One late night while watching television, an infomercial came on featuring a very charismatic televangelist. He referred to himself as a prophet and spoke of amazing miracles. Testimonials were given by everyday people who declared they were able to overcome obstacles either by receiving large unexpected amounts of cash or they were cured instantaneously of cancer and other terminal diseases. They all seemed very convincing. Some even held wads of cash while others gave tearful recollections of their lives prior to being healed and all of this good fortune was due in no small part to a tiny vial of liquid known as “Miracle Spring Water”. What’s most amazing is that 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. Yet somehow, the promoter has made millions of dollars peddling it.
There is a real danger in leaning to our own understanding and it is pretty evident that there certainly is no shortage of false prophets or false doctrines in the world. Herein lies the importance of discernment.
“Proverbs 3:5 – Trust the LORD with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding”
Pastor Hart Ramsey is the pastor of Northview Christian Church with locations in Dothan, AL and Atlanta, GA. Here is what he had to say about the topic:
CFU: Pastor Ramsey what comes to your mind when you hear Church people say “we’ve always done it this way”?
HR: What comes to mind is the word tradition. Tradition does not necessarily mean than an idea or method is right or wrong. It simply means that it was passed down from one generation to the next and has now become their custom. Somewhere along the line, they were told that the way things were done in the past is the only way it should ever be done. The intent is usually right; but it almost always results in stagnation.
CFU: What are a few red flags that signal that a church is operating outside of
HR: The first thing that usually jumps out is the heart (or spirit) of the leader. If the leader doesn’t see himself as a representative of Jesus, but as a substitute for Jesus, he will be tempted to draw people to himself and not to the Lord. Also every life-giving Church has to be strong in three areas: (1) Sound Doctrine. We must preach a rightly divided Word (2) Make Disciples. We must teach people who Jesus is, what He has done for them, and what He requires of them (3) Maintain a Difference. The basic meaning of the word “holiness” is difference. The Church must be in the world, but not influenced by it. We must have a different flavor and atmosphere about us.
CFU: How do you go about using discernment when searching for a Church home?
HR: I believe God connects people to the places where they should worship Him. So, when you first visit a church, don’t go in trying to figure out whether or not it’s right for you. Instead, ask the Lord to lead you with His peace. More often than not, modern churches will have lights, excitement, professional music, appealing optics and other interests that are designed to impress and attract people. But “red flag” churches lack depth. They know how to attract but not how to make lasting impact. They can draw you, but they can’t develop or deliver you. So, unless you’re definitely led of the Lord, never join after your first visit. Attend multiple services until you have a definite YES or NO in your spirit. It’s about having complete peace before committing to a Church home. Then once you commit, really COMMIT!
CFU: How can you be sure you are interpreting the Word correctly?
HR: That is a powerful question. The word for “disciple” is also the Greek work for student. Jesus told His followers to make disciples of all nations. He told them to share the Good News with everyone and those who accept it should be instructed into their new life. We are directed to first become learners before we assume to be teachers. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” So, I think the answer is that we have to learn to interpret Scripture. The Bible is one continuously unfolding story. When false doctrine creeps into the Church, those who are committed to the learning process can usually discern it. The Holy Spirit will testify in our hearts against false and self-serving teachings. But we must pay attention to Him. We must be continual learners and never presume to “know it all.”