Discernment, Guest Posts

Guest Post: Why I Left Elevation Church

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

Why I Left Elevation Church
by Name Withheld


Disclaimer:
The author’s statements about her tenure at Elevation and
what particular Elevation pastors or staff said and did should be
taken as her own personal experience and not as irrefutable fact.


As you pull up to the parking lot, you are first greeted by someone directing parking traffic decked out in all orange. In the parking lot, there is a sea of Elevation Church bumper stickers plastered on everyone’s cars. You walk up to church, and you’re then greeted by volunteer after volunteer persuading you to join their eGroup or to join a volunteer team. It almost feels like you’re walking in the shopping mall and on every side of you there are sales people bombarding you trying to get you to buy their perfumes and colognes. After you dodge them all, you’re then surrounded by all sorts of people — local people, people who traveled from a few hours away, or people who flew in from out of country to attend this particular church. As you wait in line, you see to your left a merchandise table

You finally enter the auditorium of the church, and you’re ushered into your seat, or to what it may feel like, forced into your seat. “All the way down! Move all the way down, do not leave any empty chairs!” the usher tells you, because there can’t be any gaps where you sit for camera purposes. Suddenly, the lights dim and there’s a countdown on a giant screen letting you know when church will start. If you were new to the church, it would feel like you’re at a New Years Eve party. People all around you are excited and they start to stand up and clap and dance before the countdown even finishes. The person to your right is inserting the ear plugs that the church offers as you walk into the auditorium to help with the unbearably loud noise during worship. The lights come back on and the worship team comes on stage; there’s laser lights and fog machines and for a second, you think you’re at a concert. 

After some sort of high-quality, overly produced videos, the pastor then comes on stage. He first takes about five to ten minutes trying to gauge the crowd and then work the crowd to get them pumped up for whatever he is about to butcher, oh sorry, I mean preach. He puts up 1-3 Bible verses on the screen for everyone to follow along and then amazingly enough, spends about an hour and a half convincing the crowd that his Bible twisting is true. “The reason why you’re not being blessed by God, is because you don’t have enough faith!” he tells the crowd, some of whom are wealthy, and some of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, while he is on the stage dressed from head to toe in all Gucci.

After church ends, it’s an unbelievable ordeal to exit. You’re pushed and shoved, and people are stepping on your feet as you try to find your way out of the auditorium. Oh, and you’ll most definitely spend about ten to fifteen minutes sitting in your car in the parking lot trying to leave. You pull out of the church parking lot, and congratulations, you survived a visit to Elevation.

^^^^^

I was part of Elevation Church for about six years. At the time, I thought it was the greatest church on Earth and if anyone spoke negative about it, I thought they were just bitter. It felt like I was in a relationship with Elevation Church. With any relationship, in the beginning, it was puppy love and you just always want to be around them 24/7 so you volunteer extra hours and join everything that they have and buy all of their t-shirts and CDs. Then the relationship slowly became the overly attached partner that you so desperately needed to break up with, but didn’t know how to.

I eventually became the lead photographer at one of Elevation’s campuses and even was on the photography team for their live album recording, Here As In Heaven, at the Spectrum Center Arena (formerly known as the Time Warner Cable Arena). I led a team of about forty people. The majority of them were older than me so it was challenging at times to be a leader figure when my team were twice my age. I pretty much lived at church, between meetings and special events they had going on, I was always working. And when you’re around a church for that long, you see and hear a lot of things. 

I overheard the campus pastor telling potential new staff that they had to take a bullet for the church if it ever came to that point. I heard some staff getting fired when they were asked if they were “team Elevation” to which the staff member said, “I’m team Jesus.” So they were fired for not “bleeding orange.” 

Before Steven Furtick gets on stage, the photography team at the campus that he is at immediately has to upload photos of what the crowd looks like that day so he can see how big or how small his crowd is.

Eventually, I decided to quit after what I was witnessing didn’t feel like a church to me. On top of that, I was absolutely exhausted every time I got home and was starting to lose passion for photography. 

And boy oh boy, the day I told my supervisor that I was quitting was not fun. I lost all of my friends. And I’m not being dramatic when I say that I lost all my friends. Everyone I worked with and thought were my friends shunned me and ignored all my text messages and blocked me on social media. I was a total outcast. It was a pretty lonely year. I’m not going to lie. It was rough. 

I kept praying to God to give me discernment and to open up my eyes if I’m doing something wrong, to bring clarity. And God sure did answer my prayer, in a major way. 

