What Man-Made Teachings Have Crept Their Way into the Church? Part 1
- Sophia Bricker Contributing Writer
- Updated Feb 23, 2023
We have all likely encountered unbiblical teachings in churches. Many of these teachings attack the truth of the gospel, while others hinder spiritual growth and ministry. I did not grow up in church culture since I was saved by Jesus as a teenager.
However, I have quickly learned that there is a difference between biblical teaching and the teachings and assumptions in American church culture.
When I refer to “church” or “Christian” culture, I am referring to the distinct culture or practices and beliefs that people have created within American churches. Many of the man-made teachings also stem from long-held traditions or outside influences.
The following five points are a sampling of man-made teachings that I have noticed within Christian circles.
In part two of this article series, I will include five other points. However, this list is not exhaustive as readers could likely add to it from their own experiences.
1. God Promises to Bless Us Financially
Various ministries exist that assert that God promises to bless believers with financial wealth. These ministries argue that by giving to them, typically through a “seed” donation, the Lord will return the blessing by giving the individual money.
Pastors or televangelists associated with these ministries support their claims with Bible verses pulled out of context.
An example of this is the popular and misused verse, Malachi 3:10. Tithing was an important part of the Law of Moses, which provided for the Levite priests (who had no land) and the poor (Deuteronomy 14:29).
Crops and livestock were the components of the tithe (Leviticus 27:30-34). God promised a blessing to Israel if they offered their tithe. In context, Malachi 3:10 applies to Israel, not believers today. We are no longer under the Mosaic Law because Christ fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17).
Christians should give from their resources, including their finances. However, we are told to give cheerfully out of love for God, “not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Sometimes that might mean more than ten percent or less. However, we give as an act of worship, not from a place of legalism or to get something out of God.
Believers need to exercise caution when they encounter prosperity teachings. Greed, or the desire, for money, leads to many evils (1 Timothy 6:10).
2. America Is God’s Chosen Nation
In America, there are Christians who believe that the USA is a covenant nation, specially chosen by God. The idea of America as a promised land stems from a combination of rhetoric about the history of our nation and Mormon teaching.
The cult of the Latter-Day Saints teaches that America is the covenant promised land (2 Nephi 10:20). Somehow, Mormon teaching has influenced believers and crept into our churches.
God’s Word, however, teaches that the promised land is Israel. The Lord made a binding covenant with Abraham and his descendants, not America (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8).
When God walked through the sacrificed pieces of animals in the cultural practice of covenant making, He took the sole responsibility for fulfilling His promise to Abraham’s descendants — Israel (Genesis 15:7-20).
No such covenant has ever been made with America, despite what the Mormons may claim. Thus, the only nation that has ever been chosen by God is Israel.
Believers living in America should express gratitude for their freedom and use their privileges to serve Christ wholeheartedly. However, we need to recognize that God is concerned about all people in the world, not just those who live in the USA (John 3:16).
3. A Woman’s Main Purpose in Life Is Marriage
Another human teaching that is prevalent in churches is the idea that a woman’s purpose in life is to get married and have children. Becoming a wife and mother are important callings.
We need women who are godly examples to their husbands and children (2 Timothy 1:5; Titus 2:4-5). However, there is a faulty assumption within American church culture that this is the sole calling of a woman.
Among some groups of Christians, marriage has even become an idol. Numerous Christian women are under the impression that they are “promised” future husbands who will fulfill them and bring them happiness in life. Yet, our joy is complete in Jesus (John 15:11), and He did not promise marriage to His followers.
Every Christian’s purpose in life is to glorify Christ and make Him known by making disciples of all nations. Women are no exception to this command. Just like Christian men, women should always put Jesus first (Matthew 6:33). He should be our top priority.
Furthermore, there are numerous examples of women in Scripture, married and single, who served Christ with their lives. Priscilla, the wife of Aquila, was a leader in the early church and was widely known for her ministry (Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19).
Likewise, Phoebe was known for her service toward others and was commended by the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:1-2).
Mary Magdalene, Chloe, Lydia, Mary and Martha of Bethany, and Tabitha were all women who lived as disciples (followers) of Jesus. All these women put Jesus first, regardless of being married or not.
4. Singleness Should Be Discouraged
Related to the previous point about marriage, churches in America also generally teach that singleness is a less desirable state. An unspoken rule in American church culture is that believers are not whole or complete if they are single.
Often, this mindset isolates single Christians and places pressure on them to marry to conform to the status quo. Also, there is an abundance of written materials in print and online that teach that singleness is not a natural state.
In contrast to the human teaching in church culture that marriage is superior to singleness, Scripture asserts that both states are equally valid and legitimate.
Marriage is a blessing and serves as a picture of Christ’s love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Likewise, living a life of celibacy is good because single women and men can spend more time serving Christ and have undivided devotion to Him (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
Jesus said that some would choose to remain unmarried for the purpose of His kingdom (Matthew 19:12). In our churches, we should present both the goodness of marriage and singleness.
Instead of trying to play matchmaker or making single Christians feel unworthy and incomplete, we should encourage them to focus on Christ and live for Him. The body of Christ benefits from both married and single believers.
5. Ministry Is Only for the ‘Professionals’
Another human teaching that has crept into the church is the idea that ministry is only for the “professionals.” Instead of taking the time to evangelize to a neighbor, believers often focus on “inviting them to church.”
Reasoning that the pastor will give an evangelistic sermon or include the gospel message, some Christians believe it is only their duty to get people into the doors of the church building on Sunday morning.
Also, churches sometimes create a dichotomy between those who are serving and those who are supporting. Church members can and should give to missionaries and ministries that serve in other countries.
However, this does not mean they have fulfilled their “duty” of making disciples of all nations. Every believer should be active in ministry, not just those who are pastors or missionaries (Matthew 28:18-20).
Instead of viewing the church as a place where we go to fulfill our duty in giving to “the professionals” or to invite people to come so they can hear the gospel, we need to view ourselves as the church.
According to the Bible, the church is comprised of believers (1 Corinthians 12:27). It is not a building. We are all part of the body of Christ and need to start viewing ourselves as the church, responsible for conducting ministry to others.
Why Does This Matter?
As we go out into the world and make disciples, we need to ensure that our beliefs are based on the Bible, not human teaching influenced by worldly culture.
Also, we must help new disciples learn to discern the difference between biblical teaching and the traditions of American “church” culture.
Believers will benefit from our careful discernment by being rooted firmly in the Bible. Also, non-believers would benefit because their path to hearing the gospel would be cleared from all the distractions of man-made teachings that hinder their response to Jesus’ saving grace.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.