Mailbag

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

As I was sifting through my voluminous pile of emails, blog comments, and social media messages to determine which one I should answer in this week’s Mailbag, I noticed that several of you have recently written in with some variation of this question. Whether it’s your pastor recommending doctrinally unsound books, your minister of music using songs from heretical sources, your women’s ministry leader introducing a “Bible” study from a false teacher, or anyone else in leadership over you encouraging the use of materials from false teachers, I hope you’ll find this article helpful and encouraging.

Originally published September 19, 2016

mailbag

How do I approach my women’s ministry leader, elders, or pastor about the false teacher whose materials our church is using, whose conference our church members are attending, etc.?

I’ve received this same basic question from scads of readers over the past few weeks. It’s alarming when your women’s ministry leader picks a Lysa TerKeurst book for the next women’s “Bible” study or the elders promote Steven Furtick’s latest conference. You love your church and don’t want to see people deceived, but you also know that people don’t often respond well to hearing that the Christian celebrity they’re enamored with is a false teacher. What to do? How can we alert our leaders to the theological problems with a popular Christian personality?

1. Pray
I’m gonna beat this drum ’til the cows come home, because this is a concept we have got to get through our heads. God knows and loves your leaders and your church infinitely more than you do, and He is far more able to do something about the situation than you are, because He is able to change your leaders’ hearts and minds and open their eyes (which is usually what’s needed). You are not. Furthermore, He wants you to depend on Him to handle things rather than depending on evidence, your own persuasiveness, etc. You should already be praying regularly for your church and its leadership. When a situation like this comes up, pray long, hard, and continuously.

2. Remember why you’re approaching your leadership.
If you’re going at this from a “they’re wrong, I’m right” perspective or some sort of desire to “win” at this conflict, you need to repent. This isn’t about you. This is about the supremacy of God’s word, the purity of His Bride, and the exaltation of His reputation. This is about loving your church so much that you’re willing to risk rejection and humiliation so that they won’t be deceived.

3. Memorize and meditate on these verses and use them as your guide when approaching anyone about false teachers/doctrine:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:24-26

Remember, you’re the Lord’s servant, not some hot shot discernment Big Man on Campus.

Are you quarrelsome? Kind? Able to teach? Patient enough to endure evil? Able to correct with gentleness? That’s a good checklist for your heart and abilities.

Who’s going to grant repentance to the person you’re dealing with so she might come to a knowledge of the truth? You? Nope. God is.

Who’s the bad guy here? Is it the person you’re approaching? No. It’s the devil. He’s holding that person prisoner to deception. You’re not approaching an enemy to conquer. You’re rescuing a captive with spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.

4. Approach

a) Who should approach this leader?
Are you the best person for the job? Are there other willing and discerning church members who might be able to handle the situation better than you can? Sometimes you’re the only person for the job. In that case, ladies, remember your role in the church and at home. Be sure you’re submitting to your husband’s leadership in this situation.

If the person you’re approaching is the (female) leader of the women’s ministry, Bible study class, conference coordinator, etc., it might be best if you go to her alone or with another discerning sister. It is usually best to approach this person first before going over her head to the elders or pastor. You want to win your sister over to the truth, if possible, not simply force her to change things because a superior tells her she has to.

If the person who needs to be approached is male, it might be best for your husband (or another discerning brother) to meet with him, or for you and your husband to meet with him together, with your husband taking the lead and you in a supporting role. Again, it’s usually best to approach the lower level leader, if any, before going over his head.

b) How should you approach this leader?
In humility, love, and all the other characteristics from the 2 Timothy 2 passage. And keep a few other things in mind too:

First, give the person the benefit of the doubt that she’s got good motives. She probably thinks the study she’s selected would help the women of your church or that the conference would lead them closer to the Lord. It’s usually not the case that the person is consciously trying to introduce anti-biblical material.

Second, keep ignorance at the forefront of your mind. Most people in the church today – even pastors – are completely unaware of the extent of false doctrine, or even what false doctrine is, or that the majority of the most popular Christian celebrities are false teachers. They think if you can buy it at LifeWay or if it calls itself Christian and sprinkles a few Bible verses around, it must be biblical Christianity. You must initially approach people with the mindset that they’re trying to do something good, but they they simply aren’t aware of the false doctrine that’s out there or that the person they’re introducing to the church is a false teacher. (This is where “able to teach” and “correcting with gentleness” come in).

