Teen Mania Ministries’ devilish bargains

Having just watched “Mind Over Mania” on MSNBC, I was reminded of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4. Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off a roof and quotes Scripture: “[God] will command his angels concerning you…” In other words, jump and God will catch you.

Jesus replied, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Oddly enough, during the documentary, Teen Mania chief Ron Luce said that the boot-camp like hazing of his Honor Academy’s ESOL program was intended to force kids (a) to dig deep inside to find extra strength and (b) to really depend on God.

We have two big problems even after we realize that (a) and (b) contradict (why do we need to dig deep into our strength if we’re depending on God?).

First, in the context of Christian theology, a biblical leader ought to teach kids to seek God’s strength, not their own strength.

Second, Luce is leading kids to tempt God by pushing themselves to physical and emotional limits with the thought that such exertions might cause them to really depend on God.

From a Reformed perspective, absolutely nothing Luce and his staff said in the interviews had anything to do with kids receiving the completed work of Christ on their behalf — thus making Teen Mania’s abuse and hazing counterproductive to any sense of Christianity.


8 responses to “Teen Mania Ministries’ devilish bargains

  1. I was an intern back in 98 my overall experience was mostly positive. I learned and grew a lot. Yet in anyplace you go you can always pick up something bad or an Idea or form a wrong one. I had some of the negative experiences that took some time to get free of afterwards. I feel lucky that some of the things some suffered didn’t get me or that it’s not something I have had to deal with. I really tried to find the video to watch but I can only find the promo so I’m not really sure whats up. There are some things I look back at and have spoken to with other alumni(now being older) were we recognize and think some things were just stupid and had nothing to really do with drawing near to God. I have heard of some esol or pearl or whatever it is called now some really good things that people took out of it. I’ve also heard of some really bad things to. As far as I know its optional and from perspectives I have now in life… Unless God came down in a cloud and told me to do esol I wouldn’t do it. lol…. The honor academy is way different from the acquire the fire and there missions stuff. I tell and even warn people about the honor academy to be really really sure that God is calling them to do it. Most people who I know do either really well or really bad in life after the internship. I dont really know what the internship like now. I know whatever it is like it will be intense because thats the constant for that place. I have heard some things have gotten better and some of the other or they’re just the same in.


  2. Thanks very much for your comments on this. Much appreciated.


  3. I was also an interna and participated in ESOAL, I did it because believe it or not it sounded fun. There was no promo video for it because we were the first class to participate in it. During ESOAL we did things that were stretching and hard but nothing that was meant to break you mentally. After 18 hours or so I was done and hungry, so I rang out and went to a local restaurant. The problem is that Mind Over Mania presented ESOAL like it was an event that you had to do all year long, when in actuality it was 1 weekend and completely voluntary. You have to think of it as participating in a marathon or this year I did a 5 Mile Mud Run, it reminded me so much of ESOAL but in a way that was fun and challenging and not abusive.

    Teen Mania isn’t perfect just like nothing ever is but what Mind Over Mania showed was twisted way beyond the actual truth.


    • Thanks for your comments, Tomn. I didn’t get the impression that the ESOAL was year-round. What was “twisted way behind the actual truth” in Mind Over Mania? Just the impression they might have given us about the length of ESOAL? Was anyone critical of you for ringing out?


  4. no one was critical, I’m sure there are arrogant idiot interns who say stupid stuff but that’s life. While staff was tough on you during the retreat, no one was crude or rude to you, and they took time to teach during the retreat.


  5. “…arrogant idiot interns who say stupid stuff…” — so I’m guessing ESOAL didn’t teach about loving your enemies and blessing those who persecute you, a core teaching of Jesus.

    I don’t mean to single out Tomn. One thing that has surprised me about the vitriol from the defenders of Teen Mania and Hank Hanegraaff has been their complete lack of Gospel-based love and mercy. That makes me wonder if Teen Mania and CRI are using the Bible as a way to advance a kind of moralistic conservatism rather than the Gospel. I wonder what happens when they really study the writings of the Apostle Paul and see that good behavior does not spare anyone from eternal death. All throughout the history of Christianity, only faith in Christ can save — making the point of the Gospel not good behavior or human-earned righteousness, but instead accepting Christ’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, and then reflecting His love, mercy, and forgiveness back to fellow humans.

    Furthermore, an organization that claims to seek the lost for Christ, and claims to have all this success and all these high standards, ought to be the organization that is held to a higher standard. Hey, I’m just a blogger, editor, writer, and college lecturer at a small university. But Teen Mania brings in millions of dollars and tens of thousands of teens in the name of Christ.

    As for the young women who claim to have been wounded, well, Teen Mania’s attitude toward them ought to be like Jesus described in Matthew 5:

    39) But I tell you, do not fight with anyone who does wrong to you. But if someone hits you on one side of your face, turn the other side to him also.

    40) If anyone takes you to court to get your shirt, let him have your coat also.

    41) If anyone wants you to help carry a load, go with him twice as far.

    42) When someone asks you for something, give it to him. When someone wants to borrow something from you, let him have it.’


  6. I said nothing about not loving them, you took quite a leap there. I love a lot of people who are arrogant or act like idiots. The truth is, I act like an idiot at times, but that doesn’t mean its Teen Mania’s fault or anyone else’s. It’s mine.

    Also, have you contacted Teen Mania to ask them about their response?


    • I guess I associate “idiot” with “empty-head,” which Jesus warned us not to call our brothers, although I confess I haven’t always restrained myself. After “Mind Over Mania,” both Ron Luce and Hank Hanegraaff made public responses to the documentary. Before “Mind Over Mania” aired, Doug and Wendy Duncan interviewed the leaders of Teen Mania, and the documentary producers requested follow-up interviews, which we declined.