Friday, May 27, 2016

May my church - and yours - be like this:

… let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, 
so that whether I come and see you or am absent, 
I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, 
with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel …
- Philippians 1:27 (ESV)

I’m not sure a more powerful or compelling synopsis of a healthy, God-glorifying church has ever been written. Consider the profound themes and implications of Paul’s admonition:

1) Collective Testimony – Our lives as believers (and as members of the local body of believers known as Calvary Baptist Church) must reflect the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This collective testimony must be so vibrant that it is talked about. Are people in our city talking about the radiant witness of our people? Are they talking about our enthusiastic love for God and one another? Is there a “buzz” about us and our church because we are truly changed people?

2) Spiritual Tenacity – As God’s people/church, we must hold firm to the immovable anchor of the Word of God even as the rising tide of a godless culture presses hard against us. In love, we must proclaim the truth, protect the truth, and live the truth. Together, we must teach and admonish one another, hold each other accountable, and support one another in prayer and life-on-life relationships. And as we do, we will demonstrate the compelling attraction of a genuine biblical community that is of one spirit and mind.

3) Missional Unity – Though we are from different generations, different backgrounds, different experiences, and different walks of life, we must be unified. This unity cannot be superficial and based on inferior causes such as our preferred places to worship, programs we enjoy, people we are friends with, and personalities who lead us. It must be rooted in something infinitely larger: the mandate of God to make disciples everywhere we go. This purpose and this purpose alone qualifies us a “church”. For this gospel purpose, we must, as the NIV says, “contend as one man” for. This selfless, God-glorifying commitment to His cause while we consciously and conscientiously surrender our own lesser ‘causes’ defeats the strategies of the enemy, honors the glory of King, and propels the mission of the Kingdom.

My prayer is that these realities will genuinely mark us as a people/church. Will you read and re-read that passage (in its larger context) from Philippians? Will you ask God to show you His will in it for you and for us together? Will you carefully consider what I have written and decide if you are in agreement with me that those are indeed characteristics of a healthy church and therefore God’s will for us? And will you renew the commitments God wants you to renew, and/or reject the attitudes and behaviors He convicts you of, and respond in obedience to His leadership?

For His Glory Alone ...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This church will have either a revival or a funeral!

So writes Leonard Ravenhill in his classic, Why Revival Tarries. As Ravenhill recounts a minister putting that sign on the outside of his church, he notes, “With such despair God is well pleased, though hell is despondent.”

I wonder often if I/we have this desperate desire to see our church revitalized and fired up for God and the Gospel, or if we are content with business as usual and the routine of passive ‘participation’ without transformation.  Is God pleased with us and hell despondent at us?  I sure desire that!

According to the folks at Simple Church, here’s a snapshot of the American church:
80% of churches are plateaued or declining.
For those that show “growth”, the vast majority comes from “switchers” (people moving from church to church).
3500 people leave the church every day.
7000 churches close their doors every year.

But here’s the truth: Churches don’t die overnight.  It takes years of neglect before you receive a fatal diagnosis.  Neglect of Biblical doctrine. Neglect of prayer. Neglect of unity. Neglect of the Gospel. Neglect of the people all around them that are hurting, lost, and hell-bound.  These and many other neglects ensure the demise of any church. 

Those churches that are experiencing revival, however are churches that have …
Unity … among leaders and throughout the congregation
An outward focus … more concern about the lost than our preferences
A clear discipleship pathway … a plan to help all people grow in Christlikeness
And raised expectations for all members … membership matters in healthy churches

In those churches, the Word is central. The Gospel is proclaimed. The Spirit empowers. The people are a body of believers, not a crowd of customers. The pastor and staff are trusted and honored.  And making disciples of all people – near and far – is the clear and focused mission.  

Those that are facing a future funeral are churches that …
Are mostly concerned about their preferences and comforts and not growing God’s kingdom
Abandon the biblical responsibility of disciple-making to a few paid staff 
Value the traditions of men more than the teachings of God 
Complain, murmur, gossip, slander about their staff, each other, and the church 

Gypsy Smith was a nineteenth-century revivalist who did something unusual when he came to a new town. He’d stop on the outskirts and draw a circle in the dirt. Then he would stand inside that circle and say, “O God, please send a revival to this town, and let it begin inside this circle.”

