Balancing Doctrine With Discernment

Neal Pollard

The doctrine of Christ is indispensable!  Timothy was told, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16).  On the “soul-saving” front, too many have attempted to water down the message.  Sadly, some members have sought to defuse a gospel sermon or Bible class, taught kindly but firmly, by apologizing to their non-Christian visitors for the distinctive message of the New Testament. If one is baptized who must be won through conniving, coddling, or coercion, that one will be converted to the wrong person or thing.

Let it also be observed that doctrine must be balanced with an intelligent, sensitive approach to soul-winning.  By sensitive is meant, not the paranoid fear of offending which has given us “political correctness,” but a clear awareness of those whom we are trying to win to Christ.  By intelligent is meant particularly common sense in reaching out to people.

We need to use discernment to “get them in the door.”  This requires being approachable, friendly, and exemplary.  If you try to mow them over with doctrine before you lay a foundation of trust and genuine concern, they will “turn you off” on the subject.  You must also “use hospitality” (1 Pet. 4:9). Put an “open door” upon the hinges of your home–a warm and welcoming place to attract them to the idea of Christian entertainment, Christian family, and Christian living. “Clean fun,” genuine concern, and agape love demonstrated before them will get them in the door.

We need discernment while they are “inside.”  Have a desire to make visitors feel at home. This may not initially be comfortable for you. But, let no one blame God for not making contact with visitors.  Too many say, for instance, “It is not in my personality to ‘go up’ to others.” If that is so, modify your personality. Shy, quite people who love souls have moved out of their “comfort zones.” Preachers and teachers should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).  It is never necessary to be insulting or belligerent in plainly, firmly presenting the gospel. Watch how you interact with others!  An obnoxious comment or rudeness, to whomever it is directed, may forever shut the door.  Use more self-control in your dealings with everyone (2 Tim. 3:3).

We need discernment after they become part of the family.  Remember, babies cannot eat meet.  There needs to be classes for spiritual babes (cf. 1 Pet. 2:2).  Exercise patience liberally (1 Th. 5:14).  There should be much more intolerance for moral and doctrinal sins by those who have been in the church for a long period of time than for those young in the faith.

The lost are just that–lacking direction as they walk in darkness (1 Pet. 2:9).  After Paul asked for prayers for wisdom in speaking to the lost, he charged us to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders (cf. Col. 4:4-6).  Let not one iota of doctrine suffer in that, but use common sense in imparting it!

By preacherpollard

preacher, Lehman Avenue church of Christ, Bowling Green, Kentucky

2 replies on “Balancing Doctrine With Discernment”

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