By Mike Gendron
The Disappearing Doctrine of the Evangelical Church
This newsletter is often used to correct the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church but in this issue we will address the disappearing doctrine of the Evangelical Church. Many professing Christians now think it doesn't really matter what you believe, as long as you label it Christianity. Their only test for becoming a Christian is a simple acceptance of Jesus as a historical figure. In our post-modern church, doctrine is out and tolerance is in. We are told that for the sake of unity, doctrine should not be tested or contested. We are not supposed to draw any definitive lines or declare any absolutes. Doctrinal and moral issues which were once painted black and white, are now seen as gray. The state of the church is now in a state of confusion.
Paul forewarned us that this would happen when he wrote: "The time will come when they [the people in the church] will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). When "Christians" turn to popular teachers who tickle their ears with messages on self-esteem and self-improvement, they are also turning away from God's word. Without a steady diet of Scripture, they will not hear sound doctrine and therefore be unable to discern truth from error. Ultimately, they will not know if they are following Jesus Christ or his adversary.
Without discernment, the 21st century church is headed for serious trouble because the enemies of the Gospel are more shrewd and cunning than we are. What the Body of Christ needs now are soldiers of the Lord who are committed to battle for truth! Let us look at some of the cause for the lack of discernment in the evangelical church.
Decline of Biblical Preaching
What has happened to pastors who preach the whole counsel of God? Churches that once taught the Bible verse-by-verse are on the endangered species list. We receive letters from our subscribers all over the world who cannot find them. We have also witnessed this first hand as we listen to sermons on church web sites. It appears pastors today are more concerned with popularity, church growth, methodology, psychology and meeting felt needs than biblical doctrine. Pastors are teaching less and less from the Bible which ultimately calls people to trust in the words of men, instead of the word of God.
Three Kinds of Preachers
In one category are teachers who faithfully preach the whole counsel of God. They exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9). These men are devoted to seeking the approval of God over the approval of men (Gal. 1:10).
In the second category are teachers who cater to desires of men (2 Tim. 4:3). These teachers are dangerous, not because of what they say, but for what they don't' say. They purposefully avoid the offense of the Gospel for fear it will make people uncomfortable. Whenever preachers avoid the Word of God, believers don't get discernment and "seekers" don't get saved. We see an example of this type of preacher in Joel Osteen, the pastor of one of America's largest churches located in Houston. In a June 20th interview on Larry King Live, he was asked if atheists go to heaven. He replied, "I'm going to let God be the judge of who goes to heaven and hell". When asked where Jews or Muslims go without trusting Jesus, he replied, "I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven; I don't know." Rather than unashamedly respond with the power and exclusivity of the Gospel, Osteen chose to remain silent so that no one would be offended.
The third category is made up of false teachers who secretly introduce destructive heresies and malign the way of the truth (2 Pet. 2:1-2). These teachers deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting and the undiscerning (Rom. 16:18). Without discernment, listeners will not be able to distinguish between who has been sent by Christ and who is a mouthpiece for Satan.
Wooing the World into The Church
Proponents of the church growth movement have developed attractive gimmicks and techniques to invite the world into our churches. Their thinking is this: "If we can get the world to like us, maybe they will like our Savior." Their approach to post-modern ecclisiology has been labeled "seeker-friendly" or, more profoundly, "sinner-friendly." Jesus is being disguised to make Him and His Gospel "less offensive" to seekers. Their goal is to make sinners feel comfortable by giving them what they want instead of what they need. Their strategy is to throw soft balls at non-Christians rather than challenge and confront their unbelief with convicting truths from Scripture. As the goats are being entertained with this nonsense, the sheep of the Shepherd are being deprived of His Word.
We must ask where does God's word tell us to woo the world? Did not Jesus say, "The world ... hates Me because I testify that its deeds are evil" (John 7:7)? James wrote: "Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). Church history confirms this and we should learn from the past. The churches and de¬nominations which made friends with the world began a downward slide into apostasy. By trying to woo the world, they had to compromise their preaching, tolerate sin and immorality and abandon nearly every doctrinal position they once held.