So, if we want to see revival at Calvary, we all might need to start drawing some circles.  As we do, we might find God convicting us and changing our hearts.  Some might have to sacrifice personal preference for the sake of the church’s overall effectiveness and mission (Phil. 2:4).  Some might have to stop sowing seeds of discord and instead become eager for unity (Prov. 6:19, Eph. 4:3).  Some might have to start praying daily for lives to be changed, people to be saved, and for God to give us all the courage to stand out and speak up for Jesus (Acts 26:18, Eph. 6:19).  Some might have to start seeing their pastor as God’s chosen man in leadership of this church and begin to trust him and the pastoral staff, pray for them, and follow their leadership (1 Tim. 5:17, Heb. 13:17). Some might have to go to someone and seek forgiveness (Matt. 5:23-24).  Others might have to repent of bitterness and give forgiveness for offenses they continue to harbor (Heb. 12:14-15, Eph. 4:31, Mark 11:25).  Some might need to examine themselves and see if they are really in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

Truth is, every church (as my old high school principal used to say about people) is either green and growing or ripe and rotting.  That is, every church is either growing in God-honoring, kingdom-useful purpose, or it is surely dying a slow but inevitable death.

So, which will it be?  A funeral or a revival?  I’m drawing a circle, stepping in it, and praying for and trusting God for revival!

For His glory alone,

Paul A. Thompson

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Don't Waste Your Life"

Here's an excerpt from a powerful message that is certainly worth viewing ... especially for high school, college, and post-grad students.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A letter from a concerned church member

I received this letter last week while I was away on mission to Cuba. It's challenging and worth reading. You may not agree with all of it, but at least I hope you will let it cause you to think hard for a little while.

Here it is, with a very slight edit. 

I am writing this letter to you because I am deeply troubled in my heart. I am trusting in you to correct me if I am off base or out of line in my thinking. I feel compelled in my soul to write this to you. I wish I could say for sure it was The Holy Spirit leading me to write this, because that is what I feel. However, like most American Christians, I have too much “stuff”, too many distractions, too much “noise” in my life to really allow me to correctly hear that small still voice.

The church in America is asleep, all of it. Sure there are pockets of spiritual awareness out there but they are small. Our congregation is asleep too. In America we are all self centered, self consumed, busy self gratifying, and self promoting. We are worshiping the idol of “self”. This hit me harder than ever this week. On Thursday, September 25th, a Muslim jihadist beheaded a woman in Oklahoma City and attempted to behead a second woman before he was shot by a man carrying a concealed weapon. And what was the reaction to this atrocity by most Americans?  “Let’s not rush to conclusions” and “It was work place violence” was the general consensus in the mainstream media, even after it came out his Imam had ties to Al-Qaeda and his Facebook posts showed he was a threat for months. “It has nothing to do with him being a Muslim” they said. What about your average citizen’s reaction? “I can’t believe that happened to that poor woman” sums it up. Now less than a week later, it’s not even a big deal anymore. We have moved on to the next big story, Ebola in America. Where is the outcry from the church?? Where are the people demanding this kind of atrocity never happen again in this country? They are too busy taking selfies and posting them on Facebook in hopes of getting people to “like” their picture! They are too busy attending their local gym everyday trying to find “community” instead of looking to the body of Christ. They are too busy tweeting about the latest nude photos that were leaked of some celebrity. They are too busy talking about how George Clooney spent millions of dollars on his latest wedding. They are too busy talking about the latest football player scandal and what games are on this weekend.

Now let’s connect a couple of dots. On September 21st in Oklahoma City, Satanists held a black mass in the civic center and met little resistance from the church. Four days later, a demon possessed Muslim beheaded a woman in the same city. This is not a coincidence! Do people not realize that spiritual warfare is real? Have they not read in 2 Kings about Elisha praying for the eyes of the servant who was with him to be opened so he could see the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire? Do they not recall the angel that was delayed visiting Daniel for 21 days because of the Prince of Persia? Do they think this is not happening all around us now? Do they think these acts of evil in the world are just random actions of man and not a carefully crafted plan of the evil one?

