From Delight to Disaster… (The Perfect Paralysis)

I’ve wondered for a while now how difficult it would be for pastors in the charismatic and pectecostal movements, to pull out of pride before it becomes too late when disaster strikes. It is my aim for this article to see if if anyone can possibly relate to what pastors may go through which may lead them to spiritual deception. This is not to condemn them, but to highlight possibly, what it is that brings them into deception and how hard it is not to be dragged into it. It’s taken me a while to write this, so I hope I can do this article justice.

Question Time

Have you ever led someone to the Lord? Have you ever prophesied over someone and you saw Jesus fulfill what He said through you? Has God ever used you for healing?

If so, have you not ever been delighted?

Hopefully the answer has been ‘yes’. But in that pentecostal or charismatic moment of delight, don’t you want to tell everyone what just happened? And don’t you find that incling to exaggerate just that little bit? And that little bit more… And more?

Confession Time

I’ve been guilty of exaggerating my story afterwards when God used me. The amazing reality is, God moves in such a normal way it’s kind of boring, but at the same time surreally miraculous. What makes it harder not to exaggerate is the other person’s miracle has drummed up that excitement in me along with their excitement. I feel a rush and then I start telling others… And boy! How so EASY it is just to exaggerate just that little bit more! And because they weren’t there… even more! Unfortunately, this was me and I’d hate to even think I’d do this again – but I probably will much to my dismay. One reason why I find it so hard is that their does seem to be a ‘Spiro’ competition in any church environment that seems to encourage this kind of exaggeration – or to put it more bluntly, lying.

I’m not trying to point the finger to others. I blame myself for falling to the temptation that by exaggerating I might get somewhere. However, examining my pentecostal/charismatic roots, I’ve seen that this kind of exaggeration has always been endorse even by those in leadership. Advertising is not lying in church cultures. I can say ‘God is doing a work here’ or ‘This is a move of God’ whether I am right or wrong. But this is it!

We have been used by God. We are being used by God. Does that mean we can make such bold claims and make even bolder exaggerated claims because that will justify people to get on board with you believe in to be God’s time? I think this hyper-excited time when we see God do something that a lot of damage is done. I would like to try and bring this down to what a pastor may feel and believe on a more personal level.

From Delight…

Now let’s just say a pastor has just been used by God to bring healing to someone. Rightly the congregation and the pastor glorify God. But then it happens again, and again. The pressure is now placed on that one man, the pastor, the power-bringer to move once again. For a long time, this faithful pastor has had a congregation of 3o people. It doesn’t seem sinful for him to declare that God is doing something amazing ‘RIGHT NOW’. The offering goes up and more people come. The pressures on for God to do something though next Sunday is haunting him… But all eyes are on him, the spotlight not moving off him as he takes his seat.

The following week, the pastor is invited to speak again. Because everyone saw God use him. By this stage, is he trapped? The cost of being honest could hurt his ministry and the people’s faith who bought family members to get healed by this man. He feels pressured. He buckle’s. He prays for God to forgive him as he steps out and starts building people’s faith as he told them about what happened last week. He hope’s God does something. He feels something change in the air and then gets the confidence to pray for people to get healed or fall under the influence of the Spirit.

The people are DELIGHTED!

However, people who want to get healed or so yielding to God or him to be healed that they fall automatically, believing that God is going to heal them. All this is done with good intention. All people are seeing are positive responses. And as the people encourage the pastor, the pastor is encouraging the people. The same peculiar procedure happens the following week. Some of those unhealed from the week before, come down again. This time God only to chose to heal one, but to himand everyone else, it looked liked thirty. People are starting to mutter the word revival – a controversial word among the church. But everyone is encouraged to believe that God must be doing something. Finally the pastor accidentally calls out REVIVAL or OUTPOURING and more people are now coming to see this pastor move in the ‘Spirit’…

Is the snare already set?

To Disaster

Too many movements have had God do something.  Then hype and swarm overtake it. How can any minister ever succeed to deal with this scenario the right way? The poor pastor is caught up in it. Would they dare say no and ‘quench’ what the Spirit is doing in there meetings, if they feel the Spirit isn’t doing anything?

The pastor is perfectly paralysed! Should he do what he thinks is right or what the people want? Should he do what he hopes God wants to do right now beside the people wanting him to bring down revival glory? People are seeing ‘miracles’ and are delighted to see the pastor perform.

