Mailbag

The Mailbag: When is it OK to leave a church that’s begun embracing false doctrine?

Originally published September 12, 2016

The elders and pastor of my church have made it clear that they aren’t interested in my husband’s and my concerns about, among other problems, a new women’s study (by a false teacher) starting this month. He told me he would read the articles I sent him but that I was wrong. Is it OK to leave this church, and, if so, when? How long do we wait and not see change?

That’s a great question, and I’m afraid there’s no “one size fits all” answer. When a church begins slipping, biblically, and there’s a Christian in that church who’s wise and discerning enough to see it, God has put that Christian in that church to help biblically solve that problem, or at least to serve as a prophetic warning as to what God’s Word says about the issue and what will happen if the church does not correct its course.

Our very first priority in this situation is prayer. We must pray fervently for God to change the hearts of the pastors and other leaders, for wisdom to know how to best approach the problem scripturally, and for God to give us wisdom about how long to stay and when to leave. (For us married ladies, that decision ultimately falls to our husbands, so we need to be praying for them, too.)

When you’ve done what you can to help biblically solve the problem(s) and have consistently been rebuffed (and it sounds like that’s about where you and your husband are with this church), it may be time to leave. It is perfectly biblical to leave a church that is embracing false doctrine despite scriptural warnings (Titus 3:10-11, Romans 16:17-18, 2 John 9-11, 2 Corinthians 11:12-15, Mark 6:11, Matthew 7:6).

Sometimes, God will make it exceedingly clear as to when you should leave because the church will ask you to leave or, in some way, make it impossible for you to stay.

It sounds like you and your husband have tried to help this church. Just continue to pray for your church and its leadership, and for wisdom (especially for your husband) about staying or leaving. Then trust God to direct you (Proverbs 3:5-6).

If you do end up having to leave, make sure you immediately begin your search for a doctrinally sound church to attend. No church is perfect, but we need to obey God’s mandate to be faithful members of a local body of believers.

Additional Resources:

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

The Mailbag: How to Leave a Church

Searching for a new church?


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.

False Doctrine, False Teachers

Can a False Teacher be a Christian?

I was listening to Jon Harris’ Conversations that Matter podcast the other day, and I thought he made some excellent and salient points in his episode A Dividing Line Between Christians Against CRT (Critical Race Theory).

Now, before you roll your eyes and keep on scrolling (like I almost did) because you’ve reached your saturation point with CRT, the episode isn’t mainly about CRT. It’s about how discerning Christians handle and talk about false teachers (including those who promote CRT). Do we have to bend over backwards to avoid questioning their salvation or calling them false teachers? Is that how the apostles handled false teachers in the New Testament?

The episode reminded me of this article I wrote several years ago. Give it a read, give Jon’s episode a listen, and take a little time to order your thoughts about those who teach false doctrine.

(By the way – I would echo all of Jon’s sentiments about Todd Friel. I still listen to Wretched all the time, and I highly recommend Todd. This is one of those rare occasions when I happen to not to be in 100% agreement with him.)

Originally published December 4, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to read a fascinating and thought provoking Twitter discussion among some brothers in Christ about what constitutes a false teacher, and whether or not some false teachers might actually be genuinely regenerated Christians.

My working definition of a false teacher is someone who unrepentantly, despite biblical correction, consistently teaches, either implicitly, explicitly, or via his or her behavior, doctrine that is in direct conflict with clear cut Scripture.

It’s not a perfect definition, and I’m sure we can all think of exceptions, but that’s the general guideline I follow before referring to someone as a false teacher. But could someone who, despite correction, persists in teaching things and behaving in ways that contradict Scripture truly be a born again Christian?

Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say:

Galatians 1:8-9

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

This passage is in reference to the Judaizers, who were preaching a false soteriology. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says twice, of such a teacher, “let him be accursed.” The Greek word anathema, translated “accursed,” means “devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell.”¹ Is this something the Holy Spirit would say about someone who is a Christian?