About four months ago, my mom came into my room to where I was and all excited she tells me, “Guess who I heard on the radio?!”. I shrug my shoulders and say, “Who?” She says, “Costi Hinn, Benny Hinn’s nephew! He was saying how everything that Benny Hinn says and does, as well as other false teachers is fake, he was essentially exposing him.” My mom and I were pretty big Benny Hinn fans. When I was younger and lived in Florida, we went to his crusade and we managed to get floor seats because we thought the closer we got to Benny Hinn, the closer we got to a healing or a miracle. I was absolutely shocked when she told me. So the millennial in me started to look him up on Twitter and I found a tweet he posted about Bethel Church in Redding, California. I was intrigued, because I was accepted to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) but I ended up getting scammed seven thousand dollars that someone was supposed to give me and then I couldn’t go. Naturally, I was frustrated but I prayed to God to show me why I couldn’t go. This felt like an answered prayer. I replied to Costi’s tweet about Bethel and about two minutes later he replied to me, he gave me his email and out of the kindness of his heart, sent me his two books for free as well as an email full of information. I’m still trying to process all of it.

When I read Costi’s book, God, Greed, And The (Prosperity) Gospel, I read it so quick because I couldn’t put it down. It was three in the morning when I did finally finish it. I put the book down and just kept saying, “Wow.” I’ve been a Christian since I was three years old, and it felt like everything that I knew was one giant lie.

After that, I began to research more people and found so many good pastors and teachers that have shed a ton of light and information for me. Between what type of worship music you should and shouldn’t listen to, the type of church that you should attend, pastors you should stay away from, even down to the translation of the Bible that is good and which ones are bad. 

So what does my life look like now after I left Elevation? Well, I’m still in process mode. I keep doing my research and make sure that what I’m doing is biblically correct. I got rid of any books from false teachers that I had, got a different translation of the Bible, and deleted my old worship music playlist that was full of Elevation Worship, Hillsong Worship, and Bethel Music. I continue to pray for God to reveal to me what is the truth and little by little, I get new information.

This has most definitely been a journey of rediscovering Jesus, the true Jesus. It’s deconstructing everything that I was taught from false teachers and filling myself up with the true Gospel. And I am so grateful for God revealing to me the truth about Bethel Church before I got filled with even more deception by attending their school.

I share my story of leaving Elevation, because I want to help others who are being deceived by false teachers, like I once was, to be brought out so they can understand the true Gospel. I’ve seen – firsthand – false doctrine damage people so deep that they leave Christianity completely. When church becomes more about entertainment and theatrics, you have to ask yourself if it’s even a church. If you talk to anyone who goes to Elevation Church, you can tell that the focus is not centered on God, because the conversation always points to Steven Furtick and on his performance, not the actual word of God. 

I fully realize that not everyone is going to agree with me on this, especially those who I went with to Elevation Church. I love the people I worked with at Elevation Church, and it is because I love them that I am writing this because I want them to be brought out of deception. This has been no easy task, but it makes it all worth it to obey Christ.

Because good theology and sound doctrine matters.

Linked below¹ are resources that have helped me on this journey of finding the truth. I am forever grateful for their knowledge and for pouring into me and sharing with me the true Gospel.

An incredible documentary that shows how important it is to spread the true Gospel and how dangerous the word of faith movement is: American Gospel

Books by John MacArthur that have helped me: Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos

Books by Costi Hinn that have helped me: God, Greed, And The (Prosperity) Gospel and Defining Deception

A Bible chart that breaks down different translations of the Bible.

How to find a good church near you: 9Marks

Video from Fighting For The Faith (Chris Rosebrough) on Steven Furtick from Elevation Church: Steven Furtick and The Danger of a Dream

Other helpful people to watch on YouTube:

Melissa Dougherty

Doreen Virtue

Mike Winger

Justin Peters and his Website.

Lindsay Davis who was an ex-Bethel student (BSSM) sharing her testimony: Ex Bethel Student Tells All: Lindsay Davis Testimony from Melissa Dougherty and Doreen Virtue

And Michelle Lesley who was kind enough to give me an opportunity to share my story.


The author of this guest post wished to remain anonymous. She is a resident of North Carolina and a former member of Elevation Church.


NOTEs FROM MICHELLE:
¹I AM NOT thoroughly FAMILIAR WITH All OF THESE RESOURCES AND DO NOT ENDORSE ANY OF THEM WHICH DEVIATE FROM SCRIPTURE OR MY THEOLOGY AS OUTLINED IN THE “WELCOME” AND “STATEMENT OF FAITH” TABS AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE. AS WITH ANY RESOURCE, PLEASE THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THESE BEFORE USING THEM.
²See also the Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page, which includes not only the 9Marks church search engine but many others, and additional resources, as well.
Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Benny repents?, Brother Lawrence, Why the Calvinist label?…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


I saw this video making the rounds on social media. It appears as though Benny Hinn is repenting of teaching the prosperity gospel. Is this true, or too good to be true?

Briefly, it is not true, and his behavior and teaching bears this out. He has made similar claims in the past and continues to teach the same old lies from the same old pit of Hell. The YouTube video making the rounds is 4½ minutes long. What it doesn’t show is that for an hour and a half prior to this 4½ minute snippet Benny conducted one of his regular “healing” services. Furthermore, prosperity teaching is not the only heretical aspect of Benny’s theology, so even if he had repented of teaching the prosperity gospel, he would remain a heretic to avoid.

