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A Word about Judgment…

The mistaken attitude that we have no business judging other believers is so pervasive – especially in the Charismatic and Pentecostal wing of the church – that I think it’s time to re-consider what it really means. The scripture from Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge” has been so misunderstood – particularly as it relates to Christians in the media, I think we need to re-examine it. Did Jesus really mean that we should never judge others?

It’s interesting that when you examine the scriptures related to judgment, it’s not just the act of judging that Jesus is talking about as much as our attitude while doing it. After all, common sense tells us that making judgments is an important part of life and we’re required to do it on a daily basis. Who we let our children play with, what church to attend, where we work, who we associate with, how we spend our time, are all judgments, and if we didn’t make them, the quality of our lives would be poor indeed.

In a fallen and sinful world, people must be held accountable. Today the culture tries to convince us that tolerance is the highest virtue. Who are you to judge? is the rallying cry of deviant behavior, heretical teaching, and immoral living. There’s nothing the enemy would love more than if we as believers gave up calling sinners to repentance, and what would our society become if we stopped evaluating student performance, calling failed leaders into account, or arresting criminals? Without proper criticism and judgment, living in real community would become impossible.

Not only do we have to judge, but we are called to judge, and in today’s society, we need to be more vigilant about judgment than ever. The question becomes, how do we judge like Jesus would, and how can we be sure that love, repentance, and restoration are the principles that we use in making our decisions?

First, anyone can have an opinion, but true judgment happens after serious examination, reflection, and consultation with the scripture. We can’t be frivolous, especially when dealing with an alleged sin of a pastor or Christian leader, but if we follow scripture and investigate properly, we can arrive at a proper decision. Paul’s writings to Timothy and also the church in Corinth are virtual manuals about judgment and correction within the context of the Church.

Second, lose the beam. When Jesus taught in Matthew 7:3-5, he was speaking in the context of a hypocritical religious system that said one thing and did another. The Pharisees couldn’t see clearly because of their own sin, and yet felt perfectly free to judge and condemn others. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we have to be absolutely perfect in word and deed before we can practice discernment, but if we point the finger at someone else, we need to be living right before God and have a clean conscience.

Third, judging actions and judging people are dramatically different issues. There’s never a place for gossip or personal attacks in the Church, but serious discernment on issues of doctrine, performance, quality, professionalism, stewardship, and skill are absolutely necessary. We can love a pastor or media leader, but when their lifestyle becomes abusive or their teaching aberrant, it’s critical for the life of the Church that they be held accountable. Likewise, when a Christian employee does a poor job at work, they need to be disciplined. It’s not about them personally, it’s about their performance and the impact it’s having on others.

This may be my single greatest issue with the hesitation to judge today. Evaluating a person is a grave and serious matter. However, it’s of utmost importance that we judge the quality of our work, whether it be our teaching ability, people skills, preaching, or whatever. If we’re ever going to raise the bar in the effectiveness of our ministries, we need the ability to evaluate the quality and worth of the work we do. When God spoke to Solomon to build his temple, he didn’t hire good-hearted losers. He hired the best craftsmen and artists in the land.

The gospel deserves no less than excellence. Just as Olympic judges determine the excellence of athletes, we need to call believers to excellence in the Christian community. A hopeful Christian movie producer may have all the right intentions and motives in producing a movie, but if his skill is lacking, and the film is poorly made, what does that say to the culture about our stewardship of finances, or the botched presentation of the gospel? Are we happy to sit back and watch other Christians damage our witness to the culture by producing lousy movies, or should we call them to a higher standard?

Recently, a major movie critic reviewed a new Christian film that he called, “…sadly and typically, another badly produced, over-acted, syrupy, spiritually themed movie.” The reviewer had no problem with the Christian content – just the execution. That’s the way the world looks at our work, because we’ve refused to hold Christian producers to a higher level of quality.

Recently, I spoke to a member of a mega-church in the South where the pastor had divorced his wife, but never missed a day in the pulpit. The church member defended the pastor comparing him to King David, who he pointed out had sinned, but God forgave him and didn’t require that he step down as King. I reminded him that David was the political leader of his time, not the spiritual leader. The pastor in this instance could be better compared to Samuel – Israel’s spiritual leader of the time, and the scriptures require that we hold spiritual leaders to even higher accountability and responsibility. (I also encouraged him to read a little further and see the staggering consequences of David’s sin.)

