The Pursuit of God

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Shady Shepherd Tactics: Gaining Rank

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In the vast world of Christian leaders, there are those who sincerely want to help you, there are others who sincerely want to harm you, and there are others who don’t care about you one way or the other—they’re just using you to benefit themselves.  When it comes to the tactics that Christian leaders use when they engage with you, some are good, and some are shady.  Good tactics encourage you to keep your focus on God and to pursue the right spiritual goals.  Shady tactics discourage you from focusing on God while they encourage you to pursue the wrong goals.  The purpose of this post is to familiarize you with certain shady tactics that are commonly used by Christian leaders today so that you can become less affected by them.

There are many ways to communicate true facts about God, but what leaders say is not the only thing that matters.  How they say it is very important as well.  Just as a knife can be used to cut a man free from bondage or stab him in the gut, spiritual truths can be used to help or harm people, depending on how you wield them.  In the world of shady shepherds, truth is used like a weapon—it’s the bait that is set out in order to lure you into harmful traps, and those traps come in many forms.  Shady shepherds want you to focus on them more than you do on God.  They want you to feel spiritually dependent on them, afraid of disagreeing with them, and emotionally bonded to them.  Loyal fans can be milked for money, worship, and the best kind of advertising that there is: personal testimonials.  Loyal fans are the key to shady shepherds gaining fame and acclaim, so while they pretend to be interested in helping you in your relationship with God, what they really want is for you to help them in their relationship with the world.

Now if we were to try and explain all of the shady tactics shepherds use to try and turn you into their little stooge, this post would be acres long, so right now we’re going to focus on the goal of gaining rank.  Shady shepherds need you to accept a subservient position to them: they’re the experts, while you’re the dunce who is in desperate need of their wisdom.  There are many subtle and not-so-subtle ways that shady shepherds can con you into accepting a mental position of submission to them, and you don’t have to look far to find all of the tactics we’re about to discuss being used by Christian leaders today.

FLAUNTING TITLES

The first most basic approach is to flaunt titles.  Doctor, pastor, prophet, evangelist, warrior, intercessor—the list goes on and on.  Some shepherds just throw a title in your face and expect you to immediately accept it.  Others try to justify their use of titles.  Mary explains that you should call her Doctor because she obtained a doctorate in biblical studies from such-and-such university.  Fred claims that God Himself declared Fred to be a prophet, therefore you ought to use the title out of respect for what Fred says God said.  Of course you weren’t there the day that an audible Voice spoke out from the heavens—all you have is Fred’s word for what happened.  But once Fred claims to be backed by God, plenty of souls will be afraid to question Fred’s claim just in case he’s telling the truth.

Once a shady shepherd gets you to start addressing them by a title, a fabulous psychological pattern begins.  Every time you ask “Dr. Mary” a question, you are mentally rehearsing the concept that Mary outranks you.  Over time the continuous use of a title will cause you to feel increasingly subservient to her, and the best part is that you’ll have played a big role in brainwashing yourself.  When it comes to tactics for gaining rank, flaunting titles is a guaranteed winner.

FLAUNTING ADJECTIVES

Now when it comes to establishing superiority over your followers, titles aren’t the only things you can flaunt. Adjectives can be just as effective—sometimes even more so.  Here’s when Joe tosses out a reference to what a humble man of God he is.  Wendy promotes herself as an anointed truth speaker, while Sally keeps finding ways to remind you that she’s fully devoted.  You see, it’s one thing to talk about the importance of being fully devoted to God—it’s another thing to be constantly waving your personal devotion in other people’s faces.

When Christian teachers start claiming rights to holy handles, what happens?  Your admiration for them shoots up and your guard falls down.  You shift into a very receptive mental attitude, and this makes you far more likely to accept whatever the teacher says.

FLAUNTING POWER

Now while associating yourself with the right words can help cultivate submission among your followers, flaunting actual power is an even faster way to elevate yourself far above your minions.  There are two basic ways to flaunt spiritual power when you’re a Christian leader: you can either talk about it, or you can act it out.  If you’ve got good acting skills and a commanding stage presence, then you can start cranking out the YouTube videos in which you appear to be dispensing miraculous healings, reading minds, and forcing demons to leave their human hosts.

