Can church doctrine change? In short: yes and no.
Yes, church doctrine can be changed to fit anything we want it to say.
Is it right, and should church doctrine change? No. Absolutely not.
Church doctrine should be in line with scripture. Anytime it deviates from the truth, we are altering biblical teaching. Anytime we change scripture, we add to it. This is dangerous because it leads to error, and error leads to deception.
Once you change church doctrine – or the beliefs held and taught by a church – you have effectively altered the gospel.
Why is this wrong? Allow me to illustrate, using my own life as an example. I have been in Pentecostal and megachurches and have met some wonderful, Bible-believing Christians who loved the Lord. However, both churches have changed church doctrine in different ways:
Most charismatic churches live by John 14:12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.” By “greater,” most Pentecostals believe it refers to the physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Of the nine (or 13) gifts of the Holy Spirit, they place a high value on the “greater” gifts like prophecy and healing. They also believe that a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, like speaking in tongues, is external evidence of one’s salvation.
I genuinely believed this. I also thought I had a prophetic gift like Samuel. I used to describe my gift as a radio, picking up on God’s “frequency.” I was always “tuned in” for whatever God had to say. I also struggled to reconcile some of the church’s teachings that contradicted scripture (like, the rapture!). You weren’t encouraged to ask hard questions; when you did, the leaders responded with another bible verse supporting their view. You eventually learn to never question what you’re taught, and therein lies the problem.
A few years later, I joined a megachurch. I noticed the preaching was light on bible study, sin, and repentance but heavy on biblical application and God’s grace. Hebrews 12:28-29 calls us to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire. Even though we were reading the bible, the messages were a blend of ‘me-centered,’ socially conscious, humorous, or motivational “preaching.” The reality was a watered-down, human-centered gospel.
Then it happened; I was invited to a bible study: an Andrew Womack bible study, to be exact.
I finally had time to pause and reflect on my spiritual journey during the pandemic. After some soul-searching, I joined my friend’s bible study group, and they were going through Andrew Wommack’s ‘The Believer’s Authority.’ In case you don’t know, Andrew Wommack is a New Apostolic Reformation-type preacher who believes in the power of words and healing. He didn’t say anything I didn’t believe before, but now, it sounded so irritating to my ears, like the loud clanging of pots and pans.
“According to Andrew, God is limited due to our lack of faith. He can’t perform miracles if your faith is not strong enough.”
(More clanging dishes)
“That doesn’t sound biblical.” My bible study contributions started to sound a bit more combative. “Wait…is Andrew saying God is not sovereign?”
I started questioning everything. Not just Andrew Wommack but everything I had learned up to that point. My “spiritual” radio was going haywire. Why was nothing making sense anymore? Why was I highly scrutinizing every worship song and preaching? I did a lot of research and realized some of my belief systems were extra-biblical, or outside scripture. I needed answers.
Enter the Church of Christ.
I checked out their website and listened to their sermons. They lined up with scripture. No clanging dishes. What a relief!
I made an appointment to see Mike Wilson.
“Ok, something is going on, and I am questioning everything. I have been doing a lot of research, but I would save a lot more time if you answered some questions.”
Mike patiently went through every single one of my questions. The hardest was learning that my prophetic “gift” wasn’t biblical. I held on to that one until the end, but I did not have Samuel’s “Seer/Prophetic” anointing. This had been part of my identity for so long. Gone.
Then it felt like my spiritual radio was turned ALL the way down. The radio “frequency” I’ve been hearing for 20+ years. Off. It took me two months to accept the silence. I went through all the stages of the grieving process. Not everything was a lie. God’s faithfulness has always been there. He who began a great work in me is faithful to complete it (Phil 1: 6).
I am better now. I have made it my life’s purpose to always speak the truth of God’s word even when others don’t agree. I never want to be deceived again.
So, can church doctrine change? It can.
Should it change? Absolutely not.
I leave you with the caveat in the last chapter of the book of Revelation 22: 18-19: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the word so the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
If you are a church leader, please heed this warning. If you follow Christ, please go to a Bible-believing church whose doctrine lines up with the truth of God’s word.