It happens. A friend and/or church member has stated a belief that you're fairly certain is incorrect biblically. You sense a need to state another position—the position you believe is biblically accurate. Here are some thoughts to consider as you prepare to address such an issue:
- Check your heart. Is your goal to lovingly help someone reconsider the Word, or is it to show your theological prowess? Be honest with this question, as most of us seldom recognize our arrogance.
- Check your own theology. It's possible that your position isn't tenable, either. Just because you believe it strongly doesn't necessarily mean your belief is accurate.
- Whisper a prayer for wisdom. Doctrinal confrontation is never easy. Pray that you will honor God in all you say and do. Ask for an extra helping of humility.
- Remember that many believers in North America have never been discipled. That is to say, some Christians have come to their theological conclusions without much guidance. If they're in error, they probably got there honestly.
- Determine if the issue is a gospel issue. Here, Albert Mohler's understanding of "theological triage" is most helpful. Correcting wrong understandings is always important, but the urgency with which you address a first-level issue is different than how you address a third-level issue.
- Ask questions of clarification before correcting. You might not have heard the position properly. Or your friend might believe like you do, but simply misstated something. Clarifying sometimes removes the need to continue the discussion.
- Remember that how you say what you say will determine whether you're heard. Your position might be the correct one, but the haughtiness with which you speak may clog the ears of the one you seek to teach. In that case, you too need correction.
- Let the Word speak for itself. State your position, but do it properly from the Word. "I'm not sure where the Bible says it, but it does" is insufficient. A doctrine without the Bible can quickly become only an opinion.
- Offer to meet and study the topic more—with a willingness on your part to learn as well. Consider inviting another believer (perhaps a pastor) to join you. Be teachable as you teach, correctable as you correct and humble as you lead.
- Keep studying. None of us know everything. Continually learning not only grows us, but it also has a way of keeping us humble.
What are your suggestions?
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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