Articles in the LOOKOUT section of this website span a number of decades and are re-published on behalf of Adrian van Leen for research purposes. Original dates are being added to articles so as to place them in their correct historical setting(s). Adrian has endeavoured to be as fair and accurate as possible at the time of the original writing, but please note that the original article information may no longer reflect the subsequent or current actions, values, beliefs, positions, opinions, teachings or policies held by individuals, groups and/or organisations referred to in the original published article at the time of writing. As people change and move on, the same often applies to related Internet links; some links referred to in articles may have been changed or may no longer be available online.
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Sin In The Camp
After the fall of Jericho, Joshua discovered that things were not going the way that had been expected. The fall of Jericho had not involved the Israelites in actual combat — the battle had been the Lord’s — in obedience they had simply marched around the city. Then God’s presence, power and victory seemed to disappear after that victory. Though somewhat complex for modern Westerners to understand, the reason for the disappointing turn in events, immediately after the fall of Jericho, became evident as the story unfolds in Joshua chapter 7. However, Joshua chapters 5 through 8 need to be read in context with earlier instructions, as in Deuteronomy 23 (especially verses 9 and 14).
The problem of disobedience and corruption amongst God’s people, particularly based on the abovementioned Joshua incident, led to the phrase: ’Sin in the Camp’. Though the actual words are not directly from the Bible, the concept they tend to convey is Biblical.
Over the 27 years since CCG Ministries began we have received praise and criticism from many Christians. We have generally been praised for exposing the doctrinal and behavioural heresies of cultic and extreme religious fringe groups. However, when we have dared to point out some of the doctrinal and behavioural heresies of some Christian leaders, especially USA so-called ’televangelists’, some of the same Christians respond with severe, if not extreme, criticism.
We have been told that we could criticise the cults ’but leave the Church alone’. We have been warned, ’Don’t you dare touch the Lord’s anointed!’ We have even been warned of death and destruction for our Ministry, if not for individuals in it, for daring to criticise ’the Lord’s anointed’.
We have received similar threats from some cult members for daring to criticise their group or religious leaders — and we’ve had everything from bomb threats to investigation by private investigators employed by cults to try and discredit us. That’s par for the cause. The Bible warns that Christians can expect persecution for sharing the truth in Jesus Christ.
That Christians should behave in such a way indicates lack of understanding and/or misuse of Scripture. None of the attitudes expressed above can be validated from Scripture in context, nor from the clear teachings of Jesus Christ. Such attitudes show an appalling lack of discernment and a cover-up of ’sin in the camp’.
It has been interesting to note some change in attitude and awareness amongst some sections of the Christian community in recent times.
A leading US magazine for the Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian community, Charisma, has, since 1975, promoted ’all things Pentecostal’ and continues with a wide and commercial circulation in the US and many other countries. Along with Ministry Today, other magazines and publications produced for Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians by Stephen Strang’s Strang Communications company regularly promotes meetings, activities and articles by all sorts of prominent Pentecostals from mainstream groups such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God to independent leaders, Word-Faith movers and shakers, and numerous preachers (including TV ’evangelists’) with questionable theology and, often, even more questionable behaviour and antics.
Given the enormous advertising income, alone, from some of these prominent people, it is all the more interesting to read some of the insightful, informative, and sometimes scathing criticisms of some of the very people Charisma magazine promotes.
Recently TIME Magazine ran a story: ’Does God want you to be rich?’ (posted online on Sunday 10th September; the September 18, 2006 print magazine cover story in the USA — a ’society and science’ article in the Australian TIME Magazine of October 2, 2006). In the article writers David Van Biema and Jeff Chu state: ’A growing number of Protestant evangelists raise a joyful Yes! But the idea is poison to other, more mainstream pastors.’ They go on to quote the Gospels: ’In three of the Gospels, Jesus warns that each of his disciples may have to “deny himself” and even “take up his Cross.” In support of this alarming prediction, he forcefully contrasts the fleeting pleasures of today with the promise of eternity: “For what profit is it to a man,” he asks, “if he gains the whole world, and loses his own sole?” It is one of the New Testament’s hardest teachings, yet generations of churchgoers have understood that being Christian, on some level, means being ready to sacrifice—money, autonomy or even their lives. But for a growing number of Christians…the question is better restated, “Why not gain the whole world plus my soul?” For several decades, a philosophy has been percolating in the 10 million—strong Pentecostal wing of Christianity that seems to turn the Gospel’s passage on the head…Known (or vilified) under a variety of names—Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Theology—its emphasis is on God’s promised generosity in this life and the ability of believers to claim it for themselves.’
