Celebrity Pastors, Discernment, False Teachers, Word of Faith Movement

Throwback Thursday ~ Of Mega-Blogs and Molotov Cocktails

Originally published January 30, 2014megablogs molotov

I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids, and I’m Not screaming-womanSorry, screamed the headline. Quite an attention grabber. It certainly grabbed mine. So, of course, I read the article.

It was brash. Extremist. Rude. Rather one dimensional and completely devoid of nuance. And it made me mad, too, since I used to be a young woman with a husband and kids. (“Used to be,” as in, I still have the husband and kids and I’m still a woman, but “young” would be a stretch at this point.)

I was all set to write a blog post in response about the value of wifing, mothering, and working outside the home. You know, whatever God has called you to. So as prep for my article, I read the article again. And again.

And, like a toddler yanking at the hem of my skirt to get my attention, an epiphany pushed and shoved its way into my consciousness.

It wasn’t real.

Or maybe I should say: I suspect it wasn’t 100% sincere.

Have you ever visited a mega-blog like Buzzfeed or Mashable? They churn out tons of cheap content every day, glasscandy-532959which means lots of hits on their web sites and lots of posts that go viral, which means lots of money from advertisers. (Nothing wrong with that, but it’s usually not terribly deep stuff. Sometimes people want a little mind candy, and that’s OK.)

Guess what? Lots of people want a piece of that pie and it’s easier to copycat than to innovate, so there are lots of other upstarts out there trying to become the next mega-blog. Like Thought Catalog, which published the aforementioned article on young women with husbands and kids.

As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and in a PR move that would make even Miley Cyrus chartreuse with envy, Thought Catalog threw out a Molotov cocktail of an article, stood back, and watched the crowd gather. Nearly a quarter of a million shares on Facebook. Almost 2000 re-tweets. Over 11,000 comments. From a PR standpoint, there’s pretty much no choice but to admire them.

Is Amy Glass, the author of the article, a real person? Maybe she is, or maybe it’s a pseudonym for someone who works for Thought Catalog as a content writer. If she’s a real person, are these her genuine thoughts and feelings, or did she throw in a hearty dose of hyperbole to push her readers into clicking, tweeting, sharing, pingback-ing, and writing response articles?

I don’t know.

There’s a lot of deception going on out there these days (I’m not saying Thought Catalog is being deceptive. Honestly, I haven’t poked around over there enough to know.) and it’s not just “out there.” It’s inside the walls of the church, as well.

joel_osteen-false_prophetThere are plenty of “Buzzfeed” pastors, leaders, and Christian authors who are throwing out cheap content and bombshells…

…2014 is going to be the year God turns everything around for you!
…Just say what you want! If you can say it, you can have it!
…God wants you to achieve all your dreams, so reach for the stars!

Joyce-MeyerThe glass breaks, the flames fly, and the crowd gathers. Their churches are overflowing with people. Their books become best sellers. They’re invited to speak at all the big conferences. And when the little guys start copying them and their methods, they know they’ve arrived.

But are they telling you the truth? And if you’re one of their devotees, how do you know whether or not they’re telling you the truth? Do you even want to know, or are you just happy with being entertained or being told what you want to hear?

There’s a way to find out. Get your Bible out and study it. Don’t just give it a surface reading– do the work and dig. Use the brain God gave you and pursue the knowledge of His word. Ask Him to open your eyes to understand the truth of Scripture. Love God with your mind, not just your emotions. Don’t be deceived.

Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.
Proverbs 1:29-33

Celebrity Pastors, Church, Ministry, Women

The Patterson Pandemonium: What He Got Wrong, What He Got Right, and What We Can Learn About Handling Spousal Abuse Biblically in the Church

Unless you’re a student of late twentieth century Southern Baptist history or you’re just an old enough Southern Baptist to remember him, you probably don’t know who Paige Patterson is. (I wasn’t very familiar with him until recently, myself.)

The short version: Dr. Paige Patterson has been the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) since 2003. Prior to that he spent eleven years as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was instrumental in the Conservative Resurgence, and pastored several churches. (You can read the longer version here.)

So why are we talking about Dr. Patterson today?

One of the ripple effects of the #MeToo movement has been #ChurchToo. Ephesians 5:11, in the context of addressing sexual immorality, says:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

The #ChurchToo movement has rightly exposed many shameful instances of sexual abuse in the church and forced a reckoning- of criminal charges, of church discipline, and, hopefully, of genuine repentance on the part of the victimizers.

