What To Do When You Disagree
With Your Pastor Or Your Church
Jesus' Clear Instructions For What To Do When You Disagree With Your Pastor or Your Church, and the Bible's Explanation of Why God Allows Doctrinal Disagreements, by John Lilley
Many of my readers ask what they should do when they learn something that contradicts what their church or pastor preaches. This is a frequent problem for my readers; for example, when they learn the truth about eternal punishment -
the accurately translated Bible does not teach conscious death or eternal punishment
- or tithing -
the Bible does not require the New Testament believer to tithe
- they often find themselves doctrinally at odds with their church and their pastor.
The dilemma is made even more difficult by the fact that there are very few good Bible-teaching churches that don’t also teach the false pagan/Catholic-inherited doctrines of eternal punishment and/or tithing. So it’s not usually as simple as just switching churches.
(In my experience, most of the churches that call themselves “universalist” go way too far and start telling people sin is ok. That is not the universalism the Bible teaches! The Bible condemns sin while loving the sinners for whom Jesus died, tells Christians not to treat unrepentant people living in blatant sin as part of our fellowship, and tells us that God will eventually reconcile all people to Himself, not by glossing over sin, but by judging and convicting all people of their sin and freeing them from it so that He can then free them permanently from death. See Rev. 20:11-13 + Phill. 2:10-11, 1 Cor. 15:22-28 + Rom. 3:23-24, 1 Tim. 4;10, Col. 1:20, etc. and my book Hell Is A Mistranslation.)
Obviously a doctrinal disagreement with one’s church or pastor can be a very stressful event for a Christian who bases their entire life around God, His Word, and His people. Church is a big part of most Christian’s lives, and most true Christians base their social lives around the church and their church friends in addition to attending a weekend service. Is there a way to disagree with your church about an issue such as eternal punishment or tithing without stirring up a hornet’s nest of ill will or destroying your Christian social life?
Yes. Although every situation and every church is slightly different, the Bible gives us clear instructions as to how to handle doctrinal differences. In this article I will share some Scriptural and personal insights that will help you handle the situation wisely with a minimum amount of pain and damage for both you and the Christians around you.
I’m going to start out by sharing some general principles from Scripture and from my own personal observation, which will then lead us to the Bible’s clear instructions as to how to handle a situation where you have a doctrinal difference with your church or pastor.
The Bible tells us not to “forsake assembling ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25).
This is a clear Scriptural instruction, but we must keep in mind that it was easier 2,000 years ago when this instruction was written for a Christian to obey it because the churches back then had been founded by the apostles and had not had much time to mix false doctrines with the true teachings of the apostles. Today it’s not that simple – Christianity has had almost two thousand years to mix itself up and depart from what Paul originally preached!
The churches Paul and the other apostles founded back then had to fight off false doctrines too, but it was easier because for the most part they could just stick with what Paul or the founding apostle said. We know Paul dealt with false doctrines trying to infiltrate the churches he founded, but he could just write them a letter himself to straighten them out.
So the Scriptural instruction to “not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as some are in the habit of doing”, is an instruction not to forsake regular attendance of a truth-teaching church. This instruction does not address what to do when you can’t find a church that teaches the truth as you understand it to the best of your ability. The instruction in Hebrews 10:25 to keep going to church was mainly aimed at people who were simply getting out of the habit of going to church – not people who were leaving because of doctrinal disagreements. Still, today we should keep this instruction in mind – we should not get out of the habit of going to church just because we don’t feel like going, and obviously we should go to a church that preaches as close as possible to what we believe is the truth according to our understanding of Scripture.
However, that still leaves a person (like me) who does not believe in eternal punishment or tithing with a dilemma – there are very few (or in most geographical areas, zero) churches that teach solid Biblical truth not only on the subjects common to most of Christianity (Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again, condemn sin and love the sinner, good Biblical moral values, good Biblical principles of wisdom for living, relationships, finances, etc.) that also teach the truth on what happens at death, God’s ultimate plan for mankind, and the tithing issue. These subjects are important doctrinal issues.
