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Evangelism, Super Apostles and Mixed-Up Priorities

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Evangelism, Super Apostles and Mixed-Up Priorities

J. Lee Grady

After visits from three evangelists in four days, I figured it out. We’ve neglected the heart of our mission. Something amazing happened to me last week during a ministry trip to Texas and Oklahoma. God sent three unexpected visitors over the course of four days to confirm something He is doing in the church today.

Last Thursday when I was speaking at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, my friend Sujo John called to say he wanted to drop by the campus and attend the conference with me. Sujo is a full-time evangelist who is originally from India. He surrendered to the ministry on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was buried under the rubble of the World Trade Center. “In this turbulent season when our movement is being shaken, refined and redefined, we must return to the simplicity of our mission to reach the lost all around us.”

On that horrific day as Sujo lay under the concrete and twisted metal, he wondered if he would live until nightfall. But that did not stop him from praying with about 20 people who were trapped with him. They all died before Sujo was rescued, but they stepped into eternity with faith in Christ as their Savior because Sujo led them in a sinner’s prayer. After Sujo learned that his wife, Mary, was safe (she also worked in the World Trade Center but was late for work that day), they both left their lucrative careers in the financial industry and gave their lives to full-time evangelism.

Since then Sujo has traveled all over the world sharing his testimony and warning people of the urgency of this hour.

On Friday, the second day of my meetings at Christ for the Nations, I got a text message from Scott Hinkle, a full-time evangelist from Phoenix who happened to be in Dallas. He came to the campus to attend the meeting in the main student auditorium.

Scott grew up in a rough-and-tumble New Jersey neighborhood outside New York City and became a Christian during the Jesus Movement in the 1970s. He has spent most of his adult life taking the gospel to places most Christians avoid. Every year he takes an evangelistic swat team to Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans and wins prostitutes and partygoers to Christ. He is one of the few charismatic ministers in the United States devoted to equipping believers in soul-winning.

After I left Dallas I flew to Oklahoma City to speak at a church in nearby Norman. On Sunday afternoon I got a text message from Kevin Turner, a full-time evangelist who is based near Tulsa. He wanted to come to my meeting at Riverside Church. I was thrilled because I had never met Kevin, even though we’ve talked on the phone many times and Charisma published an article about his unique ministry in 2007.

Kevin directs Strategic World Impact, a ministry that has taken him to some of the most dangerous places on the planet. He was mentored by the late Leonard Ravenhill, the radical revivalist whose writings still inspire many of us today. Kevin carries Ravenhill’s sobering passion for lost souls and has shared the gospel in refugee camps, war zones and killing fields. He can’t talk publicly about most of his work because it would put his colleagues in jeopardy.

It wasn’t until I saw Kevin seated in front of me at Riverside that I realized this might be more than a coincidence. Three full-time evangelists in four days. Was God saying something here? Maybe it was just a fluke. But it caused me to realize how desperate we are in this hour for the ministry of the evangelist—a ministry that we have sidelined and neglected in recent years.

In the 1980s and ‘90s we charismatics emphasized the need for apostles and prophets. I cheered this movement because I believe we should reclaim every spiritual gift in the New Testament that has been avoided or neglected.

We need true apostles and prophets because they keep the church moving forward in our global assignment and provide heavenly direction and strategy. Yet apostles and prophets have been controversial, not only because some people reject them on theological grounds but because some self-proclaimed apostles and hyper-mystical prophets have abused and misused their gifts and authority.

Today some of these people have slipped over the edge of orthodoxy—and have taken segments of the church off the cliff with them. Some have promoted the concept that apostles are spiritual supermen who wield rigid, hierarchical control over churches and leaders, resulting in authoritarianism and abuse. Others have perverted the apostolic model to create a financial “downline” that brings loads of money to a few at the top of the food chain—ignoring the fact that the Bible says apostles should be models of humility who serve from the bottom.

And some prophets have traded in their originally pure message to promote bizarre doctrines and cryptic predictions that often prove to be hokum. Is it possible that while we were celebrating the super apostles and building fan clubs for the prophets we were ignoring the primacy of our evangelistic calling? I know one gift is not more valuable than another. But when I read about the five-fold ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11, I can’t help but notice the placement of the evangelist.

Paul wrote: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (NASB, emphasis added). The evangelist is not more important, and God’s kingdom is not a hierarchy. But evangelism is in the center because it is the very heart of God’s mission. In this turbulent season when our movement is being shaken, refined and redefined, we must return to the simplicity of our mission to reach the lost all around us.

God wants to visit us with fresh evangelistic fire that will burn up our selfishness, refocus our priorities, rid us of quirky doctrinal distractions and ignite our hearts with a holy love for people who don’t know Jesus.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Staying Pure in a Fornication Nation

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You don’t have to compromise with our sex-saturated culture. By God’s grace you can stay in the sexual safety zone.

