Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2013.
A book called “The Circle Maker” has started making the rounds through churches as the latest “new method” to access untold blessings from God. Written by Pastor Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington D.C., The Circle Maker teaches a new method of prayer by drawing a circle either on the ground or in the Bible based on an old Jewish legend from the Talmud and misuses verses from the Bible to put a new spin on the Prosperity Gospel heresy that wrongly teaches that Christians can receive whatever material blessing they want from God. Not only is this a false teaching and heresy, it is also embracing concepts from witchcraft. The popularity of this book among Christians is yet another sign of the growing apostasy as the church moves away from the Bible to adopt any new method even if it is linked to the occult.
The “New Way” To Pray
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
Batterson started National Community Church in 1996 with 3 people and today it is one of the fastest growing churches in Washington D.C. with 7 campuses where the church meets (consisting of coffee shops, movie theaters and concert spaces). The Washington Post has dubbed Batterson: “one of the most promising leaders for the next generation.” David Kinnaman, President of the Christian polling and research firm, Barna Group said:
I’m not sure if anyone could make a bet as to whether he’ll reach the rare echelon of the top two or three pastors, but he’s clearly putting himself in the hunt,” said David Kinnaman, president of the evangelical polling and research firm the Barna Group. (source)
Zondervan, one of the biggest publishers in the world, chose The Circle Maker as one of three books to do a major PR campaign to tens of thousands of churches across America. The book debuted as a New York Times bestseller. So with all the excitement, hype and popularity, what exactly is the book teaching? Here is a video trailer for the book and the accompanying study course:
Notice that the entire premise of the book is based on “the legend of Honi The Circle Maker.” This should be the first red flag to any Bible-believing Christian (and it is this author’s sincere hope and prayer that this article will encourage believers to use the Bible as the basis of their beliefs and decisions about what is God-honoring and what is not). This “legend” is a story from the Talmud and Midrash, which is a compilation of Jewish oral tradition and commentaries on the Mosaic law. The point here is that the Talmud is not the Bible. Honi is referred to as “a prophet of God” and yet he is not mentioned in the Bible. Notice in the video, Honi did not wait to hear God’s instructions as all the prophets of the Old Testament did. He has his own plan and ideas and took them to God for The Lord to execute. It was Honi’s idea to make the circle, not The Lord’s. This is the exact opposite of God’s prophets who the word of The Lord came to and they acted upon it as willing servants.
The Bible says: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) and encourages Pastors to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2). In both commands it is focused on The Bible which is “the word of truth” and “doctrine.”
Why would a Pastor base an entire book and teaching on prayer, one of the most important aspects of Christian life, on a non-Biblical source? The same passage 2 Timothy continues:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. ( 2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Rather than focus on “sound doctrine.” Batterson is teaching “fables” to the church. Batterson reinforces this by saying he is in fact teaching “how to pray in a new way” and states “you can’t just read the Bible, you need to start circling the promises..” All of this is with this goal of achieving “big dreams” and having God deliver your desires to you. This “me-centered” approach to the Bible is a hallmark of the Prosperity Gospel heresy. It is a false teaching that misuses Scripture to teach that whatever a Christian desires on Earth, can be theirs, either through faith, giving money to a pastor or some other New Age technique. When in fact, Jesus Christ instructs to not store up treasures on Earth, but focus on eternal life (which comes through faith in Christ), serving God and our eternal riches in Heaven. But Batterson, like many Pastors today who are “seeker-sensitive” and “emergent” want church to cater to the wants and desires of the world wants to use the Bible as a means of receiving what you want, as soon as possible.
In this case, it is done by “drawing a circle in the sand” or around whatever object it is that a person wants. This is where “discernment” – the ability to distinguish a teaching that is based on the Bible and thus The Word of God, from what is not. This is a very important skill for every Christian and The Circle Maker is a perfect example to demonstrate how believers can be lured and deceived into thinking a teaching is Biblical, when it is not.
Batterson continues his false teachings by saying that when it comes to praying for big things that you want in life: “Your job is not to crunch numbers and make sure the will of God adds up.” However, the Bible says the exact opposite of this. 1 John Chapter 5 says: ” And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” We are indeed instructed to “crunch the numbers” and make sure that what we pray for is in line with God’s will. And how can we know God’s Will? By going to the Bible. Our desires and prayers to God should be in line with Biblical teachings.
