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Pastors: 5 Ways to Protect Your People From False Teachers

shepherdA 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.

Pastors, I’d love to hear the things you have done to warn your people about false teachings. Leave a comment and let me know!

And to others, do you think pastors are doing an adequate job of protecting their flocks from false teaching?

– By Holly Pivec

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13 Responses to “Pastors: 5 Ways to Protect Your People From False Teachers”

  1. Jane Says:

    I watched Joel Osteen on TV while I was waiting to go to church last Sunday just for curiousity’s sake and couldn’t believe my ears.  First of all, they panned the huge audience and there must have been 5,000 people there.  And sadly, the entire sermon was about thinking positive thoughts so that good things could happen.  ”I’m rich”… “I’m skinny”… “I’m going to be able to have a new car”… “I have well-behaved children”… “I’m going to get a raise/promotion at work this month”…etc, etc, etc.  

    How he can say the same thing over and over for about 40 minutes and still have a congregation is beyond me, but what an awful godless sermon.  I don’t ever remember reading anything in the Bible about positive/good things happening to people because they think only positive thoughts and refuse to think negative things.  

    I didn’t hear one word about God’s role in our blessings or setbacks, or about praying about things in our lives.  It was all just philosophical psychological superstitious fluff, or some such thing.  I wonder if the people left thinking…so who needs God after all!

    Then I went to church.  The pews were 90% empty.  Probably because our pastor preaches like pastors preached in the 1950′s, just the truth straight out of God’s Word.  It seems like nobody’s interested in that any more.

  2. Ang Says:

    In NAR churches, the pastors ARE the false teachers.  And the abuser, or the one who covers up the abuse that goes on in their church.  In the NAR church I was part of for nine years, (I didn’t know it was NAR until after I left) it was “DO NOT QUESTION THE ANOINTED.”

  3. Jane Says:

    And they’re constantly ‘annointing’ each other….  I have a friend who will believe anything any pastor tells her as long as he’s Charismatic.  She will even deny Scripture if it contradicts what the ‘pastor’ is saying.  She believes in all the new prophecies (all prophecies not found in the Bible) and so I ask her how she determines whether they’re true or false if she can’t find them anywhere in the Bible.  She doesn’t have any answers, she just believes what she wants to believe.  I don’t understand that mentality, but no matter how much you can teach her about how to avoid false teachers, she just doesn’t care.  Some people really appreciate the instruction, and some simply aren’t interested.

  4. Michelle Says:

    I have a relative who doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but loves the “philosophy” expressed in Anton Lavey’s “Satanic Bible,” which he says emphasizes “help yourself”.  He also likes Joel Osteen because he says that his message is exactly the same.  Maybe Osteen IS getting his teaching from some “bible.”

  5. Jane Says:

    I think Joel Osteen is what the Bible calls a ‘man-pleaser’.  He makes all those thousands of people every Sunday feel okay even when they’re probaby not.  How would you like it if you had early cancer, went to the doctor and he said, “Just think positive thoughts and say, “I’m healthy!”  Yikes!

    I’ve noticed in Joel’s interviews he seems not to want to say one thing that would offend anyone.  I think that’s the opposite of what Jesus taught, because he knew many people would be offended by the gospel.  Well, Joel sure doesn’t need to worry about offending anyone, or being unpopular….

  6. Holly Says:

    Jane,

    You wrote, How he [Joel Osteen] can say the same thing over and over for about 40 minutes and still have a congregation is beyond me.”

    It frustrates, too. But I do understand how he can still have a congregation–he is “tickling” their ears by telling them exactly what they want to hear (2 Tim 4:3-4).

