I recently read the opinion of an immensely popular preacher. He stated, that in his opinion, the biggest threat in the church today is “jealousy” amongst ministries. My initial reaction was, honestly, very shallow, and carnal. I immediately thought of a handful of threats to the church in America which overshadow jealousy amongst ministries like Mt. Everest towers over a small rise in west Texas. However, after musing on his statement for a few minutes, I finally circled around to a serious inquiry. “What is the biggest threat to the church in America?”
Everyone knows we face dangers on every side. We have awakened to find ourselves in a post-Christian America, a place where the stated intent is to expunge a biblical worldview from being the cornerstone of America. Churches are grappling with Covid issues. Our government is increasingly hostile to the true faith. These are dangerous and different days.
I submit, in spite of the above, the biggest threat to the church in America is the same threat the church has confronted through the ages. False doctrine has been, is, and will be until Jesus comes, the biggest threat we face. Let me explain my reasoning. False doctrine is the seedbed from which the ills of the church spring. Allow false doctrine about grace to grow and people throw off restraint and live lifestyles incompatible with that demanded in scripture. Allow false doctrine about works to proliferate and a sense of legalism is created where people are enslaved to the opinions of men. False doctrine about the future engenders everything from a slothful life here as well to an eternity in hell away from God. There is a reason Paul spent three years tearfully pleading with the saints in Ephesus over the false doctrine which was going to erupt upon his departure (Acts 20:31). Also, Peter warned about false teachers in the midst of the church (2 Peter 2:1). Our enemy knows if he can corrupt the gospel, he can conquer the corruption.
What’s the answer to false doctrine? Simply put, true doctrine. Paul was clear about the need for believers to grow strong in the Word.
We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.
The time has come for His people to follow the clear patterns of discipline found in God’s Word. Fortunately, we are given practical steps toward the elimination of false doctrine in our lives.
First, we must stand together in unity. Notice how Paul expresses the desired state of the church in verse seven. “Each one of us,” not “me,” is the plan of God. This same spirit is called for through Paul’s “one another’s” scattered throughout the book of Ephesians (4:2, 29, 32, 5:19, 21). Scripture calls on us to fellowship with each other in unity. No one is so outstanding, so fully equipped, that isolation is ideal. The faults of others which are so evident to us should serve as a reminder that the faults we bear are equally evident to others. We must not allow anything or anyone to divide us. Never forget, the singular place of unity is not found in the bombastic efforts of fringe groups screaming about the devilish actions of the other side. The sole place of unity is found when we all, regardless of our past, our skin color, or our heritage, find ourselves linked arm in arm inside the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).
Second, must learn to submit to Godly leaders. Paul outlines the “gifts” God has given the church and their purpose (Ephesians 4:11-13). In our day of “no one is going to tell me what to do,” this requirement is tough to swallow. Yet the fact remains that God does gift people and place them in our lives to speak truth. We are still informed that a multitude of counselors brings safety (Proverbs 24:6). If we want to avoid being snared in false doctrine, we must learn to listen to those God raises among us.
A note of caution must be raised at this point. Those put forth as leaders are not exempt from having leaders speak into their lives. One of the most dangerous parts of the deception which comes with false doctrine is when a leader, usually a very charismatic individual, decides they are accountable to no one. History is replete with tragic examples of such leaders and the equally disastrous fate which has accompanied their followers. Beware of anyone who claims “exclusive” revelation and refuses to be subjected to others who speak into their lives. Mark them and get away as quickly as possible.
Third, and this ties closely into the above, to avoid false doctrine we must learn how to “speak the truth in love to one another” (Ephesians 4:15). Truth spoken without love can become so harsh, it is injurious. Love, absent truth, is so soft it can become nothing more than kind sentiment. Our day cries out for people like Aquila and Priscilla who were able to lovingly assist the eloquent Apollos (Acts 18:26). It also demands gifted people such as Apollos who are willing to have others invest in their lives.
Our day of many disparate voices puts us in the spot where we need one another more than ever before. A shallow grasp of the Word by many coupled with the distancing brought on by Covid has left a large group of believers vulnerable to the deception of the enemy. Whatever form it takes, we must rally together, hear from those God has place in our lives, make sound judgment on that which is taught, and lovingly instruct each other in the counsel of God’s Word.