Unfortunately, this horrible event has become the new norm. It has happened and it has met little resistance. No one will bat an eye the next time it happens. This country has become numb. We don’t want to face reality so we bury our heads in the proverbial sand of television and social media and pretend its worlds away from us when we should be praying and fasting and crying out to God in repentance for the grotesque sins we commit against Him every day.  I cannot help but think that God is giving us over to our desires. That perhaps he is throwing our leaders into confusion like he did with many of Israel’s enemies. Perhaps we are receiving our judgment for our years of sin and turning our backs on God.

My point is this, you know as well as I do that if we are not in “The Last Days” we are in the last days of our freedom and life of luxury in this country. When was the last time you heard a sermon on radio or television about God’s judgment and wrath or about the fear of the Lord instead of the message of “God wants us to be rich and healthy and happy and if we aren’t then we are not asking him the right way”? If the church does not stir from its slumber soon, they will be caught off guard and unprepared to persevere through the coming storm. This past year has been full of new outbreaks of pestilence and drought, earthquakes and volcanoes, civil unrest and conflicts, wars and saber rattling, scandals and conspiracies, apostasy and persecution. We should be crying out to God in prayer, repenting of our own sin and sins of this nation. We should be asking God for a spiritual awakening in our land. We should be fasting in some fashion to deny ourselves and commit that time to worshiping God and seeking Him. We should be committing ourselves to His word and nourishing our soul. Perhaps it is time to turn up the heat a little and make our folks squirm in their seats. And know that I say all of this from a position of “guilty as charged”.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Easter Primer

Hopefully this will arrive to you before Easter Sunday.  As you probably already know, Easter is typically the highest attended Sunday of the year.  More people will attend this Sunday’s services at churches all over America than will attend on Christmas or Mother’s Day.  But, while more people do attend on this Sunday than any other, fewer are attending than ever before.  According to a recent Lifeway study, 41% of Americans said they planned to attend, 39% said they are not planning to attend, and 20% said they were undecided.  That information leads to the following suggestions on how to make this is our best Easter possible as a church and how we can maximize our opportunities:

1) Do everything you can do to make it to church this Sunday.  No Christian should ever tire of hearing the Gospel or celebrating the Resurrection!  And your presence here is a witness and a testimony.  Don’t let a bright, sunny Spring day (or a cold, damp one) keep you from worshipping and celebrating this Sunday!  Let’s fill the services with enthusiastic worshippers giving a powerful testimony of our love for God!

2) Invite someone to come to church with you on Easter.  Offer to pick them up, meet them at the door, or take them to lunch after.  At least 20% of the people out there are still undecided.  Let’s urge them to a “yes”.  Use phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Knock on some neighbor’s doors while you’re at it.  The benefits are eternal!

3) If you are a church member, consider yourself a host/hostess on this most important day.  The responsibility of hospitality and friendliness is a not a ‘job’ meted out to the greeters, ushers, and staff.  It is the calling of us all.  Be very intentional about speaking to anyone you don’t know.  Treat everyone like a special, invited guest.  

4) Pray – A LOT – for your pastor, the message, and all the people who will be hearing it on this day.  Pray for clarity, conciseness, and supernatural power in the teaching.  Pray that God will draw people to himself and that people will not resist, but respond to the Gospel.  Pray also that God will speak to you.

5) Begin thinking about what comes after Easter.  Far too often, churches experience a letdown of sorts after this big day.  Let’s do all we can to prevent that!  Let Easter be for us a launching point towards what God is going to do next in our church.  After Easter, we will begin as important a series of messages/teachings as I have ever done.  I am calling it RESET, with the aim of returning the church to the foundational responsibility and activity of disciple-making.  Let us both commit our selves to this and do all we can to connect with our newcomers and guests!

He is Risen!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Joel Osteen is not as harmless as you think

I've received more than a bit of feed back over the last week or so since mentioning by name in a message some of the false teachers that are so prevalent today.  Some weren't too pleased that I named names, feeling it to be divisive.  My take on that is simple: If I believe the Bible is true when it speaks of the growing number and influence of false teachers (and I do) and if I can easily spot and identify some very obvious false teaching/teachers today (and I can), then I'd be a coward not to name them (and I'm not).  Some were not pleased that I named/called out some of their favorites (like Joel Osteen).  To that end, I want to offer just a bit more evidence for you today.  These videos provide quite a bit of background and insight into his 'ministry'.  And don't be deceived with the argument that basically states "How could so many people be so wrong?"  Popularity has never been a mark of the truth or truth tellers (See: Elijah, Jeremiah, Jesus, every disciple, etc.)

