Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil 4:8 ESV
I don't know how many times I've heard preachers say they refuse to listen to anything negative. Many preachers refuse to read any critical mail or email, quickly hitting the delete button or running them through the shredder.
I would be the first to say that all letters or emails should be signed and sent in Christ's love. (Eph. 4:15). No one has the right to send cruel, nasty or threatening emails to anyone, especially in the body of Christ.
Having said this, what if a pastor or church leader needs to hear corrective words from someone? What if these words are considered negative, but they are true? I know of one pastor who calls such people, balloon poppers. Any negative remark is considered a threat to their faith, plans or vision. Such leaders consider these people to be a hindrance at best, or Pharisaical at worst.
In his book Reckless Faith, John MacArthur said,
It is fashionable today to characterize anyone who is concerned with biblical doctrine as Pharisaical. The biblical condemnation of the Pharisees' legalism has been misread as a denunciation of doctrinal precision and love of truth has often been judged inherently legalistic.
But love for truth is not the same as legalism. The fact that it has been portrayed that way has sabotaged the very thing the church so desperately needs today. (1)
If you go to the doctor, do you want to hear positive words or truth about your situation? Yes, but he is a pastor or leader. It's not my job to correct him, some would argue. But what if the other leaders around him are yes men and would never speak anything considered negative to him. Where is he going to get the truth about his false teaching?
Perhaps God can use you to do this. We are all human, and our teachings must line up with God's word, no matter who we are.
Phil 4:8 doesn't deal with the topic of correcting church leaders. The focus of this short article will not cover the category of church discipline. This article will focus on speaking truth to all when the opportunity is present. There is a time and place for church leaders to be criticized publicly when they do not repent of false doctrine. (1 Tim 5:20, 2 Tim 4:2 and many other passages.)
... whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Notice this passage doesn't say anything about positive or negative thoughts. The first question should be, is it true? Does the leader speak truth concerning the bible? If not, we have a problem and someone should point this out to the leader. If no one does, then the false teaching will spread to the entire flock unchecked and all will suffer.
First, I think the reason Christians or church leaders don't want to hear anything they consider negative is due to the rise of these two false movements:
1.) Word of Faith
2.) Possibility Thinking
Most of you who follow this blog know the Word-Faith movement well. However, you may not be aware of the second. The Possibility Thinking Movement is very similar to the WoF in that most anything consider negative is rejected. The PT movement is comprised of such men as Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale and others. Go Here to learn more about this movement.
It is suffice to say, that both groups intermingle and can be harder to discern without research.
Now to the point at hand. How do you share negative, but truthful words to those you love or leaders in your church.
1.) Pray for an open door of opportunity and speak with clarity.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Col 4:2-4 ESV
Speaking the truth with love and clarity can be a powerful tool to help someone become free from error. One should examine their own hearts and motives first. (Matthew 7:3-5) By approaching someone in this manner, perhaps you'll come across as genuine, authentic, caring and non-judgemental.
Keep this in mind:
If what they consider to be positive is a lie, then in reality what they are teaching and believing is truly negative and harmful; and truth is really positive and instructive.
You are not responsible if they don't listen. That is between them and God. You may be rejected, but if what you say is true, they are rejecting God's word, not you.
2.) Speak with courtesy and remember we were once foolish
When God opens a door to speak truth to someone, always be kind and courteous. (Titus 3:2-5)
Remember we were once captivated by false teaching of one kind or another, but God in His great mercy and grace rescued us from the lies of the enemy.
It's sad today that so many are wrapped up in erroneous teachings in the church today -- teachings that can cause great harm in the body and individual lives of Christians everywhere.
1.) Speak truth in love. (Eph 4:15)
2.) Place emphasis on truth not personalities.
3.) Think on these godly virtues: truth, honor, justice, purity, love, excellence and things
4.) Examine your heart and motives. (Matt 7:3-5)
5.) Speak with courtesy and clarity.
6.) Remember you were once in bondage.
What if your perceived negative words are true? Rejoice and pray God will use your words to bring about correction, healing and deliverance. This short article will not cover all issues of false doctrine in the church, but should serve as a good spring board for discussion.
1.) Reckless Faith: When the church loses its will to discern. Copyright 1994 John F. MacArthur. Published by Crossway Books.