Christians are called to be witnesses, from Jerusalem to the uttermost. Nowhere in scripture are we told to be secretive about our ministry.
So it’s weird, to say the least, and totally unbiblical, to see the CWs produce a graphic (slightly modified here) on their sites which promotes secret critics, anonymous fault-finders, and hidden denigrators.
‘Think family, think friends, think long-term, stay anonymous‘ – such is the mantra of the CWs collective.
The claim, of course, that the person is an ‘insider’ is spurious, and a subject for another day. What they mean by this is that an ‘insider’ is someone who once attended a church the CWs want to say bad things about.
But what of the sinister nature of the illustration above? It shows a hooded person, in darkness, with the CWs’ logo on the jacket.
Are believers taught to be secretive or hooded, or masked as they go about promoting truth? The answer is no. There is no precedent for secret Christians.
False claims of a risk factor
What do the CWs mean when they tell their secret service agents to ‘think family, think friends, think long-term’? The claim they make, and the excuse they give for remaining anonymous is that their family and friends could come under some kind of pressure from the church they attend. Like what, you have to wonder? What can church members and leadership in the churches the CWs oppose possibly do? Send a sad emoticon in a tweet?
What is the implication here? I mean, we live in a peaceful democracy with well policed laws, Christians abide by the law of love anyway, are admonished to obey the laws of the land, pray for their secular and spiritual leaders, and walk circumspectly with everyone. We’re even admonished to love our enemies.
I have been around these churches for many years and there has never been any suggestion that anyone would in any way present a risk to the family members and friends of people who choose to leave their church or say things that are critical of that church, especially when the CWs are obviously pointing the finger at Hillsong and C3 churches.
On the contrary, those pastors, leaders and congregants are more likely to remain in contact in some way with the people that have left for whatever reason they give, even if the people leaving are critical. We are Christians. We are commanded to love one another, walk in forgiveness. We do not have a license to start being horrible or rude to people who have moved on to other churches or leave the church altogether. We are still brothers and sisters in Christ. The implication given by the CWs is wrong and worthy of denunciation in the strongest terms.
Actually, it is far more likely that a person who comes into Hillsong or C3 will cop some flack from the CWs if they tell them they have joined either of the movements. And it is proven that Hillsong and C3 members who comment on CWs’ sites in defence of their churches and pastors will receive a heated response.
Don’t hide your light
But where in the New Testament are Christians told to be anonymous? ‘Nowhere’ is the answer. Jesus told us that we should not hide our light under a bushel.
Luke 11:33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.”
Everything that is hidden will be revealed ultimately, so why bother hiding ourselves, or the light we have. There is no call to secrecy for the believer. If we are going to shine the light on error then we need to have the courage of our convictions and be up front with our claims. We should be prepared to be challenged for our assessment of doctrine or methodology.
We are firmly told in scripture that, as believers, we can expect persecution, our families included, so why would we hide ourselves away? I know many believers who risk everything for the sake of the gospel. At times, in our ministry, we have taken our family, even when our children were very young, into dangerous places to preach the gospel. We never hid behind a hooded cloak, or a mask, or attempted to minister the Word from a hidden vantage point.
We have stood against controversy and error, going face to face with those who have taught it. We have told them the truth in love without regard for our own wellbeing. Indeed, it is for the wellbeing of the person with whom we are discussing truth that we reveal ourselves, our call and our credentials. Our credibility is in Christ, but we also have a name. He was not afraid or ashamed of declaring his name, why should we be afraid of being known as followers?
Where we have been sent in his name, we have always been known. We would never even think of being anonymous in case something happened to us or our family or friends. What is that all about? We have been threatened and in physical danger at times, but God has always delivered us out of difficult situations and people have had their lives changed through the gospel. Glory to God.
What can men do? Kill our bodies? To live is Christ, to die is gain. I don’t understand the logic of being hooded, anonymous critics. It is an affront to the name of Jesus. He told us not to fear men or what they can do to us.
