Some cautions and some guidance
Among a pastor’s responsibilities given in Scripture is to defend the faith once delivered to the saints, to preach and teach sound doctrine, and to guard and warn the flock against doctrinal error. We were told by the Holy Spirit through the writing of the Apostle Paul that these times in which we live would come, where many would not endure sound doctrine, but rather, would heap to themselves teachers who would say things they preferred hearing over sound doctrine. Notice in 2Timothy 4:3 that Paul says, “they will not endure sound doctrine;” We don’t always enjoy sound doctrine; sometimes we must endure it. It’s not always easy to take, but truth and faithfulness to it are much more important than enjoyment. Pastor R. B. Oullette of Bridgeport, Michigan, puts it well:
What we often miss in this passage is that there was not only a responsibility for the preacher but for the hearer. The Bible warns us that the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. The word endure is an interesting word. It means “to hold oneself up against, to put up with, to forbear, to suffer.”
What a strange term to use for listening to Bible preaching! If we had been writing the Scripture, wouldn’t we have said the time will come when they will not enjoy sound doctrine? No, the Bible says we have to put up with sound doctrine. God knew that Bible preaching will sometimes be unpalatable to us.
Preaching challenges our presuppositions, moves us out of our comfort zones, or causes us to re-think our basic philosophies of life. Our human flesh would rather hear pop psychology, feel-good stories, and simple aphorisms which, while they tickle the ear, do not build the soul or change the life. Much of the preaching today (particularly in the contemporary churches) reminds me of the statement in Jeremiah where God says, “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly” (Jeremiah 8:11).
There are a very many “para-church” groups out there, and their influence is aided by the internet age. Many of the groups involved in Christian education and in the home-school movement are interdenominational, doctrinally shallow groups. There are other prominent organizations in the home-school movement we would find much to agree with, but who teach some serious errors concerning the local church. The Bible tells us to mark those who cause divisions in a church and avoid them (Romans 16:17). Some of these groups seem to have their sights set on the local church and on pastors. Once- popular radio teacher, Harold Camping, decided to leave his connections with a local church and then later began to teach over his radio program that Christians ought to reject the local church, pastoral leadership and historic doctrines concerning the church.
It is understandable that many people have grown disenchanted with the church in general as they hear repeatedly of the breaches of trust in an institution that ought to be trustworthy. Many of the “mainline denominational churches” have long since abandoned any pretense of faithfulness to the Word of God and are now little more than social clubs on the order of the Elks Lodge or the Rotary Club. Crackpots like this “Rev.” Phelps in Westboro, Kansas, who protests at military funerals and cheers the deaths of soldiers, grab the news headlines. Longstanding corruptions within the fabric of the Roman Catholic priesthood have in recent years become more publicly known. Outrageous abuse and greed practiced by many well-known televangelists fuel the fires. “Contemporary churches” have turned the church service into a venue for religious entertainment. All this has led some to “throw out the baby with the bath water.” They are drawing the conclusion that since many churches are a reprehensible aspect of what they should be, then the local church must be passé. They conclude, as far as church is concerned, “We can take or leave it.” Home Bible studies suddenly are supposed to replace the need of a local church. Preaching is replaced with “sharing.” Doctrine is replaced with “experience.” Hymns are replaced with “choruses.” Church is replaced with “family.”
Let me say this; no one is fully “pro-family” until they are fully “pro-church.” No Christian family can be what it should be apart from a strong bond to a local Bible-believing New Testament church. Some of those groups who have promoted the importance of family above church are attempting to undermine the ministries of local churches by telling their followers that such things as Sunday school classes are attempts to break up families! Sunday school teachers and junior church workers teaching Bible truths to children are some of the best helps a family can have! In 30+ years of ministry, I’ve seen the negative results in the lives of those who were convinced to dismiss the role of the church in their families.
Children who are raised with a strong sense of the importance of involvement in and commitment to a local church are far better off than those who are taught to be suspicious of nursery workers, Sunday school teachers and pastors. Over the years of educating our 4 children, each of them has had a good portion of their education in a home-schooled setting. Certainly there are many commendable resources available for home-school education. The curriculum available from A Beka is very good and so is that from Bob Jones Press. Neither of these curriculum’s compilers attempt to denigrate the role of the church in the lives of believers.
One writer who started out with some fairly sound material on raising children but has moved subtly away from sound doctrine is
Michael Pearl. I have recently removed all of his material from my personal library and from the church library because of the misguided nature of what he’s lately been teaching. After some research, I found a number of serious errors in his teachings.
For some time now, I’ve been concerned about his increasingly negative tone about the local church. He’s made the same mistake that many do of elevating “the family” to a sacred status never accorded to it by the Scripture. The Bible says very little indeed about the family in comparison to what it says about the church.
