I feel much more morally comfortable walking away from organized religion. I respect that there are all kinds of denominations and all kinds of churches, but it’s the entire controversy, the entire conversation that I need to walk away from right now. — Anne Rice, Los Angeles Times
Recently, the social network has been inundated with accusations against two very prominent Christian preachers and teachers. Many of my friends in church ask me for my opinion and in order to save my breath, and hopefully, to share something helpful, I’m blogging what I think about the issue. Basically, my opinion boils down to three major points:
1. It is our personal responsibility as Christians to filter what we read and what we hear.
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. –Acts 17:11
We need to listen to preachers and teachers to give insight or clarity to some things we read in the Bible or to what we hear from other people, but this does not discount the fact it is also our personal responsibility to find out if what is being shared does not contradict what the Bible says. It is important to pray for a discerning spirit to recognize when what is being said is not in tandem with the infallible Truth. We gain discernment when we read and meditate on the Word, hence it is important for us to set aside time to study the Word and to apply what we have read in our daily lives. We cannot just rely on podcasts or books from Christian authors. Every time I lead someone to Christ this is something I highlight. I always tell the other person, “I will not be offended if you go home right now and find out from the Bible if what I’m saying is true. In fact I will be relieved if you do so.” After all, even the great apostle Paul had to have his teaching evaluated by new disciples of Christ.
2. It is our personal responsibility as ministers of the Word to watch our doctrine and our lives closely.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. –1Timothy 4:13-16
Being a teacher of the Word is a great responsibility and we should not take it lightly. God will hold us accountable if we sugarcoat the gospel. I am blessed to be in a spiritual family whose leaders have the humility to hold themselves accountable to one another when it comes to their preaching and their teaching. I could not appreciate enough the men and women in my life who corrected what I shared when I have only taught a half-truth or made my message clearer to those who listen when I have spoken vaguely. This is why we need mentors and why there will never come a time when we don’t need anyone to speak into our lives, no matter how big our ministry has become.
3. Most importantly, it is our personal responsibility as disciples of Christ to LOVE one another.
What I didn’t like about the accusations against the two prominent leaders is that it became a source of dispute and discord once again between denominations and Christian leaders and made it seem like we are in the habit of putting down one another. I am not questioning the motive of the writer or accusing him of deliberately starting this out to promote one ministry over another. After all, only God knows our motives and He will hold us accountable for them. It is just that instead of spurring others to know Jesus in a personal way and to become part of a spiritual family, it effectively gives them more reason not to do so. I remember when Anne Rice denounced Christianity. She wrote on her social network page
Today I quit being a Christian…. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.
She got a lot of criticisms from her post and she had to clarify in another statement
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
She became turned off with Christianity because of those who supposedly follow Christ but do not reflect His love for others. Now, I’m not saying that if we hear a false teaching, we just let it go. That is the opposite of my previous point. We need people to speak into our lives and to speak the truth in love. What I’m saying is that there are better ways to confront someone first about what they say or do than simply blogging accusations about them and letting the blog spread over the social network. There might just have been a misunderstanding, or maybe God might be calling you to reach out to the person and confront them in love and in the spirit of unity. Some of the items pointed out about these leaders in the blog may even have already been corrected by them in a later preaching because someone corrected him or her. Preachers are not infallible, and if they are wise, they will seek mentors. Frankly, what is most important to me is that I see that a leader is still humble enough to subject himself or herself to correction and to be continually transformed by the Truth. That is, the fruit of their lives is more important to them than their public image.
Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. — Mahatma Gandhi
And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. — 1John 4:21, NIV