Repentance doesn’t just mean a blase admission that something is wrong. Repentance is a total change of lifestyle. If Benny were to repent, what we would see would be genuine, long lasting grief over his sin. He would step down from, and dismantle his “ministry,” cancel all of his tours, crusades, and speaking engagements, take all of his books out of print, shut down all of his online platforms and do everything in his power to scrub the internet of his false teaching (at the moment, he has said he’s planning to keep his “most popular” teachings available online for those who want them), return the money he has scammed from people, and park himself in a solid church so he can learn the gospel, be saved, and be discipled in sound doctrine.

If you’d like to believe Benny has repented, OK. Check back up on him in about six months and see if he has done any of the things above to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

For the longer version of the answer to this question, see the resources below.

Benny Hinn and the Fruit of True Repentance at A Word Fitly Spoken

(Be sure to get and read both of Costi’s books if you haven’t already.)

WWUTT 1030 Q&A Benny Hinn, Couples Studies, Christian Fiction? at WWUTT

No, Benny Hinn Has Not Repented by Gabe Hughes

Benny Hinn’s nephew ‘encouraged’ by uncle’s rejection of prosperity gospel, calls for ‘genuine repentance’ at The Christian Post

Benny Hinn and the Fruit of True Repentance at Voice of Reason Radio

Benny Hinn Renounces His Selling of God’s Blessings. Critics Want More. at Christianity Today


[In your “Welcome” tab,] you describe yourself as…….A genuinely regenerated Protestant, Southern Baptist, Calvinist/Reformed Baptist…I am just getting in on the Reformed Baptist conversation. As a Southern Baptist, why do I need to add all the other titles. Why or what did you reform? I am confused. Why can’t you just be Southern Baptist?

You don’t need to use a bunch of labels if you don’t want to, I just want to be specific and clear to my readers what my theology is in case they’d like to know, and so they will know what to expect when they read my articles.

Reformed Baptist theology is different from Arminian (or what Southern Baptists like to call “Traditionalist” theology). If you are Southern Baptist and unfamiliar with Calvinism, you are most likely in a Traditionalist church (you may want to ask your pastor). I think you’ll find the answers to many of your questions in this article (be sure to read the additional resources at the end, too.) I’d also encourage you to read the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.

(Just a reminder to my regular readers, I don’t engage in or allow Calvinism/Arminianism debates and arguments in the comments sections of my articles or on social media. Please review my comment parameters at the “Welcome” tab at the top of this page before commenting.)


I am, for now, the choir director at my church. I lead the choir and my husband leads the congregational hymn singing. In one question I read [on your blog], I should not be doing that- the answer to the question of whether woman should serve as worship leaders or music ministers was a simple “no”. It would help a great deal to have an extended answer, and then I’ll know whether to tender my resignation and find another way to serve. I can happily go back to just singing in the choir. Thank you for your insight.

It’s so encouraging when I hear from women who want to do the biblical thing! I’m not sure which of my articles you were reading where I simply said “no” to the question of whether or not women should serve as worship leaders, but I have addressed that question in greater length in this article (see #4).

Of course, this article doesn’t address a woman only directing the choir, but rather, serving as the minister of music. I can see some situations in which it might be biblically OK for a woman to only direct the choir.

For example, if it’s an emergency situation like the minister of music getting sick at the last moment on Sunday morning and he has been the one to lead the choir through rehearsals, explain the text of the music to them, etc., and the only person capable of stepping in and directing the choir that morning (just the choir, not the congregation) is a woman, I don’t think that would be a problem. Another example: At my church, the choir occasionally does anthems that center around a tenor solo, which our minister of music (who directs the choir) will sometimes sing. He will step up to the pulpit to sing the solo, and a lady in the choir will direct the choir part of the anthem. I don’t think that’s problematic, either.

Of course, you will need to pray about it and talk it over with your husband and pastor, but, for what it’s worth, my thought on your situation is that if your husband is Scripturally qualified (as well as musically qualified) to step into the pastoral role of minister of music (because men should not hold positions of leadership they’re not biblically qualified for either), and he is overseeing the choir – selecting the music, leading rehearsals, etc. (all the pastoral type things mentioned in the article), then it would not be a problem for you to simply direct them on Sunday morning. Especially if, as it sounds like might be the case, the two of you are temporarily filling in until a permanent minister of music can be found and hired. But, really, the best case scenario would be for your husband (and/or another biblically qualified man to) lead the congregation and the choir. And it would probably be a load off your shoulders!


I have a question that I haven’t been able to find a clear answer to including in your blog. Can women teach men in Bible study say on a Thursday night?

