Judging Trees

Discerning False Prophets and Wicked Ministries

We often say we are to judge a tree by it’s fruit.

Their are three places in Matthew where we find Jesus talking about trees and fruit. The first instance is in the preaching of John the Baptist:

Matt 3:7-10 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!… Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Jesus towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount:

Matt 7:15-20 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Jesus response to Pharisees who ascribed his healings to Beelzebul:

Matt 12:33-35 Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.

Can we still use these analogies to help give us discernment on individuals or churches today? I have this really peculiar feeling that we don’t know what is being spoken of in these passages. I will look into this.

In the meantime, I think it’s worth discussing if there is any better way of discerning false prophets or ministries other than by their fruit. Fruit seems to suggest time plays a role to determine prophets or ministries to be true or false.  In my understanding, by the time you are drawn into a cult, it’s too late to examine the fruit if you’re apart of the tree.

Is there a better way to discern? I would say yes.

* what you think the Spirit is saying or making you feel.

* measure what is taught or practiced by returning to your first love and Salvation experience.

* measure what is taught or practiced by what you know of the gospel.

* measure what is taught or practiced by loving the Lord with all heart, mind, soul and strength.

* measure what is taught or practiced by knowing the bible and what it says in context of issues or topics.

* understanding basic human motives and group dynamics.

* pray without ceasing. Ask God to reveal what is right or wrong. Be open to His words and what He gives you.

* ask what others in the church think. ask outside churches what they think about your church.

* be open to information and other opinion, being humble in approach.

To me, this is how one should move in discernment. So what’s the purpose of the tree and it’s fruit analogy? Does ‘fruit’ in these parables means motives or outcomes and manifestations?  What are your thoughts on ‘fruit and trees’ in scripture?


85 thoughts on “Judging Trees

  1. I think that people get into trouble when they dismiss their doubts about someone too early.

    Also, people want someone to take control of their life decisions and not take responsiblity for their choices.

    I am speaking from experience that I have ignored my own personal doubts about people and that has ended up in alot of very bad decisions.

    My sugguestion is that you should listen to your own discernment and never let your own personal needs that are not being meet to overide your discernment.

  2. I don’t think knowing people by their fruit is particularly complex. Nor does it require a separate approach, i.e. the addtional discernment ministry list, although I would agree with most of it as a sound basis for Christian living.

    I would exclude feelings as a means of discernment.

    Also, asking what others in the church think can be misleading. You are asking them to make a judgement of their leaders. This is always dependent on the questions being asked and the motives behind the questioning. I’ve known this to lead to unnecessary speculation and start rumours which should never have been released. People are hurt and churches damaged by these things. What questions would you be asking? ‘Do you think Pastor is a wolf?’

    Understanding group dynamics and human motives can be useful in some ways, but again, is dependent on the motives and understanding of the people making the value judgement. If their own modus operandi is flawed, their judgement will be flawed. It seems to be a very psychological approach. We are not born of the psyche, but of the Spirit. Psychology tends to reason, and reason to arguments, and arguments to contentions.

    A child of God is led by the Spirit. We walk by faith, not by feelings. Feelings are important, but only to the way we interact with the physical and sensual world. We are born of the Word and Spirit, and need to discern by the same.

    Believers need to learn to live and walk in the Spirit.

    ****************

    There are different kinds of fruit being discussed here.

    1. There is the fruit of repentance which relates to a change of heart, which leads to a change of mind and direction; from following our own needs, or devilish, worldly wisdom, to following Christ, and heavenly wisdom. Without repentance it is impossible to enter a fruitful life in Christ.

    2. There is the fruit of the Spirit, which relates to character and spirituality. We receive the Spirit when we are born again, and, therefore, we receive the fruit of the Spirit. Now the onus is on us to live in the Spirit, not in the flesh. ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit’.

    3. Then there is fruit of ministry under Christ, the result of obedience to God’s call. He chose us to bear much fruit, and that our fruit should remain. The key to this is being in the Vine. We are branches which produce fruit after the Vine. If we are not connected, or joined to the Vine we cannot possibly produce good fruit. We are wild branches which have been grafted into the True Vine.

    We will know a ministry by their fruit. Do they exhibit the fruit of Christ. Are they Christ-like in nature and service? Have they produced people who follow Christ? If they are, this is good fruit. Good fruit can only be produced if the minister is following Christ himself, or herself.

  3. Facelift – it should be considered, if people in the catholic church saw that their bishops and priests were very fruitful – how come some were exposed as pedophiles? In cases like that, the tree analogy fails.

    If people judged Todd Bentley in light of the tree analogy they would fail – what he said and testified revealed him, but not the image, his sincerity and present joy and love he had for people only seemed to portray him as a tree with good fruit. But Jesus used that analogy to warn people of false prophets.

  4. FaceLift: “I would exclude feelings as a means of discernment.”

    I would say God gave feelings so that we can ask the reasons to God the reason why we feel the way we feel about someone. I would say feelings play an important role in discernment – but at the same time, we must be aware that they can lie to us, which is why we must ask God why we feel the way we feel. Feeling’s of uneasiness, sickness, sudden anger, confusion, guilt and shame can help determine, confirm or discern what I am receiving from the preaching tree.

    FaceLift:
    “Also, asking what others in the church think can be misleading. You are asking them to make a judgement of their leaders. This is always dependent on the questions being asked and the motives behind the questioning.”

    It can be. But if everyone is saying the same thing, then it acts as a confirmation that something is not right that needs to be addressed. If the question is on ‘what do you think’ and not on ‘what are others saying’, then it can’t be really gossip. You’re asking honestly to individuals what their thoughts are on an issue that you might think is an important issue to address. This can only confirm what you previously discerned.

    Are you saying FaceLift that these analogies are different and don’t all mean the same thing? I would tend to agree with you, but am not sure…

  5. ??? I’m not completely understanding what you’re saying, here.

    If certain Catholic priests were exposed as pedophiles they were shown to be unfruitful! Their work was totally in vain. ‘Everything hidden will be revealed’ – Jesus! They, like their leader, the devil, have been judged.

    Why does Todd Bentley have to constantly be your chief evidence of wrongdoing? I had reservations about his ministry before I knew who he was or what he stood for. I still don’t know much about him, really. I picked it up purely in the Spirit. The read some of what he said. It should have been a simple matter to pick up where he is coming from. That’s why I said believers need to learn how to be led by the Spirit. I think there’s too little teaching on this.

    God gave us feelings to navigate our world, not as a primary means to communicate to us. He gave us a new born spirit. Sadly, through sin, most people’s spirits are dead to God. That’s why we need the new birth. Our spirit is regenerated. Then we can know the leading of the Spirit.

    People who are still spiritually dead to God have feelings. Tell me who is leading their feelings? Are they also discerning because they feel this or that? A Mormon will ask potential new candidates to experience a ‘burning in their heart’ as a feeling or experience which they claim proves that their ‘god’ is the true ‘god’. Would you recommend this kind of feeling as a demonstration that this is indeed God? No, it’s a lying sign!

    The only ‘feeling’ I can find that indicates the presence or ‘green light’ of God in a situation is peace, which is, in fact, a spiritual quality brought on by the Holy Spirit. What confirms what we perceive of God is the Word of God. Felling sick, for instance, could also be a manifestation of demonic presence disturbed by the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

    Under the New Covenant our spirit is in communion with the Spirit of God (1 Cor.2:10-16), so we can know his leading (Rom.8:14), and know what he is showing us about a certain situation, or ministry, or personality, and, from now on, as reborn living spirits, ‘we know no one according to the flesh’ (2 Cor.5:16). Any emotions or feelings associated with what he tells us are secondary to the situation. We cannot allow feelings to dictate spiritual decision making.

    Perception is not a feeling, it is a knowing.

    ‘if everyone is saying the same thing, then it acts as a confirmation that something is not right that needs to be address’

    Really?

    I’ve known incidents which completely disprove this theory. One of your arguments about the success of megachurches is that numbers don’t equate to rightness. Are you now refuting your own argument?

    I would say that a large group of people all pursuing Christ is an indication of good fruit, and therefore a successful ministry, but that’s not the same as a large contingent caught up in he same rumour!

