False Prophets: A Simple Litmus Test

Rev Ike Rolls

I am always excited to receive guest post by one of my favorite authors, Leander Jackie Grogan.  In this article, Leander goes deep on False Prophets. Enlightening to say the least:

Rev Ike Rolls

A Simple Litmus Test For Identifying False Prophets

by Leander Jackie Grogan
(Bestselling author of Black Church Blues and Exorcism At Midnight)

Let’s talk about preacher and prophets and false prophets. Don’t be afraid. God won’t get you for evaluating your spiritual leader based on Biblical principles.
And I heard a great voice saying, “Send me a big offering so I can restock the liquor cabinet on my private jet.”

Actually, four private jets in the case of Bishop David Oyedepo, pastor of the Living Faith World Outreach Ministry in Nigeria. They operate in concert with his large publishing company, university, elite private school, and many homes in London and the United States, a multi-million dollar empire that rivals gold traders and oil tycoons. Following with a close second position is Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of the Believers’ Loveworld Ministries whose mega-church congregations serve as cash cows to fund his diversified investments in hotels, real estate and food chains. It’s estimated the joint wealth of the top five pastors in Nigeria surpasses $200 million.

Just as the U.S. preaching boom in the 1980’s made televangelists such as the Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn and Eddie Long multi-millionaires, preaching in Africa has become big business as well. Tens of thousands of people flock to services each week with wallets open and hearts ripe for the taking.

For those mature Christians who can see past the lure of shiny Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Rolexes, thousand dollar Italian suits and pink brick mansions in the suburbs, there is a tendency to lay all of the blame at the feet of these skillfully “anointed” perpetrators whose charismatic personalities and manipulation of doctrine allow them to line their pockets and prosper at the expense of the membership. But in reality, the fault for this ongoing spiritual tragedy lies (equally) with the membership, itself.

Women can attest to this more than men. Have you ever met Mr. Right and fallen so deeply in love you were willing to ignore all of the signs of impending doom? When friends tried to warn you, they were no longer friends, but haters filled with jealousy. When family members expressed concern, they became small-minded busybodies from whom you needed to isolate yourself. Everyone saw the signs but you.

So it is with the “my pastor syndrome”. My pastor presided over my wedding, buried my mother, prayed over my sick uncle at the hospital, counseled my suicidal daughter, preached a sermon that touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. He is called by God. Don’t tell me he’s doing anything wrong, even if his actions don’t seem to line up with the Bible. He is the chosen shepherd. I can’t see the spiritual vision he sees. So how can I question it?

As you can see, there is a built-in vulnerability to honoring, respecting and being obedient to your pastor. It’s a Godly process that demands trust. It’s a spiritually sound premise, based on (leadership-followship) Bible doctrine … except for one small detail. It is no longer applicable when the pastor goes against the Bible doctrine itself. In other words, when your pastor’s vision leads you to Guyana and forces you to drink poisonous grape Kool-Aid, then all bets are off. Fortunately, there are always signs of an impending breakdown before you get to Guyana. But similar to the love affair with Mr. Right, the congregation tends to look the other way.

“He’s not perfect. He’s just a man” is one of the traditional escape valves that open up inside our infatuated brains to allow the relationship to continue. And although this is very true, it is not intended to justify a pattern of sin or an Enron-type operation that is riddled with deceit and based on a foundation of lies.

Remember David Koresh, charismatic leader of the Branch Davidian religious sect who declared himself the final prophet? Besides the declaration, itself, there were many signs that should have alerted followers of impending doom before the tragic 1993 raid in Waco, Texas by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol that left Koresh, 54 adults and 28 children dead. I don’t know. If my spiritual leader (claiming to be a descendent of King David) could barely finish teaching about martyrdom before he was taking some young teenage girl into the back room, I believe I would’ve found myself another church home.

There are fifteen to twenty red flags that congregations can look for that serve as collective signs of an impending false prophet meltdown. Maybe I’ll write a book about it one day. But for now, I’ll cover only four of them.

The Flash Sermon
The Flash Sermon is a sermon or series of sermons by the pastor or guest ministers who have been invited in by the pastor that attempt to use the Bible as justification for a life of flash. The pastor or his advocates usually say, “God doesn’t want the man of God to walk around in rags. Great men of the Bible wore purple robes. Solomon lived in a palace. The Jewish priests wore garments laced with gold. The man of God should be well taken care of at all times, blessed and doubled blessed.”

Though most of these statements are taken out of context and twisted to justify an extravagant lifestyle ordained by God and paid for by the membership, the basic precept is true. God does not want the man of God walking around in rags. The reason is not for the man of God, but rather, the Kingdom of God, itself. A preacher in bad financial shape, driving an old broken down car, and having to go from house to house to beg for food, is not an effective messenger, especially to the unsaved who are driven by a worldly perspective of success. If a financial advisor pulls into your driveway in an old smoking, beat up Chevy Nova, what can he tell you about investing your money? The truth of the matter is you’d be more inclined to listen to an unsaved Donald Trump.