That being said, take a few minutes to watch the following: 

... and there are so many more examples.  Listen to an Osteen message on your own.  Apply the grid of Scripture and the Gospel to it.  Be discerning.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV)
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The List, Part 2 is coming

Over the next few days, I'll share a few thoughts on these teachers and why you should either avoid them completely (some will be in category 1)  or else consider them/their teachings only with great caution (some will be in category 2):

Rob Bell
Rod Parsley
Jimmy Swaggart
Paul/Jan Crouch
John Avanzini
John Crowder
Eddie Long
Frederick Price
T.D. Jakes
... and probably a few others.

Please remember the following:  I am only providing several lines per person on the list.  If I gave you all the info I had or read or knew on some of these, this blog entry alone would be 100's of pages.  If you want the rationale behind their inclusion on The List, make sure to follow the links provided (shown in different font shade and underlined when you hover over it like the previous sentence).  From there, do you own research.  (But know this going in: the more you search this out, the more depressing it becomes!  There's a world of heresy out there.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The List, Part 1

Before you peruse the list, you really ought to read yesterday's qualifying statements.  To that blog post, I want to add this: My desire in posting this is not to create controversy, division, or dissension. Like John who considered the churches he led (i.e. the people in them) as his "dear children" (1 John 2:1) and thus cared deeply for them and their relationship with God, so do I feel both a responsibility and affinity for the people that I have been entrusted spiritual leadership with.  I don't want them to be deceived.  I don't want them to fall away.  I don't want them to be tragically disappointed in life and in God because they have believed what is false.  So, I feel the need to point some of the more obvious false teachings (and those who teach them) out.

My 2nd concern is for the lost people all around us.  Is there a single Christian reading this post today who has not faced the challenge of first explaining to an unbeliever what you don't believe (because they have seen and heard all the sort of nonsense I'll reference here) before you can clearly tell them what you do believe?  False teaching is not only deceiving Christians, it is making the communication of the Gospel significantly more challenging in our culture today.  The shame is this: many of the teachers and teachings I'll reference are thought by those outside the faith to represent normal Christianity.  This is a tragedy of epic proportions.  

With that being said, let's get right to it. Here's The List, pt. 1 

Many of the these teachers seem to share a common root that is both pernicious and pervasive.  These "Word of Faith" teachers typically include the following in their teachings: 

(From Justin Peters)

  • Positive confession – The belief that what is spoken can be brought into literal existence. Believers may simply speak the things which they desire of God and He is obligated to give it to them; hence the label “Name It and Claim It” gospel. If this sounds eerily like God’s act of creation in Gen. 1 and 2, it is. 
  • Little gods doctrine – The belief that man was created to be an exact duplicate of God. Believers, then, are little gods on the earth. 
  • Spiritual death of Jesus – The belief that Christ’s physical death was insufficient to atone for sin. He also had to die spiritually. Of course, if Jesus died spiritually, then He ceased being God and if He ceased being God even for an instant, He never was God to begin with. 
  • Revelation knowledge – The belief that God dispenses to certain believers, apart from the Scriptures, secret knowledge of Himself. This is a modern day version of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism against which the New Testament repeatedly warns. 
  • Health and wealth – The belief that all believers have the right to walk in perfect, divine health and prosper financially. This stems from the erroneous view that sickness was paid for by Christ’s spiritual atonement in hell and that prosperity is a cosmic law ordained by God respectively.

You can read/listen to a interesting message tracing the roots of this movement here.  Tracing their beginnings to a common source, you can see many similarities.  Often they simply parrot what others in the movement have already said.  While it's possible these teachers could be tragically deceived believers, it is also quite possible that their work is intentionally deceptive or even demonic.  Whatever the cause, the fruit of their ministry is rotten.  Stay away.  Stay far away. 

Kenneth Hagin - While not exactly the "father" of the word/faith heresy, Hagin is probably responsible for more heretical teaching and teachers than most.  "Dad" Hagin believed he had been given 8 visions by Jesus Christ that informed his teachings.  Anyone whose has been influenced by Hagin is tainted at best and an absolute false teacher at worst.  Hagin is particularly responsible for the blasphemous "little gods" theology espoused by other false teachers like Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, and others.  To his credit, Hagin did denounce (before his death) some aspects of his own teaching and the teaching that influenced a generation of false teachers.