The next time you come across some Christian leader filming himself duking it out with demons, notice how the demons are always portrayed as being intimidated by the mighty Christian.  While the possessed person goes through their staged fits, you never see the demons leaping onto the exorcist and throwing him into some embarrassing spasms.  In real life, exorcisms really aren’t the predictable showdowns that you see shady shepherds participating in.  In real life, many attempts to exorcise demons fail and the exorcist ends up getting terrorized by the same creatures he was so sure he could dominate.  Contrary to what shady shepherds claim, humans really can’t control demons (see Demons in the End Times: Understanding Possession & Exorcism).

Now when shady shepherds don’t want to go through all of the hassle of producing visual evidence of themselves wielding supernatural power, they just use verbal claims.  Zach tells the  story about how he miraculously cured his neighbor of cancer when he was just five years old.  Why not?  It’s not like anyone can verify his claim—especially when it happened forty years ago.  And when Adelle posts a story about how she was able to make clouds form in the desert and rain at her command, she’s pleased to see her list of subscribers shoot up overnight.

Claiming to have access to supernatural power is a guaranteed way of gaining clout over others, and as long as you keep your stories unverifiable—which is very easy to do—your fans will become more and more subservient to you in hopes that they’ll be able to personally benefit from your supernatural hookups.

“I’LL PRAY FOR YOU”

So far we’ve been talking about very bold ways of flaunting power: staging shows and making wild claims.  But shady shepherds really don’t need to venture into those extreme waters—especially when there’s a far more subtle method available.  The old “I’ll pray for you” routine has been around for thousands of years, and it’s incredibly effective.  Not only do most people fail to recognize this scam for what it is, they will actually beg you to use this tactic on them.  If you refuse to manipulate them in this way, they actually get mad at you—this is how widely accepted the prayer routine is.  But now let’s learn why it’s so effective for gaining rank.

To understand why you shouldn’t ask other people to pray for you, consider this simple question: what’s wrong with your prayers?  The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with them.  God listens to you just as attentively as He does the leaders who you think outrank you.  God cares about you just as much as He cares about them.  God always understands exactly what you’re trying to say to Him, even when you can’t find the right words.  How God responds to your prayer request depends on what His personal priorities are for you.  Can Christian leaders change God’s agenda for you?  No, they can’t.  Can Christian leaders talk God out of doing what He knows is best for you?  No, they can’t.

You see, when people talk about their prayers being “effective,” what they’re really trying to say is that they have the power to influence God into doing what they want.  They’re talking about manipulating their own Creator.  Shady shepherds want you to believe that they have more influence over God than you do, and that’s why you’ll have a better chance of God giving you what you want if you send your request through them.  Well, no, this is total garbage.  God does not listen to leaders more than He listens to you, and He doesn’t let any other human control the way He works with you.

If you had a correct understanding of how God responds to your own prayers, you would realize that there is no point whatsoever in asking another Christian to talk to God on your behalf.   It’s only because you’ve accepted lies about how God views you that you feel the need to go running to other Christians for prayer assistance.  Since good shepherds want to see you thrive in your personal relationship with God, they aren’t going to promote themselves as having more access to God than you do.  But since shady shepherds want you to feel spiritually dependent on them, they will take every opportunity to undermine your confidence in God’s willingness to personally relate to you.

You can’t offer to pray for someone else without implying that his own prayers are insufficient in some way.  Once souls accept that their own prayers are inferior, a domino effect occurs which results in them feeling very insecure in their personal walks with God.  After all, if you think that God won’t really pay attention to your needs unless Pastor Sam talks to God about you, then how can you possibly believe that God loves you as much as He says He does?  We’re all familiar with favoritism in this world—with the father who only loves one of his four sons, thus he gives that son all of his attention while he ignores the other three.  Humans already have enormous difficulty with not projecting human motivations onto God’s behavior, so the last thing they need is for Christian leaders to keep implying that God ignores the prayers of the “common” people because He’s so busy paying attention to His favorites.

