What do you do when you are sitting in church? How do you listen to the things being preached? This is one of the biggest factors in determining how much authority you give to God and the Bible. There are three possible reactions that I can think of, though someone can surely break these down into more detailed steps.
1. Accept everything without question
I used to love a guy named Rick Joyner. No, it was not a romantic love (I’m a ladies only kind of man). He was evidently a famous prophet and wrote a book, reading which gave me a surreal mystical experience. The book was named The Call and supposedly recorded Joyner’s prophetic vision about the state of things in this world. Reading the book gave me goosebumps. I felt as if everything was finally coming together and making sense. I was one of the special few, by virtue of knowing the secret knowledge about what is going on behind the scenes in our world, as well as what will happen next. I accepted everything without question. I found Joyners website, and spent the year submerging myself in his teachings. I lapped it up like water in the desert. For that year I tried to follow every bit of prophetic advice until it all started to wear off like a daze. I had spent the year following the teaching of Rick and others in his movement, and yet, none of it worked for me. Not even a little bit. I went to conferences and it even made this clearer. As I stood on a stage with hundreds of pastors, and was forcefully knocked down by Benny Hinn, I stood up for the first time started questioning things. In a matter of weeks I slowly started realizing that none of the miracles, personal prophecies, or teachings were true. In a few more weeks I had gone back to the Bible, and found the Gospel of the Cross of Christ, as preached by pastor John Piper.
Often religious groups will make it seem that anyone who questions something said by a “man of God” is doing a terribly evil thing. Often they quote “touch not the Lord’s anointed” and say something like “if he is preaching bad doctrine, God will deal with him, you just need to obey.” In my time in Christianity, I often met people like this, who by acting as if they were being obedient to the church, were really being disobedient to Scripture. Those who trust everything said by a religious leader without testing it with/against Scripture, don’t hold the Scripture in high regard. They think that the leaders authority is greater than the Scriptures authority.
2. Reject everything without question
During some of the same time, I was also serving in a Russian Pentecostal church, where the doctrine of supernatural is very similar, though the execution of services, and the culture was vastly different. Not only different, but the two movements were in no shape or form compatible, they were literally at odds, while both being very focused on the prophetic and the ecstatic. In the Russian culture I became somewhat of a rebel. I literally got to the point that I simply rejected everything said by a Russian preacher. This phase lasted shorter than the “accepting” phase, and eventually I ran back to Scripture, and began comparing everything to its deep treasures. I have met many people who are in one of many stages regarding trusting the church. Some on the far fight ‘reject everything without testing’ because they claim they are the only holy people left, and all others are apostate. I once translated for a man in prison who was convinced that the prison fingerprint scanner was the Mark of the Beast. He rejected everything stated to him by numerous pastors. On the far left, I have met children of church leaders who have completely left the church and reject everything that is said by someone in church. Neither the left or right trust the Bible, even while both are so radically different. Thus I have seen that those who trust ‘nothing’ said by any pastor or preacher without comparing it against Scripture, don’t hold the Scripture in high regard. They think that their personal authority is greater than both Scriptural and pastoral authority.
3. Test everything, accept the good, reject the bad
I first discovered the Gospel by reading a small debate in an internet forum. It’s surprising how God works. I was looking for debates that confirmed this Joyner character was indeed a super mega-prophet. And I accidentally stumbled upon a small website with a forum discussing Joyners ministry. There were many fights left and right, and near the bottom someone wrote about his own personal struggles in life, and that one day he listened to a sermon by John Piper, and the Gospel changed his life. He ended by saying that this treasure of Christ is greater than the treasure of any prophecy and gift power. Those words tore at my soul and echoed in my sleep. I looked up John Piper, and began to listen. And this time, unlike with Rick Joyner, I began to dig into the Scriptures, finding everything there, clear and concise, unlike with the hypercharismatic ministries of the past. Reading the Bible and listening to John Piper, I first understood salvation by Grace alone, faith alone, in Christ alone. I saw that Christianity wasn’t about obtaining the most spiritual gifts so your neighbors could see, or doing grand things for God that he would finally approve of you. Instead it was that I, a battered sinner, could humbly fall at the foot of the cross, where my bruised Savior paid for all my sins. I started listening to Piper and many others and contrasted their (reformed) teachings to some of the other (word of faith, prosperity theology) teachings that I had been involved with. Testing everything against the Bible, I could finally see the vast differences. Before, everything was “Christian” to me as long as they said the word “God.” Yet through testing against God’s word I found out the true meaning of Christianity and the beauty of the Gospel. Those who compare everything said by a pastor or preacher with the Scripture, do a very noble deed. Like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), they listen to the preacher but not without discernment. They show that their main authority is Gods Word in the Scripture, by confirming everything they hear with God in Scripture.