So what should we do? Let me give you a few more Scriptural and personal insights that will lead us to the clear Scriptural instructions as to what to do in this type of situation.
Christians and especially Christian leaders (like pastors within the current doctrinal status quo who have the most to lose by challenges to their expertise) will almost always have a negative reaction to a Christian who claims death is unconscious, eternal punishment is not in the Bible, and/or tithing is not for today.
This fact is evident both from the Scriptural record and from simple observation of history. The religious establishment hated Christ, His disciples, and Paul; and almost every restorative move of God, such as Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation for example, has been vehemently opposed by the established religious leaders of the time. Unfortunately, in today’s world (as of 2011), most well-intentioned but ill-informed Christians, especially church leaders and pastors, will immediately develop a strong allergic reaction (suspicion and distrust) toward any Christian who dares suggest hell is not real, death is not conscious, and/or the Bible does not require us to tithe. Remember the famous tweet by Chuck Colson about Rob Bell? “Goodbye Rob Bell.” That echoed most of Christianity’s reaction to Bell’s bold challenge of the doctrine of hell. Unfortunately Bell didn’t have nearly enough Biblical proof in his book to logically refute “the haters”.
(My book does.
That’s not a cheap sales pitch, it’s just a fact.)
So, if you’ve read my book on hell and realize that the (accurately translated) Bible does not teach conscious death or eternal punishment but rather (eventual) universal reconciliation…get ready to have most Christians, especially any pastor or leader who gets a paycheck within the current accepted doctrinal system of mainstream Christianity, give you the same reaction: “Goodbye (insert your name here).”
I wish it wasn’t this way…but it is. Which is why I make my next point:
It’s pointless to try to teach someone something they don’t want to learn.
Don’t even try to tell your pastor the wonderful new truth you learned. He thinks he knows more than you. About pretty much anything Bible related. Besides that, he thinks he has to appear to be the expert and squash anyone who questions his teachings, or else people will stop needing him. Besides that, he knows that if he allows some of the members of his church to question the doctrinal party line, the church will split in half along with his salary. I am not making a railing judgment against your pastor, I am simply observing the undeniable facts of human nature. This is why Jesus gave us the illustration of the wineskins, which I will talk about in a moment. (Jesus’ wineskin illustration is the key instruction for how to deal with doctrinal differences.)
Before I move on to the next point I want to tell you about a rule I have made for myself based on the point I just made:
Avoid engaging in doctrinal discussions in personal conversation.
If you read through the first five books of the New Testament (which give a historical account of the ministries of John the Baptist, Jesus, His disciples, and the apostle Paul) you will find that the only people who learned much from these giants of the faith were people who came to them in “learning mode”. The Pharisees (the established Scriptural and spiritual “experts” of the day) hated all these giants of faith, and when they asked questions of Jesus for example, they were not in “learning mode”, they were trying to trip Him up. (It never worked of course.) They learned nothing from the greatest Teacher ever to walk the earth, because they were not willing to learn. It is clear from the Scriptural record that the more hungry the audience was for truth, the more the audience learned from a teacher of truth – and those that weren’t hungry learned nothing regardless of what interaction they had with the teacher of truth.
So I recently made a rule for myself that I will not have a doctrinal discussion in a personal conversation. I will teach an individual who is listening and basically not talking other than asking questions, but I will not engage in a discussion with a person who is continually attempting to deflect, counter, or ignore my statements. The only exception is if I perceive the person may know more than me about a subject, in which case I will start asking questions in hopes of learning something, and will not attempt to teach the person anything. To put my new rule simply, I will not attempt to teach someone that is not in “learning mode”.
I made this rule because, true to the Biblical record, I have almost never had a fruitful doctrinal discussion. People usually do not learn much from each other in personal conversations. This is because most people are not good listeners; when the other person is talking, they are simply thinking of the next thing they want to say. People do not learn when they are talking or thinking about what to say next; they only learn when they are truly listening. And in conversation people talk too much.
