01.22.14

Helping Them Out: Thinking About Loved Ones Still in Places of Error

One of the most difficult realities in coming to the truth is the thought of leaving someone behind in error. This becomes extremely difficult when that someone is very close to you, like parents, siblings, or good friends. I’m not referring to people who are not Christians. I’m referring to people you believe to have been genuinely converted and who are godly, yet remain part of a church steeped in false teaching. This was the case with Leython Williams who came to truth having grown up in Oneness Pentecostalism. You can listen to his account in podcasts I did with him.

Have you ever had mixed emotions when embracing truth? You’re excited on one hand, because of God’s graciousness in bringing you to a better understanding of Him and His Word. But on the other hand, you’re troubled because family members and friends are still either being strung along by some prosperity preacher or deceived by a cleverly cloaked Oneness pastor.

If you’re anything like me, when you came to a better understanding of Scripture the first thing you did was run straight to those you love, and with overflowing with exuberance you told them of your new found truth. Maybe not in the most coherent fashion — but you told them — longing for them to see truth as you did and come along with you at that very moment. Unfortunately it does not always happen that way. As a matter of fact in more cases than not, they remain where they are and sometimes go even deeper (in your estimation) in the error.

“The first thing you did was run straight to those you love”

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about loved ones still in error. My thoughts have been driven by spending time in the Pastorals and by the recent conversations I had with my brother Leython; just a short time ago came out of Oneness Pentecostalism. What’s a brother or sister to do who loves their family members and friends and who desires to see them waking in truth ()?

I have some suggestions, not hard fast rules of engagement. These are simply some ways I have attempted to flesh out . I realize I am not exhausting the subject. This is The Front Porch, so let’s talk about it. I’ll run down some of my thoughts and you can do the same in the comments below.

Commit to The Long Haul

Helping someone come away from a false teaching Church could take a very long time, I’m talking years. Many reasons drive our impatience with loves ones in error. I sense that our hurriedness is often what causes loved ones to turn a deaf ear to our words. Helping someone out of error requires a marathon mentality.

Some come out quickly, most do not. God in His sovereignty and in His own time brought you to truth. If He wills, He will do the same for your loved one, on His timetable, not yours. This is where gospel singer Dottie Peoples is helpful, “He’s an on time God, yes He is”!

Be Mindful of Their Particular Situation

Dealing with folks who are members of places of error is not cookie cutter or a one-size-fits-all business. Each case has to be prayerfully examined and pursued according to its peculiar circumstance.

For example, your family member or friend could be a part of good church gone bad. This might have occurred either by leadership changing its position or a change in leadership itself. Their long time pastor might have gone to some conference, read some book, or is succumbing to the influence of long-time colleagues who have gone off the rails. Perhaps your loved one’s pastor died or resigned and since the new guy came things have changed. This happens often in the kind of Black Baptist churches I grew up in, simply because of the autonomous nature of the church.

You must remember, your family member or friend loves their church and has lifetime relationships with some of the families. They have invested a lot of time and resources in their church community. They serve their church faithfully and give to it consistently. Leaving it would mean a serious tear in their own hearts and in many relationships they have had for a long time. Leython faced this dilemma. What I’m calling for is nothing short of gentleness. If you rush right in with little to no regard for their situation you will likely not  help them out; you will likely find yourself with one less relationship.

Talk to Them, Don’t Teach Them

You ever met someone who makes you feel like they’re always teaching you something? It’s impossible to sit down and have a simple conversation with them. They’re the teacher and you’re the pupil. It can be a very exhausting experience.

Please don’t make your loved one sense that every time you come around there’s going to be a Bible study, hand outs, and all. Just simply talk to them. You’re a Christian and they’re a Christian, so talk. It might be time for you to develop the ability of talking to people about Christ without always lecturing them on Christ. If you must get your lecture on, start a small group or something. Folks who are always teaching when they talk to you get on your nerves. Imagine what it causes in loved ones who already know you have made some doctrinal changes. Get together with them consistently and simply have some conversation.

Resist the Need to Win a Doctrinal or Biblical Argument

I know that sometimes family members or close friends who lack biblical knowledge — especially if they are long-time Christians — can be frustrating. You feel like they should at least know some basic Christian truths. One word leads to the next and before you know it you just want to “tighten up their heads” (get them told or straighten them out). Rest assured you will “get them told,” but in most cases, from that point on, they will not hear anything else you have to say. You would have won the theological argument, while at the same time leaving your loved one in error.

Talk About Truth, Not About Their Pastor or Church.

Okay, you know their pastor is a false teacher. The evidence is clear. He’s been exposed on many occasions. It seems everyone knows it but your loved one. However, if you want to offend your loved one quick, fast, and in a hurry, start running down their pastor or church. Let me share two very important lessons you will need to learn or be reminded of.

