There has been a lot of internal discussion and debate in Christian circles lately about biblical discernment and discernment ministries in particular. At this time, social media and individual ministries are rife with opinions about all matters discernment as it pertains to the Christian life. This is an issue of biblical importance and as such we will devote this article to its defense and square in on discernment ministry and love for the brethren.
Before we dig deeper into the current debate swirling around regarding discernment ministries and their validity, I want to address the meaning of the word discernment in its biblical context. Discernment, as it is referenced in the Bible, is from the two Greek words anakrino, meaning to judge closely and diakrino, meaning to separate out or examine. The term discernment is used directly numerous times in the Bible and the implementation of discernment is intrinsically woven throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Moreover, the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned are given to build up the church. Since we understand that the gift of discerning spirits is from the Holy Spirit, we can go forward with the full biblical assurance that discernment is not only applicable in everyday ministry to build up the body of Christ, it is also a spiritual necessity.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
In the past few months or so, I have viewed a number of videos and articles that are adamantly opposed to discernment ministries. Some of the opinions being voiced about discernment and discernment ministries, in particular, are so vitriolic in nature that they seem to have a singular goal which is to cause an unhealthy division in the body of Christ. In praying, studying, and thinking about the motivation behind such attacks on other ministries, I believe they are rooted in jealousy, strife, and envy. In one particularly troubling article written by Randy White, discernment ministries are labeled as “internally sick.” The article goes on to say that discernment ministries aren’t giving us the real thing that will stem the tide. Randy White believes that these ministries lack the one thing that is needed to counter heresy and that is Bible study. While Bible study is certainly a bulwark against false doctrine, a lack of sound exegesis only fosters cut & paste theology.
To be fair, Randy White does rightly state that we are in an era when discernment is sorely lacking and there only a few things the church needs more today than discernment and I couldn’t agree more, but then goes on to level the indictment that discernment ministries are singularly focussed on bringing forth the new heretic of the week. It’s true that there is a growing number of self-appointed watchmen who only go around looking to stir up controversy to gain followers through sensationalism and constantly launching attacks on other ministries while doing nothing in the way of practical ministry to build up the body of Christ. These ministries will ultimately fail because they are self-honoring, not Christ honoring. Unfortunately Mr. White uses a broad brush stroke when he wrongly lumps biblically solid ministries that are active in the area of discernment together with those self-appointed watchmen who feed a constant diet of sensationalism to their followers.
This article is based on the false presupposition that certain ministries exist for the sole purpose of calling people out. He encourages people who read or listen to these ministries to move on and tells those of us who are active in discernment to morph our efforts into Bible study ministry. Here is a particularly disturbing quote from Randy White’s article:
“In the past few years, a new form of ministry has emerged called discernment ministry. Make no mistake, it has become a big business, providing the livelihood for many men and women who are making their living as the world’s theological police.” -Randy White
It is divisive to label these ministries part of a big discernment business because many of them are active in numerous areas as it pertains to God’s work among the saved and unsaved. These ministries exist as a glaring example of what sound biblical ministry should be. Solid end-time prophecy ministries build up the Church and stand diametrically opposed to the big business Bible prophecy conglomerate we see today along with its blood moon hype artistry, sensationalism, large stipends for conference speakers, and divisiveness via eschatological sectarianism. If you are walking in the Spirit it will be clear regarding those who are in ministry for God’s glory and those in ministry for personal gain and celebrity status.
I personally know of numerous ministries who aren’t in this vocation for the money. Several of the Bible teachers and ministers I have in mind don’t charge anything to attend prophecy conferences or meetings they are a part of. These are ministers who build homes in Kenya for widows and orphans. They minister in garbage dumps in the Philippines, bring the hope of Jesus to Thailand, and spread the gospel in some of the darkest areas of the world. Most of them that are active in the area of discernment do so to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. These ministries are not the vitriolic heresy hunters some make them out to be.
Here is a link to Randy White’s article called: The Sickness in Discernment Ministries https://randywhiteministries.org/articles/sickness-discernment-ministries/
We have people in the emergent church crowd like Mark Driscoll who not only dismiss discernment and Bible prophecy ministries, they ridicule them. They take important matters like end-time prophecy and discernment and mock them. The Bible is replete with verses dealing with the end-times and discernment, but that doesn’t stop these men from mocking the very things the New Testament mentions repeatedly. Here’s a link to a video featuring commentary by Mark Driscoll mocking discernment ministry and Bible prophecy.
I don’t have anything personal against Randy White, Mark Driscoll, or others and I’m certainly not attacking these men as individuals. What I’m calling into question here is the motive that would cause them to impune other ministries that are active in the area of discernment and label them as sick, unholy, or unhelpful. That is unfortunate because many solid ministries have what I will call several ministries within the scope of the primary ministry.
Mark Driscoll, Randy White, and others may discount the importance of discernment ministry in the body of Christ, but in order to do so, they must ignore numerous verses to the contrary. A true minister, Bible teacher, pastor, or evangelist who is called of God doesn’t go around looking for other ministries to pounce on. These godly servants are not into personal attacks and when issues like this arise, they openly state that they are not judging personal sin or the individual lives of these men. What is being spiritually discerned is the teaching, preaching, and writing these men are supposedly doing in the name of the Lord. To break it down to the ridiculous, it comes down to what they are feeding the sheep. If a person is teaching something that is an aberration of the truth found in the word of God, they should be held accountable. Moreover, Christians should be warned about such false teachers who will certainly cause people to stumble.
Ephesians 5:8-11 Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
John 10:12-13 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
That brings me to the primary reason for ministries being active in the area of discernment. When godly ministers call false teachers and teaching into question and refute unbiblical nonsense with solid exegetical preaching, it is because of the love for the brethren, the Bible, and the Lord this is done. If a man is a true shepherd, he will protect the flock. Far from being big business, I find that a majority of the time the men who care enough to warn believers about the dangers of false teaching are not in this for the money or fame, but for the glory of God and love for other Christians. I understand that this bold contending for the faith isn’t popular in our day of ear-tickling, me-centered, numbers coveting preaching, but eternity will show it was the biblical thing to do. So you may say, “This seems a bit harsh, so what does love have to do with discernment and exposing false doctrine Howard?” Paul sums it up succinctly when he writes to the church in Philippi.
Philippians 1:8-11 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
As shepherds, we are to equip the saints for works of ministry and build up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. While the discerning of spirits isn’t singularly the most important gift of the Spirit, we can see from scripture that it is absolutely necessary to promote the unity of the faith, knowledge of the Son of God, and protect the flock from the spiritual deception mentioned by Paul. Here are just a few examples of the importance of discernment the Bible gives:
Hosea 14:9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
I want to speak the truth in love in the hope of promoting sound doctrine and desiring true unity among Christians. As I stated before, it is a true shepherd that protects the flock, while the hireling is only in ministry for personal gain. I would encourage every reader to seek the Lord regarding the absolute biblical importance of discernment. As believers, we need discernment even more as spiritual deception is on the rise in these last days. I want to encourage fellow Bible teachers to keep contending for the faith in the midst of rampant departure from sound doctrine. I pray for God’s blessing as we consider discernment ministry and love for the brethren.
Please click here to access our links page which includes many excellent ministries who are active in areas of solid Bible teaching and discernment.
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All for Him,