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Verse 2 as well as the phrase “teachings of demons” would seem to indicate that at least some false teachers are not saved. I think it’s fair to say that someone who is a Christian would not be marked by the Holy Spirit as a liar, or someone whose conscience is seared, or someone whose teaching is demonic.

Also notice the false teachings mentioned in verse 3: the forbidding of marriage and the requirement to abstain from certain foods. Some would say that only deviant soteriology qualifies a person as a false teacher, but here the Holy Spirit says false teachings on marriage and food (what most would probably call secondary or even tertiary theological issues) are leading peple to “depart from the faith.” How can someone whose teachings lead people away from the faith not be considered a false teacher? Would someone who is genuinely born again knowingly teach things that lead people away from Christ?

2 Peter 2

Here, Peter gives us a twenty-two verse description of false teachers, their characteristics and their fate. He uses words like destruction, sensuality, greed, condemnation, willful, and blasphemous. Can you think of any passages of Scripture which describe believers with these sorts of words? Read 2 Peter 2 with Galatians 5:22-23, and the character and eternal destiny of believers in mind. Does it sound like Peter is talking about Christians or non-Christians?

1 John

The book of 1 John is practically a checklist for determining whether a person is saved or not. Does the teacher you’re listening to deny her sin (for example, preaching to men) and continue in it, or confess it and repent? (1:8-10) Does she keep God’s commands or walk in disobedience? (2:3-6) Does she hold to apostolic teaching (4:1-6) or leave it behind (2:19)? John draws a very clear line as to who is genuinely saved and who is not.

Jude 4, 18-19

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…[The apostles] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

The whole book of Jude deals with false teachers, and can be read and compared with what we know to be true of believers as we did with 2 Peter 2. The false teachers described in Jude do not sound like they bear the characteristics of believers.

Verse 4 seems to deal with those who teach a false soteriology (“pervert the grace of our God” and “deny our only Master…) and says they are ungodly and designated for condemnation. Christians do not fall under condemnation. Verses 18-19, however, describe people who are scoffers, have ungodly passions, cause division in the church, and are worldly (all of which can fall under the umbrella of non-soteriological false teaching). Verse 19 says such people are “devoid of the Spirit.” Notice that “Spirit” is capitalized, which indicates the Holy Spirit. All born again believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Only non-Christians can properly be described as “devoid of the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 11:12-15

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

This passage describes false teachers who disguise themselves as “apostles of Christ” and “servants of righteousness.”  Verse 15 describes false teachers as servants of Satan. Their end (their eternity) will correspond to the fact that they serve Satan. Christians are defined as servants of Christ, not Satan, and they spend their eternities in Heaven, not hell.

Romans 16:17-18

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

While this passage does not specifically use the term “false teachers” it is clear that people who cause division, create obstacles contrary to sound doctrine, and deceive the naive, “do not serve our Lord Christ.” Christians, by the Bible’s own definition, are servants of Christ, and do not willfully or habitually deceive people, cause division, or create obstacles to sound doctrine.

2 John 9

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Does the teacher you’re listening to “abide” – live in, stay in, walk in – the teaching of Christ, or does she habitually deviate from, or “go on ahead” of it? This verse describes those who do not abide in the teaching of Christ as not having God. Christians are those who abide in the teaching of Christ.

Matthew 7:15-23

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

In the first section of this passage, Jesus says we will be able to recognize false teachers by their fruits. Does the teacher you’re following bear fruit in keeping with repentance? What about the trajectory of her life and teaching? Are her teachings, hermeneutics, affiliations, and behavior getting better and more biblical over time, or is she on a downhill slide? What about the fruit of her ministry? Is she producing genuine converts who grow to spiritual maturity, correctly handle and understand God’s word, share the gospel, and disciple others? Jesus says that diseased trees that don’t bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. That’s not imagery the Bible applies to Christians.