Next, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and keep in mind that it’s hard to hear that a Christian celebrity you love is a false teacher. Give the person time to sort out all this new, and sometimes overwhelming, information.

Finally, be prepared for backlash. No matter how kind, gentle, and objective you are, the person may feel personally attacked and lash out at you. Don’t lash back. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile.

c) With what should you approach this leader?
The Bible and credible evidence. For every charge you bring against this false teacher, you need to bring credible audio, video, or print evidence of the teacher’s own words or actions and the Bible passages she is violating. (You can find this kind of evidence on many teachers at the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.) Don’t bring opinions, histrionics, unsubstantiated rumors, or out of context remarks by the false teacher. Bring solid, objective, incontrovertible evidence.

Don’t overwhelm the person you’re approaching with reams of material to read or long videos to watch. She might see how time consuming it will be and give up before going through any of it. Keep things concise.

Don’t attempt to address every wrong word, action, or teaching ever perpetrated by the false teacher. Go with a few of the most attention-grabbing, glaring, violations of Scripture.

Make sure your evidence is up to date. Focus on the false teacher’s most recent violations of Scripture, not something from 20 years ago that she has repented of (in which case you shouldn’t be bringing a charge) or backed away from. Recent evidence is also more compelling.

d) How should you leave things?
Reassure the person of your love for her and for the church. Ask if she has any questions, and make sure she has your contact information and knows she’s welcome to get in touch if she has questions or needs more information. If she’s open to it, make some suggestions of doctrinally sound materials, conferences, etc., that could be used. Don’t expect an immediate resolution to the situation. Give the person some time to think and pray things through and to go over the evidence you’ve provided. It might be appropriate to ask if you can touch base with her again in a few days.

Doing all of these things is not a magic formula that will guarantee the results you’re hoping for. In fact, going by the e-mails and messages I’ve received, I would estimate that about 90% of the time, you’ll be ignored or villified as a hater or divisive.

Do it anyway. God may have placed you in that church to help it correct its course or to serve as a biblical warning to them. And, who knows? You might just rescue somebody.

Additional Resources:

How to talk to your church leaders about false teachers at A Word Fitly Spoken

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections

Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Speaking Engagements

Report Back: Discernment with Michelle Lesley Conference

I had a great time of fellowship and teaching recently with the ladies of Cornerstone Church of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Teton Valley Bible Church, of Driggs, Idaho, and their guests from the surrounding area. These sister churches, across the border and across the mountains from each other, come together each year to host a conference to build up the women of their churches and to reach out to the women of their communities. This year, the theme was discernment.

I taught on discernment in four different areas of our walk with the Lord: the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, living by Scripture instead of our emotions, false doctrine and false teachers, and women’s roles in the home and church. And we had a fun Q&A session over lunch, too!

Click here to listen to the conference audio!

I also had the privilege of recommending a few books for the book table. It was my pleasure to recommend to them (and to you!) God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel by Costi Hinn, Deceived No More by Doreen Virtue, and You’re Not Enough and That’s OK by Allie Beth Stuckey.

I had never been to Wyoming or Idaho before this trip. They are both so beautiful! I took about a million pictures, but I tried to pare it down for this article. (You can click on most of the pictures to enlarge them.)

Jackson Hole has several of these charming elk antler arches. When you get off the plane, you walk through one to get into the airport, and there’s one at each corner of the town square.

The hotel I stayed at in Jackson Hole had these adorable little critters everywhere!

When we crossed over the mountains into Driggs, I got to stay in this cozy little resort cabin. Too cute! It snowed the morning I flew out.

During some down time prior to the conference, one of the lovely sisters from Cornerstone graciously took time out of her schedule to drive me around to see the sights.

Here’s the National Elk Refuge. You can hardly see them, but there are swans and ducks in that little pond. We didn’t see any elk that day, but I did get to see some alongside the road another day.

There’s a significant Mormon population around Jackson Hole. Near the turn of the 19th century, the area pictured below was a community of 33 homesteads surrounding a “church” and a school. These are a few of the buildings still standing from that era, with the Grand Tetons in the background.