The 1 Tim 2:12-13 Scripture points to Adam being created first then Eve therefore, therefore I would deduct that women should not teach or exercise authority over a man whether it be in church, Sunday School or in a Thursday night Bible study. Am I wrong?

DING! DING! DING! You are absolutely RIGHT! Tell her what she’s won, Johnny! :0)

Yes, you’re correct. You’ll notice in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 that there’s no exception for any day of the week. The prohibition against women teaching men is for any day ending in a Y.

And, you didn’t say where this Thursday night Bible study is meeting, but those types of gatherings of the Body often meet in homes, and there’s no exception for meeting in a home (or anywhere else) versus meeting inside the four walls of a church building, either. When 1 Timothy was written, there were no church buildings. The church was largely meeting in people’s homes. I say “the church was meeting,” because the church is the gathering of Believers, not the building in which they meet. So it’s not OK for women to teach Scripture or preach to a co-ed gathered body of Believers, whether that’s in a church building during worship service or a smaller class or group, or at a Christian conference, retreat, parachurch event, or at a Bible study at someone’s home on a Thursday night.

You’re also correct that I’ve never addressed this specific question directly, but I have touched on it here, here (2nd question), and here (#7 – I just hopped over to this article and added home, workplace, and coffee shop Bible studies to question 7). So let me grab the salient points from those articles and put them together in a more helpful way:

“Teaching” includes any situation in the gathering of the body of Christ in which women would be giving instruction to men in the Scriptures and/or on spiritual matters (which, in a biblical church gathering, would necessarily include Scripture), whether in an official position of teacher (pastor, teaching elder, Sunday School/Bible study teacher, or other leadership position) or any other situation requiring exhorting, teaching, or explaining of the Scriptures.

We need to remember what the definition of “church” is. The church is not a building, it is a body of born again believers gathered for the purpose of worship, prayer, the ordinances, and/or the study of God’s word. Those things can take place in a church building, a home (as with the first century churches in Acts), in a campus or office building, outdoors, in a conference center, in a sports arena, or anywhere else. So, when a body of believers comes together for these purposes, regardless of the building in which they meet, or whether you call it “church” or not, they are the church, and the biblical parameters about women teaching and holding authority over men applies.

I don’t mean this to sound facetious or anything, but sin is sin no matter what time of day or day of the week it takes place on.


Today, I came across a book I had purchased in the past – Practicing the Presence of God from Brother Lawrence. Taking a quick look at the book, I’m inclined to throw it away. It reminds me of Buddhist thinking or New Age garbage. As a monk, Brother Lawrence’s Catholic theology conflicts with biblical Christianity.

Before I became a Christian, I was into New Age thinking and practices. Just reading bits and pieces of this book makes me think New Age thinking instead of what I know from the Bible. I’m going to throw it away…I don’t see any redeeming Christian theology in it thus far. I don’t want to expose anyone else to wrong theology. Just wondered if you have any thoughts on this book?

Unlike the vast majority of books I’m asked about, I have actually read this one. However, it has probably been ten years ago or more since I read it. All I remember is that it was fairly short (which is probably why I read it), and that one of his main points was keeping our thoughts focused on God at all times. And I mean all times. Every waking moment of the day, we are to be consciously, actively thinking about God or we’re not pleasing Him. I remember trying to put that into practice. Even while doing something as mindless as washing the dishes, it was impossible and exhausting. (It did, however demonstrate to me how much of the time our brains are on auto-pilot.)

You’re correct in your assessment of the theology of the book. Brother Lawrence was a Roman Catholic mystic. Roman Catholic doctrine – as it is laid out in their own documents – is patently unbiblical, as is mysticism. Christians should not receive any sort of spiritual teaching from someone with that theological pedigree.

Thank you for throwing the book out instead of passing bad theology on to others.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

What a summer! From a lovely trip to visit with my family to the Open Letter to Beth Moore (by the way, ladies, you can still sign it if you haven’t already) to podcast interviews to a hurricane (everything’s fine, thanks – praise God!) to both of my young adult children’s cars dying in the same week and my husband and me playing chauffeur for them (please pray that God will provide the vehicles they need), my summer has been a non-stop whirlwind. I can’t believe next week will already be August!

Let’s jump into some Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources, shall we?

Light (Blog) Housekeeping

If you’re relatively new to the blog, you might not be aware of all the features and resources available to you here. Check out Blog Orientation for New Readers and Old Friends.

But even if you’ve been around a while, I’ve updated a few things you might not have noticed:

I’ve changed the Popular False Teachers tab (at the top of this page) to Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends. That’s because I’ve added resources on the Enneagram and I’m planning to add info on more unbiblical trends in the future. I’ve also added information on MOPS to this tab in case I forgot to mention it.

I think The Servanthood Survey (published last week) is going to be a helpful resource for churches (and individuals), so I created a new tab to have that always at the ready.