    A number of people having the same prejudice about a person doesn’t equate to them all being right! That has been disproved many times in history. It is a careless assumption.

    Only facts and evidence bear out a truth. Fruit is proof, not gossip or innuendo, which are easily brought about!

  6. I mean, there was a large crowd of people shouting ‘Crucify him’ at Jesus’ trial! Does that make them right? They were all saying the same thing! They all chose Barabbas! Look how many people think the pope is Peter! 🙂

    When a disgruntled congregation member, especially someone who has been in leadership, starts phoning other congregants and simply asks them what they think of the pastor, you have a scenario for disaster. I have seen it many times now in different churches, and even in our church. It always bodes ill! It never comes out well! Never!

    And it is not the Biblical pattern for resolving disputes or offences.

  7. “When a disgruntled congregation member, especially someone who has been in leadership, starts phoning other congregants and simply asks them what they think of the pastor, you have a scenario for disaster.”

    Haven’t read the entire thread, but this caught my eye.

    I have never, ever, in all my years in church, come across a congregant ringing around people and asking what they think of the pastor.

    Obviously our church experiences are quite different, FL!

  8. My response to the original post is that clearly we are to use fruit as a means to judge whether a tree is good or bad. If this is too hard, or inconvenient, then we need patience. Fruit takes time to appear. Different trees take different times to bear fruit, as well, or for the fruit to ripen. OK, I’m extending the analogy, but I don’t think we can dismiss its importance.

    If we don’t want to judge by fruit, then we need to look at ourselves, because clearly this is one way that the Bible teaches us how to recognise what is good/bad, and we must ask why we don’t want to take it into consideration.

    For example, we may not like some things about a ministry, but may see it producing some good fruit. We can’t just turn around and condemn it anyway. That fruit could be evidence of God being allowed to work there in some good ways.

    The fact is that the Body of Christ is everywhere, in and through creation, including in many different churches, and outside them. When we look at a church and condemn it for its doctrine but ignore the other good work visible there, we are not seeing the body of Christ, which may yet be present in it. When church goers condemn Christians who aren’t attending a known church, they also are failing to recognise the body of Christ wherever it is.

    Each person and each person’s service (ministry if you like) will bear fruit. If we see a stream of hurt people exiting one area, or a growing lack of freedom in Christ, then we can say there is bad fruit; if we see loved people, healed people, people being helped, and growing freedom and maturity in Christ, then we see good fruit. I really don’t think we can dismiss these things, as the work of God in each of us is invisible and internal, and the fruit is its outworking, and how it is made known.

  9. Also, it is very important not just to believe rumours or gossip. We really need a way to see past that. We can trust the fruit over time, to reveal character. When we see evidence of character, we might choose to ask questions that reveal gossip being a pack of lies or some other unfortunate thing. This would include gossip about pastors, but also, gossip about people who have raised uncomfortable issues in their churches, since one way of dealing with the credibility of such people in some settings is to impugne their reputation.

  10. I might add that I had my character derided by my ex pastors, and its such an easy thing to do. Also, anyone reading my posts recently and Facelift’s just now, might think I was demonically possessed because I felt ill in a Rodney Howard Browne meeting. So its pretty easy to start a rumour. (Not suggesting you were doing that, FL – just a convenient example.) I would say though, decide for yourselves by looking at my ranting and raving over time. Fortunately in my case it doesn’t matter, but in a situation where you are face to face with people in a physical setting, it matters a great deal.

  11. “…I might add that I had my character derided by my ex pastors…” – that came out wrong. It was in a letter, not to a wider audience. So no harm done.

  12. ‘I have never, ever, in all my years in church, come across a congregant ringing around people and asking what they think of the pastor.’

    It happens, believe me! And usually it’s people who are unable to address the situation Biblically. It never works out well.

    Put it like this, it is not likely to be a person who is content with the pastoral leadership who is going to call people to ask what they think of their leadership, doctrine, or the amount of love they exude! Most congregants are happy where they are, and just get on with life.

    However, once a person, even a reasonably contented person, is confronted with the question and pressed for an answer, how long do you think it might be before they are influenced to have an opinion either way? So any negative response, even in the midst of positive comments and a general attitude of being well looked after, will be added to some list of complaints, and a rumour is begun!

    I’m glad you’ve never experienced this or been asked to be involved in such things.

  13. So are the ‘fruit-tree analogies’ meant for general discernment, whether they are Christian or not?

    There are lot’s of very big companies that are very charitable and give to the poor and say they are very reliable. But if you look at their history, some are corrupt to the core. If someone has a drinking problem and asked me for money – I’d know the fruit they’re producing. Are the analogies just common sense application to help people decide who to trust, Christian or not?

    If we determine that a tree has good fruit because a multitude are in it’s shade, unless we eat the good looking fruit – how do we know if the fruit is good unless we eat it’s cyanide lemon?

    I actually agree with you RavingPente that time is a factor. I suppose Jesus may have being saying under this ‘Only time will tell’. But still, this doesn’t help the person discern if the ministry or person is true or false right away.

  14. I suppose what you describe could also apply to anyone in a congregation being asked about (or work place for that matter). Unless its in the context of reviewing potential job applicants, the natural response to such a question is ‘Why do you ask?”.

  15. Jesus wasn’t saying that only time would tell; he was saying that there _will_ be fruit, and we _will_ be able to see it.

    Also, he saw the fruit of the Pharisees – he talked of them ‘devouring widow’s houses’ – that was a kind of fruit; a result of their ministry. Yet they tithed mint and dill – a ‘good’ work, but not enough to disguise what they lacked. Was their tithing action a fruit? It was in their case (and I’m not extending this case to anybody else) more of a self righteous act that lacked a heart of love; the other fruit exposed them. So a company might equally give to charity, but obtain the funds by selling addictive substances to people (cigarette companies etc) – in this case, a self righteous PR act doesn’t hide the rotten fruit with people dying of cancer and emphysema etc etc.

  16. Under the NT the Tree is Christ – the True Vine. The branches are true believers, and, provided we are connected, productive and willing to be pruned by the Husbandman, God, the fruit is guaranteed!

  17. Willing? May I suggest we are pruned (disciplined)at times when we’re decidely unwilling – but I agree, it ends up making us more productive!

  18. I like the analogy of fruit, because it grows in and of itself in the correct environment. An apple grows from and of an apple tree. It doesn’t have to try to be an apple. It is an apple because of the tree, the branch, the farmer and the correct conditions. It will never be anything else. It is of it’s tree.

    If we are of Christ we will produce the fruit of Christ, branches producing the fruit of the True Vine.

    That is how we know!

  19. On ringing around and asking what people think of the Pastor – this is an established practice in many Anglican churches.

    There are a couple of elders who make up the incumbency committee, and at certain times when it is to be decided whether a Minister will be asked to stay on, they do seek input from members of the church – often by ringing around.

    I find that this works quite well – there is a recognition of the role of the congregation and the eldership in the running of the church, and in their discernment and spiritual maturity. As Greg posted up on the other thread, “in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” – the corrollary would be if you only have one cousellor it could be unsafe.

  20. I can just imagine the sheep in the paddock huddling in one corner as they make a decision on whether to fire the existing shepherd and hire a new one!

    Of course these days they have their own enclosed pens and a mobile phone they can text each other with. No need for personal contact. They can just vote yea or nay and it’s all done!

    Mean while God is working with the sacked pastors to find them greener pastures!

  21. In the context of wazza’s comment, that would be a case of ‘reviewing job applicants’ – in this case the incumbent being the number 1 applicant, and probably the only one if they are doing a good job. It’s not just a case of someone deciding to stir things up.

    If there are also a bunch of respected elders in the church, who respect the rest of the congregation enough to ask for their input, all the better.

    If someone doesn’t trust the ‘sheep’ to input in a wise and considered manner, in the context of a discussion about continuing tenure, then you’d have to ask if the ‘sheep’ have been discipled very well in the first place. Or do they stay immature and incapable of offering worthwhile Christian counsel forever?

  22. Yes, I’d agree with RP.

    The point of FL’s last analogy seems to be that it is ridiculous for the sheep to make any decisions about their own leadership. The shepherd is of such a different quality to the sheep that he is a breed apart, endowed with greater vision. The sheep on the other hand are relatively unintelligent workers, blindly following each other and not to be trusted until they are given true leadership.