But ripples don’t rein themselves in, they keep spreading farther and farther out. And that’s what’s happening with this social (media) phenomenon. We’ve moved from sexual assault victims comforting one another, to rightfully exposing the guilty, to fishing expeditions into the pasts of high profile individuals to see if any inappropriate behavior or remarks turn up.

In some cases this is a good thing because it brings a guilty individual to justice. And in some cases, innocent people get caught up in the too-wide dragnet that’s been tossed out.

Which, at some point along that spectrum, is how Dr. Patterson’s name arrived in the spotlight recently.

At the time I’m posting this article, to the best of my knowledge, Dr. Patterson has not been publicly accused of any sexual misconduct (nor am I anticipating that he will be). Apologies to those of you who actually read every word of an article and comprehend what you’ve read, but let me say this again loudly for those who don’t: Dr. Patterson has not been accused of any sexual misconduct.

However, as #MeToo and #ChurchToo ripples continue to reach farther out, and more and more past remarks and behaviors of those in leadership come to light, some troubling comments from Dr. Patterson on spousal abuse (not sexual abuse – physical spousal abuse) have been made public to the watching world, embroiling him, his family, and SWBTS in controversy.

Please click here and listen to an excerpt (less than five minutes in length) from an interview Dr. Patterson gave in 2000 on his thoughts on spousal abuse and how he counseled an abused wife who came to him for help.

Overall, though I’m sure well-intentioned, Dr. Patterson’s remarks seem shockingly ignorant, hurtful, and, at best, ill-advised, to our 21st century mindset on abuse. But he did actually say a few things that are correct, even biblical.

I have talked to enough abused women to know that being victimized by an abuser is an agonizing experience that can leave you with overwhelming emotions any time the subject of abuse is broached. May I say – with the utmost love and compassion – I know if you’ve been abused and you listened to Dr. Patterson’s comments it may be too painful to accept that anything he said was correct. I get that. So as we move on to examine his remarks, it might help to mentally separate what was said from who said it and just examine the statement at face value, as though the originator of the statement were unknown to you.

Let’s take a look at some of the things Dr. Patterson got wrong, a few things he got right, and what we can learn as we seek to minister biblically to victims of abuse.

“It depends on the level of abuse to some degree…”(:56)
These were the first words out of Dr. Patterson’s mouth in response to the interviewer’s question, “What do you recommend for women who are undergoing genuine physical abuse from their husbands and the husbands say they should be submitting?”

There are two issues in this question and answer that need to be addressed.

First is the issue of abuse and biblical submission. These two terms should never even be in the same sentence unless it’s to say that abuse should never, under any circumstances whatsoever, be part of the equation when it comes to biblical submission. The two are universes apart, and one has nothing to do with the other.

This is the first, and more important, issue that Dr. Patterson should have addressed. Any “man” who thinks abuse is a justified response to a wife who isn’t submitting is indulging his own self-centered, sinful anger, and has no clue what biblical submission is. In fact, he’s not even interested in biblical submission, he wants his wife to submit to his own personal, selfish will. He’s just twisting the Bible and turning it into one more weapon of abuse. Biblical submission is a gift a woman freely gives her husband out of love for him and love for Christ, not a cowering bowing-and-scraping he beats out of her.

Counseling women in abusive situations to “do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can, and to elevate [your husband]” (as Dr. Patterson says later: 4:24), is reckless and unloving. It leaves a woman with the impression that if her husband continues to abuse her, it’s her fault. She’s not being submissive enough. She’s not praying hard enough. She’s not elevating him enough. That’s not the biblical picture of submission in marriage.

The secondary issue in this statement is two tiered. Dr. Patterson is correct in saying that different levels of abuse exist. There is a vast difference between, say, a Christian husband who, in the heat of an argument, grabs his wife by the arm, immediately realizes what he’s just done and lets go, grieved over his sin against God and his wife, apologizes, repents, asks forgiveness, and never does such a thing again, and a pagan husband who, in drug-fueled rages, regularly beats his wife bloody and broken-boned with whatever weapon is handy and has no intention of ever repenting.

Do those differences in behavior mean that it was OK for the Christian husband to grab his wife’s arm in anger? Of course not. That’s a sin that requires repentance and proactive safeguards and accountability to make sure it never happens again. What those differences in behavior do mean is that you’re going to handle those two situations very differently. It would not be biblically appropriate to handle the arm-grabbing situation with the exact same level of intensity as you would handle the man who has put his wife in the hospital multiple times.