Is it okay to pray for a job or a raise? Yes! Ecclesiastes chapter 5 states:
“Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”
The Bible clearly supports hard work for an honest days pay and enjoying the fruit of your labor. So we should never think that a Christian cannot pray for material gain. Taking care of oneself, family and others are good thing that the Bible instructs us to do and thus prayer to help make these things happen in a moral, God-fearing manner is Biblical.
Contrast this with a Christian man who knows a Christian woman married to an unbeliever. And his “big dream” is that she will one day be with him so they can have a Christian marriage together. Is this in line with God’s will? Jesus said: ” But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” – Mark 10:6-9.
So clearly this would not be in line with God’s Will. It is the Christian’s duty to search the scriptures if one is unsure about a prayer. We are definitely supposed to “crunch the numbers.” And even after prayers are made it is possible that we do not know God’s will in the matter. Rather than be “audacious” we are instructed to submit to it and stay faithful.
Bold Claims With No Scripture
Batterson instructs Christians to “draw circles in the sand” and “If you draw the circle God will multiply the miracles in your life.” But where is he getting this idea from? This promise that God will multiply your miracle if your draw circles is never stated in the Bible. In fact there is nothing in the Bible that teaches Christians to make circles at all. In his instructional video and in his book, this is a running theme – statements being made as if they are from God but they are not in the Bible. This is another major red flag when identifying false teachings. Here is the first lesson from his group study:
At the 10:00 mark in the video The Circle Maker teaches that the promises in the book of Joshua, which God made as the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, apply to Batterson and all Christians. But is this what the Bible says? Notice that Batterson does not give the context of the promise from Joshua that God made:
Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. — Joshua 1:1-6.
In the proper context, the passage is The Lord speaking to Joshua specifically and the Israelite nation that was with him at that time. This was not a promise being made to all believer forever. It was a specific situation, with a specific promise of a specific piece of land, namely the Promised Land in the Middle East. There is nothing in this passage that would imply that God was promising any piece of land to any believer at any time in history. It is very important in interpreting the Bible to not read yourself into the text where it is not appropriate. When a promise is being applied to all people, the Bible uses the appropriate language. For example: “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:” (Luke 12:8).
In this verse Jesus is making a universal declaration for all people. This is something that all believers should understand as applying to them. If we apply Batterson’s logic, then every Christian should be building an ark, or making a temple or rebuilding the walls of the city of Jerusalem, since God commanded all these things to his prophets in the Old testament. Yet, we do not because we understand those were descriptive verses, that teach us and not prescriptive verses that command us. Batterson does the same thing with the story of the fall of Jericho, applying a specific story to himself even though there is no reason to.
We are to learn from these Old Testament events for their spiritual significance not to repeat the literal actions of the people in the Old Testament. Joshua and the Israelites succeeded in the battle of Jericho because they believed God’s Word. That is the spiritual point. The Word of God came to them and instructed them and they believed it, showing they had faith in The Lord. And God provided the victory. This is how salvation is received by every Christian. We believe God’s Word and promise to save us and God does the work through the death of Christ on the cross. And we get the victory in Jesus. Rather than being a “how-to guide” on getting the piece of property or material item you want, the account of Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land is a type and shadow of Jesus leading all believers into Heaven.
In the book Batterson gives the account of his church using the Joshua story as a motivation to get an auto shop owner to sell his property to them, even though he did not want to sell it. The Pastor had his congregation “lay hands” on the building then march around it repeatedly. As Batterson writes: “We circled that property so many times that I’m almost surprised the walls didn’t fall down just like at Jericho.” This shop owner is not accused of doing anything illegal or unethical. Batterson and his church just wanted his property because it was “an eyesore” next to their new building. Eventually the owner relented and sold the property to Batterson and his church. Was this a Christian way to treat a shop owner? Batterson needs no Biblical basis because in the book he claims that God told him directly to take the auto store.
Other statements by Batterson:
God “plays chicken” with us until we have prayed enough to satisfy him. (The Circle Maker, p. 109).
“you are only one prayer away from a dream fulfilled, a promise kept, or a miracle performed.” (The Circle Maker, p. 21).
“Prayers are prophecies.” (The Circle Maker, p. 21).
