The Theology Of Your Church Matters
There has never been a more important time than now, to define where we stand as Christians, on our theology of God. With so much revamping of whole institutions of thought, long-held understandings on normality taking a hit and truth now being seen as a subjective alteration easily made by an individual’s ideologies no matter how egregious, there has to be a line drawn.
Where do we stand? Who is God? Is He what our experiential happenings propose? Is God’s Word fully authoritative? Do we actually even believe that The Bible is without error because to some of us, something seems “fishy” about human hands penning it? What about the gifts? Or women preaching Sunday morning services?
Aside from the great importance of a proper personal theological view of God weighing heavily on our own worldview, as a collective, what our local churches believe about God matters. And how that looks practically worked out in day to day life, holds great implications and realities not only for those who are members of that local congregation, but also for the world at large, who is constantly watching, listening and learning.
THE "WEBSITE" STATEMENT OF FAITH
Have you ever ordered clothes from an online store that had super cheap prices? Initially, as you browsed the site, everything seemed cute, trendy and so affordable that after cross-checking your bank account balance with what was in your shopping cart, you figured that you could buy it and wouldn’t have to sacrifice Chipotle that week.
Soon after receiving the blouse in the mail which actually took the whole 14 days of the “FREE SHIPPING *Arrives in about 7-14 business days”, you realize something. What you originally saw online, read about in the product description and committed to spending money on, wasn’t quite like what showed up on your doorstep. The quality of the fabric was very poor, it smelled like weird factory fumes and one wash would then qualify the item to now fit a child, when it was advertised for an adult large.
Too often, many churches are like that online store with the super cheap and appealing prices. They have beautiful websites with gorgeous layouts and themes, the sermons from past services are neatly organized and displayed and the statement of faith is so well worded that you wonder why anyone would question whether or not a visit was worthwhile. However, once you finally visit, you start to notice that much of what has been said to be believed about God as a local Body, is actually far from what is taught doctrinally in word and deed.
We must caution ourselves when choosing to attend or plant membership at a church in which the website’s statement of faith is more in line with Scripture, than the way in which the church itself exercises and lives out what’s virtually displayed. What we say we believe must be visible in how we think and how we live.
If your church’s statement of faith says that it is committed to The Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) then it should be evident that The Gospel is central and can be pinpointed in any sermon. If your church’s statement of faith says that God’s Word is the sole authority by which Christians govern their lives and is sufficient for all matters of instruction, life and godliness, extra-biblical revelation and personal ideologies should have no place as authority. If your church’s statement of faith says that they are a Bible-believing and teaching church, then there better be a robust understanding and presentation of Scripture from a wholistic, redemptive perspective, seeking to paint Scripture in it’s proper context, set it in it’s right historical, cultural and social contexts, and exercise in practice that John 5:39 is indeed true.
What is proclaimed to be believed as a church, resting on the Christian faith’s church history, should not take a shovel and flashlight to dig and find because it’s so far from what can be seen on a basic surface level. It is important that we search The Scriptures to see if what is displayed on these church websites are actually true, lest we seek to be deceived. Our theology of God will affect our lives. The theology of your church, will affect its members and in turn affect those they do or do not seek to witness to.
It’s true. What we believe about God, has lasting impacts on what we teach about God. There is no separating the two. When we turn on the faucets of our theology of God, something is going to come out. And it’s either instep with The Scriptures, or far from it.
A few months ago I read a news article about a church in North Carolina that had been under investigation by the Associated Press. According to the report and various interviews of former congregants, congregants of this church were being spiritually, physically and emotionally abused by the leadership in the church, namely by one of the acting pastors, Jane Whaley. My heart broke into pieces as I read of testimonies of members in the church that were cut off from their families, physically beaten (many since childhood), emotionally and verbally abused and so much more.
