Saturday, October 31, 2009

Destiny

So, what should we make of the Destiny phenomenon in the news this week? There is a lot of talk about them being a cult (see Garth George in http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10605962). The first thing we have to do is define "cult". According to Webster there are five meanings of cult: 1) Formal religious veneration: worship; 2) A system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents; 3) A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents; 4) A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator; 5) A great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b: the object of such devotion c: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion. Clearly, the one in in mind is meaning 3), a religion seen as unorthodox or spurious. The question is this then, is Tamaki's church drifting out of orthodox Christianity?

This is a difficult question for a brother to answer. I am always very wary of judging another Christian and their work. In 1 Corinthians Paul gets rather upset when the Corinthians break into factions and stand in judgement over he and others. The sin against the Holy Spirit in Matthew comes at the end of a dispute between Jesus and some of the Jewish leaders. They accuse Jesus of being an emissary of Satan. He retorts with the warning. My reading of that text then is, that to reject the works of the Spirit as Satan's work could see one sin against the Spirit. As such, my standing in judgement over Brian and his church is something we all as Christians should be very careful about. Having said that, history is replete with points at which God's people identifying a false teaching, teacher of movement (e.g. Paul and Judaisers in Galatians; Luther and the Reformation). So, what do we make of this phenomenon?

The first thing to say, is that the covenant signed by some of the men of Destiny is nothing new. It is a very visible expression of something that is common among some Pentecostal and other churches. That is, the people of the Church are to offer honour to their leader, to now question them. The verses "do not speak against the Lord's anointed" is often quoted in this regard (e.g. 2 Sam 19:21). It is also common to see this attitude in Polynesia and other cultures. Ministers are venerated and honoured. It is expected that they eat first at meals. Emma and I had this experience at a former church. We would be given a seat of honour and the people would wait for us to eat first. This is hard for westerners with their radical egalitarianism and especially to European Kiwi's who absolutely despite tall poppies. What has happened here, is that it has gone very public.

The second thought I have is on tithing. As Brian Tamaki said on TV, this is nothing new. Many churches call for the tithe.

Thirdly, we need to be very careful to view Destiny with balance and see the good they are doing. Many people are being reached and their lives turned around through the church. Many of these people would never be reached through other churches. I am delighted that people are being saved. Paul helps us with this in Phil 1:14-18. Paul is in prison in Rome (others say Ephesus). He is about to face Caesar Nero. Nero is in his peak of lunacy, killing off his enemies, ruthless and dangerous. Paul is delighted that some soldiers are being saved through his proclamation in the prison. Many of the Romans are getting into evangelism, inspired in the Lord by Paul's chains; they are full of courage. Some believe these people are false teachers, but they are not, they are all preaching "Christ" indicating that they are preaching the genuine gospel. However, they are differently motivated. Some are motivated out of goodwill, love and sincerity, knowing that Paul is appointed by God. Others however, are not so motivated; concerned for rivalry, envy and selfish ambition. Paul is not delighted with this. He might die as a result. The whole letter to the Philippians is seeking to stop them doing the same. So deep down he is hurt and upset. Yet he states, "what matters is that in every way, whether through pretense or truth, Christ is proclaimed." Despite flaws in the preachers, his passion is the gospel and he rejoices.

Now, contrast Paul's attitude with his attitude when he hits false teachers. Check out 2 Cor 11; Phil 3 and Galatians. He flips his lid when he hits those preaching a false gospel. He calls them emissaries of Satan, dogs, mutilators of the flesh; telling some of them to cut off their penises! Yet he never talks to Christians like this. Check out his letters. When he hits Christians who are out of balance like the Corinthians he repeatedly calls them brothers and sisters and addresses the whole letter to the "holy ones". In other words, he is careful to reinforce that they are God's people, then he critiques them. Through the letter he speaks as a father to his children, strongly challenging them, urging them to come back to the cross and its patterns of living.

That being the case, the question is, is Destiny a false expression of the faith? Is it a cult? Is it preaching heresy? Should Brian Tamaki be attacked as a false teacher and his church as a cult?