This is why God uses “the foolishness of preaching” (1 Cor. 1:21) – when you’re listening to a preacher, you have to shut your mouth long enough to learn something. God shut my mouth and made me learn for the better part of a decade and a half before He let me start preaching and teaching. I spent thousands and thousands of hours studying the Bible, listening to Bible teachers, and reading books about the Bible. Then along comes somebody who has spent a tiny fraction of the time I have studying a subject, who has the gall to argue with me about something I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours studying. Such a discussion is a pointless waste of time. The person needs to be quiet and listen – not just to me, but also to others who have studied the subject extensively – and then “test everything and hold on to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21) in order to make up their mind. If I think the person may know something I don’t know about the subject, I will stop trying to get any points across and simply enter “learning mode” myself, asking questions and listening.
My point is that doctrinal discussions/arguments are pointless – only a person with abundant information teaching a person in “learning mode” is fruitful. Jesus’ disciples didn’t argue with Him, they listened and asked questions. (The one time Peter contradicted Jesus, Jesus put him in his place by calling him “adversary”. Peter had been out of his fishing boat a couple of years and yet he had the gall to challenge Jesus, who had been prepared for His ministry from before the age of 12 until the age of 30 and was the Son of God to boot. Peter needed to keep his mouth shut and just listen; as I explain in the “Paul’s Pause” chapter of my book on hell, Peter’s confusion on the issue was understandable but it was still ridiculously prideful of him to contradict Jesus.)
So if someone really wants to discuss a doctrine in an attempt to convert me to their viewpoint, I ask them to give me the best book or website or article they know of on the subject. In the same way, if I want to try to convert someone to my viewpoint – the best thing to do is give the person a book.
Which leads me to my next point:
If you end up in a discussion with another believer about some point of doctrine, or if you want to convince them of what you’ve learned (say, for example, about eternal punishment or tithing) don’t try to teach them in person (unless they’re really in “learning mode”) – instead give them a book or an article to read.
There is a testimony on the Testimonies page of this website of a man who had many arguments with his friend about the tithing issue, and could not convince his friend of the truth until he referred his friend to my article about it. This is a perfect illustration of my point. My article on tithing covers the issue thoroughly from both a Biblical and real-life application standpoint; after reading that article, the truth is exceedingly obvious, and there are no valid arguments left opposing it, because I logically defeat every point often used in an attempt to claim that the New Testament believer is required to tithe. It is virtually impossible to make all the points I make in the article, in a personal conversation – the other person will not be quiet and listen long enough to allow all the relevant points to be stated! But when the person has to keep quiet and read, they are forced to listen long enough to learn something.
Reading a book or article and testing what it says can never hurt. Either you will learn something, you will strengthen your own position by seeing the holes in the opposing argument, or a combination of both. Sometimes a person will refuse to read the book or article given to them. This proves that they were never willing to learn anything on the subject in the first place – and you have saved yourself much time and emotional anguish that otherwise would have been wasted in a fruitless conversation/discussion/argument.
If you ever end up trying to convince a pastor or Christian leader (anyone getting a paycheck within the current doctrinal status quo) of a doctrine he or she currently disagrees with, don’t try to do it in a conversation. Give them a book or an article, without saying much about it. (The less info they have beforehand about it, the more likely they are to read it because they are less likely to be tipped off that they may be about to read information that is dangerous to their personal comfort zone, lifestyle, paycheck, etc.).
Giving a person a book or article gives them the freedom to analyze the information (and consider the personal consequences of learning something outside their current doctrinal/paycheck comfort zone) on their own time. With anyone, especially pastors and leaders, trying to teach something new or outside their comfort zone in a personal conversation puts too much pressure on the person; they don’t have enough time to analyze and test the information thoroughly. A person, especially a Christian leader getting their paycheck within the current doctrinal status quo, must analyze the information thoroughly before giving you any affirmation if they are to accept what you’re trying to teach them, in order to protect themselves.
Remember that there are massive personal ramifications for a pastor or even a regular Christian, if they change their minds on a doctrine such as tithing or eternal punishment. If you try to push them to agree with you in a personal conversation, the defense mechanisms will come out immediately, and you’ll get nothing but a knee-jerk reaction. Give them time by giving them a book or article.
