I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert… (Acts 20:29-31)
I’m writing this letter to you. Yes YOU, Guy-In-The-Ill-Fitting-Suit who corralled me in the hallway after church last Sunday. Our conversation got a little awkward about the time I told you that I suspected you might be a wolf. Understandably, you recoiled at such a statement. I wouldn’t want to make such a claim without good evidence. So here are five reasons why you are (probably) a wolf. [For those readers new to such things, a “wolf” is another biblical word for a false teacher (see also 2 Peter 2, 2 Timothy 3:1-9). The problem with wolves is that they often wear sheep’s clothing, which makes them hard to spot.]
- No Local Church Connection. When I asked you what church you belonged to, you said that instead of being part of a local church, God had given you a “ministry” broader than any local church. When I asked you what elder authority you were under, you gave me the business card of an “apostle” in Kansas. That doesn’t make you a wolf, but it starts to smell fishy. Hebrews 10:25: “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
- No Flock of Which You Are a Shepherd. I asked you what local flock you shepherd – what people you’re spiritually leading and feeding. You answered that your “ministry” was on Cox local-access cable. I told you that was a bullhorn, but not a flock. I pointed you to 1 Peter 5:4, where God clearly commands elders to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you” – implying that a biblical pastor has a definable group of people he’s responsible for. You told me again about your ministry on cable and on the internet, which sounds suspiciously like what someone would do if they were seeking to gather a following and “draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).
- The King-James-Only Thing. I love the King James Bible. It’s one of the most influential books in literary history. But if you’re a King-James-only person, that generally means you’re a conspiracy theorist. (There’s a whole internet subculture of these folks.) Which means you likely a) haven’t learned to sort out issues of primary importance from issues of secondary importance; b) may not actually know much about the textual history of the Bible; and c) like to find conspiracy wherever you can, because it keeps the gig alive. So of course, the theory that you’ve been falsely labeled as a wolf, that historic Christian churches are actually the ones in the wrong, and that you are “a voice crying in the wilderness” works to your advantage. The best conspiracy theories, of course, are always plausible. That’s what makes them work.
- The “Word from the Lord” Thing. When someone says they have a “word from the Lord” for me, I immediately have two reactions. The first is reverence. The second is skepticism. Reverence, because this is high and holy stuff we’re talking about. I believe the Bible. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe God does send words of prophetic insight. So I want to hear and respond. Skepticism, because I’ve been doing this long enough to know that false teachers love to operate under the guise of a “word from the Lord.” After all, you’ve gotta be a really skilled false teacher to actually wrangle over the words of the biblical text. The dangers of running into a pastor who knows Greek and Hebrew are just too great. The simpler road is to just stick with the “word from the Lord” thing. You played that card well.
- The “That Pastor Has Demons” Thing. I respect healthy debate. Some would even say I chase after it. I am invigorated by earnest, no-holds-barred pursuit of truth. So I’m all for a good thoughtful disagreement about anything I’ve said, or about anything anyone else has said. I generally find that good pastors follow Paul’s instruction to Timothy as they discuss theological matters: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Therefore, when someone is quarrelsome, unable to teach, impatient when contradicted, and brittle and harsh in his treatment of those who oppose, it’s generally a sign of a) immaturity or b) wolfiness. (I made that word up). Wolves, after all, aren’t out to lead the sheep toward green pastures; they’re out to satisfy their own hunger. You seem to have a hunger for controversy. So when you said that Mark Driscoll has demons… well, that was kind of the last straw for me. I mean… really? I disagree with a few things Mark Driscoll has said. I’m pretty sure even Mark Driscoll wouldn’t defend everything he’s ever said. But being wrong is different than being demon-possessed.
For these five reasons, I submit that you are a wolf. But I tell you what: I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you’re not a wolf; maybe you’re just misguided. Paul warned Timothy about men who “have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:6-7). You definitely make confident assertions. And you seem to want to be a teacher of the Law. So if you’re not actually a wolf, but just a man given to fruitless discussion, I invite you to a rational, patient, reasonable dialogue about the truth of Scripture. The place for that is not in the hallway on a Sunday morning, but in my study, where we can open up the Bible together and I can “explain the way of God to you more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Or you can do so with me. We can even work from the King James if it will make you more comfortable.