Berean cogitations

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Should we judge teachings or methods by the number of souls that are won?

In a previous posting, I talked about the questionable tactics that are used by a ministry that attempt to evangelize those who are enslaved to pornography. I praised them for the good that they do, but I also questioned some of their techniques. I expressed concern about the damage that their tactics might be doing to the reputation of Christ's body.

I brought this up on a few Internet message boards. Some people understood and applauded my concerns. However, a few people said, "Why question their tactics? If they're winning souls and sharing God's Word, isn't that what matters?"

I disagree. I think we always need to be honest... especially when sharing the Gospel. Questionable tactics are not justified, even when they occasionally produce fruit. (As an aside, I don't know for sure if this ministry is truly winning people to Christ. Even if they are though, I don't think this would justify the use of deceptive or otherwise questionable techniques.)

Do you remember Mike Warnke? He was a famous "Christian" stand-up comedian back in the 1980s. He claimed to be a former Satanic high priest who had turned to the Lord. For a while, he was tremendously popular in Christian circles, and he would even urge people to give their lives to the Lord before death or the Rapture made things too late. He probably had a good number of conversions as a result.

Well, guess what? It was all a lie. Cornerstone Magazine did an expose on Mr. Warnke, revealing him to be a fraud. He was not an ex-Satanist at all, much less a high priest. Warnke did indeed proclaim the gospel, but his testimony was a sham.

Now some would declare, "Okay, but if he was winning souls! Ya gotta give him that!" With all due respect though, I think that's a terribly naive and short-sighted view. Sure, he may have won some souls... but in the process, he has caused tremendous damage to the body of Christ. Many authors cited Warnke in their writings on Satanism, but now, their credibility has been tarnished -- through no fault of their own. In addition, what about the times when believers upheld Warnke as an example of how God can redeem even the most rotten of sinners. Thanks to this deception, non-believers can now jeer at us and say, "Hah! You thought that God had changed Warnke's heart, but Warnke was lying all along. So much for your almighty, all-powerful God! Hah!"

As I keep saying, the devil is a master of deceit and strategy. His works can seem enticing and wonderful if we don't examine them carefully. I'm sure that the devil would gladly let one person be redeemed if this would help him lead a thousand more down a path of destruction.
In times of war, a general might let one of his soldiers get captured so that a thousand troops can escape with their lives. That's why we should not be quick to applaud a ministry's tactics just because they appear to produce salvation. After all, Satan knows that the most effective counterfeits are the ones that resemble the real thing. He knows that if by letting one man get saved, he can ensnare a thousand more. That's how crafty he is.

When judging someone's teaching or ministry methods, we must apply two principles: (1) We must compare them against the Bible, and (2) in areas where the Bible is not explicit, we must be sure to judge with wisdom and caution. We should never declare that one's teachings or methods are godly simply because they happen to win souls. That way lies deception.