Originally Published May 22, 2014
I find myself wincing a bit when I see people –who I know genuinely love Jesus—sharing, pinning, and re-tweeting quotes from false teachers such as Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and Christine Caine, just to name a few. Why? What’s wrong with the encouraging, even biblical, at times, things these people say?
First of all, let me back up a little. What is a “false teacher”? A false teacher is someone who is billed as a Christian pastor or Bible teacher who habitually and unrepentantly writes, teaches, or preaches things that conflict with the clear teaching of Scripture. For example, all four of the people I listed above teach some version of the prosperity gospel, the false teaching that is most rampant in the Western church today. Additionally, T.D. Jakes adheres to the false doctrine of modalism, and Joyce Meyer and Christine Caine blatantly disobey the Bible’s teaching that women are not to be pastors or instruct men in the Scriptures in the church.
These days, it can be difficult to keep up with who teaches sound doctrine and who does not, especially when pastors and teachers we thought were theologically orthodox seem to be turning apostate at an alarming rate. I myself have been a fan of more than one popular writer/teacher/preacher that I later realized was a false teacher (Joyce Meyer was one of them.) as I delved into what they actually taught and believed and compared it to God’s word. I know first hand that it’s easy to think that these people are good biblical teachers and preachers when what they say sounds good, makes us feel good, and has an occasional Bible verse sprinkled in.
Because I’ve been there myself and know how easy it can be to be drawn in by false teachers, I don’t have any less respect for folks who re-tweet the occasional Osteen-ism of the day. In fact, I have more respect for them, because I know they love the Lord, they’re making an effort to find biblical teaching to listen to, and they have the courage to try to share the gospel with their friends and family via social media. Those are all fantastically good things, and they are to be commended.
But, still, the quotes we share and the people who said them matter. Why?
1. Lost people’s eternities are at stake.
Seriously? From hitting the “share” button on a false teacher’s status? Seriously. I don’t think that’s overstating the gravity of the matter. There’s no way to take the possibility of an eternity in hell too seriously.
Think about it: You have an unsaved Facebook friend. She’s getting to the point in her life where she figures it’s time to get her stuff together, so she starts looking into this whole Jesus thing. Where to start? She’s never even set foot inside a church. Aha! She remembers you’re a Christian. Maybe you’ll have a good lead for her. As she’s thinking about all this, you share Joyce Meyer’s status, and it appears in your friend’s news feed. “Ah,” your friend thinks, “this must be a good Bible teacher if my Christian friend follows her.” So she “likes” Joyce Meyer’s Facebook page and follows her on Twitter. Then she starts watching her on TV. Buys some of her books. Maybe attends one of her conferences. Because your friend has zero knowledge of the Bible, she believes everything Joyce Meyer says. It sounds good. It makes her feel good. She’s hearing a few out of context Bible verses here and there. But the problem is that Joyce Meyer doesn’t teach the Jesus of the Bible. She teaches a false god of her own creation. And if your friend doesn’t put her faith in the true Jesus of the Bible, she’s just as lost as she was before. Only now she thinks she’s a Christian. And you can’t convince her otherwise.
Sound far fetched? Maybe. Maybe not. But if there’s even the slightest chance something like that could happen, is it really worth justifying that status share? Furthermore, is it worth even following a teacher who could lead someone you love to an eternity in hell?
2. It gives false teachers free publicity and a broader platform.
One thing I was very surprised to learn when I first began the process of having my book published is that publishers want non-fiction writers to have a built in audience, or “platform,” before they will publish your book. That means you’re already doing speaking engagements and/or have a decent sized ministry, have lots of followers on social media, etc. As I once explained to someone, “You don’t get your book published and then become (celebrity Bible teacher) you have to be (celebrity Bible teacher) in order to get published.”
