Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

I’ve been invited to join a ladies’ Bible study class that’s using a book by a well-known author and speaker. The woman who wrote the book is a false teacher. Should I accept the invitation and join the class in hopes of correcting the false doctrine that will be taught?

To join or not to join. I’ve been in the same situation myself, and I know many of my readers have as well. It can be a difficult decision to make. The Bible does say to avoid false teachers, but it also says they should be rebuked, and that older women are to “teach what is good, and so train the young women…that the word of God may not be reviled.”

My counsel to those who have expressed concern to me over studies by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa TerKeurst, etc. taking place in their churches is to pray that God would give them wisdom as to whether they should attend the study and biblically refute all the false doctrine that comes up (the rebuking/training perspective) or whether they should decline to attend the study (the avoiding perspective), giving anyone who asks a biblical explanation as to why you won’t be participating (also, kind of rebuking/training). There are a lot of things to take into consideration as you begin working through Scripture and prayer to reach a decision.

First, where is your pastor in all of this? Why is he allowing a study to take place that uses materials authored by a false teacher? Maybe he is familiar with the author’s materials and approves of them (in which case you have a bigger issue than whether or not to attend this particular class). But maybe he’s a discerning-leaning guy who’s just not aware that this author teaches false doctrine.

Most pastors are extremely busy. They either don’t have the time or don’t know they need to make the time to vet the authors of the studies their church is using (I’m not excusing this state of affairs, I’m just saying- this is the reality we’re dealing with). And many of them simply assume that if the book comes from LifeWay (or another trusted Christian retailer), it must be OK. So, before making a decision about whether or not to attend the class, go to where the buck stops and humbly, patiently, and kindly find out where your pastor is about the issue. He might just pleasantly surprise you and cancel the class or insist that a doctrinally sound study be used instead, and your problem will be solved.

Next, if you’re married, what does your husband have to say about it? There may be a logistical conflict – he prefers you not to be out that late at night alone for safety reasons, your child has to be picked up from soccer at the time the class meets, etc. – that will immediately solve your dilemma, or there may be some other reason he doesn’t want you to attend the class. Since it’s not sinful to decline attending the class, if your husband says no, you need to respect his decision and decline to join. (You also need to discuss with your husband the issue of approaching the pastor about the study. He might prefer to be the one to talk to him, or he might prefer the two of you talk to the pastor together, rather than you approaching the pastor on your own.)

But even if your husband leaves the decision up to you, ask for his counsel and perspective. Simply by virtue of being a man, a person with his own unique thought processes, and someone who knows you well, he can add invaluable insight that can help you reach a wise decision. This was certainly the case for me when I was faced with this situation. I was leaning toward declining to attend the study, but my husband gave me a whole new perspective and encouraged me to get involved in order to be a corrective influence and godly example to the other ladies. And he was right!

If you’ve talked to your pastor and your husband and the dilemma is still before you, there are several things you need to think, pray, and study through as you’re working toward a decision:

☙Are you biblically knowledgeable enough to recognize and properly refute false doctrine? (It might help to get the perspective of your pastor, your husband, or a mature believer who knows you well and who will be honest with you.)

☙Do you have the extra time to study and make notes ahead of time so you’ll be prepared to refute, with Scripture, during class?

☙Is the study so replete with false doctrine that you’ll have to constantly be speaking up and people will just be annoyed and tune you out?

☙Does your conscience prevent you from financially supporting the false teacher by buying her book for the study?

☙Would it make a bigger impact on this particular group of ladies for you to attend and refute or to decline to attend with explanation? (Consider your influence on them, your reputation for sound doctrine among them, the dynamics of the group, etc.)

☙What will be the repercussions of your actions (whether you decide to attend or decline) on the church at large? How might your family and/or your pastor be affected?

☙Are you spiritually and emotionally prepared for the harsh backlash you will probably receive for refuting? Can you stand firm in the face of that, or will you cave?

☙Are you in the “cage stage” of discernment with a “mow ‘em down!” disposition to match, or do you have the self-control required to follow the instruction of 2 Timothy 2:24-26: to be patient, kind, and not quarrelsome? Do you understand that the goal of discernment is to humbly rescue captives, not to prove how right and knowledgeable you are?

☙Think outside the box. Is there another way to handle this situation besides attending/refuting and declining to attend? What about you (or a spiritually mature woman in your church- someone who is able to teach) offering to teach an alternative class that studies a book of the Bible?

There’s no one size fits all answer to this question. Either of these options (or another) could be biblically wise depending on the people and situations involved. Talk to your husband and your pastor. Examine what God’s word says about false teachers. Pray for wisdom. Follow your biblically-informed conscience.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Advertisements