The problem with this Reverend Ike-type false prophet argument for an extravagant Rolls-Royce, Rolex lifestyle is that the Bible speaks against it. The Bible tells us to live modest lives. It even tells women to dress modestly. So why would the dress code be different for “leaders” of women?

Some devoted pastors don’t take a salary from the church. They don’t need it. Others limit their income to a certain amount to reinforce their own spiritual humility, and give the rest to the poor. But the false prophet has no heart for the poor. He’s in it for himself. Given a choice between driving around in a Forerunner or Expedition and helping someone with a light bill or college tuition, OR driving around in a “flashville” Mercedes or Rolls-Royce and spending that $1500 a month on himself, the false prophet will choose himself every time.

The Lack of Financial Transparency
Most false prophets don’t want YOU in THEIR business (which, in reality, is the church’s business conducted behind closed doors.) A certain hand-picked group has privy to the finances and any questions from you will ruffle feathers. The pastor will tell you the church’s finances are exclusively the responsibility of the deacons or trustees. This is based on a distorted interpretation of I Timothy, 3rd chapter where seven spirit-filled men were called out for service. In other words, he’s saying “stop sowing suspicion and confusion by asking questions about the money.”
If you understand nothing else about this relationship, understand this. The term deacon (diakonos) cognates service or ministration. As a deacon, you are a servant of Christ in service to serve the rest of the body of Christ. So let me ask you a question: Why would God want the servant of Christ to withhold information from his master, the body of Christ? If the master asks the servant a question, what spiritual ordnance is being used to withhold the answer?
While serving as President of the National Baptist Convention, Reverend Henry J. Lyons was indicted by federal prosecutors for fraud, extortion, money laundering, conspiracy and tax evasion, and misappropriating more than $4 million. He was not accountable to anyone. He kept the finances to himself. And get this. As soon as he got out of prison, he assumed the reins of pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa where he drove the church into bankruptcy.

The Church Lady covered this back in July, 2011 when she asked the profound question, “Why do people allow themselves to be bamboozled by sheep in wolves’ clothing?”

It’s because of the “my pastor syndrome”, Church Lady. The person is charismatic and popular and has earned favor with us. So we looked the other way. Like with President Obama and the gay liberation issue. We know what the Bible says about one man lying with another man. But we make a conscious decision to give him a pass and look the other way.

Undiminished Arrogance
In the previous example, notice how Reverend Lyons, upon getting out of prison, thrust himself back into leadership, even having the nerve to run again for President of the National Baptist Convention. Eddie Long acted in a similar fashion after stepping down at New Birth. In a video that went viral on the internet, he was shown being crowned King by special guest, Rabbi Ralph Messer. Word has it he’s back at New Birth, fighting lawsuits over a promissory-note Ponzi scheme he endorsed. I know. It’s hard to believe. But some members say he’s the only pastor they’ve ever known.

When confronted with homosexual assault charges at his mega-church in Houston, Dr. Joe Samuel Ratliff, pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church, defiantly told members of his congregation he only answered to God. They could take it or leave it. Most of the members decided to take it. The case was settled out of court.

The best way to describe this prevailing attitude is “No shame in my game.” Don’t expect to see remorse in the false prophet’s playbook. In fact, expect to hear sermons explaining to the congregation how the man of God is above the law. “Don’t touch thou anointed. That’s God’s job.”
You can do the research. That Old Testament Scripture doesn’t mean that at all, but rather, has to do with the physical harm of Old Testament prophets.

The Endless Pursuit of Bigger Barns

You will find that most false prophets are never happy with the current structure or number of structures under their domain. Even when the congregation is not growing, the pastor will insist the physical building should grow … more sanctuary space, more meeting rooms, a fancier, modernized looked and decor. The drivers for this obligatory growth is both ego and financial gain. The more construction and more money that flows through the system, the greater the opportunity to be enriched by it. There is also a thing called “pastor’s bragging right” in which false prophets get together and compare sizes and numbers and who’s the big dog in town. Is your pastor the big dog in town?

So there you have it. If you’re looking for a church home or feel the need to make a more thorough evaluation of your current church home, these are good indicators of the doom and gloom to come. If you decide to ignore the signs and stick with “Mr. Right”, then please don’t start to whine and cry when your heart is broken because the pastor sold the church from under the congregation. No church is perfect. No pastor is perfect. What you’re looking for are patterns in combination. Too many patterns and you need to be out of the door.

Read more articles by Leander Jackie Groggan

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