Should We Name Names When Calling Out Error?

by | Apr 6, 2018 | Church & Ministry

There are times when it is right to name names when calling out error and there are times when it is not right. How do we make that distinction?

Let’s start with the most basic premise of all: When we call out error, our goal is to be redemptive, not to be right. In other words, we are not calling out error to show how right we are. We are calling out error to expose evil, to warn people of danger, to urge people to repent. We are calling out error to save lives, not destroy lives.

As for false teachers and heretics and wolves, we would love to see them repent. But if they refuse, then their blood is on their own heads. They will reap what they have sown.

But who, exactly, are the false teachers and heretics and wolves? Sometimes it is easy to see and sometimes it is debatable. And sometimes it is a matter of opinion. Whose opinion is right?

Do you know that some critics posted videos and articles after Billy Graham’s death, saying he was a false teacher and heretic? And some of those same critics then blasted me as a false teacher because I spoke well of him.

Virtually every day, I see fine Christian leaders called out as heretics and false prophets and wolves, simply because they teach something that some critic differs with. It’s not always virtuous to name names.

That’s one reason that, whenever possible, I try to reach out to someone privately before writing about them publicly. (I’m not talking about the president or a TV star or the like, where that’s not feasible. I’m talking about other Christian leaders or even non-Christian colleagues who are accessible.)

And sometimes, the best thing we can do is describe the error. This way, people can see it for themselves and reject it.

Obviously, if we’re addressing a specific statement made by an individual, there’s no way not to name names. But it’s not always so cut and dry.

In my new book, Playing with Holy Fire, I cite specific examples of errors and abuses that I have witnessed myself or heard from reliable sources. But I chose not to name names, despite some urging me to do so. (Those urging me to do so were in the clear minority.)

To be sure, at other times, I have named names, as in my book Hyper-Grace. There, while writing the book, I could reach out to some of the hyper-grace authors and pastors to see if they were willing to reconsider their views. Plus, their teachings were documented in writing and in other formats, so I could quote them fairly and in context.

When it came to Playing with Holy Fire, which is a wake-up call to the Pentecostal-Charismatic church, I did cite many disturbing anecdotes and examples. But some of them took place decades ago. What if the people involved have changed over the years? I would hate to blemish them if they have truly repented.

In other cases, some of the leaders I speak about are godly people, yet with some conspicuous blind spots. But the moment I point out that blind spot, others will reject their whole ministry, since we tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Is it right to mention them by name?

And since I cite so many examples from around the world, it’s impossible for me to reach out to all those involved. This is yet another reason why I chose not to name names. Even more was this true when I relied on firsthand reports from reliable friends and colleagues—but only secondhand to me.

I was also addressing general tendencies. So by citing an example, I was addressing the larger issue.

Interestingly, in the New Testament, sometimes the writers named names (see 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:14; 3 John 1:9) and sometimes they did not (see, for example, 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 Pet. 2:1-22). When they didn’t name names, we can assume that, by describing the error or abuse, the people would know who was being described. The same holds true today.

Either way, whether names are named or not, if the shoe fits, wear it.

If you’re a Christian leader and you’re convicted of error, then humble yourself before God in repentance, and He will give you grace.

If you’re a believer and you’re convicted of embracing error, the Lord will help you grow and mature as you lean on Him.

As for Christian leaders whose sin is failing to address the error of others, may the Lord give you the courage and resolve to speak the truth in love, regardless of cost and consequence. You cannot afford not to speak.

So, there are times to name names and times not to name names. But it is always time to confront and expose error. It is always time to warn of spiritual danger. And it is always time to reach out in love, remembering that “love covers a multitude of sins” (Proverbs 10:12b, NIV).


Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


Mario Murillo: An Era of Mass Soul Winning Has Begun

Mario Murillo: An Era of Mass Soul Winning Has Begun

Read Time: 4 Minutes, 27 Seconds From the very first tent stake we drove into California soil, until now, there has only been one dream. And, after two years, that dream came true in Roseville. Roseville is the victory we have yearned for. It confirms that an era of...

God’s Strategy for His End-Times Church

God’s Strategy for His End-Times Church

Read Time: 2 Minutes 23 Seconds In this webinar, Grant Berry discussed the strategy the Lord is releasing for His end-time plans to reform His Ekklesia/church. God is revealing different focuses of this strategy to various parts of the body, especially as it relates...

How You Can Flow in the River of Living Water

How You Can Flow in the River of Living Water

Read Time: 5 Minutes, 2 Seconds A river is a source of life. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Jesus told His disciples that if we believe in Him, "rivers of living water" will flow out from within us, from our hearts. "Anyone who believes in me may...

Cindy Jacobs Prophesies: Trust That He is There

Cindy Jacobs Prophesies: Trust That He is There

Read Time: 2 Minutes 42 Seconds It’s very interesting how the Holy Spirit will use things that you’re going through to not only prophesy to you, but also to prophesy over the body of Christ. In listening to other people and hearing what’s been coming out of their...

Have We Departed From the  Simplicity of Christ?

Have We Departed From the Simplicity of Christ?

Recently I heard a pastor say the following: "When I was pastoring and saw little fruit, I began to call those with potential to reach others for Christ to our home and to mentor them one on one. That's where massive growth happened in the people." Local pastors and...


Take the Fight to the Enemy, Before He Strikes at You

Read Time: 3 Minutes 7 Seconds “When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard of it, he went down to...
Joyce Meyer: Becoming a Prisoner of Hope

Joyce Meyer: Becoming a Prisoner of Hope

Read Time: 3 Minutes 56 Seconds God is good. And He has a good plan for each of our lives. No matter what may be going on right now, God’s plan is unfolding. In the meantime, Romans 12:12 tells us to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,”...

Victimized By Gaslighting? 5 Steps to Finding Freedom

Victimized By Gaslighting? 5 Steps to Finding Freedom

Read Time: 2 minutes 26 seconds The term "gaslighting" has gone viral across social media this year and Merriam-Webster chose it as their word-of-the-year, saying searches for the word spiked 1,740% in 2022 alone. We're breaking down what the Bible has to say about...

WATCH: Vlad Savchuck: Life, Health and the Bible

WATCH: Vlad Savchuck: Life, Health and the Bible During a recent visit to @HungryGeneration, Pastor Vlad Savchuk asked Bill Wiese to comment on his personal experience applying the Word of God to his own life and health. These same principals hold true for all who read and...

I’m Going Defcon G on the Enemy

I’m Going Defcon G on the Enemy

Read Time: 1 Minute 32 Seconds The last six years have been the best of times and the worst of times. I’ve seen more death, destruction, disease and devastation than I care to remember. I’ve also seen the hand of God move in extraordinary ways. Indeed, sometimes I...

Pin It on Pinterest