You have probably found yourself in one of those conversations. The internet is all abuzz because someone figured out that a certain preacher is mixing his theologies. He said something questionable. It’s time to burn all of his books and denounce any pastor or church that has them in its library.
Maybe you know those kind of people. They scour the internet for everything they can find to discredit a well-known preacher of the Gospel with a mega-church and book deals. To have that many people in their church, so many followers on Facebook or Twitter, they must be watering down the Gospel. “Let’s expose them and tear down their empires,” is the war cry of these people.
I’m hesitant to call them Christians. Sure, they sound like they are sold-out, radical, gung-ho for God and the purity of His Church. But if they were to take some time and read their Scriptures instead of countless articles on the internet, they might be surprised how unbiblical and unChristian they are acting. They are hunting preachers instead of sharing Christ.
Paul knew these people well. He wrote about them to the church in Philippi. In his letters Paul made audacious claims. He saw Christ in a vision, received special revelation from Him, and was commissioned by Jesus to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. These statements were radical to Jews and Jewish Christians, setting both of them at odds against him.
It was Paul who was so zealous for God that he studied as a Pharisee and sat under the tutelage of a great member of the Sanhedrin, probably in an effort to be his successor. Paul approved of Stephen’s martyrdom and traveled all around to imprison those who declared Jesus as the resurrected Messiah and Son of God.
I’m sure Paul was prepared for that battle. Then the battle came from “Christians” who wanted to tear him down, rob the Gentiles (and themselves) of the Gospel of faith, and even hoped to worsen his own sufferings. Surely he was filled with outrage. He had to spend some time denouncing them and their teachings.
But he didn’t. It was the farthest thing from his mind. Look at what he said about these people.
Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18 NKJV)
Paul didn’t gather the troops. He didn’t write letters denouncing them. He didn’t even waste too much space here talking about them. Verse 18 tells his heart: he rejoiced that Christ was preached. It didn’t matter who preached it or what their attitude toward Paul was, so long as the Gospel was shared with as many as possible.
Even Jesus was quick to turn His Disciples away from silencing a man who worked miracles in His name when he wasn’t one of them. The major concern was that the Disciples were learning directly from Jesus. How could this man be allowed to work in Jesus’ name? Surely they were the only ones with the complete picture.
But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.” (Mark 9:39-40 NKJV)
It Must Be True
When I bump into one of these “preacher hunters” I like to ask a few questions. Their answers help me evaluate the heart of the hunter and his/her motives.
- Where did you hear that?
- Have you checked what the Bible has to say about that?
- Did you take the time to listen to the full message, or read the entire book, so you could get an idea of the complete idea and not just the clipping that you found?
- Have you looked for a good report about that person/ministry to help you see from both sides?
Most of the time the source is the internet. As good as the internet can be for finding good information, it is a fountain of terrible information as well. Propaganda and hate fill the corners of the world-wide-web.
If you want to find a bad review of something, you’ll find it. It doesn’t matter if you’re subject is a nearby restaurant or the church on the corner. You can find someone who has a negative word to say. And hey, “if it’s on the internet it must be true.”
God is My Defense
There seems to be, though, a short supply of positive reviews. There are always more negative than positive because we always share the terrible experiences in our lives. They are the ones to complain about and share with others. But we don’t seem to do that as much with the positive ones.
Of course, you won’t find many defending the pastors others are hunting. Those who attend their churches testify to the word being spoken as they show up every Sunday. The readers who purchase books, the seminar attenders, the mp3 downloaders. All of these help to defend the word that comes out of their mouths.
But the real reason there is so little self-defense on the internet is because these pastors and teachers understand that God is their defender.
My defense is of God,
Who saves the upright in heart. (Psalm 7:10 NKJV)
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 NIV)
And they will one day face a great judgment of the words they have spoken and taught.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1 NKJV)
Leave it to God
It isn’t your job to reveal the evil preacher. Each Christian is responsible to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and search the Scriptures and decide for themselves what they want to hear. Some of them actually want to have their ears tingled by the deceitful words of evil teachers (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
We can’t just go around town spouting what we’ve heard about these preachers when we read something online. We, too, are responsible to test the spirits by performing our own investigation. It is too simple to repeat the lies and judgments of those who sound spiritual but are often non-Christians intent on ripping the Church apart.
Slanderers have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). Paul, who had a little bit of experience with them, told us to stay away from them (1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). Leave it in God’s hands, and then make sure that you are there, too.
If you are quick to hear the preacher hunters and join their ranks, check your own heart. Are you willing to submit to the authority Christ has put over you? Will you shut off your computer and pick up your Bible? Maybe it is time to spend more time sharing the Gospel rather than trying to tear down those who have sacrificed to do the same.
Paul says to rejoice in the sharing of Christ. Jesus says not to stop them. It’s time to call off the preacher hunt.