To me the answer is emphatically, no. The evidence is that they preach Christ for salvation. They urge people to give their lives to Jesus. They call for faith. They lay hands on the sick. They urge people to live their whole lives for Jesus. They are open to the public. You can attend their meetings. His preaching is there for all to see and hear on public TV.

So is everything perfect in the church? No. Neither is everything perfect in my church? I have been a Baptist pastor and a Presbyterian minister. Let me tell you, all is not well in any church and in every denomination. In fact, I could tell you things that would make your hair curl!

I would however say, that my years of study in the NT do give me concerns about many modern churches. I am not going to single out Brian Tamaki and his church. My concerns are these:
1) I get worried when any person, pastor, leader, lecturer, teacher etc, becomes a really strong focus of people's focus. What happens is that Jesus can get obscured. The teacher's view becomes dominant over the Scriptures. This happens at Laidlaw College where I teach. This is something we can all slip into. The Corinthians did this big time. Chloe tells Paul that the church is divided over those who follow Paul, Apollos and Cephas (Peter). The church was split in adulation of different teachers and leaders. Some believe there was also a Christ-group, "I follow Christ" (see 1 Cor 1:10-11). However, I believe "I follow Christ" is Paul's answer. I love John the Baptist who says, "He must increase, I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). He then lays out four chapters to tell them to stop. Whether it is Brian T or any leader, we must always divert people's attention to Christ. This concerns me in the contemporary charismatic and Pentecostal church.

2) I am worried about money in the contemporary charismatic and Pentecostal church. There are a number of issues here. First, having studied very closely tithing in the Bible, it is debatable that tithing is to be practised by NT Christians. I have blogged on this  http://drmarkk.blogspot.com/search?q=tithing. Suffice to say here, tithing is mentioned 4x in the NT. Three times Jesus challenges false understandings of tithing. He exhorts Christians to go beyond the tithe. It is also mentioned in Heb 7 not to tell people to do so, but to prove Jesus is a superior high priest. The tithe is not mentioned in Acts, Paul's letters, Peter's letters or the writings of John, James and Jude. Rather, the Christian is to give all they have. They are to care for their family and basic needs, and the rest is to be invested in the work of the kingdom from the church, to mission, to the poor.

Secondly, I am concerned about the way we appeal for money in the church. We often ask people to give so that they can be blessed. It is true that the NT endorses that those who give to God will be blessed (see 2 Cor 9 for example). However, this must not be used as a motivation. As a motivation, it means we give to gain. This is the antithesis of Christian giving. Christian giving is "no strings attached." It is a response to God who has given us everything from creation, to provision and salvation. Check out 1 Cor 13:3 where Paul says giving all we possess to the poor without love profits us nothing. Check out Luke's Gospel e.g. Luke 12:32-33. Yes, God will bless, but this is not our motivation.

Thirdly, I freak out at the idea that if we give we will be prosperous. Jesus gave his all; becoming poor that we might become rich; and he died a poor man without even a robe (2 Cor 8:9). Paul knew what it was to give, he worked himself to the bone, knowing poverty sometimes, knowing plenty. There is no formula to prosperity (see Phil 4:10-14; 2 Cor 11:23-28). Ultimately we will all be loaded. When we reach eternity we will experience glorious plenty. That is our hope and prize, that is what we run for (Phil 3:12-14). In the present, we are called to take up our crosses and live as Christ did. This will involve sacrifice, suffering, service. I call this the pattern of the cross. Paul in 1 and 2 Corinthians is arguing against a bunch of Christians who effectively had a prosperity teaching view believing a true apostle would not suffer, would do miracles, would be wealthy and prosperous. He hammers it into touch. Read the letters, he hammers them going on and on about present suffering. Christian life in the present is the life of suffering. It is the life of experiencing Friday.

Fourthly, I am concerned that what is happening about money in these churches is really a form of syncretism. Syncretism is when the gospel gets distorted or imbalanced by accommodating it to culture. Prosperity teaching is very popular in the west because it feeds our greatest sin, greed and materialism. It uses the culture to win the culture. In my view however, it is a selling out of one portion of the gospel. It is not a heresy, but an imbalance.

