Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Knowing the Bible and biblical truth is essential for the Christian. Ensuring and maintaining “sound doctrine” is one of the major responsibilities of elders of local churches (1 Tim. 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit.1:9, 13: 2:1, 2, 8). Furthermore, it is also important for the health of God’s people to know the history of the Christian church, to learn from the preceding cloud of witnesses (Heb. 11), knowing that history is recorded for our “instruction” resulting in hope (cf. Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11)
I was reminded of this as I read the recent report of “China's Deadly Lightning”:
A Chinese cult known for physical violence and coercion is prompting Chinese pastors to upgrade theological instruction in their congregations and help government officials understand the difference between orthodox Christianity and cult-like offshoots.
The group began in the 1990s by a woman the group believes is the “second incarnation of Christ.” They teach that one “must leave behind their families and property . . . they brainwash, kidnap, and murder to grow their following.”
The response of pastors is to teach the Bible, doctrine and church history.
Lay Christians can have trouble telling the difference, too. In response, pastors told ct they are building up theological resistance in their churches by adding lessons on church history and doctrine to their Bible teaching. As a result, the cult is less successful at recruiting church members than it was a decade ago, though it still has strong followings in rural China, said an anonymous source who leads a large Chinese house church network.
Because of the perennial challenge of doctrinal error and historical amnesia, it is vital for pastors and leaders of churches to build up “theological resistance in their churches by adding lessons on church history and doctrine to their Bible teaching.” Let me encourage you to do this proactively rather than reactively, because if it is reactive, damage has already occurred among the people of God.
How are you equipping God’s people in sound doctrine? What are you doing proactively to address this?