Jim Elliff wrote a piece asking, "Why do Some Pastors Deliberately Avoid Teaching Doctrine?" He suggested that "many pastors" have begun to intentionally avoid teaching doctrine. Why? The aim is to encircle more people for our churches by minimizing that which limits us. "The problem is," he says, "it works." Why? "Doctrine does narrow things." And, frankly, there are fewer attracted to sound doctrine than to "tolerable beliefs".
The Bible favors doctrine. Paul told the young pastor, Timothy,
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)
And his depiction of those who teach a different doctrine is not "user friendly" (1 Timothy 6:3-5). Instructing Titus in the selection of elders, Paul told him, "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) He warned Titus of those who profess to know God but deny Him by their works (Titus 1:16) and countered, "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1) The author of Hebrews complained about his readers being "unskilled in the word of righteousness" (Hebrews 5:13) rather than having their "powers of discernment trained by constant practice" (Hebrews 5:14). Doctrine, biblically, is good. Unfortunately, it appears that many preachers these days disagree.
I was in a church in 2001 where the pastor was preaching through Ephesians. On the Sunday following September 11th, I wasn't exactly excited to go to church. I figured the events of 9/11 would be the topic and, frankly, I was tired of the topic. I wanted a break. But then I realized that the passage of the day would include Ephesians 1:11, including the claim that God "works all things after the counsel of His will." Now that would be a message I'd like to hear from the pulpit on this particular Sunday. He didn't do it. He skipped the concept. When we got, a few weeks later, to chapter 2, he turned "You were dead in your trespasses and sins ..." (Ephesians 2:1-10) into a sermon on marriage. That is avoiding doctrine.
The early church "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship ... day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes ..." (Acts 2:42-47) We've diminished that whole "day by day" thing greatly, and now we've largely dropped the "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching." We barely even believe in "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3), let alone contending for it. When a man named Simon offered the Apostles money, Peter didn't take it with thanks. He berated him for His false beliefs (Acts 8:18-23). Today we gladly limit our preaching and doctrine in favor of some extra cash (beginning with "501c3"). Brethren, we do not well.
Elders are required to "give instruction in sound doctrine" and "rebuke those who contradict it." (Titus 1:9) In some congregations, the elders are the pastors. In others, they're the ruling body. In either case, if either the pastors or the elders are not teaching sound doctrine, is it because they don't have it or is it because they're refusing? If so, are they qualified to be in that position? If elders are the ruling body and not teaching sound doctrine, is it because pastors have failed to teach them? Do we even know what "sound doctrine" is anymore?
Paul warned Timothy that the time would come when people would not endure sound doctrine, "but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4) I would argue that the time has arrived. The remedy, according to Paul, is "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2) The alternative is a group of people misguided and misled, without genuine truth. Look around and see what you find.
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