A good shepherd doesn’t just cuddle his sheep. He also fights off wolves.
In light of this, here are five things I recommend all pastors do to protect their flocks from false prophets, false apostles, and false teachers.
- Show them the math. In other words, don’t just teach the Bible correctly. Take some time to show them how you arrived at your interpretation. The problem with a lot of preaching is that people are not being taught how to interpret Scripture for themselves. Thus, they can’t spot unsound interpretations. So you need to teach them sound principles of biblical interpretation, such as reading in context and recognizing genres.
- Warn them about wolves. This may sound obvious. But my question for you, as a pastor, is have you warned your people about the real threat of false prophets, false apostles and false teachers? The Bible contains numerous warnings about them, including warnings from the original apostles and Jesus himself (Matthew 7:15; 24:24; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 13:11-15). But have you brought these warnings to the attention of your people?
- Name names. Pastors often avoid identifying–by name–specific false teachings, false groups, and false teachers. They seem to think it is enough to merely hint at false teachings without naming the actual teachings or the specific groups or people who promote those teachings. But I disagree. This is like telling someone there is a rabid dog loose in his city, but not telling him specifically what the dog looks like or where it was last seen. In contrast, the apostle Paul felt the need, at times, to warn about specific false teachings and to even name specific false teachers who were threatening his flock (2 Tim. 2:17-18). Likewise, today’s pastors should be willing to challenge specific false teachings and to warn people about the false teachers and groups who are active in their local regions or who have gained a national following through television, literature, and the Internet. Of course, this should be done graciously, with wisdom and tact.
- Teach doctrine. Take time to highlight essential Christian beliefs, such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, the atonement, and salvation by grace through faith. The trend in churches is to go light and not bore people with heavy doctrine. But it is important for Christians to learn doctrine so that they can recognize false doctrines. Teaching doctrine can be done in Sunday School classes and midweek studies. But since these activities are usually less attended than Sunday morning services, you should also take some time to address these doctrines from the pulpit. To adequately address them, consider dedicating an entire topical sermon to each one of them.
- Teach on the tough topics. Are you teaching the full spectrum of biblical truth or have you been avoiding the difficult topics, such as God’s holiness, the place of trials in the Christian life, and the end time? If you do not teach about God’s holiness, then people may fall victim to false teachings, such as the “universalism” of authors like Rob Bell. If you don’t teach about trials, then they may fall for the false “prosperity gospel” teachings–these being, that God always wants to bless His people with money, perfect health, and the fulfillment of all their desires. And if you don’t teach on the end time and the difficult days ahead for the church, then they may fall for NAR dominionist teachings that entire nations will be Christianized and God’s glorious kingdom will be set up on earth before Christ returns.
And to others, do you think pastors are doing an adequate job of protecting their flocks from false teaching?
– By Holly Pivec