If you’ve used my discernment article on Beth Moore lately, you may have noticed that it has a new look. I’ve changed the title and the introduction, fixed broken links and added a few new ones, and added some updated material, but it’s still the same article with the same link: Living Proof You Should Follow Beth (No) Moore.

Recently, I was put in “Facebook timeout” (I couldn’t post to my Facebook page from certain devices) for sharing what the powers that be deemed to be “hate speech” – a meme that quoted 1 Timothy 2:12. If you’re on Facebook, you’re probably hearing more and more about things like this happening to Christians for posting biblical views (no matter how kindly worded).

As many are predicting, there will probably come a time when Christians who share biblical posts will be banned from Facebook. In case something like this happens to me, I’ve opened up a MeWe page. MeWe is a social media platform that’s extremely similar to Facebook, except they pride themselves on their customer service, their privacy policy, and their “no political agenda” policy (meaning they don’t censor every little thing like Facebook does). If you’re familiar with Facebook, you’ll find MeWe’s interface nearly identical, plus it has a few neat features Facebook doesn’t have.

If you’d like to connect on MeWe, set up an account, then, just search Michelle Lesley, or go directly to my page and click the “add contact” button. If you’d rather do it later, I’ve added a link to my MeWe page to the Contact and Social Media tab at the top of this page.

And finally, would you like to write up a testimony (anything from a paragraph to a full length article) for Testimony Tuesday or an article or book review for a guest post? If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (see the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page), look over the articles at these two links to get a feel for what I’m looking for and drop me an e-mail so we can chat about it.

Book Report

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t write solicited book reviews, but there are extremely rare circumstances in which I will break that rule. There are also occasions when I will pick up a book of my own volition and commend it to you if I end up liking it. Today, you’re getting one of each.

A few months ago, Costi Hinn reached out and asked if I’d read and write an endorsement for his new book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. While his first book, Defining Deception, was an instructional introduction to the history and doctrine of the New Apostolic Reformation, I had been keeping up with Costi, and I knew that this second book was going to approach NAR/prosperity gospel false doctrine from the perspective of his personal testimony of growing up in (and being saved out of) Benny Hinn’s “ministry”. I had already heard Costi’s testimony several times and I knew my readers would find it encouraging and edifying. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel did not disappoint, and it is my joy to commend it to you:

A helpful primer on the prosperity gospel. The perfect blend of testimony, teaching, and tried-and-true tips for ministering to those caught in unbiblical teaching.

 

My two favorite genres of fiction are biblical historical fiction, and legal/political thrillers. Chris Skates writes both, so I’m looking forward to reading more of his books.

In order for me to enjoy a work of biblical historical fiction (a fictionalized account of a true Bible story), it has to be true to everything Scripture actually says happened (events, dialogue, chronology, etc.), and whatever the author “fills in the blanks” of the biblical account with has to be biblically and culturally plausible, and must not directly contradict clear Scripture.

Chris accomplished this beautifully in his first book, The Rain, his rendition of Noah and the ark. Chris paints a grim picture of a debauched society that refuses to repent. Noah’s wife and daughters-in-law receive names, and we get to imagine what they and Ham, Shem, and Japheth might have been like. It was interesting to ponder along with the story just how long, tedious, and treacherous the journey on the ark was. And let’s not forget the lack of light and air conditioning and…well…the lovely smells of all those animals!

The Rain is a fun, leisure time read. I think you’ll like it if you enjoy biblical historical fiction.

Stop Jumping the Gun 

Y’all know I’m all about discernment, right? I mean, I think my track record speaks for itself. But there’s an area of discernment we all need to get serious about right quick.

It’s that “right quick” part. We need to stop being reactionary and haphazardly tossing the “false teacher” label (or other spiritual aspersions) around any time somebody says something that causes us to raise an eyebrow, especially when that person has an impeccable record of sound doctrine, faithful preaching, and contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Since Tuesday’s release of the Founders Ministries cinedoc trailer By What Standard? God’s World…God’s Rules, I have been appalled at the rush to judgment regarding Tom Ascol and Albert Mohler. Neither of these brothers has committed any clear-cut sin, but I want to put the details of the accusations aside and focus on the general principle of jump-the-gun aspersion-casting against these two men and others like them.

Each of these gentlemen, as well as Founders Ministries itself, has a decades-long track record of being doctrinally sound and fighting the good fight for biblical truth – longer than some of you younger sisters have been alive. They, and other pastors, teachers, and folks in long-time doctrinally sound ministry, have earned the right to have brothers and sisters in Christ – especially mature and discerning brothers and sisters in Christ – give them the benefit of the doubt when no clear-cut sin has been committed.

Obviously, when we’re talking about high profile pastors and teachers we don’t know personally, this isn’t a local church issue, but I think we would do well to remember the principles behind 1 Timothy 5:17,19-20.