The Grand Tetons, and boy are they grand! A camera just can’t capture the beauty of God’s creation like the human eye can, but I tried. :0) (I did not add any filters. The sky is really just that radiant and gorgeous.)

These were taken at the area where Ansel Adams took his famous photo Tetons and the Snake River. Maybe the trees weren’t quite as tall back in 1942. :0)

After a fantastic morning of sightseeing, we headed back toward the town square for lunch where, as is my custom, I sampled a bit of the local fare. The restaurant that served elk burgers was closed, but we found the next best thing – a bison burger, which was delectable and has now spoiled me forever for regular hamburger.

I was enchanted by the rustic, “log cabin in the mountains” facade design of many of the buildings in Jackson Hole, even their Albertson’s and Target! I’m told the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is “famous” and that they have saddles for bar stools.

Many, many thanks to the conference organizers and pastors of Cornerstone and TVBC for treating me like a queen and making a work trip seem more like a vacation. It was such a pleasure fellowshipping with them and with the ladies who attended the conference. If you’re ever in the Jackson Hole or Driggs area, and need a good church to join or visit, I can’t recommend these two churches highly enough.


If your church or organization is ever in need of a speaker for a women’s event, I’d love to come share with your ladies as well. Click here for more information.


Photo Credits

Photo of Michelle speaking by Anika (conference organizer)

All other photos by Michelle Lesley

Speaking Engagements

Report Back: Cruciform Conference

I had such a great time at Cruciform Conference a couple of weeks ago! Sadly, a few of the speakers pictured above ended up not being able to make it due to illness and other reasons, but even though we missed them, there was no shortage of wonderful preaching and teaching on the theme of holiness.

The first morning of the conference I finally had the pleasure of meeting in person my dear online friend, Chris Honholz, and his lovely wife, Kristine. You might remember that I was a guest on Chris’ and Richard Story’s podcast, Voice of Reason Radio, a while back, and I got to do another brief interview with Chris at the conference:

Voice of Reason Radio- Cruciform Conference: Interview Edition
Subscribe to VOR Radio and become a regular listener!

It was tons of fun visiting with Chris and Kristine in person. We were staying at the same hotel, and they graciously chauffeured me around all weekend. What a blessing to me – and to the body of Christ – these two are!

Kristine, me, Chris

Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of teaching and fellowship. I would highly recommend that you head over to the Cruciform Ministries YouTube Channel and give all of the sermons a listen.

On Friday, I taught my first breakout session (for women only, of course): Holy Mothers (and Others) of God’s Word: The Holy Women of Scripture:

Saturday’s session was Practical Holiness:

On Saturday evening, my podcast co-host – Amy Spreeman – and I had a super time recording a live Q&A episode of A Word Fitly SpokenGlad You Asked: Live From Cruciform Conference:

You can also listen to this episode at our website,
or by subscribing to AWFS on your favorite podcast platform.

I had tons of fun meeting and fellowshipping with so many wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ. Everyone had such interesting stories or ministries! And the fall foliage in Indy – gorgeous!

I’d also like to take a moment to put in a good word for smaller, regional conferences like Cruciform. Large conferences are awesome, and I enjoy them, but there are a lot of great things about smaller conferences that you may not be aware of if you’ve never been to one. Smaller conferences…

  • …are usually less expensive.
  • …introduce you to great pastors, speakers, authors, and ministries you wouldn’t otherwise have known about.
  • …allow you to network with others in your area who have similar ministry interests
  • …allow more and deeper fellowship with other attendees
  • …allow you more access to speakers you want to meet
  • …often have a more casual, relaxed atmosphere than larger conferences

If there’s a doctrinally sound smaller conference in your region, I’d encourage you to give it a try.

It was so encouraging to fellowship with my brothers and sisters and sit under wonderful preaching at Cruciform 2020. Many thanks to Brandon Scalf for his tireless work putting this wonderful conference together, for inviting me to speak, and for being a great handler – graciously making sure all of my needs were met. Thanks also to all of his helpers who ferried me to and from the airport, made sure I got to eat when I arrived in town, and expertly managed all the audio, video, and computer equipment for my sessions and the podcast.

I’d love to see you at Cruciform 2021! Next year the conference will be held June 4-5, instead of in October, so start planning to attend now!


