When Profit Leads the Prophet
Many local churches are run like businesses these days. Ministry philosophies are established based upon market driven philosophies of the business world. Then, those using these secular philosophies for church growth determine if these practices are blessed by God merely by measuring the results they achieve. This is known as Pragmatism – the larger the crowd you can gather, the greater God’s blessing. All this nonsense is what God calls “the doctrine of Balaam.” It is the doctrine of the “stumblingblock.” There are numerous variations of the doctrine of the “stumblingblock.” It is a doctrine of manipulation of people for personal gain.
“14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans: which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:14-15).
In the early church, there were already those who held to the “doctrine of Balaam.” This “doctrine” is detailed in the Old Testament in Numbers 22:5 through 23:24. Balaam was a prophet of God. He was the typical hireling prophet. The Bible has much to say about Balaam. Mainly, the “doctrine of Balaam” was integrating paganism or worldliness with Christianity. The “doctrine of Balaam” was to abandon the doctrine of separation in order to ripe the rewards of the world. In II Peter 2:15 God speaks of “the way of Balaam.”
“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (II Peter 2:15).
The “way of Balaam” was that he was a spiritual opportunist. He saw the opportunity for fame and fortune in his position as a prophet of God. He traded his God given gift for profit, power, and position in the world. He made merchandise of both his ministry and the people God called him to serve. The “way of Balaam” is the person who views people as the means to advance himself and build himself a kingdom. The “way of Balaam” is similar to the Purpose Driven ministries of New Evangelicalism (meaning GATHERING CROWDS). Pastors who take this avenue for personal success are not Christ’s under shepherds. Beware of prophets who are led by profit rather than by the Word of God. When a spiritual leader begins to measure his success by results, it will not be long before he will be deep in compromise and Pragmatism.
Ministries get into trouble when they try to maintain status qou even when their numbers decrease or their budget decreases, or when costs increase. In many cases, local churches, Bible Colleges, and Seminaries make ministry decisions on growth projections. Ministries get themselves in trouble when they begin to budget according to growth projections. When their growth projections are not realized, and they get into financial difficulties, they begin to make incremental changes in their philosophies of ministry to achieve their growth projections. These incremental changes are often varying levels of compromise of their original parameters of separation and doctrinal distinctives. At this point, the leaders of these ministries cease to be spiritual leaders and become prophets for hire. There is often a very narrow line between being extra-biblical and unbiblical.
“11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:11-13).
“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (II Peter 2:3).
The Bible also speaks of the “error of Balaam.”
“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah” (Jude 1:11).
The “error of Balaam” is the “way of Cain.” The “error of Balaam” is primarily the error in thinking that any way (methodology) is acceptable to God as long as it get RESULTS (Pragmatism). The “way of Cain” is to think that God can bless the work of our hands apart from the proper relationship that comes through the proper sacrifice. The “error of Balaam” is the false thinking of the corrupted prophet who believes he exists to make a profit or to gain fame for himself. The corrupted prophet uses his position for self-glorification, rather than God-glorification. He wants to be exalted before men, rather than exalt God before men and edify men before God. Every true man of God must be meticulous in his efforts to guard against thinking that might even lead him down these pathways. Paul warned Timothy to – “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them” (I Timothy 4:16). If this is a warning to preachers, why do the people in the pew need to know about it? People in the pew need to know because they are responsible for any unscriptural direction in which they might be led.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee” (Proverbs 23:7).
These two philosophies of ministry are called the “doctrine of Balaam” by Christ in Revelation 2:14. The Christian is called to preach the doctrine of Christ. In other words, we are to seek to reproduce Christ in others by “renewing” their minds and allowing the Holy Spirit to “transform” their lives from the inside out. A man reproduces what he is. He is what he believes. The “doctrine of Balaam” reproduces what Balaam was. Balaamism uses and distorts the Scriptures to get the RESULTS Balaam wanted. It is an insidious kind of corruption. It is New Evangelicalism. It is Gospel Centrism. It is Convergent and Emergent Evangelicalism. All of these corrupt the biblical doctrine of separation in varying degrees.
Balaam taught the Moabite king Balak how to corrupt God’s children by breaching the walls of their separation from the world. King Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites so that they wouldn’t occupy his land, but Balaam could not. He wanted to, but he could not. He wanted to because he wanted king Balak’s reward. So Balaam taught king Balak what he needed to do to seduce the children of Israel into compromise in order that God would chastise Israel, rather than bless them. In doing, Balaam could get his material reward. Balaam is the prophet influenced by worldliness. The “doctrine of Balaam” was that he taught the men of Israel to fornicate with and marry Moabite women thereby defiling their separation unto God. This is exactly what New Evangelicalism has done. It is similar to what Gospel Centrism proposes. Paul had a similar problem with the believers at Corinth and so admonished them.
“11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. 12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. 13 Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. 14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 6:11-7:1).
As a result of Balaam’s doctrine (and the similar problem at Corinth), God’s children became involved in pagan worship and the fornication of Baalism. New Evangelicalism always begins with toleration of error and ends with a rapid slide into false practice. Whatever you begin to fix your eyes on will eventually become what you practice. Take separation away from Christianity and you have Balaamism.
“Historic fundamentalism is the literal interpretation of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible and the militant exposure of all non-biblical affirmations and attitudes” (George Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America, 1973).
“The essence of fundamentalism . . . is the unqualified acceptance of and obedience to the Scriptures. . . The present study reveals that pre-1930 fundamentalism was nonconformist, while post-1930 fundamentalism has been separatist” (David O. Beale, In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850, Bob Jones University Press, 1986, p. 5).
“Fundamentalism is the militant belief and proclamation of the basic doctrines of Christianity leading to a Scriptural separation from those who reject them” (John Ashbrook, Axioms of Separation, nd., p. 10).
“A fundamentalist is a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who:
1. Maintains an immovable allegiance to the inerrant, infallible, and verbally inspired Bible.
2. Believes that whatever the Bible says is so.
3. Judges all things by the Bible and is judged only by the Bible.
4. Affirms the foundational truths of the historic Christian Faith: The doctrine of the Trinity; the incarnation, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection and glorious ascension, and Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; the new birth through regeneration by the Holy Spirit; the resurrection of the saints to life eternal; the resurrection of the ungodly to final judgment and eternal death; the fellowship of the saints, who are the body of Christ.
5. Practices fidelity to that Faith and endeavors to preach it to every creature.
6. Exposes and separates from all ecclesiastical denial of that Faith, compromise with error, and apostasy from the Truth.
7. Earnestly contends for the Faith once delivered.”
(World Congress of Fundamentalists, which met in 1976 in Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland)
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Dr. Lance Ketchum is the Chairman of the Midwest Independent Baptist Pastors' Fellowship
He also serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.