Kenneth Hagin, Jr. - The younger Hagin continues the work begun by his father as Pastor of Rhema Bible Church and head of its bible school in Tulsa.  Like his father Hagin, Jr. also claims 8 personal visits from Jesus Christ, and continues the "little god" nonsense and other WoF teachings.

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland - To expose all the false teachings of these two would take months of research and days and days of typing.  From ridiculous and unbiblical prosperity teaching to false prophecies to blasphemous teachings about Jesus, the Copelands are to be avoided at all costs.  Here are some more examples of their bizarre teachings.  They are also some of the most egregious fleecers of the sheep as these videos will attest.  And then there's this recent "prayer" for the pope. Seriously.  

Creflo Dollar - Another offshoot of the heretical word/faith stock, Dollar pushes prosperity, abusive teachings on giving, and a complete misunderstanding of law and grace. (Read Galatians as you compare truth to his deception). Todd Friel offers a brief expose here.  Like so many others on this list, his exegesis of scripture is so bad that its harder to find something accurate that he teaches that vice versa.  He's also had some trouble with the law.

Jesse Duplantis - Another huckster from the same root as Hagin, Copeland, and Dollar, Duplantis also carries the Word of Faith mantle.  Among his more egregious teachings: He's gone to heaven to receive a new revelation and wrote a book about it. He yells at the devil.  His regales his audience with ridiculous and unbiblical tales of the supernatural.  And of course, he pushes the prosperity gospel, "seed-naming", "seed-sowing" heresy.  (Note as you listen to his messages that he rarely uses scripture and when he does it's in a way that you have likely never heard before - and that's not a compliment.)

Joyce Meyer - Known for her "practical" sort of teaching and sharing from her own experiences (honestly, a lot of it is narcigesis, not unlike other teachers on this list) Meyer is at best a mixed bag.  She is heavily influenced by the other false Word of Faith teachers on this list.  She advocates the prosperity gospel, little god teaching, sinless perfectionism, communication with spirits, wrong understanding of the atonement, belief that Jesus went to hell, heresy regarding the Trinity, and many other false doctrines.  Whatever "good" you are getting from her teaching isn't worth the rest.  

Joel Osteen - Joel is a positive, apparently sincere, well-liked motivational speaker.  He "pastors" America's largest "church".  But he is no minister of the Gospel.  Joel doesn't know (or is afraid to share) the Gospel.  Joel doesn't recognize false religions.  Joel doesn't address sin.  Joel doesn't teach the Bible.  Joel does teach prosperity. John MacArthur calls him a "pagan religionist".   Perhaps Joel's biggest offenses aren't found in what he says, but in what he refuses to say.  At the very least, he's leaving tens of thousands of people with an insipid, feel-good religion absent the Gospel.

Joseph Prince - This teacher is probably best known for his "radical grace" or "mother grace" teaching.  The ancient name for this heresy is antinomianism.  This teaching doesn't grant a believer freedom, but bondage into sin again.  He, too, is from the root of Hagin.  

Miles Monroe - Monroe is a prosperity preacher who focuses mostly on "success", "leadership", and "personal development".  This is all part of his "dominion theology" (the wrong teaching that Jesus cannot return and rule until the church has established the Kingdom of God on earth).  He also badly misinterprets scripture (particularly on the atonement).  The worst of his teaching is on the crucifixion itself. The Bible doesn't say Jesus really died?  Really?  Plus, he has some wacky ideas about women and marriage.  Again, it's just another example of much of his extra-biblical nonsense.  

Paula White - I don't know where to begin here. As "Senior Pastor" of "New Destiny Christian Church", she rejects the biblical role of women in pastoral leadership.  She teaches all sorts of heresy.  Her personal life is a mess.  Watch this, this, this, and this.  Seriously --- how can any biblically informed believer follow this?  Shai Linne was right.  She is one of the "Fal$e Teacher$".

Randy White - Former husband of Paula White and once co-pastor with her of "Without Walls International Church" (where he has recently returned to pastor w/o her), "Bishop" White is a minor character in the WoF world.  Prosperity teaching, misuse of scripture, unbiblical 'tongues', questionable handling of finances, and personal moral issues mark his "ministry". 

