By Ed Stetzer
Doctrine. What images are conjured in your mind when you say that word? Dogmatic? Restrictive? Guarding? Defining?
Undoubtedly there are those who cringe at the word. I have personally talked with many believers who have felt burned by Christian leaders incessantly demanding conformity to doctrine.
On the other hand, there are those who have walked into a greater freedom and understanding of God’s mission and His call on their life as they embraced the fundamental doctrines of faith.
While some data from the doctrine research may jump out as affirming—such as that the majority of churchgoers (75 percent) strongly hold the God of the Bible is not the same god worshiped in other world religions—the overall doctrine scores in the Transformational Discipleship research show that as many as 1 in 3 churchgoers have not embraced basic truths that are considered fundamental to the Christian faith.
Some may say they are most comfortable articulating the gospel by sharing grace, but I contend that understanding doctrine should be bedrock for a believer’s ongoing process of maturation. The core definition of “doctrine,” after all, simply means “teaching,” or “that which is taught.”
If we are to grow in our devotion to King Jesus and share the gospel from neighbor to nation, it is essential we are able to grasp and articulate the doctrinal truths of the gospel.
My friend David Hesselgrave, who spent 12 years as a missionary in Japan and is professor emeritus of mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., contributed an essay titled “The Authority of Scripture and the Christian Mission” for the Mission of God Study Bible that Philip Nation and I served as co-editors.
Why is it important to believe Jesus is the only way to heaven; that the Bible is inspired by God and completely trustworthy, and that not all roads lead to heaven? David communicates this so clearly in his essay: “…[T]he Bible is profitable for the man of God because when God’s messenger employs Scripture in the foregoing ways he himself is made ‘complete’ or ‘competent’ and ‘equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:17).”
He also writes: “The Apostle Paul says, ‘All Scripture is inspired by God’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek word theopneustos literally means ‘breathed out’ by God. Because that is so, God intends Scripture to be carefully expounded, faithfully obeyed and fervently defended.”
For all of us, whether pastor or member, security of calling and understanding is found in one place—delving into the God-breathed pages of Scripture, whose teaching (or doctrine)—equips and completes us for every good work.
Ed Stetzer is the former president of Lifeway Research.