The next time you feel the impulse to go ask another Christian to pray for you, don’t.  Instead, thank God for listening to your prayer and ask Him to help you grow more confident in His personal interest in you.  You are not some lesser human to God and the more you practice believing that God is listening to you, the harder you’ll be for Christian leaders to dominate (see Why We Won’t Pray For You).

FLAUNTING ENDORSEMENTS

In a world where social ranks are based on human approval, shady shepherds can con you into accepting a subservient position to them simply by flaunting endorsements in your face.  There are many ways to do this.  One very popular method is to flaunt human testimonials.  Here’s where ministries dedicate whole pages of their website to glowing comments that other people have made about them.  Oh look: Burt from New York says that Anointed Abigail’s soothing counseling and powerful over-the-phone prayers talked him out of suicide and cured him of his chronic depression.  Of course you’ve never met Burt from New York.  And the man doesn’t really exist—Anointed Abigail just invented his testimony last night when she decided that her testimonial page was looking a bit sparse.  In fact, none of the glowing praise you read on Abigail’s site was contributed by real people—Abigail just makes it all up to create the illusion that she’s got scores of dedicated fans (see Trained Shills & Blind Trust: A Winning Combination for False Shepherds).

Here’s the thing about verbal and written testimonies: they’re all just hearsay.  You never verify the truth of the claims—and often you couldn’t even if you wanted to. Shady shepherds just expect you to blindly believe all of the wonderful things other people say about them.  They’re using the tried and true method of third party testimonies to convince you that something is true.  Why not?  Firsthand witness accounts are very persuasive in courtrooms.  There’s always been something very convincing about hearing multiple people who appear to be unrelated telling the same story.

In this electronic age, it’s a cinch to produce your own fan mail.  Just vary your style and grammar a bit, sign your glowing praise of yourself with some random human name, and there you go.  If you want to dial up your impact, you can go the route of shills.  Here’s where you scrape up a bunch of chronic liars who will gladly say anything about anyone just to make a buck.  And then of course you can always toss in a few people whose admiration of you is sincere.  Today there are highly successful “Christian” organizations who dedicate a large portion of each church session to testimonies.  The audience watches, mesmerized, as one shill after another gets up and tells their emotional tales of how Holy Harry changed their lives for the better.  Shills are a sweet way to gain the status of a god in the eyes of your followers—as long as you are able to keep them under control.  You wouldn’t want any of the little twerps to come back at you with threats to rat you out as the con artist that you are.  Blackmailers are very problematic and dealing with them can get messy fast.

Now when you’re a shady shepherd, you’ve got a lot of competition.  But sometimes shady shepherds get smart and decide to work together.  Tom is just getting started in his “I’ve been to Hell so pay me to talk about it” career.  So far his turnouts have been pretty small, and his finances are getting tight.  But then: salvation.  Well established Arrogant Andy comes along and says he’ll give Tom a boost if Tom agrees to start promoting Andy at all of his speeches.  Tom gladly agrees, so Andy unveils his brilliant scheme.  They’ll get an artist to draw two different sketches of the same ugly looking demon creature.  Then they’ll swear that the sketches were drawn separately, with one based only on Tom’s vision of Hell, and the other based on Arrogant Andy’s.  You see, Andy’s been to Hell, as well—multiple times in his early days.  But he’s now moved on to the world of end time prophecies, and his latest book explains how the next blood moon is going to give Israel the power to take over the world.  Andy figures Tom can boost his book sales, while Tom sees Andy as really boosting the turnout on Tom’s next “I’ve been to Hell so pay me to talk about it” tour. It’s a win-win situation, and when the sketches are publicized on both men’s websites, it boosts both men’s credibility.  But wait—aren’t we being a bit ridiculous with these fictitious scenarios?  Not hardly.  Phony prophets synchronizing their visions is a trick that’s older than the hills.  The old “independent sketch” stunt is one that has actually been done by one of modern day Christendom’s biggest false prophets, and he did it for the purpose of plugging a newbie on the “I’ve been to Hell so pay me to talk about it” circuit.  Look up Christian prophecy online and you’ll find scores of internet communities where false prophets gather to imitate, plug, and praise each other.  Sometimes it really does pay to work in groups.