How is it possible to separate one’s feelings and excitement among the other excitement generated by the crowd? Even more challenging, how can the pastor listen to the Holy Spirit if the eyes of a hundred people are watching your every move and holding to your words? With the voice and eyes of the crowd pressuring you to be something you’re not, how can one at the same time know they are not being led into deception or becoming more pride-filled? Is it no wonder such innocent delights turn into such deceptive disasters?

I have been trying to see what some celebrity ministers may have faced, to where they have got to now. How can we honestly blame them for being deceived if they were that incredibly vulnerable to begin with? I sympathise with them as I write this. When is the bait taken by the preacher or pastor, congregation and visitors?

I’m considering the Speck and the Plank at the moment,

S&P


17 thoughts on “From Delight to Disaster… (The Perfect Paralysis)

  1. May I post an interesting link – and it take in the issue “celebrity” pastors. We know what happened with Ted Haggard, once the spiritual head of 30 million evangelicals. His wife has published a book and the Phoenix Preacher blog has been discussing it. Ted haggard has actually come online to answer some questions – very interesting.

    http://phoenixpreacher.com/cms/?p=4430#comments

  2. Very good article S&P. I have been wondering about many of the same questions over the last few months.

    For certain Pastors I think the temptation to bend the truth is enormous. At the start they dont do it for themselves, but in order that the Kingdom of God might be progressed. They feel the need to inspire faith in others, use faith and not sight and soon its out of control.

    There was a Pastor who came on to the blog who made some slightly exaggerated claims in advertising for an event. When I questioned him about them, he said that yes it wasnt quite accurate but that he wanted to encourage other Pastors in their very difficult work. I dont blame him but also wonder where it will end up.

    The emphasis on personal witnessing can put pressure on people to gild the lily. Those stories are then relied upon by new Christians in deciding faith questions.

    To a large extent though we get the leaders and the community we deserve. If we are looking for a life of awesomeness, something completely different from the life of the non-Christian, a life of purpose, where we can impact a generation – then we look to leaders who seem to model that, and we get excited about stories of this kind of power and dont look too much into the detail.

    Mike Guggliemucci probably started out by experiencing a small healing, and it went from reality to unreality in small steps. Each time he would have justified it by saying that it was giving people faith and hope. The crowds lived vicariously through Mike, happy that he would be the one suffering and having the faith to be healed, as secretly they felt they would not have the faith to do so.

    When we focus on the failings of the leaders we are only seeing one half of the full story. When we lose our fascination with leaders and with extraordinariness, and realise that everyone is ordinary and is searching around for the right way, then we innoculate ourselves from the illusion.

  3. How can this be prevented? What are some early warning signs to prevent mass exaggi-steria?

    If there is nothing one can do, is it better to leave than have faith that God can help you change the situation around? Obviously prayer seems to be the answer, but (dare I say), it does seem to be lost cause if God chooses to hand them over to their desires to finally see ‘progress’.

  4. Interesting ideas, if a bit on the speculative side, but, I think this should equally apply, if it has any merit, to ‘discernment ministries’ when they, initially, very accurately ‘nail’ an obvious cult, like the JW’s, or Moonies, and continue to expose all the more identifiable errors of false ministries, but, then, having got on a roll, seem to have to add to their expanding list by attacking genuine Christian groups which merely don’t comply with the ‘discerners” own doctrinal stance.

    That’s when we can start investigating the reference point from which ‘discernment ministries’ start, and they, in turn, are invariably found wanting.

  5. Perhaps a simpler view would be that it should apply to all Christians across the board. Position is irrelevant.

    We are all priests now. We don’t need to exaggerate events to make God look good, or to make ourselves look good.

    Part of sanctification in the long run is that we no longer need men’s approval or admiration. Pleasing God is our goal. Trusting God in all things is also our goal.

    Exaggeration has its place in the right settings – in humour especially, or in sometimes in teaching to make a point.

    Exaggeration of the type that S&P describes above shows that we are either seeking people’s approval by trying to impress them, or trying to impress people about God, rather than letting Him speak through events as they stand or as He chooses. If exaggeration is used to impress people about God, then it becomes a form of manipulation, which we should avoid if we recognise we are doing it.

    If we exaggerate things in order to attract people to a church, or to win people to our doctrinal view, then we are not letting God build the church, and are trying to do the building in our own strength.

    The personal work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives over time would see us doing these things less, as part of a process of sanctification. Our faith in God to do the building Himself, our decreasing need for the approval and admiration of others, and our growing ability to live in Him, should see us gradually transformed in this area, if it is something we are prone to.

