I have been recently involved with leaders from around the world to produce a statement on integrity for five-fold and charismatic ministry leaders. It is gaining great traction. We have great hope, but it raises a large question for me. Why does it seem that charismatic leaders are so lacking in integrity, including prophetic statements that do not come true with no repentance, financial mismanagement, supporting power ministers who are not sufficiently vetted, and then fall into sin, bizarre practices and amazingly weak approaches to interpreting the Bible? What goes on under the name of spiritual warfare sometimes seems more like wishful thinking and magic than biblical faith.
I first want to say is that I don’t think it is true that most charismatics, and I include Pentecostals, lack integrity. We get this impression due to some people who have large platforms, either a large church from which they become famous, or have a large traveling ministry and platform with today’s great media presence. Many pastors of large churches are not well known nationally or internationally. However, I know many leaders in church streams and denominations with great integrity and who have built very good structures for integrity. When such people show a lack of integrity, we get the impression that they are the charismatic world. Here are some reasons as to why this integrity gap takes place.
- The rejection of denominational structures often came without a commitment to learn from the integrity standards and processes of the denominations. There was disrespect or dishonoring. This is one reason why Pentecostal leaders tend to do better than their fellow charismatic leaders, but again, I can name many such leaders of very good streams.
- There is a lack of leadership discipleship into the best practices for integrity. This includes being very clear on maintaining biblical standards for leadership as in I Tim. 3 and Titus 1.
- There is a lack of education in biblical hermeneutics (interpretation) and how the whole Bible is our authority and is to be applied. There is an amazing level of interpretive error on the issue of the authority of the Hebrew Bible. Preachers and teachers speak of Jesus as their key to understanding, and then from this understanding, the parts of the Bible that do not fit are canceled out. Of course, this is not really Jesus but their idea of a very indulgent Jesus. The second issue is that leaders are not trained on how to build doctrine on a contextual interpretation that gives authority to the whole Bible. Craig Keener’s book Spirit Hermeneutics could be a great answer. Keener shows how the Holy Spirit can speak all kinds of things from biblical texts, but that the meaning of the text is contextual meaning and we can only build doctrine on that basis.
- One of the biggest issues is the desire of charismatics to see the power of God. Many will say that the fruit of the Spirit is more important than the gifts, and that character is more important than power. However, the desire for revival and power is so great that when a minister who shows something of the power falls morally or ethically, there is an unwillingness to deal with it due to a fear of undercutting the power of God. I think this was a big part of the Todd Bentley phenomena. Yet, deal with it we must, or great ruin will follow. We need to remember that the great revivals were revivals of holiness, characterized by deep repentance form sin. Power and holiness must come together for deep revival. Let us not be take away from integrity due to miracles or suspend our judgment. The miracle may be due to the faith receptivity of the recipient and the mercy of God and not the power minister who is in sin. Discipline must never suspened due to manifestations of power. My book Due Process, A Plea for Biblical Justice Among God’s People, deals with these issues.