If your church or organization is ever in need of a speaker for a women’s event, I’d love to come share with your ladies as well. Click here for more information.



Photo Credits

Cruciform logo images courtesy of Cruciform Conference.

Photos of Michelle teaching by Kristine Honholz.

All other photos by Michelle Lesley, Chris Honholz, Brandon Scalf, and conference attendees.

Speaking Engagements

Report Back: Standing Firm on God’s Word Conference

I recently had a wonderful time of Scripture-centered fellowship at the Standing Firm on God’s Word Conference hosted by First Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Oklahoma.

I flew in on Friday afternoon and had a wonderful time chatting with Pastor Derek McMurtry and his lovely wife, Valarie as they whisked me away from the Oklahoma City airport to my hotel in Lawton, just down the road from Chattanooga.

Now, everybody who travels has at least one funny travel story, and among all the other blessings on this trip, I think I found mine as I was checking in to the hotel.

I went up to the front desk, gave the desk clerk all of my information, and she promptly turned over my key card. I followed her directions and easily found room 150. After inserting the card into the lock a few times (I miss the days when hotels used actual keys), I managed to enter the room. The first thing I noticed was a framed print of Proverbs 27:17 on the desk.

“Well, look what a neat little thing God did!” I thought. “That’s one of the verses I’ll be teaching on tomorrow. And maybe this hotel is run by Christians!”

The second thing I noticed was that the bed was unmade…and that there was also a briefcase on the desk…and the bathroom light was on….

“OH!” I shrieked, loudly enough to scare the daylights out of anyone who might have been in the bathroom (and possibly the entire first floor). When no one emerged, I backed out of the room and hastily retraced my steps to the front desk.

“Was something wrong with your room?” the clerk inquired.

“Wellll….”

So I had a good chuckle at the whole situation and assured the desk clerk that everything was OK while she apologized profusely and quickly checked me into another – manless – room.

Then it was off to dinner with the McMurtrys, and Holly and Suzanne, two of the conference coordinators.

I love Mexican food. Hmm…these guys look so familiar!

Saturday, it was go time, and I had the pleasure of driving through the beautiful Oklahoma countryside between Lawton and Chattanooga.

Aren’t these pretty? I’m not sure what they’re called, but they look very similar to the Black-eyed Susans that grow in Louisiana.

Chattanooga is a charming and homey town.

The wind really does come sweepin’ down the plain!

The conference venue: The Chattanooga Civic Center

A quilt made out of news stories and photos that tell all about Chattanooga

And, of course, the ladies did an outstanding job of decorating festively…

The planners chose just the right format for their very first conference, two teaching sessions and a Q&A session.

Session 1 was The Necessity of the Bible. We explored the reasons the Bible is so imperative for us as Christian women along with some tips for studying and incorporating more Scripture into our daily lives.

In our second session, The Sufficiency and Authority of Scripture, we took a look at how and why we are to submit to the authority of God’s Word, and why the written Word is sufficient for our every need as Christians.

Next, it was time for a delicious lunch and warm fellowship.

And then our Q&A session. These ladies asked some smart questions!

Aren’t these little Q&A cards cute?

I was blown away by the kindness and generosity of the hostesses and attendees. Before I left, they showered me with gifts and kind words.

Thank you notes and love offerings
Snacks! Hostesses always know the way to my heart.
Spurgeon Study Bible and “In Christ Alone” pendant
Thanks so much, everyone!

As soon as the conference was over, it was back to the OKC airport, which is called the Will Rogers World Airport…

My time at the airport was a bust :0)

…and then on home by way of Dallas/Ft. Worth, where I got to watch a stunning sunset as we were landing. A beautiful end to a beautiful day.

Naturally, this picture doesn’t do justice to God’s artistry

It was so encouraging to meet and teach the lovely ladies of Chattanooga. Big hugs and thank you’s to everyone at FBC- Chattanooga for your “bend over backwards” hospitality and for a stellar conference. I highly recommend this warm and welcoming church to anyone in southwest Oklahoma who is looking for a doctrinally sound body of Believers to join.


If your church or organization is ever in need of a speaker for a women’s event, I’d love to come share with your ladies as well. Click here for more information.


Photo Credits

Photo of church exterior courtesy of FBC Chattanooga.

Restaurant logo courtesy of Los Tres Amigos.