All abuse is sinful. All abuse needs to be addressed. All cases of abuse need to be handled on a case by case basis to determine the most biblical, legally appropriate, and safest response.

“I have never, in my ministry, counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel.”(1:00)
Dr. Patterson may never have run across a situation in his own ministry in which it was biblically appropriate to counsel a divorce, but the Bible would disagree with him that it is always wrong counsel.

God’s design is for marriage to be for life and for a husband and wife to be reconciled to one another even when one sins egregiously against the other. God uses the picture of marriage multiple times in the Old Testament when addressing the issue of His “bride,” Israel, whoring after idols. God’s desire is not to “divorce” Israel, but that she should repent and be reconciled to Him. Jesus re-emphasizes that marriage is for life, and the New Testament uses marriage as a picture of Christ’s relationship to His church. Whenever possible, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation of husband and wife (who is living in a safe place during this process) should be a pastor’s counsel.

But even God made allowances for those impossible circumstances. And when physically separating from an abuser is insufficient to legally protect a woman and her children from harm, there may be no alternative but a divorce.

“I say to them, ‘You must not forget the power of prayer.’.”(2:06)
This is absolutely true (although it is not our prayers that are powerful but the God who answers them perfectly). It is not beyond God’s power to save and completely transform an abusive husband into a trophy of grace. And what an amazing testimony it is when God does that.

Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
Isaiah 59:1

We need to urge women in abusive situations to pray fervently for their husbands and for God’s help. But we should also urge them to remember that God can hear them wherever they pray and that they need to get to safety first. Indeed, they will probably be better able to focus and pray undistracted in a safe environment than in an abusive one.

“At some point, He will intervene.”(2:57)
God does hear and answer the abused Christian woman’s prayers, but this remark coupled with the subsequent anecdote leave the impression that God will always save the husband and restore the marriage. Though it’s a wonderful thing when that happens, that’s not always the case.

God may intervene by having her husband arrested and spending many years in jail. He may cause her husband’s life to end. He may move the wife and children across the country to safety. We don’t know how God will intervene in the situation, only that he will intervene, and that He will intervene for His glory and for the good of the Believer. The wife needs to take advantage of the safety nets God has placed in her life and prayerfully trust Him to do what He knows to be right and best.

“…she was being subject to some abuse…’get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene…get ready, because he may get a little MORE violent’…”
My personal opinion is that this qualifies as pastoral malpractice. It was not the wife’s responsibility to handle this problem. It was her pastor’s responsibility to step in, protect her, and confront the husband. Titus 1:9 says that pastors are to “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” This husband was contradicting sound doctrine regarding the treatment of his wife, and was sorely in need of a rebuke and instruction in sound doctrine – starting with the gospel – from Dr. Patterson. Yet Dr. Patterson not only chose to put the burden of handling the situation back on the woman’s shoulders, but gave her terrible advice.

This woman was already being abused and Dr. Patterson knew it. Even so, he sent her back into an abusive environment with instructions he knew could cause the husband to become – in his own words, mind you – “more violent.”

I realize Dr. Patterson is 75 years old and times were different during his formative years. That might help us to better understand the origin of his perspective, but it in no way excuses this horrific pastoral counsel.

Pastors, sisters – we should never counsel a woman to immediately return to a husband who has a history of abusing her and has not repented or made any attempt to change his ways. And we should certainly never instruct her to do something we know could cause more abuse. There is absolutely no biblical foundation or justification for counseling an abused woman this way, and if anybody should know that it should be an experienced pastor with a seminary Ph.D. like Dr. Patterson.

It is unfathomable to me that, not only would a pastor have counseled this woman this way in the first place, but that he cites the way he handled this incident as an example to pastors and anyone else listening of a proper way to handle an abusive situation.

“…and she was angry at me, and at God…and she said, ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said, ‘Yes, ma’am. I am.’.”(3:34)
An abused, vulnerable woman comes to her pastor for help. She wants to do what’s godly and she wants her husband to stop using her as a punching bag. Her pastor sends her back to the abuser, the duty of handling the situation resting on her shoulders, and instructs her to do something he knows will result in more abuse. When she returns to the pastor, having been further abused, he says he’s happy.

Does she have reason to be angry with her pastor? You’d better believe it. Good reason.

