By Katie Pearson
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3–6
One of the themes addressed most often in the New Testament is the danger of false teaching—or communicating anything but the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. In 1 Timothy 1:3, 4:1–3, and 6:3–5, Paul returns to this inherent danger that was present in every church he planted. Because of so many other influences vying for the hearts and minds of people in Paul’s day and ours, knowing the truth and sharing it is arguably a servant leader’s highest priority.
In our day, we may not come face-to-face with teachers possessed by demonic spirits, but false teaching comes in many dangerous forms. One of the most common challenges for servant leaders is confronting believers who love Jesus but are following their own version of Christianity. You may converse with individuals who are drawn to faith but opposed to Jesus as the only way to salvation. When it comes to the Gospel, even a half-truth is still a lie. Paul makes clear that ultimately, it’s a life-or-death situation: salvation is at stake.
One helpful strategy I have learned over my years leading ministries is to focus more on what I do believe than what I don’t. In other words, I am for the true faith more than I am against the multitude of other opinions and beliefs in the world. First, this approach helps me avoid dead-end arguments and further division, which Paul warns us about. It also doesn’t require me to spend an inordinate amount of time learning the nuances of various viewpoints. While there may be specific situations when it’s helpful, as with missionaries living in foreign cultures, a lot of time is wasted trying to understand a false theology. There is also the risk of false teaching confusing my own conscience.
Effective leadership is often like walking a tightrope, but remember that the Holy Spirit is ultimately the one who can convict those wandering from the truth. Make sure your life and doctrine align with the Lord and be willing to address false teaching directly with grace and truth. Then spend time praying for the false teachers’ salvation. In Ephesus, false teaching was a major problem, yet Paul instructed the leadership to make every effort to keep the unity through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Be a leader who is for Jesus in every circumstance to win hearts, minds, and souls for the kingdom of God.
Reflection: Spend some time with the Lord asking him this: Lord Jesus, author and perfecter of my faith, please help reflect the truth of who you are and what you have done for all people. Give me courage to go on the offensive in sharing the good news and be the peace that invites people to come home to you. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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