Welcome to chapter 14 of my new book/manual for training Women in Ministry manuscript. It’s not directed at any entity in particular, it’s part of my training manual I have developed over the years and use as I mentor other women. It’s based on experiences and training from my own life that have helped me raise others up. This is an updated version for me purpose of better clarity. Thanks for your input and patience.
So, when is something discernment and when is it the accuser of the brethren?
At one controlling church I attended, you could always tell when someone was questioning the way things were done. The sermon that Sunday would be all about not being an accuser of the brethren, and not listening to someone who questioned how things were done.
It was a good way to stop everyone from questioning anything if you’d label them as a complainer or accuser of the brethren, and thus shut everyone’s mouth.
Everyone would get afraid to question anything no matter how many people were hurt by that group. No one wanted to be labeled as a traitor to the leaders and become disfellowshipped.
Being labeled as a traitor to leadership was tantamount to being labeled as a traitor to God.
The result was that there were never any changes to the leadership style. If you didn’t like the system, it was smart if you just quietly left.
The best way to leave was to get transferred out of town by your job. Don’t bother trying to live in the same city because they would call your next church and warn the pastor there about you. You could expect your name to be shamed throughout the city.
Watchman/Whistleblowers in the church usually become cast outs if they see a situation that is morally or otherwise inappropriate and try to address it. Usually no matter how quietly and lovingly they try to handle it, they are labeled as a troublemaker.
Let’s say that there is verbal abuse, threatening communication, bullying, or even sexual predator type activity (flirty, inappropriate texting, touching, etc.) involving someone in leadership in a church. What do you do if you’ve taken the situation to the highest level of authority there and nothing is done about it, yet it remains a danger to the congregation?
My thought is that I would liken it to having a babysitter who bullied or otherwise harmed one of our children. As a spiritual parent, you should fire them and never hire them again so that they would never again be able to have access to another victim. If you are smart, you don’t sweep that situation under a rug and expect it to stay there.
Nowadays, most churches are independent and have their own form of government. If it is one within a denomination, you can go to a higher up authority. But there is nowhere to go in an independent situation.
If the situation involves a minor, you can get the police involved.
But if it involves those over 18, they maintain their own accountability. The victims are the only ones that can go to the authorities about their situation and get some action. Most choose not to do that because it’s embarrassing and they do not want the publicity. They also do not want to be labeled by their church as an accuser, and cast out by them.
At that point, the only thing others can do is to take it to the court of public opinion. But if you are not the victim and the victims refuse to cooperate by coming forward to testify, then you look like the accusatory bad guy or a liar.
So if the Matthew 18 thing is done and there’s no satisfactory solution, what then?
You can take it to (1) God, (2) the legal authorities, or (3) the messy court of public opinion.
Of course you can say “I’ll let God handle it,” then walk away and risk being responsible that the situation will repeat itself.
But we then have to answer to God for that. Many times He puts us in a situation so that we can be there to sound the alarm.
His word says, “ But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” (Ezekiel 33:6)
Good luck with that.
The old shepherding and discipleship movement had a slick way of handling any questioning or complaints about their behavior, leadership, and way of doing things in their church community.
The next thing you know, the person that complained was stripped of any authority, and on their way out. They would simply mark that person as operating in a spirit of the accuser of the brethren, and begin to shame and disfellowship them. That meant that they were kicked out of the church family fellowship.
Once they were on the outside, the rest of the people were warned to have nothing to do with them. You did not even dare bring up their name. It was as if they were dead.
But what does the Word really have to say about the proper operation of leadership? Should it ever be questioned?
Well, first of all, the shepherd (pastor) of the flock is supposed to be a good shepherd. They are supposed to care about the sheep, and take care of them like a loving parent. To do less is to be a wolf in sheep‘s clothing. God doesn’t take kindly to that style of leadership.
The Bible says woe onto the shepherds that mistreat and scatter the sheep.
“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1 NLT)
Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people:
“Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. ( Jer. 23:2, NIV)
Whatever Bible version you use, the story is the same.
The dictionary defines discernment as “insight, perception, and wisdom.”
It defines an accuser as one who would “charge, impeach, incriminate, indict”
I may be some dumb, but I’m not plum dumb. The definition of an accuser seems to fit what unhealthy leadership does to someone who operates in discernment under the standards of a shepherding and discipleship type of system.
So is discernment itself good or evil?
The Bible says discernment is wisdom and is key in defining the difference between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14 - “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
It also says discernment helps us to grow in the goodness of God.
Philippians 1:9-10 - “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
Solomon cried out for wisdom and discernment, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9a).
According to the Bible, what is the earmark of the accuser?
Revelations 12:19 says Satan accuses us before our God day and night, but has been cast down. Accusatory people seem to have taken his place.
Accusing means blaming or charging someone with wrongdoing of some type.
Some people think they are in charge of everything and everybody. I have worked in ministry all of my life and have seen that the people with the biggest mouths and most complaints are the ones that usually don’t even tithe or give.
Or they are the ones that tithe and give a lot, so they think they own the church and the pastor and get to make all the decisions.
Some think that they are the prophet of the church, and that anything that they think up is a mandate from God and it is up to them to oversee and make sure it happens. If it doesn’t, they are out there with their spiritual whip and chain to beat up those who don’t comply with and obey their demands.
So yes, there are some true accusers. But there are also those precious watchmen in the body who genuinely care about and want to see goodness and justice prevail. They get beat up by both the crazy control freaks who are in the church or in church leadership.
Discernment vs. accusation/condemnation is a difficult thing to weigh. One must cautiously and courageously ask God to reveal the persons heart and motive in order to properly judge the situation.
Those of us who find ourselves in that situation must ask God that same question and operate accordingly.
We are in a time in season when everything is being questioned. We are questioning ourselves, questioning each other, and many others. The best thing to do is ask the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth, to reveal and speak His Truth to and through us and guide us in all things.
Discernment is wisdom from Heaven and can save your life, or the lives of others. Do not refuse godly discernment, nor allow the enemy to accuse and silence you when He does. Seek the wisdom and counsel of Almighty God. He will never fail you.
Love and blessings, Joni Ames
Joni has more insight into this word
Join us Feb 21 @ 7 Pm Cdt as we go deeper into the Gift of Discernment