There is an often-repeated tale among Pentecostal preachers. It involves a denominational foreign missions director. Since I don’t know how true the story is, he shall remain nameless. As the story goes, the missionary is sharing a wonderful testimony concerning something that happened on the field. The more he repeated his story, the larger it grew.
Finally one day, his good wife challenged him. “That is not the way that happened.” she said.
He replied, “Hush, honey, God is using me.”
This little story illustrates the fact that sometimes preachers embellish their life experience for maximum audience response. This is a problem. We laughingly refer to this as “speaking evangelistically” but I think God called it lying.
The church wouldn’t have this problem if Christians weren’t so gullible. Some church people, especially Pentecostals (and I are one) believe everything they hear.
I am convinced, if you told most Charismatics that God showed you the moon was made of cheese they would believe you. Don’t misunderstand, it isn’t especially easy to pull this off, you usually have to throw in a few Greek mis-definitions, angelic visitations and prophetic proclamations. But, if you can put enough bologna on your cheesy revelation, most folks will at least have a bite.
Years ago, when I pastored in Oklahoma, we had an evangelist come through our area. He preached in several churches and many of my friends wanted me to use him. He had a “wonderful” testimony. First, he graduated from the University of Illinois with a law degree. As a big-shot lawyer, he became a member of the mafia in Chicago. He was shot up in a mob massacre and gave his heart to the Lord. He joined the Assemblies of God as an evangelist and had incredible success. He resigned from the organization when they tried to force him into their religious mold.
What a story! He even showed the scars where he had been nearly killed by the mob. There was only one thing wrong with the story, it wasn’t true. None of it was true. After hearing his testimony and catching a few inconsistencies, I began to ask some questions. Despite what some religious leaders may have told you, asking questions is not a sin! In fact, it can be very a good thing. Usually, the only one who doesn’t invite honest questions is someone trying to hide something.
This man got really angry when I started asking questions. When I wrote the Assemblies of God, they had never heard of him. Neither had the University of Illinois or the Illinois Bar Association. He was a total phony.
Yet, most people who were thrilled with his testimony never doubted him. In fact, as nutty as it sounds, many would rather believe his lie, than learn it is not true. Some Christians have their head so deep in the sand, they don’t want to be bothered with complicated things like truth.
I am perplexed when I attend a healing service and the “healer” talks about all the mighty miracles that took place last week or in the last place they ministered. Usually, the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame walked and severed limbs grew back--last week. This week, when I am there to observe, it is quite a different story. Someone that hurt their back is feeling better and someone’s head has stopped hurting. Thank God for His touch, even a little touch, but somehow the demonstration doesn’t match up with the promotion.
On other occasions, healers pray for headaches and ulcers while television cameras are rolling. They hype the crowd and brag about their tremendous results, but who can measure such testimonies? At the same time they avoid people in wheelchairs or those desperately ill. It wouldn’t look good on camera if the lame didn’t walk.
There was another time, when I have personally witnessed an evangelist take a young girl’s crutches and walk her hobbling around the room. The evangelist was shouting “She’s healed!” The crowd was in a euphoric roar. Then, at the end of service the girl got her crutches back and went home unchanged. Shouldn’t somebody do something about that? Shouldn’t the “healer” be held accountable? Shouldn’t he at least apologize to the young lady for making her part of his phony healing show?
I am not saying that every thing told in church is a lie, only a cynic would say that. But, shouldn’t we question some things? For example, in the New Testament there are about a half-dozen instances of people being raised from the dead. Even in the anointed environment of First Century Christianity this seemed to be a rare thing. Today, some preachers tell of hundreds that have been raised from the dead in their ministry. Do you ever wonder?
There is another thing that bothers me. When Jesus and His disciples raised the dead, the testimonies were verifiable. In most instances, the names were given. If anyone had had questions about the miracle they could have simply located Lazarus or Eutychus and interviewed them. Isn’t this the way it should be?
In a day of videos, digital cameras and even cell phones that take and send photos shouldn’t some of these “miracles” be documented? If God is working in ways that would astound even the apostles, if people are miraculously saved from enemy attacks, if the dead are being raised, shouldn’t it at least be recorded as accurately as it was in the New Testament?
Recently I heard the story of a man who was raised from the dead in a meeting conducted by German evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke. Bonnke did not pray for him, but he was brought to the meeting and prayed for by others and he recovered from death. A video has been made about this outstanding miracle. You can see the people involved and hear their personal stories. A friend of mine has actually met the man. I believe this really happened, a man was raised from the dead. I believe it because it has been documented. An incredible story is made credible by the evidence.
Oh, yes, I hear you. If I would only believe, I would not have to see. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed,” Jesus said. But, we are talking apples and oranges here. What God said, I believe. I have no struggle believing the Bible--every chapter, every verse, every line. I believe in donkey’s talking, the sun going backwards, the whole nine yards. I have no trouble believing God when He speaks to me, and He has. My problem is believing you! God has never lied to me. The promises of His word are as sure as if they had already happened. On the other hand, men claiming to speak for God, have promised me things that didn’t happen--things that will never happen. The season when they could have happened is already past.
If I get a word from God, I will believe it, cherish it, act on it. If I get a word from you, I will question it, maybe even doubt it. I will not allow my future to be determined by the dream you had because you ate pizza before you went to bed. To blindly trust fallible men is a recipe for spiritual disaster.
So what is the solution? The Bible says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Look at that very carefully why is the church taught to test the spirits, because they are operating in false prophets. These lying prophets are the problem. It seems the more things change the more they stay the same.
John not only gave the green light for asking probing questions, he commands it. If you believe every spirit, you are not in obedience to God’s word. In the book of Acts, the Bereans were counted as special because they searched the word of God to see if what was taught was true (Acts 17:11). What a great idea! I wish I had thought of that.
All too many today are afraid to test any spirit. Some have been trained under a manipulative leader that uses spiritual intimidation to keep his own foolishness from coming to the light. Others are afraid that if they find out the truth they will somehow be less spiritual. Believe me, friend, ignorance is not one of the fruit of the spirit. And holding ‘fibbers” accountable is not a sin.
Exaggerations and lies might build egos, but they do not build faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). False teaching, false promises and false prophesies do not build anyone up. In fact, they have destroyed thousands. Church be on guard. Try the spirits--especially the human ones.