Now as impressed as humans are by other humans giving you a good name, we all know that supernatural beings carry way more clout.  So why settle for human praise when it’s so darn easy to make demons, angels, and God Himself sing your praises in public?  Enter Humble Hannah—that shrinking violet who never stops reminding us of how pure her love for God is.  No wonder Jesus showed up in her bedroom last night and told Hannah that He was planning to share His throne with her the moment she died. No wonder He bowed down low and thanked her for doing such an awesome job of honoring Him on earth.  But wait—how do we know all of these details about the many ways that Jesus was gushing over Humble Hannah?  She told us, of course.  She might be humble, but she has a very sharp memory for details.

Here’s the handy thing about claiming that God thinks you’re awesome: His public endorsement of you is guaranteed to rake in fans, and it’s not like anyone can publicly prove you wrong.  If anyone tries to refute your claim, you can just call them a servant of Satan or accuse them of being possessed by the demon of jealousy.  Meanwhile, you can always count on there being a bunch of suckers out there who will accept anything you say about what God said to you.

Today you can find Christian prophets publishing whole books that are dedicated to describing all of the glowing compliments they’ve personally received from God.  Nothing is sacred to these people—what’s said to them in private will certainly be made public the moment it sounds at all complimentary.  But in real life, does God really think as highly of these windbags as they claim He does?  Of course not.

Now while God’s endorsement certainly carries the most clout among Christians, demons are a close second.  With so much awe being spent on Satan in the Church today, shady shepherds can really make a mint by convincing people that the great Satan fears them.  Here’s where Exorcist Eddy tells the tale of how he woke up to see Satan standing at the foot of his bed last night.  Unruffled, Eddy coolly demanded, “What do you want?”  Satan then replied with a long complaint about how much damage Eddy was doing to his kingdom.  Then Satan offered Eddy a bargain to get him to back off, but Eddy just laughed in that bad ole devil’s face.  See how it works?  With a speech like this, Eddy can convince his followers that he’s so spiritually formidable that even the mighty Satan is begging him for mercy.

After God and demons, angels are a third source of supernatural endorsements that shady shepherds can tap into.  Here’s where Warrior Wendy tells us how angelic beings come to her—not God—for instructions, and she regularly takes on the role of being their field commander.  See how it works?  Once Wendy convinces you that supernatural beings are submitting to her, you’ll figure that you ought to follow suit.  Flaunting endorsements is just one more clever way that shady shepherds pull rank on you.

FLAUNTING KNOWLEDGE

So far we’ve explained how shady shepherds can successfully elevate themselves in your mind just by flaunting titles, adjectives, power, and endorsements.  We can now add a fifth tactic to the list: knowledge.  If you sound smarter, people will believe that you are smarter.  So how hard is it to sound smarter than your audience?  Not hard at all.  Expertise in spiritual matters is really easy to fake.  Sometimes it’s as simple as tagging a reference to the verse you just quoted.  Without using any cue cards, Clever Colin rattles off a verse that he knows most Christians have never heard of and that certainly impresses.  By quoting a single unfamiliar verse, Colin gets people to assume that Colin has the whole Bible memorized.  Every time Colin quotes chapter and verse, people are thinking, “Wow, he really knows the Scriptures.”

The Bible is such a handy tool for shady shepherds.  They can quote as many verses as they want—they can even make some up, because no one is going to bother to crosscheck them.  Shady Sharon quotes from Psalm 164 (there are only 150 psalms).  Tricky Terry refers to the book of Hezekiah (there is no such book).  Lying Lewis quotes Proverbs 11:32 (there is no such verse).  You’re so busy being dazzled by the references that you never know how you’re being scammed.  See how it works?