If they don’t read it or never respond to you, fine. It’s not your job to be the Holy Ghost doctrine police. That’s the Holy Ghost’s job. The trick is, He can only do this aspect of His job (“leading and guiding into all the truth” – Jn. 16:13) for people who are willing to learn the truth (Jn. 7:17). This is why most pastors and Christian leaders – anyone making a paycheck within a certain doctrinal status quo – will refuse to exit their current doctrinal status quo; so it is usually pointless to try to change their minds about a major point of doctrine such as eternal punishment or tithing. They simply have too much to lose.
Now let’s get into the Bible’s clear explanation of why God allows doctrinal divisions between Christians to exist in this age, and its clear instructions for how to handle these doctrinal divisions.
The apostle Paul made it clear that there will be divisions amongst Christians, and told us why:
God will allow divisions amongst Christians until Jesus returns, to use those who teach accurately as a positive example (of the benefits of putting the truth above all else) for everyone else later.
I Corinthians 11:19 says, “For there must be factions (Young’s Literal Translation – “sects”) among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you”.
Paul is not saying that any Christian who does not have 100% perfect doctrine is not saved. The kind of approval he is talking about here is not salvation – we are not saved and made right with God by having perfect doctrine in every area, but by Christ’s work on the cross (Rom. 3:23-24). The kind of approval Paul is talking about here is reward. 1 Corinthians 3:12-14 tells us that (although the rest of Scripture makes clear our works cannot make us right with God) we will receive reward according to the quality of our work. I’m sure the quantity has something to do with it too, but the main determining factor is quality, not quantity!
2nd Timothy 2:15 tells us that the definition of a person who is “approved” is a person who “accurately handles the word of truth”. Accurately handling the word of truth brings reward; the more your doctrines (beliefs), teachings, and actions match the truth, the more reward you will receive. In John 7:17 Jesus confirmed that the ability to learn the truth goes hand in hand with the willingness to live it.
What 1 Corinthians 3:12-14 and 11:19 along with 2 Timothy 2:15 are telling us is that when we all stand before Christ someday, some people’s doctrines, teachings, and actions in certain areas will be approved, while other people’s doctrines, teachings, and actions in those same areas will not be approved. Most people will be a mixture of good/correct actions/teachings and bad/incorrect actions/teachings, and the more good/correct your actions/teachings are, the more reward you will receive.(Remember this has nothing to do with salvation, only with reward. Salvation is provided as a free gift by Christ's work on the cross, but God allows us to earn some reward through our actions and by leading others to what is right.)
Daniel 12:3 says that those who lead many to what is right (accurate, correct, and good) will shine like stars when it comes time for Godly people to receive our reward. Obviously, the more accurate, correct, and good your life and teachings are, the more reward you will receive (1 Cor. 3:12-14, Dan. 12:3). How can God reward a person for living or teaching what is wrong? This is a powerful motivator for us to seek and love the truth.
When we Christians stand before Christ one day to receive our reward, He will use those who are "approved" in certain areas and what they did to be approved in those areas (seeking truth, loving truth more than comfort, willingness to accept and live truth regardless of consequences) as an example to everyone else of wise living and the long term reward that comes from putting God first above all else no matter what the immediate personal consequences.
So we see that God is allowing doctrinal disagreements in this age for a good reason. Like almost every other imperfect or bad circumstance He allows in this age, it is in order to teach mankind a lesson in hindsight later on.
Obviously, in this age God intends the body of Christ to function together to some extent without being in perfect doctrinal agreement about everything. This is why the Bible makes provision for doctrinal disagreements, and teaches us how to handle new/restorative moves of God and/or new/restorative doctrines. (The teaching of universal reconciliation, for example, is not a new doctrine but a restoration of what the original Christians believed and taught.) Jesus explained exactly what to do about a doctrinal disagreement with the illustration of old and new wineskins:
A restorative doctrine or move of God requires a new wineskin; it is better to start a new wineskin and let hungry people join it than to pour new wine into an old wineskin and rupture it. That way both ministries will be preserved.
