DISCERNMENT: Go to Church, But Call Out the Fake Stuff

Written by John DeGroff on March 24, 2017

With all the talk about “fake news”, I was wondering how to approach this in regard to what a Christian response should be. Granted, we’re all more than aware that what the world has to offer isn’t the truth we find in Christ. Anyone who has studied church history, even briefly, knows that false doctrine and false of “fake” preachers have always been around.

Currently, there’s a lot of discussion regarding the book The Shack by William Paul Young, as well as the movie based on the book. I’ve read several excerpts from the book and have no plans to see the film. Without giving away any of the plot line, let’s just say that what’s being promoted as “Christian themed” is actually quite deceptive. There’s enough Christian theology to make the story palatable to non-believers but it’s all interspersed with Eastern religions and New Age philosophical viewpoints.

There’s just enough Christianity there to pull in marginal believers.

I’ve encountered a lot of this type of thing throughout the years; not just from popular movies and books but also from various churches in several different denominations. For lack of a better reference point, I’ve started to call this a Question of Balance.

A church can get out of balance when a particular doctrinal belief is emphasized over everything else. This imbalance is usually so subtle you’ll not notice it at first. Or if you do, you’ll be lead to believe that you’re being judgmental, so just shut up.

By way of a disclaimer of sorts, let me state that, of course, I know the “perfect church” doesn’t exist. If it did, I wouldn’t even be allowed in the parking lot, let alone into the worship service.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen the kind of damage this imbalance, or lack of proportion can cause in both independent churches and mainstream denominational congregations.

In the 1970s, I attended what amounted to an independent mega-church in Indiana. Huge congregation, large buildings and at one time, a world-wide out reach. Now, a lot of good did come out of this ministry. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of people are in ministry because of this church. There’s also no way of knowing how many folks became Christians through this work.

The imbalance here centered around money. There was always a question about church finances. And unfortunately, there were some personal indiscretions by a member of the pastoral staff. Apparently that was an imbalance with ego and desire.

When I lived in Tennessee, I attended a small Southern Baptist church. They were as straight forward Baptist as could be. The pastor, though, believed in teaching what the Spirit lead him to teach. He got in trouble, and subsequently fired, for preaching about gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Cor. 12:8-12.

Speaking of gifts of the Spirit, the other side of that coin is found in Pentecostal churches. Now keep in mind that not every church that fits into the “Pentecostal” label is the same. However, I have been to more than one where gifts of the Spirit are the main, and often only, doctrinal focus. Particularly the gift of speaking in tongues is sometimes viewed as the only indication that a person is really a Christian.

It’s always fascinated me that the best example of balance found in the Bible is often completely ignored. The nine gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8-12) are perfectly balanced by the nine fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. Gee…coincidence? Don’t think so.

My dad used to watch a well-known TV preacher who was somewhat flamboyant but (usually) scripturally sound. That is until the subject of music came up. I once heard this guy say, “Christians shouldn’t be singing THE rock and roll, they should only sing THE Amazing Grace.” That’s an actual quote. He’d put the word “the” in front of things it didn’t belong with a lot.

This really made me wonder what Christians were supposed to sing before “Amazing Grace” was written? That song was written by John Newton and William Cowper in 1773 and published in 1779. So I guess Christians didn’t start singing until 1779. Wow…somebody didn’t do their homework.

Going back to the fact that there will never be a “perfect” church, I have had to take a good look at the Methodist church my wife and I attend. The church is very liberal and given the current discussion about immigrants-legal and otherwise-I’ve heard several sermons that have made me want to get up and leave. But this church, along with all the others I’ve mentioned, all have a group of people in attendance who know how to find that true point of balance in their faith, while identifying points of imbalance. They know how to pick their battles…and that’s why many of us stay in churches where imbalance is prevalent. If a difference can be made, it’s going to be up to us to accomplish it.

Remember this exhortation found in James 3:1: “My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive a greater judgment.”

Our point of balance comes from the teaching of Biblical truth, not from popular culture. Even when that “culture” attempts a Christian theme. We’re being bombarded with “fake news”; it’s time to start calling out the “fake news” in our churches. I really believe that Christians are going to be part of what makes America great again. We have a window of opportunity here. Let’s not miss it.

photo credit: timsamoff Ignited via photopin (license)

John DeGroff
John DeGroff is the original bass player for the Christian rock band Petra. He currently plays for the band GHF which is comprised of other original members from Petra. DeGroff has extensive experience as a freelance music journalist and newspaper reporter as well as an on-line music reviewer. He is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and lives in Warsaw, Indiana where he is employed as a care giver for mentally challenged adults.