One of the issues Christians should have with some so-called discernment sites is their seeming reluctance to present accurate, well-researched facts as a matter of convenience to their own narrative.

Recently, Chris Rosebrough was in Sydney, Australia to host, speak and act as one of the main presenters at Pirate Christian Radio ‘Abandoned’ Conference.

Dear Lord, what a disheartening dirge this must have been for the hearers. The negativity of the atmosphere was surely dismal.

Godwin’s law

During one of the sessions, which went on and on, an Aussie Lutheran pastor suddenly launched into a monotoned polemic that, for no apparent contextual reason, ended with “hear Pope Houston – mein Fuhrer!”

This remark came quite out of the blue and with no prior reference as to why Brian Houston, to whom he was presumably referring, was being addressed with such a hissing and accusative ‘Godwin’s law’ comment, in the middle of a rant that, ironically, decried the absence of ‘millennials’ in the said Lutheran church.

Funny thing is that the millennials are queuing up to get into churches like C3 and Hillsong. I attend a local church recently planted that has positioned itself near colleges and universities in a major city, which could account for the number of young adults turning up in increasing numbers.

We should be glad of this, not bemoaning it. Young people getting themselves to church on a Sunday morning on their own initiative, bringing their friends, and building healthy relationships in Christ.

What is it that attracts them? It’s not just the worship. Zoe life, agape love, faith conviction, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, when they are genuine, have an immense attraction to people of all backgrounds and age groups.

Having a place to meet that glorifies our Father God, and being part of something that is vibrant and focused draws people together, and that is where the worship has its beginning. The love of God draws us to Him. Young people are just as attracted to Jesus as anyone.

Maybe the Lutheran pastor should look into preaching the Good News with a level of joy, light and grace that comes from the Holy Spirit rather than complaining about a lack of connection with young people. Just a suggestion.

By contrast to the vitality of the churches in question, listening to the audio of this discouraging moan-fest was a major effort of epic proportions, not unlike an eternal fingernail-scrape down a blackboard in its effect.

Is there a fact checker in the house?

But there are segments to this week of meetings which stand out to the truly perceptive listener. You would think, seeing that Rosebrough and his disciples claim to be discerning Christians, they would research their information and not make sweeping claims that are demonstrably inaccurate.

For instance, the following ill-researched and patently erroneous key claim by Rosebrough:

The one thing that is missing in movements like C3 and Hillsong and stuff like that; there is no accountability – none. I mean, literally, the way the leadership is set up; that the persons supposedly being served by the church have no ability whatsoever to hold accountable the men who are leading these movements.

Understand that Rosebrough is a Lutheran pastor from Minnesota. He’s an American who, in this instance, crossed the Pacific to pontificate about the accountability structures of movements that started and have their main bases in Australia.

His understanding of Australian Christian leadership arrangements in Australian movements and denominations falls far short of reality, and it shows in the painfully ignorant statement above.

It also demonstrates the way in which these self-nominated discernment folk create narratives that belie the truth. He was setting up a narrative by sowing a supposition.

Strong accountability structures

If he had bothered to research these movements he would know that they both have very strong accountability structures throughout the movement. Every local church is part of an accountability system with overseers, reporting systems, and training levels right the way through. They are highly disciplined, which, in part, accounts for the levels of success they are enjoying.

Above all, these churches and ministers are accountable to God, and to each other. This is well understood at all levels. For Rosebrough to claim otherwise is simply blowing wind into the air for the sake of hearing his own voice.

Secondly, Hillsong, of course, is not just its own thing. It is part of Australian Christian Churches [ACC], which is the revised name of the Assemblies of God in Australia. Their leadership is answerable to the policies and procedures of ACC. C3 also has a strong and well articulated accountability structure.

Thirdly, all churches in Australia come under not-for-profit government oversight. They are accountable to their relevant State Governments. There are very strict accountability rules about the way in which not-for-profits operate.

Whilst there is no official state church in Australia, and the constitution doesn’t allow government interference in church affairs, there are accountability lines for all not-for-profits, to which local churches are subject.

Which adds a fourth level of accountability. By law, each local church, as a not-for-profit, and/or as a registered charity, has to be accountable to an elected board of management.

Not-for-profits have to have State approved objectives, constitutions, annual independent audit of finances, declaration of their board structure and regular meetings including an Annual General Meeting, which is another level of accountability.

Simply wrong

For Rosebrough to make the claim that these churches are not accountable or that members have no way of airing their views is completely disingenuous.

One would have to ask Chris the same question of his own discernment ministry. To whom is he accountable? Who tells Chris Rosebrough the pirate radio overseer when he is mistaken on certain issues?

Who was advising Rosebrough on the structures of Australian Christian movements? Did he take any local advice? If he had he would know how difficult it is to run a local church or movement in Australia without being subject to State Government legislation on not-for-profits.

Perhaps we should all look to the words of Wisdom for advice on accountability of our claims against others.

Proverbs 6:16 
These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.