the shape of leadership

Twenty-One Ways to Discern True and False Leaders

Questions you should ask

Since false prophets and false apostles clearly are slick and deceptive, it is highly important to keep growing in discernment. Rather than shut down genuine functioning in either of these areas, the onus is upon church leaders to cultivate their spiritual ability and wisdom to discern and handle situations that are not from God.

Charles Spurgeon pointed out that discernment is not just knowing the distinction between obvious right and wrong. Rather, it is knowing the difference between right and almost right. When somebody is almost right, but not entirely, the question is whether they are masking serious issues or whether they basically have a good heart and can be helped and guided.

In discerning whether something is off or not, the following checklist summarizes various discernment points to consider. In looking at those working in the apostolic or prophetic ministry, we need to discern the following:

Are they real servants to others, or do they expect to be served and honored by others?

  1. Are they scriptural, or does what they preach and teach not line up with the Bible?
  2. Do they confess and point to Jesus, or do they take the emphasis off Him and highlight other things instead of His death and resurrection for forgiveness of sins?
  3. Are their prayer lives apparent and robust, or do they not care about the prayer meetings or their own time with God because they are just “too busy” with other “important” work?
  4. Do they evidence the fruit of the Spirit or the sins of the flesh? Are they prickly? What readily oozes out of them behind stage or in stressful situations or when they don’t get their way?
  5. Do they live holy lives, or are they toying with various immoral behaviors or questionable ethics? Is their speech unclean; do they tell off-color jokes?
  6. Are they humble, preferring others above themselves, or are they prideful, drawing attention to themselves and wanting always to occupy center stage?
  7. Do they desire and seek out appropriate covering and accountability, or do they spurn such, preferring instead to bring around them their own friends who are unlikely to confront them? Do they go to others like Paul did going to Jerusalem to submit his revelation, or do they function independently?
  8. Do they work within the church structure, or do they spurn the working of the local churches and try to set up their own little empire outside of the church, drawing sheep away from their local fold?
  9. Do they not seek monetary gain, or are they out to see how much they can be paid or pull in by marketing their wares?
  10. Are they willing to suffer for Christ’s sake and pay the price that comes with their calling, or are they looking for ease and fame?
  11. When they have a tough message to give from God, do they share this with pain and the fear of the Lord or with haughtiness and a judgmental spirit, evidencing a self-righteous attitude?
  12. Are they willing to deal with the spiritual pushback that will occur when they move into Satan’s territory, or do they run when “all hell breaks loose”?
  13. Do they move in signs and wonders that give all the glory to God or instead in signs and wonders generated by the enemy to deceive others, ones that bring attention to the false prophets and apostles and the “great” things they can do?
  14. Do they want to move toward unity, being peacemakers and drawing people together, or are they divisive and leave factions in their wake?
  15. Are they no respecter of persons, clearly loving everybody no matter their race, culture, gender, looks, health, or financial status, or do they try to get into the graces of the “right folks”?
  16. Through the grace of God, do they move in the gifts of the Spirit and follow His leading, or are they not sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His direction, desiring to be in personal control?
  17. Are they teachable and open to correction, guidance, and growth in their ministry, or are they “above” any of these things, acting as if they really don’t need anybody else telling them anything?
  18. Are they full of integrity, transparent, and humanly “real,” or are they masquerading, hiding their inner selves, full of deceit?
  19. Do they honor people, complementing the other roles in the fivefold ministry and allowing them to shine in what they have been called to do, or do they demean other ministers or try to eclipse them?
  20. Are they real servants to others, or do they expect to be served and honored by others?
  21. Do they speak and do what God would have them do, no matter what, or do they make decisions independently of God’s direction, appealing to itching ears and telling people what they want to hear?
From Keys to the Apostolic and Prophetic: Embracing the Authentic — Avoiding the Bizarre (Louisville, KY: Meadow Stream Publishing, 2019), 154–155. Used with permission.
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