Remember that even after the salvation experience, we still are all fallen creatures, and without discipline and work, our natural tendency is often to take the easy way out. Today, there is gross negligence and incompetence in numerous churches and ministries, and regardless of the intentions of the leaders, it’s hurting our witness before the world, and damaging our credibility in the culture. As a church, we need to rise up, and stop our giving, write letters, and call these leaders into account.

The truth is, the Church today has it backwards. We spend too much time criticizing the outside culture, and not enough time criticizing the Church. Paul wrote in First Corinthians 5:13, “God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.” And yet today, churches and ministries raise millions to boycott and protest network television, secular movies, and mainstream culture, and all the while, we’re dropping the ball when it comes to keeping our own house clean.

If we can’t have a conversation within the church about religious movies that fail, books that miss the mark, ministries that are ineffective, or pastors who fall short, then our future will be a long slide into oblivion. But if we can humble ourselves, pray that God gives us discernment, and always keep the goal of correction and restoration in mind, then we should feel free to seek the truth in all things.

It never hurts to keep in mind that our ability to judge is always limited, and one day, we’ll all stand on level ground before the ultimate Judge. But until that time, I hope we will stop being afraid, and continue calling each other to task for our many failures and shortcomings, so that we can, as Paul said, “…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

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  1. Thank you so much for this recent post.  I have struggle with this issue greatly.  I have watched Paula's show for well over a year now.  Although recently have backed away due the same topic repeated over and over.  I guess my question is – WHY IS NO ONE SAYING ANYTHING OR GIVING SOME EXPLANATION?  I have checked Paula's and Without Wall's website and there are no comments at all.  

    I recall Pastor Ted Haggard's situation and do remember some leaders from his church and other organizations stepping up to the plate and investigating the wrong doing.  I have sat here all weekend wondering "Who is going to say this is unacceptable behavior?"  Will the major networks still keep her show? Will his or her spirtual father's say anything?  Did anyone see any of this coming?   Did any of the other leaders know about their questionable behavior before airing them on TV?  Should the Christian networks be somewhat responsible for airing people that they may know are having problems in their ministry.  I know it is my responsibility to find out who I watch but it takes some time for the public to get information. Is this a cover up?  Seems like I had to read this sad information from a secular newspaper to know what kind of people we may be dealing with.  

    I feel so silly for listening to her.  I watched a fund raising telethon on Daystar a couple of months back and pledged to give Daystar 54.00 a month in faith encouraged  by Paula's preaching on Isiah 54 .  Anyhow, I trusted Daystar and Paula.  Now I feel like an idiot.  I guess what I am asking are any our Christian leaders going to condone this behavior? Will anyone  check into what is really going on in this situation?   I honestly have enjoyed much of Paula's teaching, but now reading so much about their finacial dealings and the innapropriate behavior I just don't see how they can continue ministering to people.  

    I do believe in forgiveness but has anyone said they are sorry? 

  2. Great Observations Phil.

    Your comment "…but serious discernment on issues of doctrine, performance, quality, professionalism, stewardship, and skill are absolutely necessary." is a clarion call to believers everywhere. Get your head out of the paper bag.<p>

    This is a call to all believers to examine their attitude toward "judging".

    I trust that many in the "discernment" ministries AND their CRITICS take your comment "…if we can humble ourselves, pray that God gives us discernment, and always keep the goal of correction and restoration in mind, then we should feel free to seek the truth in all things." to heart.

    We need discernment with GRACE and HUMILITY that leads to correction and restoration.

    Your entry should be quoted and referred to by thinking bloggers everywhere.




  3. Dr. Cooke, this was an important and timely essay. I think the structures of many churches in the American Evangelical and P/C movements are flawed. Where is the accountability in independent non-denominational churches? Who can hold pastors accountable for their actions and teaching if they are aberrant? I love Paula and Randy White. I think they are good well meaning people. However I stopped watching Paula's television ministry due to her superfluous focus on prosperity (extracted from the context of Scriptural balance with social responsibility and humility). I pray that these to Christian leaders will remove themselves from their position and spend some time with the Lord to refocus on Him and His Kingdom no matter how long it takes. God Bless you.

  4. Everyone keeps asking who is responsible for correcting or disciplining leaders…. When was the last time someone corrected you?!?! I think that Paula and Randy as we all are…are accountable to God…There will come a day for all of us to see if whether our works will stand the fire to go on to be rewarded. As for the sinner he will stand before the great white throne.