    This in my opinion is a wrong and dangerous application of the sheep/shepherd allusion. We are all sheep, including the pastors, and Jesus is the true shepherd. The point of the shepherd teminology is to highlight the care taken in leadership, not to highlight the cluelessness of those being led.

  23. Yep, a very dangerous application wazza. I agree. Potentially and historically resulting in nepotism and maintenance of demonstrably unsound leadership in some cases, not to mention a clergy/laiety separation which is unhelpful for everyone.

  24. Hmm,

    I actually agree with FL here. Start asking for negative comments about someone (anyone) and you soon get a list as long as your arm.

    Also, on feelings, I tend to agree with FL. Feelings will influence your thinking, but always fail to produce objectivity.

    Are our feelings to do with a mans message, or his manner? Are people offended by the Gospel, or merely by my presentation?

    The key to this is being able to objectively dissect a persons message.

    I confess that Bentley makes me very angry. I find it very hard to be objective. However, when I merely consider his message, it is serious blasphemy. The idea that Christians need the words of an Angel “to believe in the supernatural” because Jesus isn’t enough is absolutely mind-blowing.

    Mind-blowing in the sense that anyone would listen to that and think Todd was born-again.

    No Angel, sent by the Father, would draw attention to himself.

    1) Mohammed encountered an “Angel of light” … and got the Koran. An Anti-Christian book. Built an empire and had Multiple wives.

    2) Joseph Smith encountered an “Angel” … and got the book of Mormon. Took over Utah and Polygamy rules.

    3) Todd encountered many angels, including one of finance and one called “Emma” … and spread new teachings and made many false Baptisms, in the name of the “Bam”. He made a truck load of cash and exchanged his old wife for a very pretty younger model … kind of like a trade-in deal with Rick Joyner as the used-mistress salesman. Attempting to subvert the entire body of Christ and promoting Serial polygamy at least.

    Maybe I am just being emotional. But Todd is “insolent, arrogant and boastful”.
    ====================================================

    The sheep/shepherd analogy ignores Paul’s letters to Timothy. Sorry FL.

    Timothy wasn’t there to appoint new elders/deacons/leaders. He was an apostolic delegate for Paul to enable the members to kick out the bad ones and install good ones from among themselves. The model presented is that the body chooses men of good character to become leaders in that body.

    The letters Timothy received merely gave moral authority to what they were to do.

    Church governance … the old issue really that we were groping towards trying to understand on the old signposts I think. A couple of threads on it at least.

    Elders and deacons have to come from the body. It’s generally not a good idea to parachute someone into the role. They are appointed by the local body and then potentially let go by the body. The difficulty is in providing the mechanisms for hiring and letting go individuals from those positions.

    The fundamental principle for appointing Elders and deacons is that they are men of good character. (I mean human beings if anyone wants to take issue with my misogyny!!! We can discuss men and woman on another thread if anyone really wants to!)

    Spiritual gifting is secondary. Particular gifting in preaching the gospel and teaching the word are not primary attributes. That’s the biggest surprise.

    Anyway … I’ll stop there. Being of sound judgment is the key thing. Is your Pastor fair? Does he have favourites? Are you convinced you will get a fair hearing in a dispute with another member? It’s definitely not easy being a Pastor. It’s tough. They need our prayer.

    I feel good now, after the earlier rant about Bentley, to be talking about good things. The Bible is an exciting book, and I get excited about reading it, and talking about it.

    FL, take a chance, rethink your leadership model. I am not saying yours is wrong! But merely that it isn’t complete. Infants in Christ need lots of help … other incomplete models ignore this, particularly when they are historic and based on old brethren style churches which had a constant stream of generations of families, with kids growing up in the church and becoming members when they were old enough and having a “civic responsibility” from small. Adult conversions as a percentage were smaller than today.

    So Mature members elect good leaders from amongst themselves who act as shepherds for the infants. Only an overemphasis drags people into an incorrect model of church governance.

    We also tend to over-spiritualise things with the jargon we use … Paul is being very practical with Timothy and Titus. We should be too.

    Right … coffee time.

    Shalom.

  25. addendum:

    “The letters Timothy received merely gave moral authority to what they were to do.”

    let me change that … The letters Timothy received gave moral authority to what they were to do as well as good guidance to Timothy in what to look for. The letters strongly imply that the leaders they had in Ephesus were the opposite of what good leaders should be.

  26. So most of us would agree that ringing around to dig up criticism of someone saying, “What do you think about so and so”, isn’t a desirable thing to do generally speaking (we’re talking about a situation where someone is brought up out of the blue, with no other catalyst, such as winning the lottery or something). Doesn’t matter whether its referring to a pastor or to anyone else in a church group. (It can come from any direction, towards any person.)

    But most of us would also agree that in the context of leadership, its sensible for people to discuss leadership roles and how they are being filled, particularly in a review process, and that both elders and mature Christians from the congregation might be asked for an opinion. Plus, most of us would expect to find mature Christians in a healthy congregation who would be capable of contributing in an intelligent, practical and loving fashion.

    And, re the original post, most of us agree that fruit is important in understanding the nature of something.

    I guess what we see as good fruit might vary in some cases though. Some groups might see numerical growth as good fruit, or salvation decisions. Others might see growth into maturity in Christ as good fruit. Others might see good works having a good effect in the wider world, whatever the area of endeavour as good fruit. Others might see all of those things, or qualify them.

  27. “Are our feelings to do with a mans message, or his manner? Are people offended by the Gospel, or merely by my presentation?”

    David Pawson observes that people who don’t believe emotions should dictate one’s response, especially in leadership, judgment and correction, (because it gets in the way of the Spirit’s obedience or hearing from the Spirit), have trouble defending this view in contrast to Paul’s emotionally charged and fiery letter to the Galatians.

    I would say that most of the New Testament letters are written on a very strong emotional level – but ‘in the Spirit’. I honestly believe that our feelings can be connected to His Spirit of discernment. We just need to be aware of why we may feel the way we do on certain issues.

    I’ve openly lost my temper in a congregation and looking back, I have no doubt it was the right thing to do, even though afterwards I though I must have not operated ‘in Spirit’. I condemned myself for weeks (as I am quite conservative and do not like my emotions to erupt in front of people, for the sake of face.)

    But God bought me back to the day I did judge out of emotion and showed me what it accomplished. He revealed to me why my action was appropriate because it actually exposed something in the church that needed to be severely addressed. And because it hasn’t, it’s getting worse. However, I actually noticed on the day I reacted a division was exposed alongside inexcusable favouritism.

    This made me think long and hard about how emotions are allowed to be included in how we speak, react and disern ‘in the Spirit’. It is uncomfortably possible. Jeremiah seemed emotionally unstable in most of his writings. And wise, analytical, discerning Solomon also did so. David wrote out of his emotions.

    To deny our emotions is to deny the part of God’s image in us. I actually don’t like defending the fact that emotions can be used for discernment – but I’ve seen it again and again used. As much I think emotion clouds reason or the Spirit, I’ve generally been proven wrong.

  28. “So most of us would agree that ringing around to dig up criticism of someone saying, “What do you think about so and so”, isn’t a desirable thing to do generally speaking (we’re talking about a situation where someone is brought up out of the blue, with no other catalyst, such as winning the lottery or something). Doesn’t matter whether its referring to a pastor or to anyone else in a church group. (It can come from any direction, towards any person.)”

    I am pretty sure the Uniting Presbytery ask the ‘What do you think’ question to the congregation about the pastor, the elders or board, and the congregation. I’m more than 80% sure they do. Can anyone confirm this?

    It is wrong for someone in the congregation to go to random people in the church and ask them ‘What do think about so-and-so?’, then tell them what they think or pass on what was said in that private meeting to another person.

    If you’ve already discerned something isn’t right about Bob, other people might feel confused about what they feel towards Bob too. You think there is something more, so you ask around. ‘What do you think about Bob?’

    Some had nothing or felt nothing against him. Than you talk to three girls in the youth, who say ‘He makes me feel insecure. He’s made some inappropriate sexual suggestions to me. I’m concerned with the younger girls’.

