By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
Back in 2010, my wife and I were considering buying a house, and a realtor helped us with the process. When I told him that we prefer yards without fences, he said “Fences make good neighbors.” I knew what he meant: a fenced yard makes for less potential conflicts with neighbors because the fence helps keeps everyone in their proper place by preventing neighbors from encroaching on one another’s property.
Well, churches need spiritual fences, so to speak. They need fences made of commitment to Biblical doctrines and Biblical morality. Such fences will keep those who do not believe in the infallibility of the Bible’s doctrines and its morality from encroaching on a church’s spiritual property. By which I mean, when a church is committed to the Bible as the Word of God, and when it teaches what the Bible teaches on many subjects, those who oppose Biblical teaching will understand that they should not attend such a church. Such persons will understand that their views contradict what a Bible-believing church stands for, and so they need to attend one with which they agree.
Furthermore, Bible-believing Christians need to be taught that Bible-believing churches need to have spiritual fences that will help protect them from those who do not accept Biblical truth, and who would, therefore, encroach on their spiritual property in order to influence the Bible-believers to abandon their committment to Biblical truth. We need to understand that Satan sends his agents to Bible-believing churches for that very purpose. They might be very warm and friendly persons, but they are sent by Satan to attack churches from within. Such persons will look for those with whom they can share their unbiblical views concerning doctrines and morals. They might do this right on the church’s property, or by visiting with church-goers away from the church’s property. They will use different means of carrying out their agenda.
Pastors can help protect their congregations from these Satanic attacks by preaching and teaching the great themes of the Bible. This requires emphasizing what the Bible says on fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, and what it says about Biblical morality. By this means, the people will become well-taught in sound doctrine and godly living. As pastors do this, they are keeping their church’s fences in good repair. Pastors can also help protect their congregations by being careful to look into what new attendees think on various Biblical subjects. Such persons need to prove themselves to be stable, and committed to Biblical truth, and to not have a hidden agenda. And pastors certainly should not allow new attendees to quickly join the church and to quickly have positions of influence in the church. By doing these things, pastors will help keep problems from developing in the church.
But it is not only the attacks of Satan’s agents from which churches must be protected. Even well-meaning, dedicated Christians can be problems to churches. Such persons, though of good character, sometimes have doctrinal views that contradict what a church stands for. And, perhaps without meaning to do so, they can become divisive by attempting to spread their views among the members of the church. Zeal for their views can cloud their good judgment.
Therefore, unless a Bible-believing church is purposely interdenominational, so long as the fundamentals of the faith are believed, it must not allow diverse doctrines to take root in the church. In other words, the only way for a church to maintain its doctrinal distinctives is by emphasizing those distinctives. People must be taught to attend a church with which they agree on many points. For example, they must be taught to attend a church that supports their view on doctrines such as baptism, the Lord’s supper, Bible translations, eternal security, charismatic gifts, the role of women in the church, Bible prophecy, and church music. When Christians attend churches of like faith, it is much more conducive to church harmony, and their own personal happiness. But if they try to fit in where they don’t belong they can become sources of strife.
Now, if a well-meaning and dedicated Christian begins to attend a Bible-believing church with which he or she strongly disagrees on some important points, and that man or woman attempts to bring their beliefs into the church, what should be done? The pastors of the church should tell such persons that their views are not compatible with the church’s official views, and that, therefore, they need to keep their views to themselves, or find a church of like faith. For example, I know a man who adheres to what is called hyper-dispensationalism, which has been popularized by C. R. Stam. This brother in Christ began attending our church services, and tried to influence one of our deacons and me to accept hyper-dispensationalism. I told him our church does not accept hyper-dispensationalism, and that we do not want it promoted in our church, and that he, therefore, needed to find a church with which he was doctrinally compatible. It took some time for him to accept what I told him, but he has moved on to another church. This is better for him and for us.
Another important thing to keep in mind is the fact that all Bible study material used in the church, including Bible studies made up by members of a church, must be analyzed by the church’s pastor/pastors and anyone else designated for this job, before the material is allowed to be used at church-sponsored functions. In other words, the church’s leaders must oversee what is being taught. False doctrines and doctrines that contradict a church’s official positions have been brought into churches by well-meaning members because this oversight has been neglected.
If you need to get acquainted with the Bible’s emphasis on the importance of sound doctrine and morality, for starters, read through Acts chapter 20, verses 17 – 38, Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the pastoral letters, 1st Peter 5:1 – 4, 2nd Peter, and John’s three letters.
That realtor was right: “Fences make good neighbors.”