Now among the scholarly blowhards, references are child’s play.  The real heavy hitter is to start talking about the original Hebrew and the original Greek.  My, doesn’t Doctor Don sound brilliant as he stands there expounding on the original Hebrew.  And since you’re not familiar with ancient Hebrew, and since you forgot your two-ton lexicon at home, how are you going to tell when Don is snowing you?

Here’s the thing about ancient languages: they operate the same way as modern day languages, which means a single word can be interpreted in many different ways. Human languages are limited, so we have to make our words multitask.  In English, a ham could refer to the meat in your sandwich, or to that ego on stage who is trying to make you think he’s a brilliant Bible scholar.  The reality of multi-tasking words opens the door for Bible translators and language “experts” to play all kinds of games with the text while maintaining the appearance of legitimacy.  For example, if you isolate Genesis 1:1 from the rest of the text, discount historical context, and ignore the original author’s theological understanding of who God is, then you can easily argue that when it says: “In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth,” Elohim means Gods.  Oh, look, there’s a Triune God being referred to in Genesis 1: it’s multiple Divine Personalities all chitchatting with Each Other.  This is what many Bible scholars tell you today, and when you look up Elohim and discover that it is indeed a plural form of “god” then you think you’re being taught correctly.  But are you?  No, you’re being totally lied to by men and women who know better than to think that “gods” is the only way to interpret Elohim.

You don’t have to get very into ancient Hebrew to discover that people used plural word forms to accomplish different goals.  Sometimes a plural form just expressed plurality.  But other times plural forms were used to add emphasis—much like the exclamation point (!) does in modern day English. Moses isn’t referring to multiple Gods creating things in Genesis 1.  He’s talking about a single GOD! creating all by Himself—and that God, of course, was the magnificent Yahweh.  If you read the rest of the context, and if you examine other ways that the term Elohim is used in Genesis, this becomes quite clear (see Rethinking the Creation Account: Who is Elohim?).  So you see, modern day Bible scholars really aren’t the trustworthy guides we’d like them to be.  There are some very devious games being played in scholarly circles today, and whipping out foreign words is a great way to get people to believe any baloney you want to sling (see Creating a Different God: How the Bible is Being Changed to Lead You Astray).  Plus, there’s always the fun of partially translating verses.  It was by leaving a single Latin word in the middle of an English translation of Isaiah 14 that the Church created the fictitious persona of Lucifer—you know, the good alter ego of Satan.  The thing is that Lucifer never existed—you just think he did because Bible translators intentionally tricked you into thinking a common Latin noun was a personal name. So much for having honorable leaders.

Now if we leave the scholarly circles and return to the prophetic community, we find that the kind of knowledge prophets like to flaunt is not biblical, but Divine.  Gaining spiritual supremacy over others is all about flaunting the fact that you know God’s personal secrets.  Here’s where Sneaky Simone keeps dropping those tantalizing hints that the Divine secrets which God just downloaded into her brain last night will change your life.  Can’t wait to hear about them, can you?  Well, Simone is planning to stall you around for three aggravating months while she puts the final touches on her new book.  Then she’ll charge you a hefty price to get your hands on those epic insights.  Meanwhile, Chosen Charlie is trying to give a sermon, but he keeps going into trances as the Holy Spirit seizes hold of his mind and starts showing him visions of the future.  At least Charlie says it’s the Holy Spirit—and my, don’t you feel left out of the loop as you watch Charlie receiving his special messages from God.  See how it works?