Those who remain faithful to the Gospel will be an offense to the world because the Gospel is inherently offensive. Christ Himself is offensive to all who reject the truth. He is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" (1 Peter 2:8). The message of the cross is also a stumbling block and foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. L 18; Gal. 5:11). Tragically there are multitudes who profess Christ but cannot articulate the Gospel's basic elements. What is left for the church if it can't communicate the only message that brings forth life?
The decline of doctrine (and ultimately the ability to discern) occurs in our churches when anyone of three things take place. First, when drama and entertainment become more important than preaching the word. Secondly, when the pastor's goal becomes "making people happy instead of holy." You know this is taking place when he shifts his sermons from "this is what God says" to "this is what I think people want to hear." Thirdly, when the pastor spends more time addressing "felt needs" over "spiritual needs." Eventually these churches become filled with gullible people who believe their lovable pastor is speaking for God. Might they consider a quote from A. W. Tozer who said: "Gullibility is not synonymous with spirituality. Faith keeps its heart open to whatever is of God, and rejects everything that is not of God."
Tolerance Has Replaced Absolute Truth
Some Christian leaders are calling for the church to adapt to the new generation by eliminating all absolutes. They are saying that we can no longer proclaim absolute truth. Truth is now said to be subjective and in the eye of the beholder. Needless to say, this is producing a Christian faith void of doctrine but full of confusion. Tolerance and acceptance of other faiths is now firmly established within Christianity. We are called to be tolerent of everything except absolute truth. This tolerance is being used as a platform for unity with the Roman Catholic Church. Some evangelicals would rather have a counterfeit unity based on tolerance than authentic spiritual unity based on truth. Anyone who stands in their way is labeled divisive or troublesome.
Warnings Are Being Ignored
There are numerous warnings in Scripture that tell us the church will be bombarded with perverse teachings, empty philosophy; vain deceit, speculations, lying spirits, worldly fables, false knowledge, doctrines of demons, destructive heresies, myths, falsehoods, traditions of men and worldly wisdom. Jesus and Paul warned of false prophets who would come in as wolves in sheep's clothing not sparing the flock (Mat. 7:15; Acts 20:29). We must do as Jesus and the apostles did and warn Christians of these destructive influences which are weakening the church and bringing shame to the precious name of our Savior!
When sound doctrine is replaced with shallow teaching made up of humorous stories and opinions, you will find spiritual ignorance and biblical illiteracy in the pew. New babes in Christ will have difficulty growing in the grace and knowledge of their Savior when pastors do not preach the whole counsel of God. When the Word of God is not being faithfully taught, people will not hear truth. And if they don't hear truth, they will be unable to discern God's way from man's way, truth from error and right from wrong. We must all become more and more discerning because no man is infallible and no preacher is beyond the possibility of doctrinal error. We must always be ready to reject what is false and hold fast to what is true. As disciples of Jesus we must be known for what we're, for as well as what we're against.
In closing we must recognize that all truth sets itself against error. Sound doctrine divides and confronts, it judges and separates, it reproves and rebukes and it exposes and refutes error. It leads us from the broad way to the narrow way (Matt. 7:13-14). It commands us to submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). It exhorts us to discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (I John 4:6). It demands that we turn away from evil and do good (I Peter 3:11). It tells us that our ways are not God's ways, nor are our thoughts His thoughts (Isa. 55:8). It warns us against exchanging the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). It guarantees that the righteous shall be blessed and the wicked shall perish.
True Christians cannot continue to tolerate or ignore Satan's wicked schemes to weaken the Church. We must stand firmly on sound doctrine, heed the biblical warnings and live passionately for the truth so that Jesus Christ will be glorified and His church will grow in holiness and strength.