  1. Most African-American people love and respect their pastor. This is why you will find it rare in the Black church for members to address their pastor by his first name. Sometimes it’s a mere thoughtless formality, but most of the time it’s downright respect. So please know they are not going to take to kindly to you running in with your newfound theology calling out their pastor. If they love him, you are in for the fight of your life. If they simply respect him, it might not be as bad, but you will still be in a fight. Again, we are not talking about whether he’s right or wrong, because you won’t get that far. So, on the front end at least, keep the conversation off of their pastor. Focus instead on the truth of Scripture. Remember you’re talking to a loved one, not teaching a class on apologetics.
  2. People take critiques of their church very personal. This is one reality well-meaning, doctrinally-sound, reformed, Calvinistic, etc. brothers and sisters seem to forget. We forget that when we critique the doctrine of someone’s church we are critiquing their doctrine as well. When we say their church is in error due to false teaching we are saying they are living in error too. After all, they are faithful members of said church. We must remember, our ability to identify error in our loved ones’ church informs them (indirectly) of their inability to identify error in their own church. “How are you going to come in and tell me something about my house?” Can’t you see their heels digging in? Can’t you hear them humming the tune, “I Shall Not Be, I Shall Not Be Moved”?

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you overlook unqualified church leadership or marginalize false doctrine in the churches of your loved ones. I’m merely seeking a kind, patient, and gentle approach, ().

Focusing on the truth will ultimately allow its light to shine upon your loved one’s disqualified pastor, erroneous church doctrine, and practice. The truth will bring light to them and give insight about their current church situation. If you continue in the relationship for the long haul, there will be myriads of opportunities to address their false teacher and corrupt doctrine head on, Lord willing.

Listen for Understanding, Not for Exact Doctrinal Quotations from Statements of Faith, Creeds, Theologians etc.

Most reformed African-Americans have been exposed to the Confessions, Catechisms and Creeds. These are all very important documents. Our church is confessional. We’ve also read many outstanding works by men of great insight. Sometimes in our circles it’s cool to throw out a quote or two from some renown theologian. Many of us are proficient at what “so-and-so” said, right?

“Focusing on the truth will ultimately allow its light to shine…”

I suggest you jettison all that when you are seeking to help a loved one out of error. They don’t know Owen or Piper. They have no knowledge of the Westminster, Savoy, Heidelberg, London 1689, Longer or Shorter Catechism. We should become proficient at hearing truth from them, not formulas. Actually, the clearer we are on the formulas, the better qualified we should be to know whether or not a person understands it in their own language. The real question is not can the person quote the article, instead does the person know the truth contained in the article. If you are in it for the long haul and the Lord is willing, you will have ample opportunities to catechize them. This is especially true if your loved one is a member of a Black Baptist Church which utilizes the National Baptist Hymnal with the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith, 1833 in the back.

Finally, as Leython said at the close of part two of the podcast, be prayerful. Praying for your loved one reminds you that the Lord is the One Who changes hearts. He is the Sovereign One Who “may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,” ().

These are just some thoughts. But since we are on The Front Porch, what say you?

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. (ESV)

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (ESV)

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (ESV)

25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (ESV)

Louis Love
Louis Love serves as the pastor of New Life Fellowship Church, which he planted in 1997. Joyfully married, Louis and his wife, Jamie, have three adult children and ten grandchildren.

C’mon Up!

  • Tony Carter

    Very helpful Lou! You and Leython were both clear and gracious in our podcast discussion. This article helps to put those discussion in their biblical and theological context. Thanks, my man.

    • Louis Love

      Thanks Carter, it’s a joy serving with you, my brother.

  • Vince

    Awesome! Thank you for such a timely article. It hit home! OUCH! Thanks for putting so many of our heartfelt desire to ‘set our friends free’ back in context with the word instead of our ‘overzealousnessness’ (Hmm, is that a word?)

    • Louis Love

      Hey Vince.
      You’re on the porch, you can say “overzealousnessness” , cause we know what you mean, brother.

      • Vince

        Amen! Sooo, is there a way to e-mail the article to some frineds. I sent them a link about the front porch last year. I didn’t get any responses – but hopefully some seeds will sprout =).

        • IsaacOnThePorch

          Hey Vince,

          We’re working on getting that feature added. Like every porch we gotta repaint and nail some of the boards back down — be on the lookout for that! For now I suggest just emailing the links. There’s sharing buttons for Facebook/Twitter above. Thanks for coming up on the porch.

          • Vince

            Thanks Isaac!

  • http://www.truthendures.com/ Nathan Derichsweiler

    Thank you! This is very helpful. I had to find info regarding this. As a young convert to Reformed Theology I made many of the mistakes you mentioned. Many times I wondered, “why aren’t they listening?”. When in actuality it was because I was simply being an unloving jerk. 2 Tim offers great wisdom as you mentioned above. Pray for me as I continue to engaged loved ones and friends that are in churches filled with error.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Nathan;
      Praying for you, brother. Pray for me. Lord knows I made and sometimes continue to make many of the mistakes.I mentioned.