Mike Pearl has turned a good many away from their churches with his “home-brewed” doctrines. Among the errors I’ve learned that he espouses are the following:
- That Jesus became a sinful son of man as he died on the cross. He uses the passage in 2Corinthians 5:21 which says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” This passage together with many other verses of Scripture, teach us that God did lay upon Jesus the sins of us all, and the guilt of those sins, that He might be that sacrifice for the penalty of sin due to us. Jesus was not somehow transformed from the sinless Son of God into a sinful son of man!
- That Christians can and do, in this life, reach a state of sinless perfection. He had publicly claimed that he has lived in this way for many years! (“No Greater Joy” Newsletter Jan-Feb ’05, page 21) You’d best believe the Bible over Mike Pearl, for it declares, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1John 1:8
- That a race of people, etc. existed before Adam and Eve, on an old earth that had to be destroyed. Again, he contradicts the plain words of God. The Bible states, “The first man Adam…” Christians need not attempt to give concessions to evolutionists who demand we give them multiplied millions of years of existence in order that their theories might gain some credence.
- That the qualifications in Scripture for pastors and deacons to be husbands of one wife doesn’t exactly mean that, but that it really means one wife at a time!
Mike and Debi Pearl’s oldest daughter, Rebekah, married a man named Gabriel Anast who appears to be a product of their teachings. He decided to quit his job so he could, as he said, devote 40-50 hours a week to Bible study. Meanwhile, his family was dependent on food donations to survive. For a time, Mr. Anast was soliciting internet donations so he could start an “internet church.” Rebekah started a website where she recorded her dreams and gave out “interpretations.” When God called me to ministry, I found it necessary to work a swing-shift job at night so I could go to Bible college in the day time and still support a family. God did not call us to go into isolation into the mountains of New Mexico or some such place and raise a big family. He called us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. It seems apparent that we ought to be skeptical about the soundness of Mike Pearl’s “teachings.”
The reason I’ve decided to discard even the earlier, less erroneous materials of Mike Pearl is the fact that many Christians tend to latch on to those who give some initially good material but follow such ones on into their errors as well. Another example of this is Bill Gothard, whose earlier material was, for the most part, essentially sound. As time went on, Gothard got ever further into unsound and patently unscriptural teachings. I suspect that a good part of his growing departures are attributable to the fact that he lacks any firm accountability to a local church.
Brethren, God didn’t call us to follow itinerant and internet teachers but to belong to a good, biblical local church and to follow our Pastor’s leadership as we serve God together in our local church.
David Cloud, in one of his fine articles, said it well:
“My friends, the Bible plainly states that it is the church that is the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). Why doesn’t it say that the home is the pillar and ground of the truth? And this is not some vague ‘universal’ church but a scripturally organized assembly that has pastors and deacons (I Tim. 3:1-14). The believer’s service to the Lord is to be in and through such a church, under the leadership of God-ordained pastors and elders (I Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:7,13).
Any family that is not in proper relationship with and submission to God-ordained church authority is not in the will of God (unless, of course, the family is in a situation in which no such church exists in their area). I say on the authority of the Scriptures. I would ask such a family, ‘Who has the rule over you?’ If they reply, ‘God does,’ I would rejoin that God Himself says that church elders are to have the rule over us (Heb. 13:17), not as lords over us but as shepherds who must, in turn, give account to the Great Shepherd (I Pet. 5:1-4).
I understand all too well that pastoral authority has been abused at times and that this is an hour of great compromise in churches, but this is no excuse to reject it. Husbands and fathers have abused their authority at least as much as pastors have abused theirs, but that does not mean that we are free to reject either one. The Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘I will build my church’ (Mat. 16:18). It is His plan and program, and it is not to be despised.”
As mentioned, many groups have been formed to aid Christians in schooling their children and to give counsel regarding family, child rearing and like subjects. Some of them are doctrinally sound but a good many are not. One group you will be helped by without being subjected to unsound doctrine or attempts to call into question the importance of the local church is the Christian Law Association, headed by David Gibbs.
We have supported Dr. David Gibbs and the Christian Law Association for many years. Bro. Gibbs is a legal missionary, aiding Bible-believing Christians and families in defending liberties concerning our faith.
C.L.A. also provides legal help for home-school families connected with our church at no charge. The Homeschool Legal Advantage Ministry Program provides resources for home-school families, as well as assistance when problems arise. I encourage you to get acquainted with C.L.A. because I am confident of their biblical positions.
It is certain that any detractor would not have to dig very deeply to discover things in our own ministry that are weighed and found wanting. We make no claim to being without need of improvement, but there are some things that do help us to keep coming back to what Jeremiah 6:16 calls “old paths” and the “good way.” Among those things are these: 1.) We continue to insist on a high view of the Word of God as perfect, pure, preserved and practical; and 2.) We hold that the local church as defined in Scripture is “the house of God,” “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
If we will hold a high regard for the Book of God and the Bride of Christ, we are much less likely to fall for the blatant or the subtle doctrinal errors so prevalent in this hour.
Psalm 138:2 “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”
Eph. 5:25 “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”