Social media stats are a big factor in a celebrity preacher’s/teacher’s platform. If T.D. Jakes suddenly lost the majority of his social media followers, you can bet the TV stations he’s on and the conferences he gets invited to would be taking a serious look at whether or not they’d continue to affiliate with him, because it would indicate that his audience is shrinking.
Conversely, when we re-pin, re-post, or re-tweet these folks, their social media stats go up. They not only get a broader platform on social media from which to spread their unbiblical teaching, they continue to get more book, radio, TV, and other media deals, get invited to speak at more conferences, and even start exporting their false teaching overseas (“missions”) to people who have never heard the gospel before and have no way of knowing they’re being lied to.
When we promote false teachers on social media, we bear some of the responsibility for the spread of their false doctrine.
3. It is disobedient to Scripture.
Often, when a Christian is told she’s following a false teacher, the common response is, “Oh, I just chew up the meat and spit out the bones,” meaning that she takes to heart the “good” things the false teacher has to say and ignores the bad.
The question is: where does the Bible say this is the correct way to deal with false teachers? Answer: it doesn’t. In fact Scripture says exactly the opposite.
For starters, Galatians 1:6-9 says that if anyone preaches a different gospel (such as the prosperity gospel) from the one that’s set down in Scripture, “let him be accursed.” “Accursed” means “damned,” sentenced to hell for eternity.
1 Timothy 4:7 and Titus 3:10 say that we are to have nothing to do with people who teach “irreverent or silly myths” or cause division by teaching false doctrine.
2 Corinthians 6:14-16 tells us not to be joined together or partner with unbelievers, lawlessness, darkness, Belial (the devil), or idols.
1 Corinthians 5:7-13 tells us that when a person infiltrates the church who claims to be a Christian, yet is greedy, an idolater, or a swindler— all of which are things that prosperity preachers are guilty of— we are to “cleanse out the old leaven.” We are “not to associate” with them. We are to “purge the evil person from among you.”
Titus 1:10-16 says of false teachers, “They must be silenced,” because they teach “for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” Paul instructs Titus to “rebuke them sharply,” and that, “they profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”
The entire second chapter of 2 Peter paints a dismal picture of the motives, the behavior, and the fate of false teachers:
“Because of them, the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
“In their greed they will exploit you with false words.”
They will “be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.”
“They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.”
“They entice unsteady souls.”
“For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.”
“They promise them [people who listen to their false teaching] freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.”
The entire epistle of Jude is dedicated to exhorting Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Of false teachers, Jude says:
“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…Woe to them!”
There’s more, because a large portion of the New Testament is dedicated to exhorting Christians to stay away from false doctrine and rebuke those who teach it, but I think you get the picture. Is it obedient to Christ and to His word to follow and promote someone He says is damnable? People who teach another gospel, such as the prosperity gospel, are the enemies of Christ. Who are we going to side with, Christ or His enemies?
4. It is unloving and disloyal to our Master.
Think about the person you love the most in this world. Maybe it’s your spouse, your child, a parent, or a friend. Next, think about your favorite celebrity, perhaps a movie star, a TV personality, or a famous author or athlete. Now try to imagine that that celebrity, in interviews with journalists, on talk shows he appears on, at personal appearances and speaking engagements, in books he writes, etc., routinely tells lies about the character of your dearest loved one. And thousands, maybe millions, of people believe him.
Would you continue to be a fan of that celebrity?
What if your loved one found out you were a fan of that celebrity? How would she feel to know you were a fan of someone who spreads lies about her?
If we wouldn’t follow someone who lies about a loved one, how much less should we as Christians have anything to do with a celebrity preacher, teacher, or author who drags the name of our precious Savior through the mud and lies about the gospel?
Friends, for all of these reasons and more, let’s stop promoting these false teachers on social media by publicizing their quotes and other materials. Looking for an encouraging quote to share? There’s nothing better than a verse of Scripture. Because Scripture can offer people something that false teachers can’t: truth and hope. As Jesus Himself said,
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17