05.23.14

Same Ol’ Game, Different Playas

How can you tell a sheep from a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

By what they eat. Sheep eat grass. Wolves in sheep’s clothing will sooner or later eat sheep.

False teachers aren’t that novel. They don’t devise new schemes and plans. They pretty much run the same play over and over again. In the end, they make a grab for power, money, and sex. Sooner or later they’ll eat the sheep. Peter peeped their hole card over 2,000 years ago:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” ()

Isaac, who serves as the editor of The Front Porch, sent us this news segment on “Sweet Daddy Bailey,” leader of the House of Prayer for All Nations, a cultic group with a temple in most major cities in the country. Thought the segment is on Bailey, it struck me that you could substitute Bailey with the name of a number of well-known, often-respected prosperity and word-faith preachers in the church today. Watch the video and tell me if this couldn’t just as easily be a profile of this or that prosperity preacher.

(You can also watch the video here).

Here’s the thing: nearly all of us will recognize the cultic aspects of Sweet Daddy Bailey and the House of Prayer for All Nations. But will we recognize the same dynamics, practices and teaching at work in more popular and more mainstream ministers and ministries? Can we say, “If it gets carried on a throne like a duck, rides in a Maybach like a duck, lives in a mansion like a duck, and takes money hand over a fist like a duck… then it’s a false teacher?” Has the discernment of the church sank so low that it cannot say such a simple thing?

I’ve been in a number of conversations over the years with fellow pastors who are quick to defend men who, to me, look a whole lot like “Sweet Daddy Bailey.” They quibble over this or that point of teaching, and they speak of the man’s humility and kindness—as though charismatic cult leaders are not, well, charismatic. They have called for patience, building relationships, reaching out, assuming the best, and assuming that the false teacher doesn’t know any better. “Maybe if someone would explain these issues,” they say. Sometimes these fellow pastors, otherwise faithful men in their own ministries, treat the whistleblower as the real problem, disrupting the unity of the church and creating a climate of criticism rather than grace.

While “shepherds” stand by silently, wishing to be regarded as “nice guys,” the wolves freely feed on the sheep.

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (ESV)

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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