There were some raised eyebrows last week on the campus of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., when I hosted a special meeting—the day before Valentine’s Day—on the subject of fornication. That’s not a word you normally associate with a lecture topic, but hey, I had to get attention. And since the hormones on most college campuses are as dense as Florida humidity, I figured the kids would be all ears when I attacked the subject.

I was right. At times you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium, especially when I talked about how most American young people aren’t even sure how to define sexual activity anymore. (Today’s college seniors were nine years old when President Clinton tried to redefine sex during the Lewinsky scandal.) At other times the students burst into nervous laughter, especially when I told how I gave my son-in-law a lecture about sexual boundaries in front of 700 of his classmates when he was dating my oldest daughter.

“Losing one’s virginity used to be a serious issue, but today fornication is just a standard sitcom plot device.”

I thought it might be helpful to share these key points with a wider audience, since many of the readers of this column are single. And even if you are married, it would be good to take a quick refresher course in self-control—since we live in a nation that is losing all moral restraint. Here’s what I told the group at Southeastern:

1. Don’t redefine your morality. I’ve seen Christian young people roll their eyes when I say the word “fornication” because it sounds so much like King James English—sort of like “sodomy,” another word we avoid in our PC culture. But we need to be careful how we bend the meaning of words. Terms that are in the Bible should not vanish from our modern vocabulary just because they offend some of the hosts of The View.

When “fornication” is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (“For this is the will of God … that ye should abstain from fornication” KJV), the Greek word is porneia. It’s the root word for pornography, but it means a lot more than sexually explicit material. It includes sex between unmarried people, homosexuality, bestiality, prostitution, incest and adultery.

According to the apostle Paul, sex as God intended is limited to marriage between one man and one woman. Period. The Episcopal Church has no right to broaden the definition. Neither do Bill Clinton, Newsweek, Oprah or HBO. Don’t let moral relativism infect your brain.

2. Don’t sell your birthright. Losing one’s virginity used to be a serious issue, but today fornication is just a standard sitcom plot device. It’s considered normal. People are considered weird if they didn’t have sex by age 14; and if anybody dares to teach abstinence in a public school he is labeled a Neanderthal.

In TV shows like Desperate Housewives, Nip/Tuck or Grey’s Anatomy, life revolves around who’s in bed with whom. There’s even a TV series on Showtime called Californication that follows the life of a sex addict. What TV producers don’t usually explore are the consequences of immorality. Audiences probably wouldn’t laugh if the couples hooking up on these shows had to deal with genital warts, gonorrhea, AIDS, abortions, post-abortion trauma or clinical depression—all real fallout from illicit sexual behavior.

If you are a single person today—whether you have lost your virginity or not—it’s time to reclaim your purity and save sex for marriage. We’ve forgotten the story of Esau, who forfeited his birthright through one stupid act. He traded his inheritance for a bowl of stew. You really can throw your life away through one act of fornication.

3. Get ruthless with your weaknesses. Jesus sounded stricter than a Catholic school principal when He talked to His disciples about self-discipline. He told them: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29, NASB).

Jesus was not advocating self-mutilation. He was using sarcasm to emphasize how serious sin is—and He urged His followers to take radical steps to avoid the snares of temptation. In our sex-soaked society, it is more imperative than ever that we draw boundaries.

Got a problem with pornography? If you can’t discipline yourself to avoid offending Web sites, get rid of your computer. Do you end up engaging in heavy petting or intercourse with your girlfriend or boyfriend after a few minutes of kissing? Draw lines and stick to them. And if you can’t stick to the rules, ask for intervention. If you don’t you are headed for spiritual shipwreck.

4. Live a transparent life. The Bible never advocates that we battle sin alone. We need each other. James 5:16 says: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” In some cases you will never get victory over temptation until you share your struggle with another Christian and seek counsel and prayer.

So many believers today are living with secrets. Many women (and men too) were molested as children by a relative or friend—yet they have never shared their pain. Many young guys are trapped in a dark world of pornography and masturbation but are too ashamed to admit it. Many Christians struggle with same-sex attraction yet they fear that if they confess their thoughts they will be rejected.

You will never discover the abundant life Christ promised until you clean out your spiritual closets and deal with all your dirty laundry. Total forgiveness and cleansing is available, but confession and repentance must come first.

5. Develop the fear of God. Paul had sober words for the Thessalonians who ignored his admonitions about sexual sin. He told them: “He who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thess. 4:8). It couldn’t be clearer: If you disregard sexual boundaries, you are on thin ice.

