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
On this week’s episode Coleen and Angela will be discussing MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) with Stephanie Schumacher. Stephanie has written a wonderful article about MOPS. Check out Stephanie’s article Why Your Church (and You, Believer) Should Stop Associating with MOPS International Check out our more extensive resource sheet for this episode here.
A Note From Coleen:
Theology Gals exists to encourage women in the study of God’s Word, sound theology and discernment. When we became aware of the problems with MOPS International, we knew this was an important topic that needed to be addressed. I have spent a lot of my time the last month researching MOPS, including reading Mandy Arioto’s (President and CEO of MOPS) books and speaking with ladies that are currently and were previously involved in MOPS, some in leadership positions.
We are aware that women have various experiences with MOPS as each program can be run differently. We are also aware that some of these programs are diligent in sharing the gospel clearly each week, which we are grateful for. We have been informed of a possible gospel presentation in the MOPS Christmas and/or Easter videos. Our concerns are still the same. The true gospel is not clear in Mandy’s books and it is not central to the MOPS program.
While we state our case strongly, we are not saying anything new. I think most, if not all of our concerns, have been communicated by others to both Mandy Arioto and the MOPS board. You can find the same concerns in “1 star” reviews regarding Mandy’s books on both Amazon and ChristianBook. Sarah Wilkins brought up many of the same concerns in 2016 in her Open Letter to MOPS. As I mention at the end of the episode “when the faith is on the line, the tone is necessarily strong” quoting this article.
I have spoken with women that have brought their concerns to MOPS and some that even spoke with Mandy directly. I’m aware of some of the responses and accusations that may come our way. We are speaking out because we love God and our neighbor, because we love The Church, .
I know that one of MOPS responses to concerns has to do with the number of women that “get saved” at MOPS each year. I have heard stories of some of the testimonies of these women and I’m convinced that some counted in those numbers have no idea what the gospel is. This means they still need the gospel. I have no doubt that some women have come to saving faith in Christ through MOPS programs, I’ve spoken with a few myself. However, we believe that it is necessary for doctrinally sound, gospel preaching churches, to separate from MOPS. We discuss the reasons in detail in the episode.
Theology Gals host
All correspondence should be sent to email@example.com
Extended Resource sheet for this episode
Discernment: Growing Up In Christ Theology Gals Episode
What is the Gospel? Michael Horton (video)
Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International Sarah Wilkins
MOPS and Its Move Away from Biblical Christianity Sarah Wilkins
Mysticism: We Don’t Need You Theology Gals Episode
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Theology Gals Episode
Christless Christianity Michael Horton (video)
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton (book)
Tone Deaf Ref by Carl Trueman
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