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching…Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

We rebuke those who persist in sin in the presence of all. We do not make off the cuff accusations, based on a single “iffy” incident or presumptions, against doctrinally sound elders who have proven themselves faithful through the years. And we also need to remember that in situations like these we don’t know the whole behind-the-scenes story. I think we could extend some grace, give them the honor and respect Scripture says they’re due, and reserve judgment until sin is committed or the incident is resolved.

Scripture calls us to be better than this to our elders. Let’s live up to that.

Is it really God’s judgment?

My daughter texted me this shortly after the recent earthquake in California. And when your heart of hearts asks you to write an article, you write an article! (Only I didn’t think it needed to be as long as a full article, so you’re getting it here instead, Sweetie.)

For those of us who don’t live in California, some of the news stories we hear about the sinful things going on there leave us slack-jawed. And for Christians, our frame of reference for gobsmacking sin is the Old Testament. God dealt with sin in some pretty intense ways in the OT, not the least of which, in one case, was causing the ground to split apart and swallow sinners alive. So I guess there is precedent for God using an earthquake to deal with sin. Is it possible the earthquake in California was God’s judgment upon their sin? Yes, it’s within the realm of possibility.

However, that kind of judgment is not normative, especially after the cross, and there are a lot of holes in that theory. If you’re tempted to use the line of reasoning that a natural disaster is, definitively, God’s judgment on California (or any other place) for their sin, could I just encourage you to think through the following points?

•In the past few months New York and Illinois have both passed hideous, from-the-bowels-of-hell laws protecting the sins of abortion and infanticide. Where are their earthquakes?

•Louisiana just passed one of the most abortion-restrictive laws in the nation. And then we had a hurricane. Was that storm a judgment on Louisiana?

•If “it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God…” (1 Peter 4:17), why wasn’t Redding, California – where Bethel “Church” is located – at the epicenter of the earthquake?

•Is it God’s judgment on sin if a tornado hits a doctrinally sound church in the Midwest?

•North Korea has been at the top of the list for years as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. Why don’t we ever hear about natural disasters there?

•There are scads of doctrinally sound churches (including John MacArthur’s church) and Christians in California. Wouldn’t God protect California on their account or at least get them out of California before He exercises judgment there? There’s biblical precedent for that, too.

I don’t think we can biblically say that a natural disaster is definitely God’s judgment on California’s, or any other state’s or nation’s sin. God will judge the world in righteousness when Christ returns. Until that time, what we can biblically say about natural disasters is that they are the result of the Fall. And that sometimes they’re the best thing in that could ever happen to someone. Because sometimes during a natural disaster, people hear the gospel or cry out to God and get saved.

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ January 14, 2019

Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

It’s a few years old, but this excellent episode of the Issues, Etc. radio show: This Week in Pop-American Christianity: Priscilla Shirer on Hearing the Voice of God recently came across my news feed. Many false teachers (in this case, Priscilla Shirer) twist or misunderstand John 10 to mean that, if you’re a Christian, God will speak to you audibly. That’s not what it means, as anyone who takes the time to read the passage in context can attest. Pastor and podcaster Chris Rosebrough explains simply, carefully, and biblically, why this teaching is wrong and what John 10 actually means.

 

“I get dozens of emails each month from parents whose teens are leaving the church or being swept away by a false version of Jesus and the gospel…In this list I’ve compiled ten critical topics for the modern teen.” Great for youth directors and parents of teens, but the adults in your church probably need to read this too. Check out Ten Theological Topics for Parents of Modern Teens by our friend Costi Hinn on his blog, For the Gospel.

 

Pornography is usually addressed as a “men’s problem”, but, increasingly, women are succumbing to this insidious temptation. Stephanie offers pastors three suggestions (these would be helpful for anyone) for counseling and discipling women who participate in the sin of pornography in her 9Marks article Helping Women Who Struggle with Pornography.

 

Thoroughly and knowledgeably written by Denny Burk (head of CBMW), What Does It Mean That Women Should “Remain Quiet” in Church? (1 Timothy 2) from Crossway is one of the best commentaries I’ve ever read on 1 Timothy 2:11-14. I’ve added it as a resource to my own article on that passage: Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit.

 

Fasting mirrors the hunger we should have for Christ. Do Christians Fast Because Food and Drink Are Bad? from Crossway explains more.

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

 

Some days you wake up and you just don’t know what to write about, and it’s a beautiful fall day – which is rare as hens’ teeth in south Louisiana – and you just don’t feel like writing, anyway. Writer’s block: it’s the bane of a blogger’s existence.

I have a Google Docs file I’ve entitled “Scratch Pad”. Whenever I get a good idea for an article, I jot down the gist of it there. Then, when it’s one of those “meh” weeks when I’m not overwhelmingly passionate about anything in particular, I can thumb through those ideas for some inspiration.

It’s one of those “meh” weeks.

I started sifting through my scratch pad, and I noticed some of those article starters had been on the list for a while, mostly because they could really be addressed in a paragraph or two and didn’t need to be stretched out into a whole article.