Matthew Green was a recent graduate from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with three years of pastoral church experience, when he took up editorship of Strang’s Ministries Today magazine in January 2004. Before the recent TIME Magazine story was out in print form, Matt Green was commenting on the story:
’Monday, September 11, 2006 - Dear Word-Faith Friends, You began as a fringe movement within the Pentecostal community and made barely a ripple in the public consciousness until a handful of your proponents were exposed for financial and sexual indiscretions in the ’80s. In the ’90s, you faced continuous scrutiny and criticism from heresy hunters and theological watchdog groups, and several books were written deconstructing your supposed sub-orthodox doctrine.
But now, in the new millennium, you can claim victory. A cover story in the September 18 issue of TIME magazine explores your movement, asking, “Does God Want You to Be Rich?” A poll cited in the same issue of the magazine found that 17 percent of Christians surveyed identified themselves with the Word-Faith movement, and 61 percent said they believe God wants people to be prosperous.’
After naming a number of Word-Faith preachers, he went on to ask:
’So, the question for you is this: Have your teachings been accepted because they have been weighed in the balances and found to be biblically sound, or because they happen to be compatible with the narcissistic longings of 21st-century Americans?....the truth remains that your simplistic formulas for wealth transfer, divine promotion and supernatural health don’t always ring true in a world where the majority of Christians in non-Western nations live in poverty. You have yet to wrestle through a biblically-coherent theology of suffering and the role it plays in a faithful Christian’s life. And some of you are confused as to whether Jesus wants us to take up our cross and follow Him or discover the champion within ourselves.
Like every religious movement, you’ve adapted to the demands of changing times. Now it’s time to adapt to the demands of an unchanging Word—to embrace the value of sacrifice, as well as success. Our culture is crying for nothing less than the same radical faith that Jesus exhibited when He assumed the identity of an impoverished, unknown, peasant-carpenter to show us what God looks like.’
The Ministries Today commentary or editorial was not just published in the print magazine, but sent out to online recipients and put out as a blog — inviting people to respond. This commentary by Matt Green received a lot of responses, including some very interesting ones. Check out the full article and responses, see: http://www.ministrytodaymag.com/blog/2006/09/dear-word-faith-friends.html.
American media consultant and commentator, Phil Cooke, wrote an article entitled: ’Tune Out the Jesus Junk - I’m still amazed at the junk evangelists pitch on television.’ For the June 2006 issue of Charisma Magazine in which he stated (amongst other things):
’I’ve been producing Christian television programming for 30 years now, and I’m still amazed—and often shocked—at the junk some evangelists pitch on television. Vials of anointing oil and “miracle water” are still big, as well as prayer cloths, miracle seeds and gimmicks of all kinds—I prefer to call it “Jesus Junk.” One TV prophet will even give you a “personal prophecy” (after you call and give him your credit card number, of course). How did we come to this?....We’ve created a generation of Christians who look for a magic bullet. That’s why people travel thousands of miles, from conference to conference, just to “get a word,” find “fresh oil,” “get the glory” or “catch their blessing.” The truth is, they’re looking for the easy way out.’
He went on to declare:
’Do I believe in miracles? Absolutely. I also believe handkerchiefs that touched Paul were taken to the sick and they were healed (see Acts 19:11-12). But Paul didn’t mass-market them and use them for a fundraising scheme. I even believe God prospers people. But the Christian faith isn’t about chasing a blessing or getting a word. It’s about taking up our cross. It’s about making the time to study to show ourselves approved. And it’s about “[knowing] Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10-11, NIV). The next time that TV evangelist pitches his miracle water, prayer cloth or other trinkets, put back your credit card, turn off the TV, pick up your cross and follow Jesus.’
But that’s not where it all ended with Strang Communications commentaries on television and ’televangelists’. Charisma’s editor, ordained International Pentecostal Holiness Church pastor, J. Lee Grady, weighed into the debate in his September 29, 2006 Fire in the Bones commentary: Christian TV Needs an Extreme Makeover - We need so much more than canned church services beamed from La-La Land.
Grady believes that Christian television programmes in the US (and early morning TV in Australia) ’is a vast wasteland of missed opportunities’. He goes on to offer up some five suggestions for improving this hyped up wasteland:
’1. Get real. People are looking for authenticity, not hokum.
2. Reset the clock…Much of Christian TV needs an extreme makeover.
3. Give us some substance...Christian programs should not be church services beamed from La-La Land. We need more than an inspirational song, canned applause, a sermon and a lengthy offering appeal.
4. Tone down the begging...it’s Christian leaders gathering on the same set, night after night, to preach their favorite prosperity messages to one another. They jostle to the music, slap one another’s backs and remind the audience that God will free them from debt if they charge a $1,000 love gift on their credit cards.
