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Thursday

Closing the Back Door

In his classic book "The Knowledge of the Holy" A.W. Tozer says this, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."  What comes into our minds when we think about God is the foundation of our doctrinal beliefs.  If you have been following along here at all the past couple of weeks then you already know the place of  importance I believe right doctrine holds in the life of the Christ follower.  I believe that teaching right doctrine holds just as important a place in the life of the Christ following church.

One of the discussions that occurs among most church staffs is how to close or narrow the "back door" of the church.  The term "back door" is used to refer to the process of people leaving the church without connecting somewhere.  People visit, maybe even join, but do not connect and eventually leave via the "back door".  Every church has a back door and every church seeks the best way to close it as much as possible.  I believe that teaching biblically sound doctrine is the best, most under appreciated method to closing the back door of the church.  Tim Challies spoke to this on his blog Challies.com.  You can read his post here.  He and his wife, along with many other, ended up leaving a church because it stopped teaching sound doctrine and decided to focus on other matters.

I believe what happens is this.  When people come to our church, often they need spiritual milk for a while.  Eventually, however, they begin to grow and become ready for spiritual meat.  If we do not provide them spiritual meat then they will leave to find it somewhere else.

If we can really help close our back doors by teaching sound biblical doctrine, then why don't more churches do it?  I think partly because it more difficult to be a church with a clear biblical doctrine.  First, all your staff needs to line up with the church's doctrine otherwise what members are being taught will be inconsistent from pastor to pastor.  Secondly, biblical doctrine, by definition, is exclusive.  If your church believes in the gifts of the Spirit, then someone who does not believe that will not feel comfortable at your church for very long.  Unless, of course, they become convicted that they are incorrect and change their view.  I think many churches do not want to limit who they might be able to reach by defining their doctrines too definitively.  I also think that by doing so they limit their effectiveness by allowing their back doors to remain wide open.

The most tragic result of refusing to teach biblically sound doctrine is that those who do remain struggle to grow beyond spiritual infancy.  By being deprived of meat, they are unable to grow.  The church hamstrings itself in the name of being more effective.

If we want our churches to impact our world for the Kingdom, first and foremost our people need a firm foundation to stand upon.  That foundation is a right understanding of the God who saved them.  We must teach them sound doctrine. We can close (or at least narrow) the back door and mature those who stay.  To choose to do otherwise is at best foolish and at worst sinful.

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