(Are you bored, yet? I feel like you’re bored. I’m already bored and I’m the one writing this thing.)

So today is going to be a “clean out the fridge” day with some short random ramblings and ruminations on a variety of topics, with maybe a helpful resource thrown in here and there if I think about it. I’m just going to set it all out there on the counter and, hopefully, you’ll see something that looks appetizing.

This may or may not become a regular (monthly or every other month or whenever) feature. I don’t know. It depends on how often I wake up feeling “meh” and whether or not y’all like it, so shoot me some feedback on this one, and we’ll go from there.

Helloooooooo? Is anybody still with me?

I see that hand!

Here we go…

The apostle Paula

There’s this…lady…on Twitter. She’s very sincere and passionate about her theology – most of which seems to be pretty doctrinally sound. I have no doubt that she has the best of intentions with her tweets, and that she’s a sister in Christ, but…well, let’s just say she has some…um…issues…which, at this point, she’s not willing to be discipled out of. She’s kind of a Servus Christi meets Steven Anderson meets Westboro (so EVERYTHING SHE TWEETS IS IN ALL CAPS AND VERY EXTREME AND INTENSE) but with fairly decent theology.

A while back, she asked me something along the lines of (I forgot to bookmark her question to me) what I thought of the way she presented the gospel to the lost (which included a lot of in depth Reformed theological concepts). This was my answer to her, in case it might be helpful to you…

OK, everything you’ve said is technically biblically correct and that’s really good! But it’s not just about having the facts right. If you want to be an effective witness you have to have the facts right AND the right approach. And I know you want to be effective- also good!

If I could just offer you a few things to think about:

–Reformed theology is great. I believe it. I think everybody should believe it. But lost people aren’t going to get it (1 Corinthians 2:14). They aren’t going to understand terms like sheep, elect, justification, etc., and that’s OK. They can learn that after they’re saved. I would suggest finding a way to simplify – not water down – just explain things in a simpler way that even a child could understand: “God is perfect and holy. You’re not because you’ve sinned by lying, coveting, etc. The punishment for sin is an eternity in Hell. Jesus paid the penalty for your sin by His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection so you don’t have to spend eternity in Hell. If you turn sorrowfully from your sin and trust in His finished work on the cross, He will save and forgive you.” Something like that.

–It could just be the way you’re coming across on Twitter, and maybe you don’t sound like this in real life, but you’re coming across as judgmental and condemning rather than, “I love you and I can’t bear the thought of you continuing in this life or in eternity without Jesus.” Most people today are really looking for somebody to love them. It’s like the old saying goes: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

–I think it would be better to leave off the persecution part [she had included something in the gospel presentation about how Christians should expect to be harshly persecuted], NOT because it isn’t true, but because repentance and trusting Christ is overwhelming enough for the moment. Persecution is not something we hide and we definitely don’t go the other way and tell people everything will be awesome if they get saved, but you don’t want to put a fire hose up to the mouth of a baby who can barely handle a bottle, either.

She didn’t agree with me, said I was peddling a seeker-driven, watered down gospel that would send people to Hell, and decided she needed to harass me on a regular basis, so, unfortunately, I had to part ways with her. Eh, what can you do? 🤷

A book report

My reading habits have been terrible over the past couple of years. I blame social media and TV. (Embarrassingly, that’s one of the main reasons that, with extremely rare exception, I don’t write solicited book reviews.)

But I had been wanting to get my hands on Costi Hinn’s and Anthony Wood’s book, Defining Deception, ever since it first came out. I finally got around to ordering it, I just finished reading it, and now I want to commend it to you.

It’s good. Get it. Read it.

If your church uses Bethel or Jesus Culture music, give a copy to your pastor and minister of music. (Actually, get all of your pastors copies anyway. It’s Pastor Appreciation Month, and I don’t know a pastor who doesn’t love a good book.)

First of all, it’s short. I mean, if it were any shorter, it would be a booklet, not a book. So even if you’re a reading schlub like me, you could finish it in under a week. Some of you book nerds could sit down and finish it in a couple of hours.

It’s basically a primer on the New Apostolic Reformation, using Bethel as the iconic NAR exemplar (which it is). You get a history of the NAR including key figures in its founding and growth, an explanation of the theological problems and heresies within the movement, a brief course in basic pneumatology, several appendices which answer more specific questions readers might have, and more. And it’s all helpfully written at a level any Joe or Jane in the pew without a seminary degree can understand.

This NAR garbage is making its way into average churches like yours. Read up and be prepared.

Hearing voices

Remember earlier this year when Vice President Pence had made some sort of comment about God speaking to him and The View’s maven of mockery, Joy Behar, chortled:

“It’s one thing to talk to Jesus, it’s another thing for Jesus to talk to you. That’s mental illness…”

(I told you some of this stuff had been sitting in the hopper for a while.)