So how do we go about asking for money. I have no problem with church's asking for money. As Brian says on TV we need money. I suggest we encourage people to give freely, according to their means and radically (check out the principles in 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8-9). We tell them God will bless them but urge them to give not to be rich or get yet more, we ask them to give to bless God and further the mission. We ask them to give as they can to see God's great mission furthered, the poor fed, injustice removed. It is a subtle but important difference.

My final issue with such churches is leadership. The model of leadership in the NT is one of servanthood (see Mark 10:39-45). In Mark 10:39-45 James and John have just come asking for the primary leadership positions in the Kingdom to come. Jesus responds telling them to renounce the leadership methods of the world, and serve. He tells them  that he came not to be served but to serve. He tells them the greatest in the Kingdom are the greatest servants. Specifically, they are to renounce autocratic leadership. They are to renounce the use of power and domination of any sort. This runs through the whole NT. When Jesus is recognised as Messiah by Peter the first thing Jesus says to him is that he will suffer and die. He then tells them that they must do the same, take up their crosses and follow him (Mark 8:27-38). This is an appeal to serve. We are to die serving God, the church and the world. Philippians 2:5-11 lays out the Christ pattern, whereby Christ though God, came in self-emptying, humility, as a slave. The whole of Philippians lays out examples to the Philippians to make the same point. Read Philippians and note the examples, note the use of service, sacrifice and suffering language. The pattern of the cross is to live in service, sacrifice, suffering even to the point of death! Leaders are to be the greatest servants. This will cost them wealth. It will cost them prestige. It will cost them glory in the present. It will hurt. They will sometimes be destroyed by churches.

In the world of Paul leadership was enforced with status through social class, through military and political power. Ceasar is the number one example. Jesus and Paul offer a different model completely. It is this: take up your cross and your towel and follow me. Renounce autocracy and dominance. Power is found not in the power of charisma, brilliant speech and intelligence; it is found in love and service.

This is the same today. We love the talented, the articulate. We seek prestige and honour through wealth and power. Christianity turns this upside down. Read through 1 Corinthians. It is about wealthy strong leaders lording it, divided, putting others down. 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 speak of spiritual gifts and talents. 1 Corinthians 13 sits in between, the centrepiece of the letter and section. It declares, all that matters is love. Spiritual fruit and Christian attitudes are more important than worldly power, talent and charisma.

So, to me, churches that venerate the leaders like this and emphasise charisma make an error. it is not a cult or a heresy, but it is an imbalance. It is a syncretism to contemporary models of power and culture. However, this is not a new mistake or phenomenon. It gets things done actually. I am concerned, but we must take care not to go too far and fall into the same trap ourselves, of standing in judgement over our brother, writing them off and over-reacting.

In conclusion, to me Destiny has some weaknesses (as do all churches). They are not alone but part of a movement which to me has these weaknesses. I write from the Presbyterian church and Brian Tamaki and others would have plenty to criticise in our churches. Fair enough, we deserve it. We are nominal, liberal and lack the sort of passion for mission that they have. We are so egalitarian that hardly anything ever gets done. Our people don't tithe, many don't give at all. We have terrible weaknesses.

I was deeply upset by the Cult Watch speaker on TV One Close Up the other night. He likened Destiny to a suicide cult, that was most unwise. He went too far. I felt that Brian Tamaki and Richard Lewis handled themselves with grace.

What I am saying is this, people in glass houses should not throw stones. We need to take the logs out of our own eyes. We need to be very careful what we say. I love Brian Tamaki, he is a brother. I pray for his church that it continues to see people won to Christ. I pray that they continue to pursue Christ in the Scriptures and God brings correction in these areas (I say this humbly because this is my view). I pray they never lose their passion and edge. I pray that many come to Christ through the movement. I pray that they remain open to fellowship with others, not standing in judgement over them, not allowing the criticism to isolate them. God, pour out your Spirit on them and on all of us.

A final thought. The church in NZ cannot afford to be divided over differences. We have a huge challenge to reach this nation. Let's do it in unity!

23 comments:

Nathan Bayliss said...

They aren't that open at the moment, cos their websites down ha ha!! Too many hits maybe...

