I wrote yesterday about a friend’s bad experience with a visiting evangelist at an American church. She highlighted two key areas that really bothered her about that evangelist. I am sharing it here because it reminds me of similar occurrences here. I think there is something we can learn and I want to address those two issues. First being the evangelist’s one sided preaching and secondly, the judgmental and insensitive way with which he preached his message. I reproduce my response to my friend here, with a little editing to fit the local context.
I hear you. As I was reading your response I thought of criticisms my own pastor had received for preaching the grace of God. I know it might come across as defending the other side but it is not the case at all and I hope you understand my heart. I have been on both sides in my own experience, so I feel I can offer some insight from both perspective. You see, when outsiders criticize my pastor’s preaching, although it is distressing to hear, I can understand where they are coming from and frankly, I don’t blame some of them for misunderstanding my pastor’s heart and intent. After all, they do not know my pastor like I do. I have heard him every Sunday for 12 years. Although I do not know him personally, I know much of his background, his stories, his struggles, his family and hear from people who know him personally and been on vacations, leadership retreats and teh tarik sessions with him share about their experience together. All these help me know him better and have a more complete picture of the content and intent of my pastor’s message than someone who has only heard him once while checking out the church or a few sessions during an overseas conference, for example. The reason why I highlighted this is because in order to understand the message of a person, we need to know his heart. Just like how God’s word is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us it is the power of God unto salvation. We can’t hope to understand the Bible without first knowing God. We also need to interpret it in the right context. So my point is, that evangelist may appear to not have preached the whole counsel of God because you have only heard him on one or two occasions. He may have preached about the resurrection, the Holy Spirit and other important aspects of Christian living and doctrine over the years to his own congregation where he is based but for that particular occasion, as he is a visiting evangelist, he felt led to focus on a particular area. One point of caution though, beware of ministers or ministries that do not have a home church. This is not to say that they are immediately suspicious. Just that usually little is known about the minister and there may be a lack of accountability since they do not have a regular congregation.
I personally believe God gives different gifts to different teachers. My pastor is good with preaching radical grace, Seth is good with discipleship and getting us out of our comfort zone. Likewise, other preachers are good with some other aspect of God’s complete counsel, etc etc. Together, we make one powerful body. If only we would stop tearing each other up and start recognizing our various gifting. We need not the baby out together with the bath water. There is always something we can learn even from people we don’t agree with most of the time. It is not unlikely that God may have called some to expose heresy in the church. It is a calling that will draw persecutions for sure. It is never easy to tell people they are wrong. Nobody likes that. But imagine if there really is heresy in the church and nobody exposes it, what will happen then? On whether someone is a self-proclaimed heresy hunter with the express intent to divide, damage, confuse and tear down the church or if indeed he is following God’s call to confront the brethren out of love and for the good of the kingdom, we can follow the Bible’s counsel to look for the fruits of the spirit in that person’s life. It says in Matthew 7:16, ” you will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?”is there evidence of fruits? This leads us back to the first point above on knowing the person. Since your friend feels very positively about that evangelist and his message, why not have a talk with her and ask her what is it about the man or the message that grabs her spirit.
Among all that you’ve shared about your experience, what made me uncomfortable was not that he was putting too much focus on Jesus and the cross but that he was quick to call those who do not give the same emphasis, ignorant and unsaved, and his mocking of other ministries. I do not feel that was in line with the spirit of God. But then again, if I were to give him the benefit of doubt, he could be doing the right thing the wrong way.
Sorry, no clear answers here from me as I have not heard the man myself. Hope my sharing above helped at little.
Have a blessed weekend everyone!