What we desperately need in the church today is a conscience awakening. Too many Christians have warped judgment—and they don’t even feel godly remorse when they break God’s law. If you have any form of sexual sin in your life, flee it immediately and make a 180-degree turn. He will grant you the grace to live a life of purity.

 

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Strange Fire in the House of the Lord (J. Lee Grady)

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We need to be careful. Current fads involving angels, ecstatic worship and necromancy could push us off the edge of spiritual sanity.

No one fully understands what Nadab and Abihu did to prompt God to strike them dead in the sanctuary of Israel. The Bible says they loaded their firepans with incense, ignited the substance and “offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them” (Lev. 10:1, NASB). As a result of their careless and irreverent behavior, fire came from God’s presence and consumed them.

Zap. In an instant they were ashes.

 

When Moses had to explain to Aaron what happened to the two men, he said: “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near to Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored'” (v. 3). Although we don’t know the details of what Nadab and his brother did with the holy incense, we know they were careless and irreverent about the things of God.

“We want the miracles of God, but we also want the fear and reverence of God. We cannot allow this strange fire to spread unchecked.”

This ancient story has relevant application for us today. We don’t use incense or firepans in our worship, but we are expected to handle God’s Word with care and minister to His people in the fear of the Lord. In other words: No funny business allowed. We aren’t allowed to mix God’s Word with foreign concepts or mix our worship with pagan practices.

Yet as I minister in various churches around this country I am finding that strange fire is spreading in our midst-even in churches that call themselves “Spirit-filled.” Pastors and leaders need to be aware of these trends:

1. Deadly visitations. In some charismatic circles today, people are claiming to have spiritual experiences that involve communication with the dead. One Michigan pastor told me last week that some church leaders he knows promote this bizarre practice and base it on Jesus’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. The logic is that since Jesus talked to Moses and Elijah on the day He was glorified, this gives us permission to talk to dead Christians and our dead relatives.

Although little is said about these experiences from the pulpit (since the average believer is not ready to handle this “new revelation”), people in some streams of the prophetic movement are claiming to have visitations from Aimee Semple McPherson, William Branham, John Wimber or various Bible characters. And we are expected to say, “Ooooooo, that’s so deep”-and then go looking for our own mystical, beyond-the-grave epiphany.

That is creepy. Communication with the dead was strictly forbidden in the Old Testament (see Deut. 18:11), and there is nothing in the New that indicates the rules were changed. Those who seek counsel from the dead-whether through mediums and séances or in “prophetic visions”-are taking a dangerous step toward demonization.

2. Ecstatic rapture. Not long after ecstasy became known as a recreational drug, someone in our movement got the bright idea to promote spiritual ecstasy as a form of legitimate worship. The concept evolved from “spiritual drunkenness” to the current fad in which people gather at church altars and pretend to shoot needles in their arms for a “spiritual high.” Some preachers today are encouraging people to “toke the Holy Ghost”-a reference to smoking marijuana.

I hate to be a party pooper, but the Bible warns us to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit” (1 Pet. 4:7). There is plenty of freedom and joy in the Holy Spirit; we don’t have to quench it by introducing people to pagan revelry. Christian worship is not about losing control. Those who worship Jesus do it “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), and our love for God is not measured by how violently we shake or how many times we fall on the floor.

Recently I told a friend in Pennsylvania that when people get tired of this drug imagery it won’t be long before we see some Christians having sexual experiences at the altar. “It’s already happening,” my friend said. He described a recent “worship concert” in which one of the musicians simulated sex while stroking a microphone and whispering sensual phrases to Jesus. What is next-orgasmic worship? God help us.

3. Angels among us. Angels have always played a vital role in the life of the church. They are “ministering spirits” sent to protect, guide and strengthen believers (Heb. 1:14). But suddenly angels have become the rage in some segments of our movement. People are claiming to see them everywhere, and often the stories don’t line up with the Word of God.

During the Lakeland Revival last year in Florida, a man from Germany took the stage and claimed that an angel walked into a restaurant while he was eating a hamburger, took his intestines out and replaced them with a gold substance. Others have testified that angels took them to heaven and operated on them. And many are claiming that angels are dropping feathers, gold dust and precious gems on worshippers.

I know God can do anything. He can make an iron axe head float, hide a coin in a fish’s mouth and use a little boy’s lunch to feed a multitude. Those were genuine miracles that He can still do today. But we still have to use caution here. There are counterfeits. If we promote a false miracle or a false angel in the Lord’s house, we are participating in strange fire.

I know of a case where a man was caught planting fake jewels on the floor of a church. He told his friends he was “seeding the room” to lift the people’s faith. I know of others who have been caught putting gold glitter on themselves in a restroom and then running back in a church service, only to claim that God was blessing them with this special favor. Where is the fear of God when Christians would actually fabricate a miracle?

