Discernment Ministries Not Needed? Would the Apostle Paul Agree?

By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails

This week, someone sent us an online article, written by a pastor who said that the church does not need discernment ministries  anymore. While the pastor’s comments that such ministries are making great money by doing this kind of work were erroneous, it was the pastor’s rationale and conclusions about discernment ministries as a whole that were most troubling. His rationale was that discernment ministries should not be criticizing and challenging leaders and teachers within the church (but rather outside the church; e.g cults, Mormonism); his conclusion was the church does not need discernment ministries and people should stop listening to them. He lumped all discernment ministries together, suggesting that they are all jealous of each other and spend a lot of time fighting amongst themselves. (By this reasoning—that discernment ministries are invalidated because of fighting and jealousy—then there also should be no marriages, families, churches, organizations, or virtually any human institution because institutions are made up of sinful humans who do at times fight and struggle between each other.) He suggested that many of these discernment people will end up dying early anyway because of the high level of stress involved. Needless to say, we found such an article very sad because we knew there would be people who would read it and would be persuaded by the pastor’s words.

There is one thing true in what this pastor stated, and that is that there can be quite a bit of stress involved with discernment. But, again, his rationale is faulty. It would suggest that since being discerning (or having a discernment ministry) is stressful, it must be wrong. But if we look at the lives of the apostles, the Old Testament prophets, and many martyrs who have lost their lives over the last 2000 years for standing for truth, no doubt, their lives were stressed and difficult. To speak the truth is not easy, and to speak the truth within the church is downright tough. Few knew this more than the apostle Paul:

Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11: 25-27)

Even though Paul determined to put his trust in the Lord and serve Him only, what he went through sounds pretty stressful. Why was he willing to go through those sufferings and persecutions? Because he had full

The Martyrdom of Paul (Illustration by Joseph Martin Kronheim, public domain)

confidence that he was called to warn and to preach for the edifying and exhorting of the body of Christ:

[I]f ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;  who now rejoice in my sufferings for you . . . warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. (Colossians 1: 23-24, 28-29; emphasis added)

At Lighthouse Trails, we by no means claim to be of the caliber of the apostle Paul. Nor do we want to be looked upon as such. We are just one part of the body of Christ, working diligently in a work we believe God has called us to do. We do not claim to be anything special, but we do claim that God in His wisdom has a place in the body for such a ministry as ours (Paul addressed this in 1 Corinthians 12; vs 21:  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you”).

We know there are some who name themselves among “discernment ministries” who are guilty of not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit when writing and reporting. They are at times vitriolic, unkind, practice mean name calling, and go after a figure’s personal effect rather than staying focused on the teachings, doctrines, beliefs, and promotions. It has been a criteria of Lighthouse Trails from our beginning that any author or writer we publish is allowing the fruits of the Spirit (e.g., love, gentleness, goodness, meekness, etc., Galatians 5:22-23) to be prevalent in his or her work.

Scripture says that as the days on this Earth grow darker and darker, spiritually speaking, more and more proclaiming Christians will turn away from the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ (e.g., “some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils,” 1 Timothy 4:1). Lighthouse Trails and the authors we represent are determined to continue in the work in which we have been called in spite of the fact that we are often falsely accused, unjustly discredited, and misjudged. Whether the Lord takes us home early or allows us to live long lives, it is our prayer that we will endure faithfully until the end. Perhaps, in time, people will stop listening to discernment ministries all together. If and when that day comes, we pray there will be enough pastors and churches who are speaking the truth and warning “night and day.” In the following passage by Paul, we can see that his heart was for the building up of the body of Christ, no matter the cost to him. May we all, as believers in Jesus Christ, whether “discernment ministry,” pastor, or neither, strive to have this same attitude:

 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.  Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: as ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12, emphasis added)

CONCLUSION

The following is a list of discernment ministries that Lighthouse Trails has come to know and look to over the past fifteen years; they are ones that meet the biblical criteria described above. Though these particular ministries may not agree with each other on every aspect, we have seen no greed, worldly ambition, jealousy, mean spiritedness, or dishonesty in these ministries. While they, like Lighthouse Trails, do not claim to be perfect or infallible, they always point readers back to the Word of God and uphold the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Is there a need for discernment ministries in today’s church? We believe the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” And we believe the apostle Paul would agree.

Trusted Discernment Research Ministries

The Berean Call

Deception in the Church
Sandy Simpson

Forcing Change
Carl Teichrib

Kjos Ministries
Berit Kjos

Learn to Discern Granny

Let Us Reason Ministries
Mike Oppenheimer

Lighthouse Trails Research Project

ReachOut Trust

Spiritual Research Network

Understand the Times,
Roger Oakland

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