Matthew 10:26-28 “Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The world is filled with godly Christians who risk everything to preach the gospel, to be witnesses of Christ. There are many Christians today who are at risk because of the message they preach, yet they boldly proclaim the name of Jesus. Many, over the years, since Jesus gave us the call to preach the gospel and make disciples, have been martyred for their faith. Are they anonymous? No way!
Even this year, and as you read this piece, believers are being persecuted, and some in recent times have been beheaded, crucified, imprisoned and beaten for their faith. What kind of message do the CWs send when they promote anonymous judgment of Christians by Christians?
Furthermore, they anonymously judge Christians who they name. They persuade others to do the same. This is to their great shame.
We do not go into all the world with the gospel expecting it to be risk-free. True disciples of Christ know what the risks are before we go. The pioneers who went into Fiji in the 1800s, for instance, when there were still cannibals there, told people that they did not fear for their lives because they had died to themselves long ago.
Yet the CWs counsel their own followers to hide. Is this because they are not yet dead to their own fears? They have not taken up their cross. They do not die daily to themselves.
So who are these people in masks who are parading themselves in hoods that the CWs champion? Who are these anonymous Hillsong/C3 bashers? What kind of Christianity are the CWs promoting? The illustration on their site is sinister and provocative. It shows a cowardly approach to criticism which promotes hit-and-run tactics. Stick a pin and hide.
Little wonder, though, when you remember that the CWs are themselves hidden, anonymous, faceless critics. They are kidding themselves, of course, because the main orchestrators of their sites are known by those they try to defame, but their modus operandi is to be secretive in their criticism of Hillsong and C3 churches, movements and people.
But what does the Word say about being hidden? There is nothing in the New Testament to support hooded critics. The Old Testament doesn’t seem to have anything either.
The closest I can find is a Biblical example of someone who considered himself hidden from God’s face – Cain.
Genesis 4:13-14 And Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”
So Cain the fugitive, cast out of God’s presence for dishonouring God with his sacrifice and murdering his own brother, is an example of a self-describing hidden man. Proverbs gives us a hint, too.
Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.
Ironically, that is very close to the conspiracy theory of pursuit given by the CWs. No one is going after them or their families to do anything but love them and forgive them, yet they foster anonymity as a mark of their cause.
Whom do we fear?
David teaches us the attitude of the faithful.
Psalms 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid? If God be for us who can be against us? Has something changed that we should be advised by the CWs to go around in hoodies in case we are persecuted? I think not. Who are we supposed to fear? Armies?
Psalms 27: 3 Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war should rise against me, In this I will be confident.
Perhaps the CWs and their supporters have been startled by their own hooded shadows and need to be comforted for fear of the darkness in which they find themselves. Again David, a man after God’s own heart, gives the answer.
Psalms 27:13-14 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!
So there we have it. We do not need to hide behind a hood, anonymity or a mask to cover our fear for ourselves or our families or our friends. We can wait on the Lord and he will strengthen us. He will hide us in the secret place, under the refuge of the Most High, where we are guarded and protected from all enemies.
Psalms 91 1-6 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
We don’t need to wear a hoodie to be in this place.
Running from enemies
But, wait a minute, wasn’t David hidden from enemies who pursued him a few times? Indeed, but David was never ever anonymous. He did not write bad things about Saul, who was persecuting him. He made certain that Saul knew that David honoured the fact that Saul was the anointed king. David was falsely accused and had a price on his head.
Saul’s men knew who they were searching for and David laid low for a while. None of the CWs are in this position. They have remained hidden since day one. They have never come out of their holes, so the principle doesn’t apply. They write about those they accuse of pursuing them when, in fact, they are ignoring them.
What about Elijah? Wasn’t he hidden away for time? Yes, but the same thing applies. He was hidden for a short season because he was known. He was actually being pursued because of who he was – the Prophet Elijah, who destroyed the false prophets of Ba’al and angered Jezebel. No secret identities here then to use as examples.
Under a new covenant
Besides which we live under the New Covenant, where Jesus has said we should not hide our light under a bushel, as we have seen. Paul is an example of how we should fearlessly conduct ourselves when we present the gospel or defend the faith.
