Today I am going to do something I don’t believe I have ever done before. I am going to publish an edited and expanded version of an old post of mine. Unlike certain Christian bloggers who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty (you know who you are!) I am going to be up front about it, and even place a link to the original 2005 post entitled “DON’T LISTEN TO ME—WHAT DO I KNOW?”
I want to ask you today, “Are you too loyal?” I think being too loyal is a bigger problem than we sometimes realize. Generally loyalty is a good thing. For example, I am not surprised that many of my readers are the same people who keep coming back rather than total strangers just popping through. Indeed, I hope you are feeling quite loyal towards me as you read this, that in some odd Internet way you even consider me your friend. But that friendship with me or any other blogger—or for that matter preacher to whom you listen online—should NEVER become a replacement for your friendships with godly Christians. If it did, that would be one example of what I mean by being too loyal.
You can also be too loyal by being too trusting of someone, and by following them too closely. I strongly hope that I don’t have any readers who read this blog uncritically; that would be foolish in the extreme. In real life I could be anyone. No matter how well you feel you know me from my blog writings, it’s not possible to deduce the answers to all kinds of really important questions. Am I a Christian in good standing in a local church? Do I have the appropriate level of biblical understanding to support what I say? What is my character like? Do I treat my wife and children as well as I ought to? What theological degrees or qualifications do I have? I will give you the answer to that last question only—NONE!
It worries me a little that some readers of blogs look to those blogs for their teaching more than their own local church. Some might even feel that they do not need to go to a church, partly because of the biblical food they feel they are getting online. The challenge for some, no doubt, is that they attend a church whose teaching they believe is not biblically sound. There are definitely many Christians who continue, out of a misguided sense of loyalty, attending churches they believe teach blatant error. To listen to online teachers and get one’s teaching there may seem wise when you feel that your local preacher is in some way deficient.
If you are in a situation where you don’t feel you are able to agree with the vast majority of the preaching of your church, and instead you believe you are learning more online, I would strongly urge you to carefully consider your position. As I have said before, one of best things about of being in my church is the joy of being pastored by our elders, Tope Koleoso, Stuart Emsley, and as of last Sunday, Dave Pask. Those three men care for my soul. It is a delight to follow them. Bloggers, book authors, and TV or Internet preachers cannot pastor you.
It is often helpful to read a blog with discernment, even if you disagree with some of the author’s ideas, if doing so helps you to examine the blogger and your own beliefs in the light of Scripture. I sincerely hope that you do not need to take that kind of critical approach to your pastor’s sermons, or at least not to the same degree! We should be able to listen to our preachers without having to constantly mentally edit out the parts with which we disagree.
Incidentally, this is one reason why those of us who are preachers need to be careful that we do not go beyond simply explaining the Scriptures in our sermons. We should stick to preaching and explaining the Word of God, and we need to be very careful with our theological deductions. What we really must avoid when preaching is to take a deduction we have made from Scripture and build another deduction on top of that. It will not foster the correct attitude towards preaching in the hearts of our hearers if they are constantly having to decide whether what we are saying is mere speculation or the very Word of the living God!
If you cannot honorably submit to the leadership of your local church, either it is time to leave, or it is time for you to change your attitude towards them. While it is great to learn from blogging and other means, if it is pulling you in a different direction to your church leaders, you need to ask: “Am I reading too much content from the wrong kind of blogs, or am I in the wrong kind of church?”
There are, of course, two opposite errors that are both equally foolish. One is to leave a church for a minor and foolish reason and not have anywhere to go that is more suitable for your theological nitpicking. The second is to be too loyal to a church that has long since jettisoned the primary issues of the Gospel, or with whom you have strong disagreements on some of the key secondary issues; without such agreement we cannot honestly work together in a church.
What keeps you at your church or reading a blog or listening to an online preacher? Is it the kind of foolish loyalty that is little better than a bad habit or addiction? Or is it because serving in that church is good for your soul in a tangible way? Are you too loyal?