What if I told you of a church who picked their Pastor by listening to 3-5 of the Pastor’s topical sermons he was best known for, but never questioned his doctrine at all. They don’t know what he believes about salvation, what his view of the church is, what his view of the Scriptures are, not even who he reads or listens to. They read a very general “Statement of Faith” he has on his website, but it is really no different than 100’s of other men they have talked to. No real specifics, no real meat, and no way to really judge his doctrine by his best 3-5 sermons. However, the Search Team recommended this man unanimously to the congregation because he was, in their words:
“He moved me to tears”
“He seemed so real”
Now, many Elders that read this would cringe at this thought and, I hope many Christians in general would cringe as well. But, just for the sake of the story…let’s say this new Pastor, after some time in the pulpit, began to discuss the multiple “other” ways outside of Scripture that God “tells him things.” Then, one Sunday the Pastor reads multiple quotes from a known heretic and even announced he was going to invite him to Preach with him in a conference. Better yet, imagine the next Sunday the Pastor begins to discuss that we, as Believers shouldn’t expect or call for repentance for homosexuals, but rather embrace them in their lifestyle and encourage them to love Christ; that Christ embraces them and we should as well. We should embrace the LGBT agenda and lifestyle and not be bigots. Then, imagine the church that just hired this Pastor now is upset and even shocked. To me, much of the onus regarding this situation would be on the Church body and Search Team, would it not?
Well, let’s change the story around just a bit. I, as a Pastor, invite a man into my pulpit who has shared the pulpit with false teachers, has made the same comments regarding the LGBT agenda but didn’t preach any of that from my pulpit. In fact, what he said from my pulpit was not wrong in anyway. I could even go as far to say “he said some good things.” Should I have him in my pulpit? Shouldn’t I research him enough to know where he stands? I would say a resounding YES.
Now, I have never had someone preach from my pulpit that ascribed to any of these things and I do not know of any church (although I am sure there are some) who have had this encounter with their pastor. But, I know of countless pastors who have allowed this to go on in their church. Each illustration I gave above has happened with well known women’s speakers/authors. If I believe I am to keep watch over the souls of my dear congregation, but I can’t tell you the theology of the majority of the Bible studies that go on in my Church, is that a problem? If I am to lead my house but have no clue what my wife is reading and have not discussed it with her at all, would that be negligent? Why would I be consumed with the doctrine of a man who fills my pulpit on a single occasion, but have no concern with an author who would encounter my congregants weekly in multiple studies?
I have read much about the decline in church attendance, much about the decline in giving but, the greatest decline of our day is that of discernment and conversely, the greatest increase the church has today is tolerance. The mixture of diminishing discernment and increasing tolerance is poison to the Gospel. We are more apt to fight for our favorite author or speaker many times, than to defend brothers and sisters we do life with in the local church when there is gossip about them.
The Point? Does doctrine matter in everything? The answer should be YES! It determines all I believe about God, and when a person is weak in that area, sooner or later they will be shown to have a pattern of weakness in other areas. Wolves are great at disguises… in order for poison to be effective it has to appear as good or helpful. That fact that many believers and churches defend speakers and authors they actually know little to nothing about, before they believe the best regarding people they do life with is, at its base an issue of wrong ecclesiology…but that is another blog for another day.