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Missions 101

The Elephant and Missions

Feb. 1, 2012By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Many gracious and thoughtful responses have already been written regarding James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll and their seeming embrace of T.D. Jakes.  For a timeline read here and for some helpful interaction read here and here.  I only wish to make a small contribution.

These days I travel quite a bit and can tell you with almost absolute certainty the the most well-known American pastor in Africa is T.D. Jakes.  When he has come to east Africa, thousands come to hear him and his gospel.  Here is the rub - the missionaries in these countries are constantly fighting against Jake's view of God and his prosperity message. Many (most?) of them perceive him as a dangerous false teacher that brings harm to believers and the church.

In seminaries in east Africa lecturing on the Trinity I have asked if students believe modalism is wrong.  "Of course," they reply!  But when I read to them statements from Jakes (at least statements in the past!) they are shocked to learn he is not Trinitarian.  Maybe he has changed his mind.  I wonder if he believes he was ever a modalist.  

One of the unintended consequences of this whole thing is the impact it will have on Christians around the world - especially in sub-Sahara Africa.  Maybe there were many private conversations that took place between the leaders of the Elephant Room and Jakes where they felt comfortable with his theological convictions.  Maybe not.  Bottom line, harm has been done.  How?

The event was set up as an interaction between brothers who beleive a common gospel.  Later, McDonald edited the statement out, but then reaffirmed it later.  This in the end is the problem.  I don't mind dialogue with people who disagree.  I think it's great.  But the soundbite quality of the discussion means that nothing is really going to be made clear.  Jakes wasn't pushed on his Trinitiarian views or asked about the prosperity gospel.  MacDonald seems to believe the relationship wasn't ready to press on the latter issue.  But honestly, MacDonald and Driscoll have named many people from the pulpit they believe are false teachers, and they certainly don't know them all.  For better (courage) or worse (unwise), they are known as men who do not hold back what they are thinking - ever.

It would have been wonderful and much easier to swallow if the event had of been couched in different terms.  Instead, when I go back to Africa, I will know that men whose theological convictions are close to mine embraced the man that has brought great harm to the Church where I try to help pastors gain solid theological understanding. 

Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International.  As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter

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