      Trusting the Lord will give you much fruit as you continue to engage your loved ones.

  • http://donnie-bryant.com/ Donnie Bryant

    Very helpful, very timely article.

    What tips would you give to someone who’s spouse is on the ministry team of a church that’s becoming increasingly influenced by Word of Faith teaching — when attending separate churches doesn’t seem like an option because of the damage it wreaks at home?

    Thanks, Louis (and everyone). I LOVE hanging out on the Front Porch!

    • Louis Love

      Hey Donnie:
      Glad you’re loving the Porch.

      A lot of churches are venturing down the Word of Faith path. Sooo sad!
      Man, that’s a tough one, especially not being familiar with their family situation. I would encourage them to spend time together in the Scriptures (Family Worship) and recommend to them some good resources to use that will help them see the error and pray diligently for them.

      Stay close, you might be the one the spouse will hear.

      Praying the Lord will reveal truth to that family.

  • jeremy jackson

    Wonderful article, I just love to glean from this website. You brothers have hit the nail on the head with this.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Jeremy:
      Welcome on the porch. I’m thanking God the site is useful to you. Thanks for the encouragement, my brother.

      Come up again real soon.

      • jeremy jackson

        Brother Louis I would love to here you guys take on worship as far as singing, seeing how there is an obvious cultural difference in traditional black churches and and your reformed or just white churches. Growing up being edified by our way of praising I know feel sometimes as if we are looked upon as “doing to much”. I for one miss the traditional worship but I love the word more. Cant wait to here your response.

        God bless

        • Louis Love

          Hey Jeremy:
          You’re right, music/singing is one of those areas of concern for many African American embracing reformed theology and moving outside of their cultural context.

          Growing up in a traditional Black church, I also longed for the beauty of the style and sound of singing I was accustomed to, i.e. the Hammond B3 with the big Leslie speaker, man it doesn’t get any better. I also come from a long line of “sangin” relatives.

          This is one of the areas I think the recovery of Reformed Theology among African Americans is so vital. For the last several years at our Annual Conference, I bring in my Aunt to handle some hymns. It is refreshing. We also have Wyeth Duncan as the Worship leader. He does an excellent job of blending songs and styles from across many cultures.It is a wonderful time of worship in song.

          If you’re ever in Atlanta, check out East Point Church with my man Carter. Their worship leader Allan Bynoe sets the standard for beautiful songs of the faith blending many cultures and styles. Plus Carter or Phil is going to bring the truth like crazy.

          So I said all that to say, we don’t have to abandon everything because we embrace Reformed Theology. As a matter of fact, some of the Reformed Churches I have visited could use a little Hammond b3 sound :-).

          Forgive the shameless plug about our Annual Conference, it was intentional.

          • Fran G

            This post scratches the surface for my family’s recent challenge. We’ve been exposed to Reformed theology through online resources, books and friends and have embraced it. However, our effort to “come out” of our traditional Black church has left us dazed and confused! We’ve been visiting Reformed churches but feel completely disconnected culturally (music being part of it). We often feel like we have to choose between sound doctrine and cultural relevance. We live in NJ. Obviously, teaching is very important to us, so while we have crossed over theologically, are hearts do break at the thought of abandoning the unique richness offered by AA worship & preaching style and culture (holding hands at the altar during prayer, call and response “Amen! Preach pastor!”, dancing, loud singing, joy etc). We love Black church culture practiced in truth! We just haven’t been able to find any churches where we’re not the only AA family and the church culture is completely foreign. Any suggestions?

          • Louis Love

            Hey Fran G
            Thanks for coming up on the porch. Your situation is all too common with AA embracing reformed truth. There’s really no easy answer for your dilemma.I wish there were all kinds (styles and cultures) of reformed churches you could choose from in NJ.

            How long has it been since you’ve embraced reformed theology? How well do you think you understand it? Are you or your spouse able to teach? Do you or your spouse have teaching responsibilities at your church? Does your church flat out oppose reformed theology? Is your current Church in serious error, i.e. Word of Faith, Prosperity, Oneness, etc.?

            I’m asking these questions because I hesitate to give a cookie cutter response, i.e “yawl just need to leave”.

            We need to bring reformed theology to more AA churches. Some families depending upon their situations are missionaries to the Black church.

            We had a family attending our Sunday evening service and our Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible Study. He was a deacon and SS school teacher at his traditional AA Baptist Church. They even supported our ministry financially. He took what he learned right back to that congregation. There are a lot of AA families just like that.

            What about your family?