Benny Hinn - "Liar, charlatan, and false prophet" is how this site describes him.  And they're right.  There are hundreds of legitimate sites online that expose this fraud.  Do your research.  But beware, it's depressing.  Millions have been deceived.  His "ministry" has been exported all over the world.  According to Justin Peters: "Hinn has been doing “ministry” for some 35 years and in that time has taught some of the most jaw-dropping heresies, offered dozens of demonstrably false prophecies and has made some of the most outlandish claims imaginable:

  • Claims he healed every patient at a hospital in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, Canada
  • Claims his father was the mayor of Jaffa, Israel.  
  • Of his critics said, “Sometimes I wish God would give me a Holy Ghost machine gun, I’d blow your head off.”
  • Has threatened even the innocent children of his critics.
  • Claims Kathryn Kuhlman visits him from the dead and claims to get an anointing from the tomb of Aimee Semple McPherson.
  • Claimed to have video of Jesus walking around in one of his meetings.  When asked to show the video his staff said that it had been “misplaced.”
  • On Dec. 31, 1989, Hinn went into a “trance” and said that God was giving him (in real time) prophecies about major events in the then upcoming decade of the 1990s.  “God” said these events would include the collapse of the American economy, the East coast being ravaged by earthquakes, a female elected as president, Fidel Castro’s death in office, the rise of a “short man dictator,” the Rapture of the church, and the destruction of the homosexual community in America “in ’94 or ’95, no later than that” – with fire.  This is by no means exhaustive of Hinn’s false prophecies, it is just all he managed on this particular night.
  • Claimed that God told him by divine revelation knowledge that there are actually 9 members in the Godhead.
  • Claimed the Holy Spirit told him that women were originally intended to give birth out of their sides.
  • Claimed that when the Red Sea parted the water froze and it was actually ice that crushed the Egyptian soldiers.
  • Claimed that as a young man he was in his room talking to the Holy Spirit.  When called to supper by the “woman of the house,” he said, “…as I was about to leave, I felt someone take my hand and say, ‘Five more minutes.  Just five more minutes.’  The Holy Spirit longed for my fellowship.”
  • Lives in a $10 million parsonage and is known to stay in hotel rooms costing upwards of $10k per night.  He flies in a private jet and is well known for his lavish spending and opulent lifestyle – all funded by donations to his ministry.
  • Teaches all of the standard Word-Faith doctrines such as Positive Confession, the Little gods doctrine, the Spiritual Death of Jesus (SDJ) doctrine, and guaranteed health and wealth for the believer.
  • Seed-Faith theology is a staple in Hinn’s teaching.  He promises people that if they “sow a seed” (translated, give him money) that God will give them a “harvest.” 
  • Claims to have a department that verifies all of his healings.  I have spoken with a former employee of Hinn’s who says that not only are the healings not verified but that such a department does not even exist. 

This just scratches the surface with Hinn." 

Robert Tilton - Tilton, once thoroughly discredited and outed as a scam artist - has now returned to the American religious scene, albeit on a smaller scale.  He's really little more than a con-artist, using Christianity as a tool to take in the needy and gullible.  Using the same basic formula as the other word-faith teachers, he espouses a blasphemous view of wealth and prosperity.

Bill Johnson - Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding California is beginning to gain notoriety and influence. Here are some links on this heretical pastor and his church. Jesus Culture - the worship band spawned from Bethel's student ministry has become quite popular, playing at events like Passion. The theology and practices of this church and its offshoot ministries are more than questionable however.  Apprising Ministries rightly calls this pastor and this church a "theological train wreck".

Todd Bentley - How this demonic, false teacher has any Christian followers is beyond my comprehension.  10 seconds of watching or listening to him is all it should take.  If you've never heard of him, good.  If you have friends or family who have, warn them.  Also, consider those who affiliate with him and what that says about their orthodoxy.  Here are some links.  Watch at your own risk.  It doesn't get much worse than this.  

Rodney Howard Browne - The infamous "Holy Ghost Bartender" came to prominence during the thoroughly discredited "laughing revival" at Carpenter's Home Church in Lakeland, FL.  His teachings are horrible, unbiblical, and demonic.  Here a few links.  I doubt you'll be able to take much. 

Marilyn Hickey - More of the same silliness, extra-biblical revelations, manipulative prosperity teaching, and claims of speaking reality into existence that mark other false teachers' ministries permeates Hickey's.  A good overview can be found here.