Dr. Patterson is also the one who has caused her to be angry with God. The fault for that anger, while her responsibility to deal with in a godly way, lies squarely at his feet. He is her pastor. He is supposed to protect her and give her biblical counsel. She trusted that what he told her to do was the godly thing to do, so she did it. He was telling her what God wanted her to do, so, in a sense, he was the voice of God to her. It is only natural that she would be angry with God when her pastor failed her.

And to reply, “Yes ma’am, I am,” to her “I hope you’re happy!” comment? Unconscionable. I’m at a loss for words as to how any pastor could think that was an appropriate, godly, compassionate rejoinder to an abused woman’s pain and hopelessness when he should have been brokenhearted over failing her, and begging her forgiveness.

 

God has been abundantly gracious in Scripture to show us people who serve as good examples to us as well as people who serve as poor examples to us. The same is true today. There are pastors and other brothers and sisters in Christ who show us good examples of how to live out the Christian faith and there are times when those pastors and brothers and sisters fail and serve as an example of what not to do.

Paige Patterson is a brother in Christ who has failed, just like we all do. It is the duty of those Christians who are closest to him to rebuke him and encourage him to repent. God can and will cause this situation to work for Dr. Patterson’s good, and for ours as well, if we take the opportunity to learn from it. Let us put this sorrowful situation to work for the good of the Kingdom and for victims who need our help by using it to help us see how to biblically handle instances of spousal abuse in the church.


Additional Resources

Press release from Paige Patterson 

SWBTS Statement on Abuse by Paige Patterson and Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees

CBMW Statement on Abuse at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

What about divorce and abuse? by Denny Burk, President of CBMW

Paige Patterson and Doing the Right Thing for the SBC, Again by Ed Stetzer

Celebrity Pastors, Discernment, False Teachers, Social Media

Throwback Thursday ~ Four Reasons Why It Matters Who We Share, Pin, and Re-Tweet

Originally Published May 22, 2014social media sharing11016795_940772822630319_6378691848652775577_n

Scroll…scroll…wince…

Scroll…scroll…wince…

I find myself wincing a bit when I see people –who I know genuinely love Jesus—sharing, pinning, and re-tweeting quotes from false teachers such as Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and Christine Caine, just to name a few. Why? What’s wrong with the encouraging, even biblical, at times, things these people say?

First of all, let me back up a little. What is a “false teacher”? A false teacher is someone who is billed as a Christian pastor or Bible teacher who habitually and unrepentantly writes, teaches, or preaches things that conflict with the clear teaching of Scripture. For example, all four of the people I listed above teach some version of the prosperity gospel, the false teaching that is most rampant in the Western church today. Additionally, T.D. Jakes adheres to the false doctrine of modalism, and Joyce Meyer and Christine Caine blatantly disobey the Bible’s teaching that women are not to be pastors or instruct men in the Scriptures in the church.

These days, it can be difficult to keep up with who teaches sound doctrine and who does not, especially when pastors and teachers we thought were theologically orthodox seem to be turning apostate at an alarming rate. I myself have been a fan of more than one popular writer/teacher/preacher that I later realized was a false teacher (Joyce Meyer was one of them.) as I delved into what they actually taught and believed and compared it to God’s word. I know first hand that it’s easy to think that these people are good biblical teachers and preachers when what they say sounds good, makes us feel good, and has an occasional Bible verse sprinkled in.

Because I’ve been there myself and know how easy it can be to be drawn in by false teachers, I don’t have any less respect for folks who re-tweet the occasional Osteen-ism of the day. th (1)In fact, I have more respect for them, because I know they love the Lord, they’re making an effort to find biblical teaching to listen to, and they have the courage to try to share the gospel with their friends and family via social media. Those are all fantastically good things, and they are to be commended.

But, still, the quotes we share and the people who said them matter. Why?

1. Lost people’s eternities are at stake.
Seriously? From hitting the “share” button on a false teacher’s status? Seriously. I don’t think that’s overstating the gravity of the matter. There’s no way to take the possibility of an eternity in hell too seriously.