          • Fran G

            Thanks for the reply! I was intro’d to reformed theology abt 10yrs ago as a newly converted Christian. I wld attend early svc at my female pastor led AA church and then head over to the later service at the small AA reformed church. Even at that time, I felt like I enjoyed the best of both worlds! Strong teaching at the small reformed church, but amazing praise & worship experience and emphasis on holy living. Ffwd several yrs, now married, 2 small children, and in NJ. My hubs is able to teach and we both intro’d reformed thought through our church’s YA min. However, it will prob end there. The things we look for in a church (complimentarian, expository preaching, biblical stance on divorce & remarriage) seem like impossible changes to make at our current church. The roots of egalitarian leadership, episcopal authority, and social gospel focus run DEEP! Im confident that leadership wld give a resounding YES if asked “Are the Scriptures the final authority?” But in practice… not so much. I would love for my children to grow up with fond memories of choir practice, traditional AA hymns, AA national anthem and all of the things that come w/ the Black church. However, I don’t want to compromise their view of biblical manhood & womanhood, understanding of salvation, etc. Of course we will teach them at home, but would love to have it reinforced through the church. Patiently and hopefully seeking the Lord!

          • Louis Love

            Hey Fran G:
            Your comment:

            “I would love for my children to grow up with fond memories of choir practice, traditional AA hymns, AA national anthem and all of the things that come w/ the Black church. However, I don’t want to compromise their view of biblical manhood & womanhood, understanding of salvation, etc. Of course we will teach them at home, but would love to have it reinforced through the church. Patiently and hopefully seeking the Lord!”

            Seals the deal.

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  • Leython Williams

    Well said, Pastor Love! I found each of your suggestions to be very practical and insightful.
    As it has been mentioned here and in the podcasts, ‘helping them out’ hits very close to home because it has been a huge part of my life in Christ over the past few years. I, particularly, found it very helpful that you prefaced all of your suggestions by first stating clearly who you were and were not referring to. “I’m not referring to people who are not Christians. I’m referring to people you believe to have been genuinely converted and who are godly, yet remain part of a church steeped in false teaching.” So, I’ll also preface my following comments by saying that I’m speaking about Christians.
    As you’ve also mentioned, when we come into the knowledge of truth and our error is revealed to us, most of us immediately run straight to our loved ones with our new found truth…in our running to them (Christians) with exuberance, let us be careful not to devalue or discredit their conversion and/or the sanctification that may be taking place in the lives of these Christians. These brothers and sisters have blindspots (as we all do) and it is for us to be gentle in providing proper biblical perspective (i.e through discipleship); not to try to convert them. When we talk to Christian adults in baby-talk or as if they are unsaved heathens, we are the ones that look foolish and the truth on our lips is then minimized or disregarded. But when we talk to adults like responsible human beings that understand the very basics of their own salvation (while listening for understanding not exact creeds), I think we can then begin to build from there, with the appreciation of the justification and grace extended to each of us while we were in our wretched sin (even if their terminology is different than ours). The end goal is not to win their soul to Christ, if we believe their hearts to have already been changed. Instead, the goal is to see these christians come out of the error of their understanding/thinking to be able to better know Christ as He has revealed himself and to glory more richly in the majesty of our redeemer.
    I think you’ve communicated this feeling very well in this article. Good read.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Brother:
      Welcome to the Porch in printed form. I am grateful for your comments and our relationship. The Lord used you to cause me begin to re-think how we should deal with folks we know who are in places of error.

      It’s kind of like Aquila and Priscilla’s ministry to Apollos. Some just need to be taken aside and shown the way of God more accurately, cf. .

      May the Lord continue to use us to do so, for His glory.

  • Steve

    Great article. This is something that has been weighing down heavy on my heart, especially having come out of oneness pentecostalism last year. It’s been tough dealing with my family (parents and siblings), who thinks that I have abandoned what they consider “truth” (oneness). I’m at the point where I’ve entered intercession mode more than anything because, previous to this post, my heart wasn’t healed enough to give the Holy Spirit enough room to work through me in speaking the actual truth to them. The Lord is still dealing with me in all of this and I pray that the Holy Spirit would be my guide whenever an opportunity opens up for dialogue with them. I felt a true conviction from the Holy Spirit through this post.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Steve:
      I’m thanking the Lord, the article was useful to you. We will keep praying the Lord will give you countless opportunities to share with your family in a gentle and kind way and that He will open their hearts up to the truth.

      Thanks for coming up on the Porch, my brother.

      • Steve

        I appreciate that, prayers are welcomed!

  • Michael

    I say “Ouch!” and “Amen!”.

    I’m guilty of this and needed the conviction. Thanks Pastor Love.

    • Louis Love

      Hey Michael:
      Just as guilty, my brother. I wrote the article from the standpoint of many failures. May the Lord help us do better.