followandreblog asked: There’s this pastor / church I really like listening to, but I think a lot of other pastors are saying he’s a false prophet (twisting the Bible, not using Biblical Truth, preaching about himself rather than Jesus, etc.) but I do enjoy listening to his messages and feel blessed by them. Is there a way of choosing “the right Church for you” apart from feeling God’s presence, power, and love though their messages? Well, is there such thing as a right / wrong Church?
Unka Glen answered: This is one of those tricky situations. On one extreme, a person could easily begin to be more and more picky about smaller and smaller points of doctrine, and end up rejecting nearly everything they hear. But on the other extreme, you could end up taking on some point of bad doctrine, and really damage the health of your relationship with God.
No wonder 1 Timothy 4:16 says, “watch your life and doctrine closely.”
Paul preached the Gospel in a place called Berea, and they did an odd thing, they went and examined the Old Testament scrolls to confirm that the things Paul was preaching actually lined up with Old Testament prophecy. They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it.
The Bible doesn’t criticize them for having this sceptisicm, it says that the Bereans were “of noble character”. Which is a pretty cool thing to say about anyone. The Bible also says, about the Bereans, that “as a result, many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men” (Acts 17).
This process of going to God and getting wisdom to see right from wrong, good from bad, and healthy from unhealthy is what we call discernment. And we are called to be discerning. Some people avoid using good discernment because it sounds like being judgmental. However, being judgmental is about condemning people that you’ve decided on your own to be worthy of condemnation (Romans 14:4).
So what we’re left with, is that it’s good to be wise and discerning about what we listen to, as long as we keep in mind that this insight isn’t for condemning others, it’s for knowing the truth and being set free by the truth. So far so good. But how do you know whether you’re hearing bad doctrine or good? How do you determine what church is the right fit for you?
— Know good doctrine. The best way to recognize bad doctrine is to learn good doctrine, and the best way to learn good doctrine is to get into scripture, and stay in it. Find ways of studying it on your own. Test and verify everything you read (even this blog). Jesus said His sheep recognize His voice, and because of that, they don’t follow strangers.
— Avoid manipulation. The moment someone uses manipulation, it’s time to change the channel. Period. Anyone who passes by the power of the Word itself to play to your emotions is, at best, clueless in what they’re doing. And at worst, they’re trying to get something out of you. Watch out for emotional manipulations involving fear, shame, and guilt; also manipulations that involve physical rewards such as healing, power, or money.
— Know what you need. Some people really need a lively word preached in a lively way. Some need something deep, something sweet, and something gently restorative. Others might need something more teaching-oriented. You name it. In most cases, when we hear what we need to hear, the way we need to hear it, we’re attracted to it. So don’t be afraid to follow your sense of taste. Just make sure the doctrine is solid.
— Don’t take the bad with the good. You ever hear that expression, “eat the meat and spit out the bones”? The idea being, if somebody preaches something good, accept it, if they preach something wrong, ignore it. Problem #1: this assumes that you know the meat from the bones. Problem #2: there are plenty of churches and pastors that preach good doctrine, so why not go where there’s no spitting required? Problem #3: this pick-and-choose approach is not really advocated in scripture.
— Get challenged and equipped. Wherever you go to receive the Word, you should be challenged and encouraged to pursue your personal calling, and you should be equipped (in the basics) to pursue that calling as well. Most churches are pretty good at either challenging or equipping, but you need both to get where you’re going.
Here’s the bottom line: God expects you to monitor your spiritual health, and make sure that you have your spiritual needs met. Please believe me, God has big plans for your life, so you need good spiritual nourishment… don’t settle for junk food, no matter how good it tastes.
I’d also like to add that in the case your preacher says something dumb, we’re all still learning. Check your pastor on the majors but let the minors slide. Secondary theological differences shouldn’t cause division; we can disagree amicably about some things. One off-day or slightly weird use of Scripture shouldn’t throw you into condemnation mode. There’s a time to discern when you can communicate with your pastor about those things. What’s most important here is not so much the pastor’s method or illustrations or knowledge or his mastery over Wikipedia, but his heart.