Worship With Michael

Thank you for the inspiring cover story on Michael W. Smith ("Called to Worship" by Jimmy Stewart, April). God's hand is on this incredibly talented artist.

The most poignant point in the article to me was the mentoring relationship between Smith and pastor Don Finto. How wonderful that God placed these two men together. The leadership in the church today is bereft of mentors. Every Elijah needs an Elisha, every Paul a Timothy.

name withheld
West Palm Beach, Florida

Although it's not wise to paint any group with a wide brush, there appears to be a correlation between the decline of the contemporary Christian music genre and the increased influence of secular ownership of Christian labels.

t's hard to see the difference between certain "Christian" and secular music groups. Their lifestyles are very similar, and this comes across in their music. Perhaps there is too much of the world in the church. This is reflected in the standards of those who minister to us.

Randall J. Allison
Williamsport, Pennsylvania

How is it that Michael W. Smith
and Randy Clark's testimonies seem
to surpass Scripture? Having "Holy Ghost goose bumps" is not the test for truth. If this were the case, the Heaven's Gate cult could have been of God--but we know that's not true.

When will the church wake up and smell the incense of strange fire?

Claude S. Avilez

Alta Loma, California

T.D. Jakes and His Accusers

I just read your report, "Hanegraaff Accuses Jakes of Heresy" (People & Events, April). Hank Hanegraaff and Jerry Buckner are going too far in their attack on T.D. Jakes.

Walter Martin, the founder of Christian Research Institute (CRI), once debated a Oneness Pentecostal on television and called this person his "brother." When asked why he called this man his brother, Martin's response was, "Even though he is mistaken about his belief on the Trinity, one can still be saved by believing this doctrine, because the person is believing Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh."

What started as an organization to show the biblical inaccuracies of cults has turned into one of the nastiest organizations in all of Christianity. Hanegraaff has destroyed Martin's intentions in regard to CRI.

Erich Aseltine
Lake View Terrace, California

I pray God has mercy on Hank Hanegraaff and Jerry Buckner for their judgments against Christians. Jesus said that we shouldn't judge (see Matt. 7:1-6). Hanegraaff and Buckner should use their influence to win souls, not to tear the kingdom of God down. T.D. Jakes has used what God has given him to restore and lift up people--even my own life has been changed by his ministry.

Laura Gates
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

I grow weary of people putting Oneness Pentecostals down. It's not as if anyone, including Hanegraaff, has a patent on the truth.

We're all finite people trying the best we can to understand an infinite God. If we err along the way, I'm sure He understands--more than we humans do, I hope. I wish we could stay focused on who the real enemy is.

Judy Haines
Columbus, Ohio

Why can't we get back to the basics of the gospel and quit fighting among ourselves? It doesn't matter which church you attend as long as you believe in the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Christ. That's all He told us to do in the Great Commission: Go teach the gospel.

E. Chenoweth
Wichita, Kansas

Who appointed Hank Hanegraaff and Jerry Buckner to judge the church? I thought that was God's business.

These two gentlemen should focus on solving problems and meeting needs instead of attacking solid Christians. The fruit of T.D. Jakes' ministry is real. God is using him to touch and heal men and women of every ethnic group.

Marc Patterson
Oxford, Connecticut

Bishop T.D. Jakes is anointed by God to bring encouragement to millions of people worldwide. I believe that the ministry of encouragement is more honorable than the ministry of criticism. Don't you think so, Hank Hanegraaff?

Moses Emujeghwro, pastor
Warri, Delta State, Nigeria

Quotes from T.D. Jakes given to Charisma apparently are cited by the authors supposedly to clear Jakes of being a modalist and classify him as a Trinitarian. But a careful apologist or theologian would not come to the same optimistic conclusion that your writer proposed from Jakes' ambiguous statements.

It's obvious that Charisma ignores heresy and condones heretics. Where is the respect for Scripture? "Let God be true but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4, NKJV). Even a man of T.D. Jakes' caliber. Gary George, pastor
Worcester, Massachusetts

Prophets Need Manners

Congratulations to Michael Sullivant on his balanced article "Can Prophets Be Polite?'' (April). In my prophetic ministry, I have always subjected myself to the authority of the local pastor. I am there to work with him and help him build his part of the kingdom.

We only prophesy as we are moved upon by the Holy Spirit. But first, we are Christians exercising God's grace and love. There is no place for arrogance or self-appointed authority.

Paul B. Wolfenden, pastor
Gold Coast, Australia

Thank you for addressing the hot issue in charismatic circles concerning prophets. My husband and I travel in ministry, after having pastored a church for 25 years.