I am not in a position to be able to say one way or another. It did worry me thought that when Tamaki was asked what the purpose of Destiny was last week, he said nothing about Jesus or the Kingdom of God. He said it was to make stronger husbands and stronger families. While these are diffidently both really good things, they are not why any church should exists. The other thing I was that Tamaki and Richard Lewis keep comparing themselves to business and government to justify them self, not to other churches.

Its not up to me to decide if they are a cult or not: thats Gods job. But hopefully they still have enough humility to let God be God and guide them to his will for them.
Nathan

Scott said...

Hi Mark,

Despite having spent 4 years in your classes and having plenty of chats over this sort of thing I find myself in disagreement :) (You obviously are not a cult leader or I would agree, right?)

I am sick and tired of being identified with this kind of rubbish as a nz christian. This looks to me pretty similar to a textbook personality cult. Behind every practice is a theology and so my question for you is at what point do you say his theology must be pretty up the creek? At what point is the Jesus of the bible lost in the midst of a syncretistic consumerism and authoritarian leadership, especially when Tamaki seems to refuse to take on any criticism. It is the unashamed nature of it which really grinds me. He refuses to realise that he has very few allies in mainstream Christianity and scholarship.

I really cannot see the Jesus I love in Tamaki and so while I dont want to call down judgement on the entire church, I think Tamaki is at least flirting with the fire.

George said...

Thanks brother

Dr Mark K said...

Thanks guys. What is it that you don't agree with Scott. Get specific. The Corinthians were a far worse lot than what I am seeing in such churches. They were engaged in sexual immorality, were factionalised around charismatic leaders, the rich were oppressing the poor, they rejected suffering as part of Christian life, they were obsessed with tongues and charismatic gifts, they did not believe in a bodily resurrection, they were loveless. They were a mess. Yet, while Paul challenged them and was deeply disturbed, he loved them as brothers and sisters, as holy ones. This alerts me to the fact that the lines are not where some think they are. The bottom line is the cross and resurrection. Yes, I too am troubled that we are identified with some aspects of the faith that I don't agree with. However, there are many others that trouble me equally from "normal churches." Many of these churches are nominal, lack passion and commitment, have weak discipleship, are extremely liberal and more. I am equally tired of being identified with that. But that is the church. It always has been and always will be. It is imperfect. The miracle of the church is that while it is terribly human, it is still infused with the Spirit, and it transforms lives and the world. Destiny troubles me, but I am still honoured to be brothers and sisters with fellow people who love Jesus. I am more concerned at the judgementalism in the church than these imbalances. My challenge to anyone is to go out and have a go at planting and leading a church themselves in this environment. It is hard hard toil. NZers are a hard bunch. No surprise to me that pastors and ministers struggle to get it right. I like the spirit of your comments Nathan. It is not up to us to make the calls. Don't get me wrong Scott. I am deeply troubled by prosperity teaching, authoritarian leadership and syncretism. But I am not going tm make those calls unless I see the very heart of the gospel violated. Shalom.

Sam Liu said...

Thanks for the blog (Essay?) Mark,

Great to see a positive (or balance) view for once.

One thing I'd like to note is, we are already so under the control of media that whatever they present us became our focal point of discussion. If Destiny never been on 3news / newspapers, would we still be having this discussion.

Next is, I like your comments Mark about how there is no perfect church out there... if any churches claimed that they have it all, i.e "Perfect", do we still need Jesus?
After all it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick... Mk2:17

My 2 cents,
Sam

Dr Mark K said...

Hey Sam, I like your two cents worth! So true on perfection. "When the perfect comes..." (1 Cor 13). Bring it on. In the meantime, truth and grace, grace and truth (note the chiasm).

AndyD said...

Hey Mark - great post. I am not what I would call a 'supporter' of BT...but more often than not I find myself defending him because I know the media always twist everything to make a story and make everything worse than it is...as for the contract - if some of the things I have committed to in my church were isolated from context and broadcast around the country, I think we might receive some flack as well - fortunately I don't have a signed document for them to get their hands on. Sure, there are probably many things in their contract that, even in context, I wouldn't agree with, but like you said, they seem more imbalanced than unchristian. At least BT has the courage to stand up for what he believes in and isn't all PC and "relevant". And it's awesome that many lives through destiny's commitment to the gospel...even if it is an unbalanced one!