    So if a believer increases in traits like growing exaggeration over time in these matters, or outright lying, either they are gradually walking away from God, depending upon themselves rather than Him, or that God is bringing their weakness to a head, and it may be dealt with in some kind of a crisis. At the least, other believers, when looking to recognise elders and gifts among us, can look at this type of fruit to know whether to take much notice of what the person is saying. We know good and bad teachers by their fruit.

    I wish this kind of fruit was a part of the selection process for pastors etc. Not so much whether people don’t do it, but in a more positive sense of the believer being recognised as mature in this and other areas. Particularly love.

  6. This scenario would only be true if the ‘pastor’ had no reliance or relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m sure this happens with some ministers, who would better be seen as hirelings, not genuine pastors, but then, if they were not acting in obedience to the spirit, God is hardly likely to move.

    There is no pressure on any true minister of God to perform. It is Jesus who is building the Church. All the pastor has to do is obey God’s voice and preach the message he’s been given and minister to the people. If people are healed, all well and good, if not, then he has only obeyed God to the best of his ability.

    I think this kind of article shows a degree of cynicism which is unnecessary. I think we have to respect God’s judgement far more, and not be so willing accuse pastors of ‘bending the truth’ as a matter of convenience without concrete evidence.

    Why this emphasis on speculative criticism of the way pastors think and act?

  7. Facelift: “There is no pressure on any true minister of God to perform.”

    That just made me laugh. The temptation is always there!

    “All the pastor has to do is obey God’s voice and preach the message he’s been given and minister to the people.”

    Over the roar of conformity to bigger and better? I actually wonder if the pastor should try to creat an environment, where this pressure can’t be felt – on himself and others. If this could be a solution, how could this be done? What are some tips?

  8. Facelift: “I think we have to respect God’s judgement far more, and not be so willing accuse pastors of ‘bending the truth’ as a matter of convenience without concrete evidence.”

    It’s been over 100 years since the Azusa St revival came. I think there is enough evidence out there to suggest that there has been continuous ‘truth vedning’ by pastors. Sometimes intentional, sometimes not sure, sometimes unaware.

    Facelift: “Why this emphasis on speculative criticism of the way pastors think and act?”

    I actually thought you’d praise me Facelift for once by not having a go at people in ministry, but at least try to understand the other side.

    In understanding the way they think and understand certain dynamics, solutions may be raised to combat such blatant church deceptions in the church before it does become too late.

  9. s&p,
    ‘I actually thought you’d praise me Facelift for once by not having a go at people in ministry, but at least try to understand the other side.’

    I think you should rethink what you’re saying here, because it looks to me as if you’re claiming that pastors tell lies on purpose to sell themselves over to self-glorification, which is, actually, ‘having a go’. The fact that you’ve veiled your controversy in self-depreciation doesn’t negate, or hide, the accusation. I think everyone knows what you are saying.

    In fact the very idea of writing a speculative piece is equally fraught with danger, because, in imagining a thing to be true without having concrete evidence is, in its own way, a fabrication of sorts. Opinions are not necessarily facts.

    I understand that it is your view that pastors exaggerate and lie about numbers, events, happenings and even miracles. I can appreciate what you’re saying, and there is almost certainly an element of truth to this. Not for all pastors, but certainly for some. If it were merely a point of view and a personal conclusion, I would support you in this.

    But you have taken it further than an opinion on exaggeration, and, in effect, made it a fact, adding that the motive is self-glorification, and then you have determined to find out why pastors in general go into deception to prove themselves to be something more than they are.

    It is my experience that most pastors and Christian leaders are the opposite to this, refusing to take the glory for anything which was clearly a God event, and, rather, be depreciating of their own abilities and capabilities. There are very few pastors that I know who would make self-exalting claims for their own ministries, but would always praise God for his power, his ability, his involvement and his consideration of the situations where people’s live are genuinely changed.

    We are earthen vessels for God’s glory, that is all. We are the people of God, the children of God, but it is God alone who is able to change the hearts, minds and bodies of people he privileges us to be able to minister to.

    The dynamics you are wanting to understand are based on the speculative idea that pastors cant help themselves, but are always compelled to lie about what is happening in their ministry. There are those who have been guilty of this, but they tend to come down to the earth with a bump.

    Most pastors are very aware of their own shortcomings, their ordinariness, their frailties, and their weaknesses, and if they are too blind to see them, their wives, or husbands, or children, I am sure, will point them out in very clear terms somewhere along the line, even if they don’t heed the warnings of the Holy Spirit!! There is absolutely no profit in self-adulation in the pulpit, my friend.