I love Jesus' teaching on the wineskins in Matthew 9:14-17 because it gives us the perfect model for dealing with doctrinal disagreements. Jesus had this to say in response to a question about why His disciples did not fast while John the Baptist’s ministry did:
"Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." (Matt. 9:17)
Notice the end result of handling a situation of practical or doctrinal difference wisely: both ministries are preserved!
This passage tells us that Jesus recognizes, as we should also, that in this age much good work for God’s purposes is done by ministries that have very different ways of doing things. Much good is accomplished by many imperfect people with imperfect doctrine and imperfect or different ministry practices; if He waited until everyone had perfect doctrine, nothing would ever get done! We need to recognize that God can and does work through Christians who disagree with us about how to do things in ministry or even about certain doctrines.
With this wonderful illustration, Jesus tells us to honor both the new and the old wineskin, and that we should leave each other alone without trying to pour our own wine into the other ministry’s wineskin!
You see, Jesus gave the illustration of the wineskins in response to a question about why His disciples did things differently than John the Baptist's ministry. John the Baptist’s ministry was obviously Godly and fruitful in many ways, and then along comes this new guy (Jesus) that also has an obviously Godly and fruitful ministry – but He does some things differently in His “new” ministry than the “old” ministry of John the Baptist does them. Many modern Christians, churches, and ministries would get all uptight about such a difference in “how to do ministry” or “how to do church” or “the right teaching about such-and-such-a-topic” or “the right way to do things”, and would attack each other, tearing each other down. Jesus and John the Baptist, however, did not do that. They recognized God’s hand on each other’s ministries, realizing that God could work through a ministry that did some things differently than they did.
Jesus’ illustration of the wineskins gives us the perfect Scriptural outline of how both the “established status quo” segments of Christianity and the “truth-hungry early adopter” segments of Christianity can both continue to be used by God with a minimum of pain and a minimum of harm done to God’s work on earth in this age.
If you have learned that tithing is not for today and/or that the (accurately translated) Bible doesn’t teach eternal punishment, for example, you are what I term a “truth-hungry early adopter Christian”. You are not a sucker for any teaching; just the opposite – you “test everything and hold on to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). It’s just that you care less about your comfort zone than you do about knowing the truth. It’s also possible that you have less to lose than the average pastor or Christian who is heavily involved in a current “old wineskin” ministry. I don’t think negatively of “established status quo, old wineskin Christians” because I know anything I have, am, do, or know is all by God’s grace anyway, not because I’m better than anyone else (Eph. 1:4, 2:8-9).
I also know the “old wineskin, established status quo” ministries and churches are the reason I know the Lord in the first place! And they are often better at certain things than new ministries. New ministries may offer something new or better in a certain area but don't have as much experience as an "old wineskin" ministry. If you know anything about wine you know that old wine tastes better than new wine, because it's been fermenting longer.
Unfortunately, "new wineskin" ministries can be just as prideful and condescending towards "old wineskin" ministries as vice versa. "Old wineskin" ministries deserve honor. Just because I’m teaching something that I believe is more Biblically accurate than some "old wineskin" ministries on the topics of what happens at death, God’s ultimate plan for mankind, and tithing, doesn’t mean I’m an inherently better person than them. I was just given a grace to learn what I learned and teach what I teach. It’s time for God to restore these truths to many people in the body of Christ (returning us to what the original Christians believed), just as in the year 1517 it was time for Martin Luther to challenge many of the incorrect and unscriptural teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Thankfully the average Bible teaching church today is much more Biblically accurate than the Catholic Church was in 1517, and I have no trouble recognizing God working through most "old wineskin" Christian ministries today, even if I don't agree with them on everything. I hope that they can see me the same way.