Morris Cerrulo - Morris Cerullo is the founder of Morris Cerullo World Evangelism.  Claiming to be an apostle and prophet to the nations, Cerullo has been preying on gullible Christians for over 50 years.  His teachings are egregiously bad.  

Juanita Bynum - Bynum is a divorced, false "prophetess" who endorses gay ordination, types in 'tongues' on Facebook (seriously), teaches the same tired "sow a seed" nonsense, and is utterly bereft of sound theology.  

Here are some others I'd avoid.  I'm not saying they aren't "on the same team" with us as Christians. I'm simply saying their teachings deviate too often from orthodox norms or they miss the mark badly enough in one or more significant areas as to be unhealthy.  There are so many better alternatives, I can't justify wasting my time with any of these.  I've attached a few links and thoughts to each.

Steven Furtick - Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., Furtick's poor theology, questionable methodology, weird leadership ideas, and dubious financial dealings leave enough of a cloud for me to say, "no thanks".  His "best-seller" book isn't all-together biblical either.  Neither is this one.  Plus, he's on TBN now.  And he is endorsed by Perry Noble. (And I'm no "hater".)

Perry Noble - From congregation abuse, to shallow theology, to mean-spirited and decidedly unchristian behavior, to his coarse language, this guy's popularity is beyond me.  Chris Rosebrough's challenge to Noble is telling.

John Hagee - Hagee simply gets it wrong on Israel and his "dual-covenant" teaching confuses Christians and deceives Jews.  There is one Gospel, one Savior for all men John.  He's the Messiah, Jesus (and yes, he claimed to be that).  We all get saved the same way.  John's misinterpretations about Israel and prophecy ("Blood moons", anyone?) taint too much of his teaching.  

Mike Bickle - Research carefully Bickle and the International House of Prayer.  Questions abound about their origins, teachings, and extra-biblical visions, and prophecies.  Bickle's endorsement of contemplative spirituality, connections with the Kansas City Prophets and the New Apostolic Reformation, and dubious teachings about the end times give me more than reason to pause concerning Bickle. Prayer? Yes.  Bickle? No.

Hal Lindsey - How many times has Hal missed it with one of his prophecies?  How long will he be considered an "expert" with his track record?  I put Hal in the "move on - nothing to see here" category.  

Sarah Young - The now famous author of Jesus Calling, that ubiquitous book so often quoted on Facebook and Twitter, claims that her book contains the words of Jesus speaking personally through her.  This is frighteningly dangerous theology.  Read this review here, here, and this interview.  While the content of the book may be fairly orthodox, the idea of new revelation (or the insufficiency of biblical revelation that is implied) ought to frighten off any Christian serious about God and the Word.  

Note: The links above DO NOT imply endorsement of the sites or even the authors who posted the messages and/or videos.  They do, however, provide insight and information that should be helpful to you in discerning the truth.  

Here are some other resources I recommend to help you sort out all the madness:

CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) has long been a reliable source of information on gospel, doctrine, and theology.  
CRI (Christian Research Institute) is under the leadership of Hank Hanegraaff.  Hanegraaff's classic Christianity in Crisis is still a great source (and is pretty cheap on Amazon right now).  Also, Counterfeit Revival is a must read.  
Apprising Ministries and Ken Silva often offer interesting insights and observations that are worth considering.  
Justin Peters offers a series of messages on discernment and modern false teachings and teachers.  These messages are lengthy and detailed and well worth your time. (Part 1: Dangerous Doctrines, Part 2: Mangled Manifestations, Part 3: The Hurt of Healing)
John MacArthur's recent Strange Fire Conference has drawn a great deal of attention and created no small amount of controversy.  Squarely addressing the abuses and heresies of the Charismatic Movement, this series of messages (and the book Strange Fire) is necessary reading for today.  Even if you disagree on certain points with his conclusions, you will have your eyes opened to a world of false teaching that is prevalent all around us.  
Other good links:

There are plenty of others.  These are just a sampling.


