To: The Body of Christ at Large
Pastor Jonathan Fries (Music of Life Church – Appleton)
Pastor Joel Swokowski (Music of Life Church – Kimberly)
August 9, 2021
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We write this letter to those who have been hurt by church members, professing christians, and/or Religious authorities. If you have been hurt, this letter is for you. We want you to understand that our main concern is not for ourselves or any one person. Our main concern is to care for the people who are deceived away from the truth that could help them grow, as well as the enabling of the sin of whispering. We want to give you information and understanding that will facilitate your ability to act wisely in these perilous times. We want to help you stand in the face of those who deceive and help you help others who may be deceived as well.
We write to you not in a spirit of pride but in a spirit of meekness. Many of you who read this letter have been serving the Lord longer than we have been alive. Thank you for taking the time to carefully and caringly read this message. We understand if you are asking, “Why is this letter being sent out now?” There are two reasons:
We have given elders in the Body of Christ the opportunity to address this sin. Recently, these elders have made us aware that they will not be helping the Body at Large stand in the face of deception. We have been holding our peace while submitting to their authority, but because they have passed on addressing this deception we believe God is allowing us the privilege to care for those who have been hurt.
The current Chair of the Fox Cities Evangelical Ministers Fellowship (FCEMF) has encouraged and challenged us to make a formal statement about who Music of Life Church is founded on.
We believe the first step in caring for you is to give you the information that will help you be informed as to the context where the enabling of the sin of whispering was exposed.
In 2009, the Fox Cities Evangelical Ministers Fellowship (FCEMF) published a letter written “to the body of Christ at large.” This letter addressed the FCEMF’s view of John Lenhart and his book, “Modeling God: The Meaning of Life.” (A copy of the FCEMF letter from 2009 is added to the end of this letter.)
The letter from 2009 was proven to break the laws of the land (defamation laws in the State of Wisconsin) as well as violating God’s Word in that it committed an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 6:16-19) by sowing seeds of discord among believers.
The biggest issue we see, the issue that led to an abomination to God being committed, was that the Religious authorities involved did not follow the God-Given process to handle an issue with a brother in Christ. John Lenhart wrote a book primarily about God’s Nature and Salvation in order to help those who had been damaged by “The Godless Christianity movement.” In the 14 years since “Modeling God” was published, we do not know one person who has followed the proper necessary steps to address their issues with said book.
The book, “How to Read a Book” by Adler & Van Doren shows the steps a person is meant to follow when dealing with reading any genre of literature. This book is an excellent resource because it gives principles that agree with the laws of the land and the Bible. It gives very clear steps a person ought to take to handle a book in a way that would prevent both whispering and the breaking of defamation laws. One point made is that even if the reader has the intention of critiquing the book, the first two steps to take are:
Read the entire book (not a secondary resource), and
Write a defense for the author.
In the over 14 years since “Modeling God” was published, no one has met with the author who has done both of these steps. If pastors do not know how to properly read a book, can they read and interpret the Bible correctly? We believe “Modeling God” is much less complex than The Living Word of God: The Bible.
It didn’t end with Religious authorities merely having an “issue” with “Modeling God”, said book was judged as “heretical.” This brings up many other issues. A book being “heretical” is at the far end of a spectrum:
The reader can “question” a book
The reader can “feel” like the book is wrong
The reader can state as a fact, “it is wrong”
The reader can judge the book as “heretical”
Notice, there’s nothing wrong with 1 or 2 in and of themselves. Yet, when the reader gets to 3 or 4, the reader must give the right answer to what they’ve stated as wrong and/or judged as heretical. The FCEMF letter from 2009 jumped to the “heretical” judgment end of the spectrum while never giving the right answers to what they stated was “heretical.” Furthermore, if a reader states something is wrong and/or heretical without also giving the right answer (or giving a wrong answer themself), they are only proving that they are wrong and heretical.
After 14 years, no one has read the entirety of “Modeling God”, met with John Lenhart, and shared what was heretical while giving the right answer. Regardless if what John Lenhart wrote in his book is heretical or not, the manner in which John Lenhart and his book were handled by the Religious authorities was wrong and was not in-line with any God-Given Biblical process. This abuse has extended beyond John Lenhart and has directly impacted our two churches.
Us pastors of Music of Life Church find it interesting that the book “Modeling God” is even being talked about. We, and the author of “Modeling God”, have never initiated any of these arguments, debates, discussions, or attacks. We’re writing this letter in response to abuse that has and is currently happening.
Allow us to state the following clearly, each Music of Life Church is founded on Christ as its Cornerstone and God’s Divine and Living Word. We are not founded on any man or on any traditions of men. Our statement of faith is listed on our respective websites.
Our main concern is not for John Lenhart or ourselves. Our main concern is for the people who are deceived away from the truth that could help them grow, as well as the enabling of the sin of whispering. We want to help those people who are deceived, as well as get out of God’s Way so that His Spirit can have free-course in the Fox Cities, the State of Wisconsin, and the entire world.
It has grieved us to our core that after 12 years, we have not seen any pastors show their concern for believers who are being enabled into the sin of whispering.
Now that the background to the issue has been uncovered we want to show you how a Christian would handle this sin of whispering. When a person comes towards you with any “issue” with the book “Modeling God: The Meaning of Life” or the Music of Life Churches - We encourage you to ask the following three questions:
Did you read all of Modeling God?
Did you talk to the author, John Lenhart, or the Music of Life Church pastors about your concerns?
Did you share the right answer behind the doctrine you believe is wrong or heretical?