So as you can see, Jesus’ wonderful wineskins illustration tells us “truth-hungry early adopters” exactly what to do:
Don’t try to pour your new wine into an old wineskin! Don’t try to teach your old church your new (restorative) doctrine! You will rupture the old wineskin (split the old church)! Which is precisely why your old pastor rejects you and your new wine – to protect his ministry from being devastated! Instead, either start a new fellowship/gathering/church or keep your mouth shut while continuing to attend your old fellowship/gathering/church.
In practical terms, this means that as a “truth-hungry early adopter Christian” you shouldn’t try to convince your pastor of what you’ve learned. Nor should you go around the church trying to teach everybody in the church what you’ve learned!
Instead, ideally you should either find or start a new wineskin – a new fellowship, gathering, or church.
If you can’t find a local Christian fellowship/gathering/church that believes what you believe, don't be afraid to start your own!
You may ask, “But what do I do if I feel like I can’t start my own gathering, and there’s no church in my local area that believes what I believe?”
Well, at that point you have two choices:
A) Keep going to your old church and keep your mouth shut. (This is possible, I’ve done it. You only run into trouble with this strategy if the church wants to put you in some type of leadership position or wants to force you to sign a doctrinal statement for some reason.)
B) Stop going to church and do your own personal/family devotions/Bible-teaching/worship. (In order to do this with a good conscience you will have to be convinced that Hebrews 10:25 does not apply to you because Paul was talking to churches that were teaching correct doctrines on all major topics, not pagan leftover doctrines like eternal punishment and tithing.)
Keep in mind that no church is perfect. If there was such a thing as a perfect church, it would become imperfect the moment you walk into it! Expecting the church you attend to match your personal beliefs on every single point of doctrine on every single Biblical issue is an unrealistic expectation. At the same time, eternal punishment and tithing are pretty big issues with massive ramifications for understanding who God is, representing Him to those who don’t yet know Him, and (in the case of tithing) for the believer’s personal finances (an especially important issue in this economically challenging time).
I am at the point where if I had no other choice I could attend a church that teaches eternal punishment and tithing, and simply keep my mouth shut. I like that better than not attending church at all, and of course it takes away any problem with Hebrews 10:25 as well. (Not that there is necessarily a problem with saying Hebrews 10:25 doesn’t apply to attending churches that teach leftover pagan doctrines, but it just makes it simpler if you know what I mean.) I like being around Christians, even those who disagree with me on some things, and if I’m not around them I don’t have much of a social life because hanging out with ungodly people at the bar is not exactly my thing!
When I’m around Christians that I disagree with concerning tithing and/or eternal punishment, I make it easy on them by keeping my mouth shut. If they’re hungry to learn about those issues they can learn by asking God about it and studying, just like I did. But I’m not going to invade their comfort zone unless I think there’s a good chance they’ll be accepting of what I have to say. Jesus operated this way – see Mark 4:33 and Matthew 13:13, 57-58 for example. If I think somebody might be hungry to learn about the tithing thing or the eternal punishment thing for example, I throw them a little fish to see if they eat it; I make a comment like, “I’ve been studying the (fill in the blank) issue and found some really interesting things that are different than what I’ve always been taught.” If the person sounds interested I give them a book or article (I don’t try to teach them anything in a personal conversation).
Any new movement and/or restorative doctrinal teaching within the body of Christ will be known by its fruit (Matt. 7:20).
Teachings that are true and Scripturally correct, regardless of who they offend or upset, will produce more of the qualities listed in Galatians 5:22 in the long run in the lives of those who ascribe to those teachings. As Jesus made clear in Matthew 7:16-20, true teachings do not produce bad fruit, and false, unscriptural teachings do not produce good fruit.
To give a classic example of this, the doctrine of eternal punishment produces nothing but inescapable fear and torment – negative fruits as proven by Romans 8:15 and 1 John 4:18 – in the hearts of those who have unbelieving loved ones, while the true Biblical doctrine of universal reconciliation produces joy and peace, two fruits of the Spirit.