Photos of Michelle teaching courtesy of conference attendees.

All other photos by Michelle Lesley

Speaking Engagements

Report Back: Women Thinking Wisely Conference

I had such a lovely time serving the ladies of Meade, Kansas, last weekend at Countryside Bible Church’s Women Thinking Wisely women’s conference.

Countryside Bible Church
(Used to be the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church.
Kinda hard to change your name when it’s “set in stone””!)

I flew in on Friday afternoon and got some quality chat time with Pastor Jonathan Dale and his charming wife, Nora, as we drove from the airport to Meade through the beautiful farmland that comprises much of the area.

I thought Oklahoma’s “where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain”
but I guess Kansas gets a good stiff breeze too, or they wouldn’t have all of these windmills!
*Nora Dale and me.

The Dales dropped me off at the warm and welcoming home of Roxanna and Darwin who hosted me for the weekend at their family owned and operated farm, Ediger Farms.

Saturday was the big day, and we headed over to the church for the conference. I do not have the gift of decorating, but somebody at Countryside sure does, because you would hardly have known the gym was a gym. The whole CBC family must have pitched in to make everything so pleasant and inviting, and they did a super job!

The centerpieces incorporated the theme verse for the weekend,
Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.*

At last it was time to get down to business, and we began with worship and prayer. Usually, when I teach at a conference, I teach 2-4 sessions on various aspects of one topic, like biblical womanhood or discernment, but the ladies who planned this conference had me teach about thinking wisely in three very diverse arenas – emotionalism, the media, and suffering – which I found to be a refreshing challenge. (I’ll insert a link to the audio for each session when it becomes available.)

Session 1 was Rightly Handling Our Emotions. We explored what it means to live life led by the objective Word of God rather than our subjective feelings and opinions.

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In our second session, Rightly Handling Media, we took a look at media and how it can be used as a tool for helping us grow in Christ or creating problems in our walk with Christ.

*

Next, it was time for lunch- a variety of salads, and one of my favorites, cheesecake. I would have taken a picture, but I was focused on snarfing it down!

After lunch, we dealt with Rightly Handling Suffering in session three. Jesus is our hero in suffering, our hope in suffering, and our way to handle suffering.

*

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Craft time! The ladies got to take a (much needed, I’m sure) break and make these lovely mementos of the conference. Someone even made one for me since I was busily preparing for the last session. (Thank you, whoever you are!)

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Following craft time was our last session of the day, Q&A, always my favorite session. The ladies asked some very smart questions that I had fun answering.

Awesome Q&A cards to fill out and turn in!

*

As the conference wrapped up, Nora presented me with a wonderful hostess gift. These cute dish towels will always remind me of my visit to the Sunflower State and the lovely ladies of CBC. And the candy was delicious!

Before she went home, Hannah, a mighty talented young artist, presented me with this portrait. I am so impressed with the detail- she included my necklace, earrings, and the headset mic, and even captured my incessant gesticulating. Somebody’s got a career in the art world ahead of her when she grows up!

It’s never easy to say goodbye. I met so many precious brothers and sisters in Christ, and even a couple of furry friends!

Great to meet you, Tami and Gina!**

Church kitties!
I’m not a cat person, but even I couldn’t resist these two cuties.

Before I knew it, I was headed back for the airport. Big thank you’s to Sara for driving me to and from the conference, to Travis and Tiff, who welcomed me into their home for supper on Saturday night and fed me well, and to Eric and Angela who heroically picked me up at 3:30 a.m. (yes, you read that right) so I could make my 6:00 a.m. flight, then drove all the way back home for church. (I hope Pastor Jonathan will forgive you if you nodded off during his sermon!)

I had an amazing trip to Kansas, and it was such an honor to teach the sweet ladies of Meade. Many thanks to all the folks at Countryside Bible Church for your sweet hospitality and for putting on such a wonderful conference. I highly recommend this warm and welcoming church to anyone in southwest Kansas who is looking for a doctrinally sound body of Believers to join.


If your church or organization is ever in need of a speaker for a women’s event, I’d love to come share with your ladies as well. Click here for more information.


Photo Credits

Photos marked by a single asterisk (*), courtesy of Roxanna Ediger

Photo marked by a double asterisk (**), unknown

All other photos by Michelle Lesley