PCA votes to launch investigation into Sarah Young's book ‘Jesus Calling’

The Presbyterian Church in America's 51st General Assembly, held in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, June 13, 2024.
The Presbyterian Church in America's 51st General Assembly, held in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, June 13, 2024. | The Christian Post

RICHMOND, Va. — The Presbyterian Church in America has approved a resolution to investigate the influence of Sarah Young's book Jesus Calling on the denomination and might decide to ban it. 

Less than a year after Young died at age 77, commissioners at the PCA General Assembly on Thursday morning voted to approve Overture 33, which called on two denominational agencies to investigate the book.

Specifically, the amended overture called on the Committee on Discipleship Ministries to make a report assessing “the book’s appropriateness for Christians in general” and to “outline its reasons for withdrawing the book from its inventory previously and not offering it for sale since.”

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Additionally, the amended overture called on Mission to the World, a PCA missions ministry, to investigate the ministry group’s “relationship with the book” and consider actions that it “and the General Assembly should take in light of this study of the book and of the agency’s relationship to it.”

The final tally was 947 in favor of the overture, 834 against, and 20 abstaining, with most of the commissioners who came up to speak during the debate opposing the proposal.

Sarah Young
Sarah Young | Screengrab: Jesus Calling

Jerid Krulish, a teaching elder from Faith Presbyterian Church of Anchorage, Alaska, spoke against the overture, claiming that it was “a fishing expedition” that was “a waste of the committees’ times.”

“This book is a book that, as far as I can tell, no one in the PCA reads. Ninety-nine point nine percent of us had no idea that Sarah Young was even a member of the PCA,” said Krulish. “It is not in use in the PCA; it is not published by any agency of the PCA.”

Pastor Zachary Groff of Antioch Presbyterian Church spoke in favor of the overture, countering that “there are many people in the PCA that I know who read this book, including the wives of ordained teaching and ruling elders.”

“Our committees exist in part to help us, as an assembly, to evaluate things of national import that affect the Church as a whole,” he added. “This book is, perhaps, the bestselling book of any member of the PCA.”

Another supporter of the overture was Teaching Elder Chuck Williams of the Christ the King Chapel in Wesley Chapel, Florida, who argued that the book had had “destructive effects” on a church group he was formerly a part of.

“This book defies the sufficiency of Scripture very clearly,” Williams claimed. “Scripture gives us much warning about people claiming to speak from God when they are not called.”

Stephen Young, the widow of Sarah Young, defended his late wife’s work, telling those gathered that “Sarah was a humble servant of Jesus who did not seek self-glory and prayed for her readers to know and deeply love the only Savior, Jesus Christ.”

“Her writings do not add to Scripture but explain it,” he continued. “She would stand with Martin Luther and declare that her conscience was captive to the Word of God.”

“I humbly ask that you join me in voting down these potentially divisive amendments and thank God for the good fruit that continues to be born through Sarah Young’s books.”

A PCA missionary and author, Young is best known for her book Jesus Calling, a 365-day devotional originally released in 2004 that has sold tens of millions of copies and was named "Christian Book of the Year" in 2013 and 2018.

The devotional’s success led to other works under the Jesus Calling brand, including the 2021 prayer devotional Jesus Listens, children’s devotionals, Bible storybooks and journals.

The book is not without critics, however. Some have expressed concern about the mystical nature of the devotional and how it could mislead people into thinking they received divine revelation.

"The biggest problem with Jesus Calling is very simple: Jesus did not speak these words. If these were His words, then Jesus Calling would be Scripture, which is by definition the words of God," said Christian author Randy Alcorn in a 2018 critique.

"So if it's not (and it isn't) on an inspired and trustworthy level like Scripture itself, then it's making a false claim. In fact, regardless of whether it's biblically sound, it's an entire book built on falsehood." 

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