It's because of things like that, that people have seriously taken a look at us and have thought we are crazy, backwards and just plain gullible. Saddest of all, it brings shame and dishonor to the name of Christ. Ed Stetzer has written a post on Evangelical gullibility. In the wake of the Todd Bentley scandal and his "weird" practices" I think he takes the right approach. It's not just Charismatics and Pentecostals who have made some grave errors in their judgment (not all, as he points to an Assemblies of God response to the Lakeland fiasco), it's the whole Evangelical movement. He writes
Yet, when I see things like this, it is just hard not to ask: does anyone still have a Bible and some common sense?
Let me add: I do not think this is a Pentecostal issue. That is why the title is, "Evangelical Gullibility."
In other words, all kinds of Christians are forwarding emails about the FCC's phony plan to ban religious broadcasting, signing up to have emails sent to the loved ones after the rapture, and watching Christian television for its theological depth. For that matter, I have just as many odd people come up to me with "something they discovered in the Bible that no one has ever noticed" after I speak at a Baptist, Wesleyan, of non-denominational meeting as I do when I speak at a Pentecostal one. Furthermore, many Pentecostals and Charismatics HAVE expressed concern about this movement-- including some when I visit the Assemblies of God office a couple of weeks ago.
I just have to wonder with Grady if Christians really are just gullible.
True revival is generally a messy affair. On the one hand abuses often accompany genuine works of God, and on the other hand much of what is called revival is nothing more than fanaticism. Courage is required to ask tough questions and do so with with grace and kindness, patience is necessary to wait and see if what is called revival bears lasting fruit, and theological discernment is critical for the church when it comes to awakenings and revival.
I appreciate that he doesn't just hit out on a specific group. And it's more than I told you so. I have seen many discernment ministries respond this way and I believe this is a first step in answering their accusations. I will have more to say about this later. For now, what can we do to foster discernment and growth amidst a sea of confusion and gullibility?
1. READ YOUR BIBLE!
I can't tell you how much my eyes were opened after I read the NT in one week about 9 years ago. I saw that a lot of what was going on at my church was just plain tradition, and the flesh. I say read the letters of Paul where he had to deal with the Churches' errors (and they had them at the time....severe errors!). It protected me from further error. I would highly recommend that you learn to interpret your Bible as well. Verse abuse is real. Many pastors out there are not workmen who are unashamed. They are marketers who are shameless. They don't know how to handle scripture well (as they are commanded to in 1 Timothy). That is usually the source of much error. I recommend Knowing Scripture by R.C Sproul and How to Read the Bible for All its worth by Fee and Stuart. Tim Challies book on Discernment would be very helpful as well.
2. Go to a Good church
If you suspect that your church is into shady things, leave! Vote with your feet as someone I know puts it. You are obligated to find fellowship in a place where the Bible will be taught, the gospel preached and discples trained. If you really want to you can talk to your leadership and ask them why everyone has to jump up and do the funky chicken or speak in tongues, but you may not get far. Remember: there have been bad churches since the time of the New Testament, you are not alone and you can have hope and faith again.
For those out there making bad decisions and for your own self. We must be on guard. Remember, bad theological error can kill. Ask those who have loved ones that died with David Koresh or with Jim Jones.
4. Develop a Sense of Humor
You have to learn to laugh again. Humor really does help. You can look back, and when you can laugh, you know you're doing well. More so, it helps with the healing process. here's an example
I hope this helps many of you. I pray you will be able to find yourselves strong in the Lord. Not in someone on TV, or someone with a big budget or a big church. Feel free to leave comments.