    If the young guys also make a comment that Bob seems to be smooth with the girls, would it not be appropriate to suggest to the youth pastor to talk to Bob, or keep an eye on Bob with the girls in the youth?

    In this situation, talking to others confirms what you’ve discerned and let those who may be a bit hurt speak of their fear, pain or confusion. You then pass on that information to someone who can deal with it appropriately.

    The above is similar to this scripture:

    1Cor 1:11-12
    “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

    They would have talked to each other before informing Paul what some in the church were doing. This to me is healthy.

  29. This is why I’m finding this discussion very interesting. Here’s the black and white, choleric, James:

    Jam 3:9-11
    With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

    Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

    First it seems that this analogy is about the tongue. But then he says…

    Jam 3:17-18
    But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

    Then it’s tied to actions and then the person! But it’s the salt-spring one that gets me. You’re either a good tree or your not. Fruitful or not. Salty or fresh. Black or white. You can’t be both. It seems that is what he is saying. Can we apply these analogies to Jesus’ warning against false prophets then:

    Matt 7:15-20
    Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

    I see a parallel to what James said.
    Hopefully you can see my confusion in all this.

  30. For sure … Jesus is essentially saying that the ultimate, final resting place of certain “ministries” will be in the lake of fire.

    That should be enough for everyone to suddenly ask themselves “do I need to return to God and repent?”.

    This should not lead to paranoia. Or constantly broken, shattered Christians who are unable to do anything. It should lead to humility and an acknowledgment that we are able to anything and everything through Christ. Not my strength … but his alone.

    And if we know that we are broken … we can go and put it right. No need to be broken, we can put it right through his grace and mercy. It doesn’t matter if we repent publicly and lose all face in the public mind. We are nothing anyway … and He is everything.

    So many christian ministries go wrong … and they can’t repent publicly and put things right. The sin of pride. The fear of losing my dignity is a big fear.

    To be exposed. It’s a terrible thing to experience that fear. But the fear of the Lord trumps that little fear.

    We compound our sins by hiding them away and not dealing with them. We need to admit our faults and overcome them … through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we do not get conceited and Self-Righteous.

  31. wazza2,
    ‘The point of FL’s last analogy seems to be that it is ridiculous for the sheep to make any decisions about their own leadership. The shepherd is of such a different quality to the sheep that he is a breed apart, endowed with greater vision. The sheep on the other hand are relatively unintelligent workers, blindly following each other and not to be trusted until they are given true leadership.’

    Can we make an agreement, for the sake of peace, wazza2, that we don’t attempt to make a supposed argument for the person we’re discussing issues with, and then make a comment on the supposition?

    I didn’t say this at all. Which is why you made it up so you could argue against your own point. You said something I didn’t say, and then added FL to it!

    In fact I was trying to picture a scenario where sheep are phoning one another to discuss the future of a pastor and his family, which seems rather inconsiderate to me. The future of the church discussed over the phone?

    Now on the issue of appointed elders discussing issues with trusted regular members I would agree, this is a sensible thing to do. But, please, arrange a formal meeting, with recorded minutes, before respected, reliable witnesses. Not over the phone with no record of the conversation. There needs to be some accountability here.

    However, this was far removed from my original assessment of what s&p was saying, that he would be quite prepared to discuss the faults of a pastor with a number of church members, behind the pastor’s back, and reach the conclusion that if they agreed he or she was not up to the task, they would, in any way, be right to take action! This is very different matter.

    Again, where’s the accountability in this? Where are the recorded minutes of such conversations? Who designates which person or persons in the church has the authority to convene such meetings?

    After all, most pastors are required to relocate to begin a pastorate. This means, if they have a wife and children, they are basing their futures on some agreement made between themselves and the people they are being invited to lead under God. Relocation can be a massive upheaval for a family. This should be respected.

    If, by a half dozen phone calls, you are making decisions about this pastor, you are affecting his entire family, and their future, not just your own needs. It requires more than a lazy phone call!

    I have seen some tragedies, where families of pastors are bitterly affected by inconsiderate church boards and congregations who practically hang them out to dry. I have sat down and cried with some of these people who have been crassly treated. I won’t go into details, but these things are rarely dealt with equitably if the pastor is being removed by a voting body. The shepherd is hurt, and the majority of the sheep are hurt. For what? Want of care and patience? The church has a duty of care to the family of the pastor, as well his having a duty of care to the church.

    The least that should happen is that a minister is give a written, signed contact over a certain period, at least three years, during which time it is agreed that he or she is permitted to pastor the church unhindered, unfettered, unrestricted, with the proviso that they are to live a godly life before the people and teach the Word according to the tenets of the denomination, after which it would be permissible for appointed elders and members, and for the pastor, to review and revise the appointment.

    In fact, I put it to you that it takes a minimum of five years for a new pastor to establish himself in the community and become effective as a leader of the flock.

  32. Indeed FL.

    That’s why I said it’s generally not a good idea … but this is not the fault of the appointed Pastor but the local church who didn’t feel they had anyone who could operate in that role.

    Elect someone from the body … not paying enough? Offer enough for the person you know should do the job to give up his day-job.

    In fact, it isn’t fair to appoint a “stranger” to be your Pastor and then undermine him after he’s been hired.

    But it’s the fault of the body in this case.

    I would tend to agree with FL here. Five years is probably optimistic though …

    Shalom.

  33. Most people in the commercial world these days go on probation for 3 or 6 months. I’ve been through this, so has nearly everyone I know. Three or five years is quite a long time for a contract with no provision for probation to run, particularly in the case of a minister/pastor who has been appointed from outside the congregation, where no-one has prior personal experience of one another.

    Somehow I doubt things were this complicated in the early church. I’m all for minutes and recording events for the sake of transparency, and I used to keep a personal diary at work including instructions from my managers and clients, which was very useful when memories failed later on. However, perhaps there is something intrinsically wrong with a structure that requires so much effort, in the context of Christian relationships. There’s certainly something wrong when so little trust exists.

    FL, you present so much suspicion towards the congregation that you seem to regard them almost as the enemy. There is a real division appearing in your comments between the pastors and those they shepherd. Is that the way it was meant to be?

    People can be hurtful, but it goes both ways. Of course pastors can be hurt by the congregations, but so can congregation members be hurt by pastors actions. Where there is no two way communication and respect, these things cause division and are hard to heal. Where the pastor is ‘above’ the flock, and only shares with other pastors, they can start to regard themselves as different from those they pastor, and lose touch. We are not all that different. Jesus is our Shepherd, and there are not two classes of Christian.

  34. “And if we know that we are broken … we can go and put it right. No need to be broken, we can put it right through his grace and mercy. It doesn’t matter if we repent publicly and lose all face in the public mind. We are nothing anyway … and He is everything.”

    That’s a good comment. It’s true freedom when we can stop worrying about public opinion, and just turn ourselves over to Him, even if it includes losing face in order to fix some wrong. Another way of dying,and painful, but discovering new freedom and life in the process. To truly relinquish the need for approval by others, in order to follow Him in that way, is tough. Some of those who have done this at some stage have become some of the most inspirational teachers I’ve come across.

  35. Well, OK, I’m sorry to have confused what wazza2 was saying with the tenets of the post and thread, which was identifying people by their fruits and discernment, presumably of good or bad leadership and ministry.

    I locked on to something s&p said about gaining a consensus from church members [sheep?], which could only be in regard to the performance of the shepherd. Surely you have already agreed that this kind of consensus is unacceptable, and should never take place.

    I then realised that wazaa2 was actually talking about hiring and firing pastors, and gaining the advice of trusted ministers in the process.

    So I corrected my thoughts on this, saying I could agree to a degree, as seen above, and added the comments that, if this is the case, there should be a formal structure to the way elders and trusted members go about their discussion, including minutes, which adds accountability to the board’s actions, and places the onus on them to say what they mean and be accountable before others for their own words.

    Making phone calls in regard to the performance of a pastor is highly disrespectful. Especially if any of the content is in any way subversive. I am attempting to stay in context with the post and thread, here, which is in regard to assessing fruit, and discerning the performance of ministries.

    Again, in all of this, I see no precedent for a holy twitter huddle of sheep to vote a shepherd in or out! Perhaps you have scripture for me on this.

