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Should Christians Accept the Leadership of Heretical or Apostate Pastors and Ministers?

Perhaps you have this serious spiritual problem:You believe that your local minister, pastor, priest, or deacon has departed from the faith.What should be done?Should Christians accept the spiritual leadership of apostate church leaders, even if they are perfectly nice and faithful to their wives?If so, you have a very uncomfortable position if a majority of the members of your local church knowingly voted in favor of putting a known apostate into a position of authority in your local church.Or, it could be the denominational authorities moved around ministers and pastors, and dropped an apostate who (say) denies the miracles of Jesus and Moses, thinks homosexual sex is fine, and affirms the theory of evolution into your local pulpit.Such a member should be disfellowshiped instead of being put into a position of authority if that is possible.A bigger problem arises when the leadership of your church is being is taken over than when some laymembers are doctrinally corrupt.Your local group may well be apostate, even when a minority of laymembers still disagree with the direction of the majority and/or the leadership.


Now, if your group is part of a larger denomination, you should be able to appeal up the chain of command.Can the local pastor or a board of pastors or a bishop be appealed to in order to remove this man from your local church?However, I would only recommend going over the head of this deacon to higher authorities (as per Matt. 18:15-16) after in private telling this deacon that you intend to do this.Give him a warning that you plan to do this.Even bring in one or two others who agree with you about this on another occasion, if he'll accept another meeting about the situation. 


        But suppose your pastor is the final authority humanly in your (independent) group continues to accept this man and the Matt. 18:15+ process yields no changes concerning removing this deacon.Then you're faced directly with the unpleasant issues raised in Ernest Pickering's "Biblical Separation:  The Struggle for a Pure Church."  Although this book is largely a traditional Christian church history, and focuses on the problems on large Protestant denominations, like the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist Churches, its principles still are applicable elsewhere, such as in much smaller groups.  We should separate ourselves from apostasy when it's clear that the apostasy can't be evicted from or silenced in the group we're with, and form a new group.  I'm well aware that this message may be very unpleasant for many to hear, for you may have many longstanding friends and family members in the group you're attending. 

There can be good reasons for church splits and divisions that one side or the other has good reasons for causing.  Consider this:  Should true Christians stay unified with other "Christians" who are in fact apostates, who deny fundamental doctrines of the faith?  Can there be real spiritual unity between such people even when they are housed under the same denominational label or local church?  The apparent physical and organizational unity covers up the spiritual reality of division.  Paul states a key principle that allows for schisms by Christians seeking to protect the teaching of true doctrines that would be obscured or even censored by staying in a group that has many others in positions of power (as missionaries, pastors, bishops, seminary professors, etc.) who deny them in I Cor. 6:14-17:  "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord, and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you." 

Just because someone says he is a "Christian," and uses that label to describe himself, doesn't mean he is.  Instead, doctrinal tests may be imposed that reveal someone is actually an unbeliever, an apostate, an infidel.  For example, should those who deny Jesus is God be in the same organization as those who aren't?  What about those who deny His Virgin Birth and the miracles of the Old and New Testaments:  Should those who affirm these miracles stay in the same house as those who deny them?  What about those who deny Jesus' sacrifice provided a blood atonement that's necessary to be accepted by faith to be saved?  If they still call themselves "Christians," should true believers deceive themselves into thinking such liberal theological types are really "Christians"?  The theological/doctrinal conservatives should be willing to pack their bags and leave if the liberals can't be evicted from positions of power and influence within their organization. 

Similarly, notice Babylon the Great, which represents a great apostate church.  (I believe it represents Roman Catholicism, since the woman, who represents a church in prophecy, rides the Beast, which is the Roman Empire, both anciently and during its periodical resurrections).  The faithful are told to leave her:  "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, 'Come out of her, my people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues.'"  (Rev. 18:4)  It can be a spiritual duty to leave a false church, and thus cause a schism, when it concerns key doctrines, not minor issues. 

For more on this general subject, inquirers may want to research Charles H. Spurgeon and the famous "Down-grade" controversy.  Ernest Pickering's "Biblical Separation:  The Struggle for a Pure Church" heavily influences what is written here.  He does go through a good amount of church history, going back to Augustine, on this general issue.

Eric Snow


Click here to access essays that defend Christianity:  /apologetics.html

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Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm

May Christians work on Saturdays? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Protestant Rhetoric vs Sabbath Refuted.htm

Should Christians obey the Old Testament law? /doctrinalhtml/Does the New Covenant Abolish the OT Law.htm

Do you have an immortal soul? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Here and Hereafter.htm

Does the ministry have authority? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is There an Ordained Ministry vs Edwards.html

Is the United States the Beast? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Are We the Beast vs Collins.htm

Should you give 10% of your income to your church? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the Argument from Silence Abolish the Old Testament Law of Tithing 0205 Mokarow rebuttal.htm

Is Jesus God? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is Jesus God.htm

Will there be a third resurrection? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Will There Be a Third Resurrection.htm



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