In two months, I would leave that church anyway, since marrying John necessitated moving from San Rafael, California to Boston, Massachusetts. Even so, the rambling, 80-minute message by the guest speaker left me literally weeping.
Most of the people at that service found this speaker highly offensive. The guy who had invited him tried, rather unconvincingly, to distance himself, clearly embarrassed by the whole fiasco. His delivery, which included physically humiliating our pastor, offended pretty much everybody. The exhibition felt more like a circus than a worship service, and people began wandering out to the lobby because of their impatience with his incoherence and his theatrics.
Sadly, however, I seemed to be the only one who objected to the actual content of what he taught.
He chose Ephesians 4:11-16 as his text:
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)
Sadly, he followed the Scripture-twisting script of extreme Charismatics in order to make this passage say that doctrine must be rejected for the sake of unity. Did he, in his efforts to promote the New Apostolic Reformation, realize that he taught precisely the opposite idea of what Paul meant in this passage?
I wept because, even though my friends were deeply disturbed by his methodology, they accepted his actual message as being perfectly Biblical. They completely missed the fact that his sermon made a diametrically opposite point to the text!
About three years ago, one of the elders from our current church preached on this same text. At first, remembering that horrible evening twelve years earlier, I flinched as John opened my Bible. Would this elder also try to teach that doctrine destroys unity?
But to my relief, the elder taught the passage correctly, presenting unity as a result of proper teaching. Unity, he affirmed, doesn’t require a minimization of doctrine. On the contrary, God provided First Century apostles and prophets, followed by evangelists, pastors and teachers since then, to teach us how to be the Church.
Uniting over the foundational doctrines of the First Century apostles and prophets as faithful evangelists, pastors and teachers minister God’s Word to us keeps the Church from fragmenting over doctrinal error. Proper doctrine aligns us under Christ’s leadership because faithful men explain His Word and enable us to access His Word for ourselves. (Faithful women can teach other women, as well as teaching children.)
The elder’s sermon three years ago offered tremendous comfort, assuring me that I could trust my new church to handle God’s Word properly. The leaders understand that right doctrine forms the very basis of Christian unity. Rather than casting doctrine aside, as the guest speaker that night suggested (for 80 long minutes), Christians must rally around true doctrine, carefully mining Scripture and treasuring every nugget and gem.