|Watchdog ministries. Lighthouse ministries. Appraisal ministries. They go by many names. They are full-time Christian snipers. Let me back up. There are certain ministries that exist to find and expose false teaching. I have no problem with exposing false teaching. Indeed, it is part of what we are to do as teachers…correct false doctrine. However, it is very rare to find a ministry or a person who does this well. Most of the ministries and people who do this are arrogant, ungracious, and counter-productive and themselves need to be exposed. I have worked for one of these ministries (a long time ago). After a while, the ministry becomes obsessed, concerning itself with nothing else other than beating someone up in the name of the Lord. When there is no controversy, like a drug addict in withdrawals, they begin to create controversy ex nihilo or go back to dead horses and kick them. Their goal soon loses the priority of truth, learning, and understanding. I think that many people would have nothing to talk about if there was not someone to kick. ~C. Michael Patton, Parchment and Pen.
I’m continuing the thread of posts here on Friday and yesterday.
After listening to the sermon of a popular pastor, speaker and author on the weekend, I decided to see what else by him YouTube had to offer. I quickly noticed a dissenting one-hour piece by the proprietor of a self-styled “discernment ministry,” but decided to pass. I didn’t need that. But then curiosity got the better of me.
The upload was the audio-only of a podcast in which the perpetrator in question plays brief snippets of copied sermon or conference material and then frequently stops the playback in order to insert their criticisms.
There ought to be law. Specifically: There ought to be a law preventing this kind of misuse, but in the U.S. it would never fly given free speech, etc. That constitution keeps coming back to bite us, doesn’t it? In an ideal world, a pastor’s sermon audio would be treated with a bit more respect, if not out of respect for the man, out of respect for the office he holds.
Try this yourself. After church next Sunday, buy the CD of your pastor’s sermon, put it in the machine and each time he makes a significant point, pause it and say, “That’s a complete perversion of scripture.” Do it enough times and you might even convince yourself. You’ll certainly sound like an authority as you interrupt the pastor each time.
Then again, don’t try that.
Browsing this podcaster’s blog, the thing that immediately strikes you is his hair-trigger reaction to anyone who feels that God spoke to them or that God has been impressing something on them. This type of extreme cessationist view has the effect of greatly elevating the printed, Biblical text, while at the same time ignoring some of what it teaches; not unlike the Biblical scholars in Jesus’ day who “searched the scriptures” diligently, but failed to see that they pointed to Him. (Ref: John 5:39)
So I gave the guy nine minutes. Just as the Bible college address by the pastor in question had resonated with me so well, the podcaster’s critiques were slowly raising my blood pressure. I realized that this type of thing is toxic, and when I finally shut it off, my wife basically asked, “What took you so long?”
For the rest of the weekend, I contemplated the question, “What motivates a person to dedicate all their energies to tearing down the ministry of others?” I’m not talking here about ministry watch organizations that report items about clergy that appear in mainstream media. Somewhere, someplace, the family of faith needs to make notation of these moral failures or financial scandals. This is about self-styled watchdogs who feel it necessary to do their own doctrinal investigative reporting; who go looking for problems where there are none.
Why would a person get up in the morning and start downloading the sermon content from major authors and megachurch pastors with the aim of looking for doctrinal nits to pick? Who does this?
The answer came last night when I was brushing my teeth. While the subjects of this essay would quickly dismiss this type of revelation, I have no problem putting forward the main motivational factor:
This is ministry envy in its highest form. ‘I didn’t get my books published by a company with a major distributor, and I never got to be a pastor of a major church, therefore I will tear down those who did and those who do.’ Or, ‘I never had that measure of platform at that early an age, nor did we have that type of media proliferation.’
The question you can’t ask is, “Who called you to do this?” Or, “Who trained you to do this?” Or, “To whom are you accountable?” Because in each case the individual in question would have to concede that they felt that God was leading them into this type of ‘ministry’ and in so doing, they fall into the very pattern they accuse others of: Having received a call or revelation directly from God.
The thing I would fear the most would be waking up one morning and realizing you don’t know how to do anything else. And today, with the internet, the discernment crowd has access to a never-ending world of sermon audio and video.
They aren’t going away. But you can stay away. Keep your distance. This sort of thing is toxic. If you start to hear multiple reports about the ministry integrity of an individual or organization, that’s one thing; you should take that seriously. But don’t let a discernment ministry undo the good that God is doing in your life through a particular Bible teacher.
I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho, heave, ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and a wall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
Like the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He laughed as he replied, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
I asked myself as I went away
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?
Oh Lord, let my life and labors be
That which build for eternity.