It pains me to have to say this because I despise everything Joy stands for, as well as her smug, derisive, self-righteous, condescending, supercilious, insulting attitude toward anything conservative or Christian, but unless Brother Mike was talking about God speaking to Him through Scripture…

…she was technically right.

Ouch. That hurt more than I thought it would.

Now, hang on before you start hurling those stones at me. I’m not saying that otherwise sane people who think they’re hearing God speak to them are mentally ill. They’re theologically wrong, but they’re not insane.

Here’s where she’s technically correct. In the era in which Joy came of age – before everybody and their dog started receiving extra-biblical revelation – if you were hearing voices in your head that nobody else could hear, whether you said it was God, or the devil, or Elvis talking to you, you were carted off to to a nice little institution and sedated. Heavily.

I happen to know this because when I was working on my bachelor’s degree in psychology (toward the end of that era), I did a lot of course work in abnormal psych (no idea where I was going with that, I just found it gruesomely interesting) and hearing non-existent voices telling you what to do was one of the criteria that pointed toward a formal diagnosis of schizophrenia or psychosis.

I don’t know if Joy or anybody else mentioned that, but that was my first impression of her comment about mental illness. I’ve been saying the same thing ever since I was in college- if Christians keep claiming they’re hearing God speak audibly to them, the world is going to start thinking they’re crazy. Because when it comes down to the price of eggs, there’s no outwardly demonstrable difference between observing a sane person hearing God tell her what to do and observing a schizophrenic hearing God tell her what to do. In the world’s eyes- why are we calling the first person a Christian and the second person insane?

Just one more reason to stick to sola Scriptura and the sufficiency of Scripture.

Is there an echo in here?

Sometimes I think social media has warped people’s brains.

Let me ask you something: If a pugnacious stranger knocked on your front door and started yelling at you, insulting you, and spewing all kinds of unbiblical garbage, would you welcome him into your living room with a humble smile on your face and put up with being treated that way on the off chance that you might learn something from his perspective on the issue, or to prove to others how open-minded you are?

Yeah, I wouldn’t either. In fact, I’d lock the door and probably call the police.

And yet those very people (and various SuperChristians who are apparently way more spiritually mature than I am, at least in their own opinion) demand that that kind of behavior be graciously tolerated and accepted on Twitter and Facebook, sneeringly accusing those of us who either refuse to engage with them, or block them, of living in a little “Christian bubble” or “holy huddle” or “echo chamber”.

Look, if you’re on social media for the purpose of verbally abusing people who think differently from you or to argue with strangers, I guess that’s your business (although if you claim to be a Christian you need to stop doing those things and repent), but that’s not why I’m on social media.

I’m on social media to keep up with far away friends and family, to promote my ministry, to help people I can help (who want to be helped), and to network and fellowship with like-minded Believers.

I’ve had lots of wonderful conversations with kind and polite people – Believers and unbelievers – who see things differently than I do, and I’m all for that.

But I’m not going to engage with rude, abusive people who are out looking for a fight. I’m just not. That would ruin the enjoyment I get out of social media. And if you want to call that “living in an echo chamber”, go right ahead. That doesn’t shame me in the least. I have nothing to prove about my level of open-mindedness and there’s nothing in Scripture that says I have to engage with people like that or subject myself to their abuse in order for God to consider me loving or tolerant or open-minded. The End.

A plea to the pastors

One of my recent Twitter threads:

Pastors- The women of your church need to be taught how to properly handle/study the Bible itself. Not Bible study books/DVDs – the Bible.

Many of them are so biblically ignorant I can’t explain to them why their favorite teacher is a false teacher because they have no frame of reference for comprehending such a thing and therefore just assume I’m (or anyone else who warns them is) being mean and hateful. They believe anything the false teacher says, not because she’s biblical, but because they like her and she makes them feel good.

For. the. love. please stop depending on canned studies (even the few doctrinally sound ones out there) in your women’s Bible study/Sunday school classes and get someone to teach who actually knows how to teach God’s Word and can teach them how to study God’s Word for themselves at home.

They are falling for false doctrine either because no one has properly taught them the gospel and they’re false converts or because they don’t know enough of the Bible to know that what they’re hearing conflicts with God’s Word. I can’t even simply tell women to compare what they’re hearing to Scripture because they have no idea what that means, why they should do it, or how to do it.

Don’t just assume they know the gospel or know their Bibles or are getting what you’re preaching. Some of them are not. A lady I know recently told me how excited she was about the new Joyce Meyer book she had just ordered. This was after three years of her faithfully sitting under doctrinally sound preaching. You’ve got to be intentional and proactive and make sure they are being properly trained in God’s Word.

I know I’m preaching to the choir with most of the pastors who follow me and are already doing a great job of training the women in your church. But if you could just double check to make sure. Please. We’re losing a generation of women to “feel-ology” and it breaks my heart.

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

Bible Studies