How do we, as the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” For the time has come where people are no longer putting up with sound doctrine. Instead the people today have gathered around themselves theologians and church leaders that lift up their selfish desires and preach to them what their itching ears want to hear. Saving our brothers and sisters in Christ that have fallen prey to false doctrine means walking that fine line between correction with great patience and judgmental finger pointing. It is never easy to correct, rebuke or encourage someone who truly believes that they are on the proper path. It is very easy to shut out the very persons that are truly acting in Christian love when our words are often taken as hypocritical condemnation. One needs to find the words that open an avenue of constructive communication.
The contemporary Christian band, Hawk Nelson’s song “Words” echoes this sentiment.
“They've made me feel like a prisoner. They've made me feel set free. They've made me feel like a criminal, made me feel like a king. They've lifted my heart to places I'd never been. And they've dragged me down, back to where I began. Words can build you up, words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out. Let my words be life. Let my words be truth. I don't want to say a word unless it points the world back to you”. Well intended words often are not accepted by the recipients of those less than helpful comments.
When, as citizens, we criticize our government leaders or laws, we understand that there are differing opinions in civil society. We may become angry for a time, but we move on. When another country criticizes our government leaders or laws, we tend to take greater umbrage. Consider the outpouring of negativity when Piers Morgan, a CNN correspondent and British citizen, criticized our second amendment rights to bear arms. And the anger and dismay over an immigration protest where illegal aliens displayed Mexican flags, while disrespecting the American flag. We tend to take on a bunker mentality, rally the troops and move to protect our sovereignty, even to the point of defending those leaders and laws that we may personally disagree with.
When we are over critical of the leaders of the ELCA, those brothers and sisters that remain members of that wayward organization begin to circle the wagons, as many believe that criticism is also targeting them. So, how does one point out the danger that each and every member of the ELCA faces from all the false doctrines that permeate this defiant church without them putting up a wall to shut you out? Just as one cannot trust the government without the proper checks and balances, one can no longer blindly trust the leaders of our churches. Sounds inappropriate, since the message from the pulpit is expected to be led by the Holy Spirit, but behind each pulpit, behind each robe, and behind every leader of every church, stands a human being. And human beings are prone to falling short of the glory of God and to be led into trap of the evil one. We are called to dwell in God’s word to try to discern His will for us and pray unceasingly for guidance and direction in our lives. We cannot simply attend church on Sunday, hear the word and be content that our spiritual appetites are satisfied. His word is always there for us and we must study and learn so that whatever “new things” that are promoted by the church are truly God’s will.
Whenever we reach out to our brothers and sisters adrift in all of the apostasy driven churches, we must do this carefully and without the appearance of being judgmental. Focus on some of the good things that their churches do and commend them for furthering God’s mission in those ministries that are Christ centered. Once we can get their attention and enter into an even discussion, we can ask those questions about errant doctrine and help direct them to the truth. It really is quite plain when one looks at these issues without that defensive wall that closes the door to reasonable discourse. Temper your argument from being against their errant teaching to being for the truth. Temper your calling out of sinful behavior with the realization that we all are sinful and fall short. Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” We will never be successful in correcting, rebuking and encouraging if our words end the discussion. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit inspires us with the words that will point the world back to Christ.”