    If you want to believe otherwise, then go for it, but I’ve explained my position well.
    ••••••••••••••

    RP,
    ‘FL, you present so much suspicion towards the congregation that you seem to regard them almost as the enemy. There is a real division appearing in your comments between the pastors and those they shepherd. Is that the way it was meant to be?’

    If that’s what you want to read in into, go ahead, but that is not the case, at all. I am a congregation member. I love the congregation. Always have, ever since I first came in. I gather with them in and out of meetings. I rarely miss a meeting. I love the Church. I love the people of the Church. I am highly supportive of the concept of the local church, and will remain so. I have laid down my life for the sheep.

    I am happy to go through the highs and lows of local church life until I go to be with the Lord. But I don’t think it’s acceptable to undermine the leadership of a minister by going about things in a disorderly manner. That is as much damaging to the local church and the sheep as it is of the minister given responsibility for leading.

    The problem has arisen on this thread because we have two separate ideas running concurrently, and they have become mixed up. I explained that.
    •••••••••••••••

    ‘Most people in the commercial world these days go on probation for 3 or 6 month’

    That is because they are replaceable with other equally trained people in the secular world. Their call and vocation isn’t from God, but from their employer, based on their training and experience. They are not sent out, but hired. We do not want hirelings leading churches.

    Pastors are first ordained by God, called by God and released into ministry by God as Pastors of the Lord Jesus Christ, sent, empowered and equipped by Jesus to serve the flocks. Then they are recognised by their peers, enter a period of vocational training and equipping, and after this gain the respect of the flock they are called to lead.

    It is not a commercial enterprise!

    Do you really think 3-6 months is long enough for an incoming Pastor to begin he process of leadership and direction of the local church? Even in an average sized church of 100 people, it would take far longer than this just to get to know the regular members, let alone have their performance assessed!

    I put it to you that there is a general undercurrent of suspicion towards pastors and leadership in the Church on this site. Perhaps that as to be addressed.

    Perhaps you need to start a separate thread to discuss these things.

  36. Check out Peniel Church and “Bishop” Mike Reid from the UK.

    This a counter-example with the added benefit of being a real-world example too. He basically was responsible for starting the church, built up the ministry, built a church school, built an academy, built an insurance company and financial company that sold mortgages and insurance to church members … preached properity and had very strong links with Oral Roberts.

    Now … what could possibly go wrong? Well, it was the whole heavy-shepherding thing. It became very controlling … to the extent that family relationships were broken up, including marriages. A decision about your job or moving house and so on had to go to Reid. A whole legalistic structure was set up. The people were spiritually oppressed.

    Eventually, after many years of spiritual abuse of the congregation, he fell from grace, after his wife caught him with his trousers down … with the chior mistress. She’d been sleeping with him for 8 years.

    Do a wiki search and all the rest … it makes for depressing reading.

    Still, this doesn’t prove any point as he built the ministry up from nothing! However, it does smash “shepherding”. When it moves from guidance to control … that’s when the problems of power corrupting become apparent and people who won’t submit are ridiculed from the pulpit.

    Hmm.

    Shalom … and good night.

  37. Just read FL’s last post.

    “I put it to you that there is a general undercurrent of suspicion towards pastors and leadership in the Church on this site. Perhaps that as to be addressed.”

    Answer: no!

    we know how difficult it is to be a fair judge, no favourites etc. People have bad experiences and this is merely coing out. However, I do think we are all trying to be balanced. And please note that Lance doesn’t come on here … so there is no case to answer here.

    In fact, I don’t think I have made negative comments about pastors. I am quite supportive of Pastors. I might ask if there is a more biblical way of choosing them, and I might be down on some types of church governance which includes Pastors only incidentally … the members effectively choose how they are governed, until they make a decision which subsequently cannot be undone. Look at the way Hillsong is governed for example. The only real members are the Elders.

    Everyone else is merely a regular attender (associate member) with no voting rights. Conflict of interest right there. No one in the membership can do anything about it though.

    Shalom … and this time I am going to bed.

  38. Bull: “We know how difficult it is to be a fair judge, no favourites etc. People have bad experiences and this is merely coing out. However, I do think we are all trying to be balanced. And please note that Lance doesn’t come on here … so there is no case to answer here.”

    I’m with Bull here. I can relate to the poor pastor who is struggling to look after his family, work a few jobs a week, go to important meetings, conferences, visiting sick people or elderly from the church, counsel families over the phone and organise the Sunday services and prayer meetings, etc.

    I admire and praise those pastors that do it tough. I suppose, because news seems to focus on the negative side more, the tone of this site (or my views) may seem to be negative towards the majority of pastors. This is not true. I love the work they do.

    However, I’ve observed I’m developing a prejudice that the bigger the pastor is – the more suspicious he is. I like being informed by Lance’s blog. I’ve observed though how many pastors or ministers have been corrupted by bad doctrines, pride, folly, pleasure and love for money – obviously in certain movements and denomination.

  39. Try it this way Facelift.

    You’ve already discerned something isn’t right about Bob the Youth Pastor. Other people might feel confused about what they feel towards Bob too. You think there is something more, so you ask around. ‘What do you think about Bob the Youth Pastor?’

    Some had nothing or felt nothing against him. Than you talk to three girls in the youth, who say ‘He makes me feel insecure. He’s made some inappropriate sexual suggestions to me. I’m concerned with the younger girls’.

    If the young guys also make a comment that Bob the Youth Pastor seems to be smooth with the girls, but the leadership think you are launching a smear campaign against him, would it not be appropriate to let the girls in the youth talk about how he makes them feel, if Bob is denying he is making sexual suggestions towards them?

    Both Bob the pleb and Bob the Pastor are supposedly out of line. Was it not right to talk to others in this instant to see this is an issue that needs to be addressed?

  40. Discernment, I believe can be furthered or confirmed by talking to others about what they are sensing is not right either.

    I have found that the biggest cause of division is the concept of ‘concern’. As soon as concern is established – it acts as an ‘us verses them’, and this needs to be broken down. This is done by having the issue addressed right away in love where understanding from both sides can be expressed.

    Unfortunately, we are to judge those in the church. However, I am against petty argument or gossip that turns molehills into mountains and strains at the gnat.

    But now that the focus is on Bob – he does great youth ministry work and everyone loves him. Is he a good tree or a bad tree? He is being sexually suggestive to the girls in the youth.

    I would say bad. But parents would only see good. Others would say good tree because they only see the good. Wouldn’t parents be shocked if they found out that one good tree suddenly turned bad over night and violated one of their daughters!

    I think you can see where I am coming from with the tree and discernment analogy.

  41. What S&P describes is actually a very difficult situation. Most people don’t want to believe, spread or encourage false rumours, but sometimes there is a situation where people become genuinely concerned. To ignore such a situation could lead to serious injury to others.

    How do you handle that situation as a congregation member, if it is the leader who is the concern? Whom do you go to or speak to? You would definitely find that most people in the first instance would share their concern in confidence with a close friend or two to see if their thinking was sound or not. Then they might go to another leader if they felt there was still some basis for concern.

    Maybe, in a larger organisation, there could be some chain of action planned to take care of this kind of thing if it should ever arise, to ease the handling of it. Some companies have this kind of thing in place. I’m not sure how effective it is though.

    I have found that even when you have safety concerns about a fellow congregation member, people are very slow to give them credence. I had some once about a new church member who I’d known in a different context. He made me and every other woman in our home group feel unsafe. Our group leader didn’t believe us. However, finally he was asked to leave the church after things became a little too blatant to ignore.

  42. RP: “What S&P describes is actually a very difficult situation. Most people don’t want to believe, spread or encourage false rumours, but sometimes there is a situation where people become genuinely concerned. To ignore such a situation could lead to serious injury to others.”

    This is something that I have found is working in a church that is having leadership problems as we speak. The congregation is talking, including the elders, but the leaders aint listening. Everyone’s voice is similar.

    Because no one was speaking about what was wrong, they were left in confusion, including the elders. But because people in the church were talking about it, it will now be addressed, hopefully this week.

  43. I think there is a potential for trouble in every church. We tend to, quite rightly, be open and honest in our approach to one another and we tend to look for the ‘good’ in people at first.

