Is Doctrine > Action?
Right doctrine is important. If a church is taught unbiblical doctrine, it will become sick. Rather than help broken people find wholeness in Christ, they will serve as a distraction from the glory of the gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ does not have an option. We must get the gospel message right. There is too much at stake.
Doctrine = Action
The importance of getting the gospel right cannot be overstated. Eternity hangs in the balance. It is the only message that can bring life to a dead soul. But gospel action is just as important in a local church. We can have the right gospel doctrine but have the wrong gospel action. Maybe environment is a better word--the way a church feels. It is possible to have doctrinal purity in a church but have the truthfulness of the gospel questioned because of an anti-gospel environment. How a church functions relationally and the tone of the ministry being done can communicate something other than the gospel.
This Will Help
Let's look at an interaction between Paul and Peter. It will help you understand if you are confused. Paul and Peter have the right gospel doctrine. But Paul sees something from Peter that undermines the gospel. In Galatians 2:11-14 , Paul writes that he strongly and publicly rebukes Peter. Why? It's not because Peter was teaching wrong gospel doctrine. It had to do with the gospel environment Peter was creating. Peter's actions did not line up with gospel. He shied away from eating with Gentile persons even though he knew the gospel and God's Kingdom included them. God had went out of his way to teach Peter this lesson. But some of his Jewish peers came around and Peter shied away from the Gentiles. Peter was creating an anti-gospel environment despite proclaiming the true gospel through his preaching. And it all had to do with who he would have lunch with.
Here are some considerations about how a church may be creating an anti-gospel environment even if the gospel preaching is doctrinally true.
Hiding weakness. A church and the various ministries that take place there can create an environment where people feel like they have to hide their weaknesses; an environment where believers are terrified to fail. Or they gauge a persons' usefulness based on how charismatic they are. The Church is not a place where we should pretend. This does not mean we are transparent about everything--it is not wise to share some things publicly or with certain people--but each Lord's day, we should see God giving strength to weak people. If everything we do is slick and polished, some will feel as if they are on the outside looking in. This doesn't mean we mess up on purpose, but rather we give room for people to be themselves and don't pursue perfection over authenticity.
Everything is a challenge. There is a right season to challenge believers; there are appropriate moments to speak frankly and call for change. But often churches can be heard proclaiming "do, do, do" rather than "it is done". And make no mistake about it, it is done. Jesus has accomplished and finished his saving work. Our works wouldn't, and won't, cut it. The Bible calls us to work out our salvation and to be sure of our calling, but that doesn't mean we can do anything to earn salvation. Some churches can seem to miss this. The congregation is constantly being told they aren't good enough, doing enough, or serious enough. You better get busy. If too much of this type of ministry takes place, people are going to be led to doubt the gospel and the grace of God. It can become extremely confusing. Jesus has invited them into his rest but it seems as if everyone else wants to push them past their breaking point. Here is the crazy reality. When a person is constantly told that the saving work is done, they will find the motivation and strength to get busy doing for Jesus.
A lack of passion. The gospel calls us to passionate living. To be passionate about God, others, and the world. In reality, to be passionate about almost everything. A church that does not display passion towards the things of God dishonors the gospel. Even if they preach all the points of the message perfectly.
No rejoicing or weeping. The Bible calls us to rejoice and weep with one another. The gospel makes this possible. Its' message not only calls us to God, but also to others. When a church refuses to celebrate and cry with others, the gospel is displayed as lacking in power. In the gospel message there is both weeping and celebration. Jesus came to earth and wept and ultimately died for those who are broken and sinful; he came close to the teary-eyed and hopeless. But he also secured our salvation and rose triumphantly from the dead--something worth celebrating. A true gospel culture will have people who are quick to rejoice and weep with others.
Think About It
Take some time, not to think about how well you know the points of the gospel message, but to see if there is anything about your life that denies the gospel truth. It's easy to do what Peter did. We do it all the time. Thank God for the gospel.