On the value of doctrine


Making disciples is what we are called by Jesus to do. In this day of connected devices and abundant distraction, how can we bring people to maturity in their understanding and practice? Complicating this further, many churches have placed less emphasis on Biblical or doctrinal instruction.

Providentially, a friend gave me a copy of The Christian Life by Sinclair B Ferguson in which I found this quote in the opening pages which speaks to my question:

“The rather disturbing thought began to dawn on me that many of us who are professing Christians are distressingly weak in our grasp of the basic framework of biblical doctrine. We assume that we know the elements of the message of the New Testament, but sometimes our understanding of them is like that of a child.

As I began to ponder on this situation I realized that, perhaps, it was not very different from the conditions with which the apostle Paul was faced. I remembered his repeated question in the Letter to the Romans and the First Letter to the Corinthians: ‘Do you not know? . . . do you not know?’ (Rom. 6:3, 16; 7:1; 1 Cor. 3:16; 5:6; 6:2, 3, 9, 15, 19; 9:13, 24). Over and over again he had appealed to what these early Christians ought to have known, but had either forgotten or never learned.

The conviction that Christian doctrine matters for Christian living is one of the most important growth points of the Christian life.”

I observe that one of the most subtle victories attained by our Enemy is when he can convince church leaders to shy away from doctrinal teaching out of fear that it is boring or seen as irrelevant for our time. The fact that such teaching has been done badly in the past does not relieve us of the responsibility of attempting to do it well now.

Personally, I love having an opportunity to work with people to help them get a better understanding of the basis for our beliefs. When they begin to see how the Bible fits together and how they can understand and apply Scripture to their life, it is rewarding. I think it is a little like being a midwife. The midwife doesn’t cause the birth, but she helps it along.

Let’s face it, a sermon once a week is not a sufficient spiritual diet. There must be more than this. There must be an intentional plan for “equipping the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph 4:12)

As I look back on Church history I see two things that were present in every revival. The first is prayer in its fullest form of confession and intercession. The second is an emphasis on preaching and teaching intended to bring people into the fullest understanding of Christian doctrine.

Perhaps we should hit the pause button and stop to think about what kind of disciples we are making. We would do well to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!'”

Matthew 7:21–23 (CSB)

Eventually, we will all come face to face with Jesus. Church leaders have a responsibility to prepare their congregants for that meeting. If we have not clearly taught the people what it means to be a Christian we will have much to lament when we are called to give an account for our ministry.