We are appalled at times to hear "thus saith the Lord" over precious sheep when the words spoken basically take them to the slaughter. It is with reckless abandon that they are reproached, rebuked, reviled and left bleeding. If there is a word of correction, let it be done in private.

Beverly and Delbert Wells
Florissant, Missouri

As both a prophetic minister and one who has observed hundreds of other prophetic ministers, I shout a hearty amen! Yes, prophets can and should be polite. Personality type is no excuse for un-Christlike behavior.

The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (see Rev. 19:10), so prophetic ministry should be a reflection of Jesus in manner as well as word. Jesus came to bring life, reconciliation and restoration--not condemnation and humiliation.

Cliff Bell
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Michael Sullivant's comments about making sure the prophet comes under the authority of local church leadership are right on. If prophets would heed the wise counsel presented in this article, a lot of harm done to the body of Christ would be avoided.

David Geary, pastor
Virginia, Minnesota

I believe that prophets have authority over the pastors in church. The church is supposed to be a tag-team ministry, not a dictatorship by the pastor. Pastors are actually usurping the authority of the prophets.

"Let the prophets speak by two or three and let the others judge." Sullivant should do more intense study on the mantle of the prophet and ask God to give him a revelation before he tries to publicly speak on our behalf.

Glynis Bethel
Miami, Florida

Mainline Church Decline

I am very disappointed with your coverage of the problems in mainline denominations ("The Decline of the Mainline Church," March). I am a relatively new United Methodist pastor. There are many sincere pastors in mainline denominations who go about their calling every day, serving God in every way they can.

Your report focused on what a vast majority in our denomination view as fringe events, such as the Reimagining conference. Yes, we do have our problems, but we are working on them. You could have cited examples of reconciliation and healing that are taking place.

Joe Lynch, pastor
Tulsa, Oklahoma

I found your report on mainline churches to be disturbing, but true. The Word says that before the return of Christ there will be a "falling away." I believe we are seeing that now.

Your article drove me to my knees. The time has come for the children of God to humble themselves, repent and pray.

John Farris
Alamo, Texas

Jim Bakker Defends His Holocaust Views

In reference to a statement I made during my television interview with Larry King (Letters, April), one of your readers wrote that he was surprised by my belief that Jews exterminated in the Holocaust would enter heaven. Perhaps I was overreacting to certain Christians who, on national television recently, said that all Jewish people who died in the Holocaust were going to hell.

I have always had a hard time reconciling the picture of trainloads of Jewish children herded like cattle to Nazi death camps. Like millions of others, I asked how a loving God could allow such a thing to happen.

As I studied the Word while I was in prison, and as I read Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel's Night Trilogy, I came to an answer to this question. I know most Christians will not agree with my conclusion, but it brings closure to my own heart.

Jesus said the Jewish people would be "led away captive into all nations," and He would not return until Jerusalem was no longer "trodden down of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). Most Bible scholars would agree the return of the Jews to Zion and Israel becoming a state in 1948 were necessary for the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the return of Jesus Christ.

The Holocaust drove the Jewish people to Zion. Without the resurrection of Israel, Jesus Christ would not return. So, can we say the martyrdom that took place during the Holocaust brought about an event that the Scriptures say must take place before the Messiah comes? Martyrs for the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God, according to God's Word, go to heaven.

Paul said, "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:12-13, NKJV). I believe that when one cries out to the one true God, then God hears him--even if he has never heard His name.

A great man of God once said: "Many who know the name of Jesus do not know Him, and many who do not know His name know Him." Only God knows His reaction to a dying person as he cries out in his time of need. God is love, and Jesus Christ His Son is a Savior of mercy and grace.

On the question of who and who does not go to heaven, as I said on the Larry King show, "I believe that decision is in God's hands, not mine." I do know this: Thousands of little lambs torn from their mothers' aching arms and placed with other human beings into Hitler's ovens are in heaven today. I leave the rest in God's hands.

Rev. Jim Bakker
Charlotte, North Carolina

Jim Bakker needs to stay off television. The church vigorously excused his behavior before he went to jail. Our previous support, in part, was because when Jim Bakker and our defrocked brother from Baton Rouge, La., were on top, children were given food, shelter and medicine through their ministries.

The church does not need to be distracted in excusing or explaining Jim Bakker's re-emergence. If he truly wants to help, then he should check his ego at the door, be subservient and go to all those who are now on top and whisper in their ears: "Fame is fleeting. You are frail. Stay closer to God." Maybe our current leaders would learn from those who did not.

Randy Lawrence
Katonah, New York

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