5 Questions Before You Listen or Watch
Many believers watch preaching, read books, and listen to biblical teaching without giving serious consideration to what they are doing. But God is extremely concerned with what we put into our hearts and minds, which means we should be too.
There are many Christians who, because of their God-given gift and the advancement of technology, can be used to glean wisdom, insight, and biblical truth from. There are talented and gifted writers whose books can come alongside the Bible and be helpful in understanding a specific text or subject. But it also works the other way. There are dangers. This should cause us to be mindful and ask questions in regards to what we watch and listen to--particularly what comes from evangelical Christianity. With that in mind, here are "5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Listening to and Watching Christian Resources."
What is the primary way you are being spiritually fed? In Matthew 4:4, Jesus teaches us that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." Just like our physical bodies need food, our souls need fed the Word of God. God provides sustenance for our souls by not only reconciling us back to Him, but also to other believers--His church. Belonging to and being a part of a local church is the primary way God desires to feed your soul. Through community and fellowship, as we worship God together according to the prescribed methods in Scripture, God will feed our souls. Additionally, God calls us to know those who labor to and alongside us (1 Thess. 5:12). This implies that we have some sort of a relationship with the ones He has chosen to use to feed our souls. And although we have access to incredibly gifted preachers, from varying locations and time periods, the preaching that most impacts us should be the preaching we hear each week in our local church. It is easy to get out of balance if you are someone who regularly uses technology to listen to and watch Christian resources. You can find yourself relying on a screen or something coming through your headphones to feed your soul. If this is so, you may need to take a break from accessing so many Christian resources and prayerfully focus on your soul being fed each Lord's Day.
Are you simply seeking to be entertained? We live in the age of entertainment—and our culture is the primary contributor to the growing desire to be continually entertained. We can stream, download, go to theaters, and open thousands of apps. In the midst of all this, Christians can find themselves in a strange position. Often, and in increasing frequency, what is presented as entertainment contains questionable morality. And sometimes it’s just outright sinful. So, believers are faced with trying to find wholesome entertainment that is suitable for their conscience and families. It’s a silly problem. It’s hard to even write those sentences considering that there are believers around the world who face possible torture and death for their proclamation of faith. But that’s not the point and is a whole different subject. Because of the position Christians find themselves in concerning entertainment choices, I have noticed something strange happen. They watch preaching and teaching like they would watch a sitcom. They view Christian resources as their nightly entertainment—something to have on in the background and fall asleep to on the couch. They finish dinner, pop down in the recliner, and turn on some broadcast of Christian television (and I am using the term “Christian” very loosely here). I’m not saying this is sinful, but it may be unwise. When we treat Christian resources as entertainment only, it can make something that is meant to be holy and turn it into something that becomes common. Soon we may find ourselves with a cavalier attitude towards God’s Kingdom—treating God-ordained means of grace as optional based on what we like and dislike.
Do you realize that someone claiming to be a Christian who teaches the Bible can share doctrines that are damaging to your soul and spiritual life? I have refrained from saying it outright this long and it has been tough to do. But here it is. Much of what supposed Christian television broadcasts falls into the category that the Bible warns us to stay away from. It’s prosperity-driven, pragmatic, and sometimes nothing more than self-help advice. The teachers that fill their time slots often live “dirty” lives full of greed, hypocrisy, and moral failure. I’ll spare you from specific examples. Stay away from TBN and the like. I’m not saying that every preacher who is on television is some phony flake, but that Christian television has become something the Lord would desire His children to refrain from giving time and resources to.
I regularly check out the top ten podcasts in the Religion and Spirituality category of iTunes. It fluctuates and often changes, but at any given time at least half of them are damaging to your soul. Those who find themselves regularly listening to them and building their lives on what they hear could be considered “spiritually drunken.” We should not listen to or watch anything without thinking if what is being said is biblical. Just because someone teaches in the name of Jesus does not mean that they are teaching what Jesus would. With all that in mind, there are some resources you can, no scratch that, you should, access and listen to outside of your local church’s teaching and preaching. God has used preachers I have never met to shape my life. I’m sure many of you have similar testimonies. But we should always approach this issue with caution and wisdom.
Has it become a substitute for action? Our faith calls us to action—to sacrifice and act towards others in a way that requires a certain level of selflessness. Giving, witnessing, serving, and loving others takes intentional action. We often know the actions the Lord calls us to, but for one reason or another, find ourselves neglecting to do them. To cover up our inaction and refusal to obey the Lord, we can fill up the time we should be acting on our faith with another spiritual activity such as listening to and watching Christian resources. In doing so, we can tell ourselves we are doing something spiritually healthy or that we are making efforts to grow in our faith. The truth is, if we never pour out and only fill up, our faith becomes stale, routine, and joyless.
Have you considered asking your elders if a specific book, teacher, or preacher is helpful, safe for your soul, and beneficial to your spiritual growth and formation? Answering questions like this is part of an elder’s responsibility to the local church the Lord has called him to (1 Timothy 1:3-7). Even if the elders are not familiar with a specific book or teacher, they should be able to find out and give wise counsel. An elder should already be somewhat aware of popular Christian teachers and books that are influencing evangelicalism and any potential harm or confusion they may cause. Elders are called to discern, not just right from wrong, but right from almost right. There are many who speak and write beautifully and what comes from their mouths and pens is altogether captivating. And it seems right—at least many think so. Someone that mixes dangerous lies with truth, while delivering it in a way that is appealing and able to keep your attention, can be extremely difficult to discern and spot. Furthermore, if you are seeking to learn or read about a specific subject, your elders should be able to point you in the right direction and towards resources that would be helpful.