Not only is this how the Bible states a believer would help these people in sin, but it would also be how Christian leaders would help these people defend themselves. We believe a Christian leader would teach these people who are deceived to ask these three questions from those who are coming towards them with their own issues.
Going forward we want to see all churches alive with the power and might of God’s Spirit. We do not want to see sin hinder God’s plan in your church. We want you to know our plan so that you are not surprised if you hear about us doing the following: We plan to respectfully address every senior pastor when the person committing the sin of whispering is a member of their church.
We are not doing this to condemn those who are committing abominations to God. We are stepping into this issue because we are shepherds who have a heart for God’s people. Please understand, our main concern is for the people who are deceived away from the truth that could help them grow, as well as the enabling of the sin of whispering.
We pray that this information not only helps you, but it also helps others!
Please feel free to reach out to either of us pastors if you have questions or you need clarification. We have a desire to build relationships with other churches and pastors and we want to be a resource for any discussion you’d like to have about this issue. We especially want to form a network with the Christian leaders who want to equip believers in discipleship so those believers can discern truth and avoid sin.
We also want to give you the opportunity to watch the following clip so that you can hear more details, and gain more understanding behind the story of the conflict from 2009. We hope you experience the truth in love from the following clip: https://youtu.be/VDS6ITDO1ug.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Pastor Jonathan Fries
Music of Life Church - Appleton
Pastor Joel Swokowski
Music of Life Church – Kimberly
P.S. In an effort to continue to build a relationship with the FCEMF and reach some level of reconciliation, we gave the current Chair of the FCEMF, Paul Franzmeier, the ability to be heard and to respond to this letter and include any statement he would like before we published it. Here’s the statement he wanted us to include...
From Paul Franzmeier:
Here is my response to the letter: I do not personally agree with the narrative nor the conclusions made in this letter. I would strongly urge that the letter not be published to the body at large. My personal recommendation is to wait for the fcemf leadership team to make a statement on their recent interaction with John Lenhart. I invite Joel and Jonathan to meet face to face with me in order to sort out the difference of this letter and the 2009 letter from the fcemf.
P.P.S. Here’s the original letter published by the FCEMF…
Fox Cities Evangelical Ministers Fellowship (FCEMF) Issues A Statement On Modeletics
To: The Body of Christ at Large
From: The Fox Cities Evangelical Ministers Fellowship
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As evangelical pastors and ministry leaders in the Fox Valley in Northeastern Wisconsin, we have become concerned by the teachings known as “ModeleticsTM,” contained in the book, Modeling God, by John Lenhart, an author from within our local area. Members of our fellowship have investigated the teachings of this book through personal study and analysis, as well as email exchanges with the author and others in the “Modeletics” movement. As those entrusted by God to “guard the flock of God” in this area, we want to let you know that the teachings of Modeling God trouble us deeply.
We find that the teachings of Modeling God significantly contradict the basic tenets of Biblical Christianity, as summarized in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. The errors in this teaching include:
The nature of God – Modeling God tends to depersonalize God, describing him as “a set of noncontradictory principles,” and to limit God’s sovereign ability to act according to his will.
The nature of Christ – Modeling God says that Jesus is not fully God in his essence and nature, but only becomes fully God through his choices and actions.
The nature of sin – Modeling God says that sin is not the violation of God’s objective standard, but is subjectively and relatively defined, depending upon the understanding and experience of the individual.
The nature of grace and salvation – Modeling God denies salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Instead, salvation depends upon the actions of the individual moving toward righteousness. The atonement of Christ on the cross has little or no role in the salvation of individuals. Grace is the divine influence on a person, for which the person must “pay” through accumulated acts of righteousness.
The nature of prayer – Modeling God sees prayer as an exchange between God and the person praying. Only if the person praying has accumulated enough favor with God will the prayer be answered.
The basis of theology – Modeling God bases its theological system almost entirely upon logic and self-authenticating assertions, with little attempt to base its teachings upon the revelation of God in Scripture. There is little attempt to engage with 2,000 years of Christian theology, other than to simply dismiss it.
We in the Fox Cities Evangelical Ministers Fellowship represent a wide variety of denominational and non-denominational churches and ministries, united in the purpose of promoting prayer, fellowship, and encouragement among the member ministers and ministries, as well as provide a united evangelical “voice” in the community when
necessary. In response to the teachings of Modeling God and the loss of a number of families in several of our churches to these erroneous teachings, we are compelled to respond. We deem the teachings of Modeling God to be heretical teachings that are incompatible with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, as laid out in Scripture and the Church’s teaching through history.
We are attempting to be guided by God’s Word:
We proclaim [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ … My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments … See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 1:28, 2:2-4, 8
As the Lord’s undershepherds, our goal is to present everyone under our care perfect in Christ. Accordingly, we want to collectively and strongly warn the Body of Christ against the teachings of Modeling God, which appear to us to be based on human reasoning and deceptive philosophy. Only in Christ will we find all the treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge. We believe that the teachings of Modeling God have the potential to lead people significantly astray from the only One who can truly save, Jesus Christ. We would encourage all who encounter this teaching to have nothing to do with it.
We write this for the encouragement and building up of the Body of Christ and for the glory and praise of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht, Chairman
Fox Cities Evangelical Ministers Fellowship
N1966 Julius Drive, Greenville, WI 54942
Rev. William B. Acker, Secretary
Fox Cities Evangelical Ministers Fellowship
1750 Olde Buggy Drive, Neenah, WI 54956