Tomorrow: The List, Part 2

Monday, March 24, 2014

The List (qualifying statements)

I want to offer a few clarifying thoughts before I launch into The List.  I write these things knowing full well that some people will skip the introductory comments and go straight to The List.  I get that. I probably would, too.  However, if you are wondering what prompted The List, I'll tell you (and it's pretty simple).  Over the course of several months, the biblical texts I was preaching/teaching from seemed to deal quite a bit with the very real problem of false teachers in the church.  From 2 Peter, to 2 Timothy, to this Sunday's message from 1 John, the topic of false teachers (and warnings to the church and challenges to the leaders of a church) abound.  I wasn't choosing this topic (I typically preach expository messages through books) yet I could not avoid it.  So, if you really want to hear the what and why of The List, listen to those three messages noted above first (if you haven't already).  

I've also been long concerned with laziness with which many Christians approach doctrine and theology.  We have been duped into thinking that it doesn't really matter.  Day after day, on Facebook, email, twitter, etc., I see/receive links to and quotes from false teachers and their ministries from people who ought to know better.  Christians who should be discerning, often and tragically are not.  As J.C. Ryle said nearly 150 years ago: "Myriads of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with color blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound."  So, as a pastor charged by God to shepherd His people (1 Peter 5:2) and to combat false teachers among our people (1 Timothy 1:3-5), I felt like I need to do more than just fire warning shots around the targets.  I needed to identify those I feel are false teachers whose influence (and whose teachings) are destructive to Christians and to churches.

Finally, people ask me a lot: "What do you think about _________________?"  So, I decided to begin  The List.  But before I do, let me qualify with the following:

1) Yes, I understand we are all fallible.  No one is a perfect teacher, least of all me.  I am not listing every teacher than has ever said/written anything I disagree with.  I am not splitting theological hairs here or dissecting finer (and debatable) points of doctrine.  I am aiming at pretty low-hanging fruit.  Some have actually requested that I include certain people on The List that - while I can't agree biblically with all they teach - I certainly find them to be legitimate co-laborers in God's army.  This list contains people whose false teachings are pretty obvious. 

2) This list is not exhaustive or comprehensive by any means.  Surely readers of The List will wonder why so-and-so wasn't included (when they should have been, perhaps).  I simply don't have the time to research and list them all (and you don't have the time to read them!).  The sort of research required to sufficiently study and expose the plethora of false teachers in America today would take months if not years to complete.  One would have to sift through years of broadcasts, thousands of pages of written material, and untold hours of radio and internet programming to begin to handle it all.  Also, some have ministries that are so insignificant that's it's hardly worth the time even recognizing them.  The last thing I want to do is give them 1 more hit on the internet.  And, I reserve the right to add to The List.  Besides, as we get closer and closer to the end of days, more and more false teachers will appear - just as the Bible tells us.  (Matthew 24:24, 1 Timothy 4:1)

3) There are different levels of offenders (at least in my estimation).  Some of these you should run from and never look back.  They are heretics.  Their teachings defy scripture and the gospel.  They are either horrifically deceived themselves and thus pass on grievous error, or else they knowingly dispense lies for fame, profit, or worse.  Others, I have to admit, can be pretty good in some areas while being pretty far off in others.  To those at this end of the spectrum, I am not claiming they are not believers and fellow laborers, I am simply saying that enough error is found in their teachings that whatever good you may draw out is simply not worth the rest.  Maybe a good analogy is a fish with a lot of tiny bones.  I just don't have the time or desire to spit that much out, hoping for one good bite.  

4) I know going in that The List will be controversial.  I'm not trying to be contentious, divisive, or sensational. And, I hope what I post will be with some grace.  That being said, I have to (and you have to) recognize false teachers and teachings when you see/hear them.  And once you recognize them, you have to call them out.  Your and my spiritual health requires it.  The church desperately needs it.  The confused world demands it.  The idea that we are not supposed to "judge" in this area is unbiblical and ridiculous.   (For thoughts on right judging, listen to this message).

5) You'll have to search the scriptures as you search out the teachers and teachings I will mention here and see for yourself.  Don't take my word for it.  Search the Word.  Be a Berean and search the scripture daily so you will readily recognize truth from error.  And depend on the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth. And then search out what these teachers are saying/writing and with Scripture in your head and the Holy Spirit in your heart, ask God for discernment.  

And now ... because it's 6:20 PM already on Monday, and I have been here for 101/2 hours already, I will have to finish The List up and post it tomorrow.  Sorry for the mild bait-n-switch.  

See you tomorrow!

- Paul Thompson