Jeremiah 5:26 (The prophet speaking for God):…” for wicked men are found among My people…they set a trap, they catch men.” Then, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority.” (vv. 30-31)
Jeremiah 6:13-14 For from the least of them to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of my people superficially saying, “Peace. peace,” but there is no peace.
(special thanks to The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen)
There seems to be a dichotomy between the perceptions of pastors and the practices of their flocks. As pastors strongly deny the need to address in specific terms the heresy promulgated by prosperity gospel preachers, some of their congregants see no problem whatsoever in combining the beliefs of these charlatans with their belief in the Bible.
In the Old Testament, God spoke strongly against syncretism. Syncretism, in this sense, was the combination of the faith of the Jewish people with the peculiar faith of the pagans that were living in their midst. These practices involved idol worship, temple prostitution, and in some circumstances, human sacrifice. God consistently punished His people for their refusal to follow Him alone. Jesus also showed considerable anger at the combination of business practices and worship within the Temple. Remember how He angrily overturned the tables of the moneychangers?
Incredibly, some followers who regularly attend church may also attend conventions and services conducted by these bogus preachers. They spend money buying books and DVDs and even make contributions, often with the hope of guaranteeing some sort of “healing “or “blessing.” Our question to our Christian leaders is: ”Why is this any different than the condemned syncretic practices of the Old Testament?”
Do the pastors even know (or care) about the reasons their followers give when pressed for an explanation for their devotion to these false prophets? Do they question why their flock is seeking out help from these unorthodox sources? Do they know that their answers usually include, “Don’t you believe God can heal?” or “These are men and women of God,” or even more devastating, “My wife is dying and is looking to be healed.” Where is the concern and compassion that pastors should show to their church members who are sucked into the world of the prosperity Gospel?
Both of us have experienced the depth of this problem, and we would like to share two true stories where we came face-to-face with the problem just outlined.
My husband and I were leading a small group in a large, nondenominational church. There had been an article in the megacity newspaper written by a columnist who wanted Benny Hinn to prove only one of his miracles. I remarked that Benny should do so immediately. One regular member became highly agitated and said that Benny did not have to prove anything and to do so would be “throwing pearls before swine.” I disagreed and reminded the group that even Jesus sent the lepers He had healed to the priests for confirmation that their leprosy was healed. She then shook her finger at me and said that I was ”blaspheming the Holy Spirit” (exact words) by questioning whether Hinn had actually ever healed anyone.
However, what bothered me more was the response of several pastors when I asked why they did not speak out more clearly on this issue. I pointed out that many in the church were closet followers of these counterfeit leaders and asked the pastors to consider exposing them from the pulpit. I specifically asked if they would point out the questionable doctrines that these charlatans espouse. Every pastor with whom I spoke said there was no need to do so. They claimed they had already taught extensively on related subjects and that their members should be able to sort this out for themselves. When I asked them if they agreed with the teachings of specific televangelists they said, “Absolutely not!”
Several years ago, I was facilitating Beth Moore’s Believing God Bible study in a Southern Baptist Church. During one of the lessons, Beth explained that there are often two extremes when it comes to miracles — some believe in a cessation of miracles, while others believe it’s all about miracles. I gave Benny Hinn as an example of someone who believes it’s only about miracles. Then I explained that personally, I’m somewhere in the middle because I have actually experienced many miracles throughout my life.
At the conclusion of the lesson, one of the participants approached me (after everyone else had left) and expressed her tremendous displeasure that I had criticized Benny Hinn. I responded by saying I believe him to be a false prophet and that his ministry is only about money. Her immediate response was: “Some could say that about our church.” I was dumbfounded! What disturbed me most was that she was a deacon’s wife!
So we are left to ponder the potential reasons for this pastoral silence for ourselves.
We apologize to any pastor who doesn’t agree with out speculation; however, if pastors would explain their thinking then we would not have to guess at their motives. So, here are some thoughts:
-Benny Hinn threatened well-known apologist, Hank Hanegraaff, during a broadcast of one of Hinn’s “healing” services. (BTW – they are not healing, and we shall prove it at another time). Hinn had given Hanegraaff “proof” that he had healed a woman of her abdominal tumor. When Hanegraaff produced documentation from the surgeon that showed the tumor had been surgically resected, Hinn left the meeting. In a later broadcast, Hinn threatened Hanegraaff with harm for telling the public of his deception. Perhaps the pastors are afraid of bodily harm. If so, they are cowards and need to take lessons from the courage of Hank Hanegraaff.
-The pastors may be afraid that the IRS might investigate their ministry as well. However, if the pastors are honest, they have nothing to fear.
-Perhaps they find that it easier to lead an ignorant congregation. There is no question that uninformed members are easier to direct. They rarely ask questions and do as they are told. If this is their rationale for remaining silent, the pastors should be ashamed of themselves!
We are left with many hoodwinked people who need to know the bottom line about these frauds. Pastors seem unwilling to educate the masses; therefore, it appears it will take women to do a pastor’s job. We are definitely up to the challenge and shall do so in the near future.