    The bible tells us that if we see a brother that is overtaken in sin, then we who are spiritual should restore. Do we not all have the ministry of reconciliation?!?!? At the same time…Yes Leaders are held accountable to the people they lead.

     And to the concerned individual…do you not know that God can use a preacher to save you…and that preacher be a cast away him/herself. We must all work out our OWN salvation in fear and trembling…Let the Word of GOD be truth and every man a liar. To all study…to show thyself approved…a workman needeth not be ashamed; but able to rightly divide the Word of truth.

    Let us Pray that the mission statement of Paula White's Ministry has it's work in her personal life right now. PROVERBS 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again!!!! Halelujah JESUS!!!

  5. This is a great article.  I hope that people will understand that while Pastor Paula and Randy are accountable to God, they are also accountable to the body of Christ.  Your clear explanation of what the Bible says about our responsibility to judge rightly is right on target.

     Keep up the good work!

    God Bless!

  6. In 1988 Jimmy Swaggart was found out to have some secret sins (as we all know) that came to light in the national media. He was asked by his denomination – the Assemblies of God – to step down for awhile and go through a 2 year restoration process. He declined, instead taking his A/G church in Baton Rouge independent with his remaining in the pulpit and on tv to this day. His ordained ministerial license was pulled, and because he refused oversight ("who can counsel Jimmy Swaggart?"), he was on his own, by HIS choice. His worldwide ministry – which at that time was fiery & dynamic –  was never the same. Perhaps it was greed (the need to feed the money machine) or arrogance (remaining in the spotlight of fame) that steered his compass. Hard to say. Many church leaders I know have said had Swaggart stepped away for two years, gone off the air, truly humbled himself before not only God, but the oversight of dedicated ministry leaders, and gotten his life, ministry and marriage together, that God would have restored him, giving him a fresh ministry, creating a new purpose and vision. God often does his best molding after he's thrown us in the fire (or we've thrown ourselves in). This could happen for Randy & Paula White. In the midst of a public divorce, they could be restored, mistakes and all. But do they want that? Are they willing to place board members and leaders above them who will make them truly accountable, permitted to measure their lives and sit them down for awhile? Or will Randy & Paula continue flying coast to coast in their perceived busy-ness of ministry and tv appearances? The fast lane of life goes really fast, especially on the autobahn of tv ministry and speaking engagements. Sometimes it's best to pull off the road at a rest stop and catch your breath. Randy & Paula, this might be that time to pull over. Not just for a minute. But for awhile.



  9. Like charity, I believe judgment begins at home. 

    It's all well and good to judge ministries from afar – loads of fun, in fact – I do it all the time, on-line and off.  But it's not terribly fruitful; I don't think that what I post here (for example) has found its way to or influenced the behavior of any of the "ministers" in question, so it's all pretty much just an exercise in circle-jerkdom.  Ultimately, the Christian faith is lived in the local community – the local fellowship – the immediate family.  How do we support our churches?  How do we love our spouses? 

    I try to use these issues as a jumping off point to discuss the underlying issues that might matter to my fellow readers/posters, which is ultimately the value of blogs – the personal communication, not the widespread media saturation.  How many people will read these words?  Dozens?  Hundreds?  How will these words influence all of you?  Can I encourage you?  Challenge you? 

    And most importantly, can someone explain to me how the post that inspired this post (the Randy and Paula White one) could have set a philcooke record without a single contribution from moi?!  That just ain't right! <g>

  10. Let me start by that I was on staff at WWIC and PWM just over a year and a half ago for almost four years, and I volunteered for almost three years prior to that. 


    Almost six months prior to me leaving I felt the call of God to go, but I was told that change was on the way, and change was and God opened the door for me to leave six months later.  For the past year and a half I haven’t had a consistent home church (some may say that I have backslide, but I have attended a Bible Study that has really made me look at my walk with God so I personally don’t believe this to be true). 


    What I have found in the past year and a half is that it is not about a pastor and me (if you really think about it most parishioners really don’t know their pastor except for what they see and what they are preached to on Sunday or at a mid-week service – especially at a church with a large congregation).  It is about me and God and only me and God.


    I was allowed many opportunities when I was at WWIC and PWM and have done many things and gone many places that I may never have been able to do, but that was because God had me in a season, and now I am in a different season.  I have received calls from the newspaper and from people who would like to see everything fall to tell them what I had seen and heard (and I was closer than many when I was on staff), but I haven’t because that is not what I am to do. The most important thing for me is listening to God and what He says for me to do, not to dish out anything about Randy, Paula, WWIC or PWM – other people are doing a pretty good job of that.