None of this is actually in the Bible. In Acts chapter 7, the Apostle Stephen was put on trial and sentenced to death for proclaiming the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Why didn’t he draw a circle in the sand when his accusers were preparing to execute him? When David was being pursued by King Saul who wanted to kill him and was hiding out in caves to evade him, where were the bold prayers? When the prophet Jeremiah was beaten and jailed for preaching God’s Word, why did he not use Batterson’s methods? Of course we will find no examples of anyone drawing any “circles in the sand” in the Bible. Jesus instructed the Disciples on how to pray:
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. — Luke 11:1-4.
Notice that there was no “boldness” or anything “audacious” in the example given by the Son of God Himself. It was humble and reverent of The Lord. It boldly praises God, instead of boldly asking for what we want to suit our own dreams. And it asks that God’s will be done, again, showing that we do indeed make sure we are in line with God’s will when we pray. And when it comes time to make a request, Jesus taught “give us day by day our daily bread.” When the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, God provided manna from Heaven for them to eat each day never taking more than what was needed. It was to demonstrate our need for constant dependence on God. And so too should a believer feed their spirit with the Word of God, our spiritual “bread”, each day. The prayer finishes by asking for forgiveness of sin and protection from sinful temptation.
Jesus then demonstrated this in the Garden of Gethsemane when His impending arrest and execution was going set to take place. Jesus was in such emotional agony over facing death and God’s wrath for the sins of humanity that he was sweating blood. As He prayed to God The Father He said:
Then saith [Jesus] unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. — Matthew 26:38-39.
Despite the torment He was facing, Jesus submitted in His prayer because He was focused on the will of God and not His own will. There is no earthly prosperity guarantee for Christians. But there is endless eternal riches thanks to Jesus following God’s will and going to the cross to die for all. And Batterson’s teachings do not follow Jesus’ model at all.
“Have You Read The Circle Maker?”
This author has had this question asked numerous times and I have decided to update the article to address this concern. I have read the book and done one hour of course work online. I have also appeared on New York City AM radio for a one hour interview about the book in which I debated it and answered callers who phoned in to defend The Circle Maker. So I am very familiar with the book and have read through it many times. But since there is more desire to hear more of what is in the book that is so at odds with The Word of God, here are more examples (and if you have listened to the radio show interview on WMCA you will note most of these were read on air):
- Batterson discussing the legend of Honi:
“With the authority of the prophet Elijah, who called down fire from Heaven, Honi called down rain..” p 10.
Once again, the fable of Honi The Circle Maker is not in the Bible. Yet here is Batterson, equating Honi, who was not a prophet of God, and never mentioned in Scripture, with Elijah, one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, who we know for certain was operating under divine authority. Batterson is clearly taking legend and equating it with Scripture.
- Batterson again emphasizing the use of circles:
“The bigger the circle we draw, the better, because God gets more glory.” p 11.
- In explaining that God’s promise to Moses and Joshua to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, had now literally passed to him, Batterson writes:
“I had Honi-like confidence that just as this promise had been transferred from Moses to Joshua, God would transfer the promise to me if I had enough faith to circle it.” p. 15.
The errors here are numerous. As explained above, the promise of entering the land of Canaan was not made to Batterson. It was made to Joshua and the Israelites at that time in ancient history. To read himself into the text in this fashion is mishandling the Scripture. And notice Batterson emphasizes Honi once again and the use of the circle as the key to obtaining this blessing. The Honi-Circle story is the foundation of this entire book.
- Batterson “small or vague prayers”:
“And that’s why our prayers aren’t just boring to us. They are uninspiring to God.” p. 23
Where is this ever said in Scripture? The Bible tells us to cast “all” of our cares at God’s feet because “He careth for us.” As explained above, by Batterson’s wildly unbiblical standards, Jesus’ own model prayer asking God to “give us this day our daily bread” would be boring and uninspiring to The Lord. Clearly, this is heresy and false teaching.
- Batterson on the risks of not using the circle:
“The greatest risk is failing to circle the promises of God because we forfeit the miracles God wants to perform.” p. 51
This is the essence of the Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel doctrine. That it is up to the person to act and perform some work in order for God to perform a miracle. In other words, God is bound until we “release Him.” The Lord does not need our “permission” to act. Again, a Christian is blessed through Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. It is faith that leads to salvation and then the blessings are what Christ has earned for us as adopted children into the beloved family of God.
