This post is a direct response to a quote that seems to be making its way around the internet by a famous charismatic pastor out of Redding, California named Bill Johnson. Bill Johnson is the lead pastor of Bethel Church and also involved in Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry along with many others within the conference scene around the globe. I have read two of Bill’s books, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind and When Heaven Invades Earth and I have also have access to the Supernatural School of Ministry material by way of the DVD package they sell to churches that want to share their teachings. (Currently this manual is in my closet, collecting dust)
I have to say that I both honor and appreciate lots of what Bill Johnson is contending for when it comes to issues of revival, healing and the Kingdom of God. So please, if your reading this, don’t categorize me as someone who is bashing Bill Johnson. I have heard several people around the internet promote a quote that he made regarding the importance of relationships over doctrine and I would like to pose a few points as to why doctrine matters and why we should not sacrifice sound teaching for the sake of relationships. Here is his quote:
“For centuries the people of God have gathered together around specific truths. Denominations and organizations have been formed to unite these groups of believers….For the last several years people have started to gather around fathers instead of doctrine.” (These quotes are taken from his article on Apostolic Teams.)
First I’d like to point out the context of the article and the comments. Bill clearly points out some things that people miss when they hear this quote. Bill is not saying that sound doctrine is not important, nor is he saying that relationships should take precedence over sound doctrine. He also points out in his article that God never says anything “new” or outside of what is already revealed in Scripture. He also highlights the difference between essential doctrines and those that are peripheral. (speaking in tongues, healing, gifts of the Spirit). Many of those who are quoting this, need to realize that this is not a license to throw sound doctrine out the window for the sake of unity. In fact, most of those who are promoting this idea are in fact bringing division themselves by making mountains out of the non-essential matters of faith like gifts of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and so on! So, why is doctrine important?
1. Scripture clearly warns the church to avoid and stay away from those who do not hold to sound doctrine. These are just some of what Scripture teaches us:
(1 Timothy 4:16) “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
(2 Timothy 4:3) “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
(Titus 1:9) qualifications of a church leader…”He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
(Titus 2:1) “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”
2. Unsound teaching leads to unsound lives. Ever hear the saying “garbage in, garbage out?” What you feed yourself with, will be what ends up manifesting in your life. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met, particularly in charismatic circles, who have unsound lives. This is evident by running from conference to conference looking for the next prophetic word, inability to hold a job, family issues, lack of love and compassion and financial problems. Yet, strangely these people can prophesy till the cows come home and speak in tongues like a parrot.
3. True apostolic churches pursue true apostolic doctrine. The definition of apostle does not mean that you can make up any teaching or doctrine that is given by an angel or otherwise. We do not have the liberty to teach anything outside of what the apostles taught, which directly came from the teachings of Jesus himself. If we think we know better than the Apostles of the Lamb, then I think we need a reality check.
4. The truth is in a lot of ways apostolic networks and gathering around “fathers” is not much different than a denomination. There are hierarchical structures within these networks, they are organized with headquarters, programs and are centered around non-essential truths that create walls toward people who might disagree with their emphasis just like denominations do. I know first hand of people who are labeled “religious” or even considered demonized who disagree with some of these non-essential matters. As Bill Johnson said in his article, these matters may be important to a certain faith community, but they do not classify as “sound doctrine” and should continue to be discussed and debated until we are able to find our convictions.
For the sake of length I’ll end here. I hope those reading this article will re-think the importance of sound teaching and pursue after what is both the Spirit of Christ and found in the Word of God. It’s not only important that we test all things and hold them to the light of Scripture, but it is our duty.