One of the very first things I learned after getting saved at the age of 15 was that the Bible was the standard to judge all teachings by. I learned that if someone teaches something that contradicts the Bible, then always choose to believe the Bible as the Bible is God’s Word to man. I remember the acronym so popular amongst the teen group:
One of the reasons I ended up switching churches from Calvary Chapel to the Independent Baptist Church at the age of 17 was because of this very thing. After studying the Scripture I found that there were differences between what the Bible taught and what the leaders of the church were teaching.
Having spent over 20 years now as an Independent Baptist, I have always tried to examine all of the preachings and messages I have heard to always be examining them to make sure that what is being taught is Scriptural. My allegiance is not to a movement. It is to the Lord Jesus and the Bible!
As missionaries we are constantly traveling around and visiting churches and listening to different preachers and missionaries and speakers at conferences. My goal is to always learn at least one thing that I can apply to my life or my church back in Puebla, Mexico.
Recently however I was extremely challenged to find something that I could apply. So instead of taking my usual notes about what the preacher was saying, I titled my notes: “Signs of a False Teacher”. Although I could not pinpoint an exact departure from the word of God to label the preacher as a heretic, I can say that there were some definite warning signs!
Signs of a False Teacher
- Reads 1-2 Bible verses to base the preaching and then never refers back to the Bible for the rest of the 45 minutes to an hour.
- Says “I believe…” many times as opposed to “The Bible says…”.
- Says many different things that everyone agrees with in order to get everyone to say “Amen” and get the audience worked into an emotional frenzy.
- Glorifies a church or a movement and not the Saviour.
- Makes little false statements or half truths or partial truths in between a bunch of truths so it slips in without people realizing it.
- Has everyone say “Amen” many many times in order to get the audience in an emotional frenzy and start saying “Amen” to everything he says without even thinking about what they are saying “Amen’” to.
- Talks about himself and his church and what they have accomplished almost exclusively. All stories and illustrations show him as the “Hero”.
- Dresses like a tv preacher with a flashy suit, pinky ring, etc.
- Does not focus on teaching the Bible, but rather focuses on teaching a lot of things he personally believes. He is the source of truth, not the Bible.
The Bible says:
Acts 17:11 – These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
So what should you do if you find yourself sitting in a church service listening to a false teacher?
- If you are alone and not with your family or kids, consider leaving the service. Nothing says that you don’t agree like leaving. Don’t make a scene. Quietly slip out the back and make an appointment to speak to your pastor if you wish to talk about it. Don’t voice your concerns to other church members.
- If you are with your kids, consider if the situation is bad enough to make your kids leave. Consider that if you make your own kids leave you are going to have to offer an explanation. You may or may not want to explain things to your kids. Most likely if they are young, they won’t have the Spiritual discernment to understand anything is wrong and if you leave then you will have to explain why. This could backfire if you make a young child doubt authority or doubt pastors. Kids can sometimes make a small thing into a major thing and could be the cause of a major stumbling block in their Christian life later. If your kids are older and you can talk about it later, then maybe after the service ask them what they thought. Try to get their feedback first so you can gauge where their Spiritual discernment is.
- Take note of the name of the preacher and do your research. Maybe he had a bad day. Maybe this was the only sermon he ever preached like this. Maybe he was trying a new style of preaching and it backfired. Give him the benefit of the doubt.
- Keep it to yourself. Don’t be the cause of a division. If the pastor that came to preach was a one time guest speaker, you probably don’t need to take any action. No one is perfect and we can’t assume that we are always right. Everyone is in a different stage of their Christian walk. Be full of grace and move on!
What are your thoughts? What would you do if you found yourself listening to a false teacher?