How do you approach your pastor (of five years) and tell him that he has not been in line with the Word of God? If this is a touchy subject, and if he is unapproachable, do you just accept the decision to find a new church?
How do you approach your pastor if he is teaching error? It is very difficult to approach a pastor about his preaching for several reasons. First, most pastors are convinced their doctrine is correct and like they the way they preach. That is the first reason it can be very difficult to approach a pastor about error in his teaching.
Second, in most churches there will be those who strongly support the pastor and believe he is a wonderful preacher or teacher, even if he is not. Some people have low standards for forming their opinions and lack informed knowledge of the Scriptures. There are often two camps in a church. One group is more committed to the accuracy of Scripture than the other group. Every pastor has supporters. Typically pastors, like most people, are closed to hearing any criticism. When criticized, they may contact a supporter and ask for their opinion. We can only guess how the supporter will respond. Fourth, sometimes the issue is such an emotional one that the issue is obscured or lost when one or both parties are offended during the attempt to communicate.
Approach the Pastor with Gentleness
It is with these thoughts in mind, that 2 Timothy 2:24-26 is helpful. The apostle Paul wrote this advice to a pastor-friend named Timothy. He said,
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, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NASB)
Paul’s advice in dealing with quarrelsome people and those who are in opposition, including those guilty of teaching error, is to be gentle. Paul also gave similar advice to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:1-2. He wrote,
Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 (NASB)
Paul encourages Timothy to not sharply rebuke an older man or older woman. We are also told to treat younger men and women as brothers and sisters. The key thought is to not sharply rebuke. Paul warns us to be gentle in our dealings with everyone, including false teachers. In the situation we are discussing, that includes pastors who teach error.
How to Approach a Pastor Teaching Error
If you think a pastor is teaching error or false doctrine, you must do your homework and attempt to determine if his teaching agrees with Scripture. If eventually you are convinced he is teaching error, then you must approach the pastor about his error.
Ask to meet with him. Start by gently telling him your concerns. Be respectful and do not rebuke him. Give him an opportunity to explain himself. Every pastor does not and cannot include all the potential facts in a sermon. This can result in misunderstanding and sometimes the listener is not knowledgeable enough to realize that the teacher or preacher is speaking the truth. Some of our churches are very weak when it comes to teaching. Listen to his explanations, but do not make any commitments or statements of apology or condemnation during or at the close of the meeting, unless you are convinced he was correct and that you had made a judgment error. After the meeting, you will have an opportunity to reflect on what was said. Then you might want to return for another visit.
Do Not Let False Teachers Teach Error
Next, if the pastor confirms that he is in error, then you must follow the teaching of 1 Timothy 5:19-21. The next step is to have another person, maybe a church leader, join you when you return to speak with the pastor about his error. Then follow the process. If the pastor refuses to correct his error or the leadership refuses to address the issue and you still believe that the pastor is in sin after all of the discussion, then it is time to leave. It is time to leave because the leadership has failed to act. May the Lord bless you.
Various articles in our Leadership section, should be helpful. Also the articles “What does a Christian do when their pastor is sinning and will not repent?” and “Should I leave this church?” will help.