I’ve just spent two weeks in South America, where the Holy Spirit is moving in unprecedented ways. Churches are growing and average Christians are sharing their faith passionately. One recent Pew Research study showed that 1 in 5 Latin Americans now identifies as an evangelical Christian—and a majority of these are Pentecostals.
But this growth is not without problems. While there are certainly many healthy Christian movements in the region, other churches are suffering from a lack of trained leadership. And untrained, untested leaders often result in spiritual abuse, false doctrines and financial corruption.
I’ve become more concerned lately with leaders who declare themselves “apostles” when they have no business wearing that label. I believe true apostolic leadership is needed today, but a small army of imposters is threatening to damage the work of God. It is time to heed the apostle Paul, who warned of “false apostles” and “deceitful workers” who were “disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13).
Discerning the difference between a true and false apostle is not complicated. Since Scripture clearly tells us that Paul is our apostolic model (see 1 Cor. 4:16), we can use his surrendered life as our standard. Here are six signs that a man or woman who claims apostolic leadership is actually a dangerous influence in the church.
1. A toxic “apostle” requires the title. One popular television preacher in the United States typically sends a letter to his hosts before any preaching engagement and specifies that his name must be preceded by the “apostle” title. Compare that arrogant attitude with the humility of Paul, who referred to himself as the chief of sinners (see 1 Tim. 1:15). If a man requires people to elevate him to an elite status, you can be sure he has a serious character flaw.
2. A toxic “apostle” carries an aura of self-importance. In some churches I have visited in Africa, the “man of God” waits until after worship to enter the auditorium—and then he is followed by an entourage. Someone carries his Bible, another carries his handkerchief, someone else carries his water bottle and another brings his iPad. This spectacle is designed to impress people—but it is all just religious theater. It is an offense to God. You can be certain that a man with this much pride will soon fall.
3. A toxic “apostle” is inaccessible. One pastor I know in a Latin American country belongs to a network of churches ruled by powerful preacher. But when I asked my friend if he gets advice or mentoring from this leader, the answer was no. The “apostle” does not offer counsel, training or personal interaction of any kind to the leaders in his group. He simply steps into his pulpit to preach and then vanishes.
The apostle Paul’s style was totally the opposite. Rather than being aloof and impersonal, Paul spent time with those he was mentoring. He told the Thessalonians: “So having great love toward you, we were willing to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you were dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). If an “apostle” cannot get on the same level with people and interact with them, he is in the wrong profession.
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SOURCE: Charisma News
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression. Author of several books including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, he has just released his newest book, Set My Heart on Fire, from Charisma House. You can follow him on Twitter at @LeeGrady or go to his website, themordecaiproject.org.