This official retraction needed to be done quite a while ago – so first, let me apologize that it's taken me several years to do it. In my first book, "Can't You Talk Louder, God" there is a section called, "Debugging the Prophetic". In that section, there was a question that reads:
"I hear that God is more interested in character than gifting. I don't know if I'll ever have enough character to be qualified to prophesy."
In my attempt to give a balanced response to that statement, I unintentionally gave an unbalanced one instead. Let me elaborate:
My desire was to explain that since God created and gave both "spiritual gifts" AND "good character" – and since we all will be working to improve throughout our lives both our character and our ability to operate in the gifts – I suggested that we should begin to practice our gifts and at the same time work on our growth of character. The problem was in my wording, and it mistakenly gave readers the impression that I was openly teaching that one should begin to publicly operate in their gifts, even with undeveloped character or even with hidden sin present in their lives.
Nothing could have been further from my intentions but the implication could have easily been taken the wrong way! Because of this I must retract the entire response and then correct it here and now!
The Word of God clearly states:
James 3:1 "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."
Teaching is one of my strongest gifts, so when I make a mistake in what I teach others, however unintentional, then, as with any teacher, the judgment is stricter for me. One brother has been quite persistent with me for a couple of years to get this corrected and I resisted him because I knew my intentions were not to communicate untruths. I am now grateful for his persistence in having me follow through in this matter.
Others have fallen who've stayed in ministry far too long. Instead of taking a break from ministry because of long-term sin issues in their lives, instead of seeking help and restoration in their lives...many continued in sin. Eventually God, after numerous warnings, allows some secret sins that were not being dealt with in their lives – to become exposed publicly. With far too many ministers of the Gospel, when secret sin is not quickly dealt with in a public ministry – things will inevitably spin out of control until there is an explosive scandal that hurts many thousands in the Body of Christ.
Now to be clear, I'm not referring to sins and mistakes made along the way that we all make. I'm speaking of scandalous sins that are continuing and that are hurting multiple parties.
Paul speaks in Romans about the importance of character being developed through tribulations and perseverance. Too many Believers want the recognition in a public forum before they've been tested through "tribulation and perseverance" which brings about "proven character" so needful in the Kingdom of God.
Romans 5:3-5 "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
Timothy was instructed not to "too hastily" lay hands upon anyone...that is, hands laid upon one to release him or her into ministry.
1 Timothy 5:22 "Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin."
By so doing – laying hands upon "hastily", Timothy (or whoever does this) would thereby share in the responsibility for the same sins committed by those too quickly released.
In other words, if a ministry is too quick to send out a man or woman whose character has not been carefully tested and discerned over time – if that person falls into sin because of this haste, then...those who laid hands on this person(s) will share in the responsibility for the sins committed by those who they purposely rushed into ministry.
This is a solemn warning to leaders that is not often discussed among the Body, publicly or privately. A man or woman may have been splendidly gifted from birth by God – with all kinds of spiritual gifts. These gifts are "irrevocable" – meaning God will not remove the gifts, even from a person who has stumbled or fallen:
Romans 11:29 "...for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."
But just because a person still possesses their original God-given gifts even after a fall, does not mean that person who has just fallen, should still be in public ministry – not until they are carefully restored by mature leaders, who, over time, have walked this person back to wholeness and repentance. This restoration process is normally overseen by a person's own local fellowship, normally by the pastoral team!
Now, it should be noted that a person who possesses spiritual gifts may often use those gifts, even during their restoration process, within their private life and with people they come into contact with. For example, one who shows mercy, gives to the poor, or prays for the sick, and so on...will find that even during a restoration process, he or she can still, in a non-public way, operate with their gifts within their own private comings and goings – whether at the grocery store or in the park, etc.
James 3:13-15 "Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic."
Stated again, without over-thinking it – without undue navel-gazing, each one of us should regularly take stock, test, or examine ourselves. How is our faith? Do we have selfish ambition? Pride or arrogance? Are there secret temptations or sins lying at our heart's door? We must deal a sudden and harsh death blow to these sins and character issues, putting them under the Blood of Jesus by the Power of the Holy Spirit. If we judge ourselves with the Holy Spirit's help, we will avoid a greater judgment by others, and we'll receive God's great Mercy.
The quality of our individual character – the degree to which we have submitted our weak character areas (in fact, ALL character areas) to the correcting process of the Holy Spirit – to this degree alone, is there safety in public ministry. Indeed, to the same degree that we've handed these character issues to the process of the Cross of Jesus Christ...is our personal walk in the Kingdom of God on solid ground.
Steve Shultz, Founder and Publisher
The Elijah List & Breaking Christian News