I was brought up in a part of the Anglican church where we were encouraged to read and study the Bible for ourselves. We were taught that the beliefs we have concerning theology and the gospel should be based on what the Scriptures say, and not merely on the pronouncements of “God’s chosen leaders”. Of course no church movement has really been able to follow this principle through fully until now, but it is a noble thing to at least espouse the principle. In truth, it will take people who are TRULY filled with God’s HOLY Spirit to rightly discern truth, for the WORD OF GOD itself COMMANDS us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). How can anyone who wilfully violates this command of God be in total possession of theological truth?
Recent events in the charismatic/full gospel church world have highlighted the fact that much of the visible leadership is actually “off the rails”. They don’t have true biblical discernment, or if they do, they don’t use it. The fact is, these problems have been growing over a period of time. Its only that recent events – such as the public disgrace of the Todd Bentley fiasco and its ENDORSEMENT by so many big name “apostolic”, “prophetic” and “Christian media” figures – such recent events have HIGHLIGHTED some of the problems that were already there.
The whole charismatic church culture as it is commonly practiced needs to be called into question, because IT IS THIS SYSTEM WHICH HAS ALLOWED THE ABUSES TO FLOURISH.
I want to draw attention to a couple of features of this culture which I believe should be changed.
1. ELITISM. The “anointed” men and women of God get behind pulpits and talk whatever they feel to say – and there is NO forum for biblically evaluating it or spiritually discerning it – except for the public internet. You cannot ask questions in the meeting, for that would bring disorder. You cannot ask questions AFTER the meeting, for the ELITE leader or guest speaker simply has no time or availability for such discussions.
I believe a PROPER forum in which Bible teachers are involved should be CREATED – perhaps on the internet – in every church – so that ERROR can be guarded against and PEOPLE CAN BECOME FULLY CONVINCED IN THEIR OWN MINDS and go on to LIVE THE TRUTH.
If the doctrines and teaching of “anointed men” cannot stand up to the scrutiny of the Word of God such as can be plainly understood by spirit-filled church members, there is a problem.
I DO believe there are people who should speak more than others in church – BECAUSE they have spent time in the purifying FIRE of God’s presence. If this is NO LONGER THE CASE, such people should give up their ministry perks, salaries, honorariums and ministry careers, and go and get an honest job in society. Let them learn to spend time in God’s fiery presence when they have to hold down a job/business and love a family, BEFORE they get up and try to tell the church how to live.
2. UNACCOUNTABILITY TO THE WORD OF GOD. In this system, having a right relationship to a group of MEN, or a system – is EVERYTHING. Having respect for the teachings of the Word of God is SECONDARY. In this system, someone can get up and spout unbiblical nonsense, waste everyone’s time by talking about sport and humour, and its cool.
The charismatic world has proven that just because you can be “IN RELATIONSHIP” with the greatest movers and shakers in the charismatic world, and be an adulterer, a thief and a pervert at the same time. It seems that in these “relationships”, the right questions are rarely, if ever, asked. Questions like “Is your sexual life pure?” “Is God pleased with the way you have handled money?” don’t seem to be asked until the UGLY facts are already on display FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE.
You can submit to “apostolic leaders” and NOT be in submission to, or connection with, the HEAD – Christ Jesus. Jesus has SPOKEN by His Holy Word. Are we listening?
3. A CULTURE OF HUMILITY
All of us need to learn to take a big dose of humble pie. Myself included. If we are going to say something or do something in the name of the Lord, we need to be willing to listen to correction if it is appropriate. If we are not in the regular habit of humbling ourselves, we won’t even KNOW when we are getting off track.
So many are worshiping “ministry success” today. How can I say that? I say it because there the biggest Christian platforms on the planet are given to people who have a proven following – REGARDLESS of whether what these people teach is even in fundamental harmony with other such “big ministries” – let alone the Scriptures. All that counts is “bigness” and a nominal commitment to the name of Jesus Christ – and you can get on major Christian television networks today – and draw more followers and offerings unto yourself and your tax exempt organisation which enriches your family and inner circle of friends and associates.
These are very incomplete musings on the subject. I hope others will contribute their viewpoint to this discussion by means of offering comments.