How do we lovingly guide our members away from false teaching?

From personal experience, I have found that many church members aren’t discriminate about the preaching to which they listen or the books they read. With so many indiscriminate readers and listeners, we are bound to see many of our fellow members following false teachers, most of which are doing so unknowingly. Not only is this dangerous for their spiritual lives, but for our churches as well. We, however, aren’t to allow those who are indiscriminate to continue to be indiscriminate, nor are we to allow those who we know are digesting false teaching to continue. As pastors and church members, we have a responsibility to lovingly guide them away from error.

How do we lovingly guide our members away from false teaching?

(1) Teach the gospel

If we want our members to discriminate on the teaching to which they subscribe, whether that be a popular radio preacher, best-selling author, or blogger, we have to make sure they know the gospel like the back of their hand. As well as they must know how it applies to all of life. The only way this will happen is if you have a thoroughly gospel-centered ministry. Without rewriting what I have already written, let me just say that one element of a thoroughly gospel-centered ministry is gospel-centered teaching.

Preaching the gospel is no less than telling someone how they are saved, but it is much more than that as well. The gospel has many dimensions, much like a diamond has many facets. It is our job to expose those facets as we teach. As well as it is our job to make sure the gospel informs our application, not works, shame, or guilt.

As we teach the gospel week in and week out, our people should not only come to understand the basic idea that Jesus died for our sin but also how it applies to all of life. Members who have a deep understanding of the gospel should have red flags going up all over the place when they hear or read something that is remotely contrary to what they know to be the gospel.

So one way we can guide our people away from false teaching is through a consistent diet of gospel-centered teaching. Apart from consistently teaching the gospel, there are other things we can do to lovingly guide members away from false teaching.

(2) Provide access and knowledge of biblical resources

If we want our people listening to and reading thoroughly biblical resources, we have to provide them with those resources. One thing I have done on my church’s website and my personal blog is to provide a list of trusted books and authors. On my personal blog, I have also placed links to other blogs/authors I trust. We don’t currently have the resources at my current church to do the following, but other churches I have attended in the past ran a church bookstore, as well as they recommended books each month in the church bulletin. Still another way to expose your people to good resources is to give them away. Set a stack of free books out for the congregation to take. If you do that, you may want to do what one of my former pastors did and make it known that if you take a free book, you are agreeing to be asked about it.

Those are just a few ideas for getting good resources in the hands of your congregation. Hopefully, if you can get them reading your recommendations, they will grow in their ability to discern false teaching. As well as if you can fill their reading list with your recommendations, the time they have to read other things will be limited or non-existent.

(3) Listen and correct

One practice I have found helpful in confronting ideas garnered from false teaching is to listen and correct. As pastors and teachers, it is easy for us to do all the talking, but one thing we must learn to do is listen to what others are actually saying. If we listen, we can then correct them.

When we correct, we shouldn’t do it in a condescending or negative way, but rather with love and patience. When I am in conversation with someone and they say something questionable, I usually say something like, “I am not so sure about that, or I don’t really agree with that idea. Here is what I believe the Bible says about that…” Or if someone brings up a known false teacher, I am sure to let them know my concern with that person. In order to do that, however, we have to be clued into the popular false teachers and know why we disagree with them.

(4) Provide a book review

Providing a book review is another helpful way to address false teaching. I have found Tim Challies (challies.com) to be an excellent source for book reviews, especially on popular level books currently influencing Christian culture. Don’t be afraid to share these reviews with members. After sharing, don’t forget to follow up. A review alone isn’t enough. We also need to gather their thoughts and discuss the main difficulties with the book.

(5) Use social media

Almost everyone I know has a social media account. Social media can be an effective tool for communication and teaching if used properly. In an effort to do just that, I make it a point to post on my church’s Facebook feed weekly. My posts generally cover three broad categories. Some I use to teach and challenge, others are for encouragement, while others are used to inform. I find that to be a good mixture. As well as I try to spread those posts out over the week, which you can easily do by scheduling posts right from your church’s Facebook feed.

(6) Confront

As fellow Christians, it’s important we confront those affected by false teaching with the truth of God’s Word. When we do this, we must go with our Bible’s open, ready to share God’s teaching on the matter. What we think doesn’t matter, as much as what God thinks, so we must confront with God’s Word open in love with much patience.

(7) Pray

Along with providing a steady diet of gospel-centered teaching, a list of resources, correction, book reviews, articles posted on social media, and loving confrontation we must pray and trust the Holy Spirit to work. I say that because it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who draws people away from false teaching and to the true gospel, not us. We can help, but the Holy Spirit must convict and cause a person to repent.

(8) Remove

The above has assumed the person being addressed has indiscriminately subscribed to false teaching. But what about those who haven’t? What about those who are actively spreading false teaching in your congregation? I believe the only option we have when it comes to false teachers, whether they are doing the teaching, or knowingly and actively spreading another’s teaching, is to remove them from any sort of leadership role while making the congregation aware of the false teaching they have shared and its corrective.