5. Have some integrity. What really grieves me is that a network will put any old preacher on the air if he can wow a crowd. Never mind that his theology is toxic. Forget that he left his wife and married another lady a week later. He can sure get the people to shout—and to open their wallets!’
Grady acknowledges his comments won’t result in too many Christian TV talkback invitations, but hoped that some people will begin to do something about the state of things.
As far back as March 2002 Lee Grady was expressing concern about problems within the Pentecostal and Charismatic community in Charisma magazine. He began an article entitled: Sin in the Camp with the following comments:
’A prominent pastor in Los Angeles caused a stir two years ago when he divorced his wife and, seven days later, married another woman. Lots of people fled his church, and his distraught ex-wife and their three children moved to Hawaii. But in just a few months, members of his new congregation were dancing in the aisles in their new facility, and the talented young preacher was back on the conference circuit, no questions asked.’
He added: ’…we are expected to forgive and forget--lest we be branded as judgmental. After all, if the offerings are flowing, and the preaching still gets the people to shout, then surely the anointing of God is on this man no matter what he did. Right?...the truth is that when it comes to marital breakdown or sexual sin, we charismatics are way too eager to grant immediate pardons.’
He named a number of prominent people, including that: ’South African charismatic pioneer Ray McCauley shocked the churches in his nation when he divorced his wife and married another woman in a matter of months. His church has lost some members, but American pastors have been quick to absolve him. One of his defenders told me: “Yeah, Ray’s marriage didn’t work out. But really, he is more anointed than ever!”
Apparently what is important to us today is hype, not holiness. I guess what we want are ministers who can move a crowd to swoon and to write big checks. What we need are broken men and women who can move us to repentance.
An epidemic is sweeping the church, yet few leaders seem alarmed about it. We’re more concerned about a preacher’s donor base than we are about his soul.’
Lee Grady continues to express his concerns about Sin in the Camp as he wrote about: ’A Crying Shame: Charlatans in the House’ in his June 9, 2006 Fire in the Bones commentary:
’Churches and ministries are employing bizarre gimmicks to raise money. What has happened to our discernment? An evangelist opens his Bible, reads a Scripture and then suggests that you send an odd amount of money…He begs. He pleads. He cries. And then he tells you that if you hurry and give right now, “while God is stirring the waters,” the Holy Spirit will reward you in an extra-special way…To the untrained ear this may sound like a formula for blessing. Actually it is more akin to superstition—or worse, witchcraft. It’s not even remotely biblical, but those of us in the charismatic movement are so used to tolerating such shenanigans that we think this is standard procedure for fundraising…Talk about voodoo economics…It is a spiritualized form of arm-twisting. And believe it or not, it is getting more blatant and bizarre.’
Grady gave some specific examples of such spiritual rip of merchants at declared: ’I want to rip my shirt in half and throw dust on my head.’
He further declared: ’Those who use manipulation, strong-arm tactics or Scripture-twisting to get money, or who sell the anointing of God so they can buy clothes and houses are not going to release any form of blessing.In fact, they just might release curses—of poverty, bankruptcy, fraud and confusion. Such dark forces actually follow ministries that have given themselves over to this spirit of financial manipulation. The Bible actually says that charlatans—those who follow the “error of Balaam”—will face a harsh judgment in the “black darkness” of hell (Jude 11,13) .’
But the editor of Charisma was at his most scathing on September 15, 2006 when his commentary was entitled: ’Rape in the Sanctuary: It’s time for outrage.’
He began: ’Do we just pretend it doesn’t affect us when a pastor is sentenced to prison for raping church members? We need to rend our hearts. Last month a bizarre drama unfolded in a courtroom in Fort Worth, Texas, involving a flamboyant prosperity preacher and the women he raped. But you probably didn’t hear anything about this on Christian television. We don’t talk about the church’s mistakes if they make us look bad. I think it’s time to face the ugly facts. Something very sick is happening in the so-called Spirit-filled church. And we need a national outcry.’
Grady asks with deep passion and concern:
’How did we ever get to a place where a “man of God” who prays with passion from his pulpit on Sundays also preys on vulnerable women parishioners on Mondays by giving them methamphetamines and then sexually violating them?
The root of the sickness lies in the fact that those of us in the pews have lowered our standards. We don’t demand character of our leaders. All we ask is that preachers make us feel good, tell us we will be prosperous, stroke our egos, tickle our ears and whip us into a frenzy so that we will think we have been in God’s presence. Oftentimes the whole experience is a sham.
In the squirrelly world of nondenominational charismatic churches there are con men, drug addicts and even rapists who know how to wow the people with their mega-decibel oratory. They know how to touch our deepest “felt needs” and are quick to sell us a book or video on the same subject. But when their sermons are over, they have done nothing but inject their congregations with a spiritual drug.’
