Following TBN Off a Cliff


'If I see anymore running mascara, I'm going over...'Nowadays, I hate to even admit I’m a charismatic. Sure, every sect within Christianity has its quirks, but sadly for charismatics, their quirks wind up hosting Christian TV shows with sets that look like 18th century French whorehouses.

It’s not enough that some charismatic TV preachers have $23,000 gilt toilets in their ministry centers. It’s not enough that they sell holy water, or boast of gold flakes falling into their worship services, or maintain prophecy hotlines and Web sites. In short, with too many charismatics, especially the prominent ones, it’s just…well, not enough.

Hang around in charismatic circles long enough (particularly in newer Third Wave circles and the true old school William Branham fan clubs) and you’ll likely encounter one bizarre “leading” after another.

Take, for instance, the modern prophetic movement. A number of prominent prophets have arisen in recent years, many from the old Kansas City prophets debacle who have spun off new ministries. People desperate for a “fresh revelation from God” follow leaders within the prophetic movement like groupies. These prophets put on traveling prophetic road shows where they prophesy over people—likely people who have been following the roadshows from town to town. And, of course, it all costs boatloads of money. People dying for that fresh revelation have a tenuous hold on their cash, needless to say.

I, for one, understand none of this fascination, for several reasons:

One of the best-known of the prophets has said their accuracy is only about 60 percent. Judging from the vagueness of most of the prophetic “words” that prophecy-lovers swoon over, that’s a pretty lousy figure, and I would say that even that 60 percent is generous. My guess? Maybe less than 10 percent, and that’s just on stuff like “God will prosper you.”

Modern prophets seem to be highly selective of what is important. For instance, I can recall no celebrity prophet foreseeing 9/11. We had two of the most prominent prophets come to one of my old churches, and for hours they spoke “words,” but neither seemed to make any mention of the fact that within a few months the pastor of the church would die several times after routine surgery, only to barely survive after repeated resuscitations. You would’ve thought that might have come out, wouldn’t you?

Today’s prophets never seem to deliver negative prophecies with drastic consequences—except when they’re warning against not heeding their prophecies.

Too many of these prophets ally with bizarre organizations. The same prophet who cited the low accuracy figure was initiated into the secretive Catholic organization the Knights of Malta. Joining him was a major pastoral figure within the charismatic movement. Why? And why did that same prophet start writing bizarre theology replete with Arthurian legends?

You want to know what I’ve learned about the real prophets out there? For the most part, they are nameless, faceless people who don’t keynote traveling prophetic roadshows, don’t have prophetic Web sites, don’t issue prophetic newsletters, and in almost every case, never go around telling people, “I’m a prophet!” (While I’m not into blanket discernment, I believe applying that reasoning–until proven otherwise by real prophets–will save most people a lifetime of heartache.)

I could go on and on about the sorry state of that part of the charismatic movement, but I’ll switch to another.

Charismatics love the Old Testament. I mean they quote liberally from the OT, often to the expense of the NT. And one of the biggest movements afoot is this whole idea of restoring Old Testament practices once used within Israel, New-Testament-izing them for use in the Church. Reformulating healing oils, attempting to raise up David’s tabernacle, recovering temple worship practices–the list goes on and on.

It doesn’t matter to them that Christ fulfilled all of what they’re attempting to resuscitate. In fact, it doesn’t matter that Christ rendered most of that stuff moot. The OT-resurrectors still want to do it. (Almost as if Christ didn’t do a good enough job fulfilling it. Ouch.)

I could go on and on about the sorry state of that part of the charismatic movement, but I’ll switch to another.

As for the prosperity gospel charismatic types out there, all I can say is this: Is anyone policing the affairs of these folks? I’m avoiding naming names here since that’s not what this blog is all about, but what’s with the excess made off the backs of poor, foolish souls who give money to these notable “ministers” and their “ministries”? And why is no one being held accountable? I understand a lot of these “ministers” don’t answer to any policing denomination, but they should still answer to the charismatics who are supporting them! (I’ll have more to say about that later.) That it took the government to step in and ask what the heck is going on with some of these ministries is shameful and shows the total lack of discernment by charismatics.

Before I go on, let me offer a few harsh insights on the sorry state of the charismatic movement today.

When charismatics chase after prophecy, chase after restoring OT practices, chase after prosperity, and chase after anything that isn’t Jesus, they’re chasing wind. And they’ll reap the whirlwind for it.

Worse, all this chasing after these fringes distracts them from what is most important to the Lord: leading people to Christ and growing them into mature disciples. Do any of us remember the Great Commission? Truthfully, this plagues nearly every church in America. We’re just cannibalizing each other’s congregations; we’re not growing.

