parenting. So often, we are focused more on obedience itself than the “why” of obedience. We excel at preaching the law in our home, but the gospel is often an afterthought. This can be damaging to our children.
I learned from and was encouraged by the stories I’d heard through the years from both Rod and Ted Rosenbladt (father and son). They both have very specific stories of how they understood the gospel and God’s unconditional love for them because of the grace their earthly fathers displayed. Legalism isn’t the answer. All law and no gospel isn’t the answer. Getting your children to obey perfectly apart from the gospel is not the answer.
I’ve noticed whenever I talk about grace in parenting, some people get nervous or uncomfortable because of assumptions that are sometimes made about what it looks like. We had Dr. Scott Keith on the Theology Gals podcast to talk about his book Being Dad: Father as a Picture of God’s Grace. He said something that I believe to be extremely important in this discussion: “Permissiveness is not synonymous with grace.” Parenting in a way that demonstrates the gospel in our home is not some “hyper-grace” or antinomian parenting model. It’s not permissive parenting. While we’ve attempted to demonstrate grace in our home while preaching the gospel to our children, there are still rules and punishment for indiscretions. We preach both the law and the gospel to our children appropriately. But there are also opportunities for demonstrating grace. Dr. Keith’s book tells many of those stories, a couple of which he shared on our podcast. Dr. Keith in his tribute to Dr. Rod Rosenbladt on Being Dad says:
“Though I have always wanted compliant children, I am proud to say that I think I have throttled that sinful desire enough to have raised gracious and kind children instead who know that they are forgiven on account of Christ.”
- Trusting in the Lord for my children’s salvation
I didn’t realize it immediately when my son confessed his unbelief, but sometime later it hit me: I was trusting in myself for my children’s salvation and not in the Lord. I thought I was trusting in the Lord for their salvation, but I really wasn’t. I believed the lie that if I just did everything right, took them to church, taught them the Bible, prayed with them, protected them from the world and so on, that of course they’d trust in Christ and walk with the Lord and never live in rebellion.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do the things I mentioned, we absolutely should train them in the Lord, but we must not forget that salvation is of Him. We must trust in Him for our children’s salvation. When the Lord convicted me of this and through repentance, prayer, and His work in me, I began to trust Him and something amazing happened: the Lord gave me great peace. God’s power is far greater than we often recognize, and there’s great peace and joy in trusting in His work in our children’s lives, and trusting in our Lord’s goodness and sovereignty.
I know that by even writing this and revealing I have a son who doesn’t walk with the Lord that some people may be asking, “I wonder what they did wrong that their son rebelled?” I probably would have thought the same thing once upon a time. And it’s not because I have a son who rebelled that my views have changed. I was wrong to believe that my children’s salvation was a result of the things I did.
Someone asked a question in a large Reformed Facebook group about whether it’s the parents’ fault if a child rebels. Had you asked me 20 years ago, I would have answered the same way most of the other parents of young children did, “Of course.” There was a clear difference between the way young parents commented on that post than parents with older children did. While yes, the Lord can and will use our obedience in training our children in “the way they should go,” those things do not promise they will never rebel. Even if we have a child in rebellion now, it doesn’t mean the Lord isn’t working in their lives to bring them to salvation. I’m grateful we taught our son Scripture, that he memorized the catechism, and understands the gospel. I pray the Lord uses these and will bring him to saving faith in Christ. I find comfort in the sovereignty, wisdom and love of God.
- The idol of obedient children
Our homeschool mom’s group did a study together and we talked about idols women can have: a good marriage, a clean house, and obedient children. Some women objected to the idea that good things could become idols, but they absolutely can.
Michael Horton says:
“We picture idolatry as the worship of something evil. However, most of our idols are good servants, that we have made lords.”
The Heidelberg Catechism on idolatry:
Q. What is idolatry?
A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in the Word.
Obedient children was one of my idols. And I was trusting in myself over God to work in my children’s lives to bring them to salvation. I was often more concerned with what other people observed than I was with my children’s hearts. I even gave myself credit and was proud of myself when my children did seek the Lord and live in obedience. When our children do come to saving faith, it is because of the work the Lord has done in their lives. It is He who makes one alive when they were previously dead in their trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:5
- He’s still my son
One day an old friend of mine asked me in a general way, “How’s Jonathan doing?” I explained that he was doing well, had a good job, a new apartment, was hoping to marry his girlfriend one day. In response she said, “Oh, I thought he didn’t believe in Christ and wasn’t going to church anymore.”
I understand she may have been referring to how he was doing spiritually, but I sensed it was more than that and it brings up something which concerns me. There’s anattitude from some parents when their children rebel, something I’m not sure I can describe well, it’s like they’re being given the message that they just aren’t good enough. The thing is, none of us are good enough, that’s why we need Christ. I think if we give our children this message, we’re neglecting to really give them the message of the gospel.
My son is still friends with several people he grew up with from our homeschool co-op and many of them have left the church. This response from their parents is something that these other kids sense. Jonathan has told me on several occasions that some of these friends will speak poorly of Christians, I think in part because of this attitude, and because of the legalism they grew up in. Jonathan tells me about these conversations he has with his friends who have also left the church. I was a bit surprised when he explained that he tells them, “Not all Christians are like that. My parents aren’t like that.” I think many of them view the heart and theme of Christianity as a list of rules rather than the gospel.
The same things that were important to teach and demonstrate to my son in his teenage years, continue to be important now. Being good enough is not the right response to our non Christian children, the gospel is. Unfortunately in some of our circles, I see lots of law and little gospel. This creates the hopelessness the friend I grew up with felt when he told me, “I could never be good enough for my parents. How will I ever be good enough for God?”
Why would we show less love in our interactions with our own child than we do to our non-Christian neighbor? Of course our relationship with our non-Christian child will have some differences from our relationship with our Christian child. I am grateful however to have a good and close relationship with my son still. I think that, because we’ve maintained that close relationship, he has felt free to continue to ask us questions about Scripture and the Christian faith. I have failed at times though, in my responses to Jonathan, and become defensive when it feels like an attack on my faith. I’m still learning.
The Lord will use this for my good and His glory
I don’t know what the Lord’s plans are for my son, but I can tell you the Lord has already used this experience in my life. I have told those close to me that this has been an exercise in trusting in the Lord. This has been a sort of trial in my life and I’ve experienced some suffering because of it. On the Theology Gals episode on suffering, we talked about some of the reasons laid out in Scripture for suffering, along with the ways the Lord uses our suffering and trials. I’ve witnessed some of those things first hand through this season which has included a difficult illness, the loss of people I love, and my son’s unbelief.
While my heart is still broken by my son’s lack of faith, the Lord has used this to teach me to trust Him and to draw me closer to Himself. It’s easy for us to blame ourselves when our children make bad decisions and fail to walk with the Lord. I’m sure many parents have had occasion to ask themselves, “What did I do wrong?” There isn’t a parent alive who hasn’t had failures in their parenting since we are sinners. The good news is, the gospel isn’t just for our children, it’s for us parents too.
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