The trouble with Ed Piorek’s message

I registered for a conference recently at which singer/songwriter Brian Doerksen was going to be leading in worship alongside a speaker I had not heard of, Ed Piorek.

So, wanting to be prepared, I Googled “Ed Piorek” to learn what I could about him before the conference (I was really going just to hear Brian Doerksen). And other than Ed’s own website, Vineyard material, or very positive reviews of Ed’s ministry, I found nothing. I could not find any review of his writing or preaching that raised any concerns–it was all positive.

That’s why I’m writing this blog post. Though I don’t want to hurt the feelings of my friends who sponsored the conference, I do want to put my concerns “out there” on the Web in case someone else goes Googling Ed Piorek for the same reason I did.

The bottom line: If you are thinking of going to an Ed Piorek conference, don’t. If you are thinking of reading an Ed Piorek book, don’t. If you are thinking of watching an Ed Piorek video, don’t.

After the first session of the conference, my wife and I chose not to attend any more of it even though we had already paid for two days. We just couldn’t endure his message. In a rather long “speech” (I won’t call it a sermon) he mentioned Jesus only briefly with reference to his own conversion experience. The rest of his talk he focused on, well, his own experiences and supernatural encounters with what he claims was the Holy Spirit. The evening concluded with a sort of altar call where Ed, in grandiose style, waved his arms in the air, laid hands on people seeking something from God, and generally encouraged everyone to come forward and begin a fresh, new, experience of God.

What he didn’t do was to point people to Jesus. He didn’t explain the Gospel. He didn’t take time to explain a Bible passage but rather talked about what he wanted to talk about.

Actually he did briefly refer to Romans 5:5, to make a point about God wanting to pour His Father-love into our hearts through a special anointing of the Spirit that evening:

“…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us,” (Rom 5:5 ESV).

However, he made some point about the verb translated “has been poured” being in the aorist tense, when in fact it is a perfect indicative. I don’t know what his point was about the aorist tense. But it’s pretty clear from the context in Romans 5 that the Father already has poured His love into our hearts, not at some altar call when we want a supernatural experience of the Holy Spirit, but (verse 1) when we were justified by faith in Christ, (verse 2) when we obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and (verse 11) when we received reconciliation.

The very next Sunday after that conference, I was scheduled to preach at my church on Colossians 2:6-15. The following Sunday, I was scheduled to preach on Colossians 2:16-23. “What a funny coincidence,” I thought, “that just after hearing Ed Piorek speak about his own supernatural experiences of the Spirit and his visions that helped him to learn about and feel God’s love, I am due to preach on a passage where the Apostle Paul writes about this very thing…”

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
(Col 2:18-19 ESV)

Ed did go on about his own visions and personal, sensational experiences. He did not exhort us to “hold fast to the Head”–that is, Christ Jesus–who is the source of all spiritual nourishment and strengthening for the entirety of the Body, the Church. Now granted, I didn’t hear what he had to say on the second day of the conference. But some who were there have already shared similar concerns with me, and noted that in their view the problem with Ed’s message in session 1 was still true of the rest of his sessions. Here’s a quote from my sermon on Colossians 2:6-15,

It troubles me how often so-called charismatic preachers focus on the Holy Spirit but not on what the Holy Spirit wants to focus on; or on the supernatural signs and wonders of the Spirit, but not on the biblical message of the Gospel. Acts 14:3 says “the Lord bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done”. The focus was not on the signs and wonders, but even those things focused on the message of God’s grace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In John 16:13 and 14, Jesus promised that when the “Spirit of Truth” comes He would “guide [us] into all truth” and Jesus said, “he will glorify me”–meaning that the Spirit will show off Jesus and point attention to Jesus and focus us on Jesus, His person, His work, His Gospel. Some people might say I’m anti-”Holy Spirit”. Not at all. I think that loving the Holy Spirit means loving what He wants us to focus on, and according to the Bible that is none other than the person and work of Jesus Christ.