Recently Jim and I were driving a team run, I was driving and Jim was sleeping when I decided to turn on the radio softly. I tuned to a broadcast where a particularly popular Pastor was speaking. Now this Pastor is very dynamic indeed and has quite a large following (I will refrain from mentioning this particular Pastor’s identity and only refer to them as Pastor X). I listened to Pastor X’s talk and was so very inspired. I remember thinking “Wow, I can do what Pastor X suggested! What a great message from this Pastor, I can understand why Pastor X is so popular. Maybe when we are in their area, we can attend one of their church services.”
So right after that particular broadcast they played another talk by Pastor X. About halfway through the second talk from Pastor X, I began to see a theme running through those two talks. Pastor X seemed to be more interested in teaching the listeners about using the power of God to benefit themselves. Pastor X held out examples of receiving God’s favor, and even boasted with stories where some were given favor at the expense of others. Pastor X did mention Jesus, but it sounded more like an after-thought, as in a rather small mention of sprinkling out some benefits to others. It seemed like the talk was more about do A and you’ll get B, just like it was a mathematical formula.
So, after the second sermon, I had a rather disquieting feeling about Pastor X. Then it occurred to me that the first talk contained some of the same philosophy of advancing self and then letting some small part spill over onto others. I simply had not paid close enough attention to what Pastor X was really saying in sermon one. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that Jesus didn’t teach His Disciples to do particular things to garner attention and take advantage of God’s favor. Jesus taught that we should serve others. Paul tells us to think of others before we think of ourselves. Jesus didn’t say God helps those who help themselves, did He? No, He didn’t (that particular phrase is no where to be found in the Bible, instead it originated from Algernon Sydney in 1698, and was repeated by Benjamin Franklin in 1757). Perhaps I am wrong but it seems to me that Pastor X is catering to a group of people who only want to look at their faith from a particular angle, and I don’t think that their followers are getting a true picture of what the Christian walk looks like. Perhaps Pastor X’s followers fit this mold? “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4, ESV). I would love to hear your thoughts on this!
And, it’s not only Pastor X who’s said things that didn’t line up. Once I attended a friend’s church for a service. I was looking for a new church to attend. The Pastor (we’ll call this one Pastor Y) stood up at the pulpit and said that we should not bother God with all of our concerns and all of the little problems that we have. Pastor Y said God was too busy and didn’t need to hear all this petty stuff. That’s not what Paul said: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, ESV) I’ll never forget it for sure. I walked out of the church and never went back.
Pastors are people, Pastors make mistakes. Some Pastors teach false doctrine. It’s our responsibility to not blindly follow whatever any Pastor tells us to do. And, it’s our responsibility to keep our Pastors accountable. It doesn’t matter whether the Pastor is well-known with thousands of followers, or one who has a tiny congregation. Just because Pastor X or Pastor Y says so, doesn’t make it right. So, what do we do?
Well the first place I go is to the Bible. A quick check of the Bible will help you to confirm whether a message that you hear from any Pastor is Biblically sound, and it’s pretty fast if you use a search function on an electronic version of the Bible. One of my favorite teaching Pastors, Brad Powell from NorthRidge Church in Michigan, used to tell the congregation that just because he said something doesn’t mean that we should accept it blindly. Frequently he told us to go home and confirm that what he said lined up with the scriptures. A true message with sound doctrine will not contradict the Bible, our written standard.
Peter warned us about false teachers “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-3, ESV) And, we know that Satan parades around as an angel of light, so that he can lure us away from the Truth and Light.
Could those two messages by Pastor X be some outliers? Perhaps. Maybe Pastor X is on the up-and-up and maybe, just maybe, I misconstrued their points in the two sermons. But, I’m not too inclined to listen to Pastor X speak again. I think I heard false doctrine in those messages.
Sources that you may want to consult for further information about false teaching:
The Gospel Coalition “Seven traits of false teachers” located at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/7-traits-of-false-teachers
Bible.org “How can we discern false teachers?” https://bible.org/question/how-can-we-discern-false-teachers
GotQuestions.org “How can I recognize a false teacher/false prophet?” https://bible.org/question/how-can-we-discern-false-teachers
And here’s a great blog from God’s Simple Kindness that show us how to strain through messages for the truth:
Don’t take my word for it – check it out!
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15, ESV)