My Beliefs On Doctrine

October 7, 2008 — 4 Comments

I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of churches being clear with prospective members–upfront–about what they believe.

I think we (church leaders) make a huge mistake when we give in to the temptation to hide our core beliefs from visitors to our congregations.

I think church leaders should be more clear about their core beliefs with people who are interested in joining with their congregations as members.

People deserve to know the facts about what our churches truly believe before they join, but it seems to me like too many churches hide their doctrinal beliefs because they are afraid of losing–or offending–visitors, so they place their statement of faith 12 pages deep on some random page of their website or they keep it safely in some file in the back of a file cabinet in a remote corner of a dusty office next to the janitor’s closet.  Afraid that they may lose members these churches treat doctrine as if it’s an unwanted impostor in the church building who must be seated in a dark corner of the sanctuary–out of the sight of the crowd–and ushered out of the building before it can make a scene.

Some church leaders seem to view doctrine as an unimportant barrier that too often keeps seekers, or displaced Christians, from considering their congregation as a viable home for both their souls and tithes, so–with the hopes of unencumbered numerical and financial growth–they subscribe to a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” membership strategy.  

I’m all about removing barriers that keep lost people from hearing about Jesus, but I don’t see doctrine as a barrier, but a bridge.

As a minister in a growing congregation I understand the temptation to compromise and water down doctrine–just a little–to keep people from going elsewhere.  Trust me . . . I really do, but I also understand that the Bible is crystal clear about the importance of doctrine.

Sound doctrine is the key  of our salvation and the salvation of the lost.

In I Timothy 4:16 Paul wrote, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

“Persevering” in doctrine suggests that we hold on to doctrine more tightly, not more loosely.

This suggests to me that doctrine is to be embraced, not released; revealed, not concealed.

All biblical teaching must be consistent with sound doctrine.

In Titus 2:1 Paul told Titus, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”

Church leaders must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

I must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

In a previous ministry, when I was in placed in charged of the new members’ class I was pleased to see that–in their curriculum–they presented their “core beliefs” in the first hour of the membership class.  I kept that going.  I liked the fact that they wanted people to know upfront what they believed, so that prospective members could make an informed decision.  They felt that it was unfair to their prospective members to tip-toe around their more “potentially divisive” doctrinal positions.

I’m now leading our membership class here at Journey and I’m presenting our core beliefs in the first hour of the class.  I don’t present them in a “preachy” or legalistic (i.e. “agree with me or you’re going to Hell”) way.  No, I present our beliefs graciously, but truthfully saying, “This is an important decision and, as you seek God’s will as to whether or not you should join with us, I want you to know our core beliefs, so that you can make an informed decision.  I respect you–and this decision–too much to make you guess about what we believe.”  Or something to that effect. 🙂

I believe this is the right thing to do.

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4 responses to My Beliefs On Doctrine

  1. 

    I respect preachers, Christians, and churches who simply state what they believe. Keep leading by example, Arron!

  2. 

    Better to deal with doctrine up front than down the road when a commitment has been made and turmoil could result from a fall out or strife within the body. I don’t feel a need to apologize for my beliefs, but, at the same time, I don’t want to make issues out of non-issues. The bible is clear about the importance of doctrine; but apparently, given the vast array of denominations, brotherhoods, movements, and affiliations, the task of sorting out that doctrine requires some navigation through the fog. We only complicate the matter by hiding doctrine.
    If we feel like we have something to hide, maybe we need to reexamine our stance.

  3. 

    I have found very little clear teaching from my Christian Church on their beliefs. Your article makes great points and I agree with it, but I am curious where exactly you make those beliefs known. I have grown up in a Christian Church and all I know about their beliefs is surfacy-level, sadly.

    Also, how do you mesh the need to clearly articulate your beliefs before your congregations without contradicting your prior-held belief of “no creeds”. Essentially, when one states their beliefs in a summarized form, such as the Belgic, Westminster, or Baptist Confession of Faith, it is nothing more than what I asked of from you in the paragraph above. However, the Christian Church would look down their noses at such confessions as “man made creeds”. Is this a consistent conclusion?

  4. 

    In Matthew 10:31-37 Jesus tells us “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.
    Too often I think the church try’s to make everyone feel comfortable and that is not what Christ came for. Even today in the Catholic Church there are people leaving because recently two Bishop sent out a letter indicating that there should be concern when Catholics vote for those who believe in aborting a child. People don’t want to hear that, that is why we see division in many families. They become separated by their beliefs in Christ, in the doctrine of the church and each other. Read the book “Separated by the Cross” and see the struggle that has been going on for 2,000 years.

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