When the scales of deception are removed from their eyes, many find themselves in a dilemma. They realise that the church that they love, attend, and where they were possibly even saved, teaches false doctrine. False doctrines such as word of faith, the prosperity gospel, dominion theology and of course the unhealthy mixture of all three found in the New Apostolic Reformation are working their leaven in the visible church.
Furthermore, accompanying these false doctrines are false practices and manifestations. Individuals are torn in two. Should they leave? or should they stay and attempt to navigate the spiritual minefield that they find themselves in? This post looks at invalid reasons that some use to justify their refusal to walk away from a poisoned well.
If you are not familiar with the false doctrines mentioned above, here are some examples of people and ministries that teach them: Bethel church (Bill Johnson & Kris Vallotton), Hillsong (Brian & Bobbie Houston, Carl Lentz), Randy Clark, Lance Wallnau, Todd Bentley, Georgian Banov, Heidi Baker, Joyce Meyer, John & Lisa Bevere, Christine Caine, Rick Joyner, Patricia King, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren, Paula White, T D Jakes, Steven Furtick, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Todd White, Beth Moore, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Mike Bickle, Ann Voskamp, and many more.
The following reasons are not legitimate reasons to stay in a church that teaches false doctrine:
1. I’ll simply ignore the bad teaching – eat the meat and spit out the bones
To put it another way – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is no biblical mandate for this argument. Those who teach contrary to the gospel need to be marked and avoided, not marked and ignored. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)
In his letter to Timothy, Paul explains that someone approved by God “rightly divides the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) He then gives an example, of two teachers who did not rightly divide God’s word: “Hymenaeus and Philetus,who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.” (vs 18)
“Finally, Paul tells us what our response should be: “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (vs 19)
By sitting under a pastor who twists the word of God, you are submitting yourself to someone God has disqualified and submitting yourself to someone who is responsible for damaging the faith of their followers. Your pastor should in fact be the one rebuking those who teach false doctrine. He “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it”. (Titus 1:9)
The church at Thyatira was rebuked for “tolerating that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants.” (Revelation 2:20) We must avoid the irreverent babble of those who distort the word of God to suit their own carnal appetites. False teachers need to be silenced, not supported: For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. “They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (Titus 1:10-11)
A ravenous wolf has nothing to offer you: they come to steal, kill and destroy.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking the situation is static in the sense that the current level of false doctrine will remain constant. It begins with singing Hillsong or Jesus Culture songs, and before you can say “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss” your pastor will be introducing the doctrines of Hillsong and Bethel.
Soon your leaders will find it necessary to attend a Bethel or Hillsong conference, and then new materials and courses such as “sozo” or a school of supernatural ministry will be introduced. You will probably observe new terminology coming from your pulpit, as new teachings come with some catch phrases. These words, for example, accompany NAR teachings: “shift, alignment, presence, atmosphere, impartation, acceleration”.
God’s word is ignored or twisted beyond it’s original meaning, resulting in progressive error: “while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:13-17)
2. I’ll just stay and be a witness
That may work for a short while, but at some point you are going to be accused of ‘sowing division’ and your ‘rebellious spirit’ will be dealt with by your leaders. Your first port of call in any case should be your leaders. A meeting with them, explaining your concerns, will quickly determine whether your discernment is appreciated. There were no undercover believers in the early church; they broke away from the various sects and teachings of the pharisees. If you want to be a testimony then you need to leave and have no fellowship with darkness. Those who are interested in truth, will come and ask you for the reasons you left and that will be your opportunity to present the truth.
3. I have family members in the church; if I leave I will offend them?
This is a difficult case, but one that Jesus warned about: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)
You have the advantage of spending time with your family members and giving your reasons for leaving. I realise there may be some complications, but ultimately your leaving may be the catalyst for their eyes to be opened. You may offend them if you leave, but you won’t be offending God. What is offensive, and indeed unloving, is to stay silent when doctrines that may shipwreck the faith of your family members are not addressed.
