Charisma over Character

1 Timothy 1:6-7 “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

There is a growing dilemma in the modern day church that is not is more of a problem than we might assume.

The elevation of people into positions of leadership and influence can occur before they are ready for the scrutiny and necessity of having to uphold a standard of moral conduct which is required for the position.

Charisma is a term that implies a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. People are drawn to charisma, coupled with charm and a message that sounds relevant and you have the making of a movement.

I’ve recently been listening to a podcast called “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill”. The first in a series of podcasts detailing the manner in which a megachurch empire, built on the back of one man, came crumbling down almost overnight when it’s founder Mark Driscoll resigned. The questions posed as to how something like this could happen were answered after a thorough investigation into the manner in which the ministry was built.

Whenever a ‘christian’ ministry is founded on the back of a single man or group of people and not solely on the work of the Spirit of God, then when the fallibility of mankind is exhibited, the support structure begins to erode. In the case of Mark Driscoll, and others who are still in ministry, charisma elevates people into positions that they weren’t prepared to assume.

Stewardship

To be a steward is to manage everything God brings into the believer’s life in a manner that honors God. Remembering the concept that everything belongs to God is essential, particularly when it comes to stewarding a church.

This problem of bad stewardship has existed since the inception of the church. Paul was constantly reaching out to churches and addressing different problems that kept arising. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he gets straight to the point.

1 Timothy 1:3-7 “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

The ephesians were wrestling with myths and genealogies. Today we have more elaborate renditions of fables by people who characterize themselves as prophets and use impassioned pleas for money to help support their ministry.

Driscoll was charged with arrogance, disunity, and other accusations that painted him in the light of someone who considered himself greater than he ought and this diminished Christ before the people.

Listen to Paul’s concern to the philippian church:

Philippians 1:15-17 “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.  The latter do so in love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. The former, however, preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can add to the distress of my chains.”

When love is lacking, there is a place to look for such trouble:

  • Pure Hearts–are ones that are intent with a purpose that glorifies Christ, not themselves. Purity of devotion can only come by way of the Holy Spirit working through the life of a believer.
  • Good Consciences–are held by those who aren’t trying to hide sin. They know the Word of God and they walk in it. When the law of the Lord is broken, they repent and turn quickly, knowing they can’t continue in sin and a relationship with Christ.
  • Sincere Faith–can only be practiced by those who embrace the Truth of the gospel. It’s not easy seeing ourselves under the scrutiny of God’s holiness, but it makes it easier knowing His grace is sufficient.

Selfish Ambition

How can we know if a movement is under bad leadership?

Watch and observe the ambition of the one doing the leading…

Much of the world’s criticism is directed at tv evangelists and pastors who are lining their pockets at unprecedented levels. In a USA today article in 2019, the levels of excess have had dire consequences on the world’s view of christianity.

Kenneth Copeland–his 3 personal jets are deemed necessary for him to do ministry as he flies in and out of his own airport.

Jesse Duplantis–he claims God told him he needs a private jet – specifically, a Falcon 7X, capable of carrying 12 to 16 passengers at speeds up to 700 mph. 

Gloria Copeland–prior to Covid-19, took scripture out of context when she said that “We don’t have a flu season,” she said. “And don’t receive it when somebody’s threatening you with ‘Everybody’s getting the flu.’ We’ve already had our shot. He bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases.”

Pat Robertson–called Alabama’s abortion ban “extreme” and “ill-considered” on The 700 Club – though he has been a vocal opponent of abortion in the past. He likewise has come under fire for supporting an evolutionary model for creation.

Joel Osteen–lives in a 10.5 million dollar estate, and came under fire recently for his purchase of a new Ferrari. When his church turned away people during hurricane Harvey, his 50 million net worth demonstrated an attitude of hedonism, not love.

John Gray–South Carolina megachurch pastor John Gray gave his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini SUV for their eighth anniversary in 2018. A flood of negative responses followed.

Some criticism of pastors can be expected when they stand for morality, biblical marriage, or talk about the signs of evil in this world or signs of the times.

It’s quite another when a pastor makes a prophetic announcement that is proven to be false or proclaims a hope that the gospel might reach the world, when so many christians around the world can’t even afford a Bible.

Beware of these false teachers and false prophets, when their church collapses or they’re arrested like Jim and Tammie Baker were in the 1980’s, many have lost their faith then and many will fall today.

Be on Guard

When false teachers arise, the destruction in their wake is often under reported. A majority of people who have rejected any notion of faith in God have had bad experiences with false christianity. The Galatian church was also under threat:

Galatians 1:6-7 “I am amazed how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.”

What should be equally as concerning is if you are ever given an opportunity for leadership, take into consideration whether you have the character for the position. It’s common for leaders to want to elevate a person who shows a passion for the gospel. I encourage you to be very honest with those who are overseer’s, allow accountability into your life, and safeguard yourself in wisdom against temptation.

Don’t allow yourself to fall into the same trap as many of these men and women have fallen, desiring riches and fame at the expense of the church.

We have many examples of good godly men and women who have been faithful and honest in their lives and ministry. Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Jack Graham, and many local pastors who serve their congregations faithfully.

Be real about your faith, be honest about where you are in spiritual maturity, and allow your walk to be one that glorifies Christ in all you do. The closer you walk in the Spirit, the more discerning you’ll be about bad spiritual leadership and you’ll know how to avoid it.

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