The second section of the passage makes it clear that there will be people in hell (non-Christians by definition) who looked every bit like Christian teachers to us on earth. They will do lots of Christiany looking things “in Jesus’ name,” but only those who do “the will of my [Jesus’] Father” are known by Christ (Christians). Are teachers who knowingly twist God’s word, even on secondary and tertiary theological issues, doing the will of the Father? What about those who deliberately walk in disobedience to His word in their own behavior or by their affiliation with those who teach another gospel? Christians are characterized by obedience to Christ and submission to His word.

Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Aha! Here’s a false teacher who was a Christian! Or was he? Apollos is actually a great example of someone who was not a false teacher, yet was wrong, initially, in what he was teaching.

Look back at the Scripture reference: Acts 18. Apollos came along during the transition time between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, which was in its infancy. The New Testament Scriptures, as we know them, didn’t exist for Apollos to study. There were no Christian seminaries to train him in the full gospel. What Apollos knew and taught was correct, but it was incomplete due to the era and circumstances in which he lived.

So, while Apollos taught inaccurate doctrine at first, he was categorized as a believer (as evidenced by verses 27-28 in which the brothers and disciples endorsed and encouraged him, and he was considered a great help to the church). Why? Because when Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained things to him accurately, he readily received correction and immediately began teaching the complete gospel correctly. Receiving correction and upholding and proclaiming the truth of the gospel are hallmarks of a Christian.

These are just a few of the Scriptures that deal with false teachers and false doctrine. All of them seem to at least lean toward calling unrepentant false teachers unbelievers. So the verdict is in, right? People who teach false doctrine are unsaved. Period. Case closed.

Nope. You and I don’t get to make that pronouncement (except in cases in which the person openly denies an imperative soteriological doctrine, such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, etc. Then, we can agree with God’s word that the person is not saved). We sit on the jury. We look at the preponderance of the evidence. In certain cases we might even believe there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular false teacher is an unbeliever. But, ultimately, it’s not our job to render the verdict or hand down the sentence. In this court system, that’s the job of the judge- God – the only One who can see into the person’s heart and know beyond a shadow of a doubt if he or she is saved.

Our job is to evaluate what we can see – the person’s behavior, writings, sermons, teachings, and conversation – and determine whether or not it aligns with Scripture. If it doesn’t – even if we personally believe the person is actually saved – those teachings, and the person who teaches them, have no place in our churches or personal study materials.

A large portion of the New Testament is dedicated to instructing us to stay away from false doctrine and those who teach it. Second Timothy 3:5 and Romans 16:17 say we are to “avoid such people.” First Corinthians 5:9-13, speaking about unrepentant sinners who call themselves believers, says that we are to judge those in the church, and we are “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty…not even to eat with such a one.” Second John 10-11 goes so far as to say, “do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

The bottom line is, it’s up to God to say whether or not someone is saved. It’s up to us to prayerfully and biblically determine whether or not her teachings match up with Scripture – regardless of our opinion about her salvation – and, if not, remove those teachings from our churches and our study of God’s word.


1. MacArthur Study Bible, ESV translation, notes on Galatians 1:8, p. 1741.
Church, Southern Baptist/SBC

10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists

Originally published June 26, 2015

Note: A number of things have changed in the SBC, at LifeWay, the ERLC, etc., since this article was originally written in 2015, however the bulk of what is mentioned here is still relevant.

Earlier this week, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission published a nifty little article called “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Southern Baptists“. Although I disagree with Dr. Moore on a number of things, I thought the article was pretty good, overall.

But it got me thinking. Yes, there is a lot of ignorance about Southern Baptists out there among those who aren’t part of our denomination. However, there’s also a lot of ignorance inside the SBC about what’s really going on in our denomination, our doctrine, practices, leadership, and so on. These are ten SBC realities I wish the average Southern Baptist church member were more aware of.

