When Gump Worsley played goalie for the New York Rangers, a sportswriter asked him what team gave him the most trouble. Worsley very candidly answered “the Rangers.”
It's certainly sad to say, but it's reality: Christians love to bite and devour one another.
Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out where the strong stumbled or how the doer could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena, his face marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and falls short again and again: There is no effort without error.”
No matter how sincere you are, if you are in ministry, you will make mistakes. Unfortunately, there are groups on the internet that exist solely to "sound the alarm" and point out the errors of those in the front lines. As I stated in my post yesterday, this has been going on for generations, but it is far more far-reaching today. With the advent of the internet and instant communication, and the added perk of search engines, people are able to flit from "cyber-house" to "cyber-house" in the manner of silly women, amassing information in order to kill and destroy.
1 Timothy 5:13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
Richard Abanes, author and journalist, writes in a post (go there and read it!)
We live in an era of too much information; an era wherein anyone/everyone can post whatever they want to post on the Internet—unchecked, unverified, unaccountable, unhindered, and unstoppable. Rumors, gossip, baseless accusations, outright lies, fear-mongering, hate rhetoric, hoaxes, slander/libel, and false information now litter the Internet.
Pastor James McDonald of Harvest Bible Fellowship has experienced this. He writes,
I have been a pastor for more than 25 years and I have heard some pretty harsh things; but the deepest wounding by far has been at the hands of people using the gift of discernment in the flesh. Most often, these are the folks that separate friends, divide churches and destroy families. It is a very dangerous gift when not under the Spirit’s control. Maybe you have experienced this personally, or worse, have been the one doing it.
His post, "Great Damage: The Gift of Discernment Used in the Flesh" points out that there are five ways to know if someone is using the gift of discernment in their own strength, and not in the strength of the Lord. The following is a shortened version of what James has to say. For the full version, click here.
1) Isolation: The gift of discernment, like all spiritual gifting, needs the balancing confinement of the local church. Sadly these folks are often so harsh and so foolishly confident in their own distortions that mature Christians leave them isolated rather than face their fleshly wrath. Which leads to number two . . .2) Anger: “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Righteous anger directed against specific sin and toward a solution is needed and productive for the kingdom of Christ. Correction, exhortation, even rebuke, have their place. But when it comes wrapped in harsh, angry words it does not edify, it does not build up, and it does not advance God’s purposes in this world. Speaking the truth in love is a biblical exhortation often lost to those using the gift of discernment in the flesh.3) Fear: The gift of discernment used in the flesh promotes fear. “God has not given us a spirit of fear,” (1Timothy 1:7). To fear anything or anyone other than the Lord is not from God. Sixty-three times we are exhorted in scripture, “Fear not!” We do have to speak up and be involved and do our best to shine a righteous light on the darkness all around us. But anyone who is playing upon our fears to motivate us to do right things is not advancing the work of Christ in or through us. Beware of fear mongers; they may mean well, they may have legitimate concern, but irrational arguments flourish in an atmosphere of fear.4) Distortion: Straw man argumentation is the practice of caricaturing the argument of your opponent and then dismissing the distortion. Are you listening flesh-discerners?5) Not listening: I have learned a lot from listening to even the harshest of comments this past week. I learned that people who are using the gift of discernment in the flesh will not yield to any point of explanation or clarified intent because they DO NOT LISTEN! They only attack and vilify.
J. Vernon McGee used to say, “The only exercise some Christians get is jumping to conclusions and running others down.” How true that is.
And how sad.
To those in ministry who are bearing the brunt of unfounded criticism:
Be not weary in well doing, my friends. Do not give in to the pressure to conform, to soften your message, to change your ways. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and keep going.