After reading about what happened and watching many of the interviews from those who attended the church, I went to check out the church’s website for myself which can be found here. What strikes me as interesting is that upon first skimming the statement of faith Word of Faith Fellowship has posted on their site, there doesn’t seem to be too many things in it that one would raise an eyebrow to. However, as you read more of what’s there, based off of what is written, there appears to be a gross misunderstanding of salvation and Scripture. There is a whole section that posts a bunch of Scriptures (out of context) on how one can lose their salvation, which is totally antithetical to what The Bible teaches regarding salvation and the inability to lose it (John 6:37-39)
In the article writeup by the AP, it was stated that, “Some former members offered a more doctrinal explanation for their decades of silence ⎯ frequent warnings by Whaley that God would strike them dead if they betrayed her or her church.” Not only is this highly problematic, sinful and unbiblical, but it also goes against the statement of faith that is revealed on the church’s website. The theology of this church from what has been stated by the church itself, its former members and the AP’s investigation, is clear in that it has deviated from God’s Word in word and practice.
Unfortunately, there are many churches out there today that are much like this. The real question is to ask, how does a church get here? How does a whole local congregation experience abuses like this and get so wrapped up in it that it takes them years to leave or worse, they never do? Where do we go wrong?
Well, it starts with our theology of God. If we minimize the doctrines of sin and the human condition, the theological implications of God’s sovereignty, the sufficiency of Christ, mar the lines of Christian liberty, encourage and promote legalism, negate to understand, preach and teach The Gospel wholly and accurately and deviate from sola Scriptura, we will see people falling for anything that is told to them without testing it. We are swimming in dangerous waters when what we believe as a church, The Church, is swinging on the hinges of not being founded, sustained and practiced based off of The Bible alone. This further illustrates that just as important it is for us to know why we believe what we believe, it’s equally as important to put it into practice, to ensure we are not compromising Biblical doctrine in any way, shape or form.
TEACH WHAT ACCORDS WITH SOUND DOCTRINE
In Paul’s pastoral letter to Titus, he admonishes him in Titus 2:1 to, “…teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Paul sought to offer Titus much encouragement and wisdom in this letter for many reasons. Titus was responsible for bringing to completion the organization of the churches by appointing qualified elders, to deal with present false teachers, and to instruct the churches and their various subgroups on proper conduct.
As we know, Paul’s instruction to Titus on teaching those things that accords with sound doctrine, extends to us as well. When it comes to sound doctrine, it will build up a church spiritually in a healthy way. In order to maintain true unity and health in the local church, our theology of God must be shaped by that which accords with sound teaching ⎯ and that is God’s Word.
What’s on your level of importance as a Believer when it comes to choosing where it is that you attend church or seek to plant your membership? How do you determine Biblically how you navigate making that decision?
It’s not enough to just choose a local church that is Instagram famous, yet while the pastor is preaching to the world at large, they are neglecting their local congregation. It’s not wise to continue in your family church just because that’s how things have “always been”, yet you’re not growing as a Believer due to the lack of Biblical teachings. It’s not helpful to stay connected to a church that is proclaiming one thing on their website, yet outright teaching and practicing something entirely different when you get there.
God has made it plain and clear what type of church is reflective of the one that Christ is coming back for. Will She be perfect? Absolutely not on this side of glory. But will this Bride be Biblical, accurate and humble enough to confess and repent where She has erred? Absolutely!
What we believe about the triune God, the inerrancy and authority of The Scriptures, the sufficiency of Christ’s work, the importance of The Gospel, the resurrection of Christ, what the local church is, where we as the Church stand on Biblical ethics and the like, matter. The theology of our churches matter and as members of the Body of Christ, we must declare with all conviction and truth, where we stand.
Do you know Biblically why you are a part of the church that you’re a part of ? Can you with book, chapter and verse, explain why it is that you believe what it is that your local church believes? Have you searched The Scriptures for yourself, to ensure that you know whether or not those things are even true?
We don’t just voluntarily sit up under teachings that we have no idea if it’s even accurate or not. We become like the Bereans, searching the Scriptures to see if what we’re being taught is true. Even if it comes from a ministry, leader or pastor that appears wise, possesses a lot of zeal or is so sincere in their speech. It’s time to define what needs to be defined. It’s time to cease being passive where we are called to be actively engaged.