Francis Frangipane Senior Minister - River of Life Ministries - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
More churches have been destroyed by the accuser of the brethren and its faultfinding than by either immorality or misuse of church funds. So prevalent is this influence in our society that, among many, faultfinding has been elevated to the status of a "ministry"! The Lord has promised, however, that in His house accusing one another will be replaced with prayer, and faultfinding with a love that covers a multitude of sins.
Satan Wants To Stop Your Growth
This chapter is written specifically to expose the activity of the accuser of the brethren among born-again Christians. There are individuals who are trapped in cults where mind-control and deception are involved; we are not dealing with the uniqueness of their problems in this study. Rather, our goal is to see the Living Church delivered from the stronghold of faultfinding, and to have our hearts turned instead to prayer.
In an attempt to hinder, if not altogether halt, the next move of God, Satan has sent forth an army of faultfinding demons against the church. The purpose of this assault is to entice the body of Christ away from the perfections of Jesus and onto the imperfections of one another.
The faultfinder spirit's assignment is to assault relationships on all levels. It attacks families, churches and interchurch associations, seeking to bring irreparable schisms into our unity. Masquerading as discernment, this spirit will slip into our opinions of other people, leaving us critical and judgmental. Consequently, we all need to evaluate our attitude toward others. If our thoughts are other than faith working through love, we need to be aware that we may be under spiritual attack.
The faultfinder demon will incite individuals to spend days and even weeks unearthing old faults or sins in their minister or church. The people who are held captive by this deceitful spirit become "crusaders," irreconcilable enemies of their former assemblies. In most cases, the things they deem wrong or lacking are the very areas in which the Lord seeks to position them for intercession. What might otherwise be an opportunity for spiritual growth and meeting a need becomes an occasion of stumbling and withdrawal. In truth, their criticisms are a smoke screen for a prayerless heart and an unwillingness to serve.
That someone should discover the imperfections of their pastor or church is by no means a sign of spirituality. Indeed, we could find fault with the church before we were Christians. What we do with what we see, however, is the measure of Christlike maturity.
Remember, when Jesus saw the condition of mankind, He "emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant . . . He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8). He died to take away sins; He did not just judge them.
No One Is Exempt
It is of some consolation that Christ Himself could not satisfy the "standards" of this spirit when it spoke through the Pharisees. No matter what Jesus did, the Pharisees found fault with Him.
If you personally have not consulted with and listened to the individual of whom you are critical, how can you be sure that you are not fulfilling the role of the accuser of the brethren? Even the "Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him" (John 7:51).
The enemy's purpose in this assault is to discredit the minister so it can discredit his message. I have personally listened to scores of pastors from many denominational backgrounds, and I have found that the timing of this spirit's attack upon their congregations was almost always just prior to, or immediately after, a significant breakthrough. The unchallenged assault of this demon always stopped the forward progress of their church.
When this spirit infiltrates an individual's mind, its accusations come with such venom and intimidation that even those who should know better are bewildered and then seduced by its influence. Nearly all involved take their eyes off Jesus and focus upon "issues," ignoring during the contention that Jesus is actually praying for His body to become one. Beguiled by this demon, accusations and counter accusations rifle through the soul of the congregation, stimulating suspicion and fear among the people. Devastation wracks the targeted church, while discouragement blankets and seeks to destroy the pastor and his family, or other servants of God in the church.
Nearly every minister reading this has faced the assault of the faultfinder spirit at one time or another. Each has known the depression of trying to track down this accusing spirit as it whispers its gossip through the local church: trusted friends seem distant, established relationships shaken, and the vision of the church is quagmired in strife and inaction.
This enemy is not limited to attacks on local churches, however. Its attacks are also city wide and national. Major publishers have made millions of dollars selling defaming books which are hardly more credible than gossip columns in the tabloids.
Yes, in a few of the ministries there was serious sin, but there are biblical ways to bring correction, ways which lead to healing and not to destruction! There are denominational supervisors, as well as local ministerial associations that can review disputes privately. Instead, church leaders boldly challenge other leaders; newsletters and cassette tapes critical of various ministries circulate like poison through the blood stream of the body of Christ--and how the Savior's church gluttonously eats it up!
To mask the diabolical nature of its activity, the faultfinder will often garb its criticisms in religious clothing. Under the pretense of protecting sheep from a "gnat-sized" error in doctrine, it forces the flock to swallow a "camel-sized" error of loveless correction. In an attempt to correct violations of Scripture, the very methods employed are a violation of Scripture! Where is the "spirit of gentleness" of which Paul speaks in Galatians 6:1, the humility in "looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted"? Where is the love motive to "restore such a one"?