Dr Mark K said...

I like the "more imbalanced than non-Christian" statement. Such churches sail close to the wind where gospel and culture is concerned. They tend not to have the theological baggage some of us have which makes us conservative and as such we tend not to have the edge. But they also cross lines. Another thing I could have mentioned in the blog is their adoption of business models for church. This is not totally wrong, as all of our society is run in a business model. Those who don't tend to fail to get traction and momentum. If we are going to use a business or corporate model, we have to work really hard to critique and Christianise it. They tend to be hierarchical which is not in line with the egalitarianism of the gospel. The egalitarian models some adopt tend to go nowhere slowly. So the trick is to find the middle ground, if we have corporate models, we have to work super hard to invest them with the values of the gospel. This is hard. Enough... rugby to watch, go the All Blacks,

Anonymous said...

There are a host of theological issues with Tamaki's contract with his church members. For example Jesus said to not called anyone "father" but God; but Tamaki is now their Spiritual Father? Jesus also modeled servant leaders not leaders who take the best for themselves. But the most disturbing thing is that Tamaki is decribed as "the tangible expression of God." That is a title given to Jesus in the Bible. If Tamaki is really claiming one of Jesus' titles then I think it is fair to cry 'cult' and say we have a problem. But I suppose its possible the newspaper got it wrong. I haven't heard Tamaki deny that title yet.

Dr Mark K said...

Hi anon. Thanks. On the Father thing, it is interesting that Jesus did say this, but Paul adopted the word father of his relationship with the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:15); he is their father and they his children. I think we need to be careful not to pluck a Jesus' saying out and adopt it uncritically. He also said not to be called rabbi, which really in context means teacher. It depends on the spirit of the use of 'father' rather than being legalistic.

On the issue of a physical manifestation of God, this is again getting into dangerous theological territory for sure. I heard him say this in the TV One interview. However, it was right at the end, and Mark Sainsbury cut off any chance to develop this. I think Mark from cult watch would have challenged this, he began to. We would have needed to hear Brian's response. It could have been that he would have modified it, maybe he would have gone further into dangerous territory.

I imagine (and I am being positive here), that if someone had said, "isn't Jesus the physical manifestation of God;" he would have responded, "of course." From what I know of his teaching, he does not believe himself to be truly the manifestation of God.

Authentic Christianity does go close to believing this. We believe that the church is the body of Christ and that it represents God in the world. We are ambassadors of Christ.

My point is that we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions on the basis of a pressured situation as a TV One Close Up interview where ideas cannot be fully developed and challenged.

I have heard nothing from Brian or Destiny that violates the uniqueness of Christ.

Still, I may be wrong. I am open to be persuaded otherwise. My real concern is Christians standing in judgement over one another. Yes, we must be discerning. We must critique and question. But we have to be careful not to cross the line ourselves into a judgementalism that is arrogant and usurps God.

Thanks for contributing.

George said...

The more I read about this situation and the 'arguments' from both side the more I am lead to the stance:-

"Lord Jesus have mercy upon me a sinner"

Dr Mark K said...

Thanks George. So true George, "have mercy on me, a sinner" is one of those fundamental prayers! I also like that one, "I believe, take away my unbelief." Makes me laugh everytime I read it. I say, amen. Let's not be like the Pharisee, who looked at the "sinner" and praised God that he was not like him. Let's humble ourselves, take on the nature of a servant, and get on with the job.

Andrea said...

Thanks for this considered response to Destiny, Mark. One of your most telling comments comes at the end: "I pray that they remain open to fellowship with others, not standing in judgement over them, not allowing the criticism to isolate them."

My first question when the story broke was 'Where are the other church leaders that maybe could have put the brakes on Brian Tamaki and prevented his imbalances from going this far?' OR has he isolated himself and his followers so much that there is now no outside reference point or accountability except to those who will tell him only what feeds his ego? - as Peter Lineham said on TV later that night.

janine said...

I thought Mark Sainsbury did a great job. Brian Tamaki should have concluded by saying the equivalent of:- "Some good points have been made and as a result I'm going back to my church to reiterate that their worship must be of Jesus Christ and not me. I'll also relook at the covenant protocols to adjust them where needed." That would have been a wise, humble reaction ... although easily said in hindsight! The 'Jury's still out' for me.

