Many of us have them. Friends. Dear friends. Friends we love and adore. Good people who are great to have in your corner. Except there is one problem; their pastor and their church in general are not following the Bible or relying on the Gospel. It breaks our heart. It makes it difficult. Every moment seems like it’s on a verge of an argument. Every Sunday feels like a divorce. We cry for them. They look at you strangely. Its painfully awkward.
Have you been there? I have. By God’s grace you come to the knowledge of Christ and His work. By God’s grace you find a Christ-loving church with deep theology to get you through the valleys of life. By God’s grace you find a pastor who preaches the Bible verse by verse. But your friend. They are not feeling it. They rather attend a church that rarely if ever preaches the Bible. They believe a set of doctrines and catch phrases that are not biblical. You plead with them. You beg them. But nothing works. Their loyalty to their pastor and church override any reasons you suggest for leaving. What do you do? How do you help a friend under false teaching?
The very first thing you must do is to really determine what false teaching is and who are false teachers. To figure that out check out Colin Hansen and Tim Challies on the topic. You can also listen to a song by Shai Linne here.
Second, you must determine the genuine salvation of your friend. They may or may not be Christian. They may not even understand the Gospel. However, their deception doesn’t automatically assure they are unbelievers. I agree with John Piper on the subject. Check that out here.
After that apply these principles to assist your friend.
Pray – Satan blinds the mind of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4) and participates in theological deception (Matt. 4:1-11). Our temptation is to think these issues are merely intellectual when in fact it is Spiritual Warfare. No one comes to the Father unless God draws them (John 6:44) and it is the Lord who opens our eyes to spiritual truth (Psalm 119:18). Therefore, we must pray. Pray that God would save them or open their eyes to their error. Ask to pray with them. Pray the truth and the Gospel. Prayer aligns us and pulls us into the Will of God. Above all, do not negate this powerful means of grace to those deceived.
Listen – Do more listening than talking. Listen for the reasons they may believe the lies of false teaching. Perhaps financial struggle has made them desperate. Perhaps the love of money has made them greedy. Maybe they have a deep and loyal commitment to their pastor due to father issues. Whatever the case, how can you address the issue with biblical solutions if you don’t know the problem? You can talk until you are blue in the face about greed but what good would that do if their main loyalty to the false teacher is merely relational?
Don’t Get Aggravated or Appear Frustrated – Do you believe that truth is revealed by the power of the Holy Spirit? 1 Corinthians 2:14 states “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Did you get that? It’s not because you were smart enough or because you have an aptitude for logical syllogisms. So tell me why so many discussions are sprinkled with frustrated Facebook post and Twitter rants about the stupidity of those who adhere to false teaching? Here is a big theological word that will make your sound teaching appealing to all: HUMILITY. You need a humility that is rooted and saturated in the truth that you are not where you are by bootstrap theology but by God’s Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Expose them to Biblical Preachers that mirror preachers they already like – The Holy Spirit can work through any means. But sometimes we need to be practical and wise. If a person is use to the African American preaching style why would you expose them to listen to a shocking message that is an hour long by a monotone preacher? Find a preacher who is biblically solid and still has similar speaking gifts and styles. If they listen to “hipsterish” heretics then recommend Mark Driscoll. If they are used to preaching in the black church suggest H.B. Charles Jr. The recommendations are numerous but I hope you get the point.
Recommend short but powerful reads – Try books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan or Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Here is the deal, people are short on time and can’t waste it on poor writing especially writing they can’t understand. Give them books that are achievable, well-written, biblical, and straight to the point.
Remain biblical and avoid alien categories – In your discussions, don’t drop theological bombs that will make them think you’re crazy. “The eschatological theodicy of God is extrapolated in the propitiation and expiation of the atonement” sounds like you are under false teaching. And if you use that language with friends you just might be. Show people the scripture. They don’t care if you know big words. They want to see the Bible.
Balance their biblical diet – You don’t always have to attack the prosperity gospel and the word of faith heresies. Sometimes share with them truths about who God is and the work of the Gospel. Teach them about the basics of Bible study and the general outline of the Bible. Many under false teaching are biblically illiterate or are on a highly specialized diet. Give them doses of truth from other categories and hopefully they will acquire a taste for truth.
Win the person and win the argument- This cliché is often said but always true; “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Reach out to the whole person. Continue to love them. Continue to serve them and pray for them. Ask about their families, pray for their spiritual flourishing, be a friend. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to be harsh when needed. But the truth is, many of us rarely error on the side of too much humility and love. Our nature defaults to harsh words and hurtful characterizations. If you struggle with this seek godly counsel. But remember, if a person is already humble enough to have these discussions and create these relationships with you they are more like the women at the well (John 4) rather than the prideful Pharisees (Matthew 23).
For God’s Glory,
Question: Was this helpful? How have you helped a friend under false teaching?