The Grace + Knowledge of Heather Lindsey

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When I first discovered Heather Lindsey, I simply thought her to be a social media figure who enjoyed encouraging Christian women. In fact, I used to follow her on Instagram and actually found her memes about relationships and sexual purity insightful social media fodder. From what she presents online, Heather is a woman who is easy to adore and admire. She has a beautiful family and her children have tons of personality. Heather is charming and transparent, being willing to share the dark struggles of her past that she is able to relate to and encourage her following. She is also smart and something of a superwoman. She manages to maintain a blog, write multiple books, run a boutique, co-manage a publishing company, and faithfully serve her international women’s organization Pinky Promise. She also frequently travels for speaking engagements all while managing to be a flawless, fit and fashionable beauty, a loving wife, and a doting mother who takes the most amazing “candids” for her active social media presence. (And at the time of this writing, she’s five months pregnant and still on the go like it’s nothing!)

Clearly, Heather is self-disciplined, highly organized and well-supported. (Meanwhile, I struggle to publish one new blog post per month and drink water everyday.) Watching this woman in action can be both convicting and inspirational. If nothing else, Heather’s got her personal image, branding strategy, Outlook calendar, and support squad on lock. She’s like the Beyoncé of Christendom! (I’m not a Bey fan. But the woman’s work ethic and flawless execution of most things can’t easily be denied.) 

However, for all of the wonderfulness that is Heather Lindsey, there are many, many, many, MANY red flags about her from a ministry perspective. When comparing Heather to the likes of Joyce Meyer or Paula White, who are absolute heretics, I’ve hesitated to categorize Heather under the banner of “false teacher”. Unfortunately, however, a sincere examination of her actions in her local church, her teachings, and her ministerial associations exposes her to be just that.  Unlike Joyce, Heather doesn’t go so far as to blatantly teach a false Christ - at least I didn’t find evidence of this from my research. But she does tend to preach around Christ, regularly bypassing Him to instead teach things that sound “good”, but aren’t beneficial in the grand scheme and eternal purpose of Christ’s Gospel.  As Heather serves up hefty plates of her winsome wisdom, she uses Scripture sparingly - allowing it to serve merely as garnishing.  Sadly, this leads her to regularly preach doctrinal error, contradict herself, and "secretly introduce destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1). The damage she does is more subtle.

As I mentioned in the source piece for this article, it isn't my intention to tear down any of the women who will be profiled in this series. But it is my honest intention to tear down ministries which consistently promote false teachings, no matter my initially lofty opinions of the women behind them. I recently tweeted a Biblically-based admonishment of women in the pulpit and challenged those who support female pastors/preachers to provide evidence of such women in the pulpit rightly dividing the Word of God. A young lady responded by sending me Heather's name as a "female pastor" she believes is qualified to preach. She also submitted links to a couple of Heather's sermons for my review to prove her point. Unfortunately, this move did more to undermine her point and support my own.  As such, I've taken some time to explore Heather's ministry beyond Instagram, giving attention to more than I probably would have ever noticed.  I've already provided a general overview of my findings above. Lengthy details follow. 

“Only Lady”

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In addition to her entrepreneurial endeavors and familial duties, Heather is the “Only Lady” at The Gathering Oasis (GO) church in Atlanta, where her husband Cornelius Lindsey serves as Senior Pastor. While her formal duties as “Only Lady” aren’t explicitly noted on the church’s website, the role is listed as part of the GO “pastoral team” and Heather seems to share in the burden of feeding their flock.  And according to her bio, Heather enjoys "teaching the Word of God." She’s previously defended her preaching before their congregation by noting that her husband is her covering. Unfortunately, that defense isn’t Biblical because by sheer virtue of taking to the pulpit before the assembly of the saints, Heather is still out of order.  She’s still speaking in the very arena and context where Scripture says she must be silent (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:12; ). An honest review of GO’s ministry reveals Heather functions more as “co-pastor”. And while she may be able to skirt some scandal by cleverly reworking her title from “pastor” (which she formerly used)  to “Only Lady”, it’s arguably just another way of saying “Only Lady pastor on staff.”

“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

The Grace and Knowledge of Heather Lindsey?

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Whether Heather is preaching before the GO congregation, teaching women during her Pinky Promise Bible studies and conferences, or “speaking” at Christian conferences across the globe, her teaching is not Biblically sound. She exudes a sincere passion and zealousness for the Lord, but not according to knowledge of the Lord per the full revelation of Scripture. Heather’s teachings may include Biblical references, but she tends to eisegete (read her own interpretation into) Scripture to serve what she desires to discuss rather than discuss in context what the text actually communicates. There are numerous examples of her doing this, including in her recent sermon “Are You Running from God?” at Pinky Promise 2017.  

During this sermon, Heather referenced the Old Testament story of Jonah, who’s famously known for initially rebelling against God’s instructions to go to Nineveh and warn the nation of God’s impending judgment (Jonah 1:1-3). The story of Jonah speaks to God’s grace and sovereignty, even in the midst of our disobedience. It demonstrates the patience of God, who is just to exact judgment, but is gracious enough to first grant us the opportunity to repent. And in the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which was being progressively revealed in the Old Testament), the story of Jonah reveals a stark contrast between mere men who serve the Lord and Jesus Christ, who was the only perfect servant willing and able to do God’s will to the full without ever turning aside. In the context of Heather’s sermon, however, the story of Jonah is merely a talking point to demonstrate our need to do what the Lord called us to do to receive blessings or achieve some obscure, personal, or earthly purpose - “write that book, start that blog, apply to that school,” she says.  In this message she credits no sovereignty or grace to God’s nature, and she inadvertently preaches the fear-based message of “missing out” on God’s blessings if one doesn’t obey “God’s commandments” to, for example, quit their job or move to a new state. Sadly, to support this point, she partially quotes 1 John 5:3 which states, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments…” *Heather stops there. But the verse continues…* “And His commandments are not burdensome.” Here Heather equates God’s commandments to private instructions and extra-biblical revelations. However, this verse is stating that one who loves God will live according to His Word. And living according to God’s Word is not burdensome because those who truly love Him are graced to keep His commandments with the help of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15; Philippians 2:13).

After misapplying scripture, Heather also tends to spiral into what God’s Word calls “vain babbling”, “idle talk” or “empty speech” as she often makes various claims about God’s will and character that are less Biblically-based and than they are based on her personal faith practice and testimonies. She probably doesn’t intend to do this, but Heather often holds up her own life, faith experience and personal revelations as the standard by which her hearers should live and learn about God. Rather than helping those she teaches grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, one tends to walk away from her sermons having instead grown in the knowledge of Heather Lindsey. 

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is” 1 Corinthians 3:11-13.

Pinky Promises v. Repentance

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(Image: Cheryl Holt)

Heather’s sermons can seem safe for digestion because she has a knack for preaching moralism, which - on its face -  isn’t a bad thing. Yet, by failing to root her messages in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, she merely subjects her hearers to legalism - or a works-based salvation, which is a DAMNABLE thing (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Pinky Promise Movement, which she founded in 2012 to encourage women “to honor God with their life and their body” is heavily rooted in “purity culture”. Purity culture is dangerous in three major ways:

1) It promotes self-willed celibacy which is impossible to maintain because it doesn’t stem from true repentance. It requires one to take a vow of abstinence, which places more emphasis on one’s own willpower rather than faith in Christ, through whom we are strengthened to do all things (John 15:5, Philippians 2:13, 4:13).

2) It leads those who practice self-willed celibacy to become puffed up in self-righteousness. They believe they’re in the upper echelon of what it means to be ”good” because they’re not physically engaging in sexual sin - at least not penetrative fornication, because even “good girls” are still willing to engage in “everything else”.

3) It tempts women to use their celibacy as a bargaining chip with the Lord. These women tend to believe their abstinence means God will “bless” them with or “owes” them a husband. This may not be Heather’s intention, yet she doesn’t help prevent the potential for this mindset as she consistently shares her own marriage as a testimony or “proof” that the Lord will reward the sexual purity one practices in singleness with marriage.

Again, encouraging women to be sexually pure isn’t at all a bad thing. It’s just not THE thing, and it is an impossible thing for those without Christ truly at the center of their lives. Preaching celibacy and other forms of morality above Christ only produces spiritually bankrupt “good girls” who not only aren’t born again of the Holy Spirit, but it also leads to women who can grow discouraged and disillusioned with God if He doesn’t “bless” them as and when they believe He should. Many false religions (Catholicism, Islam, etc) teach pre-marital sex is sin, so it is evident that teaching, in and of itself, isn’t the whole of what it means to be in right standing with God. 

Please don’t confuse my words. Sexual purity is a good thing! Fleeing fornication is a necessary thing! But our focus shouldn’t rest on the byproducts of our faith. The emphasis must be on the author and finisher of it. Heather can surely encourage women in chastity, being good wives and mothers and every other good thing (Titus 2:4). But she mustn’t forget to wholly encourage them in Christ, who transforms us and empowers us to work out own our salvation by His grace. The call for older women to teach younger women still requires said teaching to be according to sound doctrine, which builds upon the knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:8-10).

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—  “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).

A Purpose-Driven Lie?

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In addition to focusing her teachings on her personal testimony and moralism, Heather is influenced by and preaches a purpose-driven doctrine that is associated with the “prosperity gospel”. In any given sermon, Heather is liable to speak on the need to be “obedient” to Christ so that one can achieve their “purpose”, get on the other side of their “blessing”, or do what God “called them to do” - which is always individualistic, usually something grandiose and NEVER Gospel-centric. Our obedience to Christ is about abiding in Him through His Word...to yield to the Holy Spirit as He guides us to all truth that we are sanctified, mature in faith, rooted to endure to the end and obtain eternal life (Luke 6:46; John 14:15, 26; Galatians 5:25). What God “called us to do” is repent, believe the Gospel and then share the Good News with others (Luke 5:32; Mark 1:15; Matthew 28:19). Whatever earthly occupation we enter is secondary and automatically flows from our first being focused on the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).

“There are many plans in a man’s heart. But the Lord’s counsel will stand”  (Proverbs 19:21). Contrary to Heather's teachings, we needn’t be occupied with finding or even missing our individual “purpose”. God will be sure we do what it is HE wants us to do with our life. We needn’t be anxious about any of the cares of this life. Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all things will be added” (Matthew 6:33). The Lord, through His Word, also says, “Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3). The point is, God’s got this.  All we need to do is follow the instructions  and do the work Christ has already given us. Scripture already spells out the game plan and prepares us for what God has ALREADY 'called us to do'! "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Anyone running to and fro seeking his “purpose” is unlikely to have settled his identity in Christ (Colossians 2:10, 3:1-3; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 3:2). So while it sounds nice, upon Biblical testing, this “purpose” talk turns out to be deceptive, distracting, empty and vain. It takes the focus off of being fully satisfied in Christ and following His teachings, and it does nothing but breed anxiety and earthly ambition.

Often reflecting on her past struggles with her own “purpose”, Heather says it was during her “silent season” when the Lord encouraged her by telling her she would one day go into ministry, start a church and preach to many. As she stated in a recent Instagram post: “I remember when God told me that I would be preaching in arenas one day as I passed by a stadium in 2011. I’m not a big numbers person, because I will preach to 4. But, I didn’t understand because at that time, we couldn’t get more than 4 people to come to church. I felt like the Lord had to encourage me during that very silent season to remind me that it won’t last always.” Now, I’m not here to speak on what the Lord did or didn’t impress upon her heart. But what I am saying, Biblically speaking, is “encouragement” from the Lord is always IN the Lord, Himself. The Lord encourages His people by reminding us of who HE is and what HE has done, is doing and will do (Jeremiah 29:11; John 16:33; Psalm 46:1-3; Isaiah 41:10; 2 Timothy 1:7; Philippians 4:19, and elsewhere!). We must keep in mind that even as God uses us (in spite of ourselves), it is for HIS specific purpose and ultimate glory (Acts 23:11; Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:28 and elsewhere). What good is being encouraged that we will one day preach before thousands if what we preach before all of those souls is our personal testimony (which can’t save) above the testimony of Jesus Christ (who saves)? What’s the point of having a large platform to be heard if what we speak isn’t the Gospel and we never open up the Scriptures that the hearers might be edified in the revelation of Jesus Christ? Our ultimate purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Psalm 115; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Our purpose is not to have a platform that we be known and our names become great.  God may grant us a platform but again, it would be a means to an end for HIS purpose. And if any man claims to be called to minister in an official capacity, he must know his purpose is to be a faithful steward of the doctrine of Christ (1 Timothy 4:16).

“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:14-16).

Guilty by Association

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In keeping with the errors she teaches, Heather also aligns her ministry with and exposes her adherents to known false teachers. For example, she and her husband have upcoming events where they partner with Touré Roberts and Sarah Jakes-Roberts, who I’ve previously named among six other “pastors” to avoid. (I've also republished Sarah's profile under the "No. Women may NOT be Pastors" series).  Heather is friends with and has ministered alongside Lisa Bevere, who preaches error and is married to John Bevere, prosperity preacher and former board member of Joyce Meyer Ministries. Heather and Cornelius also seem to be fans of false teacher extraordinaire T.D. Jakes, with Heather gloating after she and her husband were featured on the cover of T.D’s and Serita Jakes’ magazine eMotions and she and Cornelius having previously preached at The Potter's House. Heather has also referred her following to study resources and sermons by Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Beth Moore and more.  If none of the aforementioned items are problematic enough for you, and even if you just can't bring yourself to believe Heather is indeed a “false teacher” in her own right, know that scripture makes even those who partner with false teachers guilty by association. "Do not be deceived. Evil company corrupts good habits" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 10-11).

I said all of this to say...

Heather Lindsey, as she presents herself and her family on social media, is one by whom one can easily become captivated. But an honest and objective test of her ministerial activities reveals a “minister” who should not be ministering to the public in any official or functional capacity. She's presently out of order in her own church; she regularly takes to the pulpits of other churches, where she teaches mixed audiences; wherever she preaches she doesn't preach Christ crucified; she preaches errors that subtly chip away from the faith of her hearers; and she associates with and exposes her hearers to false teachers.  As I’ve said before, Heather seems to be sincere in her zeal for the Lord. I don’t (want to) take her to be one who is intentionally attempting to lead others astray for gain. Perhaps she's self-deceived but would repent once she knows the truth? Perhaps she's sincerely immature in the faith and undiscerning, but would get out of these pulpits and stop associating with false teachers after taking more time to study and grow in the Word of God? There's lots of hopeful thinking here. There's many areas requiring prayer for her sake. But as the evidence stands, regardless of Heather's motives or intentions for her actions, she must be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17-18).  One who is sincere about growing in Christ would be wise to repent of listening to her and turn away from her ministry - her church, her conferences, her books, her social media memes -  the whole lot of it. And while Heather has made it clear that she would never receive correction from anyone she doesn't know personally, I plea with her to repent as well according to the authority of God's Word. If she is sincerely the woman many of us had and have thought her to be in the Lord, surely she will hear the truth and respond accordingly.  I was sincerely vexed as I was researching and writing this piece.  But given what I discovered, the reach of Heather's public ministry, and God's instruction to "silence" false teachers (Titus 1:10-11), I know this piece was necessary. I pray it bears fruit.

~ Veritéetfeu

*This profile appears as part of the series "'No. Women May NOT be Pastors.' Where is the lie?" which explores the ministries and teachings of female "pastors" and women who function as such.