I have had some favorable things to say recently about Oral Roberts and his ministry — both in this magazine and on one of our television programs. Those statements have prompted a number of negative responses from people who questioned whether or not anything good should be said about the man. One lady denounced him as an "apostate" and said she wanted nothing more to do with me or this ministry.
So, I thought I would share some thoughts with you about evaluating ministries.
First, let's keep in mind that there are no perfect ministries. All of them, including Lamb & Lion, are headed up by people and are composed of people, and people are flawed.
I would urge you, therefore, to look for the good — for that which lines up with the Scriptures — and either ignore or criticize responsibly what does not. Otherwise, you are going to miss some spiritual blessings.
Let me give you some examples from my personal perspective.
Examples of Ministries I Admire But Disagree With
I have always greatly admired the incredible courage that Martin Luther showed when he stood up to the Roman Catholic Church, the most powerful institution of the Middle Ages and one that did not hesitate to burn its critics alive at the stake. I am thankful that he pointed Christendom to God's true plan of salvation of grace through faith in Jesus. And what a blessing it was for him to translate the Bible into the German language and to bless all of Christendom with his marvelous hymns.
Yes, I am very grateful to Martin Luther, and I will always admire his courage, despite the fact that he turned out to be the worst anti-Semite in Church history. The pamphlet he wrote near the end of his life in which he denounced and condemned the Jews served as a blueprint for the Holocaust.
And then there is the example of C. S. Lewis. He was a brilliant Oxford professor of Mediaeval literature when he came to a belief in God and then later placed his faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. His Christian writings soon established him as the greatest defender of the Christian faith in the 20th Century. Those writings, like Mere Christianity (1943) and The Problem of Pain (1940), greatly impacted my life by drawing me deeper into the Scriptures and closer to the Lord. I will be forever grateful to him for his marvelous spiritual insights. He is going to be one of the first persons I will want to meet personally when I get to Heaven.
Yet, the incredible thing that most people do not know about C. S. Lewis is that near the end of his life he revealed in letters that he believed in Purgatory! To me, it is mind-boggling that a man with so many deep spiritual insights could have been spiritually blind concerning this doctrinal issue. Because he was so off-base on this point, should I throw out everything else he had to offer? I think not.
Bringing my examples more up to date, let's consider two great modern-day ministries whose leaders have recently been called home to the Lord.
The first is the ministry of Dr. James Kennedy who served for 47 years as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was a powerful spokesman in behalf of the Christian heritage of America, and he was a man who spoke out fearlessly against the secular drift of our nation. I admired him greatly. Yet, he was one of the foremost proponents of Replacement Theology, a theology I consider to be absolutely abominable.
In like manner I highly valued the ministry of Chuck Colson. His conversion story was inspirational, and the prison ministry he established was an outstanding one. I also appreciated his syndicated columns in which he expressed a biblical worldview regarding political, moral and social issues. I praise God for him and his ministry despite the fact that he was a terrible Catholic compromiser and he lacked respect for God's Prophetic Word. Should I have just written him off and refused to pay attention to anything he had to say? I don't think so.
Let's take a look at some contemporary ministries that are alive and well today:
- I highly respect the preaching and teaching of Charles Stanley, and I have learned much from him, despite the fact that I abhor his hyper-Calvinism.
- I love the preaching of John MacArthur and his teaching of Bible prophecy. It would be hard to find a better expositor of God's Word. But when he starts talking about the Holy Spirit, I have to tune him out. To me, he just seems to have a spiritual blind spot in that area.
- I have always had great respect for the Pentecostal Movement — for its zeal, enthusiasm and passion. The praise music it has produced has blessed my soul, and I have been thankful for the Movement's appreciation and understanding of God's Prophetic Word. I am also thankful for the way God worked through the Movement to resurrect the gifts of the Spirit from the dead. But I have never been able to accept their core teaching that the baptism of the Holy Spirit must be manifested in the gift of tongues.
- I have always respected the wonderful ministry of David Barton and the insights he has provided regarding the Christian heritage of our nation. I hold him in high esteem despite the fact that he is a Postmillennialist who denies that Jesus could return anytime soon.
- I greatly admire the fantastic Creation ministry of Ken Ham, and I praise God for it, despite the fact that he thinks that a person's end time viewpoint is irrelevant.
I suspect that after having read the list above, some of you are ready to say that I am also spiritually blind in some ways — and that could well be. If you feel that way, I hope you will pray for me to be enlightened and not just write me off as hopeless.
The point is that I have learned much from each of the men and ministries mentioned above despite the fact that there are areas where I disagree with them and, in some cases, disagree with them strongly.
And I am convinced that I would have lost many great spiritual insights if I would have written off their teachings because I disagreed with some part of what they had to say.
The Ministry of Oral Roberts
The same is true of the ministry of Oral Roberts. I greatly admired his faith. And I appreciate the fact that he revived belief in God's healing power, returning that belief to mainline Christianity. I also respected the fact that he always insisted that those seeking healing had to first hear the Gospel preached. He cared about the welfare of people's souls as well as the health of their physical bodies. Another thing I respected about the way he operated his ministry is that before he would start praying for healing, he would always emphasize that if any healing occurred, it would come from God and not from him.
Oral Roberts was a great man of faith. He was a fabulous Gospel preacher. And he was anointed by God for healing.
I never agreed with his prosperity teachings. And I always felt like his dogged determination to build the City of Faith medical facility was based more on presumption than faith. I think its tragic fate proved that he had run out from under God's anointing on that particular project.
But he dramatically showed us the meaning of faith; he revived belief in healing; he established a great Christian university; and he pioneered Christian television. All of that should make us grateful to God for his life and ministry.
The second half of this plea for grace, I will explain where we as Christians should draw the line with regard to respect and support of a ministry and how we should behave towards one another.