This is a time for all true believers with backbones to draw clear lines between what is godly worship and what is pagan practice. We want the miracles of God, but we also want the fear and reverence of God. We cannot allow this strange fire to spread unchecked.

 

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. He will be ministering from Feb. 17-27 in England. If this article was forwarded to you, we encourage you to sign up to receive “Fire in My Bones” weekly in your own mailbox. Click here.

Kenneth Hagin’s Forgotten Warning (J. Lee Grady)

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Kenneth Hagin is a phenomenal Bible teacher.  His ministry was Scriptural, faith-filled and balanced.  Although he knew that Jesus was not poor and that we are redeemed from poverty, Kenneth Hagin did not agree with some practices making the rounds today.  This article by J. Lee Grady explains exactly what:

Before he died in 2003, the revered father of the Word-Faith movement corrected his spiritual sons for going to extremes with their message of prosperity. Charismatic Bible teacher Kenneth Hagin Sr. is considered the father of the so-called prosperity gospel. The folksy, self-trained “Dad Hagin” started a grass-roots movement in Oklahoma that produced a Bible college and a crop of famous preachers including Kenneth Copeland, Jerry Savelle, Charles Capps, Jesse DuPlantis, Creflo Dollar and dozens of others—all of whom teach that Christians who give generously should expect financial rewards on this side of heaven. Hagin taught that God was not glorified by poverty and that preachers do not have to be poor. But before he died in 2003 and left his Rhema Bible Training Center in the hands of his son, Kenneth Hagin Jr., he summoned many of his colleagues to Tulsa to rebuke them for distorting his message. He was not happy that some of his followers were manipulating the Bible to support what he viewed as greed and selfish indulgence. Those who were close to Hagin Sr. say he was passionate about correcting these abuses before he died. In fact, he wrote a brutally honest book to address his concerns. The Midas Touch was published in 2000, a year after the infamous Tulsa meeting. Many Word-Faith ministers ignored the book. But in light of the recent controversy over prosperity doctrines, it might be a good idea to dust it off and read it again. Here are a few of the points Hagin made in The Midas Touch: 1. Financial prosperity is not a sign of God’s blessing. Hagin wrote: “If wealth alone were a sign of spirituality, then drug traffickers and crime bosses would be spiritual giants. Material wealth can be connected to the blessings of God or it can be totally disconnected from the blessings of God.” 2. People should never give in order to get. Hagin was critical of those who “try to make the offering plate some kind of heavenly vending machine.” He denounced those who link giving to getting, especially those who give cars to get new cars or who give suits to get new suits. He wrote: “There is no spiritual formula to sow a Ford and reap a Mercedes.” 3. It is not biblical to “name your seed” in an offering. Hagin was horrified by this practice, which was popularized in faith conferences during the 1980s. Faith preachers sometimes tell donors that when they give in an offering they should claim a specific benefit to get a blessing in return. Hagin rejected this idea and said that focusing on what you are going to receive “corrupts the very attitude of our giving nature.” 4. The “hundredfold return” is not a biblical concept. Hagin did the math and figured out that if this bizarre notion were true, “we would have Christians walking around with not billions or trillions of dollars, but quadrillions of dollars!” He rejected the popular teaching that a believer should claim a specific monetary payback rate. 5. Preachers who claim to have a “debt-breaking” anointing should not be trusted. Hagin was perplexed by ministers who promise “supernatural debt cancellation” to those who give in certain offerings. He wrote in The Midas Touch: “There is not one bit of Scripture I know about that validates such a practice. I’m afraid it is simply a scheme to raise money for the preacher, and ultimately it can turn out to be dangerous and destructive for all involved.” (Many evangelists who appear on Christian television today use this bogus claim. Usually they insist that the miraculous debt cancellation will occur only if a person “gives right now,” as if the anointing for this miracle suddenly evaporates after the prime time viewing hour. This manipulative claim is more akin to witchcraft than Christian belief.) Hagin condemned other hairbrained gimmicks designed to trick audiences into emptying their wallets. He was especially incensed when a preacher told his radio listeners that he would take their prayer requests to Jesus’ empty tomb in Jerusalem and pray over them there—if donors included a special love gift. “What that radio preacher really wanted was more people to send in offerings,” Hagin wrote. Thanks to the recent resurgence in bizarre donation schemes promoted by American charismatics, the prosperity gospel is back under the nation’s microscope. It’s time to revisit Hagin’s concerns and find a biblical balance. Hagin told his followers: “Overemphasizing or adding to what the Bible actually teaches invariably does more harm than good.” If the man who pioneered the modern concept of biblical prosperity blew the whistle on his own movement, wouldn’t it make sense for us to listen to his admonition?

The Midas Touch is available from Tree of Life Bookshop.

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