    Things that we wouldn’t ignore in a ‘secular’ context we actually do not even see in a church context.

    The Youth leader who is being over-friendly to your daughter and your wife too!.

    All sorts of things can happen … it’s how they are dealt with is the key.

  44. If Bob has made inappropriate suggestions towards teenage girls in a youth group, it becomes a civil matter. They should be encouraged to approach the law. Bob’s overseer should be made aware. Bob should be given an opportunity to explain his conduct.

  45. So now FaceLift – after you’ve (rightly) taken matters further with Bob, would you assume (because of these analogies) that he must have always been a bad tree? You can see why I’m confused with this parable.

    Facelift posted an article on “Deception Champions the Cause of Hillsong Conference 2010”, where TD Jakes supposedly redeemed his ministry in the article. In it, he says:

    “My silence has not been some veiled attempt to disguise my faith, which is demonstrated daily in the works I have been called to do. My voice may have seemed muted on these subjects, but I have made a distinct sound regarding the matters that I have been assigned to discuss with my generation.”

    So much has proven that TD Jakes is OP. So much has proven he is a liar, deceiver, properity pimp. But at the same time he has done ‘good works’ and produced ‘good fruit’. He even calls people to examine his ‘fruit’.

    What does this make TD Jakes through Jesus’ teachings:

    Matt 7:15-20Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

    Jesus seems to be black and white on this issue. By this analogy, is TD Jakes a good tree or bad tree?
    Or is he a thistlebush producing figs – an estuary?

  46. The article I posted on the thread was in context to the doctrine of the Godhead, where Jakes says the following:

    ‘My views on the Godhead are from 1 John 5:7-8, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” (NKJV)

    ‘I believe in one God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe these three have distinct and separate functions—so separate that each has individual attributes, yet are one. I do not believe in three Gods.

    ‘Many things can be said about the Son that cannot be said about the Father. The Son was born of a virgin; the Father created the virgin from whom He was born. The Son slept (Luke 8:23), but the Father never sleeps (Psalm 121:3-5). The Son took on the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), but God is a spirit (John 4:24). Likewise, several characteristics are distinctive to the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit alone empowers (Acts 1:8), indwells (2 Timothy 1:15), and guides the believer (John 16:14).’

    Jakes explains that he is not affiliated with Oneness Pentecostals, although he has friends who are, yet s&p maintains he is still Oneness Pentecostal. What does the man have to to do to further clarify his position?

    If, in his business dealings, there is any impropriety, it will be exposed, but it is known that his business affairs are kept separate from Church affairs, the church being not-for-profit, but his businesses, by admission, being for-profit, and therefore taxable! He was not pursued by the recent Senatorial investigation, yet, if there were any doubts, surely he would be top of the list!

    If the fruit of his ministry is saved souls, devout disciples, and followers of Christ, then the fruit is sound. Perhaps s&p can cast some light on this.

  47. There seems to be enough evidence that TD Jakes is not only an OP, but a fleecer of the flock. Research him FaceLift, rather than defend someone you don’t know.

  48. “If Bob has made inappropriate suggestions towards teenage girls in a youth group, it becomes a civil matter. They should be encouraged to approach the law. Bob’s overseer should be made aware. Bob should be given an opportunity to explain his conduct.”

    Since this happened in a context I was once a part of, I’ll comment further. ‘Bob’ was not referred to the law. The law would not have been able to do anything about his inappropriate ‘suggestions’.

    Initially, ‘Bob’s’ immediate ‘overseer’ – his homegroup leader was made aware. Because Bob had said no words at that point, and because predatory men were outside the experience of the very well meaning home group leader, nothing was done. Merely having nearly every woman in the home group walk backwards away from him until they were pressed into a wall and could go no further, having to duck away underneath his leaning arm, was not enough for warnings to be taken seriously.

    Until ‘Bob’ actually began talking using the word ‘rape’, nothing was taken seriously, but then action took place fairly quickly.

    Another situation: In my youth I was physically groped without any warning or invitation in a car being driven home from my homegroup by a church worship leader. He had only met me that night, but I let him give me a lift home because I trusted the local leaders judgement – they had known him for some time. (Not in Sydney, so no one local.) I wasn’t harmed. When I informed the group leaders, nothing was done. I wasn’t believed since at that time I was newer to the church than the worship leader who was brilliant at looking completely innocent and upright. Later, this same person had an affair with another blokes new wife, and at the same time, slept with another young Christian girl because she ‘felt sorry for him’. He was a real predator. No one believed he’d done anything; they believed his story over the young girls because he was the worship leader. (I believed her because of my own prior experience; she was in tears when someone finally took her seriously.) In the end, the fallout helped tear that church apart.

    There have to be ways of dealing with these things internally; bad things do happen; people in prominent positions do take advantage of that at times, though most don’t, and most of the time, its just not something that can be referred to ‘the law’. If its not dealt with in a mature fashion – which doesn’t mean rampant gossip – then it can tear communities apart, or destroy people’s faith.

  49. Thanks Greg – appreciated. Fortunately I was not at all traumatised by my comparatively mild experience where I came out unscathed. It could have been very different though, and made me aware both of my own personal vulnerability especially when a lone, single female, plus the experience of not being believed was educational. Still, I understood why at the time. Why would people who didn’t know me take me at my word over someone they thought they knew well?

    It was the two women later who were far more traumatised, particularly the single one whom nobody believed (again), and the husband of the adulterous wife (who later lost his faith) and it might have all been forestalled if the early warning sign with me had been given some credence.

    No one can predict how small things can grow. Or perhaps how where we see the fruit of someone’s character, how later it can grow more prolific – in whatever direction it is taking.

  50. Sorry to hear about this RP. How sad!

    So the tree looked good. Fruit tasted good.
    But was a bad tree, even though no one saw that it was bad…

  51. I witnessed a similar situation in the small Pentecostal church I was a member of. The offender was the head Pastor. He was making inappropriate suggestions to almost all the women in the church, and had apparently conducted some affairs.

    We had arrived at the church after a number of years of turmoil due to this, and we were initially oblivious to the problem – due to many people’s ideal of not gossiping or speaking ill of the Pastor. After a while though it became obvious that there was something that the church was struggling with.

    The Pastor had made some slightly off remarks to my wife, things that I ignored at the time as being a minor faux-pas, but which I would have taken more notice of if I had been aware of the problem. There was another occasion which I was not present at where he was really deceptive, so much so that I am not allowed even to say his name in my wife’s presence any more.

    The problem became so bad that the whole church held a meeting and asked him to stand down. All of the parisioners were in agreement, including the two associate Pastors, apart from the Pastor’s parents and two of their friends.

    The Pastor refused to stand down and refused to acknowledge he had done anything wrong. They held a meeting with the leaders of the denomination, and the leaders backed the Pastor – against the testimony of around 60 parisioners.

    The Pastor had to leave that church, but the denomination backed him and funded him to start up another church in the next town.

    I think there was wilful blindness on the part of the leadership, and it goes to show how much they value a leader’s testimony against that of the plebs.

    In many of these cases the leaders will say “well, there’s two sides to every story…” They will trail off and not give their side of the story, which just serves to discredit the other side and to bolster the status-quo. Most of these people will not see that they are doing anything wrong, or they may see a small wrong but think that it is permissable in the context that the image of the Church should not be tarnished.

    As for judging a tree by its fruit – I dont think Christ was giving practical advice for judging people or ministries in daily church life. I think it is probably referring to one way in which God will judge. Maybe the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30 has something to do with this – He lets the wheat grow with the tares until the true fruit appears, and only then weeds out. This only becomes apparent over time.

  52. Something to what you say Wazza.

    Hmm. Time, the one thing we need and the one thing that predators can use for their evil deeds.

    Regarding Jakes … if he leads a large group of churches, and most of them are openly OP … ???

    Umm, he clearly doesn’t see any problem with OP doctrine. Therefore, by association (at least) with OP doctrine, his ministry and his teaching are tarnished. Lead many to Jesus? Which Jesus?

    It’s a different Jesus being presented. We now need to see what else is wrong with his teaching. (FL, you need to find out what else is wrong, as their is bound to be. Check him out as completely as you can … we promise to pray for you as you are a senior watchman on the wall, defending your flock.)