Look at the way in which Paul boldly continues to proclaim the gospel despite pressures on all sides and fearless of his own life and wellbeing so that the Word goes out regardless of enemies.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-3 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.
For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness–God is witness.
So, then, Paul’s gospel was not hidden, not cloaked, nor fearful of consequence. He boldly went wherever God sent him and preached the truth no matter what they did to him. Jesus appeared to him and warned him that he would suffer much persecution. Paul went undaunted. He did not have a pseudonym. In fact, Jesus gave him a new name, changing it from Saul to Paul. He was known by this name throughout the empire.
Being persecuted goes with the territory for believers. All who believe will suffer persecution. Is this an excuse for being anonymous? By no means. Persecution is a crown. They hate us because they hated Jesus. We have been given a name, the name that is above all names, the name of Jesus.
We live and breath and act in his name. He chose us from the beginning to be sons. He sent us, but he has never told us to hide behind hoods, or be anonymous with the truth.
What are we saying to our children if we say we will hide behind a mask to guard them in case of some contrived or perceived reprisal of man? We would be teaching them to hide for the gospel’s sake. There is no Word for this.
I’d rather die in front of my wife and children for the sake of the gospel than hide myself away for fear of reprisal from any man. Are we God fearing people or man-pleasers? Do we fear man more than we fear God?
What are the CWs teaching their followers? ‘Be anonymous’! Why? For fear of man!
And the image of a hooded man in darkness, what is this saying? Hide your light in the dark, away from scrutiny, away from the examination of truth. The reality is that the CWs are encouraging people to anonymously send gossip for publication. They are furthering the cause of sowing discord amongst the brethren and using anonymous contributors to bring judgment. Therefore, they make themselves publicly accountable to no one.
A question of credibility
Here’s a question for the CWs. How do you know that these anonymous contributors are genuine? What is the proof of their credibility if they are nameless? How do we know they even attended the churches they defame? What are their motives, their credentials and the plausibility of their claims if they remain unidentifiable? Isn’t obscurity a nullifier of scrutiny and, therefore credibility?
How do we know that you didn’t just write these things yourselves? You are anonymous. They are anonymous. What is the proof that you and they are not one and the same?
Anyone can put together 2,000 words and level claims against these ministries. Anonymity immediately discounts the writers’ witness. That is a fact, however you look at it. The CWs’ entire web empire is null and void simply because they are anonymous. It is destitute of identity. Nothing they say has any weight until they put a name to it.
How can those they accuse defend themselves against their claims if they do not know who is making these statements? Is there a Biblical precedent for this? None! Not one! Not anywhere. And they are statements. Vapid statements, perhaps, in terms of validity because their anonymity, but statements nevertheless. Statements, naming people and organisations, that are being published globally, publicly, daily.
They are also judgments, but how can anyone be judged by anonymous judges? Futility of judgment on the basis of anonymity. Hooded vacuum logic. That is a laughable state of affairs, is it not, in a derisive sense? Vanity of vanities. Futility at its most wasteful. Sons and daughters have names, but they choose to abandon them for superficial noms-de-plume. Nick-names. Judging the named. Judgments of the vacuous. What would Paul say about these judgments?
Not ashamed of the gospel
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. He also resisted the judgment of his contemporaries who sought to defame him. At least these opponents had names he could identify, and yet their judgments he considered invalid. He knew who he was in Christ and was able to remind them that their judgments were futile because they judged before the time when God will sit as the Judge of all, and, anyway, Paul was already judged in Christ and found to be redeemed, forgiven, and justified through faith.
1 Corinthians 4:3-5 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
Everything will be brought to light in its time. All will be revealed. There is no precedent for hidden witness. The CWs appeal to its adherents to remain anonymous negates its own testimony. No one appears anonymously as a witness for the prosecution and has any credibility with the court. In the case of the CWs, they are the prosecution, and they are hidden. They are as veiled as the accuser of the brethren. And they appeal to their witnesses to be anonymous themselves, to be cloaked, to be hooded.
Their blindness is in their masks.