Dump The Doctrine?

Burning Question:  Why do some churches get so wrapped up in “doctrine” issues, such as women in church, drinking alcohol, food restrictions, etc.?  It seems to create unnecessary division when we should be united as believers in Christ, not personal application.

Historically, believers and churches can easily become sidetracked and lose sight of those things that are of greatest importance.  We sometimes major on the minors and minor on the majors, if you know what I mean.

If we replace the word “doctrine” with the word “truth”, the above question is a bit easier to handle.  The reason for this is because God’s Word is our source of truth and, therefore, determines the doctrines that should govern our daily lives.  Churches should be “wrapped up” in truth . . . proclaiming truth, living by the truth, encouraging others to live by truth, contending for the truth, holding fast to the truth.  Well, you get the idea!

Where things get a bit difficult is when God’s truth allows for some variance as to how that truth is lived out.  When we hold fast to a specific application of God’s truth that Scripture doesn’t necessarily hold to, then we can easily cross the line into legalism.  As an example, you may hold to the conviction that playing cards is a sin based on your understanding of a specific Scripture, let’s say Ephesians 5:11.  For you, your conviction would be based on “doctrine” or “truth”.  However, I would not share your conviction as I see no issue with merely playing cards for fun and my application of that passage would be different.  For you to expect me to apply that verse to my life in the same way that you apply it, when the verse obviously allows for flexibility in its application, would be legalistic.

There are certain dangers and cautions for churches regarding “doctrine” or truth.  First, we must be willing to stand on truth whenever it is conveyed in Scripture.  Second, where Scripture allows a variety of applications for that truth, we must not hold others to our personal application alone, lest we become legalistic.  Third, we must guard against serving the “rules” above serving the Lord.  God’s truth is conveyed against the backdrop of our relationship with Him.  Abiding in His truth enables us to enjoy deep fellowship with Him.  Remember, Jesus describes Himself as Truth in John 14:6. Last, we must never sacrifice truth for the sake of unity.  Many churches in our day have amazing unity but no message, no effectiveness, and no life because they have watered down or replaced the truth of God’s Word that exists to give us life.

Paul encouraged Timothy to teach sound doctrine and warned Timothy against false doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6, 1 Timothy 6:3-5).  In his second letter to Timothy, Paul gives one of the best admonitions to proclaim truth while also laying out one of the best warnings of what happens when we don’t (2 Timothy 4:2-4).  We as believers and churches will be all the better for understanding when Scripture allows for a variety of applications and when we must stand on truth regardless of the cost.

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To Stand Or Sit

English: 4th day of Evangelism training at Hun...

English: 4th day of Evangelism training at Huntington Beach provided by LivingWaters Ministry which encourages and equips Christians to share their faith biblically the way Jesus did by obeying Jesus command to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone.” Mark 16:15 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burning Question:  Why do pastors stand preaching instead of sitting down teaching?  It appeared that was the norm for teachers such as Jesus.

What an interesting question!  Not sure that you will find any type of biblical admonition for standing over sitting while proclaiming the truth of God’s Word.  In fact, you will find a variety of examples in Scripture regarding how one communicated in those days.  For example, Jesus taught while sitting (Matthew 5:1-2), while sitting in a boat (Luke 5:3), while walking in the temple (Mark 11:27-33), while traveling on the road (Mark 8:27-33), while standing (John 7:37-38), and while reclining and eating with His disciples (Mark 14:18).  Other references to Jesus teaching and preaching simply do not say if He was standing or sitting (Luke 8:4-18).  In addition, this doesn’t even address how Paul and the early church leaders communicated as read in Acts (also showing a variety of ways to communicate).  So, I think it is safe to say that the manner in which we proclaim God’s truth is less of an issue than whether we choose to proclaim it at all.

Whether standing or sitting while communicating has a lot to do with the personal preference of the communicator and also the environment in which they are communicating.  For me personally, I have always been most comfortable while standing when I am preaching.  Even then, I usually don’t stay still in one place for long, since it’s harder for someone to hit a moving target!  There are other instances, usually in a small-group setting, where I am more comfortable sitting and engaging in conversation/dialogue as I teach. It’s really just a matter of preference and what best fits the environment.

The “norm” for an audience must be taken into consideration as it would be a distraction for a pastor to communicate in one way when an audience is accustomed to a different way of being taught.  Jesus reclined with his disciples while teaching and eating the Last Supper (reclining while eating was the Middle Eastern “norm” in the first century) but He did not use this method of communicating while teaching large crowds, for obvious reasons!

When the dust settles, the absolute most important ingredient when communicating the truth of God’s Word is not whether one is sitting, standing, reclining, leaning, or kneeling (I think I covered every possibility!), but whether or not the Holy Spirit is working through the message to drive it into the hearts of the hearers.  May our prayers be that every believer is bold to proclaim God’s life-changing truth and that God’s Spirit uses it to draw people to Himself.  Now, get out there and sit/stand/recline/lean/kneel while you tell others about the Truth that changed your life!