Another example is how the much-maligned (by most of Christianity at first, and still by some) charismatic movement has reached vast numbers of people for Christ worldwide since its inception early last century (while non-charismatic Christian denominations, especially the mainline denominations that condemn charismatics most vehemently, are actually shrinking). Charismatic Christianity also now produces most of the worship music (Hillsong, Hillsong United, Vineyard, Israel Houghton, Matt Redman, Paul Baloche, etc. etc.) that is sung in contemporary Bible-based Christian churches. Even churches that condemn charismatics don't hesitate to use the wonderful music produced by charismatic songwriters and worship leaders! Ever sung "Let Everything That Has Breath", "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord", "Open the Eyes of My Heart", "Breathe", or "Shout To the Lord"? These and countless others of the most popular worship songs today were written by charismatic worship leaders. Half the songs on Michael W. Smith's first worship album, his bestselling album ever, were written by charismatic worship leaders. The worship movement that transformed the Christian music industry from an entertainment focus to a worship focus was born out of primarily charismatic groups and churches in the 1990s.
The charismatic movement is a perfect example of how the fruit of a movement that starts out being extremely controversial can be observed over a long period of time. Like every other segment of Christianity, charismatic Christianity is far from perfect, but despite the controversy surrounding the gifts of the Spirit and the excesses that virtually every move of God experiences (due to human imperfection), the good fruit borne over time is undeniable.
A contrasting example is the "shepherding" movement that reared its head a decade or so ago. This movement made claims not found anywhere in Scripture, telling Christians that they would be blessed if they "submitted" to their pastor in everything and that their lives would be ruined if they ever disagreed with their pastor. The movement fizzled out because it was not grounded in truth and the fruit was so bad; the body of Christ responded to this harmful false teaching as new (good) ministries were born just to help heal people from the spiritual and emotional abuse caused by pastors and leaders who took the concept of human spiritual authority far beyond anything found in Scripture.
It will serve us well to learn the lesson that we should "test everything and hold on to what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21) and observe the fruit of a teaching or movement over time (Matt. 7:20) rather than immediately rejecting any Biblical teaching that is new to us. Just because something is new to us doesn't mean its wrong; that's why the Bible commands us to "test everything" (1 Thess. 5:21). Those who are willing to Scripturally test and examine something they've never heard before will often end up being part of "new wine" movements that God uses to grow the body of Christ. Meanwhile, those who have a lot to lose within the status quo will often reject anything new or different immediately as a knee-jerk reaction; these will continue being "old wine" ministries that do a lot of good as well. God realizes that both types of ministries will exist side by side in this age, which is why He provided us with Jesus' illustration of the wineskins in Scripture to teach us how to handle our differences in doctrine, idealogy, and ministry methods.
To sum up, the Bible gives us very clear instructions about exactly what to do when you have a doctrinal disagreement with your church or your pastor. Let the old wineskins serve old wine and let the new wineskins serve new wine. Honor both ministries and recognize that God can use both wineskins powerfully. As time goes by (until Jesus returns and teaches us all perfectly – 1 Cor. 13:12), the new wine will eventually become old wine, and the process will repeat itself as the body of Christ is continually instructed, corrected, and perfected by Jesus Himself (1 Cor. 2:16).
And whoever is correct about a doctrinal disagreement (whoever is dividing the Word of truth accurately) will be rewarded accordingly when Jesus returns. Such a person will be held up by Christ as a positive example of the long term rewards of loving the truth above comfort. (Many doctrinal fallacies or failures to perceive and live the truth are the result of people holding on to previously held convictions because letting them go would threaten their comfort zone, lifestyle, paycheck, etc.) God allows doctrinal disagreements for this very reason – to teach the rest of humanity a lesson later on.
This is God’s way of handling doctrinal disagreements, restorative/corrective doctrines that threaten “old wineskin” churches/ministries, and new/innovative/different ways of doing ministry. Let the new be new and let the old be old.
If you are a "new wineskin" Christian, you just have to decide whether to keep going to an “old wine” church with your mouth shut, switch to a “new wine” church (if you can find one in your local area), or start a “new wine” church of your own.
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What To Do When You Disagree With Your Church or Pastor Copyright 2011 John Lilley