Think about it: You have an unsaved Facebook friend. She’s getting to the point in her life where she figures it’s time to get her stuff together, so she starts looking into this whole Jesus thing. Where to start? She’s never even set foot inside a church. Aha! She remembers you’re a Christian. Maybe you’ll have a good lead for her. As she’s thinking about all this, you share Joyce Meyer’s status, and it appears in your friend’s news feed. “Ah,” your friend thinks, “this must be a good Bible teacher if my Christian friend follows her.” So she “likes” Joyce Meyer’s Facebook page and follows her on Twitter. Then she starts watching her on TV. Buys some of her books. Maybe attends one of her conferences. Because your friend has zero knowledge of the Bible, she believes everything Joyce Meyer says. It sounds good. It makes her feel good. She’s hearing a few out of context Bible verses here and there. But the problem is that Joyce Meyer doesn’t teach the Jesus of the Bible. She teaches a false god of her own creation. And if your friend doesn’t put her faith in the true Jesus of the Bible, she’s just as lost as she was before. Only now she thinks she’s a Christian. And you can’t convince her otherwise.

Sound far fetched? Maybe. Maybe not. But if there’s even the slightest chance something like that could happen, is it really worth justifying that status share? Furthermore, is it worth even following a teacher who could lead someone you love to an eternity in hell?

2. It gives false teachers free publicity and a broader platform.
One thing I was very surprised to learn when I first began the process of having my book published is that publishers want non-fiction writers to have a built in audience, or “platform,” before they will publish your book. That means you’re already doing speaking engagements and/or have a decent sized ministry, have lots of followers on social media, etc. As I once explained to someone, “You don’t get your book published and then become (celebrity Bible teacher) you have to be (celebrity Bible teacher) in order to get published.”

human-334110_640Social media stats are a big factor in a celebrity preacher’s/teacher’s platform. If T.D. Jakes suddenly lost the majority of his social media followers, you can bet the TV stations he’s on and the conferences he gets invited to would be taking a serious look at whether or not they’d continue to affiliate with him, because it would indicate that his audience is shrinking.

Conversely, when we re-pin, re-post, or re-tweet these folks, their social media stats go up. They not only get a broader platform on social media from which to spread their unbiblical teaching, they continue to get more book, radio, TV, and other media deals, get invited to speak at more conferences, and even start exporting their false teaching overseas (“missions”) to people who have never heard the gospel before and have no way of knowing they’re being lied to.

When we promote false teachers on social media, we bear some of the responsibility for the spread of their false doctrine.

3. It is disobedient to Scripture.
Often, when a Christian is told she’s following a false teacher, the common response is, “Oh, I just chew up the meat and spit out the bones,” meaning that she takes to heart the “good” things the false teacher has to say and ignores the bad.

The question is: where does the Bible say this is the correct way to deal with false teachers? Answer: it doesn’t. In fact Scripture says exactly the opposite.

For starters, Galatians 1:6-9 says that if anyone preaches a different gospel (such as the prosperity gospel) from the one that’s set down in Scripture, “let him be accursed.” “Accursed” means “damned,” sentenced to hell for eternity.

1 Timothy 4:7 and Titus 3:10 say that we are to have nothing to do with people who teach “irreverent or silly myths” or cause division by teaching false doctrine.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 tells us not to be joined together or partner with unbelievers, lawlessness, darkness, Belial (the devil), or idols.

1 Corinthians 5:7-13 tells us that when a person infiltrates the church who claims to be a Christian, yet is greedy, an idolater, or a swindler— all of which are things that prosperity preachers are guilty of— we are to “cleanse out the old leaven.” We are “not to associate” with them. We are to “purge the evil person from among you.”

Titus 1:10-16 says of false teachers, “They must be silenced,” because they teach “for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” Paul instructs Titus to “rebuke them sharply,” and that, “they profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

The entire second chapter of 2 Peter paints a dismal picture of the motives, the behavior, and the fate of false teachers:

“Because of them, the way of truth will be blasphemed.”

“In their greed they will exploit you with false words.”

They will “be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.”

“They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.”

“They entice unsteady souls.”

“For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.”

“They promise them [people who listen to their false teaching] freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.”

The entire epistle of Jude is dedicated to exhorting Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Of false teachers, Jude says:

“Certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…Woe to them!”

There’s more, because a large portion of the New Testament is dedicated to exhorting Christians to stay away from false doctrine and rebuke those who teach it, but I think you get the picture. Is it obedient to Christ and to His word to follow and promote someone He says is damnable? People who teach another gospel, such as the prosperity gospel, are the enemies of Christ. Who are we going to side with, Christ or His enemies?