    Shalom

  53. Wazza: “As for judging a tree by its fruit – I dont think Christ was giving practical advice for judging people or ministries in daily church life. I think it is probably referring to one way in which God will judge.”

    Very interesting point Wazza.

    Wazza: “Maybe the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30 has something to do with this – He lets the wheat grow with the tares until the true fruit appears, and only then weeds out. This only becomes apparent over time.”

    Someone pointed this out to me today as well Wazza. It’s still time that seems to be the tester. Which is why I’ve been fairly downcast about the analogies. As you said: “Time, the one thing we need and the one thing that predators can use for their evil deeds.”

  54. I’m sorry you went through these things. They do happen, sadly, but it’s terrible when they do. Churches, unfortunately are soft targets for the wrong element, which is why we have to have stringent police record checks. But when it’s the pastor who has the problem, well that’s awful.

    RP,
    I’d wonder how a youth leader was allowed to drive a young woman home in his car. We have strict rules about men and women in leadership positions not taking the risk of travelling with a member of the opposite sex, unless related, engaged or married (to each other). Guys with guys, girls with girls. Safety in numbers. Parents taking responsibility for their youth. We were taught this in Bible School, and have found it to be a safe rule.

    I wouldn’t consider a house-group leader to be an overseer. They not usually equipped to deal with these issues, unless they are a professional by vocation.

  55. FL – this was a small church. Overseers were housechurch leaders because there was only 1 pastor, who couldn’t do everything.

    The rule you describe applies to and protects men and women in leadership positions from false allegation, as well as protecting people from leaders who are not what they seem. However as is, it wouldn’t protect people from others who were not leaders. Guidelines re gender and giving lifts/being alone in isolated locations with, would help.

    It’s difficult to make rules because most young men and women are fine and would behave themselves. Also, at some point, young men and women do need to get to know one another without a chaperone. We’re not talking school kids here, either. Try early 20’s, with the man involved in his late 20’s. He was a worship leader and musician, not a youth leader. The home group wasn’t a youth group either – it was mixed ages.

    However, I agree – safety in numbers.

    In hindsight, I think that no young woman should get a lift home with any man that she does not know well, regardless of who recommends them or of their position. Also, she should stick to observable public places if she is meeting a man on her own. I should have made some other arrangement in advance. However – I was young and naive.

    Certainly, in principle, its safer to have women drive other young women home, or to travel in larger groups. (But not typically one woman with 5 men, for example.) Rules just can’t cover every situation though, and there are times when it is sensible to break them.

    However, the main issue I wanted to raise was that the early warning was not given any credence, and neither were the later subjects of his attention, until things really went pear shaped. So there must be some way of dealing with these things when they do crop up, that doesn’t damage the reputation of people who have done nothing wrong, yet takes people seriously when they have some kind of incident take place.

  56. Also, FL, re the house church leader and ‘Bob’ – at that time, I didn’t know any higher leaders in the church personally. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable raising my concerns with someone in authority who was a stranger. Plus, the home group leader was officially the person that you were supposed to go to with any issues in the first instance, and they would then escalate things if they felt it necessary.

    It all depends on the local situation.

  57. Actually, in reality, a lot of the time what happens is that women who have misgivings about men as I’ve described, will share their misgivings with other women, who will let them know in return if they also have misgivings, or if they have none. If a man is really a fruit loop like ‘Bob’ was, he will set off alarm bells in many women, usually before any dangerous incidents confirm the problem to any men. Men often won’t have the chance to observe this kind of problem behaviour personally, so its harder for them to make a personal judgement with no hard evidence.

  58. So as a confirmation of one’s own discernment if a tree is bad, would you see what others think of the tree’s fruit?

    The situation I’m in now, you can call it gossip if you want, but it’s happening now because the issue wasn’t addressed to begin with. Now people are getting confused and unsure about what they are supposed to think. Since we are all coming into agreement and are identifying the problem is not with us but some hiccup in leadership, the source of the issue is identified and now can be dealt with.

    Among the confusion, all had the right discernment but needed confirmation from others to see if what they felt, thought and sensed was right or wrong. I would say this is not gossip but clarification and will now be expressed to leadership.

  59. The evidence, s&p, the evidence. That is all you need. The proof. That is hard to come by sometimes, and frustrating, even agonising, when it isn’t present, and I would go as far as to say it is occasionally dangerous, but, in the end, that is all you have.

    But God knows all things. He sees all things. He is the Righteous Judge, and Just with his decisions. He will avenge, he will vindicate, and he will act in exactly the right way.

    If your only evidence is discernment, then your only avenue is prayer.

  60. Mmm, I tend to agree, that if discernment is the only evidence, the response should be prayer. Of course if its a matter of personal safety, then you go with your gut feeling and stay away from someone (eg: I refused invitations from ‘Bob’ to meet him alone).

    However, there are sometimes events that can be questioned or clarified. For example, someone can be asked to clarify what they have actually said, if what they are saying has set off alarm bells. Or, if you feel you are being physically threatened in some way (such as when you find yourself walking backwards around a room), you can also ask for clarification or notice if the same thing is happening to others. Again, this is a type of evidence. If its a matter of unsound doctrine, again, you can look it up, then ask questions.

    I don’t think a feeling alone is enough, but it is good to test that feeling and see if anyone might share it – discretely though, so that no problems are created. We are sometimes wrong and it would be dreadful to harm some innocent person’s reputation, plus people do make mistakes in the way they understand each other.

    If a feeling is shared, then its probably best to then see if there are any actual actions or words that have caused that common feeling. Then the meaning of those can be clarified, maybe by asking the person what they meant, or seeing if there is a pattern happening that does need to be addressed. It could also just be a misinterpretation of someone. But being very careful to not embarrass anyone. All needs to be genuinely done in love, without self-righteousness.

    I agree with FL that yes, it can be frustrating if real evidence of what you discern doesn’t seem to be present, but we can be very confident that in time, fruit will appear, and also very confident, that sometimes we make mistakes. So we need to trust in Him, that He will look after things, and trust in His timing, not in our own.

  61. Also, discernment can make us careful of something or someone. We can do this without causing that person any harm, embarrassment or damage.

    If we do feel that God has told us to confront a person where there is no evidence, then we need to do this in a way that aligns with scripture, to ensure that our own emotions aren’t leading us in some way that might do damage.

  62. I’d also hope that it works the other way.. I.e. Pastors do not gossip among themselves and speculate about parisioners. That every decision affecting people is done on the evidence.

    In reality though people make judgements based on intangible factors every day. The way someone looks, their social skills, their status and number of connections in the community, their confidence. All these affect how believable and credible they are. Add on intuition and then discernment.

    Yes it can lead you astray, but all of them have to be taken into account.

  63. Yes, I almost wrote the same first paragraph there wazza. Unfortunately I know cases where that’s been a problem. I had a pastor that I wouldn’t tell anything personal to once, based on his record of keeping things in confidence!

    Plus, I guess at least in cyberspace its harder for us to judge one another by looks, status, connections etc.

    Feelings can be the first early warning sign. Sometimes they turn out to be scarily accurate. But not always. I remember as a kid, thinking, “I’ll never be friends with her”, meeting someone for the first time. They became my best friend for the next 3 years.

  64. Okay. Evidence. Tough one. So that’s going behind their back.

    Even prayer is a tough one. Some times things are revealed you don’t want to or know how to deal with in prayer. Sometimes you can receive a word or prophecy you weren’t expecting to get.

    Where’s the evidence when one prophesise? In the instant of my above case at church at the moment, I knew TWO YEARS ago what was going to happen if someone was not dealt with in ministry.

    When I was continually told by pastors, elders and friends this person was not behind the scenes in running a church event, I refused to believe them. I knew they had their finger on it, even though I hadn’t seen or heard them involved in anyway.

    I didn’t have any evidence, I just knew the leadership would bow to their command or this person would get what they want from them anyway through other means.

    A month and a half later, in front of the church it was revealed that I was right. I had no evidence, but when this ‘thing’ in church got exposed on a Sunday, that’s when people started getting confused, offended, talkative or gained dissension. I know it’s going to get worse unless addressed in 4-5 weeks. What evidence do I have?