You have a duty to warn your family and friends. They should not feel at ease among enemies of the cross. “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31)
4. I stand to lose too much
The opposite is true; you stand to lose much by participating in any ministry that has swerved from the truth, and is deceiving people. Many are heavily invested in their churches. Apart from the possible loss of friendships that are dear, there are other factors that may come into play. A church I attended had a “business directory” for church members. We were encouraged to support the businesses of church members, nothing wrong with that. Some may however find themselves in a situation where their business is largely dependent on the support of fellow church members, or even the church itself. The choice then is simple – God or mammon. The same God who leads us out of deception, will provide for our needs and make a way when disaster seems imminent. Your spiritual welfare must be prioritized above any earthly concern. You can never lose when you obey the word of God.
5. Despite some bad doctrine God still moves
We need to clarify what “God still moves” actually means. By this argument, people are usually referring to signs and wonders, testimonies from people in the church, or perhaps their own experience. I’m sure you have heard similar expressions such as these: “the presence of the Lord was so strong during the service” or “there was such a powerful anointing during the meeting and Holy Spirit was present.” When subjective experiences take precedence over the word of God, we are dealing with mysticism, not biblical Christianity. People falling over backwards, gold dust appearing during services, rain falling during a prayer meeting, fire tunnels, goosebumps during worship, and even signs and wonders are not evidence of God moving.
These last days will include many signs and wonders, but they won’t be a result of God moving, but of deception:
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24)
“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11)
In another scenario, people may actually have been saved or even healed in the church they now realise teaches false doctrine. Perhaps the church started off well, but gradually succumbed to the ear tickling doctrines of demons, or perhaps the church has always been rooted in NAR and other false teachings. Be thankful God is his mercy and grace has saved or healed you in spite of people, not because of them. God saved you, God healed you, be faithful to God!
6. I will be without a spiritual covering
You have not been under a spiritual covering in the first place. The “spiritual covering” that false teachers offer is nothing but a means to manipulate and control their followers. There is no mutual submission to one another in their vocabulary. False teachers serve their own appetites, and to get what they want, they will dominate if they have to. True shepherds lead by example with pure motives: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” ( 1 Peter 5:2-3)
We are still experiencing the influence of the heavy shepherding movement of the seventies and eighties, and the fear instilled in many due to “covering” teaching remains. Those who experienced this will know what I’m talking about. In some cases leaders had such control over those under their authority, that they had the power to determine who your spouse should be, where to live, and what work to do. If the leaders did not “have peace” or managed to find a scripture in Jeremiah for example (wrest out of context) contradicting your choice, you had little option but to submit to them.
Teachers like John Bevere, are still promoting this aberrant doctrine. This is a long quote (from one of our previous blogs) but worth repeating: “Another book by Bevere – Under Cover, promotes a pyramid model or hierarchical leadership structure in the church, the very thing Jesus and Peter warned about. It’s an abusive pastor’s dream reference book, as Bevere basically equates submitting to your pastor with submitting to God.
A far more appropriate title would have been “The Untouchables Manual For Ultimate Manipulation Of Sheep.” Based on faulty exegesis of Romans 13 which applies to civil authority not church authority, Bevere exalts church authority to a level condemned in scripture itself.
Bevere believes that if we oppose God’s delegated authority, we oppose God Himself. The consequences are severe: “Not only does it place us under the judgment of God, but it grants legal access to demonic powers. If we want to remain obedient to God and ,we have but one choice when it comes to delegated authority – submission and obedience.” p88
And it gets worse: “Our provision as well as protection could be blocked or even cut off as we disconnect ourselves from the Source of true life”.
