This is more for personal archive purposes, but several people have approached me in recent months with the topic of ministry leadership integrity. Whether speaking generally or referring mainly to well-known ones, it has become such a theme, I figured I would post a message addressing the questions I have fielded in summary.
To set context, I believe it is vitally important to discuss legitimate questions in a respectful way that exudes nothing but grace and humility. I believe we are not to dedicate ourselves to a life of a sniper that aims only at certain of his own army.
First of all, when I hear someone is claiming heresy with a minister, I need to know if they are talking about core beliefs, or if they are going back 15 years to a loose analogy of what Jesus specifically did after He died on the cross. I understand that ministers can easily come to conclusions about things that aren’t well spelled out or explain things in cavalier ways that may be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted, or may be technically inaccurate. I’ve done that myself in my younger years especially. These things are usually primarily to get a point across and not meant to be razor-edge. We can be sincere, and sincerely wrong very easily upon occasion. And when we are telling a story about something that is not spelled out in the Bible, sometimes we say something by correlation or relation to the people and not something meant to be taken literally or as doctrine.
I believe we should be more careful overall with our analogies and stories, as we are entrusted with God’s truth and the human soul. I also believe there is a balance, and part of the art of speaking is the capability and permission to make analogies while bringing the audience along in a journey wherein they understand context without everything spelled out.
So the thing we need to remember is to glean, not blindly accept all, when sitting under anyone’s ministry. And we need to pray for them, and perhaps clarify to our children or friends if necessary. But one thing we ought not do is attack and say strong, harsh things to people. If someone is wrong, we should do as the Bible says, pull them aside privately, and then later with a friend or trusted companion if they don’t listen. But we don’t make the body of Christ look bad by being negative and attacking in public. If someone is leading a cult and seriously misleading people, that may be a different story when it comes to public exposure. But we must respect, protect and hold dear the body of Christ, the family of God. Like it or not, they are family, and we are responsible to treat those outside our natural household just like we would those within.
I’ve been called at different times to sit under ministries that had some things overly emphasized or perhaps taught out of balance with respect to core aspects of the gospel, and God had me sit right there, pray while still gleaning the good. Just because someone is called and truly gifted to minister doesn’t mean they will do and say everything right. Everyone is imperfect, and the more pressure and spotlight on individuals, especially if success comes, the more likely they will falter at some point. And everyone will be there to see with their magnifying glasses, and many will be ready to criticize.
Granted, there are some I avoid completely because there’s too much talk about certain things or too much loose or seemingly wasted talk about things that are inaccurate or irrelevant chatter, when I want the word and its application. I think it can become easy to ride the wave of name brand and fame a little when speaking, and some of the off the cuff explanations of the bible is flat out inaccurate or misleading. So inwardly, I understand the point. I just think there’s a godly balance somewhere between being blindly accepting, being overly negative, being by the book with content of teaching, and giving grace and covering with prayer to teachers and leaders.
Instead of contributing to the problem by gossiping and spreading division, let’s be part of the solution by staying, praying and serving with the right attitude.
Women can preach, lead and teach publicly, just as men. There will be some that still disagree with this statement. When Paul was writing certain things to a couple specific churches about women not speaking in church or leading men, he was referring to issues in their communities. When writing to other churches, he talked about them teaching. He acknowledged female apostles and prophetesses in some of his writings as well. The New Testament was written in and to a very male-dominated society (far more than our countries today), and so much of what Paul wrote regarding and including women was radical for his time. I have an entire separate post that addresses this in detail, so I will keep this part short, but it is one of those glaring circumstances where cultural and historical study, and Greek word and language study (particularly common and Pauline-specific) make all the difference in closing the gaps of seeming confusion or contradiction.
I have my concerns with ministry leaders and their financial expenditures. The ones who do not live modestly can shoot themselves in the foot when reaching the larger masses. Their luxurious lifestyle seems like a waste of money, and it feels unfair and hypocritical. Of course, one does have to observe whether their income comes from their congregation or their own work on the side. However, because of their leadership role and visibility, I believe as my pastor does when he says that church leadership ought to not live above the means of their people. I would put a challenge out to my fellow ministry colleagues and pastors with this. Think about it. What are we even in this thing called ministry for in the first place? If we have extra, we ought to be saving for our spouses’ and kids’ future, and investing back into prevention, early intervention and other need areas of our people and communities.
Personally, I just can’t sit still making a more than comfortable income while several awesome colleagues of mine work so hard just to maintain their aftercare programs for rescuees of exploitation. Are you kidding me? They will get my extra support 100 times out of 100.
There are websites dedicated to discussing issues like the above ones, and some of them can be very appropriate and informing. But some of them are very counterproductive. I am going to leave this last segment as a quote from a minister in response to this particular topic…
“Hi. I have a problem with sites that don’t allow for dialogue and explanation from the party they are against. There are websites for example that condemn the alpha course! [Certain minister, ‘they’ going forward herein] has been instrumental in connecting people, mainly women, to God, and God has graciously healed people and mended them through their ministry. A number of years ago there was found to be issues with money, they have since repented. Whilst I don’t agree with everything they may or may not teach theologically, I believe they love Jesus, and I imagine like ours their understanding of scripture and its application is growing and shaping all the time as the Spirit and Bible, and their accountability partners reveal more of God to them. Rick Warren wrote Purpose Driven Life and was attacked in many ways too. He is constantly accused of all kinds of things, as are we as leaders, just on a smaller scale! He was attacked for theology and ideas of ministry, and the amount of money he earned from his book… what those people failed to mention is that he 90% tithes!!! I would stay away from sites like this, where there is no accountability.”
Again, there is a balance, and there are legitimate discussions to be worked through. But let everything be done with propriety and discretion, with the larger picture of the family of God at heart. Who wants to be part of a family that attacks its own instead of surrounding and covering them?