1. LifeWay sells lies and heresy, and they don’t want you to know.
Now I’m not saying everything they sell is lies and heresy. I’ve bought lots of good doctrinally sound materials from them over the years. However, the fact remains that they continue to sell books and materials from false teachers like T.D. Jakes, Sarah Young, and Andy Stanley on their shelves. They will order books by false teachers like Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen for you if you just ask at the counter.¹ They continued to sell The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven (a book recounting Alex Malarkey’s supposed trip to Heaven after a car accident) for nearly a year even after Alex, his mother, Beth, and respected SBC pastor, speaker, and author Justin Peters repeatedly told LifeWay leadership that the story was a lie. Emails and phone calls about heretical materials at LifeWay are either ignored or the caller placated (I know this from first hand experience). Questions from the floor at the Southern Baptist Convention about LifeWay carrying false doctrine are quashed.

This entity of your denomination which purports to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ is selling lies about Him to make a fast buck, and they need to stop.

2. There are plenty of apostate Southern Baptist churches, and we have no mechanism in place for kicking them out of the SBC.
This is a verbatim quote from the FAQ section (5th question from the top) of the SBC’s web site:²

“According to our constitution, if a church no longer makes a bona fide contribution to the Convention’s work, or if it acts to ‘affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,’ it no longer complies with the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention and is not permitted to send messengers to the annual meeting. These, however, are the only explicitly stated instances in which the SBC has the prerogative to take action.”

What does that mean? As long as your church doesn’t affirm homosexuality and gives to the Cooperative Program, you’re in. Never mind if your pastor twists God’s word until it’s unrecognizable. Or lets women and false teachers get behind the pulpit like Steven Furtick does. Or plays AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday and says he probably wouldn’t have strippers on stage like Perry Noble does. Or any of the other ridiculous and blasphemous shenanigans so many of the seeker sensitive types in our denomination pull. Nope, as long as you give your money and stand on the right side of homosexuality, you’re good to go.

3. Beth Moore is a false teacher.
That’s right, the queen of SBC women’s Bible study, divangelista Beth Moore, does not rightly handle God’s word, partners with false teachers, and violates Scripture by preaching to men, among other things. And Priscilla Shirer is right there with her.

4. Having a small church isn’t a sin and it doesn’t necessarily mean your pastor (or your church) isn’t trying hard enough.
The average church size in America is 186 members, and 94% of church goers attend a church of 500 or fewer people, yet the constant drumbeat of SBC leadership is “bigger is better.” Countless articles harangue exhausted pastors about breaking the 200 or 250 or 300 member attendance “barrier.”

Listen, if your pastor is faithfully preaching and rightly handling God’s word and your church members are serving one another and carrying out the Great Commission in their daily lives, that’s what counts in God’s eyes, not how many butts are in a pew.

5. The Bible doesn’t require you to tithe, and neither should your church.
The tithe is part of the Old Testament law that Christians today are no longer bound by because we are under the covenant of grace, not the Mosaic covenant. Christians are to gladly give the amount we determine in our own hearts to give out of love for our Savior and a desire to serve Him- not under compulsion from someone else.

6. The “sinner’s prayer” won’t save you.
If you think you’re saved because you parroted a prayer someone led you in when you were five but your life shows no love of Christ and no evidence that you belong to Him, then your faith is in the prayer you prayed, not in Christ, and you are not saved. The evidence that you’re a Christian is that you love the Lord, and are growing in holiness, not that you once repeated a prayer (or that you were baptized, attend church regularly, are a “good person,” etc.) Examine yourself to see if you’re really in the faith.

7. Your church probably has a significant number of lost people in it.
Jesus Himself said, there are few who find eternal life and that there are many who call Him “Lord” whom He does not know and will turn away on the Day of Judgment. This is why it is absolutely imperative that pastors, Sunday School teachers, and all other church leaders know the gospel inside out and teach it incessantly, even to people who claim to know Christ.