    Why then am I writing this?  I am writing because I had stayed away from the blogs until the past few days and I am interested in what people are saying, and because Phil allows educated bogging as opposed to some of the other bogs I have recently seen.


    God will take care of Randy and Paula they way He wants to.   He will heal Kristen (Randy’s daughter) if He wants to – which I pray that it is His wish because she is a wonderful person and a great mother.  He will direct the steps of Bishop Weeks and Juanita Bynum.  We must all remember the most important person in all of this is God.


    I have sent this to friends to read and I have sent it to people that I know on staff at the church, because I’m not going to hide behind anything or anyone because as we were taught at the church, “God will bring out all your stuff.”  And so many are talking about accountability and that too has always been important to me to the best of my abilities.


    I think that this situation is unfortunate, but has anyone noticed that it has opened lines of communications and discussions and I pray that when all is said and done that each of you who read these blogs or write in these blogs will be stronger in YOUR walk with God, and remember that we are all walking at a different pace.  So why can’t we just let God be in control?  And remember Matthew 6:9-13 – it’s the prayer the Jesus told His disciples to pray and still today that prayer covers everything in our day:  forgiveness, debts and debtors, temptation, and evil.  But most importantly it Praises God – and how simple is that!


    I thank God for everything He has allowed me to do.  And I thank him even more for letting me walk through all that I have walked through and seeing all that I have seen because it has drawn me closer to Him instead of farther away (which I could have easily done) and to me in the end that is the only thing that matters. 


    Anyone who has a concern about what is going on recently with women in the ministry (we are focusing on Paula and Juanita but remember that this year we lost two incredible warriors in Ruth Graham and Tammy Faye Messer) remember that we can look, we can judge, and in the end we should turn to our Lord and Savior because when each of us stands before Him in Heaven we will be responsible for our own actions and for what we have chosen to do with what He has given us (good, bad or ugly).


    Charlene Beverly

  11. Well put Charlene, excellently well put.

    Go down if you want to go up; Die if you want to live; Be tough on life before it’s tough on you; Prepare to suffer; Make pleasure a transition not an address; Complacency is a convenient killer; Truth is a bitter pill that leaves a sweet aftertaste.

  12. It is sad, once again, to see a slew of Christian leaders being destroyed before our eyes.  In fact, many will be hurt and some will leave the faith because of this.  I am not blaming anyone, but we must ask ourselves, when will the church grow up and be a bride that is spotless?  is the church today, the 5 virgins without oil?  When do we get back to the simple preaching of the gospel and turn away form media driven ministries?  When will the average Christian stop being sucked into the media ministries with the glitz and glamor with the promise of getting rich by giving to them? 

    The list of failed ministers and ministries goes on and on.  We as Christians must realize that God is more concerned about souls and His people.  So much on tv is about MONEY!  It must stop!!!!!!!  There is no real balance in the teachings on Christian tv as well as many of our churches.  The shallowness and lack of knowledge is killing us as well as this society. 

    I pray that the church finally wakes up and we become the body that we are meant to be.

  13. You are very wrong. Paula is a very busy woman and a woman of integrity. She keeps her focus on the gospel, Randy and others run the admin. Don't forget she is a woman and she keeps her place and not put her nose in everything. This is not to say Bishop Randy would do anything shady but it is very busy in ministry and you might not get evrything done exactly when you want it. The bigger the ministry the more to do .It takes only a minister to understand this. I am a Pastor and i know what i go through trying to keep up with everything. For those of you who criticise it's like watching a game from the outside it's so easy to play from the sidelines.Besides, what you read in the newspaper or even how a member perceives a situation is not always how it is and that is hard for men of God to explain in the media. The media is always about sensatyionalizing the story for their own gain so any wise man or woman of God would rather leave them to run their mouths and just let it pass. I hope the body of Christ would grow up.

  14. Lara, have you been there, in the inner circles?  I have.  Yes, she is busy, but she has her hands on the business on a daily basis.  Randy pops in often enough just to mess things up and make it more difficult for her to succeed.  The staff is filled with people who are well meaning but unskilled (except for a few).  This couple is highly damaged in their spirit, their emotion and of course their marriage.

    Big money will not allow them to stop and heal.  I feel sorry for them both.  I feel sorrier for those they are "ministering" to.  The blind can not lead the blind.

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