George said...

One of my first thoughts was that Jesus might have gone in there and 'cleared out' the money tables, but I tend to think now that he would have gone in there and taken some people aside and quietly talked thing through first. Wish I had given it that sort of consideration first, as it is by expressing views that in hindsight were harldy 'charitable' I may well have perpetrated an even more negative view by the non-christians I interact with. In otherwords even if what Destiny is doing is wrong rather than offer a 'Jesus' alternative I offered a 'world' response .... not good.

Myk Habets said...

Good on you for spotlighting this issue Mark. But I am not sure you do go far enough.

Paul, I am sure, would not have put up with this sort of stuff in any of his churches. He would have deposed the elder/pastor/bishop and appointed a new one. But this is the problem with Tamaki right - he won't allow anyone to be over him and yes, he has deliberately isolated himself from the Christian commnity.

I personally know of attempts by chruch leaders, denomintional leaders, and parachurch leaders to speak to him, and correct him, but he does not allow such to happen. He is literally a law unto himself.

That means that at times Christian leaders (and lecturers!) do have to speak out publicly. Perhaps he will listen eventually? That is why I agreed to speak on this on Radio Rhema.

On the cult thing, what would someone have to do, Mark, for you to think of them as a cult?! Honestly.

I read the covenant thing a month or so ago and it disturbed me then - but I wasn't sure then if it was for real or not. The biblical arguments are not just wrong, they are blasphemous at points. I have been to Destiny services myself and heard it first hand, and now I have read it first hand (as it were), Tamaki claims to be the 'king' and his physical church building is his 'King's house' as he calls it.

1 Pt 2.17 was the text preached on when I was at their Chruch, and it is one of the texts appealed to in the covenant document to prove or illustrate Tamaki's kingship. So Mark - is that blasphemy or not? And does that make this a cult or not?

Grace, yes. Love, yes. Discernment (krino)? Yes!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark

I am with Myk Habets in being concerned about Destiny and wondering if you are concerned enough!

Destiny has entered a definite heterodox, if not heretical phase, for it is allowing the relationship between members and leader to assume an importance which is reserved for Christ and his followers alone.

The faults of other churches should not deflect from the need to be clear about the extent and depth of the false theology at work in Brian Tamaki's mind, and about the damage it is causing the reputation of Christ in our fair land.

Dr Mark K said...

The general response I am getting is that I am being too soft on Destiny. Perhaps I am. However, in my defense, I am not unconcerned. I think there are massive concerns. I am concerned about their attitude to money, authority and the obscuring of Jesus behind church leaders and structures. These are issues and there is potential for a deepening of them.

Again I ask though, upon what basis do I stand in judgement over this church and its leaders? In the Pauline epistles, Paul writes to church's he planted and/or is apostle to. Jesus was God's Son and Messiah (King) speaking to his people, Israel.

I am not apostle to Destiny. So, I will be careful, very careful, in how I challenge church's and other leaders. In fact I believe that people in the church today are far to ready to notice specks in others' eyes whilst tripping over the logs in their own.

When I look at Destiny, while there are issues, I I see a passion for discipleship and pleasing God. I see a love of the Scriptures, albeit with a markedly different interpretation to my own. I see a desire for the things of the Spirit. I see a commitment to give to the purposes of God. I see a longing to see people won to Christ through evangelism. I see people being won to Christ out of terrible situations of sin and suffering.

I look at my own denomination at the moment, the Presbyterians. I have also ministered among the Baptists. I have seen few churches which have the same degree of passion and commitment to the things of God (however interpreted). I see many nominal and worn out worshipers. I see disillusionment and a loss of desire. I see unchurched faith. I see tradition and structures hampering the things of God. I see analysis to paralysis.

Now, which is worse? Destiny? Or these other churches?

Yes, Peter, the weaknesses of one church should not mean we do not critique another. Yet, at the same time, surely we should be careful in how we critique and to be balanced.

My challenge to you and Mike is this: in light of my supposedly being too soft, specifically, what should I have said? That is, what do you say about Destiny? How are you going to frame it? Perhaps you have said it somewhere else, let me read it, so I can critique what you say.