- Here is Batterson once again citing Honi as the model for prayer in a Christian’s life:
“I’m sure Honi the circle maker prayed in a lot of different ways at a lot of different times. He had a wide variety of prayer postures. But when he needed to pray through, he drew a circle and dropped to his knees. His inpsiration for the prayer circle was Habakkuk. He simply did what the prophet Habakkuk had done: “I will stand upon my watch, and station me within a circle.” p. 157
Once again, it is Honi that is the basis for this book (not Joshua at Jehrico, which was just one example in the book). And Batterson now goes into the mind of Honi to explain his inspiration (where he obtained this information is unknown). And he quotes Habakkuk 2:1 (with no verse citation) to try and support his speculation about what inspired Honi. Here is Habbukuk 2:1 from the King James Version:
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. – Habakkuk 2:1.
Notice the problem here? The verse does not say “circle.” The Hebrew word for tower, matsowr, means a rampart, watch tower or defensive entrenchment. Even in the NIV, the most popular modern version, the verse reads “rampart.” A simple search of all the modern Bible versions will show that none of them used the phrase “station me within a circle.” Yet Batterson added that to The Word of God, just to promote the fable of Honi and the circle-making ritual, which have no connection to the Bible whatsoever. Even if Honi was inspired by this verse from Habakkuk, why does it matter for a believer? Honi was not a prophet of God. So again, Batterson’s teachings are going to man-made ideas and not God-breathed, divinely inspired Scripture. This is heresy and the Bible says this of preachers who teach in this fashion:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” – Romans 16:17.
Where Is The Gospel?
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. – Colossians 2:8.
And this is where Batterson again shows lack of Biblical basis for his “new way to pray.” In his intro or his study group, where is the name of Jesus? Only once or twice is Jesus mentioned, much less preaching on the need to put faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin. There is no Gospel message whatsoever. And if this is supposed to be for those who are already Christians, then why is there is no mention of repentance or putting the focus on God in our lives and not our own agenda? John the Baptist in reference to his own fame as a preacher before Jesus started His ministry said: “I must decrease, so He [Jesus] can increase..” This should be the “big dream” for all followers of Christ. James 4:3 says: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
Praying for whatever we want in life with no regard for God is the foundation of the Prosperity Gospel. It puts God in the role of our servant who we have to “activate.” Batterson confirms this false teaching when he says: “God has determined that certain expressions of His power will only be exercised in response to prayer.” In other words, God is restrained from doing certain things with His power, unless we move to “release” Him. In his minor reference to Jesus He sums up the Savior by saying Jesus’ main message is ” What do you want me to do for you?” and that in order to give our requests to Jesus who is waiting on us, “we have to know what to circle.” This is heresy from a false teacher who is not teaching the Bible but instead fables and the doctrines of men. Do not be deceived.
Circle Making – A Tool of Witchcraft
“Most witches consider their spiritual space to be their magikal circle. A magik circle is a space where a Witch will conduct rituals and ceremonies. It is the gateway between worlds, spiritual and physical realms come together and allow you to communicate with spirit, conduct spiritual work, rituals, ceremonies and castings.” (The Pagan’s Path Wiccan Website source).
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; — 1 Timothy 4:1.
In witchcraft and Wicca, drawing a “magick circle” is a well known and ancient practice for casting spells and accessing the demonic realm. It is an occult method of prayer. So not only is Batterson teaching a practice that’s not in the Bible, it is copying a technique used in the occult. Any “new” spiritual teaching that does even mention Jesus or the Gospel will inevitably lead back to Satan.
Lord willing it should be obvious at this point that there are numerous red flags of heresy with this book, this Pastor and his false teachings. As believers, with access to the Bible, it is our duty to evaluate teachings, sermons and books (including the articles on this website) to see if they are in line with sound, Biblical doctrine. If it is too hard to determine where to find the proper method of evaluation, start with the Gospels. Look at what someone is preaching and look to Jesus Christ and His Disciples. Did they use this “technique” or “method” that is being taught? At a minimum if you see no mention of these ideas in the life and ministry of Jesus or the Apostles then that should be a warning sign and indication of its lack of importance.
Pray for Mark Batterson’s repentance from this false teaching, National Community Church and all the people being caught up in this new spin on the Prosperity Gospel, that they would return to what the Bible actually says over ancient legends and the occult. And continue to base your Christian walk on the truths of the Bible. It is the Gospel that saves. It is the Gospel and believing in Jesus that brings blessings to Christians, not “circles.” God blesses us because we are in Christ, not because we have “activated his power” in our lives. And when it comes to prayer, The Lord Jesus gave an example of how all believers should pray and that should be all the guarantee needed to know God will hear it answer it in accordance with His perfect will.