Today’s question is, ‘How do I protect my flock from cults’? As we learn about cults and false religious groups, one of the Bible passages that has always helped me to understand what the Bible teaches is that passage in Acts 20. Here the Apostle Paul gives his final address to the church leaders from Ephesus.
The Responsibilities of Watchmen
Pastors have been called to be watchmen over the flock that God has put under their care
One of the key things that Paul points out, is the heavy responsibility that lies on the shoulders of pastors and Christian leaders. They have been called to be watchmen over the flock that God has put under their care.
The Apostle Paul reminds them of this here. ‘I know after my departure savage wolves will come in among you. And even from within your own ranks that certain men will rise up who will twist the truth in order to draw disciples away.” And he warns them with several other exhortations, to stand guard; to watch over God’s flock.
6 Ways I Can Protect My Flock
At this moment, we ask ourselves a question: How can today’s pastors, or church leaders, guard their flock from falling prey to the teachings of cults, or false religious groups? How can a pastor prepare, or organise, his church to produce a followership of people that competently, confidently, compassionately, address cults and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in a manner that it is supposed to be preached?
There are a number of things that the pastor can do.
1. Teach The Different Between Biblical Truth and Error
Number one. The pastor must intentionally teach his members to be aware that, above and beyond their church, there are several other churches and religious groups that exist within their neighbourhood. And not all of them may necessarily stand for the true biblical faith.
2. Teach How A Biblical Worldview and How To Live By It
Number two. The pastor must teach his church a biblical worldview. There are several Christians who have only been taught the basics of the faith as they pertain to salvation. But the question of, “how then should we live?” has never been properly addressed.
Biblical teaching should influence and affect our Christian living on a daily basis
And so Christians think about their faith in terms of fragments. But they do not see how biblical teaching influences and affects their Christian living on a daily basis. And also holistically. When Christians know their faith holistically, they are not only able to recognise some of those teachings that go against the teaching of the Bible, but they are able to identify them and resist them. This is a great way for pastors to guard their flock.
I Protect My Flock By Equipping Them
For instance, they are able to resist subtle teachings that are syncretistic in nature: teachings that mix Christianity with cultural practices, or several other things that may, in a subtle way, resemble Christianity and yet deviate from it.
When Christians are taught a biblical worldview, and they live by that worldview, not only are they grounded in their faith, but they can competently address those who deviate from biblical faith.
3. The Non-Negotiables of The Christian Faith
Christians, beyond being taught a worldview that is biblical, must be taught what we call the fundamentals of our Christian faith.
Christianity teaches so many things. But not all those things are very important, in a sense that they affect your salvation or your eternal destiny. What are those teachings which, if one misunderstands or disregards, could actually end up in eternal condemnation?
Teachings like who Jesus is, who God is, how people get saved. Teachings like what the church of Christ should be and how it should live. Those are at the core of what it means to be Christian. And usually, it is those very teachings that cultic groups distort or deny.
When Christians understand those non-negotiables of our faith, they are able to use them as a plumb line, by which they judge, or determine, what other groups are teaching. And therefore, they are able to respond to them appropriately.
4. Test Before You Trust
But the pastor must also teach, or equip, his congregation to be a congregation that tests things. Test before you trust.
We should not just gullibly believe because somebody said, ‘thus says the Lord’, or because somebody identified himself as a Man of God
Members of a church should not just gullibly believe because somebody said, ‘thus says the Lord’, or because somebody identified himself as a ‘Man of God’. But be people who hear the teachings and they scrutinise them, they examine them, to make sure that they are consistent with biblical teaching.
Build A Congregation That Tests
I like how the Berean Christians did this in Acts 17:11. Even though they knew the Apostle Paul to be a Man of God – an apostle as a matter of fact, a miracle worker in fact – they did not believe him because he was Paul, or because he said God had told him. We are told that they daily, not once in a while, daily examined the scriptures, to see if what the apostle Paul was preaching was indeed true.
A congregation that tests, is a congregation that discerns. And a congregation that discerns, is a congregation that is not easily led into error. And the pastor must teach his congregation to learn to test all things, as we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.
5. Encourage Your Flock To Live Out What They Believe
But the pastor must also encourage individual members of his church, or his flock, to be not just biblically discerning, but to exercise that discernment by example and by practice.
We have a dichotomy today amongst Christians, between their faith beliefs and their behaviour. That you will find Christians who are intellectually informed, but do not live according to the teachings they claim to hold true.
You will find Christians who are intellectually informed, but do not live according to the teachings they claim to hold true.
A pastor who protects their flock will train his church members to model the word by their practices and behaviours; to live according to what they claim to believe. And by their word, and by their example, the people around them are not only able to appreciate their grounding in Scripture, but they are also able to trust them when they communicate God’s word.
When God’s people are living consistently, in terms of lifestyle, with their beliefs in as far as doctrine is concerned, not only are they trusted for what they preach, but they are also to ably engage with people, who may not be grounded in their Scriptures, or who distort their Scriptures, or who come from cultic groups that deny and deviate from what Scripture teaches.
6. Preach Biblical Truth and Apply It
A pastor who protects his flock against cults and false religious groups, is a pastor who approaches scripture apologetically.
A pastor must equip his people, not only to understand and identify error and expose it, but also ground his people in biblically exposited truth. That in the pastor’s sermon, he is exposing error for what it is and showing his congregation how it deviates from the Scriptures. He is expositing biblical truth: showing them what the Bible has said and the implications that flow out of it.
Don’t Just Protect Your Flock, Reach Out
A pastor who teaches his church to respond appropriately to cults, and to winsomely evangelise them, is one who has taught them a biblical worldview. He has grounded them in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. He has taught them to be discerning and to be able to differentiate right from wrong; truth from error. But even more importantly, he has taught his members to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.