He was commenting on the case of the self-proclaimed ’Bishop’ Terry Hornbuckle — a Prosperity preacher who started a small church in the 1980s — Victory Temple Bible Church. From the handful of members who started with him, Hornbuckle eventually grew his group of a claimed membership of some 2 500, after changing the church’s name to Agape Christian Fellowship in the 1990s and had church with a property value of some US$40 million in Arlington, Texas, at the time of his trial for rape.
The now-44-year-old Hornbuckle began developing a reputation of manipulation and being a danger to women in the early 2000s. By December 2004 a number of women had had enough and decided to lay charges of sexual assault against him. He was arrested in March 2005, after a grand jury had indicted Hornbuckle on four sexual assault charges involving three women — two of whom were (or had been) members of his Agape Christian Fellowship. Arresting officers found a quantity of methamphetamine (Meth) in his vehicle. After a weekend in prison Hornbuckle was released on US$405 000 bail. A few days later he referred to the charges as ’frivolous’ at a press conference, where he was flanked by his lawyer and his wife, Renee. He accused the women involved of trying to extort money from him, and declared he was ’unequivocally and emphatically innocent of all these charges.’
He tried to have some of his bail restrictions removed, including the electronic monitoring and required regular drug testing — or have his bail reduced. The judge refused these requests in April 2005 and, after Hornbuckle used a Christian radio programme to promote himself as ’Mr Clean’ [our words], issued a gag order forbidding all parties involved from making any public comments in relation to the case.
In May 2005 Hornbuckle tested positive for drugs, had his bail revoked and was arrested again. A few days later Hornbuckle posted US$655 000 bail and entered a drug rehabilitation clinic. At the end of May he checked himself out of that clinic, only to enter another drug rehabilitation centre elsewhere the next day.
In early June 2005 two other women came forward and the grand jury indicted him on another two sexual assault charges, a charge of retaliation, plus a charge of witness tampering and a charge of drug possession. He was arrested again and released the same day on bail of US$905 000.
In July 2005 he preached a sermon at Agape Christian Fellowship declaring the people had let Satan into their church and that, ’We’ve got people in this church sharing information with the outside world. The Bible says not to drag your brother into court, but to resolve the matter in the church.’
In August 2005 Hornbuckle was rearrested and held without bail, for refusing a drug test. In late December 2005 Hornbuckle was released on US$1.005 million, only to be rearrested for failing a drug test some 10 days later. In March 2006 he was being processed for release on US$3.62 million, but walked out of the building after being told to remain where he was, and was promptly rearrested again.
In August 2006 Hornbuckle was found guilty of the sexual assault charges involving three women and was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for assaults to one his victims; 10 years for another and 15 years for the third. He will serve the sentences concurrently for a total of 15 years, with the possibility of parole half-way through the term. He was also fined a total of US$30 000 — the maximum under that particular relevant law.
He still faces civil proceedings from some of the victims — so his prison time could be longer and what remaining assets he might still have access to [he claims to be broke] may end up in further legal costs and damage claims.
According to some news reports, in September 2006 Agape Christian Fellowship leaders stripped Terry Hornbuckle of any position held in the church he started, and gave his wife, Renee four months to prove she could continue in leadership, as senior pastor on her own, under the supervision of a team of leaders from around the USA. It has been difficult to immediately find confirmation of this, and as of mid-October 2006, the official Agapa Christian Fellowship website was still promoting Terry Hornbuckle as Bishop, a wonderful man of God, a great family man,
SEE: Rape in the Sanctuary: It’s time for outrage - http://www.fireinmybones.com/Columns/091506.html
- also: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/11075/some-believe-power-got-the-best-of-their-pastor
When will all this abuse of people by greedy, power-hungry, manipulating twisters of religion end? When will Christians wake up to ’Sin in the Camp’ and stop the cover-ups? When will Christians develop some basic Biblical and common sense discernment?
The words of the Apostle Paul are still relevant today:
’Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.’ Ephesians 5:11-17
Whilst there are many aspects and articles relating to Charisma and Ministries Today magazines that trouble us, or that we would find unbiblical and unacceptable, we strongly commend J Lee Grady and Matt Green (as well as contributor, Phil Cooke) for their insightful, discerning, courageous and needed critical comments and exposures of ’Sin in the Camp’ that is damaging the Christian community and its reputation in society, as well as greatly dishonouring the name of Jesus Christ. Keep up the good work — whatever the risks!
We encourage readers to also check out the following articles:
(From TACL Vol 27 #5 Oct 2006)