For the first time in probably five years, someone handed me a tract last week. Now I’m not a huge fan of tract evangelism, but still. I can’t remember in the last 10 years when a stranger came up to me and asked me if I knew Jesus. That used to happen at least once a month when I was younger. Where are all the evangelists out there? What happened to leading people to Christ and discipling them to maturity?

Those of us charged with the duty got distracted by this and that. It’s amazing to me that the more charismatics want fresh revelation or a “touch from God,” the less interested they become in fulfilling the Great Commission. That’s a “word” none of us wishes to hear, though.

And as far as fresh revelation goes, whatever happened to the old revelation? A couple weeks ago, my pastor stood up in church, held a Bible high and said, “This is the only sure word.” And he’s right. Why then are so many charismatics obsessed with fresh revelation when they don’t even live by the old revelation? Many of them hardly know the old revelation at all. If they did, they wouldn’t be taken in by all these charlatans and hucksters masquerading as “ministers!”

Can you tell I’m sick at heart about this? These issues just frost me to no end!

Here is my plea to anyone out there who claims to be a charismatic. I hope you hear me. And if you’re not a charismatic, consider the problems in your own little sect and ask what specifics will better your group.

Boycott TBN.
Trinity Broadcasting Network has proven time and again it cannot police the people it features on its programming. In fact, the leaders of TBN will nod and weep along with the worst heresies known to man spoken by some of the biggest flakes and con-artists alive today. There, I said it.

Turn off TBN. Open up your Bible. Get down on your knees and repent. Ask God to open your eyes to the need in your little neighborhood. Use the money God has given you to help those people rather than line the pockets of TBN. Lead people to Christ (not to TBN) and disciple them. Do what Jesus commands you to do. But don’t send another dime to TBN. If it takes calling your cable or satellite channel and asking them to block TBN to keep you from watching it, please, do it.

Does TBN feature anything redeemable in its programming? Maybe. But the sheer load of junk that emanates from that network makes the signal to noise ratio infinitesimally small.

Start asking for accountability from these celebrity charismatic preachers.
This begins by cutting off the revenue stream. Nothing gets a person’s attention more than when the gravy train stops. Don’t send money to those ministries. Don’t buy the books of those ministers, their tapes, DVDs, Holy Land vacations, or anything associated with them. If they’re of God, God will provide for them. They may have less to live on, but they’ll be more more humble–we hope. (When we hear some diamond-encrusted “bishop” complaining how badly he needs his Rolls Royce, we should know just who the wolf among the sheep is.) Then start asking questions. Only then might the truth set us all free from the lies we’ve been fed.

Get out of the charismatic ghetto.
I said this before in my post “How Not to Be a Charismatic Headcase.” Time to see how Christians in other sects live. Somehow they manage to survive without fresh revelation. Much of that’s due to them relying on the leather-bound revelation they already have in their hands. Some of those other folks actually lead people to Christ and into a deep relationship with Him. It would be great to know how they do it, wouldn’t it?

Say no to fluff.
No conferences. No traveling prophetic roadshows. No arena-based revival events. Just say no. There’s no substitute for the old fashioned way of doing it right. The charismatic movement’s fascination with show and with “new moves of God” leads more often than not to a big fat nothing (see “Charismatic Churches and the Cult of the New“). We can’t bypass the simple spiritual disciplines and the simple commands of Christ.

Get the spiritual focus off everyone, ourselves included, and back onto Christ.
If I hear another charismatic tell about the spiritual thing they’re pursuing that’s NOT Jesus Christ, I’m going to scream. It is not about us and our needs. It’s about Jesus. The best way to seek first the Kingdom is to seek the King. And you’re not going to find that King except through the old tried and true methods. Not through fresh revelation, not through Christianizing Old Testament practices, not through praying that God will help you keep up with the Joneses, but through prayer, fasting, worship, Scripture reading & memorization, and the rest of the spiritual disciplines Christians have practiced since Pentecost.

Turn off the Christian TV. Turn off the Christian radio. Put down the book by this celebrity charismatic preacher or that. Stay away from the prophetic Web sites.

Instead, find out what the Lord says through the Bible. Don’t go looking for hidden revelation in the Bible for the time being, but stick to the obvious revelation that’s already there. Learn it. Memorize it. Live it. Pray it. And when you’re done praying it, pray some more. Do that and you just may find the Lord’s ready to charge you with His power from on high, taking you into ministry realms you never would’ve discovered otherwise.

Honestly, we charismatics should all be sickened by what’s going on. What sickens me most of all is that Christ is mocked when we act as ridiculous as some of us are acting. Mocked. And if we believe any of His Holy Spirit is going to bless us during mid-mock, then we’re the most deceived people on the face of the planet.