A Wolf in Christian Culture?
One of Christian music’s most sought after and acclaimed artists is in a cult.
This is the claim explored in a recent article from Christianity Today. The article centers around a man named Wayne Jolley, the leader of a small group of people called The Gathering International in Franklin, Tenn.
The article highlights the relationship of Jolley and Christian music stalwart Ed Cash. Here is a summary statement from the article:
“(Ed) Cash is a leading member of The Gathering International, a small group of followers devoted to Wayne ‘Pops’ Jolley, a prosperity gospel preacher with a history of alleged spiritual and sexual abuse. Jolley’s followers, including Cash, call him a prophet and their spiritual father. They answer his sermons with ‘Yes, sir’ and shower him with gifts and tithes in exchange for his blessing. They also submit the details of their lives – where to work, where to live, and who to associate with – for his approval.”
So who is Ed Cash and why should we care?
Ed Cash is a linchpin of the Christian music industry. He is a multi-consecutive-year winner of the Gospel Music Awards’ “Producer of the Year” award and has been tethered for years as a songwriting partner to Chris Tomlin. He has produced or written with artists such as Kari Jobe, Steven Curtis Chapman, Casting Crowns, David Crowder Band, Bethany Dillon and many others. He is perhaps most well-known for his co-authoring of the hit song, “How Great Is Our God.”
Basically, if you listen to Christian radio, you’ve heard Ed Cash. His website jokingly boasts, “The GMA (Gospel Music Association) has tried to rename the association to GMECWARTG – Gospel Music Ed Cash Writes and Records, Thank Goodness.”
The Christianity Today article is troubling on several levels. Paragraph after paragraph unravels a sickening and disturbing story of the abuse of God’s name, His people, broken families, financial scandal and people listening to the voice of a dangerous false prophet.
My aim in this writing is not to pile on Ed Cash. Regardless of his standing, he warrants our prayer and our concern as one who is being deceived.
My aim is not to kick the Christian music industry or its participants. My aim is simply to ask a question: How does this happen?
How can someone be so closely knit to a professing Christian community without that community raising great concern on an individual level for one they care about?
It seems at some point in the recording process or during a brief get-to-know-you at Starbucks, a Christian artist would ask, “So where do you go to church?” It seems they would ask what he believes the Gospel is, what he is reading in the Word, what voices are influencing his walk and how he knows he is being led by the Spirit of God.
How can this go unchecked?
I want to point the finger at people like Tomlin, Jobe and Crowder, but I quickly realize I must use them not as a target, but as a mirror to look first at myself.
How many times have I asked those in my close circle of influence the same questions? Have I simply accepted a profession of faith and a Christian label to allow people and voices unfettered access to my heart, my family, my church? As long as they say the right words, am I content to leave the Gospel out of the conversation?
Do I care enough about people to look deeper than the Christian packaging?
Granted, I don’t know the ins and outs of Ed Cash’s relationships. He may have had people praying diligently for him as he has been mired in deception. He may have been through countless interventions, coffee-table chats, and may be in the process of church discipline by those leading his local church body.
I pray all of these are true. However, according to the article, it appears much of a blind eye has been cast the other way regarding this wayward brother as long as he keeps the hits coming.
Sometimes I fear this in my own life. I fear as long as the relationships are steady, the peace is kept, and we can keep using words like God, Jesus, love, sin and faith in conversation without getting mired in definitions, I should just leave well enough alone. But at what cost?
1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” And what is it they have gone out from? John says earlier in chapter 2 that they have gone out from us – the church.
Be careful of wolves in sheep’s clothing. They may be influential. They may be meek. They may be both. But may they never go un-confronted by us because we have been passive in asking real questions to those around us.
Let us ensure those in our circles understand the Gospel and believe it. Let us be bold in testing the spirits, and in testing the spirits, may we win our brothers and sisters out of the bondage of lies.
Pray for Ed Cash, Wayne Jolley and the entire Gathering International that the truth of Christ would penetrate with light into darkness.
Pray that they may not put their trust in a man, but that they may know the true great God and how great He truly is.