There is no question. Threats will constantly come against the church from the inside, and the goal will be to draw sheep out of the fold. Alertness is mandated!
The greatest threat to the church is not the blowing winds of culture from the outside, but false teachers who infiltrate from the inside. Those who look like sheep but are wolves. Those posing as shepherds but are charlatans. These false teachers will most certainly be conduits of cultural ideologies, while at the same time, spewing licentious lies and exploiting people with their greed.
I Know, You Don’t Want to Talk about False Teachers
Talking about spiritual threats in the church can be uncomfortable for some people. I was recently in a conversation with another pastor who remarked, “I would much rather focus on good things and the Good News than strike fear in the hearts of our churchgoers with ‘doom and gloom’ remarks about false teachers.” While I understand the sentiment, Scripture is our authority, not peddling to consumers or mitigating reality — even with the best of intentions. We don’t pick from the menu of pastoral options and decide, “I’ll take the easy parts of church-life for my main course, with a side of ‘no controversy.’” No one who is enlisted as an under-shepherd of Christ gets to pick and choose their job duties like they’re walking a buffet spread. We are servants of Christ, not ourselves! Yes, we all want to major in the good things and the Good News. Yet, more often than we’d hope, we will find ourselves muttering Jude’s words as he agonized, “Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
This is the Pastoral Normal
Whether you like it or not, protecting the flock from false teachers is a pastoral normal. In Acts 20:29-31, Paul tells the elders what is going to occupy a steady portion of their time. He warned, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” There is no question. Threats will constantly come against the church from the inside, and the goal will be to draw sheep out of the fold. Alertness is mandated!
Jesus Himself warned in Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves…”
Does local church ministry sound like fun and games? Is pastoral ministry about being a glorified event planner who employs pragmatic gimmicks to keep the people coming back? Not even close! We need more pastors who take their job seriously and leave the Americanized, consumer-driven antics to the local business owner trying to get you to try his new coffee blend.
As false teachers and wolves circle your ranks as a church, you don’t have to be scared. Many happy leaders major on Good News and good things, yet they know how to turn on the switch and pull out the sword. There are also systems you can put into place within your church that can help mitigate threats and help you be proactive, instead of reactive.
Here are six steps you can start taking today: