(OPINION) Charisma – A desperate friend recently contacted me because he was worried that his son might be under the influence of a Christian ministry with questionable doctrines. The leader of the ministry preaches that any church that doesn’t experience regular healings isn’t following the true Jesus—and he suggests that only his small congregation has an inside track with God.


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Thankfully, my friend’s son discerned something was off track. Satan loves to pull Christians into unhealthy extremes. And immature Christian leaders sometimes allow youthful pride, greed or insecurity to suck them into toxic spirituality. The result is always a trail of wounded people. In my years of ministry, I’ve learned there are several clear signs that a ministry has veered away from the truth and into deception. Here are the most obvious:

1. Lack of spiritual accountability. Healthy leaders know they need to surround themselves with mentors and advisers who can question them if they step out of line. Proverbs 11:14 says: “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” But if you are following a teacher, prophet or apostle who has not submitted himself to any form of accountability, you are asking for trouble. Never align yourself with a Lone Ranger, no matter how fiery his sermons are. He will likely lead you off a cliff.

2. Overemphasis on money. You’d think we would have learned this by now after so many American charlatans have conned people out of their life savings to build their mansions. But the charismatic church today is still vulnerable to the extremes of financial shenanigans.

Godly leaders always call people to fund the work of the church and gospel outreach; unhealthy leaders, on the contrary, manipulate people in order to line their own pockets. Don’t be charmed when a preacher makes outlandish promises about what will happen if you give to him.

3. An elitist attitude. All believers in Jesus are part of the body of Christ. Yet Christians who experience certain gifts or manifestations of the Holy Spirit are sometimes tempted to think they are superior. If they aren’t careful, this subtle spiritual pride can morph into a dangerous elitism.

Suddenly they are God’s favorites, with special access to a revelation that no one else knows and authority that no one else has. Some ministries today claim to have inside information about end-times prophecy and the return of Jesus.

In some cases, they convince people to store up food and even guns to prepare for Armageddon. Back in the 1980s, a preacher named Charles Meade convinced many people to follow him to Florida, where his church taught that only those who aligned themselves with Meade’s group would survive the last days. Don’t let anyone suck you into this kind of cultic mindset. CONTINUE

Charisma is a monthly Christian magazine based in Lake Mary, Florida, a suburb of Orlando. It is aimed at Pentecostals and charismatics.