The following is an actual devotional email sent from the pastor of a large charismatic church (this is the same one that I wrote about on Oct. 31, 2014). This pastor, it just so happens, has a former member that wrote a satirical article on his blog the previous week entitled "Want Some False Doctrine in Your Life? Try These Handy Tips!" Yes, it’s me. It might just be a coincidence that he wrote this right after my blog post, but in any case, I decided to comment on his email/letter that appears to address people like me (his words are in bold and mine are in parenthesis, as usual). In a nutshell, he admits that it's important to teach good doctrine and refute false teachers but, in reality, he gives a free pass to just about any and all false teachers. This pastor believes in Rick Joyner’s book “The Final Quest” so much that he gave it to all of his new, young elders to read. He believes that it is a true understanding of the end times. It is not-it’s a heretical and sickening book, and I told him so. He also is a big fan of Bill Johnson; so much so, that he went to a pastor’s conference at Bethel Church and came home to preach a sermon filled with “Bill Johnsonisms.” Johnson's teaching DVDs are used at this church. So he has been confronted with specific false teachers and their teachings in a respectful manner from his church members. This is not a matter of angry, ignorant parishioners throwing a fit. I believe this email/letter is an example of how a “signs and wonders” pastor glosses over serious theological issues to retain the continued support of his church members.
Dealing with Differences
"'Master,' said John, 'we saw a man driving out demons in Your Name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.' 'Do not stop him,' Jesus said, 'for whoever is not against you is for you.'" Luke 9:49-50
When I first came to Christ, I was part of a church that believed we were the only pure expression of Christianity in our city. Every sermon featured some way we were better than everyone else. We only used the King James Bible, for instance, and believed every other translation was defiled and leading people into heresy. We were "it", and everyone else was deceived at some level.
Looking back, I feel sadness for how proud and blind we were; not just about ourselves, but about who God is. We had made the God of all grace so small and picky that if you didn't believe exactly like we did you were on the outside. The truth is that we were small and picky, not God.
(This is a set-up for his argument in the rest of this letter. He's right about these people, though; I certainly don’t want to be like these Christians. The problem is we don't get to actually meet these people and hear their side of the story, so it's a bit of a "straw man" argument, but still, I agree with him about being too exclusive and too judgmental. What’s missing from this whole letter are the very real people, like me, who aren't angry, “King James Only” fundamentalists-which is another exaggerated stereotype I realize-but just ordinary Christians who want their pastor to hold fast to correct doctrine. Once people like us start to do our homework and we learn about the false teachers in our midst, we get pigeon-holed into an easy to refute stereotype.)
John is clearly proud of the disciples' rebuke of this man who wasn't, "one of us."
(Don't you hate it when pastors ascribe a particular motive to someone in a Bible story, even though we don't have that information from the Bible? Maybe John was just ignorant; or maybe he just said the first thing that popped into his head. We don't know that he was proud, but this helps make the argument...)
Jesus had a wider circle of those who are with Him.
People come to me with accusations against Christian leaders across the body of Christ. Sometimes it's about what a leader said and sometimes it's about something questionable they did. I'm almost always in agreement with those who are bringing the charge - leaders are flawed and often say things and do things that are a little off. But once in a while the person bringing the accusation wants more than agreement - they want me to publicly renounce that leader and their group.
(The Bible tells pastors to contend for the faith, to hold fast to correct doctrine, to correct and rebuke false teachers, to protect the flock... Acts 20:28-31: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” Notice how how he claims that discernment Christians supposedly want him to "renounce a leader and his group" which is much more personal, harsh and extreme than saying "renounce the false teachings coming from a leader or group." )
At this point I become a disappointment to them. Jesus is not ashamed to call me His brother (Hebrews 2:11) with all of my flaws and errors, so I want to be unashamed to stand next to brothers and sisters who love Jesus, but aren't just like our group.
(Wow. So as long as someone "loves Jesus" we should give him or her a pass on their teaching? This is a really bad idea. Last time I checked, there were no false teachers that claimed to dislike Jesus. There were no heretics in church history that made claims of "not loving" Jesus. Notice how this is has been turned into a personal issue, when it should be about whether or not a teaching lines up with scripture. Also notice how this makes discernment almost the same as discrimination, with "one group against another," instead of simply comparing a teaching against scripture to test it.)
I understand and value the desire for truth and the need to be on guard against deception (that sounds good, but he never does the very thing he claims to value), but we must be very careful before pointing the finger at others lest we condemn someone who Jesus accepts and delights in.
(This is the most ridiculous part of this whole letter. Since he knows that Jesus delights in these un-named teachers, we should give them a pass. How do we know that Jesus delights in them? We don't, but you're not supposed to think about that... because that would involve discernment, and that would make you a small, proud and blind Christian, like the ones in the beginning of this letter.)
May God help us be humble and generous toward all those who are different from us.
(Of course, everybody agrees with this general statement, but what about false teachings and heresy? That’s a completely different issue than people who are simply “different from us.”)
"Accept one another," Paul says to Christians who were judging each other over minor differences, "just as Christ has accepted you." -Romans 15:7 (End of Pastor's letter)
(It’s amazing that he completely ignores the problem of heretical teachings! He just pretends it’s not ever a problem and skims right past it. Apparently every problem is a “minor difference.”)
So here’s the template, pastors:
1. Talk about those judgmental, narrow-minded Christians who pester everyone with Bible verses. It helps make your case if you admit to being one of them in your past. As a side note, notice how this makes you the judgmental one now, and notice how this makes you the one who is more humble than the other guy. Nice.
2. Go ahead and admit that you don’t agree with certain unorthodox teachings. It sounds good and reasonable to say that someone else is “off.” They’re not heterodox or heretical; they’re just... “off.” Key point here: Avoid specifics!
3. Refuse to make any public statement about the false teachers you personally enjoy. Key point here: YOU get to decide who is a “good guy” and who is not.
4. Make an appeal for acceptance and humility; but only do it after you've determined who should be accepted (not those angry Bible thumpers!) and who is humble enough (of course, that would be you and all of those teachers/pastors whom you approve of).
For those who think it's mean, judgmental and un-loving to criticize this pastor (or any other popular teacher) here's something just for you: Shocking Stuff You're Not Supposed to Know.
If you're having a knee-jerk reaction to try and defend this pastor, check out: Confirmation Bias: Why You Are Protecting Your False Beliefs.
Finally, here's an article that will help you be more discerning and a lot less gullible: Defusing Demonic Dirty Bombs.