I have been a believer since 1982, and over the years have witnessed an ever growing number of ministries that make it their seemingly singular purpose to expose anything, and everything that they see as error, or apostasy within the body of Christ.
While there certainly is a definite place for declaring the truth in the face of apparent error, I am concerned about the motive, and spirit behind a growing number of these ministries.
Let me say right up front that I am in no way bashful about declaring the uncompromised word of God. Nor do I shy away from tackling erroneous teachings within the body of Christ that are leading people away from the authority of the word of God, or the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Himself certainly had some very strong words for the religious leaders during His earthly ministry. (i.e. the following passage. John 8:43-45 (NKJV) Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.
I think anyone can see that these are very strong scathing words indeed! Yet there is a vast difference between confronting someone face to face, as opposed to blasting them over the airwaves when they are not even aware that you are criticizing them.
My problem is not really with the taking to task of various ministers that we may disagree with, but rather this ongoing blatant labeling of people as false prophets, and false teachers that seems to be so prevalent in this hour.
False Teachers and Prophets: We know that Jesus, and the apostles declared that evil men, and false teachers would arise in the last days, and I think we can see that this is clearly evident. Matthew 7:15-16 (NKJV)“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
False doctrine is a problem in the church today, and needs to be addressed. We need to clearly understand the fundamental tenants of faith, and resist teachings that undermine those teachings.
For instance, those who promote universalism (the idea that everyone will be saved), or the ordination of gay clergy are departing from the clear orthodoxy of Scripture, and presenting teachings that are not found in the Bible. Anyone who declares a way of salvation other than Jesus Christ alone is clearly a false brethren. This is one of the fundamental truths of Scripture that must not be deviated from in the least.
Acts 4:12 (NKJV) Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Sound bite nation: Slanted journalism is a major problem in the media today. A 30 second statement taken out of context can make someone say nearly anything, and can be extremely misleading to the uninformed public.
As a pastor myself, I realize that there are numerous occasions for a minister to put their foot in their mouth, or to say something in the emotion of the moment that you wish you had worded much differently. There are numerous opportunities to be misinterpreted by people, simply because we all hear a message through our own personal perspective. Two people can hear the same statement and come up with entirely different interpretations of what was just said.
Causing division in the body of Christ: Here is what I see to be the two biggest problems with this accusatory type of expose that is so common today. First, the audience that is listening to the show usually knows very little if anything about the minister that is being accused, and therefore will often take what the host says at face value. This causes people to form opinions about people that can be completely unfounded, and creates division within the body of Christ.
Secondly, and greater problem with this type of presentation goes even deeper. It is one thing to disagree with the teachings of a particular minister, or bring attention to what you believe to be a false doctrine. However, when I hear these ministers declare that a particular person is not a believer, or that they are a false teacher I think this is stepping over the line.
There is one particular talk show host whom I respect concerning several topics, yet he regularly declares that various ministers that he disagrees with are false brethren. Many of the men he accuses I have heard minister personally, and know that they are godly men, who are true disciples of Jesus Christ. However, because this accusation has been put out over the airwaves, most who listen will conclude that they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Let’s take Joel Osteen for example. While I have some problems with the way he handled his interview on Larry King, I am convinced that he is a man of God. Yet I have heard numerous people declare Joel Osteen to be a false teacher, or not a Christian at all. This hypercritical judgmental approach to critiquing every word that is spoken is not a characteristic of God’s Kingdom, but more common with the methods of the secular news media.
Proverbs 1:12 (NKJV) Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.
Proverbs 17:9 (NKJV) He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.
The Accuser of the Brethren: Revelation 9:10 (NKJV) Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.
The devil is the accuser of the brethren, and we need to be careful that we do not find ourselves as his instruments in doing so.
How should we handle false teaching then? As I have already stated, I see nothing wrong with challenging the teachings of those we may disagree with, providing it is handled in love. If these talk show hosts want to declare that they disagree with a particular minister, and their teachings that’s fine. Yet they need to do so without presenting them as a false teacher, or an unbeliever.
If they are denying Christ, and salvation in His name, and through His blood alone then yes they are a false believer, but I have rarely found this to be the case. Most of the time these are disputes about doctrine, or how we approach various Scriptures.
Everything is a Nail: If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything in your sight becomes a nail. What I have noticed with Christians who begin to become overly obsessed with exposing false teachers, is that after awhile nearly everyone is a false teacher in their opinion. Anytime a person says something that might have even the slightest hint of error they are ready to pounce on them, and declare to the world that they are heretics.
What I have discovered with many of these ministers who focus on this type of policing the body of Christ, is that they actually can’t see that their own understanding of Scripture could possibly be wrong. Because they come from a particular school of thought they often see through a distorted lens themselves.
For instance, one of these particular radio hosts is a cessationist. A cessationist believes that that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the prophetic word of God ended after the early church. These folks believe that when someone declares that the Lord spoke to them, that this is not biblical because in their opinion the only way God speaks today is directly from the word of God alone.
For this reason you can easily see where they would see Charismatic ministers who are proponents of the moving of the Holy Spirit false teachers.
Living in Unity: Psalm 33:1-3 (NKJV) Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!
Proverbs 20:3 (NKJV) It is honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel.
Are there going to be difficulties between believers? Yes, there always have been. All you need to do is read 1 Corinthians and you will easily see that strife, and contention has been a problem since the inception of the early church. However rather than seeking ways to divide the body of Christ, we should be trying to foster unity among believers.
When we disagree with someone we need to attempt to sit down and discuss our differences with an attitude of respect, and mutual honor. This is spiritual maturity, and builds up the body of Christ, rather than tearing it apart.
The old saying goes, “Don’t throw stones in glass houses.” Be careful who you accuse, because the day may come where the same thing happens to you.