  10. I think it might be helpful to separate, in our thinking, Pastors and one-man-ministries like Benny Hinn, Peter Popoff, Don Stewart and Todd Bentley.

    While there may be a certain amount of pressure on Pastors to “liven up the service” or whatever … this is generally as a result of crowds of kids going to some kids worship conference or something where the atmosphere is very different. Occasionally, the pressure is to mimic some special event run by the likes of Hinn and Popoff.

    The main problem is these “celebrities” who fleece Christians with their road-shows.

    Popoff was exposed as a total fraud in 1986-87 and was declared bankrupt as a result. But he’s now earning millions of dollars again. Christians have very short memories … 😦

    There is a huge amount of fakery in this area, and we need to be wise so that we are good stewards of the money God has given us.

    The majority of Pastors who get pushed towards this particular direction are under enormous pressure. So we need to remember to pray for them. (I don’t include CEO’s of multinational family-run businesses in this post! That’s a completely separate thing again!)

    That is all.

    Shalom

  11. I’ve edited the beginning article with the following:

    “I’ve wondered for a while now how difficult it would be for pastors in the charismatic and pectecostal movements, to pull out of pride before it becomes too late when disaster strikes.”

    It was these movements I had in mind to begin with. It’s these movements that seem to put more pressure on pastors to perform. People like Todd Bentley were those I had in mind. Even people like Bill Johnson or Josh Kelsey, where distortion or the exaggeration does not seem to be a lie.

    It’s in these movements I was exploring the pressure placed upon these people.

  12. Yeah, definately there is a “performance” pressure tht might hinder the content and distract the audience from the truth.

  13. ‘Pectecostal’? That would be muscle-building power churches, I guess? 🙂

    Again, you target churches and pastors and use Todd Bentley as your main example. When did he ever pastor a church? Is Poppof a pastor or a TV evangelist?

  14. Re: Pectecostal, does anyone remember “The Power Team” from the 80’s? They came to Paradise AOG in Adelaide and performed various feats of strengh like bending iron bars and breaking blocks of ice. Visit this page to see why you should bring them to your church : http://www.thepowerteam.com/why.html Eg. churches on average increase their income by 20% after a Power team visit. For every $10 spent on the Power team you get 1 person accepting Christ, wheras the average church spends $15,000 per convert. It sounds like a deal too good to pass up.

    Would this be an example of the performance culture of Pentecostalism? I think so. Are the claims of this group a little exaggerated? You be the judge.

  15. The above was an example of the kind of performance and exaggeration I was continually exposed to in churches as a young christian. Others were claims of raising people from the dead (in some convenient remote part of a third-world country and without taking down any names or addresses), claims of being a high-ranking priest of the devil (and turning to Christ), claims of being a hardened criminal and miraculously being released from jail etc. etc.

    The Pastors of the church didnt make the same performances or the same claims. However just by having these people to speak at the church they did provide some endorsement of these claims.

    And I saw these Pastors paint rosy pictures of revival events and prayer meetings that I witnessed. And I also felt pressured to paint the same rosy pictures and many times I did, or at least did not correct the impression given by others.

  16. Oh yes – I remember the ‘Power Team’. Some friends and I were chatting about them just the other day, and couldn’t decide whether they were just too much, or OK. They were quite a spectacle. I actually took my atheist father to church with me to see them. He wasn’t converted of course, but he did get entertained, at least. We knew it would be over the top. They were like a travelling vaudeville show, 80’s style.

    Interesting to see those financial promises on their website! At the time, I thought they were solely about evangelism.

  17. “Again, you target churches and pastors and use Todd Bentley as your main example. When did he ever pastor a church? Is Poppof a pastor or a TV evangelist?”

    Pastors and their churches usually aim to other pastors and their churches. I have seen good pastors buckle under pressure and change course completely. As a result in seeing them go off with the big hyper-churches, I have also observed how this also encourages the congregation to lie. I was caught up in these places two years ago. I know the rush and the temptation.

    Wazza2: “Would this be an example of the performance culture of Pentecostalism? I think so. Are the claims of this group a little exaggerated? You be the judge.”

    THE POWER TEAM!!! I saw them at CCC probably about 15 years ago. I actually loved them. But I would say yes. And it did renew my excitement for attending CCC, but for all the wrong reasons. It WAS for entertainments sake. I got nothing spiritually motivating about it except enjoyable memories.

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