    Holly

  7. Jane Says:

    You’re so right…just what they want to hear.  Which teaches me…when I’m feeling all depressed and down about all my sins, I’ll just join Joel’s church.  Then I can be happy abiding in my sins!  Thanks for the reminder!  LOL

  8. Rich Kelley Says:

    I don’t hang out with pastors but I would suspect that naming names is not done for the same reason that doctors don’t discredit other doctors, things can be very subjective.  To avoid an entanglement with other pastors they just don’t do it.  Not to mention if they have a full plate, they don’t have time to keep up with all the wrong things on TV and the internet.  You would need a full time apostate research team at ever church.  They would rather just all get along and ignore the “Little things”.  I’m sure the denomination syndrone comes into play as well, they are not part of our “Denomination” and are wrong anyway.  :)

  9. Jane Says:

    I think I got a little off topic.  My own experience after 6 decades of attending Church is that I find going to Church sort of hard/boring and that’s because I always know what the pastor is going to say.  It’s always been shallow preaching and all the time it’s about us quitting our sins.  Then they read us their own personal list of sins…smoking, drinking, dancing, that sort of thing.  Of course they never mention gluttony because half the Church is too fat.

    Do preachers ‘teach’ anything important in the main Sunday morning service.  No.  We just hear again about God’s love and glory and our sins.  Nothing deep enough to make us want to come back.  And never, ever, have I heard a preacher warn his congregation about false prophets, apostles, and preachers.  It’s as if although according to him we’re all a bunch of evil sinners, but while we’re in Church everything is just sugar and spice and everything nice, so we don’t talk about false teachings and teachers.  We just play like it doesn’t happen.

    End times?  What’s that?  I’ve also never heard one word preached about the end times…I think all preachers are scared to death they’ll cause a controversy, as if any of their congregation knows enough to even have an opinion.  Well, all preachers except for the NAR Charismatic types, who like you say want their followers to think ‘they’ will bring in the Kingdom of God.  Anyhow, our good Churches avoid discussion or preaching about anything beyond 2nd grade level.  (Except for tithing, now that’s important enough to preach!)

    So my attitude has soured for sure.  I like to attend Church mainly for one reason, well two actually, one to set the example for my grown children that it’s important to acknowledge God publicly and also to see my friends I know there.  But I never expect much in the way of real teaching about the deeper things of God and certainly nothing about the false prophets/apostles of today.

    I wonder sometimes what would have happened differently in my life had my Church acknowledged my salvation at a camp they sent us kids to, and actually taken me by the hand at that time and taught me how to get along safely and God’s way in the world.  I think all our Churches have been way off track as to what’s really important for them to do, for a very long time.

  10. david burrows Says:

    I taught through Titus this last summer, which brings up false teachers a number of times.  Admittingly, I did not name any names.  I focused on the topics that are being taught and did warn against “christian television”.  I also taught about a number of current practices such as “fire tunnels” and “sozo”.  Many people had no idea this stuff was even out there.  There were also a few who were aware and didn’t like me questioning the teaching/practices.

  11. Theresa Says:

    Great post….so challenging….the “naming names” part is especially difficult when we have brothers and sisters who are still following these false teachers/preachers. I pray for God’s Wisdom in this regard as well. God bless!

  12. NotARealPerson Says:

    i won’t go into all that much detail about myself other than to say i am saved, i do believe in Jesus as the only messiah and i refuse to set foot in a church unless i can be sure the same garbage isn’t going to be preached which means i haven’t set foot in one pretty much since the day i heard this out of my pastors mouth, “you know as a christian you really don’t have to pay attention to the old testament because it was written for the jews, same thing with the gospels and the book of hebrews as well as most of the book of revelations, except the first couple chapters to the churches” whoa hold on wait what!!!!!??? what exactly is our faith based on then? and how do you get away with saying that to a few thousand nodding heads with not a single person to question you? it is hard to find a church these days that teaches anything other than tithing and giving(or else) and i think many here call dominionism, hell it seems to me that you are safer out in the world with just you and God as opposed to being a meatbag in a den of wolves

  13. Jaeson Says:

    I had a looney NAR inspired relative want to “ordain me” under their supposed prophetic ministry.  I declined and said I was in no place to be ordained by another individual and refused (as I should since i was under 20!).  They kept attempting to pressure me and I kept refusing.  Eventually they gave up. 

    Meanwhile they “ordained” a number of individuals…including their daughter who was under 20, a woman who was unchurched/not attending church, another one of their crazy daughters, their son, etc….NONE of which should have the title of “Reverend” attached to their name..

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