One of the most effective Christian outreach ministries for mothers of young children is called MOPS - Mothers of Preschoolers.
For the past two decades, MOPS has been a place of discipleship and encouragement at Emmanuel Enid (the church I pastor) for mothers of preschoolers. One of Emmanuel's leaders for MOPS is Sarah Wilkins. It's been my privilege to know Sarah for many years. Her testimony of conversion to faith in Christ is very moving. She is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, a wife and mom, and a business professional in her own right.
Recently Sarah came to me with concerns over the direction of MOPS International. I listened. She asked me to read a book that is being featured and promoted by MOPS International, a book written by the current President of MOPS International, and featured in this year's MOPS curriculum. After reading the book, I too share Sarah's concerns. I recently wrote my thoughts about this book which has yet to be released to the public.
After working through the proper channels and processes for voicing concerns to MOPS International, Sarah Wilkins and Emmanuel Enid's local MOPS leadership felt it appropriate to make their concerns public. Below is Sarah's Open Letter to those involved in MOPS ministry through local churches. She and other MOPS leaders at our church will be available to answer additional questions of concern in the comment section below:
An Open Letter to the Moms and Churches of MOPS International:
My name is Sarah Wilkins, and I love and have lived MOPS ministry for eight years. I am writing to you my concerns over the new direction that I perceive MOPS to be taking after speaking with two levels of MOPS volunteer coaches, one MOPS employee, and reading and digesting the materials included in the member packet, magazine, leadership group packet, and website.
First, let me tell you about our MOPS group at Emmanuel in Enid, Oklahoma. We have had a MOPS group for over 20 years. Our current group has steering members from multiple denominations including Baptist, charismatic, Catholic, and Lutheran. We have been and continue to be involved in outreach with an “every-mom” focused. We believe that God is working in the lives of these women, because they walk into a church building to meet with women they have never laid eyes on before. God created them. God loves them. God is working in their lives already; our task is to join Him in His work.
I am very concerned about the registration packets MOPS moms will be receiving this year. In fact, so concerned that after our local church MOPS leadership team pre-read the group experience packet sent to us by MOPS International we halted our registration. This year, after each mom pays, MOPS international intends to mail each mom a packet that contains materials which market the book Starry Eyed. The packet also includes a companion book that directs the reader to read portions out Starry Eyed with each chapter. This companion book contains snippets of all kinds of belief systems and no gospel. There is also a "Truth or Dare" 28-Day Challenge. It includes dares that would be highly inappropriate for many of our moms who are not married.
When our steering team gathered to set goals for this year, we watched the online videos made by MOPS, including the Come Alive video by Mandy Arioto, President, who also happens to be the author of the book Starry Eyed. The last two minutes of the Come Alive video is what prompted our steering group to send letters to Mrs. Arioto and the Board of Directors of MOPS International. When we hear Mrs. Arioto say that women do not find God where people usually say, we hear her to mean the church and the Bible. Her words are murky and therefore open to interpretation. We also see a refusal to use the word sin throughout all of the MOPS materials and videos. We are hearing Mrs. Arioto. We hear her when she writes she does not like the church, a sentiment she emphasizes by stating it clearly in a line in her book Starry Eyed. We hear her clearly when she uses her words to caution people away from the “usual places we are told to find God.”
I perceive there to be lots of life directional pointing in the MOPS materials, and my deep concern is that I cannot ascertain exactly where the materials are pointing. Modern American psychology is used heavily. This years’ material is ambiguous in places and encourages the employment of coping mechanisms like saying it out loud, and accepting being human, instead of offering OUR LASTING HOPE. I have read through everything, and the majority theme seems to be pointing moms to self actualization through new age mysticism, Celtic mysticism, humanism, and other belief systems. My steering team is convinced that Jesus is not whom the women in our group will discover if they receive their package, read the magazine, and read the book.
After speaking with my MOPS local coach, speaking with my area coach and emailing with MOPS paid employee over the West coast and central US; I believe MOPS incognito strategy is dangerous. Here is an excerpt from the email exchange with MOPS employee.
“…As far as referencing secular sources, we see several times in Acts where the Apostles quote the audience's own philosophers make a note of the inscriptions on tombs that are to an unknown God, just to be relevant to their audience as well as bring in what their audience is placing their trust in, in order to point to Jesus. By quoting secular sources we are doing just what the apostles did- quoting extra sources that point to Jesus even if they are not coming from a Biblical standpoint. Rather, they come from a very worldly standpoint and are still pointing to Jesus even though they may not realize it. Praise the Lord that His creations sings His praises!...”
There is personal irony here as my third daughter is named Damaris after this very segment of scripture in Acts 17. Paul argued in the Areopagus and cited the altar TO THE UNKOWN GOD as evidence of their religiosity. He then starts describing the ONE true God. He commands them to repent. There were two converts Damaris and Dionysius. Many scholars believe that Paul left that city vowing to no longer use this strategy as just two converts was a failure. He said he left there and decided to only preach the gospel….that is the good news of Jesus. Other scholars argue that it wasn’t a failure and he tailored and countered the domineering mindset of the specific culture of the specific people at a specific period of time and challenged it with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The use of the scripture to justify using secular sources while offering no Biblical counter and no gospel is the root of the problem. Mrs. Leih’s quote confirms to me what our core conflict with MOPS is. This is not a small conflict of faith. Her statement contradicts MOPS Internationals own statement of faith.
If MOPS is to be a moms group that will continue to primarily uses modern American secular encouragement on being your best self and discovering your own happiness, than our church must choose something else. We all live in a murky world where truth is hard to determine. The devil is real, and does his best destructive work through half truths, lies, and the denial of the reality of sin.
Thank you for your time. We wholeheartedly believe that Mrs. Arioto is our sister in Christ. We do not believe there is any malcontent. We do believe that something is terribly wrong at MOPS. Our steering team believes MOPS may have lost its way in terms of gospel-centeredness.
Pastors of churches who have MOPS groups:
Please get the pre-released copy of Mandy Arioto, President of MOPS book Starry Eyed from your MOPS coordinator. The books do not go on sale until August 30t, but a single copy was mailed to each MOPS group in the Coordinator’s packet. You need to read the book and make a decision for yourself.
With Deep Concern,
Sarah Wilkins, Emmanuel MOPS Public Relations and Coordinator