Saturday, February 17, 2024

How do you overcome False Teachers in a Movement?

"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves." -2 Peter 2:1

Every church movement, every denomination has false teachers that they have to deal with. As Jesus taught, the wheat and the tares are growing together. Ravenous wolves, he predicted would rush into the flock. 

I've often wondered about different denominations of the body of Christ. Some have stayed on track over the hundreds of years of their existence. They still faithfully preach the gospel. Others have drifted into false teachings and currently reflect little to nothing of their original values.

What causes the drift? What causes a once proud denomination that faithfully taught the gospel to become something years later that hardly mentions the gospel? 

I recall when I lived in Chicago I would see churches in the depths of the city, positioned in such critical locations to spread the gospel, but instead they had gay pride flags on the doors and windows, and promoted secular social justice ideologies and universalism. The gospel wasn't even an issue to be mentioned. Instead of the church ministering to the city, the city had ministered to the church and converted it to secularism.

What causes the ELCA to drift away from it's own biblical teachings? What causes the United Methodist Church, a holiness movement church based around the teachings of John Wesley, to split over the issue of homosexuality? What causes Congregationalists and UCC and dozens of others to have gone from the most fundamental perspectives on scripture, to outright heresy? 

It reminds me of when Al Mohler took over as the Dean of the SBC seminary. The SBC, one of the most biblically conservative Christian movements was getting off track. Their seminary had been taken over by activist theologians promoting unbiblical ideas. But one man, Al Mohler took a stand. He cleared out the activists and extremists, and re-centered the seminary on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So I thought to myself, what's the difference? What will save denominations from ideological destruction, denominations that are wavering now, like the church of the Nazarene, or Wesleyans, or The Salvation Army, or a dozen other denominations fracturing over theological issues? 

It will take a small group or groups of biblically sound watchmen and watchwomen who are willing to stand up and say no to bad ideas. That's all it takes. When honorable men and women take a stand, faithfully, honestly, truthfully, without hatred or rage, but firmly, then the denomination will stand. 

They become a Gideon's army of sorts within the denomination. They speak up boldly, clearly, with love and truth, without hatred or rage, but firmly, and God is with them. They win the victory. They oppose the false teachers. And they pray. The false teachers can't stand against prayer. God moves in those prayers. And their defeat is certain. 

So I want to look at a few keys to victory in the battle against false teachers and unbiblical theology in your denominational movement. Follow these steps, and you will see victory rise from the ashes of defeat. 

1. Target the False Teacher with Specific Prayers - Don't skip past this one. This may be your single greatest asset. Begin praying for the false teacher, pray that God would give them every good thing in life. Pray for their health, pray for their family, pray for their goals, pray for blessings, not curses for them. Also pray that God would guide them away from false ideas, and toward the truth. But also pray that if they do not repent, that God would remove them from the movement. Pray and keep praying, then fast and pray. You'll be amazed at what happens, if you truly believe.

2. Organize with others in the Movement - Develop a network of heroes, start a Facebook group, or meet in person, to discuss the issues and concerns you notice. It's important for others to know they aren't alone. Encourage one another. Avoid forming a faction or spreading dissensions, instead emphasize loyalty to Jesus Christ, unity, and oneness with the current denominational structure as it exists now. Loyal members standing for truth, not a faction fighting against the whole. 

3. Work in the Chain of Command - If you notice concerns with false teachers at a seminary or at a particular church, alert leaders in your movement. They may not do anything about it. But at least the truth is where it belongs. Do be cautious, if your movement is way off, you may actually find yourself a target after reporting someone for false teachings. It's worth it though, because again, the truth is where it belongs. You did what you could. Now return to prayer. 

4. Go Directly to the Person - God may afford you opportunities to speak directly to that person and correct them. Do so gently, with wisdom and tact. They may not receive it or listen, but again, at least the truth is where it belongs. Approach them not as one looking to clobber them, or destroy them, but approach as a brother or sister in Christ who honestly wants to be helpful. Attitude is everything. Do it with honest love. It may feel more emotionally appealing to slam someone with the truth, but love is merciful and kind. 

5. Innovate Past the False Teachers - Sometimes we try to fight false teachers with anger and accusations and rumors and factions and rivalries, but this only causes the evil and strife and wickedness to grow stronger. We can't fight fire with fire. We are in fact told in scripture that evil cannot be overcome with evil.  As the word says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Jesus didn't smash everyone surrounding him when he was on the cross. He died for them. That paradoxical love of enemy started the greatest revolution of biblical truth in world history. 

We can't overcome false teachers by yelling and screaming and spreading accusations. And the worst possible thing we could do, is become a "faction" that causes division and chaos in the movement. We've got to emphasize loyalty to the movement and an attitude of unity. God hates those who sow division (Proverb 6:19) so we've got to learn to walk that line VERY carefully. Speak up boldly, yet also be intensely loyal and particularly submissive to the leadership of the movement. 

We can overcome false teachers by spreading the gospel, teaching biblical truth, and praying vigorously. As revival grows from biblical heroes teaching biblical truth, hundreds and thousands will turn to Christ. The false teachers will look like mushrooms on logs compared to the bursting light and love and truth of thousands turning to Jesus Christ.  Innovate past them. Spread the gospel with such zeal and power that no one listens to the false teachers, they are too focused on the gospel movement growing up around them. 

In the end, God will judge false teachers. May we always pray that they repent honestly and return to their Lord and Savior. But in the meantime, we can't allow these people to destroy entire movements. They can't be allowed to lead entire denominations astray from the Master. It will take small gatherings of bold people seasoned with biblical love, to pray intentionally and stand firmly, but God-willing, they will win the day. It may seem impossible. It may seem like the denomination is too far gone. But God can do anything. Believe, and stand, and watch God do a miracle. Then again, maybe it is too late. Maybe the denomination is too far gone. But let it not be said that we didn't stand up, let it be said we went down fighting, letting the denomination fail only at the end of our greatest efforts in Christ to bring hope once again. 

Either way, God will reward those who are faithful to the end, who do not allow themselves to be seduced by worldly ideas and ear tickling reinterpretations of biblical truth. But we know the end for false teachers, as it is described in 2nd Peter chapter 2. 

2 Peter 2:17-21 "These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them."