4. It is unloving and disloyal to our Master.
Think about the person you love the most in this world. Maybe it’s your spouse, your child, a parent, or a friend. Next, think about your favorite celebrity, perhaps a movie star, a TV personality, or a famous author or athlete. Now try to imagine that that celebrity, in interviews with journalists, on talk shows he appears on, at personal appearances and speaking engagements, in books he writes, etc., routinely tells lies about the character of your dearest loved one. And ththousands, maybe millions, of people believe him.

Would you continue to be a fan of that celebrity?

What if your loved one found out you were a fan of that celebrity? How would she feel to know you were a fan of someone who spreads lies about her?

If we wouldn’t follow someone who lies about a loved one, how much less should we as Christians have anything to do with a celebrity preacher, teacher, or author who drags the name of our precious Savior through the mud and lies about the gospel?

Friends, for all of these reasons and more, let’s stop promoting these false teachers on social media by publicizing their quotes and other materials. Looking for an encouraging quote to share? There’s nothing better than a verse of Scripture. Because Scripture can offer people something that false teachers can’t: truth and hope. As Jesus Himself said,

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17

Celebrity Pastors, Discernment

Stricter Judgment, Even for MY Favorite Teacher

It’s a funny thing that it’s so easy for us to see the far away faults and foibles of others, but the ones in our own hearts – the sins and hypocrisy we know most intimately – are constantly in our spiritual blind spot. Jesus understood this all too well and admonished us to make sure our own hands are clean before taking the tweezers to the mote in a sister’s eye.

Often, it’s not that we’re ignoring the plank that’s obscuring our vision, we’re just not even aware that it’s there. When I evaluate my own heart to confess my sins to the Lord, the ones that weigh heaviest on my spirit are not those that I know I’ve committed and need to repent of, it’s the ones I’m sure are lurking somewhere… but I can’t quite put my finger on them.

One of the subtle hypocrisies theologically orthodox, blameless and upright, discerning Christians can have trouble seeing in ourselves is our failure to hold our favorite pastors and teachers to the same biblical standards we apply to other pastors and teachers.

We correctly criticize Steven Furtick and Beth Moore for palling around with the likes of Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes, but when Lauren Chandler speaks at IF:Gathering several years in a row, co-hosts a summer Bible study with Beth Moore, and publicly declares her desire to meet Christine Caine¹, suddenly, it’s “touch not mine anointed” just because she’s married to our darling Matt?

What if John MacArthur decided it would be a good idea to invite Joel Osteen to speak at ShepCon next year?

Or R.C. Sproul annually celebrated Reformation Day by getting snockered at a local pub?

Or you found out Alistair Begg’s style of “shepherding” was to intimidate his staff and church members through outbursts of rage?

Would you make excuses for them? Sweep this stuff under the rug and continue to listen to their sermons and read their books without batting an eye?

Pastors and teachers don’t get a pass on sin just because they’re Reformed, or discerning, or have a virtually unblemished record of doctrinal soundness, or because they’re “one of the good guys.” If they’re called to account, and they repent and strive toward holiness, hallelujah! That’s what God requires of all Christians – that we walk before Him blamelessly and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. But if they unrepentantly persist in sin despite biblical correction, there’s a problem there- with their own hearts, and with ours, if we knowingly turn a blind eye to their willful disobedience just because they’re our favorites.

God makes it clear throughout His Word that pastors, teachers, and others in positions of spiritual leadership bear a grave responsibility to set a godly example for those who look to them for teaching and guidance. And, in certain ways, God requires a higher standard for those in spiritual leadership than He requires of Christians He has not called to lead.

…No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them…
Leviticus 21

…And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the Lord has kindled. And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses…
Leviticus 10:1-11

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8

not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
1 Peter 5:3

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Philippians 3:17

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Luke 12:45-48

you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 
Romans 2:21-23

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 
James 3:1

As the passages above allude to, sound doctrine, while crucial, is not God’s only requirement for pastors and teachers. They are also required to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine (not befriend them or join them on the conference dais). And Paul outlines the numerous behavioral requirements for pastors, elders, and deacons not once but twice, even going so far as to say that deacons must “prove themselves blameless” and that “an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.” Right theology does not excuse wrong behavior.

Why, then, when God’s standards for those who lead are so high, are we quick to sweep aside unrepentant wrongdoing by the teachers we hold most dear, sometimes even holding them to lower standards than we would hold ourselves? “I would never preach to men, but I’ll give Teacher X a pass on it.” “There’s no way I’d partner with a false teacher, but it’s not a big deal that Preacher Y does it.”