In most cases the person supposedly in error has never even been contacted before his alleged mistakes enter the rumor mill of the city's churches. Only then, after the slander has been made public through a book, tape, or media broadcast; does he become aware of his alleged faults. Brethren, the spirit behind such accusations must be discerned, for its motive is not to restore and heal, but to destroy!
The Pure Example
The church does need correction, but the ministry of reproof must be patterned after Christ and not the accuser of the brethren. When Jesus corrected the churches in Asia (see Revelation ), He sandwiched His rebuke between praise and promises. He reassured the churches that the voice about to expose their sin was the very voice which inspired their virtue. After encouraging them, He then brought correction.
Even when a church was steeped in error, as was the case with two of the seven churches, Christ still offered grace for change. How patient was Jesus? He even gave "Jezebel . . . time to repent"! (Rev 2:20-21) After He admonished a church, His last words were not condemnation, but promises.
Is this not His way with each of us? Even in the most serious corrections, the voice of Jesus is always the embodiment of "grace and truth" (John 1:14). Jesus said of the sheep, "They know His voice. And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him" (John 10:4-5). Remember, if the word of rebuke or correction does not offer grace for restoration, it is not the voice of your Shepherd. If you are one of Christ's sheep, you will flee from it.
The Enemy's Weapons
To find an indictment against the church, it is important to note the enemy must draw his accusations from hell. If we have repented of our sins, no record of them nor of our mistakes exists in heaven. As it is written, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies" (Rom 8:33). Jesus is not condemning us, but rather is at the Father's right hand interceding on our behalf.
Let us, therefore, expose the weapons of the faultfinder. The first is our actual sins. Our failure to repent when the Holy Spirit desires to correct us opens the door for the accuser to condemn us. The voice of the enemy never offers hope nor extends grace for repentance. It acts as though it were the voice of God, and we were guilty of the "unpardonable sin." The way to defeat the enemy in this arena is to disarm him by sincerely repenting of the sin, looking again to the atonement of Christ as the sum of all our righteousness.
Yet, Satan seeks not only to accuse us as individuals but to blend into our minds, introducing criticisms and condemnation against others as well. Instead of praying for one another, we react in the flesh against offenses. Our unchristlike responses are then easily manipulated by the faultfinder spirit.
Therefore, we cast down the accuser of the brethren by learning to pray for one another instead of preying on one another. We must learn to forgive in the same manner as Christ has forgiven us. If one has repented of his sins, we must exercise the same attitude of "divine forgetfulness" that exists in heaven. We defeat the faultfinder when we emulate the nature of Jesus: like a lamb, Christ died for sinners; as a priest, He intercedes.
The second weapon this demon uses against us is our past mistakes and poor decisions. Each of us has an inherent propensity toward ignorance. One does not have to read far into the history of the saints to discover they were not called because of their intrinsic wisdom. In truth, we all have made mistakes. Hopefully, we have at least learned from them and developed humility because of them. This faultfinding demon, however, takes our past mistakes and parades them before our memory, criticizing our efforts to do God's will, thus keeping us in bondage to the past.
When the enemy pits us against one another, it first provokes us to jealousy or fear. The security of our place in life seems threatened by another's success. Perhaps to justify our personal failures or flaws, we magnify the past shortcomings of others. The more our jealousy grows, the more this demon exploits our thoughts, until nothing about the individual or his church seems right.
In the final stage we actually wage a campaign against him. No defense he offers will satisfy us. We are convinced he is deceived and dangerous, and we think it is up to us to warn others. Yet the truth is, the person whose mind is controlled by the faultfinder demon is the one who is deceived and dangerous. For his own unrepentant thoughts toward jealousy and fleshly criticism have supplied hell with a "lumberyard" of material to erect walls between members of the body of Christ.
Sadly, it is often leaders who have fallen from the intensity of their first love who become the fiercest persecutors of others who are moving in the Holy Spirit. Christ's disciples will be persecuted, but this author can find no biblical authorization for Christians to persecute others. Persecution is a deed of the flesh. "But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also" (Gal 4:29). Incredibly, those who are given to persecuting others often actually think that they are "offering service to God" (John 16:2).
To combat this enemy we must create an atmosphere of grace among us as individuals and between us as churches. Like the Father who has given us life, we must seek to cause all things to work together for good. If one stumbles, we must be quick to cover him, without condoning hypocrisy, for we are "members of one another" (Eph 4:25). As it is written, "None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the Lord" (Lev 18:6). We are family, begotten from one Father. "Their nakedness you shall not uncover; for their nakedness is yours" (v 10). Even under the Old Covenant, it was unlawful to uncover another's mistake publicly. Love finds a redemptive way to cover a multitude of sins.