Faking the ability to read people’s minds is another classic stunt that false prophets like to pull (see Can a prophet of God read your mind?).  The rules here are the same as for horoscope writers: balance specific predictions with vague generalities.  The generalities focus on basic human qualities—like when Ben “discerns” that Betty “has been experiencing multiple kinds of emotions lately.”  Right.  So has every human on the planet.  But these “no duh” comments give your targets the illusion that you really are reading their minds, and after that they’re more likely to gloss over the bits you get wrong.  Here’s where Divining Dave goes up to a random shopper in a grocery store and says, “I see you’re struggling with lust.  Beware the evils of Delilah!”  No matter how Shopper Stan responds to this, Dave has the perfect comeback.  First, he knows the man struggles with lust—every human on the planet lusts after something.  If Stan asks, “Who’s Delilah?”  Dave can just lock eyes with him and say, “You know who she is.”  If Stan then says, “Do you mean my girlfriend?”  Dave can just agree.  If Stan says, “But I’m single,” then Dave can pretend his prophecy is about a woman who Stan is about to meet, or some woman who is already in his life, like a coworker.  Stan will then be impressed by Dave’s confidence, and he’ll start looking for evidence that some woman is trying to tempt him into sin.  Some false prophets love to use this kind of aggressive approach to gain new fans.  And with humans having so much in common with each other, it’s really quite simple to fake Divine insights when all you’re really doing is commenting on basic principles of human nature.

Regardless of what kind of knowledge shady shepherds choose to flaunt, by convincing you that they’re smarter than you in some area, and then emphasizing that fact, they can get you to take a subservient position to them.

FLAUNTING NUMBERS

The last tactic you need to be aware of is that of flaunting numbers.  Whether it’s likes, shares, subscribers, testimonials, donation amounts, or endorsements, if you count it and then broadcast the stats, you’re sure to impress.  Haughty Hannah loves to report how many people tune into her broadcast every week.  Boasting Bill is keeping a running tally of how many books he’s sold and how many endorsements he’s received.  Counting Carrie keeps her fans in the loop with how many hours she spends praying each day, how many prophecies she’s had come true, and how many times she’s been invited to speak at various venues.  Proud Pierre claims to have exorcised 108 demons to date.  Saving Savannah claims to have brought 900 converts to Christ with her evangelism tours.  Rocking Ronnie says 10,000 people attended his last worship concert. And there you are, projecting all kinds of meanings onto those numbers that they don’t even have.

This is how it works with numbers: they’re powerful symbols and so easy to misinterpret.  Sure, Deceiving Deliverance Ministries has 2 million likes on their Facebook page—but most of the people who liked their page forgot all about doing so and they couldn’t care less what the DDM is up to.  When you see high numbers of likes and subscribers, you assume these things prove current interest and satisfaction, when this is not at all the case.  Some of the people who subscribe to sites like ours hate God and are just looking for more material to use to mock Him.  Some of our followers think we’re delusional idiots, and they’re just linking to us to have easy access to our material so they can quote us when they rip all over us somewhere else on the web.  Some of our followers only follow us in hopes that we’ll follow them back—it’s really their own fan base they’re trying to build, and they couldn’t care less about the stuff we’re teaching.  Some of our followers don’t even remember following us, and have since moved on with their lives.  Other people who read our material will never publicly follow us, because they’re not the following kind.  So you see, the numbers don’t mean what you think they mean.  Numbers just provide the illusion of significance, and shady shepherds help you arrive at an interpretation of their stats which will work best for them.

CONCLUSION

All of the shady tactics we’ve talked about in this post are quite active in the Church today, as well as in other religions around the world.  Anytime you want people to start following you, trusting you, and depending on you, it’s vital that you find a way to make yourself seem superior in their eyes.  But of course when we’re talking about God, no human is superior, and no human is an expert on the subject being discussed.  It is totally wrong for Christian leaders to elevate themselves as spiritually superior to others.  Instead of trying to pull rank on you, Christian leaders are supposed to be encouraging you to focus on God, and to view His opinion as the only One that matters. So when you listen to them, remember that they are not above you, nor do they have anything close to a perfect understanding of truth.  Always ask God for His opinion before you accept anything a leader tells you, because God outranks us all, and what He says will always trump the musings of mere mortals.

FURTHER READING:
Four Ways to Identify False Teaching in the Church
Teaching the Flock: Three Ways We Outrage God
Identifying False Teaching About Demons: Three Easy Tests
Christian Prophets Explain the Mechanics of Prophecy: Don’t Just Believe What We Say

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