    This person the entire time had given no sign that they had bad fruit… I just knew it. Evidence? Proof? Gosh! What’s the point of prophecy if no one heeds it?

    If I tell a pastor what I get, is that ‘gossip’ or ‘slander’? 😀 Do I need evidence to prove a prophecy is accurate?

    And on the topic of gossip, out of all the people I’ve encountered, the pastors or leaders are generally the worst gossips. 🙂

  65. This article is quite convincing on what ‘fruit’ actually is in discerning the false teachers/prophets from the true.

    _________________________________________

    http://www.atruechurch.info/falseteachers.html

    I. False Teaching

    Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 9)

    Since Christ is the Word of God (i.e. the Scriptures, John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 19:13), the doctrine of Christ is not just His teaching found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but rather, His teaching is the entirety of Scripture. Therefore, a teacher can be found to be true or false based on the simple fact as to whether he abides within the confines of the word of God, or does not (John 8:47; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 John 9).

    Jesus said,

    Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

    What are the fruits that Jesus speaks of by which we may identify false prophets? Matthew 7 doesn’t tell us what the fruit is, but Luke does.

    For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:39-45)

    So, what is the “fruit?” The fruit is what comes out of the mouth.

    Now, even though Jesus speaks specifically of false prophets in Matthew 7:15-20, in Luke 6:39-45 he speaks in more general terms (“man”). Therefore, Christ’s words about knowing them by their fruit is applicable to both prophet and teacher, or anyone else for that matter. You can know a person by what comes out of their mouth (Proverbs 20:11). Yet, this is so often missed.

    When the false teaching of highly respected men in the Christian community gets exposed, it is amazing some of the arguments we hear. People will see the false doctrine, and still they say, “But do you know the man? Have you ever talked to him? Have you spent some time with him?” Jesus didn’t say, “You shall know them by spending time with them.” If what is coming out of their mouths is deceit, bad fruit, on a consistent basis, then you know the man is false! It’s that simple! You don’t have to personally know the man.

    If we were to follow some of the folly we have heard, then we could never study a man’s teaching (his fruit) and know if he’s a false teacher or not, because we have not called him first, made an appointment with him, sat down with him, and really gotten to know him. We could not take to heart Christ’s words, “. . . by their fruits you will know them.”

    Typically, people seem to think the fruit (good fruit) is the big ministry, like the ministries of someone like Billy Graham, or Promise Keepers, or James Dobson, or John MacArthur or Chuck Swindoll. Or, they might think the fruit is all the masses of people following them, as if this was good fruit. The problem with this kind of thinking is that these very things (a big ministry with many following them) expose them for what they are, ungodly men (Jude 14-15)! Besides Luke 6:26, 2 Peter 2:2 says,

  66. This makes sense as ‘teaching’ is often associated with food. The bible refers to teaching as yeast, unleavened bread as well. We do this in church today with the common saying ‘chew the meat and spit out the bones’.

    This also makes me observe how the Tree of Life and Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil are portrayed in Genesis. They seem to reflect the teachings we choose to abide in and eat from.

    I am pretty sure the Tree of Life to Jews was associated with the fruitful teachings and instructions of Torah, now being the teachings of Christ and His Spirit.

  67. Sorry – just read the first paragraph. Without commenting on anything else, just wondered if anyone else has an issue with Jesus being defined as scripture itself?

    Jesus is a person, and he is the Word. The Word is God; the Bible is the word (small ‘w’), and is not God. The Bible is very useful, and contains the revelation of Christ, but not even the entire revelation of Christ. For example, we know from the Bible that Creation itself speaks to us about God, and the Bible does not encompass all of Creation.

    So I think we have to be very careful before we accept a view based on the idea that Jesus is the Bible, because it is clearly not true. However, because of the use of ‘word’ and ‘Word’, this misconception often comes up. I am not trying to detract from the importance of the Bible here. It is important to understand what the Bible says though, and what it does not say, in this instance.

  68. “…Sorry – just read the first paragraph” … of S&P’s quoted comment just above.

  69. So, if I am correct, this author might define himself to be a false teacher, since he’s gone beyond the bounds of scripture in his mistake in the opening line.

    Seriously though, I’m not suggesting he’s a false teacher, only that that first line raises an issue. I would personally think that a false teacher teaches a false gospel, rather than just making a mistake about some part of their understanding of scripture. Maybe one question is – when does someone stop being a mistaken teacher, and become a false teacher??

  70. Jesus is the Word of God. He is of God, the Word which emanates from God, not of or from man.

    Some of scripture is of man. For instance, where Paul says, “Paul, an apostle, (not of man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)…Jesus is clearly not speaking, nor is God.

    Paul may be inspired, but we can’t really say this is the Word of God, as in God spoke this word, but we can say it is scripture, and all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, etc..

    You can know a person by his fruit, but that could be more than his words, or doctrine, although this fits also. There would have to be character, and what is produced of his ministry, including making and developing disciples, who will tend to bear the same characteristics and doctrine. The quantity is irrelevant, really, whether large or small. A bad tree can produce just as much or just as little as a good tree, and vice versa.

    Saying much fruit is evidence of bad ministry can’t be right, and more than it is evidence o good ministry. The fruit bears its tree’s mark. That is all.

    Besides this, Jesus said he had ordained us to produce much fruit, and that our fruit should remain, which couldn’t be talking about doctrine, but produce. so he is certainly not phased about a ministry producing much good fruit which remains. Quantity and quality.

    Then there is the fruit of the Spirit, which is certainly not doctrine, but the nature of th Spirit, and therefore of the fruit.

  71. “Jesus is the Word of God. He is of God, the Word which emanates from God, not of or from man.

    Some of scripture is of man. For instance, where Paul says, “Paul, an apostle, (not of man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)…Jesus is clearly not speaking, nor is God.

    Paul may be inspired, but we can’t really say this is the Word of God, as in God spoke this word, but we can say it is scripture, and all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, etc..” – FL

    Yes, exactly.

    Still haven’t read the rest re fruit properly. Flat out this weekend!

  72. Hey RP. I didn’t say Jesus WAS scripture.

    I said:

    “I am pretty sure the Tree of Life to Jews was associated with the FRUITFUL TEACHINGS and instructions of Torah, now being the TEACHINGS of Christ and His Spirit.”

    We know Christ is Wisdom. Now that His Spirit is in us, if we are led by the Wisdom’s teachings and instructions, then truly we are living in the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.

    This adds a whole new meaning to ‘Are your sources reliable’. Which tree do you share their fruit with? 🙂

  73. Also adds a new meaning to me in what the FRUITS of the Spirit are. His instruction in not only receiving His love, peace, etc., but also guiding us to live in those ways. Hmm…

  74. I think what Paul means is if the Spirit is in us and we live and walk in the Spirit the fruit will be evident. We don’t have to strive to produce the fruit, because that is the nature of the Spirit within.

    If we are joined to the Vine we can only produce fruit of the Vine. He is the Tree we need to be grafted unto as branches. The Father is the Vinedresser.

  75. S&P – I was disputing what the author of the item you quoted wrote as the logical start to their argument:

    “Since Christ is the Word of God (i.e. the Scriptures, John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 19:13),” – see above

    Whoever wrote that appeared to be saying that Christ is the Word of God = Christ is the Scriptures.

    It was just a dodgy assertion that jumped out at me. The rest I have no comment on, because I haven’t read it yet.

  76. Ok Ian Williams. Here I am! lol

    First i like what you said about the beatitudes.

    But the question I have is about NZ. I assume you have been involved in the pentecostal/charismatic world there. It’s always been amazing to me how many ministries have come out of NZ – esp to Australia, but also to other parts of the world. Seems like there as so many ministers in the charismatic world who were originally from down there – Houston, Pringle, Chandler, Jim Williams and I could go on but also others who are famous overseas and based there – . that includes the music ministries.

    It’s also interesting how many big names down there have fallen into immorality.

    So, what is it about Kiwis? (Not being at all critical – the opposite. For a tiny population, it’s certainly produced a lot of worldwide ministries – and like I said if you think of charismatic churches in Australia, there always seems to be a New Zealander there somewhere.

Comments are closed.