The Circular Firing Line of Discernment Ministry
Discernment ministries often (but not always) have an unhealthy desire to castigate other discernment ministries out of jealousy or envy. It’s a pretty stupid thing to be jealous about, and such unhealthy competition makes us all look petty and ridiculous.
Yesterday I saw an aspiring discernment minister critique Tim Hurd and I over a controversy surrounding the charismatic charlatan, ‘Knock’em Down Michael Brown,’ which originally took place years ago. Imagine that. After all this time, here comes a want-to-be discernment apprentice who’s still piggy-backing on the controversy of others to make a name for themselves (we call this “drafting” in discernment-speak). I’m sure the fact he has Michael Brown scheduled to come on his podcast had nothing to do with his resurrection of the controversy and his sudden defense of the scoundrel (that’s sarcasm, in case you can’t tell).
Then, there’s the whole gaggle of ‘discernment gals’ who endlessly hen-peck every female editor or colleague that Pulpit & Pen has ever had. And by that I mean incessant, bullying, gossipy chatter meant to “Mean Girl” them away from working for our ministry. Women can be vicious. For whatever reason, these discernment gals – who have an accumulative monthly blog readership equal to a single half-day of Pulpit & Pen’s – consider themselves the gatekeepers for Beth Moore criticism (a strange thing to be a gatekeeper of, indeed). Fancying themselves as ‘experts’ on Beth Moore, most of them are still catching up to where P&P was in 2010, bless their hearts.
Ironically, at least one of those discernment gals first distanced herself from P&P over the original KSP disputes of 2015. She was on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of that argument (she sided with Landon Chapman, who insisted KSP was totes conservative), but it doesn’t prevent her from having (and keeping) a grudge. Back then, she insisted we were too mean. Now, she should be willing to swallow her pride and admit we were right. But she and her discernment gal sidekicks continue to eagerly scour our blog and Twitter feed for any indication we’re not being nice enough to whoever they’ll get around to figuring out is dangerous at some point in 2022. Again, bless their hearts.
And then there are the more-famous discernment guys who send me texts and give me calls, but who would rather fall over dead than post a link to Pulpit & Pen. Instead, they read our articles and post the original sources we’re linking or they cite a smaller, no-name (and no-influence) blog that drafted P&P. This keeps the bitter discernment blog gals off their back. They get hen-pecked by the discernment gals, too. Again, ladies – even Christian ones – can have vicious, backbiting tongues about even the pettiest disagreements. Whenever P&P says something politically incorrect, these types feed the Outrage Monster that would be turning on them, too, if only they were more effective or noticeable.
Yet another category are the blogs and ministries that will write exactly what Pulpit & Pen writes, usually thirty to sixty days later after everyone else has sufficiently chimed in with their opinion. With a pinky stuck to the wind, they will offer an opinion after it’s safely reasonable they know where all the notable conservative celebrities stand on the issue. They’re usually the ones casting shade at P&P for being “impulsive” and “reactionary,” while we look at them in return like gutless wonders who have to be told what their opinion is by Wretched Radio (that’s not an insult to Wretched).
Then, there are the apologists out in the world who are quick to castigate Pulpit & Pen for using “a nuclear bomb instead of a scalpel” and insist we always come to conclusions too quickly…before coming to those exact same conclusions themselves, too late and after the fact. But they did it, you know, “meaningfully” and “thoughtfully.” Yet, it seems that those who most often repeat the Bible’s admonition that corrections be made “with gentleness and respect” are most famous forlacking gentleness and respect (at least, in the minds of their critics).
Finally, there are discernment guys who pretty much can’t get along with anybody ever. For them, even Paul Washer is a big phony (I was sad to see that said about Washer this week, and it was objectively wrong). One discernment ministry wrote a piece against me because I said, “I know of no other discernment ministry that points out errors in its own camp” and neglected to mention his ministry. Seriously. That was enough to get anathematized by him, and to this day I hear a faint Irish accent yelling something about me because I neglected to mention him. And then there’s Brannon Howse who…well…there’s Brannon Howse.
There are a ton of discernment ministries out there that we have never found to suffer this bizarre need to elbow, poke, and H8 on other discernment ministries. The Christian Research Network (Marsha West), Pirate Christian Radio (Chris Rosebrough), The Messed Up Church (Steve Kozar), Reformation Charlotte, and Churchwatch Central, all refrain from casting aspersions on other discernment ministries.
Most of the competitiveness between discernment ministries, which often manifests itself by throwing other ministries under the bus whenever given the opportunity, is largely from a misplaced desire to be the “nice discernment ministry.”
Being the most-liked discernment minister is like being the skinniest kid at fat camp. It’s a prize, but not really.
Discernment ministries are the most unpopular thing in the church today. The early church considered polemicists to be the heroes, but today they’re largely seen as the villains. Polemicists regularly have to face accusations of being “mean-spirited” and “angry” and (my least favorite) “bearing false witness,” because post-modern millennials don’t know the difference between a lie and something they don’t like hearing.
This constant hatred directed towards polemicists wears on their soul. They want to be liked so very badly and accolades from the small number of discernment-minded Christians cannot compare to the blind hatred of the Twitter anti-polemics mob.
In their carnality and selfish desire to be liked, discernment ministers are often looking for another discernment minister to attack as “the mean one.” They can then position themselves as “the nice one” or “the reasonable one” and get a few social media back-pats from the Outrage Monster that’s busy consuming their colleagues. Ultimately it’s a real Judas Priest move, but it’s commonly done.
The fact is, many discernment ministers are in it for the fame and unwilling to suffer the infamy. Thanks to the widespread plague of unbridled heresy in American evangelicalism, discernment has turned into a cottage industry, and there are more than a few who want to capitalize on the growing need for polemics.
If discernment is a cottage industry, there is no doubt that Pulpit & Pen is the industry leader. We’re thankful to build upon the foundation of Ken Silva, who would be our patron saint if we believed in such a thing. And yet, there are other discernment ministries – like Pirate Christian Radio, mentioned above – we are so very appreciative exist.
And yet there are other discernment ministries that if they folded, the only thing that would change in the world is that there would be fewer echoes in the chamber. We’re indifferent to the fact they exist.
Nonetheless, we have to acknowledge that a circular firing line isn’t helpful in the discernment community. Ultimately, discernment should not be an “industry” at all. It should be a ministry that exists to serve the Lord Jesus, to purify His Kingdom, and to cast down every lofty thought raised against God. If you’re jealous or envious of a discernment ministry with more influence or a larger readership than you, you’re probably in this for the wrong reason.
Pulpit & Pen would encourage anyone engaged in polemics to stop with the bickering, private gossiping and backbiting, and petty disagreements amongst each other.
Bethel Church is literally teaching its kids how to turn UNO into Tarot cards. Michael Brown is still promoting Patricia King. Beth Moore’s coasts have increased with her new appeal to the evangelical left. Soros and Riady are literally funding our evangelical institutions. Our seminaries are teaching Liberation Theology and Critical Race Theory. Churches are hoisting the rainbow flag above the steeple.
There are just too many wolves we should be warning about to be busy with infighting and embroiled in petty rivalries.