8. Lots of Southern Baptist churches violate 1 Timothy 2:12ff.
We do fairly well at not permitting women to serve as pastors, but beyond that there are plenty of churches and pastors who sin by allowing women to serve in positions in the church that are restricted to men. Do women in your church teach co-ed Sunday School classes? Do they head up committees or ministries that put them in authority over men? Do they, as worship leaders or in some other capacity, stand before the congregation and instruct or exhort them? Then your church is in sin.

9. Politics won’t save America.
This country is imploding. You don’t have to be a prophet to see that. Voting according to biblical principles, running for office, working through the system to right wrongs, signing petitions, and other political activity is fine, but don’t put your eggs in those baskets. The Titanic has hit the ice berg, and Christians in this country will soon be facing real persecution like we see overseas. We need to rescue the perishing with the gospel. It can’t be done with the White House or the state house. When is the last time you shared the gospel with someone?

10. Jesus wins.
Things are bad and getting worse. In our world, in our country, in our denomination, in our churches. But the good news of Scripture for all people is that, in the end, Jesus is coming back for His bride. He will conquer evil and those of us who truly belong to Him will spend eternity with Him. This world is not all there is. Jesus wins.


¹It is possible LifeWay has changed this policy. I called my local LifeWay last week (Jan. 2017) and asked them to order a Joyce Meyer book and a Joel Osteen book. I was told the store could not order books by either of these authors. I applaud LifeWay for this step in the right direction.

²As of 2019, this verbiage has been removed from the FAQ section of the SBC website. Conceptually similar language can be found here (see Article III: Composition).

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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Unfollowing iffy teachers, Teacher training, Church search & 9Marks, Charitable giving, SBC21, AWFS transcripts)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


I’m currently listening to a [Bible study] podcast. I have enjoyed it so far because after I read, I’m able to hear a different perspective, maybe the speaker goes over something I didn’t catch, or maybe the speaker says something that isn’t how I interpreted the text. I always go back to the Scripture and compare when her opinion and mine differ to see what the scripture says. There’s now been two issues that I just believe she is plan wrong about. At what point would you cut ties? My husband has told he wants me to really ponder if the teacher is trustworthy if she adds to Scripture or changes God’s intent. I’m all for testing everything I read/listen to against Scripture, but at what point would you consider not following a teacher due to misleading or just plain wrong information?

At the point at which my (doctrinally sound) husband expressed concern, if I hadn’t already unfollowed her on my own.

Ladies- if you have a godly, doctrinally sound husband who knows his Bible, be thankful (as I’m sure the reader who sent in this question is). What a wonderful gift God has given you! He’s able to give you a biblical perspective on things you might not have thought about before, he can give you godly counsel on those things, and he cares about your spiritual life and growth in holiness.

If you have a husband like that and he’s saying, “I don’t think you should listen to that podcast, read that author, etc.,” I would urge you to give serious thought to what he’s saying. I would also recommend heeding his leadership and unfollowing that person, even if you don’t totally agree with him. It’s very likely that one day, you’ll look back at that author or podcaster and see your husband’s concerns more clearly, and be glad you took his advice. And even if you don’t, or even if he turns out to be wrong, you’re still demonstrating respect for, and submission to his spiritual leadership – and that’s worth way more to your marriage and to being a godly wife than any podcast, book, YouTube channel or anything else.

