Posted Oct 28, 2016 by Michael L. Brown

As a lover of God, a lover of His people, and a lover of His Word, I welcome godly, ethical discernment. And as a lover of God, a lover of His people, and a lover of His Word, I reject ungodly, unethical discernment.

Speaking candidly, a distinct weakness of the charismatic movement (of which I am a part), is our gullibility and lack of discernment, as we often embrace unbiblical practices and unscriptural teachings.

At the same time, a distinct weakness of the non-charismatic movement (of which I have many dear friends), is a hyper-critical, cynical spirit, because of which they often reject true moves of the Spirit and correct biblical teaching.

Over the years, as I have traveled in many different circles and been part of an internationally-recognized revival movement, I have seen the good that some “discernment” ministries have done (and do), exposing serious error with surgical precision and calling us back to a sober interpretation of the Word. I thank God for them and try to participate in such healthy discernment myself.

Unfortunately, I have also seen the real damage these ministries can do, as their websites become almost glorified gossip columns, repeating the latest accusations against other leaders (almost with glee, it seems), believing the worst rather than giving the benefit of the doubt until the facts are known, and seeing themselves as divinely-appointed policemen called to set the Body right.

Ironically, many of them hold to controversial doctrines (like the pre-trib rapture) or embrace unbiblical positions (like cessationism; I am charismatic because I am sola Scriptura), yet they sit in judgment on the rest of the Church.

All that being said, on several occasions, I have engaged the leaders of these ministries in helpful dialog, learning from them as well as, hopefully, enlightening them, and without a doubt, we do what we do out because we are committed to following the truth wherever it leads.

There is a big problem, however, with anonymous “discernment” ministries, and they are becoming more and more common, especially online. Why is this problematic?

First, we have no idea who is running the ministry. Is it an 18-year old high-school kid? Is it a disgruntled, excommunicated church member in poor standing in his community? Is it an immature, thrice-divorced gossiper? Or is it a respected biblical scholar with fluency in the original texts or a highly-respected former missionary? Obviously, we would treat the critique of a respected biblical scholar a whole lot differently than that of a brand new, teenaged believer.

Second, there is no public accountability for the ministry. So, they malign and misrepresent others online, yet they cannot be corrected or rebuked. They spread false information about men and women of God, but no one can call them to account – not their pastor or their denomination or their peers or their elders – because no one knows who they are. And they are supposed to be correcting the Body? By what authority?

Third, there is no way to know the ministry’s (or the ministry leader’s) connection to the rest of the Body. If Russell Moore speaks, we know of his connection to and standing with Southern Baptists. If George Wood speaks, we know of his connection to and standing with the Assemblies of God. But when an anonymous website brands certain people heretics or reveals the latest alleged false teaching, we do not know how much weight this person’s ministry carries (if they have a ministry at all). Again, why should we pay any attention to them?

God works through His Body, and He appoints different people to different tasks, and those people function in relation to one another, for the health of the Church (see, e.g., 1 Corinthians 12). How can I know if an anonymous entity has been called to a certain task – one that claims to be an authority to rebuke other leaders – when I have no idea who that entity is within the Church?

You might say, “But all that matters is that they’re reporting the facts. Why do you need to know who they are? It’s just like WikiLeaks. Even if emails were hacked, the content of the emails remains unchanged.”

But that again highlights a big part of the problem. These websites do not simply report the facts. They color everything with their own interpretations and perceptions (the “Christian” version of Donald Trump’s pension for branding people with names like Crooked or Lyin’), they often do not reach out for clarification before attacking (you sometimes get the feeling that sensationalism is more important to them than edification), and they play clips or lift quotes in the worst possible light, rather than saying, “Is there a different construction that we can put on this with integrity?”

Recently, I’ve become more aware of such internet ministries, and one of them was so bad that I stopped looking at it after barely a minute or two. In fact, it had one paragraph on me in which almost every sentence was wrong in part or in full (and since it was speaking about me, it was easy to do a fact check!).

