Addressing the Threat of Heresy in House Churches and Small Groups

What are we actually afraid of, and what can be done about it?

When teaching about the organic church, a question I am asked more than any other is how we handle the threat of heresy. The common understanding is something like this: if we rely upon uneducated leaders and teachers, won't we allow heresy to run rampant in our churches? Of course this is a risk, but I believe there are simple ways to lower the risk of such an infection.

A healthy body with a strong immune system fights off infection better than a sick one. It is a natural function of the body inherent in its very makeup. And I suggest there is a better immune system for the body of Christ than the one we have been comfortable with for so long.

What Is the True Threat?

In reality there is not a way to eliminate heresy 100 percent from the church. Jesus told us that there would always be false teachers (Matthew 24:4-5, 11). The enemy is a liar (John 8:44) and he works in clandestine ways to infiltrate our ranks (Jude 4, 10-13). If the liar can input something other than truth into our minds, then he can keep us from being all that the resurrected Christ intended for us. Ironically, I fear he has succeeded to do just that—under the banner of avoiding false doctrine.

The best solution to heresy in the church is not to have better-trained leaders in the pulpits, but better-trained people in the pews. While many will say that the key to better-trained people are leaders who equip them, this unfortunately is most often not the reality. It is true that we need better leaders who empower and equip common Christians to know the truth, spread the Word, and do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11), but that is very different than the sort of leaders who screen all beliefs and are the gatekeepers of God's Word. As long as our leaders are considered the gatekeepers of truth, we leave the majority of God's people in the dark—which makes them susceptible to leaders who do the thinking for them, because that is what they have been trained to do. It is ironic that the very thing we think will prevent heresy actually feeds the problem.

There is no gatekeeper for God's Word. While the apostle Paul was behind bars, held in place by a keeper of the gate, he said these words: "the Word of God is not imprisoned" (2 Timothy 2:9). I do not need to protect God's Word, it protects me! People have been attacking God's Word in every generation. Entire empires have launched full-scale war against God's Word and fallen, yet the truth of God's Word stands. The thought that God's Word needs my help is truly foolish. Men have not kept God's Word pure; it is God's Word that has kept men pure. We are sadly lost if we ever lose sight of this fact. We need God's Word more than it needs us.

The Word of God in the hands of his people is not a dangerous thing! Such an idea just reeks of Satan, does it not? Why are we afraid of such a thing? Keeping the Word out of "regular" people's hands is a very dangerous practice, which is something we need to repent of immediately! Good men and women throughout history have lost their lives for the right of others to have God's Word freely. Let us not cheapen their sacrifice.

Are men capable of twisting the Word of God to suit their own purposes? Of course they are, and of course they will. Satan has done that from the very beginning and he will not stop until he is doing laps in the lake of fire. However, I do not put my trust in men; I put my trust in God and his Word. Do we actually think that the way to protect the church from human frailties is to make sure that they rely on other frail men to think for them? That is like trying to solve a problem with more of a problem. It is like trying to put out a fire with a bucket of kerosene.

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