In a conversation with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit said to Bevere: “John, if I intended for every believer to get all his information, wisdom, and direction only from prayer and communion with Me, then I’d never have instituted authority in the church. I placed authorities in the church with the full intent that My children could not get all they needed just from their prayer life. They would have to learn to recognise and hear My voice through their leaders as well.” p147
God did place leaders in the church; not to dominate people but to instruct them through rightly dividing the word of truth, and setting an example through servanthood. Furthermore, we are commanded to test all things. The Bereans were commended for comparing Paul’s teaching with scripture (Acts 17:11). Bevere makes no distinction between leadership under the old covenant with that of the new. His frequent use of Old Testament authority examples are out of context and he comes to this shocking conclusion: “..when God places His authority on a person, no matter his private or personal behaviour, we may still receive if we look beyond it and honour him as sent from God ” p116
This is in clear contradiction to scripture: “appoint elders in every town as I directed you – if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:5-9)
According to Bevere’s teaching, if your pastor is a drunkard, abuses people in his congregation and teaches false doctrine, your job is to submit: “To resist delegated authority is to resist God’s authority. We should not take upon ourselves the pressure to discern beforehand whether leaders are right or not. Nor should we judge after the fact. This is not our burden, but God’s. He alone knows and can change hearts as He so desires.” p147
The same teachers that want you to be accountable, are accountable to no one. They live in comfort, concoct a new revelation at will, and have established themselves as an intermediary between God and their followers. Our head is Christ, and he has given his body gifts in the form of pastors and teachers to mature us in the faith. These leaders need certain qualifications according to scripture. Their lives need to be an example, and they need to rightly divide the word of truth (life and doctrine). Jesus Christ is your covering, and while we need to be in fellowship, remain accountable and submit to one another, leaving a church that teaches false doctrine is being obedient to your head – Christ.
7. I play a valuable role in the church
All the more reason for you to leave, especially if you are in leadership. You may be the secretary, lead the worship, teach a bible study group, or as in my case even be one of the pastors. You might think you will let people down, and the thought of leaving can cause a sense of guilt and betrayal. This is when you need to step back, and examine the situation in the light of God’s word as well as from an eternal perspective.
When you leave a church that teaches false doctrine, you are playing a valuable role! Your actions alone will be a powerful testimony. You have made a stand for the faith and you are refusing to betray the word of God. Rather be guilty in the eyes of carnal men and women, than stand before God and give an account for compromise. Your choice is between: contending for the faith, or remaining content with a distortion of the faith.
8. There is no alternative nearby
This is a reality for some, and it’s not just a problem for those leaving a particular church. People live in isolated areas all over the world and others live in communities with hardly any believers. Using the “no alternative” argument to remain in a church that teaches false doctrine is choosing to support a false teacher. At times, we are simply not aware of any alternative churches because we are still looking for a denomination or movement that we are familiar with. It may take a while to find a fellowship with good sound expository teaching and a body of believers that will encourage you in the faith. God has not forsaken you; you have forsaken false teaching. Keep that in mind if you find yourself in limbo as far as finding a fellowship is concerned.
Many people I speak to in South Africa, have unfortunately at some point come under the spell of Bethel church. Even though they are in a church, Bill Johnson has been teaching them. You know what I’m getting at: modern technology. There are literally thousands of good online resources at our disposal. Not having a home church is not the same thing as not growing in your faith. Study the word of God, pray, and if possible find fellowship with others who may be in the same predicament: “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)
In conclusion, if you know that your church is teaching false doctrine (NAR, word of faith, prosperity gospel, seeker sensitive and other forms of false doctrine) there is no valid reason to stay. If your church has started introducing these doctrines and promotes any of the teachers mentioned, you should set up a meeting with your pastor. Be prepared and make sure you are able to articulate your concerns. Prayer is part of preparation. You are not going in to attack an individual, but are going to test their teachings. You should mention specific teachings that you find to be contradictory to the word of God, and give examples.
A pastor worth their weight in salt will want to hear what you have to say. As an overseer they should be concerned for you, and as a teacher of God’s word, they should be only too happy to let God’s word in context be the arbitrator. If they ignore your concerns, they will in all probability begin the slippery slope that leads to delusion.
Flee from pastors and churches that do not preach the gospel. You have nothing in common with an enemy of the cross. You have no business fellowshipping with those who are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14)
Come out from among them and contend earnestly for the faith! Resist, rebuke and run from those who distort the faith.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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.” (Galatians 1:8-9)