If you’re in a position in which you’re having to decide for yourself whether or not to continue following a certain “iffy” teacher, here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Make sure the “red flags” you’re seeing are actually biblical issues (as this reader’s red flags were), not personal preferences. You may not like that a pastor likes hymns instead of more contemporary (doctrinally sound) worship music or that a (doctrinally sound) female teacher has really short hair, but that’s personal taste, not being unbiblical.
  • Be sure you understand and can rightly handle Scripture well enough to make sure it’s the teacher who’s the one in error, not you.
  • Make certain that what you’re hearing as a red flag wasn’t just a “one and done” instance of the teacher accidentally misspeaking, flubbing her words, or not being as clear as she could have been.
  • If you’re seeing red flags and you’re a new Christian or you know yourself well enough to know you could be easily swayed by this teacher into believing something wrong, stop following her.
  • Consider that for every red flag you’re seeing, there could be another red flag that your’e not recognizing or that this teacher hasn’t revealed yet.
  • If you’re a mature Christian who’s following this teacher for biblical instruction and you’re increasingly seeing red flags, that’s God’s way of telling you -through what you know from His Word- that you don’t need to be receiving teaching from this person.
  • If you don’t want to follow or are uncomfortable following a certain teacher, that doesn’t require you to make any sort of public declaration that others shouldn’t follow her or that she is a false teacher. You can simply make the quiet, personal decision to stop following her.
  • Remember, there’s no law that says you have to follow any particular teacher, or any teachers at all for that matter. Christians have been doing just fine for 2000 years simply being taught by their own pastor, elders, and teachers at church.

While reading your article, McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word, I finally realized my struggle with leading the women’s study is because I haven’t been trained to teach. Unfortunately, there aren’t any strong teachers in my church – a big problem. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for learning how to learn? Online, books, etc.?

The first thing I would recommend is that you explain your dilemma to your pastor and ask him to train you (and others in your church – One on one meetings between a pastor and a woman are not a good idea. Plus, it sounds like a lot of people in your church need to be trained.) to teach.

If your pastor is not a “strong teacher” or is incapable of training others to teach, you probably need to start looking for a new church. One of the biblical qualifications for pastors is that they be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2) and be “able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). Paul exhorted Pastor Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Pastors ought to be able to teach others to teach.

As your pastor is training you, you may wish to work through some of my Bible studies, or use them as studies for your women’s class. My studies are designed to teach women how to study or teach straight from the text of Scripture in a “learn by doing” sort of way. Once you get a feel for the kinds of things you should be seeing in the text and questions you should be asking of the text, you can take off those “training wheels” and fly solo.


Are you suggesting that the churches listed at the search engines at your Searching for a new church? resource are the only churches that are teaching biblically?

Not at all. That resource is not, nor is it meant to be, a comprehensive list of every doctrinally sound church on planet Earth. That would be impossible. I’m sure there are thousands of other perfectly doctrinally sound churches out there (and if you are personally connected to any others, please let me know.) That resource is merely a suggestions of some of the doctrinally sound churches in various areas of the world that Christians can check out if they’re looking for one to join.

I would like clarification on 9Marks website.

It’s a little hard to “clarify” when I’m not sure what the question is. :0) I can only infer that, like others, you’ve noticed Mark Dever and a few other pastors/teachers in that circle who, over the past few years, seem to have occasionally dipped a toe into the social justice waters.

I added the 9Marks “church search” to my list of church search engines several years ago before that became an issue. I believe that the majority of churches that are listed at the 9Marks site probably also applied to be listed before this became an issue or are not aware that it is currently an issue.

So far, as far as I know, Mark Dever and 9Marks haven’t turned rabidly woke, given a full-throated endorsement of Critical Race Theory, spoken out in favor of clear progressivism or liberalism, etc. I’ll continue to keep an eye on them, and if and when that happens, I’ll remove the 9Marks church search. But right now, they’re still at the stage of being decent brothers in Christ who every once in a while make an iffy statement or two. The churches on the 9Marks list aren’t required to agree or align with everything Mark Dever and 9Marks say, and, at the moment, I believe that the majority of the churches on that list are doctrinally sound.

If you have misgivings about 9Marks, by all means, skip that church search engine and use the others I have listed. And, as the disclaimer on that page says: “Please use this list only as a suggestion of churches to check out using biblical wisdom and discernment.” You are responsible for personally vetting any church you choose to visit or join.


Do you know of, and/or recommend, any particular causes or charities that are… well, Godly (moral and ethical)? There are so many charities that don’t use their donated funds for their advertised causes (you know, instead the donations go to support the CEO’s million dollar mansion and such). I want to give, I just don’t know to whom or what.