The Jesus who says “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” who says that even one sin is one sin too many, is not a God who is OK with His people glossing over disobedience. God wants sin dealt with, repented of, and forsaken, especially in those who lead, because receiving correction and repenting of sin sets a rare and phenomenal biblical example for Christians to follow.

Do we go off the deep end and reject a trustworthy teacher the first time she does something a little iffy? Of course not. But should we step back, keep a closer, more objective eye on her and her trajectory as time goes by to see if she corrects her course? Yes. Should we stop following her if she continues to dive deeper and deeper into sin with no signs of turning around? Even if she’s always been doctrinally sound? Even if she’s complementarian? Even if she attends a church with a good theological reputation? Even if we’ve enjoyed all of her books thus far? Definitely.

Let’s shed some light on those blind spots our favorite teachers occupy and let our highest loyalty be to Christ, His Word, and His standards for leadership.


¹Information on these and other false teachers can be found at the Popular False Teachers tab at the top of this page.

Celebrity Pastors, Discernment, False Teachers, Throwback Thursday, Word of Faith Movement

Throwback Thursday ~ Of Mega-Blogs and Molotov Cocktails

Originally published January 30, 2014megablogs molotov

I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids, and I’m Not screaming-womanSorry, screamed the headline. Quite an attention grabber. It certainly grabbed mine. So, of course, I read the article.

It was brash. Extremist. Rude. Rather one dimensional and completely devoid of nuance. And it made me mad, too, since I used to be a young woman with a husband and kids. (“Used to be,” as in, I still have the husband and kids and I’m still a woman, but “young” would be a stretch at this point.)

I was all set to write a blog post in response about the value of wifing, mothering, and working outside the home. You know, whatever God has called you to. So as prep for my article, I read the article again. And again.

And, like a toddler yanking at the hem of my skirt to get my attention, an epiphany pushed and shoved its way into my consciousness.

It wasn’t real.

Or maybe I should say: I suspect it wasn’t 100% sincere.

Have you ever visited a mega-blog like Buzzfeed or Mashable? They churn out tons of cheap content every day, glasscandy-532959which means lots of hits on their web sites and lots of posts that go viral, which means lots of money from advertisers. (Nothing wrong with that, but it’s usually not terribly deep stuff. Sometimes people want a little mind candy, and that’s OK.)

Guess what? Lots of people want a piece of that pie and it’s easier to copycat than to innovate, so there are lots of other upstarts out there trying to become the next mega-blog. Like Thought Catalog, which published the aforementioned article on young women with husbands and kids.

As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and in a PR move that would make even Miley Cyrus chartreuse with envy, Thought Catalog threw out a Molotov cocktail of an article, stood back, and watched the crowd gather. Nearly a quarter of a million shares on Facebook. Almost 2000 re-tweets. Over 11,000 comments. From a PR standpoint, there’s pretty much no choice but to admire them.

Is Amy Glass, the author of the article, a real person? Maybe she is, or maybe it’s a pseudonym for someone who works for Thought Catalog as a content writer. If she’s a real person, are these her genuine thoughts and feelings, or did she throw in a hearty dose of hyperbole to push her readers into clicking, tweeting, sharing, pingback-ing, and writing response articles?

I don’t know.

There’s a lot of deception going on out there these days (I’m not saying Thought Catalog is being deceptive. Honestly, I haven’t poked around over there enough to know.) and it’s not just “out there.” It’s inside the walls of the church, as well.

joel_osteen-false_prophetThere are plenty of “Buzzfeed” pastors, leaders, and Christian authors who are throwing out cheap content and bombshells…

…2014 is going to be the year God turns everything around for you!
…Just say what you want! If you can say it, you can have it!
…God wants you to achieve all your dreams, so reach for the stars!

Joyce-MeyerThe glass breaks, the flames fly, and the crowd gathers. Their churches are overflowing with people. Their books become best sellers. They’re invited to speak at all the big conferences. And when the little guys start copying them and their methods, they know they’ve arrived.

But are they telling you the truth? And if you’re one of their devotees, how do you know whether or not they’re telling you the truth? Do you even want to know, or are you just happy with being entertained or being told what you want to hear?

There’s a way to find out. Get your Bible out and study it. Don’t just give it a surface reading– do the work and dig. Use the brain God gave you and pursue the knowledge of His word. Ask Him to open your eyes to understand the truth of Scripture. Love God with your mind, not just your emotions. Don’t be deceived.

Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.
Proverbs 1:29-33