Where The Vultures Are Gathered
The accuser uses yet another weapon, and it uses this weapon astutely. There are times in our walk with God when, to increase fruitfulness, the Father prunes us back (see John 15). This is a season of preparation, where the Lord's purpose is to lead His servants into new power in ministry. During this time, God requires new levels of surrender as well as a fresh crucifixion of the flesh. It is often a time of humiliation and testing, of emptiness and seeming ineffectiveness as God expands our dependency upon Him. It can be a fearful time when our need is exposed in stark visibility. Unfortunately, this time of weakness is apparent not only to the man or woman of God; it frequently occurs before the church, and before principalities and powers as well. The faultfinder spirit, and those who have come to think as it thinks, find in their target's vulnerability an opportunity to crush him.
Time and again, what would otherwise have become an incubator of life becomes a coffin of death. Those who might otherwise emerge with the clarity and power of prophetic vision are beaten down and abandoned, cut off from the very people who should have prayed them through to resurrection. In this attack the faultfinder is most destructive. For here this demon aborts the birth of mature ministries, those who would arm their churches for war.
The faultfinders and gossips are already planted in the church--perhaps you are such a one! When the living God is making your pastor more deeply dependent, and thus more easily shaped for His purposes, do you criticize his apparent lack of anointing? Although he did not abandon you during your time of need, do you abandon him now when your faith might be the very encouragement he needs to fully yield to the cross?
Those who are sympathetic to the accuser of the brethren fulfill, by application, Matthew 24:28, "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." The backbiting of these vulture-like individuals actually feeds their lower nature, for they seek what is dead in a church; they are attracted to what is dying.
Eventually these faultfinders depart, instinctively looking to take issue with some other church. "These are grumblers, finding fault . . . the ones who cause divisions" (Jude 16-19). They leave behind their former brethren, severely wounded and in strife, and a pastor greatly disheartened. Soon, they join a new church and, in time, God begins to deal with this new pastor. Once again the faultfinder spirit manifests itself through them, strategically positioned to destroy another church. Today, God is seeking to raise up His servants with increased power and authority. In the pruning stage of their growth, will we water their dryness with prayer or will we be vultures drawn to devour their dying flesh?
How To Correct Error
When the accuser comes, it brings distorted facts and condemnation. Those who are trapped by this spirit never research the virtues in the organization or person they are attacking. With the same zeal that the faultfinders seek to unearth sin, those who will conquer this enemy must earnestly seek God's heart and His calling for those they would reprove.
True correction, therefore, will proceed with reverence, not revenge. Indeed, are not those whom we seek to correct Christ's servants? Are they not His possession? Is it possible the works of which we are jealous, and thus critical, might be the very works of Christ? Also, let us ask ourselves: why has God chosen us to bring His rebuke? Are we walking in Christ's pattern?
These are important questions, for to be anointed with Christ's authority to rebuke, we must be committed to men with Christ's love. But, if we are angry, embittered, or jealous toward another, we cannot even pray correctly for that person, much less reprove him. Jesus, the great Lion of Judah, was declared worthy to bring forth judgment by virtue of His nature: He was a Lamb slain for men's sin. If we are not determined to die for men, we have no right to judge them.
Those who seek to justify leaving a church must not do so simply through finding fault. Rather, they should openly communicate with the ministerial team. Their attitude should be one of prayer and love, leaving a blessing for what they gained by their time spent in that church. If there has indeed been sin in the ministry, they should contact the church authorities in the city and leave the situation with them.
Additionally, local ministers should be in communication with one another, never basing their opinion of another church or leader on the testimony of one who has just left it. If people join your congregation and bring with them a root of bitterness against their former assembly, that root will spring up in your church and many will be defiled. Therefore, no matter how much you need new members, never build your congregation with individuals who are unreconciled to their former fellowship.
Indeed, the Lord's word to us is that in the House of the Lord criticism must be replaced with prayer, and faultfinding eliminated with a covering love. Where there is error, we must go with a motive to restore. Where there are wrong doctrines, let us maintain a gentle spirit as we seek to correct those in opposition.
Lord Jesus, forgive us for our lack of prayer and the weakness of our love. Master, we want to be like You, that when we see a need, instead of criticizing, we lay down our lives for it. Lord, deliver Your church of this demonic faultfinding spirit! In Jesus' name. Amen.