Grappling With Error in the Church
After I got saved, I received only two instructions: “Read the book of John and go to a Pentecostal church.” Unfortunately, a charismatic false prophet led the only one I could find.
Despite the marvelous worship experience, I knew something was wrong as soon as the “prophet” started hawking for cash with false gimmicks that deceived desperate believers. I went running out the door clutching my purse tightly in both hands, but I didn’t throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater. I didn’t reject all prophetic ministry because of one false prophet, or the false prophets I’ve encountered since.
Shortly after I moved to Alabama, my wilderness place, I was drawn to charismatic teachers like Joyce Meyer. I actually got baptized in the Spirit at one of her conferences. Soon, I plugged into a Word of Faith church, but to my dismay, I saw excesses there also.
Although I enjoyed Papa Hagin’s balanced teaching, many have since perverted his principles. He actually rebuked those who took his teachings to extra-biblical extremes shortly before he died. Unfortunately, many didn’t heed the fatherly warning. Still, I didn’t reject all Word of Faith teaching based on the harassing hype I witnessed at a local church.
When the Lord moved me back to South Florida, an apostolic church awaited me. It was the early days of the apostolic reformation. The prophetic ministry was not yet fully embraced, much less apostles. The atmosphere was not only militant, it was controlling. Much like in the days of the Shepherding Movement, members had to ask permission to go on vacation, get married or even stay home sick. I eventually left that abusive church, but I didn’t disregard the legitimate apostolic truths I learned there.
Why I am taking you down memory lane? I’m trying to make a point. Many years ago, the Holy Spirit spoke expressly to my heart about the varied “camps” in the body of Christ. He told me many rivers are flowing, and as long as they flow from Jesus, I can fish in the stream. Will error emerge in some of those streams as they flow further away from the revelation that birthed them? Indeed, that is often the case. Sadly, there’s no avoiding that reality.
Perhaps now more than ever, we need discernment. But error and excess in the church are nothing new. Paul dealt with it frequently, from the use of spiritual gifts to wrong end-times theologies to Gnosticism—a heretical movement in the early church that teaches salvation is attained through special knowledge rather than faith in Christ alone. Paul corrected these errors and excesses, but he did not command people to stop practicing the gifts or looking for the return of the Lord.
When we reject entire moves of God because they don’t line up with the traditions we’ve been taught or because a true manifestation of the Spirit offends our heart, we’re missing out on blessings. Although we should be vigilant and prayerful, I can assure you, if you stay in the Word and walk in the Spirit, you will not fall into deception. In fact, if you stay in the Word and walk in the Spirit, you may find yourself embracing some of the truths you once rejected.
You’ve heard it said, “Eat the hay and spit out the sticks.” I believe there is plenty of hay that would nourish our spirits if we weren’t so opposed to exercising our spiritual senses to discern the sticks. Admittedly, I’ve seen practices that make me uncomfortable going on in many legitimate movements. In some cases, the Holy Spirit has shown me I’m being religious. Other times, he showed there was error in the camp. I respond appropriately.
Like the authentic Word of Faith movement, the Lord showed me grave error doesn’t start with the godly one who introduced the revelation. Error is introduced when people who don’t really have a genuine revelation try to propagate a truth they don’t fully grasp or when hucksters leverage truth to deceive. Parroting someone else’s revelation can be dangerous; hearing the revelation, studying it and praying through it can bring you into new facets of that revelation that are healthy rather than heretical.
I’m eating all the hay I can gather, testing revelations against the Word with the help of the Spirit and enjoying the many streams that make a great river of revival. I’m convinced some of the greatest opponents to the next move of God will be those from the last move of God. As for me, I’m ready to embrace it fully—whatever the Lord wants to do.
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