Of course, there are some very public “discernment” ministries with which I take issue too, and when they have my personal contact info and an open door to communicate with me and choose to attack me in public rather than write to me first, or when they post falsehoods about me and refuse to correct them, even when presented with the truth, I lose respect for them as well.

But my issue here is with the unethical nature of anonymous “discernment” ministries, and I urge them to come into the light so that all can be known – unless, that is, they have something to hide. As Jesus said, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:20-21).

Sign Up or Login to post comments.


Royce posted a comment · Nov 05, 2016
Good article. I too am concerned by these anonymous folks who far too often are novices, immature in the faith, and walking in disobedience themselves due to admittingly refusing to submit to leaders who can teach them and watch over their soul. Not to mention violating other Scriptures by advocating for division over non-essentials, etc. I had one interaction a few years ago that lasted some time with one who called themselves "The Last Hiker". What started out as truth soon became truth mixed with falsehoods, and outright lies, and then false teaching. And, just as you said, it became apparent that this was a disgruntled female who left a church because she couldn't get her way and then went so far as to actually say that "Jesus is calling His People out of the churches"!! A clear false teaching and violation of Scripture. Most disturbingly was the fact that it was overwhelmingly obvious this gal and set up herself as the god of her own little kingdom. SHE got to decide what was said or not said SHE got to decide who were citizens of her kingdom and who was banned. And, of course, she surrounded herself with others (mostly women) who praised her and fed her ego and teachings. An EXTREMELY dangerous practice. Unfortunately, in this age of technology and internet, I'm not sure there is a way to prevent these overnight, unqualified, novice, spiritually-immature preachers from getting behind their pulpits and collecting their own little group of followers. The problem is as much on the side of the followers who seek to hear what they wanna hear and latch on to follow someone that will praise them for agreeing with what was said. So both sides get the praise from others they seek while harboring an unteachable spirit. The other thing that amazes me, which you did not address (and I suspect outta humility) is the utter arrogance that some of these folks exist. For example, criticizing you with all your scholarly knowledge without any engagement on their part at all!! Do they ask questions to gather info before making accusations? No. Do they even consider that just MAYBE you might know a little bit more than they do about the Bible and what God says? No. Then, lastly, they make statements that on there very face discredit themselves on their own. For example, in the comment by "Amy" which you replied to she says, "Now you are disparaging writers who love the sheep and who take no pay but a lot of heat for lovingly warning the sheep about the NAR." When did God decide to share His attribute of Omniscience with anyone - let alone Amy? If these people are "anonymous", how does she know who they are? How does she know they "love the sheep? How does she know none of them take any money? And how does what she's doing and her attitude fit with 1st Tim. 2:11-12?? And then there's that little fiery dart - "You probably say I'm not credible..." Now who throws fiery darts? But hey, "other sheep take her research seriously". Which proves my point above. Perhaps Amy and the others would do better to focus their energies on being what God has called them to be instead of being, as you said, the self-appointed policemen called to set the Body right.
user profile
Notannonymous posted a comment · Oct 28, 2016
I'm not anonymous, nor was I "nasty" by any stretch of the imagination last week when I asked you about covering the New Apostolic Reformation with Bill Johnson. After several of your tweets directly to me telling me why you couldn't respond to me directly on social media, and urging me to call your radio program, you told me you had "no other choice but to block" me. I watched many of your Twitter followers and several credible bloggers ask you the same questions about lending credibility to a false teacher, and you treated them the same way. Now you are disparaging writers who love the sheep and who take no pay but a lot of heat for lovingly warning the sheep about the NAR. We write extensively about this counterfeit NAR movement, and many Christians are now aware of its dangers because of our information. Yet you refer to this movement as, "so-called." You'd probably say I'm not credible, but other sheep take my research seriously, and many have come away from the NAR wounded but with their eyes opened to the massive deception which obliterates the sufficiency of Scripture. My blogs are: Berean Research Berean Examiner Naomi's Table Sincerely in Christ Jesus, Amy Spreeman