The first place you should be giving is to the offerings of your local church – to support your pastor and staff, pay the bills, contribute to the upkeep of the church, support missionaries, etc. This is part of being a faithful church member.

If you still have money left over after that, ask your pastor about the missionaries and other Christian organizations (ex: a local crisis pregnancy center, orphanages, church plants, etc.) your church supports financially, and give more money directly to these organizations. You should follow your pastor’s leadership and work hand in hand with your church in supporting these entities.

And if you still have money left over after that, would you adopt me? :0) Just kidding. If you follow any doctrinally sound podcasts, pastors, teachers, or authors, find out which parachurch organizations they support. For example, two of the ministries I follow are Grace to You and Wretched. I would love to be able to support The Master’s Academy International, which trains indigenous pastors all over the world to minister in their context. One of Wretched’s sponsors I would contribute to is Pre-Born, a pro-life ministry that emphasizes sharing the gospel.

(And just FYI: I do not recommend Samaritan’s Purse / Operation Christmas Child.)

May God bless your generosity.


Will there be a 2021 version of the Arrive Prepared resource for this year’s SBC Annual Meeting?

I thought about that a couple of weeks ago, but to be perfectly transparent I am so disillusioned with and depressed by the state of the Southern Baptist Convention at the national level right now that I just don’t have the heart for it.

Last year, I was in more of a “Let’s charge into hell with a water pistol and DO this thing!” frame of mind. This year, that has been replaced by a heaviness of spirit. Though there are many individual (and autonomous – for those not in the know, all SBC churches are autonomous) doctrinally sound SBC churches out there, including my own (and I’m so thankful for all of them), I just don’t have any reason to believe that anything is going to change at the national level. I think it’s just going to continue to get worse – more false teachers, more false doctrine, more egalitarianism, more Critical Race Theory, more liberalism, more biblical ignorance, more tolerance for sin, more 11th Commandment, more erosion of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, and continued disdain for those of us in the Calvinist ghetto of the SBC.

I have never in my life more fervently hoped to be proved wrong, and I completely support my doctrinally sound brothers and sisters who are still standing in the flames brandishing their water pistols. But I’m shell shocked. That’s honestly just where I am right now.

In my estimation, about 85% of the information in the “Arrive Prepared” article is still accurate and relevant for this year’s annual meeting. Since the 2020 annual meeting was canceled due to COVID, my thinking is most of the same issues will be addressed this year, particularly abuse and Critical Race Theory / Resolution 9 (if you haven’t yet checked out the CRT video series I posted a few weeks ago, that would be a great resource).

I imagine issues surrounding COVID and the vaccine, the Equality Act, and persecution of the Western church will also be brought up. I hope the issues with NAMB (the North American Mission Board), including their church plants that have employed female “pastors” and co-“pastors,” will be biblically addressed, but my guess would be that that issue will be tabled or sent to committee or buried under procedural regulations and nothing will really be done about it clearly and publicly.

If you want to keep up on the issues, I would suggest following the people and organizations listed at the end of that article.

Sorry to sound like a Debbie Downer. I promise I’ll continue to think and pray about it, and if the Lord changes my mind, I’ll write a piece on it.


Could you please provide transcripts for each episode of A Word Fitly Spoken?

No, but we can come really close in two ways:

  1. Amy has started uploading our episodes (audio only) to our YouTube channel. There’s a “CC” button at the bottom of each YouTube video that allows you to turn on captions. (She has posted several of our past episodes as well.)
  2. All of our episodes are scripted, and we stick pretty closely to the script. Going forward, I’ll be posting the link to the Google Doc of our script for each episode in the show notes of that episode. Many of our earlier episodes have been scripted from one of Amy’s or my blog articles, and if you’ll look in the show notes for that episode, you’ll find the link for that article.

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.