If they are not a teacher but are still actively and knowingly spreading false teaching in the congregation, we need to first approach them and ask them to stop. We also need to approach those members with whom they have shared that teaching and provide a corrective. If after approaching them, they refuse to repent and stop spreading false teaching, we must remove them from the congregation by means of church discipline. This may seem harsh, but it is our responsibility to protect the sheep from roaming wolves, which seek to devour.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are there any other ways you would deal with false teaching in your congregation?

Resource

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Are You Connected to a Biblically Minded Church? – Part 4

Evidence matters. It matters in research papers, in the courtroom, on the news, and in churches. Evidence matters because it reveals what we know, what we’ve done, or who we are. In this series, I am focusing in on that last one – who we are – in an effort to expound on the evidence of a biblically minded church (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

What is a Biblically Minded Church?

By a biblically minded church, I mean a church that is centered on God’s Word, so much so that God’s Word influences the way it thinks and the things it does.

What is the Evidence of a Biblically Minded Church?

I believe there is, at least, four pieces evidence of a Biblically Minded church in Colossians 1:3-14. The third piece of evidence we come across tells us,

(4) A Biblically Minded Church Seeks to Please God

In verse 10, Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is that they would be

fully pleasing to [God].” (Col. 1:10b)

Paul’s prayer should be our prayer as well. We should pray that we would live lives that are pleasing to God. But before we can pray that we would live lives pleasing to God, we need to know what a life that pleases God looks like.

What does it look like for us to live lives that are pleasing to God?

In verses 10-12, Paul tells us that we please God:

(1) When we live obedient lives

That is what Paul is getting at when he says that we are “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” Just like a parent is pleased when their children obey, God is pleased with us when we obey Him.

(2) When we make it a point to grow in our relationship with Him

Our relationship with God grows, in the same way, it does with a friend, by spending time with Him and learning more about Him. We spend time with and we learn more about God by reading His Word, praying, meeting with others for Bible study, reading books that help us understand His Word better, and coming to worship service. When we do those things, we are actively seeking to grow our relationship with God, and that pleases God.

(3) When we trust in Him

One of the ways you can know if you are trusting in God is by how you respond to trials and tribulations. When faced with a trial, if you find yourself constantly worrying, getting angry or anxious, you are most likely trusting in yourself. On the other hand, if you are able to endure trials with patience and joy, then most likely you are trusting in God. When we trust God, we please Him.

(4) When we give thanks to Him

When we acknowledge and thank God for all He has given us, we please God.

In all these ways we please God. A church that seeks to please God, then, is the fourth and final evidence of a biblically minded church.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you a part of a church that is focused on pleasing God?
  2. Are you a part of a biblically minded church?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Are We A Biblically Minded Church?

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[1] http://catalystconference.com/read/us-churches-no-longer-in-decline/

Are You Connected to a Biblically Minded Church? – Part 3

Evidence matters. It matters in research papers, in the courtroom, on the news, and in churches. Evidence matters because it reveals what we know, what we’ve done, or who we are. In this series, I am focusing in on that last one – who we are – in an effort to expound on the evidence of a biblically minded church (Read Part 1, Part 2).

What is a Biblically Minded Church?

By a biblically minded church, I mean a church that is centered on God’s Word, so much so that God’s Word influences the way it thinks and the things it does.

What is the Evidence of a Biblically Minded Church?

I believe there is, at least, four pieces evidence of a Biblically Minded church in Colossians 1:3-14. The third piece of evidence we come across tells us,

(3) A Biblically Minded Church is a Reproducing Church  

Focusing in on verses 5 & 6, we see that the gospel is not only bearing fruit among the Colossians, but it is also increasing among them.

“Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing — as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” (Col. 1:5b-6).

The Colossians are not only growing in Christ, but they are also doing the crucial work of reproducing themselves.

Churches must reproduce themselves or they will die.

The most recent statistic I read on churches closing said, “3,500 US churches close their doors every year.” They also said,“Growing churches make up only about 20 percent of all U.S. churches today. The rest have reached a plateau or are declining.”[1] One reason churches are closing at this rate is their failure to reproduce themselves.

How does a church reproduce itself?

Reproduction occurs when a church is focused on making disciples. When a church is making disciples, they are both focused on winning people to Christ by spreading the gospel, and growing their people in Christ by teaching them the Word. I believe both are necessary in order for a church to make disciples and be considered a reproducing church. The reason both are necessary is that people aren’t going to come to Christ if they don’t hear the gospel, and people aren’t going to grow in their faith, nor will they be equipped or motivated to spread the gospel, if they aren’t taught God’s Word. Making disciples, then, includes both a focus on evangelism and spiritual growth.

So the third evidence of a biblically minded church is that they are reproducing themselves.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you a part of a church that is focused both on winning the lost and building up its members spiritually?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Are We A Biblically Minded Church?

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[1] http://catalystconference.com/read/us-churches-no-longer-in-decline/