Sometimes, a person wants to know who they should and should not listen to, read, or watch when it comes to preachers, authors, and theologians. And more often than that, Christians are quick to simply warn others of those that other Christians should stay away from. Whether it be that they are teaching false doctrine or (more often) that the person is teaching something contrary to what the individual personally believes. However, is this the best way to go about this? I would contend to you that it is not.
You are probably familiar with the old phrase, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” I think that phrase is more applicable here than we may realize. Many times, I think that we are simply giving others fishes. And if we are only doing that, then not only are cheating that person out of true benefit, but we are showing how little we actually care about them. I will explain.
When we tell someone to stay from a certain preacher for example, what are we accomplishing? Well, exactly that. They are staying away from that preacher. But, are we really helping them? Absolutely not. True growth is not found in the “who” but rather the “why”. If we tell them to stay away from that preacher, we have not explained why and therefore have not freed them from their false teaching but, rather, have oppressed them even further.
This is why we must not simply give them a fish (tell them who to stay away from), but rather teach them how to fish (teach sound doctrine and contrast it against the false doctrine that they teach).
Now, I will add that it is not always bad to give a man a fish, but it is never all right to leave it there. However, I will warn you to truly assess your claim and make sure that if you ever do warn someone of a false teacher that they are indeed teaching false doctrine, and not simply something with which you disagree.
If you are a Calvinist and they are Arminian, then back off. If they are charismatic and you are cessassionist, then back off. If they believe in Christus Victor and you believe in penal substitution, then back off. Yes, teach whatever view you hold and even contrast it against opposing views, but know that you are not the authority.
In conclusion, do not be satisfied in giving fishes to people. If you truly love that person, you will teach them how to fish. And remember, that all of this is pointless if it is done without love (1 Cor. 13:1-4). The reason you defend sound doctrine is not to be right, but rather to lead people you love into deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and a fuller understanding of the gospel and its implications. Be blessed in all you do.
This is an excerpt from my book, “Church Kid: Restoring Your Faith After Being Raised in Church,” now available for purchase here.