For me, I am going to be very careful in what I say, lest I cross a line in judgement. I will let Jesus be the judge, while expressing my concerns, and hopefully balance. The reason I went into print is that I feel the Destiny as badly represented on TV 3 in particular, and the Cult Watch response was imbalanced.

I am no less concerned, but want to be careful on balance. I am seeking the balance of truth and grace, and I would rather err on the side of grace.

Shalom
Mark

Janine said...

Hi Mark,
You make great points of course.

In your 4th paragraph, you said, "... I see a passion for discipleship and pleasing. I see a love of the Scriptures, ... I see a desire for the things of the Spirit. I see a commitment to give to the purposes of God. I see a longing to see people won to Christ through evangelism. I see people being won to Christ out of terrible situations of sin and suffering.
..." etc.

The concern I have is that exactly the same could have been said of 'Heart Beat City Ministries' under Jim Gilchrist ... until the sin was exposed.

One main concern, those who did speak out back then, had, was the emphasis on 'Submitting to Authority' in Jim's Ministry. I believe Ian Grant was one who spoke out about his concerns all the way along.

I am very concerned about that same issue of excessive authority that Brian has given himself.

Surely church leaders should speak out if they have concerns about this, especially if they believe they are acting in discernment in the Holy Spirit?

What does Emma think?

Janine

Dr Mark K said...

Hi Janine. You are right to be concerned and say that Christian leaders speak out. That is what I have done in this blog! That is why we are having this cyber conversation.

It is about how we speak out, what we say and the conclusions we jump to. There are extremes here. I think we should speak out. But we must not speak out in the sort of judgement that means we stand in the place of God and judge others.

Paul was interesting with this stuff. He got incredibly fired up where there was teaching that cut into the heart of the gospel. When he hit leaders who were excessively authoritative, were concerned for selfish ambition, who were divisive, who dominated, who fleeced their congregations... he did not speak in the same way.

Compare Galatians; 1 Cor 10-12; Phil 3 with Phil 1; 1 Cor 1-4 and you will see the difference. He did "speak out", but he did so as their apostle and he did so in love, urging them to rediscover Christ and the pattern of life he laid down for us on the cross. He also knew the situations well, with direct evidence from members of the church as to what was going on (see 1 Cor 1:10-12; Epaphroditus in Philippians etc).

Now I am not the apostle to Destiny and I do not truly know what is going on. The media, incredibly biased as it is against Destiny, has reports from disaffected members and the copy of one document. That is not enough for me to feel that I can stand in the place of God over them. I haven't had visions or prophetic dreams either for them. If I did, I would give them direct to them and not go to the media or a blog.

Someone who knows more probably could. For me then, I am going to "speak out" carefully identifying what I believe are the problems (which I have done in the blog). However, I am going to do so judiciously and respectfully. I am also going to challenge other Christians who I think push the boundaries on their own authority in judging Destiny unfairly. Authority cuts both ways. Are we crossing the boundaries of our own authority in Christ in our judgement?

We should be concerned and so, most of all, we should be praying for Destiny (and all churches). We should be praying that they reflect the Gospel in their teaching and patterns of life. We should be praying that they do not become isolated and fall further into error. We should pray for more people to come to Christ, for great teaching, for a church that reflects the gospel. We should also be praying that our own churches do the same, and be careful that we are missing the logs banging around in our own eyes as we look at the specks in theirs.

Enough! Have a good one.

Janine said...

Hi ya Mark.

I didn't mean that 'you' should speak out. As you say, you have indeed done so, and have been clear, balanced, consistent and scriptural.

My angle is referring to other leaders who feel compelled to openly speak critically about Destiny.

Where is the line drawn between being judgmental or being discerning and wise?

Was Ian Grant being judgmental when I personally heard him speak strongly against Jim Gilchrist, years prior to that sin being exposed?

I'm really enjoying reading your informed opinions by the way!

Janine

Dr Mark K said...

That is where the question lies. Perhaps I err too far on the side of grace. Time will tell.

Doug Wright said...

On Bishop Tamaki's official website, www.bishoptamaki.org.nz, he claims to be "the physical manifestation of God"!